*all characters belong to JK Rowling and Janet Evanovich

Part VII

Ranger opened the bathroom door slightly and white, blinding light, which seemed to come out of nowhere, flashed in the room and then it was gone almost as soon as it appeared. When he stepped out into the bedroom he noticed that it was empty, jarringly so. He looked over at the bed and it was empty, also. The sheets were still disheveled from where he had just shared the most passionate lovemaking of his life, but the woman with whom he shared this lovemaking was gone.

Feeling a constriction in his chest, Ranger walked over to the bed and he saw a gold-and-red striped tie on the pillow. Holding it in his hand, he wondered what it meant. He turned to get his gun off the bedside stand. He picked up his gun, in a panic, along with what he assumed was Hermione's wand, which lay next to the gun on the table. Damn. Bailey had Hermione. It was the only conclusion he could make. The man was a wizard. She was a witch. And for the first time in his life, Ranger didn't know quite what to do, so he called Diesel.


Waking up in a foreign place, the first thing Hermione thought was that everything hurt. Her head hurt, her back hurt, and her shoulder felt as if it had been kicked by a herd of hippogriffs. She felt a sense of dread and vulnerability. She didn't know where she was, but she knew who took her and why. It was that damn tie she left for Bailey. She left it as a 'calling card' so he would know she was here. It was also a sort of beacon, or homing device, and it led him right to her, and then she wasn't prepared. Damn.

When she woke earlier, having slept only a short while after having made love to the most physically beautiful man she had ever met, all she could do was stare at him. The man beside her was a mystery. He had accepted her explanation that she was a witch without question. He didn't flinch. He didn't act as if she were mad or a lunatic. He didn't ask her inane questions or make stupid comments. Even the memories that she thrust upon him with her 'empathy spell', while jarring to him, was acknowledged as truth.

He accepted it as a painful part of her past, but he still accepted it. She stared down at him and fought the urge to reach over and touch his hair. She wanted to wake him again so that they might make love once more. Being cautious instead, she tiptoed to the bathroom, cleaned up and used the toilet, then came back to lie beside him.

She watched him some more. She didn't know a thing about him. She decided to use Legilimency on him while he slept. He would never know it, it wouldn't harm him, and she thought it only fair. He knew so much about her now, and she knew hardly anything about him.

She didn't need her wand for this either. Even though she knew this man's mind was strong, she also felt in her heart it would open easily for her. She touched his cheek, closed her eyes, and said, "Legilimency."

His past came to her in a kaleidoscope of colourful memories. Some were painful, some were passionate, some were cruel, and some were courageous. He had suffered in his life almost as much as she had. He had loved and lost. He had lived an honorable, rewarding, giving, audacious life. Hermione felt privileged to have shared a passionate moment with such a man. She smiled and laid her head back on the pillow next to him. She could so easily fall in love with this man. She wouldn't, but she could.

He continued to sleep, perfectly still, barely moving. She gave in to temptation and touched his hair. It was so black. Black as night, and just as she thought, it was soft and silky. She let her fingertips travel down his cheek, rough with a day's growth of beard. She saw him stir, so she feigned sleep. When she sensed he got up to go to the bathroom, she quickly got out of bed. She wasn't sure why, but she wanted to slip her pajamas back on before he got back. Perhaps because he slipped his shorts on before he went to the bathroom.

She found her clothes folded neatly next to his. She smiled when she thought of how he helped her divest of them. She slipped the sleeping shorts on first, and then the tight, black, camisole. She was about to get back into bed when she heard the pop of someone Apparating into the room.

Knowing that sound anywhere, and immediately knowing it was wrong to hear it when she had placed up numerous wards, she cursed herself in hindsight when she saw a flash of bright, white light. Then an all too familiar pain hit her like a thousand pin cushions being shot out of a cannon. She felt the pull of someone Disapparating away with her. Then everything else ceased until this moment, when she awoke, afraid and utterly alone, in a barren white room void of anything but herself.


