I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I DoÖ infinity!

By tuna.dc

The serial case involving Rod McLeish was finally coming to an end. Some unanswered pieces of the puzzle had been answered. In addition to the five homicides in Palm Beach, Rod McLeish apparently accounted for 17 more murders scattered across the country. He was indeed a poster boy for the FBI. They had placed him in protective custody and given him a new identity back in 1996. His real name was Thomas Butterfield. He was involved with the mob in Chicago and Atlantic City in the early 1990ís. In exchange for his testimony against crime boss Carlo ĎBig Fingerí DeCosta, Butterfield was given a new life by the FBI. The only thing the FBI didnít realize initially was that Butterfield was a maniacal killer who liked to kill for kicks and was a master at changing his identity. Subsequent IQ tests revealed that his genius wasnít even registering on the scale. Something in him though made him use his Ďintelligenceí negatively rather than positively. Releasing him back onto the streets with a new identity was one of the biggest mistakes they had ever made. They had been trying to track him down ever since. His underworld contacts and psychotic mind made him a master at deception and deceiving. He used over 40 different names in the two and a half years he was loose, which were known to the FBI. How many other unknown aliases was never determined. He managed to elude the FBI for the next two years, changing his own identity over and over. Life became merely a game for him, from town to town, state to state. When he came to Palm Beach and posed as a police officer, the FBI finally began to track him down with more intensity, thanks to the unsuspecting help of people like Rita, Geoff, Tre and Chris. In Palm Beach, Florida the worst thing was that five innocent and unsuspecting people had died at his hand, and two additional lives were about to take a dramatic change because of it as well.

 

Chris was up incredibly early one Saturday in mid-January. He sat at the kitchen table, dressed for a run. He wore shorts and T-shirt, and had his Michigan hat swung around the back of his head. Before him on the table, spread out, were various forms and papers. He picked up a sheet in his hand and began to mouth the words quietly. He scrunched up his face and crumpled up the paper and threw it toward the garbage can. He missed. He grabbed a pencil and a clean sheet of paper and began to write down some words on it once again. This routine played itself out for the next fifteen minutes or so. He started mumbling to himself, "why canít you do this Lorenzo, itís not brain surgery. Just write down how you feel about her," he berated himself. "Concentrate on this right now."

"How you feel about who?" Rita asked from the kitchen doorway, as she noticed the growing pile of legal pad paper in bundled up wads on the floor, "Chris, what are you doing?" She had a bathrobe on as she walked over to the mess and started putting the bound up pieces into the trash.

Chris got up from the table quickly and went to clean up his own mess, "Iíll get that Sam," he said, acting a bit nervous. Rita grabbed one and began to smooth it open.

"What is this?" she asked, looking at him for an answer, but did not get one right away. She turned her attention back to reading what was on the paper. "I Christopher Lorenzo take you Rita Lee Lance to be my loyal and faithful wifeÖ.Chris are these your vows?" she asked stopping in mid sentence, "loyal and faithful, am I you pet or what?" Rita added with a laugh.

Chris grabbed the paper out of her hand and tossed it into the garbage. "That was the first one, give me more credit than that, you saw that it was garbage," he said, heading back to the table to gather up his material.

"You donít have to quit, Iíll leave you alone, I just need to get a cup of coffee," she said, moving towards the coffee maker.

"Nah, thatís ok, I was just gonna quit for this morning anyway, Iím going for a run," he said.

"Really? You havenít done that in what? A month?" she asked.

"Well you donít want a flabby husband walking down the aisle now do ya?" he said with a smile.

She eyed him up and down and knew being flabby wasnít in his makeup. "I thought you said you were done with your vows?" she wondered aloud.

"No, what I said was that I had looked over the material, but Iím getting going now, theyíre coming right along," he said. He moved toward the sliding door.

"We should go over the music choices and the readings too still, ok?" she called out to him.

"Yeah, maybe we can do that later today, alright?" he asked, standing outside on the patio. She watched him closely, he seemed a little off somewhere today. "I promise," he added, as he saw her concerned, caring look. He added a dimpled grin just to convince her.

"Sounds good to me, have a good run," she said smiling at him.

He gave her a wave and off he went.

 

The beachfront was rather crowded this Saturday morning. The sun was already up and the temperature promised to soar into the low 80ís. All in all it was a nearly picture, perfect day.

Before long, Chris was soaking wet with sweat but he pushed himself further and further down the beach. Deep down, maybe he thought he could sweat out the problem he was having. It wasnít working. The answer to it though, might lie ahead of him. An old friend from his police academy days was waiting for him near the end of the public beach.

"Lorenzo, you dog, youíre late man!" the blond haired, Ďsurfí looking man said to him, from behind his Oakleyís

"What are you, my mother, Watson?" Chris gasped out of breath, as he walked off the run, sucking up air, leaning over and stretching.

"No, but Iíd like to have your mother," the other man said, flashing a grin to match his surfer good looks.

Chris quickly glanced at him and gave him a piercing look.

"Sorry, man, just kidding, can I help it if your mother is one fine looking lady," Watson said holding up his hands in defense. He quickly changed the subject. "Where you been hiding yourself Chris?"

Together the two men walked over to a nearby concession area. Chris asked for a bottle of water, while Watson asked for juice. "Working, you know the drill," Chris began, nearly downing the entire liter in one fell swoop, "what about you Jon, how you doing?"

"Good, very busy actually. Thatís why I wanted to see you," he said

"Yeah, Iíve been wondering why you called and left such a cryptic message for me. Which branch of alphabet soup are you working for these days? Or is that classified?" Chris joked.

"OCB, right here in Palm Beach," Jon said seriously. "I told you that."

"So what does this have to do with me?" Chris asked, using his arm to wipe off the sweat dripping from below his hat line.

"We want you to come work for us Chris," Jon said, looking him straight in the eye.

"Me?" Chris laughed, "you canít be serious," he added.

"Totally, man, one hundred percent, I thought I told you that on the phone," Jon reiterated. "Weíve got an opening and I recommended you. Whatta ya think? Can we drag you away from homicide?"

"And I didnít believe you on the phone then either," Chris said stared at Jon in disbelief, shaking his head, walking back onto the beach. Jon followed behind.

"Then whyíd ya come here today and meet me Chris?" Jon said, as they both sat down on a bench and watched an incredible looking female of about 20 pass them by. They both laughed and started breathing again after she was out of earshot. "Damn, I am too old now, plus I gotta wife, damn," Jon said, shaking his head. "And you shouldnít be looking anymore either," he added, "how is Rita, by the way?"

"Sheís good, sheís great actually, Iíve never been happier," Chris said.

"Yeah, I got the invitation, count on Jill and I to be there ok?" Jon said. Chris nodded. The silence stood between them for a minute. "So if everything is great Chris, why are you here?"

"Look, Jon, just tell me more about it ok? Iím here, Iím listening alright?" Chris said.

"Sure, sure Chris," Jon began, "actually, we can offer you a temporary assignment first, if youíd like, how should I say, to test the water. We need some undercover work and most of our staff has been made. Weíve got so much stuff going on across the country, that we canít even get in some other agents in a swap effort. We need some quality help. Youíre the first and only guy I thought of."

Chris smiled, "thanks," he said.

"Itís true Chris, youíve got a lot of years of undercover experience under your belt and we think youíll be perfect for this sting operation weíve got going," Jon continued. "Itís all local stuff, youíll be home sleeping in your own bed every night, I promise, no traveling, an expense account, all the perks you know."

"Can you tell me more about the sting?" Chris asked.

Jon shook his head, "not till you say yes, like I said, we can make it a temp gig, take you as a loan out from PBPD, you just need supervisor approval," Jon explained, "if you donít love us, hey, you go back to cushy little homicide life ok?"

"That would be Rita," Chris said, "sheís technically my supervisor now. Thereís no way sheíll want me to do this before the wedding," Chris replied.

"Iíll have you to the church on time, I promise," Jon said with a smile. "Itís a good deal Chris, mostly daytime hours, maybe some night work here and there, but weíre busting the high class trash, not the low lifes, you know, these people play during the day. And the pay is great, an extra thousand a month, compared to what youíre bringing in now. OCB is the big leagues."

"That much huh?" Jon nodded and smiled. "When do you need to know by?" Chris asked him.

"Soon, we want to start next week, youíve already been dragging your heels on this for over a week now," Jon said, "so you must be interested. Iím actually surprised. I never thought I could lure you away from homicide and Rita, but I figured it was worth a try," Jon said. "You getting burnt or something?"

"Not exactly," Chris said, taking a deep breath.

"You wanna talk about it? Iím all ears. And it wonít go anywhere, I promise," Jon said.

"Listen Jon, I appreciate the offer, but itís under control. I trust you too, we went through a lot together, I remember. And Iím gonna seriously think about this, I promise. Iíll let you know sometime on Monday ok?" Chris said.

Jon nodded, "yeah, thatís fine, that sounds good. You call me either way ok Chris?"

"I will," Chris said, shaking Jonís hand, "I will."

 

Rita was washing up the coffeepot and cups from the morning when Chris came back to the house. He slid open the door and saw her standing there, near the sink. She turned and smiled at him. "Hey, how was you run?" she asked.

"Good, good," he said shaking his head. "Lots of people out on the beach already today, it looks like a nice day," he said.

"I hope you kept your mind on your running then," Rita said, referencing all the young, single, unattached females who seemed to gravitate toward her fiancé.

"I only have eyes for you, Sammy," he said, with a smile, catching her drift immediately.

She came closer to him and gave him a kiss. Intense was putting it mildly. "Iíve, uh," she started murmuring against his lips, "been waiting for you to come back," she dove in for another passion-flamed embrace. "It is Saturday, you know."

He broke off. He knew his mind was somewhere else entirely, but she was so incredibly hot to him, standing right in front of him in one of his Michigan T-shirts and a pair of tight fitting shorts. "Rita, Iím sweating like a pig here," he said, trying to rope in her amorous feelings. His hands at first denied holding her, but he found himself letting go quickly and he began to pull her closer.

That just ignited her flame a little more. "Then I need to catch up," she said, leaning back in for kiss number three.

"Sam, come on, please," Chris slurred the words against her lips, trying to get her to stop, but feeling himself slipping out of control, just by how good she felt near him.

"Come on please what?" Rita said, her hands were everywhere now.

Chris had her by the shoulders, his hands moved up and framed her face, using his thumbs to brush against her cheeks. He didnít say anything now, he just kept kissing her over and over again, wanting her as badly as she seemed to be wanting him. Then just as suddenly as he gave in, he stopped and pushed away. Rita was dumbfounded.

"Chris, what is it?" she asked, watching him turn around, so as to not face her.

"Nothing Sam, itís nothing, itís not you," he said. She saw him breathe in and out very deeply and shrug his shoulders. "Itís not you at all," he said again, trying to push the powerful feelings he just had for her out of his mind. He had too much on his mind that he needed to talk to her about.

"Did something happen on the beach?" she wondered aloud.

He spun around and faced her, "No," he quickly said, then hanging his head, not letting her see his face.

"Chris, whatís wrong, do you want to talk?" she asked.

He lifted up his head slowly, his eyes were closed and he took his left hand and rubbed his temples. He opened his eyes and went to the table and sat down. Rita watched him closely all the while.

"Yeah, I want to talk," he said, waiting for her to sit down beside him and give him her attention. She quickly obliged, and as she sat down, she let her hand caress his back tenderly, letting him know that everything would be ok. She waited for him to start.

He stared off toward the patio at first, then finally broke off and looked directly into Ritaís eyes. She gave him a little smile.

I saw Jon Watson today," Chris began. Rita remembered the name from the guest list for the wedding, recalling that Chris and Jon had been roommates during the three-month initial police training academy together up in Tallahassee. She knew that Jon and Chris had been through a lot together. Every copís academy training is brutal and having someone to go through it with is always key to whether or not a recruit makes it or not.

"Are they coming to the wedding?" she asked.

Chrisí mind was focused in a much different direction. "Huh?" he asked, "yeah, yeah I guess they are," he said.

Rita was more than a bit concerned by Chrisí reaction. "Is Jon okay?" she asked, thinking maybe he was ill.

Chris nodded, "yeah, heís fine," he paused and his voice got softer, "he," Chris took a deep breath, "he wants me to come and work for OCB," he finally expelled it for her to hear.

She was more than a little bit shocked. "What did you tell him?" she asked.

"I told him," he looked at her and smiled, "that I needed to think about it and talk it over with you," he said, reaching out his hand for hers. She grabbed his right away in return.

She smiled in return. Even through these kinds of tough decisions, they were already working as true team in every sense of the word. "What do you want to tell him?" she asked.

"I donít know Sam, heís been after me for a week already," he said, glancing down at the table.

"Why donít you start by telling me why YOUíRE interested," Rita said, giving his hand a squeeze. She was truly happy for Chrisí opportunity.

Chris was a bit surprised by how calm Rita was over this. He didnít expect her reaction to be like this at all. It must have showed on his face as well.

"Well," Rita shook her head a little, hoping to prod him along.

Chris formed a crooked grin, "I, uh, I guess Iím just kinda surprised Sam," he began.

"Why?" Rita asked, "I know that you want to grow too, just like me, we canít be homicide detectives forever, right?"

Chris nodded, "Yeah, I guess," he said, a little sadly, somewhere deep inside he had always hoped things would always be as good as they were right now.

"Iím a little surprised youíd consider OCB though. I thought you didnít care for the government agencies that much. I suspect thereís more here though, am I right?" she asked.

Chris nodded ever so slightly. He removed his Michigan hat and ran his fingers through his hair. "Yeah, thereís more," Chris said.

"Iím listening," she said. "What kind of position is it? Supervisory?" she wondered.

"Not exactly, itís undercover work, same kind of detail, itís not strictly homicide though," he explained.

"So it would be a lateral type move?" she asked.

"Well, the pay is better, itís a fed group you know, not a local organization," he explained. "But itís not the money," he tried to say.

"I guess I donít understand Chris. I thought you wanted to self-promote," she said.

He listened to her line of questioning and couldnít believe what she was saying. "You donít think thatís what this is?" he asked. "Think of the long term opportunities I could have."

"Itís lateral Chris, itís the same work," she said a bit coldly.

"Maybe we canít all get promoted in PBPD unless weíre all women," he fired back. He saw the stunned look in her eyes immediately. "Iím sorry Sam," he paused, while she looked away. "That was uncalled for. You deserved your promotion more than anyone I know. I donít even know what Iím saying here. Forgive me," he asked reaching for her hand.

She nodded and squeezed his hand in return. "Chris, whatís going on? Talk to me," she begged, sensing there was so much more to this than what he had already told her.

"Rita, ever since that McLeish thing, I just, I canít get it out of my mind. I love you so much that I donít think that I can be your partner anymore. Itís really hard to explain. I donít like seeing you in danger and I hate myself for wanting to kill someone as badly as I wanted to kill McLeish. Rita, I genuinely wanted him dead, whatever it took, " he said, putting his head down. "I donít know where these feelings are coming from, all I know is that I am so confused," he added looking up at her and shaking his head. "I love you so much."

"Maybe you should go talk to Daniel," Rita began.

Her reply stunned him. Chris couldnít believe his ears, his mouth dropped open. "You think Iím crazy?" he said.

"No," Rita said, watching his reaction. "No, I donít think youíre crazy, but maybe he can help you sort through all your feelings."

"I thought thatís what we were doing here?" he asked, "isnít this what WEíRE supposed to do, talk about stuff and work it out together?" he added. "I donít need to see a doctor, I just need to talk to you about it."

"Chris this is a little out of my area of expertise, plus it involves work, I donít know what else to tell you, I am your supervisor, you know," she said. "Youíre telling me things that affect your job and I think you should get the right kind of help."

Chris stood up angrily, "this is exactly what Iím talking about Rita," he paused, "I need to separate these kinds of things. I NEED to be able to talk to you about them. You Rita, not Lieutenant Lance, I need you."

"I am here for you. Chris, Iím not trying to make this difficult for you, but maybe I am involved too much too," she said, spinning around in her chair to face him. "I donít know if I can be objective enough about this," she added.

"Ok, well letís look at the proís and conís then. This is a great opportunity for me," he began, trying to shift the direction of the conversation. Rita nodded her agreement. "More money, a better position, more responsibility, more room to grow, not having to worry about you beside me," he said.

"Youíre right about all those things," Rita said, "now what about the conís?"

"Longer hours initially, learning a new system," Chris paused, "and not having you beside me," he said.

"Chris, a pro cannot also be a con," Rita interjected. The silence between them was huge. "Why donít you just talk to Daniel?" she said again. "Iím sure he can really help you here." She wanted to help him, but she honestly didnít know what to tell him, maybe she just wasnít hearing his whole explanation.

His face was full of frustration. Chris didnít say anything, he turned and walked out of the room and headed off to take a shower. How could he make her understand how he was feeling. He thought he made it clear. He was finding it harder and harder to have Rita as his partner, his boss and his soon to be wife.

 

Rita had some hope for the next day. They had managed to conveniently ignore their discussion and were rather informal and casual while talking with each other for the rest of the day and into Sunday. Chris was scheduled to play basketball with Daniel over at the schoolyard near their home. It had been a few weeks since they played or had even seen each other. Rita hoped Chris would use it as a chance to talk to Daniel about the job offer as well as his other feelings too.

Chris came strolling down the hall, and plucked the basketball off the sofa of the living room. Rita was sitting at the kitchen table working on her vows. Chris poked his head in and told her he was heading over to the playground. He began to leave, then suddenly poked his head back in, pamphlets laid out before her. "Ah ha," he began, "youíre still writing yours too!" he said, like he had just caught the kid in the cookie jar.

