A Hard Way to Heaven

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Chapter 22

Syn brushed aside Akir’s hair, examining the scar at his temple. His eyes fluttered opened, and his deep sigh brought a smile to her lips. She traced the line of puckered skin. "Élan had your father and brother, so this..."

"A sniper up in the buildings. Probably one of his brothers, or a cousins." Akir’s voice was husky from sleep.

How easily he could have been killed that day or seriously injured. Too close. The scar was on the surface, and yet, she wondered about the deep pain of loss Akir was harboring. How it affected his ability to do his job. How much loss had their family truly experienced? So many questions still to answer, but she could offer something right now.

She blinked back her tears, and took a shuddering breath, calling out, "Gregor execute playlist 5, at 33 sound." She inched closer, wrapping a leg over his hip, and tucked the goosedown about their shoulders, almost covering their heads, cocooning them in the warmth.

Music piped into the living room, throughout the house to mask their conversation. She had to convey her conclusions from examining the evidence. There was something seriously wrong within their family, and this fight was now hers. "Your operational efficiency has always been in question."

"Nae always..." His hands caressed her hip, drew her closer. She was right, their enemies always seemed to be dogging their heels, or two steps ahead. He had voiced his concern several months ago, and those words had fallen on deaf ears. It was painfully clear there were other forces working against them. He hated having to face that truth.

"Your operational efficiency has never been at an acceptable level. You have said so yourself in your reports." She said with a bit more firmness, cupping his chin, and turning his face to hers.

He nodded, pushing back her hair, kissing her forehead resigning to the futility of that fact. "Aye..."

She leaned in and kissed his lips. "You have a mole in your organization. Someone with enough pull, enough clearance to see documents and know what is planned. Might be two people."

His brow pinched together. "Aye, I hae suspected one, but nae two for awhile now. I need fresh eyes, fresh perspective. Your father kens this..."

"If we are going to turn this war on its head, turn it 360 degrees one way, then another, we need each other. What do you truly want?" She bit her lip, dreading what Akir might say. The wind of change was howling around her, and she could just feel the apprehension tickling her skin. Syn inched closer, relishing Akir’s heat, and closeness. His presence held back the oncoming tide.

Akir crushed the subconscious voice of his training before it rose up, reminding him of his duty, the rules that were so confining. After a moment of silent conflict, he spoke up. "I want what I should be able to have, what is forbidden me. I canna promise ye willna be hurt by me or what this is...but deep down, I think together we can change the course of it all."

Her cell phone chimed from across the room, and Syn reluctantly left their comfy bed. She had received a text from Peter, telling her that Doc Swab wouldn’t get to the autopsy for another day due to a backlog of work. She could understand that, and was grateful for the delay. She wanted to talk to Akir about their family, find out more about the key players.

Death is nothing like that portrayed on popular TV shows. It’s a vicious reality slap to your face of your own mortality, especially if humanity turns nasty. Syn arrived at Port Lewis Memorial Hospital a quarter before seven and scanned the reader board looking for the morgue, and Doc Swab’s office. Covering her yawn, slightly tired from a night of conversation, and more sex, she pushed through it. And then she remembered where she was.

She hated hospitals, always had. There was this pervading malodor; the melding of aromas, a pungent repellent of bleach, human fear, sweat and perfumes that just didn't mix well. Life and death curled around the neck like some thick boa constrictor, waiting to snatch everything away.

Her sweaty palm gripped the handle of her metal video case as she crossed the well-lit lobby to the information booth. A senior volunteer looked up with vivid blue eyes and a bright smile. She showed her police id and ask for security to escort her to the second basement. The volunteer was polite, too polite for such an early hour. Or was it just her, never really a morning person due to too many late nights on the beat. Five minutes later a burly bald man appeared, and grunted a greeting, looking over her credentials. He hooked a thumb at the elevator. The doors grated open with a bad squeak, and she cringed, wishing for a can of WD-40. The misaligned doors snagged on the brass tracks, and the screeched hard as they closed. The big man security guard was all eyes on her as Syn draped her id over her jeans jacket pocket. He grunted once at the sight of it. She stifled a laugh; it was so good to be home.

