Author's note: I do not own the characters of Nikki & Nora.
I'm trying something a little different here by writing the same story twice, only one is told from Nikki's POV and the other from Nora's POV. There is a reference to my story "The Alley" so you may want to read that first.
WITH THIS RING - Nora
When I walked down the dimly lit stairway, I couldn't help but feel nervous. Not having Nikki by my side was awkward, but given our screaming match about this case before I left, there was no way I could have brought her along. She gets far too irrational at times and the only way I can deal with it is to shut her off and remove her from the situation.
I walk into a large room where there's a bar in the corner and a boxing ring in the middle. There are a few people hanging around the bar and a few fighters working out, but there aren't many people around.
"And who might you be?" an extremely large man asks as he steps in front of me, blocking my path to walk any further.
"I'm here about a fighting gig. Shakes sent me."
He unfolded his arms and motioned for me to follow him.
We walked over towards the ring where a small guy was standing by the ropes by himself. "Get in there with him and lemme see what you've got."
I dropped my bag, put on my gloves and stepped into the ring. The guy was a good three inches smaller than me and thin. If he were assigned a weight class my guess would be extra feather weight.
He threw the first punch and I blocked it without a problem. Then he threw another and again it was easy to dodge it. I walked around him and let him have it with a punch of my own and he blocked it, but I countered it with a left hook that caught him right under the jaw. I swear I could almost see the stars swirling above his head. He was still standing so I let another punch fly and then another and it wasn't more than twenty seconds or so before he hit the mat, spitting out blood and waving me off.
I turned to the man outside the ring and he once again motioned for me to follow him, so I did.
We walked into a small office in the back of the gym area and this huge, Amazonian-like woman stood in front of me and nodded for the big guy to leave us alone. As soon as he left, the interrogation began.
"So you want to fight here, huh?"
"Yeah. I need the money."
"You ever fight before?"
"Too many times to count, and the majority of the times weren't in a ring." I the back of my mind I figured smacking a few suspects around oughta count for something.
"You a cop or something?"
My stomach plummeted to my knees and I prayed the look on my face didn't give me away. "Are you serious?"
In a split second, her fist smashed right into my face. I couldn't help but stagger back.
"Rule number one - don't you EVER question me. Got that?"
I looked up at her and my mind went ablaze. I charged at her, knocking her to the ground and returning a solid punch to her face as well. Grabbing her by the front of the shirt I pulled her towards me. "Don't you EVER touch me again, you hear me?"
She looked at me for a moment and then a smile began to form across her face.
I moved off of her and stood up, not bothering to offer her a helping hand.
"I like you, Babyface. You've got balls, I'll give you that. I'll call you when a slot opens up for you. You get 20 of the bets on you if you win."
"Easy now. 20 for your first win, 35 for your next, and I'll go up to 50 if you can give me ten wins under your belt. Ain't no one been able to do that shit yet."
"Well then, I'll be the first." I took a pen from her desk and grabbed her hand, writing my number on the palm of her hand. "Call me when you're ready for me to kick some ass."
"Count on it," she said just as I turned and walked out of her office, shutting the door behind me.
As I walked through the gym and made my way out to the car, I just wanted to go home and shower and wash all the filth from me. The place made the hair stand on the back of my neck and the thought of having to go back there started to nag at me.
I finally made it home after realizing I'd been gone for longer than I'd expected. "I'm in," I said as I tossed my bag onto the floor.
"Next time I..." Nikki stopped talking as she walked into the room and got her first look at my eye. "Jesus, Nora!"
"I'm fine. It's nothing," I said as I tried to wave her off. The damn thing was throbbing so I headed into the kitchen in search of something cold to put on it.
"Nothing?" she barked from behind me.
"In order to get in I had to be convincing. I couldn't go in acting like a little prissy cheerleader." I grabbed a bag of something from the freezer. All I know is that it was frozen cold. I placed it over my eye and sat down.
"Hey! Just because I was a cheerleader doesn't mean..."
"Nikki. It's a joke."
