Ray walked into the office of the local station, interrupting the screaming going on. "Gee, I only wanted to fill out the forms to register our presence," he said dryly.
The woman looked at him. "He could find out who killed my son!" she screamed at the current Chief of Police. "He's not scared of those bastards who killed him!"
The Chief looked at Ray. "You're actually American?" he asked bitterly.
Ray smirked and nodded. "For a few generations now, thanks for asking."
"Aren't you a detective?" the woman demanded.
"Yup, me and my wife both are," he agreed. "If they want my help, all they have to do is ask. She'll be bored soon. The new one isn't having a good day and the morning sickness is pissing her off again." The cops looked stunned so he shrugged. "She wanted another one." He looked at the woman and smiled again. "If they ask, I'll gladly help," he repeated. "Cat wanted to sign onto the local department anyway, though there have been people who wanted one of us to run for the Chief's job when it comes up."
"Good," the Chief decided. It'd get the woman out of his hair. "Her son was beaten and killed by a few people, we're not sure who."
"Not really," the Chief said, giving him a look. "We're kinda low tech around here, *Detective*."
Ray shrugged. "I'm one of those who goes on instinct and footwork." He looked at the woman. "We're up at the house meeting with contractors. Bring me the file and I'll see what I can do. We both will."
"Thank you," she said quieter, giving him a hesitant smile. "It's good that someone's willing to stand up to them."
"Bring it up personally, that way we can get an account of his last few days," he offered. She nodded, going to her house to gather what she had found. He looked at the local Chief. "The wife also wanted me to tell you that anyone who wanted pictures of the walls, they'd better be coming up this week. She said she'd open the house Wednesday for people to take pictures, including for the County's Historical Society. After that, it'll be gone within two weeks." He patted the counter. "Now, we're needing to register our presence in the county as cops."
"You're retired?" one of the officers asked bitterly. "How long were you in for?"
"I'm a sixteen year veteran and she made eighteen and a half. We retired just after I hit year sixteen." The cops looked impressed at that. "In some of the less savory sections of the town. She used to be Vice." One of the cops nodded at that. "Oh, watch out for the mood swings. She made some criminals beg the last time."
"Thank you for that warning," the Chief said grimly. "Get him that file, boys. He can fill out that paperwork up at the house while they plan on how to destroy the county's heritage." He went into his office and slammed the door.
Ray shrugged. "Sorry, but we're generally helpful people. She's bored, my family won't be up for months, if not a bit over a year, and the son is just barely starting to crawl."
One of the cops shook his head. "It's sad to see a fine family brought down that way."
"As opposed to her father?" he asked dryly, smirking at him. "He was a bastard from what I hear. Good thing he's already dead." He accepted the file and the forms. "Thanks. If you need us, we're at the house and the phone's back on." He went back to his car, heading for the store then home. He met the mother at the gate. "Fred, we're helping her with a case. Her son was killed," he instructed.
"Yes, sir," he said, sounding a bit more happy. "There are three contractors up looking at the house at the moment. She warned me there's four more coming later."
"Yeah, we're taking estimates," he agreed. He nodded at the woman to follow him up to the house and then into the study. "Okay. Let's talk. Tell me what happened?"
"My son was killed," she said, handing over a file with his photo on the front. "That's all I know."
"Okay," he agreed, taking it to look through. He cross-referenced it with the one the police had given him. "They don't even have any suspects, how do you know it was them?"
"One of them told me he had gotten what he deserved at his funeral; he insinuated that he'd be helping with others too."
He nodded, pulling out some paper to make notes of that and anything else she gave him. It wasn't that hard to figure out. "Do you think it was only locals or mostly locals?"
"Most of the town won't hire outside the town," she offered, looking quizzical. "I hadn't thought about that. Fred's from near the school. His family's all like that. They're some of the last hard-liners in town. The other families are almost always found with them. Their boys play together. I assumed that it was the boys together." He nodded again and made a note of it.
Cat walked in and kissed Ray on the forehead, looking at the case. "Gay bashing or simply not liking him because he wasn't like them?" she asked the mother.
She shrugged. "They may have thought he was," she admitted. "My son was sweet and nice. He was gentle-like. He wasn't a bully or a rapist like some of those boys. They always picked on him because of that. Last year, Fred Thompkins's younger son tried to run him over on purpose and called him a fag as he sped past him. That's another thing the locals wouldn't stop."
Cat nodded, looking quite serious. "We understand. Some people have suggested that we take over the local department somehow." She shrugged. "We're more than happy to help when they need it."
"Thank you, Miss Catherine. Are you back for good?"
She nodded, rubbing her stomach. "Pretty muchly. We've still got some court cases back in Chicago to finish up, but we wanted the kids to be somewhere less dangerous. Having a lawn is a great thing for kids. Plus, I've always wanted to turn this place into a retreat for anyone who wanted or needed it. Pagans and Christians. It'd help the local economy and there's none near here for my friends in the city."
"You're a pagan?" she asked. "Like the bike gang?"
Catherine laughed, shaking her head. "No, not like that. I was asked to be in a bike gang, but the lesbians thought I worked too long of hours and that I was a bit too uptight now and then about my job. I'm Pagan with a capital 'p', as in of other faiths that's not Christian."
"Oh." She shifted some. "Well, I guess that's fine. Are you going to let those weirdos up here too?"
"That would be discrimination," Ray offered as he read the files again. He looked up at her. "Mostly we want to give them a peaceful place to meditate on nature. They shouldn't bother the town too much." He put down the files. "On the local one there's a notation on it in code. Do you know what it means?"
She looked at it. "That's initials. It could be a few people's," she offered. "FT are popular initials up here. I've got one of those in my family too."
"Hey, we've worked on less," Cat offered. "Give us a day, let's see what I can come up with to help him." She nodded and shook their hands, then left them alone. She looked at him. "The contractors said the easiest way to get rid of them was to take out the walls. We could also update a few of the rooms that way."
"It's your family's house," he reminded her gently. "As long as those murals go."
"Oh, you don't have to worry about that. I'm doing that myself if I have to," she promised with a grin. "After this afternoon, we may have a whole list of things. Someone gave me a neat idea." She slid into his lap. "He suggested we dig out the old pond and make it bigger. That would solve the problem of any hidden bodies and give us a nicer pond to swim in." She played with his shirt buttons. "Plus, we could also have one of the forensic schools come up to do a body hunt through the woods for training purposes. I know there's at least six or seven of them."
He kissed her. "We could do that, as long as you were ready to deal with the eager kids."
She grinned. "Thanks, Ray. I thought they might drive you insane."
"They probably will," he sighed. "But I'll have other things to keep my attention." He stroked a hand up under the back of her t-shirt. "You look very comfy."
"I am very comfy," she agreed, smirking at him, "but I could use some comforting if you wanted. I went into the Master bedroom."
He kissed her gently. "I'll gladly comfort you. Want to help me with this one?"
She nodded, taking the file to help him. "I'm still saying they decided it should be a gay bashing."
"Probably," he agreed, watching her work. She was a thing of beauty when she worked. He didn't get a chance to watch her too often but when she did he liked to watch. He also liked to nibble on her neck, so he did that.
"Work now then nibble," she reminded him. She shifted to straddle his lap, letting him have access to other parts of her body while she read, slightly bent down.
He let out an evil chuckle. "It can wait five minutes," he noted as he undid his zipper and moved her shorts out of his way. She moaned and clutched at his arms, her breath catching when he slid into her. "A bit sensitive, wife?"
"Very," she groaned, shifting a bit to seat him better. "More, Ray?"
"Of course." He moved, thrusting up into her. Someone knocked. "Busy!" he called. "Give us ten."
"Fine," a male voice called.
Ray licked up the back of her neck and she shivered, so he took advantage of it to please her. She had so many hot little spots on her body that he loved to tease.
Ray drug in two boys later that afternoon, pushing them toward seats. "Sit!" They sneered so he pushed them down, watching as his wife came in with three others, two of them limp in her hands and the other trying to struggle, until she let him trip and fall. "She told you to tie your shoelaces," he reminded the man. He looked over as the Chief came out of the office. "We caught them bragging to their girls about doing the kid. It wasn't that hard. By the way, the initial thing on the case file? Neat trick. I'm sure their lawyers will like those." He turned pale and glared at one of his officers. He shrugged. "Anyway, these five said they killed him. They were trying to impress the young women they were making ill."
"One may have believed their way but probably not," Catherine admitted. She handed over her people and headed for the door marked bathroom.
"Ma'am, that's not for the public," he called.
"Kid, I'm five months pregnant. All bathrooms are public ones to me," she called back. "Or else I'm using you as one." He shuddered and backed away, taking the kids with him to a holding cell.
Ray gave the chief a look. "Had any others? We don't have court for another five days. That means we've only contractors and our son Eric to play with."
"Mal's coming up," Cat called from the bathroom. "Helena said so."
"Okay, and a friend's kid who's coming up," he relented. "When?"
She came out wiping her hands off on a paper towel, that got tossed into a trashcan. "Next week sometime. She's due soon and wanted him out of the house for that since she can't leave yet."
"Sure. We can sit Malaki."
"Is he black?" one of the officers sneered.
"No, he's Helena Nichol's kid," she told him dryly. "As in Helen of Troy." He shuddered and backed away. "Her guy, Jigen, is a really nice guy."
"Jigen?" he asked dryly. "Where's he from?"
"Chicago. Now he's an internationally wanted thief." She smirked at him. "He's been great help to both of us when we had to deal with international matters.
"Wish I could have gotten him in on that one I had last year," Ray said dryly. "It would have scared the stupid bastards quicker and gotten me done with that case faster. I am never doing another case while I'm on vacation at a convention, especially not an international one."
She nodded, patting him on the back. "Me either. Speaking of conventions, are we going to the one in Philly this year? Helena wanted to know. She might not be going, she thinks she'll be moving so she's coopting Zenny this time."
"Have I ever told you how much it bothers me that you picked up on her pet name for Zenigata?" he asked as he handed over some forms and followed her out the door. "I've already called the mother," he called before the door shut. "And the DA since his kid's one of those." He pinched her on the butt as he walked behind her, earning a shocked gasp from a local watching them. "What? She's my wife, she's having my second child and she's in that time of the pregnancy," he said with a smirk.
"Now that you made that area smart, maybe you should kiss it," Cat said smugly before turning to get into Ray's car. "Why couldn't I get a new one?"
"Because you'd destroy it," he reminded her as he closed the door and walked around the trunk to get in. "Watch the dog. My mirrors are high on this one."
She picked up her dog, watching as he backed out slowly and headed back to the house. "What was that?" she asked the cop coming out to make sure they were gone.
"That was Catherine Demoranth," he said bitterly, "and her boytoy *Detective*."
"Hey, a change of blood," she said, giving him a look. "They get the boys who killed that one boy?" He grimaced and nodded. "Good. 'Bout time." She walked her dog on, heading back to her shop to spread the gossip faster. It was definitely time for a change in the town's leadership.
Cat looked over as people came in. "Small change of plans. I know I promised painting, but we're going to have to destroy some of the walls. We did a few, but the most graphic we left for photo ops, including the dining room. So anyone who can't do a small sledgehammer for a few blows might want to help with the stuff that we'll be doing to put up new walls. They're mixing plaster."
The detective who was leading the others laughed. "How bad is it?"
"The guy we decided on said he didn't know what they added to the original paint that made it seep through sixteen coats of white paint, but it did," she said grimly. "Dining room's this way, guys and gals. Refreshments are in the kitchen, which is through the newly tan door. Watch out for wet paint on that one possibly, it's about six hours old and I haven't checked it recently."
"Forgive her," Huey said dryly, looking at his friends and fellow union members. "She's like this during part of her pregnancies. She suddenly starts to iron and becomes super cop." They laughed and followed. "What is that?" he shouted when he saw it.
"My great-grandmother's sense of fashion?" she asked bitterly. "Consider having to grow up here and being unable to change it, Huey. Now, bless and thank every deity that you know that I grew up somewhat normal."
"For living in this, you came out wonderfully," a mother assured her, covering her daughter's eyes.
"There's a play room upstairs on the left. It's got a blue door. Benny's up there at the moment with Turnbull. Turnbull's going to be doing the watching for the first part then he'll come down and help whoever stays to help demolish things. If not, she can play on the yard. The back yard is probably safer in case we get protestors. We had some the other night."
"Did you shoot them?" Ray asked as he came in with a bag from Walmart. "Here, your vitamins, the drugs the doctor ordered you, and your new testing strips. Plus a soda for being so good this morning," he said before giving her a soft and gentle kiss. "Go put them up. You've already proven you're impressive." She grinned and went to do that, checking her blood sugar at the same time. "Sorry, she's in the middle trimester."
The mother laughed. "I always enjoyed that stage myself. Which way to the play room, detective?"
"Up the main staircase and yell Turnbull really loudly."
"Thanks." She walked her daughter out. "We'll let you come help as soon as we've gotten the worst out of the way," she promised. "I had heard it was bad but I had no idea it was that bad, dear. I'm sorry."
"It's okay, mom. We're here to show that those ways are dead," her daughter reminded her. She skipped up the stairs. "Hello, is there a Turnbull up here?" A young man came out of a room and she sighed in pleasure. He was cute! "Hi, I'm Melody. Mom sent me up here to stay away from the graphic stuff."
"That's fine. Most of the other children are younger, but there's a few books in here if you can stand the romances. I'm not sure who left them." He smiled at the other mother bringing her child up. "Hello, welcome. We've laid out the blocks and other toys in the secondary room," he said, pointing. "The little boys playing are pretty good so far."
"Thank you," the mother said as she put her daughter in there. "You play nicely," she warned. "No beating up on the boys." Her daughter grinned and picked up a block to gnaw on. "Good girl." She smiled at Turnbull. "Are you a father?"
"No, ma'am, I'm a Mountie. We're trained in how to take care of children in our Academy. Plus I'm a routine babysitter for one of those little boys."
"Good enough," she decided. "I'll check on her now and then." She headed down the stairs. "Are we painting?"
"A few walls," Ray told her, shaking her hand. "A few needed to be destroyed though. The ones who are painting are mixing plaster right now, then they'll be doing painting in about six rooms in maybe an hour. After everyone gets a chance to take before and after photos. I know a few groups wanted them." She nodded, going to do that. "You don't have to worry about Turnbull. I trust him with my kid," he promised.
She smiled at him. "I don't trust anyone, even with a background check, detective. You never know."
"True," he admitted. "But I know who Rennie's dating and she's a cute, yet over the age of consent, young blonde girl." She laughed and walked on. He looked at the others coming in, including the man with the photographer and reporter following him. "I wondered how long it'd take you."
"Ray," he said, shaking his hand. "No wife?"
"She's in the bathroom. She's five months along."
"Ah." He nodded, looking at the walls. "Get good pictures of this. We can use it to show how much work we do to destroy things like this. Are we painting over this one?"
"Unfortunately this is a destruction wall," Ray told him. "The painting ones are in another room and they'll be moving to those in about an hour. Anyone who wants can take a whack at this wall though. Refreshments are in the kitchen, sodas are in the refrigerator and in the ice buckets. We may have to run out for more if Huey forgot."
"They're in the back of my car," he noted, going out to pull out the bags, letting Benny help him when he came out. "Are you liking it up here?"
"It's quite calm and quiet, more like what I'm used to," he admitted quietly. "We'll do fine up here for vacations." He hefted in the bags with only a small moan of complaint for his sore wrists. His wolf followed slowly, panting at him once he saw the food. Benny relented and tossed down a piece of ham. "Stay off the counters, Diefenbaker." His wolf gave him a hurt look and a whine, then went out to lay in the sun. Benny shook his head. "You need to go to the vet's again," he called after him. "No arguing this time!"
Ray walked in, already giving him a look. "Why is Dief arguing with you this time?"
"He didn't want to go to the vet's but he needs to. He's recently started to ache in the mornings and slow down during the rest of the day." He handed over two bags. "Here you go. Huey has the rest."
"That's fine. It should be enough food." He laid out the things that could be laid out. They'd had the kitchen fixed first, along with the living areas. The other things were left for last. He had a chilled countertop put in so he could work with doughs when he wanted to make some pasta or pie crusts. The meat trays went onto them and were covered since the back door was open. Then he looked outside at the wolf. "Benny, how old is Dief?" he asked quietly. He looked at his silent friend. "It's nearly time, isn't it?" Benny sighed and nodded. "When that happens, come back here, buddy. We're here for that too." Benny nodded, wiping off a subtle tear before going to help. Ray went to find his wife, finding her talking to a reporter about her mother and how she had wanted to destroy all this but the will had kept her hands tied. That the local county judges had tried to block her doing this but the state courts had finally allowed it. He kissed her on the cheek. "You almost done? Or are we expecting more people?"
"Two more groups and they've got a half-hour before we do anything," she said with a smile for him. She heard a wail and sighed, looking up. "Son, quit picking on your friend," she yelled. "Leave Malaki alone!" The crying stopped. "Thank you!" She smiled at the reporter. "Sorry, my best friend's son is in because she's about due for her second so we're sitting for a few days."
"That's fine," the reporter agreed happily. "Which friend?"
"A fellow detective," Ray told him, steering her away. "Sorry, we need her in the kitchen." He led her into there and kissed her as hard as he dared. He didn't want to start her off right now in front of everyone. He noticed a woman looking at the trays. "That counter is chilled," he told her. "I adjusted the temp down an hour ago." She smiled and nodded, heading back to the dinning room. "We've got to talk, babe. Look at Dief." She looked outside and sighed, slumping some. "I told him to come back."
"Of course," she agreed quickly. "I want him to come back here. We'll find him a spot in the woods." She hugged him. "It'll be okay. We'll help him through losing Dief when it's time." She nuzzled his neck. "How much longer?" she whispered.
"Three hours probably," he reminded her. She nipped him then went back into the dinning room. He calmed himself, making himself deflate before he went anywhere near any cameras. He turned and found Rennie behind him. "Who has the kids?"
"Benton does. He needed to cuddle so I left him with Malaki and Eric in his lap and the other one building herself a castle. She said so."
"Fine. Check on them now and then. Tag out or whatever."
"Of course. I want to help with the Master Bedroom anyway," he reminded him happily. "Any child conceived under that horrible mural would be terribly warped." He snuck a bite of tomato and then headed off to check on the children and his comrade.
Cat looked outside as the last two cars pulled up, discharging someone slightly famous and someone she was good friends with. "Hurry up, we're about ready to start. The other guys can show up for the other events if they're coming."
"Why are you so impatient?" Huey asked from behind her.
"It's a pregnancy fact; during the second trimester is when mothers need to be comforted, reassured, and cosseted. Ray's very good at it," she said smugly.
"In other words, you're at that horny stage of the pregnancy and it's showing?" the friend noted. She nodded, giving her the same smug look. "Who are we missing? I can call."
"Hmm, NOW's local rep and the local Black Panther's person if they're coming."
"That one was broken down and the car behind us stopped to pick them up," Helena said as she walked her buddy inside. "Where's the son?"
"Curled up with the Mounties upstairs."
"Mounties now? You're giving my son dangerous tastes in men, dear," she said dryly. "I'm not sure his father will appreciate that."
"Then have his daddy come whine at me in person so I can kick his ass for not being able to figure out coded messages," she said dryly. "Oh, Huey, this is Helena Nichols. Great friend of mine. Her son Malaki is the other kid upstairs." He shook her hand with a smile. "And of course you know the Reverend. They're in the dining room, Reverend. Follow either Huey or the stripes on the marble. Food's in the kitchen." He nodded, heading that way with Huey. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" she hissed.
Helena grimaced. "I had to get out of the city for a few hours. Can I spend the night?"
"Of course! Ray!" He stuck his head out. "Look who did come." He grinned and waved, then disappeared again. "Sorry, he's making sure I don't manage things. He's been doing a lot of work with the contractors too." She walked her back to the dining room then went to check on who had just pulled up. "Hmm. Ray, protestors are back," she called. "Can't I shoot them this time?"
"Oooh, let me," Helena called. "I'm the better shot."
"That's my job," Stanley yelled from somewhere nearer to the kitchen. He walked out and found Helena, giving her a hug. "Hey, Princess. You all right?" He looked at her stomach. "Oh, fuck me," he said in awe. "You too?"
"Number two," she admitted, stroking her stomach. "A girl this time." She smirked at him. "Zenny was quite impressed with your tackle the last seminar series if he didn't tell you. He said to if he didn't."
Stan grinned. "Thanks. It was kinda fun." He led her out to help put the chain across the doorway. It was only for show but it enforced a boundary. He let in the last people arriving, including the man in the black beret. "They're in the dining room," he told them. "Cat's being made to sit down." He clipped on the chain and left the reporters there to take their pictures, leading her back. "Speaking of sitting, shouldn't you be too?"
"I'm fine, Stanley. Really. I kicked someone's ass last night as a matter of fact. They tried to break in where I was hiding. The kitties were not impressed with my style but it worked well enough." She smiled at Ray. "Can I have a sledgehammer, sweetheart? This is offensive and the new daughter does not like it very much." He laughed and handed over one. "Are we waiting on the reporters to get one last shot?" she asked. Everyone nodded so Ray went to get the reporters for this moment. The reporters came and everyone got into place, then took the ceremonial swing. Only Helena, Cat, and Benny made it through the wall the first try. But then a few more swings broke a good section of the mural apart, earning a cheer from those people watching. Helena picked one spot on the mural and went to work on it, destroying the face first and then the body, then the person that person was torturing. A few people looked at her so she turned to better show off her stomach. They left her alone after that.
Cat gave her a hug. "It's all right. It disturbs me too," she whispered. They hugged and the babies kicked each other, making both mothers groan and hold their stomachs.
"Hmm, kicking babies," Ray sighed, coming over to rub both stomachs. He was very good at it. Eric had always liked it and so had Malaki when he'd done it for Helena. "Want to finish this room or the photo ops?"
"Do the photo ops," Cat suggested, kissing him on the cheek. "That way those people who only came up for that and the food can go." A few people laughed. "Sorry, I'm a realist." The majority of the group moved on but she, Helena, and Benny stayed to work on this wall some more. "I'm so glad this is all going."
"Me too," Helena agreed happily. "Can we come up to meditate too?"
"Sure. You can even rent a room in the house," she teased. Helena picked up a piece of plaster and wall board, tossing it at her. "Hey, meanie. See if I offer to babysit for free again."
"You'll have to. Otherwise Mal would never get along with other kids. It's not like this one's going to be more than his teddy bear and little sister."
"I'm sure Jigen's going to make sure he's got a few buddies at school," Cat offered. "Does Lupin know?"
"I'm not sure if he's finally told him or not. The last I heard he hadn't, but then again he could be waiting to introduce him. By that time, Mal may be wearing an Interpol uniform," she sighed, "but he'll get around to it someday."
"You want your child to go Interpol?" Cat teased. "What? You want Zenny to mentor him and make him chase his own dad?"
"Hey, that's one way to introduce Lupin to him," she agreed happily. "What do you think of the name Jissan?"
Cat gave her a long look. "Do you really want me to answer that?"
"I was trying to go for Jigen's name, but I couldn't find anything near it," she complained with a pout, taking another swing. A male voice coughed. "Yes, Reverend?"
"Where is your husband?"
She looked at him. "On the run from Interpol, the same as he's been since I met him a while ago," she said dryly. "Why? Do unmarried women in love offend you?" He shook his head and walked off. "Thank you for not preaching. I'm not of your sect." She took a harder swing. "I'm moving. I hate Chicago anymore. I used to love my adopted home city but it sucks at the moment. Besides, everyone I know is moving."
"Well..." Cat said, frowning. "I may know someplace," she admitted quietly, glancing around. "You know I've got some contacts that did some international spy work?" She nodded, staring at her. "I know one who has a house that he's getting ready to sell. Very safe. It's in France, but it's closer to your honey and Lupin anyway. It's very, very safe and he wanted it to go to someone who'd take care of it for him, plus watch over the town as an Angel. Think you could handle that in small-town, rural France?"
"Like the local hospital has a hundred and twenty beds," she warned. "Rural. The town has maybe six hundred people. Five cops. The nearest mall is over an hour away. Rural."
"Sounds like where I grew up."
"It does," Cat agreed. "It's kinda like that, only in France. I'll put you in touch with him if you want. Robert's always been a nice guy. He's the problem solver in New York. That guy your buddy Munch said was decent, if a bit of a vigilante."
