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


Feeling a momentary chill and pausing for a second as the sounds swirling around her and the room itself reminded her of how scared she had been for Kris just the week before, Sam walked into the bland hospital room.

An IV ran into Marty's forearm and an oxygen tube was positioned under his nose.  Heart monitors kept track of vitals, with an automatic blood pressure machine just finishing its timed duty.

Sam sighed at the sight of yet another piece of regret to add to the mosaic of her life.  She was convinced that whatever Marty had been so desperately trying to tell her had resulted in his injuries.

Sitting in the uncomfortable chair positioned by the bed, the detective let sad eyes roam over the quiet figure wrapped tightly in the hospitals white sheets.    She winced when her gaze lingered over the awful bruising on the man's face.  "I'm sorry, Marty."  A sigh.  'Three years ago I wouldn't have given a damn about what happened to a criminal.  Hell, two years ago.  But now ...'  And she couldn't even blame it all on Kris.  Marty had proven useful a few times and was definitely what Marty himself called 'entertainment value'.

She stayed that way for some time, just sitting in the chair or standing quietly by the window.  The officer ensuring that Marty didn't escape had peeked in earlier to let her know he was heading to the bathroom and, then again later, for a cup of coffee.   The officer had, at least, given her a little good news that Marty had briefly woken up that morning and the doctors considered that a very good sign.

Regardless, Sam didn't mind taking over the watch for a few minutes.  She had left Lee at the station.  Her partner had a plumber coming over to fix a water leak she'd been experiencing in her new place and since Sam had wanted to go to the LaMont hearing and see Marty, it had worked out well.  She'd left a little early to spend time at the hospital before the hearing.

They had started quite early that morning, driving two hours to be at Raston's place to meet the building manager at nine.  Sam had again slept terribly, and had managed a long run and shower before six.  She'd then spent the rest of the time until Lee arrived reviewing the files they had on Raston.

The trip would have been almost a complete waste of time, beyond finding a couple of vague e-mail notes and one that specifically mentioned Jimmy Hamilton and the harassment they wanted to heap on the kid apart from one thing.

Her mind wandered back to standing in the spotless garage looking around, still trying to get a feel for Raston.  Something had caught her attention and it took her just a few seconds to figure out what.   If it hadn't been for the fact that it was obvious to Sam that a couple of the tools hanging in the spotless garage were out of order, they would have come home fairly empty handed.

The oddness of those tools being put away incorrectly made her investigate a bit more.  That led her to examine the tools and find the traces of rusty stains on one of the legs of the bench.  That then led to Sam getting Lee's attention and both of them slipping on latex gloves to carefully look over the tools and bench area.

The fact that they also found partially cleaned up stains on one of the tools and against the wall under the bench was certainly nothing conclusive as it could have been from any time but with as spotless as the rest of the tools and garage were, it was strange.  Strange enough to give the Captain reason to get a forensic team out there under the auspices of a former team member gone missing under strange circumstances.  They were no closer to his location but it was something and also something else to think about.

The dark head suddenly flicked over to the form on the bed and eyes narrowed when Sam heard something.  Standing quickly, she moved closer and was rewarded by very slow, deliberate blinks of Marty's eyes.  Gripping the handrail with both hands, she leaned over slightly.  "Marty?"

When there was no reaction, just the continued blinking.


Again, no reaction and Sam reached a hand out to grab the nurse's call button when a grizzled and bruised head started to turn in her direction.   She heard the noisy breath from Marty's chest and grimaced at the painful sound but kept silent.  When the lips moved but no sound came out, she unconsciously leaned closer and heard a whispered word.

"... time."

"Ma ... What?  What did you say?"

The injured man licked his lips and braced himself for a repeat, determined to get this said before anything else.  He watched through heavy eyelids as the detective concentrated on his face.  He croaked out, "I said," Marty took a breath, "about damned time."

Sam straightened, a pained look on her face.  "I know, I'm very sorry."

Marty blinked a couple of times and squinted up at the tall woman.  He gratefully took a little sip of water from the straw she offered and licked his lips again afterwards.  In a still hoarse voice, he quipped, "Can't be Foster."

"What?" came the surprised response.

"You apologized."

Sam snorted and then turned serious attention back to the form in the bed.  Looking straight at the injured man, she said softly, "Marty, if I could have done something to prevent this.  I truly am sorry."

"Huh ... Look like Foster."

Feeling slightly better that Korabek was at least talking to her; she ignored his teasing and asked, "Can I do something?  Help you catch the guys that did this?"

"You better." He mumbled and paused for a few moments to collect a few of his addled thoughts.

Sam waited patiently until he closed his eyes and she thought he might've fallen back asleep.

"A blonde ...," he breathed out, obviously in pain, as he opened his eyes.  "Close to you."

Sam blinked, trying to follow the sudden switch in tracks.  Of course, her mind went to the first blonde on it.  "A woman?"

Marty was trying to keep his mind on the subject but it really wanted to go back into dreamland.  Only his complete anger at what had been done to him kept him hanging on.  "Yeah, tried to kill her?"

Like a light switch being turned on, Sam's demeanor changed instantly.  The hackles on her neck rose and her eyes focused completely on Marty.  "Yeeess.  What do you know?"

"That babe ... who was with you?"  He paused to try and get some air again.  "The Amazon?"

"No, it wasn't her," she replied, icy control in her voice.

"Good."  Marty groaned when a chuckle from the memory of being found by the two 'Amazons' as he called them caused his body to spasm in pain.

"What do you know, Marty?"  Sam bit off each word impatiently.

Marty's jaw clenched when the pain rolled through him again.

Opening her mouth to ask the question again, Sam closed it abruptly.  She was loathe to put Marty in any more pain but a life or even lives might be at stake.  And, even though he'd already taken a huge step by putting himself in danger, it wouldn't help anyone if his pain caused him to lose consciousness.

Wincing internally at her own callousness and realizing that the very recognition of her callousness was yet another change that a certain blonde had initiated, she started to reach for the call button again but Marty's bandage wrapped hand feebly swatted her hand away.  "Let me get the nurse," the detective insisted.

"Bl ... Blonde in danger," he wheezed out.  "LaMont wants out ... her dead."

The shock hit Sam with devastating force.  "How do you know this?"

"Cell mate ... got out ... coupla days ago.  Was taking message ... about escape and her."

Sam listened to the labored breathing as Marty stumbled over the words.  It was intensely difficult to try and be patient when every instinct to do ... something was on its edge.  "What else?" she pushed.

"LaMont pumped him up with ... somethin'.  E mebbe ... dunno.  Wouldn't shut up."  It was hard to keep his eyes open now and Marty finally let them close.  "Someone told him ...  called you  ...  This."

