Cyber Antics chapter 6

By Penelope Downs, AKA Doc

Disclaimer: The characters are mine and I own the copyright. Use without my permission is prohibited. Any resemblance to a person, dead or alive, is unintentional. If you under 18 years of age, are offended by same sex romances, or it's illegal to read about it where you live, stop now and read no further.

Chapter 6

Neil remained in Catherine’s office most of the morning, sitting in on Carolyn Bower’s interview. To his surprise, he found that he and Catherine made a pretty good team. They had been able to quiz the girl on most aspects of her life from her early teens up to her encounter with the FBI without making her feel uncomfortable. It became apparent during the interview that Carolyn really was as naïve as Catherine suspected even though she had grown up in a foreign-service family that had toured the capitals of most of the developed world. Neil actually found himself feeling paternalistic toward the young woman. Although it was readily apparent to him that Carolyn had been duped by the young man who had called himself Edwardo Rivera, that fact was just beginning to dawn upon her. He felt sorry for her as he watched her suppress a grimace as she realized from the answers that she was giving to their questions that Edwardo was probably not who he had claimed to be and that he had lied to her. As Catherine escorted Carolyn to Robert MacEwen’s office, Neil headed to his own small office to plan how to best begin tracking the person he believed to be central t the case—the notorious Edwardo. Even though the FBI had not been successful in its efforts to find this mysterious figure, Neil thought he stood a reasonable chance of getting some information. He didn’t carry a badge and, more importantly, he could get a little creative when explaining why he was looking for the man. He had already decided during the meeting with Carolyn that one explanation he would use if asked why he was trying to track down Edwardo was that he was trying to help a young woman whom Edwardo had gotten in to trouble. It was a true statement; if others read another meaning in to those words, he figured that was their problem.

Catherine rubbed her eyes and then stretched her arms. She was tired, having stayed up late to prepare for the interview with Carolyn and re-read Thomas’ and Torrey’s memo. As a result, she was finding it hard to concentrate on the law review article that she was reading. She decided she would be more productive if she took a break and went for a run, especially since she had skipped her morning run with the dogs to get to the office early. She went in to her private bathroom to retrieve her gym bag. Although she could have changed in there, she didn’t care to walk through the office during business hours dressed in her shorts and T-shirt. The only option left was to use the ladies locker room in the gym. As she headed toward the bank of elevators she was surprised to hear Torrey call out her name. She turned around to look at the younger woman and caught her breath when she realized that Torrey was also headed to the gym. ‘Damn,` Catherine thought to herself. She was attracted to the young woman and that fact made her uncomfortable. Now she was going to have to be in the same room with her while both of them undressed and changed in to running clothes. Catherine was so filled with dread that she almost turned around to head back to her office but thought better of that, knowing that behavior would be rude and might hurt Torrey, which was the last thing in the world that she wanted to do. Catherine forced a smile and held the elevator door open as Torrey approached to ride down with her to the gym.

Catherine was silent during the elevator’s descent toward the basement gym. Torrey attributed it to the fact that she was probably engrossed in thought about the case and would be unwilling to discuss anything in an elevator car full of strangers, no matter how private they might try to keep the conversation. In reality, Catherine Ellis was chastising herself for letting her personal life remain so screwed up. The idea that she was physically attracted to a woman had not bothered her. Rather, it was her defensiveness about having an intimate relationship with anyone, male or female that upset Catherine. She knew that this fear was deeply ingrained in her character. She doubted that a lifetime of therapy would have been able to help her. However, she had been unwilling to even consider therapy because she had decided long ago that she wouldn’t be able to stand reliving the traumas she had experienced as a very young child. It had been bad enough living through them, she didn’t relish the idea of re-living them and re-experiencing the pain. As a result, she had remained isolated and lonely, and with each passing year felt as if her heart was atrophying from lack of use.

Once in the locker room, Torrey wondered why Catherine remained so quiet. She also noticed the signs of tension present in the older woman’s demeanor. `Why is she so uncomfortable? Is it my presence? I wonder if she could have found out that I’m a lesbian and that makes her uncomfortable? Does she think that I was making a pass at her by offering to share my dinner with her last night?’ Torrey’s mind raced on. She suddenly felt crest-fallen with the idea that Catherine could so be so narrow-minded to judge others based upon their sexual preferences. She was shaken from her morose thoughts when Catherine cleared her throat to speak.

