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A Puzzle in the Pacific Northwest

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This story is No. 4 in the series "Geography Lessons". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Faith & Racquel are on the Job Again

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > West Wing
Highlander > General
Multiple Crossings > Faith-Centered
RichFR181943,86133714,03913 May 1423 Aug 14No

Chapter One

Disclaimer : I own Racquel Sanchez, and Doreen. I don't own the Buffyverse, or the West Wing, or any other people, shows, or universes which might eventually appear in this story.

On The Bridge

Detective Eric Thibadeau had eighteen years on the force. He was forty five years old, a trim six feet tall, favored three-piece suits, and had close cropped black hair and a complexion like milk chocolate.

Sergeant Theresa O'Malley had served twelve years in the department. Her age was nobody's damn business, but she had once resembled a young Maureen O'Hara; and that had been ten years and about twenty pounds ago.

Officer Lee Huong was one year out of the academy. He was twenty three, five foot ten inches tall, solidly built, and right now he wasn't looking too good. His superiors didn't blame him a bit, considering what was on the other side of the yellow crime scene tape.

"Those two", said O'Malley, "know more than they're saying". She inclined her head towards the people standing by the patrol car, a well dressed brown-haired man who looked about forty, and a tall blond woman in her late twenties.

"For sure", replied Thibadeau. "But they're not the perps". O'Malley nodded in agreement, but Huong looked a bit puzzled.

"Are we sure about that part, sir ?", he asked. "I mean, I know they don't have any weapons, but we're on a bridge, only a few feet from the water. They could have just tossed whatever they used over the side before we got here".

"That's not bad, officer", said Thibadeau, "they could have done that. But whoever did that had to get up close and personal". He pointed to the body lying on the pavement. "A wound like that one doesn't just bleed, it sprays - the killer would have blood all over himself, and those two don't have a drop on them, not even on their shoes. They didn't even get close to the body".

"Well", said O'Malley, "it's not as if they needed to check for a pulse".

"Besides", he continued, "they're tourists, and the killer is probably local". O'Malley glared at him, and Huong raised his eyebrows. "Shit", said the detective, "I probably shouldn't have said that part out loud, should I ?"



Earlier That Day

"Does your boss know we're meeting ?", he inquired.

"We aren't, Josh", said Donna. "I'm taking an afternoon off, since the Vice President won't need me for the banquet. I told Will that I wanted to check out the park; and that's exactly what I'm doing".

She knew, and she knew that Will probably suspected, that the banquet would probably not be a success. The event was the finale of a three-day conference of Mayors of western cities; the Vice President would give a good speech (written, of course, by Will). But he'd be following Congressman Santos, and Matt Santos had actually been a successful Mayor of Houston, which gave him a credibility with this audience that Bob Russell couldn't match. She thought that it had been a mistake to even attend, and had said so. Will hadn't been happy about that.

"Then why am I here ?", he asked.

"Because you're sneaky and manipulative, and you knew that I'd be here", she replied. "I'm a little surprised you even remembered that I told you about this place".

"Of course I remembered. I remember every single word of those endless streams of trivia you used to bombard me with", he answered.

"Every word ?", she asked.

"Okay, maybe every other word. You were right, by the way. This is a nice place", he said.

The "place" was a small island in the harbor, connected to the mainland by a short bridge. It had been set aside as a park, with an aquarium. They were sitting near a display of Native American totem poles, in front of a small stand of pines. The day was warm, and a light breeze blew off of the water.

Along the opposite shore were a row of colorful houseboats, with the buildings of the city rising behind them. The late afternoon sun threw everything into sharp relief, especially the needlelike tower that was the city's best-known landmark.

"I'm glad you weren't in that underground mall", he said. "I don't think I could have found you in that place". The mall had been built by linking the basement levels of several downtown buildings, which Josh thought was a very ingenious idea.

"I mostly wanted to see the aquarium", said Donna. "Josh, why are you here ? Didn't we say everything there was to say back in DC ?"

"We didn't say much of anything, as I remember", he answered. Her head snapped around and she glared at him. "And that was all my fault", he continued, "because I knew what you probably wanted to talk about and I didn't want to hear it, so I kept putting you off".

"It wasn't you", she said. "I just...needed to move on, assume more responsibility. I couldn't get that working for you".

"I tried", he said. "I sent you to Gaza, and look how that worked out".

"You didn't plant the damn bomb, Josh", Donna replied. "And that job was just babysitting the press, anyway".

"Maybe, but you were on your own, with nobody looking over your shoulder", he said. "It could have been a first step to something bigger".

"It wasn't", she said.

"No, because you almost died, and I got scared", he answered. "See, I'm admitting that now. I was scared, and I was selfish, and I held you back because I was afraid of losing you".

"Josh...", she said.

"Donna, I'm trying to be noble and honest and stuff here. Do you really want to discourage that ?", he said with a dimpled smile.

