Series: Monarch Butterfly 3/3
Author: Laura Lee
DISCLAIMER: Due South and all it's characters belong to Alliance. Song credits are at the end. The rest belongs to me.
Fraser stood staring at the gated entrance. He could almost hear the sounds around him, smell the faint waft of blood, feel her arms around him. He closed his eyes and began to feel slightly dizzy.
"Hey, Fraze...Fraze?" Ray's voice seeped through his mind and he opened his eyes. "You comin'?"
Fraser nodded and followed his partner into the zoo where the smell of the animals drifting through the air brought his senses back where they belonged.
"Somethin' wrong, Fraze?" Ray asked.
Fraser shook his head. "No, it just brings back...memories."
Ray nodded and opened the door to the large building. At the front counter was a display of miscellaneous items including snakeskins, porcupine quills, and butterfly wings. Under it was a sign. "Please handle carefully" Ray was about to touch a butterfly wing when the swinging doors behind the counter opened abruptly and Welsh stepped out.
"Glad you could make it," he said harshly. "Body's in here."
Fraser and Ray walked around the counter.
As they stepped into the room, Fraser quickly assessed the crime scene. On the floor lay the body. It was a woman in a white coat. It was obvious the microscope beside her caused the blow to her head. The room was very clean. Along one wall was a row of cages, along another, a few incubators and small infant beds. Near the cages, a large island counter took up much of the room. Several other microscopes and some equipment were in a row. The forensics team had their labeled baggies resting on a collapsible cart and were removing their gloves, preparing to leave.
For a moment, Fraser was lost on a set of hands...the gloves being removed. He could see her in his mind. Her face had infiltrated his thoughts when he looked at the dead body in the car and now all of the images and thoughts sifted through his head like a dream, blurred and incomplete.
There was a crash and Fraser shook back to reality. Welsh looked very angry, along with the examiners as two men stooped to pick up the things they'd knocked off the cart.
He heard a voice behind him..."Fraser" it was soothing, familiar. It was a voice he didn't expect to hear. When it came again he realized his mind was playing a trick. He turned to the person saying his name. "Ray."
"Yes, Fraze." Ray noticed that he looked slightly disoriented. "Who'd you think?"
"I thought you were Ray," he replied without thinking, then ran his thumbnail across his brow. "I meant..."
Ray nodded and Fraser didn't finish. "Nope. Just me," Ray said softly.
Fraser paused. "Did they tell you why they asked me to accompany you?"
Ray nodded. "She's Canadian. Doctor Paige Barrett. She's a specialist. Came down to help out with some sick animals er somethin'."
Fraser began to make his way around the room. Ray followed. "What species?" Fraser asked.
"Koala bears. She's a specialist in some disease I can't pronounce -- Welsh says it's in the file -- but the animal was the koala bears."
Fraser picked up a blanket and smelled it.
"Don't lick it," Ray jumped in.
Fraser set the blanket down. "No need. There aren't any unidentifiable smells. Did they find anything out of place?" He made his way to the cart and began examining the contents.
"Yeah, a few. We don't know who that wallet belongs to," Ray said as Fraser picked it up. "Prints were taken off it though."
Fraser could still see the powder and nodded.
"Looks like most of the prints are accounted for. Only two sets we don't know. Should make it easy. Was restricted entrance back here, more or less. Just doctors, scientists, zoologists. That kind of thing." Ray paused. "One set is pretty clear," he added. "Looks like they go with the wallet. The other set is all smudged. It'll be really hard to identify." Fraser nodded and Ray continued. "They've interviewed everyone. No one saw anything. She was supposed to be getting a needle to take a blood test from the koala. She didn't come back for a long time so Doctor Erikson came looking for her. He made the call."
Fraser raised an eyebrow. "Any suspects?"
Ray shook his head. "Doctor Erikson was out with the animals. Several people saw him waiting with the koala. Most of the zoo workers have witnesses like that." He paused. "No real suspects. She was an animal doctor. Who'd want to kill her?" He accompanied the observation with a shrug.
The doors to the room opened again and Fraser turned. Thatcher entered and looked around the room. "Constable," she greeted.
"Inspector Thatcher." He watched her for a moment, then filled her in.
"Well, I just received a call from my superior before joining you. He wants to make sure this...situation is handled quickly." She looked over the evidence and turned back to Fraser. "I'm holding you personally responsible for this case." She glanced at Ray. "Don't let anything get in your way." She stepped away and walked over to Welsh, engaging in a brief conversation.
Ray sniggered. "I'm not sure if that was aimed at me, but..." he let the sentence trail.
Fraser set his hat on Ray's desk as Ray took some papers to Francesca. "And can you check on those prints? They should be done by now."
She nodded and Ray walked over to his desk. He sat with a sigh and rubbed an eye. "I dunno, Fraze. All we got is a bunch of smeared prints. I don't get it."
Frannie turned. "Ray? They got the prints." She reached out to the printer, grabbed the paper coming out, and walked it over to Ray. "Nothing. The clean set isn't on file. The smudged prints don't seem to match. They said they must be too smudged."
"Thanks Fran," he said. "Puts us back at square one."
Fraser tilted his head. "It does appear we are lacking clues. Do we know why she was killed yet?"
"Nope. Still nothing. Everything turns up a blank page." He swiveled in his chair. "I'm pretty stumped, Fraze. Where're your Mountie answers?"
Fraser smiled. "I'd hardly refer to them as 'Mountie answers', Ray. It's a simple matter of deduction. Unfortunately there aren't enough clues to come to any type of deduction."
Ray frowned and picked up the phone. "Maybe..."
Fraser tilted his head. "Yes?"
Ray dialed. "I'm calling the lab." He paused. "Hello? Yeah, this is Detective Vecchio. Still have the prints for the Barrett case handy?" He leaned in a little. "Can you tell me anything about them? I know they are smudged...I was told that, but was there residue, anything?" He waited a moment and looked disappointed. "Well, how about this, then. A friend of mine and I'll come down and take a closer look. That ok?" He paused. "Thanks," he said simply and hung up. He stood and took his jacket from the back of his chair. "C'mon Fraser."
Fraser followed. "Did they find something?"
"Naw. Said if I wanted residue and stuff they'd have to do more tests, but if there was it was probably destroyed when they took the prints...or left at the scene." He sighed. "I got that from you, you know. I was thinking about the way you taste stuff and smell stuff and find stuff we don't look for. Thought maybe..."
Fraser nodded. "What do you expect to find if we look at the prints?"
Ray shrugged. "Dunno. That's why I'm bringing you."
The two men stepped through the doors into the room that had rows and rows of files. They walked past them to the numerous computers and equipment. Ray looked around and was soon greeted by a woman who was small and wore glasses.
"Can I help you?"
"Yeah, I'm Detective Vecchio. I called a few minutes ago to look at some prints."
"Oh, yes. I'm Barb. I took the call. Come with me." She began to walk away.
The two followed and Ray spoke. "You must be new. Haven't seen you before."
She stopped and turned in front of an unoccupied computer. "Yes, I am. I just transferred from New York." She picked up a piece of paper with numerous fingerprints on it.
"This is a copy of the prints collected at the scene." She pointed to the smudged prints. "These are the ones you asked about. We can get the cards and put them under a microscope and run various tests if necessary, but it is unlikely that anything else could be found."
Ray and Fraser looked over the paper. Fraser pointed. "Hmm."
Ray shrugged. "Yeah?"
"Look, there...those two are exactly the same."
Ray shifted. "So?"
Fraser looked at his partner. "How could you get two smudges to be exactly the same?" He said and waited for Ray to see his point.
"Yeah, yeah," Ray said after a moment. "Could the smudging be caused by calluses or... or something to make the skin tough?"
The woman leaned over. "Typically the fingerprint is still there. You see, the shaping remains the same even if..."
"What if the skin is burned or something?"
"Even then, the print returns shortly. The burning would have to be very serious and recent," she replied.
"What do you say, Fraze, should we go ask around?"
Fraser nodded and thanked the woman as they left.
Ray and Fraser spent over two hours at the zoo asking questions. No one had callused hands or serious burns and no one knew of anyone who did. Ray felt the frustration by the end of the day and wanted to scream.
He dropped Fraser at the Consulate and went to the gym. He spent nearly an hour boxing with various interested parties.
At home he lay in bed awake. Occasionally he still thought about Tori. More than occasionally. He often wondered about taking a trip to New York or calling information. He wondered if she ever came back to visit her old friends and, if so, would she at least call him? He thought about sitting beside her, sleeping beside her, working beside her... anything ending with their being together. Why had they been so screwed up? Why did he have to...
There was no end to the thoughts. He tried to push them out more than once, but they would return. Even if he were successful, he'd have no control over those damn dreams that woke him.
Now he wondered if she might have the clue they needed for this case. It seemed impossible, but he was stumped; Fraser was stumped. Ray wouldn't give in. He sat on his couch, the files spread across his coffee table, downing cup after cup of instant coffee.
Morning came and he had found nothing. He gave up and called the Consulate.
Within an hour he had picked up Fraser and the two arrived back at the zoo.