Sam clenched her jaw at the fact she had known all along, that Marty's injuries were because of her and her lack of attention.  They'd found out that Marty had tried to call her.  A split second war between shame at the continued questioning and fear for Kris took place inside her heart.

At that moment Sam realized that it really didn't matter what it meant to her physically or mentally when Kris was in danger, it never had.  The point was if it was Kris then all bets were off, nothing and nobody mattered more.   Viciously, she shoved down the urge to stop questioning the badly injured man and leaned close again, asking quietly, "Marty, any names?  Anything?"

Marty tried to open his eyes but the darkness pulled him under in wave of pain and tiredness.  All he managed was a slight shake of the head and, with that, he finally became something he never thought he'd be.  A bit of a hero.  Tarnished, worse for wear and needing a lot of work but doing the right thing sometimes made heroes of the most unlikely people.

Noting the slight shake of the head, Sam watched Marty's face relax slightly as he drifted away from the pain for a while.  Still standing by his bed, she placed a hand on his arm, feeling the coarse material under her fingertips before uttering a vow, "They'll pay for this, Marty, and I swear I will do everything I can for you.  I promise you that."

Stepping back, Sam got her very scattered thoughts into order as quickly as she could.  As inwardly sure as she was about the situation, she really had no reason to call for help at the courthouse beyond a semi-conscious convict's words that a blonde she knew was possibly in danger and Joey might have an escape plan and might be after this blonde.

The detective ran through the facts.  The courthouse had sheriffs of its own for protection, calling for her own backup could very well cause more panic and help Joey with any plan he might have, thereby putting both Kris and the rest of the people there in more danger.  That wasn't acceptable.  Lee was unavailable and Sam had no idea where Kris' father was.  Perhaps it was time for Sam to be backup, even if the courthouse sheriffs didn't know it.

With one last look at Marty, Sam headed out the door.  Her heart and head already speeding toward the courthouse and hoping she was very wrong in her assumptions.


"I hope they plan on putting him away for a long time," Mrs. Scott commented as she and her daughter began to walk up the steps to the courthouse.

"Yes, me too and I'll be at the court every time I possibly can be.  Let me tell you."  Kris nodded seriously, as she stepped to the side to neatly avoid a person hurrying down the worn stone steps.

"Sorry we're a little late, honey."

"Sam says these things never start on time.  No biggie, mom."

With a smile for her daughter, the older woman noted the well-kept lawn to both sides of the entrance and the apparently equally as well kept statues on either side of the large glass doors still several steps away.  "When do you think they'll sentence?"

"Geez, I wish I knew but it'll be a while yet.  This is just the preliminary stuff."

"He sure has ..."  Both Mrs. Scott and Kris looked up, startled, as the door to the courthouse burst open and several people crashed through.

Kris acted quickly, jumping to the side and pushing her mother along with her by bracing her cast protectively against her mother's back as one hysterical woman all but fell down the steps in her rush.  Wincing a little as the quick movements sent a sharp pain through her forehead and a hint of a dull ache through her healing ribs, the blonde tried to catch someone's attention, "What's going on?"

When nobody responded, she moved up another step only to be held back from another by her mother's firm grip on her upper arm.  "Mom, I just want to see what's going on."

Before her mother could utter her spluttered response, a well dressed man in a suit paused long enough to say breathlessly, "Don't!  There's some people in there with guns!"

As if to validate the man's claim, Kris heard a single shot and felt her stomach fall right to the floor.  Following some strange inner knowledge that she couldn't explain if she wanted to, the blonde easily escaped her mother's hold and hopped up the steps.  The huge rush of people had slowed to barely a trickle.

Kris felt as if she were moving in slow motion, sunlight glinted off a vehicle parked in the street and she turned her head just a little to avoid the glare.  The slight breeze caught a few errant strands of hair and the scrape of her feet against the steps was almost painful to her ears, which in turn caused an odd shiver down her spine.  At least, she thought it was the scrape but the way her heart began to pound was a bit extreme, even under the circumstances.

Remembering how Sam had carefully approached a building where someone was attempting a robbery, Kris put her back against the wall of the building and inched closer to the glass by the door.  Nobody had come through the door since she had begun to move, she craned her neck around to take a glimpse through the door.

Her breath caught the instant she recognized the figure with its back to her and her heart began to pound even more at the scene before her.  Without even realizing it, her hand reached for the door and she never heard her mother cry her name.

Sam had concluded on the way from Marty's room that Joey would never give up on what he felt was a punishment to both Kris and herself and also realized that if Joey knew Kris were coming to the courthouse that he really might set something up to witness it himself.

Thanking whoever might be out there that it was a short drive to the courthouse, she had nevertheless cursed to herself and threw departmental caution to the wind, trying to get the courthouse on her cell phone but only managed to get their voice mail.  Pressing "0" only
got her another message to leave a message and someone would call her back as soon as possible.

Frustrated, Sam had pressed the "0" button again, hoping for a person to answer the phone.  Fully intending to throw herself on the sheriff department's mercy and put them on alert, regardless of the consequences.  When the recording came on again, she had flipped her lights on, more rules be damned, and decided a short cut was necessary.

She had arrived just in time to be stunned at the sight of a man dressed in a sheriff's uniform shoot one of the other court guardians and start to free Joey from his handcuffs.   The man trying to free Joey had turned his gun towards her and forced her to kick away the gun she'd just begun to draw.   She'd tried to keep her gun in sight but it had slithered along the floor, as if scurrying for cover, and slipped into the shadows under a row of chairs along the wall.

The accomplice had smiled as Joey asked for the gun to take care of it himself.  But, just as the accomplice pulled a wicked knife with one hand and began to hand over his gun to Joey, another court sheriff had announced himself from inside one of the court rooms and tried to use the court room door for protection.   Insisting the shooter drop his gun, the sheriff found himself on the wrong end of the bullet meant for Sam as the shooter turned on him, gun still in hand, and fired.

However, in the same instant, the sheriff had returned the fire and both had dropped to the ground.  Sam had gone straight for Joey, keeping an eye out for the shooter's gun, knowing her own was too far away, but it hadn't been in sight.  Joey was already partially down the steps at that point but turned at her call, brandishing the knife that he must have picked up from the shooter.

Sam blinked back the recent past as a vicious glare rolled across Joey's face.  It was obvious that he'd finally allowed his temper to get the best of him.  "Always in the fucking way!  Well this time you're not gonna have Mr. Hero to take the bullets, Sammy.  This time I make sure it's done right."

"You?"  The word came out like the hiss of drawn steel.

"Did you think you'd never pay for trying to betray us?  For trying to trap us?  You think we'd forget that?  Hell, you were everyone's first choice."

Sam could feel her heart pounding in her chest.  She stared, unable to speak.

