Shield of Justice
Please see part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information..
Rebecca let herself into her apartment and tripped over a gym bag she had left lying on the floor several days earlier. The air had the musty, close smell of an unoccupied house. She pushed a window open and stood looking out. The night air held just the hint of a breeze, and she leaned against the window ledge, hoping to wash away the depression that had settled over her the moment she got home. The empty apartment was too clear a reminder of her own empty life, an aching emptiness she tried hard to ignore. Usually she was successful. The demands of her work left her little time for reflection, and when she did have a spare moment, she spent it at the gym, lifting weights until the fatigue in her body blocked out any other thought. The interlude with Catherine Rawlings had unsettled her. The quiet intimacy of the doctor’s apartment, the shared meal, the soft, but insistent strength she sensed in the woman, touched some chord in Rebecca. She didn’t want to think about it, but she couldn’t ignore the loneliness she had felt as Catherine’s door closed gently behind her.
She looked at her watch. Three A.M. She was tired, but too restless to sleep. It was one of those times she longed for a drink. Or, as had been the case, more than one. She fought the urge, as she usually did, by turning her mind to the River Drive case. There was something there, she knew, that she just couldn’t connect with. Something she had heard, or seen, that would give her a handle on him. Whatever it was, it eluded her now.
Unconsciously her thoughts returned to Catherine Rawlings. Her integrity and compassion were obvious when she spoke of her patients, and her desire to put an end to this mad man’s rampage was obvious, too. But it was more than just her intensity that drew Rebecca’s attention back to her. Catherine Rawlings had touched some chord in her, some long-buried yearning for the company and solace of a woman. Or had she merely imagined the warmth in the doctor’s green eyes when she looked at Rebecca, or the welcoming smile as she approached? It doesn’t matter, and it sure isn’t going to help me solve this case
Rebecca shook off her memories with an irritated shrug. She tossed her jacket on a chair and pulled off her shoulder holster before stretching out on the worn couch. She rarely slept in her bed--the empty space beside her only made sleep more elusive. What she couldn’t know as she finally closed her eyes was that across town Catherine Rawlings turned in her sleep and smiled at the image of a tall, blond woman with lonely eyes.
It was not yet seven when Rebecca pulled her red Corvette into the police lot beside the police cruisers and vans. She knew Jeff would be there before her, typing out their report of last night’s events. She smiled to herself at the thought of Jeff’s face as he labored over the typewriter.
She found him hunched over his rickety metal desk in the tiny vice squad room, slowly two-finger typing a report in triplicate.
"Hi, Reb," he said without glancing up. "Anything from the shrink?"
"About what you’d expect," Rebecca answered, shedding her jacket to the back of her chair. "Want some more coffee?"
"Yeah," he said, looking up with a lecherous grin. "Shelly was still awake when I got home last night."
"Nice to know someone’s making out," she grumbled good-naturedly as she headed for the table at the back of the room. She threaded her way between dilapidated chairs and dented desks haphazardly crowded together, and filled two Styrofoam cups to the brim with the evil looking black liquid that passed as coffee. She carried them at arm’s length back to the desk that faced Jeff’s and pushed a stack of files to one side with her elbow. She settled herself into her chair, steeling herself for the first taste of the bitter brew.
"Ah," she murmured after her first swallow, "nectar of the gods."
"You must still be asleep if you think that swill is good," Jeff said, reaching for his own cup.
She shrugged and reached for the first page of his report. As usual it was neat and complete.
"Nothing new, I take it," she said, skimming the brief review of the latest rape.
Jeff stretched out his legs and pushed his chair back from the cramped table. "I ran a background check on the shrink."
Rebecca looked up in surprise. "Why? She’s not a suspect."
"Yeah, I know--but she’s tied in with our only witness to date--and she may be the one to open that particular box for us. It never hurts to have a little leverage."
Rebecca had to agree. If they were going to get anything from Janet Ryan, she suspected they would need Catherine Rawlings’ help.
