Shield of Justice

by Radclyffe

Shield of Justice

Chapter One

 

Dr. Catherine Rawlings pushed the last patient file aside with a sigh and glanced at the clock. Nine-twenty pm. Her days seemed to be getting longer despite her frequent resolutions to reduce her evening office hours. Since she taught full-time at the medical school, she had limited time for private patients, and yet she constantly found herself making "one more" exception and adding another patient to her already crowded schedule. She ran a slender hand through her shoulder-length auburn hair and tried to shake the fatigue out of her neck and back muscles. She looked forward to a hot bath and a cold drink.

She was half-way to the door when the intercom on her desk buzzed. With a frown of surprise, she turned at the sound. At this time of night, with her office hours over, her secretary, Joyce, rarely put a call through. Puzzled, she leaned across the wide teak desk to push the return button.

"Yes?" Catherine asked.

"There’s a Detective Sergeant Frye here to see you, Doctor," Joyce replied in the voice she reserved for professional exchanges. Catherine noted the serious tone and replied immediately, "Show him in, Joyce."

Catherine sat down behind her desk, wondering what had prompted a visit from the police. She occasionally did consultation work for the police, but it was never on an emergent basis. She looked up as Joyce pushed the heavy mahogany door open. Joyce’s face revealed her curiosity, but she had no time to speak before a figure moved from behind her and strode into the room. Catherine was used to revealing little of her inner feelings by the expressions on her face, and she was glad of that now. For she would not have liked her surprise, and chagrin, to be displayed to the woman who approached her.

Catherine noted the gold shield clipped to the waistband of the detective’s grey gabardine trousers and the tailored fit of her navy-blue blazer. Viking was a term that flashed through Catherine’s mind, and it certainly seemed appropriate. The woman was tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and moved with a degree of assuredness that suggested she was rarely intimidated. She was slender, but there was power in the sleek lines of her shoulders and narrow hips. Altogether, Detective Frye presented a most imposing and attractive figure.

Catherine rose to accept the detective’s outstretched hand.

"Dr. Rawlings, I’m Detective Sergeant Rebecca Frye. I’m sorry to disturb you, but I need to ask you a few questions." Her voice was as cool as Catherine expected it to be, totally professional, revealing nothing. Catherine nodded, settling into her high-backed leather chair, waiting expectantly.

Rebecca chose her opening words carefully. She was a relentless interrogator when she needed information, and she desperately needed it now. However, she was also experienced, and this was a situation in which professional issues were cloudy. She studied the psychiatrist seated across from her, trying to get a fix on the best way to proceed.

She saw a woman in her late thirties, classically attractive, composed, not appearing anxious or hostile, regarding her expectantly. Rebecca found her unreadable. She decided on the straight-forward approach. She pulled a small black notebook from the inside of her jacket, flipped it open and glanced at it cursorily. Maybe a little surprise will soften her up.

"Dr. Rawlings, do you have a patient by the name of Janet Ryan?" she asked. Rebecca had hoped to catch her off guard, but the grey-green eyes that regarded her were calm, almost gentle.

"Detective," Catherine said softly, leaning forward over her desk, "surely you know that I can’t answer that question."

Oh, fuck, not this again! Rebecca’s irritation was intense, but she fought to contain it. God, how she hated dealing with these ethically rigorous types, when all she needed was a little assistance. These were the very people who kept saying that the special crimes unit—read sex crimes unit—wasn’t responsive enough to the needs of the community. It was damn hard to be effective when no one wanted to tell you anything, including the victims themselves sometimes. But Rebecca was effective, precisely because she wouldn’t allow the resistance of professionals or the fear of victims to deter her. She could be persistent to the point of belligerence, but she never harassed the victim. With them she was infinitely patient, explaining as many times as necessary how she could help if given the chance. Most of the time her sincerity and compassion won their cooperation, and she was able to bring an offender to trial who might otherwise have gone free. This time the stakes were so high that her usual imperturbation was taxed to the limit.

"Believe me, Doctor, I wouldn’t be here if this weren’t serious. I understand that you have to protect your patients’ privacy, but this is official police business."

"I believe you, but police business or not, that does not supersede my responsibility to my patients," Catherine replied quietly, lacing her fingers together. "Perhaps if you could tell me what this is about?"

"I presume you’ve heard of the recent attacks along the River Side Drive?"

Catherine’s face grew tense as she nodded.

Good, that got some reaction!

"We have reason to believe that Janet Ryan witnessed the third attack by the same perpetrator around six o’clock tonight. I need to find out what she saw."

"Why don’t you ask her?"

"Because she’s in the intensive care unit at University Central. She’s got some pretty nasty bruises; she’s nearly incoherent; and the best we’ve been able to ascertain is that she can’t remember anything about what happened. Your business card was in her purse."

Oh, lord, Janet! Catherine stood up and walked to the window that overlooked the downtown skyline. After a moment’s deliberation, she turned her gaze on the detective who sat silently watching her.

"Would you mind stepping into the waiting room for a few moments? I need to make a phone call."

Rebecca rose immediately, sensing that the psychiatrist was trying to meet her half way. Before she broke eye contact, Rebecca said vehemently, "I want this bastard, Doctor. I want him off the streets before he touches one more woman." She thought she saw a flicker of rage that matched her own in the green eyes that held hers. "Right now, I can use any help you can give me."
 
 

Chapter Two

As soon as the door closed behind Rebecca, Catherine reached for a file from her bottom drawer. Turning to the personal intake form, she jotted down a number. She dialed quickly, praying she wouldn’t get one of those infernal answering machines. To her relief, a human voice answered after only two rings.

"Hello?"

Sensitive to the slightest nuance of tone or expression, Catherine heard the anxiety and fear in the young woman’s voice, and began gently.

"Barbara? This is Dr. Rawlings—"

"It’s Janet, isn’t it?" Barbara interrupted tremulously. "She should have been home hours ago, and she always calls if she’s going to be late. What is it? What’s happened?"

"I don’t know all the details, but I know that Janet is in the hospital. She’s alive and in no immediate danger. Do you understand that, Barbara? Janet is injured, but she was able to speak with the police a little."

"Oh, god! Where is she?"

"University Central. I was afraid you hadn’t been notified." Catherine cursed the system that ignored the most important relationship in a person’s life when it mattered most. "I know you want to be there, Barbara, but there’s something I need to discuss with you first. The police are here at my office. They believe that Janet may have witnessed a crime. They need some information. I’d like to help them as much as I can if you’ll trust me to protect Janet’s confidences." She hated to do this to Barbara now; her anxiety was practically palpable over the phone, but she couldn’t discuss Janet Ryan with the police without the consent of Janet’s designated medical power of attorney. She was stretching the definition as it was, but she knew Janet well, and made the judgement that Janet would have given her permission herself had she been able.

"Yes, of course—we both trust you. Do what you think is best. Please, I need to go now!"

"Do you have someone to drive you there?"

"I’ll call Carol--she’ll go with me. Thank you for calling me--"

Catherine was left with a dial tone sounding in her ear. She replaced the phone gently in its cradle and walked to the door. Pulling it open she found Detective Frye slumped in a chair, her head tilted at an uncomfortable angle. For the first time Catherine noted the deep circles under her eyes and the lines of fatigue that marred her otherwise flawless face. The well-tailored clothes were also rumpled from hours of wear. She looks like she hasn’t been to bed for days.

"Detective," she called softly.

Rebecca Frye jolted upright, her eyes snapping open. She focused instantly on Catherine. "Yes?"

"Come in, please."

When they were once again seated, Catherine spoke. "Janet Ryan is my patient. I’m not sure how I can help you, however."

"I don’t know either," Rebecca responded in obvious frustration. "We need a statement from her as to what happened tonight, but she claims she doesn’t remember anything that happened. Is she likely to lie to us?"

"I doubt it," Catherine answered with certainty, "but it would help if you could tell me what the circumstances are."

"A twenty-year old woman was savagely beaten and sexually assaulted around six pm tonight. We found your patient wandering around not far from the site just before seven pm. The rape victim is in a coma, Dr. Rawlings. She’s one of the lucky ones. The first two victims are dead. We need a break--and your client may be that break."

"Surely you’ve had the psychiatrist on call see her?"

Rebecca nodded and consulted her notes. "A Dr. Raymond Bauer."

"I know Ray," Catherine remarked. "What did he say?"

"That it could be traumatic amnesia--shock induced by whatever she may have seen."

Catherine nodded in agreement. "Very possibly."

"Is Janet Ryan a stable person?"

"What do you mean?"

Rebecca was too tired to hide her annoyance. Why did these people insist on answering one question with another one? "I mean, Doctor, is Janet Ryan likely to fake this amnesia thing-- for attention, or a thrill, or to fuck with the police?"

Catherine regarded Rebecca silently for a moment. She would have been irritated if she hadn’t recognized the frustration and fatigue in the woman’s face. This case obviously affected her strongly.

"Janet Ryan is a very reliable young woman, and I would be very surprised if she didn’t do everything in her power to assist you."

Rebecca started to point out that people were capable of all types of subterfuge, given the right motivation, but she was interrupted by the sound of her pager. Grimacing at the intrusion, she flicked it off with her thumb and pointed to the phone.

"May I?"

"Of course," Catherine replied. She watched Rebecca as she dialed, appreciating again the tension that radiated from her body. She had leaned one hip against the edge of the desk and was facing toward the windows, her profile to Catherine. If she was aware of Catherine’s scrutiny, she didn’t show it. Her eyes were fixed on the streets below, but Catherine doubted that she actually saw the life passing outside. She seemed impervious to distractions. Catherine wondered what price that kind of focus and control exacted from the self-contained woman before her.

"Frye here," Rebecca said as the dispatcher picked up. She raised an eyebrow as she listened, "When?--Yes, I’m there now--All right, fifteen minutes." She replaced the receiver and turned to Catherine. "Janet Ryan is asking for you."

Catherine rose quickly. "I’ll go now."

Rebecca reached the door first, pulling it open. "I’ll drive you."

Catherine understood that this was not a request, and lengthened her stride to match that of the taller woman’s beside her. It was clear that Rebecca Frye was not used to giving up until she got what she wanted.
 
 

Chapter Three

Jeffrey Cruz found Rebecca in the patient waiting area on the fifth floor of University Central, feeding nickels into the coffee machine. He banged her lightly on the shoulder as he stepped up beside her.

"Hey, Reb--how’s it hanging?"

She looked at her partner, noting the sallow color of his normally tanned skin, and shrugged tiredly. "Better than yours. You get anything?"

"Not much--same perp--blood type O, semen matches, and he did her up the as--uh, sodomy, just like the first two."

Rebecca took a deep swallow of her coffee, wincing at the cardboard aftertaste. "Yeah, well, the rest of it fits, too. A jogger again, same time of day--early evening, not yet dark. No pattern to the location though--nothing suspicious in the area either. There’s miles of park along the river; we can’t possibly cover it all."

Jeff slumped into the plastic seat beside her, shaking his head. "Something’s funny, Reb. The park is always crowded--kids on bikes, runners, not to mention cops--and nobody sees nothing. Nobody notices anyone just hanging around, or in a hurry to get somewhere--he just comes and goes without a trace." He laughed sourly at his own joke.

Rebecca shook her head, as frustrated as her partner. "There’s a lot of brush along those trails, Jeff. Once he grabs someone, he can just pull them off into the scrub. Then they’re invisible." She had been to her Captain twice since the first assault, pleading for extra patrols to stake out the River Drives. His answer had been the same each time--yes, this was a nasty crime; yes, he cared about catching the son of a bitch; and, no, he couldn’t spare the people to beef up surveillance. They had to do the best they could with what they had, and Rebecca was haunted by the knowledge that it wasn’t enough.

"Well, he’s still got to get out," Jeff observed. "He has to leave on foot, or maybe on a bicycle.

"Maybe somebody did see something--maybe Janet Ryan did."

He sighed deeply and closed his eyes. "Maybe."

"There’s something we’re missing, Jeff, I agree with you," Rebecca mused aloud, not even sure if Jeff was awake. "Serial criminals--rapists, murderers--they follow some pattern. At least a pattern that makes sense to them. We just have to find it."

"You’re probably right," Jeff answered, his eyes still closed. "But whatever it is, it isn’t simple. Different days of the week, no set time interval, no physical resemblance between the victims, and nothing symbolic left behind. Did you get anything out of the shrink?"

"Still waiting. She’s in there with the witness now."

"Who’s the other one?" Jeff asked, craning his neck to see through the small windows in the double doors marked "Hospital Personnel Only". "Blond, early twenties, nice body?"

"The roommate, I think. I haven’t had a chance to talk with her yet." Rebecca didn’t add that she hadn’t had the heart to question the girl earlier. The young woman with Janet Ryan was clearly distraught and probably didn’t know anything anyway. There’d be time enough to talk to her once she’d had a chance to see her girlfriend.

Jeff looked at his watch and groaned. "Shit, it’s almost eleven. Shelley’s gonna have my balls if I don’t get home before midnight again tonight."

Rebecca stood and stretched. "Why don’t you go ahead. I want to see what the shrink gets anyhow. You can write up what we’ve got so far in the morning--deal?"

Jeff grinned happily, all vestiges of fatigue gone. He rose beside her, wishing for the thousandth time that he was as tall as his good looking partner. He didn’t let on that it bothered him that she was half a head taller, but he couldn’t help noticing the admiring glances she got, from men and women. She never seemed to notice, though. Oh, well, his wife thought his body was spectacular, so what the hell. He thumped her affectionately on the arm and sprinted for the elevator.

"I got the best part of this deal!" he called over his shoulder.

Rebecca didn’t doubt it. There was no one waiting for her at home, and there hadn’t been for a long time. She had forgotten what it felt like to open her door on anything other than the cold emptiness of her apartment, and she didn’t want to remember now. She closed her eyes on the thought, adjusting her long frame into a more comfortable position for the wait ahead of her.
 
 

Chapter Four

Catherine wearily pushed the doors of the intensive care unit open and stepped out into the quiet corridor. It took her a moment to adjust to the dimness after the bright lights inside, and when she could see again, she noted Rebecca asleep down the hall. Even in repose, she didn’t appear relaxed. Her right hand twitched slightly as it rested against her thigh. Her jacket lay abandoned on the chair beside her, and the silk shirt she wore stretched over the tight muscles of her arms and outlined her firm breasts. Catherine’s pulse quickened as her eyes wandered from Rebecca’s face down the sensuous planes of her body. She smiled slightly at the unbidden response and reminded herself why they were both there.

"Detective," she called gently as she approached.

Rebecca sat up immediately, rubbing her face briskly with both hands. She looked up at the psychiatrist who somehow managed to look fresh despite the hour. Rebecca grinned a little sheepishly, taken off guard by the welcoming softness in Catherine’s eyes.

"Sorry," Rebecca said, "I tend to fall asleep wherever I can."

Catherine laughed. "I know what you mean. When I was a resident, we had a saying—`See a chair, sit in it; see a bed, lie in it; see food, eat it!’"

Rebecca stood, stretching to her full six feet. "I’m sorry," she said, "I have to talk with you. I know it’s late. If there’s someone you need to call—"

"No, there isn’t," Catherine replied. "But I have no intention of saying one more word to you unless I’m fed first. Can you wait that long?"

Rebecca regarded the elegant, composed woman before her, sensing the smile in her voice, and felt suddenly energized.

"I’m on my own time now, anyhow," Rebecca offered. "There’s a diner up the street—"

"Arnie’s? Not at this hour! My digestive system would never survive," Catherine exclaimed in mock horror. "My apartment isn’t far. Could we finish up there? It will just take me a minute to fix something."

Rebecca was momentarily surprised, and then realized she would like nothing better than to have a late dinner with Catherine Rawlings.

"Sounds fine. I can’t take one more burger anyhow."

~

The address Catherine directed her to was in an old brownstone, recently renovated, in a gentrified part of the city that bordered the sprawling university area. Catherine’s was a large ground floor apartment that opened onto a private rear garden. Rebecca couldn’t see much of the patio through the sliding glass kitchen doors, but the rest of the apartment was decorated in warm earth tones that Rebecca found soothing. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and Rebecca finally began to unwind. She decided she liked the doctor’s style. She wandered into the large living room and perused the titles on the floor-to-ceiling bookcases that lined one wall. Many of the titles were recent novels and biographies. Rebecca noted several she had been meaning to read but kept putting off. Something usually came up at the station that devoured what little spare time she had. She reminded herself she still had work to do as Catherine came through the archway from the kitchen with a bottle in one hand.

"Glass of wine?" she asked.

"Just seltzer and lime, if you have it," Rebecca replied.

Catherine had changed into a loose white cotton blouse over black brushed silk trousers. Rebecca was suddenly aware of what a beautiful woman she was. Her angular face, framed by wavy, richly highlighted auburn hair and accentuated by prominent cheekbones, was just short of perfect. Her wide-set green eyes and generous mouth bestowed a human quality to her beauty that made her even more attractive. Rebecca found herself really appreciating another woman for the first time in months. She realized she was staring when Catherine’s full lips parted in a soft playful smile.

"No drinking on duty?"

"No drinking for me any time--at least not for the last four years," Rebecca said evenly. Four years, three months, and two days.

Catherine heard the tension in her voice and asked, "Will it bother you if I drink?"

Rebecca smiled then herself. "Most of the world still drinks--and honestly, it rarely bothers me now. It would be harder if you didn’t drink because of me."

"Well, then, come into the dining room so I can feed you," Catherine said.

~

Rebecca pushed back her chair with a sigh. She had forgotten how pleasant it was to sit down at a table and enjoy a meal. And to enjoy the company of a warm, intelligent woman.

"Thank you," she said, "it was wonderful."

Catherine smiled at her, unaccountably pleased by the compliment. She felt almost rewarded by Rebecca’s pleasure.

"I take it you don’t cook much."

Rebecca shrugged ruefully. "Never did. It’s worse when you live alone. I just don’t think about eating as something to enjoy any more." She stopped, suddenly embarrassed. Christ, Frye, why don’t you tell her all your problems! "At any rate, it was great."

Catherine sensed Rebecca’s discomfort. It was apparent that her charming guest felt awkward discussing herself. Catherine was not surprised. She found people in Rebecca’s line of work reluctant to reveal intimate details and slow to trust. She wasn’t sure if it was the work that made them that way, or if those pre-existing traits were what made them so good at their jobs. It was something that suddenly interested her very much. Rebecca interested her. Catherine wondered what lay beneath that cool, controlled exterior—for she was certain that there were depths to Rebecca that the woman herself was unaware of. She remembered the barely contained rage in Rebecca’s voice when she described the rapist’s last attack and her passionate declaration to stop him. Oh, yes, there was much more to this woman than she revealed to the world.

Catherine knew intuitively that Rebecca would not confide anything easily, and she sensitively changed the subject. "What do you need to know, Detective?" she asked. She poured the last of the wine into her glass and leaned back, waiting.

"Probably more than you can tell me. Does Janet Ryan have any memory for the last eight hours?"

"Not much. She remembers pulling into a drive-off on the River Drive about five forty-five. There was a regatta and she stopped to watch. She left her car and headed toward the water. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the ICU."

Rebecca frowned. "Does she recall any one else around? Anything out of the ordinary?"

"I don’t know. I didn’t specifically ask her. She was pretty disoriented, and frightened. I was trying to establish the extent of her amnesia and get her calmed down."

"Of course," Rebecca said tersely. She couldn’t expect a psychiatrist to think like a cop. She’d planned to interview the girl in the morning anyhow. "Anything else? Anything at all?"

"I’m sorry--her amnesia is total for the time in question."

"And you have no doubt that she’s telling the truth?"

"None at all."

"How long will it last?"

"I don’t know," Catherine said regretfully. "I wish I did."

Rebecca stood up, her jaw set with determination. "I can’t wait for her to remember. The time between attacks is getting shorter. I’ve got to find some other way to get to him." She thanked Catherine absently, her mind already planning her next move.

Catherine watched her as she walked to the door, thinking it would be a long time before Rebecca Frye let herself rest again.
 
 

Chapter Five

Rebecca let herself into her apartment and tripped over a gym bag she had left lying on the floor several days earlier. The air had the musty, close smell of an unoccupied house. She pushed a window open and stood looking out. The night air held just the hint of a breeze, and she leaned against the window ledge, hoping to wash away the depression that had settled over her the moment she got home. The empty apartment was too clear a reminder of her own empty life, an aching emptiness she tried hard to ignore. Usually she was successful. The demands of her work left her little time for reflection, and when she did have a spare moment, she spent it at the gym, lifting weights until the fatigue in her body blocked out any other thought. The interlude with Catherine Rawlings had unsettled her. The quiet intimacy of the doctor’s apartment, the shared meal, the soft, but insistent strength she sensed in the woman, touched some chord in Rebecca. She didn’t want to think about it, but she couldn’t ignore the loneliness she had felt as Catherine’s door closed gently behind her.

She looked at her watch. Three A.M. She was tired, but too restless to sleep. It was one of those times she longed for a drink. Or, as had been the case, more than one. She fought the urge, as she usually did, by turning her mind to the River Drive case. There was something there, she knew, that she just couldn’t connect with. Something she had heard, or seen, that would give her a handle on him. Whatever it was, it eluded her now.

Unconsciously her thoughts returned to Catherine Rawlings. Her integrity and compassion were obvious when she spoke of her patients, and her desire to put an end to this mad man’s rampage was obvious, too. But it was more than just her intensity that drew Rebecca’s attention back to her. Catherine Rawlings had touched some chord in her, some long-buried yearning for the company and solace of a woman. Or had she merely imagined the warmth in the doctor’s green eyes when she looked at Rebecca, or the welcoming smile as she approached? It doesn’t matter, and it sure isn’t going to help me solve this case

Rebecca shook off her memories with an irritated shrug. She tossed her jacket on a chair and pulled off her shoulder holster before stretching out on the worn couch. She rarely slept in her bed--the empty space beside her only made sleep more elusive. What she couldn’t know as she finally closed her eyes was that across town Catherine Rawlings turned in her sleep and smiled at the image of a tall, blond woman with lonely eyes.

~

It was not yet seven when Rebecca pulled her red Corvette into the police lot beside the police cruisers and vans. She knew Jeff would be there before her, typing out their report of last night’s events. She smiled to herself at the thought of Jeff’s face as he labored over the typewriter.

She found him hunched over his rickety metal desk in the tiny vice squad room, slowly two-finger typing a report in triplicate.

"Hi, Reb," he said without glancing up. "Anything from the shrink?"

"About what you’d expect," Rebecca answered, shedding her jacket to the back of her chair. "Want some more coffee?"

"Yeah," he said, looking up with a lecherous grin. "Shelly was still awake when I got home last night."

"Nice to know someone’s making out," she grumbled good-naturedly as she headed for the table at the back of the room. She threaded her way between dilapidated chairs and dented desks haphazardly crowded together, and filled two Styrofoam cups to the brim with the evil looking black liquid that passed as coffee. She carried them at arm’s length back to the desk that faced Jeff’s and pushed a stack of files to one side with her elbow. She settled herself into her chair, steeling herself for the first taste of the bitter brew.

"Ah," she murmured after her first swallow, "nectar of the gods."

"You must still be asleep if you think that swill is good," Jeff said, reaching for his own cup.

She shrugged and reached for the first page of his report. As usual it was neat and complete.

"Nothing new, I take it," she said, skimming the brief review of the latest rape.

Jeff stretched out his legs and pushed his chair back from the cramped table. "I ran a background check on the shrink."

Rebecca looked up in surprise. "Why? She’s not a suspect."

"Yeah, I know--but she’s tied in with our only witness to date--and she may be the one to open that particular box for us. It never hurts to have a little leverage."

Rebecca had to agree. If they were going to get anything from Janet Ryan, she suspected they would need Catherine Rawlings’ help.

"So, what did you find?" she asked, careful not to reveal her interest. Jeff might be her closest friend, but even with him she rarely disclosed anything personal. She certainly wasn’t about to tell him of the disturbing effect Catherine Rawlings had had on her.

"Well, it seems the lady is quite a mystery. I talked with a couple of the docs I know, and they all say the same thing. Professionally above reproach—medical degree from University, residency at University Central. From there she accepted a teaching position at the medical school and is now a…" he paused to check his notes, "…clinical professor of psychiatry."

