SameOld Samís

By tuna.dc

 

"Lunch is served," Chris began as he casually sat down across the desk from Rita in her recently constructed office.

"Sam," Rita gazed up and smiled at the bagful's of food, "you" she accentuated, "are too kind!" she declared.

"Donít get too crazy on me, you owe me $6.50," he said grinning as he pulled out a tub of chicken fried rice for himself.

"What? Youíre out of money again?" she asked, peeking into the bags to see what was awaiting her.

Between mouthfuls of food he replied, "not exactly, itís just that Iíve bought lunch and dinner every day this week so far. I just think itís time you paid your fair share," he said teasing her.

She stopped what she was doing and just stood there and began to laugh at him.

"What?" he asked innocently, holding out his hand to emphasize his point.

"You," she began, "are incredible! You never let any of the women you dated pay for anything, do you remember that, ĎMister Iím not the one being hurt here?í" she said in a tone that completely mocked him.

He swallowed his food. "Iím not dating you now, am I?" he asked.

"Oh really? What would you call it?" she asked.

"I, uh, I guess I would call it a pre-wedding relationship," he covered his tracks somewhat hesitantly, followed by a grin.

Her somewhat serious demeanor was overtaken by a grin of her own. She couldnít be mad at him. His flimsy logic, sparkling blue eyes and that grin had her every time now. She glanced at him flashing his ear to ear smile, dimples and all. She just shook her head. She found some Kung Po Chicken and began to feast on it.

"You know Sam, you really need some artwork in here, you know, something to liven up the walls, give it a little character," Chris began, scanning the small room.

"Thank you Martha Stewart," she said sarcastically. "I thought Iíd do that this afternoon, rather than work on this case ok?"

"I didnít mean it had to be today, just, well, you know, sometime," he explained. "So, am I working with you today or do you want me to baby sit?" he asked, figuring heíd be teamed with Geoff or Tre.

She gave him the look. "I thought Iíd tag along with you if thatís ok? I put Tre and Geoff on the Marshall homicide right before lunch. I think itís time we see how they work together," Rita explained.

Chrisí face broke out into another huge smile. He hadnít worked with Rita for months it seemed. He either had Opie tagging along, or was breaking in Tre or even going out alone. He didnít even want to remember the whole Hot Rod situation. "Really?" he asked, just to make sure.

She nodded, "Yeah, unless thatís a problem?" she said.

"Not at all, I think thatís great," he said. She went back to her eating. He continued to look at her. "You know, Iíve missed ya out there Sammy," he said.

She glanced up at him and saw that he was being serious. She smiled, "I have too," she said.

"You know, I really think that we can do this," he explained, "working and being married. I mean, if you stop and think about it, weíve already been married for what, like six and a half years right?" he said, convincing himself as well as her.

"We werenít exactly married," she said.

"No, but we spent what, at least eighteen hours a day with each other most of the time right?" he replied.

"Itís different when you throw sex into the mix Chris," she said.

He scowled his face in disagreement. "Rita, weíve shared everything right?" She nodded. "And weíre getting along better than ever, right?" She nodded again. "Then Iíd say weíve got this under control," he added.

"Are you convincing me or yourself?" she asked with a chuckle. "Letís just keep taking this one day at a time ok?" she added.

He nodded, "Absolutely Sam, absolutely."

 

"So where do you want to start on the Nielsen Case Sammy?" Chris asked to Rita.

"How about at the beginning, lets go over our notes and see what we can come up with," Rita replied. They sat casually in her office. Rita quickly cleaned up the take-out food containers and listened as Chris flipped open his notepad and brought her up to speed.

"Well, for basics, she was single, 29, brunette, fitness maniac. She was out running yesterday morning at Perinot Park. Two elderly joggers spotted the body off the trail and placed the call to us. Sheís got parents still here in the area, West Palm. One shot to the back of the head, ballistics is still running the type. Looks like one of those high powered, long range rifles, Iím guessing. Maybe with a laser sensor. She definitely never knew what hit her," Chris gave her the rundown.

"Any signs of sexual assault?" Rita asked.

"No, Iím guessing she was a target, someone obviously wanted her dead. She died where she landed, after the hit the ground. There were some slippage marks along the side of the trail," he said.

"Letís go back to the area first, then maybe over to see her parents, have you talked to them yet?" Rita asked.

"Briefly, the Mother was very shaken, I told them Iíd be back today," he said.

"Letís go then," Rita said.

 

Perinot Park was a gorgeous plot of land along the West End of Palm Beach. It had no prime beachfront land, but the park was beautifully landscaped with trees, young and old, shrubbery and flowers that bloomed yearlong. The park was donated and named in honor of Wilfred Perinot, a shipping tycoon who had spent most of his life residing in a huge mansion that still resided on the park property. Today it was a museum, operated by state park officials.

Chris and Rita found a spot to park their car and proceeded down the walking/running trail to where Lindsey Nielsenís body had been found.

"I love coming out here to run," Rita began as they hoofed down the winding trail. "Itís really peaceful, not too many people take advantage of this park, probably because thereís no ocean to look at."

"Yeah, well, all the women ARE on the beach you know," Chris said smirking.

"Yeah, and thatís exactly why I come here, to avoid all you testosterone overloads," she said laughing.

They came upon the spot where Lindsey Nielsen had begun her fatal descent. The area was still roped off with police tape. Chris held up the tape for Rita to climb under, then followed her down to the spot where the body had been found.

"So, she gets shot from behind while sheís jogging along, and immediately is fatally wounded, sliding down this incline, landing here," Chris said, gesturing up toward the path.

"That works, but weíll have to confirm it with the ballistic report," Rita said, leaning down and checking the area. "Iíd say she had to be dead by the time she landed, either that or she was knocked unconscious from the fall. Thereís no sign of movement anywhere around where the body was found. No signs of a struggle, and according to your notes, these footprints belong to the two men who found her."

Chris nodded. "Letís head up and check the angle or direction from where the shot might have come from," he said, helping Rita back up the incline.

They got back to the top of the trail and began focusing on the area to the rear of where Lindsey had been jogging. Fifty yards away was a stand of pine trees, beyond that was a clearing, that was often times used as a soccer field. Before they did any more speculating, theyíd need to see the coronerís report.

 

"So howís the happy little Mother these days?" Chris pushed open the doors to the morgue and called out to Diana.

"Hi ya Chris," Diana replied, "Iím doing just fine, how Ďbout you?" she asked.

"Doing just fine, D, doing just fine," he answered as Rita came in behind him.

"Hi Diana," Rita said.

Diana looked a little surprised by seeing the two of them there together. "Well, what have we here? Lance and Lorenzo ride again?"

Rita chuckled, "Something like that," she answered.

"Then I imagine youíre here on business and not for pleasure," Diana started.

Chris nodded, "What can you tell us about the Nielsen case?"

"Oooh, you two just jump right back in huh? This one is nasty. Whoever killed her knew exactly what they were doing and who they were aiming for," Diana explained.

"And just how do you know that D?" Chris asked.

"The shot was fired from extremely long range, the slug we pulled out is one of these new, high density, chemically altered grutolonium alloys," Diana began.

"Come again," Chris said.

Diana laughed, "I know, it sounds like something out of Superman right? But it is a real alloy, I had to call in Dr. Hennessy from the state crime lab to confirm the results. You donít buy these bullets at Trader Jackís if you know what I mean," she said.

"So can you put an estimate on the distance?" Rita wondered.

Diana turned a little to look at Rita. "Could be up to more than 500 yards," she stated matter of factly.

"Five hundred yards? Thatís five football fields?" Rita exclaimed. "How can you be so sure?"

"From the pattern in the back of her head and the slight damage to the core of the bullet. Thatís one great thing about grutolonium, itís very accurate," she said, "and the bullet stays almost in tact."

"If you want to call that great, itís just another way to kill someone," Rita said sadly.

"Listen, is there anything else you two need right now? Iím supposed to meet Tre for an appointment with Daniel," Diana said.

"No, not right now, weíll be in touch, thanks D," Chris said.

"Yeah, thanks Diana, weíll talk to you soon," Rita said.

 

"Mr. Nielsen, Iím Sergeant Lorenzo and this is Lieutenant Lance, may we speak with you and your wife for a few minutes please?" Chris asked as the elderly gentleman opened the door to the two detectives.

"Yes, yes Sergeant, weíve kind of been expecting that youíd be coming back. You indicated that to us yesterday. Please, come in," he said, allowing them to enter his home.

"Sir, weíre very sorry about your daughter, we just have a few questions for you, it might help us with our investigation," Rita said as she entered into their living room.

"Please sit down, let me get my wife," he said. "Weíll help you in any way we can, itís just been very hard for us," he said, his voice drifting off.

"We understand, Mr. Nielsen, thank you for your cooperation and your time," Chris added as he and Rita both sat down.

He left the room for a few minutes and Rita and Chris gazed around the room. This family was strictly middle class. The home was in a modest neighborhood and their home was adequately furnished. It was pleasant and very average. Why would anyone want to kill their daughter? They both wondered.

Mr. Nielsen came back with his wife. They sat across from Chris and Rita, on a loveseat. Mr. Nielsen kept his arm around his wife the whole time. "Sergeant Lorenzo, right?" Mrs. Nielsen asked.

"Yes maíam," Chris said with a little smile and a nod.

"You resemble Lindseyís fiancé," she began with a smile of her own, "perhaps itís just your hair color and the blue eyes," she added.

Rita thought Mrs. Nielsenís comment was a bit strange, she filed it away for the future for now. Maybe it just was a distraught Motherís comments.

Chris smiled again, this time with compassion in his eyes, "Mrs. Nielsen, Iím very sorry about Lindsey," he paused while she nodded, "so Lindsey was engaged?" he added.

"Yes, she and Jay were going to be married next summer. Theyíd been planning the wedding night and day," she explained.

"Mrs. Nielsen, what is Jayís last name?" Rita asked, taking down some notes.

"Jay Acren," she said, puzzled, "surely you donít think he had anything to do with this."

"Probably not, maíam, but we need to check out every lead and everyone that Lindsey came into contact with," Rita replied. "Jay may know or remember something that would help."

"I see," Mrs. Nielsen said, calming down.

"I just donít know whoíd want to murder our daughter, detectives. She was just an average person. She didnít take drugs. I donít think anyone hated her," Mr. Nielsen said.

"Did she have a job sir?" Chris asked.

"Yes, she graduated from Florida State about seven years ago and had a degree in accounting. She worked for DeSchmidt and Associates, for nearly five years already. She balanced the books for a lot of Palm Beach businesses. She worked in an office, behind a computer for crying out loud. She was a nameless face to most people," he added.

"Had she mentioned to you that anyone was following her or was she receiving prank phone calls?" Rita asked.

"Not that she told us about," Mrs. Nielsen chimed in. "Everything was wonderful, she was happy, looking forward to life. Thatís why I donít understand," she put her head down.

Chris glanced over at Rita and she made eye contact with him. That was enough questions for the Nielsenís for right now. They both got up from their chairs.

"Weíll keep investigating and see what we can come up with," Chris said, pulling out a card to hand to Mr. Nielsen, "if you think of anything else, please call me. Weíll be in touch," he said, shaking hands with Mr. Nielsen.

"Thank you," Mr. Nielsen replied.

 

"Ok Sam, first impression?" Chris asked Rita as they walked out of the Nielsen house.

"Hhmmm, well, if this woman was into anything covert, she never let on to her parents. Theyíre like Ozzie and Harriet," Rita stated.

"Yeah, thatís the same thought I had. So where to from here? The boyfriend or the job?" Chris asked

"Letís try the job first, weíll save this clone of yours for last," Rita said.

"Clone?" Chris said sarcastically, "No oneís as good lookiní as me!" he answered her.

Rita shook her head and laughed as they got into the car and headed for DeSchmidt and Associates.

There was nothing new in any information they got from the accounting firm. Lindsey Nielsen worked alone on most projects or with one or two other accountants, if the situation warranted it. Her boss had nothing buy high praise for her work, noting that she had been commended three times in the past six months, for going above and beyond the call of duty. Her clients were businesses, Rita and Chris noted the names and the contacts, just in case they had to do any further checking. However, her clients, like her employer all gave her high praise. Nothing about her life at DeSchmidt and Associates was out of the ordinary. They still had no reason why anyone would want to kill her. Theyíd save the fiancé for the next day. An important engagement awaited both of them on this particular evening.

 

"Aw, Sam, do we both have to go to this?" Chris whined from the bedroom as Rita headed into the bathroom.

"Donít even think Iím doing this alone," Rita called out as she turned on the shower.

Chris groaned to himself and sat down on the edge of the bed. "I hate this!" he yelled back, knowing that she probably couldnít hear him.

She did though, she came back and stood in the doorway, "I know you donít want to do this, but we have too, Iím nervous about it too!"

He turned suddenly to see her standing there. "Maybe we can just elope and have Judge Whatley marry us, sheís always been pretty nice to us," he said, his eyes pleading.

She tilted her head a little to tell him no. "Iíll be there with you," she said.

"Well, whatís he gonna ask us anyway?" he said.

"I donít know Chris, Iíve never been married before either, remember?" she asked. He scowled his face. "Itís a meeting Chris, thatís all, itís not a test, there are no right or wrong answers. Ok?"

"Yeah," he mumbled.

He watched her turn and head back into the bathroom. A grin lit up on his face. He rose up off the bed and followed her. She was already behind the shower door, standing under the hot stream of water. He watched her through the glass for a minute and stripped down and slid the door open. She turned around and asked. "What took you so long, Mr. Lorenzo?"

He slid his arms around her and kissed her lips, "I hate it that you know exactly what Iím gonna do, before I do it," he murmured against her lips.

"Does it drive you mad?" she said, with a grin of her own. Her eyes locking with his.

"Everything about you drives me mad," he said, inching closer and closer, stealing another kiss.

"You know, we donít have a lot of time for this," she said, sliding her soapy hands along his back.

"Believe me Sam, thereís always time for this," he said, feasting along her neck and throat. Rita edged closer to him as well. She didnít reply at all. That surprised him. "Sammy?" he stopped mid-embrace, preparing himself for her to tell him to stop.

"I said we didnít have much time, I didnít say we had to stop," she said breathlessly, as she snaked one of her hands around to his chest and swirled around with her soapy fingertips. Her head ducked down and began to kiss the same area. He let his head fall back a bit and let out a contented sigh as she cast her spell over him.

His wet hands skimmed her thighs and buttocks, tenderly squeezing the area. She reached behind him and grabbed the soap. Her other hand snaked behind as well as she lathered them up together and began soaping up and down his back, lazily at first, then with more intensity, one hand worked higher and one worked lower. Her right hand moved on his muscular back and up toward his shoulders and neck, while the left found his butt and thighs. The right hand came around to the front and began to soap his chest, the left sought out his stomach. She felt it tremble underneath her touch. His eyes eagerly anticipated the moment when she cupped him in her hands.