"So, what did you find?" she asked, careful not to reveal her interest. Jeff might be her closest friend, but even with him she rarely disclosed anything personal. She certainly wasn’t about to tell him of the disturbing effect Catherine Rawlings had had on her.
"Well, it seems the lady is quite a mystery. I talked with a couple of the docs I know, and they all say the same thing. Professionally above reproach—medical degree from University, residency at University Central. From there she accepted a teaching position at the medical school and is now a…" he paused to check his notes, "…clinical professor of psychiatry."
Rebecca listened intently. She wasn’t surprised. It fit with the impeccable professional image she had gotten of Catherine the night before.
"So--what’s the mystery?"
"No personal info available--lives alone, apparently always has. Everyone is happy to tell you about her professional accomplishments, but nobody will say squat about the rest of her life."
"Maybe there isn’t anything to say," Rebecca countered, just a hint of irritation in her voice. "Some women are pretty consumed by their work, you know."
Jeff looked at her thoughtfully, thinking if anyone should know about that, it was his solitary partner.
"Yeah--well, that may be. But I did dig up something interesting. Her private practice--she specializes in rape and incest cases. She’s even done some work with us on that kind of thing."
Rebecca whistled, thinking of Janet Ryan and her amnesia.
"And that’s not all," Jeff continued, "a lot of her private patients are dyk--uh, lesbians."
Rebecca slowly raised her eyes to his. He looked away.
"Might be useful information," she said nonchalantly. She felt anything but nonchalant, her mind racing with questions about Catherine Rawlings. She forced herself to consider the information Jeff had gathered.
"Maybe I should have another talk with Dr. Rawlings."
"Thought you might want to," Jeff replied dryly.
Catherine was nearly finished with morning rounds when her pager went off. She excused herself and left the group of residents and students discussing the latest drug therapy for depression. She picked up a wall phone and dialed the extension registered on her beeper.
"Dr. Rawlings," she said as the call was picked up.
"Rebecca Frye, Doctor. I wonder if we could talk?"
Catherine glanced at her watch. She had an outpatient clinic to supervise in an hour. "I’m in-between right now. How about joining me in the cafeteria?"
"It’s on the second floor."
"I’ll find it," Rebecca replied.
Catherine picked up a chef’s salad and seltzer and glanced around the cafeteria. She saw Rebecca at once, looking slightly out of place in her grey jacket and black trousers amidst a sea of white coats. She made her way across the room to join her at a small table near the windows.
Rebecca watched her approach, thinking she looked at home in her knee-length white lab coat. The coat did nothing to detract from her trim figure. Rebecca tried not to notice the shapely legs or the hint of full breasts under the pale green suit she wore. Rebecca waited until Catherine was seated before speaking.
"I have a few more questions, Doctor."
"I gathered that, Detective Frye," Catherine commented dryly, studying Rebecca’s face. She was glad to see that the circles under her clear blue eyes had diminished and some of the tension had left her face. She was also simply glad to see her.
"Is it true that you specialize in rape and incest cases?"
Catherine was a little taken aback--not with the directness of Rebecca’s approach, she expected that of the forthright detective, but with the rapidity with which she gathered information. She had known that this, among other things, might come up. She just hadn’t expected it so soon.
"Not exactly specialize--but it is a particular interest of mine."
"Don’t give me double talk, Doctor. I’m not the enemy," Rebecca said quietly.
Catherine sighed and pushed aside her unwanted salad. She met Rebecca’s penetrating gaze.
"Yes, it’s true that the majority of my practice involves sexual abuse survivors."
"Why didn’t you tell me this last night?"
Catherine looked genuinely surprised. "I didn’t think it was relevant."
"You didn’t think it was relevant?" Rebecca asked incredulously. "We finally have a witness, we hope, to a brutal rape—a series of rapes we can’t get a single lead on, and our only witness suddenly has amnesia. You happen to be an expert in such crimes, and you didn’t think it was relevant." Rebecca didn’t raise her voice, but her anger was evident. God, save me from dealing with civilians!
