(NOTE TO READERS --- WHEN YOU SEE THE WORD 'WHOOOOOSH' THINK OF IT AS A FLASH OF WHITE, WITH PERHAPS A SOUND EFFECT TOO --- THE PRELUDE TO A FLASHBACK)
"Well, I think I should be able to finish the rest of the painting tomorrow," Chris said in a satisfied tone as he glanced around the freshly painted room.
Rita watched his proud face as she made her way around paint cans, drop cloths, turpentine containers, paint brushes and rollers carrying a bag of McDonalds and two soda's. "It really reeks in here. I think I'll have paint fumes permanently cemented to my lungs," she said in reply.
"Hey, you're the one who insisted we had to paint all the rooms before we moved in remember?" he said and added in a female tone imitating her, "let's just paint every room Chris, it's gonna need it sooner or later anyway."
"Would you stop," she said chastising him, "your dinner has arrived," she added holding up the bag for him to see first and then placing the value meals on some old milk crates located in the center of the room.
"Oooh, I see we're eating in style again?" Chris said plopping down on the floor grabbing a Quarter Pounder.
"Can I help it if it's the closest restaurant around and I'll use the term restaurant lightly here?" she asked.
"Doesn't matter," Chris mumbled as he inhaled the burger, "it all goes in the same place anyway," he said patting his gut.
"That's what I'm afraid of," Rita said looking at him with a forced smile.
"So are you satisfied with it so far," Chris asked Rita as he polished off his remaining French fries.
She grinned and nodded, "yeah, I think it looks terrific, don't you?"
"Absolutely and now I know I could have another career as a painter if my current one ever gets cut short," Chris responded.
"You do do lovely work Michelangelo," she said leaning in for a salty kiss.
"Well, when I've got a Mona Lisa like you to work with, it makes things pretty easy," Chris said returning the kiss in kind.
"That would make you DaVinci then," Rita corrected him.
"Us artists never get any respect," he added as if he was put off by her correction.
"How 'bout if I take a quick shower and we take a walk down along the beach tonight. We haven't done that in awhile and I don't feel like painting anymore tonight," Chris started.
"I think I could be persuaded," Rita said as she began to pick up the food wrappers.
"I've got a change of clothes out in the Charger, give me ten minutes ok," he said bouncing up and heading out to the car.
"Take your time, I'm not going anywhere. I came with you remember?" she called out after him.
Her eyes swept around the room. This was her new home. Her new home with Chris. Things were pretty perfect, she thought. Rita and Chris had moved quickly to purchase their little dream home. Things fell into place for them rather well. First finding this quaint and charming house, getting approved for a loan, scraping up a down payment and now, first doing some cosmetic and repair work before they actually moved in. They spent every free moment they had at the house, patching, painting, cutting grass and all the other things that went with owning a home. They loved every minute of it, even though it usually meant total exhaustion by the end of each long day.
Rita sat outside on their patio waiting for Chris to get cleaned up. She relaxed in a patio chair that had been left by the previous owner. Their backyard was a sight to behold. The red bougainvillea was in full bloom; it had been for weeks now. The previous owner or owners had to have cultivated and maintained this beautiful native flower for years. Rita blissfully rested on the lawn chair soaking it all in and deeply breathed in the lovely fragrance.
"Ok, I'm ready," Chris said coming out of the house to the backyard combing his wet, short cropped hair into place. He had on a pair of blue jeans, a gold T-shirt and tennis shoes. "How do I look?" he asked for her approval, holding out his arms.
"Good enough for a walk on the beach, let's ditch our shoes though?" she commanded.
They walked apart for a little bit until Chris reached for her hand and securely wrapped his around it. After a few moments he brought her even closer and put his arm around her shoulder snugly. She returned the touch by wrapping her arm around his waist. She strolled along thinking how much she loved Chris, buying the house together with him and what was coming next perhaps, but from his silence, she wondered if he had something else on his mind. "Have I told you lately that this was the best decision I have ever made?" Rita asked, "you know being with you and buying the house."
"You mean that WE have ever made," Chris corrected her.
"You know what I mean!" she used her free hand to jab him in the stomach. He winced from her playful touch.
They walked along like this together without speaking, finding comfort in just being with each other. Though the sun was setting in the opposite direction, the sky over the ocean was putting on a spectacular show of pinks, oranges, reds and golds. They stopped just to stand and watch it. "I don't know if I can top that," Chris said as he began to reach into his pocket.
Rita turned to gaze at his face with a slight puzzlement on her own. "Why do you need to top it?" she asked.
"I think it's about time I gave you this," he said as he started pulling out a ring box. Rita glanced down at the box and then back up at his serious face. She tipped her head to one side and smiled warmly. He reached for her hand and slipped the tiny box into it. He continued to speak quietly, "Go ahead, open it." She let go her hold on him took the box into her hands and slowly exposed what was inside the jeweler's box. As she fixed her eyes on it, her right hand went over her heart. It was an exquisite diamond engagement ring. "Will you marry me Rita Lee Lance?" Chris asked softly taking the ring out of the box and slipping it on to her finger, then staring at her face looking for a sign, waiting as patiently as possible for her answer.
Rita was busy admiring how the ring sparkled on her finger, then lifting up her face, her emerald eyes met with his blue eyes and she nodded and replied, "yes, Christopher Lorenzo, I'll marry you." Chris' face broke out into a huge grin, which made Rita grin and giggle back in return. Chris let out a deep sigh of relief and pulled her into a long lasting hug. Rita let herself enjoy being held by him, knowing that he was enjoying holding her too. She again lifted her hand behind his back so as to enjoy the ring and allowed a satisfied smile to paint its way across her face, confident that she had given Chris the right answer.
"It's absolutely beautiful Chris," Rita began whispering in his ear, kissing his neck.
"I know," he proudly boasted. She pulled back from his hug to see him teasing her. "So you really like it?" he asked seriously.
She nodded, "yeah, I love it."
"And you're sure," he added with a slight waver in his voice. She nodded again. Chris kept on talking, "cuz we can still wait before we actually get married, I don't want to rush you, I want you to be sure. It doesn't have to be right away, I just thought that I needed to give you this, you know, to show you that I'm serious." Rita tried to cut him off but he continued. "And if you don't like it, we could take it back and get one that you'd like better, it's not a problem, I just thought it'd be a nice surprise. I was gonna wait and take you out for a fancy dinner but I couldn't wait anymore. I've had it for about a week now."
Rita was dizzy from his obvious nervous rambling. She lifted her hand up and covered his mouth. "Would you stop please," she said, "I've never seen you have this kind of a reaction before, a little nervous maybe?" Chris gently kissed her fingertips and drooped his head down avoiding her eyes. She took her hand from his mouth and raised his chin back up so he would look at her. "I said, you're acting pretty weird, I've never seen you like this, are you sure you want to give this to me?"
He let out a small smile. "Yeah, yes I am," then he paused, "It's well, I just have never given any woman a diamond ring before, you're the only woman I've ever wanted to give one too, I guess I am a little nervous maybe," he explained with a heavy sigh. "I want it to be perfect. You really, really like it?" he asked again raising her hand for a closer look himself. He rubbed her hand and ran his index finger in a lazy circle pattern around the ring.
"I love it Chris and I love you," she said again.
He looked up at her shyly, "were you surprised?"
"Surprised, I'll say! I didn't expect to have a McDonald's dinner, that I had to pay for I might add, as the prelude to an engagement ring, but it certainly has been a unique evening."
Chris bit his lip and shook his head in obvious despair. "I knew I should have waited and done it up right, I just couldn't keep it a secret anymore," he said and looked directly in her eyes, "I just wanted you to have it, to let everyone know, that you and I, well that you're mine."
She pulled him closer and reached for his lips with her own, when they broke apart she said, "I am yours, forever."
"You really, really, really like it and you're sure?" Chris asked sheepishly again.
"Christopher!" she said almost scolding him, "I love it, I love you! What do you want? Me to have doubts again?"
He put his hands up in defense, "Uh, uh, no way, I believe you." The sky began to darken as nighttime drew near, so they headed back to their home. As they walked Chris asked Rita, "So, when do you want to set the date?"
"Can we finish moving in to the house first and get that squared away before we begin to plan a wedding?" she retorted.
"Ok, then how about an engagement party?" he continued to badger her.
"Why in the world would we want to do that for?" she fired back.
"Ok, ok, what about the reception, buffet or sit down dinner?" he quickly added.
"How about McDonald's, it worked so well tonight?" she sarcastically came back with.
He scowled at her for the last remark, but then kept at her, "Church or justice of the peace?" he threw at her.
She coiled up her fist and smacked his shoulder, "Stop it, otherwise maybe I will give you this ring back," she playfully answered.
He shook his head in disagreement, "No you won't."
"Oh yeah, how do you know that," she started to grab it off her finger, "maybe I'll take it and sell it back and run off leaving you with the mortgage?" she kept teasing him by waving the ring in his face.
"Nah," he started, "you wouldn't do that,"
"Yeah, how do you know?"
"You love the house too damn much," he answered as he snatched the ring out of her hand and took off running down the beach. Rita chased after him laughing. He slowed down so she could catch up to him. She punched him again when she caught him. "Ow," he said in a baby voice.
"That didn't hurt you big baby. Now give me back my ring," she stated.
He took hold of her hand and again slid it on to her finger. Then he looked up and stared at her, "you know I'm starting to enjoy sliding this on your finger."
"I can tell," she answered.
Later that night in bed they lay, Chris on his back, Rita close to him, with her head on his chest, her hand over his heart, both of them nearing sleep, Rita asked him, "Are we gonna tell Cap in the morning?"
Chris delicately placed a kiss on the top of her head, "I guess we should, cuz I want that ring to stay right where it's at, I don't want you to be taking it off while we're at work," Chris said.
"Somehow I got that impression earlier," Rita said with a smirk, "I could go in first and talk to him alone. He doesn't seem to yell quite as loud when you're not there."
Chris shook his head, "No, no way, I'm not gonna let you do it alone, this is us, me and you, together, that's what it's always been about. "Sides we both know his bark is worse than his bite."
Chris closed his eyes, beckoning sleep to come, when Rita started talking again, "Whattaya think he'll do?"
"You mean other than telling you to give me back the ring?" he said still with his eyes closed but now with a smile radiating from his face.
"Be serious," she said.
"Well, I guess he'll yell at first, then he'll ask us a million times if we're sure, then he'll call us in separately and try to tell us that it won't work. He'll tell us that we'll be split up, then he'll tell us together again that we're not right for each other, then he'll take a few dozen pills for the chest pains he's having. He'll try to have Frannie give us the 'true love' speech, then he'll ask if we're still sure..." he said beginning to laugh.
Rita interrupted him, "Enough, ok already, I get your point, you're right, he is going to go nuts."
Chris opened his eyes and saw her staring up at him. "Rita, he knows all about us, he knows we've been together now, he knows we bought the house together. He just needs to act that way, that just Cap."
"But rules are rules Chris, he didn't make the 'no physical stuff, no married partners,' policy."
"Are we married yet?" he asked her.
"No, no is the right answer, we'll be partners till we're married," he said.
"So what are you saying? That we'll just stay engaged forever, Mr. when's the date gonna be?" she retorted.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Now I'm tired, so can I get some sleep?" he asked groggily.
The next morning, Chris and Rita went in to the cop shop earlier than usual. They arrived before Harry got in and proceeded into his office to wait for him. Harry busily walked in to the office, head down and glanced up when he saw the two of them sitting in front of his desk. "You're both early. What? Got a new lead on the Mercer case?" he asked as he shredded his suit coat jacket and started rolling up his sleeves.
"No, Cap, we actually need to talk to you," Rita began, "about a personal matter."
"Can I get a cup of coffee first, this sounds like I'm gonna need it." Chris nodded, almost afraid to speak to this man.
Rita said, "Sure, in fact, let me get you a cup, cuz I need a refill too," as she rose to head toward the coffee machine. Cap stared at Chris, who still had yet to utter a word.
As Rita came back into the room Cap said, "This must be pretty good, cuz I've never seen Lorenzo at a loss for words."
Chris smiled crookedly, fidgeted in his chair and blurted out, "This is pretty good Cap, I've asked Rita to marry me."
"Yeah, and I've uh, said yes," Rita concluded, glancing at Chris, then back at Cap. Both of them sat tensely as they waited for Cap's eruption.
