How can what seems to be many really be one? How can what is one manifest as many? Just what is it that there are many of, and what is it that remains one throughout? -John O’Neill
The sound of the gunshot ricocheted through the dark alley. The unknown man lay face down hiding the gaping wound in his head, a crimson puddle slowly growing larger around him. The sound of footsteps can be heard echoing off the walls of the empty alley. A flash of lightening briefly lit the alley revealing a figure dressed in all black standing over the lifeless body. A gun quietly slips through the figure’s gloved hand and clatters to the ground as the figure turns slowly and walks away.
The quiet of the early mornings proved to be Quinn’s favorite time of the day. The streets of New York were never really quiet. But with the soft rays of the early morning sun beaming into the small window of her breakfast nook, her journal in front of her and the robust scent of coffee brewing, Quinn felt completely at peace. She sighed deeply knowing that eventually she was going to have to leave her tiny sanctuary to forge her way through the mundanity of another Tuesday. It’s not that she didn’t love her career. Counseling was in her blood. But her passion for helping others through their toughest circumstances had somehow morphed into a blurred montage of desperate housewives, men in midlife crises and spoiled rich kids whose parents thought that therapy was some kind of magic cure for bad attitudes. Quinn took one last longing glance out of the window, savoring her last moments of peace intermingled with the soft pink hues of the rising sun. No use prolonging the inevitable, Quinn thought sardonically to herself as she rose slowly to her feet, stretching out the last few moments of her “me-time,” and headed to get dressed for the day.
Quinn pulled into the small parking lot that sat right in front of the quaint little stucco building that she leased for her private counseling practice. It wasn’t much, but it was hers and she was quite proud of it. As Quinn walked up the stone path to the front door, she noticed the lights were already on and she could make out a tuft of curly, platinum blonde hair through the arched windows. “Well, thank God for small miracles,” Quinn muttered quietly to herself. It’s always a coin toss whether Kori, Quinn’s receptionist, would actually be on time for work. It’s my own fault for hiring my best friend, Quinn giggled to herself knowing that she’d hire Kori all over again if given the chance.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in!” Kori cackled at her own joke as if it was the funniest thing she’d heard all week. “I thought I was going to have to play therapist today.” Quinn chuckled. She could always count on Kori to bring a smile to her face no matter how she was feeling. “Sorry to disappoint you, Ko, maybe we can try again next week,” Quinn winked. “Don’t tempt me, woman.” Kori said, her hands on her hips and a smug smile playing at her bright red lips. “What’s today looking like so far?” “Not terrible, you’ve got a nine, a ten and an eleven o’clock. Then nothing until two and you’re done.” Quinn breathed a sigh of relief as she walked to her office and sat down at her desk. As much as she probably needed to build her clientele, she was grateful today was lighter. For some reason she was having a hard time really getting into her groove the last couple of weeks. Maybe it was the dreaded burn-out she had heard so much about, but goodness knows she tries her hardest to keep work at work. So then what was it? Beep-beep. The pager on her desk phone interrupted her thoughts. “Dr. Newton, Mrs. Leighton is here for your nine o’clock appointment.” Quinn took one more deep breath and walked into the hallway to greet her first client of the day.
The morning sessions passed in such a blur that Dr. Newton did not even realize that it was time to grab a quick lunch before her 2 o’clock. That is, until Kori came sauntering into Quinn’s office with a smirk on her face and her dark brown eyes twinkling with mischief. Quinn knew Kori well enough to know that she definitely had something up her sleeve. “Oh shoot, I know that look.” Quinn rolled her eyes. “What hell are you planning to raise this time?” Kori gave Quinn a sly wink. “Not me.” A quizzical look began to form on Quinn’s face. Her curiosity was piqued, but she also knew Kori well enough to know better than to dive right in with the questions. It was better to casually sus information out of Kori. And it was a delicate process. If she knew you were itching for the information, she would chew on it even longer just to torture you. Quinn decided to take a roundabout method in hopes of throwing Kori’s bloodhound senses of the trail. “Well, I’m about to run to Java Drip across the street to grab a latte and a chicken salad sandwich while you raise hell. Want anything?” Quinn watched as Kori’s mischievous look quickly morphed into slight bemusement. Unsure of whether she had won this one, Quinn waited for a response. “Actually, I wouldn’t mind a pink lemonberry refresher.” Quinn raised an eyebrow but simply replied “Sure!” “Oh and Agent Chandler will probably want something too.”