Diesel came as soon as Ranger called him. Not many people had a way of calling the elusive man, but Ranger did. He had only ever called on him one other occasion… once, when Stephanie was in danger. Now, here he was, calling the other man again when another woman Ranger cared for was in danger. It made Ranger feel small, useless, and inconsequential…three things Ranger rarely ever, IF EVER, felt.

Diesel knocked on the outside hotel room door a mere three minutes after Ranger called him. Ranger would have been shocked at the speed in which he appeared, except after last night, with Hermione's memories, he now knew about wizards and 'Apparating', so he understood that time and transportation meant different things to different people. He swung open the door and the large blond man gave him a disappointed look.

"She's gone?" he asked.

Ranger, who by this time was fully dressed and had made the bed as well, nodded and held up the striped tie. "This was left behind."

Diesel almost growled. "Yes, I found several of them last night at different houses of the children on the list you gave me. I suspect Granger left them behind."

"How are they significant? Does it have to do with Bailey?" he asked.

Diesel nodded. "Significant, yes, but they have nothing to do with Bailey. Granger left them FOR Bailey, so he would have a way to find her. First, what do you know about Hermione?" Diesel wasn't sure what he could tell Ranger and what he couldn't.

"I know everything," Ranger revealed. It wasn't quite true, but the memories she showed him gave him a quick 'picture show' of her life. He had pieced everything together quite well, and now had a thorough understanding of her life and her world.

The other man told Ranger, "She went to a school called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There were four houses, we would call them dorms. Her house colors were gold and red." He held up the tie. "I don't know what house Bailey was in, but she had to have left this as a way to let him know that she was here. She was using herself as bait, to draw him away from the kids and to herself."

"Stupid woman!" Ranger spat.

"No," Diesel said. "Really, it was brilliant, and took loads of courage. I examined one of the ties, and well, she put a sort of 'homing device' on it. If a mere Muggle picked one up, nothing would have happened. If Bailey picked it up, again really, I don't think anything would have happened, except of course, if he realized it was from her, then the magic of the tie would activate and it would draw him to her. Here. To this hotel room. She must have put up numerous protection wards to make sure he couldn't enter any other way, but I suspect her guard was down, or she thought he wouldn't find any of the ties tonight, so she wasn't expecting him."

He gave Ranger an accusatory look. Ranger already felt guilty enough. Although, really, even if they hadn't made love, Granger would have been in no condition to fight that man with her head injury, would she have? He knew that thought was a meager argument at best. She must have forgotten for a moment, plain and simple, and it was because he distracted her.

His earlier thought remained. It was his fault.

Diesel wasn't aware of the internal war going on inside Ranger's brain, so he continued to speak. "Still, knowing how smart she is, I would have thought she would have also made it so that if he was drawn here, by the tie or whatever, that she would have placed some other wards up so that he wouldn't be able to leave. Surely she would have. Which means that Bailey overrode her wards. It's the only conclusion I can make. He has her."

Ranger snarled and said, "Dammit, it doesn't matter, does it? How do we find her?"

Just then, Ranger's phone rang. He opened it with a mere flick of his wrist. "What?" he barked as a greeting.

"It's me, boss," Lester said. "Hal and I found Giggly early this morning. He's dead. We've already called the cops. The thing is, he doesn't have a mark on his body so I'm not sure how he died. The other odd thing is, well…"

"What?" Ranger asked, annoyed and frustrated. He was hoping they would find Giggly so that the evil dentist would lead them to his accomplice. A dead dentist wouldn't be of any help at all.

"He's totally naked, boss, except for a tie. I swear he has a tie on and not a stitch of clothing."

Ranger looked at Diesel. The other man could also hear the conversation. Ranger asked, "A red and gold tie?"

"Yeah, how did you know?"

Ranger flipped the phone closed without saying another word.