The elevator was too slow, the bell finally chiming as they hit B2, and the squeaky doors opened again. Slow enough to allow the punch of bad aromas to hit her square in the face. The problem was that the pungent orders invaded her nostrils, and stuck in the back of her throat, making her cough. The taste lingered at the back of her throat, even with her mouth shut. She cleared her throat, wishing she had snagged a coffee from the local coffee shop.

The phantom smell of raw meat and formalin made her stomach churn and sour. Her eyes began to water at the clinging smell of disinfectant greeted her with an obnoxious hello. She spied a diener emerging from a darken door, his brow pinching together, not really expecting a lot of surprise visitors. As he approached, the dog-eared id that hung from a clip, clipped to his lab coat, identified his name. Tom Foust. Simple, clear cut. Syn looked at him closely. Plain and simple to the core. Blond hair and black eyes. The corner of his mouth was perpetually turned down, and she wondered if he was pushing thirty with the aged look to his face.

He turned to meet her half-way, greeting her wearily as Syn explained the purpose of her visit. His eyes were fixed on her badge, and obnoxiously on her chest. She cleared her throat again hard, and he came back to his senses. He turned on his heel, led her down to a half-window, and had her sign a paper at the counter. He didn't wait for her, heading down the bleak semi-dark corridor.

At least the hallway was clear as Tom led her to a small shelf of lockers, pointing to a lab coat, and digging out a clean cap and booties off another shelf. She shrugged into the lab coat, then the cap, and slid the booties on her feet. Her nose wrinkled for the coat smelled heavily of bleach, even possessing a gray tint from seeing too many washes, too many years of hanging on a hook in this place. She tried not to look at the Tom's own lab coat, but it was difficult not to. The fabric was branded with dried, dark brown marks of blood and God, knew what else. Tom waited, yawning. He ducked through two electronic metal doors that opened as they broke a sensor. Syn had to step lively, for they closed rapidly, as if death was nipping at her heels.

The autopsy room was like any other; a battleground between white tiled walls and stainless steel. She could make one assessment of Doc Swab. The man was a neat freak. The smells were stronger in the room, and she could see why. Even with the meticulous cleaning, Doc and his staff, couldn't entirely erase years of blood and bodily fluids seeping into the grouting of the floor and the caulking on the walls. She asked Tom. "Is there room for a ten to fifteen-foot ladder to take pictures, and scans of the body from above?"

The man's eyebrows lifted, amused. She gave him a stern look, crossing her arms. They locked stares, and he broke first, annoyed. He turned on his heels and left her, and she wondered if he would return with her request. "Really talkative...aren't we?" She mumbled under her breath, her eyes darting around the room.

The place would rival Home Mechanics or any man’s workroom. The medical instruments were perfectly aligned on a wall from smallest to largest. Maybe Doc Swab had OCD? It would explain a lot. She could see the empty spaces where some instruments were missing. There was a covered tray already set up beside the center steel autopsy table, and knew they were most likely under the green cloth. A bone-cutting saw, bone splitting implements, and various scalpels. Her mind drifted back to her first autopsy as a rookie detective. She crossed to her video case, and opened it, fished out the bottle of essential oils. She unscrewed the small cap, and spread a bit under her nose. It was the only thing helped her with the pervading smells, slightly masking their depth.

Another diener slipped through the pneumatic doors carrying several stacked metal bowls that held face shields and plastic wrapped specimen jars. He sat them down on the table, and retrieved a bowl that he affixed to a scale suspended from the ceiling as she assessed her equipment. All of the stainless steel surfaces had a dull hue under the hum of the fluorescent lighting. There was nothing spanking brand new about anything. Doc Swab was all about simple, and she wondered if he was old school?

The doors hissed again and Tom was back with her ladder as completely different man pushed a stainless steel gurney into the room with the body on it. He looked at Syn curiously as he hit the brake. He picked up the clip board from atop the body, watching Tom set up the ladder. He mumbled hello, and waited. Tom stepped and signed off on piece of paper noting the tag affixed to the body. The men removed the other table. Doc Swab finally appeared, and Syn finally let go of the breath she had been holding, realizing she needed something familiar in the room to ground her senses, and bring her mind back into focus.

