Chapter 10

Down in the parking garage, Charlotte sent Lauren, Blaze and Jim in a separate car. She took Willow and the others in her limousine. She was pale, taking long slow breaths as she cradled Belle in her arms. The cars pulled out. Gina sat back, looking from face to face unsure of just what to say. Charlotte gathered herself and looked at Willow and Clay. "That man… Jim… what do you know of him. How does he figure into this?"

Clay shrugged,"As far as we can figure he was trying to dig up some stuff on Willow's parents. What his intentions are are unknown. But I don't like him, " He shrugeged at Willow and squeezed her hand, "Sorry, love, but I don't."

"Jim and Clay got this real hard on to piss each other off, its a guy thing," Gina said then eyed Charlotte, "So who the hell are you?"

"Belle's parent." Charlotte replied simply, looking down at her daughter.

"No way!" Gina's eyes went wide. "Was she always that big?"

"Willow…" Charlotte murmurmed," yes that does make sense… your friend Jim works for an agency, likely one that doesn't exist except in some file cabinet or data base somewhere in Washington. I doubt he was deployed alone either."

Fandora watched Willow, worried for the other teen. She remembered her first experience with real combat; she reached for Willow's hand to comfort her a bit.

Willow flinched away instinctively then gave Fandora an apologetic look. "I'm sorry… contact… can be uncomfortable sometimes."

"It's OK. We've all come through a really rough time." Her voice dropped to a whisper, "Um… this may sound a little wierd but… have you ever seen me before? In a dream, maybe?"

Willow nodded slightly. "Yes… yes I did."

The black-haired girl smiled, and whispered back. "We'll talk later."

Clay frowned glancing out the window. Belle's parent, huh? I wish Blaze was with us. I don't like her being with Jim alone.

"Man this too fuckin' wild…" Gina muttered, sitting back in her seat. "When we gonna hook up with Blaze an' Jim?"

"Shortly, child…" Charlotte replied, looking at Clay. Her amber eyes were inscrutable.

The drive proceeded mostly in silence after that. Out of town and to a secluded a estate wheren they were all escorted into a mansion set back from the road by vast front yard. Charlotte bore Belle's weight unassisted, waving away any concern and assistance from the staff.

"Chillin' this place is large…" Gina said looking around but sticking close to Willow and Clay. "She's got caaaash…"

Fandora too stayed close to Willow, not as awed as Gina, but still mightily impressed by the wealth this woman commanded. And that self-propelled mystery was growing deeper; Belle must weigh 350, minimum; how could Charlotte carry her so easily? She whispered to Willow, "Can I talk with you at some point? In private?"

Willow nodded. "Sure."

"Please…make yourselves comfortable." Charlotte said," I will rejoin you in a moment. With that she she carried Belle from the room leaving the group alone.

Clay found his attention drawn to the young woman sitting near Willow. He wasn't sure why. She was a pretty think to be sure but there was something else, a sense of what… familarity? Mystery? Both, somehow that made her intriguing.

Clay smiled his best smile, "Hi we haven't been introduced. I'm Clay, this is Gina and this is Willow. And you are?"

Oh, crud. Here was a problem: Should she give her right name or not? She decided against it for now. "I'm Laura."

Gina looked between Clay and Laura, and rolled her eyes.

No…that wasn't her name. Willow was certain of that. Looking at 'Laura', she raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

Clay smiled and shook the young woman's hand, "Nice to met you… Laura."

Their hands touched. A connection was made. Fandora gasped softly the sound catching in her throat. She fell into Clay's eyes, lost in a whirl of sensation so primal, raw that it threatened to hammer her mind's defenses to dust. Outwardly, the only visible sign was the slightest shiver, her lips parting and a sweet pink flush coming to her cheeks.

Clay felt it was well, an intense attraction. In that instante every detail of her body, her face became clear, intense almost painfully clear. The slope of her brow, her cheekbones full moists lips parting in a soft gasp. Her body was just full and lithe the body of a nymph. Beautiful.

She managed to break contact fairly sure, not entirely sure she wanted to touch Willow - but not at all sure she didn't want to either. So she extended her hand to the other woman.

Clay sat back slowly, shifting slightly. Okay…… Well I won't lack for entertainment. A slight grin crossed his eyes and then he turned his attention to Willow. "What happened love? It appears we now have the time for stories."

Willow's expression was faintly amused as she took "Laura"'s hand.

