A serial rapist terrorizes a city. The detective sworn to stop him must fight her own personal demons, aided by a woman torn between loyalty and love. 1990 (461KB)
Dr. Catherine Rawlings pushed the last patient file aside with a sigh and glanced at the clock. Nine-twenty pm. Her days seemed to be getting longer despite her frequent resolutions to reduce her evening office hours. Since she taught full-time at the medical school, she had limited time for private patients, and yet she constantly found herself making "one more" exception and adding another patient to her already crowded schedule. She ran a slender hand through her shoulder-length auburn hair and tried to shake the fatigue out of her neck and back muscles. She looked forward to a hot bath and a cold drink.
She was half-way to the door when the intercom on her desk buzzed. With a frown of surprise, she turned at the sound. At this time of night, with her office hours over, her secretary, Joyce, rarely put a call through. Puzzled, she leaned across the wide teak desk to push the return button.
"Yes?" Catherine asked.
"There’s a Detective Sergeant Frye here to see you, Doctor," Joyce replied in the voice she reserved for professional exchanges. Catherine noted the serious tone and replied immediately, "Show him in, Joyce."
Catherine sat down behind her desk, wondering what had prompted a visit from the police. She occasionally did consultation work for the police, but it was never on an emergent basis. She looked up as Joyce pushed the heavy mahogany door open. Joyce’s face revealed her curiosity, but she had no time to speak before a figure moved from behind her and strode into the room. Catherine was used to revealing little of her inner feelings by the expressions on her face, and she was glad of that now. For she would not have liked her surprise, and chagrin, to be displayed to the woman who approached her.
Catherine noted the gold shield clipped to the waistband of the detective’s grey gabardine trousers and the tailored fit of her navy-blue blazer. Viking was a term that flashed through Catherine’s mind, and it certainly seemed appropriate. The woman was tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and moved with a degree of assuredness that suggested she was rarely intimidated. She was slender, but there was power in the sleek lines of her shoulders and narrow hips. Altogether, Detective Frye presented a most imposing and attractive figure.
Catherine rose to accept the detective’s outstretched hand.
"Dr. Rawlings, I’m Detective Sergeant Rebecca Frye. I’m sorry to disturb you, but I need to ask you a few questions." Her voice was as cool as Catherine expected it to be, totally professional, revealing nothing. Catherine nodded, settling into her high-backed leather chair, waiting expectantly.
Rebecca chose her opening words carefully. She was a relentless interrogator when she needed information, and she desperately needed it now. However, she was also experienced, and this was a situation in which professional issues were cloudy. She studied the psychiatrist seated across from her, trying to get a fix on the best way to proceed.
She saw a woman in her late thirties, classically attractive, composed, not appearing anxious or hostile, regarding her expectantly. Rebecca found her unreadable. She decided on the straight-forward approach. She pulled a small black notebook from the inside of her jacket, flipped it open and glanced at it cursorily. Maybe a little surprise will soften her up.
"Dr. Rawlings, do you have a patient by the name of Janet Ryan?" she asked. Rebecca had hoped to catch her off guard, but the grey-green eyes that regarded her were calm, almost gentle.
"Detective," Catherine said softly, leaning forward over her desk, "surely you know that I can’t answer that question."
Oh, fuck, not this again! Rebecca’s irritation was intense, but she fought to contain it. God, how she hated dealing with these ethically rigorous types, when all she needed was a little assistance. These were the very people who kept saying that the special crimes unit—read sex crimes unit—wasn’t responsive enough to the needs of the community. It was damn hard to be effective when no one wanted to tell you anything, including the victims themselves sometimes. But Rebecca was effective, precisely because she wouldn’t allow the resistance of professionals or the fear of victims to deter her. She could be persistent to the point of belligerence, but she never harassed the victim. With them she was infinitely patient, explaining as many times as necessary how she could help if given the chance. Most of the time her sincerity and compassion won their cooperation, and she was able to bring an offender to trial who might otherwise have gone free. This time the stakes were so high that her usual imperturbation was taxed to the limit.
"Believe me, Doctor, I wouldn’t be here if this weren’t serious. I understand that you have to protect your patients’ privacy, but this is official police business."
"I believe you, but police business or not, that does not supersede my responsibility to my patients," Catherine replied quietly, lacing her fingers together. "Perhaps if you could tell me what this is about?"
"I presume you’ve heard of the recent attacks along the River Side Drive?"
Catherine’s face grew tense as she nodded.
Good, that got some reaction!
"We have reason to believe that Janet Ryan witnessed the third attack by the same perpetrator around six o’clock tonight. I need to find out what she saw."
"Why don’t you ask her?"
"Because she’s in the intensive care unit at University Central. She’s got some pretty nasty bruises; she’s nearly incoherent; and the best we’ve been able to ascertain is that she can’t remember anything about what happened. Your business card was in her purse."
Oh, lord, Janet! Catherine stood up and walked to the window that overlooked the downtown skyline. After a moment’s deliberation, she turned her gaze on the detective who sat silently watching her.
"Would you mind stepping into the waiting room for a few moments? I need to make a phone call."
Rebecca rose immediately, sensing that the
psychiatrist was trying to meet her half way. Before she broke eye contact,
Rebecca said vehemently, "I want this bastard, Doctor. I want him off the
streets before he touches one more woman." She thought she saw a flicker of
rage that matched her own in the green eyes that held hers. "Right now, I
can use any help you can give me."
As soon as the door closed behind Rebecca, Catherine reached for a file from her bottom drawer. Turning to the personal intake form, she jotted down a number. She dialed quickly, praying she wouldn’t get one of those infernal answering machines. To her relief, a human voice answered after only two rings.
Sensitive to the slightest nuance of tone or expression, Catherine heard the anxiety and fear in the young woman’s voice, and began gently.
"Barbara? This is Dr. Rawlings—"
"It’s Janet, isn’t it?" Barbara interrupted tremulously. "She should have been home hours ago, and she always calls if she’s going to be late. What is it? What’s happened?"
"I don’t know all the details, but I know that Janet is in the hospital. She’s alive and in no immediate danger. Do you understand that, Barbara? Janet is injured, but she was able to speak with the police a little."
"Oh, god! Where is she?"
"University Central. I was afraid you hadn’t been notified." Catherine cursed the system that ignored the most important relationship in a person’s life when it mattered most. "I know you want to be there, Barbara, but there’s something I need to discuss with you first. The police are here at my office. They believe that Janet may have witnessed a crime. They need some information. I’d like to help them as much as I can if you’ll trust me to protect Janet’s confidences." She hated to do this to Barbara now; her anxiety was practically palpable over the phone, but she couldn’t discuss Janet Ryan with the police without the consent of Janet’s designated medical power of attorney. She was stretching the definition as it was, but she knew Janet well, and made the judgement that Janet would have given her permission herself had she been able.
"Yes, of course—we both trust you. Do what you think is best. Please, I need to go now!"
"Do you have someone to drive you there?"
"I’ll call Carol--she’ll go with me. Thank you for calling me--"
Catherine was left with a dial tone sounding in her ear. She replaced the phone gently in its cradle and walked to the door. Pulling it open she found Detective Frye slumped in a chair, her head tilted at an uncomfortable angle. For the first time Catherine noted the deep circles under her eyes and the lines of fatigue that marred her otherwise flawless face. The well-tailored clothes were also rumpled from hours of wear. She looks like she hasn’t been to bed for days.
"Detective," she called softly.
Rebecca Frye jolted upright, her eyes snapping open. She focused instantly on Catherine. "Yes?"
"Come in, please."
When they were once again seated, Catherine spoke. "Janet Ryan is my patient. I’m not sure how I can help you, however."
"I don’t know either," Rebecca responded in obvious frustration. "We need a statement from her as to what happened tonight, but she claims she doesn’t remember anything that happened. Is she likely to lie to us?"
"I doubt it," Catherine answered with certainty, "but it would help if you could tell me what the circumstances are."
"A twenty-year old woman was savagely beaten and sexually assaulted around six pm tonight. We found your patient wandering around not far from the site just before seven pm. The rape victim is in a coma, Dr. Rawlings. She’s one of the lucky ones. The first two victims are dead. We need a break--and your client may be that break."
"Surely you’ve had the psychiatrist on call see her?"
Rebecca nodded and consulted her notes. "A Dr. Raymond Bauer."
"I know Ray," Catherine remarked. "What did he say?"
"That it could be traumatic amnesia--shock induced by whatever she may have seen."
Catherine nodded in agreement. "Very possibly."
"Is Janet Ryan a stable person?"
"What do you mean?"
Rebecca was too tired to hide her annoyance. Why did these people insist on answering one question with another one? "I mean, Doctor, is Janet Ryan likely to fake this amnesia thing-- for attention, or a thrill, or to fuck with the police?"
Catherine regarded Rebecca silently for a moment. She would have been irritated if she hadn’t recognized the frustration and fatigue in the woman’s face. This case obviously affected her strongly.
"Janet Ryan is a very reliable young woman, and I would be very surprised if she didn’t do everything in her power to assist you."
Rebecca started to point out that people were capable of all types of subterfuge, given the right motivation, but she was interrupted by the sound of her pager. Grimacing at the intrusion, she flicked it off with her thumb and pointed to the phone.
"Of course," Catherine replied. She watched Rebecca as she dialed, appreciating again the tension that radiated from her body. She had leaned one hip against the edge of the desk and was facing toward the windows, her profile to Catherine. If she was aware of Catherine’s scrutiny, she didn’t show it. Her eyes were fixed on the streets below, but Catherine doubted that she actually saw the life passing outside. She seemed impervious to distractions. Catherine wondered what price that kind of focus and control exacted from the self-contained woman before her.
"Frye here," Rebecca said as the dispatcher picked up. She raised an eyebrow as she listened, "When?--Yes, I’m there now--All right, fifteen minutes." She replaced the receiver and turned to Catherine. "Janet Ryan is asking for you."
Catherine rose quickly. "I’ll go now."
Rebecca reached the door first, pulling it open. "I’ll drive you."
Catherine understood that this was not a request,
and lengthened her stride to match that of the taller woman’s beside her. It
was clear that Rebecca Frye was not used to giving up until she got what she
Jeffrey Cruz found Rebecca in the patient waiting area on the fifth floor of University Central, feeding nickels into the coffee machine. He banged her lightly on the shoulder as he stepped up beside her.
"Hey, Reb--how’s it hanging?"
She looked at her partner, noting the sallow color of his normally tanned skin, and shrugged tiredly. "Better than yours. You get anything?"
"Not much--same perp--blood type O, semen matches, and he did her up the as--uh, sodomy, just like the first two."
Rebecca took a deep swallow of her coffee, wincing at the cardboard aftertaste. "Yeah, well, the rest of it fits, too. A jogger again, same time of day--early evening, not yet dark. No pattern to the location though--nothing suspicious in the area either. There’s miles of park along the river; we can’t possibly cover it all."
Jeff slumped into the plastic seat beside her, shaking his head. "Something’s funny, Reb. The park is always crowded--kids on bikes, runners, not to mention cops--and nobody sees nothing. Nobody notices anyone just hanging around, or in a hurry to get somewhere--he just comes and goes without a trace." He laughed sourly at his own joke.
Rebecca shook her head, as frustrated as her partner. "There’s a lot of brush along those trails, Jeff. Once he grabs someone, he can just pull them off into the scrub. Then they’re invisible." She had been to her Captain twice since the first assault, pleading for extra patrols to stake out the River Drives. His answer had been the same each time--yes, this was a nasty crime; yes, he cared about catching the son of a bitch; and, no, he couldn’t spare the people to beef up surveillance. They had to do the best they could with what they had, and Rebecca was haunted by the knowledge that it wasn’t enough.
"Well, he’s still got to get out," Jeff observed. "He has to leave on foot, or maybe on a bicycle.
"Maybe somebody did see something--maybe Janet Ryan did."
He sighed deeply and closed his eyes. "Maybe."
"There’s something we’re missing, Jeff, I agree with you," Rebecca mused aloud, not even sure if Jeff was awake. "Serial criminals--rapists, murderers--they follow some pattern. At least a pattern that makes sense to them. We just have to find it."
"You’re probably right," Jeff answered, his eyes still closed. "But whatever it is, it isn’t simple. Different days of the week, no set time interval, no physical resemblance between the victims, and nothing symbolic left behind. Did you get anything out of the shrink?"
"Still waiting. She’s in there with the witness now."
"Who’s the other one?" Jeff asked, craning his neck to see through the small windows in the double doors marked "Hospital Personnel Only". "Blond, early twenties, nice body?"
