Author: Kelley Alison
CITY OF ANGELS
Sabrina swirled the ice cubes in the glass with her finger. "I don't know, Bill," she sighed, looking at what was left of her bourbon. "It's a great opportunity� but am I ready for it?"
"Well, if you're not sure, let me ask you the questions you've been asking yourself for the past year," Bill replied. "Are you bored on the force?"
"Yes," she nodded, her straight black hair falling into her face.
"Are you tired of dealing with -- as you put it -- a bunch of chauvinist pigs who think you're only there to push paper and pour them coffee? Not to mention make snide remarks?"
"Oh, yes, again," she smiled.
"And this guy -- Charlie -- will double your salary, provide you with a company car, and let you take the lead on cases? And you'll never even have to meet him?"
"Then I think you know what the answer is. Look, babe, I don't want to see you get in over your head. I mean, jeez � I'm afraid of you getting caught in some cocaine ring crossfire or something -- but if it's such a great opportunity, and it's going to give you a little more challenge, then do it, okay?"
"Hey, Bill -- if I didn't think I could take care of myself, then I wouldn't be in this line of work, would I?" She put her hand on top of his. "But it's good to know I've got someone on the force who's still looking out for me after everything that's happened."
Bill smiled and reached for his wallet. "Oh, no. This one's on me." Sabrina took money from her purse and signaled the bartender for the check. "For playing shrink for the past hour. I appreciate it."
"I love you, you know." He brushed her hair away from her face with a gentle gesture. "Be careful."
Bill hadn't always been so tender � it was only since their divorce that he had begun to really show his affection, an irony that wasn't lost on either of them. Sometimes she wished that things could have worked out differently between them, but then she remembered that she was the one who had initiated the divorce proceedings, for reasons that had less to do with Bill and more to do with what she was learning she really wanted in a relationship.
"I do carry a gun, remember? Even if those chauvinist pigs have never let me work on a dangerous enough case to have to use it." She kissed him lightly on the lips. "Thanks, Bill. I'll keep you posted."
"Mr. Bosley?" Sabrina asked. The nervous, balding man who answered the door smiled, and pumped her hand up and down furiously.
"Sabrina Duncan. I'm very pleased to be here." She had chosen one of her most conservative outfits for the first visit to the office. In her tailored three piece red pants suit and crisp white blouse, she emanated professionalism.
"And I know Charlie is just thrilled that you've accepted his offer. Even if this whole endeavor bankrupts him." He chuckled, and gestured for her to come in.
He's an odd duck, she decided right away -- sincere, perhaps, and definitely well-intentioned, if a bit socially awkward.
"Can I get you a drink?"
"Well, sure, if you're getting one for yourself. Bourbon and Coke?"
"Of course. Please have a seat. Ms. Garrett will be joining us shortly."
Sabrina thought the office definitely needed a feminine touch -- maybe some plants, or a couple of nice paintings, something clean and modernist. A staid looking bar, a few overstuffed chairs, an imposing wooden desk with a phone � hey, it was cleaner and more tasteful than the precinct, maybe, where the drawers on the big metal desk never closed properly; where the swivel chairs all creaked and the cops on duty never picked up the inevitable donut crumbs that fell on the floor. But the office certainly didn't convey the kind of sophisticated, intelligent crimesolving they would be providing.
Bosley brought her the bourbon.
"So, Mr. Bosley," she began.
"Please -- Bosley -- or John -- will be fine."
"So, Bosley. I understand that I'll be able to pick up my company car today."
"Yes, Charlie has agreed to provide you each with a car. Yours will be an orange Pinto -- the latest model, of course."
"A Pinto, huh?" she smirked. A Pinto??? In orange??? Oh, that'll be inconspicuous. "Great. Just so I've got something. I've been sharing my ex-husband's Torino for the past six months."
The doorbell rang. Bosley -- he was so nervous! -- leapt out of his chair to answer it. "That will be Ms. Garrett," he clipped.
"Hi," drawled the voice at the door, a hint of her Texas background still in her voice. Sabrina turned to see a striking young woman in a flattering and fashionable black belted pantsuit. The neckline showed off just a promise of cleavage, and cork wedge sandals exaggerated her already long, lithe legs.
"Kelly Garrett." She flashed a hundred-watt smile and tossed her long brown hair over her shoulder. "And you must be Sabrina." Her handshake was deceiving -- with her elegantly long fingers and well-manicured nails, Sabrina expected the dead fish routine -- but Kelly had a firm grip.
"One and the same."
"Bosley hasn't been good enough to give me too many details about you" - he scowled - "so maybe you can fill me in."
Wow, she thought, admiring Kelly, while at the same time wondering how she fought crime in those impractical shoes. Something in the flirtatious smile, dancing eyes, and the way she cocked her head told her that Kelly would be a valuable asset in their work -- if, that is, she didn't just seduce their clients.
"I'd be glad to."
"All right, let's get down to business," said Bosley, clapping his hands together. "Unfortunately, Jill -- that's Ms. Munroe -- is finishing up instruction at a prestigious tennis camp over the next couple of weeks, so Charlie agreed to let her join us following that. In the meantime, Charlie would like the two of you to start working on a case." He dimmed the lights and a projection screen descended from the ceiling.
"Here's a slide of Belinda Jo McKay. She took a bus from Phoenix to L.A. two weeks ago. She was moving out here to try to make a clean start on life after a couple of misdemeanors and a custody battle. She was supposedly going to stay with her cousin Amy, but she never showed up at Amy's house. However, Amy did receive a phone call from Belinda Jo shortly after her arrival at the bus station. She said that she was going to have dinner with someone she met on the bus to talk about a job opportunity, and then she'd take a cab to Amy's house. The police traced the phone call to Amy and confirmed that she made the call from the bus station, but she hasn't been seen anywhere."
The screen showed a wide-eyed, pretty blonde girl. But the overdone mascara and eyeshadow, and the high gloss of the pink lipstick, indicated a background as someone of limited means who was trying hard to look sophisticated.
"Looks like me when I left Texas," quipped Kelly, sadly. "A small-town girl dreaming big."
"What were her misdemeanors for, Bosley?" Sabrina asked.
A deep male voice resonated over the intercom. "Good question, Sabrina," said Charlie. Sabrina and Kelly both looked at each other and laughed.
"Charlie, were you eavesdropping this whole time?" said Kelly.
"Well, Kelly, I have to make sure that my Angels are doing what they were hired to do. Regarding Belinda Jo's misdemeanors, one was for marijuana possession, the other for prostitution. She solicited an undercover officer. You're right, Kelly -- she was a small town girl dreaming big and hoping to turn her life around."
"Do we have any idea who she met on the bus? Or if he -- I assume it was a he -- boarded in Phoenix?"
"That's where I want you two to come in. Talk to the bus company, the shoe shine workers at the bus station, the waitresses at the bus depot diner. I don't like the looks of this, Angels. Let's hope Belinda Jo is alive -- and that we can find her."
