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Life is a Road...

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This story is No. 4 in the series "Oh, the people she knows...". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Looking into her birth records takes Faith not to Boston, but to Philly, of all places. A chance encounter leads to more mystery and deadly dangers... (Update to add cover art)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Faith-Centered
Marvel Universe > Blade
Television > Night Heat
(Current Donor)IronbearFR1833190,3063016865,74929 Sep 0718 Oct 13Yes

"Another random 'oral exsanguination serial'"

Chapter 4: "Another random 'oral exsanguination serial', then."

Detective Giambione watched her leave, along with O'Brien, then gave his partner a bemused look. "Interesting girl."

"That she is," O'Brien nodded. "What do you think of our little Miss LeHane?"

"Dangerous. Not very impressed with cops," Giambione mused. "Wrong type to be our lethal blonde, though. Not tall enough. And not dressed right."

"Oh? Wig, heels, quick change of clothes... women can change their looks pretty dramatically with a bit of work." O'Brien shrugged. "And we don't know for certain the blonde was the perp: witnesses just reported her in the area."

"Maybe. Not sure I buy it," Giambione shrugged. "Fresh tear tracks on LeHane. Doesn't look like she realized they were there, either."

"Maybe she felt real bad afterwards," O'Brien said. "We've seen that, too."

"Yeah... " Giambione gave his partner a sidelong glance, "My gut is telling me 'no'. She doesn't feel right for this."

"Maybe." O'Brien nodded again. His partner's people instincts were as good as his own, and both of them had come to trust their gut feelings on people. But both had been wrong before... "Let's go see if either of the Winchesters are awake and can shed any light on this, shall we?"

"Might as well," Giambione gave him a curious look. "Tidbits you dropped talking to LeHane: we didn't get those from my license and background check call in."

"Save it for later, in the car," O'Brien suggested, heading into the ICU unit. Giambione nodded, following him in. They found a nurse checking on the younger Winchester brother, and Giambione showed her his ID folder.

"Detective Frank Giambione, Major Crimes Unit. My partner, Detective O'Brien," he said. "Any prognosis on when either of these two might be awake and able to answer a few questions?"

The nurse, a young black woman, shook her head. "No idea, Detective. You'll have to ask a doctor for any real diagnosis." She picked up the chart and glanced at it, "I can tell you probably not real soon. Head trauma, and both brothers were extremely low on blood. They've had emergency transfusions and plasma, but I wouldn't expect either of them to be conscious until maybe late tomorrow, and possibly a day or so before either of them are coherent and stable enough to answer questions."

O'Brien nodded. "The young woman who just left here... dark hair, long leather coat? Was she with either of the two patients when you came in?"

"With that one," the nurse pointed at the older Winchester. "Standing by his bed holding his hand when I entered."

"Did she seem to be doing anything else?" Giambione asked.

"No. Well, she seemed to be talking to him, and she had tears. Since she was back in ICU, I figured her for a family member," she said. She gave the detective a curious look, "Why? Is that woman a suspect, detective?"

"No. Or, we have no reason to consider her such," O'Brien stated. "Just curious." He gave her a card, "We mentioned this to the ER doc already, but can you also make certain that photos are taken of the Winchester brother's injuries? And make sure I get a call at this number when they're available?"

"I'll add a note to their charts," she nodded. "And I'll be certain to mention it to the physician."

"Thanks," he nodded. "We'll probably get a couple of officers stationed here until morning at least, just in case one of them does become conscious long enough to give a description of their assailant. They'll check in at the ER desk when they arrive."

.................................................................................

A long night, and not getting any shorter, she thought. Detectives O'Brien and Giambione had gone the opposite direction from her, into ICU. Presumably to see if either of the Winchester brothers were conscious and in any kind of condition to answer questions. She could have saved them the trouble, but didn't: she'd seen injuries like that on normal humans before. It wasn't likely that either brother would be fully conscious for some time. Hell... a slayer would have been unconscious for a day or two from a beating like that, and a relatively long time healing, even with their recuperative abilities.

Distracted going out, thinking back over the little interview. That was interesting in more directions than one. She hadn't been joking or lying about being a fairly active news junkie, especially lately. Nor about her impressions being that O'Brien and his major case squad came across as that rarity in the modern world: pretty good cops. It didn't take much between the lines reading to come to the realization that they also weren't well liked, if you knew how to translate 'news speak'. Of course, if Blade and King's background on their little war was accurate - and she believed it was - in a city where you could expect that probably 15% or more of the cops and ranking police and city politicians were vampire familiars, hard nosed, honest, and inquisitive cops weren't going to be liked very well. It was a wonder that O'Brien and his partner weren't dead - that spoke of very careful hard nosed cops to her.

