Chapter One (Second Ending..As Time Goes By)

Back to fucking square one.

J.D. McGinnis stood, back braced against the brick wall of the small soup kitchen that the government had opened up a few months back.

Mostly women and children frequented the establishment these days. War or no War, there would always be the destitute of the world.

The disenfranchised.

J.D. looked around the area, his world weary gaze unaffected by the sights presented.

He had just left an area much more devastated. The women and children there, had no recourse...none. There was no charitable government handout to be had.

McGinnis had arrived early today.

Grace would be getting off work in twenty minutes or so. He didn't want to miss her. Today, he would confront the little so-and-so.

He knew she was just across the street. He perused the red brick building with disinterested eyes. The three story monstrosity dated back to the early twenties.

This section of town had once been a thriving industrial hub of the city but all the affluent businesses had moved uptown many years ago.

J.D. turned his head to the East, noting the far expanse of Ocean through the small gap between the warehouse district down the sloping street, and the unloading facilities to the North.

Several freighters were docked, massive cranes busily removing merchandise from the inner hulls of the great ocean going vessels.

J.D. stood, hands in the pockets of his pea jacket, hunkered down inside a small recess in the building's design which protected him from the icy winds coming off the sea.

The day was over-cast, a heavy depressing mist blanketing the city.

The sun was a happy white ball in a dull grey sky, or had been the entire day. It sat heavily on the horizon now, it's burdensome journey almost at the end.

Grace must be pulling all the over-time she could these days. She hadn't touched her funds, after all. The fucking moron. This was like in the early days when she was forced to work menial jobs just to survive.

She had always been too prideful to take a 'handout'...even if it were offered by a friend. J.D. had tried so many times to take the burden off the girl but Grace had dug in her heels.

He understood Grace's stance, however and realized how she had ended up in the situation she now found herself within.

It had been hell, coming back to that empty damned apartment. Even old Mr. Bickerstaff had shut down on him.

The old guy had been mum about his former neighbor's sudden disappearance, claiming no knowledge of Grace's whereabouts or reasons.

J.D. realized the old bastard knew more than he was saying, of course, but he also sensed the guy was trying to protect Grace from what was a perceived threat.

Edwards had tried his hand at breaking the old man as well. Bickerstaff had shot them both down. J.D. hadn't felt the need to re-establish contact with the 'News Guy' but he had kept tabs on Edwards' movements and activities.

J.D. found himself admiring Bickerstaff's tenacity, despite himself. The old geezer was a good friend to Grace and J.D. couldn't fault the guy for his loyalty.

Besides, he had other sources.

Groves knew as little as J.D. had though so, the younger man had to fall back on his own resources and strengths to track down his prey.

Knowing how Grace's mind worked had helped tremendously, of course.

He had to give it to the little shit. She was a wily bitch and as distrustful and cautious as himself.

Groves had informed him the 'why' of it all. J.D. didn't give a shit how many were privy to his encounter with Grace's Old Man. That was ancient history.

His handlers knew each and every detail of his former life and they were just fine with any little indiscretion committed.

Grace had went off on a tangent for no good reason and as soon as he faced her down, he would explain her foibles in minute detail.

After he had shook Grove's bloodhounds, J.D. had concentrated his efforts on transportation means.

The airports had been shut down that night...the night the conniving, unfaithful little bitch had went to Groves.

She would pay for that and dearly but right at this exact moment, the man was only concentrating on re-establishing contact.

It had taken him several weeks just to figure out her trail. Grace had used alias, of course but J.D. easily recognized familiar names when perusing hotel registrars or bus schedule ticket receipts. A guy could always grease a 'Hack's' palms for needed information.

There wasn't much he did not know about Grace Morgan's whereabouts at this point. It had been a hard-earned battle of wills but Grace was playing with an empty deck of cards. The thought kind of endeared the dame to cold, unfeeling heart.

After his Over-seas ordeal, he had awaken the third day out on a submarine in the Sickbay.

