Chapter 1: Meeting
A/N: This story is based, for the most part, in the universe of Travis McGee created by John D. MacDonald, although Travis is no longer around but his daughter is continuing in his foot steps. If you are unfamiliar with the Travis McGee series it doesn't matter a whole lot in reading this story, but if you want Wikipedia has a decent article on the series, just search for 'Travis McGee'.
Disclaimer 1: The characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Travis McGee series do not belong to me. All I do is write about my imaginings for them.
Disclaimer 2: There is femslash and violent hetero-sexual rape in this story, don't read it if you can't handle it. The pairings are Buffy/Jake/Frankie.
The thunderstorm that had rumbled through ten minutes before had temporarily suppressed the muggy heat of the late autumn Florida night. It had been uncharacteristically hot and humid for the last few days, but the heat wave appeared to finally be breaking. I had been able to avoid most of the downpour, waiting it out in the doorway of a closed shop. As I walked down the glistening sidewalk the lights and sounds of a busy nightlife two blocks in front of me were becoming more appearant. I walked at a steady pace, neither hurried nor strolling, but making my way purposefully - this was not a bad part of Miami but it was not completely safe either.
I started to relax a little, the latest salvage comfortably in the pack on my back. In another couple of hours I would collect my recovery fee, after taking my expenses off the top, half of the recovery for me and half for the original owner; then we would go our separate ways, happy, if not completely satisfied, with the outcome. As I explained to all my prospective clients, half is a hell of a lot better than nothing. While my clients may have preferred something better, by the time I came into the picture they had exhausted all other possibilities, my solution offered them at least something, and it cost them nothing if I didn’t produce.
In modern society the ways of getting ripped off are innumerable, I could have kept myself constantly employed, but I preferred taking my retirement in chunks as I could afford it. This little salvage job would fund at least another year, more if I was careful. It had only taken a week to locate the missing jewels, and a small subterfuge and a little sleight of hand to swap the fakes back for the real ones and to disappear back into the night.
The owner’s sentimental attachment was more than their actual value so in this case we had negotiated a mutually agreed upon value, all I had to do was present the little gems and collect my share in cash and we would be square.
I tensed and slowed my pace just slightly as I neared a dark alley, a muffled noise coming from it triggering my caution. I listened carefully and heard a clanging thud as something heavy hit something metallic in the alley. I looked around and nothing was on the street or sidewalks near me, the bright lights of the main street still a block and a half away. More sounds of scuffling, then a louder thud and a sharp high-pitched scream started and immediately cut off. I stepped out from the entrance to the alley and forward at the same time so I could see down the alley. Nothing was visible in the dim light but I heard some more scuffling and then a heavy ‘thunk’, then there was silence.
After a few moments there was the sound of some movement and what sounded like a painful gasp; then it was quiet. I squatted slowly, keeping my eyes on the alley, and pulled up my right pants leg to expose my artificial leg, the one I was wearing this night was my walking leg, it gave me an almost completely natural walk; only someone knowledgeable about prosthetics would recognize that I had an artificial limb. It wasn’t great for running but I had been more concerned about identifying traits than speed this evening, and I am memorable enough as it is.
The other advantage of this leg is that the main structure is three titanium rods, I’d done some modification so that my Walther PPK was secured in a spring clip to the back of the front rod and protected on either side by the other two rods. I disliked trying to carry a purse in most situations, besides having your gun in a purse usually means it’s inaccessible when you need it most. Trying to carry a concealed pistol, considering women’s fashion dictates, would require it to almost always be in an ankle holster, this was even better because I could carry wearing any kind of slacks that I would wear.
I gripped the pistol and pulled it free and then slowly stood, my concentration fixed on the alley but it remained quiet. I didn’t want to go down that alley, but I was also sure that the chopped off scream I had heard had been from a woman. After another few moments I started working my way down the alley, I kept to the center to keep clear of the piles of rubbish, dumpsters, and miscellaneous junk that lined either side.
As I got further into the alley and my eyes adjusted to the dim light within I could see a faint shape on the ground next to a dumpster. When I got closer I could make out the form of a young woman, a teenager it appeared, sprawled on the ground. Her blond hair covered her face and her cheek was resting in a puddle. I crouched by her head and gently reached down with my left hand to touch the side of her neck while keeping my eyes focused on the alley in front of me. It appeared deserted; I could hear nothing but the soft patter of water dripping off of the eaves of the surrounding buildings.
I felt a steady pulse, but the body was slack, I gently shook her shoulder but it moved without any resistance. I risked a quick glance down and confirmed my initial impression; she was small and lithe, clad in dark jeans and a black t-shirt, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. As I looked down her body I noticed her left leg was at an awkward angle, bending unnaturally a couple of inches above her knee.
