“So this is what 5:30 AM on a Tuesday looks like,” Rita said sarcastically as she walked out onto the patio where Chris had already begun to stretch for his daily run. The sun was barely up, giving the morning sky a misty, golden glow, and it was already warm and muggy.
Slightly startled by his wife’s appearance at this ungodly hour, Chris turned towards her, grinning as he remembering her saying the night before that she would get up and join him today for his now daily ritual. “Sammy, you don’t have to do this.”
Rita, returning the smile, tapped his behind as she walked past him. She could tell by his smile and the way he immediately stood up straighter that he loved how that felt! The look he gave her pierced clear through to her soul. “I know I don’t have to, I want to!”
“We’ll only go a couple of miles today, and I’ll take it slow for you.” He reached for her and swallowed her up in a hug. “Good mornin’, Sam,” he whispered as they both enjoyed the moment.
Rita released the hug and raised her leg up on the railing to begin her stretching exercises. “Don’t worry about me, I can keep up with you. Just do what you normally do,” she instructed, not wanting him to lighten his usual routine for her sake.
Chris stood up straight, all set to go. “I’m ready when you are, Lazybones,” he said, adding a ‘ha.’
The morning was filled with a competitive playfulness between them. Chris longingly watched her go through her stretches, admiring every inch of her shapely, petite frame. Maybe running wasn’t exactly the exercise they should participate in this morning, he thought for a brief moment.
Rita did a few more stretches, then came over, standing toe-to-toe with him. “We’ll see who calls who ‘lazybones’, Mister. You have met your match in me!” she chided as she poked him playfully in the chest.
“I won’t argue with that,” he laughed, rubbing the spot where she poked him as they headed down their driveway toward the beach for an early morning run.
Opting for a familiar route, they headed south, matching each other stride for stride. They were too busy pacing themselves and trying to keep up with each other for any real conversation. Hitting the five-mile mark nearly 28 minutes into their jog, they decided to turn around and head back home.
As they neared the end of their run, Chris pulled up, grabbing his side. In a blur, he saw Rita pass by him, and it briefly left him with an odd feeling. He wanted to just reach out and grab her, make her stay by him and be with him till the ache in his side subsided. But Rita continued on down the beach, while his body heaved with soreness.
They were almost at the entrance to their neighborhood when Rita began to slow down to a walk before coming to a stop. She stood bent over momentarily, to suck in some badly needed air, before realizing Chris was no longer beside her. Turned around, she spotted Chris, holding onto his side, and quickly jogged over to him.
“You all right there, Lazybones?” she asked, still breathing hard.
Relieved that she had come back to his side, Chris’ over-sensitive mind breathed a sigh of relief. “Better than I’ve ever been,” he gasped out between breaths, “I just thought I’d let you win,” he teased.
Rita let out a laugh. “Gotta cramp, huh?”
“Yeah,” he muttered, still breathing heavily as he bent over to try and relieve some of the pain. Rita rubbed his back soothingly, the warmth of her hand being just enough to reduce his pain to a livable annoyance. Then hand in hand, they walked back to the house.
“That was almost fun,” Rita teased as they entered through the patio.
Chris headed straight to the refrigerator for a cold drink. “So, does that mean you’re gonna join me every morning now, Sam?” he kidded before gulping down a bottle of water.
Rita walked over and grabbed a bottle for herself. “I don’t believe that’s what I said, was it?” she said sarcastically.
“And here I thought we could make this a family activity from now on. Man, I just let you win for nothing!" Chris chuckled. “It was fun having you out there this morning, though,” he added seriously.
“It felt good, too. But the jury’s still out on the pain meter till tomorrow,” she added with a laugh. “Do you want any breakfast?”
“Not right now,” Chris began, “but I think I’ll grab a shower. Care to join me?” he added suggestively.
“I would love to, but I have a 7:30 meeting down at City Hall this morning. If I joined you, I’d never make it.”
“OK, Sure. I understand. You’re giving me up for the mayor. OK,” he gently kidding her, before turning his attention back to work. “What do you want me to put Tre and Geoff on?” Chris was becoming more comfortable treating Rita as his supervisor, which she knew was extremely hard for him since they had been equal partners for so long. And she showed her respect for him by consulting with him as often as she could, keeping him filled in on every detail, as well as letting him take the lead supervising Geoff and Tre whenever possible.
“They can continue hounding Mr. Krieger. I’ll bet you a million dollars that old man knows exactly what happened on that tennis court. The lights were not faulty, like he claims. I’d say he’s holding out on us.”
Chris couldn’t help but laugh. “I think that old man is waiting for Tri-Star to give him a movie deal. I heard he mentioned something about Paul Newman playing him.”
“That’ll be the day, won’t it?” Rita said, pouring herself a bowl of corn flakes then sitting down at the table.
Chris nodded. “Well, that takes care of Tre and Geoff. I guess I’ll just kick back and, hmm, maybe work on my tan,” he stated matter-of-factly, trying to stifle a smile as he studied her face to gauge her reaction.
“Seems to me that you have a pile of reports that need updating,” she shot back calmly, barely looking up from her cereal.
“I can do that while I’m at the beach. I’ll just grab a laptop,” Chris answered seriously.
The tone of his voice got Rita’s attention, and she looked up from her bowl, watching him closely. He didn’t seem to be joking.
“Would you mind if I spent the day at the beach?” he asked casually.
Rita didn’t answer right away, still waiting for the punch line. When none came, she realized he was really serious. Suspecting there must be more here than meets the eye, she decided to let him have the time off. “No, I guess not, as long as you have your beeper and your phone. I think a day off will do you some good.”
“It’d do me better if you were on a blanket next to me,” he said seductively, grinning as he tossed the empty water bottle into the recycling bin.
Rita continued to study him. He seemed healthy enough. She knew he had been having some sessions with Daniel, but he seemed more content now than he had been in a long time.
“And don’t be reading anymore into this than just a day off!” Chris knew exactly what she was thinking.
She decided to drop her line of questioning. “I would love to join you, you know that. But Mayor Williams called this meeting to discuss the upcoming budget, and I think it’s gonna be a long one.”
“You know, Sammy, I think it’s really unfair that they expect you to not only be a detective and a supervisor, but to do all this other stuff as well.”
Rita finished her spoonful of corn flakes before responding, “I like it, Chris. It’s a new challenge. I know the department is using me in a sense, because I am a woman in a highly visible position, but I’m learning a lot. And I’m pretty darn good at it, too. In the long run, I think it will have a big payoff.”
“You’re damn right about that. Maybe you should think about hitting Harry up for a raise!”
She rolled her eyes at his suggestion. “We’re doing just fine. Besides, I don’t want to start a conflict just yet. And I got a raise when I got promoted, remember? ”
“Yeah, but they still don’t pay you that much more than I’m bringing in. I still can’t believe I was making more than you all the time we were partners.”
“Yeah, well that’s the 90’s workplace for you. ‘We’ve come a long way baby,’ you know,” Rita quipped, shrugging her shoulders. “We women haven’t gotten very far in pay equity, haven’t we?” she asked rhetorically.
“And then they wonder why they’re having trouble recruiting female officers,” Chris said, now deciding to join her in a bowl of corn flakes. “Maybe if the salaries were more equitable, they’d have more luck. You, for example, are a better officer than most men.”
“Perhaps you’d like to come mention that at the Mayor’s meeting this morning?” Rita suggested, sitting up a little straighter, proud of the attitudes she had help instill in her husband. “I like the way you think, Detective Lorenzo.”
“No, thanks. I’m not a politician. Besides, who better to speak for women than the highest-ranking female officer in the PBPD.”
Rita, finished with her cereal, rose from the table, and gave Chris a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you,” she said softly before setting her bowl in the sink. “Since you’re taking the day off, I’m gonna use the shower first. And if I don’t get in that shower soon, the highest ranked female officer in Palm Beach is going to get a demerit for being late. I’ll see you at dinner tonight, then?” Chris nodded. “Enjoy your day at the beach.”
Chris hadn’t seriously planned on having the day off, but since Rita had given him the green light, he decided to take advantage of it. Dressed casually in a bright yellow T-shirt and gray trousers, he bounded into the homicide department for a brief conversation with Tre and Geoff. Once that was complete, he grabbed a laptop and some files to work on at home out on the patio.
But before Chris could head home, he had one more important stop--another appointment with Daniel. He got to Daniel’s office at 9:23 AM, seven minutes early. That was an all-time record for Chris. Being on time, let alone early, was not one of his strong suits.
Daniel came out to greet Chris, then gestured at the clock. Chris just nodded with a sarcastic grin then followed him into his office.
“So, how many more of these do you think I need, Daniel,” Chris asked, seated comfortably on the couch.
“It’s not like a movie pass, Chris. You know, ‘ten visits and the eleventh is free.’ You can even come after ‘your time’,” he emphasized the words with finger quotations, “is up, and you’re feeling just fine.”
“Tell me again why I would do that?” he joked, flashing Daniel a grin.
Daniel, ignoring the comment, reached for a file, notepad, and pen on his desk, then took a seat in the chair next to the couch. “Let’s pick up where we left off, uh” he glanced at the file, “two weeks ago already. Wow, you must be feeling better, huh? No hang ups lately?”
“Don’t let it go to your already inflated head, but, yeah. You must do good work.”
“Well, I never wear hats anyway,” Daniel said, reviewing his notes from their last session. “I have great hair, you know?”
Chris laughed. “You know, this office is too stuffy,” Chris began, gazing around at the now familiar surroundings.
“It’s taken you three months to notice? What do you suggest?” Daniel was beginning to enjoy the way Chris always started their sessions. Never being one to delve into his feelings head on, especially with Daniel, he would make some ‘out of left field’ observation. Daniel would follow along, making idle conversation about it, then slowly, the two of them would ease into what was really on his mind.
“It’s too dark in here, for one thing,” Chris continued as he stood up and walked over to the bookshelves. “It reminds me of ‘The Bob Newhart Show.’ Remember that one?”
“Yeah, but I’m not nearly as funny as Bob and you’re not nearly as neurotic as Mr. Carlin.”
Chris just couldn’t help but laugh at Daniel’s comment. “That’s good to know. I mean, that show was on for what 8, 10 years maybe, and that guy was always a weekly patient. I’d hate to think I’d be having sessions like these for that long.”
Daniel decided this would be as good a point as any to guide Chris back to the reason he was there. “Is your life on a track these days? I mean, what’s the rush in putting closure to our sessions?”
Chris walked back over to the couch, laying down this time. “Closure,” he laughed. “You have a technical name for everything, don’t you?” He stared at the ceiling for a long time.
“I don’t know what the rush is, Daniel, I just want this to be over. I don’t know what to say to you anymore. I feel fine.”
“But what? Honestly, I think we’ve covered ‘the Chris Lorenzo story’ from top to bottom and all points in between. There’s nothing more to tell.”
“There’s still something that’s bothering you though, isn’t there?”
Chris sat up in frustration. “I don’t know, maybe. I can’t figure it out. You know my entire history, you tell me!”
“It’s fairly obvious that there’s still something. You keep coming back and your frustration is showing. I think we should keep going here, see if we can get to the root of it.”
“The root of what, Daniel? I’ve told you everything. I’ve mended fences with my parents, discussed my childhood, talked about Rita till I’m blue in the face. I’ve dug up old cases for you. I just don’t see what else there could possibly be!” Chris exhaled heavily and shook his head. “I guess I feel like I’m wasting your time and mine.”
Daniel smiled at his last comment. “It’s not a waste of time, Chris. It’s very apparent that something is still eating away at you. You keep coming here for a reason. I think we should keep going and see if we can flush the devil out,” he said with a laugh.
Chris picked up on his comment right away. “You mean like a ‘blue devil’? Ha!”
“You said it, I didn’t.”
“It’s pretty scary when you can read your therapist’s mind! You and Duke. Ha! Hey, maybe that’s it. Maybe you’re my problem!”
Daniel was more than happy to let Chris have his little tirade. Maybe it would somehow shed some light on what was really bothering him. “I suppose I could be, but I figured since you married Rita, and you know I’m married to Sus, that you’d be long over the jealousy thing by now.”
Chris had to grin. “I guarantee ya that ain’t it, Doc. I don’t have any reason to be jealous of anyone Rita used to date. I know she’s mine and I know we love each other.”
“All right then. So, it’s not your past, it’s not your personal life, it’s not work. How ‘bout your future? I know we’ve touched on it a few times, but maybe there’s still something there?” Chris went silent again. Maybe he had touched a nerve. “Chris?”
“How can I possibly have a problem with my future? I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But I have thought about it and I’m happy, honestly. What’s not to love about my life? Rita is the absolute best. I love my job, things are great with my parents, I’m very comfortable.”
“Maybe being comfortable isn’t the best thing that could happen to you. I mean, with your past, Chris, all the moving, living so many places, maybe, in a sense, you miss the chaos, the craziness?”
“Who would miss any of that?” Chris struggled to understand. “So you’re saying I want my life to be a mess?”
“No. What I’m suggesting is that you need to learn to appreciate the serenity, enjoy everything about it. This is a big change for you and maybe you’re just not used to it. You’ve never experienced anything like it before.”
“Well, the time with my Grandma was calming.”
“But the calmness occurred because of chaos all around. It was sort of like the eye of a hurricane. You went from living with her to taking on life in college. Then you became a cop. There were a lot of tumultuous years.” Daniel studied Chris’ reaction. He was having a hard time understanding Daniel’s logic. “Should I dig out my notes on college, the academy, and your police history for clarification?”
Chris had to grin again. “Maybe you’re right. I can’t see anything but this goodness right now. With Rita, I think I have everything I’ve always wanted. I look forward to every minute of every day with her. And I know with her beside me, we can make it through the rough stuff.”
“We can discuss this more, you know. Figure out some ways to help you understand and cope with it a little better. Maybe take away the nagging feelings you’re having.”
“All right, I’d like that,” Chris agreed.
Down at the PBPD, business was starting to pick up. A call came in on a new homicide, and Tre and Geoff were only too happy to drop the case they were working on and head over to Stoneyhaven Mental Hospital and Treatment Center to investigate.
Stoneyhaven Estate, as it was actually known, was anything but an estate. The founders had insisted on the name in order to draw attention away from their actual purpose. Located on 100 acres on the north end of Palm Beach, Stoneyhaven was Palm Beach’s answer to the all-to-often-ignored problem of mental illness among the elite. The main building of the lavish facility, developed and landscaped with private funds, did indeed resemble an Austrian castle. Smaller ‘out-patient’ cottages were scattered around the beautifully kept grounds. The rich and famous of southern Florida, as well as the rest of the country, flocked to Stoneyhaven, often spending millions of dollars on treatments they hoped would someday cure the mental problems of their loved ones.
“This is like a Disneyland for crazies,” Tre observed as they pulled into the compound.
“Welcome to the funny farm for the rich and famous,” Geoff laughed as he parked the car in front of the main entrance of a building that could only be described as a castle. But the regal ambiance was broken by the three squad cars and coroner’s van in the courtyard. The detectives made their way into the huge, elegant entryway and found themselves staring in awe at the immense, six-story, circular staircase that dominated the room. It was indeed a sight to behold. A uninformed officer standing just inside the doorway pointed the way to the main office.
“Detectives Morgan and Thomas, Palm Beach Homicide,” Geoff announced as they entered the expansive office, sporting their badges on their hips. An older gentleman stood from behind the desk to shake their hands.
“I’m Evan Odoms, founder and proprietor of this estate,” he said in a soft, but clear voice, obviously shaken by the murder. “This is the only trouble of any kind we’ve had in our six year history. It’s horrible, utterly horrible.”
“Mr. Odoms, may we see the body, please?” Tre asked.
“Certainly, of course,” he said coming around the mahogany desk. “I just don’t understand how a thing like this could happen here. The staff to patient ratio is nearly 3 to 1, no one is ever left unsupervised. It’s all so unusual,” he jabbered as he led the detectives down a long hall. “We run a thorough background check on all our staff and they are always closely monitored. It’s nearly impossible to break in or out of here. I just don’t understand.”
Geoff and Tre exchanged smiles as they followed behind the muttering old gentleman. “Can you tell us about the victim, Mr. Odoms?” Geoff asked, hoping to get the babbling Mr. Odoms to tell them something useful.
“Ah, yes, yes of course I can,” he stammered. “Sheila Victory. She’s been here for going on eight months now.”
“You mean ‘the’ Sheila Victory?” Tre jumped in. From the clueless look on Geoff’s face, Tre could tell the significance of the victim’s name had escaped his partner. Giving Geoff a playful poke in the ribs, as if that would give him some indication, he explained, “Sheila was one of the hottest female rap singer’s around these days. She cut three albums in ’98 alone. She had so much talent. Damn,” he added softly.
If Sheila Victory was indeed a superstar, then Geoff guessed he must be living under a rock these day because he’d never hear of her. But being the true professional, he managed to continue with the questioning. “What else can you tell us about Ms. Victory, Mr. Odoms?”
“As I stated, she’s been here nearly eight months. Last year, her career must have proven to be too much for her. She had a major nervous breakdown right around Christmas. She’d been faithfully undergoing treatment while living here in the main estate, but she hadn’t yet had a break through which would have allowed her to move to one of our private units. “
“What’s a ‘break through?’” Geoff wondered.
“A break through is the step that occurs right before an individual can be sent back out into the world to resume their normal lives. When patients first arrive, they stay here in the main house. As their therapy progresses and they show signs of improvement, they are allow to move out to separate living quarters. The final step then is to leave here.”
“Has she had any visitors lately?” Tre asked.
“No, only spouses are allowed, and in the case of no spouse, a parent may be granted visitation. Many of our staff members live on the grounds also. Ms. Victory was not married and I’m not even sure she has parents. She has had no visitors since her arrival. ”
“That’s an awful strict rule, isn’t it?” Geoff asked.
“That is our policy, Detective. If you’d like a brochure, I can give you one before you leave,” Odoms replied snottily. “We also don’t allow phones of any kind, pagers, computers, TVs, or any other type of contact with the outside world. We find it’s a more effective way to treat our patients. It’s more of a controlled situation that way, and we have their undivided attention.”
“No doubt,” Tre mumbled.
“I would like a brochure please, Mr. Odoms,” Geoff answered.
“What can you tell us about her treatment?” Tre asked, changing the subject.
“Oh, I can’t tell you anything. The treatment is up to a team of doctors. In Ms. Victory’s case, she had four physicians treating her. I can arrange for you to speak with them, but they are under orders not to give you any confidential information. Dr. Harvester was her lead physician.”
“We’ll need to speak to them all anyway,” Tre said.
“Are drugs utilized in treatment?” Geoff asked.
“Rarely, if ever. Our staff doesn’t believe in them. But we do believe in using restraints, if the patient becomes unruly. Again, each case is individually monitored. You’ll have to speak with her team concerning her specific treatment.”
Arriving on the third floor, Tre and Geoff spotted two uniformed officers down the hall, guarding the room where the body was found. They took a quick peek inside and spotted a gorgeous woman in a bright yellow dress jotting down some notes on a clip board. She smiled warmly at both detectives, but her eyes held the look of love only for Tre. His eyes held that same look, reserved only for his wife, as he returned the smile.
Mr. Odoms, reluctant to enter the crime scene, asked if they needed him for anything else at the moment. Tre and Geoff declined but thanked him for his help, and he left them to their work. The detectives entered the room, each with a cheery ‘hello’ for their favorite ME, Diana.
“Whatta we got, Darlin’?” Tre asked playfully.
“Well, YOU’VE apparently got no manners,” she scolded, giving him a look. “We’re working, Tre,” she added under her breath, but loud enough for Geoff to hear.
Geoff laughed out loud. “So, Doc, what do we have?”
“That’s better. I think my husband needs to take some lessons in manners from you, Geoff.”