"Man, bummer about that," Diesel said.

The next thing he knew he was pushed up against the wall. Ranger had his arm under the other man's neck, exerting pressure. Diesel was tall, broad, big, and apparently magical. Ranger was tall, muscular, and hell bent to find a woman who for some odd reason meant the world to him after only one day. Diesel decided to tread softly.

He placed his hands on Ranger's arm and said, "Hey dude, back up a bit. I can't breathe."

Ranger didn't.

"Fine, but if I suffocate from the pressure of your arm on my neck, you'll never find her," the other man managed to say.

Ranger let off some pressure, but not all of it. "What do you suggest we do, you piece of shit?" Ranger asked.

"That's not nice to call me names," Diesel said in all seriousness. He pushed Ranger away easily, although it was only because Ranger let himself be pushed away so easily. Diesel's eyes brightened and he said, "Hey, call your associate back. If the cops aren't there yet, tell him to get that damn tie off Giggly's neck. It might help us find the man who put it there."

Moments later, Tank was at the motel room door with a tie in his hand. Ranger grabbed the tie, said not a word to him, and closed the door in his face. Tank knew not to question the other man at times like these.

Ranger handed the tie to Diesel. Diesel said, "Okay, now I need the last thing Little Darlin' might have touched."

Without prelude, Ranger went to the bed, threw back the bedspread and said, "The sheets."

"Dude," Diesel said with a slight smile that was full of awe and admiration.

"Yes, I know," Ranger said with a sad smile.


Hermione felt searing pain again. She didn't know where it was coming from, but it was there and then gone again. When she opened her eyes the first thing she saw was the flash of a perfect, white smile. How apropos. Her heart jammed in her throat as she realized to whom that smile belonged. Conrad Bailey. He patted her arm and with that perfect smile still painted on his face he said, "I promise, this will only hurt like hell for an eternity, and then you'll die."

He turned away from her, and suddenly, she was no longer in the small white room, void of furniture or windows. She was now in what could only be described as an examination room. She was on a gurney of some sort. It was metal, with no padding. It was hard against her back and legs and head. It was cold, too. She was still wearing her pajamas, but she also had a paper bib on, similar to the type worn at dentist offices.

She realized what was about to occur.

The gurney became a dentist chair, magically. Everything was quiet as Conrad busied himself by a tray of instruments. The only noise Hermione heard was the swish of water that continuously flowed in the little basin beside her chair. Bailey had his back to her. He had on a long, white robe.

Finally, he began to speak, without turning around to face her. "You know, when I was a child, and I had to go to the dentist, the thing that scared me the most was all the metal instruments. And they never explained what anything was, or what they did."

He turned to her. "I was also scared of the fact that they wore gloves," he said, while pulling on a pair of green, latex gloves. "To me, I imagined that perhaps the dentists were really some type of monsters who wore gloves to hide their talons, or claws, or something. Then they would hide their faces with masks, and sometimes, they even wore little goggles over their eyes. It was horrifying and frightening, you know."

Yes, she knew.

He turned on a large, double light. He shined it right in her eyes. She had to squint. "The bright lights always scared me, too. They hurt my eyes. The sound of the drill was the worst, though." He picked up a drill and the sound whirled in the room, echoing off the four walls, magnified by magic.

He moved closer, drill in hand. She kept her mouth closed. "Were you scared of the dentist when you were young, Hermione?" he asked softly, as if he was asking her if she wanted a cup of tea.

She shook her head no.

"No, of course not, your parents were dentists. Were they evil at home, too? Did they torture you? Beat you? Do unspeakable things to you? Did they try out all their evil things on you before they did them to their patients?" he asked. The drill hovered near her cheek.

Her hands were bound to the armrests of the dental chair by leather straps. She wanted to smack the drill away. She was afraid to open her mouth, but she was angry at the fact that he was saying disparaging things against her parents, whom she knew were good dentists, kind people, and wonderful parents.