She laughed in spite of herself. "God forbid that I should interfere with your one moment of false humility", she responded. The dimples always got to her.



In the Mountains

They'd been camping out for a week. It was Graham Miller who suggested it. As a teenager, he'd gone on a family trip to Mount Ranier, and he'd never forgotten it.

Buffy wanted the candidates for the Troubleshooting teams to be able to operate in different environments. The dense forests and snowcapped peaks of the Cascade Range were certainly different from anything that most of them were used to. Besides, it was fun.

"Vamps are strong, fast, agile, and tough, and a lot of them seem to have an instinctive knowledge of fighting moves. We still haven't figured that last part out.", Faith said. "But fighting tactics is a different thing. Most vamps, for example, will block and then counterattack...".

"What's wrong with that", asked the slim auburn haired girl. 'Doreen', thought Sanchez.

"You've got two hands, right ?", Faith replied. "So why not block with one and attack with the other at the same time ? 'Cause usually they won't expect that, especially if they're newbies".

Racquel Sanchez watched as Faith taught the small group of girls the finer points of hand to hand combat. She wouldn't have expected it, but the Boston born Senior Slayer was actually a pretty good teacher. It helped that most of the girls seemed to regard Faith with a mixture of awe and terror. 'Just like the DIs back in boot camp', she thought.

"Wouldn't it be smarter to fight them at a distance ?", asked Doreen. The English girl was as persistent as she was perceptive.

"Sure it would", replied Faith, "if they were dumb enough to let you. But a vamp is going to want to use its fangs, so it'll try to close the distance in a hurry. So you need to be able to deal with that; that's why we've been working on ju jitsu and aiki jitsu for the last couple of days. Those systems were invented for that kind of situation".

Doreen nodded; she saw the point that Faith was trying to make. With the right grappling moves, you could use a vamp's own instinctive attack against it; turn the rush into a throw, bring the creature to the ground and stake it before it recovered.

"But sometimes that won't work. And if you have to trade punches, then you don't want the vamp in charge of the fight; you want to grab control and keep it. Go on the attack the first chance you get, and make the bloodsucker dance to your tune, right ? So today", continued Faith, "we'll be working on combination moves... and if we have time, I'll show you how to turn a block into a counterrattack".



In the Park

They strolled along the walkway down along the shore. It was getting cooler now that the sun had set.

"So, how do you like working for the VP ?", he asked.

"It's good", she answered. "You guys all sell him too short, you know. He's not a bad guy, and he's not dumb. He deserves more respect than he usually gets".

"Spoken like a loyal assistant", said Josh; "and I don't think he's dumb. But he's no Jed Bartlet".

"Nobody is President Bartlet, Josh", she said. "Sometimes, even President Bartlet isn't President Bartlet".

Josh nodded. "Yeah, I admit he's not perfect. But you have to admit he's a leader, and Bob Russell is really not".

"That sentence is unworthy of someone with a 760 verbal, Joshua", she said.

"Well, it sounded better in my head", he responded.

"Also", she continued, "it's a little odd for a man your age to still be bragging about his SAT scores. And Vice President Russell is the presumptive nominee", Donna replied.

"Sure he is", said Josh. "Because everybody always says that the sitting Vice President is the frontrunner the next time around. But if you ask those same people if they're gonna actually vote for him, they all get very quiet".

"Yeah, I know", she said quietly.

"I'm not going to ask you to betray any campaign secrets, but I'd guess that Will is tearing his hair out pretty often these days", said Josh. "Or he would be, if it wasn't so short already".

Donna's face revealed nothing but he knew he was right. Will Bailey would want to seize every opportunity. He'd put his candidate in front of the people, and the cameras, as often as possible. But the VP was treating his victory like a foregone conclusion, doing what he had to do but no more.

"Is Santos any better ?", asked Donna.

"Let's say the Congressman has his own ideas", said Josh, "some of which are way different from mine. But I can work with that, because at least he has ideas. Sometimes I can bring him around, and sometimes he brings me around".

"I saw him do that once", said Donna. "You remember the stem cell thing, when a bunch of Congressmen basically hid out so that the Speaker would think that they were all out of town ?"

"That was one of those ideas I was talking about. He surprised the hell out of me when he came up with that", said Josh. "I didn't realize you'd been involved, though".

"I was crashing in the Vice President's office when it started, and ended up in charge of the logistics", she said. "Coffee, donuts, blankets, stuff like that. It was kind of like running a slumber party. Anyway, I overheard a lot of the discussion in the room. He was good at it. He really connects to people, and he's a good debater".

"Good enough that you'd consider changing sides ?", asked Josh.

He didn't think that she'd go for it, and he was right. "I serve at the pleasure of the Vice President, Josh. Just like you serve at the pleasure of your candidate", she said.