"The roommate, I think. I haven’t had a chance to talk with her yet." Rebecca didn’t add that she hadn’t had the heart to question the girl earlier. The young woman with Janet Ryan was clearly distraught and probably didn’t know anything anyway. There’d be time enough to talk to her once she’d had a chance to see her girlfriend.
Jeff looked at his watch and groaned. "Shit, it’s almost eleven. Shelley’s gonna have my balls if I don’t get home before midnight again tonight."
Rebecca stood and stretched. "Why don’t you go ahead. I want to see what the shrink gets anyhow. You can write up what we’ve got so far in the morning--deal?"
Jeff grinned happily, all vestiges of fatigue gone. He rose beside her, wishing for the thousandth time that he was as tall as his good looking partner. He didn’t let on that it bothered him that she was half a head taller, but he couldn’t help noticing the admiring glances she got, from men and women. She never seemed to notice, though. Oh, well, his wife thought his body was spectacular, so what the hell. He thumped her affectionately on the arm and sprinted for the elevator.
"I got the best part of this deal!" he called over his shoulder.
Rebecca didn’t doubt it. There was no one
waiting for her at home, and there hadn’t been for a long time. She had
forgotten what it felt like to open her door on anything other than the cold
emptiness of her apartment, and she didn’t want to remember now. She closed
her eyes on the thought, adjusting her long frame into a more comfortable
position for the wait ahead of her.
Catherine wearily pushed the doors of the intensive care unit open and stepped out into the quiet corridor. It took her a moment to adjust to the dimness after the bright lights inside, and when she could see again, she noted Rebecca asleep down the hall. Even in repose, she didn’t appear relaxed. Her right hand twitched slightly as it rested against her thigh. Her jacket lay abandoned on the chair beside her, and the silk shirt she wore stretched over the tight muscles of her arms and outlined her firm breasts. Catherine’s pulse quickened as her eyes wandered from Rebecca’s face down the sensuous planes of her body. She smiled slightly at the unbidden response and reminded herself why they were both there.
"Detective," she called gently as she approached.
Rebecca sat up immediately, rubbing her face briskly with both hands. She looked up at the psychiatrist who somehow managed to look fresh despite the hour. Rebecca grinned a little sheepishly, taken off guard by the welcoming softness in Catherine’s eyes.
"Sorry," Rebecca said, "I tend to fall asleep wherever I can."
Catherine laughed. "I know what you mean. When I was a resident, we had a saying—`See a chair, sit in it; see a bed, lie in it; see food, eat it!’"
Rebecca stood, stretching to her full six feet. "I’m sorry," she said, "I have to talk with you. I know it’s late. If there’s someone you need to call—"
"No, there isn’t," Catherine replied. "But I have no intention of saying one more word to you unless I’m fed first. Can you wait that long?"
Rebecca regarded the elegant, composed woman before her, sensing the smile in her voice, and felt suddenly energized.
"I’m on my own time now, anyhow," Rebecca offered. "There’s a diner up the street—"
"Arnie’s? Not at this hour! My digestive system would never survive," Catherine exclaimed in mock horror. "My apartment isn’t far. Could we finish up there? It will just take me a minute to fix something."
Rebecca was momentarily surprised, and then realized she would like nothing better than to have a late dinner with Catherine Rawlings.
"Sounds fine. I can’t take one more burger anyhow."
The address Catherine directed her to was in an old brownstone, recently renovated, in a gentrified part of the city that bordered the sprawling university area. Catherine’s was a large ground floor apartment that opened onto a private rear garden. Rebecca couldn’t see much of the patio through the sliding glass kitchen doors, but the rest of the apartment was decorated in warm earth tones that Rebecca found soothing. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and Rebecca finally began to unwind. She decided she liked the doctor’s style. She wandered into the large living room and perused the titles on the floor-to-ceiling bookcases that lined one wall. Many of the titles were recent novels and biographies. Rebecca noted several she had been meaning to read but kept putting off. Something usually came up at the station that devoured what little spare time she had. She reminded herself she still had work to do as Catherine came through the archway from the kitchen with a bottle in one hand.
"Glass of wine?" she asked.
"Just seltzer and lime, if you have it," Rebecca replied.
Catherine had changed into a loose white cotton blouse over black brushed silk trousers. Rebecca was suddenly aware of what a beautiful woman she was. Her angular face, framed by wavy, richly highlighted auburn hair and accentuated by prominent cheekbones, was just short of perfect. Her wide-set green eyes and generous mouth bestowed a human quality to her beauty that made her even more attractive. Rebecca found herself really appreciating another woman for the first time in months. She realized she was staring when Catherine’s full lips parted in a soft playful smile.
"No drinking on duty?"
"No drinking for me any time--at least not for the last four years," Rebecca said evenly. Four years, three months, and two days.
Catherine heard the tension in her voice and asked, "Will it bother you if I drink?"
Rebecca smiled then herself. "Most of the world still drinks--and honestly, it rarely bothers me now. It would be harder if you didn’t drink because of me."
"Well, then, come into the dining room so I can feed you," Catherine said.
Rebecca pushed back her chair with a sigh. She had forgotten how pleasant it was to sit down at a table and enjoy a meal. And to enjoy the company of a warm, intelligent woman.
"Thank you," she said, "it was wonderful."
Catherine smiled at her, unaccountably pleased by the compliment. She felt almost rewarded by Rebecca’s pleasure.
"I take it you don’t cook much."
Rebecca shrugged ruefully. "Never did. It’s worse when you live alone. I just don’t think about eating as something to enjoy any more." She stopped, suddenly embarrassed. Christ, Frye, why don’t you tell her all your problems! "At any rate, it was great."
Catherine sensed Rebecca’s discomfort. It was apparent that her charming guest felt awkward discussing herself. Catherine was not surprised. She found people in Rebecca’s line of work reluctant to reveal intimate details and slow to trust. She wasn’t sure if it was the work that made them that way, or if those pre-existing traits were what made them so good at their jobs. It was something that suddenly interested her very much. Rebecca interested her. Catherine wondered what lay beneath that cool, controlled exterior—for she was certain that there were depths to Rebecca that the woman herself was unaware of. She remembered the barely contained rage in Rebecca’s voice when she described the rapist’s last attack and her passionate declaration to stop him. Oh, yes, there was much more to this woman than she revealed to the world.
Catherine knew intuitively that Rebecca would not confide anything easily, and she sensitively changed the subject. "What do you need to know, Detective?" she asked. She poured the last of the wine into her glass and leaned back, waiting.
"Probably more than you can tell me. Does Janet Ryan have any memory for the last eight hours?"
"Not much. She remembers pulling into a drive-off on the River Drive about five forty-five. There was a regatta and she stopped to watch. She left her car and headed toward the water. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the ICU."
Rebecca frowned. "Does she recall any one else around? Anything out of the ordinary?"
"I don’t know. I didn’t specifically ask her. She was pretty disoriented, and frightened. I was trying to establish the extent of her amnesia and get her calmed down."
"Of course," Rebecca said tersely. She couldn’t expect a psychiatrist to think like a cop. She’d planned to interview the girl in the morning anyhow. "Anything else? Anything at all?"
"I’m sorry--her amnesia is total for the time in question."
"And you have no doubt that she’s telling the truth?"
"None at all."
"How long will it last?"
"I don’t know," Catherine said regretfully. "I wish I did."
Rebecca stood up, her jaw set with determination. "I can’t wait for her to remember. The time between attacks is getting shorter. I’ve got to find some other way to get to him." She thanked Catherine absently, her mind already planning her next move.
Catherine watched her as she walked to the door,
thinking it would be a long time before Rebecca Frye let herself rest again.
Rebecca let herself into her apartment and tripped over a gym bag she had left lying on the floor several days earlier. The air had the musty, close smell of an unoccupied house. She pushed a window open and stood looking out. The night air held just the hint of a breeze, and she leaned against the window ledge, hoping to wash away the depression that had settled over her the moment she got home. The empty apartment was too clear a reminder of her own empty life, an aching emptiness she tried hard to ignore. Usually she was successful. The demands of her work left her little time for reflection, and when she did have a spare moment, she spent it at the gym, lifting weights until the fatigue in her body blocked out any other thought. The interlude with Catherine Rawlings had unsettled her. The quiet intimacy of the doctor’s apartment, the shared meal, the soft, but insistent strength she sensed in the woman, touched some chord in Rebecca. She didn’t want to think about it, but she couldn’t ignore the loneliness she had felt as Catherine’s door closed gently behind her.
She looked at her watch. Three A.M. She was tired, but too restless to sleep. It was one of those times she longed for a drink. Or, as had been the case, more than one. She fought the urge, as she usually did, by turning her mind to the River Drive case. There was something there, she knew, that she just couldn’t connect with. Something she had heard, or seen, that would give her a handle on him. Whatever it was, it eluded her now.
Unconsciously her thoughts returned to Catherine Rawlings. Her integrity and compassion were obvious when she spoke of her patients, and her desire to put an end to this mad man’s rampage was obvious, too. But it was more than just her intensity that drew Rebecca’s attention back to her. Catherine Rawlings had touched some chord in her, some long-buried yearning for the company and solace of a woman. Or had she merely imagined the warmth in the doctor’s green eyes when she looked at Rebecca, or the welcoming smile as she approached? It doesn’t matter, and it sure isn’t going to help me solve this case
Rebecca shook off her memories with an irritated shrug. She tossed her jacket on a chair and pulled off her shoulder holster before stretching out on the worn couch. She rarely slept in her bed--the empty space beside her only made sleep more elusive. What she couldn’t know as she finally closed her eyes was that across town Catherine Rawlings turned in her sleep and smiled at the image of a tall, blond woman with lonely eyes.
It was not yet seven when Rebecca pulled her red Corvette into the police lot beside the police cruisers and vans. She knew Jeff would be there before her, typing out their report of last night’s events. She smiled to herself at the thought of Jeff’s face as he labored over the typewriter.
She found him hunched over his rickety metal desk in the tiny vice squad room, slowly two-finger typing a report in triplicate.
"Hi, Reb," he said without glancing up. "Anything from the shrink?"
"About what you’d expect," Rebecca answered, shedding her jacket to the back of her chair. "Want some more coffee?"
"Yeah," he said, looking up with a lecherous grin. "Shelly was still awake when I got home last night."
"Nice to know someone’s making out," she grumbled good-naturedly as she headed for the table at the back of the room. She threaded her way between dilapidated chairs and dented desks haphazardly crowded together, and filled two Styrofoam cups to the brim with the evil looking black liquid that passed as coffee. She carried them at arm’s length back to the desk that faced Jeff’s and pushed a stack of files to one side with her elbow. She settled herself into her chair, steeling herself for the first taste of the bitter brew.
"Ah," she murmured after her first swallow, "nectar of the gods."
"You must still be asleep if you think that swill is good," Jeff said, reaching for his own cup.
She shrugged and reached for the first page of his report. As usual it was neat and complete.
"Nothing new, I take it," she said, skimming the brief review of the latest rape.
Jeff stretched out his legs and pushed his chair back from the cramped table. "I ran a background check on the shrink."
Rebecca looked up in surprise. "Why? She’s not a suspect."
"Yeah, I know--but she’s tied in with our only witness to date--and she may be the one to open that particular box for us. It never hurts to have a little leverage."
Rebecca had to agree. If they were going to get anything from Janet Ryan, she suspected they would need Catherine Rawlings’ help.
"So, what did you find?" she asked, careful not to reveal her interest. Jeff might be her closest friend, but even with him she rarely disclosed anything personal. She certainly wasn’t about to tell him of the disturbing effect Catherine Rawlings had had on her.
"Well, it seems the lady is quite a mystery. I talked with a couple of the docs I know, and they all say the same thing. Professionally above reproach—medical degree from University, residency at University Central. From there she accepted a teaching position at the medical school and is now a…" he paused to check his notes, "…clinical professor of psychiatry."
Rebecca listened intently. She wasn’t surprised. It fit with the impeccable professional image she had gotten of Catherine the night before.
"So--what’s the mystery?"
"No personal info available--lives alone, apparently always has. Everyone is happy to tell you about her professional accomplishments, but nobody will say squat about the rest of her life."
"Maybe there isn’t anything to say," Rebecca countered, just a hint of irritation in her voice. "Some women are pretty consumed by their work, you know."
Jeff looked at her thoughtfully, thinking if anyone should know about that, it was his solitary partner.
"Yeah--well, that may be. But I did dig up something interesting. Her private practice--she specializes in rape and incest cases. She’s even done some work with us on that kind of thing."
Rebecca whistled, thinking of Janet Ryan and her amnesia.
"And that’s not all," Jeff continued, "a lot of her private patients are dyk--uh, lesbians."
