Shield of Justice
Please see part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.
Catherine joined Rebecca in the hall outside Janet’s room. She didn’t miss the hard stillness of Rebecca’s face.
"Not much help?" Catherine asked.
Rebecca passed a hand across her face and sighed. "Not much. There’s something there, though—I’m sure of it."
"I’m almost positive Janet walked up on the rape," Catherine said as they began to walk. "That might explain Janet’s extreme reaction, and the symptoms she’s displaying now."
"Can you press her on the number—and try to find out more about the colors?"
"Not now," Catherine replied. "She’s blocking because she’s not psychologically prepared to cope with what she witnessed."
Rebecca suppressed her impatience. She had no doubt Catherine was right, but she needed this girl to remember! Her powerlessness was eating her up inside.
"Will you let me know when I can talk to her again? I really need her, Catherine."
"I know, Rebecca—of course."
Rebecca stopped in front of the elevator, at a loss for words. She didn’t want to say good-bye, and she didn’t know how to move forward. The bell rang, announcing that the elevator had arrived. Catherine was so close to her she could smell her subtle perfume. Catherine’s hand was on her arm, her fingers softly caressing. Her green eyes held Rebecca’s with a tenderness she could drown in.
"I want to see you again," Rebecca said hastily, "not about the case. Can I call you?"
Catherine realized she had been holding her breath. She let it out with a soft sigh as the elevator doors slid open. It took all her will power to step back from Rebecca’s body when all her desires urged her closer.
"Oh, yes. I’ll be waiting."
Rebecca drove back to the station with her thoughts divided between Janet’s scanty recollections and the exchange with Catherine at the elevator. Catherine touched off a physical response so intense it was actually painful. She was wet again, and throbbing. It was all she could do to keep her mind on the traffic.
Her pager went off just as she pulled into the parking lot. She pushed open the heavy double doors and took the stairs to the third floor two at a time. Leaning over the counter at the intake desk, she called, "Frye, here. What’s up?"
The frazzled dispatcher, sweating profusely in her blue uniform, turned to her from the computer console.
"Jeff Cruz is not responding to his calls. The Captain wants to see you pronto."
Rebecca swore under her breath as she hurried to the glass enclosed office at the end of the hall. She rapped at the door marked "Captain John Henry" in peeling black letters. The black man behind the desk was fiftyish, fit and big. His iron grey hair was cut short, and his demeanor authoritative. The white shirt he wore was stiff with starch, and his tie was tightly knotted, even in the ninety degree heat.
"Where’s your partner?" he barked without preamble as Rebecca entered his office.
"I don’t know," Rebecca said with a worried frown. "He had a meet with Ronnie Carmichael, the undercover guy working the Zamora case. He’s the one we think is running the kiddy porn business in the tenderloin."
"Yeah, I read the file. Where was the meet?"
"They change locations every time. It was just a routine check-in, Captain. Carmichael hadn’t come up with much, at least not that we knew about."
Captain Henry didn’t comment. Cruz and Frye were his best team, and he gave them a lot of slack to run their own cases. It wasn’t unusual for them to be involved with other divisions, particularly narcotics, on cooperative investigations. They weren’t careless. If Cruz was in trouble, he had walked into something he hadn’t expected.
Rebecca was thinking the same thing. Something felt wrong.
"I don’t like it, Captain. Something’s gone down. We need to find him—fast."
"We’ve got an all points out on him and his car. We’ll get a fix on him soon."
"What about the contact—Carmichael?"
Henry fanned his hands out over his desk. "No word. They’re both out there loose somewhere."
Rebecca turned abruptly and headed toward the door. She had to find Jeff, and she knew him better than anyone. It could take all night for a cruiser to spot his car. She wasn’t going to leave him out there alone.
"Frye!" Henry called. "I want you here, coordinating the search, until we have something definite."
"Let Rogers do it," she said, whirling to face him, her jaw set stubbornly.
"I want you on it, Frye." He stared back at her. His expression changed slightly, and he lowered his voice. "We’ve got two missing cops already. I don’t want you out there alone."
"That’s an order, Frye."
She gritted her teeth, and nodded. "Yes, sir."
When Rebecca entered the squad room, the noise level suddenly dropped. Feet shuffled, someone cleared his throat, a few people looked away. Everyone knew what she must be feeling—her anger, her helplessness—and none of them quite knew what to say. So they handled it the way they always did, by doing the job, by carrying on. Someone put a lukewarm cup of coffee in her hand.
