Disclaimers, et al found at the beginning of part 1.

Emotion

"You don't have to do that you know."

"I know and I knew the other three times you've said it too."  Kris rolled her eyes at the skillet in front of her.

"I'm sorry."  Sam sighed.  "I guess I'm just not used to ...  and you're still hurt."  She lowered her head slightly and closed her eyes.  'Great job, Sam.  She's staying with you because she didn't want her parents to do this and now you've become an overbearing idiot.'

Smiling softly, Kris lowered the flame underneath the pan and stepped up behind the dark haired woman.  Leaning over and slipping both arms very loosely around the other woman's neck, pleased that her ribs seemed to be handling things much better, the blonde pressed her head against the side of Sam's.  "I love you."

The warm brush of air against her ear and cheek, and the words it carried, relieved Sam beyond all reason.   She covered the arms with her own, careful of the cast on one, and turned her head to touch her lips against Kris' cheek and whispered, "I'm sorry.  I know you don't like being coddled."

"Hmm."

"What?"

"Well, it's just that I don't mind so much when it's you.  But don't be getting any ideas, okay?"

"Deal."

Leaning back and removing her arms, the blonde replied with a kiss to the dark hair, "Good.  You get back to those files; this will be done in a few minutes."

"Okay, and Kris?"

"Mmmhmm?"

"I love you too."

A happy warmth spread across Kris' skin as she got back to her cooking with a grin on her face.

Meanwhile, Sam looked over the reports of the murders again, carefully keeping any pictures either covered or in a large manila envelope provided for storage.  She was still searching for the elusive fact that was causing her to twitch every time she thought about the case.  There was something there but she wasn't sure what.  For the probably the fiftieth time, she went over the statements of neighbors and carefully compared everything.

"Here you go."

Sam looked up and quickly moved most of the folders out of the way as Kris put a plate of steaming breakfast in front of her.   Her stomach let her know just how empty it was just as she said, "Wow, looks and smells great!"  Starting to stand to get Kris' plate for her, she sat down quickly when a certain pair of green eyes caught the movement and flashed at her.

Pleased with both the compliment and Sam's immediate movement back into her chair, Kris smiled and sat down with her own plate.

After a couple of bites, Sam looked over at her friend and smiled.  "This is great."

"Thank you," the blonde responded with a smile and then moved her chin towards the folders, "Anywhere closer?"  Then she blinked and added, "Uh, off the record.  I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked."

Reaching out a hand and patting Kris' cast, Sam said, "It's okay, if there's anyone worthy of my trust it's you.  Please understand, though, when I can't say anything."

"Of course, it's your job.  I definitely understand."

"Frankly, I wish I had something to share but I don't."

"But?"

"But?"

"Yeah, you look like there's something on the tip of your tongue or something."

Frowning, Sam chewed a bit of food slowly and then swallowed.  "It's just that something's here and ..."

"You can't dig it out?"

"Mmm."  Sam wasn't happy at that admission and shifted a little in her chair due to the unease.

Kris almost smiled as she watched the tall woman's body language shift, she knew that Sam was chockfull of pride but it was more important to her that the scumbag was off the streets.  With a tiny start of surprise, the blonde realized it obviously bothered the detective a lot to say she was stuck but, more importantly, the amount of trust Sam had in her to say that must indeed be huge.

Frustrated, Sam speared a piece of sausage savagely and plopped it into her mouth to chew.

Watching the aggravated jaw work gave Kris an idea.  "Well, at a couple of the sites where the bodies were found, I interviewed the same people.  Would it help if I gave you my impressions?"

Sam looked up and sent a dart of surprise in Kris' direction.  She wasn't used to sharing but Kris was offering a one-way trade that might be very helpful.  The blonde was incredibly easy to talk to and might have heard or seem something different.  There was no doubt that she trusted Kris' thoughts of people, much more than her own sometimes.  "I ... I think I'd like that."

Inordinately pleased with the response, Kris chewed happily and finished her breakfast in double time.  They'd woken up before the alarm went off and since Sam always allowed herself plenty of time in the mornings to review records, stop by for an impromptu interview and so on, they had plenty of time for this exercise.

The blonde took her plate to the sink and waited for Sam to finish.  True to form, her mind wandered back to the morning's wake up and how she reveled in the warmth surrounding her.  She was becoming a little pleasure hound and it amused her to realize that as long as it was Sam's strength and love around her, she didn't give a damn.  A movement from Sam broke her out of her musings, the tall woman stood and turned with her plate in her hand.

Kris fully intended to move to the table and take the plate before Sam could step close but ended up blinking as she found herself suddenly backed by a tall figure, which had its hands on her shoulders.  Before she could turn, she felt the softest pressure of what she assumed was Sam pressing a kiss into her hair.

"Thank you, that was great," Sam said softly with a squeeze of Kris' shoulders just before she let go.

Just watching the dark head amble back to the table had Kris shaking her own.  "How do you do that?"

"Hmm?"  Oh so innocent blue eyes looked up at Kris with a hint of a sparkle.

Hands on hips or as best she could manage with the cast, Kris glared.  "Brat."

The innocent eyes widened in mock horror as Sam pointed to herself.

"Yes, you!"  Kris waggled a finger at her friend and then chuckled softly.  'Just how many sides of you are there for me to love, Ms Foster.  Hmm?'

With a quick flash of a smile, Sam sat down again and made sure the table was clean enough to move the folders back and then did so.  Craning her neck around, she asked, "You sure you don't mind helping?"

"If you think it might be of any help at all, I'd be more than happy to."

"You have a way with people.  If anyone could've gotten information out of them that we didn't, it'd be you."

Sam was busily putting some of the papers back in order and didn't notice the smile blossom on her friend's face.

"And lord knows I certainly trust you and your sense of honor more than anyone.  So yes, if you don't mind, let's do it."

The matter of fact way that Sam stated it was the most stunning for Kris.  Just a few words but they meant the world and brought back to the blonde that she probably needed to make a decision about something else in her life, since it seemed the thing to do lately.  She watched Sam lay out things on the table again for a minute.

Sam looked over at Kris and cocked her head slightly in confusion at the look on Kris' face.  Reaching out a hand, she asked, "You okay?"  Then frowned at the fingers she had surrounding Kris' smaller ones.  The knowledge that she just couldn't seem to get enough of being close to and touching the blonde was still disconcerting at best.

Kris blinked once before responding, "Yeah, I'm great."  She paused briefly to consider and then asked, "You think maybe we could talk later about something?"

The instant knot in Sam's stomach would've done an ulcer proud.  She looked over at Kris and swallowed, removing her hand at the same time, before replying, "Uh... sure."

Looking up at the odd tone, Kris was very surprised to catch the unusually unguarded flicker of fear in the slightly widened blue eyes and hastened to reassure by grasping the retreating hand quickly and smiling.  "It's just that you helped me before with this and I want to bounce some ideas off you.  That okay?"

"Yeah, of course."  The knot began to unravel a little.  "Can I hope that you'll be staying here tonight too?"

"If that's okay?"  Kris hadn't really thought about it until that second, but being apart from Sam wasn't high on her list of things to do at the moment.