Joey was enjoying himself.  He spat out, "Did you think that we wouldn't find a way to pay lover boy back for grabbing that cache?  He cost us all a lot of money by that bust.  You were both just too easy.  Two birds with one stone."

The dark woman's eyes turned to slices of cold death and the muscles in her jaw flexed as she struggled to maintain some type of control with LaMont's admission.  Everything, everything was her fault somehow.  Almost losing Kris, Steve's death and ...   She didn't notice her labored breathing and the pounding of her heart faded into a red haze.  Not even Kris' arrival in the building bleeped on her radar.

"You are going down, Joey," Sam hissed after gaining some control over her voice after Joey's admission. The feral smile on Sam's face appeared to belie the situation.

Joey LaMont stood a few steps down the stairway inside the building, knowing his escape was in a vehicle parked outside one of the 'secure' doors on the level below.   From his position he could see the three bodies that lay on the worn tile around the old banistered staircase, one moaning in obvious pain.  The main level doors were mostly behind him and the corner he might've been able to see was blocked by a large desk and row of chairs.  Sam was positioned on the top of the stairway looking down.

LaMont laughed at her, his dark eyes shining with mirth.  "I think you got hit too many times in that bank, Sammy.  Maybe you can't see who has the weapon here."

An eyebrow rose high and an outright smirk appeared on Sam's face.  "As if you have a chance with that."  Sam's chin jerked in Joey's direction, indicating the sharp knife he held in his hand.  "Or are you afraid to face me and you're gonna try the bomb route on me too?  Hmm?  Got one handy you can throw at me or are you just hiring screwups to do that for you?"  She sneered at him.  "Coward!"

He lashed out with the knife, only to have her dance out of his reach easily.

Kris swallowed hard and her eyes rounded as she watched the scene play out in front of her.  She had seen Sam in bad situations but never had the danger and rage rolled off her friend like this.  It was almost a different person.  She was careful to not make a sound that might distract Sam, though, as she stood frozen in her position by the doors.

"Temper, temper, coward."  Sam moved to the left as he swiped at her again, patiently waiting for her turn.  "The other families are going to be so happy to know that you brought so much attention to them because a woman turned you down.  Oh yeah, that's gonna be great."  The smile appeared again.  "You try to blow up a Police Captain's daughter because she turned you down.  How hard are you gonna fall, Joey?  From how high?  Such a big man."

"You bitch!  You know that's ..."  He stepped up a step and tried to control his anger, realizing that the detective was trying to make him careless.  Shaking his head, he blew out a breath of air.  "Nice try.  Not gonna work, Sammy."

"Already has.  You're mine, Joey and I am sooo going to enjoy watching you die."

As Sam spoke, Kris felt a wedge of fear and pain lodge in her heart.  'No.'  She had no doubt that Sam's threat was completely true and the thought of that caused her to almost buckle at the knees.  Her hand reached out to steady herself against the wall.

A strangled sound broke through Sam's controlled rage, she blinked but before she could identify the source of the sound, then Joey was on her.  She held the knife off with one hand and tried to push him off with the other.

Joey's hands were slick with sweat and he used that to his advantage to slide off her grasp with his free hand and ball up his fist against her face, once, twice.  His savage enjoyment of that and the appearance of blood on her face were cut off abruptly as she retaliated with her fist connecting against his jaw in a bone-jarring crunch.

Kris could hear the sirens approaching from outside, but her attention never left the pair grappling on the stairs.  She was well aware that it was her reaction that had caused Sam's lapse of attention and stood frozen to make sure that didn't happen again, even though every instinct was pushing her closer.

Using the momentum from the punch, Joey grabbed onto the knife with this other hand and made immediate progress towards the tall woman's neck.

Sam easily fought through the pain and smiled a bloody smile at Joey as she brought her knee up hard between his legs.

His eyes opened wide with pain and he spasmed immediately.

Sam wrestled the knife out of his control and watched with disdain as he rolled down the steps.  Rising slowly, she twitched her head to the side sharply to clear a crick in her neck and stalked down the steps, knife in hand.  A sneer lifted one side of her lips and she finally stood over LaMont's prone body.

Kris watched LaMont roll out of view and her breath caught at the sight of Sam's face.  She hesitated for a moment but then hurried in the direction that her lover had gone.  Reaching out a hand to help her round the wooden barrier and help her get down the steps faster, Kris almost screeched to a halt at what she saw.

The dark woman stood behind a now kneeling, and obviously dazed LaMont.  She pressed the knife against Joey's neck, whilst the other hand held his head up by the hair.  "Say hello to your daddy for me."


Startled, Sam instantly raised her eyes to the top of the stairs and blinked several times when she saw Kris slowly taking a step at a time.  Confused, she shook her head.  "You shouldn't..."

"Oh yes I should."  Kris interrupted, her heart beating so loudly in her ears that it was a miracle she could even hear anything else.  Not really knowing how, she managed to keep her voice steady, "You've beaten him.  We can go now."

Indecision flared inside the tall woman's body.  "You don't understand." She struggled to get out.  A single tear rolled down her cheek.

Kris took another step, barely taking in the fact that two armed officers were outside the glass doors and likely wouldn't see her when they got in.  "He's the one who tried to have me killed?"  The blonde had quickly picked that up from the conversation Sam had been having with LaMont.  At Sam's slow nod and clenched jaw, she deliberately pushed the thought of LaMont being the man who almost got her killed and asked, "And?  Talk to me, Sam."

Sam sensed other people had entered the building but she couldn't take her eyes from the blonde.  Willing her to understand, to realize why she had to do this.  Trying to ignore the outrageous clatter of the proverbial shoe finally hitting the ground and knowing it was her own fault.

In almost a whisper, Kris moved another step closer and asked again.  "It's okay.  Talk to me."

More tears fell but Sam still couldn't tear her gaze away from the smoky jade that seemed to forgive everything.  "The restaurant," she gasped out.  "He knew.  He was part of the decision."

And that, Kris knew, was definitely the straw that broke the camel's back.  She took a deep breath to settle herself as best she could.  To be the cause of the death of someone Sam loved, plus an unborn baby and almost the death of another loved one.  That was a lot of pain to bear, especially with the guilt the detective felt about it all.

Well, losing Sam was not acceptable and that was what was certainly going to happen if this continued, Kris realized very quickly.   Stepping even closer, completely ignoring both Joey and the knife, her only fear for the woman before her, Kris fought back with the only thing she thought might break through.  With tears in her own eyes, she called up everything she felt for the woman in front of her and let it shine through her eyes as she gazed deeply into the blue eyes of the woman she loved.  "I love you."  She said it so softly that it was barely a whisper.

