~ Roadkill ~
by Planet-solin

Disclaimers: These characters are of my own creation and may not be used without my written consent. This is an uber-fiction with gals that made seem familiar but I always liked tall dark and handsome and blond and beautiful.

Sexual content: This story is about a love and friendship between two adult women. If offended by two women in love, stop now.

Comments: If you have any comments or suggestions please write planet-solin@england.com.

Chapter One

The unmarked cruiser came to a halt outside the yellow police barricades and a small blond woman stepped out from behind the wheel. Sydney stood for a moment, sucking in a lung full of the crisp night air as her emerald eyes surveyed the scene. As usual a curious mix of onlookers had gathered across the street, drawn by the innate curiosity that was brought on by the brilliant flashing of emergency lights and the knowledge that some grotesque crime had been committed.

She scanned the crowd, peering into the individual faces and then looked beyond into the shadows around them, but she could sense nothing unusual. She had been told that the criminals were sometimes drawn back to the scene of the crime, pulled by the morbid fascination of the brutality they had committed. She had never found that scenario true in any of the cases she had yet worked.

She sighed and hunched deeper into the warmth of her leather bomber jacket. Gods it feels like rain, she thought and then gave a short laugh. This is Seattle, when doesn't it rain.

Abruptly she dismissed her thoughts and strolled towards the center of all the chaos, flashing the badge that hung on a chain around her neck at the patrolman who moved to intercept her progress. He nodded with an apologetic smile and let her pass. A quick sweep of the scene and she knew everything was under control, which could only mean that a veteran of the force was on site. A smile came to her lips as she recognized the man in uniform who was barking instructions to the others.

"Newlie, good to see you," she greeted the ruddy faced police Sergeant as she sidled up to him. The man turned his head at the sound of her voice and his eyes lit up.

"Hey kid, you pulled this one, did you?" He actually smiled, which according to his subordinates was something he rarely did

"Yep," she replied allowing her eyes to drop to the inert form that lay sprawled on the pavement in a large pool of blood. Truth was she was half an hour from finishing her shift when the phone rang. The Third shift was already on duty and it had been pure reflex on her part that had made her answer the call. To late she had realized her mistake but there was no grudge in her voice when she spoke again.

"What have we got?"

"Can't make out for certain but we assume he's an Asian male, 19-23 years of age, no identifying marks and appears to have been killed by a single shotgun blast to the face," the older man reeled off the little information he had already collected. "I have my men out doing a door to door, but so far the only thing we've come up with is someone heard a shot followed by squealing tires."

"Shit," Sydney briefly allowed her feelings to show. "I've got two reds already on the board I don't need another."

"Is the Lieutenant giving you grief?" the Sergeant asked and she cast him a sarcastic glance.

"He's made a bet with the Lieutenants on the opposite shifts," she said repeating the rumours that had been circulating through the department for the last month. "The one whose shift gets the most clearances by the New Year gets a big meal at the Space Needle and a night at the Regency."

The Sergeant snorted. The competition that existed between the different shifts in the Homicide Squad was common knowledge through the whole rank and file. Various precincts had even been taking bets on who would win and which detective would score the most clearances. He had put his money on the woman who now stood next to him.

Sydney Davis was still considered relatively new to the squad with under a year of service but she had shown signs of brilliance, clearing cases that the veterans considered impossible. He had placed his money on her knowing that he would probably lose it, but for him it was a matter of loyalty. He watched as she dropped to her hunches for a closer view of the body.

"Looks like another road kill," the Sergeant chuckled and the blond detective snorted causing the other uniformed officers nearby to laugh.

Sydney had been with the Unit only two weeks before she had responded to her first homicide where the victim had been rendered unrecognizable by their injuries. When the senior detective on the case had asked her impressions she had simply stated that the person looked like road kill, as the lifeless body had reminded her of the animals she had often seen lying dead alongside the highway.

Her honest assessment had been made without thought and she had immediately been embarrassed but it had made the officers present laugh and the term had stuck. Now nine months later the uniformed patrolmen took special delight in using the phrase in her presence.

Sydney pulled two pairs of latex gloves out of her pocket and snapped them onto her hands before starting her external examination. The body was stiff and rigour mortis had begun to set in so it was a good bet to assume that the victim had been dead for awhile before anyone had called in the shooting, which in this area of the city wasn't unusual. Other then the face which was completely obliterated from the blast, the body was in relatively good shape.

"Were there any witnesses?" she asked although she already knew the answer.

"None," the Sergeant replied and then added hopefully. "My men are still canvassing the area."

"Good," she nodded poking carefully at the body. "Did you see the game last night?"

"Part of it," the man replied marvelling at the way she so easily switched from one subject to a totally different topic in one breath. "Did they win?"

"They blew it in the last quarter," Sydney replied and continued her examination. "I want your men to go over this area with a fine tooth comb. I don't think we'll find anything but I want to make sure we don't miss anything."

The Sergeant nodded, jotting something down in his notepad before turning his attention back onto the small detective. He watched as she gingerly searched the dead victim, checking his pockets, looking for any means of identification. It wasn't surprising to any of them that she found no wallet or jewellery on the body.

"You think it's a gang hit?" he asked noticing the puzzled expression on her face.

"Hmm," was all Sydney would commit too.

Her gut instinct told her that when they finally ran the victims prints they would find that he belonged to one of the cities gangs. But if the patrolmen were right and the man was Asian then the location of the body and the absence of any identification was puzzling. This section of town was predominantly Black and Hispanic.

She glanced up in thought and noticed a rather grumpy looking woman making her way through the police barricades towards them. Not far behind was the bespectacled man from the Medical Examiner's office, his black wagon parked not far from her own sedan. She turned her attention to the woman.

"Hey, Janice," she called out in greeting and the woman with the curly brown hair glanced up with a sour look on her face.

"Hey yourself," came the caustic reply.

"Wow, some ones in a bad mood," Sydney teased taking a guess as to the source of the woman's displeasure.

"Well, you guys have the worst habit of calling at the most inopportune times," Janice grumbled looking with disdain at the limp form on the ground and making no attempt to hide the fact that she resented him for dying and spoiling her evening.

"What's the matter did we get you away from a hot date?" the blond detective asked trying to hide the smile that formed on her lips.

"Yeah, I finally got the guy from the payroll department to ask me out and what happens, just as things start to get interesting the damn pager goes off," she made her displeasure known. "Do you know how long I have been working at getting him to ask me out or how long it's been since I was laid?"

"Obviously to long," Sergeant Newlie snorted dryly and the detective laughed as the other woman glared at the patrolman. Sydney stood up taking control of the situation. It was already two in the morning and she wanted a chance to get home for some sleep before her shift the next afternoon.

"All right guys, I want the entire area mapped out," she instructed the police photographer. "I want shots from every possible angle."

The other woman nodded and pulled a camera out of the carryall that was slung over her shoulder. Sydney stepped back allowing the woman the chance to do her work, taking the opportunity to draw out her notepad and scratch her own notes along with a simple sketch of the scene.

"Sergeant Davis," an unfamiliar voice called and she turned as a young patrolman trotted up to join them.


"Just received a message for you from Desk Sergeant Baker. He says that Lieutenant Marshall is on her way down."

"Shit," Sydney cursed her luck. It was bad enough that she had pulled another case that looked to be going on the board in red ink. Lieutenant Messington was giving her enough grief, she didn't need another Lieutenant hanging over her shoulder. She scowled.

"Their sending a Lieutenant out on this?" Sergeant Newlie couldn't hide his surprise. "What's up?"

"It's the D.A.," came the sour reply. "It's an election year and the big brass are falling all over themselves. There is pressure from the D.A. on the Commissioner and we all know shit flows on down the line."

It was common knowledge that those who governed the city were unhappy with the way the Police Department was being run. Almost every day there were articles in the paper detailing the battles between the Commissioner and the DA who was claiming that the department wasn't doing enough to help the persecutors. The whole episode had dovetailed into a series of political manoeuvres as both men jockeyed for the upper hand in the political arena.

One of the biggest sore points had been the Homicide Unit whose clearance rate the year before had been abysmal. In response the Commissioner had gone and hired an outsider to move into the vacant Lieutenants position, ignoring those in the department qualified for the post.

Sydney took a moment to reflect on the situation. In the month since the woman had taken charge of the Second Squad of homicide detectives, she had managed to avoid meeting the new Lieutenant. It had been the result of a busy work load and careful planning. No one was particularly eager to get to close to the new recruit to the department, aware of the woman's own political connections. Everyone was afraid about their own careers.

She sighed. She had no political ambitions herself. She had joined the Police department for the sole reason that she wanted to serve her community in the best possible manner. She had worked hard to get onto the Homicide Unit and now resented the fact that she might be driven from her position by a stranger who knew nothing about her or, if the rumours were right, nothing about solving a murder case.

"It stands to reason," Sergeant Newlie said breaking into her thoughts. "Heard he was thinking of running for office."

"Yeah, didn't you know, he has plans of some day being our governor," she answered bringing her thoughts back to the present. "Come on let's get to work here, I want to go home tonight."

Alex manoeuvred the black sedan down the rain sleek roads. She could see the flashing lights of the

squad cars up ahead and mentally squared her shoulders, bracing herself for the reception she knew that she would receive. Not for the first time did she wonder if it had been a mistake to take the

posting in the Homicide Unit.

She sighed, bringing the car to a stop alongside a black and white. She turned off the ignition and then allowed her eyes to sweep the scene. It had only just begun to rain, the tears of heaven sending down a light mist that soaked the earth in a cool bath. She had been gone from the city long enough to forget about the rain. It was odd but she found that she had missed it.

She took a deep breath and swung her long legs out of the car. She had come back to prove a point not only to her family but to herself. The Commissioner had offered her a challenge and her competitive nature had not allowed her to turn it down. She knew it was a risky decision for her entire future balanced on how she performed and if the first month was any indication she had her work cut out for her.

She closed the door and hunched deeper into her dark trench coat, a shiver racing down her spine as a breath of chilly wind greeted her appearance. She knew that the Commissioner was watching her closely, monitoring her progress. He had given her a mandate to improve the overall performance of the Unit and better it's reputation, but his negative attitude to the existing members and their work only made her job harder. She knew everyone in the Unit resented her presence and in the month she had not yet met a friendly face.

Well, she hadn't been sent to make friends. She had been dispatched to clean-up a Unit that was in deep trouble. In the weeks since she had taken over she had spent long hours reviewing the Unit's procedures and its individual members. Already she had identified some weak points and some areas that desperately needed changing. In the next few weeks it would be her task to implement those changes and she was certain that feelings towards her would grow harsher before they got better.

It didn't help that the other Lieutenants had a wager going over whose shift would get the best clearance rate. The idea behind the bet was inspirational if it was looked at one way but in her mind she thought it put to much pressure on an already overworked Unit.

She took a another breath and started moving towards the focus of all this police attention. She knew instinctively that her presence would not be welcomed yet she had been determined to meet each member of the Unit regardless which shift they worked. She was a fair person and before she made her recommendations she wanted to give everyone a chance to prove their value. Tonight she was determined to meet the only woman currently in the Unit, a woman who she guessed had been purposefully avoiding her.

A smile tipped her lips. If the girl was as smart as her file indicated then it was wise for her to distance herself from anything remotely political, and Alex was a political hot potato. Everything she had heard and read about the young woman had been positive and if she was right in her assumption the only thing holding the rookie detective back was the archaic old boy network who refused to give her the proper guidance and support that would allow her to blossom. She hoped to change that but that all depended on the woman herself.

Sydney worked steadily, going through each step of the routine she had built for herself when investigating a case. For the first six months she had been paired with Harry Strong one of the oldest serving detectives in the Unit. The forty five year old man had a decent clearance rate and a honest work ethic but he had been biding time until his retirement which had come into effect two months earlier.

Since then she had been pretty much left on her own, taking the calls that the other detectives passed. More often then necessary she was made lead detective and at times she felt that she was completely unprepared for the cases she was handed. But she plugged away determined to prove herself just like she did with everything.

"Psst, here she comes," Sergeant Newlie hissed and Sydney glanced up at the veteran patrolman who motioned his head to the left. She turned her eyes and watched silently as a dark figure emerged from between the parked police cruisers and moved through the crowd towards them.

The woman was tall with long dark hair which hung loosely down on her shoulders. She was slender and moved with the grace of a panther. All the guys in the Unit had remarked on the woman's incredible beauty but Sydney had never been close enough to the woman to see it until now. Tonight the small detective couldn't deny the truth of their assessments.

"Don't forget to breath," Sergeant Newlie chuckled giving the blond woman a poke with his elbow and she immediately jerked out of her stupor. She turned and glowered at the man who continued to smile while shaking his head. She knew what was going through his mind.

"Don't even think about it," she warned but he only continued to smile, his gaze shifting.

"Good evening Lieutenant Marshall," the Sergeant diplomatically greeted the commanding officer. He had been in the force to long to worry about the politics. He was a line man and whatever happened in the upper echelons rarely affected how he did his job.

"Good evening Sergeant....Newlie right?" Alex nodded towards the patrol Sergeant. She made it a habit to get to know all of the precincts staff officers, recognizing their importance to the Unit.

"Yes," Sergeant Newlie straightened a little and Sydney had a hard time not smirking. As if sensing her amusement he cast her a disparaging look. It was rare for a Lieutenant to acknowledge a staff Sergeant unless they had trained or worked together.

"I don't believe we have had the opportunity to meet yet," Alex continued feeling a hint of resentment coming from the smaller woman. "Alex Marshall."

"Detective Sergeant Sydney Davis," the smaller woman was forced to accept the offered hand aware not to do so was an affront she couldn't afford, especially when her job in the Unit was in jeopardy. She placed her small hand into the much larger one, feeling at once the tall woman's strong grip and soft skin.

For a brief instant blue and green eyes met, and in that moment nothing else existed beyond the small space they occupied. It was as if the whole world had stopped moving. Neither woman was conscious of the fact that they continued to hold onto each other's hand.

Sydney felt the air leave her lungs. She stared into the bluest orbs she had ever seen and for a moment it felt like she was falling into their deep depths and into the woman's very soul. Her heart pounded fiercely in her chest.

She's the one. The unexpected thought jolted across the taller woman's brain and in response she pulled her hand back and shoved it into the pocket of her trousers. Her heart fluttered in a way she had never experienced. She turned her attention to the body laying sprawled on the ground caught off balance by this strange physical reaction.

"So what have we got here?" Alex dismissed the taunting phrase, deciding the best approach was to be totally businesslike.

"Asian male, early twenties, killed with a single blast from what was probably a 12 gauge shotgun," Sydney related what she knew focusing her attention back to the subject on the ground.

"Any suspects?"

"None so far," the blond detective shook her head.

"Gang related?"

"To early to say," Sydney said cautiously, unwilling to commit to anything at the moment, still uncertain about what they were looking at.

"Come on you must have some opinion?" the tall woman challenged and for a brief moment again the two women looked at each other.

"Ahh, yeah," the smaller woman suddenly felt incredibly nervous tearing her eyes away from the other woman's and turning her attention back on the body. It was the only way she could remain focused. "My best guess would be that he belongs to a gang."

"But this isn't his turf?" the Lieutenant said and Sydney glanced sharply up at the tall woman. She had to admit that the dark haired woman was astute.


"Then what's he doing here?" Alex asked pressing the woman for ideas, her azure eyes never leaving her companions face, hearing again the faint echo of an earlier thought bounce around her brain.

The small woman was more attractive then the Lieutenant had imagined with long blond hair that was now tucked into a neat French braid that rested against the back of the black leather of her jacket. She was of slender built but the grip of her hand had suggested a hidden strength. It was the eyes in the heart shaped face that had captured her attention for they were emerald coloured with a twinkle that made the taller woman think that her companion loved to laugh.

"I'm not sure but I think he was probably a message to the local hoods who control this turf," Sydney took a deep breath and decided to be bold. "It's kind of a peace offering if a gang doesn't want to start a war. A few weeks back a Blood by the name of Hootie was killed in a fight at a local concert. At the time nobody knew who did it but it was suspected that the murderer was one Phu Vang Tu a thug with ties to a small Vietnamese gang that runs out of the downtown core."

