Rating: M for mature.
SHADOWS OF THE PAST
"…my two best detectives." Captain Joann Beaumont was finishing up firmly when those two detectives in question knocked on her office door.
Being called to the Captain's office in the middle of an already bad day was nothing new to Detectives Levon Lundy and Joseph LaFiamma, two of Houston's finest.
Though what was new was the odd vibes in the office that day and the unusual strain in their Captain's normally mellow voice.
"What's up, Joann?" Lundy asked after Beaumont had admitted them.
Lundy, a native Texan and Joann Beaumont's former partner, soon saw the problem was the young, lean, brown haired man standing in the office.
Joann saw the look that passed between the young man and her ex-partner but ignored it for now, choosing to address Levon's partner. "Shut the door, Joe." She ordered before sitting back down behind her desk and returning her words to the youth, "Derek, I talked to the Governor this morning and he asked or rather he ordered that Joe and Levon, by name mind you, be assigned to this case. They would have gotten it anyway."
"The Governor of Texas asked for us specifically?" LaFiamma blinked at this bit of news.
The dark haired Italian ex-Chicago cop had been in Houston for well over two years now and still had a hard time understanding a Texans' mind. "Why would he?" he asked outloud, feeling his partner suddenly tense as their captain passed them both a set of pictures. "Hello, who is she?"
"Your new assignment." Joann replied catching Lundy's look and the young man's frown. "By the way Joe and Levon, meet Derek Young. He's the local vice president of Harrison Enterprises. He'll be your liason."
Young, in LaFiamma's opinion, was the typical H.E. executive since he'd dealt with his share of them in Chicago. He was tall but probably no older than 20 at the latest with short crew cut blond hair and green eyes that were colder than most of the H.E. boys. 'This boy isn't right.' Joe told himself while making a mental note to watch the young man when his mind returned to business. "Why the contact with H.E.?"
"Because your assignment, Morgan Harrison, is their president." Joann responded adding as she tapped a file. "Morgan's a freelance government agent now since she left the field full time about a year ago. Now, someone's trying to kill her."
"When wasn't there?" Lundy sighed, ignoring the sudden sharp look Joe shot him and sat down to listen to the rest of the speech.
Joann Beaumont, a 5.6 redheaded spitfire in her officer days, just gave the 6'6 blonde Texas detective a warning look as she went on. "In the last 2 months, nearly 14 attempts have been made on her life. Mostly just to scare but a few came closer and she's been hurt. How bad isn't known but it must be bad for her to agree to protection until the person or persons are caught. That's where you and Levon come in, Joe."
"H.E. usually protects its own. Where are her people?" LaFiamma asked, looking hard at the photo of the young woman with eyes so blue he'd swear he'd seen her somewhere before.
"The Queens Court Raiders are in Turkey on a job and won't be back anytime soon." Derek replied to this one with more than a little Texas accent in his obviously unhappy voice. "But, as I've been telling Captain Beaumont, this arrangement won't work because you can't handle my boss on your own and 'HE' won't touch this case." He added giving a pointed look toward Lundy as he addressed LaFiamma.
The Italian cop frowned at the tone but caught the look on his friend's face. "Why wouldn't he?" he demanded starting to get annoyed with this kid. "If she's our job then…."
"Because it's no big secret how Detective Lundy hates my employer. How he's hated her for the last six years." Derek shrugged, smirking slightly as he went on. "It's just too bad she's his cousin."
"His what?" LaFiamma stared at his partner for a few seconds not believing any of this. "You have a cousin that just happens to be one of the richest women in the country and never saw fit to tell me about it?!"
"It never came up LaFiamma." Lundy sighed, knowing he'd never hear the end of this one and could still hear the accusing tone in Derek's voice as the lanky detective chose to finally address Joann. "I can't be on this one Joann. You know that and you…"
Captain Beaumont held up a hand to halt all the complaints being thrown her way. "First off Levon, the Governor insisted and he'll get what he wants. Second, you haven't seen Morgan in 6 years and that was over something stupid. Deal with it because she's still a star government agent and the Feds want her alive.
"Derek, stop yelling because you have orders from Kelly Robinson, H.E.'s very own top dog, to cooperate with these two no matter how much you may not want to. Morgan'' flight lands in less than an hour and someone has to be there to meet her." Joann declared firmly in her best and most warning tone, raising her eyebrows to invite any further arguments. "Well?"
Lundy looked ready to argue but suddenly took his well worn tan Stetson and left the office without a further word to anyone, including his partner.
"Lundy!" LaFiamma scowled after him, finally giving up and turned to his boss. "I'll meet her at the airport. You.." he glanced at Derek. "Meet us at Chicken's and either have a good place for her to stay or the name of the creeps trying to kill her." He ordered, silently adding to himself. 'And maybe my partner will come down off his high horse and show up or this job is going to be over real quick.'
"Great. Well, maybe I will have a few leads for you." Derek returned after a few muttered curses. "Though, exactly what do you plan to do, Detective LaFiamma, without your partner and an unknown amount of enemies after your assignment?" he threw the question as he was leaving the office, pausing to look back. "Ask yourself if this wasn't the case you would have been better off ignoring."
LaFiamma met the cold stare of the young executive without flinching or backing down. "Nope, because I know Lundy will come around sooner or later. You just be sure to be around later kid, cause for the V.P. of the company you sure aren't very eager for us to protect your boss."
"I'm sorry Joe. I thought Levon, after all this time, would've accepted the case." Joann apoligized after Derek had left. "I really did try to change the Governor's mind but he was dead set on having you and Levon on this case."
"Not a problem, chief. I'll pick this girl up. You just try and find my partner for me." LaFiamma took another look at the young woman in the photograph, still struck by the blue of her eyes and wondered what could've happened between his partner and her to cause such a coldness in Lundy, the proverbial laidback Texan in LaFiamma's view. "Tell him that I'll be at Chicken's Place and would appreciate his appearance at least once to figure out exactly what I'm supposed to do."
As LaFiamma left for the airport, Joann sat back in her chair and wondered what else would happen since this case wasn't starting well at all and also wondered if she shouldn't have warned Joe that his partner wouldn't be the only cop in Houston not happy to see Morgan Harrison return.
FLIGHT 209 FROM ATLANTA NOW ARRIVING AT GATE 3." The amplified voice of the airport announcer repeated the arriving planes for the 12th time as Detective Joe LaFiamma leaned against his highly polished, well loved little black Cobra and waited for his assignment to exit the airport.
While waiting for the plane from London to arrive, the tall athletic 6'6 police officer had time to review the file he's been given and most of it bothered him. A lot.
He'd known that Morgan Harrison, the owner and president of the international corporation of Harrison Enterprises, was young. Twenty-five years old but with a life of someone much, much older.
The file read that the reclusive young woman had been a full time agent from the age of 5 or six until about a year ago when she and her top subsidiary had quit to become freelance agents mostly for the United Nations. Also the girl was described as stubborn, fiery in temper and very independent.
"So what happened that would make her accept protection from relative strangers?" he asked outloud frowning as he remembered his partner. "Cousin, huh? His mothers' sister's baby girl, huh? Well, that's something we'll have to talk about right after I punch him out for dropping this case in my lap and…" he stopped when he seen his assignment, momentarily forgetting all else because the photo he'd been given was definitely out of date.
Morgan Harrison, at 25, was tall and slender, with what she'd been told was a nice figure since she usually hid it under loose clothes, long auburn hair pulled away from bright blue eyes that were dull from lack of sleep and well hidden fear. She'd resisted the idea of coming to Houston up until the last attack and she'd finally given into Kelly's long distance orders to go someplace safe until he could get the globe-trotting, world class mercenary/subsidiary of the Queens Court Raiders home. 'Except is Houston any safer?' the ½ British young woman silently asked when a voice caught her attention.
"Morgan Harrison?" the voice, she seen, belonged to a tall, dark haired man in his early to mid 30's with deep green eyes, styled black hair, an obvious Italian accent and well made suit of dark blue and loafers who was leaning against a black Cobra.
"Depends on who's asking, mate." She replied warily, her hand automatically moving toward the 9mm Browning Hi-Power under her jacket.
"Detective Joseph LaFiamma, Houston PD." He held out his badge to her, easily recognizing her wary stance. "Your protection this trip."
The former federal agent looked at the badge and back at the man in front of her before relaxing slightly and handing the badge back to him. "A ChiTown cop on a Houston beat. Sam Houston and Davy Crockett are both probably rolling over in their graves."
LaFiamma blinked, not only at the unexpected British accent but at the joke she offered. "No more than I usually am, ma'am." He replied, unsure exactly how friendly to be as he extended a hand toward the carryon bag she carried. "This it?"
"Yeah, I figured anything I needed I can get here." Morgan allowed him to take the bag and toss it in the little car's trunk. "Your car? Man, you must have a bloody hard time getting Levon in this thing." She grinned at the mental picture that brought but still caught the surprised look he gave her.
"You know who I am?" he questioned, surprised by that considering his partners' obvious dislike of this girl. "That I'm…."
"My cousin's partner?" Morgan finished for him, looking over from the passenger seat at the handsome faced cop. "Detective, we may not be on the best terms right now but I still like to keep tabs on Levon and the infor-line I have said that his partner, these past two years, was a Chicago transfer named Joseph LaFiamma. So unless there are two Detective Joseph LaFiamma's working in Houston, you must be him. Right?" she grinned to cover the sudden wave of emotion that threatened to show. "Besides, I know who the Governor wanted for my 'bodyguards' and I also know that Levon won't take this case. That left you."
"O-kay. So you know more than I thought but Lundy is on this case. He's just working the information angle, trying to get a lead on who might be trying to kill you." The ex-Chicago cop prayed he was right but he had a strong hunch that the girl beside him didn't buy that anymore than he did. "Maybe."
Morgan laughed at his muttered afterthought trying to stretch in the cramped car without breaking a stitch or causing the pain to come again from wounds she'd rather forget.
At that she turned her attention to the young cop beside her, trying to determine if what her sources had said about him were right and equally curious as to how he and her overly Texas cousin hadn't managed to kill each other within the first week.
"so, where are we going Detective?" she asked, breaking the akward silence in the car.
"Joe." He corrected. "Or LaFiamma. Anything but 'Detective'. We're going to Chicken's Place to meet up with your snot nosed vice president."
Morgan noticed his obvious dislike of Derek Young, a feeling she's had for several months. "I like going to Chicken's. His food's great."
"From the way Lundy and the Captain talked I thought you hadn't been here for a while." LaFiamma spoke carefully as he'd already caught the way she tensed whenever his partner was mentioned.
"Business usually has me and the boys here a few times a year and I try to get to Chicken's whenever I'm in town." Morgan replied, glancing out the side mirror automatically for tails and not really aware when her voice dropped lower. "Whenever I knew Levon or his buddies wouldn't be there at least."
LaFiamma easily turned the fancy car into the near empty lot of Chicken's Place. The one place where he and Lundy usually spent most of their time, either off duty or on.
"Damn." He swore after getting out of his car and not seeing Lundy's pickup anywhere in the lot.
"I knew he wouldn't be here." Morgan spoke quietly as if knowing what the detective was searching for as she eased herself from the tiny car and coming around to lay a hand on his arm. "Don't be mad at him Joe. Levon's hated me for six years now so I'm used to it and he's cop enough not to endanger you by bringing personal problems into a case. Now, let's see what Chicken's got for lunch."
'Oh yeah. Lundy you are in so much trouble.' Joe swore silently while following the girl into the bar & grill. Amazed by her strength of will to keep all the pain in but he still saw the hurt in her eyes and not all of it was from the injuries she was hiding either.
"Yo, Chicken! You here or what?" he yelled over the jukebox playing in the other end of the place.
"Where else would I be at the end of the dinner rush, Joseph?" the deep voice, well saturated with a strong Southern accent, brought with it a large black man in a greasy apron, silver grey hair at the temples and a huge smile for the Italian cop. "Now, a better question would be, where's your part…" he paused at seeing the smaller form just behind Joe and his smile got wider. "Well now, if it isn't my favorite girl."
Clarence 'Chicken' DeWitt had owned his eatery in Houston for well over 20 years and had seen many things and many people come through his doors but never had he thought he'd ever see Morgan Harrison looking so pale and withdrawn and in the company of this particular officer.
"Morgan Elizabeth, what are you doing home and where are those incredibly tactless mercenaries of yours?" he asked after lifting her up in his massive arms to greet her like usual but instantly felt her tense and seen LaFiamma wince. "Trouble, huh?"
"Just the usual." Morgan smiled forcing her breathing to go normal after nearly freezing at the touch. "Kel and the boys are over in Turkey blowing things up. Until they get back, I'm supposed to be in his protection." She gave LaFiamma a grin. "I really doubt he'll last a day with me."
snorted and refused to be baited by that open invitation. "I can
stand your boys in Chicago so I think I can deal with you, kid." He
retorted, looking at Chicken almost hopefully. "You seen either my
partner or her jerky v.p. around today?"
"No to both." Chicken answered heading back to the kitchen. "You two grab a booth and I'll bring out some food." He yelled back, while muttering to himself. "One of them looks like she could use it."
After picking at one of Chicken's spicer lunches, Morgan sat in a well padded booth waiting while LaFiamma called the station to talk with Captain Joann Beaumont and she could tell from the way his expressive Italian features kept getting darker that he wasn't liking what he was being told.
"Bad news?" she asked innocently after he'd sat back down swearing under his breath.
"No. Just great news if you like being told that no one knows where your partner is, you have unknown people trying to kill your new assignment who is said partner's cousin, he's acting like a major jerk and my liason with your company is also two hours late." LaFiamma drank the glass of wine she slid across to him before taking a deep breath in order to calm down. "I'm fine. You o-kay?"
The question obviously caught Morgan off guard because she blanked out on him for a couple seconds. "Wow. You're the first person besides Kelly who actually asked me that but since you did, it really depends on how much I think.
"Actually, most of my pain right now is coming from the knowledge that this is going to get between you and Levon and I really don't want that since you're about his only real friend anymore." She declared, staring into the deep dark pool of soda in her glass as if seeing something there.
"We've been through worse." He assured her, watching her eyes and noticing how her fingers kept fidgeting. "Want to tell me why you and Lundy don't get along? He's always been really calm and agreeable. This is the first time I've ever seen him act so cold toward anyone but the people who killed his wife or whenever someone mentions that Federal fiasco of a couple years…" LaFiamma stopped when those blue eyes across from him snapped up with a fire he hadn't seen before. "Morgan?"
Morgan had started to frown. "They told you about that already, huh?"
"I heard it a few times from some of the older guys down at the station but Lundy refuses to talk about it." LaFiamma shrugged, leaning back in the booth and tried to remember what he'd been told. "I'd only been here a few weeks when the local FBI office got involved in a case involving a Mexican druglord and the whole office started acting funny. I asked around until finally a guy in homicide told me of a case about…."
"Six years ago."Morgan supplied quietly, fingers tightening around the glass as her stomach also clenched.
Joe nodded, completely absorbed in his tale to notice. "Yeah, thanks. Anyway, this guy said this Federal team outta Washington came in with top level clearance to help on some case involving terrorists or something. Must have been political because the cops were ordered to work with them but something went wrong, the Feds screwed up and 5 cops got killed…Morgan?" he looked up at her strangled curse to see that Morgan was looking ready to either run or kill him. "What?"
"You were told that these Feds were so overrated that the Houston cops took the fall for their mistakes. That the team leader was too inexperianced to know any better and endangered those men needlessly." Morgan spoke tonelessly, staring at the table instead of the cop across from her. "You never heard how those Feds uncovered a police conspiracy to kill the mayor and the Governor elect. All you heard was how ineffectual the Feds were, how stupid and immature they were and how the Houston police were the ones who suffered the disgrace, right?"
LaFiamma blinked at her, mind finally catching up to her and beginning not to like what was being said. "That's about it." He agreed slowly, frowning. "How'd you.."
"Because you're looking at the team leader of that 'fiasco', Joe." Morgan replied, looking up at him and seeing the surprise in his eyes. "It was my team in Houston protecting the Mayor and the Governor-elect against a possible terrorist threat during a fund-raiser. My team who discovered just how deep a threat we were facing and my team who took the ultimate fall. What else were you told, Joe?" she asked, memories resurfacing from those days and the bitterness with them. "Exactly what did Levon tell you about that case?"
"Lundy only said it was a stupid mess and good men died. His friends from what I could tell." LaFiamma stated, watching the girl closely. "You and Lundy were on the same case?"
"My cousin never liked what I did but he coped. He didn't like me and my people being in command of that case any more than his buddies did but we were the Feds, we were in control. Or so we thought." Morgan actually laughed bitterly. "From the bloody beginning it was all messed up and at the end…." She shrugged.
LaFiamma began to see things, remembering things said at the station about that job six years prior. Things his partner wouldn't talk about and the things he'd heard whispered behind his partner's back.
"Dirty cops working both ends against the middle." He murmered, seeing her eyes lift only slightly. "Cops always hated to see any Federal involvement cause it reminded them of that case. I've heard that 3 detectives from our office got killed by the Feds….A uniform cop told me once that Lundy never should have let it go so far and that he could've stopped what happened if he'd have had the guts to stand up…he stopped cause Lundy came in right then.
"You were in command of that case. Cops probably resented taking orders from feds but especially from a girl only 19 years old." Joe suddenly looked at her. "The cops were behind those killing that brought your team to Houston, dirty cops who had the perfect cover until you showed up and uncovered too much, right? That's what's going on here, right Morgan?"
Morgan stared at him unspeaking for a few minutes before giving him a look that reminded LaFiamma of his partner whenever Lundy was forced to agree with him. "Detective, you see things a bit more clearly than most cops I've dealt with. Especially on this subject." She muttered sourly, waving a dismissive hand at the sudden thoughts he'd brought on.
"My team, the Queens Court Raiders, and I came to Houston ready to investigate terrorists even though it never made sense to us why terrorists, even Mexican drug runners, would focus on such low rung people. Two bookies, several well placed and high lever hookers and finally the killings moved up to the inner circle of Houston's political ring." Morgan began, figuring if he was going to be involved in this than she'd better at least tell Joe the reasons she's not well liked by Houstons cops.
"Levon, he and I were close Joe. I grew up idolizing him and he tolerated me. Treated me more like a sister than his little cousin and I guess the only real problem we ever had was my choice of careers since he thought government work was too dangerous for a 'little girl' but we coped so long as I was never near him after getting hurt than he was a worse mother hen than any of my other family."
LaFiamma could sympathize with that since he'd wanted to kill his partner on several occasions after being hurt. "So, what happened that changed that?"
"His friends happened." Morgan scowled, hating the memories that came. "His friends caused problems for me from the minute the Chief announced we were in charge of the case. I knew Levon didn't like it either but it was my job and I did it. The 'Raiders and I worked day and night keeping things under control but Lewis and Martin just damaged whatever good we did." She stopped suddenly, eyes clouding over in thought. "The killing continued, the Mayor was yelling and Kelly was getting ready to start killing cops but then we got a break…I thought so at least."
Charles Martin and Robert Lewis, LaFiamma knew, were two of his partners best friends on the force. Or had been until their deaths six years ago in a bungled raid attempt on a warehouse.
"Did this Kelly kill Martin and Lewis?" he asked warily, careful not to upset her since he'd already seen this subject was a touchy one.
Morgan didn't answer right away. "The one thing about government work I never liked was the lying. The good guys lie more than people who are supposed to be the bad guys. No, Kelly didn't kill them. I did."
That response stunned the Houston cop into silence unsure of how to respond as the girl pushed herself out of the booth in order to pace.
"That warehouse was supposed to be a deathtrap for my people but…I got wind of the truth in time for Kelly and the boys and to turn the tables on the guys inside, hired thugs, and put an end to our job." Morgan explained, keeping her back to him as she went on. "Levon never knew the real things that happened that day because I had gotten Caroline to keep him home that day so he wouldn't be involved. He never knew half of what the job meant to me or the things that happened during it, like why I wasn't with Kelly at the warehouse or the real reasons behind my ending up in the emergency room."
LaFiamma sat still and waited, no doubt that she was telling the truth because he'd seen enough dirty cops in Chicago to know what they could do and he knew that other cops would never believe it unless hard evidence was given.
"They gave Lundy a different story than what happened?" he guessed, sure he was right before he seen her tense. "Levon's a good man but he wouldn't turn on someone he cared for unless he was told something or shown something really, really bad."
Morgan slowly came back to the booth, sitting down to look at his deep green eyes as if judging how much she could tell him. "They told him me people were the ones who sold out, that I sold them out and when he couldn't get in touch with me to get the truth he assumed the same thing. Levon believed that I'd sold the cops out and put my Queens Court Raiders up to murder those cops."
"They lied." Joe replied quietly but certain.
"Darn bloody straight they lied!" Morgan snapped, sighing. "Sorry. They told him I'd been paid off to kill those cops because they knew the truth. Levon couldn't reach me because his buddies had made sure that he wouldn't be able to. I was attacked the morning of the warehouse raid, drugged and held for I don't know how long until…short of it Joe is that when I escaped I killed both those lying dogs, managed to contact Kelly and then woke up in Houston General three days later listening to the aftereffects as Kelly yelled at the Governor about coverups and such rot."