"More than okay.  It's ..." 'Really good to come home to you.'  "... I'm really glad you want to stay."  'Bawk bawk!  Might as well flap your chicken wings!'

It was just a short while later that Kris had to laugh at Sam's wide-eyed stare of amazement.  The blonde had just finished going over pretty much all the interviews she had completed at the site of the Morris murder, without notes.

"How do you do that?"

"You mean I've finally found something you can't do?"

Sam shook her head in resignation.

"Awesome!  Let me write this down!"  She chuckled and grinned impishly at her friend's less than thrilled look.  "Hey, just think about how rare this is and you'd be happy too if it were you!"

Now serious, Sam spoke up, looking at the blonde in earnest appraisal, "Kris, you're able to do so many things I can't and do them so much better.  You are teasing, right?"

"Sam, that's sweet but you're super woman.  Nobody can come close."

Frowning, Sam wasn't about to let this go.  She truly felt that Kris was an infinitely better person than herself and had so many abilities and good qualities that she could never list them.  "Kris, you're the finest person I know with incredible abilities.  You're everything I'm not.   Look how you are with people, at writing, at organizing and don't think that I didn't see that drawing your mom had framed from your high school project or the photography awards."  She leaned forward, both arms on the table, "You found out about the problems at your work.  You're incredibly intelligent, beautiful, kind hearted ..."

Kris cut the brunette off by reaching over and touching her fingertips to Sam's mouth, "Ack, stop, stop!"

"Nnd dooh fuga..."

Grinning, Kris continued, "Cute, but enough and thank you."  Tentatively, she removed her fingers, "Safe now?"

"Only if you believe.  Otherwise, I can go on for hours and hours."

"I believe, I believe!"  Kris laughed and then leaned over the table to lightly touch her lips to Sam's pleased that her ribs didn't mind the extension too much.  "Thank you.  It means so much to me that you do feel that way."

"Well, I do.  Without doubt or question."  The dark head nodded firmly.

"Okay, back to work!  How do I compare with what you guys got?"

Sam looked over the case notes and compared the information that Kris had just given to her.  Shaking her head the information and even a person that the officers who had canvassed the area had missed, she turned to her friend and sighed, "It's too bad you didn't become a cop you know."

Kris thought about that for a few moments.  "It just never worked out."

"You were interested?"

"A long time ago."  Kris thought about that as the memories ran through her mind of the vacation here, the special visit to the governor's mansion there.  Things just came up at the wrong time.  Always at the wrong time.  Bringing her thoughts back, she added, "Then I just got interested in other things."

Smiling softly, Sam had something to say about that.  "I'm just glad to have you on my side."

Kris grinned.  "Only place to be."

"Says you, I'm glad to say."  Knowing they only had a certain amount of time, Sam bent her hand back down to look at the papers and started to go over the interviews again.  "I read all your articles; I don't remember you saying anything about the guy walking his dog?"

"There really wasn't much to say.  The witness said he'd seen the guy many times, thought he lived in the neighborhood.  I didn't want to start up a dog walker lynch mob."

"Thank you for that." Sam had to agree with the sentiment; things were more than touchy at the moment.  "And Mrs. Simmons ..."  The detective pursed her lips at that name; she had been the one to interview the older woman.  "Told you that she had seen Donna Ryan just a couple of days before.  She told me it'd been several days."

"Yeah, I'm glad you released that bit before I did my piece so I didn't screw up.  After you said that, I checked with the neighbors and Mrs. Simmons had been out with her daughter the day she said she'd seen Donna Ryan."  Kris raked her teeth over her bottom lip as she thought for a few moments, "I honestly think she told you the truth and was just caught up in everything when I saw her."

"Definitely possible.  Her son told us that she sometimes got a bit involved."

Kris looked in surprise at her friend.  "Her son?"

Sharpening her gaze, Sam asked, "Yes, why?"

Kris frowned and tapped a finger on the table.  "Because she told me that he never visited her.  Weird."

"Maybe he was worried about her after all the publicity."

"Hmm, I guess.  But that makes me wonder what else I took for granted.  She told me her daughter had heard noises in Donna Ryan's backyard the week before but that would've been when Ryan was there.  What if she confused that too?  Did she tell you about that?"

"No, she didn't.  What else did she say?"

"I didn't write about it, of course, because what's the point when Donna Ryan was at home but now I think about it.  I could see the other house very well from hers and I thought at the time that it would have to be in the house, not in the back yard, from where she said her daughter was."

"Okay, definitely something to check out.  Thanks."

They went through a few other differences between statements and Sam's amazement at Kris' ability to get anyone to talk to her, in detail, grew tremendously.  "Do me a favor but hopefully don't tell anyone I asked?"

"Anything."

"Anytime you're around one of my cases, sit me down and give me details that you think might be of interest.  Please?"

Chuckling and a bit proud of herself, Kris nodded.  "Absolutely."

"Okay, let's see.  We're up to Mr. Monel.  I remember him myself, his wife was not happy that he'd been late and kept giving him grief about it the whole time I was there."

With a snort, Kris responded, "He was worried about that when I talked with him."

"Looks like this corresponds.  As you know from the press release, we cleared all the guys he mentioned and couldn't wait to share with anyone who'd listen."  Blue eyes rolled in exasperation.  "The Terminator guy confirmed the appointment two doors down, as did the Woel's.  Talked with the guy who delivered the package to Mrs. Lopez and ..."  Sam sensed a sudden stillness from Kris and glanced over.  The blonde's face was a picture of concentration.  The detective kept silent.  Finally, Kris shook her head and Sam queried, "What?"

Looking over at the dark haired woman, Kris said, "It's just weird.  Do you really mean the Terminator guy?  The one with the huge, ugly bug on his truck?"

"The one who tried milking the situation for free advertisements, yeah?"

Shaking her head again, Kris said, "I'm sure that Mr. Monel told me the bug had a bug painted on its side."

Frowning, Sam flicked through the papers again.  "We talked to him right after you it looks like."  She continued to read, absently tapping a finger against the table.  Finally, she found that the officer who had taken Mr. Monel's statement mentioned that Mr. and Mrs. Woel had been there and identified the pest control company.  "The Woel's identified the company."

"Could be nothing, I guess.  I mean, I didn't think about it until just now.  I heard that stupid 'bzzz bzzz' commercial on the radio today when mom brought me home.  That's what made me think of it."

Sam focused on the paper, chewing her cheek all the while.  If Kris was right, they might have been overlooking the presence of someone else at the scene of the crime because of the similarity in vehicles.  They'd verified that Terminator did have a call on the street that day but the thought that there might be two different vans threw a potentially important wrench into things.  If that was the case, even if the other exterminator truck was stolen it was another lead, another step and there were never enough of those.

"I'll take anything I can get.  Maybe I can have Lee meet me at the Monel's.  It's getting close to time that I need to leave anyway."  She turned her attention to Kris, "Can I get you anything before I go?  You need me to wrap your arm again, fasten buttons, make up lunch, tie your shoes ...  anything?"

Kris grinned.  "Yes, two things."

"Okay?"

"One, promise that you'll be careful and try not to work too late."

