Gumshoes by Pengi
Story Notes:
All Nick POV is by Evergreenwriter83, all Brian POV is by Pengi.

1. Chapter 1 by evergreenwriter83

2. Chapter 2 by evergreenwriter83

3. Chapter 3 by evergreenwriter83

4. Chapter 4 by Pengi

5. Chapter 5 by evergreenwriter83

6. Chapter 6 by Pengi

7. Chapter 7 by evergreenwriter83

8. Chapter 8 by Pengi

9. Chapter 9 by Pengi

10. Chapter 10 by evergreenwriter83

11. Chapter 11 by Pengi

12. Chapter 12 by evergreenwriter83

13. Chapter 13 by evergreenwriter83

14. Chapter 14 by evergreenwriter83

15. Chapter 15 by Pengi

16. Chapter 16 by evergreenwriter83

17. Chapter 17 by evergreenwriter83

18. Chapter 18 by evergreenwriter83

19. Chapter 19 by evergreenwriter83

20. Chapter 20 by evergreenwriter83

Chapter 1 by evergreenwriter83
1:00 A.M.

The door sounded like it was about to be broken down. I imagined a trojan horse or one of those giant viking warrior beams banging on the other side of it. I pictured my hotel room under seige. I came to the door in boxers and I know my hair was a disaster. Nick stood on the other side, his eyes blood shot and breath smelling of alcohol. He had the 70s porno facial hair going on. He stared into my eyes, a heavy expression in his, and he gasped the words, "he's dead," before falling to the floor at my feet, a lump of nicotine-scented clothes and alcohol induced coma.

I sighed.

Bending down to grab Nick under the arm pit, I did my best to hoist him up from the floor. I got him to a semi standing position, his body heavy against mine, but cooperative as he began to rouse slowly. He leaned onto me, his arm over my shoulder. "Brian," he said in a pleading voice.

"You're drunk, Nick," I answered, "C'mon, let's get you to your room."

I'd started to lead him back down the hall to his own hotel room, but he flipped out. He struggled out of my grasp, stumbling backwards into the hotel wall. His eyes were wide, "No," he stammered, "No, no, no. I don't want to see it again. No. He's -- Brian, he's dead."

"Who's dead?" My heart raced, thinking of Nick's dog.

Nick's eyes overflowed with tears. "AJ," he whispered thickly. "AJ is dead."

"Nick," I said, the hair on my arm standing up, "You're drunk. AJ's fine. C'mon, let's go to your hotel room and I'll show you, then you can take a shower and go to sleep." I reached out my arm for Nick's hand, but he shook his head, his back pressed against the wall.

"No Brian I'm not drunk, not that drunk," he added.

"Nick," I started to say as patiently as I could.

"Brian I ain't shittin ya," Nick burst. Suddenly tears were pouring down his face, "Oh Jesus," he whispered. He covered his eyes with his hands and his shoulders shook.

"Nick, AJ's not dead," I answered.

He looked up at me. "Then where did all of that blood come from?"


There was blood. A LOT of blood. Now I'm not one of those hypoallerginics or whatever, but I was a second away from throwing up my double stuffed bean burrito.

"Oh Heavenly Father," Brian muttered.

"See?" I said, my voice rising past nails on the chalkboard level.

"There's got to be some explanation."

I swallowed hard. "Someone killed him," I whispered.

"We need to call the police."

"We don't talk Swedish!"

Brian stared at me. "Nick, most of the people around here speak English. I'm sure at least one officer does."

"But...but...who could have done this?"

"You didn't see a..." It was Brian's turn to have trouble with words. "body did you?"


"So maybe he just accidentally cut himself."

"What with? A machete?"

"Good point."

"Should we wake D?"

"No," Bri shook his head. "The less people that know the better. We don't want a mob scene before we call for help."

I paled. "Oh God. Rochelle. She's going to freak out. How are we going to tell her that her monkee went to the big banana in the sky?"

"The big banana in the sky?"

"The forest of eternal shade?"

"Stop. Just...stop."

I wasn't trying to be funny. I really wasn't. I rubbed my face and tried to stop the room from swimming in front of me. It was true I had tossed a few back before happening on the scene, but there's something about a huge ass pool of blood that will sober you up really quick. I handed Bri my cell.

"You call."

We stared each other down. Bri swayed slightly. The smell from the thick goo on the floor was getting worse. He took the phone. A second later, he had his back turned to me, his shoulders tense and was speaking way below Alvin and the Chipmunks level. He gave the address of the hotel, a description of the scene, and asked three times if someone was on their way. Obviously, whoever was on the other end of the line told him yes because he hung up and handed the phone back to me.

"Ten minutes."

We both walked back into the hall and slid down the wall onto the floor. I slung my arms over my knees and concentrated on my breathing. I thought of AJ's mom. I thought about Rochelle. I thought about his dogs.

Yes, AJ had his problems. We all did.

But for it to be bad enough for someone to kill him?

I couldn't process it.

"I need a cigarette," I announced.
Chapter 2 by evergreenwriter83
2:00 A.M.

Ten minutes feels like a couple lifetimes when you're sitting outside a blood-covered hotel room waiting for someone - anyone - to come tell you that one of your best friends - your brothers - isn't really dead.

My mind raced through possible explanations for the massive amounts of blood in the room, but none of them made sense except the one answer I didn't want to be the right answer. I glanced at Nick. He was rocking himself back and forth, mumbling. I reached an arm over and patted his shoulder as reassuringly as I could muster with my own nerves shot to hell.

The elevator dinged and a moment later a troop of three cops and a dog entered the hallway. Two of them were wearing gloves and funny suits and one - a leggy woman in a dark charcoal suit with dark brown hair and thick, Clark Kent-esque glasses - was holding a camera and a folder stuck to a clipboard.

The two suited up guys walked past us and into the hotel room. Legs stopped in front of Nick and I. Nick looked up... and it really says something that his face showed no reaction to the tight skirt and muscular thighs that he was staring at.

"Officer Heidi Lennon," she greeted us, reaching out a hand to me.

I stood up and shook it, "Brian," I said, "Brian Littrell."

Nick stood up. "I'm Nick," he said, striking out his hand - she didn't take it. She turned and stepped int othe hotel room, turning on the camera and taking the lens cap off. Nick raised an eyebrow, turned to me and mouthed the word bitch.

I followed Officer Lennon into the hotel room and watched as she snapped a series of photographs, moving quickly around the room as the two suited men began collecting small samples of blood to test. Nick was wringing his hands. After a good thirty minutes or so, Officer Lennon came over to Nick and I. "Is there somewhere we can talk in private?" she asked.

I nodded and led the way down the hall to my hotel room. Leighanne had stayed in the U.S., since the trip to Sweden wasn't supposed to take very long and I was by myself in the room down the hall. We stepped inside and I flipped on the light switch. Lennon quickly perched herself at the small mahogany table and rooted through a small bag that sat on her hip. She pulled out a note pad. "I just have a few questions for you both..." she said, "And then we can get this investigation under way."


"What is A.J.'s full name?"

"Alexander James McLean."

"Any aliases?"

"I'm not sure. He has a mother and a fiancee."

Officer Lennon stopped writing. "What?"

"What?" I repeated.

"I didn't ask about family. I asked about aliases."

The look on my face must have said it all. Bri cleared his throat. "Bone, FrillNeck, Skulleez, Johnny No Name, Jizzle."

"Dump Truck," I added.

"Dump Truck?" Brian and the officer said at the same time. I couldn't help but smile thinking about the incident that had produced that name. "Long story.

A story that the chick cop obviously didn't want to hear. "When was the last time you saw your friend?"

Brian and I started to share a look.

"I'm going to have to ask you not to do that."

It was like she had slapped me. "What?"

Officer Lennon's pantyhose were seriously on way too tight. She lifted her glasses, pinched the bridge of her nose, and sighed. "For the integrity of haste, I'd rather not have to interview you individually this time, but I can't have you doing that."

"Doing what?" It was a sad day when even Brian was confused.

"Collaborate silently through a look," she said.

"We do that?" I asked.

In a happier circumstance I would have made a comment about superior jedi mind skills, but it didn't feel right.

Nothing felt right.

"I last saw him in the lobby," Brian said. "With Nick."

I could feel the woman's gaze. I ran my tongue over my lips, noting that there were several cracked spots. I needed chapstick. I needed to raid Howie's chapstick. It was a sad day when your own band mate could give out tubes of lip protection to strangers but not to someone who was almost blood. He was--

"Mr. Carter?"

I sucked my tongue back into my mouth. I suddenly felt too big for the small chair I had sat down in. I stretched out my legs and wiggled my foot.

"We went to Taco Bell," I said. "We had a smoke on the way there and ordered a shitload of burritos. AJ," a lump rose in my throat. "he asked me to meet me back in his room around twelve-thirty. He wanted to see if farts really do catch on fire."

"Not that again," Bri groan. I was too afraid of getting yelled at by the chick to look at him. I heard him shift slightly. "You weren't going to come get me?" Now he sounded hurt.

"Well, I--"

"After you came back from Taco Bell," Officer Lennon continued. "Where did he go?"

"Back here," I waved my hand."Back to his room. I think."

"You think?" She gave me a condescending smile. "Mr. Carter, this isn't some silly crime show on TV. We don't get cases solved on gut feelings or hunches. We get things done with facts. And if you can't give me the facts, well," she gave me a steely gaze.

"The person who did they to your friend will never be found."

"So you think that really was AJ's blood?" Brian's voice cracked towards the end. Officer Lennon didn't crack. I decided right then and there that she was void of sympathy.

"We rule nothing out. At the moment everything's clouded under a heavy veil of suspicion. Everything...and everyone."

Chapter 3 by evergreenwriter83
5:00 A.M.

Normally, I'm the strong one between Frack and I, honestly. Normally, Nick freaks out and I catch the fall out and put him back together again. I'm the grown up between us two, I'm the one who has the answers.... but this - well, this was different. This was AJ... This was...

Officer Lennon had excused herself the moment I broke down, retreating to the hallway, saying she had some paperwork to do there. I collapsed into Nick, grabbing onto his shirt and balling my fist as I pressed my forehead against his shoulder. I felt like I'd been socked in the gut. Nick sat stone still, his hands wringing ceaselessly in his lap, and staring straight ahead at the wall.

"What's going on?" Howie's voice was sleepy. He was standing in the lighted door frame that connected our two rooms. "I heard Brian and --"

Heard me? It wasn't until he'd said those words that I realized I'd been sobbing like a four year old kid. I released Nick's shirt and sat up, wiping tears away from my eyes and drool away from my mouth with the back of my hand. Nick's shoulder was soaked. His eyes swiveled towards mine. Jedi Mind Tricks, unapproved by the FBI.

Howie's forehead wrinkled in concern. "Guys?"

"Howie," Nick croaked, "Howie, we - I -"

Howie stepped into the room. "Nick?"

Suddenly the door to the hall swung open and Officer Lennon re-entered the room as though she owned it. She threw a bloody mass in a huge ziplock type bag onto the mahogany table top. "Do either of you recognize this?" she demanded.

Howie looked like he was about to drop to his knees, his hands shook. "What's -- what's that?" He came closer.

Officer Lennon's eyes flickered warily to him. "Who is this?" she demanded.

"Thats Howard," Nick answered.

Officer Lennon's eyes flicked to Nick with distaste, then back to Howie. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you a few questions," she started.

I tried to say he doesn't know yet, I tried to squeak out a word of warning for Howie - whose best friend, whose equivilent to my Frack, was who we were talking to - but I felt my throat close up.

"Question me?" Howie squeaked, "Question me about what?" Then his eyes lit up with recognition. "Holy Toledo," he gasped, "Is that AJ's skullee jacket?" he asked, looking at the ziplock bag.

"I need to speak to you about the murder of one, Alex McLean," Officer Lennon spat the words... as though they meant nothing.

Howie's eyes went wide and his skin got pale. "Murder?" he whispered.



"Oh God, Howie's going to flip," I said as Officer Lennon followed him back to his suite.

"I can't believe how tactless she was," Bri murmured. He sniffled.

"I know! Can't she see he's Inconsolable?"

Bri gave me a look, but it was like the dam had burst open. The shock had worn off and my tongue had loosened. For a whole hour I had been the mature one of our duo. But, I don't handle tragedy well. When tragedy strikes I become like that odd geeky guy who decides to stand up during Open Mic night at the club.

"We're all going to be Incomplete without him," I continued.

Bri's face was a combination of pasty skin and blotchy-ness from crying. "Nick, what the hell are you--"

I put my hand on his shoulder. "I Just Want You to Know that I love you, man."

Bri leaned forward and took a sniff. "So you are drunk."

"No, I'm not! It's all so much More than That."

"You're speaking in song titles!"

"It's because I can't comprehend this! AJ's Never Gone!"

Bri shook off my hand and reached up to grab my shoulders. He shook me. "Shut up!"

"I can't! I'm Climbing the Walls! I'm Shattered! I'm In Pieces!"


My jaw loosened and hung slack. I was like a guppy for a few seconds.

"You...hit me," I whispered. My voice rose. "I'm telling Everybody!"


Bri and I hadn't full bodied wrestled in years, but the turmoil of the evening had made him snap. He jumped on me like an alligator flying out of the water to snap at prey.

"What are you two doing?!"

Suddenly Brian was airborne. An officer had him by the arms, lifting him off me. I sat up feeling ruffled. Howie's eyes were beet red. He folded his arms and shook his head. Right behind him was Officer Lennon.

"I'd suggest that you two get it together," she said icily. She came up to me and stared down. If it was any other woman, I would have tried to sneak a peek up her skirt. But I didn't. She pointed right at my nose.

"Just a word of advice, Mr. Carter..."

"Don't leave town."
Chapter 4 by Pengi
8:30 A.M.

I was sitting on the balcony of the hotel, staring out at the city. I felt numb. Howie was laying on the bed in the room in the dark with a damp cloth over his eyes. Nick's enrgies were being channeled elsewise; he was pacing, muttering angrily under his breath about the Phony Bitch Investigator, which he was certain "F.B.I." stood for at this moment. I wasn't about to tell him that phony wasn't spelled with an F.

"Me," he snapped, "A suspect...That's bullshit."

"You act guilty when you're nervous," I said in a monotone, "You always have, that's why it's so easy to pin stuff on you."

Nick shook his head, "This is way more serious than trying to convince Kevin I was the one that spilled tomato sauce in the fridge and didn't clean up," he said, "This is more serious than telling Kevin I was the one who broke the window in that hotel room..."