"Did you ever tell Lundy the truth?" LaFiamma asked even though he was sure that his hard headed partner never would've have listened to the girl.
Morgan blinked past the memories a few times before shaking her head. "I tried to talk to him on the phone because he wouldn't come near the hospital but he hung up and when I tried to go to the station, well lets just say that wasn't a good idea. Finally, I went out to the ranch…he wouldn't even listen. We fought, said a lot of stuff and I was still too hurt to fight much with him so I left Houston and haven't seen Levon since. At least not in person, face-to-face." She shrugged, glancing at the clock to change the subject before she revealed the rest of what she knew to the dark haired detective. "So Joe, looks like it's just you and me. Where to?"
"Whoa, why did you leave Houston without making him understand the truth?" LiFiamma refused to be sidetracked that easily. "Someone should have been about to…"
Morgan sighed obviously relunctant. "Joe, I loved my cousin and even though I knew he hated me I wanted to protect him. He was friends with those slime, brothers-in-arms so to speak, and to tell him all that happened in those two weeks not to mention the other times I'd visited, assuming he believed me at all, it would've hurt him." She declared adding in a quieter voice as her eyes took on a haunted look. "Plus, it would have put him in danger if I hadn't left."
LaFiamma stared at her before understanding. "Someone threatened Lundy." He nodded then asked the question he figured neither Morgan nor Lundy would want to answer or maybe even know. "Did you leave to protect him or yourself?"
"Both actually." The girl responded upon realizing that Joe wasn't going to budge until she answered. "The night after Levon and I had fought at his ranch, my apartment was…'visited' by several 'well intentioned' officers who put it quite plain that since my cousin's career on the Force was so important to him that it would be a shame if it was cut short if I pushed too many issues. I left Houston to keep him alive and because it hurt too bloody much to see the hate in his eyes. Now, can we get going?" she demanded
LaFiamma swore soundly to make his partner pay for this but finally had to agree that it did indeed look like they were on their own right then and he didn't have a clue as to even where he should take the girl that would be safe.
"Chicken, tell me soon-to-be-dead partner that he better be here tomorrow morning for a real long heart-to-heart talk." LaFiamma shouted to the cook before taking Morgan by the arm and heading for the door. "You can also tell him that I'll have 'OUR' assignment with me at 'MY' apartment since Derek, the wonder nerd, never showed."
Chicken was hard pressed to keep from laughing at the anger in the other cop's stressed out voice but did manage to nod. "If I see him, I'll tell him Joe." He promised then called as an afterthought. "You two be careful."
"I'm always careful." Joe returned with more cheer than he felt right then as he and Morgan crossed the parking lot toward his car. "Derek was supposed to come up with a safehouse for you but since he hasn't and I can't locate my partner, looks like I'll crash on my sofa tonight and you can have the bed. Alright with you?"
Morgan started to reply that she actually had very little choice when her overly hyper sixth sense started buzzing in the back of her head and she glanced around at their present surroundings until she caught sight of something up above them on Chicken's roof. 'Blast!' she swore silently realizing where the muzzle of the rifle was aimed. "Joe!" she shouted, years of battle instincts taking over as she lunged at LaFiamma and shoved him out of the path of the bullet right as it fired at him. "Move!!"
LaFiamma had been silently figuring out how to handle a whole case on his own with no partner and probably little to no cooperation from other cops in his department when he felt the girl stop moving and had just been turning to see what was wrong when he heard her shout his name just as a bullet whizzed by his shoulder, tearing through the fabric of his jacket and then he was rolling as Morgan shoved him out of the path of the rest of the barrage.
"I hate this city." He muttered finishing the roll to end up behind the Cobra and pulling his two .45 caliber Colts from under his jacket when he realized Morgan wasn't with him. "Oh, good God." The ex-Chicago cop groaned when he found the girl. Standing in the middle of the parking lot yelling at their unseen assailants. "Morgan!!"
Months of constant attacks and nerves had finally taken their toll on the young woman and this attack just pushed her temper and her patience past their limits.
"Alright, that is it!! You blokes think you're so bloody tough while you're hiding somewhere! Well, how about coming out and facing me in the open for once if you want me dead so badly!! Bleedin' cowards, hiding from one lone girl and…HEY!!"
LaFiamma had grabbed her around the waist, careful of any injuries, and pulled her back behind his car. More than a little surprised that neither of them had been shot full of holes in the process. "Have you lost your mind?!" he demanded increadlously, now well aware of Lundy's exasperation toward him every time Joe tried some stupid stunt. "You could've been shot! Were you?!" he asked both questions in the same breath while looking Morgan over quickly for signs of blood but saw none except his own.
"No." Morgan replied more calmly now, sheathing the 9mm Browning Hi-Power he hadn't known she was carrying. "This was another game. If they would've wanted me dead, the shooter wouldn't have missed me and shot you." She leaned back against the car suddenly very tired as Chicken ran out after hearing the shots and calling the police. "This was just to let me know that whoever's doing this knows I'm here."
"Great, so much for our vaunted security." LaFiamma muttered starting to shove his guns back in their holsters when the pain in his shoulder seared, making him remember that the bullet had done more than skim past him. "I am hating this job more and more every minute I'm on it."
Morgan looked over at him with a sad smile, standing up shakily and extending a hand down to him. "Yeah, I know. So am I, mate." She sighed hearing sirens approaching and wondering how exactly to get out of this one with no one but herself getting hurt worse. "So am I."
"You were supposed to be watching her LaFiamma!" Captain Joann Beaumont was saying in mild anger after she'd arrived at Chicken's Place close behind several squad cars and the EMT's. "Not the other way around."
Joseph LaFiamma barely listened to his superior as he split his attention between the perky, freckle-faced paramedic who was cleaning the slight graze on his left shoulder and the young woman sitting on the hood of his Cobra frowning into his cellular phone.
"Joe!!" Joann snapped to get the Chicago native's attention. "What happened?" she demanded.
"Somebody shot at us." LaFiamma deadpanned nodding his thanks to the medic while pulling his jacket on with a wince and heading towards his car. "I never heard or sensed anything. She did. My question is how did these jerks find us so fast, Captain?"
Joann had been wondering the same thing since she'd first gotten the report of the shooting at Chicken's. "I don't know Joe." She admitted glancing at the Forensic experts who were wondering around the scene. "She get hurt?"
"Only by her past." Joe muttered, asking. "You heard from Lundy yet?"
"He hasn't been back to the station but I left word with Annie to tell him what happened if she saw him." Joann replied when a string of angry German caught their attention. "She's mad."
LaFiamma rolled his eyes as Morgan Harrison squeezed her eyes shut in frustration before refocusing on the phone. "No. Ric I'm appointing you vice president until further notice. Shut the companies in the area down, pull any of our deep cover operatives out of their covers because they might've been blown and warn the local subsidiaries to watch their backs." She ordered swiftly and with more confidence than Joe had heard from her since they'd met (a few hours earlier).
"Also, call down to Arlington and tell Jamie Russel to get his tail up here to help you. Call over to the Astrodome while you're making calls. Ryan Smoltz should still be in town, get him to help you maintain control cause once this hits the streets all hell will break loose." Morgan paused as the phone spoke and her blue eyes hardened. "You find him, I want him alive. Alive Ric, not healthy but alive."
"So, Derek get lost?" LaFiamma asked curiously, not liking the new pain he saw in her eyes. "Morgan?"
"He hasn't been back to the office since this morning so that means that Derek is either already dead or…he will be as soon as I find him." Morgan declared quietly sliding off the hood and feeling her legs begin to buckle.
LaFiamma quickly caught the girl's arm, surprised to find it trembling. "Easy, sport. You've been through too much today."
"Joe, take Morgan inside while I deal with the press and see what our boys have found." Joann ordered firmly, figuring the quickest way to get LaFiamma to do something was to make it an order. "I'll be in soon."
Morgan was unusually quiet as she allowed herself to be led back into Chicken's. "She won't find anything but what Derek would want them to find." She finally muttered, shock from recent days beginning to set in.
"Say what?!" Joe did a doubletake, staring at her. "You think your V.P. was the guy shooting at us? Why?"
"I saw the light reflecting off the scope of his rifle Joe." She replied, explaining at his still unsure look. "Derek has a special rifle he uses for sniping, special made from the boys in Atlanta. It works great in the dark but in the daylight the thing reflects everything. Kelly was always yelling at him about it and that's how I knew you were in danger."
"Why would he use a gun that would let him be seen?" LaFiamma asked, completely confused by this point.
"Part of the game, y'see. Let me know my one of own is gunning for me and then wait for the next bomb to drop." Morgan responded, crossing her arms on the table and laying her head down on them to watch Joe through sleepy eyes. "Mind warfare on top of the physical damage already done. Very modern torture."
That reminded LaFiamma of something else that had been bugging him. "Exactly how bad are you hurt?"
"More than you want to know about Joe." The girl yawned, not about to answer that and have the already stressed detective freak out on her. "I'm fine."
As LaFiamma made some remark about doubting that Chicken was in the kitchen silently observing the pair and doing some serious doubting himself when he heard his back door open and close.
"Well. I was beginning to wonder if you were at least going to show up to check on your partner after he got shot." The big black man commented sarcastically, aiming the remarks behind him without turning. "Real big of you Levon."
Detective Levon Lundy nearly winced at the blow of guilt his long time friend threw at him but instead jerked off his hat in order to run his fingers through his wavy blond hair in frustration.
"Don't start on me Chicken. I've been kicking myself all afternoon for dumping all this on LaFiamma but what else could I do?" he demanded.
"Face it like a man. Face your cousin instead of letting Joe deal with your personal problems, an assassin and a scared young woman who is still trying to act like your hatred doesn't hurt." Chicken returned, jerking a thumb toward the front of his place. "There is a lot you don't know Levon. Things about that case 6 years ago and things from before that she'd never tell you because they'd hurt you."
Lundy glanced out the window that separated the kitchen from the restaurant to see his partner sitting across from a pale faced beautiful young woman whose aubrun hair was falling into half closed blue eyes and he knew he wouldn't have recognized her now if it wasn't for the blue eyes.
"Sweet Jesus." He whispered, hating himself more for not realizing how much could change in the 6 years since he'd seen his cousin.
Morgan, he remembered, had been 19 years old with dark blond hair just turning to the reddish hue it was now and he still recalled fixing or braiding that hair when she'd been a child. She'd always been fair skinned but now her well defined features held an almost white color, a sickly color that said just how bad she must be hurt.
Slender but lively when he last saw her with the largest blue eyes that, even though she'd seen too much, still held a childs' naivete. That was his last memory of his cousin, of a girl who was more like a sister to him.
Now as Lundy looked at this fully grown up young woman, a girl he still thought of as a baby, he saw that only her eyes hadn't changed in the six years they'd been apart. But now they seemed almost lifeless as they watched LaFiamma gesture with his good arm.
"Six years is a long time to hate Levon." Chicken replied softly, touching the younger man's shoulder. "especially over lies and especially when she's about all you have left beside your grandmother, Joseph, you'd better stop waving that arm!!" he hollered out sternly when he noticed Joe.
LaFiamma threw the cook a sour look. "I'm using my good arm." He grumbled. "I'm Italian so gesturing when I talk is in my nature."
"Is it also in your 'Italian' nature to get shot five hours into the job, LaFiamma?" Lundy asked lightly as he forced himself to move out into the restaurant and face a part of his past he'd dreaded for six years. "What is it with you? Can't I leave you alone for one day without you getting yourself shot up?"
Joe's head whirled at his partner's voice more than a little surprised and also relieved to see him there. Not that he'd ever admit that to anyone.
"You forget your way here or what?" he demanded gruffly to cover his relief, throwing a look at Morgan and seeing that she'd tensed at her cousin's appearance. "We had to do all the work as usual."
"Way I hear it told out front is that she did all the work." Lundy returned while trying to ignore the wary fear in his cousin's eyes and not wanting to show too much concern for his partner. "You're the only one I see here that's hurt. I thought you were supposed to be protecting her."
LaFiamma wasn't sure why he rose to the obvious bait his partner threw. "No, Lundy. 'WE' were supposed to be protecting Morgan. Y'know, 'your cousin', whom you haven't called by name yet or even looked at fully." He snapped.
"O-kay boys, that's enough." Morgan interjected before a fight could ensue. "Behave or neither one of you gets to argue with Kelly when he calls after Ryan tells him about today."
Not really wanting to let his partner off that easily, Joe debated on continuing until he got a good look at Morgan and knew that fighting with Lundy would just upset her more.
Lundy must have seen the same thing because he dropped his hat on the table and held up a hand toward his bummed out partner.
"Truce Joe. Actually, I was working on the case. Trying to figure out who could be doing this." He declared, eyeing his friend's arm and the sling he wasn't using. "You o-kay?" he asked with true concern, guilt doubling over the knowledge that his presence probably would've stopped LaFiamma from getting hit.
"He got shot." Morgan spoke up quietly while avoiding either man's eyes.
"I did not get shot. It's just a graze." LaFiamma corrected mildly, fingering the hold in his jacket. "Brat ruined a perfectly good jacket too. If I find him, I'll kill him." He muttered, giving his partner a dry look. "Our boy Derek tried to kill his boss. Isn't there some part of his contract that outlaws assassinating his president?"
Lundy stared at the Chicago native before finally looking at Morgan who was studying the scarred tabletop intently. "Thought he was acting funny earlier. When's Kelly coming back Morgan?" he asked her curiously and feeling LaFiamma's eyes on him. "Morgan, look at me."
"Kelly and the 'Raiders are stuck in Turkey until their job is done. By the time they get here this will be over with, one way or the other." Morgan slowly raised her head enough to meet her older cousin's eyes. "Hi." She greeted softly. "Joe said you'd come but you don't have to stay."
"Oh, yes he does." LaFiamma cut in at this point. "He's not leaving me on this case alone. Someone else can work intelligence or clue finding. Our job is to keep you alive until this Kelly guy shows up. Who is he anyway?"
"The Queen's Court Raiders are Harrison Enterprises main subsidiary." Lundy answered, a small smile forming as he watched his partner and added. "They're also world class mercenaries."
LaFiamma groaned at this news. "I knew I shouldn't have asked." He sighed, hitting Lundy's arm for full attention. "With Derek either dead or on the wrong side we have a real big problem, partner. We need someplace safe to keep her but since these guys know we're on the case both our places might be bad in the way of bullets flying and my landlord hates gun battles in his apartments. Got any good ideas under that hat Lundy?" he asked curiously while watching Morgan from the corner of his eye.
Morgan listened silently while the duo batted ideas back and forth. Occasionally she'd glance toward her cousin, wanting to say something to him but so afraid of starting a fight that her nerves couldn't take right then.
"The ranch is the only logical place that we know for sure is secure." Lundy was saying, taking his hat out of LaFiamma's reach since his partner always liked to use it to store peanut shells. "It's big but all we'd have to watch is the house. The boys could run a sweep to make sure nothing nasty has been set up in the meantime."
LaFiamma snorted. "These the same boys whose vice president just tried to use us for target practice?" he asked. "How do we know the rest of them haven't sold out?"
"Ryan's team is from Arizona and he's been with my company for years so I know that Ryan wouldn't sell out." Morgan put in suddenly from where she'd had her head laying back on her arms to listen to the quiet, mostly argumentative, planning session. "The rest of the boys here in Houston were hired by Kelly and me personally while Derek, well he just sort of slipped through the cracks."
"Doesn't seem to matter where we go. These guys are going to find us." Lundy remarked seriously, frowning. "Too many people want you dead."
The quietly made question caused utter silence to fill the room as LaFiamma nearly choked on the mouthful of peanuts had had and Lundy just sat perfectly still, knowing that this moment had to come sooner or later but he still hadn't been prepared for the girl to ask such a question with total and complete calmness.
"Ahh, Lundy? Could I talk with you a second?" LaFiamma asked, figuring it wouldn't hurt to clue his partner in on a few things. "Now?"
Lundy just waved him off and Joe swore because he knew things were about to get much worse for them as Morgan finally raised her head enough to fully meet her cousin's blue eyes.
"Do you Levon?" she pressed curiously, hoping to keep the pain and shaking from her voice. "Do you still want me dead?"
"I…I never wanted you dead Morgan." Lundy finally managed to reply, seeing the long buried hurt in her eyes along with all the new and wanted so much to take it all away for her but not knowing how. "I was angry and hurt that night and I might've said a lot of things that I shouldn't have but I never wanted you dead. You're my family, for God's sake. We have problems to work through but I'd never see you hurt." He stated hesitating only slightly before touching her face and feeling her tense. "Whatever happened that day in the warehouse, whatever caused your people to…" he broke off when she suddenly jerked back and LaFiamma nudged his shoulder a little harder.
"Lundy we REALLY need to talk." He hissed, knowing the girl was only a few steps from running now and any mention of the incident 6 years ago would just make her bolt faster.
"No. Let it go Joe." Morgan broke in, blinking suddenly and knowing what had to be done. "It doesn't matter. It's been six years that I've lived with his hatred and the knowledge that I did nothing to cause it but protect him. They were his friends, he still believes that and what they told him and I don't feel like fighting with him over things he'd never believe anyway so let it drop because whatever else happens tonight won't be your responsibility."
Both Houston cops exchanged glances. "What exactly is going to happen tonight and since we're your protection I think it is our responsibility." Joe returned warily, not liking the tone in Morgan's voice or the look in her eyes.
"By the end of tonight, this will all be over." She responded quietly, standing slowly and interrupting any argument by raising a finger. "No. I knew it was a mistake coming back to Houston because I knew Levon wouldn't get involved. He believed the lying scum buckets he worked with. He trusted them and after 6 years it's too late to change his mind or what happened.
"You never should've gotten shot Joe. This is my life, my problem and from this moment on I'm relieving you both of this case. My death will not be your responsibility. Joann!"
Captain Joann Beaumont had been entering Chicken's when she heard Morgan call for her and immediately knew something was wrong when she seen both her detective's faces. "Morgan, what's the…."
"You can tell the Governor that while I don't like his involvement in my personal affairs, I've taken my… I've taken Levon and Joe off this case and that they are not to be held accountable for anything that happens to me tonight. I will not endanger them." Morgan declared firmly, pausing to reach into her jacket and remove a small gold pocket watch. "I forgot to leave this the last time. It's yours Levon. Remember it?"
She laid the watch on the counter closest to her cousin before turning to his partner and halting his argument in mid yell. "You'd be in way over your head Joe. You've already been shot because of me and don't blame him because I'd do this even if Levon and I were still close. Even if he didn't hate me for selling his 'brothers' out. Play nice and take care."
"Morgan, wait a—" Joann started to follow when she stopped and glared at both men. "Just what the Devil happened here?" she demanded.
LaFiamma swore and started after the girl when a hand grabbed his jacket, stopping him.
"Let her go." Lundy told him opening the watch and indeed remembering it. "She knows what she's doing."
"No, she doesn't!" LaFiamme snapped back angrily, jerking his arm free. "She's a walking target already! Hurt and scared, but all she was concerned with is protecting us! Protecting you!
"You're something Lundy. You preach forgiveness to me toward the things in my past and in yours but you still hate your own cousin for things you don't even know about!!"
Lundy met his partners' blazing eyes with his own. "Don't go there LaFiamma cause you don't know nothing about…"
"I know that your buddies gave you a sack of lies about Morgan and her people on that case six years ago. That 'Federal fiasco' that everyone in the department still talks about in hushed tones." Joe snapped not caring if their Captain was there or if he was stepping into something that he had no business. As far as he was concerned, their business had just fired them and walked out to her death. "Did you ever talk to Morgan about what happened that day, about what Lewis told you happened or did you just start yelling at her like you're yelling now?"
Chicken had come to see what was going on and stopped Joann from interrupting the two men. "Joann, it's time he learned." He told her.
"I need them as partners not enemies, Chicken." Joann argued well aware of how her ex-partner would take anything LaFiamma tried to tell him about that case and his friends.
"You know as well as I do that without us protecting her Morgan doesn't stand a chance of making it through the night!" LaFiamma was yelling now, grabbing a hold of his partner's shirt. "Lundy! Morgan never sold anyone out because she couldn't have. Your good friend, Detective Martin, had her drugged and held prisoner while his pals were supposed to kill her team. Martin lied to you!"
LaFiamma knew the blow was coming and managed to avoid most of it, taking the fist just on the side of his chin and staggering only a few steps but didn't back down from the angry Texan. "Martin and Lewis had sold out and wanted Morgan out of the way so she wouldn't blow their scam. When killing her didn't work they used your temper to get it done. That and their buddies scaring her off by threatening you and you were too stupid to realize it. She loves you still even though she knows you hate her guts and she's the one who suffered the most, from you and from whatever those sick animals did to her that day.
"You live with the guilt, pal." He finished pulling away from his partner and reaching for his jacket. "I really don't think you hate her as much as you like to think or as much as she thinks but it won't matter because we both know that Morgan will be dead by the morning. You can live with that too!"
