The characters are property of CBS & others, and no infringement of copyright is intended

The characters are property of CBS & others, and no infringement of copyright is intended.  The sole purpose of this story is for the entertainment of the reader.

Rated:  PG

Setting:  Following season one and several months after "Sleight of Hand." Danny has returned from rehab in Ireland

Not on the Guest List

Nick's pager vibrated silently.  He reached down and shut it off.  Vicki leaned over to try and catch a glimpse.  Nick looked at her and smiled.

"Well, are you going to answer it?" she asked, returning the smile.  "It is your boss after all."

"This won't take a minute," he excused himself from the table.  "Loved the show," he tossed her way to take the sting out of what he knew was coming next.

Henri's was one of the first restaurants in the District to ban cell phones and pagers in the dining area.  If you had to talk, you were going to talk in the lobby and not disturb other patrons.  Henri's was a chic, dimly lit French affair that Vicki had wanted to go since her food critic at "DC Magazine" had come back raving about the place.  Nick moved into the lobby of the restaurant before pulling his cell phone out of his pocket.  He looked at the dial, and then pushed the speed dial for Jack Mannion.  The phone rang once.

"Mannion," was the answer on the other end; Nick could hear lots of agitated voices in the background.

"Whatcha need, Jack?  Vicki and I just got seated for dinner at Henri's.  Do you know how long it took me to get these reservations?" Nick said quietly.  "And this is a Monday night, too!"

"Sorry, Nicky, it's business…" Mannion began.

"Oh no, Jack, I mean we just sat down!" protested Nick.

Mannion was silent on the other end for a moment.  He cared about both people at the other end of the phone.  "Nick, I don't know how to break this to you, but Congresswoman Helen York just turned up dead."

Nick was stunned and leaned back into the wall.  He regained his composure, "How?  When?"

"The details are sketchy right now.  When was the last time you heard from her, Nick?" Mannion wanted to know.

Nick stood there a minute trying to catch up with all that was swirling around him, "I don't know, Jack.  Uh, I guess it was back, uh, when the Russians took a pot shot at you.  You remember she called me when we were all at DC's for breakfast."

"Yeah, I remember," Mannion said.  "She was starting a new investigation.  Did she ever tell you what she was investigating or whom?"

"No.  I never got back to her.  You got shot, and the world seemed to come unglued all at once.  Vicki and I got together and I, well, completely forgot about Helen," Nick reflected.  "But that was months ago…" his voice trailed off.

Mannion paused and then continued, "Get on in to the office, Nicky.  I need you here now."

Nick knew that sense of urgency in his old friend's voice.  There was going to be no dinner with Vicki at Henri's tonight.  There probably would be no dinner with Vicki anywhere for some time to come, he reasoned, well, at least not until something broke their way on the case of a dead member of Congress.

"I'm on my way, Jack.  Let me drop Vicki off at her home first, unless you want her at the office…" Nick started.

"No," was a quick, strong reply, "I don't want reporters around here just yet.  They are crawling all over the morgue right now," Mannion cautioned.  "Just get on in here."

Nick hung up and headed back in.  He slipped into the chair next to Vicki.

With as much honest feeling as he could muster, "I'm sorry, Vicki.  But you know we're going to have to go."

Vicki had known it when she saw who was at the other end of the page.  She knew Jack Mannion well enough to know that he would hardly interrupt his friend's evening for something frivolous.  She tried not to sound too much like a reporter, but if the Chief of Police was calling his Public Affairs Officer at a little before eleven o'clock, it was something a reporter would want to know.

"What is it?" she inquired, as she looked Nick in the eyes.

Nick took a deep breath, "In the car."

They rose together.  Nick spoke to the Maitre D' and passed him cash for some later day.  He got their coats and headed for the car.  The valet brought it around and Nick opened the door for Vicki.  Months ago Vicki may have had a crush on Jack Mannion, but Nick had made all that evaporate.  She enjoyed the way Nick lavished attention on her.  He never seemed preoccupied when they were together the way Jack had.  Jack's faked death had brought them together.  She made a mental some day soon to thank Jack for that.  Nick pulled away from the curb and headed toward Vicki's home.  Traffic was light at that hour.

"So what is it?" Vicki picked up the unfinished conversation.

Nick brooded about it a moment.  "You can't tell Jack I told you this," he began.

Now she knew it would be a really juicy story.  She regretted having left her pager on the countertop.  She knew it would be buzzing when they got back.

"I promise, but you know if it's this big, my editor will be trying to get hold of me anyhow," she raised her eyebrow.

"I know.  But you did not hear this from me.  Congresswoman Helen York is dead," Nick told her.

There it was.  It was all he knew.  He also knew that Vicki was going to start pumping him for more.

"That's it?" she demanded.  "How did it happen?   When and where did it happen?  Natural causes, accident, or murder?" all the reporter's questions tumbled out at once.