"That was Howie, actually," I mumbled, "With the ironing board."

Nick stopped pacing and stared at me.

"I did the tomato sauce thing," I clarified, "But Howie was the broken window person."

Nick raised an eyebrow. "Howie? Really?" he thought about it, then turned away and started pacing once again. "The point of the matter is it's not okay that I'm a suspect in AJ's muuu--" he couldn't get the word murder out, so he stopped trying after he muuu-muuuu'd a few times.

If I wasn't so numb, I might've laughed and pointed out that he sounded like a cow.

"It's bullshit," Nick repeated.

I sighed.

"Fucking Bullshit Investigation," he added, pacing even more vigorously than ever before.

"I can't believe he's dead," I whispered.

It'd been only a few hours, but it already felt like years since I'd seen AJ's face. My mind was hazy about what he looked like, about the finer points of his features. I gnawed on my lip. I could almost hear him in my head, saying some stupid thing about Nick's ranting, betting me fifty bucks that he came up with more acronymns for FBI within the hour.

AJ liked to bet fifty bucks on almost anything.

Nick cussed and spit over the side of the balcony.

"Will you please calm down?" I asked him.

He looked at me. "Calm down?" he asked, "Brian, AJ's dead! How the fuck am I supposed to calm down?"

I looked away.

I wasn't really sure because honestly my heart was pumping blood as venomous as Nick's words were, I just had never been raised to speak it. I didn't have words to wrap around my emotions to shoot out like rocket. Nick had always been good at personifying his emotion, at putting words and actions around it. I'd never been good at it. But Nick... he always seem to come up with something to say, something to do, that would make everything better. But really, what was Nick gonna do now? There wasn't anything that could bring AJ back from the dead.



It came to me at noon. Brian and I were sitting in an oxygen bar (yes, an oxygen bar) in the middle of Stockholm. It was as if all the extra air grabbed all the jagged pieces of my thoughts and put them together in a nice, easy-to-assemble puzzle.

"That's it!" I said loudly. Several people looked my way. Bri's eyes flew open.

"What's it?" he whispered. I gave an apologetic wave to the people glaring at me and pressed my spine against the back of my chair.

"I know what we can do," I whispered back.

"Of course you do. You heard her. We, well at least you don't leave town."

"That's not what I mean. I don't trust them."

"Nick, they're the professionals. They're going to analyze all that," Bri paused, swallowing painfully, "evidence and see if they can get DNA to find out who did this."

"And how long's that going to take? Weeks? Months? Years? I'm sorry Bri, but I'm not going to stay around here sitting on my ass. You saw how that Lennon chick looked at me. She hates me. Why would she help anyone associated with me? We've got to do this."

"We? Do you have a mouse in your pocket?"

"Bri, I can't do this alone. I'll screw this up."

"Screw what up?"

I bit my lip. "I have to show you something."

He didn't answer. I sat up, reached into my jacket, and pulled out an IPod. Bri's face didn't change.


I held it closer to him. "This is AJ's IPod. He never goes anywhere without it."

Bri winced. "Nick, I don't...I don't think he had a choice."

I shook my head. "No, I think there's a clue."

"A clue? Nick we're not the Hardy Boys!"


"Never mind."

I turned on the device, typed in AJ's password (9009 - otherwise known as 'boob' on a calculator turned upside down) and pressed the Music button. "Look."

Blue eyes turned and studied the screen. "I don't get it."

"It's Bow Chicka Wow Wow."


"It's on repeat."


"Remember? I played this song so much that J said he wanted it to burn in the fiery depths of hell? Why would it be on repeat?"

Bri blinked. "Because AJ's all bark and no bite and was probably enjoying every second of your torture?"

I shook my head. "No, I don't think so. Look at the cover art. Where's Mike Posner sitting?"


"Humor me!"

He leaned in closer. "A plane?"

"Exactly." I smiled proudly.

"I don't get it. And even if I did get it, where do you think he went Sherlock?"

I looked back down at the screen.

"I don't really get it either."

"And I don't have a clue where he'd go unwillingly. But willingly..."

"I might have a hunch." "Well, that's great, but you can't leave town."

Bri was giving me one of the looks he gave Baylee when he caught the kid rolling around on his scooter without the giant blinged-out Wylee helmet that Leighanne made him wear. It was half irritation, half pity.

"Nick, there's nothing we can do. You certainly can't get on a plane."

A knot rose in my throat. The image of Mike Posner swam in front of me. This was AJ. One night, right when we had first started in the group, we had become blood brothers in a shitty hotel room. We were the two youngest. I had a duty. Why did Brian not see this?

"I can leave," I said stubbornly.

"I just have to make a few...alterations."
Chapter 5 by evergreenwriter83
6:00 P.M.

It'd been a week.

It's weird, how the world keeps spinning after somebody dies. Especially when you're close to them. I think there's nothing more sobering than the way life goes on without them. It's like, as a survivor, we half expect the world to just stop, for life as we know it to brown and wilt and eventually fade away the moment the people that are in our daily lives are gone. It doesn't seem like anything should exist any longer if they aren't there.

But one step at a time, you get over it.

And it's kind of like they were never there at all.

Except that Nick had gone mental.

We were stuck in Sweden still because the FBI had yet to give Nick clearance to leave. Associates of Officer Lennon had returned a couple times to question him, but she didn't come back herself at all. She seemed this phantom bad memory of Nick's, a threat that never materialized. But Nick was always cussing under his breath, receiving weird phone calls, and sneaking out of the hotel room that we were now sharing at night without saying anything.

I'll be honest, I was kind of starting to wonder about him myself.

That is until dinner, one week after he'd banged on my door announcing he'd found the bloody hotel room, when he ordered champagne from the hotel restaurant and looked at me seriously across the table. I stared at my plate of pasta. "Brian," Nick announced, "I've figured it out."

"Figured what out?" I asked.

Nick took a deep breath.

"We gotta solve this ourselves."

"We can't even leave the city, Nick," I said.

"We can't," he answered slowly.

I raised my eyebrow.

"But Officer Gustov and Officer Sheppardcan."

"Who's that?" I asked.

Nick glanced around, then reached into the backpack he had at his feet. He withdrew a wallet, which he handed across the table to me. I stared at the smooth black leather, and then slowly flipped it open. Inside was a badge, declaring Officer Sheppard was from the Los Angeles Federal Bureau of Investigation. Inside was identification - a driver's license. And staring up from that license was... well, me. But I was labeled Kyle Sheppard.

I looked up at Nick, my heart racing.

"Where the hell did you get this?" I demanded.

"I had them made," Nick answered quietly.

I threw the wallet at him. "Nick, you need to get rid of these," I said, my voice raising to a squeak, "Do you have any clue how much trouble you could get into with that?"

He took a deep breath, "Bri...AJ's dead and -"

"And the real FBI is taking care of the investigation," I hissed, shoveling a mouthful of pasta into my mouth.

Nick shook his head, "Dude, Brian, they're wasting all their time looking into me instead of the real person that killed one of our best friends."

"Well you have been acting weird lately," I answered in an accusatory tone. "Sneaking around and being all weird..."

Nick reached for his bag, "You want to see why I've been acting weird?" he demanded. He pulled out two .45s and slid one across the smooth, maroon table cloth at me.

My heart almost stopped as the heavy metal fell into my hand.

"I've been getting everything we need, Brian," he whispered. "I've put a lot of thought and effort into this and... I need you to get on board."

I stared at the gun in my hand.

"Oh Lord," I muttered, feeling the pasta I'd been shoveling rise up in my throat. I pushed the gun back to Nick, leaped up, and ran to the rest room.



I have anticipated Brian freaking out. Brian was the good boy. The boy that tried to find a church on Sunday no matter where we were. The guy that brought old ladies on stage because he didn't feel cheat-y that way.

So sliding him a gun across the table probably wasn't the brightest idea. Bri was kind of like a virgin. You kind of had to ease them in, get them comfort, and then go for broke.

By the time Bri returned I had pocketed both guns and finished dinner. He sank down and picked up a napkin, dabbing at his forehead. I folded my arms calmly and we stared at each other.

"Nick..." he begged.

"Preston," I corrected. "Preston Gustov. Secret agent by day. Lover by night."

"I can't help you."

I had prepared myself for that as well. I smiled. "Why?"

"Why? Because if we're caught we're going to get arrested and put away for a long time. You can't go around impersonating government officials!"

"I know we can do a better job as impersonators than the real deal can."

"You don't even know how to shoot a gun," Brian argued.

"Yes, I do. Kevin took me once."

"When? Fifteen years ago?"

I scowled. "Don't worry about it. Bri, I'm going to be honest. I do need help and you're the only one I trust."

"What about Howie? Why don't you ask him? Where's his badge?"

I snorted. "D's a good man, Bri, but he doesn't have the instincts we do. Besides, Howie and I don't work well together, But you...we're Frick n' Frack. You can read my mind without me having to open my mouth."

"Which is good because your breath reeks most of the time."

"No it doesn't." I lifted my palm to my face and blew hard. The aroma of garlic bread swirled around me. I blew again.

"It smells good," I argued.

Brian drained the last of his drink. "Let's go back to the hotel."

"We're not going back to the hotel."

"Yes we are."

"I'm not."

"Where are you going?"

I patted the inside of my jacket. Nestled in my pack of cigarettes were two airline tickets.

"First, are you with me Sheppard?"

"People will recognize us."

Even though it was an argument, it was a faltering one. He was weakening. I leaned forward and glanced around.

"I have disguises."

"What, fake mustaches?"

"No, I have professional stuff. Noses, wigs, scars. Brian, this is an adventure that could mean the difference between finding out the truth or having AJ's possible death be all in vain. Doesn't he mean more to you than that?"

Guilt. It was the last blow to his already crumbling stubbornness. His shoulders rose and fell.

"I swear to God if we get caught--"

"I'll take more of the blame."

"I have a wife and son. I'll never see Baylee grow up if I'm behind bars."

"But on the other hand, they'll think you're a hero if you help me figure this out."

I pulled out the gun and nudged him under the table with it. He hesitated a moment before taking it. We stared at each other again.

"So where are we going?" he asked. I pulled out my cigarette pack.

"One clue," I said.

Chapter 6 by Pengi
10:00 P.M.

"This is never going to work," I argued for about the millionth time as Nick and I inched our way forward toward the customs gate. Nick was fumbling with the holster belt for the gun, trying to undo it. I felt sick to my stomach. Mine was already hanging over my elbow.

I'd almost blown our cover in the first ten seconds of trying to play the game.

We'd arrived at the airport in Stockholm and a very polite security officer had patiently put up with me trying to walk through the metal detector with the gun still holstered to my ass. Course the only reason I hadn't ended up arrested right then and there was because of the FBI identification that I had shoved into my suitcoat's breast pocket, which Nick had to remind me was there.

"Kyle," he'd said, coming over, "Show the man your badge."

"Oh..." I'd muttered, digging for it.

"He's a rookie," Nick had said to the officer.

Now we were in Japan and my palms were soaked. "Someone, somewhere is gonna catch on to this," I mumbled.

Nick shook his head, "I'm telling you, I covered all our bases."


Nick shoved me forward. I stumbled up to the petite woman, whose wide almond eyes were kind. I glanced to her left and saw a pinched-looking, sour-faced guy. I was glad I got the doe-eyed woman for my customs agent. I dropped the gun and the badge on the counter, along with my passport. "Hi," I stammered.

She didn't answer, just started processing my stuff.

I imagined the silence to mean she was secretly calling security and trying to keep a straight face. My heart raced. "I'm in the FBI," I stammered. "In Los Angeles," I added. She glanced up. "My name is Kyle." She blinked. "I'm solving a murder. Someone murdered a guy in Sweden and we're investigating here. My partner Ni---- Preston, he's - he has blonde hair. My hair is red."

We'd dyed them before leaving.

"I like sushi," I added.

She stamped my passport and pushed it across the counter to me.

Nick was waiting by a vending machine, buying Hi-Chew. "Hey, there you are," he said as I approached him.

"I don't like this," I whispered.

Nick laughed, "Br--Kyle, you're being paranoid. Relax."

"See? Even you are messing up the names now..." I glanced around nervously.

"Stop that or they'll think you're doing something illegal," Nick said, hitting my arm to keep me from turning left to right any more.

"I am doing something illegal," I hissed.

"Well stop acting like it," Nick snapped, and turned on his heel, shoving a piece of mango Hi-Chew into his mouth and leading the way into the thick mass of the crowd. I followed along, feeling like every security camera in the place was aimed at me... certain I was about to be jumped by a thuglike security officer.



"How come you got to keep the blonde?" Bri hissed as we stood side by side pissing in a McDonald's right across the street from the airport. Our duffel bags were sitting by our feet.

"It's more a light grayish brown," I said out of the corner of my mouth.

"Grayish brown? That's two different things."

"Well, it's different isn't it?"

We both zipped up and kicked our bags to the sinks. I wished my hands and stared at my reflection in the mirror. I wasn't used to the silver frames and the thin zig-zag scar that spread across my cheek."

"I look twelve."

"You needed to look younger than me."

"These contacts are driving me nuts. They keep floating."

"You look pretty with brown eyes."

Bri hit the air dryer with his elbow. "Never tell me I look pretty. Ever again."

"Sorry," I said. I kicked my bag to the second air dryer and held my hands under a second. I shook off the rest and wiped them on the back of my pants. We both grabbed the straps of our bags and swung them up over our shoulders.



"What's your plan?"

"In the big scheme of 'bad guys who might want to hurt AJ,' the first people that came to mind were those Japanese bookies that AJ owed a big hunka change to after he picked the loser in that championship robotics match."

"I didn't know anything about that. AJ bet on robots?"

"It was right after Wall-e came out," I explained. "He thought anything metal with big eyes was cute."

"So you think they killed him?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. But I know AJ. He loved Japan. He had a lot of old girlfriends lying around the city, too. If the bookies don't pan out, I say we go visit a couple of them. Who knows what other shit he might have gotten into?"


I shrugged. "Maybe."

We walked through the restaurant and hit the doors. Once outside, Bri began to walk like he had a pack of dogs chasing him.

"Slow down!"

"I'm nervous!"

"Pretend this is a movie and you're an actor. For God's sake act calm."

He slowed. His hand went to his gun.

"I got us a room at a cheap hotel. We're going to have to rough it. If the Foolish Brainless Insiders actually start tracking us, they're going to be looking at medium-to-higher priced lodgings."

