Chapter Sixteen

Rebecca pulled into the hospital parking lot just before 11 A.M. and took the now familiar route to the psychiatry wing. She needed information from Catherine, and she was trying unsuccessfully to segregate her personal feelings from her professional obligations. She couldnít deny the quickening of her heart beat, or the slight inner excitement that stirred just from the anticipation of seeing Catherine. Even though she was bone tired and still reeling from the shock of Jeffís death, the memory of Catherineís body beside hers charged the very air around her. She stepped off the elevator into the hushed hall of the inpatient ward and tried to assume a professional demeanor.

A woman was bent over a stack of metal folding charts behind the white counter of the nursesí station, busily cross-checking medication cards. She looked up and smiled when she heard Rebecca approach.

"Iím sorry," she said, "visiting hours arenít until one oíclock."

Rebecca pulled the slim black leather folder from her pocket and displayed her identification.

"Iím looking for Dr. Rawlings," she explained. "Is she around?"

The attractive dark-haired woman, whose name tag identified her as Ruth Murdock, R.N., checked her watch and replied, "She should be finishing with the residents in a few minutes. Thereís a conference room just down the hall. Do you want to wait for her there?"

Rebecca nodded. "Thatís fine. Iíll find it," she added, motioning the nurse to stay seated.

There was little of interest in the conference room, and Rebecca let her mind wander back over the events of the last week, hoping to turn up some detail that might provide direction to her investigation. There was something that kept nagging at her -- something she had seen or heard which might be significant, and she couldnít quite bring it into focus. That feeling was not unfamiliar. She had an idea that all good investigators experienced it -- the swirling impressions which finally consolidated into an image, bringing the greater picture into sudden relief.

The tantalizing "clue" which was often the key to a puzzle whose separate pieces quickly fell into place. She was familiar enough with the process to know that it couldnít be rushed. Eventually, her unconscious mind would work that tiny fragment free and allow it to float to the surface. Then, she hoped, she would begin to close the gap between herself and the man she sought.

The door opened and Catherine walked in. "You donít look like a woman whoís been up half the night," Catherine said as she seated herself at the small conference table. The warmth in her smile and the intimacy in her eyes reached out to Rebecca like a caress.

Rebecca felt her cheeks flush despite her resolve to remain detached, and she looked away for a moment.

"It isnít about last night," Rebecca began, her tone stiffer than she had intended.

Catherine studied her intently, replying quietly. "An official visit, then?"

"I need to know about the reporter you spoke with."

"The reporter?" Catherine said blankly.

"Have you seen the paper?"

"No."

"There was an article today revealing the fact that we had a witness to the rape," Rebecca said, unable to hide the anger in her voice.

"Oh, god," Catherine said. "Of course! There was a young man here yesterday, asking questionsó" She stopped and looked at Rebecca, her eyes filled with concern. "You think I told him?"

"Did you?"

"No, but he seemed to know that the police were involved with Janetís case. I assure you, Rebecca, I told him nothing."

Rebecca quickly reached for Catherineís hand and squeezed it briefly. "I believe you. Can you think of anyone who might have talked to him?"

Catherineís face revealed her frustration. "A dozen people. A hospital is the least private place in the world. Everyone is eager for a story, and every bit of human drama is meal for the gossip mill. It could have been anyone!"

Rebecca nodded. "I was afraid of that. Thereís not much we can do about it now, but, it makes it even more important that we learn what Janet saw. Can you help me with this?"

Catherine was quiet for a moment, sorting through her thoughts. The sight of Rebeccaís drawn and tired face was wrenching. She wanted so much to be able to offer some relief. But she had a deeper obligation, in this case even greater than her growing affection for the woman before her.

"Rebecca, Iíll do all I can. Iím seeing Janet and Barbara tonight. If I learn anything at all, Iíll tell you immediately."

"I may need to have Janet interviewed by the police psychiatrist, Catherine," Rebecca said quietly. She saw Catherineís body tense, and she feared she had offended her. She didnít want that -- professionally or personally. "He may be able to recognize something you donít."

"Of course," Catherine responded formally. "Iím not a forensic psychiatrist."

Rebecca shook her head impatiently, "Iím not suggesting youíre not competent, Catherine! But, he is trained in criminal investigation."

"May I be present at the interview?" Catherine asked.

Rebecca thought quickly. "I donít see why not -- it might make it easier for Janet."

"I donít like it, Rebecca, but I can see that you have to do this."

"Thank you," Rebecca said softly, realizing in that moment how frightened she had been. She couldnít tolerate the thought of Catherine angry at her. "Thereís something else I need from you," she continued.

Catherine couldnít suppress a chuckle. The woman was certainly relentless! "Thereís more?"

"What do you know about serial rapists? This doesnít seem to fit with what Iím used to seeing."

Catherine nodded. "This type of patterned, serial rapist is unusual. Most rapes occur between acquaintances, or in particular settings -- groups, or gang rapes, in bars or at parties. And, of course, the repeat rape of young children by adult sexual abusers, generally family members. The type of rape weíre dealing with here is a sociopathic activity, a crime perpetrated out of some deep-rooted psychopathology."

"Such as?"

"Oh, any number of things. Low self-esteem, attributed, often incorrectly, to powerful female figures -- a domineering mother, a failed relationship with a woman -- anger at feelings of impotence or lack of control -- inability to direct events around him. The rapist often feels like a victim of social or personal injustices and translates that into anger against women. It is rarely purely sexually motivated, but, of course, sex is equated with power, especially in our culture. So, the rapes represent an attempt to control events, to gain superiority over the perceived persecutor."

"What can I expect in terms of the pattern of these attacks?" Rebecca asked, making notes as she listened.

"Itís hard to say. There isnít anything particularly ritualized about them. As far as Iím aware, the only similarities are the site, and the fact that all of the victims are runners."

"There is something else," Rebecca said. "All of the victims were sodomized -- there was no vaginal penetration."

Catherine raised an eyebrow as she considered this new information. "Well, I could theorize, of course, but I doubt that it would help you much."

"Go ahead. You never know what may help."

"It could be that the rapist is potent only that way -- fear of vaginal intercourse, of `losingí oneís penis, is not that uncommon with sexually maladjusted men. There is also the possibility that he is acting out a fantasy in which the victimís femaleness is a detractor."

Rebecca stopped writing and looked up. "You mean a homosexual fantasy?"

"Possibly."

"Terrific," Rebecca said disgustedly. "That would definitely help public opinion of gays."

"Itís not likely that he is consciously gay, Rebecca. It would be much more likely that he is suppressing homosexual ideation -- and, as I said, Iím only theorizing."

Rebecca snapped her notebook shut and rubbed her face in frustration.

"I canít do anything but wait for his next move -- and that means waiting for him to attack another woman."

"What about staking out the area?"

"We try," Rebecca snorted, "but itís pretty difficult with only a few people to cover twenty miles of river front."

"I wish I could help you more."

"You can. You can help me find out what Janet Ryan saw that night."

Catherine remained silent, torn between conflicting emotions. At length, she stood up, not wanting to leave but knowing she must.

"I want to see you again, Rebecca," she said at last. "Not here, and not about police business. I want to be somewhere with you where we can talk and rest. I want to be able to touch you."

Rebecca turned quickly towards Catherine, pulling her close against her, kissing her firmly on the mouth. Her hands traveled the length of Catherineís back, caressing each curve with trembling hands. When she stepped back, her heart was racing.

"And Iíve been wanting to do that since you walked in the room," Rebecca said breathlessly. She touched Catherineís cheek softly and then slipped quickly from the room.

Catherine was aware that Rebecca had again successfully avoided her suggestion of any intimacy between them. And she was also aware of how good Rebeccaís hands felt on her.
 
 

Chapter Seventeen

Rebeccaís beeper went off before the hospital elevator touched the ground floor. Threading her way through the log jam of wheelchairs, elderly patients shuffling behind steel-framed walkers, and clumps of disoriented visitors, she reached a public phone and called the station.

"Frye, here," she announced into the phone.

She edged her way out of the path of a speeding adolescent and waited impatiently for her call to be put through.

"This is Watts," the heavy male voice intoned in a bored voice.

"What do you want, Watts?" Rebecca snapped, unable to hide her dislike for her new partner.

"A call came in on the night shift -- a desk clerk down on Delroy found a dead hooker in one of the upstairs rooms."

Rebecca waited for more and was rewarded with the faint background buzz of the phone line.

"Watts," she said in exasperation, "we donít have time to track down some faceless john who got too rough with a hooker. Turn it over to Homicide."

"Yeah," Watts said. "Youíre probably right. The whore was just a kid --thirteen, they said."

Rebecca expelled a ragged breath. "Fuck! I was hoping we had quieted that action down."

"Funny thing about it. The M.E. called in a preliminary report -- seems the kid was beaten to death first, then sodomized. The semen analysis showed up type O."

"Jesus!" Rebecca exclaimed. "Why didnít you say it might be our guy straight out! Give me the address -- Iíll meet you there."

She knew the place. The Viceroy Hotel. It had once been a respectable hotel, housing long-term tenants and the occasional tourist. With the decline of the neighborhood and the gravitation of junkies, prostitutes, and drug dealers to this area, anyone who could afford to had moved out. Now the hotel was a stop over for hookers and their clients, junkies waiting for their next fix, and the lonely wino who had scrounged the price of a thin mattress for the night.

Rebecca made the cross-town trip easily, despite the rush of lunch hour traffic. Watts was waiting in front of the four-story building, looking apathetic and bored. His crumpled suit, too tight across his bulging middle, had once been expensive but now reflected the neglect and disinterest which was evident in the man himself. Rebecca knew that he had once been considered a sharp detective, but apparently, something had changed. He looked every inch the burnt out veteran, just putting in time until his pension came up. Rebecca did not want to be saddled with him; he was clearly a loser.

She joined him wordlessly, and they pushed through the hotelís double entry doors into a dank, dimly lit foyer. Thread-bare chairs sat haphazardly on a rug of indeterminate color. Piles of old magazines lay strewn randomly over the surface of a scarred coffee table. Beyond this waiting area was a small counter where the desk clerk leaned on his elbow, watching them impassively. The room was empty except for an old woman who reclined on a sofa against one wall, snoring softly.

The clerk clearly read them as cops and continued to stare at them without speaking. As they approached, Watts flipped his badge open and leaned against the cigarette-scarred desk top.

"You Bailey?" he said without preamble.

"Thatís right," the man said. His breath smelled of liquor, and he didnít look as if face had seen a razor in days.

"You find the body?" Watts continued, making no effort to introduce Rebecca. She was irritated but saw no benefit in making a show out of it. She let Watts carry the ball.

"Yeah, I found it."

Watts nodded slightly. "Says in the report that you called in at 3:42 A.M."

"Probably. I didnít look at no clock."

"How come youíre on the desk now? Whereís the day shift?"

The man looked at Watts blankly. "I work the day shift."

Watts paused for a moment, a befuddled frown on his face. "That so? Then how come you were here in the middle of the night? You work the night shift too?"

The desk clerkís face registered dismay, and he looked quickly around the room. Rebecca had the sense that he was looking for an exit, and she stepped slightly to the left, blocking the hinged section of counter that led out from the narrow space between the mailboxes and the registration desk. She slowly moved her hand to unbutton her jacket, allowing her access to her automatic. She wasnít sure what Watts had in mind, but he was certainly after something. It would have helped if he had briefed her first.

Watts studied the clerk, his face still creased with confusion.

"You got other work here, maybe?"

"Like what?" the thin greying man asked uneasily.

"Like maybe you run a few of the girls yourself?"

At Wattís suggestion the man gave a frightened snort and backed away from the counter.

"No way, no way at all. I never pimped -- I swear. I just --" he stammered into silence.

"You just what?" Watts asked.

"Nothing."

Watts turned to Rebecca and raised a questioning eyebrow. "What do you think, Detective Frye? Isnít soliciting clients for prostitutes a felony in this state? Maybe we should take Mr. Bailey here for a ride downtown?"

Rebecca followed his lead. She nodded agreement, and responded, "Youíre right, Detective Watts. Mr. Bailey does seem in clear violation of the law."

Bailey squeaked in protest, words tumbling out of his mouth in a rush.

"Wait a minute! I didnít solicit for nobody. The girl was up there a long time, and I just went to see. There she was -- spread out on the bed, naked except for those shorts around her ankles. She was cold already. I could tell that from the door. Soís I called the cops -- thatís what a citizen is supposed to do, isnít it?"

He glanced from one to the other, hoping for a sign of approval. They returned his gaze impassively.

Rebecca stepped a little closer to the counter and said softly, "Why were you watching her, Mr. Bailey?"

He looked uncomfortable and shifted from one foot to the other. He seemed to come to some decision, speaking slowly. "They pay me a little to keep an eye on the girls. You know -- to see how many tricks they turn -- if theyíre holding back on their pimps. I donít do nothing but keep an eye on traffic, so to speak."

"Who pays you, Mr. Bailey?" Rebecca asked, keeping her body between Bailey and Watts. They were playing good cop/bad cop all right. She only wished that Watts had given her some notice.

"You canít arrest me for watching hookers -- that ainít no crime!"

Watts moved closer to Rebecca. "It is if youíre an accomplice to the act --which you are, Bailey."

Bailey blanched but remained silent.

"Who went up there with her, Mr. Bailey?" Rebecca asked suddenly.

"Didnít see him," he answered quickly.

Rebecca turned to Watts. "Maybe Mr. Bailey would remember if we took him downtown. What do you say, Watts?"

Watts appeared to be thinking, his brow knit in consternation. "Yeah -- you might be right, Frye. But then weíd have to fill out all those reports and probably run Bailey through the computer. You know how long those computer checks take." He sighed as if the idea didnít appeal to him much.

Bailey watched them, scarcely taking a breath. Finally, their silence drove him to speak.

