Tangled Threads, Tangled Strings

by Michael J A Tyzuk

Table of Contents
Part 10 appeared
in issue 152.

Tamara Tomson, detective extraordinaire of Acheron City, has had a few successes in the recent past, but they have been earned at the cost of some terrible losses. Now, she awakens every morning a mess, not sure how many bottles of wine she drank the night before. Her dissolving life must be put on hold, though, when a set of simultaneous murder sprees occur throughout the City.

Tamara is assigned to the case along with her partner, Jeremy, who may care a bit more for Tamara than he does for the case. As the connections between these murders become tangled like a puppetmaster’s strings, Tamara realizes that while her problems may have been suppressed, they can come back to haunt her.

conclusion

Alan dropped his hands onto Tamara’s shoulders and squeezed gently, gave her an encouraging smile. “As long as you remember me I will always be a part of you. Though your memories of me will fade over time it is important that you hold on to the belief that some part of me will always live on in you.”

“So, I will need the belief that you will always be with me to survive something that’s going to happen to me, is that what you’re saying?”

Alan shook his head with a smile, held up a cautionary finger. “Now, that would be telling.”

“Do you blame me for what happened to you?” Tamara wanted to know.

Alan shook his head. “No,” he answered. “Nor should you. What happened to me was an inevitable consequence of a series of decisions I made a long time before we met. I lived every day of my life in preparation for that outcome.”

“Is that what you’ve been trying to tell me?”

Alan nodded. “That’s part of it,” he answered. “But I also wanted to tell you that I love you, and that I miss you.”

Tamara smiled up at Alan. “I miss you too,” she returned. “And I love you.”

“Of course you do,” Alan said with an insufferable smile on his face. “But now you have someone who needs your love as much as I did. Like you Jeremy holds on to a very personal pain. By helping you deal with your demons he helps himself deal with his. He needs you to open yourself to him, and one day he will open himself to you.”

“And you’re okay with that?”

Alan grinned. “Of course I’m okay with that,” he answered. “I know how important Jeremy is to your future, and I know that he makes you happy. In the end, isn’t that all that matters?”

* * *

Tamara opened her eyes and blinked against the harsh glare of the lights. When her eyes adjusted she looked around and took stock of her surroundings. She was lying on a bed in a hospital room. The bed was surrounded by a white privacy curtain.

“It’s about time you woke up,” Mike Richardson said from beside her. He leaned over the side of the bed and brushed a stray lock of auburn hair off of her forehead. “We were thinking of changing your name to Tamara Van Winkle.”

Tamara smiled and stretched a catlike stretch. “How long was I out for?” she wondered.

Mike shrugged. “Oh, for about a week,” he answered offhandedly.

Tamara felt her eyes widened as she stared at Mike in astonishment. “You kept me sedated for a week?”

Mike shrugged again. “Well, it’s not like you gave us a lot of choice in the matter.”

“Okay, you’ve got me there,” Tamara admitted. “I guess I did get more than a little bit hysterical.”

“Well, you had good reason,” Mike assured her.

Tamara smiled her thanks. “How’s Jeremy?”

Mike grinned. “Jeremy is doing just fine.” Tamara breathed a sigh of relief. “Doctor Geller was able to remove the implant.”

“How?” Tamara wanted to know.

“The same way it went into him,” Mike answered. “She used some of our own supply of nanos to program specialist nanos to go in, destroy the implant, and flush the remains out of his system. The last of it came out of him about thirty six hours ago.”

“What about the RNA conditioning?” Tamara asked.

“We took the Rising Star back to Iskander,” Mike explained, “and consulted with the psych staff at the Acheron City Garrison. Jeremy has been seeing them every day since the nanos were administered. They’ve been using hypnosis to reverse the effects of the RNA conditioning. They tell me he’s been responding well to the therapy, but they want him to see them on a daily basis until they’re sure the RNA conditioning won’t pose any kind of danger to you two.”

“Is that where we are?” Tamara wondered. “Iskander?”

