Parker let out a heavy breath and laced his fingers together. He stared at the report on his desk that listed the events of the previous night. First a raid of Midnight's End that turned up no evidence, which Parker found odd. Then a squad team had tracked down Iris through a "non-specified" GPS locator. Parker realized that the paperwork seemed sloppy with many holes in the story, but he was just glad that Iris was finally out of the way.
When a shadow cast over his desk, he looked up to see Barkley standing over him. Parker was about to greet him until he caught the look in Barkley's eyes. Parker's muscles tensed in apprehension as Barkley continued to stare him down.
"Is there something I can do for you?" he asked.
Barkley's reply was to toss a folder on Parker's desk. Parker looked at it warily and then turned his attention back to Barkley. The two men exchanged hard stares until Barkley finally said, "Why don't you have a look through that file, Parker?"
Not taking his eyes off of Barkley, Parker flipped open the manila folder. "What's in it?"
"The end of your career."
Parker's eyes flamed and he looked down at the contents of the file. As he flipped through his movements became more and more agitated.
"You know, Parker, I really wish I had known before why you were so interested in Iris' case. I wish I had understood before why you were so bent on proving that the only way to stop her was to kill her. It wasn't until I found these documents that I realized that the whole time, I was just another pawn in this game."
Parker's livid eyes turned up to meet Barkley's. "Where did you get this?" he growled.
"Well, it wouldn't surprise you to know that Iris had been investigating all the major and local crime families so she could bring them to their knees. What might surprise you is that she kept all of her research on file. She wasn't stupid. She knew that if her group was ever jeopardized, she would still have enough information for someone else to pick up the pieces and start right where she left off. Nevertheless, she was a dangerous woman; you knew that.
"But it wasn't because you thought she was dangerous to the public that you wanted her out of the way. You wanted her gone because of your own selfish motives. You were getting profit from some of the crime businesses around; crime businesses that I've been trying to tackle for years. They sent word to you that Tiger Lily might be a problem, so you told them you would take care of it to ensure your little cut of the deal. But when Iris was able to spot your agents from a mile away, you realized she might just know too much for her own good."
Parker was listening to Barkley with dark eyes and a seething expression. His face was burning red and his fingers were gripping the files so tight, his hands were shaking.
"I know that Iris was a murderer," Barkley continued. "And I would have been more than happy to prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law. But that wasn't good enough for you because you knew that as soon as she was cornered, she might start pointing fingers. Eventually a finger would be pointed towards you. So you convinced everyone that Iris needed to be shot down where she stood, and you wanted to use Emma to do it because you wanted her taken care of too. You were more than disappointed when you realized Emma was not the spy you could use to your advantage. She had turned on you because she had begun to see things Iris' way and she suspected the agency of bad intentions.
"I heard about the fire you rigged for her house," Barkley stated and fixed Parker with a cold stare. "It wasn't because you wanted to kill her then. You just wanted to push her more toward Iris so you could use the GPS signal on her truck to lead you straight to Iris. And then you finally had everything going according to plan. But like I said…" Barkley pointed to the file in Parker's hands. "You didn't expect she would have everything on file. All the dirty activity you put decided to stick your hands in."
"So what now?" Parker grumbled. "What do you do with this?"
"You're going to retire, Parker," Barkley stated as a matter of fact. "Then you'll lose all the pretty pennies you were getting from those crime families, because my department is going to use Iris' information to take them all down."
"I could burn this," Parker said. "I could make sure it never saw the light of day."
"You could, but I've already made copies. And I wouldn't stick by your friends in the crime business for much longer because I've already given all files concerning them to my department. Soon enough they'll be forced to call it quits too. There's too much evidence against them now. If you stick around, you'll just take the fall along with them. If I were you, I would cut your losses and do as I say. Retire, Parker. It's the best chance you have." Parker was staring daggers through Barkley, but Barkley never flinched. He returned his glare with level intensity. Behind the malice, though, there was anxiousness in Parker's eyes. Barkley realized that Parker had arrogantly believed that he would never be caught in his little charade. Finally, Parker looked back down at the file.