Silence settled over the restaurant after LaFiamma stormed out, the sound of his 427 Cobra squealing its tires all that was heard as Lundy slowly closed the pocket watch and reached for his hat.
"Levon." Joann Beaumont hesitated as her friend looked at both her and Chicken with a look she'd never seen. Emptiness. "Joe's upset. He's got a temper worse than any Texan alive when he gets it going, you know that."
"Was what he said true, Joann?" he asked in a monotone, still remembering the look of hurt and fear in Morgan's eyes both tonight and the night they'd fought at the ranch when she'd finally confronted him about what he'd been told about what happened in the warehouse, about what happened to Charlie Martin and Rob Lewis and why she'd killed them, why those other cops died. "What don't I know about? What is my cousin protecting me from?"
"The truth Levon." Chicken finally replied, shrugging. "But the truth is no good if you can't accept it and Morgan knows that. She knew that a long time ago that you had chosen your career over her. I guess I knew that the day I found her sittin' in that booth over there, about 8 years ago, with her mouth busted open and one eye nearly swelled shut after she'd had a run in with a few cops outside the station while visiting you. Cops have a long standing hatred for Feds, especially women, and the Houston cops have always resented Morgan due to her age and her Presidential clearances. You never saw because you never wanted to, son."
Lundy stared at his friends in silence before turning away. "I'll be at home Joann." He told his superior quietly. "If you need me you can reach me there "
"Great, now what do I do?" Joann demanded aloud. "I'll be lucky if those two don't kill each other, the Governor will be wanting my blood if anything happens to Morgan and god only knows what'll happen when the 'Raiders hit town again."
"Don't I know it." Chicken agreed but had more confidence that the boys could work through this fight to do what was right.
The only thing he wasn't sure of if they'd do it before it was too late. 'I hope so cause this town can't stand the Queens Court Raiders on the warpath again.'
"Joann, he needs to know about the rest." Chicken called to the woman as she was leaving. "It ain't right that Morgan has to suffer because of what Martin and his pals did. Not only that time but all the rest."
Beaumont glanced back and nodded tiredly. "I know but I don't think any of us are prepared to deal with Levon when or if he ever learns about that." She went out the door already hearing the Governor and the Mayor when they learned about this. "I should've have retired."
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'YOU FIRED THE COPS'?!" the outraged voice of Kelly Robinson came over the phonelines from his position in Istanbul, Turkey, sure that he'd heard his employer/friend wrong. "You can't fire them Morgan!! Those two losers were your bodyguards!"
Morgan Harrison waited until most of the yelling had died down on the other end of the phone before putting it close to her ear again. "Are you done yet?" she asked carefully, figuring the Queens Court Raiders leader must be tired to go on such a tantrum.
After leaving her cousin and LaFiamma at Chicken's, Morgan had informed her local executives of her plans before heading for the one of her Houston properties that would be far enough away from innocent bystanders to avoid them getting hurt. The newly bought, slightly rundown house on the edge of an industrial court would suit her purpose.
The house had a decent security system though it wouldn't stop any serious attackers and she'd done her own rigging up of a few surprises that would seriously cause the people after her some pain, if they survived.
After rigging the house Morgan knew she had a few other things to deal with before the show started. The first of which was dealing with Kelly Robinson.
At 27, only 2 years her senior, he was the leader and co-founder of the best mercs in the business but he was also her very best friend and deserved to be told what was going on by her instead of one of the boys.
Of course, he was infrequently very hard to deal with. Especially when told news like she'd just dropped on him.
"Kelly I have very little time and still need to make one more call so stop yelling a minute and listen." She urged, sitting on the newly carpeted floor behind the pile of furniture she'd set up as a make-shift shield with only her handgun and a cordless phone.
"Stop yelling?! You're planning on confronting some unknown killers, probably get yourself killed by the sound in your voice, you fired the only two men in that God forsaken city who could've protected you because you didn't want them to get hurt and you want me to stop yelling?!" Robinson practically spit into the phone, whirling to face one of the men next to him in their own temporary base in Istanbul. "Pat! Kill that guy or shut him up! I'm on the phone to Houston and our employer has finally lost what remains of her common sense!"
Morgan rolled her eyes at the picture she had of the current situation in Istanbul. "Kel, I'll be fine. I just wanted to call you and tell you what was up before Ryan blabbed it. Also, when you get back you are forbidden from yelling, threatening or in anyway causing Joe and Levon any trouble. This was my idea, not theirs."
"Sure it wasn't Lundy's?" Robinson snapped, his temper getting the best of him until a hard elbow to his already cracked ribs reminded him of who he was talking to. "Morgan get out of there. We can be there in a day at the latest if we drop…"
"Queens Court Raiders do not drop things in the middle of a mission Kelly." Morgan cut in firmly, smiling slightly. "Kel, you are the greatest and I love you so take care and be good." She pushed the button to quickly disconnect the line before he could argue more. "One more call, kid." She told herself while trying to work up the guts to punch in the number she still knew by heart. "You said goodbye to Kelly. Now say it to Levon."
"BEEP. I'm not here so leave a message." Levon Lundy's answering machine had been quite busy that night as he sat beside it in his darkened den listening to the messages come through. Most were from Joann and Chicken. One from his partner.
"Four calls Lundy and I know you're home by now so pick it up!" LaFiamma growled on the fifth call. "Fine, be a jerk. Just thought I'd let you know that I'm heading for her office downtown to corner a kid and maybe find out where she went. One of us has to be a professional and I guess Texans don't hold family as sacred as Italians or maybe it's just because she's your cousin or cause she's half German and half British, I'll have to ask you about that one. Anyway, I'll call tomorrow when I find her body if I can't locate her tonight. Ciao."
Lundy almost smiled, staring at the bottle of whiskey he'd sat in front of him but hadn't touched yet. He knew LaFiamma was just trying to help and his partner couldn't know how much his words did strike home, how deep their cut, but not nearly as much as the next call he'd soon learn.
As the phone rang, the lanky Texan started to reach for the machine to turn it off because he knew he wouldn't be able to take many more calls from his partner without having to go find him just to slug him when the voice the spoke froze him in place. "Morgan."
"Levon…I'm not sure if you're home or not but I can't blame you for not picking up. Joe's probably been bugging you all night. Italians are stubborn and very moral when it comes to family and stuff. Actually, I'm glad it's the machine. It's easier saying goodbye to a bloody machine and it'll also be easier saying what I need to." Morgan's voice was quiet as he knew it would be. She was always quiet when scared or upset.
Morgan sat on the floor behind her make-shift bunker, praying she had enough courage to say what she needed to. "One of the reasons I agreed to come to Houston was to put all this junk to rest because someone told me that it's better to die without ant baggage or guilt. I have very little to be sorry for in my life except for not telling Kelly a few things I should've and for…losing you, Levon." She paused and was surprised by the burning tears in her eyes but forced herself to go on.
"I have plenty of family, brothers and such, but I guess you were always more important to me because you treated me like I was normal. You ignored my accents, my chums and even my odd life. You acted like you cared and I'd rather not focus on if you were lying all those years just to humor me or your grandmother. Levon, I love you and I tried never to hurt you which is why I never forced you to listen to me about those days, the last few times I saw you in Houston but…I can't protect you anymore because it hurts to much to know that I lost you because of lies and fear." Morgan sighed, leaning back against the wall and wondering why this was so important to her now but knowing that if she was going to die then she'd die knowing that her cousin would at least hate her for the truth.
"First off and this is so you won't pick a fight with the 'Raiders when they get to Houston, they never killed anyone who hadn't tried to kill them first. I knew when we accepted that case things would be bad cause the cops hated me, hated us but I took it because it was my bloody job. You told me once that a person always did their jobs no matter what personal things may be involved and I did. We came and did our jobs but it soon became apparent that no matter what I did that someone else was working against us. Also became clear that the only people who could've done that had to be on the inside of the operation. Cops. Dirty cops. Wasn't a big shock since it wouldn't have been the first time we'd seen corruption at the highest levels but this time…well..this time was bad because the dirty cops knew we were onto them and wanted me and my boys out in the worst ways.
"First few things didn't bother me since I'd been attacked by cops before, no big thing but it was when I saw what they were doing to you that I started to worry and that's when things got worse. I figure Joe will tell you most of this and I probably shouldn't have told him before you but…being back here just freaked me out and…Levon, you need to know about Martin and Lewis. You need to know that they and everyone else lied."
Lundy's hand closed into a fist as he listened to his cousin's words, most tore through his heart like a knife and he recalled things from that time that he'd made himself forget. The brusies she'd get from one day to the night after being out all night looking for clues or the killers, brusies she'd keep hidden from him. Robinson's bitterness and refusal to leave Morgan alone with any of the police on that case but Lundy. Jokes and whispered comments he'd hear from the locker room that would stop whenever he'd enter the room.
Morgan's words cut deeper than any his partner could say but it was still so hard for him to picture his friends, two men he'd trained with, like they were being desecribed both by her and LaFiamma except he could remember certain things that bothered him then, especially when even Caroline started yelling at him about being blind to what was going on. The last fight with Morgan over how she'd sold them out, sold out everything he'd taught her. The pain in her eyes, the way she moved as if hurt and….
"The day of the warehouse raid started bad because you were mad at me for reprimanding Lewis for being too rough on a snitch. I left the ranch to meet with Kelly when I was forced off the road by a pickup, one like you had then, and I knew they wanted me to think it was you but the blokes were too confident they'd kill the 'Raiders and then me cause they didn't even wear masks." Morgan's voice held a bitterness he'd never heard from her before and he could hear the tears she tried to cover. "I may've been 19 and Washington's best agent but even I couldn't deal with 6 guys half my size and a needle full of enough tranquilizers to down 3 raging stallions. Woke up in pain bad enough to make me wish I was dead but I wasn't. Charlie, he and I had a…past even before then, Charlie bragged that he'd already told you I'd sold the cops out. He and Rob had been working with Montclair VanCleef, that politican who looked liked he'd be the next Governor, for years until we showed up and dug up too much. They were going to make it look like we'd sold out, slaughtered those cops that were with the 'Raiders and then his people killed the traitors: me and the boys.
"To make a long story short, Charlie got careless and I killed him. I won't lie to you and deny that because I did and I killed his men at that shack in self defense or else I would've died Levon. I managed to radio Kelly and warn him that they were walking into a trap and they turned it around but not before Lieutenant Smith's team got killed. My boys didn't kill anyone Levon except those that tried to hurt us. I'm not sure how I ended up in the hospital but I woke up there 3 days later and had to deal with you thinking I'd betrayed you."
Slowly Levon let out a breath filled with bitter curses toward everyone, himself most of all as Morgan went on. "There are other things about why I left the way I did but you don't need to know them right now. I'm not sure why it made a difference but I wanted you to know before I died and I wanted to say goodbye. I would've preferred telling you in person but I guess it would've been worse if I'd have to see your eyes and…well, hello there stranger."
Lundy sat up in his chair alarmed by the sudden change in her voice as Morgan came back on the phone.
"I need to go now Levon. My former vice president has just showed up. I guess this is it. Behave yourself and don't pick on Joe. He's cool for a Chicago guy. I'm sorry you hate me Levon. I love you, bye."
Lundy blinked a few times swearing violently as he grabbed his jacket and shoulder holster before slamming his front door and sprinting for his old battered GMC red Jimmy 4x4.
"I hate it when he's right." He muttered, reaching for his radio as he swung the truck out of his driveway while throwing gravel in every direction and hoping LaFiamma was somewhere in close relation to his car phone or radio.
"LaFiamma." Detective Joseph LaFiamma answered a few short seconds later. "That you Lundy?"
His partner knew from the static on the line that the Italian cop was in his car. "Where are you now Joe?" he demanded while managing to keep the truck under control as he hit paved road with a thud.
"About 15 minutes from where this skinny Arizona vice president says Morgan's at." LaFiamma replied cooly then asked when he caught the underlying tension in his friend's voice. "Why?"
"Give me the address LaFiamma." Lundy ordered going on quickly. "Morgan called and left me quite a message. At the end Derek showed up. He must be the local hitman."
LaFiamma muttered something in Italian before slamming the flashing police light on the top of his car to help speed up his process through the Houston night traffic. "Local hitnerd you mean. All right, from your place it's the old Tuscany Industrial Court. Her place is about a half mile from it. Lundy, I'll meet you there." He snapped off the radio without even making a crack about his friend's change in attitude. "Later. I'll make him pay later ' he promised, silently praying that Derek Young was a worse assassin than he was a vice president and that Morgan did know what she was doing with this stunt.
Morgan had been finishing her call to Levon when she heard the step form the hall leading out of the kitchen. "Well, hello there stranger." She greeted upon seeing Derek Young standing there.
Young glanced around him before looking at his former employer. "You forgot that the back door doesn't have a working alarm yet." He murmered fingering the silenced 9mm Walther pistol he had out.
"No, I didn't forget. I wanted to give you a way in." she returned, saying goodbye to her cousin and tossing the phone away to focus fully on Derek. "So, why'd you sell out?"
"It isn't a matter of selling out as it is of making a more stable financial move." Derek corrected, stepping around a pile of clothes on the floor. "Nothing personal Morgan."
"I take it kind of personal when my vice-president starts shooting at me, chum. Why hit LaFiamma, Derek?" Morgan wanted to know as she slowly slid her hand toward the switch she'd covered his her jacket.
"I tried to get Beaumont to assign other officers to this case. Ones that worked with me but when she insisted on using your cousin and his partner I knew I had to get them outta the way." Derek shrugged, explaining. "I know you too well. I knew that once LaFiamma got shot that you'd want to protect them and that you'd probably go off on your own, Like this."
Morgan nodded, actually pleased so far that her plan was working. "Since I'm about to die anyway, care to tell me who's trying to kill me?" she requested, giving him her best smile. One that had charmed both diplomats and terrorists alike.
"I'd be dead if I did that, chief." Derek shook his head in apology while sheathing the gun and reaching for something else in his pocket. "Besides, you won't be dying anytime soon. They want you alive for now." He stated, pulling the hypodermic needle from his pocket. "I know what happened over in London was pretty bad but I guess not nearly like what they got planned for you this time."
"No." Morgan whispered, feeling the pain from those wounds at the merest mention of them and nearly freezing up at this point but managed to touch the small control box under her jacket. "I don't think so, mate."
"Morgan I disconnected all your little toys before I came in." Derek started to point out when he heard a buzzing come from under the pile of clothes he'd passed. "What?"
"Not all of them kid." She pushed the button to trigger the explosives she'd planted in the room and hoped that she'd planned this part well enough as the room exploaded.
"Nice neighborhood." LaFiamma muttered as he brought the Cobra to a stop outside the slightly run down little house just as Lundy's Jimmy arrived. "Your cousin needs to find new hangouts."
"Knowing how Morgan thought when she was a kid, she probably picked this house because there was little to no chance of any civilians getting hurt." Lundy reasoned
getting out of the truck just as the front of the house exploaded in a rush of light, sound and debris that had both detectives ducking for cover.
"Holy spit!" LaFiamma shook his head to clear it of the ringing but still managed to grab his partner's arm. "You're going in there after that?!"
Lundy pulled his arm free. "Weren't you the one bugging me about abandoning her?" he demanded, pulling his Colt out of its holster as he neared the house and looked back. "You want the front or back?"
"Front but be careful." LaFiamma called back as he neared the half destroyed front of the house and wondering if anyone could have survived that blast and who the heck had caused it. "Days like this I wish I would've become a priest like my aunt suggested."
Swallowing his fear on what he'd find inside, Levon carefully edged inside the back door to enter a kitchen and realizing that the explosian had come from the front room, next door.
"Morgan?" he called over the still low rumbles echoing in the house, stepping into the room and freezing at the body pinned under a wall of debris. Fearing the worst, Lundy gently lifted a piece of wood but quickly dropped it rather than look at the now deceased body of Derek Young. "Morgan!" he called louder, hearing LaFiamma cursing from two rooms away when another sound caught his attention from behind a well built wall of furniture.
Lundy used the barrel of the Colt 45 to move a piece of caved in ceiling tile from the little area cocooned behind the furniture and letting out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "Joe! Go out and radio for backup and the paramedics! Tell 'em to be fast for once!" he yelled to his partner.
"Did you find her?" LaFiamma entered the living room, looking around and swearing when he seen Derek. "Guess I don't get to kill him for shooting my jacket." He mused, looking back at Lundy as his partner pulled over a couch and swore. "Stay with her. I'll be right back." He stated, going out to call for backup.
"Morgan?" Levon dropped to one knee beside his younger cousin's prone form, relieved to find her pulse beating strong under his fingers but not liking her breathing or her color or the pieces of metal and wood sticking in her right leg. "Oh, God." He breathed taking his jacket off and gently laying her head on it when he heard a soft moan. "It's o-kay, sugar. Don't talk, just lay still. LaFiamma went to call for an ambulance."
The exploasian was the last thing Morgan remembered seeing or hearing yet now as partial conciousness returned all she felt was the pain again. Pain and a hand gently touching her face.
"Wha?!" she started to sit up only to be restrained and heard her cousin's voice coming from the shadows in her mind.
""No, Morgan. Lay still. I can't be sure what else that blast might've hurt." Lundy carefully eased her shoulders back down, then when he was certain she was going to stay still he sat down beside her and prayed his partner hurried with their backup. "Don't try to talk. You're safe now."
Morgan blinked past the dust and tears in her eyes from the pain to focus on Lundy sitting beside her, his fingers gently holding her own. "Levon?" she whispered unsure if she was seeing things or not when another thought hit her. "Derek?!"
"Dead, baby. He can't hurt you now." He promised, keeping his voice low and soothing when he seen her tense suddenly. "Morgan…damn, LaFiamma, where's that ambulance?" he demanded, trying to keep his voice calm for her sake but failing when his cousin began curling up away from them in pain and shock.
"They're coming Lundy." LaFiamma assured his friend but was beginning to doubt that as well the longer it went. "The medic said to keep her still, warm and quiet until they got here. Joann's on her way too." He declared, handing the other man a blanket he'd found in the back of the Jimmy. "Keep her warm and I'll go give 'em another call. Threaten them with these Queens Court Raiders all the boys are freaked about having to face."
As LaFiamma went out to the cars again, Lundy was faced with being alone with a possibly critically hurt young woman that he hadn't had to deal with in this manner since she'd been seven and fell off the pony he'd given her.
"Hang on Morgan, help's coming." He promised gently laying the blanket over her when he reached down to carefully take her in his arms fully. Feeling her jerk at the sudden and unexpected touch, Lundy just cradled her in his arms fully being careful to keep her injured leg straight and tucking her head under his chin as he began to talk softly in order to keep her calm until their backup arrived. "Which had better be soon."
"About time." LaFiamma muttered motioning to the medics to follow him as he went back into the house to tell Lundy that the ambulance and their backup had arrived, including their Captain when he suddenly stopped in mid-step. Not quite sure he was still sane. "Lundy?" he called in a low tone unsure of this scene as his partner sat and was gently holding Morgan in his arms, talking in a soft voice that seemed to have her calmed down some. "The medics are here."
When Lundy only nodded and made no attempt to move or lay his cousin back down, LaFiamma just turned to head off their superior. "He goes with her," he told the medics that passed him on his way to meet Joann Beaumont.
"Joe, what happened?" she demanded as several more patrol cars and a lot of armed teenagers showed up. "Where's Morgan? Is Levon here?"
"I haven't figured out what happened yet but Morgan's hurt bad and Lundy's inside with her. For how long is anybody's guess." LaFiamma shrugged reaching out to grab a red haired teenager that he knew for sure worked in town by the earring. "Roy, the keys to that rolling microwave that Lundy calls a truck are still in the ignition. Make sure it gets to the hospital in one piece for him." He ordered sternly wincing as he heard his partner snap at a medic. "I think I liked him better when he was ignoring her. Lundy."
"They're causing her more pain than that blast did." Levon snapped as his partner handed him his hat that he barely remembered dropping. "Joann.."
LaFiamma cut him off. "I'll handle the Captain and I'll make sure the boys get that thing you drive into town and meet you at Houston General." He stated, keeping his voice even and steady to get through the haze of concern his friend was feeling right then. "Levon, go with her. I'll meet you there."
Lundy looked undecided until Morgan cried out in confused fear and he quickly nodded his thanks to Joe and caught the girl's hand before she could connect with a medic. "No sugar. I'm with you. We're going to the hospital now, just lay still." He soothed as the paramedics shut the doors to the ambulance and left with sirens blazing.
"LaFiamma, what is going on?" Joann demanded, more insistant this time.
"Derek's inside dead and we still have no idea who's really behind any of this." LaFiamma replied, heading for his car while two H.E. boys took off in Lundy's truck. "My only consolation is that this has finally brought him around some. I hope it lasts because I've got a bad feeling that she'll need him. Hey guys!!" he yelled to the boys. "My partner's truck had better not have a scratch on it when it arrives at that hospital or he'll kill all of us."
