?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
14 July 2010 @ 12:25 am
Numb3rs Fic: Sin - Parts 5, 6 and Epilogue  
Written for numb3rs_bigbang Big Bang 2010
Crossposted to numb3rs_notice and numb3rs_fic



Title: Sin - Parts 5, 6 and Epilogue
Series/Universe: Sin/Vice
Pairing/Characters: See Series Post
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: Seasons 1, 2 and 3
Summary: Taking over as CEO of a business is hard as a woman, but harder when it's a front for a major crime syndicate (AU)
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ



Saturday, 10/20/07 - Day

"Think, people!" Megan loomed over the conference table. "We need to be certain we've covered every angle, every way Tuttle could come after us at tonight's grand opening." She gestured to the managers assembled in the conference room attached to her office at Luxe headquarters in the Prescott Building. David had escorted them individually in unmarked cars to get them there early, figuring Tuttle wouldn't expect them to show until later in the day. "Brainstorm... Anything off the top of your heads..."

"Uh, poisoning the drinks?" Kit offered up after a bleak silence.

"I oversaw the purchases of all the food and beverages personally," Marco told him. "And since then they've been stored safely in the employee only area of The Loft."

"But thank you for being willing to throw something out there," Megan told him kindly, knowing it had to be tough for Kit to put himself out there amongst all the older managers.

"Bribing one of our clients to spike the punch then," Matt tossed out from where he sat off to the side of Megan's chair. He never sat at the table, but if Megan had a meeting, he was willing to be there.

"Wait staff has been trained to keep an eye out for anyone attempting access to drinks other than their own," Gabriel pointed out. "I've always made it part of my staff training so as to avoid date rape druggings in the clubs."

"I have too," Liz joined in.

"There won't be any fountain beverages to taint en masse," Marco added. "Wait staff will be carrying around champagne on trays and only handing out one per client and the bartender is making each drink to order. Even all the beer is bottled, not on tap."

There was a knock at the door and Matt answered it, opening it wide enough so Megan could see who was there. She gestured for him to enter and turned back to the assembled staff as she introduced the newcomer.

"Everyone, this is Andrew Gillespie. He's my old associate from Colorado that I emailed you about earlier. His Security staff is going to be augmenting ours for the near future, starting with tonight's event and continuing past this, primarily at our partner locations to ensure their safety and continued business. Keep running all Security requests through David but know that David will be utilizing Andrew and his crew to fulfill some of those needs."

Andrew nodded to all the assembled in greeting.

"I'm sure there will be time to meet each of you, but for now, my team is done assessing the building and we'd like to steal David if we could for the next phase of our preparation."

David looked up at her, expectant.

"Go," she said, waving them both off. "And take Matt with you. He can take notes to get me up to speed on what you both decide later."

Matt nodded and rose, following Andrew and David out of the room.

Megan let out a long breath.

"Okay. We've planned to have food brought down from The Loft for you and I've set aside some space for dressing rooms for everyone to get ready for the soiree. Ladies, you can use my executive bathroom to put on makeup and do your hair if you'd like. The lighting is much better in there. Guys, if there's not enough room in the main bathrooms check in with David about going upstairs to use The Loft's employee washrooms."

"We'll be fine," Marco assured her. "A tuxedo? It is not quite as hard as it looks. Especially when one has a lovely lady to tie one's tie." He reached over and kissed Terry's hand.

"Not to worry," Gabriel told Colby, mirroring Marco's affectionate smile. "I tie a perfect bow tie myself."

"My bow tie," Colby retorted, " is the last thing I'm going to be worrying about tonight."

"Agreed," Megan said, solemn at the head of the table. "I think we've all got more than enough to worry about, but remember this: Tuttle aside, this is our chance to cement the company with the public. So no matter how easy it might be to let Tuttle overshadow our grand opening, don't forget the whole reason we're here." She stood up, crossing her arms over her chest. "This is our night, our celebration. Don't let him take that from us."

+

Once the rest of the management team filed out of the conference room Howard followed Megan into her office where Sandra was waiting for them.

Megan checked to make sure both doors were closed before gesturing Howard into a chair and taking her place behind her desk.

"So, you two wanted to speak with me?"

"Yes," Howard told her. "It's about the mole - the one Don installed in Tuttle's organization."

"Yeah, you told me about her when I took over, at least the basics..."

"The basics being that Don had me find a recent law school grad to essentially bribe to go to work for Tuttle?" Sandra said.

"In a nutshell," Megan agreed. "But Howard also said we couldn't use her, that it was a we wait until she contacts us sort of thing."

"That's still true," Howard interjected. "The idea was to not risk any contact until she was sure she had access to enough documentation to put Tuttle and his cohorts away permanently."

"And seeing as how she's been there less than two years, I can see that she'd have to work her way up the ladder before she'd get to the really incriminating documentation. I mean," Sandra continued, "we put our people through levels of probation before we trust them completely, so we assume they do too."

"So what's changed? Has she contacted us?"

"No," Howard answered. "There's a method she has been instructed to use to request contact with us, but she's not used it yet. What we wanted to talk to you about is a contingency plan."

Megan sat back in her chair. "Oh?"

"It's not guaranteed," Sandra told her. "And it might not work, but Don set it up just in case. We pay her on top of her salary from Tuttle and we do it via an annuity that she supposedly inherited from a godparent. Now the payments are regular, an even amount. But we have the ability to change the amount to add a certain number of cents to the rounded off dollar amount to send a signal to her."

