International Rescue: The Next Phase


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #525 is a reply to message #524] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:27 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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"Ugh," John said as Virgil and Dom helped him to sit down on a large rock.

He tossed his left boot aside and winced as Dominic elevated his ankle to take a closer look at it. The nurse's movements were gentle and firm as he looked over the injury, before nodding to himself.

"Most likely a sprain of the anterior talofibular ligament," Dom said. "Nothing too serious. The swelling isn't too pronounced and I don't think it'll get much worse. I'll give you an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory hypo and bind it. You'll probably be fine in a few days as long as you stay off it -- I imagine Doc will agree."

"That's not so bad," John said.

Dominic opened his medical bag and first loaded one ampule, and then another. He then reached for a roll of bandages and opened the packaging.

"Virgil, will you support the foot? Try and keep it up above the level of his heart."

"FAB," Virgil said with a quirky smile.

John chuckled, but winced sharply as his brother pressed on the wrong part of his ankle.

"Watch it," John said. "Or I'll be hobbling after you seeking revenge."

Virgil laughed and shook his head.

"I can just imagine."

"Up, up," Dominic said as Virgil lowered his brother's ankle.

Dominic wrapped the bandage as tightly as was appropriate in order to keep the swelling in check and tied it off neatly. He went back into his medical bag and took out two large blue blocks. He manipulated the plastic covers until the material inside snapped in two, and very soon they became ice-cold as the chemicals inside began to react with one another.

"We'll keep these on the ankle as well."

Dominic tossed one of the blocks from one hand to the other before applying it to John's sprain.

"Another of Brains' handy inventions," he said. "The kind of thing you want around when the AC breaks down."

"Right," John said, and winced as the second cold pack was applied.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #526 is a reply to message #525] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:28 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Brandon carefully maneuvered the Fire Truck through the jungle. Tin-Tin sat next to him, acting as navigator, and Luke sat behind them, manning the water cannon.

"This is easier than I thought it would be," Brandon remarked.

"That's because we're safe and sound in here," Luke commented back. "This is a lot easier than the fires I've fought. Chasing after them on foot, in full gear, in the middle of summer, is NOT my idea of a good time!"

Both Brandon and Tin-Tin chuckled. "Where did you do that?" Tin-Tin asked.

"California, a couple of years ago. There were a series of bad storms with a lot of lightning. That set off numerous fires, some of which got pretty out of control," he told her.

Brandon nodded. "I remember that. Parts of the state were even evacuated due to them and the smoke."

"Conditions weren't fun that's for sure. Add those crazy Santa Ana winds and you have a real nightmare." Luke peered into the canon's viewer again. "I see smoke, but no flames."

Tin-Tin surveyed the area. "Move a few degrees west."

"FAB." Brandon adjusted his course and they continued on. "So, tell us more."

Luke nodded, remembering. "One fire, north of LA got pretty out of control. They asked for volunteers so my crew and I went out. We didn't get into the really serious stuff, just stayed with the crew trying to prevent it from spreading. You know, making fire breaks, lighting back fires, that sort of stuff. That's where Cassie and I met." He paused. "I can see the flames now. Let's tackle this thing."

Brandon edged closer to the blaze. Tin-Tin fired off nitro-glycerin shells as Luke used the water cannon. Together, they managed to extinguish the blaze. "Mobile Control from Big Mac."

"Mobile Control, here. How are you coming along?" Elise asked.

"Not bad," Brandon replied. "We've put out a few of the smaller fires and are working our way closer to the main blaze."

"FAB. Try and step on it. Indy has informed me that there's a weather system moving this way. I want this thing done and all of us back under cover when it hits."

Brandon glanced back at Luke who nodded. "FAB, we'll call you when we're done." He turned to Tin-Tin. "You heard her. Let's go."

They moved forward again, heading towards the smoke a short distance away. "It's a good thing we're in this type of climate. With all the rain we get, we'll have this done in no time," Brandon said.

Tin-Tin nodded. "Don't forget our equipment. The Firefly can fire from both directions, preventing it from getting trapped. And even if it does for some reason, the hull is fire-proof. That's what helped Alan during the cane fire in Australia. If the Firefly hadn't been built to our specifications..." She shuddered. After a moment, she smiled. "But wait until you see the modifications we have for the new Thunderbird Seven. Brains has been working hard on the design," she said, a touch of pride in her voice.

"If anyone can do it, Brains can," Brandon remarked. "We're coming up on the fire." He let out a low whistle. "Man, that's one big wall of fire."

Luke glanced up. "Wow. Wonder what Cassie used for accelerants?" He shrugged. "Oh well, like you said, there's really no way for it to jump the fire breaks. Too wet. One of the perks of training in a rain forest!"

They all chuckled and prepared to battle the inferno.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #527 is a reply to message #526] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:28 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Elise glanced up to see that the wind had, indeed, changed direction. "Thunderbird Five from Mobile Control."

"Thunderbird Five here." Alan's voice sounded out over the speakers.

"Indy, I need an update on the weather report. Will we get rain, and if so, how much?"

Alan checked his weather satellites. "You've got a bit of time yet, maybe twenty minutes or so, but yes, you'll be getting some heavy rains."

"F-A-B," Elise replied. She looked up at the gathering, darkening clouds. "Mobile Control out."

She rose and turned toward Thunderbird One. "Gotta get that tent up over Mobile Control."

"Whoa!" Will said, stepping forward. "I can do that. You stay put. I need to do somethin' other than stand around and watch. Just tell me where I can find it."

"Let me show you," Brains said, and the two men trotted off toward Thunderbird One.

While they were working on that, Elise turned to Callie. "Can you and Brains head back out in the Fire Tender and work on the fire break? I'm worried about the changing wind direction."

"Sure. We may get that heavy rainfall, but not before the winds blow back eastward. I'll tell Brains when he gets back here."

When Brains returned to Mobile Control, Callie explained the situation. "We'd better get going."

"Right. The quicker we're back there, the faster we can put out the fire."

As Callie and Brains hurried off to the Fire Tender, Will came up with the Penelon tent. "Are you sure this will cover everythin'?" he asked, looking skeptically at the small package he held.

Elise grinned. "It will; believe me, it will."

"Okay. If you say so." Will opened the package and set about assembling the tent over Mobile Control.

Elise glanced at Cassie, who was watching with interest. "How are we doing so far?"

Cassie nodded and smiled a little. "So far, so good."

(preparing for the weather by TracyFan4Ever and Tikatu)


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[Updated on: Mon, 23 July 2012 21:28]

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Re: Playing with Fire [message #528 is a reply to message #527] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:28 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Alan was carefully tracking the progress of the training session on Neverland. He focused on one monitor, giving him readouts of the fire's core temperature, thinking how he wished he was down there, when an alarm sounded from one of the other computer screens. He snapped his head towards it, and suddenly reached for the comm.

"Mobile Control from Thunderbird Five. The fire has passed the break."

xxxx

Cassie poured over the data coming in from Thunderbird Five, her brows drawing together as she came to a realization. She too reached for the comm.

"Einstein and Ursa from Mobile Control," she said.

"Einstein here," Brains' voice answered.

"Guys, the fire has jumped the break close to your location."

There was a split second's silence before Callie spoke.

"How close?"

"It's within fifty meters at this stage, but isn't moving towards you."

"FAB, Mobile Control. We'll --"

Suddenly, Alan's voice interjected.

"Mobile Control, Ursa and Einstein from Thunderbird Five. Wind direction has changed, repeat, wind direction has changed. The fire is headed directly for the Fire Tender."

Cassie closed her eyes briefly and clenched her fists.

"How fast, Thunderbird Five? It's moving at around ten kph, but that's not the worst news. It's rapidly cutting off your escape route, Fire Tender."

Cassie heard Callie swear under her breath, and thought quickly.

"I'm sending up Thunderbird Two immediately to clear a path with dicetyline. Einstein, Ursa, stay in the Fire Tender and be ready to roll."

"FAB, Mobile Control," Brains, Callie and Alan said simultaneously.

"Mobile Control out."

Cassie immediately opened a new comm channel to let Virgil know the plan.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #529 is a reply to message #528] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:28 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Thunderbird Two rose quickly and gracefully into the sky above Neverland, and Virgil carefully arced the huge aircraft around to head towards the area where the fire had spread. It was moving quickly towards the Fire Tender. His fingers tensed over the controls.

Thick smoke was billowing into the air, and he found himself relying totally on Thunderbird Two's sensors for guidance. He quickly keyed in the start-up sequence for the dicetyline missile launcher, and opened a comm channel.

"Fire Tender and Mobile Control from Thunderbird Two, am about to launch dicetyline missiles. Stand by."

"FAB, standing by," Callie replied.

Virgil checked the location data for the final time, before hitting the fire button. The missiles sliced through the black sky and hit their targets with pinpoint accuracy. Virgil fired another barrage, and quickly an escape route had been carved from the burning foliage.

"Alright, Fire Tender. Get out of there, fast!" He said.

"FAB!" Brains said.

On the sensor screen, Virgil watched as the little dot representing the Fire Tender rapidly accelerated out of the area. The twinge of fear lifted from his chest, he swung Thunderbird Two back around, and headed towards Mobile Control once more.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #530 is a reply to message #529] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Back at Mobile Control, Will stepped into the tent. He hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "It's startin' to rain pretty heavily out there."

Elise sighed with relief. "That'll be a big help."

Cassie nodded. "It will be, but don't count on it to extinguish the fire." She glanced across the readings at Mobile Control, then at her watch. "It might be time to wrap this up."

"I agree," Elise said. She turned back to Mobile Control. "All units from Mobile Control. Let's put this fire out, now. That means you head back to the Danger Zone, Fire Tender. You too, Thunderbird Two."

"Since Thunderbird Two is airborne, it would be wise to have it attack the fire from behind," Cassie added.

"Okay," Elise agreed. "Van Gogh, use the dicetyline on the back end of the fire. Fire Tender, attack it head on with both the water and dicetyline."

xxxx

"F-A-B," said Callie. She turned to her companion. "Well, Brains, you heard the lady. The quicker we get this out, the faster we can all go home."

He looked at her. "Say, what's your hurry?"

"I feel like just getting this done. Don't worry, I'm not trying to rush anything."

Brains said nothing, just shook his head a little as Callie drove them back toward the fire.

xxxx

In the Firefly, Scott nodded toward Gordon. "Time to fire off some more shells. Then you can start using the pump."

Gordon checked his gauges. "Ready when you are, old timer."

Scott rolled his eyes and Nikki chuckled as Scott maneuvered the Firefly into position.

xxxx

"Ready for more, Luke?" Tin-Tin called back.

"I've been ready all day." Luke adjusted the dicetyline mix. "After this I'll need a nice, cold Guinness to wash the smoke from my throat."

"We can change positions, if you want," Brandon offered.

"Nah. I'm good. This dicetyline stuff is pretty amazing. We should knock this baby down in no time."

xxxx

Virgil turned Thunderbird Two around, and prepared another set of missiles. I can see what Cassie means by needing another method for firefighting from the air. The missiles are good, but the dicetyline gun will be more effective, I think.

He flew over the first line of fire, the heavy rain drenching his windshield. Between that and the smoke, he could barely see out, and was relying on his instruments to show him where the worst of the fire was, as well as where the positions of the three firefighting vehicles.

"Firing first barrage now!" he called.

xxxx

"Firing shells now!" Scott's voice overlapped Virgil's at Mobile Control. John, sitting on a small folding chair, ankle propped up on another, listened intently to the ongoing fight. He was feeling a bit crowded; the tent walls shuddered in the increasing wind. Dom sat on the ground near him, and Will, who had been interested in the readouts at first, moved around to the other side of the Mobile Control unit to make room. Cassie stood where she'd been almost the entire time, at Elise's right shoulder.

"Feelin' a tad cramped in here," Dom whispered to John. "The wind and rain... they remind me of London."

"Yeah, but we were out in it then." John glanced at his watch. "Hope we can get this done before sundown."

xxxx

"How's it look, Luke?" Tin-Tin asked, craning her neck to see their surroundings. "It's gotten so dark; visibility's way down."

"Let me know if I have to change position," Brandon added.

"Looking good out there, actually." Luke checked the heat signatures around them. "The active fire is out. There's just the smoldering stuff that's left, and that's dwindling fast."

"Should we call in and let them know we're done?" Brandon asked.

"Give it a few more minutes."

xxxx

"I don't think I'm going to have to do much, here, Scott." Gordon checked the heat signatures. "There's only a couple of hot spots left."

"Then douse them, and let's get out of this rain," Nikki said. "It's getting hard to see out there."

"Mobile Control from Firefly," Scott said, touching his earpiece. "We've got things nearly under control here. Someone else need help?"

xxxx

"How's the dicetyline holding out, Brains?" Callie asked as she kept her eyes firmly fixed on the terrain before her.

"We're getting low," Brains said, a touch of concern to his voice. "I'm not sure if..."

His comment was cut off by a loud boom ahead of them. The area before them was suddenly covered in greenish-white foam -- as was the windshield of the Fire Tender.

"What what that!?" Callie shouted, bringing the Fire Tender to a shuddering halt.

"I think it was Thunderbird Two," Brains said dryly. "I guess we don't have to worry about the dicetyline levels anymore."

xxxx

"Mobile Control from Firefly. Fire in our sector is out."

"Mobile Control from Fire Truck. Reporting our sector is clear."

"Mobile Control from Fire Tender. Fire is contained in our area."

"F-A-B, all units." Elise let out a deep breath.

Will clapped. "Woo hoo!"

Elise put up a finger. "Hold that thought. Thunderbird Five from Mobile Control. How does it look, Indy?"

"Looks good from here, Frankie." Alan consulted his scanners. "Heat levels register from 0 to 0.2 at most, and the warmer spots are quickly cooling. Looks like the fire's out."

"And the weather?"

Alan glanced at the weather radar. "You've got another twenty minutes before the rain tapers off, I'm afraid."

"F-A-B. We can work with that. Mobile Control out." Elise switched channels. "All units from Mobile Control. Return to mobile base. I repeat, return to mobile base. Stand down at 1737 hours."

There was a chorus of "F-A-B." Elise turned to Cassie, who smiled widely.

"Looks like we've had a successful session," Cassie said, putting a hand on Elise's shoulder.

"That means you were a good teacher," Elise replied.

xxxx

"Base from Thunderbird Five." The eyes on Alan's portrait blinked. Jeff reached over to open communications.

"Base here, Alan. Go ahead."

"Stand down was called at 1737 hours. The island is clear of fire."

"F-A-B, Thunderbird Five."

Dianne came in with a tray of coffee cups and an insulated carafe. She glanced at Alan, then back at Jeff. "News?"

"Stand down has been called. The fire's out," Jeff explained.

She poured a cup of coffee, and handed it to Jeff. "Well then, I'd better let the kitchen crew know. I'm sure we'll have a lot of hungry people to feed at debrief."

--knocking it down by TracyFan4ever and Tikatu


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #531 is a reply to message #530] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Tuesday, October 22, 2068, 8:15 p.m., Tracy Island

Dinner was over and Jeff met with Scott, Elise, Virgil, and Cassie in the lounge for an evaluation of the training session. The debriefing had been strictly limited to the events of the training session, and now Jeff wanted to dissect it a little bit more.

"As you know," Jeff began, pouring himself a cup of coffee. "Dianne and I were able to see part of the training session, but the weather forced us to leave."

