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(Macedonia) Greece, 1940. Salonika, The Blue Oyster Bar.

Our intrepid group had just met their mysterious employer in an out of the way bar...

Intrepid?  Well when it comes to writing, Gabrielle I ainít. Oh well, better write this up when I get back to the hotel. No sense in reflection now, if we ever get back to the hotel.  Ah the thought of snuggling up against those nice cool pillows, fresh linens and sweet smelling fragrances.  Janice you just might be able to finally get a nightís rest.

Giles Nelwin stands up from the table jarring my thoughts with, "So we have a deal?" He stretches a hand out to me, my quick reply of Yep and a hearty handshake seal the agreement. "Good. I'll have the tablet delivered to your hotel in the morning."

I linger on my response and glance at Mel, "Okay. Sure thing." Does this man have no concept of time? It is morning!  And how did he know where we were staying, even I didnít know until we were in the truck. Mel?  Oh Mel?  Okay Covington, donít go all paranoid just watch her and see what she does.

There he is, the man of the hour, "Fine, I can expect the extra G with the tablet then, right?" Rod crosses his arms and glances at me wanting some kinda congratulations. "I'll need cash up front to appease my sources."

"If none of you have accommodations. My man Smithers will take you to a hotel." Ha! Did you realize you slipped there buddy? Yeah I heard you the first time.

Melinda stood up looking more then a little confused. "Are we going to do this, Janice?" Well Mel, if you werenít thinking with other parts of your body you would have been paying attention. "Um, I already have a hotel room. All my things are there." Ah yes Mel, pay attention. Oh is that a wrinkled brow I see before me? Yes Mel... catch his blunder. I see a realization, oh there is a God!

"Sure why not, we got the Xena Scrolls this will be a bonus." I say in a cool and collected voice before turning my attention back to that pompous twit, "Send it to the Lido make it out to Pappas." But you already knew that, didnít you Nelwin?

"The Xena scrolls?" That Helena woman said a bit too loudly, I glance at her and raise a brow letting her know I heard it. Yet another one I will be glad to see go.

Nelwin barks out an order to our little Smithers, "Go with them. See they all get rooms and charge it to me."

"Yes, sir." Oh so is this a bonus?  And who is everyone?  Smithers you too?  Oh Janice what haven you gotten yourself into now?

"Smithers will be my eyes and ears with you." Comforting. I must have replied that aloud from the glances I got. Ah who cares. Phewy on you all Iím tired!

Melinda what are you doing now, leave it alone stop smiling at the little fellow you might give him a complex. What are you Mel, six foot? The geography is all wrong, heís more my size. Oh Covington... what are you saying? Go to bed Janice!

I yawn at that thought of sleep again. What? I look at that raised eyebrow from Melís perfect face. I glare at her waiting for it to descend under the rim of her glasses. Oh look now you did it Mel!  Smithers is grinning back at you. Iím not running a matchmaking service here.

I have had it, Iím outta here fight amongst yourselves folks this kidís going to bed. I glance at Nelwin one last time, always the proper gent he is. "Well I shall talk with you all soon. Good night!" He even waved after that, I shake my head and he nods back.

"Night Mister.... What was his name again?" Melinda I heard you but I ainít got time to play catch-up oh I gotta bad feeling about this! Right in the base of my gut, then the corner of my eye catches the bar and my glass sitting there calling my name.

I take a double take on the full glass, I know I drank that up. I silently question the bartender who snaps out a, "What?" at me. Must like us now that we are friends with his boss. Oh thatís strong, thought I would build up a tolerance by now to this stuff. Heard the more you drink the less you can taste it. Me? I taste it no matter what, and this is some bad stuff!

I can feel Mel approach me, donít know how but I know its her without even looking. Itís either her perfume, those heels or the way the air changes around me making my skin tingle. This canít be a good sign. First thing before this tablet business I wanna translate those scrolls. I wanna know just what Gabrielle and Xena were to each other. Wonder if they were cursed. I chuckle at that thought, never believing in curses myself what a load of mumbo-jumbo. "So whadda think Mel?" I startled her, sorry Mel I just knew you were there.

"Another one?" Melinda looks at my drink. I smiled, oh yeah Mel Iím a self proclaimed alcoholic, sorry to shock you.

"Never got to enjoy it the first time." I grin and wiggle my eyebrows at her.  That was just enough to make her turn away from me, I chuckle under my breath and shake my head.

"Hey Janice. I need to borrow that gas can on the back of yer wheels." Oh Rod you really are out of gas? I hold back my giggle.

"Its empty Rod." Sorry kiddo go and get gas from one of the other cars out there. And donít tell me you ainít, I know thatís how I got stranded outside of that metroplex last year.

"Damn." He sighed at me and walked off in his own little world.

"Well... um... I'm not sure about this Janice." Melinda Pappas you really were paying attention. Please forgive me, I had no idea.

"Getting a bad feeling Mel?" I smirk and drop my glass glancing at the bartender.

"You can say that." Mel and her active shoulders, I should enter her into the Guinness for most shrugs in a week. She looked a bit nervous and whispered at me, "I don't trust these people. And who is that woman?"

I silently order another whiskey drowning out this headache forming in my frontal lobe from eye strain. Wish I was eighteen again, I could have taken these late nights. "I think you're just tired, when have you last slept?"

