Coeds 2

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Coeds 2
By
Julie O

Edited
By
Robert Arnold

Dedicated to Amelia R – Wherever you are; you are missed!

This story features characters from Fresh Start; Change of Course, The Protector series,
The Scholarship, and Corruption.  I recommend you read these stories first.
At the recommendation of many of my fans, there is a short summary of the
various characters and their related stories at the end of the story.

Jennifer Stevens appears courtesy of Bob Arnold

Chapter 1

    Jirra Reid stepped out of her bathtub and dried off her body.  Before dressing she stood before the mirror and examined herself.

    Even though she had been a female for over a year and a half, she was still slightly uneasy about her body. Yes, she was happy with her life, which was a fact she couldn’t deny, but there still a lingering sense of feeling uncomfortable.

    The feeling wasn’t nearly as strong as it had been when she was first transformed in a freak accident back at the spa in New Mexico. In fact, most of the time she barely gave it a thought, but there were moments when it all came to the surface. It usually happened when she was alone, although it also popped up when she came across some unexpected reminder of her life as Josh.

    Jirra ran her hands over her large breasts as if to confirm her femininity. Thankfully they had stopped growing and her bra size had settled into 38-DD. Even though her lover Alexis felt that they were perfect, Jirra still wished they were slightly smaller. She also didn’t like it when boys stared at them. Maybe it was some sort of cosmic joke for all the times she looked at breasts when she had been a boy.

    She had a good life at Penn, and had numerous close friends, but there were times when she felt so alone. Her recent sense of melancholy came on as she realized how much she missed Alexis, who was currently in Boston.

    What made matters worse was that Alexis was about to announce to the world that she was a lesbian. Jirra wanted to be by Alexis’s side, but they both agreed that it would be best they stayed apart until the hubbub passed.

    Jirra’s hands slid slowly down her tummy towards her vagina. While having a vagina had its benefits, she definitely wasn’t comfortable with the idea that she was fertile. Yes, she was in a loving relationship with another woman, and although she had no sexual feelings for men, the possibility existed that she could become pregnant. If it was just the biological aspects of it she could live with that, but there was the growing desire to have a child.

    Deep down she knew this was part of her transformation. The discovery of the glyphs in the canyon back in New Mexico confirmed this. Her transformation was tied to some ancient magic of the Anasazi, most likely a fertility ritual.

    Alexis agreed with her suspicion, but at the same time told her not to worry about it as she would stick by Jirra no matter what happened. Jirra remembered asking how they would explain her getting pregnant when the cover story was that she was a transsexual. Alexis just kissed her and said that they would worry about that if it happened.

    Jirra looked down at her engagement ring and sighed. She knew how lucky she was to have Alexis in her life. It helped her get through these moments of indecision.

    Jirra knew it was time to try and contact her spirit guide and try to get some answers. The problem wasn’t making contact with Killara, her spirit guide; it would be getting a straight answer out of the little rodent.

Chapter 2

    Jirra sat cross-legged on a Navajo blanket that she had positioned on the floor of her bedroom. The heat in her apartment was up high as it was currently 22 degrees outside and snowing heavily.

The heat was necessary as she was totally naked with exception of two pieces of jewelry. The first was her engagement ring, and the other was the sliver chain that hung around her neck. Attached to the chain was a simple red stone carved into the form of a leaping kangaroo. It had been given to her right after her transformation and she rarely took it off.

    Jirra closed her eyes and cleared her mind of all thoughts with the exception of Killara. Hopefully he would grant her a visit.

    “Hello, Jirra.”

    She opened her eyes to see a kangaroo rat sitting on a rock in front of her.

    “Hi, Killara,” she replied as she looked around. Obviously, she was no longer in her bedroom back in Philadelphia. “Are we in the canyon?”

    “Very observant,” he replied as he began to scratch his left ear with his hind foot.

    She was back in New Mexico, or at least a vision of New Mexico.

    Jirra then noticed that she was still naked; thankfully it was a very pleasant day. The warmth from the sun felt good on her body.

    “It must be early summer,” she commented as she continued to look around. She also did her best to fight the urge to cover herself up. Then again, the only other being around was a talking kangaroo rat.

    “Again, very good,” he replied.

    “Are we in the past?” she asked.

    “Does it matter?” he asked.

    Jirra shrugged her shoulders. “No, I guess it doesn’t. Anyway, I have more important questions.”

    “Of course you do,” he replied.

    Jirra wasn’t sure but he looked like he was smiling.

    “I saw the glyphs,” she said. “What I don’t understand is why men would want to become women. Were they transgendered?”

    “It’s not as simple as that. It was considered a great honor. The tribe that controlled this area was a matriarchy. If a man distinguished himself and passed the appropriate rituals he was allowed to be transformed,” replied Killara.

    “Oh,” replied Jirra.

    “As I told you before, your transformation was an accident…but that doesn’t make it any less special.”

    “Does that mean that there’s a purpose to all this?” she asked.

    “Of course, everything has a purpose,” he replied.

    “And you’re not going to tell me what mine is, are you?”

    “Again you’re right, no wonder you’re doing so well at Penn,” he answered.

    In spite of herself, she laughed. “May I ask you a few more things?”

    He cocked his head and made a movement that Jirra took for a nod.

    “Am I like Jen? I mean, will I age normally?” she asked.

    Jen was Jennifer Stevens, a celebrity that had visited the spa months after Jirra’s transformation.  Jen was transformed into a woman by lightning several years before Jirra’s own accident. Jen’s accident had caused her to stop aging, her life span now potentially in the hundreds of years although it wasn’t public knowledge. Jen had settled into her new life quite well and had started a successful career as a TV show host and movie star despite the fact that her transformation was headline news.

    “While you share much with your friend…there are also many differences. If it makes you feel better, yes you will age at a normal rate,” he replied.

    Jirra let out a sigh of relief.

    “That’s odd, I’ve always found that humans want to live extremely long lives,” he said.

    “Not at the cost of outliving my friends and family like Jen,” replied Jirra. “I…I don’t know what…I mean how I could get by without them…especially Alexis,” she replied. She then looked off into the distance.     

    Killara leaned over and nibbled on a leaf of grass. “You’re carrying around a lot of worry, my dear. Before you ask, about you and Alexis, you have nothing to worry about. Things will work out.”

    Jirra turned and smiled. “That’s a big load off my mind.” She then wiped away a tear with the palm of her hand.  

    “That’s good to hear…you’ve had a lot to deal with, so let me remove another weight; the threat that you’ve faced will be resolved soon,” he said.

    “You mean Todd,” replied Jirra in a relieved tone.

    Todd Kelly had orchestrated attacks on several students at Penn, including Jirra. He was currently on the run from the law after jumping bail.

    Killara appeared to be nodding. “He may cause some more problems, but like a dark cloud, he too will pass. I can’t tell you what will happen to him, but it will be very appropriate.”

    “So… you can see the future,” commented Jirra.

    “Time as you know it is a very primitive concept. It doesn’t flow in just one direction,” he replied.

    Jirra nodded. “I suspect that doesn’t mean just past and present.”

    Killara cocked his head as he stared back at her. “Go on.”

    “I’m not sure how to phrase this, but can time flow sideways too?”

    “You’re learning my dear,” he replied. “Speaking of time, it’s time for you to leave.”

    “Wait, this is getting interesting!”

    “That’s all for now, my dear. See you again soon.”

    “When?” she asked anxiously.

    “You’ll know when,” he said.

    With that, Jirra opened her eyes and found herself back in her bedroom.

Chapter 3

    “It’s nice to hear that your spirit guide thinks things will work out,” said Alexis.

    Jirra had called Alexis right after she recorded her vision quest on her computer.

    “So when are you making the big announcement?” asked Jirra.

    “In two days,” replied Alexis. “We’re going to do it on Ellen’s show.”

    “Even though Killara said that things will work out, I still want to be with you,” said Jirra.

    “I appreciate that, but I don’t want you to be bothered by the press. I don’t expect this to be a huge deal…I mean I’m not the first to do this, but I also don’t want you to get harassed.”

    “Eventually someone will track me down,” said Jirra.

    “I know that, but by then my coming out will be old news. I shun the spotlight as it is and I lead a pretty boring life up here in Boston. As a celebrity I’m not very exciting, I mean I can go out to dinner up here and most of the time no one knows who I am. Even when I’m recognized they treat me with respect. While I love you intensely, and it would be wonderful to have you by my side, I just want you to go on with your life right now.”

    “I know you’re just looking after me…”

    “Jirra, I love you so much, but if you’re with me, you’ll have to answer a whole lot of questions.”

    “About my gender,” replied Jirra softly. “Damnit…this is such a pain. I wish I was like Jen and not have to lie about my status.”

    “I know it’s difficult for you, but there’s no other logical way.”

    “What will happen if I do get pregnant?”

    “We’ll handle that when it happens, Roo,” said Alexis.

    Jirra paused for a moment. “I noticed you said when and not if.”

    “I’m with you whatever happens. I have a five year contract to do the Erin Flynn show and after that I’m done with show business. By then you’ll be a best selling writer and we can live together in seclusion if you want.”

    Jirra laughed. “I’m glad you’re so confident in my writing skills.”

    “Faith thinks you’ve got real talent,” said Alexis, referring to the writer of the Erin Flynn series. “Oh, that reminds me, you’ll be receiving a package this week, it’s the script for the show based on your screenplay. Faith wants you to review it and send it back as soon as possible.”

    The show would be taping an episode at Penn in March. The plot was a fictionalized version of the attacks the previous fall. Jirra had written the story and submitted it to Faith.

    “Have you seen it?” asked Jirra nervously.

    “Yes, it’s excellent. The scriptwriters gave the story to Faith last week and she made some minor changes, mostly regarding my character…she’s very protective of Erin,” explained Alexis. “She just wants you to take an active role…she also wants to meet you when we shoot it.”

    “Cool…um how much does she know about me?” asked Jirra.

    “She knows that we’re a couple and that you’re transgendered. If you decided to tell her the rest, I suspect that it wouldn’t make a difference to her…she’s pretty open-minded…just like Diana Bowie.”

    “Diana doesn’t know the whole story about me,” interrupted Jirra.

    “I suspect you’ll tell her soon and I know you can trust her,” said Alexis confidently. “From what Faith has told me, Diana thinks the world of you.”

    “That’s nice to hear,” said Jirra.

    They talked for another hour before Alexis had to go.

    “I’ll call you from LA,” she said.

    “Are you staying at Jen’s again?” asked Jirra.

    “Of course, she wouldn’t let me stay at a hotel. In some ways, she’s like our den mother.”

    Jirra laughed. “I never thought of her that way, but it sort of fits.”

    “Take care, Roo, I love so you much.”

    “I love you too, Alexis.”

Chapter 4

    “I find your descriptions of your meetings with your spirit guide so fascinating,” said Beth as she sat cross-legged on the couch of her apartment. “I mean I was kinda skeptical when you first told me about them, but they are so filled with details.”

    “It’s pretty amazing. I mean everything feels so real. I could feel the sand beneath my feet and the sun against my skin,” replied Jirra.

    “I hope that Killara is right about Todd,” said Celeste as she stroked her dog Spirit’s head. The large mixed breed dog was lying on the couch between Celeste and Beth. “I know that I’ll sleep better when he’s behind bars.”

    “Do they have any idea where he is?” asked Jirra.

    Beth shrugged her shoulders. “I talked to one of the detectives at Boudicca and they said that they have a couple of leads. They’re pretty sure that he’s back in the country.”

    “With his family’s money he could be hiding anywhere,” said Celeste. “I think he’s the one who has been sending hate e-mail to the office of my foundation. I was told that they got three more rants today. That makes at least twenty in the last two weeks.”

    Spirit rolled over slightly to expose her belly and Celeste obliged with a gentle belly rub.

    “Are they all from the same person?” asked Jirra.

    Celeste nodded. “They’re all signed with the name ‘Righteous One’.”

    “Have they been able to track down where they’re coming from?” asked Jirra.

    Celeste shook her head. “My computer techs have discovered that they’re being routed through several different sites. The person doing it obviously knows what they’re doing as they’ve done a good job covering their tracks.”

    “Have you asked Jen for help? She’s pretty sharp when it comes to that sort of thing. It used to be her job before her transformation,” said Jirra.

    Celeste nodded. “Jen’s been too busy to come out herself, but she’s spent several hours on the phone giving my computer techs some good advice. She seems to think that whoever is doing it is using a computer lab at a university…most likely in a large city; she says that this would give them lots of systems to use…without drawing undo attention.”

    “From what we know about Todd, he has the knowledge to pull this sort of thing off,” added Beth. “So he’s probably hanging out at a big college or university…in a large city, easier to blend in and not be noticed, I mean what’s one more person in a computer lab?”

    “That sort of narrows it down,” said Jirra. “If it is Todd, I wonder why he hasn’t sent anyone else hate email? I mean why hasn’t he targeted me or you guys personally?”

    “Maybe he doesn’t have our email addresses,” suggested Beth. “The email address of the foundation is on the website, so that wouldn’t take too much intelligence to find that.”

    “My techs say that someone has been trying to hack into the foundation’s database. So far they’ve been unsuccessful, mainly because we have some pretty smart kids there. They keep an eye on our security,” said Celeste.

    Beth rubbed her chin. “Maybe we should let the person break in, I don’t mean to the real database, but why not set them up? If this is Todd and he gets what he thinks are our email addresses it might allow us to track him down…right?”

    “You’re definitely going to be a good agent, Beth,” said Jirra.

    “Hey, my friend Ally uses the internet to catch people all the time, she says that most of the people she catches think that they’re smarter than the average person, and she uses this against them,” continued Beth.

    “I’ll call Jen and see if she has some ideas on how to do this. We don’t want it to look too obvious, I mean Todd’s not an idiot,” said Celeste.

    “But he is bigoted…hateful…and cruel…” said Jirra as she counted off her comments on her fingers. “And those are his good points.”

    Beth and Celeste laughed at Jirra’s joke and added a few comments themselves; Spirit was just content to get attention and ignored the laugher as she drifted off.

Chapter 5

    Just as Alexis had predicted there was little outrage over her coming out as a lesbian.

    “We’ve had some letters and emails sent to us stating that they will no longer watch the show; but they’ve been outnumbered ten-to-one by those that are supportive,” explained Alexis.

    “That’s nice to know…what about the local reaction?” asked Jirra as she adjusted the phone.

    “It seems to be balanced between indifference and support,” said Alexis. “I’m scheduled to do a few more interviews than normal, but that too will fade.”

    “I’m so relieved,” said Jirra.

    “That makes two of us. I was prepared for the worst, and am so happy that it’s pretty much been a non-event. I have been asked by reporters if there’s anyone in my life, and I’ve told them that it’s not their business.”

    “And have they bought off on that?” asked Jirra anxiously.

    “They haven’t pressed me for more details, but they obviously have seen my ring,” said Alexis.

    Jirra held out her hand and looked at her ring; a match to the one Alexis was wearing.

    “So, do you think they’ll try and find out about me?” asked Jirra.

    “I’m sure someone will…if only out of curiosity. We’ll face it together if it does happen. Roo, I love you and I want us to be together…I wish we were together right now, but that’s not practical. I have a job and you have your studies.”

    “I can go to school up there,” suggested Jirra.

    “I appreciate that offer, but I want you to get your degree at Penn, you have no idea how proud I am of you,” continued Alexis.

    “What will happen when you’re down here for the shooting of the show?” asked Jirra.

    “If you mean, will I hide our relationship…the answer is no…not unless you want to do it,” said Alexis.

    “I just want to be with you,” said Jirra.

    “And if we’re seen as a couple down there, are you prepared for everything that comes with that?”

    “I don’t know…but I’m so tired of hiding…I mean I know that I can’t tell the world the truth about my gender…but I’m known as transgendered by many of my friends here…my closest friends know the whole truth and I suppose I’ll have to live with that for now.”

    “Roo, you’re rambling,” kidded Alexis.

    “Okay, but you know what I mean, right? I just want to be with you,” said Jirra.

    “I feel the same way. Oh, before I go, have you looked over the script?”

    “No, I was too nervous about you, but I promise to go through it tonight,” replied Jirra.

    “Good, as soon as you’re done call me if you see any problems.”

    “I will,” replied Jirra. “Well, good night…I love you.”

    “I love you too, Roo.”

Chapter 6

    Jirra read through the script completely before going back and looking for specific details. Overall, the script followed her story’s basic plot pretty much verbatim. There were some plot twists added, but they came from suggestions that Jirra had included. Most of the major changes were in regards to Alexis’s character Erin Flynn.

    While the series was set in Boston, Jirra’s story had Erin Flynn, a private detective, coming down to Philadelphia at the request of her cousin. The cousin was a student at prestigious university, not unlike Penn, although in the story the university was called Benjamin Franklin University, even though some of the scenes would be shot at Penn.

Alexis explained that while Penn appreciated the money they would get for the shooting; they didn’t like the idea of the real university looking bad. Jirra found this sort of twisted as the university had been so slow to act on the real assaults the story was based on.

The story included many of the real events that Jirra and her friends went through, although the plot focused on gay and lesbian students being attacked instead of transgendered students. Alexis suggested this change as this way the show couldn’t be accused of influencing the real case. She compared it to what Law and Order often did, taking a real case and changing it just enough to avoid actual legal problems.

Jirra didn’t mind this change either, as she was a little worried how TV sometimes portrayed the transgendered.

The story had a secret student group that was harassing gay and lesbian students, gradually getting more and more violent. Another concession to fiction was having one student murdered by the group.

 Again, this was Alexis’s suggestion. She explained that the producers like to keep the show edgy. The student killed would be Erin’s niece. Jirra had written two plot ideas concerning the niece. In one plot, the niece’s lover kills the leader of the hate group, and Erin covers it up to protect her. The second version had Erin about to kill the leader, but deciding instead to let him live in shame, after Erin uncovers some awful things about him.

To Jirra’s surprise, Faith Collins, the creator of the series picked the second version, saying it was very much in character for Erin.

Jirra had read most of the Erin Flynn books and had noticed that Erin’s cases sometimes ended in less than legal ways. Faith also wanted the story to focus on Erin.

Overall, Jirra was very pleased with what they had done with her story and didn’t see anything worth changing. She then re-read the script several times in order to better understand the mechanics of writing a script. If she got another opportunity to do this sort of thing, she wanted to write the actual script too.

Jirra called up Alexis and told her what she thought of the script.

“Good, thanks for the input. Oh, we have non-speaking roles for your friends,” said Alexis. “You sure you don’t want a scene?”

Alexis promised that Jirra’s friends would have small cameo roles in the filming. She also offered Jirra this option.

“No thanks, but I would like to hang out and see how they shoot the show.”

“That makes sense,” said Alexis. “I sort of figured you’d like to see the production side and already have backstage credentials for you.”

“Cool,” replied Jirra

    “I know that Faith definitely wants to meet you; she’s very impressed with your writing. She thinks you could have a real future as a writer.”

    “Really?” said Jirra.

    “Yes,” replied Alexis. “That would be a great career for you.”

    “I know that I would love doing it,” said Jirra. “But, I’m no where close to being able to doing it for a living.”

    “I disagree,” countered Alexis. “Look, you’ve written a story that is being made into a movie and another one is being made into a TV show. Do have any idea how difficult that is?”

    “Yeah, but does it really count? I mean Jen is a friend and it is your TV show,” said Jirra.

    “Trust me, Jen wouldn’t do anything that would hurt her career, if your story stunk she would have told you. I’ve known Jen long enough to know that she’s painfully honest that way. The same goes for Faith. I’ve seen her reject countless plots. Seriously, you’ve got talent and I think you could definitely succeed at it.”

    “Thanks,” replied Jirra.

    “Well, I gotta run, we’re filming a few scenes tonight. I love you, Roo.”

    “I love you too, Alexis.”

Chapter 7

    The following Friday evening, Jirra, Celeste, and Beth were sitting around in Jirra’s apartment eating pizza. They were getting ready to watch Jen’s latest movie on DVD. Jen had sent Jirra a preview copy a few weeks before it was to be released to the general population in theaters.

    “So, when are you seeing Jim again?” asked Jirra, referring to Beth’s boyfriend.

    “Tomorrow night,” replied Beth. “We’re going to catch a concert.”

    “Who are you going to see?” asked Jirra as she reached for a slice.

    “Stacy Black,” replied Beth.

    “Wow! How did you get tickets?”

    “Jim has a friend who works for the company booking the show,” she replied.

    “I really liked her last CD,” said Jirra. “I also liked the song she did with Band of Sisters.”

(For more about Stacy Black and Band of Sisters, read the story Band of Sisters)

    “It’s pretty cool that the writer of the song is one of us,” said Beth.

    “I know, but I’d like their music anyway,” replied Jirra.

    “Even though I’m not a big fan of rock and roll, I think I can get tickets for them the next time they’re in town,” said Celeste. “My lawyer knows their lawyer.”

    “That would be very cool,” said Beth who let out a sigh. “I have to admit that I’m enjoying college a lot more the second time around. My first time through I was too serious.”

    “Speaking of that, Beth, have you ever wondered what your life would have been like if you hadn’t been changed?” asked Jirra.

    “Not any more, I’ve had a good life since then… I have a great family and lots of wonderful friends; yes I miss my original family, but there’s nothing that can be done about that,” said Beth.

    “Um, do you know how they’re doing?” asked Jirra. “I don’t mean to pry, but even though some of my family has disowned me…I still like to know how they’re doing.”

    “My grandmother knows about me and she keeps me informed,” said Beth.

    “How did that happen?” asked Jirra.

    “She used to be an agent…and she used to be a man too,” said Beth with a grin. “So, even though she adopted my father; I guess there are some things that get passed down in a weird cosmic sort of way.”

    “Wild,” said Jirra as she shook her head back and forth.

    “You have no idea, Jirra. Her name is Andrea and she lives in New York City. She transitioned to female during World War II when she was working for the Danish underground,” explained Beth.

    “How did she manage that?” asked Jirra.

    “To make a long story shorter, her name was originally Andy and ‘he’ was born in the US. When WW II broke out he went up to Canada and joined the RAF. He was assigned to a fighter squadron and was shot down over France.  Due to his small stature and acting ability he was selected to participate in an escape from a German POW camp,” explained Beth who stopped to take a sip of her soda.

    “She never told me all the details of the escape, but it had something to do with getting another man out of the camp. Anyway, when they got to Denmark, she decided to stay there as a woman. She told me that all her life she had felt different and it was as a woman that she finally felt whole. She also met her future husband, and my grandfather, while working for the Danish resistance. After the war, they moved back to the states and they both joined the CIA and later the Agency,” continued Beth.

    “So how did you find out about her?” asked Jirra.

    “Ally met her as part of a case and saw a photo of me as Ben,” said Beth.

    “That’s so amazing,” said Jirra. “I mean it does make you think…I mean what’s the possibility of this sort of thing just happening out of chance?”

    “I know what you mean,” said Beth. “There are a lot of strange things going on out there…things that most people have no clue about….things that I can’t talk about.”

    Jirra wondered what Beth was talking about, but decided not to press the point. “Fair enough…not to be nosey, but do you think you would you have stayed in the service if you hadn’t been changed?”

    “Probably,” replied Beth. “Not to brag, but I was a good officer. I was due to go to department school and I would have made Lieutenant Commander not long after that. I enjoyed being in the navy, but that wasn’t meant to be. I mean, I love my present life, I have a wonderful family, I’m in an Ivy League school, and have a great future… and a pretty cute boyfriend on top of it all.”

    Jirra laughed. “You make it sound so normal.”

    Beth shrugged her shoulders. “It is. You forget what I’ve been through, I was abducted…twice, almost murdered…twice…almost turned into a sex slave…all before I even graduated high school, trust me this is the most normal my life has been since I was transformed.”

    “It must have been awful,” said Jirra. ”I mean, I was assaulted, but I never felt that my life was in real danger…yet I still have the occasional nightmare about Todd and the others. How do you cope with it?”

    “I don’t dwell on the past, Jirra. I mean it’s given me a great background for being an agent,” continued Beth.

    “Do you still want to work for your friend Ally?”

    “Part of me does, but there’s another part of me that wants to be a field agent. It sort of runs in the family,” replied Beth.

    “I know you were abducted as part of the case that involved Celeste, but you’ve never talked much about the other things,” said Jirra.

    Beth picked up another slice of pizza. “It was all related to my transformation. I’ve put most of it behind me.”

    “Most?” asked Celeste knowingly.

    Beth smiled at her roommate. “Pretty much. I mean, even when Margo Simon had me abducted I knew that I was being tracked. I knew that I was going to be rescued. There are… other things that I wish I could forget. One of the side effects of my transformation is an excellent memory… granted it makes studying for tests easy…but there are things that I experienced that I wish I could forget.”

    She took another bite of her pizza slice. “I wasn’t the only one transformed by the process developed by Dr. Martz. There were others who were changed at the same time. Some people found out about the process and tried to recreate it…that part involved using our DNA; it led to several of the transformed being killed.”

    Beth shook her head softly.

    “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry,” said Jirra.

    Beth shrugged her shoulders. “Hey, as much as you shared about your life I guess it’s my turn to tell some secrets. The good thing is that all the bad guys who knew about the process are either dead or locked up in a Super Max prison and will never be paroled. The ones who are dead got off easy…as they did some really horrible things…things that you can’t imagine.”

    “We can change the subject, Beth,” said Jirra.

    Beth shook her head no. “I don’t mind…it actually feels good to get it off my chest.” First she told them about being abducted and almost murdered by Robert Wilkins. Then she then told them about his sister, Paula Harkins, and what she had done to others in an attempt to recreate the Martz Process.

(Read the Change of Course Series for the entire story)

    “Compared to Paula, Margo Simon is a saint,” said Beth. “I know this may not sound nice, but I’m so happy to know that Paula is dead. I’ve never killed anyone in my life…but I could have killed her without any remorse. She was the closest person that I’ve ever know that could be described as pure evil. Margo is perverted, and self-centered, but Paula really enjoyed seeing people in pain.”

    Jirra shook her head in disbelief. “I feel sort of foolish for feeling sorry for myself compared to what you’ve been through…actually both of you,” she said as she looked at Celeste.

    “Don’t feel that way, Jirra. In many ways, my transformation was so much easier than yours. I mean, I love being female and have no desire to be a guy,” said Beth.

    “And in spite of what happened to me, I got to be the woman that I always wanted to be,” added Celeste. “Actually, Jirra, I’m impressed with how well you’ve adapted to your change.”

    “Thanks,” said Jirra. “Look, I know I get a little moody at times… and I appreciate you two putting up with me.”

    “Hey, who wants normal friends!” quipped Beth. “Normal is overrated.”

    The three girls began to laugh.

    “One more question, Beth…how do you feel about the possibility of getting pregnant?” asked Jirra.

    “It freaked me out at first. I didn’t react well to my first couple of periods, but now…I don’t know, it would be cool to have a family someday,” she replied.

    “I wish that I could experience it,” added Celeste.

    “What about you, Jirra?” asked Beth.

    “That’s the strange thing…part of me finds it very appealing…I mean I’m still not completely comfortable as a woman, but I sometimes find myself looking at a pregnant woman and wishing it was me. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that the process that changed me was used in fertility rituals.”

    “What does Alexis think?” asked Celeste.

    “She says that she would love to start a family someday….my biggest fear is how do I explain it? I mean I’m supposed to be transgendered and so far SRS doesn’t include fertility,” replied Jirra.

    “Well, if you did get pregnant you could always hang out at the spa…I mean from what you’ve told us I know that they would protect you,” said Beth.

    Jirra just stared back without saying a word.

    Beth glanced at Celeste and then back at Jirra. “Um, did I say something wrong?”

    Jirra shook her head. “No. That would work…should it happen. Jeez I can be so dumb sometimes!”

    “What do you mean?” asked Celeste.

    “I’ve been so worried about what would happen if I gave into my feelings and desires. I forgot completely about the spa!”

    “Are the feelings that strong?” asked Celeste.

    Jirra nodded. “I’m glad that I’m a lesbian. If I was dating a guy I don’t think that I could control it.”

    “Well, if it happens, you can count on us,” said Celeste.

    Beth nodded in agreement.

    “I appreciate that…now let’s watch the movie….I think we could all use something lighter,” said Jirra.

Chapter 8

    It was later that week when Jirra told her friends that the dates for filming the show had been finalized. She had called them all together in her apartment.

    In addition to Beth, and Celeste, Cat, TC, and Jill were there.

    “They will be shooting here in mid-March. The official announcement will be next week, so please keep this a secret for now,” said Jirra. “Alexis told me that they already have roles for all of you…they’re non-speaking parts, but she promises me that you’ll all get in the show.”

    “That’s so nice of her,” said Jill, who was sitting on the couch with her arm around TC.

    Jill and TC had just moved into a vacant apartment in the building. They were also very open about the fact that they were a couple.

    “There will be an open audition for additional student roles,” continued Jirra.

    “What about you, Jirra?” asked TC.

    Jirra shook her head. “I prefer to be behind the camera.”

    “Jirra did help write the script,” added Beth.

    “I hope you’re getting paid for it,” said Jill.

    Jirra nodded. “I’ve sent in the paperwork to join the Writers Guild.”

    “You mean that?” asked Jill.

    “Yes. Alexis and Jen used their connections to help me through the process. I might as well do this the right way, as I’ve now also helped write a story for Jen. Alexis told me that I might start getting more offers once this show airs.”

    “Damn, I’m so jealous!” said Jill. “Just kidding, I think it’s so cool that you’re getting work.”

    “The big question is when will she get a write-up in the Internet Movie Data Base,” added TC.

    “I’d hold off on that until I get a job for someone other than a close friend,” said Jirra.

    “Hey don’t put down nepotism….it’s a great tradition in entertainment,” said Beth.

    Just then, Celeste’s cell phone rang. She pulled out her phone to see who was calling.

