Summary: All fates are interconnected, what affects one also affects others. When Tessa is threatened on her life before a trial and has to go into protection, it will change more than one life.

Rating: T

Disclaimer: Don't own the books about Tessa Vance, which includes the characters. They all belong to Jennifer Rowe. Also, I do not own Stingers and its characters either – they belong to Channel 9 Network and Beyond Simpson Le Mesuire.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

- The fates of all human beings are interconnected - whatever affects one of us affects us all.


The distant green patches of forests and yellow fields lay outside the windows as constant reminders of how far they actually were above ground. The houses resembled tiny Lego cubes, the moving cars on the highway small tedious ants. The flight attendant edged down the aisle, walking easily on her high heels as if the slight turbulence was nothing to worry about at all.

Tessa's hands clenched around the elbow-rests as the plane lurched sideways in a wide circle to head south. Her heart was in her throat, blood rushing through her head and she scrunched her eyes close. However, being surrounded by darkness only made it worse, so she opened them again. A small chuckle came from beside her. She turned her head and shot daggers on the man in the adjoining seat.

"You need to relax, Tess," Steve said, leaning closer. His calm smile shone down at her.

Usually, his presence calmed her senses and offered strength to overcome her fears, but there was nothing he could do to quell the nervous clenching of her stomach as the plane tilted even sharper. She gritted her teeth,

"Easy for you to say," she replied, forgetting herself as she squeezed her eyes shut. The sickness in her belly was building, strengthened by the situation she was in. Tessa gulped down the bile, stiffening in the seat.

Suddenly, the seat belt felt very tight, and she reached down to loosen it. Nearly simultaneously, a hand came to cover hers above the buckle, and she looked up in Steve's warm dark eyes. He smiled gently, squeezing her hand comfortingly. The plane tilted the other way and settled itself horizontally. She let out a breath, only now managing to put on a shaky smile.

"This is so ridiculous," Tessa grumbled, taking the bottle of water from her bag and gulping the liquid down hungrily. The sickness wouldn't budge, but she pushed it away from her mind, concentrating on calming down. The loosening of the belt made her breathe more easily.

"You're not the only one with air plane phobia, you know. Many people have it. It's normal."

"It's not –" she started, but Steve held up a hand to stop her from voicing her arguments further.

"It's completely normal, along with claustrophobia. Don't beat yourself up about it." He gave her a look which made her realise she was being silly, as usual, and that he was right, of course.

The short surge of irritation diminished in a trained blink of an eye, perfected through years of knowing the man and his wisdom. Even with a gradual improvement since her introduction to Central Homicide, she still had a lot to learn about the way of things, and Steve, being the more experienced, would always be one step ahead on that course. It had annoyed her in the beginning, but now she took it for what it was and saw the benefit for herself in it. She needed him to keep her on the ground, or else she would run off into the clouds.

How ironic it was that she hated the feeling of flying.

"I know," Tessa abandoned her thoughts and admitted to his statement with a sigh. She leaned back in her seat while holding on to his hand. "I'm just worried, you know? After all, this is the first time I'm in this particular situation."

Steve smiled sideways at her, a twinkle appearing in his eyes at the mention. The hand in which he held hers moved to rest on top of her stomach, its presence warm and protective. Warmth spread from her toes and throughout her body. She loved it when he did that.

"Trust me when I say the same," he replied, looking uneasy but happy for a stray second. She couldn't help but grin.

"What, no kid running around back home who I don't know about?"

He chuckled. "Except for my niece and nephews, there's no one, as you know very well. The only bastard I have is right here in your belly." He patted the slight bulge underneath her sweater affectionately, grinning at her.

"It won't be your bastard when it's ready to pop out," Tessa reminded him, leaning over the elbow-rest against his strong shoulder. A happy sigh came past her lips, her eyes drifting down to their joined hands where a circle of gold gleamed up at them.

"You're right, it won't." He grinned and kissed her forehead, his free arm wounding its way around her shoulders and hugging her to him tenderly.

"You told your folks yet?" she murmured, drowning in the warmth radiating from his body. Her stomach was settling.

"Just before we left for the airport," Steve answered. "To say mum was overjoyed is probably the understatement of the year. Wanted to know if we'd set a date yet, and when I told her no, she told us she would take care of it all." They chuckled in unison, both visioning Mary Hayden bustling around the farming society, working out the church, the reception and all the things that came with a wedding.

"She'll have competition from mum and Guy, though," Tessa said smugly, eyes twinkling.

"Oh yeah?" Steve raised an eyebrow.

"Oh yeah," she nodded. "They were having a big discussion off-the-phone whether the reception would have a violin quartet or pop-DJ playing the wedding waltz."

His chest rumbled in laughter and Steve drew her closer. Tessa snuggled into the crook of his arm, completely sated. His hand was warm on her stomach. Silence fell over them for a little while, giving them a few moments to stay by the happy thoughts of their future.

"Think the guys in Melbourne have done their part?" she asked when the silence had stretched far enough and the reason for their trip came to mind. Steve shrugged.

"Judging by the update Malcolm gave us, I think the prosecution have a good starting point and a lot of information to undermine Gisbourne's defence. Those undercover units tend to dug forth dirty secrets us ordinary detectives can't find."

"They're good, no doubt about that." Tessa sighed, before her voiced toned down. "It would be nice to see the scum bag go down," she muttered darkly.

"Tess—" Steve started, but Tessa cut him off, a swell of irritation sweeping over her yet again.

"I know, I'm supposed to be impartial, but when the guy holds you at a knife point and threatens to kill you, you don't exactly get very high feelings for him." Steve's hand tightened at the memory, his eyes clouding and he looked grim with anger.

"I'd like that man to get down to for what he did to you—and those people lying six feet under by now—but…" He drifted off, leaving the rest of the sentence unuttered but still understood. Tessa cupped his cheek kindly, her thumb streaking over his soft cheek and brushing lightly over his lips. She understood his feelings all too well.

"It's not by the book to be partial, and you follow the rules." It was not meant as criticism, only the statement of a hard fact. They both knew that. He brushed his lips over her forehead, sighing barely.

"And you're the opposite," Steve continued the line of thought. "So you can be impartial enough for both of us." Tessa raised an eyebrow at the humour in his eyes, but decided not to comment and just sat close to him, listening to the slow rhythm of his heart.

A sudden thought came to her mind, blocking out all bad memories that belonged to the past which she was going to Melbourne to bring back to life.