"I knew it; I knew it.  I knew you would do this," Nick ran his hand through his hair.  "I can't tell you.  And…"

Vicki interjected, "Forget taking me home; take me with you."

"I can't, and you know it.  Jack would kill me.  He'd kill us both," Nick responded matter-of-factly.

"I know, but you know I had to ask," Vicki smiled.  "I'll just let you drop me off, then I call my editor…" she did her thinking out loud for him as a courtesy for the tidbit he'd just given her.

Nick drove up to her apartment and parked.  He opened her door and escorted her to the main door.  Vicki smiled at Nick and leaned over to kiss him on the lips.  Nick put his arms the rest of the way around her and kissed her back. 

"Call it a down payment," he said with a smile as he ran his fingers through her deep red hair.

Vicki hurried into her apartment to find her pager.  As she had anticipated, it held a message.  She fumbled with the numbers to her editor.  Excitement pulsed through her entire body.  It had been years since she'd covered a murder case.

"Jim!  Vicki Montgomery here," she began.

"What took you so long to answer my page?" he demanded.

"Sorry, long story.  The short of it is that I accidentally left my pager at the apartment.  What have you got for me?" Vicki inquired.

"Nothing now!  I had to send out Phil Roberts…" Jim Holt began.

"Send him out to what?" Vicki knew if she worked fast, she'd get the story back.

"A dead Congresswoman, that's what!  You blew it, Vicki!" Jim bellowed.

"Let me fix it then, Jim.  Please.  I know people at MPD, you know," Vicki tried.

Jim ground his teeth.  "And that's why I wanted you on this story, too!"  Jim mellowed out just a bit.

Mannion looked up and then behind Nick to see if Monty had come with him.  "You alone?"

"Sure Jack.  I dropped Vicki at her place," he responded as he dropped himself comfortably in the chair.  "So what do we have so far?  What do you need me to spin?"

"Right now, it's pretty quiet," Jack began.  "It wasn't that way when I paged you though."

"And earlier?  How many bridges did you burn?" Nick laughed.

Jack had to smile as he leaned back in his chair.  He nodded, "Sometimes I think you know me too well.  But I didn't burn any tonight; came close a couple of times though.  And you'll be pleased to know that all the reporters I've seen tonight still have their fake hair and stuffed shirts, too."

"So what happened anyway?" Nick wanted to know.

Jack rubbed his face and eyes, "I got the page around nine-thirty.  Patrol and our divers fished her and a car out of the Potomac around nine.  Some fishermen actually found her.  When they pulled her out, making a positive ID was difficult.  Her face was pretty messed up, and it wasn't her car that she was found in.  One of the patrolmen had worked the Capitol area and thought it sort of looked like her.  It was the Coroner who made the initial ID based on dental work about half an hour ago.  Coroner thinks she was half-dead when she hit the water.  The ME has not fixed a time of death, but for now it looks like she'd been in the water a while.  The Coroner is in the middle of the full autopsy now.  Dr. Daniels promised to call me as soon as she finishes up.  Of course, the tissue samples will take more time, but we should have a preliminary cause of death any time now. I've put McGregor and Page on the case," Mannion looked at his watch.  He had time to continue recounting the events that brought Nick into the office at such a late hour.

Then Mannion told his Press Liaison what had just transpired.  He had called Danny McGregor's cell phone to tell him they now had one very dead Congresswoman.  Within the hour, he and Temple were back in the Chief's office.

"Gentlemen," Mannion had told the detectives, "We fished Congresswoman Helen York out of the Potomac tonight around nine.  Here is what we know for now.  The car she was in is over at Impound.  It was not her car.  It had been stolen three days ago; Georgetown Substation took the report.  I want you and Forensics to go over it with a fine-toothed comb.  The Coroner will send over the autopsy findings as soon as they are typed up.  We're going to get several iterations of the report.  For now, you need to know that we believe that she was alive but badly beaten before she hit the water.  The ME found injuries not consistent with a car crash and enough water in her lungs to suggest that the actual cause of death was drowning.  Get digging!  Nick will do his best to keep the press off your backs, and I'll keep the politicians off."

Temple spoke up first, "Sir, have we secured her home and gotten permission to look around?"

Mannion handed him paperwork, "Done.  But the US Attorney was not a happy camper when I went looking for it either.  So, do what you need to do quickly before he pulls out on us."

McGregor thought a moment, "Sir, we'll start there then work backward to the car.  As you're fond of saying, let's see 'where the property leads us.'  Come on, Temple; let's stop by Forensics and pick somebody up.  By the way, Chief, do we know where her car is?"

"No we don't," Mannion said.  "It was not at her apartment.  And you'll find two uniformed officers there waiting for you."

With that the detectives had departed the Chief's office.  That had been a half hour ago.

Mannion continued his previous train of thought, "So, Nick, how's Monty?" as he propped his feet up on the desk.

