Blood Wind - Chapter 14
Lovely readers, this long, strange, trip has finally come to an end. I hope you enjoyed this story. Thank you so very much for your support and kind words as I, too slowly, slogged through it. Fuzzy kittens and chocolate bunnies to all those who took the time to review and add to their favorites
It's been fun, (when I wasn't tearing my hair out).
Disclaimer: I can put them back now that I've had my way with them. They were never mine and I never made any money from this endeavor. Only the plot, most of the dialog, descriptive phrases and OC's may be mine. Not sure how this actually works but, it's too late now.
She could see a body moving cautiously through the brush, it was slowly traveling toward the stairway.
"Cho!" she whispered, "See him?"
"Yeah, he's naked." answered the stoic agent without any surprise in his voice but, that was his usual way of speaking. Lisbon had always thought the man's hair could spontaneously burst into flame and he wouldn't get excited, raise his voice or anything at all that would indicate how he really felt about such an extraordinary and painful occurrence.
If the he kept moving at the same angle, he'd reach the steps just above the second landing from the top. She clicked the safety off her gun and heard her 2IC do the same as they waited for the suspect to step out of the brush onto the steps.
Though she had no doubt she and Cho were more than capable of taking him down, she clicked the mic switch and quietly requested back-up from whoever was available. There was no sense taking chances. L.A.'s most famous serial killer since 'The Nightstalker' who'd run amok nearly thirty years ago wasn't getting away. She'd do whatever it takes to make sure he didn't.
They could now see him clearly. He was stark naked and he carried a bundle clutched to his side.
"Stop! Police!" she yelled, bracing her stance as she held her gun pointed squarely at the pale skin of the man's chest.
"Awk!" let out the naked man in alarm as he spun and took a step.
"I wouldn't!" warned Cho who'd now appeared before their suspect; gun held with arms locked in a classic shooter's stance. Lisbon had the fleeting thought that if she was a perp who'd suddenly spotted her second-in-command with his dark, flat-eyed, stare drawing down on her, she'd probably wet her pants.
Their suspect quickly threw both hands in the air, dropping the bundle he carried. There was no sound from it as it plopped in the dirt.
"On your knees, NOW! Hands behind your head!" she ordered
The man promptly hit the dirt and laced his hands behind his shaggy head. He'd obviously been through this drill before. How did he grow such a thick beard so quickly? No one had said anything about a beard; long hair maybe but, no facial hair.
"Identify yourself! What's your name?"
"Uhh . . . Buh . . . Bill?" stuttered a voice in a rusty squeak.
"Bill what?" demanded Cho
"Just Bill . . . you know, like Cher, Beyonce . . . uh, Madonna?"
"OK, Just Bill, what are you doing here?" demanded Lisbon still holding her gun pointed at the center of the man's chest.
"I, uhh . . . I was getting ready to take a bath. You know . . . in the lake."
Lisbon raised her lip in disgust at the thought of bathing in the algae crusted, duck infested puddle that Angelinos had the balls to call a 'lake'.
"What's in the bundle?" she asked without revealing any more of her thoughts on bathing in 'the lake'.
"Jus . . . just my clothes. They're clean, I didn't want to put them on until I took a bath. It's not sanitary."
"Put your pants on NOW!" barked Lisbon, her flashlight shining into the bleary eyes and sun-weathered face. This definitely wasn't Apizaco.
"Can't." whined Just Bill.
"Why's that?" asked Cho in curiosity more than anything else.
"The police. They won't like it, I'll get into trouble."
"We are the police! PUT YOUR DAMNED PANTS ON!" ordered Lisbon, almost out of patience and with a WTF look on her face.
"No, not police police, clothes police." said Just Bill, sounding miffed they didn't know about this 'other' branch of law enforcement. Don't these people ever communicate with each other? wondered the naked man.
"Oh, them." said Lisbon nodding gravely; resisting the urge to roll her eyes.
"They're really strict about that. They won't let you get dressed at all some times." whined Just Bill in earnest dissatisfaction with the arm-of-the-law that existed only in his mind.