Rebecca slowly raised her eyes to his. He looked away.
"Might be useful information," she said nonchalantly. She felt anything but nonchalant, her mind racing with questions about Catherine Rawlings. She forced herself to consider the information Jeff had gathered.
"Maybe I should have another talk with Dr. Rawlings."
"Thought you might want to," Jeff replied dryly.
Catherine was nearly finished with morning rounds when her pager went off. She excused herself and left the group of residents and students discussing the latest drug therapy for depression. She picked up a wall phone and dialed the extension registered on her beeper.
"Dr. Rawlings," she said as the call was picked up.
"Rebecca Frye, Doctor. I wonder if we could talk?"
Catherine glanced at her watch. She had an outpatient clinic to supervise in an hour. "I’m in-between right now. How about joining me in the cafeteria?"
"It’s on the second floor."
"I’ll find it," Rebecca replied.
Catherine picked up a chef’s salad and seltzer and glanced around the cafeteria. She saw Rebecca at once, looking slightly out of place in her grey jacket and black trousers amidst a sea of white coats. She made her way across the room to join her at a small table near the windows.
Rebecca watched her approach, thinking she looked at home in her knee-length white lab coat. The coat did nothing to detract from her trim figure. Rebecca tried not to notice the shapely legs or the hint of full breasts under the pale green suit she wore. Rebecca waited until Catherine was seated before speaking.
"I have a few more questions, Doctor."
"I gathered that, Detective Frye," Catherine commented dryly, studying Rebecca’s face. She was glad to see that the circles under her clear blue eyes had diminished and some of the tension had left her face. She was also simply glad to see her.
"Is it true that you specialize in rape and incest cases?"
Catherine was a little taken aback--not with the directness of Rebecca’s approach, she expected that of the forthright detective, but with the rapidity with which she gathered information. She had known that this, among other things, might come up. She just hadn’t expected it so soon.
"Not exactly specialize--but it is a particular interest of mine."
"Don’t give me double talk, Doctor. I’m not the enemy," Rebecca said quietly.
Catherine sighed and pushed aside her unwanted salad. She met Rebecca’s penetrating gaze.
"Yes, it’s true that the majority of my practice involves sexual abuse survivors."
"Why didn’t you tell me this last night?"
Catherine looked genuinely surprised. "I didn’t think it was relevant."
"You didn’t think it was relevant?" Rebecca asked incredulously. "We finally have a witness, we hope, to a brutal rape—a series of rapes we can’t get a single lead on, and our only witness suddenly has amnesia. You happen to be an expert in such crimes, and you didn’t think it was relevant." Rebecca didn’t raise her voice, but her anger was evident. God, save me from dealing with civilians!
"Detective Frye, I am not an expert on the crimes. I am an expert, if you will, on the effects of the crimes. That’s a very big difference."
"And what about Janet Ryan--is she a victim of the crime?"
"Don’t ask me questions you know I can’t answer," Catherine said quietly, her eyes holding Rebecca’s.
Rebecca sighed slightly. "I have to try."
Catherine leaned forward, her face intent. "Rebecca, I will do anything I possibly can to assist in this case, but I cannot, and I will not, disclose client confidences. Please try to understand."
The use of her first name did not escape Rebecca. She tried to ignore the quickening of her heartbeat, reminding herself she was in the middle of a hospital cafeteria, and in the middle of an investigation.
"I do understand. I appreciate your desire to protect your patients, and I respect you for it. I’m just grasping at straws here. I can’t get a handle on this guy, and it’s driving me nuts!"
It was an uncharacteristic outburst for her. Catherine’s heart filled with compassion as she watched the torment play across Rebecca’s fine features. In that moment she felt every shred of Rebecca’s frustration and helplessness.
"I’m seeing Janet at three this afternoon. She requested that I take over from Ray Bauer. Perhaps she’ll remember more."
Catherine’s caring showed in her voice, and Rebecca met her gaze gratefully. For an instant the room retreated from view as she surrendered to the understanding and comfort in those green eyes. It felt like a caress. She flushed and looked away.
"I’d like a report either way."
Catherine accepted Rebecca’s withdrawal reluctantly, acutely aware of the fleeting connection and the equally sudden distance between them. She pushed her chair back, replying formally, "Of course. You can call me around six tonight. I should be done here by then."
"Fine," Rebecca replied. Impulsively she added, "Why don’t I pick you up--we can talk over dinner. And you won’t have to cook."
Catherine nodded with pleasure. She would like
nothing better than spending more time with this intriguing woman.
Rebecca pulled into the No Parking zone in front of University Central Hospital at five forty-five pm. She took out the notes she had made at the crime scene that afternoon. She and Cruz had decided to do another walk-through of the area, hoping to find something that might have been overlooked by the lab crew. The assault had occurred in a copse of trees bordering the water on River Drive. A narrow path separated the trees from the road fifty yards away. The ground between was a thicket of low shrubs and grass. Although the park was frequented day and night by bicyclists and runners, this section of the trail was unpaved and poorly maintained, which tended to discourage all but the most serious joggers. The isolated location was similar to that of the previous two rapes. The most recent victim had been found by a middle-aged man chasing his errant golden retriever. It was probably a coincidence that saved her life. Trampled shrubbery suggested she had struggled. That was the only difference from the first two incidents, in which there was little sign of resistance. Jeff theorized that their assailant knocked them unconscious before pulling them off the trail and assaulting them. The evidence supported that, but Rebecca found it hard to believe that the women hadn’t been warned of his approach. Even if he had been well-hidden, he would have had to reveal himself to get close enough to subdue them. No weapon had been found, and the injuries sustained by the victims only indicated that some kind of blunt object had been used. The details of the crime continued to elude them.
Rebecca had surveyed the scene, distancing herself from the mental images she constructed of the events. If she allowed herself to hear their cries, feel their fear, experience their helplessness, her own anger and revulsion would paralyze her--she would never be able to do her job. It was a lesson she had learned early in her career, and the emotional detachment came naturally to her now. The price she paid was the gradual, almost unnoticeable, inability to bridge that emotional chasm in the rest of her life. The very people she wanted to reach most found her cold and uncaring. Her frustration, and theirs, led finally to an isolation she almost welcomed. Her life was simpler even though her most human needs lay buried and ignored.
"Jeff," she mused, "how about this--our guy waits in the trees until a lone jogger comes along. He pulls her off the trail, knocks her out, then rapes her. He has to go from here up to his car, or maybe he has a bike?"
"Could be--we didn’t find a rock, or a club of any kind. He must take the weapon with him. I guess a guy with a baseball bat wouldn’t seem that unusual. Still though, you’d think someone would have seen something. It’s been in all the papers. No one has even come forward with a bad tip!"
Rebecca nodded. It was too hard to believe that no one had seen or heard anything--but then, perhaps someone finally had. Which brought them right back to Janet Ryan.
"Did you get a report yet on the tissue under Janet Ryan’s fingernails?" she asked.
"Due later today," Jeff replied, pushing aside the shrubs that edged up to the water. There was a narrow strip of sand along the river bank and then the bottom fell steeply away. He could make out the shapes of the boathouses a few hundred yards down the river. There was nothing unusual about the place.
Rebecca led the way back to the path. "I bet you find that the tissue type matches the semen analysis we have. Janet Ryan must have seen the rape in progress, or she heard something and went to investigate. My guess is that she tried to fight the guy off. She has scratches on her arms and legs as if she got tangled up in the brush. He probably leaves her for dead, or just panics and runs."
"Could have gone down like that," Jeff agreed. "That makes Ryan one gutsy lady, or a crazy one. Most people would have run for help, don’t you think?"
Rebecca shrugged. "Who knows--maybe she didn’t even think about it. She sees what’s happening and just reacts."
"Then we really need to know what Janet Ryan saw," Jeff said with finality.
When Catherine spied Rebecca waiting in the car across the street, frowning over her notes, she felt a welcoming surge of pleasure. The convertible top was down and Rebecca looked attractively windblown. She had shed her jacket in the car, and the thin leather strap that circled her shoulders, holding her holster against her side, was obvious. Catherine had no particular fondness for firearms, and the sight of the gun under Rebecca’s arm reminded her forcefully of the kind of life Rebecca led. Her response was a mixture of admiration and fear. She was drawn to Rebecca’s strength, but it was the hint of vulnerability within that truly captivated her. The complexity of the contrasts made Rebecca all the more appealing.
She approached the passenger side slowly, reminding herself that Rebecca was here on business. Still, she couldn’t quite dismiss the excitement Rebecca’s presence stirred in her.
"Hi," she said.
Rebecca looked up, and in a rare unguarded moment welcomed Catherine with a blazing smile. "Hi."
Lord, she’s stunning For a moment Catherine stood motionless, transfixed.
Rebecca leaned over to push the passenger door open. "You’re very prompt."
Catherine laughed as she settled into the contoured leather seats. "Don’t be fooled. It doesn’t happen often." She waited until Rebecca maneuvered into the dense traffic crowding the road in front of the hospital before speaking.
"Have you made any progress with the case?" Catherine asked.
"Not much," Rebecca replied, frowning. "I have a hunch your patient interrupted him, possibly physically intervened. That means she saw him. She might give us a description--" She gave Catherine a questioning, hopeful look.
Catherine shook her head. "Not yet. She’s heavily sedated and has only slim recall of last night’s events. It could be a few days--perhaps a week."
"Can I speak to her?"
"She spoke with the officer who brought her to the hospital."
"I know that," Rebecca responded. "But that was just a preliminary. I need to go over things in detail, and I know what to ask."
Catherine thought about Janet’s fragile emotional state and tried not to consider her ever increasing desire to assist Rebecca Frye. Janet must remain her primary concern.
"I have an hour scheduled with her tomorrow afternoon. If she’s ready, I’ll let you know. I’d like to be present when you question her. Do you mind?"
"Not at all," Rebecca said quickly. "In fact, I’d prefer it."
"Well, then--it seems we don’t have much to discuss over dinner," Catherine remarked with regret. She realized then just how much she had been looking forward to this time with Rebecca.
"I still want to take you to dinner," Rebecca replied, turning her eyes from the road to glance at Catherine expectantly. She didn’t want to think about what it meant, she only knew she didn’t want to say good night to Catherine Rawlings quite so soon.
"Good," Catherine answered softly.
"I was hoping you’d say that."
Rebecca drove to a small restaurant on the mainline known for its excellent food and quiet intimate decor. The owner greeted Rebecca by name and seated them personally at a secluded table that offered them a view of the sweeping lawns and luxurious gardens. He left them to ponder the eclectic selections artistically displayed on fine parchment menus.
"Do you come here often?" Catherine asked, curious about the special service they were receiving. They had been seated immediately despite several parties waiting before them.
Rebecca shrugged uncomfortably. "Not for a long time. But whenever I do, Anthony insists on waiting on me himself."
She’s embarrassed, Catherine thought. She waited, knowing there was more.
"I found his daughter for him a few years ago," Rebecca continued in a low voice, remembering the run down rooming house and the frightened young girls inside. When she looked at Catherine, she couldn’t quite disguise the pain of the memory. After so many girls in so many squalid squats, the sorrow had become a dark ache in her eyes. "She was fifteen years old, working on her back for a pimp who had promised her the excitement a girl her age longs for. What he gave her was a needle in the arm and a beating if she didn’t earn enough." She didn’t know how to describe the rest of it—how she felt when she found Anthony’s youngest daughter strung out on smack and turning tricks for twenty dollars a pop. Her anger so intense that she almost forgot she was a cop. Her overwhelming need to stop the waste and the abuse. If Jeff hadn’t interceded, she would have beaten the young pimp with her bare hands. She was grateful Jeff stopped her, but the rage still seethed, fueled by the daily destruction of lives and dreams she witnessed everywhere around her. She remained silent, alone with her anguish.
Rebecca didn’t know that the feelings she had forgotten how to share were clearly displayed in the sweeping planes of her face and the ever changing depths of her dark blue eyes. Catherine, so sensitive to the sounds of silence, caught glimpses of Rebecca’s secret tears. She ached for Rebecca’s pain, and she stood in awe of the strength it required to face such horrors every day.
"To him it must seem like life’s greatest gift-- the return of his child. He’s trying to thank you without making you uncomfortable," Catherine said softly. Rebecca winced, and Catherine continued lightly. "You’ll just have to bear it. I don’t imagine he’s going to stop."
Rebecca heard the gentle mocking in Catherine’s voice and caught the glimmer of a smile on her full lips. The knot of anger in her chest began to loosen, and she felt herself relaxing. She broke into a grin that brought a flash of brilliance to her eyes and a youthful energy to her face.
"If that’s your professional opinion."
