Monday, Labor Day, 1014 hours
Rev. Siobhan O'Mallory sits in the quiet of the dimly lighted booth, her red leather bound 'Book of Common Prayer' open on her lap. The light is barely enough to see read by. She does not have to read it however; the text is so familiar to her that she need only see a few words to recall it all. The day is hot but an advantage of the Gothic stone church, hard to heat in winter, is that it is comfortably cool in the summer. That coolness keeps the Confessional booths, halfway up the church on the left side, comfortable.
As usual she doesn't know how many people, if any, will visit her this Labor Day morning. It doesn't matter; she will aid someone or have a quiet hour for prayer and contemplation. She's here to serve.
The wooden door to the booth beside her opens and closes. Someone has entered and kneels facing the foot square screen of fabric that separates them. She closes the book, settles it upon her lap. There is no light in the other booth so she cannot see in, but she knows that, with effort, she can be distinguished. Taking off her gold framed glasses as a sign of 'assurance', the booth reduced to a soft blur, she raises her hand toward the unknown Penitent. "The Lord be in your heart and upon your lips that you may truly and humbly confess your sins; in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
A young man's familiar voice begins, "Mother O'Mallory, it's–"
"I do not know who comes to me;" she hastens to interrupt him, knowing only a young man's voice, one that has recently become familiar, and she hastens to forget the association; "it is to God alone that you speak through me."
"Of course," his embarrassment is all too plain, "I just - that is - I really need to tell you." It is several seconds before he can. "The other day - I tried to save someone from getting killed. I had - I had a gun - it wasn't mine, but I needed it to save her. I did save her, but..." He can barely say the words, his voice reduced to a whisper buried under heavy boulders of guilt. "To do it I had to murder a man..."
Monday: 1237 hours
Dawn Caldwell closes her last suitcase on Abby's living room couch and tugs it off, sets it with the other two in the middle of the floor. She flips back her long blonde hair that had fallen forward when she bent over. "Well, that's it."
They are a study in contrasts. They always have been and perhaps that is one of the reasons they had remained friends for so long. Even to clothing - Abby wears her black velvet 'vampire dress' highlighted with silver Halloween charms, though that holiday is weeks away. Her black garbed, black twin pig-tailed appearance is far removed from Dawn's light beige slacks, pale blue blouse and long straight blonde hair. The last time Dawn had worn pigtails had been with Abby's influence.
"That's it," Abby admits, trying to fight back a twinge of unhappiness. The weekend has gone so fast - especially when she spent most of it at work, attempting to solve five murders. The music from the radio on the tall black bookshelf changes, allowing her something else to talk about instead of saying goodbye. "Palestrina's 'Missa De Beata Virgine'," Abby identifies after six notes, "I've always liked that one, particularly the ninth measure."
"Remember all the times we played 'Name that Tune' with these?"
"Do I ever. I won most of the time."
"Half the time," Dawn protests.
"Only after you turned fifteen." They listen to the music for a few moments, but it can only be too few and it only momentarily distracts. They have to leave well before Dawn's 3:00 pm flight to Louisiana.
"Well," Dawn says, clasping her hands and looking about the black room, "pretty soon I'll be gone and you can have your noi– I mean 'music' - back."
Abby shakes her head, not wanting to think of her friend leaving again so soon. They'd looked forward to this weekend for so long and it had been broken up so badly by murders she doesn't want to contemplate, which had ended in a threat from the Government that had chilled her soul. "I think I'll keep this station on."
"Really?" Dawn's surprised.
"Am I finally curing you of rock?"
"No way, it's just that when it's on … I don't know ... you're not so far away then."
"I'm always just a phone call away," Dawn assures her, not wanting to be caught up in sentimental goodbyes. It's times like these, seeing each other for a few days each year after living practically next door for nearly two decades, that make partings harder to bear.
"It's not the same," Abby says, pulling her friend into a tight hug.
"No, it isn't," Dawn admits when they can pull apart, but she turns away before Abby can see her moist eyes, before they both start to cry.
"It's been great having you," Abby says, "I'm just sorry–"
"Don't be," Dawn tells her, turning back to her friend, "it was a great weekend, but …." There is no way she can get the murders out of her mind. She hadn't seen the bodies, and even though Abby was stingy with information she knew one man had been shot with an arrow, a woman's head had nearly been severed, another woman skewered with a sword…. She doesn't want to think of any more. Perhaps – no, definitely – it's better she had not seen any of the bodies. "Are you sure you can't tell me the climax?" she asks, trying one last time to wheedle the story out of her. She had been present for so much of the mystery, been privy to so many of the details, that being deprived of the ending seems so unfair.
"I told you - I can't tell you. It's a secret - and Gibbs told me how much the Government likes its secrets." In fact, her heart had frozen when he'd told her the story, the almost 'X-Files' ending he'd shared with her but which she could never reveal. She'll never tell her friend how the Army had come in and taken over, telling Gibbs and his team that if they spoke about the incidents of this weekend, the Government would 'regret losing them'.
"I just wish it didn't have to end so quickly," Abby says plaintively, "I barely saw you."
Dawn shrugs. "Well, maybe someday you'll come home," she tells her pointedly. It's been years since Abby has returned to Jefferson Parish. "We'll see each other again," she assures her. "I'd love to let my class get a look at you." Dawn thinks longingly of her new group of kindergarten children at St. Alphonsus. It will be so soon now; fly home this afternoon, school in the morning.
"They'll run screaming into the night."
"I don't know. I imagine some of them might find you pretty tame," she predicts with a teasing grin; "you'll just have to come down and find out."
"Count on it. I already have my vacation during Mardi Gras."