Minutes went by before he reached back and found the soap, "my turn," he nearly whispered, as her tender stroking of him continued. She kissed his chest lightly as he turned the soap into lather in his hands. He nearly knelt down in front of her as he started at her feet and ankles and moved to her calves and thighs, gently and slowly going between them and around to her bottom. As he rose up higher, onto to her stomach, he circled around the area with his fingertips ever so lightly. His mouth followed, he couldnít resist, he had to have her soon. Rita felt a heat surge through her body and as Chris began to soap and trail around and on her breasts. She felt weak-kneed and leaned in closer to him, as he cupped them both in his own hands and gazed up to look at her face. He stood back up straight and maintained the gaze all the while. Using only his fingertips, he ran them around, plucking at the hardening tips, then finally palming them both in his loving hands, over and over, around and around. She tipped her head back urging him to continue. He bent down and began to kiss them, but soon her hands framed his head and she lifted it up to meet with hers. His body pressed against hers, he moved her backwards under the full spray of the water, it quickly rinsed off the soap on both of them. They remained locked in a kiss, with Chrisí tongue plunging deeply into her mouth, again and again. She felt the cool, wet tile behind her and slid against it, as Chris raised her arms over her head and stroked at them with his own hands. The hot water pounded on his back, he ignored it as he reached down and lifted one of her legs tightly against his hip, stroking the slippery skin of it up and down. His arousal was pounding.

Her arms came down and clasped around him and she breathed, "Chris, now, please." She helped guide him inside and slowly he pushed in, full and hot. His head tucked down on her chest, feasting on a breast, nibbling at it and running his tongue over it again and again, his hands stroking the sides of her, her thighs and bottom, sweeping up and over her breasts yet again. Back up to her mouth, he went with his own. She clutched him closely. Together they began to find a rhythm, moving together with every thrust he made. They held onto each other tightly, her breasts crushing against his chest, their breathing intensifying, building toward an intense, electrifying climaxÖ.

Coming back to earth, he held her closely, nuzzling along her neck. He started to laugh.

"Whatís so funny?" she asked.

"We have to go see a minister now, Sammy," he said out of breath. "I really donít think I can do this now," he laughed again.

"Yes you can, and yes you will," she said, grabbing his chin to make him look at her. He groaned a little. "Think of it this way, the sooner we go, the sooner we get it over with," she replied.

"Isnít it kind of sacrilegious to think like that?" he asked, still tenderly kissing her moist skin, "especially after this?"

"I think youíre avoiding it, thatís what I think," she said, reaching for the shower door. She moved out, grabbing for a towel, leaving him standing there to drip dry.

 

The Most Reverend Milton Carpenter held the door open for both of them to enter. He was a slightly graying, middle-aged man, with a round face and icy blue eyes. Chris immediately went about apologizing for being late. The Reverendís expression didnít change at all. He merely nodded and showed them into his study.

"So, I believe Miss Lance, that you told me that youíll be getting married on February the 13th, is that correct?" he began.

"Please, call me Rita, and yes, thatís what weíre planning for, weíve got St. Bartholomewís reserved for both the ceremony and the reception. So, I guess first of all, will you be able to perform the ceremony there?" she asked.

"Yes absolutely, that wonít be a problem. Itís a beautiful church, Iíve been there a few times before," he replied, noticing that Chris was nervously scanning the room. "Mr. Lorenzo, please, relax," he added, "thereís nothing to be worried about."

Chris quickly turned his attention back to the minister and to Rita, "Iím sorry," he said with a shy grin. "This is all new to me, Iím not sure what to expect."

"Thereís no need to keep apologizing, Chris is it?" the Reverend asked.

"Yes sir," Chris nodded.

"This is the first marriage for both of you?" he asked, with the first hint of a smile.

"Yes," Rita quickly chimed in as Chris nodded.

The minister laughed a little and instantly put them both a little bit at ease. Rita sat back in the chair she was in. Chris glanced over at her and grabbed her hand. Her eyes met his for a brief moment and she squeezed his hand in return.

"Youíre not here to be turned down," he began, "basically, I just want to get to know you both a little better. Would either of you like some coffee?" he asked, standing up, poised to pour himself some.

"Iíd love some," Rita replied.

"Ah, none for me, thanks," Chris said.

"So how did the two of you meet?" he asked them.

"We work together," Chris said, beginning to open up, "partners actually. Weíre Police Officers," he added.

"Patrol?" the Reverend wondered, impressed.

"No, homicide detectives," Rita chimed in, "for nearly six and a half years now."

"And youíve dated all that time?" he asked surprised, handing Rita her coffee.

Chris laughed, "No, not exactly. See the department has a no dating policy for partners, and we respected that for many years. And after years of dating other people, well, we just realized that what we both really wanted was each other, Reverend. Weíve been the best of friends all along, sometimes it seemed like we almost were married. But now, weíre sure, we know we love each and weíre ready to become husband and wife."

"And youíre still partners? Does the Department know?" the minister asked.

"Yeah they know now and officially weíre not partners, Iím Chrisí boss. I was promoted to Lieutenant a few months back, so Iím actually the supervisor, but we do work together on cases from time to time still," Rita explained.

"And howís that working out Chris, any problems?" Carpenter asked.

"None at all!" he said, grinning at Rita, "sheís the best supervisor Iíve ever had. And I think if we were to have problems, weíd be able to work them out. Our communication is getting better all the time. We know we have to talk to each other, work at things together. It's whatís made us good partners all along."

Ritaís face broke out into a smile as she watched Chris explain things. "Would you agree Rita?" the Reverend asked her.

She nodded, "yeah, yeah I would," she turned toward Carpenter, "we have had a few minor setbacks, but looking back now, I agree with Chris, we know we canít shut ourselves off from each other, we need to talk and get things out. Weíre learning to try to keep work and work and our home life separate. It doesnít always work, but we know what weíre up against. And Chris has actually helped me become a good supervisor, I respect his opinions and value his input."

"So how long have you technically been dating now?" he asked.

"About a year," Rita said, "weíve been engaged for nearly seven months. We kinda fought our feelings for a long time, even in the last year. We didnít want to jeopardize our jobs and more importantly our friendship. We wanted to be sure."

"And youíre sure now?" he asked. They both nodded. He paused and they anxiously awaited his words. "Chris, can you define love for me?" he continued.

Chris chuckled and looked toward Rita for some help. Ritaís eyes told him that he was on his own. "She told me this wasnít gonna be a test," he half-grinned.

"Itís not Chris, I just would like to hear what you think love is," the Reverend said, giving him a warm smile.

Chris got very serious. "Love is the best thing in the world. Itís not just a feeling or something you say or how to act, itís how you should live, itís what should always be in your heart." He looked down at the floor, then to Rita, "I think Rita is love." He shook his head, a bit confused, "I may not be able to define it right, but I know that because she loves me, Iím a much better person. Maybe thatís how it should be for everyone," he shrugged. "If all I had was her, that would be enough. I wish everyone could know how this feels and experience it just like I do."

"Thatís beautiful Chris," Rita said to him. The minister smiled at them both.

"Rita, what does marriage mean to you?" the Reverend asked her. She turned away from Chris and made eye contact with Carpenter.

"I think marriage is a deeply sacred institution. Itís a very personal vow and promise between two people. Itís the biggest commitment of all and it should be made after a great deal of thought and discussion. For Chris and I, itís an extension of our life so far. We both know weíre ready," she explained.

The Reverend wasnít commenting on their responses or taking notes, he simply seemed to be continuing on his own agenda. "Rita, can you describe Chrisí character to me?"

Rita smiled. "This is harder than a test," she chuckled. Chris leaned back in the chair, briefly breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that she had to answer this one first. She looked directly at him and began to speak. "Chris is kind and gentle, his heart is so full of love. Heís so patient and understanding. Heís funny and smart and heís got a boyish kind of charm about him. Heís taught me to not be quite so serious all the time," she said with a grin. "Heís my best friend, the man I want to share my life with."

"Ok, Chris, what about Rita?" the Reverend asked him.

Chris immediately began to answer, "Ritaís a very caring person, her heart is so huge. Sheís beautiful, through and through. Sheís compassionate and smart, persistent, she never stops, she never stops caring. Sheís strong in spirit and open-minded. Iíve learned a lot from her, mostly how to love and how to care. Sheís my life."

Reverend Carpenter smiled at them both. "Now, Iím going to give you a little assignment, I want you to think about the opposite now, something or things that drive you a little crazy about the other, and I donít mean something petty like snoring. I want you to discuss it at home sometime before we meet again. Get it out in the open so to speak, will you both do that?" he asked them. "I usually donít do it like this, we generally discuss it here, but I think the two of you are mature enough to do it on your own, ok?"

They looked at each other and shrugged and nodded their approval.

"Then youíve got some decisions to make. About the service, that is. Iíll give you some booklets and some sheets on what types of things youíll need to decide upon, like the readings and the vows, the music, etc," he said getting up and grabbing a armful of materials for them.

"Looks like we not only had a test, now weíve got homework too," Chris laughed.

"You both strike me as two people who want this to be a special day, am I right?" he asked them as they both got up.

Rita nodded. "Yes, we do."

"This is where and how we make that happen," he said to them. "God bless you both, weíll see you again on the 22nd, ok?"

"Thank you Reverend," Chris said shaking his hand.

 

They walked out silently to the car parked outside the Reverendís house. Chris opened the door for Rita and closed it as she settled in. He came around to the other side of the Jeep and got in. He glanced over at Rita who was already paging through some of the material that Reverend Carpenter had given them. He started the Jeep and began to drive home.

The rest of the evening was rather quiet. Chris went outside to the patio and decided to star gaze for awhile with his Christmas telescope, while Rita fixed herself a cup of tea, sat inside the living room and kept on reading the booklets that they were given. She wrote down notes and ideaís as she skimmed through the pages. Chris on the other hand, seemed to be searching the heavens for some meaning. As hard as he tried thinking about Reverend Carpenterís Ďhomeworkí assignment, there really wasnít anything about Rita that bothered him, at least nothing he could think of at the moment. He was busy focusing in on the moon, filling the eyepiece with the three-quarter full sphere when Rita slid open the patio door and came up behind him, giving him a feathery kiss on his earlobe. He smiled as he felt the moistness and stood up straight, turning to get a glimpse of her smiling at him in return.

"So do you have the whole service planned yet?" he asked, knowing that sheíd been going through all the material.

"You wish," she said. She plunked down on a patio chair as he remained standing. He stretched his arms skyward and worked out some kinks.

"Well, youíve got to have a good start on it, whatíd ya come up with so far?" he asked.

"Iíve just been reading, thatís all. I wouldnít decide anything without you, you know that," she exclaimed. "I do have a question for you though," she said, raising her eyebrows.

"Uh oh, what? I donít like the sound of this. Is it gonna cost me money?" he asked, paranoia setting in.

"Itís nothing like that," she giggled. "I was reading through the section on vows, you know, where I say, I, Rita Lee Lance take you Christopher something Lorenzo," she stopped and waited for him to nod.

"Yeah, so?" he said.

"Well, I donít know what your middle name is," she said.

He scratched his head, "I donít have one," he said without missing a beat.

She watched him in disbelief, "everyone has a middle name Chris," she said, "it canít be that bad, come on?"

"Iím serious Rita, I donít have one, never did, youíre gonna end up marrying just plain Ďol Christopher Lorenzo. Does that bother you?" he asked.

She scrutinized his response closely. "Youíre lying to me, I can tell."

"Why would I lie to you?" He laughed a little and went back to his telescope, content to ignore her, her initial question and now, her silent glare.

"Chris?" she said, now surprised by his response. She leaned forward in the chair waiting to see or hear his next move. "What is it? Elmer? Vern? Zaslow?"

"Wanna take a look at this moon?" he asked.

"No, I donít want too, I want to know what your middle name is. Like itís any worse than Lee?" she said.

He turned back around. "Ok, hereís the deal, I had one when I was born, but itís been eliminated from all my records, by me. Youíll never find out, because it officially doesnít exist any longer," he explained.

She let out a laugh. "You donít really expect me to believe any of this do you? Iíll just call Benny or Ana, theyíll tell me, you know they will."

"No, they wonít. They know how I feel. Iíve gone over this with them many times, in fact as recently as last month at Thanksgiving," he said with an eerie seriousness to his voice.

She stood up and went over by him. "Chris, Iím gonna be your wife, Iíve told you all kinds of things, why canít you tell me this, I promise I wonít laugh. How bad can it possibly be?"

"Ah, yes you would, and thatís why you or anyone else will never know. Take me as Christopher Lorenzo, or donít take me at all. Thatís your choice," he said with a grin.

"Well, I guess Iíll take you as Christopher Lorenzo for now, but Iím gonna find out, I wasnít made a detective for nothing you know," she said pinching him in his side.

"No you wonít," he answered, wincing from her tickle.

"Is that a challenge?" she said.

"No, itís a fact," he answered. The phone started to ring, they could both hear it from the screened patio door. "Saved by the bell," Chris said as he headed inside to answer it. He grinned at her all the while as he went inside and even as he picked up the portable phone off the kitchen counter. "Yeah Lorenzo," he said. "Yeah, Cap. No, we got back here about an hour or so ago. No, I didnít check the messages. Sure, yeah, we can both be there in about twenty minutes. Ok, see ya soon. Bye," he said hanging up. By now Rita had come inside and she stood waiting for him to finish the conversation. "Weíve got a DB. Cap tried calling us earlier. I guess Treís baby is sick and Geoffís babysitting his brood right now, so that leaves you and me to bat Sam," Chris explained.

"What exactly do we have?" she asked.

"Older lady, her housekeeper found her, her nameís Sara Simeon," he said.

"The author?" Rita asked.

"Author of what?" Chris had no idea what she was talking about.

"She writes romance novels with a mystery twist," Rita said, "if itís the same woman, that is."

"Letís go find out," Chris replied.

 

Cap was on the scene when they arrived. He was talking to some uniformed officers. "Hey Cap, what have we got?" Rita asked, walking up to him.

"Sara Simeon, age 51, looks like she was strangled," he said, nodding to the patrol cops and walking into the house with Chris and Rita.

"Sheís an author right?" Rita asked as they moved up the steps into the mansion.

"Yeah, thatís right Lance, howíd you know?" he asked.

"Iíve read most of her books, I think Fran has too," she explained. "Her books are classics."

"The housekeeper found her a few hours ago, looks like a back window was broken to gain entry, apparently she didnít have the alarm system triggered. Doesnít look like a robbery though, according to the housekeeper, nothingís out of place," Cap said.

"Sounds like youíve got everything under control Cap, I guess Iíll go back home," Chris said jokingly.

"Uh, uh, no way, Lorenzo, letís call this a hand-off. You two hot shots can take it from here," Cap began. "I tell ya, the homicide department expands to two additional officers and Iím still the one who gets dragged out in the middle of the night. Iím supposed to be the Captain, remember?" he lamented.