"I'm sure they'll let it go this time." It was nearly impossible not to smile, if not to down right collapse in giggles but, she never did that kind of stuff anyway; too girly. She did kinda fell bad though, the man was so earnest in wanting to do the right thing and not run afoul of the law, imaginary though it may be.
"It's not safe to wander around in the dark without clothes. There's snakes and stuff." said Cho in his normally serious tone, opting into the argument to get the man to put on his pants. He'd already seen enough naked guys for this trip.
"Snakes won't bother me." said Just Bill, proudly. "We're brothers."
"Oh, OK." answered Lisbon, not even wanting to pursue this statement any further. Whatever floats his boat . . . as long as he just puts on some fucking pants!
"They're snakes, you probably can't trust them." she said "Just put your pants on anyway. I'm not telling you again!" she warned, now completely out of patience. Why did she even bother arguing with someone whose lamp, obviously, wasn't plugged into an outlet?
"Give me something in writing first." demanded the still nude man, "You know, in case they stop me and ask why I put on my clean clothes without taking a bath first."
Cho reached into his shirt pocket for his pen and the small notebook he always had on him. The light was bright enough to actually write without needing additional illumination. He quickly scribbled something, tore off the sheet and handed it to their now, almost surely, former suspect.
They'd have to turn him over to LAPD anyway for indecent exposure. Maybe he'd get a bed and a real shower out of it. One he doesn't have to share with ducks, thought Lisbon.
After carefully reading the note, his mouth moving with each word, Just Bill said "You have to sign it and date it."
Cho exasperatedly grabbed back the paper and added the date then signed 'Sincerely, Agent Kimbal Cho, C.B.I.' to the bottom of the piece of paper that read 'Please excuse Bill from the bath before pants requirement for tonight.' and handed it back to the naked man who waited expectantly for his permission to forego bathing before donning clean clothing.
The Asian guy looked like someone who'd have the authority to excuse him; he certainly hoped so. He didn't want to argue with those people all night like he sometimes had to. Last time, their argument had gotten too loud and someone had complained. He'd been run out of that nice place he'd found behind the hedges of that new condo complex just off Wilshire Boulevard.
Just Bill took the small sheet of lined paper and, once again, inspected it carefully before nodding in satisfaction and then bending to retrieve the bundle at his feet.
Lisbon carefully avoided the scenery of a naked, bent over suspect by looking across to her 2IC who'd not even cracked a smile . . . damn him.
Just then, her earpiece crackled and a voice she recognized as Ortega's was requesting back-up. He sounded as though he'd been walking fast or actually running. She heard, "Shit, watch it!" and then a mumbled apology from someone who sounded suspiciously like Jane.
The signal faded out, then in again. Ortega had kept his mic open, there was more sound of movement and then, "Police! Drop the knife!" then a moment later,"Drop the knife and step away from the baby!" a slight pause then "Drop it!" warned Ortega's voice again.
Cho and Lisbon both turned at the same time to sprint toward the detective's location. She knew he and Jane were at the Elysian Steps on the other side of the park. They nearly ran over the people responding to her initial call for back-up. Now, a thundering herd of law enforcement, they all ran back down the steps to sprint across the grassy expanse surrounding the lake.
Then, the crack of a gunshot came from across the lake, bouncing and echoing off its flat surface. The sound also loudly popping through their earpieces.
Ortega slowly came to. His head hurt like a bitch and he could feel more pain from somewhere on his chest.
He raised his head to look around and saw no one else, just a large knife that lay a couple of feet away.
With difficulty, he sat up. The night spinning around him momentarily. This felt like the worst binge he'd ever been on. His stomach threatened to expel its contents and he swallowed several times trying to keep his last meal where it belonged.
Looking down at himself, he saw the dark stain covering nearly the entire front of his polo shirt.
"Dammit!" he muttered at the sight of the blood, his blood. His head began to spin once again; the sky and earth changing places for a second before regaining their customary locations.
There was no sign of the baby, Jane or Apizaco. The Berretta still lay where it had landed in the dirt just off the walkway. In the brightness of the moon overhead, it was easy to find.
