undivinecomedy: ([B] faito!)
[personal profile] undivinecomedy
The hospitality of the 26th Precinct wasn't anything I wanted to get used to. We'd already established that the coffee was only suitable for someone who had lost their sense of taste, and the sleeping arrangements weren't much better. My cellmates for the night were about as friendly as Wal-Mart shoppers at Christmas, and I didn't even have any good roll-down deals for them to complain about. I'd already decided that the cot was mine, which really wasn't a way to make friends, but that was fine with me. I sure wasn't in jail to make friends.

'Chrome' was a really unoriginal name when you thought about it, given the fact that his teeth were probably worth more than the rest of him. His associate Montell had decidedly fewer dental accessories, but beyond that, he looked pretty normal, if that was really a term that could be used to describe people in prison. They were in for the usual crap: possession of illegal substances and selling that kind of stuff to kids.

I hated guys like that.

I was the scum of the earth, sure, but I wasn't sewer scum. There was a big difference, most noticeably in body odor and a particular sense of style. Hoodies had never really intimidated me.

Even though my eyes were closed, I could feel the glares being sent my way. I was reclining on the less-than-comfortable cot, ankles crossed and hands behind my head. I left myself completely open; I wasn't afraid of them or their bad breath. The silence--well, it was more silence from my end--had dragged on for a good twenty minutes at least, but I wasn't keeping track. The two would whisper something low back and forth to each other and then continue to stare at me. What could I say? I liked having an audience, but an audience while napping was getting on the side of creepy.

Chrome was the first to finally talk. "So." I peeled one eyelid open just in time to catch the shine of his teeth. Really, I couldn't imagine waking up to that every morning. "What you in for?"

Small talk between criminals. I was usually pretty accommodating, but having my brother send me to jail had kind of put me in a bad mood.

"Tore the tag off a mattress." I closed my eyes again.

I heard the rustle of jeans and sneakers, but it was the three day-old breath on my face that told me Chrome had decided he wasn't into stand-up. Too bad, I had a whole routine ready to go.

"Think you're funny, huh?" Yes, I did, actually. His sneer said that he didn't agree. I made a point of waving him off, trying to clear the air of sewage between our faces. My shirt was grabbed for the second time that night as Chrome yanked me up off the mattress, giving me a full whiff of he'd had for dinner and whatever he'd been letting rot behind his grill for the last few weeks. "Wanna hear somethin' that's really funny?"

Okay, I'd play along. "Sure, I'm in the mood for a good giggle."

"Pretty boys like you always make a good bitch upstate." To make his point, he yanked me clean off the cot and slammed my back to the ground. Montell was standing a few feet away, arms crossed and silent. Going to rough me up for mattress rights, huh? Somehow I doubted telling them I had a bad back would get me sympathy. I sighed, tearing his hands off my shirt and dusting it off. I wasn't giving up on the bed, though--if that guy slept on it, even Febreeze was going to be in vain.

Standing back up, I rolled my shoulders, taking note that they were closing in. Nothing like a jail cell brawl to put you to sleep.

"If you're worried about the mattress," I said, jerking my thumb toward the prize, "I promise I'll leave the tag intact."

Chrome was the first to swing. I tilted my head to the left, narrowly avoiding his fist and the plethora of rings that would have left a nasty mark. The second fist came down low toward my back; I caught it with my left hand. A jab in the chest with my elbow and my knuckles to his nose stopped the assault before it started, but I think it was when my knee found his stomach and the heel of my boot struck his back and slammed him down to the floor that put him out. Montell had hesitated; guess he was the smart one.

Foot on his back, I leaned forward, using my weight to slowly put pressure on his ribcage. His fingers twitched and I grinned. That was when we heard footsteps. Montell and I glanced through the heavy bars as a cop approached, dimly lit by the hallway bulb that was threatening to go out of commission.

"Dante Zavattoni," he said in a low, thick accent. I straightened, raising one brow; he was going for the keys. "Let's go." The door slid open with a rusty creak.

"Sorry, officer, but I don't need to use the little boy's room."

He rolled his eyes, round fingers motioning me forward. "Har har." Guess I was on a roll that night. "C'mon, out. Your fees've been paid."

Well, now that was a surprise. I hadn't called in any favors and what little I had was back at my place. Pocket change, really: enough to get by for another week on delivery and take-out. I didn't have $30,000 to spare.

