Leslie looked at herself in the mirror over the washbasin. She had looked better, that was for sure. The cut over her eyebrow and the assorted bruises didn't help matters. However, thanks to her lawyer who had not only brought her something to wear other than hospital scrubs, but had also provided her with a hairbrush and toothbrush, she was approaching a half-way presentable appearance. She took a deep breath and with a last look at herself in the mirror, she stepped out of the small bathroom. She was limping noticeably as it still hurt to put weight on her injured ankle, but it would have to do.
"I'm ready," she told the female police officer who had been waiting for her outside and who would accompany her on the transport to the court house for the hearing.
Privately, Leslie felt anything but ready as she followed the middle aged woman and her colleague who joined them in the hallway, to the police car that was already waiting for them outside. Part of her still felt like she was trapped in a nightmare that she just couldn't seem to wake up from. The reality of her situation had yet to fully sink in, she reflected, as she stepped out of the building. When however, suddenly a small group of people, seemingly coming out of nowhere appeared, shouting questions and brandishing cameras just the police officers present did their best of usher her to the waiting vehicle as quickly as possible, her already dying hopes that this would all turn out to be a bad dream diminished only further. She felt an odd sense of relief when the rear door of the car was shut behind her and the car started moving instantly, cutting her off from the mob of journalists trying to catch of glimpse of her.
The mood at the Doyle office was sinking steadily. The hours were passing and they were exhausting lead after lead with no result. No matter how they looked at it, there was no way around Sydney Parker's alibi and Mal's theory that Leslie was being coerced by someone was looking less and less promising. Feeling tired and not to mention hungry, Rose got up from her desk, stretched lightly to loosen stiffed muscles and walked over to her husband.
"I'm going to get us a bite to eat," she announced.
"What time is it?" Mal asked, not looking up from the screen that had seemingly captivated his attention.
"Just gone half past one," Rose told him. "We could all use some lunch."
Mal nodded. The door opened and Des entered.
"Did you get the footage?" Rose asked.
"Yeah, I did, I told the attendant that I was writing a crime blog and he just..." Des began to recount triumphantly and slightly out of breath.
"Not now, Des," Mal interrupted.
"The bad news is, there are no cameras outside the parking garage. All I could get is the footage from the on covering the exit and there isn't really anything to see there."
"Let's still have a look at it," Rose decided. Des handed her a disc.
Des had been right. There wasn't much to see. The camera angle was such that the cars were being filmed as they exited the structure. There was hardly any traffic during the time in question which was probably why Leslie's handler had chosen this particular time and place for a meeting.
"There, pause it," Mal said, pointing to the image on screen. "That's Leslie."
Rose squinted at the screen. The footage wasn't up to the standards of the digital age by a long shot, but with a little bit of illuminating, the blonde woman behind the wheel of the black car looked like Leslie Bennett.
"I wonder if anyone was following her," Rose said, tapping a key to start to video again. They watched the video for another fifteen minutes, but no other car left the structure during the entire time period. With another lead turned dead end, they agreed to take a break for lunch and then resume their efforts.
The police car felt over-heated to Leslie, her injuries ached dully and she felt sore all over, yet she didn't doubt that it was a picnic compared to the place she would soon find herself in. In the very likely case that she would be remanded, her next stop would be jail. Cops and soon to be ex-cops weren't popular among inmates, no matter what they happened to be accused of, and although the system took certain measures to protect people like her when they did end up in jail, friendly faces would be few and far in between. Even if the investigation ended up bringing the truth to light and exonerating her, something which she was rapidly coming to doubt very much, she was still looking at several weeks in jail at the very least. Contemplating that grim prospect, Leslie was startled by the repeated honking the car's horn, followed by the driver braking abruptly. Before she had a chance to process what was going on however, there was a mighty crash and she was thrown forward by the force of an impact from behind.
Leslie was still trying to catch her breath, which had been knocked out of her by her slamming against the seat belt when it had stopped her forward momentum. It was then that chaos really broke loose.
An instant later, a bullet shattered the rear side window, showering Leslie with fragments of glass. Leslie fumbled for the seat belt release, trying to undo the buckle, an effort hampered by her hands being cuffed in front of her. Unable to tell who was shooting from which direction, she dove for cover in the space between the seats when she finally freed herself from the seat belt.
It took considerable effort, but Jake managed not only to get to his feet without falling over, but, using the wall for support, he made it across his room and out the door into the hallway. There he paused for several minutes, leaning against the wall, trying catch his breath. Normally, he wasn't winded nearly as easily, but between hardly moving at all for a week and his healing injuries, he was far from being in top shape. He was pleased to note that the guard in front of his hospital room had disappeared, however he was somewhat disappointed and if he was honest a little irritated that he hadn't been kept the loop about the progress of the investigation, even thought in that case, he was the victim. The two CID officers had who had paid him a visit to take his statement regarding his kidnapping had had plenty of questions for him, but had been more than tight lipped when it had come to answering his. Not that this was much of an issue as far as he was concerned right now. He couldn't afford to worry about his own comparatively small problems when Leslie was in such grave trouble and he was powerless to help her.
Leslie felt utterly useless as she cowered on the floor between the seats while the gunfire continued outside. Rationally, she knew that this was the safest place to be right now. She was handcuffed, injured and unarmed, leaving her with no means to defend herself, plus sitting stationary in the car, she presented an easy target for anyone intent on getting to her. She had no doubts that this was no coincidence. Whoever had ambushed the car, it was because of her and whatever she had unwittingly gotten involved in.
