Note: I considered attempting to write a high-tech story using only 1990's technology. Then common sense smacked me upside the head. Thus I've shifted the setting to modern day, with modern equipment. Also, includes Leo, which means it's set during season one.
Marked for Death
It all started with Lucinda Scott, which was a change of pace. Usually it started with Leo.
Rollie was in his workshop, minding his own business, when Lucinda burst in and announced, "I need you to kill me."
Rollie groaned and let his head drop down on his worktable with a thud. Across from him, he could hear Angie chuckling. "I don't want to hear it," Rollie muttered in her direction.
"Seriously, Rollie," Lucinda said, "it's life or death! Or, I guess, my death for my life." She started crying, which would have been moving if Rollie hadn't known she was capable of crying on cue. "This is the real deal," she sobbed. "I'm in real trouble."
Rollie sighed and gave up on working for the day. "Okay," he said. "Tell me everything."
It was a pretty remarkable story: Lucinda had been dating a guy named Marco Lugiano. All was going great until she found out he was connected to the mob. ("With a name like that, I should've guessed," she said bitterly.) When she tried to leave, she found out that Marco wasn't the letting go type.
"This sounds awfully familiar," Rollie said. In fact, he'd met Lucinda when she'd been hired by bad guys to keep him busy while they were framing him for murder. Lucinda's story then had involved a dangerous boyfriend as well.
"I know," Lucinda said miserably. "Only this time it actually happened."
Rollie ran his fingers through his hair. "Why didn't you go to Leo?"
"I did. He told me that there wasn't anything he could do officially until Marco actually commits a crime around me. Unofficially, he said he'd help if you needed him."
"And that help would be for when I fake your death."
"Yes!" Lucinda said brightly.
Angie, who had sobered during Lucinda's story, started laughing again. Rollie glared at her. "Don't look at me," she said. "When my friends need to have their deaths faked, they don't need my help to get it done."
Rollie shook his head and turned back to Lucinda. "So what happens after we fake your death? It's not like you can stay in New York with the mob after you."
"I'm going to Los Angeles," Lucinda said. "It's a better place for jobs anyway. And it's got to be cheaper than living in New York."
"Don't be so sure," Rollie murmured. Lucinda frowned, so he quickly added, "Are you being followed? Or, if not, can you manage to be followed?"
"Of course," Lucinda said.
"Great. Pick up a couple of tails and meet us back here in three hours, okay?"
"Okay." Lucinda smiled. "Thanks, Rollie."
Rollie never could resist that smile. "Glad to help."
Fortunately, they had a few aesthetically appealing junkers that they kept in the building to either blow up or crash and it took very little time to haul one out and rig it to blow. It took a bit longer to dress up one of the mannequins to look like Lucinda -- Rollie's costume wardrobe was bare-bones since he only usually used it when Leo needed a favor. In the end, he had to settle on a shirt that was approximately the same color as Lucinda's and he and Angie went out and quickly applied some tinting film to the windows of the car. It would have to do.
Lucinda showed up a bit late, as usual, but as usual she'd gotten the job done -- there were three shifty-looking men in dark suits loitering on the other side of the street. Angie kept an eye on them while Rollie quickly explained the plan. Lucinda needed to take a couple of minutes for deep breathing, but by the time Rollie and Angie were ready to go, she had her game face on. "Okay," she said, moving to the front door. "Just give me my cue."
Angie quickly slipped away, using the secret exit to cross to the alley on the other side of the building. Rollie watched the cameras for the thumbs up; as soon as the signal was given, he nodded to Lucinda. She immediately went out the front door, her very walk radiating terror. Not for the first time Rollie noted that she was a much better actress off the camera than she ever was on-camera.
He gave her a couple of seconds, then scooted out the door as well. "Not that one, Luce!" he shouted as Lucinda got into the car, closed the door, and leaned over as if checking the glove compartment. A second later a shadow sat back up and it was only because Rollie knew it was a mannequin that he could tell it was fake. "No!" he shouted, sprinting towards the car. He only made it halfway there before it exploded in a massive fireball, shards of metal and glass flying through the air, scorching heat billowing out.
