Catherine walked her suspect up the stairs, giving him a hard shove toward a chair. "Sit and keep quiet and I might let you live," she snarled, heading into the break room for a soda.
Her partner, Detective Huey, looked at him. "Told her she was fat?"
"No," he said, shaking his head, giving him a horrified look. "I said she looked better than I've ever seen her, that she was beautiful this way."
"Hmm." He looked at Catherine as she came back out. "You got pissed because he praised your state?"
"No, I got pissed because he tried to run first," she told him, glaring at the suspect. "I should have hit you for that but my husband gets pissed at me when I hit suspects."
The suspect whimpered. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't look that far down once I saw it was you. Please don't kill me?"
"We'll see." She sat down at her desk and put her feet up, opening the correct file to start the report. "Which one are you again? Manny?"
"Yeah, I'm Manny. Are you sure you're not looking for Philip though? I mean, he's the one who pulled the robbery at the AmVets center."
She looked at him. "What robbery? This is about you beating your girlfriend."
"Oh. Sorry. Forget I said that," he said brightly.
"Fat chance, that's my case," Huey told him. "What's your last name?" The man gave him a horrified look. "Catherine?"
"Simons," Manny said with a sigh. She corrected it on the form. "Do we know what it is yet?"
Huey snickered. "Are you sure of that?"
She pulled open her desk drawer and put a doll in front of him, letting him see it. Then she filled out the next section on the form, including why she was adding another charge of resisting arrest.
Huey sighed. "I'm sorry. It's just that you pregnant people eat some damn funny things."
"I heard that," she said, pulling out a pin and putting it next to the voodoo doll of him.
He gave her a look. "If you hurt me too much, you'll have to clear my cases too. Welsh said so."
"Fuck Welsh," she said, giving him a look. "He's on vacation."
"Yeah, and your man's in charge. I could tell him." He looked toward the office and when he looked back the pin was gone. "Does he know you made that?"
"Yup." She smiled at him. "Anything else? Hey, Ray!" He came out of the office. "He thinks you didn't know about the voodoo doll of him."
"No, I knew," Ray admitted dryly. "Sat there and watched her make it. All she needed was some hair or something I thought."
"Oh, yeah," she agreed, standing up and catching his head, pulling out two hairs for later. "Thank you for the reminder. This is Manny, he beat his girlfriend."
"My girlfriend's a tranny," he admitted. "I just found out."
She looked at him. "That's not my problem," she told him. "That's why you should always practice oral sex. That way you can go down there and investigate fully and make sure it's a full girl if that's all you like in a lover."
Ray and Huey both burst out laughing but Manny grimaced. "That's nasty."
"No, it's practical, kid. Trust me. Besides, we women appreciate the hell out of reciprocation." She gave him a look. "Or else your next one won't blow you."
He nodded quickly. "I'll try that next time, at least once," he agreed. He wouldn't lose that treat for anything.
Ray shook his head. "Need help with him?"
"No, I think he's properly cowed now and he gave Huey a lead on one of his robberies." She gave him a smile. "Are we having lunch?"
"No, you're going to the doctor's for blood work and I'm going to finish signing these stupid forms," he told her, going back to it. He left the door open this time.
"You make him smile?" Manny asked, leaning closer. She looked at him then smiled and nodded. "Hell, woman. You win. I won't struggle or anything. That's fuckin' amazing. No one makes *him* smile."
"Oh, you'd be surprised," Huey said dryly. "I've seen Vecchio smile, laugh, play with her, and even treat her to lunch a few times. Plus she's got Kowalski and the Mountie wrapped around her stomach right now." He glanced over, noticing the awed look. "That's why we kept her."
"Hey, I could have gone to homicide," she pointed out.
Huey snorted. "Yeah. Because Welsh would have let you go there," he said dryly, giving her a look. "You won the pissing contest with Vecchio, he was too impressed to let you go."
"How did you two get together?" Manny asked.
"I nearly ran over him, then I swore at him, then I impressed him by being myself," she said, giving him a look. "Anything else you need ta know?"
"No, ma'am," he said respectfully. "It's obvious he makes you a better human being too. We like it when the Bitch Queen of Death is happy." She sniffled and got up, heading to the bathroom. "What did I say?" he asked, looking around desperately.
"Ray, he just called your wife a better human being," Huey called.
"Fuck," Ray said, coming out to go find her and make her calm back down. He hated mood swings. "How many more weeks?"
"Six." Huey smirked at his back, then glared at Manny. "You'd better sing like you're a little song bird. She's not gonna be happy. They can't have sex."
Manny whimpered and curled up on himself. "Can I tell you?"
"Sure," Huey agreed, switching desks to finish the report for him. "Want to give me some on your brother Philip too?"
"Okay," he agreed, starting to sniffle. "I didn't mean to set off a mood swing. I really didn't."
"Hey, we've all done it. Why do you think our boss is on vacation now?" he asked dryly, typing quickly. "Okay. What did you do again? Beat your tranny girlfriend for being a tranny?"
"Yeah, I found her so-called clit and noticed it had a hole in it," he admitted. "She told me what it was and I lost it. I'm so sorry," he said, starting to cry as she came back. "Please, send me to a nice cell? Now?"
"Sure," Huey agreed, standing up and grabbing him to take him downstairs. "He's willing to cooperate," he said, giving her a pat on the arm. "Good job, Catherine."
"Thanks," she said, glaring at him. "I've always been human."
"Yeah, but now you're a happier one," he said. She growled and the guy practically pulled Huey down the stairs to the holding cells.
Huey looked at the stunned, yet laughing, cell supervisor. "He said Catherine was a happier human being now," he said as he handed him over.
The cell supervisor looked at him. "You know, they make medicine for diarrhea of the mouth, kid. You should invest in some." He put him into a very secure holding cell and then started to laugh, leaning against the bars. "Oh, damn. Those poor guys upstairs." He went to share it with the other guards.
Ray looked up as Catherine walked into the office and closed the door. "Welsh said we couldn't have sex in here," he reminded her.
She plopped down onto the couch and tossed over the paper in her hand. "That's okay. I think I'm ready to go home."
He looked at her. "You're going on maternity leave now?" She nodded. "No warning?"
"Ray, I'm having false labor," she told him.
His mouth fell open. "Since when?"
"Since this morning and the doctor said it was false labor." She gave him an innocent look. "If there are any problems coming with the birth, promise me you will not let Benny deliver it. He scared me the other day talking about delivering caribou and other animals."
Ray snickered. "I think that's what he was going for."
"Wonderful." She stood up with a grunt of pain. "Besides, the doc said I'm to go home at least today and tomorrow and put my damn swollen feet up." He gave her another worried look. "I'm fine, but he said my blood pressure was a bit up again. He also said I am not to chase after anybody. Not to fire a gun. Not to do any of the fun stuff I have to do on a daily basis here."
"Can't it wait for two days?" he pleaded. "At least until Welsh comes back?"
She sighed. "If you can *guarantee* I can sit my big, fat ass at my desk and not move, sure. If not, then no." She winced and patted her stomach. "You, no trying to get out by making your own hole. I knew letting Stan tell you stories about his captures was a bad idea," she complained, staring him down. "Up to you. I've got twelve weeks."
"Twelve?" he asked, eyes wide. He looked at the form, then at her. "No way."
"Well, technically, maternity leave is sixteen weeks for us," she said patiently. "I've only saved up twelve weeks of paid leave though and I've got to go over the obstacle course in fifteen weeks."
"I'm not sure the new guy will be in there by then," he offered.
"Yay. The guy after him wants to set the bar higher," she offered. She shrugged, then grabbed her stomach. "Stop it," she hissed, looking down at it. "That is not an exit!"
He stood up and came around the desk, sitting her down in the chair this time. He gently stroked her stomach. "Calm down in there," he said soothingly. "It's all right. You can come out and get hugged soon enough."
Stanley leaned in the office. "We all good?" he asked.
"Fine," she said patiently. "You, no ideas of helping deliver either. We're going in a hospital. The doc wants to do a c-section now." Ray grimaced. "Hence him wanting me to stay calm and my blood pressure down."
"No way!" Huey called.
Stanley turned and Catherine and Ray leaned around to look at the person coming up the stairs with the shotgun. "Huh," Stanley said, shaking his head. "You just walked into a police station with a hostage?"
"This man is a wanted felon," he said loudly. He gave Benny a nudge with the shotgun. "Arrest him or I'll send him to be judged."
"What makes you think he is?" Ray asked, coming out and closing the door behind him. "I know this man, he's a Mountie. He doesn't even gather library fines." He smiled his most comforting smile. "Did you see him doing something?"
"Yes! He...." He stopped and shook his head, holding onto his temple. He looked up before anyone could move. "Don't even try. He's an evil and bad man!"
"Did the voices tell you that?" Stanley asked.
The man glared at him. "I am right!"
Catherine came out of the office, standing in plain sight. "Ray, he's not a mental patient. He's got a tumor that mimics schizophrenia," she said quietly. He nodded. She looked at him. "Can you tell *me* what sort of evil this man has done?" she asked soothingly, walking a few steps closer. "I have no idea what this man is like. I'll give you a fair listen and we can figure out what he's done wrong." She moved another step closer. "May I take him and handcuff him?"
The man smiled at her. "Of course. Are you a police officer?"
"I'm a detective," she said, pulling her badge. He gave her a look. "Yes, women's lib did let some of us advance," she sighed. "Really."
"And you're that fat!"
"I'm eight-months pregnant," she corrected calmly. "Now, let me cuff him to the chair right here, and we can go fill out a complaint." He raised his shotgun. "If you don't put it down, the SWAT guys behind you will shoot," she said firmly, looking him in the eyes. "They like this man."
The man looked behind him, finding most of the day SWAT shift standing on the stairs. "They're cops too?"
"They're SWAT. They come whenever anyone comes into the station with a gun." She pointed at his rifle. "If you'd hand it to me, we can shoo them away. They'll only try to stay and rub my stomach but we can stop them and send them away so you can make out a complaint."
He grunted, looking her over. "You don't look like a cop. None of you do."
"Hey, detectives don't have ta wear uniforms," Stanley pointed out dryly. "I can get one of the patrol cops up here if you want."
"Yeah. I want a real cop."
"No!" someone yelled, rushing up the stairs. He got between Catherine and the psychotic man. "You may not harm her or her child!" he said firmly. "The child is important to the world!"
The man looked at her. "You're having an angel?"
"I don't know. Right now, I think I'm having a soccer player," she admitted, stroking her stomach. "It's kicking again."
"You didn't know what it is?"
"No, the cats and I are going to be surprised at the same time as the father," she told him dryly. "Now, please hand over your shotgun and we'll fill out a complaint." The man nodded and handed over his gun to Stanley, then let her lead him to one of the interrogation rooms. Where SWAT took him safely away. She came back and hit the other mountie on the shoulder. "I'm going to hurt you for that." She looked at Ray. "Maternity leave?"
"Not until Welsh comes back, he said so," Ray said bitterly. "But you can work from home today."
"Sure," she said dryly, gathering up her bag. "Make me *drive* while I'm having false labor pains."
"No!" the other men yelled, grabbing her purse, and a few grabbing her.
"We'll get her home," one of the SWAT guys noted, helping her down the stairs. "Right to your door, detective."
Ray shook his head, waiting to laugh until they had left the precinct. He leaned on Stanley's shoulder. "Oh, damn, that was good," he gasped, wiping off his cheeks.
"What did she do this time?" Huey asked.
"Nearly ran into the building this morning," Stanley shared, grinning and shaking his head. "She got out rubbing her stomach and talking to the little beast, then gave their leader, Steve, a look and a shrug, explaining that the kid wanted to be closer to the bathroom this time. He had insisted as she was going for the brake pedal."
Huey looked at Ray. "When is she going on leave?"
"Soon," Ray promised. "She thinks she'll have about twelve weeks of leave." He went back to his office, but paused to look at Benny. "Benny, she said you can't help deliver the kid. Apparently you scared her with stories about animal births?"
He nodded. "As was my intention, Ray." He smirked. "Should I fill out a report?"
"Yeah, you do that," Stanley told him, giving him a pat on the arm. "Use Cat's desk if you need ta." He and Huey shared a look once the other two had turned away.
Catherine looked up as Ray walked into the apartment, pointing at the kitchen. "I left you food in the microwave," she offered, blowing a kiss. She went back to whatever she was reading on the internet.
He gave her a kiss on the top of the head. "The nice psychotic man said you were very helpful once he had his medicine, though he does believe you're having an angel. Stanley helpfully told him that you were a warrior for the light."
She snorted. "Not in this condition. The doc said I could have my tubes tied if they did a c-section."
Ray gave her a long look. "Good. It'll save money on condoms." He smiled at her as he went to warm his dinner. "Twelve whole weeks?"
"Hell yes," she told him. "That way I can hold and cuddle the little future kitten and then he or she will be old enough to go to your mother each day." He chuckled. "She pouted when I said I was thinking about looking at formal daycares."
"You're lucky she didn't rant." He came over to sit next to her, glancing at the screen. "What are you reading?"
"Because it's the closest I've gotten to sex in months," she said, looking at him.
He gave her another kiss. "Blame the doctor, not me. I've wanted it more than anything but you couldn't." She grimaced and put her laptop aside, giving him a firmer kiss. "Cat," he groaned. She winced and he pulled back, stroking her stomach. "It's all right. What is that?"
"Another fake contraction," she ground out. "Ow." He tipped her chin up, catching her eye, and started to do her breathing exercises. "That c-section is starting to look better and better. Then I could have drugs."
"If this is going to be our only one, are you sure you don't want to do it the normal way?" he teased.
"Ray, consider how wide I'll be and for how long," she retorted.
He chuckled and kissed her but she pulled back, shaking her head. "Already?"
"Kick," she complained. He stroked her stomach until the microwave went off, then one of the cats helpfully came to tell him that it had beeped and his food was ready, so it could beg for it of course. "Yes, we know, Blair. The microwave went off." He meowed and jumped up to get petted, sticking his butt in her face. "Hey!" She moved him around, kissing him on the nose. "No kitty butt in the face, Blair. You know that annoys me." She gave him a few more strokes and ear scratches but he was disgusted at having to *face* her so he jumped down to beg the microwave for the food. She snorted, shaking her head. "Why?"
"Because you love them," he reminded her, giving her a real kiss. The baby kicked him so he kissed it too. "Hello to you too, son." He got up, going to retrieve his food. "Did you eat?"
"No, I nibbled."
He glanced back before opening the microwave and smiling. "Did Ma cook?"
"Yup. Her sauce is still getting my stomach," she admitted, going back to her porn. "Hmm. Gay porn."
"No," he said firmly, making her grin at him. "Tease." He came back to eat next to her, keeping one hand free to pat her stomach in case their kid should ever kick again. "Think he'll come out swearing?"
"Oh, yeah," she agreed. "And covered in cat fur."
Ray snickered, shaking his head. "You're bad."
"I know." She beamed at him. "How long before Welsh comes back? I'm tired of trying to fit into the supposed fat people maternity clothes."
"Are they tight?" She nodded. "Sorry. Hey, at least you found some maternity clothes," he offered. "Maria just wears Tony's t-shirts around the house."
"I'm only gonna wear jammies."
"As long as you wear something." He gave her a long look. "Are we going to have to wait for deliveries?"
"Ray, I think I'm going to be busy putting together baby furniture," she pointed out. "Much too busy to set up little annoyances like the city's dealers." Her mail notification beeped so she opened up a new window and checked it. "Hmm, administrative notice from the city." She opened it, staring at it for a moment before bursting out in giggles. "You know how the state cut funding to one of the area psychiatric hospitals?" He nodded, chewing on a bite of food. "I'll wait until you swallow," she offered. He swallowed and paused. "The Mayor just warned us that they let out some of them today."
He groaned and whimpered. "How many?"
"Thirty or so, they think." She hit the reply button, sending him a message about how one had already walked into their precinct and had taken Benny hostage because his red uniform was evil. Then she added on a personal note before sending it.
"What did you do?"
"I suggested very nicely that if he *really* wanted to get in good with the city's voters, he should give up his salary for a year, that it would fund that ward for at least two years." She gave him a smug look. "I ended with a cute note that I and my future child would really appreciate that. Unsigned of course."
He snorted. "I doubt he's that media happy." He shoveled more food into his mouth. "We've got it arranged so you can sit at the office all day tomorrow with your feet up." Someone knocked on the door so he gave her a look before getting up to answer it. "Yeah?" he asked the patrol officer on the other side.
"Sir, the Mayor just called. He said it wasn't funny, but a very good idea." He looked at Catherine. "He also said that your future offspring might be the one to solve the city's problems."
"If my son wants to become a cop, I'm sending him to Junior," she said dryly. The patrol officer laughed. "Cat," she warned. Ray stopped that one by putting a foot in her path. "Any other weirdness?"
"Um, yes, ma'am," he admitted, coming in by sidestepping around Ray and the cat. He faced her directly. "Ma'am, detective, there has apparently been a problem at the park. Some...intolerant people let's call them, have broken up a group doing meditation and tai chi in the park by screaming at them that it's not God's way."
"Answer them by reminding them that God gave everyone free will," she told him. "Then point out that nowhere in the Bible is anything against the Eastern beliefs. They don't have graven images in most sects. It's more about getting in touch with the glory that they think their God created. If that doesn't calm them down, then feel free to jeer and laugh at them for their intolerance on the way to holding."
He snickered. "We did end up arresting them. They've declared a holy war against the city and the heathen police. We wanted to know if you wanted to come down and show your ass a bit to scare them. Their friends are already protesting the 27th."
"Why us?" Ray complained, looking up. "I've been a good Catholic boy!"
"It's probably in retaliation for marrying me," she said dryly, giving him a look. "Should we?"
"No, you're staying here," he ordered, grabbing a few last bites of food before he went to handle this. He was in charge until Welsh came back. "If they're there tomorrow, you can't come in," he called before closing the door. He opened it and tossed Nessa back inside. "Stay in there. Make your mother feel better!" He jogged down the stairs to his Riv and got in to go handle this new situation.
Catherine heaved herself up and opened a window, pulling in a pot of oat grass for the poor things. "There, have some grass," she said, rescuing Oz from the ledge before closing the window. She heard a rapid bark and winced. "Sounds like he's about to be pounced again," she snorted, going to find herself something more to nibble. She was kinda hungry now that Ray had reminded her of it. She shooed Blair away from Ray's plate and put it back into the microwave for him. He might be back that night.
Ray looked up and gave his wife a smile as she finally made it up the stairs and headed for the bathroom immediately. He went back to his paperwork, then lifted his head when he heard a few extra male voices. He stood up and looked out the doorway. "Did you need something?" he asked the flower-carrying men.
"The woman carrying the angel?" one asked.
"She's not. Really."
"She is. Gabriel said so," he said earnestly. His partner nodded.
Catherine came out of the bathroom and paused to look at them. "Huh, decided to cheer everyone up?"
"Here. You are truly a special woman for carrying an angel," the quiet one told her, giving her a hug. "Thank you for adding to the population of good guys." He handed over his flowers and the other guy did so and nodded as well.
Catherine gave them a look. "Thanks, guys. Really." She smiled at them. "And it's not even like that movie."
"Gabriel said that was the truth," the first one told her, looking very earnest. "That's why we try to be like the prophets."
"Hmm. Okay. Thanks, guys, but I've got to get back to work now. We have to capture a lot of crooks today."
"Sure," the first one agreed, smiling at her. "Thank you for adding to the population of good guys." He tugged on the other guy's sleeve and they left together, giving her another smile before disappearing down the stairs.
Catherine looked at Ray, then blinked a few times. "Hmm. You?"
"No. Call Stan, see whether or not it was him."
"Stanley!" she yelled. He came jogging up the stairs and she held up the flowers. "Yours?"
"No. I haven't even found a good baby present yet," he admitted.
"They came up to thank her for having an angel," Ray said like this didn't bother him.
Stanley shuddered. "No, this was not my doing," he promised, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Should I go park your car?"
"No, I did a good job of it today since the heathen wasn't kicking me. I didn't even run over our protesters as they came back." Ray groaned and headed down to talk to the patrol officers. "Not you?" she asked quietly.
"No, not me," he admitted, looking serious. "I'd never do that to ya. It'd piss you off."
"True. Here, have some flowers," she said, handing them to him. "Before I sneeze and get annoyed at them."
He grinned. "I know you don't like flowers. Good thing I told Ray, huh?" He put them onto the Civilian Aid desk then went back downstairs to help.
She sat down at her desk, checking her official email account. When she found a polite reply to her suggestion last night, she warned the mayor of the new one.
Halfway across the city, the mayor groaned as he saw the message icon pop up, but he did click on it. He read it and then groaned and whimpered as he pushed a button his phone. "Marge. Please come here?" he called. His secretary walked in and looked at the message. "Do we have anything going on up at the 27th?"
"Well, there is that protest, sir," she offered. "Lieutenant Welsh took his vacation now so they wouldn't be short handed when Demoranth-Vecchio went on maternity leave. That leaves Detective Vecchio in charge. I would personally worry about this though. What happens when those newly released patients stop taking their medicine and realize she's not carrying an angel?"
He grunted. "Hopefully she'll be on maternity leave then," he noted, closing it. He didn't delete it, just in case he needed it to prove he was in the loop to the press. "Can we do anything to solve this problem?"
"Encourage her to go on maternity leave sooner?" she suggested. "How long does she have?"
He opened a new message and typed that back to her, sending it quickly. She answered nearly immediately so she was doing the proper thing and checking her official email at the start of the day. He grimaced. "She said she's got twelve paid weeks. She's got to do the obstacle course in fifteen weeks. Plus she's got another three weeks until she's due." He looked at her.