"Um... I tried on the plane, but..." she lingered off finding that notch on the bar fascinating. Yeah toots I know how that is. Not keen on flying myself.

"What do you need the gas can for? I might have one in the car." I hear Smithers off in the distance, chasing Rod down.  Better yet Smithers give the boy a ride.  Oh I am surrounded by idiots.

"Nothing, I'll be ok... as long as we coast going downhill." I held my smile in check at grumbling Rod. The bartender found that amusing, oh so you can speak English!

Oh great here comes that woman, "I don't believe we've been properly introduced, and since we're going to we working together."

I swing away from her and lean back against the bar. If I ignore the woman, maybe she will just go away, "Spy maybe, we need to keep an eye out on her." I twist, whispering up at Mel who isnít too keen on confrontation letting her eyes fall anywhere but on that woman.

Melinda looked over at Rod finding a new subject. "And that big guy?"

I lean back again getting as comfortable as I could. "Oh Rod is harmless. He worked for my father." Yeah I see you there and yes I am ignore you, you silly bitch.

"He's so." I can see Mel straining to say something, finally she just lets loose. "He's so big." She has this contagious school girl giggle.

It makes me giggle back and raise an eyebrow. "And gimpy."  I swig the whiskey and tip my hat back high on my head coughing through the burning after taste.

"Tsk tsk, have archaeologists no manners these days?" I heard that, yes I heard that you silly woman, now off with you.

I watch Big Rod awkwardly try to flirt with Melinda by raising a single eyebrow and smiling. Oh Rod, you just might have a shot with this one I smile biting my lip. I turn to the woman in my happy state, dropping a cold face to her, "Manners yes, but I don't know you from Adam sweetheart and you just tried to muscle in on my deal."

"You're welcome." That bitch smirked at me! Oh yeah, hope your keister is in a sling soon doll.

Melinda smiles back at Rod and leans, pulling me away from our crazed groupie, "You trust him?"

"Yeah, I trust Rod to be Rod."

Big Rod grinned at me and leaned across the bar to our bartender, "You see that skirt over there? She's been lookin' at me. I'm in like Flynn, my man!" Oh thank goodness she didnít hear that. I laugh out loud. The bartender just grunts at him looking Melinda over.

I lean over to Mel at that second, "Like I trust Melinda Pappas to be Melinda Pappas." I nudge her in the ribs. A rare thing to see, me playful.

"I... um... I'm feeling..." I hear a soft voice next to me, Mel is fanning herself like the perfect Southern belle, oh no Mel, donít faint on me now.

"You okay?" I grab her by the shoulders, I can feel her weight drop out from under her.  Just as well I can support her.  All those push-ups are finally paying off.

"Huh?" She asked looking up at me, she doesnít look good.  Her color is gone, what she had of it.  I need to get this girl a tan, she looks more Irish then I do.

"Next time I'll just leave the threatening, drunken men alone." Well thatís it Miss Helena whatever your name is, leave me be Iím busy.

"What's wrong?" I calmly ask pulling her up. Sheís heavier then she looks, but nothing I canít handle. Wish I had a good nights sleep though.

"Why, I think I really should sit down." Her accent was getting thicker, I just know sheís gonna faint on me.

"I do seem to have that effect on women." I could feel his breath tickle my ear. Rod get off of my shoulder, Iím busy here. However it is funny. I smile, chuckling under my breath propping Mel on the stool next to me.

"Hmmm, she's a bit frail to be on digs." Who are you again? Helena go away.

"Just think I need some sleep, that's all." She fans herself, I catch her as she nearly falls over. Amen to that sister! Good finally someone understands the need for sleep.

"Melinda will be fine, she's my partner, anyone got a problem with that they can talk to me about it!" Oh I just didnít say that, please tell me I didnít start something? Yep looking at Helena, I think I did. Oh I need sleep. Mel starts to slip from my grasp, "Did you drink that gin Mel?"

"No. Please no gin. Janice, I think I'll be ok. Can I get a glass of water or..." I couldnít quite get the rest of that cause of Rod, good old Rod. I feel something on my rump, is that Rodís hand patting me?

"She just needs some rest, Jan. Now to go start that jeep." I glance back, yep he sure did! I pull my leg back and haul off kicking him hard in the shin.

Smithers was looking at Mel and then the door "Maybe we should go to the hotel?" Smithers was watching a tennis match between the door and Melinda. Heís such a cutie, standing there all shy crushing his hat between his hands. Yep now itís my turn to be sick.

"Here." That Helena is now muscling in on the conversation as well, hands Mel a glass of the murkiest water I ever did see. "It'll only cost you one spot on your job." Wipe that smile off your face, cause I ainít selling sister.

Melinda looks at the glass and drops it, "Smart girl." I glance back at Helena hearing the smash to the floor. Water, if you could call it water seeping into the neglected floorboards.

"Or not... Try and hit the good leg next time, Jan." Rod rubs his leg looking at me.  Hey I was aiming!

"Janice? Can we please get out of this place?" Mel tries fanning herself again, still shaky and a bit cockeyed on that stool. Well only thing to do and thatís to get outta here. I help her up and let her lean on me. Donít think she was expecting me to be able to support her this much, had to grin at the look on her face, even as subtle as it was.