"My parents were good people," she finally said. The fact that she spoke seemed to shock him. He stepped back slightly, drill still in hand. "They were also very gentle with their patients. I know they did explain things to the children they treated. I'm sorry you had one bad experience and that they weren't able to help you, but magic eventually restored your teeth, you know."

"SO THAT ERASES ALL MY YEARS OF SUFFERING?" he shouted, dropping the drill and grabbing her upper arms. His fingertips, still in the latex gloves, dug painfully into her skin.

"It doesn't lessen it at all," she said with an even voice. "It was horrible that you had an accident, and it was a tragedy that they couldn't restore your teeth and that you were teased and bullied. No one should have to suffer through that. It's a travesty. No one knows what you went through."

"You think you're going to get me to soften up because you're going to say something like you did when you were a kid?" he said with an ideal grin. His grip did loosen slightly, but he still hovered over her. The light was still bright behind his face. It still blinded her eyes. "Back then, you thought if you came to me and said, 'Hey, I was teased too, I had an overbite,' that it would make us commiserate together, and be buddies? But an overbite is nothing! I lost my front teeth, and though your parents offered to fix it for free, they couldn't! They were limited in their abilities, weren't they? And my parents couldn't afford dentures or partials! They couldn't afford fancy dental work, so I had to suffer! I had to endure years of torment before I went to Hogwarts and they were able to help me with magic! And no one would have ever known about it there! No one would have ever teased or tormented me again, if it wasn't for YOUR BIG MOUTH!"

He picked the drill off the floor, and said, "No time to sanitize it, oh well, I don't suppose you'll survive this anyway. Open wide, Hermione. It will only hurt until you die!"

She kept her mouth closed and turned her head. She began to cry. He held her chin and placed the drill beside her mouth. He said, "Finally, I get my payback on you, bitch!"

She suddenly wanted to ask him how torturing all those innocent children was payback against her. She looked him right in the eyes, and immediately thought of her Empathy Spell. Opening her mouth, she said, "Empathize Compassionate Amorist."

Conrad suddenly dropped the drill again. It banged against the chair, and then the floor, and it whizzed against the tiles before it stopped moving. Conrad stared at her, a blank look on his face at first, then the look became concern, then torturous, then pained.

He began to breathe heavy. His hands went to his open mouth. He cried out. "STOP IT! STOP IT!" He flew around the room in a rage, knocking over instruments and trays. He tore down a set of blinds, went to the window, and banged against it, still yelling, "NO! STOP IT!"

Hermione stared and gasped. Was he asking 'her' to stop the spell, or was he asking the pain of the spell to stop… the agony that he was seeing, the pain he was reliving, the pain he was feeling on behalf of all those children at his own hand?

That was it. Because he finally said, "MY GOD! Make him stop!" He collapsed on the floor, holding his head. He rocked back and forth, crying.

Hermione closed her eyes. She couldn't witness it any longer. She opened her eyes only when she heard the door open. The sound of it broke her concentration and the spell ended. It didn't matter. Conrad was already incapacitated long before she broke the connection of the spell.

Diesel went to Bailey and literally picked him up from the floor. Ranger went to Hermione. She looked up at him and a tear slipped down her cheek. He captured the tear with the tip of his finger before he pulled out a knife and cut the leather straps that held her wrists and legs to the chair.

Diesel looked at Hermione as he held Conrad upright, and said, "What the hell did you do to him?"

She looked back at Ranger and said, "The Empathy Spell. He thought he was the only person to ever suffer, but his suffering was almost trivial and insignificant compared to what he made those children endure. I had to do it. I had to make him feel it, see it, live it. I had to."

Ranger nodded, because he understood, and even agreed with her.

Hermione looked back at Diesel. Diesel didn't really understand what she meant. The only thing he understood was that he was in the presence of perhaps the most powerful witch he had ever encountered. He threw Conrad back on the floor for a moment, went over to the chair where she remained, and cupped her cheek.

