Shield of Justice
Please see part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.
Catherine made steady progress across town in the late rush hour traffic. She searched several times for signs of Rebecca and Watts behind her, but she could see no trace of them. She put it from her mind, reassuring herself with the knowledge that they were there somewhere. She was surprised to find her hands were shaking as she lifted the damp envelope from its hiding place. She brought it to the car, as she had been directed, before opening it.
"Walk north on the bike path along the water," she read out loud, wondering if the police could really hear her. She reread the single sentence several times, thinking it was odd that he had chosen that path. The hard-packed dirt path had been nearly abandoned after a wider, paved path had been built nearer to the highway. Of course, she thought, smiling at her own naïveté, this route is perfect for someone who doesnít want to be noticed.
Rebecca, however, didnít miss the significance for a second. "Hell," she groaned. "That trail is four miles long and a lot of it is overgrown with brush. He could be anywhere!"
"Well, at least youíll have good cover," Watts replied with uncharacteristic optimism.
"There she goes," Rebecca said, reaching for the door handle. She was surprised by Wattsís restraining grip on her arm.
"Give her a few minutes, Frye. You know where sheís headed. If heís watching and sees you now, the dealís off. And I say the lady is safer now than she would be if we didnít know when he was coming."
Rebecca forced herself to watch Catherineís figure blur into the trees at the waterís edge before she left the car. Watts would drive slowly along the road that meandered through the park, trying to stay in the same vicinity by the bearings Rebecca transmitted to him by radio. It left Catherine and Rebecca fairly isolated, but it was the best they could do.
"Thereís a runner coming this way," Catherineís voice announced in her ear, startling Rebecca with its clarity. She couldnít see Catherine, who was several hundred yards ahead of her. The dense foliage near the water made for poor visibility, especially in the rapidly deepening darkness.
"I have contact with her, Watts," Rebecca relayed into her own tiny microphone. "Weíre about a half mile in along the trail. Nothing yet."
"Heís passing," Catherine continued, a touch of relief in her voice.
Two women runners passed Rebecca from behind. A male cycler followed close thereafter. Rebecca noted his general description, but she didnít see anything suspicious about him. She relayed their general location to Watts again, knowing that he would direct the other officers staked out in the park in tandem with them as much as possible.
"A woman with a dog approaching. Cute dog," Catherine noted.
That, Rebecca knew, would be Diane Thompson and Cleo. Cleo was a narc dog. They had decided to risk putting one officer on Catherineís direct route if they could, and the tiny Yorkshire terrier seemed like the perfect cover.
Diane shook her head almost imperceptibly as she passed Rebecca a minute later. "Nothing," she whispered with disappointment.
Rebecca hadnít expected much. Obviously he wasnít going to reveal himself. What she couldnít figure was how he intended to get away, especially with Catherine. Could he be so psychotic he didnít believe they would be following him? He had set this up so well, and this glaring flaw perplexed her.
"There are some fallen trees up ahead," Catherine reported. "Iím going to have to go around them."
"No!" Rebecca cried silently, breaking into a run. If Catherine were off the trail, not only was she more vulnerable, she was easier to lose. Seconds later Rebecca heard Catherine gasp and then recognized the harsh voice in her ear that froze her heart.
"Where is the wire? Tell me!"
Rebecca heard the rending of cloth before total silence as Catherineís transmitter went dead.
"Jesus, Watts! Heís got her! Move, move!" Rebecca screamed into her mike as she tore up the trail. She saw the downed trees ahead, and slowed as she approached, her gun in hand. Carefully, she stepped off the path toward the water, searching for some sign. They couldnít be far ahead! It was evident from some trampled bushes that he had waited here for her. Rebeccaís eye caught a faint flash of color in the grass. She stifled a moan as her fingers closed over one of the cream-colored buttons from Catherineís blouse. Moving automatically, the tiny connection to Catherine clenched in her hand, she searched for a trail. Through the trees she could see the ever present scullers on the river. Life went on normally around her, while her own life condensed into the sensation of a tiny button pressed into her palm.
She heard footsteps behind her, and turned, her gun poised. It was Watts.
"What happened?" he said breathlessly.
"He was waiting here, just like we knew he would be. I was only a minute behind, but they seemed to have vanished," Rebecca recounted in a flat, empty voice.