But it was enough for Sam to pick up, the tall woman's breath hitched at the admission from the blonde.  And that, coupled with the diamond tears drizzling down Kris' face, shattered something that the dark haired woman hadn't even know was there.  A huge ball of hatred, fear and guilt that had built up inside broke apart.  Sam closed her eyes and bent over slightly, gripping her bottom lip with her teeth in an attempt to deal with the tumultuous emotions within.

When Sam opened her eyes again several seconds later, the green gaze was still on her and still filled with the love and understanding that had resolutely broken through every barrier the detective had firmly in place before she'd first met Kris.  Disbelieving that she deserved even part of the gift that her friend had given to her, she released LaMont to fall in a sobbing heap on the floor, and stepped over his body toward the blonde.  Her free hand rose wanting to reach out but fell back again, suddenly afraid.  Suddenly remembering the look on Kris' face when she first realized what her lover was capable of.

Wiping the tears from her face, Kris saw the aborted hand gesture and instantly knew it for what it was.  She fearlessly crossed the short chasm of a distance with no hesitation, molding herself to her lover's trembling body and holding it tightly.  Then closed her eyes against the pain and awful tension she could feel radiating from Sam's body.  She whispered quiet words to her lover in a voice that only Sam could hear and continued to hold on.

Holding the knife carefully away from Kris, Sam felt herself being anchored to the world again as the blonde tightened her hold.  She started to bring her other arm around her friend until she noticed the movement at the top of the stairs as an officer crouched behind the railing and pointed his gun in the direction of the trio.

"Hold it right there!" he yelled.

As she spoke in a voice not normally quite so shaky, Sam slowly swung her arms out to the side, holding the knife with her fingertips, "I'm Detective Foster from the twelfth.  I have my ID."  There had been no time make sure it was in plain sight before the situation exploded in front of her and now she truly regretted that.   It was an already volatile situation and the officers had no idea if she was telling the truth or not, no idea of who she was.

Taking a breath, the detective told the woman still firmly attached to her quietly, "Don't move."  And paused to make sure the young officer was listening but noticed his attention suddenly shift to her left.  She turned her head quickly to see Joey with his hand under one of the chairs helpfully placed against the wall.  Suddenly, she knew where the shooter's gun had gone and surged into motion, pushing Kris against the wall with her body and turning in a desperate attempt to throw the knife in her hand before Joey could get a shot off.

Catching a glimpse of wide green eyes, she spun around just as the loud blast of a gun reverberated down the stairway, momentarily deafening her.  The knife fell from her hand as blood erupted onto the surface of the silk shirt, staining it in rivulets of red.

Kris felt her heart stop with a painful jolt as the gunshot rang in her ears.  All she could see was Sam's wide back and the fact that her friend had dropped the knife to the ground.  She pulled on her lover's arm, anxious to see if she had been hurt, and stepped partially around to look at her.

Sam felt the tug on her arm but couldn't tear her eyes from the bloody mess on Joey LaMont's chest.  A gasp from Kris broke her out of her statue impersonation.  She spared one more look at Joey before turning her gaze to Kris and reaching a hand out to Kris' cheek, caressing it once lightly with her thumb.   The barest hint of a sad smile touched her face, then she turned away before looking up at the, now, two officers at the top of the stairs.  "Get some paramedics in here!"

Sam stopped at the frozen look on the young officer's face and her heart twinged at the shock apparent on his face.   Sparing a moment to grieve for his loss of innocence, she glanced over to the other officer who nodded at her with a worried look on his face, whilst speaking into the microphone on his shoulder.  Carefully, she pulled her badge from inside the jacket and placed it where it could be seen on her belt.   With it, she dusted off her best 'Don't!' attitude and wrapped it tightly around herself.

Assuming the older officer would take care of his partner, Sam turned her attention back to LaMont.  One hand held away from her body, with fingers spread, to keep Kris back, she approached him cautiously.   As she approached, she saw his fingers scratch painfully against the floor towards the gun.  In two long strides she had kicked the gun away and knelt down by his side.

Unable to see much of what was going on after Sam knelt down; Kris stood frozen by the wall, praying that Sam wouldn't forget what they'd just been through.  Her breath came in short, scared gasps and her eyes never left the back of the dark haired woman.  'Please, Sam.  I love you.'

Very much aware of the presence behind her, Sam said quietly but firmly, "You can let me help or you can just bleed to death right here.  It's up to you because I don't really care either way."

Kris released a long, albeit quiet, sigh of relief at Sam's words and felt the churning in her stomach begin to settle slightly.

Dark eyes slitted open to look at Sam, he coughed slightly and blood trickled past his lips. Finally, he got out a pained, "Why would you help ..."  The "me" ending to the question came from reading his lips, as his breath failed him again in another gurgling cough.

There was only one answer for Sam, only one response possible.  "Because she cares."  A tiny snort of amazement.  "Even about your worthless hide."

A look of complete incomprehension blinked across Joey's face as the detective carefully turned him on his side, trying to keep the blood from bubbling out of his wound quite so freely.  She removed her jacket and held it up against the mess, grimacing at how the blood was still leaking around the jacket.

LaMont groaned and seemed to lose consciousness.

Looking over in surprise at the large first aid kit that was put down beside her, Sam followed the arm up to find the face she loved.  Her world balanced slowly when Kris smiled a pained smile and opened up the kit.

"Anything in here that can help?  I had one of the guys up there get it."

Sam smiled her thanks and looked over the kit quickly before looking back at Kris. "Can you get me all the gauze?"

Nodding, Kris quickly went to work tearing apart the packages of gauze and a package of gloves.  Blowing into one of the gloves to open it up, she held it open for Sam who just looked at her in surprise and then nodded as she looked at her surprisingly basically bloodless hands.

"Good thinking," Sam said with a tight smile, suddenly quite aware of how stupid her move to try and save LaMont had been.  God only knew how many drugs and sexual encounters Joey had experienced in his life, taking chances with blood borne pathogens was not a good idea.

"So was yours," Kris replied as if reading the dark woman's mind.

Sam paused to acknowledge that and then reached over with her hand.  Hand by hand, Sam got the gloves on with Kris' help and then managed to swap the wadded up gauze with the less effective jacket.

In a few short minutes the paramedics arrived and took over from the weary detective.  She gladly gave up her spot and leaned against the wall, closing her eyes for a few moments.  Tuning out the rapidly moving professionals as they tried to save a life.

Kris watched the tall woman close her eyes and couldn't help but worry about the fatigue that was apparent in both her inner and outer body.  She had just decided to get her lover home post haste when her mother's relieved voice shattered the momentary silence she had created around herself.

"Kris!  G ... Are you all right?"  Lisa Scott looked her daughter over and could see no apparent damage but anxiety was definitely present in every movement.  Her eyes moved to the tall figure beside her and frowned at the defeated tone of Sam's body.