"Detective Frye, I am not an expert on the crimes. I am an expert, if you will, on the effects of the crimes. That’s a very big difference."
"And what about Janet Ryan--is she a victim of the crime?"
"Don’t ask me questions you know I can’t answer," Catherine said quietly, her eyes holding Rebecca’s.
Rebecca sighed slightly. "I have to try."
Catherine leaned forward, her face intent. "Rebecca, I will do anything I possibly can to assist in this case, but I cannot, and I will not, disclose client confidences. Please try to understand."
The use of her first name did not escape Rebecca. She tried to ignore the quickening of her heartbeat, reminding herself she was in the middle of a hospital cafeteria, and in the middle of an investigation.
"I do understand. I appreciate your desire to protect your patients, and I respect you for it. I’m just grasping at straws here. I can’t get a handle on this guy, and it’s driving me nuts!"
It was an uncharacteristic outburst for her. Catherine’s heart filled with compassion as she watched the torment play across Rebecca’s fine features. In that moment she felt every shred of Rebecca’s frustration and helplessness.
"I’m seeing Janet at three this afternoon. She requested that I take over from Ray Bauer. Perhaps she’ll remember more."
Catherine’s caring showed in her voice, and Rebecca met her gaze gratefully. For an instant the room retreated from view as she surrendered to the understanding and comfort in those green eyes. It felt like a caress. She flushed and looked away.
"I’d like a report either way."
Catherine accepted Rebecca’s withdrawal reluctantly, acutely aware of the fleeting connection and the equally sudden distance between them. She pushed her chair back, replying formally, "Of course. You can call me around six tonight. I should be done here by then."
"Fine," Rebecca replied. Impulsively she added, "Why don’t I pick you up--we can talk over dinner. And you won’t have to cook."
Catherine nodded with pleasure. She would like nothing better
than spending more time with this intriguing woman.
Rebecca pulled into the No Parking zone in front of University Central Hospital at five forty-five pm. She took out the notes she had made at the crime scene that afternoon. She and Cruz had decided to do another walk-through of the area, hoping to find something that might have been overlooked by the lab crew. The assault had occurred in a copse of trees bordering the water on River Drive. A narrow path separated the trees from the road fifty yards away. The ground between was a thicket of low shrubs and grass. Although the park was frequented day and night by bicyclists and runners, this section of the trail was unpaved and poorly maintained, which tended to discourage all but the most serious joggers. The isolated location was similar to that of the previous two rapes. The most recent victim had been found by a middle-aged man chasing his errant golden retriever. It was probably a coincidence that saved her life. Trampled shrubbery suggested she had struggled. That was the only difference from the first two incidents, in which there was little sign of resistance. Jeff theorized that their assailant knocked them unconscious before pulling them off the trail and assaulting them. The evidence supported that, but Rebecca found it hard to believe that the women hadn’t been warned of his approach. Even if he had been well-hidden, he would have had to reveal himself to get close enough to subdue them. No weapon had been found, and the injuries sustained by the victims only indicated that some kind of blunt object had been used. The details of the crime continued to elude them.
Rebecca had surveyed the scene, distancing herself from the mental images she constructed of the events. If she allowed herself to hear their cries, feel their fear, experience their helplessness, her own anger and revulsion would paralyze her--she would never be able to do her job. It was a lesson she had learned early in her career, and the emotional detachment came naturally to her now. The price she paid was the gradual, almost unnoticeable, inability to bridge that emotional chasm in the rest of her life. The very people she wanted to reach most found her cold and uncaring. Her frustration, and theirs, led finally to an isolation she almost welcomed. Her life was simpler even though her most human needs lay buried and ignored.
"Jeff," she mused, "how about this--our guy waits in the trees until a lone jogger comes along. He pulls her off the trail, knocks her out, then rapes her. He has to go from here up to his car, or maybe he has a bike?"