She sat at her desk, fists clenched in her pockets, and watched the clock. The men from the day shift stayed, even though many of them had been on duty for close to eighteen hours by then. Gina Simmons, a young rookie, came in silently and piled boxes of pizza on the littered coffee table. Rebecca shook her head when someone offered her a slice. They stood around in groups eating, spilling bits of oil and cheese on the floor.
The call finally came in at ten-thirty. A cruiser had spotted Jeff’s car on a deserted pier at the waterfront. Rebecca was on her feet and halfway to the door when a hand on her arm restrained her.
"I’ll ride with you, Frye."
Rebecca turned toward the stocky man beside her, struggling to control her temper. She had never liked William Watts. He was a loner—a cynical, caustic cop who didn’t seem to give a damn about his job. She couldn’t figure out why he was a cop, and she didn’t want to deal with him now.
"Not tonight, Watts," she said tersely, brushing off his hand.
He jerked his head toward the hallway, his face impassive. "Captain’s orders."
She turned on heel, heading toward the stairs. She didn’t have time to waste on this. Watts hurried after her.
Rebecca gunned the MG out of the lot and slapped the red light onto her roof. When the traffic ahead didn’t yield fast enough, she veered around them into the oncoming lanes. They were the first to reach the scene. There were cruisers pulled off the four-lane highway at odd angles, and men with dogs were combing the waterfront.
Rebecca climbed out and surveyed the area. Jeff’s car was parked under an overpass, the only civilian vehicle in sight. To her right a huge crane stood like a lonely sentinel over the abandoned site of someone’s waterfront dream. To her left, facing the water, were a cluster of darkened buildings—the maritime museum, an attached souvenir shop, and a curb-side hotdog stand.
She headed toward the buildings, Watts close behind her. She neither spoke to him nor acknowledged his presence.
"Why not the crane?" he asked, out of breath from the pace Rebecca had set.
"Too obvious during the day—there wouldn’t have been enough people around for cover," she answered tersely, still not looking at him.
"Yeah, but the way I see it—"
She turned so fast he collided with her, his bulky form bouncing back a step off her surprisingly hard body.
"Look, Watts," she seethed. "I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think. I know my partner. So just keep out of my way, or better yet, get lost."
Watts held both hands up in the air in front of him. "Okay, Frye, okay. I’ll just tag along like a good little boy."
Wordlessly, she walked away. If Jeff had met his contact in the late afternoon, there wouldn’t have been much activity anywhere except at the museum. They never spent much time at a meet. He hadn’t left voluntarily; he would have taken his car. Something went wrong, and it happened here. She tried not to think about what might have happened, focusing on her search.
She walked around the maritime museum, looking for an alley way, or a loading dock—some secluded area. She reasoned that no one would have tried to move two men very far in daylight, which meant they would have needed an isolated location nearby. But for what purpose? It was unlikely that anyone would hold two cops hostage, or try to extort information. She didn’t want to think about the most likely reason—that someone was sending them a message to stay clear of Zamora and his bosses.
There was nowhere to hide two men anywhere around the building. She shined her flashlight on the beer and burger stand, closed and shuttered for the night. There was a large green commercial dumpster behind it. Rebecca approached it slowly, sweeping the ground around it with her light. She held her 9mm automatic in the other hand. She illuminated bits of refuse, a soggy cardboard box, a dented milk crate—nothing unusual. She looked at the dumpster, a knot of tension burning in her gut. She slipped her weapon into her shoulder holster and pushed the top up. Taking a deep breath, she played her light over its contents. It was half full of crushed boxes, rotting vegetables, and broken bottles. That was all.
"Uh, Frye—" Watts said hesitantly from the spot where he had been standing in the shadows.
"There’s a shipping platform just north of the marina. It’s below ground level—they used to use it to tie the tugs up to. Can’t really see it from the pier unless you know it’s there."
He led her along the edge of the pier, the water ten feet below them, rolling against the huge wooden pilings and concrete walls. Fifty feet from the marina was a narrow set of stairs barricaded by a length of chain. They would be easy to miss unless you were looking for them. The chains were rusted from years of disuse and exposure. Rebecca could make out moss-covered stone stairs and some kind of platform anchored against the pier, floating on the water. Carefully, she stepped over the chain and started down.
They were lying side by side—no apparent sign of a struggle. Both men had been shot once in the back of the head. Rebecca noticed that Jeff’s tie was neatly knotted under the button down collar of his light blue oxford shirt. His gun was still in its holster. She reached down and closed his eyes.
