"Chris, don't leave me! Please don't leave me!" the slim brunette woman called out.
Moments later, Chris Lorenzo woke up in a cold sweat, the sheets on the queen-size bed damp and twisted. It was the same dream he had been having for the past month, the one that woke him in the middle of the night and made him afraid to close his eyes again.
He got up and made his way downstairs, only to hear angry footsteps following close behind him minutes later.
"Chris, was it a dream about her again?"
He turned around to face a very angry Dr. Jillian Dupree. She stood there glaring at him with her hands on her hips,tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for his answer. Somehow, to him, she looked nothing like the woman he had fallen in love with so many months before."It was just a nightmare," he lied.
She didn't believe him. She could tell when he was lying to her because he always turned away and played with the friendship ring on his left pinky finger...the ring Rita had given him five years ago after he'd given her an Irish friendship ring.Don't you dare lie to me one more time, Chris! This is what? The third time just this week that you've had a dream about Rita! I thought that coming here with me would change things, but it obviously hasn't!"
He didn't say a word as he stared out of the window at the Boston skyline. Jillian walked in front of him, looking for something in his expression that would tell her that she was wrong. Instead his face was like that of a hurt and confused child. "What can she give you, Chris?" Jillian pleaded."Who knows if she will ever come out of her coma? She may very well lie there in that hospital room for the rest of her !"
As soon as she made this statement, Chris' eyes turned an almost purple color, the way they got when he was very angry. But he wouldn't raise his voice at her. "You don't understand" he whispered.
"I don't understand?! Chris, I gave you 6 months to sit there with her after the accident, 24 hours a day! I was lucky if I saw you once a week because you spent all of your time trying to bring that ...that vegetable out of her coma!"
Now Chris had completely lost it."Don't you ever, EVER insult Rita like that again! She has been my best friend and my partner for the last five years. She was there for me when I needed someone, which is more than I can say for you. Your world is one of hospital functions, glamorous dinner parties and rubbing elbows with the filthy rich .You treated my friends like you're so much better than they are. They couldn't stand you, Jillian! They all told me that we were all wrong for each other, even Rita, but she tolerated you for my sake!"
"There you go again, switching the topic of conversation back to Rita,"Jillian shot back."Well, I have an ultimatum for you, Chris. You can stay with me and I can practically buy you a job as Captain at the Boston Police Department, or you can go back to being a lowly Sergeant in Palm Beach with your precious Rita!"
Chris knew what he wanted to do. He turned and glared at Jillian one last time, then turned and walked out the door.
Blip...blip...blip. The heart monitor in room #77 at Palm Beach Memorial Hospital had kept a steady pace for the last seven months. Dr. Craig Stevens entered the room and smiled at his patient."And how are we today, Miss Lance?" he said to her. Rita replied the same way she did every day when he came to check up on her she laid there on the bed, eyes shut and a sort of half-smile on her face. The doctor chuckled to himself. He always knew that she wouldn't answer back, but he still talked to her every day, just like Harry and Fran Lipschitz did.And just like that dark-haired guy used to do when he came to see her, Dr. Stevens thought.He was the only one who could get any kind of response out of her, whether it was just theslightest movement of her hand or the twitch of an eye. It's too bad that he had to leave the doctor thought sadly. He didn't want to admit it to Harry, but deep down he knew that there was a big chance that Rita may never come out of this. After Chris had left, her vital signs had dropped significantly and they hadn't returned to normal since. Dr. Stevens was lost in thought when he heard the door open behind his back. He turned around to see Frannie holding a brightly colored afghan and an iron in her hands.
"How's my doll today, doc?" she asked.
"Not much change, I'm afraid,"he replied."But just keep talking to her. With you and your husband fighting for her like this, she always has a good chance of waking up"
Frannie politely smiled at the doctor, but deep down, she wanted to strangle him. He had been saying the same thing to her every day since this whole ordeal began..."keep talking to her."
As Dr. Stevens excused himself to attend to another patient, Frannie watched the sun rise on what would be another beautiful day in Palm Beach. She took hold of one of Rita's hands and stared up at the sky. "Dear God, please bringChristopher home." she prayed.
"Attention all passengers. Flight 515 from Boston to Palm Beach will be landing in approximately ten minutes. Please fasten your seatbelts" The rest of the pilots message was interrupted in Chris mind by another daydream about Rita. He was remembering all of the wonderful times that they had shared Friday nights curled up on his couch watching Casablanca, moonlit strolls on the beach, hours spent teasing each other over who would pay for lunch at the Roach Coach,the little things always meant so much to her. As the plane touched down and all of his surroundings became familiar, Chris silently vowed to help Rita get that life back again .
The drive from the airport to the hospital seemed to last for hours.Along the way, Chris wondered how Cap and Frannie would receive and Rita too. He knew that Harry was very angry with him for leaving when Rita needed him the most, and also for quitting his job.But hell, he didn't care about the job now, although if he knew Cap, he had never even turned Chris badge in. He had come back for Rita and he just hoped that he wasn't too late.
"Heschy, would you please stop pacing? Your blood pressure is going to skyrocket again if you don't calm yourself down!" an exasperated Frannie told her worried husband.
"How can I calm down, Frannie?" he asked her."The department is falling apart. I've got a DB down on North Shore and I had to send two of my most inexperienced officers up there!," he said, referring Michael Price and Holly Rawlins."Rita and Chris were always the pride and joy of my department. I used to boast to my buddies at the NYPD that I had the two best homicide cops on the job working for me," he stated sadly.
Fran knew that he needed a distraction, or else he was going to drive both of them crazy."Cmon Hesh, I'll take you out to eat. My treat, and you can order anything you want."
Although he hated leaving Rita, he decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity to eat something other than Frannie's bean sprout casserole and the hospitals idea of food. Little did they know, Rita wouldn't be alone for very long.
Chris had butterflies in his stomach as he walked down the dimly lit corridor toward Rita's room. A lump began to form in his throat when he reached the door, and he almost turned around and walked away. Damn Lorenzo, you got yourself into this mess it's up to you to fix things with her, he thought to himself. Finally, he took a deep breath and went in. His heart skipped a beat the moment he laid eyes on her for the first time in more than five long weeks.God, she's beautiful, he said out loud to nobody in particular. He resisted the urge to wrap his arms around her because she was still hooked up to about a dozen different machines. Instead, he carefully sat on the edge of the bed and held both of her small, fragile hands in his.
Even though he knew that Rita wouldn't respond to him, he felt obligated to say something. "Rita...sunshine ,I am so sorry. I didn't want to leave you, you have to believe that.Jillian wouldn't give me any more time. " By now, tears that he had been holding back were streaming down his face. "I know that I can't blame her completely,she didn't force me to go,but I couldn't face going to work everyday and not seeing you. And I ran to hide my feelings for you." Chris let out a long, deep breath. This was the first time that he had admitted to himself that he had gone to Boston out of fear that Rita wouldn't feel the same way for him as he did for her "All of that doesn't matter now. What matters is, I'm here, with you, right where I belong. You're going to pull out of this, Rita. And when you do, I'll be there every second,every minuteof every day for the rest of your life." He released one of her hands to gently touch her cheek. Her skin was soft and warm...like the way it was all of those nights she fell asleep in my arms watching Maltese Falcon, he thought to himself. What he wouldn't give to be able to do that with her now. Chris wondered if her condition had upgraded at all. He also wondered where Cap and Frannie were, or if any of her friends had come to visit her at all recently. Only one way to find out, Lorenzo, he thought. Somebody might as well know that you're back, and who better to tell first than the good doctor himself?
Chris went to get up and find Dr. Stevens, but he felt the slightest pull on his left handthe one that was still holding onto Rita's. He looked down to see her fingers curled around his. Then her eyelids began to flutter. Oh my God, she's coming out of it!, he thought excitedly. He opened the door to her room and yelled down the hall for a doctor, but got no response after several tries. He didn't want to leave in case she woke up.
"C'mon Sammy, you can do it! Show me those beautiful green eyes of yours" he coaxed her. Minutes later, his dreams came true. Rita slowly opened her eyes and focused them on Chris' face, which now had tears of joy streaming down it. But her first three words would send his whole world crashing down around him. Rita looked at her best friend of five years and simply asked,"Who are you?"
Chris felt like he had been punched in the gut. But before he had a chance to respond, Dr. Stevens came rushing into the room. He just stood there and stared back and forth in shock, first at Rita and then at Chris. He couldn't think of a thing to say. Then Rita broke the with a raspy whisper."Where am I? Who are you? Somebody answer me!," she demanded. The doctor turned to Chris. "Would you go find me another doctor?,"he asked him. Chris nodded to him and left. Each step down the hallway felt like he was lifting a dead weight, and his mind was like a swirling tornado of a thousand different emotions. Why didn't his Sammy remember him?
Back in Rita's room, Dr. Stevens checked all of Rita's vitals while answering her questions."You, Miss Lance, were involved in a bad automobile accident several months ago. You were on duty, chasing after a suspect in a large van.They slammed on their brakes unexpectedly. You didn't have time to react,your car skidded about 60 feet down the road and you were thrown from it. You suffered a broken pelvis, a bruised spine, some lacerations and a very severe concussion. The concussion is what caused you to lapse into the coma we expected you to wake up quite some time ago. Everyone at the hospital gave you the nickname Sleeping Beauty."
Rita was so confused. She had a million questions to ask, but her throat was so dry she could barely talk. Sensing this, the doctoroffered her a glass of water, which she gratefully accepted."What do you mean I was on duty chasing a suspect"
"You're a cop, Rita, remember? Palm Beach P.D." he stated.
She just gave him a blank look."I want to see my family, where's my family?" she asked. At this point, Chris re-entered with another doctor, who took over while Dr. Stevens motioned for Chris to join him in the hallway. "What's the matter with her doctor?! Why doesn't she remember me?" he asked frantically.
Dr. Stevens did his best to ease Chris' fears. "It's normal for someone in a coma to have amnesia when they first wake up," he explained."She should start to remember things in a few hours...right now her brain is trying to re-adjust itself." Chris breathed a sigh of relief. "By the way, when did you get back into town? " he asked Chris.
"I was just about to ask him the same thing." they heard a familiar voice say.
"Cap!"Chris exclaimed. Harry and Frannie were just getting back from dinner. Cap was about to give Chris the third degree when Dr. Stevens interrupted him "Mr. and Mrs. Lipschitz, Rita decided to rejoin us about ten minutes ago" he informed them. Harry and Frannie were jubilant until Chris interrupted their celebration."Cap, don't get too excited yet,she doesn't remember any of us"
Rita Lee Lance sat in her hospital bed and tried to hold back tears as another doctor gently informed her that she didn't have any immediate family."But I could hear people talking...I could feel them touching me..sometimes" she whispered.