Rebecca listened intently. She wasn’t surprised. It fit with the impeccable professional image she had gotten of Catherine the night before.

"So--what’s the mystery?"

"No personal info available--lives alone, apparently always has. Everyone is happy to tell you about her professional accomplishments, but nobody will say squat about the rest of her life."

"Maybe there isn’t anything to say," Rebecca countered, just a hint of irritation in her voice. "Some women are pretty consumed by their work, you know."

Jeff looked at her thoughtfully, thinking if anyone should know about that, it was his solitary partner.

"Yeah--well, that may be. But I did dig up something interesting. Her private practice--she specializes in rape and incest cases. She’s even done some work with us on that kind of thing."

Rebecca whistled, thinking of Janet Ryan and her amnesia.

"And that’s not all," Jeff continued, "a lot of her private patients are dyk--uh, lesbians."

Rebecca slowly raised her eyes to his. He looked away.

"Might be useful information," she said nonchalantly. She felt anything but nonchalant, her mind racing with questions about Catherine Rawlings. She forced herself to consider the information Jeff had gathered.

"Maybe I should have another talk with Dr. Rawlings."

"Thought you might want to," Jeff replied dryly.

~

Catherine was nearly finished with morning rounds when her pager went off. She excused herself and left the group of residents and students discussing the latest drug therapy for depression. She picked up a wall phone and dialed the extension registered on her beeper.

"Dr. Rawlings," she said as the call was picked up.

"Rebecca Frye, Doctor. I wonder if we could talk?"

Catherine glanced at her watch. She had an outpatient clinic to supervise in an hour. "I’m in-between right now. How about joining me in the cafeteria?"

"Fine."

"It’s on the second floor."

"I’ll find it," Rebecca replied.

Catherine picked up a chef’s salad and seltzer and glanced around the cafeteria. She saw Rebecca at once, looking slightly out of place in her grey jacket and black trousers amidst a sea of white coats. She made her way across the room to join her at a small table near the windows.

Rebecca watched her approach, thinking she looked at home in her knee-length white lab coat. The coat did nothing to detract from her trim figure. Rebecca tried not to notice the shapely legs or the hint of full breasts under the pale green suit she wore. Rebecca waited until Catherine was seated before speaking.

"I have a few more questions, Doctor."

"I gathered that, Detective Frye," Catherine commented dryly, studying Rebecca’s face. She was glad to see that the circles under her clear blue eyes had diminished and some of the tension had left her face. She was also simply glad to see her.

"Is it true that you specialize in rape and incest cases?"

Catherine was a little taken aback--not with the directness of Rebecca’s approach, she expected that of the forthright detective, but with the rapidity with which she gathered information. She had known that this, among other things, might come up. She just hadn’t expected it so soon.

"Not exactly specialize--but it is a particular interest of mine."

"Don’t give me double talk, Doctor. I’m not the enemy," Rebecca said quietly.

Catherine sighed and pushed aside her unwanted salad. She met Rebecca’s penetrating gaze.

"Yes, it’s true that the majority of my practice involves sexual abuse survivors."

"Why didn’t you tell me this last night?"

Catherine looked genuinely surprised. "I didn’t think it was relevant."

"You didn’t think it was relevant?" Rebecca asked incredulously. "We finally have a witness, we hope, to a brutal rape—a series of rapes we can’t get a single lead on, and our only witness suddenly has amnesia. You happen to be an expert in such crimes, and you didn’t think it was relevant." Rebecca didn’t raise her voice, but her anger was evident. God, save me from dealing with civilians!

"Detective Frye, I am not an expert on the crimes. I am an expert, if you will, on the effects of the crimes. That’s a very big difference."

"And what about Janet Ryan--is she a victim of the crime?"

"Don’t ask me questions you know I can’t answer," Catherine said quietly, her eyes holding Rebecca’s.

Rebecca sighed slightly. "I have to try."

Catherine leaned forward, her face intent. "Rebecca, I will do anything I possibly can to assist in this case, but I cannot, and I will not, disclose client confidences. Please try to understand."

The use of her first name did not escape Rebecca. She tried to ignore the quickening of her heartbeat, reminding herself she was in the middle of a hospital cafeteria, and in the middle of an investigation.

"I do understand. I appreciate your desire to protect your patients, and I respect you for it. I’m just grasping at straws here. I can’t get a handle on this guy, and it’s driving me nuts!"

It was an uncharacteristic outburst for her. Catherine’s heart filled with compassion as she watched the torment play across Rebecca’s fine features. In that moment she felt every shred of Rebecca’s frustration and helplessness.

"I’m seeing Janet at three this afternoon. She requested that I take over from Ray Bauer. Perhaps she’ll remember more."

Catherine’s caring showed in her voice, and Rebecca met her gaze gratefully. For an instant the room retreated from view as she surrendered to the understanding and comfort in those green eyes. It felt like a caress. She flushed and looked away.

"I’d like a report either way."

Catherine accepted Rebecca’s withdrawal reluctantly, acutely aware of the fleeting connection and the equally sudden distance between them. She pushed her chair back, replying formally, "Of course. You can call me around six tonight. I should be done here by then."

"Fine," Rebecca replied. Impulsively she added, "Why don’t I pick you up--we can talk over dinner. And you won’t have to cook."

Catherine nodded with pleasure. She would like nothing better than spending more time with this intriguing woman.
 
 

Chapter Six

Rebecca pulled into the No Parking zone in front of University Central Hospital at five forty-five pm. She took out the notes she had made at the crime scene that afternoon. She and Cruz had decided to do another walk-through of the area, hoping to find something that might have been overlooked by the lab crew. The assault had occurred in a copse of trees bordering the water on River Drive. A narrow path separated the trees from the road fifty yards away. The ground between was a thicket of low shrubs and grass. Although the park was frequented day and night by bicyclists and runners, this section of the trail was unpaved and poorly maintained, which tended to discourage all but the most serious joggers. The isolated location was similar to that of the previous two rapes. The most recent victim had been found by a middle-aged man chasing his errant golden retriever. It was probably a coincidence that saved her life. Trampled shrubbery suggested she had struggled. That was the only difference from the first two incidents, in which there was little sign of resistance. Jeff theorized that their assailant knocked them unconscious before pulling them off the trail and assaulting them. The evidence supported that, but Rebecca found it hard to believe that the women hadn’t been warned of his approach. Even if he had been well-hidden, he would have had to reveal himself to get close enough to subdue them. No weapon had been found, and the injuries sustained by the victims only indicated that some kind of blunt object had been used. The details of the crime continued to elude them.

Rebecca had surveyed the scene, distancing herself from the mental images she constructed of the events. If she allowed herself to hear their cries, feel their fear, experience their helplessness, her own anger and revulsion would paralyze her--she would never be able to do her job. It was a lesson she had learned early in her career, and the emotional detachment came naturally to her now. The price she paid was the gradual, almost unnoticeable, inability to bridge that emotional chasm in the rest of her life. The very people she wanted to reach most found her cold and uncaring. Her frustration, and theirs, led finally to an isolation she almost welcomed. Her life was simpler even though her most human needs lay buried and ignored.

"Jeff," she mused, "how about this--our guy waits in the trees until a lone jogger comes along. He pulls her off the trail, knocks her out, then rapes her. He has to go from here up to his car, or maybe he has a bike?"

"Could be--we didn’t find a rock, or a club of any kind. He must take the weapon with him. I guess a guy with a baseball bat wouldn’t seem that unusual. Still though, you’d think someone would have seen something. It’s been in all the papers. No one has even come forward with a bad tip!"

Rebecca nodded. It was too hard to believe that no one had seen or heard anything--but then, perhaps someone finally had. Which brought them right back to Janet Ryan.

"Did you get a report yet on the tissue under Janet Ryan’s fingernails?" she asked.

"Due later today," Jeff replied, pushing aside the shrubs that edged up to the water. There was a narrow strip of sand along the river bank and then the bottom fell steeply away. He could make out the shapes of the boathouses a few hundred yards down the river. There was nothing unusual about the place.

Rebecca led the way back to the path. "I bet you find that the tissue type matches the semen analysis we have. Janet Ryan must have seen the rape in progress, or she heard something and went to investigate. My guess is that she tried to fight the guy off. She has scratches on her arms and legs as if she got tangled up in the brush. He probably leaves her for dead, or just panics and runs."

"Could have gone down like that," Jeff agreed. "That makes Ryan one gutsy lady, or a crazy one. Most people would have run for help, don’t you think?"

Rebecca shrugged. "Who knows--maybe she didn’t even think about it. She sees what’s happening and just reacts."

"Then we really need to know what Janet Ryan saw," Jeff said with finality.

~

When Catherine spied Rebecca waiting in the car across the street, frowning over her notes, she felt a welcoming surge of pleasure. The convertible top was down and Rebecca looked attractively windblown. She had shed her jacket in the car, and the thin leather strap that circled her shoulders, holding her holster against her side, was obvious. Catherine had no particular fondness for firearms, and the sight of the gun under Rebecca’s arm reminded her forcefully of the kind of life Rebecca led. Her response was a mixture of admiration and fear. She was drawn to Rebecca’s strength, but it was the hint of vulnerability within that truly captivated her. The complexity of the contrasts made Rebecca all the more appealing.

She approached the passenger side slowly, reminding herself that Rebecca was here on business. Still, she couldn’t quite dismiss the excitement Rebecca’s presence stirred in her.

"Hi," she said.

Rebecca looked up, and in a rare unguarded moment welcomed Catherine with a blazing smile. "Hi."

Lord, she’s stunning For a moment Catherine stood motionless, transfixed.

Rebecca leaned over to push the passenger door open. "You’re very prompt."

Catherine laughed as she settled into the contoured leather seats. "Don’t be fooled. It doesn’t happen often." She waited until Rebecca maneuvered into the dense traffic crowding the road in front of the hospital before speaking.

"Have you made any progress with the case?" Catherine asked.

"Not much," Rebecca replied, frowning. "I have a hunch your patient interrupted him, possibly physically intervened. That means she saw him. She might give us a description--" She gave Catherine a questioning, hopeful look.

Catherine shook her head. "Not yet. She’s heavily sedated and has only slim recall of last night’s events. It could be a few days--perhaps a week."

"Can I speak to her?"

"She spoke with the officer who brought her to the hospital."

"I know that," Rebecca responded. "But that was just a preliminary. I need to go over things in detail, and I know what to ask."

Catherine thought about Janet’s fragile emotional state and tried not to consider her ever increasing desire to assist Rebecca Frye. Janet must remain her primary concern.

"I have an hour scheduled with her tomorrow afternoon. If she’s ready, I’ll let you know. I’d like to be present when you question her. Do you mind?"

"Not at all," Rebecca said quickly. "In fact, I’d prefer it."

"Well, then--it seems we don’t have much to discuss over dinner," Catherine remarked with regret. She realized then just how much she had been looking forward to this time with Rebecca.

"I still want to take you to dinner," Rebecca replied, turning her eyes from the road to glance at Catherine expectantly. She didn’t want to think about what it meant, she only knew she didn’t want to say good night to Catherine Rawlings quite so soon.

"Good," Catherine answered softly. "I was hoping you’d say that."
 
 

Chapter Seven

Rebecca drove to a small restaurant on the mainline known for its excellent food and quiet intimate decor. The owner greeted Rebecca by name and seated them personally at a secluded table that offered them a view of the sweeping lawns and luxurious gardens. He left them to ponder the eclectic selections artistically displayed on fine parchment menus.

"Do you come here often?" Catherine asked, curious about the special service they were receiving. They had been seated immediately despite several parties waiting before them.

Rebecca shrugged uncomfortably. "Not for a long time. But whenever I do, Anthony insists on waiting on me himself."

She’s embarrassed, Catherine thought. She waited, knowing there was more.

"I found his daughter for him a few years ago," Rebecca continued in a low voice, remembering the run down rooming house and the frightened young girls inside. When she looked at Catherine, she couldn’t quite disguise the pain of the memory. After so many girls in so many squalid squats, the sorrow had become a dark ache in her eyes. "She was fifteen years old, working on her back for a pimp who had promised her the excitement a girl her age longs for. What he gave her was a needle in the arm and a beating if she didn’t earn enough." She didn’t know how to describe the rest of it—how she felt when she found Anthony’s youngest daughter strung out on smack and turning tricks for twenty dollars a pop. Her anger so intense that she almost forgot she was a cop. Her overwhelming need to stop the waste and the abuse. If Jeff hadn’t interceded, she would have beaten the young pimp with her bare hands. She was grateful Jeff stopped her, but the rage still seethed, fueled by the daily destruction of lives and dreams she witnessed everywhere around her. She remained silent, alone with her anguish.

Rebecca didn’t know that the feelings she had forgotten how to share were clearly displayed in the sweeping planes of her face and the ever changing depths of her dark blue eyes. Catherine, so sensitive to the sounds of silence, caught glimpses of Rebecca’s secret tears. She ached for Rebecca’s pain, and she stood in awe of the strength it required to face such horrors every day.

"To him it must seem like life’s greatest gift-- the return of his child. He’s trying to thank you without making you uncomfortable," Catherine said softly. Rebecca winced, and Catherine continued lightly. "You’ll just have to bear it. I don’t imagine he’s going to stop."

Rebecca heard the gentle mocking in Catherine’s voice and caught the glimmer of a smile on her full lips. The knot of anger in her chest began to loosen, and she felt herself relaxing. She broke into a grin that brought a flash of brilliance to her eyes and a youthful energy to her face.

"If that’s your professional opinion."

"It is," Catherine responded, rewarded by the light in Rebecca’s eyes. She’s so beautiful Never could she remember being moved so deeply by anyone, and the force of her response was a little frightening. I hardly know her—why do I feel like I’ve been waiting for her?

Rebecca startled her from her reverie with the words, "Then it’s my professional opinion that we should enjoy dinner and have no more talk of business."

Catherine agreed happily, and after following Rebecca’s suggestion to try the house special, settled back contentedly with a glass of wine. Over the course of the delicious meal she found herself telling Rebecca about her life. Rebecca learned that Catherine was the only child of a college professor and his wife, also a psychiatrist. She was close to her parents, but saw them only rarely. They were both still active in their professions and otherwise involved with joint pursuits. Catherine had grown up in a loving and supportive environment, but her parents had always maintained an emotional closeness with each other that sometimes made Catherine feel excluded. As a result, although this was something she didn’t share with Rebecca, Catherine was reserved in her own personal life. Unconsciously she was searching for the same depth of commitment she had observed between her parents. Rebecca was a good listener, and she watched Catherine intently as she talked. Somehow she knew that these were things Catherine rarely spoke of.

"What do you do for entertainment?" Rebecca asked at one point.

"I love to read and take long bike rides. I’m a sucker for old movies, too," Catherine answered. "How about you?"

Rebecca laughed. "I’m afraid I’m one of those obsessive workers. When I’m not working, I’m working out."

"How did you decide on law enforcement?"

"I didn’t decide. I was born into it, like a lot of cops. My father was a beat cop for forty years, just like his father. I always knew I would be a cop, too. I took a slight detour and went to college first, but there was never any question I would be a street cop."

Rebecca’s pride and satisfaction were evident in her voice. Catherine thought she looked more relaxed than she had ever seen her, and she was glad. Rebecca’s charm and quick humor surfaced as she grew more comfortable. Catherine found her even more enchanting as the evening passed.

They lingered long after the other diners had gone and only left when neither of them could hide her weariness. They drove in companionable silence through the now quiet streets. For the first time in weeks, Rebecca didn’t think about work. When she pulled up in front of Catherine’s brownstone, she realized suddenly that she didn’t want the evening to end.

"Catherine, I—" Rebecca stopped, unused to putting her feelings into words. She wanted to tell her how wonderful the evening had been, and how much she wanted to see her again. Old habits, old fears, held her back. When are you going to learn, Frye. What in hell do you have to offer a woman like this?

Catherine’s eyes were warm and welcoming as she gazed at Rebecca, waiting for her to go on. Rebecca flushed and looked away, her jaw tightening. She sensed Catherine waiting, but still painful disappointments haunted her, holding her a silent hostage.

Catherine touched her arm gently, speaking instinctively, without her usual restraint. "Rebecca, I am a lesbian. If you didn’t already know that, I’m sure you would soon. I also find you incredibly attractive. Regardless of how you feel about me—or women in general—that fact remains. However, I can assure you that I have no intention of doing anything to make you uncomfortable."

Rebecca turned to her, stunned by her honesty, her pulse racing at Catherine’s words. She grinned, unable to hide the lightness in her heart.

"Catherine, there is nothing about you that makes me uncomfortable."

Catherine grinned back as she slipped from the car. "That, Detective Frye, is very good news!" She was still smiling as she watched Rebecca drive out of sight.
 
 

Chapter Eight

At seven forty–five the next morning, Rebecca walked into the squad room to face a routine day. She had a court appearance at noon to give evidence in a racketeering trial. She planned to spend the morning finishing reports on cases headed for the dead files—cold trails abandoned after fruitless weeks of searching for witnesses who were willing to appear in court. She hated to abandon cases she knew she could get convictions on, but too often people refused to cooperate, either from fear of exposure or retaliation. It was another frustrating part of working vice she had learned to live with.

Jeff joined her a few minutes later, carrying a cardboard cup of coffee precariously by the rim. He scowled at the mountain of paper work piled on his desk, muttering, "I can’t face this today."

"Give me some," Rebecca said amiably, reaching out a hand. "I’m almost done here."

Jeff raised an eyebrow and took a good look at his partner. She was dressed as usual in well-fitting linen trousers and a tailored cotton shirt, but something about her was different. There was an aura of freshness and energy about her that he hadn’t noticed in months.

"Something happen?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" Rebecca said absently, tossing a finished folder to one side.

"You look like something good happened. Something break on the River Drive case?"

Rebecca blushed. After dropping Catherine off the night before, she’d found herself more restless than usual. Her normal antidotes hadn’t seemed to work. She’d driven around, stopped at the gym for a late workout, even contemplated cleaning her apartment. Finally she stripped down to a tank top and pulled on a pair of loose boxers, deciding to attempt sleep. She stretched out on the bed, something she hadn’t done since her lover left. Amazingly, it wasn’t the case she thought about, but Catherine. The astonishing warmth in her eyes, the gentle tone of her voice, her quick laughter. Rebecca remembered too the light scent of her perfume and the outline of her breasts against the silk blouse she had worn. Without intending it, Rebecca found herself imagining the soft weight of Catherine’s breasts in her palm, the nipples stiffening under her fingers, and the heat of Catherine’s skin under her lips. She brushed her hand under the thin cotton of her shirt, gasping at the quick contraction of her nipples. She squeezed them lightly, her legs parting as she began to swell. She continued to stroke her breasts and belly, teasing herself, as she trailed one hand up her inner thigh, slipping her fingers under the edge of the loose shorts. She was breathing faster, no longer thinking, concentrating on the increasing pressure between her legs. She remembered moaning softly as she spread her wetness over her hard clit, circling it, pressing the shaft from side to side, feeling it become impossibly larger. Her legs twisted in the sheets as she clenched her teeth, denying herself as long as she could. When the distention became almost painful, she bore down harder with her fingertips, working her twitching clit back and forth roughly, pushing herself to the edge. She was whimpering as she tugged at the engorged base, arching her back as every muscle tensed for the explosion. She shouted when it hit, grabbing herself with her whole hand, squeezing out the last spasm as she jack-knifed on the bed from the force of the orgasm.

Something had happened all right, but she wasn’t about to tell Jeff that she woke, still wet from the night before, with Catherine Rawlings on her mind. She didn’t want to admit to herself just how good it felt to be with her. She knew only too well how devastating it could be to need a woman, only to find barriers in her own soul she couldn’t surmount.

"Nothing new. I’m going to interview Janet Ryan this afternoon though. If Catherine gives us the green light."

Jeff didn’t miss the first name reference, but he let it pass. They were as close as two partners could be, and he considered Rebecca his friend, but he knew better than to ask for details. He respected the distance Rebecca demanded in their relationship.

"Sounds good to me. Want me along?" he asked.

Rebecca thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. "Not this time. She might talk easier to me alone. Then again, she might not talk at all."

Jeff loosened his tie a fraction of an inch, which was his only concession to the stifling heat in the room. "I agree—the two of us could put her off. I’ve got a meet with our contact guy on the Zamora undercover deal anyhow. Let’s hope you get something from the girl."

~

Rebecca stepped off the elevator onto the inpatient psychiatry floor shortly after four P.M. Catherine was leaning against the counter at the nurses’ station, studying a chart. Rebecca observed her unaware, noting the easy way she stood, her figure-hugging skirt outlining shapely legs. Even the slight frown of concentration couldn’t diminish the delicate allure of her features. Rebecca knew what she was feeling as she looked at Catherine Rawlings, and it frightened her. She didn’t want to be stirred by her, but she was, physically and emotionally. To make matters worse, she was in the middle of the ugliest case she’d ever been involved in. The last thing she needed was a personal complication. Rebecca was still standing there, awash with conflicting reactions when Catherine looked up.

"Hi," Catherine called, as she pushed the chart aside. She didn’t try to hide her obvious pleasure at seeing Rebecca. Catherine surveyed Rebecca’s tall figure with appreciation and smiled a welcome.

Rebecca forced herself to ignore the warmth spreading through her body at the sound of Catherine’s voice. It’s probably all in my mind, she chided herself, but it was hard to overlook the tension between them. She deliberately kept her face impassive as she approached.

Catherine waited where she was, sensing something of Rebecca’s uncertainty. Detective Sergeant Rebecca Frye might know exactly who she was in the world, but it was plain to Catherine that the woman behind the badge was much less certain of what she wanted, or needed. Catherine was struggling to control her growing attraction to Rebecca, but every time she saw her, her desire intensified. Go slowly. She doesn’t trust you yet—or herself.

"I’ve just finished speaking with Janet," Catherine said as Rebecca joined her.

"Good. Does she know I’m coming?" Rebecca asked, her attention now focused on the task before her.

"YesI thought it best to prepare her."

"How is she?"

Catherine shrugged, a small frown puckering the fine skin between her elegant brows. "She’s still quite disoriented, and badly shaken. She knows there are things she can’t remember, and the dread of what they might be is terrifying. She wants to remember and is scared to death at the same time. She’s very frightened, Rebecca."

Rebecca recognized the cautionary tone in Catherine’s voice and responded defensively. "I’m not going to interrogate her, Catherine." She immediately regretted her flash of temper when she saw the surprise in Catherine’s eyes. God, I’m too sensitive around her. She placed her hand on Catherine’s arm, leaning toward her slightly.

"I’m sorry. I just want to find out how much she can remember. I won’t push her, I promise."

Catherine covered Rebecca’s hand lightly with her own, very conscious of the pressure of Rebecca’s fingers. Even that innocent touch sent her pulse racing.

"I trust you, Rebecca. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t let you see her." She pressed Rebecca’s hand again and stepped away. "Come on, I’ll take you to her."

~

Janet lay propped up on several pillows. The blinds were drawn against the afternoon sun. The television, perched on the wall opposite the bed, was tuned to a TV talk show. The hostess raced up and down the aisles, thrusting her microphone at the members of the audience. There was no sound.

The left side of the young woman’s face was swollen and discolored. Her eye on that side was a mere slit, the lashes caked together with dried blood. Fine black sutures closed a series of lacerations on her forehead. She clutched the covers up to her breasts, despite the July heat. Her hands were covered with scratches. Looking at her, Rebecca thought she had put up a hell of a fight.

Catherine went to the bed and took Janet’s hand.

"Detective Frye is here, Janet."

Janet’s head nodded slightly. "Please stay with me."

"Of course," Catherine said, pulling a chair up to the left side of the bed.

Rebecca dragged a similar worn plastic chair to the opposite side and sat down, opening her notebook as she did so. She leaned forward so Janet could see her face.

"Janet, I’m Rebecca Frye. I’m a police officer. I’m trying to find out what happened the night you were injured." She watched Janet carefully, looking for any unspoken reactions to her questions. "Can you tell me what you did that day- - Tuesday-- three days ago?"

