TnT Ch. 08byslyc_willie©
(Author's note: this story deals with some very gritty and harsh subject matter. This is not for those looking for a straightforward sex story. There are many themes that some people might find objectionable, but to reveal them might give away parts of the story prematurely. If you continue reading, please keep this warning in mind.)
(This is the last of an eight-part series.)
June sat up in the hospital bed, looking at the various tubes plugged into her arms. She hated hospitals. The last time she had been in one, she had been a teenager in need of a cast for her arm after driving – drunk – into a parked and thankfully uninhabited car. That had not been pleasant, yet the experience paled in comparison to the invasive but necessary procedure of submitting to a rape kit examination.
As if I needed someone else to confirm what happened to me.
The flatscreen TV mounted on the wall was tuned in to a local news station. There had been no end to the parade of "exclusive" stories regarding the investigation and ultimate death of the Tolomeo twins. It turned her stomach that some of the ignorant comments posted on the news show's Facebook page were in support of the dead brothers, suggesting that they should have been "properly" investigated and that "vigilante" police should not have been allowed to go after them.
Put yourselves in my shoes, June thought derisively. Show me what a 'proper' fucking investigation is.
June didn't look to the young patrol officer as he pushed open the door to her room and leaned in. "What."
"Um . . . someone to see you. She's on your 'pass' list."
June snapped her head up, eyes opening wide in hope. "Sophie?"
The patrolman retreated, leaving the door open for the pretty redhead as she entered the room. She held a bouquet of flowers.
June blubbered instantly, smiling and crying at the same time. "Sophie," she sputtered, holding her arms out. "Oh, God."
Sophie smiled as well, looking past the blemishes on her lover's face, the bruises and the wounds. She rushed to the bedside, dropping the flowers to the floor before embracing the woman she loved.
Both women trembled as they hugged, with June nearly convulsing in an epileptic fit. Sophie had to push herself back.
"Don't look at me," June declared, turning away.
But Sophie caught her lover's chin in her hand. "But I want to."
June winced. "No. Not yet."
Sophie was insistent. "I don't care what happened to you. I love you. No matter what."
Tears dribbled down June's face. "Even after what they did to me?"
"Yes. Even after that."
Slowly, June turned pained eyes upon those of the woman she loved more than herself. "I'm never gonna be the same," she said, her voice barely more than a whisper.
Yet, Sophie could only smile, looking past the bruises, past the pain. "Maybe not. But you're always going to be my wife," she declared.
* * * *
"I strongly suggest you remain for at least another day," the doctor insisted as Riaz dressed himself.
The detective shook his head with a wry smile, hiding the pain that lanced through his back and shoulder every time he moved his left arm. "Can't do that," he said. "My daughter's graduating tonight. I'll be damned if I'm going to miss it."
The doctor sighed tiredly. "It's your call," he said. "Just remember, you have a fractured scapula and two bruised ribs. No exertion for the next few weeks. No smoking, no--"
"I don't smoke."
The physician held up his hands. "I'm just saying, take it easy. Sit down the moment you feel any light-headedness. It's going to take a while to heal."
Riaz nodded as he finished draping the jacket over his shoulders. He extended his hand to the doctor. "Believe me when I say I understand," he said. "I may be stubborn, but I'm not stupid. I'll take care of myself. I always have."
The doctor managed the thinnest of smiles as he shook the detective's hand. "Guess I just have to believe you on that."
Riaz let the man go, then returned to the task of collecting his personal things. He had hated every minute of the previous seventeen hours spent in a hospital bed in a hospital gown, barely able to sleep. The haunting memories of what had happened during that final confrontation with the Tolomeo twins plagued his thoughts, but not as much as the prospect of being denied the simple fatherly pleasure of watching his only daughter walk the stage at her graduation. In twenty-two years, he had never missed a single highlight of Kitna's life. He was not about to break that streak now.
He started, then tilted his head to glance back toward the owner of the voice. She stood behind him, several feet away, keeping her distance. He almost smiled at her presence, but her expression kept him emotionally guarded.
"I, uh . . . was gonna come see you sooner," Susan said awkwardly, brushing back a lock of dark hair. Her eyes were furtive, dancing all around as they avoided meeting Riaz's gaze. "I just, um . . . couldn't get off from work, and--"
He cut her off with a placating smile and gesture. "It's okay," he said, turning fully to face her.