Rita put her arm around his shoulder. "Sorry Cap, us youngsters are all busy with our swinging lives, you know. Weíll take it from here though, thanks."

"Yeah, Iím headed home to Fran. Sheís got some new video she wants me watch. Iím not exactly sure what she has in mind," he said, turning to leave.

"Be careful Cap," Chris offered his advice.

"Yeah, thanks Lorenzo," Cap said, nodding and exiting the house.

Chris looked at Rita and shook his head and laughed. "The things those two do, I tell ya Sammy, it makes me wonder whatís in store for us," he said.

"Yeah, I know what ya mean. Come on, letís go talk to the housekeeper," Rita replied.

 

The housekeeper proved to be no real help, she had merely found the body and every time she started to talk about Sara Simeon, she broke into hysterical tears. Chris and Rita couldnít understand a thing she said.

The cause of death did indeed look like a strangulation, someone had most likely broken into the house, snuck up on Ms. Simeon from behind and used a thin rope or covered wire to snuff the life out of her.

The lab boys were busy dusting for fingerprints and going over the home with a fine-tooth comb, looking for any evidence that might be useful.

Ms. Simeon was single, she had no known visible relatives. Chris and Rita would talk to her editor and publisher in the morning. For tonight, their work was through.

 

The next morning at work, the homicide department was hopping. Tre and Geoff were hot on the trail of a suspect in the Marshall case. They seemed to be hitting it off well as a team. Geoff was busy giving Tre insights to Fatherhood, while Tre was teaching Geoff the ins and outs of being a detective. It was a match made in heaven. They were locked in conversation when Rita walked through the palm tree doors first.

"I thought you shouldnít hold Ďem all the time," Tre was saying.

"Thatís true to a point Tre, but if the baby is colicky, they need to be held and rocked. It makes them feel better, understand?" Geoff explained.

"Man, I spent three hours on the Internet last night, sifting through all kinds of useless stuff. And every so called expert had a different idea," Tre said. "I shoulda just called you."

"Hey you guys, how is everyone?" Rita said, going to pour herself a cup of coffee.

"Morning Rita," Geoff said, "weíre discussing the trials and tribulations of Parenthood, bet you canít wait, can you?"

She gave Geoff a sarcastic look, "Oh, I think I can," she said, as Chris came walking through. Her expression changed to a smile, "for a little while longer, anyway," she added.

"Whatís a little while longer?" Chris asked.

"Parenthood," Tre blurted out.

Chris looked at Rita and grinned, "Sam, is there something youíre not telling me?"

"I promise, Chris, youíll be the second one to know," she said with a warm smile. "So where are you guys on the Marshall case?" she asked Geoff and Tre.

"We think weíre on to something, thanks to Tre," Geoff began. "He figured out that Marshall couldnít have died on the porch, it just didnít fit with the whole story from the secretary. We went back and checked the site and sure enough, we found some scuff marks where he must have been dragged. Weíre running samples from the bedroom, we think Marshall and the secretary may have been having an affair. The bed sheets are in the lab right now.

"You think petite Ms. Waters dragged that 250 pound man, Opie?" Chris asked.

Tre stepped in, "that petite Ms. Waters can bench press nearly 400 pounds. She was Ms. Muscle last year. I thought you kept up on those magazines man?"

"Me?" Chris asked, "Iím soon to be a married man, why would I need to read that?" he said.

"Sounds like you two do have a suspect, keep me posted ok?" Rita said, heading into her office. Chris hung around Tre and Geoff for awhile longer.

"So, you two missed another DB last night, what was going on?" Chris said.

"Joey was up all night, Dianaís sick too, that left me in charge at home, sorry," Tre said.

"And Connie was out at some sit down dinner thing for the magazine she writes for, we couldnít find a sitter," Geoff explained, "whatís up?"

"Sara Simeon, the author, was murdered, strangled actually," Chris began.

"Hey, I think Connie knows her, she writes romance novels right?" Geoff asked.

"Yeah, thatís what Iíve been told," Chris said.

"Any leads yet Chris," Tre wondered.

"Not really, so if you guys can finish up that Marshall thing, Rita and I would really appreciate the help, we still are nowhere on the Nielsen case," Chris said, "and weíre trying to plan this wedding too."

"Weíll do our best, Chris. Weíd hate to see you not be able to plan a wedding. Thatís definitely more important than solving crime, right? Letís go Op," Tre said as the two of them headed to the lab.

They both looked at him at laughed as they walked out.

Cap came out of his office searching for a cup of coffee and seeing the interplay between the three of them. "Whatsa matter Lorenzo? Nobodyís got any sympathy for you these days huh?" he said as he poured a cup.

"I wasnít looking for sympathy Cap, just a little bit of help with the workload. You gotta admit, three outstanding homicides in January is a bit unusual," Chris said, following him over to the coffee table.

"Any connections?" Cap asked.

Chris shook his head, "No, theyíre all different, nothing similar at all. I guess itís a good thing Tre and Geoff are around."

"So how are the wedding plans coming along?" Cap shifted gears.

"We met with the minister last night," Chris began.

"Well, how did it go?" Cap prodded.

"Ok, I guess. You know he asks ya all sorts of personal stuff. I feel like Iíve been personally invaded," Chris explained.

"Itís just so he gets to know you," Cap said.

"Yeah, thatís what he said, but it was just weird, you know? Now Rita was reading stuff all night long. She wants us to write our own vows. Like I have time for that," Chris said.

"Listen kid, you make time, this is important, and itís important to Rita," Cap said.

"I know, Iíll do it, but I donít necessarily have to like it," he added.

Cap smiled and laughed. "You guys got anything on the Simeon case yet?"

"Weíre waiting for the lab guys to give us their reports and then we want to go meet with the editor and the publisher. Other than that, weíre dead in the water. Sheís got no family, no real friends, but her computer. I donít think it was random, but right now, weíve got no leads," Chris said, drinking down some coffee.

"Whatís Lance working on this morning?" he asked, noticing she was in her office with the door closed.

"She said she needed to get you some numbers for an updated budget. Weíre gonna hook up about 10:30am and do some interviews. Iím gonna head down to the lab now," Chris replied.

"Sounds good, Iíll talk to you later," Cap said, heading over to Ritaís office, leaving Chris to work on his own.

Chris watched him enter and heard Ritaís voice welcome him in. The door closed behind Cap. He stared at the closed door for a few moments. He kept telling everyone including himself, that it didnít bother him, that she was promoted, but every time he stood on the outside of her closed door, it ate away at him, little by little. He shook it off for now and went about his work.

 

Chris finished up his work and headed home, Rita stayed at the office, still crunching some numbers. She came home a few hours later to find him out in the garage plummeting away at his heavy bag. She carried in a bag of groceries and went outside to greet him.

"That actually looks like fun tonight," she began, as he turned to see her standing there with her hands on her hips, "maybe I should let you teach me how to do it properly sometime," she said.

He grinned at her and kept up the rhythm he had started. "Anytime, Sam," he exhaled. "Itís great for taking out your aggressions," he said. She walked over to the workbench and turned down the sound on a portable CD player he had on, belting out some Neil Young songs.

"Are you upset about something?" she asked.

"No, not really, itís just exercise tonight," he said, continuing his workout.

"I thought you might use the time to go over some of the material that Reverend Carpenter gave us," she said, watching him closely.

"Who," he smashed his hand into the bag, "said," another hit, "I," followed by his left, "havenít?" he finished with a flourish and added a grin which he flashed in her direction.

"So is it ok if we each write our own vows? Thereís a help section in one of the books if you get stumped, did you see it?" she asked.

"Iím game to try it and yeah I saw that part, Iím sure Iíll need to utilize it," he said, ending his array of punches for the time being as he came closer to her and kissing her cheek lightly before grabbing a bottle of water and taking a long drink.

"Youíre sure?" she asked.

He shook his head in agreement as little droplets of perspiration flew off of him. "Absolutely."

"And are you gonna tell me your middle name?" she tried to slip in.

"Nice try Sammy! No, Iím not," he said, setting the water back down and heading back to the bag.

"I looked up your birth records," she said, trying to goat him.

"I know," he answered.

"And I called your parents," she added.

"I know that too," he said.

"I still have a few more places to check," she said.

"I told you to give it up, youíre not gonna find out," he said. "Oh, by the way, thereís already a wedding gift inside, I didnít open it, I thought Iíd wait for you," he changed the subject.

"A wedding gift? Already?" she repeated.

He nodded, "yeah, and thereís no return address on it, but I figured weíd open it together. We did send the invitations, so I guess itís not a surprise that someone sent something so early," he said.

"Iím excited now, how much longer will you be?" she asked, going into the house.

"Maybe another fifteen minutes or so," he replied.

"Iíll start some dinner," she said, heading back inside.

 

He came out of the bathroom, showered and shaved, wearing some black shorts and a white T-shirt. His nose caught the aroma of some beef stew as he walked down the hallway toward the kitchen.

"I hope you donít mind leftovers," Rita was saying as she dished out some stew into bowls for both of them. "As usual, Franny gave us enough for a lifetime," she added.

"This is fine," he said, grabbing her into a hug, as she placed the pan back on the stove. She turned into his embrace. She took a deep breath of his fresh scent and cuddled close against his warm body. He rubbed her back.

"I made a salad and some biscuits too," she said, still engulfed in his arms. Neither one of them was in a hurry to sit down and eat.

Chris was the first one to break away. "So, did you open the gift?" he asked.

"No," she grinned, as they both sat down, "I told you Iíd wait, weíll open it together."

"Itís not ticking is it?" he asked, digging in to his stew.

She gave him the look, "No, itís not. Besides, I donít think many of our criminal arrests even know weíre getting married."

"Never underestimate the criminal mind Sam," Chris said.

Rita had heard enough, she went into the living room and plucked the box up off the table and brought it into the kitchen. She set it between them. "Letís open it then and find out," she said.

They both ripped off the brown outside paper, to reveal wedding paper covering the box underneath. They ripped that off next.

"Someone obviously likes to wrap," Chris commented. The box itself was not heavy, in fact it was rather light, for as large as it was. It nearly fit on half their kitchen table. The box was heavily taped. Chris went to a drawer and pulled out a bladed knife and sawed open along the top. The inside was filled with wrapping peanuts that spilled onto the table and floor as they both searched for what was inside. They dug to the bottom and found that there was nothing in the box. They both began to wonder.

 

 

A few days had passed. Both the Nielsen case and the Simeon case were at a standstill. The Marshall case was being wrapped up by Geoff and Tre, which meant that the two of them could take over on the Simeon case, while Chris and Rita stayed with the death of Lindsey Nielsen. It was mid-afternoon when dispatch called them with another DB. Chris and Rita were hashing over their notes in her office when the call came in. A man in his forties was discovered in his office at work. It had the outward appearance of a suicide, but officers on the scene had noticed some things that led them to believe that it wasnít, but rather, made to look like one.

The Brunner office complex was a new high rise dedicated to banking and stock market professionals. Albert Thomas Kinzie worked in an office on the seventh floor. His wrists had been slit, but one of the officers had noticed a deep bruise on the right shoulder of Mr. Kinzie. They carefully checked the other shoulder, not to tamper with any evidence. What they saw was almost the exact bruise on the other shoulder. They surmised that Kinzieís wristís had been slit and then he had been held down until he died. Chris and Rita were impressed by the good work that the officers had down. They agreed with the proposed evidence and checked over the rest of the crime scene. Aside from the pools of blood on the floor, underneath the chair where the body was found, nothing was out of place. Theyíd wait to get Dianaís report.

They arrived back at the station and Cap immediately greeted them anxiously and called them into his office. Tre and Geoff already sat in there waiting for Chris and Rita to join them.

"Cap, whatís up?" Rita said, putting out her hand to help her ask the question.

Chris followed her in and closed the door behind him. "Wow, full house huh?" he noted.

"Sit down you two," Cap said, taking off his glasses and walking around to sit in his chair. They sat next to each other on the couch. Tre and Geoff occupied the chairs opposite Harry.

"Whatís the latest one?" Cap asked Chris and Rita.

"Albert Thomas Kinzie, 43, at first it looked like a suicide, his wrists were cut, but weíve found evidence of murder, some deep bruising on his shoulders. It looks like he was held down while he died," Chris explained. Geoff and Tre listened intently.

"Cap, whatís going on?" Rita asked.

"Iíve got the brass biting at my heels, they wanna know if these latest three are all tied together," he threw out to the four of them.

Chris shook his head, "itís too early to tell Cap, weíve just started muddling through witnesses."

"I agree Cap, thereís nothing yet thatís jumping out at us," Rita added.

"All three have been so different in cause of death too," Tre added, "there hasnít been anything at the scenes thatís suggested a serial."

"What about you Morgan, what are you thinking?" Cap asked Geoff. Geoff sat there quietly.

"What about it Op?" Chris asked, surprised by his silence, "you got something?"

He finally shook his head, "Nah, just a gut feeling, I guess," he said. "It could be a serial, but I donít have real evidence, no," he said, putting his head down.

"Alright, listen here, you four need to stay tight on these. There could be a connection, we just havenít found it yet. Three dead victims in less than six days," Harry began shaking his head, "we canít let this get out of control people, do we all agree?"

They all nodded.

 

Chris was busy hauling the extra boxes of his and Ritaís out to the garage or up in the attic. They were finally getting around to cleaning out their third Ďspareí room. Rita was packing stuff up into boxes and closing them up tight. Chris came back inside, looking slightly exhausted. He slid down alongside the wall in a heap, close to where Rita was working. "Youíre not tired already, are you?" she asked, not even bothering to look in his direction. She had seen him slink down the wall and sit on the floor.

"Who me? Iím a slave for your love!" he exclaimed with a grin, grabbing her around her calf , causing her to tumble onto his lap.

"Chris!" she said, a bit surprised.

"Rita!" he answered back, wrapping his arms around her and planting a kiss on her that rocked her to her toes.

"A slave huh?" she asked, breaking away breathlessly.

"Whatever you want me to be, howís that?" he said softly, brushing his lips across hers, attempting to reach back in for another kiss. She teasingly avoided him at first, but then, she willingly accepted him and deepened the kiss on impact. They enjoyed a few minutes of passion.

Rita broke off again, "how are your vows coming along?" she asked, brushing her thumb along his chin.

"Ughhh," he groaned a little, "I really am your slave huh? Chris do this, Chris do that," he chuckled. "Is that all you can think about right now?" he asked, hoping his passion for her was what she was interested in at the moment.

"Well, you could tell me your middle name then," she persisted.

He simply stared at her.

She knew he wouldnít tell her. "Iím serious about the vows Chris, how are yours coming?" she said.

He released her a little from his grasp and exhaled. "Theyíre fine, how are yours," he answered seriously.

"Ok," she grinned.

"AndÖ." He prodded, knowing something else was on her mind.

"Have you given any thought to our Ďhomeworkí assignment?" she asked, pursing her lips together.