Janet glanced at Catherine, who nodded encouragement. Then she began to speak in a slow halting whisper. "I was late for work—I missed the train. So, I drove to work."

"Where is that?" Rebecca asked.

"Compton Building—I’m a data programmer." She halted uncertainly, her grip on Catherine’s hand tightening.

"Go on," Rebecca urged.

"Barb called at lunch—I told her I’d be home around seven."

A single tear slipped from between her lashes and dampened her cheek. Rebecca reached for a tissue and pressed it into Janet’s free hand. She waited a moment, then asked, "What did you do after work?"

"It was beautiful outside. -- I decided to go home on the Drive, even though the traffic is slower—" She stopped again, a slight tremor noticeable in her hands.

"I remember," Rebecca said softly, "it was cool, there had been a shower—"

"Yes! It had been so sticky all weekend! I stopped -- oh, it’s all so confusing! I can’t remember where I stopped!"

Her anxiety was more pronounced now.

"That’s okay, Janet, you’re doing great," Rebecca soothed. "You don’t have to get everything straightened out now. Just tell me anything you can remember, even if it doesn’t make sense."

Catherine gave Rebecca a startled look but remained silent. Maybe I should take her on rounds with me. She’s better at this than some of my residents. Rebecca continued to surprise, and intrigue, her.

"That’s just it! I can’t make sense of what I can remember. There are so many colors!"

"What colors, Janet?" Rebecca asked quickly, writing the word on her pad and circling it.

"I don’t know!"

"Do you remember a man? Did you see a man, or a woman and a man?"

"No."

"Did you hear a woman scream?"

"No." She looked at Catherine, her face pale. "I’m sorry—I can’t remember!"

"I believe you. It’s all right," Catherine soothed. "Close your eyes for a minute, and tell me anything you see—any image, any picture in your mind at all."

"Just the number—"

Rebecca sat up straight in her chair, her face tense. "What number?"

"Ninety-seven."

"Ninety-seven what? Were there letters with the number?"

"I can’t remember—please, I can’t remember!"

"That’s all right, Janet," Catherine interrupted. "You’ve been wonderful. We’ll talk again when you’re a little stronger."

Rebecca forced down a protest. She knew Janet had seen something—she could feel it. She also knew it would be futile to try to prolong the interview. Clearly Catherine felt the young woman had had enough. Rebecca pocketed her notebook and stood up, her anger surfacing as she surveyed the battered, terrorized woman before her. She intended to put an end to this reign of terror.
 
 

Chapter Nine

Catherine joined Rebecca in the hall outside Janet’s room. She didn’t miss the hard stillness of Rebecca’s face.

"Not much help?" Catherine asked.

Rebecca passed a hand across her face and sighed. "Not much. There’s something there, though—I’m sure of it."

"I’m almost positive Janet walked up on the rape," Catherine said as they began to walk. "That might explain Janet’s extreme reaction, and the symptoms she’s displaying now."

"Can you press her on the number—and try to find out more about the colors?"

"Not now," Catherine replied. "She’s blocking because she’s not psychologically prepared to cope with what she witnessed."

Rebecca suppressed her impatience. She had no doubt Catherine was right, but she needed this girl to remember! Her powerlessness was eating her up inside.

"Will you let me know when I can talk to her again? I really need her, Catherine."

"I know, Rebecca—of course."

Rebecca stopped in front of the elevator, at a loss for words. She didn’t want to say good-bye, and she didn’t know how to move forward. The bell rang, announcing that the elevator had arrived. Catherine was so close to her she could smell her subtle perfume. Catherine’s hand was on her arm, her fingers softly caressing. Her green eyes held Rebecca’s with a tenderness she could drown in.

"I want to see you again," Rebecca said hastily, "not about the case. Can I call you?"

Catherine realized she had been holding her breath. She let it out with a soft sigh as the elevator doors slid open. It took all her will power to step back from Rebecca’s body when all her desires urged her closer.

"Oh, yes. I’ll be waiting."

~

Rebecca drove back to the station with her thoughts divided between Janet’s scanty recollections and the exchange with Catherine at the elevator. Catherine touched off a physical response so intense it was actually painful. She was wet again, and throbbing. It was all she could do to keep her mind on the traffic.

Her pager went off just as she pulled into the parking lot. She pushed open the heavy double doors and took the stairs to the third floor two at a time. Leaning over the counter at the intake desk, she called, "Frye, here. What’s up?"

The frazzled dispatcher, sweating profusely in her blue uniform, turned to her from the computer console.

"Jeff Cruz is not responding to his calls. The Captain wants to see you pronto."

Rebecca swore under her breath as she hurried to the glass enclosed office at the end of the hall. She rapped at the door marked "Captain John Henry" in peeling black letters. The black man behind the desk was fiftyish, fit and big. His iron grey hair was cut short, and his demeanor authoritative. The white shirt he wore was stiff with starch, and his tie was tightly knotted, even in the ninety degree heat.

"Where’s your partner?" he barked without preamble as Rebecca entered his office.

"I don’t know," Rebecca said with a worried frown. "He had a meet with Ronnie Carmichael, the undercover guy working the Zamora case. He’s the one we think is running the kiddy porn business in the tenderloin."

"Yeah, I read the file. Where was the meet?"

"They change locations every time. It was just a routine check-in, Captain. Carmichael hadn’t come up with much, at least not that we knew about."

Captain Henry didn’t comment. Cruz and Frye were his best team, and he gave them a lot of slack to run their own cases. It wasn’t unusual for them to be involved with other divisions, particularly narcotics, on cooperative investigations. They weren’t careless. If Cruz was in trouble, he had walked into something he hadn’t expected.

Rebecca was thinking the same thing. Something felt wrong.

"I don’t like it, Captain. Something’s gone down. We need to find him—fast."

"We’ve got an all points out on him and his car. We’ll get a fix on him soon."

"What about the contact—Carmichael?"

Henry fanned his hands out over his desk. "No word. They’re both out there loose somewhere."

Rebecca turned abruptly and headed toward the door. She had to find Jeff, and she knew him better than anyone. It could take all night for a cruiser to spot his car. She wasn’t going to leave him out there alone.

"Frye!" Henry called. "I want you here, coordinating the search, until we have something definite."

"Let Rogers do it," she said, whirling to face him, her jaw set stubbornly.

"I want you on it, Frye." He stared back at her. His expression changed slightly, and he lowered his voice. "We’ve got two missing cops already. I don’t want you out there alone."

"But Jeff—"

"That’s an order, Frye."

She gritted her teeth, and nodded. "Yes, sir."

~

When Rebecca entered the squad room, the noise level suddenly dropped. Feet shuffled, someone cleared his throat, a few people looked away. Everyone knew what she must be feeling—her anger, her helplessness—and none of them quite knew what to say. So they handled it the way they always did, by doing the job, by carrying on. Someone put a lukewarm cup of coffee in her hand.

She sat at her desk, fists clenched in her pockets, and watched the clock. The men from the day shift stayed, even though many of them had been on duty for close to eighteen hours by then. Gina Simmons, a young rookie, came in silently and piled boxes of pizza on the littered coffee table. Rebecca shook her head when someone offered her a slice. They stood around in groups eating, spilling bits of oil and cheese on the floor.

The call finally came in at ten-thirty. A cruiser had spotted Jeff’s car on a deserted pier at the waterfront. Rebecca was on her feet and halfway to the door when a hand on her arm restrained her.

"I’ll ride with you, Frye."

Rebecca turned toward the stocky man beside her, struggling to control her temper. She had never liked William Watts. He was a loner—a cynical, caustic cop who didn’t seem to give a damn about his job. She couldn’t figure out why he was a cop, and she didn’t want to deal with him now.

"Not tonight, Watts," she said tersely, brushing off his hand.

He jerked his head toward the hallway, his face impassive. "Captain’s orders."

She turned on heel, heading toward the stairs. She didn’t have time to waste on this. Watts hurried after her.

Rebecca gunned the MG out of the lot and slapped the red light onto her roof. When the traffic ahead didn’t yield fast enough, she veered around them into the oncoming lanes. They were the first to reach the scene. There were cruisers pulled off the four-lane highway at odd angles, and men with dogs were combing the waterfront.

Rebecca climbed out and surveyed the area. Jeff’s car was parked under an overpass, the only civilian vehicle in sight. To her right a huge crane stood like a lonely sentinel over the abandoned site of someone’s waterfront dream. To her left, facing the water, were a cluster of darkened buildings—the maritime museum, an attached souvenir shop, and a curb-side hotdog stand.

She headed toward the buildings, Watts close behind her. She neither spoke to him nor acknowledged his presence.

"Why not the crane?" he asked, out of breath from the pace Rebecca had set.

"Too obvious during the day—there wouldn’t have been enough people around for cover," she answered tersely, still not looking at him.

"Yeah, but the way I see it—"

She turned so fast he collided with her, his bulky form bouncing back a step off her surprisingly hard body.

"Look, Watts," she seethed. "I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think. I know my partner. So just keep out of my way, or better yet, get lost."

Watts held both hands up in the air in front of him. "Okay, Frye, okay. I’ll just tag along like a good little boy."

Wordlessly, she walked away. If Jeff had met his contact in the late afternoon, there wouldn’t have been much activity anywhere except at the museum. They never spent much time at a meet. He hadn’t left voluntarily; he would have taken his car. Something went wrong, and it happened here. She tried not to think about what might have happened, focusing on her search.

She walked around the maritime museum, looking for an alley way, or a loading dock—some secluded area. She reasoned that no one would have tried to move two men very far in daylight, which meant they would have needed an isolated location nearby. But for what purpose? It was unlikely that anyone would hold two cops hostage, or try to extort information. She didn’t want to think about the most likely reason—that someone was sending them a message to stay clear of Zamora and his bosses.

There was nowhere to hide two men anywhere around the building. She shined her flashlight on the beer and burger stand, closed and shuttered for the night. There was a large green commercial dumpster behind it. Rebecca approached it slowly, sweeping the ground around it with her light. She held her 9mm automatic in the other hand. She illuminated bits of refuse, a soggy cardboard box, a dented milk crate—nothing unusual. She looked at the dumpster, a knot of tension burning in her gut. She slipped her weapon into her shoulder holster and pushed the top up. Taking a deep breath, she played her light over its contents. It was half full of crushed boxes, rotting vegetables, and broken bottles. That was all.

"Uh, Frye—" Watts said hesitantly from the spot where he had been standing in the shadows.

"What?"

"There’s a shipping platform just north of the marina. It’s below ground level—they used to use it to tie the tugs up to. Can’t really see it from the pier unless you know it’s there."

"Show me."

He led her along the edge of the pier, the water ten feet below them, rolling against the huge wooden pilings and concrete walls. Fifty feet from the marina was a narrow set of stairs barricaded by a length of chain. They would be easy to miss unless you were looking for them. The chains were rusted from years of disuse and exposure. Rebecca could make out moss-covered stone stairs and some kind of platform anchored against the pier, floating on the water. Carefully, she stepped over the chain and started down.

They were lying side by side—no apparent sign of a struggle. Both men had been shot once in the back of the head. Rebecca noticed that Jeff’s tie was neatly knotted under the button down collar of his light blue oxford shirt. His gun was still in its holster. She reached down and closed his eyes.

Standing at the edge of the dock she looked out across the water at their sister city. The shoreline sparkled in the moonlight. The river churned two feet below her, and the cold wind off the water whipped her light jacket around her. She didn’t notice the cold, or that she was shivering. It was so quiet.

"Frye?" Watts called from above. "You find anything?"

"Yes," she answered hollowly.

"You want an ambulance?"

"No."
 
 

Chapter Ten

Rebecca drove to a run-down bar where she wasn’t likely to meet anyone she knew. It was three in the morning. She had just left Shelly Cruz. There hadn’t been any way to make it easy. She had held Jeff’s wife, rocking her through the worst of it. Even as she murmured meaningless words of comfort, she felt her own heart grow cold. She couldn’t let the pain through—if she did, she’d fall apart. She was a cop—people die on the streets every day—needlessly, senselessly. This time it was her partner, her best friend. She’d handle it like Jeff would have if it had been her—like a cop. But first she needed to forget, just for a little while. Then she’d be ready to carry on.

The bar was nearly deserted, as she expected it to be. No one who had anywhere to go, or anyone to go to, was still about. Like her, the few people slumped in the shadowy bar sought no company. The bartender looked up disinterestedly from the girlie magazine lying on the long counter in front of him. Nothing surprised him anymore, not even the appearance of a good-looking woman in a dive like this. Besides, this one didn’t look like she wanted anything but a drink, fast.

"What’ll you have?"

"Scotch, double—straight up."

He poured it neatly, slid it in front of her and moved away. Rebecca stared at the glass for a moment, then reached for it with a steady hand.

~

Catherine awoke instantly at the first buzz of the doorbell. Her ability to move from deep sleep to instant alertness was ingrained in her from years of medical training. She sat up, glancing at the digital clock beside her bed. It read four fifty-three am. She reached for the pale blue robe that lay across the foot of the bed, swinging her long legs to the floor. She had been naked under the covers. Hastily she tied the sash as she hurried through the living room, snapping on a table lamp as she passed.

As she fumbled with the deadbolt, she asked, "Who is it?"

"Rebecca Frye."

Catherine hesitated with surprise and then hurriedly pulled the door open. Rebecca was slouched against the doorjamb. She looked terrible. She was in the same clothes she had worn the day before, and her usually impeccable suit was grimy and wrinkled. Her face was white, and there was a frightening vacancy in her normally vibrant blue eyes. Her short, thick blond hair was disheveled, as if she had run her hands through it countless times. Catherine grasped her arm and pulled her inside.

"What is it?" she asked, leading Rebecca to the sofa.

Rebecca sank heavily into the plush cushions, her head dropping back wearily. She took a deep shuddering breath, turning her face slightly toward Catherine, who was sitting close beside her.

"My partner, Jeff Cruz, was murdered tonight--him and another cop," she said flatly, her pain-filled eyes not registering Catherine’s shock. She didn’t feel Catherine move closer, nor the protective arm she slipped around her shoulders.

"God, Rebecca, I’m so sorry!"

"He was twenty-nine years old. He’d only been married a year. He was a good cop." She thought of the six years that she and Jeff had been partners and knew that no one would ever be able to fill his place in her life.

"He must have been very important to you," Catherine said gently, her hand resting softly on Rebecca’s rigid back.

Rebecca shrugged. "We were cops—he looked after my skin, and I looked after his." Her voice broke on the next words. "Until today."

So much pain! If only you would let someone share it! Catherine remained still, resisting the urge to gather Rebecca to her and comfort her. Just talk to me; let me help!

Eventually Rebecca began to speak, quietly, as if she were talking to herself.

"He took a chance for me a few years ago. My life was a mess. My lover had left me--she said I was never there for her--and even when I was around, it wasn’t enough. She was tired of being a "cop’s wife." Rebecca laughed bitterly. "She was right. I wasn’t taking very good care of her. After that, I drifted in and out of affairs--none of them worked out. My drinking got much worse. I was drinking during the day--on duty--and Jeff knew it. I was a hazard--to him, to myself -- to everyone." She stopped then, and looked at Catherine, expecting to find rejection, or disgust. That was certainly the way she felt about herself. Instead she found the same tender acceptance that welcomed her each time they met.

Taking a grateful breath, she continued, her tone stronger. "He came to me one night after a shift. He said he knew I was drinking on the job--that he didn’t want to turn me in, but that he couldn’t afford to have a lush for a partner. I was pissed. I told him to turn me in if that’s what he wanted--I didn’t care anymore."

She laughed softly at the memory. "Jeff is a good head shorter than me, and slim for a guy. He grabbed my jacket and slammed me into the wall. His face was in my face, and he was yelling. `Listen, you stupid fuck-up--you’re my partner, and I care. So your old lady ditched you! Big deal! You think that hasn’t happened to a hundred other cops? You think you’re special ‘cause you’re a dyke? Well, you’re not. You’re just a cop, just like the rest of us. So you either get it together fast, or I’m through with you!’ He shook me around a little--he was pretty hot. I just stared at him. He’d never let on he knew about me and Diane. Finally, he just stomped away."

Catherine smiled sadly at the image, thinking what a good man Jeff Cruz must have been. This must be killing her!

"What did you do?" Catherine questioned softly.

"I drove to an AA meeting that night. That was four years ago--we never talked about it again."

"He trusted you, Rebecca--and you didn’t let him down." She felt some of the tension in Rebecca’s tight muscles dissipate. "Where have you been all night?"

"I told Jeff’s wife. Then I went to a bar."

"Did you drink?" Catherine asked evenly.

Rebecca laughed harshly. "I sat there with it in my hand for a long time."

"What stopped you?"

Rebecca met Catherine’s gaze, her defenses shattered. "I thought about you."

Catherine’s fingertips stroked Rebecca’s cheek, pushing the hair back from her forehead. She hadn’t meant to touch her, but her own heart was breaking in the face of Rebecca’s anguish. As she leaned slowly forward, she whispered, "I’m so glad you did."

At the touch of Catherine’s hand, the fiber of Rebecca’s resistance snapped like a straw in the wind. The tenderness pierced her armor like the pain could not, clouding her awareness until there was no reality except the hazy green of Catherine’s eyes, the heady aroma of her scent. She needed the surcease of Catherine’s body more than she needed air to breath. Rebecca sought her lips, bruising them unintentionally with the force of her kiss. She plundered her mouth with her urgency to lose herself in Catherine’s flesh. Pushing Catherine back against the couch, Rebecca’s hands fumbled with the sash of her robe, her tongue demanding entrance. She groaned as Catherine’s tongue met hers with the same intensity. Rebecca pulled away only to press her lips to the rich ripeness of full breasts, leaving Catherine gasping. Catherine cried out, holding Rebecca’s face to her, forcing her nipple into Rebecca’s seeking mouth. Rebecca, her long-buried passion unleashed, was burning, the very breath in her lungs evaporating from the heat. She knew only the yielding warmth of Catherine’s flesh, the rightness of Catherine’s embrace. She was beyond conscious thought, aching with the force of the blood rushing through her pelvis, thrusting against Catherine with a rhythm she could not control. Catherine’s arms were around her, pulling her close, urging her to let go. Rebecca moaned, consumed by the agonizing pleasure of Catherine’s body beneath hers, her clit ready to burst. Her hunger, her need, triggered an explosion as her hips pumped in a frenzy of excitement. She heard Catherine murmuring her name even as she began to convulse against her, crying out with the wrenching spasms that overpowered her. Head flung back, arms rigid, she arched above Catherine, groaning with each internal pulsation, gasping for breath, until finally she collapsed into Catherine’s arms. Through a haze she felt the gentle caresses of Catherine’s fingers in her hair, her cheek pressed to Catherine’s breast. She drifted in Catherine’s strong embrace, savoring a peace she had long forgotten.
 
 

Chapter Eleven

The sun streaming through the bay windows woke her. As consciousness returned, so did a flood of emotions. The pain of Jeff’s death twisted like a knife in her heart, an unrelenting ache she would carry with her for a long time. The sight of her jacket neatly folded over the arm of the easy chair jolted her with memories of the night before. Her face burned with a conflicting mixture of dismay and renewed desire. She remembered her loss of control with embarrassment. God, what must Catherine think of her? Even as she struggled with the thought, she yearned for Catherine’s touch. She wanted her so powerfully it left her shaking. She wasn’t sure she had the courage to face her. What if Catherine had only responded out of kindness? Rebecca hadn’t given her much choice, after all. You must have been out of your mind, Frye! Christ, you came all over her like a kid on his first date!

She pushed herself reluctantly to a sitting position, noticing her shoes and belt beside the sofa. God, where is my gun? She looked about frantically, relaxing slightly when she saw the shoulder holster hanging on the knob of the closet door. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed Catherine removing that. It was like a part of her. She looked up to find Catherine in the doorway, watching her, a faint smile on her lips. She looked more beautiful than Rebecca remembered. Her wavy hair shown with reddish highlights, and her graceful figure was accentuated by the folds of the silk dressing gown she wore. The look of desire in Catherine’s eyes sent a bolt of arousal directly between her legs. She was wet instantly.

"Catherine, I--" she began tentatively, searching for words.

"Shh--" Catherine commanded as she drew near, her smile deepening. Rebecca stared up at her, captivated by the power of her gaze. Catherine leaned down, curling the fingers of one hand in Rebecca’s hair. Catherine kissed her, a deep, probing, demanding kiss that left them both gasping. When she pulled her head back, she said teasingly, "Does that answer any questions for you?"

Rebecca took a long, shuddering breath. "I’m sorry about last night—I mean, the way I—the way it—" I didn’t mean to come like that. I couldn’t stop it, you made me so crazy.

"Don’t be sorry. You were beautiful, and believe me, I have never enjoyed anything more. Being wanted that much is very exciting. Don’t you know how much I’ve been wanting you?"

Rebecca rose and pulled Catherine into her arms, trembling. She kissed her mouth, the soft skin of her eyelids, the smooth slope of her neck. She felt Catherine’s pulse quicken under her lips as their bodies yearned for closer contact. Catherine’s hands were under Rebecca’s shirt, cupping her breasts, stroking the firm planes of her abdomen. Rebecca hissed in a breath as Catherine’s fingers found her nipples, twisting them lightly. Rebecca reached under the hem of Catherine’s gown and found the smooth flesh of her thighs. She slipped upward, into the waiting wetness, finding Catherine’s clitoris, distended and sensitive. She stroked her, sliding the slick bundle between her fingers.

"Oh, god, Rebecca!" Catherine cried, clinging to her, her legs weak. "That’s so good!"

Just as Rebecca began to pull her down onto the sofa, the beeper in the pocket of her jacket went off. She stiffened at the sound.

Catherine leaned back in Rebecca’s arms, her face flushed, her green eyes cloudy with passion. "Oh my god, tell me it isn’t true."

"I have to answer that," Rebecca said huskily, her hands moving to Catherine’s hips, still caressing her. "I’m sorry."

"It’s not your fault," Catherine murmured, pressing her forehead hard against Rebecca’s shoulder, trying desperately to steady herself. Shaking still, she stepped back reluctantly. "Go. Answer it. I’ll get us some coffee."

When Catherine returned with two steaming mugs, Rebecca was standing with her back to the room, looking out onto the street. Catherine knew that the last twenty-four hours had shaken Rebecca to the core, and now she was a part of that. She wanted her with a consuming desire she had never known before, but she also knew that Rebecca’s emotional state was precarious. Too many demands right now could destroy her. Catherine was determined to let Rebecca come to her in her own time. She wanted her, but most of all she wanted her to survive.

"What is it?" she asked, handing Rebecca one of the cups.

"Internal Affairs. They need me to go over our cases with them, to see if we can turn up anything on Jeff’s killing."

"Today?" Catherine asked, wondering what kind of people would put Rebecca through that less than twelve hours after her partner’s death.

Rebecca laughed grimly. "Try two hours ago." She set her cup down on the window ledge and turned to Catherine. "I wish I could stay—being with you is so good." She stopped, afraid to go on, afraid to let herself admit what she felt.

"You can always come back, Rebecca. I’ll be here, and I want you to come back. Whenever you can, whenever you want."

Rebecca nodded. "I will." She straightened her clothes and strapped on her holster. As she pulled her jacket on at the door, she turned to face Catherine one last time. "Thank you for last night—all of it."

Come back soon, Rebecca—and safely, Catherine thought as the door closed behind her.

~

An hour later, freshly showered, in a crisp white shirt and navy suit, Rebecca entered the squad room. Men looked at her and nodded as they went about the business of the day in a subdued fashion. She walked to her desk impassively and stared at the figure across from her.

"What the hell are you doing in Cruz’s chair?" she said, her voice like granite.

Watts looked at the expression on her face and then glanced around the squad room for support. No one offered any.

"Just getting acquainted with the caseload. The Captain told me you and I are going to be partnered up."

She stared down at him coldly, then turned on her heel and stalked away. By the time she reached Captain Henry’s door she was boiling. She pushed the door open without knocking and stormed toward his desk.

"What do you mean by telling Watts we were going to work together?" she demanded, not even registering the amazed look on Henry’s face. "He’s a lazy sleaze, and I won’t have him for a partner!"