But hey, who knew I had a Guardian Angel looking out for me? I cast a smirk to Montell who had sunken deeper into the cell, eyes going back and forth between the officer and my footrest--I mean, his buddy. Not wanting to stretch my legs too far, I just stepped on Chrome as I made my way out of the sell. He gave a grunt.

"Just when we were getting to know each other."



Guardian Angel hadn't been far off. She was waiting outside, resting all her weight to one side with her hip cocked as usual. Black jeans tucked into knee-high boots and a top that left just enough to the imagination, she gave me a smile as I paused at the top of the steps. Given the fact I had just gotten more intimate with another guy than I'd ever wanted, Trish was a sight for sore eyes.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," I said, taking the stairs two at a time. Her lips turned just a tad further upward.

"I think that's my line." She turned to the side to allow me some room, but fell into step at my side without needing prompting. If there was one person I knew I could count on, it was her. The one constant I'd had over the few years and the best friend I could ask for, she was really the only family I considered myself having at that point. We weren't related, though--she had been appointed as our social worker right when Mom died. We were only fourteen at the time, so I guess we needed it.

To be honest, at first I couldn't stand her. The last thing I wanted was some stranger telling me how to live my life and looking at her had been painful, to say the least. Maybe it was because she looked a lot like Mom that actually got me to warm up to her, but in the end it was the differences between the two that got her my respect. Mom was fiery and passionate, Trish was subtle but sassy. No one could keep me on my toes quite like she could. Sometimes I needed it.

"Looks like news travels fast, eh?" I inclined my head toward her as we turned the corner. She lifted a thin brow at me in return. "Three hours isn't much to say for time in the can."

Trish gave a simple shrug of her shoulders. "You've got a reputation to live up to." She tilted her head toward me a as well. "But as far as I know, none of it entails getting arrested."

I threw my hands up at that; she was only four years older me, but all that time being our guardian of sorts still leaked in every once in a while. She hadn't been Mom, but she was indispensable and, honestly, what I still needed. From time to time. Unfortunately that meant I wasn't always free from blame.

"Trust me, that wasn't part of the plan."

"So, what is?" The question was a little too innocent and open-ended for my taste. She was inexplicably good at being soft-spoken and knowing everything at the same time. "Heading home?"

I shook my head. "I need to blow off some steam." And some heads. We came to a stop at an intersection, the flashing red hand commanding our cooperation, even if it was missing a finger. "They took my guns." I wasn't the kind of guy to punch babies, but that knowledge made it kind of tempting for a moment. Vergil, the dick--I blamed him for that. Sure, I could get another pair manufactured, but Ebony and Ivory weren't just guns, they were a part of me. They weren't replaceable.

Trish gave me the benefit of a sympathetic look. "Beating yourself up for it won't bring them back." Oh, I knew that, but it wasn't myself I was planning on kicking around.

We crossed the street, coming toward a tall Park and Ride. That must be where she left her car. I made a point to turn the other direction, my long jacket giving some dramatic flair to the decision. I heard the click of her high heels stop.

"Do you want a ride?"

I shook my head, halting my own progress as I shoved my hands into my pockets. I could have used a shot of vodka and a good lay, but I had too much to think about to really bother with the latter.

"Nah," I sighed, looking up toward the sky. It was dark, yes, but in New York it was never really that glittery night sky that you always imagined. Neon lights and dying street lamps never quite let it be true night. I was used to it. "Think I'm just gonna wander for a bit." With that, I let my chin drop back down, giving her a salute over my shoulder. "I'll pay you back."

Somehow.

She didn't wait any longer, either. I could hear her steps resume as she made her way toward the Park and Ride entrance. Trish rarely ever raised her voice, but I could still hear every word.

"You should go home." The heavy door opened. "You might find that peace of mind you're looking for."



Something was wrong. I knew that the second I stepped into my building. The front door had actually been closed properly, for one thing; most of my neighbors tended to slam it to the point of it bouncing back without prompting at that point. The stairs were quiet except for the occasional creak of a rotting floorboard. That was typical, but the feeling that I was missing something entirely, I couldn't shake.

My place was right next to the stairwell, something I had planned--in my line of work, having an easy-access escape route was pretty important. I could never quite tell if the door was supposed to be green, blue, or brown, given the old paint jobs chipping away. I liked to call it chartreuse--not because it actually remotely resembled the color, but because it was fun to say. Good thing most people I chatted with never knew the difference. But it became very apparent what was wrong very quickly.