Without missing a beat Rita said, "No actually, Iím working on yours, since I know youíll never finish them."

"Ha," Chris let out a laugh. "Youíre such a liar Sam."

"Have a good game," she called out to him as he exited.

 

Things still weighed heavily on Chrisí mind. He needed to give Jon Watson an answer by tomorrow. Rather than bring up the subject again with Rita, he just ignored talking about it with her for the rest of the day Saturday. They managed to work on the service, picking out the readings and the hymns and taking care of other wedding related items. There still was a slight strain between them though. Chris so wanted to make this whole thing work, being married and being partners, but it seemed like ever since Rita had gotten her well deserved promotion, he was feeling a bit left out, like he was missing something or loosing what he so desperately wanted to keep hold of. He kept telling himself over and over that he could try the job as a temporary gig, just like Jon had been suggesting. If he didnít like it, he could go back to homicide. The whole conversation with Rita bothered him as well. He tried to make her understand his feelings, but she just wasnít getting his point. Then there was the whole thing with McLeish. How could he possibly make her understand what happened in his mind. She was so much more than his partner now. The last thing he wanted to do was to discuss it with Daniel. He liked Daniel, but he also knew that he and Rita were really good friends. That still kinda bugged him too. It was all beginning to come to a head.

He ended up taking out his frustration on Daniel and the basketball court.

Chris drove to the hoop viciously and sent Daniel sprawling to the cement for about the fifth time during the game.

"That was a charge," Daniel said, sitting up slowly, rubbing the back of his head.

Chris reached down his hand to help Daniel get back to his feet. "It wasnít a charge, you were moving. You just donít want to admit youíre getting a step slow, you canít keep up with me anymore."

Daniel pushed his hand aside angrily and stood up on his on volition. He was getting a bit upset, after spending most of his morning getting knocked down repeatedly. "Yeah, ok whatever. Look, Iím going ok?" he said.

"Youíre what?" Chris asked in shock.

"I said Iím going. If I wanted to play gorilla ball, I would have brought a helmet and pads ok!" Daniel said.

Chris took a few steps closer to him and put his hand on Danielís chest to hold him up. "What are you talking about?" Chris asked.

"You! Iím talking about you. In case you havenít noticed, I need first aid this morning. This is supposed to be basketball Chris, not boxing," Daniel explained.

Chris lowered his hand and it fell to his side. "Look Daniel, Iím sorry, youíre right, I was outta control."

Daniel smiled. "Itís ok, but really, I think I am through for today," he said. He watched Chris carefully. "Unless thereís something you wanna talk about?"

Chris felt the anger surfacing again, "No Daniel, I donít need a shrink ok, everythingís fine. You know between you and Rita," he stopped in mid-sentence. He was annoyed that Daniel could read people so well. And he sounded just like Rita. No wonder where she got it from. He took a deep breath and decided that right then he was going to take the temporary assignment. Enough of the frustration, he thought. He needed a break and a change.

Daniel shook his head, "Ok, no problem. Iím glad." Daniel started to walk away. "I thought I was being a friend."

Chris called out after him and walked over to catch up to him, "Daniel, itís not you, itís me, and Iím ok, in fact I think I just made the right decision. Iím tired of thinking about it, I guess I just have to do it. Or at least Iíve got to try. Iím really sorry I took it out on you this morning. Same time next week, ok?" Chris asked holding out his hand.

"Yeah, sure," Daniel said with a smile, accepting the warm hand of a friend. "Only make your decisions before we play ok?"

Chris smiled and nodded.

 

Monday morning was about to get even worse. He purposely neglected to tell Rita about his decision until they were at work. He justified it by rationalizing that he was keeping his personal life separate from his professional life. Chris had made his decision and came in early to fill out the necessary temporary transfer paperwork and left them on Ritaís desk. In the meantime, he had gone down to the lab to check on some information. When he came back to his desk, his temporary re-assignment paperwork was laying on the top of his desk, with a denied stamp, plastered across the page, with Ritaís initialís underneath. She wasnít in her office. He quickly surveyed the office and spotted Rita over near the coffee machine. He calmly picked up the papers and walked over toward her and grabbed her arm. "I need to see you," he said into her ear.

"Sure, in a minute ok," she said, getting herself a cup of coffee.

"No, right now," he said, leading her back to her office.

"Chris," Rita said a little annoyed.

They both slipped into her office and he shut the door rather loudly. He tossed the papers on her desk and asked, "What is this?"

Rita glanced down at them, "itís exactly what it looks like Chris, we need you here right now."

"Thatís bull Rita," Chris said angrily, with his hands on his hips. "Thereís one case right now, Tre and Geoff can easily handle it. Whatís the real reason?" he asked.

"Why didnít you tell me that this was your decision?" she asked.

"Excuse me, I am talking to Lieutenant Lance right now, am I not?" he shot back at her.

She could play his game too. "Ok then, I donít think youíre taking this for the right reason, itís an escape for you, and thatís not fair to us or OCB," Rita explained. "And just why did you wait to tell me using paperwork. Donít we communicate anymore?"

Chris ignored her last comment for the time being, "So youíre making the decision for me?" he said with anger building in his voice. "I donít get a say in this huh?"

"No, Iím making it as you supervisor, and as the supervisor of this department, which apparently is how you see me. We canít afford to loan you out right now," she said, every bit as upset as he was. She felt her authority being challenged.

"Youíre not making any sense, what is it? The caseload or me leaving?" he asked.

"I told you both, are you listening?" she answered.

Chris stood there shaking his head at her. "Loud and clear, Lieutenant, loud and clear," he said. He picked up the papers and walked out.

Rita had no idea what was coming next.

 

Chris headed straight for Harryís office. The door was closed, but Harry was inside, doing some paperwork at his desk. Chris politely, but firmly knocked. Harry looked up and nodded for him to enter.

"Cap, can I talk to you please?" Chris said calmly.

"Sure kid, come on in," Harry said, pushing aside some papers. Harry had no idea what was coming.

Chris came in and closed the door. He carefully laid the papers on Harryís desk and took a deep breath. Harry glanced at them, mostly seeing the Ďredí denied stamp across them.

"Whatís this?" he asked Chris, picking them up and lifting up his glasses for a closer look.

Chris stood before him, unwilling to sit down. Anger flowed through his entire body. "Iíd like to be temporarily reassigned to OCB, Cap," Chris said relatively calm. "A loan out."

"Whereíd all this come from?" Cap asked, still checking over the paperwork. Chris remained standing, appearing very upset.

"Itís an opportunity thatís presented itself and Iíd like the chance to decide for myself," Chris said as calmly as he could.

Cap set the papers back down and watched Chris carefully. He had no clue as to what was going on here. "Why donít you sit down Chris," he said. "Letís get Rita in here and discuss this, ok?" He knew she had denied the request.

Chris stood his ground and shook his head, "Cap, Iíd rather not have Lieutenant Lance in on this," he said formally.

Cap was totally confused, heíd never seen Chris this stoic in all the years heíd worked with him. He stood up and went around to the other side of the desk and drew the blinds closed. Something huge was going on here. He turned around and put his hand on Chrisí back and did something he did not so very often do, he used Chrisí first name to address him. "Chris, sit down, ok." Cap said sitting down himself in the chair next to where Chris was. It was time for him to be more of a father than a captain. "Come on, just you and me alright?"

Chris sat down reluctantly.

"So whatís this all about?" Cap asked calmly.

"Itís exactly what it looks like. Iíd like the temporary assignment, to try it out, and Rit, er, Lieutenant Lance, denied it. So Iíd like you to approve it," Chris said, very business like. "Could you do that please?"

"That part I got, letís back up a little ok?" Cap said, trying to maintain diplomacy.

"Cap, I need to do this, just believe me ok?" he replied.

"Nope, no way, youíre gonna have to give me the story first," Cap said, "otherwise I have to back up Rita."

Chris was a bit frustrated. He stood back up and turned his back to Harry. "I donít want to admit this, but I think maybe the department is right," he began. "We shouldnít be partners here and involved in a personal relationship," he started and then turned around, "there are you happy?" he added.

Harry shook his head, "No, why would I be happy about that? You two make a great team in both cases. What exactly happened between the two of you? You were both fine on Friday?"

"I guess I finally admitted it and realized it, thatís all," Chris said, cryptically.

"Are you talking work or the marriage?" Cap said.

Chris formed a half smile, "work, at least right now, Iíll find out on the marriage later at home probably. Who knows what the rest of the day has in store?"

Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, what brought this all on?" Harry asked.

Chris was reluctant at first. He hardly knew where to start. He had tried to explain it to Rita and she didnít understand. He figured heís try and again with Cap. "Lotís of little things, things I kept pushing down, putting away. Then this whole McLeish case. Cap, I wanted to kill that guy, I never felt that way before. I know it was because of Rita and because I want to marry her. Things have changed now. I just donít think I can work with her in this situation any longer, I donít know, I just donít know," Chris said, pouring out his heart and soul to Cap. "But I know I need to find out, for both of us."

"So what did Rita say?" Cap asked.

"Rita or Lieutenant Lance?í Chris asked in return.

Harry smiled, "how Ďbout both?"

"Rita thinks I should see a shrink, she thinks itís all in my head. Cap, itís all Iíve been thinking about, I donít think it should be this way. Itís beginning to tear me up," he explained. "Ever since she became Lieutenant, itís just gotten harder, I feel like sheís passing me by, leaving me. I think I need to keep my job and my personal life separate. And I love Rita too much to not marry her."

Cap got up and went over to him and put his arm on his shoulder, "I understand Chris."

"So, will you sign the papers?" Chris asked.

"Well, why did Rita, I mean Lieutenant Lance deny them?" he wanted to know.

"She claims Iím doing it for the wrong reason," Chris replied.

"Are you? Are you just running away?" Cap asked.

"Cap, Iíve been having these feelings for months, the McLeish thing just brought it to the surface. I know this is something I have to do. I have to find out for myself. Maybe I can work with Rita, but right now, this is the way I think I have to find out," Chris said, trying to make Cap understand. "Itís a temporary gig, if it doesnít work out, Iíll be back, I promise," he added.

"Maybe Rita is right Chris, maybe you should go and talk to Daniel, what could it hurt? Sheís looking out for you, she loves you too, you know that," Cap smiled at him. Chris didnít respond, he was deep in thought. Cap spoke again, "If you feel this strongly about it Lorenzo, then, yeah, Iíll sign it, after I discuss it with Rita too. Fair enough?"

Chris was a bit hurt that Cap felt the need to discuss it with Rita, after he poured out his soul to him. "Cap, if you donít sign it, Iíll quit and take the job outright." With that he walked out of the room and out of the homicide department.

 

Rita impatiently waited in her office. She was sure that Harry would call her in to discuss this whole situation. She couldnít concentrate on anything. It had been nearly fifteen minutes. She knew Chris was still in there. She could hear low murmuring between the wall. All of a sudden, she heard the door open and saw Chris head out of the office. She figured she better wait and see what Harryís reaction would be. She needed to be cool and collected hereÖ.a professional, a supervisor. She waited.

Harry walked over after about ten more minutes passed by. "Rita, letís talk," he said, in a monotone. She got up and followed him into his office. "Close the door," he said. She obliged. "You know why youíre in here?" he asked.

"I imagine Chris went over my head to you right?" she began.

"If you want to put it that way, yeah," Harry nodded. Rita sat down and waited for him to speak. "Iím not sure I understand why you denied his request Rita. This puts me in a very awkward spot," Cap said.

Rita was more than prepared to defend herself. "I told him that we needed him here and that he was requesting the transfer for the wrong reason," she explained.

"Rita, thereís only one open case," Harry commented.

"But weíre still training Tre and Geoff," she defended her action further.

Harry simply looked at her and waited for her to give him the real reason.

She shook her head, a bit frustrated and gave in, "Ok, but I still think heís taking the job for the wrong reason," she said.

Harry sat down behind his own desk. "Thatís not for you to decide Lieutenant," he said formally, trying to make his point as her supervisor. "You need a better reason than that, do you understand. Youíre basing it on personal involvement, not on what might be best for Chris or the department. This could be a valuable experience for all of us," Harry said.

"So, youíre approving it?" Rita asked.

"I havenít decided yet, I told Chris I needed to discuss it with you first. I want to hear both of your reasons. This is a big step," Harry explained. "Do you have anything else to add?"

"I just think he should maybe talk to Dr. Mattson first. I think heís got some unresolved issues that he needs to work out first. Then make his decision," Rita said.

"Rita heís been thinking about this for some time," Harry began. "Have you been listening?"

Rita was taken aback. "Yeah," she said softly, "I donít understand," she added.

"Look Rita, I donít want to take sides on this thing," Harry started. "This is friend to friend now, father to daughter ok?" Rita nodded. "As much as a man is happy for his wifeís success, it also begins to eat away at him, little by little. Chris is feeling left behind, whichís the impression I get. He wants to move ahead too, and right now he isnít getting that opportunity from PBPD. I think Chris is going through a couple of different things here. Your promotion being one of them. The other thing is the McLeish case. Youíre not just his partner and his friend anymore. Youíre much more. And heíll do anything to protect you, anything. Do you understand?"

Rita nodded. "He told you all that?" she asked, surprised that Chris would do that.

"In his own way and I just listened between the lines. And Iíve been watching the two of you closely. I think we need to let him try this," Harry said, "whatta you think?"

She thought about everything now. What Chris had said and now what Cap had explained to her had now begun to come into better focus, "Yeah, youíre right, letís let him do this," she said forcing a smile to come from her lips.

 

Rita carried the approved papers with her and found Chris having some lunch with Donovan down at the roach coach.

"No George, itís not like that at all," Chris was saying as he spotted Rita coming toward them.

George noticed the pause in Chrisí voice and turned to see Rita, "listen, Iíll get with you later on that ok, I need to figure out how that works," he said. As Rita approached, "Hi Rita, looking wonderful as always," he commented.

"Hi George, thanks," she said with a warm smile.

"Iím late for court, gotta run, see you both later," he said, picking up his briefcase and exiting.

"May I?" Rita said, gesturing to the seat.

"By all means," Chris said as she sat down and placed the approved papers before him. "Whatís this?" he asked, glancing down at them.

"I believe itís what you wanted, isnít it?" Rita asked.

"Are you sure?" he asked her.

She nodded. "Chris, I donít want to stand in the way of an opportunity for you. I think you should give it a try, ok?" she smiled. "I was wrong to deny you this chance, Iím sorry," she added

"Thatís all I want Rita, just a chance, I donít know, maybe Iíll hate it, but I gotta try," he explained. "And youíre right too, Iím gonna talk with Daniel, straighten out these feelings, you know?"

"I know," she replied.

He stood up and went and stood behind her, clutching her shoulders, he bent down and gave her a kiss. "I do love you so much," he said.

Her arm came up and melted to his hand, "I know, I love you too," she replied.

 

Chris started work at OCB the very next day. The OCB staff had already begun some ground laying work on an important undercover case. The case involved a small group of Mordovian immigrants. The Mordovianís influx into Palm Beach had been gradual over the past two years. Mordovia was a fairly affluent pre-Soviet block country. The Kurkowic family had fled their native homeland as civil war broke out in Mordovia and before the break up of the Soviet Union. They had managed to hide their money in offshore accounts and settled in Palm Beach early in 1997. Turko Kurkowic, the patriarch of the family, was believed to be involved in arms trading with his native Mordovia and had been linked several times in crimes against Russianís living in Palm Beach as well as the Russian Embassy, including a recent bombing of the Embassy home. The Kurkowic family included Turkoís three sons, Rufe, Alec and Edvard and his daughter Isobel. The exact involvement of these family members was unknown. That would be Chrisí job to find out and to bring them to justice if need be.

Chrisí cover would be going into the Kurkowic home as a reporter for a New York newspaper. Heíd be doing an in-depth series on the Mordovianís, using the Kurkowic family as his main subjects. Heíd be partnerless and have very little contact with Jon or any other members of the OCB. His name would be Chris Lawton and everything had been cleared with the New York Daily Times.

Chris drove up the long brick drive in his compact rental car. He dressed casually, a purple polo shirt with a blue suitcoat and slacks. A young Hispanic girl let him into the spacious entryway as he knocked on the front door. She told him to wait and in a few moments, Turko Kurkowic greeted him and welcomed him into his mansion.

Chris followed the bearded man into his study. "Mr. Kurkowic, it is indeed a pleasure to meet you sir, you have a lovely home. Iíve heard so many fine things about you and your family, Iím really looking forward to doing this piece," Chris smiled and held out his hand.

Turko took it slowly, with some reservation about this bubbly personality that this young man had. In a loud and deep voice, laden with a heavy Mordovian accent, he replied, "Good to meet you too, Lawton, is it?"

Chris nodded, "yeah, yes sir, Chris Lawton, you can call me Chris, thatís fine."

"Good, then you must call me Turko, everyone does," he said heartily. Just then Son number one entered. Turko pulled him aside and introduced him.

"This is my son Rufe," Turko said, slapping his son on the back, "meet Chreees, from da paper. Heís doing a story on us, for the people of New York."

"Actually the paper is read world wide Turko," Chris added.

"For da world then," Turko added and laughed.

Chris stuck out his hand to shake with Rufe. Rufe took it politely. He was a very somber individual. He made no comment or even an attempt to speak to Chris. Rufe was somewhere in his mid thirties, Chris guessed. Heíd need to run profiles on all of Turkoís family members. Hopefully the other kids would be a bit more friendly than Ďol Rufe here.