"Rita, that was Mr. and Mrs. Lipschitz, your boss and his wife...they've been here every day since you were brought in, taking care of you. Do you remember?" he asked her. She slowly shook her head back and forth, letting him know that she had no clear recollection of either of them."Well, what about Chris Lorenzo? He's your partner and your best friend. He was here when you woke up." Again she shook her head again while wiping away a few stray tears. "Well Miss Lance, it is common to have a mild case of amnesia after being out for such an extended period of time," he told her."Ill go get your attending physician, Dr. Stevens, and he'll tell you more about it. But just so you know, you're one lucky lady. Most people emerge from comas unable to speak and forget how to do everyday,ordinary things like eat. But you' you'll be just fine."he said, trying to reassure her.
In the hallway, Chris, Harry and Frannie were all waiting anxiously to see her. Then the doctor emerged from Rita's room with a grim look on his face, and Chris could tell that something wasn't right. He whispered something into Dr. Stevens ear and then left. "What is it? What's the matter with Rita?!" Chris pleaded.
"Like I said, it's normal in a case like hers to have some mild amnesia, but...." the doctor began. Harry didn't like the sound of it. "But what?"
"Rita should remember at least one of you, but she doesn't. We'd have to run more tests, but for now it looks like she won't be remembering anything for a longer period of time than we thought. She's naturally nervous and scared right now, and I don't think that it would be a good idea for any of you to visit with her tonight"
"Chris, why don't you head on home?" Cap asked. By now it was after midnight. Both of them had been sitting in the hallway outside of Rita's room since the doctor told them that they couldn't see her.
"No way Cap. Besides, I won't be able to sleep anyway so I may as well stay here. Harry understood. Ever since he had put them together as partners, Chris and Rita were like the missing piece to the other's soul.
"Well then, isn't there something you'd like to explain to me?" Cap asked.
"Yeah...I guess I should start by explaining why I came back to Palm Beach, huh?" He told him the whole story about what had happened with Jillian, and how he had all of those dreams about Rita begging him not to leave her. Chris hesitated. There was more to tell, but could Cap handle it? He looked at Rita's door as he spoke."I realized that all along, I was never in love with Jillian...it was always Rita. When I thought I might lose her though, I ran to hide my feelings and my fears. With Jillian it was easy to pretend...put on a happy face, pretend like you're worth a million bucks, and it's not too hard. She wasn't real...not like my Sammy" he finished. He looked at Cap for some sort of reaction.
"Chris, I only have one thing to say...if Rita ever comes back to work,because you can consider yourself rehired...how can I find a way to bend the rules to keep you two as partners?"
Meanwhile, inside of her room, Rita didn't want to go back to sleep even though she was exhausted, afraid that she would lapse back into the coma. She was so confused and lonely. " I'm a cop?... she wondered to herself. Rita could barely picture herself in that profession, or any profession, for that matter. She didn't know herself anymore, and it scared her to death. Glancing across the room, she eyed a box that one of the doctors had brought in. Supposedly, it was a box of her belongings that a Frannie somebody had gotten from her house, wherever that was. She went over and opened it. There were some pictures... one with Rita hugging a guy who had short black hair and bright blue eyes...the same guy who was here earlier, she realized Another showed her in some sort of ceremony wearing a police uniform and holding what appeared to be a certificate. Looking further down into the box, she discovered some paperback books.
"Suzy Pratt," she said aloud."These look like kids books...but I don't have kids, do I?...God, why can't I remember?!!!"
She tossed the box onto the floor and sobbed softly into her pillow. Ten minutes later she was sound asleep.
Chris opened his eyes and looked around. It took a few seconds for him to realize that he was still at the hospital. Then he saw Cap sleeping next to him. He looked at the clock on the wall above them. It was only six a.m. No wonder everything is so quiet!, he thought. Last night the place had been bustling with paramedics and sick patients running all around. Chris sat up and rubbed his neck, which was stiff from sleeping in that uncomfortable plastic chair. Being careful not to disturb Cap, he gotup and tiptoed over to Rita's door. Through the window, Chris could see her curled up in bed. The doctor told me not to visit last night, but he didn't say I couldn't see her this morning, he thought. Silently, he crept in and sat in a chair next to the bed. His arms ached to hold her, something he knew wasn't possible. Dr. Stevens had told him last night that it was best to take things slow...not to push Rita too hard to try to remember things, or tell her things about her past that might upset her. Right now she might not even trust him. Chris watched her sleep for a while, all the while wishing that he could take her pain away...that she would wake up and remember what they meant to each other."I'm gonna help you remember Sammy,"he whispered. As he got up to leave, he looked down and saw some pictures strewn on the floor. He bent down and picked up the one closest to him. Looking at it, tears began to form in his eyes. It had been taken the summer before at the PBPD annual picnic, and Chris was giving Rita a piggyback ride. He remembered how seconds after the picture was snapped he dumped her in the sand, where they playfully wrestled and laughed until their sides hurt. Walking back over to Rita, he gently placed the picture in her hand, hoping it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.
Back out in the hallway, Cap was now awake. As Chris exited Rita's room, Harry tried to give him a disapproving look, but it didn't work. If it were Frannie lying in there, he would have done the same thing."How is she?" he asked.
"She's in a sound sleep," Chris replied." I can't stand to see her like this, Cap" she was always the strong one between the two of us. Now when I look at her I see this fragile, lost little girl."
"It's up to you to be the strong one now" Harry told him. "She would have wanted that from you, Christopher. Which means, you are back to work tomorrow,no arguments. You can't sit around this hospital twenty-four hours a day feeling sorry for her, because it won't do her or you any good."
Chris tried to get a word in but Cap continued his little tirade."Price and Rawlins picked up a DB at North Shore yesterday...I want you on the investigation in the afternoons, and you can bring the paperwork here at night. Try showing it to Rita, see if it helps spark her memory. But first you need to start looking like a cop...so go home, take a shower, and then get your butt back here."But Cap..."
"Don't but me, Lorenzo...go, go go!"
Rita tossed and turned, finally waking up from getting the sheets on the hospital bed twisted around her uncomfortably. The sun shone brightly through her windows, and outside she could see a happy couple getting in the car to take their newborn home for the first time. Sighing, she sat up to ring her buzzer for the doctor, and she felt something fall from her right hand. Picking it up, she discovered that it was one of the pictures from the box Frannie had brought over. But I threw all of that stuff on the floor last night...how did this end up in my hand?, she wondered. She examined it closely...that same guywas in it again, and he was carrying her around on his back. They looked happy and carefree. She tried to remember when and where the picture was taken, but she couldn't. Frustrated, she put the picture back into the box and rang for the doctor.
Dr. Stevens was in his office when he received the page. He was heading over to the elevator to go check on her when he saw Chris come in the door, returning from his quick shower and change of clothes. "Chris, perfect timing! I'm on my way to Rita's room," he told him."Can I see her?"he asked."Well, that's up to her...I know this isn't something you want to hear, but she may be scared of and overwhelmed by you, Harry, and Fran right now. It's going to take her some time to get used to all of you again."
"No, you see doc, my Rita is a fighter. She's gonna want to face this thing head-on. Even if she's scared she won't back down...if she's still the Rita I remember" Chris told him.
"I hope you're right Chris, because a good attitude will be essential if Rita wants to get back the life that she lost. I've seen patients overcome this, but I've also seen them succumb to it...they became too afraid and shut everyone else out, including their families and friends."
"Well, Cap, Frannie and I aren't the only ones pulling for Rita. The whole department is planning on visiting her, hoping to stir up some memories...not all at once of course"Chris said with a mischievous smile on his face."Oh, and how can I forget Keisha, her best friend? ...Well, besides me, or course. When I called her in Alaska to tell her the good news, she arranged a trip here as soon as possible."
By now, they had arrived at the hallway to Rita's room, where they met up with Harry."Captain Lipschitz, I was just explaining to Chris...it's up to Rita whether or not you'll be able to visit with her. So, let me go check on her, talk to her a little and see if she's ready for a trip down memory lane just yet."With that, Dr. Stevens disappeared into the room.
"Good morning Miss Lance, how are we feeling today?," he asked her cheerfully."
"I'm still a little tired," she responded
"Well, that's normal. You've been out for a long time. We had some physical therapists do some exercises on your arms and legs over the past few months, so you wouldn't lose muscle tissue. Today we want to get you started on regular therapy...walking, stretching, light weights just to see what your prognosis is as far as a speedy recovery goes."
She nodded. "I feel fine physically...just weak."
"And how are you feeling mentally, Rita?"
"I can't remember a thing...it's so frustrating! I've been going through some of the stuff in this box... my own belongings...and I don't even remember the people in these pictures!"
"I know you're frustrated, and I wish there was something I could do to help. But unfortunately, recovery in this area will depend on your willingness to help yourself remember. If you get scared, you have to tell yourself that everyone around you are all people you have trusted before, and they would never hurt you."
"But how do I know who to trust and who not to?" she asked."
I've got a few people to help you with that. Yesterday I told you about Captain Lipschitz and your friend Chris...they're still here, and they want to see you. They love you very much, and they know everybody that you were associated with. They can tell you whom to trust. But first, you have to trust them...can you do that, Rita?"
"I guess but only one at a time, I am still a bit tired."
"Well, who shall I send in first? "
She reached over for the picture she had found in her hand that morning."This one,"she said, pointing to Chris.
"Well then, you shall get your wish. One Sgt. Chris Lorenzo, coming right up" he laughed.
Chris and Harry were sitting out in the hall staring at the door when it finally opened. They both jumped up at the same time.
"She decided on having visitors one at a time. We went through some pictures and she pointed out Chris. So Sgt. Lorenzo, you can go on in now. Harry, as soon as he's done, you'll get your turn. When your wife comes later, you can let her in as well. Now, I am going to check on Rita's physical therapy schedule...I'll be back," he said in his best Terminator voice, hoping to lighten their moods. He knew that they were both very nervous, wondering how Rita would react when they spoke to her
Harry reached over and gave Chris a fatherly hug."It'll be ok, Lorenzo. The ladies never could resist you" he teased.
Chris gave him a tiny smile and then opened the door to her room. It closed behind him a second later, trapping him and Rita in a world all their own.
She was sitting in a chair by the window when he came in, wrapped in her favorite green terrycloth robe that Frannie had brought from her house. He felt so awkward, wondering if he should re-introduce himself. Luckily, Rita broke the silence.
