He tore his eyes away from the repulsive sight,back to Rita who Cap was trying unsuccesfully to comfort.Just then Fran came up behind Chris.
"What is it,Heshy? You scared....." Fran stopped short as she came up to the doorway."Uh...Oh my......oh no..Heshy!" she cried,as she took in the rooms horror.
Chris went over to Cap and Rita,"I got her,Cap...let's get them out of here." he said,nodding towards Franny now,as he leaned down to help Rita up."Come on Sammy...let's go....shhh...it's okay.....come on." he said gently.
She tried to stand as he pulled her up,but she didn't seem to have enough stregnth just then,and her legs gave out on her. Giving up on her walking out of there herself,Chris quickly scooped her up into his arms and carried her out .
Cap had led Fran to thier bedroom,and Chris took Rita in there with them,sitting her on thier bed,and wrapping his arms protectively around her..Fran was upset,but she began to settle down a bit when she saw Rita beside her.
"Oh,Chris...how is she...Rita?" she spoke to them both,through her own tears.
Harry knew just how to calm his wife down "Franny....I have to call the station,and have them send over a unit.Do you think you could wait for them downstairs and send them up here when they arrive.....maybe make some coffee too?"
Fran nodded,still slightly in shock,but now wanting to be of some help"Alright Heshy" Looking back at Chris attentively comforting Rita,she knew she couldn't be much help there. Chris was all Rita needed at the time.She walked over to the young couple,and sat beside them on the bed."If you kids need anything ,I'm right down stairs okay?"
"Thanks,Fran." Chris said with a fretful look as he kissed the top of Ritas head.
Fran stood,shaking her head sadly as she left the room,passing Cap who was on the phone talking to the police.
Chris was increasingly worried about Rita. She had stopped crying,and now was just laying in his arms quietly,as the leftover shudders quaked her slender form.
He just sat as quiet as she was,always keeping her in his arms,stroaking ,kissing and caressing her to make her feel his presence. A few moments later,he heard Cap escort the first of what would be the nights progression of the PBPD.He decided it would be best to get her away from all that.
"Rita...I'm taking you back to my loft.Let's go" He unwrapped himself from around her,and she brought her arms back to her chest. Chris noticed this subconcious protective measure,and his heart winced at the sight.He stood up,pulling her with him,and immediatly wrapping her back in his arms,to give her the security she needed right then."I'm here, Sammy...I'm not going anywhere."
They walked past the guest bedroom with all the activity going on inside. Cap saw them as they passed the room,and followed them.
"How are you feeling Rita?" he asked concerned about her. He wasn't used to seeing Rita Lance looking as defeated as she had looked earlier.
"Ah Cap...I'm taking her back to my place,alright? I just think it's for the best right now."
" Oh no your not, Lorenzo!" Cap ordered."In case you already forgot,you were just sent a death threat tonight!"
Chris felt Rita stiffen in his arms,then just as quickly loosen,and she grasped the arms already around her for a little extra support.He could hear with the intake of her breath that she was fighting to stay in control of the fear she felt in her captains words.For the first time since the incident,she spoke,her voice still shaky,but a semblance of the old Rita was returning again.
"Caps right,Chris.....it might not be safe for you to go anywhere.....whoever did that" she inhaled again as she pointed towards the room she had been staying in" Whoever did that...meant it,Chris....we're not going anywhere."
Cap nodded,glad to have Rita on his side,glad to see that she was coming around.He looked back to Chris."We need to talk...figure out who would do this,Lorenzo."
'We're going down for a cup of coffee first...You want one,Cap?" Chris asked,sending a message with his eyes that he did not want Rita there when they discussed the scene in the bathroom.
Cap nodded his head in understanding of what Chris meant. ."Yeah,sure Lorenzo....Frannys down there.She could probaly use some company..Rita can stay...I need you back up here then."He said this as an order.
Chris followed Rita,who was already headed down the stairs. She was pouring coffee into three cups when he approached her,still worried about her."Rita...are you sure your okay?"
"I'm fine,Chris. It threw me off a little,but I'm over it......It's over,Okay? " she snapped at him,and he winced at the tone of her voice.