"You mean, what I donít like about you?" he asked, "how about the nagging?" he joked.

"Funny," she said and quietly added, "have you?"

"Maybe," he said with a smile. "What about you?"

"Maybe," she said, glaring right into his blue eyes.

"We could play this game forever," he said, his eyes sparkling.

Rita took a deep breath, "well, whatís so hard about it?" she asked Chris as well as herself. "We should just get it out in the open right?" she added trying to convince herself.

"Yeah, we should," Chris said, breaking eye contact with her.

She laughed a little, "What is so hard about this? You go first, itís ok, you wonít hurt my feelings, I promise," she said, appearing to toughen up before his eyes.

"Youíre sure?" he asked.

She nodded, "lay it on me!"

"Ok, now remember, itís not bad, it just kinda bothers me from time to time," he said, still not making eye contact.

"Just say it Chris," she said lifting his chin.

"Sometimes I think youíre too independent. Youíve got some walls that just wonít break down. I get the feeling, at times," he emphasized at times, "that you just want to rely on yourself, you shut me out," he said, watching her closely for any reaction.

She was quiet.

"See," he said a bit sadly, he knew he had hurt her feelings. "Rita, itís not all the time and itís not that big of a deal, itís part of who you are, thatís all, understand," he asked, "I can live with it, not a problem," he added. "It just bothers me sometimes and I start to think that maybe you donít need me," he added softly.

She still didnít respond, but she moved slowly in his grasp, beckoning him to hold her closer. He wanted to tell her right then and there that he loved her reaction. It was very reassuring to him, it made him love her even more. He felt her response right away and drew her closer and laid his cheek right next to hers, he brushed against her tender, warm skin. His hand sought out one of her hands, she welcomed it. He played his thumb back and forth across the back of her hand.

They sat this way for quite a while, finally Chris said quietly, "now that Iíve hurt your feelings, why donít you hurt mine?"

He could tell that her face had turned upward into a smile, from the muscles moving in her cheek. It pushed along side his face. He smiled in return.

"You didnít hurt my feelings," she began, "Chris, I need you more than Iíve ever needed anyone. I canít even imagine not having you by my side. I love you. If anything, I feel bad that you think I donít need you," she said, kissing his cheek. "Youíre actually gonna laugh when you hear mine," she said.

"Spit it out then, letís get this over with," he said, turning his head so that his lips swept her cheek, leaving butterfly kisses in its wake.

"I think you tend to be overprotective of me at times, both at work and here at home," she started.

He loosened up his grip on her almost immediately and let his head fall away so that he could look into her face.

"You are kidding me right?" he said, a bit shocked by her admission. "How can I possibly be overprotective when youíre so damn independent? You all but drive me away sometimes."

Now it was her time to explain. "No, Iím not kidding you," she paused, "Chris, Iím an adult, a police Lieutenant for crying out loud, I am licensed to carry a gun, I know self-defense inside and out. You donít always have to," she chuckled, "take the bullet for me, so to speak," she added. "And you always have to do everything around the house. Whether itís fixing something or cooking something, or hauling boxes around. It drives me crazy sometimes," she motioned by letting her hand sail around the room. "You hardly ever let me do anything, and Iím not helpless."

"Youíre not only my partner Sam, youíre my best friend and youíre gonna be my wife, I donít take that lightly. I would do anything for you, including take a bullet," he said with serious intent. "I donít think loving you is being overprotective," he added. "And if you want to cook, go ahead, Iíll just get used to eating burnt food," he laughingly joked.

She smiled at him warmly, "I know you love me and I love that you do, all Iím saying is that sometimes you go a little overboard. It can be smothering and Iím not used to that. Itís who I am Chris."

He shook his head, there was no need to argue, deep down they knew they both were right about the other, but they now had had the discussion and some new issues were out on the table before them. It was would be up to both of them to remember how the other felt and to try to act accordingly. That would be the hardest part. They sat against the wall in silence, neither one wanting to say anything, neither wanting to move either.

"Couldnít you have said something like ĎChris leaves the lid up or whatever," Chris said, trying to lighten the mood.

"But you donít," she began, "usually! That would have been a lie. We have to be honest, and it was supposed to be about something important, not something petty."

"Well, I could have said that you making the bed every day bothers me," Chris replied.

"It does?" she asked.

He began to inch his way closer to her lips, "you," he said, delivering a feather light kiss to her lips, "never know when youíre gonna," he reached in with a little more force, "need to use the bed during the day," he said, finally losing himself completely to her. She gave in as well.

 

Geoff and Rita searched through the pages and files of notes they had on the three most recent unsolved homicides, while Tre and Chris tried to make headway with the reports from the labs. They looked for anything that would tie the murders together. The three deaths had varied so greatly that it was going to be extremely difficult to find one piece that may connect them all.

"D, you got anything, anything at all that can tie the three of these together," Chris began, almost begging, "any skin tissue, blood, hair, fabric, anything?" he pleaded. Tre sat on the top of a desk laughing as Chris was acting out his histrionic outburst.

"I havenít found anything yet Chris," Diana said, pushing him off to the side, so she could have a closer look at victim number two, Sara Simeon. "Your only real chance is with Simeon and Kinzie. Lindsey Nielsen was covered from head to toe with grass, dirt, gravel and whatever else she tumbled through, poor girl," Diana said.

"But there still could be something there," Chris reasoned. "Maybe the killer came down and made sure she was dead, did anyone do a print check at the scene?" he asked to either.

"Chris," Diana began, "you know the odds are stacked against getting prints off a body. Youíre more likely to find a needle in a haystack." Diana continued to check over Sara Simeonís body. Chris wore a look of frustration on his face.

"Hey, Chris," Tre said bouncing off the desk, with his notepad flipped open, "it looks like officers at the scene lifted one from her neck. According to the notes, part of it was smeared, but the platelet of it is down in evidence. Iíll go run it and see if we come up with anything," he said. He walked over to Diana and gave her a searing kiss and quickly exited. "Keep up the good work, baby," he said to her.

Diana stood stunned momentarily, "Whew, I hate it when he does that to me," she said, shaking the cobwebs from her head.

"I bet you do," Chris said with a grin. "So D, tell me, howís everything? I havenít had much time to check up on you lately."

"Excuse me? Check up on me? What are you my Dad?" she said laughing.

"No, Iím just a concerned friend. Is there anything wrong with that?" he began, "why donít people want to be cared for anymore?" he said, throwing Diana for a loop.

"Where did that come from?" she wondered aloud, "I love being cared for. I was teasing you."

"Well, then let me care for you," he said, "soooooo?"

She looked at him with a puzzled look. "No, I think you first. Whatís up? Ritaís not letting you take care of her or what?"

Chris cleared his throat and glanced away from her.

Diana didnít back down, she walked over by him and tapped him on the shoulder, "excuse me, whatís going on? Tell Dr. D all about it."

"Dr. D? Thatís cute, cute," he mumbled turning to face her. "You gotta promise not to tell Rita," he said. "Sheíd kill me if she knew I was telling you this, itís supposed to be personal."

"I promise," she said with a laugh.

"She thinks Iím overprotective," he blurted out.

"You?" Diana said sarcastically. "Hmmm, letís see, wasnít that you that insisted she shouldnít go undercover a few weeks back when Vice needed her for a night?"

"ButÖ" he tried to say.

"And what did you tell her when she wanted to go to the parole hearing for Sal Buglio?" she continued.

"You know that was up in Tallahassee," he tried to reason.

"Do you really want me to continue? Sheís right, you are!" Diana said.

"Whose side are you on anyway?" Chris said.

"Both of your sides. Face it Chris, if the biggest thing that comes between the two of you is that youíre overprotective and sheís too independent, well, Iíd say itís a marriage thatíll last forever," Diana said.

Chris stood dumbfounded. "She told you?" he asked.

Diana knew she was caught. She nodded, "yes, she told me, sheís my friend too. Does it bother you?"

"No, I guess not," he said.

"Listen, Iíll tell you what I told her, you two are a match made in heaven. You know weíve all known it was going to happen for years. No one can understand what took the two of you so long. Just deal with it Chris, itís not a bad thing, you just have to learn to handle it, so both of you can live it."

"Howíd you get so smart?" he asked.

"Well, letís see, itís been nearly two months of marriage and parenthood now, Iím an expert right?" she said.

He grinned, "So you guys are alright?"

"Yeah, weíre great. Chris, Tre is the best thing that ever happened to me. Heís a good man. He just lost his way for a bit. And Joeyís doing so well. You guys need to see him soon, heís becoming a rolly, polly little handful," Diana said.

"So youíre happy?" Chris asked.

"Chris, Iím more than happy. Really, I am. Itís not always easy, but I wouldnít trade it for anything," she said smiling broadly.

"Good, Iím glad," he said, walking over to her and giving her a hug.

"Ooooh, first Tre lays a kiss on me that sends me to the millennium and now a hug from you. A girl can only be so lucky," she said, releasing from his grasp.

"Iíd say the girl has it all," Chris replied smiling.

"Me too," she added, "me too!"

 

Geoff and Rita got more frustrated by the minute. They were busy pasting together suspects and motives on a dry erase board when Chris came sauntering in to Ritaís office.

"You two solve anything yet?" he asked.

"No, what about you guys and whereís Tre?" Rita asked.

"Well, weíre working on the physical evidence side of things. Dianaís checking the bodies for the usual, hair, blood, skin, fabric. Weíre hoping to get lucky," Chris explained, looking over their board.

"And what about Tre, whereís he?" Rita asked again.

"Apparently the officers on the scene of Lindsey Nielsenís murder got a partial body print. Tre went down to run it, to see what we could come up with," Chris said, trying to follow the lines that Rita and Geoff were trying to connect. "What about you guys? Or are you just playing tic tac toe up here?"

"Weíre coming up with zilch. These three have no connections that we can find. They are all from opposite ends of the spectrum. They ran in totally different circles, different social classes. I donít see a connection at all. I think weíve just got three separate homicides," Rita said.

Chris noticed that Geoff wasnít saying anything. He continued to study the board.

"What is it Op? Whatta ya thinking?" Chris asked him. He didnít say anything at first, he was still deep in thought. "Op? Whatta got?"

He got up from the chair he sat in and went to stand closer to the board. "What if the connection isnít between these people, but rather itís leading to someone or something. Maybe these people are the clues so to speak," Geoff began.

"Iím not sure Iím following Geoff," Chris said, intrigued by this young detective.

"Iím saying that maybe the killer is leading us to someone ultimately, and these victims are the clues," he said.

"So, what youíre saying is thereís something in each one of these people that will tie to a specific personís death?" Rita questioned.

"Thatís exactly what Iím saying. Itís far fetched I know, but call it a gut feeling, I donít know, but I just think weíre being led somewhere on this. Youíre right, these people have nothing in common whatsoever, but maybe they all share one common thing with the ultimate victim," Geoff said.

"Thatís twisted," Chris said laughing, "youíve been watching too many late shows, Op. You need some rest."

"Now, come on, wait a minute Chris, Geoff could be on to something. I think we should give Daniel a call and see if he can lend us some insight into someoneís head," Rita said, giving Geoff a nod and a smile.

"Sure, letís try, why not, weíre not getting anywhere the way weíre headed are we?" Chris said.

"Ok, good, why donít the two of you take care of that, and Iíll work on my monthly reports for a bit alright?" Rita said.

"Weíre on it," Geoff said, exiting her office, his enthusiasm bubbling over.

Chris looked at her and rolled his eyes, "Why do I always get the babysitting gig?" he asked.

"Itís cuz youíre so good at it Christopher," Rita began, "and youíre not babysitting, youíre working on a case.

"It feels like Iím babysitting," he moped.

"Well, whatever gets you through it," Rita said, "Iíll pay you later for services rendered," she added.

He raised his eyebrows as he stood in the doorway, "Really?" he asked.

"Get going," she said, shaking her head.

 

Geoff hurried Chris along to Danielís office. He was way beyond excited to be able to share his theory with the doctor. Chris still was thinking it was a bit far-fetched. But it was worth a try. A homicide cop had to be open to just about any idea.

Daniel was finishing up with a patient, so Chris and Geoff took seats in the outer office and waited.

"Howís the wedding plans coming along?" Geoff asked Chris.

"Real good, I think everythingís about in place. Weíre going through the wedding classes now with the minister," he replied.

"So how did you define love?" Geoff asked laughing.

Chris had to start laughing too. "You had to go through it too huh?"

"Yeah, that class never really changes. You do know that if you make it through the sessions, your marriage will be a piece of cake. Itís a fact," he said, nodding his agreement, "if you drop out of the classes, youíre doomed for divorce. Iíve read some articles on that," Geoff explained.

"Get out," Chris said, not believing him. Fortunately for both of them they didnít have to discuss it any further, Daniel came out and greeted them.

"Ah, Officer Morgan and Sergeant Lorenzo, this must be business huh? Come on in to my office fellas," Daniel said, leading the way. They followed him and he closed the door behind them. "Whatís up guys?"

"We need you to maybe profile a possible serial killer for us," Chris began. "Geoff here has a theory that our latest three homicides might be related."

"How so Geoff?" Daniel asked, taking notes.

"Well, could someone actually be murdering people, who have no connections, but have something in common with one ultimate victim?" Geoff put forth.

Daniel stopped writing and tapped his pen on the notepad. "You mean like a riddle, maybe heís painting a picture for you block by block?"

"Exactly," Geoff said with a smile. He was happy that Daniel understood the concept.

"Itís absolutely entirely possible," Daniel said.

"What can you tell us about someone who might be doing this?" Chris asked, now becoming more intrigued by the whole idea.

"Itís obviously someone who thinks that he or she can out smart a lot of people. They feel they know more than anyone else," he began.

"So itís a game for them?" Geoff asked.

"Not really, itís very real, very serious to them. They thrive on the challenge of one upping someone. They feel that not many people can. And they may even try to make the scenario more challenging to themselves by being sloppy and perhaps leave some clues along the way, if you seem to be falling behind," Daniel said. "You havenít found anything yet though have you?"

Chris shook his head. "No. Every murder is totally different. Thereís no connection between any of the victims, nothing left at the scene," Chris said.

"So the killer knows what theyíre doing, maybe heíll have to bring it down a notch," Daniel said.

"That means another victim," Geoff said sadly.

"It could be, unless you can figure it out before that happens," Daniel answered. The phone on Danielís desk began to ring. "Excuse me," he said to Chris and Geoff. He picked up the phone. "Yes, sure, Iíll tell them, ok, thank you," he said, hanging up the phone. "That was for you guys. Thereís another victim. A 64 year old man, the address is 1201 Park Avenue," Daniel said.

Chris and Geoff got up quickly. "Thanks Daniel, we may be back to discuss this some more," Geoff said, shaking Danielís hand.

"Iíll be here," he said. "Hey, Chris, before you go, when are we going for the fitting on those baby blue tuxes?" he said.

"Two weeks from Saturday, and theyíre not baby blue, trust me, ok, and theyíre not Duke blue either," he added.