There it was. Quinn froze as a look of slight panic flashed across her face. She quickly collected herself, but it was too late. Kori had seen it and was ready to burst into a fit of giggles. I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd say she was still in high school. Quinn crossed her arms trying to hide how flustered she was with a look of mild annoyance. “What does he want, Kori?” There was an edge to Quinn’s question and Kori knew she had better tread lightly. Quinn was her best friend and they’d been best friends since they were roommates freshmen year of college. Kori knew exactly how closely she could toe the line before causing another world war with her best friend.
“I really don’t know, Quinn. He said that he couldn’t tell me and that it was best if he spoke with you. He’s been here for a while waiting for the last session to ended.” Kori explained. She knew Agent Chandler was a touchy topic with Quinn though she always felt Quinn had overreacted. He was by far one of the kindest and, let’s face it, the sexiest men she’d ever met. It flabbergasted her how coldly Quinn treated him, but then again he had almost cost Quinn her license. Well either way, Quinn wasn’t going to be able to avoid him this time. He had sat in the reception area for over forty-five minutes waiting to speak with her, Kori couldn’t see him being willing to leave until he got what he wanted. What that was, Kori could only imagine with a satisfied, albeit somewhat jealous, smirk.
“Can you make him go away, Kori? I really don’t want to have it out with him right before I have to see another client.”
“Right before you have to see another client?” Kori crossed her arms and looked knowingly at Quinn. “Your next appointment isn’t until two. It’s just now going on 12:15. I’m pretty positive you’ll have time to gather yourself before your last appointment.”
Quinn rolled her eyes. She should’ve known Kori wouldn’t help her out on this one. She never actually said it, but it was clear that she had allied herself with Julian from the beginning. A pretty face just turns that girl’s brain to mush. “Fine, send him in. But I need you to page me in ten minutes with an ‘emergency phone call,’” Quinn said as she motioned quotation marks with her fingers. Kori didn’t respond, just turned on her heels and sashayed her way out of the office. Quinn already knew what that meant. She was on her own. Kori had no intentions of coming to her rescue today.
Quinn rolled her eyes and tried to mentally prepare herself to meet up with the man who had almost shattered her career a year earlier. Her mind wandered back to that so-called “date” where Julian practically interrogated her about one of her clients that he was investigating. How could she have been so stupid to think that a man like him was actually interested in dating her? He was so charming, charismatic and one of the most handsome men she’d ever seen. She fell for it hook, line and sinker. Well not today, she thought to herself steeling her resolve to stand her ground.
Kori opened the office door and stood there as a tall, brown-skinned man with deep gray eyes and neatly manicured beard stepped into the room. His heady, masculine scent filled the room threatening to immediately weaken the resolve Quinn had just built. He was more handsome than she remembered standing there in a fitted black suit that hugged his broad shoulders and toned arms then tucked neatly at his waist. His gray eyes immediately lit up when he saw her and his chiseled features stretched into a wide smile that could brighten the cloudiest of days. Kori let out an audible sigh as she winked at Quinn and closed the door behind her.
Quinn forced herself to her senses and shot Agent Chandler a steely gaze. “Agent Chandler.” She said icily. His smile faltered slightly, but he refused to let her coldness ruin the moment. She was gorgeous. He drank in her soulful hazel eyes and the array of thick, soft curls that cascaded down her shoulders and back. Her skin, the color of brown sugar, was smoother than the cocoa butter he could smell on her. He silently cursed himself for how royally he had screwed things up with her. Before he could catch himself, his eyes were immediately drawn to her full lips as they moved seductively. Wait, she was speaking? What did she say? “I’m sorry, what did you say?” his deep voice resonated causing a slight shiver down her spine. But she was staunch in her resolve. “I said, is there a reason you decided to drop into my office unannounced?” Quinn crossed her arms allowing her glare to bore into his sultry gray eyes.
Julian sighed wondering if there would ever be another chance for him to redeem himself. But that was a worry for another day. He actually did have a reason for dropping by unannounced. “Quinn, is there somewhere you and I can sit down and talk? I –“
“We really need your help.”
“Why would I go anywhere with you, Julian? I have a practice to run and clients to see, so please show yourself out.” She turned her back to begin shuffling through some files sitting on her desk. Julian became momentarily distracted as his eyes were drawn to the area where her tiny waist met her perfectly plump, round backside. He mentally shook his head attempting to refocus his attention to the business at hand. “Quinn, Joe Callahan is dead. Murdered.”
Quinn’s blood ran cold as she froze in place feeling her heart drop to her stomach. She took a deep shaky breath as she turned slowly searching Julian’s somber face for any inkling of his usual cocky smirk or indication that his announcement was some kind of terrible joke. But her eyes were met with a solemn, unwavering gaze. “The senator’s dead?” It was more of a statement than a question as Quinn closed her eyes struggling to process what she had just heard. When her eyes reopened Julian could read one burning question in them. Evie?