I could hear music from my room.

I never left my stereo on.

The fact that it kept cutting in and out between tracks told me more than I needed to know; someone had to be in there to switch the songs. Dammit.

Instinct had me reach to my back holster for my girls, but all my fingers grazed was air. I felt naked, but not helpless. I'd taken people out with nothing more than a fist before, so that's what would have to do.

Like I was going to let anyone mess with my stereo system, anyway.

As quietly as I could, I slid my key into the lock, taking a long, careful moment until I heard a barely audible click of metal. The music kept going, so I assumed my unwanted guest was still mesmerized by my taste. Just as quietly I turned the knob, glad I had bothered to WD-40 the hinges just a few days prior. I pushed the door open just enough to peer into the front room of my apartment--stepping over that broken floorboard would be a must. I'd been meaning to fix that. All the lights were on--I never did that. Electricity was expensive enough and I'd already received the final notice on them shutting me off.

I couldn't see the stereo, it was on the opposite wall, behind the door. With my back against the door I spent a good moment just trying to detect any audible pattern in the intruder's movements.

Nope, just a low grumble as the track changed again.

Well, I was never a guy who liked to wait.

I took a silent breath in, squeezing my fist together. That was when I heard my guest stand. They'd turned on the radio at that point; I frowned when I recognized Beethoven's 9th Symphony. They took a step--a step too close--and I knew it was just a matter of seconds before they realized that they weren't alone.

I wasn't going to let them have the element of surprise. Kicking the door open and rounding the corner, I threw my fist forward, making contact on the first try.

Making contact with a face that looked way too much like mine.

Vergil staggered backward, his hand immediately moving to the side of his face I'd just given special attention to. I took a step back of my own, going between surprise and wanting to punch him again.

"Well, isn't this a heart-warming family reunion."

He straightened, turning to glare with his lips in a perfect line. "Was that really necessary?" he asked, working his jaw.

I could be a cool customer when I wanted to, but with my brother--the one who just booked me in jail, sent me down another $30,000 in debt, and stole my guns, remember?--standing in my apartment like had some sort of right to be there? Well, any good graces I had left died right then and there.

"You know what? I think it was," I growled. How the hell did he find me? The apartment wasn't listed under my legal name or Tony Redgrave. My arm made a perfect line toward the open door. "Now, get out."

He didn't back down despite my order. No, if anything, he was threatening to stare me down in my own damn apartment. My apartment. Maybe it was the cop in him that was giving him this entitled attitude after he'd try to throw me around back at the precinct, but I knew a good part of it stemmed from the fact that it was just how he was. He liked to think he was in charge.

"I was hoping we could actually discuss things like human beings--" Yeah, right. "--and I knew you were never going to actually talk to me at the station house without your ever-present Mr. Cool mask." That was right, because I had nothing to say to him. He shrugged one hand, letting go of his face and tilted his head. "I figured you might be a little more comfortable if you had the home advantage."

"T'ch." Home advantage my ass. What advantage was there in having him know exactly where I lived and let himself in? How had he gotten in, anyway? The door had been locked and all the splinters and cracks had either been there before I moved in or where from me getting a little too excited when I left in the morning. One was from Trish; she was a lot stronger than she looked. "You're right, it makes me feel oh so good inside to come home to this."

I motioned to the apartment at large, which unfortunately consisted of mainly my brother at that point. My brother and a few bags of garbage and--

...wait.

"What--" My eyes widened as I spun around in a wide circle, which was never a good idea, considering my place was on the small side. "--what'd you do?"

All the couch cushions were in place; the broken coffee table was still standing half on a pile of (now neatly stacked) phone books, but it had been moved, centered directly in front of the sofa; my collection of old pizza boxes was gone, presumably having migrated to one of the large garbage bags that sat in the corner; the clothes that were usually thrown around the room were sitting in a laundry basket just outside the bedroom; hell, even the kitchen lacked the usual stack of dirty coffee mugs and used silverware.

Vergil had seriously stopped by and done some Spring Cleaning. To my stuff. He had always been compulsively neat, but this was pushing it.

I wanted to punch him again.

"Well, you took longer than I was expecting... so I had to find some way to pass the time. Your kitchen was a sanitation hazard, and you had enough old papers tossed in the corners to breach fire-safety codes." He moved to the coffee table and picked up a small stack of dog-eared papers. "Your electric bill is overdue, by the way."