After two unsuccessful tries to stand, he finally managed to stay on his feet. The receiver had fallen out of his ear and was dangling from its coiled wire down the back of his neck. He tucked it back where it belonged and could hear a woman's voice calling his name. It was Lisbon, trying to get him to respond.
He spied the dark droplets trailing down the walkway. There seemed to be two distinct patterns, one much heavier than the other.
"Still in pursuit of possibly wounded suspect." he wheezed, "Traveling west on Elysian Steps walkway toward back parking lot. Need back-up . . . bad!"
"Copy!" came Lisbon's voice as well as Lowry's who sounded as though he was running.
"Almost to rear parking lot. Be there within five." came his 2IC's voice through the earpiece.
"Heading your way across the park." came Lisbon's also sounding as though she was running.
"Copy." he answered, "Still in pursuit."
Ortega knew Lowry would have to circle around the hill to get to the rear parking lot and then take another few minutes to begin ascending the hill. It would be at least five minutes before anyone got here. Lisbon's team was even farther away.
Staggering slightly, he followed the blood trail, droplets like black bread crumbs pointing the way toward the suspect and probably the consultant as well. One of them was losing a lot of blood; too much to get very far. He knew he'd winged Apizaco as he went down but he didn't know how badly. He hoped Jane was the one leaving the more widely spaced splats on the cement pathway.
Following as fast as he could; he hoped they stayed on the walkway. In spite of the cliche'd images in the old westerns on T.V., he wasn't Tonto. He couldn't follow much of a trail across dirt, weeds and grass; even under the bright light of a full moon. Maybe it's because he's only part Indian? he smiled to himself. Wow, blood loss does weird things to your head, he thought, trying to concentrate on the blurring path in front of him.
Spikes of pain shot through his head with each step but, there was no time to give into it now. Failure wasn't one of his meager options. Keeping that monster from killing the baby and now, probably, Jane as well, was the only thing on his mind . . . well, that, and capturing that mother-fucker or blowing him to hell if he harmed that baby.
Ahead of him, on the pathway, he could see a standing figure, its back toward him. It was Apizaco and he was nearly naked. Light reflected off his skin, making the scene even more surreal as he appeared to glow under the full moon. A dark rivulet trailed down his arm toward the hand that held a narrow bladed knife.
Beyond Apizaco, he could see someone on the ground, it had to be Jane but he didn't see the baby anywhere. He slowed his steps and approached without sound; the Berretta held before him with both hands.
Seeing them more clearly as he came closer; Jane was on his knees looking defiantly upward. There was an exchange of words but the voices were too soft to make out what they were saying.
He saw Jane nod and then close his eyes and turn his face away, seeming to tilt his head to expose his throat.
This wasn't the way he'd thought it would end . . . as a sacrifice to a god he didn't recognize. Even though he had no belief in a supreme being of any sort , (or an afterlife), he still hoped, somehow, Grace was right . . . he'd see Angela and Charlotte again.
The night had gone completely still. The wind had ceased its restless wandering.
A shadow fell across his eyelids as he felt the Jaguar move to stand above him. His heart made his whole body vibrate to its frantic, thudding rhythm. He hadn't said goodbye to Lisbon but, she'd be OK . . . wouldn't she? She was so strong. She'd been light and warmth in the cold, dark void that had been his life since Red John had destroyed it. Red John . . . somehow, he didn't seem so large a figure now.
If only he had a few more minutes to tell her. Now, she'd never know.
The shadow shifted.
He hoped it wouldn't hurt.
Apizaco leaned forward with the blade. There was no time to shout a warning to drop it, no time to identify himself; the Berretta spoke for him.
The warrior's head snapped forward as the lead missle entered the back of his skull and exploded out the other side. His body toppled forward to land on top of Jane in a tangled, messy, heap.
Suddenly, there was a sharp crack and something wet and warm splattered across his face and something heavy crashed down on top of him, pinning him beneath it.
"Jane!" he heard Ortega's voice as he struggled against whatever pressed him to the concrete.