"You've got a point."

It was the first compliment he had given me. I smiled. "Why, thank you."

"This is gross."

"It's not that bad."

"This is like your bus if someone closed it up tight for three months and then opened it and a whole bunch of cats had come in and chased mice over and under every square inch."

"You're a drama king. I'm sorry we don't have golden stairs and fancy pictures of naked fat chicks from 200 B.C. hanging on the walls like the friggin' entrance hall of your mansion."

Bri threw his bag down. A large cloud of dust lifted up. "You're talking like you're poor! You have money to decorate!"

"I have more important things to do! Besides, you know deep down you'd rather have a whole bunch of b-ball memorabilia and some Budweiser Girl posters up."

"I would not."

I snickered. "You can deny all you want Red, but I know the real you. The you that use to do the sniff test to judge the re-wearability of your socks."

"I grew up."

"Well, Mr. Grown Up," I said, gesturing towards the one bed in the room. "I hope you're mature enough to share. I'm exhausted and I've packed a lot into our agenda tomorrow."

I slid off my black slacks and tossed them on the chair. I scratched my ass and crawled into bed. Bri still stood there dumb-founded. I patted the pillow. When nothing crawled out, I smashed my head down.

"Remember, Sheppard..."

"No funny business."
Chapter 7 by evergreenwriter83
7:00 A.M.

"Why the hell did you sleep there?"

I peeked out of one slitted eye to see Nick looming over me. "Because that bed is very tiny and you kept trying to spoon me," I answered groggily.

"Well... whatever. It's time to get up," he said.

I sat up as he moved away and felt a sharp pain shoot through my neck. I clutched at the crick. "Ouch," I groaned. "Crap."

Looking around, I could tell Nick had been up awhile. That was so un-Nick like it was ridiculous. He stood by the bed, and was rooting through his duffle bag. He unearthed a sheath of papers and pulled out what looked like a print out from Google Maps.

Because every agent for the FBI uses Google Maps to find out where they're going.

He turned to look at me. "Might wanna load your gun," he said, "You might actually need it." He was now rooting around again, pulling out thick black cartridges for the gun he had in his hand.

I stared at it as he fiddled with it. The barrel warbled around and, at one point, was aiming at his crotch as he tried to figure out what he was doing. He hit the cartridge with the heel of his hand, trying to get it into the hole. "Nick!" I snapped. I quickly took the gun away. "You almost blew your nuts off," I said, aiming the gun away and pulling the cartridge out. He had been trying to shove it in upside down.

Nick watched me as I expertly loaded the gun.

"So you know how to work it then," he said, smirking.

"I'm from Kentucky," I answered, "They teach you this crap before you can talk."

Nick laughed and reached for the gun.

"Wait," I said. I pulled it out of his reach. He raised an eyebrow. "Rules for the gun. One, no aiming it at anyone. Two, no touching the trigger. Ever."

Nick snorted and snatched the gun away, "Seriously, it's not like I'm 12 and I'm gonna accidentally blow someone's brains out, Frick," he said, laughing.

"No. You're right. But it is like you're Nick and you're gonna blow somebody's brains out," I said, "Ground rules for the deadly weapon is a safety precaution."

Although I didn't think we'd use it, I loaded my own gun and tucked it into the holster on my hip. Nick tucked in his shirt and wrapped a bright red tie around his neck. I struggled with the contact lenses and, ten minutes later, we both looked... well, we looked like ourselves, but just... different. Now it was more like people you'd say, "You look an awful lot like...." to, than "Oh my God that's..." about. You know?

"Okay, so what are we doing again?"

"Visiting the Japanes Mafia," Nick replied.

I raised my eyebrow.

Nick shrugged, "Well," he said, "I mean..." he paused. "At least we have the guns, right?"



"Here it is. Yazuka headquarters."


"One of them."

We stood looking at a simplistic door. "Sooooo," Bri said, drawing out the word. "What do we do?"

I tugged on my jacket, making sure that it was clearly covering my gun. "I'm going to act like a dumb American who heard about a little gambling opportunity."

"You're kidding. They'll see right through it. They'll take their swords and slice and dice you."

"Do you have a better plan?"

"What am I doing while you do that?"

I pointed to my left. "You're going to figure out a way to look through the windows and see if you can spot J anywhere."

Bri narrowed his eyes. I didn't know if it was a glare because he was pissed or a squint because he couldn't see that well. I pressed the glasses up on the bridge of my nose. I made a fist and banged on the door. I pushed Bri out of the way. He pressed himself up against the wall.

The next few minutes played out like something out of the movies. A tiny little rectangular part of the door slid open. Two teeny tiny eyes looked out. A harsh voice rambled something in Japanese. I just smiled.

"Howdy!" I said. "I'm Buck McAllister. I'm from the good ole' state of Texas. A little birdie told me that I needed to come and see you."

The eyes disappeared for a second. When they reappeared, they shone even more suspicious. "What you want?" the voice snapped.

I leaned in closer to the door, lowering my obnoxious southern oil-tycoon voice. "A friend reckoned we could see you if I could talk you into letting me, er, play. I've been told you're entertainment specialists."

"What friend?"


"Wilbur? We no know no Wilbur."

"Well y'know what they say," I said. Brian rounded the corner. "Two no's make a yes."



The guy shoved his hand through the slot and pointed at me. I felt sick when I realized he was missing part of his finger. The tip had healed, but I could clearly see a jagged X.

"Show me money."

I slowly reached into my jacket pocket, being mindful about the gun. I pulled out a roll of cash. It was a hundred dollar bill wrapped around a shitload of one's and five's. I held it up. "Here."

Initially, I didn't think my plan would work. I had an inkling I'd have to make a run for it. To my shock, the dude disappeared and a second later the door swung open.

I hesitated.

"You. Come."

I didn't want to go in alone, but I knew I couldn't go chase down Brian. "Where am I going?"

"You want to see show? You come with me."

Now I was confused. "There's a show?"

"Give me money."

I pressed the money to my chest. "No. How do I know you're going to show me anything if I give you my money?"

The dude was a lot shorter than me but he didn't hesitate to bring the mean. I couldn't believe I was arguing with someone who had most likely killed before. The tension mounted until finally the guy nodded. "You come and pick one out first. You pay before show though."

"O-ookay," I said. The guy walked sideways, keeping an eye on me as we entered the building. The wooden door slammed shut.

The inside was pretty dark. The only light was coming from the small windows. My heart was pounding loudly as I thought I saw Bri's face appear in one for a fraction of a second. I made sure not to look at the windows as I followed the money-hungry mafioso. He turned down a hallway and I looked around, making sure I could retrace my steps before moving myself forward.

"One, two, or three. Peek quick. Give me number. Then show."

I was expecting robots. Or roosters. As I stepped up to the first door and my short mafia guide slid back a small rectangular window in the door, I wasn't expecting what my eyes drank in. The room held a pole, a couch...

And a chick.

"Are doors two and three the same?" I asked. The dude smiled. He was missing a lot of teeth.

"Different color couches."
Chapter 8 by Pengi

I couldn't see through any of the windows. The stupid things were so dirty, and some in the back had been painted over black. I wandered back toward the front, and wondered what Nick was doing. I pressed my ear against the wall beside the door, hoping to hear him talking in that stupid accident or something, but I heard nothing. I sighed and slid to my ass on the street and decided to wait there for Nick.

Suddenly the door opened. The dude that had taken Nick into the building stepped out into the street and was about to take a pee when he realized I was there. He stuffed himself back into his pants and eyeballed me. "Who you?" he demanded.

I sat there dumbfounded a moment. What the hellhad been the name Nick had said again? I tried to remember. "W-W-wwwwww--- Walter!" I guessed. I knew it started with a W, at least.

The guy squinted at me. He was evidently trying to remember what name Nick had said, too. "You belong to Texas man?" he asked. "He busy."


"He... he asked me.. to... to meet him here," I stammered.

"He not want to meet you right now," snapped the guy, and he turned around and started to walk away to pee a little further down the street.

I remembered Nick pulling out the wad of cash. I reached into my wallet and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. "I- I have cash," I called.

He stopped and turned around and squinted at me.

"Okay, I show you. He picked purple couch."

Purple couch? What a weird name for a robot. I imagined Rock'em Sock'em meets Rocky meets Wall-E meets... You get the idea.

The guy led me into the room and I almost gagged. It smelled worse in there than Nick's bus did in 105 degree heat with 80% humidity. It was rank. "Nice - er - place you - uh - got here," I mumbled, trying to be polite.

"No talk," snapped the dude. He stopped at a door. "This door two," he said, "Purple couch in there. Money?"

I handed him the money.

He opened the door.

A very naked lady was doing a handstand over a purple couch, where Nick was reclined quite happily, and she was doing something I'd really rather have never witnessed.

"That cost more," the guy growled.

Nick looked up and his eyes widened.


I felt like a kid who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  For a moment Brian's stunned face was blocked from view as the girl's legs scissored open and closed.  My heart fell to my stomach.

He was going to freak out.

He was going to blow it.

He was going to fall to the floor and scream like a little girl. I was pretty sure he hadn't seen a woman's naked body except for Leighanne's for the past fourteen years. He probably had forgotten what they looked like.

Just as I was thinking the worst, sure enough, his knees began to buckle. He was going to hit the floor and beg forgiveness for seeing the limber lady who was a smooth as a slip-n-slide.  He was going to get us killed.

"D-double 'ya," I said, pronouncing "W" in the only Texas-like way I knew how, which in hindsight probably wasn't so Texan. I couldn't exact remember what "W" name I had thrown out before. "If you pay the man a little extra, you could check out another couch for me."

I hoped he would take the hint. Yes, I was enjoying the show.  But I also knew that we needed to look for AJ.  If he would only take the hint, I'd sneak out, knowing mafia dude was busy with him, and start opening doors like crazy.  It was a large warehouse. I needed to work my master ninja skills.  I wasn't sure, but I had a feeling I had paid for at least another hour for the room I was in. An hour would give me time. It would--

"What goin' on?" the dude demanded.  I could tell his suspicions were heightened.

Bri's knees shook again.  I put a hand on the naked girl's thigh. Her thin, lithe body, flipped over. She was a gorgeous Asian girl with her hair streaked in blonde. She took the hint and headed for the pole.  I settled back in the couch. I might not have been the best actor in Hollywood either, but I wasn't going to bust us so soon.

"Aw hell," I said impatiently. I withdrew another wad of money. "I was waiting for Double-ya to get here so I could surprise him, but my dumb friend here is making it difficult.  It's his birthday. Show him to another room."

I wasn't sure where all the other mafia members were, but this guy didn't seem to care how badly we were pulling this off as long as we waved green American bills in front of his face. He crossed the room, eyes the pole girl's ass for a second, and took the bundle. Bri crossed himself quickly before the guy turned around.

"What you want? American Red or African Yellow?"

Now that I was clear that robot fights was slang for stripper-prostitutes, I was prepared to answer the guy's question for my buddy.  I had chosen Asian purple, and sure enough, I had a purple couch and an Asian girl.  I smiled.

"See my buddy' s hair color?  He's All-American.  Give him an Apple Pie girl and a red Couch my good man."

The dude smiled. His teeth were tiny and slightly pointed. I wondered for a breath second if the mafia members weren't cross-bred with werewolves.

"Ah, you like her. She's new and scared just like you are pussy-cat man."

I couldn't help it; I laughed.  I was tempted to pay the guy extra just to hear Bri called "pussy-cat man" again.

"Wait--" Bri said, his voice cracking.  I waved my hand.

"Have fun, man," I said, putting an emphasis on 'fun.'  "Take your time! I'll be scoping out these sights."

The dude pointed down the hall. I could see Bri visibly gulp. He walked like a guy heading to death row rather than someone who was going to get some boobs smashed in his face.

"Maybe I should have picked D," I muttered as the door closed.
Chapter 9 by Pengi

"Red couch. Come with me."

I could've killed Nick. He grinned, winked, gave me a thumbs-up, and watched as I got hauled out of the room. I wondered if he'd ever thought these guys were involved in robots or if he'd just been looking to get laid after all the tension with Leggy Lennon or what.

I couldn't believe Nick had dragged me - me, Brian Littrell - to a freaking Japanese harem.

For a tiny little Japnese man with only half his fingers, he was amazingly strong. I stumbled into the room as he guided me by my elbow. Sure enough, there was, indeed, a red couch. And a stage with a pole, much like the last room we were in. And sitting on the stage was a girl - also similar to the last room, except she was the palest white I've ever seen, like she'd been deprived of sunlight for a few months, the color Leighanne's legs get in the winter. She was wearing lingerie with little pink flowers all over it. Her brown hair was in a pony tail.

She looked up, her eyes wide and frightened as the door crashed open, and scrambled to her feet.

"You supposed to be ready," snapped the man, and he started to stride over towards her, angry. She flinched away and ducked behind the pole, as though to separate them.

An extraordinary thing happened at that moment - a phrase went through my head, a phrase which I never would have voluntarily thought in any place other than at a Japanese harem.

What Would Nick Do?

"Excuse me," I stammered, allowing my Kentucky accent to shimmer though, "But I believe my - my friend, he - he um - he paid for me to have time t-t-touching her, not - not you?" The Japanese guy stopped mid-step and the girl lowered to a crouch behind the pole. He turned to look at me. "I-I like'em shy," I said, and I forced myself to wink.

Mafioso grumbled and turned away from the girl, who remained in her crouched position, her hands clutching the pole, hiding most of her face behind her, peeking around it, and stumbled toward the door. "One hour," he muttered, and closed the door behind him.

Hopefully, he wouldn't catch Nick.

Thankfully, he wasn't in here anymore.

"Oh thank God," I muttered and lowered myself onto the couch.

The girl sighed resignedly and stood up. She slithered around the pole and reached behind her for the clasp of her bra. "What would you like?" she asked in a shaking voice.

"Keep your brrr-- brrr--- thingy on, for one," I said, covering my eyes as she slid it off. "And maybe add some more clothes while you're at it?"

"You don't want me to dance for you?" she asked, her voice incredulous.

"I'm a married man, thank you," I said.

I waited for what seemed an appropriate amount of time before I opened my eyes again. She was in a robe now - similar to a kimono, I guess. She held it shut with tiny fists. She'd resumed sitting on the edge of the stage. "Why are you here, then," she asked, "If not for the sex?"

"I'm --" I hesitated. "I'm an investigator," I answered.