Henry rose in one fluid motion, his arms braced on the desk as he leaned toward her.

"Frye, you get the hell out of my office! If I tell you to work with Joey the Clown, you do it! And you smile about it, too!" He bit off each word, his face a thundercloud of anger.

She met his angry gaze evenly, her fists clenched at her sides.

"Listen, Captain—" she began, trying unsuccessfully to lower her voice.

"No, you listen! You just lost your partner. It’s tough—I appreciate that—but you’ve still got a dozen open files, including the River Drive thing. You can’t do it alone, and Watts is available. If he’s an asshole, learn to live with it. I don’t care how you do it, just do it!"

"What’s he got? Friends in high places?" she asked, her blue eyes dark with scorn.

Henry’s neck muscles tightened, and a flush rose to darken his features. His voice was deadly cold as he spoke. "I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that, Frye—just this once—because Cruz was a good cop. IAD wants to see you. Take care of that, and then get back to work."

She didn’t reply—there was nothing she could do. He watched her turn and walk away, wondering if he was making a mistake leaving her on the streets. She was one of his best. He thought she would crack if he put her behind a desk, so he had argued with his superiors against it. He hoped he was right.

~

Catherine knocked and entered Janet Ryan’s room. Barbara Elliot was sitting close to the bed, her fingers entwined with Janet’s.

"Hello, Dr. Rawlings," Barbara said tiredly.

"Hello, Barbara—hi, Janet. How are you feeling?" Catherine asked.

Janet looked better. The bruises still disfigured her normally attractive face, but the swelling had begun to subside. Both eyes were open now. Their expression was bright.

"I’m much better, thanks. I’ve been up walking a little, and I’m not taking the pain medication." She glanced at her lover fondly. "When can I go home?"

Catherine grinned. "I can see you’re feeling better. I’d like to keep you a few more days, just for routine observation. How are the flashbacks?"

Janet grimaced. "I’m still getting them, especially at night. Just pieces of images from my past—of my brother when I was small." She took a deep, quavering breath. "I never realized it had gone on for so long."

Catherine nodded sympathetically. "They may get worse as you recover from this attack, Janet. I may want to try you on a mild sedative—nothing too strong. Let’s think about going home in a few days, all right?"

Janet looked at Barbara questioningly.

"I really want Janet at home, Dr. Rawlings. Everyone is nice to us here, but it’s still so impersonal. But I don’t want her to come home until she’s ready. Whatever you decide is fine."

Catherine spoke with them a few more moments, and then left to complete her inpatient rounds. When she stepped out into the hall, a neatly dressed young man moved hurriedly to intercept her.

"Dr. Rawlings? Is it true that Janet Ryan witnessed the rape on River Drive earlier this week? Has she been able to describe the assailant?"

Catherine stepped back a pace, nonplussed. "Who are you?" she asked.

"Mark Tyler—Daily News. What about it, Doctor? Did she witness the rape?"

Catherine was furious. "Mr. Tyler, you have no business being here. If you want information, I suggest you speak to the police. I have nothing to say to you. And if I find you here again, I’ll have security remove you!"

"Oh, come now, Doctor, surely you want this maniac caught," he persisted, blocking her path with his body.

She maneuvered around him, saying, "Indeed, I do, Mr. Tyler. Which is why I have nothing to say to you!"

At last she was able to escape, wondering as she ducked into the stairwell how he had found out about Janet. The police had warned them to keep the circumstances of her admission quiet, and she thought they had succeeded. She should have known there were no secrets in a hospital. The police presence alone, no matter how understated, was enough to start rumors. Her first impulse was to call Rebecca, but then she thought better of it. After all, she hadn’t told him anything.

~

Watts saw Rebecca heading for the stairs directly upon finishing her interview with the officers from IAD. He hurried after her.

"Where you going?" he called just as she reached the door.

She turned, aware that he was right behind her.

"Look, Watts, I’m going out. Okay? Now go back to your paperwork."

He grabbed her arm. "Out where?"

Rebecca stared at the beefy hand on her arm and slowly raised her eyes to his. He hastily let his hand drop, but he still stood firmly in her path.

"Watts—" she said menacingly, struggling to keep her temper under control.

"Look, Frye -- I’m not any happier about this than you are, but that’s the way it is. So it’s a bitch -- there’s nothing we can do about it." He waited for some reaction, but Rebecca stared past him at some small spot on the opposite wall. Watts shook a cigarette out of a crumpled pack, lit it, and leaned against the wall, content to stay there all afternoon. A muscle in Rebecca’s face twitched.

"I’m going over to homicide -- the Zamora case was ours. Maybe I can help," she said reluctantly.

Watts blew a perfect smoke ring, considering her words.

"Homicide can handle the case, Frye. They’re not going to screw up when it’s one of our own. Why not let them do their jobs -- we’ve got plenty on our plates right here."

"I didn’t ask for your opinion, Watts," Rebecca said heatedly, shouldering him aside.

"Oh, the hell with it," Watts muttered as he listened to her footsteps echo in the stairwell.

He was right, and Rebecca knew it. Still, she had to see for herself that everything possible was being done to find Jeff’s killer. She had to do something!

She finally tracked down the investigating officers, who were painstakingly sweeping the area of the killings for witnesses. Apparently, no one had seen or heard anything.

Rebecca found the two officers in charge of the case standing beside a chalk outline on the small loading dock where she had found Jeff and Ronnie Carmichael. She stared at the spot, envisioning Jeff’s body contained within the impersonal white lines. At length she turned to the two men who were regarding her uncomfortably.

"Turn up anything?" Rebecca asked, breaking the silence.

"Not much," the larger of the two replied disgruntledly. They had been questioning vendors and museum workers since first light and had little to show for it. "We assume Cruz met Carmichael sometime around four. This place is still pretty busy then. Nobody would notice two men in a crowd. Most of the people who were here are probably miles away -- tourists."

"Perfect spot for a hit," Rebecca said flatly. Anyone could have approached the two men, flashed some fire power, and walked them down to this isolated dock without attracting attention. Often the easiest crimes to pull off are those carried out in broad daylight. Obviously, this time it had worked.

"What about the people Carmichael’s been associating with? He must have gotten onto something a lot heavier than we expected. He made somebody nervous."

"We haven’t had a chance to go through all his reports. He was pretty sketchy with his sources," the younger detective said. "There’s probably a dozen possibles."

Rebecca raised an eyebrow, clearly irritated that they hadn’t gotten to Carmichael’s notes yet. Her reaction did not go unnoticed.

"Listen, Frye --" the senior officer said tersely, "we’ve been out here since two A.M. We’ll get to the reports. We’ll roust anybody we have to, even without due cause. We’ll find out what’s behind this."

Rebecca’s shoulders sagged slightly. She was tired. She knew these guys had been busting their balls all night trying to get a jump on the case before the slim trail went cold. But this was Jeff, and she wanted more!

"Right," she said, straightening her back and heading toward the narrow stairs that led up to the pier.

"We’ll keep you informed, Frye," the younger of the two called out. "And we’ll get the bastard."
 
 

Chapter Twelve

Rebecca found herself parked in front of University Hospital, wondering what she was doing there. She had driven directly from the pier, never questioning her destination. Now that she was here, she couldn’t decide whether to go in or to leave. She wasn’t thinking very clearly. The combination of emotional shock and exhaustion had taken its toll. The normally self-possessed, controlled police detective was on the verge of collapse. She knew vaguely she had come because Catherine Rawlings represented the only sane point in her life -- a solidity and haven she sorely needed. Even in the depths of her despair, however, she resisted. She hated herself for needing this woman’s comfort, and for wanting the solace of her embrace. As much as she detested her own weakness, she feared the need even more. If she let herself feel it, what would she do if she were wrong? What would she do if Catherine Rawlings didn’t want her. God, what’s wrong with me? I’m a cop -- this is all part of the job. I can’t fall apart just because things are a little rough. I’ve got to get myself together!

Her thoughts were interrupted by a tap on her car window. She looked up to find Catherine standing beside her, studying her quizzically. Rebecca rolled down her window and smiled hesitantly.

"Hi," Rebecca said.

"I saw you as I was going over to the outpatient clinic. What are you doing here?"

"I don’t know," Rebecca answered quietly.

Catherine took a close look at her and pulled the driver’s door open.

"Move over -- I’m driving."

Amazingly, Rebecca did as she asked, too tired to protest. Catherine rested one hand protectively on Rebecca’s thigh as they drove. Rebecca stared at it, thinking how delicate Catherine’s long fingers were. She was surprised when Catherine pulled up in front of her brownstone. She allowed Catherine to lead the way up the wide stone stairs and waited silently while Catherine opened the door. The living room was bathed in muted greys and soft maroons as the late afternoon sun streamed through shear drapes.

Catherine slipped out of the light silk jacket she wore and tossed it aside. She turned to Rebecca, who was standing just inside the door, a faintly confused look on her face. Catherine tugged Rebecca’s jacket off her arms. She folded it neatly and laid it over the back of a chair. She fumbled slightly with the shoulder harness, but managed to slip it off Rebecca’s body. Reaching down, she pulled the pager off Rebecca’s belt and placed it with Rebecca’s gun on the chair. She kissed her lightly on the lips as she took her hand.

"You’re off duty now, Detective Frye," she whispered as she led Rebecca into her bedroom.

The sheets were cool against Rebecca’s skin. She felt Catherine unbuttoning her shirt, and loosening her trousers. She roused herself enough to help remove the rest of her clothes. When Catherine lay down beside her, Rebecca pressed her face against the lush fullness of her breasts, sighing.

"God, you feel good," Rebecca murmured. She moved just enough to nuzzle a nipple with her lips.

Catherine laughed softly and wrapped her arms around Rebecca’s strong back.

"There’s plenty of time for that -- you’re going to get some sleep now. Doctor’s orders."

Catherine stroked the tight muscles beneath her fingers, feeling them gradually relax as Rebecca’s breathing shifted to the steady cadence of sleep. Catherine closed her eyes with contentment, satisfied to have Rebecca safe in her arms.

~

It was dark when Rebecca opened her eyes, uncertain for an instant in the still room. Then she felt Catherine beside her. Catherine’s arm lay across Rebecca’s breasts, softly encircling her body. Rebecca lay motionless, savoring the sensation of Catherine’s skin against hers, memorizing the image of Catherine in repose. As her fingers began a slow exploration of Catherine’s body, Catherine pressed closer, murmuring softly in half-sleep. Rebecca gasped sharply as Catherine slipped one leg between hers and rolled over onto her with a throaty laugh

"Hello, darling," Catherine whispered, bracing herself above the length of Rebecca’s firm body as she teasingly rocked against her pelvis. She was rewarded by Rebecca’s groan of pleasure. A cry caught in her throat when Rebecca’s hands found her breasts. She continued her rhythmic motion until they were both wet, their damp pubic hair tangling together. Suddenly she straddled Rebecca’s body, entwining her fingers in the wet curls between Rebecca’s legs, tugging gently, pulling the thick hood back to expose Rebecca’s erect clitoris. Rebecca groaned as the skin tightened around the shaft. She reached between Catherine’s legs.

Catherine thought she would come when Rebecca’s hand slid into her, completing the circle, but she managed to hold back the tidal wave of surging heat, wanting to prolong their union. They moved in perfect synchrony, stroking the fires of their passion, trembling on the edge of consummation, until at last Rebecca groaned, "Oh …I…can’t…hold …it…" Catherine exulted as Rebecca arched against her, and the sight of her beautiful lover’s orgasm pushed her beyond her limits. She convulsed with the force of her own release, collapsing into Rebecca’s waiting arms.

~

When Rebecca stirred again it was after midnight. She attempted to extricate herself from Catherine’s embrace without disturbing her.

"I’m awake," Catherine said softly in the darkness, stroking the length of Rebecca’s long form. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?"

"I know how beautiful you make me feel," came the soft reply.

"Where are you going?" Catherine asked, knowing instinctively that after such intimacy, Rebecca would withdraw. She wondered when, if ever, Rebecca would begin to trust what was growing between them.

"It’s late -- there are things I should have done earlier," Rebecca replied evasively. She was as content in Catherine’s arms as she had ever been, but as her strength returned, so did the pull of the streets. How could she explain her restless need to immerse herself in the pulsing, other-world of the night. It was her domain, the reminder of who and what she was.

Catherine sat up, saddened at the distance between them. Her body still throbbed with the aftermath of their lovemaking, and she wanted only to hold Rebecca until the morning. She would not have that tonight, perhaps not any night. It was a possibility she was not ready to face. Rebecca moved her too deeply, aroused desires too powerful, to think about turning back. Her heart, her soul, had been marked forever by the searing intensity of Rebecca’s presence.

"What will you do?" she asked quietly.

Rebecca swung her legs over the side of the bed, instantly aware of the absence of Catherine’s touch. "Check with homicide about Jeff --talk with some sources who might know something. Cruise through the tenderloin. I’ve got contacts there."

Catherine tried to absorb the realities of Rebecca’s life, wondering if she would ever truly be able to understand it. Who but another cop could appreciate the soul-numbing inhumanity that was an everyday occurrence in the world Rebecca inhabited. She would try, and she was determined not to allow Rebecca to shut her out.

Catherine started to rise. "Let me get you some coffee."

Rebecca restrained her, pushing her gently down. "I don’t want you to get up. I want you to stay here, so I can think of you like this until I see you again."

Catherine wrapped her arms around Rebecca’s neck, kissing her tenderly. "All right," she replied huskily.

She lay in the dark, listening to Rebecca move about in the other room. She didn’t sleep again until long after the outer door clicked shut.
 
 

Chapter Thirteen

Rebecca cruised slowly through the tenderloin, that part of town frequented by prostitutes and the men who sought their company, drug dealers, street people, and others society had cast out or forgotten. The prostitutes in their crotch high skirts and revealing tops leaned against buildings or strolled languidly through the litter-strewn streets. Many she recognized by sight, more than a few by name. Arresting them was not her goal -- they were no more criminals than the hungry who stole for food. When citizens of the surrounding gentrified areas complained that the undesirable activity was encroaching on their neighborhoods, the cops would round up some of the girls, knowing full well they would be back on the streets in hours. All the participants knew it was a futile gesture. Rebecca chose instead to keep an eye out for new faces, especially the very young, hoping to get to a few before the streets became a way of life. Occasionally she succeeded.

She pulled over in front of a bar which sported a flashing neon sign reading, `GirlsLive Nude Girls’. She wondered absently if anyone besides her found that sign absurd. It wasn’t the bar she was interested in, but the thin blond woman in front of it. She was about five-five, heavily made up, with an expanse of leg showing that left little to the imagination. Her hair was bleached, in a punk cut, and she kept one eye on the cars cruising by as she talked with several other women. When she saw Rebecca climb out of her car, her face twisted into a frown.

"Hi’ya, Sandy," Rebecca said softly as she approached. The others in the group began to drift quickly away.

"Jesus, Frye," the girl hissed, looking quickly over her shoulder. "What are you trying to do to me? I’ll be poison to every john on the street tonight!"

"So you can get a good night’s sleep then," Rebecca said, turning so her back was to the bar, keeping a watchful eye on the street. She was alone, and it was no secret she was a cop. "I need to talk to you."

"Is that all?" Sandy said with contempt. She’d had too much experience with cops who wanted more than just information to trust any of them.

Rebecca met her angry gaze evenly. "That’s all right now."

"I don’t have much choice, do I?"

"No, you don’t."

"Can we talk inside? You’re killing my business out here."

Rebecca nodded and followed the girl into the dark bar, taking a table well away from the small platform where a woman did a tired bump and grind for the few patrons. Sandy signaled for a drink. Rebecca put a twenty on the table.

"So, what do you need, `Officer’," Sandy asked in a bored voice.

"Two cops were killed the day before yesterday. What do you hear about it?"

Sandy sipped her drink and regarded Rebecca coolly. She didn’t actually dislike the big cop; in fact, Rebecca was one of the few cops who didn’t harass the working girls. She’d even let Sandy out of the police van one night after a raid rather than bring her downtown for the empty charade of booking. Still, Sandy didn’t want her to get the idea she was some kind of stoolie. And it didn’t help her reputation any to appear too chummy with the cops. There was something different about the tall, blond detective tonight, though. She seemed almost human, like she had feelings. You’re losing it, girl -- cops with feelings!

"There’s nothing going down that I’ve heard," she said finally, which was pretty much true. They’d all heard about it, of course. Usually when something like that happened it brought the whole force down on them, like they were the source of all the city’s problems. Maybe this cop was just the first of many.

"What about the chicken trade? Any new faces in town?"

Sandy snorted in disgust. She hated the child procurers and pornographers as much as she hated the pushers. Like most of her friends, she stayed clear of them.

"Since that big bust six months ago, it’s been quiet. I heard there might be a new house open somewhere in a very ritzy location, but it isn’t down here."

"Who’s running it?" Rebecca asked nonchalantly, hiding her surprise at the information. She had been instrumental in cleaning out half a dozen establishments supplying children for all types of amusement in the city-wide crackdown Sandy referred to. If they were up and running again, there had to be big money behind it. Could that have been what Carmichael was on to?

"No one knows, and that’s the truth. There’s more than a few people who’d like to find out."

"Yeah," Rebecca muttered. "Where there’s kids, there’s money." She looked at the young woman before her, already cynical and hardened against life. There was nothing Rebecca could do to change her future, but maybe she could make a difference with a few of the really young ones. She pushed back her chair, leaving another twenty with the change on the table. "Thanks, Sandy. Keep your ears open -- I’ll be back."

"Hey, Frye," Sandy called. "Who were the cops who got it?"

"Just cops."
 
 

Chapter Fourteen

Rebecca was still in the car as the sun came up. She stopped at an all-night diner for breakfast before a quick detour to her apartment to shower and change clothes. The traffic was light, and her mind wandered, returning unbidden to memories of the previous night. Just recalling the sound of Catherine’s voice brought heat to her blood. Images of Catherine, wanton and passionate, threatened to unhinge her. Being with Catherine was at once the most comfortable and exciting experience she’d ever had. It was more than she had ever dreamed, and easily the most frightening. Rebecca was relieved when the station house appeared, and she pulled into the lot on squealing tires. Work was just what she needed to put Catherine Rawlings in perspective.

It was too early for the day shift to arrive, and she walked unnoticed through the quiet halls. When she pushed open the ready room door she was astonished to see Watts at his desk with a half-eaten pizza in front of him. She wasn’t certain, but she thought he was wearing the same suit as the day before. He was the only one in the room.

He glanced her way, grunting a greeting as he reached for another slice of the now congealed pizza.

"I was just going to call you, Frye," he said around a mouthful of bread and cheese.

"What’s so important at five-thirty in the morning?" Rebecca commented, not really caring what Watts had to say. She couldn’t stand to see him sitting in Jeff’s chair. She noticed a stack of folders beside the desk -- their open case files. Could Watts actually be working?

"Thought you might like to read the morning paper," he said, tossing the early bird edition onto her desk. He went back to eating, munching the cold crust, his face expressionless.

"What the hell!" Rebecca exploded as she glanced at the headlines. "Riverside Rape Witness Found!" She stared at him in astonishment, and he shook his head grimly.

"Read it. It’s very interesting."

She began to read aloud, her voice tight and angry. "Sources reveal that a witness to the brutal rape of a college student on the River Drive last week may have been found." What followed was a sensationalized review of the previous two assaults, but it was the last paragraph which caused Rebecca to clench her fists in frustration. "Dr. Catherine Rawlings, a noted psychiatrist at University declined comment, but unnamed sources confirm her involvement with a patient who witnessed the most recent attack. The patient’s name has not yet been released, nor has a description of the assailant been made public." The article finished with an indictment of the police for failing to keep the public informed.

"Jesus Christ," Rebecca cursed, tossing the paper aside. "I can’t believe the asshole put Catherine’s name in the paper! He might as well have put Janet Ryan’s in, too. We’ll need to tighten security down there today. Catherine didn’t want us to put a guard on the girl, but we’ll have to now."

This kind of media reporting only made their jobs more difficult. It engendered public distrust, and in this case could very well endanger the investigation. It might prompt the rapist to change his pattern, or stop temporarily, leaving them in the void. He might move to another city altogether. It was even possible he might try to silence Janet Ryan, now that he knew where she was.

"Looks like somebody talked," Watts remarked with disgust. "Probably the shrink."

"It wasn’t her," Rebecca stated flatly, knowing that Catherine would never endanger Janet Ryan.

"She knows almost as much as we do," Watts continued unperturbed, fingering the reports in front of him. "She’s been present every time you’ve talked to the Ryan kid—"

"I told you, Watts -- it wasn’t her. Now let it drop!" Rebecca barked. Her patience was exhausted, and she felt fatigue settle around her like a cloak. "Go find the little twerp from the Daily and shake it out of him after morning report," she said, slowly standing up. "I’m going home."

Watts wasn’t convinced, but he knew better than to provoke her further. He didn’t ask her anything else.
 
 

Chapter Fifteen

Catherine finished her second cup of coffee and glanced up at the cafeteria clock. It was 7:15. Residents and students were beginning to gather in tired clumps to discuss the night’s events and the day’s demands over breakfast. She was one of the few staff present at such an hour. The real business of the hospital wouldn’t begin until the outpatient clinics began at 8:30. Catherine had come early for one specific reason -- to intercept Hazel Holcomb before the Chief of Psychiatry’s busy schedule made her inaccessible for the day. Catherine saw the familiar figure moving through the coffee line at precisely 7:30, carrying a coffee and danish as she had each morning for the fifteen years that Catherine had known her. She was nearing sixty, and her age showed only in the grey of her hair and a slight thickening of her body. Her brisk step and quick piercing gaze were as youthful as ever.

Hazel Holcomb’s face registered faint surprise when she saw Catherine beckoning to her from across the room. As she settled into the chair across from her colleague, she said, "I don’t suppose this is just a pleasant coincidence, is it?"

Catherine flushed in embarrassment. She always meant to call Hazel just to chat, or perhaps have dinner, but her schedule never seemed to leave time for it. Hazel had been her supervisor when she was a resident, and they had since become friends. Perhaps more than anyone else she knew, Catherine valued Hazel’s opinion. She had the ability to provide insight without judgment, and the wisdom to hold her counsel until the patient --or friend -- was ready to accept it.

"No, it isn’t," Catherine responded. "I have a professional problem I wanted to discuss with you. Do you mind me interrupting your breakfast time?" Catherine knew that this was probably one of the few private moments Hazel would have all day.

"Your company is always a pleasure, Catherine," the chief of psychiatry replied. "Tell me about your problem."

Catherine relayed the details of Janet Ryan’s involvement with the recent assaults and the amnesia that followed.

"I’m not sure how hard I should be trying to reverse her amnesia," Catherine stated. "Obviously, it’s vital to know exactly what she witnessed. It’s critical to the police investigation. On the other hand, I have to think of Janet’s psyche first. She is a sexual abuse victim herself. Her brother repeatedly raped her throughout her childhood. I’m certain that the shock of witnessing the assault this week triggered many old terrors for her."

"Enough to account for the amnesia?" Hazel asked, dunking the corner of her cheese danish into the steamy black coffee.

Catherine shrugged. "The beating she took by itself may account for the amnesia --but she’s beginning to have flashbacks from her early childhood. Previously unremembered episodes of abuse. That is a result of witnessing the rape, I’m sure."

"She must be very fragile right now," Hazel commented.

"She is, of course. She’s been working with me individually, and in group, for some time. She has made a lot of progress. This whole event has brought up a great deal for her to handle all at once."

Hazel pushed her chair back slightly and sat quietly regarding Catherine Rawlings. Catherine had been the brightest resident she had ever trained, and she was now the most accomplished psychiatrist on her staff. Hazel hoped to see Catherine assume her own position as head of psychiatry when Hazel retired. She knew her to be both an empathetic therapist and accomplished theoretician. Hazel knew that when Catherine sought her advice, it was often simply to confirm what she already believed.

"What do you think would happen to Janet if she were to recall the details of this recent trauma before she was prepared for it?" Hazel asked at last.