"What would that signal mean to her?" Megan asked.

"It's intended to be a way of letting her know the need is urgent. That if she has anything worth sharing, we need it now." Howard looked grim. "Don used it once, but got nothing. I think it was too soon; she didn't have anything worth sharing yet and didn't want to risk blowing her cover to let us know that."

"So you thinks she might have something by now?"

"No," Howard admitted. "But wouldn't you agree that the need is great right now?"

"The payments only go out four times a year," Sandra told her. "And one is due in the next couple of days. If we don't ask now, we can't contact her this way again for three more months."

"So," Howard said. "Do we pull out our one good weapon, knowing it might spoil it for use later, or do we go it alone?"

"He's shooting at my people," Megan said sternly. "Send your signal. Whatever your mole's got - anything at all - I want it."

+

David was down in the lobby doing final preparation with Andrew, wishing he'd postponed getting into his tuxedo until he was done with his walk around, when he heard a familiar voice call his name.

"David?"

He turned around, Claudia's name on his lips, but nothing came out.

She looked beautiful: dark curls piled up on top of her head and tumbling down the back, a dark purple gown with a plunging neckline and a sparkling necklace and earrings - bold but tasteful - making her look exquisitely polished. This was a look far from her functional scrubs in the morgue.

"Is everything all right?" she asked, looking concerned.

In truth David had almost forgotten he'd invited her, way back when Tuttle was still pretty much ignoring them and he was still excited about bringing her to a public company event.

"You..." He took another look, taking in everything from head to toe. "You look..." He shook his head. "Now, look... You went and left me speechless."

"Best compliment ever," she teased, leaning in for a kiss. "I know I'm early, but I was afraid traffic would be a nightmare. Plus I made reservations at The Loft, hoping we could have dinner beforehand." She gave him a hopeful look, one he was loathe to crush.

"I tell you what," he said, taking her hand and leading her to the elevator. "You head up now and get settled at our table. I'll see if I can finagle my way out of what I have to do in prep and join you."

"I'd like that," she told him, leaning in to place a kiss on his cheek. "You work too hard. I don't get to see you very often."

"That," he told her, gazing at her fondly as the elevator doors opened, "is a situation I'd very much like to rectify."

He watched as the doors closed on her then immediately got on the phone. "Gabriel? Tell your team heads up. M.E. Claudia Gomez is on her way up. Tell them to treat her like law enforcement. She's with me so make sure to give her a good table and keep her busy until I can get up there. Thanks." He hung up and quickly called Megan next. "Megan? I know you said we should all eat dinner in the office for safety? But I really need to eat at The Loft." He took a deep breath. "It's for Claudia."

+

Megan hung up her phone to see Matt at the door with another guest, this time a man holding a garment bag.

"Derek Morgan!" She held out her arms for a hug and Matt withdrew, letting the two hug and kiss in greeting in private. "You dog! Making me wait so long to see you!" She mock punched him and he pretended to recoil. "I thought you were still in Chicago until Denise said you got back two weeks ago!"

"Hey! I was busy, you were busy, but I did show up as requested!" He unzipped the garment bag to reveal a tuxedo inside. "Ready and willing to be your escort for this evening."

"Thank you!" she told him. "I owe you one. I know I don't need a proper date for this, but...'

"Don't sweat it," Derek told her. "You know me, few things make me happier than a beautiful woman on my arm at a great party."

"I'm not sure anything makes you happier than that," Megan teased. "I mean other than sex."

"Well, there's always afterwards," Derek taunted. "I know, I know, you're resistant to my charms. Hey, my ego can handle it."

"You're not my type, babe, and you know it," she teased. "We're great as friends though and I'm happy with that."

"Better than great," he told her. "So... Got a place a guy can change? I didn't want to wrinkle up my suit folded up in my little sports car."

"I do in fact." She gestured him out and as they walked, she lowered her voice. "I do have a bit of a favor to ask of you."

"Shoot," he told her.

"One of our partner companies is owned by a women who is pretty demanding. We're afraid we're going to lose her so I was hoping I could hire you to hang out at her bar for the next say, week or two? Just to get a feel for her: if she's loyal, if she's bitching because she's ready to walk or if she's just letting off steam and will stick by us."

"I'm between gigs so I can definitely handle that," Derek agreed. "I'd do it as a favor to you, but I know you can afford to pay me."

"I'd be happy to pay you, hon," she told him. "I'd be happier if you'd accept a full time job with us, but I know you're pretty attached to Chicago as home base for most of the year."

"That I am, but one never knows. So... Who is this lovely lady I'm going to be getting close to for you?"

"I'll introduce you to her tonight," Megan said, a little smile on her face. "Her name's Olivia."

+

Saturday, 10/20/07 - Night

"Welcome, Councilman Jackson! It's a pleasure to see you!"

Megan held out her hand and accepted both a firm handshake and a kiss on the cheek from the aging politician.

"Always a pleasure to support Eppes Enterprises or shall I say Luxe International now!"

"It is our new name!" Megan gestured with a flourish to the new company logo on the wall of the reception area that was functioning as the main party area for drinks and hors d'ouevres even though the rest of the offices were opened up for inspection and some guests were already milling about inside. "Would you like the tour? We have some fabulous art work on display!"

"I'd love it!"