As the shockwave knocked Rollie to the ground, he thought to himself that the explosion was really one of his better ones. Maybe he should keep the security camera footage for his portfolio.
Two of the thugs left the scene immediately, but one stuck around, undoubtedly to make sure that Lucinda was really dead. A couple of Rollie's friends from one of the eight or so cop shows perpetually filming in New York showed up in uniforms and a squad car and set up a perimeter. Leo made an appearance a few minutes later with a flashing bubble light on the roof of his car and he gamely spent nearly an hour bitching about the fact that he had to wait for a medical examiner to show up, despite the fact that the blackened corpse was clearly dead. And charred. And disgusting. And smelly. And leaking.
He was still coming up with creative descriptions when the final thug gave up and left.
Leo and Rollie exchanged smug smiles and went to look for the ladies.
Lucinda declined all offers for rides to the bus terminal or train station and opted to say goodbye to everyone at the loft. It was an emotional scene all around and Rollie was sure he saw Angie blinking a bit more than usual. "You be careful," he told Lucinda when it was his turn for a goodbye hug.
"You, too," she sniffed, stepping back to wipe her eyes. "And next time you're shooting around LA, look me up."
"Will do," Rollie promised. He gave her one more quick hug and then joined Angie and Leo as they waved Lucinda goodbye.
Two hours later she was back. Angie had gone home for the day, so Rollie was alone in the loft when the door burst in. "Oh, God, Rollie, I screwed up."
Rollie started at the interruption and dropped the test tube he had been holding. Right into the sodium bicarbonate mixture. "Oh, hell," he groaned as a bright green froth overflowed the beaker and spread across his previously pristine workbench.
He turned to yell at Lucinda, but the moment he saw her his words changed to: "What happened to you? Are you all right?" He didn't bother asking why she was still in town, but that was implied.
Lucinda folded her arms over her stomach. "They found me," she whispered. "I went back home for clothes and they were there waiting for me."
Rollie shook his head, even as he hurried over to help Lucinda sit down on a stool near the first aid kit. "Oh, Luce. What were you thinking?" he asked as he opened the kit and started working on the cuts and bruises marring Lucinda's beautiful face. "Do they know where you are? How did you get away?"
"I jumped out of a car," Lucinda said. Rollie stared at her. "Hey, I said I was ready to do my own stunts."
"And is that how your face got like this? From jumping out of a car?"
Lucinda chose not to answer that.
Rollie sighed and finished patching her up. Then he went to make some phone calls.
After Leo and Angie had their chance to yell at Lucinda (though Rollie noticed that neither yelled as much as they could, undoubtedly because they figured jumping out of a moving vehicle had been more than enough of a punishment), they all settled down to plan. Lucinda provided information on Marco's habits, Rollie came up with ideas, Leo poked holes in said ideas, and Angie kept a running tally of what equipment and manpower would be needed (and compared it to what was available, which resulted in several of the proposed plans being shot down).
They worked until late in the evening before Rollie declared at they were done and ordered everyone home for a good night's sleep (with Lucinda staying at the loft). He considered everything that would have be done the next day and grinned. "This is going to be one hell of an illusion."
Angie smirked back. Leo just groaned and headed for the door.
The next day, while Angie 'borrowed' the WFOX newsroom and Leo pulled in a few favors at the morgue, Rollie fitted Lucinda for a mask. They'd done this so many times now that Rollie didn't even have to tell her what to do or where to move her head. Instead he took the opportunity to say, "You know, once we do this, you can't be seen anywhere in New York."
"I know," Lucinda said, moving just her lips as the computer scanned the back of her head. "I'm not stupid, Rollie."
Rollie just snorted and asked, "So how are you getting out of the city?"
Lucinda waited as the scanner ran over her face before answering, "I was thinking maybe Frank could give me a ride to the Amtrak station in Newark."