Joann Beaumont was seriously wondering what else could go wrong with this case when a young uniformed officer brought over the portable phone. "It's the Mayor, ma'am " he told her grimly and Joann knew her night was just beginning.
"How is she?" LaFiamma asked his partner a few hours later after he'd dealt with a few thousand details like their Captain, the bomb squad and a few nasty teenagers that reminded him exactly why he hated dealing with Harrison Enterprises.
Levon Lundy barely glanced up from the cup of cold, stale coffee he was staring at. "No word yet." He finally muttered, throwing the cup into the trash with a curse. "It's the waiting I hate LaFiamma. Always have. Why can't they just say something?"
"She's alive and, if she's anything like you, very stubborn. Lundy, she'll be fine." Joe hoped he was right as he pulled a metal chair closer to his partner's position near the waiting room door. "Not to start a fight but I'm surprised you came at all."
"Yeah, so am I." Lundy laughed dryly, licking at the carpet with the toe of his boot instead of meeting his partner's gaze. "I've hated myself for 6 years Joe. I knew what happened between us was wrong but I guess I really couldn't say why. Even now, thinking about all that you and Chicken said, the things Caroline told me and the things that Morgan said on my machine it just doesn't sink in that you're talking about men who were my best friends. I went through the academy with Charlie and Rob. I never thought I chose my job over my cousin but—"
The Texas cop pulled the pocket watch she'd given him back that very night from his pocket and flipped it open to show LaFiamma. "The only thing of my father that I had. I gave it to Morgan because it put her to sleep on nights when the nightmares got tto real." He shook his head bitterly. "Imagine, a baby having nightmares but she was always prone to them. The last few times that she'd visit me and Caroline were the worst for 'em. Three, four times a night she'd wake up screaming. She wouldn't calm down, just screamed until finally she'd cry herself back to sleep in my arms because I had to hold her to keep her still. Damn!"
"You'll talk with her and straighten things out." LaFiamma assured him, taking the watch to look closer at the picture it held in the lid. "I know this horse."
"You should since you and it don't get along real well." Lundy chuckled at his friend's groan. "I bought Sparkle for Morgan's 17th birthday. She loved that horse so much that the first few nights she had him she would fall asleep in his stall and I'd have to carry her into bed. I thought he'd die after she left."
LaFiamma had a few opinions on that but kept them to himself as a white coated doctor entered.
"Detective Lundy?" he asked curiously while glancing at his clipboard as the two Houston detectives faced him. "I was told that you were waiting for word on Morgan Harrison?"
"Is she alright?" Lundy demanded warily, not liking the doctor's tone or manner right then.
"Considering the amount of trauma she's obviously been through recently I surprised to be able to that yes she is. However," the doctor went on swiftly. "She's stable right now and we'd like to keep her here overnight for observation. The concussion on top of all her other, more extensive injuries, does have us a bit concerned."
Both detectives exchanged looks. "What other injuries?" Lundy wanted to know, recalling that Joann had mentioned something about his cousin being hurt.
Doctor Southon just blinked behind his glasses, obviously relunctant. "I'm sorry Detective but it's against hospital policy for us to give out that much information on any patient without her consent."
"Look Doctor, we were put on this case by the Governor of Texas himself and I'm sure he would want us to know about anything that might involve this case." Joe cut in swiftly, using his most reasonable tone since he figured Lundy's temper was too high to be the smooth one this time. "Miss Harrison is under our protection and anything involving her health, past, present and future, concerns us.
"Now, I'm sure you realize who she is and why you have a hospital full of teenagers with attitudes, some have government clearances that I'm not sure the Secret Service have, so it would probably be best for you and your 'policies' to just tell us about Morgan's 'extensive other injuries' before I place a few calls and have to get a federal judge out of bed to issue a warrant. I've learned that Texans, especially old judges, hate being woke up in the middle of the night because some overly legal doctor is more concerned about policies than his neck. Your choice, doc."
Lundy just stared between his partner and the sputtering doctor until the black haired medic decided the Italian-American cop wasn't bluffing and he did indeed know who his patient was and exactly what that meant in the way of government trouble if he didn't cooperate.
"Very well Detectives." He cleared his throat and looked back at his notes before going on. "Actually, I had assumed that you both were already aware that Miss Harrison had recently tortured severally."
"Oh, spit." Joe groaned, ready to throttle the first teenager he saw for not warning him about this. "How bad is 'severally'?" he asked, sensing his partner's shock as well as his own.
"We've estimated several 2nd and 3rd degree burns, six broken ribs, plenty of welts and bruises along with the stitches on her side, shoulder, back and stomach. Those injuries combined with the ones she received in that blast make us wary of releasing her too soon. Her leg isn't damaged too bad but it will have to be kept as still as possible but I'm sure she knows how to use the brace we put on it considering her left leg appears to have had those steel plates for quite some time."
LaFiamma swore under his breath and grabbed his partner by the shoulder to hustle him past the doctor, knowing that Lundy's temper was about to break by then. "Can he see her?" he asked quickly, ready to resort to using his police protection line again if needed.
"Well, she is in a private room but I'm not sure how coherant she'll be this soon after the surgery." The Doctor replied, finally shrugging. "Yes, you can see her. The staff has been informed that you both can come and go as you wish, especially considering her government clearances and all."
"Thanks." Joe moved his friend down the hall and well out of earshot of any of the staff. "You calm yet?" he asked, knowing the answer before the fist slammed into a wall. "Guess not."
"I'm her cousin, her flesh and blood family, and I don't even know she was tortured. What steel plates?" Lundy swore before finally shaking his friend's hand off. "I'll be alright LaFiamma. I just want to see her."
Joe nodded his agreement. "You go see the kid, Lundy." He nodded, grinning at the curious look he got. "I'll be there soon but first I want to find that Smoltz kid. I think he knows more about your cousin than we do and I want a few answers to a lot of questions. Tell her I'll be up in a sec."
"Just don't hit any of them LaFiamma. Those boys carry more power than even the Governor." Lundy warned but his friend was already heading off humming to himself the way he always did right before he got them into major trouble. "Guess it could be worse. At least he can't hit Kelly."
Leaving LaFiamma to fend for himself, Lundy went up to see his cousin. Gently knocking on the door before entering and feeling his heart jump more than a few times at what greeted him.
Morgan Harrison always looked pale when sick or hurt but now she looked like a ghost laying in the bed surrounded by machines and tubes. Her face bruised not only from the bomb blast but from recent events and he soon realized that she's hidden the injuries from them earlier. Her right leg was wrapped and braced so that any movement wouldn't re-damage it after the metal had been removed but what truly alarmed him the most was her complete lack of color and movement.
"Morgan?" he spoke softly as not to startle her but she didn't stir as Lundy sat in the chair closest to the bed and lifted her limp hand in his, surprised to feel the coldness in it even as her fingers weakly closed around his. "Hey." He greeted, looking up to see big blue eyes watching him curiously. "Don't try to talk yet." He quickly cut her off before she could try.
The former Federal agent had woke up when her cousin first entered the room but had layed still to watch his face closely until finally closing her fingers around his hand, getting his attention.
"…You're here." She whispered, still drowsy from shock and sedatives but awake and clear enough to know who was with her and who had been with her. "Really here."
"Yeah sugar, I'm here with you." Lundy assured her with a smile. "LaFiamma's here too but he's out chasing down one or two of your boys. He'll be up soon. Just rest, Morgan." He urged, still remembering the ride to the hospital. Remembering her clinging to his hand and talking incoherantly.
Morgan blinked as the pain evened off and she could see his eyes more clearly, recognizing the look well. "You're mad."
"Yeah, just a little." He admitted then quickly sought to add when he seen her eyes go haunted again. "No. Not at you, baby. At a lot of people, myself mostly, but also at the people who tortured you."
Lundy felt the girl's hand tighten around his but instead of letting go he just enclosed her white knuckled hand in both of his. "The Doctor told us that on top of the injuries you got recently through the….torture and the ones you got tonight that you have to stay here overnight and probably most of tomorrow.
"It kind of rocked me to learn from a doctor that my little cousin had been tortured and that she has steel plates in her left leg." He raised his eyes to meet hers. "Want to tell me where you picked those up at?"
"El Salvador." LaFiamma spoke from the door as he entered, tossing his jacket over a chair and throwing a wink at Morgan. "Your executives can be wimps when you threaten them the right way. Anyway, according to Ryan Smoltz, the kid got the plates after an explosian in the jungles of El Salvador with these Queens Court Raiders. I really don't like these guys so far." He declared.
"I'm sure they'll love you too if you keep threatening the boys." Morgan replied with a groan as she tried to twist but pain in her side and back stopped her. "This hurts."
"No doubt, sugar." Levon agreed, unconciously reaching up to brush hair away from her eyes. "You probably will for awhile but I figure some of Minnie's homecooking will fix that."
Two sets of eyes looked at him. "We're going to your grandmothers?" Joe questioned warily. "Is that wise?"
"Probably not but it's the only other place I can think of to take her." Lundy replied with a shrug, explaining his plan. "I figure the boys here can act like we're still in town and we'll sneak outta town and up to Lubbock for a couple of days until she gets some strength back and we figure out who's doing this."
LaFiamma considered this for a few minutes before grinning. "Those boys outside won't like that." He mused, meeting his partners eyes. "That's the idea, right?"
"The only other thing I hate worse than having to have a partner is having to deal with the boys from H.E.." Lundy returned, meeting Joe's grin. "I figure this will keep them busy and out of our hair."
"Finally. I knew eventually you'd say something right Lundy." LaFiamma stated when a small sound made them both look.
"Now that you two are done insulting my employees and planning my life, can I point out that I fired you guys from 'protecting' me?" Morgan chose to remind them, wondering silently if any of her boys were going to make it through this mess without killing LaFiamma.
Lundy nodded slowly but gently turned her face towards him, lightly brushing the most severe bruise on her face with his thumb. "Yeah, you did." He agreed. "Problem with that is, you can't fire us."
"She did a pretty good job of it earlier, pal." LaFiamma seen fit to put in, wincing as his partner kicked him in the leg.
"She can't fire us LaFiamma because #1-we were put on this case by the Governor and #2-I'm her cousin, blood family, and there's an unwritten law in Texas that says a little cousin can't fire her older, much adored cousin or his lame-brained Italian partner, no matter how big a jerk he's been." Lundy declared reasonably, adding firmly. "You're stuck with us, sugar."
Morgan figured she could've argued with any of that if she hadn't been so tired but then figured it might not hurt to give the two cops their way this one time. Especially when one considered that once the Queens Court Raiders arrived things would be different.
"O-kay Levon." She yawned, sedatives beginning to take effect again. "For now we'll do things your way."
Morgan fell back to sleep, relaxed for the first time in weeks as her cousin and LaFiamma continued to bicker their way through plans and ideas.
"You want to flip for who stays here with her?" Joe asked curiously, keeping his face straight even though he had a hunch he'd probably get the job. "I can stay here and you can deal with Joann and those boys."
Lundy glanced at the sleeping girl before shaking his head. "No. I'll stay with her." He felt his partner's look and sighed. "I know what I've done LaFiamma and I'm not saying that we still don't have problems but…I need to be here with Morgan tonight."
"Yep, I know that. I just wasn't sure you did." LaFiamma reached for his jacket and headed for the door, looking back. "I'll be back in the morning, Lundy. If you need me before then just beep me or something."
"Don't start anything with those boys, LaFiamma. We'll need them." Lundy called after his partner then called him back as an afterthought. "Thanks Joe."
LaFiamma waved the words away as he went out the door, already hating to see what would come next.
"Why can't you pave this driveway Lundy? It's got enough ruts and holes that I'm surprised you haven't lost this truck in one." Joseph LaFiamma complained through clenched teeth as he held onto the dashboard on his partner's 4x4 Jimmy as they drove toward Lundy's ranch late the next afternoon.
"If I had it paved how would I know when someone was coming?" Lundy returned shortly. Though, right then he wasn't very happy with all the bumps either.
"'No sudden movements.'" The doctor had stressed before releasing Morgan earlier. ""She needs rest, plenty of it and no stress.'"
Right then the ride back to Lundy's ranch was proving stressful to the two Houston detectives while Morgan seemed to be sleeping through the ride in the back seat with no trouble.
"Joann agreed to this plan?" Lundy asked yet again, still not sure how his partner had gotten Joann Beaumont to approve their ideas.
"Sure, once I sicced a few teenagers on her and offered to call the Governor." LaFiamma shrugged then turned to look out the back window, making sure they didn't have any tails and glancing at Morgan. "She sleep alright last night?"
Lundy nearly winced at that question, hoping he never had another night like he endured last night. "No, not really." He admitted quietly, watching his cousin in the rearview mirror. "Her nightmares were a lot easier to deal with when she was little, LaFiamma."
The Chicago native started to reply when they neared the house, a two story ranch dwelling, that had several teenagers waiting in front of it.
"These kids are getting really annoying." Joe swore as Levon stopped the truck more quickly than he'd intended and he heard Morgan muttered something about stupid trucks, cops and teenagers. "Morgan, ignoring what you just called us in German, is it possible to lose these boys?"
"Doubtful, chum." Came the muffled reply as Morgan stuck her head up to see where she was.
"You guys aren't supposed to be here." LaFiamma growled, slamming the truck door and facing a light haired young man about Morgan age or a few years younger.
Ryan Smoltz, the new vice president of the Phoenix branch of Harrison Enterprises, just gave the Italian cop a one shouldered shrug. "You two can't watch the boss and secure this place at the same time." He pointed out, motioning to the young men with him. "That's our job."
"I can't stay here." Morgan suddenly broke in as she woke up fully and looked around, her eyes still glassy from last night. "I can't…Levon?"
Lundy had gently caught her arm, stilling her movements away from them. "Easy baby. Why can't you stay here?"
"Got a feeling I know." Ryan muttered, stepping back before Joe could hit him.
"I promised I…it's bad enough that I broke the one about coming back to Houston but coming here, no." Morgan cut off quickly, shaking her head. "I can't do this."
"Morgan, you were hurt and under a great deal of pressure when you promised that." LaFiamma stated carefully. Not wanting to set his partner off but not sure how to handle this without upsetting one of them. "We need to stay here tonight until arrangements can be made to sneak out of town."
Morgan was getting way to panicked when Lundy suddenly reached for her, gently holding her at arms length and seeing in her eyes all the pain, fear and hurt he'd been refusing to see or accept for 6 years.
"This is your home Morgan. It always was and always will be. There's nothing here for you to be afraid of." He stated quietly, slowly taking her arm and moving towards the front porch. "What ever promise you made to whoever you made it to shouldn't have been made. Who did you promise what?"
"I promised them so they wouldn't…" the words died as the girl tensed suddenly when she recalled where she was and Joe grabbed the keys from his partner, opened the front door and flipped on the lights.
"You'll have to forgive the mess." He told her lightly in hopes of changing the subject and prayed his friend didn't press this issue right then. "Lundy still lives in the 1800's. I'm really shocked that he doesn't have a saddle sitting in the living room."
As he eased Morgan inside LaFiamma turned on his friend. "No fighting with her Lundy. She's scared to death of everything right now, especially of making you mad, so ignore anything she may say until she's gone to bed and then we'll have a little talk about a few things you may not know yet." He replied lowly, not bothering to even acknowledge the looks he was getting from the boys. "Go guard something."
"Kelly say this arrangement isn't going to work." Ryan told him, dismissing his team with a nod. "He says that Detective Lundy won't be able to accept all this."
"I'll handle my partner." Joe promised, glancing back over his shoulder and adding to himself. "I hope."
"Y'know, I really don't think I like this Kelly guy that the boys are always quoting." LaFiamma stated a few hours later as he leaned in the doorway to Morgan's room.
He'd been watching her for about 20 minutes just sitting on the bed staring at nothing before he finally had to say something to break the somber mood in the room and in the girl's eyes.
"Way Smoltz talks this guy is God." He went on. Only having to make up a bit of the exasperation in his voice.
Between dealing with the boys from Harrison Enterprises, to his partner getting moody and sullen again, Joe figured he was only a step away from pulling his hair out.
"To the regular company that's what Kelly is." Morgan replied after a while, finally looking over at the dark haired police officer. "Kelly's pretty much equal in power, taking orders only from me and he can give orders to any company I own anywhere in the world. The 'Raiders are my main subsidiary and they rule with fear and respect. I'm sure they won't like you much either Joe. They don't like cops."
LaFiamma put a hand over his heart in mock pain. "I'm wounded. Here I was thinking we'd be fast friends. So, what're you up to?" he asked warily sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Just thinking that if I hadn't been such a bloody coward none of this would be happening now."
Morgan stood shakily, slowly moving to the dresser and looking in the mirror at the reflection staring back. "I'm asking myself if I hadn't been so scared for him if my cousin would still hate me."
"I find it hard to classify a world class Federal agent with all your government clearances as a coward and if Lundy hated you I doubt if he would've stayed at the hospital last night or even showed up at that house you blew up." LaFiamma told her dryly then frowned when he noticed her movements. "What else are you scared of Morgan?"
"This house has too many memories Joe. This room alone holds more nightmares for me than remembering half of what's been happening to me recently." She sighed and fingered a music box of a dancer that had obviously been clued together. "Grammy, that's what I've always called Levon's grandmother, gave this to me one Christmas. Caroline glued it back together for me and told Levon it had fallen off the shelf while she was cleaning so he wouldn't question how it got broke."
LaFiamma frowned deeper continuing to watch the girl closely and not liking any of what he saw. "How did it get broke and why would Lundy's wife lie to him about it?" he asked curiously.
Morgan blinked and hesitated before choosing to tell the cop the one thing that not even Kelly knew about fully. "I told Levon that I had other problems with Charlie Martin even before that case 6 years ago Joe. I was 17 and visiting Levon and Caroline for a few weeks while closing a business deal in town. Bear in mind that even when not working I still carry my clearances and authority and have had problems with Houstons' cops for years, even before my cousin became one so the usual junk never bothered me.
"Levon was working and Caroline was shopping that afternoon, I was here working, waiting for a call from my office when I heard the front door. Since only Levon and Caroline had keys I didn't worry about that, I mean who breaks into a cops' house in broad daylight. My mistake."
Morgan set the music box aside when her hands started shaking and her fingers curled around the edge of the dresser as if for support as her mind went back. "You might have noticed that a lot of Texans are a trust worthy lot around people they've known a long time. Levon was always to bloody trusting. I…I actually don't remember much after going out into the hall and getting hit with something. The rest that I couldn't bury in my mind is a blur of pain. I..I remember the pain, the fear I felt waking up halfway with my hands tied to those very bedposts over there and feeling him…
"It wasn't the first time he or Lewis had tried something like that but I'd been caught off guard, hit and stunned so I couldn't fight back and when I was concious enough to realize what was going on there was nothing I could…do to stop him, to make him…stop…"
Joe came up behind her, watching the reflection but making no move to touch the girl right then as her words came out between clenched teeth, eyes closed and her knuckles white on the dresser.
"Officer Martin…." He took a deep breath to shake off the sudden waves of emotion he was feeling right then, swearing under his breath as her words formed in his mind. "He raped you."
Silence filled the bedroom as Morgan fought to regain control but finally managed to shake her head.
"Caroline came home, he didn't hear her cause she always used the back door when carrying in groceries. He was still holding me down, laughing at what he'd done in his best friend's own house when she came in and broke the music box over his head." The girl's words were mixed with the tears she'd been burying, refusing to think about that day for so long. "She had heard him and had gotten one of Levon's guns from their room. I don't thin he'd have left if she hadn't fired and actually nearly hit him.
"She wanted to tell Levon but I knew he'd never believe that of his mate, his good buddy so…she glued the music box together and relunctantly made up a story to explain the bruises I had and the bump on my head and why she'd taken me to the hospital."
Morgan slowly turned to look at LaFiamma, eyes wide with both shock and memories. "I managed to stay two more days but then he invited that bloody animal here for Sunday dinner and I freaked, made up a lie that I had to leave and ran until I had to come back for that job and ran right into him. Joe, do you want to know why I killed Martin? Why I didn't leave him to be handled by the law?" she asked him, going on before the cop could reply. "I killed him because he did it again."
"Damn, Morgan." LaFiamma cursed, knowing that this was bound to make their job harder. "You only told Lundy a little of all that you really know, didn't you?"
"I have enough people trying to kill me, mate." She replied with a bitter laugh.
"I love my cousin Joe and I refused to hurt him by telling him half of what I could or by telling him about why I left but if he finds out about Martin, I'd be the one getting hurt." She looked up when something caught her attention and they both heard the front door slam. "Oh, bloody hell. Levon." She whispered, fear and the past all automatically returning.
"Damn him." LaFiamma swore, pointing a finger at the girl. "You stay here and I'll be right back."
"Lundy!!" by the time Joe got downstairs his partner was already at the door of his truck. "Where do you thing you're going?" he demanded, realizing that the hot-headed Texan must have heard Morgan's admission. "Levon."
Lundy stopped to look at his partner, anger in his blue eyes like the Chicago native had never seen before and that truly worried him. "Stay here LaFiamma!" he snapped. "I need to get out of here before something happens we'd all regret."
