Nikki Shanahan - Texas Ranger

by Stephen Haley

The Take Down

Introduction

Nikki Shanahan, the daughter of a retired Texas Ranger, working at the Ranger headquarters in the Temple/Belton, Texas experiences life, love, tragedy, near death situations and grows as a woman in these ongoing connected short stories.

Her fellow detectives ride her hard not only because she is a woman but because of her father Francis "Frank" Shanahan's objection to his daughter becoming a Ranger. This after 40 years of being one himself.

Although not able to convince Nikki to not pursue her dream, he has never come up with a cause for why he disagreed with her choice. These reasons will become evident as the series grows.

The characters Nikki works with are a mix of our melting pot here in America and due to that mix there is lots of humor mixed in with the more traditional "cop" story that one might read.

This is the story of Nikki's life. The stories are connected so the best read is to start at the beginning of the series and follow her through the romance, near death experiences, spiritual enlightenment, cases, humor, and her no doubt one of a kind group of surrounding characters.

The author hopes that your reading of this work will be enjoyable and you will share with others its delightful read.

Stephen

THE TAKE DOWN

As her eyes cleared, adjusting to the lack of light, she slowly began seeing shadows of her surroundings. Head ringing, neck aching and pissed as hell she rose to her feet regaining her balance while leaning against what must be one of the basement walls.

Slowly moving across the space an old tin ceiling lamp hits her in the head. "Dammit. I'll kick his ass when I get outta here." Moving further she sees a twinkle of light coming from a seam or crack. It must be a covered or painted over window. "I can get outta here." she thinks.

As she came closer to the flickering light and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness she came face to face with another wall. This one however had a crack in the cinder block that formed the basement walls. She tried to peer out through the crack in an attempt to determine if it was daylight or a nightlight that she was getting faint glimpses of. No luck. At this point it's just light.

By now she was able to see more clearly the shadows of the larger items in the basement. A work bench, what looked like some power tools mounted on small roll around tables, a chair or two, and an old oil fired boiler, not at this time in working order. The space was in all around 20 feet by 15 feet. The location of the stairs was evident as was the door at the head of the stairs and its metal inner bars. "What in the hell went on. Why am I here?" she wonders.

She, Nichole Shanahan (Nikki to her friends), daughter of a Texas Ranger Francis "Frank" Shanahan, now retired, had come to the Spicer house to meet with Matt the son of a woman that claimed to have information regarding the disappearance or possible death of her daughter, his step sister Chastity. He said that he would be in the basement and to come on down. The light was on so it seemed harmless enough. That's what ignoring your street smarts will get you. Two steps down the stair case and everything went black. Not that the light went off, just everything went black. The next thing she remembered was waking up on the floor in the dark. Nine years as an investigator for the Temple Belton Texas Police Dept. and not one slip up, not one. You're getting old girl, you gotta watch yourself from here on out. At 34 you'd think getting old would never have crossed her mind.

Trying to be quiet as possible since there was no telling if her captor was still in the house she fumbled around until finding an old oil lamp. "Great, now just to find some matches." She quit smoking 6 years ago after hearing of her mom's bout with lung cancer from her dad. Her mom had died when Nikki was 3. She remembers her mom but really doesn't have a lot of specific memories except sitting on her mothers leg while she sang a "ride a white horsey to town" thing that she loved so very much.

Nothing found as of yet but she kept looking. Then she came across an old oil torch, one of those shown in a film with Lauren Bacall and some guy named Bogie. She fooled around with it noting it had a pump knob on it just like in the show. She pumped and pumped on it after making certain it had some fuel and snapped the flint starter. Bamm! Let there be light! Now the room made a much different impression on Nikki. She could see that it was not a shop but more a very poor resemblance of a living quarter with many things pushed out of the way and up against the wall and onto shelves. The work bench was not a work bench at all it was an ME's table. What's been going on down here she thought to herself.

She spent an hour or so looking through any and everything she could while keeping quiet as possible. She ran across a can of fuel and placed it near the side of the stairs so she'd always know where it was. A couple of old hippie-style candles that had the remnants of many hours of dripping while burning (back up lighting). She's set, its time to get out of here if at all possible.

Sifting through the drawers and shelves she came across some wood working tools. Looked like the ones her grandfather used on his lathe to make furniture after he retired. She took one to the crack in the wall and silently started scratching the crack with it, slowly increasing its width. In an hour or so it was an inch wide and 8 inches tall, the same height as the cinder blocks were. Now for the outside half of the hollow block. This was much more difficult since the bricks were also 8 inches thick. She only had 3 inches of the handle to use as a control and finally she had to quit.

Exhausted, knuckles bleeding, a $60 manicure and polish she just got this morning now looked like a 4 year old had applied. She figured she had been awake in the basement for at least 3 hours. There was no idea how long she had been there before waking up or what day it was. Anger rose in her again and she felt flush. "I gotta get something to eat or at least some water." She reached into her pockets. No gun, no wallet, no ID, no keys to her car, but wait, what's this. "Alright, my juicy fruit, this will do for now." It was one of her few vices after she quit smoking. At times she'd chew so fast and ferociously she'd end up chewing on her cheek or tongue and yelping like a Chihuahua. No matter this was as good as the best meal she had ever eaten.

After resting for a short while she returned to the shelves and drawers. A small mallet used for upholstery or some other light work may do the trick. She returned to the crack in the wall and started tapping the tool with the mallet. Not so hard that it may be heard easily and in no particular rhythm, just tapping it to gain an edge on the block. It didn't take long before the tool punched through. It was daylight still. She continued her work while ever vigilant of any sounds coming from upstairs or the possibility that her attacker may return. She figured she'd have 30 seconds or so before both the door and the iron bars could be opened. Just enough time to creep under the stairs and hide. Maybe she could grab his feet and trip the son of a bitch down the stairs and see how he liked it! An hour later and she had an entire block out of the wall lying in a pile of dust and broken pieces. It was getting near dusk. She could see her car still parked where she left it, an old yet respectable 55 Chevy convertible. Something her dad gave her many years back when she graduated from high school and got her acceptance to UT Austin. It sat parked in the barn for 10 years before she got the idea to restore it as her daily ride. An eight by 16 inch hole was like heaven to her but unless she chewed off a leg and an arm and half of her torso, she'd never fit through it. In fact even with 2 of them removed it would be impossible. With the further consideration of the structure overhead relying on these blocks to hold it up she figured it would be a better look out vantage point than an escape route.

The stairs, why not at least try the stairs. It's been hours, no noise or movement has been heard and who knows maybe she can pry the iron bars and wood door open. She took the lantern, the mallet and the lathe tool up the stairs slowly, very slowly. At any time there was a creak in the stairs she'd stop and wait to listen. At the very top there was a 4 foot by 3 foot landing that the iron doors opened out onto while the inner wooden door opened into the house. She sat the lantern down on the left side of the platform. Just in case she got it opened up the iron bars could swing open and not hit the lantern, her only current source of light other than the hippie-style candle she lit and left sitting on top of the old oil fired boiler.

Scoping out the iron bars she could tell the hinges were welded so there was no hope of releasing the door from that side. To the left was a solid plate that held the locking device but you could only grab the knob from the other side or so it seemed. Reaching around and through the bars she could easily find the knob and with 2 fingers started turning it.

Suddenly there was a click and the bars opened. "Shit, this was way too easy. Something is not right, be careful girl." she thinks to herself. As she slowly opened up the iron bars she moved to the left out of the way of any person that may barge through the wood door to send her tumbling down like she must have the first time. The hinges squeaked. She stopped and listened. Nothing, no noise, no foot steps, nothing. She placed her ear on the wooden door listening again for any movement. Still nothing. Slowly she grasped the door knob and turned it slightly listening for any noise. It wasn't locked! As the door released from its latch and the door was pushed open slowly she could see the faint flicker of the setting sun through the leaves dancing on the walls of the hallway and adjacent rooms.

She placed her foot behind the partially opened door to prevent any quick movement by others to close it and force her down the stairs again. With the door half open she slid through the opening and worked her way down the hall with her back firmly planted against it. Nothing, no one, no noise, no sign of anyone being there or having been there, it was just as it looked when she arrived. The front door was still open. She ran to the front door, burst through the evenings setting sun's rays and made it to her car. She turned around to look for the person she felt was on her heels all the time while running to her car. Nikki could feel his breath and knew he was not more than a step or two behind her. But, there was no one. She stood shaking, almost in tears but what would dad say if he caught his little girl crying. "For Christ's sake you're an investigator!"

