Written by: Merlin Missy and Constance Cochran
Story concept by: Constance Cochran
Outline by: Constance Cochran and Kathy Pogge
Illustrations by: Amber
Previously on Gargoyles...
"So, Sara . . ." Elisa stalled. She noticed that Sara was taller, but not by much; Elisa wryly reflected it might be nice to work with someone she didn't have to crane her neck back to see.
"I'll spare you the questions. I'm twenty-four years old and I live in a closet in Brooklyn. My parents also live in Brooklyn, along with my dog, Shakespeare, who can't live with me because my landlord's a pain."
"I have two older brothers. The first is named Todd, and he lives in San Francisco. My other sibling--" she grimaced a little, "is Damien. He lives in Long Beach and I swear, his only purpose in life is to drive me nuts."
~ Tightrope ~
The blow struck between her shoulder blades, sending her to her knees and driving the breath from her body. Her fingers clenched convulsively, tighter, about the hand-grip of her gun, but for a second she couldn't see, couldn't raise her arm, couldn't do anything but struggle for breath and fight the urge to pass out.
Fool rookies... It was another rookie mistake, forgetting all about the second gunman. Or maybe she hadn't forgotten, but had been too enraged to care. Her partner's blood was stiff and dry on her fingers.
A soft, unpleasant laugh brought her head up, and she found herself staring into a tiny black hole, the barrel of a semi-automatic.
It was a saying she'd heard, that for every cop there was a bullet inscribed with a name. Seconds to oblivion. The silent cars, the shadows, the mocking face above the gun, faded as if swallowed by a mist, leaving only that small black hole, waiting to consume her with a flash of fire.
Twin screams, like those of jungle beasts, and a thud brought the world back into focus with an almost audible snap. Something huge with lanterns for eyes had flattened her would-be killer across the hood of a car. With a shock, she recognized it from the photographs Castaway had given her. You've never seen one up close, have you? Well I have.
A second creature flicked out its tail, knocking down the first gunman, who had bolted.
Fear raced through her as she got a good look at the pointed, beak-like face, the demonic horns, white hair, wings, talons, and those eerie, ever-burning white eyes. Kneeling on the floor, she brought her gun up and sighted down the barrel at the creature.
The two creatures became aware of her, and the white glow left their eyes. Sara held her gun with both hands because she wasn't steady enough to manage with just one. For many heartbeats they stared at each other, the two gargoyles facing the young woman.
Sirens grew louder with a hollow note that indicated that the vehicles had entered the garage complex. The sound seemed to break a magic spell. Slowly, she felt the tension draining from her face. Her eyes went to the two unconscious gunmen. The gun lowered, then clattered to the floor, dropped from a limp grasp as the two gargoyles glanced at each other, then at the woman, before darting away into the shadows with a flicker of wings.
~ Mutual Trust ~
* * * * *
* * * * *
Sara stepped aside to avoid a group of longhaired teenagers who emerged from the gate with backpacks bulging. Beyond the huge, two-story windows, the middle and tail section of a passenger jet was visible, its white painted steel sides dull under the gray overhang of the sky. Mounds of dirty white snow, like a mountain range miniature model rendered in proportion, rose beyond the plane. The snow almost seemed to dwarf the great flying machine, and the color of the March sky seemed to promise more to cover the runway. The several dozen plows lined up in silent, neat rows, shovels raised and waiting, strongly suggested ranks of well disciplined soldiers, waiting at attention for the call to arms for a winter battle. Involuntarily, Sara shivered once despite the heat inside the airplane terminal, shrugging in her heavy sweater and wool coat.
She spotted them before they saw her--a gangly, black-haired man of about thirty, wearing jeans and a dark brown leather jacket, and a younger, brown-haired man in a more practical squall jacket. Sara called out, and waved. The two spotted her, and their faces broke out into smiles that were the only thing about them that showed the common blood.
"Saran Wrap!" The taller one reached her in a few long strides, and despite the overnight bag slung over his shoulder, effortlessly picked his little sister up from the terminal's carpeting in a bear hug.
Happily, she punched him in the arm. "Don't call me that," she protested, grinning.
Damien put her down, and she turned to hug Todd, who only said quietly, "Hey, sis, how are you?"
"Cold," she said. "You wouldn't believe the weather we're having. Makes me wish I was going west to visit you."
Damien shook his head. "It's not snowing out there, but it's just as bad. Storms have been hitting towns all up and down the coast. It's weird."
Like a unit, the trio turned and headed along the long, ramp-like corridor of the airport towards the exit. "I have to go on shift tonight," she explained, "But you guys can get settled at my apartment, then go hit the town." She frowned. "Some Broadway and movie theaters have been closing--but most of the major ones are still open. People just don't want to go out with all the snow."
"Cool, no lines."
"Why don't we drop you at work?" Todd suggested. "More time to visit."
"Yeah," Damien said. "Can't let our little sister get lost in the snow storm."
They reached the exit and stepped outside, where soft flakes were starting to fall. In the distance, the parking lot was a clear cement wasteland, with only a few splashes of chrome and color surrounded by white. Sara's beige economy sedan looked very small and unimpressive.
Sara snorted. "Little sister happens to be a grown woman."
"And she catches bad guys," Todd said.
"The terror of the NYPD." Damien swept his hand out in an elaborate gesture. "The criminal element flees for its life..."
"You've been reading too many comic books," Sara said.
Around them, the flakes thickened, falling faster, curling in a gust of wind as the three headed towards the wasteland. The snow had lightened by the time they put Sara's car away in the garage and had walked the few blocks to her precinct. The skyline of New York City, with its glass and stone, looked as steely as the sky.
"So, tomorrow morning, we'll all have a big breakfast together--I know this place with great waffles. After I catch a few hours' sleep, we can--"
The voices, male and female, came from behind her. Sara turned on the station steps as Elisa and Matt walked up to meet her.
"Hi. What are you guys doing here at home, and not on the street?"
"We're working on a case together--need to talk to one of the officers involved." Matt turned a questioning glance to the two men with Sara.
"Oh, Matt, Elisa, these are my brothers. They just flew in from the coast..."
"And boy, are their wings tired?" Elisa said. At the blank stares she got from the Jaspers and the grimace from Matt, Elisa grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, inside joke."
"This is Todd, and the taller one is Damien. Elisa and I were partners...for a while."
"Then Sara and I worked together on special assignment," Matt said quickly. He caught Sara's eye and quirked a small half-smile intended only for her benefit. "Your sister helped us save a lot of people from getting hurt--including me."
"See, the criminal element trembles in terror," Damien said. His eyebrows shot up. "So what's the story? Sara rescued you?"
Matt opened his mouth to say something else, but Sara took his arm and prodded him up the steps. "Guess you two better get working on that case," she said. Quickly, she dug into her coat pocket and tossed Damien the keys. "Let yourself into my place, make yourselves at home. There's food in the 'fridge."
Shrugging, Elisa turned to follow Sara and Matt. "Nice to meet both of you. Sara's mentioned you."