She patted him on the shoulder. "She can handle it, sir. She's very good at what she does and her own protections."
"Maybe I should personally go call on Vecchio and check on him," he mused.
"Let your Chief of Detectives do so," she suggested. "That's more his job."
"Or the new Chief of Police?" he suggested, smiling at her.
"Or her," she agreed. She went back to her desk, passing on the news down the gossip chain. That woman was an icon, it was a humorous story to the figurehead for strong female officers.
The Mayor picked up his phone and dialed an office down the hall. "Mildred, it's Phil. Yes, that's why I'm calling. I just got a message from a Detective Demoranth-Vecchio about the unfortunate closing of the mental institution. Apparently we've already had the 27th's helper nearly kidnaped by one and now they're bothering her by coming and giving her presents. Yes, her," he sighed. "No, they're protesting outside and her husband is in charge while Welsh is on vacation." He perked up. "Really?" He smirked; she was leaving the job soon for three months! "Do you think one of us should go check on the poor precinct? I mean, picketers and psychotics? They've got to have more problems than not." He nodded. "Thank you. I'll leave it in your hands then," he promised. "Have a nice visit. Goodbye." He hung up and chuckled. "That poor woman. Let her face down the fiercest woman on the force." He made a note in his diary.
Catherine looked up as someone cleared their throat, smiling at her ex. "Hey, Millie. How's uptown?"
"Calmer than here. How are you?"
"The beast is kicking me hard and I'm having false labor pains," she admitted. "I'm going on leave soon." She gave her another look. "Mayor?"
"Yes. Did you send him more smart emails?" she teased.
Catherine smirked and nodded. "I suggested the generous donation of his yearly salary would clear up that horrible budget problem that ward was having. I've also kept him informed of my present-wielding fanclub and what happened to the Mountie yesterday."
"Which is what I would expect," she offered, coming over to kiss her. Ray coughed as he walked up the stairs. "Sorry," she said with a smile. "We're far and gone now."
"Good. I am jealous." He looked at Catherine, then smiled. "They've been told you're carrying an angel too."
"Fuck 'em," Catherine said seriously. "I'm going home."
"They'll follow," Mildred pointed out. "They're rampant and from a sect that's nearly a cult as is, Catherine."
"I can't stay here!"
"No, but you're going to have to be very careful, young lady," Mildred pointed out, talking down to her. "Let Ray take you home. Or let him take you to his mother's. Or even put on a disguise and have one of the patrols take you out in the back of a squad car."
"Hmm. That I can do," she admitted, looking at Ray. "Going out as a pro?"
"Go for it," he agreed. He watched as she stopped and winced, stroking her stomach. "Another one?"
"Yup." She closed one eye as she calmed herself down from the pain. "The baby does not like those." She stood up, grabbing the edge of the desk. "Am I officially on leave?"
"Go," Mildred said, shooing her away. "Come back in three months. I'll talk to Kyle about your obstacle course. How are your knees?"
"Shot to hell. They won't replace them at my weight though." She shrugged and headed to the locker room to put on something tighter and naughtier. "Ray, call down there."
"Sure." He nodded toward the office. "Thank you for stopping him from coming down and making this a media spectacle. We've already driven off one news crew."
"Then make sure her face is covered," she pointed out, closing the door behind herself. "How are you holding up?"
"I hate paperwork," he offered, giving her a smile. "When is Welsh coming back?"
"Soon. A few more days. Will it cause you more problems to have her gone?"
"Nah. We've already worked it out among the rest of us. We did it over beers the other night." He looked and waved as Catherine walked down the stairs in the outfit of doom that she had teased him in the other day, complete with wig. "She should be on the stage," he noted, sitting down. "Can you drive them off?"
"No, but we can enforce a protest line," she offered. She looked around the office. "Ray, I'm very worried about her. Is she going to be all right? I know how bad her health can be."
"It'll be fine," he promised. "We're very careful of her. I'm more worried about her needing extra leave before coming back."
"She might. I checked, she's got another four weeks saved but they're unpaid." She shrugged. "Can you two handle that?"
He shrugged. "I don't know. I know that obstacle course will probably hurt her."
"I've talked to Kyle, he's not budging. It's a great idea but some of our senior detectives are a bit old. He's one of them but he still runs marathons. He'll hold it against her simply because she's female." She sat down. "What can I do to make this easier?"
He gave her a long look. "Make sure Welsh comes back. I don't want this job yet."
She laughed. "It's not in my plan in the least," she promised.
"I know you have seniority, Ray, but think about the stress if you keep this job full time."
"I'm hoping it won't be an issue for another ten years," he said dryly.
"Then I wouldn't have a problem at all. I know right now though that you're not ready to leave the street yet. You'd die behind a desk."
"Who did you have in mind?"
"Matrin from the 23rd."
"Hell no, I'd quit," Ray said firmly. "Huey too, he's a bigot."
"Yes, but he gets results."
"That's because he's over the skinhead contingent," Ray pointed out. "If he comes here, you'll lose most of us. Catherine's already decided she wants her Masters."
She nodded. "I can understand that. How about Huey?"
"I don't know. He might miss it too. You'd have to talk to him about it. Or ask Welsh. He got his post by direct offering." He shrugged. "It happens." He heard a scream and was out of his office and over the stairs before it finished echoing up them. "Catherine?"
"Fine," she called back, out of breath. "Stupid picketer tried to hurt me." She came up the stairs and headed for the dressing room. "I'm going to go change now, then we're going to go to the hospital," she said calmly. "My water just broke." His eyes got wide. "I'm not staying here or in this," she said when he moved closer. "Let me get changed into something expendable." She went to do that, Ray following to help her.
Mildred came out of the office. "Huey, until they're back, you're in charge," she told him. "I'm looking at all the options for when Welsh leaves."
"If you stick me in that office for good, I'm going to quit," he said, sounding very serious.
She smiled. "I thought you might say that. Ray's not ready for it yet though." Her smile turned into a grin. "Good luck, Catherine. Tell me what it is when you finally have it."
"C-section," she called with a wave. "I refuse to do this naturally." She walked down the stairs but the patrol guys were blocking the doors. "Guys, my water just broke."
"There's a riot out there, detective," one said, giving her the most pitiful look. "SWAT's on their way."
"Good. 'Cause I'm not having this baby here and I'm not having it without drugs. I don't care how many women worldwide do it each year, I'm not joining their ranks." She walked behind the desk and sat down, looking at Ray. "Can't I go out there and charm them?"
"No. You're not getting into the middle of a riot," he said firmly. He grabbed the phone and called his desk. "Hey, boss, there's now a riot. Yeah, we're trapped until SWAT solves it." He grimaced. "No, we can't. They're all around the building." He sighed and hung up. "She said you can deliver in on the couch in the office."
She grabbed him by his tie, pulling him closer. "I. Will. Have. Drugs. Husband. Otherwise. You. Will. Never. Get. Any. Again. Understood?" she said slowly and clearly, making it very clear to him. He nodded and gave her a kiss, calming her down until she had another one and bit him on the lip. "Ow." He came around to hold her, rubbing her stomach. "I want drugs!" she shouted. "This shit hurts already!" One of the SWAT guys came running. "Why in the fuck aren't you outside handling that God- fucking riot!" she screamed. "You're making me stay like this?!?"
He whimpered and ran back up the stairs, taking them three at a time, to report to his boss. "Sir, I believe she's in labor. She said there was a riot downstairs?"
"There is? I wish someone had told us," he said, heading out. "Guys, the picketers have now become rioters. Catherine's in labor." They all groaned. "She just screamed at Jim. Let's go clear her an exit before she rips some of us to shreds." They grabbed their riot gear and hurried down to fix this so that woman could go have drugs. As many as she wanted. Steve waved as he walked out. "We'll clear an escape," he promised. "Then you can go."
"Thank you," Ray called after him, she was chewing on his arm to keep from screaming again. "If you break the skin, don't drink the blood," he reminded her. "You know I hate it when you do that." She gave him the most evil look and he went back to helping and soothing as much as he could. "It'll be okay," he promised. "We'll have a priest come in and unpossess you and everything." She snorted and went back to pouting at the doors. One of the SWAT guys came running back in and grabbed the phone, dialing a number. "That bad?"
"They've got help," he panted. "Sir, we've got a full-blown riot at the 27th. Steve's down, most of the rest of us are backed against the doors. We need reinforcement." He hung up and went back to help."
Catherine groaned as she stood up, heading that way. She walked outside and looked at the crowd. "I'm going to have God fist one of you!" she shouted louder than the yelling. "Your God, my God, it doesn't much matter! I'm in fucking labor and I'm in pain! I kill people! Get out of my way!" The crowd backed away from her and she hurried down to her car, Ray following behind the SWAT guys. They got into the car and out of the parking lot before things started going back to bad, but they had broken the line. She swore and bent over as another went through her. "Drive faster," she growled.
"Sure," he agreed, turning on his siren. It cleared most of the way for them. Only one traffic snarl got into their way and it was a march for equality. They quickly got out of his way when he didn't veer out of his chosen path. Let someone say something. He pulled up outside the hospital and ran around, getting her out and inside. "Her water broke, she's having pains somewhere under ten minutes apart. Her doctor said something about a c- section."
"I want drugs," she growled, glaring at the man behind the desk.
He nodded. "Of course you do. My wife did too," he agreed, giving her a smile. He pushed a button and a nurse hurried out. "This nice woman is in labor. She wants drugs. Her doctor was thinking a c-section was in order."
"All right," she said, going to get her a wheelchair. She looked at Ray, but he pulled out his badge. "Is she under arrest?"
"No, she's my wife." He looked at his wonderful wife, then realized she had been at work too. "Gun," he ordered, holding out a hand. She gave him a petulant look so he patted her down, taking all three of them. "There, that's safer," he said with a smile. He looked at the nurse. "Her water broke within the last hour. We're having a riot at work. She was having false pains yesterday but not today, they're stronger and harder. She's diabetic, allergic to a lot of stuff, and her doctor is hopefully on record with her other stuff."
"She's been here recently?"
"For six ultrasounds, about seven pints of blood work, and a stress test," Catherine said dryly. "I really do want drugs. I'm sorry in advance if I hurt someone. Like a nurse." She smiled and nodded, going to do a search for her. Catherine looked at Ray. "Want to go handle the riot?"
"Hell no," he told her, stroking her forehead. "They can be shot by someone else." He gave her a small smile. "Should we call Ma?"
"No?" He pouted. "You don't want her here?"
"Ray, c-sections are quick," she pointed out. "She'll never get here before they do it." She screamed as another pain hit her. "Fuck this shit," she ground out. "Help me up or give me back my damn gun!"
The nurse came back. "Detective, please," she pleaded. "It doesn't hurt that much."
"I've had four," she offered.
"I was gay up until I got with him!"
"Oh." She smiled. "That's fine. Your doctor is out of the office today."
"Sweeny didn't say he would be," she noted, coming down off that pain.
"Which one? We only had noted your endocrinologist."
"That's fine," she said with a smile. "Let me call him down." She went to do that, merging her charts together. "Doctor Sweeny, this is Helen in the ER. We have a Detective Demoranth-Vecchio down here who's a patient of yours and her water's broken," she said into his voice mail. She hung up and waited, smiling when he called back almost immediately. "Yes, sir, she is. Her husband took her guns from her. Thank you, sir. She wanted drugs and mentioned you had talked about a c-section?" She listened and made notes. "Are you sure, sir? She's in a lot of pain and she's a screamer." She laughed. "I'm sure. She did say she used to like the softer sex before her husband." She nodded and made another note. "Yes, sir. Thank you. When should we expect you?" She wrote that down too. "Thank you, sir. Of course. We're in bay six right now but I can have her moved upstairs if you want. No, that's fine, we can keep her down here for that hour. Thank you." She hung up and brought the consolidated chart into the woman's room. "All right," she said, giving her a bright smile. "Your doctor said that we were holding off on the c-section to see if you make progress at all. So let's hook you up to a fetal and blood pressure monitor," she said, doing so.
"I still want drugs," Catherine said firmly. "I can break locks."
"He said we're to check you first, detective," she chided gently. "He thinks you can have this one the natural way if you want." Catherine lunged up to grab her but Ray caught her. "I know, it hurts, but it's nature's way of making sure the baby is fine."
"Either get me some drugs and a surgeon, or I'm going to go through this ER like I'm a serial killer," she hissed, rolling onto her side to get away from the pain. It helped it some. "Now!"
"We'll have to check you first," she said soothingly, trying to calm her down. She looked at the blood pressure monitor. "You are a bit high," she noted.
"She's two hundred over one sixty," Ray protested. "That's not even close to normal. She's already in bad health!"
"Calm yourself, Detective. Dr. Sweeny will be down soon," she said calmly. "Let's get her into a hospital gown and then we can check her status." He groaned but helped her out of her bottoms and into the paper gown. Then the nurse put on a pair of gloves and checked her. She looked up. "It looks like you've barely started to dilate, detective. How long have you been in labor?"
"I saw him two days ago and he said I was in false labor," she admitted.
"Yesterday," Ray corrected. He looked at the nurse. "Can we check her blood sugar too?"
"Sure." She went to get the monitor, coming back to do that for them. She winced at the number. "Let me call him back." Ray gave her a look and she shook her head. "Not too high. I've seen worse."
"Over two hundred?" she asked. The nurse showed her and she winced. "One ninety."
"I'm going to agree, I want her to have a c-section, it'll mean less risk," Ray told the nurse.
"That's fine. Let me get...." She stopped as the doctor in question walked in, showing him the result. "She's barely dilated, but she is in pain and I can see her cervix moving." Catherine groaned and curled around her stomach again, gripping Ray's hand like it was her lifeline.
"Let me check," he said soothingly, sitting down to do that. He looked up at her. "Those are real contractions," he noted, looking at the tape. "But you're not really dilated."
"My water broke back at the station," she panted. "Move, I kick." He got out of the way. "Thank you." She looked at Ray, who nodded, then at her doctor. "I don't care if I might be able to live through this the normal way. Take a fucking rusty spoon and open me with it if you have to. I want this baby out."
"Fine," he said, smiling at her. "Let me get a room ready." He went to do that, sharing a look with the nurse. "She is in labor."
"She is," she agreed, handing over the chart. "She's also in very bad shape."
"No, this isn't so bad according to her other doctor." He shrugged. "She's a cop. It's a stressful job." He went to call the surgery unit and get a room for them.
Ray leaned against the wall, calling his mother. "Hey, Ma, it's me," he said into the answering machine. "We're fine. We got out of the riot when her water broke and came to the hospital. Baby and ma are doing fine. He's a slimy little beast but I guess that's normal since the nurses didn't seem to think anything of it. Cat's fine. She's back to about normal and sleeping off the drugs they gave her for the c-section." He smiled as his sister picked up. "Hey, Maria. Home again?" He listened to her complain. "Then tell Ma when she gets home. Yeah, we're at the usual place. Room 216. OB-ICU for now. Yeah, Stan's my next call," he admitted. "Thanks." He hung up and called the precinct, getting no one. He called Stanley directly, getting a growl in response. "Don't talk to me that way. I won't let you hold my son." He grimaced. "It's still going?" He frowned. "Need me?" He laughed. "Sure ya can. Hell, arrest 'em all then. Tell them to ask for permission to gas." He paused while Stanley yelled that. Then he heard a gas canister going off in the background. He waited while Stanley walked away from the gas cloud.
"You okay?" He laughed again. "Fine. Nah. I took her guns. She did a c-section and liked it quite a lot. She was awake but fairly well drugged. No, the son is slimy and huge. Yeah, huge. They said diabetic pregnancies were like that most of the time." He shifted his position against the wall. 216. OB-ICU. I called the house, Ma's out and Maria answered. Yeah, not a big. Whenever you've got a few minutes. They said she'll probably be going home tomorrow night. Yeah, but I don't mind. Sure, if he's there," he said. Welsh came onto the line. "Came back for the riot, sir?" He laughed. "No, she's fine. The baby's fine, if slimy. Yeah, 216. Usual place. No, we're all fine. I frisked her for her weapons first." He laughed again. "Yes, sir. Whenever you want. Have fun with the paperwork, sir. I caught you up to date except for this morning. Later." He hung up and went back to cuddle his wife and look at his son some more. "Hey," he said, noticing she was awake. "Ma's at church. Maria's going to get her. Welsh is back."
Catherine grabbed him for a kiss, then looked into his eyes. "If we have any more, you're carrying them," she said calmly.
He beamed. "Hey, if you can get someone to do that, I gladly will. You didn't have to do nearly as much work as usual," he teased, grinning at her. "I could handle that."
She snorted. "I do twice the work you do even when I'm sitting on my ass, hubby." She looked around. "Son?"
"In the nursery."
She pushed a button, bringing a nurse running. "Son?" she asked.
"She's just fine, detective," the nurse said cheerfully.
"Um, we had a boy," Ray told her.
"Ooh, sorry, slip of the tongue. Let me check and see if we can bring him up yet." She hurried back to the desk. "They had a son?"
The duty nurse looked at her. "Are you taking drugs?"
"They said they had a son," she defended.
"They did! Go sit in the office." She went to call the nursery. "The Vecchios are up," she announced. "Can you bring up their son?" She smiled. "Thank you. That's fine, whenever you're free." She hung up and went to check on her personally. "They're changing his diaper," she offered. "Give them a few minutes, Mrs. Vecchio."
"Demoranth-Vecchio," Ray told her.
She patted him on the hand. "This is one of those times going by one name is fine, dear." She looked at the nurse. "Has he eaten or should I try to breastfeed?"
"We're breastfeeding?" Ray asked, looking confused. "Since when? I thought you said that you weren't going to be able to stop and pump yourself while chasing after a perp."
She gave him a look. "It looks neat and soothing, Ray. I want to try. We can wean him back to the bottle." He nodded and shrugged. "Good. Who's coming so I know whether or not to change clothes."
"Ma and Maria will probably be in soon. Ma's due back from church within an hour or so. Welsh is back and he asked about you too." He gave her another kiss on the forehead. "Stan and Benny are probably already on their way if they didn't stop off to finally buy the little guy a present." She grinned at him. "Plus, they said you might be able to go home tomorrow night."
She shrugged. "Okay."
"No protest?" Ray asked.
"Ray, my ass hurts. Even though I didn't push the baby out it, I ache through that whole system. You're going to be lucky to have sex this year." He smirked at her. "I'm serious. I wish you could feel the pain I feel in my hips and back at the moment."
"That's normal, Mrs. Vecchio," the nurse assured her. "Your doctor will be in tonight. He never said anything about you not being able to breastfeed. He said you could try if you wanted to, your blood problems shouldn't exclude it." She gave her a pat then checked her monitors and wrote down the numbers on her chart. "You try to rest." A bassinet was pushed in and she smiled at the other nurse. "Here we are. Baby Vecchio. Do you have a name yet, Detective?"
"We both are," he told her, picking up his son. "Hey. You awake?" he asked. His son gave him a blink and a confused look. "I'm the father. I'm the one who patted you when you kicked your mother." He handed him over, sitting next to her on the big bed to watch as she got her first look at her son.
"Dear, you're kinda squished and wrinkly."
"He was in water for nine months."
"Good point. So you're a prune," she agreed, smoothing down the fuzz that was his hair. He moaned and she looked alarmed.
"Normal baby noises," the nursery attendant told her.
"Okay. Our son sounds like a zombie."
"No zombies around the son," Ray said, giving her a nudge.
"Yes, dear." She cuddled him close, making him start but he settled in and got comfortable. "He doesn't seem to like me a lot."
"That's fairly normal," the nursery attendant told her. "We see it all the time, Miss Fairleigh."
"Vecchio," she said, giving her a look. Then she looked at the baby. "Not mine?"
"Oops." She blushed and took back the baby. "They were struggling to put clothes on him. Sorry." She took the baby down to the right mother, making the ICU nurse groan and shake her head.
Catherine gave her a look. "Bad day?"
"Nurse trainees," she shared. She looked over as another bassinet came in. "Vecchio?"
"Of course." She smiled at her. "Did the rookie get you two mixed up?" Catherine nodded. "Sorry about that." She handed over the son, and Ray beamed. "He's very willful already. Clothes seem to hide from him."
"His mother's a part-time nudist," Ray told her.
"He's got your mother's nose," Catherine told him, grinning at him. The son yawned and she undid her top, letting him latch on. The nurses came over and helped her position him for best effect, then left her to go at it.
Ray slid down until he was curled up next to her, watching that new sight. "I like that," he told her. "It does look just right. You're glowing again."
"I need a shower."
He gave her a kiss. "Kitten," he said softly, shifting closer. "You've never been more beautiful. Even sweaty and nasty." She gave him a long look. "Seriously. Motherhood agrees with you." She sniffled. "Please, don't do that," he groused, kissing her again. "No more mood swings, okay? I don't want to sleep with the cats again." Someone down the hall squealed. "Either that was Frannie or someone just like her just got goosed."
"Yay." She looked down at their son, letting him latch onto her finger while he sucked weakly at her. "Try for a harder one, son. It's not a pacifier."
Frannie walked in. "Whoa." She turned around. "I didn't need to see that."
"How else is he supposed ta eat?" Ray snorted. He pulled the sheet up to cover her bare side. "There, how's that?"
Frannie turned around. "Better, thank you. You're bigger than I thought," she admitted.
"Pregnancy does that," Catherine told her dryly. "No Ma?"
"Maria went to find her." She shrugged. "I'm it until they get here or Stan gets free of the riot." She moved closer, looking at the baby. "Hey, little guy. You that hungry?"
