.Author's name: Lin E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Title: Randi & Kerry Go Shopping Category: Alternative Universe, somewhere, anywhere around S7-S10. Rating: R for swearing and general immorality of a non-sexual kind.
Spoilers: None. Sadly.
Summary: Money changes hands
Feedback: Just between us. OK?
Other: For ages I'd wanted to take Randi & Kerry shopping. I just couldn't work out what for. How pathetic is that? Then Rap pointed me in this direction. And so, with thanks, this one's for her.
The characters and setting of ER are the property of NBC, Warner Bros., Amblin Entertainment and Constant C Television.
PART ONE: A NEW WOMAN
10:30 CAFE OFF N MICHIGAN AVENUE
Kerry Weaver and Randi Fronczak, out of their natural habitat. They're seated at a table fortifying themselves for a day of serious shopping with strong coffee, mineral water, and small sweet pastries like fluffy pillows of sin. Kerry is checking a whole load of brochures against her wants list.
One more time, Kerry asks, " I don't know, the Siemens?"
Randi shrugs. "As long as it's a tri-band."
"You know, one of those that fold up", continues Kerry.
" Two words: tri-band."
Kerry glares with mock severity at her companion over the tops of her glasses. Randi gets in first.
" Don't start on me. Remember who's in charge of this makeover."
Kerry smiles. " Better not push your buttons today then, huh?"
" Yeah, or you'll end up blonde in beige polyester. With stars and stripes nails."
"That'll impress the bank."
They both grin, and smile, and look at each other a little too long. Randi leans over and takes hold of the paper in Kerry's hand.
"I expect you've memorised this list by now."
She dunks the paper in the dregs of a glass of mineral water. The writing on the paper blots, and then the paper turns to mush, as the two women move off to a hard day's shopping.
11: 00 AM N. MICHIGAN AVENUE
"I'm not sure mixing a sugar high and access to this much cosmetics was a good idea", frets Weaver.
"It's a perfect idea." Randi grins.
Randi frogmarches Kerry past her usual range, ignoring her companion's backward nostalgic glances. This isn't how Kerry shops for cosmetics at all. Kerry hovers round the edges, feeling inadequate, until she braves the sales staff to make a panicked lunge in for her usual lipstick, and leaves the store knowing she's failed again. With a precision smart bombs can only dream of, Randi zooms in on Bob mascara for the evening, and Mac for the day. And different shades for different looks. They'd ruled out coloured contacts for practical reasons, namely, they make Kerry's eyes close up with pain. So though she looks completely different with blue eyes, she only looks completely different and good for about five minutes. After that, she's the Elephant Woman.
Before foundation and blusher, Randi picks up a set of perfect, extravagant brushes, different guages, different sizes. One's thinner than a match, another's thick as a stick of asparagus. Eight in all.
Kerry has no idea what they are for, or why she needs so many. She's beginning to suspect just how far she is out of her depth when Randi draws a one-inch column of sable hairs over the palm of her hand. Kerry shivers with sensual pleasure.
She's so far out of her depth now, sheknows she's going to drown.
But first, blusher. Randi selects, checks, blends, discards. Her concentration is so pure that Kerry is content just to stand there and let the other woman work on her face, as if she were a patient in her own ER letting one of her staff fix her up. In public. She's letting someone do this to her in public. Yet another of the things that Kerry Weaver can't quite believe she's finally doing.
Randi is a woman on a mission. She knows Kerry's face intimately , and now she takes it in her hands to tilt this way and that, to catch daylight, then electric light, as she draws her blusher-coated finger tip over Kerry's pale skin, to assess and judge the effect she's creating. For tomorrow - and the days after - she knows the look that she's going for. It's just a question of how they get there, from here.
When Randi is satisfied, she has a perfect capsule collection of moisturisers, powders and blushers. Kerry is aware she could have bought half the store and still missed the good stuff, the right stuff. She knows mastery when she sees it. And so do the sales staff, who stay away.
Lipstick's all that's left. Like a heat-seeking missle, Randi drags Kerry round three counters to an understated range with minimalist advertising. If you didn't know, you'd think this was bargain basement stuff, in this area of the store by mistake. But Randi does know.
Kerry had no idea there were this many products for lips. Gloss, lipstick, outliner, brushes, sticks. She shakes her head, in disbelief, and somehow her hand falls on the nearest this range gets to her habitual colour.
"Who the hell uses -"
"Is that the image -"
"Not that sort of professionals. And that shade of pink is over for you." Randi removes the lipstick from Kerry's unresisting grasp.
Kerry is beginning to trust that tomorrow everything might go well.