Doc Swab glared at Syn from under his bushy eyebrows, annoyed, seeing her stainless steel video case, and the ladder. “And just what the hell is that for?”

She smiled, closing the case, trying to diffuse the mounting tension, “I wanted to take scans of the body, and the ladder will help me to take them from above.”

“Look missy you best not get in my way.” He was clearly agitated, and confirmed her ‘old school’ thought.

“I won’t Doc. Just tell me where I can put my case?”

He grumbled. “Over there.” He raised a bony finger to an old wooden desk. Syn crossed to the desk, lifted up the case and set it down. She opened up the case with a distinctive double click. She lifted out her compact video scanner. She turned and Doc’s eyebrows hit the ceiling. “Somehow I thought that thing would be some clumsy big thing.”

“No Doc. I designed it myself. Looks like a regular camcorder, but with different filtering capabilities for rendering three dimensions and color depth. I can use it to see things that the naked eye might not."

Doc Swab sniffed, tugged a wrinkled handkerchief from his pocket, and rubbed his nose, dismissing Syn. “Sounds interesting.” He turned back to his techs. “Alright let’s get started."

Peter sipped at his coffee, sifting through copies of the crime scene photos. Another deep sigh escaped his lips, trying to remain impartial to find clues that they may have missed. It was hard to remain objective when the cruelty of murder was displayed in vivid color. He set his mug down, and took up his pen, jotted down a note. He rose from his chair, and crossed to a large whiteboard. He set one of the pictures of their Jane Doe on the board, took up a marker, and added some detail beside the picture. He stood back and examined the two other pictures pasted next to the current one.

“Doc was right. This beats the percentage.” He wasn’t ready to cry serial killer, but he had to inform the public. He reached for his cell phone, and scrolled through the numbers, finding the right name, and hit the connect button. A few seconds passed before a deep male voice answered. “Brett, we need to meet.”

Brett Salisbury grinned, sitting back at his desk of the local TV station. “Peter, good to hear from you. Sure, is this about the murder down at the docks?”

“Yes.” Peter wasn’t comfortable giving any information over the phone. “How about a quick coffee before your prep for the news hour?”

“Will this involve me having to prep something for you?”


“Oh your full of answers.” Brett chuckled, turned serious. “We have a problem don’t we?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Time is of the essence, and we need to inform the public…”

“Without causing a panic…” Brett finished. “I’ll be over with a crew in an hour.”

Peter rubbed his forehead. “Thank you, see you then.”

It had been a long day and Syn returned to the precinct to file a report on the autopsy. The crime scene techs had finished developing her black and white, and colored prints. She pulled out several head shots as Peter walked over, carrying two mugs. “Here is a cup of tea, thought you might like it.”

“Oh yes…” Taking the cup, her eyes lifted appreciatively to his. His nose wrinkled several times. She knew she didn't smell to pleasing, having not had a chance to change or shower after the autopsy. She curled her hands around the warm mug, savoring the heat as it seeped into her skin. The chill of the morgue always affected her, staying with her long after leaving. Every aspect of the experience did. “Any results from IAFIS?”

“No, Jane Doe is not in the system. I have sent a patrol out to canvas the area to show her picture around, see if we can find out who she is. I’ve called Brett Salisbury, he will be putting something up on the news tonight.”

“Nothing too serious, but enough to inform the public.”


Syn looked up at him, hoping he didn’t take the look the wrong way, “Feel like a date?”

Peter laughed. “What?”

“What do you say to visiting the more seedier places tonight.”

“Some date you are.”

“I’ll cook you dinner sometime to make up for it.”

Peter grinned, “Alright, this should be fun.”

She smiled, thinking it wouldn’t be, wondering if he would try to discuss their old times or the presence of Akir. “Yes it will be.”

Syn returned home and found Akir sitting before her computer setup, feet up on the desk, and scanning through files. A moment of unease settled in her gut. He had more than invaded her space, settling in rather nicely. Conflicted, she wasn’t sure she liked it. And another part of her found it comforting to come home, and have his presence. “What are you digging for?”