    “Excuse me, but it’s from my foundation,” she said as walked towards the kitchen.

    A few minutes later she came back in. She had a serious look on her face.

    “What’s wrong?” asked Beth.

    “We had some more hate email,” said Celeste.

    “Is that still going on?” asked Jill.

    Celeste nodded as she sat down. “It’s gotten worse. We put in some additional security measures, including some ideas that Jen gave us, but we still haven’t found out the exact location of the sender. We do know that it’s coming from California, most likely from the LA area.”

    “That does narrow it down a little, but that’s still a huge area,” said Jill.

    “I’m going to let Boudicca know about it,” continued Celeste, referring to the detective agency that was looking for Todd Kelly. “I also want you all to let me know if you start getting any hate messages. The last email said that we would regret it if we did the show.”

    “What?” asked Jirra.

    “Apparently the person sending the mail knows about the show,” continued Celeste.

    “You mean Todd,” said Jill.

    “What exactly did the person say?” asked Beth.

    “It was pretty vile,” replied Celeste.

    “I’m sure it was, but I’d like to see it…along with the others,” said Beth. “Don’t forget, I have friends and family that can help.”

    “Okay, but my techs have sent copies to the police,” said Celeste.

    “No offense, but unless it’s being sent by some locals the police can’t…or won’t do a thing. It’s also only a matter of time until we start getting mail like this, I mean, if the person sending this knows about the show, then they’ll find out that we’re involved,” explained Beth.

    “So what happens if we do start getting harassed?” asked Jill.

    “If that happens it will help us, as it increases the chances of catching him,” continued Beth. “My friend Ally uses a program that analyzes email, she uses it to track online sexual predators for the Agency, if we can determine that it is just one person… or a group, it will make catching them easier.”

    “No offense, Beth, but this doesn’t exactly sound like a federal case,” said Jill.

    Beth shook her head. “If the message is coming from one state to another, it already is a federal case. But I’m not suggesting that we turn it over to the feds, if we can find out where it’s coming from we have the girls from Boudicca track him down.”

    “You keep saying him…are you that sure it’s Todd?” asked Jill.

    “Who else? I mean, he’s a fugitive who has a grudge against us. He also as the skill to pull this off, but either way we need to build up a case.”

    “So what will happen?” asked Celeste.

    “We’ll install the program on all of our computers, it’s basically a slightly changed commercial program anyway, and then we wait,” explained Beth. “Oh, since Alexis is part of this, I would suggest we install it on her computer too.”

    “Makes sense,” said Jirra.

    “If this is Todd, then he’s doing this for revenge. From what I’ve learned from my family, people make mistakes when they’re guided by motives like the settling of old scores. Todd still sees us a bunch of college coeds, we can use that to our advantage.”

    “Beth’s right,” added Cat. “As you know, my sister-in-law worked on Todd’s case, she said that he was shocked that we caught him. I also think that it’s up to us to catch him. He started initially with harassment the first time and worked up to physical assault, he’ll probably do the same thing this time.”

    “Exactly,” interjected Beth. “We need to set our trap to get him before the show starts filming, as he might come out here and try to disrupt it.”

    “And if we make a big deal about it, the show might get cancelled by the university,” added Jill.

    “Wait a second, let me call Jen, she had an idea that might fit into this,” said Jirra. “Beth, can we get Ally in a conference call with Jen?”

    “Okay, I’ll call Ally to set up the conference call and get the program,” said Beth.

    “I’ll get the emails sent down from my foundation,” said Celeste.

    “And I’ll call the girls at Boudicca,” said Cat.

    An hour later, after many phone calls and emails, a plan was set.

Chapter 9

    Part of the plan was to set up a ‘honeypot’ system at the foundation. Basically it was a computer set up as an Internet server. The security was fairly good, according to Jen it had to be to not tip off someone breaking into it. To provide someone with a way to hack into the system some older software with a few known security holes was installed on the box along with any information that they wanted the hackers to know.

    Some special email accounts were set up for everyone on one of Jen’s own servers and their addresses hidden in files on the fake server. The object was to make it hard for someone breaking into the server to get to the information. The longer they took the better their chances of tracking where the hackers were. Jen had learned long ago that it was best to not make it appear too easy for the hackers. The harder they had to work to get what they were after the more they tended to believe that the information they got was real.

    Barely a day after the fake server came online the hackers were attempting to break into it. Nearly six hours after they started the system was compromised and the files with the email addresses were transferred to another computer somewhere in Los Angeles. That much had been confirmed by tracing the route that the packets took between the server and the hacker’s computer. The path wove through at least a half a dozen other compromised systems, some at two LBGT organizations in other cities and another at the headquarters of a gay and lesbian magazine. Those break-ins very likely put the membership and mailing lists of those organizations in serious risk. The owners of those systems readily agreed to leave the systems partially compromised when they heard of the plan to catch the hackers. All also agreed to simultaneous prosecution of the break-ins to ensure some considerable jail time.

    If it was Todd that hacked into the foundation’s fake server, all they could do now was simply sit back and wait for the first of the threatening emails to appear. The fake server would be left as it was. Now that the hackers had a way into it, it could be used again to leak any information they wanted the hackers to know.

Chapter 10

    For the next few weeks Jirra devoted herself to the routine life of a college student. There were books to read, papers to write, and exams to study for. In a way, the everyday schedule was very comforting in its normalcy.

    She also worked on the school paper with Jill. Even though she was hadn’t been given an assignment yet, she was enjoying herself.

    Jirra was positive that she wanted to write for a living; the problem was that she was conflicted over what area she would enter.

    The idea of being a reporter was very exciting, and she daydreamed about traveling to different places to cover the latest world crisis.

    Then, on the other hand, she found the idea of writing novels and doing screenplays appealing. It was also a safer profession. She wasn’t worried about her personal safety; rather it was protecting her secret. If her real gender and the way it had changed was exposed, she would adjust. It wouldn’t be easy, but she knew that she could survive, just as she had when her dad had been killed and when she had become female.

    No, she was worried about her mom, her friends back at the spa, and of course, Alexis. They would be thrust into a spotlight of unwanted publicity and it would be her fault.

If she wrote scripts and books, her privacy would be safer and that would mean her friends and family would be safe too. 

    Deep down, Jirra knew she was being a pessimist and she tried to shake it off. She remembered how Beth told her that seeing a therapist had helped her. Jirra also remembered talking to Cat’s friend Erika, who had been sexually assaulted and had experienced PTST. And then there was the staff that Celeste had at the foundation. They handled all sorts of issues ranging from sexual assault to physical abuse.

    Jirra had her friends and her spirit guide, but maybe it was time to seek additional help. The question was, where would she find a therapist who would understand?

Chapter 11

    “Well, any ideas?” asked Jirra as she sipped her coffee.

    She had just finished telling Beth and Celeste and her idea about seeing a therapist.

    Beth looked at Celeste who nodded slightly, as if to give Beth permission to go first.

    “We’ve been wondering when you’d get around to this,” said Beth.

    “Really?” asked Jirra.

    “Sure, considering everything you’ve gone through, it only makes sense,” continued Beth.

    “So…can you suggest someone?” asked Jirra.

    Beth nodded. “My therapist, Dr. Jenna Sullivan.”

    “Um, one small problem about that, you told me she works for the…um government, there’s no way I can see her,” replied Jirra.

    “Correction, she was working for the government. She’s engaged and has moved up here. Her husband has a practice in the suburbs and she just opened her office up here,” stated Beth. “Look, Jenna has heard a lot of strange things and is also a great therapist.”

    “Oh,” replied Jirra. “Do you have her number?”

    Beth nodded again and pulled a business card out of her bag. She handed the card to Jirra.

    “Thanks,” said Jirra as she stared at the card. “I hope she can slip me in.”

    “Oh, that won’t be a problem,” said Beth.

    Jirra looked at Beth, who was smiling.

    “I took the liberty of telling her that I had a friend who could use her talents,” continued Beth. “Don’t worry, I didn’t give her your name or tell her why.”

    “Thanks,” replied Jirra.

Chapter 12

    Jenna Sullivan’s office was located in Lansdale, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her office was just two blocks from the train station, so Jirra took SEPTA out for her first visit, instead of driving. Besides, Jirra always liked riding on a train.

    Lansdale wasn’t that far away from where Jirra had lived when her father had been killed in Afghanistan. She remembered driving through the town a few times with her parents.

    Jenna’s office was located in a two-story brown brick building that had been converted from a residence into an office building.

    It was a cold gloomy day; the sky was heavy with dark gray clouds and the wind was picking up. Jirra looked at the sky and hoped that she would get home before the snow started. The weather-guessers on TV were predicting six to eight inches starting that evening as a nor’easter moved up the coast. Boston would be getting the worst of it with some freezing rain before it changed over to at least eighteen inches of snow.

    The warmth of the waiting area felt good as Jirra removed her coat. She noticed a coffeepot on a table. There was a sign stating for clients to help themselves. The coffee also helped to warm her up.

    A few minutes later an attractive woman dressed in a wool suit stepped into the waiting area.

    “Hi, I’m Jenna and you must be Jirra,” she said as she extended her hand.

    Jirra smiled back as she shook hands.

    “Pleased to meet you, Dr. Sullivan.”

    Jenna shook her head. “My mother is Dr. Sullivan…even though she also doesn’t use her title either…please call me Jenna.”

    “I will…Jenna,” replied Jirra.

    “Good, now let’s go into my office and talk.”

    Jirra didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Jenna’s office looked like a living room. It had a very comfortable feel to it. There was a large window that overlooked the small backyard.

There were several birdfeeders hanging from a large maple tree. The feeders were crowded with a variety of winter birds getting in one last meal before the storm. In addition to cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, and blue jays, there were two small woodpeckers on a suet feeder gorging themselves.

    “Please sit down,” said Jenna as she pointed to a pair of lush leather chairs. She then glanced outside. “Hmm, I better refill the feeders before I go home today. I’m amazed by the variety of the birds I get here. I don’t know what half of them are.”

    “We used to keep a bird book by the window,” said Jirra as she watched the birds.

    Jenna nodded. “I’ve been meaning to buy one. I wish I knew what type of woodpeckers those are.”

    “They look like downy woodpeckers; we used to get them all the time at our feeders.” Jirra sat down and noticed Jenna’s diplomas that were hanging on of the walls. “You went to Brown,” she stated.

    “Yes, I was born and raised in Providence so it made sense,” replied Jenna. “And you attend Penn along with Beth; it’s nice to meet a fellow Ivy Leaguer.”

    Jirra nodded. “Beth and I have other things in common.”

    Jenna smiled back. “That seems to be a good place to start.”

Chapter 13

    An hour later Jirra was walking back to the train station. The first big flakes were starting to fall, but Jirra didn’t notice; she was too busy thinking about her meeting with Jenna and how well it had gone. 

    It was nice to have a neutral person to talk to about the change and everything that went along with it. They also agreed to start seeing each other every two weeks.

    What really got to Jirra was when Jenna said that change and transition was something that everyone has to deal with; and while Jirra’s change was extreme; there were ways to handle it. Jenna went on to say that Jirra had done many of the right things, in that she had surrounded herself with people that loved and cared about her.

    “I’m not downplaying what you’re dealing with, Jirra, but you’re on the right path. You may never be totally comfortable with your situation, but that too is normal,” explained Jenna.

    When Jirra go back to her apartment, she called her mom and told her about Jenna and the initial session.

    “I’m glad you’re doing this, Roo,” said Liz. “There are times when it helps to just talk to someone.”

    “Have you ever done it?” asked Jirra.

    “My, you’re nosey, Roo,” said Liz with a chuckle. “Yes, I have and trust me it helps.”

    “Thanks, Mom,” replied Jirra, without pressing any further.

    “So, tell me, have there been any more problems?” asked Liz.

    “I haven’t gotten any of the hate email, but Alexis has, oh and Jill got some at her work email address. Jen feels that it’s from the same person.”

    “And when does she think they’ll find him?” asked Liz.

    “Well, she has discovered that the person has been using some of the computer labs at USC and several Internet cafes nearby. The trouble is that he as been using different computers. We don’t have enough evidence to give it to the police yet, although Boudicca is sending an agent out there undercover to see if they can spot him.”

    “You really think its Todd?” asked Liz.

    “Yes, either that or it’s a big coincidence,” said Jirra. “In emails to Jill, he referred to the attacks last year and in the ones to Alexis he said that her show should avoid a campus that prosecuted the wrong people, that the students who did the attacks were the real victims.”

    “Promise me that you’ll let the police in on this,” said Liz.

    “We will as soon as we get more evidence. Todd’s a wanted fugitive so it’s not like he’s innocent or anything.”

    “What about the other ones who were helping him?” asked Liz.

    “From what we’ve been told, they’re all trying to make deals with the DA. As they all come from rich families I wouldn’t be surprised if they get them,” replied Jirra.

    “I hope you’re wrong,” said Liz.

    “Me too, but money does talk.”

    “Yes, but what they did wasn’t some stupid college prank; they attacked people and put several in the hospital.”

    “Well, Cat’s sister-in-law is an assistant DA and she has been keeping us informed on the case. The girl is getting probation for assisting in the case. The two other guys are facing a lot of jail time, if convicted. Their families are making offers of financial restitution and community service.”

    “They can serve time and still make financial payments,” interjected Liz.

    “I know that, the problem is that some of the victims don’t want any publicity,” said Jirra. “Don’t worry about me, I will testify, I want to see them get what’s coming to them.”

    “I never doubted that, Roo.”

    “The big problem remains Todd. As long as he’s a fugitive, the others can all blame him and maybe walk free,” said Jirra. “Once they catch him, the DA thinks the others will be more cooperative.”

    “What about Todd’s family?” asked Liz. “They must be helping him.”

    “If they are, they’re being very careful about doing it, but he does have a lot of relatives and Boudicca can’t check them all.”

    “Well, I think it will all work out,” said Liz.

    “I do too; after all, Killara said it would.”

Chapter 14

     “So, where is Celeste?” asked Jirra as she adjusted her scarf.

    “She’s out on a date with Sean,” said Beth.

    The two were out walking Spirit in Fairmount Park, who was enjoying the snow.

    “That’s cool,” replied Jirra.

    A squirrel ran across the snow, catching Spirit’s attention. The large dog pulled at her leash.

    “No, girl, the squirrel doesn’t want to play with you,” said Beth as she reached down and scratched the large dog behind its ears. 

    “Would she actually chase it?” asked Jirra as she watched the squirrel stop and stand up on its hind legs to look at them.

    “Chase, yes, but if the squirrel stopped and held its ground I doubt Spirit would know what to do,” replied Beth. “Basically, Spirit thinks the whole world just wants to play.”

    They continued walking in snow.

    “Did Celeste say where they were going?” asked Jirra.

    “They’re spending the weekend together out in New Hope,” said Beth with a grin. “I’m so happy for her; she has needed someone in her life for so long. She won’t admit it, being the proper lady and all that, but she’s been so lonely since her husband died.”

    “She must have really loved him…all things considered,” said Jirra.

    “I know what you mean. Celeste was extremely fortunate to be…bought by someone like him. It’s amazing how things work out. Most of Margo Simon’s clients were disgusting perverts…or worse,” explained Beth.

    Jirra just nodded as she remembered the stories Beth had told her about Margo Simon.  Many of Margo’s victims were still dealing with the affects of their captivity and transformations. 

    “Changing the subject; how’re you and Jim doing?” asked Jirra.

    “Good. He’s fun to be around,” replied Beth. “I don’t know where it’s all going, but we enjoy each other’s company.”

    “That’s good to hear,” replied Jirra.

    Beth then leaned close and whispered. “He’s also a really good lover.”

    Jirra looked at her friend, who had broken out in a big grin.

    “Oh, don’t worry, we take all the necessary precautions, but we’re both adults,” continued Beth. “Now, can I ask you a question, Jirra?”

    Jirra nodded.

    “Aren’t you the slightest bit curious about what it’s like?”

    There was no need to ask what Beth meant by it.

    Jirra shook her head. “No.”

    “That’s it…no?” asked Beth.

    “Pretty much, I only like women,” replied Jirra. “That’s one part of my life that has stayed the same.”

    “I felt that way at first,” said Beth. “Actually, at first I had no sex drive as my transformation left me just entering puberty…again; the feeling came later as I grew up…again.”

    “Do you still like women?” asked Jirra.

    “I’d be lying if I said no. I haven’t acted on my feelings, but every now and then I see a girl that’s catching my eye, and it brings up feelings. Don’t forget, I was a guy in my twenties when I was changed. I had my share of lovers too. I was strictly hetero as a guy, but part of my gender programming made me like guys. I guess that it was all part of Martz’s fantasy. He tried to recreate his dead daughter and I suppose he wanted grandchildren.”

    “And you’re okay with it?”

    Beth shrugged her shoulders. “It feels natural now, as if I was born this way. I mean, I’ve been living as a girl for so long now that this is my life…if that makes sense.”

    Jirra nodded again.

    “So, if you and Alexis decide to raise a family, have you talked about how you’d do it?” asked Beth.

    Jirra reached up to scratch her head under her hat. “A little, but that’s a long way off.”

    “Are you going to get a friend to…um, donate it, or will you go to a clinic?”

    Jirra laughed.

    “I was just curious as Jill and TC are talking about it,” said Beth.

    “Really?”

    “I don’t think they’re serious, it was at the party back in December. They were talking to some of the other lesbian couples on how they did it,” said Beth. She then told Jirra about the conversation.

    “No way! That’s just an urban myth or something like that!” said Jirra.

    Beth smiled back. “I’ve heard others talk about it.”

    “They really don’t use a turkey baster,” stated Jirra.

    “I’ve heard that it’s true,” continued Beth.

    Jirra tried to imagine what it would be like and just shook her head in disbelief.

    “Just don’t use the same one for Thanksgiving,” added Beth, who began to giggle.

    Jirra also began to laugh. “I can just picture our kid asking me a question. Mom, is it true that my Dad is a chef?” She began to laugh harder. “No, he’s not a chef…he…he just works in a kitchen.”

    Both girls began to laugh uncontrollably. Spirit joined in by barking.

    Jirra wiped tears from her eyes. “Too funny.”

    “Let’s go home and warm up,” said Beth who was also wiping away tears. “How does some hot chocolate sound?”

    “That sounds good.”

Chapter 15

    Two days later Jirra got her first hate email. There was no hiding the fact that it was from Todd.

    Dear Bitch; I suppose that you might have thought that I had forgotten about you; but you’re fucking wrong. I am going to make you pay for what you did to me. Why couldn’t you have just taken your beating and kept your mouth shut like most of the others. Now I hear you’re involved in some sort of perverted fiction that will make me look like a villain. You better listen to me; you freak of nature, you slut, you whore, you evil cunt, I will get you and your friends. I will kill all of you, but I will take my time with you. I will make you beg me to kill you.

    Jirra immediately called Jen and left a message with her answering service. Next, she called Nina Vasquez, one of the detectives from Boudicca.

    “Great, this will really help,” said Nina.

    “What do you mean?” asked Jirra.

    “We’ve had a couple sites under surveillance and this message looks like it came from one of those places. We can really narrow down our search now,” explained Nina.

    “Um, do you think that he’s serious about the threats?”

    “Personally, I think he’s still running solo and Todd doesn’t strike me as the type who will act by himself. We know he’s still in LA and now it’s just a matter of time until we catch him. Still, just so you know, we have your building under surveillance, along with some other places, if he shows up in Philly we’ll nail him.”

    “Thanks,” replied Jirra.

    As soon as she hung up, her phone rang, it was Jen.

    Jirra told her what Nina had told her.

    “Nina is pretty sharp, but I think it’s time I called in a few favors,” said Jen.

    “What do you mean?” asked Jirra.

    Jen laughed. “What? Do you want to spoil the surprise?”

    “You sound just like Killara! Okay, I’ll leave it up to you,” said Jirra.

    “Don’t worry, Roo; I promise that we’ll have this bigoted little coward behind bars before the show starts filming,” said Jen.

    “You sound pretty confident,” said Jirra.

    “Trust me, Roo, trust me.”

Chapter 16

    “What do you think she has in mind?” asked Cat.

    They were walking across campus to the library.

    “No idea, but knowing Jen, it won’t be subtle,” replied Jirra.

    “Carla thinks that if we can tie all these emails to Todd, we can lock him away for a very long time. Hopefully, he’ll have his computer with him when we catch him.”

    “That would be nice,” said Jirra. “Oh, I meant to ask you the other day; how’s Matt doing?”

    Cat’s fiancé had recently entered the FBI Academy.

    “He says it’s hard, but he loves it,” replied Cat. “I wish I was with him, but I still have this last semester to finish.”

    “I thought Beth was trying to get you to join the agency,” said Jirra.

    “She has given me the sales talk several times, but I’ve already been accepted by the FBI. Still, it will nice to know some agents there. I met her parents and they are very impressive.”

    “What about her friend?”

    “You mean Ally? Yes, I met her a couple of times. I admire what she does, it sounds very rewarding to catch internet sexual predators. Still, I’m excited about getting into the lab side of law enforcement.”

    “And Matt is going into what area?”

    “He wants to be a field agent,” replied Cat.

    “Are you worried?”

    “Maybe just a little, but I love him so much and it’s what he wants to do,” she replied. “Oh, as soon as I get my class date for the academy we’ll set a date for our wedding. We want all of you to attend.”

    “I wouldn’t miss it,” replied Jirra.

    “What about you? I mean, are you and Alexis going to get married anytime soon?”

    “Some day we will, but for now we’re content to just be a couple,” replied Jirra. “She’s shifting her residency to Massachusetts and they have legal marriage for same sex couples.”

    “That’s right,” replied Cat. “Well, I wish you all the best in whatever you do.”

    “Thanks, Cat.”

Chapter 17

    Alexis called Jirra Saturday afternoon.

    “Did I interrupt your studying?” asked Alexis.

    “No, not really, I just finished my paper for literature. What’s up?” asked Jirra. 

    “Good news, I’ll be down in Philly this coming week,” announced Alexis.

    A huge smile broke out on Jirra’s face. “That’s great.”

    “The show is sending down some of the staff to finalize places to shoot, and they want me to meet with city and university officials to smooze them and make things go smoother. I’ll be on a rather tight schedule, but we should have Saturday and Sunday to ourselves.”

    “I can’t wait,” replied Jirra. She felt a warm feeling sweeping through her body. “I’ve missed you so much.”

    “No more than I’ve missed you, Roo,” said Alexis.

    “When do you get down here?”

    “Wednesday,” replied Alexis. “They have me jumping from one meeting to another until the weekend. There will be a lot of interviews on local TV and radio. I wanted to let you know before you hear it on TV. The press release for the trip is going out tomorrow morning.”

    “Um, do you want to stay here?” asked Jirra.

    “I have a better idea. Why don’t we go to New Hope for the weekend?” suggested Alexis. “It might be better for both of us and a lot more private. If word got out I was staying with you we wouldn’t have any privacy.”

    “That would be great,” said Jirra.

    “Also, Faith is coming down and she’ll be staying with Diana and Kari. They want to have us over for dinner Saturday night,” continued Alexis. “Faith is anxious to meet you.”

    “Really?” asked Jirra. She suspected that Alexis was exaggerating slightly, but it would be cool to meet the creator of the series.

    “Absolutely,” said Alexis.

    “I’d like that, but I also want to spend time with you,” said Jirra.

    “We will have time Roo. I’ve already reserved a room for us at the same inn,” said Alexis. “I’ll send you the info tonight.”

    “I can’t wait,” said Jirra. “I pretty much ahead in all my projects for school, so taking some time off won’t be a problem.”

    “That’s good to hear; I want you to graduate with honors,” said Alexis.

    “By the way, I got a call from Jen today; she says that you’re to watch America’s Most Wanted tonight.”

    “What?’ asked Jirra.

    “You heard me, watch it and then give me a call,” said Alexis.

Chapter 18

    Jirra watched the show with Beth, Celeste, Cat, TC, and Jill. They were camped around the TV in Beth and Celeste’s apartment. Spirit was also there, but was more interested in the big bowl of popcorn than the TV.

    While it wasn’t the lead story, America’s Most Wanted profiled Todd.

    “How did you manage this?” asked Jill as she reached for the bowl.

    “It wasn’t me, this is all Jen’s doing,” replied Jirra.

    “This is great, this will put a very big spotlight on that cockroach,” said TC.

    “I hope he doesn’t see it, I mean that way he won’t know that more people will be looking for him,” said Beth.

    “If he’s really in the LA area, then he won’t see it for three hours. If any of his friends here see it that will give them time to warn him,” said Celeste.

    “Do you really think that his family would watch Fox?” asked Jill.

    “That’s true,” said Celeste, but I’m sure that someone who knows him will see it. Don’t forget, he had a pretty easy time finding people to help him, not everyone is on our side.”

    “That’s the truth,” said TC. “I ran into Leah today, she was collecting signatures to allow Virginia and the others back to Penn.”

    “You’re kidding, this is a joke, right?” asked Jirra.

    TC shook her head. “Leah was over at Billy Penn’s,” she said, referring to a local coffee house. “She didn’t recognize me at first because she asked me to sign her petition.”

    “Did you tell her where she could put it?” asked Jill.

    TC laughed. “No, but she wasn’t pleased to see me.”

    “Leah isn’t a threat,” said Jirra.

    “No, but I’m sure that Todd has his supporters. That’s why he needs to be caught. If the others see the DA throw the book at him, they’ll think twice about doing something similar,” said Cat.

    Just then, Jirra’s cell phone went off; it was Alexis.

    “That was great,” said Jirra. “I can’t wait to thank Jen.”

    “That’ll be easy, she’s sitting right next to me,” said Alexis. “I’ll pass her the phone.”

    ”How’re you doing, Roo,” greeted Jen.

    “Good thank you, Jen. How did you arrange this bit of magic?” asked Jirra.

    “I know one of the producers of the show. He’s a nice guy and so is his boyfriend, so it wasn’t hard to talk him into doing it. Besides, they’re both happy clients of the Jen Stevens Hollywood Underground Dating Service.”

    “Jen, you didn’t blackmail him did you?”

    “Me? Blackmail someone? Whatever put that idea into your head?”

“But what you did to Benito that time…”

Benito was an Italian director that had tried to drug Lindsey at a party when Jirra and Lindsey attended an awards ceremony in Hollywood with Jen. Jen forced Benito into getting them reservations at a posh Hollywood restaurant then had him pick up the tab for their meal. Benito hadn’t gotten away with it though since Jen also tipped off a reporter about Benito’s impending trial on sexual harassment charges.

“Benito got exactly what he deserved. That was the best form of justice that I could think of. No, no blackmail this time. When the producer heard what Todd did he was glad to help get the word out. No arm twisting needed, Roo. Life is hard enough already for people in the LGBT community without lowlife slime like Todd making things even more difficult. The word is out now and if Todd is there like we think he is he’ll be found. Despite their differences, the community takes care of their own out in LA.”

    “Well, please tell the producer that it was appreciated, that show has a great track record of catching people,” said Jen.

    “I’ll pass that along, Jirra.”

    Beth motioned to Jirra.

    “Jen, I think Beth wants to talk to you,” said Jirra as she passed the phone.

    “Jen, how’s the trap doing?” asked Beth.

    “We’ve narrowed down the messages as coming from three places. Nina will be flooding them with pictures of Todd starting later this evening. Hopefully we can catch him before he scurries away again like a cockroach dodging a flashlight beam. The show is going to give us a lot of publicity, but it could cause him to disappear again. It’s obvious that he’s getting help from his family,’ said Jen.

    “I agree, he has to blend in, and that means he can’t look as if he’s homeless,” said Beth. “Thanks, Jen, I’m passing the phone back to Jirra.”

    “So, are you coming to town for the meetings?” asked Jirra.

    “I’d love to, but I’m very busy. We’re starting work on my newest film, the one you wrote the story for, next week. Since I’m also producing this one I want to get as much of the pre-production and studio work done as possible before we head out to the spa,” she explained. “We’ve got three weeks of shooting in New Mexico and that is on a very tight schedule. I promised Judy that we wouldn’t disrupt the spa too much.”

    “I doubt if Judy minds too much. This is a lot of great publicity for the spa.”

    “Oh, I also was just shown a very exciting screen play by Richard Thorn. It involves piracy, immortality, and gender twists all wrapped up in a fantastic comedy-romance-action-adventure story,” continued Jen.

    “Are you going to do it?”

    “Yes, I think I might. I’ve tried to stay away from anything that got too close to my gender change but this may be the one time I over-ride that rule. This is one script that’s just too good to say no. Richard originally wanted Alexis, but she turned it down, then she recommended that he contact me. I can’t believe I’m taking her cast-offs,” said Jen with a laugh.

    “Don’t listen to her, Roo,” interrupted Alexis. “She’s a friend of Richard’s and it didn’t take much for him to sell her on the story. It all started when they talked at the party after the awards, remember?”

    “Oh, I remember that party. I think I always will, Alexis.” Jirra heard the phone change hands again.

    “Actually, doing a Richard Thorn movie is a good business move. He has a real knack for making crowd-pleasers, even if the critics hate them. I’ll take great box office numbers over good reviews any day. With the paycheck from doing his movie I can finance several smaller films and a TV pilot or two that I’ve wanted to do. Besides, Richard is one of the good guys.”

    “I’m looking forward to seeing it,” said Jirra.

    “Take care, Roo,” said Jen.

    “Good night, Jen,” said Jirra.

    “I’ve got to run too, we’ve got a late night shoot. Jen’s got another cameo; she’s doing the waitress thing again. If this keeps up we’ll have to write her into the show,” said Alexis. “See you next week, Roo. I love you.”

    “I love you too, Alexis.”

Chapter 19

    Three hours later in a small apartment near Studio City, California, twenty-five-year-old Maddy Collins was frantically dialing up one of her friends.