The preceding days had been a blur for a while, but the time had come back after a week of regular sleep and hot meals.

He had dumped the stolen jeep, found his Contact after a few horrendous, unforgettable hours of frantic search...the lady had been forced to go underground as security and surprise visits had heightened after news of McGinnis' escapades had surfaced. No one mentioned the lady was eight months pregnant at the time.

But the Submarine was where it was supposed to be and after a watery trip out, in which a storm and heavy seas capsized the 'rescue' dingy several times. J.D. and the Navy Underwater Demolition team sent to pick them up, had made it to the boat by the skin of their teeth.

The Contact delivered her baby prematurely, the freezing water and shock sending the woman into early labor.

The baby was a trooper and came around after a few days of touch and go emergencies but the Mother hadn't made it.

J.D. had taken charge of the kid. He dropped her off in Chicago at a new home.

Matt Freeman's wife loved kids. One more or less wouldn't make that much difference. Matt had fathered four in his brief but profitable shore leaves.

Matt was the Commander of the rescue Sub. He and J.D. went back quite a ways. Matt had contacted Sheila and the woman had been excited and happy about the prospect of another little one to raise and love.

Sheila had christened the kid, 'Angela' because the woman had said how much like an angel the baby seemed when first she held the little demon in her arms.

J.D. thought the name questionable. The little fiend had kept J.D. up for two days straight on the train ride out from the coast. He hadn't wanted to traumatize the baby by chancing a flight. He thought the kid might upchuck on him.

He could have saved himself the trouble...the kid upchucked on him anyway. Several times en route. And pissed on him twice. That could have been his fault, he hadn't been fast enough in the 'changing' department, what with his injured arm hampering his efforts a bit.

He still held it against the kid though.

He wasn't sure what was in that milk the nurses told him to feed the little bugger either but the end product could have gagged a maggot, in his opinion.

He was kinda sorry to see the little buttwipe go though, truth told. He knew she would be better off with Sheila though and he had another 'demon' to concern himself with now.

His wounds had healed, for the most part and he had released himself early from a Naval hospital in San Diego a couple of days after hitting Port.

He reported to his Handler, having completed his assignment and headed for Chicago.

J.D. looked at his watch. A few people were beginning to file out of the factory now.

He straightened his frame, careful not to exert too much strain on his healing ribs and wounds.

He must still look dubious however. Several of the smaller kids eyed him wide-eyed, hugging their momma's legs more closely when they noticed him and the Moms gave him a suspicious glare. A few of the younger women smiled engagingly however, which amused the man.

He had just gotten rid of one kid, he sure didn't need the hassle and permanency of two or three more. Not that he didn't like kids, he did. He just wasn't sure of his own future at this stage. He couldn't entertain the notion of the responsibility of anyone other than himself...and Grace.

J.D. ran his hand over his prickly beard, the effort reminding him of his bruised facial surface.

The Chinese bastards had really done a number on him. That was one place he was glad to see the other side of.

He wondered fleetingly, if he looked ok to be meeting Grace again for the first time after...well, after the fiasco of their last parting.

He wanted to make a good impression.

J.D. realized the stupidity of such a notion but his vanity reared it's ugly head and for a moment, he wished he had taken the time to shave, at least.

The woman emerged from the building, holding back, allowing another man and woman to exit in front of her.

Grace situated the wool stocking cap on her red head, pulling her gloves on. She took the time to note the day, glancing up to the dreary sky for a second before coming down the steep steps of the building.

She held the hand rail and moved slowly.

Too slowly.

J.D.s brow furrowed. What the hell...she moved like an old lady, her hand steadying herself on the wrought iron railing provided. Sure, it was slippery but they had salted the steps today.

Something was amiss.

The man watched the woman make her way down the street, his gaze a troubled one.

She walked on, finally coming to the end of the block. She nodded to a few of the people who had gathered to wait for the bus that would take the small group to their chosen destination.

Grace pulled her coat closer, seeming to shrink into the grey wool garment.

J.D. moved off, his destination fixed, his focus concentrated.