"Well, nothing like starting off my career in private investigation with a challenge!" Sabrina stretched out her arms. "Whaddaya think, Kelly?"
"I've spent some time around bus depots� and diners� and a lot of other less-than-savory places, if you want to know the truth. If you want to try to talk to the bus company -- see if they've got a passenger manifest or something -- I'd be glad to butter up the waitresses and the shoeshine boys."
"I bet you would," chuckled Sabrina.
"Mr. Waters?" Sabrina approached the bus driver the next morning, an older black man who stubbed out a cigarette and shook her hand. "Hi -- I know you've got a run soon, but I was hoping I could ask you a few questions� I'm Sabrina Duncan -- I'm a detective."
"Did that asshole Bo tell you about our card game? It ain't nothin' big -- fifty bucks is all."
"Oh, no, that's not why I'm here." She opened her purse and took out Belinda Jo's picture. "Did you see this girl on your Phoenix run -- say, about two weeks ago?"
He studied the photograph. "Hmm� she does look familiar. Pretty little thing, huh?"
"Any information you could give us would be very helpful."
"Yeah� you know what? She was on my run."
"Did you notice anything strange about her? Or was she with anybody?"
"You know, she was with that guy� that dude who's always on my bus."
"Do you know his name? Can you give me a description?
"I don't know his name -- I mean, I don't like to ask too many questions. Everybody's got a story. But I must see him once every couple of weeks. Sometimes he gets on in Phoenix, sometimes earlier� I start my leg of the trip in El Paso; I saw him there a coupla times. I just figured he was some kind of salesman. And is he ever one smooth dude! He's always got a lady with him -- different one every time. I should be so lucky! Some of these guys -- they ain't even half as handsome as me. And yet they always got a lady."
"He's not so handsome, huh? What does he look like?"
"Kinda short guy, maybe 5'8" or so? Thin-lipped, like a weasel. Oh, and he got one of them beauty marks -- good-sized one -- on his left cheek. Only it ain't so beautiful on him."
"And you're sure you saw him with this girl?"
"Mr. Waters, I do thank you. Have a safe trip."
Kelly took a seat at the diner's counter. Pretty grim characters, she thought as she surveyed the clientele. But that's what you get working at a bus station diner. She was reminded of some of the shadier people who had passed through her life in her earlier days, working as a cocktail waitress in Vegas. She had wanted to believe that most of those people were basically decent � maybe just a little down on their luck and willing to bend laws, if not break them � but enough time spent with would-be hustlers, pimps, and dealers convinced her that she should be a little more wary, a little less trusting. She hadn't been kidding when she told Sabrina that Belinda Jo's picture reminded her of herself at a certain age.
Not something Sabrina was likely to understand; the woman exuded a detached, intellectual cool. Kelly couldn't quite figure out how to read her. She was certainly attractive, with her sharp brown eyes, angular features, and that low rough crack to her voice. But she came across as decidedly asexual, and her impeccable posture and rather androgynous fitted 3-piece suits did nothing to counter that impression. Her composure made Kelly wonder if she ever really got down and dirty with anyone� or if she ever stopped thinking long enough to relax.
"Can I get you somethin'?" the waitress asked, plunking down a glass of ice water in front of Kelly.
"How about a cup of coffee, a slice of apple pie, and the answers to a couple of questions?"
"You a cop?"
"Not exactly� but I have a vested interest in talking to anyone who might've seen this girl in the past couple of weeks." She slid Belinda Jo's picture across the counter.
"We get a lot of lost people in here. Like a Twilight Zone episode sometimes, the way these folks wander through. How vested is your interest?"
Kelly smiled and leaned in closer. "A ten-dollar tip, and I won't ask for a refill on my coffee. Or insult your pie."
"Okay�" the woman studied the picture and thought for a moment. "Yeah, she was in here with those same two assholes. Never leaves me more than fifty lousy cents tip. She a hooker? I didn't notice her too much except that she looked like my niece Janine."
"Who're the assholes? Did they look like her pimps?"
"The one guy who brings 'em in � he looks like he's pimping every young piece of ass that gets off the bus, putting his arms around them, real protective and all. Stupid girls oughta stay clear of those characters. The other one � he meets the first guy and the girl here at the diner."
"When was this, exactly?"
"Her? Oh, maybe twelve days ago, two weeks maybe� I came in late that morning; my old man's car had a flat. It was a shitty day all around. Those two guys have been back since, though. Don't know about her."
"How often do they come through here?"
"Oh, I wanna say once a week, probably. The first guy gets off the bus with some different girl every time. Comes in here, buys 'em a cup of coffee, maybe some fries, then acts all surprised when his buddy shows up. Some kinda trash, I'll tell you."
"Have you ever overheard what they talk about?"
"Look, it's none of my business, but it always sounds like they're talking like some kinda hot-shot showbiz guys. I think all they want to do is get in their pants, though. Take advantage of kids who don't know no better. He sure gets 'em out of here in a hurry, though."
"Well, you've been extremely helpful. And your pie's not bad, either."
Sabrina headed into the locker room after her swim, which had done wonders to take her mind off the strange things she had been wondering about the case. On her way into the shower, she was surprised to hear a familiar voice behind her.
"Guess I'm not the only one who's trying to get the kinks out," said Kelly, removing her bathing cap and shaking out her hair. Her bikini revealed a lot more skin than Sabrina's prim Speedo. Sabrina admired the feminine curves of Kelly's waist and hips, in contrast to the straighter lines of her own rather boyish body.
"Yeah, it's the one place I manage to both get exercise and really relax," Sabrina admitted. "I'm not much of a team sports person. So you swim, too?"
"Well, I used to run every night by myself. But lately there have been a couple of muggings in my neighborhood. Plus, I've got this friend who's been a little concerned about the line of work I'm in, and he thought that since I'm risking my life for my job -- his words, not mine -- that maybe I should do something a little safer for my recreation. So I decided to give indoor sports a try." She laughed, and rubbed the towel down her legs. "Well, a different indoor sport, at least."
"Who's the friend?" Sabrina asked. One lucky guy, she thought, looking over Kelly's long limbs and smooth skin.
"Someone who'd like to be more than he is. But I'm not very good at being looked after. The swimming thing was just a concession. And I was ready for a change anyway -- I mean, give my knees a break from running."
"Your friend sounds like my ex-husband."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Kelly said, gently touching Sabrina's bare arm. "I didn't realize�"
She liked the feel of Kelly's long fingers against her damp skin. "It's no big deal," Sabrina assured her. "Bill is still my best friend� it was just that� well, living together was a bad idea." For a lot of reasons I can't tell you, she thought. "Two officers in the same household was a little too much for both of us, you know? Plus, he tries to be progressive, but he still has some old-fashioned ideas of what a wife should be -- but the dust kitties at my place are more like dust tigers, and I can barely boil water!"