She had no idea why anyone would go to all this trouble to either kill or free her, seeing she technically still was one of the good guys, at least until declared guilty by a court of a law. Whatever the attackers' motives were however, they had her and the rest of the cops in her escort pinned down. Even if she had wanted to use the general chaos and take advantage of the distraction of the police, she wouldn't have stood a chance against what sounded like an impressive amount of fire power.
Suddenly one of the rear car doors was wrenched open. Leslie looked up from where she had been seeking cover and found herself staring straight into the face of a man wearing a black ski mask. However, it wasn't his masked face that captured her attention, it was the semi-automatic pistol that he was carrying and pointing straight at her. He reached out and roughly grabbed her by the arm, pulling her up and out of the car. Leslie let out a scream, half protest and half exclamation of pain, as the man's vice like grip had fastened itself on the very spot where the bullet had pierced her left arm during the shooting at the parking garage. The man was unimpressed and pulled Leslie clear of the car.
Turning his head over his shoulder, he shouted a bunch of words in a foreign language Leslie couldn't identify to another masked man clad all in black and holding a rifle. Leslie kicked her captor between the legs with all she had, a move that was as risky as it was desperate. He grunted in pain and doubled over, letting go of Leslie's arm and dropping his weapon. Leslie snatched up the weapon. She was about to take aim when a bullet from the man with the rifle narrowly missed her head. Her shot hit its target dead center. The man she'd kicked seemed to have realized the change in situation and lunged at her, tackling her to the ground. Leslie tried to defend herself by firing another shot, but it went wide as she fell. Despite her training, Leslie was no match for her attacker as they struggled over control of the gun. Suddenly, and Leslie nearly missed it, there was a popping sound.
For a moment, her attacker seemed to freeze in the midst of their struggle. Then, like a marionette whose strings had been cut, he collapsed, lifeless, on top of her. Leslie was so stunned that for several seconds, she just lay there on the ground. Then the reality of her situation penetrated once again and she began shoving at the dead weight and tried to roll out from underneath it. Finally, she managed to get up on her hands and knees. Still breathing hard, she looked around for the gun, unsure what had happened to it in the struggle when a voice took her breath away completely
"I'm sorry, but I wouldn't do that if I were you." It was Sydney Parker's voice. Impossibly, but she would it have sworn it was him. She looked up and found herself face to face with the man himself, smirking triumphantly and just a little bit fondly at her.
"I'm also sorry about this," he went on. Leslie felt the sharp prick of a needle pierce her left arm. She looked down and spotted a syringe that Sydney had obviously just stuck her with and now dropped to ground.
Sirens were now audible in the distance, growing closer with each second. Leslie opened her mouth to speak, but the drug was already starting to take effect and a second later she couldn't even remember what she had wanted to say in the first place. Then, her knees buckled under her, but instead of hitting the pavement, Sydney caught her in his arms. The last thing she was aware of was Sydney Parker scooping her up.
"For a big time criminal, Sydney Parker has really done a good job keeping his nose clean," Rose said in between bites of her take-out lunch. Although they had initial tried to talk of other matters, the conversation had soon drifted back to Leslie and the events of the previous day.
"Yeah, on paper, he's the perfect citizen," Des agreed heartily.
"Not so perfect as that," Mal argued, "if they sent Leslie in undercover with their organization, the organized crime group must have been on his tail for a while. Sydney didn't stay that far under the radar after all, especially if they were able to arrest him before executing the search warrant for his father's investment firm."
"Do you think his father knew what Sydney had been up to?" Des asked.
"Definitely," replied Rose. "I wouldn't be surprised if Mervin Parker was the one running the whole thing in the background and pulling the strings. He has been investigated for all sorts of allegations in the last thirty years, but no one could ever make anything stick." Rose had been looking at Mervin Parker in the course of her research, but the man seemed to be made of Teflon. Nothing had ever been proven against him, despite the wildest rumours and suspicions flying around town for decades.
"While we are on the subject, did you find anything of interest about the rest of the Parker family?" Mal asked, addressing Rose.
"Not much. Mervin is currently married to his third wife. Neither she nor his daughter Jocelyn are thought to be involved in the family business. Although Jocelyn is apparently a bit of a wild child, she has a record, a few minor drug offenses, shoplifting, that sort of thing. Less than two weeks ago, she drove her car over a cliff outside town under the influence and nearly died as a result."
"Ironic, considering her father and older brother are major players in the drug trade," Mal commented dryly. "Any other family members?" Mal asked.
"I'm still checking up on Mervin's ex-wives, but I'm not holding my breath. Unless Sydney Parker has an evil twin somewhere out there, I think we're wasting our time," Rose said.
Mal looked like he was about to reply when the phone rang and he went to pick it up.
"You weren't serious about Sydney Parker having an evil twin, were you?" Des asked Rose.
"Well, it would explain how the man can be in two places at once. In fact, it's pretty much the only thing I can think of that would explain how Leslie could be telling the truth after all," Rose said.
"Wouldn't the cops know about a twin?" Des asked.
Rose shrugged. "Normally, I'd say yes, but I guess everything's possible. I better see if I can't dig up Sydney's birth certificate. That will tell us for sure." The rest of her lunch forgotten, Rose hurried back to her computer.