"Matt, you remember Councilman Jackson, don't you?" Megan gestured Matt to approach, his cue to take over. "You remember my right hand man, Matt Li, don't you?"

"Of course! How are you doing?"

"Just fine, Sir. I know Megan's stuck here on greeting duty so why don't I show you around our art collection..." He guided the councilman away artfully and Megan was left to greet the next elevator full of guests.

This one only had one person in it and her heart leaped a bit at the sight of James Grace revealed by the opening doors.

He had a sly smile as he sauntered in, eyes on her, not on the room or its décor.

"Luxe International... I like it," he said, as if he he'd been rolling the words over his tongue for flavor. "I get the feeling it's going to be very international when you're done with it though."

"Who says I'll ever be done with it?" Megan teased, accepting a gentlemanly bow and kiss to the back of her hand.

"'The poet lays down his pen and the killer his ax,'" James quoted. "'And even you must learn to relax!'"

"What's the saying," she responded. "I'll rest when I'm dead?"

"Ah, but resting and relaxing to me aren't the same things." James tilted his head, examining her. "You seem like a work hard, play hard type - the kind who slams through work on Friday to take off for a weekend only to spend that weekend hitting the slopes hard."

"Guilty as charged." Megan flashed him her best smile. "I even have a cabin up in the mountains."

"Oh really." James was either hard to impress or resistant to even her most purposeful charms.

"Perhaps someday I'll show it to you," she tried, looking for a reaction, hand on his arm in her best flirting touch.

"Perhaps..." James took her hand and looped it in his arm and started escorting her towards the offices. "You could give me a tour of your new offices for now."

"Liz?" She kept walking, but called back to Liz behind her. "Cover for me with the greetings. I have a tour to do..."

+

David walked past Andrew and headed into the empty meeting room at the end of the lobby hallway. It only took a minute or two for Andrew to surreptitiously join him. When Megan had said that she was bringing in extra help from out of state he'd tried not to be insulted, but knowing that Tuttle's men knew what his staff looked like meant that fresh faces could much easier hide in the background.

"Report?"

Andrew was a man of few words so David got right to the point.

"We've foiled three attempts to pull the fire alarm so far and your police contact has confirmed a bomb threat was called in, but he managed to convince LAPD, as promised, that it was a known false alarm so they didn't evacuate the building."

"Excellent. Are the fire alarm people talking?"

Andrew made a grumbling noise. "They're just college kids paid well to do what they were told was a prank. No ID, just an email address that's defunct now telling them where to pick up an envelope full of cash with an address to pull the fire alarm at."

"So there may be more of them," David said with a sigh.

"We've got staff at every alarm," Andrew reminded him. "We're covered. You're good."

"I wish I could feel like that," David admitted. "But these all just feel like distractions while Tuttle's sitting back waiting to give the go ahead for the real attack." He sat down on the edge of the table, giving Andrew an appraising look. "If this was you? If you were trying to get to us? What would you do to get past our defenses?"

Andrew looked pensive for a moment.

"We have metal detectors in place, but do you have access to an explosives sniffing dog?"

David frowned at him. "There's no way he or anyone on his staff could plant a bomb in this building without being spotted."

"No, but he could wire one of your invited guests with explosives wired with a remote detonator and send him into the party."

David froze. "You mean..."

"He paid off these college students... Either he paid someone else to wear it pretending it's fake or he's holding their family hostage or something to make him do it." Andrew shrugged. "You'd ask what I'd do so I basically removed all my morals from my thinking and thought that up."

'Shit!" David bolted from the room, dialing his cell as he went.

"Dieter."

"Dieter, it's David. Listen to me carefully. I want you to examine everyone on your screens who's at the party or on their way there. Look for anyone keeping their jacket abnormally closed, anyone looking a little heavier around the torso than the rest of their size would imply and/or anyone exceptionally nervous."

"Am looking now," Dieter answered. "What am I looking for?"

"I'm on my way back upstairs, but we're looking for someone with a bomb vest on."

"Shit."

"My thoughts exactly." The elevator ride was brief, but took too long for David. When he got out he headed right for the security monitoring office - one of the rooms definitely off limits to the evening's guests.

Dieter was avidly scanning the crowd and David recognized Charlie's mass recognition software running against the bodies in the crowd. He'd designed it to pick up large weapons under coats from a distance in places where metal detector weren't plausible, like in public, but it was smart to try to use it for explosives padding as well.

"There!" Dieter pointed. "I thought that guy looked weird when he showed up but he was on the guest list so I let him pass."

"Jim Pembroke. He definitely looks freaked out and I've met him before - he's not that well built." He clapped Dieter on the shoulder. "I need you to tell Megan to get all of our employees out of there quickly and quietly. Have them go down the service elevator from the Loft or the back stairs, but get them at least down to the lobby level so Andrew and his crew can look after them."

"What are you going to do?" Dieter called after him.

David grabbed a computer technician's toolkit from the cabinet against the wall. "I'm going to see if I can defuse a bomb."

+

"Jim! Hey, nice to see you again! You remember, me? David. David Sinclair."

"Yes, yes... David. A pleasure." Jim looked scattered, sweaty and slightly shaking. "I've been looking for Megan. I wanted to say my hellos and congratulations."

"I'm sure she's around. Have you tried the crab puffs? They're fantastic. Here." He handed Jim a plate with a crab puff appetizer on it and a little slip of paper that read, 'We know you have a bomb on you. Are they listening or watching too?'