Cap smiled warmly at the two of them, which really got them both wondering. "Aaaah, I'm so happy for the both of you, congratulations," he replied. Rita and Chris looked at each other; both stunned from his response. "When someone says congratulations, you're supposed to say thank you," Cap continued.
"Uh, thanks Cap, um, I guess we just expected a different kind of response from you," Rita began, Chris still sat in obvious shock.
"Look, you said you needed to talk to me personally, personally I'm happy for both of you," he stated calmly, "professionally," his voice began to intensify, "what the hell are you two thinking?" You know the rules around here. What the hell could you possibly be thinking?" he groused as he sat down in his chair and opened a desk drawer in search of a pill to take.
"Cap, we love each other, we know the rules and we'll accept whatever happens, but this is what we want, we want to be together," Chris said grabbing hold of Rita's hand and raising it so Cap could see.
"Love," Cap began with a laugh, "do you even know what the word means Lorenzo?"
Chris started to nod, "Yeah, Cap, I'm surprised you have to ask, I've loved Rita from the first moment I saw her, I blocked it out for years because of this stupid rule, but I'm not gonna do that anymore. What we have together is something good and I'm not gonna let this job get in the way," Chris said in his own defense, definitely hurt by what Cap had asked him. He got up and walked out of the office leaving Rita sitting there with Cap.
Harry waited for Rita to say something, when she didn't he began to speak, "Look Rita, I've known you guys now for how long? Four years? And how many relationships has Lorenzo had? I mean look, he was even going to move to Boston with that doctor for crying out loud."
"Cap, that was over a year ago, Chris and I, well, we've both had a lot of relationships over the years," she began to explain, "but he's right, we've always had strong feelings for each other. We both buried them deep down. It took us a long time to realize that, well; it's us, that we're each meant for. We're best friends. I know you can see that. Now, we know we truly love each other too. It's not like we planned this, we don't mean to break any rules, but if it's a choice between Chris or the job, I know I'll take Chris."
Cap, still standing, looked down at her, "and what about him, do you think he's ready to make the same commitment to you."
"Chris has felt this way a lot longer than I have. He's been waiting for me to decide Cap," Rita tried to explain.
Cap sat on the corner of the desk; "I just don't want either one of you to get hurt."
Rita stood up and went and stood closer to him, "Cap, we love each other, we want you to be happy for us. You know we're closer to you and Frannie, than we are or were to our own parents, that's why we're telling you first, you both mean the world to us."
Cap gave Rita a warm hug. "I am happy and Frannie will be too, I just gotta figure out a way to keep the two of you as partners here at work," he said pulling away from her. "And now I guess I better go talk to Chris too," he added, "and tell him the same thing."
Cap found Chris outside at the roach coach wolfing down a breakfast burrito. "You know that stuff'll kill ya," Cap said coming up behind him, "and now that you've got someone besides yourself to live for, maybe you should start watching what you're poisoning your body with."
"Why, so I can turn out to be like you?" Chris smartly replied, taking another bite out of his food.
"Please, just looking at that is giving me heartburn," Cap said turning away and grabbing his heart, "Listen Chris, I'm sorry about what I said in there. The truth is, the two of you are like my own kids, I just want you to be sure," Cap said.
Chris stopped eating momentarily, "I know Cap, I appreciate that, but I know I love Rita and I know she loves me. No job is gonna stop that." Cap grinned at him. "What, what is it, do I have sauce on my face or what?" Chris asked in a panic.
"Nah, you just said exactly what Lance said. Maybe you two are perfect for each other," Cap replied.
It turned out to be another average day at work, followed by a long night of working at the house. Chris and Rita were still a little suspicious of how Cap had taken their news so well. But now that they were here at their house their minds began to head in other directions. Chris busily worked in the kitchen. Besides painting, the two of them had decided that they would re-finish the cabinetry and put in a new floor. It was some major work. Chris had a friend who was in the flooring business, so he arranged for him to put in a tile floor. In the meantime, Chris took off the cabinets, one by one and began to sand and strip them. Chris' friend was also going to be putting new carpeting in the living room. Rita kept herself occupied in the bedrooms. Chris had already painted the rooms, now Rita got busy and painted the insides of the closets too. Plus she shampooed all the carpets in the rooms as well. She needed to get the bedrooms done quickly, her apartment lease was coming to an end and she was hoping to have her stuff moved out of the apartment and into the house, before she'd have to pay a rental penalty. Chris on the other hand, was in the midst of his lease on his loft and he couldn't get out of it. He spent his free time arranging for people to come and take a look at it. He was hoping to sublet it and eventually get out of the lease without having to get hit with a penalty.
Rita took a break and came into the kitchen to see Chris sanding away vigorously on a cupboard door. "Hey you maniac, slow down, you don't have to finish it all tonight," she called out to him as she grabbed for a diet Pepsi in the refrigerator, "do you want a soda?" she asked him.
He stood up straight and groaned, "Is there any beer left in there?" he said stretching out his back.
"I think there is," she said snatching a beer bottle out of the fridge and handing it to him. "Let's go sit outside in the back for a few minutes," Rita said.
"That sounds like a plan," he said following her out to the patio.
"I'm gonna start moving my stuff in here tomorrow after work, so I'll be in and out ok," she asked him.
"Yeah, that's great. I'll be here trying to finish these cabinets before Charlie gets here with the floor. Which reminds me, he said he'd do the living room on Saturday ok?" Chris explained.
"That's perfect, I can't wait to get that gold shag out of the living room," Rita replied. Chris started to roll his neck and head around trying to loosen up the kinks. "Maybe you should quit for the night, you look beat," Rita said.
"Nah, I'm just a little stiff from bending over and doing all that sanding. It feels good to take a break though," he answered back.
Rita pulled her chair behind his and started to knead his shoulders with her hands, "how's that feel?"
"Much better, you and those magic hands are just what the doctor ordered Sammy," Chris replied.
"Have you found anyone to sublet your loft to yet?" Rita asked. "Uh, uh, nah, but I got a guy who said he wanted to stop by and see it, I gotta call him tomorrow and see when we can hook up over there. I hope he's the one, I'd like to be done dealing with two places," Chris said.
"Well, at least I've gotten rid of mine, you know I'm gonna miss it though," Rita said sadly.
"What, that tiny little, colorful thing?" Chris asked smiling putting his head down as she continued the tender massage.
"Yes I am, we both have a lot of memories there, you know," she explained.
He took a swig of beer and nodded, "yeah, some I'd like to forget too."
"Whattaya mean?" she asked him.
"When you were having all those nightmares about Jasmine, I just didn't know what to do to help you," he started.
"Being there was the best you could do, it meant a lot then. Plus all the stuff with Eric, I don't think I could have made it through without you all those times Chris," Rita explained.
Chris sat quietly thinking for a moment, "I have a confession," he began.
"And that is what?" Rita asked.
"That day after we took down Lena Correll, when we were at your apartment?" Chris said.
"Yeah, what about it?" Rita prodded.
"Rita, I wanted you so bad then, I still don't know how I kept myself under control. That day, then you asked me to stay awhile," he said, raising his hands in frustration and clasping them into fists, "uhghhh, man, I should get some bonus points from Heaven some day for that torture," he added.
Rita wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. "You're such a good friend Sam, you always have been. I don't think it would have worked then though, it was too soon after Eric. You did the right thing," Rita said.
"My head may agree with you, as for the rest of me, uh uh, pure 100% pain. I think that's when I really started knowing for sure though. That it would happen for us."
"I knew from the first minute I met you," Rita began.
"Yeah, how could you have possibly known that soon?" Chris responded with a 'ha.'
Rita giggled, "Ok, maybe it was purely a physical reaction at first," she started to say only to be interrupted by a playful growl from Chris, "but it just kept building much deeper than that. I mean by the time we got to be the Wellman's, I was hooked," she said with a laugh.
Chris' head spun around, "I knew it, I knew that kiss was good for you too, why'd ya lie and tell me you got nothing from it?" Chris asked in shock.
"I guess I needed to be 100% sure, like I am now. And I think you did too."
"Yeah, but think about all the wasted time, I mean if you had been killed that time in your apartment, where would I be now?" Chris asked.
"It hasn't been wasted time Sam, believe me, everything has a reason. I almost lost you too, remember? I think those times just make now even more special. We're not wasting anything anymore," Rita explained.
Chris raised his hand and softly caressed the side of her face and reached in for a kiss, "you're right, we're not wasting any more time, so let's get back to work now and get this house in order," he said releasing her and heading back inside.
She called out after him, "That's not exactly what I meant!"
"I'm going down to the lab to check with Diana on the autopsy, you can call me down there when you get the fax from Miami ok?" Chris said as he started to head out of the office the next day.
"Ok, I'll call, then I'm heading out early to start moving my stuff ok?" Rita answered.
"Yeah, we can't close this case today anyway. What time do you think you'll be over at the house?" Chris asked.
"Maybe by six, I have boxes scattered all over the place, I just need to start getting the essentials over there."
Chris walked back over to her desk, "Tell you what, I got this guy coming over to my loft at six, to look it over, why don't you drop off your first load of stuff and come and pick me up about 6:30 and I'll take you out for dinner?"
"That sounds very good, as long as it's not..." Rita began to say as Chris quickly interrupted her, "McDonald's, I know, cut me some slack here ok Sam?" Rita grinned at him, "I'll see you about 6:30 then."
"So that's about it man, rent is $750 a month, with utilities, the lease is up next June" Chris said, "It's big, but you know, not a lot of walls, typical loft."
The other man nodded and replied, "Mind if I look around some more?" he asked.
"Knock yourself out, I gotta keep packing up some stuff anyway, just holler if you have any questions." Chris went over to the walls and began to take the pictures down, wrap them in newspaper and place them into a box. A quiet knock came from the door and Rita entered with a smile, wearing blue jeans, a light blue T-shirt and her leather jacket. "Hey Sam," Chris greeted her as she entered.
"Hey yourself," she replied giving him a quick kiss, "is the prospective tenant still here?"
"Yes he is, he's upstairs looking over the place, and I think he's gonna take it," he said lowering his voice, "keep your fingers crossed." Just then the man came down the stairs and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Rita. Rita turned and looked at the man.
Together in unison they exclaimed, "Mel?"
Chris stood in the background, silent and dumbfounded by what he was witnessing. The two of them slowly moved closer together and both opened their arms to each other in a bear hug. "I can't believe this, I thought you lived in Denver?" Rita said still in the hug.
"I moved back," the man responded still holding her tightly.
Chris was getting a little uptight now, wondering what exactly was going on. He cleared his throat, "Ah, you two know each other?" he asked moving closer to them.
Rita quickly pulled away and inched over closer to Chris. "Yeah," Rita said a little flustered, "Chris, this is Daniel Mattson, we went to high school together, he's a very old and dear friend, and Daniel this is Chris Lorenzo, my fiancé."
"Yeah, we've met, remember," Chris said a little coldly, which drew a look from Rita.
Daniel stuck out his hand, "Pleasure man, and congratulations, Rita's one in a million."
"Don't I know it," Chris replied arrogantly shaking Daniel's hand.
Rita was all full of smiles and happiness at seeing her old friend again. Her mind raced with questions. "What's it been Mel? 12 or 13 years?" she began.
Daniel nodded, "Something like that."
"Chris, you wouldn't believe all the stuff the two of us got ourselves into," she giggled looking Daniel up and down.
"Hey, we were just kids then, remember? We were supposed to do crazy stuff," Daniel explained.
"Gah, I can't believe your back in town, your mom and dad said they'd never let you come back here," Rita began.
"Yeah, well I am an adult now so I come and go as I please, they though, are still in Denver, if you really care?" he replied.
Rita scrunched up her face, "Uh, not totally, but I'm glad to hear that they're doing ok."
"How are Tom and Sue?" he asked her.
She put her head down, "they died about 7 years ago, a car crash," she sadly replied.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know," he answered.
Chris who still remained in the background of this reunion now moved quickly towards Rita and put his hand on her shoulder to give her a little comfort and to help lighten the mood. "Hey Daniel, you want a beer or something, sit down man," Chris interjected trying to play the polite and gracious host.
"Yeah, a beer would be great," he answered.
Chris guided Rita towards a chair and she plunked down on it. "Sam, you want something to drink?" he asked her as he headed towards the kitchen.
"Just a bottle of water," she answered. Chris grabbed two beers and water for Rita and passed out the beverages accordingly.
"Chris, this is a great place, I think I'll take it," Daniel began.