"Could be--we didn’t find a rock, or a club of any kind. He must take the weapon with him. I guess a guy with a baseball bat wouldn’t seem that unusual. Still though, you’d think someone would have seen something. It’s been in all the papers. No one has even come forward with a bad tip!"
Rebecca nodded. It was too hard to believe that no one had seen or heard anything--but then, perhaps someone finally had. Which brought them right back to Janet Ryan.
"Did you get a report yet on the tissue under Janet Ryan’s fingernails?" she asked.
"Due later today," Jeff replied, pushing aside the shrubs that edged up to the water. There was a narrow strip of sand along the river bank and then the bottom fell steeply away. He could make out the shapes of the boathouses a few hundred yards down the river. There was nothing unusual about the place.
Rebecca led the way back to the path. "I bet you find that the tissue type matches the semen analysis we have. Janet Ryan must have seen the rape in progress, or she heard something and went to investigate. My guess is that she tried to fight the guy off. She has scratches on her arms and legs as if she got tangled up in the brush. He probably leaves her for dead, or just panics and runs."
"Could have gone down like that," Jeff agreed. "That makes Ryan one gutsy lady, or a crazy one. Most people would have run for help, don’t you think?"
Rebecca shrugged. "Who knows--maybe she didn’t even think about it. She sees what’s happening and just reacts."
"Then we really need to know what Janet Ryan saw," Jeff said with finality.
When Catherine spied Rebecca waiting in the car across the street, frowning over her notes, she felt a welcoming surge of pleasure. The convertible top was down and Rebecca looked attractively windblown. She had shed her jacket in the car, and the thin leather strap that circled her shoulders, holding her holster against her side, was obvious. Catherine had no particular fondness for firearms, and the sight of the gun under Rebecca’s arm reminded her forcefully of the kind of life Rebecca led. Her response was a mixture of admiration and fear. She was drawn to Rebecca’s strength, but it was the hint of vulnerability within that truly captivated her. The complexity of the contrasts made Rebecca all the more appealing.
She approached the passenger side slowly, reminding herself that Rebecca was here on business. Still, she couldn’t quite dismiss the excitement Rebecca’s presence stirred in her.
"Hi," she said.
Rebecca looked up, and in a rare unguarded moment welcomed Catherine with a blazing smile. "Hi."
Lord, she’s stunning For a moment Catherine stood motionless, transfixed.
Rebecca leaned over to push the passenger door open. "You’re very prompt."
Catherine laughed as she settled into the contoured leather seats. "Don’t be fooled. It doesn’t happen often." She waited until Rebecca maneuvered into the dense traffic crowding the road in front of the hospital before speaking.
"Have you made any progress with the case?" Catherine asked.
"Not much," Rebecca replied, frowning. "I have a hunch your patient interrupted him, possibly physically intervened. That means she saw him. She might give us a description--" She gave Catherine a questioning, hopeful look.
Catherine shook her head. "Not yet. She’s heavily sedated and has only slim recall of last night’s events. It could be a few days--perhaps a week."
"Can I speak to her?"
"She spoke with the officer who brought her to the hospital."
"I know that," Rebecca responded. "But that was just a preliminary. I need to go over things in detail, and I know what to ask."
Catherine thought about Janet’s fragile emotional state and tried not to consider her ever increasing desire to assist Rebecca Frye. Janet must remain her primary concern.
"I have an hour scheduled with her tomorrow afternoon. If she’s ready, I’ll let you know. I’d like to be present when you question her. Do you mind?"
"Not at all," Rebecca said quickly. "In fact, I’d prefer it."
"Well, then--it seems we don’t have much to discuss over dinner," Catherine remarked with regret. She realized then just how much she had been looking forward to this time with Rebecca.
"I still want to take you to dinner," Rebecca replied, turning her eyes from the road to glance at Catherine expectantly. She didn’t want to think about what it meant, she only knew she didn’t want to say good night to Catherine Rawlings quite so soon.
"Good," Catherine answered softly. "I was hoping you’d say that."