"I still can't believe we didn't you see up there," Scott said, shaking his head as he pulled his cup toward him.

"We made sure we couldn't be seen, son. What we saw looked very good, though." Jeff took a sip, and put his cup down in the saucer. He glanced at Elise. "So, how did things go for you?"

"I felt much more confident in what I was doing, that's for sure. Both using Mobile Control and dealing with the fire was easier this time." She glanced at Cassie. "I was much more comfortable this time -- if only because I didn't have Scott standing over me, watching my every move!"

Scott put both hands over his heart and threw his head back. "I'm wounded!" he cried in an overly-dramatic voice.

"I see someone's been taking acting lessons from Gordon again!" Virgil said dryly.

Elise wagged a finger at Scott. "You know exactly what I mean, Scott Tracy! I felt those baby blues of yours boring into my back all the time during that rum plant fire!"

Jeff shook his head and sighed. "Let's get back to the topic at hand, shall we?" He turned to Cassie. "What was your assessment of the scenario?"

Cassie put down her cup. "Well, everyone did very well with building the firebreaks, even though the Fire Tender unit didn't get theirs done. And they did a fine job dealing with the situation when the fire jumped the break." She frowned a little. "I understand that an injury is important, but John's didn't seem to be a serious one so I'm not sure why they felt they should return to have it looked at instead of finishing the firebreak."

Jeff made a note on a data pad he had with him. "Our policy has been to get our people to medical treatment as quickly as possible. But with a minor injury... I suppose it will have to depend on the situation. I'll think about that, and talk to Dianne." He turned to Virgil. "What do you have to say?"

"I could really see the need for that dicetyline cannon that Cassie mentioned." Virgil sat back, propping an ankle on the opposite knee. "The missiles are good, but having a more controlled and sustained method of spreading the dicetyline will be more effective."

Jeff nodded, and made another note. "Ah yes, Virgil. I remember you mentioning that to me when you returned from Paris. I've put that on Tin-Tin's list." He glanced up at Cassie. "I'd appreciate it if you could get together with her and Virgil to flesh out your ideas."

"Yes, sir," Cassie replied.

"Scott, what's your assessment?" Jeff turned to his eldest son.

"The general impression I got was that everything went well. Elise did a great job in coordinating the teams; everyone was confident; everyone remembered what they'd been taught. My only thought is that the Fire Tender might not be the best choice of equipment for this kind of fire." Scott smiled. "I think we had a successful training session, thanks to Cassie here."

Cassie colored a bit. "I'm glad you think so, Scott."

"Good. I'll expect written reports with your impressions by 1800 hours tomorrow." Jeff nodded a bit, then glanced around at everyone else. "Is there anything else?"

"Sir?" Cassie raised her hand a bit. "Is there any way I can get some training on Mobile Control? I understood some of the information provided, but not all."

"I think that's a good idea." Jeff said. "Scott?"

Scott nodded. "That's fine with me, or Elise can do it. Whichever you prefer."

"I'll let you know," Cassie said.

"Well, then." Jeff saved his notes and put down his data pad. He freshened his coffee and stood. "This meeting is adjourned. Good work, everyone."


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #532 is a reply to message #531] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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October 23, 10:40 AM; Portland International Jetport, Maine

Lena headed toward the waiting area, scanning for the man she expected to be meeting her. She wasn't sure she'd recognize him, but when she'd called, giving him her itinerary, he said he'd have a sign with her name on it. She was surprised when she saw her name, held by a young woman in a chauffeur's uniform. Walking up to the holder, she said, "I'm Lena Matumbo. Where..."

"Oh, Mrs. Matumbo. Welcome to Portland. Mr. Dolan got held up, and I was sent to meet you." She reached inside her jacket and pulled out an envelope. "He asked me to give this to you." She handed it to Lena. "May I take your bag? Did you have a good flight? Do you have any other luggage?"

Lena laughed. "Tank you, yes, and no - in dat order. Shall we go to de car?"

A few minutes later, they were driving away from the airport. Lena opened the letter the Portland I&M director wrote.

Lena,

I really wanted to meet you myself, but a meeting of all the department heads was called for 9AM. I didn't know about it until I got in. It'll probably be the usual waste of time, but it's mandatory.

I hope the car and driver I hired to pick you up is satisfactory. You'll be taken to your hotel, where you can freshen up and relax, if you need to. I should be able to get away by noon, and I'll come and take you to lunch.

Everett


She put the letter in her purse, then looked out the window, and gasped in amazement. "How beautiful! Autumn is certainly putting on a colorful show up here dis year."

Miriam glanced at her through the rear view mirror and smiled. "The weather people say it's because we had plenty of rain this summer. And then the chilly days we've had the last few weeks helped bring out the colors. It's my favorite season."

"It certainly is a beautiful one."

They chatted easily until they reached the hotel. Miriam took Lena's bag inside and waited until her charge was checked in, then left. Lena headed to her room to unpack, and do a little work on her laptop (since the flight took only an hour, she wasn't tired) until her Portland counterpart arrived to take her to lunch, then to his office.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #533 is a reply to message #532] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Wednesday October 24th, the Cliff House, mid-morning....

Elise hummed to herself as she leafed through the piles of papers on her table. They were all her notes for the upcoming Halloween party. "OK, we have chicken wings, bat wings, salad, some sweets, Grandma is insisting on making the cake..." She continued skimming and making notations, idly patting Henry, who had jumped up on her lap. "Well, it looks like we have most of the food all set. Just need to work on decorations and games. And I hope everyone decides to dress up!"

She looked up at the knock at her door. Answering it, she gasped in surprise. "Luke! Is everything all right?"

Luke looked at her with bleary, bloodshot eyes. "Want a dog?" he growled, glaring down at Rommel, who whined.

"You'd better come in and talk to me." Elise led them both inside. Luke held up his hand, commanding Rom to stay on the rug next to the door. The dog let out a sigh and flopped down, his eyes watching Luke's every move. Elise hid a smile. "Why don't you sit down? Can I get you anything?"

"I'd kill for a cup of coffee," Luke replied hoarsely, sitting down on the couch and putting his head in his hands.

"It'll take just a minute," she said. A noise made her turn. "Henry, you behave. Leave the dog alone." The kitten was sidling up to the dog, his hair on end, hissing. Rom merely ignored the tiny creature.

She came back a few minutes later and handed Luke a steaming cup. He took it and drank deep. "Oh, God, I needed this."

Elise chuckled. "Want to tell me what's going on? You look like you haven't slept. You're not sick, are you?" She automatically reached out and felt his forehead.

Luke shook his head and glared over at the dog again. "I didn't. Sleep, that is. The mutt there was upset that I didn't take him yesterday, and didn't give me a moment's peace all night."

She frowned. "That's kind of weird, isn't it?"

He shrugged, sipping at his coffee again. "Sort of. We're partners. He's trained to be with me pretty much at all times. But he's not a fire dog. There was no one missing; he's not trained in this type of situation, so I left him home. Then when I got back, smelling of ash and smoke, he sort of freaked out. Kept me up all night, nudging, licking...I swear, Elise, if you laugh..."

She bit back a smile. "You have to admit, it's kind of cute. He was worried about you!"

"Yeah, lucky me." He muttered and set the mug down on the coffee table. "He's done this once before. On another rescue. It was a flash flood and I didn't want him anywhere near there."

"I don't blame you." She looked thoughtfully at the dog, who was slowly creeping forward, trying not to catch his master's attention. "You know, it probably was the soot that set him off. And, he could probably smell the fire from over here. He was just worried about you, weren't you, baby?" Elise snapped her fingers and the dog trotted over to lick her hand.

"Yeah, I suppose," Luke said grudgingly, still glaring at Rommel.

She laughed and squeezed his hand. "Are you hungry? I could scramble up some eggs or something?"

He looked up. "Really? That would be great. If it's no trouble."

"None at all. Just give me a couple of minutes." Elise wandered off into the kitchen as he lay back on the couch.

"Are you and Nikki still planning on coming for dinner tomorrow night?" Luke called out, closing his eyes.

"And turn down a free meal? Of course we'll be there!" She quickly got out eggs and fried them up, adding some toast to the side. She poured another mug of coffee and made her way back to the living room. The sight in front of her made her freeze.

Luke had fallen asleep. Rommel had crept up next to him, resting his muzzle on the couch under his master's hand. Henry, meanwhile, had gotten over his snit with the dog, and was curled up on top of Luke's chest. Elise smiled and tiptoed back into the kitchen. She put the eggs in the fridge, and munching on a piece of toast, picked up the phone. "Nikki? There's been a slight change of plans. Do you mind if we meet at your place instead?"


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #534 is a reply to message #533] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:29 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Wednesday October 24th, late morning

Scott quickly slipped into the laundry room. The clothes were folded neatly and in piles. One of the dryers was still running while Kyrano was fixing lunch. He went straight for the pile he wanted, took some things off the top, and hid them in his own pile of clean clothes.

There. Anna and I can do these tonight. Then tomorrow I can substitute these for the ones in his dresser, do them and put them with tomorrow's laundry when I'm done. He'll never realize these disappeared for a day. Scott put the pile of clean clothes in his room and headed out for lunch.


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Luke leaned on the patio railing, gazing out at the sea. He felt much more refreshed after his unexpected nap on Elise's couch. He'd woken up and gone back to his apartment, indulging himself in a long, hot shower. Spying the pile of dirty clothes on the floor, he'd made his way down to the laundry and thrown them in. One more thing to get Rom off my back, he thought to himself. Currently the dog was sprawled at his feet, dozing in the sun.

Suddenly Rom sat up, ears twitching. "What do you hear, boy?" Luke asked.

A moment later, a blond whirlwind came flying out of the doors at the far end of the patio. "Joshua Aaron Kelley! You get back here!"

Giggling, the toddler rushed forward, his father close on his heels. Spying Rommel and Luke, Josh paused in mid-flight. "Doggie?"

Knowing Dominic's aversion to dogs, Luke quickly stepped in front of the animal, giving Rom the signal to stay. "Hey there, Josh. What's up, buddy?"

"Doggie," Josh said again.

Dom scooped up his son in his arms, keeping a wary eye on Rommel. "Luke, sorry about that. I'm tryin' to get ready to leave in the mornin'."

A funny pang went through Luke. "Leave?"

"Aye, gotta head back to Ireland for a bit. We shouldn't be gone more than a couple of days," the Irishman replied. "Got some stuff I need to take care of."

Luke didn't press. "No problem." He grinned at Josh, who was trying to wiggle out of his father's arms. "Let me guess, laundry and he's not helping."

Dom chuckled. "You can say that again. The fire yesterday put me a bit behind schedule."

"You and me both!" Luke thought for a moment. "Look, I'm just about done here; I've got my last load in the dryer. Why don't I take Josh for a bit and give you a chance to finish up what you need to do. We can go to the beach and look for shells, play by the pool, anything. I'll just run Rom upstairs and come back."

Dom shook his head. "Nah, I'll manage."

"Dom, don't be a fool! Here's a chance for some peace and quiet for a few hours! It's no problem, really. I have nieces and nephews who were once his age. We'll be fine, won't we little man?" Luke said, making a face at the boy.

"Well, if you're sure you won't mind..." Dom said, visibly torn.

"Not at all. In fact, I'll have him back for dinner. I could whip up some spaghetti or something easy like that."

"I suppose..."

"Good, it's settled then," Luke said, taking Josh. "We'll be back later. Wave to daddy!"

"Bye, Da!" the toddler cried happily.

Luke hefted the boy over his shoulder. "Do you have a bag for him? Just in case?"

"Yeah, over here." Dom led the way back to the other common room and handed Luke a well-worn carry all. "You sure you don't mind?"

"Not at all. We'll have fun won't we?" Luke tickled the boy's belly. "First we'll have us a snack, then I'll show you how to run with scissors and play with fire." At Dom's stricken look, he laughed. "Stop worrying! We'll see you in a couple of hours." Together the man and the toddler made their way up to Luke's apartment, Rom tagging along at their heels. When they got inside, Josh instantly dropped to the dog's side and began playing. Luke watched for a few minutes, grinning. "Well, buddy, what do you say we get ourselves some cookies, then go and pay a visit to Brains?"


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #536 is a reply to message #535] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:30 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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The Cliff House, early evening, before dinner...

Elise laughed as she ran the carpet sweeper across the floor. Henry was all fluffed up, trying to chase it, yet running away hissing when it got too close. "I'm sorry, but if your buddy Rommel is going to come and visit, he's going to have to learn to clean up after himself. Look at all this hair!" The chime of the doorbell made her pause. "Let's go see who that is." She walked over and opened the door. "Tyler! Alex! This is a surprise, come on in."

"Hi, Elise! We came to visit Henry," Tyler told her.

"And give you this," Alex added, handing her an envelope.

"Thank-you. Would you guys like a snack, or something to drink?" she asked, taking the envelope and placing it on the table.

Henry pranced over to the boys and started playing with Alex's shoelace. "Wow! He's gotten really big!" Tyler commented, getting down on the floor and eye level with the kitten. "Patches is big too. You'll have to come and see him."

"I will. How about that snack?" Elise asked.

Alex pulled his shoe away. "No thanks. We just stopped by for a minute, to deliver your letter. Mom told us not to be late for dinner."

They played for a few minutes before heading back to the Villa. Once they had gone, Elise sat down on the couch and opened the note.

Dear Elise,

Things have been so hectic since I got back that we haven't had time to catch up! I was wondering if you'd like to join me for dinner tomorrow night. I can fill you in on my trip and you can tell me what I missed while I was gone. Give me a call when you get this.

Virgil


She smiled and reached for the phone. Within moments, Virgil answered.

"Did you get my note?"

"Yes I did. Charming delivery boys, too."

"Yeah, try living with them sometime!"
Virgil kidded. "So, do we have a date?"

"I'd love to but I already have plans," she told him. "I'm sorry."

"Plans? Should I be jealous?" he teased.

She laughed. "Luke invited me for dinner tomorrow. As a thank-you for helping get his apartment all set up."

"Oh. OK then." Virgil tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

Elise continued without seeming to notice. "John and Nikki are coming too. Can we do it another time?"

"John and Nikki too, huh? Sounds like fun. What about Friday? Got a hot date then?" he asked, only half-jokingly.

"Nope, Friday would be fine," she told him. "I'm all yours."

Don't I wish... Virgil thought to himself. "I'll pick you up around five."

"Sounds perfect."

"Well, goodnight then, Elise."

"Goodnight, Virgil."

"Oh and Elise? Wear something dressy." With that last remark, Virgil hung up leaving Elise wondering just what he had planned.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #537 is a reply to message #536] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:30 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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"Thanks again fer givin' me this bit of time off, Mr Tracy," Dominic said.

He was speaking with Jeff in the hangar. The older man had been checking on something and had dropped by to bid his employee farewell. Dominic had just finished loading the last of his luggage into the hold of Tracy One as Jeff had approached. Joshua was already strapped into his seat in the plane, Horsey clutched in his hands.

"I'm more than happy to, as with everyone," Jeff said.

"It's going to be a long ol' flight from Christchurch to Dublin, but sure, has to be done."

"Yes, it is a lengthy flight. I hope Joshua copes well with it," Jeff said.

Dominic chuckled.