"I'll meet you over at the Hotel Lido."  I hear Smithers call out walking off to his limo.  Standard British made car looks kinda new.  Nothing fancy, basic black with those bigger doors.  Bet Mel here rode a few of them in her time.  Rod passes me digging in his pockets for something, bet a dime itís a hose.  I watch him hobble over to his truck eyeing the car next to him.  Looks to be in worse shape Rod, I wouldnít bother.

"Hey, wait!!" I hear a faint call from that Helena. Ignoring her I help Mel into the truck, tucking her legs inside.

"Oh my. I don't know what came over me in there."

I smirk and close the door, leaning my elbows on the window frame poking in my head, "Mel you are exhausted, not many people can kick the God of Warís ass and live to tell about it." Walking around the truck I catch Mel adjusting herself in the seat, always preening that one. My headache is getting worse. I heard Rod yell something about meeting me at the Lido Hotel. I know that was a hose I saw dangling from his hands.

I rub my temples guiding through these narrow streets, poor Mel is still blotting herself with that handkerchief. "Oh my lordly it's hot."

"No that's just me Mel." I look at her, well she isnít at all with the program is she? I giggle and smile crooked, "It's a joke, you can laugh at that." She raises that eyebrow at me and looks out of the window. What did I do now? I was just kidding. Maybe she really doesnít feel good, she sure looks pale, Iím worried about that kid.

"Just think I needed some air is all."

I watch the breeze of the open window flutter the loose hairs at the side of her head, "Mel you do have air."

She kinda glares at me, "I know. I mean..." She stops herself short, looks like she was about to say something important then changes her mind. I think I saw the smoke from that one. "Never mind Janice."

"Want me to stop? Is it the car?" Should have known, this happens to me sometimes. I swallow hard feeling a bit nervous, but I manage to tell her something only three people have ever known about. "I never told anyone this, but I get motion sickness."

"Oh. No Janice. I'll be ok, really." I can see a grin forming, oh God Covington what have you done. There went my happy mood.

"Funny?" Oh this irks me something fierce, then she actually shook her head at me and starts giggling! WHAT? "What? Is it funny that I get sick on boats and planes?" What?" Okay now Iím getting angry.

"Nothing Janice." She stops giggling and smiles at me. "Let's just get to the hotel. Okay?" Then she repeats "Okay?" in that sickening sweet southern drawl of hers.

I sigh, its all I can do without getting angry and end up killing my new partner. I need to calm my blood so I pull out one of my cigars, damn nearly out of em too. "Whatever you say, Melinda Pappas." I grunt under my breath.

"And really Janice Covington! Must you smoke those ungodly things?"

I canít believe you just said that! Right then! I turn to her and smile, blowing smoke in her face. She starts coughing and I start giggling. That was the longest ten minutes of my life so far. I get out of the truck slamming the door extra hard just to let her know Iím still mad and ignore her jaw setting.

"Well I never!" she follows me to the door.

"That's obvious Mel, by the way you walk!"

Out from no where I hear Big Rod laugh at Mel, now how on earth did he beat me here.  Oh Pappas you really are beginning to annoy me!  "That may be your biggest problem!"

Melinda jaw just dropped to the ground, I walked over and closed it for her, "Careful Mel, something might get in there!" I am triumphant in this argument!

"Well it so happens that back in South Car... never mind."

Oh I canít let that one go, yes Mel I heard that! "Really Mel Pappas, so you aren't just a tease then?"

"Well I n.... " she stops herself, clapping that trap shut and glares at me. Iím getting use to that glare of hers. Wonder if I can capture that on a photo one of these days, you know for posterity.

"You what... what was that... you never? Didn't you just say that you did?" Oh I am loving every minute of this, and itís obvious to Mel. Then in the height of my amusement I am interrupted, oh isnít that the way!

The desk clerk clears his throat. We made into the lobby? Time goes by fast when you are being a sarcastic brat, doesnít it? "She..." he points to Mel, "...has a room. You may too." He pauses and looks at the group behind me, oh for the love of God they all followed us! Helena? Okay now Iím gonna have to shoot her. "But these..."

I love that little shrug Mel does at me when I have upset her. "Hello." Now she is turning on the charm, smiling at the clerk. What him too Mel? Have you no shame? I cover my mouth forgetting my phlegmatic nature.

"Helena? Grab that duffel bag outta the back of muh jeep, darlin'." Oh Rod you do make me laugh sometimes. Helena questions Rod about being a bell hop, and I giggle more. Then cocky little me made my way behind Mel, peeking around looking at that silly desk clerk.

"Our room key, please? I'm with her."

Oh I knew he would do that, turning his nose down on me. Oh Mel you really are in your element arenít you? "Ms. Pappas that true?" Nice try at the English there buddy. I whisper the words "Partners share everything." up at Mel, chewing on that tongue that just keeps getting stuck in my cheek tonight.

"Why yes." She smiles cocking her head. Probably taught that in finishing school. How to Smile Your Way Through Anything. Yeah great class that was.

"Very well." He glares at me, I just cock my head and mimic Mel. "And you all?" Ah my sarcasm was too much for his bland Greek highbrow charisma.

"We all.... what?" Mel is confused, again.

"Are you paying the rooms?" well thatís the highest I have ever seen Melís eyebrows go. I grab our key and turn towards the elevator. "Who is paying for the rooms?" Persistent isnít he?