Reasonable enough plan. "Do you know what you're going to do when you get to LA?"
"Same thing I do here," Lucinda said with a small smile. "Look for roles and try to pay the bills."
Rollie waited a beat before asking casually, "Are you only looking at acting jobs?"
"Why? You have something else for me?"
Rollie shrugged. "I have a friend who runs a modeling agency in LA. She's always looking for new faces."
Lucinda cocked her head to one side, then smiled widely, despite her split lip. "Rollie, are you saying I'm pretty enough to be a model?"
Rollie rolled his eyes. "You know you are. What I'm saying is that I can get you a foot in the door."
She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks, Rollie. I'd appreciate it."
"For you, Luce, anything. Except another fake death. Two in two days is my limit."
As he'd hoped, Lucinda just laughed and playfully smacked him on the head before settling down on the stool so he could finish fitting the mask.
They had to rush to get everything done, but working under a tight deadline (not to mention potential imminent death) was a great motivator and by two they had the essentials in place. Angie was still working frantically at her computer as she edited as much of the video as she could with the material she had, and she merely waved as Rollie announced that it was time to go.
Rollie didn't have time to worry -- either Angie would finish in time or she wouldn't, and he trusted her to do what needed to be done. For now, he had his own role to play, one that was both dangerous and risky and they only had one shot at it. He took a deep breath as he escorted Lucinda out of the loft and to the car in the parking lot.
Lucinda did a brilliant job of acting petrified as she hurried out to the car, moving so quickly that Rollie had a tough time keeping up, especially as he was eyeing the various shadowed alleys around the lot, looking for the bad guy that he just knew had to be there.
It wasn't until they got into the car that Rollie realized that it wasn't all an act. "Luce?" he said gently as Lucinda covered her face with her hands and let out a sob. "Luce, you're going to be okay. I promise you, we'll keep you safe."
Lucinda sniffed. "You know how I said I wanted to do my own stunts?"
Rollie's heart melted a little. "Oh Luce," he sighed as he leaned over and started strapping Lucinda into her seat. There were far more buckles and latches than in a typical car and it took him nearly a minute before he was satisfied that she was as firmly restrained as possible. Fortunately that was long enough for Lucinda to get herself under control, and she smiled at him as he started buckling himself in. It was a tremulous, watery smile, but a smile nonetheless and Rollie found himself beaming at her in return. "You are something else, Lucinda Scott."
"I know," Lucinda said with a sniff. "Come on. Let's go show the bad guys a thing or two."
They drove north out of the city, taking their time until Angie called to let them know she was on her way. They'd decided ahead of time to use the Palisades Parkway, which was wasn't the fastest route to get to a less populated area with trees, but which was the fastest route that made sense if Lucinda and Rollie were really going on the run together.
From the parkway, they got onto Highway 9W, which went right through Tallman Mountain State Park. It also was far less crowded, and it took Rollie less than a mile to identify the black sedan following them. "You know, Luce, you really need to start dating a better class of men."
"Not now," Lucinda gritted out. Rollie could see a hint of sweat on her forehead and the white-knuckle grip she had on the wheel, and decided that teasing could wait for later.
The moment they entered the park, Rollie called Angie, who reported that she was about half a mile back. "Frank's two minutes out and Kevin's in place. Also, Frank says you owe Sarah something really nice for agreeing to him having a second wife."
"Today only!" Rollie protested. "Besides, it wasn't safe to bring Sarah into this." Frankly he was hoping that the actress could stay in the car -- she'd only be needed if the thugs proved to be less than intimidated by the presence of a police officer.
"I'm just passing the message on, boss," Angie said. "And I'm nearly in position. You ready?"
Rollie looked over at Lucinda, who still looked terrified, and then back at the car behind them, which was still black and ominous. "Ready."
"Great. Ten seconds."
Rollie hung up and turned to Lucinda. "Okay, Angie will be here in a few seconds. You know what to do, right?"