"That sounds delicious, don't mind if I do." Jim reached for the food and in doing so tapped the word 'listening'.

"Good, huh? Just stick with me and I'll set you up right." David nodded encouragingly at him. "I think I saw Megan talking with the catering staff. Why don't we go check? If she's not there we might at least be able to get some more of these killer crab puffs."

"Sure."

David guided the man by the arm into an empty room.

"Oh man, I think that was her heading into the kitchen. Hang out here for a minute and I'll try to go find her, okay?"

"That'd be great," Jim said, playing along as David made no move to leave, instead silently opening up Jim's jacket and unbuttoning his dress shirt to find a slender but well packed vest with C2 and a mass of wires.

As quietly as he could, David wrote on the paper, "I'm experienced with bombs. I'm going to defuse this."

Fat tears rolled down Jim's face, abject terror on the poor man's face. But he nodded bravely then halted him long enough to scribble on the paper.

"They took my little girl. They made me."

David reassured him with a gentle hand on his shoulder and a compassionate look. Then he opened up the toolkit, pulled out wire cutters and needle-nosed pliers, using the latter to move the wires enough to inspect their connections.

Once he decided what he was going to do he pulled away enough to send a quick text message to Dieter. 'In ten seconds turn on Colby's feed jammer and the cell phone signal jammer as well. Leave them both on until I say otherwise or...' He left it at that and just sent it back.

The text came back immediately. "Ready with both...10, 9, 8..."

David finished the countdown, waited a couple more seconds for his cell phone to go offline then quickly cut the wires on the vest. He all but ripped the jacket off Jim and his shirt to get the vest off him, putting it on a nearby table and dragging Jim and clothing away as quickly as possible. Once on the other side of the door they both took a breath.

David handed Jim his clothes with a solemn nod then went to the nearest land line phone and called Dieter back.

"Call Walker. We need him to bring the bomb squad up here as quietly as humanly possible to dispose of some C2 for us. And have him send his best detectives. We've got a kidnapped girl for them to find."

+

It was after 2AM by the time Megan tossed her keys on her console table just inside her apartment door, half exhausted by the social demands of the night half still reeling from the adrenaline rush of the near miss of the bombing.

David was definitely getting a major thank you perk this year. Andrew too, plus getting paid double what he originally asked for.

She made a mental note to look into bomb sniffing dogs and possible handheld devices for analyzing the air. She'd probably be able to get Kit to work on the math for the mass recognition to skew it towards explosives and not just guns.

She didn't get many messages on her home phone, but people did call it when they wanted to leave her a non-emergency message rather than take up her time calling her since she almost always answered her cell on the spot.

She played back the four messages on the machine: one from her hair salon confirming her monthly trim and highlights, one from her masseur saying he'd fractured his wrist and wouldn't be able to see her for a few weeks and then two from Sandra.

Megan perked up immediately. Sandra's voice made it clear she was both serious and excited.

"It's Sandra. There's been a request for contact. A drop is planned. I'll let you know as soon as I retrieve the materials." The next message was longer. "It's Sandra again. I've got the package. It's preliminary, but it's enough. Howard agreed. We'll be up all night prepping, we just need to know when you want to activate."

Megan was practically humming now, shutting off the machine and picking up her cell phone, calling Howard like it was second nature.

"Meeks."

"It's Megan. Is it really that good?"

"It's like Sandra said. It's preliminary, but it's solid. We can work with this. We just need to know if you're giving your approval to proceed."

"I am," Megan told him. "Pull the trigger."

+

Monday 10/22/07 - Day

Megan reviewed the document package on her desk one last time before sliding it back into its envelope and closing it back up. After years of Don fighting off Tuttle's efforts - both minor and major - he'd passed the baton to her with a warning that this would be the hardest war to fight of her career, harder even than fighting the law.

She'd been in charge less than six months already, but she had it in her power to make it all end.

She rose from her desk and smoothed her suit, taking a deep breath.

"Are you sure this is the way you want to do this?" Howard's expression was one of concern beyond the norm, understandable since he'd been right there when Sandra's car blew.

Megan looked him in the eye, straightening up tall.

"Yes. We have information that can put Tuttle in jail thanks to our inside source. We have to get it to the US Attorney's office. I've put a lot of thought into how and this way makes the most sense."

"Understood." Howard nodded his approval and backed away.

She turned next to Darby.

"Are you sure this is a mission you want to take on?" She tried to look past Darby's gruff exterior to see the woman beneath. "You, of all people, are most vulnerable on your bike. So if you're riding as escort..."

"I've got good body armor," Darby interrupted. "And no car can beat me on turns."

"Promise me," Megan told her seriously. "If there's any sign of danger you take off. I don't want you in the line of fire, period." She fixed Darby in her gaze. "No heroics. Just facts. Bulletproof limousine vs motorcycle. It's not a contest. We need you to get away fast so no hesitation, okay?"

"Okay."

She turned finally to Tim, who stood uncharacteristically solemn.

"You're the most talented driver Giuseppe's ever seen when it comes to evasive maneuvers in a chase. We've got more senior and more experienced drivers, but I'm looking for raw gut instinct here. Can you handle it?"

Tim nodded.

"Yes."

Matt standing by her side, she looked in turn at each team member ready to follow her lead in what could be the final battle against their most vehement of foes.