She climbed in the car, grabbed her hidden key in the door pocket and cranked it up. Just then out of the corner of her eye she felt someone looking at her. She looked back, to the right corner of the house it seemed as if she could make out a small figure in the bushes. She blinked, trying to focus more clearly, and the figure was gone. Off she drove throwing gravel and dust in the air for a hundred yards. After returning home and calling in to make a verbal report to Lieutenant Baker, LT to those that worked in his department, she locked every door and window, turned on the alarm, brought in Sandy, (a useless mutt she called sometimes called "Buffalo Belly" because at times it was suspect to have dragged the ground) and checked every closet and room. With that behind her she grabbed a glass of Chablis and headed to take a shower.

Later, laying in bed, covered with a robe and a towel over her curly brunet shoulder length hair she heard a knock on the door. Chills as well as anger rises in her as she grabs for her Glock 9mm she calls Mary Mary and heads to the peep hole. She remembers, her gun was taken when she was knocked out. No one is there. She turns on the porch light and still sees no one. She opens the door with the chain still in place and peers to the right, still no one. But, wait, on the front door mat is Mary Mary, her badge, wallet and car keys. She slowly opens the door and steps out on the porch and retrieves her belongings. She stands there realizing that there was no sound of a car pulling up or off.

Figuring whomever it was may very well be watching her right now. She backs into the house and locks the door leaving the porch light on. Going through her wallet she realizes that she may have destroyed any finger prints that may have existed, finger prints that may have identified the person that returned her belongings. And why would they return them after knocking her down a flight of stairs that would have normally killed a person. And why leave the bars and door unlocked. Too many questions for tonight, time for bed, but sleep no way. She sat in bed making notes for her morning "no doubt ass chewing" that Lt would give her for her mistakes. Going without back up to a remote residence to meet someone that refused to come in yet would meet her in a "basement"?

"How are you going to explain this away before dad hears about it?" she thinks to herself.

A few hours later she is awaken by the phone which almost gave her a stroke. She first grabbed Mary Mary until she was certain it was just the phone and not either some perp that broke into her home and gave "Buffalo Belly" some goodies to keep quiet, or an alien. She was big on Ufology. She didn't actually admit she believed in it but left it open so that when it did happen she could say "See I told ya so."

She answered, "Hello".

"Nikki, where have you been? I thought we were going to have dinner at the Broken Spoke?" It was Clint, her current lover a local contractor with a good reputation.

"I'm sorry Clint, something came up and I couldn't make it."

"We got this new electronic device called a cell phone these days darling that you could have considered using." he replies.

"You son of a bitch don't talk to me like you own me! You don't know what I've been through. (as tears teemed up in her eyes).

"Whoa honey, don't go off knee deep in sheep shit on me. We've been here for 5 hours waiting on you. Oh and by the way Happy Fucking Birthday to you." Clint hung up.

Now she remembered, it was her birthday, no longer 34, she's 35 today and a party was planned by Lt's team. They are going to want to know what's wrong without a doubt. Nikki rolled over to her pillow and cried, not from fear, not from anger, but from her awareness that she did in fact not handle herself well either at the Spicer house or on the phone with Clint. No matter how big her gun was, or awards she may win or cases she ever solved, she was still a woman, or at this point, just a little girl. She needed Clint, or someone, she wasn't able to do everything on her own like her dad. She just couldn't, and it hurt. Or could she?

As she walked into the station she was met by Ruthie, an old but competent woman that had spent 30 years as the front desk officer. Never moved up in rank, never asked to be promoted, just did her job and did it flawlessly.

"Lt wants to talk to you sweetie. Ooh! Tell me who does your nails so I never go there!"

Nikki knocks on Lt's door and hears a "Come in" in a deep voice.

"Well Shanahan, tell me something I want to hear, please. Make my day."

"Lt, I know this is going to sound like a rookie mistake but something is going on in the Spicer case. I went to speak to Matthew Spicer the son of Nita Spicer, you know the lady that filed the missing persons report with the trailer, I think she may be dead?" Nikki says to Lt.

"I was to meet him in the basement to look at some evidence he said he had uncovered that may wind up this case. It seemed harmless enough. You have the verbal report in your voice mail sir." Nikki tells Lt.

"Okay, let me see, we have an open investigation, we have a mother with a missing daughter she thinks may be dead, a son with information that he won't bring in but will meet with you at the mothers house, and in the basement. Good so far detective?" Lt asks.

"Yes sir." Nikki sheepishly replied.

"And you go without any back up, no notice, nothing. You get knocked down the stairs, wake up, finally get back to your car and drive home instead of going straight to the emergency room or coming here immediately to fill out a report IN PERSON!" Am I on the right trail officer?" Lt asks.

"Yes Sir," Nikki adds.

"Let me see, am I pissed off, am I angry with my officer, am I on the edge of climbing over this desk and kicking your ass? You are dam right I am! This is one time being a woman is really going to pay off! Otherwise you'd be walking with a limp officer. What gives you the right to endanger your life over such a risky endeavor? Have you spoken to your father?" Lt barks at Nikki.

"I'd really like to keep this here sir, my father is retired and there is no reason to involve him, sir." Nikki asks.

"I see, you haven't spoken to your father yet. Have you taken the time to get a check up at the hospital which is protocol? Should I call him and the hospital for you officer or can you manage a few button pushes on your own? And may I restate last night's sentiment? Happy Fucking Birthday Officer Shanahan! You are dismissed and on paid leave until I have the doctors report." Lt replies.

After leaving County General with a clean bill of health, Nikki figures that if she's going to be on paid leave then she at least ought to look missing girl, Chastity Spicer, and present a complete and professional report to LT. Nikki heads over to Clint's office to explain and hopefully still have at least one friend in her corner. As she drives up to his building she notices that Frank's car is there, her dad. "What the fuck is he doing here?!" she asks herself. Clint is enough to deal with in a one on one situation like this much less being double teamed by them both so she backs out.

Wham! she hears, on the trunk of her car. It's Clint coming back from across the street with Frank and two Captain Nemo submarine sandwiches. She's caught red handed with nowhere to go. Clint smiles, nods his head, and walks on to the office. Frank stands there with arms crossed peering over his regular issue trooper sun glasses. This means he's pissed off. Nikki pulls back into a parking space, turns off the car and climbs out with one of those sick feelings you get just before you puke.

"Hi daddy." She reaches up to give him a kiss on the cheek. He declines.

"Well darling, do you want to do this here and now or head home and do it there?" Frank asks.

"What needs to be done daddy?" Nikki replies.

"If I have to explain it to you Nikki then it's going to go even harder on you girl." says Frank.

"Lets do it here daddy, at least I will have Clint as a witness." Nikki says.

"Don't count on him too much right now. All he went through over the past week to keep everything quiet for your birthday party and you don't show has not sat well with him." Frank tells Nikki.

"He doesn't understand daddy, I had a job to do and it came first. Just like when you were a cop. I always came last." Nikki says to Frank.

"Lets not go there Nikki. It won't get you any slack from me." Frank replies.

Nikki takes the lead and heads into Clint's office.

"Hey Clint, we need to talk. Daddy, can you excuse us?" Nikki asks Clint.

Clint responds quickly, "Darlin, I believe you and your dad need to work things out right now. I'll keep. Besides I have a truck load of birthday cake and ice cream to deal with.

Happy Birthday Nikki." Clint adds.

"Clint you need to hear this too. She says.

Clint looks at Frank and gets that good old boy nod acknowledging his invite to sit and partake of what Frank believes is going to be a family style ass chewing. An hour later Nikki is through with her story, accounting to the minute the past 24 hours and her blunder at the Spicer home. Frank sits quietly with his Stetson pulled down to his eyebrows and his sun glasses dropped down to the tip of his nose. Clint looks like a deer in the headlights.

"After 9 fucking years as a cop you go off and do something stupid like this?" Frank says. "What in the hell got into you girl! I have enough to deal with just worrying about the good days you have on the force without worrying about you making a novice mistake that could cost you your life! You are all I have left Nikki. I have nothing left but you after your mother died." Frank says.

He slams his fist onto the table. "I fought like hell to keep you off the force but couldn't come up with a good enough reason why I could do it and you couldn't."

"I'm sorry daddy, I made a mistake, I know, but there is something going on here and it needs to be figured out. I'm going to do it. With or without your approval it's going to get done." she says.

Frank gets up and wanders into Clint's warehouse and lights up a cigar. Nikki turns to Clint who is nearly through with his sandwich. "You mad too I guess?"