12: 00 HALFWAY DOWN N MICHIGAN AVENUE
Randi has vetoed any chance of going to Kerry's usual stores, or even the ones Kerry has thought about, determined to get Dr Weaver away from the sort of clothes worn by a serious professional woman in a senior management position. Determined, in fact, to get rid of Dr Weaver.
Randi selects one slightly darker than charcoal suit, two black suits in different cuts and different lightweight mixes, one stunning navy linen suit, a soft leather jacket with practically no zips, and a whole raft of blouses. Including a tight armless white one, most definitely not a wife beater.
No-one at County General would ever imagine Kerry Weaver in these clothes - which is part of the point - not that they will ever see her in any of them, which is the rest of the point.
But for tomorrow, they need one last item -
"I'm really not sure about this blouse -"
"No. Definitely this one. Trust me."
"I don't know... I like the colour, it's the neckline -"
"What about it?"
"It's kinda low. Revealing."
"Ohhh yeah, it's revealing. Verrry revealing. Which is what you want, believe me. Cause once he sets eyes on your rack, he's putty in your hands.".
"Trust me. It'll work. Once we get you a Rawhide bra."
"Round 'em up, move' em on, push em out, Rawhide."
"Did you have to sing it? "
12.45 CASH REGISTER
Kerry is taking a secret pleasure watching the Visa card she is using today, crash and burn.
13:00 LADIES WHO LUNCH, SOME WAY OFF N MICHIGAN AVENUE
Easy to locate Nazeem's as it still has a blue awning. This one is a Kerry choice. She'd always marked it down as a date restaurant, and now here she was, with Randi. The day before - tomorrow. Kerry feels like she has finally exorcised the ghost of Sandy Lopez. Kind of a pain in the ass, you know that? Though Kerry is deeply romantic, she isn't spiritual, at all, and so classifies the words she spoke so casually on her first date with Sandy as irony, not a premonition, or an omen.
Of course she doesn't tell Randi any of this. She's all business as the waiter brings them dahi vadai.
"Shades, the matching briefcases, the sets of purses, cell phones, suntan lotion, shoes for your outfits."
"Then we go home with all your new wardrobe. Can't wait to get you out of what you're wearing now."
"Randi, you saw me try all of this on, you know what it looks like."
Randi sighs. Sometimes Kerry can be as dumb as a rock.
16:00 BACK ON N MICHIGAN AVENUE, THE OTHER END
If Kerry hadn't seen it for herself, she wouldn't have believed that anyone could have shopped so ruthlessly for so much. In the two hours after lunch they'd acquired every damn thing on her list. Every single one. They had more bags than a parkful of winos, and it almost hadn't hurt at all.
Best of all, she wasn't going to have to pick up the credit card bill.
Before they take a taxi back to Kerry's house, they slip into a bar that's not too crowded, not too quiet. A discreet corner. Then, they slump.
" Mission: Accomplished", announces Randi.
Kerry grins. "Two Seabreezes then, Ms Fronczak?"
"Sure. What'll you have?"
Relief from tension sends them over the edge into a fit of giggles. By the time the waitress has brought their cocktails, Kerry has already dialled the bank on one of her brand new cell phones.
"I'm calling to confirm my appointment with John Hutchinson. Yes: nine thirty. That's right. Mrs West."
PART TWO: PAPERWORK
Randi stares at Kerry. She'd heard her try out the new name for the first time.
"Mrs WEST? MRS West?"
Kerry sighs. "You have some problem with this?"
"What the hell kind of name is Mrs West?"
"The kind I can remember," says Kerry quietly.
"Why did you pick - Wait a second. Wasn't that the name of - you gotta be kidding me. Oh wait, no. Tell me you didn't."
"Yes, no and yes."
" Yes you'll tell me or Yes you did?"
"Yes, I did."
"Oh my god." Randi can't suppress her laughter. "You and that big goofy guy?"
Kerry had always suspected it would be bad if Randi ever found out, but it was turning out worse. "Hey, HEY. Knock it off. He was alright. At least it wasn't Malucci."
"Don't knock it till you've tried it", shoots back Randi.
Kerry pauses with her Seabreeze halfway to her lips. "Oh no. No. You gotta be kidding me. Tell me you didn't."
"Yes, no and yes."
"Tell me never in the hospital. Please. Lie if you have to." Kerry cannot quite bring herself to believe Randi.
"Well ... never in an ambulance," Randi concedes.
"Malucci. You and Malucci. What were you thinking?" Although a large slug of Seabreeze helps.
"We weren't thinking."
"That I can believe," snorts Kerry.
"You complaining?" drawls Randi, leaning back.