"Uh-oh," Damien said slowly. "Whatever she said, it's all lies."
"Right." Elisa chuckled, and vanished through the doors after Matt and Sara.
The brothers went down the steps and headed towards the next avenue. Neither said anything until they reached the end of the block. Then:
"Did you notice what I noticed?"
Todd grinned. "Well, at least what he does for a living isn't a question. Wonder why she never mentioned him?"
"She hasn't mentioned him, o naive one, because I don't think she even knows what's going on there yet."
"You know, come to think of it, she hasn't told us much of anything about what's been going on in her life this past year or so."
"Yeah," Damien agreed. "It worries me." He glanced up at the faces carved at the cornices of a building. "What time is it?"
"Almost three. You may have cleaned up your act, but you still won't wear a watch, will you?"
"What, and be a slave to the establishment? Look, I think we should find a nice, warm movie house and kill some time, but first I need to check out something. There's only one store in the world that has a bootleg of a Johnny and the Moondogs concert, and it's on the lower West Side."
"Let's go to Sara's, then, we'll pick a theater, and then you can go down and get your LP. We'll meet up this evening."
"Sounds like a plan."
* * * * *
Elisa rubbed her hands together, blowing on her fingers for heat. The spider-thin sunlight, making a last appearance through the buildings, offered no warmth to the dying day. As she waited on the castle rooftop, she contented herself with thoughts of cocoa, rich with cream and steamed milk.
The last glimmer of sun melted regretfully into dusk.
Crackling, then popping met her ears like giant ears of corn tossed into a roaring fire. The wakening cries that followed should have frightened her with their savagery, but Elisa felt only calm joy, and a warmth deeper than cocoa could ever grant.
She placed a smile on her face as she climbed the stairs to greet Goliath. He waited on the tower, back to her, facing the darkening city. As she reached the top step, he turned.
"Good evening," he said.
"Hi." She gave him a quick hug, and the warmth continued. She grinned.
"You seem to be in a merry mood."
"'Merry?' Not really. Just ... " She shrugged. "It was an interesting day." They walked down the tower stairs, her hand resting on his arm. "I met Sara's brothers today. One of them reminds me of Derek."
"In what way?"
She shrugged again. "I can't put my finger on it. Just something about him. He's the same type. Which probably makes no sense to you at all."
She was suddenly distracted by a chorus of: "Can we go out? Please???" The twins harmonized in perfect counterpoint to each other; they could not have reached a more pleading tone had they tried.
"I don't know if that's a good idea," said Brooklyn, looking over to Sata for some support. His mate, perhaps wisely, ignored the three of them and continued conversing with Angela.
"Please?" asked Ari.
"Please?" asked Graeme.
Seeing that there would be nothing in the way of input from Sata, Brooklyn caved. "Fine. Go. But not alone, not with the Unseelie behind every tree and fire hydrant. I'd go, but I've got patrol tonight."
"I can go with them," Lexington volunteered. Both faces fell, although Elisa thought, perhaps not as much as if any of the rest of them had asked.
"All right," said Graeme, and grabbed Ari's shoulder. In a stage whisper, he said, "C'mon, before they change their minds!"
Ari nodded. The two went to the ledge and without pause, jumped off. "Keep up if you can!" called Ariana. Lex shook his head and took off after them like a shot,
Elisa watched them go.
"You were saying?" prompted Goliath.
* * * * *
The cold, what Lex could feel of it, exhilarated him. He flew behind the kids, keeping up as well as he could, but not embarrassing them by flying next to them. From back here, he could hear plenty anyway.
" ... never let us go anywhere alone."
"Do they think we're kids or something?"
Lex bit back his laugh. He could remember well being their age, craving speed and independence, and not the too-protective enfolding wings of his rookery parents. Because of his small stature, even the members of Goliath's rookery had taken to parenting him at the twins' age. He recalled one female in particular, whose interest in mechanical gadgets had matched, even inspired his own. He remembered more than one occasion when she'd booted him from her laboratory "for his own good." At the time, he'd resented her overprotectiveness, but now, through the misted glass of recollection, he saw her concern for what it was, and felt again the sorrow of the loss of all that had been his clan.
"They don't mean to smother you. They're just watching out for you."
"We can take care of ourselves," said Ariana, executing a smooth loop and coming up beside him.
"I know that, and they know it, too. But things are different with the Unseelie around." Thoughts of Nicholas Maddox danced through his head. He blinked away the pain before it could settled into a permanent knot in his chest. Just another disappointment. "We can't be too careful."
Instead of answering, Graeme pointed down and off to the right. The three of them glided down in formation and dropped to the rooftop. Lex checked his internal clock. "We've got some time before the movie starts."
He glanced around, noted his surroundings with a comforting familiarity. The theatre was on the upper west side; the rooftops that met his eyes were a confusing tangle of gardens and turrets and pointed roofs. At any point, he expected chimneysweeps to leap up and start dancing.
"You're it!" shouted Graeme, and tagged him, laughing, Lex rubbed his arm in play, then made a grab for Ari, who slipped just past his claws, laughing.
"You two boys play. I'm kinda hungry."
Lex shrugged apologetically to Graeme. "Let's go get something to eat, then."
"Oh c'mon, Uncle Lex. I can go by myself. I'll be one block away!" She twirled her bo to demonstrate her prowess.
I'll be careful. I won't get in the way, he'd pleaded with her, as she shooed him out of the room. Behind her, a cauldron filled with water began to boil, the scalding steam slowly turning a paddle-wheel above it.
I'll go, he said louder, as Brooklyn butted in, volunteering himself and Sata for the mission. Goliath acted as if he didn't even hear him.
Lex flexed his arm, felt the skin slide over the implants.
"Yeah," said Graeme in the here and now. He watched as Ari flipped the stick in the air and caught it deftly. "Do you really think anyone will mess with her?"
"All right," he said. "But watch your back and don't go too far."
"Cool!" said Ari, and with a running leap, she was gone.
* * * * *
It had grown colder. Todd huddled into his jacket and contemplated waiting inside the movie house lobby. At night, with the multitude of lights, Manhattan seemed less bleak. The snow heaped by the curb had a faint pink glow, reflected light from the passing cars and the marquee. Three teenage boys, one of them with some kind of punk hair, hurried by, laughing and jostling each other. But even they seemed subdued, keeping their shoulders close, as if expecting a possible ambush. Most of the pedestrians passing by the theater had a rushed, huddled look to them. Todd had grown up in Brooklyn; he'd seen first-hand the pushiness and grumpiness of New Yorkers. But he'd never been in the city before and sensed anything so defensive--afraid. It probably had something to do with the unnatural weather.
Another half-hour passed, and another. Todd went in and out of the lobby, trying to keep warm. A small knot of worry started in his stomach. Sure, Damien never wore a watch, but he had his own ingrown sense of timing; his lateness rarely extended beyond the fifteen minute variety. By his watch, he was two hours overdue.
Todd started to pace. "Where are you, Damien?"