Catherine thought carefully before replying. "I can’t be sure -- there’s a good chance she would handle it well. She has a supportive partner, and she has made great progress with resolving much of her confusion as to her own guilt -- or lack of it -- for the abuse in her childhood." Catherine hesitated, thinking aloud. "But there is still a possibility that she might see her inability to prevent this rape as a reflection of what she considers to be her failure to protect herself from her brother. It could be damaging."

"That’s your answer, then, isn’t it," Hazel stated calmly. "She’ll remember when it’s safe for her to remember."

Catherine felt a wave of relief as she often did when Hazel grasped the essence of some professional dilemma and reduced it to its simplest form.

Of course, her first responsibility was to her patient’s welfare, regardless of the potential risk that existed if the rapist was not apprehended quickly. If any doubt existed as to Janet’s well-being, Catherine owed it to her to be cautious.

"Of course. You’re so right," Catherine said quietly. "I’m afraid I momentarily lost sight of exactly what my issues are."

Hazel recognized the look of self-accusation that crossed Catherine’s fine features, clouding them for an instant with self-doubt. Ever the perfectionist, Hazel thought.

"Don’t be so hard on yourself, Katie," Hazel said softly, using the nickname few people knew. "This is not a simple matter. Are the police pressuring you to force Janet along?"

"Oh, no," Catherine replied quickly. "Rebecca has been wonderful with Janet."

Hazel picked up immediately on the change in Catherine’s tone, but she didn’t comment on it. Catherine, however, flushed slightly and hastened to explain.

"Rebecca Frye is the detective in charge of the rape investigation. She’s very good with Janet. She’s frustrated, of course, because she doesn’t have much to go on. But, she’s allowed me to handle Janet my own way."

"Sounds unusual for the police," Hazel noted dryly. It had not been her experience that the police were particularly sensitive about how they elicited information.

"Rebecca is unusual. She’s a police officer, down to her last cell, but she’s also a sensitive, tender woman. I don’t think that’s been easy for her." As Catherine spoke, she remembered the exhausted woman who had sought comfort in her arms just a few hours before, and her body warmed to the memory. Hazel knew Catherine too well not to notice.

"How serious is this -- with this police woman?" Hazel asked pointedly.

Catherine met Hazel’s gaze evenly, but her eyes betrayed her uncertainty. She sighed deeply and shook her head.

"Oh, Hazel. I wish I could answer that. I hardly know her, really, and yet, my feelings for her are so strong! She’s hardened by her work and emotionally barricaded because of it; but she’s also hiding her fear and her tenderness and her caring just to maintain her balance." Catherine spread her hands in a rare gesture of helplessness. "I’m afraid I’m quite taken with her."

Hazel wasn’t all that surprised. She was probably the person who knew Catherine best, and she had watched her hold herself apart from potential relationships -- unsatisfied by casual encounters, not given to sexual liaisons, searching, seeking some deeper connection and being continually disappointed. She knew it had been some years since Catherine had even seriously dated anyone, and that her detachment had grown out of her disillusionment with love. For all of Catherine’s training and knowledge of life, she remained, at her core, a true romantic. And she remained a woman, Hazel feared, who might never find the soul partner she so desired.

"Well --" Hazel said finally, "I think I can understand your dilemma better now." She raised a hand to halt Catherine’s quick reply. "Oh, I do not for an instant doubt your professional judgment, or your ability to protect your patient. But one’s head is hardly clear when one is falling in love."

Catherine blushed fully and looked down at her hands. "Do you think I’m foolish?" she asked softly.

Hazel reached across the table, touching Catherine’s hand gently. "Not a bit," she replied. "It’s normal and healthy -- and about time."

"It may turn into a disaster," Catherine went on, voicing her fear for the first time. "She’s afraid, I feel, of being hurt. I’m not sure she’s even capable of knowing her feelings for me, or for anything."

"She’s not alone in that, Katie," Hazel said sadly, "but, she’s touched you in a way no one has in years, and I doubt that she could have done that if she were truly irrevocably lost to her feelings. Trust to time -- and try to take care of yourself."

Catherine smiled her gratitude and straightened her shoulders. Pushing back from the table she stated, "I’ve got to make rounds."

They accompanied each other in friendly silence, strengthened as always by their encounter.
 
 

Chapter Sixteen

Rebecca pulled into the hospital parking lot just before 11 A.M. and took the now familiar route to the psychiatry wing. She needed information from Catherine, and she was trying unsuccessfully to segregate her personal feelings from her professional obligations. She couldn’t deny the quickening of her heart beat, or the slight inner excitement that stirred just from the anticipation of seeing Catherine. Even though she was bone tired and still reeling from the shock of Jeff’s death, the memory of Catherine’s body beside hers charged the very air around her. She stepped off the elevator into the hushed hall of the inpatient ward and tried to assume a professional demeanor.

A woman was bent over a stack of metal folding charts behind the white counter of the nurses’ station, busily cross-checking medication cards. She looked up and smiled when she heard Rebecca approach.

"I’m sorry," she said, "visiting hours aren’t until one o’clock."

Rebecca pulled the slim black leather folder from her pocket and displayed her identification.

"I’m looking for Dr. Rawlings," she explained. "Is she around?"

The attractive dark-haired woman, whose name tag identified her as Ruth Murdock, R.N., checked her watch and replied, "She should be finishing with the residents in a few minutes. There’s a conference room just down the hall. Do you want to wait for her there?"

Rebecca nodded. "That’s fine. I’ll find it," she added, motioning the nurse to stay seated.

There was little of interest in the conference room, and Rebecca let her mind wander back over the events of the last week, hoping to turn up some detail that might provide direction to her investigation. There was something that kept nagging at her -- something she had seen or heard which might be significant, and she couldn’t quite bring it into focus. That feeling was not unfamiliar. She had an idea that all good investigators experienced it -- the swirling impressions which finally consolidated into an image, bringing the greater picture into sudden relief.

The tantalizing "clue" which was often the key to a puzzle whose separate pieces quickly fell into place. She was familiar enough with the process to know that it couldn’t be rushed. Eventually, her unconscious mind would work that tiny fragment free and allow it to float to the surface. Then, she hoped, she would begin to close the gap between herself and the man she sought.

The door opened and Catherine walked in. "You don’t look like a woman who’s been up half the night," Catherine said as she seated herself at the small conference table. The warmth in her smile and the intimacy in her eyes reached out to Rebecca like a caress.

Rebecca felt her cheeks flush despite her resolve to remain detached, and she looked away for a moment.

"It isn’t about last night," Rebecca began, her tone stiffer than she had intended.

Catherine studied her intently, replying quietly. "An official visit, then?"

"I need to know about the reporter you spoke with."

"The reporter?" Catherine said blankly.

"Have you seen the paper?"

"No."

"There was an article today revealing the fact that we had a witness to the rape," Rebecca said, unable to hide the anger in her voice.

"Oh, god," Catherine said. "Of course! There was a young man here yesterday, asking questions—" She stopped and looked at Rebecca, her eyes filled with concern. "You think I told him?"

"Did you?"

"No, but he seemed to know that the police were involved with Janet’s case. I assure you, Rebecca, I told him nothing."

Rebecca quickly reached for Catherine’s hand and squeezed it briefly. "I believe you. Can you think of anyone who might have talked to him?"

Catherine’s face revealed her frustration. "A dozen people. A hospital is the least private place in the world. Everyone is eager for a story, and every bit of human drama is meal for the gossip mill. It could have been anyone!"

Rebecca nodded. "I was afraid of that. There’s not much we can do about it now, but, it makes it even more important that we learn what Janet saw. Can you help me with this?"

Catherine was quiet for a moment, sorting through her thoughts. The sight of Rebecca’s drawn and tired face was wrenching. She wanted so much to be able to offer some relief. But she had a deeper obligation, in this case even greater than her growing affection for the woman before her.

"Rebecca, I’ll do all I can. I’m seeing Janet and Barbara tonight. If I learn anything at all, I’ll tell you immediately."

"I may need to have Janet interviewed by the police psychiatrist, Catherine," Rebecca said quietly. She saw Catherine’s body tense, and she feared she had offended her. She didn’t want that -- professionally or personally. "He may be able to recognize something you don’t."

"Of course," Catherine responded formally. "I’m not a forensic psychiatrist."

Rebecca shook her head impatiently, "I’m not suggesting you’re not competent, Catherine! But, he is trained in criminal investigation."

"May I be present at the interview?" Catherine asked.

Rebecca thought quickly. "I don’t see why not -- it might make it easier for Janet."

"I don’t like it, Rebecca, but I can see that you have to do this."

"Thank you," Rebecca said softly, realizing in that moment how frightened she had been. She couldn’t tolerate the thought of Catherine angry at her. "There’s something else I need from you," she continued.

Catherine couldn’t suppress a chuckle. The woman was certainly relentless! "There’s more?"

"What do you know about serial rapists? This doesn’t seem to fit with what I’m used to seeing."

Catherine nodded. "This type of patterned, serial rapist is unusual. Most rapes occur between acquaintances, or in particular settings -- groups, or gang rapes, in bars or at parties. And, of course, the repeat rape of young children by adult sexual abusers, generally family members. The type of rape we’re dealing with here is a sociopathic activity, a crime perpetrated out of some deep-rooted psychopathology."

"Such as?"

"Oh, any number of things. Low self-esteem, attributed, often incorrectly, to powerful female figures -- a domineering mother, a failed relationship with a woman -- anger at feelings of impotence or lack of control -- inability to direct events around him. The rapist often feels like a victim of social or personal injustices and translates that into anger against women. It is rarely purely sexually motivated, but, of course, sex is equated with power, especially in our culture. So, the rapes represent an attempt to control events, to gain superiority over the perceived persecutor."

"What can I expect in terms of the pattern of these attacks?" Rebecca asked, making notes as she listened.

"It’s hard to say. There isn’t anything particularly ritualized about them. As far as I’m aware, the only similarities are the site, and the fact that all of the victims are runners."

"There is something else," Rebecca said. "All of the victims were sodomized -- there was no vaginal penetration."

Catherine raised an eyebrow as she considered this new information. "Well, I could theorize, of course, but I doubt that it would help you much."

"Go ahead. You never know what may help."

"It could be that the rapist is potent only that way -- fear of vaginal intercourse, of `losing’ one’s penis, is not that uncommon with sexually maladjusted men. There is also the possibility that he is acting out a fantasy in which the victim’s femaleness is a detractor."

Rebecca stopped writing and looked up. "You mean a homosexual fantasy?"

"Possibly."

"Terrific," Rebecca said disgustedly. "That would definitely help public opinion of gays."

"It’s not likely that he is consciously gay, Rebecca. It would be much more likely that he is suppressing homosexual ideation -- and, as I said, I’m only theorizing."

Rebecca snapped her notebook shut and rubbed her face in frustration.

"I can’t do anything but wait for his next move -- and that means waiting for him to attack another woman."

"What about staking out the area?"

"We try," Rebecca snorted, "but it’s pretty difficult with only a few people to cover twenty miles of river front."

"I wish I could help you more."

"You can. You can help me find out what Janet Ryan saw that night."

Catherine remained silent, torn between conflicting emotions. At length, she stood up, not wanting to leave but knowing she must.

"I want to see you again, Rebecca," she said at last. "Not here, and not about police business. I want to be somewhere with you where we can talk and rest. I want to be able to touch you."

Rebecca turned quickly towards Catherine, pulling her close against her, kissing her firmly on the mouth. Her hands traveled the length of Catherine’s back, caressing each curve with trembling hands. When she stepped back, her heart was racing.

"And I’ve been wanting to do that since you walked in the room," Rebecca said breathlessly. She touched Catherine’s cheek softly and then slipped quickly from the room.

Catherine was aware that Rebecca had again successfully avoided her suggestion of any intimacy between them. And she was also aware of how good Rebecca’s hands felt on her.
 
 

Chapter Seventeen

Rebecca’s beeper went off before the hospital elevator touched the ground floor. Threading her way through the log jam of wheelchairs, elderly patients shuffling behind steel-framed walkers, and clumps of disoriented visitors, she reached a public phone and called the station.

"Frye, here," she announced into the phone.

She edged her way out of the path of a speeding adolescent and waited impatiently for her call to be put through.

"This is Watts," the heavy male voice intoned in a bored voice.

"What do you want, Watts?" Rebecca snapped, unable to hide her dislike for her new partner.

"A call came in on the night shift -- a desk clerk down on Delroy found a dead hooker in one of the upstairs rooms."

Rebecca waited for more and was rewarded with the faint background buzz of the phone line.

"Watts," she said in exasperation, "we don’t have time to track down some faceless john who got too rough with a hooker. Turn it over to Homicide."

"Yeah," Watts said. "You’re probably right. The whore was just a kid --thirteen, they said."

Rebecca expelled a ragged breath. "Fuck! I was hoping we had quieted that action down."

"Funny thing about it. The M.E. called in a preliminary report -- seems the kid was beaten to death first, then sodomized. The semen analysis showed up type O."

"Jesus!" Rebecca exclaimed. "Why didn’t you say it might be our guy straight out! Give me the address -- I’ll meet you there."

She knew the place. The Viceroy Hotel. It had once been a respectable hotel, housing long-term tenants and the occasional tourist. With the decline of the neighborhood and the gravitation of junkies, prostitutes, and drug dealers to this area, anyone who could afford to had moved out. Now the hotel was a stop over for hookers and their clients, junkies waiting for their next fix, and the lonely wino who had scrounged the price of a thin mattress for the night.

Rebecca made the cross-town trip easily, despite the rush of lunch hour traffic. Watts was waiting in front of the four-story building, looking apathetic and bored. His crumpled suit, too tight across his bulging middle, had once been expensive but now reflected the neglect and disinterest which was evident in the man himself. Rebecca knew that he had once been considered a sharp detective, but apparently, something had changed. He looked every inch the burnt out veteran, just putting in time until his pension came up. Rebecca did not want to be saddled with him; he was clearly a loser.

She joined him wordlessly, and they pushed through the hotel’s double entry doors into a dank, dimly lit foyer. Thread-bare chairs sat haphazardly on a rug of indeterminate color. Piles of old magazines lay strewn randomly over the surface of a scarred coffee table. Beyond this waiting area was a small counter where the desk clerk leaned on his elbow, watching them impassively. The room was empty except for an old woman who reclined on a sofa against one wall, snoring softly.

The clerk clearly read them as cops and continued to stare at them without speaking. As they approached, Watts flipped his badge open and leaned against the cigarette-scarred desk top.

"You Bailey?" he said without preamble.

"That’s right," the man said. His breath smelled of liquor, and he didn’t look as if face had seen a razor in days.

"You find the body?" Watts continued, making no effort to introduce Rebecca. She was irritated but saw no benefit in making a show out of it. She let Watts carry the ball.

"Yeah, I found it."

Watts nodded slightly. "Says in the report that you called in at 3:42 A.M."

"Probably. I didn’t look at no clock."

"How come you’re on the desk now? Where’s the day shift?"

The man looked at Watts blankly. "I work the day shift."

Watts paused for a moment, a befuddled frown on his face. "That so? Then how come you were here in the middle of the night? You work the night shift too?"

The desk clerk’s face registered dismay, and he looked quickly around the room. Rebecca had the sense that he was looking for an exit, and she stepped slightly to the left, blocking the hinged section of counter that led out from the narrow space between the mailboxes and the registration desk. She slowly moved her hand to unbutton her jacket, allowing her access to her automatic. She wasn’t sure what Watts had in mind, but he was certainly after something. It would have helped if he had briefed her first.

Watts studied the clerk, his face still creased with confusion.

"You got other work here, maybe?"

"Like what?" the thin greying man asked uneasily.

"Like maybe you run a few of the girls yourself?"

At Watt’s suggestion the man gave a frightened snort and backed away from the counter.

"No way, no way at all. I never pimped -- I swear. I just --" he stammered into silence.

"You just what?" Watts asked.

"Nothing."

Watts turned to Rebecca and raised a questioning eyebrow. "What do you think, Detective Frye? Isn’t soliciting clients for prostitutes a felony in this state? Maybe we should take Mr. Bailey here for a ride downtown?"

Rebecca followed his lead. She nodded agreement, and responded, "You’re right, Detective Watts. Mr. Bailey does seem in clear violation of the law."

Bailey squeaked in protest, words tumbling out of his mouth in a rush.

"Wait a minute! I didn’t solicit for nobody. The girl was up there a long time, and I just went to see. There she was -- spread out on the bed, naked except for those shorts around her ankles. She was cold already. I could tell that from the door. So’s I called the cops -- that’s what a citizen is supposed to do, isn’t it?"

He glanced from one to the other, hoping for a sign of approval. They returned his gaze impassively.

Rebecca stepped a little closer to the counter and said softly, "Why were you watching her, Mr. Bailey?"

He looked uncomfortable and shifted from one foot to the other. He seemed to come to some decision, speaking slowly. "They pay me a little to keep an eye on the girls. You know -- to see how many tricks they turn -- if they’re holding back on their pimps. I don’t do nothing but keep an eye on traffic, so to speak."

"Who pays you, Mr. Bailey?" Rebecca asked, keeping her body between Bailey and Watts. They were playing good cop/bad cop all right. She only wished that Watts had given her some notice.

"You can’t arrest me for watching hookers -- that ain’t no crime!"

Watts moved closer to Rebecca. "It is if you’re an accomplice to the act --which you are, Bailey."

Bailey blanched but remained silent.

"Who went up there with her, Mr. Bailey?" Rebecca asked suddenly.

"Didn’t see him," he answered quickly.

Rebecca turned to Watts. "Maybe Mr. Bailey would remember if we took him downtown. What do you say, Watts?"

Watts appeared to be thinking, his brow knit in consternation. "Yeah -- you might be right, Frye. But then we’d have to fill out all those reports and probably run Bailey through the computer. You know how long those computer checks take." He sighed as if the idea didn’t appeal to him much.

Bailey watched them, scarcely taking a breath. Finally, their silence drove him to speak.

"Look. I don’t pay much attention to the johns -- they’re in and out of here all the time. Dozens of ’em. This girl Patty -- she was popular, you know? Young stuff like that attracts a lot of action. She’d be up and down those stairs ten times a night."

Rebecca suppressed a shudder, pushing the image of a young girl laboring under the bodies of countless men from her mind. She kept her gaze noncommittally on Bailey’s pale face.

"The last guy -- I just glanced up when they went by. He was young, I remember that. Made me wonder for a second why such a young dude would have to pay for it." He shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe he was a virgin."

"You never saw him before?" Rebecca asked, hoping to encourage Bailey to continue his musings.

"Nah. I probably would have remembered if he was a regular."

"Is there anything that struck you as unusual about the guy?" Watts asked.

Bailey appeared to be considering the question, but his face remained blank. Chances were he had become too immersed in the decadence around him to notice specifics.

"Don’t think so," he said slowly. Suddenly, his face brightened, as if he had had a revelation. "I do remember he had a bag with him -- one of those gym bags." He chuckled absently to himself. "Maybe he kept those shorts in there."

"What shorts?" Rebecca prompted, looking at Watts. Watts shook his head slightly, signally he had no idea what Bailey was referring to.

"You know," Bailey said, "those little shorts she had on. She wasn’t wearing them when she went upstairs."

Rebecca felt a surge of excitement. "What was she wearing?"

"One of those little leather skirts and a -- what do they call them? Tank tops?"

"Were her clothes in the room when you found her?" Watts asked.

Bailey shook his head. "Didn’t see them, but I didn’t look too close."

Rebecca knew they could check that out in the report the uniform who responded to the call would file. She thought they had enough from Bailey for now, and she explained to him that they would need him to meet with the police artist to sketch a composite of the man who had accompanied Patty Harris on her last trick. Despite his protest that he didn’t really see the guy, he agreed to meet them at the station later that day. He seemed more willing to cooperate now that they had "forgotten" about his role in the prostitution business.

Rebecca and Watts went over the crime scene, but they didn’t expect to find much. An iron bed stand stood in the center of a grey-walled room that had once been white. The mattress was thin and stained. There were no rugs on the worn wood floor, and only a curtain remnant to block the view of a deserted building across the street. A single bulb hung from a central ceiling fixture, its globe long broken. It was an empty, abandoned place, much like the people who used it for their hasty couplings. The oppressiveness of the room permeated their consciousness quickly, and they left after a rapid survey, neither of them speaking.

Once outside, Rebecca turned to Watts where he was attempting to light a cigarette. His match kept blowing out.

"That was a nice piece of work with Bailey, Watts," she said. His questioning had been sharp, and they had worked well together.

His cigarette finally caught, and he took a deep drag. He didn’t acknowledge her remark as he started toward the car.

"Guess we’ll have to start questioning all the hookers down here," he remarked, pulling open the door to his battered green Dodge sedan. "See if there’s a john around who likes girls in gym shorts."

Rebecca nodded, her thoughts in tune with his. It could just be a coincidence, but it was the only lead they had. It was certainly better than cooling their heels waiting for their rapist to strike again.

"I’ve got some contacts here --let me chase this a while," she replied.

Watts shrugged. "Suits me. I’m going to grab some lunch."

He didn’t invite her along, and Rebecca didn’t suggest they go together. She agreed to meet him at the station later to see what Bailey and the police artist would put together. Maybe, finally, they had a break.
 
 

Chapter Eighteen

It was after eight, and Catherine was exhausted. She had spent the afternoon at her office, seeing private patients. She loved her work, but there were times when it took all of her effort to stay connected and focused during a session. She was a good therapist, and she was almost always present for her clients. On days like today, she was glad to see the last client leave.

As she pushed the stack of patient files into her brief case, the phone rang. She stared at it, wishing she could ignore it. Her receptionist had left. The switchboard would pick it up in a few more rings. Then it occurred to Catherine that it might be Rebecca, and she snatched the phone up.

"Hello," she said, a hopeful anticipation in her voice.

"Dr. Rawlings?" a soft male voice inquired.

"Yes," Catherine replied, trying to keep the disappointment from her voice.

"Is she feeling better now?" the voice continued.

Catherine frowned, annoyed and confused. "I’m sorry -- who is this? I don’t know to whom you’re referring."

"You know her, Dr. Rawlings," he said in a husky tone. "The girl who saw me in the park. The one who watched me fucking that other one."

Catherine took a slow deep breath and kept her voice steady, despite the sudden racing of her heart.

"I’m glad you called," Catherine said. "What shall I call you?"

There was a soft chuckle through the line. "You know I can’t tell you that. They’re looking for me, you know. But they’re too stupid to find me."

"Why is that?"

"They have no imagination." Another soft laugh. "Do you, Dr. Rawlings?"

"I think so," she answered.

"Can you imagine lying on the ground, your face in the grass, with a big hard cock up your ass?"

He might have been asking her if she would like to take a stroll in the park. His tone was casual, almost distant.

"Is that what you’re imagining right now?" she asked him.

"I won’t tell you that, Doctor," he responded, an edge in his voice for the first time. "I can’t tell anybody -- but you’ll see, won’t you? The next time I do it, you’ll see."

"What are you going to do?" Catherine questioned.

The click of the line being disconnected was the only response.

"Damn," Catherine muttered as she sagged against her desk. She started to tremble slightly and realized how shaken she was by the call. Part of her professional mind was fascinated, but, personally, she was repulsed by the soft, cool voice which reached out to her like an unwanted caress. There was only one voice she wanted to hear right now.
 
 

Chapter Nineteen

"Hey, Frye," the night sergeant called across the squad room. "There’s a call for you."

Rebecca frowned and gestured "no" with her hand. She and Watts were expecting Bailey to finish with the police artist any second, and she was eager to get a look at her suspect’s face.

The desk sergeant shrugged. "The lady says it’s an emergency."

Rebecca, annoyed, crossed the nearly deserted room and reached for the receiver.

"Frye," she announced tersely.

"This is Catherine, Rebecca. I wouldn’t have called, but --"

"Nonsense," Rebecca interrupted immediately, detecting a difference in Catherine’s usually calm voice. "What is it?"

"Your suspect -- the rapist -- just called me. At least, I think it was him," Catherine replied, her voice curiously flat. She felt somewhat detached from everything at the moment.

