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19 January 2007 @ 08:14 am
Flash by Northwest (5/14)  
***
Flash By Northwest (5/14)
a Justice League story
by dotfic and mtgat
Copyright 2007
TV-14 (DSLV)
***

Disclaimer: DC Comics and Warner Brothers own the characters and situations. No infringement on their property is intended or should be inferred.

Continuity/Spoilers: Takes place after JLU "Destroyer" and the events of the flashback in "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker"

Thanks to amilyn for her beta on this work. Special thanks also to xffan_2000 and billa1 for editing above and beyond the call of duty on the final draft. All mistakes that may still be found herein are ours alone.

Pairings: Lots. If it was canon, if it was implied in canon --- heck, if we just thought it was amusing at the time --- it's in there.

Summary: The Big Seven (plus one) are trapped inside a fantasy world created by a magical artifact. As the body count rises, familiar faces hide deadly secrets and it's up to Flash to save them.

***
Chapter Five
***

They went back to Wally's office without either of them bothering to go home to change. Diana gathered up the skirts of her gown to perch on the edge of her desk while Wally flopped onto the leather couch. Diana picked up the phone and asked the operator for Bruce's exchange as if she'd been making phone calls that way her whole life.

Naturally, he was up; from Diana's responses Wally assumed Bruce wasn't surprised to hear from them at three o'clock in the morning.

"See you in half an hour, then." Diana hung up.

Wally yawned and rubbed at his face. "Do we have time for a tiny nap?"

"No," she said. She slid from the desk, crossed the room, grabbed his arm, and hauled him to his feet.

"Bet Sam Spade never let his Girl Friday push him around like this," Wally mock-grumbled.

"Bet Sam Spade's Girl Friday never worked for anyone like you," she tossed back. "Bruce is on his way here. I thought we should type up some notes from the evening before he arrives." To his surprise, Diana sat down at the typewriter, cracked her knuckles, then poised her fingers over the keys. "So, impressions of our Mr. Queen?"

***

Bruce stood out in the hall for a moment listening to the sound of the typewriter within, a remark from Wally, Diana's chuckle. There was lettering on the rippled glass of the door, WALLY WEST, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR.

Not that Wally wasn't smart --- Bruce not only knew what Wally did for a living but had copies of all his school transcripts and job performance evaluations in the Batcomputer --- but Bruce had never known anyone else who went to such great lengths to hide the fact. It seemed odd to be in a world where Wally was the detective and he himself was genuinely nothing more than the playboy.

Bruce knocked on the door, turned the knob and entered.

Diana was seated behind the desk in the main room at a typewriter, wearing a black, off-the-shoulder gown. She stood up as he walked in, moving around the desk.

He knew he was staring. Diana had a variety of gowns in her wardrobe but most of them were simple affairs, sleek black with spaghetti straps like what she'd worn the first time they met Audrey, or more businesslike dressy suits. Not like this. Not at all.

Bruce took off his hat and put it on the chair near the door, relieved for his eyes to be elsewhere, anywhere, pushing away old thoughts and longings.

"What did you find out at The Emerald Parrot?"

"Not much." Diana idly tapped her finger on the desk, leaning her thigh lightly against the wood. "Oliver Queen wanted to ask Wally for a favor."

"Seems I ... I mean, Wally West, P.I., has some kind of a history with the guy." Wally leaned back and folded his arms behind his head. "I think he loaned me some money to start my business. And I used to do some kind of dirty work for him until I got fed up and decided to go back to the side of the angels. Become an honest man."

"Did you get a guest list out of him?"

"No dice," said Wally. "Guy's as stubborn as ... well, as any number of people we know."

"What about his operation? Who was with him?"

"Saw a lot of familiar faces there. Roy Harper. He seems to be Ollie's right-hand man, nothing odd about that." Wally hesitated. He looked at Diana before adding, "Saw Dick Grayson there."

"What was he doing?" Bruce asked.

"Ollie's bodyguard. He was on crutches. Didn't look like he really needed them all that much," Wally added quickly, his hand making a steadying motion at Bruce. "He moved around pretty good. I wouldn't want to take him in a fight."

"So Dick is in Ollie's operation," Bruce said flatly.