"Look. I donít pay much attention to the johns -- theyíre in and out of here all the time. Dozens of íem. This girl Patty -- she was popular, you know? Young stuff like that attracts a lot of action. Sheíd be up and down those stairs ten times a night."

Rebecca suppressed a shudder, pushing the image of a young girl laboring under the bodies of countless men from her mind. She kept her gaze noncommittally on Baileyís pale face.

"The last guy -- I just glanced up when they went by. He was young, I remember that. Made me wonder for a second why such a young dude would have to pay for it." He shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe he was a virgin."

"You never saw him before?" Rebecca asked, hoping to encourage Bailey to continue his musings.

"Nah. I probably would have remembered if he was a regular."

"Is there anything that struck you as unusual about the guy?" Watts asked.

Bailey appeared to be considering the question, but his face remained blank. Chances were he had become too immersed in the decadence around him to notice specifics.

"Donít think so," he said slowly. Suddenly, his face brightened, as if he had had a revelation. "I do remember he had a bag with him -- one of those gym bags." He chuckled absently to himself. "Maybe he kept those shorts in there."

"What shorts?" Rebecca prompted, looking at Watts. Watts shook his head slightly, signally he had no idea what Bailey was referring to.

"You know," Bailey said, "those little shorts she had on. She wasnít wearing them when she went upstairs."

Rebecca felt a surge of excitement. "What was she wearing?"

"One of those little leather skirts and a -- what do they call them? Tank tops?"

"Were her clothes in the room when you found her?" Watts asked.

Bailey shook his head. "Didnít see them, but I didnít look too close."

Rebecca knew they could check that out in the report the uniform who responded to the call would file. She thought they had enough from Bailey for now, and she explained to him that they would need him to meet with the police artist to sketch a composite of the man who had accompanied Patty Harris on her last trick. Despite his protest that he didnít really see the guy, he agreed to meet them at the station later that day. He seemed more willing to cooperate now that they had "forgotten" about his role in the prostitution business.

Rebecca and Watts went over the crime scene, but they didnít expect to find much. An iron bed stand stood in the center of a grey-walled room that had once been white. The mattress was thin and stained. There were no rugs on the worn wood floor, and only a curtain remnant to block the view of a deserted building across the street. A single bulb hung from a central ceiling fixture, its globe long broken. It was an empty, abandoned place, much like the people who used it for their hasty couplings. The oppressiveness of the room permeated their consciousness quickly, and they left after a rapid survey, neither of them speaking.

Once outside, Rebecca turned to Watts where he was attempting to light a cigarette. His match kept blowing out.

"That was a nice piece of work with Bailey, Watts," she said. His questioning had been sharp, and they had worked well together.

His cigarette finally caught, and he took a deep drag. He didnít acknowledge her remark as he started toward the car.

"Guess weíll have to start questioning all the hookers down here," he remarked, pulling open the door to his battered green Dodge sedan. "See if thereís a john around who likes girls in gym shorts."

Rebecca nodded, her thoughts in tune with his. It could just be a coincidence, but it was the only lead they had. It was certainly better than cooling their heels waiting for their rapist to strike again.

"Iíve got some contacts here --let me chase this a while," she replied.

Watts shrugged. "Suits me. Iím going to grab some lunch."

He didnít invite her along, and Rebecca didnít suggest they go together. She agreed to meet him at the station later to see what Bailey and the police artist would put together. Maybe, finally, they had a break.
 
 

Chapter Eighteen

It was after eight, and Catherine was exhausted. She had spent the afternoon at her office, seeing private patients. She loved her work, but there were times when it took all of her effort to stay connected and focused during a session. She was a good therapist, and she was almost always present for her clients. On days like today, she was glad to see the last client leave.

As she pushed the stack of patient files into her brief case, the phone rang. She stared at it, wishing she could ignore it. Her receptionist had left. The switchboard would pick it up in a few more rings. Then it occurred to Catherine that it might be Rebecca, and she snatched the phone up.

"Hello," she said, a hopeful anticipation in her voice.

"Dr. Rawlings?" a soft male voice inquired.

"Yes," Catherine replied, trying to keep the disappointment from her voice.

"Is she feeling better now?" the voice continued.

Catherine frowned, annoyed and confused. "Iím sorry -- who is this? I donít know to whom youíre referring."

"You know her, Dr. Rawlings," he said in a husky tone. "The girl who saw me in the park. The one who watched me fucking that other one."

Catherine took a slow deep breath and kept her voice steady, despite the sudden racing of her heart.

"Iím glad you called," Catherine said. "What shall I call you?"

There was a soft chuckle through the line. "You know I canít tell you that. Theyíre looking for me, you know. But theyíre too stupid to find me."

"Why is that?"

"They have no imagination." Another soft laugh. "Do you, Dr. Rawlings?"

"I think so," she answered.

"Can you imagine lying on the ground, your face in the grass, with a big hard cock up your ass?"

He might have been asking her if she would like to take a stroll in the park. His tone was casual, almost distant.

"Is that what youíre imagining right now?" she asked him.

"I wonít tell you that, Doctor," he responded, an edge in his voice for the first time. "I canít tell anybody -- but youíll see, wonít you? The next time I do it, youíll see."

"What are you going to do?" Catherine questioned.

The click of the line being disconnected was the only response.

"Damn," Catherine muttered as she sagged against her desk. She started to tremble slightly and realized how shaken she was by the call. Part of her professional mind was fascinated, but, personally, she was repulsed by the soft, cool voice which reached out to her like an unwanted caress. There was only one voice she wanted to hear right now.
 
 

Chapter Nineteen

"Hey, Frye," the night sergeant called across the squad room. "Thereís a call for you."

Rebecca frowned and gestured "no" with her hand. She and Watts were expecting Bailey to finish with the police artist any second, and she was eager to get a look at her suspectís face.

The desk sergeant shrugged. "The lady says itís an emergency."

Rebecca, annoyed, crossed the nearly deserted room and reached for the receiver.

"Frye," she announced tersely.

"This is Catherine, Rebecca. I wouldnít have called, but --"

"Nonsense," Rebecca interrupted immediately, detecting a difference in Catherineís usually calm voice. "What is it?"

"Your suspect -- the rapist -- just called me. At least, I think it was him," Catherine replied, her voice curiously flat. She felt somewhat detached from everything at the moment.

Rebecca caught her breath, filled with a sudden anger. This nameless, faceless man had gone too far. He had touched someone who meant a great deal to Rebecca.

"Where are you?"

"At my office."

"I want you to lock your office door, move away from the window, and wait for me. Do not open the door for anyone. Iíll be there in ten minutes."

"Iím fine, Rebecca," Catherine said, some of her usual control evident in her tone.

"I know that. Just do as I say."

"Of course I will."

Rebecca hurried across the room for her jacket and was intercepted by Watts as she headed toward the door.

"Where are you going?" he asked, stepping nonchalantly between her and the exit.

Rebecca stared at him while trying to make a decision. She knew she should tell him about a possible contact from the suspect, but she wanted to see Catherine alone, to be sure she was all right. She remained wordless, and he watched her, no expression on his face.

Taking a deep breath, she replied, "We may have a phone contact from our boy. He may have just called Catherine Rawlings. Iím going there now."

Watts raised both eyebrows and whistled softly. "Things are heating up, arenít they? Guess Iíd better tag along."

Rebecca knew she couldnít prevent him from accompanying her, as much as she wanted to go alone. Damn the job sometimes!

"Letís go then," she said resolutely, consumed with the need to reach Catherine.

When she knocked on the office door, calling to Catherine, she unconsciously held her breath until she heard the lock being turned. The door swung open and Catherine stepped forward, looking pale but composed. She stopped short when she saw Watts behind Rebecca, her eyes meeting Rebeccaís.

"Thank you for coming, Detective," she said quietly.

Rebecca wanted to enfold her in her arms, aching to touch her just for a moment. Instead, she nodded slightly and followed Catherine into the waiting room. She introduced Watts and suggested they sit so Catherine could tell her story.

Catherine relayed in detail the brief conversation. Her memory was excellent, honed from years of retaining an entire hourís session with clients. Rebecca and Watts each took notes.

Rebecca stiffened when Catherine clinically stated the callerís sexual intimations. She felt a rage she rarely experienced despite all her encounters with brutality and perversions. This time it was Catherine who was threatened. When Catherine finished, Rebecca was wordless, struggling with her emotions.

She started slightly as Watts asked, "Did you recognize the voice, Doctor?" Rebecca had forgotten he was there.

Catherine shook her head, a look of faint surprise on her face. "No," she said, "of course not."

Watts gave a non-committal shrug. "Never know. Could be someone you knowóor maybe someone you treated?"

Catherine regarded the blank face of the man seated beside Rebecca contemplatively. She sensed a clever mind behind the facade of apparent disinterest. Her curiosity was piqued, and she wondered where his train of thought was leading. Without consciously realizing it, she slipped into her professional mind set and began to view the events objectively, as if they had happened to someone else.

"I would recognize the voice, Iím sure of that. He was casual, and yet, so intimate." She didnít notice Rebeccaís slight flinch at her choice of words. Watts gave no sign of noticing it either.

"Heís trying to make contact. He wants someone to share his experience with," she mused aloud.

"What do you mean?" Rebecca asked, trying to keep her voice even. Goddamn him to hell for involving Catherine in this.

She didnít want to interrupt Catherineís assessment of what had occurred by allowing her own reactions to interfere. She forced down the rage that threatened her objectivity, and she tried to view Catherine as the critical component she had become in this case. Nevertheless, she was aware of a faint nausea that made it difficult for her to swallow. Watts glanced at her nonchalantly, giving no sign he had noticed the strain in her voice or the rigid way she held her body.

"Heís pleased with himself," Catherine said, her eyes turning toward Rebecca. Her gaze was slightly unfocused as her thoughts continued to form. "Heís performed an important act, you see, and heís established himself, done something powerful -- won a little victory. And he wants to be sure someone appreciates this."

"So why call you?" Watts said.

Catherine shrugged. "I donít knowó"

"Catherine," Rebecca began urgently, "this is very important. Are you sure he isnít a patient -- someone you know?"

Catherine shook her head. "I donít treat many men. Iím certain I would know."

"How about pulling your files on all the men youíve seen -- say in the last five years," Watts said. "Maybe we can find something there that jogs your memory."

Catherine straightened in her chair with a start.

"Absolutely not, Detective. Itís out of the question."

"Look, Doc," Watts suddenly interrupted. "This guy picks you -- you of all the people in the city -- to have a little talk with. He calls you to share a few `intimateí details of his latest fuck. Now I gotta think thatís not a coincidence. Like maybe heís got a little thing for you or something?"

"Back off, Watts," Rebecca ordered, fighting to control her temper. Wattsís crude interrogation of Catherine incensed her, and had Catherine not been present, she would have told him to shut his fat fucking mouth. As it was, it was all she could do to keep her hands off him. "If Dr. Rawlings says heís not a patient, then he isnít."

Watts settled back in his chair apparently unperturbed. "Yeah, if you say so."

"Iíll review all my files, Detective," Catherine offered. "If thereís anything there at all I think may be relevant, Iíll look into it."

"Absolutely not!" Rebecca exploded. "You are not to pursue any contact with anyone you think may be involved with this case! For godís sake, Catherine, this man is a psych -- heís already killed two women, and a third may die!"

"Oh, I donít know, Frye," Watts mused softly. "Might not be a bad idea. Maybe the doc can come up with something for us. We ainít got shit now."

"Leave it alone, Watts," Rebecca said, cold fury in her voice. She looked at Catherine, her blue eyes dark with a mixture of anger and a fear she couldnít quite hide.

"Promise me, Catherine," she said urgently, not caring that Watts was sitting beside her.

Catherine despaired at the anguish in Rebeccaís eyes, and she hated the conflict her involvement had created for Rebecca. The last thing she wanted was to make Rebeccaís already overwhelmingly difficult job any harder. "Yes, of course," she answered quickly. She was rewarded by the slight easing of Rebeccaís stiff shoulders.

"Weíll need to put a tap on your phone," Rebecca said, her mind beginning to function again. "Iíll put a man in your office, too."

Catherine sighed deeply, hating the words she had to say. "I canít let you do that, Rebecca."

Rebecca looked up from her notebook, astonishment flooding her face. Watts looked almost amused.

"What?" Rebecca exploded.

"I canít have my line monitored. Itís an invasion of my patientsí privacy. And a man lurking about in my waiting room would be too unsettling for some of my clients. I just canít allow it," Catherine said as gently as possible.

"Catherine," Rebecca began, her tone dark with exasperation. This was too much. She couldnít deal with this professional bullshit any longer -- not when it put Catherine at risk. Confidentiality was one thing, but this was carrying it too damn far. Not only did she need to protect Catherine, but she had to have access to this guy if he called again. Before she could continue, Watts interrupted.

"How Ďbout this, Doc," he suggested. "We put a tape recorder on your phone, and if our boy calls, you record it. And weíll have somebody watching your office from a car on the street?"

Catherine considered carefully for a moment. "The tape recorder sounds fine, but I canít have someone watch my clients come and go."

"God damn it to hell!" Rebecca barked.

"OK for now," Watts said, slapping his thigh briskly. He turned to Rebecca, his face carefully revealing nothing. "Talk to you outside for a moment, Frye?" He rose and strode deliberately to the office door, leaving Rebecca to follow angrily behind.

"What the fuck do you think youíre doing, Watts?" she roared as soon as the door closed behind her. "Itís not up to you how we run this case. Iím in charge here, and Iíll say how we handle this surveillance." Her face was two inches from his, and it took all of her control not to punch his already misshapen face in.

Watts reached unperturbedly into his jacket pocket and fumbled for a cigarette. He lit it, took a long drag and exhaled slowly.