"I figured you'd say that...He remembers you too, you know", he said.

"Yeah, he called me 'Russell's chickenfighter'", she replied with a crooked smile.

"Just out of curiosity, what will you say if I ask you the same question after the convention ?", he inquired.

"After the convention, maybe I'll be offering you a job", she answered.



In the Mountains

They'd be breaking camp in the morning. After a week of hiking, climbing, sparring, and playing capture the flag in the woods, Faith was ready for a roof over her head and pavement under her feet; but Sanchez had other ideas.

"Yeah, I know", Faith said, "Most of the world's population lives within fifty miles of the water, ain't that what you Marines say ?"

"Something like that, yes", Racquel replied. "Where there's water, there are people; and where there are people..."

"...There's vamps", finished Faith. "I get that part. I get that knowing how to handle ourselves in the water could be useful. I get that rafts, canoes, and small boats might come in handy. And I like the ocean. I was just hoping to get a few days in civilization before heading back into the wilderness".

"Civilization ?", asked Sanchez. "You mean biker bars and pool halls ?"

Faith glared at her. "Everybody's got their hobbies. Do I make fun of your rodeo trophies ? Calf stomping and bucket kicking, or whatever they are ?", she asked.

Sanchez was briefly distracted by a disturbing mental image of 'calf stomping'; then she smiled. "Well, if it helps, it'll only be for a week. And the Pacific coast isn't all wilderness, in fact the part we're headed for isn't that different from where you grew up. You'll have plenty of opportunities for your hobbies...you might even pick up some new ones".

Faith raised an eyebrow, turned her back to the breeze and cupped her hands around her cigarette. Then she lit it and took a long drag. She didn't look happy, but she wasn't arguing.



In the Park

They kept strolling until well after dark. They didn't talk much, which surprised her a little bit. She supposed that the truth was that they didn't really need to. Their work in the White House hadn't just been something that they did, it was something that they lived; and for years they'd been living it together. After so much shared time, they could read each other's silences and finish each other's sentences.

Their trademark banter wasn't really about communication at all, it was more about mutual stimulation; and when you looked at it that way, it was actually kind of sexy. She suddenly saw Sam and Ainsley's constant arguing in a whole new light.

They both felt betrayed, they were both angry, they both knew it, and they both knew why. And Donna was pretty sure that they were both ready to move past it.

Which didn't mean that she was going to take the job which Josh had offered (or implied, at least).

She wasn't that stupid. She wouldn't work under Josh again; but it was barely possible that she might someday work with him.

The walkway along the water was wide and comfortable; and mostly empty at this hour. They hadn't seen anyone else for more than twenty minutes.

Then, from the darkness ahead of them, they heard the clashing of steel-on-steel.

And then they saw the men on the bridge, followed shortly by lightning and explosions.



On the Bridge

The sergeant sighed, and Thibadeau looked embarrassed. O'Malley turned to Huong and said, "Officer Huong, this is an ongoing investigation. Do I need to review departmental policy on that subject ?"

"No ma'am", said the officer. "No information is to be released to the public, except by the department's authorized spokespersons, under any circumstances".

"Right", said O'Malley. "Whatever you hear here tonight is to be kept strictly within the department, understand ?"

"Yes ma'am", Huong replied, "I got it".

O'Malley and Thibadeau looked at each other, and nodded; O'Malley turned back to Huong and spoke again. "This isn't the first one of these. There have been at least four others, in the last six years".

"There are a couple of others that are older", said Thibadeau. "But we aren't sure about those".

Huong looked thoughtful. "That's what you meant about the killer being a local; he'd have to be from around here, or at least he'd have to be someone who spent a lot of time here".

"Right", answered Thibadeau. "There wasn't any usable forensic evidence from the others - some DNA, but it didn't lead anywhere. No useful witnesss, either. There doesn't seem to be any connection between the vics, but they do have some things in common. All of them were from out of town. All of them had fake IDs, or no ID. And all of them were killed the same way, probably with something like a sword, and the killer most likely is a man, because it would take some upper body strength to make a cut like that".

"So..." said O'Malley, "somewhere in the Seacouver area, there's somebody who's been cutting off people's heads.



A/N: "Seacouver" is a combination of Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Ciolumbia. I visited both cities about twenty years ago, and I've drawn on some (rather dim) memories for this story. The "needlelike tower" should be obvious to anyone who's been to Seattle. The houseboats and underground mall are in Vancouver; as is Stanley park, although apparently it's on a penisula, not an island. For some reason I remember it as an island, and I think it works a little better that way in the story, so that's how I wrote it. It's a fictional city, so who says it can't have a fictional bridge in it ?

Also, the writers of the West Wing maximized the drama by having Josh and Donna act like idiots in seasons six and seven; I didn't agree with that, so I'm changing it a little bit.

AS always, reviews are welcome.
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