"Not funny. Let me see." She knelt down beside me and gently put her hand under my hand under chin, turning it towards her so she could get a better look. "What the hell hit you?"
"Some bitch, actually. I couldn't get a name."
"I thought you were supposed to be fighting men?"
"I am, but the person behind this whole thing is a woman."
"Yep. They sized me up, made me go a round with a scrawny little guy that might still be picking his teeth off the mat. Next thing I know, they bring me to a small office in the back and this huge, six-foot-something Amazon woman comes in. She asks all sorts of questions and then boom! She nails me right in the face. I got back up, charged at her and returned the favor."
"Are you out of your damn mind, Nora? Wait, don't answer that because you are."
"That's what she wanted me to do. If I'd laid there, crying like a sappy baby she would have beaten the shit out of me and tossed me to the curb."
"DON'T do that again, you hear me? We need to play this one right..." The tear damn broke and she started to cry.
"Nikki. Hey. It's okay. I'm going to play this safe, I promise." I put my arms around her and did my best to calm her down. "I probably won't even have to fight anyone because we'll get this all figured out before then, okay?"
"Maybe we shouldn't do this. This is too much. I'll talk to Dan and we can figure out another way."
"I can't back out now. I have to see this through. Hey, I didn't go getting sucker punched for nothing." I smiled in hopes of lightning up the whole situation.
"Okay. So what's next?"
"I should..." My cell started ringing and it caught both of us off guard. I looked at the incoming number and then looked at Nikki, "It's her. Hello?...Yeah...what? Tomorrow night?!? I can't...no...I know, I know...okay. I'll be there." I hung up and tossed it on the table.
"What's going on?"
"Remember when I said we'd probably wrap this up before I had to fight someone? Yeah, well that would mean that we'd have about 24 hours to do that because I'm fighting tomorrow night at 11pm."
"No. No. No. You can't. It's too soon." I thought Nikki might hyperventilate by the way she was talking and leaning on the counter.
"I have to!"
"Then I'm going in with you."
She put her hand up to silence me, "I'm going and it's not up for discussion. I...I can be the manager or something."
I couldn't resist rolling my eyes, but I honestly didn't want to go back there alone. I'd never let her know that though.
When we got to the station in the morning, I was somewhat fearful of going into Dan's office given my eye was now black and blue and pretty swollen.
"Everything go okay last night?" he asked, motioning towards my eye.
"It went fine," I answered, taking a seat in front of his desk.
"You sure? Looks like you've already had a fight."
"She was testing me."
"Yeah, a woman's running this thing, can you believe it?" Nikki took a seat next to me.
"Well, you guys have got a full plate because another body turned up on the shore early this morning. I know you're busy with this fight thing but this is the fourth body in a month that's washed up and I need to get to the bottom of it so everyone's gutta pitch in."
"Any I.D. on the victim?" Nikki asked.
"Nothing yet. Just the same as the others, male, severely beaten, broken neck. They've got him downstairs. We're waiting to get the toxicology work up on him to see if there's Meth in his system."
"Come on, Nora. Let's go check out the dead and bloated guy and get it over with." She got up and yanked at my arm.
I couldn't stifle my groan, "Why'd this have to happen at breakfast time? Geez!"
"Hey, Nikki, can I talk you you for a second?" Dan asked as we were about to leave his office.
"I'll meet you downstairs," I said, shutting the door behind me.
I walked down to the lab to take a look at the body and get it over with while Nikki was upstairs chatting with Dan. "Hey, Charlie. Dan said you've got a fresh one down here for us."
"Yep. Smells a little fishy, pun intended. He's over there on that table."
I walked over to the table and lifted up the sheet, gasping.
"You okay over there?"
"I...I saw him last night."
"Hmm. Doesn't look like your type."
I looked up and frowned at him. "I was working a case last night and he was at the bar. Dammit," I swore under my breath. "Thanks, Charlie."
I started walking back upstairs and ended up meeting Nikki halfway. "I saw that guy last night."
"What? Are you sure?"