“We’re docked at Proxima Station,” Mike answered. “The station commander wanted to meet with me and discuss that little set-to we almost had with that Underground cruiser. I didn’t want to use a shuttle to make the trip so I brought the Rising Star here. You’re in my sickbay. No private rooms, I’m afraid. Even on a six hundred meter long battle cruiser space is at a premium. Do you feel like trying to get up?”

Tamara nodded. Mike helped her sit up and then helped her out of the bed and onto her feet. He wrapped a generic hospital robe around her and withdrew the privacy curtain. Then he offered her his arm and took her across the sickbay to Dr. Geller’s office. The Doctor was sitting behind her desk. Jeremy was seated in one of the guest chairs across the desk from her, wearing a battleship gray jumpsuit with the insignia of the Imperial Navy on the arms. Both of them stood up when Tamara and Mike entered the office.

Tamara let go of Mike’s arm and surged forward, engulfed Jeremy in a passionate embrace. Jeremy wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his face in her hair, nuzzled her affectionately. Doctor Geller stepped around the desk and discreetly excused herself. Mike followed her lead and closed the office door behind him.

After a long moment Tamara and Jeremy put some distance between them and sat down in the guest chairs. “I was so worried about you,” Tamara told Jeremy. “I was so afraid that the implant would get the better of you, the way that Alan’s implant got the better of him.”

“And you were afraid that if that happened then you would have to kill me the way that you killed Alan,” Jeremy finished.

Tamara nodded. “I guess I started to realize how much I would miss you if I lost you,” she said. “I didn’t think that I could live with that kind of outcome.”

“Well, in all fairness I don’t think that I could have either,” Jeremy returned with a grin. Then he turned serious. “You look good,” he said. “In fact you look better than you have in all the time I’ve known you.”

Tamara smiled. “I finally figured out what it was that Alan wanted to tell me.”

“You saw him while you were asleep?” Tamara nodded. “What did he say?”

“He told me that he loves me,” Tamara answered, “and he told me that he misses me. He told me that I have a special destiny which means that I’m going to have to face more than my fair share of pain and suffering. He told me he’s happy that I have you as my friend and partner.”

Jeremy smiled. “Well, that was mighty charitable of him,” he said.

Tamara reached out and took Jeremy’s hands in hers. “He also tried to tell me that what I’ve endured has made me stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. And he’s right. For the first time since before my father died I feel like I actually belong in this world. And I know that I wouldn’t even be here to feel this way if I didn’t have friends who love me in spite of myself.”

“Of course you have friends who love you,” Jeremy assured her. “Haven’t you figured that out yet? Tammy, you draw people to you, kind of like the way moths are drawn to a light source. The difference is that you’re a lot less deadly. Everyone you encounter wants to get to know you. They want to love you because being around you makes their life better than it was before.”

Tamara cocked her head. “Is that why you’re so kind to me?” she wondered. “Because being around me makes your life better than it was before?”

“It was in the beginning,” Jeremy answered. “Over the last couple of months, though, I’ve been trying to picture in my mind the kind of person you would have been before you started to drown in your own pain. I tried to envision what kind of effect it would have on me if I ever encountered the Tamara of old. I always pictured you as the kind of person who makes people want to be better than they are. And that’s exactly what started to happen on those rare occasions where you forgot how much pain you were in and let a little bit of the old Tamara peek through. You always made me want to be a better man. You still do.”

Tamara squeezed Jeremy’s hands. “I’m not the girl I used to be,” she explained, “not by any stretch of the imagination. The old Tamara, the person that I was, is dead and gone. Now I have to build a new Tamara in her place, and I want to make this one better than the old one was. Sometimes the old Tamara spent so much time and energy obsessing about her loneliness that she forgot about the people who knew her and loved her, but who hardly ever showed her because she never opened herself to them enough to allow it to happen. Alan was the first person I really opened up to after my father and the padre died, and it took me a long time to get over my fear of rejection, my fear of being hurt. That mistake colored our relationship, prevented us from getting as close as we could have.”

Tamara locked eyes with Jeremy. “I don’t want to make that mistake again,” she whispered. “There’s too much at stake for that kind of nonsense.”

Jeremy brushed his hand through Tamara’s hair. “Then let’s not let that happen, okay?”