That's me!" he joked, giving her one of his Lorenzo smiles.
He pulled a chair over and sat across from her. From the position she was in, the sun was shining directly into her face. He couldn't remember another time when she looked so beautiful, even though she still had an IV in her arm and a bandage on her forehead.
"Can you tell me about myself?" she whispered.
He didn't know where to begin...she was looking into his eyes and he was quickly losing control of his senses.
"Well, we have been best friends for almost six years now. We call each other Sam, or Sammy...whichever."
"Slammin Sammy Snead, the greatest golfer that ever lived!" He smiled on the inside as he thought about their metaphor for golf. He didn't dare tell her what it really meant, at least not at this.
"I watched golf?" Her face crinkled into this little frown at the mere thought of it...she couldn't picture herself as the sporty type of woman.
"Rita, you used to come over to my place and we'd curl up on the couch and watch golf for hours!,"he teased her. "Or Maltese Falcon, or Casablanca, or whatever movie we were in the mood for."
"So we spent a lot of time together?"
"We were together all the time, Sa...I mean Rita." He had wanted to call her Sam so bad...that name felt so familiar. But he knew she wasn't ready for that yet...to get close to him. After all, it was like they were starting all over again.
"You...are you married?" He started laughing at this last question.
"Me...the infamous bachelor of bachelors?" Then he got more serious"Actually, my heart has only ever belonged to one woman, and maybe someday I'll have her heart, too."
Rita watched him closely. All of a sudden he had a far-off and vulnerable look in his eyes. She decided to change the subject.
"What about me? Am I...was I...in a relationship?"
"You were involved with someone a little over a year ago" His entire body tensed and he clenched his fists at the thought of Eric Russell. But lucky for both of them, he was in a place now where he could never hurt anyone again like he had hurt Rita.
"What happened? Where is he now? Why aren't we together?"
He sighed. He hated having to be the one to break this to her...she was probably going to be angry with him, maybe even kick him out. But he had to tell her the truth.
Gently, he put one hand on top of hers and looked into her bright green eyes. To his surprise, she didn't pull away. His touch felt comforting to her.
"Rita, you were involved with a guy named Eric Russell. He was a writer who came to Palm Beach to get information for one of his books. The book was about a serial killer that you and I were tracking. After we had wrapped up the case you began dating. At first he seemed charming, but then he began drinking. He got violent towards you. You got scared and broke it off with him. We were together one afternoon when he came looking for revenge. He had a gun...but I killed him , before he could get a shot off."
Rita was speechless. Looking up at her, he expected to see hatred and anger because he had killed a man...and not just any man...the man that she had once loved. Instead, she gently squeezed his hand.
"We must have been pretty close for you to do that for me."
"I would never let anyone hurt you, Rita. When I saw the gun in his hand, my first and only thought was to protect you."
She decided to switch gears for a second...this was getting too personal for her too soon."Did I like being a cop?"
"You loved your job. And everyone in the department loves you. They all can't wait to see you, but I told them that it was doctor's orders and they would have to wait."
I never killed anyone?"she asked hopefully.
He knew this would be hard on her."Unfortunately, you've had to protect either yourself, or me, or someone else many times, and you had to shoot many people. But you accepted it then...you were always the strong one between the two of us."
Suddenly she got a little hostile. "What is this "two of us" thing? Were we attached at the hip or something?!" she snapped.
Seeing the extremely hurt look in his eyes, she quickly apologized."I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you, honest. I'm just so confused right now!" Soon tears were trickling down her cheeks.
Normally at a time like this, it would be natural instinct for him to put his arms around her and just hold her. But now they seemed miles apart. Instead, he put a comforting hand on her shoulder."Shhhh...don't cry Rita. It's going to be ok, I promise. It's my fault...I shouldn't be telling you so much at one time and confusing you."
"Don't blame yourself" she told him."You didn't hit me..with that car..and take my whole..life away,"she said between sobs.
Suddenly, she threw herself into his arms, just needing to be comforted and to feel secure. He was surprised, but his heart was overjoyed. He held her close and stroked her hair until her sobs quieted down.
Several minutes later, she pulled away."I'm sorry...for dumping all of my problems on you," she said. He was about to tell her that it was ok and that he would do anything for her, when Captain Lipschitz burst into the room.
"Chris, we have an attempted murder over at the airport. A flight just got in from Alaska...a young colored woman, maybe late twenties, stabbed multiple times as she was getting off of the plane"
Chris felt his blood go cold as he realized what Cap was trying to tell him..it was Keisha!
He stood up and whispered in Cap's ear. "How bad is she?"
"She was stable when they called here several minutes ago, but there's no telling how bad it is until they get her to the hospital. You may as well wait for the ambulance to arrive down in the ER, then goover to the airport and check out the scene. Price and Rawlins are on it now, but you may find something that they overlooked.
"Chris lowered his voice even more. "Should we tell Rita?"
No, she doesn't even remember her right now. If we explained it all to her, it's going to upset her."
Chris nodded and turned his attention back to Rita, who was watching the two of them very quizzically.
"I'm going to have to leave for a little while, but this is Captain Lipschitz, and he's gonna visit with you for a while...is that okay?"
Thank you...for trying to help me remember."
He flashed her one of his Lorenzo grins again."Anytime, Sunshine...anytime." With that, he was gone.
On his way down to the ER, Chris kept going over what had happened to Keisha in his head. Why would someone ever want to hurt her? he thought. She and Rita had become close friends shortly after Chris and Rita started working in Palm Beach. In fact, the two women were a lot alike. But then Keisha got an offer for a well-paying job as a ME in Alaska. Rita had been devastated when her other best friend had left. For a long time she was afraid that Chris was going to leave her, too, especially after her relationship with Eric ended. Things were finally getting back to normal in their friendship when Rita was in the accident. Then Chris had gone off to Boston.
And look at the situation you're in now, Lorenzo, he thought to himself. If you hadn't left Palm Beach, Rita may have woken up sooner and Keisha would be fine.
The elevator chimed as he reached the ER. When he walked out into the hall, the first thing he saw was a group of paramedics gathered around a gurney. There was blood everywhere, and they were shouting directionson what kinds of IVs to get started. He knew before he even got any closer that it was Keisha, and it looked bad.
A second later he was approached by a slightly balding, tall, middle-aged man.
"Detective Lorenzo?"Chris nodded.
"I'm doctor Wilks. I'll be operating on your friend Keisha."
"Operating?" Chris' jaw dropped open in surprise. Cap had told him that she was stable.
"She's got some pretty deep cuts in her abdominal area that will require some minor surgery. It appears as if she will be fine otherwise, but the next few hours are going to be crucial."
"Is there anything I can do?" Chris asked."Not at the moment, I'm afraid .She should be going into surgery any minute, so I'm afraid I have to get going. We should be finished in a few hours, rough estimate. Then we'll take her into ICU. If her condition changes drastically, someone will contact you." With that, he followed the doctors who were wheeling Keisha into the operating room.
Minutes later, Chris was tapping on Rita's door to let Cap know he was back. Harry spoke with Rita for another moment and then emerged. "How is she, Chris?" "How is she, Cap?" They looked at each other and burst out laughing when they realized they had asked the same question about two different people You first, Lorenzo!"
They're taking her into surgery now. They estimated that it would take a few hours, then she'll be put in ICU. I guess we can see her after that, but they didn't say."
"Now, how was your talk with Rita?" Cap just looked at him and had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. One of their best friends had almost been killed and still, all Chris worried about was Rita.
"She asked a lot of questions about my relationship with her, your relationship with her, her job"...he trailed off.
"Did she seem ok with you? I mean, did she seem nervous? Comfortable?"
"Sheesh! You ask more questions than she does!"I'm just worried about her. When I was in with her, one second she's trying to get away from me, the next, she's in my arms," Chris whispered.
"Actually, the doctor wants us to write down any kind of mood swings Rita may have while we're in with her. Seeing some kind of pattern in behavioral changes might give them a better idea as to what's wrong with her" Harry told him.
"Well, I want to go talk to her a little bit more," Chris said.
"Not now. She needs to rest before they take her down for therapy. Why don't you go over to the airport and see if you can help out Price and Rawlins? By the time you come back, she'll probably be ready to have visitors again. That is, if Frannie, Ms. Mother Hen, doesn't spend all afternoon trying to force chicken soup down her throat" said Cap, gesturing towards a big pot of soup sitting on the chair next to them."She's going to be here soon."
Chris wanted to stay, but he also knew that Cap wouldn't take no for an answer."You won't let her out of your sight while I'm gone?"
"Actually, she did mention that she's going to sneak out to go run in that marathon they're having downtown" Cap said sarcastically.
"Ok, ok, I can take a hint! She'll be fine."
Harry felt bad. He knew that he shouldn't tease Chris about such a delicate subject."I'm sorry kid, I was just teasing you. But she will be fine. And so will you. It'll do you good to get your mind off of her for a while and to get some work done. You do want your paycheck, don't you?"
Now Chris was inching his way towards the door."I'll be back ASAP, Cap!"
Harry laughed as he watched Chris' retreating back. "Yes, it's good to have you home, Lorenzo it's good to have you home,he whispered.
"You find anything yet? Holly Rawlins asked."Not yet...whoever did this was real clean" detective Price answered."No prints, no weapon, and no surveillance video. They covered it up with a cloth from behind.
"Damn, don't you hate it when they're just so darn smart?" they heard a familiar voice say from behind them.
"Chris!" Holly exclaimed. Price just eyed him warily.
"Detective Lorenzo, so nice of you to return from your long, paid, leave of absence" Michael spat out.
Holly sensed the hostility and stepped between the two bulls that looked like they were about to butt heads".It's great to have you back, Chris. We could really use some help."
"Why thank you, detective Rawlins. It's nice to know somebody missed me while I was gone" Chris said, while still staring Price down
Holly handed him the ME's report. "There's not much I can tell you, I'm afraid. It looks like the perp held her from behind with his right arm and used his left one to inflict the wounds. Tight grip, too, because there were marks from his hands around her waist. But no fingerprints...he had gloves on"she said.
"He? How can you be sure it was a he?" Chris asked.
"Handprints were too large to be a female, Mr. Smart Cop" Price
Chris ignored him."It doesn't matter who did it, Keisha's strong. She would have put up a fight. Show me exactly where it happened." Chris demanded.
They led him to the rear exit of the plane. There was still blood splattered everywhere, and cops were taking samples and examining the area for evidence.
"None of us have found anything yet" said Holly.
