Shield of Justice

by Radclyffe

Please see part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.


 

Chapter Thirteen

Rebecca cruised slowly through the tenderloin, that part of town frequented by prostitutes and the men who sought their company, drug dealers, street people, and others society had cast out or forgotten. The prostitutes in their crotch high skirts and revealing tops leaned against buildings or strolled languidly through the litter-strewn streets. Many she recognized by sight, more than a few by name. Arresting them was not her goal -- they were no more criminals than the hungry who stole for food. When citizens of the surrounding gentrified areas complained that the undesirable activity was encroaching on their neighborhoods, the cops would round up some of the girls, knowing full well they would be back on the streets in hours. All the participants knew it was a futile gesture. Rebecca chose instead to keep an eye out for new faces, especially the very young, hoping to get to a few before the streets became a way of life. Occasionally she succeeded.

She pulled over in front of a bar which sported a flashing neon sign reading, `GirlsóLive Nude Girlsí. She wondered absently if anyone besides her found that sign absurd. It wasnít the bar she was interested in, but the thin blond woman in front of it. She was about five-five, heavily made up, with an expanse of leg showing that left little to the imagination. Her hair was bleached, in a punk cut, and she kept one eye on the cars cruising by as she talked with several other women. When she saw Rebecca climb out of her car, her face twisted into a frown.

"Hiíya, Sandy," Rebecca said softly as she approached. The others in the group began to drift quickly away.

"Jesus, Frye," the girl hissed, looking quickly over her shoulder. "What are you trying to do to me? Iíll be poison to every john on the street tonight!"

"So you can get a good nightís sleep then," Rebecca said, turning so her back was to the bar, keeping a watchful eye on the street. She was alone, and it was no secret she was a cop. "I need to talk to you."

"Is that all?" Sandy said with contempt. Sheíd had too much experience with cops who wanted more than just information to trust any of them.

Rebecca met her angry gaze evenly. "Thatís all right now."

"I donít have much choice, do I?"

"No, you donít."

"Can we talk inside? Youíre killing my business out here."

Rebecca nodded and followed the girl into the dark bar, taking a table well away from the small platform where a woman did a tired bump and grind for the few patrons. Sandy signaled for a drink. Rebecca put a twenty on the table.

"So, what do you need, `Officerí," Sandy asked in a bored voice.

"Two cops were killed the day before yesterday. What do you hear about it?"

Sandy sipped her drink and regarded Rebecca coolly. She didnít actually dislike the big cop; in fact, Rebecca was one of the few cops who didnít harass the working girls. Sheíd even let Sandy out of the police van one night after a raid rather than bring her downtown for the empty charade of booking. Still, Sandy didnít want her to get the idea she was some kind of stoolie. And it didnít help her reputation any to appear too chummy with the cops. There was something different about the tall, blond detective tonight, though. She seemed almost human, like she had feelings. Youíre losing it, girl -- cops with feelings!

"Thereís nothing going down that Iíve heard," she said finally, which was pretty much true. Theyíd all heard about it, of course. Usually when something like that happened it brought the whole force down on them, like they were the source of all the cityís problems. Maybe this cop was just the first of many.

"What about the chicken trade? Any new faces in town?"

Sandy snorted in disgust. She hated the child procurers and pornographers as much as she hated the pushers. Like most of her friends, she stayed clear of them.

"Since that big bust six months ago, itís been quiet. I heard there might be a new house open somewhere in a very ritzy location, but it isnít down here."

"Whoís running it?" Rebecca asked nonchalantly, hiding her surprise at the information. She had been instrumental in cleaning out half a dozen establishments supplying children for all types of amusement in the city-wide crackdown Sandy referred to. If they were up and running again, there had to be big money behind it. Could that have been what Carmichael was on to?

"No one knows, and thatís the truth. Thereís more than a few people whoíd like to find out."

"Yeah," Rebecca muttered. "Where thereís kids, thereís money." She looked at the young woman before her, already cynical and hardened against life. There was nothing Rebecca could do to change her future, but maybe she could make a difference with a few of the really young ones. She pushed back her chair, leaving another twenty with the change on the table. "Thanks, Sandy. Keep your ears open -- Iíll be back."

"Hey, Frye," Sandy called. "Who were the cops who got it?"

"Just cops."


Chapter Fourteen

Rebecca was still in the car as the sun came up. She stopped at an all-night diner for breakfast before a quick detour to her apartment to shower and change clothes. The traffic was light, and her mind wandered, returning unbidden to memories of the previous night. Just recalling the sound of Catherineís voice brought heat to her blood. Images of Catherine, wanton and passionate, threatened to unhinge her. Being with Catherine was at once the most comfortable and exciting experience sheíd ever had. It was more than she had ever dreamed, and easily the most frightening. Rebecca was relieved when the station house appeared, and she pulled into the lot on squealing tires. Work was just what she needed to put Catherine Rawlings in perspective.

It was too early for the day shift to arrive, and she walked unnoticed through the quiet halls. When she pushed open the ready room door she was astonished to see Watts at his desk with a half-eaten pizza in front of him. She wasnít certain, but she thought he was wearing the same suit as the day before. He was the only one in the room.