"I think he finds it comforting." She pulled him off and he made a few sounds of protest but gave it up when his father let him suck on his finger instead. Catherine gave him a look. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He grinned at her. Then he grinned at Ma and his other sister as they came in. "You missed it, he's using her as a pacifier."
"Most newborns do," Maria told them, sitting down with her own. "Ray, don't even hope for sex for the next six months."
Catherine gave Ray a perfect straight look. "Is there something you wanted to tell me about you and your sister, Ray?"
"No!" He laughed. "She's being the voice of experience right now. Tony had to wait eight months after the one before this one."
Catherine looked at her. "That soon?"
"The pain goes away," Maria promised wisely.
"Including the one that feels like something digging into my pelvis?"
"I never had that one," Maria admitted. "Ma?"
"Me either," she admitted. She went to find the nurse who had slipped out. "She said she is having unusual pain in her hips."
The nurse checked the file. "It says she didn't dilate so I don't know why, ma'am. Let me make sure her doctor's on his way up for rounds." She called him, getting his cellphone. "Dr. Sweeny, this is OB-ICU. Your patient here, Vecchio, is saying she's having unusual pains in her pelvic region. No, her mother-in-law and another mother are here and they said they've never had it." She grimaced. "Fine, sir. I can do that." She hung up. "He told me to arrange for an ultrasound." She called down there and ordered one, citing the unusual pain and the possibility of a pulled stitch.
"Poor Catherine. Her shoulder did the same thing with the staples." She shook her head as she went back to the room. "They will come and do an ultrasound, caro," she soothed, kissing her on the forehead. "May I?"
Ray carefully handed over his son, watching as his mother cuddled him for the first time. "He's a pretty strong guy. The nursery people said he already doesn't like clothes."
"Some bambinos don't," his mother promised.
"I'm a part-time nudist," Catherine told her.
"Then that will be a struggle you'll have to fight with him constantly," she said with a smile. A man with a large machine walked in pulling the cart. "Should we move?"
"No, you're fine," he promised. "Though the father will probably need to." Ray slid off the bed, helping his mother into a seat. Then he moved so he could see the screen. "Where is the pain, Mrs. Vecchio?"
"Here," she said, rubbing on top of it with a wince. "Into my sides and my back."
He nodded and set the machine to scan her, looking at the detailed images. "It looks like you may have some muscle strain."
"I never dilated," she told him.
"Really? That is odd then." He switched to a different view, going close-up. "That is not normal. Have you ever had fibroids?"
"No. Wouldn't they have found that during the c-section?"
"Possibly," he admitted, checking the rest of her uterus. "Let me call your doctor." He picked up the phone and dialed the number on the chart. "Dr. Sweeny, this is Henry from the Ultrasound lab. I just scanned her and it looks like a soft tissue mass in her uterus. Yes, I think you should come see this, sir. Thank you." He hung up. "He's running this way between patients," he promised, giving her a pat on the hand. "He's a beautiful baby. What's his name?"
"Not a clue," Ray admitted.
She gave him another of her dry, deadpan looks. "Name him after the boys?"
"No. I don't want to shout Stanley and have both of them look at me like I'm insane," he said firmly. "No naming him after a cat either." She snapped her fingers and grinned at him.
"I've always liked Daniel," Maria offered.
"Nothing overtly biblical," Catherine told her.
"Good point," Maria sighed, looking at her mother. "You got one, Ma?"
"I was thinking Charles, but it is Anglo," she admitted.
"Thor?" Catherine suggested, making Ray groan. "What?"
"No. Not after another God either," he ordered. "If it had been a girl, we could have named her Valerie after the Valkyries. Since it's a boy, let's go with something a bit less esoteric."
Maria looked at Ray. "You could have a Junior."
"No," the couple said in unison. Ma cracked up at that.
She looked up at him. "Boregard?"
"Hell no," he snorted, smiling at her. "Do you need more pain medicine?"
"Yup." She looked over as her doctor walked in. "Got any good suggestions of names?"
"I've seen a lot of Harry's and Draco's," he offered, letting the technician show him what he had seen. He grimaced. "What is that? I didn't see any abnormalities while I was in there."
"I'm known to pop stitches and staples," she offered. She looked at Ray. "How about a popish name? Ricky?"
"I like Anthony better," he admitted.
"No," Maria said firmly. "Tony will get a swollen head and complain."
"I like," Ray admitted. "Marcus Demoranth-Vecchio."
He looked down at her, one eyebrow raising. "Just Vecchio?"
"Yes! Can you imagine how many times that poor kid will have to spell my last name and yours?"
"Good point," he admitted. "Okay, I won't complain. Marcus Vecchio. Middle?"
"Stan," Maria said.
"Benton?" Ma suggested.
Catherine coughed. "Um, how about...."
"Don't move," the doctor ordered, tilting the wand some. "I saw something." He frowned and looked at Ray, then at Catherine. "Can I open you back up to take a longer look?"
"Sure. Warn me before you remove anything and give me more drugs."
"Fine." He looked at the nurse. "We're going to reopen her." The nurse nodded, going to make the proper calls. "Name the next one after the friends."
"No more," Catherine told him. He grinned at her. "I mean it. Didn't you clip me or whatever?"
"No. You never said for sure you wanted me to. We can do that this time possibly."
"Yes," she said, nodding frantically. "No more."
"Please," Ray agreed. "She had horrible mood swings." The other women in the room laughed. He looked at her. "James?"
"Combine them? Bentley?" she suggested, grinning at him.
"I don't want to name our kid after a Euro car," he complained. "If we do that, we'll have to go with an American one. Daniel?"
"Hmm." She considered it. "Pick something in line with the family heritage. Just not Sylvester."
"Eww." Stanley walked in with a big balloon and let it go. "Hey, sis. Not after me?"
"No," Ray told him. "Then we'd have to slight one of you."
"Have a second one, that cures that," Stan suggested with a bright grin. "She wasn't *too* bad."
"Do you not remember the people who came up and bowed to her because she was glowing?" Maria asked.
"Or the ones who sent her inappropriate presents?" Ma added.
"Or even the psychos just this week who were convinced I was carrying an angel?" Catherine asked him.
"Not to mention the sickness, the mood swings, the other problems," Ray offered. He looked down at her. "Mine?"
Ma clapped and sighed. "I like that idea," she agreed. Maria nodded. Stanley was still pouting.
"Hey, I suggested we combine them so neither of you were shorted," she pointed out. "He didn't like Bentley at all." She looked at him. "I kinda like Daniel but it's not my favorite."
He kissed her on the forehead. "We'll talk about it once you're out of surgery again." She nodded and sighed as orderlies came in to move her. "We'll be waiting. Don't threaten the nurses."
"Yes, dear. Pat the son for me." She waved a hand. "I'll be back soon. Marcus as the middle name, Ray."
He frowned. "We'll see about that."
"Hannibal?" Stanley suggested.
"No! Then everyone will think she liked the movie."
"Alexander?" Ma suggested. "Or Julius?"
Stanley coughed. "Eric, Ray. Viking, traditional. Not too bad with your heritage. Or Justin, it is actually a Roman name."
"Justin Marcus Vecchio," he mused. "No nicknames."
"Eric Marcus is the one I like more," Maria offered. "Marcus is ours. Eric is more hers." She shrugged. "A Viking name."
Ma looked torn. "I do like them both," she admitted, "but you should honor those who have helped you some, Raymondo."
"That one actor has, like, eight first and middle names," Stan offered. "The Prez has three."
"I could stand three," he admitted, looking at Stanley, who gave him a puppy eyed begging look. "Stan," he sighed. "I've known Benny longer."
"Yeah, I know, but a guy can hope, right?"
"Yeah, you can hope she has another one," Ray snorted. "Otherwise we'll name him after the wolf."
"Lupin Marcus Vecchio. It's cute," Maria noted.
"It is," Ma agreed, smiling at her son, who was looking a bit shocked. "What? It is a nice name, son."
He sat down, shaking his head. "No, Ma." The phone rang and he snatched it before anyone else could. "Yeah?" He listened to the quiet instructions, laughing. "Fine." He hung up. "The baby's official name is...." He drew it out for Stanley's benefit.
Lieutenant Welsh looked up as Detective Huey burst out laughing. "What?" he called. He stood up and walked out when there wasn't an answer, frowning at the five men standing there with big pots of flowers. "Who are those for?"
"For the new angel," one of them said very seriously. "We had heard he was born."
"He's still in the hospital," Huey finally managed. "We'll bring them over later."
"Thank you, great one. Are you to be his protector?"
"Sure, me and the rest of the guys around here," he agreed, accepting the large pot of mums from one of them. "I'll tell her you dropped by." They nodded and the last one put his pot onto Catherine's desk.
"Just for reference, where are you guys staying?" Welsh asked, hoping they could pick them up later. "I'm sure the mother will want to send you letters in thanks."
"We're in the old Scott hotel," the last man said, smiling at him. "Gabriel was most pleased that a new one was being born. He said he's not got long left before he ascends so this one will have to take his place." He waved and trotted after his friends.
Welsh looked at Huey. "Do I want to know?"
Huey grimaced, then shook his head. "Probably not but you should. One of the newly released patients has decided she's having an angel. He told the others." Welsh whimpered. "So they've all slowly come up to wish her and the son well."
Welsh nodded, heading back to his office. He grabbed his bottle of aspirin and took three before he sat down and got back to work. That aspirin therapy his doctor had suggested and his life would get along just fine it seemed. He looked out and caught sight of a pot of flowers and took a fourth, just in case his heart needed it.
Ray looked up as Catherine was wheeled back into her room. "Any problems?"
"Not a one," the doctor admitted. "There was a small corner of a sponge in there giving her some irritation. We removed it immediately and checked her over thoroughly." He smiled and went to have a talk with the head of surgery about his nurse. She needed to be transferred before the overpowering father found out that it had been a whole sponge. Or worse, the mother.
Ray laid down beside Catherine, stroking her hair. "Hey," he whispered. She moaned and rolled against him, kissing him. "You're back in the ICU."
"Fuck 'em. I need cuddles."
"Of course you do," he soothed. "I finally remembered and called Benny. His boss answered and sent her well wishes and said she'd tell Benny once he was done being a statue in the doorway." She nodded, resting her face against his chest. "You feelin' all right?"
"Sleepy." She looked up at him. "Cuddle?"
"Sure." He held her tighter, letting her fall asleep against his chest. She liked sleeping on his chest, had since her fourth month along. His mother came back from the nursery so he put a finger against his lips. "How is he, Ma?" he asked quietly.
"Fussing greatly. He prefers his mother to some nurse." She tucked them both in, smoothing the blankets over them. "I'll be back later with a proper dinner."
"They'll be sending steak," Ray said with a small grin. "To make sure we get some last few minutes alone."
"Good." She smiled and patted Catherine's foot. "We'll go to your apartment and check on the cats for you. Did you need anything from there?"
"Clothes," Catherine told her sleepily.
"I've got a bag in my trunk," Ray promised. "I have had since your due date was announced. Something new and pretty." She grinned against his chest. "I knew you weren't gonna drive yourself." She laughed. "Good girl. Hey, Ma, go see if you can spring Benny. We still have to put together the baby furniture."
"Tony is at home doing nothing," she told him.
"Ma, it's that stuff with the locks, like that bookcase."
She nodded. "I'll tell Benton then. Anything else?"
"Nope, we're good otherwise," Ray promised. "Bring her back a soda when you come back though." She nodded and hurried out to find a cab. Ray squeezed his wife. "There, all settled."
"Benny's gonna think we keep him around for furniture stuff," she warned.
"Nah. He likes doin' it. It reminds him of home." He shrugged. "Besides, he promised he'd help me with it anyway."
"If not, we can do it when we get home." She wrapped one arm around his waist. "Wake me when they bring him back."
"Sure. You nap." He stroked her back, helping her fall asleep again. She obviously needed the nap. The baby had stressed her body out a lot.
Ma walked up to the Canadian Consulate and frowned at Benton. "Are you on guard duty?" He didn't answer. "Ray mentioned that so I'll simply tell you. The little one is fine, so is the mother. Ray asks that we find out how to put together that furniture sometime soon. I'm going to her apartment to check on the furry things." She pinched him on the cheek then turned and walked back to her cab, taking it to Catherine's apartment.
He let out a quiet groan since no one was around to hear. He had forgotten about the furniture. As soon as his lunch came, he went inside to call his man. "Stanley," he said quietly. "They still haven't gotten the furniture together yet."
Stanley grimaced and held his head. "Of course not. It's only been there two weeks. We've got a stakeout tonight and we'll need you ta help too." He looked back toward the office. "We'll deal with it tomorrow, when they bring the baby home. Make Ray throw him a party or something while we work on it." He smiled. "Sure. See you around five?" He grinned. "Thanks, Benny. Yeah, I'll tell Ray myself." He hung up and called Ray's cellphone. "Ray, it's Stan," he said into his voice mail. "We've got a stakeout tonight and we'll need Benny, so we'll help you put that stuff together tomorrow when he comes home. That way you can either cook or have a pizza and beer night. It's not like he won't be held the entire night anyway. Squeeze her for me and kiss the little snot too. See ya tomorrow." He hung up and looked at Huey. "We'll be putting together a lot of furniture tomorrow night. Want ta help?"
"If she wants," he said with a shrug. "I don't have plans. Does it have instructions?"
"Yeah, we got the same stuff as her bookcases. It's not too hard." He shrugged. "Even if Ray don't cook, I'll spring for pizza. You should celebrate the baby's first day home."
"That's true, you should," Huey agreed. "What did you get him?"
"Um, some blankets and clothes and stuff," he admitted. "You?"
"A gift certificate for about six months worth of diapers. Those things are really expensive."
"I noticed. Formula too." Stanley grimaced. "I'm sure they'll make do." His phone rang so he answered it. "Kowalski." He smirked. "Hey, Ray. Huey said he'll come help too." He smirked and nodded. "Sure. No, I've got Benny tanight for a stakeout. Yeah, that one," he admitted. "Don't know, Welsh is here right now. Welsh, it's Ray."
Welsh came out and grabbed his phone. "How is she?" He smiled. "Good. No, don't worry about it for the rest of this week. You've got some leave coming your way anyway." He laughed. "Good. Where are her leave forms?" He looked at his desk. "I checked, I didn't see them. What was she doing down here?" He listened. "Fine. Good. No, you're it. Okay, yeah, tomorrow night. Oh, someone sent more flowers. Should we bring them to the apartment? I don't know, all I know is that half of them are mums." Ray said something to Catherine and someone let out a loud yell. "Is she okay?" He chuckled. "He's got a good set of lungs on him then. Yeah, we can do that." He hung up, looking at Stanley. "She said the future angel demanded that they give the flowers to a nursing home to lighten someone's day. Ask your other partner which one." He went back to his office to call his boss. "Mildred, did you take Catherine's leave forms?" He relaxed. "No, I don't have a copy yet. Ray said you'd been up here. No, I want him. Vecchio can do the job and do it well. He's my choice." He smirked. "You try and everyone will quit." He nodded, looking smug. "I thought as much. Send me a copy of those. No, she and the baby boy are fine. Kowalski, what's his name?" he yelled.
Ray walked his wife and child back into the apartment, noticing only one cat on the couch. "Hey," he said, waking Chocolate up. "Did Benny bring you down?"
"Yes," Stanley called from the bedroom. "Pizza will be here soon." He came out, holding up a railing. "We can't get the crib together for anything." He kissed Catherine on the cheek. "My present's on the bed. We shut the bedroom door and Dief carried her down."
"That's fine. As long as she hasn't peed on anything." She padded the table and put the baby onto it, then went to get a soda from the fridge. "He'll be fine," she said when she saw Stanley staring at him. "Let him sleep then you can hold him. He'll be up in a few hours anyway."
"Good point," Stanley agreed, grinning and going to help get the device together. This crib was going to kill them all yet.
She went hunting the other cats, intending to introduce them one at a time to the baby. She only found two of her four, but it was enough for now. She carried them out and held them near enough to the baby that they could sniff him. "This is your newest pet, guys. This is Eric Marcus Staven Vecchio." Blair struggled so she put him down onto the table. He had poor eyesight so he needed to get in a good, long sniff of the new creature. "He'll be putting out people box smells for about a year. Do not try to cover up the trashcan." She put Nesssa down too, letting her run away from the strange creature. Blair laid down on the baby's legs so she moved him some. "Not on top of him. You weigh more than he does." She went to grab Chocolate, letting her sniff the baby too. "That's a human kitten, Chocolate. Get used to him, okay?" Chocolate walked off and went to nap in a different spot.
Dief came out and stood up on his back paws, sniffing at the baby. Then he woofed and went back to telling his human that all they really needed was some furs. That's all cubs needed really.
Catherine sat down, petting Blair gently. "Hey. Did you behave while mommy and daddy were gone?" He meowed so she scratched his ears. "There, how's that?" He got up and went to help again when Xander came up onto the table. "Don't get used to laying up here, guys. It's just for now since the baby's up here." Xander carefully sniffed from far away, gently moving closer until she realized the baby wasn't going to reach for her. Then she sniffed her a bit and trotted off again. They'd have to wait for Oz. She was more of a middle of the night kitty anyway. Unless they put the baby up on top of a bookcase so she wouldn't have to come down to sniff it. Catherine got a sponge and cleaned off the table, then went to get the front door for the pizza guy. Stanley came out and gave her some money, bringing the baby back with him. "He was fine."
"This way he gets used ta male things," he pointed out smugly.
"Stan, if you turn my son too butch, I'll have to take him to dance class to compensate," she pointed out dryly, making sure the box was closed before she walked away. "Remember, my cats will eat out of pizza boxes and off plates," she called. She went into her bedroom and laid down. "Better," she sighed, curling up around a pillow.
"Now that she's down for a nap too, how is she?" Stanley asked Ray.
"She's fine. Her blood sugar's already goin' back down. Her weight too," he admitted with a small shrug. "I don't think the doc clipped her tubes though. He never had her fill out paperwork." He grimaced and went back to screwing in a bolt. "Why don't they make screwdrivers with these heads?"
"They do. Even powered ones, Ray," Benny told him.
"That's it, we need one," Ray announced. "Walmart?"
"Hardware store might still be open," Stan offered, grinning at him.
"Then let's do that," he announced. "I don't like hex keys." They left with the baby, making sure he was tightly in his car seat before they took off. By the time they got back, Huey and Welsh were waiting on them. Ray gave them a look. "She didn't get up?"
"No," Welsh said with a smile. "Not that we'd expect her to. Having a baby is hard work."
"She got it cut out," Stanley said, taking one of the bags of stuff. Ray had found a bunch of stuff she hadn't let him buy before and had bought it all. Including the required tools and a new tool box so to enhance his newly inflated sense of manliness. He let Benny let everyone in, following behind everyone so he could bring the baby inside. Ray groaned when he saw him. "Don't worry, it'll be second nature soon," Stan said with a grin. "We're back," he called quietly. No answer so they took their beer and pizza into the back room with the baby and the stuff for the baby. The powered screwdriver made it much easier to put everything together.
Catherine finally woke up and came to take the baby, giving everyone a grunt and a nod before going out to the couch. She sat down, looking at him. "Did Ray buy you fish stuff?" she asked, frowning in the direction of the nursery. She rolled her eyes. "I guess that's fine." She opened her pajama top and undid one side of her nursing bra, letting him latch on. He had caught on late last night what this was really for and he enjoyed the hell out of it.
Huey came out and blushed, turning around so he wouldn't have to see her doing *that*. "We're nearly done if he is," he offered.
"You're cute," she told him. "I didn't think guys as dark as you could blush that bright." He gave her a look over his shoulder. "I'm perfectly normal. He's eating, it's better for him. You can stare if you want."
He turned around. "You're going to be one of those women who does that in public, aren't you?" he asked. She beamed and nodded. "Fine, try not to embarrass me on purpose?" he pleaded, going back to Ray's side with the box of pizza. "She's feeding him."
Ray gave him a look. "Whipped it out in front of you?"
"No, she was already like that when I walked out there." He shrugged. "I didn't look."
"Like she'd care," Welsh said with a snort. "She'll be one of those women you see breastfeeding in the park." He took another slice of pizza, taking a large bite. "What else needs to be done?"
"Unless you want to paint, nothing," Ray admitted. He shrugged. "We were torn on colors. That's why she wouldn't let me buy the fish I liked. She wanted fantasy creatures."
"I don't think your kid's gonna be an elf," Stanley pointed out. Benny pinched him. "He's not. They're both too solid to be that fey." He grinned at him and nodded at the crib. "Look who came to visit."
Benny got up and took Chocolate out of the crib before she could do anything to it. "You're not getting one of those," he told her, sitting down with her. Dief came over to steal his cat and trotted off with her. "Thank you, Diefenbaker." He shook his head. "Don't let him get any ideas, Ray. Next thing you know he'll be carrying Eric like that."
"The first time he does, I'm letting Ma have him," Ray told him seriously.
The other guys laughed, they could see Ma chastising him for it.
Catherine woke up to someone knocking politely on the door and wandered that way, frowning at the man on the other side. "What?"
"Catherine Demoranth?" he asked, checking his clipboard.
"Demoranth-Vecchio," she corrected, frowning now. "Why?"
"I have a summons here for you to appear before the State court for testimony," he said, handing it over. "I don't know which one," he said when she continued to stare at him.