"Aye, me too. He didn't do too terribly badly comin' from Kansas to here. Hopefully he'll just sleep."

This time it was Jeff who chuckled.

"I wouldn't bank on that."

Virgil climbed down from inside the plane and gave his father a wave.

"Hey Dad. Ready to go, Dominic?"

"Am indeed. Tin-Tin inside?"

"Yeah. She's entertaining Josh. I think he's in a bad mood."

Dominic shot Jeff a weary look, who chuckled.

"Good luck," Jeff said. He turned to Virgil. "Radio in when you reach Christchurch. Have you got your grandmother's shopping list?"

"Right here, Dad," Virgil said, pulling a folded piece of paper from his pocket.

"All right." Jeff turned back to Dominic. "Have a safe journey, and let us know when you arrive in Dublin."

"Yes, sir," Dominic said, grinning.

Virgil beckoned Dominic to join him in climbing back into the plane.

"C'mon. Gordon isn't going to want to play air-traffic-controller all day."

Dominic gave Jeff a final wave, before climbing into the plane after Virgil. Soon enough they were airborne, and he was on his way back to Ireland, his home.



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Re: Playing with Fire [message #538 is a reply to message #537] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:30 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Thursday, October 25, Early morning

Gordon went out for his morning swim just as the sun was rising. As he was getting out of the pool, he noticed Scott on the balcony, drinking coffee. "Hi, Scott. Done with breakfast already?"

"No, I was just going in. I was just watching you."

"I'll be at the table in about 10 minutes. See you there." Gordon went to his room, took a quick shower and hung his suit up to dry.




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Re: Playing with Fire [message #539 is a reply to message #538] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:31 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Thursday, October 25, 2068, 2:30 p.m., Tracy Island

Jeff sat with Kyrano and Emily in the study, going over the applications that had been received.

"Lands' sakes! There are dozens of them!" Emily said, putting down the data pad she'd been reading. "I don't know how we're going to choose!"

"It is a difficult decision to make," Kyrano said, his eyes fixed on the pad he held.

"These are just the ones who have cleared the background checks." Jeff sighed and picked up another pad, then laid it down again. "The key is: what do you want in an assistant? Come up with a priority list and let's start eliminating from that."

"Well, I suppose we should have someone young and strong," Emily said, giving Jeff a sideways glance.

Jeff ignored the slight gibe. "All right. What age do you want as a cut off?"

Kyrano looked thoughtful. "We should look for a balance of age, strength, and experience." He glanced at Emily. "Perhaps forty?"

"I think thirty's a better age," Emily said, a firm set to her mouth.

Shaking his head, Jeff sighed. "Let's split the difference, and say thirty-five." He put the age into a filter on his laptop. Several of the data pads went blank. "There, that cuts the number down. Now, what else is a priority? Gender? Experience? Education?"

"Gender is not an issue to me," Kyrano said. He glanced at Emily, who nodded. "I would say education would be next. At least a degree or certificate in gourmet culinary studies." He smiled slightly. "We do have a standard of excellence to uphold."

Emily frowned. "And, at the risk of sounding discriminatory here, I'd say no single parents." When both men looked at her, she added, "Joshua is one thing. He's a joy to have, and I don't mind taking care of him when Dominic's on duty. Lisa says she doesn't mind either. But having another child to watch is a bit too much, especially when the reason for their parent being here is to relieve our burden -- mine and Kyrano's and Lisa's." She shrugged her shoulders, her palms up. "A single parent isn't going to have the flexibility we're going to need for this job. Dominic is a different story." She paused. "A two-parent family might work, though."

Jeff drew a deep breath in through his nose and let it out noisily. "I see your point, Mother." He plugged another variable into his filter, and a few more data pads went dark. "There. That's the education." He tapped a few more keys and blanked still more data pads. "And there's the parenting issue." Glancing from his mother to Kyrano again, he said, "What's next?"

"Experience," Kyrano replied promptly. "This will sound strange, perhaps, but I do not wish to have someone with too much experience in the kitchen. I would like to guide and mold whoever we choose to the way we do things." He made a wry face. "From my own days as a chef, I know that many are arrogant and insist that their own ways are best. So... no one with four or five-star experience."

"Hm." Jeff rubbed his chin. "I don't know if I can filter for that, Kyrano."

"Maybe I can put it better." All eyes turned to Lisa, who came in, balancing a tray in her hands. Jeff rose to help her put it down on the table, and Kyrano, smiling, began to serve the lemonade she had brought. She sat down at the table and idly picked up a data pad.

Jeff picked up his glass tumbler. "Go ahead, Lisa," he said, before taking a sip.

"Well," she began, "most of our meals are served family style or buffet. A restaurant chef will know how to do a buffet, but family style is a different matter. Someone with cafeteria experience will know how to do both. So, perhaps putting more of an emphasis on cafeteria or buffet cook rather than short-order restaurant cook will help."

"All right." Jeff began to type again. "I'll prioritize by latest experience. If the candidate's latest food preparation experience was in a buffet or cafeteria style establishment, then they'll be flagged green. Short-order restaurant will be flagged yellow."

The two women glanced at each other, and Emily cleared her throat. "Jeff, we wouldn't mind having a little help with the housekeeping as well. Can you flag for other experience, like maybe cleaning work... or as a housekeeper?"

Jeff raised an eyebrow, slightly surprised, then nodded. "Sure. I'll add that. Now people with cafeteria and housekeeping or cleaning experience are flagged blue. The others are as before."

Kyrano began sorting through the data pads. "Lisa, if you will take care of the blue, I shall sort the yellow, and Mrs. Tracy? The green, if you will."

"You can hand me the blank ones," Jeff said as he handed a pad over to Kyrano.

When the sorting was done, the piles of data pads were far smaller, with the pile in front of Lisa the smallest of all. "How many do you have there, Lisa?" Jeff asked, holding out a hand.

"Eight," she replied, passing the pile down the table.

"Ah, good." Jeff shuffled through them quickly. "This will suffice for now. I'll flag these for Human Resources, and the offices closest to these folks can contact them for a preliminary interview." He began the process of highlighting the names. "In the meantime, you might want to give some consideration to just how we're going to make the final choice. I am not revealing IR to every candidate we get. Just the final one."

Kyrano glanced at the two women, and nodded sagely. "We will discuss it."



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Re: Playing with Fire [message #540 is a reply to message #539] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:32 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Jenny paused by a clothes rack in the local shopping centre and glanced at the price tag attached to a suit. "Mum, have a look at this!" she said to Sandra, who was busy inspecting a skirts rack.

"What is it?" her mother asked, turning her head.

"A navy suit. Fairly cheap, too. I reckon it'll look well on me. I could wear it to an interview."

Sandra Finch walked over and surveyed it critically.

"I don't think that suits your figure, though, Jen dear. Oooh, look at that!"

"I'll try it on, anyway," Jenny answered, eying the suit with some doubt. Perhaps her mother was right.

"Before you go, Jenny, have a look at these pants. A lovely burgundy colour. You love deep reds, don't you?"

Jenny nodded. "That looks nice." She turned and headed toward the changing rooms.

"I reckon it suits you, too. You could wear it with that red silk blouse your sister gave you."

Jenny remembered. Wendy had said that she had found it in a store, and bought it, but when she got home she found that it didn't go with any of her clothes, so she had given it to Jenny last week.

When Jenny returned from the changing rooms, Sandra had a pile of pants for her to try on.

"Here," she said, "try these on, Jenny."

"I don't think I want pants," Jenny said firmly. "I prefer a skirt, particularly as it's summer soon. Skirts are generally cooler, I think. Hey, here's a nice one." She held up a light grey skirt.

Sandra stared at it for a moment. "It wouldn't go with the blouse, though."

"It's a shame I'm low on funds, or I'd buy a new blouse," Jenny lamented, putting the grey skirt back on the rack.

"Well, my mother always used to say that you can't go wrong in navy. How about this?" Sandra asked, handing Jenny a navy skirt with a matching belt.

Jenny examined it closely. There was some embroidery detail in one corner, and the belt had some tiny embroidered flowers between the holes. She held it up against herself and liked it immediately.

"I'll go and try it on," she said, and disappeared into the changing rooms.

She returned in a few minutes, looking quite pleased.

"How much does it cost?"

"Let's see. $59.99."

Jenny felt her heart sink. "I can't afford that. Not if I want to get a nice pair of shoes."

"Oh, wait a minute! Everything's half price! That'll be thirty bucks then!"

Jenny sighed and draped the skirt over her arm. "Let's have a look at the shoes then."

Sandra quickly led the way to the shoe department.

"Oh, Jenny! Have a look at these!" Sandra held up a pair of black high-heeled sandals.

Jenny took one glance and groaned. "Mum! I hate wearing high heels!"

"Jenny, love, they're not that high. Anyway..."

Jenny hastily moved away, leaving her mother holding the offending shoes, and made her way to the back of the shop.

"Now, these look good." Jenny whispered to herself, noticing a pair of navy pumps. They suited the skirt quite well.

She picked the box of shoes up and found a nearby stool. She sat down, pulled off her own shoes, and tried the pumps on. They were a couple of sizes too big, so Jenny got up and hunted for another, smaller pair. She soon found a box, and tried them on. They fitted just about right.

"Mum?"

"Yes, what is it, love?"

"What do you think of these?"

Sandra appeared around the corner, holding a couple of shoe boxes.

"Ooh. They look smart. Well, are you going to buy them?"

"I certainly will." She pulled the pumps off and slipped her own shoes back on, while Sandra put the pumps back in the box.

"Let's go." Jenny sighed, feeling that it was about time she had a drink. A fruit juice sounded good, and perhaps a chocolate bar to go with it.[/size]


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #542 is a reply to message #540] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:32 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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It was as if all life had been sucked out of Dominic as he unbuckled his son from the aeroplane seat, and joined in the sea of people waiting to disembark. His steps were shuffling and his back bent as he carried the small boy down the gangway and towards the baggage reclaim. Dom was vaguely aware of people bumping into him and throwing him disgusted and angry looks, but he didn't care.

Joshua had only fallen asleep one hour before. Dominic shifted the sleeping boy in his arms to look at his watch, still on Tracy Island time. Ten p.m. Left at ten a.m. Ugh... Joshua curled his fists into his father's t-shirt and rubbed his cheek against Dominic's shoulder. Wish I was asleep, Dominic thought, suppressing a yawn. He walked over to the luggage carousel, and began the inevitably long wait.

Eventually he had the bags loaded onto a trolley and Joshua snuggled up in his baby backpack. Taking a deep breath, he forced his limbs to work once more and walked towards the terminal exit.

The cold October air blasted fresh memories into his body, giving him a brief surge of energy. It was so different and so familiar, beautiful and terrible strands whipping around him in colours and light, bringing a crescendo of love and hate thumping under his sternum.

"Tynan, dear!"

Dominic's heart twisted for a moment, thinking, Who knows? And suddenly he remembered the voice, and then the plans that had been made. Granny.

A small, sinewy woman and a tall thin man were waving from across the terminal, and Dominic broke out in a wide grin.

"Granny, Granda!" He said, and swung the baggage trolley around.

Étaín and Stiofán Kelly walked over and embraced their grandson for the first time in over five years. Dominic, careful of his sleeping son, smiled more widely than he had in weeks.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #543 is a reply to message #542] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:33 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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"Dublin Air Control from Arrowhawk One, request permission to land."

Crackle.

"Acknowledged Arrowhawk One," the controller said. "You're right on schedule. Permission granted. Please use runway five and taxi to hangar B-seven."

"Acknowledged Dublin Air Control. Arrowhawk One out."

Beatrice Henry's hands rested on the private jet's controls as she brought it in for the final descent. Her passenger, the owner of the prestigious jet and CEO of the company she worked for, would expect nothing less than perfection from her. She brought the craft down for a graceful landing, and taxied to the appropriate hangar.

She pressed one manicured finger on the cabin intercom button.

"You're now safe to disembark, sir."

"Beautiful landing as always, Bea. Enjoy your furlough."

Beatrice smiled and nodded, though her boss couldn't see. While on his business trip, he had given her four days of paid holiday to enjoy the sights Dublin had to offer. And I only mentioned I wanted to see the city once -- and that was months ago!

"I will, sir."

She smiled again, and began running through her post-flight diagnostics.

xxxx

A set of silver steps had been wheeled over to the open cabin door of Arrowhawk One, and its owner descended onto the tarmac. Matthew Hawkins pulled on his heavy coat as he strode over to the waiting buggy that would transport him to the terminal, shielding his eyes from the beating rain. There was no business to attend to as his pilot thought. Not Hawkins Aerospace business, anyway.

I'm going to sort things out with Dominic once and for all, he thought. No matter what the price.



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Re: Playing with Fire [message #544 is a reply to message #543] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:33 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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"Matthews snaps the ball....it's caught by Jeffery in the end zone...Touchdown, Raiders!"

Luke poked his head out of the kitchen and swore. Muttering under his breath, he turned back and checked in the oven. Nodding, he grabbed a beer out of the fridge and went out to sit on the couch. He immersed himself in the football game for a few minutes, jumping in startlement when the door chime sounded. Rommel looked up from where he was laying on the floor, and watched his master walk across the room. Luke opened the door. "John, c'mon in."

John stepped into the room. "Hi, Luke. Something smells good."

"Chicken parmigiana. Can I get you a drink? I have a nice Merlot for dinner, but there's beer, juice and water in the fridge."

"Water would be great, thanks." John sat down on the couch and Rom trotted over to him. "Hey there, big guy." The dog's tail thumped happily as John patted him.

Luke came back in and handed John a bottle of water and a glass. "Here you go."

"Thanks. What are you watching?"

"Broncos vs. Raiders. They were on Monday Night Football this week. I can't watch live with the time difference so I record it and stay away from the news until I watch." He glanced up at the TV and shook his head. "We're losing. Bloody defense has holes big enough to drive a truck through."

John caught the score. "I take it you're a Broncos fan."

Luke nodded. "Yeah. Sadly, I've been one since I was a kid. We haven't won a Superbowl since the forties." He shook his head. "My brother is a Seattle fan. He constantly rubs it in that they've won the past two years. You follow football?"

John nodded. "Only college. I'm a Harvard man."

"Good team." Luke chuckled. "Glad you're not a KC fan or this friendship would go downhill fast." John laughed as the doorbell rang. "That must be Nikki and Elise." Luke opened the door and both women walked in.

Nikki paused and looked around. "Very nice. I'll admit I didn't think you'd ever get unpacked!"

"Ha-ha," Luke replied as he shut off the television. "Want the grand tour now? There's still a few minutes before supper." He gestured around him. "Living room, complete with curtains," he swung his arm grandly at the navy drapes on the patio doors. "And couch cushions." This time John held one up and displayed it, turning it back and forth. Both women giggled. Luke chuckled. "I'll admit the tan worked well on the walls too."

"Desert Sands," both women said at the same time.

Luke rolled his eyes. "Desert Sands then. Anyway, you were right, it warmed the place up." He led them all into the bedroom.

Elise glanced around and nodded. "Well, not too bad, Luke. You aren't as hopeless as I thought."

"Gee, that's a compliment, I think," Luke replied with a smile. "Let's eat."

They sat down at the table, as Luke served the meal. Elise looked down at hers. "You cooked this? All by yourself?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I did," Luke shot back. "I can handle a few things. This being one of them."

She nudged Nikki. "He's not as good with breakfast."