"Right," Lucinda said, her voice high and breathy. "Are you sure it'll be okay?"
"Relax, we've done this plenty of times." Never at quite these speeds, but Lucinda didn't need to know that. At least they weren't on the interstate anymore, and he'd taken some time this morning to weld extra reinforcements on the car's frame. "Angie's coming up behind us now. You ready?"
"As I'll ever be."
At that moment Angie, riding a motorcycle and dressed from head to toe in leathers, pulled up next to the car. She paused for just a second before passing. "Okay," Rollie said quietly. "Pick a tree and get ready."
Suddenly Angie swerved as if avoiding an obstruction on the road. She corrected, but not before moving into Lucinda's lane and Lucinda had to wrench the wheel over to the right. She overcorrected once and then overcorrected again, putting them directly in the path of a massive tree trunk. Rollie didn't have time to identify the tree before they were crashing into it.
He must've passed out for a second, because when he opened his eyes Angie had stopped her bike and pulled off her helmet, and was running to the car. Rollie took a second to note that Angie had put on a black wig for this little scene before he turned his attention to Lucinda.
Lucinda was lying slumped down in her seat, her head lolling bonelessly in front of her. Rollie swore and started unlatching most of her seat belts as a black sedan pulled up behind them.
Angie reached the driver's side window, which had shattered in the crash as it had been designed to do. "Are you all right?" she shouted. One hand reached into the car and suddenly there was red liquid dripping down the side of Lucinda's head. "I'm so sorry," she added, her voice marginally softer but still clearly audible to anyone outside who might be interested in listening in. "There was a turtle and I didn't want to hit it..."
Rollie ignored her, slapping Lucinda on the side of the face, leaving red palm-prints in the process. "Lucinda? Lucinda!"
"Rollie!" Angie hissed under her breath, tossing over a clear squirt bottle half filled with a viscous red liquid. Rollie glanced back to see that two men had gotten out of the sedan and were making their way to the car. Swearing under his breath, he squirted liquid into his hair until it started dripping down into his face. Hopefully they wouldn't look too closely at him.
As the two men walked up to the car, Angie started babbling in their direction: "Oh, thank goodness. I called 911 but they said it'd be a few minutes till an ambulance got here and I just don't know what to do, there's so much blood and God I think she might be dead, what if I--"
She kept going on in that vein, impressing the hell out of Rollie, especially when it worked and the two thugs pushed Angie aside, clearly uninterested in her.
Unfortunately they were very interested in Lucinda and Rollie had to resort to batting their hands away when they tried to find her pulse. "Don't touch her! Her neck might be broken, you can't touch her!"
"Fuck it," the thug trying to touch Lucinda said. He stepped back and pulled out a gun.
Rollie's eyes widened. "No!" he shouted, this time not acting in the least, and did his best to throw himself over Lucinda, despite the fact that he was still wearing his lap belt.
Thank God, Francis chose that minute to flip on his lights and pulse his siren and pull up behind the thug's sedan.
The thug immediately put away his gun as Francis stepped out of his car. "Is everything all right?" he asked.
The two thugs exchanged a glance, then ran towards the car. Francis immediately made to follow, until Angie cried out, "Please, we need help!"
With a very convincing show of reluctance, Francis changed tack and started towards Rollie and Lucinda. "Everything okay here?" he asked as the black sedan peeled away.
"We're fine," Rollie said. "Coast's clear, Luce," he added as the speeding sedan nearly ran into an incoming ambulance with lights flashing.
Lucinda's lips curved up in a smug smile and she was grinning as she lifted her head. "Oh, yeah," she said. "I'm totally ready to do my own stunts."
Rollie just shook his head and pulled her into a hug. He figured she'd earned it.
Since the bad guys had made such a speedy exit, there wasn't really a need for the ambulance, but as the favors had already been called in (and it never hurt to be as realistic as possible), both Rollie and Lucinda rode to the hospital in the back. They stayed parked in the garage for an hour or so before the ambulance pulled out again, this time heading for the county morgue.