"Looks to me like the shrink is one stubborn lady. If weíre gonna get anything out of her, weíre gonna have to go real slow and gentle, like a virgin on her first date."

"Jesus Christ," Rebecca murmured. "You are the worst piece of crap Iíve come upon in years. If you think Iím going to leave her here like some piece of bait, youíre stupider than you look." She was having trouble thinking straight, but she couldnít seem to clear her head. She had been up for nearly three days running with only a few hours of sleep. Jeff was dead, for godís sake, and now some piece of slime had slithered into her world and touched the woman sheÖshe what, for christís sake? The woman she let hold her when her heart was breaking? The woman who gave her her body for comfort and a few hoursí peace? Oh god, what was she doing? How could she have let this happen now, in the middle of a case like this? She sagged slightly against the wall and stared numbly at Watts, who continued to puff contentedly on his cigarette.

"Sorry, Watts," she said at length. "Youíre right. We canít force her to do anything, and even a tape is better than nothing. Probably canít use it as evidence though."

"Doesnít matter if we catch the guy. Weíll have a DNA match from the semen."

Rebecca stared at him wordlessly. He was right again.

"Letís see if CathóÖif Dr. Rawlings has anything else to add," she said tiredly, feeling ineffectual and unaccountably defeated.

Watts turned away, saying, "You do it. Not much more there, and Iím ready to call it a day." He strolled away, leaving Rebecca staring at his retreating back.
 
 

Chapter Twenty

Catherine, already tiredly slumped in her chair, listened to the angry murmur of voices outside her door. The excitement of the last few hours had dissipated, leaving her drained. She knew Rebecca was angry, and she understood, or thought she did as much as anyone could, the frustration and powerlessness the detective must feel right now. To have this man, whose identity had eluded the police so thoroughly, suddenly reveal his presence in such an arrogant and taunting manner was an insult too bitter to contemplate. And, Catherine also knew that her unwilling involvement with him placed a great strain on Rebecca, who now must feel torn between her professional obligation to maintain contact with the perpetrator and her personal desire to shield Catherine from him. Catherineís inability to cooperate in the way that Rebecca required certainly did not help ease the situation. She stared uneasily at her office door, wondering what future difficulties the return of the two detectives would bring. Clearly, Rebecca and her associate did not see eye to eye on the best way to proceed. Catherine imagined it must be very hard for Rebecca to deal with a new partner so soon after the Jeffís death, especially since Rebecca had no real opportunity to mourn the loss of her friend.

"Of course, sheíll never have time to deal with his death as long as she can drive her feelings into some hidden corner by working twenty hours a day," Catherine mused to herself. "I suppose sheís placing me in the same category --someone who creates feelings sheíd rather avoid."

She sighed softly and leaned her head against the back of her tall leather chair. Sometimes it was hard being a psychiatrist -- it was too hard facing what many others never really saw. Now and then she longed to live just from moment to moment like most of the world, not really knowing, or caring, why she did or felt something. She longed to abandon just for a few hours her awareness of the struggle it was merely to survive.

When Rebecca returned to the office, she found Catherine asleep. They had kept the lights low deliberately in case anyone was watching from the street. Now the stillness was complete except for the soft steady breathing of the woman before her. Rebecca sank into the chair across from Catherine and studied her silently. Catherineís face was soft in sleep, with only a hint of lines about her full lips to suggest that she was not a young woman. Her hair fell in soft curls to her shoulders, peppered with the grey that gave her the distinguished look that suited her so well. She looked very beautiful to Rebecca, who rose finally and touched her shoulder.

"Catherine," Rebecca called gently.

A faint smile touched her lips as Catherineís eyes fluttered open. Her gaze widened with pleasure when she found Rebecca bending over her, even as she noted the tightness around Rebeccaís fine mouth and deep eyes. And Catherine also saw a weariness that she had never seen before in Rebeccaís eyes, not even when Rebecca had come to her in the first hours after Jeffís death. Instinctively she reached out to stroke the strong face before her.

"What is it, love?" she asked quietly.

Rebeccaís heart lurched at the words. She longed to tell Catherine her fears. That Catherine might be in danger, that she couldnít bear the thought of this evil touching Catherine in any way, even with words, and that she wasnít sure she could function if she thought Catherine might be harmed. But she forced herself to keep her demons to herself. It was time she began acting like a cop instead of allowing Catherine to take care of her again and again.

"I need to take you home," Rebecca replied quietly. She turned her head slightly and kissed the fingers that still rested against her face.

Catherine recognized the barrier that Rebecca had erected between them, and, despite her understanding, she was hurt by it. She needed to know this woman, all of her, not just the parts Rebecca allowed the world to see. Catherine knew her strengths -- she could see them in her body, feel them in her touch, hear them in her words. But what of Rebeccaís fears and her needs? Would they always be closed to her?

Catherine nodded, knowing that now was not the time to search for answers. Rebecca had sustained a tremendous emotional blow from Jeffís death, and the investigation was taking a heavy toll on her physical and emotional reserves.

"I have my car here," Catherine answered.

Rebecca shook her head. "I donít want you driving alone. Iíll drive you and pick you up in the morning. You can come back for your car."

Catherine started to protest but then thought better of it. An argument now would not help either of them, and she suddenly realized she was exhausted. It was nearly ten oíclock, and, once again, she had missed a meal.

"Burger break on the way?" she asked, rising stiffly from her chair.

Rebecca at last grinned. "Iíll do better than that. Iíll treat you to pizza."

"Youíre on," Catherine replied, slipping an arm around Rebeccaís slim waist. Rebecca pulled Catherine to her quickly and held her fiercely.

"I have to go out again," Rebecca whispered into Catherineís hair. "Things are beginning to move in this case, and Iíve got to stay on top of it. I wish I could stay with you, but Iíll have one of the black-and-whites cruise by your place every half hour or so."

Catherine leaned back in Rebeccaís arms, her clear green eyes meeting the deep blue ones now filled with worry.

"Iíll be fine, but I appreciate your looking out for me. I know you have to do what youíre doing now, but Iím concerned. You havenít slept enough in three days to account for one good nightís sleep, and you wonít be very effective if you canít think straight."

Rebecca kissed her then, a slow deep kiss that kindled desire in both of them. When she broke away at last, they were gasping. Rebeccaís hands traveled unbidden to the round fullness of Catherineís breasts, feeling the softness of silk beneath her fingers. She pressed against Catherine, fusing her taller, lean frame to the gentle curves and planes of Catherineís body. Catherine backed up slightly until her back touched the edge of her desk, and slipped her hands under Rebeccaís jacket. She traced the muscle of Rebeccaís back down to the firmness of her thighs. She moaned as Rebeccaís fingers closed over her nipples, and warm liquid shimmered in her core. Rebeccaís hands were insistent now, one raising her skirt, pressing against the restraints of her undergarment, the other fumbling with the buttons of Catherineís blouse.

"Let me lock the door," Catherine murmured, fumbling with the buckle on Rebeccaís belt.

"To hell with that -- Iíve got a gun," Rebecca said. She raised her head from Catherineís breast and looked wildly about her. Wordlessly, she slipped her arm behind Catherineís knees and picked her up, carrying her the few feet to the couch across the room. Laying her down, she quickly pulled Catherineís garments aside and knelt before her. Pressing her face against the warm flesh of Catherineís thighs, she breathed in her heady aroma . Her lips sought the source, consumed with the need to touch her, taste her, absorb her into every cell. Rebecca groaned as the wetness welcomed her. She immersed herself in it, seeking and probing for Catherineís very soul. She slid both hands under Catherineís buttocks, raising Catherineís hips, pulling her closer.

"Oh god, Rebecca," Catherine cried, her hands twisted in Rebeccaís thick hair. "You feel so good, so good. Oh yes Ė right there! Oh!"

Rebecca moaned, feeling Catherine grow even harder under her tongue. She brought a hand between Catherineís thighs, finding entrance with two fingers. She pushed inward as she sucked harder on the rapidly quivering shaft between her lips.

"Yes, Rebeccaómake me come--," Catherine breathed, her voice an urgent whisper. "Oh please -- make me come."

Even as she heard the words, Rebecca felt the internal spasms, and she knew it had begun. She increased the pressure with her tongue, gripping Catherine as Catherineís hips heaved upward. Rebecca continued to stroke the pulsing flesh with her lips and tongue long after Catherineís cries had ceased and her limbs quieted. Finally, Rebecca pulled herself upright and stretched out beside Catherine on the couch, pulling the sated woman into her arms. Catherineís arms came around her; she felt soft lips on her neck.

"Youíre wonderful," Catherine sighed contentedly. "Iím completely demolished."

Rebecca laughed quietly, her arms tightening about Catherineís supple frame. "I needed to touch you so much I couldnít stop myself." She looked down into Catherineís face. "I had to be that close to you."

"I know, Rebecca," Catherine said softly. "And Iím right here."

All other realities vanished as they slipped into sleep.
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖOne

Rebecca was awakened by a relentless pain in her left side. She shifted carefully on the office couch and reached between her body and Catherine to reposition her shoulder holster against her rib cage. Her watch showed that it was nearly 3A.M. Her head ached and her body felt empty -- drained of all emotion or energy. She realized she hadnít eaten since early the previous morning. She knew that that combined with sleep deprivation was sapping her strength. Still, she forced herself upright and swung her legs to the floor.

"What are you doing?" Catherine asked sleepily, curling her body against Rebeccaís back and stroking her softly.

"There are things I need to do that canít wait," Rebecca said quickly. "Can you sleep here the rest of the night? Iíll swing by and pick you up in the morning."

Catherine shook the sleep from her head and thought for a moment.

"I have to be back here for rounds at 9 oíclock. Can you be here at six-thirty?"

"Yes. Lock the door when I leave and donít open it until you hear my voice. And donít answer the phone!"

"But what if he calls again?"

"Then heíll have to wait. I donít want anyone to know youíre here alone," Rebecca replied angrily.

"Yes, I see. Of course." Catherine sat up beside Rebecca and met her steel gaze. "Iíll do exactly as you say. Please donít worry about me tonight."

Rebeccaís face softened suddenly, and she bent forward to kiss Catherine. "Thanks. I know itís hard being ordered around --"

Catherine stopped her with a gentle hand to her lips. "Nonsense. In these matters, youíre the expert and I trust you."

Rebecca reached for Catherineís hand, squeezed it quickly, and pulled her to her feet.

"Come lock the door behind me."

"Be careful," Catherine whispered as the door closed firmly. She stood motionless for some moments, listening as Rebeccaís footsteps echoed down the empty corridor. The room suddenly felt chilly and she pulled her raincoat from the rack behind the door and threw it around her shoulders. She was worried, and she knew she had good reason to be. Rebecca was in far more danger than she was at the moment. Catherine was only too aware of how quickly reflexes and thought processes could be impaired by fatigue and stress. She fought the anxiety, knowing she could not influence Rebeccaís behavior -- that, in fact, Rebecca was behaving in the only way she could under these circumstances. Once again, understanding was small comfort. She sighed deeply, pulled the coat tighter around her shoulders, and resigned herself to wait out the rest of the night on her own therapy couch.

**********

Rebecca slowly cruised the streets of the tenderloin. Even at this hour -- the darkest, loneliest part of the night -- there were people about on the streets. The vagrants were all tucked away in their cubby holes, in doorways or on subway grates, covered with bits of carpet or old clothes, their possessions gathered under their arms for safety. But there were still a few prostitutes huddled in pairs or leaning singly against storefronts, hoping for one more trick before morning. And cars continued to cruise by, the drivers faces were cast in shadow as they surveyed the possibility of a quick antidote to their loneliness. Rebecca circled the six-block area several times until she finally saw her. Standing alone in the archway of an adult bookstore, her long legs bare to mid-thigh despite the cold. Rebecca pulled her car to the curb and rolled the passenger window down. The girl had looked up as the car pulled over, and her look of anticipation quickly turned to dismay as she recognized Rebecca.

"Oh man! Canít you leave me alone? Youíre gonna ruin my business!"

"Get in," Rebecca said, pushing the curbside door open.

"Uh-uh. No way. You donít have nothing on me --"

"Do you want to talk to me in here, or should I come out and walk around the streets with you a while?"

"Oh Jesus! I donít need this!" she swore as she quickly crossed the pavement and slid into the small bucket seat.

"Put your seatbelt on," Rebecca said as she pulled away from the curb.

Sandy snorted in disgust. "If you cared so much about my well-being, youíd stay the fuck away from me. People down here start thinking Iím a snitch, I could get hurt."

"What people?" Rebecca said nonchalantly, her eyes on the road.

"Just people. And, besides, I donít have any tips for you. Nobody knows nothing about no kiddie racket -- or if they do, they arenít telling me."

Rebeccaís head turned slightly and her eyes met those of the young girl beside her. The eyes that looked back were the eyes of the street, bitter and old.

"Itís not about the chicken business."

Sandy looked surprise for an instant, but quickly recovered with an expression of disinterest.

"That so?"

Rebecca nodded. "A hooker was found dead last night. Her body was found at the Old Vic. Young girl, about thirteen."

Sandy feigned indifference. "So? It isnít the first time. She ODíd or what?"

Rebecca shook her head. "Looks like the john did it." She looked directly at Sandy as she said, "I donít want it to happen again. I want this guy -- and I need help."

Sandy remained silent, looking down at her hands, unconsciously picking at a broken nail.

"Sometimes ya canít tell, ya know? A guy looks like Mr. Straightsville, and the next thing you know, he wants you to tie him up or let him piss in your mouth. It happens. You try to be careful, but sometimes you just canít tell." Her voice was flat as she spoke, and she didnít raise her head.

"I know. Thatís why Iím telling you -- be careful. And tell the other girls, too. I canít give you anything on him. I donít have anything."

Sandy raised her head defiantly. "And if you did, you wouldnít tell us any how, would you? Afraid weíd scare him off."