"It is," Catherine responded, rewarded by the light in Rebecca’s eyes. She’s so beautiful Never could she remember being moved so deeply by anyone, and the force of her response was a little frightening. I hardly know her—why do I feel like I’ve been waiting for her?
Rebecca startled her from her reverie with the words, "Then it’s my professional opinion that we should enjoy dinner and have no more talk of business."
Catherine agreed happily, and after following Rebecca’s suggestion to try the house special, settled back contentedly with a glass of wine. Over the course of the delicious meal she found herself telling Rebecca about her life. Rebecca learned that Catherine was the only child of a college professor and his wife, also a psychiatrist. She was close to her parents, but saw them only rarely. They were both still active in their professions and otherwise involved with joint pursuits. Catherine had grown up in a loving and supportive environment, but her parents had always maintained an emotional closeness with each other that sometimes made Catherine feel excluded. As a result, although this was something she didn’t share with Rebecca, Catherine was reserved in her own personal life. Unconsciously she was searching for the same depth of commitment she had observed between her parents. Rebecca was a good listener, and she watched Catherine intently as she talked. Somehow she knew that these were things Catherine rarely spoke of.
"What do you do for entertainment?" Rebecca asked at one point.
"I love to read and take long bike rides. I’m a sucker for old movies, too," Catherine answered. "How about you?"
Rebecca laughed. "I’m afraid I’m one of those obsessive workers. When I’m not working, I’m working out."
"How did you decide on law enforcement?"
"I didn’t decide. I was born into it, like a lot of cops. My father was a beat cop for forty years, just like his father. I always knew I would be a cop, too. I took a slight detour and went to college first, but there was never any question I would be a street cop."
Rebecca’s pride and satisfaction were evident in her voice. Catherine thought she looked more relaxed than she had ever seen her, and she was glad. Rebecca’s charm and quick humor surfaced as she grew more comfortable. Catherine found her even more enchanting as the evening passed.
They lingered long after the other diners had gone and only left when neither of them could hide her weariness. They drove in companionable silence through the now quiet streets. For the first time in weeks, Rebecca didn’t think about work. When she pulled up in front of Catherine’s brownstone, she realized suddenly that she didn’t want the evening to end.
"Catherine, I—" Rebecca stopped, unused to putting her feelings into words. She wanted to tell her how wonderful the evening had been, and how much she wanted to see her again. Old habits, old fears, held her back. When are you going to learn, Frye. What in hell do you have to offer a woman like this?
Catherine’s eyes were warm and welcoming as she gazed at Rebecca, waiting for her to go on. Rebecca flushed and looked away, her jaw tightening. She sensed Catherine waiting, but still painful disappointments haunted her, holding her a silent hostage.
Catherine touched her arm gently, speaking instinctively, without her usual restraint. "Rebecca, I am a lesbian. If you didn’t already know that, I’m sure you would soon. I also find you incredibly attractive. Regardless of how you feel about me—or women in general—that fact remains. However, I can assure you that I have no intention of doing anything to make you uncomfortable."
Rebecca turned to her, stunned by her honesty, her pulse racing at Catherine’s words. She grinned, unable to hide the lightness in her heart.
"Catherine, there is nothing about you that makes me uncomfortable."
Catherine grinned back as she slipped from the
car. "That, Detective Frye, is very good news!" She was still smiling
as she watched Rebecca drive out of sight.
At seven forty–five the next morning, Rebecca walked into the squad room to face a routine day. She had a court appearance at noon to give evidence in a racketeering trial. She planned to spend the morning finishing reports on cases headed for the dead files—cold trails abandoned after fruitless weeks of searching for witnesses who were willing to appear in court. She hated to abandon cases she knew she could get convictions on, but too often people refused to cooperate, either from fear of exposure or retaliation. It was another frustrating part of working vice she had learned to live with.
Jeff joined her a few minutes later, carrying a cardboard cup of coffee precariously by the rim. He scowled at the mountain of paper work piled on his desk, muttering, "I can’t face this today."
"Give me some," Rebecca said amiably, reaching out a hand. "I’m almost done here."
Jeff raised an eyebrow and took a good look at his partner. She was dressed as usual in well-fitting linen trousers and a tailored cotton shirt, but something about her was different. There was an aura of freshness and energy about her that he hadn’t noticed in months.
"Something happen?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" Rebecca said absently, tossing a finished folder to one side.
"You look like something good happened. Something break on the River Drive case?"
Rebecca blushed. After dropping Catherine off the night before, she’d found herself more restless than usual. Her normal antidotes hadn’t seemed to work. She’d driven around, stopped at the gym for a late workout, even contemplated cleaning her apartment. Finally she stripped down to a tank top and pulled on a pair of loose boxers, deciding to attempt sleep. She stretched out on the bed, something she hadn’t done since her lover left. Amazingly, it wasn’t the case she thought about, but Catherine. The astonishing warmth in her eyes, the gentle tone of her voice, her quick laughter. Rebecca remembered too the light scent of her perfume and the outline of her breasts against the silk blouse she had worn. Without intending it, Rebecca found herself imagining the soft weight of Catherine’s breasts in her palm, the nipples stiffening under her fingers, and the heat of Catherine’s skin under her lips. She brushed her hand under the thin cotton of her shirt, gasping at the quick contraction of her nipples. She squeezed them lightly, her legs parting as she began to swell. She continued to stroke her breasts and belly, teasing herself, as she trailed one hand up her inner thigh, slipping her fingers under the edge of the loose shorts. She was breathing faster, no longer thinking, concentrating on the increasing pressure between her legs. She remembered moaning softly as she spread her wetness over her hard clit, circling it, pressing the shaft from side to side, feeling it become impossibly larger. Her legs twisted in the sheets as she clenched her teeth, denying herself as long as she could. When the distention became almost painful, she bore down harder with her fingertips, working her twitching clit back and forth roughly, pushing herself to the edge. She was whimpering as she tugged at the engorged base, arching her back as every muscle tensed for the explosion. She shouted when it hit, grabbing herself with her whole hand, squeezing out the last spasm as she jack-knifed on the bed from the force of the orgasm.
Something had happened all right, but she wasn’t about to tell Jeff that she woke, still wet from the night before, with Catherine Rawlings on her mind. She didn’t want to admit to herself just how good it felt to be with her. She knew only too well how devastating it could be to need a woman, only to find barriers in her own soul she couldn’t surmount.
"Nothing new. I’m going to interview Janet Ryan this afternoon though. If Catherine gives us the green light."
Jeff didn’t miss the first name reference, but he let it pass. They were as close as two partners could be, and he considered Rebecca his friend, but he knew better than to ask for details. He respected the distance Rebecca demanded in their relationship.
"Sounds good to me. Want me along?" he asked.
Rebecca thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. "Not this time. She might talk easier to me alone. Then again, she might not talk at all."
Jeff loosened his tie a fraction of an inch, which was his only concession to the stifling heat in the room. "I agree—the two of us could put her off. I’ve got a meet with our contact guy on the Zamora undercover deal anyhow. Let’s hope you get something from the girl."
Rebecca stepped off the elevator onto the inpatient psychiatry floor shortly after four P.M. Catherine was leaning against the counter at the nurses’ station, studying a chart. Rebecca observed her unaware, noting the easy way she stood, her figure-hugging skirt outlining shapely legs. Even the slight frown of concentration couldn’t diminish the delicate allure of her features. Rebecca knew what she was feeling as she looked at Catherine Rawlings, and it frightened her. She didn’t want to be stirred by her, but she was, physically and emotionally. To make matters worse, she was in the middle of the ugliest case she’d ever been involved in. The last thing she needed was a personal complication. Rebecca was still standing there, awash with conflicting reactions when Catherine looked up.
"Hi," Catherine called, as she pushed the chart aside. She didn’t try to hide her obvious pleasure at seeing Rebecca. Catherine surveyed Rebecca’s tall figure with appreciation and smiled a welcome.
Rebecca forced herself to ignore the warmth spreading through her body at the sound of Catherine’s voice. It’s probably all in my mind, she chided herself, but it was hard to overlook the tension between them. She deliberately kept her face impassive as she approached.
Catherine waited where she was, sensing something of Rebecca’s uncertainty. Detective Sergeant Rebecca Frye might know exactly who she was in the world, but it was plain to Catherine that the woman behind the badge was much less certain of what she wanted, or needed. Catherine was struggling to control her growing attraction to Rebecca, but every time she saw her, her desire intensified. Go slowly. She doesn’t trust you yet—or herself.
"I’ve just finished speaking with Janet," Catherine said as Rebecca joined her.
"Good. Does she know I’m coming?" Rebecca asked, her attention now focused on the task before her.
"Yes—I thought it best to prepare her."
"How is she?"
Catherine shrugged, a small frown puckering the fine skin between her elegant brows. "She’s still quite disoriented, and badly shaken. She knows there are things she can’t remember, and the dread of what they might be is terrifying. She wants to remember and is scared to death at the same time. She’s very frightened, Rebecca."
Rebecca recognized the cautionary tone in Catherine’s voice and responded defensively. "I’m not going to interrogate her, Catherine." She immediately regretted her flash of temper when she saw the surprise in Catherine’s eyes. God, I’m too sensitive around her. She placed her hand on Catherine’s arm, leaning toward her slightly.
"I’m sorry. I just want to find out how much she can remember. I won’t push her, I promise."
Catherine covered Rebecca’s hand lightly with her own, very conscious of the pressure of Rebecca’s fingers. Even that innocent touch sent her pulse racing.
"I trust you, Rebecca. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t let you see her." She pressed Rebecca’s hand again and stepped away. "Come on, I’ll take you to her."
Janet lay propped up on several pillows. The blinds were drawn against the afternoon sun. The television, perched on the wall opposite the bed, was tuned to a TV talk show. The hostess raced up and down the aisles, thrusting her microphone at the members of the audience. There was no sound.
The left side of the young woman’s face was swollen and discolored. Her eye on that side was a mere slit, the lashes caked together with dried blood. Fine black sutures closed a series of lacerations on her forehead. She clutched the covers up to her breasts, despite the July heat. Her hands were covered with scratches. Looking at her, Rebecca thought she had put up a hell of a fight.
Catherine went to the bed and took Janet’s hand.
"Detective Frye is here, Janet."
Janet’s head nodded slightly. "Please stay with me."
"Of course," Catherine said, pulling a chair up to the left side of the bed.
Rebecca dragged a similar worn plastic chair to the opposite side and sat down, opening her notebook as she did so. She leaned forward so Janet could see her face.
"Janet, I’m Rebecca Frye. I’m a police officer. I’m trying to find out what happened the night you were injured." She watched Janet carefully, looking for any unspoken reactions to her questions. "Can you tell me what you did that day- - Tuesday-- three days ago?"
Janet glanced at Catherine, who nodded encouragement. Then she began to speak in a slow halting whisper. "I was late for work—I missed the train. So, I drove to work."
"Where is that?" Rebecca asked.
"Compton Building—I’m a data programmer." She halted uncertainly, her grip on Catherine’s hand tightening.
"Go on," Rebecca urged.
"Barb called at lunch—I told her I’d be home around seven."
A single tear slipped from between her lashes and dampened her cheek. Rebecca reached for a tissue and pressed it into Janet’s free hand. She waited a moment, then asked, "What did you do after work?"
"It was beautiful outside. -- I decided to go home on the Drive, even though the traffic is slower—" She stopped again, a slight tremor noticeable in her hands.
"I remember," Rebecca said softly, "it was cool, there had been a shower—"
"Yes! It had been so sticky all weekend! I stopped -- oh, it’s all so confusing! I can’t remember where I stopped!"
Her anxiety was more pronounced now.
"That’s okay, Janet, you’re doing great," Rebecca soothed. "You don’t have to get everything straightened out now. Just tell me anything you can remember, even if it doesn’t make sense."
Catherine gave Rebecca a startled look but remained silent. Maybe I should take her on rounds with me. She’s better at this than some of my residents. Rebecca continued to surprise, and intrigue, her.
"That’s just it! I can’t make sense of what I can remember. There are so many colors!"
"What colors, Janet?" Rebecca asked quickly, writing the word on her pad and circling it.
"I don’t know!"
"Do you remember a man? Did you see a man, or a woman and a man?"
"Did you hear a woman scream?"
"No." She looked at Catherine, her face pale. "I’m sorry—I can’t remember!"
"I believe you. It’s all right," Catherine soothed. "Close your eyes for a minute, and tell me anything you see—any image, any picture in your mind at all."
"Just the number—"
Rebecca sat up straight in her chair, her face tense. "What number?"
"Ninety-seven what? Were there letters with the number?"
"I can’t remember—please, I can’t remember!"