Standing at the edge of the dock she looked out across the water at their sister city. The shoreline sparkled in the moonlight. The river churned two feet below her, and the cold wind off the water whipped her light jacket around her. She didn’t notice the cold, or that she was shivering. It was so quiet.
"Frye?" Watts called from above. "You find anything?"
"Yes," she answered hollowly.
"You want an ambulance?"
Rebecca drove to a run-down bar where she wasn’t likely to meet anyone she knew. It was three in the morning. She had just left Shelly Cruz. There hadn’t been any way to make it easy. She had held Jeff’s wife, rocking her through the worst of it. Even as she murmured meaningless words of comfort, she felt her own heart grow cold. She couldn’t let the pain through—if she did, she’d fall apart. She was a cop—people die on the streets every day—needlessly, senselessly. This time it was her partner, her best friend. She’d handle it like Jeff would have if it had been her—like a cop. But first she needed to forget, just for a little while. Then she’d be ready to carry on.
The bar was nearly deserted, as she expected it to be. No one who had anywhere to go, or anyone to go to, was still about. Like her, the few people slumped in the shadowy bar sought no company. The bartender looked up disinterestedly from the girlie magazine lying on the long counter in front of him. Nothing surprised him anymore, not even the appearance of a good-looking woman in a dive like this. Besides, this one didn’t look like she wanted anything but a drink, fast.
"What’ll you have?"
"Scotch, double—straight up."
He poured it neatly, slid it in front of her and moved away. Rebecca stared at the glass for a moment, then reached for it with a steady hand.
Catherine awoke instantly at the first buzz of the doorbell. Her ability to move from deep sleep to instant alertness was ingrained in her from years of medical training. She sat up, glancing at the digital clock beside her bed. It read four fifty-three am. She reached for the pale blue robe that lay across the foot of the bed, swinging her long legs to the floor. She had been naked under the covers. Hastily she tied the sash as she hurried through the living room, snapping on a table lamp as she passed.
As she fumbled with the deadbolt, she asked, "Who is it?"
Catherine hesitated with surprise and then hurriedly pulled the door open. Rebecca was slouched against the doorjamb. She looked terrible. She was in the same clothes she had worn the day before, and her usually impeccable suit was grimy and wrinkled. Her face was white, and there was a frightening vacancy in her normally vibrant blue eyes. Her short, thick blond hair was disheveled, as if she had run her hands through it countless times. Catherine grasped her arm and pulled her inside.
"What is it?" she asked, leading Rebecca to the sofa.
Rebecca sank heavily into the plush cushions, her head dropping back wearily. She took a deep shuddering breath, turning her face slightly toward Catherine, who was sitting close beside her.
"My partner, Jeff Cruz, was murdered tonight--him and another cop," she said flatly, her pain-filled eyes not registering Catherine’s shock. She didn’t feel Catherine move closer, nor the protective arm she slipped around her shoulders.
"God, Rebecca, I’m so sorry!"
"He was twenty-nine years old. He’d only been married a year. He was a good cop." She thought of the six years that she and Jeff had been partners and knew that no one would ever be able to fill his place in her life.
"He must have been very important to you," Catherine said gently, her hand resting softly on Rebecca’s rigid back.
Rebecca shrugged. "We were cops—he looked after my skin, and I looked after his." Her voice broke on the next words. "Until today."
So much pain! If only you would let someone share it! Catherine remained still, resisting the urge to gather Rebecca to her and comfort her. Just talk to me; let me help!
Eventually Rebecca began to speak, quietly, as if she were talking to herself.
"He took a chance for me a few years ago. My life was a mess. My lover had left me--she said I was never there for her--and even when I was around, it wasn’t enough. She was tired of being a "cop’s wife." Rebecca laughed bitterly. "She was right. I wasn’t taking very good care of her. After that, I drifted in and out of affairs--none of them worked out. My drinking got much worse. I was drinking during the day--on duty--and Jeff knew it. I was a hazard--to him, to myself -- to everyone." She stopped then, and looked at Catherine, expecting to find rejection, or disgust. That was certainly the way she felt about herself. Instead she found the same tender acceptance that welcomed her each time they met.
Taking a grateful breath, she continued, her tone stronger. "He came to me one night after a shift. He said he knew I was drinking on the job--that he didn’t want to turn me in, but that he couldn’t afford to have a lush for a partner. I was pissed. I told him to turn me in if that’s what he wanted--I didn’t care anymore."