"What if I refuse? What if say you fabricated all of this?"
"You can't fabricate this kind of evidence, Parker. It speaks for itself. And if you refuse my merciful demand that you retire, then you will have hell rain down on you like a nuclear bomb. In other words, I wouldn't try it. Be a good dog, Parker, and walk away with your tail between your legs."
A fury burst through Parker and he leaped up from his seat, his face a deep red. "Go ahead and try to take down all those crime families!" he roared. "They've been around since before your parents were born. You try and fight them with the system. Soon enough, you'll realize they are the system! You can't fight against it, you can only run with it."
"Iris fought against them," Barkley replied. "She may have succeeded if we didn't kill her first." With that last word, Barkley turned and left Parker standing there in his own fumes.
The entire city moved like it had just awoken from a dream. People walked slow and deliberately. Car engines were quiet as if in hushed awe. Birds refrained from singing their morning songs and the usual music that would erupt from windows and restaurant doors was not heard. The normal chatter had reduced to only murmurs. Emma passed it all in a haze.
She walked blindly, unsure of where she was going and hardly caring at all. Her skin was numb and her muscles moved of their own accord. A few people sent her stares as she passed, but she found herself too exhausted even for her paranoia to kick in. It was not until a gust of wind swirled her hair around that she stopped and took time to look at where she was. When she looked up at the building beside her, a bitter pain pushed against her chest. Her legs had somehow taken her straight to Midnight's End.
When Emma had awoken on the desert floor at the twilight of morning, it had taken awhile for her initial delirium to wear off. For the longest time, she did not believe that the previous night had taken place. She did not believe that she had shot Damien and gotten in several car accidents. She did not believe that Damien was shot and killed by Iris. And she most adamantly did not believe that Iris was dead. Yet the throbbing in her head, the bruises and gashes on her skin, and the continuous ache in her heart forced her to face the brutal truth.
She had then traced her steps back and walked back to where she remembered the incident. After walking for hours, Emma realized she had run several miles after watching her love die right before her eyes. When she finally reached the road, all of their cars were gone. The wreckage had been cleared along with Iris' body. With that realization, Emma had begun to cry again, reality becoming too much for her to bear. She had looked down at the spot she remembered leaving Iris and her stomach turned to see the blood mixed in the dirt. Emma had wanted to feel angry then, but her infuriation hit a wall of overwhelming grief, which made her head go numb.
After that, she had found herself walking back to the city, not truly knowing why, but knowing she really had nowhere else to go. And that was how she found herself standing in front of the club once owned by Tiger Lily. She peered in through the glass doors, but it was too dark inside to see anything. The building had been searched and abandoned. This was another cruel reminder that Iris was in fact gone and that everything was over. In a wave of despair, Emma slammed her fist against the thick glass. The noise spurred movement at the corner of the building.
Emma's head whipped around as the sound of sneakers shuffling against concrete echoed behind a side of the wall she could not see. Emma was finally able to break through her numbness to recognize the threat. She no longer had her gun, so she quickly looked around for anything even remotely resembling a weapon. Her eyes finally settled on the rope that would usually guide the patrons of the club inside. She quickly unattached it from the poles holding it and wrapped it around her wrists until it was taut. She sidled up next to the wall next to the wall hiding the intruder, and the quickly stepped around throwing the rope around the neck of a twenty-something man.
The startled man stiffened and quickly struggled against Emma's rope. She yanked the rope tight, causing the man to gag. Eventually, she loosened it and asked, "Who are you?"
"A-Alex," he gasped. "My name is Alex."
"Sorry, don't know you," Emma muttered through grit teeth and prepared to strangle the life out of him, venting all her emotions through him.
"W-wait! I was sent here to deliver a message."
Emma froze. "A message for me?"
"If your name is Emma, then yes."
Emma released her grip on the man and he stumbled away, holding a hand to his neck. "You work for Iris?" she asked him.