The young brunette shifted on her feet. She smiled sheepishly. "It's not the same, now," she said.
Riaz nodded. "No, it's not."
"I mean," she continued. "It didn't really matter what you did. Before, I mean, when we were just fooling around."
You mean, when you were the other woman, Riaz thought bitterly. "But now it does?"
Susan grimaced, looking uncomfortable. "We had some fun," she said. "I mean, you were really hot, and I got off on you being a cop and all that, but . . . I can't be a cop's girlfriend. I can't handle this kind of shit. It's too . . . too real, you know?"
"It's life," he responded gravely. "Sometimes it gets a little . . . 'real.'"
"I-I know," she said, then huffed in frustration, unable to articulate what she wanted to say.
Riaz looked away tiredly. "Go home, Susan," he told her. "Just . . . go home, okay?"
She started to speak, but said nothing. Feeling embarrassed and out of place, the young woman turned and made her way across the rain-spattered grass. Riaz did not watch her go. He already knew he would have nothing more to do with the comely young brunette, with whom he had thrown away his fidelity, his life, his supposedly uncompromisable fatherhood. He was left alone, but that did not bring depression into his heart. There was a strange sort of somber gladness, now. He felt nothing but calm acceptance.
* * * *
The doughty, wide-faced woman stared at the pair of figures beneath sterile white sheets in the laboratory. Harsh lights from the ceiling reflected off her glasses as she assessed her options.
"Eenie, meanie, minie, moe . . . ."
After so scientifically making her decision, she pulled back the sheet covering one of the bodies. The naked figure beneath her was in gloriously wonderful shape, aside from the fact that his head was canted at an odd angle and post-mortem bruising had made the corpse's entire neck dark and swollen.
She smirked, looking the body over. "Bet you got your share off attention when you were alive, Mr. . . ." she glanced to the report on her rolling cart. ". . . Thorne N. Tolomeo. But I'm sure you never figured you would be getting this kind of attention so soon."
With a cackle under her breath, the medical examiner reached for one of her tools, a hand-held, battery-powered circular saw. She depressed the trigger a few times, filling the air with loud, grating, mechanical screaming that made her smile.
She looked down upon Thorne Tolomeo's face. "Now, let's see how many slugs and snails and puppy dog tails we can find inside you . . . ."
As the tool screeched again, it's whine changing in pitch as it began to bite through flesh and bone, the frumpy woman did not hear the sudden gasp that came from the still-covered body behind her. And as she was so ardently focused upon the task of carving through the body before her, she could not have seen the stirring of the white sheet as breath escaped a pair of supposedly dead lips.
With a sudden flurry, Talon Tolomeo suddenly sat up, eyes wide and filled with wonder and confusion. He swayed a bit upon the metal table, slapping his hands to either side to keep from toppling to one side or the other. The sheet that had covered him danced languidly in the chilly air before settling upon his upper thighs.
Where . . . what . . . .
The cacophony of noise from the loudly-chattering saw suddenly reached his ears as his senses became abruptly and painfully re-awakened. He winced and clutched his ears, squeezing his eyes shut. Breath heaved in and out through his lungs as he coped with the sudden onslaught.
Then finally, inextricably, the world became balanced around him. He could feel his limbs, his fingers, smell through his nostrils, hear through his ears, see through his eyes. All that lingered was a dry, metallic flavor in the back of his mouth.
His gaze drifted across his body. Numerous puncture marks adorned his flesh, from his left foot to his right shoulder. More than a half a dozen in number. Each set of dark holes in his skin was surrounded by dark, hardening flesh. Looking upon them made Talon smile in wonder.
They didn't kill me. I'm immune to their venom.
Eyes and attention now focused with predatory efficiency, Talon looked to his left, to the back of the thick-bodied woman in a white lab coat as she sliced her way into his brother's body. His eyes narrowed with controlled anger.
Casting off the sheet so that it floated into the air, he slid his feet to the floor.
The screaming saw suddenly cut out. Talon froze, standing mere paces behind the woman.