Her eyes widened. "Oh my God, you're rescuing me."


"Did my daddy send you?" Tears filled her eyes. "We were on vacation, at Fiji, and --"

Maybe Nick and I were hacks at the investigation thing and all, but we'd managed to stumble into what was an apparent sex-trafficking headquarters. I swallowed. This was bad. This was very bad.

"I--" She leaped from the stage and ran over and attached her arms around my neck, crying into my suit jacket. "I.... uhhhh...."

Suddenly, there was gunfire in the hallway.

"Shit," I muttered. I stood up. "I - um..." I looked her over, "Okay. Let's - you - you come with me, and we'll - we're gonna get you out of here." I reached for the gun in my holster. My hand was shaking as I held it out in front of me.

The girl clutched my shoulder.

"My name is Br-- Kyle Sheppard," I told her.

"Lucy," she said, "I'm Lucy McCartney."

I nodded. "Okay." Together we stepped forward and I pulled the door opened and poked my head out into absolute chaos.

Nick was running towards me down the hall, arm's aloft, shrieking. "I DIDN'T MEAN TO SHOOT IT!" he screamed as he went by, "HOLY SHIT!"



"Where you go, handsome?"

The girl stopped twirling and looked at me. I glanced towards the door.

"I er, need to use the john."

She looked at me confused. I realized that she probably didn't know the slang.

"Bathroom? Toilet? Washroom?"

"Black door."


As I closed the door and stood in the hallway, I was reminded of my initial impression of the corridor. I felt like I was on Sesame Street. I could hear voices coming from the Red Door. I could almost hear the second hand clicking. I bypassed the black door and headed off towards a part of the warehouse I hadn't yet seen.

I kept close to the wall, my eyes darting left and right. I kept my hand on the handle of my gun.

It looked like the warehouse was home for a whole jack of trades. Dead fish swung from hooks in one part of the warehouse. I spotted bins of truffles next to crates filled with white powder. It didn't take a genius to figure out what all that could have been.

A large hulking shape in a far corner made me slow down. I thought my nose detected a hint of blood over the smell of fish guts. I crept forward. I heard a moan.

"AJ?" I whispered. "AJ, it's Nick."

I glanced down and saw that the floor had turned noticeably darker. Even though it looked black, I had a feeling it was just the way the blood had turned when it hit air. I had to force myself not to faint.


I was close now. In hearing range. The huddled mass on the floor looked up.

Unless AJ was Japanese, this wasn't our guy. He was holding his hands. The tips of three of his fingers had been cut off. The slash on his forehead didn't look great either. The dude started screaming at the top of his lungs in Japanese.



I whirled around. Our couch 'friend' had snuck up behind me. I felt the blood drain from my face.

"I was...looking for...the bathroom?"

He wasn't buying it. He pointed at me.


"Yeah, those!" I yelled back, pointing at the swinging ceiling fish.

He didn't get the irony of it. All of a sudden he broke into a war cry. From his waistband he yanked out a huge ass sword. I jumped back as he sliced the air.







Double slice.

I was performing something akin to the Mexican Hat Dance. By the time I processed the information and realized we had just infiltrated the place for nothing, I was sweating like a pig. Anger and desperation kicked in. Forgetting Brian's warning, I yanked out my gun and held it up.


The dude didn't freeze. If anything, it made him madder. He crouched down and charged at me. Panicked, I yanked down on the release and squeezed the trigger.


The bullet richocheted off the sword and clipped my shoulder. I did what any mature, fake-copy who had just got shot would do.

I stuck the gun back in my belt, turned, ran, and screamed at the top of my lungs. Somehow my mom's only good advice about keeping whatever's bleeding above your head jumped into my brain. I threw my arms up in the air.

It was mayhem. The door to the red room flew open. Brian had a cute, albeit pale, girl by the arm. I'm sure my eyes must have been wild with panic. I waved with my good arm.


Chapter 10 by evergreenwriter83
12:45 PM

"Oh good Lord!" I bolted out the door, pulling Lucy along, then shifted so she was in front of me. "Run," I commanded her, "RUN!" Nick caught up and almost slammed into my back, his shrieks louder than ever as a thundering footfall came up behind us.


Our angry Japanese friend's voice echoed through the cement and metal of the warehouse as we catapulted ourselves towards the door. My hands were shaking. One hand pushed Lucy forward, the other clutched the gun I'd pulled from my holster. Nick's cries echoed even louder than the mafioso's...


We reached the front door and Lucy shoved it open, still clutching her robe as she rushed into the Tokyo sunlight. Nick stumbled and I heard his body hit the cement floor. The wind woofed out of him. I screched to a halt. Lucy stood in the sunlight, traumatized-looking, eyes wide. "GO!" I yelled. She bolted.

I turned around. Our buddy was slashing a sword through the air, face red with rage. I raced back and grabbed Nick by the neck of his shirt. "Get up!"

"Go on without me," he groaned dramatically.

"Unless you want to be like the tomato on those knife infomercials I suggest you move your ASS," I shouted at him.


I turned and, without thinking, aimed the gun. "FREEZE," I screamed.

He froze.

Nick looked over his shoulder. "Hey, he didn't stop when I pulled my gun!"

I stood over Nick, gun leveled, hands shaking. "Drop your sword." With a clatter it fell to the floor.

"How many of these girls are here on their own will?" I demanded, nodding to the rooms. "And how many of them were trafficked?"

Mafioso looked confused.

"Don't pretend you don't know what I'm saying. I want the girls. All of them. Now." He didn't move. "NOW," I yelled. My voice must've been fierce enough to scare the bejesus out of him because he bolted down the hall and started opening the doors and shouting in Japanese at the ladies inside. A tall black woman in a kimono and Nick's purple couch woman came out of the rooms, teary-eyed.

I nodded over my shoulder, "Get behind me," I commanded them. They scrambled behind me as Nick got to his feet.

"Now," I said slowly, "You're going to sit down on the floor, right there... and we're going to leave... and if you come after us, I promise you that the fifty guys we got in the alley way out there will make sure your blood's on the street. Do you understand me?"

"Wakaru," he nodded vigorously, "Wakarimashita.

I nudged Nick backwards, not taking my eyes off him. Slowly, we stumbled out the door and onto the street, the two girls being herded by Nick. I pulled the door closed and, keeping my gun level, just in case, we backed down the street.

Lucy was crouched behind a dumpster around the corner. "C'mon," Nick beckoned her. I was still backing away from the doors. "C'mon... Let's go. Officer Sheppard just saved all our asses."



"Okay, this isn't Disney World. We can't bring along souvenirs. What are we going to do with--" I made a motion to the huddled girls.

Bri put the gun back into his belt. He was calm. We had run for what seemed like three miles. How the hell was he calm? "We put them in cabs and let them take it from there."

"I'm not going anywhere near another Japanese person."

That lovely, non-racist remark flew from the red couch girl. She clutched at the kimono, her bottom lip trembling, but her eyes all shiny as they didn't move from Brian.

"Then take your cab to the airport, toots," I said.


"Preston," I hissed.

The other girls in the ground obviously didn't speak very much English. But Miss Observant glanced between the two of us.,br>
"What's going on?" she asked. "And is he always such an asshole?"



Bri and I glared at each other. Then Bri's eyes flicked to my shoulder.

"You're hurt." Now he sounded concerned.

"I took a hit," I said, puffing out my chest. "In the line of duty."

"Is he even a real officer?" Toots asked.

Of all things to get nervous about, Brian paled at that. I turned my attention towards her."Officer Preston Gustov."

Bri had stepped away from us. He had gone about a half a block and was talking to a cabbie. He pointed to the group of girls and headed back.

"Go. You'll be safe. Go."

The Japanese chick that I had seemed to understand English the best. She grabbed the arm of a pretty black girl and nodded. They all stepped forward together."

"Damnit," I whispered. "I feel bad."

"You should," Bri said. He folded his arms. "These girls were all trafficked."


When she was in high school, she was probably a cheerleader, I determined. She was pale, but she had that nature American feist in her eyes.

"Lucy, you go with them. Your father's probably worried sick," Bri said softly.

"No, he wouldn't pay the ransom."


I looked around. Even though Brian's "freeze!" trick had worked on the sword guy, I still didn't feel safe lounging around in the middle of downtown. I tapped Brian on the shoulder. He ignored me.

"My dad's a rich oil man," she said. "I was kidnapped and held for ransom at first. When he didn't pay up, I was given over to the traffickers." Her bravado failed. "If you hadn't been the first guy they sent in, I could have been...been..."

"Shh, it's going to be okay."

Bri wrapped her up in a hug. He patted the top of her head like she was one of those little white yippy dogs he and Leighanne had. "You're okay now."


I turned around. The sword guy had rounded the corner. I don't think he had seen Bri, but he had seen me. He obviously wasn't afraid to go after the 'chicken man' again. I ran forward and smacked right into the huggy-pair.

"Dude, we best cut this trip to Japan short. Find another fucking cab and let's GO!"


Bri grabbed Lucy's hand and the three of us took off down the street. Obviously the scene wasn't out of the ordinary, because pedestrian's just kept walking. Bri honed in on another cab and, without even leaning forward and talking to the driver, threw the girl and himself in. I dove in beside him. The door slammed shut and we took off.

"I'm dizzy," I whined.

I felt fingers on my arm. "The shot only nicked you. You've stopped bleeding."

"I'm dying."

"You can't die. You're the only with the plan."

My plan was crap.

"I need to regroup. Just get us to the airport and on a flight. To anywhere."

"I've always wanted to go to South America."

"You're not going," I growled.

"Officer Sheppard said I could," she gloated.

My eyes flew open. I stared up at Brian. He looked guiltily away.

Damn him.
Chapter 11 by Pengi
2:00 PM

"I thought we agreed that we're not Disney World?" Nick demanded under his breath, "Since when do we make major choices about this op without consulting the other?"

Lucy was a few feet behind us, and acting like she couldn't hear us.

"Since when do we make major choices about this op without consulting one another?" I demanded, emphasizing the op, since it was entirely his idea to impersonate officers traverse the world looking for 'clues'... "I know that you can't get over what happened, I get that, I do, but Nick this is a wild goose chase and the longer we're out of Sweden, the more guilty you look to Lennon and --"

"Excuse me," Lucy's voice piped up. "I- I'm only like five feet away and I'm not deaf and I know you guys are whispering and stuff, but --"

"Good job," Nick hissed.

"Look, obviously your name isn't Preston Gustav and you aren't Kyle Sheppard." Lucy eyed us. "So. How about you guys get honest about what's going on here?" she waved her finger between the three of us.

I looked at Nick.

"No," he snapped, "We don't need to include her in this."

"How do you know I can't help?" Lucy demanded.

"Because you can't," Nick snapped. He looked at me. "This is supposed to be you and me, looking for clues about J, it's supposed to be Frick and Frack and not Frick and Frack and Daisey Duke."

"Daisey Duke?" Lucy looked offended.

Nick ignored her completely, "It's brothers," he said.

"She needs help," I answered.

"I'll say she does," Nick muttered.

But he didn't argue again until we got to the ticketing counter and I realized the one flaw in our plan.

"Papers," I hissed, pulling Nick aside.


"Lucy, she doesn't have papers," I said. "How do we get her through customs without papers?"

Nick stared blankly at me. "I uh --" he paused, his eyes catching on something at my side. He looked up at me, his eyes gleaming. "I have an idea, but... I dunno if Susie-May's gonna go along with it."

Ten minutes later, Nick and I both had one of Lucy's arms and were dragging her toward the ticketing counter as she struggled roughly. Her arms were tucked behind her back and cuffed.

"Excuse me, we have an extremely volatile suspect we're transporting to Brazil," Nick held up his badge into the cashier's face. "I suggest you let us right through."



"You're a genius."

"Shut up. We're not on board ye--oh crap."

I almost pissed my pants. Weaving her way through the airport, like Bellatrix Lestrange popping up from out of nowhere to kill Sirius Black, was Officer Lennon.

"They found us," I hissed.

"Who?" Bri started to turn his head to look.

"Don't! It's Officer Lennon."


"Who's that?" Lucy asked.

"Just walk. Walk. Walk. Casually."

Brian's attempt at casual walk failed miserably. It was hard to walk with Lucy cuffed between us. We headed up the ramp and rounded the corner.

"This the prisoner?" a stewardess asked. We had been asked to board last, less we cause a commotion. I nodded.

"Take the very last seats here. Do you have ankle restraints?"

"Ankle restraints?" Lucy hissed.

"We've got it covered. Thank you," I said politely. I nodded towards Brian. "Go first."

"No you have to go first. That's the only way this will work."

I looked at the seat again and did some quick thinking. He was right. "Okay."

I side stepped into the seats, pulling Lucy along with me. I reached into my duffel bag and pulled out a third set of handcuffs. I locked her right ankle to the seat. Her and Brian sat down at the same time. Bri instantly leaned over our 'prisoner.'

"What if she shows the attendant our pictures?"

"We don't look like ourselves. Don't think the worst."

"What if they search the plane?"

"We boarded last for a reason. They're going to take off in like a minute. Just breathe."

"I insist you guys tell me the truth," Lucy whispered.


"Don't you dare," I said. Bri glared at me.

"She's been through hell already. She doesn't deserve to be scared."

"She's not scared. I'm surprised those crazy dudes even kept her. She asks too many questions."

"Please fasten your seatbelts."

The three of us looked up at the stewardess. Bri made fast work of his seatbelt. I clicked mine. Lucy looked at both of us. "Uhm, excuse me?"

"What?" I asked.

"I can't exactly buckle my own seatbelt!"

She had a point. But I was still grouchy. I snickered. "Well, Sheppard. This is your problem."

As worried as I was about Officer Lennon zeroing in on us, I experienced a great deal of joy at making Brian Littrell uncomfortable. He had to lean in close, practically grabbing under her ass for the seatbelt. His face was a weird shade of...of...puce as he clicked her in.

"Thereyago," he said in a rush.

As I was engrossed in the show, the stewardess had gone through the emergency procedures. The captain came on and, with a heavy Latino accent, announced the temperature in Rio De Janiero, Brazil. Two minutes later we started moving.

"I can't believe it. We weren't caught," Bri said dumbstruck.

The plane did a circle on the tarmac. I glanced out the window and honed in on movement not far away. I began to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"Looks like there's another set of cops transporting a prisoner. They just got taken down by Officer Stilettos."