Tamara nodded. “Okay.”

* * *

Doctor Geller gave Tamara and Jeremy a few minutes for touch and talk, then dragged them both into the sickbay and subjected them to the most thorough physical examinations they had ever had in their lives. She even made Jeremy turn his head and cough. She gave them a clean bill of health and then assigned a corpsman to escort Tamara to guest quarters.

When Tamara arrived she found a bundle which contained her clothes, freshly cleaned by the ship’s laundry, on the bunk. She took advantage of the facilities to take a proper shower, dressed, and had just finished combing out her hair when the door to her cabin chimed. “Come in,” she called out.

The door snicked open and Jeremy stepped through. He smiled when he saw Tamara. “You look good in pink,” he told her.

Tamara smiled at the compliment, stepped forward and kissed Jeremy’s cheek. “I feel better, too,” she said. “Sponge baths are adequate, but they’re no substitute for a long, hot shower.”

“I was just talking to Mike,” Jeremy explained. “We’ve left Proxima Station and we’re on our way back to Iskander, but it’ll be about a day before we get there. Meanwhile, he thought we might be hungry so we’ve been invited to dinner in the Captain’s Mess with the senior staff. You feel up to that?”

Tamara grinned, nodded and took Jeremy by the arm. “I think I can find enough energy for that,” she answered.

The two of them stepped out into the corridor arm in arm.

* * *

Tamara and Jeremy knocked on the door to Kevin Dubois’ office and stepped inside in response to his bellowed, “Come!” They took their seats in the guest chairs across from his desk.

Kevin continued to concentrate on the work displayed on his terminal screen for some time. Finally he remembered that there were people in the room with him, so he pushed himself away from the desk and looked up. He frowned at Tamara and Jeremy. “What the hell are you two doing here?” he demanded.

Tamara smiled. “Well, Captain Richardson just had us flown back to the spaceport, so we thought it would be a good idea to check in.”

“Just in case you missed us or anything,” Jeremy quipped.

Kevin shook his head. “Didn’t Richardson tell you? The two of you are on leave until Monday. If either of you sets foot in this building before then I’m going to insert your badge someplace where you don’t want me to insert it.”

Jeremy frowned at that. “But, its Tuesday,” he said.

“I’m impressed,” Kevin said. “The boy knows his days of the week. Tamara, will you get him the hell out of here, please. I’m sure the two of you can find something better to do with your time than hang around here, yes?”

Tamara smiled. “I’m sure we can come up with something,” she said.

A short time later they were at Tamara’s house. She left Jeremy in the living room with the open liquor cabinet and retired to her bedroom to change clothes. She came down some minutes later wearing a simple knee length button down navy blue dress with little white polka dots. Jeremy was sitting at one end of the couch and he smiled when he looked up and saw her. She did a little model’s twirl for him and grinned. “You know, you don’t have to dress up to impress me,” he said.

“So who said anything about having to?” Tamara wondered as she sat down on Jeremy’s lap and curled an arm around his neck. Jeremy snaked an arm around her waist. “Besides, sometimes I think that it does me good to look like a girl for a change.”

“Tammy,” Jeremy said, “I don’t think that anyone could possibly doubt for one minute that you are anything less than extremely female.”

Tamara kissed the top of Jeremy’s head. “There are things that I’ve wanted to tell you,” she explained, “things that I didn’t get to say in Cyndi Geller’s office on the Rising Star.”

“What kind of things?” Jeremy wondered.

Tamara took a deep breath. “Okay, here goes,” she said. “I wanted to thank you for everything that you’ve done for me since we got together.”

Jeremy smiled and shook his head. “Come on, Tammy, I didn’t do anything all that special.”

Tamara stared into Jeremy’s eyes. “You’re wrong,” she insisted. “You’ve been magnificent, this great pillar of strength. You’ve always encouraged me, you’ve always listened to me. Even when I didn’t feel like talking you’ve still been there beside me. You’ve never wavered, not for an instant. I’d like to think that I would have done the same for you, but the way that I’ve been feeling lately I honestly don’t know if I could have. But I look at myself in the mirror now and I know that I can, and I will be there for you if you ever need me the way that I’ve needed you.”