"No. Charge it to Giles Nelwin." There goes Smithers name dropping. Oh yeah, Iím sure that will work. "He's my boss." I shake my head, poor Smithers.

"Did you say Giles Nelwin?"

"Um... Yes. Why?" He fills out one of their little cards with his hat tucked neatly under his arm.

I turn back at the pause from the clerk, just in time to catch Big Rod poking at the nice clean guest list with a dirty finger causing a big black smudge, "And that's DeLong. Big D little e big L. Is that my key?" I stand at the elevator watching it all. What a motley crew this is. Oh the humanity!

"Melinda? Come on sweetheart!" I get impatient if I have to wait, and Iím about to fall over from exhaustion. She looks at me as I swing the key around my finger. Mel pushes her glasses back up and stands straight, reminds me of a cat or something wanting to look menacing.

"I am so sorry Mr. Smithers!" Iíll be damned, so Nelwin is a big shot? Nah refuse to believe it I ainít never heard of him and I have been here a while. I grab the cage of the doors and hold them open for Mel, trying to hurry her little behind in here before the operator can even move from his spot.

After Mel strides in taking all the time in the ever loving world I see the others approaching. Oh the glory of being a smart ass, I let the cage close and wave. "Why Janice Covington! I swear, I can't believe some of the things you do."

I touch my bosoms and sway back in the elevator, mustering up a southern accent, "Why Melinda Pappas... I just can't believe you'd go blurt out your torrid affairs for all of Greece to hear in the wee hours of the night." Ignoring her getting upset. Those arms cross, that brow furrows, a mouth puckers... Melinda!

As I catch a glimpse of her little white blouse I look back at the operator ignoring everything we are saying, or at least canít understand us and then back at her bosoms. "That reminds me." I put two fingers down the front of her blouse, I know they are in here somewhere.

"What are you..." She slaps my hand, however I know what I want and Iím gonna get it.

I can't find them, and they were all snug and secure in there, I wiggling my fingers still searching. "Whadda do with it Mel?"

"Stop that is instant!" Melinda grabs my hand out of her shirt I nick a bit of perky flesh on the way out.

"Well that wasn't it." I could feel the elevator operatorís eyes on me, I didnít care I wanted it. I put out my palm. "Give it up toots."

"I'll get it for you. Just you wait a second." I wait cross my arms, lift my hat up higher on my forehead and leaned against the lift. The operator clears his voice crudely, yet another one that can understand English. Good!

Melinda puts her hand down her shirt and sticks her tongue out, fishing in there like I just had. "Oh...." was all she said as she handed it to me.

"Still warm too!" I take the wad of bills and smile.

"Ladies your floor." He announces in flustered tones. Those Greek classes came in handy.

"There! And don't you do that again, ya hear me?" Mel gives me the look. If it wasnít for her deepening blush I would have been a bit taken aback by that.

"I will wait for an invitation next time..." I bow stretching my hand out as she glances nervously at the operator and heads out, "My lady!" I chuckle after she shook her head at me.

I come out of that elevator and walk right in front of Helena, oh this is getting annoying. For some reason which I canít explain I feel a bit, oh I canít describe it. Kinda like embarrassment. My mouth opens up and works on its own at times like this, "Mel, just shut up I'm tired."

"My, what happened to your blouse?" Helenaís voice cuts right through me, I shy away from the glare that Mel is giving me. I know Iím dirt I deserve that.

"Accident." I shrug off my little folly with Mel in the elevator, much to Melís surprise. I canít look at her. Helena just makes an "Mm hum." Sound and walks to her room.

"Where is the room?"

"Here Melinda, its the same room from earlier." I walk over to the same room we had been, boy Mel you alright there?

"I need to get outta these clothes and into something clean." She unbuttons her blazer and kicks off her pumps. Yeah you looked uncomfortable.

"You  just changed and hour ago!" Couldnít help screaming a notch, it just sank in what she said.

Melinda walked into the room and fell on the bed. "Thank the lord." sighing. She was staring up at the ceiling, at least I thought she was. It turns out she was sound asleep, curling up into a little ball. I donít get her. One minute she has this brilliant mind, the next she either a bumbling naive girl, or a stuck up spoiled little brat. Why the hell am I here with her now? And where the hell am I gonna sleep? Couch or Bed?

I strip down to my underwear and grab a blanket out from under Mel, who had her thumb in her mouth. I shake my head, donít know whether to be amused or ashamed of that.

I must have passed out myself, I don't normally sleep on my arm cutting off the circulation like this. Ouch pins and needles, I wiggle it and hear the banging again. Oh so that's what woke me up, some moron is knocking at our door. I glance at the clock, and grumble a few choice words getting up and adjust my top and boxers, yeah I like boxers they are comfortable. I don't wear em everyday of the month, if you know what I mean.

The banging continues, I fling the door open not caring if they shoot me where I stand, maybe its a fire or something important. My hair hides enough of my eyes and I never saw the knuckles that rapped on my forehead, but with my training in certain arts of fighting I was able to sense where the stomach of the person was who was using me as a door. My fist sunk into thick flesh.  Rod?   I think. He tries to defend himself but I was too quick for him and he doubles over. "Hey hey hey!"