"What are we going to do, Ray. We've questioned everyone we can."
Ray shrugged. "It came to me this morning."
"We have more witnesses."
"Pardon?" Fraser asked and ran the names through his mind. He thought they'd followed up on every lead.
"The animals. We didn't ask the animals."
Fraser furrowed his brow and cleared his throat. "Ray? Did you sleep last night?" He paused. "You know Diefenbaker has an uncanny ability to communicate with people; me in particular, but I do not believe..."
"It's ok, Fraze. I'm not nuts," Ray interrupted. "I just think maybe there are clues in there. Maybe with the animals. I don't know what else to do."
"Ray, what makes you so certain the wallet isn't the clue we need?"
"Because no bad guy is gonna drop his wallet and smudge someone else's prints."
"True, but perhaps the owner of that wallet knows something. Perhaps that person saw the murderer. Doesn't it seem likely?"
Ray nodded. "Maybe, but we don't know whose prints those are either. I'd rather go for the killer's prints than a witness's. We'll check those out if we don't find anything here today, ok?"
Fraser nodded his agreement and got out of the car.
The two walked through the park, looking under benches and into habitats everywhere. When they came to the koala display, they stopped. They looked with more precision, looking under the stands set up to display the stats of the animal.
"She just left here and was going to come back here," Ray said in thought as he looked into the habitat, looking carefully in the trees and on the ground. He glanced down at the card with the information for the animal. "Hmm. Northern Koala. Eucalyptus." He stopped. "Fraser."
Fraser joined him and looked at the pictures. "Fingerprints," he said softly. "Of course! The koalas have fingerprints!" He turned to Ray.
Ray shuffled his feet and looked angry. "Do you know what this means? The prints were from the koala! The killer must be the person who owns that wallet. Dammit, Fraser, you were right. We should have been looking for him the whole time."
The two went back to the precinct and began going over the file.
"I'm not sure where to start...how to figure out who it could be." Ray sighed. "I still don't have a motive. Maybe I should be calling the zoo again." He set his hand on the phone. "See if they thought of..."
"Ray!" Frannie interrupted.
"Phone," she replied shortly. "Line two."
Ray looked at his phone and picked it up. He clicked the button roughly. "Detective Vecchio," he said quickly.
There was a long pause. "Detective?"
"Yes," he waited, but the line was quiet. "Are you still there?"
The female on the other end cleared her throat. "Are you working on the case about Paige, uh, Doctor Barrett?"
"Yeah," Ray leaned forward and grabbed a pen. "Yeah, that's me."
She paused before answering. When she spoke, her voice was quiet. "I was there."
Ray dropped the pen. "Who are you?"
"I...I can't tell you. I...I..."
Ray put his hand over the receiver. "Huey, Frannie...somebody get a trace." He removed his hand. "Are you the one who is missing a wallet?" He tried to be clever, knowing if this was the killer, or someone working for the killer, she wouldn't admit it immediately.
She waited before answering. "Y...yes. Did you...?"
"Ma'am. I think you better tell us who you are," Ray said.
The voice cracked. "I think they know who I am." After that, Ray heard only a click. He looked up, but Huey shook his head. Nothing. Ray stared at the phone, willing it to ring again, for her to call back, but after several seconds he realized she wouldn't.
"It's her wallet," Ray said. "She sounded so young. Like a college kid. I don't think she did it."
"Ray," Fraser said softly. "It is possible for a woman to be a killer. It isn't..."
"She said someone's after her," Ray interjected. "She's in some kind of trouble."
"Who is she?"
"She didn't say." He paused. "Let's go look at the wallet again. Maybe there is something we missed. A phone number, a piece of paper...something."
Fraser nodded and followed him from the squad room.
Ray carefully opened the bag marked # 4. He handed the wallet to Fraser and began fingering through the other items.
Fraser opened the wallet. Inside was a ten dollar bill folded the long way and a five with the corner turned over. There was nothing else inside. He handed it back to Ray who gave it another look, then slipped it back in the bag.
Fraser began to look through the other items in the box. "Where is the doctor's purse?"
"Huh?" Ray asked and began going through everything again.
"Didn't she have a purse, a bag, something?"
Ray looked at the list. There was nothing listed along those lines except the wallet. He pulled out his phone and called the zoo director.
"Did you ever turn up a purse or a bag? Something the doctor carried her ID and things in?"
"She always carried a briefcase," he replied. "Wasn't it among the things you collected?"
"No," Ray replied. "Should it have been?"
"Well, I just assumed," he paused. "She always kept it on her, carried it with her. When I didn't see it there after you had cleaned up, I just assumed..."
Ray contemplated a moment. "Are you sure you can't think of any reason she'd be killed? Something in her briefcase maybe?"
The director thought, then replied with the answer he'd given before. "She was really quiet, Detective. I just can't think of anything she said or did to...indicate she could be in trouble."
"Thanks," Ray replied and hung up the phone. As he put it in his jacket, Fraser reached for the wallet again. "What is it, Fraze?" His phone rang and he answered it.
"It's Frannie. I'm transferring a call. It's that girl again."
Ray waited until he heard a click. "Hello?"
"I'm sorry. I thought I heard something before." The girls's voice was a welcome sound.
"Who are you?" Ray asked.
"I'm afraid. I'm afraid they are going to find me." She sounded frightened.
"Who is 'they'?" he persisted.
"I don't know."
"Did you get a look at the person who did this?" Ray asked and Fraser reached out and put a hand on his arm.
"No," she replied. "I was hiding."
"And you didn't see him at all?"
"No...I...I..." she stuttered.
Fraser pressed on the arm. "She's blind."
"What?" Ray asked Fraser, but she misunderstood and started to stutter again.
"She's blind, Ray," Fraser repeated.
Ray went back to the phone. "I'm sorry. I have to ask you. Are you blind?"
"Yes," she replied simply. "Yes, but I heard him. I think he might know who I am."
"Look, you need to tell us where you are. We have to talk to you."
"I can't," she said urgently. "I...I'm afraid."
"But we can protect you."
She didn't answer.
"Are you still there?" Ray asked insistently.
"But I don't know who you are. Don't you get it? I can't see if it's the killer!" she paused a second. "I have to go," she said and hung up before he had a chance to stop her. He hung up and dialed the precinct. They had managed to get an address before transferring her call.
Ray scribbled on a piece of paper and walked briskly to the car. "Ok, Fraze," he began as he drove. "I got the briefcase thing. Everyone carries something for id, money...but how did you get that she's blind?"
"It's quite simple, actually," Fraser replied. "The bills were folded."
"Lots of people fold their money...to make it fit in their pocket or their wallet."
"True, but in this instance it was different. Each one was folded differently. It is very common for blind people to identify their money by these means, but it is quite uncommon for anyone else to fold them differently."
Ray only nodded.
He pulled up in front of a tenement and looked at the paper again. "Ok. Her name is Helen Snow. She lives in 6E." He put the paper in his jacket and followed Fraser inside.
"I just thought of something else," Ray said as he walked down the hall on the sixth floor. "If she can't see, how's she going to help us? Even if she was there..."
Fraser wrapped softly on the door marked 6E. "There is more to identification than sight, Ray. You know, I knew a blind man in Tuktoyaktuk and he used to hunt with my father. He swore that, even though the caribou was a mile away, he could smell it. The powers of the other senses are astounding."
There had been no sound so Ray pounded. "Miss Snow? It's Detective Vecchio. Do you recognize my voice?" Ray looked at Fraser. "Was that lame?" he said softly.
Fraser shook his head. They waited. "Miss Snow? Are you in there? It's Detective Vecchio," Ray repeated. "Look, I'm sorry we had to hunt you down, but..." he was interrupted when he heard footsteps.
The voice was quiet, meek. "I recognize your voice, Detective." She paused. "Who's with you?" They didn't reply, unsure of the question. "I heard another voice," she added. "Who's there with you?"
Fraser spoke. "Oh! I'm Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I first came to Chicago..."
"Fraze!" Ray stopped him.
"What?" Fraser asked.
Ray turned back to the door. "Can you let us in, Ma'am? It's very important we speak with you."
He heard a chain and a lock, then the door opened slowly. The girl standing before them was in her early twenties. She was short and had dark hair. She stepped aside. "Come in," she said softly.
"Thank you kindly," Fraser said as he followed Ray inside.
They stepped inside the small apartment to a simple place. A green lounge chair beside a blue couch and a simple coffee table made half of the room a living room while a dining table with two chairs made the kitchen. Ray noticed an oddly shrunken looking typewriter without enough keys and a tape player at the kitchen table.
"What's this?" he asked, then quickly caught himself. "Uh, I mean...the typing thing."
"It's my brailler," she answered simply. "I take it you've never known a blind person before?" She smiled half a smile, then walked slowly, cautiously to the couch. "You can sit down," she said and pointed at the couch, then walked to the chair and sat down.
"Thanks," Ray said and sat beside Fraser. "No, I haven't I mean, I met this guy once." He snickered. "Could hear my stomach gurgling from the other room." He stopped and realized the uncomfortable silence. "Sorry," he said softly and opened his notepad.