"That’s all right, Janet," Catherine interrupted. "You’ve been wonderful. We’ll talk again when you’re a little stronger."
Rebecca forced down a protest. She knew
Janet had seen something—she could feel it. She also knew it would be futile
to try to prolong the interview. Clearly Catherine felt the young woman had had
enough. Rebecca pocketed her notebook and stood up, her anger surfacing as she
surveyed the battered, terrorized woman before her. She intended to put an end
to this reign of terror.
Catherine joined Rebecca in the hall outside Janet’s room. She didn’t miss the hard stillness of Rebecca’s face.
"Not much help?" Catherine asked.
Rebecca passed a hand across her face and sighed. "Not much. There’s something there, though—I’m sure of it."
"I’m almost positive Janet walked up on the rape," Catherine said as they began to walk. "That might explain Janet’s extreme reaction, and the symptoms she’s displaying now."
"Can you press her on the number—and try to find out more about the colors?"
"Not now," Catherine replied. "She’s blocking because she’s not psychologically prepared to cope with what she witnessed."
Rebecca suppressed her impatience. She had no doubt Catherine was right, but she needed this girl to remember! Her powerlessness was eating her up inside.
"Will you let me know when I can talk to her again? I really need her, Catherine."
"I know, Rebecca—of course."
Rebecca stopped in front of the elevator, at a loss for words. She didn’t want to say good-bye, and she didn’t know how to move forward. The bell rang, announcing that the elevator had arrived. Catherine was so close to her she could smell her subtle perfume. Catherine’s hand was on her arm, her fingers softly caressing. Her green eyes held Rebecca’s with a tenderness she could drown in.
"I want to see you again," Rebecca said hastily, "not about the case. Can I call you?"
Catherine realized she had been holding her breath. She let it out with a soft sigh as the elevator doors slid open. It took all her will power to step back from Rebecca’s body when all her desires urged her closer.
"Oh, yes. I’ll be waiting."
Rebecca drove back to the station with her thoughts divided between Janet’s scanty recollections and the exchange with Catherine at the elevator. Catherine touched off a physical response so intense it was actually painful. She was wet again, and throbbing. It was all she could do to keep her mind on the traffic.
Her pager went off just as she pulled into the parking lot. She pushed open the heavy double doors and took the stairs to the third floor two at a time. Leaning over the counter at the intake desk, she called, "Frye, here. What’s up?"
The frazzled dispatcher, sweating profusely in her blue uniform, turned to her from the computer console.
"Jeff Cruz is not responding to his calls. The Captain wants to see you pronto."
Rebecca swore under her breath as she hurried to the glass enclosed office at the end of the hall. She rapped at the door marked "Captain John Henry" in peeling black letters. The black man behind the desk was fiftyish, fit and big. His iron grey hair was cut short, and his demeanor authoritative. The white shirt he wore was stiff with starch, and his tie was tightly knotted, even in the ninety degree heat.
"Where’s your partner?" he barked without preamble as Rebecca entered his office.
"I don’t know," Rebecca said with a worried frown. "He had a meet with Ronnie Carmichael, the undercover guy working the Zamora case. He’s the one we think is running the kiddy porn business in the tenderloin."
"Yeah, I read the file. Where was the meet?"
"They change locations every time. It was just a routine check-in, Captain. Carmichael hadn’t come up with much, at least not that we knew about."
Captain Henry didn’t comment. Cruz and Frye were his best team, and he gave them a lot of slack to run their own cases. It wasn’t unusual for them to be involved with other divisions, particularly narcotics, on cooperative investigations. They weren’t careless. If Cruz was in trouble, he had walked into something he hadn’t expected.
Rebecca was thinking the same thing. Something felt wrong.
"I don’t like it, Captain. Something’s gone down. We need to find him—fast."
"We’ve got an all points out on him and his car. We’ll get a fix on him soon."
"What about the contact—Carmichael?"
Henry fanned his hands out over his desk. "No word. They’re both out there loose somewhere."
Rebecca turned abruptly and headed toward the door. She had to find Jeff, and she knew him better than anyone. It could take all night for a cruiser to spot his car. She wasn’t going to leave him out there alone.
"Frye!" Henry called. "I want you here, coordinating the search, until we have something definite."
"Let Rogers do it," she said, whirling to face him, her jaw set stubbornly.
"I want you on it, Frye." He stared back at her. His expression changed slightly, and he lowered his voice. "We’ve got two missing cops already. I don’t want you out there alone."
"That’s an order, Frye."
She gritted her teeth, and nodded. "Yes, sir."
When Rebecca entered the squad room, the noise level suddenly dropped. Feet shuffled, someone cleared his throat, a few people looked away. Everyone knew what she must be feeling—her anger, her helplessness—and none of them quite knew what to say. So they handled it the way they always did, by doing the job, by carrying on. Someone put a lukewarm cup of coffee in her hand.
She sat at her desk, fists clenched in her pockets, and watched the clock. The men from the day shift stayed, even though many of them had been on duty for close to eighteen hours by then. Gina Simmons, a young rookie, came in silently and piled boxes of pizza on the littered coffee table. Rebecca shook her head when someone offered her a slice. They stood around in groups eating, spilling bits of oil and cheese on the floor.
The call finally came in at ten-thirty. A cruiser had spotted Jeff’s car on a deserted pier at the waterfront. Rebecca was on her feet and halfway to the door when a hand on her arm restrained her.
"I’ll ride with you, Frye."
Rebecca turned toward the stocky man beside her, struggling to control her temper. She had never liked William Watts. He was a loner—a cynical, caustic cop who didn’t seem to give a damn about his job. She couldn’t figure out why he was a cop, and she didn’t want to deal with him now.
"Not tonight, Watts," she said tersely, brushing off his hand.
He jerked his head toward the hallway, his face impassive. "Captain’s orders."
She turned on heel, heading toward the stairs. She didn’t have time to waste on this. Watts hurried after her.
Rebecca gunned the MG out of the lot and slapped the red light onto her roof. When the traffic ahead didn’t yield fast enough, she veered around them into the oncoming lanes. They were the first to reach the scene. There were cruisers pulled off the four-lane highway at odd angles, and men with dogs were combing the waterfront.
Rebecca climbed out and surveyed the area. Jeff’s car was parked under an overpass, the only civilian vehicle in sight. To her right a huge crane stood like a lonely sentinel over the abandoned site of someone’s waterfront dream. To her left, facing the water, were a cluster of darkened buildings—the maritime museum, an attached souvenir shop, and a curb-side hotdog stand.
She headed toward the buildings, Watts close behind her. She neither spoke to him nor acknowledged his presence.
"Why not the crane?" he asked, out of breath from the pace Rebecca had set.
"Too obvious during the day—there wouldn’t have been enough people around for cover," she answered tersely, still not looking at him.
"Yeah, but the way I see it—"
She turned so fast he collided with her, his bulky form bouncing back a step off her surprisingly hard body.
"Look, Watts," she seethed. "I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think. I know my partner. So just keep out of my way, or better yet, get lost."
Watts held both hands up in the air in front of him. "Okay, Frye, okay. I’ll just tag along like a good little boy."
Wordlessly, she walked away. If Jeff had met his contact in the late afternoon, there wouldn’t have been much activity anywhere except at the museum. They never spent much time at a meet. He hadn’t left voluntarily; he would have taken his car. Something went wrong, and it happened here. She tried not to think about what might have happened, focusing on her search.
She walked around the maritime museum, looking for an alley way, or a loading dock—some secluded area. She reasoned that no one would have tried to move two men very far in daylight, which meant they would have needed an isolated location nearby. But for what purpose? It was unlikely that anyone would hold two cops hostage, or try to extort information. She didn’t want to think about the most likely reason—that someone was sending them a message to stay clear of Zamora and his bosses.
There was nowhere to hide two men anywhere around the building. She shined her flashlight on the beer and burger stand, closed and shuttered for the night. There was a large green commercial dumpster behind it. Rebecca approached it slowly, sweeping the ground around it with her light. She held her 9mm automatic in the other hand. She illuminated bits of refuse, a soggy cardboard box, a dented milk crate—nothing unusual. She looked at the dumpster, a knot of tension burning in her gut. She slipped her weapon into her shoulder holster and pushed the top up. Taking a deep breath, she played her light over its contents. It was half full of crushed boxes, rotting vegetables, and broken bottles. That was all.
"Uh, Frye—" Watts said hesitantly from the spot where he had been standing in the shadows.
"There’s a shipping platform just north of the marina. It’s below ground level—they used to use it to tie the tugs up to. Can’t really see it from the pier unless you know it’s there."
He led her along the edge of the pier, the water ten feet below them, rolling against the huge wooden pilings and concrete walls. Fifty feet from the marina was a narrow set of stairs barricaded by a length of chain. They would be easy to miss unless you were looking for them. The chains were rusted from years of disuse and exposure. Rebecca could make out moss-covered stone stairs and some kind of platform anchored against the pier, floating on the water. Carefully, she stepped over the chain and started down.
They were lying side by side—no apparent sign of a struggle. Both men had been shot once in the back of the head. Rebecca noticed that Jeff’s tie was neatly knotted under the button down collar of his light blue oxford shirt. His gun was still in its holster. She reached down and closed his eyes.
Standing at the edge of the dock she looked out across the water at their sister city. The shoreline sparkled in the moonlight. The river churned two feet below her, and the cold wind off the water whipped her light jacket around her. She didn’t notice the cold, or that she was shivering. It was so quiet.
"Frye?" Watts called from above. "You find anything?"
"Yes," she answered hollowly.
"You want an ambulance?"
Rebecca drove to a run-down bar where she wasn’t likely to meet anyone she knew. It was three in the morning. She had just left Shelly Cruz. There hadn’t been any way to make it easy. She had held Jeff’s wife, rocking her through the worst of it. Even as she murmured meaningless words of comfort, she felt her own heart grow cold. She couldn’t let the pain through—if she did, she’d fall apart. She was a cop—people die on the streets every day—needlessly, senselessly. This time it was her partner, her best friend. She’d handle it like Jeff would have if it had been her—like a cop. But first she needed to forget, just for a little while. Then she’d be ready to carry on.
The bar was nearly deserted, as she expected it to be. No one who had anywhere to go, or anyone to go to, was still about. Like her, the few people slumped in the shadowy bar sought no company. The bartender looked up disinterestedly from the girlie magazine lying on the long counter in front of him. Nothing surprised him anymore, not even the appearance of a good-looking woman in a dive like this. Besides, this one didn’t look like she wanted anything but a drink, fast.
"What’ll you have?"
"Scotch, double—straight up."
He poured it neatly, slid it in front of her and moved away. Rebecca stared at the glass for a moment, then reached for it with a steady hand.
Catherine awoke instantly at the first buzz of the doorbell. Her ability to move from deep sleep to instant alertness was ingrained in her from years of medical training. She sat up, glancing at the digital clock beside her bed. It read four fifty-three am. She reached for the pale blue robe that lay across the foot of the bed, swinging her long legs to the floor. She had been naked under the covers. Hastily she tied the sash as she hurried through the living room, snapping on a table lamp as she passed.
As she fumbled with the deadbolt, she asked, "Who is it?"
Catherine hesitated with surprise and then hurriedly pulled the door open. Rebecca was slouched against the doorjamb. She looked terrible. She was in the same clothes she had worn the day before, and her usually impeccable suit was grimy and wrinkled. Her face was white, and there was a frightening vacancy in her normally vibrant blue eyes. Her short, thick blond hair was disheveled, as if she had run her hands through it countless times. Catherine grasped her arm and pulled her inside.
"What is it?" she asked, leading Rebecca to the sofa.
Rebecca sank heavily into the plush cushions, her head dropping back wearily. She took a deep shuddering breath, turning her face slightly toward Catherine, who was sitting close beside her.
"My partner, Jeff Cruz, was murdered tonight--him and another cop," she said flatly, her pain-filled eyes not registering Catherine’s shock. She didn’t feel Catherine move closer, nor the protective arm she slipped around her shoulders.
"God, Rebecca, I’m so sorry!"
"He was twenty-nine years old. He’d only been married a year. He was a good cop." She thought of the six years that she and Jeff had been partners and knew that no one would ever be able to fill his place in her life.
"He must have been very important to you," Catherine said gently, her hand resting softly on Rebecca’s rigid back.
Rebecca shrugged. "We were cops—he looked after my skin, and I looked after his." Her voice broke on the next words. "Until today."
So much pain! If only you would let someone share it! Catherine remained still, resisting the urge to gather Rebecca to her and comfort her. Just talk to me; let me help!
Eventually Rebecca began to speak, quietly, as if she were talking to herself.