"Are you sure about this?" Lucinda asked, her voice muffled.
"I'm sure," Rollie said, his back turned as Lucinda stripped. He was trying not be bothered by the fact that there were dead bodies in this room, even if they were all safely locked away in refrigerators at the moment. "Angie's feeding them the faked news clip, but after last time they're going to be suspicious. The only way to prove you're dead is to show them your body."
Lucinda just grumbled under her breath for a few seconds, then said, "Okay, I'm ready."
Rollie turned to find her lying on one of the morgue slabs, the sheet haphazardly pulled up over her body. Rollie nodded and pulled out his makeup kit -- they'd done as much as they could while waiting in the ambulance, but there was still body work to be done and her face needed touch-ups around the bloody mask that covered half her head. With an apologetic smile, he pulled the sheet down to her waist and got to work.
"Hey, Rollie?" Lucinda asked as he used a sponge to spread bluish-white body paint over her torso.
"Why is it that the only time you ever see my breasts is when you're putting makeup on them?"
Rollie smiled and shook his head. "Because you and me is a very, very bad idea."
"You think so?"
"Are you kidding?" he asked. "Between the trouble you attract and the trouble I attract, we have a crisis a week. If we actually got together, I doubt New York would survive."
"Hey, some of that trouble is Angie's." Rollie raised his eyebrows and Lucinda hastily added, "And a lot is Leo's."
"Okay, I'll give you that." He pulled out some shading powder and a brush. "Honestly, when we first met, I thought about asking you out."
Lucinda winced. "I really am sorry about that, Rollie. I really thought those guys were on the up-and-up."
Rollie bent down and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. "I know, Luce. But there's not really time for what ifs. The bad guys are probably heading over right now."
"I know," she said with a sigh. "I just -- I'm just not a big fan of dark, enclosed spaces."
"No one is," Rollie said, finishing up with her torso and moving on to her face. "That's one of the reasons why this'll work. Besides, Angie disabled the refrigeration unit and rigged up a light in there, and I'll be talking to you the entire time. It shouldn't be more than a couple of minutes." The chatter seemed to be relaxing her, so he added, "Just remember to take shallow breaths from the diaphragm and, no matter what you hear, don't break character till I give you the all clear. All right?"
"All right," Lucinda said. Her voice was steady and her eyes determined and Rollie wanted to kiss her again.
Unfortunately her lip makeup was in place so he couldn't risk it. Instead he brushed his fingers through her hair, being careful to avoid the fake blood. "You'll do great, Lucinda. You always do."
Of course, that's when Angie burst into the room. "They're coming," she said, helping to dump Rollie's makeup paraphernalia back into the kit. "Hal is slowing them down, but we've only got a couple of minutes."
All business now, Rollie flipped the mouth of his headpiece down. "Testing, testing. Luce, can you hear me?"
"Yeah," she said, her voice a bit shaky. "It's working."
"Great," he said. "Don't worry, you'll be great. Remember, Angie and I'll just be over in the other room and Leo will be coming in in a few seconds. Just keep your eyes shut, your breathing shallow, and your face blank."
Lucinda took several quick breaths in a pattern that Rollie had seen used countless times by actors on various sets. "Okay," she said, her voice steady again. "I'm ready."
"You'll do great," Rollie said, pulling the sheet over Lucinda's head.
"Break a leg," Angie added cheerfully as she and Rollie pushed Lucinda's drawer back into the refrigerator unit.
The moment the door was shut, they were on the move, but Rollie made sure to keep up a running monologue to Lucinda. "Okay, we're heading out of the room now. No sign of the bad guys." Loud voices could suddenly be heard down the hall and Rollie and Angie darted for the nearest door. "Uh, never mind, bad guys are on their way." He lowered his voice as the shouting voices got louder. "It'll just be a minute or so now, Luce. Get ready."