“Been making connections all morning with our operations back in Edinburgh, and London. Gordon’s been creating a shadow account for you. I’ve been sifting through that information, and drawing reationships between your information, and what we have on Élan.” He reached out an arm, and wrapped it around her hips, drew her into him.

Syn leaned down, cupped his face, and kissed Akir’s lips. “I have more for you.” Just like Peter, Akir’s nose wrinkled. She straightened. “I know I don’t smell good, here,” She placed her media cards on the table, “Let Gregor transfer, and categorize the info, then play with it.” She spoke to the computer. “Gregor?”

“Aye baby doll.” A husky brogue came back, and she saw Akir’s face pinch into a frown, and laughed.

“Jealous?" Akir rolled his eyes, pursed his lips and shook his head. She chuckled. "Akir is going to input information from the current crime scene, and then create a 3D rendering, extrapolate the data…”

“Usual then…” Gregor interrupted.

“Yes, have fun, but watch your back.” Syn played with a braided tendril of Akir’s hair.

“Roger that.” Gregor snapped back as she slipped the first card into a specific slot on the table. Data files began to transfer into the computer.

“I’m going to take a long, hot shower for the next hour…”

“Care for some company?” Akir caressed her hip, grinning mischievously. “Sure…” She tugged him up, and led him through the house. Piece by piece, clothes were discarded along the route until they were both in the bathroom. Syn slipped into the shower, and under the sunflower shower head, wetting her hair.

Akir punched the control panel, and cycled the shower heads. “Let it grow longer.”

Syn reached for the shampoo. “My hair?”

“Aye, just a few more inches. I like the way the length plays against my thighs when you ride me.”

She turned around too quickly and Akir frowned, feeling a budding tension. He shook it off and stepped back, let her under the stream. He grabbed the shampoo from her hand, and poured a dollop into his hands. He washed the length as her hands caressed up and down his body, using the soap. Finished, Akir took the mesh poof and loaded it with body wash. Her body was hard, and soft in all the right places. A toned athlete at the top of her game.

Syn sighed as his hands worked the poof over her body, once, twice washing away the stench of the autopsy room. She leaned into the water as he knelt on one knee, lifted up her right foot, and washed her calf, her ankle. “You are enjoying this.”

“Aye, immensely. Especially the mewling sounds coming from your throat.” His hands moved higher over her thigh, and between her legs.

That grin of his, his touch made her insides soften, her core throb. “Now your teasing.”

He nodded as he let go of her right leg, and reached for her left.

“And ye are enjoying this.”

“Immensely.” Syn sighed.

Akir slowly stood, and set aside the poof. “Lean back.” She leaned back, and the water rinse away the soap. His eyes fixed on the way the suds sheeted across her skin. His hands covered hers, kneading her breasts as his head dipped down and whispering against her lips, “You know what they say about sex in the shower”

Syn chuckled, turning around, and stepping further under the shower head. Akir cupped her ass, and she leaned into him. He groaned as she pressed into him.

“How did you know I love your ass?” He was more than aroused, his erection jerked, his whole body wanting deep in her heat.

“Several compliments last night, this morning. Show me.”

“Your wish is my command.”

The Ducati Multistrada 1200 S coasted to a stop at the top of the hill, and the rider flipped up the face guard, admiring the sunset. The sky was an eruption of deep oranges and purples, and reflected in his silver green eyes. Darrog "Dac" Macleod grinned looking down at the city below that shoulder the shores of the Lake Erie. Slowly lights were twinkling on in the semi-darkness. Somewhere down there was his bràithrean, his cousin Akir, and the man they were hunting. They all knew why he was here. They just had to find him, flush him out. Not so easy as it appeared. They had called for backup, but his bràithrean were scattered around the States and Europe. And their plates were full. It wouldn’t be easy getting them here, leaving their assignments meant their targets would go underground again, and be lost in the multitude. It was just a matter of time before all hell broke out here, and Dac hoped more of his bràithrean would be in time before nails were pounded into coffins. He slipped his face guard down, and revved up the engine, grinning at the sound of the elite machine's dulcet tones before putting the bike into gear and continuing on.

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