"Patrick, talk to me dammit!" The detective sounded almost like Lisbon, at least the words anyway. He felt the weight pushed off him and Ortega's concerned face hovered over him. In the detective's arms was a now squalling infant wrapped in a spattered blanket.
"Bet your ass!" smiled Ortega tiredly.
Squinting to clear his vision, Jane could see a large, dark stain behind the squirming bundle clutched to the detective's chest.
"A little late to the ceremony, weren't you?" Jane managed to croak out.
"Sorry, had some bleeding to do before I could rescue your sorry ass." answered Ortega as he eased himself down next to where Jane lay. The Jaguar warrior's body lay in a cooling heap on the other side of them.
"You look like shit but, join the club." wheezed the consultant. "Baby OK?"
"Yeah, fine, still kinda sleepy. Hey, you did good . . . Angel." smiled the detective as the sound of pounding footsteps came closer.
"Told you, Lisbon's gonna take exception to that name." Just then, Ortega's face was replaced by the face of the woman of which he spoke, her luminous green eyes full of worry.
The baby seemed to rouse and cry in earnest, displaying the strength of its tiny lungs. Ortega gingerly handed the child to VanPelt who'd also, miraculously, appeared beside them. She kneeled to gently take the child and cradle him in her arms; an expression on her lovely face to rival anyone's depiction of the Madonna.
"Jane, you OK?" he heard Lisbon's voice over the wailing of the unhappy infant.
"Take it easy, we're getting help for you and Detective Ortega, it'll be here any minute."
"Not going anywhere." he wheezed
He felt a warm hand grasp his cold one and shivered, marveling at how quickly the temperature of the night had dropped.
More hurried footsteps approached. There were new voices around him. He didn't look away from Lisbon's eyes. His eyes stayed locked on hers as though she might disappear into the moonlight; an ethereal vision he'd only hallucinated.
He felt hands on him and heard the crackle and tearing sound of someone hurriedly opening packets. Somebody had pulled open his shirt and was cutting off the windbreaker.
No great loss, he thought; his mind having a hard time trying to keep a grasp on his situation, It was butt-ugly anyway.
Terse instructions and numbers he should know the meaning of, but which didn't sound familiar, flew around him. Something pressed against his side. The pain made him cry out.
A voice he didn't recognize said, "It's OK buddy, we'll get you fixed up. Just relax."
Relax? Not if you keep pressing on my side.
He felt another someone patting up and down the inside of his forearm and then something cold on his skin and the bite of a needle.
Her eyes, her beautiful emerald eyes. He was going to lose himself in them. Nothing could ever harm him there.
"What am I going to take exception to? Jane . . . stay with me!. What am I going to take exception to?" Lisbon's voice faded in and out. It seemed to be coming from no place in particular even though he knew she held his hand.
"Ask Ortega." he mumbled as the night finally closed around him.
The ambulance ride wasn't even a memory. He'd woken up in a narrow bed. There was the usual beeping and clicking he associated with accommodation in the I.C.U. He didn't feel any pain. At least he was getting some good drugs out of this.
He thought he heard a voice. He listened closer and it said, "Todo esta bien, su compadre esta bien, el nino esta bien. Ahora usted puede estar. (All is well. Your friend and brother-in-arms is well. The boy is well. You can rest now.) In a soft murmur, it continued: The city is better now but you still can't leave. There is someone near who needs you. Someone for whom you'll be willing to stay. Rest, Angel." He felt someone softly stroke his cheek.
Then it was dark again.
This is just one too many times! she thought as she stared down at the peaceful face of her consultant. Several bags hung from the multi-hooked chrome stand next to the bed. At least one of them held something dark, dark red. It was strange how bright blood looked when flowing out of a body and how dark it looked when contained in plastic.
Several lengths of clear tubing led to the IV catheters in his arms and one that disappeared under the neck of his gown to a place just under his collarbone.
This is getting old., she mumbled to herself as she took his frigid hand in hers, rubbing it to try and impart some warmth into pale flesh, even though he probably couldn't even feel it right now.