"Then let's do this. Let's put that bastard Tuttle away for what he's done to us."

+

"Uh, Megan?"

It was inevitable, she thought, but the limousine had barely made it out of the exclusive neighborhood the mansion was situated in before it started.

"Yes, Tim?"

"We appear to have picked up a tail." A pause. "What would you like me to do?"

She took a steadying breath.

"Just keep an eye on it for now. Following a car isn't a crime. But if another car..."

"Yep," Tim interrupted. "It's got a friend."

"Where's Darby?"

"About an eighth of a mile back," came Darby's voice in her earpiece. "And yeah, I've got two of Tuttle's cars tailing you. I just finished calling in the license plates to David's tech. He's not trying to hide it this time. He's using JET Holdings SUVs and everything."

"I think he wants us to believe he's not afraid," Megan mused.

"Should we change route?" Tim asked.

"Yeah, go past the freeway and see if you can get onto Benedict Canyon Road instead."

"Will do."

The limousine shifted course, avoiding the clogged freeway for a hilly road shortcut.

"Do you know your way around Benedict Canyon?" Megan asked.

"You doubt me?" Tim sounded more bemused than insulted.

"Well you have only lived in LA. for like a year or two, right?" It felt strange to be making conversation in this situation, but Tim was so genuine it put her at ease - at least somewhat - and she appreciated the effort. He had been a great hire regardless of being Kim's sister and Megan was glad he decided to stay on once Kim and Don left.

"True, but the first thing a guy like me does in a new town is totally check out all the cool roads. And you guys have got some wicked canyon driving!"

"I like taking Topanga between the 101 and the ocean," Megan admitted.

"Yeah, that's a fun one," Tim agreed. "Nice and curvy, but too many slowpokes clogging it up. Now Mulholland at 4AM once all the drunken idiots have gone home and before the crazy ass dawn joggers get up? Now that's cool."

"You drive at 4AM?" Megan marveled. "For fun?"

"You live in LA," Tim scoffed. "Have you found any other time there's no traffic?" His voice went stern, all mirth evaporating. "They're gaining on us, making their move. How do you want to respond?"

Megan steeled herself. "Speed up. Evasive maneuvers. Keep them away from us as best you can."

+

The road became a blur after a while, fast hard turns, near misses with oncoming cars, all the while gaining elevation above sea level as the limousine wove its way up into the canyon so it could make it out the other side to the city proper.

Darby hadn't been ordered back, but the amount of space between the limousine and the chasing SUVs was seriously disappearing and she knew it wouldn't be long before Megan told her to back off.

If they'd come from her apartment building it would have been a straight shot, far easier, but the mansion was tucked away in the hills ostensibly to make it safer.

While the mansion was like a fortress the distance to the city was now the most vulnerable aspect of it.

Tim was an expert driver, handling even the vast length of the limousine at startling speeds without hitting anything not even one of the dented guard rails that marked the sharper turns in the canyon road. Darby had to give him credit; he really was a fantastic driver.

She risked a glance behind her and saw the lead SUV start to lower a window.

That was her cue, lowered windows meant guns and she - as Megan had reminded her - wasn't bulletproof.

She veered off into the first side street she found which ended up being just a long driveway up the hill.

"Gun!" she yelled into her earpiece just a second before Tuttle's men opened fire on the limousine. Both cars zoomed past her, neither bothering to go after her.

She wasn't their concern. The news had leaked; they knew what Megan had on Tuttle.

She drove off the driveway onto the lawn to get to the edge of the cliff above the road and watched as the limousine negotiated the switchbacks to start coming down off the hill below, the SUVs hot on its bumper and firing.

They'd disappear for a second or two under a tree then appear again as they headed to the next turn down.

The first impact of the SUV slamming into the limousine's back bumper jolted the car hard, making it veer, but Tim was able to right it again.

They disappeared again under a stand of trees and when they came out again the SUV was surging forward, smashing into the trunk at an angle, making the speeding car spin out at high speed.

Out of control the limousine careened across both lanes. Darby watched - breath forgotten in her lungs - as the car's tires screeched without purchase across asphalt, the front end ripped through the weakened metal of the corner guard rail and the limousine tumbled end over end into the ravine below.

The ruptured gas tank went up with a plume of fire and acrid smoke, enveloping the car with raging flames.

And then the SUV doors opened. One man went to peer down at the wreckage.

The other man looked straight up at her.

+

"Rewind that part again."

Tuttle wagged his finger at where his secretary was showing him the footage from the attack on Megan's limousine on his big screen TV.

"Oh, that's my favorite part," he mused contentedly as the limousine went over the guardrail again. He watched for the plume of smoke that denoted the car catching fire and thought again. "Maybe that's my favorite part. I can't decide."

"You can just call it your favorite video and leave it at that," Marshall mused pouring himself a drink at Everett's bar. "Aren't you wanting to watch it live as it happens instead of rewinding?"

"What's there to see?" Everett scoffed. "Show's over."

"Well, they do have that pesky loose end of the motorcyclist, whom I assume is the resilient Ms. Morris."

Everett waved a hand in dismissal. "Here, give me that." He took the remote control from his secretary and waved her out. "Ivy was able to take care of her before almost singlehandedly. I'm fairly sure two teams of my operatives can deal with one little loose end."