Turko offered Chris a drink of vodka, which he politely declined. Then the three of them went out to Turkoís patio. Chrisí eyes were immediately drawn to the pool, where he assumed, from the background he had been given, that Isobel was swimming. She was an absolute beauty of about twenty-four. Dark hair and dark eyes and a gorgeous red swimsuit accentuated her slim, firm shape. Turko noticed Chrisí gaze right away. She made immediate eye contact with Chris.

"She is beautiful, no?" he asked Chris.

"Yes, she is Turko, and I mean it very respectfully sir," Chris said, keeping his eyes focused on Isobel.

"My youngest, my baby, my Isobel," Turko replied.

Chris made eye contact with the young woman and nodded at her every so slightly. A nod that was noticed right away by Rufe.

In perfect English with no accent, Rufe finally spoke, "you from New York, Chris?"

"Nope, Michigan, born and raised, went to college in Ann Arbor, summa cum laude, journalism, got my first job at the Times," he explained, still fixated on Isobel. "What about you?"

"Harvard law school," Rufe replied.

"Still going or what?" Chris asked.

"No, just havenít found a job yet, so Iím working for my Father," he said, seeming to loosen up a bit.

"A wealthy family like this can always use a good lawyer right?" Chris remarked, with a laugh.

Turko laughed at Chrisí comment as well. "I like dis man, I think you will write a good article on my family Chreees Lawton, wonít you? You put Rufe in his place didnít you? No fear, das good."

"I know Iíll do a good story sir, I know I will," Chris replied, he turned to see Isobel come out of the pool and head into the house. "And I didnít mean to insult your son," Chris said turning towards Rufe. He turned and walked back into the house.

"Donít worry about him Chrees, heís got a lot on his mind," Turko replied. Chrisí mind started to work right away.

 

Chris hung around the Kurkowic home for most of the afternoon. He spent most of his time with Turko, taking notes on his lifeís story. Turko told him all about his genealogy and how he came to America. Of course he failed to mention any underworld activities he may have played a part in, but Chris wasnít expecting miracles on his first day on the job. Turko was actually a rather interesting character and Chris found himself becoming more and more absorbed into the intricacies of this manís life.

Nearing the supper hour, Isobel came out onto the patio and interrupted the conversation that her father was having with Chris.

"Excuse me, Father, we are almost ready for dinner, will your guest be joining us?" she asked, not taking her eyes off Chris once again. He smiled at her politely.

"Would you like to join us Chrees?" Turko asked.

"Well, I would love to sir, donít get me wrong, but I have a previous engagement this evening, maybe another time?" Chris left the question dangle.

"Yes, of course, and I will make you a Mordovian specialty then, ok?" Turko replied.

"That sounds wonderful Turko," Chris replied, glancing at Isobel.

"Perhaps Isobel would like to cook for you as well some night?" Turko said, noticing how they both looked at each other.

Isobel turned her attention to her Father. "Daddy, I donít even know this man, really?" she said, acting embarrassed that her Father had suggested such a thing. Chris could see in her eyes that she was interested however.

"Dis is Chrees Lawton, the newspaper reporter from New York. I told you he would be coming, remember?" Turko said.

Chris stood as Turko began to formally introduce them. "My pleasure Miss Kurkowic," Chris said, taking her hand in his.

Isobel smiled, "please, itís Isobel, may I call you Chris?" she asked.

"Absolutely," Chris responded. "And I would enjoy taking you out for dinner sometime," he paused, "that is if you would accept an invitation from me?"

"Yes, I would like that," she replied. "Daddy, dinner is in ten minutes ok?" she said, turning and going back inside the house.

Both men watched her slide the glass patio door closed.

"Turko, you have a very beautiful daughter, sheís very lovely," Chris said.

"She gets it all from her Mother," he answered.

"Well, Iíll let you have a wonderful dinner, may I come by tomorrow?" Chris asked.

"Yes, please do, you need to meet the rest of my family too," Turko said, now taking Chrisí hand firmly.

"Then I will see you tomorrow, have a good evening," Chris said as he headed out.

 

OCB had Chrisí cover set into place. Heíd drive his rental car downtown to the Palm Beach Hilton Hotel. Heíd then head inside, go to his hotel room, type in his report and email it off to Jon at OCB headquarters and then duck out the back, through a service entrance to his own Jeep and eventually home to Rita. If anyone followed him from the Kurkowic residence, theyíd assume he was locked up safe and sound all night long. The following morning the opposite routine would take place. He had to check in and out of the OCB computer system each day. If he failed to do so, OCB would consider him to be either in some kind of trouble or a subversive. Either way, the results would generally end the one of two ways, prison or death.

Chris pulled the Jeep into the familiar driveway. Apparently Rita hadnít come home yet, her car was no where in sight.

He headed inside, grabbed a beer and flipped on the TV in the living room and began to watch the early edition of SportsCenter on ESPN. He decided to order a pizza, so he picked up the phone and placed the call. Kicking off his shoes and shedding his sport coat, he stretched his feet out on the coffee table and waited for the pizza man to arrive.

Not to long after he ordered the pizza, he realized he ought to check the phone messages and see if anyone had anything important to say, like his soon to be wife. He got up and headed back into the kitchen and hit the play button.

The voice was familiar. "Hi Chris, Iím running a little late and Iíve got to stop off at the drugstore and pick up a few things. Why donít you order us a pizza? I should be home by eight or eight thirty," Ritaís voice said.

Chris checked the time on the stove clock. It was 8:10pm. The pizza man was due any minute. And surprisingly enough Rita appeared at the patio door carrying some bags and some files. Chris saw her and immediately went to slide open the door for her. He gave her a quick kiss before she could even step inside.

As they broke apart she said, "Ah, you read my mind," smiling from the simple delight of a tender welcome home kiss.

"In more ways than one," Chris admitted. "The pizza is on the way, and I just found out you wanted me to order one," he said, turning toward the answering machine.

"Great minds think alike, right?" she said, dumping the files and the bags onto the kitchen table.

"Whatís all this?" Chris asked, seeing the bags.

"I just found out that Franny is having a shower for me on Sunday. I really donít know why. Itís a bit ridiculous, weíve got everything we need practically. So I stopped and got some thank you cards, for the day after. Itís supposed to be a surprise, so donít let on that you know ok?" she rambled on.

"Mumís the word," he said, "I donít have to go to this do I?" he added hoping for a miracle.

"No, women only, unless you want to?" she said, raising her eyebrows.

"Nope, thatís ok, I think Iíll pass," he said.

"But you can help me write the thank youís," she said.

"Done deal, that was easy now, wasnít it?" he said giving her another kiss.

"So how was OCB?" Rita said, kicking off her high heels, still moving about the kitchen.

"Good," he said, leaving it as a one-word answer.

"Donít worry Sam, Iím not gonna ask what youíre doing," she chuckled, knowing he had to keep his involvement under wraps. "I just wondered if you liked it?"

He smiled at her warmly, "God Rita, I want to tell you all about it so badly," he began, his excitement obviously brimming.

"That good huh?" she asked watching him glow.

He nodded.

"Can you tell me anything at all?" she asked.

"They have a lot more money for expenses than PBPD and you should see the computer system they have," he let out with a grin from ear to ear.

"Hmm," she said, he was like a kid in a candy store. "Is it all fun and games or are you doing any work?" she asked.

The doorbell rang. The pizza guy was at the front door. "Very funny! Yes, I am working," Chris said from the doorway of the kitchen as he went to get the pizza.

They both talked about their respective days in generalities while they munched on the pizza. Rita munched, Chris devoured. Rita couldnít remember the last time she had seen him quite this excited. He was definitely on a high. They actually both found themselves to be having a wonderful time. It was as if the time apart and the differences in their jobs had given them some much needed space from one another. They happily segued into other topics easily, leaving both their careers behind for the rest of the evening.

They ended up falling asleep in each otherís arms watching ĎThe African Queení on the late show.

 

An entire week went by and Chris was no further in finding out any info on the Kurkowicís other than their life history. He had met the entire family by now including Turkoís wife, Sadvia and his two other sons Alec and Edvard. This particular evening he was invited to the Kurkowic mansion for some traditional Mordovian specialties. He told Rita that morning not to wait for him for dinner, that heíd be working.

The meal was strictly meat and potatoes all the way, heavy gravy, hearty portions and good-hearted conversation. Chris was getting no where fast with this family. All outward appearances seemed more than normal. They were an immigrant family with strong unity and they would be hard to break. He began to think his only chance would be with Isobel.

After dinner he asked her if she would join him for a walk around the grounds. After the brothersí teasing had ended, she agreed and they began their casual stroll.

It was awkward for Chris, especially being so close to the wedding date, to be walking in the romantic moonlight with a beautiful woman, who wasnít Rita. He kept telling himself to go into the character of Chris Lawton, not Chris Lorenzo, but there was something about this woman that was preventing him from doing so.

"Isobel, you and your brothers all speak such terrific English," Chris commented.

Isobel laughed a little, tipping her head back ever so slightly. "We were privately tutored by the finest professors my Father could find. I can actually speak eight additional languages fluently as well."

"Eight? Wow! Thatís incredible! I still have a tough time with English," he said with a laugh of his own.

"Rufe and Alec both went to Harvard, Edvard went to Princeton and I graduated last year from Radcliffe," she added proudly.

"Thatís terrific, whatís your degree in?" he asked her.

"Business and International Finance, Iíve been assisting Daddy in his personal business since I graduated," she explained.

"What kind of business?" Chris threw out.

"Well, to be honest, Iím managing his private investments and keeping up on the newest tax codes and such. Daddy doesnít think Iím quite ready for his business, business yet. Thatís Alecís department, heís Daddyís right hand, since Rufe wants to strictly concentrate on law," she explained.

"And what about Edvard?" Chris asked.

"Heís helping out Daddyís personal affairs as well, I think in time he and Alec will take control of the company," Isobel said, stopping and sitting on a nearby lawn swing. Chris stood along side of it. "Sit down silly," she said. Chris obliged. She began to rock the swing slowly. The silence between the two of them was deafening. All Chris could notice was that Isobel was a beautiful and intelligent young woman.

"So Rufe is out of the picture?" Chris asked her, thinking that he may running his own business on the side.

She slid her hand over to Chrisí thigh, "letís just say heís not interested in the familyís business," she said, rubbing lightly.

Chris laughed lightly and took her hand and placed it back on her own leg. "Surely your Father has a need for a good attorney?"

She was stunned by his sudden lack of interest in her. "Daddy and Rufe donít always see eye to eye." This time Isobel leaned in and began to kiss his neck with unrelenting passion. She left a hickey imprinted on his skin.

He pulled away too late. "Isobel, please stop," he said pushing her away.

"I, I thought this is what you wanted," she said confused, "I didnít know you were interested in Rufe," she added in a huff. She started to get up and head inside.

Chris grabbed her arm. There was no way in the world he could let her think that he had any interest in Rufe other than to find out who was behind the bombings. He brought her close and left a fevered kiss upon her surprised lips. He broke off and said, "Iím not interested in Rufe, but Isobel, I hardly know you, letís give it a little time ok?" he said.

She smiled and nodded, "OK, I can do that," she said, heading for the house.

 

It was nearly 10:30pm when Chris arrived back at home that particular evening. He had forgotten that Isobel had left a hickey on the side of his neck. He walked in and saw Rita napping on the living room sofa. She was dozing lightly and woke up immediately as she heard him come in. Rita noticed it right away, as he stood near her taking off his suit coat and depositing it on the chair.

"Should I be jealous here or is this just a part of the case youíre working on," Rita said in a teasingly, but completely trustful tone.

Chris had no idea what she was referring to at first. "Sorry, Iím late, yeah it was the case," he said, bending down to give her a kiss.

She ran her hand gently on his neck, over the hickey, "this is what I was talking about, not the time."

Chris put his hand over the same spot and felt the tiny pain of the hickey. "Ah, yeah, thatís the case too, itís nothing really," he added.

She gave him a warm smile, "it doesnít look like nothing," she continued. She shifted herself on the sofa to give him some room to sit along side her.

"I know you believe me," Chris said, letting out a yawn and a tiny smile, "I want to tell you more Sam, I just canít, you know," his voice trailed off. "Itís an undercover case," he added.

She leaned in and kissed him herself, "I donít like anyone else doing this to you, thatís all," she said, beginning to nibble a little herself. Chris grinned. She knew he was enjoying it. "You look pretty tired, how Ďbout I do your shoulders?" she asked.

He nodded, "that sounds great Sam," he said shifting his body so she could begin to work his aching muscles.

"Is she pretty?" Rita asked.

"Is who pretty?" Chris asked back, letting himself fall completely under her touch. He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath.

"Whoever it was that gave you that?" Rita replied.

"I suppose. Sheís very young and immature," he added.

"I bet that really bothered you didnít it," Rita said with a laugh. "She must be beautiful too."

"Sam, are you really jealous?" he finally asked.

"Maybe a little, but I do trust you. I know itís just your job. I guess Iím jealous cuz you canít tell me anything about it," she admitted.

"Thatís driving me crazy too," he said. "But I think I may be getting closer. Iím narrowing down my suspects."

"Good, I donít want anything to interfere with the wedding," she said.

Chris turned around and faced her, "nothing is going to interfere with the wedding, I promise," he said, delving in for a kiss. "And Jon said heíd make sure that Iíd be to the church on time. Howís everything in homicide?" he asked, attempting to change the subject.

"Just fine," she said, not going into more detail, she didnít want to spend the time with him discussing work. "You know you and Daniel need to get fitted for your tuxes this weekend. Michael is getting his down in Miami. The stores are taking care of making sure he gets the right style. Your Dadís getting his up in Philadelphia and Harry apparently already had his fitting according to Franny."

"Yeah, I need to call Daniel and set up a time we can do that. Iíll try to do that tomorrow. Which reminds me, when do I get to see this dress of yours?" he asked.

Rita chuckled, "the day of the wedding," she said, still laughing.

"Aw Sam, you donít believe in all that jinx stuff do you?" Chris asked.

"Iím not taking any chances," she said as she began to push him backwards on the sofa, "look what happened today by just letting you out of my sight," she started trailing soft kisses all over his face and neck.

"Itís very dangerous, isnít it?" he murmured against her lips. "Maybe I do need you to take care of me?"

"Like this?" she asked, nuzzling against his nose.

"Thatís a start," he answered, with a seductive smile.

"And how about this?" she wondered aloud as she trailed kisses on his cheek around to his ear lobe and lower along his neck.

"Sammy, you take great care of me, donít ever stop," Chris said as he began to unbutton the blouse she had on.

As she continued to kiss him, his hands reached in and began to caress her breasts. She let out a contented sigh as he did. "You take great care of me too, Mr. Lorenzo," she said, looking down at his handsome face.

They both loved every minute of taking great care of one another.

 

Chris set his sights on Rufe Kurkowic. He seemed to be the black sheep of the family. Maybe his Father didnít know that Rufe was involved in covert activities. Chris needed solid evidence or some physical proof that Rufe was the one involved in the bombing.

Rufe was rather an odd fellow. There were times when he was talkative, almost friendly to Chris and then there were times when he was moody and standoffish. During the next week or so, Chris attempted to get closer to him, to no avail. Two of the days he spent following Rufe around and tailing him. There was nothing unusual about his activities. His only recourse was going through Isobel. He regretted having to do that right away.

Isobel took Chrisí interest as interest in her. He didnít want to hurt her in any way, but felt that she was going to fall hard. It was his job, he knew he had to do it.

 

That Saturday Chris and Daniel went for the tux fitting. Chris had decided to go with a traditional black tux, black cummerbund and black bow tie. He knew some people would find it boring, but somewhere in the back of his mind, thatís what he always envisioned for his own wedding.

Daniel was in fine form this day, relating horror stories, one on top of the other to Chris, who in turn was too happy to let anything get to him.

Daniel kept at it though. "You know Chris one of my best friends had a heart attack during his tux fitting," Daniel began, waiting for Chris to bite.

"Yeah, so what happened?" Chris said, fiddling with his tie.

"Well, according to him, he had a near death experience and God told him when he came back to life that he didnít want him to get married," Daniel explained.

"So, did he follow Godís advice?" Chris asked.

"He must have, he never came back to life," Daniel said with a chuckle.

Chris shook his head and laughed. "I suppose youíre gonna be like this up until February 13th arenít you?"

"Oh yeah, makes it all that much more fun, donít ya think?" Daniel said.

They continued to joke around as they had their measurements taken when all of a sudden Rufe Kurkowic came bounding into the tux store. Chris and Daniel were in the back near the dressing rooms, but Chris spotted him right away. He turned his back to Rufe and reached for Danielís arm.

"Listen Daniel, play along with me for now, Iíll explain later ok?" he said in a low tone.

Daniel was surprised by his action, but nodded his understanding. Rufe came walking toward the back carrying a tux of his own, ready for final fitting.

"Chris?" Rufe said, spotting Chris.

"Hey Rufe, how you doing man?" Chris said calmly.

"Good, and you?" Rufe asked.

"Iím good too, Iím good. My friend here is getting married in a few weeks," Chris said, patting Daniel on the back. "We went to Michigan together and somehow he wound up down here," Chris explained. Daniel smiled politely.

"Coincidence huh, that you just happened to be down here doing the story?" Rufe questioned, with a bit of suspicion in his voice.

Chris leaned forward a little and dropped his voice again, "Donít tell my boss, but I kinda worked it out that way so I could mix business with pleasure," he said with a grin.

"Donít worry, itís safe," Rufe smiled back, believing his explanation and held out his hand for Daniel, "Rufe Kurkowic, itís nice to meet you."