"She's fine, Jack," Nick said nodding his head downward, telegraphing his discomfort at the question.

"Aw Nicky, you know you can talk to me," Mannion offered with the wave of his hand.  "What did you tell her?"

Nick fidgeted and sighed.  "Not much, only that there was a dead member of Congress.  And that she'd have to go her own route on this one."  Then he laughed, "When we left for the theatre, she had left her pager at her place.  It was bugging her all night…well, that was until we sat down and the play started."

"What did ya see?" Mannion made more time while waiting for the phone to ring, and he let Nick off the hook.  He knew how persuasive Monty could be.

"A revival of 'The Sound of Music'" Nick told him.  "You thinking of taking Ella?"

"Actually, I have tickets for the Sunday matinee for all three of us," Mannion replied as the phone rang.  "Mannion," he answered.

The Coroner was on the other end with the initial observations about the dead Congresswoman York.  Mannion took notes as Nick moved around to read over his shoulder.  When Mannion hung up, he looked at Nick.

"I'm sorry, Nicky.  I know that you were friends at one point," Mannion said.

"That was a long time ago.  And the more I knew her, frankly the less I liked her," Nick returned to his seat in front of Mannion.  "She was blood thirsty and unattached to anything human.  Everything she did had 'politics' or 'profit' written all over it.  I'm not even sure she had a soul!" Nick finished.

Mannion was about to speak when Deputy Chief Joe Nolan entered the office.  "Why wasn't I notified, Chief?  I thought we'd gotten past all that!"

Mannion stood and offered his hand and a smile to his number two.  "Joe, glad you're here.  Well, you were on vacation with your family.  I didn't want to butt into that – at least not until we had something worth butting in for," Mannion was disarming.  "Let me tell you what we've got so far, since you're here now."

Nolan stopped; this was not the old Mannion he used to loathe.  Ella had made subtle changes in his style that no one else could have forced.  Joe sat in the other chair next to Nick who had returned to his seat.  He listened intently as Mannion laid out the few details that everyone was sure of.

Nolan asked, "Which detectives have we assigned to the case?"

"McGregor and Page," Mannion responded.

"Why not call in more seasoned detectives?  Maybe put Page on with one of them?" Nolan wanted to know.  "What about Captain Hunter?  He's got the best clearance rate of any cop in homicide."

"Why not Danny and Temple, Joe?"

"McGregor is still nursing his injuries from the attack on you.  And, well, Page is too green for a case of this magnitude, Jack," Nolan reasoned.  "This is going to have attention from the Hill on down to every DJ on the airwaves, especially PJ Hawkes.  This is going to get ugly, and we need to at least look like we've got half a chance of solving it."

"No, we will solve it with McGregor and Page.  And, I'm not taking Hunter out of IA again.  I'm not about to demoralize McGregor and Page by telling them that they are not good enough to solve a politically sensitive case.  Joe, you know I don't work like that," Mannion stood up.  "Now let's see where they go with this.  Join us for breakfast in the morning at DC's?  We'll talk more strategy and additional assets if we need them."

Nolan gave a curt nod and left.  Nick got up and headed for the door, too.  Before exiting, he asked, "Need me any more tonight, Jack?"

"No, I'm heading home myself.  Got to get Cujo out before he pees on the carpet," he smiled as he shut out the light.

Nick wondered about his longtime friend.  He knew that it would not be long before Ella and Jack were married.  What he could not wrap his mind around was why the couple wasn't already living together, either on Jack's boat or Ella's apartment.  Mannion had already given him the morality lecture on the problems of sex outside marriage and what kind of signal would it send to Ricky, not to mention his own daughter, Beth.  When Nick had protested that Sherry moved right back in with him, Mannion countered that in the Eyes of God and according to the Church, they weren't really divorced.  Neither had sought an annulment.  Nick just shook his head after he'd gotten in his car and headed out of the parking lot.  Mannion was five minutes behind him.

When Mannion had taken Cujo for his last walk of the night, he checked his phone messages.  There was one from the cleaners, his brown and blue pin-strip suits were ready for pick-up as were five, no six, shirts.  There were two solicitations one for long distance and another for something else that he'd paid no attention to.  The final message got his undivided attention.  It was Ella's voice telling him that if he got in before midnight to give her a call, she'd be up.

He checked the time then reached for the phone.  She picked up on the second ring.  He couldn't help smiling as he pulled his tie off and undid the cuff links as he balanced the phone between his shoulder and chin.  His overcoat and suit coat were already put away.  "Hey," he said softly.  "I just got in and according to my watch I have ten minutes to spare on that midnight drop dead time."

Ella laughed softly.  Mannion pulled off his shoes and undid his vest and shirt.  "I'm glad you called, ten minute window or not.  Ricky is really looking forward to the show Sunday after church.  What kept you out so late tonight anyhow?"