"Yeah,right...You sound just fine,don't you?" he replied,before taking his and Caps coffee and walking away.
Upatairs,Chris handed Cap his coffee,still feeling the impact of Ritas testiness with him.Cap led them back into his bedroom so that they wouldn't be in the way of all the other officers doing thier work
"How's Franny and Rita doing?" Cap asked him ,regarding Chris' scowl.
"Oh...They're both FINE " he said, sounding as sarcastic as Rita had earlier.
Cap nodded,a half smile on his face"that include my Franny too?" he asked,understanding that Chris had been speaking about Rita.
"What?...Oh...Yeah,Cap...she seems to be doing well. I saw her down there trying to force Jenkins to eat a sandwhich she had made. "
Cap laughed."That's my Franny"He saw the look on Chris's face."Give her time Chris...she's just had quite a shock"
"I know ,Cap" Chris sighed,as he entered the guest bathroom,watching as the police photographer was taking pictures.
"Cap...this was not intended for me...Whoever did this may have meant it as a threat to my life,but they wanted Rita to see this....this was meant for her" He paused as he let his thoughts simmer awhile......You think this could be a payback from the Redeemers?
Harry shook his head."I don't think so Lorenzo...we arrested the rest of the group today." He shrugged his shoulders"Then again,it's possible we may not have all of them as we were led to believe. We'll have to look into it. I don't know though,Lorenzo...this just doesn't seem thier style. They usually go after the person they have the vendetta against...why would they come here...after Rita?"
"Maybe it's someone she knows...someone who knows her...her past.....I don't know,"Chris said shaking his head."It just doesn't make any sense,Cap"
Harry rested his hand on Chris' shoulder."I don't know...but we'll find out."
Later ,Chris found Rita in the den,the only room in the house that was out of the way and quiet. She was sitting in the dark.
"Rita?" He walked over to the chair she was sitting in and kneeled down,seeing her wipe away her tears.
"What is it,Chris?"she said,a bit impatiently,but seeing the hurt,she apologized. "I'm sorry,Sam."
He reached over and gently wiped one of her tears that rolled down her cheek."You want to talk about it?"
She nodded yes to him and then lifted her arms out to him for a hug. He smiled at her before pulling her into his embrace and rubbed her back reassurringly. She buried her head under his chin,nestling there,and he heard her softly whimper.
"Let it out Sammy."he told her.
He lifted her into his arms and then carried her over to the sofa ,sitting down with her on his lap.
"I promise you sunshine...I will find whoever did that "
She nodded her head in understanding."whoever it was...he knew about my daddy,Chris ....he vandalized my daddys grave...."Her face had still been buried into his chest,but now she looked right at him. He could see fear and sadness in her eyes,and the protective instincts he felt for her raged against who had put that look into them."He threatened your life,...I'm afraid Sam."
"There's no need to be afraid,Sammy....I promise you that....I won't let him near you." He brought her closer to him,and rubbed at the goosebumps he felt on her arms.
" Chris , It's you I'm talking about....not myself...he made it clear that he was after you.Who would do that.?"
Chris shrugged. "I don't know,Sam,but we'll find that out."
She turned away,looking even sadder now then she had earlier."What is it Rita?"
"I hate this!...I hate being suspended....I hate feeling helpless...sitting around watching you go in to work,I hate you having a new partner...I can't stand it anymore...I just want to have my job back....Chris....I feel...I feel like I'm slowly loosing everything......I feel like I'm just falling off a cliff...and I will keep falling forever...never landing.....I just can't stand it anymore,Sam!"
"No Rita...shh...,this will all pass.....Your gonna get through this ...and I'll be right here by your side through it all.You won't ever loose me" He tucked a strand of her hair behing her ear."Before you know it,it'll be like it always was...you and me...Sam and Sam....forever." He tried to get her to smile,but she wouldn't. It was killing him to see her like this,but on the other hand,he was glad she was beginning to let some of her feelings out.
They talked for awhile longer.
He told her first thing tomorrow,they would order a new head stone for her fathers grave and he was releived when he saw her finally smile ,even if it wasn't as bright as he would have liked.