"Daniel Mattson," Daniel replied, "the pleasureís all mine."

"So you guys both went to Michigan huh?" Rufe continued the conversation.

Chris took up the slack for Daniel. "Yeah, Danielís a doctor, psycho one," he added.

"A shrink huh?" Rufe asked.

"Yep, got my own little practice and everything," Daniel said with a smile.

"Good for you. You Michigan guys did alright for yourselves," he added.

Chris and Daniel looked at each other and smiled. Chris asked Rufe, "What are you doing here?"

"I got a big black tie dinner tonight at the Marriott. Iíd rather not have to go, but I gotta keep up appearances, I may duck out early." he added oddly.

Daniel was through with his sizing and the tailor was just finishing up on Chris. Daniel slipped into a stall and began to change his clothes. Chris prayed the tailor wouldnít let anything slip. Just as he was about to say something, Daniel came out and politely ushered him to the counter at the front of the store. Chris breathed a sigh of relief to himself.

"Listen Rufe, you have a good time at your dinner ok?" Chris said, turning to go into the stall to change his clothes.

"Yeah, thanks. Weíll see you soon huh?"

"Yeah, I imagine we will," Chris replied.

Daniel and Chris walked out of the store together. Chris began to speak. "Daniel, thanks, I owe you big time for playing along and getting rid of the tailor just in time."

"Must be some case, the Kurkowicís huh? I hope youíre being careful Chris," Daniel said.

Chris stopped him from walking. "Daniel, you canít tell anyone about this ok? If my cover gets blownÖ" Chris trailed off and just shook his head.

Daniel put his hand on Chrisí shoulder, "Chris donít worry. Being a graduate of Michigan will only ever be fantasy for me, ok?" Daniel chuckled. "How could you do that to a Dukey?"

Chris grinned. He knew his secret was safe with Daniel.

 

Chris decided to work that evening. He was going to trail Rufe and see where he would lead him. In a way, he was lucky that he ran in to Rufe at the tailorís. He called up Jon Watson and told him what he was up to. Jon gave him the ok and told him to be careful. Chris went home and got set for the evening.

Rita was out doing some shopping, so Chris left her a noteÖ.

Rita,

Something came up at work, Iíve got to head in for a while tonight. Iím not sure how late Iíll be. Donít wait up ok? Iíll call you if I get a chance.

Love you always,

Chris

He left the note sitting on the kitchen table and went off to follow Rufe.

 

Things were hopping at the Marriott. Chris walked into the lobby of the newly constructed hotel and was amazed with all the people heading in and out of the open aired, lavishly decorated room. Several dinners were taking place on this particular evening, he just had to figure out which one Rufe would be attending. He began to study the list. His eyes scanned down and focused on the Russian Embassy Ball, being held in the Palm Garden Ballroom. He headed off in search of the room, wondering why a Mordovian immigrant would be attending a Russian event like this.

He spied inside the huge hall and saw Rufe sitting at the head table of all places. What was this guyís game? There was no way he could be pretending to be a Russian. Everyone in Palm Beach had heard of the Mordovian Kurkowic family and knew of their Ďdislikeí for the Russians. He was more confused about the whole set of circumstances. He was going to turn and leave, perhaps do a little more researching into the Russian embassy, when out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of Isobel walking down the hall. She didnít notice him, but he also didnít notice that Rufe had spotted him in the back of the room as well.

Chrisí mind raced. Were the two of them into something together? And was something going to happen tonight? When he talked to Jon Watson earlier in the day, there was no indication that any covert action was in the works. Of course OCB could just not have been given the latest information. He headed down the hallway in search of Isobel. He reached for his cell phone and punched in Jonís beeper code for backup. The OCB computer had been informed that Chris was at the Marriott. Jon and the rest of the OCB crew would be notified shortly.

Chris came to a corner and carefully peaked around, he saw Isobel duck inside a door. The rest of the hall was empty, so he casually walked down it and came upon the room that she had entered. He took a deep breath and decided to head inside. He drew out his gun and turned the knob.

The room was dark. It would take him a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the light. They never did. Someone hit him from behind, knocking him to the ground, out cold.

 

Rita was at home making some dinner for herself when the phone rang. She half expected it to be Chris, telling her what he was up to or how much longer heíd be. Instead it was Tre. "Rita, weíve got something big going on downtown at the Marriott, you better get down here quick ok?" he said. She could hear a commotion in the background as he spoke, barely able to hear his words.

"Tre, what is it, whatís going on?" she shouted into the handset.

"Thereís been a explosion, and a murder," he said, "Itís a real mess," he added.

"Iíll be right there," she answered, hanging up the phone.

 

Fire, police and rescue personnel were all on the scene as Rita pulled up. She pulled out her badge out of her purse and flashed it at everyone who attempted to stand in her way. She finally got inside the building and noticed Jon Watson off in a corner, talking with some people. She searched for Chris but could not see him. She wondered if he was involved in whatever was happening here. Tre spotted her as she walked in and came up to her. "Man, this is a real mess Lieutenant," he began.

"What exactly happened?" she asked, seeing people being bandaged and taken away on stretchers.

"The rumor has it that some Mordovian subversives decided to ruin the Russian Embassy Ball by planting a bomb to go off right at the stroke of 9pm. I guess that was the anniversary of the bombing date that Russia invaded Mordovia back in 1987. It was there way of remembering," he said with a sarcastic tone to his voice.

"How many people dead?" Rita asked.

"Just one, a Isobel Kurkowic," he replied looking at his notes, "and the FBI is holding the suspect right now."

"The FBI? What are they doing here? This is our jurisdiction," she replied.

"They must have been in the building, because they were here long before I arrived. I figured they maybe knew something was going to happen," Tre explained.

"I saw OCB here too, have you seen Chris around?" she asked Tre.

"Nope, but he could be, Iíve never seen so many people in my life," he said motioning to the chaos all around. "Let me show you the body," he added leading her back.

"So did this woman die in the explosion?" Rita asked.

"No, thatís just it, she was shot, one time, through the head. Geoff is back here now with a team," Tre said. "We think this is where they were holed up. Thereís a back entrance to the ballroom from where the girl was," Tre explained.

"Was she part of it or was she stopping them or just in the wrong place at the wrong time?" Rita asked.

"Isobel Kurkowic is a Mordovian," Tre said, paging through his notes. "Iíd say sheís involved somehow."

They came up the room and Rita began to look around.

"Hi Lieutenant, nothing like a murder and an explosion huh?" Geoff greeted her as she came inside.

"Looks like the two of you are in control, good job," she motioned to both of them. They both smiled.

The room still smoldered from the nearby explosion. Any fingerprints were most likely destroyed, but the lab boys were busy searching for anything. An obvious gun shot wound to the head was the young womanís demise.

"You guys stay on this end, and let me know what you find out," she began, "and where are they hiding this suspect?" she asked Tre.

"Room 119," he replied. "Good luck, they wouldnít let me in before," Tre added.

"Listen, Geoff you stay here, Tre, come with me," Rita rethought.

They walked down the hall and spotted two FBI goons guarding the door. Rita pulled out her badge and got right in their faces. "Lieutenant Lance, PBPD, thatís my suspect you got in there and Iíd like to question him."

"Sorry Lieutenant, no one is allowed in. We have our orders," one of them replied.

"Well you better get the order giver out here now or I will go through you, do you understand Agent Waters," Rita said, glancing at his id badge.

Agent Waters had to curtail a smile. "Yes, maíam, I do," he answered and entered the suite. The other agent merely looked straight ahead. Rita and Tre waited.

After a few minutes another man came out with Agent Waters. "Lieutenant Lance, Iím David Malone, chief agent for the FBI," he said holding out his hand.

"Pleasure Iím sure," Rita responded. "I understand you have a suspect in the murder of Isobel Kurkowic. Iíd like to take over now, it is my jurisdiction."

"Yes, of course, weíre through for now. Weíre just leaving. He does need some medical care, weíll send the paramedics back ok?" Malone replied.

Rita was surprised by how quickly the FBI was backing off. She wondered what was going on here. The three agents started to leave. Rita grabbed Tre by the arm and said, "letís get some of our officers back here. And see if we can get another room. This one could be bugged." Tre nodded and went off to carry out her orders.

Rita walked into the room. It was actually a suite. No one was in the entry room so she continued to move further inside and saw a man leaning forward in a high back chair. He was bent forward holding his head in his handcuffed hands. He looked oddly familiar. The closer she got, the more she couldnít believe her eyes.

"Chris?" she called out.

He slowly turned in the chair and saw her standing in the doorway. He didnít say anything.

She noticed a gash on his forehead. "Are you ok?" she asked coming closer, concern dripping from her voice.

He knew he had to stop her from going any farther. He was still undercover. "They said theyíd send in a paramedic," he said, lifting up his hands, which held a piece of bloodied gauze in it. He pressed it into his wound. "My name is Chris Lawton," he said "but you obviously already know that."

Rita began to realize that Chris was somewhat ok, he was just somehow still running his undercover gig. "Right, Mr. Lawton," she said entering the room, "someoneís coming back shortly to look at you. And weíre also going to another room. Why donít you just relax for a few minutes. Iím Lieutenant Lance, Palm Beach Homicide," she added.

He leaned back in the chair, keeping eye contact with her the whole time. Rita wasnít sure of what to make of the whole situation. She was stunned to say the least. Chris took the gauze off his head and motioned to her to give him some paper and a pen. Rita nodded and dug one out of her purse and handed it to him.

Chris began to write furiouslyÖ

You should read me my rights. The FBI guys donít know Iím OCB.

He held it up for her to see. She shook her head no. She grabbed the pen and paper from him and wrote her own response.

Not till I can talk to you first. Just you and me, alone.

Chris disagreed and took the pen and paper again.

Sam, this is no big deal, just do it, ok? Besides Iím Chris Lawton, remember?

Rita grabbed it again and this silent scenario continued.

Excuse meÖno big deal? Youíre suspected of murder Sam! With International implications as well!

It was Chrisí turn again.

I didnít do itÖjust play along ok?

Rita merely gave him the look. She grudgingly began to read him his rights. "Mr. Lawton, you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed. Do you understand your rights as they have been told to you?"

"Yes I do. I choose to remain silent until I have my attorney present," he said.

"Weíll have the paramedics in in just a minute ok?" she said, showing concern for his head wound.

He picked up the paper and pen and wroteÖ.

Iím fine, quit worrying about me ok?

She smiled, and wanted so desperately to hold him.

 

Tre came back into the room with a paramedic. Now it was his turn to be shocked by who was sitting before him in handcuffs. Rita prevented him from saying anything out loud, so Chrisí cover wouldnít be blown. As the paramedic went to attend to Chris, Rita pushed Tre back into the suiteís sitting room.

"Did you find us another room yet?" she asked him

"Not yet, this place is booked solid," he replied.

"Maybe we should just get him out of here anyway, and take him to the station, it might be safer," she said thinking aloud.

"Yeah, maybe we can take him out the back way. Thereís such a crowd out front and the Mordovian refugees are already starting to picket. They know weíve got a suspect in here," Tre reported.

"Just great, thatís all we need," Rita began, "ok, see if thereís a back way thatís clear and then lets try to get him out of here."

"Sure thing Lieutenant," Tre said exiting the room.

She walked back into the room where Chris was being treated and saw the paramedic stitching up his forehead. Chrisí head was leaning back on the chair, his eyes were closed. "Six stitches, there you go, you should be ok. Have a doctor check it in a day or so though," the paramedic said, not noticing the handcuffs. He probably assumed that Chris was injured in the explosion. He got up and walked past Rita and left.

"Now what, Lieutenant," he asked.

"We canít get another room, apparently the hotel is booked solid, even amidst this mini-disaster. Weíre gonna try to get you downtown to the station. Weíre working on the arrangements right now," Rita explained. "Howís your head?" she asked.

"Iíll live," he said. "I could use an aspirin though," he added.

She dug into her purse and found a small jar and went into the bathroom and poured a glass of water for him. She came back into the room and handed him the pills and the glass. He forced a smile, took them and swallowed them down. "Thanks," he said.

Tre came back into the room then. "Rita, weíre all set. Geoffís down around back, we can go out the service entrance. Itís clear and weíve got PBPD officers posted along the way," he said, he nodded in Chrisí direction. Chris did so in return too.

"Ok, letís get going then," she replied, watching Chris get to his feet. She grabbed hold of one of his arms as they made their way out of the suite and down the hall.

Once in the hall, Chris couldnít resist making a playful comment, "I know youíre practicing this little hold for real, arenít you Sam?" he said referring to the upcoming walk down the aisle. She just gave him another look and shook her head.

They got to the service entrance and were just about to head outside when Edvard Kurkowic came out of nowhere and practically tackled Chris, throwing him up against the wall. "You killed my sister, you sonofabitch," he said, screaming while trying to pound his fists into Chrisí stomach. Tre and Geoff pulled Edvard off of Chris, who was not truly able to defend himself, because of the handcuffs. Edvard kept shouting the whole time, "how could you do this, we let you into our home, into our family, I should kill you myself you rotten piece of garbage." Tre now had Edvard restrained while Geoff reached for his set of handcuffs to put on this volatile young man. During the melee of sorts, Rita got pushed to the side, she now stood up and helped Chris get back up to his feet.

Looking at Edvard she said, "thatís assault Mr. Kurkowic, and you will be charged accordingly." Two more officers raced over to haul Kurkowic off. Rita turned to Chris after Edvard was out of the area, "are you ok Chris?" she asked again. She hated seeing him in handcuffs and not able to defend himself was even harder. She knew he wasnít a criminal, but seeing him slumped over, sucking in air, with his hands in handcuffís made her shutter with fear.

"Yeah," he managed to choke out.

Geoff walked over to him and put his hand on his back and gave it a bit of a rub. "You all set Mr. Lawton?" he asked him, helping him to straighten up.

Chris stood up straight and looked at the three of them and gave them all a grin, "you know you three remind me of a very popular trio," he paused, "the three stooges," he laughed a little, "some protection you all turned out to be. I was better off with the FBI goons," he added.

This time the three of them formed a tight circle around him and led him outside to the waiting car and finally to the police station.

 

Chris sat in the lonely interrogation room wondering how he ever got in the mess he found himself in. He had just been deposited in room number 3 after being fingerprinted, photographed and having his hand tested for gun firing. His head throbbed, his ribs ached from the punches that Edvard had landed and most of all he felt miserable that Isobel was dead and he was accused of killing her. All he remembered was opening the door to the room where he had seen her enter. Whatever happened after that was all a blank. Now here he was still sitting in handcuffs and locked in an interrogation room waiting for his fiancée and his former co-workers to come in and get him the hell out.

Rita came in first, alone. She finally found the key to the FBI handcuffs and unlocked them. She immediately leaned down and wrapped her arms around him. He did the same thing in return. It felt so good for both of them that neither one of them wanted to let go. Rita kissed the side of his neck and asked him in a hushed tone if he was really all right. He nodded while holding her tight and answered back softly, "yeah, Sam, Iím fine."

They broke apart and Rita sat down in the chair beside his. "Do you want to tell me what happened then?" she asked.

"I wish I could remember," he answered, rubbing his wrists to get the feeling back in them.

"I hope you start," she began, a bit irritated from his lack of pleading his own case, "you were found with a dead woman remember? The gun you had in your hand was the gun that killed her and you have powder residue on your hands. The test came back positive," she said, looking at him directly. He didnít respond. She waited for him to defend himself and when he didnít she started in again, "Look, Iím sorry, I know you didnít kill her, but everything is pointing right at you and if you want us to help you, you need to tell us everything and quit playing OCB for awhile."

"Is that what you think Iím doing here?" he asked.

"I donít know Chris, but you havenít been saying much, what do you want me to believe?" Rita replied.

"You havenít given me a chance Rita," he said staring into her green eyes. She gave him a little smile. "I tell ya everything," he said. "Has Jon Watson come in yet?" he asked.

"No, I havenít seen him here," she said, "though I did see him down at the hotel. Do you think he knows that you were arrested and charged with the murder?"

"By now he does," Chris said, "The FBI wouldnít waste much time spilling that information."

"But you said they didnít know you were OCB?" Rita questioned.

"They donít, but they know Jon is, so Iím sure they dropped my name in his lap," Chris explained.

"So why isnít he here?" Rita asked.

"Thatís policy Sam," he began, "if you get caught youíre on your own," he let out a heavy sigh and ran his hands through his hair. "They wonít acknowledge my existence knowingly," he said letting his hands drop onto the table.

Rita reached for one with her own and gave it a squeeze, "youíre not on your own here," she said. "Weíll figure this out," she made eye contact with him and they both smiled.

 

Chris went through the whole story, first with Rita, then with Geoff and Tre and finally with Cap. They all listened and took notes, looking for any clue or anything that would help point the finger in someone elseís direction and not at Chris.

Cap was still in the interrogation room with him when Rita came back in with bags full of Chinese food. Chris grinned. "I am so starved, you wouldnít believe it," he said, reaching in and starting in on whatever container he grabbed.

"Uh, Chris, thatís for all of us," Rita said, watching him digging in.

"Sorry," he said with a mouth full, "what time is it anyway and why donít we just go home?"

Cap and Rita looked at each other. Chris took a break from a heaping fork full and glanced back at them both. "What? Was it something I said?" he asked.

"Chris, youíre not going anywhere but here," Cap said.

Chris laughed a little, "thatís funny, whatís the punch line?"

"Chris, itís not a joke," Rita began. "We have to keep you here, everyone from the FBI to the Mordovians as well as the general public think you murdered Isobel Kurkowic. Your face has been plastered on the news and in the papers all night long. We need to keep you here, just to keep you safe," Rita tried to explain.

