Rita sighed as the evening ended, and she found herself standing in front of her apartment door. She had relished the time away from the grotesque images that haunted her. Chris had distracted her so well, that now, she didn't want to go back to her reality. He sensed this in her, hearing the sadness in her sigh.
"Rita.... Would you think me silly if I insisted on sleeping on your couch again tonight? I'll admit, I don't like the thought of you being here all alone.... Not while that monster is out there." It was the reason he gave her, though he was pretty positive she was safe from the killer now. It had become apparent that he was only after families.
She didn't argue with him though, wanting him to stay.
"Thanks Chris, Ill get the sheets for you" she said.
After she had changed into her night clothes, and he changed into some sweat pants he kept there for such occasions, they sat on the couch trying to stretch their evening a little longer.
"Chris... I just want to thank you for tonight.... It was really perfect... I had a wonderful time, and I know why you did it.... Your really a pretty terrific guy, Sam, you know that?"
Chris reached out taking her small hand into his larger one, and smiled as he examined it.
"Your quite welcome my friend, quite welcome... Now admit it Sam... I am sneaking up on your blind side!" Chris gave a chuckle.
It was her answer to that, that took him by surprise.
"No, Sam... I think you already have." she said quietly.
They talked late into the night, but soon a tense silence filled the air between them as they tried to avoid the two topics that most mattered at the time , their feelings for each other, and the case. It was then that Chris reluctantly decided it was time to say good night. He was just about to offer his wishes for her sweet dreams, when he heard a sniffle come from Rita. Looking over, he saw her wipe away the tears that trickled down. He hated seeing her cry more then anything in the entire world, but he was relieved now, knowing she would release the days heartache. It wasn't good for her to keep it inside, the way she sometimes would.
"Oh, Sammy.... Come here" He pulled her into his arms, holding her close to him.
"It's okay.... Sunshine, let it out"
She cried, and he let her as he rocked her in his arms, whispering to her his words of comfort.
"It's alright, Im here.... I'll always be here."
"How could someone?... Chris.... Why?".... she sobbed, pleading for him to answer these questions, for answers he just didn't have.
"I don't know, sweetie, I just don't know.... But we'll get him, I promise you that."
"It's just that I can't stop thinking about that little baby, how it was never even given a chance, you know? And the little boy, he was only five,. and all those other children too.... They lost their parents... They had to see them like that, Chris.... What will happen to them now.?... They'll never forget that sight, you know... It will be with them forever..... And they are so young... It shouldn't be that way..... It's just not right." she poured out her heart to him, and he knew she spoke from her own experience. He held her tighter in his arms, as if he could protect her from her own memories.
"I don't know, Rita, but you can't think about that.... You know you can't allow yourself to get that involved."
He knew with Rita that was easier said then done. She was a caretaker, always concerned about the underdogs, and if they were young, it could really get to her. She was always volunteering at youth shelters and organizations, always reaching out for the strays and those the rest of the world choose to forget. She had chosen the worst profession she could for herself , one in which a shield for the heart was absolutely necessary in order to survive.
"You've got to leave it behind you, Rita,.. You can't save the entire world... It's just not possible honey.... I'm sure they'll find good homes for the children.... Probably some will live with other relatives.... They'll grow up, and even though they'll never forget... They'll find a way to go on, and maybe they will try to save the world one day... Hmm?" he tenderly wiped away her tears now..... His beautiful angel, with her heart of gold... He thought to himself.
"Like someone else I know?" he said aloud , smiling at her, before kissing her on her forehead.
She half smiled back at him, the sadness in her eyes nearly breaking his heart.
"Rita..... You can't let this get to you..... For your own sake,... For mine... I need you too much, got that partner?"
She leaned into him, wrapping her arms around him.... this man she loved so much.
"I know.. Just a temporary lapse, partner... But I'm fine now...." she sighed "I have to be, I have no other choice , do I?... But thanks, Sam.... For being here, and kicking my butt back into shape."
"Hey...." Chris quietly said, "It isn't that gorgeous butt of yours that needed to get back into shape,... It was your heart."
'Well, anyway, thanks Sam" she said, giving him a kiss on his cheek. "Anytime, partner, anytime" he replied, as he yawned.
"And now it's time for you to get that gorgeous butt of yours up to bed now, and let me get my beauty sleep!" he laughed.
"Beauty sleep? Sam... If you got any better looking, I just might not be able to stop myself from racing to that near by hotel we once discussed, any longer
And dragging you with me!" Rita seductively said, as she leaned in real close to him.
She enjoyed the look of shock that came across his face, and she stood on her tiptoes now, kissing him, not on his cheek, but where it belonged. It only lasted half a minute, but it was the sweetest, and yet most passionate one he had ever experienced in his life. And then it was over, and she was saying "good night Sam" He watched her ascend the stairs that led to her bedroom... Or maybe it led to Heaven, he thought, as he watched his angel disappear.
It was noon , the next day, before they got word about the key Rita had found.
The locksmith told them it was probably a key to a storage shed of some kind. Rita was thrilled, as it seemed to be their first piece of evidence, the first clue that would help them catch the killer. Earlier that morning they had planned on searching the rest of house, and they were headed over there now, hoping to find a storage shed on the grounds, and maybe some other clues to point them in the right direction.