"I guess the joke's on her."
Chapter 12 by evergreenwriter83
3:00 AM

Nick threw his gun and duffle bag onto the bed in the hotel room and scratched his ass. "I'm gonna go get these damn suitpants off," he muttered, and walked into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. I turned to Lucy.

"Tell me the truth," she demanded.

I swallowed.

"You aren't really FBI agents," she said. I nodded. I felt like that wasn't really giving away any confidence, I mean that much was painfully obvious, wasn't it? "And you weren't really at that place for me."

I shook my head.

"Why then?" she asked.

Nick suddenly came up behind me. He stared at Lucy. "It's not your business," he said, frowning. No - scowling. He wandered by the bed. "Kyle, she'll give away our disguises."

I rolled my eyes.

"Look I already know enough to get you guys into deep shit," Lucy pointed out, "It doesn't matter who you really are, all it takes is one call to the real FBI and you two are toast for those two fake badges."

I glanced nervously at Nick.

"We'd be gone long before those slowpoke bastards caught up to us," Nick answered, "As I demonstrated today. Yesterday. Whenever the fuck it was."

"Not if you didn't know I called," Lucy pointed out.

"Nick," I said, pleading.

Lucy looked at him. "Nick?" she paused. She glanced at me. Mental pieces were falling together. "Wait a second."

"Now you friggin did it," Nick said, turning to me.

"I did it?" I demanded.

"Are you guys --" Lucy squinted. "Are you the guys in NSYNC?"


"NSYNC? NSYNC? Did you just seriously ask us if we were the guys from NSYNC?" Lucy's lips curved into a smile. "Yeah?"

"NO! We're Backstreet Boys!"

Shit. I threw my good arm in the air and let it slam back down against my thigh with a large 'WHACK.' Brian was grinning.

"Ain't she the cutest thing since sliced bread?"

Lucy's smile turned into a grin about as big as Brian's. "Hunh, my psychology courses did work."

My nostrils flared. Sure, the sight wasn't as impressive as when Brian did it, but I could feel them expand. "You can't tell anyone."

"Yes, no, maybe sooooo," she sang.

"How old are you?" I growled. "Twelve?"


I paused. I looked at her again. "You don't look twenty-seven."

She shrugged. "That's what everyone tells me. I figure when if this keeps up, I'll make forty look good."

I wasn't about ready to agree with her. That would have been a compliment. I ran a hand down my face and eyed the bed.

"I don't have time for this right now. I need to regroup." I turned and crawled into one of the two Queen-sized beds in the room. I clicked off the light.

Silence. Then...


I clicked the light back on. "What?"

Bri lifted the handcuffs. Lucy's hand lifted with it. "You have the keys."

It was my turn to act like a little kid. I smirked. "Yup, I do. Goodnight."



I pretended to snore.



A fist slammed into my back. Brian's head lowered to my ear.

"You can't do this. I have to sleep with you."

I flipped the pillow over. I found the coolest section and snuggled, even though my back was starting to throb. "Well, after hitting me, I don't think I'm going to let you touch me tonight, Husband," I said in my best mock-Leighanne voice.

The pillow was yanked from underneath my head.


"I can't be handcuffed to her anymore!"

I flipped on the light. Lucy's face almost made me laugh. "Gee, I didn't know I was that bad," she quipped.

Brian was caught between a rock and a hard place. He looked at her apologetically. "No! I didn't mean it that way! I did, but..."

As angry as I was at him, I decided he had suffered enough. I dug the key out of my shirt pocket, stood up, and unhooked them.

"There. Happy?"

The look on Brian's face said 'not so much.'

"Thank God. I've gotta pee."

There was some girly leg crossing and then Lucy flew into the bathroom. The door shut and Brian started again.

"So what are we going to do here?"

I shrugged. "I said I needed to regroup."

"I don't think we have time for that."

"Well, the good news is that this was one of the places we were going to scope out anyhow. AJ had this really crazy girlfriend one time. Her rich daddy spends most of his time down here."

Bri frowned. "Was that the one during the Black & Blue time? While he was still dating--"

"Jugs?" Jugs was my nickname for Sarah, AJ's ex-fiance.


"Yup. He came down here on the weekends to get hot and heavy with Marisol. He knocked her up and daddy made her get that abortion. Daddy said if he ever saw AJ again he'd cut off his--" I grabbed my balls for emphasis.

"Don't do that."


"Grab your---yourself. Lucy could walk out any minute."

"Well she can look, but she ain't getting these. She's not my type."

"I thought anyone breathing was your type."

I scowled. "No. I like them...taller. She kinda reminds me of Smurfette. She's trying to play with the big boys. We need to ditch her."

"We're not going to ditch her."

"Why not?"


"Because, dipshit. Remember? I can tell on you in a second." She held up my phone. I had left it in the bathroom. "You're Nick Carter. And you," she turned to Brian and got those puppy eyes again.

"He's Officer Sheppard," I snapped. "We'll keep you around if you remember that."

"Brian Sheppard?" she asked. I knew she was playing dumb.

"Kyle," Brian corrected.

My head was beginning to throb. My arm had been throbbing for hours. I had patched myself up in the plane bathroom with antiseptic and gauze, but it didn't stop the discomfort of the healing process. I crawled back into bed.

"Just get some sleep."

Brian crawled into bed beside me. I heard the other bed creak. Brian turned off the light.

All was quiet.

Sometime a couple hours later, I sat bolt upright as if someone had just tased me. I stared out into the darkness.


Brian shrieked. "WHAT?"

"What's going on?!" a muffled girly voice cried from the other bed.

"I know what we can do to talk to Marisol," I said in a rush.


"It involves a masquerade."

I couldn't see Brian, but that didn't stop me from hearing his groan. "Please, don't start talking in song titles again."

"I'm not!" I said.

I paused. Now I couldn't resist.

"But I will warn ya..."

"This might involve some PDA."
Chapter 13 by evergreenwriter83
8:00 PM

We spent that day and the next preparing. By preparing, I mean going around Rio, trying not to be spotted (the South American fans were ridiculously fanatical and would've mobbed and flattened us dead before noticing things like the scars that made us look different). We bought masks and Nick picked up some cologne and I got Lucy a dress and some other clothes (she couldn't very well go running around in that robe forever, you know?). And by Saturday night, we were ready.

Apparently Nick knew about some masquerade club that AJ had met Marisol at that she went to every Saturday night. This was their rendeavous point, a place, Nick said, he was certain he could find Marisol.

"So we find Marisol, then what?" Lucy asked.

Nick glowered at her. "Then I figure out from there."

"Well shouldn't you have some sort of plan formulated already?" she asked, "So you know what you're doing once you see her? You can't completely wing it."

"Girl has a point," I thumbed at Lucy.

Nick stared at me, his eyes squinty. "Look, there's no telling what'll go down next," he said, "I just wanna find Marisol at this point, and worry about the details then."

I looked at Nick. "What if her father is there?" I asked.

Nick frowned. "Well I'm not AJ, he has no reason to cut my cahonies off."

"You didn't think your cahonies were in danger in Japan, either, when the guy with the machete almost made you into a salmon spring roll," I pointed out.

"If it was her rendeavous place with AJ, he's not gonna be there. Otherwise they never would've used it as a rendeavous to begin with."

We both looked at Lucy.

She smiled. "I really liked playing Clue when I was little and I read every Nancy Drew book ever," she explained.

Nick rolled his eyes, "Doesn't make you a professional investigator.. ."

"And somewhere between vocal lessons and choreography you became one?" Lucy asked hotly.

Nick grumbled something under his breath that sounded very rude.

Lucy cleared her throat, "I think we need AJ to be there."

Nick looked at Lucy, "You dumbass," he said, "AJ's dead that's why we're trying to solve who killed him remember?"

"But does Marisol know that?" Lucy questioned.

Nick blinked. "Well no, nobody knows yet."

Lucy smiled and looked at me. "How tall was AJ?"

"Five-nine," I answered.

She glanced between Nick and I. "How tall are you guys?"

"Six-one," Nick answered.

"Five-eight, and a half," I added. I'd always added the half. Always.

Lucy's eyes twinkled dangerously. "Anybody got a Sharpie?"



"Wow it feels weird up here."

"It's only half an inch."

"Y'know if you squint, I don't think it's half bad." Lucy glanced down at a picture. "No, once he's dressed and has a mask on..."

I nodded. "Once the lights are dark..."

"If he doesn't speak..."

Brian turned and looked at his reflection in the mirror. He groaned. "This is never gonna work."

Indeed, it was an impossible task our annoying Nancy Drew had set out to do. Turning Welcome Home, You Brian into Love Crazy AJ would blow anyone's mind.

And yet...

It really wasn't half bad.

"We don't have time to do anymore," I announced. "We've got to get dressed."


"Preston. I'm still Preston. Don't forget that."

Bri teetered slightly. We had put lifts into a pair of fancy loafers. It wasn't that big of a difference, but he was walking like one of those circus dudes on the tall sticks...whatever you call them. Lucy grabbed her bag and breezed into the bathroom. I turned to the bed and grabbed Brian's bag.

"Pretend you're in a play. Pretend you've got the role of the Phantom of the Opera."

"That's AJ's role."

I stroked my chin. I had applied a heavy mat of medium brown fuzz to my face. My hair had gotten another dye job to match. And Brian...

He looked really odd with his almost-black scruff and hair. Hair we were going to have to hide under a top hat.

"Funny," I said. "Tonight you are AJ."

Bri took his bag from me. "I feel like I'm disrespecting him by doing this," he muttered.

"He won't think so if we find out Marisol's dad or someone working for him off'd him. He'll have justice. He'll finally be able to go the big skyscraper in the, er, sky."


I smiled. "Yeah, y'know like King Kong? I'm playing on the monkee thing again."


I was proud. He had remembered my name. "Yeah?"

"I hate you."

"You didn't mean it, right? You don't hate me, do you?"

The three of us we're walking towards the entrance to the club. Bri was still Weeble People-ing along. He sighed.


"You sound like an old married couple," Lucy remarked. I stared at her back. Ugly red welts detracted from an otherwise bare back. The gold dress Brian had bought her fit like a glove. I started to wonder how he could have gotten her size so right without checking her out often. Then my attention went back to the welts.

"What are those?"

She turned. "What?"

I pointed without touching. "Those."

"Burns. When you're getting trained as a sex slave and decide to be stubborn like me, you get punished. You learn to shut up after awhile."

"Are you sure you're psychographically okay to be doing this with us?"

"First off, psychographically isn't a work. Second of all, I haven't been allowed to do anything all my life. I only got to go to college because it looked good. I have plenty of time to dwell on things when this is over."

"Well we're just getting started," I said. I spotted a dude at the front door. I motioned towards an alley.

"I think our entrance is this way."
Chapter 14 by evergreenwriter83
11:00 PM

Nick guided us down the alley, his arm flung around Lucy's shoulders. She was supposed to be his accompaniment to the masquerade - a part of his disguise - as I was supposed to be AJ, going in to get Marisol for a night of passion.

I felt sick to my stomach.

"How am I supposed to do this without talking?" I hissed to Nick.

"Just don't," Nick said.

Lucy turned to look at me, "Or talk really low."

"Like this?" I asked, deepening my voice as best I could.

Lucy made a face. "No, Preston's right, just don't talk at all."

Nick made a smartass face and turned to a grimy metal door situated between two trash bins overflowing with God know's what. Dead bodies maybe? -- I mean, thats how bad it smelled. He took a deep breath - how he breathed through the stench, I'm not sure, although if his bus was any indication he was probably used to such rank odors - and knocked four times in a melodic way.

He glanced at me. "Now remember," he said in a low voice, "You're gonna see stuff in here your Kentucky upbringing never prepared you for..."

I blinked. "Things worse than a Japanese harem?" I asked, certain he'd relent and say no of course not because, I mean, what could be worse than a human-trafficked Japanese harem?

"Yeah-huh," he nodded, "A lot worse." I felt the color drain from my face and I started to respond but instead, Nick rambled on, "Just remember that you're AJ and this stuff isn't shocking to you..."

Goose pimples travelled up my arms.

The door opened and a blast of hot air - even hotter than that which was in they alleyway - blasted us in the face. Music thumped so hard inside it felt tangible. Colored lights leaked out over the huge, bulky form of the man who stood in the door frame. He stared down at Nick, Lucy and I. Yes, he stared down even at Nick. That's how freaking huge he was.

Of the three of us, his eyes lingered on me. He scoped out my Sharpie-enduced tattoos and my facial scruff and the jewelry they'd be dangled my fingers with. "You," he said, pointing at me.

"We're here to see Marisol," Nick announced.

The guy's eyes stayed on me for a moment, then turned to Nick. "She's in the back," he said, stepping out of the way.

Nick waved me and Lucy - who now seemed apprehensive - into the club. She clung to Nick's hand. I inched my way into their backs and followed into the thickly populated club - everyone had on masks and brightly colored clothes, and were packed so tight into the dance floor, which was below us as we were standing on a fire-escape-esque flight of stairs to the right of a large stage. On stage were -- ohhhhh my.

"What kind of place is this?" I demanded Nick, feeling my blood pressure rise and my heart rate quadruple.

Nick turned to look at me. Even Nick looked sickened by it now. "The kind of place you only go to if you're -- well, me and AJ, at our worst."


"Why are they doing that to a...a horse?"

I couldn't tell if Brian had turned green. The lights were disorienting me and the sharpie art work wasn't helping.

"That's nothing," I said. I pointed. "Look what they're doing to the llama over there."

"Why?" Bri sputtered. "Why would you ever want to see this? My eyes are burning. Burning. That poor llama. Poor, poor, little llama."

"When you're pumped full of drugs, this is golden," I said. I turned away from the stage. I couldn't look at it now without getting sick.

A girl (guy?) walked by, covered head to toe in feathers. Two girls and a guy followed at Big Bird's heels.

"Just be careful who you talk to here," I whispered. "It's more than rumor that a lot of drug deals are done and shipments get pumped out through here. The back of this place faces the water. There isn't a loading dock there for nothing."

Lucy's grip on my hand tightened. I couldn't help but notice that she had small hands. Small, warm, squeezy-palm hands.

I stepped forward. Instantly, Lucy and Brian did too. I wove through the crowd, keeping my eyes peeled. I had only met Marisol twice, both times which I had been coked out of my mind. The various masks and feathers and chains that slid by me weren't helping.

"You got your gun?" I whispered to Bri.

"Yes." There was a pause. "You got yours?"


"Oh, Lordy."