Luke pointed his fork at her. "Watch it or no chocolate cheesecake."

John's ears perked up. "You made cheesecake too?"

To their surprise, Luke's face reddened. "Well, I took it out of the freezer. Does that count?"

They laughed and continued their meal. At one point, John glanced around the room, a puzzled expression on his face. "Are those hockey sticks?"

Luke followed his gaze. "Behind the chair? Yeah, I got them in the last mail shipment. Now if I only had a place to use them," he said wistfully.

"Hockey, what a barbaric sport," Elise stated.

Luke glared at her. "Excuse me?"

She calmly stabbed a piece of chicken and popped it into her mouth. "I don't believe I stuttered."

John chuckled under his breath and nudged Nikki. "This ought to be good."

"For your information, hockey takes skill and determination. It's not all fights and gore like they show on TV. You have to be able to concentrate on your own game as well as your teammates and opponents. At the same time, you're trying to control a three inch piece of vulcanized rubber that can potentially hit you at 100 mph!" Luke said heatedly.

"Skill? Have you ever done a double axel on those skates of yours?" Elise asked.

"Have you ever hit a slap shot from the blue line?" he countered back.

"Yeah, that's real skill. To hit a piece of plastic with a stick!"

"Do we need to separate you two?" Nikki asked with a smile.

"They sound like an old, married couple, don't they?" John added. Luke and Elise shot him such identical looks of disgust that he burst out laughing. "OK, what do you say we call a truce?"

"I will if she will," Luke said, an angry glower on his face.

"Only if he says figure skating is just as hard as hockey," Elise replied.

"You know, there is an easy way to settle this," Nikki said. "Next time we all get some leave time, let's head to the mainland. I'm sure we could find a skating rink there. Unless we can convince your father to put one in here?"

John shook his head. "Somehow I don't see that happening. Though, he did let Brains make it snow once...anyway, I think a skate-off is a great idea."

"She wears hockey skates and gear," Luke said, pointing at Elise.

Elise pointed back. "And he wears figure skates and--;"

"I am NOT wearing tights!"

John interrupted. "OK, children, before we start up again, let's agree that there will be a contest in the near future. Terms to be discussed at a later date. Deal?"

"Deal," Luke said grudgingly.

"Deal," Elise replied in the same tone.

"Great." John turned to Luke. "Now I believe you said something about cheesecake?"


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #545 is a reply to message #544] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:33 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Friday, October 26 , Early morning

The next day both Scott and Virgil were watching when Gordon finished swimming. He sometimes saw Scott watching him while waiting for breakfast but Virgil standing with him was unprecedented. Virgil was holding his high resolution camera.

"What's up?"

"Nothing. We were just admiring your swimming and taking some shots of the sunrise." Virgil and Scott clinked their coffee cups together and went inside. Gordon shrugged and headed to his room.



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Re: Playing with Fire [message #546 is a reply to message #545] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:34 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Absolute bliss: that was the only way to describe it. The feather pillow cushioned Dominic's skull perfectly. The down duvet was gloriously soft, and he burrowed into it even further. He inhaled deeply, letting the memories wash over him. Visiting his grandparents had always been the highlight of the year.

After the months of torment, changing from school to school as his mother got new jobs, left or was fired, the summer months spent in the Dublin suburbs were always a respite. The weather was always terrible, and there wasn't much for a young boy alone to do, but Dominic sighed and rubbed his cheek against the floral pillowcase as he remembered the wonder that was stability. The pillow smelled of dust and washing powder, the faded smell of age and love, and he smiled. There was nothing like it.

It was after twelve noon before Dominic managed to lift his head. Immediately he looked towards the old, empty crib that had been set up against one wall. It was newly painted, Joshua being the most recent baby held inside its wooden embrace since Dominic himself, and before that Dominic's mother. His grandparents had already taken Joshua out.

Dominic reached his arms up in a stretch, his vertebrae popping back into place. He rolled his shoulders and neck, before taking up the lotus position on the floor and beginning to centre himself.

He went through a variety of yoga poses in a routine he had devised to help beat jetlag before bringing himself back to the lotus position, and then rising. He hummed as he dressed himself in a pair of baggy jeans, a t--shirt and a hooded sweater, before going downstairs, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

"Mornin' Granny, Granda."

Stíofan Kelly let his newspaper fall to the table as his only grandson bounded into the room and went straight to the refrigerator. He smiled widely. Étaín was holding Joshua on her lap as he attempted to eat a banana. Her face was rosy with joy as she hugged the little boy and smiled at his father.

"Good morning, Tynan, dear," she said. "This little one is an absolute joy! He took to his granny like a duck to water."

"Ducky!" Joshua said through a mouthful of banana. Most of it sprayed out onto the table.

"He's my pride and joy," Dominic said as he poured himself some orange juice.

The kitchen was more modern than he had imagined it. He was half-expecting there to be brass pots hanging over an open fireplace, a coal-fired oven to bake the day's bread, and a cold pantry for the perishables. This was all in spite of the fact that his grandparents had never actually possessed any of these things. I've been away from Ireland too long. I'm starting to think of this place like a tourist! He sipped his juice as he watched Joshua devour the banana, and Étaín laugh deeply as the child tried to use her blouse as a hand towel. Stíofan chuckled and picked up his paper, muttering something that was probably "like father, like son". Dominic shook his head, finished his juice and went to rinse the glass.

"What are your plans for today, Tynan?" Étaín asked, jiggling Joshua on her knee.

"Well, first things first," Dominic said. "What's for breakfast?"


Dom plainclothes heartbeat Luke plainclothes
Re: Playing with Fire [message #547 is a reply to message #546] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:34 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
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Field Commander
Switzerland
Friday, October 26, 2068, 2:30 p.m., Tracy Island

The day was sultry, but a breeze stirred up the humid air and made it bearable. It rustled through the leaves of the bushes in Kyrano's garden, and set the flowering stems to waving. It was here that Lisa found him, pruning carefully the orchids he loved, his old clothes stained with sweat and his woven, wide-brimmed hat drooping.

He looked up as he heard her footfalls on the pumice path, and straightened, wiping a sleeve across his brow. "Hello, dear one." Nodding at the data pad she held in one hand, he asked, "What brings you to the garden?"

"Besides you?" Lisa smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek, gently guiding him to the bench swing. They both sat and Lisa waited until the gentle motion stopped before attending to the data pad. "Tuan, we've done a lot of talking about what we'd like to do at our wedding, but we haven't set the most important thing: the date. It really is time we did so."

Kyrano nodded. "You are right, my love. We should set a date." He peered down at the screen. "When would you like to be wed?"

She blushed. "I was hoping that we'd have more flexibility in choosing a date, but... well, I had an email from Jared today. He'd like me to come out and visit him during the school vacation in February." She shrugged a little. "It's hard when I want my family here to share in my joy and they all have such varied and sometimes opposing schedules." Looking over the data pad, she scrolled down. "Dianne's schedule is the most flexible in some ways as she can suspend schooling for a few days when the need arises. Douglas hasn't gotten back to me on when Stephanie's likely to have a vacation. But I'm not sure that her school system will align with the twins'."

"So, the most ideal time would be when all of the children are not in school." Kyrano sounded thoughtful. "That would most likely be during the Christmas holidays, would it not?"

Lisa nodded. "I wouldn't want to have it on Christmas, or even before Christmas." She glanced down at the calendar again. "I think the children -- all of them -- will start that holiday period on the 21st. It's a Friday. Christmas is Tuesday. Perhaps... the following Friday? The 28th?" She turned to him, her voice almost pleading. "It would let the families have their own Christmas celebrations, then they could come here for the wedding, and return with a day or so to recuperate..."

Kyrano laid his hand on hers, and patted it gently. "I think that is the wisest plan, dear one. Let us set that as our date." He reached over and took the data pad, marking the calendar page. "We still have much to do, but we have started the preparations."

"Yes, we've selected quite a few items." Lisa rested back against the swing. "I just hope we can get them finished in time."

"We will, dear one." Kyrano smiled, and Lisa smiled with him. "We will."


Dom plainclothes heartbeat Luke plainclothes
Re: Playing with Fire [message #548 is a reply to message #547] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
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Field Commander
Switzerland
Tracy Island, late afternoon...
Elise paused in front of the mirror. She tucked a stray lock of hair back behind her ear and eyed herself critically. I wish Virgil had given me more idea of what we're doing tonight. Dressy? To eat at the Villa? She ran her hand over her dress, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles.

Instead of her red one, which Virgil must certainly be tired of seeing by now, she had pulled an older one out of the closet. It was a deep emerald green which perfectly matched her eyes and set off her hair. Callie and Nikki had come over and helped with her hair, sweeping it up in the back and leaving tendrils framing her face.

Henry wound around her ankles, purring. She bent down to stroke him. "I won't be too late, baby." She looked up as the doorbell chimed. "And there he is now." She opened the door. "Hello, Virgil."

"Good evening, Elise. You look...spectacular," he told her.

She blushed. "Thank-you. You're looking pretty fine yourself." Virgil wore a dark navy jacket, with a cream colored turtleneck underneath. She could practically see her reflection in the shine of his shoes. Henry peeked out around the door and seeing Virgil, let out a hiss.

"He just doesn't like me, does he?" Virgil shook his head.

Elise bent down to pat the kitten again. "Yes he does. He's just shy, aren't you baby?"

Virgil bit back a reply and instead, handed a yellow rose to Elise. "Are you ready to go?"

"Oh, it's beautiful. Thank-you." She shooed the kitten back inside and shut the door. "Where are we going?" she asked.

"You'll see." He led her to the monorail, and a short time later, they were exiting near the air strip.

"Aren't we going up to the house?" she asked, puzzled.

"Not tonight." They made their way to one of the private jets. "After you, my lady." Virgil took her hand as she walked up the plane steps. "Feel free to sit here in the cabin, or join me up front."

"I'll come sit with you. Though I'm not wearing a headset!" They both laughed and a short time later, they were airborne across the Pacific. "So, why the mainland? Why not just stay and eat at home?" Elise asked.

"I wanted to spend some time alone with you," Virgil answered. He glanced over at her. "But I can take you back if you'd rather eat with my brothers."

She laughed. "No thank you! A night out with just you is perfect." They chatted comfortably until they landed in Christchurch. As they walked down the plane's steps, Elise's eyes widened. "We're going to dinner in that?" she asked, staring at the black stretch limo in front of her.

"Only the best for us," Virgil replied, taking her hand and leading her to the car. He held the door as she stepped inside. They drove through the city streets, then started towards the outskirts of town. The car lumbered up a hill, finally coming to a stop. The driver opened the door and both exited the vehicle.

Elise looked around in astonishment. "Virgil, this place is gorgeous." The restaurant stood at the edge of a cliff overlooking the harbor. Flowers surrounded the grounds and what looked like private dining nooks were tucked around the main building.

He smiled. "I thought you'd like it. Come, our table is waiting." They went inside and paused in front of the maitre'd. "Hello, I have a reservation under Tracy."

The man beamed. "Welcome, sir, madam. Right this way, please." He led them through the restaurant, and out a door in the back. They walked down a short path and he paused in front of an ivy covered trellis. "Enjoy your dinner."

Virgil thanked him, then he and Elise stepped around the trellis. Elise stared in awe and even Virgil had to admit he was impressed. The table sat overlooking the bay, a flower bedecked pergola overhead. There was a waterfall at the other end of the clearing, the splashing water loud enough to drown out any outside noises, but still quiet enough for conversation.

Elise sat down and gazed out at the sunset. "I feel like I'm in fairyland." She turned back to him. "How did you find this place?"

He smiled. "Penny of course."

"Of course!"

They both looked up as a tuxedo-clad waiter approached their table. "May I pour you a glass of wine? Chef Etienne has recommended a fine 2051 Merlot to compliment your meal tonight."

Virgil nodded and the man poured a small amount into a glass. Virgil sniffed the liquid, then held it up to look at the color, swirling it around the glass. Finally he took a sip, rolling the wine across his tongue. He smiled. "Perfect, thank-you."

The man nodded and filled the two glasses. "Your meal will be out shortly."

Once the waiter had left, Virgil raised his glass. "Cheers." They clinked glasses and sipped.

"Mmmm...this is good wine. Did you pre-order dinner?" Elise asked.

"No. The chef makes one specialty meal a night and everyone eats the same thing. Don't worry though, I've heard it's fantastic," he told her.

"Who said I was worried?" Elise looked over at Virgil and smiled. "So, you planned all this..." she gestured around her. "For me?"

He nodded. "Yes, I did."

"Thank-you. I'm having a wonderful time!"

"It gets better. Here, from Paris." He slid a thin box, wrapped in gold paper, towards her.

She carefully slit the tape and unfolded the paper. A velvet box rested inside and she opened it. "Oh, Virgil! It's beautiful!" She held the comb in her hands. It was cloisonné, with inlaid patterns of blue, green and red enamel. The image formed a lily and was trimmed in gold.

"I'm glad you like it. I was strolling down the street one afternoon and saw it in the window. It just seemed to call to me."

Elise looked up at him, her green eyes luminous. "Thank-you," she said softly.

They sat there, lost in each other, until the waiter interrupted them with the first course. Over the next two hours, they chatted and laughed, trading stories about their friends and families, growing up, school. Finally, their plates were cleared and they sat awaiting dessert.

"Well, are you ready for the party?" Virgil asked.

"As ready as we can be! Nikki and I have all the food assignments and the decorations are just waiting to be put up. Nikki came up with some fun games too. Bobbing for apples, a scavenger hunt, things like that."

"Great. I've got a good selection of music. Stuff people can dance to and some Halloween favorites too."

"This is going to be so much fun!"

The waiter returned and placed their dessert in front of them. "Oh my. I don't think I have room left for this," Elise said.

Virgil grinned as he popped a bite in his mouth. "There's always room for strawberry-chocolate mousse." She laughed and took a bite herself. "So, do you have your costume all set?" he asked.

Elise nodded. "Yes. I found a great costume for myself, Luke and even Rommel! Wait until you see us."

Virgil placed his fork down carefully on his plate. "You and...Luke?"

She nodded, not noticing the change in his tone. "He mentioned needing help with a costume."

"So you two are going together?"

"I suppose you could say that. But I'm sure we won't stay that way all evening. Luke has other interests than hanging out with me all night." She smiled up at him. "Actually I'm hoping to spend more time with you."

Virgil's irritation dissolved. "Well, it's a date then."

They finished their meal and had the limo drive them back to the plane. Sometime later, Virgil walked Elise to her door. "I had a great time tonight," he said softly.

"So did I." She looked up at him, her green eyes boring into his. "Virgil..."

He leaned forward, placing a soft kiss on her lips. Elise wrapped her hands around his neck, pulling him closer, deepening their embrace. When they finally drew apart, Virgil rested his forehead against hers. "We'll have to do this again."

"We will. Only next time, maybe we could just stay in." She smiled and kissed him again.

Virgil ran his arms up her back, gently caressing the soft skin at her neck. She shivered and pulled away. "Virgil..."

He sighed. "I know. If I don't leave now, I won't be able to." He placed a kiss on her forehead. "Good night, Elise."

"Good night, Virgil. Thank-you again, for everything."

He answered with a smile, and watched as she went into her apartment. He then made his way back to the monorail, his thoughts already planning their next date.