"Darlin, I'm just glad you are alright. Yeah it was stupid but we all make mistakes. It's just good that it didn't cost you your life. And the make up sex is going to be great!" Clint says with a boyish grin.

Nikki gives Clint a kick in the shins under the table causing him to spill his drink and says "We'll see. What did you do that you are going to have to make up for?"

"Me! Hell I meant you! You're the one that stood us all up last night. You keep that attitude up and I'll give your present to someone else!"

"And I bet you got my present in your pants right now don't ya?" Nikki says with a smile.

"As a matter of a fact no I don't! And with that attitude you can just forget it." Clint spurts off.

Nikki heads to the warehouse to talk to Frank in private while Clint finished off his sandwich. "Daddy you gotta understand I'm the cop now, not you. You have your ways and I have mine. Yes I made a mistake but it won't happen again. I have a good track record and I'll be safe, trust me." Nikki tells her dad. As she stepped around the front of Frank she could see that he had wiped tears from his face. She hugged him and told him she was sorry.

"Honey you don't understand. You are all I have left in this world now. Your mother and me had a great life up until she got sick and the only thing she asked of me was to be certain you were safe. You are making it real hard on me to keep that promise and I intend to keep it. If I were to lose you I'm not certain I could make it alone. You have Clint, or will have someone some day but I'm all alone and I don't mind that as long as you are safe. Please promise me you'll do that, please." Frank asks of Nikki.

"I will daddy, I will." Nikki says.

6 am Monday morning, the alarm wakes Nikki from her first real nights sleep in 2 days. She starts a pot of coffee, feeds Sandy (Buffalo Belly) and heads off for the shower. It's hot, it makes every sensory receptor on her skin feel alive. Not like the depressing hours she spent in the Spicer basement. She's now dressed coffee in hand and headed out the door. Sandy barks goodbye as Nikki sets the alarm and gives the place her usual once over to affix an image of how the place looks in the event when she returns something is out of place. "You'd think I had "OCD'" Nikki tells herself. She knows she does and she counts on it to give her a heads up one day if need be. Into the office she trots as whistles and hoots are blurted out from Lt's core group of inspectors.

"Yo Nikki, where were you darling Friday night? Got a new man on the side? Can it be me, please, pretty please? You know what I mean?" Garducci asks.

"In your dreams Garducci. What would your wife say" Nikki replies.

"She'd do anything to get me out of the house baby, what say, me and you this Friday?" Garducci replies.

The one finger wave was all it took to get the guys in a roar. She loved it. She loved them. They were her second family and at times the only one she had. Garducci, Anthony Garducci, brought her in from training and taught her the ropes. He was 42, a big strong ex-New Yorker with a Bronx voice and all the typical New York clichÃs that no one could understand until he explained what he was saying. They hated that "You know what I mean?" thing he would say after almost every sentence.

Whenever he'd start in with his elaborate explanation of how things went in the BIG CITY, Nikki would say "We ain't got time for that "Bagapoopie'" making fun of his Italian heritage and giving him a shoulder hug to reinforce that it was only a joke.

"You think you are pretty clever with that "Bagapoopie' crap don't ya you fucking Mic. (Giving rise to her Irish ancestry)

One of these days I'm gonna bend you over my knee and give you the spanking of your life little lady." Garducci spouts out.

"Oh, Anthony, you've got me all hot and bothered now; how will I ever be able to do my work" Nikki replies. The place goes off in an uproar again and then becomes as quiet as a church in a split second.

Lieutenant Baker comes in with hands on his hips and shouts "You ladies gonna work today or are you going shopping for bras and panties? Shanahan, I told you not to come in until you had a doctors release. Do you ever listen to me?"

"Its right here Lt." Nikki nervously reaches into her purse and presents the form to Baker. "Everything is in order and I'm clear to get back to work."

"That's up to me Shanahan. Sit down at your desk, don't take any calls, get your report written up and in my office immediately."

"It's done Lt, I did it over the weekend, and here it is." Nikki hands him the 6 page report.

"Well sit down anyway and I'll be back after I read over this and check out your release." Lt barks out. "And don't any of you discuss the Spicer case or any other case with Shanahan until I say so."

"What's this?" Nikki wondered. "Am I on the hot seat again? I can't even talk to my crew about any case. There is something wrong here."

"Lt, wait a minute. What do you mean we can't talk about any case?" Nikki asks.

"Just what I said Shanahan, now sit down, I'll be back." LT replies.

"Yes Arnold, you'll be "bock". You are the Terminator." Garducci says to Lt.

"Want to be terminated Garducci?" Lt barks out.

The place gets quiet and everyone returns to work. Some leave on assignments, some make and take calls, some are filling out reports. No one talks to Nikki.

"Shanahan, get in here." Lt roars.

"Yes sir, what is it? Is there something wrong on the form or with the report?"

"No there is nothing wrong with the report or the form. Sit down. I got a problem here. The Spicer case does indeed have something weird going on with it. Something is just not right. Too many things are in order yet there is no reason, no motive, no money involved, no body, no weapon no crime scene. Nothing." Lt says.

"That's what I have been saying all along Lt, I can get back on it ASAP, just give me go ahead." Nikki replies.

"The case is not the problem, you are Shanahan. You forget that I learned everything in law enforcement from your father. I took over after his retirement. He's a good man and I believe a great father". Lt says to Nikki. "I told him I'd look out for you and you are making this real difficult for me and the crew. We all care about you Nikki but when you don't follow protocol you put us in a bind with your father whom we all respect and love like our own family. We feel the same way about you too, you should know that by now." Lt concludes.

"What is this! The gang up on Nikki show? I went through the same thing with my dad just two days ago and I'm not going to do it again." she thinks to herself. "I'm a cop, a good one. I'm on the case and I know more about it and have more insight than anyone else in this department. I deserve being on the case LT." Nikki says.

"I understand and agree Nikki, but you are also the sole individual that has been injured on this case. Normally I would put you with someone for the remainder of the case but I'm short handed. I really need to turn it over to someone else and let you start on some new cases that have come in. It's for everyone's sake. And it'll put your dad at ease." Lt explains.

"LT, don't do this. Leave my dad and everyone else out of it. Ask the crew. If they say I should not continue on the case then so be it. Otherwise this is just politics and mostly just bull-shit." Nikki says.

"I did ask the crew Nikki." LT said. "They feel that you are as good a cop as we have and that there is no reason to not let you continue as long as, and I quote "She keeps her head out of her ass and does things the way she was taught.' Understand where they are coming from officer?" LT asks.

"Yes sir I do and I apologize for my mistakes last week but they were minor. Everything worked out LT."

"Everything, except now I have an officer whose hands looks like she had a street fight with Mohammad Ali, and lost. Do you understand?" Lt barks out.

"Yes sir I do and it won't happen again, I promise." Nikki replies.

"If it does Shanahan you'll be working under Ruthie learning the front desk for when she retires." Lt warns.

After getting released by LT to return to work Nikki struts out into the offices but not a word is said; no humor, no picking at each other. Nothing, it was like they were ignoring her.

"What's up guys? What's wrong?"

Garducci, leading a group of 6 or so other investigators came over to Nikki and sort of closed in around her. "Look Nikki, we took the heat for you. You know what I mean? We told Lt you were on target with the Spicer case and that we felt you could run it like any of us. You know what I mean? And that taking you off the case could cause problems down the line not only here but with you and your dad. You know what I mean? So, we're here to tell you to do it right, do it by the book, don't take any short cuts again, and call on one of us if you need help. You know what I mean? We're a team, a family, and we don't want to see one of our family in the tights. You know what I mean?" Garducci says to Nikki.

"Yeah I know what you mean "Bagapoopie'" Nikki says as she gives him a hug and follows up with one for each of the investigators standing around her. "I love you guys too and I will watch out." Nikki tells them all.

"See I told ya! Ya love me baby, now how about Friday night? You know what I mean?" Garducci says.

The others laugh and Nikki shakes her head with a single eyebrow raised at Garducci. "Maybe that basement was not such a bad place to be after all." Nikki says to herself. The men laugh at Garducci as he waves her off as if he had just been turned down for his high school prom. Nikki grabs the Spicer folder and sits down to start from the beginning. That's how it has to be done. One step at a time. Day, night, weekends no matter. One step at a time.