Rebecca shrugged. "Probably not," she said, and wondered if it were true. "Try to find out if any of the other girls have noticed anyone particularly strange lately -- probably fairly young, late twenties, maybe likes ass fucking."

"Yeck," Sandy said. "Most girls stay away from that. Depends on how much, you know. Someíll do anything for the right price."

"Yeah, well, see if you can turn up anything."

"And if I donít feel like it?"

"You keep testing, donít you? Then, Iíll start visiting you every day, out in public, like youíre my new sweetheart."

Sandy sighed. "Had to ask."

"Right," Rebecca said as she pulled the car to the curb. "Go home, Sandy. Youíre not gonna retire on what youíll make the rest of the night."

As she pulled away she watched the girl in her rear view mirror as she slowly wandered off into the cheerless night.
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖTwo

Rebecca returned to her apartment shortly before 5 A.M. The first thing to greet her besides the stale air of a space left too long undisturbed was a pile of junk mail that had been pushed under her door. She kicked it aside and went straight for the kitchen. She emptied the grounds from the basket of her coffee maker and ran water into the appliance. She found half a pound of espresso in the freezer and measured out enough for four cups. She left the coffee brewing and headed for the bathroom. Her jacket and slacks would have to go to the cleaners. They looked like theyíd been slept in, she thought ruefully. She laid her gun on the toilet tank, threw her underwear at the over-flowing hamper and turned on the shower. She stood under the pulsing stream for a long time before she lifted her arms to lather some shampoo into her hair. With her eyes closed against the frothing suds, she recalled random images. The dead girl in the hotel room; Jeff lying so quietly on his side, just a trickle of blood behind his earólike reruns of bad movies. And then she thought of Catherine -- serious when discussing a patient, soothingly gentle when Rebecca came to her exhausted in body and soul, vibrant in the throes of passion.

Rebeccaís mind rebelled against reason and caution. Catherine could be in danger from this psycho. Rebecca wanted him, no matter what it cost. She twisted the knobs viciously and stepped from the shower, gasping at the chill in the room. Her face in the mirror above the sink appeared lined with fatigue, but her eyes were clear and hard with determination. He had made a mistake killing that hooker. Rebecca had one tiny thread to grasp now, and she would follow it wherever it led until she could get a bigger piece and then another until all the pieces came together.

"Iím coming for you," she whispered into the stillness of the room. "Oh, yes, you fucker, Iím coming."

Refreshed from her shower, Rebecca drove quickly through the empty streets, just ahead of the rush hour traffic. The medical center, as always, was alive with activity, and she was forced to circle the block several times before she found a parking space near Catherineís office. She hurried through the deserted hallways, anxious to reach Catherine. Her knock was answered immediately. Catherine, looking rumpled and weary, greeted her with a smile.

"You have no business looking so damn good when I know you havenít slept all night," Catherine said, relieved to see that Rebecca, although obviously tired, seemed alert and controlled. She reached for Rebeccaís hand and pulled her into the room. Impulsively she kissed her, slipping her arms around her waist.

"Iím glad youíre here," Catherine sighed, not adding that she was also relieved to find her safe.

Rebecca held her gently for a moment, savoring the nearness of her. She felt somehow anchored in Catherineís presence, as if there actually were someplace where the world had meaning. Here, in this womanís embrace, Rebecca felt at home.

"Are you all right?" Rebecca said at length, not loosening her hold, not wanting the moment to pass.

"Iíve had better nights," Catherine said, her head resting on Rebeccaís shoulder, "but the morning looks pretty good right now."

Rebecca grinned at the womanís resiliency, hugged her briefly and stepped back. "Iíd better get you home."

Catherine nodded resolutely and moved away to gather her briefcase and papers.

As Rebecca maneuvered her car through the now congested streets, her mind returned to the case. She was desperately trying to weave a tapestry from an assortment of disconnected threads. Somewhere there was a pattern, some detail, she had overlooked or failed to recognize that would begin to make a whole of the scattered pieces. Catherine recognized the distant look in Rebeccaís eyes and left her alone with her thoughts. She was startled when Rebeccaís voice broke the stillness.

"How is Janet Ryan doing?"

"Physically sheís making good progress. She would actually be ready for discharge if it werenít for her psychological state. Sheís still terrified, and the assault has triggered flashbacks which are difficult for her to deal with now."

"Flashbacks?" Rebecca queried.

"Traumatic events will often provoke memories of similar occurrences in an individualís past," Catherine answered, intentionally avoiding making direct reference to Janetís specific case.

"Similar occurrences," Rebecca echoed. "Like rape?"

"Sometimes," Catherine stated.

Rebeccaís jaw tightened, a sign Catherine was coming to recognize as Rebeccaís response to anger. She waited, knowing that Rebecca would continue when her feelings were once again manageable.

"No wonder Janet canít remember what happened out there," Rebecca said, her voice carefully concealing the rage she felt at the brutality visited on so many women by this maniac. Her fingers tightened on the wheel, the only sign of her inner turmoil. She had to remain objective if she hoped to stop him. She would somehow have to view this as just another case.

"Would she be able to look at a police sketch of a possible suspect?" Rebecca asked.

Catherine considered her answer carefully.

"Iím not sure," she answered truthfully. "Janet feels a tremendous responsibility to remember what she saw. That kind of pressure can actually make it more difficult for the amnesia victim to regain their memory for the event. Iíd like to reserve judgment on that until I can speak with her again. Can you give me until tonight?"

"Do I have a choice?" Rebecca said, her frustration evident.

"Rebecca," Catherine responded cautiously, "your responsibilities and mine donít have to be at odds here. I know you need Janetís statement, and believe me, I want to see this man caught as much as you do. I simply canít place her in psychological jeopardy to do that."

"Even if it means another woman is raped and murdered?"

"Even then, Rebecca," Catherine answered quietly.

Rebecca heard the pain in Catherineís voice and knew suddenly how agonizing that decision was for Catherine.

"Iím sorry," she said, reaching across the seat to grasp Catherineís hand.

"Donít be. You have to use everything you can to put an end to this madness. And I have to take care of the people who put their trust in me."

And now those people include me, Rebecca thought.

Rebecca followed Catherine silently to the steps of her building, searching the streets for any sign of someone who seemed out of place. The sidewalks were crowded with people hurrying to work, but no one took particular notice of them.

"Let me have your key," Rebecca said at the top of the steps, her eyes scanning the heavy oak door for signs of tampering. She led the way inside and made a quick search of the rooms, checking the windows and patio as she went. Satisfied that everything was in order, she turned to face Catherine.

"You can go ahead and change; Iíll wait."

Catherine smiled at her, appreciating once again the presence of this intense, driven woman in her life, wishing she could somehow reach into that barricaded soul and comfort her. Instead she contented herself with a soft kiss, rewarded by the instant melding of Rebeccaís lean body against her own. In this way at least Catherine knew she could reach her, and she accepted sadly that for now that was all she could do.

Rebecca arrived at the station just after nine A.M. and was surprised to find Wattís already at his desk, nursing a hot cup of coffee and a danish. He looked up when Rebecca sat down across from him with her own caffeine infusion.

His eyes scanned her face, giving no indication that he noticed the dark circles under her eyes or the fatigue lines etched in her finely chiseled features. Nor did he comment on the slight tremor in the long fingers that held the paper cup of coffee.

"Everything okay with the shrink?"

Rebecca looked for some hidden meaning behind his words but was met with his usual blank stare.

"Yes." She turned to the pile of papers on her desk in an effort to avoid conversation.

"I think itís about time we went over what we got and figure out where to go from here before this creep bangs another broad."

Rebecca stared at him, astonishment evident on her face. She leaned forward on her elbows, and said softly, "Watts, you are a crude bastard, and I donít give a good goddamn what you think. Iím in charge here, and weíll do things my way."

Watts simply shrugged. "Donít think the Captainís as patient as I am. He wants a status report so he can meet with the media this morning."

"Shit, just what we need. More media people nosing around." She looked at Watts and had the feeling they finally agreed on something. "Did the artist get anything out of Baileyís description?"

Watts grimaced. "Itís pretty general, but Iím having copies run off and distributed to all the precincts."

Rebecca was surprised, as she always was, when she discovered that Watts was actually thinking about his work.

She stood abruptly. "Come on, letís get out of here."

Watts raised an eyebrow. "What about the Captain?"

"We canít give him a status report if weíre not here. And then the media wonít have anything to tip our boy off with. Who knows what little tidbit might send him under cover?"

Watts grunted noncommittally, but he rose to his feet to follow her, grabbing a stack of photocopied sketches as he went.

He handed the police sketch to Rebecca as they pulled away from the station. She glanced at it quickly and felt her hopes plummet when she saw how nonspecific the rendering was.

"Just what we need," she sighed. "Everyman."

"Yeah," Watts agreed. "Ainít life a bitch."

Rebecca ignored him, her mind sifting through possible courses of action, trying to come up with something they had failed to do.

"Have the homicide boys come up with any assaults or murders of prostitutes that might tie in with this case?"

Watts pulled out his tattered notebook and made an entry. "I donít know. Iíll check it out. I suppose we ought to start interviewing all the hookers and find out if anybody knows anything."

"Iím working on that. Leave a bunch of those fliers in the back. For what itís worth, Iíll hand them around."

"Yeah, and tell them about his bag of tricks."

"What did you say?" Rebecca asked quickly.

"You know, his gym bag. Maybe if they canít remember his face, theyíll remember the bag."

"Or what he brings in the bag," Rebecca mused. "Watts, all three victims on the drive have been runners, all wearing running shorts. The dead prostitute was found with running shorts that she wasnít wearing when she went upstairs with him. Maybe he needs them to get turned on."

"Yeah, well, Iíve heard of weirder stuff, but so what. You want we should put out a bulletin that no broads wear shorts outside the house?"

Rebecca sighed. "No, but at least I can get the word out on the streets. Maybe one of the girls will know something."

Watts grunted. "We donít even know for sure itís the same guy. We wonít have a DNA match for another week. Could be weíre chasing our tails for nothing."

"Right now we donít have anything else to chase," Rebecca replied dispiritedly.
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖThree

Rebecca dropped Watts off to follow up on one of their other open cases and tracked down the homicide detectives working on Jeffís murder. They were obviously hassled, but they took the time to fill her in. They had no new leads, but the rumor on the streets was that Jeffís undercover man was getting too close to a major crime lord and that the two men were executed as a warning. A warning to both the police and anyone who might be thinking of providing the police with information.

She thanked them, knowing that they were doing what they could. Her beeper went off as she was leaving the building. She considered not answering it. She didnít want to hear that the Captain was waiting for his status report. Something made her stop and call in.

"Watts wanted us to run you down," the dispatcher said when she identified herself. "Said youíd want to know that some doctor received an interesting package this morning. That make any sense to you?"

Rebecca slammed the phone down and was out the door before the dispatcher registered the dial tone at the end of his line. She went lights and sirens all the way across town to the hospital and left the car in the emergency zone outside. She stormed into the lobby and nearly collided with a woman pushing a baby stroller.

"Sorry," she muttered as she pushed her way to the elevator. The ride up to the psychiatric floor seemed to take forever. As soon as the doors opened, she saw Watts leaning against the counter in the nursesí station conversing with a woman in white.

"Watts!" she shouted. "Whereís Catherine? Is she all right?"

He intercepted her and turned her away from the curious eyes of the people gathered around. "Yes, sheís fine. I took the call because I was in the squad room. When I heard what it was, I figured youíd want to know."

"What what was?"

"Your doctor friend is pretty smart. Someone sent her a dozen roses -- and since it wasnít her birthday, she thought she should tell you before she opened the card. I guess she figured you didnít send them."

"Damn it, Watts, just tell me where she is, and what the hell is going on."

"I am telling you. Iím waiting for the lab boys to pick up the flowers now. The card reads, `Thank you for last night. Iíll see you soon.í"

"Jesus Christ." Rebecca turned away, her face grim. "Iím going to talk to Catherine. We need to put a guard on her."

"I donít think thatís such a great idea," Watts stated flatly. "Might scare him away."

Rebecca rounded on him, her temper finally snapping. "Listen to me, Watts! We are not using Catherine Rawlings for bait. You understand me? We are going to cover her like the Pope until this guy is caught."

"Hey, I know how you feel --" Watts began.

"No, you donít know how I feel, and you never will know how I feel! So drop it. Now." Rebecca could never remember being so frightened. She had been shot at, maced, and ambushed by street punks, but she had never felt the panic that threatened her now. All she knew was that Catherine was being drawn further into a very dangerous game, and she felt powerless to stop it. She set her jaw and took a deep breath. It was time for her to take charge of the situation, and that was exactly what she intended to do. Catherine, as it turned out, had different ideas.

**********

"Rebecca, you must understand. For any number of reasons I canít let you assign me to protective custody. One very important reason is that I may be able to establish a relationship with this man. At the very least, weíll have some idea of the state of his mind. Please, darling, think of how important that might be!"

Rebecca stood with her back to the room, staring out into the streets below without seeing. Watts had left them at her request once it became clear that Catherine was not willing to be assigned a guard. All of Catherineís arguments made sense, and at any other time Rebecca would have accepted the logic of maintaining contact with this unknown psychopath. But she couldnít accept it now.

"Thereís a big part of me that knows youíre right," she said softly, her voice hollow. "As a cop, if I were a good cop, I should be elated that we have some conduit to this guy --" Her voice trailed off.

Catherine went to her, put her arms around her, leaned her cheek against Rebeccaís rigid back. Rebeccaís strain and tension were transmitted to her through the unyielding muscles under her hands. Catherine knew the rejection was not of her, but of the weakness that Rebecca perceived in herself because of Catherine. Rebeccaís inner struggle now was one that Catherine knew would need to be fought again and again -- the conflict between Rebeccaís need for absolute emotional distance and the disruption of that control caused by her involvement with Catherine. Catherine was determined neither to ignore the problem nor to allow Rebecca to face it alone. The outcome of that battle would determine just how much the two of them could share, and Catherine found that that meant a great deal to her.