"Sure, I think I'd like that. How much is he asking? I'm not made of money, but I've still got the majority of the settlement and stuff."
"Not more than a few mill for the whole estate."
"Whoa, an estate person I'm not," she warned.
"It's not that big, but you're in the middle of rich people farming country. There's a small portion of the town that's poor. It's a pretty nice town."
"Fine, I'll look at it," she sighed. "Thanks, Cat."
"Welcome, dear. Now, let's work. The faster we work, the faster I get some more of my Ray snuggly while he's being sweaty and manly."
Benny gave her a look. "That's different than the other times?" he asked.
"Yup, sure is," she agreed happily. She took another swing, breaking a larger chunk free. "Whoo-hoo! That's what we need. C'mon, Benny, use those big muscles."
"No picking on Benny's muscles," Ray called. "I do get jealous."
"You too could go to the gym and work out," Helena called as she took another swing. Ray came to the door so she smirked at him. "Think about helping her off the floor at nine months this time."
"I can do that already," he said smugly. "It may not show, but I'm fairly strong. Wanna find out how strong?"
"Oooh, Ray, I'm not sure she'd share you," she taunted with a wicked grin. "What do you say, Cat, gonna share?"
"Over his dead body," she snorted. "My stud. You've got one. Ray, tell her about Robert's place. I think she's the one he's looking for since she wants to move and it'd be closer to her man."
"All the way over there?" he said with a slight pout. "Then who'd I get to pick on?"
"You can come visit," she promised with a grin. "I'd never keep you guys away. I expect Zenny to all-but camp on my couch for a few days since I'll be closer to him too."
He smirked at her. "Don't worry, you'll like it. It's pretty, has woods, a sculptured garden sorta place with bushes. It's got a river and the people next door have horses. It's in a quaint town with pretty decent people for the most part. They didn't mind us so much when we visited. There's not a lot of tourists so no tourist traps or troubles. One bar and it's a place to go to listen to music, not a redneck *bar* bar. Good security system, high walls, weapons cabinets up at the house. Nice place. If we didn't have here, I might have jumped on that."
She looked thoughtful, then nodded. "Okay, I'll look. We'll see." She took another swing, knocking down more plaster and wall board. "Man, this stuff is thick."
"I'm hoping we don't find bodies," Cat said grimly, striking more down.
"Come help with the other spots, Cat, let the workmen get the rest of this one," he ordered, taking her hand. "Benny, you can escort Helena around to help. She shouldn't be doing that in her condition either."
"I'm not feeble yet," Cat complained.
He kissed her until she went limp in his arms. "No, you're not, but your back was hurting from working in the garden and I'd rather have you up and walking instead of on bed rest again," he chastised gently. "Come on. We're moving to the painting rooms. Turnbull got a good swing in upstairs and cracked a good section of the wall."
"Good!" she agreed. "Who watched the kids?"
"Maria and Tony did."
"Cool. When did they get here?"
"Just a few minutes ago. The bigots outside drew away from them like they had the plague so they kissed in front of them. Tony even asked Stan if he wanted one. It made a few of them run away to bathe."
"Hmm, always a good choice when you're that dirty," she agreed. She heard a yell and went that way, pulling the person away from Ma to hit him. "Get out of my house," she ordered, shoving him over the chain. "We don't allow that shit here. Are you all right, Ma?" she asked, getting the older woman calmed down.
"I'm fine. I thought such evil was dead with the years past." She brushed herself off before grabbing her son. "No, Raymondo. Do not harm him. God will get him for me." She dug her nails into his arm, making him wince but stop. "Do not. It is not for us to decide, it is for God to decide."
"Sometimes God delegates," he growled, making the bigots back up and more of them run away.
"Yes, but this time he did not delegate to you, son," she soothed. "Now, walk me back to the kitchen so I can take control of that. Then you can show me around once everything bad is gone." He nodded, walking her back to the kitchen. She looked outside. "Is that the bambino?" she cooed. She saw the tail wag but Diefenbaker wasn't moving. "Hmm, he doesn't feel good I think."
"We're taking him to the vets as soon as we find one," Ray promised. He kissed her on the forehead. "You sure you don't want to help paint over stuff, Ma? It'll make you feel better."
"No, son. Go fix those things. I'll be fine. Where are the children?"
"Upstairs. One or the other of the Mounties is watching them if Maria and Tony aren't."
"That's fine. Go. Have fun." He grinned and jogged off to get into the spirit of breaking things again. Ma found a phonebook and flipped it to the last page of the yellow pages, finding a veterinary hospital relatively close by. She picked up the phone to dial it. "Hello, I'm up at Manor Grove and one of our pets is ill. No, he's a canine. Yes, him," she said with a smile. "No, he's not even moving to come beg for food. Is there anywhere close by?" She found that listing. "Would they be open today?" She hummed and nodded. "Thank you. Yes, that would be fine. How far away are you?" She made notes on the blank page at the end of the book. "Thank you. Expect us within a few hours. No, we've got press people in the house while the others destroy things. I'll go find Benton right away though. Thank you." She hung up and went to find the poor man, finding Stanley first. She tugged on his sleeve and handed over the directions. "You're taking the bambino to the vet's, Stanley. He needs it. He didn't even come beg for food. They're open."
He nodded, going to find Benny and pull him away. "Ma said Dief didn't even beg for food. She found a vet's locally. We're going now. Go pick him up and meet me at the car." Benny nodded, slumping as he walked away. "Maybe it's something they can medicate," he offered. Benny shrugged but didn't say anything. Stan went to find Ray to let him know. "Ma said Dief didn't even beg her for food when she came in," he said quietly in his ear. "She found him a vet's so we're heading for a few hours."
Ray pulled out their credit card. "Pay us back," he ordered calmly. Stan gave him a look. "Trust me, it'll probably be expensive, especially if they want to take x-rays." Stan nodded and tucked it into his pocket before rushing for his car, pulling it up to the door so Benton wouldn't have so far to walk. They got Dief settled into the back and headed off.
Cat opened the door when she heard the car pull up. "That was a damn long visit," she said, already frowning. She looked at Dief, who was walking but still not looking too spirited. "Are you okay, big guy?" she cooed, petting him.
"The vet said he had arthritis after looking at his joints on the x-rays," Stan said, handing back the card. "Ray gave it to me," he said at her confused look.
"Why did he give you the one with the lower limit?" she asked. "Ray, you gave them the smaller one!" She grabbed Benny and hugged him. "It'll be okay. They make good drugs for arthritis."
"They do and he's got some now," he agreed, sounding a bit happier. "It could take as long as a week to show benefit, but he's already moving better. They gave him steroids as well."
"Good! I know they shot some into my knee when I blew it out the last time." She looked at Dief. "We're in the upstairs rooms so if you don't want to walk back down the stairs tonight you might want to go do a tree." He walked out, going to mark a nearby bush. "Good boy, Dief. Benny, pick him up so he doesn't have to hike up the stairs." She headed back up, smiling at where Ray was being used as a pillow. "She okay?" she asked quietly. He nodded, grinning at her. "Dief has arthritis."
"Hmm. A heating pad in his bed would help the morning joints," Ma offered. "It helps mine when mine get bad." She looked over as Dief was carried up the stairs. "There you are, little one. Let me get you something to eat." She went back to the meat trays, getting him a good pile of the shaved and sliced meat. "There, not even your father can complain about that." She stroked over his head, earning a light 'woof' of pleasure. "Will he be all right otherwise, Benton?"
"He should be. The vet said that he's about twelve and most wolves only live to be fifteen," he offered as he sat down. "He gave us some medicine for him. It can take as much as a week to show improvement but he should be fine."
"We'll do whatever we can to help him, Benton," Turnbull said quietly. Benny nodded his thanks.
"You know, if he's got to retire, we'll gladly let him come live with us," Cat reminded him. He nodded, giving her a slight smile. "Hey, maybe he'll be able to find that white dog we keep seeing in the woods. I know it's probably wild and I'm worried about it."
"I'll help you search it out tomorrow, Catherine," Turnbull offered. "It's been a while since I've been in woods."
"When are the forensics people coming?" Ray asked.
"Next weekend. They'll be bringing the ground x-rays and the body dogs. I told them what was going on and what had went on and they seemed really happy to have the students able to come do this. I've arranged for my buddy in the Corps of Engineers to come up to drag the pond once it's empty. Then the contractors will dig out the thing and make it a real pond, about twice as deep but with a more shallow section. They'll also be the people putting up the outdoor showers and toilets in tasteful little buildings on the other side of the property."
"Where will the campground be?" Ray asked. "I haven't been able to figure out where you're talking about.
"Oh, on the other side of the back woods," she said, pointing behind the house. "There's a great, huge place out there to camp. Plus the woods and things. There's even a back gate and a road out there. That's where that small road you were wondering about goes. Back in the old days, that's where we kept the horses and there had been a driveway back to the old barn. But it burned ages ago, when my mother was really young, and they grassed over the old driveway. We'll ride back there tomorrow. I've already picked who I want to manage that for us and they've had many squealing moments about it."
"Sure," Ray agreed with a smile. "I'm so much happier now that all those murals are gone."
"Me too," Cat sighed, grinning at him. "Are you happy enough to give backrubs?"
"Where is Helena being put up?" Turnbull asked as he stood up. "I'll put her in there."
"She's a bit heavy at the moment," Cat warned.
"No she's not," he snorted. He gently picked her up. "Which way?"
"I'll show you," Ma offered. "I'm heading to bed anyway."
"Night, Ma," Cat and Ray said in unison. They grinned at Benny, who blushed.
"We're not heading off yet, Benny," Ray promised. "You can stay and read or watch tv if you want. Maria and Tony went out for a stroll around the back yard." They heard a squeal but Helena apparently figured out she wasn't being kidnaped and calmed down quickly. "You okay, Turnbull?"
"Fine. She woke up when I placed her on the bed," he called back. He stuck his head back into the room. "She's fine, Ray. I'm going to walk in the back yard as well. It's a beautiful night. Would you like to accompany me, Benton?" Stan gave him an odd look. "I'm not offering in a romantic sense, Detective, simply an offer to a friend."
"I'll go with you tomorrow," Benny promised. "The vet said Diefenbaker should try to walk as much as possible."
"Just be easy on the stairs," Cat offered. "Stairs are different from doing it on a flat surface. There's more pressure. Trust me, my knees are just about as shot." He nodded, understanding that, his own bothered him now and then.
"I've been thinking, it might not be a bad idea to think about putting in an elevator in one of those rows of closets we seem to have at the end of the hall," Ray offered.
"I asked, they said they could do that. It'd be one of the old fashioned rope ones, and it'd be kinda industrial with the gate you'd have to close, but it'd add about another grand to the renovations, Ray." They shared a look and she nodded. "I'll talk with them more tomorrow. Maybe we can get something a bit less industrial." He smiled at her. "Hey, it's for my own benefit. I remember how big Eric was at eight months." She grinned at Benny. "So, do you think we'll be seeing more Mal and Eric fits tomorrow?"
"They seemed to have worked it out within a few hours," Benny offered. "Malaki is older, barely, but he seems to be a nice young man already."
"His dad might dispute that," Ray said with a smirk. "Speaking of, did you ever meet Jigen?" Benny shook his head. "You should. He's not too bad, for being an internationally wanted thief. He treats Helena good. He's sweet to her when he's around."
"The problem is that he's not always around," Cat agreed. "Hopefully if she takes the place in France he'll be around more often."
"He's better be," Ray said dryly. "Or that chucklehead that pretends to be her brother will be hearing from me and you and Zenigata."
"Zenny would love that idea," she said with a smirk. "I'll have to mention it to him."
"Why didn't you switch out to Interpol when the offer came?" Benny asked. "I heard him saying that you should have taken it years ago."
"Nah, I was happy in Vice then," she explained with a small smirk. "Things were finally starting to go right in Vice. The commander situation evened out. I was still doing good and I had respect. I couldn't do the job that Zenny does. I need some stability. I'd go insane without the book collection and the cats, neither of which I could have with how much he travels."
"Some of them seem to stay in France or in their local bureau," Benny offered.
"If something happens and we have to leave, I'll think about it," she promised. She looked at Ray. "Did Harding ask you to continue to consult for the 27th along with me?" He nodded, grimacing. "That means we'll be spending about two months a year back there."
"That might work out okay," he promised, kissing her on the cheek. "I know we've got to go back this weekend for a few days." He stretched his arm behind her neck, letting her snuggle in. "Want to have that backrub now?"
"Please?" she begged with an impish grin.
"Sure. Let's get to bed, Princess." He stood up and helped her up, taking her back to their bedroom. The fact that it had bare walls and exposed wiring didn't really matter to them. The fact that the murals were gone was enough to make them want to celebrate. Which they did in finest pregnant woman style.
Benny shook his head at the noise his friends were making, but he was smiling because it was good that they were happy.
Cat walked the boys into the precinct and sat them beside her desk, weathering the dirty looks from the other detectives. "Sorry, guys, but you needed us both back and Helena's started to have labor pains so we're watching Mal for a few more days. Take it or leave it."
Harding Welsh came out of his office to look at them. He noticed they had their names on the back of their shirts. "Malaki Koichi Nichols-Diasuke?" he asked.
"Helena's son Mal."
"Oh!" His eyes went wide as he looked around. "Where is she?"
"In labor. She's heading to the hospital as we speak. They might not take her today though. She said they're still fairly far apart."
"So, that other one is the son of Helen of Troy and the thief Jigen?" Huey asked. She grinned and nodded. "I had no idea that you knew such dangerous people, Catherine."
"Helena was up for the weekend, Huey. You met her then." She smiled at Harding. "They're being good today and if not, we'll let them go torment Turnbull for a few hours again."
"Fine. Just keep them out of trouble." He walked back to his desk shaking his head. "The case file is on your husband's desk. Where is he?"
"Dropping his mother at the doctor's. She sprained her ankle last night." She grabbed the file then sat down to look through it. "Okay, multiple kidnapings in the same age range. All female. Are we thinking sex trades?" she asked Huey. It had been his case according to the notes. He nodded, then grimaced as Stanley and Benny walked in. "You in on this too?"
"No, I'm here to do my usual stunning job," Stanley said dryly. "They're here to save your butt from that case."
"Boys, play nice. Remember, Mal and Eric are going to learn how to be big boys by watching the men around them," Cat said with a small smirk. Someone tugged on her pantsleg so she smiled down at the little boy. "Yes, Mal?"
"Dwink?" he asked quietly.
"Sure, babe. How about some juice?" He shook his head but he was smiling. "I'm not giving you soda this early in the day, kiddo. It's juice or water." He pouted but she gave him a long look until he took the juice box. Her own son let out an outraged noise of complaint so she handed him one too. "Don't make is go shooting out this time, Eric," she ordered, going back to work. Ray came dragging up the stairs. "Ma all right?"
"Just fine. She's pouting though." He patted the boys on the head. "No shooting at each other this time, guys. Or at the adults unless they deserve it." He looked over her shoulder. "Multiple kidnapings, all female, all around the same age. New pros?"
"Probably," Cat agreed, letting him see it. She'd already read through it. She pulled out her laptop to open it, logging onto the system's link to the internet. She sent out a message to someone saying she was in town for the week and then went to do a search. "Hmm, found our pedophile ring again," she said, making note of the contact information on the website, then moved onto other sex sites in the city. "Escorts, escorts, dial a porn, webcam porn, ah! Here we go, a legitimate find." She let Ray see it, moving her chair slightly. "Isn't that one of those girls?"
Ray compared the pictures, then nodded. "It could be. Can we get a physical addy?"
"Sure." She ran the site through the server's 'find me' database of isp addresses. "Hmm, West Side. Scummy neighborhood."
"That's full of warehouses," Ray offered. "Which means a stakeout."
"The kids'll be happy with that. You want to talk to the locals in that precinct?"
"Sure," Ray agreed, stepping around the kids to get to his desk.
Cat got a popup message from the system's administrator ordering her to shut down those sites. She picked up her phone to call him personally. "Would you mind stopping now? Some of us are looking for girls who were stolen and are being used as sex slaves. It's actually a legitimate use, not some happy web surfing for pleasure." She listened to his tirade. "Well, how else did you expect me to find them?" she snorted. "This city is a big spot to look for sixteen or seventeen kidnaped teenage girls. It's logical in this age of computer smut that they'd be advertising their new wares online to attract attention. Hence, the web search. The kiddie porn people are being turned over to sex crimes as soon as I can get down there and this one's going on a find and destroy. Sometimes we do have to look at them. Besides, not exactly my type, thank you," she snapped. There was silence so she hung up and looked over at Ray. "Have sex with one woman in your life and suddenly you're a pervert to those who are supposedly morality monitors. And *who* appointed the perv who likes to be whipped as the morality monitor?"
"The bigger perv who's the part-time drag queen," Stanley offered dryly. "And the perv above him who's bending over and flexing it for the press each and every hour of each and every day," he added for good measure. Huey moaned, clapping his hands over his ears. "Why else do you think the mayor loves the press so much?"
"This is not the environment for that discussion, Kowalski," Harding yelled from his office. "Do not taint those children already!"
Catherine let out a wicked chuckle. "My kid?" He groaned and got up to slam his office door. She called sex crimes. "Hey, it's Demoranth-Vecchio," she said with some humor. "I was just surfing for some stolen teens and I found the kiddie porn people's website. Want it?" She snorted. "Yeah, I just had words with the poor little perv who likes to be whipped and spanked. No, we've got sixteen or so kidnaped teenagers. Of course I went searching there first." She smirked at Ray. "Sure. Harding's in his office too. Not an issue. Yeah. Want me to fax it since I've got addresses and things too? They're definitely not being as careful as usual." She grinned. "Thanks, love. You can tell the whipping perv and his boss, the drag queen, that it was for a case." She hung up and went into the office to use the fax machine. "They reported me to Sex Crimes," she said with a chuckle.
"And to the Chief of Detectives. He said that it's understandable to search that way too. He said he'll try to reinstate your password in the system."
"Thanks. If not, I'll use Ray's or someone's." She sent that page over, watching as it ran through. "There, takes care of the kiddie porn sites I found." She went back to her desk, stopping Mal from trying to hug Huey. "Honey, he's not a hugger, Mal. Ask him first."
"Me?" Mal asked with a bright grin. Huey gave him a pat on the head, so Mal took that as an invitation to hug his leg. He let out a sigh of contentment.
"He's been missing male interaction," she told him. Huey gave her a look. "His mom's in hiding for their protection and his dad's somewhere in Asia. Singapore I think. So the only guy's he's seen have been Ray and Stan, plus Zenny once I think." Her desk phone rang so she picked it up. "27th Precinct." She listened, making notes. "Thank you for that helpful information. Did you take my password or should I change it now?" She smirked. "Bless you. Nope, we're working on it right now. Well of course they would. There's no underground paper for that like there is in Vegas or New Orleans." She smirked. "Oh, come on! It was a fun convention," she said dryly, making Stanley moan. "Even Stan agreed. He's remembering his tummy ache from the pastries." She smirked at him. "Sure. Thanks. No, I faxed it over to them. Thanks again." She hung up. "I'm in the clear, his boss just fixed it. See, *someone* knew I'm not like that." She shut down her computer and put it into her desk, then stood up. "Heading to the bathroom, be right back." Ray grunted, continuing his note making. She walked out, going down to the bathroom. When she came back, there was a person there with someone's gun. She coughed. "Boys, turn around, would you please?" she asked. They did, showing off their names. "Now, if you're *anything* in the local criminal structure, you know at least one of those boys' mothers," she noted.
He looked at the shirts, then at her, eyes wide. She wiggled her fingers. "Yours?" he asked, sounding hopeful.
"Eric's mine," she said smugly. "Where's your daddy, Eric?" He pointed up the stairs. "Thank you. That's such a good boy." Mal smirked at her. "Were you a good boy?"
"Hell no, he tried to steal Harding's food," Stanley said. He was kicked back at his desk, his feet up on it. "You're in for it now. She's four months along. Mood swings are just starting."
"Oh, shit," he hissed. She slapped him. "I'm sorry! I won't swear in front of your son again, Detective! Please don't tell the Angel of Mercy on me!"
"Oh, she'll hear about it, after she's given birth."
"But she'll be slower and in pain then," he said hopefully. "I'll be able to run away then."
"She's still a marksman," Cat said with a bright smirk. "You sure you don't want to try to run now, little boy?"
"Run?" Mal asked. "Me?"
"Sure, you go run up the stairs to get Ray," she agreed with a bright smile for him. He ran for the stairs, crawling up them. "Such a happy boy of hers, isn't he?"
"He is," he agreed quickly. "If I beg and plead, would you let someone arrest me tomorrow so I have time to make out a will?" he tried.
"That's her thing, kiddo, not mine. Mine was the life expectancy of a cigarette." He wet himself. She patted him on the arm. "Well, that might make you faster, but I doubt you'll be fast enough." She could see Ray coming down the stairs. Then Ray touched something to the back of his neck, making him scream and fall onto the floor shaking. "Hey! I was having fun!"
"I'm sure you were," he agreed. "I like this new model taser, it's quieter," he noted, letting her see it. "We should get one of these." She kissed him on the mouth, making him grin. "Thanks. No more talking the perps to death, Cat. We've got to find the scum who keep taking little girls for pleasure. Let me get Mal before he corrupts the civilian aide into giving him candy." He jogged back up the stairs, coming down with a pouting boy. "She wouldn't let him hug her."
"Why not! He's a perfectly nice little boy!" she called. "His mommy's in labor."
"Thanks for the warning," drifted down from the SWAT floor. "We'll be watching for the next hostage situation. Need help with that one or did you talk him to death?"
"I confused and scared him, Ray got him for me," she said happily. She pinched Ray's butt, making him jump and frown at her, so she smirked. "Turn about's fair play. Did you talk to the locals there?"
"Sure did. They're finding the address and we're due down there after lunch. They'll help with stakeouts."
"Okay. But I get to coopt Turnbull."
"Sure," he sighed. "I'll take Benny or Stan. You can take Huey or Renny."
"You know, one of those girls was up from near the border," she said thoughtfully. She took the case to look at the girls' statistics again. "Ah-ha! We can do it legitimately. One of them is a Canadian runaway. She came her to find a modeling contract or an acting school."
"Hey, go for it," Ray said with a smirk. "I'll watch the boys while you take down Thatcher."
"Sure. Keys?" He tossed them over so she strolled out, heading to the consulate. When she got out, she noticed that Thatcher gave her an odd look. "Ray made me turn in my lease when we moved upstate," she offered. "We've got to talk, Inspector. I'm going to be coopting your Mounties legitimately this time." The other woman gave her a look. "We have one Canadian runaway kidnaped from a shelter and fifteen or sixteen other American young women who are being used in the sex trade. As usual, I'll be requesting the help of Constable Turnbull and my husband will be begging for Constable Fraser."
"One is Canadian?" she asked calmly. Cat handed over the folder, so she sighed. "I have to allow it if there's a Canadian involved but you can't have them both at the same time." She handed it back.
"Fine. I'll take Turnbull this afternoon. Fraser's presently at the station since we've just gotten back."
"I noticed I hadn't seen the wolf today," she said bitterly.
"And you won't be for at least a week. We've just started Diefenbaker on some medicine for his arthritis. He'll be at the house upstate for now with Maria and Tony until we make sure he's not having a reaction to it and that he'll be fine to come back to the stresses of concrete on his joints." Thatcher nodded, that seemed reasonable. "Also, if something happens to Diefenbaker then we've arranged for Benton to bring him to us and to stay until he's healed from his grief. Plan on that, it could be within the next few years. Dief's about twelve."
"Very well. He has time still in hold for vacation or for grief leave. I'll make sure I have a set of papers on hand for that."
"Thank you. Send Turnbull to the 27th just before lunch."
"Fine. Anything else?"
"No. I'll make sure he's well trained in urban stakeouts and commando maneuvers. That's what we'll be doing. I'll also be making sure he'll be armed." She nodded, that seemed even better to her. "Good. Nice doing business with you, Inspector. Come up to the house sometime. We're turning it into a pagan retreat." She turned and headed back down to the car, getting in to go back to the precinct, with a stop for pastries. She was hungry and there was a place that put all sorts of stuff into pastries, including chicken and broccoli. She walked in and handed Huey the bag. "They're individually wrapped. Yours is the berry one." He smirked and found his, passing the bag to Stan. "Yours has cheese. Eat real food for a change," she ordered as she sat down with her two. Ray gave her a look. "Chicken and broccoli, plus cheese," she defended.