Turning to Sam for a moment, Kris said, "I need to go placate my mom, I left her outside when this all started."  She looked for some reaction to her words and found little.  Her hand lifted to the detective's arm and she squeezed it for a moment, "Don't move.  I'll be right back, okay?"

Finally, the blue eyes opened but the head didn't lift to focus on her, instead they focused on the ground.  Kris felt her stomach drop again.  She stood on her toes and whispered into Sam's ear, "I'll be right back.  I love you."

That finally got Sam's attention on her but the lost look in the tall woman's eyes almost proved her undoing, even when Sam responded with her own whisper.

"And I love you."  Her words catching at the last.

When Kris patted her arm and moved away, it was as though the anchor line had broken and she was adrift in a place so far away that nobody would ever find her.  Another tear made its way down her cheek and she angrily wiped it away.  Angry for what she had just done, what she would have done and what she had likely lost by her actions.  It was just too much.

Not willing to be an object of speculation, Sam gave a short but sweet report to one of the officers and stepped shakily past the frantically working paramedics, who were trying desperately to keep Joseph LaMont alive in a battle weighted very much against them.  She stripped off her gloves as she walked by and left them there, then walked into the first open office door, closing it behind her.

Leaning back against the door, she felt herself no longer able to control the pain inside.  She had heard it in Kris' voice and seen it in her eyes.  She had seen the fear of her in those green depths and the fact that it would take more than a miracle to restore the faith Kris had held in her was a staggering loss.

With that realization, her still shaky limbs finally gave out and she slid down the door.  She barely noticed her blouse pull out from her pants and bunch up against her back as the friction caught it.  Drawing her knees as close as she could, she wrapped her arms around them and hugged, rocking her upper body slightly.

At the noise, Kris looked away from her mother after completing yet another telling of what she had seen and her mother's careful checking to be sure her daughter was well.  The paramedics at the bottom of the stairs were performing CPR on LaMont and had called up to one of the other pairs working on the sheriff still alive to see if they could help.  It became quickly obvious that no amount of assistance would save Joey's life.   It was odd, with every reason she had to hate him and dance for joy, she still felt a swell of sadness at the loss of a human life when they finally pulled the sheet over his face.

Immediately, she looked for Sam and was not pleased that she wasn't in sight.  "Mom, I gotta go.  I'll call you later."   Somewhat apprehensive, she started down the stairs.

"Oh no, you're not getting away from me this time," Lisa Scott commented as she took hold of Kris' wrist.

Kris turned back to her mother, twisting her wrist carefully and sliding her hand up to her mother's hand to hold it lightly.  Looking deeply into her mother's eyes, Kris willed her to understand.  "Mom, she needs me."

"Kris!" she called and her daughter stopped from turning away.  She wanted to tell her to come home with her and leave this place but there was no doubting the resolve in the eyes so like her own.  No doubting where, or rather to whom, she was heading.  She opened her mouth to speak, and then paused for a moment.  She was about to step into unknown territory and hoped like hell there was firm ground for her to walk on.  "What about your bag with clothes and stuff in the car?"

Not daring to hope that her mother would understand, Kris was taken by surprise and, with a couple of tiny hesitations, her lips widened into a smile.   Stepping forward, she wrapped her arms around her mother and hugged her tightly.  "Thanks, mom.  I really do love you.  I'll worry about my stuff later, maybe pick it up tomorrow.  Okay?"

With a careful but strong hug back, Lisa Scott found purchase under her feet and smiled.  After kissing Kris' cheek, she replied, "Okay and I love you too but stop scaring the life out of me like that."  Then wiped the smudge of lipstick from Kris' face.

"Always a mom."  Kris grinned.

"You bet."

"Talk to you later, I promise."  With that, Kris hurried down the steps, bypassing the sheet covered body by a wide margin, and walked into the first open door.  "Sam?" she called out quietly over the empty cubicles and humming office equipment.  Hoping that she wouldn't get arrested for trespassing or something, she looked around the office but found no sign of her lover.

She turned back, trotting through a small but bright white corridor.  Ignoring the obvious walk back to the stairs, she continued until she came to a closed door.  Gingerly, she tested the knob and opened the door, poking her head inside.  What she saw had her in the room so fast that she never would be able to remember how she got to Sam's side, only that she was suddenly there and kneeling by the other woman.

Blue eyes lifted as she arrived and then dropped again.  As she placed a hand on the detective's knee, a pained, "Sam?" was choked out of her.

Lightly licking her lips and tasting the salt from mostly dried tears there, Sam could only wonder what had just happened.  It was as if everything she had kept inside from the past few years had just collapsed right down on her and she was ashamed that she hadn't been able to handle it.  'Kris deserves so much more than this.  God, what was I thinking?'

Kris shifted her body closer to the door and turned so that her shoulder brushed the detective's.  Well, her upper arm anyway.  Curling her good hand around Sam's left arm, she kept her hand moving until she was holding the other woman's.  Concerned that her friend might have been injured in the fight, she squeezed the hand and asked gently, "You'd tell me if you were hurt, right?"

Remembering her promise to improve on that, Sam nodded her head.

"And you're not?"  Kris led.

Sam shook her head and cleared her throat to say, "No."

Kris craned her neck forward to be able to look into Sam's face.  "Is it that he's dead?"

Sam's glance darted at Kris for a second, and then she looked away.   Surprised.  She let a short, sharp breath of air out.  'My fault too, no doubt.  At least Kris is safe.'

At least it was almost certain that Joey was acting on his own.   The organized crime family he was a part of wasn't known for pursuing fruitless endeavors and this was certainly one for them.  Kris had found documents linking certain members of law firm where she worked to grand theft.  They discovered later that at least originally the theft was an attempt to pay for drug use.  The authorities had little linking the providers of the drugs with the law firm.  Therefore, bringing attention to themselves in such a spectacular fashion as the bomb in Kris' car was not a move the crime lords would make.

Unable to handle Sam as she'd never seen her, defeated and completely closed off from her, Kris tugged lightly on her hand.  "What's going on?"

'Suck it up, Foster.'  Lifting her head, Sam tried to pass off a twitch of her lips as a smile and replied, "I uh ... I ..."  She looked away and then back.  "I guess it's just been a really bad day, after a long ..."

"Stop."  Kris let go of Sam's hand and pushed herself to her knees with a wince, the linoleum floor wasn't about to provide any padding.  Making sure that her friend was watching, she continued, "Don't you dare do that, Sam.  Talk to me."  It hurt to see the very evident pain in Sam's eyes and she was not going to let the other woman just ignore what had happened.

Thinking of telling Kris to just run away from her as fast as she could hurt as much as anything she could think of but the thought of actually saying it was making her nauseous.  She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate.

Kris stroked her hand down one side of Sam's hair, in a gesture meant to comfort and have Sam open those blue eyes.