I didn't answer. I figured if he was 'Lording' the fact I had a gun, he wouldn't be happy to know I had a couple sticks of dynamite in my other pocket.

One never knows when you'll need to blow something up.

"I'm thirsty," Lucy said about a half hour into the thing. Her gold mask dripped with tiny little crystals. Her hair was hanging in limp curls, doused by the humidity. I shook my head.

"Everything here is spiked if it's not already alcoholic. Not a good plan."

"---take it up there. Marisol's waiting for it."

Like a beacon of light thrown over the darkness, I heard her name. I honed in on two beefy guys, one pointing at a staircase, the other holding a box. Box guy went up the stairs. Beefy pointy guy went down the stairs, towards the stage. I grabbed Brian and shoved him forward.

"You gotta go up the stairs," I said.


"You go up the stairs. Lucy and I will sneak half-way up and try to listen."

"That's your great plan? I just go up the stairs?"

"Pretty much."


"Shhh," I said. "Remember, don't talk."

We eye'd each other. A million dirty curses flew between us unspoken. Bri's hand wrapped around the railing.

"Can't believe..." he muttered. I put my knee on his ass. He jumped. He ascended a stop. He paused.

I was tempted to put some dynamite in his pants.

"Go," I hissed.

He took another step. Then another. Soon, he disappeared all together.

I turned to Lucy. Behind her mask, her light green eyes spoke volumes. Unfortunately, those volumes could have been written in French for all I knew. I didn't understand it. I jostled my own mask and climbed a couple stairs. Lucy's dress slid over the wooden stairs like air.

"---what's this?"

A laugh floated down the stairs. It was an annoying laugh, kind of like Fran Drescher from The Nanny.

"What is this all about? You should already be in London."


"Wait, bring him closer."

My palms began to sweat. I let go of Lucy's hand.

Her voice became angry. "You shouldn't be here. Who are you?"


"Shit," Lucy whispered.

"He's cracking."

Chapter 15 by Pengi

You know in Alice in Wonderland, when Alice approaches the catepillar, and he's like this big regal thing sitting on the leaf with the pipe in his mouth and a ton of psychedelic smoke and colors swirling around him, and he's looming over here all important and intimidating and Alice seems to shrink, as he shouts in her face WHO ARE YOU? and those letters come flying out of his mouth and float away into the skies of Wonderland?

Marisol was a Brazilian beauty, with the darkest tan skin I've ever seen and that deep, mahogany-red hair that can only come from a bottle. It was wildly curly, thick and bushy, and she wore a strappy bikini thing that reminded me of Princess Leia's golden bikini except it was hot pink. She had a silky robe on that hung sexily from her shoulders like a thin, sheer waterfall. It even sparkled as she moved. She was sitting literally on a throne and she had one of those long cigarette holders like Aundrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany's. She stared at me from behind thick, thick mascara and eyeliner, her mouth perfectly painted as bright as her bathing suit.

"What is this all about?" she called regally, eyes narrowing, lowering her cigarette from her mouth. Smoke streamed from her lips like the front of a steam engine, and she moved, shifting her long, naked legs, which ended in these sandals that twined up her legs like a Greek goddess.

I swear if I wasn't a married man, I would've wanted to jump her right on the spot. She was like a sexual vision of pure lust. She was liquid, like a panther. I could literally feel myself getting turned on watching her. I silently shot prayers of apology upwards as she moved, leaning forward, her breasts getting caught in the light, sparkling with sweat from the heat and... well, I've always been a breast man.

"You should already be in London," she purred, but it was a purr of anger, not of delight, like a puma about to pounce.

Part of me hoped she would pounce.

"Wait." She leaned close, inspected me. "Bring him closer," she cooed.

Two thick, beefy guys that I mentally dubbed to be Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee grabbed me by the arms, smudging my "tattoos" with their fingers and shoved me toward the thone. I stumbled, hit the cement on my knees, scraping my hands on the floor. Blood trickled from my palms, dirt embedded itself into my skin. I felt vomit rising in my throat.

My sexual lust goddess was about to figure out what was going on.

She reached out a foot, lifted my face with her sandal, her eyes squinted. She slid off the throne to the floor, crouching before me, her body so close to my face I could litterally smell her. She reached out a hand and touched my fake facial hair that Nick and Lucy had so carefully applied. Her sharp claw-like fingernails dug against my cheek skin, scratching me, clutched the edge of the hair, and ripped it off, revealing my own jawline. She pulled off my hat, her fingers ran through my hair.

"You shouldn't be here," she hissed. She loomed over me, her eyes intense and her mouth nearly upon mine. "Who ARE you?" she demanded.


"I'm waiting for a response," she whispered, pressing her cheek against mine.

"I- I-"

I wanted nothing more than to hear the door behind me burst open, to hear Nick and Lucy walk in, guns blazing. But all that happened was the door made a slight creaking sound. All eyes turned to it... but nobody came through. No Nick, no Lucy. No help.

Marisol stood up, yanking me to my feet beside her. My ankle wrenched and I let out a whoop of pain. "Shut up," she snapped. She glowered at me. "Why are you impersonating Alexander?" she demanded, using AJ's full name.

"Someone killed him," I gasped out, "He's dead. He was found dead in Sweden, he's dead. I'm his friend," I choked out the words, my voice shaking like crazy as she motioned for Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee to come forward. They each grabbed one of my arms and she stood before me, glowering. "He's dead."

"When?" she demanded.

"Last week," I gasped, "April 4th."

"Bullshit," she shrieked. "He was here just yesterday."

"What?!" I asked, just before the breath knocked from me at that moment as Marisol landed a well aimed kick directly to my gut. I doubled forward, hanging by my wrists, which Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee held firmly.

And suddenly there was a flash of light, a loud explosive sound, and the world went black as I hit the cement face first.


"He's cracking."

I panicked. My hand flew into my jacket and out came the dynamite. A reach into my pants netted my lighter. Before Lucy's mouth could even open, I lit a stick.

"What--" she began to say. I pulled my arm back and tossed.

"are you--"

The stick hit the top step and, to my horror, began to roll back down. Towards us.


Suddenly my mind spun backwards. I was eight years old again. The sun had brought out freckles I didn't even konw I had. My siblings were running around and yet I was out at the pier with dad and he was flicking his own lighter. "Hold it away from you," he commanded. The sparkler lit up and the sparks seemed to literally dance up towards the night sky. I stood immobile for just a second. Then, I broke into a smile and began to dance it around through the air.

The current moment played out a lot like that. When the dynamite rebounded, I was first frozen.

Then I remembered to dance.

"GO!" I yelled.

Lucy turned, but paused. She reached up and touched my mask. Her hip curved into the junction of my outstretched hand. It felt nice, but I didn't have time to dwell on it. She turned and I followed her at breakneck speed down the steps.

Once back on the ground floor, we got separated. I pushed my way through the throng of bodies and headed out the front door. My toe had just hit the junction between sidewalk and street when--


Now, dynamite can obviously do damage, but realistically one stick wasn't going to bring the whole place down into a giant fireball. Even so, that didn't stop the smoke from billowing out from the second floor or the horror in my stomach rising to my throat in a cry.

I had killed Brian. I had maybe even killed Lucy. Yes, she was annoying, but she had a lot of spunk. And she was pretty. Was?

The people that were still waiting in line were quickly backing up. All the door security had fled inside, pushing through all the people trying to get out. A lot of commotion was coming from a boat parked at the dock.

Different country, same mayhem.

I hadn't noticed it at first, what with my heart rate spiraling out of control and the heat from the explosion and overall humidity, but a heavy rain had begun to fall. A few black feathers on my mask drooped down, sticking to my cheek. I suddenly felt exposed even with the disguise. I darted back down the alley where we had first gotten in.

The entrance we had used to enter the club was at the very beginning of the alley. The dark corridor took a sharp turn up ahead. I kept close to the wall. The farther I walked, the more voices started to fade. Suddenly, there was a deadly quiet. A quiet that turned my palms cold, yet made me sweat at the same time. I reached back into my jacket pocket, ignored the other stick of dynamite, and pulled out a small flashlight. I clicked it on.

At first, I was sure I was seeing things.

There, dangling upside down from the building in the pouring rain, was Brian. He had a nasty cut on his head, but it wasn't the cut or even the fact that he was alive that made me dumbstruck.

No, what made me practically swallow my tongue was the fact that his lips were crushed against someone else's. Someone who was willingly kissing back. Someone whose dress was soaking wet, leaving very little to the imagination. A someone whose hands were cupping his head and accepting a little bit of tongue that the doggish-country boy was dishing out.

Brian was acting like we weren't in danger. Like he wasn't hanging with a sheet wrapped around his ankle upside down.

No, Brian was acting like he had been waiting all his life to do this.

To kiss Lucy. Lucy, whose hair was the color of caramel and chocolate swirled together. The girl whose waist had fit perfectly in my hand.

I had obviously discovered that fact a little too late.

It was like I was in one of those dreams where you dream you're awake but that you can't move a muscle. There I was, immobile, watching my best friend and our gorgeous tag-a-long, feeling completely betrayed and getting more and more drenched.

The sirens were the only thing to shake me out of my daze. That and the bleeding, giant breasted, first-breathing woman-dragon that stood in the alley flanked by two body guards.

Chapter 16 by evergreenwriter83
12:30 AM

I blinked awake and found myself laying in the backseat of a car, my head on Lucy's lap. Nick was kneeling on the opposite end of the seat, his head and shoulders hanging out the car window like he was a dog or something. I felt groggy, sluggish, and dizzy. "What's... where...?" The last thing I could remember was Marisol, descending on me like Ursula the Sea Witch.

"Shhh," Lucy whispered, and she brought the edge of her skirt to my forehead. A searing pain went through my body.

"Owwww," I wailed, moving to clutch at it. I felt like Harry Potter when Voldemort was near. "Owwww! Stop!"

"You're bleeding," she said impatiently, "I need to sop it up."

Great, I was gonna have the damn scar, too.

I wiggled, trying to get away from her, and she protested, and we started arguing and Nick turned, "Will you both shut the fuck up?" he demanded in a growl, "God, isn't it enough you gotta play tonsil hockey, not to mention act like a freakin' old married couple..."

I was about to ask what he meant about tonsil hockey when a sudden erruption of gunfire made him start and turn back to the window. I noticed he had his gun out and he started firing back.

"Oh Lord," I groaned, trying to sit up, "What's happening?"

"Nothing you need to worry about as long as your head's bleeding," Lucy snapped. She pushed me back down into her lap.

The push sent a memory spiraling through my head. Marisol's well-aimed kick, the wind knocking out of me... "Bullshit, he was here just yesterday!"

"Nick!" I shouted, "Nick, AJ's alive!"

"Shut the fuck up Brian," Nick snapped, concentrating on his aim as more gunfire sounded around the car. Clinking told me that they were hitting the back bumper. It smelled like urine and I turned and realized the driver was some random Brazilian guy and it was a cab.

"No, Nick, Marisol ---"

"--- is fucking shooting at us with a machine gun, okay? I'm trying to concentrate," Nick interrupted me. He hung out the window.

I looked at Lucy. "Luce, you gotta listen to me, AJ's alive, he's alive, he's in London."

Lucy raised an eyebrow, "You can tell us that when we get to the airport."

"What if I die on the way over?" I begged. It was true I still felt dizzy. What if I was bleeding out?

Lucy smirked. "You're not gonna die from a concussion," she assured me.

"If you two love birds don't shut the fuck up I swear to God ---" Nick snapped.

"Love birds?" I demanded.

Lucy turned pink. "He's still pissed about the kiss."

"KISS?" I demanded, my eyes widening, my heartbeat rising, "What kiss?"

"In the alley..." Lucy whispered.

Nick ducked into the cab as a harsh, too-close-for-comfort round of shots sounded outside. "Yeah, Bri, the one where all we were missin' was a radio active spider and you would've been Peter fuckin Parker. That kiss."

A flash of a dream went through my head... a dream where I was kissing Leighanne. Hanging upside down in an alley way, kissing Leighanne. But the longer I thought about it, the more Leighanne's features contorted as the dream became a memory. I clapped my hands over my mouth.

"Oh my Lord in Heaven," I gasped, "I'm an adulterer!"


"She looks mad."

I turned around and stared through the glass window. Lucy was standing there, arms crossed, staring at the brown stained wall.

"Well, call me crazy," I said dryly. "But I don't think girls appreciate when the guy that just kissed them like he hadn't gotten laid in years screams out that he wasn't of right mind, prays for forgiveness, and," I paused, saving the best for last. "rubs his tongue with his palm like that's going to erase some imaginary evidence."

Bri winced. The dark-skinned Latino who was of questionable origin concerning a medical license grabbed a pair of scissors and finished up the stitches. He stared at me and I handed over a wad of cash that made him smile ear-to-ear.

"He doesn't have a concussion, right?" I asked the guy.


"Will I have a scar?" Brian asked.


The guy was stroking the money like it was a Zhu Zhu pet.

"Do you speak English?" I asked.


Brian looked panicked. I leaned closer and stared at the stitches. "They look good," I offered.

"I need to call LeighLeigh."

The part of me that was still raging with jealousy and anger wanted to agree with him. I wanted him to get yelled at and I figured the best person to do that would be his wife. On the other hand, we still had a mission to do.

"Not yet. What were you saying about AJ?"

Bri looked confused for a moment. "AJ?" His eyes lit with understanding. "Marisol told me he's in London."

"She did?"

Our confrontation with Marisol had ended when our smelly, yet talented cab driver, had hooked a tight corner. We flew on two wheels for several seconds before righting and continuing at breakneck speed. Meanwhile, Marisol's car had misjudged the turn radius and connected with a tree. We didn't hang around to see if anyone was dead. By that time, I had an internal lovers' quarrel on my hands inside our own car.

"So he's alive?"

"She made it sound like it," Bri said. He touched his head and winced again. "She was like Medusa. Even when she knew I wasn't AJ I just couldn't move. Then something happened to the building--"

"I set off dynamite," I said.

"What? I could have been killed!"

"Instead you got a kiss," I scowled. I stepped towards the door.

"I didn't want a kiss," Bri complained. He was almost whining. "She's...not my type."

I stopped and looked out the window again. Lucy was playing with the tip of her ponytail. Her dress had a huge rip in it, showing a sizeable chunk of ivory waist.

"What's wrong with her?"

"Nothing!" Bri said. "It's just I go for a different...look."