They managed to escape the misery of that night for awhile ,blocking out the entire world,and eventually she fell asleep in his arms. He watched over her for awhile,and then carefully layed her on the sofa and covered her with the throw blanket that rested on the back of it. Before he left,he made sure the windows were securely locked and the curtains closed tightly.He wanted to get back upstairs and catch up on the investigation.This was one crime he would make sure that whoever was responsible for it would get his due,no matter what.
Chris would have never left her alone if he suspected for a moment that the person who had been slowly destroying her life was just outside ,across the street,hidden in the bushes and reaping in the awards for his work.He sat quietly hoping to catch a glimpse of her through a window,or if he got lucky enough,she would come outside. He never did get to see her ,but he had heard the scream,it had sent a shiver down his spine when he had heard it. She had been truly horrified,and that was all he needed to know.Stealing that file his lawyer had on her was paying off.He had learned of things that would help destroy her.
In two more days,she would be more then horrified,she would be devastated as well. He left after all the police had gone,and the house grew dark again,noting that Lorenzo was still in there as well.With her.He was fuming as he thought of him comforting her. Soon,.....he thought....Soon Lorenzo wouldn't be able to comfort her,as she cried over him...soon he would destroy them both.
When finally everyone had left and the scene cleaned up,Chris went back down to the den,and caught some sleep himself.It seemed as if he had just nestled a still sleeping Rita back into his arms and closed his eyes when he was awakened,his first sight being his captains growling and exhausted face.
"Lorenzo...wake up...Your cell phone has been ringing nonstop. You left it out on the kitchen.I answered it for you...Hurry up,she's waiting."
"Who" he asked sleepily,thinking first of Rita....... No,Rita was here with him.
"Do I look like your answerring service,Lorenzo? Get up and find out.Come on"
Chris rubbed his head,trying to get his bearings about him,but soon enough the memories of last night came rushing back to him. He groaned,and then looked down at Rita whose head was lying on his chest. He sat up ,as he held her and lied her back down trying not to wake her"I'll be right there Cap" he whispered.
A moment later,Chris picked up his cell phone."Well,good morning partner. Heard you had an interesting night after dinner."she spoke cheerfully,and it was somehow annoying to him.
"Yeah, guess we did. So what's up McConnell.?"
"I need to talk to you ...in person. It's important. Can we meet for breakfast somewhere?" asked Cindy.
"I don't think so,McConnell. I have some things I need to do this morning before going into work."
"You'll want to be in on this,Chris. Ritas' shooting review is tomorrow,isn't it?"
That got his attention,as she knew it would." Yes...it is...what does that have to do with me meeting you for breakfast...what's so important Cindy?"
"If you want to find out,Lorenzo,you'll meet me. It's simple. How about we just meet in the departments cafeteria....around nine,...See you then Lorenzo."She hung up the phone before he could question her any further.
What was that about? he wondered. Something about her voice put his insticts on alert.She made it clear it had something to do with Ritas hearing tomorrow. Well,he would just have to go then.He would do anything to get Rita back to work again,back to being his partner. After last night, he knew it was the best thing for her...she needed to be working again,...her work was her way of holding onto the sense of security and confidence that was eluding her now.
Forty-five minutes later,Chris was sitting in the cafeteria,anxiously waiting for Cindy to arrive.He had just finished his first cup of strong black coffee when he looked up to see her arrive.
"Hey partner!" she greeted him,as she sat down across from him.
He tried to be polite."Cindy...I 'm not really your partner any longer...You can call me Chris."
"Well...Chris...you just may be wrong about that."
"What...we have another case?" he asked unbelievably.
"Well..no not yet." She raised her eyebrows at him,and then went in for the kill."Look Lorenzo...I'm not one for playing games ...I never was. But you know that I go after what I want....it's nothing personal...it's just who and what I am.I stumbled upon some imformation concerning Rita and you.....and because she is going up for a review tomorrow,I'm sure you don't want this to get out...especially to those in the Internal Affairs department.You know...there are rules that they expect us to follow."