"But we just met." I hear a dream of Melinda's off in the dark room and a faint giggling. I smile and shake my head, oh Rod go away I wanna sleep.  At least she doesn't snore...

"Oh hi Rod." I rub the sleep from my eyes. He starts wheezing asking me how many workers I want to use on the dig. "Which dig, yours?" I stop and giggle "Or the real one?" I look around and notice Smithers and Helena's prying eyes and burning ears peeking out of their hotel rooms. I hurry Rod into the room and shut the door, getting this over with as soon as I can.

"Hey, my dig is the real one baby." Oops sounds like I offended him, darn and to think he just woke me up from an hour's nap too. I turn on a small desk lamp and in the shadows can see Mel rolling over the other way. Must be still dreaming, I wonder about her. Husband hunting I guess. News for her she isn't gonna find a good one here.

"I didn't know this guy was gonna hire you too."

"Well he had a bigger wad Rod." I cross my arms covering my scarcely clothed chest and patently wait for whatever in the hell was so important that it couldn't wait until we all rested.

I can see Melinda slowly waking up from the light and Rod's loud voice, "What's going on?" she tries to focus her sleepy eyes, but its hopeless without her glasses, poor kid. "Nothing sweetheart, you just rest those pretty little blue eyes."

Big Rod continues on in a loud voice, "Anyway. I talked to Pittman, and he can set me up with a good dozen men in only two days."

"Oh my." I hear that familiar southern squeak and turn to see Mel hugging the covers to bosoms. "What are you doing in here?"

"Well if you think they are reliable, use them." I continue on wanting this conversation over and done with. I know Rod, I have to give him what he wants or he never would let me sleep.  I think he has shrapnel in his brain or something.

Big Rod waves off poor Mel, "Not now sweetheart." And he looks back at me, what now Rod? "Yeah Jan, but he needs payment tonight. Something about another job."

Melinda shakes her head and mutters before slamming her head to the pillow "I must be dreaming. Yeah." Can't believe it she fell fast asleep.

I glare at Rod and glance at the door, putting two palms on his thick chest I push. "One day my friend..." I reach for the door. "...I will tell you about..." I open the door. " little adventure finding the Xena Scrolls..." I shove him out of the door. "...But for now I am going back to bed." I close the door on his face. "Goodnight!"

I yawn and stretch at a job well done walking back to bed. I feel myself smiling down at Mel and her innocent little face before I turn off the light, she looks so young. Mel is fast asleep, then I hear the banging again. I think I'm gonna shoot him, yeah shooting would be good. I eye my gun slung over the headboard calling out to me in its holster. I let him bang his little heart away and I fall face first on the softest pillows I have ever felt.

I wake up, my head and hands clasped in a large wooden door. I look up I feel something hit my head, it rolls off into my eyes and I am blurred. Another pricking feeling on my head, it is water. I think?  My confines are too tight around my neck, I try and wiggle a bit for comfort. My breaths are short and controlled, that dripping is slowly driving me mad. I turn my head to look around, I see a man standing there picking at a door with something.

He is a larger man, graying on the top, well, what's left of his hair. He jumps back after looking though a peephole. I can hardly make out his frame, he looks like Rod. "I hope she doesn't shoot me." He turns nervously to me motioning to the closed door. I can smell incense, the kind I haven't smelled for years. This place reminds me of something but I just can't get my brain around it.

"Gab!" I hear, its Jack. I shrug, but the large wooden pallet resting on my shoulders hides my actions. The older man is gone and I can make out Jack's form next to me. I try and turn as far over as I can to see him. It's all still blurry with every drop that hits and stings my eyes.

"What are you doing in our room!" I look back it's Melinda. Her arms are crossed, her hair is down and she's wearing something furlined. She smiles at me and greets me, the words clouded in my mind. I hear words but its a jumble, I fight to clear my eyes with violent blinking.

I make out the words "For what?" come out of Mel's mouth, she leans over me and looks at my wrists. My eyes and other senses clear momentarily. "Xena." I breathe out, "Wow." I can see her, I know its her, the voice the catlike movements. But she looks just like Melinda.

"She carries the dinars." She says to the reappearing older man and points to me. I can make out her form walking to the wall, removing something, I feel a panic in my body.

"No don't give it to him!" My pleas go unheard, the scene before me plays out ignoring my interference.

Xena sighs, "Where did she put it?" she looks at me and a plea again with her not to give him our money. She reassures me, oh those blue eyes, I smile.  I hear my name again. No not my name, another's name but I answer to it. The shackles are released and I am free to move again. Xena leans in and tells me that we will be leaving him here. And I look at Jack and giggle.

I look around, in the mist cover fields before me, Xena is beckoning to me to join her. A feeling pulls at my gut, I turn to see a darkness behind me and remember my plans, "Not now sweetheart I have a big day tomorrow."

My father starts shaking me, it's time for school he says. "Five more minutes daddy." I plead not wanted to get up out of the warm bed and into the snow outside. I wake up and he is gone, I run to his study and I see the gun on the floor, the note and the blood. I grab his lifeless body and turn him over and shake him.

"Oh my...." Melinda gasps out at me, I look down my eyes still clouded, am I dreaming again?  Is this real?  My head starts spinning I can feel the small prickles from the water droplets, I can still feel the warmth of my childhood bed. "Um... Janice. Now wake up."