"I'm positive. He was sitting at the bar when they were taking me to her office."
Nikki paled and sat down on the steps, putting her head in her hands. "So that explains why the guys have been beaten, they've been fighters from this club. Nora, you CAN'T do this tonight. You..."
"What am I supposed to do? Call and tell her I'm sick or something? You know I can't do that."
Without another word she got up and started walking back to Dan's office.
"Nikki? Nikki, wait."
"There's no discussion on this one." She knocked on Dan's door and he motioned for us to come in. "Nora saw the dead guy downstairs at the club last night."
"He was at the bar. I'm positive it's him."
"Tell her she's NOT going back there tonight, Dan."
Dan sat there for a moment and tossed a folder onto the top of his desk. "I can't do that."
"What?!?! Are you freaking crazy?"
"We have a chance to bust these people and stop these murders. This is a huge break. If I pull her out now then we risk them moving to another location, it'll take time to find them, more bodies pile up, I get more heat from the Governor."
"Pardon my French, but fuck the Governor. Nora's putting her life on the line here."
"And I will be there to back you two up. My guy is working on it as we speak."
Nikki started pacing. "Great. Your GUY is gonna get my foot up his ass if anything goes wrong tonight, so help me God."
"Nikki, calm down." I put my hand on her arm and tried to get her to chill out.
"I need some air," she said as she stormed out of the office.
"You okay doing this?" Dan asked.
"I kinda have to be, I'm already in it. If you pull me out now we blow it. She'll get suspicious and there's no way we'll get back in."
"We'll have a team ready to go in when it's the right time."
"I know," I said as I lowered my head for a moment. "But that's not going to make Nikki feel any better about this."
"What's going on with you two?"
I swallowed hard, "Wh-what do you mean?"
"Is she mad because she didn't get to go in or something?"
I was relieved that that's what he thought it was and I decided to play on it. "Yeah, I think that's the majority of the problem."
"Work it out so we can get this done, please."
"Definitely," I said as I stood up and walked out of his office before more questions were thrown my way.
We walked into the club and an uneasy feeling hit me like a ton of bricks.
"Who's this?" the mystery woman asked as I threw my bag down.
"My manager. Wherever I go, she goes."
The woman moved into Nikki's personal space,"I didn't invite her."
"I know, but if there's no her then there's no me." I pulled Nikki close to me. "She won't give you any trouble, right?"
"Right," Nikki answered, but I could feel the anger radiating from her body.
"I've got my eye on you, sweet thing. Babyface, go get ready. The fight starts in twenty minutes." She walked away and I tightened my grip on Nikki's arm.
"She's a prize."
"Told ya," I said as I started wrapping my wrists.
"Please be careful," she said as she looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes. Then she looked away as she noticed Dan entering the club. "Boss is here."
"Great. He better bet on me. Come on, let's get this over with."
I'd honestly never been in an organized fight before. Not that this was really considered organized, but anything that required me to go to a corner to get cleaned up after each round.
The announcer climbed into the ring and announced me and my opponent, Scorpion. Nothing about him gave his fighting name away to me and I could only assume his punch was going to sting like hell.
The bell rang and we got down to it. We each threw some punches, dancing around each other and making a few connections - nothing major.
He took a swing at me and connected with the air so I threw a punch and smashed him right in the ribs. He fumbled around and doubled over and I felt the adrenaline kick up in me. But the dominant feeling in me quickly faded when he started coming at me. From out of nowhere his glove collided with my nose and at an equally fast speed his other glove drove hard into my stomach. I gasped and fell down to my knees, then got on my hands as I tried to gain my composure. I spit out my mouthpiece and lots of blood as I tried to get the air back into my lungs.
The bell rang and I got up and bravely went to my corner, sitting down on the small stool.
Nikki came in close to my ear, "Let's stop. I can't do this." There was a definite hitch in her voice.
"No," I demanded. I spit out more blood and grabbed the towel from her, wiping the rest of the blood off of my face. I was almost scared at the amount that covered it.