She laughed softly at the memory. "Jeff is a good head shorter than me, and slim for a guy. He grabbed my jacket and slammed me into the wall. His face was in my face, and he was yelling. `Listen, you stupid fuck-up--you’re my partner, and I care. So your old lady ditched you! Big deal! You think that hasn’t happened to a hundred other cops? You think you’re special ‘cause you’re a dyke? Well, you’re not. You’re just a cop, just like the rest of us. So you either get it together fast, or I’m through with you!’ He shook me around a little--he was pretty hot. I just stared at him. He’d never let on he knew about me and Diane. Finally, he just stomped away."
Catherine smiled sadly at the image, thinking what a good man Jeff Cruz must have been. This must be killing her!
"What did you do?" Catherine questioned softly.
"I drove to an AA meeting that night. That was four years ago--we never talked about it again."
"He trusted you, Rebecca--and you didn’t let him down." She felt some of the tension in Rebecca’s tight muscles dissipate. "Where have you been all night?"
"I told Jeff’s wife. Then I went to a bar."
"Did you drink?" Catherine asked evenly.
Rebecca laughed harshly. "I sat there with it in my hand for a long time."
"What stopped you?"
Rebecca met Catherine’s gaze, her defenses shattered. "I thought about you."
Catherine’s fingertips stroked Rebecca’s cheek, pushing the hair back from her forehead. She hadn’t meant to touch her, but her own heart was breaking in the face of Rebecca’s anguish. As she leaned slowly forward, she whispered, "I’m so glad you did."
At the touch of Catherine’s hand, the fiber of Rebecca’s resistance
snapped like a straw in the wind. The tenderness pierced her armor like the
pain could not, clouding her awareness until there was no reality except the
hazy green of Catherine’s eyes, the heady aroma of her scent. She needed the
surcease of Catherine’s body more than she needed air to breath. Rebecca sought
her lips, bruising them unintentionally with the force of her kiss. She plundered
her mouth with her urgency to lose herself in Catherine’s flesh. Pushing Catherine
back against the couch, Rebecca’s hands fumbled with the sash of her robe, her
tongue demanding entrance. She groaned as Catherine’s tongue met hers with the
same intensity. Rebecca pulled away only to press her lips to the rich ripeness
of full breasts, leaving Catherine gasping. Catherine cried out, holding Rebecca’s
face to her, forcing her nipple into Rebecca’s seeking mouth. Rebecca, her long-buried
passion unleashed, was burning, the very breath in her lungs evaporating from
the heat. She knew only the yielding warmth of Catherine’s flesh, the rightness
of Catherine’s embrace. She was beyond conscious thought, aching with the force
of the blood rushing through her pelvis, thrusting against Catherine with a
rhythm she could not control. Catherine’s arms were around her, pulling her
close, urging her to let go. Rebecca moaned, consumed by the agonizing pleasure
of Catherine’s body beneath hers, her clit ready to burst. Her hunger, her need,
triggered an explosion as her hips pumped in a frenzy of excitement. She heard
Catherine murmuring her name even as she began to convulse against her, crying
out with the wrenching spasms that overpowered her. Head flung back, arms rigid,
she arched above Catherine, groaning with each internal pulsation, gasping for
breath, until finally she collapsed into Catherine’s arms. Through a haze she
felt the gentle caresses of Catherine’s fingers in her hair, her cheek pressed
to Catherine’s breast. She drifted in Catherine’s strong embrace, savoring a
peace she had long forgotten.
The sun streaming through the bay windows woke her. As consciousness returned, so did a flood of emotions. The pain of Jeff’s death twisted like a knife in her heart, an unrelenting ache she would carry with her for a long time. The sight of her jacket neatly folded over the arm of the easy chair jolted her with memories of the night before. Her face burned with a conflicting mixture of dismay and renewed desire. She remembered her loss of control with embarrassment. God, what must Catherine think of her? Even as she struggled with the thought, she yearned for Catherine’s touch. She wanted her so powerfully it left her shaking. She wasn’t sure she had the courage to face her. What if Catherine had only responded out of kindness? Rebecca hadn’t given her much choice, after all. You must have been out of your mind, Frye! Christ, you came all over her like a kid on his first date!
She pushed herself reluctantly to a sitting position, noticing her shoes and belt beside the sofa. God, where is my gun? She looked about frantically, relaxing slightly when she saw the shoulder holster hanging on the knob of the closet door. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed Catherine removing that. It was like a part of her. She looked up to find Catherine in the doorway, watching her, a faint smile on her lips. She looked more beautiful than Rebecca remembered. Her wavy hair shown with reddish highlights, and her graceful figure was accentuated by the folds of the silk dressing gown she wore. The look of desire in Catherine’s eyes sent a bolt of arousal directly between her legs. She was wet instantly.