Rebecca drove to a small restaurant on the mainline known for its excellent food and quiet intimate decor. The owner greeted Rebecca by name and seated them personally at a secluded table that offered them a view of the sweeping lawns and luxurious gardens. He left them to ponder the eclectic selections artistically displayed on fine parchment menus.
"Do you come here often?" Catherine asked, curious about the special service they were receiving. They had been seated immediately despite several parties waiting before them.
Rebecca shrugged uncomfortably. "Not for a long time. But whenever I do, Anthony insists on waiting on me himself."
She’s embarrassed, Catherine thought. She waited, knowing there was more.
"I found his daughter for him a few years ago," Rebecca continued in a low voice, remembering the run down rooming house and the frightened young girls inside. When she looked at Catherine, she couldn’t quite disguise the pain of the memory. After so many girls in so many squalid squats, the sorrow had become a dark ache in her eyes. "She was fifteen years old, working on her back for a pimp who had promised her the excitement a girl her age longs for. What he gave her was a needle in the arm and a beating if she didn’t earn enough." She didn’t know how to describe the rest of it—how she felt when she found Anthony’s youngest daughter strung out on smack and turning tricks for twenty dollars a pop. Her anger so intense that she almost forgot she was a cop. Her overwhelming need to stop the waste and the abuse. If Jeff hadn’t interceded, she would have beaten the young pimp with her bare hands. She was grateful Jeff stopped her, but the rage still seethed, fueled by the daily destruction of lives and dreams she witnessed everywhere around her. She remained silent, alone with her anguish.
Rebecca didn’t know that the feelings she had forgotten how to share were clearly displayed in the sweeping planes of her face and the ever changing depths of her dark blue eyes. Catherine, so sensitive to the sounds of silence, caught glimpses of Rebecca’s secret tears. She ached for Rebecca’s pain, and she stood in awe of the strength it required to face such horrors every day.
"To him it must seem like life’s greatest gift-- the return of his child. He’s trying to thank you without making you uncomfortable," Catherine said softly. Rebecca winced, and Catherine continued lightly. "You’ll just have to bear it. I don’t imagine he’s going to stop."
Rebecca heard the gentle mocking in Catherine’s voice and caught the glimmer of a smile on her full lips. The knot of anger in her chest began to loosen, and she felt herself relaxing. She broke into a grin that brought a flash of brilliance to her eyes and a youthful energy to her face.
"If that’s your professional opinion."
"It is," Catherine responded, rewarded by the light in Rebecca’s eyes. She’s so beautiful Never could she remember being moved so deeply by anyone, and the force of her response was a little frightening. I hardly know her—why do I feel like I’ve been waiting for her?
Rebecca startled her from her reverie with the words, "Then it’s my professional opinion that we should enjoy dinner and have no more talk of business."
Catherine agreed happily, and after following Rebecca’s suggestion to try the house special, settled back contentedly with a glass of wine. Over the course of the delicious meal she found herself telling Rebecca about her life. Rebecca learned that Catherine was the only child of a college professor and his wife, also a psychiatrist. She was close to her parents, but saw them only rarely. They were both still active in their professions and otherwise involved with joint pursuits. Catherine had grown up in a loving and supportive environment, but her parents had always maintained an emotional closeness with each other that sometimes made Catherine feel excluded. As a result, although this was something she didn’t share with Rebecca, Catherine was reserved in her own personal life. Unconsciously she was searching for the same depth of commitment she had observed between her parents. Rebecca was a good listener, and she watched Catherine intently as she talked. Somehow she knew that these were things Catherine rarely spoke of.
"What do you do for entertainment?" Rebecca asked at one point.
"I love to read and take long bike rides. I’m a sucker for old movies, too," Catherine answered. "How about you?"
Rebecca laughed. "I’m afraid I’m one of those obsessive workers. When I’m not working, I’m working out."
"How did you decide on law enforcement?"