Geoff glanced at Tre, who was glaring back at him. “You know what, Diana, everything I learned, I learned from Tre. He’s the man.” Tre was obviously pleased with the compliment his partner bestowed upon him.
Diana mustered up a smile for her husband’s partner. These two were good for each other in so many ways. Geoff treated Tre with an enormous amount of respect and was always there to back up his partner in every way. Diana liked those qualities in Geoff and hoped they would rub off on Tre.
“We have Sheila Victory, age 24, black female. Apparent cause of death is asphyxiation. She also has some ligature marks around her wrists. I’m guessing it’s from the restraints,” Diana said, motioning to the bindings on the sides of the bed. “I’m not sure how long ago they may have been made. The officers claim this is exactly how they found her, they didn’t touch anything. I haven’t spoken to whoever found her yet, and I still need to get a few more samples from around the room before we take the body back to the lab. I should have a preliminary report for you later today.”
“The room looks to be in order, no signs of a struggle,” Tre commented.
“Except for the bed,” Diana pointed out. “The policy here at Stoneyhaven is that the bed is for sleeping only. Between the hours of 7 AM and 11 PM, residents are not allowed to turn back the covers.”
“So she was murdered while she was still sleeping?” Geoff deduced.
“No, I’d fix time of death at around 9:00 this morning and the housekeeping staff claims that according to their charts, her room was made up at 7:08 AM. Ms. Victory was still at breakfast at 7:30 AM.”
Tre nodded as he looked around the sparsely furnished room. There were no items of a personal nature anywhere in sight; the artwork on the walls, however, was exquisite. But as beautiful and inviting as Stoneyhaven appeared on the surface, he thought, it was in reality a cold, impersonal, almost sinister place. Snapping himself back to the task at hand, he gave Geoff a nod, and the two of the were off to spend the rest of the afternoon questioning Sheila’s team of doctors, staff members, and the other patients.
Rita returned to the station late that afternoon. She and Cap walked in together, then each headed for their own office. Rita smiled as she strolled past Geoff and Tre, both of them busy on the phone. Chris’ empty desk caught her eye; she hoped he was having a good day.
Inside her office, she dumped her briefcase on the desk and sat down, exhausted. As she reached up to open the briefcase, Geoff appeared the doorway, poised to knock. Rita saw him first. “Come on in, Geoff. Whatta we got?”
“Another homicide, for starters. A 24 year old female, Sheila Victory.”
Geoff nodded as Tre came in behind him. “Finally, someone who listens to good music,” Tre noted, flashing Rita an understanding smile. “Did you ask her yet?” he questioned impatiently.
“No, you’ve given me all of five seconds with her.”
“Ask me what?” Rita asked, trying to get back to the conversation that obviously had something to do with her.
“I was just giving her a run-down on the case first. You can’t just dump something like this on her,” Geoff explained to Tre.
Rita listened her two detectives’ verbal volleyball game, but was still totally lost. She briefly wondered if, at times, she and Chris had appeared this incoherent to Cap over the years. She let them continue for a minute or two then decided to grab the ball herself. “OK, you guys, stop already. Geoff, tell me what we’ve got so far.”
Geoff proceeded to tell her everything they knew about Stoneyhaven and the unfortunate Ms. Victory’s demise. Rita listened attentively, taking mental notes. “All right, now what did you want to ask?”
“We came up with this idea to crack the case,” Geoff announced proudly.
“And....care to share?”
“An undercover gig!”
“But you two have already been made,” Rita reminded him.
“That’s why we need you and Chris. We thought you could go in as the patient, Chris would be your husband. It’s perfect!” Geoff continued, trying to give Rita the ‘hard sell’. He needn’t have bothered.
“Sure,” Rita said enthusiastically, “ I like it.”
“You guys could work it from the inside, so to speak, and we can handle everything out here,” Geoff rattled on, not realizing she had already agreed.
“I’ll bounce the idea off of Chris, but I’m sure he’ll go for it. He has the easier of the parts!” Rita tried to cut him off.
“We’ve already started setting up your cover...”
“Geoff, man, she said they’d do it. Enough already,” Tre interrupted.
Geoff glanced at a smiling Rita. “Terrific! I’ll finish the set up right now.”
“You two really work well together, you know that?” Rita complimented. Over the last few months, they had become quiet a cohesive team, almost blending into one person at times, even finishing each other’s sentences. When they had disagreements, they had learned not to take things personally, to try and see the other person’s point of view, and most importantly, to work through the investigation even though they may have conflicting opinions. Their relationship reminded her of when she and Chris first became partners.
“Thanks!” they both replied together, as if reading her mind.
Chris had finished his reports by 4:00 PM, so he decided he’d use the rest of his free time to make a special dinner for Rita. A good, home-cooked meal would be a nice change from the pizza and Chinese take-out they seemed to be having too much of lately, he thought, and the beautiful evening weather fairly screamed ‘barbecue’. One quick trip to the supermarket, and by 6:00, the filets were ready and the side dishes done. He was busy cutting up vegetables for the salad when he heard a car pull into the driveway.
Rita came in through the patio, noticing the grill was now in the center of it. Looking through the glass patio doors, she could see Chris at the counter, busily preparing something. He turned when he heard her coming, and she gave him a wave and a smile as she walked across the patio. He quickly abandoned his work, rushed over to the door, and slid it open for her, greeting her with a kiss. “Hey, Sammy. How was work?”
“I had a pretty good day. How ‘bout you? Did you get anywhere with those reports?” she asked, following behind him to the counter where he was working. She stole a cucumber slice from the cutting board before he started chopping again.
“I not only finished mine, I did yours and two of Tre and Geoff’s,” he announced proudly. “In fact, we are now totally caught up on all the reports in the homicide department . What other department can say that? Huh?”
“That’s terrific! Especially since we have a new case that needs our attention now.”
Chris stopped chopping and listened intently. “How come nobody called me? I’d have come right in! What’s up?”
“No problem, Geoff and Tre handled it just fine. The homicide was over at Stoneyhaven,” Rita explained.
“The nuthouse for the upper crust?” Chris interrupted.
“They prefer to call it ‘an estate’.”
“And I prefer to be called Detective Sergeant Lorenzo, but that doesn’t always happen, now does it?" He went back to his chopping. “So, who died?”
“The singer?” Chris questioned, stopping in mid-chop. “She was crazy? Hmm, who’da guessed?”
“Chris, not everyone that goes there is crazy. Some people just realize they need a little help. They can afford Stoneyhaven, so why not get the treatment they need?”
“Are you trying to sell me here or what? Nobody goes there because the want to and we sure can’t afford their services. Hell, I wish I didn’t have to see Daniel, except socially of course.”
Rita smiled at his comment. “I wasn’t talking about you or me. Mental illness is a sickness, just like cancer or the flu. And social status doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you get sick. Sometimes you just need help.”
Chris tried to ignore her explanation of mental illness. The subject was just a little too close to his reality right now, so he tried to change it. “So what happened, anyway?”
“It looks like a possible strangulation. Diana still hasn’t finished the preliminary report yet, but we should have it first thing in the morning,”
“Is it our case or Geoff and Tre’s?”
“I’m glad you asked that,” Rita began as she stood up to get the plates to set the table for dinner.
“Uh oh. Why don’t I like the sound of this?”
“You don’t even know what I’m going to say yet,” Rita chuckled.
“OK, tell me.”
“We’re going undercover, you and me. Well, actually me a little bit more than you.”
“I think you’d better explain this to me a little more.”
“I’m going in as a patient and you get to play my husband.”
“I think I can manage that part,” he said with a grin, capturing a quick kiss as she brushed past him. “But why do you have to go in?”
“Sheila was a woman, she lived in the women’s quarters. We’re not sure if there’s any connection there, but that’s where we want to start. So I’m going in.”
“When do we start?”
“Tomorrow. We’re having a brief meeting first thing in the morning, then Tre and Geoff are going back to Stoneyhaven. They have a few more staff members to interview and a bit more investigating to do from the outside. That will give you and me a little time to come up with a good cover. We may have to call in a favor or two to lay the background on this one.”
“I can give Benny a call. You know, his partner Mike is from a very wealthy and influential family. I’ll bet he could help us on this one.”
“That’ll work. See, this is coming together nicely,” Rita said, giving the table one last inspection.
“Yes, it is. And so’s this dinner, so let’s just forget about work for a few hours and enjoy the meal, OK?”
“You got it, partner!”
An hour later, seated comfortably on the chaise lounge on the patio, they watched as the sun slowly set behind the stockade fence of their yard.
“You are such a wonderful cook, you put anything I make to shame. You know that?” Rita said, relaxing in his arms.
Chris responded by holding her a little tighter and giving her a quick kiss on her soft cheek. “That’s true. It wouldn’t be much of a contest. But thanks anyway ,” he said with a grin. Rita laughed as she drove her elbow playfully into his stomach, and he squirmed a little beneath her. “Maybe I could give you lessons?”
“That would be after we both retire and can sit home all day on the patio and cook,” she laughed. “And just how was your day, anyway? I thought you were going to the beach.”
“I decided to be responsible and stayed out here to do the reports. But it was really nice to just get away from the office for a day. And I had another appointment with Daniel,” he added quietly.
Rita knew he had been seeing Daniel on and off for the past few months, but never felt right about prying into his sessions. She knew he’d tell her about it when the time was right, so she always waited for him to bring up the subject. Holding his hand in hers, she tenderly stroked it, letting him know that he could take his time in telling her.
“It went pretty well,” he began, “and Daniel thinks we might be on to something. See, he thinks these feelings I’ve been having are related to the fact that everything in my life’s going smoothly.”
“What?” Rita giggled with surprised, not quite following his explanation. “So what, like you’re allergic to happiness and contentment?”
Chris laughed then tried to explain it again. “See, Daniel thinks that I’ve become too accustomed to chaos...the whole thing with my parents, being bounced around, then college, the police academy, all the we’ve cases handled over the years, all the relationships...very little stability. But, now that I’ve found you, my life’s great. You’ve centered me. And I guess I’m not really used to that yet. Does that make any sense?”
Rita turned so she could see his face. “Yeah, that actually does make sense. Do you feel any better?”
“I’m beginning to. Daniel still wants us to discuss things a little more. You know, try to delve a little deeper into my head. Hey, maybe I should be the one going undercover as a crazy. I mean, I have all this insight now.”
“And that would be what gives you away. I mean, what if they hypnotized you or something? You’d give everything away.”
Something she said made him pause for a second, but then it quickly left his mind. “And you wouldn’t? You know, they say you won’t do anything under hypnosis that you wouldn’t do normally do, and you end up remembering everything.”
“I’ve heard that,” she said, turning a little in his arms to give him a kiss on the cheek.
Rita’s body moving against his was driving Chris wild, giving him the spark he needed to ignite his flame. The touch of her hands, her lips, sent him blasting through the universe. Suddenly quiet, he shifted her body so he could gathered her in his arms more snugly. Softly, gently, he kissed her neck, reveling in its softness, her skin warm and inviting against his lips. Slowly, patiently, he let his warm breath and the slight stubble on his chin brush along her delicate skin. The sensation was intense for both of them.
But Rita sensed that something was bothering him. “Chris, is anything wrong?”
“Nope, nothing at all,” he whispered quietly against her neck, his flaring passion erasing all memory of the evening’s conversation. Even if there had been something bothering him, he had lost all thought of anything but his beautiful wife. His kisses were tenderly soft and intoxicating as he slowly dragged his bottom lip, ever so moist, up and down the pale white skin of her neckline. He could feel the beating of her heart against his lips as he laid them lightly against the pulse point in her neck. He brushed them lightly across her smooth skin, as if to relax her, but the sensation just made her pulse race with passion. Chris couldn’t see the smile that shone on her face as one of his hands drifted up to softly caress her cheek. The feel of her soft skin on his fingertips was a sensation he never thought he’d be lucky enough to have, yet here she was, snuggled safely in his arms. He turned her cheek toward his aching lips, running passion-laden kisses over the milky, smooth skin he found there. Pulling back slightly, he now saw her radiant smile and couldn’t help but grin in return.
He stopped for a moment and reached down beside the chair for his glass of iced tea , when a devilish idea came to mind. With Rita relaxing comfortably in his arms, he pretended to take a sip, instead taking a piece of ice in his mouth, then he set the glass back down as his lips casually went back to work on her neck. Only this time, the moist warmth was replaced by a frozen, wet tingling from her head to her toes. Her playfully erotic moan reached clear down to his groin, compelling him to continue his assault of her senses. Up and down, he painstakingly drove the piece of ice along her neck and throat, lapping up the trickles of moisture as they glided down her skin. Chris was more than content to continue this game, soothing, licking, and kissing every sensitive inch until the heat between them melted the ice cube, and Rita was more than content to let him, pleasured by the icy trick he had played.
Reaching up with her free hand, Rita ran her fingers through his hair, her highly aroused body pushing even tighter against his, if that was even possible. He always felt so good, so secure, so strong, and at the moment, she could now feel, so hard! She turned her face a little more, seeking out his lips with hers, but he ignored her attempts for the moment as he continued to torment her in his own unique way. His goal tonight was to bombard her senses from head to toe, and it was working already.
His hands had a mind of their own as they unconsciously went to work on her body, touching her everywhere with long, daring strokes...her arms, her legs...finally coming to rest on her breasts, cupping them right through her blouse. His fingertips began tracing a tingling path around and around, both soothing and sensitizing at the same time. Finally, one hand dipped inside for a more intimate caress. Rita managed to compose herself enough to put the brakes on his exploring hand. “Chris,” she said breathlessly, “maybe we should move this inside.”
Ignoring her comment for the moment, he continued his assault, now engulfing her earlobe with his warm, moist mouth, his tongue making its way around and around, dipping in playfully. One more gentle, moist circle around her lobe and he had her practically purring.
No matter how indecent his actions or what kind of audience they might have, this felt way too good to stop. Quickly forgetting her protest, she released his hand, allowing him to continue. Chris obviously didn’t care where they were, and at the moment, neither did she.
His hand passionately fondled her breast while his moist lips and open mouth criss-crossed over the skin of her beautiful face and neck. Before long, his other hand wandered up her shirt from the other direction, his large hand grazing over her stomach, sending a pleasant chill up and down her spine. Rita, totally oblivious as to when he had managed to worked her shirt out of her shorts, softly moaned her approval, enjoying the warmth she felt growing in her body. His hands were working her into a heated frenzy of desire, which, along with the Florida humidity and late evening sun, brought beads of perspiration to her skin. Slowly, unconsciously, she ground herself against his rock-solid arousal, and he groaned tenderly in her ear from the intimate contact. Somehow, he managed to undo her bra, and it lay loosely against her skin as his hands made their way underneath the lacy fabric, his fingertips and thumbs working in unison to bring the tips of her breasts to firm peaks. She was so far gone that she didn’t even notice that only one hand was now working on her from breast to breast, while his other had slipped down over the soft, creamy white skin of her stomach, then lower still, into her shorts.
“I want to drive you wild,” Chris whispered, barely audible, in her ear just before capturing the lobe again with his mouth.
Rita thought she heard herself tell him that he was, but the words only echoed in her mind. She exhaled hard and let her head fall back against his assault. Unable to respond in words, her body language quickly gave him the answer.
“Sammy, I’ve been thinking about you all day, since we went running. Your body is so incredible,” he moaned breathlessly through hot, lustful lips. “I want to take you again, and again, and again, all night long, starting right now.”
How could he be thinking and talking at a time like this? Rita wondered. She was so far gone, she had lost all semblance of thought and reason. It seemed like his hands and lips were everywhere, touching her, kissing her, tantalizing her senses like never before. Man, he could make her go so crazy! Rita turned her head to the side again and this time, Chris instinctively sought out her lips. She whimpered slightly as they finally made intimate contact, tongue battling tongue.
Chris amazingly still managed to maintain control. First, he gently bit down on her bottom lip, then let his tongue glide over it, to soothe it, before thrusting it into her aching mouth. Rita accepted him right away, joining her tongue with his. Another tantalizing battle had begun. His hands continued their assault, one remaining focused on her breasts, as the other worked its way around inside her shorts.
She moaned against his mouth when his hand reached her heat and arched against his touch.
“Feels good huh, Sammy?” he said before pulling his hands and lips away from her, toying with her a little before enveloped her in an Earth-shattering embrace. “I want to make you come, and come, and come, and come, all night long,” he whispered against her ear, before he cooled it in his mouth once again.
Rita finally found her voice. “Chris, I want you so bad. Please...” The yearning and pleading in her voice sent tremors through his body. She tried to add the word ‘inside’ to her plea, but somehow, no words would come out. She tried to turn in his arms, but he wouldn’t let her. He knew he could take her in a millisecond, his arousal was obviously more than ready, but he wanted her first like this. He wanted to see her, watch her reaction, and feel her body against his, just like this, as she came for him.
“I know you want me,” he whispered soothingly as his hands ran over her partially exposed breasts. “Be patient, we’ll get there.”
“Chris!” she pleaded.
“We’ll get there, Sammy,” he repeated, turning her face toward his and locking her into a mind drugging kiss as his other hand dipped below, into her shorts again. His fingers eased in slowly, carefully tracing every part of her hot flesh as he slowly, methodically stroked her. He reveled in her moist heat, knowing that he was the direct cause, while his fingers worked carefully, purposefully, to make sure he would bring her to total pleasure.
Rita felt like he was bombarding her from every direction, and there was just no way to stop him. His mouth worked hungrily, his teeth nibbled and flecked along the sensitive skin of her throat before his warm, wet tongue took over, tenderly soothing then tickling the area shamelessly. Whimpering helplessly in his arms, she was totally at his mercy, and they both knew it. Her body, pressed so tightly against his arousal now, could feel him getting harder by the second, as his hands continued their skillful work, threatening to send her over the edge at any second now.
“Rita, you’re so beautiful,” he called out as her body ground more frantically against his. His hand moved swiftly, coaxing her to the very brink of climax, and when he slid in his finger one last time, she let out an impassioned moan of pleasure. Her face was agonizingly gorgeous as emotion after emotion swept across it. “I love you, Rita. I love everything about you,” he whispered softly, as she felt the heaping cataclysm of pleasure roll through every fiber of her being. Chris wanted to hold onto her, and onto the powerful moment, for as long as could.
Her breathing still intense, she finally opened her eyes, turning her head to look at his face. The grim he wore was priceless, one she swore she’d never seen before.
“We’re just getting started here, Sammy, you know that don’t you?” he boasted, a swagger in his voice.
“All I know is, I’m glad we have an eight-foot stockade fence running around this yard,” Rita said with a breathless laugh.
“Ha!” he declared, staring at her lips.
Rita couldn’t help but chuckle as his lips dipped in for another taste. But this time, Rita was a bit more in control. She knew he’d have to have her soon, so she pulled away from his grasp and rose. “If you want more, you’ll have to come inside and play,” she said, standing over him.
Suddenly filled with a renewed sexual hunger, his bulging arousal simmered in the his shorts. Chris didn’t know how long he could play the game she had in mind, but by heaven, he was willing to follow her rules. He stood up slowly, his eyes drinking her in from every angle as she stood in the doorway, her curled finger seductively inviting him inside. He ran over and snatched at it with his mouth, feasting on it right then and there. Rita didn’t protest, deciding to let him have his brief moment of fun. Little did he know, this delightful finger-tasting moment put him totally at her mercy. Up till now, she had given all control over to him, but now, it was her turn, and she had a few ideas of her own for him.
The mere taste of her, even in such a simple way, was pure manna to him. Rita continued to lead him through the house, room by room. Each time he tried to get closer to her, she’d only give him another little taste to whetting his appetite. It was starting to kill him. He wanted, needed, to be satisfied, not teased. But she was no where near ready yet. Chris knew he had to play her game, just like she had played his.