"He took a chance for me a few years ago. My life was a mess. My lover had left me--she said I was never there for her--and even when I was around, it wasn’t enough. She was tired of being a "cop’s wife." Rebecca laughed bitterly. "She was right. I wasn’t taking very good care of her. After that, I drifted in and out of affairs--none of them worked out. My drinking got much worse. I was drinking during the day--on duty--and Jeff knew it. I was a hazard--to him, to myself -- to everyone." She stopped then, and looked at Catherine, expecting to find rejection, or disgust. That was certainly the way she felt about herself. Instead she found the same tender acceptance that welcomed her each time they met.
Taking a grateful breath, she continued, her tone stronger. "He came to me one night after a shift. He said he knew I was drinking on the job--that he didn’t want to turn me in, but that he couldn’t afford to have a lush for a partner. I was pissed. I told him to turn me in if that’s what he wanted--I didn’t care anymore."
She laughed softly at the memory. "Jeff is a good head shorter than me, and slim for a guy. He grabbed my jacket and slammed me into the wall. His face was in my face, and he was yelling. `Listen, you stupid fuck-up--you’re my partner, and I care. So your old lady ditched you! Big deal! You think that hasn’t happened to a hundred other cops? You think you’re special ‘cause you’re a dyke? Well, you’re not. You’re just a cop, just like the rest of us. So you either get it together fast, or I’m through with you!’ He shook me around a little--he was pretty hot. I just stared at him. He’d never let on he knew about me and Diane. Finally, he just stomped away."
Catherine smiled sadly at the image, thinking what a good man Jeff Cruz must have been. This must be killing her!
"What did you do?" Catherine questioned softly.
"I drove to an AA meeting that night. That was four years ago--we never talked about it again."
"He trusted you, Rebecca--and you didn’t let him down." She felt some of the tension in Rebecca’s tight muscles dissipate. "Where have you been all night?"
"I told Jeff’s wife. Then I went to a bar."
"Did you drink?" Catherine asked evenly.
Rebecca laughed harshly. "I sat there with it in my hand for a long time."
"What stopped you?"
Rebecca met Catherine’s gaze, her defenses shattered. "I thought about you."
Catherine’s fingertips stroked Rebecca’s cheek, pushing the hair back from her forehead. She hadn’t meant to touch her, but her own heart was breaking in the face of Rebecca’s anguish. As she leaned slowly forward, she whispered, "I’m so glad you did."
At the touch of Catherine’s hand, the fiber of
Rebecca’s resistance snapped like a straw in the wind. The tenderness pierced
her armor like the pain could not, clouding her awareness until there was no
reality except the hazy green of Catherine’s eyes, the heady aroma of her
scent. She needed the surcease of Catherine’s body more than she needed air to
breath. Rebecca sought her lips, bruising them unintentionally with the force of
her kiss. She plundered her mouth with her urgency to lose herself in Catherine’s
flesh. Pushing Catherine back against the couch, Rebecca’s hands fumbled with
the sash of her robe, her tongue demanding entrance. She groaned as Catherine’s
tongue met hers with the same intensity. Rebecca pulled away only to press her
lips to the rich ripeness of full breasts, leaving Catherine gasping. Catherine
cried out, holding Rebecca’s face to her, forcing her nipple into Rebecca’s
seeking mouth. Rebecca, her long-buried passion unleashed, was burning, the very
breath in her lungs evaporating from the heat. She knew only the yielding warmth
of Catherine’s flesh, the rightness of Catherine’s embrace. She was beyond
conscious thought, aching with the force of the blood rushing through her
pelvis, thrusting against Catherine with a rhythm she could not control.
Catherine’s arms were around her, pulling her close, urging her to let go.
Rebecca moaned, consumed by the agonizing pleasure of Catherine’s body beneath
hers, her clit ready to burst. Her hunger, her need, triggered an explosion as
her hips pumped in a frenzy of excitement. She heard Catherine murmuring her
name even as she began to convulse against her, crying out with the wrenching
spasms that overpowered her. Head flung back, arms rigid, she arched above
Catherine, groaning with each internal pulsation, gasping for breath, until
finally she collapsed into Catherine’s arms. Through a haze she felt the
gentle caresses of Catherine’s fingers in her hair, her cheek pressed to
Catherine’s breast. She drifted in Catherine’s strong embrace, savoring a
peace she had long forgotten.
The sun streaming through the bay windows woke her. As consciousness returned, so did a flood of emotions. The pain of Jeff’s death twisted like a knife in her heart, an unrelenting ache she would carry with her for a long time. The sight of her jacket neatly folded over the arm of the easy chair jolted her with memories of the night before. Her face burned with a conflicting mixture of dismay and renewed desire. She remembered her loss of control with embarrassment. God, what must Catherine think of her? Even as she struggled with the thought, she yearned for Catherine’s touch. She wanted her so powerfully it left her shaking. She wasn’t sure she had the courage to face her. What if Catherine had only responded out of kindness? Rebecca hadn’t given her much choice, after all. You must have been out of your mind, Frye! Christ, you came all over her like a kid on his first date!
She pushed herself reluctantly to a sitting position, noticing her shoes and belt beside the sofa. God, where is my gun? She looked about frantically, relaxing slightly when she saw the shoulder holster hanging on the knob of the closet door. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed Catherine removing that. It was like a part of her. She looked up to find Catherine in the doorway, watching her, a faint smile on her lips. She looked more beautiful than Rebecca remembered. Her wavy hair shown with reddish highlights, and her graceful figure was accentuated by the folds of the silk dressing gown she wore. The look of desire in Catherine’s eyes sent a bolt of arousal directly between her legs. She was wet instantly.
"Catherine, I--" she began tentatively, searching for words.
"Shh--" Catherine commanded as she drew near, her smile deepening. Rebecca stared up at her, captivated by the power of her gaze. Catherine leaned down, curling the fingers of one hand in Rebecca’s hair. Catherine kissed her, a deep, probing, demanding kiss that left them both gasping. When she pulled her head back, she said teasingly, "Does that answer any questions for you?"
Rebecca took a long, shuddering breath. "I’m sorry about last night—I mean, the way I—the way it—" I didn’t mean to come like that. I couldn’t stop it, you made me so crazy.
"Don’t be sorry. You were beautiful, and believe me, I have never enjoyed anything more. Being wanted that much is very exciting. Don’t you know how much I’ve been wanting you?"
Rebecca rose and pulled Catherine into her arms, trembling. She kissed her mouth, the soft skin of her eyelids, the smooth slope of her neck. She felt Catherine’s pulse quicken under her lips as their bodies yearned for closer contact. Catherine’s hands were under Rebecca’s shirt, cupping her breasts, stroking the firm planes of her abdomen. Rebecca hissed in a breath as Catherine’s fingers found her nipples, twisting them lightly. Rebecca reached under the hem of Catherine’s gown and found the smooth flesh of her thighs. She slipped upward, into the waiting wetness, finding Catherine’s clitoris, distended and sensitive. She stroked her, sliding the slick bundle between her fingers.
"Oh, god, Rebecca!" Catherine cried, clinging to her, her legs weak. "That’s so good!"
Just as Rebecca began to pull her down onto the sofa, the beeper in the pocket of her jacket went off. She stiffened at the sound.
Catherine leaned back in Rebecca’s arms, her face flushed, her green eyes cloudy with passion. "Oh my god, tell me it isn’t true."
"I have to answer that," Rebecca said huskily, her hands moving to Catherine’s hips, still caressing her. "I’m sorry."
"It’s not your fault," Catherine murmured, pressing her forehead hard against Rebecca’s shoulder, trying desperately to steady herself. Shaking still, she stepped back reluctantly. "Go. Answer it. I’ll get us some coffee."
When Catherine returned with two steaming mugs, Rebecca was standing with her back to the room, looking out onto the street. Catherine knew that the last twenty-four hours had shaken Rebecca to the core, and now she was a part of that. She wanted her with a consuming desire she had never known before, but she also knew that Rebecca’s emotional state was precarious. Too many demands right now could destroy her. Catherine was determined to let Rebecca come to her in her own time. She wanted her, but most of all she wanted her to survive.
"What is it?" she asked, handing Rebecca one of the cups.
"Internal Affairs. They need me to go over our cases with them, to see if we can turn up anything on Jeff’s killing."
"Today?" Catherine asked, wondering what kind of people would put Rebecca through that less than twelve hours after her partner’s death.
Rebecca laughed grimly. "Try two hours ago." She set her cup down on the window ledge and turned to Catherine. "I wish I could stay—being with you is so good." She stopped, afraid to go on, afraid to let herself admit what she felt.
"You can always come back, Rebecca. I’ll be here, and I want you to come back. Whenever you can, whenever you want."
Rebecca nodded. "I will." She straightened her clothes and strapped on her holster. As she pulled her jacket on at the door, she turned to face Catherine one last time. "Thank you for last night—all of it."
Come back soon, Rebecca—and safely, Catherine thought as the door closed behind her.
An hour later, freshly showered, in a crisp white shirt and navy suit, Rebecca entered the squad room. Men looked at her and nodded as they went about the business of the day in a subdued fashion. She walked to her desk impassively and stared at the figure across from her.
"What the hell are you doing in Cruz’s chair?" she said, her voice like granite.
Watts looked at the expression on her face and then glanced around the squad room for support. No one offered any.
"Just getting acquainted with the caseload. The Captain told me you and I are going to be partnered up."
She stared down at him coldly, then turned on her heel and stalked away. By the time she reached Captain Henry’s door she was boiling. She pushed the door open without knocking and stormed toward his desk.
"What do you mean by telling Watts we were going to work together?" she demanded, not even registering the amazed look on Henry’s face. "He’s a lazy sleaze, and I won’t have him for a partner!"
Henry rose in one fluid motion, his arms braced on the desk as he leaned toward her.
"Frye, you get the hell out of my office! If I tell you to work with Joey the Clown, you do it! And you smile about it, too!" He bit off each word, his face a thundercloud of anger.
She met his angry gaze evenly, her fists clenched at her sides.
"Listen, Captain—" she began, trying unsuccessfully to lower her voice.
"No, you listen! You just lost your partner. It’s tough—I appreciate that—but you’ve still got a dozen open files, including the River Drive thing. You can’t do it alone, and Watts is available. If he’s an asshole, learn to live with it. I don’t care how you do it, just do it!"
"What’s he got? Friends in high places?" she asked, her blue eyes dark with scorn.
Henry’s neck muscles tightened, and a flush rose to darken his features. His voice was deadly cold as he spoke. "I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that, Frye—just this once—because Cruz was a good cop. IAD wants to see you. Take care of that, and then get back to work."
She didn’t reply—there was nothing she could do. He watched her turn and walk away, wondering if he was making a mistake leaving her on the streets. She was one of his best. He thought she would crack if he put her behind a desk, so he had argued with his superiors against it. He hoped he was right.
Catherine knocked and entered Janet Ryan’s room. Barbara Elliot was sitting close to the bed, her fingers entwined with Janet’s.
"Hello, Dr. Rawlings," Barbara said tiredly.
"Hello, Barbara—hi, Janet. How are you feeling?" Catherine asked.
Janet looked better. The bruises still disfigured her normally attractive face, but the swelling had begun to subside. Both eyes were open now. Their expression was bright.
"I’m much better, thanks. I’ve been up walking a little, and I’m not taking the pain medication." She glanced at her lover fondly. "When can I go home?"
Catherine grinned. "I can see you’re feeling better. I’d like to keep you a few more days, just for routine observation. How are the flashbacks?"
Janet grimaced. "I’m still getting them, especially at night. Just pieces of images from my past—of my brother when I was small." She took a deep, quavering breath. "I never realized it had gone on for so long."
Catherine nodded sympathetically. "They may get worse as you recover from this attack, Janet. I may want to try you on a mild sedative—nothing too strong. Let’s think about going home in a few days, all right?"
Janet looked at Barbara questioningly.
"I really want Janet at home, Dr. Rawlings. Everyone is nice to us here, but it’s still so impersonal. But I don’t want her to come home until she’s ready. Whatever you decide is fine."
Catherine spoke with them a few more moments, and then left to complete her inpatient rounds. When she stepped out into the hall, a neatly dressed young man moved hurriedly to intercept her.
"Dr. Rawlings? Is it true that Janet Ryan witnessed the rape on River Drive earlier this week? Has she been able to describe the assailant?"
Catherine stepped back a pace, nonplussed. "Who are you?" she asked.
"Mark Tyler—Daily News. What about it, Doctor? Did she witness the rape?"
Catherine was furious. "Mr. Tyler, you have no business being here. If you want information, I suggest you speak to the police. I have nothing to say to you. And if I find you here again, I’ll have security remove you!"