"Well, she did rather handily - singlehandedly at that - dispatch Ivy in return, so..." Marshall gave up when it was clear that Everett wasn't paying any attention at all, rewinding to the start of the car chase action.

"You know, whoever they had driving was damn good! I have to admit, it made for some really exciting television." He turned a pleased grin towards Marshall. "Too bad I can't sell this footage to some movie producer to remake in a movie, eh?"

"Yes, it is a shame we can't share evidence of felony murder with the entertainment industry to earn a tiny fraction of what we make in one night doing what we do," Marshall stated drolly, sitting down with his drink.

"Spoilsport," Everett huffed. "Can't a man enjoy his moment? It's not every day one relishes such a profound and lasting victory over one's foes!"

"Then enjoy..." Marshall raised his glass. "To your victory."

Everett drained his own glass with an air of satisfaction.

"I think I may just have to drink to that again."

+

Monday 10/22/07 - Night

Howard knocked on the door to the office of US Attorney Mark Green and took a deep breath as he waited for it to be opened. The man who opened the door to them was familiar from his television appearances. He'd risen in exposure since joining the LA US Attorney's office because of his drive to root out corruption in all areas of the city.

His dress shirt sleeves were rolled up, his tie only slightly loosened and his face determined and still energetic despite the evening hour. Howard had chosen well who to bring their evidence to. There was a risk that this same prosecutor might one day come after them, but as a champion for justice unafraid to take on the city's most powerful? There was no better advocate.

"You must be Howard Meeks," Mark said, extending his hand to Howard to shake, appropriately serious for the situation. He turned next to offer his hand to Howard's companion.

"And I'm Megan Reeves," Megan said, shaking his hand and holding up an envelope. "We've brought you the evidence against J. Everett Tuttle we told you about on the phone."

"What you told me... About Tuttle? About what you say he's done?" Mark lowered his voice. "I mean, he's been on and off our radar for years, but the idea that he's got one of our own attorneys - Alvin Brickle - on his payroll? It's so hard to believe."

Howard held up two videotapes. "Believe this: we've got two videotapes proving that Tuttle's men just tried to kill Megan on her way here - one a feed from inside the car as it was forced off the road and the other a helmet cam feed from one of our operatives following on a motorcycle. That one includes a close up of at least one of the faces of the perpetrators and the license plates of the cars involved, which we confirmed are registered to JET Holdings."

Mark looked between the two of them. "You'd better come inside. We've got a lot of work ahead of us."

"Thank you," Howard told him, hand protective at the small of Megan's back as he guided her inside.

Mark turned to his assistant once he gestured them into chairs. "Carla, put on a pot of coffee, call the US Marshals and tell them everyone on this case needs protection and I'm not going to be shy, that includes me. Call Judge Haversham and let him know we'll need warrants and fast. And have LAPD send two uniforms over to stand by for the warrants to serve them. It's going to be a long night."

"Yes, Sir," she answered then bustled away efficiently.

Mark pulled a television set on a cart closer to his desk. "I need to warn you that all that happens in this room is recorded - both video and audio. If you disagree, leave now. If you agree, are you willing for everything say here to be admissible in a court of law?"

Howard and Megan exchanged glances. They were prepared for his, but it wasn't like they didn't know this would be a staged performance - every word carefully considered in advance.

"Yes," they both answered.

"Good." Mark sat behind his desk, holding out his hand for the evidence. "Then I, as a duly sworn representative of the courts, agree to take into evidence the materials you bring to me today."

Megan rose and put the envelope in one hand while Howard waited for him to accept it before handing Mark the two videotapes.

Mark broke the seal on the envelope and slid the contents out onto his desk. Flipping through them, his eyes widened and he looked up at both of them, surprise on his face.

"This? If these documents are real..."

"We have a witness for you," Megan explained. "A woman who has been in Tuttle's employ for over two years. She is willing to testify that she liberated those documents from her employer and that she witnessed J. Everett Tuttle say the items she documented at the end of the file."

"Is she safe? Do I need to put her in protective custody?"

Megan and Howard exchanged another glance.

"She is safe," Howard told him. " and you'll have to admit that she'd be less safe with protection arranged by your office..."

Megan pointed to the documents on Mark's desk, picking up where Howard left off.

"...when one of the main charges she documents is Tuttle's bribery of Assistant US Attorney Alvin Brickle."

+

"Dude, you should be designing video games not surveillance systems! That remote control set up was sweet!" Tim clinked beer bottles with Colby in salute. "Way better than Grand Theft Auto!"

"Yeah, but we had to wreck one of Giuseppe's tricked out bulletproof limos to do it," David bemoaned. "And those are not easy to come by."

"Hey, better the car than Megan and I!" Tim pointed out.

"No no, not complaining," David rushed to add, gesturing with his own beer bottle. The news that Megan and Howard had successfully delivered the evidence and all the new video to the US Attorney's office was cause for celebration.

"Actually I'm pretty sure complaining is exactly what you were doing," Colby snarked.

"Ah, give the guy a break," Darby piped up, taking a swig. "I know how long it takes to replace a wrecked vehicle so allow the man a moment of grieving."

"Grief? It's more how much business we're going to lose by not having the car in our fleet!" David said with a chortle. "With Tuttle out of the way people are going to be lining up for us and we're not going to be able to expand that fast."

"Oh, it's so nice to be on the good end of supply and demand," Tim mused, pleased. When the others looked at him he chuckled. "What? I went to college! I know my econ! We're just in a little more gray of a market than average."