Chris sat on the edge of the chair that Rita was in, "Don't feel obligated, just because you know Rita," Chris explained, "make sure it's really what you want."
"I am, I really like the loft, it'll be perfect," Daniel said.
"Just make sure you can afford it, Mr. Big Spender," Rita taunted him.
"I can afford it," he started, "I'll have you know that you're talking to Dr. Daniel Mattson,"
"Get out," Rita responded.
"Yeah, I'm a psychiatrist, I just finished my two year residency at Denver Presbyterian Hospital."
"Well, you'll always be a Mel to me," Rita said with a laugh.
Chris sat calmly on the outside, listening to their friendly banter. He looked around the surroundings of his familiar loft now becoming barren and empty. His insides were becoming like mush and his head was thinking things that he didn't even fully understand. The jealousy thing could make a person go insane.
In his mind flashed the image of a five-year old boy, standing against a wooden door, in the darkness of a stark bedroom, heart racing, the sweaty skin of his forehead and cheek pressed against the coolness of the door.
"Daniel, why don't you come to dinner with us?" Rita was asking as Chris was jolted back to reality for the moment.
Chris interrupted her, "Why don't the two of you go, it sounds like you've got a lot to catch up on. And I've got plenty of packing to do to keep me busy." Rita studied his face as he returned her gaze with a smile, "three's a crowd you know," he added.
"Are you sure?" she asked him.
"Absolutely, you said it yourself, it's been 12 or 13 years, that's a lot of catching up to catch up on." Rita wasn't completely sold on Chris' assurance. She knew him pretty well after all the years as partners. Whenever there was another man in her life, even just a friend, he'd start acting jealous. But she wasn't seeing it this time. Highly unusual, she thought, but he always seemed to surprise her in some way from day to day. Daniel watched Rita and then Chris. He didn't want to interfere with their lives. He was just as shocked by the whole turn of events as they both were.
"Listen, you guys had plans tonight, you go ahead. Maybe you and I can do lunch this week Mel, or I could take both of you out for dinner sometime."
Chris stood up from the chair. "Rita, take this guy to dinner ok, talk, gossip, whatever, have a good time alright?" And to Daniel he said, "I will let you take us out later though, deal?" Chris said holding out his hand.
"Deal!" Daniel replied firmly returning the polite and kind gesture.
Chris laid uncomfortably in his bed alone. It was nearing 2am and Rita had not returned. He realized he neglected to tell her that he'd be staying at his loft this night, but if she went to the house or her apartment and he wasn't there, she'd know to come to the loft. They never slept apart anymore. He rolled over onto his back and opened his eyes attempting to stare at the black ceiling. His mind was on overload, with the new house, the old loft, work, now this guy, plus there was something else he couldn't quite figure out, but something was beginning to bother him. It was niggling away deep in his head, he couldn't quite figure out what it was all about. He hated being jealous, feeling frustrated every time another man showed a friendly feeling towards Rita. He'd been working hard to control it, and from the outside it seemed to be working. Rita usually picked up on it right away as it happened, and unfortunately for Chris' sake it happened way too often. Lately though, he kept it in check externally. Internally, he felt like thousands of wires and cables and ropes were knotted up inside him. Now he was being deprived of sleep and he didn't even want to think about what she could be doing at 2:12am with another man. And what was this 'Mel' thing all about? Then he heard the key open the lock.
Chris rolled back onto his side, facing away from where Rita would be able to see his face. He closed his eyes in case she would look, she'd think he was asleep. He didn't want her to know that he was still awake, waiting for her to return. That'd be the worst thing he could do, act jealous so that she would see it, he thought. She quietly maneuvered her way around the dark surroundings of the room. Chris could hear her shedding her clothes off and he heard the sound of a drawer opening and then closing, as she must have slipped on one of his T-shirts to sleep in. Silently she slid under the covers and snuggled close against his bare back. He felt her foot wander up and down the back of his leg. She inched even closer. He could feel her breath tingle against his neck. The softness and warmth of her breasts coming in contact with him even through the T-shirt that she wore radiated deep into his soul. She draped her arm over him, letting it tightly hug his chest. Her tender lips lightly brushed against the skin of his back. It was her unspoken way of saying goodnight to him. He slid his arm out from under hers and let her get even closer. His insides melted from her intimate contact. The jealous, knotted up feelings vacated his thoughts and he quickly drifted off to sleep.
Chris heard the shower going at about 7am the following morning. How could she be up already? Through the sound of the water and a closed door he could also hear her humming. Not only was she up, she was happy and on only 4 ½-hours of sleep. He shook his head and groaned. To himself he thought, 'Chris, just relax, she hadn't seen the guy in 13 years, ugh, 13 was unlucky, make it 12 years, they just talked, no biggy, TRUST HER, TRUST HER, TRUST HER, they were just good friends, actually Rita had said dear friends, what did that mean?' It was too early in the morning to go this crazy. He rolled over on his back and yawned. Rita came out of the bathroom wearing a robe with a towel wrapped around her hair.
She noticed that he was now awake, "Good morning Christopher," she said almost singing it.
His insides moaned, groaned and bemoaned. She was happy, she must have had a great time with this guy, and he answered back, "Hey," as he watched her flit around the room.
She turned back around to see him as he gave her a monotone greeting. "What's a matter, you're the one who actually got some sleep last night. I didn't get home till like after 2," she began. Chris' eyes followed her every movement. The way she unwrapped the towel from her hair, reaching for her perfume and spraying it on her exposed neck, it all made him crazy. This woman meant everything to him. The scent of her perfume drifted over to him and he inhaled it. He wouldn't give her up without a fight to the death.
"So did you have a good time?" he asked her thinking to himself, 'external, external.'
She grabbed a brush and started leading it through her hair. "The best," she said with a smile and added, "thanks for being so understanding."
"That's what fiancées are for right," he said rolling on his side and propping his head up with his hand, he continued to watch her.
"Daniel really wants this place by the way, I told him to meet us for lunch at Raoul's and we'd come back here and sign the papers, ok?" she said as she fired up her blow dryer. Chris didn't even bother to answer over the sound of the dryer. He laid there for another minute or so and finally got up and went over to where she sat and kissed her softly on the neck. She smiled at him in return, continuing to get ready for a day of work.
She was eating an English muffin when he came downstairs after taking his shower. "Do you want me to make you some breakfast?" she asked.
"Nah, coffee's fine," he responded, "So where'd ya go last night?"
"We had dinner at Palm Villas, then we must have sat in the bar talking till they closed it. Then I took him over and showed him the house. I thought you might be there?" she said in a questioning mode.
"I decided I'd keep packing stuff up here. And I also weeded out about 3 boxes full of junk that I don't want anymore," he added trying to change the subject away from this Daniel guy. She wasn't ready to stop talking though. All through 2 cups of coffee, the ride to work, the walk into the office, another cup of coffee and a half hour more, Chris found out more about Daniel Mattson than he ever wanted to know. What he was like in high school, that he and Rita had dated, steadily for 3 years, he was the captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams. He was the lead in two of the school plays, the president of the senior class, valedictorian and the clincher that he and Rita were Prom king and queen, something even Chris never knew about her. He couldn't keep it in any longer.
Just as he was going to go ballistic, Cap came out of his office and calmly asked Chris to step inside. Rather than unleashing at her he stood up, quickly took in a breath and instantly strode into Harry's office without saying a word to Rita. "Close the door. I thought I needed to save you Lorenzo," Cap began, "I usually don't listen in on other's conversations but I couldn't help overhearing your partner's life history this morning."
"Thanks Cap, I owe you big time for this one, I was ready to loose it." Chris shook his head. "You should see this guy Cap, I know I have no reason to be jealous but man, my insides are tied in knots, she didn't come home till after 2am this morning," Chris slouched down in a chair and looked sad.
"So what is this guy, Fabio or something," Cap asked.
"Fabio I could deal with, Rita hates long hair on guys. This guy is like 6'3", 180 lbs., I mean he looks like Tom Cruise Cap, only better looking."
"So she hasn't seen him in awhile, they just caught up on old times," Cap tried to justify things for Rita.
"He's moving back to Palm Beach," Chris explained.
"You got problems kid, real problems," Cap answered.
Chris and Rita headed to Raoul's to meet Daniel for lunch. She had finally stopped talking about him for most of the morning. Now as their meeting got closer, she brought him up again. "So his parents absolutely hated me, they would tell me to my face that I wasn't good enough for him, that we were too young to be so serious and on and on. I used to go home crying all the time," she explained.
"Well, just how serious were the two of you?" Chris asked as they walked.
"We talked about getting married," she said as she noticed the dejected look on his face, "you know after we both went to college," she said trying to justify her response. "I think that's why they moved, just to take Mel away from me."
He grabbed her arm, "Yeah, and what's with all this Mel stuff? You both call each other Mel, it sounds vaguely familiar SAM," Chris began.
"It's just a coincidence, I even completely forgot about it till I saw him again. See I used to love Mel Gibson, saw all his movies, and Daniel, he started to have the hots for Melanie Griffith. He loved her throaty voice he said, so we just teased each other about it and started calling each other Mel," Rita explained watching the pained expression building on Chris' face. "We were in high school for crying out loud." Rita studied his face. He was trying so hard to be understanding, she knew it had to be killing him though. "There's only one Sam for me though, forever," she said giving him a peck on the cheek, "you don't need to be jealous, I know you're trying not to show it," she explained.
Chris straightened up, "Who me? Jealous? Of that guy?"
Rita grinned at him, "That's one of the things I love about you Chris," she started waving to Daniel.
"Yeah, what's that? That you can make me go crazy at any time you snap your fingers?" Chris replied.
"Exactly," she said with a smile.
Lunch was a quiet affair. For Chris that is. He sat and listened to more high school reunion memories. Did he know that Daniel held the record for scoring touchdowns, it still stands at PB High School. Did he know that Daniel received 14 different scholarships for college. Did he know that Daniel had a perfect score on his SAT's. Did he care? He kept the smile permanently on his face and nodded a lot. The worse thing was that Daniel wasn't a bad guy. He just showed up at a bad time.
The five-year-old boy was somewhere he shouldn't be. It was right after lunch and he was in an overgrown wooded area. He heard pounding footsteps and the sound of someone brushing past trees and shrubbery. A man staggered past him not seeing him. The boy jumped back farther into the greenery hoping he wouldn't be noticed.
"So how about dinner on Saturday night Chris," Daniel was asking him.
Chris was off in space. "Chris," Rita said touching his arm softly, "where are you?" she said with a laugh.
Chris stopped staring and turned to Rita, "I'm sorry, guess I was daydreaming," he explained.
"Daniel wants to take us out for dinner on Saturday, is that ok," Rita asked again.
Chris nodded, "Sure, Saturday is fine."
Chris and Charlie were busy ripping up the tile floor in the kitchen while Rita was busy driving back and forth from her apartment to the house with load after load of stuff. The floor was indeed becoming a project. At times, the tiles came up easy and in chunks, but unfortunately many of them were stubborn, almost as if they had been cemented down. Chris was becoming more frustrated by the minute. It was nearly 10:30pm, Rita had just pulled up and had started unloading. She had decided that this would be her last trip for the night. She heard Chris and Charlie in the kitchen scrapping away. After she brought in the first box, she stuck her head in the kitchen to see how things were progressing. Her timing couldn't have been worse. Just as she was about to speak, she saw Charlie back away from Chris and heard some of the most vile language come out of Chris' mouth. He grabbed a sledgehammer and started pounding at the tile to break it loose. She stood back and watched him. Over and over again he beat the floor to a pulp. Charlie took it all in too and loudly called out to him, "Listen Chris, I think we should pack it in for the night, I'll come back tomorrow about 4 and finish it up ok?" he said over Chris' non-stop tirade. "Hey Chris," Charlie started, "I'm heading out alright?"
"Don't go into the kitchen, the men are working in there. I can't believe your mother just had to send you here right this very week. I told her that the house would be a mess, that I don't want you playing outside in the woods by yourself, that she should wait, but no, whatever she wants, she gets." The little boy stood at the doorway and watched the men scrape up the tile floor.
"Chris," Charlie loudly called out again. Chris again seemed like he was off in his own world and suddenly he snapped back into the reality of his current life.
He looked down at his hands and let the sledge hammer drop to the floor. "Yeah, ok, it is getting kinda late huh?"
"Yeah, don't worry, I'll get the rest up tomorrow, I've got this solvent I'll bring, it should loosen it right up," Charlie added.