"What are you getting at McConnell.?" Chris sensed what she was talking about,but held out hope he was wrong. How could she know?
"Well...For the sake of everyone involved,I worked out a little plan that will make us all happy. See....I won't tell the board tomorrow about you and Rita being involved with each other...things going that way,.and with her record,Rita should be reinstated simply enough I imagine.Crago won't have a leg to stand on in sueing the city,making the mayor and the District Attorney very happy as well....and in return,you will ask that you and I remain partners ...tell them it's because we work together so well,or maybe that you just need a change...I really don't care." She shrugged,before adding "once all the hoopla dies down,you and Rita will be free and clear to announce your relationship to the world,if she's really who you want. ......Sound good to you?" She layed it all on the table,in a manner that didn't seem as menacing as her words actually implied.
Chris couldn't beleive this. She sat there so friendly,yet she was blackmailing him.
"You think I'm going to tell them that I want to remain partners with you? " Chris stood to leave. "It's not gonna happen lady"
He turned his back on her .
"It will if you don't want the board to know about your relationship with Rita Lance.Come on Lorenzo,we both know that if their is even the slightest hint of your relationship..,your partner will not be reinstated...You know....,she'll probaly never be a cop again,and I'm sure she'll face alot more judgement days down the road by this department.I suppose the District Attorney will have to admit that Crago just may have reason to sue,and he'll have to settle with a known killer. Oh...can you imagine the taxpayers reaction to that...and the DA...he'll be rolling some heads." She smiled cruelly now" it's sort of like dominoes,isn't it?.... One thing will lead to another and there will be hell to pay over this.....I imagine even your good friend ,the captain may have some serious regrets. TSK TSK, TSK" She shook her head."although,I guess it will be your girlfriend who will have the most difficulty,now won't she? Instead of being this citys wonderful hero that they made her out to be,she'll be chastised,and ridiculed....they'll say she is the one who is costing them more in taxes to pay off that killer.She is the one whose actions let a killer walk free among them.I just worry whether she can handle all of that...I mean seeing her last night,she seems a bit on edge lately,don't you think?"
Chris had never wanted to punch a woman in his life,he had been raised to never strike out at a girl and it was imbedded into him,into who he was. Now though,he was strongly tempted to...never in his life had he meant anyone like this woman...this lady was a cold hearted bitch,only she was not a lady. However,he controlled himself,despite the fact that this woman deserved it more then most of the men he had thrown punches at.
"Your a real piece of work,aren't you?" he demanded.
"Ah,ah,ah"She vindictively teased him..."No flirting ,Lorenzo....at least not while we're partners.Although,I can keep it a secret if that is what turns you on, partner?" She raised her eyebrows,smiling maliciously.
"Go to hell.McConnell."
She stood up to leave."Cheer up Lorenzo...really it isn't all that bad if you think about it.Rita will still be working,only it'll be with Hastings...and you and I will be working the high priotrity cases. Everything will turn out just fine if you make the right decision ,don't you see? It's all up to you. "She smiled as she confidently walked away from him,leaving him glaring after her
Maybe it was because for the first time since the fire,she had had a good nights sleep,despite the fact that it had been on a couch,shared with another person,but she awoke in a more serene mood.That other person had been Chris,and it made all the difference.She had woken only once during the night,startled by the nightmare of that evening reoccuring in her sleep.Then she had found herself wrapped in Chris' arms ,and even in his sleep, he had gently caressed her when she stirred,as if to say all was well.She contentedly kissed him before she drifted back into a then peaceful sleep.
She went out into the kitchen,hoping he would be there,but it was only Cap and Franny who greeted her. She hid her dissapointed,but couldn't help ask where Chris had taken off to so early.
Cap shifted his eyes in a warning to Fran ,and then shrugged."He got a call early this morning....and left shortly after that."
"You let him go? I mean...even with that threat? Did he say who it was ...where he was going?" she asked her captain worriedly.
"Relax Lance...it was Cindy. " Harry tried to assure her,not sure which was best...her worrying about Chris or her knowing where he was. Fran had filled him in about the antics at the restarant. He knew Chris though,and he didn't believe for one moment Rita had anything to be worried about just because Chris was with Cindy.