It proved to be the touch that Sam needed to speak; she took a deep, steadying breath and opened her eyes, still unable to meet Kris' eyes.   "I ... I would've killed him, Kris."  She surprised herself with her even tone.

"You didn't," came the sure reply.

Now blue met green.  "You don't get it," Sam said, incredulous at Kris' refusal to see the truth.  "I would've killed him."  Now she looked away.  "God knows I've done worse ..." And looked back, struggling for control.  "And you have no idea."

Keeping contact with Sam by letting her hand rest on the tall woman's shoulder, she kept total eye contact.  "So tell me."

Blink.  "What?"

Kris flatly refused to back down.  "Tell me whatever it is you think I need to know."

Sam found the fact that all she could come up with was a moving jaw and no sound quite an interesting sensation.  Why was Kris still here?  Her voice cracked as she said, "You just don't get it.  I would've killed him in cold blood."

"But, you didn't.  You tried to save his life."

"Only because you stopped me."

Kris thought about that for a few moments, not releasing her hold on Sam's eyes.  "Do you really think I could've said anything to stop you if you'd really wanted to kill him?"

Letting that sink in, Sam found herself surprised by the answer.  After a snort of disbelief, she replied, "Probably.  God knows you've managed to do everything else I never thought anyone would do to me."

Kris never had a chance of stopping the grin that slipped out, but she did manage to control it enough to make it a tiny one.  "Yeah?"

It hurt inside; that grin.  The knowledge that she could so easily touch the woman in front of her with words that she usually found so hard to say and now ...  now she had to hurt Kris and she wasn't sure if she could handle it.  Lifting a hand against the blonde's cheek, she felt the moisture pooling in her eyes.  "Kris, I am so not the person for you."

Taking the blow she had expected to come at some point and rolling with it, Kris took a few moments to let it pass over her before realizing that Sam had never removed her hand.  A feather light caress along her jaw that moved to her bottom lip oddly steadied her, as did the pale eyes currently regarding her with unshed tears in them.  That caused her to struggle with her shaky control over her own tears.  "Maybe so."

The shock of actually hearing Kris say it was almost her final undoing.  Her hand dropped and she curled it into a fist, as if to capture the last caress.  Then she blinked back the tears and forgot to breathe for a short while until a pain in her chest reminded her.  Taking a very shaky breath, she nodded, equally as shaky.  "I uh ..."  She tried to find something to say and was surprised to find nothing, no words.  A light touch on her cheek made her look up quickly.

'Oh Sam, you're the one who doesn't get it.'  It was impossible to miss the aching sadness in the dark haired woman's face.  A stranger couldn't have missed the uncharacteristically open emotions.  "So, I guess it's a good thing it's my choice, hmm?"

Kris almost smiled as puzzlement washed over Sam's face.  "I would've preferred a more romantic and intimate setting to declare my undying love for you but I'll take whatever I can get," Kris declared.  "Further more, no more of this 'I'm not good enough for you' crap."

Leaning closer, with a hand on each of Sam's knees, she secretly reveled in the shock on her lover's face and confessed, "You forget who I am, what I am.  Beyond being someone who loves you with everything she is, I'm also a journalist and a would-be lawyer.  Do you honestly think I don't have resources?  Ways to find out things I want to know?"

It was strange to see the fear, dismay and self-revulsion mingle with so many other emotions in Sam's eyes but stranger yet to be able to watch the love in them win the war even as she watched.

"You know?"  Sam was hard pressed to believe it.  To believe that after all the killing and betrayal that she'd found someone who would accept it all.  Accept her.  But, there was no denying the truth in Kris' eyes and certainly no denying what her own heart had been yelling for a very long time, even if she was unable or refused to listen.

"Do you really think that someone who had caught my attention as much as you would escape my investigative skills?"  Kris asked with a touch of incredulity.  "After the mall, you were, if nothing else,  ...  a hero to me.  Someone I couldn't get out of my mind." 'God, I had no idea what it meant.' Expelling a puff of air, the blonde continued, "I thought you might think me a sorta stalker, so I did a lot of research.  Asked around.  Amazing what some people tell the boss' daughter, just like to talk to me or don't mind a few bucks."

Sam was stunned.  'She knows?'  She had been trying to build her barriers back up as her normally strong self discipline begin to filter back in but she found herself with many questions.  The one foremost on her mind broke through those fragile barriers and shot barbs of trepidation through her.  She asked quietly, "What do you know?"

Cocking her head to one side, Kris asked, "What do you want me to tell you?  Do I have names and specific details?  No.  Do I know that for several years you did whatever was necessary to catch the ... bad guys?  Yes."  Kris felt the ache in her chest as she saw Sam's hard swallow and the aching blue gaze fell away.  Determined, she reached over and put two fingers under the other woman's chin, to bring the gaze back to her.  "Do I know that because of you people who would never have been caught are behind bars?"

"Or dead," Sam whispered.

Kris resisted when Sam began to move away again.  "Look at me," she insisted and was rewarded by Sam's blinking gaze.  "Yes, I know some are dead.  I also know, from personal experience, how many people you've saved.  How many times you've been hurt for others."

Trying very hard to stifle the tendril of hope that began to swirl from her depths, Sam closed her eyes.  Kris had already given her so very much, could she even begin to expect more?  "I'm so sorry."

"Sam, in the recent past, you've gone through so much.  Think about it.  Just look at the past few weeks alone.  You thought I died, you helped me back and finally recognized the love of your life had been standing in front of you for years."  Kris' face twitched into a grin when Sam opened her eyes to look at her in surprise after that one.  "You had to deal with my mom and my injuries, this murder case and now today.  I don't know how you've managed to deal with all of this alone for so long, I would've gone crazy."

Rather than discourage her, Sam's silence did the opposite and she continued, sensing a potential break and running for it.  "Whatever you are and whatever you have been, I love you.  All of you.   Get that through your thick skull, please."  Hearing voices moving closer, through the door, Kris moved to a crouch and spoke quietly by Sam's ear, "Let's go home."

'Home.' Rolling her head back, Sam brought her hands up to either side of Kris' face and couldn't help but let her adoration of this remarkable woman shine through.  Insecurity, hate and fear had no chance against Kris.  None.  Belief swelled as she looked into the cool jade green depths in front of her.  Touching her lips to Kris' for a brief moment, she looked up and then carefully rested her forehead against the blonde's.  "I love you, more than you'll ever know."  Her face creased into a reflection of the smile on the now standing Kris' face and she allowed herself to be pulled up to her feet by the blonde.


Holding Kris tightly against her as they relaxed together, stretched out on the couch, a soft blanket covered most of their naked bodies but the tangled warmth they shared reached far deeper than the body heat that came from each other.  However, not for the first time, Sam was glad she had purchased a deep couch.  Originally, it had been due to her long legs but it had certainly become considerably handier with the latest developments in the romantic department.