She took it and opened it. "That wasn't even my case," she complained, going to call the prosecutor's office. "What the hell is going on, Stella? I wasn't even part of the Rodriguez case." She listened while the DA searched through the database. "No, and he had my maiden name, not both of them." She grimaced. "Which one? Can you transfer me?" She heard a pitiful wail. "Never mind, Eric just got up. Give me the number." She wrote it down on the back of the summons. "Thanks. Yeah, he's fine. Just getting up. Later." She hung up and trudged that way, going to get the baby. "What?" she whined. "Mommy just got up too." She picked him up, noticing he wasn't wet, smelly, or hungry since he wouldn't suck on her finger. "Just wanted to be around someone else? Think you're missing something?" she teased, walking back to the table so she could call this other guy.
"This is Detective Demoranth-Vecchio. I just got a summons from your office?" she told the secretary. "It says the Rodriguez case, but I haven't arrested anyone by that name in years and you guys only had my maiden name on the summons." She frowned when she was put on hold, getting connected to the slimy lawyer quickly. "This is Detective Demoranth-Vecchio. Yes, that one. You sent me a summons in my maiden name about a Rodriguez? I haven't arrested anyone by that name in years." He gave her the particulars of the case and she pulled over her palm pilot, accessing her index list. "He's not in my list of past cases," she reported. "Yes, I do. Because I have a bad memory." Her son started to sniffle again. "Sorry, newborn." She put down the phone and took off her shirt, letting him latch on. She picked it up again. "No, I don't have his name at all and I don't remember a case like that. No, before last year I was in Vice exclusively since six months after I joined the force. Which precinct in Chicago?" She laughed. "Dude, not me. I've only worked in Chicago. Really. You can check with them. No, I'm serious, it's not me. How is it spelled?" He spelled out her maiden name. "Yeah, that's how I spell it but it's still not me. I've never worked outside of Chicago except to liaise for some other cases, and those were in major cities. Miami, New York, LA, one in Vegas. I'd check it out, it definitely wasn't me."
She listened as he read the detective's particulars. "Stop," she ordered. "First, I'm not from San Paulo, New Mexico. I've never been to the state. I think I would have remembered dying of heat exhaustion if I had. Secondly, I'm from upstate. Third, I have brown hair, I'm so white I can't even dance, and I'm nowhere near that smart. You might check the police records with the Union, but it's not me. I can swear to you that it's not me." He son pulled off to belch. "Excuse you, Eric," she told her son. "Sorry, newborn." He took a few breaths and latched back on. "Seriously, it's not me. It's never been me. I've never even been to that town in Illinois. I'm from up closer to the border." She hummed along with the hold music, then sighed as he came back. "That's still not my fault. It wasn't me. It's never been me. I can show up but I don't know what help I'll be since it wasn't me. Sure, I'm on maternity leave starting a few days ago. How soon?" She looked at the summons. "That says in four days." She snorted. "Again, not my problem. Fine, I can be there both times, but I know it's still not me. Hey, tell the cops there, they should have a picture record for her ID if she was working with them. I can bring in pictures from a few years back if you want to verify it, but I know it wasn't me." She sighed. "Fine. Thank you."
She hung up and called Stanley. "Have I ever been to Greerson, Illinois?" She listened to the confused muttering. "Because I just got a summons on a case that I supposedly worked there about seven years ago as a Hispanic redheaded patrol officer on vacation." She smiled. "Yeah, go ahead and pass that on. Rodriguez, Tony Philip Rodriguez. Thanks. I'd like to understand this too. No, I've got court in four days. Yeah, just as a matter of interest. No, he's up and eating." She laughed. "Sure I'll take a picture of me like this for your desk, Stan. Because Ray won't complain at all." She laughed and hung up. "Your Unclie Stan is very funny," she told Eric. He patted at her breast and sucked harder. "Still hungry? Want to try the other side now?" She switched, letting him try that side too. Just in case. She wasn't producing very much milk yet.
Stanley stood up and went into Welsh's office. "Cat just got a summons to appear in court for a case she's never been on."
Welsh frowned at him. "What?"
"Seriously. In Greerson, Illinois. That and they thought she was a redheaded Hispanic patrol cop seven years ago."
"She was a blonde seven years ago," Welsh pointed out dryly, leaning back in his chair. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, she said they only had her maiden name from the bug Ray had put into the apartment in case there was trouble." Welsh rolled his eyes. "He bought it himself." He shrugged. "How would someone pretend to be her?"
"I don't know. You can check on your downtime," Welsh offered. "Call her Vice Captain, get her involved too. Bets would hate this one."
Stanley nodded. "Okay. Thanks. Oh, the guy in mine has run out of the city, I notified the state police and they're tracking the dirtbag's car." He went out to call Bets' office, getting a grumpy woman. "I know it's early," he said dryly, "but Catherine just got one strange summons for a case she said she never worked in lower Illinois as a redheaded Hispanic patrol officer seven years ago?" He sat up. "There is?" His eyes widened. "No, she's at the new house, Bets. Yeah, there. No, Eric was up and she was breastfeeding him. Sure. No, go on over. Want Ray?" He laughed. "Okay, or me. Sure, I can do that. Should I steal Benny too?" He laughed harder. "Good thing. Be there about noon or one?" He checked the clock. "That's fine, I can do some paperwork by then. Thanks." He hung up and leaned over so he could look into the office. "It's not the first one. Someone did this before."
"What!" Welsh said, coming out of his office. "Said who?"
"Said Bets. She said she's had six or seven others handed to her in the past, but this is the first one she's found that came to a summons. Always the same woman. I'm gonna meet her and Cat for lunch around one at Cat's place. She said not to worry Ray yet."
"Fine. I can agree with that. Have fun." He shook his head, going to take his daily dose of aspirin. "Maybe it's just a similar name," he told himself. "The easy explanation."
Stanley looked up as Ray walked over to his desk about quitting time. "Yeah?"
"What is going on?"
Stanley looked up at him, stopping his typing. "Um." He glanced at the office but Welsh had left already. He cleared his throat. "There's someone pretending to be your wife as a rookie cop going around solving cases a few years back." Ray frowned. "Seriously. She got a summons to appear on one today. I told Welsh, he told me to call Bets, she's had a few others. Bets took it to the DA in charge of this case. No one's sure what's going on, they have her badge number as a rookie and everything. Her first one."
"She had more than one?"
"Yeah. She had someone steal one in her third year. They decided to switch her number," he admitted, scratching his head. "The guy was usin' it to threaten the general public and some of the families. Cat hunted him relentlessly." He shrugged. "Someone's using that one. A red haired, Hispanic woman who's about five-five and all mouth."
"Any chance she's a cousin?"
"Cat's an only child, Ray. Back two or three generations. Her parents were so white they could have been the Klan. Her grandparents were in the original version of the Klan." Ray winced. "So, no, not likely this one's related." He stood up and stretched. "Bets and I have it, Ray."
"I want to know these things, Stanley."
"Complain again, she said I could hit ya," Stanley offered.
"No, Bets." He grinned. "Cat protested nicely." He grabbed his stuff and saved down his file before leaving. They had cut the night shift off and had transferred them to other units that needed people to fill in due to the budget. He made sure his laptop lock was on but nothing else was going to be touched on his desk. Ray followed him down to the parking lot. "Need a ride home?"
"No, I was gonna stop and get her some ice cream on the way home," Ray admitted. "Does she know more?"
"No. We're keepin' her out of it too," Stanley admitted. "She had no idea until the summons today." He shrugged and opened his door, ducking when he heard the gunshot. He looked around, hand on his gun. "Whoever that was, I'd run!" he shouted, heading over to check on Ray, who gave him a look. "How are you?" He helped him up, visually checking him. "No wounds?"
"No." He looked behind them as some patrol officers came out to investigate. "It came from that way," he said, pointing that way. A few rushed off and more went to report. "Home?" Ray suggested.
"Hell yeah. See ya there. You cookin' or should I order out?"
"Nah, I'll cook. Have to stop at the store anyway," he said dryly, heading to his car. He found the bullet hole. "Hey, Stan, I will need a ride," he called. "Sergeant, they hit my car!" The man shuddered but called the nice investigators to come look at the hole and pull the bullet for evidence. "I'll get it tomorrow." He got into Stanley's car, letting him drive them off.
Catherine walked into the DA's office the next morning, smiling nicely at the secretary. "I have an appointment. Catherine Demoranth-Vecchio?" The secretary gave her a long look. "I know. We've found others done by that other person too." She waved the folder in her hand. "Isn't he in?"
"Sorry," she said, pushing the button on her phone. "Sir, she's here. She was right, it's not her."
"Thank you. Send her in," a patient voice said.
Catherine walked in, handing over the folder at the shocked look. "I told you I was a whitebread white person," she pointed out, sitting down with a small groan of pain. "Ow." She looked at the other occupant of the office. "Hey, Stella."
"Morning, Catherine," she said calmly. "Bets called me, she said there had been others."
"They're in the folder, along with pictures taken of me about those times. It definitely wasn't me."
"Possibly a cousin?" Stella asked.
Catherine snorted. "My great-grandparents and my grandparents were founding members of the Klan coming to Illinois. My mother nearly got killed for daring to be seen talking to a black man. She kept me far away from them, but there's no way. There's not even any suddenly dead or missing relatives as far as I could tell by Mom's family tree."
"I didn't know that," Stella said.
Catherine shrugged. "Apparently great-grandfather tried to move to Texas once and didn't like it because of all the Mexicans and the Natives we had pushed off their own land. He quickly moved back up here and found his fellow Klan members, inviting them into the state. I'm not like that, as proven by me marrying an Italian, and my mother ran away after they nearly killed her. I met them all in the nursing home." She looked at the lead DA again. "As you can see, it really wasn't me."
"I can," he admitted. He looked at her then smiled at the baby. "He looks very comfortable."
"He should be. He hates to sleep in his crib. He likes his daddy best, daddy makes more noise than I do. He hums." Stella chuckled. "Seriously. Stella, this is Eric Marcus Staven Vecchio. Treat him like you would me or else." She undid the baby carrier and pulled him out, letting him be seen. He protested of course, but his new Aunt picked him up to hold him and it shocked him into silence.
"Hello, Eric," Stella said gently. "How are you today? Are you enjoying our world?" He kicked a few times. "Here, go back to your mother," she said, handing him back. "He's adorable. Doesn't have Ray's nose either."
"I like Ray's nose, but no, I like that he has mine," Catherine admitted dryly, putting him back into the carrier. He fussed. "You just ate."
"Please, don't breastfeed in front of me," the DA told her. "I get embarrassed very easily, Detective." She shrugged and pulled out a bottle, letting him suck on it. "Thank you." He looked at the cases again. Then at the baby when he belched. "I've never heard one that loud."
"I think the carrier makes it reverb or something. He's not usually that loud." She wiped his mouth off and looked down at him. "Feel better?" He cooed. "Good." She looked at the DA again. "You were saying?"
"I have no idea what to do about this case, Detective. He is a murderer. If we can't get her there, then it could jeopardize the case."
"I think you're taking a very short-sighted view," Catherine noted. "She might not be a cop at all." They groaned. "Sorry, but it's the truth. That was my first badge number and we know for a fact it was stolen because someone was busting the local syndicates' balls with it. Then we caught him but I guess the number's still floating around somewhere. Could it have been from a different state?"
"It is, but that state doesn't have anyone registered with that number," Stella told her. "She's using a New Mexico badge as far as we can tell." She sat down again. "We've found more since then. Every few months."
"Then it sounds like a vigilante who lets her frustration out," Catherine noted. "I'm an Anthropology person instead of a Psych person but we do the same thing sometimes. That sounds exactly like the beginnings we'd have with a serial killer, only this one is working for the common good. She probably couldn't get into an academy. She's probably doing a job that either puts her into contact with people like this or she's frustrated about the course of her life since she couldn't get into an academy and is blowing off the steam. It's pretty classical."
"We had thought about that," the main DA told her. "We've talked to the Feds. They're the ones who found the other cases. They were not happy." He pointed at the box. "About one every two or three months for the last fifteen years."
Catherine sat up. "My badge wasn't stolen until my third year, the end of my third year on the force. I celebrated my third anniversary with IA answering questions about why my newly stolen badge was harassing the local families. I remember that very well. Detective Scott was over it and he's had it in for me since then."
Stella looked at the box. "You've been on how long?"
"Just over eighteen years. I was just under a month along when my eighteenth anniversary came up. Junior was in town then."
"Hmm." She got up to track the last case, looking at the date. "It is local, it is about six months before then, and it's using another badge number," she admitted, pulling it to look at it. "Simple hit and run." She handed it to Catherine. "Where were you then?"
"Being held hostage. That was during the crisis that got my badge stolen," she said, looking at Stella. "I still don't know who did that though."
"That's fine. Could she have been part of that?"
"I never heard a female voice, Stella. I went back over my notes and the tapes I made of my statement back then." She opened her purse and pulled those out. "I thought you might need them. They're in sequential order. Katzerner brought up some more memories as my evaluations went on, but nothing really substantial was added to the reports. The number of voices got added to. It went from three or four men to five or eight, I had trouble distinguishing the voices, but they were always male." She frowned, moving the bottle away from the baby since he was snoring. He woke up and gave a half-hearted fuss. "You can't sleep and eat, son. Don't try. You'll drown." She put the bottle away. "I never mentioned a female in any of them."
"She could have been a girlfriend," Stella offered. "A wife. A sidekick that wasn't in on the hostage part. Or she could have just picked up your badge number afterwards. When did her badge number start getting used?"
"About sixteen months later," he admitted.
"After we got the person harassing the families," Catherine noted. Stella groaned. "So it's in general circulation. She's pretending to be a cop, specifically me. Is she acting like me?" Stella nodded, giving her a look. "Hell on heels and all?"
"Rides a motorcycle. Says she's a bike cop. Tough woman who doesn't take shit and has put down a few officers over their desire for her shapely body," Stella told her.
"Hell if I know. Can you trace the other badge number?"
"It's locked in IA," Stella admitted.
Catherine pulled over the phone and dialed a number she had become familiar with a long time ago. "Scott, it's Demoranth-Vecchio. You remember that badge thing? It's happening again. Russert. Yes, now." She hung up. "He'll be right up." She looked at Stella. "He'll be pulling everything up by badge number."
Stella grabbed the phone and hit redial. "This is DA Kowalski. We have a second badge number associated with the same cases. It's Chicago 4615, patrol." She smiled. "Thank you. Yes, we'll wait. We'll play with the baby." She hung up and looked at her colleague. "Well, that's interesting. He sounded like he swallowed his chewing gum."
"Which means she was a cop?" Catherine asked, sounding very calm, yet smug.
"Possibly." She smiled at her and took the baby to hold. "Hi. Yes, it's me again. I never saw the appeal of having one of you but you seem to calm your mother down nicely."
"Stella, I'm still having hormone swings," Catherine warned. "Stanley would miss you horribly but I'm sure Benny would gladly let him cry on his shoulder."
"Sorry, I'm not criticizing, just a statement of fact." She looked over as the door opened. "That was fast."
"Their office is only across the street," Catherine noticed. "So, who is our mystery me?"
"I can't tell you that, Detective. It's part of an open investigation."
"Fifteen years?" she asked. He nodded. "Was she in on the hostage thing?" He shook his head. "That's fine. Do you need me for anything else?" she asked, taking back her son. They shook their heads. "Thank you then. If you still need me to appear, have Stella call me at home." She hitched her son back in and left with him, listening a bit at the door. Someone kicked it. "Damn it," she grumped, leaving to take him on a tour of a McDonald's for lunch.
Stella tapped on the open door, walking in at the yelled 'come in'. "Are you okay?"
Stanley came out of the bedroom. "Yeah. Just fine. Dief's out. Chocolate's in the top of the closet acting pitiful because she peed on the bed again."
Stella frowned. "That's a bad thing, Stan."
"I know." He shrugged. "So, what's up with the not-Cat?"
"She was a cop who was framed. Detective Scott thinks Catherine set her up but he can't prove it because he can't find a link that they ever met." She shrugged. "He doesn't like her because she used to be gay. Taking up with Ray has made him see she'll go to any length to get away from him." She sat down, looking over as Benny dragged Dief back inside. "Hello. "
"Did we solve that mix up?" Benny asked, closing the door. "What happened?"
"Chocolate. You need to do laundry," Stanley told him. "Your cat peed on the bed."
"Technically, she is Diefenbaker's cat," he pointed out.
"Then he can do the wash, but one of you will wash those sheets, spray the bed, and punish her," Stanley said firmly.
"Very well." He went to gather his cat and punish her sternly.
Stanley looked at his ex wife. "And, what's the bad news? We knew that about Scott."
"The DA in charge of the case called the Feds to talk to them about it. They're doing a search for her. They're not quite as paranoid as Detective Scott is." Stanley sighed and rolled his eyes. "You might want to take this seriously, Stanley. He has it in for her."
"And she don't do nothin' wrong," Stanley reminded her. "How can she? She's got people following her all the time."
"I know, but warn her. I'm not allowed to." She kissed him on the cheek. "The baby is adorable."
He gave her a long look. "I wanted one of those, you didn't," he reminded her.
"I know. Today made me see how wrong I was. Stanley, if I thought about having one of my own...." She shook her head. "Never mind. That would be cruel."
He pulled her closer, giving her a hug. "It would be, Stell, but I still love ya. If you wanted, then we'd all have ta talk about it. Got it?" She nodded, giving him a long look. "Then go play with your boy toys. They're probably sterile anyway." She snorted and gathered herself together, heading off to her date for the evening. Stanley got up and went to tell Benny what she had just offered, he deserved the right to know.
Ray walked into the apartment and smelled actual food cooking. He looked at the kitchen area, not seeing his mother, his sister, or Benny. "Cat?" he called. "Did someone break in and cook?"
"I can cook, Ray," she said firmly from the study.
"Sorry. Sometimes I forget," he said, walking that way to kiss her on the back of the neck. "How did your meeting go?"
"She's part of an open investigation by IA Scott and he thinks I'm involved. They wouldn't tell me more." She gave him a look. "Apparently he still thinks I'm turning rookies for my own pleasure."
He nodded. "Stan said something about that as I passed him outside. Apparently you being gay was an affront to his sensibilities." She rolled her eyes and went back to checking her email. "We good?"
"We're fine, Ray." She smiled at him. "It's a pot roast before you ask. Only potatoes but that's because I won't eat cooked carrots." He grinned. "Your mother called earlier. Your dry cleaner called her. You forgot to pick stuff up?"
"Probably," he admitted, going to call them. He checked on the baby. Then took a picture since he wasn't in danger. "Hey, Cat, I think we may have a problem," he called. She joined him looking at the Oz, who was in the crib, standing over the baby sniffing him. "Does he smell, Oz?" Oz scattered, heading for a hiding spot. He looked at his wife. "Blair would smoosh him."
"Blair would and Xander's about his weight," she agreed bitterly. "This used to be their room though." He nodded, giving her a hug. "We'll figure it out. Blair hasn't curled up with him since he was on the table. He was napping next to him earlier. Oz just wanted a sniff." She walked over and sniffed, then grimaced. "No wonder. Someone needs changed. Have fun, Ray, I'll call the dry cleaners." She hurried out before he could stop her.
He snorted. "I'm not afraid of dirty diapers," he told his son, who gave him a loving look. "Did the furry thing sniff you?" He picked him up to change that thing. Even he could smell it, it had to be bad. "Maybe a curtain around the top of the bed?"
Benny joined Catherine outside later that night, sitting down beside her while Dief went to mark his territory yet again. "Catherine?" She hummed and looked at him. "I need a female to talk to."
"Let me guess, Stella approached Stan about having a kid?" she asked. He looked startled. "It's kinda obvious when you saw the looks she gave him earlier," she admitted. She leaned closer and nudged him. "If it bugs you, tell the guy. He'll listen to that."
"He's always wanted one."
"I know." Benny gave her a look. "I've known since before he ever heard of you, Benny. I knew that just from looking at him that first day. Stan's got the makings of a great father but he's scared to death of babies by the way he keeps looking at mine." She grinned at him. "It's kinda elementary when you study him like I did when we first met," she shared. "That was back when they were still getting on pretty good. Stella didn't want one, thought it'd get in the way of her career, which it would. Now she sees one that wasn't what she was expecting and she saw me being a bit softer. She said as much in the meeting. It made her think harder and realize her age. So now she's suddenly hearing the biological clock going off in her head and she's driven off every other man in her life but Stan. He loved her, but he's not hers anymore. He knows this too by the way. He won't upset you by doing this behind your back so talk to the boy."
Benny relaxed. "Thank you." He looked at his wolf, who was staring at them. "Are you finished?" He went to pee again, making Benny groan. "I need to have him checked. All that sugar in his diet may have raised his blood sugar some."
"If it did, I can easily teach you how to give the shots," she said grimly.
He smiled at her. "Hopefully it won't come to that."
"In animals, it does," she shared. "I had some doubts about that being Chocolate's problem, but then I realized she was a litter box princess. She only likes it when it's perfectly clean and tidy for her use." She grimaced. "I'm against putting animals down for behavior problems, but there were too many times when I thought about it with her."
"We had to have a discussion earlier about that," he admitted. "Stanley has decided she's my cat."
"I thought she was the wolf's cat," she said dryly.
"She is, but Diefenbaker can't do the laundry," he admitted with a smile, taking him back inside to get their things out of the wash and sniff them to make sure they were clean this time. Cat odor seemed to cling to fabric.
She stretched out, enjoying the mild night. "Poor guy." She shook her head. "That baby would be hell on everyone's nerves."
"Catherine!" Ray called.
She stood up with a sigh, heading in to spray the cat in the crib. "No," she said, spraying Nessa. "Not your bed." The cat took off running. She looked at Ray and held up the bottle. "See, water. Very good trainer for cats." She walked out and closed the door, going to look at their junk room to see if the cats had taken that over yet. They hadn't so she planned on how to do this and put the baby's things in there. She saw a bug and screamed, running away from it. "Bug!"