"Think we'll get a bubble bath in our hotel room?"

"Bubble bath, hotel room?" Steve quirked an eyebrow, giving her a lopsided grin. "Do you think the force's gotten rich in the few hours it's taking us down to Melbourne? If we're lucky, we'll get a clean motel room and our own bathroom." She grimaced at the thought.

"If that's the case, you're booking us into a hotel—with a bubble bath. End of discussion. My health is not compatible with dungy, moulding motels at the moment." He chuckled, drawing her further into his warmth.

"I'll make sure we'll get a nice and comfy room. No lumpy bed for the mother of my son." Tessa turned her head, looking at him quizzically but with a mystical smile on her lips.

"How can you be so sure it's a boy?" The well-used phrase of the last week or so rolled easily off her tongue.

"How can you be so sure it's a girl?" he retorted teasingly.

"Why are we having this discussion again?" she continued in the same sing-song tone, eyes twinkling. "Be it boy or girl, we'll still love it, right?" He nodded dramatically, but with a mock-denying expression on his face. "Seriously, Steve," she said exasperatedly. He grinned, kissing her fully on the lips. No matter how irritated she could be with him, his kisses always made her tingle throughout the body.

"You're cute when you glare like that." Tessa rolled her eyes, warmth replaced by annoyance now. She withdrew from his embrace and rearranged herself properly in the seat. Steve gave her a rueful grin, squeezing her hand softly. "I'm just kidding. Of course we'll love him."

"Oh, don't you start again!" She huffed, turning away in irritation.

Peter Church, dressed in worn jeans and a creased shirt over a white tee, put on his sunglasses as he stepped out on the veranda. A lush, blooming garden surrounded the Victorian balcony, screening it from view of prying eyes and unfortunately the Com-V parked down the street. Refusing the urge to check if the wire was still in place, he popped the beer can open and drank.

"Great garden you have here," he said conversationally to the person sitting in a chair beside him. He turned and leaned against the railing, looking comfortable and at ease. However, he was consciously aware he sounded like a bloody idiot and wondered how the other would take it.

His eyes fell on the tall, dark-haired man seated in a Venetian straw chair which looked oddly out of place in these ominous surroundings. Though, it was the somewhat crook-nosed, slightly twitching his lips, powerful figure that influenced the local, not to mention national, environment.

"For my eyes," he explained slowly, holding a glass of martini in his hand. "Not as sore as the grime-looking houses across the street." Pete grinned by habit, even though it was not the least bit amusing. He gulped his beer, silence falling over them.

John Gisbourne, mafia brother of Gary Gisbourne who was now sitting in a cell block awaiting his trial to start, had been Pete's target since he got into this operation nearly a month ago. Drugs, brothels, assassins – the elder Gisbourne brother had a finger in all of it. But despite the police's year-long investigations, nothing could be linked to him. He was a sly eel, slipping away with only a lift of his finger. He had connections everywhere, even in the police department, and they too were concealed from illegal business just like him. And he had a heck of a lawyer.

Pete wanted nothing more than to see the man fall like his brother would.

Although it had not been absolutely clear throughout this operation that they would in the end also provide information to the case of Gary Gisbourne, it was no less desired. Everyone within the force knew of the two Gisbourne brothers being as bad as their father, though they branched off differently. The big brother went into the family business, and the little brother took his own course, leaving a trail of assaults, rapes and eventually murders behind him. In the last case involving the little Gisbourne, he had even tried to get rid of one of the detectives. A female, apparently, from what Pete had heard.

No matter how strong the case stood on the forensic evidences, Detective Tessa Vance was the prosecution's star witness, the one to sign Gisbourne's lifetime sentence. It was something that made Pete a little apprehensive today while he tried to needle out enough information to bust Gisbourne for drug deals.

Right at this moment, while he stood talking unnecessarily about the garden, this woman and her partner were flying down from Sydney. For all he knew, the man beside him could have issued an order out of his earshot for someone to "take care" of her. Pete wouldn't put it past John Gisbourne to get rid of a witness to save his brother from jail. It had happened before, both ways round. Amazing what love for one's brother can make you do.

It's not just love between two brothers; it's craziness. It's a matter of survival, loyalty, trust. Love's got nothing to do with it.
Not quite. It's more like playing with the police. They know the holes and how to use them explicitly. It's a game to them, and they've been winning forever.

Pete scratched his neck, the beer balancing on the white-marbled balcony railing beside him. It annoyed him the suits had decided it was not necessary with police escort for the Sydney detectives. Of course it was! She was a threat to Gary Gisbourne, and Big Brother do not like his family threatened. But there was nothing – no phone call, no suspicious meeting – to suggest Vance's life was in danger, nothing except the uneasy feeling filling Pete from top till toe. And the other undercover agents – they had all followed the operation and knew what kind of man John Gisbourne was. Hell, everyone in the force knew it, but no one dared to voice their suspicions aloud. He wanted to sigh, but held it in.

Forget about Gary for a moment, concentrate on the brother. Don't want to blow this thing.

"So when's the show starting?" Pete fell back into the role as designated driver and personal body guard (he had risen in the ranks since his introduction a couple of month ago), asking coyly when he was going on another trip out of town delivering goods. The man in the straw chair looked out on the garden, face expressionless.

"It has been postponed." Pete hurried to hide the surprise on his face, schooling his features behind a mask of indifference. That was an important piece of information. The drug deal had been moved to a later date, why?

"Okay," he replied non-fazed, taking a gulp of the beer. The familiar liquid rolled easily down his throat, but he stopped himself from drinking more. Even if drinking created a sense of relaxation within, easing his fears, and put the targets at ease, he needed to stay clear on this case – strict orders from the top. Mac had been very convincing.

"Gary's case putting it off?" Pete asked, his muscles tensing a notch as the possible reasons started rolling through his mind like an old-fashioned commercial break in the cinemas. Gisbourne looked up at him slowly, dragging the time out. He looked like he knew something Pete didn't, and he despised the feeling that followed.

"Just another problem needing a solution," Gisbourne said with a ghost of a smile. Shivers went down Pete's spine.

He was about to reply when the glass door to the veranda opened and the strict black-dressed Theodore Fitz exited. This was Gisbourne's cunning lawyer, now representing little brother Gisbourne in a combined murder and sexual assault case. Pete felt foreboding creep into his bones as the suitcase in Fitz's hand was laid on top of the small table beside the straw chair and Gisbourne smiled formally.