Watts would almost rather she panicked. Right now she looked like a loose grenade with the pin pulled, ready to go off at any second.
"They canít get out of the park, Frye. Thatís one thing we did right."
"What if he doesnít take her out of the park? What if he just rapes and murders her, fifty yards from us, just like the others?"
"Too dangerous. Weíve got people all over here now. And besides, this guy is not stupid. He got her here for a reason, and it wasnít just to hump her."
Rebecca lunged at him. "Shut your fucking mouth, Watts!" She had her hands on his throat before she realized what she was doing. Just as quickly, she dropped her hands and shook her head to clear it.
"God, I lost it," she said, stepping back. "Iím sorry."
Watts regarded her impassively, waving away her apology. Color returned to her face and her eyes grew sharp and intent.
"Theyíre not here, Watts. Which means they went somewhere, right?"
Watts nodded in puzzled agreement.
"So where the hell did they go? For that matter, how does he always disappear so easily? They didnít go up that path, Watts, because two of them would have left quite a trail. And they didnít go back past me. So where did they go?"
They both turned at the same time. Towards the water.
"Son of a bitch," Watts said, hurrying after Rebecca. "Are we dumb fucks or what? Itís been right in front of our noses the whole time. The goddamned water!"
Their eyes scanned the crew teams and solitary rowers on the river, a sight so familiar it had failed to register in anyoneís mind.
"Janet Ryan stopped to watch the regatta," Rebecca mused out loud, "and I bet if we checked the dates of the other rapes weíd find there was a regatta each time. Perfect cover." She rounded on Watts, her voice sharp with purpose.
"Heís got to be headed for the boathouses! Get the car and follow me. And for Godís sake, keep this quiet. I donít want Catherine to end up in a hostage situation. Let me go ahead on foot. He wonít be expecting it. He thinks heís outsmarted us."
"Iíll keep a lid on it for as long as I can, Frye. That means Iím your only backup."
She met his eyes for a moment and was reassured by their unwavering solidity.
The first thing she noticed was the pounding pain in her jaw. The second was the rhythmic sounds of water rushing past. She tried to turn and found herself wedged uncomfortably into a narrow space at the front of some kind of boat.
"Weíre almost there, Catherine," he said. "May I call you `Catherineí?"
She tried to focus on his face in the near darkness. She wanted to put a face to the voice; she needed that to quiet the rising panic that threatened to immobilize her.
"What may I call you?" she asked, her voice sounding odd to her own ears. She ran her tongue experimentally over the inside of her mouth. Swollen, but nothing broken.
Her heart raced at this small triumph.
"Where are we going, Raymond?"
"To a private place, where no one will disturb us."
Catherine made no attempt to sit up. She couldnít go anywhere, and it was pointless to antagonize him. She became acutely aware of the cold wind on her chest and realized her blouse was open. She remembered him tearing it to pull off the tiny microphone wires that had been taped there. He had not touched her breasts. She tentatively reached up to pull the damaged material closed.
"Whatís the matter, does your jaw hurt? I didnít want to hit you, but I couldnít let you make any noise."
"My jaw does hurt, and Iím cold."
"Youíll be warm soon."
She couldnít judge how long she had been in the boat, which she now recognized as a scull. She knew they were moving quickly, and she wondered if Rebecca would find her.
There were fifteen boathouses on the river, some owned by private universities, some city property, and some no longer in use. Rebecca was betting that he would be using one of the half dozen unoccupied structures. If she bet wrong, it could mean Catherineís life. It seemed to take forever for her and Watts to get there. Rebecca would have to check the entire perimeter of each house, and possibly the interiors, in the hope of finding Catherine, and she was racing against the clock.
"Take the street side, Watts. Iíll take the water side. When I move to the next house, Iíll signal you."
She melted quickly into the darkness near the water, praying that she would be in time.
"I canít turn the lights on, Catherine, but we have candles. Candles will be nicer, donít you think?"
He was an average looking man, sandy hair, medium height, and a slender build. It was the voice that captured Catherineís attention. It had a dreamy quality, almost as if he were reciting well-practiced words. She had heard it before, and it worried her. She had a feeling he was listening to other voices in his head.
"I have to tie your hands, Catherine. You canít be trusted, and I donít want you to spoil anything."
"What might I spoil?"