* * * * *
Damien turned the corner, hands stuffed in his pockets, concentrating on the fast slap of his feet against the pavement as he walked. "I don't believe this...Todd's never going to let me hear the end of it," he muttered. Behind him, he heard the mutter of engines.
* * * * *
Bruckner sipped at his coffee, cursed amiably as he burned his tongue. "I hate that," he said.
His partner ignored him. Inaudibly, he sighed. He liked Anne, no, Detective Ross. He really did. His wife went through stages of liking her and regarding her with suspicion. He'd noticed these stages exactly paralleled what Ross was wearing. In her uniform, her long brown hair pulled tight into a French braid as it was tonight, Wendy had nothing but the best to say of her husband's partner. When her hair was down, though, a few strands of silver running like electricity to brush her shoulders, dressed not as a cop but as the attractive forty-something woman she also was, those were the times Wendy asked when he'd be home, and sniffed him for foreign perfume. Frank accepted this as the price he had to pay for having Ross as a partner. In all, it was worth it, for he did think the world of her. But she was starting to drive him nuts.
"That's him," she stated flatly.
"You're sure?" He tried not to tease, but she sounded so serious he could not resist.
"Of course I'm sure. I never forget a face. Look at him --- he is the composite. Let's bring him in."
Frank stowed his barely tasted coffee in the cup holder. "Let's."
* * * * *
Damien's stomach clenched as the headlights suddenly blazed behind him, casting his silhouette onto a concrete and brick edifice nearby. He'd been aware of it for the past five minutes, but he'd hoped the driver had just been waiting for someone. Guess they had been after all.
He kept walking as two car doors opened and closed behind him. There were footsteps. He tried to ignore them, readying his fists and hoping he could take them by surprise.
They came up to either side, and he turned. A man and a woman watched him, he with a business-like expression, she with something like steel. She grabbed his arm and pulled something out of her jacket. "NYPD. We'd like to ask you a few questions, sir."
He managed to control his instinct, to break the hold, to strike, to run, but only barely. If she hadn't pulled the badge, he would have already been running down the street. He took a centering breath.
"What seems to be the problem, officers?" he asked, in a calm voice that would have done his father proud. The elder Jasper had instilled respect for law enforcement officers in his offspring. Besides, he'd had enough of trouble with the law in his life. He didn't need any more right now.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to come down to the station with us for questioning," said the woman. The man said nothing, only watched him grimly. This was not looking good.
"On what grounds?" he demanded.
"4732 West Agatite, Alcorn and Sons Jeweler. Two hours ago."
He stared blankly at them.
"The store-keeper, a nice old man, was stabbed three times."
Damien went cold, as a numbing wind hit the three of them. Still, he asked in as calm a voice as he could: "What does that have to do with me?"
"Cute," said the woman. "Very cute. Let's go."
"I want to call my lawyer." Actually, he wanted a whole fleet of lawyers. Something bad was going down fast, and Damien wanted a life preserver. He'd dealt with cops too much in his time. The best were like his father, good folk looking out for the common good. The worst enjoyed the power that went with their job, and wielded it indiscriminately. The ones that scared him most, though, were the ones like this woman, eyes flat and dead, spirit killed by the street, by people she surely thought were just like him.
He gave a last pleading look to the male, the one whose eyes were still sympathetic. But his loyalties lay with the woman.
Damien sighed, let his shoulders sink in defeat, then twisted, breaking the woman's grip on his arm. He ran for it.
Bad idea, Jasper, he thought, as moments later, the woman body-slammed him to the ground. His cheek scraped on the pavement, as she dragged his arms behind him. He bit back the cry as his arm bent in its socket in a way it should not have. Her elbow struck his ear, sending a hot spike of pain through his temple as it connected with the ground.
"Against the car, scumbag," she said, dragging him bodily upwards. Her knee shoved him against the car. His chin hit wrong, snapped his teeth shut. More pain went through his face and jaw. Ice-cold cuffs ratcheted closed around his wrists.
"Hey, Anne, take it easy!"
"Cool it, Bruckner." She searched him.
"What are you doing?" asked the man, Bruckner.
"You've got the wrong guy!"
"Yeah, yeah. I've heard it all before, punk." She yanked viciously on the cuffs. Damien winced, then caught sight of the male cop, who looked distinctly uneasy. "You're not listening! My name is Damien Jasper. I'm visiting my family here, I live in California..."
* * * * *
Ari held onto the building with one hand and held her pizza slice with the other. She bit into a crispy pepperoni, closed her eyes in dreamy joy as the spices exploded on her tongue. Uncle Broadway's homemade pizza was excellent, but it couldn't compare to this. There was just something about hand-tossed pizza from a corner pizzeria.
"On what grounds?" The voice drifted up to her perch. She took another bite and peeked down. A woman with a badge was holding onto a human male, maybe thirty in human years, with a leather jacket of the style Dad wouldn't admit he liked.
The humans exchanged a few more words. The man balked at something the woman said, and broke free. Not three steps later, she was on top of him, pushing his face into the sidewalk, striking him with her elbows and knees.
Hadn't Uncle Broadway told her something about proper procedure in apprehending criminals? Ari wasn't one hundred percent sure, but she thought beating them up wasn't in the rules, especially when they weren't armed.
"What about his Carmen Miranda?" she asked aloud, then looked around to make sure no one had heard.
No one had. "You're not listening! My name is Damien Jasper." Ari dropped her pizza.
After what seemed to her to be way too long, the male cop took a little card out of his wallet, and read, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you ... " Ari nodded. Carmen Miranda satisfied.
As she watched, the two cops shoved Damien Jasper into their car. She waited until they were gone, gave one longing look towards her fallen pizza, and then raced back towards where she'd left Graeme and Uncle Lex.
* * * * *
"...so he pulled out the gun..."
"You get a good look at him?"
"Sure did. Tall, thin, dark-hair. Looked like Dracula."
"Looked like...what?" The detective taking the statement stopped typing and stared at his witness.
"He had these long sharp teeth," the witness elaborated, tapping his own incisors. "And, like, these long pointy ears."
"Pointy. Ears." The detective typed the description in.
Another cop hovering at the nearby coffee maker turned to Jerry Pearson, who had started to jot notes in his notepad.
"Been gettin' a couple a week like that," the cop said, jerking his thumb at the witness, who was sketching the ears for the bemused detective. "Must be this weird weather we've been having--cabin fever. Hey, Jasper, how've you been?"
Sara barely nodded at her old acquaintance from her early days on the force, and pushed through the doors leading back into the holding cell area.
As his sister approached, Damien got up from the cot where he had been sitting with his head in his hands. Sara flinched when she saw the scrape on his cheek over a forming bruise.
"Sara, I swear to you, I didn't do anything. They think I'm someone else."
Brother and sister faced each other through the bars of the temporary holding cell. Sara looked up into Damien's face, then nodded. "I'll see what I can do." Sara started to walk away, then stopped and turned back. "I'm calling Mom and Dad."
Damien's fingers closed around the bars, and he winced. "Do you have to?"
"They'll believe you. They'll know this isn't like..."
"Like those other times," he finished for her, voice flat. "Todd coming?"