"Rebecca, the way you feel right now is perfectly understandable," Catherine began softly. "Youíre worried about my safety, and itís different than it usually is because you care about me. Weíre involved with each other, for heavenís sake. Weíve made love, weíve shared something of ourselves. I am not someone you can be objective about." And not someone you must push away to satisfy your sense of duty, I hope.

"I never should have let this happen," Rebecca said, her back still to Catherine. "Itís compromising my thinking, and that could mean jeopardizing your safety."

"Well, I, for one, am not sorry that it happened," Catherine persisted. She knew she was taking her own emotional risks by admitting to Rebecca, and to herself, just how important Rebecca had become to her. But one of them had to make the first move to breach the considerable defenses they both had erected around their hearts.

Rebecca turned to her then, and tightened her arms around Catherine, holding her fiercely.

"Neither am I," Rebecca answered, her voice rough with emotion. Iím afraid to even think about how much you mean to me. I just donít know what Iíd do if anything happens to you. Her tension began to lessen in the soft embrace of Catherineís arms, and her mind began to clear. Even as she held her, Rebeccaís thoughts turned to what she must do to protect her. Where other emotions clouded her judgment, Catherineís touch restored clarity. She was continually astonished, and still a little afraid, of the womanís effect upon her.

"I donít suppose I could persuade you to have a police officer accompany you around until this is over, could I?" she asked, her lips pressed to Catherineís forehead.

"No."

"At least at night, when youíre at home?"

"Only if itís you."

Rebecca leaned back and gazed down into the face that never failed to move her, memorizing the image -- wisps of grey at the temples, fine bones beneath ivory skin, liquid pools of swirling greens in her eyes.

"Itís not in my contract," she whispered, longing to forget everything except the desire to kiss those tender lips and lose herself in Catherineís welcoming warmth.

"It could be," Catherine answered, her lips finding Rebeccaís.
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖFour

Rebecca slept during the afternoon in an empty on-call room at the hospital and later drove Catherine home. She attached a voice activated recording device to Catherineís telephone after they had agreed that Catherine would review the tape and erase any client related calls before turning it over to the police. Once again Rebecca did a security check and arranged for extra patrols to pass through the neighborhood. Finally she felt satisfied that she had done all she could do. The next move was up to him.

"I have to go out for a while," she said. "There are people I need to talk to --people I can only find at night. Will you be all right?"

Catherine nodded, silencing the fear she felt, not for herself, but for the determined woman she had come to care so much for. Every time she saw the gun harnessed against Rebeccaís chest, she was reminded of the potential violence Rebecca faced each time she went out into the streets. That fear was something Catherine knew she would never get used to, and that it was the price she must pay for allowing Rebecca into her heart. At this moment, however, she knew that Rebecca needed reassurance that Catherine was safe.

"Can I expect you tonight?" Catherine asked, placing her hand gently on Rebeccaís arm.

"Count on it."

**********

Rebecca found Sandy without any difficulty. What surprised her was the lack of any protest when she pulled her car up beside the young prostitute. Sandy crossed the sidewalk quickly and slid in beside her.

"Letís get out of here, okay?" Sandy said.

Rebecca pulled into the line of traffic and looked at the girl questioningly.

"Why so glad to see me?"

Sandy grimaced. "Things are getting really weird out here. All the pimps are uptight because the cops are pulling them in -- asking questions about the kiddie porn stuff. And now theyíre starting to pull in the girls, asking about kinky johns and rough trade. Itís making everybody nervous. Whatís going on?"

Rebecca smiled at the reversal in their positions. Suddenly she had become the informant. "I donít know for sure. There may be a loose cannon around. Some guy who likes girls in gym shorts and gets a little rough."

"How rough?"

"Rough like in dead."

Sandy leaned her head back against the seat and sighed.

"Shit, we donít need this. Got anything on him?"

"Look in the back seat. Thereís a sketch of someone who might be him."

Sandy looked at the police rendering and snorted.

"Oh, him. I must see ten dudes a night who look like this."

"Yeah, thatís what I was afraid of," Rebecca answered grimly. "The best I can tell you is that heís white, late twenties or early thirties, probably well-educated, and wonít seem like a nut case. And this is important. He may have a gym bag or something like it. He seems to like his women to dress for his pleasure, with short nylon running briefs."

"Thatís it?"

"Afraid so."

"What do we do if he shows?"

"If you can, donít work alone. Stay in pairs or groups, so if he approaches someone, one of you can call me. Try to get the word out as quickly as you can. The girl he killed two days ago is the only prostitute we know about. I donít want there to be another one."

Sandy looked at the woman beside her, surprised by the vehemence in her voice and the stony set to her features.

"Yeah, well, thanks," was all she said. Too many years on the streets had taught her not to trust what looked like kindness, because there was always a price attached. But she would remember the look on the tall detectiveís face, a look that made her feel a little safer.

**********

When she knocked on Catherineís door a little after midnight, Watts answered it. He stepped out into the hall before she could say anything and pulled the door closed.

"Sheís all right," he said quickly, noting the alarm on Rebeccaís face. "Our boy called. She called it in and I came over. Figured youíd rather have me here than someone she doesnít know."

Rebecca took a deep breath and nodded, relief washing through her. "What did he say?"

Watts shrugged. "This dame--excuse meóthis doctor--is one cool cookie. She insisted on clearing the tape of `unrelatedí messages before sheíd let me hear it. She should be ready for us now."

"Thanks, Watts," she said as she pushed the door open.

Catherine was seated in front of a small desk with the tape recorder before her. She seemed lost in thought.

"Catherine," Rebecca called softly.

Catherine turned at the sound of her voice, and a faint smile flickered across her fine features. "Iím glad youíre back."

"Iím sorry I wasnít hear when he called," Rebecca began.

Catherine silenced her. "It doesnít matter--youíre here now. Shall we go over this?"

Watts shuffled in behind Rebecca and sat on the couch across the room, his notebook on his knee. Rebecca walked to the window and looked out into the night sky. She didnít want to be facing Catherine when she heard this. She didnít trust herself enough.

"Go ahead."

Rebecca prepared herself, knowing that she must forget that it was Catherine this madman had chosen to call. She had to be focused, searching for any clue to his identity. Still, she started suddenly when she heard Catherineís voice on the tape:
 
 

Catherine: Hello?

Voice: Iím so glad I found you home.

Catherine: Iím sorry, whoís calling please?

Voice: You know me, Doctor. Did you get my flowers?

Catherine: Yes. Why did you send them?

Voice: Because I wanted you to know that youíre special to me.

Catherine: Why is that?

Voice: Because I feel as if you understand me. I know that you can appreciate the things Iíve accomplished.

Catherine: What things are they?

Voice: You knowówith the girls. When I fucked them. I was good with themótheyíd never had it so good before. I took a long time with them, too. I didnít just fuck and come, I let them feel me for a long time. Do you know how that feels, Doctoróto be fucked for a long time? Is that how you like it? Iíd like to fuck you like that right now.

Catherine: Tell me about the girls. How did you pick them?

Voice: Itís not hard. Theyíre everywhere, just waiting for me to show them how good it can be. Sometimes I just wait for them to come to me.

Catherine: Where do you wait?

Voice: They think they know whereóthe police. But they donít know anything. The next time it will be very special. I feel powerful, my cock is powerful. Maybe next time youíd like to feel it, Doctor. Would you like to feel my long hard cock pushing into youówould you?

Catherine: How will I recognize you?

Voice: Youíll know, Doctor. It wonít be long.
 
 

"Jesus Christ," Watts breathed as the tape clicked off. "What a fucking nutcase."

"Not exactly a clinical diagnosis, Detective, but fairly accurate," Catherine replied grimly. Rebecca had not spoken, and Catherine wanted desperately to go to her. She could see from across the room that Rebeccaís spine was rigid and the hand that rested against the window frame was clenched into a fist.

At last Rebecca turned, keeping her gaze away from Catherine. "Did we get a trace?"

Watts shook his head. "Just under the wire--heís smart, this one."

Rebecca nodded, her face a careful blank. "Double the patrols through the neighborhood, and put a man on the street across from Catherineís office and at each entrance to the hospital.

"Rebeccaó" Catherine began.

"Do it, Watts." She turned to Catherine, her eyes simmering with repressed anger and the revulsion she had felt as she listened to that quiet, disembodied voice on the tape. She could envision his hands on Catherineís skin, forcing her down, violating her. His words were the only violation of this woman she would allow. Nothing, not even Catherineís professional responsibilities, would change her mind. If Catherine hated her for it, thatís the way it would have to be. She would not give this maniac any opportunity to harm Catherine. She was too precious for Rebecca to risk for a moment. "Heís changed his M.O., Watts--heís got a specific target now. This is where heíll come. Keep up the extra patrols in the park. Iíve got the prostitutes alerted if he shows there. Sooner or later heíll come after Catherine." And when he does, Iíll kill the bastard.

Watts heaved himself to his feet. "Right. Iíll meet you at the hospital in the morning."

"Iíll need to see Janet Ryan in the morning," Rebecca stated after Watts left. She still had not looked directly at Catherine. She was afraid if she did she would lose what little control she had left. She trembled inwardly at the thought that any harm might come to her. Catherine had awakened a need in her which Rebecca had buried for far too long. With the undemanding acceptance of her body and her heart, Catherine brought Rebecca face to face with the loneliness of the half-life she had been leading. Rebecca did not want to return to that life, and it was Catherine she needed in order to go forward.

"Iíll want to be there when you question her," Catherine stated quietly.

"All right."

"Is there no other way?"

"No. Itís not a random victim any longer, Catherine. Itís you he wants now."

Catherine looked into Rebeccaís determined face and knew there could be no other way. She held out her hand, saying, "I need you to hold me, darling."

Rebecca was across the room in an instant, gathering her close. I will not let him hurt you!
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖFive

Rebecca awakened with Catherine enfolded in her arms. The sky outside was just beginning to lighten with the dawn. She gloried in the sensations of Catherine -- her warm flesh beneath Rebeccaís hands, the whisper of her breath against Rebeccaís skin, the steady rhythm of her heartbeat. Rebeccaís lips found the soft skin at the base of Catherineís throat as her hands began a gentle exploration of her body. She traced the curve of breast, the arch of hip, the slope of firm thigh -- all the planes that fused to form the wonder that was Catherine.

Catherineís back arched and she pressed herself even closer to Rebecca, whispering urgently, "Do you know what youíre doing to me? Iím on fire."

Rebecca smiled as she fitted the length of her body to Catherineís. She was rewarded with a soft groan from the woman beneath her, and suddenly Rebeccaís body answered with an urgency that left her breathless. Her head grew light as every nerve in her body burned downward into a single pounding point between her legs. Then Catherineís hands were upon her, stroking through her wetness, teasing her into full distention, playing her body like a sensitive instrument. Rebecca closed her eyes tightly, willing herself not to come. She caught one swollen nipple lightly between her teeth, groaning in satisfaction at Catherineís swift gasp of pleasure. She tried to concentrate on the heat and softness of Catherineís skin, and to ignore the pressure building in her clitoris as Catherine rolled it gently under her fingers. She was moaning now, barely able to think, her hands clutching Catherineís shoulders as her hips began to thrust against Catherineís hand. Not yet, not yet, not yet, she chanted silently, gritting her teeth, each second a sweet agony as the pressure in her belly built to overflowing.

"Oh!" Rebecca cried, shuddering, as Catherine pressed harder along the length of her clitoris. She couldnít hold it. The spasms started at the base and twisted outward, causing her to jerk in Catherineís arms. When she cried out her release, she was unaware of the tears that coursed down her face.

Catherine held her, gentling her with loving caresses. "Itís all right, darling. Iím here. Oh, god, Rebecca, I love you!" She continued her soft words and soothing strokes until they both slipped into peaceful, satisfied sleep.

**********

The woman who stood across the room from her did not seem like the tender lover who had cried in her arms just hours ago, yet Catherine knew that she was. That side of Rebecca, the vulnerable, all too human side, disappeared when she buckled on her holster and clipped her detectiveís shield to her belt. As formidable and aloof as she appeared now, Catherine loved this part of Rebecca as well. What they shared in private was precious to her, because it was a part of herself that Rebecca kept hidden from the world. But Catherine admired and respected her for the other woman she was as well -- the tough street cop with a will of iron and a core of steel. Her tender warrior with the fragile heart.

Rebecca looked up to find Catherineís eyes upon her, and she blushed slightly. She was both pleased by the appreciative look on Catherineís face and embarrassed by the scrutiny. Nevertheless, she warmed inwardly to the attention from this composed, gracefully beautiful woman.

Clearing her throat, Rebecca said, "I know it will be difficult for you to have me around all day, but I just canít take any chances. Heís becoming unpredictable, and thereís no way to anticipate his behavior. Iím sorry."

"Donít be," Catherine replied, kissing Rebecca quickly as she reached for her briefcase. "I can think of much worse things than having you around all day. And I do know that youíre doing what needs to be done. I appreciate it."

**********

Janet Ryan was sitting in a chair by the window when Catherine and Rebecca entered. The bruises on her face were fading, but she still appeared fragile physically. She smiled a greeting at Catherine and looked hesitantly at Rebecca.

Rebecca sat beside her in a worn armchair.

"Do you remember me, Janet? Iím Detective Frye. I spoke with you before." When Janet nodded, Rebecca continued. "I have more questions to ask you. Iím want you to tell me again everything you did on the day of the assault. Everything you can remember -- even if it doesnít seem at all important. Start with when you woke up."

