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Date Posted: 17:55:55 05/25/04 Tue
Author: Lark
Subject: Part V The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again...
In reply to: Lark 's message, "The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again..." on 17:38:46 05/25/04 Tue

Gabriel turned toward his patroness as his hand left the receiver of the phone and immediately recognized the vacant look on her face. "Vision," he muttered to no one in particular. He sat down at his desk, rocking the swivel chair back and forth, and waited. There was little else he could do.

Her hands reached beneath the straw mat and she felt them close upon the cool surface of the lacquered box. She brought it out and stared at it for a moment, somewhat transfixed. The decoration was beautiful if somewhat overdone. Tiny birds of paradise perched upon willow limbs, their long plumage trailing down behind them. Intricately linked cherry blossoms wound their way around the sides of the box, eleven total, the cardinal points marked by the xiang. The green dragon, red bird, white tiger and black warrior were so detailed they were simply breathtaking.

The sound of approaching footsteps caused her heart to beat wildly and feel as if it were to leap from her throat. If she were to be found here it would surely mean her death. She pressed the box into the silken folds of her clothing, her eyes darting around for a place to conceal herself.

Four warriors burst into the room, the smell of masculine sweat and leather pouring off their strong leather-armor clad bodies. The largest of the group, Sima Yi, barked terse orders to the others and they systematically moved around the room, tossing open the blanket chest, the wardrobe and pushing aside the writing desk. She had to stifle a yelp when she felt the silks being pulled away from her face. The dark warrior who had found her remained silent, however, his eyes locking on to hers in a moment in which she dared not breathe. Leather gloved hands gently laid the silk back across her and she heard him move away.

Their search thought to be fruitless by their leader, they turned to leave the richly appointed room, the leader pausing on the threshold, his cruel eyes scanning the room one more time. She exhaled a breath she wasn't aware she'd been holding, and lifted the bundles of silk off of her and made her way out of the bottom of the wardrobe. The brightly colored silks had blended with her own outfit flawlessly and concealed her position from all but the one warrior. Why he had not betrayed her remained a mystery. She silently vowed to remember him with a parchment tied to the prayer tree. A quick glance out of the window told her she was safe for the time being, the warriors now talking amongst themselves in the courtyard below, the autumn leaves rustling around their feet. As she peeked out, she saw the one who had found her slowly turn his head to the window. She withdrew from the opening quickly, her heart beating madly.

Once again she held the small box before her, her fingers playing across its surfaces. As she pressed particular points on the top and sides, the lid sprung open. She gasped as she gazed in wonder at the bracelet resting within, the jade and white gold seeming to glow softly from within.


Sara blinked, twice. "Did you say "puzzle box"?"

**************

Orlinsky approached the scene in his cruiser, smoking, and looking annoyed with Burgess in the passenger seat. Stopping just short of hitting the guy, he met McGrath, who was first on the scene, and had called it in. "Watcha got, George, another DOA?" he asked amiably. Burgess stood silently by, looking bored.

George McGrath looked up from the cracked and greasy cement of the alleyway, making notes, and grunted in reply while he continued writing. He already held a bag with a shell casing in his gloved hand; his partner, Tony Cimarrano, was taping off the ground where the body was covered, his nose wrinkled in disgust. Another cruiser arrived, and two more uniforms Orlinsky only vaguely recognized got out to start clearing the scene of the early morning crowd trying to play look-see. George handed Orlinsky the bag, "There was another murder tonight, Central Park, I heard it was similar—someone went on a spree last night, I guess." Tony looked up, somewhat alarmed, Orlinsky could see.

"Don't sweat it, kid," Orlinsky smiled, appearing the seasoned pro. "I don't think it is," he continued confidently, "Let's see what we've got here." Tony was standing, but at a nod from McGrath, he bent to uncover the body for Orlinsky to view -- he didn't look down as he did it, his mouth twisted rather squeamishly, Jerry noted in amusement, but then he felt sick as well: neither he nor Bruno had taken her head.

**************

For about the tenth time that morning, Jake wished Danny were there, not out for two more days; as soon as she’d brought him coffee (lukewarm, no less), Sara disappeared again, following up on one of her mysterious leads. Despite the fact he’d been told to watch over her, but not get involved, he found himself caught up in the strangeness that made up her reputation, the reveries, the aloof personality, the solitary management of caseloads, the tireless energy that seemed more a plague than a virtue—and he found something else out as well, he found he was falling for her, something wholly unprofessional—and unbelievably dangerous. True, his superiors did not doubt Sara would be innocent of any activity by the White Bulls, but his growing attachment to her could very well prevent his involvement if any of the covert unit believed he would not betray her—his purpose in being there would be moot, and he did not wish to leave. Danny was a good cover, another “guy” he could hang with, as well as being someone else he could commiserate with over Sara’s moods—and one of only four others the FBI was certain was not affiliated with the White Bulls.

As he sat, pondering his situation, sipping at the bitter coffee in his hand, Bruno Dante poked his head in the office and smiled at him. Jake turned his attention to him, but did not stand up, only gestured amiably to his guest to come in. “Where’s your partner?” Bruno asked politely, a predatory gleam in his eye.

“Out,” Jake sighed, rolling his eyes in what he hoped appeared to be annoyance, “following up on some lead somewhere, I think. We got a headsman who likes medieval torture before dawn.” He yawned, and patted the pile of papers on his desk.

“Well, you know, you’re a rookie,” Dante grinned, “But that’s no excuse for senior officers to just leave you behind. Even if,” his eyes glinted as he glanced at the keyboard before Jake, “you are a great little typist. Especially with Woo out for a couple of days, Pezzini should have you on a short leash.”

Jake smiled. Maybe it was a good thing Sara had left him behind.

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  • Part VI The tale is re-told -- and the gauntlet is thrown again... -- Lark, 17:59:28 05/25/04 Tue

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