"How did you find me?" she asked, looking a bit nervous as she rocked back and forth.
"Oh, well, they traced your call when you called back...uh, some guys at the station."
"Oh," she said simply. "Can they do that?"
"Uh, yeah, of course. Got your number, just looked it up and got your name and address," Ray said.
"No, I mean...I mean the killers. Can they find me so easily?"
"Uh, no... no ma'am. I don't think so," Ray said trying to make her feel more secure.
She cleared her throat. "Can you call me Helen? I'm not old enough to be a ma'am yet." She smiled at her joke and it somehow made Ray feel a bit more comfortable. "Hell, I'm still in college."
"Sure," Ray replied. "I need to ask you some questions, Helen. We will protect you if you need it; you don't need to worry about that, ok? Is it ok if I ask you some things?"
"Of course," she replied. "I wouldn't have let you in if I didn't trust you. Do you think they'll come after me?" She looked worried again, but tried to relax.
"Did they see you?" He asked, then swallowed. "I mean, do you know if they saw you?"
She shook her head.
"Look, you tell us everything you can and we'll worry about them, ok?" he said finally.
She nodded. "Um, Paige...Doctor Barrett...She used to let me come and help her in the lab. She let me touch the koala bears. Some of the other trainers take me into the cages and let me touch the animals. She let me feed a little koala who was sick." She cleared her throat and spoke in a more broken manner.
"I was supposed to meet her that day. She was going to let me visit the koalas again before she left. I was waiting and...and she came in. I heard her getting something...something...I don't know what. Then we heard a sound and she told me to hide. She pushed me in a corner, by the cages I think. She...she told me to be quiet. Then the man came in. I heard them fighting. She had something he wanted. Neither of them ever said what, though." She paused and sniffed. "Then I heard her scream when he hit her with something. I think he picked it up off the counter because I thought I heard a microscope moving. Then I heard a little rustling and...and it was quiet." She sniffed again and wiped her eyes.
"I waited a long time. I was so scared." Her voice cracked as she spoke. "Then I started calling her name, but she didn't answer. I could... could smell the blood. I was so scared." She stopped and reached over to the coffee table, feeling around.
"Kleenex?" Ray said and pushed the box into her hand.
She grabbed one. "Thanks," she said and wiped at her eyes and nose. "I was so scared. She was my friend." She let out a small sob.
"So you left because you were afraid he would return?" Fraser asked.
She replied with a nod. "I was afraid to call the police, but then I...I don't know. I just knew I had to. I knew no one else was there who could tell you anything. The thing is, I can't help you. I didn't see anything. I was too scared to remember his voice. I don't know anything."
"You've helped us a lot," Ray replied. "Now we know it was a male and that he was looking for something she had. It's a place for us to start. Now, do you remember anything else?"
She thought a moment. "No, I... I think I told you everything."
"Ok, well if you remember anything could you call me?"
"Yes. I will. What about the killer? What if he comes after me?"
"Uh, I'm gonna check with my Lieutenant. Until then, I'm going to call you every hour. Will you be here?" He stood and made his way to the door.
She nodded. "I haven't gone to any classes. I mean, if he comes up on me on the campus, well, I won't know until it's too late. Until he's got me or something."
Ray nodded. "Uh, yeah. You stay here and if you get any strange calls at all, you call me immediately."
"Ok. Thanks, Detective." She walked slowly behind them and closed the door. They heard the lock and the chain go back into place.
Ray stood across from Welsh, Stella beside him, and Fraser against the door.
"All I'm asking for is someone to watch her place," Ray said.
"I'm sorry, Detective. I just don't have the funds if we don't know for a fact she's in danger."
"But she's a witness," he almost begged. "She is in danger."
Stella shifted. "I'm sorry, Ray, but how reliable is she? She's blind. She didn't see anything, she doesn't remember anything. Unless you can get more from her she'll be no good. We can't put a blind girl on the stand."
Ray stomped a foot. "Look, Stella, you're not seeing the big picture. She's helped our case more than anyone so far. Plus, she won't even know she's in danger until it's too late." He turned to Welsh. "Isn't there some kind of special exception we can make?"
Welsh looked down at his desk. "Tell you what, Detective. You have two choices. Either you take her around with you, keep her protected that way, or you drop it. I'm not giving you any more than that."
"I can't babysit..." he started when Fraser cut in.
"Sir, I think we can handle the situation," he said and took Ray's arm. "Thank you kindly."
The two left Stella and Welsh to discuss the case they were on when they had interrupted them.
"Fraser," Ray started outside Welsh's office. "We can't take her around with us. It's dangerous and time consuming."
"I know, Ray, but it was apparent Welsh wasn't going to help us. As long as she stays in her apartment and we check on her continuously, I'm sure everything will be fine."
Ray pouted. "I don't know, Fraser. How can you be sure?" He picked up his jacket. "Let's go rummage through the doctor's hotel room. We'll call her again from there," he said as he let out a breath.
The hotel room had a strip marked "POLICE LINE " across the door. There was no obvious sign that anyone had entered since the initial investigation.
Ray stepped inside. Apparently someone other than the doctor had been there. The suitcase was dumped out, everything had been taken from the drawers and the closet. The place was in shambles. Ray and Fraser began going through each item with painstaking precision.
"All we can hope is that whatever they wanted was missed." Ray said and shrugged. "I don't think we're going to find anything."
Fraser nodded. "I'm inclined to agree. It appears they were very thorough."
Ray began picking things up and putting them away. He flipped through the phone book and placed it back in the drawer near the phone. He flipped through the bible. He moved the suitcase to the bed and began to set the clothes in it after checking the sides and bottom carefully.
Finally he straightened. "I got it."
"Got what?" Fraser asked and followed Ray as he hurried away. "An epiphany?"
Ray stopped and turned. "Epiphany?"
"Something like a divine revelation, an idea..."
"Uh, yeah. It just dawned on me...we haven't been through her personal effects; the ones on the body. Her clothes and stuff. I have a feeling we'll find something there."
"Among her clothes?"
"Ray, there is no logical reason to believe there would be anything among her clothes. If they were this thorough with her hotel room, they surely would have checked her pockets."
"I have a feeling, Fraze," Ray replied simply.
"You know, it will involve a visit to the morgue."
Ray swallowed. "I know, I know, but it's for the case."
The two stepped into the morgue to see Mort's familiar face and hear his familiar voice humming.
"Ah," Fraser said as he walked through the doors. "The Marriage of Figaro. An excellent work!"
Mort looked up and smiled as Ray stood against the wall. "Can I help you boys?"
Fraser nodded. "Yes. We need to see the personal effects of Doctor Paige Barrett."
Mort shook his head. "A tragedy, is it not? She was lovely and intelligent." He pointed to his temple, then reached out and grabbed a large plastic bag. He passed it to Fraser, but Ray stepped in and took it, then turned away from the bodies and set it on a counter.
He began going through the contents. He found her coat, with her ID tag still hanging from the collar. As he took out the short sleeved, cream coloured silk blouse, he heard a click. He looked down and saw a key on a long chain. He picked it up. "What's this? It looks like a safe deposit key."
"It was around her neck," Mort said in his thick accent. "It was beneath her blouse. I guess no one saw it when they were examining at the scene."
Ray looked at Fraser and held up the key. "If no one saw it then, I'll bet the killer didn't." He paused. "If she was visiting from Canada, why would she have a key to a local bank." He pointed to the words imprinted on the key.
"I only see one logical explanation," Fraser replied. "There was something important she needed to keep nearby and safe. Perhaps something so important someone would kill to get it."
Ray nodded. "How'd they miss the key?"
"Simple," Fraser added. "They thought they had what they wanted when they stole her briefcase."
"Should we go see what we can find in this box?" Ray said as he hurried from the morgue.
Ray was able to procure a warrant before going to the bank, ensuring his ability to get into the box and take anything if it would be helpful.
Fraser stood beside Ray as he opened the box.
Ray smiled as his heart skipped a beat. This is what being a cop, a detective was all about. These moments of adrenaline, the possibilities...
Inside was a folder. A simple cream coloured filing folder. Ray was disappointed, but he took it out and opened it. Under the folder was a simple little box. He opened it and inside found a number of blood sample vials. His face made his confusion clear to Fraser.
"I suggest we take these to a professional and see if they can tell us why they might be so important."
Ray nodded and closed the safe deposit box, then slid it back in its spot. He looked at his watch, then cursed quietly as he pulled out his cell phone. He dialed the number for Helen Snow, but the phone rang several times...too many times. He slammed it and cursed again. "Let's go," he said and ran to the car.
Fraser ran first into the apartment building and up the stairs. Ray followed as quickly as he could. As he got to the door to Helen's apartment, he saw Fraser pushing the door open. Looking at the door as he entered behind Fraser, he saw that the lock had been shot off. He noticed also a large broken area where someone had kicked or thrown themselves against the door, then he saw that the chain housing was hanging from the chain on the back of the door.
"Helen?" Fraser said as he looked around the house.
Ray followed the lead, walking around and saying her name. Then he heard Fraser calling him from the bedroom.
Fraser knelt beside Helen and felt for her pulse. Ray could see the bruising around the neck and face.