The day closes quickly as Nikki sees the clock nearing 5 pm. She folds up her notes to take with her and blows the guys a kiss, with you guessed it, Garducci falling out of his chair as if the kiss were a Dallas Cowboy linebacker hitting him. The crew laughs and one by one closes down their desks and heads home. As Nikki reaches her front door and unlocks the deadbolt she peers in making a comparison with this morning's view of her living room. Everything seems the same but never trust an assumption she tells herself. Buffalo Belly races down the hall barking and wagging her tail and greets Nikki with a hundred kisses. She knows Nikki's got something somewhere for her, but where is it? "Are you looking for this Sandy?" Nikki pulls out a chew stick and hands it off to Sandy.

Sandy runs to the center of the living room and begins her hour long session devouring the treat in the living room. The phone has 3 messages and Nikki pushes the play button to hear who or what they are about.

The first one is from her dad. "Nikki, I'm just calling to make certain your first day back was uneventful. Give me a call just to put me to ease please." Frank says on the recorder.

"My God I'm going to have to do this every day for the rest of my life or he'll end up driving over every day just to check on me!" Nikki says with frustration. The second is from Clint. "Hey Nikki just checking in with you to see how you are today; no need to call back I'm certain you're busy and have a lot of catching up to do including rest. I'm still working on this cake and ice cream so I'm happy. I'll see ya when you want to." Clint adds. "Well at least he's not on my ass. Although tonight that might get her to relax." she thinks in a devilish way. She really loves Clint but she's afraid to commit because it may take her further away from her dad and the time they spend together.

The third call is what she has been waiting on; either its Matt Spicer or the person that returned her belongings. The voice is disguised but it's a man.

"I did everything I could to keep you out of a situation that could have gotten you killed. I'm sorry if you were hurt physically. All I could do is knock you out and place you at the bottom of the stairs. If I had not taken your personal belongings you may be dead right now. I did return them and saw you recover them from the front porch. Go back to the basement and look around. I left something for you. I'll call again." The voice says.

"Yeah right, go back to the basement, sure, next fucking lifetime chum!" Nikki spouts out. She locks up, double checks every room and heads off to the shower with a glass of wine. Refreshed and feeling as tired as she has been in months she rests her head on a pillow and sets her wine on the night stand. In less than 15 seconds she's asleep. 10 hours later, more sleep time in one night than she can ever remember, the alarm goes off and Nikki grabs for the snooze button. No more fear from waking, no need for Mary Mary, just some additional minutes to sleep.

10 minutes later the alarm goes off again and she rises from bed and goes through her normal routine of coffee, shower, getting dressed and heading off to work. This morning she is going to stop by Clint's and try to mend things. As she pulls in she sees that his truck is not there, he must be on a job-site or in a meeting with what Clint calls Archi-techs and Inga-neers. His distaste for people that can draw something that can't be built according to their drawings but never takes any responsibility. She heads to the office.

As she sits at her desk going over the Spicer file LT brings out 3 more cases for her and speaks not a word. One is a BE (breaking and entry), one is an auto theft and one is a missing bicycle. "Good God what's this, the Romper Room Precinct? She asks herself. "I know what he's doing; he's giving me the shit cases to keep me away from more "danger" as he calls it. Well they can wait." she thinks to herself. Nikki puts them at the bottom of the stack of a dozen or more open files. Some are murders, drug dealers, rape, robbery, the whole gamut of criminal activities. The Spicer case however is on top and will remain on top as far as she is concerned. Nikki goes over her notes from yesterday and starts compiling a motive chart. All the possibilities that can be though of or have been identified as motives of past cases. Some seem possible, some not, and some are just outlandish. Then she remembers that the mother was not at the home the day she went to meet Matthew Spicer. "Where was she? Where is she now?" She picks up the phone to call Nita Spicer.

Nita picks up the phone and answers, "Hello". "Mrs. Spcier this is officer Shanahan, do you have a few minutes to talk?" Nikki asks. "Why yes dear I do. I'm so sorry you could not make it Friday. I had so much I wanted to tell you about Chastity and what I think may be going on." Nita says. Nikki is stopped cold in her tracks. "Who passed on the message that I was unable to make our meeting on Friday?" Nikki asks.

"Oh Matt told me early that morning so I decided to get my hair done and visit my sister in Waco and spend the weekend with her and my nephews an nieces." Nita replies.

Red flag! What is Matthew doing?

Is he involved with his step sister's disappearance? Where is he? "Well Mrs Spicer I'd love to come out and speak with you whenever possible and the sooner the better." Nikki tells her. "Well I'll be here all day Ms. Shanahan." "How about in one hour?" Nikki asks. "That will be just fine; I'll look for you around 10 am then." Mrs. Spicer replies and then hangs up.

Nikki arrives at 10 as agreed and knocks on the door. Mrs. Spicer answers and gives Nikki a whole tour and a family history that was as boring as watching moths mate. Nothing new came of the interview. No leads, no suspects, no motive. Mrs. Spicer did note that Chastity did seem different and to herself the week before disappearing but never said anything was wrong. Nita just put it off as youth, love, peer pressure or whatever else a 19 year old would experience in life these days. Now Nikki has some parts of the puzzle to put together. A daughter/step sister that is missing and assumed to be dead. A son, which would not meet at the station but would meet at the house in the basement, and most likely sent his mother away so as not to involve her in what? Someone, (most likely Matt) that claims to have saved Nikki from certain death by knocking her out and placing her at the foot of the stairs without any identification on her and then presumably returned her personal belongings to her that night. Pieces to the puzzle but they don't fit any motive.

Around noon Nikki tries Clint's office again. He's there! Good. I'll get to talk to him finally and without dad around. She pulls into a parking space and makes it into his office. There he is again like clockwork or an old hound dog chomping down another Nemos sub. With a mouthful Clint gives Nikki a nod to come on in and sit down. He slides the other half of the sandwich over to Nikki and gives her a raised eyebrow signaling her to dig in. She complies and then walks over to the mini-fridge and grabs a diet coke, her second vice in life after her Juicy Fruit.

"Hey darling." Clint says as he wipes his mouth off on a napkin. "How are you? You and your dad get square with each other?"

"That's not important right now Clint, daddy's going to do what daddy's going to do no matter what I ask of him." Nikki replies.

"He's your dad Nikki, why can't he worry about you. That's what parents do. Leave him to his needs and work with him. That's all it's going to take; that and being more careful on the job. You know it will come right back to him if this happens again. Those guys you work with are like little tattle tales when it comes to your dad. You can't hide anything from him Nikki." Clint says and then gets back to his sub.

"Yeah I know Clint but I didn't come here for a lecture. You wanna come over tonight? Maybe stay over? You said you had something for me and since it's not in your jeans it must be something serious or important?" Nikki says all the time wondering if it's the big question, will you marry me? Although she feared it, if it were with Clint, it would be good. He never chewed her out, he never questioned her whereabouts, never made demands on her and never allowed her to do any of these things to him. 50/50's a deal, and 50% was his max.

If it was not fair down to the last penny it wasn't for him. That's just the way he was and she liked knowing the boundaries and rules. It was a structure she had never had outside of police work, and she really loved him. He knew it and he loved her and she knew it.

"Darlin I'd love to but I have to be in Waco this evening for a job-site meeting and a walk through with the owners at 7 am tomorrow. I can bend you over my desk right now if you'd like?" Clint says with a grin. Nikki shakes her head, gets up, walks over to the front door and locks it. She turns around and gives Clint one of her devilish grins. "I'm off duty for lunch, you got an hour to make me smile." Nikki says.

Clint chuckles and gets to his feet and embraces Nikki. A kiss on the neck and she starts taking of her vest. An hour later they are both curled up on his queen sleeper sofa in each others arms. "Well I haven't seen you smile so this must have been a bust. I'll have to go practice without ya and see if I can do a better job next time." Clint adds with a chuckle. Nikki gently punches him in the gut and smiles. "There, there's your smile. You were just not looking in the right places." Nikki says as she gives Clint a kiss on the nose. They get dressed and as Nikki is getting ready to leave she turns around to Clint and asks "What was the present you had for me?"

"Oh that. It'll have to wait. I've still got it and I'll give it to ya but this is not the time." Clint replies.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. You're just playing now Clint." Nikki says with a smile.

"No really, this is just not the time. Friday was but we missed that so give it a break and I'll get it to you, trust me." Clint says with a smile.

"I do Clint, I really do. You have no idea how much I love you and trust you." Nikki replies.

They kiss again with Clint grabbing her by the butt, "See ya tomorrow darlin." Clint whispers as Nikki leaves.