From the browsing she'd done once she decided that Philly was going to be her first stop, she'd run across O'Brien's name and his partner's more than once in new and older articles. Major cases seemed to be the ones that drew the bulk of the hard crimes: serial killers, ritual murders, assassinations, mob killings, and various strange crimes that didn't quite fit into any of the other departments. She'd have bet money that there were an awful lot of unsolved folders in that squad room stamped 'BBQ fork incident' or whatever their local equivalent was... and not closed completely. She wondered if O'Brien and his partner might prove interesting allies, and made a mental note to watch them carefully to see. Pretty sure bet they were going to be watching her - she'd love to be a fly on the wall for he and his partners conversations following their questioning of her.

Caught leaning was the expression, and she very nearly was. The vampire taint hit her in the slayer senses before she was even partly across the emergency room waiting area, and she brought her attention fully to bear on the here and now with a wrench, going suddenly relaxed and alert, slayer essence fully awake and carefully submerged below the surface.

Distracted is a bad thing for a slayer. It gets you dead.

Faith reflected later that she really hadn't expected that anything had followed the Winchester brothers here, and that she'd taken it for a more or less random attack from a vampire hunting in that area, or maybe several. Bad mistake.

There. Blonde, female, and moving up, smiling. Faith folded her arms and smiled back, waiting for her approach. Blond, very female, and wearing an ornate and expensive looking leather body suit with metal worked into the front over the chest and abdomen, possibly kevlar as well. Green eyes... and a very faintly familiar look. Ah - she looked a bit like that actress, Morgan Fair-something. Not exactly like, or really even very close, but the same sense of elegant good looks, animal sensuality, and expensive beauty. Chesty, stacked figure. Voluptuous.

Buffy would take one look at that blond and want to slit her wrists. This one made Faith feel frumpy, looking at her.

This one also made Faith all too conscious that the majority of her armaments were elsewhere. There was a casual grace and a studied deadliness to the woman's movements that reminded her of Blade. Power on the hoof, and fully conscious of itself. She wanted to meet her with both Valdris blades in hand, and was all too aware of the uniformed cops and security guards around.

"Dead woman walking," Faith nodded as she came up. Deceptively relaxed and casual, and anything but relaxed inside.

"Easy, Slayer," the woman murmured as she halted in front of Faith, just a bit outside of easy striking distance. "I'm here to talk, for now, not dance."

"Rats. I've always kind of liked dancing," Faith remarked. Measuring with slayer sense, not eyes, the spot where the eight inch blade from her right bracer would have the most effect if she lunged. If it struck home.

The blonde cast an amused glance around the waiting room, "It would be a pity to attract the attention of those security people with a fight. Or those uniformed officers, perhaps?" She smiled, "So many dead, for no reason."

Faith cocked her head, saying nothing. The blond continued, "I can escape and stand the scrutiny, can you? Or are they even regular police? What if they're someone's familiars?"

"Talk, vampire," Faith suggested. "You're getting perilously close to wasting time I have better uses for."

"Impatient. Both controlled and angry. Waves of power radiating off of you. Sensual," the blond ran a long slow look across her, looking Faith over like something on an auction block. "Everything it was suggested you'd be." She walked a slow circuit around Faith examining her from all angles before ending in front of her again. Faith resisted the impulse to turn her head to track her, following with slayer sense only. "It might be interesting to have a different type of dance with you, before we conclude things."

"You want the other one," Faith responded. "I don't fuck corpses. I just kill them."

"No, you're the one I want." Those green eyes devoured Faith's. Ice-green, gorgeous, and nothing human in them. Ancient eyes. "All that's under debate is exactly what I want to do with you."

"Not an option you have for debate," Faith studied the blond as intently as the vampire was studying her. Not demonic, but a very faint demonic tinge. Not a 'normal' Kaineron vamp, then. Draaken? Or something else? Definite sense of evil there, casual evil, and ancient. Looks to have been embraced in her very early thirties, maybe late-late twenties, no telling her actual age.

"You have such excellent taste in men," the blond remarked. "Such marvelously tasting ones as well." She ran a tongue tip over those full lips, sensuously.

"You just riveted my total and undivided attention, vampire." Dark eyes met green, with something lazy, deadly, and far more ancient than any vampire looking out of them. "You'll find that's not a good thing to have done."

"That was the intent," came the calm reply. "I'm pleased it was successful." Faith took a short step forward, hands curling slowly into fists at her sides. Faith submerged completely then, and what came to the surface was pure predator.

"I don't play with my kills any longer, not even the things I hunt," she remarked, and was mildly surprised to hear her voice coming from a long distance away. "I can make an exception. I understand that interesting things can be done with railroad spikes and hot coals." She cocked her head, a lazy half smile on her lips, "If you have business with me, my friends aren't a part of it."