Ray came out and went to squish it for her with a sigh. He came back and looked at her. "Call the exterminators tomorrow?" She nodded, sipping a soda. "Why were you back there?"
"It's cold back there, Catherine." He stepped up in front of her. "We could switch the study and the nursery." She smiled and shrugged, nodding. "You'd like that?"
"I would and I'm used to the cats lounging in the study." She gave him a little kiss. "This weekend?" He smiled and nodded. "Then turn on the baby monitor and close the door or move the baby into our bedroom."
"I don't think it'd matter. The cats seem to like him no matter where he is. Oz stared down at us in the rocking chair forever last night." He stole another kiss. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay." She smiled. "I can't have sex yet, Ray."
"I wasn't even hinting," he promised. "I was gonna offer a backrub."
"That is one thing I won't pass up," she said, putting her arms around his neck and giving him a long kiss, interrupted by the baby screaming. "Damn it." She looked at him. "My turn?" He nodded so she went to answer the desperate summons to change the diaper. She shooed Xander away from him and changed him, then went to put him into the playpen next to the bed. That way they could keep an eye on him and the cats.
Catherine came back from her expected call from IA about her first badge going missing looking very upset with the world. Ray looked up and grimaced. "Not go well?"
"Oh, hell no." She pulled a chair over and faced him. "Not only is Scott retiring next year, he put someone on there that hates me for more than the fact that I was gay and effective. This one counts those nearly as highly as he does the not Christian aspect and the part that says I'm not like my grandparents."
He put down his pen and looked at her. "How bad is it?"
"Our family attorney wants me to sue them. So I'm going to go see my sister at the family home and then I'll be back on Tuesday. If I don't quit." She gave him a kiss on the cheek and went to tell Welsh, just in case he needed her for something. She leaned in the doorway. "Little sprout and I are heading to the family home. I'm inches away from quitting and following my lawyer's advice about suing the department." She headed to her locker, deciding to do the wash this weekend too.
Ray finally shook himself free of his confusion. "She said her family was dead." He looked at Stanley, who was walking in. "It didn't go well. Now they're against her on all counts." Stan nodded. "You knew?"
"Yup. I heard it while she was testing the copies." He grinned. "Gonna go home with her?"
"I didn't even know there was a family home."
"Yeah, Manor Grove."
Huey looked up, frowning. "She's a Caldwell?"
Stanley smirked. "By birth. Her mother was the one who left the family because they nearly lynched her for giving a black guy directions to visit his family. Demoranth was the shitbag's name and she's hated Manor Grove from birth. Her mother was a hippie before there were hippies."
"What sister?" Huey asked.
"Emerald. She got shot while mom was protesting against segregation by a cop. She was about seven months along and only has about a third of her brain that works," Catherine said from the doorway. "Ray, if you come up, expect there to be bigots. The town's still like that. Speak Italian only when you see me," she instructed with a grin. "I love beating their notions into their heads. Stan, you and Benny wanna escort me?"
"Maybe. It'd do Dief good to get outta the city," he admitted. "Maybe tomorrow?"
"Sure. The more the merrier. Maybe we can infect some of the bad karma before it hits me again." She walked out, heading for her car. Then she went to Ma's to tell her. She walked in the front door. "Hey, Ma, there's a revelation coming, are you sitting down?" she called as she headed for the kitchen. Ma was sitting down by the time she made it back there. "Hey. I've got to go to the family home to visit my sister, she's sick."
"You have family?"
"I did. My parents died in a car crash when I was seventeen," she admitted. "Just after I graduated actually. My sister's fully mentally impaired due to her having been shot before she was born by a cop who didn't like my mother because she left the fine family traditions." Ma opened her mouth. "My mother's maiden name was Caldwell."
"Ah." She nodded. "I thought you might be related. You look nearly exactly like your grandmother."
"Unfortunately," she agreed. "Only I'm bigger. My grandmother was the original bird woman." She shrugged. "So I've got to go to Manor Grove this weekend to visit Emerald. You guys are more than free to come up, but I'll warn you in advance that the town hasn't changed much since my grandparent's time and I like to go up there to flummox the bigots." She grinned and picked up her son. "Come on. I'll introduce you to all the trees and stuff this weekend," she cooed.
"Are you sure it'll be safe?" Maria asked from the back doorway.
"Oh, yeah," Catherine promised. "If they come near me, they know they'll die. They tried it once. And now they're trying it here in the city through Internal Affairs. So Ray may be having some problems if I go as punitive as my lawyer wants me to be. Is Dief here? I was gonna offer to take him up to the woods with me. He'd be a good guard, just in case. All the bigots are visiting the town right now because it's the heritage festival. I'm putting up a sign this weekend that says once my sister dies, I'm turning the place into a pagan retreat." She grinned and strolled out with her son, collecting the half-wolf on the way. "Hey, Dief, wanna go guard the baby in the woods?" she cooed to him. He barked and followed her out to the car, letting her drive of course. She wouldn't even let him sit in the driver's seat and pretend to drive. She got them headed for the consulate before Ray even thought to call his mother. Benny was quickly snared as well. She simply walked in and hugged Turbull, sighing sadly. "I've been called home to the bigot's house. It's got woods and stuff and I really don't want to die in them. So I'm bringing Dief with me. Where's Benny so I can tell him?"
"He's in the office with the Inspector," he said quietly.
She grinned. "Thanks. Can you go watch Dief watch the baby? I didn't bring him in."
"Of course, Detective."
"Probably not for much longer. The bigots are here too," she said with mock cheerfulness. "They're trying to force me off the force." She strolled into the office with a curt knock. "Just an FYI. Benton, I'm stealing your wolf to protect me from the legion of bigots at my family home. There's a map in my study, in the filing cabinet drawer Ray can't open. The key's in the top desk drawer. Or ask any friendly skinhead, most of them can direct you to my family's home. Just ask them where the founding Caldwells live. It's Heritage time and I don't want to be lynched. Toodles." She strolled out.
He came out of the office, chasing after her. "You can't bring your son up there, Catherine. He'll be in danger."
She grinned at him. "We'll be fine. I'm closing the gates as soon as I get up there. We'll be in more danger if I have to leave the house, but walking through the woods is always a bad idea this time of year. That's why I'm taking Dief." Ray and Stanley both pulled up, surrounding the car. "Hey, guys," she said happily. "Needed Benny? I'm only stealing Dief."
Ray got out of his car, leaning on it. "Stanley, take her keys. Benton, get the wolf out of the car and bring the baby to mine. We'll head up together." He was using his impatient, but holding it in voice.
"Then I'm taking hers. The GTO needs new shocks," Stanley told him.
"Um, guys, cats?"
"Ma," they said in unison.
Ray pointed at the passenger door. "Now, wife."
"Hmph. See if you get sex soon." She shrugged and went that way, letting Turnbull out with the baby. "You look very comfy, son. Is he snuggly?" Turnbull blushed as he handed the baby over. "Thanks, Turnbull. You interested in babysitting when we don't feel like bothering Ma?"
"Of course, Detective. I hope this recent strife works itself out."
"Me too. I'd hate to have to bankrupt the department by suing them for their yearly budget." She shrugged and got into the car, letting Ray put in the car seat. Eric looked up at her and yawned. "Yes, you can go back to your nap, son. Mommy promises you can. Let the daddy switch out the car seat for you." She kissed him on the head. "Turnbull, what aftershave are you wearing now?"
"I spilled some cleaner on myself earlier, ma'am. I cleaned it off."
"Okay. Is that what smells like pine and oranges?"
"No, that is my aftershave. I found it at the delightful herb and oil shop you took me to."
"Cool," she said with a grin. "I'm glad you like my brethren. I'm turning the bigoted home place into a pagan retreat once my sister dies to reverse some of the karma that's been infecting my family for generations now. Want to come up to the rejuvenation and stuff?"
"Of course. I'd be honored." He smiled and waved at the baby. "You be a good boy, Eric. I'll see you soon." He jogged inside.
"No sucking up to Turnbull," Ray said firmly, yet quietly. "I like the guy, but we've got enough babysitters."
"I like Turnbull. He's a nice guy," she pointed out. "I don't know enough of those, as you pointed out the other day when you were helping me bust that dealer."
"Good point," he admitted, taking the baby to put him into the seat. "There, now you can nap until you get hungry." He looked at her. "Map?"
"To the Caldwell's?"
"Map?" he repeated. She handed over her palm pilot, already open to the directions. "Thank you. Guys, follow," he ordered. "Dief, pick a car." He jumped into the back, curling up next to the baby. "Of course you're going to do that. Why not, the cats do the same thing." He rolled his eyes. "You two sure you wanna come up?"
"Yeah. I haven't seen Emerald since about five years ago," Stanley admitted, getting into Catherine's car, leaving his parked there with a note on the dash and his siren in the window. "Benny, come on!"
"Coming, Stanley." He and Ray shared a look. Sometimes, their lovers were just faster than they were. It was hard to keep track of them.
Catherine pulled up next to the guard, Ray was in the back soothing the savage crying machine by playing with him.
"Visiting hours end in an hour," the guard said tiredly.
"Technically, they end now," Catherine told him. "Until I leave. So I don't kill the slovenly little bigots." The guard gave her a long look. "Hey, Fred." She grinned. "Close the gates behind me, man. I'm here until Monday. Oh, there is one other car, mine. Stanley and Benton are might-as-well-be family. You let them in no matter what until I say otherwise." He nodded, making a note of that. "This is the hubby, Ray. Ray, this is Fred, he's the nice guard. Only deal with him. The baby is ours, yes," she said patiently, driving up the driveway, leaving him smirking at her bumper. "On the right is the famous lynching woods. My grandparents used to bring people out here for that. On the left is the swimming area. There are no longer any bodies in there. I offered a friend of mine the opportunity to come dredge the lake a few years back to get rid of all of them. She said it was good training for her recruits in the Corps of Engineers." She pulled up into the circular driveway, getting out of the car. She looked at the family staring at the front of the house. "I hate to do it, folks, but the house is closed until Tuesday due to a family meeting. Sorry, but you'll have to leave now." They looked at her and she waved. "Yes, I'm the *other* daughter. The one who actually owns the house. I'm being nice. I need to go breastfeed my son and my husband, so shoo." She let Ray out of the back and went around to grab her bags from the back of her own car since Stanley was right behind her. "Dief, do not go into the woods without Benny after dark," she ordered. "They might have a revel tonight." She grabbed both bags and walked up the front stairs. "Come on, Raymondo. I want to show you the house. We'll make many happy babies here."
Ray got out of the car, giving her a look, and decided to play along. "Caro, please. The baby, he is tired."
"Are you?" she asked with a grin and a wink. "Come on, I know just where my bedroom is." He walked after her, the wolf trotting behind the baby with the other two following holding hands. "Hi," she said, smiling at the bigot at the doorway. "We're closing the house," she called. "It's a family event!" She smiled at Stanley. "This is my brother Stanley. I adopted him and his friend. And this is my Raymondo. He's beautiful, isn't he?" The man gasped and left, hurrying out with the rest of his tour group. She smiled as a woman came down the stairs. "Hey, Helga. How's Emerald?"
"She's still critically ill, Miss Catherine. Are you going right up?" She smiled when she saw the baby. "I got your letter about the wedding and him. May I?" She nodded as she passed her. "Is the wolf trained?"
"House and woods," she quipped. "Benny, he can't go near my sister, fur in the monitors is bad. I have to put on sterile clothes too." She jogged up the last few stairs and headed down to her sister's room, tapping gently when she heard the laughter. "Are those fairies in here again?" she teased lightly, grinning at her. She put on the smock and walked in, sitting beside her on the bed. "Hey, Emerald." Her sister giggled again. "Did you like the show?" Her sister nodded. "Me too. I can't wait until we can close the house to them." She pushed back some of the limp hair. "How are you? I heard you were sick." She patted her chest so Catherine gave her a hug. "I'm here for a few days, then I've got to go do battle with more bigots back in the city. They're being mean to me but I can kick their asses." Emerald smiled then coughed a bit. "Eww, you've got that again?" She helped her up, wiping off her mouth. "Has the doctor been in?" she asked at the opening door.
"He has, he's put her back on the same medicine," Ray said. "The nurse told me." He waved at Emerald. "I've got cat fur on me."
"As long as you're not covered it should be okay for a minute," she offered, smiling at him. "Emerald, this is Ray. He's the only guy I've ever liked enough to have a kid with." Emerald let out a high-pitched squeal and reached for him. "She likes to hug."
"I can see that." He gave her a very gentle hug. "Hi, Emerald." He helped Catherine get her laying back down. "She told me you were sick, are you feeling better?" Emerald patted her chest. "What's that mean?"
"She wants another hug." She tweaked her sister's chin. "Greedy. My Ray." She got out of his way, letting him give her another hug. Helga came in. "Nap time?" She nodded and Emerald fussed. "Hey, none of that. I'll be here for three dark times. You can see the baby tomorrow. I'm sure you'll like Eric." Emerald patted her chest again so she gave her a hug. "You rest. I want you to get better. I don't want to have to live here for a very long time." Emerald laughed again, staring above her. "Okay, have the fairies tell you a bedtime story," she agreed with a sad smile. She looked at Helga. "Later?"
"After dinner," she said quietly. Cat nodded and took Ray's hand, leading him out. Helga came over to lower the shades and to cover her charge back up. "You rest, dear. They'll be here for three darks. You can see them both and their friends. Catherine brought that one boy with her." She squealed again and laughed some more. "If you're feeling better, we'll go for a walk on the lawn tomorrow. They brought a dog." Emerald laughed and curled up on her side, taking her usual nap. "You're such a good girl, Emerald." She patted her gently, watching her while she slept.
Catherine walked into the study and found a cop standing there. "What? It's my house."
"I heard you were having some problems in Chi-town," he said with a mean grin.
"Yeah, well, people like you exist all over," she pointed out. "Some of them even get into positions of power. But don't worry, if I quit, I'll come up here and turn the old homestead into a pagan retreat sooner than I had anticipated. The good energy can only help my sister." He glared at her. "It is my house," she reminded him calmly. "Now, unless you want to start an incident between your department and my department, I'd leave. The house is closed when I'm in residence so I don't snap at anyone about inbreeding. Unless you're here in some official capacity?"
"No, I came to make sure you know not to walk in the woods tonight."
"If they're even an inch on my property, I'm going to do whatever I have to do to make them leave," she quipped, waving a hand around. "I won't have my mate or my friends upset by your friends. So use the other woods. I'm sure old lady Johnson's family would *appreciate* you more than I will." Benny walked in. "Hey, Benny. This is the local cop, one of three. All three are bigots and better of dead in my book. Officer Carl, this is Benton Fraser, RCMP."
"Hello." He nodded politely. "Ray wants to know how to get to the kitchen."
"Follow the black line in the marble. It's in the back of the house, past the hopefully closed off dining area. I've got to get someone to paint over that mural." The officer gasped. "Sorry, I don't particularly like decorating in early segregation and dehumanization. If you do, have someone take a picture before I have it painted over some weekend." He stomped off, going out the side door. "Don't come back unless I get to shoot you!" she yelled after him. She looked at Benny and smiled. "We'll be left alone except for revels. You'll have to watch Dief when I go bust up their party tonight." She headed out with a book, following the black line to the dining room. "My great-grandparents," she told Ray. "I'm going to paint over it soon. Maybe I'll have a nice civil rights group come in and help. Kitchen is on the other side of the off-white door, for the servants. Anything in that color is a servant's entrance and it leads to the more necessary portions of the house. I'm going to go bathe in the pond then read beside it. Baby?"
"Stan," he said, looking at her back as she disappeared. He followed her, stalking her down to the pond. "Who does this belong to now?"
"Me." She stripped off fully and dove in, doing a quick skim of the bottom to check for new bodies. A few rocks, but no new bodies that she could see. She surfaced and looked at him. "I didn't find any bodies if you want to come in." He shrugged and stripped off, diving out in his boxers to join her. "You can swim nude."
"No I can't. I hate skinny dipping," he shared, giving her a kiss. "You own all this?"
"Yup. The tour fees pay for the taxes. Most of our trust fund goes to Emerald's care." She stole another kiss then dived under the water and swam away, working out the frustration she felt. He caught her and dragged her back to the surface. "Sorry, working off the spare energy."
He kissed her again. "I realize that. You haven't slowed down since you came back. What happened?" He moved them to a place where they could stand, wincing when he felt something in the sand. "Are you sure there aren't any bodies?" She dove down and came up with the stick, which she tossed. "Thanks." He held her against his chest. "What happened?"
"Let's see. First he questioned my ethics, what I did undercover, and how I did my job. Then he decided to get personal. Did I ever bring a lover to the police station? Have I ever had sex in the police station? Have I ever had sex in the evidence room? Strangely enough, only two of those were yeses. He got very confused. Then he asked me about drugs. Did I take drugs? Did my mother take drugs? Did I think my family would be happy with the way I am? At which point we took a break and I went to call the family attorney, who told me to: a, sue the city, and b, out the biggest dyke in the city, namely the Chief of Police." Ray winced. "So I called her and asked for her opinion. She said she didn't care if I outed her, but to weather this for a bit longer. I left Welsh a copy of today's tape in the inter- office mail. I sent another copy to Millie, and a third to the family attorney." Now she was nearly vibrating so Ray started to stroke her back. "He made it seem like I was threatening him so I had to point out that I wasn't threatening when I told him he was going to hell before me, it was a fact according to his bible that hypocrites and blasphemers went there before those who did good but weren't baptized, which I was but I wasn't practicing." Ray gave her another squeeze. "Then he had the audacity to quote chapter and verse at me, so that means I've got a discrimination suit based on my sexuality, my gender, and my religion now. Plus my health since he started on that too."
"Shh, I'm here," Ray soothed, getting her calmed down again. "It'll be fine. If he tries anything, you quit and sue them. If we have to, we'll move up here full time and turn this place back into a showpiece worthy of respect." She looked up at him. "Seriously. I want to paint over that mural now that I've seen it."
"Then you *really* don't want to go into the master bedroom at the end of the second hallway," Stanley said from the bank, waving at them. "Dief went exploring. Benny let out a loud scream, woke Emerald up. He's telling her a story right now. He was a bit freaked to say the least."
"The will says I can't change the house until I take up permanent residence. Mom was too much like them to break the traditions. I'm not. I got notice today that I'm able to repaint the whole damn thing and lock out the bigots. I can even put a fence through the woods if I want."
"How much of it do you own?" Ray asked.
"Okay, how much do we own?" he asked with a small grin.
"About thirty acres. There's about fifty of woods though, it butts up against a state park. They're trying to buy the other twenty but they haven't had any luck with the last owners." She waved when she saw a jeep coming their way. "Speaking of the park service." A ranger got out. "Hey."
"Morning, Miss Demoranth."
"It's Vecchio now, this is my husband. I finally found a man that liked me as much as my women did."
"Good." He smiled. "Are you closing the house for good?"
"Only if I quit the force. I'm definitely closing it this weekend and I've threatened to shoot anyone found in the woods on my side. Did you guys get to buy the other twenty acres?"
"Only four of it," he admitted sheepishly. "They've applied to revel in the park however."
"Shoot, I guess that means I can't shoot them," she said bitterly. "Any other news?"
"Someone applied to have the house preserved in its present state as a historical landmark."
"It's not that old."
"No, but it is important to the county's history."
"Then they can come and take some very detailed pictures before I paint over them. I'm not allowing my husband to be further traumatized by the sight of them. They can try to sue me, my grandparent's will was very specific. Once I take up full residence, I can and will paint over them."
"That's fine, ma'am. Thank you for the warning. I'll pass that back. You be safe tonight."
"Don't worry, we will," Ray told him.
"Thank you, Mr. Vecchio." He nodded and got into his jeep to inform his bosses and their friends about her statements, plus to tell them the bad news - she had married an immigrant. This was going to make a lot of people very unhappy.
Catherine looked at Ray. "If anyone comes to the door tonight, feel free to open fire," she said dryly. "I'm going to." He hugged her harder. "Thanks. You're very comforting."
"We'll handle it, Catherine. Our pensions should about cover the cost of the land taxes and stuff."
"Actually, if I do turn it into a pagan retreat, we can get camping fees. Over the year, it'll even out from what I was thinking." He kissed her on the temple. "Thanks, Ray."
"You're welcome. We'll bring lots of people up and rebless the land fully. Your way, my way, all ways."
She grinned at him. "Good. That's what I was thinking too." She gave him a little squeeze. "Stanley, are you enjoying watching us?"
"Hell yeah. Benny's been odd since Stella suggested me ta surrogate a baby for her." Ray looked at him. "She saw Eric and wanted him."
"Speaking of our son, where might he be?" Ray asked.
"With Benny. He's the comforting uncle." He grinned. "Any bodies?"
"I had them dredge it and I didn't see any when I dove down. It should be safe as long as you don't drink the water."
"Cool." He stripped down to his boxers and drove in, taking the other side of the large pond to swim in.
Ray shook his head. "Little brothers," he sighed. "I'm glad Ma only gave me sisters."
She pinched him. "Brothers are fun to pick on," she reminded him, getting in a good grope. "Ray, I'm wanting a bit more than cuddles tonight."
"If I can get past the gruesome artwork, we'll try," he promised. "You might still be sore."
"Fuck sore, I'll twinge. I want to be screwed into unconsciousness tonight."
"Fine," he sighed, rolling his eyes. "We'll make love for a long time."
"No, Ray, not make love. I want dirty, nasty sex. Not tender cuddles and stuff. I want to have hickeys and scratches when I wake up." She stared into his eyes. "I want the hard, the fast, and the naughty."