Chris bent down and scanned the entire area around where they were standing. All he saw was a trail of blood, along with a few tufts of black hair, which he was sure belonged to Keisha.
"The hair is an obvious sign that she put up a struggle" he said. "Hand me some gloves, will ya?"
Holly reached into her coat and retrieved a pair for him.Standing up straight, Chris put them on and began to feel along the wall. If his instincts were right....
"Ah ha!"Chris held out his index finger to detectives Price and Rawlins.
"What? I don't see anything" Michael scoffed.
Chris gave him a sarcastic smile. "That, my friend, is because you haven't been on the job long enough to see what I see!" At this, he held his hand about an inch away from Price's face. Between his fingers were a few short strands of hair, golden-brown in color.
"I don't get it. What's the big deal? Anyone could have been leaning against that wall. That hair could be days, even weeks old!"
Chris grinned at her and shook his head."We'll see about that! "He walked over to a janitor that was mopping the floor about twenty feet away."Scuse me, sir." The older man looked up at him. "About how often do you wash down the walls?" Chris had a gut instinct the wall still smelled of antiseptic, even though there were strict instructions given not to go near the crime scene with any kind of cleaner.
"Every morning and every evening" the man replied.
"Thanks for your help."
The janitor nodded and walked off. Chris turned back to the other two detectives."Well, my first theory was right," Chris stated confidently.
"You mean you have more than one thought at a time swimming around inside that little head of yours, Lorenzo?" Price commented."That could be dangerous."
Holly eyed her partner with a look that told him now was not the time to set the veteran detective off. Luckily, Chris had grown accustomed to ignoring Michael.
"So what else are you thinking,?"she asked.
"Keisha took a self defense class with Rita. When we were in Rita's apartment, Keisha showed me one of the maneuvers they had learned if they were caught off guard in a small area, such as a hallway like this. If she were trying to defend herself, she would have probably tried to take his legs out first and then make a run for it. If he had fallen at all, his head would have hit one of the walls. Presumably this one, if he was left-handed."
Holly nodded her understanding."Do you want us to take them to the lab? I'm sure you want to get back to the hospital."
Chris smiled at the thought of seeing Rita again. He'd been away from her two hours, tops, and he missed her so much it hurt.
"Yeah, thanks. Are you two coming over today at all?"
"If we get a chance. We've still got a lot of work to do on the DB we picked up the other day."Chris nodded. "She still can't remember any of us, or being a cop," he said somberly.
For once, Price was sympathetic."Don't worry, I'm sure it won't be long until she remembers. We're all pulling for her" he said honestly.
Chris gave him a small, but sincere smile as he walked away."I'll tell her you said that. Seeeeya!"
Holly and Michael looked at each other and smiled a knowing smile. They both knew that once Rita got her memory back, it wouldn't be long......
"Lorenzo! What in the hell are you doing back already?" Harry looked at his watch to confirm his suspicions. He was right Chris hadn't been gone more than 2 hours.
"I missed you too, Cap" Chris said with his best puppy dog look on his face.
"That may work on Rita, but it doesn't work on me. Now, what have you got? And it better be good for you to be back this soon!" Cap growled.
"Well, it took me all of 10 minutes to discover some crucial evidence that Price and Rawlins overlooked" Chris said with a satisfied expression. "I think that qualifies as good, don't you?"
"Well, aren't we just Mr. Modesty? It all depends on what kind of evidence it is. So why don't you park your butt and tell Uncle Harry all about it?"
"Say Cap, did someone wake up on the wrong side of the chair this morning?" Chris teased.
"Yeah, my wife. She showed up right after you left and has been following Rita around like a shadow ever since! She's driving me nuts!"
Chris laughed. "Where are they now?"
"Last I saw them, Frannie was chasing Rita's wheelchair down to the physical therapy wing. That was about an hour ago, which means my headache should return as soon as they get back in a few minutes. So you better fill me in now before I lose my ability to concentrate!"
Chris explained to him what went down at the airport. Harry shook his head."Your theories make sense to me, but will they make sense to the DA?" he wondered out loud.
"If we get a match in the lab, they'll have no choice," Chris said.
"It's good to see you getting confident about your job again, Chris. " Not too long ago I was afraid I really would have to turn in your badge."
"Well, you were right. You said that Rita would have wanted me to do this. She's an inspiration to me, Cap. She may not remember being a cop, but I still see that fire in her eyes. She didn't pull away from me, even though we're like complete strangers now."
"You have to remember that you were never erased from her memory, Chris. She'll remember sooner or later, whether it's a day, a week, or months from now. All of those memories are buried deep down, but they'll eventually resurface," Harry said.
Chris sighed. He knew Cap was right, but he still hated not knowing what tomorrow was going to bring as far as him and Rita were concerned.
"Did anyone from the shop say they'd come see her today? I was hoping that maybe visits from some of her other friends might help her to remember," Chris asked.
"As a matter of fact, Diana said she'd be here later tonight, Cap said, referring to one of Rita's closest friends. "Oh, and Donovan told me he'd drop in either today or tomorrow. He can't wait to see both of you."
Chris smiled at the mention of his old buddy George. Sure, the guy could be a real pain sometimes, but that was part of his job as a District Attorney.
"Speaking of Rita's friends, when are we going to tell her about Keisha?"
"Not until she's emotionally stable and making a recovery at home." Cap said. The way it came out sounded almost like an order to Chris. He looked at Harry questioningly.
"Frannie and I made arrangements with Rita for her to stay at our place after she gets out of the hospital. It's only temporary, of course. We just thought that with Frannie being home all day, Rita would have someone to take care of her for a little while. She can't just go back home, it will probably seem scary to her at first."
"But Cap, why don't you and Frannie just go stay at Rita's place with her? She'll never get used to it if you don't give her the chance."
Suddenly, they heard a familiar voice behind them.
"You know Hesch, he's right. Rita would probably be more comfortable in her own home. I've been thinking about it, and if we have her stay with us, she'll just have two houses to get used to. Not to mention Christopher's," she said, winking at Chris.
"Frannie! The woman isn't even out of the hospital and you're thinking about her and Chris...oh, I can't even say it! Where's my blood pressure meds?," Harry said with a disgusted look on his face.
The two of them started laughing at Cap.
"Face it, Harry. One day those two kids are going to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. They're going to have a ton of wonderful children, and we will be the very proud godparents!" Fran said matter-of-factly.
"I hope you're right, Fran" Chris whispered.
"I put in a good word for ya,"she told him."I kept telling Rita while she was doing her therapy what a brave, strong, gentle, kind, wonderful man you are!"
He laughed, and Harry rolled his eyes."So, where is Rita now?," he asked his wife.
"Oh...she's finishing her therapy"Fran said sheepishly.
Harry got a distinct feeling that he knew why Frannie was back before Rita."And why are you here and she is there?" he asked.
"Her doctor seemed to think that I was a....distraction. Can you believe the nerve? I was merely cheering her on from the sidelines!"
Cap and Chris exchanged a look. They both knew that Fran's big mouth always got her into trouble.
"How much longer till she's finished?," Chris asked.
"They said only a few more minutes. She gets worn out easily, poor thing."
"While we're waiting Chris, why don't you run down to the ER and see if you can get an update on Keisha? It's been a couple of hours."
"Sure thing, Cap. I gotta call the lab too, and see if they have any DNA matches on that hair sample, yet. I don't know why, but I have a feeling that we've dealt with this guy before."
Harry knew that when Chris got a feeling about a case or a suspect, he was usually right. That could mean one of two things. Either her attacker was a serial killer, or they were personally connected to Keisha somehow. Both situations could end up being extremely dangerous.
"Chris, why don't you take some practice on the firing range tonight? It's been a long time since you've shot a gun."
"What do you think, Cap...I spent all my time in Boston being a socialite?" he said with mock sarcasm."I still had my backup with me...spent a few hours each week pretending that my paper targets were Jillian's friends."
Harry and Frannie both laughed at his last comment. Looking up at the man they thought of like a son, they didn't think they had to tell him for the hundredth time how good it was to have him back. Chris saw the mushy looks they were giving him and decided that it really was a good time to check on Keisha.
"Cap, I really better run and check on Keis..." he trailed off. His ringing cellular phone had interrupted the conversation. "Yeah, Lorenzo" he voiced into the receiver. He heard Holly Rawlin's voice on the other end of the line.
"Chris, we got a perfect DNA match back on that sample"
"Yeah? Just tell me when and where we're taking this scum-bag down." He heard a pause at the other end of the line. Cap was watching the changing emotions on his young detective's face, and he suddenly got a bad feeling in his gut that Chris was about to receive some very bad news.
"It's not that easy, Chris. Our perp has supposedly been dead for almost a year. His name is Eric Russell."
He dropped the phone out of total surprise. Holly heard it crash to the floor, where it was picked up moments later by Captain Lipschitz, who listened intently as he tried to steady a now swaggering Chris. Seconds later, the call was over and Frannie was standing between two very shocked men.
In all the years her husband had been working the force, she had never seen him react quite like this. Chris either, for that matter. She was trying her best to calm the both of them when Rita was wheeled around the corner. She was tired from her therapy session, but sensed right away that something wasn't right between her three friends.
"Is somebody going to tell me what's going on?" she asked.
Chris was the first to snap out of his trance-like state. Upon seeing her, his eyes lit up and his smile was wide enough to engulf the whole room.
"We're ok, Rita. We were just discussing work"
She didn't know why, but she didn't quite believe him. It was almost like she had this instinct that he was hiding something from her. Then as quickly as it came, that same instinct flew out the window
"Whatever you say. Look, I've got a splitting headache. I'm gonna go take a hot bath and relax in my room."
Chris immediately became concerned."You ok?" he asked, bending down so that he was face to face with her. He loved to stare into her soft, emerald-green eyes.
She smiled sweetly at him. She didn't know why, but she felt much more comfortable around him than she did the older couple. She knew they meant well, but that woman especially was overcrowding her just a bit too much"I'm fine. I just need to relax for a little while. I'll see you all tomorrow for my release?"
Chris was disappointed. He wanted to be with her now, later, and every second for the rest of his life. He wanted to protest, but Cap intervened"Of course. We'll all be here tomorrow. We're so glad that they're releasing you already. You're looking more and more like the old Rita everyday!"
"I appreciate everything you're doing for me, Mr. and Mrs. Lipschitz. I hope I'm not too much of a burden for you"
"Sunshine, you could never be a burden to anyone, especially the three of us" Chris said with sincerity in his voice.
She looked up at him, and he held her gaze.