Nikki enters the police station and gives Ruthie a wink and a smile. Not realizing she was glowing with whatever it is that women glow with that tells other women she's just had her bell run. Several times. "Well you are quite a novelty my dear." Ruthie says. "What do you mean?" Asked Nikki. "Did you hear something?" "The only thing I hear is someone in love walking past my station." Ruthie adds.

Nikki turns as red as a stop light and Ruthie gives her a girlish smile and a giggle. As Nikki enters the den, what they sometimes refer to the investigators offices, Nikki catches Garducci in the midst of an argument on the phone. She sits down next to him and crosses her legs and arms and gives him a smirk. He waves her off as if she is intruding.

"Hey honey, is Friday night still on?" Nikki asks loud enough for the caller to hear. Garducci almost has a heart attack. It's his wife wondering if he'll be home for dinner or be out again as is usual. She's an overbearing New Yorker that won't be shit on by anyone, husband-cop-or otherwise.

"Look Tracie I gotta do what I gotta do. You know what I mean?" Garducci says on the phone. "Lt doesn't give any slack to anyone no matter how long they have been on the clock. You know what I mean? So I'll be home when I get there. Don't worry about me eating dinner. If it's not there I'll go get something. You know I always do. You know what I mean?" Anthony says and hangs up. He gives Nikki a hang dog look.

"Garducci want me to call Tracie and explain how important it is for my mentor to be with me nights?" Nikki says with a smile. "Nah, it wouldn't do any good. Look If I tell you something you gotta keep it close to the vest. But I gotta tell someone, it's killing me. I got nowhere to go with this. You know what I mean?" Garducci says in a whisper.

"Sure, nothing leaves this spot no matter what it is. What's up?" she asks. "Tracie got word from her OBGYN that her last pap smear didn't come back favorably. They want to do some more look see. And she's against it. She says if it ain't confirmed then it ain't so. I can't get near her. She's all upset internally and I'm the one that gets the napalm. She's trying to hide it from the kids but even they are asking now." Garducci says with grimace. "I'm about to hit Park and Main to get some relief myself." Garducci says. Park and Main being the hooker corner of Temple Belton.

"Come on Garducci, it can't be that bad being on leave from the boudoir if it's for Tracie." Nikki tells him.

"Hell if it were a few days/weeks I could cope. But it's been 6 fucking months. She just won't do anything about getting some follow up from the doctor and won't let me touch her. You know what I mean?" Garducci adds.

"Six months" Nikki says. "What's wrong with her. Doesn't she know every day can be a point of no return for this kinda situation?" Nikki says.

"I don't know Shanahan. It's like she has a death wish or something. You know what I mean?" Garducci answers. "Yeah, kinda, but it's Tracie's call. You push her and she'll crawl into a corner and never come out whether it's positive or negative in the end. If it were me there would be a showdown, plain and simple. Either she is going to go and find out once and for all or we sit down as a family and explain to everyone what's going on and what may happen to her if it's the big "C'. If she chooses to stay silent then you just gotta plan for the worst and hope the best happens." Nikki says with a hand on Garducci's shoulder.

"Yeah Nikki. That's the thing to do. But how in the fuck am I going to pull this off with her temper. Shit she's as good a shot as I am. You know what I mean?" Garducci says.

"Get her mom and dad in the room with you, Tracie and the kids. If she won't do something about it after that then she and or you are going to need a shrink to keep you two from killing each other." Nikki says.

"Yeah you're right. I gotta talk to her parents. Maybe you could come over and be there too. You are her age and you could help talk her into getting a second opinion. You know what I mean?" Garducci says with anxious eyes.

"If it were me and my husband brought home someone he worked with, from the opposite sex, and discussed my female problems so to speak; I'd kill him right then and there you idiot! What are you thinking? You wanna put this on a billboard in the center of downtown and drive her by it every hour? Discuss it with her and give her the support she needs and let her make the decision. Just be certain she knows the consequences of her choice and then you gotta drop it. Then you can go to Park and Main and de-pressurize your body." Nikki says with a grin.

It's about 1pm now and feeling like a real woman after her impromptu with Clint goes over the Spicer case. It's been eating at her all morning, well all but about an hour of it, as to who the caller was. Who is this person that feels like he has done her a favor by knocking her out and placing her at the foot of the stairs?

The phone rings. "Hello, Shanahan."

"Have you been back to the basement?" The caller asks. It's him again. How can I get him to hold on so I can trace the call she thinks to herself. "No I haven't. My supervisor held me off on this case for nearly 2 days and I have just been allowed back on as of yesterday at noon. Less than 24 hours. Who is this?" Nikki asks. "It's not important. Getting back to the basement is important. You must find what is there before they do and destroy your only chance to solve this case. Don't you understand?" The voice asks. "It would be much easier if you just told me what I'm looking for wouldn't it?" Nikki asks. "I can't be responsible for anything if you won't at least go and look." The voice died off and the line went dead.

"Now what", Nikki asks herself. "What do I do?" She heads over to Garducci's cube and taps him on the shoulder. "You got a minute Anthony?" Nikki asks.

"Yeah what is it. You wanna cause me more grief I suppose? You know what I mean?" he says.

"No Anthony, this is about the Spicer case. I got a call from a secrete admirer and he told me to go to the basement and look around. He claims there is evidence there and If I don't move quickly, the bad guys will find it." Nikki says with a depressing exhale.

"What do you want from me? I can't go; I've got a shit load of problems at work and at home. Take Tackett or Williams but don't fucking go by yourself! You know what I mean?" Anthony blurts out.

"Okay, I've got it, I'll take Williams if he is available. Tackett is on nights doing a stake out. Relax Anthony, relax man! Have you talked to Tracie? Are you too busy to help your young recruit?" Nikki prods Garducci.

"No, and don't go there. I'll get to it when I get to it. You know what I mean?" Garducci spouts out at Nikki.

"Yeah, yeah, sure, and all the time Tracie may be on the short string to cancer. Great choice Anthony, grow a fucking spine and use it to stand up or quit bitching about it. One or the other, that's your choice." She gives him a squeeze on the shoulders and a kiss on his slightly balding head. "Love ya man, you know what I mean?" Nikki says with a smile.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone loves me, everyone except Trace. I feel like a border in my own fucking home. You know what I mean?" Garducci replies.

Nikki walks away, saddened that she can't make him do what is needed and that she can't help him outta his depression. She shakes her head and wonders if marriage, if that's what's on Clint's mind is really the way to go. Maybe just a long term relationship is better she wonders.

Another morning greets Nikki as does Buffalo Belly. Her usual routine remains the same and as always she takes that last look into her living room making that ever so important mental picture. "Why am I like this?" she asks herself. Arriving at the den, the other officers are wandering through paperwork, drinking coffee strong enough to walk the cups to their desks, and carrying on conversations over the phone that are seemingly endless.

"Shanahan", bellows Lt., "Get in here."

"What now?" Nikki asks herself. "Yes sir, what can I do for you?" Nikki pleasantly asks.

"That's the attitude I need from you Shanahan, sit down. I've been going over your notes on the Spicer case and it needs to be wrapped up, as in yesterday. Do you understand what I mean young lady?" Lt barks out.

"Yes sir I do but I haven't been back on the case for but a day and I've got some catching up to do, sir." Nikki says with concern.

"Then do it and get it solved. I have enough going on in this department without making a lifelong career outta one case. Understood?" Lt says as he closely watches her facial expression.

"Will do sir, immediately, sir, no problem sir." Nikki replies in an overly polite manner.

"Look Shanahan I don't need a sir sandwich, I just need the case solved and closed, and now if I might restate my desire to you officer? You need help, ask for it, we are a family here, we help each other, and we don't step out of bounds when we work, understood?" Lt says with more compassion.

"Yes sir, I understand. I'll get on it full speed and yes I will certainly ask for help if I need it, sir." Nikki says with more of her normal voice.

Nikki leaves Lt's office with a new drive in her soul. The crew backed her up, even Lt gave her the go ahead, her dad was off her back for a couple of days now and even Clint brought a smile to her face. "Life's good" she thinks to herself. After running down through her notes Nikki decides to go back to the basement and try to find whatever "evidence" may exist that her mystery caller told her she needed to find before the "bad guys" got it. She'll take Garducci if he's not still looking over his shoulder for his wife to sneak up on him with a gun or a bat. "Sheese! What a wuss! Why can't he just lay the cards on the table and be done with it?" She asks herself.