"Hmmm, Michigan blue?" he asked.

"Traditional black alright?" Chris called back from the doorway, "Iíll call you ok?"

"What did you say? 41 points huh?" Daniel kidded him, referencing the Duke-Michigan score from the college basketball game.

"I said as long as I can beat you on the court, thatís all that matters," Chris said, pausing to attempt to get in the last word with his friend.

"You keep believing that," Daniel said, with Chris out of earshot.

 

Rita was on the scene at 1201 Park Avenue, where some vagrants had found the body of an elderly gentleman. The manís wife was worried when he didnít return from a walk. She called the police and they had found him in a back alley nearly two miles from his home. Paramedicís were called but Calvin Odoms was dead at the scene. The body was partially hidden behind a dumpster. It didnít appear to be a heart attack, then the paramedics noticed a huge gash and wound to the back of Odoms head. This was definitely another homicide.

"Whatta we got Sam?" Chris said, walking up to her for her initial assessment. Geoff walked over to check the body.

"I hate to say this, but it could be victim number four. And itís getting weirder by the minute," she said quietly. A hoard of reporters and photographers were beginning to huddle around. "This guy follows the same three block walking route every day, and itís through his neighborhood," she accentuated, "he doesnít belong here. Someone dumped him. Iíve got a crew going door to door in the three block area, checking to see if anyone saw him get picked up or something," Rita said.

"I heard over the radio that it was a blunt object to the back of the head?" Geoff said, walking up to Chris and Rita.

"Yeah, maybe a bat, the wound is huge," Rita said. "From what Iíve heard, this guy is a teddy bear. He volunteers at the Senior Center, delivers meals on wheels to shut-ins, and tutors to underprivileged kids three days a week. His nickname is Grandpa," she said, shaking her head in despair. "Why would someone want to kill him?"

"Any robbery involved? Maybe itís not connected," Chris interjected, hoping for a separate case.

"No, his wallet is still in his back pocket. A hundred thirty dollars is in there too, he was going to buy the kids pizza this afternoon. His wife is hysterical. Her doctor gave her a sedative," Rita said. "Sheíll be out of it for today."

"Lieutenant, weíve dusted the area and have the pictures we need, are you through with the body?" an officer asked her.

"Yeah, you can have the coroner take it," she said, walking back toward her car. The reporters immediately were in her face with microphones and cameraís.

"Lieutenant, can you tell us if this is victim number four?" one of them shouted at her as a cameraman came up in her face.

"No comment right now, excuse me," she said, now surrounded. Chris noticed it and told Geoff to stay on the scene. He went to Ritaís side to help her move through the mob.

"Lieutenant, is it true that there is a serial killer here in Palm Beach?" another asked.

Rita glared at the reporter. "No comment, please, let me through." She felt someoneís hand grab her arm and was just about to turn and slug someone, when she noticed it was Chris, pushing them both through the crowd. It took them several minutes and several more Ďno commentsí to get to their car. Inside the atmosphere was even colder.

"Why did you do that?" Rita finally asked as she started driving the car.

"Do what?" he asked, not thinking twice about getting her away from the swarm.

"Feel the need to lead me out of the reporters?" she answered.

"Cuz there were nearly thirty of them and only one of you," he replied, he still wasnít catching her drift.

"We just went over this, I donít need a body guard," she said angrily.

"I thought maybe you needed a partner," he fired right back.

"Well youíre technically not either, remember?" she replied hotly.

He stared at her. She knew he was, even though she kept her eyes on the road ahead of her. He finally turned away and looked out the side window. He made no comment. What would be the point, he thought?

"Look, Iím sorry," she said. He didnít turn back. "Chris, Iím sorry, I didnít mean it. Iím angry and upset and I took it out on you. I should be thanking you for doing what you did and getting me out of there before I did or said something Iíd regret," she said.

He shifted his head and made brief eye contact with her. "Really?" he asked. "Cuz I was gonna apologize, cuz youíre right. I saw the mob and just thought I needed to get you outta there. I donít know why I do that," he said.

"Apology accepted, ok?" she said with a hint of a smile.

He nodded. "So where are we going?"

"I think we both need a break," she said.

 

They ditched their shoes in the car and walked down close to the shoreline. The beach was nearly deserted. The weather on this particular day was not conducive to beachgoerís. The temperature was only in the 60ís and the sky was overcast. Seagulls loomed above them, swooping and lunging in search of food.

"Are we here to talk about the cases or to take our minds completely off of work?" Chris asked, knowing that Rita always used the beach to sort out her thoughts.

She grabbed his arm between her arms and hugged it. He smiled and placed a kiss in her hair.

"Well?" he asked again.

"Canít we just hold on to each other and forget everything?" she asked in return.

"For awhile or forever?" he asked.

"That would be the former," she said, "though the latter has some definite merit too."

He pulled his arm from her grasp and wrapped it instead around her shoulder, keeping her close to his body.

After nearly walking a mile, Rita started to talk. "This is really beginning to scare me Chris," she began.

"What, us getting married or these homicides?" he said, unsure of where she was heading.

"The homicides!" she said, "why would you think the wedding?"

"I just want to make sure weíre on the same wavelength, thatís all," he said. "And with your comments in the car, well, I guess I wanted to make sure. Iím really sorry I did that back there."

"Chris, are you unsure about the wedding?" she asked.

He stopped the both of them from walking and turned to face her. Their eyes met and locked. "No, Iím not unsure, Iíve been sure for nearly a year. Iím not nervous, in fact I plain Ďol canít wait till the day comes when you will be my wife and I will be your husband. Ok?" he said, shaking his head affirmatively.

"I feel the same way," she said, setting her head to rest on his chest.

"And so, Rita Lee Lance, why are these homicides beginning to scare you?" he asked, holding her close for a little while longer. "Weíve had serial cases before," he added.

"Are you sure itís a serial?" she asked him, breaking the hug, they started to walk again, this time holding hands.

He laughed. "Iím not sure of anything right now, thereís no connections, every murder has been different. None of the victims have any tie to the others. Maybe all the freaks have been let loose on our fine streets," Chris said.

"Geoffís idea scares me too. I mean, if itís leading to someone, how are we ever gone figure out who? The clues are endless right now. These people were all so different, where do we start to decide what the clues are and whatís gonna add up to complete the picture?" she rambled.

"Hey, we donít know this yet," Chris began. "Itís only been a week. This is gonna take some time," Chris tried to reassure her. "It might not even be a serial, remember?"

"Well, how many people are gonna keep being killed Chris. Weíve got four deaths already," she said with passion.

He interrupted her. "Thereís no reason to loose our heads over this. We gotta stay focused, keep our cool. And not just for the reporters, but for Tre and Geoff, theyíre learning from the example we set. We can get through this, weíve had tougher assignments," Chris said.

She smiled as they headed back up to the car. "I know, I know youíre right, thatís why I wanted to come down here, to sort it out and clear my head."

"Hmmm, really? I thought you just wanted to be alone with me?" he said, giving her a grin.

 

Back at the station, things had not improved. The hoard of reporters had moved from the scene of the crime to the departmentís media hall. They waited impatiently for a debriefing into the death of the latest victim. Rita and Chris strode right into the middle of the chaos. Harry was trying to be diplomatic and was failing miserably at it. He spotted Rita and motioned for her to come up to the podium. She reluctantly moved forward, past the group, falling in beside Harry. Chris stood in the back of the large media room and watched. Rita looked calm and collected. Hopefully the walk on the beach had helped.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is Lieutenant Rita Lance, an eleven year veteran on the force and also the officer in charge of these recent homicides," Harry was introducing her to the reporters.

"Lieutenant Lance, are these four victims, the work of a serial killer?" one young woman asked her.

"We have no evidence yet that suggests a serial killer, but we are keeping the idea in the back of our heads for no. Weíre not ruling anything out yet," she directly answered.

"Is there some kind of a pattern?" another asked.

"Not that weíve determined as of yet, thatís why weíre still investigating them as individual homicides," she said.

"Well, what about the safety of the citizens of Palm Beach? Is there some killer running loose just killing people?" an elderly reporter asked.

"Ted, you know better than that," Rita said, patronizing the seasoned reporter, "the citizens of Palm Beach are safe. At any time, you should be cautious, try not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, watch out for anything out of the ordinary and so forth. The city is safe," she reiterated.

"How many officers are working on these cases?" another asked.

"We have four regularly assigned officers in homicide and weíre in the process of getting some additional help from the department. Weíre putting in a lot of time on this. We want to solve these cases and bring the suspect or suspects to court," she said.

"Has there been any artist rendering or sketch of a suspect or suspects?" a reporter shouted from the back of the room.

"No, not yet. If anyone has seen anything suspicious, as usual, we ask you to come forward and give us a hand," Rita said. She closed by adding, "Thank you for coming," she said, following Harry off to a side room.

The reporters milled around, some did stand-ups or closers, and then the room finally cleared out. Chris stayed in the back, watching for anything or anyone suspicious. He didnít see anything, except for Daniel, who stood near the other corner, apparently looking for the same thing.

Chris walked over to him. "Daniel, youíd make one hell of a detective, you know?"

"Iíll take that as a compliment, I think," he began, "but, I love my office chair a little too much to give it up for leaning against a wall, looking for weirdoís. Did you spot anything unusual?" he asked Chris.

"No, I know most of these journalists, didnít see anyone out of place, what about you?" he asked.

"Nah, but it was worth a try, right. Your guyís gonna slip up pretty soon," he added.

"You keep saying guy Daniel, whyís that?" Chris asked him.

Daniel chuckled, "No reason, I suppose it could be a woman, though the methods of murder seem to me to indicate male. I guess itís merely a hunch."

"Why do you think heís gonna slip up?" Chris asked.

Daniel paused, "Well, he wants someone to play with him so to speak. And if you guys keep getting too far behind, well, trust me, I think youíre due to find something that will click."

"I just hope itís not another body," Chris said.

"We all hope the same thing Chris," Daniel added.

 

Rita was busy in the squad room, getting updates from Tre and Geoff, when Chris walked in. She glanced up and made eye contact with him and motioned for him to come over and hear the latest.

"Whatís up?" he said, joining the threesome.

"The lab guys are still working on that print off of Lindsey Nielsen, theyíve been running it statewide so for without turning anything up, now theyíve started running a nationwide check. Keep your fingers crossed, maybe weíll get lucky," Tre said.

"Yeah, but itís still not gonna tie us to the other victims," Geoff interjected.

"Maybe because theyíre not related, one way!" Tre shot back at Geoff, getting a bit upset with Geoffís serial theory.

"My theory is valid and plausible Tre, itís our job to figure it out, or are you waiting for something to just fall in your lap," Geoff replied, not backing down from Treís mean spirited comments.

"Hey, thatís enough," Rita said, raising her voice, Chris held back, this was her territory here as the supervisor and he knew she could easily handle this outburst. "We" she began, circling to the four of them, "are on the same side remember? We have to work together. Everyone here knows what their job is and what it takes to do it. Is that understood?" she asked.

Tre nodded, "yes maíam." He turned to Geoff, "Sorry man, Iím just frustrated, I feel like weíre loosing the battle here," he explained.

"Yeah, I know, I apologize too, you could be right, maybe theyíre not related," Geoff said.

Chris grinned at the three of them. "There, there, now donít we all feel a whole lot better boys and girls?" he asked.

"Iíd feel a whole lot better if these cases were solved," Geoff said.

"Listen, itís getting late, weíre all beat, letís all call it night, weíll start fresh in the morning ok?" Rita said.

Geoff and Tre nodded and packed up and left for the night. Rita went back to her office and Chris shut down his laptop and went into her office.

"You ready?" he asked.

"Uh, Chris, Iíve got some paperwork to catch up on, Iíll see you at home later ok?" she asked.

"No, not ok, you need some rest just like the rest of us, come on, the paperwork will still be here in the morning," he said.

She didnít budge, "Chris, Iím serious, some of this stuff was due back to the Chief over a week ago," she said, burying herself in the stacks on her desk.

"Whatís more important, some signatures or solving four homicides?" he asked.

"The four homicides," she replied, foiled by his logic again.

"So donít you think the Chief will understand if itís another week before he gets his paperwork?" Chris asked.

She sighed and shook her head, "well, I have to do payroll," she said.

"Let me help then, two heads are better than one," he said, pulling a chair close to her desk. The two of them worked for about another hour and a half.

They walked out to the parking ramp and Chris unlocked the passenger door for her and closed it behind her. He walked around to the driverís side and began to drive home.

"Oh, hey, I talked to Howie, and heís all set with ĎJohn Doeí to play at the reception. Isnít that great?" Chris said.

"Yeah," Rita said softly.

He scowled his face and briefly turned to get a look at her. "You donít sound to excited, I thought you liked his band?" Chris asked.

"Hm? What? Yeah, I like it fine, thatís wonderful, Iím glad theyíll be able to play," she said, absently.

"Can we forget about work for awhile?" he began, "letís talk about the wedding alright?" he continued, "this is Chris the fiancé talking here, not Chris the subordinate."

"Chris, Iím really tired, do we have to?" she asked, with a sigh.

"Sure," he said, "I just hate to see you letting this eat away at you."

"Iíll be ok," she said and paused, "itís these serial cases, they just get at me. Theyíre so intense, so ravaging, life after life snuffed out. Itís a race against the clock, I hate it. Iím so angry," she said, running her hand through her hair. "Thank you Chris the subordinate and Chris the fiancé for being so understanding," she chuckled at his positive demeanor.

"Itís such a waste, youíre right," he said, reaching his hand over to rub her leg. "And Iím here for you, always, in whatever role."

"I know. And youíre right too, letís talk about the wedding," she said, "or even better, the honeymoon. I picked up the plane tickets yesterday," she said.

"And youíre first telling me now!" he said surprised. "What? Were you gonna go without me?" he asked.

"Not hardly. I wanted to surprise you, but weíve been so swamped, now seemed like a good time though!" she replied. "And I got the accommodations all set too, all confirmed, everything is all set," she said with a smile, taking his hand into hers and giving it a gentle squeeze.

"Sam, that is terrific, can you believe it? TWELVE days in Hawaii, just you and me, aaaahhh, I canít wait," his grin lit up inside of the Jeep.

"So, youíre happy we went with Hawaii?" she said.

"Sammy, Iíd go anywhere with you, but believe me, from what Iíve heard, Hawaii will be awesome," he said.

"Youíre gonna do a lot of sight seeing then?" she teased.

"Oh, Iíll be seeing the sights, believe me, Iíll be seeing them," he replied. He kept grinning for awhile. "I still need to make plans for our wedding night," he started.

"Chris, we can just go home, itís ok," she said.

"Home? No way! Weíre doing this wedding up right, cuz this is the only time weíll ever do it. Iíll take care of it, donít you worry about a thing, just be prepared for the best night of your life," he said.

"The best?" she giggled.

"Yeah, the best, the beginning of many, endless, timeless, sensational moments that we will have as husband and wife," he said.