"And you think that when the prints on this poor guy are run we will find out that he is none other then Phu Vang Tu," the other woman finished her thoughts.

"Yeah," the small woman nodded, growing more confident. "It's a local curtesy, when one gang wrongs another and doesn't want to start a war, they sacrifice their own to save peace. It's a sign. My guess is that Phu Vang Tu was a bit player and not worth the trouble of starting a feud."

Alex nodded her head silently as she considered the blond woman's thoughts. Sydney Davis was considered to be something of a minor expert in gang affairs and so the Lieutenant trusted the woman's instinct. She turned to her smaller companion and flashed a rare smile.

"Good work," she said before glancing once more about the scene aware that the ME was waiting to take the body away. "I see you have everything under control. Have a good night Sergeants."

Without another word the tall woman turned and strolled back towards her own nondescript police vehicle. Sydney watched her leave, unaware that her jaw had dropped until Newlie spoke.

"You can pick your chin up now," he chuckled at some private joke.

"What are you laughing at?" she turned her head and fixed him with a glare.

"Nothing," the man shook his head continuing to laugh as he walked away.

Sydney scowled before turning her attention back in the direction of where the taller woman had disappeared. Certainly the meeting had gone better then she had anticipated though she wasn't entirely sure what to think of the woman. She watched as the dark sedan pulled away from the curb and proceeded down the street before focusing back on the task at hand. She motioned to the coroner and the man immediately moved forward to claim the body.

It was nearly dawn before Sydney was finally satisfied she had gotten as much from the scene as she could. The street had been canvassed and as she had expected there were no witnesses. It wasn't unusual for people not to want to get involved, especially in this part of town. Sometimes silence meant saving their own life and she couldn't begrudge them for that, though many of her fellow detectives had a different opinion.

It was well into the morning before she finally fell into bed, aware that she had only enough time for a few brief hours of sleep before her alarm was set to go off. But she had learned to accept the few hours she got aware that there were days when she would get more.

Alex stared out the window of the Captain's office watching silently the goings on in the squad room beyond the sealed room. She watched the detectives move with a pace all their own. She heard the phones ringing incessantly. It was a constant battle they fought and though at times it seemed that they were losing the fight they hoped at least to gain a few victories. For a moment her eyes latched on to the slender form of the young woman she had met the previous evening.

According to the log sheet Sydney Davis hadn't booked off from the crime scene until five thirty that morning. The desk staff on duty had checked in her paper work at nine which meant the woman hadn't had more than a few hours of down time between then and her shift which had begun only a half hour earlier. In spite of the obvious lack of sleep the younger woman looked fresh and eager to begin another day. Her eyes narrowed.

"What's the story with Sydney Davis?" she asked not bothering to turn around.

Captain Carner glanced up from the papers on his desk to look at the back of the tall woman who now occupied space in his office. He glanced past her slender form out the window to where the other woman was working at a desk at the far end of the squad room.

"Why?" he wanted to know and the woman turned slowly around leaning back against the shelf as she crossed her arms and looked at him.

"I went out to a call she was on last night," Alex said indifferently. "She's a rookie with barely nine months in the Unit. What's she doing out on a call by herself?"

The Captain shifted uncomfortably. He knew that he would have to answer a lot of difficult questions. The Commissioner had been blunt. His department was in shambles and Alex Marshall was the one hired to clean it up. That meant that he was forced to cooperate or risk losing his position and at this junction in his career that would mean an early retirement. Not for the first time did he long for the days when he was an regular officer in blue, patrolling the streets away from all the politics and garbage that now made his job almost impossible to do.

"If you hadn't noticed we're more then a little short staffed and with our budget we can't afford to bring on any one new until the next fiscal year," he responded more tersely then he had intended. If his tone of voice had any affect on the woman it didn't show for she continued to look at him with the same stoic expression.

"That's no excuse," she didn't accept his argument. "According to the records she's been doing a lot of cases single handed. Is there a particular reason for that?"

Once again the Captain shifted uncomfortably. He hated to get involved in the personal business of his officers but it seemed that this woman wasn't about to let things be. The others had warned him that she was tenacious and he was seeing an example of that now. He looked across the room at her. Though for outward appearances he was her superior, he knew in reality that she was the one now calling the shots.

"Come on, you've read her file," he tried to ignore the obvious.

"Yes, but I want you to tell me what isn't in the file," the woman came back at him and he looked up to see that those blue eyes that had first caught his attention were now narrowed into pale slits.

"Sydney Davis was a street punk before she joined the force," he blurted out the facts to which he had not been privy until after her appointment to the Unit. "She used to run with the same gangs who regularly put bodies in the coroners office."

"She can't have been all that bad, after all you have to have a clear criminal record to get accepted to any of the academies," Alex said clearly interested.

"She got nailed as a juvy on several charges but was always smart enough to wrangle out of them," he conceded. "After she turned of age we weren't able to pin anything on her. There was no reason to keep her out of the academy."

"But you think she's still running with them?" it was a pointed question. One he was forced to answer honestly.

"No, she's been a good cop," he admitted reluctantly. "But word of her history gets out. There's talk on the street and more then one officer has refused to work with her because of the innuendo. Internal Affairs keeps a close watch on her to make sure she doesn't screw up and some of the others don't appreciate the extra attention."

"What are they afraid of getting caught with dirty hands?" the question was asked but it wasn't meant to be answered and the Captain knew as much.

Alex stared at the man, seeing someone reaching his prime yet looking older then his age. She knew that the Captain was part of the problem the Unit faced but he had been installed by the previous Commissioner before he had been elected Mayor, a man who refused to admit it had been a mistake. It was her delicate job to reshape the team without making to many waves.

"Listen Carner," she said straightening up and getting to the point. She was known for her bluntness and she was that now. "I've been here a month and what I see is one screwed up department. You have some good people but their talents are being wasted so we can do this one of two ways.

"You can help me and save your own ass in the process or you can make my life miserable and make it difficult for me. But let me remind you, I was sent here to do a job and I have the balls to do it. I have no loyalties to anyone and I don't care who falls under the axe. What happens to you makes no difference to me, it's your choice."

The Captain was silent. He knew it was a ultimatum and looking up at the woman now he knew that to challenge her would bring himself into ruin. He couldn't beat her and to put obstacles in her way when she had the backing of the Commissioner was career suicide. He sighed settling back into his chair in defeat.

"What do you want?"

"I want to mix up the squads," she responded without hesitation. "The main thing I have noticed is that there is a lot of tension between various pairings. These detectives are supposed to be working together not against each other. I like the competition between them but it has become the governing force in the Unit and has destroyed any type of cooperation."

The man could not argue with her assessment. He had seen the same thing but had been powerless to change things without battling his Lieutenant's which was something he had hoped to avoid. Now he saw that it would be impossible. He nodded his head mutely and listened.

"Hey Davis, did you hear the news?" a man with short curly red hair announced cheerfully as he bounded up to her desk and perched on an edge.

"What?" Sydney glanced up absently from the paper she was reading. The report from the coroner had just arrived and as she had suspected the victim in her latest case was one Phu Vang Tu. His finger prints had positively identified him.

"You're moving," the man smiled sexily.

"What?" she straightened in her chair a horrifying fear clutching at her insides. Tears pricked the back of her eyes. She loved the Homicide Unit and desperately wanted to remain a member. She didn't want to move to another department. "Where are they sending me?"

"Down the hall to second squad," Vance Waylins laughed and for a brief instant the small woman felt like punching her colleague. He saw that his joke had angered her. "Sorry sweetheart but I heard it from Irving. The new Luey wants you on her team and is willing to trade Demco for you."

"I'm sure Messington jumped at that," she said sarcastically. There was no love lost between the Lieutenant and herself.

Lt. Messington hadn't been happy to have her on his squad from the beginning and had done nothing to encourage her growth as a member. He had been tougher on her then the other members and she had instantly known it was because she was a woman and therefore the weak link on his team.

Steve Demco on the other hand was a solid detective with a good track record. Besides that, his clearance record would automatically be transferred to the first squads score while hers would go with her to the second squad. Obviously the new Luey didn't seem to worry about losing the bet.

As if on cue Lieutenant Messington opened the door to his office and barked out her name. She looked at her colleague and decided that he would be the only reason she would miss coming in to work with the first squad. She closed the door to the Lieutenant's office aware that he was standing behind his desk waiting impatiently.

"Orders have come down from the powers that be," the tall blond man said without preamble tossing a paper on the desk for her to see. "The new Lieutenant over on the second squad seems to have taken a fancy to you and wants you on her team. Can't say I'll miss you."

"The feelings mutual," she retorted sharply having learned not to take his attitude. The man had a loud bark but she knew that he had been unable to do anything to get rid of her though he had tried on numerous occasions.

David Messington was still from the old school who believed women didn't belong on the force and the Commissioner had been insistent that there be at least one woman in each Departmental Unit. That made her the token member for homicide.

The man smiled. In spite of his gruff demeanour he had an odd appreciation for the small woman. She was a fighter and he admired that but she was a lot of work and had been promoted ahead of others more qualified. That promotion had brought along with it a well of resentment from the ranks and he commiserated with their feelings.

"Yeah, well I've been told to cut you loose for two days and have you report to your new Lieutenant on Monday morning bright and early," he said and she nodded willing down the feeling of happiness she felt over this move. As if sensing her elation he did his best to dampen her enthusiasm. He waited until her hand was on the door before speaking.

"I wouldn't go out and celebrate your good luck just yet. Marshall is a hard ass and she wouldn't let things slid like I did with you. You're no longer the only female down here anymore, so you are expendable. Have a good day."

It wasn't until much later that Sydney let his words sink in. Initially she had seen the move as a positive thing but now she wasn't entirely certain. She had gotten used to working under the tense strain of Lieutenant Messingtons' command, she knew the man and what to expect. The new Lieutenant was a complete unknown. In spite of this she tried to be cheerful about the whole matter and left work that night intent on getting out of the city for a few days. She wanted to be relaxed for when she started her new shift on Monday morning.

Alex leaned back into the sofa and closed her eyes, revelling in the silence of the apartment that surrounded her. She popped an eye open and saw that it was already five thirty and her parents were expecting her for dinner at seven.

She wanted to blow off this evening like she had done so many other invitations but the truth was that she had run out of excuses. To cancel out now would certainly send the clear message that she didn't want to see them. She sighed and closed her eyes again, unable to stop herself from wondering what a certain blond haired detective was doing now.

Shit, your obsessed, she chided herself angrily. It had been days and still she couldn't get thoughts of the other woman out of her head. She knew the whole idea was ridiculous. She didn't believe in love at first sight. It was something made up by writers and storytellers. It didn't exist in real life. She shook her head vigorously as if to dispel the notion and jumped to her feet.

She had been at the office until early afternoon and unwilling to sit in her empty apartment she had gone for a long run which had been effective in allowing her to clear her head and rid herself of some of the tension she felt. She didn't need to have it return now by thinking of the other woman. Absently she concentrated on her family, wondered if her brothers would be in attendance tonight.

She slipped out of her sweatsuit and stepped into the shower, standing for a long moment under the cascading refreshment and soothing her aching muscles. She could almost choreograph the evening. If her parents were up to their usual tricks they would have a pleasant meal where they would discussion how well her fathers law practice was doing. Then over dessert they would try a gentle persuasion to see if she would leave the police force and come join the family practice. It was an offer many would jump at but one she would politely turn down like she had done numerous times before.

There wasn't anything wrong with joining her fathers practice, it would give her a chance to use the law degree she had so tenaciously earned while on the force. No, she just wasn't interested in settling down yet. Maybe in a few years, she would tell them and perhaps that would keep them happy for awhile.

She washed her long dark hair and then rinsed out the soap. Once that issue was dealt with they would move on to their second favourite topic. When are you going to get married? She could already hear her mother ask. Never, she would answer for the hundredth time and then she would gently remind them were her real interest lay. They would of course say she was just going through a phase.

She sighed. Well, she had tried the whole normal way. She had even gotten engaged but thankfully she had realized her mistake before it was to late. Though she had only acknowledged her sexuality a few years ago, she knew it was no phase. At that thought the image of the small blond detective popped into her head and resigning herself, she allowed herself a few minutes to dwell on the other woman.

There was no denying the fact that she felt an instant attraction for the small detective yet there were two very important factors working against any involvement. The first reason of course was that she didn't have a clue as to where the woman's interest lay, but more importantly, she was now the woman's boss.

Just as well, she sighed turning the water off and stepping out of the shower and wrapping a towel around her slender body. She needed to concentrate on her work. She didn't need any more complications in her life right now. And she knew that the woman would be a complication.

The drive to Forest Bay where her parents resided was quiet and without much traffic. She was actually pleased to see that her brothers had also been invited for it had been a long time since she had seen any of them. Besides she knew that her parents would say nothing in front of them.

As usual it was a pleasant evening and Alex enjoyed the opportunity to reacquaint herself with her nieces and nephews whom, because she had lived in Chicago until a few months earlier, she hadn't gotten to know very well. She was also pleased to see Christie again, an old college friend who had ended up marrying her brother.

"We've missed you," the blond haired woman said sincerely, embracing her tall dark haired sister-in-law. "Kim has been bugging us about you ever since we learned that you had moved back to Seattle."

"Yeah, she already told me off for not coming over to visit yet," Alex chuckled remembering fondly the quiet tongue lashing she had gotten from her favourite niece earlier in the evening.

"Well, I don't know why but she adores you," the other woman said with a slightly mocking voice. "She thinks you're some kind of hero. It doesn't help that Andrew encourages her."

"I wish he wouldn't," the taller woman said uncomfortably. "It only makes things worse for when she learns the truth."

"The truth," Christie smirked. "In her eyes you will never be able to do any wrong."

Alex blushed. She had been aware of her niece's crush for a long time and couldn't figure out what she had done to deserve such adoration. At first she had been embarrassed by it but in time she had come to accept the affection and return it in kind. After all the girl was a sweet and thoughtful kid.

"Actually, everyone was wondering why you have been avoiding the family," the blond woman said because they had been friends long enough for them to be blunt with each other. Alex turned another shade of crimson.

"I was busy settling into my new job and the condo," the dark haired woman said vaguely not looking at the other woman.

"Liar," Christie hissed and then decided to be honest. "Mom and dad were particularly hurt."

Alex took a deep breath and glanced shyly across the room to where her parents were seated on the sofa talking to her other siblings. She knew that her actions had probably hurt her parents yet she had avoided them anyway. She sighed.

"I guess I wanted to avoid all the usual questions," she admitted reluctantly. "I get tired of defending my life to them. It's just so hard."

"I know," Christie agreed, "but don't make it harder by staying away. If it bothers you tell them. They need to know."

Alex knew her sister-in-law was right. Her parents didn't deserved to be treated the way she was treating them. She knew it could be worse because for the most part they had been supportive of everything she had done. It was for that reason that she stayed until all the others were gone.

"It was nice that you came," Marie said cautiously, worried that she might somehow offend her tall daughter. They had not had a chance to be alone all evening and the older woman suspected that the girl had been purposefully avoided them.

"I'm sorry it took so long," the younger woman said, "but I've been rather busy settling into my job and setting up my apartment."

"You could have moved back in here," the older woman said but the girl shook her head.

"Mom, I'm over thirty years old. I have to live my own life."

"Yes," her father agreed solemnly glancing at his wife briefly before continuing. "Sometimes we forget that. It's hard for a parent to admit that their youngest child is all grown up and doesn't need them any more."

"I will always need you Dad," Alex protested. "I just need to live my life the way I want too."

"We understand," Warren nodded reaching over to take his wife's hand in his own. "That's why we decided not to question you anymore about what you're doing. It's hard for us to let go but we are determined to do our best and accept the life you have chosen. We don't want to lose you."

"You won't lose me..."

"No, then why has it taken you two months to come see us?" Marie asked pointedly and the younger woman flushed red glancing down at her hands which were folded in her lap. The older woman reached over and gently gave them a affectionate squeeze. "We know you have been avoiding us and we finally understood why. We apologize. We never meant to hurt you."