"Oh, come now, Doctor, surely you want this maniac caught," he persisted, blocking her path with his body.
She maneuvered around him, saying, "Indeed, I do, Mr. Tyler. Which is why I have nothing to say to you!"
At last she was able to escape, wondering as she ducked into the stairwell how he had found out about Janet. The police had warned them to keep the circumstances of her admission quiet, and she thought they had succeeded. She should have known there were no secrets in a hospital. The police presence alone, no matter how understated, was enough to start rumors. Her first impulse was to call Rebecca, but then she thought better of it. After all, she hadn’t told him anything.
Watts saw Rebecca heading for the stairs directly upon finishing her interview with the officers from IAD. He hurried after her.
"Where you going?" he called just as she reached the door.
She turned, aware that he was right behind her.
"Look, Watts, I’m going out. Okay? Now go back to your paperwork."
He grabbed her arm. "Out where?"
Rebecca stared at the beefy hand on her arm and slowly raised her eyes to his. He hastily let his hand drop, but he still stood firmly in her path.
"Watts—" she said menacingly, struggling to keep her temper under control.
"Look, Frye -- I’m not any happier about this than you are, but that’s the way it is. So it’s a bitch -- there’s nothing we can do about it." He waited for some reaction, but Rebecca stared past him at some small spot on the opposite wall. Watts shook a cigarette out of a crumpled pack, lit it, and leaned against the wall, content to stay there all afternoon. A muscle in Rebecca’s face twitched.
"I’m going over to homicide -- the Zamora case was ours. Maybe I can help," she said reluctantly.
Watts blew a perfect smoke ring, considering her words.
"Homicide can handle the case, Frye. They’re not going to screw up when it’s one of our own. Why not let them do their jobs -- we’ve got plenty on our plates right here."
"I didn’t ask for your opinion, Watts," Rebecca said heatedly, shouldering him aside.
"Oh, the hell with it," Watts muttered as he listened to her footsteps echo in the stairwell.
He was right, and Rebecca knew it. Still, she had to see for herself that everything possible was being done to find Jeff’s killer. She had to do something!
She finally tracked down the investigating officers, who were painstakingly sweeping the area of the killings for witnesses. Apparently, no one had seen or heard anything.
Rebecca found the two officers in charge of the case standing beside a chalk outline on the small loading dock where she had found Jeff and Ronnie Carmichael. She stared at the spot, envisioning Jeff’s body contained within the impersonal white lines. At length she turned to the two men who were regarding her uncomfortably.
"Turn up anything?" Rebecca asked, breaking the silence.
"Not much," the larger of the two replied disgruntledly. They had been questioning vendors and museum workers since first light and had little to show for it. "We assume Cruz met Carmichael sometime around four. This place is still pretty busy then. Nobody would notice two men in a crowd. Most of the people who were here are probably miles away -- tourists."
"Perfect spot for a hit," Rebecca said flatly. Anyone could have approached the two men, flashed some fire power, and walked them down to this isolated dock without attracting attention. Often the easiest crimes to pull off are those carried out in broad daylight. Obviously, this time it had worked.
"What about the people Carmichael’s been associating with? He must have gotten onto something a lot heavier than we expected. He made somebody nervous."
"We haven’t had a chance to go through all his reports. He was pretty sketchy with his sources," the younger detective said. "There’s probably a dozen possibles."
Rebecca raised an eyebrow, clearly irritated that they hadn’t gotten to Carmichael’s notes yet. Her reaction did not go unnoticed.
"Listen, Frye --" the senior officer said tersely, "we’ve been out here since two A.M. We’ll get to the reports. We’ll roust anybody we have to, even without due cause. We’ll find out what’s behind this."
Rebecca’s shoulders sagged slightly. She was tired. She knew these guys had been busting their balls all night trying to get a jump on the case before the slim trail went cold. But this was Jeff, and she wanted more!
"Right," she said, straightening her back and heading toward the narrow stairs that led up to the pier.
"We’ll keep you informed, Frye," the
younger of the two called out. "And we’ll get the bastard."
Rebecca found herself parked in front of University Hospital, wondering what she was doing there. She had driven directly from the pier, never questioning her destination. Now that she was here, she couldn’t decide whether to go in or to leave. She wasn’t thinking very clearly. The combination of emotional shock and exhaustion had taken its toll. The normally self-possessed, controlled police detective was on the verge of collapse. She knew vaguely she had come because Catherine Rawlings represented the only sane point in her life -- a solidity and haven she sorely needed. Even in the depths of her despair, however, she resisted. She hated herself for needing this woman’s comfort, and for wanting the solace of her embrace. As much as she detested her own weakness, she feared the need even more. If she let herself feel it, what would she do if she were wrong? What would she do if Catherine Rawlings didn’t want her. God, what’s wrong with me? I’m a cop -- this is all part of the job. I can’t fall apart just because things are a little rough. I’ve got to get myself together!
Her thoughts were interrupted by a tap on her car window. She looked up to find Catherine standing beside her, studying her quizzically. Rebecca rolled down her window and smiled hesitantly.
"Hi," Rebecca said.
"I saw you as I was going over to the outpatient clinic. What are you doing here?"
"I don’t know," Rebecca answered quietly.
Catherine took a close look at her and pulled the driver’s door open.
"Move over -- I’m driving."
Amazingly, Rebecca did as she asked, too tired to protest. Catherine rested one hand protectively on Rebecca’s thigh as they drove. Rebecca stared at it, thinking how delicate Catherine’s long fingers were. She was surprised when Catherine pulled up in front of her brownstone. She allowed Catherine to lead the way up the wide stone stairs and waited silently while Catherine opened the door. The living room was bathed in muted greys and soft maroons as the late afternoon sun streamed through shear drapes.
Catherine slipped out of the light silk jacket she wore and tossed it aside. She turned to Rebecca, who was standing just inside the door, a faintly confused look on her face. Catherine tugged Rebecca’s jacket off her arms. She folded it neatly and laid it over the back of a chair. She fumbled slightly with the shoulder harness, but managed to slip it off Rebecca’s body. Reaching down, she pulled the pager off Rebecca’s belt and placed it with Rebecca’s gun on the chair. She kissed her lightly on the lips as she took her hand.
"You’re off duty now, Detective Frye," she whispered as she led Rebecca into her bedroom.
The sheets were cool against Rebecca’s skin. She felt Catherine unbuttoning her shirt, and loosening her trousers. She roused herself enough to help remove the rest of her clothes. When Catherine lay down beside her, Rebecca pressed her face against the lush fullness of her breasts, sighing.
"God, you feel good," Rebecca murmured. She moved just enough to nuzzle a nipple with her lips.
Catherine laughed softly and wrapped her arms around Rebecca’s strong back.
"There’s plenty of time for that -- you’re going to get some sleep now. Doctor’s orders."
Catherine stroked the tight muscles beneath her fingers, feeling them gradually relax as Rebecca’s breathing shifted to the steady cadence of sleep. Catherine closed her eyes with contentment, satisfied to have Rebecca safe in her arms.
It was dark when Rebecca opened her eyes, uncertain for an instant in the still room. Then she felt Catherine beside her. Catherine’s arm lay across Rebecca’s breasts, softly encircling her body. Rebecca lay motionless, savoring the sensation of Catherine’s skin against hers, memorizing the image of Catherine in repose. As her fingers began a slow exploration of Catherine’s body, Catherine pressed closer, murmuring softly in half-sleep. Rebecca gasped sharply as Catherine slipped one leg between hers and rolled over onto her with a throaty laugh
"Hello, darling," Catherine whispered, bracing herself above the length of Rebecca’s firm body as she teasingly rocked against her pelvis. She was rewarded by Rebecca’s groan of pleasure. A cry caught in her throat when Rebecca’s hands found her breasts. She continued her rhythmic motion until they were both wet, their damp pubic hair tangling together. Suddenly she straddled Rebecca’s body, entwining her fingers in the wet curls between Rebecca’s legs, tugging gently, pulling the thick hood back to expose Rebecca’s erect clitoris. Rebecca groaned as the skin tightened around the shaft. She reached between Catherine’s legs.
Catherine thought she would come when Rebecca’s hand slid into her, completing the circle, but she managed to hold back the tidal wave of surging heat, wanting to prolong their union. They moved in perfect synchrony, stroking the fires of their passion, trembling on the edge of consummation, until at last Rebecca groaned, "Oh …I…can’t…hold …it…" Catherine exulted as Rebecca arched against her, and the sight of her beautiful lover’s orgasm pushed her beyond her limits. She convulsed with the force of her own release, collapsing into Rebecca’s waiting arms.
When Rebecca stirred again it was after midnight. She attempted to extricate herself from Catherine’s embrace without disturbing her.
"I’m awake," Catherine said softly in the darkness, stroking the length of Rebecca’s long form. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?"
"I know how beautiful you make me feel," came the soft reply.
"Where are you going?" Catherine asked, knowing instinctively that after such intimacy, Rebecca would withdraw. She wondered when, if ever, Rebecca would begin to trust what was growing between them.
"It’s late -- there are things I should have done earlier," Rebecca replied evasively. She was as content in Catherine’s arms as she had ever been, but as her strength returned, so did the pull of the streets. How could she explain her restless need to immerse herself in the pulsing, other-world of the night. It was her domain, the reminder of who and what she was.
Catherine sat up, saddened at the distance between them. Her body still throbbed with the aftermath of their lovemaking, and she wanted only to hold Rebecca until the morning. She would not have that tonight, perhaps not any night. It was a possibility she was not ready to face. Rebecca moved her too deeply, aroused desires too powerful, to think about turning back. Her heart, her soul, had been marked forever by the searing intensity of Rebecca’s presence.
"What will you do?" she asked quietly.
Rebecca swung her legs over the side of the bed, instantly aware of the absence of Catherine’s touch. "Check with homicide about Jeff --talk with some sources who might know something. Cruise through the tenderloin. I’ve got contacts there."
Catherine tried to absorb the realities of Rebecca’s life, wondering if she would ever truly be able to understand it. Who but another cop could appreciate the soul-numbing inhumanity that was an everyday occurrence in the world Rebecca inhabited. She would try, and she was determined not to allow Rebecca to shut her out.
Catherine started to rise. "Let me get you some coffee."
Rebecca restrained her, pushing her gently down. "I don’t want you to get up. I want you to stay here, so I can think of you like this until I see you again."
Catherine wrapped her arms around Rebecca’s neck, kissing her tenderly. "All right," she replied huskily.
She lay in the dark, listening to Rebecca move
about in the other room. She didn’t sleep again until long after the outer
door clicked shut.
Rebecca cruised slowly through the tenderloin, that part of town frequented by prostitutes and the men who sought their company, drug dealers, street people, and others society had cast out or forgotten. The prostitutes in their crotch high skirts and revealing tops leaned against buildings or strolled languidly through the litter-strewn streets. Many she recognized by sight, more than a few by name. Arresting them was not her goal -- they were no more criminals than the hungry who stole for food. When citizens of the surrounding gentrified areas complained that the undesirable activity was encroaching on their neighborhoods, the cops would round up some of the girls, knowing full well they would be back on the streets in hours. All the participants knew it was a futile gesture. Rebecca chose instead to keep an eye out for new faces, especially the very young, hoping to get to a few before the streets became a way of life. Occasionally she succeeded.
She pulled over in front of a bar which sported a flashing neon sign reading, `Girls—Live Nude Girls’. She wondered absently if anyone besides her found that sign absurd. It wasn’t the bar she was interested in, but the thin blond woman in front of it. She was about five-five, heavily made up, with an expanse of leg showing that left little to the imagination. Her hair was bleached, in a punk cut, and she kept one eye on the cars cruising by as she talked with several other women. When she saw Rebecca climb out of her car, her face twisted into a frown.
"Hi’ya, Sandy," Rebecca said softly as she approached. The others in the group began to drift quickly away.
"Jesus, Frye," the girl hissed, looking quickly over her shoulder. "What are you trying to do to me? I’ll be poison to every john on the street tonight!"
"So you can get a good night’s sleep then," Rebecca said, turning so her back was to the bar, keeping a watchful eye on the street. She was alone, and it was no secret she was a cop. "I need to talk to you."
"Is that all?" Sandy said with contempt. She’d had too much experience with cops who wanted more than just information to trust any of them.
Rebecca met her angry gaze evenly. "That’s all right now."
"I don’t have much choice, do I?"
"No, you don’t."
"Can we talk inside? You’re killing my business out here."
Rebecca nodded and followed the girl into the dark bar, taking a table well away from the small platform where a woman did a tired bump and grind for the few patrons. Sandy signaled for a drink. Rebecca put a twenty on the table.