Dom plainclothes heartbeat Luke plainclothes
Re: Playing with Fire [message #549 is a reply to message #548] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
Karma: 2
Field Commander
Switzerland
Saturday, October 27, early morning

Gordon was aware of several people coming out to the balcony to watch him during his morning swim. When he stopped mid lap to look, his father, Dianne, Cherie, Alex, Tyler, John and Grandma were watching. Grandma had a camera.

"Ok, what's up?"

"Just admiring the view,' Cherie piped up.

Dianne snorted then added, "Come on kids. Breakfast will be getting cold." The group went inside with Alex smirking.

Gordon tread water for a minute. Something was definitely up, but he couldn't imagine what. He finally gave up trying to figure it out and went back to swimming his laps.



Dom plainclothes heartbeat Luke plainclothes
Re: Playing with Fire [message #550 is a reply to message #549] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
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Switzerland
Luke finished up his cup of coffee and put his mug in the sink. He glanced up at the clock. "It's after ten, Will should be up by now. Rom! C'mon." He led the dog out the doors leading to the balcony, heading towards Will's apartment. Luke was about to knock on the door, then glanced down at Rommel. "Now no begging for cookies." He ruffled the fur on Rom's head, then knocked. "Will? Are you home?" he called out quietly.

Will came to his door, drying his hair. He grinned when he saw who was knocking and opened it, saying, "Hi, Luke. Hey Rommel! Your timing is perfect. I just got out of the shower after my workout. Come on in." He led them into his living room, pausing to toss his towel into the bathroom. "What's up?"

"A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Tracy asked me about building some sort of mailbox system for the Cliff House here. It's hard for Kyrano to track us all down when the mail plane comes in, so I thought if we came up with something like this." Luke pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. "Sort of like the ones you see in city apartment buildings, only with a little more personality. I figured between the two of us, we could get it built."

"I like personality," Will replied as he took the paper from Luke and examined it. "And this looks good." He looked up. "I take it you have the materials to make these. Do you have the tools to put them together?"

Luke shook his head. "I have the wood left over from a few projects I did on my own. There're plenty of tools down in the shop, I just need a helping hand. Someone who I don't have to baby-sit if you catch my drift." Luke chuckled. "Scott helped me build the shelves for my place but...let's just say it's a good thing he knows how to fly."

Will snorted. "Well, if he built them the way he took care of his jet when he was aboard the McCain, I'm surprised you can put anything on a shelf he put up." He handed the paper back to Luke. "It's been a while since I built anything made of wood, but I'd like to try this. And I'm ready if you are."

He stood up. "Shall we?"

Together the two men and Rommel headed down to the shop. Luke led Will over to a back corner. "I've got a big piece of oak and some smaller scraps. Got a few pine boards left too." Luke shrugged. "If worse comes to worst, we can always get more next time someone heads to the mainland."

"Okay. We'll need to see your design again, so we can cut the wood to the right dimensions. And I think these pine boards are long enough and wide enough for shelves."

They got to work, measuring and cutting the large piece, and soon had the pieces to make the outside of two good sized mailboxes.

Luke reached out and his hand bumped Will's. Looking down and not seeing what he wanted, he looked up at the redhead and asked, "What were you going for?"

"A planing tool."

"Me, too. But I don't see any here."

"Neither do I. I thought I saw one here a minute ago. What happened to it?"

Luke looked over at the dog, who was watching him curiously. "Rom wouldn't have eaten it, and it couldn't have walked away. I'll go looking for it and start the planing. Why don't you start sorting the pieces to make sure we have the right ones and enough wood for both boxes."

"Good idea. Happy hunting."

He glanced around, trying to find the tool he wanted. "Must be one around here somewhere," he muttered as he headed towards the tool box on the other side of the room.

Rommel had flopped himself down a short distance away, seeming to doze. His head snapped up when he saw his master walking away. He got to his feet, starting to follow when Luke came back. "Easy, boy. I'm not going anywhere." He gave the dog an affectionate pat then turned back to work.

Will picked up four of the cut pieces and put them on their edges, leaning them against each other, so they formed a square. It didn't look right to him, so after checking the design, he looked down at the cut panels and slapped his forehead.

"Will, you already forgot that you cut two different sizes. What were you thinking?" he muttered to himself. He saw Luke looking at him curiously and said, "I must be getting old. I almost made one large and one small mailbox." He put back two panels and took a couple of the shorter ones.

"My older brother says kids kill brain cells. Since all I have is the mutt here," Luke nodded in Rommel's direction, "I blame him. I'm really trying not to think it's because I'm getting old." Will laughed. Luke gave the piece of wood he was working on one more shave, then brought it over to his friend. "How's it looking?"

Will took it and ran his hand over it on all sides, then looked across it from one end. "You do good work. It's smooth, straight, and not a splinter to be found. Is there another plane? There're a lot of pieces to be smoothed before we can put anything together. If not, I have an idea for the inserts, so they don't have to be nailed together."

"Why don't you go ahead then. I'll keep up smoothing on this end." Luke glanced at the box, which was slowly taking shape. "You know, with any luck, we might get this done today and even throw a first coat of stain on it." He frowned. "Gotta figure out something for name tags though."

"Yeah. Just putting their names above or below their slots is too ordinary. Hey, maybe we can come up with a word or phrase that matches the person. Like, 'C'mon, you overgrown mutt' for you." He grinned at Luke.

Luke laughed. "I love it! What else can we come up with..." He pondered for a moment. "Elise: I'm flying. Emphasis on the I'm."

"That's a good one," Will said, grinning as he double checked to make sure he had the right wood pieces. "How about 'Is it football season yet?' for Callie? And maybe for Dom, 'I'm up for a bit of craic now and then.'? You've been here longer than I have, so let me know if I'm off."

"That sums up Callie and Dom to a T. Cassie...Out, out damned fire!" He chuckled. "This is turning out to be more fun than I thought. I usually stick to smaller projects, picture frames, miniatures, stuff like that. I did tackle a coffee table for my folks a few years ago; it didn't come out too badly. And when I got here, I figured it was just easier to make stuff than go out and buy it. Shopping..." Luke shuddered. "I loathe shopping."

"I feel the same way. And about laundry. I hate doing laundry." He began marking the wood he was going to cut. "Hmm, who's left? Well, Brandon would probably be 'If it's adventurous, I'm in.'." He put the piece of wood aside and picked up another, measuring and marking. "And what color stain were you thinking of? Or how about more than one color?"

Luke frowned. "I was originally thinking dark, but that's a personal bias. But combining different shades might look really good." His head snapped up. "Nikki, we forgot Nikki. What about 'Ain't no big thing, mon'?"

"That's right! I forgot about Nikki, but if you tell her I said that, I'll deny it to the grave." Will grinned. "And I remember someone telling me that her mother was from Jamaica. Hmm. We've forgotten someone, but who? There are eight of us..."

"Hello! Earth to Will!" Luke tapped his friend on the head. "Did you leave your brain in California? Or did it melt in this heat?"

"Oh man!" Will put down what he was working on, and hit his forehead again. Then he laughed. "Mom's always telling me to put others before myself. I guess it finally took." He glanced over at Luke and said, "No, my brains I brought with me. I left nothing in San Francisco, not even my heart. Hey! That could be mine - 'No, I didn't leave my heart there.'."

Luke nodded. "Perfect." He glanced over at Rommel, who was sleeping in the corner. "Good thing he doesn't get mail. We'd have to put 'What? Are you talking to me?' on his." He shook his head. "I need to get someone to pick up shampoo on the mainland for me. Rom loves the water, but the salt is really doing a number on his skin."

"He loves the water, but not when it's bath water, I bet." Will finished marking the last piece, and started double checking his work, before going to the jigsaw to make his cuts. "We had a family dog when I was a kid. He loved running through sprinklers, jumping in the pool, and made a nuisance of himself whenever we tried to water the plants with the hose. But bring out the doggie shampoo and he disappeared fast."

Luke gazed fondly at his dog. "Not this guy. I swear, he has no fear. He was dumped at the pound when he was about six months old." He gave a low whistle and Rommel got up and trotted over to him. "Owners couldn't handle a puppy. I went with a friend who wanted a cat, saw this guy and the rest was history." He glanced up at Will. "I've been training some of the team to work with him on rescues. Are you interested?"

Will straightened up suddenly and turned to look at Luke, a stunned look on his face. "You mean it? I'd love to! Although I probably wouldn't be able to use what I learn too often; as a mechanic, I wouldn't be going on too many rescues."

Luke shook his head. "You don't know that. From what I've seen, Mr. Tracy tries to utilize everyone. I mean, you're getting trained the same as the rest of us, right?" Will nodded. "We sort of figured out that Rom might be somewhat of a security risk. So, I'm training a few of the team to handle him. Nothing too serious, mostly basic commands. A few of the rangers I worked with in Colorado were trained the same way."

Will shrugged. "I've been considering my training to be in the area of maintenance, but I suppose I could use vehicles like the Mole if I went on a rescue. Scott did say something about teaching me to fly, which would be terrific. But I haven't been in any of the Thunderbirds yet, except when we all went in Two to Mateo Island. Now that was something!"

"Isn't it? Hard to believe something that mammoth can actually take off. But I guess it's like the bumblebee principle. If you analyze a bee, figure out it's weight to wing span ratio, the bumblebee can't fly. But no one told him that, so he ups and flies away." He grinned. "To tell the truth, it gives me the willies until we do take off. I'm trying to find a way to bribe Scott for a ride in Thunderbird One."

Will chuckled as he laid the first board in place to be cut, then grabbed some protective goggles and put them on. "You might talk to Elise about that. I heard that she knew him when they were both in the Air Force. She'd probably have a suggestion or two." He picked up the boards to be cut and headed to the jigsaw. "But like I said, I'd love to be trained in handling a rescue dog like Rom. So count me in." He began cutting the sections out, and was able to finish the first board quickly and cleanly. "How about that? I haven't lost my touch."

Luke looked over. "Nope. It's coming together better than I pictured." He went back to the planer. "You know, the only bad thing about doing such a good job on this, we may get special requests." He grinned over at his friend. "Instead of payment, we could barter laundry and cooking!"

"One can only hope." He put the next board in place, and quickly cut the pieces out of it. Then he said, "You know, maybe I should be the next person to have something built for me. One good thing about having a mother like mine is that she loves to shop, and especially shop for me. The bad thing is that I don't know where to put everything sometimes."

"I can take a look if you want. See if we can figure something out. Scott wants me to make some stuff for him too. Good thing I'm honest. I could have a potential gold mine here." Luke critically eyed the piece of wood he was working on. "Hmm....this one has a bit of a natural bend. But we can fix that." Luke carefully ran the plane across the board again, then grabbed a level.

"Better, much better."

The two men worked in silence for a while until all the boards were ready to be assembled. They worked together on this, one man holding the boards together at right angles while the other one nailed them. Once the two boxes were complete, Will showed Luke how he had the inner boards fit together via slots. They slipped into the boxes perfectly, and could be nailed from the sides. "How are we gonna hang these?" he asked.

"I'll put up some brackets. Then she'll slide right on. I've got a bunch of extras upstairs." Luke's stomach rumbled and he grinned sheepishly. "Guess we've been at it a while. Want to come up and grab a sandwich, then come back down? All the pieces are cut, just have to put them together." He thought for a moment. "We should glue the joints too. In this humidity, I'd hate for the wood to crack. We'll probably have to do a thick polyurethane coat too." He shook his head. "Looks like we've got our work cut out for us."

"I suspect we need to worry about the wood warping more than cracking, but you're right. Polyurethane is a very good idea. And we've got time. Besides, I'm hungry, too. So you're on for the sandwich. I'll stop at my apartment to wash up and grab some dessert - Mom sent plenty of that with me - and meet you at your place in a few minutes."

Luke perked up. "If you've got chocolate, I'll make any shelves you want!" He snapped his fingers and Rommel stretched then walked over to him. "I'll catch you in a few."

Will took off his goggles and laid them down, then headed for his apartment. "Chocolate, huh? No problem. I think we'll be good friends, especially if Mom keeps sending those care packages." He grinned to himself and moved faster.

Building mailboxes by lillehafrue and hobbeth


Dom plainclothes heartbeat Luke plainclothes
Re: Playing with Fire [message #551 is a reply to message #550] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:35 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
Karma: 2
Field Commander
Switzerland
Saturday, October 27, afternoon

Gordon went to his room to change for swim. The women had just challenged the men to a water volleyball match. He grabbed one of his swimsuits out of his dresser, put it on and headed out for the pool. Cherie sitting by the side of the pool working on an art project for her class. Elise and Virgil were sitting in the loungers talking.

During a break in the game, Gordon pulled himself onto the edge of the pool. Elise noticed him out of the corner of his eye, then did a double take. "Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?" she whispered.

Virgil looked up just as Gordon pushed himself off the edge and back into the pool. "Yup. Something like that has been there the past couple of days."

Elise looked at Virgil. "I thought all his swimsuits were black."

"They were," Virgil replied and started to grin.

"Who did it?"

Virgil stretched and sat forward. "We've asked most of the usual suspects and they've denied it. Scott took the fifth when I asked him if he knew anything about it. He's been out here taking pictures every chance he gets. But this is much better than anything he normally comes up with. The current favorite is Anna. She warned Gordon: 'Beware the wrath of a patient man' after he dyed her skin blue."

"Should we tell him?"

"No, let him find out for himself. Did you see what was on them?"

"Yup. Empathizes his very nice tush. Should I tell him that?"

"Oh, please do!" Virgil laughed. "Preferably at dinner. Grandma always likes to hear her grandchildren complimented."

"She won't be offended?"

"Hell, no. She'll probably agree. Maybe bring out some baby pictures."

Elise sniggered.

"Speaking of pictures," Virgil pulled out his camera. "I think I'll get a few more. Scott has said he wants as many as possible. The blackmail possibilities are endless."

About an hour later, Emily poked her head out of the house. "Dinner in 15 minutes." The swimmers hauled themselves out of the pool and went for the towels.

Gordon heard a snort behind him. He turned around to see Nikki staring at him. "What's up?"

She quickly replied, "Nothing. New swimsuit?"

Gordon looked down. "No, just one of my regular ones. Why?" Several people had turned to look at them. A chorus of chuckles came from behind him. Gordon turned back. "What? Is there a tear back there?"

"No, there's nothing wrong that I can see. What do you think, Elise?" Virgil was holding his camera and grinning from ear to ear.

"Oh, I've been admiring the view for quite some time." Elise was managing to keep a straight face. "The colors are spectacular."

At this, Cherie and Tin-Tin started giggling. When he tunned around to look at them, they both tried to look innocent. Then Cherie said, "He's soooo cute!" and they both burst into giggles again. Another round of snorts and laughs had started behind him.

Gordon turned his head to look at his rear. His suit was still black. However, it looked like there was some sort of design on the back. He quickly wrapped a towel around himself and muttering, "Excuse me," headed for his room.

By the time he got to his room and got the suit off, the colors had faded. He threw on some clothes and headed for his balcony. He laid the suit out in the sun and waited. In a minute the colors were back.

On the rear of the suit was a pair of large yellow and white daises. The "He's so Cute" in florescent hot pink along the waist band was the final touch.

With a feeling of impending doom, he grabbed his swimsuits out of the clothes hamper and then the rest of them from his dresser. There were two notes beneath the swimsuits in the dresser.