"Fine," he agreed with a smirk. He got the bag last and found his and one for the boys, which he split into half and gave them each a piece. They grinned at him as they gummed the pastries into submission, and he had breakfast.
"I don't believe it, I haven't heard a single scream yet," Harding said from the doorway. "Didn't get me one?"
"I did. Ray, wasn't there another in the bag?" He looked then handed over what he had thought was a pile of napkins. "Check to make sure. Oh, Benny. Thatcher said that we can only have one of you at a time. So you're going back after lunch so I can take Turnbull. He's been better trained for city maneuvers." He nodded, agreeing to that. "Also, I told her that Dief would be back in about a week and that if you suddenly left you'd be up at our place and she would be allowing it or else." She gave him a long look. "She decided that was reasonable and that it was also reasonable for you to be armed on this one since it's an official liaison situation with a Canadian involved."
"Thank you, Detective." He got up and gave her a pat on the back. "I'll head back now."
"Get a vest and grab my spares from my locker," she ordered, grinning at him. "Give one to Renny and take one yourself." He nodded, going to do as she ordered. "Ray, I'll take first shift since I'm sneakier and this isn't your section of town. You'll take the boys to Ma's, then you can join me." He smirked at her. "Hey, this is more my thing than yours."
"Good point," he agreed. "That's fine. Are you getting a rental?"
"Doing that on the way over to pick up Turnbull actually," she admitted. "Wallet?" He tossed his over. "Thanks, dear." She pulled out the credit card she'd want and tossed it back. "Have fun helping her run errands." He nodded, liking that idea. She stood up and wobbled. "Oooh, son, quit," she complained, stroking her stomach. Everyone stared at her. "Just a bit dizzy, guys. It happens. I'll even let Renny drive if I have to."
"Yes, you will," all the overprotective men in the unit agreed.
She stuck her tongue out but went to find herself a car.
"Detective, I should probably admit that I'm a bit scared," Turnbull offered.
"Then you're a smart man, Renny. Only stupid ones wouldn't be scared," she promised. They looked around the warehouse they had been told was the place. "Either we've got a leak or there's someone who can't take down addresses right." They looked at each other.
"Leak," they said in unison. They let the forensics people come in, watching them.
"Bethes, there's kidnaped girls involved. We need a location if possible," she ordered. He gave her a look. "A lot of kidnaped girls."
"If we can, we'll find you one," he assured her. "Pulling miracles out of thin air I can't."
"Fine." She took Renny out to the car, pulling out her cell. "Ray, they ran before we got here. It was completely cleaned out. Even the beds. It's a hunt." She hung up and looked at him. "Okay. They had to either have a truck or rent a truck. They had to move somewhere that had enough room."
"Somewhere with the capability to use the cameras," Renny noted.
"True, but that can be nearly anywhere that doesn't have full walls or has electricity and corners." She groaned and flipped open her cell, dialing her old desk number. "Hey, Perry, give me to the CO. Yeah, it's Cat. No, a big one. Kidnaped teen girls and a hunt. They moved them before we got here." She waited. "Hey, babe, it's me. We've got kidnaped girls and probably a leak. No, they moved them. Yeah, that case. No, they moved them and the beds. Just info if you can find any. I've got Turnbull with me. Yeah, that Mountie. Because he's an urban Mountie as opposed to Benny, who's a rural Mountie. Yeah. Thanks." She hung up. "She said you're welcome to me, that she wishes you all the luck in the world keeping up with me," she said with a grin. "They'll pounce some snitches for us and send us any info they can find."
"That's fine," he agreed calmly. "Are you feeling alright?"
"No, actually I'm feeling a bit homicidal because there's a leak," she offered. "Once I find them, I'll be curing that problem." She smirked at him. "Don't worry, I'm in control, but those people are going to be sorry." She started the engine and slowly drove around the district, looking for anything that might give them a clue. The few big trucks they saw were hauling legitimate things, like boxes of food. One site looked promising and they scouted it, but it was a drug den. So she called it in and they waited for backup.
Ray looked up as his wife came in. "Good job, Renny, she's in one piece. When did you get time in with SWAT?"
"It's part of the official training for diplomatic missions," he admitted. "That way we can take back our diplomats, Detective." He helped the nice detective into her seat. "The children?"
"The lounge asleep," he said with a smirk for the Mountie's back as he went that way. "You okay?"
"Drug den," she said dryly, shaking her head. "Some runners as young as ten. One pregnant twelve-year-old. She tried to grab a gun so they had to wound her. So I spent the clean up calming that guy down. He'll be fine. It was a legitimate shooting. They had the new cameras in for training purposes."
"Good. And good work," he offered with a slight grin. "Welsh, they're back!"
"Good!" He came out of his office. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, just fine. Why?"
"I heard you took a hit to your vest."
"I didn't. Renny did. He's fine too by the way. Just a large-ass bruise." Welsh looked stunned. "Seriously. Go ask him if you want. That's one impressive Mountie, Harding."
He went into the lounge. "Turnbull, you all right?" he asked calmly.
"Yes, sir, just bruised. It hit as an abdomen shot so I don't have bruised ribs. I'll be fine for duty."
"Turnbull, it's normal to not feel happy about these sort of things," he offered.
"Which is why I'm holding Eric like he's a version of sanity," he said with a slight grin. "I'm fine to go back with her, sir."
"That's fine, as long as you know you can back out."
"Then those girls are in danger of dying," he said simply. "The job isn't a choice, it's an obligation. Otherwise you wouldn't get out of bed some days."
"That's very true, Turnbull. Thank you for watching out for her today," he said quietly. He clapped him on the back. "We'll be more than happy to have you help us anytime you can or want to."
"Thank you, Leftenant."
"You're welcome, kid." He headed back to his office. "Catherine, Vice called. They can't find a thing."
"I did a new web search and I couldn't find them either," Stanley offered. "I even used your search terms. Their website has a message saying that they had a sudden move to make and that they'd be back up tonight, at full staff."
"At least they're not dead," Ray sighed in relief.
"That's about the only good thing in this situation," Catherine said bitterly. "Okay, that's it, I'm calling Helena. Any protests?"
"In her condition?" Huey asked.
"She can still call around," she promised, dialing the hotel where she had been staying. No answer. "Shit, they must have kept her already. Either that or she's on a run for pickles and ranch dressing again. She keeps saying she runs out of those two necessities." She grimaced and leaned back, stroking her expanding stomach. "Okay, son, help the mommy think. Where is the best place to hide those girls and a porn operation?" The baby kicked and she smiled. "No, I don't think they'd be on the docks. That's a move of desperation. Though, we do have contacts down there."
"I've already called, they haven't seen anyone moving in today," Stanley offered. "I've also contacted the local people that Helena used to work with and they said they hadn't heard anything yet but if they do they'll get it to us somehow." She nodded, liking that idea. The homeless were everywhere in this city.
"So that leaves what? Them taking over a hotel? Them taking over a new warehouse or something about that massive."
"Them moving outside the city's limits," Huey said, but he didn't look happy to be saying it.
"We could bait a trap," Renny said from the doorway of the lounge. "I've made some decent coffee if anyone needs more."
"We could," Cat agreed, grinning back at him. "Thanks, Renny. Not necessary, but you're a neat cop." She looked at Ray. "Write their webpage to see if we can set up an appointment?"
"There's no one in this precinct that's not well known," Ray pointed out gently. "Huey was just on the national news for one of his busts. Benny, Stan, and I have been all over the papers for years and you've recently gotten Turnbull a street rep as a Mountie."
Cat's phone rang and she lunged to get it. "Cat's...." She smirked. "No, honey, nothing happened to Mal. I was going to ask you if you'd heard anything about a new porn operation that's using some stolen little girls. Fourteen and fifteen it looks like." She listened. "Yeah, that case. Why?" She grimaced. "Yay. It's still illegal." She sighed. "That's fine, but it's still illegal, Helena. No, he's napping in the lounge. You okay? Sure. Not an issue, lovie. Done. Thanks." She hung up. "Yes, they're in the city, but Helena's contacts have said something about the girls doing this themselves."
"Why would any sane woman who's not in desperate straits do that?" Renny asked.
"That green stuff that buys you pretty clothes and stuff," Cat said, looking back at him. "They had the necessities but I know the shelter they got taken from. They were probably going to contact parents. The girls were going to be forced home unless there was a very good reason to protect them." She looked over at Ray. "What Helena said was that someone had approached the girls but they agreed to work long enough to get enough money to go onto a different life."
"Like those groups who let immigrants pay their way over to this side of the world and then keep them in sexual slavery?" Renny asked, bringing the pot out to refill cups. Huey gave him an odd look. "Sorry, force of habit of my present job."
"You have my permission to tell Thatcher that you're not her secretary, Renny," Cat said, patting him on the back. Then she bent over clutching her stomach. "Morning, son," she ground out. "Unhappy to be in there already? Usually you guys like to wait for a few months for that."
"You all right?" Ray asked quietly. She nodded slowly, catching her breath. "You can sit this one out too."
"Fat fucking chance," she said, glaring at him. "If this is what I hope it is, like Renny suggested, then they're still in danger. If it's not, I have no idea how they're going to be operating." She stood up. "Rennie, let's get you a new vest, then we'll go cruising again." He nodded, handing Welsh the coffee pot when he opened his door.
"Thanks, Turnbull, I needed some more," he said dryly, watching them walk out. "New information?"
"Helena said she had heard that the girls agreed to do it," Stanley told him. Welsh groaned and handed him the pot. "They're getting Rennie a new vest why?"
"He got shot the last time they went out," Welsh said grimly. "An abdomen shot, he's got a good bruise but he said he's fine to go out again."
"I bet," Ray said, standing up. "I'm taking the kids to Ma's, then I'm going to hunt her. Stan?"
"Going," he agreed, popping the top onto his coffee cup and heading out to hopefully at least follow her around for a bit. He made it down there in time to watch her pull out and find the flat tire on his car. "Oh, that's low, sis," he said, glaring in the direction she had went. He pulled out his cell, calling his auto club. "Hey, it's Ray Kowalski, I've got a flat at the station. Yeah, thanks." He hung up and waited while someone came to change it for him. He looked over as Ray came out the door with the kids. "She flattened one of my tires."
"Petty bitch," he muttered, herding the sleepy boys to his car. "Hmm, she's seriously in danger of being spanked now. I've got one too. Most of the cars left in the lot do," he said, looking around. He looked at Stan. Then at the kids. "Hey, you guys wanna go with Uncle Stan?" Mal shook his head, rubbing his eyes again. "Okay. We'll go to see Ma." Stan's auto club wrecker pulled into the lot and he made the man change his too. He was faster at it and it was faster than if he had to do it on his own. It was also cheaper than getting his usual guy to do it for him so he liked that too. Then he took the kids to his mother's and he and Stanley took off after their pet bitch.
Cat found the place on a tip from Bets and parked her rental car outside, looking at Rennie. "You're sure you want to come in? I can bust this."
"No, I'm sure," he agreed, strapping on the vest.
"Fine. How good of a shot are you? I make qualifications. Helena's the crack shot."
"I was taken hunting when I was younger and did bring down two deers before I was fifteen," he offered. "I don't make marksman but I do hit nearly ninety-five percent."
"Better than me. Chicago said I have to hit eighty-five because I've been here so long. I do, barely." He nodded, that meant he was taking point, which he was going to be doing anyway. "Okay. Let's scout, then we'll call it in." They got out of the car, noticing how quiet the neighborhood was. It was like they were the only people in the place. It was a residential neighborhood, and the building had been an old apartment building before it had went to pot and ruin. They snuck up to the back door, usually a safer bet, and checked the windows. They could almost hear someone. They did hear the gunshot and the screaming however. She looked at him. "I'm not waiting, Rennie. Call it in. Then follow."
"Like hell," he said, kicking in the door to take point. He had the newer vest and he wasn't pregnant. It was the manly thing to do. It was also rather thrilling. He hadn't done this since his academy days. They cleared the first floor except for the one room they could hear someone threatening 'girls' by what they were saying. He looked at her and she tested the knob, then shook her head. "Chicago PD and RCMP!" he identified. He kicked that one in as well, making the young girls scream and the men swear. Her heard Catherine shooting behind them and got the one with the gun that he could see. "How many more?" he ordered over top of the screaming. One girl pointed toward the back and he went that way, getting the person in the bathroom before he could flush the toilet. "Out!" he ordered in his best impersonation of Ray Vecchio. "Now!"
"You're a cop?" he sneered.
"No, I'm a Mountie. You have one of our citizens here I believe. Out, now. Before I let Catherine take you on. She's a bit peeved at you at the moment." He came out with his hands up, gulping when he saw who was checking the body's neck. "Is she all right?"
"Not hardly. You," she ordered, taking off her scarf. "Put that over the wound and apply pressure. A lot of pressure." The girl didn't move at first so Catherine pushed her down to make her do it. Then she pulled out her cellphone. "Dispatch, this is Demorath- Vecchio," she said calmly. "We need an ambulance for a gsw victim and four perps, probably close to fatal, and a damn big bus for the rest of them. Plus we'll need someone to clear the upper floors. We locked the door and the fire escape is gone." She listened to the dispatch officer agree. "Address, Rennie?"
"1630 E. Yeah, an old apartment building. Yup, that's us. Thanks." She hung up. "Someone else reported the gunshots." She looked at the girls. "You girls okay?" They shook their heads. "That's fine. We'll have you checked out at the hospital once we've gotten your statements at the station or I'll have the block doc come up to check you over." They nodded and she turned, pulling her gun as the door was pushed open. "Hi, Stan," she said, wiggling her fingers. "You're good at tracking."
"Dispatch called. We told them to," he said patiently. "Upstairs?"
"I locked the door."
"Fine." He headed up the stairs to clear the other apartments. It was something he could do so he didn't get pissed and yell at her.
Catherine spun when one of her shootings groaned and tried to lift his gun. He actually managed to pull the trigger but his aim was real wide, it went between the two groups of people. "Do it again," she offered. "Just think what I can do to you." He groaned and his hand dropped. "Thanks muchly." She heard footsteps. "We're fine, one wanted one last try. It went really wide." She looked at Rennie. "You're okay?"
"I'm fine, Detective. I'll vomit in a few moments." She smiled and nodded. "How much longer?"
"I hear sirens. Not much." He nodded. "Take him out and cuff him to a railing," she said, tossing over her cuffs. "Use a bush." He nodded, dragging his captive outside to hitch him to the railing as suggested so he could get ill. "Um, which of you is Canadian?" One of the girls slowly raised her hand. "He's a Mountie. They let him come to help us find you, dear."
"But we're okay now," one of the girls said. "She was trying to take the drugs. That's why they punished her."
"They nearly killed her," Catherine said patiently. "That's not punishment." The girls looked confused so she looked up. "Never mind, I'll have Ray explain it to you," she decided.
"Who's Ray?" one girl asked.
"The next detective who'll be busting through that doorway probably," she said dryly. She saw one of the others moving and turned, getting him as he tried to get up. He managed to get off a shot, which got her across the thigh, but he was now dead. "You stupid fuck!" she shouted. "Fucking well stay down!"
"Detective?" Rennie yelled.
"I'm fine, it's a graze," she called back. "I've had worse." She shook her head, pressing her hand against the wound. Stanley came down the stairs. "All cleared?"
"Hell no," he said dryly, moving her to look at her thigh. "It's a graze. I'm telling Ray."
"Hey, I thought he was bleeding heavily and not able to move," she defended. "He moved. He tried to get up. We fired at the same time."
"Shh," he soothed, giving her hug. He heard running footsteps and turned, hitting the person running down the stairs in the side. "Stay," he ordered the girls, who were screaming again. "This is like the fucking Alamo," he muttered as he walked away. "Only we have more bullets." He saw Ray pull in and waited at the bottom of the steps. "It's a graze," he said when he walked in. "One of them got up and tried for her just now. Rennie's outside getting sick. I'm guessing this is his first time shooting anyone for real." He pointed. "She's in there with the girls and there's still the upstairs to clear."
"SWAT's coming," he said grimly, going in to check on his wife. "You okay?" She nodded, grimacing down at her leg. "It'll be fine. Ladies, are we all right?"
"Are you a cop? She's insane," one of them demanded.
"She's a cop, I'm a cop, the other guy's a cop and one was a Mountie," he said dryly. "Congratulations." They let out a mass whimper. "The ambulance was right behind me," he said, looking at the girl. "She still living?"
"I can feel her breathing," the girl holding the wound offered. "They punished her because she was going to take the drugs. Really. We had nothing to do with that, it just scared us."
"Honey, you're listed as runaways who were possibly kidnaped. Even if you agreed to this, you're still not old enough to make that decision formally for yourself," Cat explained. "In this state it's seventeen." They sighed. "Are any of you over that age?" They all shook their heads. "Then you're all in deep shit, no matter which way it was going. I can't even promise the DA will go easy on you if this was your idea. I have no idea which one they'll assign this to." They nodded. "So, now we're going to be good children or else I'm going to have to have a mood swing on you all."
"You're pregnant?" one girl asked. "I thought you were just fat."
"No, I'm four months along, I was fat before I got pregnant," she said dryly, looking at Ray. Then behind him. "Hi, guys. Ambulance?" They pointed behind them and let Stanley lead the way upstairs. "I've got it if you want....." Ray led her out by her arm, going to gather her and Rennie, and put them in the back of his car. "Hey!" she said when he locked them in.
"Shut up." He went to chat with the head of SWAT and the others who were coming. "A few of the idiots got up after they shot them," he offered. "The girls said that they were punishing the one who had been shot because she wanted to take drugs." The Lieutenant winced. "She's got a graze on her thigh. Rennie was puking his guts up when I got here. Where's the guy he had hitched out here?"
"In the first squad," Welsh offered, pointing at it. "Do the girls need medical?"
"I'm sure we can get the cell block doc to come look at them," Ray suggested. "I'm thinking Helena heard right and this was their idea." He glanced back at his car, then at his boss. "I'm staying over here so I don't yell."
"She didn't flatten the tires," he offered. "We saw some punk doing it."
"Wonderful," Ray drawled sarcastically. He looked over as the Vice people came in. "They were punishing the girl who was shot because she wanted to take drugs."
"Fucked up their lives then, huh?" Bets said as she walked past him. "She okay?"
"Small graze. Rennie got sick in the bushes," he told one of the CSU people.
"As expected. He always seemed so nice. I wonder which went in first? Him because he's noble or him because he's a man?"
"I did because I'm a better shot," Rennie said as he joined them. "I nerve pinched her, she's napping in the back seat," he promised. "She's fine. The bleeding on her thigh stopped. Do I have forms to fill out?" Welsh nodded. "May I stop and get something to soothe my stomach while I do so? I'll gladly take her car back."
"Before you step foot away from this site, we're going to do the walk-through, Constable. It's tradition you know."
"That's fine," he agreed stoically. "I haven't had to do this since just out of the Academy."
"Even better," the CSU agreed. "How long before it's cleared?"
"Say ten more minutes," Welsh offered. "The girls said they were punishing the one who was shot."
"Even better. We like the twisted cases," he said dryly. "Detective Vecchio, if you weren't involved in the shooting, you may leave."
"Like hell," he snorted.
"I'll be with her, Detective," Rennie reminded him quietly. Vecchio gave him an odd look. "She'll be fine. You know I wouldn't allow her to be injured. She saw the person moving before I did and turned to get him, but they fired at approximately the same time."
"Fine," Vecchio sighed. "I'm going back to the station to take some antacid. Bring her back in one piece, with not a scratch more or a hair out of place, Turnbull."
"Yes, Detective." He smiled as Vecchio stomped off, taking his wife's car back. He smiled at Welsh. "He's much more understanding. I probably would be clinging to her."
"He did that the first few times," Welsh said dryly. "Don't worry, he'll come in tomorrow walking funny." He looked at the line of people being brought out, including the ones coming down the stairs. "Good job, Turnbull," he said finally. "Sixteen girls, ten johns, and a pimp. Not bad for your first case since the Academy. Not even Fraser had that good in his first month." He beamed proudly. "I'll make sure you get some tea or some Sprite when you're done here."
"Thank you, sir. Some tea would be most appreciated. Or even some water, I have a tea bag in my hat."
The CSU gave him an odd look. "Are your hats like rolling briefcases? I've seen Fraser pull files out of his."
"No, I simply keep the necessities in there. Keys, tea bags, bandages in case I get another paper cut or worse. A few packets of headache powder. My emergency nerve pill. Things of that nature that are small and can be hidden inside the band."
"I'll make sure you get a set of lockpicks to go in there too," Welsh promised. "Fraser keeps getting handcuffed. I'm guessing you're going to be better at that part of the job, but I'd still like you to have a set."
"Thank yo, Leftenant, that's most thoughtful of you," Rennie said happily. "I'd gladly trade you some homemade jerky for them. It's a bit spicy but much better than the usual pemican we have around the office." He pulled off his hat and pulled out a small baggie. "Here, try a piece. It's a bit salty at the moment. This is last month's batch." The lieutenant took a piece and bit off a piece, looking surprised. "It's my mother's recipe. She used to take me hunting when I was younger."
"Get anything?" the CSU asked.
"Two deer before the age of fifteen," he said proudly. "One was a ten point and one a thirteen, it had broken off a point in a fight and was injured, yet running at us." He nibbled on a piece, hoping it would help his stomach. He reclosed the bag and put it back into his hat. "I used to make ninety-five percent on the range at the Academy."
"That's better than Cat. Welcome to the 27th's list of people we pull in for cases," Welsh said, smiling before walking away. He wasn't Fraser, he was a more urban Mountie. He decided that he liked Turnbull. He was overprotective, smart, and tended to blend into the shadows so he didn't get noticed. They'd be finding a lot of uses for him in the future once he got Cat and Ray's replacements in. As long as he could get Cat and Ray to retire back to just helping the department his world would be complete.
Cat limped into Ma's house later that night, weathering the gasps. "It's a graze," she said patiently. "The person got up after I shot him. He wasn't happy with me. It's still only a big scratch. It only bled for a few minutes," she said patiently. "Ma, do we have anything to eat? I didn't get lunch and Ray's being fussy."
"Sit your ass down on the couch," Maria yelled. "Right this instant, Catherine Vecchio!"
Catherine actually flinched at that. "It's just a scratch," she defended.
"Now!" Ma echoed. She trudged that way shaking her head. "Supper will be in about a half-hour. Before then you will allow Ray to clean that for you and clean up any blood that may have dripped," she said, heading into the kitchen. Her son was going to get it.
"Where was Ray?"
"Fixing a flat tire," she said, rolling her head back to look at her. "Rennie and I got to go in together to bust the young women who decided that quickly earning that green spending stuff via the webcam industry and selected personal clients was the best. Seventeen at the oldest." Maria shuddered. "We had thought they were kidnaped."
"Stupid girls," Maria muttered. "You need help into the bathroom?"
"It quit bleeding a few hours ago," she promised. "We did this right after lunch." She stood up with a grunt, then groaned and grabbed her stomach before flopping down again. "Fine, kid, I won't move. Your brother liked this couch too." She sighed. "This one is not happy with the mother at the moment."
"Ma's looking scary too," Maria assured her. She came over to help Catherine up off the soft couch, walking her into the bathroom. "Where's Ray right now?"
"Hiding until Ma has a go at me, or so he said. That and going out for pie and ice cream." Maria snorted and helped by getting her something clean to wear. The soft pajamas were most welcome. "Thanks, Maria."
"Not an issue. Better you than me, Cat." She went to tell Ma that she had seen the wound and it was really a scratch, and that Ray hadn't even been there when it happened, that Turnbull had been. Ma's eyes narrowed and Maria realized she had just dug Ray a deeper hole. "Sometimes she doesn't get to work with Ray, Ma. Sometimes she's got to work with others. I'm sure Turnbull was just as good as Fraser."