She grinned at his enthusiasm, "I love you so much."

"I love you too," he answered.

 

Another day meant another murder. Early in the morning, during rush hour, an Palm Beach traffic cop had been killed in a hit and run accident. Chris and Rita were awakened by a call from Harry.

"Yeah, Lorenzo," Chris said, the sleep still in his voice. He breathed deeply and began to raise himself up. Rita stirred beside him. "Yeah Cap, another one? Who? "Whereíd it happen?" Ritaís eyes opened and she saw Chris on the phone. She snuggled closer to him, still nearly asleep herself, draping her arm across his stomach, she rubbed tenderly, settling against him. He smiled down at her and put his arm around her.

"Who is it?" she asked.

He covered his hand over the receiver and mouthed the word ĎCap.í She slowly slid up the T-shirt he wore to reveal his stomach. She kissed it lightly, again and again. He raised his eyebrows. Oh, what her touch did to him, he could barely concentrate on hearing the rest of Capís words.

"Yeah, ummhmm," he said, trying to pay attention to Cap. Did Harry have any idea what was going on? He certainly hoped not. "Ah, yeah, great," Chris said, having double meaning to both Harry and Rita. Tre and Geoff were on the scene already, so Chris and Rita could get the details from them later. And Rita was now swirling her tongue around his navel. Chris closed his eyes. "Ok Cap, weíll be in later," he said, fumbling for the hang up button and dropping the phone out of his hand, letting it bang on the floor.

"What did Harry want?" she said, murmuring against the warm, sensitive skin of his belly.

"Nothing near as important as this," he said, taking his hands and reaching for her head. He brought her face up to his and began to kiss her passionately. For awhile, it was a good morning.

 

Tre and Geoff were busy going over facts and getting together any new evidence when Chris and Rita walked into the office. "Good morning, guys," Rita said, trying to keep an upbeat demeanor in the face of chaos. "Follow me and bring me up to speed," Rita said, beckoning them into her office.

They all followed her and Tre began to speak. "Well the latest is Officer Maria Lamar. Sheís a four-year veteran of the force, working traffic for the last two years or so. Spotless record, her Dad and brother are cops, down in Lauderdale, guess it ran in the family. Sheís single," Tre said, perusing his notes.

Geoff continued, "she was working at 4th and Center this morning, they have some construction going on and she was keeping the early rush traffic moving. A new model SUV came out of virtually no where, according to some witnesses, who decided to stick around," Geoff said with disdain in his voice, "and smashed into her, Diana says she was dead on impact. The SUV just kept on going."

"Do we have an tag on the vehicle?" Rita asked.

"Partial," Tre said, "weíre waiting for the millions of matches now. Everyoneís driving these things," he said a bit angrily.

"Did you put out an APB on it?" Chris asked.

Geoff nodded, "Right away, no oneís spotted it though. The description is dark green, not sure if itís a Jeep or a Chevy or a Ford," he added.

"Or a Dodge or a Mercury or a Honda," Tre said, still upset.

"Tre, weíll figure it out, come on," Geoff said.

Tre rubbed his eyes, "Yeah, I know. Itís just, well, I knew Maria pretty well, she was a wonderful lady, I just donít understand how she could fit in to all this," he said.

"None of us do, Tre, but weíll figure it out, I promise," Rita. "And maybe itís a hit and run with no connection."

"I canít understand with all the people around there, we only have a handful of witnesses," Geoff began, "thatís what makes me mad," he said.

"Why donít the two of you work that angle for awhile," Chris said, "head back down there and talk to who ever is around. You never know, right?"

"Geoff, why donít you do that?" Tre said, "Iím still working on this print, the lab said theyíd have something this morning."

"Ok, good, letís get busy. I want to get these solved, weíve had enough murders for awhile," Rita said. Geoff and Tre exited. Chris began to talk to Rita.

"Iím gonna go back and start with Diana, from the beginning, maybe weíre missing something there," he started.

Rita nodded, "yeah, I think Iíll go see Daniel, he might be the only one who can really help us out on this. If this is a serial, we have to find him soon, heís killing everyday now," she said, frustrated.

Cap walked in, "Iíve got some detectives coming in from Narco and Vice to help, Iím gonna put them on sorting through the witness accounts, to see if thereís some sort of connection that we might be missing. And the FBI is beginning to sniff around, just thought youíd like to know," Harry said, remarkably calm.

"Thatís just what we need Cap, someone else in our faces, arenít the reporters enough?" Rita said.

"Settle down Lance, thereís no use in getting upset now, theyíre already in town and thereís nothing we can do about it," Harry said.

"Cap, you ok?" Chris asked, seeing Harry remain rather sedate.

"Yeah, Lorenzo, Iím fine, thereís five dead victims in what less than ten days, how should I react?" Harry said as his voice was rising.

"Sorry, Cap, weíre working on it," Chris said, quickly exiting, leaving Rita and Cap to continue discussing the cases.

"Are we making any headway Rita?" he asked her.

Ritaís eyes told the whole story. "I wish I could say we were Cap, but nothing fits, nothingís connecting and the bodies just keep piling up. We are working on it, day and night, I promise," she said, grabbing some files off her desk. "Iím going down to see Daniel. He may be the only one who can really help us here."

"Thatís just what we need Lance, a shrink solving homicides," Harry said, "whatíll be next?"

"Cap, try to calm back down, weíll figure it out," she said, touching his shoulder as she walked out the door.

 

Rita paced around Danielís office, picking up books or pictures and glancing at them and setting them back down as quickly as she picked them up. Daniel sat calmly in his desk chair.

"Rita, youíre making me nervous here, just watching you. Sit down ok?" he finally said, after seeing enough.

She spun around and saw him smiling. "God, Iím sorry Daniel. Iím turning into a basket case over this. Everything is totally out of control. I keep telling myself to stick to the basics, but then another victim turns up and everything gets flipped around," she said, still standing.

"Rita, please sit down," he said, now rising himself, motioning for her to sit.

"I donít think I could sit on youíre sofa, so to speak Daniel," she said.

"Why not? Are we discussing you or the cases?" he asked.

She stared at him for a moment and shook her head, "this isnít about the wedding Daniel," she said.

"Did I say it was?" he said.

"What are you saying?" she said.

"Iím saying that you seem upset, I think itís about the case and about you in some way so letís get that out in the open first, then we can move to the profile," he said.

"You know, you are too good for this," she began, "and I really hate that you know me so well," she added.

"Itís a benefit and a curse, what can I say? Either way, I want to help. So come on, talk, spill out, why is this case getting to you. Whatís going on in that pretty little head of yours?" Daniel said.

"Itís not about the wedding," she said again.

"And I believe you, I know you guys are fine," he said with a smile.

Rita finally walked over and sat down on the couch. "I hate serial cases," she began.

"Why?" Daniel asked. "Lack of control, Miss Lance?"

"Maybe, but itís no different from any other homicide. For awhile itís always about lack of control," she said.

"So itís a time factor thing? Too long of a lack of control and it starts getting to you?" Daniel threw out.

"No, Iíve had my share of unsolved homicides," she answered. "I donít dwell on them."

"Youíre not working with me here, Rita," Daniel said, lowering his voice.

She chuckled and then got serious. "Itís been three years since the last serial case I worked on," she began.

"Yeah, go on," he prodded.

"Chris almost died," she finally said it.

"Ok, thereís the answer, now back up just a bit and give me the story?" he said.

"Itís complicated Daniel, it was the worst time ever in my life. He got shot by this woman who was crazy, then while all that was going on, we were in the midst of a serial killing. He nearly died, I almost lost him then. I knew I couldnít loose him then and I couldnít tell him how I really felt then either. I was so alone. Then it got worse. The killings continued, we both got ourselves involved in terrible relationships. It had to be the worst time of my life," she sighed.

"So whatta ya think it has to do with this case?" Daniel asked.

"I donít know, maybe itís just a feeling, maybe itís just bringing up the past. I just guess I associate it with the last one and I donít ever want to go there again," she said.

"Is there anything else perhaps?" Daniel asked.

"Iím not sure Iím following you," she replied.

"Rita, you said Chris almost died, thatís gotta have more of an effect on you than youíre admitting too, donít you see?" Daniel explained.

ĎYou think I think the same thing is gonna happen again?" she said, slowly choosing her words.

"You said it, not me. Maybe you do. Maybe admitting to that feeling can get you past it," he said. "Thereís no doubt itís whatís eating at you and until you can get past it, itíll always be there."

"And maybe itíll just eat away at me more," she said.

Daniel nodded. "Have you mentioned any of this to Chris?" he asked.

"No," she said.

"Tactful!" he paused. Maybe you should, you know, you two are the best medicine for each other," Daniel replied. "Does he know how you felt back then yet?"

"Yeah, weíve talked about that, he felt the same way. We both just ignored it," she explained.

"I recommend that you talk to him, soon," he said, leaning forward in his chair, to help emphasize his point, "are you listening?"

"Yeah, I guess it makes sense," she said, taking a deep breath, "how can someoneís mind be so complicated?" she asked rhetorically. "I mean that was three years ago already."

"Do you want the clinical answer or Dr. Melís glib response?" he said getting up.

"Oh by all means, Dr. Melís glibness, please?" Rita said, also standing up.

"We thrive on it, complications that is, the more the merrier, and the more chaotic it gets the better," he said.

Thatís very comforting," Rita said with a hint of sarcasm, "maybe you should have told me the clinical answer."

"Take it from me, the clinical answer is just a bunch of long winded Latin words," he said, heading back to his desk, "letís talk about this profile now," he said.

"Whatís your gut feeling Daniel?" she asked, sitting in the chair across from him now.

"As weird as it sounds, I think it is a serial Rita, donít you agree?" he answered.

"Yeah, I do, but how are we gonna find anything, if this pattern continues on. Everything has been different, there are no connections between the victims. Itís like a random, serial killer," Rita said, "We donít know what to expect next."

"No, youíre wrong there. There is a pattern, there is some connection, you just havenít found it yet, I think youíre missing something. Maybe itís not about the people, but something about each one that ties them to the ultimate victim," Daniel said.

"So you still think the killer is working his way towards one person?" Rita asked.

"Absolutely, thereís no question in my mind. I saw something like this in Denver about three years ago. There were twelve killings and then after the thirteenth one, the killings stopped. It turned out that it led to a wanna-be chef, he didnít make the cut into the Gilaeau School for Cooking. The suspect had been passed over twenty years earlier, and all twelve were now in different walks of life. So he started offing the people that had made it way back when. It wound up being a bakerís dozen, the thirteenth victim was the head of admissions," he said. "The ultimate victim."

"Are you serious?" Rita asked chuckling at the humorous story and knowing how warped Daniel could be.

"Swear to God, check it out, itís a true case," he said with a convincing grin, "but keep looking, thereís something, some clue that will tell you who he is."

"Thanks Daniel, as always, youíve been a big help," Rita said.

 

Fumble, Bumble and Incompetence came stumbling into homicide later that afternoon. Chris and Rita were going over some notes when two aging male agents practically busted into Ritaís tiny office, demanding answers and so forth.

Chris stood up suddenly, surprised and ready for confrontation. Rita continued to sit. She was in no mood for arguing or bullying by anyone. "Chris, please?" she said as her eyes asked him to sit down. He waited a few moments and glared at Agents Borowitz and Simmons. They got the message to ease up and he sat back down.

"Look, we want to help, if we can, thatís all weíre saying," Borowitz started.

"Youíve got a funny way of showing it," Rita said, "Tell us what you have then?" Rita suggested, knowing if the FBI was involved, they had to have some suspects in mind.

"We canít release anything to you yet, till you have something solid for us," Simmons said.

Chris shook his head vehemently, "five dead people isnít solid enough for you?"

"Chris," Rita said, trying to control his outburst. "Listen, weíll give you everything weíve got. We want this solved, we want the people of Palm Beach to be safe again. We donít care what your political aspirations are or who you feel you need to protect," Rita started, she was on a roll. "If you have any suspects in mind, weíd like to know. Weíd like to get this murderer off the streets." Borowitz and Simmons stood there with their mouths open. Rita had put them in their place but good. "Are you gonna help us or what?" They still didnít reply, though Simmons looked as if he wanted to say something, Chris picked up on it right away. Borowitz threw Simmons a brief look, Chris noticed that too. "Listen, the air in here is beginning to smell bad and I think itís the two of you, please take your stench somewhere else, weíve got work to do," Rita said. Borowitz and Simmons left without saying another word.

Chris was also surprised by his fiancéeís choice of words and her toughness to deal with the likes of the FBI. When the Ďstenchí cleared out, he began to speak. "Damn Sammy, whereíd you learn all of that?"

"All of what?" she asked.

"You shut those two up tighter than lockup in maximum security," Chris said chuckling.

"Well if theyíre not gonna help, I donít want them around. What good are they? Theyíll just be in the way," she said.

"I think we should put a tail on them, I get the feeling they know exactly who the suspect might be," Chris said. "Maybe we can solve this thing sooner than we thought."

Rita was already on the phone before Chris got out his words. When Borowitz and Simmons would leave the building, someone from PBPD would be right behind them.

 

Late in the evening, nearing 10pm, Chris was giving up on the FBI goons. They were locked up tight in a cheap motel room. Two units watched the tiny, rundown motel. If they were going anywhere, PBPD would know it and alert Chris right away. He called Ritaís cell phone, from outside the sleazy motel. "Hey Sam, itís me, where you at?" he asked

"Still at the office, trying to piece some things together," she said, sounding distant and distracted.

"Sammy, you ok?" Chris asking with concern.

"Hmm? Yeah, ok, I mean Iím ok. Iím waiting for a call back from Mrs.Odoms. She said sheíd call here tonight yet," Rita said, still sounding miles away.

"You sure Sam, itís almost 10 already, whatís so important anyway? You got something?" he asked.

Just then the regular phone in her office started to light up with a call. "Maybe Chris, I gotta go, can you meet me back here, I got another call," Rita said.

"Yeah, Iíll be there in twenty," he said hanging up and heading back to the station.

 

The office was mostly dark, except for the small desk light that was on in Ritaís office. Chris spotted her, sitting back in her chair, staring at the board that she and Geoff had started working on days before.

He came and stood in the doorway and smiled at her. She looked a little tired and he thought she was looking back at him. He waited for her to say something. When she didnít, he cleared his throat and she broke out of the apparent trance she had been in.

"Chris?" she said, her voice quivered a bit.

"Sam? What is it, whatís wrong?" he said, now becoming overly concerned.

"I know who the ultimate victim is," she said, looking directly at him.

 

(OkÖeveryoneÖ.I did this to you in the last episode too and I enjoyed it so much I thoughtÖhey why not try it againÖ.this is a commercial break. Maybe a test of the emergency cable network systemÖIf this was an actual emergencyÖyou would be informed where to turn to for more information. This concludes the test of the emergency cable network systemÖWe now return to normal programmingÖ..