He was going through my mail. Great.

"Really? I had no idea." I made a point of kicking the door shut, adding another imprint of the sole of my boot. He obviously wasn't leaving any time soon. Brushing past him, I didn't look at Vergil or the bill, instead heading into the bedroom to toss my jacket on the now made bed. Okay, I was a little messy, but it was an organized mess--I knew where everything was, what each pile meant. Now it was going to take me ages to find anything again.

My shirt joined the jacket--I wasn't changing for his benefit, more to just get the lingering funk of my new friend Chrome off me. Staring at the pile of laundry, I realized Vergil had just dumped it all into one, probably assuming everything was dirty. I usually had three piles: dirty, worn-in, and mostly clean, depending on if Trish had stopped by and decided to take care of the laundry herself. The coin laundry machine on the third floor sucked.

Screw it. Pants were enough to keep me decent. I turned off the light even though the electric company was ready to have my ass, anyway.

"Here to talk, not to gloat, eh?" I stepped back out into the main room, still not looking at him. "I'm so lucky."

I heard him sigh, but that was it. He wasn't particularly impressed either. I shot him a look over my shoulder, just in time to catch a look that was hanging dangerously on the edge of irritation and, well, the other part I didn't believe at all. He tossed the bills back down on the the table and folded his arms again. If I were feeling like a good host, I would have offered him a seat on the couch. I let him stand.

"I've got nothing to gloat about; that raid had nothing to do with you, and to be frank you were the last person I had hoped to find in a place like that. I was just doing my job." Wrong place, wrong time; that was how the saying went, wasn't it? He paused for a moment, silently asking for my own patience as well. I didn't have any for him. "So can we turn the sour-milk session down a notch or two?"

"Sorry, we're fresh out of non-fat." I turned back to my stereo, frowning at the F.M. station I didn't recognize. I punched the CD button and let the player decided something a little more fitting. "Got something to say? Say it."

The twitch of his brow told me he was less than pleased that I'd changed the background track, but that was part of the reason I did it. The glance he sent to my stereo confirmed it. But he was resigned, folding his arms again--I knew it as preparation for the conversation we were about to have. I didn't want it, and I wasn't sure he did either.

Space was limited, so my beer fridge was just a foot away from the entertainment center. It was small and for just that: beer only. I swung the tiny door open and pulled out the first thing I could find: a bottle of Jack Daniel's. Whatever. I twisted off the cap bare-handed, tossing it in no particular direction. Shoving the door closed with my foot, I turned back toward my brother. He'd taken to pacing in his usual pattern--two steps, turn, two steps, turn--it was like some sort of weird dance, but we were both creatures of habit. I was used to his pacing as well as the glare he sent.

"If you hate Wesker so much, what were you doing there with his cronies?"

I rolled my eyes at that. "Ain't it obvious?" While I wasn't going to offer him a seat, I took one for myself. Plopping down on my leather couch, I made myself comfortable. "I was there to play."

"To play?" The pacing stopped and he just stared at me like I'd grown another head. "The Dante I knew only gambled with his life, never with his money. When did that change?"

It was a long story that I wasn't going to tell him. One loan had led to another, and before I knew it, I was in debt up to my eyeballs and half the city was after me for it. I barely got by on minimum payments, which was probably the only reason I didn't have a number on my head right then. It had changed the second I'd left our parents' old house. That was when everything had changed.

"My life isn't going to pay the bills, now is it?" I motioned to the pile of notices on the coffee table as I propped my feet up next to them.

"Your life as it is right now isn't going to pay for anything, your bills least of all," he muttered.

"But now it's my turn to ask a question." Reclining further into the couch, I narrowed my eyes on him. He turned to face me fully. "How the hell did you get in here?"

He paused, frowning a bit as he pressed his lips together. "If I'd known we were trading off twenty questions I wouldn't have wasted my first on what was mostly rhetoric."

I scoffed. "You had your chance, brother. You said it yourself, you're on my turf, now--this ain't the interrogation room." Meaning my questions were just as valid. I downed the bottle to half-full.

He gave me a look that just said 'duh', except I knew that word would never be heard in Vergil's voice. "As for how I got in here..." He hesitated, which wasn't like him. I frowned as I watched his expression go from unamused to slightly worn before he rolled his eyes at me and arched his brows. "I'm a detective, Dante. You'd be amazed how far a shiny badge will get you with slumlords."