"What's wrong?" I look around taking in my surroundings. Melinda points at Rod, I look down on the couch my makeshift bed and Mel under me. I was holding her arms over her head and her thighs with my feet. What am I doing?

Big Rod butts into my conscious recollection, "Nothings wrong Jan. I just need that fifty dollars now."

My mind is still hazy. "What do you want Rod?" I haven't let Mel go, I'm afraid if I do I will wake to another dream again. I look around, still in a sleepy state, "Why?"

"Janice Covington..." Mel pleas under my hold, "...please let go of me." I look down and apologize.

Rod sighs, "Fifty, for Pittman..." becoming impatient with me. "Needs it tonight."

Melinda tries to get up I glance down asking, "Who's Pittman?" trying to shift so Mel can escape my waking dream. She sits up and pulls a few strands from her face, I stare. I know I stare at her, "Xena?" I whisper.

"Not important."

Many moments pass in the quiet room, I forget my dream I remember the real world, I stand and glare at Rod slowly and calmly my clarity lets me handle this situation. "It's my money Rod I want to know."

"I'll pay you back in the morning, I promise. Unless you want to move every rock by yourself."

"What's it for Rod?" I ask it slow enough so all the kids on the little yellow bus understand.

I envy Mel as she strides to the bed and gets comfortable again... I yawn.

Big Rod paces, or rather limps impatiently, "I need to secure your workers tonight. Or the price is gonna be tripled by morning." Rod it is morning.

Enough, my mind is playing tricks on me and I never did like a magic act. "Rod I will give you to...." I walk over to the bed where Melinda rests and take my gun from the holster. "...the count of three." I point it at him wondering what he would look like balding with grey hair. " leave." I cock the hammer back. "...before I take out your other knee."

Big Rod continues ignoring my threats, "I have a bottle of Scotch in the Jeep, but he's gonna want cash too."

I snap "Rod I don't care, I am tired and I want to go to bed!" I grab his collar and push him to the door with the last vestige of strength I have.

Big Rod backs up with my force, "Fine go to sleep, but I need fifty now. Or two-hundred tomorrow. Your choice."

"Get out!" I throw him into the hallway, release the hammer, slam the door and search for the nearest chair I can find to prop my tired frame against. I sigh and look at the couch trying not to let the last dream play out in my mind again. I push the thoughts back into my subconscious and grab my bedding. I look at the bed, "Screw this." And take up the last of the room between Melinda and the edge.

"Stop it that tickles." I giggle, feeling a feather on my foot. I push my long red hair back and flip over looking down on my assailant. I sigh feeling a nudging, I open an eye and look around. Damn another dream. What's wrong with me? I turn to Mel, I know she's there I can hear her. One eye refuses to open, mutiny!

"Morning." She smiles with those blinding white teeth of hers, my eye can't take that kind of shock so early.

I protect the bright onslaught to my senses by burring my head into my pillow, grumbling into the satin, "No its not."

"Um... what are you doing in the bed with me? And what happened to that Rod?" A disembodied question plagues my mind. I stretch out and get comfortable and relax.

Water torture! Again with the water torture! I sit up and wipe my drenched hair from my face. I look up at that evil grin twitching at Mel's face and the glass in her hand. I put two and two together. She dumped water on me! I feel the soaked pillow the sheets, my tank top which is unfortunately white. I see red, and grab her around the waist, "You think that's funny, Mel Pappas?" I hoist her easily into a fireman's carry.

Melinda tries to fight me, but a mad Janice Covington isn't someone to be reckoned with! "Well you didn't wake up." With Mel slung snug over my shoulder I head towards the bathroom. "I didn't mean to dump that much on you." I can feel her tummy against my cheek quiver in laughter.

Well Miss Pappas I will have the last laugh I open the Bathroom door and it must have hit her where I plan on taking her. "Put me down." I feel a few light slaps on my back with her physical protest and giggle reminding me of a movie I once saw.

I turn the faucet on the tub to cold and let it run for a few seconds. "Oh no! Put me down!"  Reaching in balancing my flailing victim best I can against the cold tile pinning her side there and turn on the shower. "Janice Covington! Put me down!"

I grab her waist with my hands getting a strong hold on her and lower her down slowly inches away from the freezing water. "Okay Miss Pappas." I giggle evilly while dumping her into the shower. I let go fast and stand back at the frenzy of arms and legs dancing before me soaking wet. Fortunately her nighty was white as well.

"Oh oh." Her audible chattering comical by her failed attempts at leaving the torture, I place an already soaked arm in her way.  "Janice! Well I never. Move outta my way!" I see her anger reaching a breaking point and she tries to break free. The devil in me can't let her go unpunished, I place both hands on her crouching shoulders and hold her in place.

"Oh no Mel, you should never wake me."

Melinda stares at me with her lower lip pushed out shaking in the cold. "Janice! This is freezing. Let me outta here. Please."

Watching the water roll around her face, feeling a bit sorry for her and yet happy with my show of force, my head bows. "Sorry Mel I couldn't resist." I reluctantly turn off the tap, laughing.

Melinda shakes her hair out of her face and reaches for a towel spraying me again with cold water. Matters not, it was still funny. She realizes how see-through her nighty is and hastily throws a towel around her. All that and modest too? Oh my Melinda, you are in the wrong business.