"I did," he replied dejectedly.
Pain constricted around Emma's throat. "Then you know what happened?"
The man nodded. "Everybody does."
"So what's the message," Emma demanded quickly, before her voice could crack. "To meet near the fountains in the park."
The guy shrugged. "A woman called me this morning and told me to wait here and deliver the message to someone named Emma."
"I don't understand," Emma shook her head. "How did anyone know I would be here? I didn't even know I would be here."
"You can ask whoever you're meeting when you get there," the man shrugged again. Emma watched as the man walked out of sight before rushing toward the city park, her stomach doing all sorts of flip flops. She was anxious to speak with the person that was waiting for her and she was even more anxious to figure out why they wanted to meet her. And while she tried to swallow the blatant hope, her mind drifted over the thought that it could be Iris waiting there for her. She knew it was clearly wishful thinking, but she could not bring herself to push the thought away.
It was near mid day when Emma finally reached the park and spotted the fountains at the center courtyard. She glanced around for any dangers lurking nearby before approaching the tall monuments of cascading water. In the rays of sun, the water glistened like glass and glitter. Finally, Emma let her eyes search around and she eventually noticed a lone woman sitting on a park bench. Emma closed her eyes, and bitterly forced away the hopeful thoughts of Iris.
"She's dead," she whispered as she walked toward the bench, her eyes still closed. "There's nothing I can do about it. She's… dead." Emma swallowed a painful lump in her throat and opened her eyes. The hope she had been so adamantly fighting down sank with and died with a thundering crash. "She is dead."
Rae sat up and turned in Emma's direction. Their gazes met and locked. For a moment, all that was heard was the steady rush of the water fountains. Through their gazes, they conveyed all their shared pain and remorse. Then, at last, Rae looked away. "I was starting to think you might be dead, too," she said.
Emma grimaced. "So you know what happened to Iris."
Rae nodded. "I know most of what happened that night." Rae paused and turned to look at Emma again. "How was Damien killed?"
"Iris shot him."
Rae looked away and, after a few seconds, nodded. "Are you going to sit down or stand there all day?"
Emma looked down at the empty spot on the bench next to Rae and hesitated. At last, she sat herself down and looked out at the gushing water. Then Rae handed her an envelope with her name on it, drawing her gaze back down. She stared at the envelope in her hands. "Is this from Iris?"
Emma immediately broke the seal and pulled out the paper inside. With trembling fingers, she unfolded it and held it before her to read. She held her breath as she read:
If you are reading this, that probably means I am dead. I am sorry that I had to leave you so soon, after only knowing you a short while. Though I've only known you these past months, I feel as if we met sometime long ago and have finally found each other again. I don't know how you turned me into such the romantic. Truth be told, I had forgotten what I was fighting for, until you came along.
I wish we had met under better circumstances, as it would have been nice to love you without thinking you are the enemy. But perhaps it was for the best. If we had grown any closer, you would have been sucked into the same chaos that I was trying to fix. That, I'm sure, would have created even worse consequences. Consequences that I was not prepared to face.
I never meant for you to be a part of this, Emma. And if I could have met you before you began working with your agency, I would have most definitely stopped you from making that grave mistake. You would honor me by leaving it all behind now. Do something worth your value. Do something within the community, rather than trying to work above it. I believe that is where you could do the most good. So I ask you, please, to leave this all behind and never look back. Though, while I wish for you to leave it behind, I ask for you to never forget me. Carry my memory where ever you go. And remember that I never stopped loving you.
Emma stared at the letter for several moments longer and reread it before finally folding it again. She looked out across the park and the clear sky. She had to take several deep breaths to fight the oncoming tears, though one managed to escape anyway. It slid down the length of her face and finally dropped to her side. When Emma remembered Rae was sitting just beside her, she hastily wiped the trail away. Though, when she glanced over, Rae was not looking at her, in an apparent show of respect. Emma looked back down at the letter.