Rebecca caught her breath, filled with a sudden anger. This nameless, faceless man had gone too far. He had touched someone who meant a great deal to Rebecca.

"Where are you?"

"At my office."

"I want you to lock your office door, move away from the window, and wait for me. Do not open the door for anyone. I’ll be there in ten minutes."

"I’m fine, Rebecca," Catherine said, some of her usual control evident in her tone.

"I know that. Just do as I say."

"Of course I will."

Rebecca hurried across the room for her jacket and was intercepted by Watts as she headed toward the door.

"Where are you going?" he asked, stepping nonchalantly between her and the exit.

Rebecca stared at him while trying to make a decision. She knew she should tell him about a possible contact from the suspect, but she wanted to see Catherine alone, to be sure she was all right. She remained wordless, and he watched her, no expression on his face.

Taking a deep breath, she replied, "We may have a phone contact from our boy. He may have just called Catherine Rawlings. I’m going there now."

Watts raised both eyebrows and whistled softly. "Things are heating up, aren’t they? Guess I’d better tag along."

Rebecca knew she couldn’t prevent him from accompanying her, as much as she wanted to go alone. Damn the job sometimes!

"Let’s go then," she said resolutely, consumed with the need to reach Catherine.

When she knocked on the office door, calling to Catherine, she unconsciously held her breath until she heard the lock being turned. The door swung open and Catherine stepped forward, looking pale but composed. She stopped short when she saw Watts behind Rebecca, her eyes meeting Rebecca’s.

"Thank you for coming, Detective," she said quietly.

Rebecca wanted to enfold her in her arms, aching to touch her just for a moment. Instead, she nodded slightly and followed Catherine into the waiting room. She introduced Watts and suggested they sit so Catherine could tell her story.

Catherine relayed in detail the brief conversation. Her memory was excellent, honed from years of retaining an entire hour’s session with clients. Rebecca and Watts each took notes.

Rebecca stiffened when Catherine clinically stated the caller’s sexual intimations. She felt a rage she rarely experienced despite all her encounters with brutality and perversions. This time it was Catherine who was threatened. When Catherine finished, Rebecca was wordless, struggling with her emotions.

She started slightly as Watts asked, "Did you recognize the voice, Doctor?" Rebecca had forgotten he was there.

Catherine shook her head, a look of faint surprise on her face. "No," she said, "of course not."

Watts gave a non-committal shrug. "Never know. Could be someone you know—or maybe someone you treated?"

Catherine regarded the blank face of the man seated beside Rebecca contemplatively. She sensed a clever mind behind the facade of apparent disinterest. Her curiosity was piqued, and she wondered where his train of thought was leading. Without consciously realizing it, she slipped into her professional mind set and began to view the events objectively, as if they had happened to someone else.

"I would recognize the voice, I’m sure of that. He was casual, and yet, so intimate." She didn’t notice Rebecca’s slight flinch at her choice of words. Watts gave no sign of noticing it either.

"He’s trying to make contact. He wants someone to share his experience with," she mused aloud.

"What do you mean?" Rebecca asked, trying to keep her voice even. Goddamn him to hell for involving Catherine in this.

She didn’t want to interrupt Catherine’s assessment of what had occurred by allowing her own reactions to interfere. She forced down the rage that threatened her objectivity, and she tried to view Catherine as the critical component she had become in this case. Nevertheless, she was aware of a faint nausea that made it difficult for her to swallow. Watts glanced at her nonchalantly, giving no sign he had noticed the strain in her voice or the rigid way she held her body.

"He’s pleased with himself," Catherine said, her eyes turning toward Rebecca. Her gaze was slightly unfocused as her thoughts continued to form. "He’s performed an important act, you see, and he’s established himself, done something powerful -- won a little victory. And he wants to be sure someone appreciates this."

"So why call you?" Watts said.

Catherine shrugged. "I don’t know—"

"Catherine," Rebecca began urgently, "this is very important. Are you sure he isn’t a patient -- someone you know?"

Catherine shook her head. "I don’t treat many men. I’m certain I would know."

"How about pulling your files on all the men you’ve seen -- say in the last five years," Watts said. "Maybe we can find something there that jogs your memory."

Catherine straightened in her chair with a start.

"Absolutely not, Detective. It’s out of the question."

"Look, Doc," Watts suddenly interrupted. "This guy picks you -- you of all the people in the city -- to have a little talk with. He calls you to share a few `intimate’ details of his latest fuck. Now I gotta think that’s not a coincidence. Like maybe he’s got a little thing for you or something?"

"Back off, Watts," Rebecca ordered, fighting to control her temper. Watts’s crude interrogation of Catherine incensed her, and had Catherine not been present, she would have told him to shut his fat fucking mouth. As it was, it was all she could do to keep her hands off him. "If Dr. Rawlings says he’s not a patient, then he isn’t."

Watts settled back in his chair apparently unperturbed. "Yeah, if you say so."

"I’ll review all my files, Detective," Catherine offered. "If there’s anything there at all I think may be relevant, I’ll look into it."

"Absolutely not!" Rebecca exploded. "You are not to pursue any contact with anyone you think may be involved with this case! For god’s sake, Catherine, this man is a psych -- he’s already killed two women, and a third may die!"

"Oh, I don’t know, Frye," Watts mused softly. "Might not be a bad idea. Maybe the doc can come up with something for us. We ain’t got shit now."

"Leave it alone, Watts," Rebecca said, cold fury in her voice. She looked at Catherine, her blue eyes dark with a mixture of anger and a fear she couldn’t quite hide.

"Promise me, Catherine," she said urgently, not caring that Watts was sitting beside her.

Catherine despaired at the anguish in Rebecca’s eyes, and she hated the conflict her involvement had created for Rebecca. The last thing she wanted was to make Rebecca’s already overwhelmingly difficult job any harder. "Yes, of course," she answered quickly. She was rewarded by the slight easing of Rebecca’s stiff shoulders.

"We’ll need to put a tap on your phone," Rebecca said, her mind beginning to function again. "I’ll put a man in your office, too."

Catherine sighed deeply, hating the words she had to say. "I can’t let you do that, Rebecca."

Rebecca looked up from her notebook, astonishment flooding her face. Watts looked almost amused.

"What?" Rebecca exploded.

"I can’t have my line monitored. It’s an invasion of my patients’ privacy. And a man lurking about in my waiting room would be too unsettling for some of my clients. I just can’t allow it," Catherine said as gently as possible.

"Catherine," Rebecca began, her tone dark with exasperation. This was too much. She couldn’t deal with this professional bullshit any longer -- not when it put Catherine at risk. Confidentiality was one thing, but this was carrying it too damn far. Not only did she need to protect Catherine, but she had to have access to this guy if he called again. Before she could continue, Watts interrupted.

"How ‘bout this, Doc," he suggested. "We put a tape recorder on your phone, and if our boy calls, you record it. And we’ll have somebody watching your office from a car on the street?"

Catherine considered carefully for a moment. "The tape recorder sounds fine, but I can’t have someone watch my clients come and go."

"God damn it to hell!" Rebecca barked.

"OK for now," Watts said, slapping his thigh briskly. He turned to Rebecca, his face carefully revealing nothing. "Talk to you outside for a moment, Frye?" He rose and strode deliberately to the office door, leaving Rebecca to follow angrily behind.

"What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Watts?" she roared as soon as the door closed behind her. "It’s not up to you how we run this case. I’m in charge here, and I’ll say how we handle this surveillance." Her face was two inches from his, and it took all of her control not to punch his already misshapen face in.

Watts reached unperturbedly into his jacket pocket and fumbled for a cigarette. He lit it, took a long drag and exhaled slowly.

"Looks to me like the shrink is one stubborn lady. If we’re gonna get anything out of her, we’re gonna have to go real slow and gentle, like a virgin on her first date."

"Jesus Christ," Rebecca murmured. "You are the worst piece of crap I’ve come upon in years. If you think I’m going to leave her here like some piece of bait, you’re stupider than you look." She was having trouble thinking straight, but she couldn’t seem to clear her head. She had been up for nearly three days running with only a few hours of sleep. Jeff was dead, for god’s sake, and now some piece of slime had slithered into her world and touched the woman she…she what, for christ’s sake? The woman she let hold her when her heart was breaking? The woman who gave her her body for comfort and a few hours’ peace? Oh god, what was she doing? How could she have let this happen now, in the middle of a case like this? She sagged slightly against the wall and stared numbly at Watts, who continued to puff contentedly on his cigarette.

"Sorry, Watts," she said at length. "You’re right. We can’t force her to do anything, and even a tape is better than nothing. Probably can’t use it as evidence though."

"Doesn’t matter if we catch the guy. We’ll have a DNA match from the semen."

Rebecca stared at him wordlessly. He was right again.

"Let’s see if Cath—…if Dr. Rawlings has anything else to add," she said tiredly, feeling ineffectual and unaccountably defeated.

Watts turned away, saying, "You do it. Not much more there, and I’m ready to call it a day." He strolled away, leaving Rebecca staring at his retreating back.
 
 

Chapter Twenty

Catherine, already tiredly slumped in her chair, listened to the angry murmur of voices outside her door. The excitement of the last few hours had dissipated, leaving her drained. She knew Rebecca was angry, and she understood, or thought she did as much as anyone could, the frustration and powerlessness the detective must feel right now. To have this man, whose identity had eluded the police so thoroughly, suddenly reveal his presence in such an arrogant and taunting manner was an insult too bitter to contemplate. And, Catherine also knew that her unwilling involvement with him placed a great strain on Rebecca, who now must feel torn between her professional obligation to maintain contact with the perpetrator and her personal desire to shield Catherine from him. Catherine’s inability to cooperate in the way that Rebecca required certainly did not help ease the situation. She stared uneasily at her office door, wondering what future difficulties the return of the two detectives would bring. Clearly, Rebecca and her associate did not see eye to eye on the best way to proceed. Catherine imagined it must be very hard for Rebecca to deal with a new partner so soon after the Jeff’s death, especially since Rebecca had no real opportunity to mourn the loss of her friend.

"Of course, she’ll never have time to deal with his death as long as she can drive her feelings into some hidden corner by working twenty hours a day," Catherine mused to herself. "I suppose she’s placing me in the same category --someone who creates feelings she’d rather avoid."

She sighed softly and leaned her head against the back of her tall leather chair. Sometimes it was hard being a psychiatrist -- it was too hard facing what many others never really saw. Now and then she longed to live just from moment to moment like most of the world, not really knowing, or caring, why she did or felt something. She longed to abandon just for a few hours her awareness of the struggle it was merely to survive.

When Rebecca returned to the office, she found Catherine asleep. They had kept the lights low deliberately in case anyone was watching from the street. Now the stillness was complete except for the soft steady breathing of the woman before her. Rebecca sank into the chair across from Catherine and studied her silently. Catherine’s face was soft in sleep, with only a hint of lines about her full lips to suggest that she was not a young woman. Her hair fell in soft curls to her shoulders, peppered with the grey that gave her the distinguished look that suited her so well. She looked very beautiful to Rebecca, who rose finally and touched her shoulder.

"Catherine," Rebecca called gently.

A faint smile touched her lips as Catherine’s eyes fluttered open. Her gaze widened with pleasure when she found Rebecca bending over her, even as she noted the tightness around Rebecca’s fine mouth and deep eyes. And Catherine also saw a weariness that she had never seen before in Rebecca’s eyes, not even when Rebecca had come to her in the first hours after Jeff’s death. Instinctively she reached out to stroke the strong face before her.

"What is it, love?" she asked quietly.

Rebecca’s heart lurched at the words. She longed to tell Catherine her fears. That Catherine might be in danger, that she couldn’t bear the thought of this evil touching Catherine in any way, even with words, and that she wasn’t sure she could function if she thought Catherine might be harmed. But she forced herself to keep her demons to herself. It was time she began acting like a cop instead of allowing Catherine to take care of her again and again.

"I need to take you home," Rebecca replied quietly. She turned her head slightly and kissed the fingers that still rested against her face.

Catherine recognized the barrier that Rebecca had erected between them, and, despite her understanding, she was hurt by it. She needed to know this woman, all of her, not just the parts Rebecca allowed the world to see. Catherine knew her strengths -- she could see them in her body, feel them in her touch, hear them in her words. But what of Rebecca’s fears and her needs? Would they always be closed to her?

Catherine nodded, knowing that now was not the time to search for answers. Rebecca had sustained a tremendous emotional blow from Jeff’s death, and the investigation was taking a heavy toll on her physical and emotional reserves.

"I have my car here," Catherine answered.

Rebecca shook her head. "I don’t want you driving alone. I’ll drive you and pick you up in the morning. You can come back for your car."

Catherine started to protest but then thought better of it. An argument now would not help either of them, and she suddenly realized she was exhausted. It was nearly ten o’clock, and, once again, she had missed a meal.

"Burger break on the way?" she asked, rising stiffly from her chair.

Rebecca at last grinned. "I’ll do better than that. I’ll treat you to pizza."

"You’re on," Catherine replied, slipping an arm around Rebecca’s slim waist. Rebecca pulled Catherine to her quickly and held her fiercely.

"I have to go out again," Rebecca whispered into Catherine’s hair. "Things are beginning to move in this case, and I’ve got to stay on top of it. I wish I could stay with you, but I’ll have one of the black-and-whites cruise by your place every half hour or so."

Catherine leaned back in Rebecca’s arms, her clear green eyes meeting the deep blue ones now filled with worry.

"I’ll be fine, but I appreciate your looking out for me. I know you have to do what you’re doing now, but I’m concerned. You haven’t slept enough in three days to account for one good night’s sleep, and you won’t be very effective if you can’t think straight."

Rebecca kissed her then, a slow deep kiss that kindled desire in both of them. When she broke away at last, they were gasping. Rebecca’s hands traveled unbidden to the round fullness of Catherine’s breasts, feeling the softness of silk beneath her fingers. She pressed against Catherine, fusing her taller, lean frame to the gentle curves and planes of Catherine’s body. Catherine backed up slightly until her back touched the edge of her desk, and slipped her hands under Rebecca’s jacket. She traced the muscle of Rebecca’s back down to the firmness of her thighs. She moaned as Rebecca’s fingers closed over her nipples, and warm liquid shimmered in her core. Rebecca’s hands were insistent now, one raising her skirt, pressing against the restraints of her undergarment, the other fumbling with the buttons of Catherine’s blouse.

"Let me lock the door," Catherine murmured, fumbling with the buckle on Rebecca’s belt.

"To hell with that -- I’ve got a gun," Rebecca said. She raised her head from Catherine’s breast and looked wildly about her. Wordlessly, she slipped her arm behind Catherine’s knees and picked her up, carrying her the few feet to the couch across the room. Laying her down, she quickly pulled Catherine’s garments aside and knelt before her. Pressing her face against the warm flesh of Catherine’s thighs, she breathed in her heady aroma . Her lips sought the source, consumed with the need to touch her, taste her, absorb her into every cell. Rebecca groaned as the wetness welcomed her. She immersed herself in it, seeking and probing for Catherine’s very soul. She slid both hands under Catherine’s buttocks, raising Catherine’s hips, pulling her closer.

"Oh god, Rebecca," Catherine cried, her hands twisted in Rebecca’s thick hair. "You feel so good, so good. Oh yes – right there! Oh!"

Rebecca moaned, feeling Catherine grow even harder under her tongue. She brought a hand between Catherine’s thighs, finding entrance with two fingers. She pushed inward as she sucked harder on the rapidly quivering shaft between her lips.

"Yes, Rebecca—make me come--," Catherine breathed, her voice an urgent whisper. "Oh please -- make me come."

Even as she heard the words, Rebecca felt the internal spasms, and she knew it had begun. She increased the pressure with her tongue, gripping Catherine as Catherine’s hips heaved upward. Rebecca continued to stroke the pulsing flesh with her lips and tongue long after Catherine’s cries had ceased and her limbs quieted. Finally, Rebecca pulled herself upright and stretched out beside Catherine on the couch, pulling the sated woman into her arms. Catherine’s arms came around her; she felt soft lips on her neck.

"You’re wonderful," Catherine sighed contentedly. "I’m completely demolished."

Rebecca laughed quietly, her arms tightening about Catherine’s supple frame. "I needed to touch you so much I couldn’t stop myself." She looked down into Catherine’s face. "I had to be that close to you."

"I know, Rebecca," Catherine said softly. "And I’m right here."

All other realities vanished as they slipped into sleep.
 
 

Chapter Twenty–One

Rebecca was awakened by a relentless pain in her left side. She shifted carefully on the office couch and reached between her body and Catherine to reposition her shoulder holster against her rib cage. Her watch showed that it was nearly 3A.M. Her head ached and her body felt empty -- drained of all emotion or energy. She realized she hadn’t eaten since early the previous morning. She knew that that combined with sleep deprivation was sapping her strength. Still, she forced herself upright and swung her legs to the floor.

"What are you doing?" Catherine asked sleepily, curling her body against Rebecca’s back and stroking her softly.

"There are things I need to do that can’t wait," Rebecca said quickly. "Can you sleep here the rest of the night? I’ll swing by and pick you up in the morning."

Catherine shook the sleep from her head and thought for a moment.

"I have to be back here for rounds at 9 o’clock. Can you be here at six-thirty?"

"Yes. Lock the door when I leave and don’t open it until you hear my voice. And don’t answer the phone!"

"But what if he calls again?"

"Then he’ll have to wait. I don’t want anyone to know you’re here alone," Rebecca replied angrily.

"Yes, I see. Of course." Catherine sat up beside Rebecca and met her steel gaze. "I’ll do exactly as you say. Please don’t worry about me tonight."

Rebecca’s face softened suddenly, and she bent forward to kiss Catherine. "Thanks. I know it’s hard being ordered around --"

Catherine stopped her with a gentle hand to her lips. "Nonsense. In these matters, you’re the expert and I trust you."

Rebecca reached for Catherine’s hand, squeezed it quickly, and pulled her to her feet.

"Come lock the door behind me."

"Be careful," Catherine whispered as the door closed firmly. She stood motionless for some moments, listening as Rebecca’s footsteps echoed down the empty corridor. The room suddenly felt chilly and she pulled her raincoat from the rack behind the door and threw it around her shoulders. She was worried, and she knew she had good reason to be. Rebecca was in far more danger than she was at the moment. Catherine was only too aware of how quickly reflexes and thought processes could be impaired by fatigue and stress. She fought the anxiety, knowing she could not influence Rebecca’s behavior -- that, in fact, Rebecca was behaving in the only way she could under these circumstances. Once again, understanding was small comfort. She sighed deeply, pulled the coat tighter around her shoulders, and resigned herself to wait out the rest of the night on her own therapy couch.

~

Rebecca slowly cruised the streets of the tenderloin. Even at this hour -- the darkest, loneliest part of the night -- there were people about on the streets. The vagrants were all tucked away in their cubby holes, in doorways or on subway grates, covered with bits of carpet or old clothes, their possessions gathered under their arms for safety. But there were still a few prostitutes huddled in pairs or leaning singly against storefronts, hoping for one more trick before morning. And cars continued to cruise by, the drivers faces were cast in shadow as they surveyed the possibility of a quick antidote to their loneliness. Rebecca circled the six-block area several times until she finally saw her. Standing alone in the archway of an adult bookstore, her long legs bare to mid-thigh despite the cold. Rebecca pulled her car to the curb and rolled the passenger window down. The girl had looked up as the car pulled over, and her look of anticipation quickly turned to dismay as she recognized Rebecca.

"Oh man! Can’t you leave me alone? You’re gonna ruin my business!"

"Get in," Rebecca said, pushing the curbside door open.

"Uh-uh. No way. You don’t have nothing on me --"

"Do you want to talk to me in here, or should I come out and walk around the streets with you a while?"

"Oh Jesus! I don’t need this!" she swore as she quickly crossed the pavement and slid into the small bucket seat.

"Put your seatbelt on," Rebecca said as she pulled away from the curb.

Sandy snorted in disgust. "If you cared so much about my well-being, you’d stay the fuck away from me. People down here start thinking I’m a snitch, I could get hurt."

"What people?" Rebecca said nonchalantly, her eyes on the road.

"Just people. And, besides, I don’t have any tips for you. Nobody knows nothing about no kiddie racket -- or if they do, they aren’t telling me."

Rebecca’s head turned slightly and her eyes met those of the young girl beside her. The eyes that looked back were the eyes of the street, bitter and old.

"It’s not about the chicken business."

Sandy looked surprise for an instant, but quickly recovered with an expression of disinterest.

"That so?"

Rebecca nodded. "A hooker was found dead last night. Her body was found at the Old Vic. Young girl, about thirteen."

Sandy feigned indifference. "So? It isn’t the first time. She OD’d or what?"

Rebecca shook her head. "Looks like the john did it." She looked directly at Sandy as she said, "I don’t want it to happen again. I want this guy -- and I need help."

Sandy remained silent, looking down at her hands, unconsciously picking at a broken nail.

"Sometimes ya can’t tell, ya know? A guy looks like Mr. Straightsville, and the next thing you know, he wants you to tie him up or let him piss in your mouth. It happens. You try to be careful, but sometimes you just can’t tell." Her voice was flat as she spoke, and she didn’t raise her head.

"I know. That’s why I’m telling you -- be careful. And tell the other girls, too. I can’t give you anything on him. I don’t have anything."

Sandy raised her head defiantly. "And if you did, you wouldn’t tell us any how, would you? Afraid we’d scare him off."

Rebecca shrugged. "Probably not," she said, and wondered if it were true. "Try to find out if any of the other girls have noticed anyone particularly strange lately -- probably fairly young, late twenties, maybe likes ass fucking."

"Yeck," Sandy said. "Most girls stay away from that. Depends on how much, you know. Some’ll do anything for the right price."

"Yeah, well, see if you can turn up anything."

"And if I don’t feel like it?"

"You keep testing, don’t you? Then, I’ll start visiting you every day, out in public, like you’re my new sweetheart."

Sandy sighed. "Had to ask."

"Right," Rebecca said as she pulled the car to the curb. "Go home, Sandy. You’re not gonna retire on what you’ll make the rest of the night."

As she pulled away she watched the girl in her rear view mirror as she slowly wandered off into the cheerless night.
 
 

Chapter Twenty–Two

Rebecca returned to her apartment shortly before 5 A.M. The first thing to greet her besides the stale air of a space left too long undisturbed was a pile of junk mail that had been pushed under her door. She kicked it aside and went straight for the kitchen. She emptied the grounds from the basket of her coffee maker and ran water into the appliance. She found half a pound of espresso in the freezer and measured out enough for four cups. She left the coffee brewing and headed for the bathroom. Her jacket and slacks would have to go to the cleaners. They looked like they’d been slept in, she thought ruefully. She laid her gun on the toilet tank, threw her underwear at the over-flowing hamper and turned on the shower. She stood under the pulsing stream for a long time before she lifted her arms to lather some shampoo into her hair. With her eyes closed against the frothing suds, she recalled random images. The dead girl in the hotel room; Jeff lying so quietly on his side, just a trickle of blood behind his ear—like reruns of bad movies. And then she thought of Catherine -- serious when discussing a patient, soothingly gentle when Rebecca came to her exhausted in body and soul, vibrant in the throes of passion.

Rebecca’s mind rebelled against reason and caution. Catherine could be in danger from this psycho. Rebecca wanted him, no matter what it cost. She twisted the knobs viciously and stepped from the shower, gasping at the chill in the room. Her face in the mirror above the sink appeared lined with fatigue, but her eyes were clear and hard with determination. He had made a mistake killing that hooker. Rebecca had one tiny thread to grasp now, and she would follow it wherever it led until she could get a bigger piece and then another until all the pieces came together.

"I’m coming for you," she whispered into the stillness of the room. "Oh, yes, you fucker, I’m coming."

Refreshed from her shower, Rebecca drove quickly through the empty streets, just ahead of the rush hour traffic. The medical center, as always, was alive with activity, and she was forced to circle the block several times before she found a parking space near Catherine’s office. She hurried through the deserted hallways, anxious to reach Catherine. Her knock was answered immediately. Catherine, looking rumpled and weary, greeted her with a smile.