God, he has these amazing blue eyes. And those lips!, she thought. Seconds later, she looked away, embarrassed. Rita, get a hold of yourself. You barely know that man! Besides, he could have any woman, you don't even stand a chance! To avoid further conversation, she said good-bye and wheeled herself into her hospital room.
Chris watched her go, thinking about the look that had just passed between them. Lorenzo, you have got one hell of an overactive imagination! he thought to himself. He shook his head to clear away the cobwebs.
"Ok, Lorenzo. You have plenty of time left today to start this investigation. I'll go check on Keisha, you report to the shop ASAP," Cap ordered.
Chris nodded and bid farewell to the both of them. What I really need right now is a cold shower, he thought to himself. It was going to be hell for him waiting until Rita regained her memory. He needed to tell her how he felt NOW, before it was too late. But he couldn't just come right out and tell her he loved her...that would surely scare her off.On the way over to the shop, his mind wandered from topic to topic. Of course, he was thinking about her. But he was also wondering how there could even be a minor possibility that Eric Russell was still alive.
It's impossible! I shot him with my own gun...watched him die with my own two eyes. Yeah, impossible is what it is.
Seconds later, he pulled into the driveway at police headquarters. He sighed with contentment as he looked at the familiar surroundings. It seemed like years since he'd last been here. He laughed out loud as he imagined what his desk must look like. He knew Cap didn't have the heart to clear it off.
Chris felt lonely walking through the palm-tree doors without his partner by his side. But he was soon greeted by a resounding "CHRIS!!!" from everyone that nearly knocked him off his feet. Now he was engulfed in hugs, pats on the back, and questions of " How are you?, or "How's Rita?"
I'm fine...and Rita is going home tomorrow" he said proudly.
Everyone in the department exchanged glances. They all knew that no two people were meant to be together more than Lance and Lorenzo. What they didn't know though, was that Chris knew it, too. They just assumed that he still only thought of Rita as a best friend So, they let him get right down to business on the case instead of pestering him with more questions.
"Price, Rawlins, anymore news on that DNA sample forensics says came from Russell?"
"Actually, there is. All of the fibers are still completely intact...and the tests are 99. 9% accurate" Holly told him.
"Which means nobody could have framed him" Chris stated.
Because the sample would have had to been taken a whole year ago, and the fibers would have been broken down"Chris concluded
"Just goes to show how much we rookies still have to learn"Holly said while jabbing Detective Price in the ribs. He didn't appreciate how chummy she was with Lorenzo. She knew he wasn't too fond of Chris.
But this time, even Michael felt a slight twinge of sympathy for him. The whole department had been informed of Eric Russell's sordid past with Rita. This guy, IF he was still alive, sounded like a real mental case.
"So, what else we got?" Chris asked.
"Well, we ran a background check. All his files say he died on the day that you shot him. His old place here in Palm Beach is being rented out, and the tenants don't even know who he is. We contacted the NYPD, and they all presumed he was dead, too" Price informed him.
"The only logical explanation is, he faked his own death by getting someone who looked just like him to make trouble for you and Rita. He knew you had a short temper when it came to the two of them, and he knew you'd go for the kill if he pulled a gun," Holly said.
"But WHY would someone take the wrap, literally , to cover Russell's tracks?," Chris wondered.
"Maybe he had dirt on someone, and threatened to expose them if he didn't do him a favor. Or, he could have told them that you never would have taken a shot because Rita would be standing right there."
That bastard...no wonder he asked so many damn questions. He had to figure out exactly how my mind worked...he had to know how I was going to react ahead of time" Chris uttered
"But he had a good thing going with Rita..." Michael began. Then he saw the venomous looks Chris was giving him.
"What Michael was trying to say is, Eric Russell was in a stable relationship. Why would he have planned the whole thing ahead of time, when he was supposedly happy with her? And WHY would he fake his own death to take out Keisha?"Holly said
"There's just too many questions that can't be answered," Chris said with a trace of frustration. He hated it when the cases became personal, and especially when they involved anyone who had hurt Rita. He would never have sound peace of mind again until Russell really WAS dead or behind bars for life.
"Rita Lance's room", the petite, dark-haired woman told the night secretary at the desk.
"Miss Lance certainly is popular with the visitors today" the older woman said.
"It'll almost be a shame to see her go, since everyone loves her so much. She's become like a permanent fixture here at the hospital."
"But it's great to see her doing so well. I'm sure that handsome cop she always has at her side is going to take good care of her."
I'm sure he will, too,"the younger of the two said with a smile as the secretary handed her a sheet to fill out for visitation. Seconds later, she was knocking on Rita's door.
Rita stared at the woman blankly. Having had visitors all day that she didn't recognize, she figured it was another one of those cases.
"It's ok, I know you don't recognize me. But I thought a visit from a friend might help you out a little, maybe even cheer you up?"
Rita nodded. The woman looked to be about her age, and had a comforting, bright smile.
"My name is Diana. I used to work with you. We've been friends for a few years now. I know Chris and most of your other friends, too."
Rita smiled warmly at her. "Tell me more."
"We have a lot of the same interests. We would take one or two days every month and have a little girl's night out...we'd rent sappy movies, get some chinese food, and bitch about our failed relationships. You used to tell me how those were the few things youcould never do with Chris"
"It was that hard to drag me away from him, huh?" Rita whispered.
Diana laughed."You two were like Siamese Twins ,attached at the hip" she joked.
"I wish I could remember more" Rita said sadly.
"Hey, you're doing great right now! I mean, I know you can't remember anything, but you're so willing to learn everything all over You're inviting your friends back into your heart and letting them help you, and that's the first step" Diana said warmly.
She stayed a while longer and told Rita stories about her past until shenoticed her friend's eyelids drooping. "Uh oh, can't have you worn out for your big day tomorrow. I think I'll head on home and grab a quick nap myself, before the night shift."
"Thank you for being so kind and trying to help me"Rita told her.
All of the people who came to visit her were so nice. She didn't know what the old Rita had done to deserve such wonderful friends
Diana said her goodnights and left the hospital. Strolling through the dimly lit parking lot, she was thinking about ways she could scheme to get Chris and Rita together. She could see the sentiment in Rita's eyes when she talked about Chris tonight. She was so lost in her thoughts, she didn't see or hear the fire-red mustang slowly creeping up behind her. Suddenly, a strong pair of arms grabbed her around the waist and flung her to the ground.
When she came to several minutes later, she saw a pair of bright blue eyes watching her, concerned.
"Chris, what happened?... Ow, my head"
"Sorry I had to toss you to the ground like that. That car behind you tried to run you down. I got plates, so I'm gonna call the station and have them run it through the DMV."
"Why would someone want to run me down?" she asked.
Chris shook his head as he helped her to her feet."I don't know...I just don't know. Strange things have been happening to Rita's friends lately. By the way, I assume you were here to see Rita, right?," he asked.
"Yeah, I just came from there. She was almost asleep so I decided to head home. What's the matter Lorenzo, you just can't stay away?"she teased.
He smiled. "Actually, I was here to get an update on Keisha," he said.
"Well then, I'll leave you to your business. Oh, and thanks for saving my neck! Lemme know when you get information on the plate, I'd love to give that guy a piece of my mind!"
"Lorenzo, in my office NOW!," Harry's voice boomed across the station.
Chris groaned. He was up all night looking for possible leads to Eric Russell, and still had nothing. The Captain should know better than anyone that a sleep-deprived Chris wasn't a very nice one to deal withearly in the morning."C'mon Cap, cut me some slack. I was up all night busting my tail!," he whined.
"That's why I called you in here. We just got records back from the DMV on the plates of the car that tried to run Diana down last night. I thought you might want to take a look at these."
Chris scanned the list and let out a long whistle. "No name, but this car has been pulled over several times in the past 6 months for various driving offenses. Once in New York, twice in Boston, here in Palm Beach, back in Boston... .."he trailed off.
"What is it, Lorenzo?," Harry asked.
"Cap, whoever drives this car alternates back and forth between here and Boston.
"SO, I've been in Boston for the past six months. I don't know why, but I feel like there's some sort of connection. And it was also picked up in New York City. Cap, Eric Russell came from NYC...he always told Rita it was his home, first and foremost. This car is connected to that sleaze, I know it!"
"Whoa, Chris, calm down! You just went from zero to sixty in 5.2!," Harry said, exasperated.
"I know, but I've got a gut instinct on this one...that car is directly connected to Eric Russell!" Chris practically screamed
"Ok, I'll send some of our special investigators out right now. Also, Price and Rawlins are going to be out trying to get us a name to go with the car. Finally, I'll have the lieutenant phone the NYPD. Maybe they know more than they're letting on. But YOU need to go home, get showered and changed, and meet me at the hospital in an hour. Frannie is over at Rita's now getting everything ready," Cap said.
The cloud that was looming over Chris' head moments ago now broke away to sunshine. His mood brightened instantly at the thought of his Sammy.
"Lunch at the Roach Coach says I'll beat you there" Chris challenged.\
"No way Lorenzo! Do I look like a rich man to you? Besides..."
"I know, I know...Fran will smell the grease and lock you out again.But hey, at least it won't be my couch you'll be sleeping on," Chris teased as he left.
Cap could only shake his head as he watched one half of his best homicide team walk away. He had a feeling that it wouldn't be long before his partner joined him, he just knew it. Living with Rita would give him the opportunity to get her interested in rejoining the force.
"That's just one step in our plan to get the two of them together, he thought. No, it wouldn't be much longer now....
Sixty minutes later, the entire hospital staff had gathered to bid Rita farewell and wish her luck.
She thanked each and every one of the strangers for saving her life.
"You should really be thanking your friend here, he did most of the work" the doctor said. He was nodding at Chris as he spoke. "If he hadn't come back here, you wouldn't have had much of a chance. It takes a strong bond between two people to accomplish what was nothing short of a miracle.
Chris suddenly became embarrassed as every eye in the room was focused on him. He hadn't told Rita yet that he had come back...she assumed that he'd been there the whole time. But thankfully, the room got noisy again a second later, and her attention was diverted. There was cake, balloons, even television reporters all wanting to get the story of the heroic cop who literally came back from the dead. Luckily, security kept them at bay.
After what seemed like hours of good-byes and hugs, him and Frannie were helping Rita into the back of Cap's car. The ride to Rita's house was quiet for the most part. Although she sat next to him, she seemed a million miles away from Chris as she stared blankly out the window.
For Rita, it was like seeing Palm Beach all over again for the first time. For her partner, there was a memory at every street, every corner, every restaurant or building they passed. For her, there was nothing.