He glanced her way, grunting a greeting as he reached for another slice of the now congealed pizza.

"I was just going to call you, Frye," he said around a mouthful of bread and cheese.

"Whatís so important at five-thirty in the morning?" Rebecca commented, not really caring what Watts had to say. She couldnít stand to see him sitting in Jeffís chair. She noticed a stack of folders beside the desk -- their open case files. Could Watts actually be working?

"Thought you might like to read the morning paper," he said, tossing the early bird edition onto her desk. He went back to eating, munching the cold crust, his face expressionless.

"What the hell!" Rebecca exploded as she glanced at the headlines. "Riverside Rape Witness Found!" She stared at him in astonishment, and he shook his head grimly.

"Read it. Itís very interesting."

She began to read aloud, her voice tight and angry. "Sources reveal that a witness to the brutal rape of a college student on the River Drive last week may have been found." What followed was a sensationalized review of the previous two assaults, but it was the last paragraph which caused Rebecca to clench her fists in frustration. "Dr. Catherine Rawlings, a noted psychiatrist at University declined comment, but unnamed sources confirm her involvement with a patient who witnessed the most recent attack. The patientís name has not yet been released, nor has a description of the assailant been made public." The article finished with an indictment of the police for failing to keep the public informed.

"Jesus Christ," Rebecca cursed, tossing the paper aside. "I canít believe the asshole put Catherineís name in the paper! He might as well have put Janet Ryanís in, too. Weíll need to tighten security down there today. Catherine didnít want us to put a guard on the girl, but weíll have to now."

This kind of media reporting only made their jobs more difficult. It engendered public distrust, and in this case could very well endanger the investigation. It might prompt the rapist to change his pattern, or stop temporarily, leaving them in the void. He might move to another city altogether. It was even possible he might try to silence Janet Ryan, now that he knew where she was.

"Looks like somebody talked," Watts remarked with disgust. "Probably the shrink."

"It wasnít her," Rebecca stated flatly, knowing that Catherine would never endanger Janet Ryan.

"She knows almost as much as we do," Watts continued unperturbed, fingering the reports in front of him. "Sheís been present every time youíve talked to the Ryan kidó"

"I told you, Watts -- it wasnít her. Now let it drop!" Rebecca barked. Her patience was exhausted, and she felt fatigue settle around her like a cloak. "Go find the little twerp from the Daily and shake it out of him after morning report," she said, slowly standing up. "Iím going home."

Watts wasnít convinced, but he knew better than to provoke her further. He didnít ask her anything else.


Chapter Fifteen

Catherine finished her second cup of coffee and glanced up at the cafeteria clock. It was 7:15. Residents and students were beginning to gather in tired clumps to discuss the nightís events and the dayís demands over breakfast. She was one of the few staff present at such an hour. The real business of the hospital wouldnít begin until the outpatient clinics began at 8:30. Catherine had come early for one specific reason -- to intercept Hazel Holcomb before the Chief of Psychiatryís busy schedule made her inaccessible for the day. Catherine saw the familiar figure moving through the coffee line at precisely 7:30, carrying a coffee and danish as she had each morning for the fifteen years that Catherine had known her. She was nearing sixty, and her age showed only in the grey of her hair and a slight thickening of her body. Her brisk step and quick piercing gaze were as youthful as ever.

Hazel Holcombís face registered faint surprise when she saw Catherine beckoning to her from across the room. As she settled into the chair across from her colleague, she said, "I donít suppose this is just a pleasant coincidence, is it?"

Catherine flushed in embarrassment. She always meant to call Hazel just to chat, or perhaps have dinner, but her schedule never seemed to leave time for it. Hazel had been her supervisor when she was a resident, and they had since become friends. Perhaps more than anyone else she knew, Catherine valued Hazelís opinion. She had the ability to provide insight without judgment, and the wisdom to hold her counsel until the patient --or friend -- was ready to accept it.

"No, it isnít," Catherine responded. "I have a professional problem I wanted to discuss with you. Do you mind me interrupting your breakfast time?" Catherine knew that this was probably one of the few private moments Hazel would have all day.

"Your company is always a pleasure, Catherine," the chief of psychiatry replied. "Tell me about your problem."

Catherine relayed the details of Janet Ryanís involvement with the recent assaults and the amnesia that followed.

"Iím not sure how hard I should be trying to reverse her amnesia," Catherine stated. "Obviously, itís vital to know exactly what she witnessed. Itís critical to the police investigation. On the other hand, I have to think of Janetís psyche first. She is a sexual abuse victim herself. Her brother repeatedly raped her throughout her childhood. Iím certain that the shock of witnessing the assault this week triggered many old terrors for her."

"Enough to account for the amnesia?" Hazel asked, dunking the corner of her cheese danish into the steamy black coffee.

Catherine shrugged. "The beating she took by itself may account for the amnesia --but sheís beginning to have flashbacks from her early childhood. Previously unremembered episodes of abuse. That is a result of witnessing the rape, Iím sure."