"Better actually. Since this case included a Canadian he got to carry a weapon besides his hat. He's a much better shot than I am." Maria gave her an odd look so she looked down at herself. "Huh. I shouldn't be doing that. Hey, Ma. I think I'm going to call my OB from upstairs in the bathroom. I'm probably going to be late to dinner." She hurried up the stairs and into the bathroom to find something better to wear and a pad to hold the bleeding she was doing. She even brought the cordless phone with her, dialing the number from memory. She got the guardhouse at the manor. "Hey, Fred, it's Cat. Can you put me through to Dr. Dreamera? No, I thought I was dialing his number. She repeated it to herself when he read it off. "Thanks. No, I'm good. Just a small thing." She hung up and dialed him, getting his answering service. "This is Cat Demoranth-Vecchio.... sure, I'll hold. No, bleeding heavily. Thanks." She waited while they put her through. "Okay, so you were right, he's not a happy camper, I'm bleeding at the moment and I just had to be grazed earlier. Yeah, already doing that. Sure. Draken. Yup, him. Thanks. I'll meet him where?" She waited while he put her on hold and called her old doctor's on-call. Then he came back. "Sure, I know where that is, it's pretty close. Thanks, doc. See you soon I have no doubt." She hung up and checked herself then went to put on clothes that weren't bloody. "Ma, I'm going to the hospital," she called. "My OB said so." She slammed her door so she could get dressed without Maria's kids helping her do so, then headed down to drive her self to the hospital. Ma took her keys and handed them to Maria. "I'm fine enough to drive."
"Shut up, Cat. Let the rest of us do some stuff." She herded the other mother out to her car and got her moving. "Which one?"
"Sure. Women's is nice." She turned the car around and Cat knew instantly that Ray had given Maria driving lessons. She drove just like him when he was in a bad mood. "Sorry."
"Not your fault, sweetie, but it's not a good thing." They pulled up in front of the ER's doors. "You go in and I'm going to find a parking spot until Ma can find Ray or Stan. Then I'll go home and we'll save you some dinner."
"Sure." She got out with a grunt and waddled into the ER. "My OB told me to come in since I'm four months along and I just started to gush blood." The person manning the desk looked at her. "Dr. Draken is coming in for me."
"Fat chance. I'm a high risk. I'm diabetic." The attendant went to find a nurse, who rushed her back into a cubicle, and 'tsk'ed over her while getting her comfortable and checked over. "Is it a miscarriage?" she asked when the nurse was done.
"No, I don't think so. Have you been cramping?"
"Only when I try to stand."
"Then it's probably a different problem, ma'am."
"Detective then," she said with a smile. "Should we call anyone?"
"No, my sister-in-law was parking the car." Her OB walked in, wearing a tux. "You're probably going to be messy. I'm gushing. I cramped whenever I try to stand."
"It looks like she had a small separation but not a miscarriage," the nurse offered, handing over the chart. "Should we prepare a finger stick?"
"I'm guessing I'm about one-fifty at the moment," Cat offered. "I didn't quite make lunch. I was worried about a bust we had to go on."
"Were you hurt?"
"A graze to the back of my thigh."
"Hmm." He turned on the ultrasound the nurse brought him, checking her stomach. "Okay, I'm seeing a small separation but you should be fine. The important thing is that most of the placenta is still attached."
"Bed rest?" she guessed.
"Oh, yes," he agreed with a smile. "Quite a lot of it. At least a month's worth this time."
"Can I at least have couch rest so I can boss around the workers?" she offered, sounding hopeful. "We're renovating the house."
"Fine," he agreed, nodding. He looked over as the curtain opened and Maria was led inside. "Gee, Ray, you look different," he joked.
"Sorry, I'm Ray's sister Maria," she said, holding out her hand until he shook it. "She okay?"
"Partial separation. You have one?" She held up five fingers. "Ah. It looks like the bottom edge came up. As long as the rest of it stays attached she'll be fine. If she has more pain I want her in the hospital somewhere immediately. The placenta looks healthy enough otherwise." Maria nodded. "Bed rest, I'll give you a monitor to put on her stomach."
"My last one is up at the house," Catherine admitted with a yawn. "Am I good until I can get back up there?"
"When were you planning?"
"I was planning later this week, but it looks like that plan's fucked to hell and back," she said dryly. "Tomorrow?"
"You will not be driving tomorrow, young lady. You may lay down in the front seat but you may not drive."
"Fine," she agreed. "I can con Ray into doing it."
"That's fine," Ray agreed as he walked in. "What's going on this time? Another blood sugar spike?"
"Placenta came up a bit, started some bleeding. How long should that last?" Cat asked.
"Probably a few days. I want you to be as still as humanly possible, young lady. No extreme movements, no bouncing, jumping, or anything more energetic than drinking and cuddling your first born." She nodded, giving him a patient look. "Ray, she'll need her fetal monitor and she said it's at the house."
"Of course it is. It's in the bedside table actually," he admitted. "That way I could find it if she needed it again." She smiled at him. "So, she's to be on bed or couch rest for how long?"
"A month at the least."
"Sure," Ray agreed with a grin. "Not an issue. Her seats recline or mine's a bench and we can put the baby in the front seat since I don't have airbags."
"They'll both fit under the front seatbelts," he assured her. "You can have the whole backseat to yourself this time." He crossed his arms. "Can you look at the graze on the back of her thigh? Just in case she'll need antibiotics or something?" The doctor looked at the back of her thigh and pulled out a prescription pad, writing out a topical for her and handing it to him. "Any other orders?"
"Nothing more strenuous than cuddling. Nothing that'll make her have any sort of contractions. No orgasms. No backrubs that make her fluttery. Nothing like that." She pouted. "Pick, Detective."
"Fine, I can go without anything but foot and ankle rubs for a month," she sighed. "Maybe less if I'm good?" she offered.
"Your other doctor will see. As for now, I want you to take only showers. That's the only time I want you to stand up. If we have to, we can insert a catheter." She and Ray both shuddered. "Good, I see the orders are understood?" They both nodded. "Good kids. I'm off to a banquet in my honor. You two behave. Maria, it was nice meeting a sane member of the family. Ray, if you have to, I hear the Mountie you work with is very good at restraints." He walked out shaking his head.
Cat looked at the nurse. "Can I use internal bleeding protection or pads?"
"I suppose, as long as it doesn't harm you any to use it." She looked out then went to ask the doctor that. He gave her a patient nod. "Thank you, doctor. Have a nice dinner." She ran back to the cubicle. "He said that was fine as long as it didn't breach your cervix and you didn't leave them in too long. No more than four hours, Detective."
"I doubt they're going to last that long," she said dryly. "I'll even walk real slow up the stairs to bed."
"That might be a good idea, yes," Ray agreed, helping her back into her clothes, then into the bathroom to clean up. He walked out, taking the keys from Maria. "You, in the back," he ordered, holding the door for her. She climbed in and laid down like the good girl she pretended to be. Maria and Ray shared a look across the roof of the car. "Did you have problems like this?"
"No, I wasn't fragile either."
"Good point. Ma's mad I bet."
"Oh, probably," Maria agreed with a grin. They got in, Ray driving, and headed back to the house. Where Catherine was put into the bed and allowed to have soft foods and a new book.
Rennie looked around the house. "It looks much nicer now," he offered as he helped Catherine into the house and up the stairs. "Here we go," he said once he had the door opened. "Right into bed and put on that fetal monitor please, Detective," he said firmly, smirking at her.
"Sure," she sighed heading for the bathroom first, then coming back in to lie down and put on the baby monitor. She plugged it into the phone lines and watched as the machine chattered with the phone before turning green. "Okay, we're good."
"Very good." He tucked her in then smiled. "Would you like some tea or cocoa?"
"Cocoa would be nice, but you can go play, Rennie."
"Of course I can, Catherine, but Ray ordered me to look after you for the first hour or so. Then I'll go walk in the woods."
"Sure," she sighed, getting comfortable. "Can I have the remote to the tv? It's on Ray's table." He got it for her and handed it over, then left to make her some cocoa. Ray was in town and wouldn't be back for another two hours. She heard movement in the hallway and looked out there. "Yes?" she called. One of the local cops stuck his head in. "I'm under orders not to be pissed. What's the problem?"
"The baby's toes are sharp and it moved part of the placenta if you must know," she said dryly. "Why are you up here?"
"If we asked, would you give us a straight answer." She shrugged. "Is your husband running for Police Chief?"
She shrugged again. "I don't think he's doing it officially, but if he got written in enough times to get it he wouldn't turn it down. If not, we'll be open to giving advise and help now and then, the same as we do in Chicago until they can get our replacements in."
"That's reasonable, I suppose," he agreed. "You okay for real?"
"No, I'm sick and tired," she admitted. "Mostly of being coddled. I'm used to kicking in doors and being the biggest bitch in the city. It's why criminals wet themselves when they saw me. Especially during my last pregnancy." He looked stunned. "Don't believe me, ask the Mountie downstairs." He nodded once and left. "Were you here for any other reason?"
"Yeah, one of your workers had to have a warrant delivered. He missed his court date," he called. "Nothing more major, Detective. Thank you for that information." He headed down the stairs. "She's a tough woman," he said in greeting, making the Mountie jump. "You're not the usual one."
"I'm Constable Turnbull, the one who was helping her recently," he said calmly. "And yes, she is. She is quite strong willed and quite good at what she does. That's why she has a higher clearance rate and dealt with the stranger cases on top of the others. That's also why other departments, especially homicide, came to her for help I suppose," he said as he poured the water into the tea kettle to warm. "Was there a problem?"
"One of the workers forgot to show up for his court date. I had to deliver a warrant."
"That's fine. Ray will be in residence the rest of this month once he gets back and I'll be here until Saturday. I know they've offered their services and I wouldn't mind if you needed something from me."
"No, that's okay. We don't get many Canadians down here," he said dryly.
Rennie looked at him. "I may be a Mountie, but I'm still an officer of the law," he noted firmly. "The same as Constable Fraser is. He's solved many cases and I've been spending the time learning from Catherine recently. She's trained a great number of detectives, including some of the best in Chicago. Then again, she was listed as one of the best in Chicago, along with her husband and Stanley."
"Where was she rated this year? Last I heard she was down around twenty."
"She was at number eleven if I remember right. Detective Vecchio was around twenty due to his clearance rate and Stanley was closer to twenty-five or thirty."
"So all within the top ten percent," he said, sounding a bit impressed.
"Yeah, we were," Ray said from behind him. "Turnbull?"
"I'm making her some cocoa, Ray. I thought it might make her happier."
"That's fine. Mal and Eric are playing upstairs. Go enjoy your vacation time." He smirked at Turnbull, then at the local cop. "Turnbull here just helped bust a prostitution ring that involved a Canadian teenager. He impressed our boss so much that he's put him on in Fraser's place for harder cases."
"Wow. Fine, I'll tell the Chief that we can come up here for help." He handed over the file he had been carrying in his back waistband. "Here, if one of you wouldn't mind. We can't even figure out how they're coming in."
Ray looked it over. "Turnbull, which of the border roads is the smuggler's one?"
"The main one usually. Though I have heard of them using the small one up by that Church on the border. It's unguarded and relatively smooth if they're running liquids or explosives."
"These guys are running drugs." He handed over the file. "Think you could help them more? If not, I'll work with you on it later."
"Of course," he agreed with a smile. "Should we read this over tonight and give you some idea?"
"If you wouldn't mind. We'd like to stop the boogers. They're not very nice and they've got a local dealer that they drop off at each month."
"Hmm, in a rural setting pot must be a bad thing," Ray agreed, grabbing a piece of fruit out of the refrigerator. "Man, I might miss Meth and Crack some day. I just realized that."
"The offer remains open for you to go back to consult," Rennie said gently, smirking at him. "Just think, no more thieves."
"Which is a good thing," Ray agreed, taking a bite out of his apple so he could pour the water into the waiting cups. Turnbull smiled at him for it so he shrugged. "I'm having a nice day. Sue me." He carried his wife's cocoa up to her, handing it over with a smile. "We just got asked to help with a drug case. Where's the smuggling route up here?"
"By the old church up on the border. It's a straight shot to the next county, then over and down to the highway. Last time I saw him he was driving a Bronco. Dark blue with sparkly finish." She sipped her cocoa. "Pot?" He nodded, grinning at her. "Have fun."
"Thanks, babe." He went down to tell the officer that. Maybe he remembered him.
"That's the chief's son-in-law," he said in amazement. "Oh, no wonder," he said, suddenly getting it. "Thank you, Detective, Constable." He walked out, heading back to share that information. They'd pass on anything else that they had. His chief was going to have fits. So would the townspeople if they found out.
Ray looked up as someone coughed, waving the person closer while he watched the boys. "Hey, Zenigata. What's wrong now?"
"Nothing. I came to pick up Mal. She's taking the place in France."
"Need help moving her? Cat's gotta stay in bed but I'm free and Stan could probably use the time off."
"No, we've got everything in storage so we're just having it shipped. I already took her cats from her so they could go over for quarantine. She's sniffling about missing them most of the time. Plus that little guy," he added with a grin. "Hi, Mal."
"Unclie!" He hugged him as hard as he could. "Momma?"
"Is just fine and so is your sister Jissan," he promised, picking up the baby boy. "That's a very pretty shirt, Mal. Where did you get it?"
"We had to bring him into the station with us so Cat had them made," Ray said dryly. "It's got his full name on the back. I think she was hoping that news would get back to the chucklehead."
"The crook is still clueless as far as I can tell," Zenigata said dryly. "But I'm sure he'll get told as soon as they pop around to bother her again. She found a really nice little house in France off to the side of that estate. She said it was kinda pricey but then again so is rural France most of the time. Say bye-bye to Uncle Ray then we'll go say bye-bye to Auntie Cat."
"Bye!" he called, waving and grinning. "We come back?"
"Sure, anytime your mom says you can," Ray promised, taking him back to give him a hug and a kiss. "You be good on the flight over, Mal. You're gonna like the new house."
"'Kay," he agreed happily, even though he looked confused. He hugged his uncle again, then grinned at Eric. "Bye, 'Ric!" he said, waving at him. Eric burst out in tears.
"Shh," Ray soothed, picking him up to cuddle. "It's all right. Mal's going back to his mommy now that she's had her baby girl."
"Girl?" Mal asked, looking confused. He shook his head. "Boy!" he said, pointing at himself.
Zenigata laughed. "Yes, you're a boy, Mal," he agreed patiently. "But you have a new little sister, who's a girl." He waved and took him inside, chatting about his sister on the way up the stairs. "Cat?" Something thumped a closed door so he went that way, smirking at her. "On bed rest again?"
"Yuppers," she said dryly. "What's up? She okay?"
"She's just fine. We're doing the final move tomorrow. She did take a small house in France. Just off that estate you told her about." He let Mal lean down to hug her. "Be gentle, Mal, she's fragile."
"No I'm not," she snorted. "I'm simply on bed rest. Part of the placenta came up." She patted Mal on the head. "You get your mommy to let you record an email soon, little guy. We want to hear about your sister." Mal nodded, clutching his uncle. "His stuff's still mostly packed. I figured it wouldn't be too much longer. He's probably got two outfits in the wash. We can send those over if we get a mailing address."
"That's fine. I'll send it over tonight by email. I know the phone's already on and most of her stuff, including the computer, is over there and being set up for her." He kissed her on the cheek. "You behave. I want to come to this one's Christening if I'm not shooing the asshole closer to his woman's side." He gave Mal a squeeze. "Come on, let's get your stuff."
"Kitty?" he asked Cat.
"Sure, you can take the stuffed kitty Ray won you, sweetie." He beamed and babbled at his uncle about it all the way down to the baby's rooms. As shown by the open door and the toys thrown everywhere. Cat sniffled, pulling over a pillow to hug. She liked Mal, she'd miss him. She looked down at her stomach. "Come sooner, huh, kid? That way I can get real baby cuddles since Eric hates to be cuddled at the moment."
"It's a phase," Ray called as he came up to help pack everything. He put his son down. "Eric, mommy needs sugar. Will you go give her a hug?" He ran for her, climbing up onto the bed to hold her as tightly as he could.
"Thanks, son. Mommy loves you too." She let the pillow go, cuddling him instead. He was much better than any old pillow. They waved as Zenigata took his godson away. "He's going to live in a big house in France," she told her son. "Nearly as big as this one. Only he won't have as many woods and he'll have a river instead of a pond." Her son gave her an adoring look. "Don't worry, you can visit him again soon, Eric." He nodded and cuddled up to her shoulder, resting his warm little forehead against her shoulder. "Sweetie, are you running a fever?" He shook his head. "Ray, can you bring me the ear thermometer? He's warm."
"He was just in the sun, Cat." He brought it anyway. Just in case she had developed his mother's sense of when something was wrong. "Let me call the doctor," he said calmly, picking up the phone and hitting the memory dial for the pediatrician. "Hey, it's Ray Vecchio. Eric's running a fever." He opened the window. "Zenny!" he yelled, holding the phone away from his head. "Eric's running a fever, check him!" The other cop waved a hand and he listened to the nurse laughing on the other end. "Sorry, Mal's going back to his mommy's side and they're moving to Europe tomorrow. No, one hundred-point-six." He listened to the instructions. "Sure. Thanks. No, he's cuddling right now. That's unusual in itself. No, he's on his mom's shoulder. That shouldn't hurt her, right?" He grinned and relaxed. "Thanks. No, it's fine." He hung up. "Let me get the baby Tylenol. If that hasn't helped then we're bringing him in tomorrow, unless it spikes up and then we're going to the ER." He found the bottle of liquid pain killer and measured out an exact dosage, bringing it back to his son, who was hiding his face. "Take it or we have to see the doctor, Eric." He let Ray pour it down his throat, making gross faces. "I know," he agreed. "It tastes bad, but it works good and it'll make you feel better soon." He laid down beside her, curling up on her stomach. "You okay in there, baby number two?"
"He needs a name," she told him. "Before we have another naming incident after the birth."
"Hmm, Ma suggested Thomas. I liked Adrian."
"Thomas Adrian is nice," she agreed. "We can go Adrian Tomasina or something if it's actually the daughter I want."
"Mistress Catherine, the head contractor's back," the housekeeper yelled.
"We're up here," Ray called.
Catherine was smiling when he came in. "What happened, did the check bounce?"
He shook his head. "Nothing like that," he promised with a smile. "We'll be done beforehand I think. We got the last of the outhouses built earlier today so all that's left is finishing the plumbing and doing the last few walls up here. "
"And the elevator," Ray reminded him.
"And that. We've got everything, we only have to get the elevator people out here to watch over our shoulders as we install everything." He smiled at the sleepy looking little boy. "Nap time?"
"Slight fever. The medicine makes him sleepy," she said with a small grin. "Finally." He chuckled at that. "So, how much longer do you think?"
"Maybe another six days, painting included. The plumbing crew is out there to check everything out. We've finally got in the wallboard you liked so we can put that in right away and fairly easily. It's about like regular wallboard only it has wallpaper already on it. The lower rooms have been plastered over and sanded smooth again so we're down to plugging any cracks, putting on the sealer, then painting it. Maybe two weeks if we're lazy about it."
"That's fine. We'll cut you a check on your last day, after the final inspection," Ray promised.
"I'm impressed, this was a big job," she praised. He beamed. "I'll be doing the walking tour tomorrow. Slowly of course," she added when Ray looked at her. "It's been two weeks and he said I could start moving around slowly and carefully."
"As long as you're not hurt," he agreed, giving her a firm look. He looked at the contractor again. "You still look nervous. How far over budget are we?"
"Not very. There's only been a few things that have changed. The dredging of the pond is going to take more than we thought. The pumper company is local you know," he admitted. "Then they're going to be taking that water to the waste treatment facility and pumping in fresh from the reservoir. The people who came up to look for bodies did a great job and there's not much that's been disturbed. Especially not that graveyard we found in the woods. We actually volunteered to put up a small fence around it with some extra wood we had so people wouldn't blunder into it. I know some people can be odd about cemeteries." She nodded, that was thoughtful of them. "So we're nearly done. Anytime you're ready to inspect we can do that. We've got to run electric down to that end but we're waiting on the power company to do it since we've got the poles places to their specifications finally. The place is going to end up looking like one of those mazes that churches have where you follow the line and meditate while walking it."
"A mandala," she provided. He nodded, smiling at her. "That'll be nice and it'll make some people feel more at home."
"Good job," Ray told him. "Anything else?"
"We're cutting out early for the night. It looks like it's going to storm something horrible. So we'll be watching for flood potential and groundwater problems tomorrow."
"Hey, totally understandable," she agreed. "Go, have fun. You guys deserve it." He smiled and left, heading out to tell the guys the good news. "Think we'll like it?" she asked quietly.
He nodded. "I've seen some of the stuff and it looked pretty good," he offered. "We'll go look tomorrow." She nodded, cuddling into his side. "Ooh, it's not just the baby that's a cuddlebum." She laughed and poked him on the side. "Meanie. You know I can't retaliate."
"You could be nice and help me scrub my back tonight," she offered. He nodded, smiling down at her. "Thanks, Ray."
"Mommy? Not feel good," Eric whined, right before throwing up on her.
"Then again, maybe I'm going to be taking a full shower," she quipped as Ray took their son to clean him up and put him into the bath. She took off her shirt and tossed it toward the basket, but Ray picked it up to soak it in the sink and brought her a warm towel to clean up with. "Gee, thanks, dad."
Stanley stormed onto the back porch, making Maria and Cat stare at him in shock. "How long have I been on the force?" he demanded.
"Um, about fourteen years?" Cat guessed.
"That's right, nearly fifteen fucking years. And they do this to me!" he said, throwing his arms up. "I oughta go shoot the bastards. That's what I oughta do. They deserve it. They deserve a hell of a lot more than that! Let me tell you what!"
"What did they do?" Cat asked.
"And could you please tone down the language? The kids are right over there, Stan," Maria complained, pointing at the kids, who were staring at him in shock.
"They fucking well suspended me," he said bitterly. "Because, and I quote, I'm not stable enough to be a detective according to our new psychological profile parameters," he spat.
"Gee, you're not a mass murderer, rapist, or a clan member, that makes you better than at least a tenth of the department," Cat offered, looking confused. "Since when have they had a new shrink?"
"Since last week. He pulled everyone who's *ever* had a violence complaint against them, bogus or not, and had them pulled in to 'talk to them'," he said, doing the quotes. "He started out by asking if I liked children as more than fun things to watch on weekends, and went on from there."
"Did you tape it?" Cat asked. He shook his head. "Did he tape it?" He nodded. "Then pick up the phone, dial the number *7, and tell the man who answers that." He looked stunned. "Seriously! I had to put ours on speed dial because they were trying to screw Ray out of his retirement. Do it, before I do." He picked up the phone and sat down to talk to the man, explaining things to him. When he hung up he looked much calmer but he threw the phone. "There's already a witch hunt out for the guy. He's joining in on my behalf," he announced.
"Hey, then retire up here for a few weeks," Cat offered. "I don't care." Maria laughed. "I don't." She shrugged. "Benny and Dief could probably use the time up here too."
"Benny's on statue duty for the next week. The shrink said that he thought it odd that he kept 'butting in' to our cases." He rolled his eyes. "I wanna smack the man and then debone him. The old fashioned way."
"Mouse trap?" Maria asked with a wicked grin. Stanley stopped to stare at her. "What? You meant something different?" He shuddered and headed back inside to talk to Ray. Maria chuckled. "Sorry, had to stop that before the kids learned bad habits."
"That's something I'd let Eric swear about," she offered. "This makes the second time the department has tried the 27th and I'm betting they're wanting a reason to close it." Maria nodded. "Yes?"
"Yeah, the new mayor said that we're going to have to trim the system. That means that Ray might not get his retirement anyway."
"He's got it through the union. If they try to take it, we're suing," she promised. "We're already in the process of suing them for it." Maria looked stunned. "After fourteen years, he was entitled to about eighty percent of it since he retired after an injury on the job. Let's face it, Ray didn't just retire because I did. He retired because he had blown his shoulder out again and his knees are starting to ache. Ten years on the job is a good average. Especially for those guys who have hard and rough cases like Ray and I. I screwed my back and ankles with heels doing Vice assignments first. I was on disability for four months after surgery to my ankles to try and make them stronger. Stan has a reason to worry and so does Ray."
She nodded. "We'll support you. You know that." She looked over as Stan came back out. "Ah! No beers around the kids," she ordered. He sighed and went back inside. "That's a bad habit I don't want them picking up. It's too close in this family as is."