They tried to help her by pointing things out, but she still couldn'tr remember. Even the police station didn't stir up any memories. She was glad when they finally made it to her house.
It looks nice enough...I guess I could picture me living here, she thought. Walking through the door, she discovered a nice little cozy apartment. It was colorful, and there was even a big fish tank and lots of pictures.
"So what do you think, Rita?"Chris asked.
"It's....nice," she replied.
"Hey, your kitchen is pretty much bare"Cap said"Frannie and I are gonna go get some groceries. Rita, would you mind if Chris stayed with you for a little while?"
"No, that's fine"she answered distractedly.
A few minutes later, Chris and Rita were alone. He watched as she walked around the house, inspecting everything.
"There's a lot of pictures of the two of us," she said. He walked up and stood behind her."That one was at the beach after we wrapped up our first case"he said proudly.
She smiled shyly."We spent a lot of time at the beach, huh?"
"Yeah, we did...we even had our own little spot" he said and smiled at her.
"I want to see it ."she said.
"You wanna go to the beach?"
"Well, I saw a sign on the way here for the beach. We could take a little walk and be back before Mr. and Mrs. Lipshitz.." He laughed. She made them sound like an old couple the way she said Mr. and Mrs. Lipshitz.
"That would be parfait," he said.
She eyed him questioningly.
"That's how I say perfect...a walk on the beach would be perfect."
"Okay then, let's go," Rita said.
He resisted the instinct to keep an arm loosely around her shoulders as they walked. When they used to do this, she would always keep one arm around him, and he would have one around her. Now, she kept her distance. He tried to hide his disappointment.
I just need to give her some time... I gotta remind myself that she's vulnerable right now. But she'll come around soon...maybe the beach will help, he thought to himself.
She noticed how quiet he was "Is something wrong? Because I don't wanna be a burden on you" she said quietly.
He turned to look directly into the eyes he loved so much. "Rita there is no place on earth I'd rather be right now than here with you" he said sincerely. She knew then not to doubt the way he felt, but she was still sure there was something bothering him.
"I may not remember much about the way we used to be, but I obviously still sense when something's bothering you" she whispered.
"Tell me, please?"
"When we get there," was his soft reply.
He was quiet for the rest of the walk. When they finally reached theirdestination, she noticed that it was a pretty deserted section, but also breathtakingly beautiful. The sun was shining brightly on the water as waves crashed against the rocks.
He seemed to sense what she was thinking."Nobody comes to this part of the beach very often because this is where the homicide division gets most of its..uh...clients."She knew exactly what he was trying to tell her...a lot of dead bodies washed ashore in this area.
"It scared other people away...but not us" he told her while flashing one of his Lorenzo grins. "As a matter of fact, come over here." She followed his lead. About 10 yards up shore, she noticed two big rocks in the sand. But they weren't ordinary rocks. One was painted blue, and had Chris' name in black. Next to it, a green one had Rita's name on it.
"This is our spot...when people stopped coming here, you got theserocks done as a surprise for me...so we would always remember where the spot was.
He moved his rock over and sat down. Patting the sand, he urged her to join him. She sat down hesitantly, a few feet away. Chris' heart began to hurt again...there was never a time they came here when she didn't sit with her back leaning into his chest, his arms wrapped tightly around her.
"So are you gonna tell me what's wrong?" she asked, looking into his blue eyes.
"Actually, I've been thinking about it, and I don't think it would be a good idea to uh...bother you about my problems," he told her.
"Chris, I want my old life back. I want to be able to say I know the man I call my best friend again. I want to remember all the things we used to do. I feel like a stranger you won't talk to...and ... shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't I be afraid to talk to you about things? After all, you know everything about Rita and I don't even know who Chris Lorenzo is!"
"That's my problem...I miss us. I miss Sam and Sam. I know it's not your fault you can't remember anything, and I feel like a jerk for trying to force you to remember! But Rita was my whole world...being close to her, feeling her touch, and her feeling mine wasas vital to us as breathing," he said while looking out at the waves.
"I thought you said that we...were just friends. You sound as if there was something else..." she trailed off.
"We were partners and best friends. We watched each other's backs...we were responsible for each other's lives. But it never went beyond that....you had someone, and so did I."
"What happened to your someone, Chris?," she asked hesitantly.
Looking up at her, he knew he couldn't lie. He had never lied to Rita once in his life, and he never intended to, either. Taking a deep breath, he began to tell her about his relationship with Jillian...about how she was always jealous of Rita, and how after the accident, he had gone to Boston because Jillian wouldn't let him stay in Palm Beach anymore.
"I spent every day at the hospital with you for six months. And then she got tired of waiting. I don't know why I left, because I wasn't in love with her. A month later, I couldn't stand not knowing how you were. I missed you, I missed my job, I missed my friends...did I mention I missed you?" He was hoping against hope that she wouldn't be upset he had left her.The old Rita would have gone crazy...everyone else she had ever cared about had left her.
She moved closer to him and took one of his hands in hers. Chris swore his heart skipped a beat as soon as they touched."I can't believe you gave all of that up to come back for me"she said with tears in her eyes."What can I give you, as a friend, that she couldn't have given you as a wife?"
He squeezed her hand tight and looked into her eyes."A best friend...someone who I can trust and say anything to...someone I can laugh with...cry with...stay up late and watch stupid movies with...someone I can be my crazy self around and they'd still understand why it is I'm so crazy."
Now, her tears fell freely."That's so sweet. I hope I can live up to your expectations as a friend. I try to remember, I really do" she said.
Now, he didn't fight against his instincts to wrap her in his arms. He moved behind her and held her soothingly against his chest. She could hear his heart beat as he spoke to her."Rita, there's something I need to tell you. There was a time, a few years ago, when everyone thought you were dead. You were away on a trip; a friend of yours was staying at your apartment while she was having boyfriend problems, and she was shot at close range, in the face. She looked so much like you otherwise, everyone assumed it was you. I told them all it wasn't...I just knew that you weren't gone. But I couldn't prove it, and that was the worst time in my whole life. I thought I had lost you. When you came back, it was like I was given a second chance at life. I wouldn't care if, right now, you were deaf and blind. As long as you're here, tha's all that matters to me. I don't have any expectations of you...I just want you to be happy, that's all," he said honestly
She was so touched, and felt so safe in his arms. How could Rita not have been in love with this guy?, she wondered. He's so devoted to her...I mean, to me...how could I not have realized what was right in front of me all along?
He noticed she was quiet. "What are you thinking about?"he asked
"How lucky she...I mean, I was...to have a friend like you."
"No Rita, I'm the lucky one"he said as he stood up and pulled her up with him. It was time to get back before Cap and Fran wondered where they were. As they walked back, she took her old rightful place in the crook of his arm.
Yeah, I could definitely get used to this, she thought to herself. Definitely....
The rest of the day drug on slowly without her. After they had gotten back, Frannie had forced Rita to eat and take a nap. And Cap had made Chris go back to the shop, where he was now going over some details on the case with Price and Rawlins. They promised he could come over and eat dinner with them if he spent the rest of the afternoon working. Lucky for himself, he actually wanted to work on this case. If Eric Russell was still alive, and he had anything to do with what happened to Keisha or that car trying to run down Diana, Chris would see to it that the bastard never saw the light of day again.
"We didn't get any names of the owner, but we know which one of our guys pulled the car over for DUI here in Palm Beach. We were just going to go talk to him now, if you wanna join us," Holly said.
"Actually, the Lieutenant had some phone calls he wanted me to make to the NYPD. Let me know what you find out."
After they had left, Chris sat at his desk and rubbed his temples in frustration. They were getting nowhere fast. Sighing, he picked up the phone and dialed the number the Lieutenant had given him. He knew exactly who would pick up on the other end.
"Lieutenant Hutchinson, NYPD" Chris heard him say.
"Hutch!"Lorenzo! How in the hell have you been? Don't tell me you're back in Palm Beach. I knew you couldn't stay away!"
"No, I couldn't, I admit it" Chris said sheepishly.
"How's that partner of yours doing?"Hutch asked.
Chris smiled, and Hutch could tell how happy his former employee waseven on the other end of the line. "We brought her home this morning. And I got the chance to talk to her about everything...why I left and ...why I came back. She took the news well, actually. But she can't remember Jillian, so maybe that's why. The old Rita would have reacted differently. But I'm just happy to be back here."
"So Harry saved you your job, huh? I knew he would. I know he has Rita's badge hidden away somewhere, too." Hutch teased him.
"Yeah, but she doesn't seem too thrilled with the fact that she was a cop. I don't think she wants to come back to this line of work.," Chris said someberly.
"Give her time Chris, she'll come around. It's in her blood. You know it is, and so do I. You're the best homicide team I ever worked with."
Chris was glad to get some reassurance. Like Harry, Hutch was a second father to him.
"So Lorenzo, I take it this call isn't just personal?"Hutch asked. Chris quickly filled him in on the details of the case. "I haven't heard anything about Eric Russell since he left here years ago, before he went to Palm Beach to work on his book. I mean, we all heard that you had killed him because he came after Rita, but nothing about the fact that he may still be alive"Hutch told him. "But, I know where his old place is. I could have someone go check it out, see what they can find."
Suddenly, Chris had an idea."I could do it, Hutch! I'll come to New York and bring Rita with me. I can look around, talk to some people...it would be great to see you again. Maybe it would help Rita remember, too"
"Chris, buddy, I would love to see the both of you, but you just got back to work. And Rita just got out of the hospital hours ago. I don't know if Harry would let you do that...and I doubt that Rita is strong enough to travel yet."
"I can give it a try and just ask them. I really think I could find more evidence, and Rita just needs time to relax. She won't be doing any work, just accompanying me, I promise."
"Well, I'd love to see you again. If Harry oks it, I'll arrange for your visit."
After they said goodbye, Chris was filled with high hopes. The end of the afternoon couldn't come fast enough. Price and Rawlins hadn't gotten any more leads. Right now, they had zero on this case. As far as he was concerned, Cap wouldn't be able to give him one good reason why he shouldn't go to New York.
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!" Harry Lipschitz shouted across the table.
"Now Heschy, calm down! Give him a chance to explain himself" Frannie insisted.
Chris looked over at Rita, who only sat and stared at her hands. He couldn't tell how she was feeling. He gently nudged her under the table, and she looked up and into his eyes. For a few brief moments he held her gaze, just like that day at the hospital. Then, she looked away again. This only made him more determined ,he had to get away with Rita, just the two of them.
"Lorenzo, you got about thirty seconds to do some fast talking" Harry said icily.