Mannion stopped undressing and sat back in an overstuffed chair.  Cujo jumped up in has lap and tried to lick him on the chin.  "You sitting down, Honey?" he paused then continued, "You remember Congresswoman York?  Well, she ended up in the Potomac tonight."

"You bet I remember her.  She raked us all over the coals months ago on that stupid witch-hunt against the Mayor and the 'Pumpkin' tapes.  And, after all she put everyone through - it all came to nothing.  She was not exactly on our guest list.  But I am sorry she'd dead.  I can imagine it's going to be hard to thin out the suspects off a very long list of possibilities," she paused a moment.  "Jack, this is going to get in the middle of our plans, isn't it?" Ella's voice was concerned.

"No, it's not.  Nothing is going to get in the middle of our plans.  I put Danny and Temple on the case.  It's going to get in the middle of their plans," Mannion said confidently.

Ella was unconvinced as they said good night to one another.  Mannion finished what he was doing and slipped into bed.  Cujo jumped up to continue sharing affection with his master.

"Look here, little buddy, in short order, this is going to be a non-starter.  You're going to be sleeping on the floor in your basket again," he mentioned to the dog.  He picked Cujo up and put him in his basket.  "Might as well start getting used to it now."

Ella greeted the team with multiple file folders, including the Overnights and the first rough draft of the autopsy findings.  Mannion resisted the temptation to take over that file; instead he gave it to McGregor.  McGregor yawned several times during breakfast as he squirmed to try and get comfortable.  Danny's painkillers were only beginning to kick in now.  McGregor bore a nasty scar across his cheek where the door had hit him as it blew off the Chief's staff car.  The Russian Mob had intended to kill Mannion and nearly succeeded in killing one of his detectives instead.  When McGregor was tired, he also walked with a noticeable limp.  He had landed funny on his hip and shattered the bones.  The orthopedic surgeons had done a pretty good job of putting McGregor back together.  After many months of physical rehab back home in Ireland, he was almost good as new.  At the time, nobody knew if he'd ever return.  Still, he would go off in metal detectors for the rest of his life.  Temple and Danny each had the other's back.  Shared grief and trials had forged their partnership. 

Temple kept a close eye on his partner.  They'd been up most of the night, going over the Congresswoman's apartment with the Lab boys.  Today, they'd start on the car she'd been found swimming in.  Mannion wanted to know if they had anything new.  McGregor suggested that the Chief's office would be a better place to discuss what they had put together so far.  Temple held several small evidence bags in front on him.  One contained an address book; another held computer disks with unexplored files.  All had been dusted for prints; they found nothing unexpected.  York's home computer was already back at Ella's office.  Mannion asked Ella to duplicate the disks just as soon as they returned to the office.  Nick seemed to drift off.

"Nicky?  You still with us?" Jack reached out and tapped his arm.

"Huh, yeah - sure, Jack," he replied.  "I just need to talk to you later," he said nervously afraid of offending his friends around the table.

Mannion looked at him with a question mark on his face, "Okay, Nicky.  Later."

McGregor handed folders with the detectives' initial notes to Mannion and Nolan.  Nolan browsed through.  "Interesting that she was found in a stolen car, and her own car has gone missing.  Who'd be stupid enough to ride around town in a car with Congressional plates?  It should turn up here soon."

Temple agreed, "It should, you'd think.  A champagne colored Lexus with Congressional plates should be easy to find.  But until late last night, we didn't even know that was what we were looking for."

McGregor's cell phone announced itself.  Danny reached in his pocket and answered it, "McGregor.  Yeah, uh-huh.  Let me write that down," he pulled out a small notebook and scribbled in it.  "Got it.  Thank you," he concluded. 

Turning to Temple, Danny said, "Well, that was until now.  Come on, Temple, let's go over the Congresswoman's car."  He turned to the Chief, "They found it, sir, over in some seedy end of town."

Mannion and Nolan looked pleased as the detectives scooted out of the booth and headed out the door.

"Now, that's more like it," Nolan said with satisfaction.

Mannion nodded and smiled, "See Joe, these guys can handle the case, just fine."

"There was a question about that?" Ella raised her eyebrows.

Mannion and Nolan did their best to say yes and no at opposite ends.  Then realizing the humor of it, Nolan told Ella about the conversation from the night before.  Ella nodded in approval.  Breakfast was over, and the team headed off to the office.

"Nick, you want a ride?" Mannion offered.

"No thanks, Jack.  I've got my car, got errands to run later today," Nick smiled.

Ella and Mannion walked out together.  He opened the door for her, and then got in to drive away.

Ella began, "Jack if this isn't going to interfere, let me ask you some questions."

"Shoot," he smiled as he pulled out in traffic.

"On the last minute plans…" she began.