"What...are they being partnered on another case again? " she tried to sound casual about it.
"No...I wasn't informed of anything,and I would have been...maybe they just have some unfinished buisnees to wrap up on the Reilley case."
"Yeah,,,I guess..." Rita replied softly,remembering that Chris had told her that the Reilley case was wrapped up,even the paperwork." Ahhh..Fran...would you mind if I use your shower? I don't think I can go back there just yet..."
"Oh Doll..of course...You go right ahead...and don't worry Rita....I'm sure you'll hear from Chris soon enough. "
She smiled at Fran. 'Thanks Fran" She went upstairs wondering what was up to make Chris leave so early without waking her at least to to say goodbye.......
It was the last thing he wanted to do,but the first thing he did right after his meeting with Cindy. He had sat back down after she left,agonizing over what to do but in the end, he knew he had no choice.He couldn't let Rita loose her job,maybe even her entire career. He didn't think she could handle that,not on top of everything else. He knew he would do anything for her,but at the same time,he was also going to hurt her,and he couldn't bear that.
He talked to the police commishioner,and put in his request to have McConnell for his permanent partner.When the meeting was over,he sat at his desk,lost in his thoughts...remembering Rita last night as she told him how much she missed working....and still tried to convince himself that what he had decided was the best decision he could have made.It was Caps third order for him to get into his office that finally reached Chris.
"Lorenzo....You had better have a damn good explanation for what I was just ordered to do! Tell me this is some mistake.....I thought you and Rita had settled your arguement last night...I mean Rita seemed in good spirits today ,despite everything.You wanna tell me what the hell is going on between you two now?! I just knew you both being involved would end up bringing me trouble.....but I never thought for a moment that you yourselves would choose to be spilt up as partners!" Cap shook his head,"Tell me Lorenzo,that this isn't another scheme of yours you have up your sleeve,because I'm telling you kid,this plan of yours has just backfired on ya. "
Chris sat there,quietly shaking his head.
"Lorenzo...Your brains might me a bit loose in there,but I still can't hear them rattle. Don't just sit there and not say a word! Why the hell was I just ordered,at your request,to make McConnell your permanent partner now!"
"Cap,I had no choice. " Chris sighed.
"Lorenzo,that's not the explanation I was looking for. Now Speak!"
By the time Chris had finished telling his captain the conversation with Cindy,he was wiping away a few tears that had managed to escape from him.He looked up to see Cap staring right at him,nodding his head slightly.
"Uh huh...I guess maybe Franny was right after all...she kept telling me that McConnell was up to something...she was livid with her on the way home,after what she did last night."
"Last night...What did she do to Fran,Cap?"
"Not Fran...Rita. Fran saw her spill her drink on purpose. Rita was coming over to ask you for the last dance..Fran said something aboutRita requesting a song,and being upset she missed it with you....Fran kept harping about Cindy going after you ..wanting to be in Ritas place. Apparently she was right."
Chris shook his head,now even more furious with Cindy McConnell."I can't let her get away with this,Cap." He hesitated a moment,before taking a breath for courage,and letting go" I'm gonna quit Cap. I can't work with that woman,and I can't do that to Rita."
Now Harry was rubbing his temples."Why me" he asked ,looking upwards."Just one simple day...Is that really so much to ask for?" He looked back to Chris again" Lorenzo...Your not going to quit! I can't let you." He lowered his voice a bit "Listen kid...just give me awhile to think on this before you do anything...got that? Does your partner know about this yet?...Your REAL partner,that is?"
Chris shook his head no,looking as morose as Harry had ever seen him. "Cap...how do I tell her about this? She's been holding on through all of this...hoping to come back to work again...If I don't go through the partner exchange,she'll loose her job. She's lost so much already,Cap.....I just can't let that happen,and I sure as hell won't let her be the scapegoat for this city....Cap...they would eat her alive out there if she had to go through all of that."
"Shouldn't you let her in on this Chris? Rita is as strong as they come."