It didn't matter. None of them were real, but Bruce wondered if Dick on crutches was something his own mind had produced, or Wally's, or was the joint combination of all of them who had met Dick.

Didn't matter.

Wally laughed. "The other bodyguard was one of my ... I mean the real me ... archenemies, The Trickster. Looks just as nervous here as he always does back home."

"What do we do now?" Diana asked, smoothing down the fabric of her gown with an unconscious-looking gesture. She wore the dress with ease, the same way she'd wear blue jeans and a blouse, a woman used to formal gatherings and to ceremony.

"Now we all get some sleep," Bruce said, and turned back for the door. "I'll contact you tomorrow morning. Will one of you be at this number?"

"I'll probably sleep right here," Wally said. "Too tired to go home."

Diana watched Wally arrange his raincoat into a pillow. Then she walked over to the closet and pulled out a pillow and blanket. She tossed them to Wally.

"You should go home," Wally said, arranging the pillow, his voice scratchy with tiredness.

"I'll get a cab back to my apartment," said Diana.

"It's very late," said Bruce. "I'll drive you home."

"You don't have to ... " Diana began.

"It's late," Bruce repeated, hoping it didn't sound like he was trying to boss her around.

"He's right," said Wally, muffled as he pulled the blanket up over his head. "Let him drive you home."

"All right, then," she said quietly.

***

She'd long since learned to ignore the hollow ache in her chest, to tell herself it meant nothing, that there were things she could live without, that she wasn't still thinking about Bruce's eyes being on her.

She needed to stop thinking about that. There were more important things going on. She twitched her shoulders and rotated her neck.

"Long day?" Bruce said, over the elegant rumble of the car's engine.

Great Hera, was he trying to make small talk?

"Long enough."

"We'll be out of here soon. You and Flash dig up what you can, and I'll figure out the rest."

She bristled. "Thank you. I don't know how we could have done it without you, since we're so very stupid."

"That's not what I meant."

"Yes it was."

He said nothing. She wondered if he'd attempt to apologize again. She wondered if she'd accept if he did.

He didn't apologize. He pulled his car up in front of her building. "I'll see you inside," he told her.

"Don't." She got out and refused to look at him as she went into the building. Her resolve lasted all the way to her apartment, where Audrey had already crawled into bed and was fast asleep. Diana pushed past the two little beds to the window, which overlooked the street. Bruce would still be parked there, waiting, making sure she'd gotten home safe, wanting her to come back down and invite him up, roommate or no roommate, or to return with him to his home. And maybe she would.

She peeked out to the street below. His car was gone.

***

Diana woke drenched in sweat, with the dawn slitting through holes in the paper blinds. Audrey still snored softly beside her.

Before getting dressed, she found a few candles, lit them, then knelt at the window. She prayed to Athena to help her remember what she was.

Even in this imaginary but frighteningly solid world, even without her powers, she was still a warrior.

***

Daybreak, and Clark was still in the office, reading through back papers. The big headlines caught his attention, and he'd thought about just skimming, but then stories on page ten mentioned Vixen in passing, and he knew if he wasn't complete about this, he would miss something.

The headline from this morning had been about the fire, including quotes from witnesses suggesting it'd been arson. Clark had tried to help Lois write the story, but she'd brushed him off and written it alone. His name attached, not hers.

The arson could be connected to the murder, he thought. However, it could also be something Lois made up since he didn't remember any of the quotes she'd written down, even though he'd been by her side the whole time. Almost the whole time.

Heat distortion, and the feeling of the flames radiating from the building. He was back in the window across from the burning tenement and he couldn't reach the children inside.

Clark set down the paper in his hands --- MAYOR A DRUNK? read the headline on this one from eight months ago --- and went to the real window in the real building, and looked out, trying to breathe and convince himself he was breathing uncharred air.

He wasn't used to being human. Thirty-odd years of pretending, of acting, and now the role of a lifetime was real. How could he be unprepared?

Well, to start with, said an internal voice that sounded a lot like Pa's, he could still believe he ought to be out rescuing people instead of writing about people who did.

"I am Kal-El, the last son of Krypton," he said out loud because he could. If he spoke the words where anyone in this world could hear him, he'd be strapped down and hauled off to the funny farm. Though here, they might try to get a movie deal out of him first.