    “Maddy, I told you that I’m not interested in going out tonight.”

    “Suzy, that’s not why I called, did you watch America’s Most Wanted tonight?” asked Maddy anxiously.

    “You know I don’t watch that crap,” replied Suzy with disgust. .

    Maddy and Suzy had been friends for six years. Both were pre-op transsexuals, and sometimes working girls.

    “I Tivoed it and I think you should come over here to see it,” said Maddy.

    “Why? Is there someone I know on it?” asked Suzy with a giggle.

    “I think there just might be,” said Maddy.

    “You’re serious aren’t you?” asked Suzy.

    “Yes, so please come here as soon as you can,” said Maddy.

    Twenty minutes the two friends were sitting on the couch watching the show.

    “Holy shit, I do know that guy!” exclaimed Suzy.

    “I thought it was him,” said Maddy.

    “I always thought he was a little weird, I mean whenever we dated he kept telling me that he wasn’t gay, and this was just before he began to suck me off,” said Suzy.

    Maddy shrugged. “That’s not that uncommon.”

    “Yeah, but he was even stranger. My god, he could have attacked me…shit, do you think he was the one who beat up Zoey last month?” asked Suzy anxiously.

    Zoey was one of their friends. Also transgendered, she had been assaulted by a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt the previous month. As she had been working the streets at the time, she never reported the attack to the police. It soon became clear that there was someone stalking transgendered girls. However, as the girls distrusted the police, none of the attacks were reported.

    “It sounds like something he could have done,” said Maddy. “Do you know where he lives?”

    Suzy pulled her knees up to her chest and began to hug them. “Yeah, I was at his apartment last week. Why? Do you want to call the cops?”

    Maddy grinned. “No, not yet, I have a better idea. Look, I know of three girls who have been beaten up like Zoey was; all have been in the past couple of months. I think we should send a message to guys like this before we give him to the cops.”

    Suzy looked at her friend. “What do you have in mind?”

    Maddy told Suzy her plan and the two girls began to laugh.

    “I’ll call Zoey and see if she wants to join us,” said Maddy.

Chapter 20

    Two hours later there was a knock at the door of the nondescript apartment.

    Initially there was no response, but after the second knocking the door cracked open.

    “What do you want?”

    “Hi, Baby,” greeted Suzy in a cheerful manner.

    The door opened slightly more.

    “My friends and me were in the area and wanted to know if you wanted to party?” she asked in a coy manner.

    The three women were all dressed in very revealing sexy outfits. Suzy was dressed in a short, low-cut red dress and a leather jacket. Maddy was wearing a black tube-top and a leather miniskirt and Zoey was dressed in a tight purple dress. All three were wearing high heels and their makeup matched their outfits.

    “Really?” asked the man from behind the door.

    “Sure Babe, I remembered how much fun you were and was hoping you were looking for some fun tonight,” continued Suzy.

    “I can’t afford all of you,” he whispered.

    “Don’t worry about that, we’re here to have fun; we’re not working tonight,” she continued.

    He looked at the three girls and thought about the offer. Normally, he would have been more cautious, but he had picked up some real high quality weed that afternoon, and his mind was a bit foggy.

    It seemed strange that they would stop by his place unannounced, but he had paid the one in red well the last time they had been together. Besides, even slightly buzzed he knew he was more than capable of handing three t-girls.

    “Sure, come on in,” he said.

    The three walked in quickly.

    The man was too busy looking at their breasts to notice that all three were carrying bags.

    “Please make yourselves at home,” he said.

    He wasn’t worried about his neighbors. The reason he picked the complex was that it was the kind of place where people minded their own business.

    “So you girls want to party?” he asked as he slipped his right arm around Suzy’s waist.

    “Sure thing, Babe,” she replied as she kissed him.

    This was too good to believe, he thought.

    As he kissed Suzy, he noticed the other girls moving closer to him. The one in black was soon rubbing his hardening cock.

    “Just one question, Babe,” whispered Suzy.

    “Yeah….what do you want to know?” he asked in between kisses.

    “Is your name really Todd Kelly?” she asked.

    He stopped kissing her and pulled back.

    “How do you know that?” he asked in a worried manner.

    “I thought it was you,” she said angrily.

    “Why did you beat up those students back in Philly?” asked Maddy as she whispered into his ear.

    “Get out of here,” he said as he tried to pull away.

    The girls were ready for this and quickly pulled him down to the floor. They were stronger than he had thought and the one in black had cuffed his hands behind his back. He started to yell, but his mouth was covered by Suzy’s hand.

    “I guess you don’t watch TV,” said Suzy.

    He stared at her and wondered what she was talking about.

    “You were profiled on national TV a few hours ago; lucky for you we saw it and decided to help you,” she continued.

    He struggled to get up, but the girls held him down on the carpet.

    “Now, it’s obvious that you’re the one that police are looking for, we have some additional questions for you,” said Suzy as she sat on his chest.

    “If you don’t answer, we know ways of hurting you,” added Maddy.

    Todd just stared back.

    “Have you been a bad little boy since you came out here?” asked Suzy. “Have you been beating up girls out here?”

    How the fuck did they know about that, he thought. He closed his eyes and began to pray for rescue.

    “I knew it!” shouted Suzy. “You’re one sick fuck, you know that! You like to have sex with girls like us, and you also hate us enough that you get off by beating us up.”

    Todd opened his eyes and saw that the girl was about to hit him, and he tried to pull back.

    My god, they’re going to kill me, he thought.

    Maddy stopped Suzy from striking him, Suzy’s fist stopping less than two inches from Todd’s face.

    “Calm down, Suzy. There’s no reason to shout,” comforted Maddy. “We’ll get our vengeance on this asshole.”

    “Please don’t kill me,” whimpered Todd.

    Suzy nodded and then stared right into Todd’s eyes, an evil, wicked grin spreading across her face. “Don’t worry…my little cocksucker… and by the way, you’re a very good cocksucker, no, we’re not going to kill you,” said Suzy. “Maybe by the time we’re done, you’re going to wish we did.”

    The three girls started to laugh.

    Todd struggled to get free, but two of the girls kept him on his back. He didn’t notice that the third girl was about to inject him in his right arm. The pinprick sensation got his attention, but by then it was too late.

    “Good night, Babe, sleep well,” whispered Suzy as she leaned down to kiss him.

Chapter 21

    Todd slowly came to, he had no idea how long he had been out. Whatever they had given him was very strong and he felt as if he was coming out of surgery.

    He opened his eyes and could see that he was still in his apartment. The three girls were gone. Maybe they hadn’t done anything to him after all.

    He tried to stand up, but immediately discovered that he was tied up. His hands were still cuffed behind his back and his ankles were tied together.

    But then, he became aware that there was something else wrong. There was hair in his face, and it was blonde hair…his own hair was short and dyed black. 

    He tried to speak, but discovered that there was a gag in his mouth.

    His clothes felt strange too. As his eyes began to focus he could see that the full length mirror that had been mounted on the back of his bedroom door was lying on its side next to him. He gasped when he saw his reflection.

    The girls had left him dressed up as a woman.

    The blonde wig had large curls, which surrounded his heavily made-up face. The makeup was heavy and done like the girls he saw in the clubs. They had coated his eyelids with eye shadow. His lashes were coated in mascara, and there were thick lines of black eyeliner outlining his wide open eyes.

    The gag in his mouth was one of those ball gags that he saw in bondage porn. Even so, his bright red lips stood out.

    His outfit was a red top, black leather mini-skirt, fishnet stockings, and high heels. He could see and feel that under his top they had placed large breast pads with large, erect nipples, which pressed out through the thin material of the red colored top.

    He tried to free his hands, but the cuffs were too strong. He then discovered that they must have placed fake nails on his fingers. He couldn’t see them, but they felt very long.

    Next, he looked around his apartment and saw that the girls had left several sex toys and pornography magazines on the floor next to him; from what he could see, the magazines where the type that featured very hardcore gay and transsexual photos.

    He then noticed a sweet floral smell and it took him a second to realize that the girls had doused him liberally with cheap perfume.

    Oh, they would pay for this, he thought bitterly.

    He would track them down and kill them for doing this to him. He was planning on leaving LA soon anyway; this would just speed up his plans.

    If he could get just work his arms around to the front he could get out of the cuffs. He had a set of cuffs in his bedroom along with the keys. Hopefully, they were the same kind.

    If he failed to get his arms out from behind his back, he could still try to get the cuffs off; it would be difficult but not impossible.

    As he struggled to get up, he heard someone knocking on his door. He froze as the last thing we wanted was someone to see him like this.

    “Todd Kelly, this is the police, we have a warrant for your arrest,” stated the voice from the other side.

    In a panic Todd struggled to get up, but it was hopeless. He could hear the door being unlocked. The cops must have woken up the building supervisor.

    As he heard the door opening, a feeling of dread filled his body. It was all he could do to not soil himself.

    The first cop to enter the apartment looked down at the trussed up figure on the floor and began to snicker.

    “I’ll be damned, just like the phone call said,” he remarked to his partner.

    “Christ, they did a number on him; too bad this isn’t the night Cops is traveling with us,” replied his partner. “This would be a great episode.”

    “It’s okay, we’ve got three news teams outside including that one from the CNN affiliate, I’m sure they’ll love seeing him like this,” said the first cop.

    Todd wanted to scream out at the two smiling cops, but the gag was too tight and all he could do was moan.

    The first cop leaned down and undid the gag.

    “Please, please for the love of god, don’t take me out dressed like this,” begged Todd.

    “So you are Todd Kelly?” asked the officer.

    “Yes,” replied Todd.

    “The same Todd Kelly wanted for jumping bail in Philadelphia?” continued the officer.

    “Yes,” replied Todd meekly.

    “You’re wanted on a variety of charges, we might even have a few to add out here,” said the second officer.

    “Including having a bad sense of fashion,” joked the first officer.

    The second cop laughed too. “Most hookers wouldn’t be caught dead looking that cheap! Most of ‘em here have a lot more class than that.”

    “I didn’t dress this way…they did it to me!” snapped Todd.

    “Yeah, like I haven’t heard that one before,” said the second officer.

    “Well, you can tell the booking officer all about it when we get to the station; now let’s get up,” said the first officer.

     “Look, you’ve got me, but please don’t humiliate me!” begged Todd. “Please, let me go shower and change.”

    “Sorry, but we can’t risk you escaping,” said second officer. “Don’t worry; we’ll give you a nice new outfit down at the county lockup as soon as we book you.”

    They untied Todd’s ankles and helped him up onto his feet. He struggled to stand in the four inch heels and the cops snickered at his discomfort.

    “Look, my family is rich, they’ll reward you if you let me change,” pleaded Todd.

    “I’d keep my mouth shut if I was you,” said the first officer. “You say one more word about money and we’ll add a charge of attempted bribery.”

    “These look like standard cuffs, so lets just keep him in them until we get to the station,” said the first officer.

    “Sounds good to me, let’s get him out of here so the detectives can search this place,” said the second officer. He pointed to the sex toys and pornography on the floor. “By the looks of this they’re going to have an interesting time.”

    “It’s not my stuff…they left it here,” interrupted Todd.

    The first cop pointed to a large bag of pot. “I suppose they left that here too.”

    “Please, let me change,” begged Todd.

    The cops just looked at each other and smiled. With one on each side of the captured fugitive they led Todd out of his apartment. He could see the glow of the TV camera lights as they slowly walked him to the waiting police cruiser.

    Todd tried to be strong, but soon tears were running down his face as he absorbed the humiliation that the three girls caused him. His knees felt week and he felt as if he was about to break down. It was all he could do to keep walking.

    “Don’t cry honey, you’ll ruin your makeup,” remarked one of the cops with a snicker.

Chapter 22

    Jirra was sleeping snuggly in her bed when the phone rang. She peered of out her warm cocoon of flannel sheets, blankets, and down comforter to look at her watch as she reached for the phone.

    “You still in bed?” asked Jen. “It’s nearly eight.”

    “Hey, Sunday is the one day I sleep in,” she replied.

    “I just wanted to let you know that Todd was just arrested.”

    Jirra sat up in bed, suddenly wide awake. “Really? They caught him so quickly?”

    “I don’t know all the details, but a friend in the LA police department just called me to let me know they have him in custody.”

    Jirra ran her fingers through her hair. “What do you know?”

    “Apparently the police were tipped off of Todd’s location. They found him dressed as a woman, tied up on the floor. Apparently someone has a really ironic sense of humor out there,” said Jen.

    “You mean someone dressed him up in women’s clothing?”

    “That’s what I was told. My friend said that the tipsters were apparently t-girls who had past business dealings with Todd. They saw the show and recognized him.”

    Jirra tried to absorb what Jen was saying.

    “Anyway, the girls suspected that he was the guy who was beating up local girls. They dressed him up to humiliate him,” continued Jen.

    “So they dressed him up and then called the police, wow I wish I could have seen that,” said Jirra.

    “You will. They also called all the TV stations, and apparently they have footage of Todd being led out by the police,” said Jen. “I suspect it will make all the news stations, but just to make sure you get to see it I’m having a copy of the news coverage sent to you.”

    “Normally I would think that was really cruel… but Todd has caused so many people a lot of pain,” said Jirra.

    “Jirra, he’s lucky they didn’t kill him. Besides being humiliated on TV is the least of his troubles. The police out there may be adding additional charges to his already long list,” said Jen. “They found a large bag of pot in his apartment. Looks like he might have been selling drugs too.”

    “Does this mean that they’re going to charge him out there on those attacks?” asked Jirra.

    “It’ll probably depend on what they turn up on him. I suspect that they’ll let the Philly DA prosecute him first. I think they have the stronger case against him,” said Jen.

    “Well, I just glad that he’s behind bars again,” said Jirra. “Thanks for the great news, I have to get dressed and let the others know.”

    “Okay, I have to place a few calls myself. Hopefully they can find his computer and we can see if he was the one sending the hate email. Talk to you later.”

Chapter 23

    Images of Todd’s arrest were soon all over the TV news and the newspapers. In addition, there were numerous postings on line. The campus paper carried the story on the front page. It showed Todd being led to a police car. The title above the photo said “What a drag it is getting caught,” in an obvious play off the Rolling Stones song.

    “I agree that whoever did it went overboard, but there is a sense of cosmic justice in this,” said Jill. She held up the paper and smiled. “He does look hot in a mini-skirt and heels.”

    “I agree that he got what he deserved,” added TC. “I mean part of what he did was to try and humiliate his victims. He seemed to take pleasure in that so it’s only fair that he got some public humiliation too.”

    “I suppose it could have been worse,” said Jirra as she looked at the photo. “I mean, he could have been killed.”

    The three were standing in a hallway waiting for their next class.

    “Don’t tell me you feel sorry for him,” said TC.

    Jirra shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know, I mean I’m more relaxed since I realized that he’s in custody. The coverage is a little overboard though. I just hope that this stunt doesn’t have an opposite effect, I mean it could make Todd look like a victim.”

    “Come on, you don’t think that a jury could be that dumb,” said Jill. “The guy is a hatemongering thug.”

    “Hey, there was one group that gave that woman who got burned with coffee millions of dollars,” said TC.

    “That’s different,” said Jill. “This will be a criminal case.”

    “Yes, but you know as much as I do that Todd has his share of supporters. He was able to recruit others to do his bidding. Remember how hard it was to get people to help us, if it wasn’t for us he might not have been caught at all. If he tries to come off looking as a misunderstood victim, he might get off,” vented Jirra.

    “All it will take is one or two jurists for the case to end in a mistrial,” added TC

    “Oh, I just though of something; have they found his computer?” asked Jill. “I’m sure that will help the prosecution.”

    “I don’t know, but the hate email has stopped. Celeste was getting several emails a day and there have been none since Todd was caught,” said Jirra. “What about you?”

    “They stopped too,” said Jill.

    “I wonder what the others will do, now that Todd has been caught,” interjected TC.

    “As you know, Cat has the inside track, and she has said that the DA’s office expects them to try and make a deal,” said Jirra.

 “Virginia already has agreed to provide information for the prosecution, so I don’t know how much the others can offer,” said Jill.

“Yes, but if they get one of the gang who was in on the attacks to confess, it will be a huge help to the prosecution,” said Jirra. “Cat says that it will be a race to the DA’s office.”

“Wow, just like on Law and Order,” said TC.

“I wonder what their take will be on this, I mean the way Todd was caught is too good to pass up,” said Jill.

“Do you think that the Erin Flynn show will try and use this?” asked TC.

“I doubt it,” said Jirra. “The episode has a set ending with the Todd-like character being killed.”

“Was that your idea?” asked Jill.

Jirra nodded. “It was my way of dealing with the attack.”

“I like it.” said TC.

“Well, we also wanted a story that couldn’t be accused of trying to influence the real case,” continued Jirra. “But, it did feel good to kill off the fictional Todd.”

“So when will the shooting start?” asked TC.

“That will be decided this week. I suspect that they’ll start as soon as possible. They want the story set in winter and they don’t want to risk an early spring,” explained Jirra.

Just then the bell rang and the students began to exit their classrooms. As Jirra and the others waited for the classroom to empty, she overheard students talking and joking about Todd’s arrest. She also wondered how many were also laughing at the attacks that Todd instigated.

Chapter 24

The next day Carla met with Jirra and the others concerning Todd’s arrest.

“We expect to have Todd back in Philly by Friday,” said Carla. “There was some feeling that he might fight extradition, but his lawyers have told him that it would be best if he came back here.”

“What caused this change in attitude? I saw his parents on TV last night saying that they didn’t feel he could get a fair trial here,” said Jill. 

“We made him accept the lesser of two evils,” said Carla.

“What do you mean? The charges in LA couldn’t have been worse than here,” said Jirra.

“The people that caught him implied that he was assaulting transgendered girls out there, but the police don’t have any filed reports; that’s not too surprising considering that some of the victims may have been working girls. To be honest, I’m not surprised that they didn’t kill him,” said Carla, she then sipped her coffee. “We found his computer. Combined with the data provided by Celeste and Jen Stevens we have confirmed he was the one making the threats.”

“But those charges can’t be worse than assault,” said Jill.

Beth snapped her fingers. “Oh course! You threatened to turn him over to the Feds!”

Carla nodded. “Very good Beth. We have evidence that he broke into numerous systems, all interstate, which is the business of the federal government. If we add all of offenses up he could be looking at a very long sentence in a federal prison and we’re not talking about a Club Fed type lockup.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t seem enough to convince him to come back here and face charges,” said Jirra.

“He still has to be convicted,” added Celeste.

“We also offered him a little more incentive,” replied Carla.

“What was that?” asked TC.

Carla set her mug down. “We gave his lawyers an offer. Todd will spend fifteen to twenty in a state prison, serving at least ten years before eligibility of parole, along with financial restitution to his victims.”

“Why would he accept that?” asked Jirra.

“If he does there won’t be an investigation of his family for providing assistance to him during his escape,” said Carla.

Jirra frowned. “Is this the best deal you can get?”

“We have a strong case and if we took it to trial I think we could get more, but there’s always the chance that a jury might set him free,” answered Carla. “The other advantage of settling without a trial is that the victims won’t have to testify. Jirra, I know you’ve said that you would, but several of the other victims are afraid of how they will be treated in cross-examination. To be honest, I can’t blame them. Their personal lives would be attacked by the defense.”

“You remember my friend Erika?” asked Cat.

The others nodded.

“She took the stand in the trial against the guy who raped her and the defense attorney was brutal,” said Cat. “It really stressed her out.”

“Exactly,” said Carla. “The defense probably suspects that the victims may be reluctant, but they can’t count on it.”

“So his family will walk away without being charged?” asked Jill.

“We have some evidence, some we’ve gathered and some provided by the Boudicca detectives. The thing is, being a DA involves give-and-take. I’m willing to let them go on these charges to put Todd away,” explained Carla. “But just so you know, Boudicca will turning their evidence over to some other federal agencies, so they’re not out of the woods yet.”

“You mean, the IRS?” asked Beth.

    “Among others,” said Carla. “Todd may have had some hired help with those computer break-ins. He personally didn’t have the kind of money to hire the talent and he doesn’t have all of the skills. The Feds suspect some kind of group might have been involved with some shady funding from his parents.”

    “Won’t that have an effect on the deal?” asked Jirra.

    “It would, if his lawyers knew about Boudicca’s investigation,” replied Carla. She then shrugged. “They’re a private detective company; I have no control over them.”

     Jirra nodded. “I get it.”

     “So when will you know if they’re going to take the offer?” asked Celeste.

    “We’re giving them until Monday,” said Carla. “I hope this is acceptable to you Jirra.”

    She rubbed her chin as she thought about it. “They’ll all do time, right?”

    “Yes,” replied Carla.

    “Can I make one request?” asked Jirra.

    Carla nodded.

    “Can you make them tell what they did in court?” Jirra asked. “I mean, make it part of the proceeding that they have to stand up and say what they did.”

    “You mean an allocution? Absolutely,” said Carla. “In fact, it is already part of the plea deal. If he refuses to do it then the deal is out the window.”

    “Good” replied Jirra. “I’m just glad that it will be over.”

    “Um, Carla what about the restitution?” asked Jill. “I know that some of the other victims could use the money. Some of the medical bills have been staggering.”

    “That will be determined, but each victim of assault will receive monetary restitution,” said Carla. “Jirra, I will talk to you and the others before we finalize any deals. I do want you to know that if Todd or any of the others try to pull anything I will take this to trial and push for the biggest sentences allowable.”

    “Thanks, Carla, I appreciate that,” said Jirra.

Chapter 25

    That evening Jirra called her Mom and told her the DA’s intentions.

    “I’m glad that it’s over,” said Jirra. “I really wasn’t all that excited about taking the stand; but I would have done it.”

    “I know that, Roo,” said Liz. “How’s everything else?”

    “I get to be with Alexis in a few days,” she replied.

    “I’m glad about that,” replied Liz. “I’m so happy that you have someone dear in your life.”

    “Mom, I have a question for you... not that we’re planning on doing anything right now, but how would you feel about Alexis and I starting a family?”

    There was a momentary pause from Liz. “Um, what brought this on?”

    Jirra told her Mom about her growing feelings.

    “Roo, you know that I love you and would support your decision. Are the feelings that strong?”

    “Sometimes,” replied Jirra. “It’s strange, when I had my first period I was terrified, but now there’s a feeling of… how do I put it…comfort… in the fact that I could have a baby. I mean this sounds weird, considering that I still feel funny about putting on makeup and dresses…does what I say make any sense whatsoever, or am I rambling?”

    “I think a little of both, Roo. Seriously, we’re in uncharted waters with what happened to you, so maybe this is normal. While Dan has been studying the petroglyphs, we still don’t know all the secrets about the canyon, and we probably never will. If it was used to change men into women, I’m sure that even if it was voluntary the transformed may have had internal conflicts. You had no say in what happened to you and no preparation, I’m amazed you’ve adapted as well as you have.”

    “Thanks, Mom,” replied Jirra. “That means a lot coming from you.”

    “You’re welcome, Roo,” said Liz.

    “You know, if I do decide to get pregnant, staying at the spa would solve a lot of privacy issues,” said Jirra.

    “I agree,” said Liz.

    “Don’t worry, we’re not going to do anything rash,” said Jirra.

    “I know that Roo, but when you two know the time is right, I’ll be here for you.”

Chapter 26

    Jirra tried to get back into her normal routine of going to class and studying, but it was difficult.

    Todd’s arrest and subsequent return to Philadelphia was one of the top news stories. It didn’t help that it was a rather slow news week. There was no disaster, no major crime, no Hollywood starlet getting arrested for drunk driving, no important sporting events, and even the weather stayed calm.

    Thankfully, most of her fellow students had no idea that Jirra was connected to the case. Those that did, respected her privacy, although the editor of the paper asked her if she wanted to be interviewed; Jirra declined.

    “When it’s all over, I’ll write an article,” she offered, and to her surprise this offer was accepted.

    Alexis’s arrival on campus was also a distraction; granted a nice one, but it was hard for Jirra to be so close to her lover, but having to stay apart.

    Jirra felt sorry for Alexis, who seemed to be interviewed on every news channel and talk show. Alexis said that she didn’t mind, as it was a necessary evil of being in the entertainment business.

    Jirra Tivoed the interviews and wondered if any of the interviewers ever watched any of their counterparts, as most of the questions were identical.

    The issue of Alexis’s sexuality came up in several of the interviews, and Jirra was impressed with the level of class that Alexis answered them.

    The production team was almost invisible as they scouted out filming locations. Jirra knew that they were there only because Alexis had told her.

    Most of the outside shooting on campus would be done on the weekend and at night so as not to interfere with the routine of the university. During the daytime hours of the week, the production team would shoot in the city proper.

    Alexis told Jirra that the city was very cooperative and agreed to provide whatever the production required. This was partly done to demonstrate that the city was a good place to do future productions and maybe get their own series.

    “Is there anything in the works?” asked Jirra.

    “There are always ideas for shows and movies and production teams are always looking for places,” replied Alexis as they talked over the phone.

    “What time will you be free on Saturday?” asked Jirra hopefully.

    “I’ll meet you in New Hope around noon,” she replied. “I have to make the rounds for the Saturday morning news shows.”

    “I could do your interview for you; I can probably guess most of the questions ahead of time!” replied Jirra.

    “I don’t even notice any more. Still, it’s better than when I made The Minotaur,” she said, referring to her last movie. “I had to sit in a studio, by myself, and every few minutes answer the same exact questions from reporters all over the country. I was supposed to pretend that I actually knew the reporter and loved their city…even if I had never been there.”

    “That’s good acting,” said Jirra.

    Alexis laughed. “I tell you, Roo, I’m so glad that I’m doing this series. It’s as stable as you can get in this business.”

    “You still planning on retiring when it’s over?” asked Jirra.

     “From acting, absolutely,” she replied.

    “What do want to do?” asked Jirra.

    “Besides raise a family with you, my love?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra felt her face flush at Alexis’s answer. “I can’t wait for that.”

    “Neither can I. No, I’m just a few credits shy of finishing my degree. I would like to go to grad school and then teach,” she said.

    “That would be nice,” said Jirra.

    “Well, I’m fixed financially for the conceivable future, so why not? I’d like to teach at one of the small colleges up here, if that’s okay with you.”

    “That would be great,” said Jirra.

    “Well, we have time to talk about this, Roo. I gotta run, I have dinner with some city leaders soon, I love you,” she said.

    “I love you too, Alexis,” replied Jirra.

Chapter 27

    Jirra arrived at the inn near New Hope around eleven-thirty. The weather was cold, but clear and thankfully the next storm wasn’t due to arrive until mid-week.

    She was dressed in jeans, sweater, leather coat, and her cowgirl boots. She carried a small suitcase and a garment bag, along with her makeup bag and purse as she stepped into the inn that over looked the semi-frozen Delaware River.

    The woman sitting behind the counter smiled at her as she entered.

    “Are you Jirra Reid?” the woman asked.

    Jirra nodded as she set her bags down. “Yes, I am.”

    “I’m Jean Zeigler and I’m the owner of the inn,” said the woman.

    Jirra looked at the athletic looking woman and estimated that she looked like she was in her mid-thirties. The woman was dressed in a blue knit sweater and a gray skirt. Her brunette hair was styled short.

    “Your friend Alexis called and said that she will be here around twelve-thirty,” said Jean as she brought out the register. “I’m so glad you two have decided to stay here again.”

    “It’s a very nice inn,” said Jirra. “I don’t remember meeting you the last time I was here.”

    The woman nodded. “I was out of town that week. My sister Joan was running the Inn that weekend.”

    Jirra remembered the other woman and could see the family resemblance.

    “I’m also good friends with Kari and Diana,” said Jean with a smile.

    “They’re nice people,” said Jirra.

    “I’ve known Kari since I was a kid. I’m so happy for both of them, they’re a great couple,” said Jean.

     Just then another woman walked in from the office and stood next to Jean.

    The other woman was of similar build as Jean, but had curly red hair.

    “This is my partner, Rita,” said Jean.

    Rita extended her hand and Jirra shook it.

    “I own a small boutique in New Hope, I hope you get a chance to stop by while you’re here,” said Rita.

    Jirra smiled back. “What is it called?”

    “Rita’s. I know it’s not very creative, but I have a big ego,” replied the woman with a laugh.

    Jirra couldn’t help but feel as if she knew the two women. In some ways they reminded her of Tara and Cari, her friends back in New Mexico.

    “I’ll try and stop by,” said Jirra.

    “Cool, it’s been kinda quiet the past few weeks, we don’t get many visitors here this time of year,” said Rita.

    Jirra wasn’t sure what sort of plans Alexis had, and wasn’t sure if she wanted to walk around the town.

    As if she could read Jirra’s mind, Jean reached over and placed her hand gently on Jirra’s. “Jirra, we’re a tight community here and we protect family,” said Jean. “So, you and Alexis can just relax have a nice weekend together, no one will bother you.”

    “Thanks,” replied Jirra.

    “Your room is number three; it is at the top of the stairs and to the right. It has a nice view of the river,” said Jean as she handed Jirra two keys.

    “It was nice meeting both of you,” said Jirra as she picked up her bags and headed up to her room.

Chapter 28

    The room was lovely. It was larger than the last room they had stayed in.

    The first thing she did when she entered the room was take off her boots.

The room was decorated in colonial style, but it wasn’t overdone. The furniture was all modern, but aged to look antique. The bed was huge and very soft.

    Jirra was also pleased to see that there was a large bathroom, with a Jacuzzi bathtub.

    She unpacked her things and then looked out the window. The view was very nice and she could see both the canal and the river.

    She checked her watch and saw that it was twelve-twenty-two. That meant Alexis would be here soon. Jirra could hardly wait. She had last been Alexis in early January and that seemed like eons ago.