Chris nodded and Charlie turned and walked past Rita and shrugged. "Thanks, Charlie," she said as he left.
Chris leaned back against the counter and lifted up the bottom half of his shirt to wipe the sweat that was dripping from his face. "What was that all about?" Rita asked coming into the room.
"Ah, this floor is pissing me off, these stubborn little tiles won't come up," he said in a huff still breathing heavy.
"Are you sure that's it?" Rita continued.
Chris coiled his head back, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well," she began, lengthening the well, "I just thought maybe you were substituting the tile for someone's face perhaps," she said.
"Whose face?" he questioned her not following where her conversation was leading.
"Oh, like maybe a certain Doctor friend of mine. I told you that there's no reason to be jealous," she said trying to get closer to him.
He let his shirt fall back down and took a step back from her. "I'm not jealous," he said seriously. "I just want to get this floor done ok?"
She was a little put off by him backing away from her, "Ok, ok. But I am sensing a little jealousy here, which's what it seems like. I mean, come on Chris, you always go through the same ritual every time I even speak with another man."
Chris just glared at her. "You think that's what this was about? Really, hmm, ok, you believe what ever you want to believe," he said continuing to stare her down, then he added, "You know what, maybe you've been hanging around him too long already though, you're beginning to sound like a psychiatrist too. What other problems of mine do you want to solve?"
Rita stood at a loss for words shocked by what he had just implied. She scoffed at him; "You can't be serious? You're in here beating on a tile floor with a sledge hammer, Charlie must think you're a psycho, and you're going to try to tell me there's nothing wrong except that you're mad at the floor? That you're not mad that I stayed out till 2am? That you're not the least bit jealous?"
Chris pinched the sweat off rolling down his nose and let out a 'ha'. "It was 2:12am. Maybe I am crazy, but I'm serious, this floor is just making me mad, I thought we could get it done tonight. I'm sorry Sam," he said pulling her into a hug.
"You better be," she said softly, "me a psychiatrist? That'd be the day."
The Mercer case was getting stranger. John Mercer was a Palm Beach investor, mostly real estate. He was found dead from multiple gun shot wounds in a remote area of town. He most likely was killed somewhere else and dumped off for someone to find. When his body was discovered it was horribly decomposed and took a little longer than usual to identify who he was. No one had reported him missing, not even his wife. She said it wasn't unusual for him to be gone for long stretches of time and that she often never knew where he was. She certainly could be a suspect. Mercer's business partner was Ted Appman. Appman claimed he had nothing to do with killing Mercer, said they got along very well, never disagreed and didn't think that John had any enemies. When someone tried so hard to say all the nice things, Rita and Chris thought, they were definitely a suspect too. Mercer's latest deal was with Hazlett Building and Construction and the unincorporated town of Bradfordville. He was working on converting some undeveloped land into a new 'community' about 60 miles west of Palm Beach. Standing in the way of the development were a number of rural inhabitants of Bradfordville, who didn't want 'progress' infiltrating their simple way of life.
The case went across the territorial lines of two counties. Chris and Rita were the primaries though, since the dead body had turned up in Palm Beach. Today they were going to drive out to Bradfordville and question some of the more vocal inhabitants. At the top of the list was DeWayne Chady. The local sheriff described him as a 'loose cannon.' Parts of the land he lived on were actual Everglades. He set traps for alligators and hunted anything wild that roamed his land. He wasn't about to give it up for development. And yet his land was essential to the entire deal becoming reality. His 'daddy' and his daddy's daddy had lived on this land and he wanted his kids to live on the land too. "This guy sounds like a real charmer," Rita said reading the file on Chady as Chris drove to Bradfordville. "He's been arrested 16 times for exceeding the limit on alligator trapping, 6 times for drunk and disorderly, twice for sexual assault, both charges dropped, hmmm and once for deadly use of a weapon."
"I hate to say this, but this guy sounds like a real redneck," Chris said.
"What would make you think that?" Rita asked him kiddingly.
They met the sheriff in Bradfordville and he led them to a small stucco house in the middle of nowhere. Apparently DeWayne Chady had no real job; he lived off of the money he made on selling the dead alligators. As they pulled up they saw someone peer out the window from behind a curtain. They got out slowly and went up to the door and knocked on it. A child answered. As they were standing there asking the child to get Chady, they saw movement coming from the back of the house and heard a screened back door bang shut. Then they saw a man running into the woods carrying a rifle. "That's DeWayne," the Sheriff yelled as he took off on foot after him. Chris and Rita were in close pursuit too; both dressed casually this day, not only for the comfort of a long ride, but also in anticipation of something like this going down. They drew their guns as they both ran into the dense area.
The three of them ran in the same direction following fairly close on the heels of DeWayne. Palm trees hanging low brushed against their heads as they began to slow down. The area was becoming more overgrown, harder to see anything with virtually no path to follow. They pulled up and decided upon a plan of action. "He's not running anymore either," the Sheriff began, "I think we should work around in a circle. He's not gonna chance going off his land, I know him too well, this is like his kingdom. And his property ends about a half-mile from here. Let's spread out and check around." Chris and Rita nodded their agreement.
Rita followed the Sheriff for a short time, then he broke off and headed into another direction and she continued to follow the little dirt path that was below her. Chris had gone off the other way. The plan was to meet up at the end of Chady's property, which was fenced off according to the Sheriff. Chris couldn't tell where he was. His mind began to take him somewhere else. Everything looked the same; dark green, moldy smelling, light filtering through the trees that hung over him. Every movement he heard had him spinning around.
The little boy sat quietly in the wooded area. Someone running past him already had frightened him. Now he heard another noise, he peered out through the bushes that stood before him. He heard the low murmur of voices. What he saw was two police officers. They stood pointing towards another area. The boy watched them closely. They seemed to be in complete control of the situation. He liked that. As they began to move, the boy followed them.
Rita kept pushing forward, glancing around, gun drawn, peering into the greenery for signs of human life. This was definitely giving her the creeps. There was nothing she hated worse than looking for someone in unfamiliar territory. Especially when it was the other guy's territory. It evened out the odds too much to suit her. Her heartbeat raced clear to her toes. She heard a stick break behind her and jerked around to find herself pointing a gun at a hungry raccoon. She lowered her service piece and let out a cleansing breath and continued on the path.
Chris looked up hoping to see the clear sky above, hoping that his mind would clear too, but all he saw was palm trees and other area fauna blocking his view. It was almost hypnotic as he watched the branches sway above him. The hot, humid breeze brought the damp, moist smelly earth into his nostrils. He realized he had ventured off the path he was on and had lost his sense of direction.
The little boy followed behind the police officers. He stayed back and hid down low when they would turn and gaze around the wooded area. "Hell, he could be just about anywhere in here," he heard one of the officers say. "Yeah, let's split up and circle around," the other said. The boy waited and then continued to follow the one closest to where he was.
Rita heard some movement coming from behind her. From the sound of it, she estimated it to be about 40 yards or so. She decided to circle around and see if could come up behind whatever it was. As she slinked around she began to wish that they hadn't opted to pursue. They could've waited for Chady to come back to the house. Adrenaline was a powerful substance, and a cop's adrenaline worked twice as hard as the average persons did. It had too, in order to get them through situations like this. She continued to hear movement, it was coming almost straight at her now. It had to be human; it sounded as if the person was dragging their feet through the mulch that filled the ground. Rita began to take shallow breaths.
Chris heard some sounds straight ahead. This wasn't the time to pull back and watch it was time to move ahead and take control. He got closer to the soft sounds her heard and pulled up behind tree. He slowly looked over the area and noticed a slow, but steady movement and the glint of metal. He raised his revolver and aimed it in the direction of the movement.
Rita didn't see or hear anything. Whatever it was, it had suddenly stopped. She lifted up her gun and proceeded slowly. She stayed low and noticed a boulder up ahead. She'd try to get to it and then look around and survey the situation. First she had to get through a slight clearing.
The Sheriff had made it to Chady's property line and was heading back to pick up Chris and Rita. He found no sign of Chady. He figured he was hiding out somewhere watching the folly of these three officers. He was a sick, conceited, backwoods redneck. Up ahead he saw Chris, gun in hand, aimed and ready to fire. He moved quickly towards him preparing to back up the situation.
Chris saw the movement in front of him and noticed a clearing that was right ahead. He'd have a clear shot when whatever was coming moved into that area.
The Sheriff got closer and was in a better position to see what was developing. He saw Rita coming up upon the clearing and the boulder that she was headed for. He saw Chris, the clearing and the fact that he was ready to fire at his own partner.
Rita came upon the clearing.
Chris stepped out from behind the tree.
The Sheriff yelled, "Lorenzo, noooooo."
Rita saw Chris and pulled her gun back and dove for the cover of the boulder.
Chris fired; he heard the Sheriff too late and saw Rita take a dive behind the boulder.
Chris froze when he realized what had just happened. The Sheriff came running up to the clearing and went straight for Rita. She was already beginning to sit up slowly. The Sheriff bent down and helped her get to her feet. "Are you ok Rita?" he asked her.
"Yeah," she said relieved, "thank goodness for this boulder."
The Sheriff looked her up and down, checking for a wound, that maybe she was unaware of. She began to brush off her clothes of the leafy debris, and felt some abrasions forming on her elbows where she must have slid. "Well you might be sore from the acrobatics, but I think you're ok," the Sheriff was saying. Rita's mind wasn't really listening, she had turned to see Chris, just standing and vacantly staring, mouth open, wide eyed. He noticed her look at him and that snapped him out of his funk momentarily. He looked down at his hands that still held tightly onto his gun. It made him sick inside just to see it. He dropped it to the ground, almost wiping his hands of its presence. Rita watched him and his reaction. It frightened her.
She gently touched the arm of the Sheriff, her way of saying thanks. "I'm gonna look around a bit more, why don't you go check on your partner," he said as he observed how they both were looking at each other.
"Thanks, yeah, I'm gonna do that," Rita replied.
She started to walk to Chris. He didn't make a move, now he stood, staring at his gun laying on the ground. "Chris," she said getting near to him. He raised his head and his bottom lip started to quiver. His breathing intensified, erratic and shallow labored. "Chris," she said again, reaching for him.
He swallowed hard and engulfed her in a massive hug. When he started to speak his voice was cracking, an octave higher than normal, it dripped with fear and remorse. "God, Rita, I almost killed you, God, are you ok, oh God I'm so sorry," he rambled.
"I'm fine Chris, really I'm ok," she said returning his tight embrace.
"What was I doing here, I shouldn't have been here?" he said questioning himself. "You coulda been killed, I wasn't thinking," he said still holding on.
She wondered what he meant so she asked him, "Chris, we're here chasing after Chady, remember, we agreed to pursue," she said attempting to pull out of his embrace. As they broke apart she watched his face; it was full of panic. Nothing came out of his mouth, though it dropped open and he tried to form some words. He just couldn't explain what he meant. He didn't know or understand it himself. She had no idea what was going on in his head.
When we found his voice again he said, "I nearly shot you Rita."
"Chris, what did you mean when you said that you shouldn't have been here?" she asked him again.
"I, uh, um, got mixed up, direction wise, I didn't know where I was," he tried to explain. Rita wasn't buying it; his eyes were saying something else.
Chris tried to turn the conversation back on her, "Are you sure you're ok," he asked looking her up and down then noticing the cuts and scrapes on her arms and a bump forming on her forehead.
"Yes, Chris I'm ok, why don't we get out of here, let's head back to Palm Beach, this place is giving me the creeps," she answered. Chris began to walk away from her as she spoke, leaving her wondering even more what was going on in his head. He had forgotten to pick up his gun and when she called out after him, he did not respond. She watched him walk away and bent down to pick up his gun. As she did, the guardian angel pin that he had given her fell off the coat she was wearing. She plucked it quickly off the ground and held it tightly in her hand.
Chris was already sitting in the passenger seat of the car as Rita and the Sheriff came walking up. "You know I'm gonna have to let your Captain know what happened out there, I saw the whole thing," he said gesturing towards the woods.
Rita nodded, "I understand, it'll be in our report too."
The Sheriff looked at Chris sitting in the car just staring out, "Is he ok?"
"Yeah, just a little shaken up, he'll be fine," Rita added.
"I'm gonna have to put that in there too," he added nodding his head towards Chris.
"I know. Thanks Sheriff, we'll be in touch," Rita said.