He grinned. "I might be able to pull that off." He kissed her. "This pond is freaking me out."
"It does that to me too sometimes." She led the way up to their clothes, putting on most of hers. Her underwear and her book ended up being carried as they walked up together. "The only bad thing is that I can't ride my bike around here. The ground's too uneven on most of the roads." He patted her gently, opening the door for them. "Thanks." She looked up the stairs as Dief walked down them. "Did the nasty artwork scare you, sweetums?" she cooed, petting him. "Don't worry, it does me too. That's why we'll be painting soon." He barked and went outside to sniff at the bushes. "Do not go into the woods without a human," she called after him. "There are poachers out there." He barked and came back in, giving them a long look. "Go find your human and ask him. I'm sure he'd like to walk in the woods." Dief ran up the stairs, going to do that.
"For a deaf wolf, he understands you very well," Ray quipped.
"That's because he knows I'm the alpha bitch," she said dryly, leading him up to their room. "Ours," she announced, closing the door behind her. "We removed the artwork in here at an early age." He smirked at her and motioned her closer, taking her into the bathroom to shower with her, just in case there had been a hidden body in the pond.
Catherine looked up as the local judge walked up to where she was sitting in the back yard, giving him a long look. "I'm going to be back in residence within a few years," she announced. "Sooner if you don't call off your guard dog in Chicago. He's making me want to quit the force very badly."
He snorted, sitting across from her. "You'll do what then?"
She looked at him. "Like I've always said. I'm going to bring in a pro-civil rights group to help me repaint then I'm going to turn this place into a pagan retreat and meditation center." His face hardened up. "I am the one the will spoke of. My grandmother knew I was like this before she died and she never changed the will."
"Yes, we see that as a sign of her dementia," he said bitterly. "I've had someone make an offer on the house."
"I'll burn it first," she said dryly. She gave him a smug look. "My family house. Not theirs. There aren't any cousins that we know of who can contest it either." She shrugged. "Even at double fair market value I'm not selling."
"The house alone is worth double that," she pointed out, going back to her book. "Maybe I'll build a child's library and invite the county's kids up once a week for a story hour. Teach them tolerance." She gave him another look. "I'm all about getting the kids off to a better start."
"Fine," he spat. "What do you want to leave?"
"You to die and not breed any more," she said, pulling up her book again. "The house will be repainted. Even if they take me to court, it's my family house and no reasonable judge would ever let them hold this in reverence. If they want the murals that badly, they can either come and rip out those walls, without doing any structural damage, or they can take some really good photos and have them recreated. Oh, whoever put the red daisies on the table, don't try it again. I don't like flowers. Flowers are Emerald's thing and she found them. Fortunately, she didn't know what they meant." She gave him a heated look. "Did you want to meet my husband? I finally found a man who lived up to my expectations."
"No. I've heard all about your immigrant boy toy," he said bitterly.
"Hmm. Yet we were all immigrants here at one point in time," she mused. "Some of us were just from lower on the European peninsula. My own family was from the Netherlands and from Sweden. Wasn't your Irish?" He growled and got up, stomping off. "Have a nice day, Judge Summers. I'm not going to be moved by anything. I am known for my stubborn nature, in that I am exactly like my grandmother." He slammed his car's door as he got into it. "To you too, buddy," she muttered, going back to her book. "Maybe I'll replace them with beautiful murals of an encompassing nature? Maybe with many races and cultures identified." She hummed and made a note of that on the pad beside her, just in case someone was watching, which they would be. She heard Benny chuckle and looked at him with a grin. "What?" she asked innocently.
"I know a good group who would be more than happy to do that." He handed over the letter. "Ray found it in the mail."
"Cool." She used it as her bookmark once she had read it. "I can do that." She beamed at him. "We get offers like that all the time. Mom had an offer right before they died from the Black Panthers." He looked impressed. "If only she had met the final clause of the will, she would have had it fixed long before she died. Unfortunately, she had girls." She went back to her book. "If I had died without having any children, my will would have left the lands and all to a Native American group with strict instructions to repaint whatever they wanted and to turn it into a retreat for meditation."
He patted her on the head. "You are devious, Catherine. I like that idea. I'm assuming Medicine Men and Women would be allowed?" She nodded. "Thank you." He went to talk to Ray. "She's reading in the back yard. I hadn't seen the pool but I can hear it."
"It has to be scrubbed now and then," Stanley admitted. "Anytime we leave water in it, Emerald pees in it." He gave him a long look. "Getting in your sucking up already?" He nodded, sitting down and relaxing. "How much did he offer?"
"Fifteen million. Well below the worth of the house. She threatened to burn it." They all laughed. They could see her doing that. Upstairs Emerald squealed and ran for the yard, her nurse following right behind her. Benny looked out the door, watching as she chased Dief out the door. "Diefenbaker!" he snapped.
"He's playing, it's nothing, Mister Benny," Helga called, chasing after her charge. The girl was fast sometimes.
Ray's head came up when he heard a 'crack' outside, getting up and running out the door behind him. He found Emerald on the ground, only a small graze to her arm. "Hey," he soothed, kneeling beside her. "It's okay. If they try again, Benny's gonna shoot 'em," he promised, checking her over. "Helga?" She came out of hiding. "She's grazed."
Catherine came around the side of the house, glaring at the woods. "That's your last chance to reform into Godfearing people, because I will come down like he would," she yelled. "Come on out, coward! I know you're out there and I'm letting the wolf loose!" Diefenbaker growled for show. Someone went running. "Fetch and hold," she said, pointing. He took off, with Benny right behind him. She helped her sister up, looking at her arm. "It's all right, Emerald. It's just a cut. I promise it's all right." She gave her a long hug, patting her on the back. "Let's let Helga take you upstairs and run you a long bath so you can soak that nasty thing clean." Emerald ran to Helga and clutched her. "Clean it out, I'll be up later to bandage it if Ray doesn't." She followed at Benny at a fast walk, catching up to him and the creature in the woods. She pulled out her handcuffs. "Opening fire on a little girl whose brain doesn't work right is not a good or a legal thing to do," she chastised. "You're under arrest for the attempted murder of Emerald Demoranth. You have the right to remain silent. The right to an attorney. The right to quit moving before I kick you in the head. Benny, be a dear and go call the state police. Not the city ones, they're all his buddies." He nodded, leaving Dief there. She looked at him. "Keeping me from killing him?" The wolf barked. "Good idea. I learned many neat things busting Columbian drug dealers. They've got all sorts of interesting ideas on punishment." The man whimpered. She heard a siren and hauled him up, leading him off. She didn't care that he had pissed himself while he was on the ground, it was his own fault. She nodded at the state cop. "You guys watching the revel?"
"Just in case, Detective. Are you all right?"
"My sister Emerald was shot in the arm," she said as she handed him over. "He shot at someone with the IQ of a bunny rabbit." The cop got him into the back seat as hard as he could. "Thank you. Are the bigots trying to take over your unit too?"
"No, Detective. Are they in Chicago?" She nodded, heading for the house. "Can we get a statement?"
"He shot at her, I came around the corner, sicced Diefenbaker there on him, letting him chase him down with his Mountie's help, then walked out to cuff him. I only partially Miranda'd him because he was wiggling and I have no patience today."
"Thank you, Detective. We'll go look for his weapon ourselves."
"That's fine. Have at it. You're always welcome here. You're not a bigot." She gave Ray a hug on the way past, going up to tend to her sister if Stanley wasn't. He was though so she went to the gym to beat the hell out of the heavy bag instead. She heard a phone ring somewhere but figured someone else would be getting it. When she was good and sweaty, she went to find her son and cuddle him. He liked being cuddled and it made her feel almost as good as cuddling Ray. He was more than happy to latch on for a bit of snack and some cuddling. Ray came in and she grunted at him.
"That was Ma. She's on her way up for the day."
"It's a three-hour drive."
"She'll go back tomorrow for late services," he told her, stroking her hair. "You okay?"
"Just pissed," she admitted. "I want them gone." She looked up at him. "Remind me again why I can't use some of my street contacts and have them eliminated?"
"Because you're a cop," he said dryly, sitting next to her. "They frown on people doing that. If you do, then I'd have ta arrest you and cuff you and send you away. Then you wouldn't get any more cuddles."
"Good point," she admitted, leaning against his side. The baby didn't like that position so he kicked at them. "Sorry, son." She shifted him to the other side, it wasn't being squished by his daddy.
Ray chuckled, looking down at his son. "You are spoiled," he announced.
She nodded. "Definitely."
He kissed her on the head. "We have a gym?"
"Yeah, I had one put in back during my early rookie days." She shrugged. "It came in handy." She grinned at him. "Well, you've now met the only good cop in a fifty-mile radius. What did you think of the family home?"
"I think it needs some painting."
"I'm calling on a civil rights group to come up and help me destroy all of those. There's some that are locked away too." He nodded. "Did you pick locks?"
"No. I heard about them from Helga. She warned us not to pick any locks and to stay out of the master suite and the dining room." She nodded. "Ever think about burning this thing?"
"All the time," she admitted. "And it's not a crime if we don't ask for the insurance money." He laughed, hugging her tightly. The baby complained again. "Sorry, son. Here, have your father, I want some of him myself." She pulled the son off, handing him over.
Ray looked down at the pouting face. "You can have more later, after your Ma's calm." He kissed him on the forehead. "You behave or no curling up with the wolf today." The baby soothed himself and cooed at him. "That's what I like."
"Hopefully Ma's remembered to feed the cats."
"Hopefully," he agreed. "If not, we can go back a day early." He kissed her on the forehead too. "You relax. It'll be fine. We can do an Alamo if we have to."
"The weapons are in the basement," she admitted. "My father collected them." He gave her a long look. "Seriously. He wanted to go on a rampage against the local Klan. Each time they pissed him off, he went to buy a gun. We've got an arsenal downstairs."
"Damn, woman, are you hiding a computer link to the CIA too?"
She beamed. "They refused me permission," she said lightly. "So instead we've got an old cobbled together system in the main office. Em likes to play freecell on it." He chuckled again, shaking his head. "Expect to watch the Wizard of Oz at least once while we're here. It's her favorite movie because she's mentioned."
"I can deal with that," he promised. "What happens if something happens to her?"
"The house is officially mine, I simply ceded living status to her until her death. That way I don't have to look at the bad artwork myself. Our trust fund takes care of Helga's pay, the other few retainer's pay, the household expenses, and all that good stuff. It'll run out in about another fifty years. Our great-grandmother was the third daughter of an oil baron who liked to buy small railroads and consolidate them before selling them. If she dies, all the trust fund comes back to me, the house is fully mine, and I've met all the 'but' clauses in my grandparent's wills. I can fully redecorate as long as I live here most of the year. If we hadn't gotten together, then I could have redecorated as soon as I hit menopause and stopped having a cycle. The 'but' clause said a male heir or no heirs." He growled. "It also had something about us not following in the family's footsteps. If we did, then we would have gotten more money. Mom couldn't pretend that good so it went into a trust fund in case any of our future family wanted to relive the glory days of their existence." He snorted. "So we're clear on that end. Mom was a hippie before there were hippies, but she only had two girls. We almost had a male uncle but he died at eighteen because he was a stupid asshole from what mom said." She looked up at him. "So it's really mine but I'm not sending Emerald away from the house. Not unless we have to. Will your Mother mind Emerald?"
"No, she'll adore her too," Ray promised, kissing her again. "Ma helps out with a few families who have kids that bad and worse now and then." He went back to his stroking. "Did you ever meet your grandparents?"
"Grandfather died when I was two. Grandmother died when I was eight and her mother died when I was six. I met one of them in the nursing home. The other we unfortunately lived with until she died. I used to tell her all about how I wanted to know people who weren't the same. She used to scream at me for it, Ray. I can't excuse her bad taste or her ideology. I've never been able to rationalize bigots to myself. Even if I hadn't grown up with her, I wouldn't be able to. At school we got the family's history told to us each year around this time. The White Heritage Festival is big business around here." He nodded, keeping her calm. "I almost expect something really bad to happen when I move in permanently. You two will be taking a vacation to your mother's the year that happens." She gave him a look. "Don't argue."
"I won't," he promised. He smiled. "If we have to, can we move the whole family up here?"
"Won't they mind the pagans?"
"Probably not and it'll do Tony good to see other ways. Make him less concerned about such stuff." He heard a doorbell. "Ma said she was calling from a rest stop but that was quick." Someone came running up the stairs. "We're in here."
Stanley poked his head in. "It's Welsh. Cat, you've now got a stalker who wants to kill for you." She groaned, shaking her head. "I'm sending him up, 'kay?" She nodded, giving him a faint smile. "It'll be okay. We can beat up on the bigots all we want." He winked and went to tell Welsh.
"Stan, Ma's on her way up too," Ray called after him. "I wonder who this one is."
"I wonder who he hit," Catherine noted, sitting up and putting back on a shirt. Welsh tapped them came in. "You drove all the way up here instead of calling?"
"I had to. The Mayor's pissed at you."
"I didn't do it."
"We realize that, but he thinks you somehow encourage these stalkers."
"He's had two himself, does he encourage them?" Ray asked.
"No, but he sees this as something different. Catherine, she sent you a very nice love note, saying how she knew that Ray was woman enough for you, but you obviously needed a firmer hand to help you fix the problems. Signed it Gabriel."
"As in from the mental ward that thought she was having an angel?" Ray asked.
"We're not sure yet. Someone," he coughed, "asked that in front of the press when they heard." He smirked. "Then the Mayor's eyes went wide and he looked at us, telling us to ask them."
"Who did she get?"
"Not fatally," he soothed, sitting on the edge of the bed. He looked around, grimacing at one wall. "Can't cover it?"
"Some of the original oil paint seeps through now and then," she admitted. "I repaint it every two years." She shrugged. "I don't know anymore." She curled up against Ray's side again. "Now what do I do? I'm still on leave. Not that I get much rest. Between him and IA I'm not getting hardly any sleep yet."
"Mildred called IAD off your ass," Welsh said firmly. "She fired that one kid, citing the letter your lawyer sent her about the abuse of the system. You could have sued us for that much?"
"Yeah, but I probably wouldn't have gotten more than half of the yearly budget," she offered. She shrugged. "I'm more than willing to come back, after my maternity leave."
"That's what we were hoping you'd say," he said, looking relieved. "Your rookies are back to finish their training now that Robbery has tossed them over. We're covered on that end until you come back. They seem to really like Huey so far." He smiled. "How much longer do you have?"
"Another nine weeks," Ray said. "I've got until next Friday if I had taken all of it."
"Yeah, all next week. I want you both back in the city soon, but I don't want you in the office. You can email in on cases for Stanley and Fraser." He looked around. "Where's your sister?"
"She was in the bathtub getting a graze bandaged," she said, standing up. She walked out and looked down the halls, frowning at the smoke. "Em!" she called, heading that way. She tested the doorknob, not hot. "Ray, we'll need help. There's smoke from Em's room!" She kicked in the door, then gasped and choked as the tear gas hit her. "Em!" Someone led her away. "Em!"
"Shh. Stan's found a mask, let him go," Ray ordered, leading her back to their room to lay her down. Someone came running up the stairs. "It's tear gas!" he called. One of them looked in. "We're cops."
"Thank you, sir." He ran after his boss, going to find anyone.
Ray kept her laying down, accepting the damp towel from Welsh. "Go find Benny. See if Dief was with him or her." Welsh's eyes went wide and he went to do that, finding them in the foyer. Ray laid down beside her, trying to keep her calm. "Em's a strong girl," he soothed.
"She's got fluid buildup in her lungs, Ray."
"Shit. We'll do whatever we can, Cat. I promise we will." She nodded and he looked over as someone came in. "How is she?"
"The young lady is gone, I'm sorry," the firefighter announced. "We're taking the nurse to the hospital now. Does she need to go?"
"I'll be fine," Catherine said, coughing a little. "I may borrow her traveling tank though." She coughed again, sitting up to do that. "Ow." She held her chest, wincing at the pain in it.
"Ma'am, we can easily take you with us," he offered again.
"We'll be fine. We've both been exposed to it before," Ray told him. "Take good care of Helga. How long, can you tell?"
"Not at all, sir. The smoke was still very thick. We're leaving one person and one of the state boys here." Ray nodded so he left. He stopped to look at the dog. "What breed is he?"
"He's a mix," Benny admitted. "Formerly wild. From the Arctic Circle."
"He's a big guy. I guess he must like the woods. You should see 'em in winter." He headed out to the ambulance. "She's coughing but they said they've been exposed before. She's in shock about her sister."
"That's fine. It's understandable. Who could have done that?"
"Look around, they're all around the county." The ambulance took off with them in the back, it was his duty to get a statement from her about this. There weren't enough cops around to do that.
Ray looked up as his mother walked into the kitchen. "Finally!" He gave her a hug. "You okay?"
"Fine. I saw Catherine in the garden. She told me what happened. She also told us not to go into certain rooms and why." She stroked the side of his face. "My poor daughter and son."
"She'll be fine, Ma. Emerald was injured before birth but she was really happy with what she had. She was always laughing at something no one could see. Cat called it Fairies." She nodded, giving him a strong hug. "Thanks. Here, help me with this. I'm making her something soothing." She nodded, washing her hands so she could help make the homemade caramel sauce. "Benny's got the baby."
"I know, we've already seen him," she said, giving him a smile. "He looks very natural like that."
"He does," Ray agreed. "He should have a few too. Him and Stan both."
"They will," she said wisely. "Somehow they'll find a way." He nodded, letting her taste his other sauce. "It's too sweet, Ray."
"She likes sweet, Ma."
"Hmph. You go comfort her. I'll do this." She gave him a shove, making him laugh and head off. "Men," she said, shaking her head. "Always too sweet."
Ray found his sister first. "Not in that room," he said before she could open the door. "That's one that's got the murals."
"Oooh." She winced. "Bad?" He waved a hand so she peeked and came back green. "Bad." She nodded. "How long before she can destroy those?"
"She has to take permanent residence by the wills." He shrugged. "We're thinking about retiring here. Turning it into a pagan retreat." He opened the study door, showing the kids to the tv, the books, and the computer. "In there. Don't look at any paintings. Some are really nasty and prove that Cat's ancestors were dumb." He went to fetch his wife, picking her up and carrying her back into the house. "Mope and mourn later," he said when she looked up at him. "Let the state guys get it. We'll work on the funeral tomorrow." She nodded, resting against his chest until Maria's oldest came looking for them. "Yeah?"
"Are there any games, Uncle Ray?"
"They'd all be up in my sister's room and that's where the gas attack occurred," Catherine said quietly. "Sorry, guys. Have Benny take you out to the pool?" She beamed and went to suggest that to their parents. She looked up at him again. "Can't I just burn it?" she asked quietly.
"No. Not unless we can't fix the seeping paint." She nodded, putting her head back down. He stood there holding her until Tony joined them. "Problems?"
"Ray, what's with this house?"
"My grandparents and their parents were bigots of the extreme nature," Catherine told him, giving him a look. "As soon as we move here, I can have it redecorated."
"Okay. I was talking more about the rooms. Who lives like this?"
Ray snorted, shaking his head. "If we move up here, we're bringing the whole family up, Tony. Don't worry about it." He nodded, going back to his wife's side.
"Don't open any locked doors and don't let the kids into any rooms without checking it first," she called after him. "Protect their sanity so they don't end up like me."
Tony looked at her. "What?"
Ray pointed at the dining room. "They were extreme in their decorating too." Tony looked and shuddered. "We can't redecorate until we live here full time."
"The wills said so," Catherine said at his confused look. "Some have been locked, where available. The rest aren't. The master suite. The dining room. A few of the rooms in the basement. Don't let the kids open any doors without you checking them first."
"Plus, the old paint sometimes seeps through," Ray offered. "Our bedroom's like that."
Tony nodded. "I can handle that. We're only up here for a day but we get to come help paint."
"You guys and a pro-civil rights group," she said firmly. He smiled and headed after his kids, going to enjoy the gardens. "Hey, Tony?" He turned to look at her. "If we do move everyone up here, there is a small school but the whole county is full of bigots. Especially the lone mechanic in town." He smirked and nodded. "She looked up at Ray. "I think he should open his own if we do it that way."
"He probably could," Ray agreed, giving her a squeeze. Benny came in with the fussing baby so he let the mother go so she could feed him. He never got tired of watching that sight.
Benny walked off with a strong blush, going to hide from other people for a bit, at least until Stanley ambushed him for a kiss and pulled him out into the woods for a walk.
Catherine walked back into her precinct after a week, looking around. "Damn, I'm gone a few weeks and they close us?" she asked, making Huey, the only person in residence, laugh. "We're back in the city now. Ray wanted to know if you had anything for us to do. He's bored with the baby at the moment."
"Just a few things," he admitted, pointing at Ray's desk. "They're all his."
She sighed and picked up the stack. "Thanks. I'm sure he'll be very happy with all this work." She headed out with them, going down to her car. They went into the back, she went into the front, then she went to go grocery and diaper shopping. By the time she got home, the trunk was mostly full and so was the backseat where all the files had shifted and moved. She got out and looked up at the open apartment windows. "Ray, come help," she called.
He came out, giving her a look. "The owner's here."
"Yay. Are we moving?"
"No. He wanted to do a check of the building. He thought the nursery was cute." He grabbed the files and hauled them up the stairs, coming back to help with more of the groceries than she was allowed to carry. He even put some of them up while she went to check on the baby, who wasn't there, and then showed him around the building. He looked over as Catherine came back frowning. "Problems?"
"He thought we should get rid of the cats because of the baby." She shrugged and closed the door behind herself, leaning on it. "Hey, Ray, if we do move up there, can we go run the local police department?"