"Yes, Maria," he called from the kitchen.
Catherine picked up the ringing phone, listening to the rant on the other end. "Calm down," she ordered. "What's going on?" She listened to him. "Well, no, I'm not a psychology person. I'm an anthropology person actually. We do the same thing, only looking at different factors. Sure. When am I being called in?" She smirked. "Deal. But you get to clear it through so that Ray has to be in the courtroom. Because I'm still technically on bed rest." She nodded. "That'd be fine. Sure! Not an issue. I'll drive up tomorrow. Thanks." She hung up. "Stan, good news, someone's filed to stop the suspensions. There's a hearing tomorrow. I'm getting called in as a witness."
"Thanks, Cat," he called, coming out to give her a hug. "I'll drive you back and be in the court room if Ray can't." He went back inside to tell Ray the bad news. He'd be doing diaper duty all by himself tomorrow and possibly the next day too.
Maria looked at Cat. "You really used to profile?"
"Before we got an official one, yeah. I handed Blount my cases and danced out of there after hugging the man. I was in over my head on some of them, but the serial stuff is the same no matter what." She shrugged. "I'm handy," she said with a smirk.
"With everything but a wooden spoon," Maria teased.
"Hey, I can't be *perfect*," she complained. "The Goddess I'm not, no matter how many times I've been accused of trying to be." Stanley laughed from the kitchen. "See, he's heard them before."
"I'm sure you've been told that," Maria agreed. Cat seemed superhuman to her sometimes too. She was sure someone had said she was trying too hard. Either that or they were jealous and throwing her religion back into her face. "I can't wait until we move up here."
"It's nice. It's quiet. It's got a decent school system once you get the bigots out of it." She sighed. "And that's probably our next task after the election. One of us is going to have to start sitting on the school board meetings. There's no way I'm letting Eric go to the local daycare with the people who run it."
She nodded. "I can see that. Maybe a teaching certificate would be a good idea. You keep saying you want to go back for your Masters."
"Maybe," she agreed dryly. "Either that or I'm going to have to through the horrible psychology classes to get that one. Just in case this sort of thing comes up again."
Maria snickered. "I'm sorry, I can't see you as a Feeb."
"Thank you." She hugged her. "That was the nicest compliment I've been given this year."
"What?" Ray asked from the doorway.
"She said she's considering the possibility of having to go for the psych stuff to keep things like this from happening again. I told her I couldn't see her as a Feeb."
"No, neither can I. She'd die in a suit each and every day. No jammies at all." Cat snickered. "You got called?" She nodded. "That's fine, I'll let Stan watch you." He winked and walked inside to fill Stan in on the current doctor's orders.
Cat accepted the pillow from the bailiff and sat down delicately. "Thanks, man."
"You're welcome, detective," he said quietly, going back to his post.
"Your name for the records?" the department's attorney asked.
"Catherine Demoranth-Vecchio, Detective First Class, now a consultant for the 27th, Homicide, and Sex Crimes. Want my badge number too?"
He shook his head. "No, that's not necessary, Detective. Are you a member of the 27th Precinct?"
"I was switched there a few years ago from Vice. I've known a few of the members longer however."
"Including Detective Kowalski?"
"Yes, including him. He came in to fill in for me after a gunshot wound left me riding a desk in Vice a number of years ago, nearly ten if I'm counting right." She shifted. "Can we get to the point please? My doctor said I'm supposed to be flat on my back or I could start to bleed again."
"What's wrong with you?" the judge asked.
"I'm pregnant and part of my placenta is loose. I started to bleed a few weeks back and was put on total bed rest."
"That's fine. If you feel the need to, we can have yo lie down on the couch in my office," the judge offered calmly. "Just let me know." She nodded. "Proceed quickly."
"Thank you, your honor." The department lawyer looked at his file, then at her. "What else have you done for the department, detective?"
"You mean besides turning in some bad cops, including a few commanders? Or do you mean being one of the top detectives in the city? Or are we talking about my unofficial position as profiler at large and the person who handles anything religious, sacred, or odd?"
"The last actually. What are you qualifications?"
"At the time I took on the job, my Bachelor's and continuing education credits in Anthropology were enough. We do study the same factors, only from different ends of the spectrum, and it's often more useful for the odder cases I do. I have taken some psychology classes. About enough to have a minor at the current University of Chicago standards. I'm also a veteran of all the profiling continuing education lectures and the training that the FBI gives."
"So, you do have a good handle on the psychological spectrum, even though you tend to take a less micro view of the person's behavior?"
She nodded. "You could say that. The way I was taught, each person was like a cog in the system. They each added and subtracted things from the whole of the society. In the case of profiling, I was using my education to see where the sticking spots and where the sucking voids were for each person."
"I see. Do you feel qualified to do counseling, Detective?"
She nodded. "On an unofficial basis. As I have numerous times with other officers who were only being hurt by the department's shrinks after horrible things, like their first shootings." She shifted again. "I'm also someone who got to train a great number of detectives, nine of which are still at the top of the city's lists."
"Well. So you do feel qualified?"
"I do, and the FBI said I was good enough at it after the last continuing education seminar. It's not like they require a real emphasis in psychology to be a profiler. Technically, you have to be able to see the person's and the society's issues that helped create the person at the same time. My field of study is excellent at that."
"Thank you. Have you talked with any of the people that were put on suspension?"
"Can I see a list? I only know of Detective Kowalski, who was one of my trainees partially." A list was handed over by the lawyer and she sighed. "I've had to talk to a few of them," she offered, handing it back. "About half the list, usually after a shooting, or as an understanding party after a divorce."
"So, you've been the confidant of some of the people on the list?"
"Want to maybe quit asking redundant questions?" she suggested. "Please?" He glared at her and she snorted. "I'm better at that. My fourteen-month-old son is better at scowling than that."
The judge laughed. "I agree, let's move on, counselor."
"Fine." He cleared his throat and looked at their newest shrink. "Have you ever had to visit the actual counselors at any time?"
"After each and every shooting we're required to. After a kidnaping when I was late in my second year on the force. After the time when I was shot and Stan had to come fill in for me in Vice. And I think I had to visit a few months back because of a mood swing when I was pregnant but that one got headed off for me since I wasn't exactly the most rational at the time. Having my only means of support taken to Vegas by the FBI was making my health go critical at the time." He looked stunned. "Did you want me to expand on any of those? There were six shooting incidents, one of which involved an undercover officer. There was the kidnaping, which I was taken hostage during and held for four days. My badge number was changed after that due to what happened after it. I did voluntarily seek out one of them that I was on passable terms with after a bad breakup to have a shoulder to cry on that wouldn't let it go around the city. Forgot about that, sorry. There was the incident where I had a stalker shoot my shoulder while I was in Vice. There was that one time I didn't go when I was pregnant." The judge smiled at her. "Sorry, am I being impertinent?" He nodded, smirking at her. "Good. That means I'm having a good day," she said, scowling at the lawyer. "As I said, hurry up. Or else I'm using your briefcase to empty my bladder since my newest one is dancing on it."
"Detective, have you ever had any problems with your attitude being called into question?" he asked.
She burst out laughing. "Oh, Gods, you're an absolute riot. No one told you who I am," she chuckled. "Oh, Gods, that's good." She wiped off the tears once she had stopped. "I'm affectionately known on the streets as The Bitch Queen of Death. I was a Vice cop for almost seventeen of my years on the force, chuckle boy. The last time I was pregnant I had people who begged to be arrested so I didn't have to get too upset with them." The other detectives laughed. "You have no fucking idea who you're talking to, do you?" He looked stunned so she shook her head. "May I please have a moment to relieve myself, your honor?"
"Go," he agreed tolerantly. "It'll give him time to pull up your service record."
"It's sealed. I made sure of it. I had way too many death threats in my career." She accepted the help up from the bailiff. "Thanks. Which way?" He opened the back door and showed her to it, bringing her back. By the time she came back, the courtroom was in complete silence. "Aww, that's so nice, letting me make an entrance." She sat down again and looked at the profiler. "You wanted to get into this too?" He nodded. "Go ahead and try."
"Detective, how many years?"
"Just over eighteen. Maybe a half."
"I see. Do you feel that you're unnecessarily violent?"
"No. I feel that I show the correct amount of violence when called for. Being as how I used to have to go into situations without a partner and without any backup most times, even into hostage situations and into drug busts, I think I'm remarkably stable. And before you ask, it was a budgetary thing, not my personality. When we had the money for partners, I loved working with one. I had no problem going back to it when I got switched to the 27th. You can ask my last partner if you want. Or the Lieutenant, who's known me since the Academy." He shuddered. "Let's see you go bust ten drug pushing pimps, their girls, and their whole cadre of muscle by yourself, then let's see you afterwards."
"What did you do afterwards?"
"I went home and curled up with a good book and my cats."
"No, at that time I had just kicked my girlfriend out for cheating on my fat ass." He looked stunned. "Yes, I have dated both men and women. I'm married to a man if it matters to you. I still managed to be objective, fair, and usually fairly decent until a situation called for it. Then again, I also had to put up with bosses who suggested that we hook to raise money for the department."
"Hook what?" the shrink asked. The detectives in the back groaned. "Oh, I'm sorry. Street lingo."
"Sweetie, if you're going to work with cops, you'd better learn some of that. We live a hard and rough life," she said, talking down to him. "We're in danger each and every day from people who want to kill us if we're good, or turn us if we're not. In my last year on the force I was under six different death threats not related to my original family's home. I was also under two different investigations because the department was unfairly targeting me because I had dated women. If you want, you can call Mildred and have her unblock a summary of my cases. According to the files I keep, I had over six thousand arrests in my career." He looked stunned. "That's just Vice cases. That's not the serial cases I worked. That's not odd cases I worked. That's not even the ones I worked that no one else wanted to work, like when a rich little boy was killing working girls. Those are just the normal cases. And yet I'm still fairly well adjusted, able to get along with people, a great teacher to new detectives, and one hell of a mother. You have no business sitting in with us until you've at least known a cop before. Or been a cop for at least a week." He looked stunned. "Do you feel confident to talk to someone who had to shoot someone else?"
"Yes, I do."
"Based on what? Can you empathize with them?"
"No, they don't usually need it. Shooting someone should be rare."
"In the last year, Chicago's department had just under a thousand reported officer shootings. Most of those were found to be legal calls. Most of them were because someone was drawing on us." He looked stunned. "How can you help those cops who had to shoot someone or else they died if you don't have a clue what they just went through?" He gaped at her. "For that matter, handing them psychobabble about it being the job that's bad, not them, is part of why the cops don't go to the counselors when we need them. It's a sad fact but senior detectives are often used as counselors instead because we usually do understand. And trust me, after the first time you have to shoot someone, it's easier." He turned pale and ran out of the room. She looked at the lawyer. "I'm assuming Mildred unlocked part of my file. Yes?"
"Yes, the part that's relevant to this inquiry," he said, clearing his throat. "Did you, as a detective, feel comfortable going to the counselors?"
"I did at times. Perry was a good woman who got burnt out really fast with the horrors we see every day. At times, I helped her just as much as she helped me. The same as I had to help Blount now and then when he was on the job, and I'm the person who did the job before him. Also, I'm not one to judge others, or their personal habits. That beats his habit of accusing people of horrible things." The lawyer looked stunned. "I do believe that if you checked, that would make him liable for many suits against him by the officers who he accused of things like child molestation and being homicidal and dangerous to others. Unfortunately, the one who believed him and killed himself can't do that. I'll be helping his family sue the department for hiring him and him for doing that to a good cop." He swallowed. "Those of us who have lived in the trenches and come out the other side bloody and battered but living know who we can go to and know when to turn around to help the others."
"Pretty words, detective. Why did you retire?"
"Physical," she sneered. "I'm diabetic. I have been now for almost six years. I also have arthritis in my knees. I also have a fourteen-month-old son that deserved better than mommy being too slow one night and getting shot during a bust." He swallowed and sat down. "Are you done?" He nodded quickly. She looked at the other lawyer. "Your turn I guess."
"One last question," the department's attorney said quickly. "What happened to Blount?"
"Dr. Blount found himself with a fixation based on a serial case he had solved. He went slightly odd and decided to try to resurrect him after stealing a few of my files and some artifacts from storage. If I remember right, he pled no contest to the theft as long as he could go to mental facility to get fixed."
"Oh. Is that common?"
"No, more common is emotional burnout. When all you hear is how horrible real life is and how bad it is for those of us on the streets time and time again, you get tired of it," she said honestly. "That's what happened to Perry and John, though I'm not sure when he left. Perry couldn't take it anymore and John got to the point where medication was the answer for nearly everything because it'd let you sleep at night after you had to shoot someone."
"Do you like that idea?"
"For some it works. For others it doesn't. Pills like that don't work on me that well so therefore I had to move on after it. As I said, after the first, it's a bit easier each and every time. By the sixth I was only vomiting for a day and resisting the urge to crawl into a bottle and not come out. After my first I threw up for a month straight and I spent that whole month drinking myself to sleep each and every night. When I got sleep. Due to circumstances in Vice at that time, we were pulling double shifts at least once a week." He nodded, waving at the other lawyer. "Your turn now."
"Detective. You've talked to a good number on the list. Did you think any of them were truly out of mental whack? That they had to be removed from the streets for their own good?"
"No. I know a few who I'd watch a bit closer to make sure they didn't snap. Some of them were in high stress jobs and it kept adding up. They didn't have an outlet at the time. I know a few of them have found outlets. Some of them even found helpful outlets instead of a bottle or beating their spouses. A few didn't and usually you'll find that those were warned by those around them at the time it happened." He nodded. She shifted and winced. The judge cleared his throat. "No, it's not that problem. The baby just moved and kicked." She looked at him again. "Keep going."
"You've had close ties with Detective Kowalski, correct?"
"Stan and I have been friends since he came to fill in for me while I was desk bound after I was shot ten or so years ago. I was also his landlord at one point in time and he's one of the godparents of my son and will be again of this one."
"Do you know about what the department's new counselor accused him of?"
"I do. He came to me to rant and to gain my help. I directed him to call my family's attorney since he was already dealing with the department on another matter." She put her feet up on the railing. "Sorry, but this position is the one where he quits kicking fastest."
"That's fine," the judge agreed quickly. He didn't care if she put her feet up, as long as she didn't start bleeding in his courtroom. He had heard about her health problems from one of the DA's, who had warned him of a great many things. "Are you sure you're fine?"
"For now." She looked at the lawyer again. "Go ahead, I'm fine."
"Do you think the counselor hit the nail on the head with Detective Kowalski?"
"I don't know how he went from a sometimes volatile temper to liking children a bit too much. Stan's never been like that. Stan's one of those guys I'd trust to be around me, my husband, and my kid while naked and trust that he'd never get wood." The detectives giggled at that. "I do. I know Stan really well. I was there as his marriage disintegrated. I was there as he was shoved into one undercover after another. I'm the one who helped him calm down after he got out of them and kept trying to get them to leave him alone before he lost himself totally. I'm also the one who was there whenever he needed comfort in the middle of the night after a bad case. Stan's never been like he described. How the man made that jump I'm not sure, but it's wrong. It's so very wrong and that's why I hope my attorney pushes to have his license revoked permanently. Stan has *never* liked kids. He wanted one of his own once but even that's fallen by the wayside because of the life he's had."
"You're sure? Absolutely sure?"
"During my time in Vice, I helped capture over sixty pedophiles. I helped bust rings. I helped bust a federal ring once. I was sent to New York to help their people with a ring that crossed into their territory. I know pedophiles. I know people who like them 'barely legal' and I know people who'll accept them looking that young even though they're not. I've seen cases where the person didn't care as long as he was the first, and I've seen ones where that turned into serial killing. Stan has nothing in common with those cases I've done. If you don't believe me, ask someone in Sex Crimes."
"The fact that he's gay...."
"Ninety percent of all pedophiles are *straight*, dear. Just ask the FBI." She glared at him and he backed up. "If that were true, then a good third of the force would be in the running for that title."
"Just making sure to cover that base," he promised.
"The fact that the department was stooping low enough to go to that with a good detective means that someone needs to fix the system. Some of the city's best cops are gay. Some of the best cops are also bi and straight. We're cops. It's not like our sex lives often intrude on our jobs." The detectives snickered. "Okay, for most of us it doesn't," she said dryly. "Perverts." She looked at the lawyer again. "If it were me, I'd be destroying the fucker."
"Language," the judge said gently.
"In this case, he deserves it," she countered. She looked at the lawyer again. "He needs to be replaced. This may be how someone wants to trim the system a bit, but by doing so, they're opening themselves to a lot of lawsuits. I remember the last few big ones. I was part of one of them." He nodded. "This one's going to be worse. That list had to have been at least a hundred names long."
"Just over. One hundred and six." He checked his tie, then smiled. "Detective, if you could, would you come back?"
"I'm doing consulting work whenever Welsh needs me or whenever we get another case that needs my sort of knowledge. Let's face it, not many cops could have done the case last year where we had a bunch of kids believing they were elves, so therefore superior and it was their right to kill those puny humans who were beneath them." He laughed. "Think I'm kidding? It's going to court next week." He looked stunned and she nodded. "Welcome to the streets. Pick up your vest first. It's a dangerous thing to be a cop." She stood up with a moan. "Can I go? Before I have to take another potty break?"
"I have nothing further. Will you be in the city for the rest of the day?"
"Stan's got my number, I'll be with my mother-in-law." She nodded at the judge then waddled out, smiling at Stan on the way and pinching one of the chuckling detectives. "Naughty," she hissed. She walked out, only stopping to get a juice and a hot pretzel. Then she took a cab like a good girl without a car. Ma immediately sat her on the couch to talk about the new nursery's decorations. Ray had won with the fish last time, this time she would win with her fantasy creatures. Ma even agreed to help her as long as nothing was too scary or outrageous.
Stan strolled into the house looking smug. "I am the man," he announced.
"I think that's Ray's title," Cat teased. "Everyone called him that when they found out we were together and I was doing stuff like shaving for him." Stan gave her an odd look. "Seriously, even some of Zucko's people told him he was the man for taming me."
Stanley snorted. "Sure he did. Fine, I'm the second best man, how's that? An employed one again at that. The judge overturned the suspensions and the lawyers are preparing to make the man sorry he ever went to college. If he went to college." He smirked at Cat. "So, I've got the rest of this week off, paid, and then I'm back on Monday. Though the 27th is still on the closure list possibly."
"If they try, then it'll stretch the 23rd and the 10th too far. They could use a new building, but there's no one close enough to deal with the neighborhoods."
"I think they were considering doing a consolidating of the three into two, redistricting a bit," Stan offered. "That means that the three or the fifth would be lumped in with us and then we'd probably end up being three districts. Or at least that's how the map looked today. We've got a month to comment on it."
"I want to see it first."
Stanley pulled out his copy of the memo. "There you go." He sat down, handing her a pen when she stared at it. "I know, but he doesn't."
"Fuck him," she sighed, taking the pen to circle various areas. "Okay, these are the high crime areas of the city and you've pretty much put them onto the outer edges of precincts, out into no-man's land or in contested territory. You've completely forgotten about a new housing project that's being built next year, low income and potentially problematic. Ooh, and look, the ho stroll strip isn't covered either," she said fondly. "Which person do we complain to?"
"Millie," Stan said with a smirk, "and the Mayor."
"That's where I'm going tomorrow then." She stood up and grabbed her gun when someone rang the bell. "Were you followed?" she asked Stan as she headed to answer it. "Yes?" she asked the man standing there. "You are?"
"We need to talk, Detective."
"If this is one of those discussions that's going to mean I'm going to shoot you, you should probably leave now," she quipped.
He looked nonplused. "No, it's not that sort. I'm sure you've gotten many of those in your many years on the force. I'm here about a certain settlement you were part of."
"No I wasn't." He blinked a few times. "I refused to be part of it because it meant I couldn't talk about it or make sure it wouldn't happen again. I told you guys that then."
"Then how did you afford your new house?" he asked dryly.
"It's my family home. I'm a Caldwell." He took a step back. "Fortunately my mother fixed the family's legacy in a more positive direction. I didn't get anything from you guys on that. By the way, are you part of the Mayor's or Millie's people?"
"The Mayor's," he said cautiously. "Why?"
"Because I was looking over his redistricting plan and he's left some bad gaps. Some of the worst areas will be in contested areas or out on the edge of a precinct. Did he forget to include that new housing project as well? You know, the one he helped break ground on recently?" His mouth fell open. "I can show you if you want. I drew on Stan's version of the map."
"I wouldn't mind that, ma'am. We had no idea you were actually smart."
She smirked as she grabbed him by the collar, hauling him inside. She pointed at something Ray had put on the wall. "Do you see that?" she asked conversationally. He nodded, swallowing hard. "That means I graduated with honors from college, little boy. That means I'm top in my program and I got Magna Cum Laude. I was two people down from Valedictorian. Do you understand how much you just put your life into jeopardy?"
"Let him go," Stan said with a grin. "What did he do?"
"He came to threaten me over that settlement with the Vice cops that I didn't take part in. Then I told him about the problems and he said no one realized I was smart."
"Do you remember the last time she was four months pregnant?" Stanley asked dryly. "How some of the city's Don's came and pleaded for her to go on leave early, before they ended up all dying to stay out of her way?" He whimpered. "You just insulted a pregnant woman who can't have sex for another two weeks. One who's in that stage of the pregnancy. Are you sure she's the dumb one?" Cat pouted at him. "Disarm that or I won't do your shoulders," he warned, backing away from her. "Now, let the nice man go, Catherine, and come eat."
"Catherine, do not make him mess up my carpet," Ma called. "That's not something I want to have cleaned tonight."
"Yes, Ma." She let him go, watching as he fell limply to the floor. "You'd better light a candle for Ma," she noted. "She likes me to be delicate." He nodded, taking the map Stanley held out and running away.
"You didn't take part in that?"
"Nope, that meant no one could talk about it and that meant it could happen again," she said wisely. "As it nearly did."
"I heard someone nearly killed that captain," Stan admitted. "Too bad the Gays Union didn't hear about it since he was trying to hit on one of them. That would have made a huge stink in the press."
"Don't worry, we got him back," she said with a mean smirk. "Ma, he didn't mess up your carpet at all," she promised. "He was very good and he's going to light a candle in thanks for you tonight or tomorrow."
Ma laughed, her daughter was a joy to watch work sometimes. So very tough, yet such a softie when it came to her son. She couldn't have picked a better person for her troublesome son Ray.
Catherine walked into the Mayor's office the next morning, noticing his frown at a certain map. "Either move everything two blocks to the left of the map or a block and a half to the right," she suggested dryly. He jumped, staring at her with widened eyes. "That would solve most of it. Millie's on her way up by the way." She sat down with a moan of pain. "Sorry, bed sores it feels like." He nodded, sitting down himself. "Now, we need to talk about that nice man you sent after me last night."
"You took part."
"No, I didn't," she said calmly. "Nor did I sign anything but the preliminary paperwork. After that gag order clause was added, I backed out. As did two others. One of them's dead though." He shuddered. "Her next captain got her killed. Threw her at a perp with a knife, literally." She looked over as Millie came in swinging a pair of cuffs. "I didn't know you were that kinky, Millie."
"You assaulted another cop?"
"He called me dumb. I didn't hurt him, I merely dragged him inside by his shirt to show him that I was not as dumb as he thought. Let him file charges with IA if he wants."
"He wanted to file criminal ones," she warned.
"Let him try. I know exactly why he was there," she said, standing up to her former lover. "For that matter, if I have to, I'll be telling *everyone* why he was there to harass me."
"You took money, you have that big house...." the mayor started, until she laughed.
"That's my family home, dumbass. That's been my family home now for four generations at least. There was a house there earlier but it burned, and the land has been ours since people moved to Illinois." He gaped at her. "Yup, I'm one of *that* family. Only my mother managed to raise decent human beings. It was already my house, we simply couldn't make changes until we moved up there most of the year." He nodded again, quicker this time. She looked at Millie. "Arrest me if you want."
"No, I don't want, Catherine. I want this petty struggle to be ended."