"I know," Alex said quietly. "I never meant to hurt you either."

"Good," Warren said firmly ending the discussion. "Then we will start over as of tonight."

They talked some more and Alex left her parents home that night marvelling that the evening had gone better then she had expected. She wondered why she had not been brave enough to speak with her parents earlier about the matter and realized that it was because in many aspects she was an emotional coward.

Isn't that the reason you have never been able to sustain a relationship? She asked herself bluntly and then had to admit that it was indeed the reason. She had never been willing to feel the pain that was involved in making a permanent attachment to some one.

She sighed reasoning once again that it was easier in her line of work to remain unattached. It was less complicated and avoided unnecessary questions. She had never wanted to be stereotyped and perhaps that was why she had failed to acknowledge her sexual orientation for so long even though she had figured out the truth many years earlier. Perhaps that was even the reason she had become engaged to a man she had barely liked. Certainly it had dispelled any rumours of her sexual orientation.

If you were honest you would admit that was the only reason you became engaged. Yes, she silently agreed. That had been the only reason. She had never intended on marrying Barry. She had used him yet she only felt a brief moment of guilt aware that the man had allowed himself to be used.

She shook her head and concentrated on the road ahead.

Admit the truth. You joined the Seattle Police Department to be closer to your family, and try to find what you know is missing in your life. It was the truth and the decision had come after a bitter fight with a former lover, a woman she had fallen into a relationship with but to whom she had invested no emotional energy. The break-up had been harsh and the cold words that had ended it had started her thinking. If she was grateful for one thing about the relationship it was that the woman had opened her eyes to a few truths.

Yet, she was at a loss to know where to begin and everytime she began to think about changing she was pushed back into that same cold emotionless state that she found comfortable. A state in which she could avoid feeling pain. For everyone she met she could find a reason not to become involved.

She had avoided her parents for almost the same reason. It was easier not to see them then to see the hurt they denied yet were unable to hide.

Well, tonight perhaps that's changed. She tried to be positive. Certainly the reception from her parents had not been what she had expected and if she was to believe their words then she knew that they truly were trying to change. If they were making the effort then certainly it was also up to her to try as well, though she knew it wouldn't be as simple as making some wish. For some reason the image of a certain blond woman popped into her head once again giving her company for the rest of her journey home.

Chapter Two

Sydney returned to work on the Monday morning feeling better than she had in a very long time. She had put those two days off to good use by going north to Vancouver, Canada. There she had partied and let her inhibitions down. The sex hadn't been all that great but it had helped to relieve some of the tension she had been feeling.

She wasn't normally one to engage in casual affairs and her partner had hinted at pursuing a deeper acquaintance but she wasn't ready for a committed relationship especially a long distance one. Sure Vancouver was only a four hour drive or a quick flight by plane, but she wasn't interested enough in the other woman to make that kind of effort. She didn't want to tie herself down to anyone at the moment. It had been what it was, a one night stand.

She had expected a one on one interview with the new Lieutenant that morning but was instead surprised when she found the whole Second Squad assembled in the conference room. Sydney slipped into a seat at the far end of the table and glanced around the small room, seeing the familiar faces and realizing for the first time that she wasn't the only new face on board.

Besides herself, there was Norman Bridges, an old veteran from the Third Unit as well as a new guy named Roy Howard, who, she later learned had transferred over from vice. There was Max Armstrong a five year veteran of the Unit and his long time partner Milt Jabonski, a Polish man whom she remembered with a smile had an inexhaustible supply of relatives that always seemed to pop up where ever a person went.

There was Keith Bettman, an officer she had once worked with while on patrol duty, and whom until recently had been on the Third Squad. Finally there was Steve Reynolds, a comic who had the reputation of enjoying a good practical joke. Gone were Stu Burbaker, John Hollings and Steve Demco. With the exception of Demco, who had a moderate clearance record, the others were considered dead wood.

Sydney had a good feeling about the mixture of personalities that her new commander had assembled. They were all easy going individuals yet their laid back facade masked an intensity for their jobs that few people recognized. It was obvious that the Lieutenant had looked below the surface. At that thought she turned to look at the other woman and immediately felt her heart jump at the sight of the tall beauty.

Alex Marshall had a formidable presence and it was more than just a result of her height which Sydney guessed to be a good six feet. No, there was something in her no nonsense manner that told everyone she meant business and wouldn't tolerate anything less then a hundred per cent effort from everyone.

The Lieutenant was standing at the front of the room her arms folded across her chest. She was dressed in black dress slacks, turtle neck and matching blazer. She looked a very imposing figure yet Sydney felt a thread of unexplained excitement run through her body.

Alex scanned the small group intently. Her squad was grossly understaffed and many of it's members were considered underachievers but she had seen something in each detective during the month and a half she had been observing the department. She was taking a gamble by assembling her squad from what the other Lieutenant's considered misfits but she was determined to make it work. She took a deep breath and began.

"All right, I don't think we need any introductions as I think you all know each other, and I think you already all know who I am but just so we can dispense up front with all the rumours and misconceptions I will tell you a little about myself," she said briskly including the entire group with one steady gaze.

"I am thirty four years old and I have been a cop for thirteen years, five of which were in the homicide squad in Chicago, so when I talk to you guys I know what I'm talking about," she paused allowing her blue eyes to roam around the room and seeing with quiet delight that they were all spell bound.

"Second, Warren Marshall is my father and he is friends with both Mayor Taylor and Commissioner Ford, but..." she paused allowing her words to sink in. "My appointment, though seemingly political was made with the best intentions. No, I am not sleeping with the Commissioner or the Mayor so if any of you guys wants to have a shot at them be my guest."

The little joke had it's desired affect for it brought a nervous chuckle out of the group and eased the tension that had been filling the room. For a brief instant she had even allowed a hint of a smile to play on the corners of her lips. But it disappeared as quickly as it came and when she spoke again her voice was serious.

"I don't care how you've done things before but from now on we're doing it my way... and just so you know, I don't play favourites and I don't keep unproductive workers around. I want results and I don't care how you get them, as long as it doesn't break the law."

There was a pause and she cast another sweeping glance about the room, her eyes coming to rest for a moment on the small blond detective she had thus far avoided. God she looks good, the thought flitted through her head and abruptly she shifted her gaze.

"I will be teaming you into pairs, unfortunately because we're short on manpower that will mean an odd man out, but regardless I expect all of us to pitch in and work together. Anyone not willing to make a team effort will be gone," she paused and glanced over the individual faces. "Bettman and Reynolds, Armstrong and Jabonski, Bridges and Howard, those are your teams. Davis you'll be on your own for now."

Sydney didn't know whether that was a blessing or a curse. She noticed the amused and sympathetic glances several of her colleagues cast in her direction and she wondered if she were being singled out for a reason. She hated to think that the new Lieutenant was as prejudice as the old one.

"Every Monday after our shifts, we will have a team meeting where we will pool our resources on the cases that are currently red on the board. Are there any questions?" Alex looked around the room but nobody seemed inclined to say anything, all deciding to wait and see what happened.

"Okay then, let's get out there and solve some cases," she dismissed every one except the other woman. "Davis could you stay for a moment."

Sydney sat back down, brushing her palms nervously against her dark cargo pants as the others filed out the door. She watched as the other woman casually strolled across the room and perched on the edge of the conference table. For a moment their eyes met and a flicker of something invisible but electric passed between them.

"Singling you out isn't a punishment," Alex sensed the detective's concern and instantly put her at ease. Her voice had lost it's edge. "I've read your file and know the reason you were promoted to Homicide. You're a good cop but you haven't yet lived up to your potential."

Sydney made to protest but the Lieutenant already had her hand up. It was as if she knew what the detective was about to say.

"I know you weren't given much help. Lieutenant Messington is a male chauvinist but don't get any ideas that just because we are the same gender and very much in the minority here that I'm going to give you any more slack then I give the others."

"I wasn't going to ask for any favours," the blond woman said tersely through clenched teeth. For a brief moment she thought she might have finally found a friend in the Unit but now she reconsidered that idea.

"Good," Alex nodded curtly. "As I said you are a good cop and I think you have the potential to be a great homicide detective. Messington didn't give you much chance to prove yourself. Well, I'm willing to do that. To that end I want you to come to me whenever you need help. You don't have a partner so unofficially I'm going to make myself available to help you if no one else is around. Do you have any comments?"

Sydney shook her head. She was to dazed to speak. In the same breath the woman had praised her talent yet implied she was wasting it. She looked across at the Lieutenant drawn in by the intensity of those blue eyes. For some reason the idea of working with this woman was suddenly not so unappealing.

"Okay, have you heard from the ME's office about the victim you caught the other night?" the abrupt change of subject almost caught Sydney off guard.

"Yeah," the blond woman nodded glad to be conversing on a topic with which she was familiar. "Our victim was one Phu Vang Tu, he hung out with the Little Dragons, a small gang that has territory near Chinatown."

"Then it stands to reason that the rest of your assumption may also be accurate," Alex said briskly rising to her feet. "I suggest you take another detective and get down to the hood to interview the boys from the Bloods. See what they can tell you."

Sydney nodded and then followed the taller woman out into the squad room. Without another word the Lieutenant disappeared into her office while the smaller woman wandered back to her desk. She collared the first pair of detectives she met.

"Come on guys, I need someone to ride down with me to visit the Bloods." Both men nodded but by the expressions on their faces she knew of their dislike for the idea.

Alex settled behind her desk, her eyes going to the blond woman, watching as the smaller woman cornered Detectives Armstrong and Jabonski and led them out of the room. It was there, she told herself. I could feel it. Yet at the same time she knew that she was crazy even thinking about the possibility.

If by some chance they had a relationship, they would have to be careful so neither of their careers were jeopardized. She shook her head, realizing it was insane just thinking about it, yet for some reason she could not dismiss the idea. She would have to talk to Christie about that, certain her sister-in-law would be sensible about the matter.

It just so happened that she was meeting the other woman later that day for lunch. They had known each other since college and there was nothing sacred between them. Even while she had lived in Chicago they had maintained their close relationship. Christie was one of the few people Alex considered to be a friend. She was the first person the Lieutenant had confided her sexuality too.

The blond woman stared across the table at her dark haired companion unable to hide her amusement. Alex was probably the most self confident woman she knew and yet the fidgety woman sitting across from her was nothing like the friend she remembered. There was something different, something unusual.

"What's up?" she said after awhile. They had finished the main course and were now eating dessert. Though the dark haired woman had listened and conversed throughout the meal Christie had the distinct impression that there was something on the other woman's mind.

"What do you mean?" Alex was slightly startled by her sister-in-law's perception.

"Come on Alex, I've known you since college, I know when something's bothering you," the other woman chided with a hint of mocking. Alex was silent for a moment pondering her next words.

"Do you believe in love at first sight?" The question caught the blond woman by surprise.

"Yes, I suppose."

"Where you in love with Andrew the first time you met him?" Alex wanted to know.

"No..." Christie shook her head pensively. "I wouldn't call it love at first sight. Certainly I liked him. I liked him a whole lot, but I didn't know I wanted to marry him until our third date."

"Which was what, the third time you saw him?" came the sarcastic comment and the blond woman had the grace to blush.

"Well, yeah, but why suddenly all the interest in our courtship?"

"I've met someone," Alex confessed with a sigh, "and I don't know what to do about it. I was hoping you could talk some sense into me."

Christie was somewhat startled by this admission. Though her sister-in-law had come out of the closet a few years earlier, she knew that Alex was still relatively new at the dating game. The dark haired woman had gone out with several women but in her own words, they had been obviously gay and they had done the asking. Something about the knowledge that her sister-in-law was interested in someone caused her to feel a pang of jealousy.

"Is she gay?"

"I don't know," Alex admitted reluctantly. "I think she might be."

"Well then the first thing you have to do is find out if she is," the blond woman advised patiently. "Then you find out if she's involved with anyone."

God I feel like a teenager, Alex thought to herself, and not a grown woman in her early thirties.

"I think it was much easier with guys," she admitted ruefully.

"That's because they did all the asking," Christie snorted. "I don't think it works quite the same way when you're gay."

"No," Alex sighed. Somehow she had assumed it would be easier but now she knew that it didn't matter what your sexual orientation was, dating was just plain difficult.

"Where'd you meet her?" her companion was curious. She knew her friend didn't hang out in the local gay bars, concerned for her reputation and career.

"At work," the dark haired woman confessed and her companion whistled. "She's a fellow officer."

"Whoa girl, you sure you want to go ahead with this?" Christie was serious. "Think about it Alex, if it doesn't work out you could be setting yourself up for a whole lot of trouble."

The dark haired woman knew the risk she would be taking. She heard enough over the years to know that cases of sexual harassment in the workplace was a rising issue. It was something she had to seriously consider before making any move.

"I realize the dangers," she sighed wondering if it was worth the effort especially now that she had so much on her plate already.

"Then all I advise is to be careful," her sister-in-law cautioned. "You don't want to ruin your life for just a roll in the hay."

Christie had always been blunt and that was one of the things that Alex liked most about the woman. That and the fact that she had never wavered in her support or friendship even after Alex had come out of the closet. She smiled.

"I knew you'd talk sense into me," Alex chuckled but the blond woman wasn't fooled. Christie knew that for the other woman to even mention the subject it was something, but she didn't press the issue, aware that her sister-in-law would continue the conversation when she was ready.

Sydney wasn't having a good day. Her visit to the Bloods earlier in the week hadn't turned up any new evidence. The gangbangers had refused to cooperate or answer any of her questions. She had come away more frustrated then she imaged was possible and dejectedly she knew that Phu Vang Tu's death would probably remain in red ink.

It was Friday afternoon and she was sitting at her desk mulling over her lack of evidence and typing out a report when the hairs on the back of her neck rose. It was a peculiar feeling but instinctively she knew that the Lieutenant was standing behind her. That suspicion was almost immediately confirmed when the woman stepped up beside the desk, leaning casually against it with her arms folded across her chest.

She hadn't talked to the tall woman since the meeting on Monday morning, unconsciously avoiding any contact. They had passed each other in the hallways and nodded greetings but other then that they had not spoken. Despite that she had remained acutely conscious of the dark haired woman.

"How's everything going?"

After her conversation with Christie, Alex had promised herself to stay away from the smaller woman, afraid where her feelings might lead. However, after five days of covertly glancing at the blond detective she had found it impossible to maintain her distance.

"Not very good," Sydney admitted leaning back in her chair and glancing up at the tall woman. She was intensely aware of the Lieutenant's close proximity and her heart started to beat just a little harder. She focused her eyes on the computer in front of her. "Nobody is willing to say anything. Nobody is talking."

"What about Phu Vang Tu's family?"

"He has a grandmother who speaks no English and an Uncle who is currently serving a two year sentence in a state facility on robbery charges," was the solemn answer.

"Whose taking care of the funeral arrangements?"

"No one has claimed the body yet. I told the ME to call when they received word where they were to send the boy," Sydney replied. "I'm planning to go back to Chinatown and speak with the Little Dragon's again. Their unofficial leader Van Phan has been out of the country, visiting cousins up in Vancouver. Maybe he can give me a clue about what's going down."

"Sounds like a good idea, if you need any help let me know," Alex nodded and then jerked her head towards the board. "What about the others?"

Sydney knew the Lieutenant was referring to the other two names written in red ink. She didn't know what to say, she had stalled in her investigation on those cases. She thought she had covered every possible angle yet nothing had come to the surface.

"Dead," she admitted reluctantly. "I've just about fried my brain thinking about them. I know I'm missing something but I can't figure out what it is."

Alex opened her mouth, about to offer her assistance when the phone jangled. Sydney stared at it for a moment before answering, dreading the thought that it might be another call. She glanced fugitively around. Only Bridges and Howard were in the squad room, the others were already out on calls or various department business.

"Davis here," she almost barked into the receiver, listening intently before scribbling notes on the pad next to the computer. "Okay I'm on the way."

"A call?"

"Yeah, a body found off Elm and Worchester in the Valley district," Sydney nodded and watched as Alex straightened up.