    Closing her eyes, she thought about how good it felt to be in Alexis’s arms. It didn’t bother her any more that Alexis took the more dominant role when they made love. It had been a problem when they first got together, but over time, it felt more natural. There were even times when Jirra wished that Alexis was more controlling in bed.

    She was snapped out her daydreams by the sound of a key unlocking the door. Jirra turned to see Alexis enter the room.

    Alexis was wearing a gray colored suit.

    “I came directly from my morning meeting,” she said as she walked into the room. After setting her bags down and closing the door she walked over to where Jirra was standing and embraced her.

    “I’ve missed you so badly, Roo,” she said softly as she pulled Jirra closer.

    “I know…I feel the…feel the same way,” replied Jirra.

    Alexis smiled and coyly slicked her lips. “Are you trembling?”

    Jirra nodded. “I’m so happy to see you.”

    “I was going to suggest we go to lunch, but I think that can wait,” said Alexis as she led Jirra to the bed.

They sat down next to each other and Alexis began to caress Jirra.

“I know you wish that these were smaller,” said Alexis as she gently ran her hands over Jirra’s large breasts. “But I love the fact that they’re so big.”

Alexis then carefully pulled Jirra’s sweater off.

“They’re so nice,” continued Alexis as she undid Jirra’s bra. “Lie down, my sweet.”

Jirra did as she was told and fell back on the bed. Alexis stood up and slowly undressed in front of her. Their eyes were glued to each other’s.

Jirra began to undo her belt.

“No…please let me do it,” said Alexis who slipped onto the bed. “I want to unwrap you, my love.”

Jirra beamed with anticipation as Alexis went back to work undressing her.

“There’s no need to rush,” whispered Alexis as she gently undressed Jirra. “I’ve been thinking about this all week.”

Jirra wanted to say that she felt the same way, but all she could do was nod as Alexis’s hands caressed her body.

“You have such a lovely body, Roo,” said Alexis as she finished undressing her. “You are such a beautiful woman and I’m so happy that you’re mine.”

Jirra nodded.

“Now, my sweet, kiss me,” ordered Alexis softly.

Jirra eagerly obeyed.

Chapter 29

“So, are you hungry?” asked Alexis as they got dressed. She put on a pair of jeans and a red turtleneck sweater.

“After that, I’m famished!” replied Jirra with a giggle as she slipped on her sweater.

“After that? Please, that was just the beginning…wait until tonight!”

Both began to laugh.

The outside temperature was hovering around the mid-thirties as they walked the short distance into town.

They stopped for lunch at a small café on Main Street. It featured Cuban-American cuisine. It was after the lunch rush and they were the only ones in the main dining room.

“You know, we really shouldn’t eat too much as I imagine that Kari and Diana will have quite a spread out tonight,” said Jirra.

Alexis looked at the menu. “I agree, actually a bowl of the Cuban black bean soup would be enough to get by.”

“That does sound good,” said Jirra. “Do want to split a salad or an appetizer too? They have some interesting ones.”

Alexis nodded. “The apple pecan chicken sounds interesting, although I’m not sure it that will go with the soup. Oooo, we could get the chicken and veggie potstickers, they sound good.”

“Okay,” replied Jirra.

Over lunch, Alexis told Jirra all about her meetings.

“The city is far more excited about the filming than your university,” said Alexis as she ate her soup.

“That’s not that surprising. By the way, I must congratulate you on your timing. Did Todd’s arrest come up at all?”

“Just once,” she replied. “The university was worried that our story might be too close to the real case. We showed them the script and they didn’t have too many concerns.”

“What concerns did they have?” asked Jirra as she tasted the chicken.

“They wanted to know why the victims had to be gay,” said Alexis. “One even asked if we could have made it so the victims were straight and the villains gay.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

Alexis shook her head. “I wanted to tell them that our show is a crime drama and not science fiction.”

Jirra almost choked as she heard Alexis’s reply. “I wish you had told them that.”

“Me too, but part of my job is to be diplomatic,” she replied.

Jirra nodded.

“Oh, guess what! When we come into town to do the actual shooting, Teri Gross wants to interview me on her show Fresh Air,” said Alexis.

“Cool,” replied Jirra.

“You want to come along?” asked Alexis.

Jirra stared at Alexis to see if she was being serious.

“I don’t mean that you’ll be part of the interview, but it would be interesting for you to see how the show is done,” said Alexis.

“Oh, that would be cool,” said Jirra. “What if she asks you about your love life?”

“I’ll introduce you after the show,” said Alexis. “If that’s okay with you.”

Jirra thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “Sure, why not, I mean eventually we’re going to have to face it. I have to admit that it has been a concern…knowing that eventually someone in the media will find out. Maybe…maybe it would be a good time and place to announce it… and to do it on our terms.”

It was Alexis’s turn to be surprised. “You mean that?”

“Yes…no…I don’t know. I mean, I love you so much, and I’d rather we do this when we’re ready and not be outed by the press. I mean, you did that when you came out, you pretty much made it a non-story,” said Jirra.

“Once we do it, there’s no going back. I’ve been living in the spotlight for a while and have gotten used to it. You know that this will make your life more public,” explained Alexis.

“My life right now is pretty boring. I spend most of my time in class or studying, I don’t go to parties, I don’t get in trouble…well, not of my own doing,” said Jirra with a laugh. “I’d rather we do it together, rather than having some reporter show up unexpectedly.”

Alexis nodded. “I love you so much.”

Jirra smiled back. “I love you too.”

As they finished lunch, the manager of the restaurant came up to their table. She asked if they enjoyed their meals.

“Yes, it was wonderful,” replied Alexis.

“Thank you. Um, I hope you don’t mind, but would you mind if we took a photo of you? I love your show and we’re all so proud of you,” said the woman.

Alexis smiled back. “Sure, no problem.”

Chapter 30

After lunch, Jirra and Alexis walked up Main Street, exploring the shops and boutiques of New Hope,

They stopped just outside of Rita’s. Jirra told Alexis about Rita and Jean.

“I suppose it would only be polite to stop in,” said Jirra.

“Sure, beside, maybe I can find something nice for you,” added Alexis.

Rita was sitting behind the counter reading; when she saw Jirra and Alexis enter she set the book down and stood up to greet them.

“It’s good to see you again, Jirra,” said Rita.

“This is my friend Alexis,” said Jirra.

Rita broke out in a huge grin. “It’s a pleasure to meet you; I’m a huge fan of your show.”

Alexis smiled back and, for a few minutes, chatted with Rita as if she was greeting an old friend.

Jirra was always amazed how Alexis always handled herself so professionally, no matter how many times she was greeted by a fan.

Rita’s store was a mix of new and vintage clothing. Even though shopping for clothes was far from one of favorite things to do, Jirra discovered several things that she actually liked.

“Oh, we just got something that would be perfect for you, Jirra,” said Rita. “I haven’t even tagged it yet, but I’m positive it would be great on you.”

Rita dashed into the back and quickly returned with a forest green dress. The material looked liked velvet. It had long sleeves and a scoop neck.

“What do you think?” asked Rita.

Before Jirra could speak, Alexis interrupted. “I think it would look great on you, Jirra.”

“Our dressing room is in the back,” said Rita as she handed Jirra the dress.

Jirra knew that she was stuck and all she could do was smile and try on the dress.

The dress was a perfect fit, and while it was a little more revealing that Jirra normally preferred she had to admit that it looked good.

Alexis was far more enthusiastic. “Oh, you have to let me buy that for you, Roo, it’s perfect!”

“I agree, Jirra,” said Rita.

“You really like it?” asked Jirra.

Alexis nodded rigorously. “I think you should wear it tonight.”

“I don’t have any shoes that go with it,” said Jirra as she studied herself in the mirror.

“What size do you wear?” asked Rita.

Jirra told her.

“I thought so. I have just the thing!”

Rita darted off and returned with a pair of knee-high dark brown boots. The boots had three inch heels.

“The leather is Italian and is so soft. I would have kept these for myself, but they’re not my size,” explained Rira.

Jirra took the books and was surprised how soft they were.

“Try them on,” said Alexis, who was obviously enjoying herself.

Jirra sat down and tried them on. Just as Rita said they were a perfect fit. Jirra had to admit that they were very comfortable.

“They’re perfect,” said Alexis. “Now, Rita, do you have any lingerie?”

Rita nodded and motioned for them to follow her. “I know something that will be perfect.”

Chapter 31

“Thank you,” replied Jirra as they walked back to the inn. She was carrying several bags of clothes.

“You’re welcome. I know you don’t like getting all dolled up, but I love seeing you dressed nice,” said Alexis, who also carrying some of the bags.

“I don’t mind that much…especially if I’m doing it for you,” said Jirra.

Alexis slipped her arms around Jirra’s waist. “I’m so happy that we found each other.

“I feel the same way,” said Jirra.

“That dress really is nice. The color is perfect for you,” continued Alexis. “I want you to come up to Boston sometime soon; they have some great shops up there and I’ve seen several outfits that would incredible on you.”

Jirra nodded.

“And before you say anything, I love spending money on you,” said Alexis.  “I know that you don’t really like wearing dresses, but I appreciate it when you do.”

“I’m not as bad as I used to be,” said Jirra.

“True, but I know it is still a struggle for you,” continued Alexis. “Also, another nice thing about dressing you up…is undressing you.”

Jirra laughed. “You’re so bad.”

Alexis leaned over and kissed Jirra on her cheek. “No…I’m damn good!”

Jirra leaned closer to Alexis. She realized that Alexis was right about the dress. It was silly, but when Jirra wore a dress or a skirt, part of her felt that she was doing something wrong, and it was the last vestiges of her masculinity. But, if dressing up made Alexis happy, it was worth it. Life was made up of compromises, and so was love. So this was real love, she thought as she pulled closer to Alexis.

Chapter 32

“You look lovely,” said Alexis admiringly as she sat on the bed watching Jirra look at herself in the mirror.

 “Thank you,” replied Jirra, as she ran her hands down over her new green dress. “Sorry, I’m just a little nervous about meeting Faith.”

“Don’t be, Faith is a very nice person,” said Alexis.

“What does she know about me?” asked Jirra.

“She knows that I’m in love with you,” said Alexis.

Jirra shook her head. “You know that’s not what I mean.”

“She knows you’re transgendered, but again I wouldn’t worry about that. Remember, she practically raised Diana,” explained Alexis. “Of course I haven’t told her about your actual transformation, I figure you’ll know if and when it’s the right time to tell her.”

“I haven’t told Diana about that either,” added Jirra.

“I think they would accept you, but I also don’t see any reason to tell them about it right now,” continued Alexis. “Okay, are you ready?”

Jirra nodded.

“Okay, let’s go. It won’t take too long; Diana and Kari live just a mile or so from here.”

The house was a two-story stone house, located on a large piece of property that overlooked the both the Delaware Canal and the Delaware River. The house was located on non-river side of River Road.

Alexis parked her car in the driveway and they got out and walked up to the front door.

“Now I know the real reason why I don’t like to wear dresses, I’m freezing!” complained Jirra.

“We’ll be inside in a moment,” said Alexis.

Alexis rang the doorbell and they heard the barking from what sounded like two very large dogs.

“Just a minute,” said Kari from behind the door. “Bach, Brahms, go lie down!”

Kari opened the door and immediately hugged Alexis and Jirra as they entered.

“Sorry about the puppies, but they like to be the first at the door,” apologized Kari.

Jirra looked over to see two huge German Shepards crouched on their haunches.

“Puppies?” asked Jirra with a grin.

Kari nodded. “Shhh, don’t tell them that they aren’t! They’re both very friendly. Do you like dogs?”

Jirra nodded as did Alexis.

“Well, let me introduce you to them. Come here, boys, meet some new friends and be gentle,” ordered Kari.

The two dogs immediately jumped to their paws and trotted over to greet the girls. Both dogs’ tails were wagging furiously.

After a quick sniffing, they sat down and let Jirra and Alexis pet them.

“They’re gorgeous,” said Alexis.

“Thank you, they’re my babies” said Kari. “They’re brothers, and I’ve had them for five years. This is Bach, he’s the clown of the two; and the other is Brahms, he may be a little smaller, but he’s the tougher one, aren’t you boy?”

Brahms let out a playful, but loud bark. 

“How big are they?” asked Jirra as she bent down to pet Bach.

“Bach is ninety pounds and Brahms is eighty,” said Kari proudly. “Did you have any problems finding the place?”

“No, none at all,” said Alexis. “From what we could see you have a beautiful house.”

“I love it,” said Kari, as she took their coats. “I’m glad that it’s on this side of the road; every few years the river side seems to flood. Well, follow me; everyone else is in the kitchen.”

Jirra handed Kari a bag.

“What’s this?” asked Kari as she opened it up.

“Just a little gift to thank you for inviting us up,” said Jirra.

Kari pulled out the bottle of wine. “Oooh, very nice selection, thank you both.”

After hanging up the coats, Kari led them down a long hall to a very large kitchen. It seemed to take up the entire back part of the house. The food preparation area was to the right, and consisted of a professional gas range, two ovens, a large refrigerator, and a double sink. There was lots of counter space and a large island in the middle of the area.

To the left was a long oak table. There was a well stocked bar built into the wall. In the far end of the room was a Franklin stove that provided heat to the room.

Diana was sitting at the table with an older man and woman.

The two dogs followed Kari, Jirra, and Alexis into the kitchen then immediately flopped down on their dog pillows that were located in the corner next the Franklin stove.

“Well, I’ll let Diana make the introductions, as I have to check on dinner,” said Kari. She also showed Diana the bottle of wine.

Diana and the others stood up and hugged Alexis and Jirra.

“I’m so happy you could come out here,” said Diana.

“We’re happy you invited us,” said Jirra.

“It’s good to see you again,” said Alexis.

“Jirra, this is Faith and Max,” said Diana.

Faith smiled as she greeted Jirra and Alexis. “Alexis has told me so much about you, Jirra, I’m pleased to finally meet you.”

“The pleasure is all mine, I’m a huge fan of your books,” replied Jirra.

“Thank you. And this is my husband, Max,” continued Faith.

“Pleased to meet you, Jirra,” he said as he greeted her. “And it’s always good to see you again, Alexis.”

He gave both women hugs.

    “Jirra, that is a beautiful dress, the color is absolutely perfect for you,” said Faith.

    “I told you,” said Alexis with a slight nudge to Jirra’s ribs.

    “Thank you, Alexis picked it out for me this afternoon,” said Jirra.

    “It really is lovely, did you buy it in town?” asked Diana.

    “Yes at Rita’s,” replied Jirra.

    “I should have known, she always has the best things in town,” said Diana.

    “Before this discussion of clothing gets going too far, can I get you two something to drink?” asked Max.

    Alexis saw that the others were drinking wine and looked at Jirra who nodded.

    “We’ll have what you’re having,” said Alexis.

    Max nodded. “Excellent choice!”

    He walked over to the bar area and opened a bottle. He filled two glasses for Jirra and Alexis and then topped off everyone’s glasses.

    “This is a really nice Sauvignon Blanc,” he said.

    Kari walked over and picked up her glass and held it up. “To friendship!”

    Jirra had to admit that the wine was excellent and told Max.

    “Thank you, Jirra. I wish I could take credit for picking it out, but it was a gift from a secret admirer,” he said with a wink.

    Jirra giggled in spite of herself.

    Faith shook her head in mock disgust. “Don’t believe that story for a minute. Max recently did some work for the Agency and the agent in charge sent him the wine to thank him.”

    “I still think she gave it to me because I’m so handsome and debonair,” he interjected.

    “If anything, Ally gave it to you because you reminded her of her grandfather,” countered Faith.

    “Ally Burns?” asked Jirra.

    Faith and Max looked at Jirra with a surprised look on their faces.

    “You know her?” asked Max. “Now, I’m really impressed!”

    Jirra shook her head. “No, but one of my best friends has told me so much about her, I think I do. She’s done some great work getting Internet predators off the streets.”

    “That she has,” said Max.

    “Well, sit down and relax, dinner will be ready in thirty minutes,” said Kari.

    “It smells marvelous,” commented Jirra as she sat down.

    There was a pleasant smell of spices and roasting chicken in the air.

    “Thank you, it’s one of my favorites, and I love the way it fills the house with its aroma,” said Kari as she walked towards the oven.

    “It’s Scandinavian chicken with saffron and cinnamon,” explained Kari. “It’s actually very easy to make. You just mix up some garlic, saffron, cinnamon, salt, flour, red wine vinegar and olive oil and add the pieces of chicken. You let it marinate for at least an hour, although I prefer a day, and then roast the chicken. Once it’s cooked for thirty minutes you add some white wine and chicken boullion and cook it another 30 minutes, that’s pretty much it.”

    “Well, it sounds wonderful, I’d love to have that written down, if you don’t mind,” said Jirra.

    Kari smiled back as she checked the rice. “Sure thing, I’ll email it to you.”

    “I really love your kitchen,” said Alexis as she sipped her wine. “I’d like to do something like this to my home someday.”

    “That was Diana’s idea,” said Kari.

    “There used to be a wall here and we’re sitting in what was a family room,” said Diana. “We had the wall removed and extended the kitchen. This way, Kari can cook and still be part of the conversation. We have a dining room but we almost never use it.”

    “The puppies like it too,” added Kari.

    “After dinner, we’ll give you the complete tour of the house,” said Diana.

    “How old is the house?” asked Jirra.

    “The first part was built in 1782, and was expanded in 1892, and again in 1963,” answered Kari.

    “Wow,” said Jirra.

    Max got up and opened another bottle of wine; he the refilled everyone’s glasses.

    “Jirra, I just want to say how impressed I was when I first read your story,” said Faith. “You have a real knack for storytelling.”

    Jirra felt her cheeks getting warm. “Thank you.”

    Faith smiled. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed by, Jirra. Alexis has told me that you assisted on a script for Jennifer Stevens.”

    “I just wrote the first draft,” said Jirra.

    “She’s being modest,” interrupted Alexis. “Jen used ninety percent of what Jirra wrote. They start filming in the spring.”

    “Is this what you want to do?” continued Faith.

    Jirra shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure. I do know that I want to write, but in addition to writing stories, I like the idea of working as a reporter. I’m now on the campus paper, even though I haven’t been given any assignments yet.”

    “Their loss,” said Faith. “Well, having done both I can understand your indecision.”

    “You wrote for the Boston Globe, right?” asked Jirra.

    Faith nodded. “That was a long time ago. I’ve been a fulltime author since 1983, and while it hasn’t been as exciting as being an investigative reporter, it has been very rewarding.”

    “Yes, but she still gets involved in the occasional story when she can,” said Max with a wink.

    “Not as often as I would like,” said Faith.

    “Are you working on a new book?” asked Diana.

    “It’s just an idea right now,” said Faith.

    “The dining room table is covered with notes again,” interjected Max.

    Diana smiled. “What is it about?”

    “I’m working with several agencies on the international sex-slave industry. In fact, I got some really good information from Allie Burns,” said Faith.

    “You should talk to my friend Celeste Farnsworth,” said Jirra, who told Faith about Celeste’s foundation. “I’ll talk to her about it, and I’m sure she’d like to help you.”

    “Thank you, Jirra,” said Faith.

Kari then interrupted them. “Okay dinner is ready. Diana, can you come give me a hand?”

Chapter 33

    Dinner consisted of the chicken, rice, green beans, and several loaves of fresh French bread.

    “This is delicious, Kari,” remarked Jirra.

    “I’m glad you like it,” replied Kari. “Did you talk to your friend about coming out here to work with me?” 

    Jirra nodded. “Yes, and she’s very interested.”

    “Her name is Lindsey, right?”

    Again Jirra nodded.

    “Well, if you give her my contact info, I’ll talk to her and give her the details. It would be fun to have someone around who is actually interested in cooking.”

    Diana pointed at her chest. “I love your cooking and helping occasionally, but you’re not the most patient person to work with.”

    Kari laughed. “That’s true, but I’m much better with people that I’m not emotionally attached to. Actually, the real reason that I want to meet Lindsey is that I want to add some Southwestern items to the menu.”

    “I’m sure that Lindsey will be more than happy to exchange recipes,” said Jirra.

    “Do you think she’d be willing to come out here for a month or so this summer? It would be a paid position,” said Kari.

    “I’m sure she would, she’s always wanted to see the East Coast,” replied Jirra.

    “Speaking of summer, do you have plans, Jirra?” asked Faith as she buttered a piece of bread.

    “I was planning on going back to New Mexico for a while for the movie’s filming, why?” asked Jirra.

    “How would like to come up to New England and work with me?” asked Faith.

    Jirra stared back and then looked at Alexis, who was smiling.

    “I think she just offered you a job,” said Alexis knowingly.

    Jirra still couldn’t reply. It was such a great offer that it left her speechless.

    “I think it would be a good experience for you,” continued Faith. “I know you can write entertaining stories, but how would you like to learn how to write scripts?”

    Jirra looked at Faith and then Alexis again.

    Alexis broke out in laughter. “I didn’t think this was possible, but you actually made her speechless!”

    Jirra shook her head in disgust. “I’d love that, Faith.”

    “Excellent, now this isn’t an unpaid internship or anything like that, you’ll be paid,” explained Faith.

    “Thank you again, I promise I won’t let you down,” said Jirra excitedly.

    “I know you won’t,” said Faith.

Chapter 34

    After dinner, Kari and Diana gave Jirra and Alexis a tour of the house. There were four bedrooms on the second floor; although one had been converted into Diana’s office. Kari’s office was on the first floor just off the kitchen.

    “There’s also an attic, and I’d love to do something with it someday when I find the time,” explained Kari. “It has windows that have a great view of the river.”

    “How long have you had this place?” asked Alexis.

    “Ten years. I bought it with the money my parents left me,” she said. “I grew up nearby, but the house was too mainstream for my tastes, but then so was the neighborhood for that matter.”

    “It must have been expensive,” said Alexis.

    Kari shook her head. “It had been empty for three years and needed a lot of work. In fact, I lived on the ground-floor for the first year. I saved money on renovations by using the barter system. My restaurant was open and doing well so I traded catering for construction work. I got my roof by doing the builder’s wedding reception. It saved me a lot of money and I made a lot of great friends too.”

    “It’s really nice,” said Jirra.

    “Well, the next time you come out, we’d like you to stay here,” said Diana.

    “No arguments, Jirra, you’re family now,” added Kari.

    “Thank you,” replied Jirra,

    “Yes, that’s very nice of you,” added Alexis.

    “Well, let’s go downstairs for coffee and dessert,” said Kari. “I made my favorite Dutch apple-pie recipe.”

Chapter 35

    They stayed in the kitchen for coffee and the pie.

    “Jirra, Alexis told me that your mother works at the spa as the staff doctor, how does she like that?” asked Faith.

    “She’s very happy out there. The owner of the spa is her old college roommate. Mom is also engaged to a really nice man,” said Jirra.

    “But you’re not originally from New Mexico, are you?” asked Max.

    Jirra shook her head. “I grew up all over. My mom and dad were both in the army. Mom as a doctor and Dad was infantry, he was killed in Afghanistan.”

    “I’m so sorry,” said Max.

    “That’s why we moved to New Mexico,” explained Jirra. “Mom needed a job and we both needed a fresh start.”

    Jirra took a sip of her coffee. “I was still a guy when we moved out there.”

    Faith reached over and put her hand on Jirra’s arm. “You don’t need to explain to us, Jirra. We accept you for who you are.”

    Jirra nodded. She was about to tell the fictionalized story that she had SRS but stopped. These people were so nice and really felt like family. She glanced at Alexis, who seemed to read her mind and nodded.

    “I need to tell you all something, I feel I can trust you and I hate being deceptive around people that mean a lot to me,” explained Jirra.

    Alexis reached over and slipped her arm around Jirra’s shoulders.

    “What is it, Jirra?” asked Diana. “Were you abused?”

    Jirra shook her head. “It’s nothing like that…actually it’s a whole lot stranger.” She then told them about how she was transformed.

    “It’s all true,” added Alexis.

    “I believe you, Jirra,” said Max.

    “We all believe you, dear,” added Faith.

    Jirra wiped away a tear. “Thanks, I’m glad you all believe me. I mean it’s a pretty incredible tale.”

    “I suspected you were hiding something, Jirra, but I had no idea. I just want you to know that you can count on us to support you,” said Diana.

    “Hell, I’m no good at words at a time like this,” blurted out Kari, who got out of her chair and hugged Jirra.

    The others followed suit.

Chapter 36

    “I’m very honored that you trusted us enough to share your secret with us, Jirra,” said Diana. “I know how hard it is to trust people especially when you don’t know how they’ll react. It’s not exactly something that you can pull back.”

    Jirra nodded. “I know what you mean. Most of my family doesn’t speak to me any more and they just think that I had SRS. I can’t imagine what they’d do if they knew the truth.”

    “I wouldn’t judge them all in one broad stroke, Jirra. Some of our family came around when Diana had her surgery,” said Faith.

    “And some didn’t,” added Diana. “My birth father never really accepted me; thankfully I got Max!”

    Max smiled back. “Thank you,” he replied.

    “I know, but rejection once is bad enough,” said Jirra.

    “So, the physical change happened immediately?” asked Kari.

    “I suppose so. I blacked out right after the lightning strike, when I came to, I felt strange, but I didn’t notice the actual changes until after I was out of the caldron and that took a couple of hours,” explained Jirra.

    “How are you dealing with conflicts?” asked Diana.

    “Friends and family have helped, and I’m seeing a therapist now and she’s helping me a lot,” said Jirra. “It’s not as bad as it originally was, but I still have issues.”

    “That’s good that you’re seeing a professional, I still see mine every now and then to deal with my past,” said Diana.

    “Dr. Sullivan is very good,” said Faith.

    “Dr. Sullivan, Jenna Sullivan?” asked Jirra. She had a stunned look on her face.

    Diana shook her head. “No, Angela Sullivan, she has an office in Providence. I think you’re seeing her daughter. Angela told me something about Jenna moving to the area the last time we talked.”

    “She has an office in Lansdale,” said Jirra. “This is so weird.”

    “Small world,” interjected Max. “I’ve known Jenna for many years myself. She used to work at The Agency.”

    “That’s where Beth met her,” said Jirra.

    “How many agents do you know?” asked Max with a grin on his face.

    “Only Beth, oh, I did meet her parents once; Steve and Maggie Williams.”

    Max snapped his finger. “I knew that her name was familiar! Diana gave me all your names when that trouble was happening last fall and I was sure I knew the name. Of course, Beth Williams! My god, I am getting old. I remember when Maggie and Steve got married. I couldn’t make the wedding as I was…well… working. Marrying Maggie was the best thing that old pirate Steve ever did.”

    “I don’t think I’ve ever met them,” said Faith.

    Max leaned back in his chair and smiled. “You’d like them. Maggie is a great agent and an even better person, and Steve… well just imagine a younger me.”

    “Oh dear god, and some poor woman married him!” exclaimed Faith.

    There was a round of laughter. 

    “I think I’ve just been insulted!” replied Max.

    “Max, she’s kidding! Right, Faith?” interjected Diana.

    “Maybe,” said Faith as she blew a kiss at Max.

    “Thank you my dear. Anyway, I knew they adopted a daughter, but I never met her. I know that she means the world to Steve. When he told me he was not only getting married but adopting a daughter I was stunned. He said that he couldn’t believe he was so lucky,” said Max.

    “Beth loves both of them intensely,” added Jirra.

    “This has been a rather incredible evening,” said Kari. “I mean, it makes my life look downright boring.”

    “I wouldn’t worry about that,” said Diana. “There is something nice about having a regular life, you’ve helped me and that’s a very big deal.”

    “Thank you, my love,” replied Kari.

Chapter 37

    “You sure that we can’t help you clean up?” asked Jirra.

    “What and risk getting that dress dirty!” exclaimed Kari. “No, I’ve put the food away and the dishes will go in the dishwasher. I’ll get the rest in the morning.”

    “It was a pleasure having both of you in our home,” said Diana. “Now, that you’ve finished my class and you’re no longer my student I hope we can become good friends, Jirra.”

    “I’d like that,” said Jirra.

    “I’ll see you in a few weeks, Jirra,” said Faith. “We’ll go over the details of the summer job then.”

    “Sounds good,” replied Jirra. “I’m so excited about working for you.”

    “So I am,” said Faith. “Oh, can you email me info on that spa? Max and I could use a little vacation.”

    “Sure thing,” replied Jirra. “It was great meeting you too, Max.”

    “The pleasure was all mine, Jirra,” he said.

    “Will you be in Philly when the show is shot?”

    “I just might,” he said.

    “Cool,” replied Jirra.

    The goodbyes continued for another twenty minutes before Jirra and Alexis left.

    The night was crystal clear and the winter constellations were shining bright.

    “It’s so beautiful out here. Living in the city I forgot what the stars looked like,” commented Jirra as they walked towards the car.

    “I know what you mean. I love the long weekends when I head out to the Cape,” said Alexis. “By the way, that was very nice of you to show trust like that.”

    “It just felt right,” said Jirra as she stood next to the car. A shiver ran up her spine as winter’s icy fingers teased at the more sensitive parts of her anatomy beneath her dress. “Can we continue this conversation inside? I’m freezing!”

    “Oh, don’t worry, Roo, you’ll be warm very soon!”

    Jirra giggled. “Just open the door, start the engine and put the heat on max!”

Chapter 38

    Jirra cuddled close to Alexis under the covers of their bed following their lovemaking.

    “God I love being with you,” sighed Alexis as she ran her fingers through Jirra’s hair.

    “It would be so nice to have a life like Diana and Kari,” said Jirra.

    “I know,” agreed Alexis. “They’re so good for each other. Faith told me how Kari has helped Diana heal from the abuse she suffered as a teen.”

    “I can’t imagine going through what she did, it must have been awful,” said Jirra. “It makes me feel foolish when I start to worry about myself.”