A gust of wind from the next line of thunderstorms swirled down the alley and blew up a cloud of dust causing me to cough and sneeze. Where the dust had come from in the rain soaked alley I couldn’t tell, something must have been broken open or knocked over in the fight that had injured the girl but I couldn’t see what it was. I looked around and couldn’t find any purse or bag that might have been the girl’s, the alley remained silent and felt deserted except for the two of us.
I continued to scan the alley for another couple of minutes before deciding that whoever had beaten her up had left. He must have gone in the other direction as I worked my way down the alley; there wasn’t any sign of sexual assault that I could see in the dim light, probably just a drunken boyfriend who hadn’t gotten what he wanted from his girlfriend so he had beaten the crap out of her. I couldn’t see any other injuries to her, I brushed her ponytail off of her face, there may have been some bruising near her eye but it was hard to tell in the dim light.
Being as gentle as I could I got my arms under her shoulders and legs and picked her up, she couldn’t have weighed much over a hundred pounds so I didn’t have any trouble carrying her. I still had my pistol in my hand and it made it a little awkward carrying her, but I wanted to be ready in case the boyfriend or whoever came back. When I reached the mouth of the alley I glanced down the street in both directions, it was still deserted, and then the next line of squalls reached us and the rain started pouring down.
I hurried down the street as fast as I could with my burden, trying not to jar her leg. I think she started to come to, I thought I heard another high pitched gasp and feel her body tense, but then she was slack again. I reached the car I was using, a rental I had picked up for tonight’s little mission. Bracing her against the car I was able to get my hand in my pocket and hit the unlock button on the key fob. I got the rear door open and slid her onto the bench seat; I got her lying on the seat, a seat belt around her to hold her in place and another around her broken leg to try to keep it from bouncing around.
By the time I was done the squall line had blown through, I threw the backpack with the salvage on the floor in front of the passenger seat. As I pulled away from the curb I decided to head to the hospital I knew, it was further from where I was than some others but then I didn’t really want to be associated with the area where I was. I knew a similar alley configuration only a mile or two from that hospital, I’d tell them that was where I had found her.
It took about twenty minutes to get to the hospital and I hadn’t heard anything from my passenger. Just as I pulled into the hospital parking lot a voice from behind demanded, “Where are you taking me?”
I risked a glance back and saw she was on her elbow, grimacing in pain, “The ER, you’re legs broken.”
“No!” Then we hit a speed bump in the hospital parking lot and her eyes went round in pain and she collapsed back onto the seat.
I ignored her and returned my attention to driving, I pulled up in front of the emergency room doors, the ones with big signs that said “Ambulance’s Only”, and laid on the horn. A nurse was coming through the door as I got out of the car, “You can’t park here!”
“I’ve got an injured woman in the back seat! Get her out and I’ll move the car!”
The nurse opened the rear door and saw my passenger; the pain must have convinced her that the emergency room was the best place because she didn’t say anything to the nurse as she turned and yelled back at the door, “Gurney!”
In a moment two more people were rushing out, wheeling a gurney between them. I opened the rear door on my side of the car and started to free the girl from the seat belts. Once she was free the nurses on the other side slide a backboard under her and carefully worked her out of the car. As soon as they were clear I hopped back into the car, I yelled at them as I pulled away, “I’ll get this out of here!”
I was just about clear of the ambulance bay when I saw the doctor step out of the door, he glanced at the body on the gurney and then at me, “Jake! What’s going on?”
I thought, I had almost gotten clear before someone recognized me. I yelled back at him, “Got to park the car!”
I drove over to the parking area and made sure everything was secure. I left the back pack on the floor in front of the front seat, shoved far enough under it wouldn’t be visible from outside the car. I took the gun out of its spring clip and locked it in the glove box. Then shut and locked the car, hoping some car thief wouldn’t pick tonight to steal a car out of a hospital parking lot.
I walked back into the emergency room and Dr. Jacobson was waiting for me, “Collecting broken birds again?”
I grinned shyly at him, “Always on the lookout.”
“So what’s with the girl?”
I shook my head, “I haven’t the foggiest. I was driving home when some guy comes running pell-mell out of that alley next to Fogarty’s and I nearly hit him. Fortunately I had just turned onto 93rd so I wasn’t going very fast and was able to stop, I was looking down the alley to see what he was running from and I saw her on the ground. Nobody was around so I went to take a look, I saw her leg and loaded her into the car and brought her here.”
“What were you doing down there at this time of night?”
“Coming back from the city, a little night out on the town.”
He nodded at me, “Good thing you brought her in.”
“Well, no problem. I’ll be taking off…”
“You better hang around for the cops.”
“I would rather not…”
He nodded, “If I have to?”
“Yeah, if you have to, otherwise it was just a good Samaritan.”