"That would be a pity. They'd make such wonderful ghouls, don't you think? Or blood bounds, perhaps," the blond smirked. "Thralled and then turned, maybe." At the low growl that came out of Faith's chest, she held up a casual finger. "Now now. Remember your surroundings, Slayer. All those bystanders, and those uniforms are taking far too much of an interest in us now."

"Don't lean on that too hard," Faith suggested. "It might break." She did rein her aspect in, however, with an effort.

"It's said that a mere human once gave pause to the Scourge of Europe with a similar threat. Ironic for a vampire to use it to leash the Dark Slayer, don't you think?" The vampiress nodded, giving Faith a slow smile, "Your friends served their purpose. They brought you here to me. I have no need of them any longer." She inclined her head slightly, "My word on that, if you accept it."

"Your word."

"My word is good. I don't break it," she met Faith's eyes levelly. "You have it. I'm not interested in the Winchester brothers and they are no concern of mine." Faith nodded, not bothering with any 'and if you don't.. ' bullshit. She was already going to kill this vampire, additional threats were wasted air.

"I'm assuming there's a point here, and that you're going to get to it eventually?" Faith stated. "If not, then let us take this dance somewhere more private and finish it."

The blond laughed, "There is a point, and this is it. You've annoyed people. There was an open contract upon you, now closed: I have assumed it."

"All this, just to bring me here in the open where you could tell me that?" Faith lifted an eyebrow, "Wouldn't it have been safer for you to just kill me unaware?"

"Of course. But where's the challenge in that?" The green eyes were amused, and calculating. "Now you're aware, and you'll be watching. Wondering." She moved slowly around Faith, "Crossbow? A bullet, perhaps?" She trailed finger tips along the side of Faith's neck, warm and caressing. Warm? A vampire with body heat? "A blade in the dark? Or teeth in the night? Where will it come from, and when?" The blond's lips moved along the other side of Faith's throat, sensually, breath caressing. Pausing just over the marks that Angelus' fangs had left on her. Faith spun, hand snapping up in a back fist, stopping as the blond stepped back, laughing softly. "Death? Or will I turn you, make you one of mine? You'd make a wonderful apprentice... I wonder if the slayer essence would stay with you, or move on? So hard to tell these days, with so many of you now."

"Been tried. Didn't work out so well for them," Faith turned with the woman, now, keeping her in sight. "What makes you special, assassin?"

"No one has ever contracted a Death Dealer against you before," she stepped back. "We'll have a long dance, and an interesting one, you and I."

"Let's take this outside and discuss it," Faith suggested. "Somewhere private."

"All in good time," the blonde smirked at her, her movements predatory as she stalked around Faith. "I see you've tasted the Kiss before. Did you enjoy it, I wonder? Do you long for it again, even now?"

"Problem, LeHane?" The question came from somewhat behind her. Oh shit. Faith stepped back, turning slightly both to look with peripheral vision, and to keep herself between the blond and O'Brien. The blond, where? Gone... in the brief split seconds her full attention had been away.

"No... no problem, O'Brien," She scanned the waiting area, and the space beyond the double doors. Nothing. Neat trick, that. "Just an admirer who didn't want to take 'no' for an answer."

"You look like you've seen a ghost," the detective's eyes were curious.

"I'd prefer a ghost, I think," Faith shook her head, disgusted. Way off her game tonight. Time to catch up, fast.

"So who was your friend?" The younger one, Giambione, was doing the same thing she was, Faith noticed. Scanning the crowded ER waiting area and the parking lot beyond the exit doors, him with a slightly puzzled expression.

"No friend. And she didn't give her name." Faith shook her head, "If you need to ask me anything more, I'll be at my hotel. Or here. Good night, detectives." They didn't attempt to stop her from leaving. Interesting.

Both detectives watched her leave until she was out of the ER and across the parking lot out of sight. "You know," O'Brien said in a conversational tone, "Witnesses reported seeing an expensive looking blonde in the vicinity of the Winchester's motel room around the time of the attack."

Giambione looked over at him, "So they did. And we're not arresting the blond for questioning because?"

O'Brien gave a disgusted look and gestured around the ER. "What blond. You see a blond anywhere?"

"No... can't say that I do." Giambione went back to scanning the ER areas. "Would like to know how she managed that."

"When you figure it out, I'll make sure you get a promotion," O'Brien gave him a sour look.

"Good. Pay raise?"

"When I get one. Don't hold your breath."

"Ha. So we work for one of the most corrupt departments in the US, huh?" Giambione gave him a hurt look. "You never said."

"I think I'm insulted. We're much more corrupt than Chicago or Detroit," O'Brien gave one last look around, "Come on. Let's get a couple of plainclothes watching the Winchester brothers and the ER and head back to the precinct. Maybe there's some taxpayer funded donuts left."

Frank glanced around the waiting area again. "Before we do, let's see if we can get the security camera tapes for the ER area here," he pointed at the three cameras in the vicinity. "Maybe one of them caught our blond."