    “Don’t try and compare traumas; they aren’t equal. The important thing is to address them,” said Alexis. “You shouldn’t let your worries grow inside, they’ll only get worse.”

    Jirra looked up at Alexis. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

    “Well…now that you brought it up,” replied Alexis.

    “Oh, I brought it up?” counted Jirra.

    Alexis snickered. “Okay, I brought it up, but you have been carrying something around, is it the pregnancy thing again?”

    Jirra nodded. “When we were walking around town today, did you notice that pregnant woman as we left Rita’s?”

    “I think so,” said Alexis.

    “Well, I noticed her…and part of me wished I was her. Christ what’s wrong with me? I have issues wearing a dress; yet I want to have a baby!”

    “I don’t know…maybe you should talk to your rodent friend,” said Alexis.

    “I suppose you’re right,” said Jirra. “If this is part of my programming, thanks to the transformation, how does it affect us?”

    “I love you, Roo, and I have to admit that the idea of raising a family with you is pretty appealing. Besides, I think you’d look cute with a fat belly,” said Alexis as she ran her hand across Jirra’s tummy.

    Jirra giggled. “You’re so bad!”

    “Seriously, how strong are these feelings?” asked Alexis.

    “They’re like passing sensations; if I see a baby or a pregnant woman then they fill me, but they pass pretty fast too. Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of pregnant women at Penn,” she replied.

    “Do they last the same length?”

    “Pretty much so,” replied Jirra. “They do seem more intense at times than others.”

    “Really? Have you noticed a pattern?”

      “Like what?” asked Jirra.

    “How do I put this…you’re not on birth control, right?”

    Jirra nodded. “I was, but I went off a while ago.”

    “Okay, and you have a normal period?”

    Jirra nodded. “As normal as they can be.”

    “When do you notice that you react most strongly to seeing a baby or a pregnant woman?”

    Jirra thought about it looking as if she was running figures in her head. “Oh, wow, it’s when I’m most fertile!”

    “That would make sense, especially if the transformation was tied to some sort of fertility rite,” said Alexis.

    “How did you figure that one out?” asked Jirra.

    “I took biology classes in college,” replied Alexis. “It was just a hunch, but it makes sense.”

    “This is a big relief. It means that this isn’t just random,” she stated.

    “Still, to make sure, you should keep a record for the next few months,” suggested Alexis.

    “Thank you,” replied Jirra she kissed Alexis.

    The kissing started off slowly, but soon the passion between the two lovers was ignited again.

Chapter 39

    “Good morning, Roo,” whispered Alexis to Jirra.

    Jirra opened her eyes and smiled back. “Good morning.”

    “How’re feeling this morning?”

    “Wonderful…do we have to get up?” asked Jirra.

    Alexis giggled. “And you call me bad! Were you this way as a guy?”

    Jirra shrugged her shoulders. “I really don’t know. I only had sex once as Josh with a girl.”

    “Did you…pleasure yourself a lot?” asked Alexis.

    “That’s rather personal,” replied Jirra with a smirk on her face.

    “I know, so answer the question, did you?”

    “Often,” replied Jirra barely containing her giggles.

    “And what is better?”

    “It’s better with a person,” replied Jirra.

    “Don’t make me tickle you!”

    “I know what you mean, to be honest it’s hard to say, there are good parts about both. I will admit that female orgasms are great,” said Jirra.

    “You’re coming around,” said Alexis. “But just so you know, I love you just the way you are. I know that you’re dealing with this the best you can. It’s part of the reason that I love you so much.”

    Jirra let out a soft sigh. “That’s so sweet.”

    “So, what do you say we get up and get some breakfast?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra nodded and then kissed Alexis. “Thank you for putting up with me.”

Chapter 40

    “I wish you could stay longer,” said Jirra as they stood outside the restaurant.

    “Me too, but we start shooting the next episode tomorrow. It has to get done before we come back down here,” said Alexis.

    “I can’t wait,” replied Jirra.

    “That makes two of us,” said Alexis.

    They hugged and kissed.

    “Call me when you get home,” said Alexis.

    “I will, and you do the same,” replied Jirra.

    “I will. It looks like a nice day for a drive,” she said.

    They hugged one last time and then they drove off in different directions.

    Jirra thought about the whole weekend and about the offer Faith made. It was almost too good to believe. It would also give her the chance to see if writing fiction and screenplays was what she wanted to do for a living.

    When she got home she called the spa to tell her mom about the offer.

    “It’s a great opportunity, Roo,” said Liz.

    “You don’t mind that I won’t be spending the whole summer there?” asked Jirra nervously.

    “I’d be lying if I said yes, because I love you, but even a few weeks would nice,” said Liz. “I have a vacation coming up and maybe I can come east and spend some time with you.”

    “Really? I’d love that…but what about Dan?” she asked.

    “He won’t mind,” said Liz. “The nice thing about our relationship is that we recognize that we each have careers. He’s just been given permission to go through some private archives that may be related to the canyon.”

    “In what way?” asked Jirra.

    “He was just contacted by a lawyer who supposedly represents a descendant of Dr. Margate,” said Liz.

    Jirra was stunned at hearing the name of the man who had discovered the canyon and had been killed there. She could still picture how she discovered his skeletal remains the previous summer.

    “Roo, are you okay?” asked Liz.

    “Yes…I’m just stunned by this news,” replied Jirra. “Please tell me more.”

    “The lawyer said that the relative heard how Dan had treated Dr. Margate’s remains so reverently and had them laid to rest in the canyon. Apparently this impressed the mystery person and so Dan will be able to have access to Dr. Margate’s records, which are located somewhere in the Denver area,” continued Liz.

    “When will this happen?” asked Jirra anxiously.

    “Sometime this summer, as the relative is currently out of the country,” said Liz.

    “Wow, this is a fantastic break for Dan,” said Jirra. “I have to admit that I’m rather envious.”

    “Dan promises that you’ll get a full report,” said Liz.

    “Tell him thanks,” said Jirra.

    “He expects to be up in Denver for several weeks,” continued Liz. “So, it would be a good time for me to come east. I would also like to meet Alexis’s family, if that is acceptable.”

    “I’m sure it will be, they’re nice people…with the exception of one of her sisters, but no family is perfect.”

    “How true,” said Liz.

    “So, when are you two getting married?” asked Jirra.

    “To be honest, we’re kind of happy the way things are going right now,” said Liz. “We’re engaged and definitely a couple, but at the same time we don’t feel a need to get married, if that makes sense.”

    “It does,” replied Jirra.

    “Besides, I’m in no rush to become Elizabeth Montgomery!” replied Liz with a laugh.

    “That’s right,” said Jirra. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

    “No nose twitching jokes please, I’ve heard enough from Judy to last a lifetime,” continued Liz.

    “Also how would you be addressed? I mean would it be The Doctors Montgomery?” asked Jirra with a giggle. “At least it’s better than the Doctors Bombay!”

    “Exactly,” replied Liz, who also began to laugh. “Seriously, I love him intensely. I sort of gave up hope of having someone else in my life when your father died. I still love Travis, but he wouldn’t want me to not go on living. It’s nice to be in love again.”

    “I’m happy for you, Mom. I like Dan a lot.”

    “Thank you, Roo,” said Liz.

    “Well, I better hit the books. I have a paper to finish and I want my schedule clear when they do the filming,” said Jirra. “I love you, Mom.”

    “I love you too, Roo.”

Chapter 41

    Celeste walked into her condo, having given Spirit a long walk, to find Beth sitting at the dining room table, which was covered with papers. Beth was writing notes down on a legal pad and was so intent in what she was doing that she barely acknowledged Celeste and Spirit.

    “What are you doing?” asked Celeste with curiosity.

    “Something isn’t right,” replied Beth without looking up. “DAMN! I think we screwed up.”

    Celeste sat down next to Beth and saw what Beth was working on; all the notes and paperwork concerned the attacks on the TG community.

    “What’s wrong?” asked Celeste.

    “I think that there are others involved in this,” said Beth. “Look at this article from the paper.”

    Celeste looked at what Beth was pointing to. The article was about an attack on Don Carter. It was the most brutal of the attacks.

    Beth read the section of the article that concerned her aloud. “The victim reported that he was attacked by four or five males.”

    Celeste nodded.

    “Okay, it’s possible that he was confused as he was fighting for his life, but if he’s right that means that there are others from the ‘Purifiers’ still out there.  How could we miss this?”

    “I talked to Don several times and he admitted that he might have been confused about the number of attackers,” said Celeste.

    “Maybe, but there’s more; how did they target him in the first place?” asked Beth. “He wasn’t dressed at the time and from what you told me he never went out in public.”

    “That’s right. He only dressed at the support group,” said Celeste.

    “So how did the Purifiers find out about him? Yes, I know that Virginia gave them info about the group, but it still seems strange.”

    “Wouldn’t the police have asked these questions?” asked Celeste.

    “I doubt it. I mean, we solved the case for them. They have four suspects in custody, and the case is closed as far as they are concerned. It’s up the DA now, so why mess up the works by investigating a closed case?”

    Celeste rubbed her chin as she absorbed what Beth was saying.

    “Why haven’t there been other attacks?” asked Celeste.

    “Maybe the remaining members of the group are biding their time. The others being arrested may have scared them too. Other than Virginia, none of the arrested have been willing to talk or testify against the others. Granted, this may just be due to their highly paid legal staff, but I suspect part of it is that they have some macho code of honor. If there are others and if there were to be similar attacks, then the DA could put pressure on Todd and the others. If they do nothing, they get away…for now,” explained Beth.

    “So what do we do?”

    “At your next meeting, tell the others to stay vigilant. There’s something else I’d recommend you do, but I don’t think you’re going to like it,” said Beth.

    Celeste looked at her roommate. “What?”

    “Do a background check of all the members of the TG group,” said Beth.

    Celeste stared back in disbelief. “You can’t be serious?”

    “I’m concerned, Celeste. Look, I don’t like it either, but there’s a strong possibility of a mole in the group,” said Beth.

    “These people trust me, Beth; I can’t go behind their backs like this…it goes against everything I believe in.”

    “And what happens if another one is hurt?” asked Beth.

    Celeste didn’t know what to do. She trusted Beth as much as she did anyone in her life; but she didn’t like the idea of investigating the group.

    “You know that I don’t want to see anyone hurt; but trust is also important to those in this group,” continued Celeste.

    “Look, we can have Nina do a check on them and see if anything stands out,” said Beth.

    “Like what?” asked Celeste.

    “She could compare the names to Todd and his thugs and see if there are any connections. It could be done very quietly and no one would know.”

    “I would know,” said Celeste.

    Beth bit her lip softly. She knew how stubborn Celeste could be, especially when it came to protecting her girls.

    “Celeste, just think about it. I promise that I won’t do anything without your permission,” said Beth.

    Celeste nodded. “You’re pretty sure that someone in the group helped Todd and the others, aren’t you?”

    Beth nodded.

    “Let me think about it, okay?” asked Celeste.

    “Sure,” replied Beth. “I’m sorry to do this to you.”

    “I know that, Beth, you’re doing what you think is right,” said Celeste.

    Beth wanted to press the point, but didn’t. She would rely on Celeste to do the right thing.

    Celeste started to get up and stopped. “What will you do if you do discover a mole?”

    “Turn them over to Carla,” replied Beth. “Look, I can’t promise anything, but if we find there is a mole, maybe we can uncover them without using the background checks as evidence.”

    “How?”

    “If we get a suspect, then Nina and the other girls at Boudicca can look for evidence that connects the person to Todd and the others.”

    “You sound like you’ve done this sort of thing before,” said Celeste.

    Beth shook her head. “I haven’t but my parents have many times. They’ve had to do this sort of thing to avoid giving away an informant.”

    “Okay, I’ll think about it,” said Celeste.

Chapter 42

    Two days later, Celeste, Beth, Cat, and Jirra were having dinner. Jirra had made some chili based on a recipe given to her by Lindsey.

    After she made the chili, she placed it in a large Pyrex pan and baked some cornbread on top.

    “This is really good,” said Cat.

    “Thanks, I’ll let Lindsey know you liked it,” said Jirra.

    “So, when do we get to meet her?” asked Beth.

    “She’s coming out this summer to work for Kari at The Drunken Squirrel,” said Jirra. “They’re still finalizing the exact dates.”

    “And when are you going to be working for Faith Collins?” asked Cat.

    “Mid-July through August,” replied Jirra. “I’m going back to New Mexico for a few weeks first.”

    “That’s great,” said Cat. She then turned to Celeste with a concerned look on her face. “Celeste, you’re awfully quiet tonight, is there anything wrong?”

    Celeste sighed. “Beth thinks that we may have missed some of Todd’s group and that the TG group has a mole in it…and I think she may be right.”

    Cat looked at Beth. “What does she mean?”

    Beth glanced at Celeste who nodded. She then told them her theory and plan.

    “I’ve debated what to do the past few days and while it pains me to investigate the group, I can’t stand the idea of another person being hurt,” interjected Celeste.

    “Do you want me to call Nina?” asked Beth.

    Celeste nodded.

    Beth picked up her cell phone and called Nina Vasquez.

Chapter 43

    The ex-marine, ex-policewoman sat on the couch in Celeste’s apartment listening to Beth and then Celeste.

    When they were done, Nina spoke. “I promise to be as careful as possible.”

    “What do you need from me?” asked Celeste.

    “The roster of the group for the past two years,” said Nina. “We already have a good database of Todd’s group. What I plan to do is compare the names and look for any matches. If anything turns up I’ll let you know.”

    “Thank you, Nina,” said Celeste.

    “Beth, I understand your concern. It is hard to do something that you think is betraying people you like. If it makes you feel any better, I had to do something similar as a police officer. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it turned out to be the right thing to do.”

    “And do you have any regrets?” asked Celeste.

    “Only that I didn’t do it sooner,” said Nina. “I promise to be discrete.”

    “We know that, Nina,” said Beth.

    “How long will it take you?” asked Celeste.

    “Depends on the number of people on the roster; but it’ll be a few weeks, unless I get lucky,” said Nina.

    “And you promise not to do anything without telling us first?” asked Celeste.

    Nina nodded. “I promise, Celeste.”

    “Okay, thank you, Nina,” said Celeste.

Chapter 44

    While it bothered Jirra to think that there might be additional members of Todd’s group still out there, she decided that she wouldn’t live her life in fear. Yes, she would be careful, but at the same time she wasn’t about to retreat into her apartment.

    The editor of the campus paper finally gave her a solo assignment; she was to write a story about a visiting scientist. He was giving a lecture on the potential use of nanotechnology in medicine. Jirra didn’t tell her editor that she knew nothing on the topic. She sort of figured that this was some kind of test.

    She had been bugging him for an assignment for weeks and she suspected that he was hoping she would fall on her sword by turning in a bad article. This was just the sort of challenge she needed and she threw herself into researching the topic and the scientist.

    By the time the lecture started, Jirra was knowledgeable enough about the topic of nanotechnology to be able to follow most of what the scientist was talking about. Most of the audience was made up of medical students and faculty although there was a scattering of computer engineering students there too. Jirra suspected that she was the only liberal arts major in the lecture hall.

    The lecturer was Dr. Hector Sanchez and, from what Jirra could tell, he was a brilliant man. He had both medical and computer engineering degrees. What Jirra found most interesting was his goal of building a self-contained medical device that could be easily transported to locations needing emergency medical assistance. An injured person could be placed in the device and healed by the use of microsurgery and nanites.

    Jirra thought how the mud back in New Mexico had changed her and now modern science was just catching up.

    When the lecture was over she walked down to try and ask Dr. Sanchez a few questions.

    While she waited she listened to the other questions and Dr. Sanchez’s answers. After a few minutes, she got her chance.

    “Excuse me, Dr, Sanchez; I’m Jirra Reid of the Daily Pennsylvanian. I’m writing an article on your lecture. Do you have time for a few questions please?” she asked hopefully. Deep down she expected to get politely refused, but she figured nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Dr. Sanchez looked at his assistant.

    “Dr. Sanchez, we need to get going,” said the assistant, who was pointing at his watch.

    “I think we can spare a few minutes for this young lady,” countered Dr. Sanchez. He pointed to two seats in the front row. “Why don’t we sit down over there? Did you say your name was Jirra?”

    Jirra nodded.

    Dr. Sanchez pointed to the stone kangaroo that Jirra always wore on a chain around her neck. “Your namesake?”

    Jirra smiled. “Yes, it was given to me by a very good friend.”

    “So, Jirra, what did you think of the lecture?” he asked.

    “Well, most of the technical information was well above my head, but the concept that you’re proposing is amazing. It could save countless lives. What is the biggest challenge to building one of these devices?”

    He rubbed his chin. “We’ve actually made great strides in the nanotechnology; but that has been in the lab. Right now we don’t have batteries that are powerful enough to create a workable prototype.”

    “Weight would be an issue too, especially if you planned on using helicopters,” added Jirra.

    He cocked his head. “And how do you know about such things, Jirra?”

    Jirra smiled back. “My dad was in the army and he told me about problems with excess weight.”

    Dr. Sanchez nodded. “He’s right. Using present technology our prototype would require a large cargo plane just to transport it. I want something that could be brought in to places without runways.”

    “Can I please ask one more question?”

    Dr. Sanchez nodded.

    “The device would be designed to do emergency surgery; but couldn’t it be programmed to do other procedures and what sorts of safeguards are being considered to prevent misuse of it?” she asked. “My mom is a doctor and she has issues with unnecessary surgery.”

    “I agree with your mother. I don’t want this to be used to do breast implants or other cosmetic procedures. I can’t go into details, but we’re working on protective systems to keep it for what I designed it for. Yes, I know I could make millions if I allowed it to be used to make starlets beautiful, but I want this to be a lifesaving device.”

    “I hope you succeed, Dr. Sanchez. Thank you very much for you time,” said Jirra.

    “It was a pleasure, Jirra,” he said as he stood up.

    They shook hands and Jirra hurried off to her apartment to write her article.

Chapter 45

    Her editor, Nate Gwynn, sat at his desk re-reading Jirra’s article.

    “Is there something wrong?” asked Jirra.

    He shook his head. “No problems, in fact it’s just the opposite. Dr. Sanchez has a reputation for avoiding the press. I can’t believe that he sat down and answered your questions.”

    Jirra just nodded. So, it was a test after all, she thought.

    “He was very nice,” said Jirra.

    “I only wish I sent a photographer with you,” said Nate. “This is a well written article, Jirra.”

    Jirra pulled a CD out of her purse and offered it to Nate. “I’m not the best photographer in the world but these might do. I took my digital camera along and got some shots without needing to use the flash. The word processor version of my article is on there too.”

“Thanks, Jirra. Good thinking on your part.”

    Jirra nodded again.

    “I’m going to give you regular assignments from now on,” he said.

    Jirra wanted to say, it’s about time, but she kept her mouth shut.

    “Thank you,” she said.

    “You’re welcome,” he said. “We usually don’t give freshmen this honor, so don’t let me down.”

    “I won’t,” she replied.

Chapter 46

    “Well?” asked Jill.

    Jirra told her about her conversation with Nate.

    “He’s such a pompous ass,” replied Jill. “He wishes he was one tenth the writer you are, Jirra. For that matter so do I.”

    Jirra was shocked by what Jill said. “Jill, you’re an excellent reporter.”

    “I’m okay, but you have real talent. I mean you’re a freakin’ screenwriter!  What’s next?”

    Jirra tried to look away.

    “Oh, wow, what now?” asked Jill anxiously.

    Jirra told her about Faith Collins.

    “Jirra, that’s fantastic! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

    Jirra shrugged. “I didn’t want to look arrogant or anything like that.”

    “Jirra, don’t worry about that. This is so cool. Just do me a favor and remember the little people when you reach the top.”

    “Please!” replied Jirra.

    “I’m happy for you, Jirra,” said Jill.

    “Well, I want to thank you for pushing Nate to give me a story. I know you have been bugging him.”

    “Hey, what are friends for? Now, do you think you can do me one in return?”

    Jirra nodded.

    “Can you arrange an interview for me with Alexis when they shoot the show here?” asked Jill hopefully.

    “I think I can arrange that,” said Jirra with a smile. 

    “Cool, let’s go get some coffee,” said Jill.

Chapter 47

    Jill and Jirra sat down on a couch at the coffeehouse.

    “I have a question for you,” said Jirra. She took a sip of her coffee, glancing around to see if anyone might be listening. Then she leaned close to Jill and in a quiet voice asked. “Do you think that the police got everyone in Todd’s gang?”

    Jill set down her coffee. “Why do you ask?”

    Jirra ran her fingers through her hair then she leaned close to Jill. “Beth was going through the reports and found that in one of the assaults, the victim claimed that there were four or five attackers. Now, it just may have been that the victim was confused…but in both times I was attacked I remembered the exact number of people who came after me.”

    “Yes, but you got away both times,” said Jill.

    “Okay, that’s true…there may have been others who stayed back or weren’t involved in the attacks on me, but do you think that there might be others walking around free right now?”

    Jill shrugged her shoulders. “No one else’s name has come up. Virginia said that we got everyone, but then again she could be lying. There haven’t been any additional attacks either.”

    “I know, but they might be lying low to avoid attention,” said Jirra.

    “That would be the first smart thing that they’ve done then,” said Jill. “They were getting pretty brazen when they attacked you a second time. I think they got pretty arrogant with the fact that they were attacking a group they thought wouldn’t fight back. If there are others, I doubt we’ll find out unless they attack another person. From what Carla told us, there was little physical evidence at Todd’s place or those of the others.”

    “That doesn’t seem right, does it?” asked Jirra. “I mean, they were able to coordinate attacks, picking out times when they knew the victims would be most vulnerable, knowing addresses, schedules, so they had to have some sort of organization.”

     “You may be right,” said Jill. “Okay, what do you suggest?”

    “I’m not a detective,” said Jirra. “Unless one of the group talks, we won’t find out anything else. I think the police are happy that Todd and the others are going to trial. The university probably feels the same way. The victims weren’t exactly the model students that an Ivy League school likes to admit attend it.”

    “Have you talked to the others about this?”

    Jirra nodded. “Beth gave all her info to Nina, hopefully she can turn up something.”

    “I suppose that’s all we can do for now,” said Jill. She glanced at her watch. “Well, I have to head to class, what about you?”

    Jirra nodded and they headed outside.

Chapter 48

    The week of the shoot finally arrived. Alexis and the rest of the cast and crew were staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Market, which was located a little over a mile from campus.

    Jirra had driven past the hotel many times and was surprised that the show was putting everyone up in such a nice hotel. She parked her car in front and handed the keys to the valet.

    Once inside she called Alexis on her cell phone.

    “Where are you?” asked Alexis.

    “In the lobby,” replied Jirra as she looked around. “There are a lot of people down here.”

    “I’ll send someone down to give you your ID,” said Alexis. “Our floors are blocked off from the general public.”

    “Ooooh,” replied Jirra with a giggle.

    A short time later Jirra was standing outside Alexis’s hotel room.

    As soon as Jirra entered the room, Alexis embraced her and gave her a long passionate kiss.

    “I’ve missed you too,” said Jirra.

    “Let’s sit down,” said Alexis.

    Jirra looked around the room. “I had no idea that TV shows provided such nice rooms.”

    Alexis laughed. “They don’t. This is part of a deal between the network and the hotel. We’re going to shoot some scenes here that will give the hotel some publicity.”

    “Still, it’s pretty sweet,” said Jirra.

    “We’re actually doing our first shots tonight. Unfortunately, with TV there are tighter shooting schedules. The goal is to get all the outside shots done in the next couple of days. Are your friends still available for tomorrow?” asked Alexis.

    Jirra nodded. “They can’t wait.”

    “Great, we need to get all the campus shots done tomorrow and Sunday. Weather permitting we’ll do the other area shots Monday and then use Tuesday to finish it up,” explained Alexis.

    “I saw them setting up the production trailers today.”

    Alexis nodded. “We have a meeting with the director over dinner, he’s anxious to meet you.”

    Jirra just nodded not knowing what to say.

    “Oh, Faith will come down tomorrow,” added Alexis.

    “I thought she was coming down this afternoon?”

    “She was, but Max had to take care of some business,” replied Alexis. “Tomorrow, you’ll meet the head writer and the rest of the production staff.”

    “I wish I could see the whole shoot,” said Jirra.

    “So do I, but most of the internal shots will be done back at the studio in Boston and you can’t afford to miss any classes,” said Alexis.

    “You’re worse than my Mom,” replied Jirra.

    “Hey, I’m proud of you…my little Ivy Leaguer!”

    Alexis was about to kiss Jirra again when her phone rang. She let out a sigh and answered it.

    After talking for a few minutes, Alexis hung up. “Glenn Huntley is on his way over.”

    Glenn was the director for the show. He had spent his whole career in television, working on several dramas before being picked by Faith to direct the Erin Flynn series. He previous series had been a critically claimed crime drama that unfortunately failed to reach a broad audience. It only lasted two seasons, but had achieved cult status since its release on DVD.

    At fifty-three, getting the Erin Flynn show was a prime job for Glenn, which many in the business thought was long overdo.

    Jen Stevens was supposed to guest-direct this episode but some last minute commitments got in the way. She had to re-shoot at least a dozen scenes of her latest film after an actor had been seriously injured in a stunt. The replacement actor looked nothing like the injured actor so all the scenes he appeared in had to be completely redone including the stunt itself. Fortunately, this time things had gone as planned when they re-shot the stunt.

    “When Glenn gets here we’ll order dinner,” said Alexis.

    “What time are you shooting this evening?”

    “We’ll be doing some shots in the lobby around midnight and also right outside the hotel. Glenn will give the complete shooting schedule.”

    Glenn arrived a few minutes later. He greeted Jirra as if he had known her for years.

    “So, this is the young woman who is responsible for this wonderful story,” he stated.

    He was a large man, standing over six-three and weighing over two hundred and twenty pounds. The combination of his size and his thick beard gave birth to his nickname of Bear.

    “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Jirra. “I really love the show. I also thought you did a great job in your last series.”

    He turned to Alexis. “A fan, I’m impressed.”

    “Is it true that they might make a movie based on it?” asked Jirra.

    Glenn shrugged his broad shoulders. “I don’t know; it would be nice to do a movie some day.”

    They sat down and placed their orders with room service.

    “Alexis tells me that you want to watch the production side of the shoot; are you sure that you don’t want to get in front of the camera?” asked Glenn.

    Jirra shook her head. “It doesn’t interest me that much. I’d rather watch how things are done.”

    “Good for you,” he said. “I have to admit that when I first was told that the story was written by a college student I thought Faith had lost it, but you’ve got real talent for story telling. Alexis tells me that you haven’t made up your mind yet on what type of writing you want to do; I just want you to know that you have a definite future in script writing.”

    “I haven’t really written a script yet, just the story,” corrected Jirra.

    He waved his hand. “Scriptwriting is a breeze compared to writing a real plot and creating believable characters. I’m proud that your name will be in the credits.”

    “Thank you,” she replied.

    “Faith said that you’ll be working with her this summer, I wonder if you’d be interested in writing another story for the show?”

    “You mean that?” she asked.

    Glenn nodded. “Yep. I was lucky enough to have people take an interest in my career when I was first starting out; I feel it’s the least I can do to give a hand to others as they start out.”

    “Thank you again,” said Jirra.

    Their meals arrived and as they ate Glenn discussed the schedule for the next couple of days in more detail.

    “We’re going to have a camera crew drive around and shoot various locations in the city. The nice thing about Philly is that it’s not that different from Boston,” he explained.

    “So, if you have to do an additional shot you have locations up there that can double for here, right?” asked Jirra.

    Glenn nodded. “You’re quick, I like that. We can’t duplicate the Liberty Bell or any of the well known landmarks, but one dark alley is pretty much the same as another.”

    “Not that I’m complaining, but it must be expensive to shoot on location,” said Jirra.

    Glenn nodded. “It is, but it makes the show more realistic. Our fans appreciate the fact that we’re honest. I mean, if a show is setting its plot in Boston or Philly it should be shot there…not LA or some other place.”

    “Still, you had to change the name of Penn to Franklin University,” said Jirra.

    “Sometimes you have to compromise. Alexis told me about the actual attacks that occurred here. I can understand why Penn doesn’t want the negative publicity.”

    Jirra nodded.

    “But the city doesn’t mind. I mean, I didn’t exactly make the police look that good,” said Jirra.

    “It’s a detective story, if the police were really good why use a PI?” asked Glenn with a laugh. “Trust me, we run into that complaint from the Boston PD all the time. I just tell them if I was doing a show on them then they would be the heroes.”

    “That’s true,” said Jirra.

    “Actually we have a lot of fans on the Boston PD,” interjected Alexis.

    “It doesn’t hurt that we use of a lot of them in the show,” added Glenn as he looked at his watch. “Well we have to start getting ready, just stay by my side, Jirra.”

    They then talked about the plot of the show they were about to shoot. Erin Flynn’s niece, Lori, was a student at Franklin University and was in trouble. Lori was in a relationship with another girl named Elle. Both girls were also actively involved in the campus LGBT student organization. The crisis was that someone was stalking and attacking LGBT students on campus.

    Lori had called Erin and asked her for some help. On her way down from Boston, Erin got a phone call from Elle stating that Lori had been attacked and was in the ER.

    By the time Erin arrives in Philly, Lori has died.

    It is no longer an investigation for Erin, as now it is revenge. The rest of the story consisted of Erin trying to find out who killed Lori, overcoming indifference from both the police and the university’s administration, and being targeted by the hate group herself.

    The leader of the hate group, who turns out to be an academic advisor at the university, is named Jim Parker.

    Jim sets up a meeting with Erin at a parking garage late at night, telling her he has evidence about the attacks. On the way there, Erin is attacked by several of the students. However, they find out that she is no easy target and after a brief fight she subdues them. 