"You weren't meant to hear what you did." Joe tried to say, hoping to reason with the man but knowing it was useless when the truck door slammed and gravel flew the the truck tires spun going out of the driveway. "Damn!"
"He's mad." The soft words behind him caused Joe to jump as Morgan stepped out of the screen door, her pale face nearly white again.
LaFiamma started to say something but blew air out between his clenched teeth in frustration, vowing hi wouldn't do what so many others had obviously done and lie to the girl.
"Yeah kid, he's mad." He sighed, glancing back down the driveway as the cloud of dust still flew. "Lundy's tempermental. Always blows a gasket at something I do and then gets over it. He'll be back."
Morgan's small smile surprised him as she glanced toward the stabled and headed in that direction. "You've a very smart man Joe so don't get dumb now. We both know that he tolerated me last night and today probably because you made him feel guilty but now he's mad again and won't be back until I'm long gone."
"Don't even say it." Joe warned Ryan Smoltz as the young man started to speak. "I'm still here and I'll protect her if need be but I know my partner and I say he'll be back."
Smoltz eyed the east coast cop with amusement as Joe followed Morgan into the stables. "Oh yeah. Kel will love that one." He snorted, reaching for his cellular phone to call the Houston office and warn them about Lundy's retreat.
"Be careful Morgan." LaFiamma warned quickly, nearly having a stroke when he seen the shaky young woman holding out a hand to the meanest horse alive in his opinion. "That thing is…is actually letting you pet him."
Morgan threw a mild 'I-told-you-so' look over at him as the tan and white stallion continued to allow her to pet his mane and head. "Levon gave me Sparkle for my 17th birthday, though I'm sure he's told you that already. When I left Houston the last time I made sure he got back the money he spent for him because I knew I'd never be back to care for him."
"I wish I was as close to my cousins as you seem to be with Lundy." Joe mused, leaning against a post and staying well away from Sparkle since the horse still seemed to be giving him nasty looks. "Actually, I'm not as close with my own brother as you seemed to have been with him."
"Levon was always there when I was growing up. He's been more of a brother at times than most of the ones I have." Morgan shrugged as she looked around the stables at the other horses and three cows along with several cats. "My mother died when I was born and I never knew my father so I was adopted, kind of hard to explain, by several families. All connected one way or the other but Levon was always special to me. Even when he was in college he was never ashamed of me or anything. I love him Joe and I wish to God that I could change what happened to make him hate me.
"We'll have to feed them." She murmered suddenly and absently as her mind went back to another time when as a child spending her summers or off work time with Levon was about the only good thing she had growing up. When he taught her to ride a horse or swim or just be with him and pretend her life was like any normal little girl's.
"Feed them? 'We' as in you and me?" LaFiamma blinked and looked down at his Italian leather loafers. "I do not think so, kid."
"I can do it Joe. You'll have to…" Morgan's voice drew off too suddenly for Joe's peace of mind and he stepped up behind her, letting his hand rest on her shoulder. Not too surprised to feel it shaking.
"Morgan, you need to lay down." He chose these words very carefully, figuring he didn't her getting stubborn on him but before he could press the issue Morgan took two steps toward the house and suddenly collapsed.
LaFiamma hissed out a string of curses as he lunged to catch her in his arms barely a second before she hit the stable floor. "Oh yeah, Joe. We're having a great day." He muttered to himself, gently lifting Morgan up to carry her inside when Ryan and the boys appeared in the stable door looking concerned. "She passed out. No, I don't know why. No, I don't want to hear any opinions and yes, you can shoot my partner on sight." He declared in a quiet voice as not to wake Morgan up, then added cheerfully as he passed. "By the way boys? You can feed the animals."
"Feed the…" Ryan blinked at that before swearing under his breath, wondering where the backup Kelly had promised him were. "I hate that guy. I left Atlanta so I wouldn't have to feed horses anymore."
"No Joann, I don't know where he is. If I did I sure wouldn't have spent all stinking day calling all over Houston for him." LaFiamma glared at the phone as if his superior could see him. "He's Lundy for cryin' out loud, that's what's wrong with him. No, she's still asleep and yes, I've been over-run by snot nosed kids. All in all I'm having a wonderful day."
Whatever Captain Joann Beaumont said was lost in a stream of harsh Italian as LaFiamma cursed everything from his partner to the weather in Mexico until a hand punched him lightly on the shoulder.
Morgan Harrison opened one eye to watch the cop as he sat on the other end of the living room couch where she'd been curled up. She could tell by the way he was sitting that he was mad and getting madder by the minute.
"I think the Pope frowns on that sort of Italian." She commented softly, yawning.
"I was never a very good Catholic. Spent most of my school time in the office or getting hit by nuns." Joe shrugged, leaning back with a muttered curse and ran both hands over his face. "Alright Morgan, I'm going to be honest with ya. We have a problem.
"#1, nobody knows where Lundy is. I've tried Chicken's about 70 times until he's threatening me with butcher knives. #2, I'm not sure if I can protect you and those boys out there aren't doing me any good what so ever. #3, Joann says another one of your boys has turned up dead down by the docks. Gunshot wound to the head. Once, quick and clean. I could go on but it would just depress us both."
Morgan could easily read the concern in his dark eyes and understood it. If more than just Derek had sold out then their security was in the gutter all the way around. "I released you once Joe. This isn't…" he placed two fingers against her lips to stop the rest of her words.
"I'm a cop. This is my business so shut up about 'releasing me' from it." He cut in firmly, sitting back up to face her fully. "The big thing is, I don't know if we should follow the plan and go see Mother Minnie or not. One thing against us and that idea is I'm not sure I could find Lubbock even with a computer driven car and the other…"
"I won't put her at risk." Morgan refused when a buzzing started. "Is that my phone or yours?" she asked, frowning at the little cellular he pulled from her jacket.
LaFiamma held it out of her reach, not intending to allow her to answer it in case her attackers decided to play another mind game.
"Hello." He spoke carefully then frowned at the voice he heard.
"Who the heck is this?!" Kelly Robinson demanded when a strange man answered his employer's private phone.
"I could ask you the same question, pal." Joe retorted sharply, too on edge to put up with any more smart mouthed kids today. "But, to reduce the amount of games, I'm Detective Joseph LaFiamma, Houston PD. Now, who's this?"
Robinson frowned, wincing at the sound of glass crashing behind him but chose to focus on the phone and the cop that had been giving Ryan a hard time. "What're you doing answering Morgan's phone?" he demanded. "Where's she?"
"Resting. What do you want, Mr…" Joe paused and waited expectantly while rolling his eyes.
"I'm Kelly Robinson Detective and I want my employer on the phone, NOW."
Kelly declared firmly, using his best authority voice that never failed to get him what he wanted.
The name went straight through Joe and he suddenly sat up straighter and grinned. "So you're God." He winked at Morgan as she sat up, now fully aware of who was on the phone. "It's nice to finally meet you since I've been hearing about you and your ideas for two days now."
"Huh?" Kelly blinked but refused to be sidetracked. "Look LaFiamma, I've talked with Ryan and a few of the boys and from what I'm hearing you and your buddy are screwing this op up big time. You're supposed to be protecting her from the killers not from your own partner."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Mr. Big-Time Mercenary leader who is too busy playing savior in the Middle East to be here protecting your own friend." Joe snapped angrily, more than willing to admit that some things were very wrong with this case but not willing to sit and be insulted over the phone. "For a smart mouth punk you've got guts but no brains. When you get here, where you should be, then you can tell me how to do my job but until then I highly suggest that you stick with blowing up sheiks or locating a harem or two to play with because at least I'm here trying to do 'MY' job. What exactly are you doing right now kid?" he demanded, starting to say more when Morgan grabbed the phone out of his hand. "Hey, I wasn't done with him yet."
Morgan rolled her eyes at him. "Oh, yes you are." She replied, keeping the phone away from her ears until the yelling had died down some and she figured it was either safe to talk or Pat Anderson, the 'Raiders 2nd in command, had gotten the phone off his leader. "Kel?" she tried tentatively, wincing as his voice echoed in her head.
"Put him back on and I'll give him something to yell about!" Robinson snarled. So mad that he didn't hear the shake in his friend's voice. "Who does he think he is? Does he have any clue who he was talking to?!"
The Queens Court Raiders presently with their leader in Turkey had all come running when he'd started snarling. "Guess he must've gotten hold of that Texas cop Ryan's been complaining about." Justin McDowell, the merc outfit's British 3rd boss, mused.
"Kelly, stop yelling please." Morgan urged, feeling her head start to hurt again but still managed to keep Joe from regaining the phone. "Robinson, shut up!" she finally snapped, getting the merc leader's attention. "Joe's tired and stressed. Ryan and the boys are being intentionally annoying and Levon's taken off. Don't start with me about that since it was your bloody idea that I come here in the first place and you have no place yelling at Joe since you aren't here like you should be and until you can talk to me at a decent level, don't call me again!!"
The phone slammed into a wall, breaking apart and Morgan slowly tried to take deep breaths so the tears wouldn't come again.
"Hey," LaFiamma gently touched her cheek when he seen the tears shining in her eyes. "Don't cry. He'll get over it. I'm sure that I'm not the first cop to tell that kid off." He soothed, trying to ease the mood and stop her tears but upon seeing that wasn't working he did the only other thing he could do. "Morgan, it's alright. Everything'll be fine soon." He promised lightly, carefully easing an arm around her shoulders. "Ssshh now. Don't cry or those boys will never leave me alone."
Kelly's words were still ringing in her head, the look in her brother's eyes still haunted her and Morgan knew it would be a long time before she'd forget the torture or the injuries she got from it or the memories being here had brought back.
Those things among others caused the tears to come and no matter how matter much she tried to stop them they wouldn't stop until she finally gave up trying and just turned into his shoulder and cried.
LaFiamma tensed and knew this was not a good thing but also knew he was the only person present that the girl could lean on since he doubted she'd ever show this much emotion to those boys outside and his stupid, macho partner was God only knew where.
"Go ahead and cry." He told her softly, gently drawing her into his arms and holding her tighter when the sobs increased. Staying like that until she had quieted down some. "Lundy, wherever you are, you are a dead man." He vowed in a whisper.
"Detective?" Ryan Smoltz entered the house quietly since he figured all the yelling must have come from Kelly's call.
Joe never moved as he glanced up at the young man. "Kid, if she wasn't sleeping right now I'd kick you tail from here back to Phoenix for calling that punk in Turkey but that can wait until she's calm again. Now, what do you want?" he asked, keeping his voice low as Morgan continued to sleep with her head laying on his shoulder.
"We wanted to let you know that Captain Beaumont had your Cobra brought out in case you needed it since Lundy kind of left you here with no transportation." Ryan replied, scuffing his shoe. "Kelly really isn't as bad as he made out just now. He's scared."
"So is she." LaFiamma snapped, sighing. "Stay on guard Ryan because I don't know who might show up tonight. I'm going to lay her down and then I'll be in the den in case my 'partner' calls."
Ryan recognized the tension in the detective's voice and decided against telling him that Levon might not call at all until, as Morgan had said earlier, she was gone.
"Right, I had a better life in Atlanta. Less trouble." He decided, knowing that no one could that close to this place without his people knowing about it.
Nights were always the worst part of an agent's life because at night, in sleep, came the recalling dreams that were more real than reality had been.
The nights had never been pleasant for Morgan Harrison. Never had been even before all this had started but now between recent events and being in her cousin's house again, in this room, the nights were worse.
She stopped the ragged scream before it happened as she sat up in bed, barely awake and scared to death.
Morgan blinked sleep and sweat from her eyes as she looked around her room, feeling the memories surrounding her. Actually feeling the pain from each incident she was involved in here in Houston, feeling the pain and memories of that day in her room just like it had happened and knowing that unless she got out right then, Joe would have more troubles than he already did.
"Can't take this anymore." She whispered, reaching for her bag since she'd never unpacked, knowing she wouldn't be able to stay.
The shaken former Federal agent had only made it halfway down the hall before she stopped in front of her cousin's room.
Levon's room had always been so much of himself with boots, hats and assorted ranch things laying around. Morgan could remember it always being like that, even when Caroline had been alive. She'd always loved this room because it reminded her of her cousin.
Pain hit like a hammer in her chest nearly knocking the air from her lungs as memories hit her from all sides. Bloody memories had always been a problem but especially so when confronted by the places they happened in.
Ice like fear caught her like it did that day and she could still hear the sound of material ripping, flesh striking flesh and his deep guttural laugh in her ear as he savagely attacked her.
"No. It's only a memory." She tried to tell herself as the nausea hit and she started to run when her eyes landed on the bed. "Bloody heck."
Earlier that afternoon, while her cousin and LaFiamma had been outside working out the arrangements with the boys, she'd left a tape for Levon here. Knowing what would happen, she'd left the tape with her best apoligies for their past and the rest of what he should know. Wanting him to know that she hadn't run because of him but from the memories that were chasing her.
Now the tape was gone which meant her cousin had it or Joe had found it, which was doubtful. Either way, Morgan knew she had to get out because if Levon did find the tape, had listened to it, she'd be dead when he came home because she hadn't left out anything or tried to soften the blows about what he learned of his 'friends' and that last case 6 years ago or anything else she felt he should know.
"Goodbye Levon." She whispered, leaving the bedroom behind and trying to get down the steps with her bag and pain everywhere without waking up LaFiamma. Not that she needed to worry about that.
LaFiamma was sound asleep in the den, stretched out on the small sofa under the windows, his guns well within reach if anything disturbed the house or his charge. "I am sorry about this Joe, but it's for the best. For everyone."
Morgan knew her boys were around but she also knew they wouldn't try to stop her. Her only regret, as she silently shut the front door, was having to 'borrow' Joe's beloved little Cobra, figuring she could have one of the boys bring it back in the morning since she only needed a ride into her office where she could get one of her own cars to go…wherever she ended up.
"I hate this car." She whispered sourly, figuring if she didn't pass out trying to hotwire the thing then she was doing alright as pain shot through her ribs, side and leg as she had to crawl under the steering wheel to find the wires she needed.
So intent on what she was doing that Morgan didn't notice the slender shadow sitting on the porch swing watching her every move silently and wondering how bog a fit LaFiamma would throw when he found out about this or about his missing spark plugs.
"Finally." Morgan touched the wires together and expected to hear the purr of the engine but got silence. "What the bloody heck is wrong with you car?" she demanded crossly, trying again but still getting nothing but silence when she heard the footstep beside the car and automatically twisted to fight when white lights exploaded from pain and she hissed sharply.
"Going somewhere?" Levon's voice finally eased through the haze of pain as it slowed to a dull throbbing.
Morgan slowly opened her eyes to see her older cousin leaning on the car door casually as if seeing her trying to hotwire his partner's car happened every night. "Obviously not now." She muttered, hesitating before accepting the hand he offered.
"No, obviously not now." He agreed quietly, keeping his hand on her arm until she regained some color and balance. "Doubt if trying to steal Joe's car was what the doctor meant by 'rest'."
"I wasn't stealing it. Just borrowing it until I got into town." She corrected, kicking the tire. "I didn't feel like walking and figured Roy could have the car back here before Joe even woke up. Would've worked if there wasn't something wrong with the bloody stupid thing." She kicked it again then frowned at his mild, amused grin. "What?"
"Actually, I figure the car will start just fine once LaFiamma puts the spark plugs back in tomorrow. After he find them of course." Levon shrugged easily, picking her bag up and laying it back on the porch before sitting back on the swing, watching her carefully from the corner of his eye.
Morgan stared at his shadow, both cautious and disbelieving. "You took his spark plugs?" she blinked, seeing no choice but to go back on the porch though she wasn't happy about it. "I doubt if Joe will like that."
"I have a hunch he'll like you trying to hotwire it a whole lot less, sugar." Lundy deadpanned, noticing her lack of color and how bad she was trembling. "Where exactly were you going Morgan Elizabeth?" he asked, choosing to use both her first and middle names like he'd done infrequently when she was a child.
"Away." Was her whispered reply after a few moments of silence where only the sounds of crickets were heard as Morgan stayed near the porch railing and avoided looking at her cousin. "Anywhere that I could escape the pain and the memories and anywhere that you and Joe couldn't be hurt."
Lundy slowly stood, careful to keep his movements slow to avoid scaring her anymore than she already was right then. "Running away isn't going to help you and it isn't like you either." He replied, placing the cassette tape next to her clenched hand on the railing and seeing her pale even more.
"You ran away today." She pointed out, needing to have the conversation on anything but that tape.
"Yeah, but it was either that or scare you more and have LaFiamma slug me." The Texas cop returned, gently taking her by the hand and leading her back to the swing.
He knew that how he handled this would say how things went from then on. If he reacted the wrong way, like he'd been doing, she'd bolt from them.
"That was an…interesting tape you left for me." He spoke casually, easing her down on the swing before sitting on the railing across from her but still holding onto the girl's closed fist, figuring this finally had to be settled before things got worse.
"Joe's been on the phone all day trying to find out where you went." She changed the subject rapidly, looking away from his eyes and trying to control her breathing as panic began setting in. "He's been grumpy ever since you left and then he got into this big fight with Kelly on the phone."
Lundy nearly laughed aloud at the picture of his hot-headed partner arguing with the leader of the Queens Court Raiders. "Morgan, we really need to talk."
"Why?" the question came too fast and too high as he gently opened her fingers to expose the long worn scar in the palm. "You told me you got this by messing with the branding irons after Jeremy had branded the horses for me." He reminded her quietly, lightly tracing the indented scar lines in the shape of a star that had bothered him from the minute he'd first seen it about 9 years earlier. "Why didn't you tell me the truth, Morgan? Why didn't you tell me that you got this after you were attacked in the barn one day while I was at work and someone had put a badge, that is what the shape is, a cop's badge, a white hot badge in your palm and burned it?"
Morgan struggled to pull her hand back but her cousin was suddenly being very stubborn and refused to let go as he moved to sit beside her on the swing. "You were never supposed to hear that tape while I was still here Levon." She whispered almost frantically, surprised when she felt his hand on her cheek.
"Why? Because you were afraid of what would happen?" he asked, brushing the tears away gently and feeling the fever coming again. "You're my cousin, Morgan. The only blood family I have besides Mother Minnie..well, the only blood family besides Minnie that I love, and after so many years I need you to tell me the truth."
"I did. On your answering machine and on that." She looked toward the tape but bit her lower lip suddenly. "I never wanted you to know any of the truth because I never wanted to hurt you or have you get hurt because…"
"What about all the hurt you endured Morgan?" Lundy cut in suddenly, letting go of her hand in order to frame her face and feeling her shake as she remembered too much too fast. "You ran tonight, were going to 'borrow' Joe's car, because of the memories, didn't you?"
Determined to be strong and not give in again to the fears and memories, Morgan blinked away the burning tears and shook her head. "I don't want you and Joe…you hate me so why do you care?"
"I never hated you, sugar. Morgan, you should've told me what was going on with you and the others in the department. You should have told me about…Charlie and Rob and I shouldn't have been so damn blind." Lundy declared, sighing as he sat back to watch as she curled up on the other end of the swing with her knees drawled up to her chin. "I should've seen the problems when you suddenly developed bruises or sprains but you just said you had fallen or tripped. You never said anything to me about what was going on, about the cops I worked with at the time hurting you or trying to…"
"Tell you something about those men meant a four hours lecture on mistrusting everyone." Morgan retorted bitterly, closing her eyes against the pain that came again and started feeling the memories. "Levon, I knew they were your friends and you loved them like brothers so I knew you'd never believe anything I'd say or anything that Caroline would say, not even when she'd drop hints after Martin had…"
Lundy heard the pain in her voice along with the shame as he reached over to lightly touch her hair, frowning toward the tape. "I never meant to hurt you Morgan or let you be hurt. I knew things were bad, I guess, when you refused to see me after that mess at the warehouse."
"I refused to see you?" she stared at him before laughing bitterly. "I never refused to see you Levon. I woke up wanting you. I woke up three days after that warehouse attack." Morgan kicked herself for telling him but figured this was going to hurt one way or the other so he'd may as well hear it from her. "I barely remember getting in touch with Kelly about Martin and Lewis setting them up when I must have passed out because I don't remember anything else but waking up screaming. Don't even know how I got to Houston General…"
"You were laying on the floor of that house, about 45 minutes out of town, covered in blood. You still had the rope they'd had you tied with around one wrist and were clutching a knife." Levon's was careful to speak slowly for his words to penetrate the fog of fear his cousin was feeling right then. "I really can't recall every detail because I was concentrating on you right then. You were like this lifeless little doll when I picked you up and even unconcious you still started fighting me, screaming that it wouldn't happen again. Took all I had to calm you down while Joann searched the place. She found Charlie, dead in the bedroom."
Morgan's eyes had lifted to stare at him as the words slowly gelled and she could understand what he was saying. "You…you were there? You found me?" she whispered softly. "How? I'd gotten Caroline to keep you home that day because I knew something bad was going to happen?"