"Sure," he agreed, giving her a look. "Why?"
"Because someone up there called our landlord and told him we were aberrant people who were going to infect our child with the wrong thinking that the modern world was creating."
"And our landlord said what?" he asked, leaning on the counter.
"He doesn't agree with them, but he wanted to warn me. He said to give him a few days warning if we moved." Ray nodded. "Huey was the only one at the office."
"Wonderful," he said dryly. He picked up the first folder and looked through it while she put up everything else, including the ice cream he hadn't seen. He did hear the box pop open and pulled down two bowls for them, giving her a long look. "Ben and Jerry's?"
"It's been one of those days," she agreed. She handed over his bowl of ice cream. "I got a nice call by a Federal person who suggested we go up there and run for Chief of Police." He groaned. "They think we can turn around that whole situation by ourselves. They think you should go for it though, it's definitely a patriarchal system around there." She brought her ice cream out to the couch. "Where is our son?"
"Ma has him," he said, giving her a look. "She missed him." He came to sit next to her, then went to put up the ice cream she had left out. He came back and leaned against her. "I'm not against that idea," he admitted. "I'd make a great Chief."
"You would, but you'd miss the city," she pointed out.
"We can come visit the city." He kissed her on the temple. "We'll manage if we do move out there full time."
"Hmm." She rested her head against his shoulder and handed over her ice cream. "I guess we will. I can build a library."
"Did the lawyer do this?"
"That and the guy who came up and called me a Caldwell."
"Who did that?"
"The head of the U of A-APO."
"Why did the Black Cops union come up and call you a Caldwell?"
"All he was told was that I was the only heir left. He thought we still went by that name since I'm white." She looked up at him. "Then he realized who he was talking to when I snapped at him about never being a Caldwell and never honoring my family's ideals. He recognized me as one of the gay cops actually." Ray chuckled. "So we talked about repainting the house. I told him I was probably going to have to bring in more than one group since it was so much of the house. He agreed. He suggested they could come help too."
Ray smiled. "They'd probably love that. We've got some big pro-rights people in the department, they've been fighting since the civil rights movement."
"I know. I told him what I was planning on doing to the estate and he grimaced. It bothered his Methodist soul." He nodded. "I had to point out that his religion would be welcome to come up and meditate too, as long as they came in peace."
"Good job. We'll work on that." She nodded, closing her eyes. "Anything else?"
"The IA brat came up to me while I was having lunch. Scott just *happened* to be eating at the same place I was. He wanted to talk. The other guy came up to threaten me." He groaned. "Scott called him off."
"Scott's always had a problem with me because I knew my shit and I was sleeping with women. If I had been a crap cop, he'd have been perfectly fine with me. Since I turned out to be one of the better ones in the department, it blew his notions of what a gay woman should be. Apparently I confuse him. He's called off his own pursuit of me too. He said he's tracked my files for years and can't find a thing wrong in any of my cases. Though he did say he'd keep looking but that I wasn't going to be his main target anymore. I think whoever did that spooked him."
"It would me too. What did our beloved Chief have to say about that?"
"Just that I was to stay inside as much as possible and to please not argue with anybody. That she wanted us to live." He chuckled. "So I guess that's about it. I'm house-bound for a few more days at the very least. It appears Gabriel is the same as that former patient; he was in because he had Gender Dsymorphia. He wanted to be female and cut his dick off." She dug her finger into Ray's second bowl of ice cream and licked it clean while he shuddered. "So we're in the clear there, though I did not tell them that Turnbull put that idea forth accidentally. Stanley did." He groaned. "So I told Turnbull if we went back to the estate and become Chief of Police he could come work for us if he got fired for it. I had to do some fast talking about how he was protecting me from the person holding Benny hostage. The Chief said she expected no less from me."
"She's your ex, she would know," Ray agreed, taking a large bite of ice cream. "He cut his own off?"
"Yeah. You see it all the time in the press if you're looking for it. Mostly it's either people who don't want to be male, or think that their penis is the cause of their lust."
"So, a nut or a religious nut," he said, understanding that much.
"Most trannies aren't nuts, Ray."
"I know that, but to do it that way?" He shuddered again. "They have surgeries for that."
"They do, and you have to pass a long process of hormones, living as the opposite sex for over a year, a lot of psych evaluations, and a lot of flak from everyone. It's enough to make anyone a little unhinged." She gave him a long look. "It's the same for women going the other way."
"I realize that, but still. To cut it off?"
"It's okay, Ray. I'll never do that to you," she soothed, stroking down his thigh. "Whatever shall we do with two weeks off?"
"I've only got until Friday."
"Millie said you're to guard me or Turnbull will."
"Damn." He kissed her. "We'll have a meeting tonight and work it out. All four of us, Welsh, and Turnbull." She nodded, licking her lips. "Feeling frisky?"
"Hell yes. Hurry up with the ice cream unless you want me to lick it off you." He finished both bowls very quickly, and didn't mind the headache too much because she cured it for him.
Catherine looked up as Turnbull brought out the rest of the bowls. "Thank you, Turnbull."
"It's not a problem, detective." He smiled at everyone. "Should we say Grace?"
"We're a 'to each their own version' around here," she told him. "Go ahead if you want. Ray does." He nodded and bowed his heading, saying a quick Grace while Ray did his. When they were done, she cleared her throat. "Stan, you took notes about the meeting, why don't you start."
He looked at Ray. "It was suggested that you tie her inta the house to keep her out of trouble, and to provide her guards. The Chief said it was bad this time. Last time they only had handcuffed cops and she was worried about some of us getting hit too from our play arguments."
"I can see that," Ray agreed. "What else?" He dished himself up some cauliflower and passed it along. "Anything very bad?"
"Someone wanted Cat to become the Chief up there," he offered. "Though they think you'd do it easier because they're male dominated."
"Most people who hold extreme beliefs appear to be," Benny put in. "Turnbull told Inspector Thatcher on himself, explaining the whole situation as it happened. She asked him if we were all related."
Catherine giggled. "Sorry, Turnbull. I didn't mean to suck you into my demented world."
"It's not a problem, Detective."
"Catherine," she corrected. "You eat at my table, you can call me by my first name." He beamed. "So, what else was suggested when I had to go change the diaper? I only heard the I should be guarded part."
"Yeah, well, Ray's got an extra week off, with pay. As long as you two work some here and send it to us. And no, Millie said she didn't mean for you to set up more dealers." Someone rang the doorbell so he got up to answer it. "Hey, Welsh. Come on in. You too, Huey. Come to grope the baby some more?"
"Not totally," Huey admitted. He nodded at them. "We just intercepted a death threat, Catherine; against Ray because he had the audacity to marry you."
"From a woman?" Ray asked.
"No. From one of the bigots. They liked her better when she liked girls." He grimaced as he handed over the copy of it.
"That's what we've got to talk about," Welsh told them.
"We were talking about Millie's orders already so pull up a chair. There'll be plenty." They went to grab chairs out of the study, coming back to scrunch in around the table while Ray found plates for them. Ray looked at his wife. "It's not as bad as you thought."
"No, it's not," she admitted, reading it. "Can't we just go up there and storm the town?"
"No. Your hormones are talking again." She sighed and nodded. He looked at their boss. "A few people have suggested that we go up there and take over the Chief of Police spot in the local town."
"That would start solving the problems," Huey offered, "but it'd cause a lot more." He looked at her. "You were very polite to my union rep today. Thank you."
"Hey, he called me a Caldwell. He should have known better," she said dryly. "Once he recognized me, he showed the proper deference for my magnificence so I let him off lightly." She handed over the bowl of pasta. "Eat."
"Fine." Welsh took it and dished some out, handing it off to Huey through Benton. "What are we going to do about this?"
"Let my stalker have them?" Catherine suggested.
"No." Ray shook his head. "Bad idea, Cat. Really bad idea." He gave her a look. "Not even they deserve that sort of treatment. They deserve to be put in a jail cell and treated like how they treat others."
"Put them in Joliet in 'C' block. It's mostly black now," Huey offered. "It's got most of the Black Muslim group right now." Catherine nodded and chuckled. Ray groaned and shook his head. "It'd teach 'em."
"It might, but they'd die," Ray told him. "The idea is to reeducate." He looked at Welsh. "Can we find Gabriel?"
"We can," he admitted. "We're staking him out right now. Vice got it actually." He nodded at Catherine. "The other person pretending to be her is presently being chased. That leaves the bigot problem."
"I'd have to move up there full time to have the house repainted," she put in. Huey looked hurt. "By the orders of the will."
"That's okay, someone filed a stop order from you doing that," Welsh told her. "Stella saw it and called over." Stanley groaned. "Problems with your stomach?"
"No. Just a problem with an idea. If we've got the bigots calmed, when did you tell the union rep today to go paint?"
"I said we'd be painting as soon as we moved up there full time and I'd invite him up," she told him. "It won't be today or soon, he knows that. He suggested we do it on MLK jr. day."
"That would be symbolic," Ray agreed. "We have to find a painter who can tell us how to not let the old paint come through again."
"Yeah, we should," she agreed. "And someone to come help us hose off old blood from one room." He gave her a startled look. "It's ingrained in the wood. We hosed it off years ago but it still comes out during the hottest months."
"Rip it out," he said slowly and clearly. She smiled at him. "I mean it. I don't that around."
"Me either. We'll figure it out, Ray. I'm sure one of us knows a good contractor." Ray nodded. "Really?" She grinned at him. "An Italian, in construction? What a shock."
He snorted. "A few of them in the farther cousins," he admitted. "Behave." She beamed. "Okay, then try to behave." She laughed and nodded, kissing him on the cheek. "Thanks. Eat. You're losing weight again and you'll never be able to support the baby and you on what you eat." She obediently took a bite of dinner. "So, since she's already on leave and we've got mine worked out. Now what?"
Welsh chuckled. "This is far from over. Mildred did want her guarded when you come back next week, Ray. She said your first official thing was graduation." He looked at Catherine. "She suggested you could go teach at the academy." She whimpered. "You liked the academy."
"I did, but I don't want to live there."
"Good point," Ray agreed. "She'd have to live on grounds and we couldn't be with her."
"Then we'd have ta go visit more often," Stanley pointed out. "They'd never get any privacy."
"Mildred also suggested that we have her set up her own academy at the estate," Welsh offered. "To teach good detective skills. Tolerance and all that stuff." The baby wailed and Turnbull jumped before anyone could go fetch him, bringing him back after changing him. "You're good."
"They taught us how to change a diaper at our academy," he said happily, holding the baby. "They considered it a practical skill that was necessary, the same as cooking was."
"Good for them," Ray agreed. "I like that attitude. I could have used that class to bring up my grades."
"You and me both," Catherine sighed. "I had the flu in the middle of ours." Welsh groaned, shaking his head. "Sorry, not my fault."
"I know. I remember quite well you puking on the range instructor's shoes when he yelled at you for your lack of focus." She beamed at him.
Ray looked at her. "That was you? They told us horror stories about your group." She laughed and nodded. "Good job. You scared them."
"I turned one into an alcoholic too when I kept asking about the proper restraint procedures for people who pissed you off, like the Klan members in our class. I also asked if it was ethical to torture them." Welsh nodded, he remembered that too.
"Did they quit?" Turnbull asked.
"No, but they got one hell of a sensitivity lecture going in our year," she told him. "Our instructor didn't even start to mention how to deal with people of opposite colors or persuasions. So I asked."
"It took four classes," Welsh sighed. "It was the easiest week we had. Drove another of our officers to drink that night too. She apparently hit a nerve hard enough to do a root canal without drugs." She cackled at that. "That's what started off our second day of the lecture, him going back over why it was wrong to pick on people of other races. Then she had to go and mention Stonewall in our third class when he asked for any questions. He said he was sure we could be polite while not touching them, but that he was *sure* there weren't any on the force."
"You outed yourself?" Ray asked.
She nodded, looking very smug. "I pointed out that everyone in that room had touched me at least once, so now they knew what the stronger end of the lesbian spectrum was like. He was flabbergasted. It upset him horribly. He thought I was just a good cop." She shook her head in mock-sadness. "So he had to rethink his position there as well. The range instructor was the only one who didn't back away from me. He got in my face about it. So I gave it back about him actually wanting a man of his own. I made him cry," she said proudly. "He came out later that night."
Ray groaned. "No wonder!" He looked at Stanley, who was smirking. "You came after me."
"Yeah, and the instructors warned my group not to be like hers too. That they didn't need any instructors with a nervous breakdown. They drilled us extremely hard to make sure we had no individuality in the uniform. They drove off the one person they thought was gay. Cat's class also gave us some of the best detectives we have though and they realized that. They sent that one girl to the next class, where there were a ton of fuckups." Turnbull covered the baby's ears. "He'll be fine."
"I'm sure, but don't swear in front of him."
"Turnbull, relax. The kid'll learn them anyway."
"Rennie, trust me, I swear like a sailor. He'll learn them anyway." Turnbull relaxed and nodded. "He can't say them until he's sixteen, but he'll learn 'em by then." He gave her a long look. "I know, but I don't do it in polite company. Only around friends, and at work."
He laughed, shaking his head. "Your reputation proceeded you, Catherine. You are very fierce in all fields of combat that you choose." He handed over the fussing baby to his father, who kissed him and handed him on.
"Please, not at the table," Welsh pleaded.
"I've got a bottle. I pump half the time, guys. Really. Relax, before I decide to breastfeed him at work some day."
Welsh spluttered. "Don't do that," Huey pleaded. "That will be the day they bring the rookies or they bring in the press or something." She grinned. "Please?"
"Fine. Spoil sports." She went to grab him a bottle, stuffing it into his mouth. "There, eat." He wiggled some so she rearranged him until he was more comfortable. "Better?" He cooed and drank happily.
"Don't you get to feed the baby, Ray?" Turnbull asked.
"Not until he starts on solids. I don't have the equipment to feed him yet and none of my nieces and nephews liked taking a bottle from me. Speaking of, we need to find a food mill."
Catherine gave him a look. Then she pointed in the kitchen. "If you're planning on making baby food, there's a food processor in there." He gave her a look. "If not, I can teach you how to use the press machine you were wondering about. It's easier to clean up and takes less energy to use. I'm not using a food mill. I had to do that for Em." He nodded, giving her an understanding look. "The press machine would work better anyway. It'll make about the right amount."
"Press machine?" Stanley asked.
"Yes, I did cave into pressure and bought a cooking machine off an infomercial. The LePress is pretty nice over all, but I got tired of cranking the handle up and down for each glass of juice. We do have a juicer as well, but the cord was frayed thanks to Oz."
"Is she the reason the end of the wooden spoons are chewed on?" Ray asked dryly. She grinned and nodded. "I thought I had seen her doing that. Teach her better."
"You know where the squirt gun is," she retorted. She looked at Welsh. "What else am I doing while I'm supposedly resting and getting back into shape?"
"Just work with Ray on the files," he said. "You can coach the rookies from afar for a bit." He smiled at her. "I do like Millie's idea that you open up a detective's academy. Some of them need it. It's sad that the specialist squads don't have the best detectives, we do."
Ray smirked. "With great skill comes brains. We knew we didn't want to go somewhere with high pressure and low clearance. You get frustrated and quit sooner."
"Hey, I liked Vice," she complained.
"Fine, most of us," Ray joked, grinning at her. She pinched him. "Hey!"
"Keep it up. Don't have sex tonight."
"Catherine, I will beg and plead for you not to ever get pregnant again," Huey told her. "I will pay for all your condoms until I retire if you don't ever get pregnant again." She laughed, leaning on Ray's arm. "Who's kidding? Please?"
"We'll see," Ray told him. He looked at her and she shrugged. "The doc *supposedly* tied off her tubes but he never made her sign forms for it."
"Pill?" Stanley suggested.
"Not with my blood pressure and at my age," she quipped. "Non-hormonal means only."
"We try, guys. We really do. Eric came as a big shock to all of us."
"Ray, she made the Cardinal cry," Stanley reminded him.
Ray looked at her. "You did?"
She nodded. "I did. He went to fix his priest that was causing us so much trouble too. It's amazing, Chicago will have a lot of cooperation from the Church until he leaves in a few years."
"Good. Another abuse case?"
"Priest using older rituals to cut up people," she admitted. "Crossover homicide case." He shuddered. "Sorry, dear." She dug into her food, eating heartily. She was really hungry. "Ray, we do need to buy more supplies anyway."
"Yes, we do," he agreed. "There's no way in hell I'm going without again." He gave her a long look, then a smile. "I would suggest we go for a ride, but that means we'd need ta have a babysitter."
"Diefenbaker seems happy to do that, Ray," Benny told him.
Stanley looked at him. "Sure, say that now, but then who changes the dirty diapers?"
Benny sighed. "I will, Stan."
"That's fine. I hate diapers. They're my main objection to have any of my own." Benny gave him a long look. "I've wanted kids forever, Benny. Eric is really cute."
"We'll discuss that possibility later," he said firmly. Stanley kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you."
Huey choked. "Knowing and *knowing* are two different things," he told them. Stanley gave him a look. "I don't want to see Ray and Catherine make out either. Please?"
"We keep it down at the station," Stanley pointed out. "This is our off-time."
"Sorry. I'm a Puritan at heart. I think everyone should have their own bedroom and do it in the dark. Without anyone watching, taping, or eating any sort of snack food during it."
Catherine giggled. "Huey!"
"Seriously. I've always been like this."
"That's okay. We'll keep it down ta holding hands when you're around," Stanley assured him.
"Thank you. It's just freaky, okay? I don't like watching anyone kiss. Not even het people."
"Everyone's got different tolerance limits," Catherine pointed out. "If you haven't gotten over it by now then you probably won't. Ray and I try to keep it out of the station too."
Welsh cleared his throat. "Thank you for that. You're a bit loud." She giggled again. "Junior said so. Speaking of the boy, I heard a rumor you've got his number on speed dial?"
"He wants us to be his parents," she said with a shrug. "Of course I've got him in my phone book. How else will I check up on him?"
"You called him during your interview with IAD?" Ray asked.
"The thought came to me that he didn't know Eric was born yet," she admitted. "We're doing a fly-through on the way to the next convention."
"Fine," Ray agreed, smiling at her. "I like Junior. He's a neat little guy." He picked up her fork and handed it to her. "You need ta eat."
"Sure, Ray." She ate a big bite of pasta, making him smile. "My doctor will be happy if I lose some weight."
"So will I, if only because it'll make you feel better, but I don't want you starving yourself because of it. You don't eat, you nibble."
"I take times like that, Ray. That's all it is."
"No postpartum depression or anything?" Welsh asked. She shook her head, eating another bite. "Are the mood swings gone?"
"Good. I'll chip in with Huey so you can never have another one near me again."
She laughed. "They weren't that bad. I had the worst ones here." Stanley nodded, then shook his head. "I promise, I'll take prozac next time if I have them. Okay?"
"Fine," Welsh agreed. "Nothing herbal?"
"They're not for pregnant women." She ate another bite then put her fork down again, drinking some of her tea with a grimace. "Eww." She got up and went to get a soda. On the way back, she handed the baby off. "Your turn, my arm's numb."
"Fine." Eric promptly spit out the bottle and screamed at him for not being the mommy. "Hey! Stop it," he complained. "I'm tryin'."
"Hand him here, Ray. He seems to like to eat in my arms."
Ray gladly handed him over, watching as Benny soothed him into drinking again. "It's got to be that calmness. She's got it too when she's feeding him," he groused. "Does he drink for you, Turnbull?"
"I've never had him over a feeding time, Ray. I suspect he might. I always did good with my father's hunting dogs when we had to bottle feed them." He ate another bite and watched the baby eat.
"Rennie, my man," Stanley said firmly, making the younger mountie blush.
"I doubt he was watching him for that reason, Stan. My 'dar didn't pick him up at all."
"Fine." He gave her a long look. Then he grinned. "Spoiled."
"I am not."
"You are too. You've got Ray wrapped around your finger."
"Do not," she complained.
"Yes, you do," Ray agreed. "Otherwise I wouldn't have put on real clothes today." He gave her a look and she gave him an innocent look. "Oh, really?" She licked her lips. "Store first, Kitten."
"I know, Ray," she sighed. "Store then fun."
"We don't want to know," Welsh told them before they could start anything right there. "The night after the Peyna bust was quite enough for most of us. I know all I need to know about your life together." He stuffed his mouth. "This is really good, Ray. Your Ma's recipe?"
"Hers, out of a diabetic cookbook," Ray admitted. "Ma's been picking it up though. She's got some friends at church who are too." He shrugged. "It sucks, but we manage it pretty well."
"Very well. My blood sugar was near normal again this morning," Catherine told him. He smiled at her. "Now all we need is the nasty stress to go away." Ray gave her a gentle kiss, making Huey blush, but they were interrupted by the phone. "Stan, you're closer, grab that."
He reached behind him, picking up the phone. "Yeah?" He listened. "No, this isn't Vecchio. This is Kowalski. Sure," he agreed, handing it to Welsh. "The person sending death threats to him. He's not that bright."
Welsh grunted, his mouth was full, and listened to the whole tirade. "You sure you wanna do that? She'll protect him." The guy went off again, sounding more and more uneducated as he went on. "Sure, yeah, we get it. Have fun with that." He hung up. "Ray, he just threatened your car. He also just told us he's in the 22nd as a patrol cop." He dialed the Chief of Police's number, calling on her to get him. "Hey, it's Harding. Vecchio's stalker just called. He's in the twenty-second and he's an illiterate bastard. Sounds like a football player. No, he said so." He laughed. "Sure." He hung up. "She'll be touring down there tonight and tomorrow."