Had he stayed on Krypton, been raised by his birth parents, grown up there instead, he'd be no more powerful than he was right at this moment. Mongul's cursed gift had shown him that life, spent without a single superpower or world-shaking responsibility. He'd been surrounded by wheat fields, and he'd had a loving family, and ...

Clark shook his head. There was no point dwelling on an old fantasy world, not when he was trapped in a new one. He wondered if he'd have to blow up this world too.

He sat back down and opened the paper again. Scandals, bribes, everything dripped with insinuation and finger-pointing, though not consistently. In this edition, the Devil accused Councilman Zod of taking a bribe in the mass transit case, when not two days later, the paper would trumpet how well it had predicted the charges would be brought against Councilman Ur. Clark's name was on both articles.

He needed to ask Lois about that as soon as she got into the office.

***

Wally was being chased by an enormous fly. He yelled and ducked as it tried to land on him to suck out his brains, and if he could just run faster, he could reach the giant can of Raid. But had they invented Raid yet?

He woke up.

The buzzing continued, and his heart leapt into his throat until he shook off enough sleep to realize it wasn't a fly. He sat up, rubbing his head, staring at the slanting daylight through the blinds. Early? Late? Where was he?

More buzzing.

"Yo, West! You in there?"

The voice came from outside, and the buzzing noise was from his doorbell. Buzzer. Whatever. "I'm coming," he said, rolling off the couch and staggering towards the door.

He made his hands work enough to fiddle open the lock. "Yeah?"

There was a kid standing in the hallway, pale and stick-thin, dark hair mussed every which way, holding up a newspaper. "'Bout time you woke up, mister. I was starting to think you weren't in there."

Wally yawned. "What made you think I was?"

The kid shrugged. "I got my ways. Like I know you were chatting up that snotrag Wayne late last night." He shoved the newspaper into Wally's hands.

The anger in his voice at Bruce's name made Wally take another look at the boy. No way. "Tim?"

The kid grinned, showing off a set of teeth that had never known the benefits of Wayne Enterprises' dental plan. "Good one, Mr. West. You act like you ain't never seen me before."

Not without a straitjacket, Wally wanted to say. Which wasn't fair, because Wally had seen pictures of Bruce's young partner, most notably the ones on the "Missing Child" posters. "I'm still half asleep. Sorry, kid."

"Ain't no problem," said Tim. "You want me to get you some coffee? I got no place to be."

"No, thanks. You run along."

Tim just stood there, staring at him, giving a little cough. "You forget something, Mr. West?"

"Um." Wally thought fast. "Yeah, let me get you a dime for the paper. Hold on."

"The paper." Tim stared at him like he was stupid. "Yeah."

Wally ducked back into his office and rummaged in his desk until he found a dime. "Here you go, kid. Don't spend it all in one place."

Tim looked at the dime in his palm and then up at Wally again. "So," he said like he was exploring a brand new option, "you do want me blabbing that Wayne was here last night?"

Blabbing? "Tim, if you go to the police ... " He would what, exactly? Explain Bruce was his old superhero pal?

Tim laughed. "You really are still asleep, you bird brain, if you think I'm gonna turn stoolie for the cops."

Wally dug in his pocket and found a five dollar bill. Last of the cab money. Hope Diana has some. "Is that better?"

Tim looked at the money, then darted out and grabbed it, stuffing the bill into a grubby pocket. "Yeah. That'll do. Pleasure doin' business with you, Mr. West. You tell Mr. Queen when you see him that Timmy the Shoeshine Boy says you're all right."

"I'll do that."

After he closed the door, Wally sat down with his five dollar newspaper. Supes wrote an article on page one about a big fire somewhere. The opening of Vixen's last movie had been greeted with cheers, and panned by the critics. Wally turned to find the funnies.

A note fell out of the paper.

The Parrot. 8 am. You and the dame. No names, but Tim had said "Mr. Queen," and the location would fit. Maybe Ollie'd had a change of heart and wanted to share some information about the murder.

***

"Why don't you have a car?" Diana asked, as she paid the cab driver.

Wally shrugged. "No idea, babe. Probably it got repossessed, like that guy's in SUNSET BOULEVARD."