"I donít want you to move while Iím fucking you. You have to pay attention to what Iím doing." As he spoke he wrapped her wrists behind her back with nylon cord. She was aware that her breasts were exposed, but he didnít seem to notice. He stepped behind her to pull a tarp over the bench that ran the length of the wall.
"What do you want to show me?" Catherine was desperately casting about for some way to interrupt his thinking. He was obviously playing out a script already written in his mind, and if she couldnít distract him, she had no hope.
"I want to show you how well I can fuck, and how special it is with me. More than with any of the others." He was kneeling beside her now, emptying the contents of a sports bag on the floor. There were several pairs of shorts, more rope, and a .38 caliber revolver.
"Tell me what it will be like."
He stood up abruptly, and pulled her head back roughly by the hair. His face, previously unnaturally calm, was suddenly contorted with rage.
"Iíll do much better than tell you, Doctor. Iíll show you. And when Iím done youíll know just how special I am."
Rebecca had about given up hope when she spied the dim flicker of light through the shutters of the last boathouse in the row. She carefully pried one piece of wood off the boarded up window and peered inside. Moving slowly, she raised the radio to her lips.
"Iíve got them, Watts. Rear of the last house, first floor. Iím going in. I need you now, Watts."
Her voice sounded strangely hollow in his ear. It spooked him.
"Wait for me, Frye! Youíll get yourself killed!"
Rebecca didnít hear his message. It wouldnít have changed her
"Hello, Catherine," Rebecca said as she stepped into the room. She could barely make out the shapes of objects at the far end of the room, but she could see Catherine and the man who stood beside her quite clearly in the glow of the candles he had placed in a circle around them. He was staring at her, a look of confusion on his face.
"Who is your friend?" Rebecca asked, stepping forward slowly, her jacket unbuttoned, the safety off on her automatic.
"This is Raymond," Catherine answered in a steady voice. She looks so calm!
He moved quickly, stepping behind Catherine and pressing the revolver to her temple.
"You shouldnít have come here," he said. "Now I have to kill her."
"I donít think so," Rebecca said evenly, her eyes on his face. "I wonít let you."
"You have no idea who I am. You donít know my power. You canít stop me." He laughed, enjoying himself.
"You donít know how powerful I am!" she responded. "This woman is mine. Iíve come for her."
"Youíre a fool. Iíll kill you both."
"You canít kill me," Rebecca said arrogantly, fervently hoping that Watts was in position, and that he could still shoot. She was counting on him to save Catherineís life. "Go ahead. Try to shoot me. You wonít be able to, you puny pathetic excuse for a man. If you were a man, you wouldnít have to pull women into the bushes and rape them." Her eyes never left his. "I bet you canít even get it up if theyíre looking you in the face. I bet youíre afraid to let them see just how weak you really are. You donít have the balls to shoot --"
She rolled left the instant his gun moved from Catherineís temple, drawing her own simultaneously. She thought she fired, but the impact of the bullet that tore through her chest pitched her backwards. She never knew if Catherine was safe.
It was unclear whose bullet hit him first, Rebeccaís or Wattsí. Raymond Blake had died instantly, leaving Catherine Rawlings unharmed. Catherine took a leave of absence, stating health reasons. To the casual observer, she would have appeared perfectly healthy as she juggled two shopping bags of groceries and her keys to the door of her brownstone.
She frowned, key in hand, as the door opened.
"Youíre not supposed to be up."
"Let me do something," her reluctant patient complained. "Youíve been taking care of me for weeks."
"I've been taking care of you because I love you, Rebecca, and I owe you my life."
Rebecca looked uncomfortable, as she always did when Catherine brought up the night in the boathouse.
"No you donít. I was just doing my job."
"It was more than that. We both know it!" Catherine cried in an unusual fit of temper. "You knew you could die protecting me. Did you actually believe I could survive it if you traded your life for mine?"
Rebecca looked away. "I donít know. I only knew I couldnít survive without you."
Catherineís anger dissipated as quickly as it had come, the product of her fear. She slipped her arms around Rebeccaís waist, careful not to disrupt the bandages covering the healing wound on her chest.
"Rebecca," she said softly, welcoming the desire Rebeccaís nearness kindled in her. "I love you. I want the chance to love you for a long time. I want you to promise me that Iíll have that chance. If you canít do that for me, I wonít be able to bear watching you walk out my door. Iíll die inside each time you leave me."