"Well, I'm not much of a cook, either," admitted Kelly. "So, since we're both obviously heading home alone for another night of frozen TV dinners, how about we go out together and get something? I know a little Tex-Mex place� the tacos are only so-so, but the margaritas are strong, salty, and lethal."
That's how I like my women, Sabrina almost replied, then caught herself. "Yeah," she nodded. "That sounds great. Just let me take a shower first. I don't think I know you well enough to have been standing here in a towel all this time."
They were on their second margaritas -- and Kelly was right, they were lethal. Sabrina couldn't tell if Kelly was feeling the buzz she was, though. She got the impression that Kelly probably drank most people under the table.
"So, you've told me about Bill, but you still haven't filled in all the details," Kelly said. She dipped her finger in the salt on the rim of the glass and licked it off, slowly.
"Oh, yeah, you wanted details," Sabrina nodded, watching Kelly lick the salt, and thinking that she wasn't ready to share some of those details, not yet anyway. "Concise version: Army brat. Lots of different bases, not a lot of friends. Saw a lot of the world but not a whole lot of what people were about, and had to get used to being alone a lot of the time."
"Why did you decide to get into this?"
"Well, I guess I've always been a really cerebral person, good at reasoning and deduction from whatever facts are given to me, which usually isn't a whole lot, given that most criminals aren't very logical people! But I like the challenge, even though I may not have a whole lot of insight into someone's psychological profile, or understand their motivations for committing a crime. Except that life on the force� wasn't everything it was cracked up to be� no one seemed to believe that I might actually be good at this line of work. So I pushed a lot of paper, and stepped on a lot of toes when I suggested I should be doing more." And they invaded my private life and made me miserable. "What about you?"
"Well, like you, a lot of guys at the LAPD didn't think I was willing to get my hands dirty, which is why I'm working for Charlie now. But as to why I got into this? Well, you know how I said I'd spent some time around some unsavory characters, in some shady places? Guess a few years of living on� let's say 'the fringe of the fringe'� convinced me that maybe I did have some understanding of how these people work. Plus, after working as a flight attendant and a waitress, I figured I'd rather have some kind of police training -- you know, maybe a little karate -- the next time somebody tried to grab my ass!"
They laughed, and Kelly signaled the waiter for one more round.
"I'm afraid I'm not too much of a drinker," said Sabrina, leaning forward. "If I didn't know you better, Ms. Garrett, I'd think you were trying to get me drunk."
"Well, is that the only way I'm going to get details?" Kelly smiled. "I keep asking, and you keep evading me."
"What exactly is it you're looking for?" Sabrina asked. "Favorite color: red. No family pets. College major: political science. Tolerant of disco but a big fan of '60s soul, and, when I'm feeling a little low, Joni Mitchell's Blue. Dream vacation: a month in Japan. Women's lib; the ERA? Absolutely." Secret passion: gorgeous Texas women whose legs and mouths just don't know when to quit, she thought.
"I can tell you were an Army brat. You answer like I'm a drill sergeant."
"Yes, sir," laughed Sabrina.
"I don't mean to be pushy. I just like to get to know people."
"It's okay, Kelly. Actually, I'm glad you're asking. It's� been awhile since anyone took the time, to be honest. I'm sorry if I'm being� less than forthcoming. I guess I'm just not used to the attention these days."
"You know how you just said that you moved around a lot -- saw a lot of the world but didn't have a lot of friends? I think we had opposite problems but the same result."
"Why is that?" asked Sabrina, reluctantly sipping the third margarita.
"Well, I grew up in an orphanage in Dallas. So, until I was 12, I spent my life fighting to get attention and make myself known among a bunch of kids who were all lonely and all wanted the same thing. And, after that, I did get shuffled around a little bit -- mostly to foster homes where -- well, you can imagine, it got pretty ugly -- and I guess I saw a little too much of what people were about. It's hard to break that pattern, you know? Makes it hard for me to trust people� even harder for me to like them. So I guess I start asking questions about other people and hope that they'll be honest with me. Then maybe I can give them a fair shake."
"Do you trust me?" Sabrina looked into Kelly's eyes and held her gaze. Kelly didn't blink.
"Yeah. I do. And something tells me that I would have even if we weren't working together." Sabrina was finally the first to look away, embarrassed, not believing that she was this close -- to what? she asked herself. This close to getting opening myself up to someone again?
The waiter interrupted the awkward silence by bringing the check. "Whenever you're ready," he said. I don't know when I'm going to be ready, Sabrina thought.
Back at the office the next day, Sabrina tried hard to concentrate on the case and not on last night's somewhat hazy memory of gazing at Kelly across the table. It didn't help that today Kelly looked positively stunning in tight dark denim jeans and a white halter top.
"What've we got so far, Angels?" Charlie's voice boomed through the box.
"Well, Charlie, I spoke with the bus driver. He confirmed that Belinda Jo was on his bus, and he said she was pretty friendly with someone. He also said that this guy is on the bus every couple of weeks, but that he doesn't always get on in Phoenix, and that he's always got a different girl with him."
"And," Kelly added, "I spoke with the waitress at the depot diner. She said that Belinda Jo definitely had dinner with him. And, like the bus driver, she said this particular guy is around a lot and always has some new young thing on his arm, and that he acts like a pimp. Plus, in the middle of their meal, a second guy shows up and acts surprised to run into his friend. Same routine all the time, apparently."
"Good work, Angels," said Charlie.
Sabrina turned towards the voice box. "What do you think we're looking at, Charlie? Some kind of prostitution ring? He picks these girls up on the bus and� what? Sends them right out on the streets?"
"I think it may be something like that, Angel. Promises of money and�"
"But wait, Charlie," Kelly interrupted. "If that's the case, why haven't any of the street workers the cops have talked to seen any sign of Belinda Jo?"
"Good point," Charlie conceded. "I think it may be time to fly one of you to Phoenix for a bus trip to find out more." Sabrina smirked and pointed in Kelly's direction.
"I'm gonna be a star as soon as I get to Hollywood," Kelly drawled.
"All right, Angel. Work on your cover with Bosley and Sabrina. In the meantime, Sabrina, talk to the police again. Make sure they've been thorough in distributing Belinda Jo's picture on the streets. See if you can talk to some of the ladies at the local massage parlors. And, if you find out anything more, be sure to let Belinda Jo's cousin Amy know, too. She's very worried."
They heard the sound of banging metal coming through the voicebox.
"What is that, Charlie?" asked Sabrina.
"Oh, nothing� it was just time to have my pipes cleaned. Good day, Angels."
Sabrina dropped Kelly off at the airport for her flight to Phoenix. "You do the Texas ing�nue thing really well," she said, looking at Kelly's Western shirt, cowboy boots, and Wrangler jeans. Kelly had done her makeup just like Belinda Jo's for the trip -- garish blue eyeshadow, about three layers of mascara, and a shiny lipstick.