When they stepped into The Emerald Parrot, the air seemed wrong. For one thing, there were no bodyguards at the entrance, and for another, the door was open a few inches. It opened soundlessly under Diana's touch. She walked in first, which wasn't planned on her part, but instinct.

The silence of the place, the way the sunlight slanted in through the doors before they banged softly shut behind them, made her think of the peace of a tomb. Considering what the place had been like the last time they'd seen it, the quiet was particularly unnatural.

So she was the first to go down the steps into the main ballroom. Diana reached behind her to grab Wally's arm. "Stop," she commanded in a low voice.

He did. "What ... " Wally's voice trailed away.

Pale sunlight gleamed from the narrow windows nestled near the ceiling on one wall of the ballroom. The lights were off, so the room was half-lit without deep shadows; the high-gloss dance floor looked dull.

The blood, however, had a dim shine to it.

"Oh my God," Wally said softly.

Oliver Queen was dead, lying on his side with his eyes wide open, the blood staining his chest and spread around him on the dance floor. Curled up next to him was the ordinary-looking bodyguard with sandy hair.

"I know it's not really them, I know it's not but ... hell. Ollie. James."

"We have to call the police," Diana said, her voice schooled into calmness. It was the voice she used when she was nervous at official gatherings, when she sensed the audience might be resistant to her speech. "But first we should note down everything we can about the crime scene. Don't touch anything."

"Hey, that's my line," Wally said. His soft chuckle sounded like a bad parody of himself. He pulled out his notebook and pencil, then began to write.

Diana walked around the perimeter of the area, along the edge of the dance floor. There didn't seem to anyone else dead, and there didn't seem to be anyone else in the ballroom. Whoever Oliver's killer was, they were either gone, or hiding somewhere upstairs.

"How long ago would you say they were killed?" Diana asked, pausing in front of the stage.

"Maybe an hour, forty-five minutes." Wally looked up from where he crouched by Ollie's body. "Looks like machine-gun fire. Got him full on. They either burst in and took him by surprise, or it was someone he knew. But it's kind of hard to conceal a machine gun so my guess it's the first. James must have tried to protect him. There's money and a metal lock box on the table so my guess is Ollie was counting all his money with his bodyguard for protection when it happened." He stood up and started to pace. "It's so weird. Like being in a movie, only we can't leave." Wally stopped in front of Diana, with the microphone between them. "What if...what if one of us gets killed. What happens?"

"Once the murder is solved, we come home with everyone else," Diana said firmly.

"That's not really what I meant." But Wally wouldn't tell her what he meant.

She didn't need him to, anyway; she understood. He meant what it would feel like if one of them --- one of the "real" players in this game --- got killed. Diana hugged her arms.

Something gleamed in the dance floor. She knelt down and picked up a necklace. It was a pendant, a sterling silver question mark. Diana held it up so Wally could see.

"Riddler?" Wally said. He held out his hand and Diana dropped the necklace into his palm. "We should give it to the police."

"Let's go call them from Ollie's office," she said.

"Killer might still be here," said Wally.

"Then we'll be careful," Diana said.

"No." Wally took her elbow. "We'll go out and find a pay phone."

Diana blinked, then felt stupid. "Yes. Of course."

As if everything else weren't bizarre enough, Wally was the one with the most common sense.

***

"In it up to your eyeballs, huh, West?" Harvey Bullock took off his policeman's hat, scratched his head, and put the hat back on. "Not that I'm surprised or nothin'. Always knew you were a bad egg."

"Take it easy, Harvey." Hal Jordan sat down in the chair next to Diana's.

Cops were busy in the ballroom of The Blue Parrot, gathering up evidence. Flashbulbs popped. The cameras belonged to the LDPD, not the press; so far the press hadn't managed to get in there yet. Tape marred the shiny dance floor, marking where the bodies had been.

Wally looked down at the pristine white tablecloth, the wilted carnations in the vase, and thought how wrong it seemed, the elegance next to a murder scene. He glanced over at Diana. She looked tired, and he'd hardly ever seen her tired, not like this, with shadows under her eyes.

"So tell us, Wally, what you were two doing here so early?" Officer Jordan pulled out his notebook and flipped the little pad open. He slid the small pencil out of its loop, licked the lead, and waited, poised to write.