"Good plan. Maybe we'll actually find one of them working at this place."

.................................................................................

On the way back, Frank had the wheel, taking his turn to drive. He turned his head to glance at his partner, "All right, Obie. We're in the car now. LeHane's name obviously meant something to you?"

"Should have meant something to you, too, Frank." O'Brien lit a cigarette and rolled down his window a crack."Think back several years, maybe. Nationwide alert bulletin to all departments? Faith Wilkins, aka Faith Lehane, slightly different spelling?"

Giambione frowned, considering for a time. Then he nodded, "Sunnydale, California, a few years before it fell into the ground? Coma girl."

"Right." O'Brien gave him a sour look, "Almost complete absence of reports filed and police interest in her, then suddenly she wakes up and walks out of the hospital against medical advice and she's the most wanted thing since Bonnie and Clyde. Nationwide bulletins, America's Most Wanted, Federal Marshall's office, you name it."

"And shows up in LA a short time later and turns herself in to the LAPD," Frank stated, remembering. "Something about multiple murder charges."

"Yep. And escapes from prison about two years later, just about a month or so before the Sunnydale collapse," O'Brien finished for him. "During, I might add, the 'mysterious meteorological disturbance' that blacked out Los Angeles and greater So-Cal for several weeks. The one that was about as well explained by all of the 'experts' as the mysterious undiscovered sinkholes that ate Sunnydale."

"Right. I remember the bulletins now," Giambione nodded. "You got your curiosity up pretty good on all of that at the time, and then we got distracted by several cases and never finished following up on it. Slipped my mind until now."

"Lehane's escape was eclipsed by the LA blackout and fires at the time, no pun intended, so it didn't get the news attention that the earlier bulletins did. She confessed to and was incarcerated for the murder of a deputy mayor in Sunnydale, I forget his name. And a rare book dealer or professor of something - I'd have to look it up. Just before turning herself in to the LAPD, she attempted to kill a local private investigator and one of his partners, supposedly. There seemed to be some ambiguity about those - both of the victims involved testified on her behalf at her trial." O'Brien said, "Then she showed up again, briefly, after her escape in a couple of news photos among the last bus load of evacuees from the Sunnydale collapse. Just before turning herself in again in LA."

"Pretty odd escape, if I recall, wasn't it?" Frank gave O'Brien a curious look. "You seem to have mentioned something on that in the hallway there."

O'Brien nodded, "Crashed through a reinforced bullet resistant window in the visitors room while being visited by a Wesley Wyndham Price, one of her earlier victims. Then jumped out of an upper floor window of the penal institute - reportedly carrying Price - landing on the roof of a car and getting away in another vehicle."

"Ow. Upper floor?" Giambione winced. "And ran off afterwards... apparently unharmed. Ok, I can see that that and her history would seem to make her a candidate for the assault on the Winchesters."

"Three to four story drop - super hero stuff," O'Brien said with a sour look. "We'll check and see if the Marriott records back up her whereabouts," O'Brien said. "But I'm not buying her for it any more than you are, possibly for different reasons. I'm not sure how Lehane fits into this yet, but I like our mysterious vanishing blond better."

"Your reasons?" Giambione glanced at him.

Shrug, "Like I said: it got my curiosity up. Kate Locksley was reportedly a pretty good cop before she was permanently suspended - read fired - from the LAPD. She dug into Lehane's background after the trial and found a lot of oddities in the Sunnydale background, enough to cause her to testify on Lehane's behalf at the rehearings. The consulting psychologist the prison called in for her had some interesting opinions also."

"So Locksley's and the shrinks character reference was enough for you?"

"That and other things," O'Brien took a drag off of his smoke. "Someone tried to have Lehane assassinated in prison the same day she escaped. Went through a lot of trouble for it: smuggled in a ritual dagger of all things, and paid an inmate to go after her in the yard. I managed to track down one of the guards who evidently became friends with Lehane while she was in... according to him, she was as close to a model prisoner as they had. Serious about making good on what she did and rehabilitating herself." He shrugged, "An awful lot of people who've seen every scam that a con can come up with seemed to think that Lehane got a raw deal and that there was something worth salvaging there. People who wouldn't normally stick their necks out for a convicted murderer and supposed psycho."

"What was Locksley fired for?" Giambione asked, curiously.

"Looking too closely into cases involving people with allergies to sunlight and bodies with odd wounds on their necks," O'Brien said, sourly. "Among other things."

"Ah," Giambione nodded with kind of a 'say no more' sour expression of his own.

"Yeah," O'Brien stated. "We need more background on our victims, and we need to figure out how Lehane fits in with them here."