"She's still alive," Fraser said with relief as Ray called for an ambulance. "He probably left her for dead, though. Looks like he tried to strangle her." He looked around and saw the phone cord pulled from the wall. He reached over and smelled it, licked it, then set it back down.
Fraser stood by the wall in the waiting room while Ray paced. "You know, Ray," Fraser began. "If you try to relax, it might be better for you. I'm sure they are doing all that they can."
Ray nodded and sat down. In only a moment he was up again. "If I'd called a little sooner...I dunno. I feel responsible."
Fraser put a hand on Ray's shoulder. "Don't blame yourself, Ray. It appeared that the injuries were recent. It's possible that the ringing phone scared him away before he had a chance to kill her."
Ray took a deep breath. "I haven't had anything all day. I'm going to the cafeteria, get something really quick. You call me if the doctor comes?"
Fraser nodded. "That's a good idea, Ray. I will find you."
Ray hurried through the masses of people in the ER and disappeared in the crowd. Fraser watched the scurrying doctors and patients. A child ran across the room, the mother following. A pencil rolled under Fraser's feet and a young man got on his knees as Fraser moved, allowing him to retrieve it. He made sure he wouldn't be stepping on anyone or anything, then straightened again and looked up.
A redhead stood at the front desk holding out a card. Fraser hurried over, just in time for Tori to turn around and bump into him.
"I'm sorr..." She looked at the person she'd bumped into and froze.
Fraser noted the soot covering her clothing and hair. "Detective?" he said and took a step back. "What are you doing here?"
She found her tongue and looked around. "Where is he?"
"Of course, Ray. Who else?"
"He's in the cafeteria."
She let out her breath and looked back at Fraser. "Don't tell him. Please, don't tell him you saw me."
"I thought you moved to New York."
She smiled. "He can be rather gullible. Benton, I need you to promise."
"So you never left? Didn't you realize there was a chance you'd bump into each other? He tried to call you back. He called your home and your cellular telephone. Didn't you think that you might make him upset?"
"Ben, stop with the questions and promise me. Promise me!"
Fraser sighed. "You know I couldn't do that." He ran his thumb across his brow.
"Fraser, do you know what hell he put me through? He's still hung up on our kiss that took place *so* long ago. He's...he's hung up on...I needed to be away from him. I needed it to stop. Please, please don't tell him."
Fraser looked into her eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath as he spoke. "All right, I won't volunteer the information. That is all I can do." He paused. "What happened to you?"
"Smoke inhalation. Crime scene turned into a bit of a blaze. We got everyone out, though." She took a deep breath and ran her fingers through her hair. "All I need is a shower and a change of clothes. They say I'm fine."
Fraser nodded. They looked at each other for a moment before he spoke again. "Are you all right? Have you been all right?" he asked with a little concern.
Tori took a deep breath. She knew at that moment if she brought up Squigg, the deal would be off. If she told him now that Squigg was sending her threats, he would only tell Ray out of some Mountie-like concern. They were only threats, after all. Threats rarely turned into anything more. "Everything's fine, Benton," she replied finally.
"Look, you'd better go. He'll be back soon," Fraser said as he tugged his ear.
She nodded, took a paper from the clerk, and ran out the door.
It was only moments later when the doctor came out, clipboard in hand. "Helen Snow?"
Fraser stepped up. "That is for us. I need to get Detective Vecchio," Fraser replied. He was about to go down the hall when Ray came running, still chewing whatever he'd gotten to eat.
The doctor took them aside and looked over the chart. "Are you family?"
"We don't think she has any. Couldn't find any, anyway," Ray replied over his half chewed food.
Fraser turned his hat in his hands. "She is a witness in a case we are working on. What can you tell us?"
The doctor nodded. "All right. Well, her blood was lacking some oxygen, which indicates she actually stopped breathing for a period of approximately two minutes. We cannot tell why she started breathing again, but it could have been a spontaneous reaction. There is minor damage to her throat both externally and internally, but fortunately it appears it will be able to heal itself. She will have to remain in the hospital for at least a day. She regained consciousness while we were checking her out. The x-rays show no internal damage. All in all, she will be fine, but speaking will be difficult for a few days. She was very, very lucky."
"Can we talk to her?" Ray asked.
"I don't think that would be a good idea. She is still rather traumatized by the experience. Perhaps if you come back later."
Ray balled a hand into a fist at his side. "We are trying to catch the guy who did this to her. He killed another woman and every second we wait..."
Fraser put his hand on Ray's arm. "Thank you, doctor," he said and turned to Ray. "If we push her right now, we may not get anything at all."
Ray growled, then pulled out a card. "If she needs me, call me, got that, Doc?"
The doctor nodded and clipped the card to the clipboard as Fraser and Ray left.
Ray opened his door and looked across at Fraser. "What now? Go back to her apartment and see if they left any clues?"
Fraser shook his head. "I think I had a chance to look things over pretty well. The most we could get is a shoeprint from the door and even that is unlikely at this point."
Ray rubbed his eyes. "Uh, then I guess we go somewhere and get someone to look at these blood samples?"
Fraser nodded. "May I see the folder?"
Ray walked around the car and opened the trunk, then handed the folder to Fraser.
Fraser looked carefully at the pages as they headed to the station. "Ray, I think we should go back to the zoo. It appears from these records that the blood samples are those of animals. They'd be able to tell us more at the zoo."
"Animals? What's with animal blood?"
"She did work with animals, Ray."
Ray nodded. "Well, yeah, but blood samples? What could that mean? I don't think this is what we are looking for. Why would all of this be over some wild animal's blood?"
Fraser put the folder between them. "I suspect we could have the blood tested. Perhaps we will find a connection."
Doctor Erikson, who had found Doctor Barrett, seemed anxious to help them. He had previously been questioned and his background was checked, as were many who had worked with her, but Erikson was unable to provide information. He looked over the file in the folder and set the blood samples aside. He took out a sample, flipped some pages, compared then repeated with another sample for several minutes. "It will take some time to analyze, but I believe you are right about these. These files appear to coordinate with the blood. I imagine we could examine the blood and see if there are discrepancies."
"Can you do that for us, Doctor?" Ray asked.
The doctor nodded. "It will, of course, take some time. The biggest obstacle is that we don't have the equipment here. I have a friend who can do a work up in his lab. Is that all right?"
Ray nodded. "Yeah." He handed over his card. "Just be sure to call me at this number as soon as you come up with something."
The doctor agreed.
"Thank you kindly," Fraser said.
Ray sat at his desk and began searching for the number to Doctor Barrett's lab in Canada. "I know I have it here somewhere. Maybe someone there can tell us what this is all about." He kept looking as Fraser nodded.
"Those samples were marked with a label from that lab. It isn't *her* lab, though. She doesn't own it. She simply works there. Perhaps her supervisor has a clue."
"I hope so," Ray replied as he pulled a business card from the pile. He put his hand on the phone just as he heard a ring. It was his cell phone, he realized after nearly picking up his desk receiver.
"Detective Vecchio? I'm calling in regards to a patient, Miss Helen Snow..."
"Yes," Ray said and stood.
"She has been asking for you. Her doctor requested we call you. Will you be able to come here?"
"Uh, yes," he replied. "I'll be there in about 15 minutes." He hung up. "Let's go, Fraze. Helen's asking to talk to us."
Fraser followed him quickly as Ray rushed from the precinct.
Helen lay still when Fraser and Ray entered the small room with a curtain to divide her from the other bed in the room.
"Helen?" Ray said softly, but she jumped.
"I'm sorry. I didn't hear you come in," she said as she sat up.
"They told us you wanted to talk to us. How are you doing?"
"I'm ok," she said softly with a bit of a rasp. "I wanted to tell you that I remembered something."
Ray pulled up a seat. "What?" he asked anxiously.
"His smell. He had this...this smell. He must have been wearing cologne or aftershave. It was really strong."
Ray looked at Fraser who took a step forward. "I think it would be best if you would tell us everything you remember from this attack."
She put her hand gently on her throat, then pulled it away with a wince. "Can I have a drink?"
Ray nodded. "Oh, uh, yeah" He saw a pitcher and a cup beside the bed and poured her some of the water.
She took a drink slowly, her face crunched as she swallowed. After a deep breath, she began. "I heard someone in the hall. I thought maybe it was you guys, but whoever it was...he never talked. He just kept banging on the door. So I was really quiet, I went into the bedroom as quietly as I could and tried to hide in the closet." She swallowed hard and took another breath. "Then I heard a gunshot and then after that I heard a...a bang, I guess. Like...like maybe he kicked the door?" She looked to be in thought.
"Yeah. He shot the lock and kicked the door. It broke the chain," Ray replied. "Then what did you hear?"
"I just heard his footsteps. I heard him walking around the place. Then he got really close and I smelled it. I remembered the smell right then. It was exactly the same as at the zoo. I remembered I could smell it in the room the whole time and I smelled it again." She took another drink and swallowed carefully. "Then I heard the closet open and I felt him grab me and throw me down and choke me with string or something. I don't know what it was. I was trying to get away, but he hit me in the face a couple times. I don't remember anything after that. It went black." She paused. "But...but then when I was out I thought I heard the phone ringing." She shook her head as if clearing it away. "But that's crazy. I woke up here and a doctor told me everything."