"Yay! You didn't take part in it either." Millie looked stunned. "Yeah, I do remember you being there, Millie. I remember you backed out at the gag order too. You may have went back but I didn't. Nor am I. What he did was wrong. If someone can't make sure it won't happen again, it will. Just like what Helena had to prove. By the way, she left. She moved to France." She scratched the spot in front of her left ear. "Now, we can discuss this but I'm not backing down. I don't care if you fire me. If you try to take my pension I'm going to sue you. If you try to take Ray's pension, I'm going to sue you and then dance on your bleeding bodies. Got it?" Millie sighed and nodded. "Good." She stepped closer. "Remember, there are other things that went on back in the day that I remember too, Millie. The same as I know you do. The same as I know I'm not squeamish enough to back down from them. Some of us remember the campaigns to get women off the force in the early eighties. Think the statue of limitations has run out?"
"No," she said tightly. "You ladies promised if we stopped them we wouldn't talk about it again."
"Who stopped them?" she snorted. "You got one, I found legitimate ways of stopping the other seven or eight of them. Ray has no idea and neither does Stan. They came in after that happened. Those of us who are left know what horrors the department sent after us. I am more than willing to make sure it never happens to another cop - male, female, straight, or bent. Do we have a clear understanding of why we leave me and mine alone?"
"Of course," the mayor agreed. "What went on back then?"
"Some of the top males in the department decided that the female officers had to be given a good reason to quit the force. So they sent out hit squads. Some raped, some killed, some just stalked." He turned very pale. "I was coming at the end of that. I got a few of them who tried for me. My first official shooting wasn't on the streets. It was of another officer who was trying to kill me. IA did nothing and it came down to some of the officers having to find ways to stop them. I did, with Welsh's help. Millie did one of them. We had another helper who moved between us. She retired years ago to be a mom." She looked at Millie again. "Your choice of course."
"Go away, Catherine."
"Oh, I plan on it. I'm still consulting for Welsh when he needs me. How many jobs did you need to cut?"
"That's a whole precinct. You cut three."
"We figured to redistribute the others."
"Move the map a block and a half to the right. The strange areas will be better covered and so will the trouble spots."
"They've slowed down," Millie promised.
"That's because we've been sitting units down there exclusively. There's a few spots where the patrol is two whole blocks so we've got a cop close by in case something breaks out again. Remove that and you've got a month at the most before things start to go back to bad. Also, you put the ho-stroll strip in an uncovered spot. Plus that new low income housing project." Millie shuddered. "Exactly. Move the map a block and a half to the right of the map. Make the 27th the pivot point. Actually, if you move it a block and a half and do about an eighth of a turn toward the bottom edge of the map on that scale it'd probably work the best. That'll leave a single department up on the millionaire developments. They can handle that with one."
"Show us?" the Mayor asked. "We've got it on film in case we needed it." He handed over to overhead clear projection sheets. She lined them up and twisted it about a seventh of a turn. He looked. "What about this spot?" he asked.
"That spot is covered by the new fourth and it's got no residents. It's all businesses. That means a higher day than evening shift. This leaves one problem and that's here on the docks. That makes this one a bit smaller and the other a bit too large. Personally, I would redraw the line between them to compensate some." She traced it with her finger. "Like that maybe. Or maybe not because that'll split an ethnic immigrant neighborhood."
"We could move to the other side of it," he offered, tracing it his way.
"That'd work. Come see, Millie." She came over to look, looking slightly impressed. "I had to reorder my world this way a few years back when I was working on that color coded project for a CE class. The teacher said it was a good idea and kept most of the ethnic spots together in one precinct, which would give them some stability."
"I can agree to that," Millie offered. "It leaves everything covered. What about your other area?"
"They're covered mostly by the 27th, the 16th, and the 3rd. That'll make sure that Vice is above the 3rd or 4th. Victoria can cover the eastern sides. Halley can cover from Vice. That leaves my replacement at the 27th if she ever gets there." They both nodded. "That makes more sense. Plus, it put most of a whole precinct into the lake so you could conceivably cut that one with a bit of border changing or handing that to transit cops since it's a park and the beach area."
"We can put an outpost out there," the mayor noted. "Which would save us even more. Put the horse patrol there." He taped the pages together, making sure they didn't move in the least. "I'll have this redrawn and copied, make an excuse that the computer hadn't lined them up correctly. Thank you, detective. I'll leave you and Millie to chat about the other issues."
Once he was gone, Catherine looked at her. "You know me better than that, Millie. I'm not backing down from this one. You can't scare me into it either."
"I always thought you were a loyal cop, Cat."
"I am, but like most good Jedi, I'm loyal to the Force, not the Council that is it's mouthpiece."
"Jedi?" Millie snorted.
"You've got to admit, I've pulled some pretty impressive things with use of the Force," she quipped. "The best of us are like Jedi in that regard. We do what the right thing is, not what the politically correct thing is. Those of us who are good don't care about the politics. We're here to get the job done because it's a calling with us. You want wimpy Jedi who only follow the Council and not their connection with the Force? Look at the ass-kisser brigade. I'm not one of them, I never was one of them, and you knew I was a knight a long time ago, Millie. There will never be another situation like that again. There will never be another girl like Helena was forced to be. There'll never be another me, because I won't let another one have that done to them. Someone's got to do that so the littler kids don't have to fight the bullies."
"I'm not a bully."
"You are if you're sticking up for this action," Cat said plainly. "Destroying good cops for the sake of the budget isn't helping anything, Millie. It's destroying the Force. It's going to get the city sued and the residents murdered. You want to cut sixty jobs, go after the dirty ones. The ones who're dealing out of their squads. The ones who're pimping their wives on the side. Hell, go after the spouse beaters. We'd all appreciate that."
"If we did that, we'd be cutting close to two hundred people, Cat."
"So? Make them stop, get help, and prove that they've stopped for over a year before they're eligible to come back. I can guarantee that most of them won't be able to. It's against the ethics code we all signed when we joined the Academy. It's against our oaths to the force. It's making them bigger targets to other cops. Cleaning up the force will get you what you need faster than persecuting the good cops will. For that matter, I still don't know how that dingbat said Stan liked kids. It's a far jump and I'm impressed that Stan didn't hit him." She flipped her hair back and walked out. "I'm going home until Harding calls for me again."
Millie sighed and pushed a button on her watch. "I can't allow that, Catherine. You're the danger to the force." She heard gunshots and sighed, shaking her head. She hated to do it, but it was necessary to protect what was left of their honor. It was a mercy anyway, Ray had ruined the woman Cat had been. She gathered herself and prepared to go find the body, but when she walked out she found two cops bleeding on the ground and no Cat. "Shit, get an ambulance!"
"One's already called," a cop said, glaring at her. "We know what you did, Millie."
"It was necessary to protect you all!"
"No, it wasn't. We've weathered worse." He walked away, talking into his radio. "Someone help Demoranth. Millie sicced some goons on her to keep her quiet about what went down in the past. She's claiming it's to protect the dirty ones. She's on the run and armed. She's also ill." He clicked it off and headed off into the morning sunlight. He had a good idea of who could help find her. There were few people she trusted in this world. Two were Mounties. One had just left the city. One was at the 27th doing paperwork before court. One was at home waiting on her. He headed for the Consulate first, going to pull the Mounties into this. They had to know and they could track her. SWAT owed her too much and she'd saved his life too many times in the past. He walked into the consulate, pulling the familiar Mountie in with him as he walked. "Turnbull, where's Thatcher, we've got to chat," he ordered.
"Steve," he said in shock "What's wrong?"
"Millie just went after Cat. She knew too much about the bad old days and Millie's trying to sweep it all clean with the purging they're doing. She had Cat attacked and Cat got away so far. We need her found, we need her safe, and we need her out of the city."
Benny rubbed his arm where he had been grabbed. "It's not going to be easy to find her."
"Yes, it will," Rennie said thoughtfully. "She's a creature of habit. She'll try to check in with Ray or with Welsh. She'll call Stanley as soon as she can too. She may wait until she thinks she's safe, especially if it was a narrow escape."
"The problem is, by talking to Stan it could mark him for death," Steve, the head of SWAT offered.
Renny snorted. "Like he'll care?"
"What is going on?" Thatcher yelled, coming out of her office. "There was just a report of that Vecchio detective shooting at others."
"No, they shot at her. She remembers some of the bad old days," Steve said calmly. "They're hunting her to take her out."
"Isn't she ill?"
"Very. She's also only got the one gun that I'm aware of."
She looked at them, then nodded. "Take Turnbull. He's worked with her most recently. Fraser, go outside and watch things. If she comes this way I will give her sanctuary for now. Until they can prove that she's done something wrong."
"She didn't, I shot 'em," Steve told her. He nodded outside. "C'mon, Turnbull. Time to prove yourself yet again. Got your vest still?"
"In my locker. Let me get it." He ran to grab it, putting it on under his red serge as they walked. Then he did back up his jacket. "She'll want somewhere she can make a stand, somewhere safe and private, yet far away from anyone who could be hurt. Are you sure she's armed?"
"I tossed her my spare gun, she caught it. She's armed," he said simply. "Think like her. Where?"
"Somewhere that she can hide, that she can duck around in, and somewhere that has bathrooms."
"Possibly. Unless she's shown a favorite spot to hide in the past."
"No, but Ray did. Call Ray, ask him where that house was again. All I remember are factories." He handed over his cell and headed back into traffic, cutting off another cop.
"Oh, dear, she did call Ray. She said she's in the castle? He said the park."
"The park it is," he agreed. He understood now. She was a princess. It was only fitting.
Cat panted as she hid in the deserted old play building that the city had recently condemned. She pulled out her phone and dialed an older girlfriend. "Hey, it's Cat. Yeah, me. No, I didn't even have a gun on me until someone tossed me one. No, they're trying to get rid of me now because I know stuff about the old ways." She calmed her breathing. "No, I'm good. Remember that package I left you? It's yours, open it with my blessing and spread it around. Thanks." She hung up and moved back to where she could watch the park better and anyone coming in would have a hard time finding her. "Crap, this is where I need Helena," she told herself, settling in to wait. Very few people knew she liked this place. Millie might but she didn't know she still came here. She heard footsteps and checked outside. There was a guy walking his dog. His German Shepard. She knew him though, and he knew she wasn't like that. She could hear his radio crackle to life.
"Demoranth has a warrant for her arrest, one way or another," Millie's voice called out. "She shot two cops, leaving them for dead. She threatened myself and the mayor as well."
Her voice cut out and a new one came across. "That's bullshit, Millie. I shot those cops because they were attacking her. We all know what set off this hunt. She told on the bad old days," Steve's voice flowed out smoothly. "Anyone who touches her answers to me. Anyone who would attack a fragile, pregnant woman deserves it, and I left them alive with an ambulance on the way. They were barely grazes. She's had worse and come to work. You chose pussy boys to get her. Bad choice, Millie. By the way, anyone in Vice, Catherine gave information on Phelps and Forbes to the press already. I've already authorized the copies to be used." His voice cut out as Millie's let out a shriek.
Cat curled up, shaking her head. She had some strong and strange friends. Now if only she had a marksman with another gun she might make it home alive tonight.
Stanley came out of his court date and grimaced at the two cops waiting on him. "What happened?" he asked grimly.
"Catherine Demoranth-Vecchio is wanted for shooting two officers earlier," one of them said.
Stanley burst out laughing. "She what?" They glared at him. "She wasn't armed when she went into City Hall this morning, guys. I drove her there. I checked to make sure. Hell, I watched her pack, she decided not to bring one into the city this time." They looked stunned. "Nor would Cat shoot cops without a damn good reason." They both glared at him so he shrugged and walked off. "That's your thing then. I'm not helping you two or anyone else hunting her. I'm taking Benny and Diefenbaker to lunch."
"Sir, we were ordered to escort you back to your home Precinct so you can be held there until she is found as you're a danger to the hunt," one of them announced. He pulled out his cuffs. "Your choice how, sir."
Stanley turned and shrugged. "Not my call, guys. You test me, you lose. This is your only warning." One pulled his gun then they both went to sleep when someone clapped their heads together. "Nice job, Renny. What in the hell is going on?"
"She let loose some information yesterday that they wanted to stay hidden. I was with Steve but they had stopped him since he announced he shot those officers. We've got to go."
"Sure. C'mon." He headed for his car, letting Turnbull get into the back. "Where?"
"An ice castle was what Ray said when we called him."
"Huh, okay. You want in on this?"
"They may come after me."
"Good point. Okay, here's what we're going to do. You're going to get a car and head off. I'm taking Benny and Dief to lunch."
"Is now really the time for this?" he demanded. Stan gave him a look and he got it, it was in code. "Fine," he agreed, swallowing. "Thank you, Detective."
"Not an issue. Let's head back to the Consulate. At least you'll be more protected there." He backed out of his spot and sped off, breaking most of the traffic laws. They pulled up outside the consulate and found cops already barricading the door. "Fine. Dief!" he yelled. "Let's got for a walk!" The wolf came bounding out and sailed through the open window before the cops could react. "Benny, join us if you can." He sped off, heading to the back entrance. He heard something hit his roof and winced, stopping to let the other Mountie into the car. "What were you doing?"
"Hiding, Stanley. That should have been obvious. Renfield, the Inspector is most distressed."
"The bitch can gag," Stanley noted as he put the car into gear and took off again. "Weapons?"
"I do," Renny noted. "And the vest she got me."
"Me as well," Benny admitted, thumping on his chest. "Your old one."
"Fine. Not the best fit for you but it'll work unless they get lucky." He spun the wheel, coming out of the alley and turning sharply left onto an older one-way street. "There's a spot I need to visit first." Once they got there, he headed inside, leaving the car running. He came out with a shopping bag and got back in. "Don't look inside, it'll shock you. It's something she taught me once."
"It sounds like weapons and bullets."
"It is," Stan admitted, driving faster to the park. He knew someone would have figured it out by now. Harding knew probably and he'd only be able to ignore them for so long. They made it to the park and he parked. "Guys, nice and slow, leisurely like. We're having a picnic." They nodded and got out, following him out to have a bite to eat on the grass. They neared the old building and found two cops standing there arguing. "What's going on?" he asked, making them both jump and the dogs bark. "Shut it," he ordered, making them whimper. He glared at the cops. "What?"
"We think she's nearby, Detective."
"She may be, but she didn't do anything," Renny offered. "She wasn't armed."
"She is now," Stanley admitted. "She wasn't when she went in."
"Why would cops attack her?" one demanded. "That's what doesn't make sense! Cops don't do that!"
Stan nodded. "Bad cops do." They hissed. "Millie wanted to protect some secrets that Cat knew. Things about some bad damn cops that could taint the reputation of the department. She mentioned it yesterday. Someone tried to jump her last night and she managed to fix it fast. You two need to disappear for the day."
"We can't, sir. She's still a wanted fugitive."
"No, she's not," Stanley sighed. He pulled something out of the bag and gassed them all, watching as they fell asleep. "Rennie, take them into the woods. We'll be getting inside. Then go play somewhere obvious." He took the bag back and headed into the old funhouse-like building. He found her in the central room, curled up in the corner, and gave her a smile with the bag. "Helena's old stash from Lupin and Jigen." He sat down across from her. "I'll watch." She relaxed and nodded. "Did they say anything?"
"Just that I had to learn to keep my mouth shut, so they were going to shut it for me." She yawned. "I'm sorry to drag you into this."
"Shit, girl, I've been through worse, including the last time this happened. Did you call Helena's cousin?" She nodded, bitting her lip. "Did she believe you?" She shook her head. "Did anyone?"
"Scott believed *you* over his bosses?" he asked in shock. She nodded. "Why?"
"Because he knew what had been done," she said simply. "He apparently even knew about what happened in my first year and in my first shooting, how I was defending myself from another officer." She stopped when she heard a radio crackle to life and sighed, taking the safety off her gun. He shook his head, moving to the window to listen. Then he looked at her. "It's been called off by IA?" he whispered. She gave him a 'get real' look so he shrugged. "Wait here. Rennie's outside somewhere. I can hear him." The man with the radio suddenly quit moving. Stan moved to the doorway so he could look out another window, and came face-to-face with a cop they knew from SWAT. "How's Steve?"
"Not even on probation," he admitted. He grinned at Catherine. "The hunt's over if you'd like to come out now." She snorted, giving him that same look. "Ah, come on now, Cat, you know my whole department loved you dearly when you were a full-time cop," he soothed, walking in to squat in front of her. "I promise. Millie was just arrested. One of her boys woke up and sung like you wouldn't believe to IA. Not only to Scott, but to Helena's cousin and to their new oversight person, that Frenchie guy. I promise, nothing will hurt you if you come with me. We're gonna protect you and take you back to your home base. You can hide in Harding's office if you want," he promised. He held out a hand. "Please? This can't be good for you and we don't want the little guy in there to have more problems than he's already got for having Ray as a daddy." Stan snickered at that. "If you ever have kids, warn us, Stan. Please?" He stood up and held out a hand again. "C'mon."
She let him help her up and he gave her a hug. Then she broke his arm when she felt the needle come out, handing it over to Stan. "You were saying?"
"The hunt may be off," he offered. He picked up the radio, noticing it was one of the old ones, and called in to dispatch. "Dispatch, this is Kowalski. I need the status on that stupid fucking brainless move against Demoranth-Vecchio."
"Sir, the Mayor and the Chief of Detectives have called it off. Rumors indicate that our Chief of Police was arrested by IA a few minutes ago. If found, she is to be brought to the 27th and watched there until everything is settled but she is not under hunt or arrest."
"Thank you. Can you patch me through to Harding? I think he might have an idea of where she is." The connection went through. "Yo, Lieutenant. She in the clear?"
"Catherine's in bad shape, Stanley. Find her, bring her to her home." Stanley grimaced and sighed. "Repeat, go to home base with her and she'll be guarded there."
"Yes, sir." He turned down the volume and hung it from his belt. "Okay, so you're out from official problems but the unofficial now love you, babe. You wanna head for the house?" She nodded, grabbing the bag and walking across the body on the floor. "We'll pick up Rennie and some lunch on the way."
"We've got to call Ma and warn her," she said quietly, looking back at the playhouse. "I don't miss this," she decided. "Not really."
"Hey, you're creating your own version of a nicer cop land up at the house," he reminded her. "Rennie?" He came out of the woods. "C'mon. We're taking her home."
"Of course. Though I should probably check in with the Inspector if possible."
She kissed him on the cheek. "If I had a baby brother, I'd want him to be like you, Rennie." He blushed but he smiled at her for it. "C'mon, let's go. Which home are we going to?"
Stan winked. "One you'll like." He walked her away, taking her to his car and letting her have the front. Rennie could squeeze into the back since he wasn't pregnant. He drove her out of the park, taking the back ways so no one would really notice where they were headed. Not many people knew about it, but he knew Harding didn't want the location to get out as a general safehouse for the department. He pulled up in front of the small shack about an hour later, getting out quietly and letting Rennie out his side so they could go around to wake up Catherine and take her inside.
She looked around. "Who do we know that owns a hut?"
"Harding," Stan admitted with a wicked grin. "It's his hunting hut." He led her inside and pushed her down onto the bed so he could rub her stomach. "Hi, little guy. We love you."
She swatted at him but she was smirking. "You're so bad. Don't influence the kid, people might ask Ray if I cheated."
"Uh-huh, with Ray being such a bear about things like that? I doubt it," he said dryly.
"Not with her history of lovers either," Rennie noted loyally, grinning at her. "You wouldn't do what you hated so much in someone else."
"Good point," Stan agreed. "Go guard the door. Unless it's Ray, Harding, or Victoria, they don't come in awake. Got it?"
"I don't know who Victoria is," he admitted.
"Remember that silver picture frame with the black ribbon? She's the redhead from that."
"She's got white hair now," Cat offered quietly.
"Yeah, I guess dealing with the asshole would've done that to her," Stan said gently, stroking her stomach again. "I never understood why she didn't kill him."
"What happened?" Rennie asked. "Another tragedy the department did?"
"Sorta. It's a long an involved story," Stan told him.
"She got kicked off the force for hitting her husband after he nearly killed her," Cat explained. "He went to jail for attempted murder, she got probation but she got it overturned on appeal because the first judge hadn't even let the jury consider self defense. Unfortunately the department kicked her off the force for being put on probation and she sued them for a few million for not protecting her since her husband, who had been a Marine, was also a cop. The fact that she had to protect herself when there were supposedly matters in place to handle people like her husband didn't win the department any friends and they actually had to implement things that they had in name-only up until that time. She still retired, with partial pension, because that was part of the deal," she added with a grin. "She's about five-six and the last time I saw her she was about non- starved crack ho size." She looked at Stanley. "This might be a job for the Sisterhood, but they're no more, Stan. Millie and I were two of the last and she turned."
"Anyone who takes that top job's gotta be a snake, but I never thought she'd be that bad," he agreed, stroking her stomach. "Try to sleep, Cat. You'll need it. You shouldn't be on the run in your present condition."
"What happened to Constable Frasier?" Rennie asked, loading a gun as he watched the road coming up.
"He took Dief for a walk as bait," Stan told him. "He's safe. He's going to Ray's side."
"Oh. I didn't see him leave."
"He left when we did, heading in the opposite direction. He's fine," Stan promised. He looked down at Cat, noticing she was sleeping now. "The Sisterhood may be long gone to dust and ashes, but the Brotherhood isn't," he said quietly, covering her up. "We'll protect you, Cat." He got up to look through the cupboards, finding some soup, some bullion cubes, and some other non-perishables in them. Along with a few cups and a single mug. "Huh. He's not been up here recently." He looked at the 'good for use by' date on one can of soup and snorted, tossing it away. "A very long time." He turned when he heard the car, looking outside the window. "Wellllll," he drawled, heading out to talk to the person getting out. "And you wanted what?" he asked the former cop, now DA.
"Is she in there?"
"No. Just Rennie and me. We're a diversion."
"Fine, tell her someone did a freeze on her accounts until this is figured out."
"Even with all of IA, all of SWAT, all of us and everyone else on her side?"
"One word, man. Stella."
"Fuck." He pulled out his cell and called his exwife. "Stella, it's Stan," he said impatiently. "How could you! She was attacked and had to defend herself! She wasn't even armed! No, Steve did that!" he interrupted. "They're still living and singing like songbirds down in IAD! Now, fucking fix what you did before you cause her to miscarry!" He listened to her stutter, a very un-Stella thing to do. "I don't care if *GOD* came down and told you to! They're the ones who tried to kill her!" He moved the phone in front of his face to shout directly into it. "They're the ones who sent the hit squads and the rapists after the female cops!" he yelled. "Now fucking well fix it, Stella, before you hurt Ray as well!" He hung up and looked at his former Academy buddy. "Any other great news?"
"Viccie's on her way up," he said smugly. "Most of us trust her."
"She was there," Stanley reminded him. "She knew the truth then."
"She did, but she never said anything."
"Neither did Cat, only Millie did," he said impatiently. "When you go back, feel free to slam my ex's head into a wall a few times." He stomped back into the house and through to the back porch until he calmed down.
"Thanks." He got back into his car and drove off, heading back to the office. Maybe he'd take the cop's suggestion. Stella wasn't very well liked after all.
Rennie looked out as a woman got out of a car at dusk, noticing who she looked like. "Is that her, detective?" he asked quietly.
Stan looked and nodded, opening the door. "C'mon in, Viccie."
"You know I hate that name," she said with a scowl. She walked over to where Cat was sleeping, laying a hand on her stomach. "She tried to fight back, but it wasn't her doing."
"Then tell them that," Stan pleaded.
"I have." She smiled at him. "They know, it's not going to happen. It'll take a few weeks to smooth everything else out, but tell her the check to the contractor bounced." He groaned. "Ray's already been called and he's fixing it. Oh, I talked to her replacement. She's on her way in now. She's not on this case. Her lawyer is however," she noted smugly, patting him on the arm. She stopped at Rennie and kissed him on the cheek. "You're adorable." He blushed bright red. "Ah, another Mountie. Ray had good effects on Her Impatientness. Learn from her, young man. It's all good." She walked out, heading back to her car.
"And that was Victoria Page," Stanley said dryly. "One of the other cops who used to do strange things, now a bodyguard on one edge of town and handling the Cat-like cases up there. If you ever see her, it's usually a portent of death according to Cat."
"Hmm?" she murmured.
"Viccie just showed up and left again after taking a grope of the baby."
"'kay," she mumbled, flipping over and going back to sleep.