'What a day.'  Sam thought to herself as Kris' fingers were painted soothing scribbles wherever they alighted on her body.  She just closed her eyes to enjoy them, as her own hands kept up their own restless movements against Kris' back.

The brunette thought back through the day and finally to the drive home.  It had been delayed by the investigating officers requiring some more information from both a still somewhat stunned Sam and an unusually impatient Kris.  They'd given the detective back her gun at the same time due to it not being needed for any ballistics tests.  Finally, they'd been allowed to leave.

She thought about that drive.  About how Kris, though unusually quiet, was in constant contact with her the entire way, either holding her hand or fingers resting on her thigh.  Although Sam felt a tiny touch of chagrin when she clearly remembered being the one to reach for the hand whenever her own wasn't occupied by driving. 'She knows.'  Had repeatedly run through the dark head.

Using the time in the car to think about what had happened, she realized that she had hoped and assumed that what she had done in the past would just never come to light.  Why Sam had thought that, she really had no idea.  Not with Kris.  To believe that just because nobody else had bothered to even ask or apparently care was truly doing the blonde a disservice and she knew it.  Kris had always been curious, always asked, always wanted to know.  Always cared. 'Why wouldn't she delve into my past?  Especially since I had changed the subject the few times it came up with her.'

When they'd gotten home, Kris had pushed Sam into the shower, under protest until the water hit and she felt her muscles relax slightly, and put together some sandwiches for dinner.  Kris had even managed to get her to eat a little, to push aside the roiling turmoil that persisted in her stomach.

After the fairly short dinner, they had retired to the couch to just hold each other.  It was a badly needed time of healing for them both.  But, with Kris' continued understated behavior, the horrible specter of the day started to cast its gloom again on the detective.  Sam had begun to chew her cheek with worry that she had read too much into what had been said and hesitated several times to speak until she took one more breath and Kris smiled quietly up at her.

"I wondered how long I could just enjoy holding you before you couldn't take it anymore."

"That's why you were so quiet?

"Enjoying this?  Yes.  Were you wondering?"

"I ...," stammered Sam.

"Shhh, just let me love you," Kris said quietly before reaching up and kissing the tall woman insistently.   Soon, soft lips trailed over every inch of skin they could find and then began to unearth more.

Every time Sam tried to speak, Kris would quiet her with a touch, a kiss or words until the brunette had neither breath nor choice left in the matter.  All that was left was to bask in the love that the blonde was pouring over her.   When some of her brain cells had finally calmed down enough to let her think about it, she concluded that it should feel strange, that she seemed to be soaking it all up, every drop.  However, it didn't and for some strange reason that was just fine.  It seemed perhaps unreal, in some ways even surreal, but, the evidence was literally in her hands and even she didn't know how to refute that.

Afterwards, Kris had spent time simply enjoying the closeness and plainly erotic feel of Sam's skin against her own.  Noticing that her lover was miles away, the blonde nuzzled the tempting neck close to and smiled as one small hand caused ripples in tight stomach muscles as it moved languidly up the center of the other woman's abdomen.  Sam accommodated her lover's contact by sliding her head to one side slightly and sighed when Kris asked, "What are you thinking about?"

The answer didn't require any thought.  "How very lucky I am."

That caused the blonde to lift her head and plant warm touches of her mouth along the chin so temptingly close.  When the chin tilted down and Sam's lips came within reach, they were captured immediately.  After a lengthy exploration that threatened to get completely away from her, Kris lifted away just far enough to be able to speak.  "That's my line."

In a sensual daze, Sam muddled, "What line?"

"Being lucky."  Kris touched her lips to Sam's again and then moved to nibble on a tasty ear lobe before allowing her hands to restart their further explorations of the large expanse of skin before them.

"Uh, yeah.  I'm lucky.  Definitely ...  Lucky." Sam sucked in a sharp breath and just let herself believe in the power of the woman holding her heart and soul as both the insistently teasing fingers blazing a path along her thigh and the warm, wet mouth sliding down her chest claimed her again for their own.


"I can't leave you alone for a minute!" Lee protested as she swung her jacket over her chair and sat down with an amazed stare at her partner.

Looking around to see if anyone was paying attention to their conversation, Sam shrugged her shoulders and replied matter of factly, "Guess not."

Lee took a long look at her partner, trying to ascertain whether or not she should push for information.  "So what happened?"

Sensing the question was coming, Sam continued in the same tone she'd just used.   "I went to see Marty, he told me that LaMont wanted to escape and also get the guy to finish the job on the Captain's daughter.  I guessed that something might happen at the courthouse."


Sam thought about that for a long minute, she'd had time to think about the rapid deduction of the day before and dissect it a bit.  "Joey had god knows how many places he could hide, mostly out of the country.  His own skin would be fare more important to him than anything else.  But, if he could both facilitate an escape and take care of Kris and perhaps myself before he left?  What better?"

"You think he was after you as well as the Captain's daughter?"

"He and I had history, so yes.  But, definitely Kris.   He knew ..."  'How much she means to me.'  Inserted itself into her thoughts.  "That she would likely be there.  They've tentatively identified the guy who was trying to free him as a jack-of-all-trades.  One of which was being a hired gun."

"Jesus, what a day.  Marty's going to be okay?"

"Yeah, they think so.  He's still pretty rough but I've asked them to keep me informed."

Lee shook her head in amazement at the circumstances.  "You know, I thought being around you was pretty interesting but I'm beginning to think that Captain's daughter attracts trouble like a moth to a flame."

Sam resisted the urge to look up from the papers she had started to read and muttered a noncommittal, "Mmm," to her partner's obviously questioning tone.

Intrigued at this, Lee hesitated as she tried to decide whether or not to continue with some of the things she'd heard in the past week or so.  Then surprised herself by wondering aloud, "Someone said that you saved the Captain's family a few years back?"

Musing that in the past she would have just either ignored the question or returned with a biting comment, it was therefore interesting to realize she was equally divided between amusement and annoyance at her relatively new partner's interest.   More to tweak herself, she answered with a roll of her shoulders, "There was a guy with a gun, I took it away."

Lee couldn't hold back the snort of laughter and resulting grin.  "Oh, is that all?"

Sam looked up, one eyebrow raised.  Her face was deceptively cool but she hid the fact that she was biting her lip with her lowered head.  "Yep.  No big deal."

Lee's head dropped as her grin grew.  "You are too much."

Now Sam looked up, her attention directed at her partner.  One eyebrow flicked up for a second, creating the illusion that it dragged the corner of her lips with it before they both fell back down, along with her gaze.  "So I'm told."

Laughing lightly, Lee queried, "Okay, what's on the agenda for the day, partner?"