"Bridges, Howard, Davis has a call, I want you to do backup," the Lieutenant made the decision and the two men nodded. Sydney looked up to find the tall woman looking down at her. "I'll ride with you if that's okay?"

Alex knew it was an impulsive decision but she wasn't ready to part company with the woman yet. She knew it was crazy. She had a stack of paperwork that needed wading through and several calls to various department heads to make. She really didn't have time to go chasing across town on a call. But now that she had made the decision there was no way she was going to take it back.

"I'll just get my jacket," Alex breathed and hurried to her office for the aforementioned garment.

Sydney merely nodded, not quite certain what to say. A part of her was thrilled by the idea of the dark woman riding with her while another part of her dreaded the idea of having her commanding officer watching over her shoulder.

However, within a few minutes they were cruising through the streets in one of the stations battered yet sturdy grey sedans. It was midday and traffic was at its heaviest. The address the dispatcher had given her was in a middle class suburban area. An area where they didn't get many calls and those they did get usually involved nothing more serious then home invasions or stolen cars..

Sydney knew she was being watched so she took charge immediately. As primary on the case she was responsible for making certain everything was handled properly. As soon as she stepped into the inner circle of patrolmen she realized this was a case she didn't want to handle.

The dispatcher had not given her any information on the case other then to say that a body had been found. She was upset to discover that the victim was a Caucasian boy of approximately seven to ten years of age. There were dark bruises around his neck and his clothes were rumpled with the buttons misaligned or missing. There was almost complete silence as she stared down at the innocent looking face.

Investigating the murder of a child was perhaps one of the most difficult tasks that was ever asked of a detective and though Sydney wanted to turn and run away, she knew it was important to put aside her own feelings. She took a deep breath pushing down her emotions and concentrating on the task at hand.

"Who found him?" she asked tersely, already deciding that this was probably a sex crime.

"A woman walking her dog," the acting sergeant said stepping forward. Unlike other crime scenes here there would be none of the usual morbid joking. There was nothing remotely amusing about a child's death. "She was pretty broken up so I had one of the units take her down to the station."

Sydney nodded, glancing at her surroundings, before turning her attention back on the patrolman. She didn't recognize his face but the name on his ID tag was familiar.

"Sgt Charles, I want you to break your men out into pairs and have them do a house to house. I want to know if anyone heard or saw anything," she instructed and the man nodded. "Who was the first on the scene?"

"I was," a grisly veteran in a blue uniform stepped forward.

"Right. I want you to write down everything you can remember from the minute you got here on site until we arrived. Are there any schools or day cares in the area?"

"There's an elementary school about five blocks from here," the patrol driver jerked his thumb in one direction.

"Okay," Sydney glanced at her watch and then at the two detectives from her squad who had just arrived. "It's a long shot but Norm and Roy, I want you to go down to the school and see if anyone missing from class, whether it's due to illness or whatever."

The two men nodded, the veteran detective pausing to take a hard look at the deceased child's face before dragging his partner away.

"Okay, the rest of you, I want you to start a perimeter search."

"What are we looking for?" one young patrol driver asked.

"Anything that looks remotely out of the usual," Sydney paused in thought. "Hell, look for anything, backpack, lunch kit, sneakers.....anything."

The men nodded and then dispersed to their individual tasks. Many knew this would be a long day but upper most in their minds now was to find this child's killer. Methodically the young detective slipped a pair of latex gloves over her hands and then bent to examine the boy.

One look at the body and Sydney knew that the boy had been dead before he had been carelessly

throw out of a vehicle. The skin was cold but not so cold that rigour mortis had started to set in, which was a good thing and meant that the boy had not been there very long. There were no bruises on his face and no other marks on his body. It would be up to the ME to tell her what the cause of death was even though she suspected she already knew.

The scene was uncommonly quiet and the officers moved about almost in silence, completing there tasks. Janice showed up to take pictures but unlike the previous occasion there was no teasing or joking. It was as if they all knew that to do anything but concentrate on the dead child would be sacrilege.

Alex stood back and watched quietly as the detectives and officers went about their assigned duties, content to allow the young detective to remain in control. She almost regretted her hasty decision to join the blond Sergeant, aware this scene was bringing back too many memories of her own days as a detective. It had been a different city with different faces, yet the cruelty had been the same.

She focused her attention on the small woman who was now bent over the tiny body, studiously examining his clothes. She could see the emotion, lurking just beneath the surface and admired the fact that in spite of everything the detective could still feel.

"What do you think?" she asked in a soft voice, dropping to her hunches on the other side of the innate body. The other woman looked up and for a brief instant Alex could see tears pooling in those green eyes.

"I won't know until Bridges and Howard get back," came the quiet reply. "But I do know the bastard that did this won't get away."

"You make sure," the Lieutenant said softly, "cause once the press gets a hold of this it's going to bring down a lot of heat."

"For God's sakes can't you think of anything but the political ramifications of anything," Sydney allowed her burst of anger to escape, her green eyes flashing dangerously.

"I wasn't thinking of the politics," Alex replied quietly, not taking offence to the outburst, though the sharp words did sting. "I was thinking of the child's family."

Without another word the woman straightened and moved away. Sydney silently cursed and knew that she should apologize but she just couldn't bring herself to do that. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, realizing she would have to remain calm and focused if she hoped to solve this crime. Ignoring everything else she concentrated on the body.

It was late in the afternoon before she was comfortable enough to release the body to the patiently waiting ME officer. The scene had been thoroughly searched and the nearby houses canvassed, yet neither of those efforts had turned up any clues. She watched, feeling a sense of helplessness as the victim was bagged and put in the back of the coroners wagon.

That frustration grew once she returned to the station house. She sat at her desk and searched the computer screen for any clues. Detectives Bridges and Howard's visit to the local school had resolved nothing of the child's identity for everyone in the area had been successfully accounted for.

A scan of the local missing children's directory had turned up nothing so she posted a report of her own to all police departments in the state. Then she notified adjoining states and even sent a dispatch to the Canadian authorities across the border in British Columbia. She was still at her desk long after the shift was over, pouring over the files and punching in numbers.

It was late when Alex finally realized what time it was. She ran a tired hand through her dark hair and packed up her desk. The squad room was empty except for the cleaning staff and one blond woman who was seemingly glued to her computer screen. She slipped into her coat and quietly locked up her office.

"Hey, how's it going?" she asked softly stepping up beside the detective and peering at the screen. "Any leads?"

"No," Sydney admitted reluctantly, feeling awkward as she remembered the harshly spoken words that morning. She leaned back in her chair and for the first time noticed the faint and pleasant scent that surrounded the tall woman. She glanced up shyly, intensely aware of how near the other woman was standing. "I've sent out missing persons reports to all the various agencies in the state. Now its just a matter of waiting to see if anything comes back."

"Did the ME tell you when he might have an initial report?"

"They said I should stop by tomorrow," the smaller woman replied.

"Okay, well don't stay to late," Alex said before turning to go. Sydney watched the woman begin to leave and was pushed by a sudden impulse to act.


"Hmm," the tall dark woman turned to look at her with those piercing blue eyes.

"I... just wanted to apologize for my behaviour this morning," Sydney swallowed the lump in her throat. She was nervous and suddenly desperate for this woman to forgive her. She didn't know why but she wanted this woman to like her. It was an odd notion for most often she didn't care what people thought.

"Don't worry about it," Alex brushed the apology aside as if it were nothing. The truth was the woman's harsh words had cut very deep. "It's easy to get upset, especially when you're standing over the body of a brutally murdered child."

"Thanks, I appreciate it," the detective felt a huge sense of relief. "I'll see you on Monday."

Alex nodded and turned to leave once again but she took only two steps before pausing. She knew the whole idea was insane but she just couldn't put the notion out of her head. She screwed up her courage and took a bold heap.

"Listen, I don't know about you but I haven't had anything to eat since lunch and there's nothing in my kitchen at home. Would you like to go grab some dinner?"

The invitation was so unexpected that Sydney almost fell out of her chair. In light of what had happened in the last twelve hours, the last thing she anticipated was a dinner invitation from her boss. She felt the oxygen seep out of her lungs and her heart begin to race. Quietly she reminded herself to breath.

"If you've got other plans, I understand," Alex felt like a complete idiot. It was obvious by the expression on the detective's face that the woman didn't know what to think. "Have a good night."

"No," Sydney jumped out of her chair knocking it backwards with a resounding crash and the tall woman looked at her with some amusement as she hastily picked the piece of furniture off the floor. "There's nothing in my fridge either. I'd like to go grab something to eat."

"Good," an immense relief flooded over the Lieutenant but she let none of her emotions show. "I know this great little Italian place not far from here. Would you prefer to walk or drive?"

"If it's close, why don't we walk," Sydney suggested, hurriedly struggling into her bomber jacket, almost afraid the other woman would change her mind. They walked together through the building and out the front door.

"Maybe we should take a vehicle," Alex said when they stepped out into the night. "I didn't realize the streets were so dark."

"Come on, this part of town is practically crime free," the blond detective smiled, feeling absurdly happy in spite of the gloomy day she just had. "Who would be dumb enough to tangle with two good looking homicide cops?"

Good looking hey, the Lieutenant thought with amusement but the tone of her voice when she spoke was dry. "Some one who doesn't know we're cops."

"Well, yeah, there's always that....but then after the day I've had, I wouldn't mind a little work out," and to emphasis her point, the smaller woman laced her fingers together and stretched her arms to crack her knuckles.

"You think you could protect us?" the tall woman asked slightly amused, aware the her companion was practically bouncing on her feet.

"Absolutely," Sydney replied and then mimicked a few fighting moves. She knew that she was flirting but she couldn't help herself.

"Okay then, I will trust you to defend me," Alex said with a good-natured chuckle liking the idea. "But if we're mugged and my reputation is ruined, I will hold you responsible."

"I will do my utmost to make sure that doesn't happen," the blond woman bowed gallantly, feeling a little guilty over the light hearted way she was feeling. It had been a rough day and she needed a break from the stress of her job. Besides that she was alone in the company of the most gorgeous woman she knew.

The restaurant was several blocks away and their walk turned out to be uneventful. It was a cozy eatery and a single candle sat in the middle of the red chequered cloths that decorated each table. They picked a booth along the far wall.

"Do you feel like splitting a pizza?" Alex initiated the conversation once the waitress had deposited glasses of water and menu's on the table. After the first burst of playful conversation they had grown silent.

"That sounds good," Sydney agreed and on cue her stomach rumbled. Right now she would have agreed to anything.

"What do you want on it?" the question brought out a sheepish smile on the blonde's face.

"Anything will do," the young detective shrugged, hoping not to have to supply an honest answer.

"I eat almost anything," Alex said pointedly. "What do you want?"

"I usually order ground beef, onions, green peppers and pineapple," Sydney admitted reluctantly and her companion arched a finely shaped brow.

"I said almost anything."

The smaller woman blushed. "We can just get a basic cheese pizza."

"I'm just teasing," Alex chuckled again. "That combination sounds fine."

The blond detective didn't know whether to believe her companion until the waitress returned and took their order. There was silence again as she sipped from her water glass, her eyes shifting nervously around the room. She tried to look everywhere but at her companion across the table, thinking of how the smile had transformed the woman's features.

"You don't have to be nervous here," Alex said quietly sensing the other woman's discomfort. "When I leave the precinct, my work stays there, you're not on trial here."

Sydney looked across at the woman and for a brief moment blue and green eyes met. She felt her heart beat quicken. The young detective had the distinctive impression she was on trial, but for a totally different reason. She summoned her courage.

'Why did you ask me to join you, I mean I didn't particularly treat you very well today?"

The blunt question caught Alex off guard yet she let none of her emotions show. She could have told the truth but she didn't think either of them were ready for that. She had an innate sense that they were going to have a relationship. She didn't know why she knew that, it was just some instinctive knowledge. Besides she had liked the way the smaller woman had flirted with her. Quietly she willed herself to be patient. This was something she didn't want to screw up by being hasty.

"I like to get to know the people who work for me in a more social setting," she replied calmly. "It helps me get to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. That way I can use you to your maximum potential."

"So this is just an opportunity for you to analyze me," the words were out of her mouth before she could stop them.

Sydney saw the flash of hurt in the blue eyes before the curtain came down cloaking any emotion the woman might be feeling. She couldn't explain her terse reaction. She hadn't known what kind of response she had been looking for except that it was something else. For a brief while she had allowed herself to imagine that the woman was interested in her as a woman and not a police officer. She's probably straight, she decided not entirely happy with the thought.

"I'm sorry," Alex apologized momentarily confused.

"No, I'm the one who should be apologizing," Sydney could have kicked herself. "I shouldn't have said that, it was rude."

"No, you were being honest," the Lieutenant said quietly looking down at her hands which were folded together on the table. "You aren't the first person who has accused me of being too clinical."

"And I have been rightfully accused of shooting my mouth off," Sydney sighed desperately trying to think of a way to make amends. "Listen I'm sorry, I realize you probably just wanted to have a quiet relaxing meal. I should just go."

The blond woman reached for her jacket which she had shoved into the corner by the wall. She didn't want to leave but she was making a fool of herself and decided it best to retreat before the other woman thought she was a complete idiot. She physically jumped when a warm hand grabbed hold of her arm.

"I don't want you to go," Alex said in a low voice that sent an unexpected shiver up her companion's spine. For a moment their eyes met. "Truth is I'm not known for my social graces so.... please stay?"

There was a look on the Lieutenant's face that instantly melted her companion's heart. Sydney knew with unexpected clarity that she was in love with this woman. All it had taken was that one look to send her heart plummeting to her feet.

Mutely she nodded stuffing her jacket back in a corner and Alex felt an incredible sense of relief as she withdrew her hand. Both women were equally grateful that the waitress chose that moment to appear with their drinks, welcoming the diversion.

"I'm sorry but one of the cook's is out tonight so your order might take a bit longer than unusual to prepare," the waitress apologized.

"That's all right, we're not in a hurry," Alex gave the woman a smile before she hurried away. She turned her eyes back to her companion. "I'm sorry, I didn't even think to ask if someone was expecting you at home."

"No," Sydney shook her head, still dealing with this new revelation and wondering if this was the woman's subtle way of asking if she was available. "I take it there's no husband at home waiting to be fed?"

"No," Lieutenant shook her head, relieved that the tension between them was easing just a bit. "I was engaged once but fortunately I bailed out before we actually walked down the aisle."

Damn, she is straight! the blond detective cursed her luck. Fortunately she was able to control her feelings. "Didn't you love him?"

"I cared about him but he wasn't what I was looking for," was the delicate answer. "I realized that I accepted his proposal for the sake of my parents rather then myself."

"Oh," Sydney felt her heart plummet again. "Were your parents upset?"

"They finally understood. Their main concern was that I was happy," Alex replied her blue eyes focusing completely on her companion. "Is there no one in your life?"

"With my work schedule?" she answered with a rhetorical question, an amused half smile painting her face. "There's not many people who would put up with my hours. Besides my parents had a really awful marriage so I'm kind of hesitant about making any kind of commitment."

"Did you really have such a bad home life?"

Sydney was about to make some sarcastic remark but managed to clamp her mouth shut in time, determined not to make another mistake, sensing that she could be friends with this woman. She shrugged with more nonchalance then she felt, focusing her eyes on the utensils she was fingering.

"You read my file."

"Files are very cold and impersonal," was the quiet reply. "Besides they only tell a small portion of the whole story."

"And you want to know everything?" Sydney said her eyes staring across at her companion.

"Yes," Alex nodded and saw the smaller woman's hesitation. "I know you haven't been treated very well by some people in the department and I've heard a lot of rumors. I want to know if there true or not."

"And you'll believe everything I say?" it was a challenge. Their eyes locked together.

"I never believe everything," the Lieutenant was honest. "But I consider myself a fair person. I like to judge people by what I see and not what I hear."

Sydney was silent for a moment as she contemplated this. She had heard those words before but it had been her experience that it was a rare person who was not at least partially influenced by the rumors. Without knowing why she believed that the Lieutenant was one of those people.