"Well, it wasn't so long ago that I did it for real." Kelly smiled. "Most of my foster mothers when I was a teenager were good Texas Christians whose holy trinity was Jesus, the curling iron, and Maybelline's Great Lash." They laughed. "Now, my trinity is more like Halston, St. Laurent, and De La Renta, when I can afford it. I guess I've tried to be a little more cosmopolitan since I came to L.A."
"Look, Kelly, I know you're joking about this, but call when you get to Phoenix, and call at least once when the bus stops. And call when you get back here to the bus station."
"I'll be okay," Kelly tried to assure Sabrina -- and herself. She leaned over to hug Sabrina goodbye quickly, and was surprised when Sabrina pressed her lips gently and slowly against her cheek. She was even more surprised that she then rested her hand on the back of Sabrina's head, whispering, "And I'll see you soon." She tried to ignore the small spark of desire that the kiss ignited in her, and she pulled away abruptly.
That was uncharacteristic of me, she thought as she carried her duffel bag into the terminal. Guess it's just been awhile. Just about anything would get my blood moving these days. But what's with Sabrina? That was uncharacteristic of her, too�although, then again, I've only known her for a few days; maybe it's too early to be making those kinds of assumptions. Kelly wondered, though, what she had done to crack Sabrina's reserve. She liked the affection implicit in the brief kiss, and smiled to herself that maybe she had finally met someone she could trust enough to really be a friend.
At the Phoenix bus depot, Kelly had no trouble at all identifying the man whom the waitress and bus driver had described as Belinda Jo's companion. The skinny, unattractive man had the thin lips and beauty mark that the bus driver had mentioned, as well as a crooked nose that Kelly guessed had been broken a few times.
She sized up the other passengers. A few Mexican couples, some students with backpacks, a couple of young guys by themselves. She was both pleased and worried to find that she was the only young woman traveling alone on the bus.
"Hey, there, beautiful," he approached from the front of the bus about an hour after they left Phoenix. "Mind if I sit here? My seatmate up there is snoring like a buzzsaw."
He wastes no time, she thought -- since there were certainly other available seats.
"Where you headed? L.A.?"
"Well, yes," Kelly drawled, making her accent as thick as possible. "I been hangin' around Phoenix for awhile, just feelin' like I'm goin' nowhere out here in the desert. A coupla friends in L.A. told me they could hook me up with some great opportunities. Plus, I heard Conway Twitty is doing a show out there in a few weeks. I figured I never got to see him before, so now's the time to kill two birds, you know?"
"What kind of work you hoping to get into? I got some connections myself. Maybe I could help you out." He moved so fast, and was so transparent, Kelly pitied the girls who had fallen for his lines in the past.
"Showbiz, of course!" She let out a high-pitched, girlish giggle. "I've done a little modeling, but, like I said, there's not a whole lot happening out here. I'm ready to be where the action is, you know? I'm ready to take some chances."
"Well, then, I think we can definitely help each other out. My name's Jake� Jake Saunders." He held out his thin hand.
"Rosalie Peterson," Kelly said. "But you can call me Rosie."
"All right, Rosie. Pretty girl like you should have no trouble at all getting hooked up to the big time."
"What is it that you do?" asked Kelly.
"I'm� in production. Twilight Enterprises, Limited. We make a lot of movies."
"Now that's a stroke of luck," Kelly smiled. "Imagine just getting on a bus in boring old Phoenix and winding up sitting next to a real live movie producer!" What an sleazy bastard� I can't imagine too many producers travel by bus, she thought. And I don't even want to know what kinds of films Twilight Enterprises makes, although I guess I'll find out. She sighed.
They chatted for awhile, Kelly lying about a Texas childhood on a ranch she never had; how she never even left Texas until six months ago. "You know what I think I'll miss about being in that part of the country?" she found herself telling Saunders. "The big sky. I just bet it doesn't look like that in California!"
"Well, not exactly," Saunders admitted, warming up to her. "But, just think -- you're going to see the ocean soon!"
Kelly didn't bother telling him that Texas had a coastline, too.
She pretended to sleep for a couple of hours, and when they woke up, the bus was stopping in San Bernadino for ten minutes. She took the opportunity to call the office.
"Hey, Kel, how's it going?" asked Sabrina.
"This jerk moved in an hour after we left Phoenix and hasn't left my side since," whispered Kelly into the pay phone. "Says his name is Jake Saunders, although it could be an alias. Says he's in production -- Twilight Enterprises Limited. I think he's luring girls into pornography."
Sabrina made a sound of disgust. "Please, Kelly, be careful."
"I am. And I don't think he suspects a thing. I'll call from the bus station. You should have a couple of hours to see what you can come up with on Twilight Enterprises, though."
"What do you think is going to happen when you tell him that you're not interested in taking your clothes off for one of his movies?"
"I guess we'll find out soon enough."
She agreed to have lunch with Saunders at the bus station, to hear a little more about the kinds of opportunities he could offer. The same waitress Kelly had spoken with was working her shift, and eyed Kelly quizzically.
"I should probably call my friends, let them know I arrived safe and sound," Kelly told Saunders.
She approached the cash register and asked the waitress loudly, "Do you have any change for the pay phone?"
The waitress looked worried. "You're that girl who was askin' questions. What're you up to?"
"I'm undercover," Kelly admitted. "I'm trying to figure out what kind of racket this guy's running. Could be a porno ring. Here's my card. I'm going to call the office now and tell them they'll hear from you when I leave. You'll look out the window and tell them the make and model of the car I'm getting into, and, if you can get it, the plate number."
"Thanks for the change," Kelly announced, looking over her shoulder towards Saunders. She called the office to let them know she was at the diner.
Bosley answered the phone. "Kelly, we're very glad to hear from you. We traced the name Twilight Enterprises, and sure enough, they make very low-budget pornographic movies. They've been cited a couple of times for using underage actresses, but they've managed to escape any serious charges. Nonetheless, it sounds like a very sleazy operation."
"I'm at the diner now and figure I'll be here for awhile while they explain their plan to me. The waitress will call you when I leave."
"I've got a better idea. I'll send Sabrina over right away. She can follow you, and create a disturbance if necessary."
Kelly slid back into the diner booth. Saunders was looking around nervously. "You reach your friends?" he asked, slurping his coffee.
"Yep. Told them I'd catch up with them later. So, tell me about what kind of movies you all make."
"Well, they're not for kids. But they're high quality entertainment. And we can always use pretty girls."
"Oh." Kelly feigned incredulity. "Do you mean?"
"They're adult films," Saunders admitted. "But I assure you, we treat our girls really well, and they make a lot of money. And it leads to other kinds of work, too. Great mainstream stuff."
"I gotta tell you -- I don't think I want to make those kinds of movies," said Kelly, apprehensively. "That's not really what I had in mind."
"Oh, baby, the bread is great. Our girls get a flat fee -- usually about $1,000 -- for each picture they do, and then they get five percent of the profits. You do a few scenes, and you're four, five thousand dollars richer. For just a few hours' work." With her back to the door, Kelly didn't see the heavyset man with the mustache approaching the booth. Saunders greeted him heartily. "Hey, Joe. How ya doin'?"