"Well Mel, you had your shower now it's time for mine." I can feel her eyes on me just before she leaves, I turn the faucet back on waiting for the water to get warm. I just have to let loose and laugh.  And I do, loudly.  That deep throaty laugh I get when I am comfortable and happy.  Something I haven't heard in me for a long time.

"I hear that!" She shouts back at me, I laugh splashing the hot water around for good measure. I heard the knock on our door but I didn't care, a good hot bath should wake me up and cure this new found headache creeping behind my lobes. I hear Melinda shout out to the rapping door she will be with them in a minute, I slide into the tub and relax letting all my past tension drain from me. I close my eyes and sigh.

My eyes pop open at the sound of voices and then I remember with a jerk of the head that tablet was suppose to be delivered today, I hastily finished and threw a towel around my naked form and ran to the door, "Where is it?" I look at Mel and then note she hands to me before retiring into the other room. "Why didn't he bring it up?"

"I don't know." she shouts out from the bathroom.

I look through my duffel bag for clean clothes. Good luck, Janice! Oh hell, I can't find anything but a shirt that is clean. "Maybe I put some trousers in the rucksack." I stop and glare at the rucksack, I feel sick... really sick!

I don't even see Mel come out of the bathroom, or the time elapse, or how long was I sitting on the floor with this bag in my hand. I must have slung the shirt over my newly donned underwear at some point, I notice the cuffs unfastened. Then it hits me, I panic and curse up a storm looking through all my things. Throwing out all the contents of the rucksack, and finding nothing that looks familiar.

"Well now, we should really go downstairs and see this package and the others. Hurry up now Janice." She breezes around me gathering her accessories and glance about for a matching pair of shoes.

"Son of a Bitch!" I threw the rucksack at Mel, fury clouding my judgement. "They're gone."

"Ya'll always use such colorful language, Janice Covington?" she says to me in a huff as the bag lands in her arms, I ignore her exasperated glare.

I pace running fingers through wet long hair, trying to remember the last place I had them, where I put them, who has come in contact with them, how long they were in the truck.

"What's gone?" Melinda looks into the sack I catch from a glance of the eye.

I know! The duffel bag!  I let it slip from my hands after several moments of frenzied searching and making more of a mess in the room. My rear hits the floor with a thud, I feel a carpet burn tingle my knees where they skidded. I cover my head hiding the tears with my hands.  "What are you talkin' bout?" I hear the words but never acknowledge them.

It hits me, it all hits me... I remember now. "Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!" I rock unconsciously, all those years spent searching to end like this! No! My brain screams, but nothing comes out of my mouth.  "What is it ya'll are talking about that's missing?" Again she asks and I can't bear to think it.  But I must.

I throw anything within reach, the anger building about to explode I am out of control and Melinda is in the direct path of my fury. I can't believe this is happening to me! After everything I have been through.  Why?  I will kill him, when I find him I will kill him, I look up at Mel I feel the flush of anger cover my entire body, "They are gone Mel G. O. N. E. Gone!"

"What on heaven sakes is missing?"

Is she this blind? Hell, I just noticed it too! My eye catches a pair of trousers on the ground, and slip into them, I can't calm myself I am trying but I can't the confused look on Mel's face sets me off. I stand up and storm to my journal and pick it up off the floor.

"The Scrolls Mel! The Scrolls!" I grab the rucksack showed it to her pointing at the patch.

It read in stencil; Jack Kleinman

"I knew we couldn't trust that Rod...." What the hell is she talking about? I watch her sit down on the bed, putting her hands to head. My rage explodes, My aim is a bit off but I manage to drop kick the rucksack into the bedroom hitting the wall. It seemed like slow-motion as it slid down the wall and folded up into itself resting peacefully in the corner. And now the bag was mocking me, I started over to the sack to show it another lesson and pause at Mel's soft smile as a realization hits her, "Oh... Jack?"

Was she put on this earth just to torment me?! "Jack Kleinman! That bastard!" I quicken my steps towards her, my fists are balled I don't even consciously notice it... I stare at her, leaning close in her face and explode in a fit of rage that I couldn't of controlled with any emotion I ever knew. "Did you give them to him? Miss goo goo eyes anything in trousers! Huh? Did you give them to him?!"

"Now Janice, we'll get them back somehow." Melinda looks shocked and disgusted at me as my insults sinks into that thick confederate head of hers. "Me?! Miss Goo Goo eyes?!" Oh look I have offended her, good!

"Yeah you!" I pace not knowing what else to do with the energy coursing through my body, "I see how it is, everyone here?" I start to ramble not looking at anything unparticular, a vase, a drawer, a knob, anything that isn't Melinda. "Do I know them... no I don't!" My arms fly up my head twists back and forth I over exaggerate every syllable, "Here, they are in my life."

"Of course I did no such thing!" She stands and brushes past me towards the door. Oh no Miss Little Rich gal, I catch up to her and block her retreat, sticking an offending finger high on her chest.

"You just walked into my life, like that eh?" I steal her eyes, she has no choice but to look directly at me, at my pain and confusion. I have never had the things she has had, snooty little socialite with all the breaks. I was lucky to have a meal and clothes under a dry roof, while she was worried about how many guest to invite to her next party. Oh No Melinda Pappas I will not be made a fool of by you.