They were moving slowly down the hallway, when Chris finally pushed her inside the bathroom, cornering her in the shower stall. He pushed her up against the wall, kissing her deeply, thoroughly. Rita somehow managed to keep her wits about her despite his onslaught. Grabbing the shower head, she aimed it directly at him and turned on the cold water full force, hitting him directly on the back. He quickly released her, groaning from the cold shock of the water as he jumped out of the stall. Rita burst out laughing at his wet head and torso.
“You think this is funny, huh?”
“I think this is hilarious,” she choked out between laughs, following him out.
“Your plan was to try to cool me down, huh?”
“Not exactly,” she said, seeing the fire in his eyes.
“Good.” Their eyes locked, and he could see the passion blazing back at him from the depths of her emerald green eyes. Chris quickly peeled off his wet shirt and stripped out of his shorts, then reached back to adjust the water to a more appropriate temperature, his gaze never leaving hers for a second.
Rita seductively peeled off her clothes, too, then reaching out with her hand, she pushed him backward into the shower, following him in herself.
“Can I ask what exactly your plan is, Mrs. Lorenzo?” Chris asked as the water poured over his head.
“Let’s see, first a rinse, then a body wash, then another rinse, and then who knows?” Rita explained as she ran her hands over his wet, slicked skin. He closed his eyes, in glorious agony under her touch, and his head dropped backwards against the wet tile. “How does that sound?” she asked, watching his emotions play out on his face.
Several seconds passed before he find his voice. “I think I’ll be dead by the time the ‘who knows’ part comes around,” he managed to moan before Rita pushed herself against his body and gathered his open mouth with hers, wrapping her arms around his strong, muscular back. Things were going to happen quickly this time.
Her mouth left his and began to trail down his body, over his throat. He swallowed hard and buried his hands in her drenched hair as she continued hungrily. Moving on to his chest, her wet hands moved in circles over his highly aroused skin, and he grabbed her shoulders to steady himself as her tongue and teeth sought out his nipples, diving in for some play of their own.
Chris rubbed her shoulders and back, holding her head tightly against his chest. When her tongue reached his navel and dipped in, he nearly lost it, a satisfied groan escaping his lips. The time for patience was over. He stood her up, spun her around, and encircled her in his arms, grabbing the bar of soap in his hands. Lathering them up, he let them glide over her breasts and stomach, drawing lazy, love-filled patterns over her slippery skin. His thumbs made quick work of changing her rosy nipples into firm peaks, and Rita carefully push herself against his hardened body as her hands joined his, leading him to feel her warmth once again.
Chris couldn’t take it anymore. He turned her around again, pushing her against the tiled wall of the shower, picked her up, and held her close, his hands firmly caressing her bottom. Instinctively, she wrapped her legs around him and helped him eased down on her. When he finally slipped inside, she buried her head against his chest, stroking it and kissing it, reveling in the closeness they had found again. The first thrusts of his hips sent rippling waves of pleasure through her, and together they found their own familiar rhythm. She tried to hold out, enjoying each wondrous sensation, but Chris was merciless in his thrusts. She thought she would burst into billions of pieces and nearly screamed with pleasure, arching against his body as he delivered one final, powerful thrust. Lost in his own pleasure, he murmured her name against the side of her neck as he held her tight.
Their bodies delighted in each other, time and time again. How they had ever managed to control their desires all those years as friends and partners, neither could now quite understand. They were together in everything, but never more so than times like this, when they were truly joined as one. Be it fast, slow, gentle, powerful, game-playing, or love-intoxicated, when Chris and Rita made love, it only got better and better, leaving them both more deeply in love every time.
When their shower was through, the nearly exhausted couple found their way to the bedroom. Chris knew exactly what he was doing when he playfully snapped his towel at Rita’s behind, causing the towel she was wearing to drop to the floor. Rita spun around to give him a look.
“After all that, you still want to play?” she said, pointing a finger at him.
“I want to play with you day and night, 365…24…and 7,” he said, inching his way closer, gently brushing his lips against hers.
“What?” she question, not quite understand his cryptic message.
“365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week,” he explained, now standing toe-to-toe with her.
She tried to stand her ground, but the bed was pushing at the back of her knees, and she knew one little nudge was all it would take to topple her onto it. She giggled both from his response and the fact that she did indeed begin to fall backwards. He landed right on top of her and the lovemaking session was in full swing again.
This time, they were equal in their demands. Playful at first, they rolled over one way, then the other, then back again, neither wanting to give in to the other. Chris finally put a stop to playtime, sitting up and pulling Rita with him. They joined powerfully and moved silently together, arms and legged wrapped around each other, their eyes locked so intensely that they were indeed one, in body, mind, and soul. A seriousness swept over them, and at that moment, they were surrounded by a love so intense that nothing could permeate it. They could see the emotion mirrored in each other eyes, a love as true and as beautiful as any ever had been, and even after their love climaxed, they held each other with the same closeness, almost refusing to ever part. Finally, Rita gave him a hint of a smile, and Chris gently kissed it, murmuring softly against her lips, “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she said, feeling his lips turn upward into a smile. It was in the wee hours of the morning that they finally fell asleep, totally secure in each others arms, exhausted, but completely and utterly satisfied.
The next day, Chris decided he needed to see Daniel, and luckily, he had a cancellation. In Daniel’s office, Chris stretched out casually on the now-familiar couch, and they began to discuss the Sheila Victory case and how he and Rita were preparing to go undercover. Daniel listened attentively, jotting a note or two on his pad from time to time, but his head popped up when Chris mentioned what Rita had said about Chris not going in as the patient because someone at Stoneyhaven might hypnotize him, and that his experience in therapy might give him away.
Daniel saw his opening and took full advantage. “Have you ever been hypnotized?”
Chris visibly stiffened at the question, and a long silence hung in the air between them.
“Chris? Hey Chris? I thought YOU wanted to talk?”
“So, have you ever been hypnotized?”
Chris turned his head to the side and met Daniel’s gaze. “Me?”
“Yeah, you’re the only one in here besides me, and I already know that I have been.”
In his usual fashion, Chris turned the question back on Daniel. “Do you remember anything about it?”
“I remember feeling better afterwards, if that’s what you mean. It was part of a clinical. Actually, it’s a great technique for getting to the bottom of things. Would you like to try it?”
“Nah, I don’t think so. I’m not into that hocus pocus stuff. All this talking is really more than I can handle.”
“Hypnosis isn’t hocus pocus, it’s a basic form of analysis, been around for centuries,” Daniel tried to explain.
Chris went back to staring at the ceiling. “I could do without all the analysis and treatment,” he mumbled.
Daniel uncharacteristically took his comment personally. “Listen, Chris, if you don’t want to be here, that’s fine. Believe me, I understand. There are plenty of people I could be helping.” He set down his notepad on the table. “You called me, remember?”
Chris quickly sat up. “I’m sorry, Daniel. I didn’t mean it about you, personally. Hell, I don’t even know why I said that. I apologize.”
Daniel gave him the tiniest hint of a smile. “Why don’t we take a break. Give yourself a week or so, and we’ll see how you’re doing then. How does that sound?”
“If you think that would best, sure,” Chris said, shrugging his shoulders.
“We’ll make it work, OK? If you need anything though, just give me a call,” Daniel said, rising to his feet. Chris rose as well, and they shook hands in the doorway.
“We’re still playing on Sunday, right?”
“I’ll be there,” Daniel said as Chris left the office.
Daniel went back inside his office and closed the door, his mind drifting back to the session they had just completed. They hadn’t gotten too far into things when the topic drifted back toward Chris’ work. He went back over his notes. Patient became agitated with the suggestion of hypnosis….didn’t respond at first to a question of ever having the procedure done to him…uses the plural to address analysis, as if he’s had it before. Maybe it was something about hypnosis and work, Daniel thought. He needed to look closer at this theory, he decided as he made his way over to the desk. The good doctor didn’t usually check past medical records of his patients, preferring they tell him their stories on their own, but something was going on with Chris Lorenzo that he just couldn’t get it out of him. Daniel picked up the phone and waited for his receptionist to pick up. “Joan?”
“Get me a copy of all Chris Lorenzo’s medical records, please.”
Early the next morning, Daniel sat at his desk flipping through Chris’ medical records. At first, he was only interested in going back to when Chris was a youngster, suspecting there had indeed been some point in his youth or adolescence when he had received some form of therapy that was now somehow causing his blockage. But his childhood records indicated only routine childhood afflictions: a broken arm, ear infections, and an hot appendix. Absolutely nothing about any kind of psychological therapy, which left Daniel a bit baffled. A quick glance at his watch, and he put the file away. His first patient was due any minute, so the mystery of Chris Lorenzo would have to wait till later.
Daniel ended his day with a visit to a patient he had admitted to the hospital the day before. It was after 6:30 when he finally made it back to his office to collect his things before going home. Chris’ file, sitting just as he had left it early that morning, caught is eye. He plucked it off the desk, flipping through the pages as he wandered over to the couch. Seated comfortably, he scoured the pages. There had to be a clue in there somewhere. They had reached an impasse in his therapy and Daniel didn’t have a clue where to go next with Chris’ treatment. Maybe he’d just have to resign himself to the fact that Chris Lorenzo had some quirks about shrinks, whether they were friends or not. He’d have to learn not to take it personally. He liked Chris as a friend, and thought that he and Rita were perfect for each other, but maybe he shouldn’t see him professionally.
Page after page, he searched through the records, but found nothing out of the ordinary. Daniel noted that Chris had several brief therapy sessions after shootings, but that was standard department procedure, and everything looked to be in order. He came across the hospital records relating to the Debra Bouchard shooting, when Chris had nearly died. It was hard to read the physician’s handwriting, but he thought he saw the word ‘hypno-therapy’ mingled in with the mostly illegible scribble. Quickly returning to his desk, Daniel called the hospital and asked for Dr. Dupree, hoping she could translate the indecipherable handwriting and shed a little light on the situation, but he was told Dr. Jillian Dupree had left Palm Beach General to accept the position of Chief of Surgery at Mercy hospital in Boston. He made a note to call Boston in the morning then decided he would just call Chris at home and ask him outright. Quickly dialing the familiar number, he wait patiently for Chris to answer the phone. He wasn’t expecting a female ‘hello’.
“Daniel! Hi, what’s up?”
“Well, I’m trying to get in touch with Chris. Is he home?”
“Nope, sorry. He went to Wong Loo’s for some takeout. He should be back in, like twenty minutes, though,” Rita, a smile in her voice. “At least I hope he’s back by then, I’m starving! How are Sus and Mel?”
“Everyone’s just fine, and may I add that you sound blissfully happy!”
“I really am. It’s that noticeable, huh?”
“Don’t worry, it happens to all newlyweds. Only in your particular case, I don’t think it will ever pass,” he added with a chuckle. “Hey, maybe you can answer my question,” he began, changing the subject.
“Shoot. I’ll tell you almost anything, you know that.”
“Do you remember what kind of therapy Chris had after the Bouchard shooting?”
Rita was taken aback momentarily by his question. “He had physical therapy for the gunshot wound, but that didn’t start until he had fully healed, nearly a month after the accident. Is that what you mean?”
“No, I’m interested in mental therapy. You know, what I do for a living,” he clarified with a laugh.
“You know, I don’t recall him having anything like that. I don’t think he even had to go for any kind of post-shooting evaluation. He may have, but I don’t remember it.”
“Isn’t that unusual?”
“Yeah, thinking about it now, yeah, it is. But back then, well, we were in the middle of a serial killer case. See, before Chris was shot, I was working undercover with another cop, Chris’ former partner, Derek. In the course of our investigation, George Donovan and I were both shot at. Donovan was nearly killed and I ended up with a concussion when George pushed me out of the way. Anyway, Chris ended up working on some case with Debra Bouchard, an ADA that had some sort of psychotic fixation with him. She shot him when he wouldn’t give in to her ‘charms’. It was all so strange. When Derek and I found him, he wasn’t breathing, and I gave him mouth to mouth. Jillian told me I saved his life. The bullet did a lot of damage, and he was very depressed about being out of work for so long. He tried to come back too soon, and we had another near miss. It was just a mess. After that, he took off, and I gave him some time to stew then went to his beach house after him. I practically begged him to come back, convinced him to give himself some time to heal. When he did come back, well, things were different. He started dating Jillian and I started seeing Eric,” Rita paused as a wave of memories flooded over her. “Oh, thanks for making me bring all that up again,” Rita said in a frustrated tone.
Daniel listened intently to what Rita said. So, Rita had actually saved Chris’ life. Funny he’d never mentioned that. Rita filled in a lot of blanks, giving him new ideas for discussion at their next session. He especially picked up on the fact that Rita said things changed between them. Chris had never mentioned anything about that, either. Maybe Chris hadn’t sensed the change in their relationship. Or maybe he was just holding back. But at least now, Rita had given him some things to go on.
“Hey, all I wanted to know was if he had any therapy or not. I didn’t ask for a rundown of your life,” he chuckled, trying to keep the mood light between them. “Chris started dating his doctor?” he asked, perplexed. Wasn’t her name Jillian?”
“Yeah, does that surprise you?”
“A little. It’s highly unethical.”
“Jillian fought it for as long as she could, but you know Chris!”
“Interesting,” Daniel muttered.
“Now that’s a shrink line if I ever heard one,” Rita laughed. “Maybe Chris will remember more. Do you want me to have him call you?”
“Sure, that’d be great. Thanks, Rita.”
“No problem. See ya soon, Daniel. Bye.”
Two hours later, half-empty containers from Wong Loo’s were scattered all over the kitchen, and Chris, as was becoming his habit, insisted that Rita go relax while he cleaned up the mess. He was enjoying his new role as a husband and wanted to take care of his wife, even though at times he was almost smothering in his insistence on doing everything for her. Most days, she simply wouldn’t allow it. She was just as capable of helping around the house as he was. Besides, it was much more fun to help him, just to be near him, his partner in every way. But on this particular night, she decided to let him have his way. She went into the living room, picked up the book she’d been reading, and made herself comfortable on the living room couch.
Chris quickly got to work gathering up the containers, dumping the empty ones in the garbage and putting the leftovers into the refrigerator. He finished off by wiping the counters, moving some papers near the phone so he could do a more thorough job. On top of the stack, he spotted Rita’s scribbled note for him to call Daniel. Picking it up, he re-read it as he walked toward the doorway.
“Hey Sam, I need to call Daniel?” he questioned.
“Oh, yeah,” Rita said, glancing up from her book. “I forgot, I’m sorry. He called while you were picking up the food.”
“Did he say what he wanted?”
“He wanted to talk to you about the Bouchard shooting. He said he had a couple of questions, that’s all.”
“The Bouchard shooting? That was an open and shut case. Besides, we already went over all that,” Chris said, coming into the room and plopping himself down on the other end of the couch. Rita closed her book then scooted close beside him. “I guess I’ll just give him a call in the morning,” he said, reaching over to put the message on the end table so his hands would be free to ‘enjoy’ his wife’s presence so close to him there on the couch.
“Chris, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” he replied sweetly, placing his arm around her shoulder.
“Did you ever have a psyche evaluation after she shot you?”
He paused for a moment, then smiled. “You sound an awful lot like Daniel right now.”
“Sorry.” She smiled sheepishly as she leaned tightly against him. “I just don’t remember you ever having to see anyone, even though it’s policy.”
“I did see someone a few times in the hospital. I was there for nearly a month, remember? It was someone Jillian recommended. A hospital shrink, not a cop shrink."
“You never told me that,” she said, looking up at him, surprised.
“Well, I guess I didn’t tell you a lot of things back then. All I wanted to do is forget it all, remember?” Rita was a little shocked by his little outburst and not completely sure what he meant by it. But it was true, they had never really discussed the shooting itself, and he had never told Rita exactly what went on that night at Debra Bouchard’s house. “You know I was such a wreck then. Anyway, they were really stupid sessions,” he rattled on. “I didn’t care too much for Jillian’s choice of doctor.”
“Who was it?”
Chris’ mood had visibly changed, and he pulled his arm from around her shoulder, surprising Rita. She could clearly see that he didn’t want to discuss things any further, yet she couldn’t help but want to hear more.
“It was some woman,” Chris explained with growing frustration, “a Dr. Taylor, I think.”
Not wanting to put more pressure on him, Rita quickly changed the direction of the conversation, putting the focus on herself while at the same time keeping him talking. “Do you remember when I had to go for counseling after I shot Commander Stonewell? What a waste of time that was!” she giggled, attempting to lighten the mood.
Chris had to chuckle, too. He proudly remembered Rita shooting the Commander in the shoulder, but only after he had gotten off a shot to her thigh. In the end, Stonewell was proven to be a cop-gone-bad and Rita took him out protecting her partner, but not before the Commander shot him in the butt. “You should have aimed higher on that guy the first time!”
Rita leaned close to him again, and he welcomed her back, enveloping her tightly in his arms. That was all it took for her to drop the subject. If Chris chose not to tell her any more about it, she wouldn’t push him. After all the time that passed, it didn’t seem to really matter anymore.
Tomorrow she would be going undercover at the Stoneyhaven Treatment Center, and right now, all she wanted to do was enjoy the time alone with her husband. The last two days had been spent preparing her cover. She’d been working intensely with Daniel, learning all she could about mental illness and the symptoms she would need to display for her stay at Stoneyhaven to look legit. The human mind was quite incredible, Rita decided. All her research on its inner workings had her fascinated. She wanted to understand everything about how the mind functioned, and at the top of her list was trying to understand her husband’s.
She sat peacefully wrapped in his arms, comforted by his strong heart and calm breathing, glad he had no idea what she was thinking. Her mind began to wander back to at time she’d really rather forget, three days after Debra Bouchard had nearly ended the life of her partner, the day Chris finally came out of his coma. Little did she know, but Chris was thinking the same thing, too.
(FLASHBACK - OK READERS…I KNOW I’VE ALWAYS WANTED THIS SCENE TO GO A LOT LONGER…I HATED WHEN JILLIAN ENTERED AND WANTED HER TO LEAVE SO BADLY! SO, HERE’S MY TAKE ON IT...)
Rita sat there, clinging to him as best she could with all the IV tubes in the way, feeling like she was nearly suffocating him with herself.
What she didn’t know was that Chris wanted her to stay this close forever. He wished he could wrap both his arms around her and never let go. But that was impossible at the moment, maybe even forever. His right arm was dead weight, unable to respond to his brain’s requests.
Hovering close, stroking his hand and cheek, relief was just a small part of what Rita felt when he called out to her moments before. Had he really said ‘Sunshine?’ The nickname truly warmed her heart in every respect. Maybe he was just too groggy yet to know what he was saying, but it felt so good to hear him call her by yet another special name.
The name had slipped out of Chris’ mouth so quickly, he hadn’t even thought about it, but it certainly was an appropriate nickname for her. She clearly radiated like the sun when she was around him, and he would count himself lucky if he could revolve around her glow forever.
Her Chris was back, really conscious now, and she couldn’t bear to leave his side, even if only by a few inches. The unexpected intrusion of one Dr. Jillian Dupree snapped Rita back to the present and she watch Chris’ mood carefully as the beautiful young doctor gave him the somber news about his injuries and the prognosis. He’d survived various internal injuries but the most devastating injury, at least for Chris’ future, was the damage to his arm and chest. He couldn’t lift, let alone move, his right arm. And there was no guarantee that he would ever be 100% again.