"She knew she was going to die," she said and Rae finally looked at her. "She knew people wanted her dead and that someone was going to succeed. Didn't she?"
Rae took a moment to swallow a lump in her throat. Then she replied, "Iris had a heightened sense of things. All the way up until her death. I don't know if she knew exactly who would do it, but I think she understood it was just a matter of time until someone did."
"Then why didn't she leave?" Emma asked, her eyes pleading for the answer. "Why didn't she go into hiding? Why didn't she get the hell away from here, at least for a little while?" Tears welled within Emma's eyes. "At least then she could have come back." Her tears threatened to spill over again and she looked away.
Rae was still looking at her, her brows furrowed and her eyes troubled. "You know why she didn't leave. She told you several times why."
"It makes me feel like she cared about her organization more than she cared about me."
"She was trying to protect you," Rae stated in defense of Iris. "She was faced with a tough decision; protecting what she believed in and you. She tried to do both. Sometimes doing the right thing isn't the easiest."
Emma turned to Rae again and gave her a hard stare. "You think she did the right thing?"
Rae's eyes were distraught when she replied, "I won't pretend and say I liked her decision any. I know you don't like to think about it, but I loved her too. If she had wanted to leave this all and run, I would have heartily encouraged her. But that's not what she wanted. She wanted to fight for her cause, even if that meant her death. And even while I wish she hadn't, I respect her so much more for it."
Emma continued to stare at Rae as a breeze blew toward them. "She left you a letter, too, didn't she?" she asked. Rae nodded. "What did she say?"
Rae sent Emma a glare and was about to scold her for prodding into her business, but then she caught the look in Emma's eye. Emma was not asking because she thought she had a right to know. She was asking because she was desperately clinging to any piece of Iris left behind. Any ghost of the voice that once enchanted her ears. She sighed and folded her arms over her chest as chills ran over her skin.
"She told me she was grateful that I was so dedicated to her and her cause. She said she was sorry that things worked out the way they did and that she truly admired my loyalty. She also said that she wanted me to leave the city and live the rest of my life." Rae paused to look at Emma. "I guess she felt she couldn't leave herself, but she had no problem with us leaving."
"Because she didn't want either one of us to end up the way she did."
Emma stared at Rae and they sat in silence for a moment. Then, Emma asked, "Are you going to do as she said? Are you going to leave?"
Rae sat and pondered the question, looking off past the fountains. "It feels strange now that Iris is gone. From the moment I met her, I wanted nothing more than to be a part of her life. And even when the romance between us faded, I still wanted to stick around. I agreed with what she was trying to do and I still cared about her, just as she still cared about me."
As Emma continued to stare, she said, "You were still in love with her." It was not a question, but a statement. Rae squeezed her arms around herself in bitter pain and did not reply. As Emma looked at her, she found herself feeling sorry for Rae. "So you're going to leave?"
Rae shook her head as she looked out at the fountains. "I'm staying." When confusion reached Emma's eyes, Rae continued. "I'm going to pick up the pieces of the organization. I'm going to spread word around and round up as many of Iris' followers as I can find. When everyone is together and in touch again, and when the shock of Iris' death has worn off, we'll pick up where we left off. Only this time, I hope to have a little more cooperation from the public and have our voices heard."
"Let me help you," Emma said suddenly. "I have training with this sort of thing; I can help."
Rae was already shaking her head. "No, you're going to stay put. You're going to honor Iris' wishes and leave this all behind to do other things."
"But you're not honoring her wishes," Emma insisted in frustration.
"I'm honoring her wishes to leave you out of this. When Iris asked for me to leave the city, she thought that was what was best for me. But this organization has become a part of my life, and I, like Iris, have an obligation to stay with it. You're only obligation is to yourself, Emma. And you can meet that obligation by starting over somewhere else."
"But it's been become a part of my life too," Emma persisted. "I have nothing else. Let me help, it's the only thing left for me."
"You have plenty left for you elsewhere in the world," Rae stated, rising from the bench.