"Gordon. Enjoy. Anna."
"I'm planning on taking pictures. Scott."

With a sinking feeling in his stomach he put the suits out in the sun.

The front of all the suits remained black. However, on the rear of his suits an assortment of colors were now visible. His suits were decorated with bunnies, flowers, hearts and teddy bears in pink, yellow, pale blue and lavender. All of them had something printed on the waistband: "My cutie pie", "doll baby", "honey bunny", "Rear of the Year", "grab here" (with arrows) and other similar comments were printed in bright neon colors. One had a bright red "Kick Here" written on the waistband and the two red and white targets strategically placed. The suit he had been wearing this morning said, "Nice cheeks" with twin yellow smiley faces, their cheeks red.

Gordon stared for a second and closed his eyes. His brothers were never going to let him live this down. And it would take at least a week to get new suits if he ordered them online. Maybe he could talk Dad into letting him head over to Christchurch for some shopping tomorrow.

He started grinning and headed to the dining room. At last. A worthy opponent.



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Re: Playing with Fire [message #552 is a reply to message #551] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:36 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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The monorail glided with grace, snaking through the Irish countryside like a long swan's neck, glinting silver and green under the pale October sun. The old railway line had been fully replaced since 2050. As the carriage streaked by, Dominic could see the indents where the old track had lain. The heavy steel bars that curled around the monorail cars were planted heavily into the ground, like a one hundred mile long millipede connecting the cities of Dublin and Belfast together.

"Twain twain twain," Joshua chanted as the scenery rushed by with increasing speed. "Twaaaaaain!"

Ducky and Horsey were following one another as if chained together; Dominic smiled as his son pushed them around the table. A woman with bright red nails and severe eyebrows coughed loudly and shot a glance across the car at them, and Dominic just about resisted the temptation to make a rude gesture. He smiled at her instead, and she snapped her newspaper before going back to reading it.

She exited the train at Newry, just across the Northern Irish border. Dominic waved at her as she got up, and she shot him another stern glare. Joshua waved too; the woman thrust her paper into her handbag and strode towards the automatically opened doors. Dominic shook his head, and Joshua giggled.

"Ducky!"

It was just over an hour and a half since their departure from Dublin that the monorail glided in to Belfast's Europa Monorail Station. It was built on the site of the old train station behind the Europa hotel, which as far as Dominic knew still held the title of 'Most Bombed Hotel in Europe'. I'm not at all surprised, he thought. He sat Joshua up on the table as he reached into the overhead lockers for his bag and the child's stroller. They exited onto the platform without too much trouble and thankfully no injuries (when Joshua had been a newborn, Dominic was well-known for his accidently lethal usage of prams and buggies). Dominic cajoled Joshua into wearing the heavy bomber jacket his grandmother had bought the child, and strapped him into the stroller.

"This is where Daddy grew up," he said.

Joshua, oblivious, started chewing on Horsey's ear.

Dominic delved into the afternoon hubbub of Northern Ireland's capital city. In the few years that Dominic had been living across the pond in the USA, taller and taller buildings had shot up. The wide swath of cars that was Great Victoria Street was lined on both sides by towering office blocks, their bottoms lined with brightly coloured stores of all types. Most of them hadn't been there when Dominic had left.

He spent a little while in the city where he had done the most growing up in, the place where he had once held down three jobs and a full-time regime in school just to keep he and his mother afloat and his own dreams of medical school alive. Maybe I'll head up to the hospital later, just for old time's sake, he thought. He wheeled Joshua over the streets with their patchwork of old and new flagstones, swerving between rushing businessmen and busy mothers. He was tempted to stay in the city centre and soak in every last detail like a sponge, but knew that he had something more important to do. I'll enjoy it more after I've made the visit, anyway, he thought.

He pulled Joshua to the side of Donegal Pass and glanced up at Belfast City Hall. A huge, white stone, dome-topped Victorian structure, it stood proudly in its grounds, carrying with it millions of memories in the minds of many people. It had withstood decades of rioting and war, eventually becoming a symbol of a divided community finally beginning to work together. Dominic smiled. I'll take Jak up there later. He'll love the dome; his yells will be five times louder 'cuz of the acoustics!

He manoeuvred the stroller back around and made his way to a flower stand that he had passed a few minutes before. Handing over some of the money his grandparents had given him, he bought a bouquet of roses, and tucked them in the basket underneath Joshua's seat. He thanked the vendor, took his change, and made his way to the bus stop he used nearly every day when he was at university. When the bus arrived, he pulled Joshua's stroller onboard, paid, unbuckled Joshua, took out the flowers and folded the stroller up. Stowing it in the racks above, Dominic sat Joshua on his knee and set the flowers down beside him. He cuddled his son tightly, and whispered in his ear.

"Daddy will never leave you."

xxxx

The black hire-car that had arrived in Belfast a half-hour before the monorail had slid into the station had circled the station until Dominic and Joshua had emerged onto the street. Bingo, thought Matthew Hawkins. He tailed the two as best he could in the heavy traffic, fortuitous for once. The main problem was the gear-shift car, and the fact that it was right-hand drive. Eventually Dominic wheeled Joshua to a bus stop. Matthew consulted the car's sat-nav, and made his own way to the cemetery where he knew Roisin Kelly, Dominic's mother, was buried. I'll bet that's exactly where Dominic is headed, Matthew thought. And it's where we'll settle this.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #553 is a reply to message #552] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:37 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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"Thanks," Dominic said to the driver as he hauled Joshua and the folded stroller off the bus.

The bus doors closed with a swish, and Dom quickly snapped the stroller back into shape. He strapped Joshua in, and began the short walk. The bus stop was situated just outside Milltown Cemetery, and Roisin's grave wasn't too far away from the gates. It was in one of the rows close to the large swath of clergymen's graves at the very front. Dom could see it in his mind before it actually came into view. He made a left turn and took a deep breath, before parking the stroller and unclipping Joshua. He picked the boy up and turned towards the headstone with a tight smile.

"Hey, Ma... I've brought someone to see you."

The grave was overgrown; Dominic was on Tracy Island thousands of miles away, and his grandparents weren't able to make the trip to Belfast as often as they had before. But the headstone was clean of any mould or moss. Thanks, whoever did that. He scanned his eyes across the text that was burned into his mind.

May God Have Mercy on the Soul of
ROISIN MARIE KELLY
November 21st 2013-April 01st 2062 (aged 49)
Beloved mother and daughter.
R.I.P.


Dominic held Joshua close, and the little boy curled his fists into his father's jacket. Dominic kissed his son's temple.

"You're such a good boy, Josh," he said. He shifted the boy a little higher on his waist, and looked back at the grave. "Ma, this is your grandson, Joshua. I also brought you these," he leaned down and picked up the bouquet of roses. "I know how much you liked them," he said, and laid them down on the grave. "Well, lots of stuff has happened with me since the last time I was here. I got married, had Joshua, got divorced. Got my eyes fixed, too. And I've got a great new job. I'm sure you'd be proud of me if you knew. As it stands I'm talking to a gravestone like a lunatic," he said, and felt a hot tear run down one cheek. "I wish you were still here," he said, his voice breaking. "I know everything I have now I probably wouldn't if you hadn't...hadn't died. But...I miss you so much, Ma."

Dominic wiped his face with his free hand and looked upwards briefly, breathing in.

"Your granny would have loved you, Joshua," he said.

Dom let out a long, steady breath, and felt composure return. He brought his brows together, however, when he heard footsteps crunching over the gravel path. The cemetery had been deserted when he had arrived. He looked over his shoulder, and felt as if his heart had just exploded, exuding a deep, purple rage through his veins.

"What the bloody hell are you doing here?"

Matthew Hawkins stood at a short distance, his hands in the pockets of his long trench coat, tears streaming down his face.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #556 is a reply to message #553] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:41 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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"Dominic, I --"

"DON'T," Dominic said. "Don't say one bloody word."

Joshua began to whimper as his father raised his voice, and Dominic quickly deposited the child into his stroller, strapping him in safely. He gave the boy a quick peck on the forehead, but Joshua strained against the straps.

"Da! Da!"

"I'll be back in one wee minute, son," Dominic said, fighting to un-grit his teeth. "I've just got to have a word with someone."

Matthew dabbed at his face with a handkerchief and breathed in deeply. Dominic strode up to him until they were practically nose-to-nose.

"Would you mind telling me what on earth you're doing here?"

"I --"

Matthew's words caught in his throat as the eyes of his eldest son blazed in his face, a deep fury he had seldom seen before in anyone.

"I came, because, because I want... Damn, this isn't coming out as I'd planned. I want...to say sorry, Dominic. I want to make amends."

He stopped short of saying, "I want to be your dad."

Dominic glared at his father with wide, red eyes, gasping in every syllable that came from the man's mouth.

"You're sorry," he said, and choked out a laugh. "You're sorry." Dominic took a step back and turned away. "I've heard it all before, Matthew. You're sorry, you were young, you had a career, you didn't know better. Well you know what?" He swung back around to face his father, and in his heart, a dam burst. "You bloody-well should have! You should have known better! You knew her, you knew what she was like, and you knew she wouldn't be able to cope alone!"

"I --"

"Shut up! Just shut up! You have no right to speak! Not here, not about her, not ever!"

Dominic thrust a finger into his father's face with the last word, before retracting it and balling his hands into fists.

"You have no idea what it was like! And you'll never know what it was like. I carried my mother all through my life because of you."

Tears were once more streaming down Matthew's face as he listened to his son's rant. It's all true.

"Dominic --"

"NO! There is nothing you can say that will make this better! Ever!"

Joshua had started crying, his wails piercing the air. No one but his father and grandfather were around to hear them. And Dominic wasn't listening. Dom pushed his face right into his father's again and grabbed the lapels of the man's coat, pulling them chest to chest.

"Dominic," Matthew whispered, "I'm sorry!"

"That doesn't bring her back!" Dominic screamed. "She died because of you! She loved you! She never got over it. You ruined her life! And eventually she killed herself!"

Matthew closed his eyes and nodded.

"I know," he whispered. "You told me the last time we met, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head."

"She's dead because of you," Dominic whispered. "Because of you!"

Dominic launched himself at his father, fists flying, and one connected with the man's jaw. Blood red rage descended upon him, overflowing through every one of his pores. His fists exploded with pain each time they made contact with his father's body, but he couldn't stop. He felt a heavy hand clamp down on one of his shoulders, and a split second afterwards a ham-like fist cracked into his face. Dom stumbled backwards in shock, holding his nose, but a heavy crash cleared the stars right out of his eyes.

Matthew Hawkins had crumpled to the ground. Blood streamed from Dominic's nose as he watched the fallen man for a few moments. He's not breathing. He's not breathing!


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #557 is a reply to message #556] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:41 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Dominic fell onto his knees beside his father, the rough gravel cutting through his jeans.

"Matthew, can you hear me?" he called in one ear. No response. "Matthew, it's Dominic. Can you hear me?"

Still no response. Dominic held a hand over his father's mouth. He definitely wasn't breathing. Immediately Dominic pulled his satellite phone from his jacket pocket and dialled 999.

"I need an ambulance. My father's fallen unconscious; he's not breathing," he told the operator. "Quickly!"

When he knew the ambulance was coming he threw the phone aside and quickly loosened Matthew's collar. He then pinched his father's prominent nose before forming a seal over the man's mouth with his own, and performed two rescue breaths. He then placed one hand over the other, lacing his fingers together, and started to pump the man's chest. After thirty compressions he placed his cheek just above his father's mouth. He still wasn't breathing. He gave another two rescue breaths and performed the compressions again, and continued to do so for what seemed like days.

The air became crisp and sharp, grating against him like steel knives. Every breath stung his lungs, every pump of his father's chest sending searing pain through his whole body. Oh my God, he's going to die, Dominic thought. Oh my God, oh my God. What have I been doing? He's my father; he's a human being; he made mistakes. And he's going to die. No! No!

Dominic was vaguely aware of a set of hands pulling him away from the body, of paramedics moving in. He heard the jump that followed the use of a defibrillator several times, and he turned away, rushing over to Joshua who was in the arms of a tall woman. He snatched the screaming child to his body and held him tightly, feeling sobs wrack his body and the heat coming from the little boy's red face.

Eventually he found himself corralled into the back on an ambulance, his father strapped to a gurney with tubes and wires snaking in and out of his body, accompanied by the systematic beep, beep of a heart monitor.

"He's alive," one of the paramedics told him. "He's alive."

Dominic felt his breath catch in his throat before suddenly he was wracked with fresh sobs. He's alive...


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #558 is a reply to message #557] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:41 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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It was several hours later that Dominic found himself sitting just outside the hospital's crèche. Joshua was happily playing with the other children, oblivious to what had happened. Better that way, Dominic thought. At least he's forgiven me for leaving him strapped in the stroller, which is still at the graveyard. Not that it matters. He looked at his watch and huffed out a breath. 8 p.m. Joshua should be asleep. Though he certainly doesn't seem sleepy. But it makes it around 8 a.m. island time. I reckon I could make the call now. He pulled out his satellite phone, and pressed the speed dial for the island.

xxxx

Jeff Tracy had just sat down for breakfast with his family when Virgil, who had been on night-shift at the desk, appeared in the doorway.

"Father, there's a phone call for you. It's Dominic. He said it was important, and he didn't look good."

Jeff glanced over at Dianne, who frowned.

"Right, Virgil. I'll take it at my desk."

He placed a hand on Dianne's shoulder as he rose.

"Back in a minute, love," he said.

He quickly walked to the lounge with Virgil in tow, and sat down at his desk. Dominic's face was displayed on the vidscreen. He looked haggard, and was sporting a bloodied nose and a black eye.

"Dominic, what's happened?" Jeff asked.

Dominic gave the man a withered smile, and dropped his gaze for a moment.

"I'm in Belfast, Mr Tracy," he said. "I had a bit of an encounter with my father."

"Your father? What in blazes was he doing out there?" Jeff asked.

Dominic shrugged, not wanting to give any details just yet.

"Well, long story short, we scuffled and he ended up having a heart attack. It was a bad'un, but they're telling me he'll make a good recovery."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Jeff said, his brows drawn together.

"Yeah. It looks like he'll have to stay here in hospital for at least a week before he can travel back to Kansas. I'd like to stay on until he's repatriated. As I say, it won't be that long."

"Of course, Dominic," Jeff said. "Keep in touch and let me know when you'll be travelling back to Kansas. I'll have one of the pilots pick you up from there."

"Cheers, Mr Tracy. I appreciate this."

"I understand," Jeff said. "Get some rest. That's an order."

Dominic chuckled softly.

"I need to sort myself out with some accommodation first," he said. "But I will."

"All right," Jeff said. "As I said, keep in touch."

"I will," Dominic said.

xxxx

Dominic let the hand holding his phone drop to his side, and leaned his head back against the wall behind him. Oh, God... he thought. What a mess.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #559 is a reply to message #558] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:42 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Sunday morning, before breakfast, Tracy Island

Gordon grinned in satisfaction. He'd turned his swimsuits inside out and put them out in the sun before going to dinner last night. No painting had appeared on the inside rear of the suits. So this morning he put on his suit inside out and headed for the pool as the sun was rising.

When he climbed out of the pool after finishing his morning laps, he noticed Scott standing on the balcony with a camera. "Sorry, Scott. The show's over," he yelled up at him, smiling. "I'll just wear my suits inside out for a few days. I ordered new ones last night. They should be here later this week."