"Yeah, but my wife was a lot of things and I loved her dearly but she was not a good liar. I knew she wasn't sick and when Kelly called to ask where you were I knew something was wrong." Lundy began to explain. "I called Joann. Rob was only to willing to help since he's the one who announced to the department that you and the 'Raiders had sold us out. I think the plan was for him to take us out to that house where Charlie was waiting with a few of the others and let on like they'd caught you before you could betray them but things weren't quite like that when we got there. No." he caught her hands before she could pull away. "Listen to me, Morgan.
"When we got there and Charlie was dead along with one of the others, Rob began getting freaked. I was too busy freaking out myself to pay him any attention until he slipped up. I'd already had a pretty good idea of what had happened to you by the way you were acting, even out cold, and your shirt was ripped off but he was mad enough that started yelling about Charlie screwing up all their plans because he couldn't just kill you right off. He knew you could blow the whole thing if you regained conciousness and decided that you wouldn't. He pulled his gun, I was still in shock from finding you like I had and Joann was out calling for backup.
"Rob told me you'd sold out and killed Charlie then he laughed that at least Charlie had gotten something before he died and I guess I reacted because I laid you back down and hit him." Lundy gently lifted the girl's chin up to eye level. "Morgan, Kelly lied to you about something. He told you that he killed Rob that day but he didn't. Lewis drew on me and was ready to kill you even though it looked like you were on death's door. He fired and…I fired."
"You killed him." She blinked, too confused by this point. "Why?"
"He fired on me and I returned fire. It would have been justified but when it hit the streets that you and the boys had sold out Kelly knew that if anyone learned what had happened it would've cost me probably more than my job so he took the blame. I really regretted that action, killing my friend even if he had fired on me first, up until the last day or so." Levon gently smiled as he let his fingers brush against her cheek.
Morgan was staring at him, uncertain. "If you were there, knew what happened, why didn't you believe me?" she demanded, tears choking her voice suddenly. "Why wouldn't you come to the hospital, why did you say all those things when I came here?"
"Because sugar, I was trying to protect you." Lundy admitted, letting his hand drop as he admitted the thing that had haunted him for 6 years. "On this tape you told me how you were visited by some cops who 'advised' you to leave and let the subject drop for my sake. Well, it was after you were out of danger and I was leaving the hospital that I was confronted in the parking lot by a few of the top brass who advised that things had happened that would cause a scandal if it got out about Rob, Charlie and the others being dirty and if I wanted to keep my job or better yet make sure you kept yours and your life as well as Caroline's I had better make sure to stay away from you and keep you out of Houston." He explained
"I never thought I chose my job over you but I did choose to hurt you if I could protect you from ever enduring what I thought you had." He spoke quietly, haunted by the thoughts of all that he'd allowed to happen. "I knew about what had happened in that house, I was told by a few others bits and pieces of other things but I never knew all this and I sure as sin never knew about what happened in this house. Damn!" he swore bitterly, feeling her touch his arm hesitantly as if unsure how he'd react. "Don't be scared of me Morgan. I'd never hurt you or willingly let you be hurt." Lundy assured her, finally swallowing most of his anger to look at his eyes and felt the rest of his anger slid away to be dealt with at a better time. "Sugar, I didn't know about what Charlie did until I heard you tell LaFiamma. That's why I left today because I was mad at myself for not listening to Caroline that night and for not seeing how Charlie affected you. If I had known what he'd done to you I'd have killed him long before he had a chance to hurt you again."
Morgan couldn't stop the tears anymore as she went ahead and told everything else, some things she'd put on tape while others she hadn't, including the parts about Charlie Martin and the assult and she didn't stop until she finally exhausted herself, tears spilling from her eyes as she waited for her cousin's final reaction. She waited for the yelling to start.
Lundy had gotten up to pace, figuring it was best for both of them if he was moving while she talked. He listened to things that honestly made him wonder why her employees hadn't killed him before now. He listened to her words, to her sobbing confession of exactly what his 'friend' had done to her upstairs. He listened while his mind locked onto one thing that made all of guilt triple. His 17 year old, trusting, naïve cousin was raped under his roof. He listened until finally silence rang between them and he knew that she was waiting for him to respond.
Of course, he also knew his partner was probably waiting for the same thing since Lundy was aware that LaFiamma was wide awake by now and had heard everything said through the open den window.
"I remember the first time I saw you when Minnie went to the airport and picked you up, right before Dad took off one time," Levon stared off toward the barn, stalling for time until he'd regained enough composure to look at her. "You were probably less than a year old with the biggest blue eyes I'd ever seen. Minnie and Dad had explained how you were my mother's niece and that you were my cousin, 10 years younger, and from the minute I first held you I swore that no one would ever be able to hurt you because I'd protect you. I was your cousin and I'd protect you." He finally turned to look at the young woman, smiling gently as he came back to the swing to sit down. "I screwed up and let you be hurt by my own friends and in my own house, but…it will never happen again because I will never allow you to be hurt again."
Reacting to his heart and silently damning everyone that had come between them, Lundy reached over to gently draw Morgan into his arms fully. Feeling her tense cautiously but slowly relax against him as she accepted his embrace, the tears coming slowly this time as Morgan cried out the pain, both from their past and from this time, and slowly some of the hurt eased even though they both knew the pain and the memories would always be there.
Lundy carefully sat back and took his cousin in his arms fully to cradle her while she cried, lightly pushing the swing into a slow, lulling motion and talking to her softly, keeping his voice low and soothing until he'd felt Morgan's body go limp tinto sleep, a full sleep, for the first time in a long time.
"I do love you, Morgan." He whispered after a while, waiting until he was certain she was asleep fully before gently lifting her up into his arms to carry her inside.
The screen door opened before he could figure out how to get it open without disturbing her. "How much of that did you hear, Joe?" he asked softly as his partner stepped aside to let him enter.
"Enough to know that underneath all that Texas pride and stubbornness you're basically a good guy that's gonna die if I don't have my spark plugs back by the morning." Joseph LaFiamma remarked lightly, figuring it was best to keep thing light between them right then especially since neither of them wanted to wake Morgan up again. "She's hurting bad."
"I know." Lundy sighed, going up the steps as carefully as he could as Morgan began stirring restlessly. "Get her bag from the porch and take it to the room across from mine, o-kay?"
LaFiamma started to mention that no place in this house would make Morgan comfortable but just nodded and went to get the bag as his partner went to get his cousin settled in the other room.
Lundy gently glanced around the room he'd chosen. It was obviously a guest room with no personal touches but figured that maybe was what Morgan needed right then. Hopefully a room where the bad memories of this house wouldn't hurt quite so bad.
The bed was one his grandmother had given him and Caroline as a wedding present. A double canopy in deep cherry wood with a soft blue quilt she'd made herself.
Morgan tensed and cried out instinctively when he laid her down and started to step away.
"Easy sugar." Levon whispered, sitting beside her and chuckling lowly as she curled back up in his arms. "You're safe now Morgan. LaFiamma and I'll make sure it stays that way."
"Until a few mercs get here, sure." LaFiamma agreed from the door, laying the bag on the dresser and leaning on the bottom post of the bed to examine his partner curiously. "Are you sure you're you?" he asked, shrugging. "It's just that my partner hasn't been acting too kindly these days toward her and I'm worried."
Lundy accepted the sarcasm as it was meant and figured LaFiamma was due since all he'd been putting up with the last few days.
"I know that and I'll make it up to you." The Texan promised his still miffed partner when Morgan let out a cry and her eyes snapped open. "Easy Morgan."
"Where.." Morgan looked around before laying her head back down against her cousin's shoulder. "I can't sleep Levon. I dream too much."
"I wish we could protect you from those but all LaFiamma and I can protect is your body. Staying awake is making the nightmares worse though, sugar." Lundy told her, pulling the quilt up around her as she shivered. "I'll be here with you tonight and, Morgan look at me, nothing will hurt you again while you're with us. Now, try to go back to sleep."
Morgan murmered something about bossy cops but slowly dozed off again. "The nights are going to be hard on her." LaFiamma spoke quietly, drawing his partner out of his thoughts when he seen him getting too tense. "Want me to stay?"
"No, go get some sleep in my room. I think we'll need it." Lundy told him, glancing down at his sleeping cousin as she curled against him. Her head buried against his shoulder and one hand clenched. "I think we'll all need it."
The sound of the back door opening and something falling over in the kitchen woke Detective LaFiamma up in a hurry as he grabbed for his shoulder and Colts before going out into the hallway, looking in the room across from him at his partner sleeping sitting up with Morgan still sleeping peacefully in his arms and he was determined to let the girl sleep as long as possible with no interruptions.
"Is this is a teenager, I'll kill him." He vowed silently, taking the back steps without a sound and hearing voices muttering in the kitchen when he stepped in with both guns drawn and ready to fire.
"Hands up and guns down boys!" he snapped firmly, blinking when he realized he was facing several well armed young men that were also pointing handguns at him having been startled by the Houston cop's sudden appearance. "I hate this. How many of you brats sold out to these scum?"
The obvious leader, a tall young man in his early 20's with long blond hair and brown eyes, glared back at Joe when another voice broke in from the doorway to the dining room.
"Oh yeah, the boss would love this headline: 'WORLD CLASS MERCS AND TOP NOTCH HOUSTON VIA CHICAGO COP SHOOT EACH OTHER IN KITCHEN BRAWL!' Joe I expected better from you."
LaFiamma glanced quickly at the voice then did a doubletake to be sure he was seeing who he thought he was. "Mike?" he frowned. "What are you doing here, how'd you get in and who are these clowns?"
Michael LaFiamma laughed at the dark looks his older brother was getting but did step into the kitchen, waving the guns up. "These 'clowns' are called Marauders and are a subsidiary of H.E. based out of Baton Rouge and, in case you're interested, you're not making any fans with the Robinson family since this is Toby Robinson. I believe you told off his big brother last night.
"Toby, quit growling under your breath because you're pointing a gun at Houston Detective Joseph LaFiamma. One of Morgan's bodyguards and my big brother." He finished, grinning at both men. "Having fun yet, Joe?"
"I'm sure I don't want to know." LaFiamma told himself, sheathing his guns and going for the coffee maker. "Great security I have out there. Letting anyone in. Smoltz, you are in big trouble when I get out there!"
Dark haired like his brother, Michael LaFiamma was lankier with long legs and longer hair pulled away from a set of deep green eyes. He was also the obvious mediator right then.
"Ryan let us in because he knew we were the good guys Joe and quit picking on those boys." Michael replied, straddling a chair as the Marauders went back outside with the exception of their leader.
"Alright, I've got a good hunch on why these guys are here but not you little brother." Joe stared at his kid brother sternly. "Last time I talked with Uncle Mickey he said you were on a vacation in Venice."
"Ah, yeah." Michael smiled slightly at that. "I am on vacation, sort of, but I figured when I heard about Kelly calling the Marauders in to help out in Houston that I had better come and make sure you stayed alive. Besides, Toby was in Chicago and I wanted him out of my city before they destroyed it."
LaFiamma blinked. "Exactly how would a law major get tied in with Harrison Enterprises, Michael?"
"Probably because I got my law degree two years early and I, sort of, work for Harrison Enterprises Joe." Michael replied calmly, figuring his brother would be too tired to react normally over that one.
Coffee went everywhere as LaFiamma choked, sputtering and choking while Michael tried to keep from grinning. "You what?" he finally got out.
"Kind of an inside joke in the Chicago companies that a nephew of a major Mob boss works for his biggest competitor, not to mention a Federal agent." Michael waved away the glare. "Just don't mention this to Uncle Mickey yet. The family doesn't know. In fact, you haven't even seen me cause I'm on my way to Venice now."
Before LaFiamma could think of a reply his bleary eyed partner stepped into his kitchen and froze. "Don't ask Lundy." He advised, shoving another cup of coffee toward the still half asleep Texan. "My brother just decided to drop more teenage mercs on us."
Levon Lundy examined the young men sitting with his partner, easily seeing the resemeblence between Joe and his brother and having no trouble figuring out who the other young man was.
I would have preferred your brother Toby." He sighed, wincing at the coffee and knowing his partner must have made it.
"Not after last night you wouldn't." Toby Robinson declared, grinning as he added. "I figure as soon as Kel gets here you'll be needing a new partner cause this one will be dead. My brother doesn't take too well to being told off, especially by a cop."
"What in God's name did you do last night LaFiamma?" Lundy wanted to know, remembering his cousin mentioning that Joe had argued with the Queens Court Raiders leader on the phone.
LaFiamma raised both hands to ward off the accusations. "I only did what any self-respecting Italian would've done when confronted with a snot-nosed, high handed jerk telling me how to do our job when he isn't here to do his." He replied calmly, shrugging. "By the way all those boys talk about this guy I figure it was time someone brought him down an ego level or five."
"He's a dead man." Toby nodded then frowned. "Actually, my team is here to back you up in some plan to sneak out of the city. I don't think it'll work but, what the hey, nothing else has either."
Both cops looked at each other knowing the sooner they got out of Houston and away from these kids the better off they'd all be.
"We'll leave as soon as Morgan wakes up." Lundy announced, rummaging in his cabinets to find something his cousin could eat when a thought hit him. "Oh yeah. LaFiamma, your spark plugs are under the chicken coop"
Michael stared at his brother who muttered under his breath as his partner carried a tray upstairs. "You let someone actually touch that Cobra of yours?" he was shocked, knowing how much that car meant to his sibling. "You had it flown here from Chicago and you actually let.."
"'Let' is an operative word, kiddo." LaFiamma cut in, refusing to think too hard about his poor car. "Mike, go find the plugs and put 'em back in and then we'll talk about me not blowing your little scam to the family." He ordered, finishing his coffee before trailing after his partner to see exactly what their plans were,
"You going to tell him the rest?" Toby asked the younger LaFiamma curiously. "Are you going to tell your brother exactly who tips off the cops, the company and the Feds to all your uncle's activities?"
"Not in this lifetime, at least not while I'm in throttling distance." Michael returned, wondering what a chicken coop actually looked like.
Lundy was still shaking his head when he entered his cousin's room and found her sitting up in bed, still half asleep and terrified.
"Joe's gonna be pretty upset if he finds out you knew his little brother worked for you in Chicago, sugar." He kept his voice even but spoke a little louder than usua; to get through the fog in her eyes. "Morgan, wake up baby. You're safe."
Morgan Harrison blinked rapidly a few times, trying to clear her mind when she recognized her cousin's voice over the din of recent horrors she woke up with until she was finally able to shake off the worst of the feelings and reached out for something solid, anything, just to reassure herself she was awake.
"You o-kay sugar?" Levon asked quietly, putting the tray on the nightstand to sit down and take her hands in his. "Morgan, answer me!"
"I don't know which is the worst." She finally whispered, staring at nothing. "The actual events or having to relive them every bloody night."
Lundy swore under his breath as he tried to wake her enough to bring her mind back to him when Morgan suddenly blinked and looked at him.
"Hi." She greeted softly, seeing the concern in his eyes as he continued to watch her. "I'm… alright Levon." She assured him, taking one of her hands back and used it to lightly touch his face. "Are you?"
"You scare me outta my mind and another 20 years just now and then ask if 'I'm' alright?" Lundy actually laughed, leaning forward to kiss her forhead. "If I didn't love you so much I'd probably ground you if I still could."
Morgan smiled shyly, not resisting when he eased her back on the pillows and glanced at the tray of food. "I don't eat Levon."
"Yeah, I got that picture already and that's not helping your health any." Her cousin returned, handing her the glass of orange juice. "Just eat a little now and we can stop for something on the way to Lubbock, if LaFiamma can stop yelling about his 'little brother' working for your Chicago company."
At that Morgan frowned a little then a small grin began to form. "He must not have mentioned the subsidiary position yet." She murmered half to herself, sipping the juice.
"You knew Michael worked for you and didn't mention it?!" LaFiamma glared at her as he entered the room, obviously still tired and irritable. "Why?"
"It isn't my place to announce my employees working status to their families." Morgan shrugged easily, munching on bacon and not aware of it yet. "I figured out your relationship to Michael on the plane here to Houston but then forgot all about it. Sorry, Joe."
LaFiamma looked ready to throttle anyone right then so Lundy shoved an apple and a knife towards him. "Here, peel this and vent."
"My uncle will freak when he finds out about this." Joe muttered, absently feeling the fruit. "Bad enough I'm a cop but to have his pride and joy, his main 'heir' in 'the family' working with not only his biggest competitor but one that's also a Fed, this will give him a stroke."
"Don't feel too bad Joe. I have boys working for me all over the East Coast from some of the largest and most notorious Mafia families. If Don Luigi out of New York doesn't mind his grandson Peter working for me I'm sure your uncle will understand." Morgan reassured him helpfully then added with a small smile that shone with wickedness. "Besides, if he doesn't I could always have the Families in New York have a little….talk with him."
Lundy bit his cheek to keep a straight face as his partner looked up at the young woman then over at him before tossing the apple at her.
"You would." He snorted, mildly amused by the suggestion but frowned when she caught the apple quickly but then winced at the sudden pain. "Damn, I didn't think.."
"My fault." She hissed, feeling the pain ease slowly as both her cousin and new friend began hovering again. "Guys, don't start that. I hate it when Kelly hovers."
LaFiamma made some sour remark about being surprised the kid do anything but yell which got Morgan's mind off the pain because she immediately felt it her place to stick up for the absent mercenary leader.
Lundy sat and listened to his cousin mildly argue with his partner, glad she was more vocal and animated than she'd been in recent days but still saw her fear and insecurities when she moved closer to him when loud voices from outside startled her.
"The boys will cover for us and we'll sneak outta town as soon as you're ready." He remarked, lightly running a hand over her hair and curling a strand around his fingers like he'd done when she was smaller.
"Now." Morgan whispered, wanting out of the house but also wanting out of Houston and away from all the hostile eyes she could feel. "Please Levon, now."
As the two Houston detectives exchanged looks, LaFiamma only shrugged. "Lets do it, partner. Anything's better than dealing with the kiddie patrol."
"Stay with her while I throw some things in a bag." Lundy eased off the bed, satisfied that his partner could keep Morgan occupied for that small amount of time. "You going to need to stop by your place?"
"Nope. I had the boys bring what I wanted out last night." Joe grinned. "I figured if anyone was watching my apartment they'd assume I was staying here for a while."
"I'm impressed LaFiamma. You actually used your head for something other than an ad for styling mousse." Lundy went out the door before his friend caught on to that barb.
LaFiamma frowned deeply when he reran those words in his mind. "Hey, wait a minute Lundy!" he started after the Texan when Morgan snatched his arm. "Easy."
"Stay Joe." She really could've done without him for that little while but figured if she didn't want the entire trip to be filled with them fighting than she had better change the subject and get his mind off the insult real fast. "Don't fight with him, please?"
Ahh, kid." LaFiamma groaned but knew Morgan was still too shaky and unsure to put up with too much bickering between them and could easily understand why she'd mistake his bickering with Lundy as actual fighting. "Alright, I'll try to be good." He promised relunctantly.
"Thanks Joe." Morgan smiled, refusing the memories that sudden wanted to come one. "Think this will work?"
"Lundy seems to think so but…." Joe stopped when he felt the girl's body tense suddenly at the loud noise that came from down the hall. "Stay here Morgan." He ordered, following the noise to find his brother and Toby both outside what had been Morgan's room. "What's up?"
Michael glanced back at him with a shrug. "Your partner seems to be…redecorating."
"Go stay with your….employer until I get back to her." Joe returned, forcing those words out as Michael laughed. "Lundy, you're supposed to be packing. What are you doing exactly?" he asked, looking around the room.
When he'd last been in it yesterday, it was clean and well kept but now that his friend seemed to have taken to demolishing it.
The bed was leaning as one leg was missing and the posts were all but hacked to pieces. He'd shoved both the mattress and boxspring off to the floor.
"Lundy?" he called again.
"Seems like termites got in here and her bed just fell apart." The Texan finally replied, voice tight with suppressed emotion as he leaned against the dresser staring at the glued together music box. "Yep, termites just completely destroyed this set."
LaFiamma looked toward the axe on the floor and nudged it under the tossed off blankets. "Sure, partner. Termites. Must have been big termites since that bed seemed pretty study yesterday."
"Some things fall apart after years of well caring, LaFiamma." Lundy told him, still eyeing the box when a sound made them both turn and swear at the same time.
"What good are you guys if you can't even keep her occupied?" Joe wanted to know, trying to block Morgan's view of the room but she slipped under his arm and eyed it critically.
"Levon?" she asked warily, looking at him then around the room until she gazed at the bed. "Looks like if I ever stay here again I'll need new furniture."
"You can have whatever you want after we get back. LaFiamma will even volunteer to take you shopping for a new bedroom." Lundy promise while shooting his partner a look as he took the music box from the dresser and stepped over the destruction he caused to cross the room to his cousin.
Morgan was still surveying the damage when she looked quickly up at him, unsure of his emotional state right then. "Levon?"
"Break this." He placed the music box in her trembling hands, stopping her surprised objections while sensing his partner's wary gaze. "Morgan, take this and throw it against the wall, drop it or do whatever with it but just break the damn thing."