Joe Tortorelli slid his large body into the booth next to Kelly. "Hey, Jake. Funny, huh? Didn't expect to see you for awhile." He introduced Kelly. "This is Rosalie. We met on the bus from Phoenix. I was just telling her about what kind of dough she could make if she worked with us."
"Sorry, gentlemen. I really appreciate the offer, but I just don't think I could ever forgive myself if I got into that line of work. My daddy would just lose his mind if he ever found out. Maybe I can take your number � call you if I change my mind?" She made a motion to get up, but Tortorelli didn't budge.
"Sit that pretty ass down," he ordered. He opened his jacket far enough to reveal a pistol in his waistband.
"What's this all about?" Kelly asked, bewildered. She hoped Sabrina showed up soon enough to follow her, or at least that the waitress would keep a close eye on things.
"Why don't you come with us?" Tortorelli suggested. Saunders threw a few dollars down on the table, and all three got up abruptly. "No sudden moves," Tortorelli sneered roughly, grabbing her shoulder.
She was relieved to see Sabrina's orange Pinto pull into the lot just as Saunders and Tortorelli were helping her into their El Camino. With one man on each side of her, there was no way she could even think about hopping out at a light and trying to escape. Plus, she remembered that she needed to find out what had happened to Belinda Jo, even if it meant risking her own safety.
Sabrina, knowing the orange Pinto didn't blend in too well with the scenery, did her best to follow the El Camino from a few cars back. They wound their way around the city and parked in front of an unremarkable bungalow in a seedy section of town. As she watched Kelly being led into the house, she noticed two mean-looking Dobermans jumping against the fence in the yard, discouraging her from trying to peer in through a window.
Inside, Kelly couldn't believe what she was seeing. Saunders released his grip on her arm and bolted the door behind him with a key. At least seven half-naked women, several of them looking no older than fifteen, laid around the house listlessly. "Hey," one managed to say, gazing at Kelly disinterestedly through heavy eyelids. Kelly noticed the track marks on another's arms and saw used needles lying on the floor. The girl lay on an outdoor vinyl lounge chair that was set up in what should have been the living room. There was filmmaking equipment scattered everywhere, and instead of regular lamps, professional lights were strategically placed around the rooms. They gave off a harsh glare that the girls couldn't escape.
She heard moans and grunts coming from one of the back bedrooms. "You wanna see what we do here?" he asked. Kelly stifled her need to vomit and followed him to a room where an obviously drugged and miserable blonde woman was being penetrated by a curly-haired man wearing nothing but thick gold chains and a carpet of hair on his chest. Other than the bed and some curtains, there were no furnishings in the room.
Tortorelli gave the cameraman some instructions and called out to the woman. "Come on, Belinda Jo! You gonna act like you're enjoying this, or do you we hafta give you another shot in the arm?" As relieved as Kelly was to find Belinda Jo alive, she couldn't believe that in two weeks' time, Belinda Jo had lost so much weight, and looked so miserable, that she was almost unrecognizable as the same pretty corn-fed blonde in the picture Bosley had shown them.
"Let me out of here," Kelly demanded, facing Saunders. "I've seen enough. Not exactly the Playboy mansion, is it, Saunders?"
"Funny how you don't sound like you're from down on the farm anymore, huh, Rosalie? I wondered if you were the real deal."
"I've got some friends who are going to be really interested in hearing about this place."
"I don't think you're going to get the chance to tell them." He grabbed Kelly and walked her towards the basement door. She could hear the aggressive Dobermans barking down there, and suddenly had an idea.
"What if," she said, "I agreed to do some work for you. I could help keep the vice squad off your tails; you'd pay me for the tips."
"No way," said Saunders. "The only kind of work I want you doing for us is the kind you saw that girl doing back there in the bedroom. You wanna show me what you got?" He motioned to his fly. Kelly nodded, solemnly, knowing she was about to lose her chance of getting out with any dignity, if even alive.
Kelly undid his zipper, trying hard to concentrate. Saunders closed his eyes in anticipation. As she slid the pants over his hips, however, she managed to slip her hand into his pocket, under the guise of caressing him, and remove the key to the front door. Once his pants were around his ankles, she gave him a swift kick in the crotch. He was so stunned, and in such tremendous pain, that he fell to the floor with a loud shout. Kelly bolted for the door and managed to turn the lock with the key just as Tortorelli and the cameraman came running from the back bedroom.
Thankfully, she saw the Pinto parked just a few hundred yards away, and she sprinted for it. "Start the car, Sabrina," she screamed. Tortorelli rushed out the door and watched as the Pinto sped away.
"You okay?" Sabrina asked as she raced the car out of the neighborhood, checking to see if Tortorelli's El Camino was following them.
"It's awful, Sabrina. The girls are young, and have been doped up on something � heroin, maybe � and there is just no way that any of this is consensual. The good news is that Belinda Jo is alive, although she didn't look very well, of course, she was practically being raped when I saw her. I don't know if they're getting them hooked on smack and then figuring that they'll screw them for a fix, or what� but it's really ugly, and that big guy pulled a gun on me in the diner." She tried to fasten her seatbelt, but her hands were shaking too much.
"Oh, shit!" she exclaimed. "My bag!" She realized it was still in the El Camino.
"What did it have in it?" asked Sabrina.
"Just some old clothes and stuff� a toothbrush, comb� nothing important� I had to make it look like I was leaving Phoenix� but I'm pretty sure that my home address is on the luggage tag. God, that was stupid!"
"Okay. Calm down," said Sabrina. She reached her right hand over and touched Kelly's shaking shoulder. "You've just broken this case wide open� there's no need to beat yourself up over one little luggage tag. Let's call Bosley." She picked up the car phone.
"Bos? It's Sabrina. Kelly's with me; she just barely got out of there. Belinda Jo's alive, but being forced into making porn movies. Kelly says there's drugs, too."
"Yeah, shaken, but okay. One little problem, though. She thinks that the bag she accidentally left in their car has her home address on the luggage tag. I don't think they're following us right now, but my guess is they may head over to Kelly's house if they find that address. I'll take Kelly home with me in the meantime."
"Good idea, Sabrina. I'll fill Charlie in on what Kelly found out, and I'll ask the police to stakeout Kelly's house in case those creeps show up."
Kelly was silent for a few minutes, assessing everything that had just happened. "Thanks, Sabrina," she finally caught her breath. "I have to admit, I was pretty scared that I was going to wind up compromising myself for this case. I don't know if I'm ready for this kind of excitement on a daily basis. I mean, maybe I should be working as a traffic guard for the LAPD!" she laughed ruefully. "What if I don't have my wits about me next time? I might not be so lucky!"
"Don't think that, not even for a minute," Sabrina assured her. "Charlie hired you because you were willing to take risks. He has faith in you. And so do I, as a matter of fact. I'm guessing you usually have your wits about you."