"Like what? Now, with my record, I'm probably blacklisted everywhere. That's what happens when you leave the agency on bad terms."
"I'm sure there's something out there. It's a big world." Emma stared up at Rae, through eyes that were raw, feeling very much alone. At that moment, even a rejection from Rae was a hard blow. Rae seemed to sense it by looking in her eyes because she said, "Just try to move on. If all else fails, we'll always be around. But I won't let you come back without trying to live a new life first. It's what Iris would have wanted."
Emma sat there motionless for a moment, letting the notion sink in. Then she finally gave a slow and reluctant nod. She stood on shaky legs and had the impulse to shake Rae's hand, but decided against it. An awkward silence fell among the two women until Emma finally cleared her throat.
"So will I see you around?"
"Hopefully not," Rae replied. "I'm hoping you can manage to make new life somewhere. But like I said, we'll be around."
Emma nodded and looked out across the park as a couple walked hand in hand down a walking path. As her heart clenched, she said, "It's such a shame."
Rae's brows furrowed. "What is?"
"Nothing's changed. Iris fought all her life and then died for it… and the world is still the same. Nothing changed."
Rae cocked her head to the side and regarded Emma. "You really don't think anything has changed?"
Emma looked at her. "You do?"
Rae smiled; something Emma realized she had never seen Rae do before. "You should hear what they're saying on the news. All she needed to do was cause a stir. And what a stir she's started." Rae turned to go and Emma watched as she reached the walkway and headed back to the streets. Emma waited for a few minutes before following suit, in the opposite direction.
Emma found herself in a daze again as she walked back along the streets. Her head was numb with emotion and her senses felt overwhelmed. She tried to think of where to go and how to get there, or even what she would do once she got there. The city seemed to roar back to life during Emma's thoughts. A loud chatter distracted her and forced her to a stop on the sidewalk. She turned in the direction of the disturbance and found herself looking at several television sets in the window of an electronics store. Emma's eyes were captivated by what was being played out of the screen.
There were news anchors shouting excited and rushed and people being interviewed ranting and raving into the camera. They shouted Iris' name as pictures of her and Midnight's End flashed across the screen. There were also images of crowds of people holding up signs and banners in Iris' honor. Emma watched and listened in awe as the commotion played out before her eyes and the news continued:
"Iris had unconventional methods, but it all comes down to a question of justice."
"She was a murderer, sure, but she murdered murderers!"
"It's the principle of the thing."
"Why was this woman able to do things our own government has failed at? Why isn't this issue looked into?"
"Where did this woman come from? If she was so dangerous, why didn't the police warn us?"
"Was it really necessary to kill her?"
"It is clear there is some sort of cover up going on."
"Some are saying this presents the bigger issue of rampant organized crime."
"From the outspoken support of many throughout the nation, it is clear it is Tiger Lily's voice heard 'round the world."
Emma looked back at the crowd that had gathered behind her and watched as the revolution unfolded before her. She turned up toward the sun, and found her hand touching her heart, as she watched the vibrant, yellow-orange rays reached down and touched the city.
Hope you enjoyed everyone! I really appreciate you all reading my story and your kind reviews. Please review and feel free to give me any constructive criticism for the story as a whole and any comments you may have.
And stay tuned for when I post my next story up, which I hope to get done much MUCH faster than I finished this story! To give you a sneak peek, the next story is titled "Lara & Aylen" and is more of a fantasy kind of story. I'm hoping to have the first chap of that up within the next month or so, just have to fine tune a few aspects of the story before I start writing.
Thank you to MSF94, karli, master of suspence, xHopeLesSdReaMeRx, Nothing But A Dream, uga-buga-boo, Your Heroin, Crytyk, ROFLMAO, listentoyourheart, poo-anonymous, moonwriter7, Omok, Cabbie, ibmc2146, vanillabarcode, Nickywa321, A.K. Zhuang, MantraMagazine, ForneverYours, and all you need is oxygen. for all your reviews and thank you everyone for reading!