The beeping of the heart monitor, usually so annoying in a quiet room, was actually comforting in the glass-walled enclosure. He'd come through surgery well enough but, still hadn't yet woken. The sound assured her that, despite, looking like death not quite warmed over, he still lived.
She studied the pale face; still slightly peeling from sunburn. It actually had a bluish tinge to it in the hollows under his eyes and below his cheekbones. She knew he'd already looked tired and pale even before landing in the hospital. She should have left him in Sacramento but, no matter how exhausted, he probably wouldn't have agreed to stay behind.
She was just so damned tired of worrying. Tired of always having to make the extra effort to ensure he got enough sleep, consumed something other than chocolate bars and gallons of tea. It was like having a five-year-old . . . no, make that a four-year-old; he certainly whined like one.
Someday . . . maybe it would be different. She hoped so but wasn't going to hold her breath. They'd become even closer over time. They actually confided in each other . . . well, as much as either of them ever confided in anyone.
This man for whom she cared too much was, possibly, damaged beyond repair. Cho had said he'd never be 'OK' and her quiet but insightful senior agent was usually correct in his opinions - when he bothered to share them.
The wall Jane kept around himself may never be actually torn down but, she'd breached it a couple of times. Oh, so very briefly, when he'd taken a break from his hyper-vigilance but, it was painful . . . for both of them; like standing close to a fire that burned too bright, too hot to stay near for very long. He was frighteningly intelligent; even brilliant but, emotionally, just a frightening mess.
She took in a breath and held it for a moment, staring down at a face she thought beautiful, had always thought beautiful from the first moment she'd first seen him. She wasn't naive. She was too old and too jaded for that. She'd kick his ass if it was necessary and he knew she had no qualms about doing so.
He stirred in sleep and softly moaned as her hand smoothed stray curls from his forehead. She kept her vigil as the man in the bed slept on.
Maybe 'OK' would never be but, maybe, she'd take what she could get . . . whatever he could give. For now, it might be just enough.
When next he woke, he managed to actually open his eyes. Blinking several times before he would focus, he saw the form of someone next to him.
He saw dark, glossy hair. Her head rested on her arm which lay nearly touching him at the edge of the bed. He examined the pale delicate skin of her throat, the fine gold chain that lay against it, the cross he knew dangled from it had been her mother's but, it was hidden under the chaste neckline of her t-shirt.
She looked so peaceful. He lay quietly gazing at her, not wanting to wake Sleeping Beauty - his angry little princess. Without speaking, he closed his eyes and a small smile drew up the corners of his mouth as he returned to the land where nothing ever hurt and no one ever died.
It had been a long week. He lay plotting how to escape from this sterile prison and the tormenters who always managed to wake him in the middle of a sleep cycle and poke him with needles while saying in much too cheerful a tone; "Just a little pinch now, it won't hurt."
"My ass." he always thought, "If it doesn't hurt, then why don't you trade places with me so I can poke you full of holes while chirping meaningless inanities.
Jane lay with a scowl on his face as the latest vial of his too precious blood was carried off by Dracula's phlebotomist.
"Hey." said Ortega as he wheeled himself into Jane's room.
"Hey." said Jane as his scowl disappeared and was replaced by a genuine smile. "Are you supposed to be wandering around the hospital by yourself? That big scary nurse is going to find you and haul your ass back to your room."
"Eh, she's got the hots for me. She lets me wander if I want to."
Jane just smiled, amused by Ortega's seeming confidence at manipulating the tall, Rubenesque woman who'd already busted him earlier in the day for trying to get out of bed on his own. She'd also told him to stop whining or she'd sedate him. He knew she couldn't legally do that without his permission but, she was kinda scary. He'd gotten back into bed just in case.
"Well, compadre, we both made it!" triumphantly crowed the still slightly ashen detective.
"Yeah, but I bet I have a more interesting scar."
"Probably so. I only got stabbed and hit my head. You, mi amigo, almost got filleted like a trout. Hurt much?" asked the detective; concern in his voice.