"Catherine, I--" she began tentatively, searching for words.
"Shh--" Catherine commanded as she drew near, her smile deepening. Rebecca stared up at her, captivated by the power of her gaze. Catherine leaned down, curling the fingers of one hand in Rebecca’s hair. Catherine kissed her, a deep, probing, demanding kiss that left them both gasping. When she pulled her head back, she said teasingly, "Does that answer any questions for you?"
Rebecca took a long, shuddering breath. "I’m sorry about last night—I mean, the way I—the way it—" I didn’t mean to come like that. I couldn’t stop it, you made me so crazy.
"Don’t be sorry. You were beautiful, and believe me, I have never enjoyed anything more. Being wanted that much is very exciting. Don’t you know how much I’ve been wanting you?"
Rebecca rose and pulled Catherine into her arms, trembling. She kissed her mouth, the soft skin of her eyelids, the smooth slope of her neck. She felt Catherine’s pulse quicken under her lips as their bodies yearned for closer contact. Catherine’s hands were under Rebecca’s shirt, cupping her breasts, stroking the firm planes of her abdomen. Rebecca hissed in a breath as Catherine’s fingers found her nipples, twisting them lightly. Rebecca reached under the hem of Catherine’s gown and found the smooth flesh of her thighs. She slipped upward, into the waiting wetness, finding Catherine’s clitoris, distended and sensitive. She stroked her, sliding the slick bundle between her fingers.
"Oh, god, Rebecca!" Catherine cried, clinging to her, her legs weak. "That’s so good!"
Just as Rebecca began to pull her down onto the sofa, the beeper in the pocket of her jacket went off. She stiffened at the sound.
Catherine leaned back in Rebecca’s arms, her face flushed, her green eyes cloudy with passion. "Oh my god, tell me it isn’t true."
"I have to answer that," Rebecca said huskily, her hands moving to Catherine’s hips, still caressing her. "I’m sorry."
"It’s not your fault," Catherine murmured, pressing her forehead hard against Rebecca’s shoulder, trying desperately to steady herself. Shaking still, she stepped back reluctantly. "Go. Answer it. I’ll get us some coffee."
When Catherine returned with two steaming mugs, Rebecca was standing with her back to the room, looking out onto the street. Catherine knew that the last twenty-four hours had shaken Rebecca to the core, and now she was a part of that. She wanted her with a consuming desire she had never known before, but she also knew that Rebecca’s emotional state was precarious. Too many demands right now could destroy her. Catherine was determined to let Rebecca come to her in her own time. She wanted her, but most of all she wanted her to survive.
"What is it?" she asked, handing Rebecca one of the cups.
"Internal Affairs. They need me to go over our cases with them, to see if we can turn up anything on Jeff’s killing."
"Today?" Catherine asked, wondering what kind of people would put Rebecca through that less than twelve hours after her partner’s death.
Rebecca laughed grimly. "Try two hours ago." She set her cup down on the window ledge and turned to Catherine. "I wish I could stay—being with you is so good." She stopped, afraid to go on, afraid to let herself admit what she felt.
"You can always come back, Rebecca. I’ll be here, and I want you to come back. Whenever you can, whenever you want."
Rebecca nodded. "I will." She straightened her clothes and strapped on her holster. As she pulled her jacket on at the door, she turned to face Catherine one last time. "Thank you for last night—all of it."
Come back soon, Rebecca—and safely, Catherine thought as the door closed behind her.
An hour later, freshly showered, in a crisp white shirt and navy suit, Rebecca entered the squad room. Men looked at her and nodded as they went about the business of the day in a subdued fashion. She walked to her desk impassively and stared at the figure across from her.
"What the hell are you doing in Cruz’s chair?" she said, her voice like granite.
Watts looked at the expression on her face and then glanced around the squad room for support. No one offered any.
"Just getting acquainted with the caseload. The Captain told me you and I are going to be partnered up."
She stared down at him coldly, then turned on her heel and stalked away. By the time she reached Captain Henry’s door she was boiling. She pushed the door open without knocking and stormed toward his desk.
"What do you mean by telling Watts we were going to work together?" she demanded, not even registering the amazed look on Henry’s face. "He’s a lazy sleaze, and I won’t have him for a partner!"
Henry rose in one fluid motion, his arms braced on the desk as he leaned toward her.
"Frye, you get the hell out of my office! If I tell you to work with Joey the Clown, you do it! And you smile about it, too!" He bit off each word, his face a thundercloud of anger.