Willow was tired, too tired to be up for story time at the moment. She felt like she could sleep forever at this point. "Perhaps in a while…Jesus I need to lie down…"

"It don' let up…" Gina sighed. "I wonder what Blaze is doin'…"

A young woman stepped into the room. She was dressed in the business suit that seemed to the uniform around here. "Excuse me, Ms St Clair will be indisposed for longer than she expected. If I can bring you anything…?"

Clay nodded, "A blanket, something to eat. Thank you."

"If you wish, there are several spare bedrooms", the woman suggested with a slight smile.

He shifted a bit so Willow could ly down and sighed, "So, 'Laura', how did you get mixed up in this? You seem like a nice kid." Too nice.

"That's rather difficult to explain." Especially since I don't entirely understand it myself. "Willow, how about I take you to one of the spare bedrooms the lady mentioned?"

Clay frowned, "Then I suggest we all retire, cause I'm not letting either of these two out of my sight."

He slowly maneuvered off the couch, and picked Willow up, "Lead on, fair Laura."

"Are you guys kiddin'? Go to bed? After all this… its ain't even that late… aw man…" Gina grumped, following the other upstairs.

In the other car, Blaze did what she could for Lauren, then turned to Jim. "So, big man. What can the doctor do for you?"

Hamil and Anderson were silent for the drive, Hamil turning off from following the limo. "Taking you to some medical facilities," he explained at the questioning looks from Blaze and Jim. They drove on for about 10 minutes before pulling up to a small townhouse and climbing out. Helping Blink with Lauren, Hamil went inside with them. Anderson stepped in behind Jim. They stood in a bare foyer, a couple of pieces of furniture draped in drop cloths. Blaze and the other man weren't here.

Down in the basement Blaze was pleased and amazed to find herself with a fully operational medical center--clean, sterile, white, even had that hospital smell.

"All right. Now I can get somethng done." She turned to Hamil. "Help me get her on that table, then either scrub up or get the hell out. I want… no I need to find out where that bullet went." She turned, looking for the tools she would need and the x-ray machine, then headed to the sink and washed up. She put on a scrub, then turned back and walked to the table with Lauren. "Gonna put you under, sweetheart. Then I'm going to see what that bullet did to you. See you when you wake up."

Lauren nodded slightly but her eyes were distant, focused on something far away.

"I'll send someone down." Hamil said heading out of the room. Shortly a demure slightly portly woman joined Blaze. She was in surgical whites, her dark brown eyes strangely serene over the mask.

Once Blaze saw she had help, she took it for granted that they would be competent. She started asking for tools, probing the wound lightly, looking for the bullet. Fortunately the injury didn't seem to bad, despite initial appearances. A lot of minor tissue damages but all her major organ seemed to have been spared.

Upstairs, Jim asked Turning to Anderson, "Where are the others? And is there a restroom I can use here?"

"They're being taken by another route, should be here shortly," the man replied gesturing up the stairs. "Right up there."

"I meant, where are the others that rode with us?" Jim asked as he looked around, instinctively checking out the security.

"I would imagine seeing to the injured." he replied.

"Right. So… where would they be seeing to the injured, then?" Jim asked again.

"There's some facilities downstairs." he headed out of the room. "Make yourself comfortable." With that he stepped out of the room.

Thank God! Blaze thought to herself. She removed the bullet, sewing up carefully behind herself as she passed through the damaged areas. Making sure there weren't any errors, she closed the wound, disinfected again, and bandaged it up. After it was done, and the adrenaline had started to fade, Blaze went to one knee. Damn, but I'm tired. I'd forgotten how much surgery takes out of you… That's why I'm here! came a sardonic voice from the back of her mind. I keep those bad memories away… Blaze looked at the woman who had assisted her. "Could I trouble you for a glass of ice water?" she asked. She stood and walked to the sink, removing the scrubs and gloves as she went.

Silently the woman went to answer Blaze's request.

"Thanks." Blaze called out behind her. She stood up and checked over Lauren. She's awfully pretty. Wonder what she does for the 'dragon lady'… Why'd she react so funny to me, anyway?

A brief sensation of awareness interrupted Blaze's thoughts. It was there for only an instant but definitely. there.

Blaze looked around for a moment, then checked Lauren's vital signs. Where is that woman? It can't have taken this long to get some water. Besides, I don't know where I'm supposed to move Lauren to. She looked around the OR again, checking the exits, looking for the most likely place to move Lauren out.