"She must be very fragile right now," Hazel commented.

"She is, of course. Sheís been working with me individually, and in group, for some time. She has made a lot of progress. This whole event has brought up a great deal for her to handle all at once."

Hazel pushed her chair back slightly and sat quietly regarding Catherine Rawlings. Catherine had been the brightest resident she had ever trained, and she was now the most accomplished psychiatrist on her staff. Hazel hoped to see Catherine assume her own position as head of psychiatry when Hazel retired. She knew her to be both an empathetic therapist and accomplished theoretician. Hazel knew that when Catherine sought her advice, it was often simply to confirm what she already believed.

"What do you think would happen to Janet if she were to recall the details of this recent trauma before she was prepared for it?" Hazel asked at last.

Catherine thought carefully before replying. "I canít be sure -- thereís a good chance she would handle it well. She has a supportive partner, and she has made great progress with resolving much of her confusion as to her own guilt -- or lack of it -- for the abuse in her childhood." Catherine hesitated, thinking aloud. "But there is still a possibility that she might see her inability to prevent this rape as a reflection of what she considers to be her failure to protect herself from her brother. It could be damaging."

"Thatís your answer, then, isnít it," Hazel stated calmly. "Sheíll remember when itís safe for her to remember."

Catherine felt a wave of relief as she often did when Hazel grasped the essence of some professional dilemma and reduced it to its simplest form.

Of course, her first responsibility was to her patientís welfare, regardless of the potential risk that existed if the rapist was not apprehended quickly. If any doubt existed as to Janetís well-being, Catherine owed it to her to be cautious.

"Of course. Youíre so right," Catherine said quietly. "Iím afraid I momentarily lost sight of exactly what my issues are."

Hazel recognized the look of self-accusation that crossed Catherineís fine features, clouding them for an instant with self-doubt. Ever the perfectionist, Hazel thought.

"Donít be so hard on yourself, Katie," Hazel said softly, using the nickname few people knew. "This is not a simple matter. Are the police pressuring you to force Janet along?"

"Oh, no," Catherine replied quickly. "Rebecca has been wonderful with Janet."

Hazel picked up immediately on the change in Catherineís tone, but she didnít comment on it. Catherine, however, flushed slightly and hastened to explain.

"Rebecca Frye is the detective in charge of the rape investigation. Sheís very good with Janet. Sheís frustrated, of course, because she doesnít have much to go on. But, sheís allowed me to handle Janet my own way."

"Sounds unusual for the police," Hazel noted dryly. It had not been her experience that the police were particularly sensitive about how they elicited information.

"Rebecca is unusual. Sheís a police officer, down to her last cell, but sheís also a sensitive, tender woman. I donít think thatís been easy for her." As Catherine spoke, she remembered the exhausted woman who had sought comfort in her arms just a few hours before, and her body warmed to the memory. Hazel knew Catherine too well not to notice.

"How serious is this -- with this police woman?" Hazel asked pointedly.

Catherine met Hazelís gaze evenly, but her eyes betrayed her uncertainty. She sighed deeply and shook her head.

"Oh, Hazel. I wish I could answer that. I hardly know her, really, and yet, my feelings for her are so strong! Sheís hardened by her work and emotionally barricaded because of it; but sheís also hiding her fear and her tenderness and her caring just to maintain her balance." Catherine spread her hands in a rare gesture of helplessness. "Iím afraid Iím quite taken with her."

Hazel wasnít all that surprised. She was probably the person who knew Catherine best, and she had watched her hold herself apart from potential relationships -- unsatisfied by casual encounters, not given to sexual liaisons, searching, seeking some deeper connection and being continually disappointed. She knew it had been some years since Catherine had even seriously dated anyone, and that her detachment had grown out of her disillusionment with love. For all of Catherineís training and knowledge of life, she remained, at her core, a true romantic. And she remained a woman, Hazel feared, who might never find the soul partner she so desired.

"Well --" Hazel said finally, "I think I can understand your dilemma better now." She raised a hand to halt Catherineís quick reply. "Oh, I do not for an instant doubt your professional judgment, or your ability to protect your patient. But oneís head is hardly clear when one is falling in love."

Catherine blushed fully and looked down at her hands. "Do you think Iím foolish?" she asked softly.

Hazel reached across the table, touching Catherineís hand gently. "Not a bit," she replied. "Itís normal and healthy -- and about time."

"It may turn into a disaster," Catherine went on, voicing her fear for the first time. "Sheís afraid, I feel, of being hurt. Iím not sure sheís even capable of knowing her feelings for me, or for anything."

"Sheís not alone in that, Katie," Hazel said sadly, "but, sheís touched you in a way no one has in years, and I doubt that she could have done that if she were truly irrevocably lost to her feelings. Trust to time -- and try to take care of yourself."

Catherine smiled her gratitude and straightened her shoulders. Pushing back from the table she stated, "Iíve got to make rounds."

They accompanied each other in friendly silence, strengthened as always by their encounter.


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.

Continue on to Part 5

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