She met his angry gaze evenly, her fists clenched at her sides.
"Listen, Captain—" she began, trying unsuccessfully to lower her voice.
"No, you listen! You just lost your partner. It’s tough—I appreciate that—but you’ve still got a dozen open files, including the River Drive thing. You can’t do it alone, and Watts is available. If he’s an asshole, learn to live with it. I don’t care how you do it, just do it!"
"What’s he got? Friends in high places?" she asked, her blue eyes dark with scorn.
Henry’s neck muscles tightened, and a flush rose to darken his features. His voice was deadly cold as he spoke. "I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that, Frye—just this once—because Cruz was a good cop. IAD wants to see you. Take care of that, and then get back to work."
She didn’t reply—there was nothing she could do. He watched her turn and walk away, wondering if he was making a mistake leaving her on the streets. She was one of his best. He thought she would crack if he put her behind a desk, so he had argued with his superiors against it. He hoped he was right.
Catherine knocked and entered Janet Ryan’s room. Barbara Elliot was sitting close to the bed, her fingers entwined with Janet’s.
"Hello, Dr. Rawlings," Barbara said tiredly.
"Hello, Barbara—hi, Janet. How are you feeling?" Catherine asked.
Janet looked better. The bruises still disfigured her normally attractive face, but the swelling had begun to subside. Both eyes were open now. Their expression was bright.
"I’m much better, thanks. I’ve been up walking a little, and I’m not taking the pain medication." She glanced at her lover fondly. "When can I go home?"
Catherine grinned. "I can see you’re feeling better. I’d like to keep you a few more days, just for routine observation. How are the flashbacks?"
Janet grimaced. "I’m still getting them, especially at night. Just pieces of images from my past—of my brother when I was small." She took a deep, quavering breath. "I never realized it had gone on for so long."
Catherine nodded sympathetically. "They may get worse as you recover from this attack, Janet. I may want to try you on a mild sedative—nothing too strong. Let’s think about going home in a few days, all right?"
Janet looked at Barbara questioningly.
"I really want Janet at home, Dr. Rawlings. Everyone is nice to us here, but it’s still so impersonal. But I don’t want her to come home until she’s ready. Whatever you decide is fine."
Catherine spoke with them a few more moments, and then left to complete her inpatient rounds. When she stepped out into the hall, a neatly dressed young man moved hurriedly to intercept her.
"Dr. Rawlings? Is it true that Janet Ryan witnessed the rape on River Drive earlier this week? Has she been able to describe the assailant?"
Catherine stepped back a pace, nonplussed. "Who are you?" she asked.
"Mark Tyler—Daily News. What about it, Doctor? Did she witness the rape?"
Catherine was furious. "Mr. Tyler, you have no business being here. If you want information, I suggest you speak to the police. I have nothing to say to you. And if I find you here again, I’ll have security remove you!"
"Oh, come now, Doctor, surely you want this maniac caught," he persisted, blocking her path with his body.
She maneuvered around him, saying, "Indeed, I do, Mr. Tyler. Which is why I have nothing to say to you!"
At last she was able to escape, wondering as she ducked into the stairwell how he had found out about Janet. The police had warned them to keep the circumstances of her admission quiet, and she thought they had succeeded. She should have known there were no secrets in a hospital. The police presence alone, no matter how understated, was enough to start rumors. Her first impulse was to call Rebecca, but then she thought better of it. After all, she hadn’t told him anything.
Watts saw Rebecca heading for the stairs directly upon finishing her interview with the officers from IAD. He hurried after her.
"Where you going?" he called just as she reached the door.
She turned, aware that he was right behind her.
"Look, Watts, I’m going out. Okay? Now go back to your paperwork."
He grabbed her arm. "Out where?"
Rebecca stared at the beefy hand on her arm and slowly raised her eyes to his. He hastily let his hand drop, but he still stood firmly in her path.
"Watts—" she said menacingly, struggling to keep her temper under control.
"Look, Frye -- I’m not any happier about this than you are, but that’s the way it is. So it’s a bitch -- there’s nothing we can do about it." He waited for some reaction, but Rebecca stared past him at some small spot on the opposite wall. Watts shook a cigarette out of a crumpled pack, lit it, and leaned against the wall, content to stay there all afternoon. A muscle in Rebecca’s face twitched.
"I’m going over to homicide -- the Zamora case was ours. Maybe I can help," she said reluctantly.
Watts blew a perfect smoke ring, considering her words.
"Homicide can handle the case, Frye. They’re not going to screw up when it’s one of our own. Why not let them do their jobs -- we’ve got plenty on our plates right here."