She didn't say another word to me. She tried to get my nose to stop bleeding and then let go of me as soon as the bell sounded again.
I went back out, gloves up and in an instant he was on me - his glove finding it's way back into my ribs and doubling me over, gasping. For a moment I thought for sure I was in deep shit, but something inside me snapped. I sucked in a breath, stood back up and got my head back in the game.
He swung at my head and I moved away. I came at him with a swing of my own and connected with the side of his head. I didn't let up and kept hitting him and hitting him. One more blow to his stomach and he sank to the mat.
The ref finished counting, "...eight...nine...ten! Knockout!" and grabbed my arm, raising it up. "Your winner!"
The crowd's reaction seemed to be divided between the boos and cheers.
I walked back to the corner where Nikki was standing there waiting for me. "You okay?" she whispered in my ear.
I nodded but my ribs felt like a cement truck was parked on them.
"Good fight, Babyface," the woman said as she approached from out of the crowd. "You've proved yourself tonight. Take a few days, rest up because you'll need it. You're fighting someone a little bigger next time, which will bring in a LOT of money if you pull it off." She reached out and stroked the side of my face and I wanted to snap her hand off. She palmed a wad of cash in my hand and walked away.
"Come on, let's get you home."
"I'm fine. I told you I could handle this!"
"You're NOT fine, Nora! Just because nothing's broken doesn't automatically mean you're fine. You were lucky."
"I'm tired. Can we talk about this tomorrow? Please?" I was honestly tired and wasn't in the mood to argue.
"Sure, sweetheart. Let's get you up to bed."
"I think I'll just stay here." I settled in and within a minute I drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up Nikki had already left for work and I was kind of sad that she didn't wake me. I got up and tried to stretch away some of the stiffness but I was so damn sore I sat back down in front of the TV and zoned out.
My phone rang and I reached over to get it. "Hello?"
"Hi, Sweetie. You feeling okay?"
"A little better. Am I missing anything?"
"The guy you fought last night..."
"Don't tell me."
"Yeah. He's dead."
"Shit. You've got to be kidding. What the hell's going on?"
"That's what I'd love to know, darlin'. Looks like your Amazon friend doesn't care much for her male fighters." She stopped for a moment. "Look, I gutta go. Get some rest, okay?"
"'kay." I was about to say I love you but she immediately hung up. My guess was that Dan or someone was close by. I wish I could be open about our relationship because it's hard to hide it sometimes.
This was it...time to put up the gloves once again. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.
Nikki leaned into me and whispered in my ear, "If you're in trouble, just throw the fight. There's no point in staying in there and getting your brains bashed in."
"This is gonna suck. Did you see how big his arms are?"
"I'm trying not to think about it."
I sucked in a breath, put in my mouthpiece and walked my broken body to the center of the ring. That's when I really got a good look at how big this guy was. I was in some serious trouble.
The bell rang, the ref moved away and he started going for my head right away. I ducked and weaved and did all I could to avoid getting smacked by one of his hits. Obviously it pissed him off because he grabbed my wrist and held it down while his right zoomed towards me like a runaway freight train. I could feel everything rattle around in my head and my skin split right above my eye. I was dazed and didn't have a chance to shake it off before another punch was hurled at me - this one smashing into my jaw. It whipped my head around and made everything around me start to spin. I staggered and then my eyes rolled up into the back of my head as I fell backwards.
"Nik?" I groaned as I turned my head to find her.
"I'm here, baby." She stroked my face and I melted under her touch. "You okay?"
I nodded and then started to sit up.
"No, don't get up. Lie still for a minute," Nikki said as she placed the palm of her hand on my chest.
"Lemme up." Surprisingly, Nikki let me and helped me lean against this old metal desk behind me. My hand went to my temple and I could feel stitches. "Ow."
"Yeah, you took a good smack to the head." She touched my face and I felt at ease. "Listen, we need to go before our cover's blown. Do you think you can walk?"
She helped me to my feet. My world spun for a moment.