"Will you be the door greeter again?"  Sam's mouth formed into a quirky grin.

"Hmm, maybe.  If you're lucky!"  Kris tried a lecherous look but dissolved into a short burst of giggles.

'She is so damned cute!' Sam couldn't help a chuckle. "Okay, I'll try to be on my best behavior for that.  What's the other thing?"

"Ah."  Kris crooked her finger at the other woman and waggled it, then said, just above a whisper, "C'mere, I need to tell you something."

Sam pushed away from the table and circled it, then leaned over so that her dark head was close to the pale one.  "Yeah?"

Reaching her hand behind Sam's neck, Kris pulled the tall woman to her gently and met the other woman's lips with her own.  After a couple of seconds, she released Sam and grinned a bit shyly.  "I love you and I truly love being able to say it."

Dragging her index finger lightly down Kris' nose and then tapping the end, Sam responded with her own smile.  "Me too, very much."  She leaned in again and pressed her lips once more against the blonde's and then stepped back.  "Should I call here or your cell phone first if I want to talk to you?"

"Here, I think but I don't know about answering your phone?"

"Not that many people call but just screen through the answering machine if you'd rather not answer it."

"Great, thanks.  I thought I'd do a bit more on the computer so that should keep me busy." Somehow, Kris managed to keep a normal face at that statement.  She fervently hoped that Sam had no idea what she was actually doing on it.

Sam frowned.  "Not to sound over bearing or anything but don't overdo it, please?  Work will wait for you and looking at a computer all day can be incredibly frustrating."

"Don't worry, I promise that work will not get me frustrated today."  Kris responded, very glad that Sam had already turned away and didn't see the slight flush.  She'd found that work didn't cause nearly the same type of frustration as the stories she had read on the Internet did.  'Odd that.'  She mused to herself with a tongue firmly planted in her cheek.

---------

Walking down the steps towards the car, Sam let out a deep sigh.  The interview with Mrs. Simmons hadn't opened up any doors.  It turned out that it had been the week before that the woman's daughter had heard something.  She'd also heard a vehicle start up a minute after she had turned on the light at the side of the house.    Not much there beyond perhaps the killer scoping things out ahead of time.  Still.  "Might be worth having another canvass of the neighborhood to see if anyone else saw anything that week."

The tall blonde looked at her partner, "I guess, but it's part of the standard questioning.  Don't hold your breath."

"I know.  Frankly, I'd like to have Kris do the canvassing.  At least she gets all the information, unlike myself."

"Oh come on, you're great at interviews."

The dark head turned to look at her partner with both eyebrows raised high.

Lee grinned.  "Okay, you're great at interviews where you're required to have uh ... presence!"

Sam snorted as she opened the car door.  "Give it up, it's a lost cause."

After closing her door, Lee shrugged.  "Well, at least she shared the info.  Many journos won't, just in case they can get a story."  Lee's car had been giving her trouble, so Sam had picked her up from the mechanic's and they'd driven together to Mrs. Simmons.

"True.  Lucky for us, Kris isn't like that."

"Maybe it comes from having her father be a cop and knowing how bad it can be when people keep stuff to themselves."

'Or more likely from me bitching about it to her after that idiot reporter broke his leg trying to 'scoop' me on that case last year.'  Pulling a notepad from the rear of the vehicle, Sam started to make a few notes.  "Maybe so."

A few minutes later, they pulled up in front of the Monel's house after taking the time to discuss strategies and read up on everything they had from him so far.  It seemed that once the 'Terminator' had been cleared, not much had been heard from him.  They hoped that would mean he was anxious to talk to someone and that their methods would make sure that Monel wasn't grandstanding or just plain making things up.

When they were all seated in the living room, Lee explained to the Monel's that since they were the officers on the case that they wanted to make sure they had all the details correct from his statement, since neither of them had spoken to him.  Patiently, Lee went through the various points until they finally got to the one they were really there for.

Outwardly relaxed and attentive, Sam watched the man's every move.  She was a fairly good judge of when someone was lying or trying to play games.  That was one of the reasons she had wanted Lee to ask the questions, so that she could be free to watch both Monel and his wife.  Just in case.

"Yeah, it was white and had a cockroach or something like that on the side.  Ugly son of a ..."

A discreet cough and sideways glance from his wife sent the man on a detour.  "Sorry.  I probably wouldn't have noticed but the idiot almost hit the mailbox going in.  I thought I might have to go over and give directions but he managed finally."  Shaking his head, he grumped, "Nobody knows how to drive anymore!"

"Henry, I'm sure these nice ladies don't care about that."

Mr. Monel mumbled and then begrudgingly agreed.  Soon after, the two women were back in the car, wondering if what they'd just discovered was going to help find them a killer.

--------

'Ohmygod.'  Kris thought as she read further down the text on the screen, a blush rose to her cheeks. 'I feel like I should be turning my head to figure out what they're doing.'  She giggled to herself a little as she read the next line from one of the panting characters, 'Wow, I didn't think that was possible!'

Kris snorted.  "Don't feel bad, Delores, neither did I!"  Then spoke to the screen again as she read further and Delores' rather smug partner replied, 'Told ya!'  "Yeah, and showed us all too!"

Quickly reading the last lines on the page, she realized she'd reached the end of the screen and looked for a link to the next page.  Her eyes widened as she couldn't find one.  "No!  Not another one!  I need to find out if Blanche's dad survives, if there's really a heterosexual living in the building, if they solve the missing laundry mystery and what page from the Kama Sutra they're going to try next!"  She thought about that for a few moments.  "Or maybe it's the next page from the Joys of Lesbian Sex?"

Growling softly, she typed in what should have been the next page's address she found the dreaded "Not on this server" message.  "I can't believe this, this is the third one this morning!"  A bit more checking seemed to show that, like the others, hadn't been updated in some time.  "Okay, that's it.  I'm not going to read any more unless I make sure they have an ending.  Damn it!"

Realizing what she must sound like, Kris giggled a little to herself.  'What was that about frustration, Sam?'  A few taps of the keyboard later and Kris was happily ensconced in another story, this time having checked to be sure that there was an ending.

About thirty minutes later, the ringing of the phone startled Kris.  She snickered at herself and then waited as the machine played the message.

"Hey, it's me.  You..."

"Hi!"

"Hi, you been working hard?"

Glancing at the screen with a grin, Kris replied, "Oh yeah.  Really interesting stuff."

"Yeah?  What're you researching?"

Pursing her lips to keep the laugh inside, Kris took a moment and then replied, "Hopefully, I can show you later."  It was hard to keep her voice even but she managed.  "How's it going with you?"

"Well, I'm calling to say thank you.  Turns out you were right and we may have a lead."

"Really?"

"Yep.  Thank god you're as good as you are, Kris."

"Can I carry you around in my pocket?  You're wonderful for my ego."

"Sorry, think that's beyond me but I could record myself saying it and give you a tape if you like?"

Kris chuckled.  "Just not quite the same but a nice thought, though.  I'm really glad this may lead somewhere."

"Yeah, me too.  I truly hope it pans out."

"Will you call me if you're going to be late?"