As if she sensed he was talking about her, Lucy turned and glared at both of us. I took her all in.

"The boobs?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

"That's cause you like the fake ones."

"LeighLeigh doesn't have...fake ones," Bri said. I snorted.

"Okay, Pinocchio."


Before I could answer, Lucy yanked open the door.

"Are you two sorry excuses for fake cops ready? We have a problem."

"What problem?"

"Another one?"

She glanced back out in the hall. "Not that I care, but..."

"I just heard a female's voice asking some questions out at the front desk in rapid-fire Spanish," Lucy paused. "It's either Tits-Magee or that Airport Cop." Lucy glanced at Brian. I could see the hurt in her eyes. I felt the innate need to make it better.

"If you're willing," I said softly. "We're going to need you as a decoy one more time."

"I think London's going to be our last stop. And I promise I'll make it worth your while."
Chapter 17 by evergreenwriter83
2:00 AM

Nick pulled the same stunt as he'd done in Japan, claiming that Lucy was a prisoner that we, FBI agents, were transporting. We were boarded onto the plane and never asked for more than our badges for paperwork, and within what seemed like moments we were on an airplane on the way to London.

Nick sat in the middle between Lucy and I. Lucy stared out the window, her ankle cuffed to the seat and her hand cuffed to Nick. I held my head in my hands, the stitches scratching my palm. "I'm gonna end up with a scar," I complained, "I'm gonna be maimed and Leigh-Leigh is gonna ask where I got the scar from and I'm going to tell her and she's going to think of me kissing another woman every time she looks at my face, and we're going to end up divorced and --"

"Shut up already," Nick whined through gritted teeth.

I looked at Nick, "You're only pissed off because you have to listen to me whine for once."

Nick scowled.

"I can't even imagine the unholy racket you would be making if it was your face that got blasted apart by dynamite that I threw!" I said.

"I do not whine!" Nick whined.

Lucy sighed.

"Oh Brian, Brian, my face Brian, my beautiful, pretty boy face," I was doing my best impression of Nick's whiney-12-year-old voice. "Now what will I do?" I waved my hands around all fruity.

"Stooooop ittttt," Nick wailed.

"My beautiful pretty face, oh woe is me, woe is meeee!"

Nick leaped at me, whipping his wrist around and almost pulling poor Lucy's arm out of it's socket. "OW!" she yelled. And within seconds a short, stout flight attendant -- I thought there was a height requirement to get into one of those gigs? -- had arrived. "Troubles?" she demanded, glowering down at us.


"Troubles?" Brian repeated.

"There's no trouble," I said quickly.

"Police brutality," Lucy muttered. "Fake--"

The stewardess leaned over closer and squinted. "You look so familiar," she said. She had a British accent, the kind that always remindd me of tea and scones and lace doilies.

"I have one of those faces," I said.

The stewardess smirked. She studied Brian. He looked up at her.

"I cheated on my wife!" he blurted out.

If I could have slapped both hands to my face, I would have. Unfortunately, that would have meant pulling Lucy's arm almost out of her socket again. I was about ready to slam my foot down on Bri's - hard - when our not-so-friendly helper of the sky smiled.

"Want to do it a second time?"

I couldn't help it. I laughed. Bri was staring up at her crushed, like he had confessed to a priest and gotten propositioned. He grew pale. Before he barfed or gave the whole thing up, I jumped back in.

"Excuse my partner," I said. "He's just coming off a concussion."

The stewardess shook her head. I felt her eyes burning through me. They began to register recognition. "Wait--"

"Miss! Can I get a Sprite?"

I heard the rattle of ice cubes in a near-empty cup. She broke contact and took a step away. "Coming!"

I didn't relax until she had floated back down the aisle.

"I've got to pee."

So much for relaxing. I looked over at Lucy. She glared back at me.

"Really? Can't you hold it?"

"The whole flight? Are you kidding me?"

I turned around and judged the distance to the restroom. If she did a squat-and-run we'd be oka.

"Alright," I said. I unlocked the cuffs. "Go for it."

She didn't move. "Aren't you coming?"


She rolled her eyes. "I'm a prisoner. Don't you think you should at least wait outside the door?"

"She's kinky. Oh crap, I not only kissed another girl, but a kinky one at that."

My temple began to throb. I couldn't take it anymore. I whipped out my phone.

"What are you doing?" Lucy and Brian demanded in unison.

Brian. Concussion. Kissed another girl. Thought it was you. Bringing him home soon. Nick.

I stood up and put my phone back in my pocket.

"I sent a text to Leighanne. The hardest part of any problem is admitting it," I said. I crooked my finger Lucy's way. "C'mon."

Lucy jumped up and climbed over Brian. He kinda looked like the killer from Scream. His mouth was hanging down that low.


I pressed my hand against his shoulder and stepped around him.

"What are partners for?" I smirked.

"So why'd you kiss a married man?"

Bri's cheek was on my shoulder. He was snoring softly. It was the middle of the night. Most of the passengers were asleep. Lucy turned to me, her eyes thoughtful.

"My moral compass isn't all that great," she admitted. "And besides, he did kiss me."

"How? He was upside down."

Lucy waved our cuffed hands in the air. "He begged for a kiss. Said he hadn't stopped thinking about me since he met me.""

I snorted. "You fell for that?"

"Why wouldn't I?" she scowled. "Y'know if he hadn't picked my room, I'd still be there. You would have just sat back and let me do---that."

I frowned. "No, I wouldn't have."

"What were you having your girl do?" she snapped back.

I didn't answer.

"I like married guys because they've at least done something right up until that point. Losers can't get married."

"No, there's tons of reasons why people don't get married," I argued.

"Like what?"

"Like---like---most marriages end in divorce. And girls like you don't help lower those statistics."

"Girls like me?"

"Rich girls. Daddy girls. You think the world revolves around you. You think this," I waved my hand in the air. "is just fun and adventure. But it's not. It's about finding out what happened to our friend. There's real lives involved."

I struck a nerve. Her eyes opened wide and I could see the fire getting ready to explode within.

"You don't know a damn thing about me."

"I know it should have been me you kissed."

I hadn't meant for the words to come out. They hung in the air, close enough to touch, but not close enough to actually grab and take back. I panicked. My elbow connected with sleeping Brian. His whole body jerked.

"W-what?!" he spluttered. He pulled out his phone. "LeighLeigh?"

A thick-set fog was creeping in around our windows. We were almost in London. I could feel Lucy's eyes on me. Brian tapped out a quick text and turned to me too.

"Nick--" he started to whine.

"Nick Carter! That's it!"

Our stewardess was staring at me with new-found fervor. And lust. And a million other things that made me want to stick my head in the sand like a llama. Or is that the ostrich that does that? Either way--

"You're not cops! I know who you two are!"

"Blimey, you're Backstreet Boys!"
Chapter 18 by evergreenwriter83
3:00 PM

"Blimey, you're the Backstreet Boys!"

Nick's head practically spun around, Exorcist style.

I could feel my mouth flopping open and close like a fish.

"Well wait just a moment," said the stewardess, her face tightening with suspicion. "If you're not cops, then you aren't a prisoner... in which case..."

The pieces were falling together.

Nick leaped out of his seat, ripping Lucy with him by the arm, and grabbed the stewardess and planted his mouth full onto her mouth. Lucy's face dropped in horror as Nick's tongue slid along the old toad's mouth. She squealed in surprise, her eyes wide for a moment, then relaxed and melted into the kiss.

"Excuse you!" Lucy cried, yanking her wrist back and snapping Nick away from the stewardess. She shoved Nick down into the seat.

The stewardess stood there, dazed.

It was like the world was frozen for a second. Lucy was standing, Nick was sitting, the stewardess was in shock, and I was waiting for it all to explode. Then, it did. I grabbed a barf bag and the contents of my stomach - however meager they were - came rushing up from deep in my gut. I clutched the bag to my mouth, my hand gripping Nick's knee for balance, the world seeming to spin around me.

The stewardess snapped back to reality by the sound and smell of vomit. "She is illegally on this plane," she said, pointing at Lucy.

"She- I- She-"

"She's with me," came a stern voice, "And, for that matter, so are they."

Nick let out a yelp.

I turned, lowing the bag of puke from my mouth, and found myself staring at about 3 feet of leg. I looked up. Officer Lennon stood looming over me, her badge out.

"Heidi," Lucy snapped, "I thought you weren't going to interfere."

Nick's head whipped around to look at her. "What?"

"Yeah, what?" I asked, looking at Lucy, too.

"I couldn't let this charade continue," Lennon answered demurely.

Nick's head whipped to look at her, like he was watching a tennis or ping pong match.

"I have it under control."

"If nasty-sack here is kissing stewardesses I'm assuming you do not have it under control."


Even the stewardess looked like she was wondering that.

"Do you want to do the honors, or shall I?" Lennon asked, pulling handcuffs from her pocket.

"Heidi, I think we need to talk about this before we go --"

"Fine." She turned to me. "Mr. Littrell," turned to Nick, "Mr. Carter," she snapped the cuff onto my wrist and hers. "You are both under arrest for impersonation of a Federal Officer."

"Heidi, I --"

"Enough," Lennon snapped. "Now, Lucille, do you want to contain your prisoner until we can land and board a plane back to Sweden where they will serve their time for the crime, or do you want to whine about it?"

I stared at my wrist.

I was an adulterer. And now I was a federal crimminal.

I looked at Nick.

"I told you," I felt a throat rising in my throat. "I told you," I wanted to rip his eyes out. "I'm never gonna see Baylee grow up, I'm never gonna see my wife again. And oh my Lord, she's not gonna care because you texted her."

"Wait one frickinfrackin minute," Nick said, looking wildly from side to side. He looked at Lucy. "You're an agent?!"



"Will you shut up for a damn minute?!"

I was angry. I was...I was BOILING. I was a second away from imploding on myself...

And it was all Brian's fault. Leave it to him to snag a fuckin' federal agent to tag along with us. We had been duped.

"Lucille, I'm your superior officer and I demand--"

"They gave me enough evidence to shut down that sex trafficking operation in Japan for good," Lucy snapped. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Brian clutch his bag o' barf. A little tear formed in the corner of his eye. Shit. I couldn't stand it when women or Brian cried.

"Excuse me," I snapped. The two women ignored me. In the course of a second both of them had gone into bull mode. They were standing, not really chest-to-chest, but close enough that my thoughts went south for a whole thirty seconds before the anger came back.

"And remember the drug shipments that we couldn't track down? The one where you claimed the boat just 'disappeared' into the night? Yeah, well, the industrial fog machines hiding the boat blew up when Dumb Bunny over here," Lucy pointed at me. "blew that club up with dynamite. I had a squad on it in minutes."

"Dumb Bunny?" I sputtered.

"I'm going to have to ask you ladies to sit down," the stewardess said. She leaned over and took Bri's barf bag. As she leaned over she winked at me. Shit. My tongue and other body parts quickly shriveled more than I could have ever thought possible.

Officer Lennon didn't look impressed. She pulled another set of cuffs out and leaned over towards me. I scrambled up, sitting on my seat like a chimpanzee.

"Mr. Carter--"

Snap. Lucy had come up behind and snapped a cuff onto my wrist. She snapped the other one on her own wrist. "There, happy?" she spat.

"I won't be happy until these menaces are behind bars."

Compared to Officer Lennon, one would think Lucy didn't have a lot going for her. She didn't have the mile-long legs, she wasn't near as chesty, and even angry she didn't have the venom that the other woman had.

But she still didn't back down.

"You're making a big mistake," Lucy said, her voice dropping to a submissive level. I tugged on the cuffs. "No, you are," I said.

"I'm not talking to you," she hissed.

Officer Lennon smiled. "I'm making a big mistake?"

I felt Lucy's ass press into the back of my seat. "We're headed to London," she said.

"No shit."

I felt fingertips on the back of my hair. The shrively parts of me suddenly weren't so shrively. Was she playing hair?

"McLean's alive."

The silence was thick. The fingertips dripped down my neck. Shit.

"Is that what they told you?" Officer Lennon finally asked.

"It's the truth."

It was the first time Brian had spoken since Operation Barfbag. "Marisol told me that he had come to visit her and that he was in London."

Officer Lennon smiled at Brian. He seemed to relax.

"Fine," she said sweetly. "We'll get McLean and the three of you can rot."

Brian looked sick again. I reached over with my free hand and grabbed my own barfbag. I waved it in his face, but he didn't take it. He was seriously pretending I didn't exist.

"This isn't fair," I complained. I wasn't sure exactly what part wasn't fair, but I was leaning towards all of it.

"Why isn't it fair, Carter?" Lennon said. Lucy's fingers left my neck and wrapped around my shoulder.I looked up just in time to see the two woman glaring daggers again.

"Because...because I'm the only one that can find AJ," I said.


"I think he's telling the truth. These two have a sixth sense. Whatever trouble they cause ends up fixing a larger issue. If you would just contemplate this, I think you'd realize that the fastest way to wrap this up is to have them lead us to McLean. What could take months could be ended today."

"Can't we just try?" Brian whispered. He finally turned to look at me. The moment he did, I understood. Our excellent silent communication skills couldn't be broken.

"Yeah, can't we just try?" I asked.

"Maybe make a plea bargain?" Bri continued.

"A plea bargain?" Lennon repeated.

I leaned forward as far as I dared. "If we help you find AJ, you let us go. If we can't find AJ, then you can take us in."

"That sounds fair," Lucy agreed. I tilted my head back and looked up at her. She quickly looked away.

"Well?" Brian asked. He was waiting for confirmation from Lennon.

Officer Lennon crouched down next to Brian's seat. She looked at Lucy.

"McCartney, if this goes wrong, this is all on you."

"Agreed. I owe them that much."

"You owe these guys nothing."

"Passengers, please buckle your seatbelts. We will be landing in London in fifteen minutes."

Lennon looked pained. "I can't believe I'm doing this," she muttered.

"Is that a yes?" Bri asked hopefully.

"Yes," she replied. She looked up at Lucy. "But they stay cuffed til I say so, got it?"

Suddenly soft fingers were stroking the inside of my wrist below the metal. I looked up.

"C'mere," I said. She leaned down.

"Closer." She moved down again. I turned my head so my mouth was next to her ear.

"You picked Brian, remember?" I whispered.

She turned her head. "I know you were jealous," she whispered back.

I sneered. "Jealous? Ha. Besides, I don't like liars."

"I didn't lie."

"Oh really, Officer McCartney?"

"You were safer not knowing."