"I overslept," Janet began uncertainly. "I usually run in the mornings and then take the train to work. I was rushed that morning, so I decided to drive. I remember working. Nothing unusual happened. I took OíHara Drive home. The sun was still out and there were boats on the river. It seemed so peaceful I decided to stop. I parked and began to walk down to the water." She stopped suddenly, a fine sheen of sweat glistening on her pale face.

Rebecca tried not to appear anxious. Janet was speaking in a low monotone and her eyes were slightly unfocused. Her memory for the events surrounding the rape was clearly improving. Rebecca desperately needed for her to remember.

"Youíre doing wonderfully, Janet," Catherine said softly. "Tell us about walking down to the water."

"It smelled like spring. There was no one around. I felt so peaceful. Then, I heard something, a scream!" Once again she stopped abruptly. This time she was visibly agitated. Her hands trembled and her breath came in quick gasps. Catherine reached out and lightly rested her hand on Janetís arm.

"Youíre all right, Janet, you are safe here with us. Can you tell me what is frightening you?"

"There was a man! He was doing something to the woman on the ground! I ran toward him, screaming at him to stop!" Janet looked wildly about the room, her gaze fixing on Catherineís face. "Oh, Dr. Rawlings! I canít remember! I just canít remember any more!"

"Thatís all right, Janet, youíve done beautifully. Really. Iíll speak with you again tomorrow. It wonít be long now before we can talk about sending you home."

Catherine stood and motioned to Rebecca to follow.

"Thatís as much as youíre going to get for today, Rebecca. She is remembering, but it will take more time."

"What about trying hypnosis or drugs?"

"Itís possible that either method might help spark further recollections, but Iím concerned that forcing the issue will be harmful to Janet in the long run. Her memory will return when her mind is healed enough to deal with what she experienced."

"Is that doctor talk for `noí?" Rebecca asked.

"Youíre learning, Detective," Catherine laughed. "Was it helpful for you at all?"

Rebecca shrugged in exasperation. "I canít help feeling that thereís something there and Iím just not getting it. Three times this guy rapes and murders someone in a fairly well-populated area of the park, and no one sees him coming or going. Heís like the invisible man."

The sound of Catherineís name over the loudspeaker interrupted them. Rebecca was reviewing her notes from her first interrogation of Janet Ryan when Catherine motioned to her to pick up the extension line.

"Iím so glad I found you in, Dr. Rawlings."

Rebecca recoiled slightly when she recognized the same smooth voice from the tape of the previous night. She swore under her breath in utter frustration. He seemed to be able to get to Catherine despite all her efforts to prevent it. Rebecca felt powerless to shield her lover from this invasion. All her training, all that she was, seemed inadequate to protect the one person who meant more to her than any other. She forced herself to remain silent as she listened.

"Why are you calling?" Catherine asked, her eyes on Rebecca.

"I must see you."

"All right," Catherine answered quickly, ignoring the violent negative gestures from Rebecca. "Come here to the hospital. Iíll see you this evening."

Soft laughter. "Oh, Doctor -- I canít do that. I want this meeting to be private and romantic. I want you to meet me tonight. Iíll tell you where."

Catherine looked quickly to Rebecca for direction. Rebecca shook her head "No."

"I want to talk with you. I find you very interesting," Catherine responded, "but Iím afraid that I canít meet you tonight. Wonít you tell me your name so that I can reach you, too?"

"Good try, Doctor," he said, his voice suddenly harsh. "The next time I talk to you, youíll be ready to do whatever I ask."

"Waitó" Catherine cried as he broke the connection. She settled the receiver slowly into the cradle and stared at Rebecca, who hurried to her side. "I didnít handle that very well, did I?"

Rebecca covered Catherineís hand with her own. "You were fine. You had to tell him no."

"Perhaps I should meet him," Catherine mused. "I might be able to talk him into surrendering."

Rebeccaís eyes flashed and her fingers tightened on Catherineís arm. "There is no way Iím going to let this guy anywhere near you. Donít even think about it; itís not going to happen. Let me call this in, then letís go home. Youíre safer there than here where anyone could walk in unnoticed."

Catherine nodded, her thoughts elsewhere.
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖSix

The call came at a little after two A.M. Rebecca was awakened from an uneasy sleep by the voice of the night dispatcher.

"Sorry to bother you, Frye, but I got a girl on the line who says she has to speak to you and nobody else. I should be so popular."

"What does she want?" Rebecca asked.

"Wonít say. Just says her name is Sandy and youíd know --"

"Patch her through," Rebecca instructed.

"Frye?" a faint voice questioned.

"Yeah, itís me, Sandy. What is it?"

"Anne Marie is missing. She was supposed to meet Claire and Rosie at the diner at one and she never showed."

Rebecca didnít bother with the routine questions; she knew Sandy would never have called if there hadnít been real cause for alarm. "When and where did someone last see her?"

"She was working the corner at Thirteenth and Comac, about eleven-thirty."

"Iíll be there in twenty minutes. In the mean time, try to find anyone who saw her with a john tonight. Iíll find you. And Sandy-- get the girls off the streets." As Rebecca rose from the bed, Catherine sat up, pulling the sheet up around her bare breasts.

"What is it?" Catherine asked.

Rebecca pulled her shoulder rig over a black turtleneck sweater and reached for her jacket.

"Probably nothing."

For some reason, Rebecca couldnít tell her of the dread that descended when she heard Sandyís voice. She had a bad feeling, and over the years she had come to trust these premonitions. She wanted to tell Catherine; she knew Catherine was waiting for her to speak, but she had hidden these feelings from everyone for so long that she couldnít put words to them now.

"Iíll have someone stay with you until I get back. Please stay here, all right?"

Catherine nodded. She knew Rebecca was struggling to bridge the distance between them, and she knew it would not be an easy victory. Knowing, however, did not make it easier. Catherine hoped she would have the strength and patience to wait for Rebecca to trust her.

"Please be careful. Iíll be here when you get back," was all Catherine said.

Rebecca turned to look back from the bedroom door and found Catherineís calm gaze upon her. It was a look of tenderness and caring that she would carry with her into the night.

"Thank you."

**********

Rebecca found Watts on the landing outside a numberless door in a nondescript hotel in the tenderloin. Their routine checks of all the establishments which provided rooms for prostitutes to frequent had paid off. The night manager of this one thought the last girl to use the room on the second floor hadnít come down. However, he was much too involved with a bottle of thunderbird to remember who she went upstairs with or when the john might have left. When Watts checked the room, he knew he had found Rebeccaís missing girl.

"Looks like itís our boy again," he said as Rebecca approached. His characteristic nonchalance was absent, and if Rebecca didnít consider it impossible, she would have thought he was upset.

"Dead?"

"Yeah."

Rebecca steeled herself against the anger -- at the senseless waste, at her own inability to put an end to it. Silently, she pushed the door open.

A glance confirmed Wattsís impression that they were dealing with the same perpetrator. The victim, young and slender, was lying face down on the thin mattress, a pair of blue nylon shorts pulled down around her ankles. It looked like she had died from a blow to the head. Her street clothes were neatly folded on the cane chair that stood forlornly against a bare, water-stained wall.

"Be sure to check if all her clothes are here after the crime scene team finishes," she said. Watts grunted and made a note in his ever present tattered notebook. "Did you get anything at all from the guy downstairs?"

"No, and I donít think we will. He remembers handing her the key. He didnít see the john go in or out. Didnít hear anything either."

"Weíll have to round up all the prostitutes for questioning. Chances are this guy has been around for a while and maybe started getting rougher as heís come unglued. And weíll need to find out who she was with tonight. Someone may have seen her with him."

"Iíll get some uniforms on it," Watts responded.

The homicide team and the lab van were arriving as Rebecca and Watts left the building. Rebecca turned at the sound of her name and saw Sandy approaching. She steeled herself for what she had to do.

"I want you to come upstairs with me and see if you recognize this girl," Rebecca said before Sandy could say anything. Sandyís eyes widened, but she didnít protest. Rebecca took her through the crowd of police who were pushing in and out of the room and led her to the bed.

Sandy stared motionlessly at the figure for a long moment, then turned away.

"Thatís Anne Marie," she said, no hint of emotion in her voice.

Rebecca nodded and took her by the arm. "Come on, letís get out of here." She felt Sandy begin to tremble as they descended the stairs, the delayed reaction that Rebecca had expected was setting in. By the time they stepped outside, Sandy was sobbing. Rebecca gently put her arms around the shaking girl and held her close. Watts watched expressionlessly.

"Iím sorry, Sandy," Rebecca whispered, rocking her gently as she cried. "Iím sorry."

"Never thought Iíd be getting this close to a cop," Sandy said, wiping her eyes and straightening her shoulders. "Especially a lady cop." She looked into Rebeccaís eyes, read the undisguised pain in them, and said softly, "Thanks."

Sandy promised to talk to all of Anne Marieís friends for any clue as to who she might have picked up earlier that night. She would call Rebecca at the station with any news.

Rebecca and Watts headed in to begin the long process of writing up the report and reviewing the entire case, looking for some small item they might have overlooked. Rebecca drove silently, struggling to suppress the depression that threatened to immobilize her. She didnít think she could stand to see one more woman brutalized by this shadow of a man who continued to elude them. Watts was uncharacteristically silent as well.

They had barely begun their paperwork when the Captain strode through the squad room and gestured for them to follow him to his office. Rebecca glanced at the plain clock on the wall. It must be something big to get the Captain in here at five am.

"We need a break on this case," he said without preamble. He waved them to chairs and loosened the collar of his immaculate white shirt. The snowy collar contrasted dramatically with his deep mahogany skin tones. Regardless of the time, or the level of tension in his office, Captain John Henry was always the picture of composure. "When the media makes the connection between these dead prostitutes and the River Drive rapes, theyíre going to have a field day with us. We have one -- and only one -- thing going for us at this point, and thatís the psychiatrist heís contacted. Weíve got to use her, and soon."

Rebeccaís throat constricted and her head pounded. This was the last thing she expected, although if she had been thinking clearly she would have anticipated it. Where Catherine was concerned, she seemed to be incapable of thinking like a cop.

"No, sir -- you canít," she began, only to be interrupted by Watts.

"Uh, what she means, Captain, is that the shrinkís probably a long shot. You know, a red herring kind of thing. Heís not going to be stupid enough to come after someone we know about."

Henry looked at Rebecca strangely, but directed his reply to Watts. "Thatís not what our experts tell me. They say that heís delusional, feels all-powerful. Heís arrogant enough to believe that he can snatch someone right out from under us and get away with it."

"Well, itís not going to be her," Rebecca said, finally finding her voice. "Iím sorry, sir, but I just canít allow it."

Watts gave a small sigh and gazed out the window, waiting for the axe to fall. All he heard was the Captainís voice, oddly soft.

"Detective, youíve had more to deal with lately than any one person should, and youíve done a fine job. Now let me do mine."

"Not with Catherine, Captain. Please." Iíll beg if I have to.

The big man regarded her with compassionate eyes, sensing her fear and believing he understood why. He wasnít sure what he would do in her position, but he knew what he had to do in his.

"Itís not up to you any longer, Frye. Letís let the doctor decide."

Rebecca began to protest again when she saw his gaze diverted to the squad room behind her. With a sense of dread she turned to see Catherine entering in the company of one of the night patrolman. She looked fresh in a cream colored silk suit, her face, as always, composed and elegant. Rebecca rose, more vehement words on her tongue, when Watts quickly stepped between her and her superior, whispering urgently, "Not now, Frye. Itís not going to help you any. And youíre no use to the lady if the Cap pulls you off the case."

Rebecca slowly settled back into the chair, waiting in stunned silence while Catherine was brought in and introduced to Captain Henry.

Catherine looked at Rebecca as she took the only other chair in the room. This was going to be harder than she expected. Rebecca looked shell-shocked. Catherine knew that physically Rebecca was nearing the end of her reserves. Adding this kind of emotional strain might be more than even Rebecca could handle. Still, she didnít feel she had any choice. She would have to hope that she could convince Rebecca that she would be fine, a fact she herself was not entirely sure of.

"Weíre hoping that this killer will contact you again soon, Doctor," Henry began.

"He already has. He called at three am"

"Bastard," Rebecca swore.

"He told me he had murdered a girl tonight, a prostitute. Is that true?"

The Captain looked at Rebecca for confirmation.

"Weíre not sure yet," Rebecca responded, her face a mask.

Catherine contemplated Rebeccaís impassive features, then said softly, "The truth, please, Rebecca."

"Yes," Rebecca replied, her ice-blue eyes meeting Catherineís deep emerald ones. She saw the flash of pain, quickly hidden.

"He said I killed her -- because I wouldnít meet with him as he had asked."

"Thatís bullshit, pardon me, maíam," Watts interjected. "Nobody killed that girl except the person who crushed her skull, and it sure wasnít you."

"He said that he would kill one woman for every day I delayed."

"Catherine, you canít let him make you feel responsible," Rebecca said, her voice harsh with feeling. "Itís just a trick to trap you into seeing him. Heís deadly for godís sake! I wonít let you do it!"

Catherine saw Watts grimace and realized that Rebecca could be jeopardizing her entire career out of fear for her. She understood it. Sheíd do anything to keep Rebecca from harm; but she couldnít let Rebecca risk everything she had sacrificed so much for.

"Iím afraid you have nothing to say about it, Detective. What I choose to do about this situation is none of your concern." She turned her back on Rebeccaís stunned face and said to Henry, "What is it you have in mind, Captain?"

"When he calls again, I want you to agree to meet him. Weíll attach a recording device to you, and weíll know where you are every second. Youíll be quite safe."

"Heís lying, Catherine. A million things can go wrong when youíre wearing a wire, and we wonít be able to put a tail on you because it might scare him off. Youíll be alone with him, with plenty of time for him to kill you before we could reach you," Rebecca said flatly. She met the astonished eyes of her superior officer without flinching. "Tell her, Captain, that youíre asking her to risk her life."