"Yeah. He's talking to his lawyer friends on the coast, then he'll be right over. Just sit tight, okay?"
"And just what else would I be doing in this rat hole?" he called after her as she left the holding cell area.
* * * * *
"Captain, you don't understand. The arresting officer thought my brother was someone else. Damien didn't rob that store!"
"What about the store owner? Has he given a positive ID on Damien?" Elisa gestured toward the holding cell area.
"No, not yet," Matt said.
"Was anyone with him at the time?" Chavez folded her arms.
"No--" Sara took a deep breath. "But he's innocent!"
Responding to something in the tone of her voice, Matt put his hand on her shoulder. "We'll figure this out, Sara, don't worry."
"Look, detective, it may well be a misunderstanding, and nothing more. But Detective Ross has been on the force for ten years and has an excellent record. Your brother has a rap sheet as long as my arm, Jasper. It's her word against your brother's."
"Are you calling my son a crook, captain?" All three turned at the voice, which had a gravelly quality to it that somehow didn't seem harsh, either.
"Dad! Mom!" Sara turned in relief and gave her parents each a quick hug.
Mr. Jasper leaned on his cane and gave Captain Chavez a steady stare. "Do you have any evidence at all to back up the arresting officer's allegation? Concrete evidence?"
"Captain, Matt, Elisa these are my parents," Sara said in a low voice.
"Nice to meet you," Mrs. Jasper spoke automatically. "Captain Chavez, need I remind you of the term 'false arrest'?"
Captain Chavez fastened her expression into a patient, calm mask. "We are doing everything we can to look into the situation, Mrs. Jasper. We're not in the habit around here of arresting people without cause, and if there is a mistake we'll rectify it. But if your son is guilty--"
Mrs. Jasper started to protest, but her husband shook his head. "It's a system that works. If Damien's innocent, they'll let him go. Come on, let's go hear it from him."
"Captain..." Mrs. Jasper paused before following her husband. "I'm sorry for biting your head off--"
Chavez held up one hand. "I understand."
Mrs. Jasper turned and went after her husband; despite his limp, he moved his stocky body like an athlete, and she had to hurry to catch up.
Letting out a long breath, Sara gave a wry glance at Matt. "Why do I feel like I'm back in high school at the principal's office?"
"Aw, they weren't so bad," Matt grinned.
Chavez watched the Jaspers leave the main room. "Your father is a cop, isn't he?" She asked Sara.
"Was," Sara said, abrupt. "In California."
"Now, what about the shop keeper? If we can get an ID from him..."
"But what if they look alike, Elisa? Their build, their hair color...I read the report, the shopkeeper only got a quick look," Sara said.
"Okay, Maza, Bluestone, make sure we talk to that shopkeeper. The results of the fingerprints should be ready soon." Chavez paused. "Jasper, you want in on this case, fine. But you start taking it too personally, and you're out. Levin, you have that report on the 53rd St. homicide yet?" The captain moved off, her attention switching without pause.
"What, exactly, did your brother say he was going off to do?" Matt asked.
"He wanted to buy a vintage LP. He's into that stuff--classic rock, R&B, jazz."
"Sara, no one was with him. He left Todd late afternoon--plenty of time for the robbery to take place."
"You think he did it!" Her voice tinged with anger, she looked up at Matt accusingly.
"No, I'm saying it just looks a lot like he did. Look, even you said Damien is trouble. How can you...are you absolutely certain that--"
"Because I am, Matt."
"But his rap sheet--"
"Or maybe you don't think people can change," Sara said coldly.
"No, it's not that! But...sometimes siblings don't act the way you expect them to act," Matt added quietly.
"But I know Damien. And there's no way he did this. You don't believe him, and Chavez doesn't believe him. That makes me the only officer in the NYPD who thinks he might be innocent."
"I believe him," Elisa finally spoke, quietly.
The other two turned to look at her. Sara's eyes widened in surprise.
Elisa shrugged and lifted her hands. "Let's just say I have a brother that might be...hard to trust for someone who doesn't know him real well. But I know him."
"Jasper, Bluestone, Maza." Chavez returned, a folder in hand. "The jewelry store owner's on his way. Ross and Bruckner are ready to talk with you."
"Captain," Elisa said, "from Damien's statement, it sounds as if Detective Ross went a little far. Not just false arrest--it sounds like she was unnecessarily brutal."
Chavez frowned. "That is a very serious allegation, Detective Maza. You'd better think hard before following that up."
* * * * *
Anne Ross folded her arms and sat back in the desk chair. The French braid had become slightly askew; Anne untangled one arm and tucked the strands back as if they were recalcitrant suspects. "So the fingerprints on the glass aren't Damien Jasper's. That doesn't mean anything--anyone might have touched the glass before it was broken. He might have worked with an accomplice, or worn gloves."
"You're grasping at straws, Detective Ross." Sara leaned forward, resting her fingers on the neatly ordered desk. "We're talking about my brother's life, and you're refusing to admit you might have made a mistake--"
"Sara..." Matt cut in, gently taking her arm.
"I don't make mistakes, detective," Ross said quietly, but with each word separated for emphasis.
"Anne, maybe this time you--"
Ross shot the affable Detective Bruckner a glare. Shaking his head, he fell silent, ignoring the sharp look Elisa was giving him.
"And let me tell you something." Ross stood from her chair to face Sara. "I'm telling you this to help you--if you're going to be a good cop, you're going to have to learn to separate your personal feelings from the job. Shut them off. Otherwise, kid, you'll be writing parking tickets. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have work to do."
As Ross pushed past her, Elisa heard a faint beeping at her hip. Her pager--the castle, the gargoyles' phone.
"I can't believe she's doing this," said Sara.
"Excuse me," Elisa said, taking a few steps away for a modicum of privacy.
Her phone had ten speed dial buttons. One was labeled with her parents' names, one with that of her great-aunt, one the Chinese takeout place around the corner that she and Matt both liked. The rest went to various people down in Research. She pressed the one labeled with her aunt's name.
The phone didn't even ring before it was answered. "Hello?"
"Brooklyn, it's Elisa. Someone paged me."
"That was me. Lex and the kids just got back. Ari says she saw something, and I thought you should hear it."
From the corner of her eye, Elisa watched Sara. Her face seemed to hold an array of emotions in check as she talked with Matt. Elisa noted his hand on her shoulder, the sympathy in his stance. Interesting.
"Can you give me the high points?" She had enough to worry about without Ari's latest wild theory. Then again, if Brooklyn thought it was important enough to bother her at work, maybe there was more to it this time.
"She'd gone off on her own for a snack," strong worry colored the disapproval in his voice. "While she was eating, she saw a man be arrested."
"There were a lot of people arrested today." Elisa glanced over to Matt and Sara again.
"Are all of them named Jasper?"
Her total, undivided attention immediately went to the receiver. "Ari saw Sara's brother's arrest?" she hiss-whispered. She sensed his nod on the other end.