Kerry sets down an empty glass. "Depends", she murmurs, looking straight at Randi.
19:00 WEAVER'S BROWNSTONE
Kerry double locks and deadbolts the door as Randi takes the bags through the lounge to set them on the kitchen table, covered with a precautionary dustsheet.
"Want anything else to eat?" asks Kerry, leaning against the arm of her couch, holding her cane in front of her..
Randi shakes her head. "The fries at the bar were fine, thanks. How about you?"
"I couldn't", confesses Kerry, "my stomach's in knots."
Randi looks over, sees how white and tight wound she is. "It's not too late," she offers, "you can still call it off."
"No. I don't want to call it off. Not after I've spent most of my life dreaming this day would come. It's just -"
"Yeah. Nerves. Can I ask you something? Is it always like this?"
"So they say." Randi shrugs. "Want some tea?"
Kerry shakes her head, trying to master her fears. It's much harder than controlling the pain. Exhales a couple of times, envies Randi her insolence, and is surprised to feel one strong hand on her shoulder, another on her right hand. She looks up.
"It'll be ok. It'll all be ok. Nothing will go wrong. We have it all planned. We have the sterile cell phones in case we need to fall back on our contingency plans. This time tomorrow it'll all be done and dusted."
"This time tomorrow ... there'll be no going back, Randi. Either way."
"I know. But I know if anyone can make this work, you can. Trust me. You can do it."
Randi can see Kerry's eyes are about to brim over, and realises it's time to take charge. "Right. I have to be at work at the office in two hours' time. Let's get these briefcases sorted, the outfits laid out, and the kits packed. Time to rock and roll, Mrs West."
20:45 LOBBY OF 190 LA SALLE: MORGAN MANNERS MACDONALD
The first of the lawyers and corporate financiers are straggling out of the building as the night shift of cleaners starts to arrive. Randi flicks her security pass through the turnstile, passes nonchalently through the atrium. At the far end, she grins a shit-eating grin at Jack the security guard.
He grins back. "Hi Melissa, you're late."
"I'm at least a quarter of an hour early. At least", she sasses back over her shoulder.
"Late for you," he replies, smiling as the brave single mother of three, tragically widowed in a pile-up on the expressway under a year ago, strides over to the elevators.
The partners' offices of Morgan Manners MacDonald, venture capitalists and investment fund managers, are on the next to top floor. Plenty of time for Randi to gather her thoughts for her last night shift.
20:50 WEAVER'S BROWNSTONE
It's dark outside now, and the curtains are drawn. It's not cold, but Kerry wants some privacy for the last night she will ever spend in her house. A pity she's on her own, she thinks, especially since she doesn't have to be on her own anymore. That secure knowledge unfolds in her like a chrysanthemum bud: she need never be alone again. And yet - in a way, it's fitting she is alone tonight, for she spent much of her life in this house, in this city, alone.
She still has work to do for tomorrow. The deliberate cello-led measures of Haydn's Seven Last Words help her concentrate on memorising the history of her forthcoming second honeymoon in Aspen, and the medical details of the skiing accident that will have wrecked the ligaments of her left knee, and left her, temporarily, on crutches.
20:55 190 LA SALLE: PARTNERS' OFFICES OF MORGAN MANNERS MACDONALD
The elevator opens directly into a lobby outside the partners' offices. Randi glares at the thirty foot wide frosted glass and brushed aluminium map boasting the firm's interests in central and South Africa. Then she turns sharp left, down a hallway and into the closet where her cleaner's cart lives. She's first in and last out, as she has been ever since she started, so nobody is suspicious. First she stashes on the top shelf her gym bag with its change of smart office clothing and a briefcase that is the exact twin of the one Kerry will be using tomorrow.
Next, it's time to load up and arrange her cart. Dusters, sprays, brown paper sack for confidential waste; green paper sacks for hard recyclables; recyclable green plastic sacks for soft recyclables; and buried amongst them, an ordinary brown bag, for Mr Manners' office. She grabs the least recalcitrant vacuum cleaner before that bitch Renee can, and gloves up. Only then does she double check her sterile cell phone is well-hidden and switched off.
She goes out backwards, almost colliding with a very junior partner.
"Sorry, Mr Wyndham."
"That's ok, Melissa. Hey, your allergy's back?"
"The acupressure didn't work."
"Lots of people say good things about aromatherapy for skin conditions", he offers.
Randi has heard Dr Weaver say things about aromatherapy, and is very careful to keep a straight face because there's no point in hurting the silly boy's feelings, not now.
"Uh-huh", she says brightly, steering the cart round him, "maybe I'll try that."