"Ok," said Scott, moving toward the door. "By the way, what's that on the front of your suit?"

He hadn't made it all the way inside before he heard a, "SCOTT!!! I'll kill you!!" coming from the direction of the pool. He grinned and headed for breakfast. They'd left the inside rear of the suits alone. On the inside front of the suits they had used the sun activated paint to put a 'Mr. Yuk!' symbol in a very appropriate place.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #560 is a reply to message #559] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:42 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Tracy Island, the jungle, mid-afternoon...

Luke whistled as he made his way through the thick foliage. He glanced up at the cloudless blue sky and grinned. "What a gorgeous day!"

"You're in a good mood."

He turned to Cassie, who walked behind him. "Why wouldn't I be? I've got the day off, Mom sent me cookies, and I'm outside enjoying the flora and fauna. Though, it's a lot warmer than I'm used to at this time of year."

She nodded. "Me too. Granted, New York isn't as cold as the Rockies, but I'd usually have the heat on instead of running around in shorts!"

He laughed. "Tell me about it! We'd have snow!"

"That I won't miss." They fell into step along the path again, Rommel trotting along in front. "Luke?"

"Yeah?"

"The fire scenario? It went well?"

He stopped and looked at her. "You know it did. Why?" She shrugged and looked down at her feet. "Cass, talk to me. What's bothering you?

"I've been talking to Alex," she said quietly.

"What?" Luke exclaimed in surprise. "As in your ex, Alex?"

She nodded. "He sent me an email about a week ago. He got a promotion at the company he works for. He's working more regular hours now and has been doing some thinking."

"Thinking about what?" Luke asked when the silence had gone on too long.

She toyed with a leaf. "About me. Us. He's finally going to therapy."

"Well, that's a good thing, right?" Luke sat down next to her, hearing her unspoken question. "Cassie, what do you want to do?"

"I'm not sure. I mean, I thought this, but now..." She got up and walked a few paces. "I just don't feel like I fit in here, Luke."

"Why not? Look, Cass, how long did it take you to feel at ease with your gang at the fire department?"

"I don't know, a few weeks maybe."

"Then give it time. You've been so busy trying to prove yourself as one of the team, that you really haven't tried becoming one."

Cassie looked up, puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"How often have you just hung out with someone? Other than me, I mean? And heck, you haven't even done that! We had dinner what? A week ago? Have you tried, really tried to get friendly with the others?" She didn't reply and he went on. "You bake, incredibly I might add. Why not invite a bunch of people over for cookies and chat? And the Halloween party, do you have a costume? What are you bringing? Do you know what anyone else is dressing as?"

She drew herself up. "I've hung out with the others. Tin-Tin and I had tea one day. And I've met with Callie a few times too! As to the party, I'm cooking and I already have my costume."

"Great, that's what I mean! Don't hide behind training exercises all the time."

She frowned thoughtfully. "I...I never thought about it that way, I guess."

"Maybe you should." Luke sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "I know, I'm one to talk. You need to drag me out of my place sometimes. But, thanks to Elise and the others, I'm getting better."

Cassie frowned slightly. "If you're so concerned, why didn't you invite me to dinner the other night? You had a bunch of other people there."

"It was a thank-you for all the help I got with my apartment. Nikki and Elise chose the color scheme and the linens, John's been there for moral support, and both he and Scott have helped with the painting and the furniture moving. Scott was invited, but couldn't make it," he told her. "I never excluded anyone; it was just a friendly get together. And what's stopping you from inviting people over yourself?" Luke was beginning to get irritated. "Cassie, the only reason you're not fitting in is because you're not trying."

Her eyes flashed angrily. "I have been trying! I set up the fire training so we could all work together as a team!"

"Is that the real reason, or are you trying to make yourself look good in the eyes of everyone else?" Silence filled the clearing as they glared at each other. Then Luke sighed. "Cassie, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way." He pulled her into a hug. "I just hate seeing you like this. I want the fun Cassie back; the one I knew in California."

She pressed against him, blinking back tears. "I don't know what happened to her," she whispered.

He tightened his embrace. "Cass, no one here is out to get you. You were chosen out of how many people? Doesn't that tell you anything?"

She wiped her tears and tried to smile. "I guess you're right."

"I'm always right." He smiled. "Honey, I'm not trying to be mean. You're a good person who got thrown some bad curves. But you've picked yourself up and moved on, which is more than most people could have done." He pulled her close again. "I'm sorry about what I said. I wasn't trying to hurt you. And you know whatever you decide, I'll be here."

"I know. You and Mark are the only ones who'll really tell me without pulling punches." She grinned up at him. "You know, now that you're single..."

Luke held his hands up. "No! No fix ups! I'm quite happy the way I am, thank-you very much!"

She laughed and started down the path. "Ah well, can't blame me for trying."


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #561 is a reply to message #560] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:43 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Dominic clutched a cardboard coffee-cup tightly in his hands and took a deep breath as he stood outside his father's hospital room. Recovering, Matthew had been moved to a side-ward. The doctors had told Dominic that his swift action had prevented severe damage to his father's heart, and with pioneering treatment methods the man would have few permanent problems.

Huffing out a breath, Dominic pushed the room's door open and walked inside. Matthew was awake. Dom set his cup down on the bedside table and washed his hands with antibacterial foam, before sitting down in the chair beside his father's bed, shoulders hunched.

"Dominic..." Matthew said, reaching one tube-covered hand over to his son.

Dominic smiled tightly, and slowly reached his hand up to touch his father's.

Behind the oxygen mask Matthew tried to smile and turned his head towards Dominic, blue eyes glittering with tears.

"Matthew," Dominic said, and took another deep breath. "I'm... I'm so sorry."

"Dominic..."

"No, please. Let me speak." Dominic tentatively squeezed his father's hand, and sighed. Everything he had been contemplating since the moment he had seen Matthew hit the ground was going to come out, once and for all. "I've spent my entire life hating you; truly, deeply hating you. I blamed you for everything wrong in my life, everything that was wrong with my mother." He snorted a rough laugh and dropped his head. "I had never even met you. You were the scapegoat. I'm not saying that I think you didn't do anything wrong, but...you didn't deserve all of the hatred I gave you. Even when you finally invited me back into your life, I treated you with malice. I don't think I even wanted to fit in with your family. I don't think I knew what I wanted."

Matthew's hand slipped over on top of Dominic's, and he squeezed it as hard as he could.

"And when I saw you at Ma's grave I just exploded. I...I just hated you so much. I hated you for being there, for intruding on my space, on her. I shouldn't have screamed at you; I shouldn't have raised my hand against you. I couldn't understand why you were there."

"I wanted to show," Matthew said, pulling the oxygen mask from his face.

Dominic brought a hand up and placed the mask gently back over his father's face.

"Keep it on, please. It'll help."

Matthew made no further attempt to remove it. When he blinked, tears escaped from his eyes.

"Dominic... I wanted to show that...I care about you, no matter what. I know...that I can't make up for what I've done... But I'd like to have the chance...to...to get to know you, and be your father starting now..."

Dominic felt a strange flutter in his chest. Before he would have bristled at the very thought of Matthew being a father to him, but not now.

"I'm surprised that you still do, after what I've done."

Dominic glanced around the sterile room, watching his father in the bed, punctured by needles in all places.

"You didn't do this," Matthew said, trying to smile. "Look at me. I smoke, I'm fifty pounds overweight; the doctors told me...to diet and exercise. But I didn't listen."

"I guess Elizabeth will be flying out to see you any time now," Dominic said. "I'm sure she's worried."

Matthew laughed slightly, and it quickly turned into a cough.

"No, she won't be," he said.

Dominic frowned and cocked his head to one side.

"Why not?"

"She's divorcing me. She...said that if I went through with my...plans to come out and see you, she would leave me."

"My God," Dominic said. "I'm...I'm sorry."

"I'm not," Matthew said. "If she can't accept that I want my...oldest son in my life...then she's not worth it. Not at all."

Dominic squeezed his father's hand as hard as he dared to, and hung his head.

"I don't know what to say," he murmured.

"Just say that you'll give me a chance," Matthew said.

Dominic lifted his head and kept a steady gaze at his father for several moments. Then, he sniffed heavily and nodded slightly.

"I will. It's not going to be easy, but, I will." He paused for a moment. "Dad."


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #563 is a reply to message #561] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:44 Go to previous messageGo to next message
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Monday, October 29, 9:00 a.m., Tracy Island

"I can't believe you waited until now to watch this," Virgil groused as he followed John into the home theater.

"Well, it's not like I wasn't there," John replied, good natured. "I just didn't hear what was going on. But I wouldn't have remembered it if Gordon hadn't been indulging in some so-called singing yesterday evening."

Virgil made a face. "Oh, yeah. That. I don't know how he managed to sound human at the party, but he did."

"Maybe it was his partner that raised his vocal output or something," John said. He put a data chip in the player, then settled back in one of the comfortable chairs ranged around the room, a remote in his hand. "Going to watch with me?"

"Might as well. I'm sure there were things that went on in other parts of the party that I didn't get to see." Virgil sat down next to John. "Wish I'd brought popcorn."

John snorted, and clicked a button. Gordon's voice came over the speakers. "Welcome to a party with the Tracys! Guest of honor: Virgil Grissom Tracy, the birthday boy! And here he comes!" The camera showed Virgil entering the lounge, adjusting his tie, and smiling widely. Scott followed a few paces behind. John smiled, and stretched his long legs out, crossing one ankle over the other.

The video he had was edited by Gordon, so most of the moments left in were the more comical ones. He caught Josh zooming in like a firefighter, and Dom coming in after him, which made both men laugh. He smiled when he heard Kat singing, and guffawed at the word play between Heather and Gordon. He paused the recording, then turned to Virgil, asking quietly, "Is that Heather Kennedy?"

"Yeah. She and Gordon were like birds of a feather. Maybe that's why they sang together so well."

"Any more news on her or her family?"

Virgil shrugged. "You might ask Gords; I think he's been emailing her from time to time. Just as friends."

John nodded, and turned back to the screen, turning the recording on again. Nikki approached, and Gordon said something about red and mermaids, to which Nikki shook her head and told him to keep dreaming. In the background, Scott had approached Grandma, with her new hairdo, and John could see him making the motions of asking for a dance. Jeff was deep in conversation with Penelope and Drew Carmichael. "Uncle Drew," John muttered, sounding pleased.

The party continued, with Gordon, and sometimes Alan, filming the various guests. Nikki and Alan twirled on the dance floor. Elise laughed and tried to push Gordon away. John shot a quick glance over at Virgil, who was chuckling, then sitting back with a sigh. Both of them laughed, and John clapped his hands when Grandma came rushing over to hug and kiss Virgil. "You looked like a deer caught in headlights there, Virge," John said, grinning.

"So did you last time she did that to you," Virgil said smugly.

The music continued in the background, and John caught Kyrano and Lisa dancing to it. "Hey, I'd forgotten this. Here's where Kyrano makes like Fred Astaire!"

"I don't think... wow! How'd I miss this?" Virgil sat forward.

"I think you were dancing with Elise."

"Back that up; I want to see it again."

John obliged, and the image of Kyrano swinging Lisa around and catching her with one arm moved across the screen again. "Crazy!" Virgil said, shaking his head. "Where'd he get that move?"

"If you'd listened, you would have heard: a Fred Astaire movie. Now, be quiet."

Tyler and Alex, covered with frosting and waving, appeared, calling, "Hi, John!" Alex made a silly face, making both men laugh. Nikki reappeared, accepting Virgil's offer of a dance. "Eat your heart out, Alan!" she said, blowing a kiss before heading off with Virgil. In the background, Elise began to sing.

"Well, I didn't think that one was for me anyway," John murmured.

There were other snippets. One of Gordon dancing with Anna. Virgil dancing with Penelope. A sweep of the dining room showed people talking in little groups, enjoying the food, with Parker mixing drinks at the bar. John heard Jeff ask Dianne's permission before asking Heather to dance. As he swept the redhead away onto the dance floor, the focus turned to Cherie.

"Smile, Cherie! You're on candid digital camera!"

Despite the dirty look the teenager gave the photographer, the focus remained on her and Scott, and a discussion about the upcoming vacation ensued. John frowned and paused the vid again. "I don't remember them going on vacation."

"They didn't," Virgil said. "Mom still wasn't well enough. Cherie was pretty cut up about it."

"She would be." John resumed the vid, and soon, Jeff was dancing with Maggie, and Dianne was blowing a kiss at the lens, signing and saying, "Hi, John! I love you!"

"At least I didn't have to hear that to understand it," John said, smiling slightly. The scene changed to Virgil dancing with Kat, then Cherie and Alex both trying to sing. "Why didn't Tyler sing?" John asked.

"Don't know," Virgil said with a shrug. "Guess he wasn't up to it."

The view shifted to a see a squeeing Cherie clapping her hands. Dianne had her by the arm and was giving instructions about curfew. Dianne stroked Alex's cheek and ruffled Tyler's hair, before letting them loose to run out of the room, followed by Emily, who was carrying a sleeping Joshua. Scott arrived, then Jeff, and Dianne started saying her goodbyes and goodnights before being rolled out of the room. Then the camera shifted to Gordon, who was stalking the group of women sitting at a large circular table, microphone in hand. His intended victim was Heather, who gamely headed for the karaoke machine.

As she sang, John found himself nodding along to the beat. He chuckled with glee as she sat in Virgil's lap for the first verse, then as his brother followed her, playing the part of the spurned lover. When the song came to an end, the mike was handed back to Gordon, and Virgil whisked Heather off for a dance.

"She's good," John said, turning to Virgil.

"She certainly knew how to play it up," Virgil agreed, grinning.

"Didn't see you protesting too much, either."

Elise now stepped up to sing again, and Virgil leaned forward. "If you think Heather's good, just listen to Elise!" he whispered.

John could now hear what had so captivated the room that evening. Elise was better than good; she was spectacular. Her throaty voice lent a sultry air to the song, and when the number was over, John applauded. "Have to get that girl to sing more often!" he declared, turning to Virgil. "You are so right!"

The microphone was handed to Nikki, who refused it in favor of the birthday boy performing for them. Maggie called out her favorite, and Virgil responded, playing the jazz piece to perfection. "Nice work, Virge," John said, turning to his brother.

"Thanks," Virgil said, smiling. "I've always enjoyed that one."

It was obvious that Alan had the camera, because Gordon was looking for the music to his "special number". The camera changed hands, and Alan went over to ask Nikki to dance. Then Cherie appeared, looking tired. She waved. "Goodnight, John. Love you and wish you were here."

She blew him a kiss and waved again, then Scott said, "Okay, now. Time for bed."

Gordon was the one who whined, "Aw, do I have to?" Scott rolled his eyes and drew Cherie away. The Carmichaels exchanged words with them as they passed, then rose to leave themselves, calling their goodnights.

The song "Lady in Red" began to play, and Virgil asked Elise for a dance. Brains did the same for Tin-Tin, and Kyrano took Lisa to the floor again. Nikki rested her head on Alan's shoulder as they swayed to the music. The dancing couples were thinning out as the party wound down.

Then Heather approached Gordon again, and another lively song sounded out. "This is where you wonder if it's really Gordon singing," Virgil said.