"Levon, Grammy gave me this and---" she tried to put in but could still hear the sound of it breaking against Charles Martin's head and couldn't really stand to even look at it without remembering that day in this room. "Levon, I can't—."
Lundy gently framed her face in both hands. "Mother Minnie will understand, sugar. She can always give you another one but this one here will always, forever, remind you of what happened to you. Now, break it."
Morgan slowly glanced at the box, surprised by the waves of emotion and feelings it brought on. With eyes closed, the girl's body shook from the repressed memories. Not only of the attack at the house but also from 6 year ago in that rundown shack where Martin had taken his revenge from Carolyn's interruption.
There, confident of his victory, he didn't worry about sound. In fact, he did things to intentionally make her scream.
It was these memories that finally made her cry out in anguish, throwing the box against the closest wall with as much strength as she had right then before starting to lose her balance.
"Easy, Morgan. This will all be over soon." Lundy carefully enfolded Morgan in his arms to quiet her sobs while his friend removed the two younger men. "It's over now. I can't these memories away and I know that destroying these things won't help much really but it's all I can do, sugar."
Morgan finally settled again after a few more minutes. "I don't mean to freak out Levon." She sighed, feeling foolish about the tears when she was used to being strong for her employees.
"Sugar, I'd be worried if you weren't upset by all that's happened." Lundy replied, keeping his arm around her as he led the girl out of the bedroom to where LaFiamma was waiting downstairs.
The Italian glanced up the steps at his partner. "The wonder geeks took your bag outside to the rental truck we must be using." He declared, giving Morgan his best exasperated look. "Do you think it's possible that all these kids will be gone by the time we get back from Mayberry?" he asked, using the typical term for Lundy's hometown.
"It's really doubtful since they seem to like bugging you." Morgan returned, smiling slightly as Joe held the door open for her and then threw his partner a smirk over his shoulder.
"LaFiamma, if you hit on my cousin I'll get to kill you before Kelly can." Lundy called in firm warning, catching Toby by the arm. "You have my grandmother's number and LaFiamma's cell phone number if you need us for anything important. Just keep a close eye out and have the boys clean that mess upstairs out."
Toby just nodded, wanting to get the detectives on the road. "We'll handle all this here Levon. You and LaFiamma just take care of the boss and be careful."
"Lundy! Let's get a move on it in this century!!" LaFiamma yelled from the silver and blue Dodge Bronco the Marauders had brought with them.
Lundy rolled his eyes as the boys snickered but he waved to his partner. "Yeah, we're going. Tell Kelly to call me when he gets into town."
Michael LaFiamma wisely kept silent that probably his brother and his partner will see the Queens Court Raiders before any of them would.
"You probably should have told them about Stanley flying in from L.A." he spoke to Toby after the two Houston cops had departed in their rental truck.
"Yeah but where is the surprise in that?" Toby countered dryly then went on to concentrate on hoping this plan worked out well and nothing went wrong even as Ryan Smoltz was yelling into his own phone about stupid Feds. "I hate this job already."
"Tell me again why we're leaving civilization?" Joseph LaFiamma spoke over the music his partner had playing in the truck as they cruised the highway toward Lommard, Texas where Lundy had grown up.
"We need someplace quiet to keep Morgan until we can figure out who's behind trying to kill her." Lundy replied lightly hitting LaFiamma's hand away from the radio dial. "Besides, it got us away from the boys right?"
Joe muttered something under his breath about teenagers and country music when Morgan stirred uneasily in the backseat.
The young woman had been sleeping off and on since they'd left Houston a few hours earlier, only occasionally crying out but now she was getting edgier.
"You did tell Minnie that the kid's sick, right?" he asked in concern, knowing that the matron of the Lundy family was ill herself. "Is she up to handling us and whoever might be coming after us?"
Lundy's gaze strayed to the rear view mirror to watch Morgan before glancing at his partner, hearing the other man's concern. "I told her what we knew and I told her about the risks but she still insisted we come. She's getting paler again."
"She does everytime either she thinks about what's going on or one of us mentions it." LaFiamma turned in his seat so he could watch both Morgan and Lundy. "While we have a minute of peace, do we have any real leads on who might be behind this?"
Silence rang in the truck until finally the Texas native sighed, shaking his head. "No, not really." He admitted in disgust. "Problem is LaFiamma, is that too many people want Morgan dead. She's made enemies all over the world from spies to kings."
"Doubt if we're dealing with a KGB plot here Lundy." Joe snorted, concentrating on what they knew and what was obvious. "If these attacks were of that nature I think the Feds or those mercs would have sent her someplace else besides here…Lundy, why did she come here?" he asked suddenly.
Lundy started to answer when he slowly began to understand the question. Why would someone send Morgan to Houston considering the state of their relationship.
"For six years you hated her everyone knew that so why send her to you?" LaFiamma frowned, reaching over the seat to lightly nudge Morgan's arm and quickly caught the fist that came up. "Easy, it's me. Wake up."
Morgan Harrison blinked the sleep and nerves away to sit up and lean forward between the seats to see what was going on. "What?" she yawned, looking around to see where they were at.
"Morgan, why did Kelly decide you should come to Houston?" Levon asked carefully, figuring it wouldn't be good to upset the girl with too many questions.
"He said they figured it would be safer for me here until the 'Raiders could get back." The girl replied, laying her head on the back of the seat. "It didn't make sense to me considering how we got along but I didn't feel like arguing after what happened in London."
The two partners exchanged looks. "'They'? Robinson and who else decided?" Joe asked her, finally getting the chance to turn the radio down while his partner was distracted. "That kid takes directions from someone other than you?"
"No but I guess he discussed it with someone at the Justice department since that's who we used to work with most of the times." Morgan stated, sitting back with a yawn. "Kel said Paul figured Houston would be the choice since who would think to look for me there."
"Everyone obviously." LaFiamma muttered sourly catching his friend's look and reading the exact same idea in his eyes. "Sounds like someone in Justice may be working both sides."
Morgan's mind was clear enough to catch that. "You think that Paul convinced Kelly to send me here? Why?"
"Why would someone buy off more than one of your boys in Houston?" Lundy countered, hating where this whole idea was going. "You were tagged only hours after arriving in Houston so someone knew you were going to be there besides us. Who?"
"The Governor and his office since he asked for us by name. That's what I don't get is why would he ask for us when Houston's full of good cops and when everyone knew you hadn't seen Morgan in 6 years." LaFiamma was starting to tap a finger on the seat back as he thought. "Joann and our office but why would anyone want to lure Morgan to Houston?"
Lundy's fingers had frozen on the wheel as he considered something he really had been avoiding. "Suppose the threat came from Houston in the first place.
Both Morgan and Joe looked at him. "Huh? Who in Houston would want her dead?" Joe asked, seeing the red Chevy that had been following them start to get closer but concentrated on his partner. "I mean besides every cop I've talked to that is."
"Consider if someone wanted to bring her back here, the perfect way would be to get Kelly's people out of the country and then scare the hell of her that she'd have no one else to turn to but me when forced to return here." Lundy was silently cursing his own stupidity for not thinking of this in the first place. "If someone with a long enough memory and enough pull to get her attacked in multiple states not to mention in England."
LaFiamma was staring at his partner now as if he'd lost his mind. "Too much country music for you Lundy? Speak in English or come right out with it. The last time she was in Houston everyone either got killed or is in prison so who would want to kill her?"
"What if not everyone died?" Levon suddenly slammed the brakes and made a screeching U-turn in the middle of the road catching both his partner and his cousin off guard.
"Levon?" Morgan blinked at the sudden turn, leaning back over the seat in concern. "What's going on? I thought we were going to Grammy's?"
"We're playing right into their hands." Lundy cursed, looking back at her quickly and seeing the fear in her eyes. "It's alright sugar. Just a change in plans is all."
LaFiamma waited until the girl had drifted off again to nail his friend with questions. "Lundy, just what the hell are you doing?" he demanded.
"Whoever's behind this knows what we're doing so that makes me think that this someone either knows us or is in a position to know our plans." Lundy saw the red Chevy now and frowned as it too turned around. "Six years ago Morgan and the 'Raiders were sent to stop a political threat that involved a string of operatives from around the country who wanted the government ran differently than it is."
"Kind of like those militia types." Joe nodded but still not understanding his friend. "I got the impression that most of the people involved in that job were dead, Lundy."
"Somebody wanted her back here and that somebody knows too much for my liking, partner." Lundy started to reach for the radio to call the boys when the red Chevy suddenly rammed into their rear end with enough force that he nearly lost control. "What the hell?!"
LaFiamma turned to look, getting a bad feeling. "This guy's been following us for awhile Lundy." He gritted his teeth as they were rammed again and Morgan cried out when she fell off the seat with the impact. "Lose this joker Lundy!"
"What's going on?" she demanded, starting to look over her shoulder when Joe shoved her back down just as a rifle blast shot out the back window. "Guys?!"
"Radio for backup LaFiamma. Any kind that answers." Lundy snapped, swerving to avoid the next blast as the Chevy's passenger leaned out his window and fired at them again. "We've been found out again!"
Joe restrained from replying to that as he reached for the radio but got nothing but static in return. "We're being blocked." He swore, starting to pull his Colt's out to attempt to return fire to buy some time when the Bronco suddenly swerved violently as a rifle blast took out a tire. "Lundy!"
"Damn!" Levon cursed violently even as he was losing control of the truck and having no chance to warn his partner or cousin to hold on as the Chevy rammed into them, causing the truck to hit the side of the road and roll into a ditch with a sickening, metal crashing crunch.
The red Chevy pulled off the road and two men got out to survey the damage. The driver, a large burly man with a tattoo of a snake on his arm, glanced at the shooter curiously. "Now what?"
The other man, a tall, skinny man with slicked back hair and gold star of a local state trooper, tossed the gun back into the Chevy. "The boss said he wanted the girl alive and brought to him but to leave the two Houston jokers here."
"Alive or dead?" the driver asked, pulling on a pair of gloves as he neared the wrecked Bronco to view the front seat and seeing both detectives were still breathing but banged up while Morgan was limp in the back seat of the overturned truck.
"Leave them as they are just get the girl out, drug her and lets get outta here before the real law show up." The passenger ordered briskly as his partner dragged the unconcious young woman out the broken back window and already had her in the back of their truck when the first sirens started sounding. "Lets go! By the time these two recover she'll be dead or worse."
Captain Joann Beaumont was studying some papers faxed to her from a friend in Washington D.C after she'd phone in some curious questions of her own and was feeling her blood begin to freeze when her phone rang and Toby Robinson banged her door open, looking panicked.
"Beaumont." She spoke while holding up a hand to hold off the gasping young man from Baton Rouge. "What?! Where at? No, I'll be there. Just keep them there!" she slammed the receiver down. "Joe and Levon were medivaced back to Houston General after the had some sort of accident but Morgan's gone."
"No accident, they were set-up." Toby already had her by the arm and was pulling her toward the elevator. "After the left, it seems like one of our subsidiaries in San Antonio had a run in with a anti-social Nazi type group. They didn't think nothing about it until when interrogating one of them, it came out that they were in the area on a job for a friend of their boss in Mississppii. They were supposed to be coming to Houston to get even with a Federal 'slut', their words, and a cop who didn't know when to mind his own business."
Toby was talking in a rush as he hoped the woman was paying attention. "Joann, he ain't dead. Martin's been in hiding all these years and now he's come for revenge."
"I'm not staying here!" Levon Lundy was practically snarling by the time Joann arrived at Houston General a mere 25 minutes later.
Both of her men looked in bad shape with bruises and such. Lundy had a bandage around his head to cover the 7 stitches he received when they'd crashed while Joe's already injured shoulder was back in the sling with an obvious bandage around his ribs from where he'd connected with the door of the Bronco.
They both also looked ready to throw the young resident out the nearest window as he refused to dismiss them.
"Gentlemen, you both are suffering from shock and perhaps concussions. I must insist you remain here for at least 24 hours."
Lundy's temper had been strained since waking up in a helicopter on the way back to Houston to discover his cousin wasn't anywhere to be found. Now it snapped.
"In 24 hours my cousin could be dead, if she isn't already!" he snapped, starting to grab the young man by the neck when a firm hand caught his wrist and easily held it at bay.
"I think that both Detective Lundy and LaFiamma know what they feel like Doctor Andritti and are to be released into my care at once."
The new arrival was a surprise to both cops and the resident. He was tall, in his mid-20's with well styled black hair cut to his collar with deep brown eyes behind black wire rimmed glasses and an odd accent dressed in jeans with a blue shirt trimmed in silver and black.
"I'm Dr. Stanley Blackwell, Detectives. I work for Morgan Harrison and as medic for the Queen's Court Raiders I have full authority and presidential clearance to release these men NOW, Doctor."
Even as the young man was speaking he was tossing papers at the stammering resident while turning to address both Houston detectives.
"I was in Los Angeles on a medical conference when I got the call to meet you up at Lommard but luckily I was delayed so that I could have you flown back here after I learned of the attack on the highway." Stan glanced quickly at both charts and hummed grimly. "You both should stay here but I won't even attempt that."
"Smart boy." Lundy growled, grabbing his jacket and stalking past the doctors. "Lets go LaFiamma!"
Joe rolled his eyes but couldn't blame his friend since he was just as upset about the most recent events but something else tugged at his mind. "You said you were a Queens Court Raider?"
"Yes detective." Stan grinned and his dark eyes sparkled behind his lenses as he seen the detective's grimace. "Kelly suggested I shoot you on sight but I think I'll leave that for him. Now, I think we should catch up to your hotheaded Texas partner before he goes and does something stupid."
LaFiamma felt like groaning not only from the pain he was feeling but from coming face to face with one of the infamous Queens Court Raiders and actually liking the brat.
"Levon, you have to think this through." Joann was trying to use reason on a man without any right then. "In the first place, you don't know where Morgan was taken or by whom."
"She's in this city somewhere Joann and I don't care if I have to tear every inch of this town apart I'll find her." Lundy snapped, gritting his teeth as he felt his partner touch his shoulder to urge restraint. "I should have realized the danger or the connections before LaFiamma. Why would Morgan come back here unless someone wanted her here? Someone with reason enough to kill her, to hurt her?"
Stanley Blackwell watched this scene unfold silently even as he listened to his own team converse via the tiny earphone he wore that connected the 'Raiders with each other and nearly winced as his leader's tone echoed in his head.
"My teammates will be here within two or so hours." He announced, figuring it wouldn't hurt to give the cops advanced warning. "We will find Morgan, Detective."
"Great. Robinson should have been with her weeks ago when this first started!" Lundy snapped angrily when a nurse called him to the phone.
"He's not usually this nasty." Joe shrugged, following his steamed friend down to the nurses station. "Who knows we're here?"
Lundy's head was so clouded with rage and guilt that his mind didn't even register the voice he heard on the other end. "Lundy."
"Hello Levon. Do you know who this is?"
Joann Beaumont had seen her former partner go through a lot of stages and emotions but she could never recall seeing him go absolutely white so fast as if he'd seen a ghost, or in this case, heard a ghost.
"Lundy, who is it?" LaFiamma had been close enough that he reached for his partner when he was worried enough that he'd pass out after losing all color. "Put this on intercom." He told the nurse quickly, watching his friend closely to see his color returning along with his anger.
"Levon, your grandmother taught you not to be rude to an old friend." The voice on the other end was gravelly and cold as ice but still managed to effect the people in the hospital hallway even though only a few recognized it.
"Thought dead men couldn't talk,Charlie." Lundy spoke quietly, his fingers white on the receiver. "That is you, isn't it?"
Charlie Martin laughed at his old friend. "Been a long time Levon. Six years I believe it's been since my 'death'. How have you been, old friend? I know how I've been. Dead. I died when your half-breed cousin shoved that knife in me. All of you thought I'd died but I had friends who made sure I lived to see my revenge one day when the time was right.
"I've waited all these years so you could both appreciate my revenge Levon. I was deeply sorry to hear about Carolyn's death. That forced me to change my plans a lot since I had ideas for your wife as well."
Levon nearly bit his tounge to keep control even as LaFiamma hit him in his bruised ribs.
"Martin, you plan on getting revenge on Lundy by talking him to death?" Joe prodded the ex-cop, hoping to bait him and hoping his partner maintained his temper a while longer.
"No, I want to do that in person. Levon, I'm inviting you and your new partner to meet me if you ever want to see your…cousin again." Martin replied, chuckling lowly as if to himself. "Y'know Levon, she always was good looking but now….well, my friend's and I'll have fun until you get here."
"Touch her and I'll kill you for sure Charlie." Lundy warned, feeling his blood freeze as the scream echoed over the phone line and through the corridor. "Morgan." He breathed.
Stan swore under his breath and gave his team members a piece of advice over their private channel and through the throat mic he wore that picked up words even when spoke under his breath. 'Get here fast, guys.'
"That was just to ensure you that she's still alive, Levon." Martin explained, "I give you an hour to get here Levon. You'll know where since you always were such a smart boy."
The line went dead even before Lundy threw the phone in anger, refusing to look at his partner as his mind centered on Morgan and what she was enduring because of him and their past.
"Levon, where would he be and I'll have a S.W.A.T. team ready." Joann began when he shook his head.
"Charlie's still got friends in the department Joann. We don't know who we can trust this time until we bring him down. I'm on my own this time." Lundy stated grimly,
LaFiamma frowned at that, coughing pointedly. "'We're' on our own you mean." He corrected, already fighting as the Texan started to reply. "No way, huh-uh, forget it Lundy. You are not walking in there alone. That's what this nut is expecting and you aren't thinking straight. You go in. I go in. End of story."
Lundy knew he should argue but also knew his partner had a stubborn streak longer than any Texans and wouldn't give up until he got what he wanted. And they didn't have the time for a long fight anyway.
"Alright, LaFiamma. You and me will go in." he sighed but quickly pointed a finger in his friend's chest. "But, no matter what else happens between me and Charlie I want you to get Morgan out. Number 1 priority is to get her away from them ASAP, o-kay?"
"Fine, just don't do anything stupid." LaFiamma agreed relunctantly, accepting his Colts from Joann.
"LaFiamma, I'm from Texas not Chicago. I don't do stupid stunts." Lundy replied, turning to address Toby even as his friend was registering that comment.
The ex-Chicago cop frowned at his partner's back. "Lundy when this is over I will be getting back at you for every crack you've made." He warned, catching their new medic talking to his shirt. "I told her every one of these kids is crazy."
"I wish you'd let me have someone back you up." Joann was arguing.
Toby Robinson raised a hand. "My people will be there but if Martin sees too many people at once he'll kill her without a thought."
"You wait for the signal, kid." Lundy instructed, looking at his partner. "You ready?"
"Been ready since I picked her up at the airport." Joe returned, tossing the young resident the sling he'd been wearing. "Here, Doc. This thing will just get in my way. You might need it."
As Joann watched her friends leave the hospital with only a few Marauders she practically punched a wall in frustration. "Damn! I can't help them in any way."
"Of course you can Joann." Stanley handed her a piece of fax paper. "You can give this to the Mayor and explain why there's a team of U.S. Marshall's coming down to raid his office for members of this anti-government organization and then tell them to back off because things are likely to get real loud downtown soon. At least it will after Kelly arrives."
"Warehouse district, no witnesses. Nice neighborhood for a bunch of traveling hoods." LaFiamma mused, staring at the run down older building with not a sign of anyone around. "Too quiet, Levon."
Lundy glanced around the area again, thinking the same thing but also knowing they had no choice but to go inside. "Not to late to back out LaFiamma." He warned lightly, sure of the answer even before his partner gave him that half-disgusted 'you-know-better' look. "Thanks."
"Thank me after we get Morgan out of there and you wash and polish my car for a month to make up for all the hell you've put me through this week." LaFiamma returned, nodding at the warehouse door. "You first?"
As the Houston cops approached the warehouse door and disappeared inside, Toby Robinson and his team watched from a little ways away and prepared to make their move as backup when a truck full of tough guys appeared and obviously had Lundy and LaFiamma surrounded.
"Hell." The young mercenary swore, starting to give the signal to his team when a shadow fell over him and he looked up. "Oh boy."
"Not today, kiddo." A voice corrected coldly.
"This is too quiet Lundy." LaFiamma was muttering as they entered the eerie building to find it all but empty except for a large cargo truck and crates of weapons. "If that's any indication partner, I saw we're outgunned and outmanned."
Levon was starting to get that same feeling when the door slammed shut behind them but the sound of footsteps on cold cement announced the arrival of their hosts, a good twenty armed soldiers behind them from the large airline doors and from the several little surrounding doors.
"Yep. Definitely a trap." Joe sighed, glancing around them. "Ideas, Lundy?"
"Not really, LaFiamma." Lundy replied. "Charlie!"
LaFiamma cursed under his breath and wondered where those boys were when a door off to one side opened and a man stepped out, a man he had seen just a few weeks ago in the office talking with a couple detectives. "Oh, damn."
Charlie Martin had changed a lot since Lundy had last seen him. His friend had been a tall man with muscles he liked to show off with thick black hair and a face that women had always seemed to like.