"Damn it," hissed the medical examiner, jerking the gore-covered tool from the sternum of the body before her. "I'm just gonna have to go back to plug-ins . . . ." She pulled the trigger again, making the saw blade spin, which cast thick dark ichor across the lab. She let out a short laugh as she released the trigger. "Okay, maybe not--"
The sound of thick polyester fabric falling to the floor behind her made the woman freeze in place. Her brow furrowed. Slowly, she turned to look.
The woman's eyes flew open wide at the sight of the man standing behind her. She dropped the battery-operated saw and stumbled back, colliding with the table upon which Thorne's body rest.
Talon sneered darkly, squatting quickly to scoop up the tool from the floor. He advanced upon the woman, shooting out a hand to grasp the woman's neck. He squeezed the trigger of the small but deadly circular saw, making it spin and scream loudly above her face.
"Oh my God!" she screeched, staring in abject horror at the whirling blade.
"You can't have my brother!" cried Talon, though his words were drowned out by not only the spitting screech of the saw, but also by the mortal screams of the medical examiner as the spinning blade sliced through flesh and bone.
He let the woman's body, convulsing in the throes of death, drop to the floor, and cast aside the saw. For several moments, as the medical examiner desperately clung to her fleeting life, Talon stared down upon the body of his brother. His features twisted silently. He stroked Thorne's thick black hair.
"I'll make them pay for this," Talon whispered, scooping his arms beneath the corpse of his brother. Leaving the medical examiner to die, Talon lifted his brother's body from the table and carried him toward the door.
* * * *
Even in such a large, packed arena which at the moment housed more than ten thousand excited parents and other relatives, Riaz was able to find his way. The ceremony had begun nearly an hour before, and panic had begun to set in as Riaz considered he might be too late to see his daughter. But a kindly aged woman at the entrance to the arena had informed him that the graduation had been delayed by technical problems with the sound system.
"They're not even on 'F,' yet," she had informed.
Encouraged, Riaz found the entrance to the part of the arena where his assigned seat lay. He shouldered past a few lingerers, then emerged into the cavern where, a couple of hundred feet below, a small wooden stage had been erected. Above it hung a banner: "Class of 2013."
An usher was at hand to point Riaz in the right direction, but as soon as he looked up toward the rows of narrowly-fitted blue plastic seats, he had seen her face and knew exactly where he should go. A momentary smile graced his face as he looked upon her.
Still beautiful, he thought, then corrected himself. No . . . always beautiful.
He started up the narrow steps, and as he approached, the attention of the woman he watched shifted from the stage to him. A sort of sad yet happy smile came to her. She patted the empty seat on her left side.
"Glad I'm not late," Riaz commented as he sat down.
Her smile became more genuine with each moment. "You never were," she said. Her dark brown eyes drifted over him. "Are you okay? I heard the news reports, and--"
"I'm okay," he responded quickly, meeting her gaze. "Thanks for not telling her."
His former wife breathed out heavily. "You know, you're a stubborn son of a bitch."
He chuckled. "I won't argue that."
"If I'd told her, she'd have been in that hospital in a heartbeat. Jesus Christ. Twenty-two years old and still a daddy's girl."
"And she would have missed her own graduation," Riaz pointed out. "No chance in Hell was I going to let that happen, Melissa."
They sat in uncomfortable silence, listening as the names of the graduates were called, watching as the blue-robed young men and women crossed the stage to take their diplomas.
"I, uh, guess Joe couldn't make it," Riaz said probingly.
She sighed with a rueful smile. "Despite what you might think, Joe is . . . was . . . just a friend. Maybe he wanted more than that, but I didn't."
Riaz held back a smile at his ex-wife's words. The firmness of her tone was telling.
"I heard you caught those twins who were killing people," Melissa commented. "It's been all over the news."
Riaz nodded. "Well, that's what I do."
She rubbed her hands together, a nervous tick she'd always possessed. "The news said they . . . hurt your partner, too. What was her name?"
Riaz gritted teeth for a moment. "June," he said. "June Barret."
"She gonna be okay?"
He looked to her. "Maybe. Hopefully. She's a strong woman."
Their gaze held for a long moment, stirring feelings which had never died out. But there was also the pain in his ex-wife's eyes, pain he had caused, for which Riaz could never forgive himself.
As if reading his mind, Melissa glanced away, asking, "Are you still seeing her?"
He sighed softly through hos nose. "No."
She gave only a vague nod.