Later in the squad room, O'Brien and his partner gathered around the video equipment with the other four members of their squad to review the ER security tapes. The six of them had already gone over the facts of the case, as well as LeHane background from both the FBI database and police records searches, plus O'Brien's personal files filled with the information he'd gleaned during his earlier interest in the young woman of a couple of years back.

"Ok," O'Brien said. "We're still waiting on a full background to come up on the Winchester brothers. So far on basic records check, they have limited criminal history - none really of any major note. Mother dead under mysterious circumstances, father disappeared, fiancée of the younger Winchester brother also murdered later. The father might be more interesting if we had him around."

"Unfortunately," Detective Carson observed, "He seems to have vanished off of the face of the earth."

"Right," O'Brien nodded. "Sam and Dean Winchester seem to be relatively clean so far. No major police interest in them, no real suspicion of involvement in the fiancee's death. We'll have to wait until they achieve consciousness to ask them what they're doing in Philly, unfortunately - our perp did a serious number on them." He paused, "Few times they do come up in police contact, they come up in places that have had various odd or bizarre events or crimes. So far, no indication they've been held or questioned in connection with any of them." O'Brien read off a short list of incidents, then motioned for Giambione to start the tapes.

"A pity they don't have audio pickups on these," Detective Stephanie Brody said. "Be nice to know what they're saying to each other."

"Keep telling you you should get the department to send you to lip reading classes, Stevie," Frank wisecracked.

"Ha. You a funny guy, Jambone," Stevie shot him the finger. "Your dark haired girl looks definitely hostile towards the blonde, going by her stance and body language."

"Not a bad idea at that, though," O'Brien remarked. "Department does have lip readers - get one to take a look at this. It'd be nice to know what's being said." Stevie nodded.

When the security tape reached the point where O'Brien and Giambione entered the scene and called out to LeHane, Detective Burns blinked, "Whoa. Where'd blondie go?" According to the camera, when LeHane stepped back and turned partway to O'Brien, drawing his and Frank's eyes, the blonde apparently vanished.

"Good question - you win the prize," O'Brien said, nodding. "That was mine and Frank's, and apparently LeHane question as well. Let's run the other two tapes and see if the different camera angles show us anything."

The other tapes seemed to show the same thing, from different views. On the third tape, Detective Christine Meadows leaned forward, frowning. She put out a finger towards the television screen.

"Something, Christine?" O'Brien gave her a sharp look. Always a good observer, Christine's ability to pick up on small details seemed to have sharpened the last several months or so. She had a tendency to catch things the other members of the squad often missed.

"Maybe," the blonde detective said. "Back that up again to just before the blonde vanishes, then run it." Giambione nodded and reversed the playback, then hit 'Play' again, running it forward. Christine leaned forward intently as the rest of the squad watched, following the blonde with a fingernail as the sequence ran through again.

"Hrmmm... " She said. "Let me see the remote, Frank?" He tossed it to her and she reversed the tape again and ran it, then once more, pausing it at the start of the sequence. "Ok, here's where you and Obie enter the ER waiting area again from the hallway while the blonde is circling LeHane, and then LeHane turns toward her. The first tape shows the same, but in this one you can be seen calling something out that gets both women's attention." She advanced the tape a bit, then paused it again. "LeHane takes a long step back, away from the blonde and towards you and Frank, apparently when she hears your voice. Turns her head slightly in your direction." She traced with her fingertip, then advanced the tape again, "And here, just before the blonde vanishes, this big EMT passes the two of them and crosses apparently between the blonde and both your and Frank's field of view and LeHane, for only a few seconds." She paused the tape again, indicating the large, black emergency paramedic she was discussing. "At that point, you can see the blonde woman appear to start to take a long step to one side in the direction the EMT crosses from, and then she vanishes."

"Into thin air, baby." Burns said, nodding. "Like the EMT rolled her up and put her into his pocket."

"Maybe not," Christine said, frowning in concentration. "Let me run this back, and I'll see if I can do a frame by frame step through from that point."

She rewound the tape again and then stepped through it one frame at a time from just before the EMT walked across. On frame by frame, the blonde woman stepped across behind the EMT so that he was between her and LeHane, O'Brien and Giambione's field of view, and continued to walk or jog one frame at a time across the emergency room waiting area and out the door just as a couple walked in through the automatic doors, finally vanishing off screen to the left outside of the inside camera's view. She rewound it again and then played it forward at one quarter speed and after the step across, the blonde turned into a blur trail going across and out the doors.

"What the hell... ?" Detective Carson and Stevie said, both almost together.

"She doesn't 'disappear', she just moves very fast after she leaves your field of view briefly," Christine said. "Ok... that doesn't help, does it? It's still pretty damned impossible." She rewound the tape again. "Let's try this from a different perspective from one of the other tapes... "

The other two cameras showed the same thing on frame by frame and quarter speed, except with both of them losing the blonde from the field of view before she went out the doors. Only the camera three tape showed her exiting the ER waiting area.