There was a small adjoining room that was meant to serve as a recuperating area. As Blaze looked around, she heard the woman return. She had a small tray in her hands.

"Great. Now help me get her to the recovery room." Why a tray? A cup would have done just fine. Blaze looked more closely at the tray.

A simple silver with a glass. But some justifiable paranoia was acceptable. The woman looked slight confused as she helped move Lauren.

What's going on here? Why doesn't the woman speak? Pushing Lauren into the recovery room, she took the glass from the tray.

Smiling the woman left with the tray. she returned shortly and stood, waiting.

"So, where's the lady who brought us here? I'd like to let her know her friend is ok." Blaze raised the glass to her lips, and pretended to take a swallow, then set the glass down. Pulling off her scrubs, she looked to the still-silent woman. So, is there somewhere I can change? And maybe something I can change into?"

The woman gestured to the door,"upstairs…there is clothing for you. I thought you were thirsty."

"Yeah, I bet." Blaze picked up the glass and headed for the door. "Thanks again. Call for me when she wakes up, or if there's an emergency." Blaze pushed open the door and walked out.

Upstairs was quiet and apparently empty. No sign of Jim or the others.

Curiouser and curiouser… she thought. Where did everyone go to? She looked for the room/area the nurse referred to so she could change clothes. Something's not right here. I don't like it.

The man called Hamil appeared beside Blaze startling her. He looked apologetic, "Excuse me… there's some clothing and such upstairs. First room on the left."

"Thanks. Where are the others?" She looked down at the glass in her hand. What the hell? She took a swallow. Blaze started toward the room that Hamil had indicated.

"They're with Ms. St. Clair. But she wants to explain that to you herself…" he replied.

"Fine. Where might she be? I'd like to meet her after I get changed." Ms. St. Clair. Well now I have a name, at least. "Would you pass along to her that Lauren will be fine? I'd appreciate it."

Hamil nodded. "I most certainly will."

Upstairs Blaze found the room, the only one with an open door. It was spacious if exceedingly Spartan bedroom. If anything the sheer size made it more empty. The closet door stood slightly ajar.

What the hell… Blaze walked up to the closet, and looked in. I wonder if there's a shower nearby…the last shower I had was with Belle…oh well. Clean clothes will have to do for now.

There was an array of clothes in the closet, most of them looked about her size but were on the conservative side.

Geez… you'd think I was a doctor or something… Oh well. Blaze chose an outfit that wasn't too bad, then went out looking for Hamil.

"Hamil. Will you take me to Ms. St. Clair now?"

I'm afraid I can't, not at the moment…" he said sounding genuinely saddened.

"Why the hell not? What's going on here? "

"She's occupied with personal matters at the moment…rather intricate ones." he looked at Blaze meaningfully. "Her daughter… Belle mostly…"

"Tell you what. I'm going to take a little rest in that bedroom. Come get me when she's available." Blaze proceeded to the bedroom, and kicked off her shoes.

The bed beckoned and Blaze answered the call, falling into it. She could sleep for about 3 weeks, roll over and go for another 2. But Hamil's mention of Belle was disturbing her. If anything she'd been almost as shot up as Lauren… where had they taken her…?

Blaze sat up again. Hell, I can't sleep now… She walked out the door. "Hamil!" she called out. "Can you take me to the others?"

He came to the bottom of the stairs," Do you think you should leave Lauren?"

"Probably not." She smiled a bit. "Would you tell the others where I am? It'd be nice to have some company that talked, and that I knew… no offense. Say, what do you do for Ms. St. Clair, anyway? Besides the obvious, that is."

"Of course…and none taken." he nodded and turned to go. At the rest of Blaze's question he paused and looked back up at her. "Simple security." He stepped back into the living room.

Blaze sat back down on the bed, searching through what she had left. Some cash, a few smokes, one of which she lit, credit cards and things that belonged to her, and her clothes. None of which made her very happy. She enjoyed her cigarette, looking around for anything resembling an ashtray… and waited for the others.

There was a tray and she crushed out the last of her cigarette, almost enjoying taking out her frustration on the little butt. Laying down she tried to put everything together. It didn't work. None of this made total sense, she still felt like she was trapped in some strange spy novel or a bad episode of The X-Files. Yawning she, curled up. Trust no one… the truth is out there… lousy way to spend a real life.