"We're investigating the Macabe murder," Wally said.

"A little birdie told us yous two were here last night," Bullock smiled, pleased with himself. "What were you doing, West?" The heavyset man leaned over Wally, and Wally pulled away until his back hit Diana's shoulder.

"Investigating the Macabe murder," Wally said again. "Are you deaf?"

"Don't get smart with me, laughing boy."

"Hey, Harvey, he was one of our own, you don't have to..."

"Shut up, Jordan." One fist slammed down onto the table. "I've had it up to here with scum like him crawlin' all over the city. Too gutless to be a big time crook. They just raise the level of the stench."

"I'm not a crook," Wally said, feeling stupid as soon as he said it. Why on earth would he need to justify himself to Harvey Bullock --- the book world's Harvey Bullock? He wasn't a real Harvey Bullock, who, the way Bruce talked about him, was a pain in the ass but an honest cop, a decent guy underneath the roughness. Bruce said once that heroes like them needed pains in the ass like Harvey Bullock or everything would fall apart.

"You used to have dealings with Queen, gumshoe?" Bullock pressed on.

"That's ancient history. I'm clean now." Wally held out his hands.

"We don't know anything." Diana leaned her elbow on the table and rubbed her eyes. "We came here last night to check out a lead. Mr. West thought we should come up this morning for a follow up."

Bullock's eyes narrowed. "Why would a cupcake like you be hanging around with him? Aren't you in the moving picture biz or something?"

"She works for me. She's my ... " Wally almost said "secretary" and then at the last second said "Assistant," instead.

"Ain't that quaint. Your assistant." Bullock belched. "Damn. Last time I eat in that diner."

"You're a slob, Bullock," Jordan said calmly. "Wally, just tell us the truth. What were you doing here?"

"I told you the truth."

"You still pack a heater?" Jordan licked his pencil again, cocked his head to one side, and gave Wally a stare that suddenly made him like Jordan less than he had a minute ago.

"He's a private dick," Diana snapped. "He needs to carry a gun."

Wally turned and looked at Diana who shrugged, a telegraphed What, I can't learn a new language?

Jordan wrote that down. "Are you carrying your weapon now?" He asked.

"No," said Wally.

"I'll search him," said Bullock, lumbering forward.

"Hold on." Wally stood up. So did Diana.

"You and me go way back, Wally. I can help you, but you've got to cooperate."

"I say we arrest 'em now, get it over with. This is a complete waste of time. Where are you goin', toots?" Bullock grabbed Diana's arm as she moved.

"Let go of me," she said, her teeth clenched.

"Aw, are you going to assault me? I'm terrified."

"Let go of her, Harvey," Jordan said reasonably.

"Uh ... You probably should," Wally said.

Diana gave Bullock a freezing glare.

"We can continue this down at the station. Wally, you'll have to turn over your gun. We can stop at your office on the way."

"Officer Bullock, Officer Jordan!" An authoritative voice cut across the busy room. Cops paused in their work to see who it was.

It took Wally a moment to get oriented as Harvey Dent strode towards them, dressed in an expensive-looking muted gray pinstripe suit, a trenchcoat and of course, a fedora. He'd seen Dent's picture hundreds of times, both before and after Two-Face, and it seemed strange to see him in person with his whole face being Harvey Dent.

"Mr. West." Dent stuck out his hand for Wally to shake and then, to his surprise, did the same for Diana. "Who's this?"

Most men barely acknowledged her presence, or took her hand to kiss it, or looked her over like a piece of meat in the butcher window. Wally knew it infuriated Diana. He was getting tired of watching it himself. She didn't need him to fight her battles for him but still, he couldn't guarantee he wouldn't punch somebody if it kept up.

"My assistant, Diana Prince," Wally said.

"Charmed, I'm sure," said Dent. "What's going on here, Jordan?"

"We were just going to take them down to the station for further questioning, sir. After we picked up Mr. West's firearm from his office."

"You think they did it? Why?" Dent asked.

"They were here last night, and they came back this morning. They were the ones who found the bodies and called this in."

Dent let out a long breath. "Why would they stay around for the police if they were the ones who had killed Oliver Queen and his bodyguard?"