    Suspecting that it was Jim who set her up, Erin goes to his apartment and surprises him. He attacks her, but she is able to beat him, and even though she is tempted to kill him, she decides on a more appropriate punishment. She discovers evidence in his apartment that links him to child pornography groups all over the world. He organized the attacks to cover up his own guilt over his own fetishes.

 He begs her to kill him so that he won’t be publicly humiliated, but she tells him that would be too easy as she calls the police. The last scene is him crying and begging for Erin to kill him.

    “I’m still a little uneasy about killing Lori,” said Jirra.

    “I understand, but it’s the kind of hard-hitting plotline our fans expect,” said Glenn. “The conventional thing to do would be to have Lori have full recovery.”

    “I also like it because it shows the darker side of Erin,” added Alexis.

    “I suppose so,” said Jirra,

    Glenn looked at his watch and then stood up. “It’s show time!”

Chapter 49

    Jirra watched in fascination as the production crew did their magic in the lobby. No detail was too small and they seemed to think of everything.

    “Only a few of the shots we’re doing tonight will have dialog,” explained Glenn. “Mostly we’re getting a lot of shots of Alexis as Erin moving around the city. We want to get shots of her in different outfits that we’ll mix into the show.”

    Jirra nodded as Alexis had told her how the show was shot.

    “How many takes will you do?” asked Jirra.

    “With this crew not many,” said Glenn. “We also try to make the shoots look as realistic as possible, so we adapt to the circumstances. Short of a major screw up or a fan accosting Alexis, we’ll go with the shot. Some of the best scenes we’re done have been by accident. We once were shooting a scene up in Boston when a fire engine drove down the street. Alexis just kept going as if it was part of the scene. It was perfect.”

    “I remember that shot,” said Jirra. “Alexis was talking to a suspect and they just paused as the engine passed. I thought it was planned that way.”

    “Sometimes you get lucky,” replied Glenn with a grin.

    Jirra watched each scene get shot. Sometimes it took almost an hour to set up a fifteen second shot. Jirra was impressed how professional Alexis was since it was the first time that she had watched Alexis work. Even though Alexis claimed that she couldn’t wait to leave show business, it was obvious that she was very proud of her work.

    Alexis had three costume changes that night. They finished after two and by then Jirra was exhausted.

    “You look beat,” said Alexis.

    “I shouldn’t be, you guys did all the work,” said Jirra as she held back a yawn.

    “I’m used to this, we shoot a lot at night,” replied Alexis. “Why don’t you go home and get some sleep. I’ll see you around noon on campus.”

    Jirra nodded.

    Alexis leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. “See you later, Roo, I love you.”

    Jirra broke out a big smile. “I love you too.”

Chapter 50

    Jirra arrived on campus and walked over to the production trailers. She showed her pass and was allowed through by the security guard, who also gave her directions to Alexis’s trailer.

    On the way there, she saw the extras standing around. They didn’t look that different than the students who were normally walking across campus, although many were wearing sweatshirts, coats, and hats of the fictional Franklin University.

Jirra then noticed her friends and waved to Jill, TC, Beth, and Cat.

    “Where’s Celeste?” she asked as she looked around.

    “She’s walking Spirit for a scene they’re shooting over by the administration building,” said Beth. “Don’t laugh, it was the only way we could talk her into doing this.”

    “Celeste or Spirit?” asked Jirra.

    Beth laughed. “Celeste of course. Spirit almost held out until they gave her a speaking part; she gets to bark at a squirrel.”

    “I can’t wait to see it,” said Jirra. “When are they going to use you?”

    “Soon I hope, it’s a little chilly out here,” replied Beth.

    Jirra then saw Alexis walking towards them. She was talking to Glenn and some of the other production staff.

    “Looks like they’re getting ready as we speak,” said Jirra.

    Alexis waved as they approached.

    “Are you sure you don’t want to be in a scene?” she asked.

    Jirra shook her head. “No thanks.”

    “No problem. Glenn, these are some of Jirra’s close friends,” said Alexis.

    Glenn shook their hands and greeted them in his usually warm manner. He then called over all the extras and explained the scene they were about to shoot. The production assistants then gave each extra more detailed instructions.

    Glenn turned to Jirra. “The hardest thing working with extras is getting them to act naturally and not look at the camera. That’s why we’ll be shooting this scene from several angles,” he explained.

    Jirra nodded. She knew from her script that the scene they were about to shoot was a set up shot of Alexis’s character walking across campus on her way to meet with Elle.

    There were several other shots planned of Alexis walking across campus as part of her investigation. While there were planned shots of her inside some of the campus buildings, most of the interior shots involving extensive dialog would be shot on a soundstage up in Boston. Glenn explained it was just easier to do it that way.

    “We do plan on shooting the climatic scenes tonight at a nearby parking garage. Unfortunately we were turned down from using one on campus,” explained Glenn.

    Jirra nodded. The scene he was talking about was based on Todd’s actual attack on her on campus. 

    “Well, it looks like we’re ready to start shooting, why don’t you watch it with me,” he said.

    “Okay,” she replied as she followed the large man.

Chapter 51

    Across the Delaware River in New Jersey, a real drama was unfolding that had direct ties to the fictional one being shot on campus.

    Nina Vasquez stepped out of the apartment and headed down the sideway shaking her head in disbelief as she called her office on her cell phone. She gave one of her associates a name and a description based on the information that had just been provided to her.

    She got in her car waited for a callback. Twenty minutes later her phone rang.

    “Nina, I have the info you wanted,” said the woman on the other end of the phone.

    “Go ahead, Eve,” said Nina.

    Nina wrote down as she listened to her fellow detective’s call.

    “Are you sure about this?” asked Nina as the information sank in. A sense of urgency gripped her.

    “Yes, why?”

    “Eve, get me the Philadelphia Police Department…no, wait, transfer me to Max NOW!”

Chapter 52

    Jirra stood next to Glenn drinking a cup of coffee from the catering truck. She looked at her watch and wondered what was keeping Alexis. Everyone was standing around waiting for Alexis to return from her trailer.

They were set up to do the shooting at the parking garage and the trailers had been moved to be close by. Two streets had been closed for the shooting and Alexis’s trailer was located a block away.

    “This isn’t like her to keep everyone waiting,” said Glenn. He was about to send a production assistant to check on his star’s status, when he turned to Jirra.

    “Can you go check on her? She just went to change her coat,” he asked.

    Jirra nodded and headed towards Alexis’s trailer.

    As soon as she entered the trailer she sensed something was wrong. A single security guard was standing in front of Alexis.

    “What’s going on?” she asked.

    The guard turned and flashed a wicked smile. “Get in here and close that fucking door!”

    Jirra then saw that Alexis was lying on the floor of the trailer with her hands tied behind her back. A gag was tied around her mouth.

    Before Jirra could say a word the guard pointed a large revolver at her. She did as he ordered.

    “What do you want?” asked Jirra.

    “Revenge, bitch,” he snapped. “I’m going to kill you for you did to my friend Todd. I’m also going to kill this slut for doing this show. You have no right to make us look like a bunch of thugs!”

    Jirra stared at the barrel of the handgun pointed at her. She never realized something so small could look so huge. The guard was standing too far away for her to make a lunge at him.

    “Alexis, are you okay?” she asked anxiously.

    “She’s fine…for now, I just knocked her down,” said the guard.

    Jirra looked in his eyes. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties and had short brown hair. She tried to remember if she had seen him before, but she drew a blank.

    “Don’t be stupid, you won’t get away with this,” she said.

    “Oh, I will. If I do it right, I might even be seen a hero,” he replied. “I’m going to kill both of you and then shoot myself in the leg, pretty smart huh? I will claim that I saw someone follow you in here. I heard the shots and was attacked as the man fled.”

    “That won’t work,” she replied.

    “Well, I’ll be the only one alive so they’ll have to believe me, right?” he said as he pointed the gun at Jirra.

    “WRONG!” shouted Max as the door was kicked in.

    The guard was caught off guard by the noise of the door breaking and hesitated for a moment before swinging the gun toward Max.

    “Drop the damn gun!” ordered Max as he pointed his Glock nine-millimeter at the guard. He was now holding his gun with both hands in a classic shooter’s stance.

A sneer appeared on the guard’s face. “Fuck you, old man!”  He then cocked the hammer of his handgun.

Before he could pull the trigger, Max he fired two shots in rapid succession into the guard’s chest.

    The guard slumped down to the floor in a lifeless mass, the revolver banging on the floor next to him.

    “Stupid punk,” muttered Max as he holstered his Glock. He had seen enough men shot to know that the guard was dead; still he took no chances and checked the man’s pulse.

    Jirra immediately was kneeling over Alexis untying her. “Are you okay?” Jirra asked anxiously.

    Alexis nodded as she sat up and hugged Jirra.

    “Sorry I didn’t get here sooner,” apologized Max.

    “I’d say you got here right on time,” said Alexis.

    “How did you know?” asked Jirra.

    “You can thank Nina,” he said as he helped them both up.

    “Is he….dead?” asked Alexis as she stared at the man on the floor.

    Max nodded.

    “Who is… was he?” asked Jirra.

    “The last of Todd’s group,” replied Max. “I think we better step outside and wait for the police.”

Chapter 53

    It was several hours later when they got back to the hotel after talking to the police.

    Max, Jirra, Faith, Nina, and Glenn all followed Alexis up to her room.

    “I need a drink,” announced Alexis.

    “I’ll take care of that,” said Glenn. “Anyone else?”

    “I think we can all use a drink, Glenn,” said Faith as they sat down.

    Glenn opened the wet bar and pulled out a variety of bottles. In a few minutes everyone had a drink, including Jirra.

    “So, can you tell me what just happened?” asked Faith.

    Nina told them how she had conducted background checks on members of the Penn TG organization. When she was halfway through the list, a red flag popped up. One of the members in the group had been arrested for solicitation. The student dropped out of Penn a short time later. On a hunch, Nina went out to the person’s apartment in New Jersey.

    “We know now that Todd had a thing for TG working girls. She had been working as an escort to help pay her tuition so I asked her if she knew Todd. It turns out that Todd had um…"dated" her, and then blackmailed her to give him info on other members in group,” explained Nina.

    “I didn’t think Todd could get any sicker,” said Jirra.

    “So how did you know about…what’s his name again?” asked Alexis.

    “Michael Raymond,” said Max.

    “Yes, him. How did you find out about him?” asked Alexis as she handed Glenn her empty glass.

    “I asked her if she knew what Todd had done and she said yes, but that she was afraid that he would hurt her. I told her that Todd was in jail and she told me about Michael. My office ran a background check on him and discovered he was a security guard. I then remembered that the company he worked for was providing security for the shoot.”

    “How did you know that?” asked Jirra.

    “Max asked us to keep an eye on the production,” admitted Nina.

    “I thought that if there were still members of Todd’s group out there, they might try and vandalize the set or something. I had no idea that there would be an attempted murder,” said Max. “Maybe that punk was right, I may be getting old.”

    “No one could have guessed that,” said Jirra.

    “I agree,” said Alexis. “I don’t blame you, Max, either. You saved both of us and I’ll never forget that.”

    Alexis then leaned over and kissed Max on the cheek. Jirra did the same.

    “I’m glad that Max isn’t in trouble,” said Glenn.

    “I can’t believe that one idiot of a cop said that it would have been better if I let that punk get off the first shot,” remarked Max as he rolled his eyes. “I mean at that range he might have actually hit me, and that would have just made me angry.”

    “Okay, Mongo,” added Faith as she patted him gently on his head.

    The others laughed at the Blazing Saddles reference.

    “Okay, but what’s…um, the dead guy’s connection to Todd?” asked Glenn. He sorted through the remaining bottles. Nina pointed at her glass and he nodded. He picked out one bottle, opened it up, and sniffed it before pouring in her glass. 

    “What is it?” she asked as she looked at her glass.

    “It’s…it’s green,” he replied with a wink.

    Nina looked confused.

    “Sorry, it’s an old Star Trek line,” explained Glenn.

    Nina took a sip. “It’s good whatever it is.”

    “Raymond went to high school with Todd,” explained Max. “Apparently, he wasn’t smart enough or rich enough to get into college.”

“That’s how Todd knew that the show was shooting in Philly before it went public! The production company would have contacted the security company to get things going early and get all the right permits. He must have been in contact with Todd in LA and let him know,” said Jirra. “That explains all those email rants about filming here.”

“It fits, Jirra,” said Alexis

    “I’m just sorry this messed up the show,” said Jirra as she cuddled closer to Alexis. “Will this mean that the show won’t be finished?”

    “Nonsense!” exclaimed Glenn as he put down his drink. “Look, I’m ecstatic that you and Alexis are okay, but you can’t buy this sort of publicity.”

    “Glenn, that’s awful!” replied Faith.

    He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe, but you have to admit that the press will eat this up.”

    “He’s kidding, right?” Jirra asked.

    Alexis shook her head. “Unfortunately, no, Roo. I imagine that the network is pleased as punch. I’ll bet that the spin doctors there are working on getting the maximum publicity out of this already.”

    “So you’re going to keep shooting?” asked Jirra.

    “We’re taking a day off then starting again Monday,” said Glenn. “If that’s okay with both Faith and Alexis.”

    Alexis looked at Faith who nodded.

“I suppose the show must go on,” said Alexis.

Chapter 54

Jirra stayed with Alexis that night. They cuddled up in the large bed together.

“I was so afraid that you were going to grab at his gun,” said Alexis.

“I was about to try something when Max came in,” replied Jirra. “I couldn’t see going down without a fight.”

“Well, thank God for Nina and Max then,” said Alexis. “I can’t imagine you getting hurt.”

“I feel the same way about you,” said Jirra.

Alexis kissed Jirra gently on the lips. The first kiss was soft and tender, but it had the effect of a match lighting a fuse. Their passion reignited, they made love until they fell asleep in each other’s arms.

Chapter 55

As Glenn had predicted, the shooting had brought down a tidal wave of reporters to the set. Thankfully, for Alexis and Jirra, the studio’s press agent handled all the requests for interviews.

    The studio released a statement concerning the shooting. It included a statement from Alexis that thanked Max Bowie and Boudicca Detective Agency. The only interview she agreed to do was on NPR with Teri Gross.

    The interview was done as soon as the last scene was shot, which turned out to be Thursday.

    “You sure you want to do this?” asked Alexis as they were being driven over to the radio studio.

    Jirra shrugged. “Not really, but with all the publicity concerning the shooting, I’d rather we do this before the press does it. I mean, it’s just a matter of time until someone posts a story about us being a couple.”

    “I know, it sucks, but at least we’ll get a chance to tell our story first,” said Alexis.

    “That’s true,” said Jirra. She was nervous about the interview in part because she was a huge fan of Teri Gross and her show Fresh Air and she didn’t want to look foolish in front of someone she admired.

    The actual interview seemed to fly by and it lasted nearly forty minutes, with the last fifteen minutes focusing on Alexis and her relationship with Jirra. It was brought up that Alexis and Jirra had been a couple for the past year.

    It was brought up that Jirra was transgendered, but Alexis emphasized that Jirra’s past wasn’t what was important, and that she considered Jirra to be a real woman.

    Teri also asked about Jirra’s scriptwriting. Alexis said that while she passed the story to Faith, it was entirely Faith decision to use it. She then mentioned that Jen Stevens’s latest movie was based on a story written by Jirra.

In all, Jirra thought that everything was handled very professionally. The highlight was when Teri said that if Jirra’s scriptwriting career continued to progress that maybe someday Jirra would be one being interviewed. Alexis replied that when that happened, she couldn’t be prouder of her partner.

    After the interview they drove back to Jirra’s apartment.

    “The studio has informed the press that any future requests to interview you will have to go through them,” said Alexis.

    “How did you arrange that?” asked Jirra.

    “It was Faith and Glenn’s idea. It should work long enough until we’re yesterday’s news,” explained Alexis. “Besides, you are going to be working for Faith, so it’s not that far out of line.”

    “It’s never going to be the same from now on, right?” asked Jirra.

    Alexis nodded. “It was bound to happen eventually, at least now we don’t have to sneak around. I suspect that the publicity from this will die down pretty quick. Unfortunately, when the show airs, it will pick up again. But I want you to know that I’ll be there for you. I love you dearly, Jirra and I can’t imagine life without you,” said Alexis.

    “Thank you, Alexis. I love you too,” said Jirra.

Chapter 56

    Jirra was forced to screen her calls for the next few days. She didn’t answer the phone directly, unless it was from a friend or family. She passed all requests from the press to the phone number of the studio’s PR department. 

    Jirra had also given the same number to her mom back at the spa, just in case some reporters began nosing around there.

    Celeste hired Boudicca to provide security around the apartment and for Jirra when she was on campus.

    Thankfully, just like Alexis had said, the spotlight faded pretty fast and soon life was returning to normal.

    On Friday night, the gang was sitting around Celeste and Beth’s apartment having dinner and celebrating the end of the Todd’s reign of terror.

    Carla had called and said that with the death of Michael Raymond, the others in Todd’s group all made deals. They all would get slightly reduced sentences for testifying against Todd Kelly.

    This in turn caused Todd Kelly to plead guilty to avoid trial. The attempted murder of Alexis and Jirra had swept away any lingering support he had and his lawyers convinced him that a jury would throw the book at him. His sentencing would be sometime that summer.

    “So, when will the show air?” asked Matt, who was up for the weekend from Quantico, Virginia.

    “Next month some time,” replied Jirra. “The production company is rushing it up to capitalize on the publicity.”

    “I can’t wait to see it,” said Jim as he helped Beth in the kitchen. He was stirring a pot of venison chili.

    “I can’t wait to see your name in the credits,” added Beth as she checked on the cornbread baking in the oven.

    “What will happen to the girl who was being blackmailed by Todd?” asked Cat.

    “She’s getting help,” said Celeste, who was sitting on a stool next to Sean. Spirit was lying on the floor by her feet. “She’s a little old for my foundation, but I have arranged for her to get therapy.”

    “How soon will the Bambi chili be ready?” asked Jirra. “I’m starving!”

    “That’s awful, I hope you don’t plan on using that in one of your scripts,” said Celeste.

    “The chili’s almost ready,” interjected Jim.

    “Are you writing another script, Jirra?” asked TC, who was seated next to Jill.

    Jirra nodded. “Faith has asked me to write another one for the show.”

    “Cool!” exclaimed Jill. “What’s it about?”

    “Erin is hired to provide security for an actress who has been receiving death threats. I’ve been playing with the idea of having Jen Stevens play herself in this one,” explained Jirra. “I might as well use what happened to my advantage. Jenna says that it’s better than keeping it inside.”

    “She’s right about that,” said Beth as she pulled the pan of cornbread out of the oven.

    “Mmm, that smells delicious,” commented Sean. “There’s nothing like fresh hot cornbread with chili.”

    “And beer,” added Matt as he squeezed past Jim and Beth to get to the fridge. He then passed out bottles of Yuengling to everyone who asked.

    Jim began to fill bowls with the chili and hand them to Beth, who passed them out.

    “Jill, I’m sorry that you didn’t get your interview with Alexis,” said Jirra.

    “I understand, considering the circumstances regarding the shooting. The cool thing is that my interview with Max is going to be on Monday’s front page; thank you for setting that up for me,” thanked Jill. “It would have been very easy for you to have done it yourself.”

    Jirra smiled. “Friendship is more important than a scoop.”

    “Max is pretty interesting. I felt as if I was interviewing some larger than life figure,” said Jill.

    “Diana says that Faith has wanted to write a book about him for years, but he refuses,” said Jirra. “Something about the fact that he can’t separate the lies from truth.”

    There was a round of laughter.

    “I’m just glad that he was cleared in the shooting,” said Sean.

    “Well, it was clearly self-defense,” interjected Cat.

    “Jim, where did you get the venison?” asked Sean as he began to sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top of his chili.

    “My dad; I didn’t have time to go hunting this year,” replied Jim. “He got it back in the fall on my uncle’s farm near Reading.”

    Celeste tasted a small spoonful apprehensively and then nodded. “It doesn’t taste as gamey as I thought it would. It’s very good, Jim.”

    “That’s because the ground venison was mixed with ground pork; it takes the edge off,” explained Jim.

    “And you used beer in it?” asked Jirra.

    Jim nodded. “Always, beer adds a nice taste to chili.”

    Beth passed a basket with the cornbread around as the conversation shifted back to the show and the shooting.

    “So is this the end of this?” asked TC. “I mean, have they finally got them all?”

    “Carla thinks so,” said Cat. “Apparently, Virginia never knew Michael Raymond had been in the group. Nina said from what she uncovered, Michael only participated in one actual attack, the rest of the time he acted as lookout and kept an eye out for police. Nina thinks that Todd didn’t trust the others entirely, but as Todd isn’t talking we’ll never know.”

    “I’ll just be happy when he’s sentenced,” said Jirra as she reached for another piece of cornbread. “He escaped once and I still think his family helped him. I’ll sleep easier when he’s in a state pen.”

    “Are you going to the sentencing?” asked Cat.

    Jirra shook her head. “Carla promised to send me a tape. I don’t want the publicity.”

    “What about the allocution?” asked Cat.

    “The same,” replied Jirra. “Why?”

    “I just know that it gave Erika some closure when she saw the guy who raped her get sentenced,” explained Cat.

    Jirra nodded and thought about what Cat had just said.

    “How’s Erika doing?” asked Beth.

    Cat smiled. “She’s dating Mike.”

    She then explained to the rest who Erika and Mike were.

    “Wait a second, Mike Jackson, All-American defensive back at Penn State?” asked Jim.

    Cat nodded. “Erika and I went to the same high school.” She then told them about her cousin Alex.

    “Wow, now I’m really impressed, both of them should be drafted in April,” said Jim.

    “Who cares about that, tell us more about Erika and Mike,” said Beth.

    “They’ve always flirted, even back in high school,” explained Cat. “Apparently, Mike was back home in Golden Hill after the bowl game and they bumped into each other. Erika is doing her student teaching at Golden Hill High and Mike stopped by to talk to the student body. I think it’s great as they’re both on the rebound, even if it doesn’t last, I’m happy for them.”

    “Why do think that? You sound like you expect Erika to get back with…what’s her name again?” asked Beth.

    “Laura,” answered Cat. “And yes, I fully expect her and Erika to get back together…call it a hunch, but in the meantime, I’m glad that Erika is with someone.”

    “I wish I knew Erika better,” said Jirra.

    “I think you two would get along famously,” replied Cat.

    “Jirra, sorry to interrupt, but you know, we’re going to have to have a big party when the show airs,” said Jill. “I mean, not just to see the show, but to see your name in the credits, and to see our cameos!”

    “That’s not a bad idea,” added Beth. “Celeste, you want to do it here?”

    Celeste nodded. “We have the biggest place, so it makes sense.”

    “I’d like that,” added Jirra. “As soon as I know the date I’ll let everyone know.”

Chapter 57

    Life went on at Penn as winter slowly gave way begrudgingly to spring. Jirra was almost pleased that her life had returned to its normal routine of being a college student. She did miss Alexis intensely, but getting together was impossible as the production company was fighting to finish the show’s first season.

    The calls to Jirra’s phone had dropped off quickly as the press turned to another story, just as Alexis had predicted. Jirra was expecting a minor upsurge when the show aired, but hopefully that wouldn’t cause too much interference in her life.

    Celeste drove up to Golden Hill, PA, to talk to local officials about setting up ties with her foundation. Ever since Erika and Cat’s senior year, the number of TG students coming out seemed to increase every year.  Celeste was interested in offering assistance for any teens that needed it.

    The biggest concern of the school officials was that they didn’t want the scholarship contest to dominate the school and the community. While Celeste and some of the school officials felt the others may be over concerned, she agreed to keep her foundation’s assistance low key.

    Beth’s life was going great until she got a phone call one afternoon telling her that her grandmother had been hospitalized.

    “Who called you?” asked Celeste as helped Beth pack an overnight bag.

    “My parents, they were called by the Director,” replied Beth as she packed her toiletries.

    “The Director…as in the Director of the Agency?” asked Celeste.

    Beth nodded. “The same one you met.”

    “So, did they tell you what’s wrong with her?”

    “She woke up and had stomach pain. It could be the flu or something worse,” replied Beth. “I mean, she’s in her nineties, so anything can be serious.”

    “How has she been?”

    “She’s been in great health,” said Beth. She closed the lid on the bulging suitcase and snapped the locks. “Okay, that should be enough.”

    “Here’s the map and key to the downtown apartment,” said Celeste. “I already called the doorman and security to let them know you’re coming. The nice thing is that it’s only three blocks to the hospital from there. It’s times like these that I’m glad that I’ve kept it.”

    The apartment had been owned by her husband; and even though she could get a lot of money for it, she just couldn’t bring herself to sell it.

    Beth smiled and hugged her roommate. “Thanks again.”

    “Call as soon as you get there,” ordered Celeste.

    Beth nodded again.

Chapter 58

    The drive up I-95 from Philadelphia to New York City only took Beth two hours, although it seemed much longer due to her worrying about her grandmother.

    She truly loved her grandmother from the time she had been a child; but what made her really worry was the fact that Andrea was the only person in her original family who even knew she was alive.  Part of her said not to worry, but there was a nagging fear that this was something serious.

    Celeste’s instructions were perfect and Beth had no trouble finding the apartment building. She parked the car in the garage and left her bag with the doorman and headed over to the hospital.

    She arrived at the hospital and was told that Andrea was in the ICU.

    “May I speak to her doctor?” she asked.

    The nurse then asked Beth if she was family, and for a moment Beth almost said yes. “No, I’m not, but I’m a close friend.”

    “I’m sorry, but we’re only allowing in family members at this time,” replied the nurse who then went back to talking to another nurse.

    Beth knew that it was pointless to argue. Instead she pulled out her cell phone and dialed a number that she kept for emergencies. Normally, she wouldn’t consider using it, but this was very important.

    The number rang once before being answered.

    “Yes, Beth, how can I help you?” asked the Director.

    She explained what was happening at the hospital.

    “Try again in five minutes,” he said.

    “Thank you, sir,” she replied.

    “It’s the least I can do. Please give her my thoughts and prayers,” he replied.

    Five minutes later, Beth was being led to Andrea’s room.

Chapter 59

    “I can only let you stay a few minutes, Miss Williams, Mrs. Carlson needs her rest right now,” the doctor explained.

    “I understand. Do you know what’s wrong with her?” asked Beth.

    “We’re still running tests,” he replied.

    “You must have some idea of what’s wrong?” asked Beth.

    “It’s too early to tell yet,” he replied.

    Beth looked around and saw they were the only two people in the passageway. “Doctor, you were told who sent me here, correct?”

    He nodded, although he still thought the girl was too young to be an assistant to the Director of the Agency.

    Seeing his doubt, Beth pulled out her identification and showed it to him.

    The doctor looked at the ID and badge and figured that they were genuine.

    “She’s in the early stages of cancer,” he replied.

    Beth gasped. “What…what are her chances?”

    The doctor shrugged. “Depends on her, if we treat it fast and aggressively then we have a good chance of stopping its progression.”

    “And what do you mean it depends on her?” asked Beth.

    “She doesn’t want surgery or chemo,” he replied.

    It was Beth’s turn to nod.

    “Thank you, Doctor.”

    Beth stepped into Andrea’s room and found her sitting up in bed.

    Andrea’s eyes lit up when she saw Beth.

    “How did you get in here, my dear?” she asked in a soft voice.

    “An old friend of the family put a word in for me,” replied Beth as she walked over to Andrea’s side.

    “Of course,” replied Andrea with a smile.

    “How are you feeling?” asked Beth.

    “Tired, but other than that I feel fine now,” she replied.

    Beth took Andrea’s hand.

    “From the look on your face I can tell you have been talking to the doctors,” continued Andrea.

    Beth nodded.

    “Those fools think that just because I’m old that I’m deaf,” complained Andrea.

    “So you know?” asked Beth cautiously.

    “Yes,” replied Andrea.

    “And you’re not worried?” asked Beth.

    “My personal physician told me about the cancer a month ago,” replied Andrea.

    Beth was stunned. “And…and what are you going to do?”

    “If you mean, am I am going to have surgery and chemo, the answer is no. I don’t see any reason to,” replied Andrea.

    “Don’t you want to live?” asked Beth.

    Andrea gripped Beth’s hand. “Of course I do, my dear. But I don’t see any reason in dragging it out either. My doctor said that even with a very aggressive treatment I still only have a fifty-fifty chance of living another year. And if I go through the surgery and other treatments, I’ll spend most of that time in the hospital. I prefer my home.”

    Beth fought back tears and tried to maintain her composure. “So…so what will you do?”

    “Live my life as I always have. Beth, I’ve lived a long and wonderful life, I’ve done things that most people can’t even imagine doing. I think I deserve to go out on my own terms, don’t you?”

    Beth wiped back a tear. “Yes…but I can’t bear to think of you dying.”

    “My dear, it’s part of life. I’m just happy that I’ve had you back in my life these past few years. You’re becoming a very lovely young woman, and you have your whole life ahead of you, I see so much of me in you,” continued Andrea.

    “What can I do for you?”

    “Just stay in touch,” replied Andrea. “My doctor said that without surgery I should have several months, maybe longer. I’ll have to start taking some prescriptions.”

    “Will you stay in your apartment?”

    Andrea nodded. “Of course; it’s been my home for the past thirty years. I’ll just hire a nurse to provide the medical care; Paula, my assistant, would be insulted if I brought in anyone else.”

    Beth had to wonder if she could face death with a calm demeanor and in a moment she was feeling a sense of pride in the way Andrea was responding.

    “I love you so much, Gran,” said Beth.

    “I love you too. I mean, I thought I lost you and then you came back. You have no idea how happy you have made me with you emails, phone calls, and visits over the past few years,” said Andrea.

    “That won’t stop,” said Beth immediately.

    “I know that,” replied Andrea. “So, tell me how school is going and also I want to know more about this young man who has stolen your heart.”