"Bagapoopie, you coming with me or do you have to call and ask mommy?" The den fires up in laughter again and Garducci just shakes his head, grabs his handgun and stuffs it in his paddle holster while giving Nikki one of those cold NY stares he is known for.

Nikki walks up to him, interlocks her arm with his, gives him a gentle hug and says "Come on darling, lets go catch the bad guys."

Again the den raises the level of laughter and the two of them head out to Nikki's car.

"Ladies! Are we going to do something today other than talk about panties and bra's?" Lt blurts out. The den goes quiet with the only sound is that of paper shuffling. Phones are being dialed and the scanner running in the background reporting all the calls various officers make during the day.

"Where we going ya mic? To some green beer bar no doubt. You know what I mean?" Garducci says with a bit of disgust. "We're going to the Spicers basement to look for something. What, I don't know. I was just told by my "mystery man", and no Bagapoopie, it wasn't you, that there is evidence that needs to be found before others do. And I'm sorry for what I said, I just wanted to see that old NY smile on your face. I really miss you not being yourself Anthony." She says to him with a smile.

"Ah it ain't your fault. You know what I mean? This thing with Tracie is just too much for the family. I had a sit down with her last night. Tried to be as nice and calm as I could, and after only about 3 minutes of explaining to her that we only want what's best for her and nothing else, she gets up, goes to the bedroom and locks the door. You know what I mean? I haven't heard or seen from her since 9 pm last night. I knocked on the door this morning and said good bye, asked if there was anything I could do but there was no reply. I called her parents to come over and get the kids for the week, you know what I mean, take them to school, pick them up, get them fed and whatever the fuck Tracie does during the day with them." he adds.

"I'm lost." Garducci says with a grimace on his face. "I'm fucking lost Nikki. I don't have a good feeling about this at all. You know what I mean?" Pulling up to the Spicer home Nikki relives a small portion of the fear and anxiety that she felt that day when she escaped from the basement.

"OK, lets go knock and then we'll head to the basement and take a look.

Grab those flashlights in the trunk will ya Garducci?" Nikki asks. She's trying to give him something to do to keep his mind off his marital woes.

"Well hello dear, it's so nice to see you again. And you brought a friend with you this time, how very nice. Are you two married?" Mrs Spicer asks. Garducci's eyes are as big as coffee can lids and he started to choke a bit.

"No no, Detective Garducci is working this case with me today. He brought me into the police force after training. He's much older than I am." Nikki adds, knowing it will not set well with him but it was an open door she had to go through. "Yes mam, I'm Detective Garducci. And I did bring Detective Shanahan into the police department many years ago. And although a couple of years younger than I am she knew her inexperience in these types of cases required a more trained eye than she had. So I'm very happy to show her the ropes. You now what I mean?" Garducci states in a very matter of fact way.

Nikki just stands there motionless, as if she just walked up on a 6 foot Texas rattler. She says nothing but has that evil grin on her face. "Garducci is gonna get it later!" Nikki thinks to herself. "He's gonna get it!"

After entering the basement and spending no less than 2 hours looking into every box, container, crack and crevice they both shake their heads and look at each other and almost simultaneously say, "What do you think?" They both laughed. Anthony apologized for his statement to Ms. Spicer and Nikki hits him on the shoulder with a medium size blow. "You are lucky you apologized Garducci, I was planning on paying you back for that smart-assed remark." Nikki says while giving him the old crooked eye.

"Ah do what you want." says Garducci. "I got so much crap on my plate that I'd most likely not even notice you got even. You know what I mean?" He says with an expression of giving up.

Nikki thinks to herself, "Either we are indeed too late or there is something here that we have just overlooked. But what or where is it?"

About that time Garducci toe trips and almost hits the ground. "What the fuck! This place is a death trap. You know what I mean?" Garducci growls at himself. Nikki looks down at what tripped Garducci. It looks like a metal edge or frame or, "What is that?" she asks herself. She bends down to move the small carpet mat off to the left when she sees what she may have been looking for. There is a small access door in the floor. The basement floor had been cut out and what appears to be a small 12 inch round floor safe with a flush mounted lid so that the carpet mat would not show the impression.

"Garducci, go get my tire iron and any additional lighting you can find in my trunk. Go, Go, Go get it now!" Nikki sounds off in an orderly fashion.

Garducci doesn't move an inch. He glares at Nikki with a look that could scare the devil.

"Go do fucking what? You fucking mic? I out rank you and you are spouting orders to me?!" Garducci glares at Nikki.

"I'm sorry Garducci I got outta my respect mode. I'm sorry. No disrespect meant Anthony, really, I'm so very sorry." Nikki says with absolute embarrassment shrouding her face. "I'll go get what I need, just please don't let anyone in here till we open this up, Okay? You alright? I'm really sorry Anthony. I know you're going through some really deep shit right now and you don't need anyone challenging your rank or you as a great friend and detective. I'm really sorry Anthony." Nikki says again with what feels like a knife in her own soul for having said such a thing to Anthony.

Anthony sits down on a chair in the basement and his shoulders drop 2 feet it seems. "I know it ain't meant. I'm just under so much pressure from home I, I, I just snapped at ya Shanahan. You know what I mean? Losing respect at home from your wife is bad enough, but if I ever lost the respect of my team mates, I'd just go fucking eat a bullet. You know what I mean?" he tells Nikki.

As Anthony's eyes well up Nikki walks over and gives him a long hug and a kiss on his slightly balding head. Her eyes are tearing up too. Losing her mother at a young age was one thing, something that is more a memory than an actual lived through event; if she ever lost her dad she knew she might never recover; if she lost Clint it'd be like losing your husband even though they weren't married. She understood Garducci's feeling at the moment and just stood there holding his head against her. "I'm really sorry Anthony, really. I don't have an excuse for it, I just got overwhelmed and spoke out." Nikki says with a quiet voice.

"That's OK Shanahan, I understand. We still on for Friday night?" Garducci says with a chuckle. Nikki, steps back, looks at Garducci's smiling face as he wipes them dry and says, "What are you doing Bagapoopie playing me? You no good street dog you!" Nikki says with amazement.

"Nah, not at all ya mic! I just thought to myself what's the big deal helping out a team mate asking me to go get something out of a car? With the crap I have at home I'd make a thousand runs a day to your car if I could just get Tracie on track with us and do something about her situation. It just seemed silly to bow my back like that. I just did it out of fear of losing my position in the pecking order of our team. That's all. You know what I mean?" Garducci says with a slight grin.

"Anthony, you are never going to lose you place in the pecking order of our team. You are the one and only steel spike we have when it comes to knowing the ropes for new recruits and old. They all respect you. I respect you. And no, Friday night is not on!" Nikki says while giving him another punch in the arm. Nikki returns with the tire iron and a couple of larger desk lanterns she and Clint use when they go to the lake house he owns. They can light up an entire room when power failures strike the area. She sets them around the basement and turns them on.

After 20 minutes of pounding, the safe lock is in pieces and open. Inside Garducci pulls out a small leather pouch maybe 14 inches long and it seems to be folded over and over it's self. He hands it to Nikki.

"Here you found the safe." he says to Nikki.

"Nope, you found the safe with your big NY feet, you clumsy wop. You open it." Nikki says with a grin.

They both rise to their feet and open the leather pouch on the table. Inside what a legal document of some sort. Though the leather was very old, the document seemed not to be but 3 to 5 years old based on the paper and the print used in creating the document. Then it dawned on them. Right across the top as written, "Last Will and Testament".

"This has to be the evidence that we were looking for!" Nikki says to Anthony.

"No shit says Anthony. We need this at the office right now and we need to go over it word by word. People get killed all the time because of what's in a will. Lets go. Or should I ask permission first, ya mic?" Anthony says with a smile. Nikki gives him the "you are a smart ass for certain" look and says in her usual voice, "You have my permission to accompany me to the office, ya moron!"

After closing up the basement and placing police tape over the door frame the two head for the den. On the way Garducci notes the time and asks if Nikki would like to stop for lunch. "Dutch treat." Garducci says as he ends the sentence. "You cheap fucking Italian, yeah we can go dutch. But we are not sitting together!" Nikki says with a halfhearted, non convincing voice. "No wonder Tracie is pissed off at you, you are so fucking cheap!" Then Nikki caught herself. "I'm sorry Anthony, I didn't mean it like that, I was just joking. My bad." Nikki says in a remorseful voice.

"I understand." says Garducci. "It's okay, I'm just a nobody, not important anymore to anyone, not my wife, my family, or my team. But now, you are buying lunch. Ya know what I mean?" He adds with his NY laughter. After lunch they head back to the den.