I headed back to my car and went and met the client. He was as good as his word and I had my cash, I headed straight back to my home, the Busted Flush
, a house boat I keep moored in slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, Ft Lauderdale. I got the money into its hidey hole and started to head for bed, but the thought of the girl wouldn’t leave me. Doc Jacobson’s accusation of my collecting busted birds was accurate; she hadn’t been the first one I brought into that hospital.
Shaking my head in disgust at myself I headed back out to the rental. Ten minutes later I was back at the ER, as I walked in I noticed two cops over at the side talking to the Doc. “Great”
, I thought, “Perfect bloody timing!”
I walked over to them, might as well act as if I had nothing to hide. “Evening again, Doc. How’s she doing?”
He looked up at me, a little startled that I was back, “Uh… She’s up in the OR getting that leg set.”
One of the cops was looking at me, “Miss, are you the one that found her?”
“Can I have your name?”
“Jean Killian McGee, but call me Jake.”
“Don’t really like Jean, tried to go by JK but it got stretched out to Jake.”
He nodded at me, “So what happened?”
I gave him the same story I’d given Doc, no intelligent description on the guy fleeing the scene, just a body in front of the car. After a couple of more questions they let me go. Doc walked away with me, “Did you find out who she is?”
“She had a driver’s license in the back pocket of her jeans, along with about twenty dollars and a motel key for one of those by the week or month dumps down in North Miami, a long way from where you found her.”
I didn’t rise to the bait, “She have a name, or does she go by her driver’s license number?”
He looked at me for a moment longer, “Anne Winters, and the address was the same as the motel.”
“Do you think I can see her?”
“You can go up and wait, but it will probably be a couple of hours before she comes out of the anesthesia. I’ll have them get you when you can go in and see her.”
I took the elevator up to the surgical floor and went down the hall to the waiting room near the recovery suite. I took a seat and contemplated the familiar surroundings. I knew the hospital pretty well; too well actually, having spent most of two weeks there two years ago when my father collapsed and then faded away, they never were able to identify the bug that got him. He had been racked by fevers and chills, they suspected something tropical but nothing they did had helped.
He had been lucid most of the time, right up until the end. His friends came by and I heard a lot of the old stories, ones he had never felt comfortable telling me himself because they involved people that were still around. He would say it was their story to tell, they would share it or not, it was not something he could divulge. Uncle Meyer spent a lot of time with me, with both of us, trying to be hearty but being crushed by what was going on. It was good for me; I had to spend some energy making sure Meyer was okay.
I had gotten twelve good, well good and bad, years to know him. When I was sixteen I came down to Florida, telling my Aunt Velma who had raised me that I was visiting a friend in Santa Barbara, to punish the man who had deserted both me and my mother before I was born. I had tried tormenting him with little reminders of my mother, Puss Killian, but the man was so dense and clueless that they never meant anything to him. Then one night he had caught me trying to plant another one of my little gifts, a stick figure of a cat made from pipe cleaners, on the Busted Flush
I found out he wasn’t dense; he just never made the connection because he had never known that my mother was pregnant, he had never considered the idea that he might have a daughter. I read the last letter my mother wrote him, telling him of her impending death and thanking him for making a bright spot in her life. And thanking Meyer for his law, “the hard thing to do is the right thing,” which made her come back to her husband to spend the remainder of her life with him. I never met the man; he sent money to help support me but couldn’t deal with me, the child of some other man, so my mom’s sister raised me with her own kids. She did a good job; it was a crazy house but full of love and fun.
We were all home schooled most of the time, I spent two years in high school taking classes Aunt Velma wasn’t comfortable trying to teach, and finished two years ahead of my peers. I decided it was time to confront the beach bum of a biological father that had never even bothered to try to contact me. I knew about him from stories that Aunt Velma told me; how when he found out my mom was dying and pregnant he sent her back to her husband. It had always bothered me that my mom had let herself be treated that way; I didn’t have a very positive opinion of either of my biological parents.
Then I read the letter she had written him. He hadn’t kicked her out, she had returned of her own volition. And he never knew she was pregnant, her letter didn’t mention that in even the most oblique way. We got to know each other slowly, we talked a lot and I finally realized why my mother never mentioned me. Travis was a grasshopper, a free spirit, but he also had a tremendous sense of responsibility, if he had known of me he would have instantly abandoned his life and provided a home for me and raised me to the best of his ability. He would have done a good job, I thought, but it also would have killed him and destroyed the life that my mother had loved with him. She couldn’t do that to him.
I had gone back to Ohio, back to the life I had always known, and started college at Ohio State as I had planned the next fall. I spent vacations and what free time I had during the summer on the Busted Flush
with my dad. But I was in ROTC so most of the summer was spent at summer camp. It wasn’t enough so after the first year I transferred to the University of Miami so I could see dad more. I finished school and got my commission, then completed the helicopter pilot training just in time to go to the middle east for Gulf War I, four months later I was shipped, or at least 90% of me, was shipped back home.