"I didn’t ask for your opinion, Watts," Rebecca said heatedly, shouldering him aside.
"Oh, the hell with it," Watts muttered as he listened to her footsteps echo in the stairwell.
He was right, and Rebecca knew it. Still, she had to see for herself that everything possible was being done to find Jeff’s killer. She had to do something!
She finally tracked down the investigating officers, who were painstakingly sweeping the area of the killings for witnesses. Apparently, no one had seen or heard anything.
Rebecca found the two officers in charge of the case standing beside a chalk outline on the small loading dock where she had found Jeff and Ronnie Carmichael. She stared at the spot, envisioning Jeff’s body contained within the impersonal white lines. At length she turned to the two men who were regarding her uncomfortably.
"Turn up anything?" Rebecca asked, breaking the silence.
"Not much," the larger of the two replied disgruntledly. They had been questioning vendors and museum workers since first light and had little to show for it. "We assume Cruz met Carmichael sometime around four. This place is still pretty busy then. Nobody would notice two men in a crowd. Most of the people who were here are probably miles away -- tourists."
"Perfect spot for a hit," Rebecca said flatly. Anyone could have approached the two men, flashed some fire power, and walked them down to this isolated dock without attracting attention. Often the easiest crimes to pull off are those carried out in broad daylight. Obviously, this time it had worked.
"What about the people Carmichael’s been associating with? He must have gotten onto something a lot heavier than we expected. He made somebody nervous."
"We haven’t had a chance to go through all his reports. He was pretty sketchy with his sources," the younger detective said. "There’s probably a dozen possibles."
Rebecca raised an eyebrow, clearly irritated that they hadn’t gotten to Carmichael’s notes yet. Her reaction did not go unnoticed.
"Listen, Frye --" the senior officer said tersely, "we’ve been out here since two A.M. We’ll get to the reports. We’ll roust anybody we have to, even without due cause. We’ll find out what’s behind this."
Rebecca’s shoulders sagged slightly. She was tired. She knew these guys had been busting their balls all night trying to get a jump on the case before the slim trail went cold. But this was Jeff, and she wanted more!
"Right," she said, straightening her back and heading toward the narrow stairs that led up to the pier.
"We’ll keep you informed, Frye," the younger of the two called
out. "And we’ll get the bastard."
Rebecca found herself parked in front of University Hospital, wondering what she was doing there. She had driven directly from the pier, never questioning her destination. Now that she was here, she couldn’t decide whether to go in or to leave. She wasn’t thinking very clearly. The combination of emotional shock and exhaustion had taken its toll. The normally self-possessed, controlled police detective was on the verge of collapse. She knew vaguely she had come because Catherine Rawlings represented the only sane point in her life -- a solidity and haven she sorely needed. Even in the depths of her despair, however, she resisted. She hated herself for needing this woman’s comfort, and for wanting the solace of her embrace. As much as she detested her own weakness, she feared the need even more. If she let herself feel it, what would she do if she were wrong? What would she do if Catherine Rawlings didn’t want her. God, what’s wrong with me? I’m a cop -- this is all part of the job. I can’t fall apart just because things are a little rough. I’ve got to get myself together!
Her thoughts were interrupted by a tap on her car window. She looked up to find Catherine standing beside her, studying her quizzically. Rebecca rolled down her window and smiled hesitantly.
"Hi," Rebecca said.
"I saw you as I was going over to the outpatient clinic. What are you doing here?"
"I don’t know," Rebecca answered quietly.
Catherine took a close look at her and pulled the driver’s door open.
"Move over -- I’m driving."
Amazingly, Rebecca did as she asked, too tired to protest. Catherine rested one hand protectively on Rebecca’s thigh as they drove. Rebecca stared at it, thinking how delicate Catherine’s long fingers were. She was surprised when Catherine pulled up in front of her brownstone. She allowed Catherine to lead the way up the wide stone stairs and waited silently while Catherine opened the door. The living room was bathed in muted greys and soft maroons as the late afternoon sun streamed through shear drapes.
Catherine slipped out of the light silk jacket she wore and tossed it aside. She turned to Rebecca, who was standing just inside the door, a faintly confused look on her face. Catherine tugged Rebecca’s jacket off her arms. She folded it neatly and laid it over the back of a chair. She fumbled slightly with the shoulder harness, but managed to slip it off Rebecca’s body. Reaching down, she pulled the pager off Rebecca’s belt and placed it with Rebecca’s gun on the chair. She kissed her lightly on the lips as she took her hand.
