Shield of Justice

by Radclyffe

Please see part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.


 

Chapter TwentyĖFive

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

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

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

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

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

**********

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

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

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

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

**********

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

Rebecca sat beside her in a worn armchair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine stood and motioned to Rebecca to follow.

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

"What about trying hypnosis or drugs?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I must see you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine nodded, her thoughts elsewhere.


Chapter TwentyĖSix

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

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

"What does she want?" Rebecca asked.

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

"Patch her through," Rebecca instructed.

"Frye?" a faint voice questioned.

"Yeah, itís me, Sandy. What is it?"

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

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

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

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

"What is it?" Catherine asked.

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

"Probably nothing."

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

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

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

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

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

"Thank you."

**********

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

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

"Dead?"

"Yeah."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He already has. He called at three am"

"Bastard," Rebecca swore.

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

The Captain looked at Rebecca for confirmation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter TwentyĖSeven

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

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

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

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

"Hello?" Catherine said.

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

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

"What girl?"

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

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

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

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

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

"When?"

"Seven oíclock tonight."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter TwentyĖEight

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

"No."

"For godís sake, Catherine, why?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca fixed anxious eyes on Catherineís calm ones.

"Are you absolutely sure?"

"Yes."

**********

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Right. Letís do it."

Continue on to Part 8

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