John nodded and listened as Heather and Gordon belted out a song together. He had to agree; the sound Gordon was putting out now was far better than the rather pathetic noise he had supplied the previous evening. "Wonder where he hides it?"

"Maybe he only brings it out for pretty girls," Virgil theorized, as on the screen, Gordon took Heather to the dance floor.

The video was near an end, and Virgil was thanking people for coming to the party. "You look as if you'd had a few here, Virge."

"Yeah, well... I had. Still, we had a lot of fun, and I enjoyed kissing all the ladies' hands."

"What did you say to Tin-Tin that made her giggle?"

Virgil put his hand over his heart. "I'll never tell!"

John rolled his eyes. "Man, some of the lines you're coming out with here are so corny!" He caught Heather's response and laughed. "She zinged you there but good!"

The vid ended there, as both Gordon and Alan had left the room, and Virgil felt relieved. He hadn't known for certain if his mind and soul bending moment with Elise had been caught. Though he wasn't about to hide his new relationship with her, he also didn't want it trumpeted from the highest height -- not until he was ready.

John stood and stretched, then removed the data chip from the player. "Well, that was fun." He looked at his watch. "Hm. Time for lunch. That took a while."

"It was a long party and lasted into the wee hours. You're lucky it got condensed as much as it did." Virgil also stood, then yawned. "Gordon and Alan are amazingly good at editing."

"Yeah, they seemed to hit all the highlights, didn't they?" John tossed the chip up once, then caught it. "I'll put this back in the files for later viewing. Has Grandma pulled stills from it yet for her scrapbooks?"

"I don't know, but you could ask her at lunch."

"Speaking of which," John said, feeling his stomach rumble, "we'd better get going."


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #564 is a reply to message #563] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:44 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
Karma: 2
Field Commander
Switzerland
Monday, October 29, Tracy Island, afternoon

Dressed in her bathing suit and beach cover-up, Cassie picked up the bag she had packed and headed out of her apartment. Instead of buying a birthday card for Dominic she had decided to make one. The time she put into it would make it more special than a store-bought card and given that she couldn't seem to think of a gift idea, the extra effort definitely seemed worth it. She had started it the night before and planned on finishing it up down by the pool today and then maybe taking a swim.

Cassie made her way down to the pool. Several of the others had already gathered and were playing a game of keep away as they were throwing a ball around. From the looks of things, Callie was currently it.

Luke's words from the day before came back to her. Though his words had hurt, she couldn't deny they had been true. Other than inviting Tin-Tin and Will to her apartment she hadn't interacting much with her new co-workers outside of work. Sure, Gordon had helped her get settled, and Cherie had agreed to help her with the mural but they weren't purely social callings.

She had defended herself to Luke with the time she had spent with Callie. Even that was more coincidence than us spending time together. Not to mention the second meeting was work related. I haven't talked to her much since then.

She glanced to the lounge chair and then back to the pool, wondering if she should take the initiative and ask to join. Then she thought of the card. She really did want to get some work on it. Making her decision, Cassie walked over to a lounge chair and sat down.

Unzipping her bag, she pulled out her clipboard, and the card she was working on. Reaching back in, she pulled out the bundle of colored pens. She had done the calligraphy work the night before as well as settling on a design for the border of the card. Now, she had to create the border.

Selecting a pen, she got to work. It wasn't long before the laughter of the others faded away and she became absorbed in her work. The design she had sketched last night took shape before her. Cassie wasn't sure how long she had been working when footsteps caught her attention. Looking up, she saw Tin-Tin approaching.

"Hello," she said, greeting the Malaysian woman.

"Hi. What are you working on?"

"A birthday card for Dominic," Cassie replied, turning the clipboard for the other woman to see.

"It looks good," Tin-Tin replied.

"Thanks." Cassie sat the clipboard down and stretched her arms over her head. Her shoulders ached from bending over her work. "Unless I think of a gift between now and Wednesday, the card might be all I have to give him."

"Perhaps instead of giving him a gift you could do something for him," Tin-Tin suggested.

"Maybe."

"Are you up for taking a break from your card and joining our game?"

Cassie considered the offer. Her task was almost completed and the water did look inviting after being out in the sun for a while.

"Sounds like fun."

Cassie slipped the pen she had been using underneath the rubber band, and dropped the bundle of pens into her bag. She then slipped the clipboard inside, pulled out her towel and zipped the bag. Pushing the bag under the lounge chair, she stood up and slipped the cover-up over her head, dropping it on the chair.

"Hey guys, Cassie's going to join us," Tin-Tin announced as the two women approached the pool and jumped in.

"Great! Virgil's currently it so don't let him catch the ball," Gordon told her, throwing the ball to the firefighter.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #565 is a reply to message #564] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:44 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
Karma: 2
Field Commander
Switzerland
Monday, October 29th

Anna grabbed a long tunic from the back of her closet. "Honey, have you seen my belt? The blue one with the Celtic knotwork?"

"It's with the rest of your old archery stuff. Look in Terry's old room." Ryan Hanson looked into his bedroom to see an open suitcase on the bed. "Packing to go to the Tracy's already?"

"They're having a Halloween party, and I need a costume," Anna replied absently as she packed a pair of leather slippers. "I was thinking of going as Maid Marion. And I want to show Scott my bow -- the one I made. He says he does archery and they have a range on the island."

"That's right, it's Halloween in the states. The Yanks in the office are talking about the annual party to celebrate. I wonder what sort of costume I should make this year."

"I'm sure you'll whip something up in no time. Just don't add too much embroidery." Anna smiled up at him. It was an old joke between them. Anna couldn't sew to save her life. Ryan loved sewing and did wonderful embroidery and bead work. He nearly didn't get one outfit done because he kept adding to the embroidery on it. It wound up taking two years to finish. His persona in the historical reenactment group they were in was a sixteenth century fencer. Men's clothing in the sixteenth century put anything Liberace or Elton John did to shame.

"Actually, I was thinking something simple. I want to dress up as one of the International Rescue pilots."

Anna froze. "Oh?"

Misinterpreting her comment, he went on. "Hey, I'm a guy in my 50's. They're young studs. But a guy can dream, can't he?"

Anna got herself under control and turned towards him. "I suppose it does give new life to the 'damsel in distress' fantasy." She closed the suitcase and set it by the bedroom door. "Now to find my bow case and my quiver."

Chuckling, Ryan put his arms around his wife from behind and gave her a quick kiss. "I'm glad to see you're enjoying your new job so much. Someday you'll have to introduce me and explain exactly what is going on over on that island."

She turned to face him and raised an eyebrow.

He raised both hands and stepped back. "I agree, if it's Tracy company secrets, I'm better off not knowing. But you're an awfully heavy hitter for one kid and one pilot recovering from a crash. And that wouldn't take two days a week. But you're enjoying yourself too much for me to worry about it."

She reached up and gave him a kiss. "Thank you, dear. Did I ever tell you how smart I was to marry you?"

"Yes, I believe you were telling me that the other day. Of course, I still think I got the better deal. You got someone who could sew. But I got someone who could cook."


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #566 is a reply to message #565] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:44 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
Karma: 2
Field Commander
Switzerland
Wednesday, October 31, 6 a.m.

The sounds of the country group, Mississippi Mud, floated through apartment D3. Given the time of day that was about the only noise heard, except for those associated with baking cookies. Cassie originally planned on making only sugar cookies but then decided against it. Luke for one would be looking for chocolate. So, she had started out the morning cooking Chewy Chocolate Cookies. The Halloween theme chocolate cookies were just about done, the last batch in the oven. She didn't plan on decorating them.

Now she was mixing the dough for the sugar cookies. She already had several ideas on how to decorate them and the icing she had mixed up the night before was ready to go in the refrigerator.

A new song started, and Cassie started singing along. She continued to roll out dough, cut shapes and bake the cookies. The table was soon filled with plain sugar cookies in the shape of witches on brooms, ghosts, pumpkins, witch's hats, tombstones, bats and cats.

The baking done, Cassie set to decorating her cookies. As the cat and hat cookies became black, she felt a glimmer of excitement building. Sure, she had agreed to go to the party and had picked out her costume, but she hadn't really been looking forward to it like the others had. Truth was, Halloween had never exactly been one of her favorite holidays. Sure, her parents had taken her trick-or-treating in their apartment building and there had been parties at school. Still, she had been glad when she was old enough to not participate in trick-or-treating without raising questions and even happier when Mark quit going. She had gone to a Halloween Party her freshman year at college with her friends. They had dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz. She forgot what character she had been though she did remember leaving early.

Cassie had felt obligated to go when she had received the party invitation. She was sure everyone else was going to be there. Not going hadn't really seemed like an option. After giving the cats each a yellow eye, Cassie put aside the black icing and picked up the orange. It was time to turn the pumpkin cookies into jack-o-lanterns. After that, she planned on simply outlining the witches and the bats with different colors to add some color to the cookies. That left the tombstones.

As she worked on the pumpkin-shaped cookies, she thought about how to decorate the tombstones. She had considered writing RIP on them but didn't want to use black lettering because it seemed to be used a lot already. I know; I'll use red icing for the letters, she thought.

She got so into her decorating that she lost track of the time. As she finished the last cookie, she glanced at the clock.

"Shoot, if I don't hurry I'm going to be late for my session with Virgil," she said, hurriedly gathering the icing bags and tossed them into a drawer in the fridge.

She quickly packed the cookies into containers and looked again at the clock. The rest of the clean-up was just going to have to wait.

Turning off the music, Cassie left the apartment at a brisk walk. For the first time since receiving the invitation, she was actually looking forward to the party that night.



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Re: Playing with Fire [message #567 is a reply to message #566] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:45 Go to previous messageGo to next message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
Karma: 2
Field Commander
Switzerland
Wednesday, October 31, 9 a.m., Tracy Island

"Now, is it my imagination, or are we having a lot more parties recently?" Emily asked as she stacked breakfast dishes in the autowasher.

"Don't ask me," Lisa replied from the sink, where she was washing her hands. "I haven't been here that long."

"Indeed, Mrs. Tracy, we have been celebrating more than has been our practice," Kyrano replied, backing out of the refrigerator with some of the ingredients for frosting. "But then, we have had much to celebrate, and many more with whom to do so."

"True," Emily admitted, washing her hands. "I'll get the cake from the freezer. I do hope Dominic likes this."

"I'm sure he will, Emily," Lisa said before ducking into the pantry. She came back out a moment later with a clear, air-tight container. "This is the confectioner's sugar, right?"

Kyrano took one look at the container and nodded. "Yes, it is."

"Good." She set it on the central work area. "Exactly how much food are we making for this evening, anyway?"

"The meal will be mostly hors d'oeuvre and finger foods," Kyrano explained as he began to measure out the powdered sugar into an small stand-up mixer. "The guests are supposed to bring foods of their own; I am told by Miss Elise that most are bringing dessert-type items, though Mr. Luke, for one, is bringing wings." He pointed to the white board near the kitchen's tiny desk. "You will find a list of what we are making there. I believe Dr. Tracy desires some time in the kitchen later to bake brownies."

"Probably her double chocolate brownies, unless I miss my guess." Lisa moved over to the board and used a soft stylus to scroll down the list posted there. "Well, I'll get started on the turkey and ham roll-ups then."

"I'll start assembling the fruit trays," Emily told them. "Get those out of the way early." As she headed for the refrigerator, she asked, off-handedly, "What are you two planning on coming as?"

Kyrano cleared his throat. "Lisa would like our costumes to remain a surprise." He didn't sound too enthusiastic.

"You mean that you'd like that, Tuan," Lisa chided. "I like what we've picked out."

"You're not happy with what you're going as?" Emily asked, curious.

"I am... uncomfortable with the character I will be portraying, yes. He was... a criminal, and I do not like to glorify such." He squirmed a little. "And I am not used to such a different style of clothing."

"Well, if it's any comfort to you, Kyrano," Emily said, in a matter-of-fact tone, "I'm going as the Wicked Witch of the West. Can't get much more evil than that!" She paused, then added, "Not to mention the green make-up. I just hope I don't scare poor Joshua!"

"See, Tuan?" Lisa said smugly. "We'll be in good company."

"I see, my dear." Kyrano replied, sighing. "But that does not make me comfortable with the role."

The two women exchanged glances, then shook their heads slowly.


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Re: Playing with Fire [message #568 is a reply to message #567] Mon, 23 July 2012 21:45 Go to previous messageGo to previous message
artisticrainey is currently offline  artisticrainey
Messages: 1228
Registered: July 2012
Location: Northern Ireland
Karma: 2
Field Commander
Switzerland
After several days in hospital in Ireland, Matthew Hawkins had arranged a private plane with medical staff to fly him back to the States. I want to be back with my own doctors, he had said. Dominic and the doctors in Belfast had not wanted him to travel so soon, but as always, Matthew's opinion could not be changed.

Now safely in hospital in Kansas, Matthew was settled, and Dominic was ready to leave for Tracy Island.

"Keep in touch, son," Matthew said.

Dominic nodded and gave his father a small smile. "I will. And you know how to reach me."

"I do."

Dominic moved towards the door, but turned on his heel and walked back towards the side of the bed. He faltered for a moment, before leaning down and giving his father an awkward hug. He couldn't see, but Matthew's face lit up with a wide smile.

"I know it's not going to be easy, but I'm so glad, Dominic."

Dom didn't answer immediately, but smiled as he pulled away. "Me too," he said.

"Gwanda!"

Joshua broke away from the nurse and ran to the side of the bed. Dominic lifted the boy up, and Joshua gave Matthew a sloppy kiss on the cheek.

"Bye-bye, Josh," Matthew said. "I'll see you soon."

"Bye! Bye-bye!" Joshua said, waving his pudgy hand.

Dominic set the child back down on the ground and took his hand. He nodded to Matthew. "I'm sorry I can't stay longer," he said. "Duty calls. Let me know how things go?"

"I will, son. Goodbye for now."

Dominic nodded again.

"Goodbye for now."

xxxx

"Sot!"

Scott smiled as Dominic and Joshua made their way across the airport terminal towards him. When they were close enough Dominic relinquished his grip on his son's hand and let the boy run towards Scott, who ruffled the boy's hair as Joshua hugged his leg.

"Sot! Soooot! Hi Sot!"

"Hey, Josh," Scott said, laughing.

Dominic rolled his eyes as he caught up with Joshua. He was loaded down with luggage, and was breathing heavier than usual. Scott raised an eyebrow.

"You could have used a baggage trolley," he said.

Dominic looked up, thinking, before his pale face coloured. "Well, I could have..." he said.

Scott chuckled, before reaching out for some of the bags. "I'll help. The plane isn't too far anyway."

Dominic gratefully handed some of the luggage over and straightened up as the weight on his back was lessened.

"Cheers," he said.

With his free hand he took Joshua's again, and the small group began to walk to Tracy One.

"How was the trip?" Scott asked.

Jeff had mentioned that there had been a family issue and that Dominic was now being picked up in Kansas instead of Christchurch, but hadn't given any more details.

"Eventful," Dominic said. "My father had a heart-attack. But he's improving by the day; there shouldn't be any major permanent damage."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Scott said, "but glad he's getting better."

Dominic thanked him before scolding Joshua, who was trying to wriggle out of his father's grasp. "Well, things will work out," he said.

They're already starting to, he thought, before ducking his head briefly and smiling. I think this will be a happy birthday...


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