"The brilliance of your mind amazes me, sweetheart. When you graduate with your degree in Magical law, if you want a job with the Untouchables here in The States, give me a call. Wandless magic is a must for us, but boy howdy, what we could accomplish with someone like you boggles my mind." He leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

"You do realize," he continued, as he brought the dentist chair into an upright position with the pedal by his foot, "that your Ministry will have to be notified that we caught this man. My question for you, Miss Hermione Granger, is do you want recognition as the one who caught him, or do I not mention your involvement at all? I mean, it's way cool that you caught him pretty much by yourself, but I know you were ordered to stay away from the case. You also probably used some magic you shouldn't have, and in front of some Muggles, right? I might be in a bit of trouble for helping you too, although, I'm used to trouble. It's my middle name."

"What's your last name?" Hermione asked.

Diesel just laughed without answering and said, "Well, what's the official story?"

She looked at Ranger again and then back to Diesel. Ranger reached out and grasped her hand, giving it a squeeze. That alone gave her the courage to do what she knew was right.

She had broken many of her country's laws. Laws she had promised to uphold. She had done unauthorized magic on Bailey and on Ranger with a spell that wasn't even recognized. She had gone against her superiors when she came to The States and asked Diesel for help. She had performed magic in the presence of a Muggle. Frankly, she never cared for accolades. She loathed praise and recognition. She was merely happy that Bailey would no longer hurt another child.

She finally said, "You caught one of Magical England's most wanted criminals all by yourself, Diesel. You should be proud. The 'hows', 'wheres', and 'whys' are your concern."

"That's what I thought you'd say. I knew you weren't in it for the glory. I think I just fell in love with you a bit more today." He smiled, picked up the trash (Bailey) from the floor and popped away.

Ranger turned to Hermione, who was sliding out of the dentist chair. "How did you find me?" she asked. She realized Ranger still had her hand. She was glad. She felt as if she would fall without it.

"That was Diesel. He located you from the tie, and because Bailey left some sort of magical imprint on it before he left it. Then, he traced your magical imprint from the… room (he decided not to say from the sheets) and he traced you both here. He's a useful son-of-a-bitch, I must say. I'm a sorry one, because I was helpless to do anything. In the end, you didn't need me at all." Ranger frowned when he said that last part.

She stood before him and sighed. He was wrong on that part, but she wouldn't tell him so. She looked around the small room. "Where is this place?"

"Dr. Giggly's last known office. The one we staked out yesterday. He's dead, by the way." Ranger brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it lightly before he dropped it to her side. Then he placed a hand on her neck, under her hair, because she looked as if she might falter at any moment.

She almost melded against his side. She sunk her head into his chest. He rubbed his hands up and down her back. "Does that mean you won't get your reward, or whatever it's called?" she asked against his chest. Her voice sounded muffled.

He placed a hand under her chin, tilting her head upwards. "No, it's dead or alive for scumbags like Giggly. We'll get our reward. You'll go back to England, though, and what will you get for your trouble here?" The thought of her leaving filled him with dread.

"The satisfaction that Bailey, and even Giggly, won't hurt anyone else, and perhaps some alleviation of my guilt." She placed her arms around his waist. He held her just as tightly. They embraced for a very long time before she looked up at him and said, "I also get a wonderful memory of you. That's worth more than you'll ever know. I'll never forget you. You weren't useless. You came into my life just when I needed you most, and I will absolutely never forget you."

He placed a kiss on her temple, by her hair. Urging her face up with one hand, he said, "I'm going to kiss you now, Granger." He didn't know why he felt compelled to tell her that, but he did.

He caressed her hair as his mouth moved slowly over her cheek, raining light kisses along the way. The sensation sent a fire in her belly, and though moments ago she was filled with terror and dread, now she was filled with indescribable happiness. Pleasure and happiness filled each fiber of her being.