The man gestured for Pete to leave and he did without question. However, as soon as he got inside the glass doors, he let it stand slightly ajar and hid from view. This was a conversation he needed to hear. If his intuition was right, big brother Gisbourne was thinking of the possibility to influence his brother's case. Pete only hoped it was not something that had already happened.

"Make sure you get this," he murmured lowly, speaking to his colleagues in the Com-V. He checked the wire, turned it on maximal and leaned closer to the opening without being seen.

Gisbourne had already asked a question. Pete's ears strained to hear the response, trying to find out what he asked about.

"They're on their way here now. Should arrive in an hour."

Pete could almost feel the smile cruising Gisbourne's lips. "Good, good." A pause, and then… "Make sure it looks like an accident. We want to escape suspicious eyes and ears, right?"

"Of course," Fitz answered smugly. "Everything will go according to plan."

"And if there's a failure…" said Gisbourne slowly.

"Those responsible will be relieved of their duty." There was a pause before there was a shuffling of chairs and Pete hurried to move out of sight in case they ventured inside. However, they stayed out on the balcony. He risked a glance, seeing the lawyer seated in another straw chair, Gisbourne standing by the railing with his eyes set out on the sky. He was still speaking.

"—the trouble I go to for him."

"He has done the same for you, sir," Fitz said, staring over the rim of his glasses at a stock of papers. Gisbourne turned slightly, looking at him with a smile. Pete drew back a little, fearing exposure.

"What brother wouldn't?" the tall dark-head asked rhetorically. "It doesn't matter really. Word about her has gotten round. I should be glad she's stationed in Sydney, or my 'free time activities' would've been revealed." He grinned now, which filled Pete's stomach with lead as he realised what was going on. "Besides, she threatened my family. Even legal procedures cannot save her now."

And then he moved on to another topic. Pete didn't stay around long enough to hear what it was about. He quickened into an empty room, found his mobile and pushed the auto-dialler. The voice at the other side of the line replied quickly.

"You got that?" he asked, looking around himself to see if anyone was listening or watching him. "Get it down to HQ. They've got to get her to safety now."

Tessa's tense muscles didn't relax until she had put both feet on the hard floor near the baggage reclaim, and seating herself on one of the cushioned benches while Steve went to get their luggage. She pulled the water bottle from her handbag and devoured the lukewarm water greedily, shaking off the nervous fluttering following their plane trip. Putting it back, she looked around the large hall to familiarise herself.

It was several years since she had been here, and then it had been to attend a funeral of a distant relative. Not being close with said relative, Tessa had wanted to stay back in Sydney, but her mother had pestered her long enough to make her feel bad about not going and in the end they had gone. The trip had been as awful as this one, though without the nausea following her pregnancy, and had not brought her anything but a hollow feeling inside. She had not been in a funeral since her father's. That shook her up a little, more than she had wanted at the time.

However, there was no dead relative she came to visit now, Tessa told herself firmly. She was there to testify against Gary Gisbourne in a murder case. And then she and Steve would go home and get on with their lives. No funeral this time.

Unless he wants to bump you off.

"Earth to Tessa," someone said suddenly beside her. She jumped in her seat, looking up to see Steve giving her an apologetic smile. He was cute when he looked like that, she mused. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you." He held a hand out to her and she took it gently, locking the thought of Gisbourne away in a secret compartment in the back of her mind.

"Got the suitcase?" she asked, letting herself be pulled to her feet. Steve nodded, gesturing to the large ordinary-looking suitcase on the trolley behind him. They had opted for sharing baggage space instead of bringing separate bags. It was not like there was anyone going to harass them for fraternization based on a shared suitcase.

Easing out of her memories, Tessa smiled and leaned against him. His arm went round her shoulders by habit, hugging her to him. Familiar smell of dusk and earth filtered through her nostrils. As always, it managed to calm her down.

"You okay?" Steve gave her a worried look. Warmth expelled from beneath his dark suit, creeping into her bones. She snuggled into the crook of his arm, nodding.

"Yeah, just want to get out of here." It earned her a chuckle.

"Who'd have thought an air port would freak Detective Tessa Vance out where a murder scene couldn't?" he teased, pushing the trolley in front of them as they started to walk. She punched him mockingly in the arm, a smile coming back on her lips. No matter how down she was, she could always rely on Steve to bring her up again.

With no great need in hurrying to the city, they took their time in going through the big hall and towards the exit. Steve was handling the trolley with one hand, his other arm lying snugly round her shoulders. Tessa had slipped her arm around his waist, enjoying the feel of his strong muscles beneath her fingers. It was so liberating to finally be able to show their feelings publicly.

After they got together more than a year prior and up to about seven months ago, they had hid their relationship from both friends and family. It had been difficult in the beginning, hiding their emotions, but they had done it out of fear. Fear to be forced to switch partners – or even division – by the top heads. From a romantically perspective, one would usually say one did anything just to stay together, but in their case it had also concerned their working relationship. They were a match, both personally and work-related. There could be no other. Both were aware of that.

Four months flew by where they snuck in and out of each other's apartments, shared secret smiles above the computer screens, brushed lightly over limbs and generally did everything in their power to keep their relationship from becoming common knowledge yet at the same time being in love. However, working in an environment where people were experts in digging forth the truth based on loose hints, not to mention that keeping the relationship secret was difficult when you had just got together, it was bound to be discovered sooner of later. As Tessa and Steve experienced, it happened at a moment they had let all guards down and shared a gentle kiss outside the S & M.

At first, their friends had been shocked, yet not surprised, and then even Fisk had extended his approval of their relationship. However, the sentiment was soon succeeded by a warning on keeping it low-key unless Malcolm got the wind of it, and they had agreed. But should it come to it, the trio had promised to stick up for them, even if it meant facing the wrath of Inspector Malcolm Thorne. The declaration of loyalty had touched Tessa's inner strings and the night had been the first of many in which she finally could act free around Steve and not worry about it ending up on Thorne's desk.

But nothing was meant to last, and even Malcolm learned the truth in the end. How he knew, neither of them could understand, and the trio had sworn afterwards it had not been either of them. The hard core was, however, that somehow Malcolm had found out and they had been called in behind closed doors. Tessa remembered she had been half-shivering like a maple leaf, though she suspected it was only she who noticed. Steve had been too wound up in his own thoughts, and their boss had been busy closing the door and staring calmly at both of them.