"Listen," Ray said after a long pause. "Is there some family or friends I should contact for you?"
She shook her head. "No. No one, but can I ask a favour?"
"Certainly," Fraser said.
"Um, I keep a tape by the phone. If you listen to it there's a number for Mary something or other...about my dog. I was supposed to meet my dog today. Can you call her and tell her what happened?"
"You're supposed to meet a dog?" Ray asked, surprised.
"Perhaps a seeing eye dog," Fraser added.
"Yes," she replied. "Yes. I've been on a waiting list forever. If I don't call her she'll say I was irresponsible and it'll go to the next person and I'll have to start all over."
"Sure," Ray replied. "You get better. Fraser and I are going to take you home tomorrow, ok? We're going to find this guy. You don't have to be afraid."
She smiled. "Thanks."
After going to Helen's apartment and making the call, the two returned to the precinct. Ray called Doctor Barrett's lab, but there wasn't anyone in. Ray decided it was late and he wouldn't be able to make any progress so he took Fraser back to the Consulate, then went home.
That night he had a terrible dream. He dreamt that instead of Helen, Tori was in the apartment getting strangled. He heard her call his name for help and woke in a sweat.
He finally fell asleep again and slept through his alarm, waking on his own nearly an hour later. He called Welsh to let him know he wouldn't be in until late since he was supposed to pick up Fraser and Helen within the next twenty minutes. Then he dressed quickly, sucked down his bad coffee blend, and hurried to the Consulate.
Fraser was on the sidewalk waiting when Ray pulled up. He got in quickly and turned to Ray as Ray sped away. "You are late," he said simply.
Ray nodded. "I didn't sleep well last night."
Fraser nodded, but didn't ask questions. Instead, Ray offered the answers to unasked queries. "I had a dream...about Tori." He paused. "What's wrong with me, Fraser? I can't get her outta my head."
Fraser cleared his throat. "Perhaps your subconscious mind is trying to...tell you something."
"I can't say," Fraser replied and concentrated on the road.
Ray furrowed his brow, but said nothing. "So what do we do with her? I can't leave her back at her apartment. I'm not about to drag her around with us."
Fraser turned again to Ray. "Well, I suppose we could leave her in the care of the Canadian Consulate."
"Turnbull?'' Ray asked with a hint of horror.
"Thatcher will be in today," Fraser replied. "Perhaps she would be a better candidate."
Ray agreed. Soon they were at the hospital and had picked up Helen. They explained what they were going to do and whom she would be with and she agreed.
The three walked into the Consulate to see Turnbull picking up pieces of a broken jar. He quickly straightened to attention. "Ah, Constable Fraser. Inspector Thatcher was hoping you would return."
"Does she want to see me?"
Turnbull furrowed his brow. "Well, I don't know. She didn't say."
Fraser closed his eyes, took a breath, and turned to face Thatcher's door. He stepped forward and knocked quietly. He opened the door when he heard a quiet "come."
"Oh, Constable Fraser. I'm glad you have returned." She stood as she spoke. "Who is this?" She held out her hand to indicate Helen.
"This is Helen Snow. She is a witness to the murder."
Thatcher stepped forward and spoke quietly to Fraser. "How can she be a witness if she can't see?"
Fraser shifted. "Oh. Well, she heard the man and she heard the two conversing before he killed her. He is also the one who attacked her and gave her those bruises."
She nodded. "Ok. I suppose that answers that question. Why is she here?"
"Ah." Fraser cleared his throat. "Well, I had...the Detective and I had hoped she could stay here...for protection...until we find the man who did this."
Thatcher looked at Helen carefully. "I don't think that would be the best solution, do you, Constable?"
Fraser cleared his throat again. "Actually, Inspector, you are the one who requested we solve this case as quickly as possible. It seems most expedient to leave her in the hands of someone who can protect her in case he comes looking for her."
Helen straightened. "I won't be a bother, I promise." She waited anxiously for a reply.
Thatcher finally nodded. "All right, Constable."
Fraser introduced Helen to Diefenbaker who curled up next to her as soon as Ray and Fraser left.
Ray was on the phone again waiting for someone at the lab in Canada to pick up his call. He'd been immediately put on hold and was very annoyed with the music. After several minutes, a man picked up.
"Hello. This is Detective Vecchio," Ray said quickly. "I'm looking for someone in charge."
"This is Doctor Neeman. I'm sure I could help you."
Ray leaned back. "Have you heard the news about Doctor Barrett? We were told she worked there."
"Yes," the man responded. "It is tragic."
"Well, I'm the detective in charge of the case. I was hoping I could ask you a few questions."
"Certainly," the doctor replied.
"Do you know any reason why someone would want to kill her?"
The doctor paused to think. He cleared his throat before speaking. "I don't. She was a good doctor. Kept to herself, mostly. Perhaps there was something personal she never discussed."
"Well, among her things were some blood samples. Do you know what she was doing with them?"
There was silence only a moment, but enough for Ray to notice. "No, I don't."
"Well, do you know anyone who might want the samples? Maybe even enough to kill for them?"
"I'm afraid not. I can't think of any reason why someone would want blood samples that badly. Could you be more specific about the samples? Perhaps that will ring a bell."
"Actually, no. We are having them tested here."
"Tested? For what?"
Ray straightened. "For more information. Perhaps a clue that will lead us to the killer. Something that ties them together."
"I don't see how that could possibly be of any help," the doctor replied. He paused for several seconds before speaking again. "I suppose you know what you are doing," he said finally. "I'm very busy. Is that all?"
Ray paused a moment, then gave him the number to call if he thought of anything. After hanging up, Ray turned to Fraser. Something was bothering him about the conversation. Perhaps it was the way he stalled when the blood samples were mentioned. Maybe it was the way he couldn't see how having the blood tested might help the case; a point that seemed obvious to Ray. A little part of him wondered if that was why the doctor was asking for details on the samples.
"That was queer," he said finally.
"What was?" Fraser asked.
Ray sat a moment, then shook his head. "As soon as I figure it out, I'll let you know," he responded.
Fraser tipped his head. "Did you learn anything helpful?"
Ray shook his head. "I don't think so, but I'm keeping this Doctor Neeman in mind. He was suspicious."
"In what way?"
Ray shrugged. "Gut feeling, I guess."
Fraser rolled his eyes. Those gut feelings of Ray's were going to get him in trouble soon and Fraser knew it.
Ray sighed and leaned back in his chair until he could rest his feet on the desk. "I guess we are sort of stuck now until we hear from the lab."
Fraser agreed and relaxed. "Perhaps you could call the Consulate."
Ray sat up. "Oh, yeah." He dialed the number and spoke both with Turnbull and Helen. Everything was fine. There had been no attempts of forced entry or threats to Helen. Ray reminded them to call if anything did happen, then ended the call.
After that he impatiently called Doctor Erikson. "Have you got anything yet?" Ray asked after the polite greeting.
Doctor Erikson didn't answer right away. "I think you should come by, Detective. I did find something very interesting."
Ray grabbed his jacket. "Pitter patter, Fraze," he said simply and practically ran from the station.
Doctor Erikson was waiting when Fraser and Ray walked into the work area of the lab. He stood and Ray could immediately see the concern. He set a file on the table in front of them.
"I didn't call yet because I was still researching the chemical I found. Someone was injecting these animals with something very similar to benzodisaphrine steroids. It was an experimental drug that was taken out of testing because it was killing the animals it was tested on. Now this form is slightly different, but not enough. It is still deadly. I did some research and found that Suntop Corporation was backing the experiments a few years ago. Now they are privately testing some new drug. The research funds are being paid to the lab where Doctor Barrett worked."
Ray looked from the file to the doctor. "To anyone in particular?" When the doctor nodded, he continued. "Let me guess. A Doctor Neeman?"
Erikson nodded. "How did you know that? Do you have something on him already?"
Ray shook his head. "I'm sorry, I can't tell you." He paused. "I have a couple more questions then. Do you know what they do at that lab?"
"Yes, actually. Doctor Bennett specialized in animal diseases of the immune system. That's why we called her down here. She said that the lab would help sick animals from nearby zoos when they needed a specialist. When they couldn't travel, she would go to the zoos and habitats. So they all worked on sick animals."
Ray nodded and thanked Doctor Erikson for his help. Soon afterward, Fraser and Ray were in the car.
"So if I have this right, Doctor Neeman was testing an illegal drug on sick animals. Doctor Barrett found out?"
Fraser realized Ray was asking him a question. "Yes. I expect that is why they killed her, because she had the proof that this was going on."
Ray nodded. "And what about Helen? They must've found out she was there. That must mean she's still in danger."
"Yes," Fraser agreed. "It certainly does."
Ray made a U-turn and headed back to the Consulate.
Once there they told Thatcher everything. She called the Canadian offices and told them they had proof of Neeman's illegal testing. Fraser found the reported wild animal deaths through the computer in newspaper articles and commentaries from around the area. Ray waited impatiently. Mostly he chatted with Helen to take his mind, and hers, off the situation.