"Meh. They're still giving me good drugs. Everything's still kinda numb. As soon as I can stand up though, I'm outta here."
"Good luck. Hopefully, Candy won't be on duty then. She'd drag your carcass back here before you could get to the door and tie you to your bed."
"She gave me her number. She lives in North Hollywood."
"That's a lot of woman. You sure you're up to it?" smiled Jane
"We all have to have our goals." said the detective, raising one eyebrow suggestively.
Jane didn't really want to dwell on what that meant and reached for the plastic pitcher of water to unsteadily pour himself a cup. He noticed the change in Ortega's expression before the detective spoke again. The smile was gone.
"Agent Lisbon came to visit me. She's still worried about you. Said you told her Polmocena came to see you here."
"Why would that bother her?" asked Jane, his forehead creasing in puzzlement.
"Well," Ortega hesitated before plunging on. "They found the old lady dead on her kitchen floor a couple of nights ago; before our asses even wound up here. I didn't find out until Lowry mentioned it last night; natural causes."
Jane's eyes widened slightly then a mask came over his face. His expression unreadable.
"She was an interesting lady." supplied Ortega, hoping Jane would take the ball and run with it.
The consultant looked toward the golden light that shone through the blinds. He seemed deep in thought.
"She saved my life." he said finally.
"Maybe, but you'd probably have only gotten a little beat up. I don't think the homies would have killed you unless you gave them good reason but, somehow, that's not too hard to imagine." Ortega's brown eyes crinkled at the corners as his smile once more made an appearance.
"No, I don't mean that night I went on my little adventure." said Jane
"What do you mean?"
There was nothing further from the man in the bed.
"Well, if you say she visited you here, I'm not going to doubt it. You seem to have something going on that I don't really understand but, it's not for me to question. It's bugging the crap outta Lisbon though."
Taking a few more moments to gather his thoughts, Jane began, "Polmocena told me all was well now. The baby is safe, my compadre . . . I'm assuming that means you, were safe. She said La Ciudad, (the city), is going back to the way it usually is . . . I'm assuming that means just your standard everyday murder and mayhem."
"Well" said Ortega, "El Viento de Satan' has left us. The wind's finally gone!" he said sighing dramatically in relief. "About time too. I thought it was just going to blow us all to hell. I think its God's punishment for letting the Kardashians live here."
Jane let out a huff of amusement at the reference to the family who was famous for being famous.
"Takes all kinds." he said, actually breaking into a smile, the clouds at bay for now.
"So, let's see the scar." smiled Ortega
Jane looked startled then grinned and gingerly pushed back the sheet to expose the bandage on his midsection. He'd been afraid to look, actually, and had always averted his eyes when the wound was re-dressed. He was glad Ortega was here to help him view the damages for the first time.
He carefully peeled loose some of the adhesive that held the bandage in place and lifted the gauze off. A neat row of blue stitches on orange stained skin lead from just under his ribs near the center of his chest downward to his right hipbone.
"Shit!" both men exclaimed at once. Jane stared at his surgeon's handiwork for another moment before swallowing and gingerly patting the tape back down and pulling the sheet back up to his chest.
The detective noted the blonde man's even paler complexion.
"Interesting scar to show the ninos and ninas," said Ortega
"Kids? I don't think so." said Jane almost automatically still trying to come to grips with how close he'd come to his own mortality.
"Don't scoff, mi amigo." said Ortega with a mischievous look. "The bruja, rest her soul, said to tell you, after this was over, that there will be four of them and they'll all have dark, curly hair and green eyes."
Jane couldn't help but look astonished. "Four?" he said, raising his eyebrows and swallowing audibly.
"Yup, and you've already met their mother.", said the earnest detective taking in Jane's startled expression.
"No shit?" muttered the consultant
"She's never steered you wrong before, Angel." smiled Ortega wickedly, white teeth flashing below the bristly mustache.
Eso Es Todo
Please Review to let me know your final thoughts on this story. There'll be another in a month or so but, never again, will I lock myself into a plot that can't be weasled out of. Also, I think I learned more about Aztecs than I really wanted to know.