"Whoa, it's not that I don't care, mind you.  Just let me say that before I say something stupid and get myself in the doghouse with Cujo.  Remember I wanted us to elope in my priest's study; you were the one who insisted on a church wedding for all our friends.  So this is your baby; you plan it.  You just tell me where to show up and when.  And I'll write the check.  But as for planning, it's, well, it's not a guy thing, okay?" Mannion looked over for approval or disapproval.

"If that's the way it's going to be…"

"Yeah, that's the way it's going to be.  Look, Ella, I care about the marriage not about the wedding.  The marriage is where you'll have my undivided attention.  I love you, you know that, but I can't spend time thinking about wedding plans," Mannion continued.  "I've got more important things to work on."

"I think you're starting to dig that hole you were worried about falling in," Ella cautioned.

He glanced over at her then back to the road, "I guess I should shut up while I'm still behind then huh?"  His eyes twinkled with the hint of a grin.

She found that irresistible in him.  "You're playing with me, again, aren't you?" she retorted.

He pretended not to hear, "Well, looky here, we're at work!"

"Your timing is impeccable, Jack Mannion," Ella teased back.

He leaned over and gently kissed her on the temple and caressed her cheek with his nose, and then he whispered in her ear, "I love you."  Mannion straightened up and declared, "Now let's go to work and catch some bad guys!"

McGregor and Page pulled up in a run down neighborhood.  There was the champagne Lexus, minus some exterior parts, parked at the curb near the liquor store.  There was a rooms-for-rent place on the other side of the street.  Broken glass and needles littered the sidewalks.  Temple picked up the radio and called for Forensics.  They got out and without touching anything, began to give the car the once over.  There were no broken windows and the stereo system was still all there.  Only the two fancy wheel covers had gone missing on the side of the car next to the curb. Temple talked to a couple of kids who were out playing, never mind that they should have been in school at that hour.  McGregor noted that the driver's side window was down enough to make an unlawful entry easy.  Temple told his partner that according to the kids, the car had been there for a day or two.  Other than that, nobody knew anything.  Neither had they seen anything.  The Congressional Plates had acted like bug repellant.  Nobody wanted to touch it too much.  Forensics arrived and began to dust it outside for prints. 

The Police tow truck lifted it on to the flatbed and deposited forty-five minutes later next to the car in which the Congresswoman's body had been found.  There they sat, twin pieces of evidence.  York's fingerprints were all over the inside of her own car.  Hers and a billion other people's were on the outside.  That was to be expected.  However, her prints were nowhere on the car in which she'd died.  It had been wiped clean.  Not even the rightful owner's prints could be found.  The real owner was an older Black man who worked for the City in the Sanitation Department.  McGregor's sick sense of humor found that mildly amusing and wondered if the killer did, too.  That she had no prints on the car told him that she was incapacitated when it went into the water.  Temple studied the photos from the area around where the car entered the river.  There were no skid marks for two hundred yards of the presumed impact area.  The river had some current to account for, but even then, there was no evidence that this was an accident.  That made it murder.

Danny sent Temple to interview the owner of the car while he went over the interiors of the vehicles.  Temple tracked Pete Greene down at the Georgetown Police Substation.  Mr. Greene worked in this section of town and had reported his car stolen at the Substation days ago.  Now he wanted to know what they had found.  Temple approached him.

"Mr. Greene, I'm Detective Temple Page.  I understand that your car was stolen?" he began.

"Yes, officer.  Somebody ripped it off last Friday.  And these guys haven't done anything to find it yet.  I live on the other side of town and really needs my car to get to work.  Transit makes it hard to get from the Black side of town to the White side without several transfers and a bunch of wasted time," Greene complained.

"Yes sir, I understand.  I want you to know that we've found your car…"

"Good, when can I get it back?  You know insurance just don't cover the cost…"

"Uh…I'm not sure you're going to want it back, sir," Temple hunted for the right words.

Greene wrinkled his face up in a frown, "Whachu talkin' about, son?  Not want my car back!?  Of course, I wants my car back!"

"Sir, it's like this.  It was fished out of the river last night and is evidence in an ongoing murder investigation," Temple continued.

"Oooh," Greene reeled backward. 

Instinctively Temple reached out and grabbed him.  "Here, come over here, sir.  Let me explain."  He moved the older gentleman to a corner bench seat in the lobby.

"The river?" Greene was incredulous.  "How'd it get in the river?"

Temple tried to ease the older man's anxiety.  "We're not sure just yet.  What can you tell me about the theft in the first place?"

Greene leaned back and thought for a moment.  "I went to work like usual last Friday.  Drove my car, parked it where I usually do.  Then when I got off work at five, it was gone," he recounted it plainly.  Then he looked at Temple, "Son, that was my only way of getting around.  My wife's got diabetes, and so we make more than a few doctor trips.  These rotten boys make life so hard for an old man.  I would never have thought they'd steal an old car like that one.  It's eleven years old!  And I've devoted my entire life to this city…" he began to drift off.

"What makes you think it was 'rotten boys' that took your car, Mr. Greene?" Temple probed.