It was nearly an hour before Thatcher came from her office. "We have a problem. We can't find any record of Neeman leaving the country. He gave a speech the other day when he would have been attacking Miss Snow."
Ray grunted. "That isn't right. Then who?..."
Less than a minute later, Fraser looked up from his computer. "His assistant." They all turned to him.
"What?" Ray was incredulous.
Fraser clicked for a moment and the printer shifted into motion. "In an article it talked about his assistant. When the Inspector said Neeman hadn't left the country, I looked up the assistant's name, Turner Larson. He flew into the country hours before Doctor Barrett was killed. He left almost immediately, but returned before Helen was attacked."
"Has he left again yet?"
Fraser shook his head. "No. I suppose he didn't finish the job so he's still here."
Each of them took a phone and began to call hotels looking for Larson or Neeman's names. Finally one hotel turned up a lead. Ray called for a search warrant they would pick up on the way and left immediately with Fraser.
Larson was not at the hotel when they arrived, but they found the room had been paid for by Neeman. They searched and found rubber gloves and a strong cologne. Before leaving, they also turned up shoes with drops of something that Larson had tried to scrub away.
Larson returned during the search and Ray arrested him. They took him to the station for questioning while the shoes were tested. Meanwhile, Thatcher had Turnbull took Helen to the station so she could listen from the adjoining room.
Helen recognized the voice, then shook her head. "I can't be sure," she said as Lieutenant Welsh listened with her. "It really sounds like him, but I never heard him enough to distinguish him from other voices."
Fraser shifted. "What about smell?"
Welsh turned to him. "What, Constable?"
"Even if two people wore the same cologne, it would smell slightly different with a person's own chemistry. Helen, do you think you would know the smell well enough to tell if it is exactly the same?"
She nodded. "But I can't smell him from in here."
Fraser began to think as Welsh spoke. "Besides, he would recognize her if we got her close enough to smell him."
Fraser got an idea. Ray had used the idea when trying to sneak a dead body around the station. "Wait here, Lieutenant. Don't let them go before I get back."
Welsh looked confused, but agreed.
Several minutes later, Fraser returned. He held up a large jacket with a hood. "I got this from Dewey." He held up a baseball cap and some sunglasses. "We'll disguise her."
Helen gasped. "No, you can't. He might recognize me."
Fraser put a hand on her shoulder. "It's ok. We'll make sure you are well covered and we will just walk you past him. He won't have time to notice."
"He'll see my cane. He knows I'm blind."
"Leave the cane here," Welsh added. "You'll walk right behind Fraser and touch his elbow or something. Can you do that?"
Fraser moved a little closer. "It's ok. I promise we won't let anything happen to you. We just want to have a little more to make sure he is convicted of killing your friend and attacking you."
She took a breath and started shaking visibly. "Ok."
"You are very brave," Welsh said as he put the jacket around her.
"Now, you don't talk or do anything other than follow me until I say. Understand?" Fraser said to her.
The three waited until Ray was about to lead Larson back to the holding cell before opening the door to the room. They walked out slowly and led Helen down the hall, Welsh in the lead. Welsh bumped Larson with his shoulder and got a strange look from Ray. Welsh winked, then apologized as Larson stopped for a moment and turned to look at Welsh.
Helen felt Fraser slow and slowed with him, her head bowed. 'That's him,' she thought and froze. She couldn't move except to lift her head. She panicked. Fraser felt her hand leave his elbow and turned just as Ray pushed Larson to continue. Larson looked right at Helen and pulled away from Ray a little.
"I know you," he said quietly through gritted teeth as he leaned toward her.
Ray immediately grabbed Larson and pushed him down the hall while Fraser took Helen's arm and forced her back into the interrogation room.
She was wholly petrified. Fraser sat her down and tried to make her comfortable, removing the sunglasses and hat and setting them on the table. She wrapped her arms around herself when he tried to take the oversized jacket. He sat beside her and put a hand on her arm. "It's ok, Helen. He is gone now. Ray has him in a holding cell. He is well guarded."
Helen sat quiet a moment, then whimpered.
"What did he say, Helen?"
She paused. "He said 'I know you'." She was shaking even more now as he tried to calm her.
Fraser felt terrible that it hadn't worked properly. He felt her anxiety, but could think of nothing to say, so he just sat next to her.
Ray entered several minutes later. "I've got news. The blood on the shoe matches Barrett's." He paused and sat across from Helen. "We couldn't have done any of this without you."
A tear rolled down her cheek.
"Was it him?" Fraser said when he finally found words.
She nodded. "That was the exact smell, and I'm even more sure of the voice now. He used that tone when he threatened me in my apartment before trying to kill me."
Ray smiled. "That's good, Helen. Really good. We've got all we need. We're gonna convict him. We have too much evidence against him, if you're still willing to help."
She nodded. "I'm too afraid. If I don't testify, he'll go on the streets. I have to, don't I? To make sure he goes to jail?"
"I'm sure it'll help," Ray replied. "I'm sure that it'll be the final stone to convict 'im."
"Vecchio!" Welsh hollered with his usual gusto. "Get in here."
Ray stepped into Welsh's office, expecting some sort of reaming. Instead he was handed a file.
"Nice job on that Barrett murder," Welsh said. "I just got word from the Assistant States Attorney that Larson was convicted and Neeman will be spending a lot of jail time in Canada."
Ray smiled, as did Fraser. "And Helen?" Ray asked.
"She is well. She sent me this." He passed a graduation announcement to Ray. It was addressed to Ray, Fraser, Welsh, and Stella. Enclosed was a note to all of them thanking them.
Ray handed it back to Welsh, then opened the file he had been given.
"We got this arrest here. IA is threatening to come in if we can't clean it up fast."
"Take a look. You'll see."
Ray began to read, but his eye was immediately caught by a name. "Uh, sir, this is Stella's case?"
Welsh nodded. "Yes. I don't really care if that is a problem, Detective," he replied through gritted teeth. "This is your job and you will do it."
Ray straightened and nodded. He began to read over the file.
During a domestic abuse call, a detective witnessed a wife shoot her husband. At first, the detective claimed he was nearby and heard the noise, but a witness claimed he saw the detective go into the apartment before the noises began. The witness claimed to have seen the detective come out carrying a suitcase and go back inside. Then the witness saw the husband come home, at which point a loud fight began.
Now the detective had been removed from the case for further investigation. Ray noted that the detective worked at Tori's old precinct. Detective Oombatti still claimed he was there purely by coincidence and that the witness was mistaken. His partner, Detective Kilroy was on another assignment temporarily that particular day so there was no one to back up either story.
"It's simple, Welsh. It's pretty obvious what happened..." Ray started to say.
"I know, but Ms. Kowalski and the Internal Affairs Department both decided the testimonies are invalid. Detective Oombatti interviewed the witness and the suspect. He wrote the original report. It is obvious he is personally connected. She's been released because of this whole thing. We need to find out what really happened. IA's already on this guy, but not the case."
Ray was confused by the odd procedure the case had taken. "I don't understand, I guess. Why am I the one ending up with the case?"
Welsh cleared his throat. "I can't say."
Ray furrowed his brow. "Why?"
Welsh leaned over and spoke quietly. "Let's just say IA has a theory. I don't agree, but the point is you cannot mess this up. To the letter, do you understand?"
Ray nodded and went to his desk. He picked up the phone and looked around. Unconsciously, he searched for an unfamiliar face or someone watching him just a little too closely. He couldn't help the twinge of paranoia seeping into his system.
He called the home of the witness, but there was no answer. He called the business number, but he was apparently not there, either.
His next step was to call Detective Oombatti, hoping to set up a time to meet with him and get a statement. The civilian aide at the station informed him that the detective was on unspecified extended leave. She gave him a home number, but only got an answering machine.
He picked up the phone again. He asked the desk sergeant to transfer him to the desk of Detective Kilroy. A minute later, the civilian aide picked up again.
"I need to speak with Detective Kilroy," Ray asked, feeling a bit frustrated.
"Ah," she replied. "Let me get someone for you."
"No, don't get someone...get Detective Kilroy. It is important I speak with Detective Kilroy, ok?"
"Please hold," she said simply and he heard the click.
'Grrrr,' he thought to himself. 'I'm going to kill the next person who answers the phone if it's not Detective Kilroy. I'm getting nowhere here on any of these calls!'
He waited for several minutes before the phone finally clicked again. The voice on the other end was not the voice of Detective Kilroy, it was female.
"Detective Kilroy is not available. This is his partner, Detective Brooks. Can I help you?"
Ray's heart jumped into his throat. He swallowed hard. "Tori?" he said so softly his voice didn't carry.
"I'm sorry, what?" came the reply.
It confirmed the voice for him. "Victoria?"
Tori recognized the sound of her name coming from the other end of the phone. In a minor panic, she hung up the phone. She grabbed her jacket and threw it on as she hurried from the station. As she passed the civilian aide who had asked her to answer the phone she stopped for a moment. "I have to go check on some witnesses for a case," she said vaguely and hurried away.