"Man oh man," Burns said. "What are we dealing with here?" The huge, black detective had a faintly shocked look.

"One of the first times we've actually seen one of our 'exsanguination killers' caught live and on film?" O'Brien observed with a sardonic expression. The other detectives in the squad had decidedly disturbed expressions, with the exception of Giambione who's face was studiously blank, and Christine who was watching the slow motion replay with fascination. "You caught that visually on the first run through, Christine?"

She shot O'Brien a startled look, "I caught... something on that third tape. Not certain what." Christine shook her head, puzzled. "A flicker near the doors, and just behind the EMT, I think."

"Good catch," was all O'Brien responded with. He exchanged a curious glance with Giambione. Another oddity to the puzzle the squad's second female detective was presenting them over the last several months.

"Here's another," Stevie said. "Ignore the blonde and watch LeHane from this angle. Note her action and movements." She motioned Christine to run the end of the tape again and they watched as it ran through.

"Moving to shield the blonde from Frank and Obie?" Carson frowned.

"No," Christine shook her head and rewound it. "Watch the body language and stance - I see what caught Stevie's eye." She glanced at Giambione, "Watch it from a martial artist's perspective, Frank." She hit forward again at half speed.

He frowned, concentrating on it, then nodded. "Not shielding the blonde - shielding us. Head turns to spot our location after Obie calls out, but keep the blonde in peripheral vision. Moves to put herself between the blonde and us, weight shifts into a modified 'ready' stance, and arms move slightly to a defensive posture. She was cocked forward somewhat belligerently before that. The EMT stepping over breaks her field of view and she loses the blonde momentarily and whips her head around to try and relocate her... "

"But the blonde is already moving beyond visual speed," Colby Burns finished for him, nodding his head.

"Beyond our visual speed," Carson stated. "Is it beyond hers?" He was obviously remembering some of the background O'Brien had provided before the tape viewing.

"Another good question," O'Brien nodded. "Maybe not completely beyond... but she did lose sight of our blonde lady: she was scanning the room and the crowd along with Frank and myself as we moved up to her."

"Again: what the hell are we dealing with here?" Colby asked.

"Don't know, Colby. But this may be one of the better chances we've had to find out since we started encountering these cases," O'Brien said.

"If finding out doesn't kill us," Detective Burns shook his head. There were several nods of agreement around the room, including O'Brien. "Moving like that, I can see how that frail took out two healthy young white boys by walking all over them. They probably never knew what hit them before they were out cold."

"Yeah... " O'Brien shook his head also. "Christine: can you pull off several decent images of our blonde friend from those? And make duplicate copies of those security tapes?"

She nodded. "Yeah. I can transfer them to digital for manipulation and enhancement as well, if we need to. I'll pull out several of the best stills afterwards, clean them up, and get them ready to print out."

"Good," he said. "Get copies of them distributed to patrol and traffic divisions, with an 'Observe and report: do not attempt to detain' advisory. We don't want some poor uniform trying to arrest her not knowing what they're dealing with and ending up in the hospital themselves, or dead." He considered a moment, then, "Get copies to Carson and Colby as well: the two of you can show them around when you finishing the follow up canvassing of the motel and vicinity. Maybe it'll jog some memories."

"You want Christine and I to join in the follow ups?" Stevie asked. "We still have that open serial rapist investigation going."

"No... stick with that for right now. Work on this as needed where it doesn't interfere," O'Brien said. "That one needs to be closed out ASAP." He looked around the squad room, "That goes for everyone: work your normal case load - we don't need to draw too much attention to this one, just in case anyone's paying attention that shouldn't be. We'll fit this in around active cases, except for myself and Frank." The others shrugged or nodded; there weren't any objections. All of them were used to running multiple cases by this point, with the exception of the occasional high profile murder or serial killer that drew everyone's undivided attentions.

"All right, then," he stood up. "Any new developments on this we'll kick around as shop talk later," O'Brien finished - current Major Cases code for 'discuss it away from the office after hours, usual place'. Away from any prying ears who might have objections to too much attention paid to any of the odder goings on around Philly. "I'll fill in Hogan on what we've got."

.................................................................................

"So, Obie, what do you think?" Lieutenant Paul Hogan gave his senior detective a curious look.

O'Brien took a sip of his beer and leaned back, giving the question serious consideration. "I think this was a lot simpler back when we just had serial killers, multiple rapists, and mob shootings to deal with."

"Ah, the good old days," Tom Kirkwood raised his glass of milk and clinked it against O'Brien's beer. "A toast to those, we'll never see their like again." There was a round of 'here, here!''s from around the table.