After a long and stretched silence, the stern Inspector had opened his mouth and came with the biggest surprise of their lives. He gave away a few subtle guidelines for partners becoming intimate, about keeping the private life and work apart, to not let their emotions interfere with the case procedures, and so on. He had certainly not come with any clear statement saying he disapproved or approved, but there had been something in his voice and his eyes that made them go for the latter.

And with the stealthy support from Thorne – he couldn't show his approval openly – along with a last comment on keep it low, Tessa and Steve had said nothing but "yes, sir" and left his office. Both would be eternally grateful for his and their friends support, even if it had as of present time not come up to the Personnel department.

Life had been only become more perfect with the knowledge they could be freer about their feelings, at least outside work.

And outside the city, Tessa thought with a wry smile, remembering they were actually here on work but still… Being in another state certainly loosened the tight collar around their necks.

With their friends into the loop, Tessa and Steve had reasoned it was time to spill the beans to their families. Otherwise Tessa's mum would hear it through the police grapevine (namely old friends of Tessa's father which she had reconciled herself with after years of being out of reach), and from there matters would roll so quick they would hardly get to bat an eye before even Steve's family had learned the truth as well. So they had made the respective calls, all arranging for visits to their parents with "a special friend" tagging along. To say their mothers had been curious would be an understatement.

First out had been Tessa's mum and step-dad in their home in a town northwest of Sydney. Tessa and Steve had taken a weekend and drove up there on the highway, alternating in taking the wheel and arriving in the afternoon. After a shy and awkward introduction, at least on Tessa's part, her mum had become absolutely smitten with Steve and given her wholehearted consent. She had even promptly told Tessa to hang onto him at any cost because he was a winner for life.

With one family out of the way and happy for them, Tessa had become very apprehensive again when they flew down to meet Steve's family. They loaned a car at the air port and drove to the farm where the whole Hayden family had been gathered – parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews. Tessa had felt like being on exhibition, at least until the first round of introductions was over. Once Mary Hayden had gushed over her and commended Steve on his choice of woman, everything had rolled easy. They had welcomed her into their warmth and shown her how it was to be a large family – Tessa was an only child – and Steve had told her on the trip home that his sisters had decided she was definitely a keeper. It had made her blush furiously, but feel wonderful.

Tessa wondered for a minute if her mother had already contacted Mary Hayden for cooperating on the wedding. She wouldn't put it past her, even if it was just hours since Tessa had broken the news. She could envision the sight: the two middle-aged women sitting behind towers of invitation cards, seating arrangements, food preparation and the like, chatting about future grandchildren. Like a knitting circle, with tea cups, cookies and the whole package.

It feels so good to be past all fears of rejection and disapproval, and not know they were proven wrong.

To have the support of friends and family, Tessa had after the various meetings finally felt she could put it all lies behind her – at least half-way behind as they still needed to keep it from the brass – and concentrate on her and Steve's relationship. And what amazing months that followed! She had never felt more in love than during the past seven months, and the emotion had only been boosted after they discovered her pregnancy two months prior.

When they had learned Tessa was eight weeks pregnant, both she and Steve had extremely excited, but also very apprehensive about telling their families. Being Catholics, abortion had never even entered the picture, but they did have the tiny problem of not being in a holy matrimony.

However, their fears were yet again stilled as the future grandmothers and aunts squealed in joy and hugged them both and the future step-grandfather, grandfather and uncles grinned and smacked Steve's back and kissed Tessa's cheek. No one had mentioned marriage at all, although it had certainly been on Tessa's mind since even before the discovery of her pregnancy, and as she found out yesterday, so had it apparently been on Steve's.

"What's with the smile?" The handsome man beside her peered down at her curiously, drawing her half-way out of her magnificent memories. A rush of happiness surged through her as she brightened further.

"Just thinking about last night," Tessa murmured lovingly, sending him a knowing glance. He grinned, turning slightly towards her.

"Still can't believe you actually said 'yes'." She raised an eyebrow, drawing back a little from his embrace. They slowed to an unhurried stroll.

"Why's that? I thought I made it expressively clear last night…" Her voice lowered huskily towards the end, giving him no doubts about which part of her declaration she was referring to.

"I think you'll have to say it once more," he replied with a teasing grin, consciously ignoring what she was hinting at. They were at a public location; he did have some decency left. She rolled her eyes briefly, but was willing to play along.

"Since you ask so nicely… Because I love you more than I believed myself capable of, because I want to share my life with you forever not just at work, because you're the father of my unborn baby, and because you're down-right gorgeous, sexy." Her eyebrows waggled suggestively, a grin threatening to split her face in two. His eyes twinkled warmly, his grip round her shoulders slightly more hugging.

Ever since the first time they were spoken, she had noticed Steve tended to get a little mushy whenever Tessa uttered those three little words. And the other way round she admitted with a fluttering sensation from the depth of her being.

He stopped completely, turning with a wide smile. His soft lips were warm on hers, making it tingle nervously in her toes, in a good way.

"I love you too, beautiful," Steve spoke softly as he withdrew, his eyes filled with happiness. Sad to let him go so quickly, Tessa brought his head down for another toe-curling kiss before withdrawing herself, consciously aware they were near the customs exit and surrounded by a tenfold of people. They were not always this free about their emotions in public. It was just a spur of the moment, driven by the atmosphere. Her hand slipped into his.

"I like it when you blush," he whispered lowly into her ear, using that special tone of voice which always made her stomach tremble in excitement. She almost wished they were anywhere but at the air port. Well, the hotel was their next stop…

Tessa cleared her throat.

"I think we should get going. Don't want to block the exit." Steve nodded smugly, clearly aware of how he affected her and enjoying every minute of it. She tried not to let it send her in a fit.

They went to stand in line as the customs officers selected a random few and went through their bags and suitcases. With a trained eye, Tessa surveyed the ten-odd people standing before them in the queue. Most didn't look like they would smuggle something illegal in their bags, but there were always surprises. Even the most innocent-looking teenage girl could be a drilled courier of small-packed heroin doses.

She noticed how some were picked up by a free customs officer and led to an empty table where their luggage was turned upside-down and searched through with skilled hands.

Not having anything of illegal property – the gun lying unloaded and securely in a box in the suitcase was quite legal – Tessa was prepared to go through unchecked. However, just as she was about to take a step towards the exit, a hand was laid upon her shoulder and held her back. Surprised, she turned round to see a chubby, elderly man in customs uniform peer inquiring at her.

"Better come here, miss."