"Yep. And according to her, it was none too pleasant. She said the cops knocked him up pretty well before the arrest." Elisa rewound the sentence in her head, but didn't interrupt. "I told her that wasn't part of the program, but she says that's what she saw. She didn't want to wait to tell you."
Wheels began turning in her head. They had an independent witness to corroborate Damien's story. With her testimony, they could raise enough suspicion to let him at least have the chance to clear himself.
Elisa's mind provided her with a very clear image of Ariana sitting on the witness stand in front of a grand jury. She shuddered.
"Sorry, got lost in thought there a minute. Look, I'll be at the castle as soon as I can get there."
Puzzled, Brooklyn said only, "All right," and hung up, leaving her with the so-crazy-it-could-possibly-work speculation that a gargoyle could testify.
As she grabbed her jacket, she wondered if there was any law against taking her statement. She doubted there was, but knew enough of her coworkers would not accept it. Morgan would, Matt would, Sara by now certainly would, but the rest ... She didn't know, and it worried her.
"Where are you going?" Matt demanded.
"I have some things I need to take care of. Important things."
"More important than this?"
"Maybe," she said, and walked past him.
* * * * *
"Why can't we go now?" She had her arms folded. There was a very familiar pout on her beak.
"Ari, honey, it's not that easy." Elisa tapped her fingers nervously against her side.
Sata's normally calm face was drawn in concern. Brooklyn said, "Putting her in the spotlight could make her a target."
"I'm ready," said the young gargoyle, brandishing her bo. She was trying to look fierce, but Elisa could see only a child, clutching a teddy bear. "I know what I saw."
"I believe you. But I know a lot of other people who won't, just because you're a gargoyle."
"Perhaps," said Goliath, "we could delay this decision. From what you have described," he said to Elisa, "this man Bruckner is the one who must testify. Even if Ariana does make a statement, his will be the story that is believed."
She nodded. "If he rolls, we won't need Ari."
"It would be better for you," said Sata kindly.
Elisa said, "All right. I'll go after Bruckner. Ari, just in case, go over your story and make sure you have everything straight. If you have to testify, everything you say will be gone over with a fine-toothed tooth."
"Okay." She looked downcast. "I s'pose that's the last time I'm ever allowed to go anywhere until I'm ninety." Sata placed her hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"On the contrary, you showed excellent judgement in a crisis, my Ari-chan. I am proud of you."
Ari ducked her head, but beamed at the praise anyway.
* * * * *
Matt was back at his desk when she arrived. "Did you get your important business taken care of?" he asked sardonically.
"Yeah. Got a minute?" She waved him over. He scooted his chair next to hers. She opened a file in front of him and pretended to point something out. "We've got a witness in the Jasper case."
His head whirled from the file to her. "What? Who?"
He sat back in his chair and whistled. "Tell me you're joking."
"I wish I were."
"You have to bring her in. Without her, Damien could go to jail."
"What about Bruckner?"
"I don't think he's going to roll."
"We have to work on that angle first," she said. "We can't allow Ariana to be exposed to the public eye unless it's absolutely necessary."
"It is absolutely necessary."
"Not yet," she said. "Please, Matt. She's just a kid."
He rubbed his face with his hands. "Fine."
"And we can't tell Sara about this, not until we're sure."
"We can't keep this from her. It's too big."
"My reasons stand."
"This is different. Sara's not the public. She's a friend. The clan doesn't have nearly enough of them right now."
Elisa bit her tongue, and then said with quiet deliberation, "She was a Quarryman."
"She isn't a Quarryman anymore," he replied. "She's your friend and mine, and this affects her more than either of us. She needs to know about the gargoyles. It's time she finds out what they're really like."
Elisa had been dreading this day, knowing without much thought that it would come. Another member of the circle, another potential leak, only this one had once carried a hammer. She could say no, refuse to let her into their confidence. Matt would eventually forgive her. Probably. But Sara had proved herself. She was a friend. The gargoyles could use another friend.
"Let's go tell Sara a secret, then."
* * * * *
"What did you want to tell me? And why are we talking in the maintenance closet?" Sara stepped over a bucket.
Elisa pulled the string that turned on the closet light. "Because what we have to say isn't something we generally want overheard."
"It's about Damien," said Matt, "and what happened when he was arrested. We think we have a witness who says Detective Ross acted improperly." His head bumped the lightbulb that hung in the middle of the room, and shadows began swaying back and forth around them. "Ow!"
"A witness? That's great! Who is it? Are they here?"
"Hold on," Matt held up one hand. "It's not...it's not that easy." He gave Elisa a pleading look.
Elisa moved so that she could see Sara better in the shadows of the closet. "Matt and I aren't fooling ourselves that you don't know about our friendship with the gargoyles." As Sara nodded, Elisa continued. "Good. Then I don't have to explain everything, just certain things...the witness we found, well, it's complicated. First off, she's a minor. A child."
"Oh." Sara frowned. "I suppose we could find a way to keep her out of court...but I'd hate to expose a child to that kind of..."
"She's also a gargoyle."
Sara put both of her hands, palms flat, to her temples. "Oh, boy."
"She's quite willing to come forward," Matt said. "But the press will be all over this in a second. And the public..."
"I can imagine," Sara said grimly, lowering her hands.
"If everything else fails, we'll try it." Elisa's voice sounded as if she were trying to be very optimistic. "We won't let Damien go to jail for something he didn't do. But the gargoyles...look, they've had enough bad press to last a lifetime, they've had people after them with big guns, robots, bombs, and viruses...I'm sorry, I just can't lightly let any one of them step into the spotlight."
Sara let out a long breath. "Like shooting a mockingbird," she murmured. Then louder, she said, "I agree. She's just a little girl. We can't let her do it."
"We'll figure something out," Elisa said.
"All three of us," Matt added.
Elisa opened the closet door and switched off the light.
"What's her name?" Sara asked into the half-darkness, as Elisa and Matt started out into the hallway of the precinct. "The name of the witness?"
Turning in the hallway, Elisa said, "Ariana."
* * * * *
Damien was lying on his back, full-length on the cot, with his arms folded behind his head. "Hey, sis," he said, barely looking up as the three detectives appeared outside his cell. There was a magazine and an empty fast-food container on the floor next to the cot.
"I...we...came to see how you were doing."
"Oh, just dandy." Damien unfolded his arms and sat up. He reached down with his left hand to pick up the magazine, and winced.
Elisa and Sara exchanged a look. Damien picked up the magazine and resumed his relaxed posture, only he let his left arm lie at his side as he flipped through with his right hand.
"We're working on a lead, Damien," Sara told her brother. "Just stay with your story; it'll be all right."
He tossed the magazine aside, rose, and came to the bars. "Sara..." he glanced at Matt and Elisa, then lowered his voice. "Are Mom and Dad...really disappointed in me?"
She shook her head. "Damien, they believe you. You know that." She smiled. "Dad seems like he's ready to run out and interrogate suspects, badge or no badge."
"Damien," Elisa said, "are you sure about what you said in your statement? About how Detective Ross arrested you? That she slammed you against the car? And her partner had to remind her to read you your rights?"