Catherine reached a slim-fingered hand out and rested it protectively on Rebeccaís clenched fist. "Itís all right," she said in a soft, soothing voice. "I know. But this is something I must do. Please, Rebecca, I need you now. Please trust me."

Rebeccaís fist slowly relaxed and her fingers entwined with Catherineís. Her voice was steady when she stated, "If sheís going to do this, it will be my show. Iíll call the shots all the way."

Captain Henry regarded the two women before him -- one a stranger he felt he knew, one a cop he was just beginning to understand.

He took a deep breath and nodded. "Youíve got it, Frye."
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖSeven

They waited in tense silence. Catherineís phone had been patched in to a line at the station, and she, Rebecca, Watts and several other detectives were crowded into a small room filled with stale smoke and littered with half-filled paper cups, soda cans and fast food wrappers. Catherine had no chance to speak with Rebecca privately. Rebecca had been on the phone for much of the first hour, demanding surveillance equipment, requesting particular officers for special assignment, setting the wheels in motion to create an enormous web designed to trap her prey. To the other cops in the room she appeared focused and self-contained. They were used to her calm under pressure and took no notice of the tension betrayed in the brusque tenor of her voice and clenched muscles of her jaw.

Catherine, however, was watching her carefully. Rebecca had shed her jacket and leaned against the desk, one slender hip up on the edge, her sleeves rolled up to reveal tanned, well-muscled forearms. Her height and leanness were accentuated by the fine tailoring of her shirt and gabardine trousers. The only interruption in the elegant line of her form was the slash of leather across her back which secured her weapon to her side. Catherine had never felt so far from her, nor more captivated by her. Here was the strength that defined Rebeccaís essence -- her dedication, determination, and ability fused to produce the exceptional professional she was.

Catherine was too sensitive to the nuances of behavior to miss the signs of agitation and stress that Rebecca thought she was hiding. Catherine wanted desperately to touch her, talk to her, make some connection with her-- anything to let her know how much she cared, and how much Rebecca meant to her. She was continually frustrated in her attempts to draw Rebecca aside by the arrival of yet another person who had to see Rebecca or by the constant ringing of the phones. When Rebecca glanced her way there was the barest flicker of warmth before her eyes became impenetrable again. Whatever she was feeling toward Catherine, she hid well.

The low level of conversation in the room halted abruptly when the "red" phone rang. That was the phone which was receiving calls forwarded from Catherineís home. Twice before it had rung; both were clients. This time even the ring seemed different. Catherine waited for Rebeccaís signal, then they both picked up at once.

"Hello?" Catherine said.

Rebecca could detect no nervousness in her voice. Even though she expected it, she still flinched at the next words.

"Hello, Doctor," the smooth, well-modulated voice said. "Did they find the girl yet?"

"What girl?"

"The one I left them. The one I killed for you."

"Yes," Catherine replied at a nod from Rebecca.

"Are you ready to meet me now, or will I have to kill another one tonight?"

"Where?" Catherine answered quickly, no longer looking at Rebecca. She would have to let her instincts guide her now. It was she, after all, he had chosen to contact, and she had the expertise to deal with him. She hoped.

"I canít tell you now, can I? We must keep it a secret a little longer. Drive to the statue of St. Joan in the park. Youíll find an envelope under three bricks on the left side. Read the instructions and do as it says. And remember, Doctor, Iíll be watching you the entire time, just as I watched the others."

"When?"

"Seven oíclock tonight."

The line went dead. Catherine looked to Rebecca, the receiver still gripped in her hand. Rebecca went to the attached tape recorder, pushed rewind, and played the tape for the others in the room. For some it was their first exposure to the sound of his voice.

Watts finally spoke, breaking the tense silence. "It wonít play. Thereís no way we can stake out the meeting place, because we wonít have advance notice of where it is. A wire wonít help much if weíre too far away to get to her in a hurry. Heís got the upper hand, which means that we might lose. Itís no good, Frye."

Rebecca studied the disheveled man whose very presence she had resented up until now, and she couldnít help wondering if he had spoken first so that she wouldnít have to. For he was right. And if she had said the same thing, there always would have been some suspicion that she had not acted impartially -- that her judgment had been clouded by her personal involvement in the case. Those who knew her well would never believe it, but, still, her reputation would be tainted. She owed him, and she wasnít sure she liked it.

"Youíre right, Watts. Letís send someone out to pick up the note. Maybe thereís something in it that will give us a handle on him."

"Wait!" Catherine cried. "You canít do that! If I donít go, heís going to kill again. Believe me, heís serious. Thereís every possibility that he wonít harm me. Iím special to him -- he needs me to share his victories with. Iím his audience. And thereís a chance I might be able to convince him to surrender himself to me!"

"Can you guarantee that he wonít harm you, Dr. Rawlings?" Rebecca asked pointedly.

"No, I canít. But I can guarantee heíll harm someone else if Iím not there to pick up his note at seven oíclock. There must be a way!"

"There is," Captain Henry said from the doorway, where he had been standing quietly. "Itís almost three now. We have time to fill the park with undercover people between now and seven. Weíll put a wire on you and a tracer on your car so we know where youíre going at all times. And weíll put one detail behind you so someone can follow on foot when you get out of your car."

"Itís loose, Captain," Rebecca interjected, her voice steady. "She might go where we donít have any people, or the tail might lose her. Itís too risky."

"I want to do it," Catherine said, pleading with her eyes for Rebeccaís support. Rebecca kept her gaze locked on Henry.

"We go," he said. "I want everyone in the command room in ten minutes for a briefing."

He left behind a room of stunned faces. Every person there knew Rebecca Frye had put her career on the line by openly defying her superior officer, who had ,in turn, put his career on the line by okaying an operation which was more than a little risky. Once again, Watts recovered first.

"Letís clear out. We got ten minutes to piss before things really heat up."

He succeeded in emptying the room. Catherine found herself alone with Rebecca for the first time in eighteen hours.
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖEight

"Is there any way to make you see reason?" Rebecca asked, her voice heavy with defeat.

"No."

"For godís sake, Catherine, why?"

"Because heís got to be stopped, Rebecca. And this may be the only chance!" Catherineís heart ached at the desolation in Rebeccaís eyes. She did not want to be the cause of the anguish which was so clear to her. "Iím not a fool, darling, and believe me, I have no desire to be a hero. But, surely you must see that I am the only one who can draw him out."

"What I see," Rebecca replied angrily, "is you as his next victim!" Even as she spoke the words, Rebeccaís mind rebelled at the thought. How could she survive if Catherine were lost to her now? What reason could she find to go on, living day to day with such emptiness in her heart?

"I couldnít bear it," Rebecca said, her voice breaking.

Catherine went to her, her arms closing around the slender form she was learning to cherish. She pressed her face to Rebeccaís chest and said in a muffled voice, "I love you, Rebecca Frye. And I have absolutely no intention of leaving you."

Rebecca closed her eyes, shutting out everything except the nearness of Catherine. Her lips brushed the soft skin of her cheek as her hands gently caressed her. For a moment, all she knew was the rightness of holding Catherine.

Their brief interlude was broken by a sharp knock on the door.

"Captain wants us, Frye," Watts announced, entering after a moment. "He wants to review the operation, get the Doc wired, and start moving people into position."

Rebecca fixed anxious eyes on Catherineís calm ones.

"Are you absolutely sure?"

"Yes."

**********

The hours passed all too quickly. Suddenly it was time for Catherine to drive to the rendezvous site in the heart of the park lands surrounding the river that bisected their city. Rebecca and Watts would follow her. It was Rebeccaís intention to follow Catherine on foot and to intercept their quarry as he made contact with Catherine. She reasoned that there were only so many routes he could take into or out of the park, and that he couldnít possibly hope to leave undetected with Catherine in tow. There were officers posted at all the parking areas and at the crossroads which intersected with the Drive. The only time Catherine would be unprotected would be between the time he made contact with her and the time it took for Rebecca to reach her. They estimated that interval to be thirty to sixty seconds, and if it wasnít his intention to kill Catherine immediately, Rebecca would have enough time to close the gap. Rebecca knew full well how slim the margin of safety was; she fervently hoped Catherine did not.

If she was worried, Catherine Rawlings did not appear so to the room full of police officers. She paid little attention to the logistics and strategies they were planning. Her mind was already fashioning her own plan of action. She wanted to be emotionally prepared to meet the man who most people would consider hopelessly insane. Her training had taught her to reserve such judgment until she had first-hand experience. In this case, she had no idea what form that experience might take, and she knew that being caught off guard could mean her life. Nevertheless, there was a part of her that looked forward to the opportunity that few professionals in her position would ever have. She was actually startled when Rebecca came to her and told her it was time to leave.

"Is the wire comfortable," Rebecca asked as they headed down the corridor to the rear exit.

Catherine smiled. "I wonít be sorry to take it off."

"You know Iíll be right behind you all the time. If you sense anything at all -- a stranger approaching who looks odd, a noise that seems out of place, just whisper. Iíll have a receiver. Iíll hear you."

When they reached the car, Catherine turned to Rebecca. "I know youíll be there. Thatís what makes me feel safe. Donít take any chances. I donít think heíll hurt me, at least not right away. He wants to talk to me, to boast of his actions. He doesnít want to kill me. And I donít want you to get hurt."

"I hope youíre right," Rebecca said grimly. But Iím not giving him the chance to change his mind. As soon as he shows, itís over.

Watts was already sitting in the car that would follow Catherine. Rebecca motioned that she would be right there. Now that she was faced with actually letting Catherine go, she wasnít sure she could do it. Every image she had suppressed of his victims flooded her consciousness, and every one had Catherineís face. Her arm encircled Catherineís waist, as if she could shield her from the unknown with the force of her presence.

"Catherine, Ió" She wanted to say I love you, but the words were blocked by the terror of losing her.

Catherine read the mute agony in her loverís face, and softly disengaged herself from Rebeccaís embrace. "You can tell me later, darling. Be safe." Quickly she slid into the car and started the engine. She was afraid that if she looked at Rebecca again, her own resolve would weaken. She needed all her strength to do what she felt must be done.

Watts pulled the unmarked police car up beside Rebecca and pushed the passenger door open. "Get in, Frye. Itís time to earn our pay. And to nail this prick."

Rebeccaís mind held Catherineís image with the clarity of a photograph. She felt her fear turn to anger, and her anger focus into a raging fire in the depths of her soul. This was one woman he would not touch. His reign of terror over the women of this city was over. Rebecca took a deep breath, locked her eyes on Catherineís car ahead of them, and nodded.

"Right. Letís do it."
 
 

Chapter TwentyĖNine

Catherine made steady progress across town in the late rush hour traffic. She searched several times for signs of Rebecca and Watts behind her, but she could see no trace of them. She put it from her mind, reassuring herself with the knowledge that they were there somewhere. She was surprised to find her hands were shaking as she lifted the damp envelope from its hiding place. She brought it to the car, as she had been directed, before opening it.

"Walk north on the bike path along the water," she read out loud, wondering if the police could really hear her. She reread the single sentence several times, thinking it was odd that he had chosen that path. The hard-packed dirt path had been nearly abandoned after a wider, paved path had been built nearer to the highway. Of course, she thought, smiling at her own naïveté, this route is perfect for someone who doesnít want to be noticed.

Rebecca, however, didnít miss the significance for a second. "Hell," she groaned. "That trail is four miles long and a lot of it is overgrown with brush. He could be anywhere!"

"Well, at least youíll have good cover," Watts replied with uncharacteristic optimism.

"There she goes," Rebecca said, reaching for the door handle. She was surprised by Wattsís restraining grip on her arm.

"Give her a few minutes, Frye. You know where sheís headed. If heís watching and sees you now, the dealís off. And I say the lady is safer now than she would be if we didnít know when he was coming."

Rebecca forced herself to watch Catherineís figure blur into the trees at the waterís edge before she left the car. Watts would drive slowly along the road that meandered through the park, trying to stay in the same vicinity by the bearings Rebecca transmitted to him by radio. It left Catherine and Rebecca fairly isolated, but it was the best they could do.

"Thereís a runner coming this way," Catherineís voice announced in her ear, startling Rebecca with its clarity. She couldnít see Catherine, who was several hundred yards ahead of her. The dense foliage near the water made for poor visibility, especially in the rapidly deepening darkness.

"I have contact with her, Watts," Rebecca relayed into her own tiny microphone. "Weíre about a half mile in along the trail. Nothing yet."

"Heís passing," Catherine continued, a touch of relief in her voice.

Two women runners passed Rebecca from behind. A male cycler followed close thereafter. Rebecca noted his general description, but she didnít see anything suspicious about him. She relayed their general location to Watts again, knowing that he would direct the other officers staked out in the park in tandem with them as much as possible.

"A woman with a dog approaching. Cute dog," Catherine noted.

That, Rebecca knew, would be Diane Thompson and Cleo. Cleo was a narc dog. They had decided to risk putting one officer on Catherineís direct route if they could, and the tiny Yorkshire terrier seemed like the perfect cover.

Diane shook her head almost imperceptibly as she passed Rebecca a minute later. "Nothing," she whispered with disappointment.

Rebecca hadnít expected much. Obviously he wasnít going to reveal himself. What she couldnít figure was how he intended to get away, especially with Catherine. Could he be so psychotic he didnít believe they would be following him? He had set this up so well, and this glaring flaw perplexed her.

"There are some fallen trees up ahead," Catherine reported. "Iím going to have to go around them."

"No!" Rebecca cried silently, breaking into a run. If Catherine were off the trail, not only was she more vulnerable, she was easier to lose. Seconds later Rebecca heard Catherine gasp and then recognized the harsh voice in her ear that froze her heart.

"Where is the wire? Tell me!"

Rebecca heard the rending of cloth before total silence as Catherineís transmitter went dead.