As hard as it was for Rita to hear the devastating news, she was glad she was the one by his side to help him through this. The main thing to her was that he was alive. Only days earlier, she had fought to save him, breathing life back into him. Compared to that, this would be a piece of cake. But even so, the words ‘no guarantees’ were hard to swallow for both of them, the thought a of permanent injury simply crushing to them both. Rita knew she had to keep a positive attitude. “Christopher, you almost died,” she reminded him, when what she really wanted to do was take him in her arms and never let him go. She’d take care of him forever, if he’d only let her. But her mind quickly dispelled that kind of thinking. Feelings like that would only get her into trouble, she thought. Thank goodness Dr. Dupree left the room quickly, leaving just the two of them, best friends, to sort out what the future might hold. They sat there in silence for the longest time, avoiding eye contact, afraid to put into words all those things that need to be said between them.
Chris caught Rita’s eye briefly, but quickly turned away. He couldn’t stand her seeing him like this...a broken man, handicapped, disabled, finished. He’d made all the wrong decisions, let a crazy woman get too close to him, and now he’d have to pay the price. His life had come to a crashing halt, and this was how it would all end. But worst of all, his actions over this last week had caused him to let down the people he cared about most. Not once, but twice. It’s like he wasn’t thinking straight anymore. His first mistake, he thought, had been to let Rita work a case with his former partner Derek, though he didn’t quite trust him. He should have insisted on being a part of that case instead leaving her backup to Derek. Rita and George Donovan were both nearly killed because he wasn’t there for them.
Then there was Debra Bouchard. Trusting her had been his next mistake. He had thought she was a bit left of center when he dated her the first time. He should have been able to connect the dots when he began to receive strange phone calls and flowers from an unknown stranger. He’d convinced himself the whole week that they were only working on a case, nothing more. And when she pulled the gun on him, he thought he could stop her, help her. He had always believed he was supercop, he could handle any situation. Supercop, all right, now he was a nothing cop. Rita would never want a partner who couldn’t cover her, on the streets or in life. She needed an equal in every way, shape, and form, and it would no longer be him. She deserved so much more. A tear slid out from the corner of his eye onto the pillow. He hoped Rita hadn’t seen it.
She had. Rita held his left hand tightly in one hand, softly rubbing up and down his arm with the other, as she searched for the right words to tell him all that she was feeling. She was so grateful he was still alive. They had both been shot in the line of duty before, but this time had been so different. He had know idea how close to death he had come, how she had breathed life back into his lifeless body. He was more a part her than ever before.
Chris was only beginning to understand the severity of his injury and just how bad it had been. He had no idea all that Rita had been going through for the last three days and nights. He watched her now, without her knowing it, and began to see the pain, stress, and sadness in her eyes.
Rita’s eyes were focused on the rise and fall of his chest. The mere fact that this warm body beside her was alive and was still a part of her life was all that mattered to her. If he could never use his right arm again, she’d still be grateful that he was alive, his heart, soul, and mind would still be with her. She rested her head against the side of his body, thinking that perhaps he had drifted off to sleep.
He hadn’t. He ached now, not from the pain of his injury, but rather from never having told her how he really felt. As long as they were partners, he wouldn’t cross that line. He couldn’t. They’d both agreed to that. Over the years, he’d learned to hide away his true feelings for Rita. But with all that had happened over the last few days, was now the right time to tell her? Or was his injury just clouding his mind? Or was it that he couldn’t bear to say the words...was he just too afraid? Chris released her hand, letting his left hand drift up, gently trailing it through her soft hair. He caressed her head tenderly, letting her know that somehow, they’d make it through this, even though he didn’t have a clue how at the moment.
His touch meant the world to her. Deep inside, she knew he was trying to thank her, to tell her he loved her, to let her know that somehow he’d be all right. She let him comfort her for a few minutes, allowing herself to relax for the first time in days. She’d never be able to admit it, but the love she felt right there in his arms was the most comforting she had ever known. Should she tell him so? Or was she only feeling like this because she was so grateful to still have her best friend beside her? Confusion, and fear, kept her silent.
Chris, still absent-mindedly stroking his hand through her beautiful, wavy locks, finally realized they were a lot shorter than he’d remembered. “Sammy, you cut off your hair?” he said, confused.
Rita lifted her head and gave him a smile. “Well, not all of it,” she laughed. “The nurses kicked me out of here yesterday afternoon, and Cap wouldn’t let me come into the station. I couldn’t stand the thought of going home alone, so....,” she explained, giving her short locks a tousle. “I wanted a drastic change. Is it really that bad?”
He reached up and tenderly took her face in his hand, gently turning her head from side to side to get a better look. “No, it’s great, actually. I like it a lot,” he reassured her with a smile. “It’s a whole new you, Sam. It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful...,” he added softly.
“It’s gonna take some getting used to,” she said, tucking what hair she could behind her ears.
Chris’ face suddenly became serious. “That’s true of a lot of things,” he said, turning away from her once again as his thoughts drifted back to his current situation.
“It’s too early to know exactly what’s gonna happen, Chris. You just have to have faith, give yourself some time.”
“I can’t move my arm, Rita. Look,” he said, staring down at his right arm as he tried to lift it. Betrayed by his muscles, he looked away, defeated. “That’s my reality now, and I have to get used to it.”
“That’s your reality today. Tomorrow, who knows?” Chris closed his eyes, avoiding her gaze. “You heard the doctor, didn’t you? She said physical therapy will help.”
Intent on feeling sorry for himself, his eyes shot open. “Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll learn how to feed and dressed myself every morning,” he said with a cold stare.
“You know you’re being ridiculous,” she said in a motherly tone. “Three days ago, I thought I had lost you forever. But here you are, alive, breathing, and now being a complete ass!” She paused, her annoyment clearly evident. “You’re alive, Christopher Lorenzo! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?” she choked out, nearly in tears as she let her emotions get the better of her. “Because it does to me!”
Chris felt horrible for making her cry, yet he found it difficult to answer her. He knew she was right. There was the point of feeling sorry for himself. It wasn’t going to bring his arm back to life. The silence between them was intense. “What am I gonna do, Rita?” he finally said quietly.
“You’re gonna follow the doctor’s orders. She saved your life. And you’re gonna take this one day at a time. Whatever’s gonna happen, Chris, is gonna happen. Just be grateful you’re alive.”
“But I’m a cop, Rita, I can’t give that up. It’s all I know, all I ever wanted to be.
“You’re getting way ahead of yourself here, you know that, don’t you?” She smiled at him.
Her smile lightened his mood a little, and he nodded his agreement. “Sam, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had. You make everything seem better.”
“That’s what friends are for, right?”
Chris studied her emerald eyes closely. He could see forever in their depths and found immense comfort there. And he could see that she really believed what she was telling him. Rita Lee Lance was the truest, most honest, loving, caring person he had ever known, and so much more than a friend. She was indeed an integral part of him and he needed her so badly. “I’m so scared, Rita,” he said, looking away. Trusting anyone with his innermost thoughts was not something that came easily to him, but he had learned he could trust Rita with his life. Anything he told her would stay between the two of them.
Picking up his left hand, Rita brought it to her lips, gently kissing the back of it while she waited for him to meet her gaze, his eyes welled up with tears. “I know, Chris, that’s only natural,” she tried to reassure him, pausing to take a deep breath, summoning up the courage to finally share her true feelings. “I thought you were dead, Chris. When I came into that room and saw you with all that blood, I was frantic. Your body was cold, you weren’t breathing. I was shaking so hard I just froze. I don’t remember anything except telling you not to leave me, over and over again. These last three days, it’s been touch and go the whole time, and I’ve felt so helpless. I don’t know what I’d do if you ever left me, Christopher,” she confessed softly, the tears began to flow again.
“Sammy, shhh, it’ll be all right. Somehow it’ll all work out. I’m sorry I put you through this. It’ll be OK, I promise. It’s all behind us now,” he vowed, letting go of her hand to wipe the tears from her cheek.
“What a site the two of us must be,” Rita chucked through her tears.
Chris let out a nervous laugh. There was something she had to know, and this may be his only chance to tell her. He had her full attention, now if he could just get the words out. “Rita, I.....”
An unexpected knock on his door broke the mood, and they both let out a laugh, easing the tension between them. The great Ana Alexis peeked her head in, smiling as she watched the two of them laughing together. “May I come in?”
“Mother? This is a surprise,” Chris greeted her, flashing Rita a questioning look.
“I called her, and your father,” Rita explained. Chris nodded his understanding. “Benny is out of the country but he’s trying to get back.”
“Christopher, are you all right? How do you feel?” Ana rambled on, affecting a dramatic look of ‘motherly’ concerned as she came closer to give him a hug, all but ignoring Rita. Chris winced a little in pain as she came too close to his wound, and she immediately pulled back. “Oh my goodness, I’m sorry, darling.”
“I’m fine, Mother, just a little sore,” Chris assured her as she babbled on about her sudden trip to Palm Beach.
Rita sat there, watching the exchange between mother and son, feeling more and more like an outsider. She desperately wanted to know what Chris was about to tell her but knew he’d never say it in front of Ana. She was beginning to hate this hospital room. First, that doctor barged in and interrupted them. Now, Ana Alexis.
Chris noticed the sadness in Rita’s eyes and interrupted his mother. “Mother, you remember my partner, Rita?”
“Yes, dear. Rita was kind enough to call me when you were shot,” Ana answered without even looking up to acknowledge Rita’s presence.
That was enough for Rita. “Look, Chris, I’m gonna go get something to eat. I’ll be back in a little while OK?”
Chris nodded his approval, a matching look of sadness on his face, then turned his attention back to Ana.
Out in the hall, Rita nearly bumped into Cap. “Ooops...Hey there, Rita, watch out,” Harry gently scolded.
“Hi, Cap. I’m sorry.”
“No problem. I hear Lorenzo has rejoined the human race this afternoon,” Cap said, nodding toward Chris’ room.
“Yeah, he’s been conscious for about an hour now,” Rita explained. “His mother just came, so I was giving the two of them some time alone. I’m heading down to the cafeteria, would you like to join me?”
Cap gladly accepted, hoping he’d get in a ‘forbidden’ meal without Frannie knowing about it. He never noticed the sadness in Rita’s face. They chatted pleasantly as they walked toward the elevator, helping Rita to gradually put the events of the past hour out of her mind. For now, anyway.
(END OF FLASHBACK)
Chris stirred suddenly, bringing Rita back to the present. What exactly had happened at Debra Bouchard’s house?, she wondered, more curious than ever. They had never even talked about the shooting itself, which, looking back now, was rather odd. Well, it was time they discussed, she decided, determined. But a turn of her head revealed a sound asleep husband, postponing the conversation, at least for tonight. She wouldn’t forget, though.
The next morning, the homicide investigation team met at the station. Rita had her suitcase all packed and was ready to head off to Stoneyhaven Estate. Their cover was simple. They’d pose as Julia and Will Schmidt, niece and nephew to Mike Schmidt, Benny’s partner. The real Julia and Will were traveling in Europe and had graciously agreed to ‘loan’ their identities. Everything had been arranged with the rest of the Schmidt clan, who were more than happy to play along. It was the perfect cover, really, giving Rita the freedom to investigate on the inside, while Chris, ‘posing’ as her husband, could help get her settled and visit frequently to slip information in and out easily.
It had been decided that Daniel would give Rita a mild drug to induce a few histrionic outbursts. Neither Chris nor Rita was entirely crazy about the idea, but Rita was willing to do it if it would help make the staff at Stoneyhaven buy her performance. Chris put up his usual fuss, but to no avail. The plan was set and it was now time to see it through.
Down in the parking lot, Rita hopped into the Jeep and rolled up her sleeve for Daniel to administer the mild hallucinogen, along with a mild tranquilizer. The tranquilizer would only last 30 minutes, long enough for the ride over to Stoneyhaven, then the hallucinogen would kick in. Chris jumped in the driver’s seat, donning fake, gold wire-framed ‘millionaire’ glasses as a prop, to give him what he thought was a more studious, mild-mannered, and caring look. Giving Cap, Geoff, Tre, and Daniel the ‘thumbs up’ sign, he threw the car in gear and headed off with a ‘very relaxed’ Rita by his side. She napped nearly the entire ride, which made Chris a little nervous, but as they approached the massive iron gates of Stoneyhaven, she woke up, becoming more fidgety and agitated by the minute.
As they pulled up in front of the main building, Rita threw open the car door and sprinted back toward the gates, trying to get away. Chris ran after her, grabbing her just as two attendants from the facility scurried out to help. Together, they usher Rita inside. Chris was shocked by her behavior, and the natural look of surprise on his face fit his cover perfectly.
Rita screamed as the attendants pulled her down the main hall to the administrator’s office, with Chris following close behind. Rita should be getting an Oscar for her performance, he thought, and even thought he knew her erratic behavior was drug induced, it scared him nonetheless.
The facility administrator, Mr. Odoms, heard the commotion and came running out of his office and down the hall, looking on in horror as this women carried on, screaming at the top of her lungs. “Please gentlemen, take her into my office. We don’t want to disturb the other patients,” he instructed. Then spotting the poor, quiet man walking behind her, he extended his hand. “You must be Mr. Schmidt.”
Chris held out his hand, but kept a concerned eye on Rita. “Mr. Odoms, please call me Will.”
“Very well, Will. Come in, won’t you?” He waved Chris in past the open, heavy-oak door.
Chris immediately spotted Rita on the other side of the room and was simply mortified. Quiet now, she had been placed in restraints and was sitting in a very stiff-looking chair, a look of terror and vicious anger on her face. He felt an overwhelming wave of disgust wash over him at the sight. Acting or not, he was not going to tolerate his wife being strapped in a chair.
“Mr. Odoms, please, the restraints are not necessary.” He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself as he walked over to Rita, putting his arm around her as he began to remove the straps himself.
“Then she’s your responsibility for the time being,” Mr. Odoms advised, sounding like a principal. “So, this must be your wife, Julia.” Odoms deduced, settling in behind his desk.
Chris quickly removed the last strap. “Darling, say hello to Mr. Odoms.”
“I don’t want to. I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE, WILL. TAKE ME HOME,” Rita screamed.
Chris gathered her in his arms. “Darling, I can’t do that right now. You need help and Mr. Odoms here can help you.” He turned to Odoms. “She’s not usually like this. She’s absolutely wonderful. It’s almost like she has two personalities lately. We’ve tried joint counseling, but that didn’t help. I just don’t know what else to do.”
“Is that the only therapy she’s had?”
“Yes. She was fine until about four months. We had a wonderful marriage and were even going to try to start a family.”
“WILL, I MEAN IT, GET ME THE HELL OUT OF THIS PLACE!” Rita shouted, attempting to stand up.
Chris held her down. “Honey, come on now. We’re just trying to help you.”
“What happened four months ago?” Odoms inquired.
“She saw a psychic. She never told me what this kook told her, but ever since that day, she has been getting worse and worse.”
“MR. GIRABALDI WAS NOT A KOOK!” Rita screamed.
“I’m hoping you can help her here at Stoneyhaven. You come highly recommended.”
Rita suddenly turned into a pussycat. “Will, I love you, don’t make me stay here. I want to come home. I’ll be good, I promise. Please, Will, just take me home.” She purred, rubbing up so closely against Chris that he nearly lost it right there.
“This is the best thing for both of us, Love. They’re going to fix you all up here, then you can come back home.”
“I want to go now, Will. I want to be with you. Don’t leave me, please. Will, don’t you leave me. Don’t you leave me!”
The words echoed in Chris mind and he was momentarily stunned. He removed his fake glasses and rubbed his eyes.
Mr. Odoms buzzed in two attendants and instructed them to take Rita to her room. Rita begged and pleaded all the way. “WILL, NO, PLEASE DON’T LET THEM TAKE ME! PLEASE NO, I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE!” It just broke Chris’ heart and he had to turn away.
“She’ll be fine, Will, I promise. You know we don’t use any drug therapy here, and we’ll only use the restraint system if your wife poses a danger to herself or others.”
“I understand,” Chris said, putting on his glasses. “How often can I visit her?”
“As often as you like. Visiting hours for spouses and parents are from noon - 2 PM and again from 6 - 7 PM daily. I assure you she will be given the finest care.”
“I hope so. I’d like my wife back as soon as possible.”
“We want that for you as well, Will. Believe me, we do.”
Chris left Stoneyhaven and headed back to PBPD with Rita’s words still ringing in his ears. Where had he heard them before? He tried to place it, but couldn’t. Everything lately seemed to be focusing on the Debra Bouchard case. Even Rita had mentioned it. Could that have been when he heard them before? But who said it? Debra? Rita? Jillian? He just couldn’t remember. When he entered the station, he headed straight for Daniel’s office, rather than the homicide department. He really needed to talk about this now.
Daniel was just coming out of his office with a patient when Chris entered the waiting room. “That was a great session, Linda. I’ll see you back in two weeks,” Daniel said, flashing a toothy smile toward Chris.
“Thanks, Dr. Mattson. I feel a lot better,” the woman responded.
“Great, I’m glad. See ya in a couple weeks, then.”
The lady smiled politely as she stepped between Chris and the doorway.
“Detective Lorenzo, what brings you back so soon? Did they see through Rita’s act at Stoneyhaven already?”
Chris shook his head. “Hardly. I nearly bought her neurosis myself. What the hell did you give her, anyway?”
Daniel laughed heartily. “Come on in, I’ve got some free time right now,” he said, heading back into his office. “Hold my calls, please,” he directed his receptionist.
Chris followed him in, closing the door behind him. “Seriously, Daniel, wow, that stuff was intense.”
“It was suppose to be, remember? You wanted them to buy her crazy act, right?”
“Yeah, but it scared me big time. I had no idea Rita had so many suppressed emotions to make her capable of behavior like that.”
“You’d be surprised what the human mind can suppress,” Daniel said, taking a seat behind his desk, motioning for Chris to do the same. Chris ignored him and remained standing, concerning Daniel. “Are you OK with all this, Chris?”
Chris, suddenly finding the bookshelf much more interesting, wouldn’t face him, leaving Daniel only a view of his profile. “Me? Yeah, I guess I’m all right,” he lied. “Like I said, it’s just a little weird, that’s all.”
“I’m sure the drug’s worn off by now. Why don’t you give her a call?”
“Nah, I’m sure you’re right,” he said, spinning around to face him. “Besides, they don’t have phones out there.” He finally went over and sat down in a chair. Now Daniel was really surprised.
“Well, what’s next on the case, then?”
“Ah, Rita will do some preliminary work and I’ll probably go back up there tonight and see if she’s found anything out. I’ll talk to Diana, too, and see if the autopsy turned up anything new.”
“If Rita needs any help with her ‘illness’, just give me a holler. Day or night, anytime, you hear me?”
Chris nodded. “Listen, Daniel, do we really suppress stuff in our minds like that?”
“Some more than others, but yeah, most certainly.”
“What does it take to bring it out? I mean, are drugs the only way?”
“No, but it’s probably the quickest. There’s also hypnosis,” Daniel took the opportunity to try and open Chris up. “And some people just begin to remember on their own through intense therapy sessions.”
“You know, I have been hypnotized before,” Chris admitted, “a few years back. I guess I should have mentioned it to you before now. I thought you always remembered everything.”
Daniel nodded his head, acknowledging Chris’ confession. “Would you like to talk about it?”
Chris thought for a moment. He did want to talk about it, and yet, he didn’t. He didn’t actually remember any of the sessions, just the fact that he had been hypnotized.
“I think so, but all I remember is that I was hypnotized, so I wouldn’t know what to tell you,” Chris said with helplessness in his voice.
“Why don’t you sit down and we’ll see if we can sort this out. It sounds like you may have been given a post-hypnotic suggestion to repress some sort of memory. Most hypnosis patients recall everything unless one of these suggestions is given.” Chris smiled shyly as Daniel sat down across from him. “This all stems from the Bouchard shooting, right?”
Chris nodded. “Yeah. Jillian brought in a specialist she thought I should see. A Dr. Taylor or Traylor, I think.”