Announcer VoiceÖAnd now back to Silk Stalkings on USAÖ

 

Chrisí face filled with fear just from the tone in her voice. "Who is it Sammy?"

"Itís me Chris," she said, pointing to the board.

He came into the office now, "Whatta ya mean itís you?" he said, wanting desperately not to believe her.

"Itís all here, all the victims and Mrs. Odoms just confirmed it," she said.

"Start at the beginning Rita, are you adding everything up correctly?" he asked.

"Come here Chris and look, see for yourself," she began. Chris walked around behind her and began to study the board. She was right. It looked like it all added up to her, or it could be a coincidence. "The first victim, Lindsey Nielsen, a fitness buff, runs nearly every day at Perinot Park, has a fiancé, he looks like you, a near perfect life. Sound like anyone you know?"

"Thatís a bit of a stretch Sam," Chris said.

"Then let me continue then. Victim number two is Sara Simeon, the author of romance mystery novels. Whatís my favorite past time?" she said.

"Work, right?" he said, trying to lighten the mood.

She ignored the comment and moved to victim number three. "Albert Thomas Kinzie, a single father of one daughter, age seven. His death is made to look like an apparent suicide. His business was also starting to waver. Does this ring any bells?" she said.

He didnít comment.

"Victim number five is Maria Lamar, a female cop, working her way up through the ranks on her own," she kept explaining.

"You skipped number four, whatís his connection?" Chris wondered how the old grandfatherly gentleman could possibly tie in to Rita.

"Calvin Odoms," she began, standing up to put the final clue on the dry-erase board. "His wife was so upset, see Calvin had just gotten out of the hospital a few days earlier. She thought he was safe and sound and well," Rita said.

"Rita, what is it? What was he in the hospital for?" Chris asked, nothing clicked for him.

"He tutors at an elementary school. He contracted chicken pox," she said, writing the words on the board. "Itís someone who knows all about me," she shook her head slowly, "itís so creepy."

Chris was convinced too. He walked over to Rita and held her tightly, but only for a few moments. Rita accepted his strength without hesitation. Deep down she was scared, it felt good to have Chris beside her. Here she had been worrying about Chris and the last serial case they had worked on and it was her now, who was in danger. Chris pulled back, remembering that the last thing Rita would want would from him right now was to be smothered and protected. He wanted to give her the independence she craved, during these stressful times. He wanted to hold her forever and tell her that heíd never let anyone ever hurt her, but he knew that would drive her even more crazy. It was killing him, but he knew it was what she wanted. She had told him so. "Chris?" she suddenly felt cold, as she saw him step away.

"Now we have to figure out who," he said, a bit of apprehension in his voice as well, he knew they needed to solve this, but he also wanted desperately to protect her from harm. She heard the strain in his voice. She stepped closer to him and took his hands in hers and squeezed softly. He didnít understand her reaction at first. She stared into his eyes. "Weíll figure it out Sammy, I promise," he said, still keeping his distance.

"Chris, Iím scared," she said, waiting for more of a reaction from him.

"We can start going through old files and see what we come up with," he said, knowing he just wanted to hold her and tell he take care of her, but forcing himself to be all business now.

"Chris," she said with a long pause, not quite understanding his distance, "Chris I donít care about that now, I need you," she paused, reaching out to bring him close, "just hold me and tell me that everythingís all right, please?" she said softer.

It was a starterís pistol for both of them. He grabbed her instantly and held her again, tight and warm against his body, whispering assurances into her ear, over and over. He had waited till she asked him to hold her, showing immense self-restraint. She continued her life long journey to reach out to him and put complete trust in him, heíd never fail her. This time it was what they both wanted. They stood there, wrapped safely in each otherís arms, until Tre and Geoff came in.

"Ah, excuse us," Tre began, knocking on the woodwork. "We got something and you guys arenít gonna believe it."

They broke apart and Rita spoke, "whatíd you guys find?" Chris cleared his throat.

"We sorta know who the suspect is," Geoff said.

"Sorta?" Chris said, "whatís that supposed to mean?"

Geoff looked at Tre for some kind of support and Tre motioned for him to continue. "Well, it was my gut feeling, see weíve been trying to run that print that we lifted off Lindsey Nielsenís body. And nothing was coming up, not in the city, not in the state, across the country or even the international database. So I took a chance and had Diana try to match it up with a print we pulled from Rod McLeish months ago, off the desk. Remember, it didnít show up anywhere either. Well, theyíre a match. A perfect match."

"Hot Rod?" Chris said, "that sonofabitch?" Chris couldnít believe that he had surfaced again.

"Oh God Chris," Rita said, "thatís gotta be it. He knows all about me and I bet heís tied in with the FBI somehow I bet. Maybe witness protection or something," she said. "Thatís why we were never able to trace him."

"Heís some psycho and the FBI is protecting him. I knew I should have killed him when I had the chance. Heís trying to kill you, and heís killed five people already," Chris said hotly.

"Whatta ya mean? Heís trying to kill Rita?" Tre asked.

"Yeah, thatís what the clues add up to," Chris said. Geoff had come in and was looking at the board.

"Odoms had the chicken pox?" he asked rhetorically. "We gotta find this guy and fast," he added.

"I know where Iím gonna start," Chris said, getting ready to leave, forgetting momentarily that this someone, McLeish or whatever his real name was, was out to kill Rita. "And when I find him, I swear Iím gonna kill him this time," he said hatefully.

Tre still stood in the doorway, blocking his path, "No Chris, Geoff and I will go see those FBI agents, you need to stay with Rita."

Geoff nodded his agreement, "yeah Chris, we can handle this."

Chris glanced around at both of them and focused on Rita, he shook his head in agreement, giving up on his initial impulses. "Yeah, you guys go ahead, make sure they tell you, cuz I want this guy, I want him myself."

"Weíll be in touch, come on Geoff, letís go," Tre said. They both headed out for the cheap motel and agents Borowitz and Simmons.

"Now whatta we do?" Rita asked Chris.

Chris took a deep breath and gave her a half smile. "We are goiní home," he began, "until we know where he is, there isnít anything else we can do." He watched her closely. She just stood there. "Rita, Iím not gonna let anything happen to you."

"I know," she tried to smile back. "Youíre right, letís go and letís try to forget."

 

Chris pulled the Jeep up into the driveway. The friendly little neighborhood was quiet now. A few lights dotted the windows of the houses that made up the block. Chris let out a yawn as he and Rita got out of the Jeep and headed toward the sliding door by the back of their house. Chris nearly tripped over some bags of garbage that were on the patio. They had both forgotten to set it out on the curb earlier in the day.

"Iíll take care of that right away," Chris began, "let me just unlock the door for you," he said as he placed his key in the lock and slid open the door, holding out his arm for her to enter.

"Thank you sir," she said, going inside, while Chris turned and picked up the bags and carried them down to the curb.

The inside of the their house was dark as Rita went inside to the other side of the kitchen to flick on the light switch. She left the sliding door open, knowing that Chris would soon be following her in. Before she could turn on the light, someone grabbed her from behind and covered the scream that sounded from her throat. She tried to kick him and squirm away, but the element of surprise was on his side and he was so much larger than she was. It was McLeish. Rita knew instantly by the heavy scent of cheap cologne he wore. She recognized it right away. Thank God Chris was nearby.

Meanwhile, Chris was at the curb, dropping the bags down when he spotted Mr. Webster, a.k.a. as ĎWeb,í his neighbor from next door, doing the same thing. "Hey Mr. Webster, how are you sir?" he said, meeting the older gentleman halfway between the two houses.

"Not bad, Chris, not bad and howís about yourself and Rita?" he asked in return. "A little late tonight huh? I saw Rita on the news yesterday, thatís some case the two of you are working on, any leads yet?" he commented, not letting Chris get a word in edgewise.

"Weíre doing just fine, and no nothing to report yet on the homicides," Chris said with a smile. He knew Mr. Webster enjoyed the fact that he was living next door to police officers. He always wanted them to tell him stories of their cases. He was a widower and enjoyed living vicariously through others. Chris and Rita humored him as often as they could. He was very kind to them, often loaning or borrowing them something or another for their house and always ready to dish out some "64" years of advice, as he liked to say. He was a bit lonely. He also shared a love of basketball with Chris. Chris found out that he had coached and taught at a Minnesota high school for nearly forty years. He and his wife had retired to Florida, she died two years ago. "Youíre up kinda late tonight?" Chris said, continuing to make conversation.

"Watching some basketball on the TV, to help pass the time you know?" he answered a bit lonely. Chris decided to chat with him for a few minutes more.

"Whoís playing Web?" Chris asked.

"Marquette and Cincinnati, Cincinnati is all over them, theyíre a team of bruisers, they pound on people," Web described.

Chris chuckled, "yeah, theyíre tough, you ever coach a team like that Web?" Chris asked.

"Nah, we were just a bunch of farmerís you know, tall and lanky Swedes. We used our brains, not our brawn," he said laughing. "Besides itís all about defense anyway Chris, you know that," he added.

"Yeah, you got that right, anyone can put the ball in the hole, right?" Chris said.

Web nodded, "I woulda liked to coach you Chris, I like your attitude," Web said. "Itís work you know, and you got the right kinda work ethic."

"Well, thanks Web, I woulda liked that too," Chris said, "listen, I gotta get going, busy day tomorrow, maybe we can solve a case or two," he said, "good night."

"Good night Chris, say hello to Rita ok?"

"Sure will," Chris said, strolling back up his driveway.

 

Tre and Geoff arrived at the stakeout scene and asked the units if there had been any movement. Neither team had seen anyone come or go. They decided to go have a chat with Borowitz and Simmons and try to find out what they knew about Rod McLeish.

They walked up to room 105 and began to pound on the door. There was no answer. They knocked again and again. Finally Tre called out that they were police officers, that they should let them in. There still wasnít an answer. The patrol cops swore up and down that no one had come or go, in the front or out the back. There were no other ways out. Tre sent one of them to the office for the master key. He returned and they opened the door and saw the two agents sprawled on the beds, both lying in pools of blood, both shot point blank through their heads.

"Oh God," Geoff said, seeing the mess that stretched out before them.

Tre was remarkably cool, "Turner, get the coroner down here and a complete team of lab guys. Get on the horn to Harry and tell him to get over to Chris and Ritaís house, go now, move," he shouted. "Letís go Geoff, we donít have any time to waste."

 

Chris walked back on the patio and went inside. The light was still off in the kitchen and Rita had left the door open. She must really be tired and stressed to be so absent-minded he thought as he entered and called out for her. He barely got his feet inside the house when something clubbed him on the back of his head and sent him sprawling on the kitchen floor, knocking him out cold.

After a few minutes, he began to come to. The kitchen light was now on. He was still lying on the kitchen floor, face down. He could feel some blood in mouth, his lip must have got cut when his head hit the floor. He turned his head to the side and saw two sets of feet sitting on the floor on the opposite side of the room. He knew one set belonged to Rita. He assumed the other belonged to McLeish. He groaned a little and tried to turn over, his hands were handcuffed behind his back. McLeish stood up and came over to him and kicked him in the stomach, and helping him turn over. Chris let a grunt as he was kicked and then he saw Rita sitting handcuffed to the refrigerator as well as gagged.

"Hello, Christopher, remember me?" McLeish started, looking down on him smugly.

"Yeah, unfortunately, I do," Chris said. "Itís hard to forget someone you want to kill," he added.

"You know, youíre right about that, because I feel the same way," McLeish said. "See, you two were close, but you got the wrong person," he laughed. "I donít want to kill her, I want to kill you Christopher. I wanted to from the first day I met you. You thought you were so much better than me," he laughed again.

"I know Iím better than you," Chris said, "just look at yourself, look at who you are, youíre nothing but a murdering, lying, criminal. You donít even have your own identity. Youíre a nobody," Chris said.

McLeish turned back and looked at Rita and rubbed his head. "You, you shut up," he stammered a little, turning back and looking down at Chris. "Did you get the wedding gift I sent you?" he asked.

"You sent that?" Chris asked. "There was nothing in it?" he said. "What was your point?"

"Well, you two have everything right? What could you possibly need?" he said explaining the gift.

Chris knew he was close to the kitchen counters, so he slid closer to them and used them as a support to sit up a little. "So whatís your plan, Hot Rod?" Chris asked, utilizing the nickname he coined for this piece of garbage. He also looked over to Rita and reassured her with his eyes.

"I told you, Iím gonna kill you Christopher," he said.

"Oh yeah, how?" Chris began, "letís see, youíve already shot someone, and cut someoneís wrists, then there was the bat to the back of the head, the strangle and the hit and run. Youíre pretty creative. What have you got in store for me?"

"Iím gonna kill you by killing her," he said cynically. He walked over to Rita and grabbed a handful of her hair. Frightful defiance flared in Ritaís eyes. "See Iíve been watching you two for months now, so close and so in love," he paused, "you both make me sick."

"Listen Hot Rod, if you want to kill me, then do it, leave Rita outta this," Chris said, just keeping him talking and not acting.

McLeish nodded his disapproval. "I canít do that Christopher, donít you see, if I really kill her, you will die too, just like me, just like I am right now, your insides will be torn apart and youíll merely be a shell of who you are now, just a shell," he said cryptically, still aggressively holding a handful of Ritaís hair.

Chris wasnít following Hot Rodís psychobabble at all. Whoever McLeish was, something horrible had apparently happened in his own life to make him turn out this way. Unfortunately he was in control of the whole situation now. "You know the FBI is on to you too," Chris said, trying to figure this guy out.

"They were, theyíre not anymore, Iíve taken care of them, thanks to your tail. Theyíve been chasing me for months, itíll be a few more months now till they find me again," McLeish said

"Who exactly are you anyway, you just do this for kicks?" Chris said.

"I am now, I didnít know any of those people, but I found out so much about the two of you, that I searched them out. I usually have more of a reason behind every person Iíve killed," he explained.

Chris shook his head in disgust, "you make me sick," Chris said.

"You know what? I think Iíll kill her slowly, Christopher, so you have to watch the life fade out of her, minute by minute, second by second. Maybe Iíll cut her slow and let her bleed, right here, right in front of you," McLeish was saying.

Chris needed to think. If he could keep McLeish talking and not taking any action, and figure out how to get out of the handcuffs he was locked in, he and Rita might stand a chance to get out of this one after all. His mind had a quick image of Web, his thoughtful and helpful neighbor. One of his early suggestions to Chris had been to keep a small dish or tray of various nails or screws under the sink, that way if you needed something in a hurry, youíd know right where to turn. The sink was just a set of cupboards down. Chris slowly began to inch his way toward them. If he could get to them, maybe he could pick the lock on the cuffs.

"Maybe Iíll strangle her, a little at a time, would you like that, Christopher?" McLeish said, putting his hands around Ritaís neck and slowly squeezing. He saw Ritaís eyes fill with fear.

"Hot Rod, you sonofabitch, lets talk about this?" Chris pleaded. He still had one cupboard to go.