Dad moved to an apartment near the rehab facility where I was recovering and learning how to live with one leg gone below the knee. I will admit I was a basket case and it took some tough love on his part to snap me out of it. After six months the Army was done with me and dad hauled me back to the Busted Flush
and started his own rehab regimen. It took another five or six months before I finally came all the way out of my funk, it happened when he hauled me along on one of his ‘salvage’ jobs. After that we became a pretty good team.
I moved off the Busted Flush
and into a condo of my own, it was just a little too weird for him to have me there all the time. I cramped his style, but it was strictly his problem not mine. I didn’t care if he brought some lady home with him for a night or a month, he had good taste and I never had a problem with any of his female friends. He had a tougher time dealing with the partners I brought home, he handled it pretty well the first time he met a guy coming out of my cabin at eight in the morning to join us for breakfast. He had a harder time the next time, a couple of weeks later, when it was a girl I had met the night before. It took some long discussions before he finally accepted that, for me at least, the sex of my partner was not a concern of mine, other things were more important to me.
We spent a lot of time together, both in the salvage operations and just hanging out. We went cruising together on the Busted Flush
innumerable times, from day cruises to four months we spent together, just the two of us, our excuse was to explore the Bahamas but it had mostly been to get over a salvage that had gone terribly wrong before we could solve it. Both of us had nearly bought it on that one and it shook us, it took lots of long talks and quiet nights anchored off of deserted islands before our nerves and psyches were repaired enough to face day to day life.
I grinned to myself, remembering how at the beginning of that cruise we had been around each other, like two bottles of nitro ready to explode at the least provocation. After two weeks tucked into a deserted cove I had finally relaxed enough to actual fall asleep and sleep thru the night and half of the next day. Waking up in the middle of the afternoon I felt all sticky and sweaty from eighteen hours sprawled in the hot stuffy cabin. We weren’t running the air-conditioning to conserve fuel, and before I’d gone to sleep the evening before I had closed the ports to keep out the rain from a line of squalls going over us.
I had peeled off the t-shirt I was wearing and grabbed a towel and headed topside. Hopping on my one leg I reached the stern, I checked we were still anchored, nothing had changed. I dove over the side and spent ten minutes splashing around in the cool water. I climbed back on board and grabbed my towel and headed up the ladder to the sundeck. I laid out the towel and lay down, looking up at the azure blue sky with only a few white puffy clouds in it, letting the warm sun dry me and remove the last of the chill from the water.
A few minutes later I heard dad’s voice from the stern deck, “Jake, you want something cold?”
I yelled back to him, “Beer would be good.”
A minute later I heard footsteps coming up the aft ladder, as he reached the top of the ladder he said, “One cold one coming… Oh, sorry!” And I heard him heading back down.
“Dad, where are you going?” I yelled after him.
“Jean,” he always used my real name when he was upset, “you don’t have any clothes on!”
“Well get used to it!” For some unknown reason I exploded, “I’m not going to bother putting a suit on just because I want to take a dip. Just like I’m not going to put that damn leg on unless I need it!”
“Jean, I’m not running some damn nudist colony for my daughter!”
I got up and hopped to the aft rail; he had stopped three quarters of the way down the ladder and was staring up at the rail when I came into view, “Hey man! You missed out on seeing me naked and changing my diapers. You can damn well deal with it now!”
He turned his head away from me, “Jean! Get a towel on!”
“NO!” He looked back at me startled at the way I had screamed the word, “Take a good look at me, I’m no different than any of the women you’ve bedded in your life except I’m missing half my leg!”
He shook his head, “It’s not the leg that bothers me…”
“Dad! If it’s not the leg then what’s your problem?”
“Jean, it’s the rest of your body!”
“Hey, I think it’s a pretty good body!”
For one of the few times in my life I saw my father blush, “It is… that’s the problem…”
“Are you worried about jumping my bones? If so don’t, I’m big enough to take care of myself, don’t worry about that.”
“No! It’s just… I shouldn’t be seeing you, my daughter, like that.”
I snorted at him, “Well, get used to it! Because I think I’m going clothes free for the next month!”
I turned and went back to my towel and laid back down, I heard dad go down the ladder the rest of the way and realized I hadn’t gotten my beer, “Hey! Dad!”
“Where’s my beer?”
There was silence for several minutes and then I heard him coming back up the ladder, there was a slight hesitation at the top and then his steps were approaching me. I opened my eyes and saw him towering over me and then squatting down to hand me a beer, “Thanks, Dad.”
“Pull up a chair, we need to talk.”
A hand on my shoulder brought me out of my revere, “Miss, you can see your friend now.”