"You have no business looking so damn good when I know you haven’t slept all night," Catherine said, relieved to see that Rebecca, although obviously tired, seemed alert and controlled. She reached for Rebecca’s hand and pulled her into the room. Impulsively she kissed her, slipping her arms around her waist.

"I’m glad you’re here," Catherine sighed, not adding that she was also relieved to find her safe.

Rebecca held her gently for a moment, savoring the nearness of her. She felt somehow anchored in Catherine’s presence, as if there actually were someplace where the world had meaning. Here, in this woman’s embrace, Rebecca felt at home.

"Are you all right?" Rebecca said at length, not loosening her hold, not wanting the moment to pass.

"I’ve had better nights," Catherine said, her head resting on Rebecca’s shoulder, "but the morning looks pretty good right now."

Rebecca grinned at the woman’s resiliency, hugged her briefly and stepped back. "I’d better get you home."

Catherine nodded resolutely and moved away to gather her briefcase and papers.

As Rebecca maneuvered her car through the now congested streets, her mind returned to the case. She was desperately trying to weave a tapestry from an assortment of disconnected threads. Somewhere there was a pattern, some detail, she had overlooked or failed to recognize that would begin to make a whole of the scattered pieces. Catherine recognized the distant look in Rebecca’s eyes and left her alone with her thoughts. She was startled when Rebecca’s voice broke the stillness.

"How is Janet Ryan doing?"

"Physically she’s making good progress. She would actually be ready for discharge if it weren’t for her psychological state. She’s still terrified, and the assault has triggered flashbacks which are difficult for her to deal with now."

"Flashbacks?" Rebecca queried.

"Traumatic events will often provoke memories of similar occurrences in an individual’s past," Catherine answered, intentionally avoiding making direct reference to Janet’s specific case.

"Similar occurrences," Rebecca echoed. "Like rape?"

"Sometimes," Catherine stated.

Rebecca’s jaw tightened, a sign Catherine was coming to recognize as Rebecca’s response to anger. She waited, knowing that Rebecca would continue when her feelings were once again manageable.

"No wonder Janet can’t remember what happened out there," Rebecca said, her voice carefully concealing the rage she felt at the brutality visited on so many women by this maniac. Her fingers tightened on the wheel, the only sign of her inner turmoil. She had to remain objective if she hoped to stop him. She would somehow have to view this as just another case.

"Would she be able to look at a police sketch of a possible suspect?" Rebecca asked.

Catherine considered her answer carefully.

"I’m not sure," she answered truthfully. "Janet feels a tremendous responsibility to remember what she saw. That kind of pressure can actually make it more difficult for the amnesia victim to regain their memory for the event. I’d like to reserve judgment on that until I can speak with her again. Can you give me until tonight?"

"Do I have a choice?" Rebecca said, her frustration evident.

"Rebecca," Catherine responded cautiously, "your responsibilities and mine don’t have to be at odds here. I know you need Janet’s statement, and believe me, I want to see this man caught as much as you do. I simply can’t place her in psychological jeopardy to do that."

"Even if it means another woman is raped and murdered?"

"Even then, Rebecca," Catherine answered quietly.

Rebecca heard the pain in Catherine’s voice and knew suddenly how agonizing that decision was for Catherine.

"I’m sorry," she said, reaching across the seat to grasp Catherine’s hand.

"Don’t be. You have to use everything you can to put an end to this madness. And I have to take care of the people who put their trust in me."

And now those people include me, Rebecca thought.

Rebecca followed Catherine silently to the steps of her building, searching the streets for any sign of someone who seemed out of place. The sidewalks were crowded with people hurrying to work, but no one took particular notice of them.

"Let me have your key," Rebecca said at the top of the steps, her eyes scanning the heavy oak door for signs of tampering. She led the way inside and made a quick search of the rooms, checking the windows and patio as she went. Satisfied that everything was in order, she turned to face Catherine.

"You can go ahead and change; I’ll wait."

Catherine smiled at her, appreciating once again the presence of this intense, driven woman in her life, wishing she could somehow reach into that barricaded soul and comfort her. Instead she contented herself with a soft kiss, rewarded by the instant melding of Rebecca’s lean body against her own. In this way at least Catherine knew she could reach her, and she accepted sadly that for now that was all she could do.

Rebecca arrived at the station just after nine A.M. and was surprised to find Watt’s already at his desk, nursing a hot cup of coffee and a danish. He looked up when Rebecca sat down across from him with her own caffeine infusion.

His eyes scanned her face, giving no indication that he noticed the dark circles under her eyes or the fatigue lines etched in her finely chiseled features. Nor did he comment on the slight tremor in the long fingers that held the paper cup of coffee.

"Everything okay with the shrink?"

Rebecca looked for some hidden meaning behind his words but was met with his usual blank stare.

"Yes." She turned to the pile of papers on her desk in an effort to avoid conversation.

"I think it’s about time we went over what we got and figure out where to go from here before this creep bangs another broad."

Rebecca stared at him, astonishment evident on her face. She leaned forward on her elbows, and said softly, "Watts, you are a crude bastard, and I don’t give a good goddamn what you think. I’m in charge here, and we’ll do things my way."

Watts simply shrugged. "Don’t think the Captain’s as patient as I am. He wants a status report so he can meet with the media this morning."

"Shit, just what we need. More media people nosing around." She looked at Watts and had the feeling they finally agreed on something. "Did the artist get anything out of Bailey’s description?"

Watts grimaced. "It’s pretty general, but I’m having copies run off and distributed to all the precincts."

Rebecca was surprised, as she always was, when she discovered that Watts was actually thinking about his work.

She stood abruptly. "Come on, let’s get out of here."

Watts raised an eyebrow. "What about the Captain?"

"We can’t give him a status report if we’re not here. And then the media won’t have anything to tip our boy off with. Who knows what little tidbit might send him under cover?"

Watts grunted noncommittally, but he rose to his feet to follow her, grabbing a stack of photocopied sketches as he went.

He handed the police sketch to Rebecca as they pulled away from the station. She glanced at it quickly and felt her hopes plummet when she saw how nonspecific the rendering was.

"Just what we need," she sighed. "Everyman."

"Yeah," Watts agreed. "Ain’t life a bitch."

Rebecca ignored him, her mind sifting through possible courses of action, trying to come up with something they had failed to do.

"Have the homicide boys come up with any assaults or murders of prostitutes that might tie in with this case?"

Watts pulled out his tattered notebook and made an entry. "I don’t know. I’ll check it out. I suppose we ought to start interviewing all the hookers and find out if anybody knows anything."

"I’m working on that. Leave a bunch of those fliers in the back. For what it’s worth, I’ll hand them around."

"Yeah, and tell them about his bag of tricks."

"What did you say?" Rebecca asked quickly.

"You know, his gym bag. Maybe if they can’t remember his face, they’ll remember the bag."

"Or what he brings in the bag," Rebecca mused. "Watts, all three victims on the drive have been runners, all wearing running shorts. The dead prostitute was found with running shorts that she wasn’t wearing when she went upstairs with him. Maybe he needs them to get turned on."

"Yeah, well, I’ve heard of weirder stuff, but so what. You want we should put out a bulletin that no broads wear shorts outside the house?"

Rebecca sighed. "No, but at least I can get the word out on the streets. Maybe one of the girls will know something."

Watts grunted. "We don’t even know for sure it’s the same guy. We won’t have a DNA match for another week. Could be we’re chasing our tails for nothing."

"Right now we don’t have anything else to chase," Rebecca replied dispiritedly.
 
 

Chapter Twenty–Three

Rebecca dropped Watts off to follow up on one of their other open cases and tracked down the homicide detectives working on Jeff’s murder. They were obviously hassled, but they took the time to fill her in. They had no new leads, but the rumor on the streets was that Jeff’s undercover man was getting too close to a major crime lord and that the two men were executed as a warning. A warning to both the police and anyone who might be thinking of providing the police with information.

She thanked them, knowing that they were doing what they could. Her beeper went off as she was leaving the building. She considered not answering it. She didn’t want to hear that the Captain was waiting for his status report. Something made her stop and call in.

"Watts wanted us to run you down," the dispatcher said when she identified herself. "Said you’d want to know that some doctor received an interesting package this morning. That make any sense to you?"

Rebecca slammed the phone down and was out the door before the dispatcher registered the dial tone at the end of his line. She went lights and sirens all the way across town to the hospital and left the car in the emergency zone outside. She stormed into the lobby and nearly collided with a woman pushing a baby stroller.

"Sorry," she muttered as she pushed her way to the elevator. The ride up to the psychiatric floor seemed to take forever. As soon as the doors opened, she saw Watts leaning against the counter in the nurses’ station conversing with a woman in white.

"Watts!" she shouted. "Where’s Catherine? Is she all right?"

He intercepted her and turned her away from the curious eyes of the people gathered around. "Yes, she’s fine. I took the call because I was in the squad room. When I heard what it was, I figured you’d want to know."

"What what was?"

"Your doctor friend is pretty smart. Someone sent her a dozen roses -- and since it wasn’t her birthday, she thought she should tell you before she opened the card. I guess she figured you didn’t send them."

"Damn it, Watts, just tell me where she is, and what the hell is going on."

"I am telling you. I’m waiting for the lab boys to pick up the flowers now. The card reads, `Thank you for last night. I’ll see you soon.’"

"Jesus Christ." Rebecca turned away, her face grim. "I’m going to talk to Catherine. We need to put a guard on her."

"I don’t think that’s such a great idea," Watts stated flatly. "Might scare him away."

Rebecca rounded on him, her temper finally snapping. "Listen to me, Watts! We are not using Catherine Rawlings for bait. You understand me? We are going to cover her like the Pope until this guy is caught."

"Hey, I know how you feel --" Watts began.

"No, you don’t know how I feel, and you never will know how I feel! So drop it. Now." Rebecca could never remember being so frightened. She had been shot at, maced, and ambushed by street punks, but she had never felt the panic that threatened her now. All she knew was that Catherine was being drawn further into a very dangerous game, and she felt powerless to stop it. She set her jaw and took a deep breath. It was time for her to take charge of the situation, and that was exactly what she intended to do. Catherine, as it turned out, had different ideas.

~

"Rebecca, you must understand. For any number of reasons I can’t let you assign me to protective custody. One very important reason is that I may be able to establish a relationship with this man. At the very least, we’ll have some idea of the state of his mind. Please, darling, think of how important that might be!"

Rebecca stood with her back to the room, staring out into the streets below without seeing. Watts had left them at her request once it became clear that Catherine was not willing to be assigned a guard. All of Catherine’s arguments made sense, and at any other time Rebecca would have accepted the logic of maintaining contact with this unknown psychopath. But she couldn’t accept it now.

"There’s a big part of me that knows you’re right," she said softly, her voice hollow. "As a cop, if I were a good cop, I should be elated that we have some conduit to this guy --" Her voice trailed off.

Catherine went to her, put her arms around her, leaned her cheek against Rebecca’s rigid back. Rebecca’s strain and tension were transmitted to her through the unyielding muscles under her hands. Catherine knew the rejection was not of her, but of the weakness that Rebecca perceived in herself because of Catherine. Rebecca’s inner struggle now was one that Catherine knew would need to be fought again and again -- the conflict between Rebecca’s need for absolute emotional distance and the disruption of that control caused by her involvement with Catherine. Catherine was determined neither to ignore the problem nor to allow Rebecca to face it alone. The outcome of that battle would determine just how much the two of them could share, and Catherine found that that meant a great deal to her.

"Rebecca, the way you feel right now is perfectly understandable," Catherine began softly. "You’re worried about my safety, and it’s different than it usually is because you care about me. We’re involved with each other, for heaven’s sake. We’ve made love, we’ve shared something of ourselves. I am not someone you can be objective about." And not someone you must push away to satisfy your sense of duty, I hope.

"I never should have let this happen," Rebecca said, her back still to Catherine. "It’s compromising my thinking, and that could mean jeopardizing your safety."

"Well, I, for one, am not sorry that it happened," Catherine persisted. She knew she was taking her own emotional risks by admitting to Rebecca, and to herself, just how important Rebecca had become to her. But one of them had to make the first move to breach the considerable defenses they both had erected around their hearts.

Rebecca turned to her then, and tightened her arms around Catherine, holding her fiercely.

"Neither am I," Rebecca answered, her voice rough with emotion. I’m afraid to even think about how much you mean to me. I just don’t know what I’d do if anything happens to you. Her tension began to lessen in the soft embrace of Catherine’s arms, and her mind began to clear. Even as she held her, Rebecca’s thoughts turned to what she must do to protect her. Where other emotions clouded her judgment, Catherine’s touch restored clarity. She was continually astonished, and still a little afraid, of the woman’s effect upon her.

"I don’t suppose I could persuade you to have a police officer accompany you around until this is over, could I?" she asked, her lips pressed to Catherine’s forehead.

"No."

"At least at night, when you’re at home?"

"Only if it’s you."

Rebecca leaned back and gazed down into the face that never failed to move her, memorizing the image -- wisps of grey at the temples, fine bones beneath ivory skin, liquid pools of swirling greens in her eyes.

"It’s not in my contract," she whispered, longing to forget everything except the desire to kiss those tender lips and lose herself in Catherine’s welcoming warmth.

"It could be," Catherine answered, her lips finding Rebecca’s.
 
 

Chapter Twenty–Four

Rebecca slept during the afternoon in an empty on-call room at the hospital and later drove Catherine home. She attached a voice activated recording device to Catherine’s telephone after they had agreed that Catherine would review the tape and erase any client related calls before turning it over to the police. Once again Rebecca did a security check and arranged for extra patrols to pass through the neighborhood. Finally she felt satisfied that she had done all she could do. The next move was up to him.

"I have to go out for a while," she said. "There are people I need to talk to --people I can only find at night. Will you be all right?"

Catherine nodded, silencing the fear she felt, not for herself, but for the determined woman she had come to care so much for. Every time she saw the gun harnessed against Rebecca’s chest, she was reminded of the potential violence Rebecca faced each time she went out into the streets. That fear was something Catherine knew she would never get used to, and that it was the price she must pay for allowing Rebecca into her heart. At this moment, however, she knew that Rebecca needed reassurance that Catherine was safe.

"Can I expect you tonight?" Catherine asked, placing her hand gently on Rebecca’s arm.

"Count on it."

~

Rebecca found Sandy without any difficulty. What surprised her was the lack of any protest when she pulled her car up beside the young prostitute. Sandy crossed the sidewalk quickly and slid in beside her.

"Let’s get out of here, okay?" Sandy said.

Rebecca pulled into the line of traffic and looked at the girl questioningly.

"Why so glad to see me?"

Sandy grimaced. "Things are getting really weird out here. All the pimps are uptight because the cops are pulling them in -- asking questions about the kiddie porn stuff. And now they’re starting to pull in the girls, asking about kinky johns and rough trade. It’s making everybody nervous. What’s going on?"

Rebecca smiled at the reversal in their positions. Suddenly she had become the informant. "I don’t know for sure. There may be a loose cannon around. Some guy who likes girls in gym shorts and gets a little rough."

"How rough?"

"Rough like in dead."

Sandy leaned her head back against the seat and sighed.

"Shit, we don’t need this. Got anything on him?"

"Look in the back seat. There’s a sketch of someone who might be him."

Sandy looked at the police rendering and snorted.

"Oh, him. I must see ten dudes a night who look like this."

"Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of," Rebecca answered grimly. "The best I can tell you is that he’s white, late twenties or early thirties, probably well-educated, and won’t seem like a nut case. And this is important. He may have a gym bag or something like it. He seems to like his women to dress for his pleasure, with short nylon running briefs."

"That’s it?"

"Afraid so."

"What do we do if he shows?"

"If you can, don’t work alone. Stay in pairs or groups, so if he approaches someone, one of you can call me. Try to get the word out as quickly as you can. The girl he killed two days ago is the only prostitute we know about. I don’t want there to be another one."

Sandy looked at the woman beside her, surprised by the vehemence in her voice and the stony set to her features.

"Yeah, well, thanks," was all she said. Too many years on the streets had taught her not to trust what looked like kindness, because there was always a price attached. But she would remember the look on the tall detective’s face, a look that made her feel a little safer.

~

When she knocked on Catherine’s door a little after midnight, Watts answered it. He stepped out into the hall before she could say anything and pulled the door closed.

"She’s all right," he said quickly, noting the alarm on Rebecca’s face. "Our boy called. She called it in and I came over. Figured you’d rather have me here than someone she doesn’t know."

Rebecca took a deep breath and nodded, relief washing through her. "What did he say?"

Watts shrugged. "This dame--excuse me—this doctor--is one cool cookie. She insisted on clearing the tape of `unrelated’ messages before she’d let me hear it. She should be ready for us now."

"Thanks, Watts," she said as she pushed the door open.

Catherine was seated in front of a small desk with the tape recorder before her. She seemed lost in thought.

"Catherine," Rebecca called softly.

Catherine turned at the sound of her voice, and a faint smile flickered across her fine features. "I’m glad you’re back."

"I’m sorry I wasn’t hear when he called," Rebecca began.

Catherine silenced her. "It doesn’t matter--you’re here now. Shall we go over this?"

Watts shuffled in behind Rebecca and sat on the couch across the room, his notebook on his knee. Rebecca walked to the window and looked out into the night sky. She didn’t want to be facing Catherine when she heard this. She didn’t trust herself enough.

"Go ahead."

Rebecca prepared herself, knowing that she must forget that it was Catherine this madman had chosen to call. She had to be focused, searching for any clue to his identity. Still, she started suddenly when she heard Catherine’s voice on the tape:
 
 

Catherine: Hello?

Voice: I’m so glad I found you home.

Catherine: I’m sorry, who’s calling please?

Voice: You know me, Doctor. Did you get my flowers?

Catherine: Yes. Why did you send them?

Voice: Because I wanted you to know that you’re special to me.

Catherine: Why is that?

Voice: Because I feel as if you understand me. I know that you can appreciate the things I’ve accomplished.

Catherine: What things are they?

Voice: You know—with the girls. When I fucked them. I was good with them—they’d never had it so good before. I took a long time with them, too. I didn’t just fuck and come, I let them feel me for a long time. Do you know how that feels, Doctor—to be fucked for a long time? Is that how you like it? I’d like to fuck you like that right now.

Catherine: Tell me about the girls. How did you pick them?

Voice: It’s not hard. They’re everywhere, just waiting for me to show them how good it can be. Sometimes I just wait for them to come to me.

Catherine: Where do you wait?

Voice: They think they know where—the police. But they don’t know anything. The next time it will be very special. I feel powerful, my cock is powerful. Maybe next time you’d like to feel it, Doctor. Would you like to feel my long hard cock pushing into you—would you?

Catherine: How will I recognize you?

Voice: You’ll know, Doctor. It won’t be long.
 
 

"Jesus Christ," Watts breathed as the tape clicked off. "What a fucking nutcase."

"Not exactly a clinical diagnosis, Detective, but fairly accurate," Catherine replied grimly. Rebecca had not spoken, and Catherine wanted desperately to go to her. She could see from across the room that Rebecca’s spine was rigid and the hand that rested against the window frame was clenched into a fist.

At last Rebecca turned, keeping her gaze away from Catherine. "Did we get a trace?"

Watts shook his head. "Just under the wire--he’s smart, this one."

Rebecca nodded, her face a careful blank. "Double the patrols through the neighborhood, and put a man on the street across from Catherine’s office and at each entrance to the hospital.

"Rebecca—" Catherine began.

"Do it, Watts." She turned to Catherine, her eyes simmering with repressed anger and the revulsion she had felt as she listened to that quiet, disembodied voice on the tape. She could envision his hands on Catherine’s skin, forcing her down, violating her. His words were the only violation of this woman she would allow. Nothing, not even Catherine’s professional responsibilities, would change her mind. If Catherine hated her for it, that’s the way it would have to be. She would not give this maniac any opportunity to harm Catherine. She was too precious for Rebecca to risk for a moment. "He’s changed his M.O., Watts--he’s got a specific target now. This is where he’ll come. Keep up the extra patrols in the park. I’ve got the prostitutes alerted if he shows there. Sooner or later he’ll come after Catherine." And when he does, I’ll kill the bastard.

Watts heaved himself to his feet. "Right. I’ll meet you at the hospital in the morning."

"I’ll need to see Janet Ryan in the morning," Rebecca stated after Watts left. She still had not looked directly at Catherine. She was afraid if she did she would lose what little control she had left. She trembled inwardly at the thought that any harm might come to her. Catherine had awakened a need in her which Rebecca had buried for far too long. With the undemanding acceptance of her body and her heart, Catherine brought Rebecca face to face with the loneliness of the half-life she had been leading. Rebecca did not want to return to that life, and it was Catherine she needed in order to go forward.

"I’ll want to be there when you question her," Catherine stated quietly.

"All right."

"Is there no other way?"

"No. It’s not a random victim any longer, Catherine. It’s you he wants now."

Catherine looked into Rebecca’s determined face and knew there could be no other way. She held out her hand, saying, "I need you to hold me, darling."

Rebecca was across the room in an instant, gathering her close. I will not let him hurt you!
 
 

Chapter Twenty–Five

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

Catherine’s back arched and she pressed herself even closer to Rebecca, whispering urgently, "Do you know what you’re doing to me? I’m on fire."

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

"Oh!" Rebecca cried, shuddering, as Catherine pressed harder along the length of her clitoris. She couldn’t hold it. The spasms started at the base and twisted outward, causing her to jerk in Catherine’s arms. When she cried out her release, she was unaware of the tears that coursed down her face.

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

~

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

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

Clearing her throat, Rebecca said, "I know it will be difficult for you to have me around all day, but I just can’t take any chances. He’s becoming unpredictable, and there’s no way to anticipate his behavior. I’m sorry."

"Don’t be," Catherine replied, kissing Rebecca quickly as she reached for her briefcase. "I can think of much worse things than having you around all day. And I do know that you’re doing what needs to be done. I appreciate it."

~

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

Rebecca sat beside her in a worn armchair.

"Do you remember me, Janet? I’m Detective Frye. I spoke with you before." When Janet nodded, Rebecca continued. "I have more questions to ask you. I’m want you to tell me again everything you did on the day of the assault. Everything you can remember -- even if it doesn’t seem at all important. Start with when you woke up."

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

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

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

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

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

"There was a man! He was doing something to the woman on the ground! I ran toward him, screaming at him to stop!" Janet looked wildly about the room, her gaze fixing on Catherine’s face. "Oh, Dr. Rawlings! I can’t remember! I just can’t remember any more!"

"That’s all right, Janet, you’ve done beautifully. Really. I’ll speak with you again tomorrow. It won’t be long now before we can talk about sending you home."

Catherine stood and motioned to Rebecca to follow.

"That’s as much as you’re going to get for today, Rebecca. She is remembering, but it will take more time."

"What about trying hypnosis or drugs?"

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

"Is that doctor talk for `no’?" Rebecca asked.

"You’re learning, Detective," Catherine laughed. "Was it helpful for you at all?"

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

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

"I’m so glad I found you in, Dr. Rawlings."

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

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

"I must see you."

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

Soft laughter. "Oh, Doctor -- I can’t do that. I want this meeting to be private and romantic. I want you to meet me tonight. I’ll tell you where."

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

"I want to talk with you. I find you very interesting," Catherine responded, "but I’m afraid that I can’t meet you tonight. Won’t you tell me your name so that I can reach you, too?"

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

"Wait—" Catherine cried as he broke the connection. She settled the receiver slowly into the cradle and stared at Rebecca, who hurried to her side. "I didn’t handle that very well, did I?"

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

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

Rebecca’s eyes flashed and her fingers tightened on Catherine’s arm. "There is no way I’m going to let this guy anywhere near you. Don’t even think about it; it’s not going to happen. Let me call this in, then let’s go home. You’re safer there than here where anyone could walk in unnoticed."

Catherine nodded, her thoughts elsewhere.
 
 

Chapter Twenty–Six

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

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

"What does she want?" Rebecca asked.

"Won’t say. Just says her name is Sandy and you’d know --"

"Patch her through," Rebecca instructed.

"Frye?" a faint voice questioned.

"Yeah, it’s me, Sandy. What is it?"