"My parents divorced when I was very young so I don't remember much about my mother. My dad had custody of us but when he wasn't working he was drinking so we were pretty much on our own most of the time," she was honest. It was useless to lie, she had found that out early in life.

"Is that how you got involved with the gangs?"

"Yeah," Sydney confessed feeling a little depressed. "My dad was never around so it was left up to my sister to look out for me. She was a good six years older and had fallen in with a bad crowd at school. Rather than leaving me alone she would drag me with her when they went out. I thought it was cool because nobody messed with me and I belonged some place."

"What changed?" Alex was genuinely interested and there was silence for a moment as the waitress arrived at their table with the pizza. For a long moment it was ignored.

"I was the youngest of the group, some of who were already adults, so I got tagged to do all the dirty work because I was a juvenile. If I didn't do what they wanted they beat the crap out of me. Finally one day I just got tired of getting kicked around. I was doing okay at school and had been selected for the varsity basketball team. I didn't want to lose that."

Alex knew there was more that the woman wasn't saying but she didn't push. She would leave that for another time, content in the knowledge that this woman was incredibly strong and brave. Not many people were able to break free of the bonds that trapped them in poverty and gangs. She decided to say as much.

"I think you are a remarkable woman," Alex said catching the woman off guard. "There are few people strong enough to break away from the life you had."

Sydney blushed. No one had ever said such a nice thing about her. She looked down at the piece of pizza in her hand, uncertain that she could handle the praise.

"So what's your story?" Sydney asked in an attempt to divert the attention from herself. It was hard for her to talk objectively about her life and especially on an emotionally trying day as today.

"I had a pretty ordinary life," Alex shrugged aware it was time to lighten the mood. "I was one of those kids in high school you love to hate."

"Which one, the honours student or the sports jock?" the blond woman asked taking a bite from her piece of pie.

"Both," the other woman blushed unable to look at her companion concentrating instead on the piece of pizza in her hand. "I tried to be perfect in high school so it wasn't until after university that I rebelled."

"What did you do?" Sydney wondered curiously trying to imagine her dour companion as a hellraiser.

"I joined the police force," was the solemn admission and the blond detective almost choked on her food. She glanced across the table to see a wary smile on the dark haired woman's face. "It may not seem much but it meant a lot to my parents. They had certain expectations and ambitions for me and it didn't include walking a beat."

"How long did it take for them to forgive you?"

"I figure they should clue in any day now that it isn't just a phase."

Sydney glanced across at her companion and saw the smile on her face and couldn't help smiling back. She marveled once again at how the woman's angular features changed with one mere expression.

"Do they give you a hard time about it?"

"No, they've actually been pretty good about the whole thing though I know they would like to see me doing something else," Alex was truthful. She swallowed a bite of food before speaking again. "What did your family think when you joined?"

The question was greeted by a long silence and the Lieutenant began to think her companion was going to ignore it. She didn't know that the blond detective was busy choosing the right answer.

"My dad didn't really care," she admitted hesitantly. "He kind of bummed out on us when I was in high school and hasn't really been a part of my life since then."

"What about your sister?"

Sydney took a long time to answer that question. She studied her pizza intently. How could she begin to explain her relationship with her older sibling? It was so complicated yet also very simple.

"Annie didn't exactly take it very good," she said slowly aware her companion was waiting for her to speak. "She thought I'd gone over to the enemy, that I had betrayed her. I haven't seen her since."

"How long ago was that?" Alex wanted to know.

"Two years ago," the blond woman admitted with a deep flush.

"Why'd you wait so long to tell her?"

"I guess because I knew what she'd say," Sydney admitted with a sigh. "And I wanted to wait until I knew for sure that being a cop would work out. The last thing I wanted was to have her rub it in my face if it hadn't worked out."

As odd as it seemed Alex could understand the woman's sentiments. She had carried the same fears around with her when she had first joined the force, afraid that she would fail or worse realize it was a mistake. She didn't want to have to admit to anyone that she had screwed up but fortunately she had found out that she not only enjoyed being a cop but that she was also a good one.

"If you don't mind me asking why did you want to be a cop?"

Sydney could understand the reason for the question. It was rare that a person went from being in trouble with the law to enforcing it. Sometimes she didn't really understand it all herself.

"I don't know," it was an honest answer. "I guess I just woke up one day tired of looking over my shoulder all the time. I wanted to see what it was like being on the other side for awhile and I found I enjoyed it."

Alex remained quiet unwilling to push her companion for any more personal information, afraid to scare her off. She knew what the woman's file said and she had read the girl's essay explaining her desire to train as a peace officer. The poignant words had been the reason the younger woman had been accepted for police training. The recruiter had been impressed and reading the essay the Lieutenant had understood why.

"Well, I'm glad you did," she said at last, breaking the silence. Sydney looked up at the woman. She had expected the Lieutenant to say something, what she hadn't expected was what she did say. For a moment their eyes met and once again her heart fluttered.

"I'm glad I did too," she said quietly and there was a lapse in conversation as they concentrated on their food.

"I read in your file that you play basketball?" When Alex broke the silence it was to introduce a lighter topic of discussion. "What's your position?"

"Point guard," Sydney replied relieved to be discussing something less emotional. "Do you play?"


"Center, right?"

"Not really a tough guess," Alex crinkled her nose in amusement. "I had a full scholarship to Southern California."

"You didn't think to make a career of it?" If the woman was as good at basketball as she was a cop then Sydney figured she could have had a career as a professional.

"There was no pro league for women at that time," the Lieutenant shrugged. "I had offers from overseas but to me it was just a sport I loved to play. I didn't want it as a career."

"Maybe we can have a game of one on one sometime," Sydney suggested. "There are a couple of courts outside by the parking lot and the precinct downtown has a gym."

"I'd like that," Alex agreed and the other woman felt pleased that she had made the suggestion.

The rest of the meal they chatted about impersonal things and Alex was happy to learn that while they had very different tastes in certain things, they also shared some common interests. But the time they walked back to the station house, both women were feeling relaxed and comfortable in each others presence.

"Hey listen, I know someone who has season tickets to the Sonics so there's a chance I might be able to score some seats to a future game. Would you be interested in going?" Alex asked once they reached the parking lot where their vehicles were stored. The evening had gone so well, in spite of the few glitches, that she was courageous enough to make the next move.

"I'd love to," Sydney agreed enthusiastically. The idea of going to a Sonics game and being with this woman was a combination she wouldn't turn down not for anything in the world.

"Good, I'll see you on Monday afternoon then," Alex was unexpectedly pleased and the blond woman waved before climbing into her black jeep.

Alex waited in her own grey sedan until the other woman was safely on her way. She was in a good mood. A mood not even the pressures of her job could dislodge. All the way back to her apartment she hummed a silly children's tune.

Sydney had the weekend off but Saturday morning she was back in the squad room checking the Internet and the faxes hoping for some response from the inquires she had sent out the previous day. She was somewhat buoyed by one response she received from the authorities across the border in Canada, requesting an updated photograph of the child in question.

Using the pictures that Janice had taken the day before, she selected the best shot and e-mailed it to them. Knowing that it might take awhile for a response she drove down to the ME's office. Though it was Saturday and technically closed, she was still able to find a coroner's assistant at work.

"You're wanting to know about Boy Doe," the young man with yellow spiked hair said leading her through the building to the storage area where the bodies were kept.

"Yeah, what can you tell me?" she wanted to know, watching as the man paused by a steel table. He lifted the white sheet to reveal the chalk white face of the dead child before picking up a clipboard attached to the side of the table.

"We've just done the primaries but the cause of death was definitely strangulation by what at this time appears to be a cloth object, a towel, shirt, something like that."

"Was he sexually assaulted?" she wanted to know.

"Yes," the man was blunt and clinical in his analysis. Like the police, the people who worked in the Medical Examiners office had to learn to cope with the atrocities that came in every day on the meat wagons. They could not think of the body lying on the steel table as anyone's father, son or child. To them it was only an object of clinical interest and nothing more.

Sydney listened intently to the list of injuries the examiner recited, jotting notes down in her ever present notepad. Her eyes watched as he indicated a particular bruising or injury. In the end she came away saddened and sickened by the abuse the child seemed to have taken in the hours and days leading up to his death.

"What do you think?" the young man asked, snapping the victims chart closed and looking over at the young detective.

She was prettier then anyone he had met in a long time and certainly better to deal with then the other members of the homicide squad who regularly treated him with disdain because of his appearance and age. None of them knew he had graduated at the top of his class in Medical School.

"Definitely a sexual predator," the blond detective said thoughtfully. "Anyone who does this too child isn't of their right mind."

The man nodded allowing his eyes to glance over the woman again.

"Listen, I don't know your situation right now, but if you're available I was wondering if you'd like to go out some time," the young man knew there was no loss in trying.

"Thank you for the invitation but I'm not available," Sydney had learned the best way was to let them down gently. She was very private with her personal life, never openly admitting her sexuality to anyone. She had learned it was easier to invent a boyfriend then to explain she preferred woman. It also had a lot fewer ramifications.

"Cool," the man took the rejection without insult. He gave her a dazzling smile. "He's a lucky guy."

Sydney merely smiled in return. "I like to think so."

Those few moments would be the lightest she would have for the rest of the day. Upon her return to the office she had a response from the Canadians and she learned that the boy now had a name. She picked up the phone and dialled the number of her counterpart across the border.

"We can't be a hundred per cent positive but your photo matches that of a child we lost about eight months ago," the detective from the Vancouver Police Department said after they had formally introduced themselves.

"Do you have a suspect?" Sydney wanted to know.

"Yeah we did, but there was no concrete evidence and we couldn't hold him. Later he just seemed to vanish," the voice on the phone sounded heavy. "How did you find the boy?"

Sydney described in detail the crime scene and the injuries found on the child. There was a few seconds of silence as the faceless voice digested the information.

"The suspect had distant relatives in Seattle," the officer said in an abstract voice. "We asked your people to run a check and interview them. The report we got back was that they were clean."

Sydney had a sinking feeling at the thought that maybe her colleagues hadn't done a thorough enough job. Maybe the people who had interviewed these relatives had been uninterested in the task. She hated to believe that this little boy had lost his life because someone hadn't cared. She tried not to think about it.

"Anyway, we'll notify the family. They will probably want to come down to claim the body," the detective from Vancouver said and Sydney knew instinctively the man was not looking forward to that ordeal.

They talked a while longer and Sydney got some more information before ringing off. She knew she had a solid lead and had to act fast. She paged the Lieutenant and then called the DA's office, then sat down and waited impatiently for things to happen.

Alex was in the gym when her pager went off. She recognized the number and using her cell immediately called back. She listened quietly as the blond detective brought her up to date on the case.

"Call the DA and see about getting a search warrant," the Lieutenant said absently, thinking of all the details that needed to be handled.

"Already taken care of," the blond detective replied.

"Good girl," Alex said glancing at her watch. "I'll be there in thirty minutes."

"Right," Sydney nodded but the commander had already rung off.

It took less then thirty minutes for the Lieutenant to get to the station house and it didn't take much to convince the DA the need for a search warrant. Alex called the Judge on duty that weekend while Sydney arranged for several squad cars to be on standby.

Once the judge agreed to sign the papers, Sydney hurried off to collect the warrant and Alex arranged for several additional detectives from the third squad to accompany them. Within a few hours they were standing on the front porch of a nondescript house in a neighbourhood adjacent to the one where the child had been found.

The unsuspecting couple who answered their summons had no time to comprehend what was happening. They were handed the warrant before being escorted to a patrol car outside to be taken downtown to the station house for interrogation while police officers in plain clothes and uniforms fanned out through the house.

It was apparent that the couple had resided upstairs while the man had rented the basement suite. If they were thinking they might find a gold mine of clues they were sadly disappointed. The furnished apartment was immaculate and there was nothing personal in any of the small rooms.

"Don't touch anything," Sydney cautioned. "I want the Ident team in here to dust every square inch and then when their done I want this place ripped apart, piece by piece if necessary."

The others nodded. It ended up being a long day as Sydney remained on site determined to make sure no mistakes were made. Once the Ident team was done she locked up the suite and posted an officer in the house to prevent anyone from going near the scene.

"We'll start fresh tomorrow," she informed her colleagues who nodded and while most of them finished their shifts and went home she returned to the station to interrogate her two witnesses.

It was late at night when she was finished both interviews. While the man remained tight lipped, the woman was not so eager to protect their former houseguest. With a few questions Sydney learned that Lucas Anderson had lived in the basement suite for four months with a child whom he had introduced as his son. The lines on her face grew grim as she jotted down the woman's answers to her questions.

Alex was still at her desk in the squad room working on some paperwork when Sydney knocked on her door after interrogating the couple. She motioned the other woman to enter and the small detective did so, dropping into an empty chair. The Lieutenant could see that the blond detective was nearly exhausted.

"What did you find out?"

"The man refuses to say anything which makes me think he knows something. His wife on the other hand doesn't want us to think she had any part in this mess."

"So what did you get anything out of her?" Alex wanted to know leaning back in her chair.

"The woman said Lucas Andersen had been living in the suite for the last four months," Sydney relayed what she had learned. "They had never met before he moved in, though the man had been in regular contact with her husband for several years."

"Didn't they think anything odd?" Alex was curious and didn't entirely believe that this couple was innocent.

"They believed the story he fed them," the blond detective shrugged. "Lucas told them that he was separated and that he had gotten custody of their son. He came to live in Seattle because he wanted to get away from all the unhappy memories and start fresh. He paid them four hundred dollars every month for rent, had a steady job and took the kid to school everyday. Beyond that the woman said she really didn't have much contact with the man or the boy. She thought they were strange."

"Strange how?"

"Well, she said that Lucas was just plain creepy and the boy, whom they called Peter, was abnormally quiet for a child. She said it was almost as if he were afraid."

"And she didn't think that odd?" Alex could barely contain her disdain.

"She thought the boy was being abused by his father," Sydney conceded, revealing what the woman had said.

"Why didn't she report it?"

"She didn't say but just from our conversation I got the idea that her own situation with her husband isn't much better."

Alex digested this information for a moment, her blue eyes turning thoughtful as they stared across the desk at the blond woman. She had the urge to invite the younger woman out for a late night meal but dismissed the idea. It was almost midnight and the young detective looked completely worn out.

"What excuse did he give for leaving?" the Lieutenant wanted to know, returning her thoughts to the topic at hand.

"He told them that the boy was homesick for his mother and that he needed to see his ex-wife to try and work out their problems," the detective answered. "The morning we found the body, he came and told them that he had to go back to Vancouver. He had gotten a call from his lawyer that he had to be in court with the child to review the custody agreement. The woman said he had quit his job and would pick up the boy from school and head out from there."

"Have we notified the border crossings?" Alex asked.

"I got the license number and description of the suspects vehicle and contacted customs. I also notified our neighbors to the north that he might be heading back in their direction," Sydney detailed what she was doing.

"And our guests?"

"I released them but told them to hang around or they would be considered suspects. I told them to find some place else to sleep tonight."

"Good," the Lieutenant nodded a pensive frown burrowing between her eyebrows. "Do you think they are playing it straight?"

"Yes," Sydney was confident. "The man is definitely hiding something but the wife is terrified. All she kept asked about was whether she was going to jail. My impression was she didn't like Lucas Andersen, in fact when she found out why we were looking for him she was almost hysterical."

Alex nodded thoughtfully. She wasn't certain that releasing the couple was in their best interest but she trusted the detective's judgment. She leaned back in her chair and studied the other woman. It seemed she couldn't stop looking at her.

"Are you done for the night?"

"I was going to go over a few more reports," Sydney began but was interrupted.

"Leave them, you're tired. Go home and get some sleep."

Sydney nodded. For a brief moment she had been hoping that the Lieutenant would ask her out for dinner again but the dark haired woman only bade her a goodnight. She returned to her empty apartment feeling more lonely then she had in a long time.

She had gotten used to being on her own. Ever since her sister had been sent upstate when she was sixteen. To survive she had worked two jobs after school and on the weekends, just barely managing to squeeze in basketball practice between the two. It had helped that the coach had known her boss and both men had been sympathetic to her plight and fond of her talent.