Hogan snorted, shaking his head. O'Brien gave his oldest friend an amused look. 'Lieutenant' Paul Hogan. After this number of years, and close to retirement age, it should be 'Captain' Hogan, or maybe Deputy Commissioner Hogan even. And O'Brien should have a Lieutenant or even a Captain in front of his name. Major Case Squad was kind of the sinkhole for careers in the Philadelphia Police Department, these days. Not withstanding the highest cleared case ratio in the department, and the lowest incidence of unclosed files. Or formerly, anyway. That stack had gotten thicker in the last five to ten years. About the time that it became clear that solving certain types of cases wasn't encouraged, and that inquisitive and hard nosed cops looking into certain parts of the cities underworld were frowned upon.

Not 'officially', of course. There wasn't anything 'Official' about it. Officially, you got a pat on the back and a commendation, and maybe if the case was high profile enough, an award from the mayor's office and a nice speech. Good doggie.

Unofficially... cops who didn't learn fast to look the other way from certain types of murders or assaults, and what type of details to either leave out of official paperwork or cover with polite euphemisms, found themselves quietly assigned to some of the more dismal parts of Philly. On night shift. Without a partner. Or found promotion opportunities quietly dead ending, no matter how high you scored on tests and interdepartmental aptitudes. Your patrons in the department started finding excuses to not have lunch with you, then began not returning your calls. Good doggie. Slap on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

Major Cases was a bit too high profile for a lot of that, and Hogan was far too good a political infighter. Attempts to disband or break up Major Cases met with a distinct lack of success, or were quietly quashed, often with invisible assistance from higher up the food chains. The Mayor's office found their record handy to be able to point to in election years, or at times when the polls were trending down. But you didn't want to publicly solve too many of the wrong cases, and getting assigned to Major Case Squad was a lateral promotion, and an indication that your career wasn't going anywhere fast.

O'Brien felt bad only for the two younger detectives, Christine Meadows and Stevie Brody. He, Hogan, and Giambione had figured out the score long ago, and had decided for themselves that the game sucked, but it was the only one in town. So had Detectives Carson and Burns, for their own reasons.

Kirkwood excused himself to get up and get another milk from the bar tap, and took the beer pitcher with him to top it off for the table's drinkers. Other departments had squad rooms and briefing rooms. Major Cases had a private room at the back of Nicole's bar, Rimbault's, downtown, after hours once she closed up for the night. Better ambiance than the station's briefing room, and more secure. O'Brien had a friend - one not connected with the force - who swept it regularly for bugs and who'd installed jammers for them to prevent eavesdropping by any that made it in between sweeps. Official meetings happened in the squad briefing room. The meetings where the real work got done on odd cases happened here.

Shrug, "I think it's safe to say that this is another one of those cases," O'Brien answered Hogan's question from a bit before, finally.

Kirkwood set the now full pitcher in the center of the table, and pulled his chair back out. "You mean I get to find new ways to type 'bizarre and unsolvable but not recurring' for my column again?"

"Unless you can figure out a good way to work in 'Unexplained BBQ Fork assault' instead," Giambione smirked. They had the back room to themselves tonight, just the four of them. Christine and Stevie were back out doing footwork on the serial rapist thing, and Carson and Burns were helping watch the ICU ward at the hospital until morning.

"BBQ fork?"

"Sunnydale, California," O'Brien supplied. "They evidently had an epidemic of those before it collapsed into an unexplained sinkhole. Years and years of epidemic."

"What our profilers call an 'oral exsanguination serial'," Hogan said. Tom Kirkwood nodded. One of the 'don't look too closely at the details and don't report them, for gods sakes' types of cases. The Philly Eagle had its own dead end beats for too inquisitive reporters.

"When the Eagle finally collapses under its own dead tree weight," he remarked, "leaving us a one failing paper town, I think I'll move to the internet where I can actually report on all of the stuff we investigate."

"And be just another inter-nut with all the other web wackos?" Hogan laughed.

"Hey - Lileks makes a living at it. It can't pay any worse than my few column inches." Kirkwood shot back, laughing.

"So... you don't think this LeHane woman beat up the Winchesters, then." Hogan asked. "Too bad - it'd make for an easy solve that the department would like."

"No, I don't think they would, really. We'd both be out on forced retirement after her attorneys finished with them," O'Brien said. "Or didn't you take a good look at that part of her jacket?"

"I must've missed that, Kevin. What did I miss?" Hogan frowned.

"Wolfram and Hart. Very high powered. Same firm that was responsible for getting her a rehearing after Sunnydale and her convictions cleared." O'Brien laughed, "She'd end up owning the department by the time they finished with it."

Giambione snorted, "That might almost make it worthwhile."

"Except that her hotel records confirm that she was in her room buying movies and surfing the internet during the time frame when the Winchesters were attacked. And her calls to Dean's cell phone occurred while she was doing so. Her reasons for being in Philly check out so far, also." O'Brien shook his head, "Besides, we don't do that. She may not be lily pure, but the evidence and my gut says she's not guilty on this."