"So, what? Youíre gonna lock me up in a cell too?" he asked.

"We donít want to Chris, weíre seeing what we can set up, but weíve got to keep this very low key. We need to keep you in a restricted area somehow. We donít want the press or anyone from the outside to see you or to get near you," Cap said.

"Well, you can always lock me up with Edvard Kurkowic, I owe him a few things anyway," Chris said sarcastically.

"Chris, we donít want to do that, we know you donít belong in a holding cell. But we canít let you come home right now either," Ritaís eyes were pleading with his for understanding.

Chris was clearly upset but he began to calm down and realize that they both were right. "Just how long am I gonna have to be secluded anyway?"

"Till we can find out who really killed Isobel," Rita answered.

Chris let out a deep breath. "I sure hope you guys can do this without me and quick. Weíre getting married in six days and I donít want to do it in Interrogation Room 3," he said, forcing a smile.

Cap and Rita nodded their agreement.

 

It was turning into either a holding cell or the interrogation room after all. They didnít want to drag Chris down to a holding cell for two reasons, some recent arrests of his were being held down there as well as Edvard Kurkowic. For those reasons alone it would not be safe for him to be placed in one. The only other option was to bring in a portable bed or cot and keep him locked in the interrogation room, with a permanent guard stationed outside.

Chris didnít like it one bit. He still had a headache and he just wanted to go home and be with Rita. He was tired of being questioned. He knew that if he were out on the streets himself heíd be able to track down the killer. Heíd start with Rufe Kurkowic. According to Geoff and Tre, Rufe was coming up clean everywhere.

It was nearing two in the morning when Rita entered the interrogation room once more. Chris was lying down on the cot, catching a few restless minutes of sleep. He immediately woke up when the bright florescent light of the hall shined in his face through the opening of the door. Rita came and sat down beside him. He hoped she brought him some good news.

"Are you feeling any better yet?" she started by asking.

"No, the only way Iím gonna feel better is if I can go home," he said with the voice of a spoiled child.

"Well, we canít do that quite yet," she said while giving him the look. "Listen, if itís ok with you, Iím gonna head home for a bit. Will you be ok?"

He didnít say anything at first. He watched her closely. She looked more exhausted than he felt. He knew deep inside that she had been working furiously to have him released and to find the real killer since everything had taken place. It showed on her face. She started smiling at him while unconsciously running her hand through his hair.

"Iím fine Rita, Iíll be ok, you need some rest so you can get me outta here, ok?" he said forcing himself to smile for her.

"Iíll bring you some clothes and some good food for breakfast ok?" she said, trying to keep a positive tone.

"Donít forget my toothbrush too," he grinned and added, "and I sure could use Ďol Edgar right about now too!"

"Itís Albert," she said, giving him a tickle. Then she got serious. "Try to get some rest and remember anything you can to maybe help us ok?"

"Iíll try Sam, Iíll try," he said as he watched her walk out.

 

Rita drove home in silence. Even music from the radio couldnít penetrate all the thoughts she was having. Seeing Chris in handcuffs had really shaken her up more than she cared to admit. She hated not being his partner right now, not being able to back him up like they always had. She still didnít fully understand why he didnít want to be in homicide anymore. They were always there for each other and now, without him, it was gonna be hard. With all the things they had been through together, this was the first time either of them had ever had to be Ďarrested.í She hated more than anything to leave him there, but her hands were tied as well. It was for his own good, plain and simple. She just had a hard time convincing herself.

She had spent the last couple hours searching and calling for Jon Watson. He was no where to be found. His home number was unlisted, the address they had sent the wedding invitation to was a deserted office building now and Rita had tried every phone number that Chris had given her. It was like he had disappeared off the face of the earth. Why would Chris want to be involved with an organization like OCB? When you needed them the most, they left you hanging out to dry. She was becoming angrier by the second. Look out when she did find Mr. Watson.

She pulled up in the driveway and turned off the engine. She sat in the car for a few moments wondering how this was all going to end. She was supposed to be married in six short days and her future husband was under house arrest for murder, caged up in a police interrogation room, sleeping on a makeshift cot. It was up to her to clear his name. Life couldnít get much stranger for Rita Lee Lance. She went inside the dark and lonely house to try to sleep. After an hour of tossing and turning she got up and went into the living room and turned on a soft lamp. She grabbed a pen and paper and began to write.

 

Chris dozed on and off again for the better part of the next two hours. This was no good, he couldnít sleep in this room. He got up and went to the door and opened it slowly. The officer turned his head and said, "Mr. Lawton, is there something you need?"

"Nice try Morris, just call me Chris ok, itíll cut down on the confusion," Chris began, "listen can you find me some paper and something to write with?" he asked.

"I think I can do that, Chris," he accentuated the Chris.

"Thanks man," Chris said turning around and going back into the room. A few minutes later Officer Morris came in with the requested items. Chris began to scribble down some words.

 

Rita came in early the next morning, bringing breakfast, clean clothes, a toothbrush and Albert for Chris. He was still sleeping when she walked into the dark interrogation room. But the light and the noise from the opening door woke him up and he began to stretch and was opening his eyes as Rita came nearer and sat down on the edge of the cot. Chris sat up and pulled her into a welcoming embrace.

"Well good morning to you too," Rita said as she was enveloped into this tight, warm hug of his. Chris didnít say anything, he just kept on holding onto her. "How did you sleep?" she asked, kissing his shoulder.

"I didnít," he murmured, "I missed you too much."

"Well what was that that you were doing when I just came in?" she questioned.

"Dozing," he answered. "Itís been like that all night long," he paused, "I really missed you Sam," he added softly.

She pulled back and smiled at him and gave him a tender kiss on his lips. "That goes double for me," she said. "I brought you some stuff, breakfast and clothes," she said, "even Albert."

"Great," Chris said, half-heartedly. "Does that mean Iíll be here even longer?"

She ignored his comment for now. Rita handed him the breakfast. "Three breakfast burritoís," you have them almost every morning anyway.

"Thanks Sam," he said with a yawn, taking the bag from her. "I really could use a shower too," he said, rubbing the stubble on his chin.

"Iíll take you down to the locker room in a few minutes," she said, "eat your breakfast before it gets cold." Rita started to sip on a cup of coffee, handing the other to Chris. "Have you remembered anything yet?" she asked.

He shook his head negatively. "No," he said. "I really got whacked," he added rubbing his head. "But I still think your best bet is to stick to Rufe. I think heís in this one over his head now. My money says Isobel found out something and he took care of it," Chris explained.

"Youíre probably right, Iíll start in on Rufe and see where it takes me," she said.

"Whatta ya mean you?" Chris looked up at her latest comment.

"I can assign anyone to the case, and Iím assigning myself," she said.

"But you donít have a partner?" Chris said.

"Iíll have Tre and Geoff to help, even Cap. Iím not alone Chris, donít worry," Rita said, watching him close.

"I thought I could do it that way too, Sam," Chris said sadly.

 

Everyone in the department by now had heard about Chris. He had more books, puzzles, playing cards and magazines, even a cable TV hook-up with a 27" TV to watch all before 10am. Fellow officers came by throughout the day to keep him company, while Rita worked feverishly to find the real killer.

 

Ritaís first stop that morning was to a three-story brick building on the cityís eastside. No signage identified it in anyway. Rita walked up to the second floor and found the office she was looking for. She let herself in and as she went through the door she made immediate eye contact with Jon Watson. He noticed her right away and walked over to her. "Rita?" he said.

"Yeah, itís me Jon," she said, "listen, can we talk?" she asked.

"Sure, how Ďbout outside, the beach maybe?" Jon suggested.

Rita nodded and the two of them headed outside into the sunshine.

"Listen Rita, thereís not much I can actually tell you," Jon began as they walked along.

"I think you better start thinking of something Jon," Rita answered.

Jon laughed at her toughness. "You and Chris really make a great pair. Youíre so much alike. You almost just sounded like him."

"Iím not in the mood to discuss our relationship Jon. Iíd like to have my fiancé at home tonight and the real killer behind bars," Rita said.

"What am I supposed to do?" he asked. "Right now, Chris Lawton is the only suspect, his gun was found, fired and he had the residue on his hand."

"He was also knocked out cold, remember, heís got a lump on the back of his head to prove it and six stitches on his forehead as well," Rita reminded him.

"I know Rita, but Chris knew the chances he was taking," Jon said shaking his head. "Rita, this is OCB. We are an underground tactical investigation unit. You know that. And Chris knows that too. Hell, I shouldnít even be talking to you now," Jon said. "Right now we just have to let this play out."

"So why are you here Jon? Huh? Why?" Rita questioned him.

"Rita, I know youíre scared for Chris, but we both know he didnít do it. Weíre already working at it from our angle too, if that makes you feel any better," Jon explained. "If we find anything out, weíll let you know. But right now, I canít share anything with you," he said again.

"Jon, Chris and I are getting married in five days, can you work that into your angle?" Rita said, turning to leave.

"We will Rita, I promise we will," he said, watching her walk away.

 

Rita hooked up with Tre and Geoff, their next stop would be Rufe Kurkowic. They found him along with his two brothers at the mansion of his father. Edvard had been bailed out by his Father early the next morning. Heíd easily get off knowing that he was the brother of a murder victim, obviously under distress. Rufe was inebriated beyond belief. Alec and Edvard were uncharacteristically jovial about the whole situation given the fact that their sister had been brutally murdered. Apparently they had never seen their normally well-bred brother loose control.

Tre and Geoff each grabbed Alec and Edvard respectively, while Rita began to try to get anything out of Rufe that she possibly could.

"So Rufe, you wanna tell me what you were doing at the Russian Ball? Rita asked.

Rufe rubbed his head and squeezed his eyes open and shut. "I was an invited guest, he managed to stammer out.

"Isnít that a bit odd, I mean you are a Mordovian right?" Rita continued with a surly type attitude of her own.

"Iím trying to promote peace between our two beautiful countries. Iíve been attending these kinds of functions for the past few years. Why donít you check the guest lists, Officer," he slurred.

"Do you consider yourself a nationalist Mr. Kurkowic?" Rita asked.

"Iím an American, of Mordovian descent," he said stoically.

Rita smiled at his response. "Where were you when the bomb went off Mr. Kurkowic?"

"In the ball room, dinner had just ended," Rufe said.

"Can anyone verify that?" Rita asked.

"Well, anyone that I was sitting with, Oscar Kempten, Vlady Maldoch," he rambled on.

Rita shook her head, "weíve already spoken with them, they said you had left the room prior to the blast Mr. Kurkowic. You better check your answer. And I also suggest you find yourself a good attorney," Rita added.

"Surely, you donít think that I killed my own sister?" he asked, becoming much more sober. "I loved her."

"Stranger things have been known to happen Mr. Kurkowic. All we need is the reason and someone to place you in the same room," Rita said. "Weíll be in touch. Please donít leave town for any reason, without notifying our department." With that said, she left the room.

 

Geoff and Tre in the meantime decided to question Alec and Edvard. After all, maybe they knew what their sister was doing at the hotel that night. The two of them merely continued to point their fingers at Chris. The two of them were like puppets, repeating each other. Both Geoff and Tre began to believe that Alec and Edvard might indeed be involved in the whole situation as well.

Turko and Sadavia were both in seclusion, the Mordovian custom. Theyíd be unavailable for another 36 hours, until after the funeral.

 

By late in the day Thursday, Chrisí situation hadnít changed. He was still cooped up in the tiny interrogation room, where he had been since Saturday. His spirits were at an all time low. Everyoneís spirits were at an all time low. Cap, Geoff, Tre, Daniel, George and Benny decided to move up his bachelor party a day and throw the shindig up in the interrogation room. Rita had been slightly opposed to the idea of a bachelor party anyway, especially the night before the wedding, but she knew that Chris was becoming depressed as the week wore on. She agreed to let them have their fun. Sheíd try to stay positive while mulling over all the testimony she had heard over the past five days. Sheíd take the work home and hope for the best.

Rita walked into the room to say goodnight to Chris. He sat on the cot, playing solitaire, with some talk show blaring out in the background. She went to turn down the sound. Chris hadnít shaved since Monday. She shook her head and looked at him feeling sorry for himself. "You donít have much faith in me do you?" she asked him.

He lifted his head from the card game and met her eyes. "I donít have much faith in anything right now, except for you," he said sadly, "and believing that Iím gonna be oughta here before Saturday isnít looking very promising either."

Rita didnít know what to say at first. "Yeah, youíre right, you probably shouldnít, youíve got everything you need right in this room right?"

He chuckled a little, "Reverse psychology, nice try Sam, but itís not working. And I donít need anything in this room except for you. Besides Daniel tried that psych angle too. You two think an awful lot alike you know that? I donít know what you want me to say. Even if I was out there myself, I donít think I could figure out who killed her. I woulda bet my life it was Rufe. Maybe I did do it. I donít know anymore."

"Well somebody did kill her, and I know it wasnít you and I will find out. And Iíll do it before Saturday. Are you listening?" she said sternly.

He gave her the faintest hint of a smile, "yeah, Iím listening. I hope so Sam, I hope so," he said, getting up to give her a hug.

"I will," she whispered into his ear.

 

Just after 6pm, the door of the interrogation room opened up and Daniel, Tre, Geoff, Harry, George and Benny came in. They carted in a half-barrel of beer, selected videotapes and junk food that stretched from one end of the room to the other. Chrisí spirits were lifted slightly, especially after he began to partake in the beer. They even managed to smuggle in a stripper around 10pm, just as the watch commanderís were switching duty. By then Chris was so trashed, there was no way he would ever remember his bachelor party. The last coherent thing he remembered was thinking that he didnít have to drive anywhere anyway, as he lifted up his glass and shouted, bugala, bugala, bugala, hoi, hoi, hoi!

 

Rita searched and scanned through all the notes and depositions over and over, looking for anything. She wasnít getting anywhere. The front doorbell rang. It was almost midnight, virtually everyone she knew was at Chrisí party, she hoped it wasnít all the significant others coming by to keep her company. She had gone through that over a week ago already with the impromptu bridal shower. She didnít want it all over again. She really wanted to work on getting Chris out, not on forgetting that he was in.

She got up and went to the door and peered through the small glass window. She flicked on the porch light and saw Jon Watson cringe as he was momentarily blinded. She unlocked the door and greeted him. "Hi Jon, sorry about the light, whatís up? Do you have something?" she said with hope.

Jon smiled, "yeah, yeah we do. Weíve got something for you Rita," he said, glancing back over his shoulder. Coming out of the van that was parked in the driveway, was Chris, being assisted by two OCB agents. His legs buckled and swaggered underneath him. Rita knew instantly that he was drunk. "Apparently there was a bachelor party and I wasnít invited," Jon joked.

"But Jon, is it safe for Chris to be out, I mean right now heís the only suspect. His life could be in danger," Rita asked

"Not anymore, we got Isobelís killer, it was Turko. I told you weíve been working on this all along. I wouldnít dream of letting you or Chris down. We sent in another agent and we planted some bugging equipment. We got the whole confession in living color on videotape. And best of all, the evidence is admissible in court. The Judge ruled on that late this afternoon, everything we did was above board in light of the whole situation and the international ramifications. Turko thought he was killing Rufe. That was the plan all along, Chris and Isobel just got in the way. So anyway we dropped him off downtown for Palm Beach Homicide to prosecute and thought weíd spring Chris at the same time. But now it looks like weíre running a taxi service."

From the side of the van Daniel and Harry leaned out and waved toward Rita and shouted, "heís innocent Rita, of all charges, even being drunk, we made him do it."

Chris laughed a little as he got closer to the door and to Rita, he tried to gesture back to the van, but couldnít even really turn around.

"Weíre gonna go drop the rest of these lushes off too, weíll see you on Saturday ok?" Jon said as the two OCB agents handed Chris over to her. He hung on for dear life, to her misfortune. He smelled and looked horrible. "Will you be ok?" Jon asked.

"Believe it or not, yeah, I think so, thanks Jon," she said warmly.

"Sure, no problem, I told you weíd get him to the church on time," he said. They hopped into the van and continued on.

Rita shut the door as Chris clung to her. "Iím free Smammy," he slurred.

"I know, Sam," she said laughing at his speech, attempting to get him back to the bedroom.

"This means we can get married after all right?" he asked her as he stumbled down the hall.

"Yes it does, I just hope youíre sober by then. Just how much did you have to drink tonight anyway?" she asked.

"Wah, I think I had some glasses," he said.

"Thatís obvious. Did you have a good time?" she asked.

"The bestsssss," he exaggerated, "and I donít have to live there no more right?"

"Weíll see, I may want to send you back," she said leading him into the bedroom and letting him fall back onto the bed.

"Ah, you wouldnít do that Smammy, youíre my Smammy, you still love me donít you?" he asked.

He was so wasted and silly that she couldnít be mad. She tried to curtail her smiles so he wouldnít see that she approved of the eveningís activities, though he probably wouldnít remember any of it anyway. "Yes Chris, I still love you. You need to get some sleep now ok," she said.

"I need a kiss from my Smammy," he said.

She leaned over and kissed his forehead and he tried to pull her into a tighter embrace, but passed out cold before he could. She looked at him sleeping, shook her head, wondered what kind of headache heíd have in the morning, or better still afternoon, and covered him up. "Goodnight Smammy," she said softly.

 

It was about 2:30pm the following afternoon when Chris groggily stumbled out of the bedroom and headed for the kitchen. He only had vague recollections of the previous night. Most of then had to do with videotapes and a stripper. Two topics heíd never share with Rita. Right now he had a major headache and was in desperate need of some orange juice or at the very least some cool water to pour down his carpeted, fur lined throat. Howíd he even gotten home, and why exactly was he home? He wondered as he slowly shuffled down the hallway.