Morning came as a tremendous shock. Blaze sat up and stretched, popping the kinks out of her back one by one. It was some ungodly hour she could feel it. Slipping out of bed, she headed to the bathroom to take care of, in her case, the 2 S's.

Hamil called up that Lauren was awake and in good condition so if she wanted to rejoin the others, he could take her. Didn't that man ever sleep? Shaking her head she stepped into the bath.

Blaze cleaned herself, and brushed out her hair. Finding some other clothes that hadn't been slept in, she joined Hamil. "Let me check my patient, then we can join the others."

He nodded and waited by the door for her.

Upon seeing Lauren, Blaze smiled. "How are you, kiddo? I just wanted to take a quick look at those stitches, make sure you were getting the proper antibiotics and such. Any difficulties, you call me, no matter what, all right?"

Lauren nodded, looking tired but none the worse for wear. Her injuries were looking good, clean with no residual bleeding. "I owe you a great deal Corrinne, I really don't know how to thank you…" she trailed off, looking uncertain.

Blaze kissed her softly on the cheek. "It's what I do, darlin'. You don't have to thank me… unless you really want to. Don't worry about it." She winked at her. "I'll check on you later."

Hamil lead her out to the car, another nondescript black sedan. He drove in silence, not coldly but seemingly not one for small talk.

Blaze rolled down a window, an lit another cigarette.

After several minutes they pulled into a massive estate outside town. The place exuded money, that was certain… old money, cultured and earned.

"Whoa! This is where she lives? I figured she was rich, with that center and all, but wow!" Blaze just watched as they drove up.

Hamil parked and opened the door for her. He also opened the door for her, standing to the side. The foyer was as large as Blaze's old apartment. "Charlotte is with Belle at the moment, the others are at breakfast if you'd like to join them." Hamil suggested.

Jim pulls out his pistol, placing it in the front of his pants and tried stealthily crept downstairs to a good spot where he could see Blaze. He came to a locked door. Before he could do anything about it, the point become moot. The door exploded open blown completely off its hinges. The blast slammed Jim backwards. Gunfire erupted upstairs.

Glancing at the fiery hole that used to be the stairs, Jim knew anybody down there was history. Blinking the stinging smoke out of his eyes he headed back up the stairs, gun in hand. He heard a few barked orders to search the place and spread out. More chatter of automatic fire.

Jim instinctively pulled out his pistol, making sure the safety was off, while looking for some cover to conceal himself until he could see who the gunfire was coming from.

Looking around the edge of the basement doorway, he scanned the smoke filled hall. The shots seemed to be coming from further inside the house and upstairs. They were dying down. Mopping up he would imagine.

Sniper pulled up outside the three story brown stone. The van was still parked outside. Suddenly the building's lower window shattered explosively.

Jim remained where he was, trying to conceal himself as much as possible. He knew that they would work their way towards him to secure the house. He would just wait them out. He took out his cell phone quickly, keeping the pistol in his right hand, and called Sniper. "Where are you?" he asked in a hushed voice.

Sniper's cellular phone went off. He answered.

"I'm outside a three story brown stone that had an explosion go off in a ground level room." Sniper answered as he looked around for other vehicles sitting outside the brownstone if it was someone else attacking the place. "I'll check and take care of them out here and stop them from exiting. That is if you think you can take out the ones inside or herd them out to where I can take them down."

"Roger that. The explosion took out the basement room where the target was located. I'll start my search now. Out." Jim put his cellular away and cautiously began to sweep the ground floor before making his way up to the upstairs.

Sudden motion at the top of the stair was his only warning. A burst of silenced automatic fired chewed up the floor at Jim's feet. Throwing himself back around a corner he squeezed of two quick shots, more to get their heads back down than anything else. Back to the wall he waited. Something heavy came rolling down the stairs…

Jim took a glance, saw a body just rolling to a stop, the hand fell open, a grenade rolled…

Jim ran… thunder erupted behind him, a wave of hot air and debris washing over him…

Sniper got his rifle and machine pistol ready. and went driving around the house looking for other vehicles outside, that the terrorists might have used.

He didn't seen any suspect vehicles parked any where near by. The team most likely had parked it some distance away and moved in on foot. All the house door seems secure, still closed.

Jim came barreling through the door, followed by a wall of flame. He fell flat letting the blast wash over him. There must have been other charges set or something. The house was going up like a match box. Scrambling to his feet he spotted Sniper sitting in the car and rushed over to him, trying to stay low. Pulling open the door, he slid into the car.