She pulled up in front of a large hi-rise apartment building. "Home sweet home, now that Bill and I aren't together anymore. Not much to look at aesthetically, but it's safe, and it's all I need."
They took the elevator up to the fifth floor. Sabrina's apartment was rather dark, and was sparsely furnished with contemporary pieces. A large spider plant tumbled to the floor, intent on surviving despite obvious neglect. Sabrina noticed Kelly fingering the plant.
"I don't mean to forget to water it," she apologized.
The apartment lacked the homey feel of Kelly's place, and it seemed clear by the lack of knickknacks that Sabrina hadn't had much time to make the apartment more personal.
"Whattaya say, Kel? Need a drink? I think I do."
Kelly settled back onto Sabrina's sofa, feeling her body relax for the first time since they had gone out for tacos several nights before. "Something two hundred proof, I think," she sighed. "And a glass of water would be great, if you don't mind." She noticed a picture on the coffee table, one of the only photographs in the apartment, as far as she could tell.
In the picture, Sabrina, looking a few years younger and with a red bandanna on head, offered a carefree smile for the camera. She had her arm around an attractive young ash-blonde woman who was gazing at Sabrina and smiling affectionately. The shot was from one of the higher points in San Francisco; Kelly could make out the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
"Who's this?" she called out to Sabrina in the kitchen. "It's a cute picture of you."
Sabrina steadied her hands so as not to drop the glass of water she was pouring for Kelly. In her haste to get Kelly safe, she had completely forgotten that the photo of her and Diana was right in plain sight. It was the one memento she had kept of their life together; she had burned both the love letters and the devastating missive that Diana had sent so shortly after that fateful trip to San Francisco.
"A college friend," she bluffed, trying to be nonchalant.
"What's her name?" Kelly asked. "Looks like you two were close."
"Yeah, Diana and I were close� but we're not really in touch anymore. Here's your water; I'll go get you something a little stronger." Sabrina handed her the glass so abruptly that it spilled all over Kelly. "Oh, God� I'm sorry. Guess you're not the only one who's a little rattled by the events of the day."
"Go pour us something strong, Bri. Don't worry about this -- it's just water."
Sabrina took a deep breath and headed towards her liquor cabinet, debating whether she wanted to tell Kelly about her past with Diana.
"College friend, huh?" asked Kelly, picking the subject back up again. "I wish I had made such close friends in college. Most of them were fair-weather sorority girls who dropped me like a hot potato once they realized I wasn't some Texas oil heiress. So why is it you're not close anymore?"
"There you go with the details again," chuckled Sabrina sadly. "Do you really want to know?" She sat down next to Kelly on the couch, handing her the drink.
"If you want to share it with me, yeah, I do."
"Well, we were both on the force -- I was on a special assignment in San Francisco, and Diana managed to wrangle her way onto an exchange from Philadelphia so she could fly out and be there at the same time. Let's just say that, after a couple of months, some of the guys on the force took it upon themselves to let everybody know what they thought our relationship was about. It got pretty ugly."
Kelly finally got it -- Sabrina's reluctance to discuss anything private; her divorce from Bill� "You're a� dyke?" she said finally.
"Oh, Kelly. Please, please don't use that word," Sabrina begged. "I really can't bear it, after having it scrawled all over my locker at the precinct and having it hissed at me every time I walked by."
"I'm truly sorry. I'm not exactly� well-educated as to what the right term should be," Kelly apologized sincerely. "Lesbian?"
Sabrina nodded. "It's a better term, I guess, if it has to be classified."
"And were you and Diana together?"
"Yeah. In college and then for awhile afterwards, until the guys on the force started harassing us. She got scared, packed up, and flew back to Philadelphia. She thought that maybe she could find a nice Main Line Catholic boy, get married, break out of the 'phase' that I had obviously gotten her into. The rumors even got back to my precinct in L.A."
"What about Bill?" asked Kelly gently.
"He was the first person who made me laugh after Diana left me." She smiled at the memory. "And, after everything was so difficult with her, I thought, well, maybe she's right. Maybe it is just a phase. And Bill and I got along� thick as thieves� and I cared about him a great deal. So when he asked me to marry him, I figured that I could probably be happy with him. And, to be honest, the sex was okay. Nothing earth-shattering, but okay. Affectionate, at least. One of the benefits of being married, as it turned out, was that it halted production at the local rumor mill for awhile. At least until Bill and I decided to divorce. Then it got so bad again that I decided I had to leave� Charlie called at just the right time. And working for someone who doesn't want to meet me and doesn't care about my private life is what I need right now."
"So, does Bill know?" Kelly probed.
"I couldn't lie to either of us anymore," admitted Sabrina. "He deserves someone who can really love him and be fully intimate with him. I couldn't give him that. But he was really understanding, and, as I've told you, he tries to look out for me. Guess we're both just looking for the right woman, if I'll ever find her." She stared into her drink, embarrassed to face Kelly.
"Look at me, Sabrina." Kelly reached out her hand and cupped Sabrina's cheek. "Are you embarrassed? You shouldn't be."
"You wanted details, Kelly," Sabrina sniffled. "That's the whole horrible mess of it." Kelly kept her hand on Sabrina's face.
"You shouldn't be afraid. Not of what I think, anyway."
"Kelly, it may be 1976� and Billie Jean King may have proved something against Bobby Riggs three years ago, but a lot of people still think you're crazy if you're for women's lib -- and being for gay and lesbian lib is even more dangerous! I just don't know if I can risk my heart being broken again, or if I can risk my career." She finally lost her composure and started to cry. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "This is not how I wanted you to see me."
"How did you want me to see you? As a beautiful, fiercely intelligent, brave and funny woman? Because that's what I do see. Even if you can't hold your liquor like a Texas girl." Sabrina laughed through her tears. Kelly sighed, glancing at her watch. "It's only 2:30, and it feels like midnight," she said incredulously. "I think we've both been put through the ringer today. Do you mind if I curl up on the couch and take a nap? I think I need to close my eyes for awhile."
They had slept for a few hours when the ring of the phone jarred them both awake. "Sabrina," Bosley practically shouted into the phone. "I just got an anonymous call from someone who says he's watching you. They tracked your license plate to this office, and if they've got that much information, they may find out where you live. You and Kelly get out of there for awhile until I can make sure that the police have your building and Kelly's house secure."
"Have they shown up at Kelly's house?" Kelly, furrowing her brow, picked up Sabrina's other receiver to listen in.
"The police have been watching her house all afternoon and haven't seen anything suspicious. But Charlie wants both of you to keep a low profile until we're certain. Take a cab somewhere -- I don't want you to accidentally cross paths with these guys while driving that orange car."
"I knew that car was going to be trouble," said Sabrina. "Maybe I'll talk to Charlie about getting a nice respectable sedan in some nondescript color, like metallic gray or navy blue�"
"You can discuss that with him after this case is over," Bosley clipped. "Keep a low profile for a few hours. Call me later tonight." He hung up quickly. Kelly and Sabrina, receivers still in hand, stared worriedly at each other across the apartment.