Rod released his grasp on Ritaís throat and she took a gasp. "See, Christopher, this slow, torture method works. Two for the price of one," McLeish said pulling the door of the refrigerator open, causing it to smash into the back of Rita. Chris saw Ritaís head get banged and it began to kill him inside even more. He couldnít let this happen to her. He watched her closely, it looked like she was ok for now. Hot Rod grabbed a beer and slammed the door closed again. "Maybe itís Miller time first," he quipped, opening the bottle.

This had given Chris enough time to move in front of the sink cupboard and reach in quietly to grab a small nail. His fingers worked furiously and carefully to pick the lock on the handcuffs. Rita could tell he was up to something. Chris main service issue gun was missing from his holster, but he knew that McLeish had forgotten about the second piece that nearly every cop now carried. Chris felt it tucked tightly against his leg. Rita knew it was there too. Chris tripped the lock and made eye contact with Rita that he was free on three theyíd move into action. Sheíd cause some kind of distraction, so that Chris could get his spare gun. She started to cough and McLeish turned to look at her to see what was wrong. Chris went for his gun and McLeish stood up and wielded his own gun on Rita, aiming it at her head.

"Go ahead pretty boy," McLeish said. "Itís all gonna end in death anyway, sooner or later, do you want to see her die like this?" he asked laughing.

Chris kept his gun trained on him as well as a frozen stare. "Drop it now," he breathed. "I swear to God if you touch her again, I will kill you," Chris said, deeply.

"I canít do that Christopher," he said, cocking the trigger on her head.

Chris began to back down. He couldnít let anything happen to her, he couldnít get through life without her. McLeish was right about one thingÖkilling her would kill him. He started to set his gun down on the floor, when he noticed Rita squirming to cause another distraction. Chris dove at McLeish, pushing him up against the wall. The gun went off in the air and as it did, Tre and Geoff came busting in through the front door racing toward the kitchen. Chris heard the commotion and briefly looked toward the noise. McLeish used it to his advantage as he smashed Chris hard in the face, sending Chris tumbling to the floor. He went racing out the back door. Chris quickly tore out of the house after him. They both began sprinting across the backyard, when a stockade fence held up McLeish. He tried to shimmy over it, but Chris caught his leg and pulled him back to the ground. Months of anger and frustration expelled from Chrisí fists as he began to beat the life out of McLeish, over and over, pounding him against the fence and finally into the ground. Rita came racing out of the house and saw the hate pouring out of Chrisí hands. Chris was trying to kill him once and for all.

She called out to him, "Chris, Chris stop," she began, "heís not worth it, itís over," she added.

"No," Chris said, out of breath, "he was gonna kill you," he said, his voice breaking, smashing his face over and over.

Chris kept hitting him. Rita came closer, with Geoff and Tre standing behind her now. "Chris, please," she said again, pleading.

The pleaful sound of her voice finally hit a nerve inside Chris. Chris stopped and let McLeish slump to the ground in a heap. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He started to turn around slowly and come toward Rita. As he did, McLeish reached in his pants and pulled out the gun he had and slowly aimed it at Chrisí back. Rita caught the glint of steel in the moonlight and raised her hand, which had picked up Chrisí second gun off the kitchen floor. She put five rounds into him before he got off a shot. It was all over. McLeish was dead.

 

Later that night, after everything had been cleaned up, reported on and filed away, Chris and Rita were back at their home, in bed. Chris appeared to be sleeping. He faced away from her, so she wasnít sure, his breathing seemed fairly slow and regular. She snuggled tightly against his body, he didnít stir. Reaching up, she touched his hair softly with his fingertips. She desperately wanted to talk with him. He finally stirred and his eyes slowly opened. She felt and heard him take a deep breath. She thought she had woken him.

"Iím sorry Chris, I didnít mean to wake you," she said, kissing his shoulder.

"I really blew it tonight, I lost it," he said quietly. "And I wasnít sleeping," he added.

She could hear the sorrow and regret in his voice. "Come here," she said, calling him to face her. He slowly turned toward her. She saw the somber look on his face.

As much as she needed to talk to him, she realized he needed to talk to her right now. "No you didnít, it just happened Chris, itís all over now," she said, touching his cheek.

He shook his head no, "I wouldíve killed him Rita, only you, your voice made me stop," he explained. "A cop canít do that."

"Chris, youíre also human, McLeish wanted to kill both of us, you know that, and he killed all those people for no reason," Rita said

"I know that too, and I know that weíve been in this kind of situation before," he said, taking a deep breath, "but I really wanted him dead, not just punished and sent to prison. I wanted to kill him. I donít think Iíve ever felt that before," he said. "I was out of control," he said closing his eyes, and putting his head down.

She reached over and lifted his chin, he looked deeply into her eyes. "Itís over now Chris," she said soothingly, kissing him softly.

He kissed her back gently for a moment. Then he thought about what she had said, "now? And what about next time, or the time after that? Is it gonna get any easier, any better?" He began to shift and he sat up, pulling up his legs. "Am I gonna want to kill everyone that threatens you?"

"Chris what are you talking about?" Rita asked as he suddenly climbed out of bed and went to stare out the window. She watched his usually confident manner, give way to uncertainty.

He turned back around, "I donít know Sam," he smiled, "I donít know." She got up and walked over to him. He seemed to have calmed himself before her eyes. She thought that maybe this would be a good time to tell him what had been on her mind. She came to him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

"This case made me overly crazy too," she began, he held her tightly.

"Whatta ya mean?" Chris asked, kissing the top of her head.

"Chris, our last serial case was when you got shot and nearly died," she started. His eyes met with hers, trying to relate to what she was going to say. "I think deep down, I thought it would happen again. I was so afraid. I donít know how I kept it together," she explained.

"Oh Sam," Chris said immediately understanding her, pulling her into a hug, "Sammy, thatís not gonna happen again. You canít think like that," he said.

Rita started to softly kiss his chest and nuzzle against him. He ran his face through the top of her head, his nose breathing in the fresh floral scent of her shampoo. He kissed the side of her neck in return, quietly reassuring her and telling her that it was all over, for both of them. Before long, his arms came up and lifted her face upward so that he could feast on her lips. Tenderly and passionately at first, they ignited their love, each dipping in and out, swirling around, pleasuring the other, giving completely of themselves. This was no battle for control of any kind. This was pure.

Rita peeled off the T-shirt he wore in an easy, slow manner and ran her long fingers up and down his chest, leaning in to kiss him all over. He ran his hands along her back as she did this, looking down at her and smiling from how good it felt. She could turn his emotions around almost instantly. He needed to continue to be a part and he ducked his head down and began to nibble on her neck, along her throat and lightly licking her ear lobe and running his tongue lazily around it. One of his hands came up to brush the hair back off her neck and behind her ear. Rita softly sighed. Chrisí other hand slowly skidded up the pajama top she wore, seeking out a tender, warm breast to softly squeeze. His finger and thumb gently rubbed the tip to harden it, both of their lips smiling against the otherís as it happened. She moved closer to him, rubbing up tightly against him, while kissing his throat. He let a low moan escape from his voice box as she did. He let her touch him and kiss him endlessly, the lower she went, the more he loved it. As she swept around his navel over and over, dipping her tongue inside every now and again, his hands clasped the back of her head tightly, reaching lower, until he found her shoulders, he brought her up to him and once again began to kiss her intensely. This time their tongues waged war upon each other, Chris plunging in and out, Rita welcoming him inside her own first, then changing direction and dancing around the inside of his mouth.

Chris clutched her closer, feeling her body move erotically against his own. His hands gently squeezed her behind, kneading tenderly. They were locked in an all-out sensational mind-blowing, body-numbing kiss. Rita ran her hands through Chrisí hair, over and over, as his hands glided over her backside. Chris finally reached down and picked her up in his arms and lovingly carried her back over to the bed, all the while, their lips remained trained on the otherís, kissing with every ounce of passion they could find.

They broke the kiss as he softly placed her on the downy-filled bed and crawled on beside her. He ran his hands up her silky, smooth legs, his touch, warm and powerful. He was deliberate and slow in his movements, taking his pleasure in every touch and every kiss and every movement that he made. His hands swirled around her inner thighs, as he placed a loving kiss on each side, before journeying upward on her body. He started kissing her stomach, moving upward slowly, glancing up at her satisfied face along the way. She spread her arms over her head and turned and placed her head so she could watch him find pleasure on her body. She smiled. Back and forth he went, finding new delicious spots and curves to give himself delight, as well as to satisfy Rita. She was soft and warm and utterly feminine to him and she always seemed to be exactly in tune with him and what he needed. She was perfect.

His hands and fingertips sensually drew a path along her body, leading his moist, warm mouth and tongue. She could tell from his gentle touch, exactly where he was heading and what he wanted next. His right hand made contact with one of her beautiful breasts. Softly giving it a squeeze at first, he took the nipple between his thumb and forefinger and worked it to a hard tip. Rita reached down with one of her hands and rubbed the back of his head, just as his mouth began to slowly dance around the edges, on its way to the rosy tip.

He lazily made his way across her chest, dipping and playing as he went. His fingers now slid lower, across her stomach, as his kisses moved between her breasts. She finally beckoned him back up to her lips, for a minor battle, and she gently turned over and shifted his body under hers. It was her turn to be equally gentle and passionate. She didnít disappoint. Her lips and fingers followed along the fine chiseled lines of his body, from his jaw, down his sternum to the flat, solid planes of his stomach. Chris tried to lay still and enjoy all the wonderful things she was doing to him, but before long, his hands began to wander all along her arms and body and through her soft, wavy hair. She glided over every part of his body, tingling across his skin in a pure, dainty way. Her feathery, fingertips and soft lips joyously tortured spot after spot on his electrified body. She put out one of her hands near his mouth and he reached for it with his own and took her delicate, sweet tasting fingers into his mouth one at a time. She looked up and smiled as he did this and shifted her body a bit, so that he now rose off the bed to meet her. Once again their flushed lips found each otherís as they got closer than two people had probably ever been.

Holding on to her tightly, they began to move together, powerfully yet gentle. They began to find their own unique rhythm, perfectly in sync and totally in love, casting away any problems that had been eating away at them.

 

They laid loosely in each other arms, staring into each otherís eyes, both of them lightly caressing the other, finally smiling, totally satisfied.

Rita continued to stare.

Chris let out a little chuckle, "all right, all right, if you look any deeper, youíll incinerate me, Iíll do whatever you want, tell ya anything you want to know," he said, not letting it cross his mind as to what she was going to ask. He was merely enamored by her beauty, as well as still coming down from the intense lovemaking they had just had.

"Really?" she asked, with a slightly evil look on her face.

"Yes, yes," he said, "after that, how could I say no to anything?" he said, still not realizing what was about to hit him. She began to grin and he finally caught on. "Except for that," he quickly said.

"Uh uh, no," she started, "you said anything and I want to know and I want to know now," she added, thumping her finger loudly on his chest, beginning to sit up.

He knew she had him. He wiped his hand over his face, "hhhhmmm," he groaned, knowing that her persistence and his lack of resistance had done him in but good.

"If you say it quickly, it might not hurt so bad," Rita teased, anxiously awaiting what his middle name was, like a child on Christmas morning.

"See, youíre already enjoying this way too much. This is very painful for me," he said.

"And youíre stalling," she interrupted, "itís just a name, how can that hurt?"

"Did you ever hear the Ďol Ďsticks and stonesí line?" he said, attempting to defend himself. "Names hurt like hell, and this one is a doosey," he added. "Ok, on one condition," he began.

"Ah, there are no conditions, you said youíd tell me, period, now give it up, mister" she said.

"Nope, not till you promise that once I tell you it stays between you and me, and I am not using it at the wedding, agree?" he said.

She smiled, "ok, agreed. Now tell me," she said.

There was a long pause of silence.

"Chris, come on," she said, playfully hitting his chest, stretching out her voice in a pleading tone.

"Robin," he said, barely audible and certainly avoiding eye contact.

Rita started to laugh, and laugh and laugh even harder.

"See," was all Chris could say, shaking his head as her laughter filled the bedroom. He began to laugh too.

She couldnít stop, through her sniggering she asked, "Your name is Christopher Robin?" she said, letting loose on another bout of laughter.

"Now you know," he said.

"So what, did your parents like Winnie the Pooh?" she asked, still not able to contain her laughter.

"Not exactly," he said, sounding a bit annoyed.

"Well, what exactly?" Rita said, still not being able to keep a straight face.

"My Mom did the voice for Kanga in the original Walt Disney cartoon. I guess she just like the name," he explained.

"Oh that is just too much," she said, little fits of laughter bubbled out every time she looked at his face. "Iím sorry," she giggled, "Christopher Robin."

"Go ahead and get it out of your system," he said, trying to be serious, "cuz you promised. I held up my end of the bargain and now you have to too."

"Oh, I donít know, this is some good stuff," she said teasing, "can you take me to the hundred acre woods?" she joked.

"Sam! You promised," he whined. "And I might not only take you there, Iíll leave you there as well."

"You wouldnít do that," she said, "and I know, and I always keep my promises to you, donít I," she said, leaning down and giving him a kiss.

He reached over and turned off the light.

Rita chuckled a little.

"Thatís enough now!" Chris said in the darkness.

"Christopher Robin," Rita said laughing.

"Sam," he said nearly begging her to stop.

"Can you help me find some hunney?" she asked, giggling.

"Good night Rita," he said, cutting her off.

"Do Tiggers really love to bounce?" she continued.

"Iím not listening anymore," he answered.

"Iíd like to meet Piglet someday," she kept on going.

"I am going to sleep right now," he replied.

Her laughter trailed off into the nightÖÖ.

 

The End

 

 

The wedding is approaching!

Let me know what you all thinkÖ.

Thanks to Linda & Lisa for posting the story. I appreciate all the hard work.

Special thanks to JudyÖfor editing and htmling and for being a true DUKE fan!

And thanks to everyone who takes the time to write and comment. Keep Ďem coming!

And the usualÖChris, Rita, Diana, Harry, Franny, Benny, Ana and Howie belong to Stu Seagall and Stephen J. Cannell and the USA NetworkÖ. No infringement is intended.

And now the cast of thousandsÖ.some are dead and some are livingÖ.were all created by moi.

Geoff, Tre, Marshall, Rod McLeish, Lindsay Nielsen, Wilfred Perinot, Dr. Hennessey, Daniel, Mr. & Mrs. Nielsen, Jay Acren, DeSchmidt and Assoc., Judge Whatley, Rev. Milton Carpenter, Sara Simeon, Ms. Waters, Joey, Connie, Albert Thomas Kinzie, Calvin Odoms, Ted the Reporter, John Doe (the Band), Maria Lamar, Agents Borowitz and Simmons, Turner, Mrs. Odoms and ĎWebí Webster.

Martha Stewart, Ozzie and Harriet and Neil Young all had their names appear here in this storyÖ.arenít they special!

January 1999

 

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