He wandered into the kitchen and went to the refrigerator and placed his head on the cool door while he peered inside. He spotted a glass carafe full of juice and came close to smiling, even though it hurt just to think of smiling. He reached down and grabbed it with both hands and took it over to the kitchen table and began to gulp down the entire container. He set it on the table and methodically began to rub his head, his eyes, his temples, and the back of his neck and so on. He ached from head to toe. He looked out of the patio door and spotted Rita. She appeared to be picking some flowers that were blooming in their backyard. He noticed that she was turning to talk to someone. Then Chris saw Benny sitting on the deck. Maybe Benny somehow sprung him from jail.

He finished downing the juice and sat at the table for a few minutes. He heard the door slide open, which nearly killed him, as Rita came bounding in with a small bouquet of fresh cut flowers.

"Good morning Sam," she said brightly. He cringed from the noise and made a feeble attempt at a mumbling sound. "Oooooh, that bad huh?" she said, running the faucet. "And in case youíre wondering itís really afternoon already."

"Could you stop that?" he begged.

Rita laughed and turned off the water. "Maybe you should stay in bed the rest of the day, so that youíre ready for tomorrow."

He didnít answer right away. He looked so pathetic. "And just how is it that Iíll be ready for tomorrow," he managed to ask clearing his throat.

"You mean why are you out?" she asked.

"Yeah," he mumbled.

"Well, Jon Watson found the killer. It was Turko Kurkowic. It seems that Turko had it in for Rufe all along. He apparently didnít fit in with the family business. Turko had enough I guess and ordered the hit on his own son. Rufe was actually planning on turning in the whole family anyway. He was cutting a book and movie deal and figured that was all he needed for money. Turko got wind of the whole thing and decided to kill him. The Russian dinner was a perfect ruse. Theyíd rig it to look like Rufe was doing the bombing. They knew heíd be invited to the dinner as a sign of solidarity between the Mordovians and the Russians. The whole dinner was a setup to kill Rufe. Isobel was supposed to be the decoy," Rita explained.

"She was in on it too?" Chris asked in disbelief. His mind was not running on all cylinders.

"Everyone but Rufe," Rita said.

"Boy, I sure had him dead wrong, didnít I?" Chris said.

Rita nodded. "And Turko didnít count on you showing up either. He thought you were Rufe. For some reason he couldnít shoot, thank god," she paused. "Instead Isobel hit you from behind and Rufe finally came in, saw you laying there with your gun drawn. Edvard and Alec came in next and threw off the lights, while Turko took your hand and started shooting. He killed Isobel by accident," Rita said.

"How did they figure out it was Turko?" Chris asked.

"Jon sent in another agent, apparently he used some microscopic cameraís and bugging equipment and was able to videotape a confession. Best of all, OCB will be able to use the footage in court. It was approved before they even took it in," Rita said happily.

"Thatís great Sam," Chris said, rubbing his throbbing head. He accepted what she said, though it didnít make much sense to him at all.

"Yep, it is, now we can just concentrate on the wedding and the honeymoon," Rita said raising her eyebrows.

Chris mustered up a smile and a confession. "Iím coming back to homicide when we get back too," he said. "I guess Iím not cut out to be an agent," he said. "It just not what I want. I shoulda listened to you sooner."

"Chris, I want you to do this for the right reason. Are you sure you gave OCB enough of a chance?" Rita asked.

Chris nodded. "Yeah," he shook his head slowly and continued, "Iím not sure what exactly I want to do for the rest of my life yet, but I know itís not OCB. I think Iíll stick to homicide for awhile longer. Is that ok Lieutenant?" he asked.

"I think that can be arranged, Sergeant," she replied, walking over and kissing the top of his head.

"Oooh, damn Sammy, take it easy, that hurts," he whined.

"Stop it you baby, you deserve it anyway, Iíve never seen you that drunk before, you were kinda funny last night," she said.

"Well it was the only bachelor party Iím ever gonna have, plus I figured I wasnít going anywhere anyway, why not get drunk?" he said.

"Good reasoning!" Rita said not quite believing his irresponsibility, "do I have time to change my mind about tomorrow?" she asked kiddingly.

"Not on your life Sam, not on your life," he replied, pouring the rest of the orange juice down his throat.

This was one of the most perfect days that south Florida had ever seen. Saturday February 13, 1999 was simply glorious. The sun was out, shining clearly, not a cloud in the beautiful, blue sky. The temperature was a comfortably warm 80 degrees. For now, everything was indeed right in the world.

Rita insisted on staying with Harry and Franny the night before the wedding and early on Saturday morning one Christopher Robin Lorenzo was as nervous as they come. He fumbled around the house, bumping into everything, helpless as a newborn baby. Benny laughed so hard his sides hurt as he watched his usually well assured son stumble and bumble around.

"Chris why donít you just sit down for awhile, maybe watch a game on ESPN or something," Benny suggested as he saw Chris burn his hand by accidentally touching the coffeepot. "Let me bring you a cup of coffee, ok?" Benny said.

Chris glanced over at him and nodded, "ok, sure, yeah, I guess that sounds good. I mean I donít have to get over to the church till what around noon or so?" Chris said rambling.

Benny looked at the clock stove, it was barely 9am. "See Chris, this is exactly why people get married in the morning, so they donít have to wait so long."

"Funny, Pop, real funny," Chris said as he headed into the living room.

"Why are you so nervous anyway. You two have been all but married for the better part of six years now," Benny asked as he came in handing the coffee to his son.

"Iím not nervous about saying ĎI doí Pop, I guess I just want to get it over with, thatís all. Itís hard to believe this day is really here, you know," he added. "I want it to be perfect for her, thatís all. She deserves it."

"So do you Chris, so do you!" Benny replied. "Everythingís gonna be just fine, youíve got it all planned out, the weather is gorgeous and you two are meant to be." Benny grinned at Chris and reached into his pocket. "I got this for you, for today, weíll start a new tradition ok?" he said handing Chris what was in his hand. Chris grabbed it and looked at it carefully, he smiled at his Father. Benny had found a gold money clip and that had a rounded top, beneath a clear glass like casing was a picture of Rita. "Turn it over," Benny said, "read the inscription."

Chris did as he was instructed, he read it out loud. "As long as you got her, youíll never be broke," Chris read and laughed lightly. "Thatís great Pop, I love it, thank you," Chris said, rising up to give his Father a hug. "Thanks for everything. I love you Pop."

"I love you too, Big Guy, I love you too," Benny said.

 

Meanwhile over at the Lipschitz house things were running smoothly. Rita had rested comfortably and was leisurely primping, pampering and preparing herself for one very special day. Harry and Franny were treating her like a queen as well. Franny brought her a delicious breakfast in bed while Harry had surprised her with a delightful basket full of sweet smelling bath supplies for a relaxing morning. Rita almost didnít want to leave this little piece of heaven. Diana showed up mid morning and began to help Rita and Franny with the rest of their preparation.

They began to provide Rita with the necessities for the day. Something old, came Harry and Franny. It came from their very own wedding and was used by Franny. Her mother had made it for her. It was an exquisite lacy handkerchief that Rita fell in love with as they presented it to her. Tears overflowed from her eyes as she realized that they truly felt that she was their daughter and they were passing this treasured heirloom down to her. "Iíll take good care of it, I promise," she told them as she gave them each a hug. "Maybe someday, Chris and I will have a daughter that weíll be able to pass this along too. Thank you both so much."

Ana provided something new, a beautiful pair of diamond earrings and necklace that accentuated her dress.

Something borrowed came from Diana. It was the garter she had worn at her own wedding just a few months ago.

And Melanie provided something blue, via Daniel of course, it would be just enough to rile up Chris a little bit. She proudly presented Rita with a Duke ĎBooí Devil lapel pin, which Rita graciously pinned on to the bra she wore underneath the elegant white dress she wore. Melanie was delighted that Rita chose to wear it, even if it was inconspicuous. Chris would find it eventually, and know exactly where it came from.

 

The gazebo outside of the church was filled with Chris and Ritaís friends and relatives, everyone gathered to finally witness something that should have happened years earlier.

Chris, Daniel and Michael stepped out from the church, near the front of the gazebo. Chris wore the largest and happiest grin on his face. He was not worried about a thing. He had waited so long for this and there would be no denying his ultimate happiness.

Meanwhile near the back, Diana came out first leading little Melanie who was ready for her Ďwedding debooí as she referred to it, followed by equally brightly smiling Rita who was happily flanked by Harry and Benny.

The music began and the ceremony began. Melanie slowly and methodically came down the aisle, lightly dropping rose petals in such a dainty way. Chris prayed to himself that she wouldnít come up and attack his legs for a change. About half way down the aisle, she made eye contact with Chris, who gave her a wink and a grin to let her know that she was doing just great. Her pace quickened and soon she was standing at the front of the gazebo.

Diana came down the aisle next, smiling as well. She was ecstatic that this day was finally coming to pass for two of her closest friends.

Rita stood in the back with Harry and Benny. She couldnít ask for two finer Fatherís ever. Each of them offered her strength, wisdom, joy and most of all love. She felt so blessed to have them both on either side, before they started down the aisle, she told them both exactly how she felt. They both kissed her cheeks softly and began their walk into her future.

Chris eyes focused on Rita and Rita solely. She was an absolute vision to behold. Her dress was stunning, as was the look of true happiness and love that she wore on her face. She saw the same look from Chris reflecting back at her.

 

It was time for the vows. Each of them, unbeknownst to the other, had written them on what was possibly one of the darkest days of their relationship. Both of them were overcome with deep and meaningful emotion.

She began first. Rita turned toward Chris and stared into his magnificent blue eyes. He took her hands in his. Chris grinned at her before she began. She smiled at him in return and began to speak.

Christopher Lorenzo, YOU are my everything. Iím sure you must know that, but I need to tell you that today and everyday from now on. YOU, are my everything. Without you, I would not be me. And because of you, I have learned that love never ends or never leaves, and certainly never ever dies, love lives in all our hearts wherever we might be. You, Christopher, are my eternal love.

YOU are my everything. You are my strength when I am not strong. You end my sadness and quell my fears. You take me higher with every passing moment. My life has been truly blessed because you are in it and will always be. You are my light. With you I have found a purpose for this life, without you I would be lost. You, Christopher, are my eternal strength.

YOU are my everything. You are complete joy and happiness to me each and every wonderful day that I am with you. Each day becomes brighter than the previous and every precious minute becomes its own lifetime. I know such peace and contentment now because of you in my life. You, Christopher, are my eternal happiness.

YOU, Christopher Lorenzo are my everything. I promise to love you till time ends and beyond. This day we become one.

She squeezed his hands lovingly and gave him another smile. He grinned again in return. Then it was Chrisí turn. He quietly cleared his throat and locked his eyes with hers once again.

Rita Lee Lance, my Sam, my Sunshine. Weíve been through so much together and today I am the happiest man alive. For a long time I never thought this day would or could ever come. And there were many times along the way that I thought something would prevent it from ever truly happening. But I have faith in you and I have faith in me and I know that thereís nothing we canít do together. My heart showed me the way and kept me on the path leading to your love.

When I think of you, I think of love and how deeply I am in love with you. It consumes me. And just when I think that I am at some kind of a limit, you do something or say something and your love fills me all over again. I wonder how one person can do that to another and I also wonder how I am able to be so lucky to have found you. I thank God for that endlessly.

I want to give you everything, I want you to have all you ever dream of. I want to make you happy, I want to care for you always, I want to be with you forever. As long as we are one, I know all things will be possible. We are one today and forever

I want you to know that I will always love you like this and that I will always be in your heart, like you will always be in mine. Nothing can come between us and time will never separate us. We will be together forever. I love you for all time.

With that they turned back toward the minister for the actual ceremony vows. "Please repeat after me," the Reverend said to Chris. "I Christopher Lorenzo, take you Rita Lee Lance, to be my lawful and wedded wife." Chris turned toward Rita and began to say each word carefully.

"I Christopher Lorenzo, take you Rita Lee Lance to be my lawful and wedded wife. I promise to be faithful to you and to care for you in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times and forsaking all others, all the days of my life. I promise to love and cherish you for as long as we both shall live."

Then to Rita, he addressed her in the same way and asked her to repeat the same vows.

"I Rita Lee Lance, take you Christopher Lorenzo to be my lawful and wedded husband. I promise to be faithful to you and to care for you in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times and forsaking all others, all the days of my life. I promise to love and cherish you for as long as we both shall live."

The minister next asked for the rings. They each took the ring from the attendants and turned to face each other. Again Chris was first. He slid the ring onto Ritaís finger.

"With this ring, I thee wed," he said.

Rita took his hand and pushed the ring into place. With a glowing smile on her face, she saidÖ

"With this ring, I thee wed."

They both faced the minister who said, "By the power vested in me by the state of Florida and in the eyes of God, I now pronounce you husband and wife," and to Chris he added, "you may kiss the bride." Franny and Ana started to tear up.

For this glorious instant, time seemed to stand still for Chris and Rita, they locked in the sweetest and most gentlest of embraces. The minister began to speak again and he began to motion to them to turn around. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Lorenzo." Chris and Rita turned to face the familiar crowd, as they began to clap and cheer. They both wore grins from ear to ear.

The reception kicked in full swing as Solange took pictures of Chris and Rita and the wedding party on the gazebo overlooking the blue ocean. They headed inside and began to greet all their guests.

At one of the first tables they came upon were Lieutenant Lou Hudson and Captain Hutch Hutchinson, along with their wives. Both of their former supervisors rose to their feet quickly and gathered them into individual hugs. "I knew you two were meant to be from day oneÖ..partners," Hutch said with a sincere chuckle, embracing Rita, "I just wondered what the hell took Lorenzo so damn long," he added, hugging him as well.

"I think it was the wrath I would have had to suffer through, from you Hutch," Chris said with a smile.

"My wrath?" Hutch questioned, "like when did you two ever listen to a word I said?"

"Weíre so glad that you came Hutch," Rita said as Chris nodded.

"I wouldnít have missed this for anything. I wish you both the very best for all time," he began, "see I do feel sort of responsible, cuz Iím the one who brought you two together."

"Yes, you did, Hutch, yes you did, Iíll never be able to thank you enough," Chris said sincerely. "Sheís the best thing that ever happened to me."

"Thatís a fact," Lieutenant Hudson chimed in. Now it was his turn to give them each a hug. "You two make an absolutely perfect couple, in just about every way imaginable. I knew it was just a matter of time as well. I wish you both happiness."

"Thank you Lou," Rita replied as she hugged him.

"Thanks Lieutenant," Chris added too. They chatted with their old supervisors for a little while longer and moved on to the next table.

Cotton and Atticus sat at the next table. These two lovable informants were no doubt dreaming up another scam as Rita and Chris each leaned over one just to let them both know that this was a wedding reception that they were at and not the racetrack. The two brothers feigned innocence as per usual, and went on and on congratulating the newlyweds.

Donnie Dogs made a brief appearance as well. Most of the guests gasped as they saw the mob man and his mini Dobie enter the reception hall. Chris scratched his head and led Rita over to the door to greet him quickly. A waiter appeared and gave a glass of champagne to him as he stood there and saw them coming nearer.

"Donnie, Iím so glad you could come," Rita said, giving him a hug.

Donnie smiled genuinely. He truly loved his favorite cop and would do anything for her. He released her from the embrace and replied. "I just wanna make sure this Jabeeb is treating you right. Cuz if he donít, heíll have to mess with me."

"He is Donnie, he is," Rita said, looking at Chris with a smile.

"I got youse two a little something," he began, pulling out an envelope out of his suitcoat. "I know you cops donít make much, so hereís something to get you started right." The envelope was filled with $10,000 in cash.

"Donnie is this clean?" Chris asked. Rita jabbed him in the ribs.

Donnie shook his head. "Do you really think Iíd give you dirty money Lorenzo?"

Chris agreed that that would be highly unlikely. Rita was reluctant to take the money just because it was so much. "Donnie, this is way too much," she said. Chris nodded his agreement.

"Look, I know I donít always say this, in fact I never say it. You two have been more than kind to me. You took a mob boss on and never backed down. You treat me with respect. I figure that earns my respect in return. You gotta take it, thatís all. Itís from my heart," Donnie said sincerely.

He held out the envelope for them to take. Rita reached up and took it. She went to hug him again. "Thanks Donnie, we love you too."

Then uncharacteristically Donnie pulled Chris into a hug and whispered into his ear. "You better take good care of her Lorenzo, capeish?"

Chris nodded and said, "Yeah Donnie, I capeish, believe me I capeish!"

Donnie drank down his champagne and bid them farewell.

After he left Chris whispered to Rita, "you do realize I just got the kiss of death from a mob boss. If I ever let anything happen to you, Iím a dead man in his eyes."

"I know, I like it," she said with a smirk.

George and Andrea, Taylor, Kiesha, Hattie and Roger and various dates made up yet another table. As Chris and Rita approached, the table was swapping various Ďsilkí stories of Chris and Rita and having a good time doing so. They each hugged and wished the couple well and continued on through the historic files of Chris and Rita.

Tre and Diana sat with Connie and Geoff. This whole partnership thing between them was spreading rapidly. Diana and Connie were becoming good friends as well as their respective husbands and they shared a lot in common along with their jobs and families. They barely noticed Chris and Rita, they were so engrossed in their own conversation.