The door led to a closet and, judging from the laptops and wires, was the room Angie had meant to end up in. She flipped the nearest laptop open and with a few keystrokes activated the webcam she'd set up in the morgue. "Here we go," she said softly.
"Luce, we've got eyes on you now, so don't worry. Everything's going to be great." To distract her, he spent the next minute or so telling her about Models, Inc. and about the interview he'd set up for her there. He saw Angie eyeing him as he spoke, but he ignored it for now. Time enough for questions after Lucinda was safely away.
A quick glance at the screen showed two new thugs flanking one very angry looking and very tiny man. Rollie raised his eyebrows and shot a glance at Angie, who was smirking. "Uh, Luce, I think they're here. Get ready for the door to open in five... four... three... two... now!"
The morgue attendant opened the refrigerator door and the short tiny man said something. Unfortunately there weren't any sounds coming out of the laptop. "Uh, Angie?"
She glared at him. "I ran out of time."
Rollie raised his hands defensively. "No problem." From her expression that wasn't nearly enough, so he added, "You did an amazing job in the time you had."
"Yeah well, remember that next time when we decide who gets to ride in the stunt car and who gets to tape a fake news show, edit a fake news tape, hack a rich guy's cable system, rig a morgue for video, and then hustle out of the city to run said stunt car off the road."
"Hey, you know I couldn't do most of that," Rollie said. "Well. Not in the time available, anyway."
"I know," Angie said, looking a bit smug and thankfully no longer annoyed. Rollie smiled, wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and gave her a quick squeeze as he focused on the action playing out on the laptop screen.
"Oh shit," Angie breathed as the tiny bad guy pulled out a gun and pointed it at Lucinda.
Rollie slapped a hand over her mouth. "It's okay, Luce," he said softly into his headset. "You're doing fine. Everything's fine."
Suddenly the morgue doors burst open and Leo ran in.
A lot of silent shouting followed.
Two more guys showed up in cop uniforms; the trio of bad guys promptly backed down.
The tiny bad guy moved to touch Lucinda's forehead, but Leo grabbed his arm by the wrist and, judging from the bad guy's face, it wasn't a friendly sort of grip.
Finally all of the bad guys left. Leo followed them out and Rollie and Angie held their breaths for a minute until Leo's voice came over the headset. "They're gone."
Rollie cheered and wrapped Angie up in a hug, which she gleefully returned. On the screen, Lucinda rolled off of the morgue slab and gave the camera a big thumbs up.
"I'm going to miss you guys," Lucinda said in the morgue parking lot. They had all congregated around Francis's car, which was already loaded down with the luggage that Leo had picked up from Lucinda's apartment while everyone else was faking another death.
"We'll miss you, too," Angie said, pulling Lucinda into a hug. Rollie was close behind to get his own hug and even Leo suffered an embrace, albeit not very graciously.
"You be careful now," Rollie said. "And call me the moment you get to LA."
"Yes, Dad," Lucinda said sarcastically, though her smile was genuine.
"And remember, no coming back this time," Leo said sternly. "Not for a few years, at least."
"And if you do come back, you should probably use a fake name," Francis said opening up the driver's side door. "Just to be on the safe side."
Lucinda considered that. "You know, I've always liked the name Carrie. Or Anne. That's pretty, too."
"Hey, it's your new name," Rollie said. "Go wild. Use both."
They all laughed, but the silence afterwards was awkward and tense. "I've got to go," Lucinda finally said. "My train leaves in a few hours and traffic's going to be murder."
"Be safe," Angie said.
"Be good," Leo added.
"Call me," Rollie said pointedly.
Lucinda smiled at them all, a beautiful, luminous smile that made her tear-filled eyes even brighter. "I love you all," she said, softly. Without waiting for an answer, she slid into the car. A moment later the car pulled away, leaving the Rollie, Angie, and Leo behind.
"Think we'll ever see her again?" Leo asked.
"Oh, yeah," Angie said, wiping her eyes quickly. Rollie put his arm over her shoulders and pulled her close.
"Without a doubt," he murmured with a smile.