"Cap...I don't know of anyone else near as strong as Rita,but would you let Franny go through any of this ,if you could prevent it at all?"asked Chris.
Harry didn't have to think on this for even a second. He shook his head" No...I guess I wouldn't.On the other hand though...I don't think I would have the stregnth to hurt her either."
"I know Cap....I know....that's exactly what I'm going through right now. What do I do?" Chris looked up desperately to his captain,his mentor and his friend.
Cap stood up and came around his desk to the chair Chris was slumped into. He placed his hand on Chris' shoulder. "Seargent Lorenzo....You will do your duty as you have been sworn to uphold.You will give your testimony tomorrow at Seargent Lances hearing,and you will tell the truth.That is what is best for this city of Palm Beach. Your personal life is your own,and none of thier buisness.....You'll work it out on your own time."
Chris nodded in understanding. His captain had just told him in his own way that he was to keep the truth from Rita...and in doing that,he would go along with Cindys blackmail. In return,the city would benefit by not being sued for Gina Lawrences death and the secret of thier relationship would remain intact.
Chris left Caps office,feeling that the decision he had made was the right one.Now,all he had to do was to explain to Rita why he had requested that Cindy McConnell remain his permanent partner.He tried to get some work done,but he accomplished nothing,the entire time thinking about what he would tell Rita.
Glancing at the clock, an hour later, he decided to call Rita and ask her to meet him at lunch. He wanted to tell her before someone else did.
"Hello" Fran answered.
"Oh,Hi Fran...it's Chris. Could you get Rita for me?"
"Oh sorry Christopher...she isn't here...She just left...she said something about surprising you with your favorite lunch. She took Harrys salad down for me as well...you should run into her soon.....Chris?....I just got off the phone with Harry...he told me....Chris,You aren't really going to go along with that...that..., McConnell are you?"
"Yes,Franny...I have to."
"Christopher...You can't do that!" she demanded.
"Franny...what else can I do? I can't let Rita be put through the wringer any more...she can't loose her job."
"Christopher...I'm telling you now,you are going to do more damage by going along with that witch,trust me.I've been watching her in action this past week ,and so has Rita. You choosing her over Rita to be your partner will destroy her!"
"Fran....I know it will be hard...but I have to believe we'll work everything out...even Cap says so."He tried to convince her ,and also himself.
"Chris...Rita isn't as secure in your relationship as she may lead you to believe.....who could blame her with everything she's been through just this week. You should have seen her reaction when we came in the other day and she saw Cindy at her desk...where she should be Chris...don't you see...it will come as too hard a blow to her when she finds out what you've done."
Chris felt as if he was in a whirlwind. He had no idea of what he was even supposed to be thinking anymore,yet alone on how to act on it.All he knew was that either way he went ,Rita was going to be hurt and he couldn't do a thing to change it.
"Chris...You have to put a stop to this...I know your worried about her...but Chris....at least she'll still want you there with her in all of this...If you go along with that McConnell she'll loose faith in you Chris...and you'll loose her. Now you go and get things back the way there suppossed to be!"
Chris suddenly knew that Fran was right. If Rita was going to be hurt,it wasn't going to be by his hands. They would be too busy wiping the tears away.
"Fran....gotta go..thanks! Bye" He hung up the phone, already planning on going to the Police Commishioner and trying to worm his way out of the situation he had gotten himself into. Knowing she would be here soon,he wondered if he had time to talk to the commishioner before he met her. He walked over to the window to see if her car had arrived yet. It was there,and she was just getting out,carrying a takeout bag from Mu Fons. His lunch.
Just then he saw McConnell approach Rita,a fake smile plastered all across her face as she pretended to be greeting her.
"Oh no you don't lady!" he growled as he took off to meet Rita outside.
He hurried all the way down to the parking lot,praying that he would be on time.
Okay....I think I'll have this finished in the next installment...so I can promise you all right now that this is the last cliff hanger in this story. I can't help it...I love doing that to you all...and I'll be the first to admit I hate it from others.....consider this payback! LOL...Stay tuned for part 6...and thanks everyone who has written me...you are encouraging me on! Lisa
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