Chapter 60

    “Well, I better get going; I’ll be in town for another couple of days,” said Beth.
And before you say it, I brought my school work so I won’t fall behind!”

    “Good girl,” replied Andrea. “I should be out of here in a couple of days myself.”

    “When is the rest of the family arriving?” asked Beth.

    “They’re on their way; but please don’t let that stop you,” said Andrea.

    “Okay,” said Beth. She then leaned over and kissed Andrea. “You’re the bravest woman I’ve ever known and you’ll always be my role model.”

    “Thank you, my dear. Now, don’t fret, I’m not going away for a while. Besides, this will give me time to write my own obituary, someone has to make sure they get all the details right.”

    Beth giggled in spite of herself.

    “That’s good, I love hearing you laugh,” said Andrea.

    Beth hugged her again. “See you tomorrow.”

    “Thank Theodore for clearing the red tape,” she said.

    “Theodore?” asked Beth in a stunned tone. “You mean the Director has a name, a real first name?”

    Andrea smiled back. “Good night, dear.”

Chapter 61

    “Thank you for the update, Beth,” said the Director.

    “I know she would love to see you, sir,” added Beth.

    “Thank you again, Beth,” he replied.

    Beth was no longer worried that she had overstepped her bounds and suspected that he would be on a jet to see Andrea in a few days.

    She was more concerned about going back to the hospital. She dreaded the possibility of running into one of her relatives, or, God forbid, her old family.

    After a small dinner, she called Celeste, her parents and then Jim.

Chapter 62

    The next day, Beth looked out on a rainy day. She debated taking a cab, but decided that the walk wouldn’t kill her.

    She arrived at the hospital and headed to Andrea’s room. This time, the staff gave her no problems.

    She approached Andrea’s room and was relieved to see that Andrea was alone.

    “Good morning,” greeted Beth. “How are you feeling?”

    Andrea smiled. “Better, the pain is gone…for now.”

    Beth sat down. “The Director sends his best. So do my parents in DC.”

    Andrea pointed to the many flower arrangements. “Your friends Ally and Carol sent the ones with the daffodils.”

    Beth looked at the flowers read the cards. She held up one card and read it. It was from the Danish ambassador to the UN. Another arrangement was from the White House.

    “It’s rather embarrassing if you ask me,” said Andrea with a laugh.

    “I think it’s wonderful,” said Beth as she continued to read the cards. She held one up. “This is from Celeste’s neighbor right?”

    Andrea nodded. “Margaret Torrey, a very old and dear friend. It’s amazing how small the world is. She’s coming by later today and I pity the poor nurse that tries to stop her.”

    Beth laughed. “Celeste has told me some good stories about her.”

    “Your parents in DC sent those,” said Andrea as she pointed to a bouquet of roses.

    Beth read the card and then sat down.

    “Speaking of parents, are…are Mom and Dad coming here?”

    “Your father should be here in a few hours,” said Andrea.

    “I’ll be gone before he gets here…I can’t….,” said Beth as she stumbled over her response.

    “That’s understandable, dear. It must be hard for you.”

    “You have no idea,” mumbled Beth.

    “I think I do,” said Andrea. “I sort of went through a similar experience as you did.”

    “Oh, that’s right. Did you ever see your father after you changed?” asked Beth.

    “No,” replied Andrea. “He knew that I had gone to Canada and joined the RCAF, and I did write him several times during the war. I also wrote him from the Stalag.”

    “So he never knew you became a woman?” asked Beth.

    “I never had the chance, although I’m not sure what I would have done if I had the chance. I like to think that he would have been proud of me.”

    “What happened?” asked Beth.

    “Due to my position in the underground, I was unable to contact him. I didn’t find out until after the war that he had been killed in a plane crash in 1944. I told you that he was a pilot right?”

    Beth nodded. “He’s the one who taught you to fly, right?”

    “Yes, I was only twelve at the time…things were different back then. Anyway, he tried to join the military after Pearl Harbor, but was considered too old, so he got a job working for one of the aircraft manufacturers. He ferried planes from the factories to the military bases. He was in a C-47 heading from California to Washington and it went down in a storm.”

    “I never knew,” said Beth. “I’m sorry.”

    Andrea shrugged her shoulders. “It was the way he would have wanted to go. He loved being in the air.”

    “What about you? Did you like flying?”

    Andrea smiled. “Like flying, no; I loved flying. My one regret is that I didn’t take up flying again after the war.”

    “So being shot down didn’t change your mind?”

    “Why would it? I mean, it was just bad luck that we flew over a new AA battery on the coast…actually, my luck was better than my wingman; Lloyd Beason. He never knew what hit him, his Spitfire exploded immediately; that’s what saved my life as it forced me to pull up. My plane was hit, but I was only shot down,” explained Andrea. “I crash-landed it a short distance away from the barracks of the gun crew that shot me down. Needless to say, I was captured almost immediately.”

    “It must have been terrifying,” said Beth

    Andrea laughed. “The soldiers who caught me were extremely nice. Apparently their officer had offered a weekend pass to any crew that captured a British pilot. They took me back to their barracks and we got drunk on apple schnapps. I was then turned over directly to the Luftwaffe. I later found out that the soldiers and their officer hid me from the Gestapo.”

    “And then you were transferred up to that camp near the Baltic, right?”

    Andrea nodded. “Yes, Luft Stalag I; but you’ve heard all about that, let me tell you about some of my adventures before I was shot down.”

    Beth listened as Andrea talked about some of the missions she flew during the war. She was so mesmerized that she lost all track of time.

    “Mom?” asked a man softly as he stepped inside.

    Beth and Andrea turned together. Beth had to fight to control her response as she saw her birth father for the first time since she had been transformed.

    “Hello, dear,” greeted Andrea.

    He came in and hugged her gently. Beth could hear him crying and it was all she could do to hold back from crying too. Her birth father was standing five feet away from her and he had no idea who she was.

    “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I promised myself that I wouldn’t do that.”

    “It’s okay, dear,” replied Andrea.

    He then looked at Beth as if he had hadn’t seen her when he came in. “I’m sorry, did I interrupt something?”

    “Jeff, this is Beth Williams,” introduced Andrea. “She works for my old boss.”

    His eyes opened wide, as he absorbed what his mother said. He was one of the few in the family that knew his mother’s history in The Agency. “No offense, Agent Williams, but you look very young to be an agent.”

    Beth smiled back. “I am. I’ve heard a lot about you from your mother; it’s nice to finally meet you.”

    They shook hands.

    “Andrea, I better get back to work, I’ll try and stop by tomorrow,” said Beth.

    “Thank you again for stopping by,” said Andrea.

    Her father nodded. “Have a nice day, Agent Williams.”

    Beth picked up her coat and left the hospital. She stepped out into the rain and signed. The falling rain disguised the tears that rolled down her cheeks as she walked back to the apartment.

Chapter 63

    “I wish I could be there with you right now,” said Maggie.

    “I thought I was over it, Mom,” replied Beth. “I mean, I love you and Dad so much, but seeing…seeing him there, brought back so much pain and combined with the thoughts of losing Gran, it’s a little overwhelming.”

    “Are you staying at Celeste’s apartment in Manhattan?” asked Maggie.

    “Yes,” replied Beth. She could hear her mom typing in the background.

    “Okay, I’ll be at Penn Station at 3:30,” said Maggie, who then gave Beth the train info.

    “Thanks, Mom,” replied Beth.

    “You’re welcome, Beth,” said Maggie.

Chapter 64

    Beth had hoped to keep her emotions in check as he saw her mom walking towards her at Penn Station. However, she immediately broke down and began to cry as they hugged.

    Maggie didn’t say a thing, and just hugged her daughter.

    “Sorry,” said Beth sheepishly. “Some tough agent I am, I wonder what Dad would say.”

“Nonsense,” replied Maggie. “Honey, there is nothing wrong with showing emotion, especially at a time like this. Your dad sends his love.”

    Beth nodded. “Who’s taking care of little bro?”

    “We have a nanny now, as I’m going back to work,” said Maggie.

    Beth’s face lightened up. “You are? That’s fantastic!”

    “Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother, but it feels good to be working again. So, where do we go?”

    “Follow me, we’ll catch a cab to the apartment,” said Beth. “I drove up here from Philly, but it’s cheaper to keep the car in the garage.”

    They arrived at the apartment a short time later.

    Maggie looked out the window that overlooked Central Park. “This is fantastic.”

    “I know, I can understand why Celeste won’t sell it,” said Beth. “She said that if I get assigned to the NY office after graduation that I can stay here.”

    “That would be something,” replied Maggie.

    “You want some tea or coffee?”

“Tea would be great,” said Maggie.

Beth headed to the kitchen and put the kettle on and then took out two mugs.

Maggie walked over and assisted.

Over tea, Beth then told her about Andrea and the brief meeting in the hospital with her birth father.

“I can’t believe how calm Gran is about all this,” said Beth.

“She’s lived a long life and is facing death the same way she has faced life, on her own terms,” said Maggie.

“Do you think she’s doing the right thing?”

“It doesn’t matter what we think, dear,” replied Maggie.

Beth nodded. “I know, I just keep hoping for something to happen to make this better.”

“I know, death is hardest on those left behind,” said Maggie.

“Mom, we did the right thing about letting my original family think I was killed, right?” asked Beth.

“What do you think?” countered Maggie.

Beth sighed and nodded. “It was for the best, I know that. It’s just so strange thinking that there’s a headstone with my old name on it and that they go there and put flowers on it. I feel dishonest about it.”

“You gave them closure,” said Maggie. “I know that seems small, but trust me, it’s better than forcing them to keep a huge secret. Can you imagine what your lives would be life if your secret got out?”

“That’s true, my friend Jirra is dealing with that sort of thing right now,” responded Beth who then looked at her watch. “You hungry?”

“Now that you mention it,” said Maggie. “What do you have in mind?”

“There’s a great little bistro right around the corner, I ate there last night,” replied Beth.

“Sound good. I’ve missed being with you, Beth.”

“So have I, Mom. Thanks again for coming up.”

“That’s what family is for, Kiddo,” said Maggie.

Beth smiled. “I haven’t heard you call me that in years; that sure brings back memories.”

Chapter 65

The next morning, Beth and Maggie walked over to the hospital. The rain was still coming down, but not as hard.

Andrea was looking very chipper and anxious to get out of the hospital. She was very pleased to see Beth and Maggie.

“This is a very pleasant surprise,” she exclaimed. “Actually, not that big of a surprise. I’m glad you had someone with you last night, Beth. You did a great job hiding your emotions yesterday, but I could still see the pain in your eyes.”

“I’ll have to work on that,” said Beth with a grin.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Andrea. “I’m going home today, as I finally convinced the doctors that I’m of sound mind about my treatment.”

“Is…is um, Dad coming by soon?” asked Beth softly.

 “Not until later, your uncles also arrived yesterday. They’re going to take me home this afternoon.”

“Will they support your decision?” asked Maggie.

“They have no choice,” replied Andrea. “I’m still in charge.” She then laughed.

“Is there anything we can do for you?” asked Beth.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing, my dear. I’m so proud of you and how you’ve progressed and overcome so much. I know that you’re going to do well in life,” said Andrea.

Beth felt her eyes starting to tear up again. “Please no more, Gran, I’ve cried enough the past few days.”

“I hope they’re tears of joy from now on, Beth,” said Andrea. “Look, I’m not dead yet, so let’s focus on life and not death, okay?”

Beth nodded. “Okay, that’s fair. Can I ask you a question, Gran?”

Andrea nodded.

“How hard is it to learn to fly?”

Andrea’s eyes lit up. “Not very hard, especially for someone as bright as you.”

Maggie looked at Beth and then Andrea. “What are you two talking about?”

“I want to learn to fly, like Gran,” said Beth. “Please don’t try and talk me out of it.”

“I won’t, in fact, I’ll talk your father into allowing it,” said Maggie. “He was worried when you got your driver’s license. I’m not certain what he’ll think about this.”

Beth laughed. “He has become rather protective of me, which is rather funny, considering everything he knows about me.”

“Fathers are always protective of their little girls,” replied Andrea.

“I’m not that little anymore,” said Beth.

“He still sees you as a teenager,” added Maggie.

“He obviously cares a lot about you, you’re lucky to have two sets of wonderful parents in one lifetime,” said Andrea.

Beth just smiled as she absorbed what they had said. They were right, she was lucky.

Chapter 66

Beth and Maggie stayed with Andrea until eleven and then left. Beth promised to stay in touch.

“She’s a very remarkable woman,” said Maggie as they walked back to the apartment.

“I know…I feel a little better now, but it’s still going to be hard,” replied Beth.

“Of course it is. So, are you heading back today or tomorrow?”

“If I say tomorrow, will you spend the night?” asked Beth.

Maggie nodded.

“Cool, then let’s spend the night then,” said Beth.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” replied Maggie.

After lunch, they did some shopping, but mostly they talked.

“How serious are you and Jim?” asked Maggie.

“We like being around each other, but nothing beyond that….so far,” explained Beth.

“Do you want it to go further?” asked Maggie.

“I don’t know. I mean I like Jim a lot, and we get along well, but I’m not ready to settle down by a long shot. Right now we’re good.”

“How serious have you gotten?” asked Maggie.

“If you mean have we had sex yet, the answer is no,” replied Beth. “And before you say it, I’m very much aware of the fact that I can get pregnant.”

“It’s not just that,” said Maggie. “I’m just worried about any complications if you do get pregnant. I know you’ve had several complete physicals over the years, but their might be complications, you are treading on new ground.”

Beth nodded as she absorbed Maggie’s words. “I hadn’t really thought of that. I mean I’ve been in perfect health since the change and everything has worked perfectly, but you’re right.”

“Are you taking birth control pills?” asked Maggie.

Beth shook her head.

“I’d like you use the family doctor when you decide to,” said Maggie.

Beth nodded, knowing that Maggie meant using a doctor assigned to The Agency. “That makes sense.”

“I just want you to be safe,” explained Maggie.

“I appreciate that,” said Beth.

Chapter 67

The next day, Beth called Andrea at her apartment and was pleased to hear that things were going well.

“I don’t want you worrying about me,” remarked Andrea. “Just remember that life goes on.”

“I will, Gran, take care. Um, can I come up and visit?”

“You’d better!” replied Andrea with a laugh.

Beth and Maggie then left the apartment.

“Mom, why don’t you ride down with me to Philly? You can catch the train there, it’s not that far from where I live,” said Beth.

“I’d like that,” replied Maggie.

Chapter 68

After she dropped Maggie off at the Amtrak station in Philly, Beth drove home.

Celeste was already home and preparing dinner.

“I’m cooking chicken; it’s a recipe that Jirra got from Kari,” explained Celeste.

“It smells great,” said Beth as she hugged Spirit. Spirit returned the hug with a big wet doggie kiss on Beth’s cheek.

“How did it go?” asked Celeste as she checked on the rice.

Beth sat down at the counter. “It was a major emotional rollercoaster.”  She then told Celeste what had happened.

“Well, the apartment is yours anytime you want it,” said Celeste.

“Thank you, I really appreciate it.”

Celeste smiled back. “So she knows Margaret Torrey?”

Beth nodded. “I think she knows most of the important people up there. You should have seen all the flowers in her room and who they were from!”

“She’s had a remarkable life so far,” said Celeste. “So, you ready for dinner?”

“I’m starving.”

Chapter 69

“I’m glad your mom was able to come up,” said Celeste as she passed the chicken to Beth.

“I can’t imagine where I’d be today if it wasn’t for her,” said Beth. “While seeing my birth father opened up some old wounds, this has also made me realize how lucky I have been to have a second set of parents. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have gone through life alone.”

“Maggie’s decision to become your mom has had a ripple effect. If she hadn’t Dr. Martz might have grabbed you and who knows what your life would have been like.”

Beth nodded as she ate some of the chicken. “Wow, this is really good.”

“Thank you,” replied Celeste.

“I might not even be alive, I mean there were other people searching for me,” continued Beth.

“And who knows if Margo Simon would have ever been caught,” added Celeste.

Beth shook her head. “I may have been the bait that caught her, but I know that Ally Burns would have caught Margo eventually. However, if it wasn’t for Margo we wouldn’t be friends…I guess that psychotic bitch was good for something after all.”

Celeste gave Beth a look of displeasure.

Beth didn’t back down. “I’m sorry if my words are crude, but you have to admit they’re accurate. I mean, she was about to molest me when the raid occurred.”

“That’s true. Beth, I’ve never asked you this before, but what would you have done if Margo had been able to whisk you away?”

“I would have killed her at the first opportunity,” replied Beth immediately. “I’ve though about it many times and I know that I would have done it. She’s truly evil and I still wish she was dead.”

“She’s locked up for life and she’s not going to harm anyone again,” said Celeste.

“I don’t trust her, Celeste. She’s extremely intelligent and manipulative. I imagine that she’s constantly plotting her escape.”

“What could she do?”

“I suspect that she still has money hidden and waiting for her; yes we got a lot of it, but I’m sure she has additional funds locked away somewhere,” continued Beth. “And there probably are people out there that want her um… services again.”

“Let’s change the topic,” suggested Celeste.

“With pleasure,” replied Beth.

Chapter 70

“The show is going through its final edits,” said Alexis over the phone.

“Cool,” replied Jirra.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s going to be one our best episodes,” continued Alexis.

“You’re just saying that to make me feel good,” said Jirra.

“Maybe, but it really does look good,” replied Alexis.

“So, does it have a date set for airing?”

“In three weeks. It will be our last episode of the first season. The production company figures that it would be a good way to end the first season and to build up excitement for the next one. They also plan on lots of press coverage, just to give you a head’s up.”

“Thanks,” replied Jirra. “Oh, did I tell you that we’re throwing a viewing party at Beth and Celeste’s?”

“That should be fun,” said Alexis. “You can tell them all their scenes made it in; including the ones with Celeste and Spirit.”

“I will; thank you, Alexis. Um, is there any chance you could come down that weekend?”

“Maybe,” replied Alexis coyly.

“You mean that?” asked Jirra excitedly.

“It’s not been finalized, but as part of the promotion for the show, they want me to do some interviews in Philly.”

“I hope it works out, I’ve missed you so much.”

“That makes two of us,” replied Alexis. “Well, I gotta run, I have a production meeting to attend, talk to you later, Roo.”

“I love you, Alexis.”

“I love you too.”

Jirra hung up the phone and sighed. It was all happening just like Killara said it would.

Chapter 71

    The week of the show’s airing was a buzz of anticipation; especially for Jirra.

    The phone calls for interview requests started up again, and once again she had to screen all her calls. Most of the requests wanted to talk to her about her relationship with Alexis, although some were interested in the case against Todd Kelly. One request from a literary magazine wanted to know more about Jirra’s experiences writing for a movie and a TV show episode.

    Jirra just passed their numbers to the public relations department of the production company. Thankfully, none of the reporters had managed to get her cell phone number so she didn’t have to screen those calls too.

    Alexis confirmed that she was coming down to Philly to do some PR for the show.

    “We’ll be staying at the same hotel,” she said to Jirra.

    “Cool,” replied Jirra.

    “Do you think that your friends would be interested in moving their party to here?” asked Alexis.

    “What do you have in mind?” asked Jirra.

    “The hotel has offered us one of their party suites to watch the show; well, most of the production company is going to be up in Boston, The ones who will be here are Faith, Max, and Glenn.  Anyway, it would be a shame to let all that food go to waste.”

    “That would be great,” said Jirra. “Um, can we bring Spirit?”

    Alexis laughed. “Why not, after all she’s in the show.”

Chapter 72

    The last couple of days before the show aired was very hard on Jirra. She could see Alexis on TV, and hear her on the radio, but due to the tight schedule of appearances, Alexis couldn’t get time to see her. Alexis said that would all change as soon as the show aired, as she would be on vacation.

    “When do they start shooting again?” asked Jirra.

    “Not until mid-June, so I’ll be able to go back to New Mexico with you. I talked to Jen and they had to delay the shooting in New Mexico a few weeks. They’ll be starting now in early May.”

    “I didn’t know that, but actually that works out better for me. Finals are in early May. I was hoping to be able to see some of the production,” said Jirra.

    “Well, we can fly out there as soon as you’re done with classes. Faith is going to give you the details of when she’s going to want you up here at the party,” explained Alexis.

    “Cool,” said Jirra. “I’m really looking forward to that.”

    “She’s going to work you hard, but you’ll learn a lot. I guarantee that by the end of the summer you’ll know if you want to be a screenwriter,” said Alexis.

    “Good,” replied Jirra. “To be honest, I’m finding the idea of writing scripts and books more appealing than being a reporter. I mean like doing it now, but I think I prefer fiction to the real world.”

    “I can see you doing that,” said Alexis. “You have a great imagination and you have the ability to take your real life experiences and mix them in.”

    “Thank you,” said Jirra. “So, will it be just us at the party?”

    “Faith is bringing some friends, but as you can probably guess they’ll be cool.”

    “Diana and Kari are coming, right?”

    “Of course, along with Nina,” said Alexis.

    “Great, I can’t wait.”

    “So, how’re things going back at the spa?”

    “Judy is planning on breaking ground to build some more cottages,” said Jirra. “She’s also going to build a small museum to capitalize on the interest on the canyon.”

    “The canyon is still off limits to the general public, right?”

    “Yes, but they’ll be opening up part of it in a year from now,” explained Jirra.

    “Anything new on that supposed relative of Dr. Margate?”

    “No, apparently the person won’t say a thing until they meet with Dan this summer,” stated Jirra. “It’s rather mysterious.” 

    “Sounds par for the course,” joked Alexis.

    Jirra laughed. “You got that right. I’m starting to accept the fact that my life will never be normal.”

    “Well, I should be free of obligations starting tomorrow afternoon.”

    “Cool, can you come over to my place?” asked Jirra.

    “That’s the general idea,” said Alexis.

Chapter 73

    “The party sounds exciting, Roo,” said Liz.

    “I wish you and Dan could be here to watch it with me,” replied Jirra.

    “So do I,” said Liz. “We’re having a party here to watch it too. Judy is showing it in the main dining room. Jen Stevens is going to be here and she says that she’s looking forward to seeing it.”

    “What’s Jen doing there; I thought she was in LA working on the movie?”

    “She’s out here scouting some places to film. She’s been a real blessing for the spa,” said Liz.

    “What do you mean; I thought the spa was doing great?”

    “Oh, the spa is doing great, but as you know our relations with the town could be better. Well, Jen has been hiring lots of locals for the movie shoot and has even added some scenes to be shot in town. She’s also been arranging for most of the supplies the movie crew will need with the merchants in town. That means more money in their pockets. Jen figures that the filming will pump somewhere over a million dollars into the town’s economy.”

    “I can’t believe there are still people there who don’t realize what a good thing the spa is,” said Jirra. “I mean, no offense, but before the spa opened the town was dying.”

    “I know that, but there are some people that have blinders on. Some of them don’t care for the diverse clientele that the spa attracts.”

    “You mean, LGBT,” said Jirra.

    “Exactly,” replied Liz.

    “It’s so amazing how closed minded some people can be,” said Jirra.

    “I know. Oh, changing the topic, they replayed the interview that Alexis did with Terri Gross. It was wonderful,” said Liz. “I’m so happy that you have someone like Alexis in your life.”

    Jirra felt choked up as she listened to her mom’s words. “Thank you, Mom.”

    “Roo, it pleases me that you’re living your life to its fullest. It would have been very easy for you to climb into a shell and also very understandable. I often wonder how I would have reacted to having my very core essence changed in a blink of an eye.”

    “You have?”

    “Yes,” replied Liz. “I think many of us here have. It was stunning to see how you had changed following the accident. The fact that the changes were just physical made it even more of a challenge.”

    “Well, I’m nowhere close to being whole, but I’m definitely on the right track. It has helped to have so many people supporting me.”

    “And we’ll continue to do so, Roo,” said Liz.

    “Thank you, Mom.”

Chapter 74

    The next day, Alexis and Jirra hung out together. Alexis dressed in casual clothing and had her hair pulled back into a ponytail. She wore just a touch of makeup and looked like any other coed on campus.

    “Actually, I do this all the time up in Boston,” she admitted to Jirra as they walked across campus.

    “You hang out on college campuses on the weekend?” asked Jirra.

    Alexis playfully nudged Jirra in the ribs. “No silly, I like to go out as an everyday person. I mean, my neighbors at my condo obviously know who I am, but they do their best to protect my privacy. It’s funny actually. There’s good breakfast place around the corner from my condo. I was in there one time and someone asked me if I knew where Alexis Eden lived!”

    “No way!” replied Jirra.

    Alexis nodded. “I told him that I had no idea and they believed me. The really funny thing was when the waitress walked up and asked me by name if I wanted more coffee and it went right over the guy’s head.”

    “What about at your house out at the cape?”

    “It’s the same way. My house isn’t in the trendy area; you know the area where the celebrities hang out. It’s nice being around regular people.”

    “I can’t wait to see it,” said Jirra.

    “It’s really nice. Oh, I just became part owner of a really good restaurant there. It’s a solid investment and it helped keep the place in local hands.”

    “You’re so smart when it comes to your money.”

    Alexis shrugged. “I just want to be able to walk away from this business when I want to. I mean, I’ve made enough from my last movie to last a lifetime if I’m smart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m paid well for the Erin Flynn show, but I would have done it for less. Nope, thanks to teenage boys who saw The Minotaur several times, that movie has paid for my house on Cape Cod, and allowed me to invest for our future.”

    “That’s good to know.”

    “Well, it’s all thanks to Richard Thorn. He offered me a great deal and a share of the profits. The movie did well here, but it really was big overseas. You met him when you were in Hollywood, right?”

    “Briefly, I spent more time talking to his daughter.”

    “Hallie is pretty cool.”

    “I really liked her,” said Jirra. “It’s strange, but even though we only talked for a few minutes, I felt a strange bond with her.”

    “Maybe she’s like you and used to a guy,” kidded Alexis.

    “Yeah, right,” replied Jirra. “How’s she doing?”

    “She had her baby, a little girl that Hallie and her partner Kim named Roxanne. Richard showed me several photos; she’s very cute. Anyway he says that they spend half the year in Crete at a Minoan temple site.”

    “That’s right, she told me something about that…whoa, that’s a little strange…maybe we do have a connection after all!”

    “Oh, and get this, Hallie’s pregnant again and it’s supposed to be twins,” said Alexis.

    “Wow, that’s great,” said Jirra.

    “When things settle down, we can start a family,” said Alexis.

    “I’d like that, but I don’t want to rush into it either,” replied Jirra. “There’s the coffeehouse I was telling you about.”

    “Cool,” replied Alexis.

    They walked inside and ordered their drinks. As they sat there and talked, Jirra overheard someone talking about how much the girl sitting next to her looked like Alexis Eden. The other person laughed and asked what would a big star be doing in a coffeehouse in Philly. It was all Jirra and Alexis could do to not break up laughing.

Chapter 75

    Beth, Jim, Celeste, and Sean walked in together the party at the hotel. Celeste was also walking Spirit.

    “I can’t believe the hotel didn’t mind about you bringing Spirit,” said Jim.

    “Are you kidding? Spirit is considering getting her SAG card so she can get a speaking part next time,” replied Beth.

    “I see that Diana and Kari are already here,” said Sean as he waved to them.

    As they talked, Max and Faith arrived.

    “Have you seen Alexis or Jirra?” asked Faith.

    “I talked to them on the way over, they should be down any minute,” said Celeste.

    As if on cue, Alexis and Jirra walked in together.

    “We were wondering where you two were,” said Faith.

    “I was talking to my friends and family back in New Mexico,” explained Jirra. “Jen Stevens sends her best to everyone.”

    There was still an hour until the show aired and the rest of the guests rolled in. Jill and TC arrived with Nina, Cat, Matt, and Carla.

    Carla immediately sought out Jirra.

    “I have some new information concerning Todd, and I wanted to let you know before the press did,” said Carla.

    “Is there something wrong?” asked Jirra with dread. Deep down she suspected that Todd’s family would buy him out of jail.

     “No, it’s good news. You know that Todd’s lawyer offered a deal following the shooting of Michael Raymond.”

    Jirra nodded.

    “Well, something didn’t seem right about it. Nina told me your theory about the connection between Michael and Todd, Jirra so I contacted the LAPD and they were able to break into Todd’s laptop. They uncovered dozens of emails between Todd and Michael. We now have positive proof that Todd and Michael exchanged information about the show, and that Todd told Michael to go after you. We’ll be adding additional charges of attempted murder tomorrow.”

    “So what will happen?” asked Alexis.

    “If Todd’s lawyers are smart they’ll make another offer. The evidence is rock solid and if it goes to trial Todd is looking at life without parole.”

    “So why make a deal?” asked Jill angrily. “I say throw him in jail til he dies.”

    “The DA wants this over, also as you know, some of the victims don’t want a trial,” explained Carla. “We already have deals with the others.”

    “So what will Todd get?” asked Jirra.

    “What we have on the table is life; but he’ll be eligible for parole in twenty-five years, with good behavior.”

    “And you won’t accept anything less?” asked Jirra.

    “That’s right. If it was up to me, I’d take it to trial, but the DA likes deals. It’s also guaranteed jail time.”

    “Just as long as he goes away for a long time,” said Jirra. “Thank you for everything, Carla.”

    “You’re welcome. I just wish that it had never happened.”

    “Me too,” said Jirra.

Chapter 76

    More people arrived. Alexis seemed to know most of them and she introduced Jirra to them.

    There was one couple that Alexis didn’t know. They were friends of Faith, Max, and Diana.

    Jill looked at the man and scratched her head. “He looks so familiar.”

    “Well, let’s go see who he is,” said Alexis. “After all, this is partly my party.”

    They walked over to the couple. 

    Diana saw Jirra, Alexis, Jill, and TC approach and smiled. She then made the introductions.