Rebeccaís arms tightened around her, so many words she wanted to say choking her. "I promise."
Catherine clung to the words, knowing it was the most important
promise Rebecca would ever make.
Catherine glanced at the clock as Hazel Holcomb came through the cafeteria line. It was exactly seven-fifteen am. Hazel joined her, carefully arranging her juice and danish on the table before she began to speak.
"Are you ready to come back?" Hazel asked without preamble. It was Catherineís first full day at the medical center in three months.
"I think so. Iíve missed it."
Hazel studied Catherine silently. She knew very well that Catherine had something on her mind. Whether Catherine knew that was another story. Hazel sipped her coffee and waited.
"Rebecca goes back to work today, too," Catherine added casually.
"Is she anxious to return?"
Catherineís face lit up with a fond smile. "Canít wait."
"Are you ready for her to go back to work?"
"Well," Hazel said in a satisfied voice, "now weíre getting somewhere."
She watched the play of emotions across Catherineís face. Some kind of internal struggle was clearly raging. Knowing how long Catherine had waited to allow anyone into her heart, Hazel could only imagine what the loss of that love could cost. "You could have chosen someone in a slightly less dangerous line of work, you know. Goodness knows, there are plenty of women around here who have been interested."
"I didnít fall in love with Rebecca because sheís a cop," Catherine answered defensively.
"Didnít you?" Hazel probed.
"No! I fell in love with her because of who she is, not what she is!"
"Is there a difference?"
Catherine stared at her friend and mentor. Images of Rebecca passed through her mind. Rebecca leaning against a desk, cool and controlled, an intensity about her that aroused Catherine; Rebecca collapsing against her after orgasm, shedding tears for all the pain she couldnít allow herself to feel at other times; Rebecca calmly staring into the eyes of Raymond Blake, knowing she would kill him.
"Iíve never wanted to admit that," she replied, a little embarrassed.
Hazel looked surprised. "Why, for heavenís sake?"
"Because it means sheís never going to stop being a cop," Catherine said quietly. Her eyes, filled with sudden pain, met Hazelís. "And Iím not sure I can live with it." She didnít want to go on, afraid of where her words might lead.
"Talk to me about this," Hazel said gently. She sensed Catherineís fear, but she trusted her strength as well. Catherineís need to express these fears was the real reason she was here.
"That night in the boathouse Rebecca knew she might die, and she deliberately provoked him," Catherine began, her voice low and tormented. "She looked right into his face and she never wavered. I saw him shoot her, Hazel. I saw her body blown into the air; I saw her blood splash against the wall. She was lying in a pool of blood, completely still, and I thought she was dead. And do you know how I felt? Empty. My mind felt empty; my soul felt empty. If she dies, Hazel, Iím afraid Iíll feel like that for the rest of my life!"
"Does she know how you feel?"
Catherine shook her head. "No. And I donít want her to. Being a cop is too much a part of her. Sheíd die if she didnít do this."
Hazel nodded, always having known that Catherine would love without reservation when she finally allowed herself to love at all.
"Then youíre going to have to love her enough to let her go each and every day," Hazel said.
Catherine stared for a long time at the cup clenched in her hands, feeling the sadness of acceptance. When she raised her eyes to Hazelís, they were calm.
"I donít have any choice. I wonít give her up."
Rebecca settled into the seat next to Watts, content to let him drive, happy to be back in a world she knew. Watts hadnít said much since the Captain announced that he had assigned them as permanent partners. Neither of them had protested. There was something Rebecca wanted to say, but, as usual, she was having trouble finding the words. Watts was strangely quiet as well.
"I got a kid, you know," he finally said, staring straight ahead.
"Oh yeah?" Rebecca responded noncommittally.
"A son. Heís a lawyer. He lives with another guy. Theyíve been together ten years."
Rebecca too stared straight out through the windshield. "I never thanked you for that night we nailed Blake. I counted on you to save Catherineís life. You came through for me."
He shrugged. "I couldnít let him waste the doc. Guess I got a soft spot for dames. But you know, Frye, you canít let yourself take Ďem too seriously. Youíre finished if you do."
Rebecca smiled to herself, deciding not to be offended.
"Sheís something special, Watts."
Watts shook his head in mock sadness. "Shit, Frye, youíre already a goner."
They laughed and drove off together, eager for whatever the streets might hold.
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