"I'll see if me and my men can round up old DeWayne in the next day or so. We'll get to the bottom of this whole thing yet," he said confidently.
"I hope so, I sure hope so," Rita responded glancing at Chris.
The drive back to Palm Beach began very quietly. Chris avoided all eye contact with Rita and Rita; she didn't know what to say to him. After about 15 minutes of silence she finally decided to confront him, "So are you planning on just burning a hole through the glass or is there something maybe that you and I should be talking about."
He didn't say anything, at first. Then he closed his eyes slowly and threw her a massive curve. "You know, that was like when I was a little kid, playing in the woods and stuff." She turned to look at him, wondering what in the world he was talking about.
"What?" she asked confused.
"You know, back there, running through the woods," Chris tried to explain with the hint of a smile on his face.
Rita was more than a little concerned and confused now, but he was talking, maybe that was good, maybe she could get to the bottom of what seemed to be eating away at him. "I thought you didn't live down here till you were almost in high school?" she asked, continuing in the same vein he had started.
"Yeah, I moved down here with Grandma Rose when I was 13. But when I lived with my Pop in Philadelphia, there was this huge forest near the house, that I played in," he said, his mood brightening.
"I thought your Dad lives in the city," Rita asked.
"He does now, but back then, he had this mansion out in the country, his father left it to him. There was woods all around it. I'd get lost in there, man, it was like a whole 'nother world."
Rita listened carefully to everything he was saying. "Did you get lost, for real," she asked her mind thinking ahead. Chris was back at staring out the window. He said nothing. "Chris," she said tapping his arm, "Did you really get lost?"
Chris turned back towards her, "lost? No, I don't think so," he answered. The rest of the ride was silent.
Rita pulled up in front of her apartment. "Let's just stay here tonight, it might be the last time," she said to him as they both got out. "We'll need to move out my furniture this weekend," she added, getting a little tired of this one sided conversation. How could she snap him out of whatever it was he was trapped in? They went inside and he grabbed the remote for her TV off of the coffee table, sat down on the couch and turned it on. She studied him closely. "Listen, I'm gonna run to the store and pick up some groceries for dinner, I'll be back in awhile, ok?"
He had found a basketball game on and had seemingly become engrossed in watching it. "Yeah, I'll be here," he replied.
Rita drove downtown to the Police Station. She hoped Harry would still be there, she desperately needed to talk to him. She spotted his car as she pulled into the lot. Thank God for small miracles, she thought. He sat at his desk reading over some paperwork when she knocked on his open door. "Yeah, come," he said not even looking up.
"Cap, hi, you gotta minute?" she asked shyly.
Harry looked up at her, "Lance. Good thing you stopped in, I was just gonna try to get a hold of you, you wanna tell me what happened today?"
"It sounds like you already know," she answered back.
He lifted up the papers he was reading. "I just got a fax report from Sheriff Martin. How's Chris?" he asked concerned.
She shook her head in despair, "he's acting kinda strange Cap," she paused, "which I'm sure Sheriff Martin noted."
"Yeah, it's all in here," Cap said standing up and coming around to the front of his desk to sit on the edge. "Did he really take a shot at you?"
"Yeah," she said softly.
"Listen Rita, why don't you tell me everything that happened out there." She told Cap the whole story, she even told him about the conversation that she and Chris had in the car on the ride home, plus she told him how he had just left his gun lay there. When she got through she looked down and unconsciously picked at her fingernails. "Alright, let me think about this overnight, look, go home, see how he's doing now. Maybe he just needs a little time. We'll talk again in the morning, ok?" Cap said.
"Ok, maybe you're right," Rita replied.
Chris was napping on the couch when Rita came back to the apartment. It was about 6:30pm now and she had gotten the fixings for a quick spaghetti dinner. She went into the kitchen and started to prepare it, leaving Chris to his sleep. She'd wake him when she had dinner ready. About 45 minutes later, she went into the living room and bent down and softly kissed his forehead, ran her fingers through his hair and called out, "Chris." He took in a breath and opened his eyes to see her standing over him, "Nap time is over, dinner's ready," she said with a smile.
He returned the smile and sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Why'd ya let me sleep so long?" he asked flicking off the TV and following her into the kitchen. "You know what that means, don't you," he said grabbing her from behind and holding her close, "I won't need much sleep tonight!" he said nuzzling the side of her neck. His mood had seemed to improve tremendously, she thought, he was talking and it wasn't some weird gibberish either.
"When have you ever needed sleep Christopher? You'll use anything as a reason for sex," she said jokingly turning her head and quickly giving him a peck on the cheek.
He released her and said, "That's not fair Rita, you want it as much as I do."
"Maybe, but I don't feel the need to justify my desire by shifting around my lifestyle or making up reasons to do it," she continued playfully.
"Ok, we're getting into some strange territory here now," he said sitting down at the table.
She brought over the plate of spaghetti and meatballs and placed it in front of him. "Score one for me, you have no comeback," she decided to continue playing along.
"What's that supposed to mean, you're keeping some kind of score on our sex life?" he said as he forked some pasta on to his plate.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" she kept at him.
He gave her a puzzled look, "well, yes and no, I guess. Some things aren't worth knowing about," he answered strangely as he began to eat. His latest comment made the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
Since she had fixed dinner, he said he would clean up. He sent her upstairs to take a shower. As she stood in the shower trying to wash off the day's troubles, she already knew what was going to happen at work tomorrow. Because of today's circumstances, they'd both be required to see the department psychiatrist. Anytime an officer was involved in a shooting of any nature it was a routine procedure. However, now with added matter of one officer almost shooting another, well, it would be a given. Maybe it would be for the best though. Chris needed some kind of help, help that she couldn't seem able to provide. Something was going on in his mind that she just couldn't break through to. She knew he'd be upset about the whole situation. Worst of all, she had forgotten or maybe just neglected to tell Chris who exactly the new department psychiatrist was.... One Dr. Daniel Mattson.
She sat up in bed reading. Downstairs she could hear him setting the lock on the door and flicking off the lights. When he came up into the room he smiled at her and started to take off his clothes right smack dab in front of her. She only watched for a second, set her book on the nightstand and rose up off the bed and moved in to stand closer to him. He had already pulled out the dress shirt out of his pants and unbuttoned the top three buttons. He carefully watched her actions as she came closer. He stopped what he was doing. She reached in and ran her hands and fingers up and down his chest on top of his shirt and then continued to unbutton the remaining ones. She pushed open the shirt and slid it off his shoulders and let it fall to the floor. She reached down again, this time pulling up his undershirt out of his pants. He raised up his arms as she slid it over his head. His arms locked with hers and he ran his hands down her arms and over the abrasions on her elbows. A visual reminder to both of them of this afternoon's events He stopped momentarily. "Sam, I'm so sorry about today, I didn't, I would never hurt you, you know that don't you," he said kissing both elbows.
"Ssshhh, I know," she whispered, "let's not talk about that right now," she added placing a kiss over his heart. He delicately kissed each elbow again and leaned in to her mouth for a gentle, soothing kiss. Just enough to start the passion flowing.
Chris' hands found their way to the back of Rita's head. He let his fingers trail through the softness of her hair. He kissed along the curve of her chin, the hollows of her cheeks, the corner of her ear, stopping to catch the lobe between his teeth. He bit down gently.
Rita pressed her hands against his bare chest; she could feel the hard muscles of his thighs against hers. She could smell the warmth of his body. His hands lowered from the back of her head, down onto her arms, his fingers felt the soft flesh of her upper arms. He squeezed lovingly. One of his hands moved across her shoulder and pulled back one of the straps of the nightgown she was wearing. Following in with his mouth he began to kiss the area and stroke it tenderly with his hand. He repeated the motion on the other side. He again sought out her mouth with his own, as his hand cupped her chin. He bent his head down, touched her mouth to his, playing with her lips at first then increasing the pressure. Rita opened her mouth and accepted him fully. Chris seemed to draw strength from her body. They released from the deep kiss for a moment to gather in some air, Rita breathed his name weakly as he plundered into her mouth again. She let her hands slide up into his hair, grabbing a little of it to hold him closer.
They broke apart. Chris lovingly raised his hand and pushed a curl of hair behind her ear. He let his fingers slide around to her back, caressing her tenderly and sliding off the nightgown she wore. Rita heard him draw in a breath as her bare breasts grazed against the skin of his chest. Rita felt tiny tremors rumble through her, to the very core of her being. She looked deep into Chris' eyes and saw them full of desire for her and only her. She reached down and undid his belt and zipper and pushed his pants off his slim, muscular hips. He continued kissing her slowly and easily. When the last bits of clothing were removed, they stood, inches apart, not touching each other at all, just gazing into each others eyes and feeling the heat from the others body. Chris stooped in slowly and searched out her mouth to meet with his again. A gentle sigh came from her lips as he ran his hands up and down her slender back and the slight flare of her bottom. His arms reached down, one behind her back, the other behind her knees as he picked her up gently and lifted her onto the bed. He followed her onto the bed and trailed first his hand, followed by his mouth, up her leg, dipping in at her inner thigh, then up onto her abdomen, between her breasts then finally onto her face where he caressed her cheek with his hand.
As he stroked her face and watched her intently, she lifted up her head and hungrily sought out his mouth. They momentarily battled for control in the kiss, each giving in to the other back and forth as they remained locked in this passionate embrace. Chris broke off and traced his way down her face, detouring along her neck, dipping in to run his tongue along her throat, then back up to meet her mouth. As they kissed, the fingers of their hands interlocked as one. Chris led their arms together over her head as he ran his nose along the side of hers and brushed his lips across her forehead. He let go of her hands and his warm lips journeyed up and down the inner part of her arm, still above her head. She let her other hand meander down and caress his chest, then snake around and massage up and down on his back.
Now he continued kissing her, moving back down her arm onto her chest, finding her breast. Using his hand, he touched it softly, almost cradling it and circled around her nipple with his finger. Inching in with his mouth he began to nip at it, playfully at first with lips and tongue, then slower, lingering and devouring, first the nipple itself, then around and around, tasting and kissing the softness, never getting his fill. Instinctively his other hand rose up and delicately massaged her other breast, feeling her nipple harden, while he continued his oral assault on the other. Rita let out a soft, satisfied moan.
Chris inhaled the sweet fragrance of her perfume. He loved the soft feel of her skin against his; it made him ache that she was so near, so real, so much his for all time. His heart thundered in his chest. His mind thought beyond just having her with him now, but it also envisioned their life together forever.
His touch set her on fire. Rita could spend eternity right here with him, here in his arms. She could barely breathe or swallow, mesmerized by his touch, the look in his eyes. She let her hands slide over every hard, muscular plane on his body. Chris' mouth rose back up to her mouth. As it did, Rita rolled over onto him and took control. She placed a path of kisses along his jaw, then downward along the base of his throat, then back up again to his mouth. She closed her eyes as she captured his lips blindly, which he opened easily to let her tongue explore. He stroked her waist and the small of her back as she released his mouth and she trailed up over the rough skin on his cheek on her way to nibbling his earlobe. She could sense him tilting his head in pleasure and her teeth gently flicked away at his flesh. A low moan sounded deep at the base of his throat. She went back to his mouth and for the longest time she kissed him, teasing over and over with her tongue.
His fingers lightly circled her hips, Rita slowly moved down from his mouth, over his Adam's apple down on to his chest. She carefully swirled around his nipples, using lips, tongue and teeth and ventured on farther down around his navel and through the light coating of hair that surrounded it. She lifted her head back up and looked at him, his eyes heavy. "Make love to me Chris," she said breathlessly.
Chris rolled back over, his breathing now ragged. Rita's body tingled with electricity as he slowly moved inside her. She felt fullness and desire to keep him there forever. He kissed her slowly and delicately, letting her adjust to him, then tenderly he moved deeper within her. She dug her fingers into his back as he thrust in again. Every part of his body screamed with pleasure, his heart filled with ultimate happiness. Deep satisfaction passed over Rita's face. Their love for each other was simple and pure and it grew stronger ever day.
They lay entwined, Chris softly rubbing his thumb and finger on Rita's shoulder, his mouth pressed in her hair. They both were quiet. Rita's mind was filled with the day's events, as much as with what had just transpired between them. She was still very worried about him. Now again he was so quiet. "You still awake," she asked softly.
"Umhmm," he answered.
She felt his breath touch her hair as he replied. "So, you never told me about living with you Dad up in Philadelphia," she began.
"What brought that up?" he asked with a chuckle?