Greene looked up, "I dunno, just reckoned it was them thievin' again.  Probably took it for a joy ride or somethin'.  It wasn't worth nothin'.  Then on top of it, when I reported it to these officers, they just scribbled a few things down and said they'd get back to me.  But they never got back to me."  Greene just shook his head in despair.

Temple tried to reassure the man, "If you want, I can take you to see your car.  It's kind of a mess though.  You might want to go ahead and file for the insurance.  I'm not sure anything could be salvaged.  I'm going to get a copy of your initial complaint and put it with the rest of my investigation.  If there is anything I can do to help you, sir, please let me know.  Here's my card."

"Oh, I don't needs to see my car.  Where do I tell the insurance man to go see it?" Greene was resigned to his loss.

"Here, let me put it on the back of my card," Temple scratched out the Impound Lot's address and number.  "Please tell him that he should call ahead.  The address and phone number are here.  I'm awful sorry this happened to you."

Both men rose and as Greene started to leave, he turned back to Temple, "You said something earlier about a killin'.  Who was it that got killed in my car?"

"A member of Congress," Temple said flatly as he turned to search for the car theft report.

"Mmm.  Mmm.  Mmm," was all Greene could utter as he shook his head leaving the Substation.

Nick slipped into Mannion's office.  The Chief was nestled behind the big desk pouring over requisitions and other paperwork.  He motioned Nick into a chair.  One last signature, and he pressed the intercom for Nancy.  "Nancy, I've finished signing all that stuff you needed done yesterday.  Wanna come get it off my desk before it gets lost again?"

Nancy popped in and greeted Nick as she collected the paperwork, "Anything else, Chief?"

Mannion raised his eyebrows and shook his head no, "Can't think of anything right now.  Thanks, Nancy."

She turned with a smile and left.

"So Nicky, what's on your mind?"  Mannion wanted to know.

"Jack, I don't know if this is worth anything or not, but…" Nick chewed nervously on his lip.

"Why, Nicky, I've never seen you so nervous.  You'd think it was you getting married in two weeks not me," Mannion laughed as he leaned back in the chair and put his feet up on the desk.  "Come on, out with it, Nicky!" he encouraged.

Nick scratched his cheek and rubbed his nose before restarting.  "It's the Helen York thing, Jack.  You remember when I was going to 'fix' things when she was after the Mayor and was going to get to him by going after you and Ella?"

"How could I forget," he chuckled.  "She thought Ella and I had something going on the side just because I gave her a washer and dryer last year."

"By the way, why did you give Ella a washer and dryer, Jack?  You never did say," Nick puzzled.

"That's because I didn't want Ricky to feel embarrassed.  Ella had just gotten custody, not even finished the adoption paperwork.  Ricky was literally living on the edge.  You know the story of Pablito killing Ricky's mom then wanting to kill Ricky as the only witness to it all.  Well, Ricky started wetting the bed.  Is it any wonder?  I mean, the little guy was only 8 at the time.  Ella was doing laundry at all hours of the night when her machines died on her.  It was starting to interfere with breakfast, COMSTAT, and what we were doing here.  At the time, it was purely self-defense!" Mannion finished retelling the story with a flourish.  "Now if you breathe a word of this," he leaned forward with a smile.

"I know.  Ella will kill me!" Nick laughed.  "Seriously, Jack it was about that incident.  I was beside myself thinking that Helen's committee was going to skewer Ella and you over a washer and dryer just so she could hang the Mayor out to dry.  So I did some snooping around.  I found out that her objective was more the profit motive that it was for the good of the people.  Her dead boss, Congressman Reese had a really sweet deal going with the 'dot com' crowd.  They had made it possible for the Internet firms to set up shop without worrying about taxes, including their workers.  In exchange for that favor, the firms sent loads of soft money through a lawyer named," he pause a moment and pulled out his Palm Pilot, then he went on, "Steve Cooper.  Cooper was the hidden middleman.  When I confronted her about the soft money, she did not deny it.  She seemed a little embarrassed, but it really was no biggie."

Mannion was putting all this down mentally, "But under the current rules, soft money was legit, even if it seemed tainted by influence peddling."  Mannion smiled, "You know it's ironic, that here this woman was trying to destroy an honest Mayor over the very same sin she was involved in!"

"There's more, Jack," Nick paused to see how his boss would take it.

Mannion nodded, "Keep going, Nicky.  Let's see if we can tie it all together."

"This Steve Cooper character also gave her insider trading information.  That was what I was going to use to get her off you and Ella.  At the time, I could have cared less about Ethan Baker," Nick pulled out more from his hand held.

"Go on," Mannion encouraged.

"There was this stock for a company called Orb Ventures dot com that was selling for $3 a share.  Cooper told York about it.  She invested a ton of money in the company just before it went up 3000 percent.  Jack, she made a fortune overnight based on insider trading.  She did not deny it either.  After the hearing when the Mayor came clean about Poo Kim being his daughter, she and I never saw one another again.  Do you think that maybe Cooper had something to do with her death, Jack?"