"You’re off duty now, Detective Frye," she whispered as she led Rebecca into her bedroom.
The sheets were cool against Rebecca’s skin. She felt Catherine unbuttoning her shirt, and loosening her trousers. She roused herself enough to help remove the rest of her clothes. When Catherine lay down beside her, Rebecca pressed her face against the lush fullness of her breasts, sighing.
"God, you feel good," Rebecca murmured. She moved just enough to nuzzle a nipple with her lips.
Catherine laughed softly and wrapped her arms around Rebecca’s strong back.
"There’s plenty of time for that -- you’re going to get some sleep now. Doctor’s orders."
Catherine stroked the tight muscles beneath her fingers, feeling them gradually relax as Rebecca’s breathing shifted to the steady cadence of sleep. Catherine closed her eyes with contentment, satisfied to have Rebecca safe in her arms.
It was dark when Rebecca opened her eyes, uncertain for an instant in the still room. Then she felt Catherine beside her. Catherine’s arm lay across Rebecca’s breasts, softly encircling her body. Rebecca lay motionless, savoring the sensation of Catherine’s skin against hers, memorizing the image of Catherine in repose. As her fingers began a slow exploration of Catherine’s body, Catherine pressed closer, murmuring softly in half-sleep. Rebecca gasped sharply as Catherine slipped one leg between hers and rolled over onto her with a throaty laugh
"Hello, darling," Catherine whispered, bracing herself above the length of Rebecca’s firm body as she teasingly rocked against her pelvis. She was rewarded by Rebecca’s groan of pleasure. A cry caught in her throat when Rebecca’s hands found her breasts. She continued her rhythmic motion until they were both wet, their damp pubic hair tangling together. Suddenly she straddled Rebecca’s body, entwining her fingers in the wet curls between Rebecca’s legs, tugging gently, pulling the thick hood back to expose Rebecca’s erect clitoris. Rebecca groaned as the skin tightened around the shaft. She reached between Catherine’s legs.
Catherine thought she would come when Rebecca’s hand slid into her, completing the circle, but she managed to hold back the tidal wave of surging heat, wanting to prolong their union. They moved in perfect synchrony, stroking the fires of their passion, trembling on the edge of consummation, until at last Rebecca groaned, "Oh …I…can’t…hold …it…" Catherine exulted as Rebecca arched against her, and the sight of her beautiful lover’s orgasm pushed her beyond her limits. She convulsed with the force of her own release, collapsing into Rebecca’s waiting arms.
When Rebecca stirred again it was after midnight. She attempted to extricate herself from Catherine’s embrace without disturbing her.
"I’m awake," Catherine said softly in the darkness, stroking the length of Rebecca’s long form. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?"
"I know how beautiful you make me feel," came the soft reply.
"Where are you going?" Catherine asked, knowing instinctively that after such intimacy, Rebecca would withdraw. She wondered when, if ever, Rebecca would begin to trust what was growing between them.
"It’s late -- there are things I should have done earlier," Rebecca replied evasively. She was as content in Catherine’s arms as she had ever been, but as her strength returned, so did the pull of the streets. How could she explain her restless need to immerse herself in the pulsing, other-world of the night. It was her domain, the reminder of who and what she was.
Catherine sat up, saddened at the distance between them. Her body still throbbed with the aftermath of their lovemaking, and she wanted only to hold Rebecca until the morning. She would not have that tonight, perhaps not any night. It was a possibility she was not ready to face. Rebecca moved her too deeply, aroused desires too powerful, to think about turning back. Her heart, her soul, had been marked forever by the searing intensity of Rebecca’s presence.
"What will you do?" she asked quietly.
Rebecca swung her legs over the side of the bed, instantly aware of the absence of Catherine’s touch. "Check with homicide about Jeff --talk with some sources who might know something. Cruise through the tenderloin. I’ve got contacts there."
Catherine tried to absorb the realities of Rebecca’s life, wondering if she would ever truly be able to understand it. Who but another cop could appreciate the soul-numbing inhumanity that was an everyday occurrence in the world Rebecca inhabited. She would try, and she was determined not to allow Rebecca to shut her out.
Catherine started to rise. "Let me get you some coffee."
Rebecca restrained her, pushing her gently down. "I don’t want you to get up. I want you to stay here, so I can think of you like this until I see you again."
Catherine wrapped her arms around Rebecca’s neck, kissing her tenderly. "All right," she replied huskily.
She lay in the dark, listening to Rebecca move about in the other room. She didn’t sleep again until long after the outer door clicked shut.
Continue on to Part 4
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