They never once looked at the document for fear of spilling something on it at the diner. As they enter the den Nikki puts the document and the plastic evidence bag into the safe until it can be processed. Garducci contacted the crime scene team and requested someone to come up and take possession of the document, which included a whole litany of things they were to do either by the normal policies and procedures or by what Garducci and Shanahan needed.

"Shanahan, Garducci, get in here." Lt says in a more milder voice than would be expected. "Take a seat. I'd like you to meet the Spicer family attorney, John Sebastian Jacobs. He has handled the family affairs for 43 years. He is here to inquire what if anything have you come up with in the Spicer case." Lt states.

"Nothing as of yet sir." notes Nikki. "We did find a flllll!" She gets kicked in the shin by Garducci and does not finish the sentence.

"I'm sorry detective." Anthony says as he gives her a glaring eye. "Are you alright? You know what I mean? What was that you were going to say? You know what I mean?" he adds.

"Uh, yes, that's quite alright detective, I understand. As I was saying we found several flashlights in my cars trunk that aided us in searching the basement but found nothing as of yet that we can report." Nikki finishes.

John Sebastian Jacobs looks distrustfully at the two detectives and turns to Lt. "I assume that if anything is found on the premisses that it will be turned over to me, it is private property as I recall?"

Lt looks at Jacobs and calmly says "Anything we may or may not find on the premisses will be reviewed with the utmost scrutiny by this department. If and only if we find anything, and IF and only if we determine it to be of no importance in this case, we will contact Ms. Spicer and ask her to whom she might like, whatever we find, turned over to. Is there a problem with that approach Mr. Jacobs? And by the way are you the only attorney that has provided services to the Spicer family?" Lt concludes.

"Oh, I would so very much assume so. I have worked for decades with Ms. Spicer and her deceased husband. I would assume all legal matters should run through my office." Jacobs notes.

"Well lets just say for now, we have not found anything pertinent to the case. If we do we will act in the best interest of the Spicers, their missing daughter, and the laws of the great state of Texas. Will that do? Lt asks.

"Most certainly" Jacobs says in a most obviously annoyed manner. "I, uh, the Spcier family will expect to hear from you if something turns up. Good day." Jacobs leaves the office.

Before Garducci and Shanahan can rise more than an inch from their seats, Lt tells them again to take a seat.

"Looks like we may have hit pay dirt on this case. Someone is mighty interested in what you two found. What was it?" Lt asks.

"Lt, it looks as if there was a will hidden in the basement floor, in some Walmart quality floor safe." Nikki states.

"If we find anything in the safe with direct connections to this case will we have any reason to expect that we will be charged with locating and retrieving evidence without the consent of Ms. Spicer?" Lt barks out.

"No sir. On every occasion I have asked Ms. Spicer for her authorization to look into both the home, the property and out buildings, and the basement in particular. She has always told me to do whatever is necessary to bring her daughter home." Nikki tells Lt.

"What about you Garducci. Any concerns? Lt asks.

"No sir. Other than having to explain we were not married to Ms. Spicer, and that I was much older than Detective Shanahan, it was very clear to us both that she was totally willing and authorized us to do our search. You know what I mean?" Garducci says.

"Not married? Older? What's going on here detectives? Something I should know about? Something your dad should know about Shanahan? Something your wife should know about Garducci?" Lt asks with a smile.

"No, no, no, no." they both immediately spew. "Just a little misunderstanding that's all." Nikki adds.

As they leave both Nikki and Anthony try to exit the door first, getting themselves caught shoulder to shoulder in the door jamb. As they seem to push and shove to be the first to exit Lt's office.

Lt asks again. "Are you certain there is nothing I need to know about detectives?"

Nikki relents and allows Garducci to exit first and without looking at Lt, says, "No sir, nothing going on and nothing you need to hear about, sir." As Garducci takes his seat and spins around slowly in an arrogant manner smiling at Nikki, she gives him a frowned look and shakes her head. "To think I was actually worried about hurting your feelings you wop!" Nikki tells him.

"Hey stop that racism ya mic! I'm Sicilian, I ain't not common run of the mill Italian! You best remember that ya green beer drinking smart ass!" Garducci spouts laughingly.

As Nikki swings around to reply she sees Garducci already bent over in the early throws of a laugh session. So is the whole den. "Oh, oh, oh, I'm whiting out." says Garducci. "I'm seeing stars I'm laughing so hard!" He adds in. The den is laughing again, things back to normal and Nikki just shakes her head and gives a halfhearted chuckle.

"You moron!" she says as she leaves for the day with a smile. A smile for the first time leaving work in many days. On her way home she calls Clint, asks him if he is free tonight. "For you darlin, I have a special rate." Clint is heard laughing on the other end.

"Come over and make me smile Clint." Nikki hangs up the phone. About 2 hours later, Nikki is resting after a long shower and a glass of Chablis. A knock at the door. "Must be Clint" she says to herself. As she opens the door, someone kicks it from the other side and knocks Nikki to the floor. Buffalo Belly is barking all over the place and running every which way.

"Shut the dog up or I'll shoot it!" says the intruder dawning black clothes and a black wool ski mask.

Nikki looks around for Mary Mary. The intruder follows her eyes. When they lock onto the second drawer down of the antique roll top desk, he points his gun at her and says with a squeaky voice, "Go ahead, make my day. Go for it. I'll kill you and the dog."

Nikki, doesn't move and reaches out to grab Buffalo Belly to keep her from barking. "It's okay Sandy, he won't hurt you, just settle down, settle down." Nikki says to Sandy.

"I thought cops were supposed to be truthful? I ought to put a bullet in it's head right now!" the intruder says. "Now, go sit in that chair and don't move, understand?" The man goes to the second drawer and pulls out Mary Mary and drops the clip out of it, kicks it under the couch and puts the gun back in his pants just behind the belt. "Any other weapons around here you need to tell me about?" He asks. "No, none, that's my only issued weapon." Nikki says in a concerned voice. "I catch you lying, I'll kill ya both bitch. Now where are the documents you found at the Spicers home? Where are they? What were they? Get them, get them now!" he yells.

"There were some legal documents but I'm not clear on what they were. We bagged them and turned them into the evidence safe at the station." Nikki says innocently.

"Well you are gonna get them and get them now! Get up, get dressed, hurry up!" the intruder says.

"I can't they are locked up and someone has to sign them off to the next handler. What am I going to tell them?' Nikki asks.

"That's up to you. But if you want your father to live, you'll get it done and get it done now!" he says.

"My father, what's he got to do with this?" Nikki asks. "You hurt my father and I'll hunt you down and skin you like a rattle snake!" Nikki and rises from the floor.

"Good, then daddy means a lot to you then doesn't he? Go get the fucking papers you found and do it now. I'll call you and give you instructions where to take them. No go get dressed and go get those fucking papers! Now! Go!" he yells at her.

Nikki gets dressed and return to the living room. No one is there. Then suddenly the door opens and nearly gives her a heart attack. "Hey darling here I am ready to deliver one special smile!" It's Clint. Nikki runs past Clint and heads to her car. "Hey darling what's wrong, I even bathed!" Clint adds.

Nikki races off to the 'den'. No one around. "The safe, the safe! No!" The papers were sent to the crime lab and not returned yet. She has no access to the crime lab. It's off limits to any detective so that there can be no problems in court later with the mishandling of evidence. What's she going to do? She gathers up some documents laying on Garducci's desk and folds them like the original will was. She squeezes them into an envelope and seals it shut with the heavy postage type tape they use on crime evidence bags. Then she writes Spicer Case on the front. She heads back to her house hoping to find out what she is to do with the evidence and upon entering runs right into Clint. His soda falls to the floor, submarine sandwich falling apart in his hands.

"Woah darlin, slow down, what's up? Darlin, darlin, just wait a minute." Clint asks of her. "Get out of my way Clint, you don't understand. Get out of my way. It's daddy. He's got daddy!" Nikki cries out.

"Who's got your daddy. And if they do then call your team, they are there to help. Come on baby, do the right thing here." Clint says.

"The right thing is to get my daddy out of this mess. I have no gun. I have to find a gun!" Nikki shouts.

"Woah darlin, hold on, just hold on. Here, look here, just calm down for a minute." Clint asks of Nikki.

"What in the fuck do you want Clint, I need a gun, I need a fucking gun" Nikki cries.