"Yes, I will.  I can't meet you for lunch but I thought maybe I'd bring Chinese home for dinner if it's not too late?"

"Ooh, yeah.  That'd be good."

"Okay, I'll call you later and see what you want.  I'll have my cell phone if you need anything before then.  There's stuff in the fridge for lunch and a list of deliv ..."

"... ery places on the wall by the phone.  I know.  You take good care of me."

Sam paused for a moment.  "I have good reason."

Kris smiled.  "And so do I.  So, don't be getting mad at me when I play mother hen."

'And here I thought I was the one with the feathers.'  The grin that raced across Sam's face was totally unplanned and it took a couple of seconds to clear from her face.  She turned her face away from the rest of the room until she got it under control.

"Sam?"

"Yeah, sorry.  Just got distracted for a second.  I uh ... don't mind."

Kris' eyebrows rose slightly.  "You don't?"

"No, I don't.  I really don't."  And that was the truth.  Beyond an annoying tendency to get herself in trouble, there really wasn't anything that Sam could say she didn't love about Kris.  'Geez, I should have known so long ago.  I've never said that about anyone, ever.'

"I'm really glad you said that but don't think I won't bring it up when I start to drive you crazy."

"No problem."

After a little more conversation, they said their goodbyes and it was with quite a bit of a grin that Kris got back to her reading material.

------

"Sam, one was reported stolen two days before Stacy Morris' body was found."

"Oh boy."  Sam swallowed a lump in her throat.  She was pleased that something might come of the lead but it was very hard knowing that it had taken this long and might never have even come to pass if not for Kris.  Using officers to take statements was very common, in fact it was usually the only way to canvass a neighborhood properly but that didn't help the feeling in the pit of the detective's stomach.  "Any sign of it?"

"Still lookin'"  Lee cradled the phone's receiver against her shoulder as she waited for yet another person to answer.

"Where was it stolen from?"  There was a pause and the dark head lifted to regard Lee in question.

"Do you believe in coincidence?"

Dark eyebrows scrunched together in a frown.  Resisting the urge to bark it out, she asked, as calmly as possible, "What?"

"You've already had one unsuccessful chat with them..."

Something not so nice clicked into place and Sam found herself with a cold chill running down her spine.  "Miller's Park?"

Lee simply nodded.

"Why am I suddenly thinking that the virus they got was not a random act?"

Two sets of blue eyes, as opposite in shade as they could be, stared at each other.  Both understanding that if it were true and the Miller's Park Police force had been specifically targeted that it opened up some possibilities that were even less pleasant than the thought of a random killer.  It opened up the possibility that it was someone connected to their department.

Lee's gaze dropped to her desk.

"Jesus."  Sam whispered and then took a breath, exhaling slowly in an effort to also get rid of the instant stress that had accompanied the not so pleasant thoughts.

Lee moved a hand back to hold the handset on her shoulder but still didn't speak.

"If I leave now, I can be there for lunch time.  Maybe I can catch someone."

"Ooh, they're going to love that.  City cop visit the small town to trash their department?  Just let me finish this call and I'll come with you."

Sam shook her head.  "One of us needs to find that vehicle.  It'll take precious time to explain everything you've done so far."

Lee started to protest.

"Lee, we're out of time here.  I have to be back by four.  I'll keep in constant contact and meet up with you before then."  She started to grab up her things and realized how she sounded; demanding, arrogant and alpha.  'Ugh.'  "It's the only chance we have.  I just feel that this needs to be checked out immediately.  Okay?"

Sam's attempt to, at least, try was the only saving grace as far as Lee was concerned.  She had been having flashbacks of her very demanding asshole of a previous partner when Sam made her 'decision'.  She wasn't happy but it did make sense and at least she was being thrown a healthy sized bone.  "Okay.  But you keep in constant contact."

Resisting the urge to smile at Lee's contribution to the chef's pot of decision making, Sam nodded in affirmation of both the plan and Lee's right to be a part in the decision making process.  'God, a new partner and a new PARTNER at the same time.  Couldn't I have had just one at once to ease into it?' Grabbing her cell phone from where it had been charging, she stood and looked at Lee.  "Okay, let me know what you find out, please and I'll keep you apprised of what's going on out there.  It might be nothing but I don't think we can afford to pass it up."

"All right.  Also, I've put the reports on those two burglaries from last week on your desk.  We'll need to work on them tomorrow as well.  Hopefully, they're not a sign of a group working in that area."

"Thanks, never a dull moment or lack of cases, hmm?"

"Nope."  Lee responded and then added, "Sam, be careful."

Sam smiled briefly.  "No worries.  Good luck."

"You too."

--------

"Sir, I realize that some of what I'm looking for is missing but I'll take anything at this point."  Sam sat in a chair barely big enough for her to fit in, in an office, the only office, in Miller's Park Police Department.  They had already discussed Captain Scott's brief conversation with the Chief and some of the details.  The door was closed and the Chief of Police sat behind a huge walnut desk that looked like it could seat a whole football team with space left over.

Chief Grant himself sat behind the desk, rocking back and forth slightly and looking very unimpressed in his huge matching walnut chair.   'Nothing like making your dominance known, hmm?'

"Your Captain told me the information you're after might be related to a murder case.  Why the cloak and dagger?"

Glad that she'd had a very few seconds to get the trip and purpose of the trip approved and also ask the Captain to call the person in charge at Miller's Park, Sam thought carefully about her response.  The Captain had told her to play it by ear but not start a departmental war.  She'd mentally rolled her eyes at that one; she did have a little sense after all.  Of course, thinking about the relationship she was having with the Captain's daughter made her think twice about that for a minute.   "One of the murder victims came from here and we have reason to believe that a vehicle was stolen from this area and used in another murder."

"And these murders are by the same person?"

"As close to being sure of it as we can ever be, yes.  The evidence, the Coroner well, it all adds up that way, yes."

Eyes that held a shrewdness belying the slow, small town Chief's exterior he liked to show to the public narrowed.  "Don't bullshit me, Detective.  You can get this information over the phone, why are you here?"

Sam cracked a tiny smile and let her head drop to try and hide it for a second.  She had seen through the facade almost as soon as she'd met the Chief, his sharp gaze and attention to detail were not lost on her at all.  The way his soft burred voice hardened and cleared up as soon as the door was closed was also not missed.

Looking up, she met his brown eyes square on.  "All right."  She tapped her canines together a couple of times as she thought of what to say.  "May I speak freely, sir?"

"I wish you would, Detective Foster."

"I don't believe in coincidences, at least not this many."  She paused for a moment, still debating.  "Several people have been murdered because of one person's sickness.  I'd like try to recreate some of the missing information and see if there's something out there that will give us some answers."

The Chief didn't look impressed.  "A shot in the dark.  You want to waste our time with a shot in the dark and what... women's intuition?"

A spark of anger coiled up in Sam's gut, she felt as if she'd been slapped in the face.  The only outward signs, however, were the marked difference in her now ice cool eyes and granite edged voice.  "If you'll forgive me, sir."  Her eyes bored into his and she shoved down the smirk when he squirmed ever so slightly in his chair.  "Simply put, this is about human lives and trying to save them."