"Maybe the firm could help, you've had that allergy ever since you started here."
Randi can't help staring at him, as the firm's disinclination to help any of its workers with health care - particularly its Namibian uranium miners and former steelmen dying of AIDS in the South African townships - first brought it to Kerry Weaver's attention. That, and its sale of arms to all parties in the seven way civil war over the Congolese diamonds. And its turning a blind eye to chattel slavery in Somalia. And condoning clitoridectomy in its workers' villages in Mali. Not forgetting its enthusiastic promotion of landmines in Rwanda. And Kerry Weaver's turning her attention to Morgan Manners MacDonald is the reason Randi is standing here before a sleek twenty-something suit who really needs to be taught a memorable lesson about the consequences of his firm's actions, preferably with Randi's now tightly balled fist.
Instead Randi remembers what she has learned the hard way about long-term planning, and slips into full-on Melissa the Tragic Widow mode. Standing straight, she says "I don't want any favours".
Mr Wyndham blushes as Randi walks purposefully off to start cleaning the open-plan area. She makes an easy sweep through the area, working round the few desperate workaholics stuck at their desks this time of a Tuesday night, and heads down to the senior partners' offices.
"Oh hi Melissa. I'm here till midnight tonight - why don't you start on Holland's office?"
This suits Randi just fine. Inside Holland Manners's office, she checks his diary: out for the rest of the week. Nothing of interest in the print-outs, on his C- drive, in-tray or bin. Randi's latex clad hands that will leave no finger prints work swiftly through the forest of yellow post-it notes on his desk to find the one with this week's combination to his safe. It's a moment's work to slant aside the hideous faux-Monet, open the safe, and sweep into the ordinary brown bag from her cart, bearer bonds worth $75 million.
PART THREE: PARTNERS
08:30 DINER NEAR UNION STATION
Kerry Weaver is nursing a coffee in a booth from which she can see the whole of the diner. Despite waking at 05.00 this morning, she was nearly late for the rendezvous. They'd agreed it was important to minimise the chances of her being seen in her new look, and she'd cut it nearly too fine.
It would be inconvenient - embarassing - to have to explain her outfit - particularly its neckline - to anyone at County.
It would be impossible to explain away the new plastic brace on her left knee, which to a medical eye obviously served no purpose whatsoever, or to explain away why she had discarded her cane for a pair of crutches.
Kerry is trying to stop herself obsessing on why Randi is now 45 seconds late. 60 seconds. One minute and twenty seven seconds.
She grudgingly concedes that caffeine wasn't a good idea.
07:00 OFFICES OF MORGAN MANNERS MACDONALD
Randi is in the partners' shower room - hey, she found the door like that - and is washing away all the dirt and sweat of a hard shift's cleaning. And almost all of her old life in Chicago, so she is in no hurry. Exfoliate, scrub, lather, shampoo, conditioner, rinse, rinse, rinse.
Too bad if anyone else wants hot water.
Or big fluffy towels that are clean, and, well, dry.
There's a full length mirror just by the shower, and Randi takes a good look at herself, first naked, then dressed as a corporate lawyer. Not bad. It's an assessment, not vanity: naked or clothed, she'll do. Kerry thinks so, anyway.
Goodbye Melissa, thinks Randi as she stuffs the jeans and sweatshirt into the gym bag, you were a good friend to me and Kerry.
And goodbye Morgan Manners Macdonald, thinks Randi, as the elevator descends, goodbye all the shitty work I had to do for you in the eight months I slaved here, goodbye horrible co-workers, goodbye stupid junior partners.
Only - not goodbye Jack the security guard, still loafing around the entrance at 08:15 long after his shift should have ended. Randi guesses - gambles - that it's nothing suspicious, his relief hasn't turned up. But she still has to get past him, and she can't risk being recognised.
She'll have to lurk around chairs at the far end of the admit - reception - area until the place fills up, and she can slip out. Maybe another ten minutes.
Kerry will be going nutso.
08:33:46:05 DINER NEAR UNION STATION
Kerry is going nutso: she can admit it, but can't stop it. Has anything happened to Randi? Something must have happened to Randi, she's three minutes, and just over forty-six seconds late.
If she were honest, she'd admit that sometimes Randi was considerably later than that for shifts at the ER. But she has a bad feeling about this.
Probably because this is illegal.
Is Randi OK?
She could have cried out with relief when after another five minutes of angst and cold sweat, an elegant female corporate lawyer walked in and in no way registered her existence.
Kerry got her breathing back under control - and someday soon, she thought guiltily, I really am going to have to get my blood pressure checked out - and waited another four minutes. Then made her way to the ladies' room. The crutches were damned inconvenient, as was the fake knee brace, but at least this way nobody could ever come looking for a cri-. A dis-. A person with -. Whatever.