She wondered if he had forgotten what they had talked about in the car, was he blocking it out. She ran her hand across his smooth chest, "I just like hearing about you as a child," she ducked out of what she really wanted to say, but figured this would be a better way to go. "What was it like?"
He tightened up his face, trying to remember, "I was pretty little, I know that, and it wasn't for very long. Not the first time anyway," he said. His vagueness was driving her completely mad.
"Would you please explain?" she asked calmly.
"You know they both bounced me back and forth East Coast to West Coast," he said.
"So what is the first time you remember?"
"With my Mom or my Dad?"
"Your Dad!" she said starting to get impatient.
"I think I was around five," he said with a laugh.
"What's so funny?" she asked.
"They both forgot my birthday that year," he said remembering, "so does that mean I'm really only 32?"
"They did not," Rita replied in shock.
His head nodded yes, "Yeah, I think Ana was off filming 'Left of Center' in Athens and Pop," he paused, "I don't know why he forgot, probably just didn't have one of his servants remind him."
"So you really lived in a mansion?" She continued.
"To me it was, I guess it was really more like a farmhouse. My Grandfather owned it and gave it to my Dad as a present when he passed the bar. The house was huge. It had one of those great porches, that went clear around the house and one of those big porch swings right in the front. I found a spot where you could crawl in underneath and sit there and hear everything the grownups were saying," he suddenly stopped talking.
"Do you know where your son is now Sir?" the police officer asked. "I'm sure he's off playing with the other children," he replied. "What other children sir?" the police officer asked again. "Uh, let's see, hmmm, I think one is the Jacob's child, I believe I've seen them together before." "So you don't know where he is right now?" "Listen what is all this about anyway?" the man asked. "I want to explain to him what happened in the woods today, what he thinks he may have seen. There was an accident, and someone was shot. When he comes home, please call me right away Sir," the police officer said walking down the steps of the porch. Underneath the porch, a set of blue eyes peered out from the cool, damp darkness into the bright afternoon sun.
"Chris," Rita was tapping his arm, "hey Chris, so did you hear any juicy gossip while you were under there?" she asked again.
"Under where?" he asked.
"The porch silly, at your Dad's house?"
"Not really," he said trailing off.
"Chris, what is it?" she asked raising herself up to look at him directly.
"Nothing, I guess I'm just tired, ok?" She nodded; realizing that this wasn't the time to push him and put her head back down on his chest and softly kissed it. They both fell asleep.
The next morning Chris had seemed to be back to his old self again. He began to talk about the events of yesterday over coffee. "Man, writing up the report on yesterday is gonna be tough," he began. "How in the hell am I gonna be able to slide this one past Cap?" he asked her. Rita's mind was preoccupied with thoughts of whether she should tell him about Daniel or not. Maybe Cap would forego the pysch evaluations. No one actually got shot. Maybe, then again maybe not, he already had the preliminary report from Sheriff Martin. Chris saw her holding an empty cup just staring, "Hey Sam, I said, whattaya think Cap is gonna do about yesterday?"
She snapped into reality and turned and poured herself some coffee as she spoke, "I don't know Chris, we'll just have to wait and see."
Harry bellowed from his office, "Lance, Lorenzo, in here now!" They both stared at each other for a second and then turned and went in. "Sit down," Cap continued loudly as Chris allowed Rita to enter first and shut the door behind them, as they were both inside now. They each stiffly took a chair. Cap remained standing. "I haven't gotten a report from you two yet about yesterday, what's with the delay?" he asked.
Rita interjected, "Ah, well, we're working on it right now Cap, you'll have it later this morning."
"Good, I hope it's better than Sheriff Martin's," he added. Chris sat up uncomfortably. "That's right Lorenzo, I know what he says happened out there, you got anything to say for yourself?" Rita was in shock; she didn't understand Cap's lack of compassion here, especially after she had come in late yesterday just to talk with him. "I'm waiting Lorenzo," Cap added.
Chris' mouth opened, "I didn't follow procedure Cap, I guess I went a little over the top."
"I'll say so, you damn near killed your partner, what the hell were you thinking?" Cap stated.
Chris looked to Rita for some support then back to Cap, "I, I guess I lost my sense of direction out there, I didn't know where I was exactly," he said in his own defense.
"Unfortunately, that's not good enough," he began as he reached for two files on his desk, "you're both going for psych evaluations later today." Chris groaned and sat back, Rita let her head fall forward into her hands. "Look at it this way, you go and see this guy, talk things out, work out any little problems and then get back to solving this case," Cap tried to say happily.
"Cap, Rita didn't do anything wrong, this is all me. She doesn't need to go through this."
"Yes she does, it's mandatory for both partners in these situations," he explained. "Rita, your appointment is at 12:30pm, Chris yours is at 2pm, don't be late," Harry said removing his glasses to read the pink post-it-note in his hand, "It's a new shrink, a Dr. Daniel Mattson, he just started this week. Be kind ok, the sooner your both cleared, we can all be happy again."
They walked out of Cap's office. Rita walked in front of Chris not even wanting to see his expression. He grabbed her arm and spun her around. "You knew about this, didn't you?" he asked angrily.
"I had an idea that it would happen, but no, I didn't know for sure, you know the rules Chris, it's what IA does in these situations," she tried to explain calmly.
"I'm not talking about IA, you knew about Daniel though, right? You knew he was working here and what, it just slipped your mind?" he continued his tirade.
"Yeah, I guess its something like that, I mean, come on Chris, who knew this was all gonna happen?" she said trying to lighten the mood, "I have to go see him too, do you think I'm going enjoy it?"
Chris closed his eyes, pursed his lips, shook his head and looked at her, "I'm not going," he said matter of factly, "I'm not going."
He walked out of the squad room past a always frustrated Donovan, who called out to him, "Lorenzo, hey, Lorenzo, where are we on the Mercer case?" Chris just walked right on by. Donovan stood in the doorway and noticed Rita. She just stood and watched the whole exchange. "You wanna tell me what's going on Lance? I just found out that both of you are riding a desk till you have some psych evaluations?"
"You heard right George," Rita said taking a sip from a cup of coffee.
"So Chris really took a shot at you?" he asked with concern.
Rita was tired of this story, "It was an accident George and no one got hurt."
"Did you at least catch Chady?" George asked changing to a snotty tone.
"No, we didn't George, now if you'll excuse me, I've got a report to write," Rita said turning away from him.
Right before lunchtime she delivered her report to Captain Lipschitz. She walked in coolly and placed in on his desk. She was more than a little peeved at him for what he pulled this morning. "What is this Lance?" he glanced up as she tossed the report on his desk.
"It's our report about yesterday," she said with no emotion.
"You mean it's your report, I haven't seen your partner all morning," Cap observed.
Rita's temper started to flare, "Neither have I, Cap, I can't imagine why," she answered sarcastically.
Cap stood up quickly from behind his desk. "Don't take that tone with me Sergeant, this thing is over my head. IA got hold of it, I had no choice. Besides you've both been through these things before. What's the big deal?" he asked.
"Cap, I told you that something's been bothering Chris lately, I think yesterday is just a part of it. I don't know," she said her voice trailing off.
"What else Lance?" Cap questioned.
"This just gets more bizarre, the psychiatrist, Dr. Mattson," she paused.
"Yeah, what about him?" Cap asked.
"We're old friends, from back in high school," she explained.
"The guy from the other day?" Cap asked in disbelief.
"Yeah, that's him," she said.
"This picture is coming into focus now," Cap began, "so where is Lorenzo?"
"I don't know Cap, I don't even know if he'll show up for his appointment," Rita replied.
Cap looked at his watch, "Look, you get going to yours and we'll deal with Chris later ok?" Rita nodded and left the office.
"Rita, I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable," Daniel said as he motioned for her to have a seat. "I guess we should realized the other day that something like this could happen," he chuckled.
Rita smiled in return. "Who knew it would be this quick?" she replied.
"You know I could suggest another Doctor, I'm sure the department would understand the circumstances," he said in a professional tone.
"Listen, Daniel, why don't we just talk for awhile and see what happens, I think I'll be ok with this, how about you?" Rita began.
Daniel nodded, "It has been 13 years, I really don't know you at all anymore, I think I can be objective," he said.
"Good, let's get this over with then," Rita said.
"Tell me what went through your mind when you saw Chris aiming at you?" Daniel asked.
Rita exhaled, "I was scared," she said matter of factly.
"Ok, beyond that though. Rita it was your partner, your fiancé, he had a beat on you."
"You are good," she said with a smile, "and you're not supposed to know that he's my fiancé, that's personal, not professional."
"Sue me," he said grinning at her, "the fact is I do know Rita. It won't be in my report, but it might help just to talk about it, do you mind?"
"I guess not," she began, "I knew he wasn't doing it on purpose, he didn't see me at first, he thought I was Chady. I'm sure he was just as scared as I was out there. Neither one of us knew what to expect."
"Rita, don't tell me about Chris, tell me about you, what did you think?"
She put her head down. "I thought that," she stopped.
"What, come on, I think you're almost there," he prodded.
"I didn't want to die like that, not by Chris. I couldn't imagine what it would do to him."
"You always turn it around to someone else, don't you Rita, you've always done that," Daniel said. Rita shrugged her shoulders. "You must really love him," Daniel said.
Rita dropped her head and let a smirk paint across her face, "he is my fiancé Mel, remember."
Daniel laughed, "yes I do, and while we're in here, its Dr. Mel ok?"
Rita got very serious. "I know how devastating loosing someone can be. Especially when it's that senseless. The loneliness, having to endure it in your memory, day after day, sometimes it's just unbearable. Sometime the promise of tomorrow isn't enough. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, especially Chris, I love him too much. I had to get out of the way of that bullet."
"You had time to think all that?" Daniel asked jokingly trying to lighten her spirits.
She laughed. "You asked!" she replied. They both got quiet. "So, Dr. Mel, what is your prognosis?"
Daniel got up from the chair he sat in and went over to his desk. "You, my dear old friend, are mentally sound," he said, "I'm clearing you for active duty, but if you feel the need to discuss it any further, or anything else, please feel free to come back and see me," he said writing up his assessment in her file. Rita stayed in the chair. Daniel noticed this as he wrote up his notes, "Is there something else?" he asked questioningly. She sighed heavily. Daniel came back and sat back down. "Out with it," he added.
"It's not really about me, its Chris," she began.
"Let's have it, that's what I'm here for," he said. Rita shook her head, not knowing herself what or how to say what she wanted. "What is it Mel, trouble in the bedroom?"
"DANIEL!" Rita said in shock.
"Well, what else could it be?" he said with a laugh.
"Even if that's what it was, and trust me there isn't, I would never share that with you of all people," she said grinning from ear to ear thinking of her and Chris and their lovemaking.
"Ok then, what is this burning hunk of love's problem?" he asked.
"Can you try to be a little serious?" she asked.
Daniel straightened up, he knew Rita well enough to know to stop teasing. "I'm sorry, what's up?"
"He's just been, not himself lately," she said.
"You'll have to give me a little more than that Mel," he said sarcastically.
"He's been like daydreaming, off somewhere else, like at lunch the other day. He's never done that before. And I saw him get really upset the other night working at the house. It was like he had to take out his anger over something on this tile floor in the kitchen; I've never seen him like that before. It was kinda scary. I thought it was jealousy at first, maybe with you popping back here in Palm Beach, but. Then with this shooting, it's even been stranger now. He's forgetting things, bringing up stuff in his childhood and then just tuning in and out," she explained.
"Have you tried talking to him?" Daniel asked.
"Only about a million times," she replied.
"And what does he say?"
"It's either nothing or he talks about when he was a kid," she answered.
"Could be something from his past is jumping into his present. Maybe it's the new house or getting married, or just the fact that he almost shot you. Maybe it reminds him of something when he was a child. The mind is a funny place, you know," Daniel rationalized.
"That's a pretty standard answer," Rita started, "so what do I do about it, cuz in the meantime, it's making me crazy."
"Keep talking to him, try to get it out of him, make him remember it," Daniel began, "you both seem like communication is not a problem for either of you."
"It never has been," Rita answered.
"There you have it, then, and who knows, maybe I'll find out in about 20 minutes," Daniel said looking at his watch.
"Ah," Rita started.
"Ah, what," Daniel asked.
"I'm not so sure Chris is going to show Daniel."
"It's mandatory, he has too," Daniel replied.