Stanley shook his head. "Only her," he told the other cop. "We should be getting the 'all clear' soon."
"That's fine. I'm officially off tomorrow anyway," Rennie said cheerfully. "That means I can sleep later."
"Well, you wanted to do more police work, how are you enjoying it," Stan asked, grinning brightly.
"Quite well. We never were taught how to go on the run and I must say it's a fascinating exercise in beating everyone else to the punch."
"Definitely," Stan agreed happily, going to make some soup from a can, if he found one that wasn't expired. He didn't need food poisoning right now.
Ray looked up at the judge, then at their family attorney, who waved him on. They had decided his arguing would have more weight this time. "Sir, with all due respect, my wife didn't do anything. You have signed confessions from the people who did do everything she's accused of. Including from the cop who had to shoot those guys to protect my unarmed and pregnant wife." The judge shuddered. "One who should be on bedrest. One who shouldn't have to deal with what DA Kowalski did earlier, or any of this."
"That is true, there is no proof any of this was Detective Demoranth-Vecchio's doing," he said, looking at the DA table, who was filled with two miserable people and a shark in human clothing. "Do you actually have proof?"
"Sir, we believe she's been running a ring of people for years that do vigilante things within the city's limits."
Ray snorted. "What?" he laughed. "My wife? She's more likely to take it on herself than to *ask* someone to do it for her."
"Really? Then explain her helping the Angel of Mercy we had up until last year," the head lawyer demanded.
"She and Helena have been friends since one of Cat's undercovers brought her into Helena's world and they had to help each other. Of course she went to help her before she was killed. She helped hide her and we watched her first child while she had the second one and until she moved out of the country."
"And the fact that she's known to have tortured people?" the lawyer pressed.
"At some club or another. We have testimony, a sworn statement, that she did torture people."
"Um, she had to go undercover as a Mistress once," Ray said dryly, starting to laugh mentally. "Though, one of her other undercovers did have her being a local assassin. People know her more for that one."
The lawyer gaped at him. "Did she kill someone?"
"No, but she drove someone to suicide," he admitted. "Of course, they were a pedophile, she caught him with the child in question, who was twelve, and she called in the other cops. He killed himself as they pulled up. Witness accounts show that he jumped off his roof as they pulled up, yelling 'I'm sorry' the whole way down." He crossed his arms, then looked back at the judge. "She was in Vice. They get cases like that. Especially during the bad, old days. Let's not mention how she had to sue the city three times to get them to stop doing bad things in her unit, including having a captain there who kept trying to sell his officers to make up for his budget deficit."
The judge shuddered. "How did you know about that? Those records are sealed, Detective."
"She never signed the gag orders," he said simply. "Which is why our *esteemed* Chief of Detectives and Police Chief want her gone. She can testify in glaring detail about what happened to Helena. She can testify about all the crap that went down with Vice and all the problems the female officers were having at that time."
"True." The judge looked at the lawyers. "I'll ask again, do you have any *proof* that she's done anything wrong in this instance?"
"She lives in a *huge* manor house...." he started.
"That's her family home," Ray butted in. "She's a Caldwell by birth and her mother changed the family around. We're renovating the old place actually. By the way, you owe me for the extra ten percent the contractors charged since the check bounced because you froze our joint assets plus all fees from the bank." He looked back at the judge. "This isn't the first time, your honor. They've been trying to get me, her, and most of the 27th off the force by any means necessary. They've made up stories. They've caused things to happen that are illegal in the extreme, and now they're trying it again."
The judge looked at the papers in front of him. "I still don't see any real proof," he admitted, looking at the DA's. "No proof other than what you've given?"
"No," he said bitterly, sitting down again.
"Then I'm going to reverse your earlier ruling. The assets are unfrozen. The warrant for her arrest...."
"And for those who helped her earlier," Ray pressed.
"Yes, those as well, are rescinded," he continued smoothly. "And you'll leave her alone. I'm sorry, Detective. No one should have to be persecuted that way."
"No, but it's been going on for years," the family attorney said quietly, staring at the judge. "As the lawsuit started last year shows."
"Another one?" the judge asked. He pulled something out of his briefcase and handed it to the bailiff, who handed it to the judge. He read it over and blanched. "When did this happen?"
"Four years ago. And ongoing since then."
"I see." He folded it back up. "When was it filed?"
"Last year in Federal court."
"Excuse us?" the DA seemingly ordered. "What lawsuit?"
"Ask your boss," Ray said snidely. He looked at the judge. "She's free?"
"She perfectly free. She did nothing wrong."
"Thank you, sir."
"You're welcome. I hope your family is healthy and happy, Detective. The same as I hope she's a wonderful mother."
"Oh, she is." He stomped out, going back to the car, letting the lawyer deal with the other stuff. He headed back to the 27th, much happier with the world, until he saw the person standing outside with a shotgun. He parked and got out, leaning on his hood. "That make you feel more secure?" he asked her.
Elaine smirked at him. "No, but then again we were almost raided earlier. We had two gangs trying to come in and take over the building, Detective. They lost."
"Wonderful." He walked past her, going up the stairs. "Unless he changed his mind once I was gone, it's all done with legally."
"Good. Now all we need is the practical," Harding Welsh said. "They're at the *house*."
"Wonderful. I'm sure she's in good hands and I'll see her tomorrow." He sat down, looking at his boss and friend. "Now what, sir?"
"Now, you go to your mother's. I've got a squad sitting on her house just in case something bad happens. Go rest and play with your son. Hopefully you'll wake up tomorrow and this'll be like a bad dream. By the way, the press has the story."
"Yay," he said bitterly. "The Mayor bending over backwards to kiss his own ass?"
"No, he fired both of them and demanded an investigation by IAD. Scott stepped out of the mass of reporters and told him it was ongoing and that he was also being looked at, then disappeared. French, the oversight guy, is spinning like a top about some of his people helping in this and so is that one lady down there."
"Helena's cousin has seen so much shit it's not funny," Ray reminded him, standing up. "So I'm free?"
"Go," he said with a small smirk. "Take Frasier and the wolf with you. I've already called Thatcher, who's been on the phone all day to her superiors about this. It seems dirty cops up there are treated differently."
"Considering Benny's exiled for turning in a killer Mountie, yeah, I'd say so," he said bitterly, heading out to grab his partners and head back to the house. "C'mon, Frasier, time to head for home and eat dinner. You too, Dief." Dief whined at him so he stopped to look at him. "What? You need your drugs?" The wolf whined again so he checked on him, then on Benny, who was sleeping but moaning in his sleep. "You don't get nightmares," he said quietly. He sat on the arm of the couch behind his friend's head, gently tapping him on the forehead until he woke up. "Hey, you in there now?"
"I'm fine, Ray."
"Good, you were having nightmares and it's time to go home. Dief's whining about you."
"Thank you kindly," he said as he got up, grabbing his hat to put back on, then standing up. "Come along, Deifenbaker, we'll get your medicine." The wolf trotted after him, going down to Ray's car, Ray following. "Good evening, Elaine."
"Hi, Frasier," she said with a grin. She nodded at Ray. "Squad 17 is at your house, Detective. They just checked in with an all-clear."
"Thanks." He hurried to get in to drive, heading for the house. He needed to check on his family and to eat dinner. He hadn't eaten all day. He waved at the squad car as they passed them, then parked and headed inside, finding everyone waiting on them. "Sorry, Ma."
"We just wanted to make sure you were all right," she said happily. "Is it fixed?"
"Legally. Now we've got to wait for the idiots in charge to actually get off their duff and do their jobs," he admitted.
"Which could take a few months," Maria agreed.
Ray smirked. "Ya think?"
"No," she said with an evil grin back. "Not with people breathing down their necks. You guys made the six o'clock news. They said it had been a false problem earlier and that Cat was fine and not a wanted criminal, she was the victim of a bad cop trying to kill her. Then they played that IA guy's statement that she wasn't the one under investigation, she had simply been caught at the wrong time with the wrong knowledge."
"Definitely," Ray agreed. They headed into the dining room, sitting down in their usual spots to eat. "Benny, don't forget his medicine." Benny got up to get his pills then came back once he had forced him to take it. "Have you tried to hide it in some food?"
"I have but he'll taste it. Wolves have a very highly defined sense of taste, Ray."
"Then why do they lick their butts?" Maria's youngest child asked him innocently.
"Because there's no tp in the wild," Ray told her. She grinned at him. "There isn't. Besides, they don't have the hands to use it."
"Ray!" His mother said, scowling at him. "That is not dinner conversation."
"Sorry, Ma," both kids said in unison. Maria's youngest daughter grinned at her too.
"Thank you." She put her head down and everyone said grace, then started to pass the food around.
"When is Auntie Cat coming home?" Maria's son asked.
"Tomorrow sometime," Ray assured him. "Where's the baby?"
"Sleepin' on my bed," the daughter said happily. "He snuggly my bear since I'm a big girl and I don't need it."
"Thank you, dear." He gave her a pat on the head. "That's very thoughtful."
"I'll need it later but he can have it for now," she added.
"Later Dief can curl up with him, he won't need one either," Ray assured her with a smirk.
"No, I get Diefy!" she complained. "He sleep with me and Eric gets bear. I older!"
"Sure. You two can work it out together," Ray agreed happily. Maria had been looking for a way to wean her off having that bear with her all the time.
"Guys, I'm not feeble nor do I need a Secret Service-style escort team," Cat complained as she was taken up the driveway to Ma's house, swatting at Rennie when he didn't put her down. "Let me down!"
Ray opened the door and stared at them, one eyebrow going up.
"The baby decided to get a bit energetic and kicked her a few blocks back," Stanley explained as he walked in.
"I'm fine," she said impatiently. "You're a manly man, Rennie Turnbull but put me down!" He set her down and patted her on the back, heading to check in with his superior. "I'm getting you a big, shiny medal that says you like to carry women! And I'm putting it on you while you're on guard duty!" she called after him. She turned and blanched. "Damn, you talk about one Feeb and another shows up," she said with amusement. "What does the FBI want with my family?"
"We want to know what you know about your former Chief of Detectives," he said honestly. "We can offer you immunity from prosecution, no matter what you did."
"I only blew out tires. I'm not the greatest shot," she told him honestly. She looked at Ray. "Are we good?"
"We're good. If Rennie continues to carry you I might complain but otherwise we're fine," he said, giving her a gentle kiss. "He wants to put Millie in jail."
"Gee, another of my ex's in jail," she said dryly. "That makes three now, Ray. All since I met you. They've all got to be cursing your existence."
He smirked. "If they deserve it, then they didn't deserve you." She went limp against his chest, giving him another kiss. The FBI agent coughed and he glared at him. "I don't often get her into a mushy mood," he growled.
"She's still not allowed to have sex yet," Stanley called from somewhere near the back of the house. "Especially not like how you two scared SWAT that time."
"Why did you have to adopt him?" Ray asked his wife. She grinned up at him. "Tell the nice man what you know before one of our nephews decide to become like him, or worse, our son."
"Eww. That's a nasty thought, our son the Feeb." She glared at him and he laughed. "That doesn't bother you at all?"
"No, ma'am, I'm from Texas and the Rangers. There's a lot of people I know who don't want their kids to become like me."
"Oh, okay then. You haven't talked to IA?"
"We have. They're not very helpful. We believe she's been engaged in interstate commerce with some mafia connections. Unfortunately the other source of information we had is presently in France."
"Ah! Give me ten to send her an email. Got an address?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said respectfully, digging out a card to hand to her. "You can keep that in case things start to get worse. I'm being moved to the Hate Crimes task force after this case is wrapped up."
"I'll keep that in mind. At least they sent someone I didn't want to hit on sight." She headed for Ray's office, using his computer to send Helena an email from her private account. She told her *allll* about the last few days and the new house, and at the end made the request for the nice guy in the entryway. She sent it and checked her other mail, writing a nasty note to someone who was on the town's police force near the manor house. By the time she got done with that and made sure it didn't sound like a threat, there was a new email waiting for her in her inbox. She clicked on it and saw Lupin's calling card and smirked. "Uh-huh." She saved that one down and then put the address into her address book. Just in case she ever wanted to reach out and throttle the crooks. Or in case Zenny wanted it. She wrote him back, telling him what was going on, and about the house's renovations, and got a groan in return. She shut down the system and went back to where the agent was sipping some coffee in the kitchen. "Expect at least one. Helena's email bounced back a Lupin message." He choked and she smirked. "No one told you her kids were fathered by Jigen?"
"They're still together?"
She nodded, grinning brightly. "And it only took them a few months to find her in France."
He groaned. "Damn. Oh, well, no one can complain about where the information comes from in this case. Crooks turn on each other all the time," he assured her. "I'd prefer it came from Helena."
"I'm sure he'll send it from her email and sign her name to it," she soothed, patting him on the arm. "So, what's it like being a baseball guy?"
He snickered. "I wasn't that sort of Ranger, ma'am. I was a Texas Ranger, our state police." She smirked at him. "Fine, you're good."
"Most of the time. Unless I've had to do odd things. Get the court records unsealed. The judge ordered them not to destroy evidence in those cases." He nodded, writing that down. "And there's *six* cases, five went to court and one got settled by the union stomping on us."
"Thank you, detective. We hate bad cops more than anything." He nodded politely and left, stopping to shake hands with Ray and Ma. "Thank you for your hospitality. It was very kind. Most agents don't get such a nice reception and I know why but I can't beat them to teach them manners." Ma laughed at that. "Oh, Detective Vecchio, Armando Junior has been accepted to the local college and has accepted. He's taking an apartment near the college and will be coming with his usual bodyguard now that they've found him."
"Thanks," he said, letting him out of the house. He watched him pull away then shook his head. "I don't like working with guys who read minds. They scare me," he noted as he closed the door and went to talk to his wife. "You okay?"
"Yeah. I got a message back from Lupin." She grinned at him. "Apparently they're busy over there."
"I'm sure. How long did it take them to find the new house?"
"Nearly three months."
"And they're supposed to be *great* crooks?"
"Apparently." She shrugged. "Helena was giggling the last time I talked to her. Jigen was sucking on her shoulder and said hi."
"Goody. When was this?"
"Yesterday, before I went to the Mayor's office. I charged it to our home phone so Ma didn't have to pay for a call to France to listen to Helena giggle." She kissed him. "Jigen never told the others he had Mal, much less Jissan."
"That reminds me, we've got to pick a firm name so we don't end up like her and searching for one," Ray said dryly.
"Sure, Ray, but I thought we liked Adrian and Thomas in some combination."
"I do," he agreed lightly. He kissed her again, his arms going around her back. "Tired?"
"Not now. They made me take the bed."
"They're guys, they're supposed to do things like that for pregnant women," he pointed out between kisses. "I could use a nap though."
"Sure, we'll go help you nap."
"Can I help too?" the little girl watching them asked innocently, grinning up at them. "Or can I hug the baby?"
"Sure, come hug the baby gently," she encouraged, letting her niece hug her stomach. "I think I'm starting to show."
"I think you are too," he assured her, stroking the top of the lump over his niece's head. "You done?"
"You can talk to the baby later. Right now I need a nap."
"Yes, Uncle Ray," she sighed, pouting at them as he led her up to his room and to bed. She got a wicked smirk and went to pounce Eric.
"Enough!" Maria yelled when Eric started to cry. "Get off him! Now!"
Ma shook her head, going back to her knitting. Her family was insane, but fun.
Ray walked back into the manor house with Benny and Dief, letting the wolf hide wherever he wanted. He needed a break from the kids before they drove him insane and made him shed worse. The two cops were up there to check on the house. Someone had called the house in Chicago and told them that someone had broken in. They found the graffiti and frowned at it. Ray went to get the cameras, taking pictures for the insurance company. They would be fixing this or else. One was even signed so he took that one and Benny down to the local police station, presenting it to the cops. "Trespassing, B&E, and defacing private property." The cop looked stunned, then a few burst out laughing so he gave them his meanest look. "Remember, boys, she didn't do that. Others did it to protect her." He grabbed the remote and turned the tv to CNN, turning up the volume since they were covering the bust that had went on that morning. He handed the remote back to the cop who had the picture and walked out, leaving it in their hands for now.
"Detective," one of them yelled, bringing him back. "Is she all right?"
"She's supposed to be on bed rest. Fortunately this didn't make her miscarry or they'd be even more sorry when I got through with them. Not to mention Kowalski and the rest of the cops who know a good cop when they work with one."
"It says something when a decent cop can't do their job due to regulations keeping them from being effective," Benny offered. "Especially when they have to sue over it."
"Women shouldn't be cops," the present chief sneered.
"Really? Because the top four cops left after this fiasco are all women in Chicago," Ray said smugly. The cops all looked stunned. "You'd be damn surprised what a woman can do when offered the chance. By the way, never tell my wife she can't do something. As she's proven time and again, she'll prove you wrong and embarrass you as much as she can in the process. I'll expect to know when the court date is for those kids." He walked Benny back out, heading to the insurance office with the other pictures, handing them over. "Criminals," he said in disgust. "We're back at Ma's house if you need us."
"Thank you, detective," the receptionist said quietly, staring at him in awe. "Sir, are you running for Chief? There's rumors you know."
"If someone nominates me, yes," he said, grinning at her. "If they don't, then I won't. I'm not going to be pushy about it. That's my wife." She nodded, giving him an awed look. "Right now, we're both consultants in Chicago and dealing with that crap so we're moving back and forth."
"That's fine, sir. Thank you."
"You're welcome." He walked out, heading back to the house. Dief probably needed to go out for a walk by now. "Maybe we can get Eric to be a Vet," he told Benny as he backed his car out of the parking space. "Save him some misery and low pay."
"I doubt he'd be one that charges outrageous prices," Benny said loyally. "He'd work in a charity or a dog shelter probably."
"True," Ray sighed. "He's a lot like his mother already. How's Dief doing?"
"His joints are still bothering him," Benny sighed, looking sad. "He really should be relaxing somewhere, not chasing crooks down the street."
"They retire police dogs at ten," Ray offered. "You know he can live with us. He gets on well with the cats."
"He does," Benny agreed. "In the wild he may have already died from a leadership challenge. I feel that he's missed so much being with me. He didn't get to form his own pack with a female or two. He didn't get to have many pups."
"He had that one bitch in the city," Ray reminded him.
"Yes, but he's not had that many since then. No other pups either."
"So maybe we'll have some of his seed frozen and given to one of those wolf conservation places."
"Maybe," Benny agreed. He hadn't thought of that. He slumped down in his seat when he saw people staring at the car. "What is going on?"
"Cat's like a legend around here. She takes on the bigots and makes 'em sorry. So the people who aren't involved seem to like her a lot, and since she's now with me she's gotten a bit more respect. From what I can tell, they're waiting on the next miracle."
"Yeah, kinda odd but that's my girl for ya." He pulled onto the road out to the house, watching the big stack of smoke rising. "Think that's the house?"
"No, it's off to the right," Benny told him. He pulled up Ray's cellphone and dialed the local police number. "This is Constable Frasier. There seems to be a large column of smoke rising out of the woods. No, it's not the manor house, it's off to the right when you're facing it. Yes, that. Thank you kindly." He hung up and put it back into his friend's pocket. "They said they'd send the fire department if they weren't already aware of it."
"Which means that someone's hopefully on their way out there," Ray agreed bitterly, turning onto the driveway. "Are you sure that's not on the property?"
"No, it's on the other side of the woods, Ray. Look at the rising part of it."
"Oh. Okay." He headed back to the house to check on things, letting Benny out so he could head down to the campground part to look that over. He found the construction crew gone but all their things were there, so maybe they'd gone to help. He could smell the smoke much more now and headed that way, just in case they needed help. He found Dief dragging a bundle of fur and groaned. "Dief!" He jogged over to catch up, picking up the furry thing for him. "Are you adopting or saving?" he complained as he led them back to the car. He went back but he could hear the sirens and the crew was coming back. "What happened?"
"That old house on the other side of the creek went up," the crew leader told him, shrugging. "We helped get everyone out with that wolf's help. Where is she?"
"Dief's a male."
"Not him, the other one, the white one," one of the guys told him.
"In the car. Dief was dragging her. I'm taking her up to the house to look her over. You guys okay?"
"Just fine, detective," the leader assured him. "We're nearly done. Did you want us to fix that stuff up at the house?"
"Yeah, but I'm waiting on the insurance company to call us back. So do this first then we'll do that one if you guys don't have a new job yet."
"Yes, sir." They went back to work while Ray went back to the car, finding Dief licking her face. "She okay? Should we head right to a vet?" Dief growled. "Fine. We'll head back to the house. You and Benny could use someone to take care of." He got in to drive, going back up to the house and carrying the slight frame inside. "Benny! Your wolf was just dragging this one after she saved some people." He came hurrying out of the kitchen to grab the new animal and take her back there to check her over, Ray following. "The crew said that she helped them with the people trapped in the house that went up. It was that one on the other side of the creek."
"They had about seven children," Benny told him. "The mother was recently widowed and deeply grieved. The children were coming over to watch the crew and I talked to their mother. They didn't say anything about another wolf."
"Cat said she saw a white dog or something," Ray reminded him. The wolf went onto the counter so Benny could run some water to clean off her muzzle if she'd let him. When she lapped at the cloth he turned the faucet so she could lap at the stream as well. "She's pretty light. Much lighter than Dief is."
"Diefenbaker is a bit chunky, Ray," he said patiently. "It's all those pastries he eats. Not to mention the fast food and other things he shouldn't have." He got her eyes cleaned off and looked in them. "You're fairly young. How did you get down here?" She yipped at him. "Ah. Interesting." He cleaned off her nose while Ray found a bowl for her. "Thank you, Ray."
"Not an issue. Don't let Ma know you put the wolf up on the counter or she'll throw a fit."
"She wouldn't mind in this case. It's not the table," Benny assured him. He gently checked her feet, then her legs and ribs, then scratched her behind the ears. "I believe you were someone's prized friend, young lady. You're a bit thin but otherwise fine." Dief yelped at him. "You, hush." He glanced down at him. "Does she smell off?" Dief laid down. "Thank you. She should be fine, Diefenbaker said she doesn't smell sick. Can you get her some food?"
"If we've got anything to feed her," Ray agreed, looking in the fridge. Nothing meat-like. So he pulled out some hamburger from the freezer and put it into the microwave to thaw and cook. "Cooked or semi-raw?"
"Cooked fully please." He got the wolf onto her feet and put the bowl in front of her, letting her drink her fill. "You'll be fine," he promised. He heard the ding and watched as Ray pulled out the burger to break it up and put it back in to cook some more. "How frozen was that?"
"Fully a chunk." He pushed a few buttons and the microwave started again, noticing that the new wolf didn't flinch at the loud noises. "She's domesticated?"
"Apparently." He stroked her back, making her shift away from him. "But not totally." He stepped back, watching the two animals watch each other. Diefenbaker whined at her and she just looked at him. He shifted closer and nosed her so she nosed him back but went back to her drinking. He touched her knee with his nose and she swatted him, shifting to a spot where he wasn't touching her. "I don't think they like each other."
"She's a girl, she's pointing out she's a tough, strong woman who doesn't need a man," Ray told him with a classic hand wave. "They'll get on fine. What about the cats?"
"They should get on fine. Diefenbaker will protect them, Ray," Benny said patiently. "I could go find one of them if you wanted."
"Sure, but try for Blair. He's bigger and a bit stronger, just in case."
"Fine." Benny strolled out, going into the study, where the cats like to hang out whenever they were home. He frowned when he didn't see them. "Ray, are they back in the city?"
"Sorry, forgot," he called. The phone rang. "Got it!" The ringing stopped as Benny walked back into the kitchen. "No, sir, I'd say you'd better beg at her feet," he said dryly. "No, we're at the house. She's at Ma's. Yay," he said bitterly. "Sir, neither of us are very fond of that particular reason at the moment. You'd have to get her to agree, not me." He listened to the quiet reasoning. "Fine. If you get her to agree and we don't have to interact with anyone outside of the precinct. I'm sorry but I'm not feeling up to dealing with the assholes in the other parts of the force at the moment. Excuse me! She's the one who figured out how to save most of their jobs," he said bitterly. "It's her turning of the map, sir. Fine, I don't care and I like I said, you want her help, you get her to agree. I understand, but I'm not feeling that nice at the moment, Welsh. They tried to kill her, there was a good threat against my mother, and I did see those bullet holes on the front lawn by the way, and I'm none too thrilled with a good portion of the department myself. Like I said, if you can get her to agree and we only interact with the people at the 27th and anyone she clears. I'm not endangering her life for anything, sir. Understandable, get her to agree." He hung up. "The police department has balls, you gotta give 'em that much," he said dryly.