"It'd be a clever plan," Bullock said, with less certainty that before.

"What kind of gun killed them?" Dent said.

"From the perforation? Tommy gun."

"Ah." Dent examined the perfectly manicured fingernails on his left hand a second, then looked back up at Bullock and Jordan. "Mr. West is a former cop, yes?"

"Yeah," Jordan said, slow.

"He probably carries a firearm similar to what he carried on the force. Just being used to the action and all that. It seems highly unlikely that firearm would be a submachine gun. Unless the LDPD has started issuing submachine guns for daily use?" Dent gave a half-smile. "Did you find one on him? On Miss Prince?"

"No," said Bullock, glaring at them both as though they were at fault for not carrying Thompsons when he'd arrived on the scene.

Hal Jordan flipped over his notes. "But he and Miss Prince said they talked to Oliver Queen last night."

"What were you doing here last night?" Dent turned to Diana and Wally.

"We're investigating the Macabe murder."

"Who hired you to do that?"

Wally's throat went dry, but Diana said immediately, "Bruce Wayne. He was worried he'd be implicated and hired us to find out who did it."

"Bruce, huh?" Dent folded his arms. "That's convenient, isn't it? Both of you in his employ to prove he didn't do it?"

"Yeah, how do we know you two aren't doctoring evidence all over town to protect your employer?" Jordan's eyes narrowed.

"Because I don't doctor evidence," Wally said. "We're only trying to find out the truth before more people are killed."

"All right West, you can go." Dent waved his arm. "I know where to find you if we have more questions. And don't leave town, as the old saying goes."

"What? You're just letting these mooks go?"

Harvey Dent looked down at Bullock. "Are you objecting, officer?"

Bullock said nothing.

"I thought so," said Dent. "Letting old grudges guide you in your work, Harvey? That's beneath you."

Wally took Diana's arm and they walked briskly away from the crime scene. Diana's heels tapped sharply on the steps, and then they pushed through the doors out into the morning, where the sun was burning away the fog.

***

To Be Continued
 
 
 
allaine77: Bridesmaidallaine77 on January 19th, 2007 04:46 pm (UTC)
Hopefully Diana is just doing a good job of getting into the part. I'd hate to think that the personalities - and more importantly, the ethics - of their roles are going to start bleeding into them over time.

A good use of conventions - the entrance into the Parrot had "detective/noir murder scene" written all over it.

I like the Flash/WW byplay. Due to his friendship with John, I tend to see Flash with Shayera a lot more than I do Diana.

Sincerely, Allaine
Merlin Missy: Big Scary Freakmtgat on January 19th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
It's all about the conventions. Yeah, Wally tends to play off Shayera a lot more. In this one, we wanted to mix up the usual groupings a bit and see what happened. :)
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:14 pm (UTC)
Cool, we're glad the atmosphere at the Parrot worked so nicely, and that you're enjoying the detective/Girl Friday stuff with Flash and WW.
Kiraava_cabot on January 19th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
The Flash/WW bonding just gets better and better. It's really great to see them bantering back and forth. Can't wait for the next installment!
Merlin Missy: Flashmtgat on January 19th, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
They are so much fun! :D Thanks for the encouragement!
getting the chocolate in the peanut butter: Flash: hero in progressdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)
Yay! We had a lot of fun with that. *g*
Chris90scartoonman on January 19th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
Ha, Tim, that role fits him pretty well.

I like the acknowledgment of Wally's intelligence. It's something they could've done more with on the show, but I guess it was tough giving Flash Barry's job and Wally's personality.
Merlin Missy: Milk Cartonmtgat on January 19th, 2007 09:12 pm (UTC)
They did try now and then, though it didn't always work. *pets Wally*
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:16 pm (UTC)
We couldn't have this story without Tim showing up. Couldn't!

Wally is smart and we know on JLU what his civilian job is. We did want to acknowledge that.
Matt Zimmermattzimmer on January 19th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
Flash IS smart and I like that Bruce recognized that the dumb guy routine was all an act. I really like this story so far.
getting the chocolate in the peanut butterdotfic on January 21st, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)
Bruce does know it's a dumb guy routine. At the same time, he's maybe not certain about Flash's detecting skills.

As usual...wait and see...*g*