    “This is an old friend from my days as a reporter,” said Diana. “I’d like you to meet Jonathan Barnard and his wife Tessa.”

    Jill snapped her fingers. “I thought I recognized you. I love your work.”

    Jonathan smiled. “It’s always good to meet a fan.”

    Jonathan was a reporter for the Boston Globe and had written several bestsellers.

    “I love your show, Alexis. I’m so happy that Diana invited us,” said Tessa.

    “Thank you. I’m sure Diana told you, but Jirra was the one who wrote tonight’s story.”

    Jirra hook Tessa’s hand and the two women stopped and gave each other a strange look.

    “Have we met before?” asked Tessa.

    “No, but I feel the same way,” replied Jirra.

    Alexis noticed the reaction between the two women.

    “That’s really strange,” said Tessa.

    Jirra laughed. “I know. I’m sure I would have remembered meeting you.”

    They talked for a few minutes, and the Jirra and Alexis continued on their rounds.

    “What happened back there?” asked Alexis.

    “I have no idea, but it was strange, but the last time I had a feeling like that was when I first met Hallie back in Hollywood,” replied Jirra, who glanced over her shoulder at Tessa, who returned the look.

    “You don’t think?” asked Alexis.

    “I don’t know what to think, I do think that I have some questions for Killara,” said Jirra. “Tessa is so exotic looking, did you see her eyes? They’re so stunning.”

    “I know,” said Alexis. “You don’t see a lot of women with gray eyes.”

Chapter 77

    The hotel supplied a large flat screen TV to watch the show. Jirra was slightly nervous at first, as she wondered how the others would react to the show. However as soon as it started, she forgot all her fears and became absorbed in the story.

    It was amazing to see how Glenn had interpreted the script and turned the written words into a visual story. Jirra was so intrigued by the production aspects of the story that she almost missed the first scenes with her friends in the background.

    “Look! There’s Celeste and Spirit!” stated Beth excitedly.

    “Definitely an Emmy worthy performance,” said Celeste to Spirit, who was lying by her feet.

    As promised by Alexis, all the scenes shot with her friends made the final show. They were all easily recognizable too. Jirra was worried that you wouldn’t be able to make out their faces.

    “Is Andrea watching tonight?” asked Celeste.

    “She said she would try, but if not she said that would TIVO it,” replied Beth. “What about your dad?”

    “He was very eager to see it,” replied Celeste.

    When the show ended there was a round of applause as Jirra’s name appeared in the credits.

    Faith stood up and addressed the crowd when it was over.

    “I know that you’re not exactly an unbiased audience, but this is one of the best episodes that we did all year. I think that the show is firmly established and will do well for the rest of its projected run. I want to thank Alexis for doing an excellent job in bringing life to my literary creation.”

    There was a round of cheering and applause. Alexis stood up and bowed.

    “Next, I want to thank Glenn and the entire production team,” said Faith.

    Glenn stood up and held up his glass. “Do we get a raise?”

    Faith laughed. “No.”

    There was more laughter.

    “Finally, I want to thank the latest member of the family. I’ve brought in a lot of fresh faces in the making of his show, hoping to give them a chance to jumpstart their careers. I will continue to do this as long as the company allows. We’ve discovered some fine new actors and actresses, some great up and coming musicians, and some excellent new production people. However, I want to thank Jirra Reid, for writing a wonderful story, and that I hope it is not the last one she does for us.”

    There was more applause and cheering. Jirra stood up after being nudged by Alexis.

    “Thank you,” she said.

Chapter 78

    The party lasted another couple of hours. The show was shown again, much to the delight of the guests.

    Beth received a call from Andrea on her cell phone.

    “It was such a treat seeing you on my TV,” she said.

    “I thought I did a fabulous job walking across campus,” replied Beth with a laugh. “How’re you doing?”

    “I’m fine, dear,” replied Andrea.

    “Can I come up and see you next weekend?”

    “I’d like that, dear,” replied Andrea.

    “Would you mind if I bring Celeste?”

    “No, not at all, I would love to meet her.”

    “Great, if you’d like we can bring Spirit along; that is if you like dogs?”

    “This is the dog that Margaret Torrey gave Celeste, right?”

    “That’s right,” replied Beth.

    “Of course you can bring Spirit,” said Andrea.

    At the same time, Jirra was talking to her mom and the people at the spa.

    “I’m so proud of you, Roo,” said Liz.

    “Thank you, Mom. So how’s the party going?”

    “Well, you know how much Judy loves a good party and combined with Jen being here, we’re having a great time. Here, I’ll pass the phone around.”

    Jirra was pleased to talk to all her friends back in New Mexico. Jen was very pleased with the show.

    “Trust me; you’re going to get a lot of offers in the next few days. Check with Alexis and me if you have any questions about who is offering you work. You don’t want to take every offer that comes down the line. Some will help your career and others will hurt you. Don’t base it strictly on money either,” said Jen.

    “Thanks,” said Jirra. She hadn’t counted on getting other offers just from this show.

    “Is Alexis there?” asked Jen.

    “Yes, I’m handing her the phone now. Take care Jen and see you in May.”

    Jirra handed the phone to Alexis and sought out Faith. She told her what Jen had said.

    “She’s right, you will get offers. Please feel free to call me if you have questions,” said Faith.

    “This is happening so fast.”

    “I know,” replied Faith. “But you may have to make a big decision soon.”

    “You mean between completing college and starting a career?”

    Faith nodded. “It won’t be easy either, Jirra.”

    “I see,” said Jirra.

    “I wouldn’t worry too much about it right now, but you may have to make a choice soon; both have their benefits,” continued Faith.

    Jirra nodded.

    “I want to help you, so please call if you have questions, or just need to talk,” said Faith. “I’m also looking forward to having you work with me this summer.”

    “I can’t wait,” said Jirra.

Chapter 79

    Jirra closed her eyes and concentrated on seeing her spirit guide. She wasn’t sure if he would grant her another visit so soon, but she had questions that couldn’t wait.

    She followed the ritual that Tara taught her and concentrated on seeing Killara as she sat on the Navaho blanket on her bedroom floor. As she had done before, she was totally naked, with the exception of the chain around her neck that her stone kangaroo hung from and the ring Alexis gave her.

    Time passed and she was about to give up when she heard the familiar voice of her spirit guide.

    “Greeting, young one,” he stated.

    Jirra opened her eyes and looked around to see Killara sitting in front of her on a rock. Once again she was back in the canyon in New Mexico. The first thing she noticed that was different was that the normally dry creek bed was now full of water and it was flowing out of the canyon.

    “Hello, Killara,” replied Jirra as she tried to stand up. She immediately discovered that this was very difficult, as her body felt awkward. It took her a moment to realize why she found it hard to move and it caused her to gasp out in shock as she realized that she was very pregnant.

    She ran her hands down her extended belly.

    “How do you feel?” he asked.

    “I…I don’t know,” she stammered as she stood up. She was still naked and this allowed her to take in the changes in her body. Her breasts were large and round.

    “What…what does this mean?” she asked.

    “Tell me, how do you feel about the way you look? Take a moment to soak it in before answering, allow the initial shock to wear off,” replied Killara.

    Jirra nodded as she absorbed the changes in her body and mind. As the surprise of being pregnant wore off, she found that she felt a deep sense of satisfaction and joy. She expressed these feelings to Killara.

    “So, does this mean that you accept the role of bringer-of-life?” he asked.

    Jirra nodded.

    “Very good, this is a major step in your growth and acceptance of your transformation,” he continued.

    “How…how soon, will this happen?” she asked.

    “There is no timeline my dear,” he replied. “This is just a test and you passed it.”

    Jirra nodded again. “Will this…will Alexis be part of this when it happens?”

    “Yes, Alexis is your soul mate.”

    Jirra smiled. “That makes me feel a lot more confident about this.”

    “You have such a pleasant smile, little one. Now, I know this was a shock, and you didn’t expect this when you took this journey, but it was necessary,” he continued. He then plucked a piece of grass out of the ground and began to nibble on it.

    “Since I passed this test, can I now ask you some questions?” asked Jirra.

    He looked up from his meal. “You are going to ask me about the others you have met and have felt a connection, correct?” He then went back to eating.

    Jirra looked at the kangaroo rat and smiled. “Yes, that’s right. I have felt a strange sensation when I met Jen, Hallie and Tessa; I felt…felt as if there was a connection. Are they like me?”

    “Yes and no,” he replied without looking up.

    “No, that’s not good enough,” replied Jirra, slightly irritated. “Please, can you give me a straight answer…for once?”

    Killara scratched his head with his long rear foot. “Yes, like you they used to be men; but their transformations were much different, different in many ways. They were chosen to serve ancient powers for the good of humankind.”

    “Can you tell me more?” asked Jirra.

    “No, it must be up to them to tell you their stories. You can learn much from all of them, as a younger girl learns from her older sisters,” he said. “You will find that they can help you on your journey.”

    “You said that they were chosen to help humankind; but my transformation was an accident…I mean, how can I approach them?”

    “Just as you approached your friend Jen. Your transformation may not have been planned, but that doesn’t make it less important,” replied Killara. “You have already achieved much.”

    “What have I done?” asked Jirra. “I wouldn’t consider writing for a TV show as something that helped humankind.”

    “This mystical site has been saved due to you, and in time you will do more,” he said.

    Jirra looked around at the canyon. “I didn’t do anything special, it was Dr. Montgomery and his team that saved it, Judy also had a bigger part than anything I did…”

    “If you hadn’t been changed none of those steps would have occurred,” interrupted Killara. “You are connected to this place and in many ways you are its protector and guardian.”

    “Is that why you’ve brought me here?”

    Killara looked up at her. “I didn’t bring you here…you brought me here.”

    Jirra stared back. “What do you mean?”

    “Think about it, little one,” he replied. “We will talk more next time.”

    Jirra shook her head. “No, please! This is just getting interesting!”

    In a flash she was back in her bedroom. She jumped up to her feet and immediately ran her hands down her non-pregnant body.

    Looking at the clock she realized that had been “gone” for nearly two hours. There was so much to absorb and without bothering to dress, she began to type away madly in her laptop computer so that she wouldn’t forget a thing.

Chapter 80

    “I wish I could have seen you with a big belly,” said Alexis.

    “I have the feeling that you’ll get that chance, but hopefully not anytime in the immediate future,” replied Jirra. “I accept that I can get pregnant now, but I’m not ready to be a mother right now, if you know what I mean.”

    “I do,” replied Alexis. “So, what do you plan to do about Hallie and Tessa?”

    “Nothing for now, I got the impression that I will cross paths with both of them again; when that happens I will talk to them.”

    “This is becoming more and more amazing,” said Alexis. “I mean, there’s a whole world that we’re becoming aware of, a world that most people don’t have a clue about.”

    “I know,” replied Jirra. “I have the strangest feeling that something is going to happen back in New Mexico, I don’t know what, but I just know, does that make sense?”

    “As much as anything does,” replied Alexis. “I have to admit that I like the idea of being your soul mate, that has a nice ring to it. Do you think I have a spirit guide?”

    “Of course, when we get to the spa, I’ll try and help you if you’d like.”

    “Cool,” replied Alexis. “This is all a little intimidating, but I will be there for you, Roo. You can count on me.”

    “Thank you, Alexis; I can’t wait until we’re together again.”

    “Well, it’s only a week until we head out to New Mexico,” said Alexis.

    “That’s too long, but it will have to do,” replied Jirra.

Chapter 81

    Beth hugged Andrea goodbye.

    “I wish I could stay longer, but I have to get back to my studying,” said Beth.

    “Don’t apologize. I’m counting on you to do well on your finals,” replied Andrea.

    “Oh, I plan on making the Dean’s List,” said Beth. “Dad has agreed to my taking flight lessons. He’ll pay for them in full if I make the Dean’s List.”

    “I know you will do well,” replied Andrea.

    “I wish you could come down to DC,” said Beth.

    Andrea shook her head. “I’ve been a little too tired to travel lately. Don’t worry; I’m not going away, it’s just best that I stay local. Besides, it just means that I have more visitors these days.”

    Beth nodded. She was worried about Andrea, but at the same time she respected and admired the way that her grandmother was handling her illness.

    “I’ll give you a full report of my finals, Gran. I love you.”

    “I love you too, Beth and I’m so proud of you,” replied Andrea.

Conclusion

    “Are you planning on staying here all summer, Celeste?” asked Jirra as she passed the large salad bowl.

    Celeste and Beth were hosting a post finals party in their apartment.

    “Yes, I’m taking a full load of classes. I want to finish my degree as soon as possible,” she replied.

    “Well, Mom says that you’re always welcome at the spa,” said Jirra.

    “I may take her up on that,” replied Celeste. “I have a few open weeks in August.”

    “What about you Beth?” asked Jirra. “Will you be in DC all summer?”

    Beth nodded. “I’ll be working for Ally.”

    “That sounds pretty exciting,” said Matt, as he cracked open a beer. “Agent Burns came and spoke to us this spring. Her department is pretty much the model for catching Internet sexual predators.”

    Jim then asked Matt how the academy was going.

    “I hope to work in her department when I graduate,” said Beth.

    “I guess it’ll just be us here this summer,” said Jill.

    “I thought you were doing a summer internship?” asked Cat.

    “It fell through, but I have a chance to get one this fall. I’m going to knock out some electives this summer and clear out my schedule,” replied Jill.

    “I’m doing the same,” said TC. “What about you Cat?”

    “I’m taking some anatomy classes,” she replied. “I figure it would be good to learn more about the human body; it’ll help me in my forensics studies.”

    “Ugh, I can’t understand why you want to do that,” said TC.

    “It’s not so bad,” said Cat. “I saw my first autopsy when I was in high school.”

    “Your school had a morgue?” asked Sean with a laugh.

    Cat shook her head. “I attended a sort of camp for students wanting to go into law enforcement. The best part was that I met Matt there.”

    He leaned over and gave her a kiss.

    “See what I mean,” she added.

    Lindsey shook her head as she walked out the kitchen with a platter of food. “Jeez, you all make my life seem so boring.”

    She had just flown in the previous night and was spending a few days with Jirra before heading to New Hope where she would spend the summer working for Kari at The Drunken Squirrel.

     “Nonsense,” replied Celeste as she looked at the food. “Lindsey, it smells delicious.”

    “What is it?” asked Matt.

    “This is a chili relleno casserole,” she replied.

    The dining room table was covered with a variety of Southwestern meals, all cooked by Lindsey.

    “You really didn’t have to do all this,” said Celeste.

    “Oh, I don’t mind,” replied Lindsey. “Actually, the hardest part of making all this was finding the ingredients. Thankfully, I found a really good Mexican grocery store just a few miles from here over in New Jersey.”

    Celeste looked at Beth, who just shrugged.

    “I had no idea there was one that close,” said Celeste.

    Lindsey nodded. “That’s where I bought the fresh enchiladas and tortillas. They were really nice there, I can take you over there if you’d like.”

    Spirit jumped up and let out an excited bark.

    “Someone’s coming,” said Beth.

    “I hope it’s Alexis,” said Jirra excitedly.

    Jirra’s wish was answered and Alexis came in with Nina, Diana, and Kari.

    “Diana and Kari picked me up at the train station,” said Alexis.

    Jirra ran over and she gave Alexis a big hug and a kiss.

    “I’m so glad you’re finally here,” said Jirra.

    “Traffic was awful,” said Alexis.

    “Hmm, everything smells so good,” said Diana.

    Kari was soon talking to Lindsey about the various meals.

    “Looks like those two will hit it off famously,” said Alexis.

    “I agree,” said Jirra. She realized how lucky she was to have found such a wonderful group of friends. While she was looking forward to going to New Mexico, she would miss her friends.

    “When are you two leaving?” asked Beth.

    “We’re leaving in two days,” said Jirra.

    “I can’t believe you’re driving to New Mexico,” said Jill. “I would have thought you’d fly there.”

    “It’s not that long of a drive,” said Jirra. “Besides, it will give us some time alone. We won’t get that much privacy once we get there.”

    “She’s right, the spa has been crazy since the movie people arrived,” interjected Lindsey. “I was kinda of glad to escape all the craziness; still it was a lot of fun.”

    “Don’t you worry about being recognized, Alexis?” asked Sean.

    “No, it doesn’t happen too often; I’m not that famous,” said Alexis. “I get a lot of stares from people who think they know me, but aren’t quite sure who I am.”

    “It must get annoying at times,” said TC.

    “A funny thing happened last week in Boston. A woman thought I was someone else, and when I told them that I was Alexis Eden, she argued that I wasn’t. I was tempted to show her my driver’s license.”

    “Before we get too much into this wonderful feast, we should make a toast,” announced Celeste.

    Everyone picked up a drink and turned to Celeste.

    Celeste held up her glass. “Here’s to friendship, no matter where our lives take us, let’s always be friends!”

    “Here, here,” added Sean.

    Alexis leaned over and gave Jirra a quick kiss.

    “Okay, everyone, don’t just stand there, dig in,” announced Lindsey. “This is just the first course and I don’t want anyone to walk away from here hungry.”

    Jirra smiled at Alexis. “It’s going to be a wonderful summer.”

The End
(For Now & yes there will be a Coeds 3)

    Julieverse Characters in Coeds 2

Band of Sisters – All girl rock band out of Rhode Island. Their bass player Petra Kensington was changed into a girl by her step-mother. Petra sees Dr. Angela Sullivan to help her in her adjustment to being female, and to deal with the abuse of her now deceased step-mother, additionally she was assisted by Max Bowie. (Band of Sisters)

Jonathan Barnard- Investigative reporter for the Boston Globe and writer of several bestselling books on crime and corruption. His wife is Tessa Phoenix Barnard, who was once a man named Jason Blackthorn. Jason was killed and resurrected as a woman by the goddess Athena to seek revenge against the killers. (Revenge of the Goddess: Athena’s Assassin.)

Diana Bowie – As a teenage boy, Darren was abused and blackmailed into being a feminized sex slave. Fearing for his life, he ran away and was rescued by his aunt, the novelist, Faith Collins. Darren became Diana, and was raised by Faith and her husband Max Bowie, a detective and sometimes federal agent. Diana became a famous author and reporter, and is currently teaching journalism at University of PA. Diana currently lives with her lover Kari, a chef and restaurant owner in New Hope, PA. Kari’s restaurant is called The Drunken Squirrel.  (Corruption, Double Jeopardy, Coeds)

Max Bowie – Private detective and sometimes agent for the Agency. Married to Faith Collins in the 1980s and for all practical purposes is Diana’s father. (Corruption, Double Jeopardy, Band of Sisters)

Ally Burns – Federal agent and head of The Agency’s Internet crime department, recruited to The Agency by Carol Martin. Ally has recently undergone SRS and lives with Carol and their cat in the Washington DC area. (The Protector Series, Combined Forces)

Andrea Carlson – Born Andrew Baker of Cincinnati Ohio. When WWII broke out he crossed into Canada and joined the RCAF. Andy was assigned to a fighter squadron and was shot down. Selected to assist in an escape from a German POW camp, he took on the role of a young woman to assist a British agent. Andy stayed in Denmark to assist the resistance and became Andrea. Later, after SRS, she moved back to the states and became an agent in the CIA and later the Agency. She married and adopted several children. Ben Carlson/Beth Williams is her grandchild. She is currently in her 90s and living in her penthouse apartment in NYC.  (A Different Kind of Freedom, The Protector Series)

Barrett Chisholm- Archeological graduate student and friend of Jirra. He is currently working as Dr. Dan Montgomery’s assistant at the Anasazi canyon site in New Mexico. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Faith Collins – Former investigative reporter for the Boston Globe and now an internationally known mystery writer, best known for her Erin Flynn books, personally selected Alexis to play Erin in the series. Married to Max Bowie. (Corruption)

Lindsey Dylan – Jirra’s best friend back in New Mexico. Lindsey is currently studying to be a chef and follow in her mother’s footsteps. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Alexis Eden – Onetime college student and currently movie and TV star. She is the star of the Erin Flynn series being filmed in Boston. While on vacation in New Mexico, she fell in love with Jirra. They are currently engaged. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Celeste Farnsworth – Originally Jeremy Green; was abducted and feminized by Margo Simon. Celeste was then sold to Sherman Farnsworth, a self-made millionaire.  Instead of using her as a sex slave, Celeste became his wife. Sherman dies of a heart attack and Celeste used his wealth to create a foundation for abused transgendered teens. (Combined Forces, Celestial Awakenings, Coeds)

Spirit Farnsworth– Mixed-breed dog (Labrador-Chesapeake) who was given to Celeste by her neighbor on Long Island, Margaret Torrey.  (Celestial Awakenings, Coeds)

Cat Hawkins – Originally from Golden Hill, PA. Plans on joining the FBI following graduation from Penn. Her best friend in high school is a transgendered girl named Erika Walters. Cat is currently engaged to Matt. (The Scholarship, Coeds)

Todd Kelly – University of Pennsylvania student who lead a group of students that harassed and attacked transgendered students. He was arrested due to a trap set by Jirra and her friends.  Others in his group, called “The Purifiers,” include Virginia Kensington, Andrew Kennedy, and Michael Coppersmith.  (Coeds)

Leah- A student at Penn and former friend of Jirra, TC, and Jill. Leah has conservative political views and disapproves of LGBT. (Coeds)

Jill Macintosh – Another female friend of Jirra. Jill is a reporter on the Daily Pennsylvanian, University of Pennsylvania’s student newspaper. She is currently dating TC. (Coeds)

Sean McClain – Businessman and entrepreneur who lives in New Hope and is currently dating Celeste.

Professor Hallie Thorn Pappadimos – Born Harry Thorn, he was transformed into a young woman by an ancient Minoan object. She is now living with her lover Kim and their daughter. Hallie spends half the year in Crete working on the Minoan archeological site that is connected to her own transformation. Her father is Richard Thorn the movie producer.  (Purpose, Ambition, Revenge of The Goddess; Athena’s Assassin)

Judy Ramone – Owner of The Caldera de Gaia Spa in New Mexico. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Dr. Liz Reid – Jirra’s mother, she is currently working as the staff physician at The Caldera de Gaia Spa in New Mexico.  Her husband and Jirra’s father was an army officer killed in Afghanistan. Liz is currently engaged to Dr. Dan Montgomery, who is in charge of studying the Anasazi archeological sites located near the spa. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Jirra Reid – Born Josh Reid and was transformed into a girl at age eighteen in a freak accident at a spa in New Mexico.  Josh was taking a hot mud bath in a large copper caldron; a lightning strike transferred him physically into a female.  Jirra is still trying to find balance as she adapts to being female.  Her nickname is Roo, a take off on her new name which means kangaroo. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

Dr. Hector Sanchez – Future inventor of a self-contained medical device; it uses nanites to perform surgery and will be called Patecatl. (Shock to the System)

Margo Simon – Evil woman who ran a sex slave trade. Celeste Farnsworth was one of her victims. She was captured by The Agency and is currently serving multiple life sentences in a Federal Super-Max Prison. (Combined Forces, The Protector Series)

Dr. Jenna Sullivan – Second generation therapist. Her mother Angela still works out of her office in Providence, RI. Angela began to assist transgendered teens back in the 1980’s. One of her clients was Diana Bowie. Jenna attended Brown and then went to work for the Agency. She also has assisted many transgendered women, including Beth Williams. (The Protector Series, Change of Course Series, Combined Forces, Celestial Awakenings, Band of Sisters)

Tara – Woman that works at The Caldera de Gaia Spa in New Mexico as a masseuse and other duties. Her partner is Cari, who runs the mud baths. Both women are mentors to Jirra. (Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Coeds)

TC- Female Penn student and friend of Jirra. (Coeds)

Richard Thorn- Movie producer of blockbuster adventures. Alexis starred in his recent movie based on the minotaur legend. His movies are usually hated by the critics, but loved by movie lovers. Unknown to him, his daughter Hallie was born male and was transformed into a woman by an ancient Minoan device. (Perfect Match, Fresh Start, Fresh Start 2, Purpose, Ambition)

Margaret Torrey – Neighbor of Celeste Farnsworth on Long Island. Born in England and became a code breaker during WW II. It was during the war that she met and later married a US Army officer. Later both joined the CIA and then The Agency. Margaret befriended Celeste and has helped her in the creation of her foundation to help transgendered teens. Margaret is also the woman who gave Celeste Spirit. (Celestial Awakenings, Coeds)

Nina Vasquez – Former marine and police officer in Virginia, currently works for the Boudicca Detective Company. (Double Jeopardy, Coeds)

Erika Walters- TG friend of Cat and the heroine of The Scholarship. (The Scholarship, Coeds)

Carla Walters–Brown- Assistant DA in Philadelphia. One of her brothers Brett married Cat’s mother. Her other brother, Sam married Erika’s mother. (The Scholarship, Coeds) 

Beth Williams- While serving in the navy, LT Ben Carlson was transformed into a teenage girl by Dr. Martz, through a DNA process. Beth was adopted by two federal agents, Maggie and Steve Williams. Beth has also served as an agent, although she is now currently a fulltime student.  Beth is currently dating a fellow Penn student named Jim Buchwalter. (Change of Course I-IV, Combined Forces, The Protector Series, Coeds)

Jennifer “Jen” Stevens – Born Robert Stevens. Transformed by a lightning strike over a period of about three weeks while unconscious in the hospital. Her transformation was leaked to the public during her hospital stay. Jen left her old job and became a successful TV and movie star and is now producing movies. Substitute hosts the “Around Midnight” talk show. A friend and mentor to Jirra Reid after meeting her a few months after her transformation. Long time friend of Alexis Eden after meeting her while Jen was hosting the talk show. Jen Stevens adventures are chronicled in Bob Arnold’s Zapped! series and she is used here with his permission. A special note for Julie O’s readers – Jen doesn’t know it yet but her transformation was brought about by spirits she calls the “Ancient Ones” in Coeds. It seems she’s a catalyst for change in the lives of the people she meets and helps. (Bob Arnold)

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Todd Kelly

That name brings back some very pleasant memories for me.. I actually knew a Todd Kelly back in the mid to late '70's here in NY. He was a msician in Greenwich Village in the city. He was a wonderful caring person and had a wicked sense of humor. I was very upset when he and his wife divorced and he moved back to the midwest. We lost touch and he will be missed. I sometimes play his album, or listen to the tape that was made at a small private party where we all got stoned and spent the night singing, smoking and having fun.

Nora
The Nostalgic one

Magnificent Julie

Coeds 2 was an absolute joy. As always you weave in the rest of the Julieverse and provide us with a variety of treats; suspense, action, and most of all heart-warming relationships. It was really great to see more of Beth especially, although you made me cry with the hospital scene. I very much enjoyed seeing Tessa brought into Jirra's life as well. A great read, Julie, and as always I eagerly await your next offering.

PS - Your dedication made me cry too. We do miss you Amelia, and I hope everything is all right with you!

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

Julie O

Wow Julie what a tale! I don't see how managed to keep this incredible cast of characters straight! This was wonderful although I was wondering about that movie Jen was considering making. Reminds me of another one of your stories. :)
hugs!
grover

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

Wheeee!!!!

What fun!

Jirra's adventures are always fun, and Julie's storytelling skills give us a well-fleshed out character to follow and appreciate. Her collection of characters from her other stories make it challenging at times to keep track of who's who -- thanks for the list, by the way -- but it's like a party where you know you're seeing an old friend, but can't quite recall where you'd seen her last time.

Coeds 3? Good news, and thanks for all the work you put in, Julie.

Thanks, too, to Bob Arnold. I know how tough it is to be an editor; you've done very well.

I'll add my voice to the chorus about Amelia: "You're missed!"

Nicole (a.k.a. Itinerant)

--
"Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely."

- Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, Computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale

Nicole (a.k.a. Itinerant) -- "Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely." - Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, Computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale

Coeds 2

As usual Julie you've created a wonderful story that one can loose themselves in for a bit! I've always enjoyed how your characters seem to take on a real life. It's great that you and the other authors have been able to blend in all their characters so well. Thanks for taking your time and talent to create this story for our entertainment!

Blossom

"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."

-- Timothy Leary --

"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."

-- Timothy Leary --

Great episode

It was wonderful to visit with these characters again and nice to get closure on the attack from Coeds 1. Thank you for the cast list at the end. It really helps those of us who only visit the Julieverse and whose memory is starting to go bad.

It is also great to see the connection with Zapped. I remember when Bob stopped work on it when he lost the central thread after removing the SF elements. This new intersection promises to bring it back stronger than ever.

Looking forward to reading Coeds 3 and more of Zapped.

a vast & intricate julieverse

I'll second Ras' comment about the inclusion of the character list. I downloaded COEDS 2 from FM,
which is handier for me, goes right to plaintext, then copied and pasted the background stuff every ten chapters, so when I came to a hauntingly-familiar-but-not-immediately-placeable-name I never had to scroll too far to refresh my memory.

A really cool sequel, and I hope Jirra WILL run in to Hallie again some day and be able to compare notes on transformation at the hands of ancient gods. Most of your characters are people I'd love to know,
but I think I'll pass on the psychotic bald bitch...
~~such a fun place, this Julieverse! LAIKA

Coeds 2

Darn. As if I can find time enough now. Now I have to go back and read some more of your older things. (I know.....what a hardship!)

I loved the way you worked it all together, and rteminded me of things I had forgotten. I liked the way you got several people interwoven into the story. (Tessa and the nanite professor) Can't wait until Jirra meets up with them in the future. Maybe her fertile imagination will provide a starting point for a line of research that helps lead to success.

I'm glad you have it working out for all these victimes. Its good to see they are getting some happiness after their tragedies.

Can't wait for three, unless you have another new tangent sitting in your outline for earlier release.

Wow Julie O What a great way

Wow Julie O

What a great way to continue the Coeds story line. I really do hope that you will continue with this.

Melanie