"I really don't think they could get into this building," Sabrina began tentatively. "It has a doorman� and he knows what kind of work I'm in�"
"I don't want to take any more chances today." Kelly put the phone down. "We know these guys are capable of kidnapping, at least, if not murder. Where do you think we should go? We really shouldn't stay here." The events of the day -- both her own ordeal and Sabrina's confession -- had sufficiently rattled her, and her anxiety was conveyed in the shaky timbre of her voice.
"I know a bar," suggested Sabrina, "where they will definitely not be looking for us. But I don't know if it's your kind of place."
"I've already been undercover once today," Kelly joked. "I think I can handle being a lesbian for an evening. If nothing else, I know I'll be going home with a gorgeous woman and not some lecherous creep! Call a cab."
The bar was long, narrow, and especially dim, probably to give its few patrons the illusion of extra privacy and anonymity, Kelly guessed. After the bright gold of the late afternoon Pacific sunshine, she had trouble adjusting her eyes to the darkness. Sabrina greeted the bartender, who gestured towards a table in the corner. Kelly was somewhat relieved to see that no one paid them much attention. A couple of especially butch-looking women eyed the new couple when they entered the bar, but then turned quickly back to their drinks and conversations. A waitress came over to the table and plunked down a couple of coasters and a bowl of pretzels.
"Duncan, right?" she recognized Sabrina. Bri nodded. "Haven't seen you around here for quite some time. You still on the force?"
"Gone into the private sector now. A lot less bullshit, and look who I get to work with," she elbowed Kelly, who was surprised at Sabrina's banter.
"Ah, so we're moving on up in the world. No more riffraff," laughed the waitress. "Congratulations."
"Me? Bring in riffraff? Hey, if you've got those types in here, it's not my doing. You know I'm a woman of class and breeding."
"So am I� it's just a different class. What can I get you?"
"A beer. Whatever's on tap," interjected Kelly.
"Same for me," agreed Sabrina.
"I don't think I've seen this side of you," Kelly smiled.
"What side is that?"
"This easy flirtation with the waitress� you seem really comfortable here."
"Guess that's why places like this exist. To make women like me feel comfortable and safe somewhere� so we can let our guard down once in awhile."
"Women like you�" Kelly scoffed. "You make it sound like you really are a different breed."
"Aren't we, though?"
"All I see here is a bar with some women having drinks and enjoying each other's company."
"Yeah, a bar with women who are following Martina Navratilova's career pretty closely� and all of whom probably have Rubyfruit Jungle at home on their bookshelves."
"Well, everybody needs role models, right?"
The waitress brought their beers. "Cheers." Kelly clinked her glass against Sabrina's. "To fighting crime, exploding stereotypes, and looking great doing it."
"I will definitely drink to that."
Another patron asked the bartender for change and walked over to the jukebox. After some consideration, she picked out a slow Kitty Wells tune. The mournful electric guitar filled the bar. Sabrina smiled. "I don't know what it is about lesbian bars and sad country waltzes," she said. "It's never really been my kind of music, but when I'm in here, it feels like the right stuff."
"I spent my adolescence jumping fences, sneaking shots of cheap tequila, and getting mixed up with a lot of good old boys who spent enough time around real live bullshit to know how to sling it," Kelly confessed. "I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't had Loretta and Kitty singing to me through the radio at night. What do you say we dance?"
"I'm not much of a dancer, Kel," Sabrina hesitated.
"Like you're not much of a drinker either, right? So you've got some things to learn if you want to hang out with me."
"Is this some kind of game to you? Just another cover to play at?" Sabrina stared at her sharply. "Because� I really would love to dance with you. But I'm not interested in being your little experiment. This isn't a phase for me� and it took me a long time -- and a lot of tears -- to realize that."
"I am curious," admitted Kelly. "About you. Not about some supposed lifestyle. Come on, Sabrina. I didn't just fall of the back of a turnip truck. I've felt that spark before, and I felt it between us the other night� and when you kissed me on the cheek at the airport." She stood up from the chair and held out one of her soft, elegant hands. "Now, these hands have done a lot -- served a bunch of drinks, picked locks, shot pistols at targets. But they've never held a woman." She took Sabrina's shaking hands in hers. "It's just a dance. I promise."
"I don't know why I'm so scared." Sabrina let Kelly lead her to a space in front of the jukebox, chattering anxiously. "You're the one who's never done this before. I'm the one who's supposed to be experienced� and yet I feel like�"
"Sabrina? Shhh. Stop talking. Just give me this, okay?" Kelly tried to calm her nerves, thrilled and astounded at her own boldness. After everything else that's happened today, why not this? She could feel Sabrina exhale gently as Kelly put her arm around her and took her left hand. The exhilarating sensation of another woman's body, of Sabrina's soft breasts pressed fully against her own, made Kelly's head spin deliciously.
Too soon, though, the song was over, and Sabrina sighed. "Those three-minute jukebox hits don't last long enough. Don't let go of my hand yet, okay?" she whispered into the luscious brown tangle of Kelly's hair.
"Okay," replied Kelly, who held on tight as Sabrina interlaced her fingers with Kelly's and they sat back down.
"Thank you. I think I needed that closeness more than I realized. As sweet as Bill is�"
"He's not a woman," Kelly finished.
"Yeah." Sabrina nodded solemnly. "Is this strange for you? How is it that you're so willing� to try�" she faltered.
"I used to give myself up to a lot of people -- a lot of men, I should say -- without a whole lot of regard as to how it might affect me emotionally. And I've got some regrets about that. So like I said the other night, I don't trust people very easily these days. But I'd put my money on you being a hell of a lot more respectful than some of the jerks I was stupid enough to allow into my bed. Not that I'm saying I'm ready for you in my bed�" she cautioned.
"I know I'm certainly not ready for that," Sabrina concurred.
As the evening passed, the two women found themselves becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with one another, recounting self-deprecating stories of adolescent foolishness, bad dates, and some of the quirkier characters they'd encountered in their police work.
"I picked up this one idiot�" Kelly was laughing so hard she could barely speak. "Who� who had paid for his hooker with a check drawn on his joint account with his wife. The check bounces, and the hooker calls him at home to tell him, and his wife answers the phone! 'Cause his phone number's�"
"On the check!" Sabrina finished, just as hysterical. They giggled and looked at each other, sighing as they caught their breath again.
"I really like this," Kelly said. "If I've got to lay low for awhile, I can't think of anyone better to do it with."
"We can't stay here all night, though. We should call Bosley, you know. Not that I'm not enjoying myself. Immensely," she added.
"Does it mean we're bad cops to realize that we haven't even talked about Belinda Jo all afternoon?" asked Kelly. "Guess I'll hit the pay phone." She fished a dime from her purse. "Be right back."