He shrugged. "I guess. She was pretty tough... must deal with a lot of garbage in that job."
"We're going to send in a doctor to look at your wrist and your face," Elisa said. "You coming, Matt?"
"In a minute."
Elisa left them. "Sara, can I talk to you?" Matt glanced at Damien. "Alone?"
Only Sara caught the eyebrow Damien waggled at her. Sara made a face, then followed Matt out of the holding cell block. They stopped at the water cooler, where Matt made himself very busy pouring a cup of water. He swallowed it in one gulp, smashed the paper cup, and tossed it.
"I suppose you think he was faking it."
"The sore wrist."
"Uh...no. No, that's not what I wanted to tell you. What I wanted to say is that I'm sorry I didn't believe you before."
Sara looked at the linoleum floor, then back up at Matt. "Oh. Matt, you don't have to apologize. I understand. He's my brother...I admit I'm biased even though everything I know says he didn't do it...but you were just trying to be a good detective. And a good detective looks at all possibilities and keeps his or her objectivity."
"Not exactly," Matt said abruptly.
"What do you mean?"
"I wasn't exactly just being a good detective. Sure, I wanted to play this by the book. No mistakes. Because if he was innocent, all the more reason to go very carefully, considering what's at stake. But what if he did do it? If he did, I want to know about it. I saw how much faith you had in him. It would hurt you if he turned out to be guilty. But believe me, it hurts worse not knowing the truth. And I didn't want to see you hurt."
* * * * *
"Hey," the cop nudged Jerry Pearson in the ribs.
Pearson, who had been jotting notes as yet another fearful suspect described "long pointy teeth and weird eyes," looked up, a tad annoyed. "What?"
The cop chuckled. "You want gossip?" He nodded towards the water cooler.
"Hm," Pearson said neutrally.
"They work together, y'know. A kiss on the cheek, now that ain't much, mind ya...but if Jasper and Bluestone aren't careful, the boys are gonna start talking..."
"Yeah. So, sir, could you describe his ears for me...?"
* * * * *
"You're it!" Graeme spun and dove for cover behind the couch. Ariana looked up from the book she wasn't reading, blinked at him, and looked back to the text. Brooklyn leaned over her to see the book. The Lord of the Rings was one of her favorites, but she'd been on the same page for the past hour.
"Aw," said Graeme, seeing that she wasn't going to follow his lead. "C'mon, Ari. You're it."
"I don't feel like playing."
Nudnik growled and nipped lightly at Graeme's leg, then dashed away. Graeme ran after him. Ari's eyes did not leave the page, but her gaze was a million miles away. Brooklyn sat down beside her.
"Want to talk about it?"
He whistled. "Really? That's great. I hate having to make up things to say on the spur of the moment to tell you two. It's much easier when you just don't want to talk." He grabbed the remote. "So what's on TV?"
"I need to tell them what I saw."
"You can't, honey. It's too dangerous."
"I'm not afraid."
"We are," said Sata.
"But if Sara's brother didn't do it, he might go to jail anyway! Explain that!" She slammed the book shut. A glisten edged from the corner of her eye and moistened her cheek.
"We will not allow that to happen," Sata said. She sounded like she believed it. Brooklyn's stomach turned. They could say they would not allow it, but the truth was, human justice left a lot to be desired.
"You stay here," he said to no one in particular. "I have something to do."
Sata brushed her fingers against her daughter's face, then followed him into the passage. "Brooklyn-san, are you planning something rash?"
"Of course not."
"Let me rephrase. Are you planning something that will require our intervention on your behalf, and subsequent teasing by your rookery brothers, possibly for years to come?"
"Um. Maybe?" He swept her into an embrace. "You can tell me how foolish I am after this is all done."
"If there is an afterwards. Go, because you will go whether I ask you to pause or not. Meeting brutality with brutality will breed more. Only a calm heart may end the cycle."
"I'm calm. See? This is me being calm." He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "Calm."
"Go," she said. "Do what you must do, and return. We will still need you here."
She went back into the living room, leaving him alone in the darkness.
* * * * *
Elisa, her feet curled under her, sat in an armchair thumbing through the police report yet one more time. Occasionally, she would reach out and absently bring the steaming mug of coffee to her mouth for a sip.
On the couch, Matt and Mr. Jasper sat side-by-side with a jumble of papers, reports, and crime photographs spread out on the table before them. Bill Jasper's cane lay forgotten by the door next to the umbrellas. His sleeves were rolled up, and he looked annoyed.
"What are you expecting, detective? That the thief will conveniently leave behind a book of matches leading us to his favorite club? That only happens in the movies."
"No, I'm not expecting that, but it's still a shot. We could have forensics go over the store again. Talk to the people who live on the street, find out if they saw something."
"There's the store clerk who was injured--" Bill Jasper pushed aside his coffee mug and found the paper he wanted. "He says he sees 'a lot of customers, but maybe I remember that guy...'" Mr. Jasper shook his head. "No. No, his description is vague, but it could be Damien. Dark hair, tall, late-twenties to early thirties..."
"Let me see the forensics report again..."
Mrs. Jasper's voice was just audible from the kitchen as she used Elisa's cordless phone. She had changed out of her neat business suit into slacks and a big knit sweater. There were circles starting under her eyes, but her voice was strong. "Well, then get the clearance to do it. I don't care what time it is or how difficult it looks -- you're our lawyer. Yes...after the deposition...can we stall, get more time for my daughter to collect more evidence?..."
Sara took the luxury of brooding, and listened to the comforting rise and fall of her mother's voice as she stood by the window and looked out at the city. The lights looked warm and muted, shining out above the snowy streets.
In the window, she caught Todd's reflection. He was in a chair in the corner, apart from the others. His head was lowered, and he had his fingers buried in his hair.
She turned and walked over to him. "Todd?"
He looked up. "Oh, hi."
He let out a long sigh. "Yeah. But...it should have been me, y'know?"
"What? How can you say that?" She knelt on the floor next to him.
"Because I don't have a rap sheet. If it had been me, maybe this would be over by now. Because they'd believe me."
His sister shook her head. "I don't think Damien views it that way. I know you and I spent most of our childhood trailing in his wake. But he wishes he had been more like you. Make Mom and Dad proud, not screw up all the time, get arrested for dumb things. So there's no way he'd want to see you in a holding cell."
"Or you," Todd said.
Sara looked at the rug. "I've made a few...mistakes."
"Well, so have I--"
She looked up at him sharply. "No one, not even Mom and Dad, expect you to be perfect, you know. That's not what it's about."
"I know. I just...I wish I could do something. You and Dad...you know police work, and Mom--well, Mom could organize the Marines ... "
"You do what those forensics guys do. Sometimes it all hinges on the DNA sequence in a strand of hair."
"But we don't have a strand of hair. We don't have anything to go on."
Sara bit her lip. Then, in an angry movement, she got to her feet as Todd looked startled and Elisa looked up from her file.
Matt and Mr. Jasper glanced up from an argument about witness interrogation techniques as Sara went past them to the door, where she grabbed her coat.