"Jesus, Watts! Heís got her! Move, move!" Rebecca screamed into her mike as she tore up the trail. She saw the downed trees ahead, and slowed as she approached, her gun in hand. Carefully, she stepped off the path toward the water, searching for some sign. They couldnít be far ahead! It was evident from some trampled bushes that he had waited here for her. Rebeccaís eye caught a faint flash of color in the grass. She stifled a moan as her fingers closed over one of the cream-colored buttons from Catherineís blouse. Moving automatically, the tiny connection to Catherine clenched in her hand, she searched for a trail. Through the trees she could see the ever present scullers on the river. Life went on normally around her, while her own life condensed into the sensation of a tiny button pressed into her palm.

She heard footsteps behind her, and turned, her gun poised. It was Watts.

"What happened?" he said breathlessly.

"He was waiting here, just like we knew he would be. I was only a minute behind, but they seemed to have vanished," Rebecca recounted in a flat, empty voice.

Watts would almost rather she panicked. Right now she looked like a loose grenade with the pin pulled, ready to go off at any second.

"They canít get out of the park, Frye. Thatís one thing we did right."

"What if he doesnít take her out of the park? What if he just rapes and murders her, fifty yards from us, just like the others?"

"Too dangerous. Weíve got people all over here now. And besides, this guy is not stupid. He got her here for a reason, and it wasnít just to hump her."

Rebecca lunged at him. "Shut your fucking mouth, Watts!" She had her hands on his throat before she realized what she was doing. Just as quickly, she dropped her hands and shook her head to clear it.

"God, I lost it," she said, stepping back. "Iím sorry."

Watts regarded her impassively, waving away her apology. Color returned to her face and her eyes grew sharp and intent.

"Theyíre not here, Watts. Which means they went somewhere, right?"

Watts nodded in puzzled agreement.

"So where the hell did they go? For that matter, how does he always disappear so easily? They didnít go up that path, Watts, because two of them would have left quite a trail. And they didnít go back past me. So where did they go?"

They both turned at the same time. Towards the water.

"Son of a bitch," Watts said, hurrying after Rebecca. "Are we dumb fucks or what? Itís been right in front of our noses the whole time. The goddamned water!"

Their eyes scanned the crew teams and solitary rowers on the river, a sight so familiar it had failed to register in anyoneís mind.

"Janet Ryan stopped to watch the regatta," Rebecca mused out loud, "and I bet if we checked the dates of the other rapes weíd find there was a regatta each time. Perfect cover." She rounded on Watts, her voice sharp with purpose.

"Heís got to be headed for the boathouses! Get the car and follow me. And for Godís sake, keep this quiet. I donít want Catherine to end up in a hostage situation. Let me go ahead on foot. He wonít be expecting it. He thinks heís outsmarted us."

"Iíll keep a lid on it for as long as I can, Frye. That means Iím your only backup."

She met his eyes for a moment and was reassured by their unwavering solidity.

"Thatís enough."
 
 

Chapter Thirty

The first thing she noticed was the pounding pain in her jaw. The second was the rhythmic sounds of water rushing past. She tried to turn and found herself wedged uncomfortably into a narrow space at the front of some kind of boat.

"Weíre almost there, Catherine," he said. "May I call you `Catherineí?"

She tried to focus on his face in the near darkness. She wanted to put a face to the voice; she needed that to quiet the rising panic that threatened to immobilize her.

"What may I call you?" she asked, her voice sounding odd to her own ears. She ran her tongue experimentally over the inside of her mouth. Swollen, but nothing broken.

"Raymond."

Her heart raced at this small triumph.

"Where are we going, Raymond?"

"To a private place, where no one will disturb us."

"All right."

Catherine made no attempt to sit up. She couldnít go anywhere, and it was pointless to antagonize him. She became acutely aware of the cold wind on her chest and realized her blouse was open. She remembered him tearing it to pull off the tiny microphone wires that had been taped there. He had not touched her breasts. She tentatively reached up to pull the damaged material closed.

"Whatís the matter, does your jaw hurt? I didnít want to hit you, but I couldnít let you make any noise."

"My jaw does hurt, and Iím cold."

"Youíll be warm soon."

She couldnít judge how long she had been in the boat, which she now recognized as a scull. She knew they were moving quickly, and she wondered if Rebecca would find her.

**********

There were fifteen boathouses on the river, some owned by private universities, some city property, and some no longer in use. Rebecca was betting that he would be using one of the half dozen unoccupied structures. If she bet wrong, it could mean Catherineís life. It seemed to take forever for her and Watts to get there. Rebecca would have to check the entire perimeter of each house, and possibly the interiors, in the hope of finding Catherine, and she was racing against the clock.

"Take the street side, Watts. Iíll take the water side. When I move to the next house, Iíll signal you."

"Right."

She melted quickly into the darkness near the water, praying that she would be in time.

**********

"I canít turn the lights on, Catherine, but we have candles. Candles will be nicer, donít you think?"

He was an average looking man, sandy hair, medium height, and a slender build. It was the voice that captured Catherineís attention. It had a dreamy quality, almost as if he were reciting well-practiced words. She had heard it before, and it worried her. She had a feeling he was listening to other voices in his head.

"I have to tie your hands, Catherine. You canít be trusted, and I donít want you to spoil anything."

"What might I spoil?"

"I donít want you to move while Iím fucking you. You have to pay attention to what Iím doing." As he spoke he wrapped her wrists behind her back with nylon cord. She was aware that her breasts were exposed, but he didnít seem to notice. He stepped behind her to pull a tarp over the bench that ran the length of the wall.

"What do you want to show me?" Catherine was desperately casting about for some way to interrupt his thinking. He was obviously playing out a script already written in his mind, and if she couldnít distract him, she had no hope.

"I want to show you how well I can fuck, and how special it is with me. More than with any of the others." He was kneeling beside her now, emptying the contents of a sports bag on the floor. There were several pairs of shorts, more rope, and a .38 caliber revolver.

"Tell me what it will be like."

He stood up abruptly, and pulled her head back roughly by the hair. His face, previously unnaturally calm, was suddenly contorted with rage.

"Iíll do much better than tell you, Doctor. Iíll show you. And when Iím done youíll know just how special I am."

**********

Rebecca had about given up hope when she spied the dim flicker of light through the shutters of the last boathouse in the row. She carefully pried one piece of wood off the boarded up window and peered inside. Moving slowly, she raised the radio to her lips.

"Iíve got them, Watts. Rear of the last house, first floor. Iím going in. I need you now, Watts."

Her voice sounded strangely hollow in his ear. It spooked him.

"Wait for me, Frye! Youíll get yourself killed!"

Rebecca didnít hear his message. It wouldnít have changed her mind.
 
 

Chapter ThirtyĖOne

"Hello, Catherine," Rebecca said as she stepped into the room. She could barely make out the shapes of objects at the far end of the room, but she could see Catherine and the man who stood beside her quite clearly in the glow of the candles he had placed in a circle around them. He was staring at her, a look of confusion on his face.

"Who is your friend?" Rebecca asked, stepping forward slowly, her jacket unbuttoned, the safety off on her automatic.

"This is Raymond," Catherine answered in a steady voice. She looks so calm!

He moved quickly, stepping behind Catherine and pressing the revolver to her temple.

"You shouldnít have come here," he said. "Now I have to kill her."

"I donít think so," Rebecca said evenly, her eyes on his face. "I wonít let you."

"You have no idea who I am. You donít know my power. You canít stop me." He laughed, enjoying himself.

"You donít know how powerful I am!" she responded. "This woman is mine. Iíve come for her."

"Youíre a fool. Iíll kill you both."

"You canít kill me," Rebecca said arrogantly, fervently hoping that Watts was in position, and that he could still shoot. She was counting on him to save Catherineís life. "Go ahead. Try to shoot me. You wonít be able to, you puny pathetic excuse for a man. If you were a man, you wouldnít have to pull women into the bushes and rape them." Her eyes never left his. "I bet you canít even get it up if theyíre looking you in the face. I bet youíre afraid to let them see just how weak you really are. You donít have the balls to shoot --"

She rolled left the instant his gun moved from Catherineís temple, drawing her own simultaneously. She thought she fired, but the impact of the bullet that tore through her chest pitched her backwards. She never knew if Catherine was safe.

**********

It was unclear whose bullet hit him first, Rebeccaís or Wattsí. Raymond Blake had died instantly, leaving Catherine Rawlings unharmed. Catherine took a leave of absence, stating health reasons. To the casual observer, she would have appeared perfectly healthy as she juggled two shopping bags of groceries and her keys to the door of her brownstone.

She frowned, key in hand, as the door opened.

"Youíre not supposed to be up."

"Let me do something," her reluctant patient complained. "Youíve been taking care of me for weeks."

"I've been taking care of you because I love you, Rebecca, and I owe you my life."

Rebecca looked uncomfortable, as she always did when Catherine brought up the night in the boathouse.

"No you donít. I was just doing my job."

"It was more than that. We both know it!" Catherine cried in an unusual fit of temper. "You knew you could die protecting me. Did you actually believe I could survive it if you traded your life for mine?"

Rebecca looked away. "I donít know. I only knew I couldnít survive without you."

Catherineís anger dissipated as quickly as it had come, the product of her fear. She slipped her arms around Rebeccaís waist, careful not to disrupt the bandages covering the healing wound on her chest.

"Rebecca," she said softly, welcoming the desire Rebeccaís nearness kindled in her. "I love you. I want the chance to love you for a long time. I want you to promise me that Iíll have that chance. If you canít do that for me, I wonít be able to bear watching you walk out my door. Iíll die inside each time you leave me."

Rebeccaís arms tightened around her, so many words she wanted to say choking her. "I promise."

Catherine clung to the words, knowing it was the most important promise Rebecca would ever make.
 
 

Chapter ThirtyĖTwo

Catherine glanced at the clock as Hazel Holcomb came through the cafeteria line. It was exactly seven-fifteen am. Hazel joined her, carefully arranging her juice and danish on the table before she began to speak.

"Are you ready to come back?" Hazel asked without preamble. It was Catherineís first full day at the medical center in three months.

"I think so. Iíve missed it."

Hazel studied Catherine silently. She knew very well that Catherine had something on her mind. Whether Catherine knew that was another story. Hazel sipped her coffee and waited.

"Rebecca goes back to work today, too," Catherine added casually.

"Is she anxious to return?"

Catherineís face lit up with a fond smile. "Canít wait."

"Are you ready for her to go back to work?"

"Terrified."

"Well," Hazel said in a satisfied voice, "now weíre getting somewhere."

She watched the play of emotions across Catherineís face. Some kind of internal struggle was clearly raging. Knowing how long Catherine had waited to allow anyone into her heart, Hazel could only imagine what the loss of that love could cost. "You could have chosen someone in a slightly less dangerous line of work, you know. Goodness knows, there are plenty of women around here who have been interested."

"I didnít fall in love with Rebecca because sheís a cop," Catherine answered defensively.

"Didnít you?" Hazel probed.

"No! I fell in love with her because of who she is, not what she is!"

"Is there a difference?"

Catherine stared at her friend and mentor. Images of Rebecca passed through her mind. Rebecca leaning against a desk, cool and controlled, an intensity about her that aroused Catherine; Rebecca collapsing against her after orgasm, shedding tears for all the pain she couldnít allow herself to feel at other times; Rebecca calmly staring into the eyes of Raymond Blake, knowing she would kill him.

"Iíve never wanted to admit that," she replied, a little embarrassed.

Hazel looked surprised. "Why, for heavenís sake?"

"Because it means sheís never going to stop being a cop," Catherine said quietly. Her eyes, filled with sudden pain, met Hazelís. "And Iím not sure I can live with it." She didnít want to go on, afraid of where her words might lead.

"Talk to me about this," Hazel said gently. She sensed Catherineís fear, but she trusted her strength as well. Catherineís need to express these fears was the real reason she was here.

"That night in the boathouse Rebecca knew she might die, and she deliberately provoked him," Catherine began, her voice low and tormented. "She looked right into his face and she never wavered. I saw him shoot her, Hazel. I saw her body blown into the air; I saw her blood splash against the wall. She was lying in a pool of blood, completely still, and I thought she was dead. And do you know how I felt? Empty. My mind felt empty; my soul felt empty. If she dies, Hazel, Iím afraid Iíll feel like that for the rest of my life!"

"Does she know how you feel?"

Catherine shook her head. "No. And I donít want her to. Being a cop is too much a part of her. Sheíd die if she didnít do this."

Hazel nodded, always having known that Catherine would love without reservation when she finally allowed herself to love at all.

"Then youíre going to have to love her enough to let her go each and every day," Hazel said.

Catherine stared for a long time at the cup clenched in her hands, feeling the sadness of acceptance. When she raised her eyes to Hazelís, they were calm.

"I donít have any choice. I wonít give her up."

**********

Rebecca settled into the seat next to Watts, content to let him drive, happy to be back in a world she knew. Watts hadnít said much since the Captain announced that he had assigned them as permanent partners. Neither of them had protested. There was something Rebecca wanted to say, but, as usual, she was having trouble finding the words. Watts was strangely quiet as well.

"I got a kid, you know," he finally said, staring straight ahead.

"Oh yeah?" Rebecca responded noncommittally.

"A son. Heís a lawyer. He lives with another guy. Theyíve been together ten years."

Rebecca too stared straight out through the windshield. "I never thanked you for that night we nailed Blake. I counted on you to save Catherineís life. You came through for me."

He shrugged. "I couldnít let him waste the doc. Guess I got a soft spot for dames. But you know, Frye, you canít let yourself take Ďem too seriously. Youíre finished if you do."

Rebecca smiled to herself, deciding not to be offended.

"Sheís something special, Watts."

Watts shook his head in mock sadness. "Shit, Frye, youíre already a goner."

They laughed and drove off together, eager for whatever the streets might hold.
 

The End
 
 


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