Chris cleared his throat."It could help solve the case. And seeing Hutch might bring back some memories for Rita. That's all I have to say, Cap.
"And what about Rita, Chris? You didn't even ask her how she feels about this!"
"I don't think I should be speaking for her, Cap" Chris stated easily. He and Harry were locked in an intense stare-down, neither one willing to budge. That is, until Rita bolted from the table, tears streaming down her face.
The two men instantly regretted fighting over her like some sort of possession right in front of her face. Fran sat between the two of them, giving each her face.
"Look what you've done now !"
For all of three minutes, the room was dead silent. Then Chris couldn't take it anymore. He wanted to go check on Rita, but his instincts told him that now was not the time.
"Thanks for the meal Fran, but I think I better go before I ruin the evening anymore" he said tensely. With that, he was gone again.
They both watched his retreating back as he slammed the door and the walls rattled under the assault of his frustration.From the window to her room, Rita watched him too...watched the pained expression on his face, sagging shoulders, eyes focused squarely on the ground. And she knew that she was the cause of his pain. She couldn't stand it...she had to turn away from the window. Slowly, she sank down against the cool wall. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeplyand let out a long sigh. Glancing at the clock, she did a mental calculation in her head. It would take Chris about five minutes to get where she knew he was going. She slipped on a light jacket and scrawled a quick note to Harry and Fran. Then, almost silently, she slipped downstairs and out the door unnoticed.
She briskly walked the few blocks to her destination, only slowing when she saw the familiar, muscular back and short, cropped black hair come into view. She stopped and let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. The waves pounded furiously against the shore and drowned out the noise of her footsteps as she approached. Then in one small stride, she was crouched on the sand behind him, and he was enveloped in her arms. Rita buried her face in Chris' neck, inhaling the scent of him, relishing every moment. No words were spoken then, they were content holding each other, clinging to whatever it was that existed between the two of them.
The last few rays of the sun dipping below the horizon cast a magical spell that neither wanted to break. And then it was gone, and Rita knew that someone had to talk fast before Harry and Fran sent the police out searching for her. Gently, she tilted Chris' face upwards so that his gaze met hers.
"I'll go to New York with you," she whispered.
His finger traced an invisible pattern along her jaw-line as he questioned her. "Why?"
"Because of everything you've done for me."
"Rita, I don't want you to come with me because you feel like you owe me a favor," he said. "I can take no for an answer."
"Chris, I want to come with you. I trust you." She said it with such tenderness in her voice, he could have sworn again she was the old Rita there for a second. Every time she touched him, or said one word, or so much as moved, she was igniting a fire deep in his soul that he had to struggle to burn out. He knew he had to reign in his feelings for her and keep them under control. You and Rita won't be together like that, at least not for a long time, a voice in the back of his head seemed to say.
She saw the sadness flicker across his eyes for a brief second."What's wrong, Chris?," she asked
"I was wondering why you ran out tonight," he lied. Well, he was wondering that, but at this particular moment, he knew Rita was talkingabout something else....something he wasn't ready to discuss with her now.
"I don't know...I guess I just don't like being the center of attention," she said shyly."Besides, the way Harry was treating you, I felt like he was my father and I was about two years old."
"Speaking of Harry, we better get you back to the house. Here, lemme help you up"Chris offered. He stood up and held out one of his hands, which she gratefully accepted. This time, it was his gentle touch that was driving her crazy.
C'mon Rita, get a grip. He only sees you as his best friend, she reminded herself. Little did she know, he was also trying to convince himself of the same thing. Arm in arm, they walked back to Rita's house in silence, each one only thinking about the other.
"Now Chris, you take very good care of her. And don't forget, she gets her medication at one o'clock and again at 10 o'clock, and she tires very easily so make sure gets plenty of rest" Frannie droned on and on. Chris had one hand protectively around Rita's waist as they made their way through the airport terminal two days later.
"Honey, relax! They're going to be just fine. Geez, and usually you're the one having to calm me down" Harry said with a sigh.
Right after Rita had run off after Chris, he and Fran had a long talk about this trip. Both of them agreed that not only could this help Rita in her recovery, it would also give them a much-needed break from their new roles as parents. They hadn't had one second alone since Rita's accident, and both were physically and mentally exhausted.
"I'll call you as soon as the plane touches down, I promise"Chris said honestly. "And, I will take excellent care of Rita" he said proudly. Cap and Fran both saw the look in his eyes as he made this last statement. They knew that if there was one thing they could trust Chris with, it was Rita's life.
The final call for Flight #28 to New York City was called, and they all gave each other one last round of hugs. Rita managed to hide her nervousness and apprehension about flying until they were actually on the plane. As they were getting seated, Chris noticed the weary look on her face. He had a gut feeling that the new Rita wasn't going to be as enthusiastic about planes as the old Rita had been.
Right now, his Sammy looked like she would rather be anywhere than there.
But once again, he played her knight in shining armor."Here Rita,... I'll sit next to the window. Now, you lean back against me and face the other way," he whispered into her ear, while pulling her into his arms. She shifted slightly until the back of her head was resting comfortably against his chest. He was so good to her, and she was so touched that all she could manage to whisper back was thank you. It felt so good to be there with him that she barely even noticed when they took off.
Throughout the six-hour flight, he filled her mind with as many memories as he could. He told her about some of their hardest cases, the times that he had been shot, and the times she had been hurt and he had been scared to death. Some of the stories she laughed at, other times she found herself wiping away stray tears. Life as a cop sounded so dangerous. Since she had come out of her coma, she often wondered why she had ever become a cop. But then she remembered that Chris had come along as part of the package, and suddenly it all seemed worthwhile. She knew that even if she didn't want to be a cop anymore, she would still have to make sure she asked questions about her best friend's life. She didn't want everything to always be about her.
"Chris, this must be a pretty important case that you're working on right now, if you're going all the way to New York."
Silence followed as she waited for his answer. He hadn't expected her to ask him what the case was about. How could he tell her that Eric Russell was still alive and possibly in the state that they were headed to? He cleared his throat nervously as he tried to make something up. He hated lying to her, something he had never done except the last few months before her accident when he was trying to bury his new found feelings for her. Yes, lying was definitely out of the question.
"I'll tell you what...it's a long story, so I'll tell you about it over dinner after we get there. Hutch is picking us up from the airport and showing us the best places to wine and dine" he said with his trademark Lorenzo grin.
"That sounds good, because I really need a nap right now"she managed through a series of yawns. Finally, she turned to face him, burying her face in his shoulder as she drifted off to sleep. He was content watching her like that for the rest of the flight. Every so often, she would smile a little smile in her sleep, and he wondered what she was dreaming about. She looked so peaceful that he hated to wake her when they were close to landing.
"Sunshine, it's time to rise"he whispered in her ear. He brushed some stray hairs out of her face as she opened her eyes and sat up straight.
"Look Rita, the Big Apple!"he exclaimed as he pointed out the window. Every other time they had come here, she loved to stare out the window as they touched down as all of the magnificent skyscrapers came into view. But he had forgotten that since the accident, she was terrified of heights. So it surprised him when she leaned over his lap and peered out at the ground below. Even more surprisingly, she clung tightly to the arms that were wrapped around her...his arms. He made a mental note to ask her about that later.
They began to gather up their belongings. He still kept one arm around her as they made their way off the plane. He spotted Hutch as soon as they came down the ramp. The two men exchanged hugs, then Hutch held his arms out to Rita, completely forgetting that she had no idea who he was, except for the few things Chris had mentioned about him. She backed away hesitantly.
"Rita, let me introduce you. This is Captain Ben Hutchinson...well, he was a Captain to us. He's one of the big wigs at the New York Police Department now" Chris joked.
"Rita, it's so good to see you again" Hutch said warmly. Her only response was a small smile. She kind of stood off to the sidelines as the two men made small talk, casually observing her surroundings. What she didn't notice was someone else standing in the shadows,watching them.
"You look tired, Rita" Chris said, concern in his voice.
It was later that night in their hotel room. Hutch had taken them out," shown them the big city, and then treated them to a very expensive dinner. It hadn't taken Rita long to warm up to him...he was polite and charming, kind of like Chris. It was easy for her to see how they had all once been so close.
"I am beat" she confessed."I guess too much excitement in one day just wore me out."He patted the bed next to him. "C'mere, lemme do your shoulders. These hands have magic in them"he said and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. She playfully pretended to smack him, but was too tired to argue with him otherwise. As he began to massage her shoulders through her thin cotton nightgown, every one of her senses woke up again. The feel of him so close to her was driving her insane. He was right, his hands were working magic. He kneaded her back firmly but gently, hitting all the right spots, making all of the tension in them disappear. She had a strong urge to just reach up and pull him down to her, but she kept telling herself that it would completely ruin her friendship with the only person she was really close to right now.
Chris was having the same problem. His hands wanted to wander all over her body, but his mind stopped him every time the urge got too strong. Even through the fabric covering her back, he could feel the silky smoothness of her skin. Needless to say, it was affecting every part of his body, and he knew that he had to stop himself now before he did something he was going to regret. But he couldn't stop...she was what he needed, what he wanted. He leaned in to start kissing her neck, but halfway there the ringing of the telephone interrupted him. He silently cursed to himself, partly for things almost going too far, and partly because the phone had stopped him. He reached over and grabbed the annoying device. Rita heard bits and pieces of his conversation as she stubbornly tried to fight the sleep that was threatening to overcome her body.
"Yeah, Lorenzo. Hey, Cap. Yes, Rita and I are fine...uh huh...really?...that's terrific!...so you're on your way to question her now?.....what if it's really him, Cap?....yes, I know that's why I'm here, but part of me hopes that it isn't him....well, good luck...yes, I will call you in the morning....oh, if she can identify him, beep me so you don't wake up Rita...tell Frannie that we love her, too...goodnight, Cap!"
Rita rolled over and rubbed her eyes."What was that all about? Who do you hope isn't him?," she asked. "It just has to do with the case I'm working on; I'll tell you in the morning," Chris said as he got up to go fix his bed on the pullout couch. She grabbed his arm, not letting him walk away.
"No, you promised you'd tell me at dinner, and you didn't. You're worried about something, so please tell me what it is" she begged.
He couldn't ignore the simple request that she whispered while looking into his eyes. Lord, what this woman couldn't do to him!
"Rita, there's a lot to the story...look, I know you're tired, so please, let me tell you in the morning" he whispered. "Besides," he added with a laugh...it would probably give you nightmares...we want you well rested for tomorrow!"
She grinned at him. "That bad, huh? " she asked.