She paused for a second and then continued frostily, "This is to do with an experienced cop's intuition and the fact that it doesn't matter if it's an impossible shot in the dark, it's a shot and I'm willing to take it because I want this son of a bitch caught.  It won't require anything more from your department than showing me where things are, who I can talk to for a few minutes and maybe a map of the city.  Otherwise, ..."

"Enough, enough!"  The Chief held up his hand as Sam opened her mouth to continue, "Please."  He could still see the glint in the chips of ice staring at him and realized he'd probably pushed a little too far.  "Bottom line, we need to catch a killer."

Sam blinked.  "Yes."

"And you're saying you think there's something the killer's trying to hide here."

"I believe it's a distinct possibility, yes."

The Chief nodded and then leaned forward in his chair, resting his arms on the desk.  "These are good people.  They're my people and I've seen cases of small towns departments blown apart because some well-intentioned city suit decided put their nose where it didn't belong.  Do you understand?"

Sam relaxed ever so slightly, it was a fact that sometimes city cops thought they were 'better' and more experienced than their small town equivalents.  When the two mixed, it frequently led to bad blood and usually the smaller town ended up in the manure pile.  If the Chief was trying to protect his people, that was understandable.  "I believe so."

"Good.  Just to be clear, if it turns out that the information's here somewhere, I will not have my people thrown to the wolves and I will not sit quietly if I'm not given full disclosure and a true share of what comes about.  By that I mean good or bad."

"The only way it should be.  Can we get started by finding out who was on duty the night Bob Curtis called in?"

Once the Chief had realized that she wasn't there to put the entire blame on his small force he basically become an unstoppable force.  His Deputy Chief had brought them information showing which Officer had been the one who responded to Bob Curtis' call.

They finally located Officer Bramell and Sam listened in as the Chief asked him questions.  They discovered that Curtis had complained about various problems when the officer arrived.  Apparently, someone singling him out for attention had harassed the murdered man repeatedly.  His tires had been slashed, his garage spray-painted and several other things.  That, however, was the first time he'd actually called someone from a law enforcement agency.  Bramell reported that Curtis had mentioned that a friend of his had been helping him keep an eye on the house but since the friend had taken off the attacks had stepped up.

Sam wrote down a couple of questions and handed them to the Chief to ask the officer.  It turned out, however, that, quite rightly, Bramell had found no reason to get the name of Curtis' friend, nor did any of the other vandalism exist any longer.  Curtis had apparently taken care of it right away.  She had let her mind theorize about that for a few minutes as the Chief finished up with Bramell and checked on a couple of other things.  None of the other murder victims had reported vandalism or anything like that.  'Why is this different?'

She shared that thought with the Chief but neither of them had come up with an answer.  Then the Captain asked her if she'd like to visit the Curtis house before she left.  The detective, of course, had agreed and then been somewhat surprised when Grant himself had decided to drive her there.  'Leaving nothing to chance, perhaps.'  She mused.  It was a delicate situation, after all, and with him there, there wasn't anything that was going to show up without him knowing about it.  'Looking after his people and himself too.  Not that I can blame him.  Even if it is a bit of a slap in the face to me.'

They arrived at the house and Sam noted the fluttering pieces of yellow crime scene tape still attached to one side of the door, noting the meaning that nobody had been cleaning up.  The house was cool and extremely quiet, the power had apparently been turned off and the Chief had to trot back to his car for flashlights.  Sam found it akin to walking in a graveyard.  She found herself wondering if they were keeping their voices down on purpose as they respectfully viewed the contents of the house.

This was her first look at Bob Curtis' private domain.  Most things in the files had come from Detective Mercer and the local authorities.  In other words, Chief Grant's office.   She flashed her light into the kitchen and carefully took in the entire room before stepping inside.  It was a habit of hers to try and visualize normal life, to try and see if something, anything was out of place at these types of scenes.  Especially when there weren't any other occupants.  Curtis had been divorced for several years and Mercer had found the dead man's ex-wife had been having an emergency appendectomy at the time of his death.

Chief Grant watched her for a few minutes and then wandered off on his own.  It was the first time he'd been inside the house, not having familiarized himself with the case before now beyond general reports given to him.  Bob Curtis had been killed elsewhere, so they had provided as much information as they could but hadn't, obviously, investigated beyond that.  Passing pictures on the wall, he started climbing the steps to the next floor.

Sam visited the large living room next, noting the expensive television set, leather couch and chairs, and what appeared to be a super duper recliner.  She blinked and shone her light on the recliner, an eyebrow rose as she noted what appeared to be a built in computer keyboard on the tray table and a phone jack in the still open arm.  'My god, it's a web surfing recliner?  What next?'  She made a mental note to check on exactly how much money Bob Curtis made at his job and added another to see if he had an e-mail account.

A creak from the ceiling located the Chief for her as she took one last look at the living room.  Her memory had plugged in that Curtis had been a construction worker.  'Expensive tastes.'  Walking out of the living room, she took a look at the various pictures on the walls of the hallway, angling the flashlight for the least amount of glare.

There were several of Curtis fishing, including the inevitable 'look how big this one is' and also with several cars.  Then her gaze fell on a picture of Curtis helping two girls cast.   Her memory provided a name for the two small girls in this picture and several others, Brittney and Jaime.  They had caught her attention because of the unusual spelling, his daughters.  Ages six and eight.

Her gaze slowly slid to the floor as she thought of the girls and the loss of their father.  It was obvious he had cared a great deal for them; there were pictures they had apparently painted on the wall as well, with childish scrawl all over them.  But she couldn't let herself walk too far down that lane of sorrow, it was too easy to visualize and feel their pain.  Distancing herself from the pain of those left behind was something she had become good at in the past, perhaps too good.

She had told herself that it was good for the job, good for the victims and their families.  You couldn't let things touch you and couldn't let things make you feel too much.  She worked better that way, always had.  Was able to cut through the crap and zero in.  Now, her eyes fluttered closed as her heart sped up a little, now she had let someone so deep inside that even the thought of losing them almost brought her to her knees.   Now, she couldn't let go.

She opened her eyes again and looked at a picture of the two girls laughing.  This time she wasn't going to be able to distance them completely.  This time, those two girls were going to be with her when she talked to each witness, each suspect and followed every clue.  The weight of their pain was going to be on her shoulders until the person who took their father away from them was caught.  This time, and perhaps from now on, it was going to be different.

-------

"Hi, Mom."

"Hi, honey, how're you feeling?"

"Actually, really good.  How're you doing?"

"Great.  And very glad to know that you're feeling better."  Lisa hesitated, wondering if she should push Kris about staying with them this weekend, and then a thought came to her.  "Do you need a ride anywhere today?"

Kris thought about that for a second and then smiled; her brain was firing on all cylinders today. 'Of course,' she thought as she caught her bottom lip with her teeth and her eyes twinkled mischievously, 'After reading what I've been reading all day, I would expect all cylinders to be firing... everywhere.' "I think I'm okay here.  I've really been just relaxing today, in fact, I was thinking of a bath."

"That's sounds wonderful.   Should soothe any still aching muscles."