"He told me he wasn't going to, I haven't seen him since about 8:30 this morning," she explained.
"Listen, why don't you go and try to find him and talk some sense into him, get him to come and see me and get this thing over with. I'm not gonna bite him for cryin' out loud. I'll tell your Captain I had another patient I had to take, maybe we can stall it till tomorrow," Daniel said.
Rita stood up and Daniel rose too, she gave him a big hug. "How can I ever thank you?"
"Keep holding on to me like that is a good way to start," he answered with a laugh.
Rita finally tracked down Chris at about 8pm. Apparently he had decided to begin moving the heavier portion of Rita's belongings into their new home by himself. He had rented a pick-up truck and was running loads back and forth. She met up with him at her apartment. Things were a little cool between them at first. She saw him trying to balance an awkward box as she got out of the car. She quickly went over and gave him a hand getting it into the truck. "Hey Sam, thanks," he said as if nothing had strange had been happening.
Rita figured she'd go with the flow, but to try to find our what was on his mind in a pleasant tone. "I see you've been busy today, enjoy your day off did you?"
He grinned at her and nervously adjusted the fit of his watch around his wrist. "I guess I needed a break," he answered.
"No, you needed to go and see Dr. Mattson, remember?" she continued.
"I've got some dinner upstairs waiting for you, Chinese, all you gotta do is warm it up," he said attempting to change the subject. Rita didn't feel like fighting, it was late, she was hungry. They walked upstairs together. Chris told her to sit down and he'd fix her up a plate. As he did, he began to talk to her. "Sam, I think all I need is some time here, some space," he said facing her. "I can't really explain it," he said scratching the back of his neck.
Rita interrupted him, "Chris, Daniel is a professional, he's there to help you, he's really pretty good," she said trying to alleviate what she thought were jealous feelings on his part.
The microwave sounded and Chris turned and got the plate out and set it in front of her and sat down across from her. "That's not what this is about Rita, I'm not jealous, I'm sure Daniel is a good doctor, I, I," he stopped.
"What, Chris, I don't understand?" she implored.
He stood back up and began to leave the room but he turned back and said to her, "that's just it Rita, I don't understand it either."
They spent the night at Rita's again. The bed was about the only piece of remaining furniture. The rest of the evening had been rather quiet between them. Each one almost afraid to speak other than superficially. Rita fell to sleep nearly right away. It was a long day, her mind was tired. She actually felt better about things in her own head. It was good to talk to someone and get out her feelings. She needed to make Chris see the good that it would do him too. Chris, on the other hand, tossed and turned, not being able to get comfortable and sleeping only 20 minutes or so at a time, before he'd wake up. About 3:30am, Chris began to talk in his sleep, which awakened Rita. This was something new. She usually was the one with the nightmares. She turned to watch him and listen closely to what he was saying. "Daddy, I saw it, I saw what happened, don't send me back Daddy, please, I wanna stay, I'll be good, I promise. I won't go in the woods no more, please Daddy, PLEASE, don't make me go away," Chris cried out in a pleading tone and sat up startled looking into the darkness.
Rita's hand reached for his back; she sat up next to him and rubbed up and down trying to comfort him. He felt her touch and spun around to see that it was her next to him. "It's ok Chris, it was just a dream, are you alright?" she said soothingly while feeling his damp, overheated skin.
He ran his hand over his face, wiping off some perspiration. "Yeah," he choked out. She ached to take him in her arms and try to help him understand what ever it was that was tearing away at him. He pulled away from her touch and headed into the bathroom.
Rita had enough, she followed him. As she neared the doorway, she saw him splashing cold water on his face. "Are you still gonna tell me that you don't understand what's going on here?" she began. "What was the dream about?"
He stopped what he was doing and looked back at his reflection in the mirror. "I had a bad dream Rita, that's all. You've had them yourself."
Rita decided to take another approach. "Well, why don't you tell me about it," she said in a comforting tone, "maybe that'll help if you talk about it."
He reached for a towel and wiped away the excess water and flung the towel into the tub. "All I remember is waking up in a cold sweat, scared, I don't know what the dream was about," he said facing her shrugging his shoulders, "I can't remember anything."
Rita looked at him sympathetically; "I heard part of it. You were talking to your Dad. You begged him not to send you away. And you said you saw something."
Chris threw up his hands, "what does that mean? I don't remember anything like that ever happening to me."
They walked back to the bedroom and sat back on the bed. "Maybe your Dad would remember Chris, maybe you should call him and ask him." Rita suggested.
"Yeah, I can just hear it now, 'hey Pop, how ya doing? Me? I'm going crazy, I almost shot my fiancé and now I'm screaming your name out loud in my dreams, can you help?'" he said sarcastically.
Rita put her arms around him and hugged him, "then just go see Daniel, maybe he can help."
"How Sam? I wouldn't even know what to tell him," Chris said dejectedly. They laid back down in each other's arms. Rita fell asleep, Chris remained awake.
Chris barely walked in the office the following morning when Cap called out to him from his doorway. "Glad you could join us this morning Lorenzo," then changing his mood, "get in my office now." Chris glanced at Rita who had come in a few minutes earlier as he strode by into Harry's office.
"Yeah Cap, what's up?" "How was the Doctor's appointment yesterday?" Harry began. Chris looked down at the floor. "What was that? I don't think I heard you Lorenzo?"
Chris looked at Harry directly; "I didn't go."
"You didn't go," he began shaking his head, "what is it Chris, we all just wanna help you, now everyone's covering for you, including this doctor. Your partner is snapping at everyone," he paused, "IA found out you were a no-show. I need your gun and badge, you're suspended till you can work this out and get clearance from a doctor. I suggest you get some help."
Chris stood still for a moment, staring and thinking. "Maybe, maybe this is for the best Cap," he said removing his badge from his belt and setting his gun on the desk.
Chris walked out of Harry's office, over to Rita's desk. He bent down and kissed her softly on the cheek. "Chris, what's up?" she asked shocked by his public display of affection.
"I'm outta here, Cap suspended me till I can get my head right. I'm gonna head over to the new house, do a little work, try to sort some things out," he said calmly.
"Are you ok? Do you want me to help, cuz I'm sure Cap will let me take off?" she offered.
"I need to be alone Rita, I gotta figure this out," he said in a pleading tone.
"Ok," she said softly running her hand over his chin, "I'll see you later then, I love you."
Shortly after he left, Rita went over to his desk and found the phone number for Benny in Philadelphia. She dialed it up.
Chris polished off his second bottle of beer. He sat on the dusty floor of their new kitchen, rummaging through a box of his old photographs. He had found them in his loft and had brought them over to the new house a few weeks back. He kept meaning to show them to Rita. She'd get a kick out of looking at them. Most of them were of his parents, together, when they were dating, their wedding and shortly thereafter. There were a few pictures of Chris as a baby, a couple of portrait shots of him as a toddler and some that were taken at Benny's farmhouse when Chris was about five years old, according to the dates on the back. Chris scanned those photos over and over again searching for something, anything that would give him a clue to what ever it was he had blocked from his mind. He found nothing. He hurled the box across the floor in frustration. He ran his hands over his face tugging at his skin almost urging himself to figure it out somehow. He looked over the strewn remnants from the box. He saw a newspaper clipping mixed among the photos.
The two police officers had split apart. The little boy followed the larger of the two men. He kept back at a safe distance, so the policeman wouldn't see or hear him. He stopped following for a moment to catch his breath. He looked up at the trees, high above him and spun around. He didn't know where he was. He got scared. He better keep up with the policeman, he'd know his way out of the woods, the little boy thought. Then he saw the clearing.
Chris hopped into his car and started driving. At first he didn't realize where he was going, but before long he realized he was heading to Chady's land near Bradfordville. Something was drawing him out there. Something he still didn't understand.
Rita pulled up to the house on Leigh Avenue right before noon. She had had a 2 1/2-hour conversation with Benny and had learned an interesting story about Chris' childhood. She quickly got hold of Daniel and told him the new information she had learned. He suggested that she go and share it with Chris. She was surprised to find the house locked up and Chris not there, since that was where he had said that he would be. She walked into the kitchen and saw the two empty beer bottles and the box of pictures strewn across the floor. She picked up the newspaper clipping and read the headline, "Cop dies in accidental shooting in woods." She set it on the counter and wondered where he was. The phone in her purse began to ring. "Yeah, Sergeant Lance," Rita said.
"Sam?" Chris asked.
"Chris?" Rita answered.
"Yeah, I'm glad I found you," Chris said anxiously.
"Where are you?" she asked him.
"I'm on my way out to Chady's. Can you meet me out here?" he asked.
"Why, what's going on?" she asked.
"I think I figured it out," he answered, his phone started getting staticy.
"Chris, we need to talk, I called your Dad," Rita said loudly. The phone was breaking up badly.
"Sam, just meet me out here as soon as..." and the phone went dead.
Chris had about a twenty-minute lead on Rita. She hopped into her police issue car and headed toward Bradfordville. While she drove, she had PBPD Dispatch contact Sheriff Martin in Bradfordville and to have him meet Chris and Rita out at Chady's. He radioed back that he would meet them there.
Chris arrived at the Chady homestead. He slowly drove down the dirt path that led up to the house. No movement came from the house at all. He got out and walked up to the door and pounded on it. No one came and answered it. Chris stood around and waited for about five minutes, hoping that Rita would pull up momentarily. When she did not, he decided to take a look around and see if Chady was milling out in the woods. Those sickening feelings began to come to the surface again as Chris walked cautiously. He had turned in his service piece to Cap, but he still had his back-up weapon, which now was cocked and loaded in his hand, as he hiked through the back country.
The Sheriff was the next one to arrive. He got out of the car and also went up to the house, knocked and found no one to be inside. Seeing Chris' car parked out there he figured he must have gone into the woods after Chady yet again. Sheriff Martin followed the trail into the woods.
Rita pulled up about five minutes later. She had nearly flown down the two-lane highway to get out to Chady's before Chris did something stupid. She saw Chris' car and the Sheriff's patrol car and figured they had gone straight for the woods. She had a gut feeling that that was where all the players would be.
The hot, sticky air was stagnant. No breeze, not even a warm one blew. Sweat started to pour down Chris' face. His eyes and ears were keenly on alert. Looking and listening for any sound or movement. He heard some noise ahead of him, so he pulled up. Moving forward slowly towards the noise, he came up on Chady, setting an alligator trap. "Hold it right there, Chady," Chris began with his gun aimed at Chady.
Chady turned around slowly and saw Chris. "And just who the hell are you and what are you doin' on my land?" Chady angrily asked.
Chris saw the shotgun laying on the ground next to the trap. "I'm a cop, DeWayne, I was out here looking for you the other day, I got a few questions I wanna ask you," Chris began staring him down. Chady glanced down at the shotgun. Chris saw this and said, "Move away from the rifle, DeWayne," Chris motioned, as Chady slowly inched away.
"Whattaya ya need to ask me?" Chady asked.
"I need to know what you know about the murder of John Mercer?" Chris answered.
"Who's John Mercer?" Chady tried to act stupid.
"The guy who wanted to buy all you land DeWayne, come on I know you remember him. You ran him off your land on three separate occasions," Chris explained.
Chady scratched his head, "Oh, yeah, that Mercer guy. I didn't know he died, you're saying someone killed him huh?"
Chris nodded, "Yeah, DeWayne we may even be able to match your shotgun there to one of the slugs found in his body." Chady started to look nervous. "What's a matter DeWayne, didn't think we'd find ya huh, you can't hide out here forever."
"Maybe he can," a familiar voice came from behind Chris. It was Sheriff Martin. "Throw down your gun Sergeant," he said sticking his into Chris' back. Chris turned slightly and saw him standing behind him. The gun drooped in Chris' hand and it fell to the ground. Chris hoped Rita was on her way. Chady hurriedly picked up his shotgun and aimed it at Chris.
"I would say that you're probably carrying a 45, huh Sheriff?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, so? You can tell what kind of gun is shoved in your back, you big time city cops know all the tricks," Martin and Chady started chuckling together.
Chris got very serious, "No, I don't have that skill, but our ME found two kinds of slugs inside Mercer, I'm betting one belongs to DeWayne's shotgun over there and the other is from your 45, right Sheriff."
"Not bad Sergeant, not bad at all, too bad no one will ever know," Martin answered.
"You know my partner's on her way, she'll see my car, you won't have enough time to get rid of my body and the car," Chris continued trying to stall for time.
"He's right Sheriff," Chady added.
