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Eternal Flame Chapter 1: I'd Really Love to See You Tonight
rapunzel, tangled
blondebabe800
Maria's eyes widened when she saw the name on her Caller I.D.

Incoming Call: Tommy Vercetti

She quickly crossed the room, closing the door and pulling the shades down before answering the phone. “Hello?”

“I need a favour.”

Her heart jumped when she heard the familiar voice. “What did you do?” she asked casually.

“I carjacked an old lady and got caught.”

Maria rolled her eyes. “You go almost two years without getting into trouble, and then you get arrested for something stupid like that?”

“Hey, I didn't see the cop car there,” he protested.

“You're getting sloppy in your old age.”

“So you gonna help me or nag me about it?”

She sighed. “Why should I? I haven't heard from you in years. I assumed you forgot I existed.”

“Your boss's name is Tom Matthews, right?”

“You're going to go to my boss if I don't help you out?” she asked sarcastically.

Tommy laughed. “Of course not—he'd boot my ass right into prison. But when you show him what I have for you, he'll do anything you want.”

“What, like naked pictures?”

“Better.”

Maria contemplated this for a minute. Finally she said, “All right, I'll help you out.”

“Is your husband going to be home tonight?”

“Actually, we got divorced.”

“So I can come over?”

She swallowed hard. “Isn't there somewhere else we can meet?”

“Well, you could come over to my house, but a bunch of my guys are gonna be there.”

“I was thinking more like a deserted parking lot.”

“That's still a bit public, isn't it?”

She hated to admit it, but Tommy was right. After all, one security camera or accidental witness and it would all be over for them. “Okay, fine. Come over at eight-thirty. But this had better be good.”

“I told you, it will be.” He hung up.

She closed her phone and glanced at the time. She had a meeting in twenty minutes with Captain Sloane, Deputy Chief Matthews, and all the other lieutenants. She checked her lipstick quickly and rushed to the elevator.

A couple minutes later, she took a seat in the conference room. The only other person there was the lieutenant for the auto crimes division, Nina Lopez. She was a petite woman with black hair that never seemed to stay in place no matter how much hairspray or gel was applied to it. Maria couldn't help but feel a little bit of irritation. They'd been partners years ago, when Maria worked in narcotics, but that ended when Lopez was promoted to Sergeant years before Maria, despite never bothering to play the politics game.

“Hey!” Nina said. “Guess what!”

“I didn't come here to play guessing games,” Maria said.

“We got Tommy Vercetti! One of my officers caught him red-handed trying to jack some poor old lady's car.”

“That's great,” Maria replied.

“What's great?” Matthews asked as he walked into the meeting room.

“Officer Lawliet caught Tommy Vercetti,” Nina replied.

“Good job,” he said. Captain Sloane and the other lieutenants arrived, and soon the entire room was buzzing with the news.

“Okay, everyone, may I have your attention please?” Matthews asked. The room quickly quieted down. “Captain Sloane has an announcement.”

Sloane stood up. “First of all, I'd like to thank you all for coming out today.”

“It was mandatory,” someone sitting behind Maria muttered.

“Secondly, I'd like to express my appreciation for each and every one of you. It's been an honour to serve as your captain for the last two years. That being said, effective three months from today, I'll be retiring.” A murmur broke out in the room, and Sloane held up his hand for silence. “Your support has been invaluable to me these past few years, and I look forward to finishing up on a high note.”

He sat down, and Matthews stood up. “I would also like to acknowledge Lieutenant Lopez for her great work. As some of you may have heard, she was able to capture one of our department's most wanted criminals.”

Everyone applauded before Nina said, “Thanks, but it was actually Officer Lawliet. I was in my office dealing with a mountain of paperwork.” She let out an embarrassed laugh.

“Well, please pass my congratulations on to him. All right, that's everything. You guys are free to go,” Matthews said.

Everyone milled around Sloane and Nina. Maria was the last to leave. As she held out her hand, she said to the captain, “I was wondering who you were planning on recommending as your replacement.”

“Actually, no one,” he answered.

“Really? So you don't care about who replaces you? I thought you cared more about your job than that.”

“I trust the deputy chief to put the right person in the job,” he replied. “Besides, I don't want to cause strife in my wake.”

Maria nodded her head. “I understand. Congratulations on your retirement.”

She left the room, head spinning as she tried to calculate her chances of getting the promotion. Nina seemed to be the captain's natural successor. I guess it all comes down to whatever Tommy has for me. Even if I don't get it, though, there's no way Lopez will. She glanced around the deserted hallway, and allowed herself a small smile. After all, you can't promote someone who loses paperwork, especially when that paperwork is key to getting a perp charged.

She worked until six-thirty, when the auto crime unit was deserted. She grabbed a sheaf of papers and quickly made her way to Lt. Lopez's office. The only person around was an elderly janitor mopping nearby, but he didn't see her. She tried the door and discovered it was locked. Damn. What now? She rattled the door a few times, but it wouldn't open.

Maria frowned. Her only option now was to ask the janitor to let her in. She glanced down at the sheaf of papers she was carrying—her cover in case anyone asked why she was in Lopez's office. She bit her lip. Guess I've got no other choice.

“Excuse me, I need to leave these papers for a colleague of mine. Could you open the door for me, please?” she asked.

The janitor smiled and pulled out his keys. “Sure, no problem. Just let me know when you're done, and I'll lock up for you.”

“Thank you.” The janitor nodded and went back to his mop. Maria glanced around the tidy office. A series of five paper trays sat on one corner of the desk. She glanced through them and found the papers she needed. She stuffed them into her purse and checked her watch. Seven o'clock.

She told the janitor that she was done and rushed to the elevator, unsure whether she was looking forward to seeing Tommy again or dreading it.