So my landlord had ratted me out? Awesome. Guess I should have given my brother some credit. He'd have to deal with silent applause.

"Just having a badge won't do you any good here, detective." I pointed down to the floor, my floor. But, even despite the fact that I probably should have thrown my beer bottle back at him, I knew how to play the game. We were usually at odds throughout most of our childhood. To most people it probably looked like a melee free-for-all, but there were rules. I'd at least allow him basic courtesy in that realm, even if he was an asshole who didn't deserve it after what he pulled just a few hours prior.

"Hence why I didn't bother pulling said badge out. Look, Dante, believe it or not, I didn't come here to argue with you, all right?" He looked tired. Maybe 3 A.M. wasn't his time of day, but he also didn't have to make a house-call; I didn't feel sorry for him.

"Your turn. Don't waste it," I said around the mouth of the bottle. He didn't seem to notice the generosity.

"You could have at least let me know you weren't dead, you know."

He was right; I could have, but I didn't know that's what he thought in the first place. I'd long since distanced myself from whatever he thought or felt. Some heart-warming talk wasn't going to change that, now that he suddenly decided he had some business in my life just because he arrested me.

Vergil kneaded his forehead gingerly when I didn't reply, another habit when his patience was waning. "Okay, fine, let's change the subject." He gestured at me and I locked my jaw. "I get it: you left home because you think I abandoned you, and you won't touch Father's money because you feel like he abandoned us. I get that." He shook his head, giving me the look of a Disappointed Parent. I wanted to punch him again. "But I tried to do what was best--for you, for me, for Beatrice, for all of us, and while I never expected your gratitude, I had hoped you might at least be capable of understanding that--"

"Just shut up!" I was on my feet before I even realized I had moved, the now-empty bottle falling from my grip and clattering to the floor. I shoved the coffee table out of the way, ignoring how it skid across my worn wooden flooring. Those marks wouldn't come out for a while. I was in his face, not touching, but dangerously close. "You think you have all the answers, don't you? You always did." I sized him up, figuring I could take him just fine. He didn't flinch, face unmovable and cold as always. "Books aren't going to tell you what's good for the rest of us. I don't need you telling me how to run my own damn life!"

Shoving against his shoulder with my elbow, I pushed past him, heading toward my mini-fridge. He yielded without a word and didn't turn to follow. The court had put him in charge of Dad's money, not me, and he never had a problem reminding me of that. I didn't want his money, honestly, but it was clear he didn't trust me with it even if I did. I popped the tab on another beer, not bothering to keep the foam down as I opened the can, instead letting it pour over my fingers as I downed most of the contents in one go. Wiping my mouth, I freed one finger from my grip on the beer and pointed again. "You weren't doing what was best for us--you were doing what was best for you."

That was how I'd always seen it. I'd gotten mad at my brother nearly every day for most of our lives, and frankly, he seemed to feel the same. But at the end of the day he was still my brother. I didn't know what I'd have done without him, not after Dad died, especially not after mom died. And instead of sticking around when he was needed he had decided to go a world away, leaving me with the realization that the same damned job that Dad had held was more important than what was left of our broken family.

What was best for me wasn't job security--it was having a family. That's all I'd ever wanted.

"I don't have a father."

Vergil's monk-like silence was broken all at once. The first real emotion I'd seen since he came to my apartment was the anger he showed in his eyes right then, his lip curled in contempt. "Neither of us do, Dante, because he's dead. I know you've resented him since the day he was killed, and I don't expect you to respect anything he tried to do for us, or anything he left behind, but do you really think this is what she would have wanted?"

He just thought he knew everything, didn't he? But he knew what he was doing. That was why he mentioned her.

Mom.

I slammed the beer down on the table, glaring a silent threat from underneath my bangs. What she would have wanted was to not end up as toe tag like Dad. We both knew that was why we left New York all those years ago, we knew she was hiding, trying to protect us from whatever silent threat had offed Dad in the first place.

I pointed at him, accusing. "I don't have a father, and you're not him!"

Vergil's eyes were narrow and dangerous. "I was never trying to be him, you fool! We barely managed to figure out how to be brothers, do you really think I would have had the gall to attempt to be the man our father was? We are only half the man Sparda was, and maybe that's all we'll ever be, but I'm not through trying."