'And I do have a few of those still but so much better than they were.'  Kris thought.  "That's what I figured.  Plus, I got a little messy with lunch."  She chuckled at that.

"Kris, I would've brought you something or cooked!"

"Mom, it's fine.  I made a sandwich but sort of got carried away; you know how I like 'em." Kris preferred her sandwiches with everything on them but tomato and stacked high with lettuce, always cheese too.  "I couldn't keep a hold of it just by using the fingers on the left hand and the turkey slipped right out, covered in mayo and mustard."  A laugh slipped out.  "I caught it, though!"  She had indeed, right on the t-shirt material covering the swell of her breasts.

"I can imagine.  I'm surprised Sam didn't leave anything for you."

Kris mused over the fact that saying something even remotely 'bad' about Sam was an instant good mood killer for her.  "She offered, Mom.  I figured I could handle a lousy sandwich."

'Crap.'  Lisa Scott knew that tone in her daughter's voice very well.  "Was just making a comment, dear, not criticizing."

A pale eyebrow rose slightly.  'Sure you weren't.  Ugh, Kris, knock it off!'

"Robin come home yet?"  The older woman winced at herself, she'd just said the first thing that came to mind and knew what it would sound like as soon as she'd said it.

"Not that I know of.  I did call our machine for messages earlier but she hadn't left a new one."  It had been during her lunch break, she'd spoken with Lou, Pam, Jen and several others that she hadn't been in contact with since before or during the hospital stay.  'Okay, do I tell her now that I'm staying here this weekend or wait for her to ask?'

"Do you need more clothes or anything?"

Kris shook her head; her mother was being so obvious. The question was, should she put her out of her misery or wait.  "We brought plenty this last time, it should last me until the beginning of next week easily."

Lisa decided to bite the bullet.  "Will we see you this weekend?"

Kris tilted her head back to look at the ceiling.  She wanted to spend time with Sam but she didn't know what Sam's plans were.  A little twinge went through her at the thought that maybe the tall woman already had something to do.  They certainly hadn't talked about it.  "Maybe I can ask Sam to drop me off for a few hours if she has plans."

"I can get you and you can stay with us."

Kris sighed quietly.  "I know, Mom.  Thank you.  I promise I'll spend time with you guys soon, okay?"

Lisa's eyes dropped to study a tiny spot on her cotton pants. "Okay.  I understand, I just worry and Justin will be here this weekend."

"I'll see what I can do, honest."

Lisa's lips twitched at the last word, it was a family thing for them that they truly meant it when they said 'honest'.  "Okay.  You'll call me if you need anything too, right?"

"Yep, I will.  I love you, Mom."

The twitch grew into a smile.  "I love you too, Kris.  Very much."

-------

Sam's gaze finally moved from the family to the other side of the doorway.   Several faces stared out at her; most of them included Bob Curtis.  Idly, she wondered who had started this wall of memories.  It seemed unlikely that it had been the murdered man for some reason.   She was about to move on when something in one of the pictures caught her eye.   She looked closer, it was a police uniform.

The Chief chose that moment to come down the stairs, having explored everything he wanted to and not finding anything at all.  He noticed her stare and stillness, and asked instantly, "What?"

She had turned to him, her heart somewhere around her toes.  "Another 'coincidence'?  This guy used to be with us."  She pointed to one of the figures in a picture.  In fact, he was Jimmy Hamilton's ex-partner and had left them right after the blame for a botched arrest was put squarely on him and off his partner.  Sam had given evidence of what she had seen that night.   It had been an accident that she was there at all; she was heading home and heard the burglary call on the radio just a short distance from where she was at the time.

Having been in charge of the investigation into a series of robberies with the same characteristics, she had shown up also, simply curious if it had anything to do with her case.  After pulling up a short distance away, not sure if the officers responding would know her, she had seen Jimmy Hamilton carefully check the situation out before stepping inside, his 9mm firmly in hand.  As she was pulling on her jacket and badge to identify herself, she heard shots and immediately called it in.

One of the burglars died, the other had escaped and it had been immediately determined that the dead burglar did not have a weapon.  When the first investigators arrived to determine what happened, Raston had made a huge mistake.  Unable to deny being the one that killed the suspect, he had told them that it was Hamilton's fault that the guy had died.

He tried to say that the rookie entered the building without following procedure and hadn't even drawn his weapon.  He had no idea, of course, that Sam had seen Jimmy's entrance very clearly.   With the fact that Sam had no way of knowing what type of gun the rookie had without being able to see it that night, his argument was instantly quashed.

Raston tried suits against everyone but finally, he was dismissed and, the last she had heard, he was going to be charged.  She could still remember his last words to her, how angry he had been and how he promised she'd pay.  Poor Jimmy had had such a hard time with it all, Raston had concentrated on him and had made his life miserable for some time.  It occurred to her that she hadn't heard anything about that case in weeks.  'Why not?'  She turned to the Chief, "Any chance you know him?"

He looked carefully and shook his head.

-----

Lee absently picked up the phone as it rang; she was in the middle of basically connecting the dots and finding the small town of Miller's Park in the middle of the pattern.  "Carson."

"Lee, it's Sam.  Find anything?"

Lee frowned, the clipped tone of Sam's voice made her wonder if she was either in the company of someone she didn't want to share information with or if she had found out something she didn't like.  "Yeah.  The truck was found three days after the murder, burned out.  Someone called because it was leaking oil and god knows what else into a pond near a well.   I tracked it down by a partial vehicle ID on the engine and had the guy on the lot take a personal look.  If that's not it then I'll eat my desk blotter."

"Get forensics out there to look at it yet?"

"No, just got the final information about fifteen minutes ago.  Anyone you suggest?"

"Yeah, Davis.  He's good and has a good team.  I'll call him, where's it at?"

"The impound lot on Carrel Street."

"Got it, good work.  Thanks."

"Just doing my job, ma'am.   What about you?"  Lee heard a creak through the handset and waited.

Looking around to be sure that nobody was paying undue attention, Sam blew out her cheeks and then let the breath go slowly as she sat down.  She'd closed the door but there wasn't an easy way to close the blinds, she turned her back to most of the office.  "I can't say much over the cell but suffice it to say that I've got some information that isn't going to give me warm and fluffy dreams."

'Utoh.'  Lee's warning antenna went up.  She was sure that it likely meant that Sam had found something that was likely sensitive material.

"How about we meet up in the parking lot at about three thirty?  The Captain in?"

"Last time I looked."

"Okay, can you see if he has time to see us after that?  He's going to want to know this."

"Will do.  Anything else?"

"No, that's about it.  I'll see you at three thirty, bring the files with you?"

"Done, see you then.  Oh wait!"

"Yeah?"

"The desk sergeant called up, Marty called again.  I guess he can't do extensions from the phone in the lock up and has to go through him."

"Did he say what he wants?"

"Only that it's important and he needs to talk to you in person right away."

"In person, of course, and there's no chance I can get there tonight before visiting hours are over.  Oh well, I'll work on that when I have time."

"Okay, see you in a while."