Knowing there was no reason to argue and that the matter of her gun would be solved easily, Tessa took the suitcase from the trolley and followed him over to the wall. She cast a look over her shoulder to see Steve being led away by another officer. Turning back to the man in charge, she was surprised to see they were not being led towards the tables, but to a closed door separated from the hallway. Frowning, she felt trepidation fill her as the man opened the door and gestured for her to enter.

She stepped through slowly and stopped in wait for Steve just inside the doorway, eying the chubby man as he passed her. Steve came seconds later, looked suspicious, but managed to hide it well behind a mask of forged calmness. Tessa was not so sure of her own expression. She had never been good at poker.

The last customs officer exited and closed the door behind them. Whether he locked it or not, Tessa couldn't be sure, as the chubby man urged them further down the hallway. Steve came up beside her, so close their shoulders were barely touching, and she spared him a look of curiosity as he put his hand comfortingly on her lower back. He stared grimly at her, clearly saying with his eyes what he didn't want to voice out loud.

This is not right. Something's wrong.
It's Gisbourne.
Don't be silly, he's in jail.
He's got a brother. Big brother, nonetheless. Big brother sees you.

Tessa forced the thought as far back in her mind as she could, and let Steve take the suitcase from her as they started walking. His hand on her back was reassuring, secure, but she still began to feel uneasy. The chubby officer walked confidently down the bleached floor, his arms swaying like he was going to start whistle a while-we're-working tune anytime soon. Like a peacock, she thought. He seemed so sure of himself, in a way that didn't become a customs officer. Sure, they could be very sure of themselves when catching a smuggler, but Tessa and Steve were not smugglers. They were police officers, detectives, and even in ordinary clothes Tessa suspected people could see what line of work they were in, at least customs officers with an eye for details.

"Where are we going?" Tessa asked, surveying the new hallway waiting just around the corner. There was a security camera just below the ceiling, directed straight at them. Relief surged through her.

Steve threw a hurried look over his shoulder at the man behind them. When there was not even a twitch of lips or wrinkle in his face, Steve looked back at her, suspicious. A slight prickling ran over her skin as Tessa grew worried. Her hairs stood on end as she saw the camera's red light was not turned on. It was off. No one was watching them.

"Where are you taking us?" Tessa repeated again, forcing her voice to stay calm and measured. They couldn't know she was on to them, or they would lose the element of surprise should the perfect occasion rise for it.

Edging closer to Steve, she nudged him in the side and threw a pointed look down at the suitcase between them when he stared at her. It took a second for him to realise what she was hinting at, but that it didn't take longer told her he was growing as wary as her and had had the thought cross his mind. Their guns were in that suitcase, unloaded and secure, however a drilled hand like theirs would only take a minute to load it. They would just need a diversion, a big diversion.

And the next room they entered, an unused office, provided just that. While her hand wound its way surreptitiously towards the lock on the suitcase, Tessa set her eyes on an office chair standing just a little off to the side. The chubby man was still strutting in front of them, his back turned though showing muscles tense in expectation. They were expecting trouble, but Tessa had a feeling it was not from them. She furtively took a deep breath, nodding barely to Steve to say she was ready.

By self-brought accident, Tessa's jacket hefted on the elbow-rest of the office chair, efficiently making enough interruption for the chubby man to turn around. Just as Steve turned abruptly towards the man behind, Tessa swung the handbag off her shoulder, letting it pick up speed until it suddenly slammed the chubby man smack middle in the face. She was sure the heavy book in the handbag had a large role to play in the following scene.

He grunted, caught completely off-guard, and stumbled backwards into the wall, causing an old picture frame to fall down and crack in a thousand pieces. Behind her she heard another body hit something hard, and spared a quick look to see Steve fling the man into the ground by his jacket.

A rush of relief went through her, but only lasted for a minute until something hard hit her in the chest and knocked the wind out of her. Tessa had forgotten the chubby man, who had gotten to his feet faster than she anticipated and was now all over her. He was grasping her by the upper arms, pinching hard into her skin. His eyes were raving, his voice harsh as he spoke.

"You shouldn't've done that, girley." Her shoulder smashed into the hard corner of the desk, numbing her senses. She cried out against the sudden pain, somewhere in her mind thinking about the baby.

Don't harm the baby.
Fight, Tessa, fight. Don't let him win.
The baby…

Mustering whatever strength she had left in her body, Tessa brought her knee up hard against the man's groin. The weight above her disappeared, leaving her to bounce up on her feet, scrambling towards the abandoned suitcase for the gun. On the other side of the groaning chubby man, who was swearing loudly at her, she saw Steve and the other man locked in a fist-fight, and her heart fell for a second when Steve took a direct hit to the side of his face. He stumbled backwards, shaking his head disorientated.

"Steve!" She managed to open the locks quickly, immediately finding the box in which her gun lay beneath the lid and opening it up quickly. The chubby man had gotten to his knees and was heading towards her, his eyes wild. Blood thrummed in her ears, her hands a little clumsy as they found the ammunition compartment and tried to load it into the gun.

Steve managed to deliver a hard blow to the man's stomach, just as the compartment slid into the gun with a resonant click. The chubby man was growling, but Tessa couldn't hear what he said, her mind numbed by the pain in her shoulder though focused on bringing her gun up.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." A sudden voice and cold steel pressed threateningly against her neck.

Tessa felt her breath escape her as cool wind rushed through the now open door behind her, and the chubby man got to his feet, looking at something up and behind her. The other uniform-clad man had noticed too, and received enough will to fight to get Steve off his feet and down on the ground.

"Put that down," the voice spoke again, pressing further. She gulped, slowly doing as the voice said. A foot appeared beside her, kicking away the gun into the leering hands of the chubby man, who had also somehow found Steve's gun. Her heart was beating rapidly, pumping the nausea up from her stomach. She forced herself to take a deep breath.

Don't let them harm the baby.
I can't do anything now.
Give him another round if needed.
If they kill me, they'll kill the baby as well. Which purpose would that serve?

"On your feet," the chubby man snarled, fastening her gun in his belt and giving the other to his comrade, his face twisted in lingering anger. "And this time without the fuss. I'd kill you for that blow if he didn't specifically ask for you alive." His hand clutched the front of her jacket, pulling her up. Her shoulder objected to the harsh treatment, but Tessa bit the pain back, eyes searching for Steve.

He stood with his arms hanging at his sides, alternating his glance between the gun pointed at him, and her. His left cheek was red and slightly swollen, but it wouldn't turn into a bruise. Concern filled his eyes as they met hers. Tessa tried to smile encouragingly, saying she was fine, but all she managed was gritting her teeth as the one behind her shoved her hard in the bad shoulder.