Several universities had expressed interest but none had offered scholarships so she had ended up attending a local college. But the pressure of working and going to school had been overwhelming and she had dropped the team and then school altogether. After kicking around at a few jobs she had taken the police entrance exam and passed. Now after seven years she knew she was where she belonged.

She sighed moving through the dark apartment and switching on a few lights to brighten the atmosphere. Her busy schedule had left little time for socializing on any level. She had gone out and had the occasional relationship but they had all been superficial. She didn't know what she was waiting for or even looking for in a companion, at least she hadn't until now.

She pulled off her shirt and tossed it into the laundry basket in the bathroom. It was strange but for the very first time she wanted the very thing she had thus far been avoiding. She had been afraid of getting hurt yet now she was willing, almost eager to take the risk. She stared at herself in the mirror.

For so long she had run away from what she thought she might become. Everyone she had ever depended on had let her down. Everyone she had trusted had betrayed her in some form and for a long time she had wondered if she would ever be able to crack that wall that went up whenever she met someone who might be interesting. Strangely that wall had completely disintegrated the moment she had laid eyes on Alex Marshall.

She sighed, turning on the taps and letting the water run. She dipped her hands under the stream and then splashed her face looking back at the mirror as droplets ran down her cheeks. She wondered if she were being a fool.

The woman had said that she had been engaged so it seemed likely that she preferred men, but there was something in her eyes when they looked at each other that made her think otherwise. She wasn't an innocent that didn't know what was going on. She had had her share of lovers from both sexes though she had long ago acknowledged she was gay. For a long time she had been forced to play a role against her nature, perhaps that was the way it had been with the Lieutenant.

She turned the taps off and dried her face. She was hungry but was to tired to fix something so she rang the local take out joint and ordered a pizza. It wasn't the healthiest diet but it was the last thing she cared about now. She barely managed to stay awake until the food arrived and it wasn't long after she had eaten that she was sound asleep on the sofa, the television blaring quietly in the background.

Alex had been tempted to invite the younger woman out for dinner again but she had resisted the temptation. She had to be careful and regardless how much she was interested in the woman, she could not be seen to show any favouritism. It was a dilemma and one she was determined to find a way around.

She left the station house not long after the detective, returning to her empty apartment in the sourthwest corner of the city. She had always enjoyed the peace and quiet after a long day of work but now she saw it as something more then her respite from the world. Today she saw it as an empty and lonely place.

She dropped her briefcase on the coffee table and slumped on to the sofa, her blue eyes roaming around the room. One of the things she had liked about living alone was the fact that she wasn't required to compromise on anything. She could decorate the way she wanted and leave the bed messy in the morning if she so desired. Not that she did, being a neat person by trait, but it was the knowledge that gave her the freedom she thought she needed.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes realizing with startling clarity that she would give it all up in a moment to be with a certain blond haired, green eyed detective. She shook her head wondering if that was what love was all about. One's willingness to abandon everything one treasured to be with that person.

She sighed and then dragged herself out of the chair into the kitchen. A thorough search of the refrigerator and cupboards revealed nothing of interest and after a slight debate she settled on warming a can of vegetable soup. It was a nutritious meal but tasteless and she decided that she would have to do some grocery shopping, a chore she always hated. Of course that would have to wait until after her visit to her parents. She had promised to join them for brunch the next day.

Idly she entertained the idea of ringing Detective Davis and inviting her along. As soon as she had that thought she dismissed it. It was to early to entertain ideas of Sydney meeting her family. Too early to give the woman a hint to what kind of family she would be joining. Alex shook her head not quite believing the thoughts she was having.

You're nuts, she chided herself. She had only just met the woman and the extent of their relationship outside of work had been a dinner at a cheap restaurant. That wasn't even a date so why was she already planning a future with the woman. A woman whom she hardly knew. There was even the possibility that Sydney wasn't even gay or worse not interested in a relationship, though she had seen a look in the girl's eyes that gave her cause to fantasize. And fantasize she did, allowing herself the pleasure of imagining what it would be like for them to be in bed together.

Chapter Three

I wonder what Alex is doing, Sydney thought as she wandered through the basement suite watching the search team methodically rip the place apart. It's Sunday so she's probably out with her friends, she concluded making herself miserable.

She had secretly hoped that the Lieutenant would show up at the scene but had to concede that the woman probably had a dozen better things to do then spend the day going through a middle class house, looking for clues to the murder of an eight year old child named Tommy Kennedy. With a sigh she dismissed all musings of the tall, dark haired woman and concentrated on the task at hand.

The primary report from the Ident team was that they had been able to take a lot of clear fingerprints from the scene. Prints that could be matched to the suspect and his victim. Nonetheless she knew that the DA would want an absolutely solid case.

The first on the scene that morning, she had carefully mapped off areas of the suite and assigned one individual officer to each section with the instructions to move anything that could be moved. That included carpets and pieces of plywood or drywall. It was early afternoon and three hours into the search when she was called into the bedroom.

"I think I found something," one young patrolman exclaimed and Sydney watched as he pointed to a hole in the wall that had been covered by a small, loosely nailed panel. "I think there's a crawl space behind there."

The small detective dropped to the floor and stuck her head into the opening which was large enough for a child or a small adult to fit through. She flipped on her flashlight and peered around the small cubbbyhole. There was a blanket, a pillow, some dirty dishes and scraps of discarded food. There was even a small bucket whose contents were emitting a foul stench that made the bile rise up in her stomach.

It was pretty obvious what this place was. Tommy had not been in school during the time that Lucas Andersen was at work. Instead the boy had been kept hidden, imprisoned in this tiny space between the wall and the foundation.

"I need a camera in here," she said bringing her head back into the room, her eyes going to Janice who had been waiting patiently in the background. The woman nodded and they switched places, but the other woman was to large to fit her shoulders through the narrow opening.

"I'm sorry Sarge, but I couldn't get in, you need someone smaller," the woman shook her head and then eyed the tiny detective speculatively. "You just might be able to fit."

"No way, I'll not a photographer," Sydney automatically protested, but that wasn't the real reason she didn't want to crawl back into that space. The smell and the tightness made her stomach lurch.

"Ah, come on, it's real easy, here I'll show you what to do, just focus and snap," the photographer demonstrated by snapping off a few shots. It was simple and there was no excuse for Sydney not to crawl back inside. None except cowardliness.

She glanced up and around the room seeing the faces of her fellow officers. They were looking at her expectantly, waiting for her decision. She was in charge of this investigation and she could not ask any of them to do something which she wouldn't do. With a sigh she snatched the camera from her friends hand.

"I hope someone has the fire departments number handy for when I get stuck," she muttered in defeat. This brought a chuckle from the gathering.

"It would give you a good excuse to take a couple of days off," Janice smiled holding her hand up as if she were talking into a phone. "Ah, Lieutenant, I can't come into work today, I'm a little hung up."

"Yeah right," Sydney shook her head, trying not to smile but found it impossible. She kept shaking her head while she slipped her outer garments off until she was dressed only in a thin tank top t-shirt and her boxer shorts. She glanced up to see several of the patrolmen smirking.

"I don't want to hear a single comment about this. Besides, I'm a girl, I'm supposed to like things with little hearts on them," she warned with a serious frown as the tiny hearts on her underwear brought out several snickers. No one disagreed but nobody stopped smiling either.

She ignored them and instead concentrated on taking several deep breaths before laying down on the floor and wriggling her slender body through the opening. It was a tight squeeze and mentally she recited every motion, aware that she would eventually have to climb out of this prison.

"Everything is going to be okay," she prayed silently as she snuggled up against the cold cement of the foundation and the beams of the house. It occurred to her that this house was oddly built and mentally put a reminder to herself to check on who was the contractor.

It was not only smelly in the small cell but also hot and before long she felt tiny trickles of sweat begin to roll down her bare skin. When she had gone as far as she could go, she started taking pictures, positioning the camera at various angles to get as many views as possible. When the roll was full she handed it back to the police photographer who had stuck her head through the opening.

"I'm going to start handing back evidence," she called. "Make sure everything is carefully tagged and logged."

With those words began the odious task of clearing the hole of its contents. She didn't have any opportunity to study much of what she was handling, anxious only to get the job done and get out of this stifling prison. It was more then a hour before the last of the articles had been retrieved and she was sweating profusely by the time she climbed back into the bedroom. She lay on the floor for a long moment breathing deeply in an attempt to get her equilibrium back.

"Are you okay Sarge?" she opened her eyes to see a pair of twinkling blue orbs looking down at her and for a brief instant she thought it was someone else and then her eyes focused on the rest of the face and she saw that it was Robert Newlie. Like many others he had volunteered his time to help on this case. "You're looking awfully pretty today. Don't think I've ever quite seen an outfit like that at work before."

"Not another word," she warned fiercely, sitting up and her twisting her head around. "Where's the evidence?"

"Everything has been tagged, boxed and put in a black and white for transport down to the station," the patrol officer said and Sydney nodded appreciatively, glancing around as she struggled to her feet unaware of the photographer who was taking great delight in getting several unique pictures of the detective in her underwear.

"Have we gone through everything?"

"Yes," the man nodded continuing to distract the small woman. "Officer Bagley found several boxes of photographs out by the trash bins. He sent them to headquarters for analysis."

"Thanks," Sydney was glad that these men knew what to do. Of course it was no surprise. Cases like this brought out the best in everyone and each officer was extra careful giving this case more attention then if it had been some bum on the street.

She plucked her clothes off the bed and though she would have preferred a shower before putting them back on, she had no choice in the matter. She would have to feel dirty until she returned to the station.

Once she was dressed, she strolled back through the suite seeing the mess that they had left behind. Right now she didn't care about the destruction. Her thoughts were only of the little boy laying on a steel table in the Medical Examiners office.

Sunday brunch was a monthly tradition whereby her parents invited the whole family over for food and games. As expected everyone was there, seated around the large dining room table enjoying the huge buffet meal that had been prepared.

It was a boisterous affair and Alex found herself enjoying it more then she had anticipated. There was a lot of good natured ribbing and teasing and then some intense discussion on several of the cases that were currently before the courts.

"I'm glad you came," Marie said sitting down on a chair next to her daughter. The adults had retreated to the games room. Her father and brothers were currently engaged in a pool match while their wives watched and talked. The children were playing quietly in another corner of the room. "I missed not having you here."

"I missed not being here," Alex was honest and she reached over and took her mother's hand between her own which made the older woman smile.

"Really?" Marie was surprised by this confession.

"Yes," the taller woman assured her with a smile which her mother returned and for a moment they both were silent as a roar of laugher followed some outrageous play made by her father.

Marie glanced at her daughters profile. The girl was so beautiful that it amazed her sometimes how she had managed to bear such a magnificent looking child. Of course the boys were all good looking, but there was something special about her daughter, something that she couldn't identify that made the younger woman stand out. She glanced down at their hands which were still joined.

"I was talking to Bertha Hallings the other day," the older woman dared to speak, breaking the silence between them. "It seems her son Bert just got divorced and is moving back into the city. She mentioned that he still remembers you from school."

"Mother, I'm not interested," Alex patiently reminded with a soft sigh. Perhaps she had only been fooling herself by thinking that her parents had accepted the situation. "I'm gay. It's not something that's going to go away."

"I know," Marie said with a sigh and a half smile. "It's just that I see your brothers and how happy they are and I can't help thinking about what you might be missing."

"I don't have to be heterosexual to be happy," the taller woman was patient, aware that her mother was trying to understand. "Besides who says I haven't met someone."

"Have you?" this caught the older woman's complete attention and Alex turned to see her mother staring at her intently.

"Yes," she nodded her head, thinking of a certain blond woman. Her heart trembled at the image.

"When are we going to meet...her?" the last word came out somewhat strained and Alex gave the woman a wary half smile before squeezing her hand.

"Not for awhile," she was honest. "We just met and it's too soon."

"But she's special?"

"Very," that was something that was not a lie. "I think she might be the one. I want to take it slowly."

Marie looked at the girl, somewhat surprised by this confession. It was unnatural for her stoic daughter to be so forthcoming about her personal life. Even as a child Alex was very private, never telling them more then what she thought they needed to know. She had been even more tight lipped about her intimate life since coming out of the closet four years previously and they had yet to meet any of her romantic interests.

Not that they really minded, hoping privately that their daughter was going through a phase in life which would eventually pass. If pressed Marie wouldn't lie, she hoped that Alex would find someone whom she considered more suitable. Someone the girl could settle down with and raise some children. She lifted her hand and gently combed strands of raven hair behind an ear.

"Well dear, whenever you're ready just let us know and I'll schedule a dinner."

"Thanks," the younger woman appreciated the offer aware how difficult it was for her mother to accept the truth. She was just grateful that the woman was trying.

Their talk gave Alex a sudden desire to see Sydney. After leaving her parents home she drove by the station only to find that the woman was already gone. She was barely able to mask the disappointment, a feeling that only persisted when Norm Bridges approached her at the beginning of their strategy meeting the next afternoon.

"Syd asked me to tell you that she can't make it today," the veteran detective relayed the message. "It seems her victims parents are coming down to view the body so she's been at the ME's office all day and probably tomorrow as well."

Alex nodded and pushing down her feelings of disappointment she called together the rest of the detectives and started the meeting.

Sydney had been forced to deal with difficult situations over the course of her career yet none were as strenuous as facing the parents of a murdered child. She met Donald Brewster of the Vancouver Police at headquarters and they spent some time reviewing the case before driving over to the hotel where the young couple had checked in for an overnight stay.

The Kennedy's were a young couple, not yet in their thirties, who had been doing fairly well for themselves. Drew Kennedy had a job with the Provincial Power company while Alison worked as a receptionist at a dentist's office. All in all they had a good life until the day that their son was kidnapped. Since then it had become a trial, a nightmare from which they seemed incapable of waking.

Sydney hoped that today the end of that ordeal would begin though she wasn't certain anyone could ever fully recover from what this couple was forced to endure. She knew it would be impossible for these people to forget what happened and realized that in the end their lives would be inevitably scarred.

She noticed two things the moment they were introduced. One that the couple was very much in love with each other and two, the strain of the situation was testing that love. She desperately hoped that in spite of everything the pair would stay together though statistics were definitely against them.

The couple had dozens of questions that she tried to answer as delicately as possible. She wanted to hide the worst of the truth yet wasn't always able too and she could see the pain etched in the depth of their eyes as they realized the extent of the terror their child had been forced to endure. It was then she learned that sometimes there was no way to soften some blows.

Sydney wished there was a way to absolute some of the pain but there was nothing that could comfort or prepare them for the heart wrenching sight of their son's body. Their anguished sobs were enough to touch even the most hardened veteran and she felt tears pool in her own eyes. It was only the strict control she kept over her emotions that prevented her from breaking down.

It was evening before she finally returned to the squad room. With the exception of Det. Bridges and Howard, who were working the phones on one of their cases, the place was deserted. Even the Lieutenant's office was dark. Sydney felt alone at that moment for she had been hoping to talk to the other woman. It had been an emotionally exhausting day and the images of the forlorn parents was still clear in her head.

"Where is everyone?" she asked in an odd voice.

"A suspicious death in the Lakeland district," Norm said returning the phone to its cradle. "The rest are out chasing down leads."

"And the Lieutenant?"

"Some meeting with the brass," he shrugged, his eyes narrowing perceptively as he studied the young woman face. He could see the distress which was just barely held in check. "How you holding up?"

"I'm okay," Sydney lied trying not to seem weak. She had learned early the consequences of showing any vulnerability.

Norm stared at the young woman. He had been in the Unit long enough to know the emotional cost their job exacted. Some could handle the pressure while others broke under the stress. He knew what the woman was going through. Over the course of his career he too had run across some situations that even to this day, years later, brought tears to his eyes.

"If you need to talk or anything, just give us a shout," the man offered gruffly not unaware of her hesitation to seek help.

"I appreciate that," Sydney welcomed the offer though she knew she would never take him up on it.