"How could you think that I'd do something like that?!" Her bottom lip as brave as she tries starts to quiver. I see tears forming in her eyes. I pull my body back, I can't look at her cry.

"Gee Mel? How could I not, I don't know you!" I scream out for the world to hear, finding the desk chair more interesting to look at than a crying woman.

"Well..." She pauses and clears the trembling out of her voice before continuing, "Yes, I did. If it wasn't for that letter I found of my daddy..."

I don't want to hear this again, I turn to her and I must have shown all the anger in my one glance than I have all morning, "Just cause our ancestors were friends doesn't mean we are!"

Melinda turned away from me, I ignore the tear fall from her perfect lashes, "I came all this way over here to talk to you. And..." she chokes back the tears threatening to spill out at any moment, "...and..." she bravely tries again with little success.

"And what Mel? So I can save you from a boring life of a husband and babies?" I have no tact, no compassion, I am a bitch. I have always known that, and I relish it at times. I follow her with my locked gaze as she sits on the edge of the bed the farthest place in the room away from me. She fishes around her pockets for the hankie she always keeps tucked in her brassier. I burst, "I am not your savior!"

She snaps her head up at me, a fire I have never seen before in her eyes. "I can see that." and glares at me with a locked set jaw. No I have seen this face before only it was Xena who was behind it. I can't look at her, I turn to release my emotions on the nearest thing I can kick, the chair that held my attention earlier.

"Ouch!" I scream hopping towards Mel and the edge of the bed, so much for that. I sit next to her, and she turns away. I curse under my breath rubbing my bare foot and checking my toe over making sure I didn't break it. I look back up at her after my quick examination and I can't help but to feel sorry for my actions. I can see her shoulders that are normally perfectly straight, bend with each breath.

"I would never do something like that Janice." She chokes out trying not to cry. Making me feel more of a heel than I already do.

"Sorry Mel, its just I spent my whole life trying to recover those damn things." I pause my apology, and put a hand on her shoulder to steady it, "Sorry I yelled." I whisper. Well there is a first for everything, Janice Covington just apologized.

There's another knock at the door startling us both out of our own brief thoughts, Melinda sighs and I tuck my shirt into my trousers and take the biggest breath I ever have. I have never felt so lost this past month than I ever have my entire life. It was at this moment that I realized I had nothing left to live for, everything I ever wanted or cared about was now gone. I push back a tear and open the door. It was the desk clerk from last night, talk about your long shifts.

"Yes?" I ask unconsciously running fingers through wet untamed and now tangled hair.

"Uh..." He pauses and looks me over, "Miss Covington, Ms. Helena? She still waiting for you in the cantina." He said in Greek, I sigh and let him know we are on our way. I forgot about those people that jumped into my life without invitation. I close the door and speak the words louder than I had intended, "Who is that woman?"

"I don't know." I hear from behind and then the sound of the bathroom door closing. My shoulders slump and I cry it's all gotten so out of control, oh what am I suppose to do now?

I hear the water running from the sink after a minute in my solace of thoughts of self pity, I wipe my tears on my sleeve and gather my belongings. Great, of course this must go wrong too. I look at the closed door that blocks us and look down embarrassed for disturbing her again, "Where is my hair tie Mel?'

"I don't know." The door opens slightly and I look at her trying to fix the make-up she ruined from crying. No that I ruined after making her cry. My heart hurts a bit. Startled from this new emotion for a woman I don't even know and under any other circumstances wouldn't even give the time of day to I swallow hard.

She looks at me in the mirror putting on a brave face, "I'll be ready in a little bit." and returns to her painting. I ask her if she's okay, and watch her reaction. I see relief in her face and still traces of anger and sadness. Why am I so hung up about her? What should I care? I find myself getting angry again and then I let out a breath. She nods a little, "I'm going to try to be."

I surprisingly mentally kick myself for the entire event "Mel?" I whisper waiting for her acknowledgement I continue quietly trying to find the words, "You have to forgive me sometimes, I haven't ever had a partner before. You know us redheads, quick to snap and all." Don't know if my grin looked as lopsided as it felt, I duck my head from her gaze and left the threshold in search of my boots, unless Jack has taken those too.

I could feel her looking at me from the crack in the door. "Well." She begins in a very deep and quiet voice her accent muffled. "I guess I could learn to get use to that." I turn back and see the door fly open and a finger presses my nose out from no where. My eyes cross at the perfect manicured nail pushing with each accented word, "But, if you ever put me in a cold shower again... I'm going to have to hurt you somehow." She smiles down at me and flicks my nose in a playful way that could only do one thing to me.

My mood changes and I accept that challenge, "Might take you up on that Mel." I bend down with a big goofy grin I know tugging at my lips and slipped a foot into my newly discovered boots. I lace up as quick as I can and watch her walk right past me giggling.

"Coming?" she asks, that southern drawl, the sparkle in her eyes, and the bounce in her step all returned like that whole fight didn't happen. I catch up to her and cock my head at the pearly whites towering above me. Well I'll be damned, I giggle at the new lift operator feeling the tug on my legs as we descend to our new adventure, I never would have suspected that the first person ever to survive a Covington rage would be a prissy rich débutante from South Carolina!

To be Continued...
Updated Dec-15-1999

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