"You're just like him; look at yourself!" Spinning on the heels of my boots, I gestured to his ensemble; he had always been Dad's favorite. "Even some glorified detective riding on old world money. T'ch."

What had been almost a statue turned immediately, slicing the air itself in anger as he closed in on me, slamming the heel of that same hand to the wall. "Is that really what you think? You think I became a cop because that's what our father did?"

The answer was obvious, wasn't it? "Seems like a pretty logical conclusion to me!" The same job, the same clothes--really, he had just become more and more like our dad over the years. We were up at each other again, two wolves with some sort of invisible cage bars between us that kept us from tearing each other's heads off. Vergil rarely raised his voice, and he didn't then, but there was more power behind every word.

"I became a cop to try and find the monsters who took our parents away, Dante! I've spent the past two years trying to reach his level, to become what he was, learning how to fight, how to profile the filthy devils that take the lives of those they deem unworthy, so that maybe I could stop the people who destroyed our family from destroying anyone else's!"

The beer sank to the bottom of my stomach. I was reminded I hadn't eaten in a while, but food sounded pretty gross right about then. My eyes narrowed on his, he didn't back down. It was a stalemate that was never going to end. Five years seemed like nothing all of a sudden--we were exactly the same, weren't we?

I hated to admit it, but I was the first to break eye contact. If there was ever a time to feel like a royal jerk, that was it. How was I supposed to know what he was going after? The years leading up to his departure hadn't made us the best of friends, let alone family. Hopes and dreams? That wasn't the sort of things we told one another. Vergil had always idolized Dad--him going off to become a cop just like him seemed pretty straight-forward to me.

Maybe I could have tried to contact him, but he could have told me he wasn't just pushing what we had left out of his own life.

I'd lost a lot of steam. Making a huffing sound, I brushed past him, intentionally knocking our shoulders roughly, as if to throw out one last 'don't mess with me'. But that was all I had to offer.

"I know we never really saw eye to eye, but I was only trying to attain the power to save what we had left," he said, giving me a sidelong glance over his shoulder, but stayed facing the opposite direction. I paused, then shook my head.

"Whatever." It was a noble cause, yeah. For a moment I almost wanted to prove to him I had my own noble cause I was going after, but I really didn't feel like talking anymore. "Good for you." Good for him. Good for him for trying to do right by our parents. Sauntering into my bedroom, I left the door open, but didn't bother turning on the lights. "Let me know when you find 'em, then. I've got a few things I've been planning to say." I flopped down on the old spring mattress with my beer, not caring that some spilt on the sheets that all ready needed a washing. Covering my eyes with the back of my hand, I sighed--rewinding the last few days would have been a nice ability right about then.

I heard him come to my bedroom door, but his footsteps stopped there. A moment passed, I don't know how long, before he gave a grated sigh and retreated. There was a scraping sound--I figured he was moving my coffee table back into place. Cute. I sighed as well, rubbing my eyes in the dark and wondering just how the hell all this had happened.

The door opened and there was another pause. I heard him speak quietly across the room. "Just try and stay out of trouble. You only get one Get Out of Jail Free card." He didn't quite slam the door, but it wasn't a peaceful exit, either.

Vergil was gone.

I wasn't sure how long I just stayed there, laying on my mattress, my feet hanging off the edge. My beer had long-since gone room temperature. If I wasn't so short on cash I would have dumped it, but pride alone made me finish off the can. Crushing it in my hand, I tossed it to the other end of the room, hearing it bounce off the wall and fall somewhere else.

Man. It just really wasn't my day.

Feeling the hole in my stomach only increase with each passing minute and not wanting to spend more time brooding than really necessary for a fresh bout of guilt while I picked at old wounds, I hopped out of bed. There should have been an old Domino's pizza chilling in the refrigerator, anyway, and I could go for cold pizza right about then. Stepping out into the main room, however, I found something I didn't expect.

Ebony and Ivory were sitting on my coffee table as if they'd never left. My eyes widened, looking about the room wildly, trying to see what sort of set up it was. But no, there they were, just begging me to tuck them in for the night. As I reached down, still cautious, something that was tucked beneath Ivory caught my attention. Pulling it out, I found a small, thick piece of paper.

A business card. Detective Vergil Zavattoni, 26th Precinct. He'd circled his cell number with an almost impeccable perfect oval.

I grinned despite myself.

"Well, well," I said, taking Ivory in my right hand and Ebony in my left. "Guess I owe you one."
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November 2012

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