“How many times did you see her?”
“Maybe a half dozen times.”
“And she hypnotized you every time?”
“Yeah. Jillian said she was one of the best in her field, and she must be because the first time she did it, I didn’t even know it till after she snapped me out of it and told me. ”
“Chris, I gotta confess. I took a peek at your medical records after our last session. You seemed a bit upset when I mentioned hypnosis, so I thought I’d investigate a little on my own. I wanted to talk to your doctor, but I haven’t been able to locate her. Apparently, she isn’t practicing in Palm Beach anymore. I’ve even tried contacting Dr. Dupree to see if she could help me locate her.”
“I don’t have a clue about where Dr. Taylor might be, but the last I heard, Jillian was still up in Boston. Does that help?”
“And she still is. That much has been confirmed. She just hasn’t returned my phone call yet, that’s all.”
“Do you think this past hypnosis is what my problem is?”
“It could be a facet of it, perhaps.”
“I don’t even remember it, though.”
“There is one way to find out.”
“That would be to hypnotize me again, right?”
Daniel nodded with a smile.
After being settled in her room, Rita decided to grab a nap. The drugs had left her with a splitting headache, but they had really done the trick. It was really weird. She knew exactly what she was doing, but she couldn’t control her responses or actions. The look on Chris’ face as she acted so horribly had her more worried about him than herself, but she was sure he knew it was only the drugs talking. Right now, she had a case to focus on. She needed to get busy and find out more about Stoneyhaven and more importantly, about Sheila Victory.
A nurse knocked politely then entered her room, waking her up. Rita smiled and greeted her groggily, “Hello.”
“Are you feeling better now, Mrs. Schmidt? Well rested, perhaps?”
“Yes, I am,” Rita said happily, rising from the bed to look out the window. “Would it be OK for me to go outside and take a walk on the grounds? The flower garden looks absolutely breathtaking. I grow roses myself,” she added.
“Of course. And you don’t need to ask permission. You’re free to wander about the facility and grounds. All we ask is that you knock before entering any closed doors,” the nurse explained with a smile.
“Wonderful!” Rita reached out her hand and placed it against the window glass. “It looks like a beautiful day.”
“Now, you do have a therapy session in an hour with Dr. Harvester. Please be back to your room by then, all right?”
Rita nodded and smiled warmly. “I will. Thank you.” With that, she left the confinement of her room and headed out of doors. As she strolled down the gravel garden path, her mind was hard at work on the case. Dr. Harvester was the lead doctor treating Sheila Victory. Maybe luck would be on her side and he would be able to give her some insight. As prejudicial as it was, Rita’s initial suspect list was made up almost entirely of patients. After all, they were all suffering from some sort of mental illness, and mentally ill people have been known to commit murders. Now, with an entire castle full of suspects, Rita had her hands full.
On her way back toward the main building, she met up with several people and chatted casually with them for a few moments. Off in the distance, she noticed a young man sitting alone. Excusing herself politely, she walked over toward the man.
“Hi, I’m Julia,” she introduced herself.
“Go away,” the young man in his early 20s mumbled.
Not being one that liked being told to leave, Rita sat down on the bench next to him. “I just wanted to introduce myself, that’s all.”
“James,” was his only reply.
“Nice to meet you, James,” Rita answered, not knowing where this conversation was heading.
James answer that question for her. “I loved her, but they said she’s gone.”
“My Sheila, the only friend I had in here. She was writing a song for me. That’s what she told me.
“Maybe she was well enough to leave, James. That’s why we’re all here, so we can get better and leave, you know?” Rita played along.
“She didn’t leave, she’s dead,” he said, looking directly at her for the first time. “I never really got to tell her that I loved her. But I think I showed her.”
“What do you mean, James?”
“We showed each other our love,” he said cryptically.
“James, it’s time for your session now. Come on,” the staff attendant interrupted.
James got up to follow the man, but he turned back toward Rita and nodded his head, whispering, “That’s exactly what I mean.”
Rita lingered on the bench for a few minutes more. The door knocking policy wasn’t always working at Stoneyhaven, she thought with a chuckle. So, Sheila might have had a lover inside these prison-like stone walls. Glancing at her watch, she had about fifteen minutes to get back to her own room for her first therapy session. Time to head back inside.
Right on time, there was a knock on her door. Rita opened the door and showed Dr. Harvester in.
“Mrs. Schmidt, I presume?”
“Please, call me Julia. And you must be Dr. Harvester.”
The doctor nodded as he entered her room. “I see you’ve calmed down 100% from earlier in the day.”
“I really don’t want to be here, Doctor, that’s why I was so upset. My husband should realize that.”
“None of our patients wants to be here, Julia. But you obviously have some issues that need to be worked out. Why don’t we work them out together.”
“You mean like you and Sheila Victory worked things out?”
The doctor was taken aback by Rita’s direct approach. “I’m not sure what you mean,” he stammered.
“She’s dead, Doctor. Someone killed her. The rumors are all over this place. Is that how you work things out, by getting people killed?” Rita stood angrily. “And I heard you were her doctor!” she said loudly, pointing an accusing finger at him.
“Now, there’s no need for that kind of thinking. We’re not sure what happened to Ms. Victory. The police don’t even know yet. But let’s not talk about her. We’re here to talk about you, Julia. Would that be all right? As a doctor, I’d never hurt any of my patients and I certainly won’t hurt you.”
“I said I don’t want to be here.”
“Maybe if you could tell me why you don’t want to be here.”
“I am not crazy. I saw a spiritualistic medium and I have visions of the future now. That’s not crazy, that’s a gift.”
“What kind of visions?”
“The kind of visions that told me who killed Sheila Victory,” Rita said hauntingly, surprising herself and the good doctor. She had no idea where that came from, but the look on Dr. Harvester’s face made chills run up and down her spine. The doctor quickly made some excuses and headed out of her room. Suddenly, Rita had two suspects.
By the time evening visiting hours rolled around, Rita had three suspects, all males. Chris brought some news that would help confirm her suspicions.
It was dusk outside and they opted to take a walk on the grounds so they could talk without being overheard.
“I’ve got some news for you from Diana,” Chris began.
“I have some news for you too,” she countered, “but you go first. What did you find out?”
“Sheila Victory was almost two months pregnant,” he stated bluntly.
Rita stopped in her tracks, shaking her head. “Great,” she said, trying to control the anger in her voice, “Just great.”
“What have you got?”
“I’ve got three male suspects, and by the way they’re all acting, anyone of them could have easily planted the seed.”
“One is. He’s about twenty-two, I think. He claims that he and Sheila truly gave each other their love, without ever saying the words, if you get my drift.”
“Two crazies doing the horizontal boogaloo, huh? Interesting. Is this kid on the up and up, or do you thinking he’s a bit whacked?”
“My gut tells me he’s on the level.”
“And what about the other two?”
“One is Dr. Harvester, believe it or not. He bolted out of our first session when I gave him the impression that I had a vision of the murder. How’s that for crazy?” Chris shook his head, amazed at the things Rita could come up with. “And then there’s Thomas from the cafeteria. He’s the creepiest of the bunch, and what’s really scary is that he goes home every night. The other two live here on the grounds.”
Chris smiled as he reached down and took her hand in his. “We’ll put a tail on Thomas and see what he does on his time off. What’s your plan for the other two?”
Rita breathed a heavy sigh. “I know I can get more out of James, but the doctor is gonna be tricky. Why don’t you run all three and see if you come up with anything.” Chris nodded.
They walked quietly along the stone path. “I hate leaving you here,” Chris confessed, finally breaking the silence.
“I know, but I’m OK.”
“Those drugs really did something crazy to you,” he added, wanting to say more, but stopping himself.
“And that’s all it was, the drugs. You know that, right?”
Chris nodded. “You know, I went back and talked to Daniel some more this afternoon. He said we all have some things hidden in our heads. We all do,” he repeated.
“I suppose that’s true.”
“He wants to hypnotize me,” Chris blurted out.
“It might not be too bad,” Rita offered.
“I know it’s not,” he stated confidently, watching for her reaction.
This confession only surprised her a little, since he had told her only a few days before about having some sort of ‘sessions’ in the past, although he hadn’t gone into any details.
“I was hypnotized by an associate of Jillian’s, right after the Bouchard shooting,” he explained, then paused, anxious for her reaction.
Rita lowered her gaze. “I never knew that,” she said quietly.
Chris sighed deeply, relieved the truth was finally out. “I know. I should have told you,” he almost laughed. “I usually tell you everything. I don’t know why I never mentioned this before. Maybe I was just afraid you’d see me as less of a man or something. Maybe I was just ashamed. Who knows?” he paused again. “I’m sorry I never told you till now.”
Rita watched him closely. “It’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. If you had a broken arm, you’d go to a doctor to fix it. This is no different.”
Chris laughed out loud. “I know, I know, I’ve heard all the arguments. But mental illness still has that stigma attached to it.”
“Chris, I don’t love you any less. As a matter of fact, I love you more every day,” she reassured him as she put her arms around him, giving him a hug. He warmly welcomed her embrace and kissed the top of her head.
“I think I’m gonna let Daniel do it to me. Is that OK with you?”
“Absolutely. In fact, I think it’s a great idea. I bet it’ll help a lot.”
“I don’t think it helped much the last time. In fact, I can’t remember anything about it at all. Daniel says that’s a little unusual and thinks I may have been given some sort of blockage therapy while I was hypnotized.”
“You did have some other issues going on at the time, like healing from a gunshot wound. Maybe you’ve just blocked it out because of that.”
“And there’s you, too,” he said softly.
“What? What about me?”
“I thought about you endlessly, every moment I was in that hospital, or in therapy, or alone at the loft. You were all I thought about.”
“I didn’t want to lose you and I guess I felt like I was. I know it sounds stupid now, but that’s what I was thinking. I just wanted to be there for you.”
“That’s not stupid at all, Chris. I just wish you had told me then how you felt.”
“I wish I had told you, too. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t regret it. I want to make it up to you.”
“You don’t have to make anything up to me. Everything worked out just fine. Maybe not quite according to our plan, but someone’s plan. Think of it that way.”
Chris smiled, took her hand in his, raised it to his lips and placed a soft kiss upon it. “Someone over there is watching us,” he whispered, then louder, “I’ll get you out of here as soon as I can, Darling.”
“I really don’t know how much more of this I can take,” Rita answered, noticing Dr. Harvester glaring at the two of them from a distance.
“It won’t be long, Sweetheart. Just listen to the doctors and try to follow their advice. As soon as you’re well, I’ll bring you home.” They continued their stroll down the path until they were right in front of Dr. Harvester.
“Oh, Dr. Harvester. This is my husband, Will,” Rita introduced, “Honey, this is one of my doctors, Dr. Harvester.
Chris held out his hand. “Doctor, it’s a pleasure.”
“Same here,” Dr. Harvester said, taking Chris’ hand. “May I call you Will?”
“Certainly,” Chris said as Rita scooted more closely to him and he wrapped his arm around her snugly. “My wife speaks very highly of you, Doctor. She was very impressed with your first session.”
Dr. Harvester smiled. “That’s so very sweet to know. Thank you, Julia. Together,” he emphasized the word ‘together,’ “we’ll get through this thing. Isn’t that right , Julia? You’re just so sweet.” He turned his attention back to Chris. “I think we’ll be seeing results very soon.”
Dr. Harvester’s last statement immediately gave Chris the creeps, but he chose to ignore the man’s suggestive undertones, at least for now, and play the game. “That’s wonderful! Isn’t that wonderful, Honey?” Chris exaggerated, giving Rita an extra squeeze. Rita simply nodded.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure to meet you, Will. Julia, we must be going now. We’ve got another session scheduled, remember? Would you mind leaving us alone now, Will?” Dr. Harvester said insistently, his stare never leaving Rita.
“I understand. But first I’d like to say goodnight to my wife privately, if you don’t mind, Doctor.”
They watched the doctor reluctantly walk away. “OK, just what do you think he meant by having results very soon?” Chris asked her as soon as they were alone again.
Rita shrugged. “I bet I’ll find out.”
Chris left Stoneyhaven that night with a nagging feeling about Dr. Harvester, putting him right at the top of his personal ‘gut list’. There was something about the guy he just didn’t like. ‘Gut feeling,’ he thought, then just had to chuckled to himself. Rita, who had always put great faith in her own gut feelings, would just love that! Well, maybe he’d never put much stock in his own gut feelings before, but in this case, he felt compelled to follow it. Since Rita had the ‘Good Doctor’ and James covered for the time being, Chris picked up his cell phone and immediately assigned Geoff to tail Thomas. Then he decided to give Tre a call and get him to run down anything he could on Harvester and James. He went back to the station to finish up some reports, and before he left the office, he put in a call to Daniel.
Chris was surprised to hear Daniel picked up in his office. At this hour, he had expected to get the answering machine.
“Daniel? Hey, it’s me, Chris.”
“Hi, Chris. What’s up? Problems with Rita?”
“No, nothing like that.” Silence hung in the air for a moment. “I was just gonna leave a message on your machine.”
“Well, you got the real deal instead. What’s up? How’s the case coming?”
Silence again. “The case is coming along fine, but...,” Chris struggled to explain.
“You OK, Chris?”
“I was hoping I could see you tomorrow, if you had some time.”
Something in Chris’ voice immediately had Daniel concerned. “Chris, why don’t you stop over here now and we can talk. I’m just finishing up some paperwork.”
“You sure that’d be all right?”
“Absolutely,” Daniel quickly assured him, relieved that Chris wasn’t hemming and hawing for a change. This really must be important. “The door’s unlocked, just come on in. I’ll be waiting.”
“Sounds good! I’m just gonna finish up this report, then I’ll be over. I’ll see ya soon, Daniel. Thanks.”
Thirty minutes later, Chris knocked on the partially open door and Daniel looked up from his book.
“Hey, Chris. Come on in, sit down.”
“Daniel, I just want to thank you for taking this time for me now. I know you have a family and all, and I really do appreciate this.”
Daniel got up from behind the desk. “Don’t worry about it. We doctors are used to things like this. And fortunately for me, my wife is very understanding,” he added with a grin. “Come on, sit down. Let’s talk.”
Chris sat down but didn’t say anything right away, so Daniel started for him. “I talked to Jillian today. She finally returned my call.”
Chris’ curiosity was piqued now. “ What did she say? And how’s she doing?” he added quietly.
“First of all, she said to say hello and congratulations. She figured it would only be a matter of time before you and Rita got married.”
Chris looked down, but smiled. “I never meant to hurt Jillian.”
“I think she knows that, Chris. She sounded genuinely happy for you.”
“She’s a very wonderful lady,” he nodded in affirmation.
“I talked to her about Dr. Taylor, and I’ve got some interesting news.”
Chris’ head perked up. “What’s that?”
“She was found to be incompetent and has since had her license revoked..”
“What does that mean to me?” Chris asked selfishly.
“That’s a very good question, Chris. I went over your records with Jillian and we discussed a few things. The bottom line here is that we need to find out what exactly went on during those therapy sessions.” Daniel waited for Chris to look at him.
“That means hypnosis.”
Daniel nodded. “That’s the best way, Chris. Her notes on what happened during your sessions with her were very incomplete. At the time, Jillian thought that you were improving. But apparently there was an incident when you disappeared for awhile. When you finally returned, things seemed to be back to normal. The sessions ended shortly after that, and Jillian assumed everything was OK.”
Chris quietly took in everything Daniel had just told, then just sat there quietly, deep in thought. “It was ‘cuz of Rita that I came back,” he blurted out suddenly, startling Daniel for a moment. They sat in silence a while longer. Chris still seemed a million miles away.
Daniel finally took charge. “Chris, let’s start with you. What’s going on tonight?”
“I keep hearing these words, sentences, and I can’t place the meaning. I think I’ve heard them before, but it’s all a scramble up here,” he tried to explain, tapping his head.
Daniel thought for a moment. “Chris, let me ask you something.”
Chris nodded, curious.
“How would you feel about getting start right now. Let me hypnotize you tonight and see where it leads us,” Daniel suggested, letting it hang as a question.
“Yeah. Let’s do it, Daniel. Let’s get to the bottom of this once and for all, right here, right now,” Chris said confidently, walking over and stretching out on the couch.
“You are taking this seriously, aren’t you?”
Before laying his head on the pillow, he looked Daniel in the eyes, intensely serious. “I’m just tired of this cloud hanging over me. I want it to end.”
(OK FANS…THIS IS THE DIRECTOR’S CUT VERSION…I’M GOING TO ASK YOU ALL TO USE YOUR MOST VIVID IMAGINATIONS TO UNDERSTAND THE HYPNOSIS SCENES….PUT YOURSELF IN CHRIS’ PLACE, IN A DREAM-LIKE SETTING…THINK IN VERY ABSTRACT WAYS…AND LET YOURSELF VISUALIZE WHAT HE MAY HAVE BEEN GOING THROUGH AND THE THINGS HE HEARD AND SAW…)
Daniel nodded his understanding, grabbed a notebook, and opened it up to a blank page. “OK, let’s get started, then. I want you to try and relax a little. Don’t think about anything except relaxing. I want you to have no other thoughts or cares, just relaxation. In a moment, I'm going to relax you more completely. In a moment, I'm going to begin counting backwards from ten to one. The moment I say the number ten, you will allow your eyelids to drift closed. The moment I say the number ten, you will, in your minds eye, see yourself at the top of a small flight of stairs. The moment I say the number nine, and for each number after that, you will simply move down, one stair at a time, to relaxing more completely. At the bottom of the stairs is a large feather bed with a comfortable feather pillow. The moment I say the number one, you will simply sink into that bed, resting your head on that feather pillow.”
Chris’ eyes were closed and he appeared to be concentrating on relaxing.
Daniel spoke clearly and calmly, “Number ten, eyes closed at the top of those stairs. Ten...nine, relaxing and letting go. Nine...eight, sinking into a more comfortable, calm, peaceful position...seven....six... going way down...five.. moving down those stairs, relaxing more completely. Four...three...breathe in deeply...two... On the next number, number one, you’re simply sinking into that bed, becoming more calm, more peaceful, more relaxed. One...sinking into that feather bed, let every muscle go limp and loose as you sink into a more calm, peaceful state of relaxation. I want you to be totally relaxed. Begin breathing deeply and slowly. Before you let go completely, and go into a deep hypnotic state, just let yourself listen carefully to everything I say to you. It's going to happen automatically, so you don't need to think about that now. And you will have no conscious control over what happens.”
Daniel watched Chris closely; he seemed to be relaxing and following the instructions. Speaking softly and clearly, Daniel continued, “The muscles in and around your eyes will relax all by themselves as you continue breathing, easily and freely. Without thinking about it, you will soon enter a deep, peaceful, hypnotic trance, without any effort. There is nothing important for your conscious mind to do. There is nothing really important except the activities of your subconscious mind, and that will be just as automatic as dreaming, and you know how easily you can forget your dreams when you awaken.”