"Yeah. Let's get out of here." She got me out to the car and the last thing I remember before passing out was her stomping on the gas.
As soon as we got inside the house Nikki's phone rang. "Hello?...Where?...Oh geez. What about the woman?...No...Is she's still there. If she caught wind of the bust then she's long gone...Promise?...Okay. Talk to you in a bit." She put the phone down on the nightstand next to the bed. "Alright, Missy. YOU need to stay put for a few days."
"Mmm. No arguement from me, I feel like shit." I closed my eyes but then reopened them as I noticed an odd smell, "Why do I smell like patchouli?"
She laughed, "Long story. I'll tell you later after you rest, okay?"
"I take it that was Dan that called."
"Yeah." She sat down next to me on the bed. "They took the guy that you fought out to the pier and beat him into a coma. Phillips and the gang stopped him before they actually killed him."
"But he won the fight, why would she have him killed?"
"Honestly, and this is going to sound messed up, I think she cares about her women fighters. It's like a twisted game to her."
"What makes you think that?"
"She helped you after you got hurt. This old Indian woman came in to take care of you."
"She burned it around you. It was as if she were a human x-ray machine."
"Why are we talking about this? You're supposed to be resting!"
"What are you talking about?"
"She...she put her hands over you and saw...it was like she saw inside you. She saw the bullet wounds."
"What? You're joking."
"No, I'm not."
"That's fucked up."
"You're telling me! I had to sit there while she did it. It scared me."
I reached over and rubbed her arm, "I'm sorry, baby. Sorry that you had to sit by and go through all of this. You were right, it went too far."
"Excuse me? Did you say I was right?"
"Yes, don't gloat."
"Mark this day on the calendar. Nora..."
"Alright. Alright. Stop. You don't want to aggravate an injured woman do you?"
She smiled at me and then I saw her coming towards me, putting her lips over mine. "I love you, Nora."
"And I love you, Nikki. Thanks for saving my ass."
"Anytime. Now get some rest." She touched my face and then slipped out of the room to let me sleep.
I woke up in the middle of the night with a sudden urge to eat. Nikki was fast asleep beside me so I quietly slipped out of bed and went downstairs to the kitchen.
Reaching over for the lightswitch on the wall, something grabbed my wrist before I could flip it on. A hand came over my mouth to stifle anything I was about to say while the other hand twisted my wrist and pushed me down to the floor on my stomach, pinning me down with their weight.
They let go of my wrist and I was about to move but I stopped when the cold steel barrel of a gun dug into the skin under my eye. "Try anything and I'll blow your fucking head off," the female voice warned me. I knew exactly who it was. In a quick movement, she removed her hand from my mouth and turned me over onto my back, shoving the gun under my chin.
"Get off me," I said to her as she straddled me.
"Shut up!" she growled at me. "How dare you come into my club and lie to me after I took care of you."
"Took care of me? You made money off guys beating the shit out of me and God only knows how many other girls."
"I hate liars but I hate cops even more." She drove the gun deeper into my skin, moving my head to the side. "Where's your little cop friend Nikki? Huh?"
"Right here," Nikki said as she appeared in the doorway, gun drawn and aimed right at the back of the woman's head. "Put the gun down and get off her, nice and slow."
"It would be a shame if Nora was shot again, wouldn't it Nikki?" The woman moved the gun down to where I'd been shot before and my heart started racing.
"Put the fucking gun down, don't make me ask you again!"
I knew I had to do something, so I took a deep breath and moved my right arm up and pushed the gun away as I rolled, bringing her with me. A shot rang out.
I wrestled with the woman and tried to get the gun away from her. It was sandwiched between us and I couldn't see which way it was facing. A second shot rang out and I shoved her hard away from me.
"Oh God, Nora!" Nikki said, frantic.
I backed away from the woman as Nikki grabbed the gun from her grasp. "I'm okay," I said softly.
Nikki checked her pulse and then rushed over to me, searching my entire body for bullet wounds and didn't find any. Once satisfied, she collapsed next to me and took me into her arms.