Kerry set her briefcaseand laptop case on the surface at the side of the handbasin and concentrated on looking into the mirror to pretend to fix her lipstick. Just under a minute later, the corporate lawyer walked in, set her twin briefcase down, and checked her hair. Kerry picked up the case, slung it, managed the crutches, and escaped out of the diner on to the street. Neither of them had said a word.
Next stop, John Hutchinson.
08:55 DINER NEAR UNION STATION
Randi's ideal breakfast is not yoghurt and a bagel, but she reckons it's an improvement on Kerry's ideal of a nutritious fruit shake. One hour and five minutes (minimum: add half an hour for slippage) till Kerry finishes with the banker.
Randi pays up, tips well but not remarkably, and goes off to the travel agent with the briefcase that contains their multiple false identities - each set complete with passport, drivers' licence, several credit cards, health insurance, all the other numbers, bits of paper and computer records that go to prove your existence in the modern world - and for Kerry, medical credentials. Randi shakes her head. Some things Kerry just won't let go of.
She is seriously impressed by this latest proof of Kerry's thoroughness and ingenuity. She would have left something crucial out, or not known how to get it. Not Kerry. It was all there.
What she was good at was the people skills, the sneaking in and working under cover, the operational skills. Disguise, legwork, sleight of hand.
That's what made them perfect partners.
09: 35 JOHN HUTCHINSON'S OFFICE AT BENTLEY & HOUSMAN'S BANK, N WACKER DRIVE
Kerry Weaver has suppressed her instincts long enough to allow John Hutchinson to help her to a chair without beating him to death with either of her crutches.
They are seated in soft leather chairs sipping coffee and talking business. Mrs West is talking to John Hutchinson, and he is talking to her breasts.
Randi's right, thought Kerry. Remember my face? Ha. He hasn't looked at my face, not once.
"It's a most irregular request, Mrs West."
"I appreciate that, believe me. We wouldn't ask you to open the account if there was any other way."
"I really don't know what to say."
"My husband's done nothing illegal. People are just looking for scapegoats at the present time."
"And that's why I'm afraid there's nothing the bank can do."
There was a long uncomfortable silence.
We're screwed, thought Kerry bitterly, completely screwed, this wasn't supposed to happen, this guy has so earned the rep of being the sleaziest banker in all Chicago, there's $75 million burning a hole in my briefcase, and nowhere to put it, and Randi's thrown her life away for this, and me, and so have I, and if I could just get this utter prick to be his usual crooked self and open a bank account we'd be as rich as Carter goddammit, only I can't, so now we're fucked, and it's all my fault, we are absolutely fucked, OK, almost as rich as Car-
Kerry paused to think it through. Then, she leaned forward so low she could feel herself starting to slip out of the damn blouse, but what the hell, it wasn't like she would ever have any dignity left if she failed now, dropped her voice to a husky whisper, put hateful girly tears in it and pleaded,
"Millicent promised we could rely on you."
"Mrs West. My dear Mrs West. Why didn't you say so before?"
10:10 N WACKER DRIVE, 500 YARDS FROM BENTLEY AND HOUSMAN'S BANK
No longer Mrs West, Kerry took another sterile cell phone from her briefcase and dialled Randi's current number.
" Thunderbirds are go."
12:45 O'HARE AIRPORT, INTERNATIONAL DEPARTURES LOUNGE
They're on their second false identity of the day each, they have one way tickets to the Caribbean, and between them the computer know- how to hack the money they've stolen out of Bentley and Housman's. They will never see Chicago, or most likely the USA again.
If they do, and they are lucky, they will be on their way to do serious time, courtesy of the Feds.
If they do, and they are unlucky, they will be on their way to a dog food factory, courtesy of Morgan Manners MacDonald.
Doubtless assisted by Millicent Carter.
Their former colleagues at County will take months to get their heads round what their painfully conformist Chief and the reformed desk clerk have just pulled off. Even so, they'll get it wrong and assume Randi led Kerry astray.
And now their flight has just been called.
"Any regrets?" asked Kerry.
Randi grinned, and kissed her. In public, thought Kerry, oh sweet Jes - oh what the hell, and kissed her back.
"No regrets. Hey, how about you?"
I could get used to this, thought Kerry, and kissed her again.
"That's my girl."
"Actually - I'm lying. I do have one."
Randi pulled back, a little, uncertain. "You do?"
"Now I'll never get to tell Carter his precious Gamma's the biggest crook in the whole of Chicago."