"Get moving," the gruff voice said. "Time frame's thin after this little detour."

The person turned out to be another male, younger, though clad in a maintenance uniform. So that was how they managed to do the cameras. He urged her out of the office with the tip of his gun and down a narrow hallway which seemed to be rarely used. Inside a maintenance workshop they were met by two other men, these dressed in overalls sputtered with oil stains.

Tessa tried to get close to Steve again, but the men had learned from their blunder and now kept them effectively apart. She suppressed the bile as it rose once more, focusing on anything but the pain, the fear and the despair wanting to overthrow her. The very thought of crumbling under their yoke made her slightly flushed. She was a police officer, she was meant to handle unexpected situations like it was second-nature. It was what people relied on them to do. Other lives were at stake here as well as hers; she had to be in control. Otherwise she would lose ground, fall head-first into the mud, not able to get up and thus lose to a greedy, murdering bastard. She couldn't allow that to happen.

Focus on something else. Turn on the work modus. Think. Concentrate. Whose orders are they working under?
The man said something about a 'he'. It must be Gisbourne, who else?
Gisbourne's still in custody awaiting his trial.
But John Gisbourne would risk his skin to save his brother, wouldn't he? Or rather the skin of his lackeys.

Tessa shook her head slightly, not quite believing all the things running through her mind. This whole situation felt surreal, yet was as real as the firm ground beneath her feet as they walked. It was strange really how fast the wind could change. Not more than twenty minutes ago, she had stepped out of the air plane in the belief there was nothing to worry about. Now, on the other hand… It would be a lie to say she was not frightened to the bone.

Pull yourself together, Tessa. Don't crumble now.

Being too caught up in her thoughts of suspicion, remembrance and fear, Tessa didn't realise they had wound up in a hanger until she felt the cool wind on her skin. Looking around she saw shelves of spare parts, barrels of oil and petrol, blackened, old and ruined parts belonging to smaller air crafts and two small planes probably in for reparation.

The men slowed to a halt in the first section of the hangar, three of the five spreading out on the lookout for an ambush while the other two guarded Tessa and Steve. Taking the chance it offered, she stepped closer to Steve, seeking his reassurance, his calmness, his strength. He managed to grasp her hand, squeezing it comfortingly, before their guards broke them up.

"No contact or we'll silence both of you, no matter the consequences."

Even Tessa could hear it was an empty threat, as the chubby man had said determinedly that someone, presumably Gisbourne, wanted her alive. Nevertheless, fear crept into her bones and she drew back sadly. Her shoulder was throbbing still, though the pain has lessened somewhat. Her hand drifted down to her stomach and settled over it protectively. She had not received any direct hits to her abdomen, but the stress could be a large portion of the cause for a miscarriage to happen.

Don't think like that. The baby's fine. Repeat that to yourself. The baby's fine. The baby's fine.

The three scouts returned, all shaking their heads. The man who seemed to be in charge checked his watch, then nodded as if satisfied with himself. He looked up at his men.

"Exit in two minutes, south entrance. Let's go."

Like one, the men resumed their previous position, leading Tessa and Steve through the empty hangar. Only the slightly erratic breathing and sounds of heels on asphalt broke through the eerie silence of foreboding. Tessa couldn't keep her eyes to herself, watching their surroundings with a shred of hope that someone knew what was going on, had escaped the notice of Gisbourne's men and was there to rescue them. But as the minutes dragged by and the end of the hangar rose before them, the hope faded to a minimum.

We won't get out of this.

Tessa's hand clenched the thick fabric of her jacket over her stomach, desperation starting to fill her body. The men seemed to relax more as they arrived near a bolted steel door, some of them even leering in a sense of victory. Gesturing to the men in front to go open the door, the leader rounded on them and pointed at Steve.

"Deal with him, I'm taking her out," he told the man beside Steve. "No mishaps."

Tessa threw her head up, realising what he was telling them to do. Her eyes widened as the lackey nodded and stuck his gun deep into Steve's back, shoving him in the wanted direction.

"No!" She moved towards him, locking eyes and seeing the fear flashing across them. Fear for her, not himself. Her arms stretched out, her pulse beating fitfully with bursts of despair, but she had not taken a step before her arms were wrenched backwards and locked tight behind her back. Pain surged up her already injured shoulder, and the force behind the surprise attack got her stumbling and falling against her attacker's chest.

Steve called out, trying to use the opportunity to wrench out of his captor's arms and knock the gun away from him. Struggling against the strong hold, only enforcing more pain in her shoulder, Tessa watched with frightened eyes the leader drew his gun and positioned himself in clear view of Steve.

Time passed killingly slow as Steve got free and turned around, standing face to face with…

"Police! Drop the gun!"

The shout came suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, followed quickly by several more voices and shuffling of feet. Uniformed police officers streamed through the steel door and from other corners of the hangar, all raised guns pointed at the three lackeys.

Caught by surprise, the leader and his remaining men lost focus, and Tessa managed to kick her man in the shins before escaping his hold. Relief and frantic happiness at being free overwhelmed her senses as she stumbled towards Steve. Just as the leader dropped the gun to the ground and raised his hands in the air, Steve caught her huddled form in his arms and drew her in a fiercely protective embrace.

"You okay?" he asked, slightly out of breath, his eyes wide open in frantic concern. His hands reached up to her face, cupping her cheeks as he scrutinized her looks. Tessa's own hand reached up to carefully touch the red mark on his face. Steve winced a little, but reassured her quickly of his good state when her eyes widened. "Are you hurt?" Steve repeated, noticing she was vaguely gritting her teeth when he hugged her frame.

"My shoulder took a blow back in the office," Tessa explained lowly, done with the scrutinising and just seeking the security and comfort his arms could offer. He pressed her tight to his chest, his wild heart beat contradicting the otherwise calm exterior. She could feel her own heart hammering against her ribcage. Around them people were moving, officers laying the three men in irons, but Tessa couldn't care less. She wanted to fly away, to leave the shock and fear behind and seek peace and quiet with Steve.

However, that peace was not meant to last.

"Detectives Vance and Hayden?"

Tessa reluctantly drew back, though still locked tight in Steve's embrace, to find a pair of non-uniformed officers standing just a metre away. One was a woman, dark-haired and about Tessa's age, while the other was a man in his early forties, his head covered in shockingly red hair with an equal colourful moustache beneath his nose. They drew identical badges belonging to the Victorian Police Department.