"Yep."  Sam pressed the button to end the conversation and exhaled sharply.  As they had been standing looking at the picture, Chief Grant had called to get a location on Raston.  It appeared as if he was missing.  The prosecutor had a report in that the other man had not shown up for a required meeting and hadn't been seen in weeks.  Since before Bob Curtis' murder, in fact.

-----

Sam handed the picture of Raston she had brought from Miller's Park over to the Captain.  He looked it over and immediately stated, "It doesn't prove anything, nor even give us just cause."

"I know, but it's just too many things.  If it's him, maybe he's following through on some vendetta.  It may explain why I know some of victims.  Perhaps it's an attempt to discredit me or just plain get me put away."

Lee watched the other occupants of the room face each other down.  It was interesting, to say the least.  The Captain was not at all sure that Raston's appearance in the mix wasn't a simple coincidence but she absolutely agreed with Sam.  There were far too many roads leading to the same place and if Raston wasn't involved in some way it would be a miracle.

"Why disappear?  That marks him as instantly suspicious."

"If you recall, sir, he wasn't exactly in control of all his faculties the last time he was around here.  Still, I have no idea.  On the way back I was trying to examine all the angles, I wondered if he could be a victim but if that's the case then the MO is completely different.  I did come up with one more unpleasant scenario, however."

"And that is?" the Captain asked.

"According to Chief Grant's Deputy, they were pretty sure that Bob Curtis was supplementing his income by selling stolen merchandise.  They never had enough to do anything but they were keeping an eye out on him and his house has some pretty expensive stuff in it.  Stuff I'm not sure he could manage on his salary, with child support payments and so on."

Sam could sense Lee watching her and heard the intake of breath as her partner waited for the Captain's response to this latest idea.  Sam had explained it all to Lee when they'd met in the parking lot, both had agreed that the Captain had to be told regardless of his reaction.

"And?" the Captain asked.

"The guy who died in the burglary shooting with Raston once worked at the same construction firm as Curtis.  Add to that, when the investigation started, Jimmy told us that Raston had ordered him to stay out front, to not go inside.  Simply put, what if the guy who escaped was Curtis and Raston was in on the whole thing?"

"Foster, first you accuse an ex-police officer of murder and now you're accusing him of burglary as well?"

"Sir, what I'm saying is that far too many leads are dropping in or around Bob Curtis and Raston.   I don't know what's going on but I think it bears a lot more looking at."

Captain Scott stood and turned to gaze out of his window, letting out a deep sigh.  He stood there for a long minute as Lee and Sam looked at each other and wondered what the answer was going to be.  Then he turned and looked from one to the other.  "You're right.  It's too much to ignore or even put off checking on.  However, I will not have this become a witch-hunt.  This is to stay between us and whoever I choose to bring in on it, I'll have to inform the brass, of course.  If you need help, you come to me.  If you have problems, you come to me."  He paused for a second.  "Understood?"

Twin nods responded.

"Good.  I'm going to request some information on Raston.  I won't be getting any answers back before Monday, so you might as well stick with the weekend off."

"Sir, if I may?"

"Yes?"

"I thought perhaps we could split some of Raston's case files and see if anything pops up."

"It's a good idea but not here."  He thought about that for a few moments.  He didn't want to alert anyone to a potential problem within the department, even if the Officer in question was no longer with them.  "I'll request the files immediately, you ..."  A tone from the phone interrupted him.

His secretary's voice sounded out, "Captain, I'm sorry to interrupt."

"Yes, Margie?"

"Doctor Steele is looking for Detective Foster and I wasn't sure if I should tell her where she is?"

The Captain frowned and looked at a sheepish Sam.

"Sorry, Sir.  I forgot I have ..." She looked at her watch, "Had a four o'clock with her about the Coombes shooting."

"Ah.  Well, we're about done here anyway."  He turned back to the phone, "Margie, tell her that Foster will be down in five minutes."

"Yes, sir," floated out the reply.

"All right, as I was saying.  I'll request the files immediately.  You two can take some home with you, if they're secure that is, and see if you can find anything to tie more of this together."

------

"Take a seat, Detective." Dark brown eyes regarded the Detective impassively.  Doctor Veronica Steele, expert in matters of the mind, and, though she didn't advertise that specialty, heart.  Dressed in a light gray suit, lavender blouse and lightly touched by makeup.  Her black hair was expertly cut to highlight her high cheekbones and shone in the muted light.

Sam bypassed the obligatory leather couch and circled one of the matching worn leather chairs in front of Doctor Steele's desk.  Everything carefully in place and yet the look wasn't quite perfect, just enough to make it and the person whose office it was that much more approachable.  Sam wondered with a little amusement if it was a new decorating technique, designed approachability.  She sat quickly and looked up.  "I'm sorry I was late.  An important case is opening up, of course."

"Of course?"

Wide shoulders shrugged.  "I fully intended to be here on time but the truth waits for no man or woman?"

'Interesting.'  The doctor barely resisted her eyebrow's urge to climb slightly.  Not only an apology but more words than she normally got in the first ten minutes.  "We can hope not."  Intelligent eyes scanned the other woman.  "Tell me about Ray Coombes, Detective Foster."

Over an hour later, Sam barely resisted the urge to hurry out of the office and slam the door shut.  Instead, she closed it quietly.  The fact was that she did not like her brain being dissected.  Didn't like it one tiny bit.  Even when the person doing the dissecting was as good as Steele.

They were lucky to have her assigned to them, there was no doubt, but she usually managed to get under everyone's skin when they saw her due to her ability to get the most interesting information out of zipped lips.  She had seen the doctor's talent in the field when she'd consulted with her on cases before and there was no doubt that Steele was very good at what she did.

Still, standing on the other side of the now closed door, Sam felt as if she should start feeling over her body to see if she could find raw spots that had been picked on repeatedly.  'Damn woman.'  The doctor had managed to get her to admit that she had no qualms about Ray Coombes' death, that the man was going to shoot her partner and there was no choice.  They had then talked about other situations, both real and imagined.  About the bank with Kris, where two others had died.  Again, she'd had to admit that there was no choice and she would do the same should the situation present itself again.

That had gotten her a little nervous; admitting that killing someone wasn't a problem was likely not the best course of action.  Still, she'd been honest and knew that it was quite possible that the doctor was likely able to pick up any signs of dishonesty.  They had kept the discussion going until Sam closed her eyes and spoke about the first time she'd killed.

How Rocky Mooney and his deadly drugs had been the cause of three teenaged deaths she'd seen that week.  How the dealer had drawn a gun and her partner had frozen, how she could still feel the cold metal of the trigger under her finger and the exact pressure on it that was required to take a person's life.

How she'd thrown up after it was over and how her partner had taken an early retirement.  Unable to face that he would be dead if Sam hadn't shot, that he'd let them both down.  How Sam had tried to talk to him about it but he refused to change his mind.  How she'd been hard on partners ever since, never sticking with one for a long time it seemed.

Even her partnership with Steve had been fairly short, but it had never been easy with any of them.  With most of them, especially Steve, there was always a sense of competition.  Always something that led to Sam feeling as if her partner wanted to be superior, wanted to prove himself.  It always led to contention.  Sam's focus was finding the source of the problem and dealing with it.  Their focus always seemed to be being better or faster or stronger.