"So, what do you need, `Officer’," Sandy asked in a bored voice.
"Two cops were killed the day before yesterday. What do you hear about it?"
Sandy sipped her drink and regarded Rebecca coolly. She didn’t actually dislike the big cop; in fact, Rebecca was one of the few cops who didn’t harass the working girls. She’d even let Sandy out of the police van one night after a raid rather than bring her downtown for the empty charade of booking. Still, Sandy didn’t want her to get the idea she was some kind of stoolie. And it didn’t help her reputation any to appear too chummy with the cops. There was something different about the tall, blond detective tonight, though. She seemed almost human, like she had feelings. You’re losing it, girl -- cops with feelings!
"There’s nothing going down that I’ve heard," she said finally, which was pretty much true. They’d all heard about it, of course. Usually when something like that happened it brought the whole force down on them, like they were the source of all the city’s problems. Maybe this cop was just the first of many.
"What about the chicken trade? Any new faces in town?"
Sandy snorted in disgust. She hated the child procurers and pornographers as much as she hated the pushers. Like most of her friends, she stayed clear of them.
"Since that big bust six months ago, it’s been quiet. I heard there might be a new house open somewhere in a very ritzy location, but it isn’t down here."
"Who’s running it?" Rebecca asked nonchalantly, hiding her surprise at the information. She had been instrumental in cleaning out half a dozen establishments supplying children for all types of amusement in the city-wide crackdown Sandy referred to. If they were up and running again, there had to be big money behind it. Could that have been what Carmichael was on to?
"No one knows, and that’s the truth. There’s more than a few people who’d like to find out."
"Yeah," Rebecca muttered. "Where there’s kids, there’s money." She looked at the young woman before her, already cynical and hardened against life. There was nothing Rebecca could do to change her future, but maybe she could make a difference with a few of the really young ones. She pushed back her chair, leaving another twenty with the change on the table. "Thanks, Sandy. Keep your ears open -- I’ll be back."
"Hey, Frye," Sandy called. "Who were the cops who got it?"
Rebecca was still in the car as the sun came up. She stopped at an all-night diner for breakfast before a quick detour to her apartment to shower and change clothes. The traffic was light, and her mind wandered, returning unbidden to memories of the previous night. Just recalling the sound of Catherine’s voice brought heat to her blood. Images of Catherine, wanton and passionate, threatened to unhinge her. Being with Catherine was at once the most comfortable and exciting experience she’d ever had. It was more than she had ever dreamed, and easily the most frightening. Rebecca was relieved when the station house appeared, and she pulled into the lot on squealing tires. Work was just what she needed to put Catherine Rawlings in perspective.
It was too early for the day shift to arrive, and she walked unnoticed through the quiet halls. When she pushed open the ready room door she was astonished to see Watts at his desk with a half-eaten pizza in front of him. She wasn’t certain, but she thought he was wearing the same suit as the day before. He was the only one in the room.
He glanced her way, grunting a greeting as he reached for another slice of the now congealed pizza.
"I was just going to call you, Frye," he said around a mouthful of bread and cheese.
"What’s so important at five-thirty in the morning?" Rebecca commented, not really caring what Watts had to say. She couldn’t stand to see him sitting in Jeff’s chair. She noticed a stack of folders beside the desk -- their open case files. Could Watts actually be working?
"Thought you might like to read the morning paper," he said, tossing the early bird edition onto her desk. He went back to eating, munching the cold crust, his face expressionless.
"What the hell!" Rebecca exploded as she glanced at the headlines. "Riverside Rape Witness Found!" She stared at him in astonishment, and he shook his head grimly.
"Read it. It’s very interesting."
She began to read aloud, her voice tight and angry. "Sources reveal that a witness to the brutal rape of a college student on the River Drive last week may have been found." What followed was a sensationalized review of the previous two assaults, but it was the last paragraph which caused Rebecca to clench her fists in frustration. "Dr. Catherine Rawlings, a noted psychiatrist at University declined comment, but unnamed sources confirm her involvement with a patient who witnessed the most recent attack. The patient’s name has not yet been released, nor has a description of the assailant been made public." The article finished with an indictment of the police for failing to keep the public informed.
"Jesus Christ," Rebecca cursed, tossing the paper aside. "I can’t believe the asshole put Catherine’s name in the paper! He might as well have put Janet Ryan’s in, too. We’ll need to tighten security down there today. Catherine didn’t want us to put a guard on the girl, but we’ll have to now."
This kind of media reporting only made their jobs more difficult. It engendered public distrust, and in this case could very well endanger the investigation. It might prompt the rapist to change his pattern, or stop temporarily, leaving them in the void. He might move to another city altogether. It was even possible he might try to silence Janet Ryan, now that he knew where she was.
"Looks like somebody talked," Watts remarked with disgust. "Probably the shrink."
"It wasn’t her," Rebecca stated flatly, knowing that Catherine would never endanger Janet Ryan.
"She knows almost as much as we do," Watts continued unperturbed, fingering the reports in front of him. "She’s been present every time you’ve talked to the Ryan kid—"
"I told you, Watts -- it wasn’t her. Now let it drop!" Rebecca barked. Her patience was exhausted, and she felt fatigue settle around her like a cloak. "Go find the little twerp from the Daily and shake it out of him after morning report," she said, slowly standing up. "I’m going home."
Watts wasn’t convinced, but he knew better than
to provoke her further. He didn’t ask her anything else.
Catherine finished her second cup of coffee and glanced up at the cafeteria clock. It was 7:15. Residents and students were beginning to gather in tired clumps to discuss the night’s events and the day’s demands over breakfast. She was one of the few staff present at such an hour. The real business of the hospital wouldn’t begin until the outpatient clinics began at 8:30. Catherine had come early for one specific reason -- to intercept Hazel Holcomb before the Chief of Psychiatry’s busy schedule made her inaccessible for the day. Catherine saw the familiar figure moving through the coffee line at precisely 7:30, carrying a coffee and danish as she had each morning for the fifteen years that Catherine had known her. She was nearing sixty, and her age showed only in the grey of her hair and a slight thickening of her body. Her brisk step and quick piercing gaze were as youthful as ever.
Hazel Holcomb’s face registered faint surprise when she saw Catherine beckoning to her from across the room. As she settled into the chair across from her colleague, she said, "I don’t suppose this is just a pleasant coincidence, is it?"
Catherine flushed in embarrassment. She always meant to call Hazel just to chat, or perhaps have dinner, but her schedule never seemed to leave time for it. Hazel had been her supervisor when she was a resident, and they had since become friends. Perhaps more than anyone else she knew, Catherine valued Hazel’s opinion. She had the ability to provide insight without judgment, and the wisdom to hold her counsel until the patient --or friend -- was ready to accept it.
"No, it isn’t," Catherine responded. "I have a professional problem I wanted to discuss with you. Do you mind me interrupting your breakfast time?" Catherine knew that this was probably one of the few private moments Hazel would have all day.
"Your company is always a pleasure, Catherine," the chief of psychiatry replied. "Tell me about your problem."
Catherine relayed the details of Janet Ryan’s involvement with the recent assaults and the amnesia that followed.
"I’m not sure how hard I should be trying to reverse her amnesia," Catherine stated. "Obviously, it’s vital to know exactly what she witnessed. It’s critical to the police investigation. On the other hand, I have to think of Janet’s psyche first. She is a sexual abuse victim herself. Her brother repeatedly raped her throughout her childhood. I’m certain that the shock of witnessing the assault this week triggered many old terrors for her."
"Enough to account for the amnesia?" Hazel asked, dunking the corner of her cheese danish into the steamy black coffee.
Catherine shrugged. "The beating she took by itself may account for the amnesia --but she’s beginning to have flashbacks from her early childhood. Previously unremembered episodes of abuse. That is a result of witnessing the rape, I’m sure."
"She must be very fragile right now," Hazel commented.
"She is, of course. She’s been working with me individually, and in group, for some time. She has made a lot of progress. This whole event has brought up a great deal for her to handle all at once."
Hazel pushed her chair back slightly and sat quietly regarding Catherine Rawlings. Catherine had been the brightest resident she had ever trained, and she was now the most accomplished psychiatrist on her staff. Hazel hoped to see Catherine assume her own position as head of psychiatry when Hazel retired. She knew her to be both an empathetic therapist and accomplished theoretician. Hazel knew that when Catherine sought her advice, it was often simply to confirm what she already believed.
"What do you think would happen to Janet if she were to recall the details of this recent trauma before she was prepared for it?" Hazel asked at last.
Catherine thought carefully before replying. "I can’t be sure -- there’s a good chance she would handle it well. She has a supportive partner, and she has made great progress with resolving much of her confusion as to her own guilt -- or lack of it -- for the abuse in her childhood." Catherine hesitated, thinking aloud. "But there is still a possibility that she might see her inability to prevent this rape as a reflection of what she considers to be her failure to protect herself from her brother. It could be damaging."
"That’s your answer, then, isn’t it," Hazel stated calmly. "She’ll remember when it’s safe for her to remember."
Catherine felt a wave of relief as she often did when Hazel grasped the essence of some professional dilemma and reduced it to its simplest form.
Of course, her first responsibility was to her patient’s welfare, regardless of the potential risk that existed if the rapist was not apprehended quickly. If any doubt existed as to Janet’s well-being, Catherine owed it to her to be cautious.
"Of course. You’re so right," Catherine said quietly. "I’m afraid I momentarily lost sight of exactly what my issues are."
Hazel recognized the look of self-accusation that crossed Catherine’s fine features, clouding them for an instant with self-doubt. Ever the perfectionist, Hazel thought.
"Don’t be so hard on yourself, Katie," Hazel said softly, using the nickname few people knew. "This is not a simple matter. Are the police pressuring you to force Janet along?"
"Oh, no," Catherine replied quickly. "Rebecca has been wonderful with Janet."
Hazel picked up immediately on the change in Catherine’s tone, but she didn’t comment on it. Catherine, however, flushed slightly and hastened to explain.
"Rebecca Frye is the detective in charge of the rape investigation. She’s very good with Janet. She’s frustrated, of course, because she doesn’t have much to go on. But, she’s allowed me to handle Janet my own way."
"Sounds unusual for the police," Hazel noted dryly. It had not been her experience that the police were particularly sensitive about how they elicited information.
"Rebecca is unusual. She’s a police officer, down to her last cell, but she’s also a sensitive, tender woman. I don’t think that’s been easy for her." As Catherine spoke, she remembered the exhausted woman who had sought comfort in her arms just a few hours before, and her body warmed to the memory. Hazel knew Catherine too well not to notice.
"How serious is this -- with this police woman?" Hazel asked pointedly.
Catherine met Hazel’s gaze evenly, but her eyes betrayed her uncertainty. She sighed deeply and shook her head.
"Oh, Hazel. I wish I could answer that. I hardly know her, really, and yet, my feelings for her are so strong! She’s hardened by her work and emotionally barricaded because of it; but she’s also hiding her fear and her tenderness and her caring just to maintain her balance." Catherine spread her hands in a rare gesture of helplessness. "I’m afraid I’m quite taken with her."
Hazel wasn’t all that surprised. She was probably the person who knew Catherine best, and she had watched her hold herself apart from potential relationships -- unsatisfied by casual encounters, not given to sexual liaisons, searching, seeking some deeper connection and being continually disappointed. She knew it had been some years since Catherine had even seriously dated anyone, and that her detachment had grown out of her disillusionment with love. For all of Catherine’s training and knowledge of life, she remained, at her core, a true romantic. And she remained a woman, Hazel feared, who might never find the soul partner she so desired.
"Well --" Hazel said finally, "I think I can understand your dilemma better now." She raised a hand to halt Catherine’s quick reply. "Oh, I do not for an instant doubt your professional judgment, or your ability to protect your patient. But one’s head is hardly clear when one is falling in love."
Catherine blushed fully and looked down at her hands. "Do you think I’m foolish?" she asked softly.
Hazel reached across the table, touching Catherine’s hand gently. "Not a bit," she replied. "It’s normal and healthy -- and about time."
"It may turn into a disaster," Catherine went on, voicing her fear for the first time. "She’s afraid, I feel, of being hurt. I’m not sure she’s even capable of knowing her feelings for me, or for anything."
"She’s not alone in that, Katie," Hazel said sadly, "but, she’s touched you in a way no one has in years, and I doubt that she could have done that if she were truly irrevocably lost to her feelings. Trust to time -- and try to take care of yourself."
Catherine smiled her gratitude and straightened her shoulders. Pushing back from the table she stated, "I’ve got to make rounds."
They accompanied each other in friendly silence,
strengthened as always by their encounter.
Continued - Part 2
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