"I'm detective Christine Day," the woman spoke calmly, before gesturing to the man. "This is my partner Bill Murphy. We're here to get you to the station safe and sound. Do you require medical attention?" The woman looked them over, brows creased in sympathy. Steve gave her a questioned look; though he seemed to want her undergo a medical examination no matter what she said. Just to check that everything was as it should be.

But Tessa shook her head. She didn't want to see a doctor, not now. The shock was overpowering her senses, dulling the numb pain and nausea she knew raged inside. Perhaps later, once she had managed to calm down, to get things in perspective.

"You sure?" murmured Steve worriedly, low enough not to be heard by the waiting detectives. "What about the baby?"

"It's okay; I wasn't hit in the stomach or right below the chest. The doctor said that's the critical areas, anywhere else should be safe. And I have a good feeling," Tessa added firmly when Steve raised a critical eyebrow. "We're both fine." It took another moment before Steve sighed resigned and accepted her decision, even if he didn't agree with it.

"We won't need a doctor," Steve turned and informed the detectives, sliding into his cool, professional manner. "But thanks for your concern." He offered them a smile, before looking back at Tessa and giving a final worried look as they were herded out of the hangar. Though, Tessa held them back, staring towards the way they had come.

"Our guns, the suitcase," she pressed.

"They took our guns," Steve explained to the detectives, "And our suitcase's probably back in the office where we left it, some five-ten minutes from here. Not sure where exactly." Murphy gestured for a constable to fetch the guns confiscated from the bandits, and they took them carefully from the proffered hands, making sure everything was alright before unloading them. Steve made to return for the suitcase, but the elder detective held a hand up.

"We'll take care of it. Just follow Christine out to the cars and get settled in. I'll make sure the suitcases goes to the right destination." They nodded in agreement and let the female detective – Day – lead them out the thick steel door, past uniformed police cars where their "kidnappers" were stowed together, and to an unmarked Mercedes-Benz standing a little to the side. Tessa turned her head firmly away as the police cars fired up their engines and set off with their prisoners, not wanting to see the twisted face of the chubby man once again.

I want to forget this.
You won't. It's not over. He's still out there.

Steve's hand never left hers as they climbed into the backseat, and he squeezed it comfortingly. She turned her head away, not wanting him to see the tears finally fall down her cheeks.

Ellen Mackenzie, or Mac as she was referred to, was standing in the front of the conference room when the message came. The Sydney Detectives had entered the building and Christine and Bill were bringing them up here now.

The news had brought back the apprehension she had forced back in an effort to switch off the John Gisbourne case. Beside the new piece of information on Gisbourne ordering for an accident to occur and thus getting rid of prosecution's star witness, Church had not learned anything else about the case they were first and foremost working on. She wanted to bust John Gisbourne for a number of things, but right now there was a large shipment of drugs waiting around the corner with his greedy fingerprints on. The Gary Gisbourne-Tessa Vance case had just been number two on her list of priorities, but the brass had pushed it up to number one, and there was no defying the top.

For a moment, Mac wondered how this sought-after detective from Sydney was. From the media's point of view, not to mention the prosecution's, Tessa Vance sounded like she was one of a kind, like one of those cops you saw on television shows that solved the case like there was no obstacles at all, which experience had shown Mac was too good to be true. There was always something getting in the way, always something stalling the time it took to get to the killer. There was no such thing as a superhero detective, everyone had flaws.

Mac had been tempted to look at Vance's service records, just to get a picture of her, but it would have been prejudicial, not to mention this was not even her case. Elder brother Gisbourne was her target, not a suit from Sydney. She would do better to stay out of it.

But that's not the case. You've landed yourself in the thick of this, Ellen.

Just under twenty minutes ago, Mac had received news of what had transpired at the air port. It had been what they feared; Gisbourne's men had come first and taken them. Christine and Bill had reported witnesses seeing them being led away from customs and had raised the alarm. The air port was big and it was easy to lose sight of someone, and when the security cameras had suffered technical problems throughout the complex, they had believed they were too late. However, by a stroke of faith the police had managed to get a fix on their location and arrived just before they disappeared.

This new turn of event meant Mac had to involve herself deeper in the matter of protection. Vance's life was high-maintenance now that they had physical evidence of someone being after her blood, not just an insinuation based on Church's eavesdropping. She could no longer be a passive player; it was time to be aggressive. Church would need to know to step up his investigation, to expand his search to include information on the Vance case.

A knock on the door brought her out of her thoughts and back to the present situation.

Mac turned when the door opened to first admit Bill Murphy, then a petite, slim blonde dressed in a long moss green cardigan over a cream-coloured top, and dark comfortable thigh-hugging khakis. A brown jacket lay slung over her arm. The long, fair hair spilled down on her shoulders in a way Mac was sure belonged to the out-of-uniform outfit. It looked like it was usually pulled up, arranged in a pretty but easy to manage hairdo. The woman's blue eyes surveyed the room, looking tense but controlled.

Tessa Vance was beautiful, but it was not her looks that piqued Mac's interest. It was the way she carried herself, the sharp intelligence flashing across her eyes. This woman had seen a lot, she was experienced. In other words, she was not the kind of detective Mac had expected.

Whatever emotions flickering in Vance's eyes as she crossed the threshold, it all dissolved when she met Mac's dark eyes and professionalism spread across her features. Mac extended a hand, meeting firm fingers under hers. The Sydney detective looked a little under the weather, which was not entirely unexpected given the last hour's happenings. She sat down in one of the chairs around the conference table.

Following the small detective was a tall, dark-haired man with composed eyes and a down-to-earth kind of expression. Tessa Vance's partner, Steve Hayden, Mac reasoned. Not as a big attraction as Vance in the Gisbourne case, but still there to testify alongside her and support her recounting of the events.

Dark jacket, opened to show a navy blue sweater over a white shirt. Complimented with dark beige trousers, the clothes suited his well-toned body well in a way Mac was sure his ordinary suit didn't grant him. With the slightly narrowed eyes—Bedroom eyes, thought Mac—detective Hayden looked like one of those who would appear imposing with just a change of stature, no matter what he wore – it worked well both outside and inside the interrogation rooms.

They shook hands, a formal smile grazing his lips. Mac noticed he brushed Vance's shoulder lightly as he sat down beside her. A silent communication passed between them. Mac felt oddly left out.