Daniel, Susan and Melanie were enjoying the festivities as well. Chris and Rita stopped and chatted with the three of them and told Melanie how wonderful she did as the flower girl. Melanie gave them each a hug and kiss and thanked them endlessly for allowing her to have her Ďdeboo.í Chris picked her up and danced her around for a few moments. Melanie laughed all the while. Daniel pulled Rita aside and gave her an extra long hug. "You know how happy I am for you right now?" he asked Rita.

Rita grinned at him in return. "I think I can imagine," she said giving him a kiss on his cheek. "Thanks for everything Daniel, youíve been a great friend for so long now."

"I know," he replied smugly. Rita slapped his shoulder. "Looks like things turned out great for both of us after all, huh Mel?" he said.

"Yeah, it does, Mel" Rita answered.

"Listen did Ďol Christopher find the Ďsomething blueí yet?" Daniel asked with chuckle, just as Chris came into earshot carrying Melanie. He did a handoff to Daniel. Daniel raised his eyebrows at Rita.

"No, not yet, but he will," Rita said in reply to Daniel. "You never quit, do you Daniel?"

"Not hardly!" Daniel said.

Chris wore a look of puzzlement on his face, after hearing the tail end of the discussion. He had no idea what these ĎMel-iteísí were up too. And worst of all, he knew it would be futile to figure it out.

The dinner portion of the reception was about to begin, so everyone took their seats and began to feast on the wonderful dinner. Throughout the dinner, the guests took turns clinking their glasses, forcing Chris and Rita to embrace at the head table. Thirty-four kisses later, Rita stood up and said enough was enough. She added that her lips were beginning to chap. At which point someone clinked again and kiss number thirty-five was set in place.

The toasts were next. Daniel stood up first and called everyone to attention. "Good evening everyone. I just want to say a couple of things to Chris about Rita." Rita shook her head and Chris grinned. "See Iíve known Rita since high school. And to be quite honest, she hasnít changed all that much. Sheís still a beautiful woman, intelligent, funny, all that, with a temper to boot. So Chris, pal, take good care of her and remember, when her temper flares, please donít call me," Daniel said with a laugh. "Seriously though, I wish you both all the best, today and forever. To Chris and Rita," he said raising his glass and toasting.

Diana stood up next holding her glass. "These two are so perfect for each other. Weíve all known it forever, havenít we," she asked the room, everyone applauded and shouted out their agreement, "we just donít understand what took them so long to figure out. But weíre all glad you finally did. I love you both so much, my friends. May your life together be filled with joy and love. To Chris and Rita," Diana said, sipping on her champagne

Benny stood up next. "Iíve got to add in my two cents too. These two are very special to me. Theyíve taught me that itís ok to love again, even after so many years. And theyíve also showed me the meaning of family. They deserve the very best that life has to offer. To my kids, Christopher and darling Rita, I love you guys," Benny said.

Last but not least, Harry stood up and held his glass very high without speaking for a long time. The room was perfectly still waiting in anticipation. Finally he began to speak. "These two just bring about the good in everyone. I think we can all agree on that. This day has been very special and not only for Chris and Rita, but also for all of us, because we were able to share in this love and happiness. I love you both like you were my own. And today I wish and pray for you that everything you could ever want will be yours. Lacheim," Harry toasted them.

Suddenly, Melanie stood up on her chair before the entire group and clinked her glass of milk for their attention. Giggles and laughs came up from the audience. "I like Sam and Sam. Iím glad they got married," she said strongly, she began to sit down and Daniel whispered something in her ear and she stood back up. "Daddy says to say GO DUKE," she nearly screamed. Laughter broke out in the room. Chris just looked at Daniel and shook his head, while Rita clapped.

After dinner John Doe, featuring Chrisí friends Howie and Tina, began to play a wide variety of music. The party was now in full swing.

Ana and Robert cornered the two of them and led them out to the dance floor, respectively. Rita knew Chris was getting an earful of some sort from Ana. Ana had already shared how happy she was for Rita back at Harry and Frannyís when she presented her with the beautiful diamonds. Now it was time for Mother and Son to have a conversation. "Christopher, you know that I really do love you so very much," Ana began.

Chris pulled his head back to look at his Motherís face. "I know, I love you too," he answered, with a grin. "Iím glad that you and Robert are here. It means a lot to both of us, and me especially," Chris said heartfully.

Ana smiled and kissed his cheek. "I wouldnít have missed this for anything, your Grandma would have loved this too, Christopher," she said, recalling her own fond memories of her own Mother. "Sheís a very beautiful woman, Christopher," Ana continued, motioning to Rita.

"I know that too," he grinned, "and you are as well," he whispered in her ear.

Ana smiled and held him close. "Sheís very lucky to have you," Ana began, "I know that sounds so very typical and so Mother-in-law like, but itís also true."

Chris gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I understand Mother, and I think that itís ok for you to think that way. It comes with being a Mother," Chris explained and added, "as long as you know that Iím lucky to have her too."

"When do you two think youíll start to have grandchildren?" Ana asked, throwing Chris a real curve.

He stopped dancing for a second and let out a Ďha.í "You know, youíre beginning to sound like Benny?" he asked.

"Really? Hmmm, well it is a fair question," she said, forcing him to dance again. "I think Iím much too young to be a Grandmother you know."

Chris thought about her question for a few more moments. "Maybe weíll get started on that tonight, Grandma," he brought her close and whispered into her ear. Ana chuckled and playfully slapped him on the shoulder. As they finished their dance, Chris noticed that Benny had cut in on Robert and was now dancing with Rita.

"Darling daughter, you are absolutely knockout gorgeous today," Benny began, holding her loosely so that he could have a look at her while they danced. "Too bad Big Guy found you first," he added.

"Thanks Dad, you know, you look pretty good in that tux too!" she said with a smirk as he twirled her around.

"I love it when you call me Dad," he said, now bringing her in tighter, dancing with her cheek to cheek.

"I love being able to call you Dad," she said with a smile.

Benny was surprisingly speechless for a short period of time as the music played on. When the song ended, he led Rita off the dance area to where Chris stood waiting for her. As they got closer, Benny started to talk again. "Listen you two, Iíve got something special for you."

"Aww Pop, come on, enough already," Chris said, rolling his eyes.

Benny put up his hands as if to tell Chris to never mind. "Really, Dad, Chris is right, youíve given us so much already," Rita interjected.

"Nonsense, besides you donít even know what it is yet," he continued, reaching into his suit coat pocket for two small boxes. "These are more sentimental, than anything else," he said, handing them each a box. They began to open them. Chrisí was a pair of gold cufflinks and Ritaís was a delicate chain of tiny pearls.

Rita gushed over the necklace when she saw it. "Oh Benny, itís beautiful."

Chris pulled out the cufflinks and looked them over. "I think Iíve seen these before, havenít I Pop?" Chris asked.

Benny nodded. "They both belonged to my parents, your grandparents Chris. Your Grandpa found those pearls overseas during WWII, when he was stationed near Japan. He sent them home to her. She treasured them for the rest of her life. That year for Christmas, she had scrimped and saved and when it came time to buy him a gift, she found him those cufflinks."

"But you said Grandpa never came back from the war," Chris remembered.

"He didnít Chris, they turned out to be my Christmas present that year," Benny gave Chris a hug, "I think itís time I passed them on to you," he said softly. Chris hugged Benny tight.

"Iíll treasure them for ever Pop, thanks," he said quietly. Chris pulled back and Rita came closer for a hug from Benny as well.

"Thanks Dad, I love them, Iíll always remember too, theyíre very special," she said giving him a warm embrace.

"You two mean the world to me, I want you both to know that," he said. "I just wish I wouldnít have waited so long to figure it out. I gotta lot of things to make up for," he said.

"Pop, we love you, thatís all you gotta know ok?" Chris said. Rita put her arm around Chris and nodded.

"Yeah, Dad, we love you so much, weíre just so happy that youíre a part of our lives now," she added.

"I love you both too," he said again, pulling them both into another hug.

Suddenly the music picked up and the sound of big band swing came blasting out of the amplifierís. The crowd on the dance floor diminished, except for Harry and Franny who were out in the middle, dancing up a storm and having what looked to be, the time of their life. People started clapping and cheering, shouting words of encouragement and catcall whistles to this energetic pair. Chris looked at Rita and shook his head and shouted, "You know Cap is gonna be in traction for at least a month after this?"

Rita laughed and shouted her reply, "at least heíll have Franny to take care of him."

When the song and the dance finally ended, Harry and Franny came off the dance floor and headed over to Chris and Rita, who had actually found two spare chairs and were taking a break from the whole reception. "You two kids oughta be out there," Harry said, sucking in some air.

"No thanks, I think you two kids did enough for all of us," Chris sarcastically replied.

Harry and Franny sat beside them. "Doll, you look so pretty today," Franny said to Rita.

"Yeah, Rita, you are a beautiful bride," Cap added.

"Itís just because you and Harry took such good care of me overnight," Rita said with a smile.

"Listen, you two all set for the honeymoon?" Harry asked. Chris quickly put a finger up to his lips, he had one surprise still in store for Rita for this night and he didnít want Harry, who he had confided his plans to earlier, to spill the beans.

"Yeah, weíre all set," Chris said, "everythingís been taken care of Cap, thanks," Chris said.

"Good," he replied, "this was a great day, you guys really deserved it, Iíd say darn near perfect," Harry continued, while Franny started jabbing him in the ribs. "Oh yeah, one more thing," he said, pulling out an envelope out of his pocket. "Youíre not quite set yet on the honeymoon, here ya go," he said handing them over a wad of cash.

"Fran, Harry, you guys do not have to do this," Rita began as the exchange was taking place. "Youíve already given us a gift."

"Yeah, youíve done enough already, really," Chris said, trying to push the money back.

Harry and Franny wouldnít let him. "We just want you kids to have a good time in Hawaii, thatís all, itís just something a little extra, so enjoy yourselves," Franny said.

Chris slid it over to Rita, he didnít want anything to do with it. "The trip is all set," Rita tried to explain.

"Nonsense, youíll find something to use it on, or stay longer if you want, whatever," Cap said.

"Really?" Chris now wondered if Cap was serious about extending their twelve day trip.

"Chris," Rita chastised him for thinking that.

"Iím serious Rita, Iíll find you the extra time if you want to extend your stay. Come on, you two are like our own kids, right?" Harry said. "I think I can bend some rules."

"We love you kids," Franny added.

Chris and Rita took that as their signal to stand up and give them each a long lasting, loving, ever thankful hug.

The other wedding Ďformalitiesí took place as well. They each enjoyed smashing cake in each otherís face, even though both had promised up and down that neither would do that to the other. And the Ďwinnersí of the garter and the bouquet were Benny and Keisha.

As the reception continued, Howie announced that he would be performing a very special song for Chris and Rita and asked them to come out to the dance floor for their own dance.

The music began to play and Chris and Rita recognized it right away. It was popular when they first became partners. It was one of Chrisí special favorite songs. As he pulled her tightly to him, he bent in and whispered in her ear. "I love this song. I always thought about us when I heard it." She smiled and kissed his cheek warmly and the two of them began to dance.

Baby, Iíve been searching like everybody else

Canít say nothing different about myself

Sometimes Iím an angel

And sometimes Iím cruel

And when it comes to love

Iím just another fool

Yes Iíll climb a mountain

Iím gonna swim the sea

There ainít no act of God girl

Could keep you safe from me

My arms are reaching out

Out across this canyon

Iím asking you to be my true companion

True companion

True companion

So donít you dare and try to walk away

Iíve got my heart set on our wedding day

Iíve got this vision of a girl in white

Made my decision that itís you alright

And when I take your hand

Iíll watch my heart set sail

Iíll take my trembling fingers

And Iíll lift up your veil

Then Iíll take you home

And with wild abandon

Make love to you just like a true companion

You are my true companion

I got a true companion

True Companion

When the years have done

Irreparable harm

I can see us walking slowly arm in arm

Just like that couple on the corner do

ĎCause girl I will always be in love with you

And when I look in your eyes

Iíll still see that spark

Until the shadows fall

Until the room grows dark

Then when I leave this Earth

Iíll be with the angels standiní

Iíll be out there waiting

For my true companion

Just for my true companion

True companion

True companion

"I love you, true companion," Chris said as the song ended. She captured his lips and kissed him gently while the guests all clapped.

It was shortly after 9pm, when Chris caught up with Rita again and told her that he wanted to get going.

"Chris, itís not even ten yet, isnít that kind of rude to leave so early?" she asked him.

"Not tonight it isnít, and it doesnít matter anyway, we have to go now," he said, a bit cryptically. "The party will continue on just fine without us."

Rita was more than a little suspicious of his motives.

They walked around the hall and made their good byes to friends and family alike.

 

Chris had their luggage in the back of the Jeep as they started driving. Rita began to wonder immediately where he was taking her, because rather than heading back into town, where most of the hotels were, he headed out, even farther from the city.

"Chris, where are we going?" she asked.

"Itís a surprise," he said, giving her a smile.

"Weíre heading out to the airport, are we leaving tonight for Hawaii?" she asked.

"Listen detective, turn off the job now ok?" he said. There was a moment of silence between them. "We are going somewhere, but I want you to be surprised, ok?"

She smiled back and leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, "I love you so much," she said.

"That was good, but Iím still not telling you," he said.

They arrived at a small private terminal with a Leer jet waiting on the nearby runway.

"Chris, what is going on?" she asked as he grabbed their bags and led her inside the private building.

"The flight itself is a gift from Bennyís associates, this is their plane. Mike Schmidt sends his best, he really wanted to come down," Chris explained.

"This is too much," Rita said grinning from ear to ear.

"I thought that too, but wait, it gets even better," he said.

The three-person crew came out and took their bags and helped them board the elegant plane.

During the three-hour flight, they enjoyed champagne and a wonderful little Ďsnackí of caviar other delicacies that were prepared especially for them. When they were left alone, they began to change out of their wedding clothes. Chris enthusiastically agreed to help Rita change out of her wedding dress and while he assisted her, his hand ran over her breasts and the bra she wore. The pin that Melanie had given her to wear was attached to the bra. "Whatís this?" he asked, as he stood behind her feasting on her bare shoulders.

Rita giggled. "Itís the Ďsomething blueí that I was given," she began.

"Something blue?" he questioned still nibbling from shoulder to shoulder.

She reached up with her hand and stroked his cheek, then sought out his arm to bring him around to the front of her, so that he could see the pin himself. "You know, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. You need to see this."

He groaned from the loss of contact as he came around the front of her. His eyes scanned down the front of her body and he was more attracted to what was behind the bra she wore than what was attached to the bra. His eyes finally made contact and he started to laugh. "Who gave this to you?"

"Melanie," Rita said, reaching down to take it off.

"This looks more like the handiwork of her slightly twisted Father," Chris said, as he helped take it off. He held it in his hand and muttered, "Duke Blue Devils! I canít believe you actually had this on during our wedding."

"Is it sacrilegious or something?" Rita asked.

"To me it is!" Chris exclaimed.

"I thought it was cute and very creative on their part, plus Melanie loved being included in the whole ceremony," Rita replied, taking the pin and putting it with her things.

Chris shook his head, "I suppose it was at that," followed by a Ďha.í

They spent the rest of the short flight making out and chatting about the dayís events.

When they got off of the plane a familiar face greeted them. Matt Larsen, from the Wind Point Inn stood by with his four-wheel drive vehicle and Rita knew instantly that they were headed out to his memorable lighthouse. Matt gave them each a hug and congratulated them on their nuptials.

"Chris, this is beautiful, how did you ever come up with this?" Rita asked as they made the twenty-minute drive.

"I remembered how much you love fireplaces, among other things," he said with a grin, "and Matt helped me work out the details."

"Matt, this is wonderful, Iím so excited," Rita said.

"My pleasure Rita, and congratulations. I think you two will be pleasantly surprised with the little cabin. I added something over the summer that I think youíll really enjoy," Matt said.

"More surprises!" Rita said shaking her head, this is turning into some kind of unforgettable wedding.

 

Matt graciously carried all their bags into the somewhat familiar cabin and reminded them that they should have a great time. They didnít have to be back to the airport until 3pm the next day for their flight to Hawaii. Food and beverages were well stocked as well as wood for the fireplace. Theyíd find the surprise on their own.

As soon as the door closed behind Matt, Chris locked Rita into an all encompassing, loving hug and embrace. He broke off for a moment and breathed, "Mrs. Lorenzo, finally. Is this real?"

"Yes itís real," Rita chuckled and dove in for a kiss of her own, "you like that, donít you?" she said against his lips.

"Damn right I do," he answered back. "Itís official now, everywhere," he added.

She was amused by how happy he was. "Did you have doubts, Mr. Lorenzo?" she asked.

"Never," he quickly said. "Mrs. Lorenzo."

"Never huh?" she said, raising her eyebrows at him.

"Ok, maybe once, twice at the most, but that was very early on in our relationship, but I always had faith," he said truthfully, "Iím just glad your mine now."

She ran her fingers through his hair and he bent forward to kiss her more slowly, more passionately and more sweetly than he thought he ever had before. He loved the feel of her lips, soft, full and lusciously sweet tasting. He kept his own lips moving tenderly against them. Heíd never have his fill.

He finally pulled back, needing air. He tenderly ran his fingers through her hair and gazed deeply into her eyes as she smiled at him.

"I am so happy," he said. "I canít even describe it. I just love you so much, this is the happiest day of my life," he added brushing his fingers over her lips and then onto her cheeks.

She lifted her hand and sought out one of his hands. She brought the palm of his hand to her lips and placed tiny kisses softly upon it. "I feel the same way," she said softly.