Now he was bigger, obviously from lifting weights but his face was thinner, his hair was thinning with silver in it and his eyes seemed as cold and dangerous as the scar over his right eye.
"Welcome Levon. Hello, Detective LaFiamma. I'm glad you both could join my little party." He smiled in greeting but it was more like a sneer. "I suppose you'd like to know what this is all about?"
"I want to know why you aren't dead." Levon growled, eyes searching the shadows and feeling the hostile eyes around them. "Where's Morgan, Charlie?"
Martin nodded slowly. "Ahh, yes. I see you still show concern for her even though—"
"Don't pull that garbage on me! You sold us out, Charlie!" Lundy snapped angrily, still hearing his cousin's words and seeing her in that shack six years ago. "You tried to kill Morgan, set the 'Raiders up and then Rob tried to kill me. You're the enemy, not Morgan. You were my friend Charlie, past tense. Where is she?"
"Someplace close, old friend." Martin smiled again, leaning on the railing he was standing by. "The plan was perfect if it hadn't been for her and those brats. Still, she should have died that day and everything would have been fine. You should have stayed out of it Levon. Now I'll have to kill you too."
"Is that what this is about? Revenge?" Joe asked, hoping to buy some time.
"I had the perfect plan 6 years ago. The Governor-elect would die by the hand of right wing terrorists, the people would demand a stronger government action and the way would be laid for my friends and I to move in but things went wrong when that girl and her friends arrived." Martin's face contorted angrily as he glared at Lundy. "Half-breed whore got what she deserved. Then and now. Her kind will never understand who is the master or the kind of respect we deserve but she will now, for how ever long she lives."
Lundy started to lunge when Joe grabbed for him as guns swung in their directions and Martin laughed. "Go ahead Levon but it won't help her now. You should have been this protective when she was younger. Has she told you about the day in your house?"
"Lundy, he's baiting you!" LaFiamma snapped when the ex-cop turned tyrant motioned behind him. "Damn, Toby where are you?"
Two large burly men with shaved heads and matching Tennessee T-shirts on dragged out Morgan Harrison.
The young woman was hanging limp between them, as Martin lifted her pale face up to show the new bruises on swollen, bloodied features. Her breathing was ragged and her injuries could be seen clearly even from a distance as her canary yellow sweatshirt, what there was of it, was stained red with blood and was ripped and torn.
"I wanted her awake when you got here, Levon because I figured it be a treat to see her beg for you but I'm afraid my friends got a little carried away and may've put her into a coma." Martin's fingers curled in her hair in order to hold her head up for the cops to see, letting it drop as he ran a hand down her shoulder. "I've waited six years to pay her back for stabbing me. I've also waited to pay you back Levon."
Lundy's eyes centered as his cousin's prone form hanging there, looking so helpless and lifeless before he looked at his former friend. "For what?" he demanded in a low whisper that still carried. "What did I do to you, Charlie?"
"You killed Rob, you killed my chance to be someone and now I'll kill you." Martin glanced down at Morgan then back at Lundy. "I'm not done with her yet so my pals will kill you and LaFiamma and then I send little Morgan to your grandmother in pieces. I'm sure Joseph will understand that metaphor."
"Charlie!" Levon snapped, swearing that he'd let things go this far as Martin disappeared with Morgan through the door and the surrounding goons prepared to shoot. "Damn!"
LaFiamma figured they had a slim chance if they could get to that door without getting killed. "Down!" he pushed his partner behind the closest crate that would give them some cover and pulled his Colts, firing both before ducking back for cover. "Lundy, I hate to say this but we have little options since those Marauders aren't showing up like they were supposed to. We fight or we die but at least give Morgan a chance."
Lundy glanced down at his Colt, feeling his temper ease off as he realized that his partner was right. Morgan was still alive and if they wanted to keep her like that then they had to stop Martin from leaving with her.
"On three?" he asked, nodding his head to one side of the crate.
LaFiamma started to reply when a screeching sound was heard and with a roar two high tech motocycles roared into the warehouse, drawing the gunfire off the Houston cops but was soon outmatched by the autocannons mounted on the bikes. "I thought the cavalry always rode in on horseback in this state." He muttered when a step sounded and he looked up into the barrel of .357 Desert Eagle Magnum.
The gun holder looked different than the rest of their attackers. He was younger in his late 20's with long blond hair and intelligent brown eyes that looked over a pair of mirrored lenses at the Houston/Chicago cop with a calm, cold smile.
"Detective Joseph Anthony LaFiamma I presume." He spoke with a slight accent that could have been Southern or a different Eastern accent but his voice was dead serious as was the gun he had pointed at Joe's head. "The last time anyone, especially a cop, talked to me in the manner you did the other night I slit his throat. Now, I could do that to you though a bullet to the brain is so much simpler but right now I figure that after dealing with both Ryan and my little brother, not to mention your own partner, you've suffered enough."
The Magnum lifted lightly as the blond man's eyes showed his smile. "By the way, in case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm Kelly Robinson and these are my Queens Court Raiders."
Where the warehouse was empty, now it filled with young men all with an array of weapons. The 'Raiders appeared on the catwalk above them and around the soldiers easily outnumbering them.
"Levon, my people will deal with these jerks. Take your partner and get Morgan." Kelly instructed firmly, eyes narrowing as he looked at LaFiamma again. "We'll talk later." He promised before addressing the ex-cops-turned bad. "Now boys, I'm sure most of you know us and know what will happen in the next few seconds so I feel it is my duty to offer you a chance to surrender before my team slaughters you."
As Lundy nodded at another armed young man, he tugged on Joe's arm. "Let's go, Rambo."
"We leaving them to handle all those guys?" he wasn't sure the odds were fair. "Lundy, those poor dumb suckers don't stand a chance against those kids."
"That's the idea, LaFiamma." Lundy returned, easing open the door Martin had gone through. "We're going to have to split up."
LaFiamma hated that idea but didn't have any other plans that would make searching for their foe any quicker or safer. "Be careful, Lundy."
As his partner just nodded, Joe had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach about what could happen next.
"Charlie! Those bikers showed up and have our people on the ropes!" Todd Dawson, a People's soldier from Nebraska shouted as he ran into the back storage area where they were housing most of their main equipment and a helicopter.
Martin looked up from retying Morgan's hands behind her and cursed angrily. "I thought they were supposed to be kept out of the country until we were long gone."
"Kel's…always had bad timing….like that." Morgan managed to whispered between split and swollen features before a fist caused her head to hit cement again.
"I'll kill you sooner than I want to, tramp!" Martin snarled, looking at Dawson. "Go help the others while I prepare the helicopter and our guest."
Dawson blinked. "Kill her and have it over with Charlie. She's not worth dying or going to prison for."
"Go do what I told you!" Martin snapped looking down at Morgan with a sneer. "Levon and his buddy got lucky with the arrival of your mercenaries but you won't be that lucky, sweetheart. I planned on taking you with me and killing you slowly but I figure letting you die on him will be fitting revenge on my friend. That and learning all the fun we had this time." He pulled the needle from it's case, holding up. "Rare Asian drug, death is very slow and very painful. If he cares for you then he'll have no choice but to put you out of your misery but then you'll want him to do that anyway."
Only half aware of things, Morgan struggled against the hold when she felt Martin's weight again and she screamed before he could muffle it.
Lundy had been cursing all the while when the scream reached him and he stepped through one of the last three doors he had on his level of the warehouse, pulling the Colt on instinct.
"Let her go, Charlie!" he ordered, aiming the gun and was surprised it was steady as he leveled it at his former comrade. "Give it up now!!"
Martin glanced behind him with a laugh, standing up and pulling Morgan up with him. "Shoot, Levon. Maybe you'll hit me but maybe you'll hit her instead." He invited, holding Morgan easily with one arm as he raised the hidden pistol to fire at the cop when the girl suddenly used what little strength and coherant thought she had left to use her leg to kick out and connect with his knee.
"Whore! I'll kill you---" Charlie roared as he shoved Morgan down hard into a pile of blocks when he spun back around just as Levon fired, striking him in the chest.
The whole event seemed like an eternity for Lundy as he waited for Martin to fall, laying still as the bullet struck his chest. "Morgan!" he quickly shoved the Colt into his belt as he hurried to where his cousin was laying still.
Lundy gently reached down to touch her neck feeling for a pulse and breathing easier when he felt it beating strong but swore as he also got a better look at the girl and her injuries. "Easy, sugar." He soothed when she jerked at his touch. "It's Levon, Morgan. Lay still until I get you untied, baby."
Morgan's eyes opened as much as they could to look at her cousin, unsure if he was real until his voice finally got through the haze of pain and memories she had and her body went limp in exhaustion. "Levon…" she tried to speak but her throat closed in pain but she seen what he could not with his back turned. "Levon."
"Morgan, it's alright. You're safe." He assured her while reaching into his pocket for his knife when he felt her tense and heard the urgency in her whispered plea. "What?"
"Never turn your back on me, boy." Martin snarled, pulling himself up and firing the 44 magnum with no warning.
The unexpected blow took Lundy off guard and caught him in the upper shoulder, near the neck throwing him back.
"Levon!" Morgan screamed, awake enough to realize the danger and also enough to know she couldn't protect either of them with her hands still tied.
"First I do to you what you did to Rob and then I finish what I started with her." Martin was limping heavily as he lost blood but still stood over Lundy as kicked the Colt away from him and raised the 44. Magnum to point it at his head. "Say goodbye to your cousin and your life, 'old friend'." He sneered, pulling the trigger as a shot sounded and he jerked the barrel up to fire harmlessly into the air.
LaFiamma entered the room fully with both guns still centered on Martin. "Forgot one thing Chuck. Lundy never works alone." He fired again as Charles Martin fell forward over a crate of explosives, this time death had come for the final time. "You were saying something about me getting into trouble on my own?" he chided his partner after quickly making sure he was going to live.
"Help her, LaFiamma then you can complain." Lundy urged, gritting his teeth in pain as he sat up to look at his shoulder.
"See? He can't take his own insults." LaFiamma was careful when he touched Morgan, figuring she was in shock as it was and would react to anyone. "Morgan?"
The girl's eyes were closed tightly and she was shaking as he used Lundy's knife to free her wrists. "Easy, kid. You're safe now."
Morgan looked up at him them turned to find her cousin. "Levon." She struggled to stand but was too weak. "Joe, he's hurt. DO something."
"I'm fine, sugar." Lundy assured her, managing to get to where his partner was kneeling before having to sit down and reached for the girl with his good arm. "It's over Morgan. He's dead this time and you're safe."
It was several more minutes of incohereant mutterings before the girl's eyes focused on him then at the dead body that Joe was checking. "Dead?"
"Yep. He's dead this time for real." LaFiamma called back in reassurance. "Though I'm sure those mercs out there will probably stake him to be sure."
Morgan's stared at her hands, at the blood running from her right arm where a large gash had been opened down the whole arm to what else her fragmented, drugged mind could see. "Levon?" her voice was whisper soft now.
"I'm right here Morgan." He promised, glancing up quickly at LaFiamma who was beginning to frown. "Sugar, let Joe pick you up so we can get you help."
Her head shook violently before the screaming started and she turned into her cousin's arms, crying, screaming and trembling uncontrollably.
Lundy closed his eyes as he held her as tight and as best as he could with his right shoulder throbbing and bleeding as it was. "It's over, baby." He whispered against her hair as he held her. "It's all over."
LaFiamma heard the footsteps and held up a hand to stop any exploading questions as Kelly Robinson and his 2nd in command arrived. "We need medical help, now. He's been shot and she's…well I think that speaks for itself."
"Stan's waiting at Houston General and we have a helicopter outside." Robinson assured him, looking toward the body of the man who had started this. "Pat, tell Lee that I want to make sure that SOB stays dead this time. Cut something vital out and send it to the Governor with our best regards and a warning that if he ever sets us up again I'll do the same to him."
"Lundy, we need to get you two outta here." LaFiamma spoke to his partner quietly but not making any moves to touch Morgan as she was clinging to him, still crying though the screams had muted.
"Is it over Joe?" Lundy's voice was oddly quiet and hushed and worried the Italian cop. "Is this the end of this nightmare or are there more like him?"
LaFiamma understood the question and shook his head. "No, partner. It's over. We did our job and did a pretty decent job of putting some bits of the past to rest as well. Time to go home"
"Yeah, time to go home." Lundy agreed before passing out fully and leaving LaFiamma alone with some very unhappy young mercenaries.
"My people have served notice to the people in high places to forget this ever happened and to find new playmates because the next time I have to deal with government hating bigots my boys will burn the city to ashes." Kelly Robinson spoke casually as he casually threw daggers into a wall of the hallway of Houston General ICU ward.
"You guys must by loads of fun on the 4th of July." Joseph LaFiamma commented from where he was sitting close to a door so he could watch for doctors and still keep an eagle eye on his partner.
Robinson's brown eyes met his before a dagger casually landed at his feet. "Remember who I am, cop."
" A smart mouthed kid who still can't tell me how to do my job." Joe's grin didn't meet his eyes as the knife suddenly flew back to it's owner and he didn't blink as Kelly caught the knife by its blade barely before it hit him. "You might be a big-shot mercenary Kelly but I'm not impressed and I won't be intimidated either so back off or we can finish this outside."
The present Queens Court Raiders watched as their leader's jaw worked in anger and the vein in his forehead twitched a few times, a sure sign he was mad.
Levon Lundy looked up at the building fight only mildly concerned as he concentrated on the closed ICU room door and still hearing Morgan's screams as they forced him away from her.
"Kel." He called in low warning.
Robinson finally put the knife back in its sheath and met Joe's eyes. "Very few people live after talking to me like that, LaFiamma." He mused then grinned. "I don't know if that makes you very lucky or very dumb. I'll decide later."
"Levon." Stanley Blackwell stepped out of the room with a growling doctor stalking off down the hall. "Oh, don't worry about him. I just pulled rank to get her released as soon as we can. You can go in now."
Lundy just nodded his thanks and entered his cousin's room while Blackwell got ambushed by both LaFiamma and the other 'Raiders.
"How bad is she?" Joe wanted to know.
Stan fiddled with a pen, knowing it broke the normal procedures but also knowing he'd have to tell Kelly later anyway. "She's hurt bad. The shock is terrific. Burns on top of burns, her right arm was stitched up there will be a scar on that. A full set of broken ribs, a severe concussion. On top of everything else, I'm shocked she isn't comatose."
"Stan, I can get that diagnosis from anybody but what I want to know is if that sick minded SOB raped her again." LaFiamma demanded, surprising Robinson by the emotion in his voice.
The young Detroit born/Isreali raised doctor just nodded his answer as LaFiamma cursed and followed his partner.
"I know." Lundy spoke without looking at him as Morgan Harrison slept curled on her side. "Some things you don't need a doctor to tell you LaFiamma and I knew from the second I saw her what he did again. I'm just worried how she'll react."
Morgan stirred as pain and fears returned and she reached out instinctively for human contact, anything to escape the pain. "Levon?"
"I'm here, Morgan." Lundy assured her, lightly brushing his fingers through her hair as she curled against him. "LaFiamma and I'll be with you until Kelly figures out what to do next."
Silence filled the room for the next few minutes until the girl suddenly opened her eyes to look at Joe. "Kelly's here and you're still breathing?"
LaFiamma laughed, pulling a chair closer to the bed. "I think we've worked out a truce." He replied lightly, watching his partner closely. "That kid doctor said to watch that shoulder, Lundy."
The bullet from Martin's gun had passed through Lundy's shoulder without too much muscle damage but another few inches and it could've clipped his arteries or his spinal cord. Right now it was in a sling and very sore.
"I'll have plenty of time to rest it." Lundy returned, explaining. "I've taken some time off and figured I'd take Morgan up to see Mother Minnie after we redecorate her bedroom at home."
Morgan's eyes suddenly moved up to her cousin's. "I can still stay?" she asked uncertainly, biting her lip. "Even after…Levon..he…"
"You're my family, sugar. I love you. I will always love you, no matter what happens." Lundy promised her, gently touching a bruise on her face as she curled into his chest again to fall back to sleep.
"I love you too " she murmered, drifting off again while clutching his hand.
LaFiamma watched the other man's eyes for a little while before lightly clapping him on the shoulder. "Look, Lundy. You have the mini-army outside playing bodyguard so I'm going to go home and take a shower. I'll be back this evening."
"Yeah, sure." Lundy agreed, figuring his partner had better go before Kelly remembered he hated him. "Listen LaFiamma, I appreciate what you went through on this one and I'll make it up to you."
His partner looked back with a grin. "I intend to see that you do, partner." Then he shrugged it away. "Lundy, you're my partner. Your problems are mine though I do have a lot of questions about her. I'll see you later."
As LaFiamma went down the hall, he whistled for the first Queens Court Raider he saw, Lee Michael Sung. The groups' ½ British; ½ Chinese 4th in command. "Lee, grab your boss and come with me because I have an idea that will make my partner's day." He called cheerfully, satisfied that things had ended as well as could have been expected though it could have been better for Morgan's sake and he wanted to make sure the girl was happy, bugging his partner was just a bonus.
"Where's Joe?" Morgan asked curiously a few days later as Levon Lundy was driving her back to the ranch after her release from the hospital. "I haven't seen much of him."
'Yeah, neither have I.' Lundy thought to himself but to his cousin he played down his partners' strange behavior the last few days. "I think he's avoiding Kelly. Morgan, I want you to know that I wish I could make up for the things that happened between us."
Morgan looked over at him curiously then grinned shyly. "Levon, I don't blame you for what happened, it's just hard sometimes remembering."
"I know, sugar." Lundy reached across his truck cab to play with a lookse strand of her hair before pulling up to his driveway and braking hard. "What the hell is he doing?"
Joseph LaFiamma was standing in what was a flower bed with a clipboard directing muttering Queens Court Raiders who were carrying heavy pieces of cherry and maple bedroom furniture into the house.
"Up the steps, second door on the right across from the rodeo room." He called out, smothering the grin at his partner's look. "Hi, Lundy. Hello, Beautiful. I see you got them to release you into his care again. Here's hoping we have better luck this time."
"'We'?" Lundy repeated, waving that off to point at the furniture. "LaFiamma, what are you doing, where did all that come from and who is paying for it?"
"I'm redecorating since Morgan couldn't and we wanted her to have a nice cozy bedroom when she came home. It came from San Antonio where Kelly ordered it and H.E. is paying for it according to Robinson." LaFiamma answered smoothly, stepping around his flustered partner to grin at Morgan. "Like it?"
Morgan looked at the beautiful furniture and could hear her boys cursing the steps and grinned. "I really don't know why Levon says you're a bullheaded Italian son of….Levon?!" she squealed when he lifted her over an uneven part of the sidewalk which also stopped her from saying too much.
"Well, I'll deal with Lundy while you're napping." LaFiamma promised, shooting his friend a look when a sound from the house made him grin even wider. "By the way, Lundy. I got you something too."
The Texan stared at his smirking friend closely, not trusting this sudden strange behavior from him when he heard and felt Morgan gasp. "Morgan? What is it, sugar?" he demanded, starting to turn when the girl slipped around him and run up the steps into the welcoming arms of Minnie Elizabeth Lundy or Mother Minnie.
"Grammy!" Morgan was soundly embraced by the older woman who was about her size but rounder with greying hair, bright eyes and a warm smile for anyone who happened to be a friend of her only grandchild.
"Surprise." LaFiamma whispered to his shocked partner. "I figured that since we didn't get up there and Morgan isn't strong enough to travel yet that Minnie would like a vacation to Houston, something which our good friends in the Queens Court Raiders were so happy to help me with."
Mother Minnie laughed as she came down the steps as Joe hit her grandson in the back of his head to bring him back to clear thinking. "Joseph here called and said you boys needed help with the housecleaning and some homecooking for a few weeks, Little Levon. After seeing the wreck in your kitchen I can see why. You two boys take Morgan's stuff upstairs while I fix this child some lunch."
"Mother Minnie," Lundy finally snapped back to hug his grandmother, accepting her kiss on the cheek. "I'm glad you came."
"Thank Joe, he's the one he arranged." Minnie gently guided Morgan into the house while calling for the 'Raiders to stop making so much noise and to stop swearing..
"Levon?" Morgan glanced back as if unsure.
Lundy waved her ahead. "Go on, sugar. We'll be there soon." He promised, grabbing his partner by the arm. "LaFiamma?"
"Yeah, Lundy?" Joe took the defensive tone he usually did when they were about to fight but Lundy surprised him by stepping back and tossing him a bag.
"Thanks, Joe." He muttered taking his sister's other bag into the house and leaving Joe to follow while wondering when he'd ever get used to Texans or how he'd break it to Lundy that he planned on taking Morgan out to dinner one night. "Hiding behind Minnie, that's how." He decided with a grin.
Actually very happy by how things had turned out for them, if he could just get rid of the teenagers and mercenaries then he'd be in great shape.
Author note: my 1st piece of real fan fiction. Hope everyone enjoys some parts of it and would like whatever feedback. Thanks. capitol t in the address)