“You’re too hard on yourself,” Jeremy said. “Besides, you’re my partner. What else was I going to do?”

“You had a choice, Jeremy,” Tamara whispered. “You could have walked away and not gotten involved. I hate to think of where I would be right now if that’s what you had done. I know I wouldn’t be sitting here on your lap snuggled up to you. I’d probably be in a psych hospital, or trying to crawl inside a bottle and pull the cork in after me. But I know I wouldn’t be here.”

Jeremy gave Tamara a gentle squeeze. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Tammy Girl,” he told her. “You’re getting better because at heart you’re still the strongest person that I know. It’s your strength that allowed you to face that nightmare with Alan. It’s your strength that’s helping you face everything that’s happened over the last few days. It’s your strength that’s kept you from drinking since you told me about the nightmares.”

Tamara’s eyes widened. “You noticed that?”

Jeremy grinned. “Tamara, you have the loveliest emerald eyes I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “They cloud over some when you’ve been drinking as much as you have been lately, and when they cloud over your native intelligence, that little spark that makes you who you are, doesn’t come through anywhere near as clearly as it does now. So yeah, I noticed.”

Tamara dropped another kiss on top of Jeremy’s head. “That’s another thing that I have to thank you for,” she said. “You knew that I probably wouldn’t have listened to you if you had just told me what I was doing to myself. So you stood back and let me hit bottom, but you made sure that you were there to help me up if I needed you to. I hit bottom up on that runabout when I thought that I was going to lose you. And when I woke up you were right there beside me, ready to help me up if I needed you. I do need you, Jeremy. I need your strength and your friendship.”

Jeremy tightened his arms around Tamara, squeezed gently. “And maybe I need your friendship too,” Jeremy conceded. “If I can help you face all of the ghosts that you need to face then maybe there’s a possibility that you can help me face the ghosts that I need to face. After all, aren’t partners supposed to save each other’s lives now and again?”

Tamara grinned and brushed her fingers through Jeremy’s hair. “There’s one last thing that needs to be said,” she told him. She tipped Jeremy’s head up a little bit, then leaned down and kissed him on the lips. It was an affectionate kiss, the kind that close friends sometimes share when they’re comfortable with showing each other how much they care. There was no implied promise like the last time Tamara had kissed Jeremy, just one friend choosing a very personal and intimate way to say I Love You.

The tow of them broke for air after a long moment, and Tamara stared down into Jeremy’s eyes. “I love you, Jeremy Bennett,” she said with an affectionate smile. “I just wanted you to know that.”

Jeremy opened his mouth to speak but Tamara put her finger over his lips, silencing him. “You don’t have to say it,” she told him. “Not yet. I know that you and I are still carrying around a lot of pain and a lot of guilt, and I know that you don’t want to get yourself involved in a committed, emotional relationship just yet, But I also know that you care about me, and that there really isn’t much of anything that you wouldn’t do for me. And I think that’s enough for the people that you and I are right now, at this moment.”

Jeremy smiled and kissed the tip of Tamara’s nose. “Milady, you are wise beyond your years,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook,” Tamara warned. “One day I’m going to grab you and cart you off to my bed and tell you that I love you the sweetest way possible. But not right now. Not until both of us are ready.”

“All right, then,” Jeremy agreed. “What do you want to do tonight?”

Tamara grinned. “You know, I feel better now than I have since before Alan died,” she said. “And I want to do something about that. I feel like this great weight has been lifted from my shoulders, like I’m seeing the world through new eyes. I feel like dancing.”

Jeremy nodded judiciously. “Dancing,” he considered. “Yeah, I think that somehow I can find a reason or two to take Tamara dancing.”

Tamara jumped up off of Jeremy’s lap, pulled him off of the couch, and the two of them headed for the front door. Tamara slipped her feet into a pair of sandals and let Jeremy help her into a black knit sweater, and then the two of them were out the door, and climbing into Jeremy’s speeder.


Copyright © 2005 by Michael J A Tyzuk

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