Ray stared at the phone as he listened to it go dead. He hung up and quickly redialed. The desk sergeant picked up. "Detective Brooks," he said simply.
At that moment, Tori passed the desk sergeant who held out the phone. "Oh, Detective. This is for you."
Ray heard Tori's voice in the background. "Whoever it is, tell him I'm gone."
The desk sergeant passed on the message.
"Can't you stop her? It's urgent. I...I..." Ray realized it was no use and slammed the phone onto the receiver. He grabbed his jacket and scurried from the squad room.
In his car he found the old piece of paper with the phone number she'd once given him. He dialed. Disconnected with no forwarding number. He called information, but there was no listing. He drove to her apartment. She'd moved and left no forwarding address. He felt out of options and began to think of more obscure possibilities. When he arrived at the gym, Jim told him he hadn't seen her for several weeks. He explained that she said she would no longer be working out there. She'd given no explanation. His last resort was to go to the precinct where she'd answered the phone, a place that should have been her old precinct.
He stepped up to the desk sergeant with a demanding look. "Is Detective Brooks in?"
She shook her head.
"When do you think she'll return?"
The woman looked away and picked up a pen. "Can I leave her a message?"
Ray shook his head. "She won't return my messages. I can bet on that. Where is she?"
"I'm sorry, I can't tell you."
"You can't or you won't."
"I can't. She didn't leave specifics."
"How can I reach her?"
She looked away. "You have to understand my position. I don't know what is going on, but she told me not to tell anybody."
Ray showed his badge. "I'm a detective, too. What could I possibly..."
She shook her head. "I'm sorry."
Ray growled and left the station. He sat in his car for a very long time before starting it. Then it dawned on him...the junkyard. Mikey. She'd need her car. He drove to the lot and pulled in. As he got out of his car he was immediately approached by Mike.
"You've got to tell me," Ray said immediately as Mike came closer.
Mike shook his head. "I couldn't."
"Please. I have to talk to her. This is nuts. I've been stonewalled by everyone. I know it was her voice."
Mikey shifted. "She told me. Look, I have no commitment to you. She's a good friend. I'm not gonna mess that up."
Ray looked more desperate. "I...I'm...I'm not giving up," he stuttered. "I have to find her. Please. Haven't you ever..."
Mikey cut him off with a loud sigh. "That won't work on me. I can't betray her confidence."
Ray felt pathetic, but he didn't care. "I'll wait here for her. Out there's a public street. I can wait for a long time."
Mike smiled. "Go ahead, but she picked up her car a few weeks ago."
Ray cursed. "She has to go back to work. I can wait at the precinct. C'mon Mikey, I'm resourceful. Tell her she can't hide."
Mikey shrugged. "I'm not a messenger."
Ray slammed a fist against his car, then turned back to Mikey, his eyes burning with anger. "I'm not playing games here. I have to know where she is...where I can find her," he said through gritted teeth.
Mikey didn't look intimidated, but he shifted on his feet again. "Go to the diner on Matheson. Be there in two hours. If she wants to see you, she'll be there."
It wasn't exactly what Ray wanted, but he bit. "Ok. 4 o'clock? I'll be there."
I'm aware what the rules are,
But you know that I will run
You know that I will follow you
These tears I've cried
I've cried 1000 oceans.
And if it seems I'm floating in the darkness
Well I can't believe that I would keep
Keep you from flying.
So I will cry 1000 more if that's what it takes
Tori stood beside the large window in her new apartment, phone still in her hand. The sky was beginning to cloud. A storm, perhaps, if she was lucky. It would certainly feel cleansing at this point.
She watched as a woman ran across the street and waved her bus to stop again so she could get on. A man walked a large dog who more or less pulled him along. There were so many people out there, but the world was growing smaller every instant.
She looked at her watch. It was five minutes past four. She'd watched Ray walk into the diner across the street twenty minutes before, but she continued to watch the people on the street and the clouds in the sky.
Twenty more minutes passed and the rain had began to fall. A drizzle, only, but enough to make the tears on her face feel more comfortable. She was still at the window, watching to see if Ray would leave any time soon. Just how long would he wait?
God, I feel like hell tonight
Tears of rage I cannot fight
I'd be the last to help you understand
Are you strong enough to be my man?
Nothing's true and nothing's right
So let me be alone tonight
You can't change the way I am
Are you strong enough to be my man?...
I have a face I cannot show
I make the rules up as I go
It's try and love me if you can
Are you man enough to be my man?
When I've shown you that I just don't care
When I'm throwing punches in the air
When I'm broken down and cannot stand
Will you be strong enough to be my man?
Lie to me
I promise I'll believe
Lie to me
But please don't leave.
Ray looked at his watch as he had every five minutes for over an hour. A few minutes ago he'd moved to a booth right up against the window so he could watch for her car. The rain had started and there was no sign of it becoming a drizzle as it had been. He could barely make out things through the blur and the gutters were filling.
It was another half an hour before he finally stepped out into it. He closed his eyes as he stood just outside the door to the diner and lifted his face, letting the water pour over him. He didn't know how long he stood there, but when he lowered his face and opened his eyes, Tori stood before him.
They stared at each other for a very long time before either of them spoke. Ray, as always, blurted out what was on his mind.
"Did you lie to me?" he said, looking deep into her eyes.
She swallowed hard and it took him a moment to realize that what dripped down her cheek was not rain. All at once she reached back, balled the hand into a fist, and threw him the hardest punch she could muster.
Ray fell backward to the ground and grabbed his jaw. "What the hell was that for!?"
She kicked at his leg. "You just can't let it go, can you?"
Ray made his way to his feet. "Let what go?"
"Everything. Everything! You...you keep hurting me, pushing me away, pulling me back. I'm not a yo-yo," she said fiercely.
"I made some mistakes," Ray said. "Give me another chance."
"That's all our relationship has been, Ray! Second chances. I have to find someone who loves me the way I love him." She turned and began to run back across the street.
Ray followed and caught her arm as a car swerved by with a honk. He pulled her off the street. "You love me?"
"Oh my god! Are you that stupid?" She paused. "Of course I love you, Ray. I mean, I loved you. Unlike you I can get past an emotion of love and admit it."
Ray felt the truth like a knife. "All right, but I..." He wanted to say he loved her too, but the words wouldn't come.
She pulled her arm away. "I have to go." She said and ran inside the building, leaving him standing out in the rain, watching the door close.
He grunted and kicked at the parking meter, then went to his own car.
Imagine two complete strangers
who suspect they were meant to be
both in need of love and affection
yet their suspicions prevent something heavenly
Fear takes control -- fear of the unknown
Aware of what will hurt you
you're prepared to remain this way
so sad yet safe with your afflictions
afraid to start a brand new day
We all get the strangest feeling
when we're standing mighty tall
to jump from 17 floors and crash into freefall
Ray stormed into the squad room and breezed past Fraser who was waiting for Ray at his desk. He swung open the door to Welsh's office and pounced inside.
"Did you know about this?" Ray yelled as he slammed the door.
Welsh was concerned by the red face. "Know about what?"
His voice carried through the glass and into Fraser's ear. "Tori! Detective Brooks is still in town!"
Fraser heard the words and knew he had to step in. He took a deep breath as he opened the door. Ray turned to him and Fraser saw a look he had never seen.
"Get out, Fraser. This doesn't concern you."
Fraser stepped inside and closed the door. "I feel I may be able to assist..."
Ray's face tensed even more and his face looked as though it might explode. "What? Did you know?"
Fraser cleared his throat. "I made a promise that I wouldn't mention it..."
"You are my friend, Fraser! How could you?..."
"I'm sorry, Ray. I only promised not to say anything unless you brought it up. You didn't, therefore..."
"But Fraze, you shoulda told me. I've been...I've been..." He let it trail off and turned back to Welsh.
"Of course I knew, Detective. Why do you think I gave you that particular case?" He paused. "I'm sorry. I didn't know at first. When I found out I was trying to decide what to do, then this case came up." Welsh leaned forward. "Speaking of which..."
Ray took a deep breath. "I'm on it, Lieutenant. I'll have a report for you by morning."
Welsh nodded. "Good. It's been too long already. Get to work."
Ray turned and walked out of the office to his desk. He began calling people again and was able to get Detective Oombatti at his home.
Once Ray pointed out the situation, Oombatti admitted he was having an affair with the woman.
"Were you there when the shooting occurred?" Ray asked.
Oombatti cleared his throat. "Yes."
Ray shook his head. He knew this likely meant that the Internal Affairs department would want to handle the case.
"Detective Vecchio?" Oombatti said in a meek voice.
"Um," he cleared his throat again. "She had the gun. She was going to shoot him."
Ray furrowed his brow. "I know she had it. She did shoot him." He paused. "Didn't she?"
Oombatti didn't answer. When he finally spoke, his voice was shaky. "I'm in love with her. I didn't want her to go to prison. I wasn't thinking."
'Oh god,' Ray thought. He wasn't thinking? Did he shoot the husband with her gun? He took a deep breath. "I'm going to have to file this, you know. IA is going to be involved."