"Here take this, go on take it. It was what I wanted to give you at your birthday party 2 weeks ago, here open it, open it." Clint asks of Nikki. Nikki opens the box Clint takes off the roll top desk and sits down on the couch and opens it. "What is this Clint?" Asks Nikki.

"Your birthday present darlin, that's all." Clint replies. "No, What is it? I mean what the fuck is it?" Nikki asks in total disbelief.

"Just look at it." Clint replies.

Nikki's shaking hands pull out the most powerful handgun know in the world. The Austrian Pfeifer Zeliska 5 shot revolver. It fires a .600 nitro express round. Guaranteed to kill any living mammal on this planet, bar-none, with one well placed shot. A one of a kind, special order, built to suit the hand that fires it, perfectly balanced and a box of hollow points. A cool $16,000.00 revolver.

"Where did you get this Clint?" Nikki asks.

"Your dad and I kept thinking about what you might really like, you know, something no one else you knew would have, or hell for that matter would want to have. This gun has broken wrists of some shooters that just don't know how to handle it darlin." Clint says. "Take it and go, I'll call Lt and tell him what's up and what you're facing." Clint adds.

"No Clint, you can't call Lt. Not until I'm gone. I'm waiting for the phone call from this son of a bitch right now." Nikki says in perfect unison with the phone ringing. Clint and Nikki look at each other. Nikki picks up the phone. "Hello." Nikki answers.

"You got the papers? You want your daddy alive? Then come to the Spicer pecan orchard. There is an old work shed where they did tractor repairs and shaker repairs. Come alone or don't come at all and I'll say good bye to your daddy for you." The man says in his squeaky voice.

"I'm coming. I'll be in my 55 Chevy, look for it. I have what you need with me." she says as she holds the PZ 600 in her right hand.

As she entered the Spicer property she turned to the left and passed through the orchard gates. She had heard about the long since abandoned orchard but never saw it before. As she pulled to a stop near the middle rows of pecan trees she looked left and then right. "There it is." she said to herself. "That must me be the old work shed."

Nikki turned into the row of trees adjacent to the one the work shed was on and pulled up @ 100 feet away with the drivers side door away from the shed. She got out, pulled down her stetson tight as possible so the wind would not blow it away and cause her to deal with the mid day sun in her eyes. The .600 was in her right hand always hidden by her thigh and and the envelope in her left. She walked from tree to tree is a slow methodical manner choosing her moves slowly and carefully. As she approached the last tree between her and the shed a voice called out.

"Well I'm glad you could make it Missy. I'm sure daddy is going to be very pleased." the man said.

"Now where are the documents. I want them, now dammit! Where are they?" the voice said.

"I have them right here." she holds up the envelope marked with "Spicer Case" in big bold letters. "See right here." She adds.

Whomever it was inside could apparently see from 25 feet away that it did indeed say "Spicer Case" on the envelope. "Bring them here. Now!" again the voice made demands.

"Not until I know my daddy is alright." Nikki replies. "Here he is bitch, take a good look, your last one if you don't give me those papers and I mean now!" The voice was cracking, seemed to be in stress, or, in fear of something. But whatever it was, the voice had lost it's confidence.

"Look, I'll lay the papers down here and back off, you come and get the papers but leave daddy in the shed. Once you have the papers you can go and just leave us here, take my car, the keys are in it. Just don't hurt my daddy." Nikki asks of the gunman.

The gunman pushes her daddy back into the shed and slowly approaches the papers at the base of the tree Nikki left them at. Nikki in the mean time is moving counter clockwise from her car to the shed. All the time both Nikki and the gunman are keeping eye on each other. Just as the gunman reaches the tree where the envelope lies, Nikki reaches the door to the shed. She turns to look into the shed and sees her father tied up and gagged.

"Wait a fucking minute you bitch!" screams the voice. "These are not the papers I want! I told you, I fucking told you not to cross me up on this, now you're both going to get it."

As Nikki turned back to look at the gunman a sharp pain in her upper thigh began. It worsened in a split second to a point that she could hardly stand. She blinked an eye and the shot was heard. She had been hit. As she felt her body failing to hold her up and realizing she would soon fall to the ground she swings around with the PZ 600 and fired at less that 20 feet at the gunman. The gun flew out of her hands as if it had been a hand-grenade. The shot was dead center of the chest. As the gunman fell, Nikki did as well, and neither took their eyes off the other. On her way to the ground, Nikki grinned. She was able to see the orchard through the gunman's chest. The shot completely tore his back bone out for 6 vertebrae. His chest had exploded like a watermelon being hit by a shot gun. But his eyes never blinked nor did they close. The last thing Nikki remembers was hitting the ground.

Three Months Later

As the BBQ grill pumps smoke into the south Texas fall air there are sounds of laughter, some tears, but mostly sound of about a dozen detectives, Frank, Clint and Sandy.

"Well darlin, how did it turn out in court today?" Clint asked.

"Turns out Chasity was murdered for Ms. Spicer. She became aware of her husbands non-discrete relationship with the housekeeper and an illegitimate daughter but kept silent thinking she could use it against him if need be down the road. Later in life she finds out he has left his $380 million dollar fortune to all three of them. Matt, Chasity and Ms. Spicer. That did not set well with her. She learned this all from the family attorney Jacobs. During the last weeks of Mr. Spicers life.

Ms. Spicer tried and tried to get the old man to sign a new will leaving it all to her and let her leave it all to the two kids when she died. He was no fool. He knew she knew about Chasity but never let on. His last will was the one that split everything 3 ways was hidden in the basement in the floor safe that Bagapoopie tripped over. Up until this latest will was found she and the attorney were in cahoots spending the money like it was theirs. To have the latest will found would have placed them all is jeopardy and even risk Jacobs losing his license. Jacobs was not the author of the will. Some attorney in Dalhart, Texas did it for him and never heard from Mr. Spicer again. Just thought it was another millionaire trying to control his money from the grave.

Anyway, Ms. Spicer and Jacobs conspired to kill Chasity. The Jacobs boy, the one I shot in the orchard, took her to the basement under the guise of some light petting but instead cracked her skull with a hammer and then proceeded to dismember her remains and then took a drive to who knows where and dropped the pieces here and there.

So, we have a murdered child that had nothing to do with the circumstances surrounding her death; a mean as dirt wife that can't accept the fact that at age 73 she can't even live long enough to spend her third of the $380 million dollars and that she should have it all; an attorney that knew everything about the Spicer family that could be known and saw a chance to pick up some easy money working for the old lady; a mentally challenged son of an attorney, not bright enough for law school, hell he dropped out of high school if you can believe that, goes out and commits a crime for daddy in hopes of getting a chunk of cash and instead gets killed. It was a Peyton Place typical situation. Greed, Greed, Greed." Nikki finishes.

"So how you doing Clint, want to put a smile on my face later?" Nikki asks. "Sure! And I'm okay, but haven't you guys kinda felt bad for Garducci, I mean with his wife passing and now raising his kids by himself?

Pretty tough deal." Clint adds. "Yeah for the kids it'll be a beginning for them. But I'm thinking that old Sicilian blood will carry them a long way. Besides Anthony is getting pretty familiar with Park and Main these days. I'm betting his blood pressure is dropping as I speak." Nikki says with a laugh.

"Shanahan, get over her!" Lt roars. "So what's the deal with this PZ 600 pistol from down under? Something special is it? Let me take a shot." "I wouldn't do that Lt." Nikki warns. Booooooom! The gun fires, flies out of Lt's hands and right into the waiting arms of her father, Frank.

"Nikki, how many times am I going to have to pick up after you while I'm retired?" Frank says. The crew laughs and cheers go out for Franks catch. Nikki limps off with leg and wrist still bandaged up while holding Franks arm. "I love you daddy. Momma is really proud of you daddy, really, so am I daddy. I love you." Nikki says. "I love you too Nikki, but if there is any pride around here it's for you. You have become the officer that I always dreamed you might be. You are the best, not yet my caliber but I'm sure you'll even surpass my record one day, if you can just do it by the books darlin." Frank adds with a chuckle.

As Frank and Nikki return to the BBQ grille the team spews out countless stories of the days when Frank was Chief and Lt was the greenhorn. It went on for hours. Once Nikki looked back over her shoulder. The whole team was there, enjoying themselves, talking shop, even including Clint in the conversation. "It looks like a real nice family get together daddy, it really does." says Nikki. "That's because it is Nikki and don't ever forget it. It is a family get together, and those folks are as much family to you as I am. Love ya darlin." Frank adds.

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