Sam pondered that for a few moments and then once again looked at Lee. 'Well, she is my partner; let's see what she's got.'  "I've been wondering about something."

'Uh oh.'  Ran through Lee's mind.

Without alerting anyone that she was doing it, the brunette glanced around the room and decided that it was just too busy to get into details.  "Let's go for a walk?"

Surprised, Lee blinked and then answered quickly as she grabbed her jacket, "Sure."

Although only partly cloudy, the wind made it too cool for most to want to enjoy the small park just two blocks from the station.  The morning sun poked through the clouds at various points, creating the almost mystical shafts of diffused light that are often seen on that type of day.

It struck Lee as they were walking that Sam was one of the few women whose stride was actually just a tad longer than hers and wondered how on earth anyone else kept up.

Noticing the touch of rosy cheeks on her partner, Sam slowed down to a crawl, at least for her, and apologized.  "Sorry, guess we're not setting out to win a walkathon."

Flashing a quick grin, Lee retorted, "No, but I'm thinking we'd win it pretty easily if we did."

Relaxing slightly, Sam nodded and then sighed slightly.  "Ready?"


"All right.  There are a couple of things bothering me.  Well, perhaps not even bothering me but feel ... off."  She chewed a lip for a split second and released it.  "I know we sort of brushed over this when we first came up with his name but I had some time this morning to think and it occurred to me that if Raston's a victim then I don't understand why I'm not under investigation.  And, if I am, then why am I still on this case?"

Lee stopped dead.  "What?!"

Sam turned to face her partner.  "Think about it, Lee.  It's already bad enough but if Raston's a victim too then I have to be a suspect."  She held her hands out.  "Given the circumstances, I'd certainly suspect anyone in the same position.  Wouldn't you?"

Of course, it didn't behoove Sam to mention that the reason she had had time in the morning was that she had woken up at dawn and spent the entire time, until she had finally gotten up, holding her sleeping lover and letting her mind wander over work and consider the fact that Cat was still absent.  Not to worry about Cat, of course.  Kris was doing enough of that, thank you very much.

Lee huffed up enough steam to roll right over that argument and then took one look at the clear baby blues a few feet away and deflated instantly.  "Damn it.  All right, yes, I would but certainly not seriously with your record."

"Okay, let's say it's already been looked at and I'm clear.  Perhaps I have rock solid alibis for all the murders, which I don't, but we're hypothesizing here.   In that case, I think perhaps we've been a bit too quick in piling everything on Raston."

"Oh boy.  You don't think he's our man now?"

Sam studied a bush and the grass for a minute.  "Something in my gut is telling me that he's dead.  That he wouldn't stay under this long and I really doubt he'd bring this much attention to himself before attacking.  He was too slimy with Jimmy to be this up front now."

Lee tracked a flock of birds as they moved in tight formation across the horizon.  "If we switch streams, we'll be throwing a bunch of worms into the investigation."

Appreciating the fact that her partner didn't even bother to separate herself from Sam's thoughts, she decided to ask anyway, "Do you have any objections to ... let's say, widening our scope of inquiry?"

"No," Lee returned with a frank gaze.

Nodding, Sam outlined her plan, "Since efforts to connect each of the victims has proven less than eye opening, what I'd like to do is toss Raston into the mix as a victim and follow that as far as we can."

"Okay, I'm guessing you already have plans for us?"

Sam flashed a smile and nodded again.  "We already know that he's associated with Bob Curtis and that he doesn't appear to have any connection to the other victims.  But, if we assume Raston's dead, we now have a pair.  Who's associated with that pair?  What about the guy who died during the robbery attempt?  Any relatives that might have decided that retribution was a good idea?"

"And then continued with others to hide the first two?"

Having already considered that, the brunette was ready with an answer, "I don't think so, no."  Pacing slowly along the path, she wondered how much of this Lee was going to take on faith.  A surreptitious glance found Lee obviously thinking about what she'd just been told.  "What if Curtis and Raston were a specific 'plot', if you will.  Then the murderer discovered they had a fondness for killing or other issues they wanted to right wrongs on."

"And two of those 'issues' just happened to be people you know?"

"Yeah, well, that's another part of the puzzle that leads me back to Raston and Curtis being the pivotal pair.  Why not muddy the waters by implicating the detective who stood outside and watched everything go down?  The detective who might have been able to save the other guy's life or, at least, pin Raston to the wall?"

Lee frowned.  "Stretching a bit."

"I know."  Sam hesitated, wondering if she should present the next idea or keep it completely to herself.

It had taken Kris quite some time to develop a better understanding of the tiny signs that came into play on Sam's impassive face, when she was holding something back.  Lee had no chance to recognize the signs and continued to seriously think about the problem and what directions they could go.  Almost bumping into her partner when Sam stopped and half turned, she asked in surprise, "What?"

"There's another theory."

Taking a deep breath first, Lee commented, "Why do I think I'm not going to like this."

"It's the last murder.  If someone was trying to connect me to these deaths, my contact with the victim was, perhaps, a minute.  Pelman was just outside the building; drunk, abusive and very angry at being taken out of his apartment because we were trying to keep him safe.  Remember, that originally made me believe that the murderer had to actually be there but we couldn't find any true leads.  However, I still haven't seen any pictures or tape of it, so I'm still thinking the same thing."

Unable to refute the logic, Lee motioned for Sam to continue.

"Besides myself, I can think of four people, off the top, who might have seen me with him and knew, at least, one other victim.  Well, that's if we include Raston.  Now throw in the problems that Miller's Park had and the possibility of who might have created their problems."

Lee picked it up right away.  "Cops."

"All but one are associated with us, yes."

Lee queried, "Could there be others?"

"Yeah, of course.  That's part of the problem and something that needs to be explored."

"And you don't want to go to the Captain with this?"

"He's already having problems enough with the potential Raston involvement.  I have absolutely no proof, what do you think he'll say?"

"Right.  Okay then, who do you have and what's the connection?"

"Well, Jackson, Hamilton and Farmer all knew Raston and were there at the scene.  Anne, the pitcher from the softball team I play on knew Morris, according to Kris, was there also.  As was Kris but she's clear."

Rolling a dark blue eye Sam's way, Lee didn't bother to ask anything else about the Captain's daughter and instead kept with the theme. "Okay, so we see if we can get a short list of who else was there and might've known at least one of the others and then see if we get any more hits from that group?"

"Exactly.  Meanwhile, I think I need to find out a bit more about a couple of them."

"That sounds like a good idea.  Why don't I work on who was there."  Lee paused for a few moments.  "I'll take the angle that we're cross referencing what people saw against, um, some new pictures that turned up?"

Sam thought for a minute.  "That should work, if we keep it as just follow up then people shouldn't get too nosey."

Continued in Part 6