"I know," Oombatti replied softly. "I know. I took the gun and I shot him. I killed him and then gave her the gun."
Ray felt an odd sickness about the whole situation. He pinched his forehead between his thumb and fingers. "I don't think you should tell me this. Maybe you should wait until IA comes to speak with you."
Oombatti was quiet for a long time. "Send them, Detective. I'll be waiting," he said and hung up.
Ray immediately went back into Welsh's office to fill him in on the details. Welsh was on the phone in minutes. While Welsh was talking, Ray took a seat. As soon as the Lieutenant hung up, he took a long breath.
"He was confessing to me, wasn't he, sir?"
Welsh looked at him a moment. "Of course."
"No, I mean the kind of confession a criminal makes before he kills himself."
Welsh took in a deep breath and let it out. "Yes. I think so. IA said they are heading there right now. Maybe they'll get there in time."
Ray shook his head. "They won't." He stood and spoke solemnly. "They won't He's either done it by now or he's not going to."
Welsh looked down.
"So what happens to the woman? The wife and girlfriend?"
Welsh shrugged. "Probably not much of anything. She didn't actually pull the trigger, we don't have any proof she told Oombatti to do it. The husband was abusive. I guess they'll most likely try her for not stepping forward and sentence her to some counseling."
Ray nodded. "Well, lemme know, wouldja?"
Welsh nodded back and went back to his paperwork.
It took Ray several weeks to get over the suicide of an officer that he had spoken with and questioned, but he kept reminding himself it wasn't anyone he knew really well.
He'd gone to the funeral, though, but only stayed a moment. He felt he was doing something wrong, standing back away from the crowd just so he could watch Tori. He knew she'd be there. Kilroy, he had heard, had been assigned to be her partner after Oombatti killed himself. She would have to go for Kilroy's sake as well as for herself.
He felt guilty standing there behind the tree, so he walked slowly back to his car.
Pretty soon, life was back to normal. He worked with Fraser on a number of cases without even thinking about Tori. Truth was, though, he was thinking a lot, but not actually saying anything out loud.
Tori went back to life as usual. She still loved Ray very much, but was slowly learning how to let go. She only dealt with it by staying away from every place she had been with Ray either working or personally.
The threats from Squigg continued occasionally, but they were never anything to bring up a red flag in her mind. Harmless threats against a woman he never liked.
He'd left a couple other messages by mailing them to her work. It made her slightly paranoid because they knew who they were from, but there were no clues on how to go about finding him.
The most disturbing one came on a dismal day, on the verge of raining.
"It won't be that hard to get rid of you..." it said in his simplistic handwriting. It felt different. The others simply said they were going to kill her, but this one said "Get rid of" instead of "kill". That bothered her the most.
She looked out the window at the rain as it started and decided she needed to take her mind away so she could think of it with a new vision.
Unfortunately, the rain made her think of only one thing. She didn't move, her face was stoic, but the tears were rolling down.
Kilroy stepped up to her and put a hand on her shoulder. She jumped and looked at him, then immediately wiped her face. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head. "Nothing."
He took the paper from her hand and read it. "Don't let this nut get to you. You and I both know threats rarely turn into anything."
She shrugged. "Um, why did you come find me?" She moved to sit down.
"Oh, we got a call to check out this building. The Lieutenant says it's a condemned building over near the 27th so he wanted you to check it out with me."
"I dunno. I guess it's 'cause you got friends over at the 27th. He specifically said we didn't have to hurry back after checking it out. I think he wants you to go see them."
"Dammit," she sighed. Her Lieutenant, Lieutenant Steves, and Lieutenant Welsh had been playing some game of matchmaker since she arrived. She stood and put on her jacket. "Ok, we'll go but as soon as we're done, we're coming back here. I don't want to see..." she paused. "Those people."
"You mean Ray." Kilroy spoke softly. "You can't keep avoiding."
She glared and he put his hands up in surrender. "You're right. It's not my place."
The two walked out together and drove to the building. They found nothing, but when they returned to the car, Tori found a note on the windshield. Inside was an address.
"I'll call it in," Kilroy said.
She stopped him. "No." She paused. "No, we don't need to. It's pretty simple. We've got on our vests, right?" She took a deep breath. "No, this is personal. You don't even have to come."
Kilroy felt trepidation. "A...are you sure you don't want me to call it in?"
"All right, but I *am* coming with you."
"Fraser, you should know by now. That's the way I am. I love unconventional."
"I understand, Ray, but that is an unacceptable excuse for embarrassing me in front of my superior."
"Aw, lighten up, Fraze. It was just a little water."
Their casual conversation was interrupted by a call. "All cars in the vicinity of Melbourne and Lois should go to the abandoned battery warehouse. Officer down." The message was repeated as Ray turned around and sped back the way they had just come. Ray switched off his radio and pulled up to the warehouse. A man was on the ground. Fraser and Ray ran over. The man quickly identified himself, though strained due to a bullet wound to clavical.
"I'm Detective Kilroy. My partner went inside after the guy. He was a cop. He's armed."
"He was in IA. She says it's personal, but I called for backup anyway. The guy went nuts."
"Is his name Davis Squigg?" Ray asked, dreading the answer.
The officer nodded. "I'll be ok until help arrives. Go help her." He paused, then pointed to the wound. "I'm wearing a bullet proof vest." He said slowly.
Ray knew what that meant. Black widow bullets, aka cop killers.
Ray stood, but didn't head into the building.
Fraser listened. "I hear sirens, an ambulance and two police cars."
"We'll have backup soon enough, then," Ray said and went inside, followed by Fraser.
Tori turned and managed to get in a combination punch and kick that knocked Squigg to the ground. He dropped his gun and as he reached for it, she stepped on his wrist and kicked his face with the heel of her boot. He swung his other arm toward her and she jumped back. He took the gun and jumped to his feet, cocking it on the way up as he pointed it at her. She hadn't had the chance to get her gun yet so she tried to talk to him.
"C'mon, Squigg. You know you don't want to do this."
"Are you kidding? You've been making my life a living hell."
"You brought it on yourself. You shouldn't have been so determined to ruin me."
"I..." His sentence was interrupted when Fraser and Ray ran in. He turned the gun on them. In one motion, Tori pulled out and cocked her gun as Squigg turned back to her. While he was turning, Ray pulled and cocked his gun. Three shots rang out in quick succession. Tori fell to the ground as her shot hit the ceiling, followed by Ray's hitting Squigg in the head. He fell to the ground.
Ray ran to Tori. He leaned over her and spoke softly. "Tori?"
She opened her eyes, her hand over her chest wound. "I never thought... I mean, as long as I had on the vest. It saved my life once." she said feebly.
"Don't think about that, ok? Think about something else and you'll be ok."
She swallowed hard and looked into his eyes.
Ray leaned closer to her. "I love you," he said softly and kissed her. As he leaned back, she smiled.
"Thank you, Ray," she said softly.
"You can't leave me. I can't be without you."
She wheezed. "I love you," she said and closed her eyes.
Ray tried to be strong, but the tears escaped. He reached around in her jacket until he felt her badge. He removed it and slipped it inside his jacket, near his heart.
Fraser joined him and, as he checked her pulse, he put a hand on Ray's shoulder.
"I wasted so much time." Ray's voice was shaky. "It's all so fragile."
They were oblivious to the commotion around them now. Fraser didn't know what to say. The two stayed with her body until the coroner finally arrived. Fraser did most of the talking as Ray stayed in a trance, but he never left his friend's side.
Ray waited until the weather fit his mood. On a dismal, rainy day, he went to the cemetery and stood before the gravestone marked 'Victoria Brooks'. He knelt and brushed his fingers across the butterfly he had insisted they carve on the stone.
His mind flooded suddenly with the image of thousands of butterflies escaping the box at her funeral. It was his idea, but Fraser was the one who made phone calls and visited insect centers until he found out how to get his hands on such a large number of the creatures.
He returned to the present and pulled her badge from inside his jacket. He stared at it for a long time, reading her name over and over. Finally he gave it a gentle kiss and returned it to his jacket. A single tear blended with the rain on his face as he turned to walk away.
That was the only time he visited her grave, but he vowed to carry that badge with him every day for the rest of his life.
I'm gonna live my life
like every day's the last.
Without a simple good bye
it all goes by so fast.
And now that you're gone
I can't cry hard enough
For you to hear me now
Gonna open my eyes
And see for the first time
I've let go of you like
A child letting go of his kite
There it goes
Up in the sky
There it goes
Beyond the clouds
For no reason why
I can't cry hard enough
No I can't cry hard enough
For you to hear me now
Gonna look back in vain
And see you standing there
When all that remains
Is just an empty chair
And now that you're gone
I can't cry hard enough
For you to hear me now
There it goes
Up in the sky
There it goes
Beyond the clouds
For no reason why
I can't cry hard enough
No I can't cry hard enough
For you to hear me now.
'1000 Oceans' by Tori Amos
'Strong Enough' by Sheryl Crow, Bill Bottrell, David Baerwald, Kevin Gilbert, David Ricketts, and Brian Macleod
'Fear (of the Unknown)' by Siouxsie and the Banshees