Desire streaked through her as his lips grazed against her lips. His mouth cajoled hers to open, claiming more of her, and she gave it to him, highly aware that this would be the last time, the last kiss, and their last moment. One hand caressed her face, his other hand pressing on her back. Her hands remained around his waist. She felt her wand in his back pocket. She pulled it out slowly.

It was a defining moment. She was saddened by it, as well as enlightened. When he lifted his head from hers, his lips parting from her lips, his eyes opening, boring holes into her eyes, into her soul, into her memory, he finally said, "I too will remember this always, Hermione Granger. I will never forget you and what we shared, and even if you go away from here and I never see you again, you can't take that away from me."

"Ah, Ranger, that's where you're wrong," she said with the utmost remorse. She touched his face and started to cry. Then she lifted her wand to his head, touched it to the side, kissed him once more, lightly, and then said, "Obliviate."


Ranger woke with a massive headache. He sat up, and Tank and Hal were standing over him.

"What happened?" Ranger asked, holding the side of his head.

"We got a call from that Diesel fellow that you captured Giggly's partner single-handedly. I guess there's a large bounty for him in England," Hal told his boss as Ranger struggled to stand. "Diesel said we would find you here, and that he was taking this man, Conrad Bailey, into custody. He said he would make sure you received the bounty, though. He said that you hit your head."

Ranger shook his head and looked around. "Why don't I remember?"

"Diesel said you were stunned with your own stun gun," Hal informed him.

Ranger leaned against a dentist chair and said, "I mean, I don't even remember Giggly having a partner. I caught him?"

"Yeah…and you and that English woman were watching him outside this building earlier, don't you recall?" Tank asked.

Ranger remembered Giggly. He remembered Diesel, unfortunately. But what English woman? "English woman?"

"Yeah, you were on stake-out with her when I met her," Tank explained. "You met her at the pizza place, and then you went on stake-out with her, and later I believe you were at her hotel." The big black man blushed at that part. He added, "She was here to catch Giggly's partner. You really don't remember? Maybe you hit your head harder than we thought. Perhaps you should go to the hospital?"

Ranger shook his head. "No, I'm fine, I remember now," he lied. What English woman?

For days Ranger tried to remember how he got into that office building where his men found him. He didn't remember going there, he didn't remember fighting anyone, or capturing anyone, or hitting his head, or being stunned. He sure as hell didn't remember a stake-out with an English woman. Tank had also mentioned something about a hotel and a tie. He sure as hell didn't remember a hotel.

The tie was another thing. For some reason, he had a red-and-gold striped tie in his pocket, with no memory of how it got there.

He began to ask questions. The hotel wouldn't give him any information, but that didn't deter him. He found out on his own that an English woman checked in a few days before, for only one night. For some reason the hotel didn't have a record of her name or how she paid for the room. All of the security tapes had somehow been destroyed.

He went to the pizza parlor next. Yes, the waitress remembered Ranger meeting Diesel and a woman there, but she didn't recall anything else.

Yes, the bartender remembered a pretty woman who talked funny. She apparently stunned some brute of a man who got fresh with her.

Ranger discreetly asked Tank a few questions about her. When Tank got suspicious, Ranger revealed to his oldest friend that he didn't remember anything about her. Tank was still worried, but he didn't say anything. Instead, he told Ranger what he knew about her.

"She had a funny name. Her first name was Hermione, last name, Granger. I remember her last name, because at the time I thought in my head, 'hey, it's a Ranger and a Granger'. She wasn't very tall; she was on the thin side, but she had a nice shape. She had long, curly, brown hair. Brown eyes, but they were warm, with gold specks. She had freckles, just a few. She had a really nice voice, and a pretty accent. She was perhaps one of the prettiest women I've ever met in real life. I can't believe you don't remember her, because when I came upon you two in the car, I got the impression I was interrupting something."