Daniel stopped for a moment to examined Chris. He appeared to be very relaxed, so he continued. “You are responding very well. Without noticing it, you have already altered your rate of breathing. You are breathing much more easily and freely, and you are showing signs that indicate you are beginning to drift into a hypnotic trance. You can really enjoy relaxing more and more, and your subconscious mind will listen to each word I say. It is becoming less and less important for you to consciously hear my voice. Your subconscious mind can hear even if I whisper. You are continuing to drift into a more detached state as you privately examine your own mind...secrets, feelings, sensations, and behavior you didn't know you had...while at the same time, letting go completely. Your own mind is solving your problems, at your own pace, just as rapidly as it feels you are ready. You continue becoming more relaxed and comfortable as you lay there with your eyes closed. As you experience that deepening comfort, you don't have to move or talk or let anything bother you. Your own inner mind can respond automatically to everything I tell you, and you will be pleasantly surprised with your continuous progress. You are getting much closer to a deep hypnotic trance, and you are beginning to realize that you don't care whether or not you are going into a deep trance. Being in this peaceful state enables you to experience the comfort of the hypnotic trance. Being hypnotized is always a very enjoyable, very pleasant, calm, peaceful, completely relaxing experience. Every time I hypnotize you, it keeps becoming more enjoyable. You will continue experiencing more benefits every time, so you will really enjoy having me hypnotize you. You will always enjoy the sensations of comfort, of peacefulness, of calmness, and all the other sensations that come automatically from this wonderful experience. You will be really happy that you decided to have me hypnotize you as you continue experiencing progressive understanding on your part. You are learning something about yourself. You are developing your own techniques of therapy without even knowing you are developing them. You can have it as a surprise sooner or later...a very pleasant surprise.”
Daniel could tell Chris was ready to be taken back in time, so he began the next part of hypnosis. “Chris, I want you to imagine yourself in a place you like very much...by a lake, or by the ocean. Perhaps you are floating gently on a sailboat on a peaceful lake, on a warm summer day. You are continuing to relax even more now, and you continue to become more comfortable. This is your own world that you like very much. You are going to find that any time you want to spend a few minutes by yourself, relaxing, and feeling very comfortable and serene, you can automatically go back to the feeling you're experiencing now. You can put yourself into this world anytime you like. There are times when you will want this serene feeling, and it is yours whenever you want it. I want you to continue enjoying this pleasant experience as your subconscious mind is receiving everything I tell you. You will be pleased with the way you automatically respond to everything I say.”
Chris was breathing very calmly now and his eyes were in REM stage, both obvious signs that the hypnosis was indeed working.
Daniel continued the session. “Now, I want you to imagine that you are standing in front of a house. This is an unusual house. It's twelve feet high, twelve feet wide, thirty-six feet long. There are three rooms, one behind the other. This structure stands over a basement and there are three steps that lead up to the house. I want you to walk up and open the front door. As you do, you step into the first room. It's a very unusual room because there is only one piece of furniture in the room, a reclining chair. The carpeting, the walls, the ceiling, and the upholstery on the chair are all a beautiful, sunny yellow. This is the Yellow Room. The chair looks so inviting that you walk over to it, sit down in it, and push it back into a reclining position. You feel so relaxed, that as you do, you let your mind drift to a pleasant experience of the past thirty days, a pleasant experience of the past thirty days. Tell me about it, Chris.”
Right away, Daniel noticed the smile form on Chris’ face as he began to relate the experience to him. And just as Daniel had guessed, the memory was about Rita. It was really just a very simple experience, but it had obviously had meant something special to Chris.
“I had an absolutely miserable day at work. Nothing went right. I was getting nowhere on the case I was working on, Cap had chewed my head off in front of Geoff and Tre, then I ended up buried deep in paperwork and phone messages. Worst of all, Rita was no where around. She was tied up in meetings for most of the day. The last straw was when Donovan showed up after 7:00 PM and said that the one witness I gave him had just recanted his whole version of the murder. Donovan had to let the guy walk. I just couldn’t take anymore, so I headed for home. Just as I was leaving, Rita came in. Donovan wanted me to wait talk to him, but I’ll blew him off and told Rita that I’d see her at home. And that’s where I went. I took the long way home and drove along the ocean to try and clear my head. When I pulled up in the driveway, Rita’s car was there, she had beat me home. Then, when I went inside, she had the table all set, with candles and everything, and my favorite jazz CD was playing. We ended up enjoying the best takeout ever from Wong Loo’s ” Chris laughed. “And the subject of work never came up. She’s simply the best. She understood.”
Daniel smiled, thinking how those two were so good for each other, then he continued with the regression, “That’s very good, Chris. Now let’s continue. That wonderful memory causes you to feel even more relaxed, but it's time to get up from the chair and move on to the second doorway and step inside. This room is almost identical to the first, except the color is gold. This is the Gold room, and there is that reclining chair in the center of the room. Since your experience was so good the first time, you walk to that reclining chair again, sit down in it, and now you lean back. As you do, you bring into your mind the memory of a very pleasant experience of the past twelve months, the past year. Chris, I want you to share that experience with me,” Daniel instructed, watching Chris closely.
“The wedding was the greatest. Everything was just so perfect for Rita and everything had worked out with the Kurkowic case. I couldn’t ask for anything more than I had. But the thing I remember most about the wedding was when it came down to the two of us saying our vows. I know how I felt. I wanted to tell Rita that I’d give my life for her a million times over. What I saw in her eyes and heard in her words was that she’d do the same for me. I knew that she was the one, there’s never been a doubt in my mind. She’s so very true and honest. It was all right there in her eyes.”
Again, Daniel wasn’t surprised that Chris’ most pleasant memories involved Rita. After all, he’d probably be the same way, talking about Susan or Melanie. “That was great, Chris, but now it's time to get up from that chair and move into the third room. This is the Blue room. It's exactly like the first two, except for the color. You walk to the chair, sit down in it, and lean back. But this time, as you lean back, there's something very interesting happening. This chair is on a hydraulic hoist and it begins to slowly move down. It's going down into that lower level, passing right down through the floor, as you're going right down, deeper, sitting in a very relaxed, comfortable position. Now, it stops, and you're down in the basement. As you stand up from the chair, you notice one door right in front of you with a sign that says, "The Room of Nothingness." You walk to the door, turn the knob, and step inside. Once inside, your eyes narrow and you hesitate because it's very dim in this room. The door closes behind you. There’s a strange feeling beneath your feet because you're standing on a foam rubber pad that is three inches thick. Your eyes slowly become accustomed to the gloom, and you can see a kind of a rosy glow in the room. You take a few more steps in, then you decide to just sit down. You feel this soft foam, three inches thick, cradling you so comfortably that you decide to lay back. Now all the light is gone and the room is filled with nothingness. As you lay there, that nothingness moves across your mind. You mind is filled with nothingness.”
“I’m not supposed to come into this room,” Chris announced suddenly.
“Why not, Chris? What’s going on? Tell me what you see and hear,” Daniel prodded.
“I can’t, it’s not safe. It hurts too much to remember this.”
“It’s OK, Chris. You’re just an observer now. You won’t be hurt, I promise. First, tell me about how you block out what you see and remember.”
“I close my eyes and it goes away,” he said calmly, “Just like sleep, deep restful sleep, those dreams won’t hurt me there.”
Daniel quickly jotted down a few notes. “Chris, this wasn’t a dream. Whatever happened in this room, happened to you. You need to recall it all and let it out. You need to tell me about it, do you understand?”
“In this deep sleep, I won’t remember anything. It will not invade my mind.”
“No, Chris. It’s not sleep, it’s not a dream. This really happened to you and now I want you to confront it and deal with it. I need you to erase the block about the sleep. You must remember what happened. Let’s try.” Chris lay there motionless for a moment, his eyes rapidly searching behind their heavily closed lids. “Chris, let’s go into that room.”
Chris reluctantly followed Daniel’s lead. “I’ve been here before,” Chris volunteered, not waiting for Daniel to even ask.
Daniel was taken aback by Chris’ admission. “Can you tell me about it?”
“It’s cold in this room, and I feel very alone. It’s loud. I can hear voices and everyone is saying things to me, but I can’t see anything. I can’t tell who’s talking and the voices are echoing all around my head.”
“What are some of things you’re hearing?”
“I hear women’s voices, I think. But I can’t really tell.”
“OK, I want you to relax in here, concentrate on yourself first. Tell me what you’re doing,” Daniel instructed, leading him in a slightly different direction.
“I can’t move. Things are going on all around me. I feel so weak I can’t even pick up my arm. And then I can’t breathe. I stop breathing and the voices are all around me and I hear another sound.”
Right away, Daniel noticed Chris beginning to hyperventilate and he immediately took steps to relax and calm him down again. “Chris, you’re the visitor. You are still relaxed. You’re watching yourself in this room but you are OK. You’re relaxed, and calm, and peaceful as you describe what you see and hear.” Chris’ breathing began to regulate itself once again. “What was the noise you just heard, Chris?”
“Chris, are you the person being shot here? Is Debra Bouchard shooting you?”
“No, I’m already shot. I can’t move. I don’t remember anything and these voices are just ringing inside my head.”
“It’s all right, Chris. Remember, it’s not actually happening, you’re just observing this. Can you see anyone or anything?”
“I see candles. They’re burning everywhere. And bright lights shinning in my face. Someone is saying, ‘Leave us alone’ and ‘Get out of here’ and someone else is asking where am I. Then someone says ‘We’re together now.’ Everything is going black. ‘Together’ is echoing through my head.”
“Chris, why couldn’t you remember any of this before?”
“She told me not to remember. She told me to lock it away in this room and never go back in. If I did remember, she told me to close my eyes, and when I opened them, I would forget.”
“Dr. Taylor told you this?”
“Yeah, she said that it wasn’t worth remembering.”
Daniel jotted down a few more notes. “Chris, I think we’ve gone far enough for tonight. I think you’ve recalled a lot of things that are going to be a big help. You now have a protective shield that neutralized the ‘I can’ts’. You now have total recall at will. Reach in now and remove any block to your memory. Anytime you feel the block coming back, take a deep breath and the block melts away. Remembering is now a priority for you. It is no longer a battle to remember. It is easy and natural for you to remember. It doesn't have to be difficult to be worthwhile. What you need to remember is easy to remember. As you receive new information, you have total recall of this information at will. All information that you have ever seen, heard, or felt is now totally available to you. All information is recorded in your subconscious mind and you now have the ability to retrieve that information at will. It is, has always been, and will always be there for your easy access. Now, I'm going to count from one to five, and then I'll say, ‘Fully aware.’ At the count of five, your eyes are open, and you are then fully aware, feeling calm, rested, refreshed, and relaxed. All right. One...Slowly, calmly, easily, you're returning to your full awareness once again. Two...Each muscle and nerve in your body is loose, limp, and relaxed, and you feel wonderfully good. Three...From head to toe, you are feeling perfect in every way. Physically perfect, mentally perfect, emotionally calm and serene. On the number four, your eyes begin to feel sparklingly clear. On the next number I count, eyelids open. You’re fully aware, feeling calm, rested, refreshed, relaxed, invigorated, full of energy. Number five...You're fully aware now, eyelids open. Take a good, deep breath, fill up your lungs, and stretch.”
Chris slowly sat up, setting his feet firmly on the floor, and looked at Daniel. “What does it all mean? I still don’t get it. Whose voices were those?”
“Good, you’re remembering things now. That’s a very good sign,” Daniel pronounced with a grin. “Evidentially, Dr. Taylor used a hypnotic technique on you called the ‘Room of Nothingness’ or the ‘Room of Forgetfulness’. It can be used both for mind clearing or amnesia. Any suggestions given in the ‘Room of Forgetfulness’ will not be remembered by the conscious mind, but the subject will act upon them nonetheless. The more the subject tries to remember post-hypnotic suggestions, the more they will be forgotten. You’ve definitely got something there, and we’ve clearly made some headway with your ‘not remembering.’ I promise, we’ll get to the bottom of it soon enough.”
“You’re saying I have to go through this again?”
“We’ve already been down this road, Chris. You know you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. The choice is yours, I’m just here to help,” Daniel said a little defensively.
Chris flashed him a reassuring grin. “I do want to continue now. I want to know everything I haven’t been able to remember, and I want to find out why this doctor made me block it out.”
“We will find out, Chris, I promise. As for Dr. Taylor, we now know she was not a leading expert in the field. I’d even go so far as to call her incompetent. But, maybe her faulty training led her to believe that it was really the best thing for you, at the time, to block out the unpleasantness of a near fatal shooting. What I’m sensing, though, is that it isn’t just about the physical aspects of the shooting, the physical pain and suffering. There’s something else going on inside your mind as a result of the shooting, and we need to find out just what that is.”
Chris shook his head in amazement. “You are really good at this, Daniel. How can I ever thank you for putting up with me?”
“There’s no need to thank me, Chris. Unless, of course, you want to let me win at one-on-one sometime. Seriously, it’s my job. I enjoy helping people, just like any other doctor.”
Chris rose from the couch. “When can we continue this?”
“Let’s give it a few days, let it all sink in. How’s that sound?”
Chris nodded, shaking Daniel’s hand, then left for home. The fifteen-minute drive gave him a little time to think about the hypnosis session. In fact, that’s all he thought about for the rest of the night.
The next few days were spent running down information on the three main suspects at Stoneyhaven, each detective having a different suspect pegged as the actual murderer. Rita’s gut said it was Thomas Speaker, the cafeteria worker. Speaker was an aimless drifter that had only been working at Stoneyhaven for six months. Before that, he had worked at similar jobs in seven different states. He also had a police record that was a mile long, although everything up to this point had been relatively minor. It was a big step for him to now be suspected of murder.
Tre’s money was on James, the patient that claimed to be in love with the victim. While James didn’t have a criminal record, witnesses had reported that he had been stalking Sheila all over the estate. In fact, Tre had found other witnesses outside of Stoneyhaven that had reported seeing James lurking around the mansions of some of Palm Beach’s wealthiest families, though he was never charged with anything.
Geoff was leaning toward Dr. Harvester, although he hadn’t found anything concrete on him. He just found it odd that the doctor never left Stoneyhaven, for any reason. His living quarters were in the main building and he seemed content to stay there.
Chris, of course, tended to trust Rita’s famous gut after all these years, so he instructed Tre and Geoff to concentrate their efforts on tailing Thomas. Rita continued her daily sessions with Dr. Harvester and spent her free time befriending James, getting to know all she could about this poor man who seemed truly lost without Sheila. Chris was anxious as he drove out to meet Rita during her afternoon break.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Chris said, giving her an enormous hug when he finally found her strolling in the garden.
“I miss you, too,” she said, giving him a tender kiss as she rubbed her hand along his freshly shaven cheek.
“We need to solve this thing quickly ‘cuz I don’t know how much more of this separation I can take,” Chris confessed with a smile as he steered her over toward a bench. “Did you find out anything new?”
“Well, I’m ready to eliminate James from my list. He’s just not the type to have committed a murder like this. I really believe he loved her,” Rita explained, taking a seat.
“You could be right. We’ve been tailing Speaker all over south Florida. He seems to enjoy taking us on his joyrides. I sill think something is up with him, a lot of things seem to fit.” Chris sat town beside her, scratching his head a bit. “Hey, do you think James could possibly have seen the murder?”
“No, I think he’d have said something if he did. Her death is pushing him farther and farther into a black hole. He’s almost given up. His father was here today and James barely spoke a word.”
“How are the sessions with Dr. Harvester?”
“Fascinating, actually. I’m glad I spent some time with Daniel beforehand, though. It’s helped me so much. I think I’ve really got him convinced that I’m a bit nuts. I hate to say this, but it’s almost fun.”
Chris shook his head in surprise. “What I meant was, is there any chance he could have killed Sheila, Dr. Freud!”
Rita grinned. “I suppose so. Every time I try to ask him about Sheila or about any other patient, he quickly turns the conversation back around. He’s actually very good at it.”
Chris was enthralled by her insights. “You know, you’re really too good a detective to be sitting behind a desk as much as you do these days.”
“Thank you,” she replied brightly. “How’s everything outside of these brick walls?”
“Just good? How’s everything in the neighborhood?”
Chris grinned at her. “Everything and everyone is fine. Web thought we’d split up already,” Chris laughed. “I assured him we hadn’t, to which he replied that if we ever do break up, he wants you to get the house, because he likes you better! I told him you were on a case and he was most impressed. Cap and Frannie want us to come over for dinner some night soon, and I had my first hypnotic session with Daniel, satisfied?”
Rita chuckled. “And how, may I ask, did the session go?” she asked, surprising herself with the inquiry.
“It went very well. I’m finding out some very important things and I’m really glad you convinced me to see Daniel, professionally, I mean. He’s a very good doctor.”
“Can you tell me anymore about the session?”
“I will, I promise. We haven’t really gotten all that far yet, but what I’m remembering so far is pretty interesting.”
Suddenly, Dr. Harvester appeared behind them. “There you are, Julia. It’s time for another one of our ‘rap’ sessions,” he reminded her in his usual suggestive tone. “Would you mind leaving us alone, Will? Julia and I need to spend some time together.”
This guy still gave Chris the creeps, but he reluctantly agreed, giving Rita a tender kiss goodbye. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he promised, then he left Stoneyhaven, the doctor’s words still ringing in his head.
Rita had her work cut out for her. Her sessions with Dr. Harvester had been getting kind of deep, and she had to work hard to keep up with him. She was not only pretending to be someone with a neurosis, but also trying to pump the doctor for any information that may related to the case of Sheila Victory. This particular session was no different. In fact, Dr. Harvester seemed to have stepped up his probing analysis, asking her some questions she wasn’t quite prepared to handle.
“Tell me, Julia, do Will’s visits upset you in any way?”
“Only in the fact that he still leaves without me.”
“I sense the two of you are very close.”
“We love each other very much, if that’s what you mean.”
The doctor wrote down some notes. “I think it’s deeper than that. Have you known each other for a very long time?”
“A few years,” she answered curtly.
“Julia, I can’t help you if you withhold information from me,” he said, an angry edge to his voice.
“I’m not withholding information from you. I just don’t see how my relationship with Will fits with you helping me.”
“I think Will being here every day is interfering with your progress. You depend on each other entirely too much.”
Rita thought a moment before responding. Maybe she was coming on a little too strong, with too much ‘Rita attitude’ and not enough ‘Julia’. But she needed to find out why Chris’ daily presence seemed to bother him so much. She chose her words carefully, “I could live without him if I had too, but I choose not too. We are married!”
“It’s my professional opinion that we’d get much farther in our sessions if his visits could be curtailed. We need more lengthy, one-on-one discussions to get to the root of your problems. What would you say to that?”
“How long would I have to go without seeing Will?”
“A week, maybe more. You might actually find it relaxing, and it could lead to a powerful breakthrough.”
“I’d like some time to think about it,” she began, “I mean, I actually feel better with the sessions we’ve been having, but what you’re proposing seems awfully extreme.”
“Perhaps, but it will be effective. Think about it, then let me know.” Dr. Harvester got up to show her to the door. “You know, I live on the grounds. As soon as you decide, please come by my room and let me know. We can even get started tonight, if you like, and I’d be happy to make the call to Will, to let him know.”
Rita made her way out the door, pausing a moment outside the office. “Thank you, Doctor. I’ll give it some thought,” she promised before heading back to her room. Man, she’d give anything for a phone right now, she thought as she made her way down the now-familiar halls. All her instincts were telling her that something was going on with this doctor. He was getting a bit too personal for her liking. Forget about Thomas and James, Dr. Harvester was now her number one suspect. Unfortunately, there was no way to reach Chris. She’d have to stall the doctor until Chris came for a visit tomorrow.
Looks like it’s going to be a long 24 hours, she thought as she quickly walked through the Stoneyhaven compound. Never had she wanted to leave a place as much as she wanted to leave this one now. The door to her room did had a lock, but knowing the doctor, he’d probably have a pass key like she’d noticed most of the staff did. Rita’s mind ran over the contents of her small room...what could she jam against her door for added protection? Why hadn’t she listened to Chris when he wanted her to bring a small gun along for insurance?
The Palm trees that lined the main walkway swayed in the wind all around her, casting strange shadows on the expansive lawn as she cut across to the main living quarters. The hair stood up on the back of her neck, and she had the strange feeling someone was following her. Great, she thought with a laugh, she was really beginning to fit in at Stoneyhaven the way she was letting her paranoia get the better of her now. Glancing behind her, she saw only the stately trees, gently being blown by the trade winds. Even so, she quickened her pace and soon came to the front door of the estate. She immediately headed down the hallway, toward the main office. She knew they had a phone there, and maybe she could somehow sneak in to use it. She was out of luck. Even though the door was open, a locked metal gate barred the entrance and a security guard sat inside, watching a row of surveillance monitors. She nearly rammed into the gate, but caught herself in time.