She went over to her desk and sifted through the messages that had accumulated in her absence. She was undeniably weary, more tired then usual. She would have liked to ignore the rest of her cases but that wasn't the way things worked in homicide. She had to be organized enough to handle them all at the same time.

She spent the next few hours returning calls and catching up on some paperwork aware she was scheduled to be in court the next morning on another case. She was just preparing to leave when the call came in. It was Van Phan the Little Dragon's unofficial leader.

She hesitated only for a moment before agreeing to meet him at a restaurant in Chinatown, aware that she might not get this opportunity again. She replaced the phone and glanced around the squad room to where the other detectives were working.

"You need help with something?" Norm asked glancing up and seeing her pensive expression. Sydney debated for a minute and then decided against asking for their assistance.

"No, I'll take a couple of uniforms with me," she said pulling her jacket off of her chair. "Have a good night."

The man eyed her for a moment and then shrugged. Sydney grabbed a patrol unit on her way out of the station house. In less than an hour she was in Chinatown parked in a stall behind a popular Chinese restaurant.

Alex was in a foul mood by the time she returned to the squad room. Her meeting with the Captain and the other Homicide Lieutenants had gone badly and her disgust for them all was evident in the scowl on her face. Rather then getting anything accomplished the men had spent most of the time bickering amongst themselves.

She glanced around the room as she entered. It was empty except for Det. Bridges and Howard who were drinking coffee and arguing over a case they were working. She knew where the other detectives were or at least she thought she did. A frown burrowed across her brow.

"Hasn't Sgt. Davis come in yet?" she directed her question towards the veteran detective.

"Yeah, but she left again about half an hour ago," Norm answered

Alex nodded not entirely pleased. She had hoped to see the woman before she went home. Mentally she shook her head wondering what the hell was happening. She couldn't even go a day without seeing the woman.

"Gods, you have it bad," she muttered to herself and started towards the office, but paused after a few steps. "Did Det. Davis say where she was going?"

"No," the veteran shook his grey head. "All she said was that she was off to meet Van Phan of the Little Dragon's."

"Who went with her?"

"She took a patrol unit for backup."

"Christ!" Alex exclaimed angrily, her blue eyes turning pale. "What in the hell is she thinking?"

It was a question that wasn't meant to be answered and she strolled purposefully into her office, taking the time only to toss her briefcase on the desk before picking up the phone and dialling the desk sergeant. She waited impatiently for the phone to be answered.

"What unit went out with Det. Davis?" she barked over the phone.

"Twenty seven," came the startled reply.

"What's their location?"

"97th and Dover in Chinatown."

"If you hear anything from them, I want to know about it, ASAP," Alex instructed the faceless voice.

"I also want to know when Det Davis releases them."

"Yes, maam," the man stammered and then listened as the phone crashed down.

Damn that woman, Alex sputtered furiously, aware that she would not be able to leave until she knew the detective was okay. She couldn't understand what the blond had been thinking. The knock on the door interrupted her silent tirade.

"Enter," she barked glad to have her attention diverted at least temporarily.

Jimmy Chow's was a popular gangster hang out. A lesser person might have been nervous entering the restaurant alone but Sydney was familiar with the routine. She had been around gangs all her life and knew how to act. Besides she had the patrol until parked down the street waiting for her return.

"Phan!" she nodded her head towards a slender man who was sitting in a booth at the far corner of the restaurant. She recognized him from the half moon scar that ran from his left eye to his jaw. A lasting reminder of a knife fight almost lost.

"Sergeant Davis, it is nice to see you again," the slender man nodded in acknowledgment. He waved his hand, motioning the men sitting on the bench across from him to move, which they did, making room for her to sit down.

Just by looking at the man one would think he was not a nice fellow and it was more then just the scar on his face. His features were sharp and angular, his eyes a dark brown. Even the pencil thin moustache over his upper lip and the Fu Manchu beard added to the mystic. He was the most ruthless man she knew. She slipped into the vacated bench and smiled.

"I can't say the same thing for you," was her reply. Any sting her words held were taken out by the smile on her face. "Tell me about Phu Van Tu."

"There is nothing to say," the man said coyly, smiling through the smoke that curled up from the tip of his cigarette. "He's dead."

"I know, I pulled his case," she nodded glancing covertly at his friends.

"I heard you were in homicide now," the man nodded and took a puff of his smoke. "It is to bad, you will never find his killer."

"No, I will never bring him to justice, there is a difference," she corrected. "I know you had him killed. What I don't know is why?"

The Vietnamese man studied her for a moment before speaking. "There are many reasons for a person to die. You know the code of the streets, we have our own justice."

"Did you sacrifice him?" she wanted to know and for an instant something glinted in his eyes.

"Why would we do that?" he asked benignly.

"Maybe because you don't want a war with the Bloods," she shrugged and then tipped her hand. "Did you kill him because he killed that Blood at the Areosmith concert?"

Van Phan took a deep breath on his cigarette and then idly blew out the smoke, his sharp eyes focused intently on the woman's face. He could see the hint of fear in her eyes but he also saw the animal in her soul. He knew this woman was not afraid of him and for that he admired her.

"Many say that you have gone soft," he mused with a lazy smile. "I think they underestimate you."

"They always did," she agreed and the man chuckled. "Did you kill him to prevent a war?"

"Phu was a foolish man," Vang said quietly the smile disappearing from his face as he tapped the ashes from his cigarette into a nearby tray. "He was very hot tempered and too eager to draw blood. All he wanted to do was fight. He could not understand that he needed to chose his fights wisely." He paused and took another drag of his cigarette. "We took care of an internal problem. If we hadn't there would have been many more bodies in the morgue for you to investigate."

Sydney wasn't certain she didn't agree with him however it did change anything. Van Phan had ordered Phu Van Tu killed. She knew it and he had pretty much told her so. Only thing was that she would never be able to prove anything.

She looked at him for a moment longer and then glanced casually around the restaurant. She could see that his minions were watching her intently. A lesser person would have been intimidated but Sydney was beyond that type of fear. She turned back to the man and gave him a seductive smile.

"Maybe we can help each other," she said and the man waited for her to continue speaking.

Alex snatched the phone out of the cradle before the first ring was finished. She listened intently to the desk sergeant only then allowing the knot in her stomach to loosen. She put the phone down with a sigh and leaned back in her chair wondering whatever possessed the young detective to go off on her own. She stood up and packed up her desk, allowing anger to replace fear. Tomorrow she would tell the girl exactly what she thought.

Sydney was feeling quite pleased with herself the next day. She had remained calm and believable throughout her testimony not flinching under the badgering questions that the defence attorney had thrown at her. The District Attorney was certain that her testimony would convict the defendant. However, her happiness wasn't entirely the result of a good day in court.

Last night she had reached a tentative agreement with Van Phan. She had bartered a deal that would put one of the red names on the board into the black column. All she had to do was convince the Lieutenant which she was confident she could. Then all Alex would have to do was persuade the DA. She was convinced everything would work out.

"You're in a good mood," Keith Bettman commented when she walked in the squad room.

"It's a great day," Sydney replied with a bright grin.

"We'll see how great it is in awhile," the older man snorted. "The Lieutenant wants to see you and she's not in a good mood."

"Oh," the blond detective turned and looked in the direction of the Lieutenants office. "Did she say what she wanted?"

"Nope," the man shook his head. "But I'd advise you to get in there ASAP and find out. She's been a bear all afternoon."

Sydney nodded and paused only long enough at her desk to remove her coat before continuing onto the Lieutenant's office. Her knock was answered by a gruff voice that barked for her to enter. She grimaced, mentally squaring her shoulders before stepping into the room.

"Good afternoon," she said cheerfully.

"You're late!" came the terse reply and the smile was immediately wiped from the blond woman's face.

"I was in court," the small woman stammered in her own defensive, fiercely racking her brain for what she might have done to deserve this type of reception. "I'm suppose to be in court all week."

"Why didn't you let me know?" the tall woman wanted to know.

"I forgot," Sydney sputtered, confused by this reception. "I never had to report before. I filled out the appropriate paperwork."

"Well this isn't like before," Alex said tersely surprising even herself with the emotion she felt. "From now on I want to know exactly where you are and whose with you. Is that understood?"

Sydney stood silently facing the brunt of the woman's rage. Her heart trembled and tears pooled in the back of her eyes. Despite how undeserved this tongue lashing was she was determined to remain calm and unemotional.

"I didn't hear you?"

"Yes," the blond detective replied in a cool voice and green eyes watched as the Lieutenant slowly stood up and leaned towards her with hands on her desk until their faces were only inches apart.

"Secondly, I don't ever want to hear again that you went off by yourself to interview a suspect," Alex's voice was colder then the small detective had ever heard it before. "What the hell were you thinking, you could have been killed?"

"I wasn't thinking," Sydney replied through clenched teeth.

"Obviously you weren't," the Lieutenant replied with a sneer. "If I ever hear you doing that again you

will be busted down to foot patrol so fast your head will spin. Is that understood?"

"Yes," the blond detective nodded, the colour draining from her face. She knew without a doubt that the Lieutenant would make good on the threat.

"All right, because this is your first offence I am only going to suspend you for one day," Alex breathed angrily and then pointed towards the door. "Now get out of here before I get into a really bad mood."

Sydney nodded mutely. Without another word she turned and walked with dignity out of the office. Tears smarted in her eyes as she thought of the confrontation, the older woman's words shredding the happiness she had been feeling. She stalked across the room and grabbed her jacket, aware that everyone in the squad room had been witness to her humiliation.

Norm Bridges watched as the young detective stormed out of the room. He felt sympathy for her and being a veteran with a good record he decided that he would intervene on her behalf.

Alex didn't know why she was so angry with the young woman. She wouldn't have gotten as upset if one of the men on the squad had done the same. She would have disciplined them but in a more professional manner. She knew that she had allowed her emotions to govern her actions. She slumped into her chair. A knock came on the door.

"Come in," she bade in a normal voice and glanced up to see Norm Bridges enter. She saw by the expression on his face that he was not here on any normal business. She suspected he had come in response to her actions. "Speak your peace."

"I'm thinking you were a little harsh on Syd," he said shoving his hand in his trouser pockets.

"How so?" Alex asked her eyes narrowing and pinning him to the wall.

"Fact is until now Lieutenant Messington sent her out alone with units on a regular basis," the detective said unintimidated by the woman. "He didn't much care for her and tried to set her up for failure as often as he could."

Alex was silent, feeling a confusing mixture of emotion. She felt sympathy for the woman yet it wasn't enough to alter her decision. She looked up at the man, happy that he had gone out of his way to defend the blond woman.

"I appreciate what you're saying Sgt and I will take this into consideration next time something happens," she said and the man nodded. With that he turned to go. "Sgt. make sure she's logged out at the end of the shift."

The man looked at the woman and nodded, waiting until he was out of the room before letting the smile cross his lips. He was a good judge of character and his first impression had been that the new Lieutenant was a fair person. He wasn't disappointed.

Sydney fumed as she left the station, cursing the Lieutenant for humiliating her. Even though she wanted to cry, she stubbornly refused to let herself, thinking that it would be like admitting defeat. She would show that bitch what she was made of. With that thought in mind she guided her jeep towards Rourke's, a tavern that was frequented by members of the police department. It was here that she proceeded to get drunk. It was also here that Sgt Robert Newlie found her several hours later.

The patrol Sergeant stepped into the dimly lit bar and pausing at the door glanced around the room. There were off duty policemen scattered around the place, but the one he was looking for was seated at the bar, nursing a half empty beer. There was a forlorn expression on her face. The bartender glanced up as he wandered over and slipped onto a stool next to the woman but he waved him away. He had not come here to drink. He had come to rescue a friend.

"Hey Syd, what are you doing here?" he asked when the detective turned to look at him. He knew the woman rarely ventured here unless it was for a special occasion.

"Getting drunk," the woman replied with a lopsided grin. She looked at him through bleary eyes.

"Why?" he asked quietly and watched as the grin disappeared. She turned away taking another sip of her drink.

"Does it matter?"

"Sometimes it does," he said and then waited for her to speak. Of course he knew the source of her unhappiness. His friend Norm Bridges had called, briefly explaining the situation. "What's going on Syd?"

"Nothing," the woman shook her head. "The Lieutenant just dressed me down and then suspended me for the shift."

"It's not the first time," the man reminded her.

"I know but this is different," she said staring down at her beer.

"Why?" Rob asked and then watched intently as she picked nervously at the label on the bottle. He was astute enough to notice that she didn't look at him.

"It just is," she replied with a pout. The man knew then that she would not be any more forthcoming. He stood up, digging some money out of his pocket and putting it on the counter.

"Come on I'll take you home," he said reaching out to help her to her feet.

"I don't want to go home," she protested but the man was insistent.

"Okay, then come home with me," he looped his arm around her waist and helped her towards the door.

"Won't Ashley be upset?" Sydney asked leaning against him for support when her legs refused to cooperate.

"Nah, I'll explain, besides she will be happy to see you," he replied and then helped her out of the tavern and across the parking lot to where his car was parked. He settled her into the passenger seat before going around to the drivers side. Thirty minutes later she was sound asleep on the couch in his den. Her light snores vibrating through the quiet room.

"Do you want to tell me what this is all about?" Ashley Newlie asked her husband when they retreated from the room. The older woman was not upset with her spouse for bringing the younger woman home. She genuinely cared for the girl who was only slightly older then their own children. They often thought of the Sydney as a surrogate daughter.

"The Lieutenant disciplined her for something," Rob told her as much as he knew.

"That isn't anything new," the woman was puzzled.

"No," her husband agreed. "But the Lieutenant is."

"Do you want to explain that?" Ashley asked raising an eyebrow and the man chuckled, wrapping his arm around her waist as he lead her towards the kitchen.

Sydney woke up to a fierce headache the next morning. She was profusely embarrassed by her situation and apologized to her friends for her unusual behaviour. The couple only dismissed it with wide smiles and as soon as she dared she hurried off mindful that she had to be in court by nine that morning.

She was glad that she had that respite from the office yet when it was time for her to report for her shift she purposefully avoided the any contact with the Lieutenant. For the next week the two women only spoke to each other when necessary and when they did it was in a cool detached voices. Her feelings were hurt more so then if it had been with any of the others. Mistakenly she had thought they had made a connection.

The coldness Alex felt coming from the blond detective was almost killing her though no one would have known from the dour expression on her face. The more time she had to think about the matter the more time she had to reflect her actions, though she did notice a marked change in the other detectives who had overheard the exchange.

Furiously she tried to think of a way to resolve the situation. She didn't want to be enemies with this woman. On the contrary she still had fantasies of them being more then friends though privately she had to concede that she had probably blown any chance of having a relationship.

By the next Saturday her patience had reached the breaking point. She figured there was only one way to solve the situation though she realized the results probably wouldn't be pretty. She knew that they couldn't go on this way.

"Davis, in here now!" she hollered curtly from her office.

Sydney glanced around suspiciously at her colleagues and then squared her shoulders before walking across the room and into the Lieutenant's office. Defiant green eyes met blue ones.

"Close the door," Alex barked when the woman left it open. She waited until her instructions had been carried out before speaking. "You're pissed off at me and I understand why. However, I won't tolerate your type of behaviour on my shift. I know you are upset at me and I may have jumped the gun when I yelled at you, but I think it's gone beyond mere apologies."

Sydney said nothing, silently listening and waiting for the other woman to complete her speech. Alex moved around the desk, grabbing the basketball that was perched on a shelf. She flipped it over to the smaller woman who was barely able to react fast enough to catch it.

"I know you want a piece of me so I'm going to give you the chance," Alex said in a curt voice. "Meet me outside on the basketball court in half an hour and we'll have a game of one on one, no holds barred."

"How do I know I can trust you not to discipline me again if I bump you to hard?" the blond detective asked skeptically not quite trusting the Lieutenant.

"You don't," the dark haired woman said. "You only have my word, so the balls in your court. You have a chance to take your best shot at me. Or maybe you're chicken?"

"I'm not scared of anything," Sydney hissed through clenched teeth aware that she was being baited. "I'll meet you outside in thirty minutes. You might want to put on some extra padding because I'm not going to take it easy on you."