Shaking it off, she finished the formal introductions, gesturing for Bill and Christine to take a seat as well. The five officers glanced at each other briefly before Mac started the meeting.

"I'm sure you all know why you're here." Vance's brow furrowed slightly, but she otherwise looked composed and calm. "But I'll repeat it anyway. This morning, approximately two hours ago, word got out that John Gisbourne wanted an accident arranged to prevent someone witnessing in his brother's trial. This turned out to be you, Detective." The woman-in-question only nodded curtly, meeting Mac's gaze full-on. She furtively cleared her throat. "The situation's been up with the brass and they believe, as do I, that when Gisbourne learns you escaped his claws at the air port, he will try again. In light of that, a safe house with police guards has been arranged for you during your stay here in Melbourne."

"Is it just for me or is Steve coming along?" Vance looked apprehensive about the answer, her eyes widening a little. Hayden didn't look at her, but his shoulders seemed to have tensed ever so slightly.

"Both," Mac replied, noting the detectives in front of her were relieved at the news. Real friendship and care about each other; they had to go long back in time. Mac allowed a small smile. "You'll be escorted to the safe house later in the day, but first you'll meet with the DA, Mr Macarthur, about your testimonies." Both nodded in affirmation, already aware of the meeting.

"About the safe house, exactly how safe is it?" This came from Hayden, still calm and composed, and he shot a quick look at his partner as he said it. She was looking a little peachy; perhaps the day was taking its toll on her. Not that Mac would hold it against her. She had had her fair bit of kidnappings and assaults.

"The safe house's equipped with intruder alarms along with all necessary domestic details and groceries. You'll have two officers inside the house with you, and two non-uniformed cars will be posted outside on the streets as lookout. You brought your guns with you?"

Mac resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow when both nodded affirmatively. They must have realised the situation could be bad once they got here. No other reason to explain it – they would need permission from their division head to bring them along; otherwise it would be against the rules.

"Okay, that's taken care of then," she said conversationally, bringing up the next topic. "When it's time for you to go to the safe house, you'll be picked up by two civilian-clothed police officers. Their names are Oscar Stone and Angie Piper; ask for their IDs, just in case."

The additional remark was spoken casually, but Mac could see both detectives perk their ears at it, even Christine and Bill looked unsettled. She was fully aware she was suggesting someone would pull a few strings and get into the department in order to get rid of Vance. In fact, with Gisbourne's connections high and low, she wouldn't expect anything else, hence the subtle warning.

Being the most level-headed, from what Mac could surmise at least, Hayden nodded gravely while Vance shifted uneasily in her seat. She was paling by the second, and Mac wondered about her state of mind. Knowing someone was after your blood certainly messed up with your brain, and could in some cases result in making fatal mistakes. For Vance's sake, Mac hoped it wouldn't come to that. She seemed like a good, decent cop, only out for justice through police procedures, not some solo spin-off with a nervous finger.

"Any further questions?" Mac glanced at the faces around the table.

Bill and Christine had been through this brief before, as they had been assigned as escorts and watchdogs, and had had their questions answered. They were taking up one of the cars tonight, even if they had volunteered for being inside the house. The mere possibility had caused Mac to pull two people from her own unit into the safe house. Not only because they were experienced in such cases and knew both Gisbournes and their ways, but it was also a matter of trust. Even the straightest cop could be bought, and Mac couldn't afford to take chances out in the field. Here at the station was another matter, though.

"Will we stay in the safe house until and during the trial?" Hayden again, this time drawing his hand secretly under the table and brushing his partner's thigh; Mac wanted to frown again, puzzled about them. Vance tilted her head slightly, then looked as if she regretted the action and took a deep breath instead. Her eyes were set on the hard surface of the table.

"That's the safest way in preserving your lives," Mac replied, watching as the pale colour in Vance's cheeks received a green tint. She looked like she was going to be sick any moment. Christine was moving in her seat on the left side of Mac. "Are you okay?" Mac directed her question at Vance, now being under the concerned scrutiny of her partner.

"Could you tell me where to find the ladies'?" said Vance, licking her lips and swallowing. Her eyes bulged slightly behind closed eyelids.

Brows creasing in concern, Mac gestured for Christine to show her the way. Vance said thanks, stood on shaky feet and dismissed Hayden's attempt at following, before letting herself be led out of the conference room. Hayden stared at the door long after it had closed, looking earnestly worried.

"Been a tough day for her," Mac suggested, locking eyes with the dark-haired detective. There was a mixture of emotions in his face as he replied, though a trace of delight received most weight in Mac's think tank. Was he delighted his partner was sick? No, he couldn't be – he was too worried about her. She let the absurdity of the possibility pass to the back of her mind.

Hayden shook his head barely, his hands folded on top of the table. "That too, but those kind of things she can handle." He seemed to hesitate in saying anything further, only giving fuel to Mac's curiosity. She felt there was a piece missing and her investigative mind wanted nothing else but to find it.

"Something wrong? She's not sick?"

"You mean if she's seriously ill? No. At least nothing long-term," Hayden added, the delight appearing on his face again. The mystery deepened, at least until he spoke next. "She's pregnant." He smiled slightly. Mac returned it after a momentary shock.

That clears it up a bit.

"Congratulations," Bill said earnestly beside her, to which the other man only nodded thanks. Still mystified at where Hayden fit into the picture – he wasn't the father was he? They were partners, after all – Mac nevertheless offered her own best wishes before the room lapsed into silence.

After five more minutes, Vance returned to the room with Christine in tow and sat down in her previous chair. In the brief moments it took her from the door to the table, Mac had managed to see the slight swell hidden underneath the moss green cardigan.

Wonder how I didn't notice before.
She's covered it up well.
She wants to hide it because of the job.
No, not quite. She's just reacting to what's happening around her. She's trying to shield it from harm.
Makes you wonder about your own future…

Mac smiled at the other woman, who looked better, though still pale. The beautiful eyes locked with Hayden's, again speaking to each other without saying a word out loud.

Checking her watch, Mac decided they could break it up here and let the two detectives get some food and drinks before the DA's meeting. Leaving them in the capable hands of Christine and Bill and with instructions for the next couple of hours, Mac turned her mind firmly away from this case and back onto the drug sting as she left the station. She needed to get back to the Factory and hear if Church had come up with anything worthwhile, along with discussing the safe house procedures with Oscar and Angie.

This is going to be a long day.

Mac turned the ignition on and pulled out of the parking lot.

To be continued. . .