"Gullible, too. She thinks you're one of the good guys," Giambione winked at Kirkwood.

"I am one of the good guys," O'Brien said mildly. "Just because my white hat's at the cleaners today... " He shook his head, and looked at Hogan, "No. Ask me two-three years ago, and I'd have looked at her jacket and said 'Let's round her up'. Now... ?" He frowned, "Real bad guys don't turn themselves in twice. And they don't have their arresting officer volunteer to testify on their behalf at their rehearing. I'll give the benefit of the doubt, for now."

"Ex-cop arresting officer," Hogan objected, just to see what would come back.

"Ex-cop who was put on permanent suspension by the LAPD for looking too close at the kind of cases that get detectives assigned to permanent night shift in bad neighborhoods here. Or that's what comes up if you read between the lines," Giambione said. "And I seem to recall that LeHane escaped from prison during the 'freak meteorological disturbance' over Southern California... the one that ended abruptly soon after she escaped - escaped with the help of one of her former victims, yet."

"Yeah... " O'Brien didn't mention the police jacket that ended abruptly in a classified, blacked out file. He didn't need to: Hogan had already seen it. "She knew about the apparent bite marks on the Winchester brothers. And the nurse we spoke to said that there was no indication that the dressings on their necks had been disturbed, nor disturbed and replaced even if LeHane had the professional training and a medical kit on her somewhere. She had plenty of time to harm them before we got there, and the nurse said that when she arrived she was merely standing there holding Dean Winchester's hand and looking down at him."

"And she had tear tracks on her face when Obie and I caught up to her outside," Giambione frowned, "I don't think she was even aware of it."

"The two Winchester brothers are equally interesting. Mother murdered and home burned down, a fiance murdered, father disappeared under mysterious circumstances after their mother's death. Handful of police encounters they've been involved in have LeHane's BBQ fork incident stamp all over them." O'Brien stated, "However... getting beaten almost to death in Philly isn't a crime."

"Send a memo to Homeland Security," Kirkwood suggested. "It will be in six months."

"Punishable by covert extradition to a non-existent penal facility in Turkey, no doubt." Giambione made a sour face. O'Brien snickered and gave him a sympathetic look. DHS wasn't highly thought of in Major Cases.

"Yeah. Isn't illegal to get beaten to death in Philly, but it is illegal to have a trunk full of weapons, some of them illicit," O'Brien said. "Gives us maybe more than a bit of leverage to get them to loosen up a bit if they clam up when they're conscious again. Either way... they're material witnesses to their own assault. No evidence they were involved in any criminal activity, apart from the guns."

"As long as we can keep that from making it a BATFE case," Carson said. "BATFE will yank jurisdiction out from under us and in about three days, they'll be doing a massive press conference with Homeland Security talking about the two 'dangerous Right-wing militia terrorists' they nabbed."

Hogan nodded, pursing his lips, then taking a sip of his beer. "Another random 'oral exsanguination serial', then."

"And one that probably gets round filed, officially," O'Brien nodded. "But one that we're going to solve anyway, if possible, no matter what we put into the official blotter."

"How do you plan to handle it?" Hogan asked.

"Now you would have to go and ask a hard one... " O'Brien scowled and poured himself another beer.

"It's why I'm a Lieutenant, and you're only a lowly Detective. I get paid an exorbitant salary to ask the hard questions," Hogan replied, sourly, and everyone at the table laughed.

"Hrrm. I like our mysterious fast and vanishing blond for this, and she seems to have a hard on for LeHane," O'Brien said after a time. "I think we stand carefully out of the way, and figure out ways to give LeHane an 'unofficial' hand if needed. Try and keep an eye on the Winchester brothers and make sure they don't finish getting exsanguinated and need a sudden quiet cremation. And watch, a lot."

"And if your and my gut instincts turn out to be bogus and she is wrong?" Frank Giambione raised an eyebrow at him.

Shrug, "Then we land on LeHane with both feet and hope she doesn't kill us or anyone else in the squad before we can take her down." He looked at his partner, "That being the simple part, that's your job."

"Ah," Frank laughed. "I think I'm ready to move up to the harder jobs now. Leaving you the simple ones, old timer." His partner smirked back.

"All right," Hogan levered himself to his feet. "Time to call it a night - I'm getting too old for this late night shit." Frank and O'Brien nodded, getting up themselves and stretching.

"You guys go on," Kirkwood said. "I'll clean up and close up so Nikki doesn't bitch at us. It'll give me time to figure out what to write about before I have to turn my column inches in."

"Million stories in the naked city, Tom. Shouldn't be that hard," Giambione grinned.

"We'll trade jobs and you can try it sometime."

"LeHane's a fan," O'Brien observed as he was shrugging on his coat. "Maybe she'll give you an interview if you ask real nice."



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