Darby raised her bottle for a toast.

"Here's to the white hats helping the gray hats take down a black hat!"

A round of bottles were raised and drunk and a silence fell over them for a moment.

"You know if I'd actually been in that car, driving it for real?" Tim said solemnly. "I'd be dead now."

"No, you wouldn't," both David and Colby said at the same time. When Tim frowned at them, David explained. "There's no way in hell Megan would have let you drive for real. Don would kill her if she put you in that kind of danger."

"But my job's dangerous every day, it is for all of us," Tim protested.

"Yeah, but every one of us goes into it believing we're good enough to make it out the other side," Darby pointed out. "We don't have a death wish. And we're not overconfident. We just know what we can do and have faith in our ability to be better than those who want to hurt us."

"And this job?" David said. "Was a suicide mission."

Darby leaned forward. "From the time that Megan asked me to leak that she was going to bring evidence to the US Attorney? We all knew there was nothing Tuttle wouldn't do to stop her."

"So no matter how good you are at GTA," Colby told him. "There are no resets in this game if you die."

"Maybe not," Tim said, finishing off his drink and rising. "But the hot chick waiting at the end of the game? She's real and if you guys don't mind? I plan to go spend the rest of our supposed day off with my fiancée." He gave them a little faked salute. "Later, dudes." He grinned in Darby's direction. "And dudette."

As Tim walked off he chuckled to himself as he heard David's voice behind him: "Did he just say fiancée?"

+

Everett was holding court in the cocktail lounge of the Four Seasons hotel, surrounded by a small crowd all hanging on his every word, all wielding champagne flutes in celebration.

Gary didn't weave his way through crowds, he just plowed forward and expected the uniform and badge on his chest to clear the way.

It worked.

With four uniformed officers behind him in a V formation he strode forward, watching the rich and powerful step aside, leaving them in his wake.

These were the days that it felt good to be a cop - to take someone he knew was dirty, really dirty, the kind who killed without compulsion and took from those who had nothing without blinking an eye, the kind who dirtied his streets with drugs and disease-ridden whores.

No more.

"J. Everett Tuttle?" Asking was a formality; everyone knew who he was, but it felt good to say it loud and proud. "I have a warrant for your arrest!" He brandished the warrant like a weapon and cocked his head to his men to proceed. "Cuff him."

"On what charges?" Everett asked, flustered, but trying to keep his bravado intact.

"Do you really want the list out here in public in front of your friends?" Gary taunted. "Because I'd be happy to start with the attempted murder from earlier today and work my way back chronologically."

"Murder?" One of the women in his entourage gasped and the whole group began to fade away as the bracelets were closed around Everett's wrists.

"None of it will stick," Everett scoffed. "My lawyer will have me out before you know it and I'll have your badge as well."

"You know," Gary clucked his tongue, "I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen this time. In fact, I'd be willing to bet my badge on it." He moved in and lowered his voice to Everett. "And I never bet my badge on anything other than a sure thing." He pulled back and waved to his men. "Let's bring him in boys! I promised the networks a Grade A perp walk and they're setting up their cameras now for the show."

"You son of a bitch," Everett snarled as they led him out of the lounge. "You'll pay for this."

"Yeah, I don't think so," Gary said smugly. "But I'm sure as hell going to enjoy it."

+

The flashes from cameras would probably have been blinding if not for the sunglasses, which would stand out anywhere other than LA. Wearing sunglasses after dark didn't even get commented on here.

The news crews were busy filming, talking heads shoving microphones forward trying to capture any statement from the accused.

It was too bad they'd missed the six o'clock news, but it was likely to be the lead story for the local ten and eleven o'clock news and tomorrow's headline on all the Southern California newspapers.

Gary was true to his word: the perp walk he arranged was a complete media spectacle.

Megan's bodyguards managed to get her to the front of the tape line, enough so despite the press of people trying to get a shot of the once mighty J. Everett Tuttle in handcuffs she could still see.

Gary had him by one arm and a phalanx of uniforms were to his other side and behind him - no one to block the view of the cameras in front, how thoughtful.

The progress was slow, probably made slower by Gary's pretending the way was blocked more than it was. He really was giving the media the best exposure possible.

Megan hadn't been sure about Gary, but now was convinced. Another person on her list for a good perk this year. Only this one already had a boat.

As they came closer Megan raised her hand to her sunglasses. This close to the police car they were going to transport Everett from the police station to county jail in the cameras didn't have full coverage. She'd just be part of the crowd, face unseen.

At least by the cameras.

When they came close, Megan pushed forward just enough to be noticed.

When Everett turned her way she lowered her glasses just for a second, just enough that he'd recognize her.

Just enough for him to know she wasn't dead.

"You!" He yelled and tried to come at her, but Gary held him fast, the other uniforms shoving him forward into the car.

Megan turned away, sunglasses back in place, and headed towards her regular limousine.

She couldn't let that one be blown up. Matt had too many emergency supplies stashed away in it.

"Let's go," she told her bodyguards. "Show's over. And we've got a business to run."

+

Monday 10/22/07 - Night (continued)

"So, we meet again."

Megan looked up from her table at Basia's - dinner out a rare treat after being in lockdown so long - to find James standing over her table.

Howard had excused himself to take a call so she had only an empty seat as her company, no one to introduce in order to buy herself time to come up with a good comeback.