"We'll take care of them both then, him and his partner, make it look like an accident....." his voiced trailed off.
The little boy stood crying and hanging his head down low on the huge porch. The police had just left. His father stood over him. "I don't ever want you going in those woods again," the father said, "then you make up this story, I don't want you around here anymore. You get into too much trouble." The little boy sobbed even louder, his tiny body overtaken by shaking from crying for so long. "I didn't lie Daddy, I didn't. Don't send me away Daddy, I promise I'll be good."
Rita walked cautiously but steadfastly. Something was gnawing away at her, something was happening. Just before she got out of her car, she had called the Sheriff's department and asked for more backup. Two deputies walked right behind her. They heard voices talking up ahead, one of them sounded like Chris'.
"Chady, you head back and ditch his car and watch out for the woman cop. I'll take care of Mr. Big City cop myself," the Sheriff said. Chady started heading for the car.
"So Sheriff, humor me before you kill me ok, why'd you kill Mercer?" Chris asked.
"DeWayne's my brother-in law, I own part of this land, thanks to his sister, my wife that is. You big city folks don't know what it's like out here, you just want take it and tear it all down and put up shopping centers. We can't let that happen anymore," he explained.
"Then you do it legally Sheriff, you know that, battle it out in court, not in your own hands, you're just making things worse now," Chris kept talking in hopes that Rita wouldn't be far behind.
The Sheriff shook his head in disagreement, "It's survival of the fittest out here and right now your number is up." He took aim.
"Hold it right there Sheriff, drop the gun now," Rita hollered coming up closer. The Sheriff stood stunned momentarily but with his gun still aimed at Chris. "I said put it down, now, Sheriff," she called out again. One deputy swung around to the side allowing the Sheriff to see that Rita was not alone. The other deputy had Chady in handcuffs. The Sheriff dropped his gun and surrendered. The deputy took him in to custody.
The deputy carted off the two criminals and Rita walked over to Chris who was bending over to pick up his gun. "Good timing Sam," he said as he reached for the gun.
She smiled at him, "Remembered to pick it up this time huh?"
"I'm remembering a lot of things right now," he said standing up, taking a deep breath and engulfing her in his arms, "wanna take a walk while we're out here, I'll see if I can explain it all now?"
They walked along, holding hands, silently for a little bit. Chris stared at her then up at the trees over them, as if he was searching for something. Rita noticed it and asked him, "Chris, what is it, what's up there?"
He brought his gaze back down at her and softly chuckled, "nothing, nothing's up there at all. I just can't believe I pushed all of this out of my head. It's like I locked it away in a room somewhere."
"Why don't you try to tell me?" she said compassionately.
He nodded. "I was 5. My mom shipped me off to Philadelphia. I wasn't used to my Pop at all, I didn't really know my mom either, but I know I was scared that I was leaving LA. She told me that I was gonna have to stay there in Philadelphia with him." Chris laughed again, "I get there and he has some associate of his, a total stranger to me, pick me up at the airport and drop me off at the house. I think the first week I saw my Dad maybe twice. I told ya about the house and the woods. My Pop didn't want me out there for whatever reason, well the housekeeper used to let me go out there and play. I think I got in her way inside, cuz till I came along she had the whole damn place to herself most of the time." Chris suddenly stopped, remembering even more now.
"Keep going Chris, you're doing good," Rita encouraged him.
"One day I'm out playing in the woods, you know, hiding out, chasing bad guys," he said grinning at her, "I was running for a long time. I got lost, I didn't know how to get back. I guess I panicked and I sat down, cried a little, tried to figure out what I was gonna do. While I was sitting there this guy came running by. It all happened so quick, he ran by so fast, he never even saw me. But I didn't know what was going on out there so I hid behind some bushes, I guess I must have thought he was coming back or something," Chris paused and looked deeply into Rita's eyes.
"Chris," she began, "Keep going, tell me what happened out there."
"I was just gonna come out from hiding when I heard some more sounds. I looked out and I saw two police officers. They were practically right in front of me."
"Did you hear them talking?" Rita asked.
"Yeah, they said they were going to split up to find whoever it was they were chasing. The smaller guy headed one way and I followed the larger guy. He seemed like he was in charge. I wanted to tell him that I had seen that guy run by."
"Did you?" Rita was enthralled by his story.
"No," he dropped his head.
"Why not Chris?" Rita asked.
"I thought I'd get in trouble, here I was lost in the woods that my father didn't want me playing in. And I didn't want to get the housekeeper mad at me, she already hated me too. I would have had to tell the cop that I was lost. I just ended up following him. I musta figured sooner or later he'd lead me out of the woods," he explained.
Chris walked along in silence, letting go of Rita's hand and stepping a few paces in front of her, to be by himself. Rita stood back and watched him. "Do you remember it all, what you saw, what happened next?" she asked.
"Umhmm," he said with his back to her.
"You gotta tell someone Chris, come on," she begged.
"No one believed me before," he answered in the voice of a child.
"I know Chris, I talked to your Dad this morning," she said.
Chris turned around and stared at her. "Do you believe him?" he began, "what he told you about what happened."
She shook her head, "I believe in you, I always have, you know that. Just tell me what you saw," she replied.
Chris took a deep breath. He took his hand and wiped it across his face. "They said that it was an accident," he began shaking his head. "That's what the newspaper said, that the one cop got shot by accident by the other. Thinking that he was the criminal that's how it got reported. I saw it. I saw the whole thing Sam. No one believed me, not even my own Father. The smaller cop had his gun pulled on the guy who had run past me. The larger cop got near and saw both of them and put his gun up and aimed it. I thought he was going to shoot the guy they were chasing, but he turned. Rita, he just turned and shot his partner." Chris turned away from her and pounded his fist on the side of the palm tree he stood next to. "Then they laughed about it, the two of them. Standing over him watching that cop bleed right there on the ground, his own partner," he said his voice breaking up with sorrow. "The cop told the other guy to leave and he ran off. I guess I must have realized that I needed to get out of there too, so I started to run, the cop musta heard or seen me. I ran so fast, I don't even remember finding my way back. I went and hid in my room, closed and locked the door. Man, I was so scared"
Rita walked to him and rubbed his back. "So what about your Dad?"
"The cop musta searched all the houses around looking for me. Then my Pop came home from work. The cop pulled up as he was coming up the front steps onto the porch. I saw it from my window. I ran out the back and hid under the porch so I could listen. The cop wanted to talk to me, he told my Dad. He knew I had seen what really happened, but he told my Dad that the whole thing was an accident, he knew I'd be scared and that he just wanted to make sure I was alright. He fed my Dad the whole story. I snuck back up to my room and after the cop left, my Dad called me down to the porch. I tried to tell him, what I saw, that he just shot him, it wasn't an accident. My Dad called me a liar, said that he was gonna send me back to California. That I didn't listen. That I shouldn'ta been in the woods. All I did was get in everyone's way. He didn't wanna believe me Sam, he didn't even try. Two days later I was back in Hollywood, living with the servants," he sadly said, "acting like it never happened. I don't think I've ever talked about it or even thought about it again until now. How could I just forget it like that? He pulled away from her touch. "That cop got killed right in front of me and I didn't do anything," he said pointing ahead to a fictitious spot on the ground.
"Chris, you were only five, there wasn't a lot you could do. It was your word against another cop's," Rita said.
"And then this, God Rita, I almost killed you too. Just like before. I've been hiding this thing away so long I almost made the same thing happen again. Can you ever forgive me?" Chris asked.
"There's nothing to forgive Chris. What almost happened here was an accident. You weren't trying to kill me. You thought I was Chady. Maybe the whole situation just triggered you to remember your past. I think that's a good thing, now you can truly put it behind you and move on." Chris turned back around and faced her and let the hint of a smile come to his face, then it disappeared.
"Why didn't he believe me Sam? My Pop, why didn't he believe me?" Chris asked.
"I don't know Chris," she said shrugging her shoulders. "I don't know what was going on in his life. Maybe he just wasn't ready to be a Dad yet."
"Yeah, well he shoulda thought about that a little sooner, maybe they both should have," he said referring to his mother as well.
Rita reached into her purse and pulled out a photograph. "I found this on the kitchen floor in our house," she began holding it out so Chris could see it. He took it from her hand and stared at it. He ran his fingers over the figures in the photo, a man, a woman and a child about a year old. All of them were happy. He smiled. "I think you should remember your parents this way Chris," she said.
He nodded, "maybe you're right."
"That's about it Doc. I'm one mixed up guy ain't I?" Chris asked Daniel the next day in Daniel's office.
"Not at all Chris, I think that you've got a handle on this whole thing now. You know our minds play a lot of games. We think one thing and we really should be thinking something totally different. We lock stuff away, kinda like you did and then wham, something like moving into a new home maybe can trigger something that happened years ago. Any one of the senses can conjure up old memories. Smells, sounds, textures, and even dreams. It's just important to sit down and figure it all out, talk it out. That's the best medicine. I think you'll be ok, I'm gonna put you back on regular duty."
Chris shook his head in agreement and stood up to shake Daniel's hand. "You know it was nothing against you right Daniel?" he asked, "I just couldn't remember."
"I understand, not to worry," Daniel replied, "And I think I need to still take you and Rita out for a dinner," he continued as they walked toward the door and Daniel opened it. A little girl about 3 came bounding in. "Daddy," she squealed. Daniel picked her up, "Sergeant Lorenzo, this is my daughter Melanie, Melanie, can you say hi to Sergeant Lorenzo." The little girl shyly buried her head on her father's shoulder. Daniel chuckled.
Chris stood dumbfounded, when he realized what was going on he let out a 'ha' and said, "Mel, that's a great name. Uh, Daniel, does Rita know about any of this?"
"Not yet, Melanie and my wife just arrived from Denver this morning, and I've been having my wedding ring resized, she's gonna freak isn't she" he replied under his breath as an attractive blonde walked up beside him. Chris nodded. "Chris this is my wife Susan, honey this is Rita's fiancé Chris Lorenzo."
"It's a pleasure to meet you Susan," Chris said with a grin.
"Daniel has talked about his 'Mel' since I met him twelve years ago, it was my friend Mel this and my friend Mel that. He always said that he knew the right guy was out there for her somewhere, it just would take her some time to find him. Looks like you're the one. I can't wait to meet her," Susan said.
"I think the feeling will be mutual," Chris said grinning from ear to ear, shaking her hand.
Two nights later, the Mattson's and the soon to be Lorenzo's shared an elegant dinner at a posh Palm Beach restaurant. Rita was speechless when Daniel introduced his wife and daughter, but she was also ecstatic for his apparent happiness.
Chris and Rita drove back to their new house on Leigh Avenue. This would be the second night they'd sleep together in their new home. "I wish I would have taken a picture of your face tonight," Chris started with a laugh, "we could hang it right next to your Prom picture, Miss Prom Queen."
"Yeah," Rita said giggling along, "you could have told me when you found out, I was this close to fixing him up with someone," she said pinching her finger and thumb together.
"You need to stop doing that," he said.
"And why is that?" she said, beginning to slowly take his jacket and tie off.
"Well some people, uh, I think just need to meet naturally," he answered as she guided him backward toward the master bedroom.
"You mean like us?" she said leaning in and passionately pressing her lips against his.
"Well, uh, um yeah," he said returning the gesture. Chris pulled back and looked at her, "Ah, just what is it that you have on your mind for us tonight?" he asked seductively.
"Certainly, not any mind games," she replied as they entered the bedroom locked in a kiss.
Alright, so what do y'all think? Like it? Hate it? Want more? Please let me know.
Thanks goes out to Linda & Lisa for posting my story on their site.
A most honorable mention goes to my amiga, Amy, who so likes McDonald's and often wonders why Chris and Rita did not eat there very often like she does! The opening sequence is dedicated to you Amy.
Thanks to everyone who's written to me and boosted my ego to the max.
And now....Chris, Rita, Harry, Frannie, George, Ana, Benny, Tom, Sue, Lena Correll and the mere mention of Eric the Puke all belong to USA Network, Stu Seagall, and Stephen J. Cannell Productions. No malice or infringement is intended, I just love these characters to life and want to keep them that way.
Everyone else, from the rednecks to Dr. Daniel and family are solely my creation. I gave Treveon the story off. (He worked so hard in the last one)
If you have comments, please share them, I like to hear the good and the bad. Don't be afraid to tell me what you think.
Write to me at --- firstname.lastname@example.org