The names of the graduates drifted to them from the speakers mounted around and above the stage, followed by various amounts of applause. "Gilbert Ontiveros."
"She's going to be called soon," Riaz said, finally smiling. His eyes searched the sea of navy blue gowns before the stage, focusing on the line of figures to one side.
"Do you see her?"
He chuckled. "They all look alike in their gowns and caps."
As the young man called stepped up to the stage, Riaz trained his vision on the young woman behind him. At such distance, he could not be sure, but . . . "That's her," he said. "She's next."
Riaz was already jumping to his feet, bringing his hands together in applause. Even though pain flooded him with every clap, he ignored it. "That's my baby girl!" he cried, making those around him chuckle and grin. A few glared in annoyance; he ignored them.
He sat back down, watching his daughter stroll across the stage, diploma in hand. Tears welled in his eyes, both from pride and pain. The pride was stronger.
He looked to see his former wife offering a few pieces of tissue. He took them with a wry grin. She still knows me.
In his pocket, he felt the insistent buzzing of his phone. The compulsion to take it up was automatic, but he stopped himself just as his fingertips touched the device. Whatever it is, it can wait, he told himself. I'm off duty.
* * * *
Threading through the milling pool of students outside, Riaz looked all around for his daughter. He found her chatting with friends, all of whom were grinning with the accomplishment of graduation.
". . . no more reports, no more theses, no more class--"
"No more of Dr. Jackauer's bad breath!"
"But, hey, we get to start paying off our student loans in six months. What joy!"
"Hey, none of that!" snapped Kitna, giving one of her friends a playful glare. "We just graduated. Time to celebrate!"
"Couldn't have said it better," Riaz said, interrupting them as they began to whoop and holler.
Kitna snapped her head toward him, her already abundant grin becoming enormous. "Daddy!" she shrieked, taking three steps and jumping.
He winced as he caught his daughter, holding her close. Despite the pain that flashed through his shoulder and arm, he would not let go of his little girl.
She pulled back after her smothering hug an a kiss to her father's cheek. Riaz thankfully lowered her to the ground, doing his best to hide his discomfort.
"Mom!" Kitna exclaimed, giving the woman similar hugs and kisses. She stepped back, flickering eyes taking in her mother and father together. "Now, this is what it's supposed to be like."
Riaz gave both his daughter and ex-wife awkward looks. "I'm just glad I was able to be here," he said, grimacing as he felt the vibration of his phone once more. In annoyance, he slipped it from his pocket. "Just give me a second," he said and stepped away.
The tired voice on the other end sounded decades older than the man himself. "You're not going to believe this, Parande . . . ."
* * * *
"My Jesus, by the sorrows Thou didst suffer in Thine agony in the Garden, in Thy scourging and crowning with thorns, in the way to Calvary, in Thy crucifixion and death, have mercy on the souls in purgatory, and especially on those that are most forsaken; do Thou deliver them from the dire torments they endure; call them and admit them to Thy most sweet embrace in paradise."
A light rain fell upon the cemetery as the priest read the prayer from the Bible. Solemnly, he clasped the leather-bound book closed as mounds of earth were shoveled atop the grave. Relatives of the medical examiner stood in line to pay their respects. Many paces back, Riaz stood beneath the shelter of a broad-limbed oak, its leaves providing some shelter from the sun above. He gazed with dark eyes upon the scene before him.
How the hell did son of a bitch survive those snake bites? I've never heard of anyone being immune to rattlesnake venom, but I suppose it's possible . . . .
He peripherally noticed the approach of the figure beside him. He instantly knew without looking who it was. "How you doing?" he asked.
June shrugged. "Still recovering," she answered. "You?"
Absently, Riaz touched his shoulder. "Same."
The detectives stood in silence for several moments, watching the sad and crying faces of the medical examiner's family and friends. The darkest face of them all was the woman's husband. Riaz had not even known she was married.
"Still no word about Talon Tolomeo?" June asked.
Riaz shook his head somberly. "Not that I'm on the case, but, no. No word."
"You think he'll come after us?"
"Anything's possible. He was the smart one; that makes him more dangerous than his brother."
June sighed in frustration. "Well, can you do something about the protective surveillance on my house? Our neighbors all hate us now because there's always a cop parked at the end of the street."