“Can I help you, ma’am?” the guard asked politely.
“Oops, I’m sorry. I thought this was the game room,” she said, giggling to made light of her near miss.
“That’s down the hall, in the other direction.”
“You’re right. Silly me!” she said, gazing in the direction he had indicated. “I’m still learning my way around. Sorry to have disturbed you.”
The guard smiled at her then turned his attention back to the monitors.
As she turned to head the other way, she saw Thomas standing near the front door, staring at her. Refusing to make eye contact, she continued down the hall, but as she got nearer the doorway, he walked right up to her. She was determined to ignore him and walked right past him. He fell in behind her, keeping up with her, step for step. Maybe he had been following her all along, she thought. At this point, she didn’t know who she thought was creepier, Dr. Harvester, or Thomas. They were about neck and neck, she decided.
“That doctor, he’s scaring you, isn’t he?”
Rita glanced at him for a split second then focused her attention back on the hallway in front of her.
“He does that to all his female patients,” Thomas continued. “I’ve seen it before.”
Rita finally stopped and looked him straight in the eye. “What are you talking about? And why are you following me?”
“Dr. Harvester, he likes the pretty girls. Thinks he can save the world and save them from the world,” Thomas emphasized the point by making a big circle with his hands.
“Why are you following me?” Rita asked, having neither the time nor the patience for games right now.
“I’ve seen this before,” he continued, pointing at her.
“What? What exactly have you seen before? Are you jealous of Dr. Harvester?”
“Me? Hell no! He thinks cuz he’s the doctor, he’s everything, and the rest of us are nothing.”
She was about to say something else when James came around the corner. Thomas eyed him up then began to laugh at him. James, head hung low, quickly brushed past Rita. She called out to him, but he continued down the hall as if he hadn’t heard her. Thomas just stood there laughing.
Rita was totally confused now, not knowing where to turn or who to trust. She decided her best bet was to head to her room and hole up there until Chris came the next day. She hurried off, leaving Thomas standing in the hallway. As if reading her mind, he called out to her, “I wouldn’t trust no one here, if I was you, Missy. No one.”
Chris still had that nagging feeling when he arrived home back home that night. He toyed with the idea of calling Daniel, and finally, after several aborted attempts, he picked up the phone and called him at home.
Melanie answered the phone. “Hi, who is calling please, and who would you like to talk to?” she asked ever-so politely.
“Hey, Squirt! It’s me, Chris. How are ya, Sweetheart?”
“Hi, Chwris! Can I come over and play with you and Reeeta?”
“Oh, I think we can arrange that sometime soon. How does that sound?”
“Can we play basketball again?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“Can we read stories?”
“Sure,” he said with a chuckle.
“Can we go out for pizza?”
“Absolutely, Squirt. We can do all that stuff, I promise. Listen, Honey, is your Daddy home?”
“Yeah, he’s right here, Chwris. I’m gonna go tell Mommy that I can come over to your house one of these days,” she added happily.
Chris heard a thud on the other end, and he could make out Daniel laughing in the background. Then someone finally picked up the receiver. “You just made her day, I hope you realize that,” Daniel informed him, chuckling.
“We’d love to have her, Daniel. She’s a great kid.”
“What’s up? How’s everything at Stoneyhaven?”
“Quiet. Almost too quiet. But I think we’re making some progress,” Chris explained. “Listen, Daniel, do you have any free time tomorrow? I’d like to continue with the hypnosis.”
“Well, tomorrow looks pretty full, but can you be there first thing, say 8:00? I’ll squeeze you in before my scheduled appointments start.”
Chris smiled. “That’d be great, Daniel. I really appreciate this. I feel like whatever it is that’s been blocking me is really close to the surface now, and I want to get to the bottom it as soon as possible.
“Relax, watch some TV, have a beer, and forget about it for now. We’ll figure it out, I promise.”
“Thanks, Daniel. See ya in the morning.”
Back at Stoneyhaven, Rita was relieved to have made it through the long, sleepless night. She had pushed her bed up against the door of her room and sat there, wide awake, the entire time. Every footstep down the tiled floor outside her room, and every noise outside her window, made her jump. She was grateful for the thick novel she had gotten off the library cart the day before. At least she had something to help pass the time and take her mind off her situation. This place wasn’t an estate at all, she thought, it was more like a prison.
When morning finally dawned through her window, she dressed quickly, pushed the bed back to its original spot, then sat down a moment to plan her strategy. Her next session with Dr. Harvester wasn’t scheduled until 3:00 PM. If she came straight back to her room after breakfast, maybe she could avoid him until Chris arrived early that afternoon. She took a deep breath, unlocked the door, and headed down to the cafeteria for breakfast with the rest of the ‘inmates’. As she made her way into the large, crowded room, she immediately spotted James sitting alone, still obviously upset by last night’s run in with Thomas. She tried to make her way over to him, but barely made it two feet before she was nabbed by two women who insisted she sit at their table. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, she sat down with them willingly. Just then, Thomas poked his head out from the kitchen. He stared directly at her, his gaze nearly pierced through her. Dr. Harvester stood off in the corner of the room, supervising the entire group.
Chris was waiting outside the office door when Daniel came sauntering down the empty hallway at 7:45 AM. Even at a distance, he could see the steam rising from the cup of Seven-Eleven coffee in his hand.
“Good morning, Chris. Sleep OK?” Daniel asked as he dug the keys out of his pocket.
“I’ve slept better,” he mumbled.
“I guess you’re ready to get started then, huh?”
“Yeah, you could say that,” Chris said, exhaling deeply.
“Well, good. Come on in, then,” he said, opening the waiting room door and turning on the lights. Chris followed him in. “If I had known you were gonna be so early I would have brought you a cup, too,” he said, indicating the steaming cup in his hand.
“I’m fine. Besides, I think the caffeine would send me into orbit,” Chris said, showing the first signs of a smile this morning.
“You’re probably right about that,” Daniel said, laughing as he turned his key, opening the door to his private office. “You really amaze me, you know that? I mean, first you don’t want to be here at all, now, you’re here everyday! And early to boot!”
“That must mean I’m crazy huh, Doc?”
“Nope, not at all. Have a seat, let’s see what we can figure out today.”
Daniel led Chris back into a deep hypnotic trance, taking him once again through the series of rooms they had been through before. He wanted to get Chris back to the room where he had heard the voices, the room where Debra Bouchard had shot him.
Daniel closely monitored Chris’ breathing. It was calm, and he was relaxed and more ready than ever to continue with the session. “Chris, I want you to remember last time you were here in this room. As before, you are only an observer now. Nothing will happen to you and there’s no reason to be afraid. What you are seeing has already happened to you and you are beyond it now. I just want you to relax and tell me what you see and hear. Do you understand?”
“You said you heard a shot, but you had already been wounded. Do you know what happened? Can you see anything? Listen carefully to the voices and tell me what they’re saying.”
“I’m standing there and all these candles are burning. Debra is in front of me and she pulls out a gun. I think that I can take it away from her. I try to reason with her. I ask her to give me the gun.”
Daniel could see the torment on Chris’ face . “What happens next, Chris?”
“She says she just wants to be loved, she wants me to love her. But I can’t bring myself to tell her that I love her. Not like that, not like she wants me to. I want to tell her that I love Rita, but I haven’t even told Rita that yet. Crazy thoughts are passing through my mind. I think she’s gonna kill me and I’ll never get to tell Rita how I feel. She’s still standing there with this gun, begging me to make love to her. I can’t. I keep talking to her, telling her to give me the gun, promising her that we’d get her some help. I start inching my way closer, thinking that I can just grab the gun and subdue her. She keeps talking to me all the while.”
“What’s she saying, Chris?”
“That she loves me, she has for a long time. I shake my head to disagree. I barely know her.”
“Why, Chris. Why did you do that? Did she say something else?”
“She said that,” he paused, searching his mind, “She said that Rita didn’t love me, not like she loved me. I said no.”
“You didn’t believe her did you, Chris?”
“No, I know Rita. We’re best friends. But maybe that is all. Maybe she doesn’t feel the same way about me that I am feeling about her. Maybe Debra’s right.”
“You know now that she wasn’t right.”
“I know now that Rita loves me,” he said, smiling, “but then, did I believe her?”
“Only you can answer that, Chris. Tell me what happened next.”
“She said she’s the only one who really loves me and she keeps asking why can’t I love her back. I reached out to grab the gun, but she has a firm hold on it, with two hands, and she shoots me. I fall to my knees, clutching my chest. I’m screaming out in agony, falling forward in a heap, reaching for help. I feel the wet warmth of my blood gushing out from my chest. It’s making me sick to my stomach. I manage to turn over and there she is, standing above me. I cough and I ask her to help me. I reach up my hand to her. It’s covered with my blood. I think she’s gonna help me. She manages to prop me up against the side of the bed and she takes off my T-shirt. I can’t even move. She goes behind me on the bed and grabs my arms, dragging me up onto the bed. I ask her to help me again. She says she will as soon as we make love, then she starts kissing me all over. I somehow manage to push her away. “Don’t,” I say, ‘I don’t love you, I don’t. I need help. I need Rita. She’ll help me. Call Rita,’ I ask her over and over but she just laughs at me. I try to grab a handful of the sheet to press against my wound. I know I have to stop the bleeding and get to a phone. But she pulls it away from me and I can’t fight her. I’m already so weak.”
“What do you see next, Chris?”
“I’m reaching for something, for her, for the sheets, I don’t know. Oh, God, it hurts so bad. I can hardly breathe. Then she starts laughing, asking me where Rita is. She’s right in my face, asking if Rita loves me so much, why isn’t she there to save me. She’s laughing and I don’t have an answer. But I know where Rita is. She went with Derek instead of with me. She’s Derek’s partner, they’re on a case. That’s all we are, just partners, nothing more.”
“Chris, you know Rita didn’t think that way, don’t you?”
“But where is she when I need her?”
“Try to keep remembering, Chris. What happened next?” Daniel prodded. Though he knew the answer, he needed Chris to remember on his own.
“I’m in the hospital, I think. Everything is white, except for all the blood. All these lights are shinning in my face and the people have masks on. But I can make out Jillian now. She’s standing over me, telling me I’ll be all right, asking me to hang on. I try to answer her, but I can’t get the words out. I want to ask her where Rita is, but I can’t talk.”
“Wait a minute, don’t you remember that Rita was with you? She came to Debra’s house. She rode with you in the ambulance, Chris.”
“No, I don’t remember the ambulance. I don’t know how I got to the hospital.”
“Chris, are you blocking this out again? Did Dr. Taylor give you a suggestion to erase this?”
“No. I’m trying, but I can’t see her. I can’t hear her. Am I dead?”
“No, Chris. She saved your life,” Daniel explained softly. “Chris, Rita saved your life.”
“I, I can’t, I don’t remember. Are you sure she’s there? I can’t see her.”
“Yes, I’m sure, Chris. She’s right there, beside you all the way.”
“I needed her and she wasn’t there,” he sobbed, “just like,” he cut himself off.
“Just like who, Chris?”
“Just like my parents. But not Rita. She’d never do that. I can’t understand, she said she’d always be there.”
“She was there, Chris,” Daniel said calmly.
“But I can’t remember, I don’t see her.”
Despite his repeated assurances, Chris still couldn’t see Rita with him, and this puzzled Daniel. Rita had told him the whole story of how she save his life that night. Chris wasn’t breathing when she got there and she gave him mouth to mouth. That must be it! Chris had lost consciousness, so naturally he would have no memory of what had happened. And that also explained what had been bothering Chris all this time. When he needed Rita the most, he had no memory of her being right there all along.
“Daniel, is she there?”
“Yes, Chris, she’s right beside you. In fact, she just saved your life. You weren’t breathing, that’s why you can’t remember. That memory is gone. Do you understand, Chris? You’ll never recall it, but Rita was right there with you. Have you ever asked Rita about this?”
“We started to talk about it in the hospital a few days later, but that was the only time. We both let it drop after that.”
“Chris, I want you to talk to Rita about this. I want you to ask her how she saved your life and I want you to listen to what she says. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I never want to let her down.”
“What do you mean, Chris?”
“I want her to know that I’ll always be there for her, forever. I never want to let her down, ever.”
“Do you think that will happen?”
“I can’t let it. No matter what, I gotta be there for her. That’s my promise to her.”
“Chris, I don’t want you to promise something that’s impossible. You’ll only wind up getting hurt yourself. You can’t guard her or totally protect her. She wouldn’t be able to breathe if you did. You can’t smother her. Does that make sense?”
“I don’t want her to feel like I did, ever. That’s all I know.”
“Talk to her, Chris, OK? Promise me that you’ll talk about all this with her.”
“I promise, I will.”
“Chris, I think we’ve just found out some important things. Let’s just relax for a bit before I bring you out. Concentrate on your breathing, deep and easy. You’re going to remember everything and we’ll discuss it some more, but now, just relax. I want you to continue to relax, breathing easily, letting everything float away to wherever it wants to go. You’re drifting way down, relaxed now, just allowing your entire body to rest and relax. As you go even deeper, all distractions just seem to disappear. I want you to concentrate on your breathing. Breathing in pure relaxation and exhaling all the tension in the body. You feel all of the tension leaving your chest area as you exhale. You feel yourself relaxing even deeper with each and every breath. Your breathing is so regular, so easy and effortless, and you are relaxing more and more.
Your entire body is completely and totally relaxing, as you drift even deeper down with each and every breath. You feel a warm, wonderful sense of relaxation as you go even deeper. You may notice some areas of your body are easier to relax. Concentrate on the areas of the body that you find to be the most comfortable and relaxed. Concentrating on these areas now, you are recognizing and realizing what it is about those areas that makes you so comfortable and so very relaxed. The more you concentrate on feeling all the sensations in those areas, the most relaxed and comfortable those parts of your body become. By allowing yourself to feel the comforting sensations of the most relaxed areas of the body, you allow them to begin to spread. This marvelous, warm, wonderful feeling of relaxation spreads to other parts of the body and the feeling of relaxation becomes stronger. The relaxation spreads out beyond those areas and continues to spread to all the parts of the body you desire to relax, deeper and even deeper. Imagine the relaxation spreading like the rays of sun, gently warming and relaxing, like the rings of water spreading from a pebble gently tossed into a pond. The relaxation is spreading to every muscle, cell, fiber, and bone in your body. You are enjoying this tranquil and peaceful relaxation in every part of your body, and with every passing moment, this feeling of deep, tranquillity and comforting relaxation becomes stronger.
Every cell, nerve, and part of you body knows and enjoys this wonderful sensation, and this wonderful feeling now goes out beyond the physical confines on your body, spreading out beyond the skin to form a protective shield around you. You can let this feeling spread far, far beyond your physical body, or you can keep it close, like a second skin. Since this protective bubble, or shield, is your own creation, you can do with it what you wish. You can use this shield in any way you want, its uses are limitless. It can act as a filter, to filter out feelings or things going on around you that are uncomfortable to you. This filter will allow you to let in those feelings you wish to let in and experience those things you wish to experience. It can act as an amplifier to help you understand people, and to help people understand you. This protective bubble can be invisible or visible to only those people you want to see it. You are using this protective shield any way you choose to use it, and that is okay because this shield is your own creation. You are using this shield and enjoying comfort in every part of your body. Practicing and using this shield, allowing it to spread, and go beyond the confines of your physical body, you can experiment with it. making it as large as you like, or use it as a transport to another place or time. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. And realizing now that when I awaken you, you can return to this place of peace, tranquillity, and deep relaxation and use this shield any time you desire to do so, you are using this shield and feeling the relaxation spread to all the parts of your body.
Now, I'm going to count from one to five, and then I'll say, ‘Fully aware.’ At the count of five, your eyes are open, and you are then fully aware, feeling calm, rested, refreshed, and relaxed. All right. One...Slowly, calmly, easily, you're returning to your full awareness once again. Two...Each muscle and nerve in your body is loose, limp, and relaxed, and you feel wonderfully good. Three...From head to toe, you are feeling perfect in every way. Physically perfect, mentally perfect, emotionally calm and serene. On the number four, your eyes begin to feel sparklingly clear. On the next number I count, eyelids open. You’re fully aware, feeling calm, rested, refreshed, relaxed, invigorated, full of energy. Number five...You're fully aware now, eyelids open. Take a good, deep breath, fill up your lungs, and stretch.”
Chris, alert once more, remained motionless on the couch, his gaze fixed on the ceiling tiles above him, as Daniel busily jotted down more notes. He could remembered everything from the morning’s session. It was all so clear to him now, everything made sense.
“How’re you doing over there? How do you feel?” Daniel asked, glancing up from his notebook.
“Surprised, relived, anxious, and about a million and a half other adjectives, too!” he replied, relieved, eyes still focused on the patterned ceiling.
“I think we should talk now, for a little bit. I don’t want to let you leave without making sure you understand all of this.”
Chris turned his head, looking Daniel straight in the eyes. “She saved my life and I don’t even remember. How could I forget something like that?”
“Chris, you were unconscious. And when Rita told you that you almost died, she was right. You can’t get much closer without going all the way. It’s a natural occurrence for the mind to stop functioning as the body shuts down.”
Chris sat up on the sofa, rubbing his eyes, then ran his hands over his face. “I must have been nuts to think she’d not be there for me. She saved my life, I just don’t remember it.”
“Chris, I don’t want you to let this eat you up inside. Now that you know the truth, you can fix things, make some changes. You don’t have it locked away, let it fester inside you. It’s finally out in the open. You did great!” Daniel said jubilantly, flashing him a smile. “Still, you really need to discuss this with Rita as soon as possible,” he reminded him, serious now.
“I don’t even know how to begin that conversation,” Chris said sadly, gazing at the floor.
“You start it like you do every other conversation you have with her,” Daniel paused, waited for Chris’ full attention again, “by telling her you love her.”
Chris finally gave him a smile. “You really do have all the answers, don’t you? Thanks, Daniel!”
“You’re very welcome.”
Rita was just finishing her breakfast with the busybody women when suddenly, her stomach felt queasy. The room began to spin and she clutched the table in an attempt to steady herself. The women seated directly across from her noticed it right away and motioned for Dr. Harvester to hurry over. Thomas, hearing all the commotion from the kitchen, hurried out to join the crowd that was now forming a circle around a sick, struggling Rita. Her eyes searched the crowd in vain for a friendly face, the only ones she could make out were Thomas, Dr. Harvester, and someone that looked a lot like James. Still struggling, she weakly fought Dr. Harvester’s attempts to help her to her feet, which only made him try all the more. “No, get away from me,” Rita screamed. Then her eyes fixed on Thomas’ face glaring at her. “You! You did this to me! You put something in the food, didn’t you?”
“Julia, you don’t look well at all. Come on now, let’s get you to the infirmary and find out what’s going on with you,” Dr. Harvester instructed, sounding more like a parent soothing a sick child than a doctor helping an adult patient.
“He poisoned me!” Rita screamed. “Don’t eat this food,” she continued ranting as two orderlies picked her up and carried her off to the infirmary.
Chris walked back to the homicide department, deep in thought. He pushed through the doors and nearly bumped into Cap.
“Lorenzo! Watch where you’re going, OK? It’s a good thing I didn’t have any coffee in my hand, or I’d end up tossing one of those scalding lawsuits your way.”
“Sorry, Cap, I didn’t see you,” he said automatically, his thoughts a million miles away.
“You all right, Kid?”