"Perfect, only … what'll you wear?" Abby's normal Goth attire is suitable for a year-round Mardi Gras, what could she get that would top it? "Never mind," she changes her mind before the 'Mysterious of the Dark' can answer, holding her hands up defensively, "I don't think I want to know."
"Then you'll be surprised."
"Scandalized is more like it."
"You'll see. So, Mardi Gras," she swears, "and my vacation is already cleared with the Director."
"Mardi Gras," Dawn agrees. "And if you even hint at a hotel I shall spank you to a rosy blister! I still owe you for that night I went out with Marty O'Connell."
"You were eleven years old and swore you'd be back at eight o'clock - not two-thirty! I was going berserk hunting for you. You think I wasn't going to tell your mother when she got home?"
"I couldn't sit for a week."
"Was it worth it?" Abby challenges, already knowing the answer.
"Yeah," she admits, "it was. But I still owe you."
"Careful, Sunshine," she warns with a smirk, "you're liable to find out I like it."
Dawn halts, shocked, trying to discern if Abby is joking or not. "You scare me sometimes, Vampirstein," she repeats, not certain she can tell her old babysitter that enough. "Are you serious?"
"You'll just have to wait for Bourbon Street to find out."
"It'll be a gas!"
Abby stops dead, slaps her forehead. "Gas! I forgot to get gas!" The 'Batmobile', her black convertible which doesn't resemble its fictional namesake except in minor decorations, had had a heavy workout this weekend. She looks around, there is still some refrigerated food she is giving Dawn to take back to her family, treats not available in Louisiana. They have to be loaded into cooling chests before the women leave. "We'll never make it if we - look, I'll run down, get to the gas station while you finish, then I'll come back and we can leave just in time to make the flight."
Taking her keys off the table by the door, Abby hurries out and down the three flights, berating herself for not having thought of this earlier, resenting now every moment that separates them because of her carelessness.
Dawn smiles, shakes her head. Her friend certainly has enough cause to be scatterbrained. After this weekend, if she had the responsibilities Abby did, she'd probably be squirrel food too. She heads into the bedroom - coffin room, actually - to make one last check when there's a knock on the door. She crosses the room.
"Yes, who is it?" she calls through the door.
"UPS delivery for Abigail Skiooto."
'Skiooto,' Dawn thinks with a grin. How badly could someone who works with the public foul up a simple name like 'Sciuto'? She opens the door.
The tall blonde man in the brown uniform holds a package and clipboard. "Abigail Skiooto?"
'Oh, God, he could play the lead in 'Rocky Horror!' Dawn thinks, sorrier now that she's leaving. "Sciuto, you just missed her, I'm afraid. You probably even passed her on the stairs. Can I take it?"
"I guess so."
The punch to her left eye is so swift Dawn never sees it. She's knocked backward, feels all sensation die. Her feet collide with her suitcases and she falls hard upon the floor as the door slams.
His knee comes down with brutal force on her pelvis, her scream of pain cut off by a vicious punch to her face, then another and another, the impacts slam her head back over and over onto the floor. She tries to get her arms up, screaming shrilly, blindly tries to ward off the punches which keep coming with merciless fury.
Then he's off her, his knee no longer pinning her down. She can't see as a hand closes about her blouse, yanking her up. She shrieks as she feels the blouse rip open. She's dragged to her feet, his fist slams into her stomach, doubles her over…
Abby climbs the stairs to her apartment and as she makes the final turn on the landing she's annoyed to find her door open. "Come on, Sunshine," she calls, crossing the landing, "you were raised in a townhouse, not a ba–"
Her living room is destroyed. Chairs overturned, the heavy bookcase toppled, the television and coffee table are both smashed. The chaos made even more surreal by the blood that covers walls, furniture, everything. "Dawn?" She rushes in, calls frantically, "Dawn, honey?" She looks to her right and shrieks. "DAWN!"
The blonde woman lies on her back, topless, her body battered, bloody and covered by darkening bruises. Abby rushes to her, horrified to feel the coolness of her friend's skin.
She's not breathing!
Abby presses her ear to the woman's bare chest, finding terrible silence.
"No! Oh, God - NO!" Tilting Dawn's head back, she bends over her and, pinching her bloodied nose lightly, knowing the risk, she covers Dawn's mouth with hers and breathes hard, comes up to draw a fast breath and does it again. Shifting position, she puts her hands together, fingers interlaced between and below the woman's breasts and shoves hard - again - again, uses all her terror enhanced strength. "Come on, Dawn!" She won't allow herself to realize her fear or she'll break.
Bending down to breathe into her mouth again, she yanks her cell phone out of her pocket, flips it open and presses a speed dial button. Four breaths and she's back over her still friend, tasting blood in her own mouth from her smeared lips. Her body trembles as she drops the phone on the floor and shoves hard on the Dawn's chest.
/Gibbs,/ the speaker answers.
"Get to my apartment now!" Abby cries, bending down to breathe into Dawn's mouth. "Get Ducky!"
/What's wrong?/ the phone asks as she straightens to thrust hard into her friend's still chest.
"Get me an AMBULANCE!" she screams frantically, her voice breaks as she tries to fight back tears of terror. "NOW!" She bends to force more air into Dawn's motionless lungs.
"Don't you die on me, Sunshine!" she cries and thrusts with all her strength, tears streaming down her face. "DON'T YOU DIE ON ME!"
Continues in: 'Assassin'.
A deadly enemy hunts Abby. Can Gibbs and the Team save her?
Author's Note: For the rest of the story within the story, and to understand what happened to Jimmy in Chapter Two, jump to the year 2035 and meet his daughter, Private Investigator Susan Linda Palmer in 'Otherworld'.