"I didn’t decide. I was born into it, like a lot of cops. My father was a beat cop for forty years, just like his father. I always knew I would be a cop, too. I took a slight detour and went to college first, but there was never any question I would be a street cop."
Rebecca’s pride and satisfaction were evident in her voice. Catherine thought she looked more relaxed than she had ever seen her, and she was glad. Rebecca’s charm and quick humor surfaced as she grew more comfortable. Catherine found her even more enchanting as the evening passed.
They lingered long after the other diners had gone and only left when neither of them could hide her weariness. They drove in companionable silence through the now quiet streets. For the first time in weeks, Rebecca didn’t think about work. When she pulled up in front of Catherine’s brownstone, she realized suddenly that she didn’t want the evening to end.
"Catherine, I—" Rebecca stopped, unused to putting her feelings into words. She wanted to tell her how wonderful the evening had been, and how much she wanted to see her again. Old habits, old fears, held her back. When are you going to learn, Frye. What in hell do you have to offer a woman like this?
Catherine’s eyes were warm and welcoming as she gazed at Rebecca, waiting for her to go on. Rebecca flushed and looked away, her jaw tightening. She sensed Catherine waiting, but still painful disappointments haunted her, holding her a silent hostage.
Catherine touched her arm gently, speaking instinctively, without her usual restraint. "Rebecca, I am a lesbian. If you didn’t already know that, I’m sure you would soon. I also find you incredibly attractive. Regardless of how you feel about me—or women in general—that fact remains. However, I can assure you that I have no intention of doing anything to make you uncomfortable."
Rebecca turned to her, stunned by her honesty, her pulse racing at Catherine’s words. She grinned, unable to hide the lightness in her heart.
"Catherine, there is nothing about you that makes me uncomfortable."
Catherine grinned back as she slipped from the car. "That, Detective
Frye, is very good news!" She was still smiling as she watched Rebecca drive
out of sight.
At seven forty–five the next morning, Rebecca walked into the squad room to face a routine day. She had a court appearance at noon to give evidence in a racketeering trial. She planned to spend the morning finishing reports on cases headed for the dead files—cold trails abandoned after fruitless weeks of searching for witnesses who were willing to appear in court. She hated to abandon cases she knew she could get convictions on, but too often people refused to cooperate, either from fear of exposure or retaliation. It was another frustrating part of working vice she had learned to live with.
Jeff joined her a few minutes later, carrying a cardboard cup of coffee precariously by the rim. He scowled at the mountain of paper work piled on his desk, muttering, "I can’t face this today."
"Give me some," Rebecca said amiably, reaching out a hand. "I’m almost done here."
Jeff raised an eyebrow and took a good look at his partner. She was dressed as usual in well-fitting linen trousers and a tailored cotton shirt, but something about her was different. There was an aura of freshness and energy about her that he hadn’t noticed in months.
"Something happen?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" Rebecca said absently, tossing a finished folder to one side.
"You look like something good happened. Something break on the River Drive case?"
Rebecca blushed. After dropping Catherine off the night before, she’d found herself more restless than usual. Her normal antidotes hadn’t seemed to work. She’d driven around, stopped at the gym for a late workout, even contemplated cleaning her apartment. Finally she stripped down to a tank top and pulled on a pair of loose boxers, deciding to attempt sleep. She stretched out on the bed, something she hadn’t done since her lover left. Amazingly, it wasn’t the case she thought about, but Catherine. The astonishing warmth in her eyes, the gentle tone of her voice, her quick laughter. Rebecca remembered too the light scent of her perfume and the outline of her breasts against the silk blouse she had worn. Without intending it, Rebecca found herself imagining the soft weight of Catherine’s breasts in her palm, the nipples stiffening under her fingers, and the heat of Catherine’s skin under her lips. She brushed her hand under the thin cotton of her shirt, gasping at the quick contraction of her nipples. She squeezed them lightly, her legs parting as she began to swell. She continued to stroke her breasts and belly, teasing herself, as she trailed one hand up her inner thigh, slipping her fingers under the edge of the loose shorts. She was breathing faster, no longer thinking, concentrating on the increasing pressure between her legs. She remembered moaning softly as she spread her wetness over her hard clit, circling it, pressing the shaft from side to side, feeling it become impossibly larger. Her legs twisted in the sheets as she clenched her teeth, denying herself as long as she could. When the distention became almost painful, she bore down harder with her fingertips, working her twitching clit back and forth roughly, pushing herself to the edge. She was whimpering as she tugged at the engorged base, arching her back as every muscle tensed for the explosion. She shouted when it hit, grabbing herself with her whole hand, squeezing out the last spasm as she jack-knifed on the bed from the force of the orgasm.