Kelly came back a few minutes later. "Sounds like everything is under control. Bosley broke the news to Belinda Jo's cousin Amy as to her whereabouts. The police picked up Tortorelli back at the bus station a little while ago. They think Saunders might have boarded a bus out of town, but he could still be hanging around."
"What about the phone threat at the office?"
"Probably a scare tactic."
"And who's with the girls? Maybe they can get out now."
"From what I saw this afternoon, they're too strung out to even try. Especially if Tortorelli and Saunders doped them all up before they went back to the bus station."
"Should we go help the cause of sisterhood?"
"I don't know. Bosley seems to think the police have it under control."
"Yeah, with Tortorelli and Saunders, but maybe not the victims. Let me check in with Bill. He's got some good friends on Vice. I want to make sure those women are going to get booked � but only into a hospital or rehab center."
The sun was already beginning to rise by the time Sabrina and Kelly returned to Kelly's house the next morning. After an evening spent in the rank squalor and artificial glare of Tortorelli's bungalow, gathering physical evidence, interviewing the young women and contacting their families, as well as accompanying some of the sicker ones to the hospital for rape kits and withdrawal counseling, they both looked forward to a hot shower and a clean bed. Following her shower, Sabrina, wearing a borrowed yellow Gilley's t-shirt, collapsed next to Kelly under the fluffy down comforter.
Sabrina awoke first sometime early that afternoon. She reached over and touched Kelly's shoulder. Kelly opened her eyes slowly, adjusting them to the afternoon sun streaming through the yellow gingham curtains of her bedroom.
"I guess I'd better watch out for you," she joked sleepily. "Didn't I say something about not being ready for you in my bed? And yet here you are� you move fast, Ms. Duncan."
"Extra fast, considering I haven't even kissed you yet," replied Sabrina.
"When exactly were you planning on doing that?" Kelly leaned in, close enough to initiate an embrace herself, but wanting Sabrina to do it.
"Right� about� now," Sabrina whispered, moving to be above Kelly, untangling her legs from the frustrating twist of the pink sheets that kept their bodies from direct contact. Without further hesitation, she grazed her hands just slightly on the inside of Kelly's supple thighs before running them upwards, over Kelly's hips, pausing only to let her lips briefly brush against the square of smooth white skin revealed by Kelly's sleeveless baby-doll pajamas top. Sabrina softly moaned into Kelly's mouth as their lips finally met, Kelly welcoming the warm and wet insistence of Sabrina's tongue against her own, responding by anchoring her hands firmly on Sabrina's narrow waist. She was surprised to find herself pulling Sabrina down, closer, their erect nipples brushing against each other through the thin layers of fabric; closer, until she could feel the rushing water of Sabrina's heart together with her own. She found herself reaching up under the tight Gilley's t-shirt -- a souvenir from an especially raucous night a few years back -- to take Sabrina's breasts in her hands.
"Are you sure you want this?" Sabrina asked, her tongue against Kelly's neck, tasting the lemon verbena soap of last night's shower. Her gold "SABRINA" necklace tickled Kelly's breastbone.
"Absolutely," responded Kelly. "I want you to make me�"
The white phone by the bed interrupted them cruelly.
"�come," Kelly finished, sighing. They stared at each other. "We think it's Charlie?" Kelly asked.
"Probably," answered Sabrina, laying her head down on Kelly's chest.
"Hello?" Kelly tried to steady her breathing.
"Good afternoon, Angel. I'm sure you're getting caught up on your sleep." Kelly stifled Sabrina's giggle with her hand. "But I'd like you to come down to the office. There's someone who wants very much to meet you."
"Give me about an hour, Charlie."
"Okay, Angel. Oh, and is Sabrina there? I wasn't able to reach her at home."
"Ah� yup, she's here. Spent the night on my couch."
"Good, good. See you both in an hour."
"Well, I guess Charlie will keep us on our toes," said Sabrina.
"And not on our backs," Kelly laughed.
Still flushed and distracted from the previous hour's activity, Sabrina and Kelly were surprised to see Belinda Jo properly dressed and sitting in one of the tan chairs of the agency's office. Another attractive young blonde woman was also there, and introduced herself as their client, Belinda Jo's cousin Amy.
"I can't tell you how grateful I am to you both." Amy took their hands warmly. "And to you, too, Charlie," she turned towards the voicebox.
"We're just glad we could help," Sabrina patted her on the back sincerely.
"How about you, Belinda Jo?" asked Kelly, taking the seat next to her.
Belinda Jo sighed. The circles under her eyes offered a hint of her recent ordeals. "Well," she began shakily, "it's going to take me awhile to get over what I've been through. I'm really overwhelmed right now� the hospital tells me that's the withdrawal symptoms kicking in. Never expected that I'd spend my first few weeks in L.A. like this � mixed up with these guys and now visiting a methadone clinic. But the hospital assures me that I'll make a full recovery."
Charlie's voice spoke. "And you have our assurance that these louses will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"Thanks, Charlie. And you, especially, Kelly."
"So, can I ask where these guys are now?" Sabrina wondered tentatively.
"Tortorelli and the guys running the cameras were picked up at the house, as you know. They'll be indicted on a number of counts, including rape, kidnapping, rape of minor women, and possession of illicit substances. The police don't intend to prosecute any of the women involved."
"What about Saunders?" asked Kelly.
"He hightailed it out of town -- on the bus once again. The driver you spoke with, Sabrina, turned him over to the police when he tried to board."
Despite the end of her ordeal, Belinda Jo was especially somber. "I can't believe I fell for his lines," she said. "Even when they told me at the diner what they were up to -- I just didn't think it could be that bad. So, I guess I went willingly with them to the house. I had no idea what I was getting into up there� I just wanted so much to start a new life here in California."
"You will," Amy, Sabrina, and Kelly said simultaneously.
"It's nice to know I have such good women on my side," she thanked them.
"Well, sisterhood is powerful," smiled Sabrina, stealing a wink at Kelly.
"No!" Sabrina yelled, laughing, as Kelly tried to pull her out of the passenger side of the yellow Mustang. "No way."
"Bri, it's time."
"C'mon, Kel� I'll� vacuum your house� um� cook you dinner� get down on my knees and scrub your floor� Ack!" she mock screamed as Kelly tickled her.
"I definitely want you down on your knees," Kelly whispered, "but not to scrub my floor. And you've told me how badly you cook. So let's go. A little shopping never hurt anyone."
"Why is it so important to you that I have new sandals?"
"Because, now that our case is over, I want to take you dancing. And you're not wearing those ridiculous practical shoes to the hottest disco in town. They're what -- at least five years old?"
"I like my practical shoes. They're comfortable. And I told you, I'm not so crazy about disco."
"What are you crazy about?"
Sabrina pulled Kelly back towards her in the passenger seat and pinned her arm behind her with a firm grip on her wrist. The afternoon heat rose from the asphalt and glimmered in the air, and Sabrina smiled as she watched their two long shadows walk together into it.