"Hey, brown eyes, where are you going?" Bill Jasper asked his daughter.
"I'm going out. I have to do something--you two can stay and debate the finer points of detective work, but I'm going to go talk to the store clerk, and I'll re-check that store if I have to get down on my hands and knees and crawl on the carpeting myself."
Her face had set in a way that made her look like her mother. Something flickered in Bill Jasper's eyes. "I wish..." he began, and stopped. "You go. Go find out the truth."
She opened the door.
"Sara!" Matt stood up.
She turned, and waited. He met her at the door.
"I'm going with you."
* * * * *
Small puffs of steam came from his beak, but otherwise, Brooklyn was still as granite in the shadows beyond the skylight. As he watched and listened, Sara jasper went to the door. Matt got to his feet and followed her out, Brooklyn leaned over the edge of the building, waiting until they got into Matt's car.
Moments later, the rooftop was empty.
* * * * *
"HTTP:404 File Not Found" Frank hit the Reload button twice. The message didn't change.
"Search engine? More like a search bicycle." He went back and tried another link. The results didn't change. "With a missing gear."
"Bruckner, you got a minute?" Frank looked up from the monitor to see Bluestone and Jasper. Bluestone looked determined, Jasper just tired. He sighed and shut down the browser.
"Yeah. I do." He wasn't looking forward to this.
"We need everything you have on the jewelry store robbery," said Bluestone.
Frank glanced to the pile on his desk. It had only been a few hours, but already the report was buried under three other files. He took longer on the excavation than he needed; it kept him from having to meet Jasper's eyes.
"Here you go," he said, and handed the report over to Bluestone. The other man flipped through it, sharp blue eyes scanning and rescanning the information.
He risked another glance to Jasper. She peered over Bluestone's shoulder, desperately looking for details that might clear her brother's name. Frank swallowed. Five years before, his brother-in-law had been hit by a car. In the long hours they spent in the waiting room, before the doctors had come and let the family know he was going to be okay, Wendy had worn the same face as Jasper did now.
"Jasper, I ... feel bad about your brother."
"Me, too," she said quietly. Pale and pinched Wendy's face had been. Things were different when it was family.
"There's something I think you should know."
Both heads shot up. Both pairs of eyes focused on him, one in suspicion, one in hope like that of a man dying of thirst who looks to the horizon and sees a reflection on the sand.
"Last week." He paused. The memories weren't easy. "We had a case, a robbery shooting. A twelve-year-old boy. He died on the operating table. It should have gone to Homicide, but the Captain gave it to us. We caught the perps, had a strong case for the D.A. Last week, the case went to trial. The crooks walked on a technicality, the lawyer's fault, not ours."
He cleared his throat. "It really got her, y'know? Anne's always been a tough character, lately she's seems like she's burning out--she says we fight and we fight and they just keep coming back. But this...this was too much."
He expected some kind of weight to lift from his chest, or at least his conscience. Instead, he found only a different weight, a sadness for the little boy, for his family, for Anne. He swallowed again, this time around a lump.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. "She needs help," said Matt. "If you'll agree to give us a statement, we can get her that help."
Anne had saved his chestnuts a hundred times over. He'd saved hers the same number. She might never forgive him for this. He saw before him the end of their partnership, maybe of their friendship. One last save. "I'll give the statement."
He turned to Jasper, saw the gratitude on her face, and winced. "Jasper, he does look like the suspect. A lot. But not quite enough. I'll help you try to find your perp, if he's out there, if you'll at least accept the possibility that he's already in holding."
* * * * *
"Yeah, I seen him." Matt tensed. Sara didn't allow herself to hope. She showed him the composite again.
The motel clerk, only slightly more well-kept than what passed for the lobby in this rathole, scratched his chin. "Sure I'm sure. He stayed for three days, but that was two nights ago. Ain't seen him since."
"Do you often take close notice of the people who stay here?" asked Bruckner. Sara shot him a look, but it was a valid question.
"This one I did. He owes rent for the last night. I take notice of people who owe me money."
"Did he give a name?" Matt asked, scribbling down notes.
"Yeah." The clerk opened the register, ran his finger down the list of names. "John Smith. There were five of him that night, and seven tonight." He closed the book.
"It's a start," she said with more cheer than she felt.
* * * * *
Randy slipped out from the shadows. The street was bare around him. At this time of night, even New York was quiet. He needed to hole up somewhere for a few days, get his head together. The place he'd stayed in last time had been okay for his purposes, and he had enough money in his pocket to pay for the night he'd missed last time.
As he was about to cross the street, three people exited from the motel. He didn't give them a second glance as he walked by them. Just two guys out with a woman. She didn't look like a working girl, but you never could tell.
She met his eyes, then pulled something from her pocket.
"Hey," she said.
He ignored her, kept walking.
The younger of her escorts, a redhead, reached inside his trenchcoat as the other whipped out a badge. "Stop! Police!"
Randy's feet moved even before his brain kicked into gear. He heard them behind him, shoeslaps on the hard pavement, and ran faster, around a corner. He saw a darkness that was an alleyway, and skidded inside. Seconds later, they passed the alleyway. He doubled back and hid in a doorway.
"Where did he go?" asked the woman.
"He couldn't have gotten far," said the younger man, gun drawn.
Randy moved noiselessly in the twilight, back the way he'd come. The cops would spend valuable minutes looking for him in the alley. By the time they figured out what had happened, he'd be long gone.
He turned the corner.
A seven-foot-tall red monster stood there, arms folded, eyes an eerie white. He would have sworn it was grinning at him.
Randy fell back, yowling as his foot hit badly and he slid backwards. He backed into something soft. He looked up and saw the woman's upside-down face. She clicked off the safety on her gun.
"Don't move." He nodded his head. The monster was gone.
"Hey! Where'd the monster go?"
"Monster?" The older cop chuckled.
"Remember to test him for drugs when we get back," said the woman, and then: "You have the right to remain silent."
The redhead cuffed him, as the woman read him his rights. The other cop kept a bead on him until the cuffs were secured. Randy flinched as the redhead frisked him. When he found the diamonds in the inner pocket of Randy's jacket, he flinched again.
* * * * *
Anne watched the familial display of affection. She turned back to the paperwork in her hands, but she hadn't been reading it, just staring. She sighed, not bitterly. She was happy for the Jaspers. Really she was. She put the paperwork down, and rested her elbows on her desk. This night had been too long.
A throat cleared behind her. She looked up.
"Come on. Let's take a walk. We need to talk."
"Fine," She eyed him warily, standing up. "About what?"
"About why we keep fighting like we do," he said, and offered her his arm. She stared at it, then took it.
* * * * *
The pre-sunrise was barely noticeable beyond the dull sky. A faint rose glow at the horizon, over the sluggish, snow-rimmed river, was its brightest sign, only a reminder of former glory.
Onto the battlements of Castle Wyvern, Goliath emerged, followed by Sata, Ariana, and Graeme. Angela and Broadway arrived and landed in tandem, folding their wings, as Lexington scrambled up the stone steps with Nudnik trotting happily at his heels.