Something had happened all right, but she wasn’t about to tell Jeff that she woke, still wet from the night before, with Catherine Rawlings on her mind. She didn’t want to admit to herself just how good it felt to be with her. She knew only too well how devastating it could be to need a woman, only to find barriers in her own soul she couldn’t surmount.
"Nothing new. I’m going to interview Janet Ryan this afternoon though. If Catherine gives us the green light."
Jeff didn’t miss the first name reference, but he let it pass. They were as close as two partners could be, and he considered Rebecca his friend, but he knew better than to ask for details. He respected the distance Rebecca demanded in their relationship.
"Sounds good to me. Want me along?" he asked.
Rebecca thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. "Not this time. She might talk easier to me alone. Then again, she might not talk at all."
Jeff loosened his tie a fraction of an inch, which was his only concession to the stifling heat in the room. "I agree—the two of us could put her off. I’ve got a meet with our contact guy on the Zamora undercover deal anyhow. Let’s hope you get something from the girl."
Rebecca stepped off the elevator onto the inpatient psychiatry floor shortly after four P.M. Catherine was leaning against the counter at the nurses’ station, studying a chart. Rebecca observed her unaware, noting the easy way she stood, her figure-hugging skirt outlining shapely legs. Even the slight frown of concentration couldn’t diminish the delicate allure of her features. Rebecca knew what she was feeling as she looked at Catherine Rawlings, and it frightened her. She didn’t want to be stirred by her, but she was, physically and emotionally. To make matters worse, she was in the middle of the ugliest case she’d ever been involved in. The last thing she needed was a personal complication. Rebecca was still standing there, awash with conflicting reactions when Catherine looked up.
"Hi," Catherine called, as she pushed the chart aside. She didn’t try to hide her obvious pleasure at seeing Rebecca. Catherine surveyed Rebecca’s tall figure with appreciation and smiled a welcome.
Rebecca forced herself to ignore the warmth spreading through her body at the sound of Catherine’s voice. It’s probably all in my mind, she chided herself, but it was hard to overlook the tension between them. She deliberately kept her face impassive as she approached.
Catherine waited where she was, sensing something of Rebecca’s uncertainty. Detective Sergeant Rebecca Frye might know exactly who she was in the world, but it was plain to Catherine that the woman behind the badge was much less certain of what she wanted, or needed. Catherine was struggling to control her growing attraction to Rebecca, but every time she saw her, her desire intensified. Go slowly. She doesn’t trust you yet—or herself.
"I’ve just finished speaking with Janet," Catherine said as Rebecca joined her.
"Good. Does she know I’m coming?" Rebecca asked, her attention now focused on the task before her.
"Yes—I thought it best to prepare her."
"How is she?"
Catherine shrugged, a small frown puckering the fine skin between her elegant brows. "She’s still quite disoriented, and badly shaken. She knows there are things she can’t remember, and the dread of what they might be is terrifying. She wants to remember and is scared to death at the same time. She’s very frightened, Rebecca."
Rebecca recognized the cautionary tone in Catherine’s voice and responded defensively. "I’m not going to interrogate her, Catherine." She immediately regretted her flash of temper when she saw the surprise in Catherine’s eyes. God, I’m too sensitive around her. She placed her hand on Catherine’s arm, leaning toward her slightly.