The women she'd been paired up with in the past hadn't been immune to that either.  The difference was that most women partners had been very temporary.  A shift here, a week there or a month, perhaps two tops.  Women were usually on their way to another posting and needed some time spent in whatever department Sam happened to be in or needed a shift partner because their own was sick or on vacation.

Her mind slipped to the occasions she'd been in tight situations with Kris.  There had never been a competition or race.  Neither of them had felt the need to be superior.  It had never been that way.  Always give and take, always equality and love.  Always support.  Always ... love.   Yes, always that.

Her mind was whirling; the doctor had stirred up so many memories and made her realize a few things as well during their time together.  So many people had left her in life that she shielded herself from just about everyone, even Kris in the beginning.  But the blonde had never given up and now was a vital part of something inside Sam that she wasn't sure she'd ever understand.  A tiny smile slipped across her face as she remembered Doctor Steele having to interrupt that musing because she had been quiet so long.

It was Doctor Steele's last words that she still rang through her mind, however.

The doctor had stopped her when she was halfway to the door and waited for the detective to turn around before continuing.  There was a smile on the doctor's lips, not business like or approachable but a true smile.  "I'm happy for you.  Good luck."

That had flustered Sam completely, the blush covering her face was a beauty.  There had been no doubt what the doctor was talking about, Sam knew how good Steele was and the grin the doctor's smile had slipped into when she saw the blush confirmed it.   It had taken every last bit of will power to not turn and run at that moment, to not acknowledge what was going on, to hide.  As usual.

Actually, she realized, that wasn't quite the truth.  It had taken imagining Kris in the room seeing her response that had done it.  Had given her the power to stand tall, look the doctor in the eye and smile in return.  The response was easy, a simple, "Thank you."

The detective realized that it didn't help that she had mooned about Kris for god knows how long before the doctor had interrupted.  'Please don't let me have had a stupid look on my face.  Anything but that.  I'm so deep in mushdom already, that'll drown me.'

Shaking her head, Sam looked back at the door and took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders.  'Well, that's it then.'  She nodded to herself a little in affirmation of her thoughts.  'I'll just never come back.  That'll work.  Yeah.'

--------

A quick glance around the large room didn't find Lee, so Sam headed straight for Captain Scott's office.  Margie was absent from her desk as well and the Captain's door was closed but the tall woman walked up and knocked on it firmly.

There was a muffled response.  "Come in."

"It's Foster, sir.  I've come to pick up the files."  Sam said as she entered the office and waited for her superior to turn from his contemplation of life outside his window.  His hands were clasped behind his back and there was no doubt something heavy was on his mind.

"I've already sent Carson home with some.  Sit, Foster."

Slightly nettled by the tone and order, Sam, nevertheless, did move to one of the chairs and sit down.   After a minute or two of silence, the Captain began to speak.

"I understand that my daughter is staying with you."

'Utoh.' "Yes, sir, she is."  Sam leaned back in the chair; she had hoped and assumed that Mrs. Scott hadn't said anything to her husband.   She had deliberately avoided thinking about what would happen when he found out and the problems that might cause both personally and professionally.  Now she wondered if that hadn't been extremely short sighted of her and waited patiently, hoping that she was wrong and they would have some time to work out what to do about Kris' father.

"Do you feel she's still in danger?"

"Possibly, sir."  Sam wasn't sure that Kris' danger had passed simply because they'd arrested the people at firm who had been up to no good and, presumably, had taken some part in the explosion that had injured the blonde.

"From whom?"

"I don't know, Captain.  I just know that I've felt from the beginning that the whole thing was a bit much for a hit.  I mean, of all the ways to kill someone ...  why do something this complex unless there was a reason?"

"And what if it's just the assassin's preferred method?"

"When the rest have been shot?  It feels like there's more."

"Is that why she's staying with you?"

"Robin's gone and I offered since their apartment was still a mess.  I have the alarm and the house is quiet.  She can sleep whenever she needs, I have lots of room."  Sam sighed at herself and firmly clamped her teeth together before she could ramble any more.

The Captain nodded.

"Do you know how many hours my wife was in labor with my eldest daughter, Detective?"

Sam blinked and a slight frown touched her forehead.  "No, sir, I don't."  She had no idea where this conversation was going and was getting a little concerned.

He hadn't moved an inch from when Sam had walked in.  "Twenty three hours."

Sam's eyebrow rose but she resisted the urge to respond.

"Are you protecting her, Foster?"

An easy answer in a convoluted discussion.  "Always."

An image of a certain day a year or more ago when he'd been sweltering in the heat of the afternoon sun after responding, mostly accidentally, to a call for a potential negotiator came to him.  Foster had been there and had made the call, an eighteen year old was locked in an apartment and she hadn't been sure if he had hostages.  He could still remember his anger when Foster had almost certainly deliberately misunderstood an order of his.

He had been furious and had only just kept his cool in front of the rest of the officers.  It wasn't until a certain small blonde had been escorted out of the building that he discovered Foster knew Kris was inside the building on an interview.  His daughter had, in fact, been two doors down and very surprised to find a tall, dark haired and very anxious detective on the doorstep or so his daughter had told him later.

Slowly, the Captain turned to regard his officer.  Unable to see her eyes, he followed the direction she appeared to be looking.  'Ah.'   He realized that her attention was quite obviously on the pictures he had on the wooden shelves he'd put up himself several years beforePictures of his family.

Although he laughed at himself now, he'd been concerned when Kris was in the hospital.  Concerned because of what he was seeing in the dark detective's eyes, concerned about Kris' seeming dependence on her.  He could thank his wife for that, she had wondered aloud one night when Kris was dreaming and asking for Sam.  She had started him on those crazy thoughts.  'Foolishness.'

It wasn't until he had been having dinner with Brooke and Brian and he'd realized how silly it all was.  How Brian had innocently mentioned that it was good thing that Kris hadn't gone into policing and had, instead, followed the path her parents had wanted for her.  How they had all laughed when Brooke had teased about Kris going on the warpath.  Kris had always done the right thing, what he wanted. What was right.  She hadn't settled down yet, that wasn't really the plan but she had time.  He could deal with that, as long as it was soon.

After all, Dylan had been the black sheep, not Kris.  Dylan was the one who refused to conform, refused to follow the directions given and caused so many problems because of it.  He was still angry with his son for that but had bowed to his wife's constant requests to give their son another chance.  He brought his mind back and found Foster watching him, a curious expression on her face.

He moved over to his chair but didn't sit, "As I told Carson, I want this kept quiet.  I want this confidential.  I don't want to bring IA or anyone else into it unless we find something definite, so you two keep it to yourselves.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."  Sam understood that Internal Affairs would likely want to take over or, at least, dictate parts of the case if it turned out that Raston was either a burglar or a murderer and putting that off would be just fine with her.

"Good."  He pointed to a box by the side of his desk.  "Here's what you need.  You're not to let it out of your sight."

'Gee, guess I'm not supposed to have weekends off, hmm?'  It had never been a problem in the past, she hadn't really had much to spend her time off on.  Even when Steve was alive they had worked around the job, especially hers.  "Understood."

Continued in Part 4