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

Rebecca didn’t bother with the routine questions; she knew Sandy would never have called if there hadn’t been real cause for alarm. "When and where did someone last see her?"

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

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

"What is it?" Catherine asked.

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

"Probably nothing."

For some reason, Rebecca couldn’t tell her of the dread that descended when she heard Sandy’s voice. She had a bad feeling, and over the years she had come to trust these premonitions. She wanted to tell Catherine; she knew Catherine was waiting for her to speak, but she had hidden these feelings from everyone for so long that she couldn’t put words to them now.

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

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

"Please be careful. I’ll be here when you get back," was all Catherine said.

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

"Thank you."

~

Rebecca found Watts on the landing outside a numberless door in a nondescript hotel in the tenderloin. Their routine checks of all the establishments which provided rooms for prostitutes to frequent had paid off. The night manager of this one thought the last girl to use the room on the second floor hadn’t come down. However, he was much too involved with a bottle of thunderbird to remember who she went upstairs with or when the john might have left. When Watts checked the room, he knew he had found Rebecca’s missing girl.

"Looks like it’s our boy again," he said as Rebecca approached. His characteristic nonchalance was absent, and if Rebecca didn’t consider it impossible, she would have thought he was upset.

"Dead?"

"Yeah."

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

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

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

"No, and I don’t think we will. He remembers handing her the key. He didn’t see the john go in or out. Didn’t hear anything either."

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

"I’ll get some uniforms on it," Watts responded.

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

"I want you to come upstairs with me and see if you recognize this girl," Rebecca said before Sandy could say anything. Sandy’s eyes widened, but she didn’t protest. Rebecca took her through the crowd of police who were pushing in and out of the room and led her to the bed.

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

"That’s Anne Marie," she said, no hint of emotion in her voice.

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

"I’m sorry, Sandy," Rebecca whispered, rocking her gently as she cried. "I’m sorry."

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

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

Rebecca and Watts headed in to begin the long process of writing up the report and reviewing the entire case, looking for some small item they might have overlooked. Rebecca drove silently, struggling to suppress the depression that threatened to immobilize her. She didn’t think she could stand to see one more woman brutalized by this shadow of a man who continued to elude them. Watts was uncharacteristically silent as well.

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

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

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

"No, sir -- you can’t," she began, only to be interrupted by Watts.

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

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

"Well, it’s not going to be her," Rebecca said, finally finding her voice. "I’m sorry, sir, but I just can’t allow it."

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

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

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

The big man regarded her with compassionate eyes, sensing her fear and believing he understood why. He wasn’t sure what he would do in her position, but he knew what he had to do in his.

"It’s not up to you any longer, Frye. Let’s let the doctor decide."

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

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

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

"We’re hoping that this killer will contact you again soon, Doctor," Henry began.

"He already has. He called at three am"

"Bastard," Rebecca swore.

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

The Captain looked at Rebecca for confirmation.

"We’re not sure yet," Rebecca responded, her face a mask.

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

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

"He said I killed her -- because I wouldn’t meet with him as he had asked."

"That’s bullshit, pardon me, ma’am," Watts interjected. "Nobody killed that girl except the person who crushed her skull, and it sure wasn’t you."

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

"Catherine, you can’t let him make you feel responsible," Rebecca said, her voice harsh with feeling. "It’s just a trick to trap you into seeing him. He’s deadly for god’s sake! I won’t let you do it!"

Catherine saw Watts grimace and realized that Rebecca could be jeopardizing her entire career out of fear for her. She understood it. She’d do anything to keep Rebecca from harm; but she couldn’t let Rebecca risk everything she had sacrificed so much for.

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

"When he calls again, I want you to agree to meet him. We’ll attach a recording device to you, and we’ll know where you are every second. You’ll be quite safe."

"He’s lying, Catherine. A million things can go wrong when you’re wearing a wire, and we won’t be able to put a tail on you because it might scare him off. You’ll be alone with him, with plenty of time for him to kill you before we could reach you," Rebecca said flatly. She met the astonished eyes of her superior officer without flinching. "Tell her, Captain, that you’re asking her to risk her life."

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

Rebecca’s fist slowly relaxed and her fingers entwined with Catherine’s. Her voice was steady when she stated, "If she’s going to do this, it will be my show. I’ll call the shots all the way."

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

He took a deep breath and nodded. "You’ve got it, Frye."
 
 

Chapter Twenty–Seven

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

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

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

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

"Hello?" Catherine said.

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

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

"What girl?"

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

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

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

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

"I can’t tell you now, can I? We must keep it a secret a little longer. Drive to the statue of St. Joan in the park. You’ll find an envelope under three bricks on the left side. Read the instructions and do as it says. And remember, Doctor, I’ll be watching you the entire time, just as I watched the others."

"When?"

"Seven o’clock tonight."

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

Watts finally spoke, breaking the tense silence. "It won’t play. There’s no way we can stake out the meeting place, because we won’t have advance notice of where it is. A wire won’t help much if we’re too far away to get to her in a hurry. He’s got the upper hand, which means that we might lose. It’s no good, Frye."

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

"You’re right, Watts. Let’s send someone out to pick up the note. Maybe there’s something in it that will give us a handle on him."

"Wait!" Catherine cried. "You can’t do that! If I don’t go, he’s going to kill again. Believe me, he’s serious. There’s every possibility that he won’t harm me. I’m special to him -- he needs me to share his victories with. I’m his audience. And there’s a chance I might be able to convince him to surrender himself to me!"

"Can you guarantee that he won’t harm you, Dr. Rawlings?" Rebecca asked pointedly.

"No, I can’t. But I can guarantee he’ll harm someone else if I’m not there to pick up his note at seven o’clock. There must be a way!"

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

"It’s loose, Captain," Rebecca interjected, her voice steady. "She might go where we don’t have any people, or the tail might lose her. It’s too risky."

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

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

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

"Let’s clear out. We got ten minutes to piss before things really heat up."

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

Chapter Twenty–Eight

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

"No."

"For god’s sake, Catherine, why?"

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

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

"I couldn’t bear it," Rebecca said, her voice breaking.

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

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

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

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

Rebecca fixed anxious eyes on Catherine’s calm ones.

"Are you absolutely sure?"

"Yes."

~

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

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

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

Catherine smiled. "I won’t be sorry to take it off."

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

When they reached the car, Catherine turned to Rebecca. "I know you’ll be there. That’s what makes me feel safe. Don’t take any chances. I don’t think he’ll hurt me, at least not right away. He wants to talk to me, to boast of his actions. He doesn’t want to kill me. And I don’t want you to get hurt."

"I hope you’re right," Rebecca said grimly. But I’m not giving him the chance to change his mind. As soon as he shows, it’s over.

Watts was already sitting in the car that would follow Catherine. Rebecca motioned that she would be right there. Now that she was faced with actually letting Catherine go, she wasn’t sure she could do it. Every image she had suppressed of his victims flooded her consciousness, and every one had Catherine’s face. Her arm encircled Catherine’s waist, as if she could shield her from the unknown with the force of her presence.

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

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

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

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

"Right. Let’s do it."
 
 

Chapter Twenty–Nine

Catherine made steady progress across town in the late rush hour traffic. She searched several times for signs of Rebecca and Watts behind her, but she could see no trace of them. She put it from her mind, reassuring herself with the knowledge that they were there somewhere. She was surprised to find her hands were shaking as she lifted the damp envelope from its hiding place. She brought it to the car, as she had been directed, before opening it.

"Walk north on the bike path along the water," she read out loud, wondering if the police could really hear her. She reread the single sentence several times, thinking it was odd that he had chosen that path. The hard-packed dirt path had been nearly abandoned after a wider, paved path had been built nearer to the highway. Of course, she thought, smiling at her own na‘vet», this route is perfect for someone who doesn’t want to be noticed.

Rebecca, however, didn’t miss the significance for a second. "Hell," she groaned. "That trail is four miles long and a lot of it is overgrown with brush. He could be anywhere!"

"Well, at least you’ll have good cover," Watts replied with uncharacteristic optimism.

"There she goes," Rebecca said, reaching for the door handle. She was surprised by Watts’s restraining grip on her arm.

"Give her a few minutes, Frye. You know where she’s headed. If he’s watching and sees you now, the deal’s off. And I say the lady is safer now than she would be if we didn’t know when he was coming."

Rebecca forced herself to watch Catherine’s figure blur into the trees at the water’s edge before she left the car. Watts would drive slowly along the road that meandered through the park, trying to stay in the same vicinity by the bearings Rebecca transmitted to him by radio. It left Catherine and Rebecca fairly isolated, but it was the best they could do.

"There’s a runner coming this way," Catherine’s voice announced in her ear, startling Rebecca with its clarity. She couldn’t see Catherine, who was several hundred yards ahead of her. The dense foliage near the water made for poor visibility, especially in the rapidly deepening darkness.

"I have contact with her, Watts," Rebecca relayed into her own tiny microphone. "We’re about a half mile in along the trail. Nothing yet."

"He’s passing," Catherine continued, a touch of relief in her voice.

Two women runners passed Rebecca from behind. A male cycler followed close thereafter. Rebecca noted his general description, but she didn’t see anything suspicious about him. She relayed their general location to Watts again, knowing that he would direct the other officers staked out in the park in tandem with them as much as possible.

"A woman with a dog approaching. Cute dog," Catherine noted.

That, Rebecca knew, would be Diane Thompson and Cleo. Cleo was a narc dog. They had decided to risk putting one officer on Catherine’s direct route if they could, and the tiny Yorkshire terrier seemed like the perfect cover.

Diane shook her head almost imperceptibly as she passed Rebecca a minute later. "Nothing," she whispered with disappointment.

Rebecca hadn’t expected much. Obviously he wasn’t going to reveal himself. What she couldn’t figure was how he intended to get away, especially with Catherine. Could he be so psychotic he didn’t believe they would be following him? He had set this up so well, and this glaring flaw perplexed her.

"There are some fallen trees up ahead," Catherine reported. "I’m going to have to go around them."

"No!" Rebecca cried silently, breaking into a run. If Catherine were off the trail, not only was she more vulnerable, she was easier to lose. Seconds later Rebecca heard Catherine gasp and then recognized the harsh voice in her ear that froze her heart.

"Where is the wire? Tell me!"

Rebecca heard the rending of cloth before total silence as Catherine’s transmitter went dead.

"Jesus, Watts! He’s got her! Move, move!" Rebecca screamed into her mike as she tore up the trail. She saw the downed trees ahead, and slowed as she approached, her gun in hand. Carefully, she stepped off the path toward the water, searching for some sign. They couldn’t be far ahead! It was evident from some trampled bushes that he had waited here for her. Rebecca’s eye caught a faint flash of color in the grass. She stifled a moan as her fingers closed over one of the cream-colored buttons from Catherine’s blouse. Moving automatically, the tiny connection to Catherine clenched in her hand, she searched for a trail. Through the trees she could see the ever present scullers on the river. Life went on normally around her, while her own life condensed into the sensation of a tiny button pressed into her palm.

She heard footsteps behind her, and turned, her gun poised. It was Watts.

"What happened?" he said breathlessly.

"He was waiting here, just like we knew he would be. I was only a minute behind, but they seemed to have vanished," Rebecca recounted in a flat, empty voice.

Watts would almost rather she panicked. Right now she looked like a loose grenade with the pin pulled, ready to go off at any second.

"They can’t get out of the park, Frye. That’s one thing we did right."

"What if he doesn’t take her out of the park? What if he just rapes and murders her, fifty yards from us, just like the others?"

"Too dangerous. We’ve got people all over here now. And besides, this guy is not stupid. He got her here for a reason, and it wasn’t just to hump her."

Rebecca lunged at him. "Shut your fucking mouth, Watts!" She had her hands on his throat before she realized what she was doing. Just as quickly, she dropped her hands and shook her head to clear it.

"God, I lost it," she said, stepping back. "I’m sorry."

Watts regarded her impassively, waving away her apology. Color returned to her face and her eyes grew sharp and intent.

"They’re not here, Watts. Which means they went somewhere, right?"

Watts nodded in puzzled agreement.

"So where the hell did they go? For that matter, how does he always disappear so easily? They didn’t go up that path, Watts, because two of them would have left quite a trail. And they didn’t go back past me. So where did they go?"

They both turned at the same time. Towards the water.

"Son of a bitch," Watts said, hurrying after Rebecca. "Are we dumb fucks or what? It’s been right in front of our noses the whole time. The goddamned water!"

Their eyes scanned the crew teams and solitary rowers on the river, a sight so familiar it had failed to register in anyone’s mind.

"Janet Ryan stopped to watch the regatta," Rebecca mused out loud, "and I bet if we checked the dates of the other rapes we’d find there was a regatta each time. Perfect cover." She rounded on Watts, her voice sharp with purpose.

"He’s got to be headed for the boathouses! Get the car and follow me. And for God’s sake, keep this quiet. I don’t want Catherine to end up in a hostage situation. Let me go ahead on foot. He won’t be expecting it. He thinks he’s outsmarted us."

"I’ll keep a lid on it for as long as I can, Frye. That means I’m your only backup."

She met his eyes for a moment and was reassured by their unwavering solidity.

"That’s enough."

 

Chapter Thirty

The first thing she noticed was the pounding pain in her jaw. The second was the rhythmic sounds of water rushing past. She tried to turn and found herself wedged uncomfortably into a narrow space at the front of some kind of boat.

"We’re almost there, Catherine," he said. "May I call you `Catherine’?"

She tried to focus on his face in the near darkness. She wanted to put a face to the voice; she needed that to quiet the rising panic that threatened to immobilize her.

"What may I call you?" she asked, her voice sounding odd to her own ears. She ran her tongue experimentally over the inside of her mouth. Swollen, but nothing broken.

"Raymond."

Her heart raced at this small triumph.

"Where are we going, Raymond?"

"To a private place, where no one will disturb us."

"All right."

Catherine made no attempt to sit up. She couldn’t go anywhere, and it was pointless to antagonize him. She became acutely aware of the cold wind on her chest and realized her blouse was open. She remembered him tearing it to pull off the tiny microphone wires that had been taped there. He had not touched her breasts. She tentatively reached up to pull the damaged material closed.

"What’s the matter, does your jaw hurt? I didn’t want to hit you, but I couldn’t let you make any noise."

"My jaw does hurt, and I’m cold."

"You’ll be warm soon."

She couldn’t judge how long she had been in the boat, which she now recognized as a scull. She knew they were moving quickly, and she wondered if Rebecca would find her.

~

There were fifteen boathouses on the river, some owned by private universities, some city property, and some no longer in use. Rebecca was betting that he would be using one of the half dozen unoccupied structures. If she bet wrong, it could mean Catherine’s life. It seemed to take forever for her and Watts to get there. Rebecca would have to check the entire perimeter of each house, and possibly the interiors, in the hope of finding Catherine, and she was racing against the clock.

"Take the street side, Watts. I’ll take the water side. When I move to the next house, I’ll signal you."

"Right."

She melted quickly into the darkness near the water, praying that she would be in time.

~

"I can’t turn the lights on, Catherine, but we have candles. Candles will be nicer, don’t you think?"

He was an average looking man, sandy hair, medium height, and a slender build. It was the voice that captured Catherine’s attention. It had a dreamy quality, almost as if he were reciting well-practiced words. She had heard it before, and it worried her. She had a feeling he was listening to other voices in his head.

"I have to tie your hands, Catherine. You can’t be trusted, and I don’t want you to spoil anything."

"What might I spoil?"

"I don’t want you to move while I’m fucking you. You have to pay attention to what I’m doing." As he spoke he wrapped her wrists behind her back with nylon cord. She was aware that her breasts were exposed, but he didn’t seem to notice. He stepped behind her to pull a tarp over the bench that ran the length of the wall.

"What do you want to show me?" Catherine was desperately casting about for some way to interrupt his thinking. He was obviously playing out a script already written in his mind, and if she couldn’t distract him, she had no hope.

"I want to show you how well I can fuck, and how special it is with me. More than with any of the others." He was kneeling beside her now, emptying the contents of a sports bag on the floor. There were several pairs of shorts, more rope, and a .38 caliber revolver.

"Tell me what it will be like."

He stood up abruptly, and pulled her head back roughly by the hair. His face, previously unnaturally calm, was suddenly contorted with rage.

"I’ll do much better than tell you, Doctor. I’ll show you. And when I’m done you’ll know just how special I am."

~

Rebecca had about given up hope when she spied the dim flicker of light through the shutters of the last boathouse in the row. She carefully pried one piece of wood off the boarded up window and peered inside. Moving slowly, she raised the radio to her lips.

"I’ve got them, Watts. Rear of the last house, first floor. I’m going in. I need you now, Watts."

Her voice sounded strangely hollow in his ear. It spooked him.

"Wait for me, Frye! You’ll get yourself killed!"

Rebecca didn’t hear his message. It wouldn’t have changed her mind.
 
 

Chapter Thirty–One

"Hello, Catherine," Rebecca said as she stepped into the room. She could barely make out the shapes of objects at the far end of the room, but she could see Catherine and the man who stood beside her quite clearly in the glow of the candles he had placed in a circle around them. He was staring at her, a look of confusion on his face.

"Who is your friend?" Rebecca asked, stepping forward slowly, her jacket unbuttoned, the safety off on her automatic.

"This is Raymond," Catherine answered in a steady voice. She looks so calm!

He moved quickly, stepping behind Catherine and pressing the revolver to her temple.

"You shouldn’t have come here," he said. "Now I have to kill her."

"I don’t think so," Rebecca said evenly, her eyes on his face. "I won’t let you."

"You have no idea who I am. You don’t know my power. You can’t stop me." He laughed, enjoying himself.

"You don’t know how powerful I am!" she responded. "This woman is mine. I’ve come for her."

"You’re a fool. I’ll kill you both."

"You can’t kill me," Rebecca said arrogantly, fervently hoping that Watts was in position, and that he could still shoot. She was counting on him to save Catherine’s life. "Go ahead. Try to shoot me. You won’t be able to, you puny pathetic excuse for a man. If you were a man, you wouldn’t have to pull women into the bushes and rape them." Her eyes never left his. "I bet you can’t even get it up if they’re looking you in the face. I bet you’re afraid to let them see just how weak you really are. You don’t have the balls to shoot --"

She rolled left the instant his gun moved from Catherine’s temple, drawing her own simultaneously. She thought she fired, but the impact of the bullet that tore through her chest pitched her backwards. She never knew if Catherine was safe.

~

It was unclear whose bullet hit him first, Rebecca’s or Watts’. Raymond Blake had died instantly, leaving Catherine Rawlings unharmed. Catherine took a leave of absence, stating health reasons. To the casual observer, she would have appeared perfectly healthy as she juggled two shopping bags of groceries and her keys to the door of her brownstone.

She frowned, key in hand, as the door opened.

"You’re not supposed to be up."

"Let me do something," her reluctant patient complained. "You’ve been taking care of me for weeks."

"I've been taking care of you because I love you, Rebecca, and I owe you my life."

Rebecca looked uncomfortable, as she always did when Catherine brought up the night in the boathouse.

"No you don’t. I was just doing my job."

"It was more than that. We both know it!" Catherine cried in an unusual fit of temper. "You knew you could die protecting me. Did you actually believe I could survive it if you traded your life for mine?"

Rebecca looked away. "I don’t know. I only knew I couldn’t survive without you."

Catherine’s anger dissipated as quickly as it had come, the product of her fear. She slipped her arms around Rebecca’s waist, careful not to disrupt the bandages covering the healing wound on her chest.

"Rebecca," she said softly, welcoming the desire Rebecca’s nearness kindled in her. "I love you. I want the chance to love you for a long time. I want you to promise me that I’ll have that chance. If you can’t do that for me, I won’t be able to bear watching you walk out my door. I’ll die inside each time you leave me."

Rebecca’s arms tightened around her, so many words she wanted to say choking her. "I promise."

Catherine clung to the words, knowing it was the most important promise Rebecca would ever make.
 
 

Chapter Thirty–Two

Catherine glanced at the clock as Hazel Holcomb came through the cafeteria line. It was exactly seven-fifteen am. Hazel joined her, carefully arranging her juice and danish on the table before she began to speak.

"Are you ready to come back?" Hazel asked without preamble. It was Catherine’s first full day at the medical center in three months.

"I think so. I’ve missed it."

Hazel studied Catherine silently. She knew very well that Catherine had something on her mind. Whether Catherine knew that was another story. Hazel sipped her coffee and waited.

"Rebecca goes back to work today, too," Catherine added casually.

"Is she anxious to return?"

Catherine’s face lit up with a fond smile. "Can’t wait."

"Are you ready for her to go back to work?"

"Terrified."

"Well," Hazel said in a satisfied voice, "now we’re getting somewhere."

She watched the play of emotions across Catherine’s face. Some kind of internal struggle was clearly raging. Knowing how long Catherine had waited to allow anyone into her heart, Hazel could only imagine what the loss of that love could cost. "You could have chosen someone in a slightly less dangerous line of work, you know. Goodness knows, there are plenty of women around here who have been interested."

"I didn’t fall in love with Rebecca because she’s a cop," Catherine answered defensively.

"Didn’t you?" Hazel probed.

"No! I fell in love with her because of who she is, not what she is!"

"Is there a difference?"

Catherine stared at her friend and mentor. Images of Rebecca passed through her mind. Rebecca leaning against a desk, cool and controlled, an intensity about her that aroused Catherine; Rebecca collapsing against her after orgasm, shedding tears for all the pain she couldn’t allow herself to feel at other times; Rebecca calmly staring into the eyes of Raymond Blake, knowing she would kill him.

"I’ve never wanted to admit that," she replied, a little embarrassed.

Hazel looked surprised. "Why, for heaven’s sake?"

"Because it means she’s never going to stop being a cop," Catherine said quietly. Her eyes, filled with sudden pain, met Hazel’s. "And I’m not sure I can live with it." She didn’t want to go on, afraid of where her words might lead.

"Talk to me about this," Hazel said gently. She sensed Catherine’s fear, but she trusted her strength as well. Catherine’s need to express these fears was the real reason she was here.

"That night in the boathouse Rebecca knew she might die, and she deliberately provoked him," Catherine began, her voice low and tormented. "She looked right into his face and she never wavered. I saw him shoot her, Hazel. I saw her body blown into the air; I saw her blood splash against the wall. She was lying in a pool of blood, completely still, and I thought she was dead. And do you know how I felt? Empty. My mind felt empty; my soul felt empty. If she dies, Hazel, I’m afraid I’ll feel like that for the rest of my life!"

"Does she know how you feel?"

Catherine shook her head. "No. And I don’t want her to. Being a cop is too much a part of her. She’d die if she didn’t do this."

Hazel nodded, always having known that Catherine would love without reservation when she finally allowed herself to love at all.

"Then you’re going to have to love her enough to let her go each and every day," Hazel said.

Catherine stared for a long time at the cup clenched in her hands, feeling the sadness of acceptance. When she raised her eyes to Hazel’s, they were calm.

"I don’t have any choice. I won’t give her up."

~

Rebecca settled into the seat next to Watts, content to let him drive, happy to be back in a world she knew. Watts hadn’t said much since the Captain announced that he had assigned them as permanent partners. Neither of them had protested. There was something Rebecca wanted to say, but, as usual, she was having trouble finding the words. Watts was strangely quiet as well.

"I got a kid, you know," he finally said, staring straight ahead.

"Oh yeah?" Rebecca responded noncommittally.

"A son. He’s a lawyer. He lives with another guy. They’ve been together ten years."

Rebecca too stared straight out through the windshield. "I never thanked you for that night we nailed Blake. I counted on you to save Catherine’s life. You came through for me."

He shrugged. "I couldn’t let him waste the doc. Guess I got a soft spot for dames. But you know, Frye, you can’t let yourself take ‘em too seriously. You’re finished if you do."

Rebecca smiled to herself, deciding not to be offended.

"She’s something special, Watts."

Watts shook his head in mock sadness. "Shit, Frye, you’re already a goner."

They laughed and drove off together, eager for whatever the streets might hold.  

The End

Comments please to radclyffe@radfic.com

This story is a work of fiction and is not intended to represent any particular individual, alive or dead. This work may not be printed or distributed for profit without the express written permission of the author.  

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