His mind suddenly snapped back to the present, and he flashed Cap a reassuring ‘Lorenzo’ grin. “Yeah, I’m fine and getting better all the time, Cap.”
“You guys come up with anything out at Stoneyhaven yet?”
“We’ve got it narrowed down to three possibles. I’m just gonna check with Geoff and Tre then head out to see how Rita is coming along.”
“Good, let’s get this thing wrapped up. I’d like Lance, ah, pardon, Mrs. Lorenzo, back in the office here ASAP!”
“We’re working on it, Cap. Believe me, we’d all like her back here.”
“Keep me posted,” Cap replied patly as he heading out of the department.
Chris found Geoff and Tre hard at work at their desks. Tre was on the phone, and Geoff stood looking over his shoulder, anxious for him to end the call.
“What’s going on?” Chris shot an inquiring glance at Geoff.
“I think we may have something on Thomas,” Geoff explained quietly, trying to eavesdrop on Tre’s phone conversation.
“Great,” Chris said, nodding his approval. “So, fill me in already.”
Tre finally hung up the phone. “This is unusual,” he began, rising, “Thomas just left Stoneyhaven. He’s been working the day shift, a straight 6:00 AM - 3:00 PM, with no breaks. Now, all of a sudden, he’s left in the middle of the day. Unit 75 is trailing him. You fellas wanna to go have a little chat with our only non-resident Stoneyhaven psycho?”
“Count me in,” Geoff eagerly volunteer.
“I’m right behind you guys. Let’s go!”
Rita regained consciousness in Dr. Harvester’s office a short time later, but decided her best course of action would be to pretend she was still sleeping, at least until she could clear the cobwebs from her head. Her deception worked, and before long, the doctor left her alone in the office. She lay there a little awhile longer, then finally convinced the coast was clear, she sat up slowly, trying to adjust to the sudden, overwhelming pull of gravity on her drugged body. She finally made it to her feet, still wobbling as she clung to the furniture, shakily making her way over to the door. It was locked, as she expected. She resisted the urge to pound on it, and stumbled around the room in search of something she could use as a weapon. A brass letter opener next to the clock on the doctor’s desk caught her eye. She could use it for a quick strike, hopefully surprising him enough for her to make a fast getaway. The clock read 10:45. She didn’t expect Chris until early afternoon, so she knew she’d have to holding out while longer. With the letter opener clutched tightly in her hand, she staggered back to the couch to wait for the doctor’s return.
Thomas, with a police cruiser discretely in tow, stopped off at a convenience store for a bag of potato chips and a 2-litre bottle of Mt. Dew before heading toward his one-room apartment on the city’s north side. The black and white radioed the detectives, advising them of the suspect’s probable destination, so Chris, Tre, and Geoff headed off to the apartment. They’d be waiting when Thomas pulled up, ready for a little chat.
Thomas finished the last flight of stairs to his apartment and spotted the trio of officers waiting outside his door. He tried to bolt back down, but Tre was too fast for him and nabbed him by the collar, hauling him back to his doorway, where they waited for him to open the lock and let them all in.
“What do you guys want? I ain’t done nothing!” he shouted as Tre pushed him inside the room.
“Just shut up and listen. We’re cops, Palm Beach Police Homicide,” Tre explained, “We need you to answer some questions. What you know about the death of Sheila Victory?”
“Nothing, all right?! I didn’t see anything. I didn’t hear anything.”
Geoff moved in closer. “Listen, Thomas, we’ve been monitoring your activities lately, and we think you’re up to something. Why’d you leave work early today? You need to tell us what you know, Thomas. It’ll make your life a whole lot easier in the long run.”
“Look, I know she died out there, but that’s all. I don’t know anything about the murder. All I do is work in the cafeteria, and she barely ever ate anything. Guess she had to keep her body slim for that career of hers. The reason I left early today is I just can’t stand it out there. Those people are nuts! Anyway, I’m thinking about quitting.”
“I’m getting really bored here, Thomas. You’d better start telling me where you were the night of the murder,” Tre butted in impatiently.
“What? Wait, you think I killed her? No way, no freakin’ way! I only work at that crazy bin. I ain’t no patient up there! I didn’t kill her!”
Chris stood quietly in the corner, listening intently. For some reason, he was actually beginning to believe Thomas’ story.
“Where were you when she was killed?” Geoff asked again. “We know you were on the grounds, Thomas, we checked your time card.”
“Yeah, I was there. I was in the cafeteria working, cleaning up after all those slobs. Does that make me guilty?”
“I’ll bet it wouldn’t have been hard for you to sneak away, though,” Tre toyed with him.
“I was on the breakfast line. That’s our busiest meal! Ask my boss, he’ll tell ya.”
“We did, Thomas. He told us you took a break right around the time she was killed,” Geoff informed him. “Now, do I have to ask you again?”
Thomas, fidgeting, knew he was caught on this one. He leered at Chris. “I know you. You’re no cop, you’re her husband. Wait a minute, what’s going on here? She’s a plant? She’s a cop, huh?” he sneered. “You’re both cops.”
Chris nodded. “Did you kill her, Thomas?” he asked, slightly irritated at Thomas’ antics.
“You are a cop?” he asked again, laughing nervously. “She is too, isn’t she?” Chris nodded. “Oh man, I wouldn’t never leave her there alone. Don’t ever leave someone you love in that place.” He laughed even harder.
His words echoed through his Chris’ head, then Rita’s voice. ‘DON’T LEAVE ME, CHRISTOPHER. DON’T YOU LEAVE ME!’ Chris shook it off, then suddenly closed the distance between them, getting right in Thomas’ face. “I believe we asked you a question. Did you kill Sheila Victory?”
“Hell no! Don’t you pigs listen?” he shot back, trying to squirm away from Chris. But Chris grabbed him by the jacket and hauled him back in front of him.
“I’m listening now, Thomas and you’d better tell me what you know. ‘Cuz the way I see it, at the very least, we’ve got as an accessory. That means 20-25 years in the federal penitentiary. No more soda pop and potato chips. You’ll be living with all those crazy people you seem to love so well. And when you get assigned to work in the cafeteria, you won’t just be serving food, you’ll BE the food for some pillow-biting, sex-starved murderer.” Chris held his stare, and his hold, on Thomas, still not quite believing those words came out his mouth. Neither were a shocked Tre and Geoff.
“Look, I didn’t do anything. You gotta believe me. It’s that doctor, he’s the one. And that cop of yours, he’s got her locked up right now, just waiting for him to carve her up. Just like he did to Sheila, I saw the same look in his eye.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Chris asked, totally frustrated with this guy now.
“He likes fine looking women, but when they say no to him, he snaps. I saw him kill Sheila. I was on my break and I saw him killed that poor girl. He saw me standing there watching and he said I’d be next if I said anything. I had to get out of there. Sheila said ‘no’ to him, and last night, so did Julia. He didn’t like that at all. That’s why I said I wouldn’t leave that cop alone out there, not with him. I don’t want to see someone else get killed.”
“You think he’s gonna kill again and you just left her there with him?” Chris screamed in this piece of garbage’s face.
“He said he would kill me and I wasn’t gonna stick around for that to happen.”
Chris released Thomas from his grasp and pushed him backwards, leaving him sprawling on the ground. “You guys have a unit roll to Stoneyhaven and finish this up. I gotta get her outta there.” In the back of his mind, her words echoed once again. ‘Christopher, don’t you leave me.’ When did she say this and why was he only remembering it now? Geoff gave Chris’ shoulder a reassuring pat as he headed out of the room. He had to get there, and fast.
“Be careful, Chris,” Tre called out after him.
Rita nervously waited in the office, watching the clock. Every second that ticked by made her a little more relieved. But she knew her luck couldn’t hold forever. Sooner or later, Dr. Harvester was going to come back.
At 11:37 AM, the door squeaked open and the doctor stood in the darkened doorway. “I know the drug has worn off by now, Julia. You’re not fooling me anymore.”
Rita tried to stay perfectly still on the couch, waiting for him to get close enough for her to stab him with the letter opener. She listened carefully to the sound of each heavy footstep as he moved closer and closer across the wooden floor and could tell immediately when he had reached the rug in front of the couch. He leaned down to check her, and Rita saw her chance. Screaming wildly, she stabbed him repeatedly with the letter opener. Shocked and stunned, he fell to one knee, clutching his chest. Rita scampered out of the room and ran smack into James just out side the door. She almost let out another scream, but then she realized James was there to help her, not hurt her. He grabbed a hold of her hand and quickly led her down the hallway and through a mysterious door.
Despite his numerous stab wounds, Harvester struggled to his feet and chased after Rita. He made it through the doorway just in time to see James lead her out a door into the woods. Quickly heading back to his desk, he unlocked a secret drawer, reached in, and pulled out a gun, then he took off after them.
James led her into a heavily wooded area. “I found a gate over here last year, but I was too afraid to use it. We can get you out there.”
“James, why are you doing this?”
“I loved her, I loved Sheila. We were gonna leave here together, too. But I didn’t get to her soon enough,” he explained sadly as they made their way through the overgrowth.
“Did Dr. Harvester kill her, James?”
“I didn’t see him do it, but I’ve heard talk. And I’ve been watching you. He was doing the same thing to you that he did to her. He wanted Will to stop visiting you so he could be the only man in your life. When he realizes he’s not, he wants to kill you.”
“How did Dr. Harvester know he wasn’t the only man in Sheila’s life? Did she say so?”
“Because I was.”
“But you said you never told her,” Rita questioned, a bit confused.
“I told you, I showed her. She was having my baby, she told me she was.” He stopped, then taking Rita by the shoulders, he turned her towards him, looking her directly in the eyes. “The way I see it, that doctor’s killed two people already.”
Rita, overcome with sympathy, pulled James close and hugged him. But their moment of compassion was interrupted by a familiar voice out of the darkness.
“Julia? James? I know you’re both out here. You might as well come back, you won’t get very far.” They could hear Harvester rustling against the brush as he walked.
“Come on, we’ve got to hurry,” James whispered excitedly as he sprinted for the gate up ahead, Rita never more than a step behind him the whole way.
The doctor heard the commotion just ahead and quickly picked up his pace.
James finally found the gate and frantically fiddled with it to get it open. Rita reached over, trying to help, but neither was having any luck. Their only way out would be over the top. “Here, let me help you,“ James said, holding out his arms to give her a boost.
“What about you, James?” Rita protested. “I’m not going to just leave you here with Harvester right on our tail. He’ll kill you.”
“Don’t worry, he doesn’t want to kill me. He wants to kill you, remember?”
“James, you have to come with me,” she insisted. “He’s after you, too. You know he was trying to kill me, and he probably knows that you know he killed Sheila. He can’t leave you as a witness. You’ve got to get out of here.”
“I will, I promise. But let’s get you out first.” He laced his hands together and waited for her to step up. “There, now grab onto the wall and step on my shoulders. You should be able to reach the top of the ledge now.”
Rita did as he instructed and hoisted herself to the top. Just then, Chris came whizzing down the road in his police cruiser, the beam of his headlights illuminating the wall where Rita hung on for dear life. Spotting her immediately, he quickly swerving off the side of the road.
Now stretched out face-down on the top of the stone fence, Rita struggled to reach her hand down to James, who wasn’t quite tall enough to grasp it.
Out of his car in seconds, Chris ran to help. “Rita, are you all right? What the hell is going on?”
Rita was never so happy to hear his voice. “Chris!! Thank God you’re here! It’s Harvester, he’s trying to kill us. We need to get James out of there. Help me! ”
“Are you all right? Are you hurt?” Chris repeated, concerned.
“I’m fine. But James is still down there. Hurry, Chris!”
Just then, a shot rang out, and James ducked for cover in the nearby shrubbery. Chris quickly scaled the wall, reaching Rita in seconds. “Where is he?” he whispered.
“He’s hiding right there, see him?” she answered quietly, pointing to the bushes just below them.
“Yeah, I see him.” Chris positioned himself on the wall so he could reach down for James. “James, are you hit?”
“No, I’m OK.”
“We need to get you outta here. Give me your hand.”
James quickly reached up to Chris, tightly grabbing his hand, then Chris inched James just far enough up the wall for Rita to grab his other hand. Together, they hoisted him over the top, quickly jumping down the other side, into the grass below just as another shot rang out.
“Don’t worry, he’s not going anywhere. I put in a call on my way over. This place should be swarming with police any second. Are you guys OK?” Chris asked, hugging Rita tightly.
Rita reached up and gave him a kiss. “We’re fine, aren’t we, James?” Rita said, turning to smile at him.
“We will be,” James replied, relieved.
The late evening sun streamed into the garage, casting long shadows against the walls, as the heavy bag swayed back and forth in the makeshift gym. Chris had been going at the bag for the better part of an hour now, pounding away, moving, weaving, and dodging around it. Therapy with Daniel was good, but this is what he really needed, something he could take his frustrations out on when life become too much for him. A glint of brightness reflect across the back wall as Rita pulled her LeBaron up the driveway. He had stopped his pounding and was reaching for the water bottle on the workbench when spotted her casually walking up to the garage, waving at him as she approached.
“Sorry I’m later than I said I’d be,” she began.
“No problem,” he assured her, flashing the famous ‘Lorenzo’ grin, the one that always melted her heart. “I decided to grab a little work out. I’d hug ya, but I’m a mess.” Moisture dripped from his sweaty head as he motioned to his sweat stained, cut-off shirt.
“That doesn’t matter to me,” she said, moving closer and closer until he finally swept her into his embrace, his muscular arms completely engulfing her. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed you!”
“Try anyway,” he quipped with a smirk. If only she could have seen the smile that was on his face. “I missed you, too.” Then suddenly serious, “I love you.” He kissed the top of her head. “How’s James doing?”
“He’s doing just fine. He’s still at Palm Beach Memorial. They’re going keep him over night for observation the have him re-evaluate, this time by a competent doctor. Hopefully, we can get him into a good treatment facility so he’ll be able to go home soon.”
“That sounds great.”
“He really loved Sheila, and from what he’s been saying, she loved him too. It’s really sad about the baby.”
Chris nodded. “Well, it sounds like he’ll get some real help now, and hopefully, he’ll find love again.”
“Yeah,” Rita agreed. “Tre and Geoff are booking Dr. Harvester, and Cap insisted on finishing up Thomas’ questioning so that I could come home.”
“You know, we really have the world’s best captain. Remind me to tell him that soon, OK? So, it sounds like everything’s under control, huh, Sam?” Chris asked, raising his eyebrows. “How ‘bout some dinner?”
“That sounds wonderful. Are we eating in or out?”
“What would you prefer, My lady?” he teased, ripping the tape off his hands.
“How ‘bout we just stay in and order a pizza.”
“Consider it done,” he said as he tossed the sticky tape balls into a nearby garbage can.
Chris picked out a jazz CD, and they sat on the living room floor, leaning back against the sofa, and enjoyed a nice, quiet, leisurely dinner of pizza and wine. They ate casually, enjoying the music and most of all, each other. When they finished, Chris scooted closer to Rita, wrapping his arm around her shoulder, and they cuddled quietly, glad to finally be home together.
“Sam, I need to talk to ya,” Chris began tentatively.
“I’m all ears.”
“I had another session with Daniel.”
Rita silently nodded her understanding.
“We need to talk about the Bouchard shooting,” he continued slowly, waiting for her reaction. “I’ve got a lot to tell you and a whole lot more to ask you about.”
“We’ve never really talked about it before,” Rita began. “I figured you’d tell me when you were ready, so I wanted give you some space. Then, when you never did, I figured you probably just wanted to forget it.”
“Well, I’m ready to tell you now.”
“Then I’ll be glad to listen.”
Slowly, carefully, Chris told her the whole story, at least every detail he could remember, leading up to, and immediately after, the shooting. “Then the strangest thing happened, Rita. I couldn’t remember you being there. Here you were all that I ever thought about, but when I needed you the most, I didn’t know where you were. I couldn’t understand why you weren’t with me.”
“But I was there, Chris,” she started to say.
“I know,” he quickly interrupted. “Daniel told me. He said I couldn’t remember because I was unconscious. I wasn’t breathing, and you,” he kissed the top of her head, “you were there, you saved my life. You saved my life.”
“You would have done the same for me.”
“I know, I live that every day. See, I think somehow that it was always down in my subconscious. Whether I didn’t actually remember or somehow I blocked it away, it’s been there. I keep hearing your voice even now, I think. I’m not sure if it’s real or imagined, but I hear you telling me to never leave you. Did you say that to me then?”
“Yeah, in the ambulance. I thought you could hear me, that you understood. You opened your eyes and looked right at me. I thought that was your way of telling me that you were hanging on.”
“I must have heard you. You know I’d never leave you, ever. I would do anything for you. I don’t ever think I can ever say it enough or do enough to show you that.”
“I know you love me, Chris. You don’t have to prove it.”
“It’s deeper than that, Rita, if that’s even possible. You’re so much a part of me, I sometimes want to just let you take me over. You’re everything in the universe to me, you always will be.”
She cuddled closer. “Chris, I love you so much.” She paused momentarily, gathering her thoughts. “I don’t want you to let this get to you. It’s OK to do things for each other, but you don’t have to be responsible for everything,” she continued with a little laugh. “You don’t always have to do the dishes, or make dinner, or run errands, or the million other things you do. I love you, not the things you do for me. I know you want to take care of me, but I want to take care of you, too. This is a two-person relationship. Do you understand?”
“Believe it or not, yeah, I think I do. Daniel said the same thing. I guess I’ve been trying to give back to you the life you gave to me. I love you so much,” he confessed, hugging her for all he was worth. Finally releasing her, he looked into her eyes. “You know, back in the hospital, when I came to, I wanted to tell you then that I loved you. I had a feeling you felt the same way. I was gonna put it all on the line, I should have put it all on the line. You did more than save my life, you rescued my soul, you captured my heart. I will love you forever.”
“I love you too, Christopher,” she said, giving him a tender kiss on his lips. “I don’t ever want to lose you again.”
“Believe me, I don’t ever want to be lost again, either.”
Copyright September 1999
Thanks goes out to all the people who have written and asked if I am still gonna write these. And the answer is YES, as long as I keep having the ideas, as long as someone posts them, and as long as I keep hearing from people reading them!
And now the credits….
The Life You Gave To Me….was written, directed and produced by yours truly…tuna.dc.
For legal purposes, the following characters were created by Stephen J. Cannell and Stu Seagall or someone involved in the original production of Silk Stalkings. Chris, Rita, Cap, Ana, Benny, Grandma Rose, Diana, Dr. Jillian Dupree, Debra Bouchard, Donovan, Derek, Eric, Commander Stonewell and Frannie. I thank them for allowing me to continue their memory…though I’d really love to put an end to Eric once and for all…who knows, maybe one of these days.
These characters have been dreamed up in my own mind…what a place that is! Geoff Morgan, Tre Thomas, Mayor Williams, Mr. Krieger, Daniel, Evan Odoms, Sheila Victory, Dr. Harvester, Mike Schmidt, Julia Schmidt, Will Schmidt, Joan, Dr. Taylor, Susan, Melanie, Mr. Girabaldi, James, Thomas Speaker, Web Webster and the Security Guard.
Paul Newman, Bob Newhart, and the character of Mr. Carlin are also not mine.
And I’d like to thank to the following wonderful people:
Judy for all the time and effort you spend editing this crazy looooooong things…muchas gracias!
Linda, Lisa, and Kris for posting. Oh, and thanks, Linda and Lisa, for re-posting my earlier stories as well, to get their readers up to date. I don’t know quite how the three of you do this, but it is much appreciated by me and all the people who are reading this stuff.
Thanks also to Joy and T, who always give me feedback…and really get me to thinking! Graci to you guys as well.
The website hypnosis.com was very helpful in scripting the sessions.
Please send any comments, good or bad to firstname.lastname@example.org.