Warning and disclaimer in Chapter 1


        Claire dropped to the floor, hitting hit hard. She ignored the impact and blinked mindlessly at the wall for a moment. How had everything gotten so screwed up so fast?

        The whole Kaitlin Finch debacle. Her relationship with Alex and Darien's relationship with Bobby. Eberts and the Official watching every move they made. Arnaud. Stark and Chrysalis. Private detectives from Chicago snooping around. People healing in an instant just by a touch? And no counteragent.

        Alex wrapped an arm around her lover, helping her to her feet. "Are you okay, hon?"

        Claire shook her head slowly. "No... not exactly."

        Darien struggled to his feet. He was disoriented and staggery enough for someone who had just fallen down... but he was WAY to active for someone who had just been SHOT in the shoulder.

        Claire grabbed Lucien's shirt. "How did you do that? Who the hell are you?"

        Lucien rolled his eyes. "You want a lesson in theology or you wanna help this good man's partner?"

        Claire sighed and released him.

        Lucien looked around the room. "Speaking of partners... where's Rubyn?"


        Mrs. Finch led Amy and Hillary out of the station house, smoldering openly. "You cost me $100 a day, plus expenses, plus the retainer... and on top of it all, I get a call from a Detective Rucker in Chicago saying that I have to pay BAIL! What the hell are you doing to EARN this?"

        "Ma'am, we encountered some problems with the suspect," Amy said. "He... slipped out on us."

        The woman turned, clutching her pocketbook. "Slipped out? What kind of private eye lets someone just slip out?" She turned her steely gaze on Hillary. "And you. Your husband assured me this case would be a snap. A piece of cake."

        "My husband's kind of an idiot... and he's working another case in Chicago right now."

        Mrs. Finch pursed her lips, tapping her high heel on the curb. "One more day. I'll give you one more day and then I'm firing you. I'll expect the retainer back as soon as I cut you loose."

        Mrs. Finch turned, climbed into her car, and sped away from the curb.

        Hillary sighed and said, "Looks like we just got a ticking clock put over our heads."

        Amy shrugged. "You always said you worked better under pressure."

        "When did I say that?"

        "I dunno. But I bet you were under a lot of pressure at the time."

        Hillary shook her head and looked for a cab. "We have 24 hours to find this Fawkes guy or the agency will be in the red again."



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