"I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet. I’m afraid I may have actually seemed unfriendly. I didn’t mean to behave that way. It’s just that I feel so totally out-of-my-element handling a criminal case. I haven’t been able to stop worrying about how I can adequately defend Ms. Bowers, especially since Neil informed us of the bad news this morning. I apologize if I offended you." Catherine had had to speak up to try and lift Torrey’s spirits, seeing how dejected she had looked. However, she was forced to resort to lying because she couldn’t tell the woman that she was an emotionally crippled person who had never been able to have a meaningful relationship her entire adult life. Catherine thought to herself, `I haven’t been able to open up to anyone to discuss my problem, I certainly can’t start now with someone who’s almost a total stranger. Anyway, if she knew, she’d probably think I needed to be committed."

Torrey stared Catherine in the eye while she spoke. Catherine seemed remorseful, although Torrey wasn’t certain that she was being completely forthright. Torrey gratefully accepted Catherine’s explanation and apology at face value. She desperately wanted to believe that Catherine wasn’t petty and narrow-minded. Subconsciously, however, Torrey still harbored fears that Catherine behaved the way she did because she was a lesbian. Forcing a smile, Torrey spoke.

"Well, I thought you might have been so quiet because of the case. The apology is accepted, although I’m not sure that it’s needed. May I join you on your run?"

Catherine was relieved to see Torrey smile and grateful that she wasn’t angry. If she had been, Catherine would have understood. She responded quickly, "I’d love it if you did join me. I need to get out of this mood. I understand that you have quite a repertoire of humorous stories and other yarns that should draw me out of myself. I think your company is just the cure I need."

Both women agreed that they would go to the gym to do their stretching exercises before heading to the start of the tow path, which was a couple of blocks from their office. They planned to run about a mile along the path before heading back. As they entered the gym, they head a familiar voice greet them. It was Thomas.

He looked at them as he bent to stretch his muscles. His dimpled smile was infectious, especially when at such a lop-sided angle. Catherine and Torrey laughed out loud. They couldn’t help themselves; he resembled a mischievous child more now, dressed so casually and in such an improbable pose. Both silently breathed a sigh of relief because he had broken the tension that still lingered between them, below the surface.

"Gee, don’t deflate my ego. You’re supposed to be supportive and encourage me to exercise and live healthy. I could develop a complex you know and give this up just because you two made fun of me. If I did, and dropped dead young due to a lack of exercise how would you live with yourselves?" He bantered, quickly adding, "What is it that you find so amusing, my mismatched outfit or my knobby knees?"

Torrey and Catherine looked at Thomas and then at each other. Torrey spoke up first. "It’s the knobby knees for me. I sort of like the look of that old KISS T-shirt with those Mickey Mouse shorts." Catherine piped in, "Yeah, works for me, too."

Thomas responded with mock indignity. "I’ll have you know that my nephew picked out these shorts personally when he and his parents visited Disney World. He’s just like me. He has excellent taste." Smiling, he added. "The KISS T-shirt was the only clean one I had. I haven’t had time to go to the Laundromat lately. I didn’t think anyone would appreciate it if I wore one of the dirty, stinky ones."

Speaking up before Torrey could respond, Catherine surprised both of the junior attorneys with her levity. "Well, you don’t know how relieved we are that you didn’t wear one of those. Everyone in the gym might have passed out. This is a pretty confined space you know."

Torrey chimed in. "Yeah, you’d be calling the medics now to try and revive us." Before she continued, she looked at Catherine, who gave a slight nod. "Say, we’re going to run along the tow path, do you want to join us?"

"Sure, I was going to head that way myself. How far are you planning on running?"

Catherine responded this time. "About a mile out, two miles round trip."

"Sounds great. Count me in pals." Thomas shot back in his playful little-boy tone of voice.

As soon as the trio completed their stretching exercises, they headed out of the building through the parking garage. They then turned left, heading toward the Potomac River and the tow path. As they stopped to wait for the light to turn green at the bottom of the street, they noticed a dark blue Impala stopped at the entrance to the parking garage of their building. Thomas began waiving, trying to get Neil’s attention, but gave up when the car turned the opposite direction, toward M Street.

Continued in Chapter 7


alt fic index <> homepage