Ariana crouched and looked out over the still city--a city restful in the pre-dawn but never fully dormant. It breathed only slightly restlessly at that early hour, like a living creature beneath the sooty snow.
"Elisa phones to say the Jaspers are fine." Goliath rested his hands on the stone wall, a cold wind moving his hair. "And that she's bringing someone--a new friend, one we can trust, to meet us." He turned, and his eyes swept over the group. "I wanted to make sure that is acceptable to all of you."
"It's Sara, right? Matt's informant, the one he called Sparrowhawk?" Broadway offered, looking extremely pleased with his own deductive reasoning.
"Great," said Broadway. "I've been wanting to meet her."
"Where is Brooklyn?" Goliath turned to Sata.
Sata had one hand resting on each of her children's shoulders. "He should be here any moment."
* * * * *
Sara tugged at the fingers of her gloves, looking around her in wonder as Elisa led her along the corridors of Castle Wyvern. Electric lights gleamed discreetly behind fixtures that looked, if not medieval, at least several hundred years old. It gave Sara the impression that she had gone back in time.
Finally they reached a stone arch cresting the entrance to a flight of stone steps. A blast of cool air greeted them, whistling, as they started up.
Elisa stopped, and smiled apologetically. "You'd better wait here a moment--I want to make sure everything's okay first."
Moving sure-footed, Elisa hurried up the rest of the steps, and vanished. Faintly from above, Sara heard the deep rumble of a voice in greeting. It sounded vaguely familiar.
The seconds ticked by. Biting her lip, Sara stared at the old mortar and stone lining the stairwell. Had the castle walls really been moved stone-by-stone from Scotland? The stones looked as solid and steadfast as if they'd stood for a thousand years above the towers of Manhattan. She ran a gloved finger over the rough surface.
A click sounded on the steps below her, claws on stone. Whirling around, Sara fumbled under her coat for her gun.
Then, moving out of the shadow created between one light fixture and the next, came a gargoyle with long white hair and brick-colored skin. Gold breast-plate armor flanked his shoulders. Sara's arm fell to her side, the gun forgotten, while her other hand convulsively grabbed at the wall.
The gargoyle spotted her and froze, also a bit startled. Then, as one might speak to a small creature one didn't want to frighten, he held out one reddish hand and said quietly, "Sorry, it's okay, I won't--"
"You..." Sara spoke over his words. "Have I...seen you before?" She felt a pain in her back and realized she had pressed her body against the wall. Taking a deep breath, she took a step downwards, towards the gargoyle.
The gargoyle cocked his head to one side. "I think maybe--hey, I do know you! You're the cop! The one in the garage, last fall."
Blinking in surprise, Sara nodded. "There were two gunmen--one was about to shoot me. But then you, and another one, attacked them."
"So what are you doing here?" The gargoyle's eyes widened. "Wait a sec. Wait. You're Sara? Matt's Sara? I mean, his informant in the Quarrymen? All this time, that was you in the garage, but we had no idea." He let out a half laugh of wonderment, then his beaked face grew more sober. "Elisa told me you wouldn't let Ariana--my daughter--come forward. I appreciate you trying to protect her like that."
Sara managed to unclamp her fingers from the stone wall, then held out her right hand at the gargoyle. "You must be Brooklyn, then. I'm Sara Jasper. And I never had a chance to thank you, or your friend, to your face, for saving my life. So...thank you."
Brooklyn stared at her hand, clearly taken aback. Then he grinned. "You're welcome."
She felt her hand caught in a strong, gentle grip, and released.
Footsteps approached. "Oh, hi, Brooklyn," Elisa said, a question in her eyes. "I see you two have already met?"
"Yeah," said Brooklyn. "It seems that Sara here ... "
" ... Is very happy to meet him," she said, giving him a look she hoped he understood. It seemed he did, for he quieted immediately. That was best for now. Elisa's curious expression only grew deeper.
Sara had never told her, Matt, or anyone else what happened in that garage. It had been too much of a leap. She'd still been a Quarryman, even if one undercover for the police. That hadn't mattered. She'd still believed then. She'd dashed into the garage behind that gunman, like a grass-green rookie, and the only thing that had prevented her quick and violent end at the wrong end of a gun had been two of the monsters she'd sworn to kill when she'd taken up the hammer.
Gargoyles went from destroyers to protectors in an eyeblink, and Sara's beliefs couldn't make the jump that fast. She still reeled from time to time, pulling out the memory and rolling it in her mind like a smooth pebble in her palm. She didn't want to talk about it, barely wanted to think about it. If the gargoyles were the protectors of the innocent, the guardians of foolish cops, were not monsters but saviors, what did that make her and those like her who had wanted to destroy them?
And now one of her saviors stood before her, because his daughter had seen Sara's brother be hurt and wanted to help.
She did the only thing she could do. She took his hand once more, and held it firmly. "Thank you," she said again. Something like comprehension flashed through his eyes, was conveyed in the gentle squeeze his taloned hand gave her own.
"It's almost sunrise," said Elisa. "You've still got some people to meet." She let Elisa lead her up the rough stairs.
The air outside was even colder than it had been on the ground, and she found herself rubbing her gloved hands for warmth between introductions. Most of them had extremely familiar names: not only was there Brooklyn, but Broadway, Lexington, Hudson, and something big and mean-looking they called Bronx. Bronx licked her glove, and she petted him, before almost being bowled over by another ... dog? Sara wondered what the story was behind the names, betting herself it would be a good one.
A lavender female was next.
"Let me guess: Queens?"
There were chortles from the rest, but then she said her name was Angela. Her father's name was Goliath. Again, Sara recognized a gargoyle. This had been the giant that Castaway had caught and almost killed. She remembered the look on Maza's face that night, and glanced to her now to reconfirm. A few things began to fall into place.
"I'm Graeme," said a little boy who looked like Brooklyn, only shorter and greener. She shook his hand gravely.
"It's nice to meet you, Graeme."
She sensed movement behind her and turned. Two more females had come up the steps: an emerald-green adult, and a little girl the color of brick.
Sara held out her hand. "You must be Ariana."
"I wanted to thank you."
She glanced down. "You're welcome," she said in a little voice.
The older female asked, "What is it, Ari-chan?"
"Things worked out okay...but I didn't help at all, really. I couldn't tell the police what I knew because of how the humans feel about us." Her eyes were large and sad.
"I ... " Sara said, and fell mute. She'd been a Quarryman. She'd sworn to kill children like this, once upon a time. She knew firsthand how the humans felt, but she was beginning to see maybe how the gargoyles felt.
The light increased, and Sara heard a crackling, like plastic wrap crinkling, only much louder. As she watched, horrified, Ariana turned gray and lifeless. She'd heard they could turn to stone, but she'd never thought she'd see it.
She placed her hand on the little stone shoulder. The face was young, but not perhaps as young as it might have been a night before. "I'm sorry," she whispered, and meant it.
Elisa put her own hand on Sara's shoulder.
"Come on. We have a lot to talk about."
* * * * *