"I hope not," Alex replied and smiled when the other woman turned and stalked out of the room.

Less then thirty minutes later they were out on the court facing each other like two combatants about to go to war. Sydney had changed into a pair of light grey sweats and a matching sweat shirt while Alex was dressed in a pair of light grey shorts and matching t-shirt with a loose dark blue basketball jersey overtop.

It was a cool day with overcast skies. The air smelled of rain but neither woman was aware of anything but the other person and the tension between them. Sydney bounced the ball on the cement pad eyeing her opponent for a long moment.

"Who starts?" she wanted to know her entire body itching to go. She had visions of banging this woman around the court. Part of her success in the game had been her physical play which often caught her opponents off guard.

"Be my guest," Alex was gallant, but the blond detective only smiled.

"No, I think age before beauty," she sneered snapped the ball at the Lieutenants face. Alex snatched it out of the air and returned the smile.

"If you insist," she said and then took up her position.

For the next hour they went at each other banging and bumping, working off the frustration they felt. Alex used her size and ability to out manoeuvre her smaller opponent while Sydney utilized her quickness and body to unbalance the taller woman. More then once the blond detective charged her opponent knocking her to the ground. The Lieutenant merely nodded and picked herself up and went back to the game.

Both women were competitive and it showed in their play and unbeknownst to them they attracted attention from all corners of the property. Officers at their desk in the station house moved to the window to watch while patrolmen coming and going stopped in the parking lot to view what was happening. To them it was a good game of one on one, but to the participants it was something different altogether. Neither noticed when it started to rain, a light mist falling from the sky.

She's good, Alex conceded privately when the younger woman deftly out manoeuvred her and drove in for a lay up. She had a hard time keeping the smile off her face at the sight of the triumphant look on the blonde's face as she flipped the ball over to her.

"Your turn Lieutenant," Sydney sneered, but it was without the contempt she had felt earlier for the woman.

Alex caught the ball and bounced it a few times before driving for the basket. Sydney stepped in at the last moment slamming her body against the taller woman and knocking her off balance but this time the Lieutenant didn't go down though she lost the ball.

All right you little bitch I think I've given you enough free reign, the Lieutenant smiled inwardly. Time to get serious before she gets too arrogant.

When Sydney drove for the basket this time Alex was waiting and when she attempted a deek the Lieutenant moved in and with a hard slap knocked the ball out of the detective's hands. Sydney flinched at the painful attack. She looked up to see a seductive smile on the taller woman's face. It did nothing more then insight her to further physical play. This time when she slammed her hips into the Lieutenant's buttocks in an attempt to unbalance her, Alex was waiting and shifted her elbow so that it smacked into the smaller woman's ribs.

"Ouch," Sydney couldn't prevent the groan that escaped her lips as the older woman circled around her and scored a basket. The Lieutenant laughed and arrogantly tossed her the ball which only made the smaller woman seethe.

When Sydney tried another deft move Alex was there, slamming her body into the younger woman's and stealing the ball before putting up a shot that soared through the hoop. The blond detective stood for a moment catching her breath and scowling at her opponent.

"Do you want to give up?" Alex asked with a cocky smile.

"Never," Sydney glared and grabbed the ball, bouncing it for a few minutes before making her assault on the basket. Like before Alex was waiting and it seemed that whatever Sydney tried she was there slapping the ball away or blocking a shot. The younger woman was growing increasingly frustrated and it showed in her play as the banging became even more intense.

They had been at it for more then an hour and Alex was beginning to feel the affects of their play. She had only to look at her companion to know that it was also taking it's toll on the other woman. Sydney was breathing heavy and both their shirts were damp not only from the rain but from sweat.

Alex stared at the other woman and felt an ache in her heart. She didn't want to battle this woman any more yet she knew that she couldn't concede and knew that Sydney wouldn't concede either. Perhaps that was one of the things that attracted her to much to the blond. It was the fierce independence and pride that shone from her eyes. It spoke of a woman who would fight until the very end. So she decided to end it now before either of them got hurt.

Alex took the ball and then drove for the basket not moving around the woman as she usually did but instead going straight through. Sydney wasn't entirely prepared and her fatigue made her reactions slower then normal. She took the full force of the blow as the woman crashed into her, knocking her off balance and sending her tumbling to the court floor. She hit the cement with a thud and just lay there listening as the ball sailed cleanly through the netting.

She looked up to see the Lieutenant leaning over her, noticing for the first time how damp the other woman's clothes were and how stingy her long dark hair had become. Despite that she couldn't help thinking that she was still the most beautiful creature she had ever met.

"Don't try and mess with me," Alex said with a curled lip as she stared down at the blond woman, afraid for a moment that she had hurt the detective yet seeing that she was all right.

Sydney didn't try to get up, giving in to her exhaustion. Against her will she capitulated, as the fatigue she had been fighting for the last month and the strain of her case load came crashing down. Tears pooled in her eyes and started flowing unimpeded as quiet sobs came from between slightly parted lips.

"Christ," Alex swore and dropped to the ground, scooping the smaller woman into her arms and cradling her against her chest as Sydney cried uncontrollably. She tenderly stroked the young woman's hair and rocked them in an attempt to settle the other woman down. Finally Sydney was able to get herself under control. She pulled out of the taller woman's embraced, embarrassed by her reaction and unable to look at her companion.

"Are you okay?" Alex was genuinely concerned. "Did I hurt you?"

"No," Sydney shook her head, brushing the back of her hand across her eyes to wipe away the tears that remained. "Sorry, I'm not usually like this. I don't know what's come over me."

"It's been a tough week," the Lieutenant was understanding. "Are you feeling better now?"

"Yes," the blond detective conceded almost grudgingly. "I'm sorry I haven't been very nice lately."

"I shouldn't have yelled at you," Alex sighed. "It's just that I was very worried for your safety. I don't want anything to happen to you or anyone else on the squad."

Sydney nodded and then reluctantly struggled to her feet glancing down at her soaking wet outfit.

She felt completely exhausted and didn't feel like going back to the squad room but there was a desk load of work waiting. She watched as the Lieutenant picked herself off the court.

"Listen, why don't you let me buy you dinner?" Alex suggested. She could almost tell what the woman was thinking by the expression on her face.

"I've still got lots of work to do," Sydney hesitated, uncertain how she should respond.

"It will still be there tomorrow, besides you've put in enough overtime to justify a couple hours off," the Lieutenant said and then another thought occurred to her. "But maybe you have other plans?"

"No," Sydney said hastily, mentally kicking herself for almost blowing the opportunity to be alone with this woman.

"Good," Alex smiled and it transformed her dour features and the younger woman felt her heart tremble. She reached over and ruffled the damp blond strands of hair on the smaller woman's head.

"We'll kill two birds with one stone, bring along those cases that are still in red on the board and we'll go over them and see if we can come up with something."

Sydney mutely nodded masking the disappointment she felt and then silently chiding herself for letting her expectations soar.

"Great," the Lieutenant nodded digging into the gym bag she had brought out to the court. She found the card she wanted and handed it to the smaller woman. "I'll meet you at my place in an hour."

Sydney nodded and walked back with the other woman into the station house. Suddenly all the disappointment she felt was gone and she found herself smiling like a teenager. It didn't matter that they would spend the evening working, she was happy that they would be together. It was amazing how this one simple invitation could turn her emotions completely around.

It was an hour and a half later before Sydney finally turned her jeep down the street. She peered intently at the numbers on the buildings, searching for the address on the card that Alex had given her. This was a quiet neighbour with trees and plenty of open spaces and only two blocks from the beach. It was a middle class area and very different from where her downtown suite was located.

She found the building number and was fortunate enough to find a parking stall just out front. She unloaded the huge box of files she had taken from the office before locking up the jeep. She buzzed the appropriate number and was immediately let into the building The few moments it took for the elevator to arrive on the main level was enough for her to decide that the place was luxurious by any standard.

Alex's apartment was on the sixth level, the very top of this low rise complex, in the corner. The Lieutenant was waiting at the door when she arrived, dressed casually in a tight pair of faded blue jeans and a white t-shirt. Her feet were bare.

"Did you have any trouble finding the place?" Alex asked taking the box from the smaller detectives hands.

"No," Sydney shook her head, feeling her heart race uncontrollably.

"Come in and make yourself comfortable," the tall woman invited.

Sydney left her jacket and shoes by the door before following the woman from the hallway into a huge sunken living room. Her eyes roamed around the room, taking in the large fireplace and the French doors that led out onto a balcony which overlooked a small park. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her cargo pants and watched as her hostess set the box down on a glass top coffee table.

"You have a nice place here," Sydney commented taking in the plush white cushioned furniture and the exquisite paintings on the wall.

"I like it," Alex agreed glancing at her surroundings. "Come on I'll give you a tour of the place."

It was larger then Sydney imagined and she figured she could easily fit two of her small apartments in this one with plenty of room to spare. It was a one bedroom suite with a den. They started in the kitchen and ended in the bedroom. It was an elegantly decorated place and quite feminine in nature.

They returned to the living room.

"Make yourself at home while I fetch us something to drink. What would you like?"

"A soda would be fine," Sydney replied feeling slightly awkward and Alex nodded before disappearing into the kitchen. The blond detective sat down on one of the sofa's thinking how comfortable she could be here. Alex was back almost immediately carrying a tray with several cans of pop, two glasses and a small bucket of ice. She set it down on the table and then sat down cross legged on the floor.

"Help yourself," she instructed and Sydney tentatively reached out and took a can of soda.

"Is this place expensive to rent?" she wondered curiously.

"I don't know, I own it or I will own it once I've finished paying off my mortgage," Alex replied glancing around the room again before slipping a pair of glasses on her nose. "I was fortunate to get it, apparently there were several offers on it when I placed my bid."

"Don't you feel lost, it's so huge?"

"Nope, I like space and solitude and it has both," the Lieutenant agreed. "The other suites are owned mostly by older couples or single professionals, so I don't have a lot of problems with my neighbours."

"Must be nice," Sydney smiled relaxing with the conversation. "In my place when the neighbour down the hall turns on his television I can hear it."

"That's why I went to a condo in a place like this," Alex conceded. "I didn't want to deal with my neighbours. Are you hungry?"

"No," the blond detective shook her head. Actually she was a little but for some reason she didn't want to admit it.

"Well, just let me know when you're ready to eat and I'll order some Chinese food," the Lieutenant said digging a thick file out of the box and laying it out on the table. "Tell me about this case?"

Sydney had to leave her chair and sit down on the floor next to her hostess which wasn't an entirely unpleasant experience, though she had to keep her mind focused on the file and not on her companion.

For the next several hours they went through each of the unsolved cases and Alex quizzed her in detail about every aspect. The Lieutenant frowned for she had noticed a definite pattern and wondered mutely if the coincidence was that great. She didn't think so.

"How was it that you came to be the primary on these cases?" she asked and Sydney glanced sideways at her companion getting another whiff of her perfumed scent.

"The Lieutenant assigned them," she shrugged not knowing what difference that made. "Messington would accept the calls if he was in, take the primary details and then assign the case."

"Did the detectives have any specific order of rotation?"

"Not really," Sydney shook her head. "He would assign the cases as they came in. Why?"

Alex said nothing of her suspicions but once again she thought about what she had already learned. It was becoming clearer to her everyday what was going on in the homicide unit.

"Nothing," she replied with an awkward grin and as if on cue the younger woman's stomach protested. The grin turned into a full fledged smile and Sydney wanted to bury her head in her hands.

"Sounds like someone needs attention."

Alex chuckled and reached out and patted the younger woman's stomach before jumping to her feet and moving across the room to pick up the phone. Sydney watched spell bound as the woman dialled the number to a nearby Chinese take-out restaurant. After placing the order the tall woman returned to her spot on the floor and her younger companion was grateful.

"There's something your not telling me," the blond detective accused looking at her companions finely sculptured features.

"No," Alex shook her head not wanting to trouble her companion with her thoughts. She changed the subject. "How's the case with the Kennedy boy coming along?"

"I've got APB's out on the man," Sydney conceded not happy that she hadn't gotten a complete answer. "I'm going to talk to his landlord Eddie Williams again. Lucas Andersen didn't show up in Seattle until four months after the kidnapping so he had to have been somewhere."

"He could have been moving around," Alex suggested.

"True but I have a feeling he wasn't," Sydney revealed her thoughts. "The case was very high profile so he wouldn't have wanted to attract any undue attention. The plates on his car were from the state so if he was hanging around here no one would have been unduly suspicious. Besides the police in Vancouver put a bulletin to his home state of New Mexico to watch out for him but they turned up nothing."

"So what do you think?" Alex asked musing thoughtfully over the woman's words.

"I think he's still in the state, hiding some place and I think Eddie Williams knows where. I checked him out and he has a record though its petty stuff and he hasn't been in trouble with the law since getting married."

"Lean on him and see what happens," the Lieutenant said. "Could be he thinks he has nothing to lose."

Sydney nodded and made a mental note to have the man brought in the next day.

"What about the Tu case?"

She took a deep breath. Here was a golden opportunity to present her case to the Lieutenant yet she worried that she would reject the plan.

"The little Dragon's definitely killed him as sort of a peace offering to the Bloods for Hootie's death. Phan said as much but with the evidence we have there is no way we would be able to charge him

let alone get a conviction."

"So?" Alex prompted.

"Well, we were talking and Phan admitted that Tu was the one who killed Hootie," Sydney chose her words carefully. "I offered him a deal that if he signed a witness statement to that affect I wouldn't hassle him anymore about Tu's murder."

Alex was thoughtful. It was a novel idea but she wasn't certain the DA would go for that type of plan. Relations between homicide and the persecutors office was at an all time low.

"Are you sure there is no way we can get anything on Phan?"

"Yeah," Sydney answered honestly

"Let me think about it for awhile and we'll see what I can do," Alex said certain not to make any promises. The buzzer to the apartment rang and the Lieutenant scrambled to her feet. "Foods arrived. Clear away the files. We'll eat in here."

Sydney nodded and while the tall woman dealt with the delivery person she cleaned up the files and put them back into the box which she set down by the sofa. The rest of the evening past quickly and

after an initial awkwardness they talked about things other then work.

Sydney wasn't surprised to learn that her companion had travelled extensively and particularly enjoyed the Carribbean. It was understandable for the Lieutenant was surrounded by an air of sophistication. At last they got around to discussing their basketball match.

"I think I'm going to be covered in bruises tomorrow," Alex said wryly with a hint of a smile. "I didn't think anyone your size could pack such a wallop."

"You forget I come from the streets," Sydney replied with a little embarrassment. "You had to be tough there not to get trampled."

"I can see that someone would only challenge you once," the Lieutenant sniffed.

"Does that mean you won't take me on again?" the idea made Sydney unhappy.

"On the contrary I enjoyed today's game very much," Alex drawled looking at her solemnly though there was a twinkle in her blue eyes. "You are very good. Do you practice?"

"I still play every week in a pick-up league in my neighbourhood. I don't get out as much as I'd like because of my hours but I try to join them at least once a week," the blond detective replied. "Do you play anymore?"

"No, I did when I was in Chicago, but I haven't had the time lately."

"Well, maybe you could come out with me sometime," Sydney offered. "I'm certain the guys would love having someone like you to compete against."

"Maybe we could be a team," Alex suggested lightly. "I think the two of us together could be an unbeatable combination."

Yes, Sydney's emotions screamed as her heart thudded loudly in her chest. She felt a rising warmth in her body that was threatening to get out of control. A glance at her watch told her it was later then she thought. She reluctantly rose to her feet wishing she could stay yet knowing it was impossible.

"I better get going,"" she said grabbing the box and moving to the hallway where she had left her coat and shoes. "Will I see you tomorrow?"

"I won't be in until later," Alex answered. "I have a meeting."

Sydney nodded and then dressing moved out the door. Alex followed her down to the jeep and waited until she climbed in. Both women felt slightly awkward and Sydney wished she had the courage to lean forward and kiss the other woman. But she merely waved before driving off.

Continued In Chapter 4

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