Ranger frowned. Why couldn't he remember her?

Finally, as much as he hated to so, he called Diesel. He asked to meet him at the same pizza parlor that he supposedly met him a week prior. He sat in a back booth and waited.

He watched as the tall, broad, blond man walked through the crowded bar towards him. He eased himself into the seat across from Ranger. Ranger had one arm across the back of the booth. The fingers of his hand drummed lightly on the leather upholstery. His other hand held a red-and-gold striped tie, and rested on top of the table.

The first thing Ranger said was, "Have you ever seen this tie before?"

"No, but it doesn't really seem like your type of clothing," Diesel countered. "It would clash with all the black."

"It was in the pocket of my cargo pants," Ranger said casually. "I thought you might know who it belonged to, but if not, fine." He started to ball it up, but Diesel held out his hand.

"If you want, you can give it to me. I think it would go well with a suit I have at home." His hand remained open, over the table.

Ranger held the tie toward the other man, and then placed it on the table. He smoothed out the wrinkles. "No, I think I'll keep it for a while. I might find who it belongs to. Perhaps it belongs to the English woman that everyone keeps talking about, but whom I can't seem to remember." He glared at the other man, accusatorially.

"English woman, huh? And you say you can't remember her? How odd. She was a looker, too. We met her right here, at this bar. Strange you can't remember her. Well, if you just called me here for fashion advice, I say, leave the tie. Black seems to really suit you best. I like the California surfer dude look, but that's just for me. I should go." Diesel started out of the booth.

Ranger placed his foot on the other man's seat, his leg blocking his exit. Diesel looked down at it and smiled. "I could always break your leg off, you know."

"And I could always kill you, so there you go," Ranger said softly. He moved his foot back to the floor and picked the tie up with his hands. "Why do I have dreams about a girl with brown, curly hair, fighting evil-looking men, wearing long black robes, waving around long sticks? Sometimes in my dreams she's scared and hiding out in the woods. Why do I have flashes of the same girl, at a school in England, with a young boy with glasses and a scar on his forehead? Why is she wearing a tie similar to this?" He looked up at Diesel.

"Sounds like you have an overactive imagination. You should probably write a book or something. You might make a million dollars," Diesel quipped.

Diesel realized that Ranger was remembering Hermione's 'memories' from her Empathy Spell. She had Oblivated his memory of her and their time together, but even an Oblivation Spell wouldn't wipe away all the memories from her Empathy Spell. She had told Diesel about the Oblivation, so that he could clean up her mess, and he agreed to do so. She didn't have time to wipe the memories of other people who saw her, but Diesel didn't think that would matter, or that Ranger would pursue things.

Now he knew how wrong he was. Ranger wasn't someone to give up so easily.

Ranger continued, "Though I don't remember the woman everyone else seems to remember, somehow, her description seems strangely like the girl I see in these fantasies and dreams. You're going to tell me what's going on, and you're going to tell me right now."

"Or what?" the other man asked. "I know you're a scary guy, and quite serious with your threats, and if I were a normal man, I would be shaking in my boots. But Ranger, I'm perhaps the only man who isn't afraid of you, just as you're not afraid of me."

Diesel stood up. He leaned toward Ranger, one hand on the table, on top of the tie. "Leave it alone. She doesn't want you to remember, and believe me, it's for the best. Things that happened here weren't meant to happen. You found out things you weren't supposed to know. If you continue to pursue things, you could endanger yourself, but also her, and believe me, I won't allow that to happen. She happens to be important to me, and to my world, and I know you don't recall this, but she's important to you too. And if people found out she was here, and that she was involved in certain things, she would face terrible trouble. Leave it alone."

Diesel grabbed the tie and walked away.

Ranger sat alone in the booth and knew that someday – someday perhaps very soon – he would find the answers he was seeking, even if he had to go to England to find them. His mystery woman wouldn't stay a mystery forever.