"James... This is a surprise. A pleasant one, for sure."

"One hopes," James said with a small bow. "I was hoping I might see you again."

Megan's heart fluttered in her chest at his gracious smile.

"Oh really?"

"Yes, I couldn't stop thinking about our talk, about the opportunities for a new Youth Art Center." She blinked at him, but he continued. "So I wanted to see you again to give you something." He pulled a checkbook out of his suit pocket, wrote out a check and tore it off, putting it on the table next to her. "You've convinced me. LA needs a new Youth Arts Center and I want to help fund it. That's my first donation - enough to get the search for a location started. I can donate more when you hire an architect and when you break ground."

Megan picked up the check, still not sure what to make of all of this. Fifty thousand dollars... That was definitely enough to get the project solidly launched and cleared by all the lawyers and agencies.

"Thank you. This is very generous of you."

"You're welcome," he said with a nod of his head. "Now if you don't mind, I'm dining with an associate tonight and we're on our way out."

"No, of course, I don't want to keep you," Megan said, finally managing to rise. "It's just..."

A curvy blonde woman appeared from behind him. "James? The valet is bringing the car around."

"I'll be right there," he told her before turning back to Megan. "I'm sorry, I have to go."

The sinking feeling was well hidden as she plastered on a gracious smile for him. "Thank you again for your donation."

"Don't mention it," James told her. He placed a hand on her arm briefly and just that tiny contact sent a spark through Megan. His nearness, his smile, the slight heat of him being so close to her...

And then he was walking away, following the blonde in the short skirt with large breasts she found herself uncharitably hoping were fake.

"Oh..." She looked up, surprised, as James paused in walking away to address her one last time. "You do realize this means we'll be working very closely together, right? I'm very hands on with my investments."

Megan cocked her head at him, her confidence coming back even as a renewed swirl of interest rose within her.

"Good, because I think you'll find I can be quite the handful, Major Grace."

"It's James," he reminded her, meeting her eyes with a sly gaze even as he started to walk way again "And I think I'm up for the challenge."

+

Marshall let his fingers glide over Everett's freestanding globe as it spun in its antique brass stand.

"This is most unfortunate."

"Unfortunate? Are you insane?" The last shreds of Dennis's control seemed to have dissipated with the news that no amount of legal finagling on his part would free Everett from spending the night in jail. "Everett's in jail and I don't think I can spring him this time!"

"That's your business," Marshall scoffed. "That's what you get paid for."

"And your number one concern isn't getting your boss out of prison?"

"No."

"No?" Dennis railed. "What the hell else is as important as that?"

Marshall crossed to behind Everett's desk, leaning over it to fix Dennis in his glare.

"Running the business so it's still here when you get him out." Dennis just fumed, but said nothing. "So you go," Marshall waved him off. "You do your job getting the boss out, keeping the law from getting warrants on our properties, keeping our underlings from cutting deals... I'm going to be here serving our clients so we don't lose them to the competition."

"You really think people are going to keep associating with us after all this?" Dennis marveled.

"One, never underestimate the power of vice to drive a human being. And two? We already know all their sins. What do they have to lose by sinning again with us? But to go give some other company evidence against them? One that might just be known to be a wee bit too ethical?" Marshall huffed. "I think we'll keep our clients - at least some of them, for now. Time will tell. Besides, if they try to leave?" His smirk grew wicked. "I've found blackmail to be a highly motivating factor when it comes to encouraging loyalty."

Dennis just shook his head at him. "It's like you're not even human."

"As a logician, I consider that a compliment." Marshall cocked his head in acceptance of the praise.

Dennis just kept on shaking his head as he left the room, grumbling under his breath.

Marshall pulled out Everett's chair and slowly sat in it as if testing how it felt.

He steepled his fingers in front of himself for a moment, taking in the view of the expansive office.

Something caught his eye and he rose to walk over to the chess set set up on one of the side tables.

A game had begun, but not been finished.

A closer glance revealed why: it was clear to Marshall's advanced thinking that white would checkmate black in a matter of moves no matter what black did.

Marshall picked up the white queen piece for a moment then put it down, moving it the first step it needed to take to capture the black king.

"First round to Reeves," he admitted. "But the game's not over yet."

=
 
 
 
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on July 14th, 2010 07:47 am (UTC)
Confession
Please see Part 1 for Confession post.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
t_vo0810t_vo0810 on July 22nd, 2010 01:51 am (UTC)
best ending ever. seriously. i love that ending just as much as i loved the end to vice and virtue. so completely awesome.

brilliant job with the car chase scene, doll. wonderfully handled and very exciting. and gary arresting tuttle was just aces.

and i loved how u gave us a teaser of what's to come.

/applauds loudly/
brilliant brilliant brilliant!

now where's homicide? gimmie gimmie gimmie :D /makes grabby hands/

<3<3<3<3<3
ladygray99: Charlieladygray99 on February 5th, 2011 05:08 pm (UTC)
Okay, I am a very very very bad friend in that I've only just gotten around to reading this. It's been on my list for a long time.

I just want to say that it was really brilliant and I'm really sorry I didn't get to it sooner.

Megan, this Megan, your Megan rocks my world every which way and Marshall is just special levels of cold evil and creepy.

I know you get disheartened when you put so much work into something this major and it doesn't seem to get any reads but know it is really great work.