Mannion's eyebrow was raised.  He pulled his feet back down before speaking, "Nicky I want you to run over all this again with McGregor and Page in your office.  It may be a key; then again it might be nothing but old news.  But give them the lead and let them run with it."

Ella knocked then entered Mannion's office from hers.  She handed Nick a cup of coffee as she picked up Mannion's empty cup to refill it.

She casually remarked, "So got any leads on who killed Congresswoman York, yet?"

"Thanks, Ella," they said in concert.

She filled her own cup and sat down.  She handed Mannion the file with the next generation of autopsy findings.

She continued, "I looked through this when it came in.  Pretty messy death.  She must have made somebody really mad to have been killed this way."

Mannion sat up, "Ella, what did you just say?"

"Huh, Chief?" was her reply.

"You said that York must have made somebody really mad before she was killed," Mannion repeated.

He flipped through the autopsy file.  He studied the photos and the findings.

Mannion muttered, "She was beaten half to death.  Her face was bloodied before she was pushed into the water.  Internal injuries, her right arm was broken, spiral fracture to the humerus …"

"What's that mean, Jack?"

"Mmm, it means her arm was twisted so hard it snapped," he replied as he continued to pour over the folder's contents.  He continued, "Some evidence of sex within hours of her death.  Hairs found for analysis.  No telling if it was consensual or forced.  But a condom was used, mild allergic reaction of tissue to latex…"

Nick winced and squirmed.  Ella reached over and gently rubbed his back, like a mother comforts a child.  Mannion left his absorption in the file and looked up.

"Hey, Nicky, if, uh, you don't feel comfortable…" he offered.

"No, Jack.  I'm okay.  It's just that," he looked over at Ella knowing that disapproval was a moment away, "uh, we had a short affair thing, you know."

Mannion looked away then back at Nick, "I knew about it.  I think I yelled at you once or twice because you put her interests above our departments."

"I remember that well…it was one of your better butt chewings," Nick gave a nervous smile.  "But it was over long before now.  Months ago.  I'm sure there is nothing left of me or mine at her apartment."

"Yeah, well, go see Danny and Temple," Mannion directed.  "Here and take this with you.  They're going to need it more than I do right now.  Get Nancy to make Joe a copy, too."

"Jack," Ella started after Nick left, "I know you don't want to be bothered with the details, but I do want your input on the guest list at least."

As if on cue, the phone rang, Mannion smiled, "I planned it that way," he winked.  Picking up the phone, "Mannion... Yes, Mr. Mayor.  We've got two of my best detectives on the case.  I know, Ethan.  I am not about to give anyone the appearance that we are either more interested in her murder than any other citizen of this city, neither are we less interested given the relationship of the past."

Mannion nodded some more.  Ella saw that as her cue to leave.  The Mayor would be bending Jack's ear for some time.

"Uh-huh, Mr. Mayor.  Uh, I can brief you over the phone with what we have or I…  Yes sir, I can come over.  Give me about twenty minutes to get what my detectives have come up with this morning, and I'll be there shortly.  Yes sir.  Thank you, sir," he said as he hung up.

Mannion pushed away from his desk, grabbed his overcoat and started out the door.  "Nancy, I'm going down to City Hall.  Are Danny and Temple around?"

"Yes sir, I think so.  I saw Danny a few minutes ago at his desk.  He was arguing with the computer," she said with a wry grin.

Mannion caught sight of McGregor as he turned the corner with a fresh cup of coffee in his hand.  Danny put the cup on his desk and picked up a pair of folders.  He walked over to the Chief.


"What have you got this morning, Danny?"

"We've got no prints on the car her body was dumped into the river in.  You've seen the newest autopsy findings.  Temple is on his way back from interviewing the man who owns the car she was dumped in.  He had reported it stolen from his work on Friday.  It went missing some time between eight in the morning and five in the evening.  The old man figured it was 'bad boys' taking it for a joy ride.  Not much help there.  Forensics is still going over the guts of both cars looking for anything.  But I'd say that car was cleaned up before her body was stuffed inside.  There wasn't even any glass on the driver's seat.  The other windows were broken out to make it sink faster.  Glass was all over the back seat and passenger side.  Forensics thinks that entry was made by breaking the driver's side window.  Then they stole the car.  A bit of an amateurish car theft if you ask me, sir."

Mannion nodded, put his hands in his pockets, and frowned, "An amateur car theft combined with a very professional job of body disposal.  An interesting twist, don't you think, Detective?"  He patted Danny on the shoulder, "Thanks, Danny.  Keep pulling it apart."  He smiled, "Be like a cat with a ball of yarn.  The more you unravel, the more we know what's in the ball. "  He turned to leave, "Oh yeah, Nick needs to talk to you, too.  He's in his office."