He nodded. "Yeah, you could say that. You know, its times like this I could use you as my partner again."
She looked at him sadly. "Chris, I can't guarantee you that I'll go back to being a cop, even if I get my memory back.'"
"At least you're being honest with me, even though it rips my heart in half," he told her while giving her the famous Lorenzo puppy-dog eyes.
She tried not to let it affect her. She needed sleep...if they ended up getting into a deep discussion now, she knew she would say things she didn't mean. She pulled the covers up around her shoulders and laid back against the pillows, a signal to him that for now, their little talk was over. He walked over and brushed back her hair, then kissed her forehead. She felt herself blush from head to toe. "Rita, I'm right in the other room if you need me, " he said against her skin. She smiled up at him. "I know, Chris...sleep tight."
She awoke late the next morning to find him sprawled on the floor next to the couch, surrounded by papers and folders, a serious expression on his face.
"Hey, sleepyhead!" he greeted her.
She yawned. "What time is it?"
"Late enough that I had to order us lunch through room service, and not breakfast"he said with a grin. He stood up and pulled her into a hug. "How'd you sleep?," he asked.
"Like a baby!" she answered. "Well, you can get a shower while we wait for the food," he offered. I'm all busy here, going over paperwork.
"You lucky dog, you,"she said and ruffled his hair. That led to an all-out tickling match between the two of them. Before long, they were both rolling on the floor in the middle of his case notes, their sides aching from the laughter. As she was trying to compose herself, one of the pieces of paper next to her head caught her eye.
VICTIM: Harris, Keisha ...SEX: Female....AGE: 30
DESCRIPTION OF INJURIES: Multiple stab wounds inflicted with a 4" blade.
PERPETRATOR: Believed to be Eric Russell, who was shot and killed by Sgt. Christopher Lorenzo last year
PRIMARIES: Sgt. Christopher Lorenzo, Det. Michael Price, Det. Holly Rawlins, Palm Beach Police Department, Homicide Division
PERPETRATOR; 92S RESIDENCE: Believed to be NY City, NY
DNA TESTING RESULTS: Positive......EVIDENCE: Hair fibers, match....DISTRICT ATTORNEY: George Donovan, Palm Beach
Rita picked up the paper and gave him a questioning look.
ammit, this was not the way I wanted her to find out, he thought to himself. For a second, it had been like old times between them...now he was going to have some serious explaining to do.
"Rita, I should tell you about the case I'm working on," he began.
"Yes, you should" she shot back, a trace of anger in her voice.
"You told me that Eric Russell was dead! You said you shot and killed him because he came after me!! Now, you're telling me that he's alive?!" she nearly screamed.
Chris reached out to comfort her, but she pulled away."This is why I came here with you, isn't it? Because you know that he'll come after me again! I'm just the bait in this whole operation!"
"Rita, listen to me!" he begged her.
Finally, she calmed down, but she sat across the room from him, and refused to look him in the eye.
"I didn't want you to find out like this..." he began.
"No, you didn't want me to find out at all!' she said.
'Rita, I was going to tell you today. Yes, I admit that I didn't tell you beforehand,because I knew that you'd be afraid to come with me. And I need you here!" he said sincerely.
She hated to hear his voice so full of sorrow, but she didn't think that it was a good reason for putting her in danger.
He was about to explain everything when there was a knock at the door.
"Room service!" He went to the door and paid the young man who brought their food, then turned his attention back to Rita. "Here, you have to eat something. Just let me tell you everything, from start to finish," he begged.
She looked into his eyes and couldn't ignore his request. The least she could do was hear him out. Over the next hour, he relayed the entire story...her relationship with Eric Russell, , her friendship with Keisha, the attack at the airport, the evidence that made them believe it was Eric, and finally, their trip to New York.
Rita remained quiet, not quite believing everything she was hearing. "Chris, if Eric Russell is still alive, and he's here in New York, bringing me with you puts me in danger" she said curtly.
He tipped her face up to make her look him in the eyes. "Rita, if I would have left you in Palm Beach, then you would have been in danger. Nobody can watch your back like I can, you have to believe that! Yes, our department is filled with terrific cops, including Captain Lipschitz, but the old Rita wouldn't have trusted anyone but me," he whispered.
"But the old Rita was your partner...she was a cop, just like you" she said sadly.
He pulled her into a hug. "Rita, it doesn't matter to me if you are't a cop anymore. All that matters is that we're together. I told you, I need you here with me" he mumbled into her hair.
His warm breath was tickling her neck. She finally felt secure for the first time that morning. Funny how that always happened whenever she was in his arms. They just sat there that way for a while, until Chris heard his beeper go off in the other room. Sighing, he released his hold on her. It was Hutch, wondering where they were. They were supposed to meet him half an hour ago. Chris called and apologized to him, explaining how he had finally told Rita about the case. Rita knew that she'd better hurry, so she slipped away and into the shower while Chris was on the phone.
Forty-five minutes later, they were standing in front of the impressive headquarters of the New York Police Department. Rita was feeling a little nervous, but she had to trust that Chris would protect her.
Hutch came out to greet them, along with a few of his detectives. One of them was a cheerful female Lieutenant named Debbie, and Rita immediately struck up a conversation with her. They chatted easily about all of the great stores the city had to offer, and soon, she was inviting Rita along on an afternoon shopping excursion. She looked at Chris hesitantly. She knew that he had important work to do, but she didn't want to leave his side.
"Rita, you don't have to go if you don't want to, but I thought it might be fun for you" Chris said. Hutch also tried to reassure her.
"Debbie's a good cop...besides, I'll have a guard follow you if it will make you more comfortable"he said soothingly. At this remark, she felt better. Chris smiled at her.
"So you'll let yourself have some fun, then?" he asked. She pulled him into a quick hug.
"Promise me you'll be careful?" she asked.
"I promise...but I want you to be careful, too. That's why I want you to take this" he said, handing her his back-up gun.
"Chris, I don't know how to use a gun!' she exclaimed, looking horrifyingly at the weapon.
"Look Rita, I know you won't have to use it, but take it for protection, just in case"he begged.
She looked at him hesitantly "Here, you keep it down here, and you'll never even feel it," he said while sticking it into her sock. She didn't want to argue with him, so they quickly arranged when and where to meet, and she and Debbie were off
The two women found out as they were walking along that they had a lot in common. Like Rita, Debbie's parents had died when she was younger, leaving her in the care of a foster family. The only difference now was, Rita couldn't remember her past. So, conversation about family or work was light, and they tried to focus on having a good time. They stopped at all of the major clothing and perfume stores, where Rita gazed in awe at her exquisite surroundings. She couldn't afford to pay for half of the things she saw, but it sure was fun looking. After lunch at the HardRock Cafe, the two women laughed as they strolled along, exchanging stories about the men in their lives.
Debbie was married to Lt. Dale Robertson in the NYPD's Narco Division. Like Chris and Rita, they were partnered up once when Dale was loaned to Homicide, and romance blossomed. Rita told Debbie about her adventures with Chris since she had woken up from her coma, but that's all she could remember about him. Her new friend listened with interest. She had seen the way Chris looked at Rita before they left, and she could tell that this guy was head-over-heels for his ex-partner.
Little did they know, someone else was intently listening to every detail of their conversation. A man disguised in a brown overcoat, dark sunglasses, and a hat followed a few feet behind them, blending in with the crowd. To anyone, he looked like the average citizen, out for a stroll or maybe some shopping on the city streets. The only thing was, he had a scowl on his face as he heard Rita speak so lovingly of her precious Chris Lorenzo. It made him want to gag. But not to worry...soon the lovely Rita would be his again.
About thirty stores and fifteen shopping bags later, the two women figured that they better start heading back to meet up with Chris and Hutch.
"Hey Rita, do you mind if I stop in the Calvin Klein store real quick?,Debbie asked.
"That's fine, go ahead," Rita answered back and laughed. She'd never met someone with such a zest for shopping.
She made herself comfortable on a bench just three feet away from the door to the exclusive shopping boutique, sorting through her buys for the day. Suddenly, she got a very strange feeling, like someone was watching her...
She looked all around. No, the coast seemed clear. Not far away, young mothers pushed their babies in strollers towards the entrance to Central Park. An older man was sorting through a briefcase and speaking into a cellphone on her right. A vendor stood to her left, luring people to his stand with the aroma of fresh-cooked hot dogs. She laughingly scolded herself for having such an overactive imagination. A few more minutes went by, and she glanced at her watch. They would have to hurry up and get back or else she knew Chris would go crazy with worry.
Standing up, she saw a mirror attached to the shop door above her head. Besides her reflection, there was something else in the mirror....a man, dressed in a long overcoat was hunched behind a tree, and he appeared to be looking in her direction. Suddenly, a sharp pain seared through Rita's head, and she dropped her bags. Memories began to hit her like a ton of bricks...she saw herself graduating from the police academy, her and Chris walking arm in arm down the beach, waking up next to Chris' hospital bed after he had been shot...and she saw herself in the arms of Eric Russell.
She tried to shake away the cobwebs and get control of herself. Everything was coming back to her now!! Her whole body trembled as she glanced back up into the mirror. The man still held his position behind the tree, watching her every move. Suddenly, another memory hit her again. In her mind, she saw Eric approaching her and Chris on the beach. He was drunk, screaming, and staggering towards them with a gun in his hand.
Just as quickly as it had come, the memory faded away. But looking back at the face in the mirror, she suddenly knew...the man watching her was Eric Russell!! Her mind raced, and she began to panic. If she ran for the door to the shop now, it might make her look suspicious. She began to bend down to pick up her shopping bags, acting as if she had dropped them on purpose. But instead, she reached down into the sock on her right foot. Damn, where's my back-up gun?, she wondered frantically.
Near tears, she reached into the sock on her left foot, and felt the cool metal under her hands. Slowly, she stood up with the gun hidden from Eric's view, her finger on the trigger. In the mirror, she could see him getting closer and closer to her. She whirled around and pointed the gun straight at him.
"One more move Russell, and you're a dead man!!!!," she screamed.
THAT'S IT FOR PART 1
What will happen next? Will Rita shoot Eric? Will Chris tell Rita that he loves her? Is Eric really responsible for everything??....stay tuned for Part 2!
DISCLAIMER: You know, all that legal mumbo-jumbo. I don't own Chris, Rita, Cap, Frannie, Hutch, Keisha, Diana, Holly, Michael, Jillian, or Eric. They belong to Stu Segall. However, I do own the made-up doctors and even that Debbie cop lady!!
At the authors request,Please send me any comments you have about the story and I will forward them on to her. Thank You!