"I’m sorry. I just want to find out how much she can remember. I won’t push her, I promise."
Catherine covered Rebecca’s hand lightly with her own, very conscious of the pressure of Rebecca’s fingers. Even that innocent touch sent her pulse racing.
"I trust you, Rebecca. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t let you see her." She pressed Rebecca’s hand again and stepped away. "Come on, I’ll take you to her."
Janet lay propped up on several pillows. The blinds were drawn against the afternoon sun. The television, perched on the wall opposite the bed, was tuned to a TV talk show. The hostess raced up and down the aisles, thrusting her microphone at the members of the audience. There was no sound.
The left side of the young woman’s face was swollen and discolored. Her eye on that side was a mere slit, the lashes caked together with dried blood. Fine black sutures closed a series of lacerations on her forehead. She clutched the covers up to her breasts, despite the July heat. Her hands were covered with scratches. Looking at her, Rebecca thought she had put up a hell of a fight.
Catherine went to the bed and took Janet’s hand.
"Detective Frye is here, Janet."
Janet’s head nodded slightly. "Please stay with me."
"Of course," Catherine said, pulling a chair up to the left side of the bed.
Rebecca dragged a similar worn plastic chair to the opposite side and sat down, opening her notebook as she did so. She leaned forward so Janet could see her face.
"Janet, I’m Rebecca Frye. I’m a police officer. I’m trying to find out what happened the night you were injured." She watched Janet carefully, looking for any unspoken reactions to her questions. "Can you tell me what you did that day- - Tuesday-- three days ago?"
Janet glanced at Catherine, who nodded encouragement. Then she began to speak in a slow halting whisper. "I was late for work—I missed the train. So, I drove to work."
"Where is that?" Rebecca asked.
"Compton Building—I’m a data programmer." She halted uncertainly, her grip on Catherine’s hand tightening.
"Go on," Rebecca urged.
"Barb called at lunch—I told her I’d be home around seven."
A single tear slipped from between her lashes and dampened her cheek. Rebecca reached for a tissue and pressed it into Janet’s free hand. She waited a moment, then asked, "What did you do after work?"
"It was beautiful outside. -- I decided to go home on the Drive, even though the traffic is slower—" She stopped again, a slight tremor noticeable in her hands.
"I remember," Rebecca said softly, "it was cool, there had been a shower—"
"Yes! It had been so sticky all weekend! I stopped -- oh, it’s all so confusing! I can’t remember where I stopped!"
Her anxiety was more pronounced now.
"That’s okay, Janet, you’re doing great," Rebecca soothed. "You don’t have to get everything straightened out now. Just tell me anything you can remember, even if it doesn’t make sense."
Catherine gave Rebecca a startled look but remained silent. Maybe I should take her on rounds with me. She’s better at this than some of my residents. Rebecca continued to surprise, and intrigue, her.
"That’s just it! I can’t make sense of what I can remember. There are so many colors!"
"What colors, Janet?" Rebecca asked quickly, writing the word on her pad and circling it.
"I don’t know!"
"Do you remember a man? Did you see a man, or a woman and a man?"
"Did you hear a woman scream?"
"No." She looked at Catherine, her face pale. "I’m sorry—I can’t remember!"
"I believe you. It’s all right," Catherine soothed. "Close your eyes for a minute, and tell me anything you see—any image, any picture in your mind at all."
"Just the number—"
Rebecca sat up straight in her chair, her face tense. "What number?"
"Ninety-seven what? Were there letters with the number?"
"I can’t remember—please, I can’t remember!"
"That’s all right, Janet," Catherine interrupted. "You’ve been wonderful. We’ll talk again when you’re a little stronger."
Rebecca forced down a protest. She knew Janet had seen
something—she could feel it. She also knew it would be futile to try to prolong
the interview. Clearly Catherine felt the young woman had had enough. Rebecca
pocketed her notebook and stood up, her anger surfacing as she surveyed the
battered, terrorized woman before her. She intended to put an end to this reign
Continue on to Part 3
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