Chris walked along the grounds now, as Rita searched inside the house. Her hunches told her that these murders were not just random, the killer had picked his victims specifically, but why? She hadn't found one thing to tie all seven houses together, except that six of them had children living in them. The schools didn't check out, as their were several schools.... What was it that connected them?, she thought.
Rita hesitated as she entered the victims bedroom. Everything was exactly the same, minus the victims themselves. Blood covered the blankets, the wall, and even some on the rug. She breathed deeply in, as if taking courage, and then walked in to begin her search of the room. She went over to the bed, re- examining everything she had yesterday. If the thought of how vulnerable the victims had been, sound asleep, in their own beds, crossed her mind, she was quick to dismiss it, and to go about her work. She picked up a book that was on the table next to the bed.. What To Expect When Your Expecting..... Karen must have been reading it, she thought. Underneath that book was another...100,000 Baby Names.
Rita quickly placed the books back down, trying not to think of these things, trying not to think at all. She set her self on auto pilot almost, and continued her search, this time with no distractions.
After checking all the rooms in the house, and still finding no clues, she knew she had to go into the one room she had put off. She steeled herself as she opened the door to the babys room, and immediately she had to turn away. The room was so pure, so damn adorable, so full of hopes for a future that would never come now. Slowly she entered inside, thinking she wouldn't find any thing in this room but heartbreak. She took in the rocking chair, with a big teddy bear sitting in it, saw the border paper with baby animals chasing balloons, the dresser which held tiny little sleepers and baby blankets. A crib, already beautifully made up with bedding to match the border stood waiting for it's little tenant.
Rita searched as fast as she could, wanting desperately to leave the room. She was just about done, when she found a small notebook on top of the changing table, with other books about caring for a newborn, and one that looked like a journal . Her heart began racing with expectation, and some fear of what she would find in there. She glanced at the notebook first, seeing names and addresses, and realized that they were ones they didn't already have, people who they would need to talk to. Then she picked up the journal, and began reading. It was a diary of sorts, but more like an open letter to her baby, written by Karen . Rita became absorbed in reading it, and did not notice Chris, as he worriedly entered the room, taking in it's innocence. He wished he had realized the baby's room would need to be searched as well... If he had, he would have taken it on himself.
"Rita.." he called to her, but she didn't seem to hear. "Sammy" he tried again. He startled her, and she jumped slightly, then looked up at him. Her eyes were glowing with moisture, but her face smiled at him.
'Sam.... We've got something, I think... This is a journal" she held up the book she'd been reading...."and this has new names and addresses in it..... We can check them out... It's a start... Maybe, just maybe, we got lucky on this one, Sam." her voice was full of excitement, yet he also heard a sadness underneath.
He pulled her out of the room.
"That's great, Sam!" he said, happy to be leaving the nursery behind.
"I think I got something too.... I know this key came from the killer... But it does open the storage shed in the back, Sam... So.... Who would have the key to their storage shed... The maid?" he knew the answer, but he let her finish his train of thought now.
"Or the gardener? Do they have a gardener though," she asked. "Didn't the maid say she was only employed to work three days a week? The yard... It's nice, but not a gardeners work, Sam"
"Yeah..... You know what? I think we need to talk with her again Sam, we are missing something here.... And I think it's a biggie!" Chris laughed out loud, as he guided Rita out of the house.
"We are almost there, Sammy.... I can feel it!" Chris was grinning ear to ear at her.
They entered the car, Rita carrying the things she had taken from the babys room. As she glanced down at the books, she hoped Chris was right.
Billy Crago fumed inside himself, fighting the urge he had to take his hammer right then and crash it down on the ladys head. He had worked on those shutters all week, and now she telling him the color was all wrong after all? It was the color she had chosen, but now she demanded that he repaint them all over, and telling him he wasn't going to be paid for his mistake. Just who did she think he was... Her slave?
He was nobody's toy to kick around, especially by the likes of her. Oh, she was gonna pay all right, he thought. He had been planning it as the next hit, and he knew he would enjoy this one, just like the last he'd done. That Karen Richards and her husband, they really had annoyed him.... With their perfect life, their perfect baby on the way... And all so phony, trying to pretend they were so nice. He knew what they really thought of him, they were just like the rest of the snobs in Palm Beach.
It had given him secret pleasure to shoot the woman in her stomach. He had thought of Gina, carrying his own baby when he had done that....
"Oh, Billy.... When your finished with the shutters, I have another paint job I would like you to do then... Kimberly has asked if her playhouse could be painted as well... She'd like it to be a yellow..... is that understood?" said Mrs. Claymont.
Billy clenched his fist around the hammer he had been using to fix a loose nail in the shutter.
"Yes, ma'am'" ha said to her.
After filling Cap in on their progress, and listening to his complaints about what the Florida sun was doing to his skin, Chris and Rita had to meet with George outside at the roach coach. They showed him the books Rita had found at the Richardson's house, and discussed the case. George was elated that the key had belonged to the storage shed on the grounds, and that they had some new venues to look into. When George walked away from the two detectives, he thought something about them had changed.... They still looked at each other in that special way they always had, but now it was more intense.... And could Chris touch Rita any more then he had just now... Always caressing her, reaching for her hand..... Oh yeah..... Finally they were beginning to see what he had along..... George smiled, happy for them. It had been a long time in coming , he thought.
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