"Who said I like to play it safe?"

Her lips moved closer. I felt them brush my cheek as she whispered one last time.

"Then maybe we should see if we can be dangerous together."
Chapter 19 by evergreenwriter83
4:00 PM

"Do you have any idea what you're doing?" I hissed to Nick under my breath.

"Trust me, will ya?" Nick answered.

It was kinda hard to trust him at this point. So far he'd talked me into evading the law, impersonating a federal agent, spending time in a Japanese whorehouse, blown up a drug queen's warehouse, gotten me arrested, and was now leading the way in front of two federal agents - real ones - who both had their guns out, ready to shoot us down if we pulled any funny malarky.

If he messed this up - which Nick is very good at messing things up - I was going to spend the rest of Baylee's childhood in jail. I envisioned receiving a postcard photo of Baylee in cap and gown at college graduation with a note scribbled on the back sorry you couldn't be here dad, hope you get out of jail soon!

"Stop whispering up there," snapped Agent Lennon.

Nick turned, walking backwards, "I'm not allowed to talk to my friend?"

"Not unless I can hear you," she answered.

Nick turned back forward. "So yeah I was totally jerking off when I was in the latrine for that fifteen minutes," he said loudly, "Thinking of Lennon and the stick that's shoved up her --"

"That's enough," Lennon snapped.

"What?" Nick demanded, "You said you wanted to hear what I was telling him."

Lucy giggled. I could almost feel the ice dripping from the stare she received from Lennon for that and it wasn't even directed at me. She stopped abruptly.

"Where exactly are you going?" Lennon demanded of Nick after another two blocks of space had been walked.

Nick, again, turned around, "You can't rush genius," he said flatly.

I glanced over my shoulder. Lennon looked extremely skeptical. Even Lucy looked like she was wondering what the hell Nick was up to. And I'm pretty sure she was on our side. But then again, I was definitely on our side and I was wondering what Nick was up to. Until he stopped at the entryway to the Undeground and paused.

Our eyes met.

Our mind Jedi skills kicked in.

Nick looked at Lennon. "I know where he is," he said.

And just like that, he bolted down the Underground tunnel.

At first I tried to keep up with him, but Nick's legs are like redwood trees and he hiked a huge amount of space just by the element of surprise take off. Lennon and I were pretty much neck-to-neck, but Lucy put on a burst of speed after Nick. I tried to match that speed.

After all, I'm pretty sure the only one we were trying to ditch was Lennon.

"GET THEM," Lennon was shrieking, "Get them!"

Nick had completely disappeared in the crowded subway, and Lucy was far enough ahead of me that she was already becoming just another bobbing head in the crowd. I felt a stitch in my chest and my head burned. Normally I could've kept up, but the whole concussion thing was slowing me down.

And then Lennon caught up to me.

Her hand snapped around my wrist, with a cuff and the next thing I knew she'd pulled me to a stop. "That's it," she hissed, "Deal is off. Your friend just screwed you both. We're on the next plane to Sweden, you and I, and you're going behind bars immediately."

I really hoped that Nick knew what he was doing.



I was a man on a mission. Yes, I was borderline crazy. But there was this one time (and no, it wasn't in band camp) that AJ had told me that if ever he needed to get away, there was one place in the world he'd want to go. And like me, he spoke in song titles.

-- 2006 --

"You're so high," I giggled. The smoke from the joint curled up in the air like a serpent. AJ snickered as he brought the thing back to his mouth, puffed, and passed it to me.

"I'm serious. I'm ready to get out of here."

"Well, if Kev smells this shit, we'll both need to run," I said.

"No problem. I know exactly where I'd go."


AJ's eyes were rimmed in red. I wondered for a second if mine were too. The thought made me giggle again. I took two puffs and passed the dwindling stick of Mary Jane back. AJ leaned forward and took it back, his brown eyes calm, but alive.

"I can't tell you. It's a secret."

"I'm high. You can tell me," I whispered. I grabbed for the bag of Cheetos that we had sat between us. I scratched my soft belly with my left hand, yanking Cheetos like a goat at a petting zoo from the pile held in my right.


"Can't I have a hint?" I whined. A little spray of orange flew in the air.

"A hint?" AJ thought a moment, using the time to take a drag. "Well, you'd have to take a Yellow Submarine."


"To the place of Strawberry Fields."


"Naw, I think I'd take a couple girls. Eleanor, Julia, Rita...and Lucy." I licked my empty hand. I didn't remember eating all the Cheetos. AJ was still puffing away. I slid off my beanbag and stared up at the ceiling.

"Lucy sounds hot," I murmured.


The subway car up ahead still had it's doors open. I jumped over a pay gate and hurled myself towards the doors. The lighted sign above the car informed me it was exactly where I needed to go.

"I'll pay later!" I shouted, I bent over, arched like a bull and dove into the crowded car.

Lucy was right on my heels. She slid her lithe body in right before the doors closed. We were separated by about ten people, but the car could have been empty. A bead of sweat dripped down my cheek. Her chest heaved. I didn't bother to move as she wove her way to me.

"You," she gasped. "You're in a lot of trouble."

"I know where he is," I panted back.

"Are you sure?"

"I don't think I've ever been surer. He told me about this one day years ago. We were high, but I remember. I--your name's Lucy McCartney?"

Lucy reached up, grabbing one of the subway handles. As we went into a turn, her body still ending up pulling towards mine. Our eyes met.

"Yeah, not related to the McCartney. My parents just had a funny sense of humor."

All of a sudden, I felt a rise of Carter charm. Knowing Lennon wasn't breathing down my neck, I relaxed. I leaned into Lucy on the next turn.

"Well," I whispered, brushing her hair away from her neck, "they got one thing right."

Her fingers gripped the subway handle a little tighter. "What?"

I leaned in. She smelled of girly sweat. I liked it.

"Your eyes are like diamonds."

It was as if I was Aladdin and the genie had just opened the entrance to the cave. Lucy's lips formed a perfect kissable pout. I leaned towards her. I figured if the whole plan did backfire, at least I would have one last kiss. A steamy, uncontrollable--

The car lurched to a stop and I almost fell on my ass as the other passengers pushed around me. I was torn between going back in for the kiss or breaking into another Mission Impossible-ian run. The decision was made when I felt the cold metal around my wrist. I stared down, wide-eyed. Lucy held up her wrist.

"I figured we could go on our first date in style," she said.

I lifted the handcuffs. As we stepped out of the car, they glinted in the sunlight.

"If I go free, I have another use for these," I said. Lucy tugged at my arm; the metal cut into my wrist.

"Worry about that later, Romeo," she said.

"Just take me to Abbey Road."
Chapter 20 by evergreenwriter83
4:30 PM


Cuffed to Officer Lennon there was really not a whole lot more I could do to help Nick. She pulled me back through the Underground to one of the maps on the wall and began trying to figure out which of the trains would bring us back to Heathrow. I stood silently beside her trying to figure out exactly how old Baylee would be before I'd see him again. Twenty? Thirty? Forty? Would I die in prison? I hung my head. How the hell did I let Nick talk me into doing this? I wondered.

"Okay, let's go." Lennon turned away from the map and started pulling me towards the ticketing booth.

It was crowded and hot in the Underground and people were swarming everywhere. The hand cuffs around our wrists were the only thing keeping us from being separated by the crowd. Lennon kept me firmly by her side. I'm not sure what made me notice them other than the fact that it wasn't really cold enough for the way they were dressed, maybe, but I spotted two huge, hulking, thug-like guys dressed in heavy winter coats and navy blue skully caps like they'd just stepped off a tuna boat. They were Latino, speaking in rapid Spanish, and searching the crowd. I swiveled my head as they passed, watching them as they moved, head and shoulders taller than everyone else in the sea of people.

"Excuse me," I piped up, tugging on my wrist to get Lennon's attention.

"What?" she demanded. I used my free hand to point at the tuna-boat thugs. She glanced over. "What?"

"Those guys," I said, "They look like Marisol's henchmen."

Lennon shook her head, "No more games. Your little friend got you two in big trouble. I can't wait to find out how he killed your bandmate."

"Nick didn't kill AJ," I snapped, "AJ's alive, he's here somewhere, and they know where." I pointed at the tuna thugs again.

Lennon turned and started to pulling again toward the ticket booth. I stood still. She reached the end of the width of our two arms and was halted by my insistence. She looked at me. "Come," she snapped, like I was a dog.

"No," I replied. I pulled toward the tuna thugs. "You come."

Not expecting it, she stumbled a couple steps toward me before she planted her heels and pulled back. We both pulled. I wondered if one of us could dislocate a shoulder this way. She grit her teeth. I set my jaw. We stared at each other, each pulling with equal strength. It's kinda sad I was equalled by a woman. But at least she was a very buffed out, cop woman and not like, I dunno, a waify type.

"Shall I add resisting an officer to your charges, then?" she snapped.

"Go to it," I answered. I glanced back at the Tuna Thugs. They were boarding the train. It was now or never. I thought the phrase again - that golden phrase I never thought I'd think in my life and here I was thinking it twice in twenty-four hours:

What Would Nick Do?

And suddenly, like a lightbulb over my head, I took three fast steps toward Lennon. She stumbled and actually fell to the floor of the Underground. The crowd swarmed around us, some glancing at us as I leaned over her and grabbed the guns from her holster - mine and hers.

Lennon looked pissed. "What in the hell are you --"

I pulled her to her feet, pressed one of the handles of the guns to her lower back, and hissed, "We're following the Tuna Thugs."

Lennon stood stock still for a long moment. "Are you seriously holding an FBI agent at gunpoint?" she hissed back.

"I guess I am," I answered.

"You're making a big mistake," she said.

"Well," I said, "I figure I'm going to jail anyways now, so I ain't got much to lose except those Tuna Thugs so let's go." I guided her quickly to the train door they'd disappeared through and pushed her on board. Looking around, I spotted the guys, hovering in the far end of the train together, arms across their chests. Lennon and I stood by the doorway. "Them, there," I whispered and I nodded the Tuna Thugs direction.

Lennon looked over. A surprised expression momentarily crossed her face. She glanced back at me, then back at the Tuna Thugs. Then she turned quickly to face me. She looked down at the gun I was holding and saw that it wasn't even the barrell I'd aimed at her. Her eyes met mine. "I'm ready to work with you," she said quietly.


"That is Jose Luevo and Miguel Fritz," Lennon was whispering the words, "They're wanted internationall y for over seventy murders, human trafficking, and being involved in Marisol's father's drug importing business." She stared into my eyes. "If they're here in London..." Lennon shook her head, not wanting to finish the sentence, then she said, grudgingly, "Your friend might just be right."

"That's the thing about Nick," I said, "He usually is right. He just takes the crazy route to get there."

"Okay listen to me," she hissed quietly, "You're about to get the fastest FBI Training session, ever." And she proceeded to fill me in on an intricate plan -and how to execute it- as she fished the key to the handcuffs out of her pocket and freed my wrist. She took back her own gun and slid it in her holster, leaving me with mine still on my hip. "Think you can do that?" she asked.

My mouth was dry. I wasn't sure. But I nodded anyway because I had to. For AJ, I had to.

But really, Lennon's plan was even more insane than Nick's.



I don't know how many times I had watched the webcam of the iconic street. I remembered fondly the time me and the guys had mimicked the exact same post while in town for a concert. But being on Abbey Road was even more significant.

It was life of death.

"So what now?" Lucy asked. "Is he hiding in the studio?"

I shook my head. The wall next to the crossing was covered in graffiti from die-hard Beatles fans. Someone had spray painted an amazing likeness of John on the wall. Someone else had written some lyrics to Let it Be.

Then there was the arrow.

"Of course," I whispered.

Lucy looked up at me, her pretty face wrinkled in confusion. I stared down at her, my lips curving in a wolfish smile. She had caused my jealous side to rear its ugly head. Now that the threat of Brian was out of the way, I had the strongest desire to relieve all my pent-up Nick-stuff in the best way I knew how.

But first, the arrow.

"How much do you know about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?" I asked sweetly.


"This is gross. Oh my god, this is gross. This wasn't part of the training manual."

"Lennon wouldn't be whining."

Lucy's shoe made a disgusting squishing sound as she yanked it from the muck. I could smell, not see, the rats. "Lennon can kiss my ass." I knew a scowl was attached to the statement.

In the darkness, I took her hand. With the squish, muck, muck underneath and the squeak of the rats following us, we made our way through the sewer tunnel. I just knew AJ was hiding down here. I couldn't even begin to imagine the amount of shit he was in, but I knew I was going to kill him when I found him.

"What do you think happened to Brian?" Lucy asked.

I gritted my teeth. "He'll be fine," I said. "He would have been even more fine if he'd have just listened to me."

"No, everything would have been fine if you guys would have just listened to me," Lucy argued.

I didn't answer. I knew it was best not to rile up a woman, especially a woman with a gun. She was sticking close to my back and I was relishing in the fact that I was in charge.

"You seriously think he's down here?" she asked.

"Well, I..."

In one split second, we were tossed from pitch blackness to light. I blinked in surprise, inhaling a way-too-large mouthful of shit stench.

We had come face-to-face with a large group of people all wearing hard hats. A heavy guy, his triple jowls quivering, scowled.

"What the--are you part of the tour?" he demanded.

"Tour?" I repeated dumbly.

The scene became a little more clearer. The other people in the group had cameras, yes cameras around their neck. One guy wore a t-shirt with the British flag on it. Another was referring to a pamphlet.

"Holy shit, you give tours of the sewers here?" I said in disbelief.

"Nick," Lucy mumbled, but I ignored her.

"How many levels of fucked up is this?" I asked. "You make money off of crap! Literal crap!"

The fat guy, obviously the tour guy, grew red in the face. "Who the hell--"

"Nick," Lucy said more urgently.

"Not no--"

"STOP YOU SONOFABITCH!" Lucy screamed. Before I knew what was happening, she flew past me. I staggered backwards. All the headlamps flew in her direction. I gasped.

AJ, wearing a hardhat and obviously trying to blend in with the other crazy tourists that were flushing their money down the drain (literally), had been trying to sneak away. Lucy wasn't having any of it. It took another could seconds for my stunned body to react.

"You fuckin' jerk, get back here!" I screamed. I struggled to get around the guide who threw his arms out to stop me. After pulling a completely Beatle-esque romp move by pointing in the opposite direction, I dodged under his arm and chased after AJ and the girl that I wanted to get into bed as soon as this nightmare was over.

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