Danny hung around Nancy's desk for a moment longer.  "You do know that I wanted to stay and do the rehab here.  You know - once they put Humpty Dumpty back together again," he laughed.

Nancy looked at the Irishman, and she nodded before sitting back down, "It was important for James to see that his Dad was going to be okay."

Danny sighed, "My wife wants me back, too."

Nancy looked at the pile of paper on her desk.

Danny continued, "But I'm not sure I want her back though.  I do want James to come to America, and she may be the price of admission."

Nancy still made no reply.  She just kept sifting papers.  Danny licked at his lips and decided it was time to find Nick.  "Well, I'll be going now.  I think the Chief said Nick was in his office."

As he left, Nancy pulled out some tissues and headed for Ella's office.

Before he could get to his car, Vicki caught Mannion.  "Jack!" she called out.

"Trapped like a deer in headlights," he volleyed back with good nature.

"How have you been, since your 'death'?" Vicki began light before moving in for the real questions.  "I've been meaning to thank you for that, by the way.  I have really enjoyed Nick's company as a result.  I bet you never thought of yourself as a matchmaker," she said with a smile as she took Mannion's arm.  "Let me walk you to your car."

Mannion offered no resistance.  Instead, he offered her some information, "All I can tell you right now is that Congresswoman Helen York appears to have been murdered some time over the weekend.  Everything else is speculation.  You understand, right?"

"That's it?  That's all the whole Police Department knows?"

Mannion looked at her, "Monty, let's not start with the badgering again.  I've got to brief the Mayor.  Go see Nicky for the official press release.  You know the drill as well as anyone.  Open cases are not public information.  This is a really big open case, okay?"

He got in the car and rolled the window down.

She asked one last question, "Any suspects yet?"

"Other than maybe your grandmother? No," Mannion teased her as he turned over the engine.  "Gotta go, now, Monty.  Sorry!"

Vicki was left standing in the parking lot.  She shook her head and went inside to look for Nick.  Danny was inside talking to him when she arrived.  She opened the door.

"Not now, Vicki.  Can you give a few more minutes, please," Nick made more a statement than a request.

"Sure, sure.  I'll just wait out here," she motioned over towards Nancy's desk.

Nancy was still in talking to Ella when Vicki wandered up.  The top folder was the freshest of the autopsy findings.  She looked around to see if anyone noticed her presence.  Feeling like the coast was clear, she opened the folder and did a quick take.  God had blessed her with a nearly photographic memory.  Now she was hoping not to remember what she'd just seen.  The file began with the photos.  It was horrendous to her mind.  She was on the verge of puking when Nancy came out.  Vicki tried to look nonchalant and smiled.  It was still hard for Nancy to see clearly through wiped away tears, but she thought that she might have caught Vicki in the act of spying on her desk.

"Can I help you, Ms Montgomery?" Nancy sniffed back new tears.  "You just missed the Chief.  He went to City Hall."

"Yeah, I know.  I caught him as he was leaving.  No, I'm here to see Nick.  Gee, and it's getting close to lunch, too," Vicki tried to deflect the conversation.

Nancy looked at her watch and wondered what time reporters ate lunch.  It was only ten thirty in the morning.

"If you want, you can sit over there," she pointed out chairs lined up on the wall in front of her desk.

"Uh, yeah, thanks.  Hey how's Danny doing?  I hear he got really banged up when the Russians blew up the Chief's car," Vicki asked innocently enough.

Nancy was catapulted to the verge of tears again, "He's fine, but he says his rugby days are done.  Look, I've got to get some work done," she commented as she ducked her head back down.

Mindlessly, she moved papers around her desktop.  Instinctively, Vicki knew that she'd said something wrong.  She just wasn't sure what it was.  But she knew that it had nothing to do with the story of the year.  Vicki sat quietly as Danny finished with Nick.  In thirty minutes, he came back out, having been joined by Temple about half way through.

Ella had duplicated the disks she'd been given at breakfast.  She gave the originals back to Danny and began to explore the files she found there.  She promised Danny the hard drive's contents perhaps later that day.  Most of the files were password protected.  It would take some time to let software crack the passwords so she could have unhindered access to their contents.  She had let Mannion know that it would be later today before she could get anything off the disks for the investigation.  Now the first of the passwords yielded to the program she was running on it.

It was a list of accounts with a large flow of cash transactions.  There were only a few problems to resolve.  Whose money was it?  Where were the accounts located?  And most importantly, if they were not York's why did she have the information?  Ella printed out the contents of the file and put a copy on Mannion's desk with a note.  The original she gave to McGregor and Page. Neither of them quite knew what to do with it.  Basic police work did not include, what looked at the moment like, money laundering analysis.  They were heading into uncharted waters together.  When Mannion returned from the Mayor's office, he concurred with the initial guesswork.