Catherine shook her head. "I knew warping you at the academy would be worthwhile."
"Sometimes a spark of deviousness and funny thinking helps," he agreed, giving her a long look. "I could have done without the elf ears though."
"Elf ears?" Rennie asked.
Welsh groaned. "She used to prank me horribly, Turnbull. I woke up five or six mornings in a row wearing superglued-on elf ear tips."
"Why did you stop that?" Stan asked.
"I got caught," she said with a bright grin. "So I switched my targets."
They all laughed. That sounded like her.
Catherine walked into the State Superior courtroom the next morning, giving the prosecutor a dirty look as she sat down after being sworn in. "Fine, I'm here," she told him. "Not that you need me."
"That's fine," he said, giving her a smile. "How is he doing?"
"Fine. He's napping." She shrugged. "Call me paranoid but my many death threats means he doesn't go with hardly anybody."
"The bailiff can watch him," the judge offered.
"I don't know him. I'm presently under three separate death threat situations. The only people who hold my son are family, adopted family, and those in my direct line of sight at all times."
He nodded. "That is understandable. Should we worry?"
"I didn't see any Klan members outside so we're probably fine. They don't like my plans for my natal home."
The judge nodded once. "I've heard about that. Are you sure? He'll sit right there."
"That'll be really hard if he wakes up hungry since I'm breastfeeding."
"Ah. That's fine. Try to keep him calm then, Detective." He waved a hand at the prosecutor. "Proceed."
"Thank you, your honor. Detective Demoranth-Vecchio, you received a summons about two weeks ago?"
"Because apparently there's someone using my former badge number to go solve cases." She grimaced. "That's when I called to bother you. I found out there were others upon meeting with you."
"You have no knowledge of this case?"
"I looked it up, just in case I was somehow on it peripherally. I do help in a number of odd and unusual cases here in Chicago and have for some smaller towns, mostly upstate though. That's about all I know. It was a double homicide, one of them is in question. The town in question isn't one of the ones I've helped in the past and their description clearly doesn't fit me."
"Yes, I have your pictures on the table," he told her, smiling at her. "To make it absolutely clear, you have not in any way been part of this case?"
"Not until the summons."
"Thank you. I rest."
The Defense attorney stood up. "Detective." She gave him a look. "Why were you called again? Someone was using your former badge number? How did they get that?"
"I was taken hostage as a patrol officer near the end of my third year. I was unfortunate enough to have gotten paid and went to the bank in my uniform. They thought I was a security guard until they noticed I was carrying a weapon. They took me as a hostage, which is standard police procedure to clear out untrained and civilian targets. They tied me up, put a mask over my face before they unmasked, and kept me blindfolded the whole time they had me. I never knew who they were."
"That's how they got your former badge number?"
"Yup. They stole it off my chest. It went with them when they escaped a SWAT sting. They got my partner's too, but hers was found with one of them when he was finally captured due to an injury he received a few weeks later. Mine never was and I was issued a new badge with a new number since they were already using it to threaten some of the mafia families in town."
"I see. They've never found anyone else?"
"Not that I've been told."
"Hmm. You didn't see them at all?"
"At the bank they were wearing ski masks. They put a spare one on my head with the eye holes facing backwards. They blindfolded me after knocking me out and kept me like that the entire time I was held hostage. At the time, I blocked out some of the discussion in my exhaustion. I was awake for the entire four days it took to find and rescue me. The therapist that the police department had on retainer helped me recover four more voices. It's all on the tapes I handed to the Prosecutor. Didn't you listen to them?"
He grimaced. "I did. Who was the second voice?"
"Could he have implanted memories?"
"He didn't hypnotize me and the last I knew most cases of implanted memories were from that sort of treatment." She shifted and the baby woke up, yawning at her. "Shh, Eric," she whispered. "We'll go have a bottle in a few minutes." He snuggled in, content with where he was.
"Are you sure we can't have the baby moved?" the Defense Attorney asked.
"Over your dead body," she said firmly. "I don't know you. What makes you think I'd give my son to you?" He looked hurt. "I've done enough hard cases to have people hire hitmen against me. I've presently got a stalker who enjoys shooting at people who upset me and one who thinks my son is an angel in the making. My son does not go out of my grasp unless it's with someone I know very well. I have no idea if you're part of the group that's been bothering me up near my home, or even if you were ever in the influence of my stalker, who is very charismatic from what I'm told." She straightened up. "Can we please hurry this up? He's hungry. He's trying to eat through my clothes."
"Sorry." He stayed where he was. "You have no knowledge of this case?"
"I never heard of it before the summons as far as I can remember. I don't even remember reading a newspaper article on it."
"That's fine, Detective. Are you all right? I know my own wife was quite upset with the world after having our daughter."
"I'm not depressed if that's what you're implying. My doctor said I'm perfectly healthy now, if not in better health since I've had him."
"Not the point, Detective. I was wondering if you were having mood swings," he said honestly. "I have a candy bar in my briefcase."
"I'm diabetic, but thank you anyway," she said politely.
"I think we've bothered the nice detective enough," the judge said.
"I've got one more question," the Defense attorney admitted. "Detective, do you know anything about this person pretending to be you?"
"Actually, I have some new news that might not have been passed down. Not a lot; they won't tell me so I can't jeopardize their future case against her. She was nearly caught last night by Vice. We do know her name, that her sister was a patrol officer in New Mexico. I know that they missed her by minutes. You need to ask Stella for any other information on her. It's now her case."
"Hmm. One last question. Do you consider this a legal capture? Considering your years on the force, seventeen wasn't it?"
"Eighteen now. It depends. Did she miranda him or did someone else?"
"She had the locals redo it under the pretext of humoring their judges."
"Did she have access to any sensitive information, stuff that could have jeopardized the evidence chain?"
He frowned. "Not that we've been told. She handed in all evidence. She said she was there as a consultant."
"Then it would be no less legal than having a real consultant, like a profiler, make the arrest. At worst a citizen's arrest, at best a fully legal capture if she had some sort of training that would make her a legitimate consultant." She shrugged. "I'd make it borderline but then Chicago has always made citizen's arrests borderline along with those done by legitimate consultants, such as our shrinks or our profiler when he was on the job."
"Interesting. You don't see a legal shade of grey?"
"No more than I've stated. I tend to state myself clearly when I have to discuss things with lawyers, they like to play with words," she said dryly, smirking at him. He chuckled. "Anything else?"
"No. That's fine, Detective. Have a nice day. I hope you get a nap soon. My wife always needed one."
"Thank you. The call to appear woke me up." She stood up and grabbed her large purse/diaper bag and took her son out to her car to go back to Ray's mother's. She had wanted them there and Ray was waiting in the car to guard her. "I'm done."
"Good." He started the car, letting the air conditioning work while she hitched the baby into the back. "We in?" he asked as she shut the door and got in.
"We are." She buckled up and he pulled out into traffic. "What did you get done while we were being questioned?"
"I figured out what the rookies aren't," Ray admitted. "They're very straightforward. They think like Turnbull. It's an obvious connection or they don't see it. I'm guessing neither is from an extended family." She sighed. "It's not a big problem. It's easy enough to train into them."
"No, it wasn't that. I just realized I left the tub running."
"I turned it off and unstopped it," he said, reaching over to pat her on the arm. "This too will end soon." He turned a corner. "When do we have an appointment?"
"Today at two. You're the one who wrote it down."
"I did, didn't I," he said, shaking his head. "A lot of new parents say that they're plagued with memory loss for the first month."
"Ray, lights," she said, pointing behind them.
He groaned and pulled over, rolling down the window. He looked at the patrol officer. "What did I do? Forget to signal?"
"Sir, this car was reported stolen," he said, looking at them. "Is it yours?"
"I never reported," Catherine told him. "It's mine." She leaned over. "Who reported it?"
"I don't know. Let me call it in."
"That's fine. We'll be here," Ray said, turning off the car. "Want the registration?"
"If you wouldn't mind." He frowned when he saw the gun. "Maybe you should get out of the car."
Catherine pulled out her badge, making him relax. "Good reflexes, but you do not leave a baby in a car alone." She dug out the registration and handed it over. "Here."
"Thank you, Detective." He went back to call this one in, waiting for orders. He came back frowning. "Detective. Are you still on the force?"
"Yes. I haven't quit yet, no matter how many bigots want me to. Why?"
"Because my duty officer doesn't know you."
She groaned and got out, checking her plates just in case. They were hers. She got into the front, taking the radio. "Duty officer, this is Detective Demoranth-Vecchio. Who reported my car stolen?"
"The report said the owner, detective. Which unit are you out of?"
"27th. Me and my husband both."
He groaned. "I just got an update, detective. We were to stop you and tell you to head in. That your stalker has struck again. Please come here?"
"Sure." She handed over the radio. "Stupid politics," she said, taking back her registration. "Thanks, kid. Have a happier day. Never cross a bigot, they've always got friends." She got in. "We're to head to their precinct?"
"The 27th is up the road. We'll head there," he said firmly. He picked up the radio. "Dispatch, this is Detective Vecchio, put me on with Welsh?" His voice came across pretty quickly. "You wanted us where, sir?"
"Here, Detective. Do not go to any other precinct."
"Yes, sir. On our way." He hung it back up then turned on the siren, heading for their home base. "Can't we shoot them?" he complained.
"I suggested it, you told me no," she reminded him. She put her badge on her belt, then grabbed his to hitch for him while he drove. Then she put on her gun more openly. She gave him a look. "Isn't the consulate on the way?"
"Yeah." He made that turn, heading that way quickly. He got out and got the baby, taking her purse with him. He found Turnbull standing guard. "Blink. Benny inside?" He blinked twice. "Shit. Someone told patrol our car was stolen. Here, have the baby. Break rank today," he said, handing him over. Turnbull looked stunned but did grab him. He put the purse on his arm. "Go inside and wait on us. We're headed to the 27th." He headed back to the car at a jog, letting his wife drive since she had shifted over. She pulled out faster than he would have with her pitiful engine, but it was her car and she drove it more than he did. "You do pretty well in high speed chases?" he asked.
"Often. I encourage them so I don't have to run after people." They pulled into the parking lot and shut off the lights, getting out but being very careful that no one could get a good lock on them before they ran inside. She waved at the duty officer. "Hey. Politics or other problems?"
"Other problems. You didn't bring the baby?"
"He's safe," Ray said, giving him a look. "Call the 13th. Tell them we came here because our boss ordered us to."
"Sure thing, Detective." He watched them go then made the call, finding out what this was about. "Who would be that dumb?" he asked his fellow desk sergeant. "Someone reported her car stolen."
"I'm sure she'll get them soon," the sergeant offered. "She seems like the sort to bring the wrath of God onto someone's head."
Ray walked into the bullpen and headed for the office. "Stan, call Turnbull. Tell him we're here safely and to keep the baby," he ordered.
"We've already had a talk with the Ice Princess and she's fuming," Stanley noted, going back to his paperwork. "She pointed out that you're not Canadian and Turnbull is her babysitter, not yours."
"She's got kids?" Catherine asked, leaning on the desk. They probably wanted to talk without her being there.
"Catherine," Welsh called. "Don't you want to hear?"
"I thought you'd want to talk behind my back again," she said as she walked into the office. "Let me call Thatcher?"
"Sure." Welsh leaned back, watching the master BS'er at work.
She dialed the consulate, then smiled. "Hey, Turnbull. There's a diaper in the purse, along with at least a bottle if you need them. No, we're at the 27th. I'm assuming it's about my stalker, the one who nearly shot an officer who was bothering me. Sure, put 'er on," she encouraged. "Inspector, yes, it is," she said, making talking motions with her free hand. "Because we were being hounded by someone who wants to kill us? I don't really want to get into a firefight with my son in the back seat of the car. They've already managed to report my car as stolen. The patrol guy should have known who I was, he's more than old enough to have been here through the last few episodes. No, I'm not so sure one of the stalkers hasn't joined forces of the righteously color-blind. No, I mean that they only see one color and ignore the rest and do so with a self-righteous attitude most of the time. I grew up with people like that, Inspector. Trust me, they do. That's why I took Dief and Benton a few weeks back, for my own protection from them when I went home."
She sighed. "No, I'm a Caldwell by family relation. Yeah, them. Unfortunately." She grinned. "That's fine. If you actually give him a lunch today, he can take Eric to Ma Vecchio's if he thinks it's safe. I don't know. We have a cop pretending to be me." She noticed Welsh winced. "We've also got that nice stalker that shot an Internal Affairs detective for making up shit about me. That on top of the bigots I've managed to piss off by existing and having a son. Yeah, take a pick, really." She grinned. "That's fine. I wouldn't *dream* of using him like this all the time, but we were on our way back from court and I *really* don't want to get into a shootout with the baby in the back seat. I'd rather he live to become a Buddhist monk." Ray snorted and shook his head. "We'll talk about it later, dear," she told him. "No, Ray's here too. Yeah, thanks. Sure. If it's safe. If not, he can either take him to Ma's or whatever he and Benny decide. I only trust a few people with my son." She grinned. "Sure. Come on over tonight if you want. Look on it as practice. No, Ray gave him my purse, it has my backup weapon in it along with a few diapers and a bottle. He'll be fine. I'm sure. He likes to eat in Benny's arms. He likes Benny. He likes Turnbull too." She grinned. "Thanks, Inspector, we'll see you later. Bye." She hung up. "As a special favor to us, they will gladly watch our child today while we deal with this most heinous and important matter, but we are not to use Turnbull as a babysitter while he's on duty again, and especially are not to make him leave his post to take care of our son, who was chewing on her earring as we spoke. She thinks the son is precious too." She looked at Welsh. "By your expression I'd guess it was the not-me?"
"It was," he agreed. "She also managed to sneak into Records and filch your file too." She groaned and sat down next to Ray, cuddling up to him. "Fortunately she didn't get the microfiche copy of anything."
"Those don't cover disciplinary records," Ray pointed out.
"Very true, Detective. They don't cover any of it. They also don't cover any leave forms. Which is why I always keep a copy of all leave forms for at least five years." He grinned at them. "She's mad at you for marrying Vecchio. Her sister was a gay cop you see. She was moved by your strength because you handled the case."
"You did. You did a magnificent job of capturing the dirtbag and making him beg for forgiveness and jail at his trial." Her eyes narrowed. "I see you know the woman now?"
"It's Miriam," he said cheerfully. "She sent you another letter. She also went to tell off Gabriel. Shot him a few times too. Along with our *beloved* Chief of Detectives and two rookie cops who were badmouthing you to their CO at the 13th. There's a general manhunt for her. The rest of Gabriel's followers are after her as well. The Mayor has suggested that you're more trouble than you're worth but Mildred chewed him a new one in front of the press over his treatment of you. She pointed out that you're now listed as the fifth top detective in the city, and that you've handled more bad cases than anyone had a right to, and alone. She said that this is nothing compared to what might have happened but that most of the hitmen in the city stay away from you for whatever reason." He waved a hand around and his smile picked up. "He's a bit flustered at the moment. He'd like to talk to you this afternoon."
"Tough. We've got a doctor's appointment," Ray told him.
"Good, then you can bring the rookie detectives with you for protection."
"I doubt it," she noted.
"You'll need it, Catherine."
"I seriously doubt they want to be in there during my pelvic exam. I'm not sure I want Ray in there with me, much less spectators."
"In that case, they can sit in the waiting room," he said dryly. He leaned forward. "If you *ever* get pregnant again, I am to know *before* your husband."
She stuck her tongue out. "Meany. You can't quit. That would keep Ray from my side again, which was the main cause of my mood swings if you remember right."
"Yes, that's the other thing. I've heard from the people doing the case against the judge you were in front of. They pointed out that your unreasonable anger had made them reevaluate their life choices. One of them proposed to his long-term girlfriend. One of them found religion. One of them, the one who kept Ray there, managed to find a deep vodka bottle and climbed into it. They all blamed the judge. They said you were harsh, but were that way because of your skill level. Brilliant detectives weren't expected to have couth or manners. The fact that you didn't permanently hurt them amazed them, especially the guy you pinned to the floor and choked for keeping you away from Vecchio. He's the one who found God by the way." She beamed. "The judge's been removed from his bench for threatening you, especially since you weren't an important witness anyway. Don Bruno, of course, got off on all counts because they couldn't prove anything. Junior's heading this way once school is out for a few weeks according to his email to me. He was nice enough to warn me first." Ray snickered. "Now. You two have a doctor's appointment. Take the rookies with you as bodyguards." He patted the papers on his desk until he found something and tossed them over. "Take this car for now."
"That's my car," she complained. "It's a lease."
"Yay. She knows your car. Take the loaner until you can exchange the lease for a new one. With your track record, they shouldn't be surprised."
"It's a lease?" Ray asked. "I thought you bought it."
"No, it's a lease. I don't keep cars that long, Ray," she said earnestly, grinning at him. "You remember the car you met me because of?" He nodded. "I had it for a year and a half. It was a record since I became a detective."
He shuddered. "You are not driving the Riv on duty," he said, standing up and helping her up. "I like the Riv. I want to keep this one. Benny cost me three of them already." He walked out with a wave, going to get their car from the back parking lot while the rookies cleaned out their old one and moved everything to the new one, including the emergency kit. He looked inside it. "We need to add bullets to that thing."
"Sure and a new can of anti-flat stuff." She got into the small sports car, but he shook his head and helped her back out so he could drive. "I can drive it, it's to replace my car."
"Yay. If we're together, I get to do most of the driving. You're reckless."
"I am not! You're just grumpy because I didn't suck you off this morning."
"Catherine!" He looked around but the rookies were ignoring them. "Do not bring that up here," he hissed, glaring at her.
She swatted him on the arm. "Meanie. Are you having a Mean Mr. Mustard day?"
"Did you take drugs this morning?" he demanded. She beamed at him. "Now I know you're not driving. You're odd. Get in, Cat. Before I spank you."
"You're not that fast," she pointed out, sliding into her seat. She casually put her hand over there, goosing him when he sat down. She curled up in her seat. "Where are you taking me for lunch?"
"For that, I should go feed you to the fish in the lake," he groused. She laughed. So he kissed her hard, making her moan and calm down, while leaning toward him. Someone pounded on the roof.
"We did not ask you to christen the car, Vecchio, nor do we want you to do that in the parking lot at the station!" Welsh yelled.
"Sorry, sir, but she was being odd. She swatted and pinched me."
"Congratulations, she's on a hyper and misery kick. Humor her, it'll stop sooner. For now, you can go. The rookies are waiting."
Ray sighed and started the car, backing out of the parking spot and heading for the nearest fast food place so they could drive through and take their lunch to the park. Catherine tried to maneuver her way back into his lap but he pushed her off. "Not in public, Catherine. Not in this car either, there's not enough room to make out." He gave her a sideways look. "Elf ears?"
"Yup. Want to see them?"
"Sure," he agreed, not knowing that she was going to be putting them on him that night with the new bottle of super glue. His mother thought they were cute. Stanley made a joke about her library coming out to bite him. Someone made him a paper elf hat. Huey asked if he had any trips planned to a large forest. By the end of the day, he was calling the hospital to find a cure for superglue. He couldn't blame his wife though, he hadn't been paying enough attention to her. That's why he went home and made her squeal many times before going to the academy graduation ceremony.
Ray looked up as Catherine walked into the bullpen on her first day back, giving her outfit a long look. "I didn't dress you this morning," he noted. She was not only coordinating, but she was ironed and looked very neat and tidy. "You do my image proud." She beamed at him as she sat down and turned on her computer.
Huey looked up and then rolled his chair back to the office, knocking hard on the door. "She ironed!" he accused, pointing at Catherine.
Welsh came out, gave her a long look, then shook his head and went to take more aspirin. No matter what his doctor said, it was helping him. He came out and handed over the pregnancy test he had bought just in case. "Now," he ordered, pointing at the bathroom. She gave him a hurt look. "Right now."
"Fine, even though I know I'm not." She grabbed it and went to take it. "I should get the nice lady downstairs who is to do it for me," she called as she walked away.
Ray got up and stalked her into the bathroom, not understanding but knowing what they were thinking. If she was pregnant again, he wanted to know first. "You ironed last time?"
"Each day for the two months you were gone," she told him. She went into a stall to pee into the cup.
Ray leaned against the sink, nodding at the cop who came in. "Welsh demanded she do a test," he explained at her confused look.
"Did she iron again?" the officer asked.
Ray smirked and nodded. "Yup."
"You poor thing," she said, patting him on the arm before going downstairs to spread this new juicy gossip.
"If we are, we might have to hide up at the family home," he called. "Just so you don't get lynched." He didn't get an answer. "Cat?" He walked to the stall and tapped gently. "You in there?"
"Yes," she squeaked. She opened the door, looking at him. "I believe we need to have a talk with my doctor." She walked away, leaving the test result there.
Ray glanced at it then sighed and followed her. "I'm sure it's a false result," he offered as he followed her out to their loaner car. "I'm also sure he's got an explanation for it."
She gave him a hot look. "If he doesn't, I'm having him implant it into you, Ray. If not, then he's really got some explaining to do about why the test came out wrong!" She got in to drive but he pulled her out and gave her a long hug, calming her down. "I'm not going through that again."
"It'll be easier this time," he promised, walking her around to get her into the passenger's side. He closed the door and walked around the front of the car, but she had slid over because the engine sputtered to life and she backed out before he could grab the door handle. "Catherine!" he called, glaring at the trunk. A patrol officer handed him his keys and he went to his car to chase after her. Before she killed her doctor.
Upstairs, Stanley had been nominated to go into the women's bathroom to retrieve the test result. He came out shaking and whimpering so the rest of them went to have a beer for an early lunch. It was ten, they could find an open bar.