"Itís only gonna get better too, I know that as well," he said. "So are you surprised by all this," he said slightly cocking his head to motion to the surroundings.

"Yes I am," Rita said grinning. "I think it was a great idea. I love how your mind works and all the little surprises you shower me with."

They barely had noticed the remodeled surroundings, but now they began to glance around and see the changes that Matt had alluded to. Opposite the fireplace was a whirlpool with a newly installed bay window. The glass was one-way, allowing the guests to see out and enjoy the privacy of the whirlpool, along with the beauty of the lighthouse and the lake. Tonight the lighthouse was lit up, the beacon stood atop the tower, spinning around. It was a breathtaking sight.

"This is fantastic," Chris said as the roomís new ambiance filled his vision.

Rita came closer to him and slid her arms around him and snuggled close to him. "How Ďbout starting one of those legendary fires of yours while I change?" she asked him.

"I can do that," Chris said as he watched Rita slip away into the bedroom.

He gladly went about starting the fire and he flicked the nearby wall switch for the whirlpool. The jets started to hum and began to circulate the water. Chris headed into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of champagne. He found two glasses and brought them back into the living room area. Next, he uncorked the bottle and poured the two glasses. He sipped at his glass and ran three fingers through the bubbling water of the spa to check the temperature. He grinned as the hot, frothy water flowed around his hand. ĎParfait,í he thought. He shook off the excess water and sat down on the couch, smiling all the while. Heíd wait forever, for what he knew would be coming out of that room.

Inside the bedroom Rita excitedly changed into a form fitting long, white, lacy, silk negligee. She was barely thinking at all. She felt like a twelve-year old girl getting ready for her first dance. All she could think about was getting back to Chris. Thoughts of him overwhelmed every part of her mind. This was a day she had always imagined, but now that it was here she had to keep telling herself that it was all real. As hard as she tried to relax, she couldnít. She was finally Mrs. Christopher Lorenzo and Chris was hers forever. It all felt so good.

Out by the fire, Chris was lost in the same kind of thoughts about her. He didnít even hear her come back out until she stood behind him and leaned down and sought out his lips. Even upside down their lips were perfectly matched.

"Mmm, that it what I need," Chris said, reaching up with one of his hands to caress her neck after burrowing his fingers through her soft hair. "Have I told you lately that I love you?" he asked.

"Mmmhmm," she murmured against his lips, "but you can always tell me again." She came around and went to sit beside him on the couch. As she did, he took one long look at what she was wearing. He had a brief feeling of what a starving man would go through as she seemed so far away but he realized that soon he would have his fill and so much more. She was merely stunning as she slid in beside him. He reached over and grabbed her glass of champagne and handed it to her. She took it graciously and sipped at it, before setting it back down on the table beside her. It was good, but she wanted more than what was in the glass.

Turning back toward him, she saw him drinking down the last of what was in his glass. Before he could put his glass down, her hands were on his face and she began to kiss him with every ounce of passion she could find. He absent-mindedly found the table and let his glass fall on it and reached back with his arms and hands to surround her body. They melded against the silky fabric she wore. His hands and fingers stroked and caressed her everywhere. Up and down her arms and shoulders, sensually against her stomach and sides of her body all the way to her thighs, then up around to her back. She kept him locked in the intensity of a heat-seeking kiss, sucking softly on his bottom lip.

Everything about her made him loose his senses. The wonderful scent she wore, the feel of her, the taste of her lips and the sight of her before him, with him. He was incoherent of anything but her. He broke off for a moment to grab some air. He gazed into her eyes and saw forever. "You know, what you said at the ceremony was so beautiful Rita," he said as he watched her.

She smiled at him, "I meant every word of it, I donít ever want anyone but you," she said delving in for another kiss. "Your words were wonderful too Sam, I know you didnít really want to do that," she said, nuzzling nose to nose with him.

"It wasnít so bad, and it was how I feel, and always will feel," he said. "It was a perfect day, wasnít it?" he asked her.

"Yes it was, and itís gonna be an even better night," she said, kissing him again. This time they both were done talking.

Nuzzling against each other, warm breath and soft skin collided and melded together all in beautiful harmony. Ritaís tiny fingertips explored every inch of his face. She felt like she was meeting him for the first time. "You are so beautiful, I love you," she whispered and snuggled against the side of his face, turning inward to place a soft kiss on his cheek. She outlined his jawline with her hand. He smiled warmly beneath her touch.

His fingers slid along her cheek and through her hair watching her eyes and soaking in every feature of her. "I know youíre really mine now, but I still canít believe that itís finally here," he said happily.

"I know, itís true though, we did it! This is the beginning of our new life," Rita said, cupping his cheeks in her hands.

He grinned from ear to ear and eased closer for a soft, delicate kiss, which soon became more and more passion filled. Their tender lips flushed and pursued each otherís. Chris broke off and began to tenderly kiss her entire face, almost blessing each loving area. Her forehead, eyelids, cheeks, nose and then back to those full lips. Before long he pushed his tongue inside her warm mouth for a delightful battle. Inside her mouth, he ran his tongue along her cheeks from side to side. She pushed his tongue around with her own, knowing this was just the beginning. There would be no struggle for power though, there was no reason to. This was all about them, just the two of them and how they could make the most of their undeniable love.

They wrapped themselves up in this tender, overpowering love for an endless amount of time. Chris finally broke off and stood up and began to shed his clothes. Slowly and intently he took off piece by pleasurable piece. The clothing softly fell to the floor in a heap as Chris watched Ritaís expression all the while. He knew there was hunger in his own eyes and searched it out in her as well. She wore a look of contentment. As he peeled off his T-shirt, revealing his chest, he noticed her take in a breath. That left him wearing only his briefs. He paused and waited on the hunger. She didnít disappoint. A slight nod and smile from her and then there, in her eyes, he saw the look he wanted. Rita kept eye contact with him all the while as he undressed before her. Now, as he stood before her, she trembled with anticipation. This was more than exciting for her. He reached down and grabbed her hands and pulled her off the couch and brought her against his bare skin. He gave her a soft kiss on her lips as his hands began to pull up the negligee she wore. He peeled it off over her head and let it fall lightly on the sofa. He stepped back for a moment and drank her in. His mouth went dry and his eyes were wide and eager. His hands ran along her soft warm skin. She pressed against his body, leaning her warm palms against his chest. Her lips sought out his once again. His arms enveloped around her, keeping her so close. He knew heíd never loose her, this was an eternal love.

"The hot tub is waiting," Rita whispered to him as her moist kisses made their way along his neck, near his ear. She lightly licked at it and nibbled the lobe, creating a sensation of wet warmth and cool air. He wanted to shiver, but instead he just enjoyed the feeling. The firelight flickered casting a sensual mood, mixing with the light mist of the bubbling hot tub. He bent slightly and lifted her sensual body and locked her into a kiss as he carried her to the gurgling water of the Jacuzzi. The steamy water was perfect as it spilled around their bodies. They remained locked in the kiss.

Rita began to run her hands all along Chris body. The slickness of his wet skin and the hardened muscles he had made her want him all the more. She squeezed at him, his arms, his sides, and his behind. It all lifted her to a new level. His body was sensational. She could worship it from now till the end of time.

Chris was equally enamored with Ritaís body. He sought out every spot imaginable to touch and squeeze and kiss and love. He knew he needed to have her soon. The growing need surrounded his body and made his groin incessantly ache. Her body bombarded him from every angle, above the water, her lips were non-stop passion, below the water, her legs rubbed and stroked against him. His chest tingled as her peaked breasts brushed against him. Here in the midst of the frothy, hot, wavy water he knew he could no longer control his emotions. Her body glistened with droplets from the spa as he brought her closer and eased himself into her. In one fluid movement he was in deep. She groaned a little from the initial sensation as her legs instinctively clung around his hips tightly. He felt her well-sculpted calves and thighs clasp around him as his lips met with hers in similar fashion. He felt every muscle and cell in his body working in unison toward one common goal. His lungs longed for air, but he continued on, ignoring the simple reflex. One of his hands reached down and kneaded a breast, soft at first, then building harder, rubbing the nubby tip again and again. He drove deeper into her. She moaned her satisfaction and clung to him, resting her head on his shoulder briefly, then innately finding a reserve of strength to continue on. She began to kiss and nibble on his shoulder. His flesh was sensitive to an even greater level. The gurgling water and its droplets tingled on his exposed skin, taking him even higher.

This was an incredible way to begin a marriage, Rita thought as she began to climax into a full blown, trembling explosion. Her breasts turned to firm peaks and she breathed in deeply, throwing back her head and arching her spine. Chris felt it happening too and coaxed her even farther and deeper into a powerful experience for both of them.

Their quick, intense love-making in the hot tub ended more serenely as Chris held her securely in his arms, both of them breathing heavily, coming down together. Rita closed her eyes for a few minutes and when she opened them she looked out the window and noticed that snow had begun to softly fall. She smiled and nudged Chris gently, as he was still lightly caressing her breasts, prodding him to take his staring gaze off of her and out to the postcard setting outside. "Isnít it beautiful Chris?" she asked.

"Mmmhmm," he murmured as he barely noticed the snow falling, rather he had turned all his attention back to her sensational body.

Before long they got out of the glorious hot tub and began to tenderly dry each other off. The patting and buffing soon turned into the second amorous battle of this special evening. Rita shivered a little from the exposure to the air. Chris noticed it right away and wrapped his warm arms around her and led her closer to the fire. "I need to warm you up I see," he said, rubbing the small of her back with his palm. His blue eyes suddenly turned dark, almost black now with hot need for her all over again. "Rita, I want you so badly," he barely uttered out loud.

She more than sensed the need again herself. The shivering feeling that she had just had passed away instantly. A new, hot burning heat billowed in her body. Her trembling fingers clasped with his as they both headed to the floor in front of the shadowy fire. "You are so good at starting fires," Rita nearly purred. "Make love to me Chris, make love to me."

A deep sounding resonance sounded in Chrisí throat. He pulled Ritaís body tightly against his own, letting his arousal press against her belly. His tongue thrust itself inside hers, feeding her with a torrid burning desire that was quickly out of either one of their controls.

Every fiber of her inner makeup felt like liquid molten. Chris released her mouth and immediately began to devour her breasts. Flecking away the nipples with his tongue and teeth, Rita gasped and ran her fingers through his hair, holding his head close to her electrified body. His warm lips and wet tongue played over her breasts, leaving he aching with desire. She groaned with pleasure as he began to touch her with his fingertips, making every spot on her body an erotic thrill ride.

Chris hands began to peruse the rest of her body, kneading every spot, from shoulders to arms to buttocks, all the while continuing the moist and furious sensation on her breasts. He suckled on her over and over, as his hand slid down and began to bring her even more satisfaction.

"Oh god Chris," Rita managed to expel. He knew right then that he was delighting her at yet another level. He left her breasts momentarily and glided his lips and tongue back up to her mouth for a delicious bite and nibble on the same lips that just had spoken those heart wrenching words. He pulled back just for a brief moment to smile at her. She watched his eyes, which continued to show their focus. Anticipation filled her soul and she shivered once again.

In a fury now, he was everywhere, touching, tasting, kissing and pleasuring her from head to toe. She squirmed beneath him. He played over her like a master builder, soft and light in some areas, calculated and intent in others. He took her to the edge so many times, her mind was left in a whirl. "You are perfect," he murmured as he found the tender skin of her belly, "you are my perfect Sam," he said, sucking in the same spot, then gingerly flecking his teeth over the same area. His hands pushed and sculpted her breasts all the while. "I want to give you everything I have," he said softly, "everything."

He worked his way lower down her body, kissing her inner thighs, feeling them quiver as he got nearer and nearer to her. He knew she was way beyond ready. His hands smoothed over her legs, up and down in long strokes. He was taking her to the edge again, as his mouth made her crazy.

He lifted her legs and set them on his shoulders and lifted his head to have a brief look at her face. Her eyelids fluttered open at the loss of contact, but closed again as Chris entered her. She felt her whole body become weak. She shuddered as the explosion came, faster and faster. Her convulsions began, wildly, and then he exploded too. He bent down slowly beside her, kissing her tenderly and tucking some errant hair back behind ears.

After this interlude began to wind down, Chris softly stroked her body over and over. He adored the delicate, soft, warm feeling of her skin. His hands wandered effortlessly over her breasts and hips, moving slowly and calculatingly, investigating every curve, and searching out the sensation of every swell. Rita remained silent, simply enjoying his tender touch, knowing how important it was to both of them.

They somehow managed to make it back to the bedroom, both of them collapsing onto it. Slowly Chris drifted off to a light and peaceful sleep, his arm draped over Rita. She was content to watch the rise and fall of his chest. The look of happiness that painted across his face was unmistakable. There were no worries or fears or any hidden troubles. She knew that same peace reflected in her as well. Unconsciously she shifted her body closer to his. First her foot brushed against his leg, Chris barely stirred. Next her kneecap connected with his upper thigh and though he didnít awaken he began to stir a little more. Her head dipped in under his ear and she whispered breathlessly into it how much she loved him. She watched his face for a reaction and saw the tiniest hint of a smile forming. He was beginning to awaken. Her hand stroked the arm that was draped over her, so lightly it went nearly unnoticed by him. Her hand continued down his strong arm and onto his chest, sprinkled with hair. Her fingertips played upon it, sending her emotions swelling. Chris reacted by grasping her more firmly with the hand that was draped over her. He continued to awaken. Her scent filled his nostrils now and he slowly brought her closer to him, enveloping her. She could hear his heartbeat thump faster as her head was now on top of his chest. Heíd be fully awake shortly. She softly brushed her full lips over his chest, slowly and methodically.

Deep in his subconscious, Chris felt a deep and powerful longing in his groin. His eyes opened to a smiling Rita. "I love touching you," she said. Her body longed for his again. He groggily let his hand pass through her hair and that was all she needed to rev up her engine again. She started touching him everywhere. Only with her hands initially. Her fingertips and palms along his sleepy face first, then onto his broad shoulders and down his arms. By the time she glided over his chest and stomach, she looked up to see his face, now wide-awake filled with aching desire. Down his legs she went, swirling around the backs of his calves, massaging tenderly. Her hands finally surrounded him, and he let out a deep, satisfied moan of his own. He reached down for her head with his hands and led her up to his lips. She kissed and nibbled all along the way, back up to his waiting lips. Rita was beyond wanting him again, she couldnít wait to have him inside her once more. As they deeply kissed, his hands stroked her back as she began to straddle him. "Rita I love you so much," he said, their eyes connecting.

"I love you too," she said.

He grasped at her hips and began to guide her where he wanted her to be. He entered quickly. One of his hands broke away from her hips and began to caress her breast, coaxing the nipple to harden, then to the other for the same reaction. He ran his hand between her breasts and around and around. Rita stroked at his chest, urging him deeper and deeper inside her. Her hand entwined with his and played upon her own chest, while her other hand combed through her hair. They moved together in perfect harmony, touching each other over and over.

Chris began to sit up, driving into her, his mouth and lips now attached to her breasts, suckling at this new angle. Rita arched her back and dipped her head back. Chris hands moved to behind her back, fascinated by the body she had and how she could make him feel. Fiery heat began to rage through their bodies.

Rita matched his movements now, stroke for powerful stroke. They were both so deep inside one anotherís soul, there would never be any turning back. They continued on to a delirious rhythm until the room began to spin inside both their heads. Chris raised his body nearly clear off the bed and with one powerful thrust he found her very core. Rita screamed out in total pleasure. Chrisí moment came a split second later. His head was dizzy, but all he needed to make out was the face of his lovely Rita.

His hands and body collapsed back into the bed, taking Rita with him. Her arms naturally slid around him as her lips brushed soft kisses on his chest. Neither one of them moved.

Chris laughed softly as some strength returned to his arms and he raised them up to hold Rita closely.

"I do, I do, I do, I do forever and beyond," he said kissing the top of her head.

She moved her head and sought out his lips. After placing a sweet, tender kiss on them she added, "I do too, infinity."

The End

 

February 1999

And before anyone asksÖ.no, Iím not doing the honeymoon! Youíll have to imagine that one for yourself. And I know you all can do that! I guess I just figure that they ought to be able to enjoy that themselvesÖno crimes and no intruders ok? Good! They deserve that.

As per usualÖ.(A Chris quote I might add) the characters of Chris, Rita, Harry, Franny, Benny, Ana, Robert, Diana, George, Taylor, Kiesha, Hattie, Lt. Husdon, Hutch, Michael, Solanage, Cotton, Atticus, Andrea, Roger and Donnie Dogs DiBarto are the creations of and belong to Stephen J. Cannell, Stu Segall and USA Productions.

The rest of the cast listÖwhich goes like thisÖ. Jon Watson, Jill Watson, Daniel, Geoff, Tre, Turko, Rufe, Alec, Edvard, Isobel and Sadavia Kurkowic, Agents Water and Malone, Officer Morris, Oscar Kempten, Vlady Maldoch, Connie, Susan, Melanie and Mike Schmidt, belong to me and have been created way back in the cob webbed corners of my mind. Ainít it a great place?

True Companion was written by Marc Cohn and can be found on the CD Marc Cohn

Do you think this business with the Kurkowicís is over????

What about ChrisÖ.what will he do about these feelings???

Thanks to the whole gangÖ.people like Judy for the proofing and editing! Joy for the wonderful words, Linda & Lisa for posting, and ĎTí for making sure I never start thinking itís that great! (HaÖyou guys are the bestÖ.thank you, thank you, thank youÖ..infinity!)

So whatís next? Anyone want to guess?

Write to me with good and or bad comments at tuna.dc@excite.com

 

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