"They want you to consult?"
"They want both of us to consult. Since Helena's gone now, they want her to fill in for her. Be the consultant at large sorta thing." He leaned on the counter. "I don't think she needs that sort of stress. We get enough helping the 27th right now."
"Not all the officers were involved in that action, Ray."
"More of them would have been if they'd been able to," Ray pointed out grimly. "We know some of the supervisors had to hold their guys back so there'd be street patrols that day." He stared him in the eyes. "You can't tell me most of them didn't want to take her out, Benny. It'd be a lie."
"Some probably did, until they heard what was going on."
"And then there were still those who were more than willing to go kill her for the good of the department," he said coldly. "That's why we had Stan and Rennie staying with her. Victoria Page took out seven cops and inconvenienced them all by herself for trying to follow her."
"Victoria Page." Ray stood up, leaning against the counter behind him to stare out the window, past his friend. "Back in the old days, there were problems being had by some of the female cops, especially the good female cops. So they joined up, called themselves a Sisterhood."
"That's perfectly reasonable, to form a support organization."
Ray snorted. "Let me finished, Benny. Back then, a few *bright* people decided that efficient and good female cops were ruining the department's image so they went out hunting them. A few tried to scare them, a few tried to kill them, and a few tried to rape them to get them to give up and quit. Well, the Sisterhood was formed to fix the problem." He looked at Benny again. "Mostly by specialist cops instead of beat cops, but there were a few exceptions. Cat was one of the last ones to join the group. She had just barely gotten into Vice when they formed. She was making waves though and she was targeted. One of the Sisterhood tried to come to her rescue but Cat got the person first. He was a scare- tactic guy so he wasn't real successful. The lady, Victoria Page, talked to her. Victoria was in Homicide and they talked a lot about what could happen and what had been happening. So when Cat was on ho stroll the next time, one of the cops came up to her. She knew the guy, knew him by face, by badge, all of it, because she had ridden with him. He tried to arrest her so he could rape her. She nearly killed him when he tried. There was an inquest. Cat was vindicated because no one could deny that the guy knew she wasn't a real pro and knew she was in Vice. So the next time she was out, on a night off at a club, someone came in and tried a drive by. They got a few others. Cat got their back tires and made them flip the car after hitting a parked car. The department was slow in answering the plea for assistance and six people died from the fiery crash and the gunshot wounds. So she helped them sue," he said in a cool voice.
"She did, at a cost. That's when IA started in on her. Scott came a few months later. The first guy took a long look at the incident and decided he'd had enough. He ruled it a justified shooting and later shot himself in his car. Supposedly, but no one could prove otherwise. Cat gave most of her part of the settlement to his widow." Benny shivered. "Yeah. She knew he hadn't. A lot of us did. I was a rookie cop at the time and I knew he hadn't. There were a lot of rumors about who had, including the Sisterhood, but all of them were helping with the lawsuit so they wouldn't have.
"Then the stuff with Helena started to come up and the stuff with Victoria Page started to happen. See, she and her husband were both cops, but her husband decided to try to kill her a few times. After one of them, she decided to defend herself. She got arrested and it took an act of the governor to get him arrested for assault and battery. The DA upped it to attempted manslaughter at political urging because the stories of spouse abuse were getting media attention. She got probation for defending herself and got kicked off the force. He went to prison and he's just recently gotten out." Benny made a horrified sound. "She appealed her firing for getting probation and won, and won her appeal on the probation. So the department made up a charge that she was derelict of duty for being five minutes late to a check-in and fired her again. She sued. All the Sisterhood testified for her. Every last one of them, even Millie, who had been her shift supervisor. She claimed her hands were tied in the matter, it had been orders from higher up the chain. So Victoria won her suit and part of that was to retire at partial pension and a few million bucks. She's a bodyguard and handles the strange cases in a part of town. She went up to check on Cat that night."
"Now, about the same time that the Sisterhood was starting to lose members to injury and pregnancy making them quit, Harding was watching over their shoulder. He got a bunch a guys together, doing the same thing, only it was guys. A Brotherhood. No secret meetings or anything," he said with a wry smirk for his friend, "but we did good work for those cops who needed it. Stan was a member long before he filled in for me. Cat knew and had suggested him because he was so good and he has a good heart. Which is why I don't mind you two dating. If you were dating a dirtbag, we might have relieved him of his life by now," he admitted. He shook himself. "Anyway, the Sisterhood ended up basically dying off. At last count there were still four women on the force. Cat, Millie, Dramezton in Sex Crimes, and little Margaret Miho. You'd like her, she's a damn card. Or she was. She was killed a few days back by assassination in her home. No one's sure how they found her home. Her personnel file doesn't even hold a home address for her. Her captain didn't even have a home address for her. No one had one but two people, Cat and Millie. Dramezton in Sex Crimes is one of their top detectives and her captain put her into protective custody recently when a case came back to haunt her and he won't say where she is. He's a member though so I'm sure Welsh knows something but can't tell us."
"That leaves Cat and Millie who knew about the bad old days, and people like Harding and those of us in the Brotherhood who either came in at the end of it or were told about it. We watched while the gay cops had to sue to be kept off ho stroll to supposedly encourage them to go straight. We had to watch and help the gay cops when they came out and got beaten for it a few years back. We helped a bunch of cops, and through it all Cat was a semi-Brother to us. We all knew her by rep at the very least. I've worked with Dramezton in the past. She's a good cop."
"But if Millie's behind this, isn't she in more danger?"
"Harding knows, he's passed back that message after Margaret was killed. At the funeral a bunch of us saw each other and gravitated to a meeting afterward. That's the last time any of us saw Margaret. A few hours later she reported to the office with a stalker having just broken into her house and poisoning her dog, plus leaving a note to say how easy it had been and now she was next. Fortunately her boss understood and is trying to help. No one's sure where she is and if she's safe but we're pretty sure she is. Unfortunately some of the idiots never stopped. Last year, Cat overheard a meeting during a stakeout. We were together that night, you and Stan had a date and Huey was there too. We taped the meeting, it was happening at the time and place we'd heard a contract assassin was supposed to be meeting his new clients. We got six of the top cops in the city making a deal to shoot her." Benny grabbed the counter. "Then me, then the rest of us at the 27th, but Huey. They think he's an average cop and that he only tolerates her. He's still safe and she's tried to keep him out of things." He smirked. "We got them on tape saying that they were using department resources to hire the hit. That it had been ordered 'on high'. That's all they said about who."
"Would that have been during that time with the old Chief of Detectives?"
"Yup, and we thought it had been him. We brought it to IA. They scoffed, all but Helena's cousin. They didn't realize it but she had been given part of her cousin's case to look over and she *knew* what the department could do to its own. She tried to bring it to French and he scoffed too. So Cat made multiple copies, sending one to Millie, one to Harding, one to a friend in the press, one to Helena, and one to her family attorney. Just in case. Then the crap started with them trying to kill her. So he filed on her standing orders. It's coming to the first hearing next week."
"So, if it is Millie, she knows it's coming."
"Oh, she knows," he agreed bitterly. "She knows exactly what's coming. There was a female voice on the tape and we couldn't make out who. Millie doesn't know about the Brotherhood though. Harding called us out for a beer after a payday a few weeks after we had taped it and after the suit had been filed, letting them all listen to it, all but me. I was in Vegas at the time."
"So, they were watching out for her?"
"Stan does it naturally. I've figured that much out. Harding thinks of her like a sister. Now the force wants her back to consult, the same way they had Helena until she moved. Harding thinks it's legit and I don't. So we're leaving it up to her. She's got a finely tuned sense of survival around dirty cops. Each time Vice got a new commander, she knew who was going to cause troubles *long* before they started." The white dog barked and he looked down at her. "Yeah?" She sat and stared up at him. "Want some attention?" He slowly reached down, scratching her ears. "That's a good girl. You were very good today, helping save those guys in the house. That's a good girl." She barked and looked at Benny, who knelt to pet her himself. "I think she likes you." He looked at Dief, who was staring at them. "She's not poaching." Dief shifted but didn't bark, just stared at him now. "Benny, why do I have the feeling that he's picked her as your next helper?" he asked out of the blue.
"He probably has." Benny looked at his wolf. "Is that true?" Dief barked and shook his head, then put it back down. "Fine. We'll let you show her the ropes. Then you can stay with Turnbull back at the consulate and guard Canada if necessary." The wolf seemed to smirk but got comfortable. "Good boy, Diefenbaker. You were very good to bring her and to help her earlier." He stroked the soft coat. "You're very soft. You feel like you're half Malamute."
"She looks like it too, but she's got that pointed face," Ray offered. "C'mon, we should probably call Ma and Cat."
"Sure, Ray." Ray helped him up and they headed back to the study, the dogs following behind them. "Do you think she's part wolf?" Dief barked, but to him it sounded outraged. "Sorry, Diefenbaker."
"Maybe. Maybe a vet could tell you," Ray offered. He opened his office door and walked in, not seeing the person standing against the wall. The first thing he knew was wrong was when the dogs barked sharply and he turned, getting a face full of mace. He screamed and heard Benny hit the floor, then he heard someone else scream. Then his world went black.
One of the town's residents hurried into the police station. "The mansion's on fire," she panted, pointing at the smoke. "That's in a different spot from the earlier fire."
"We're not the fire department," one of the cops reminded her but he was picking up his phone.
"They're burning brush," the Captain said from his doorway. "It's not the mansion, they're burning brush in the campground."
"That'd be farther away!" she insisted. "And since when does the fire department suddenly only go out if they get a direct call?" She stared him down until he shrugged. "So help me God if you did something I'll see you in hell." She stomped out and went to call someone in the fire department, someone she was sure wasn't involved. That one got the others up and went to help. Then she went to talk to the other women in her church. There'd be some sorry goddamned men in their town if they were involved. One of them found Catherine's phone number for her old precinct and called there. The cop there took down the information and promised to pass it on. They hoped she wasn't having these sort of problems down there.
Stanley calmly picked up and threw the phone across the room. Then he walked into the office. "Someone just set fires up by the mansion. I can't reach Ray or Benny." Welsh stared at him. "I'm taking Cat and Turnbull."
"Go," he agreed. "Keep her calm and keep the kid here."
"Thanks." He walked out, stopping to call Ma from Huey's desk since his phone was now broken. "Ma, take care of Eric for a few days and have Cat and Rennie waiting on me at the door, ready to go. There's been a problem." He hung up and headed out, going down to get one of the precinct's foreclosed cars. He wasn't about to drive his own car if this was another problem starting. Besides, they'd never fit three into the GTO. He did transfer the siren. By the time he pulled onto Ma's street, Cat and Rennie were dressed and at the end of the driveway. "Get in." Rennie got into the back and helped her into her seat. "There was a fire set up by the mansion. I don't wanna worry you but no one answered at the house," he said as he took off again, turning on the dashboard light. They could legitimately speed with it on. "I got a call from some of the ladies in town before you ask. She said someone had burned a house earlier near the campground but behind it?"
"There was a recently widowed woman and her children living in a house across that narrow strip of woods and that creek," Rennie offered, leaning forward. "Are we taking the interstate?"
"No, there's no direct link and it's longer," Cat told him. "Let me drive."
"Hell no," he snorted.
"I know the shortcuts."
"Tough. You're resting. You'll have to break balls when we get up there and you're resting now," Stan ordered calmly. "Rest now, you'll be homicidal later." She nodded. "Rennie, you might want to call the consulate and tell the Dragon Lady what's going on and why you're taking a few days off."
"I'm under suspension," he admitted. "So I've got three days off without having to talk to her."
"Fine, call anyway," Cat said, handing back her phone. "This sucks, Stan."
"I know, which is why we're going so fast and with the lights on. If one of the State boys try to stop us, they'd better have an update." She nodded, glaring out the front window. "They could have been outside."
"No. Not if the women called. They hate me."
"Still, she didn't say she knew that they were in the house, just that it looked like it was the house and that there'd been that other one earlier," Stan said, trying to stay calm. His boyfriend was up there and he'd be killing someone himself.
"Stan, let me drive before you crash us," she ordered. He shook himself and pulled back into their lane. "Now!"
"Fine." He pulled off and they switched out, letting her drive. She was better at it in a high speed chase anyway. Only Ray out-drove her. They were stopped by one of the state cops, but he called it in and got them an update, which sent them directly to the hospital.
Harding knocked on Ma's door, giving her a grim look. "I've got news. I'm sorry to interrupt dinner, Mrs. Vecchio."
"No, it's fine," she said, leading the way into the dining room. "What's happened?"
"There's an arsonist up there. He started a fire earlier near the manor house, then he set part of the manor house on fire." Everyone gasped. "They found Ray and Constable Frasier inside the library with two wolves. They're all fine. Ray was maced," he admitted. Maria's eyes narrowed. "We sent Stanley and Cat up there earlier," he reminded them. "They're not so sure that the first one wasn't to attempt a coverup of the second one."
"Neither am I," Frannie admitted. "Benny and Ray are fine, sir?"
"They're fine. Ray's pissed. Even the wolves are fine. The paramedics brought them in at the same time and the hospital called the vets immediately to take care of them in the same room. I've already called the consulate and the state boys are investigating since that town has been having so many troubles." He cleared his throat. "I did get to talk to Vecchio for a moment. He said to stay here and guard everyone. Not to be paranoid, it was local."
Ma nodded. "We will. My son is fine?"
"He's just fine, Ma," Maria assured her. "If he was talking, he was fine. Right, Welsh?"
"He was fine, or he said he was. Cat was yelling at someone in the background but that's Cat. They made it up there in about two hours from what I understand." Everyone winced, it was a three and a half hour trip. "So they're handling it and helping the state boys up that way. Then I guess they're going to be working on rebuilding the house. Fortunately her cats are down here?" Ma nodded quickly. "Good. They should be back within a few days. They're under observation for smoke inhalation. Ray said it wasn't anything further."
"Then who maced him?" Francine wanted to know.
"Probably the same person who set the fire," Harding pointed out. "They're still trying to figure out if he saw them or not. I couldn't get any more information than that. He started to cough, which is normal for smoke inhalation."
"Fine," Tony agreed. "They're not coming here?" Welsh shook his head. "That's fine. Are we sure?"
"It was a local offensive. Cat's pissed off people locally for not being a bigot in the family tradition but they'd never dare do anything about it," Welsh assured him. "Needless to say, the local precinct's sending someone down this street more often until Ray gets back here." Ma relaxed. "It'll be people I trust. I've already talked to the shift supervisor, Mrs. Vecchio."
"Thank you. When will they be back?"
"Maybe three days. It shouldn't be too long, but if they stay to help with the investigation it could be a lot of traveling."
"I'll take Ray's car in to get the oil changed then," Tony offered. "It's gonna need it."
"Right now, they're in an unmarked sedan instead of Stan's car. They should be okay. She'll be consulting while they rebuild so you'll be seeing a lot of them."
"I'll make sure the bambino has a crib set up," Ma promised.
Welsh smirked at her. "Cat said if she had to stay in town for a while, they were renting somewhere so no one had to see her wandering around naked. But she'd try for something on this street."
"There's that house on the corner," Tony offered. "She could probably buy it and fix it up nice, then rent it out or something when they moved."
"One of her friend's old contacts is now in real estate. I've already called Helena and she's promised to send them to Cat. She also threatened to send a hit squad after the town cops up there, but she said she'd hold off to let the state boys take their shot first." Ma smiled at that. She had met Helena and liked her. "So that's how things stand. It's not horrible, and not as bad as it could be, but Ray will need a few days' rest. They'll both be consulting, he's going to be her backup. It's no secret that they're thinking about shutting down the 27th in the new merger. If so, I'm sure Stan and Benny would be going up there with you. Have a nice night, folks." He walked out, going to talk to someone in his group of contacts. They needed to know what else Cat had been shouting, because the state boys weren't going to want to deal with this, and fortunately he had just met the nicest Fed who was being moved to Hate Crimes.
Cat looked at the investigator who was working on her case, staring him down. "So if you have someone in custody who has made a full confession, how can you not have his accomplices, who he says were helping him?"
"Because we can't prove they helped, ma'am."
"Sorry, *detective*. If I may ask, what precinct?"
"Twenty-seventh, after seventeen years in Vice," she said coolly. He flinched. "So I do know a bit about accomplices. Why aren't they arrested?"
"Because it's a politically touchy situation, detective," he seemed to plead.
"In other words, they're cops," she said dryly. He nodded quickly, glancing around. "When do you think you're going to be moving on them?"
"As soon as we get hard evidence that will stand up in court, detective." He looked at the sleeping body on the bed next to them. Then back at her. "You wouldn't want to have a long, drawn out trial, nor would you want to have one that got thrown out."
"No, but I'd like the law to actually move a little faster than most icebergs."
"Of course, Detective, I understand fully. I'd like the law to work this time. I hate dirty cops. I hate it even more when they take on good cops and try to make them dirty cops, staring her down. She shrugged, crossing her arms. "Do you think it's related, detective?"
"No. I'm fairly certain that I'm in the way of a powerful person who's going bad. She's my ex though." He shivered and nodded, writing that down. "If she was working with them, I'd be surprised but they'd be her minions. Millie never did have a use for men."
"I see," he said slowly, glancing around. "Is this some sort of revenge plot against you for marrying your husband?"
"No, she's been a power-hungry person for much too long," Cat assured him. "Unfortunately in the bad, old days we had to do some things that weren't exactly regulation to keep ourselves from dying. There's only a few of us left on the force. She's one, I'm one, and there's one other one who's still left alive. She's in protective custody, just in case."
"Oh." He wrote that down too. "Do you think there's *any* chance it's related?"
"I'm thinking not, but I can't prove it and I don't know for sure," she offered bitterly. "If it is, I'm going to help you kick their asses all the way to Joliet."
"We'd welcome the help, detective. You're said to be a very good cop, you, your husband, and all of you. Especially those Mounties you work with." He looked at the one sitting right outside the door. Then back at her. "I'll keep you informed but you know I can't involve you since you're a target." She shrugged and nodded. "Thank you, detective. I hope that they get better."
"I hope I don't have to deliver them to you," she said coolly. He shivered and nodded, making note of that before he left.
Rennie walked back in, helping her to the lone chair in the room. "You should be resting, Catherine. There's a lot to get done."
She looked up at him. "We can't live in the house, Rennie. We're going to have to get a rebuild done. Which means we're going to be in Chicago for a bit longer. Which means we'll have to find somewhere to live."
"We're buying a house," Ray croaked. "It'll take a few weeks ta do but there's one up the street from Ma. We can sell it later."
"Want some water?"
"No." He forced himself to sit up, groaning a bit as he was helped by Rennie. "Thanks, Turnbull. How's Benny?"
"He's doing just fine, Detective. Our Ambassador is in to see him at the moment or else I'd be guarding him. He brought his own guards. I do believe that he'll be getting some richly deserved leave time."
"Hopefully. It's not every day that someone tries to kill you by first whacking you on the head with a golf club and then trying to burn you to death," Cat said bitterly. "Is he in a charitable mood? Because I know when I called Thatcher last night she about exploded."
"No," Rennie said with a grin, "but Inspector Frasier is in an odd spot you know. All that to do with his father's murderer you understand."
"Yeah and if it had been me I'd have thrown a major stink," she promised. Someone tapped on the door. "Enter!" she snapped. The door opened and a Mountie stuck his head in. "Needed Rennie?"
"Detective," she said patiently.
"Sorry, detective. Would it be all right for the Ambassador to come in and talk to you?"
"If he wants," she agreed dryly. She crossed her legs and looked at Ray. "Want straightened up?"
"No," he snorted. "I've met the Ambassador before, back when I first helped Benny." He looked over as the door opened again. "Hey."
"Detective Vecchio. I'm glad to see that you're all right," he said, coming over to shake his hand. "And this must be your wife? Detective Demoranth I've heard?" She nodded, shaking his hand as well. "Thank you for seeing me. I'm worried about Constable Frasier and Constable Turnbull getting involved over their heads."
"Actually, Frasier's very well trained for being a very rural-bred Mountie and I've taken Turnbull with me on a number of cases to keep his training up," Catherine said, smirking at him. "Turnbull is one impressive Mountie and one I'd like to keep at my back for as long as I've got to be in Chicago. Plus he's a great babysitter. He even calms down our hellion." She noticed Rennie was blushing and grinned at him. "You are. Eric is a hellion and you keep him a calm and happy baby."
Ray snickered. "You do. Even more than Frasier. I think Eric only likes him for Dief and his hat. He likes to cuddle you."
"Thank you, detectives," Rennie said with a brighter blush.
"We pride ourselves on how well our Mounties are trained," the Ambassador agreed, smiling at him. "You will be working with them still? To keep them out of trouble?"
"Actually, we'll be each taking our usual ones out while we'll be consulting. Do we get an office?" she asked Ray.
He snorted. "We're getting our desks in the Precinct moved closer together."
"Wonderful." She rolled her eyes. Then looked back at the Ambassador. "It's a good thing Rennie's so good. He's saved my life already and we've only been together for a few months."
"I'll tell the Inspector you said so," the Ambassador promised. "You will watch out for them?"
"Rennie's like my brother and Frasier's like Ray's brother."
"Good." He smiled. "Then I'll expect this dreadful incident to be solved, even if you have to step in?" She nodded, giving him a smug look. "Thank you, detectives. I'll leave this in your hands. Constable, I'll talk with the Inspector to get you officially assigned as of the date of your suspension. I do believe that was an unfair one since it wasn't your fault you went to help with such a dreadful incident and forgot to call in." He shook their hands again. "I'll leave you to rest, detective. If I can be of any service, just have Renfield call me." He left, his Mountie following him.
Cat looked at Rennie. "Did he calm himself due to us?"
He nodded. "Probably. Usually he's a bit more...politician like." He smiled. "It was very nice of him to get me unsuspended however. If she'll listen." He smirked at Ray. "Shall I call your mother now?"
"No, give me the phone and I'll call Ma." Cat handed over her cell, making him smirk at her. "Where's mine?"
"Evidence. Along with your wallet, your belt, your sunglasses...." She gave him a long look. "The State boy I talked to earlier said you'd have it back by tomorrow. Of course he knows we *will* get it back tomorrow, or else," she promised with a grin. "Call Ma, check on the little furry kid."
"He's a werewolf now?"
"No, but he was cuddling up next to the cats, sleeping in the middle of them," she told him.
"Wonderful," he groaned, dialing the house. "Hey, Ma." He had to pull the phone away from his ear at the squeal. "Frannie, put on Ma," he said patiently. "Hi, Ma." He rolled his eyes. "No, I'm fine. A bit tired but not too bad." He looked at Cat. "He's doing what?" He snorted. "Eric's presently tipped the cookie dough over his head so he's picking it out and eating it piece by piece. He smooshed some everywhere he could."
"That's my boy," she said proudly, grinning at him. "I love cookie dough. Soon we can give him cookie dough ice cream."
"You're demented, ya know that?" Ray asked tolerantly. She nodded, smirking at him. He snorted and went back to his other conversation. "She's proud'a him, Ma. Don't worry about him too much and don't let the others beat up on him for it." He chuckled. "The others are helping him pick it out of his hair and nibbling too," he shared. He listened some more. "Hopefully I'll be out in a few days."
"Three," Rennie told him. "That's when the doctor is releasing Constable Frasier so I'm assuming you'd be released at the same time."
"Rennie said probably three days, Ma, since that's when they're letting out Benny. How's the other wolf?"
"She's only part wolf and she's fine," Rennie offered. "The vet is keeping them safe for now. We can take them back soon."
"New wolf?" Cat asked. "I must have missed that part."
"The white wolf was helping at the first fire, Benny was nursing her back to health," Ray told him. "She's a good girl and doesn't take shit. Um, sorry, Ma." He rolled his eyes at her protest of his language. "You'll like her, Ma. She's a sweetie." He grinned at her. "Of course. But we're going to be finding our own place again. Maybe. Why?" He listened to Tony reminding her about the house down the street from them. "Fine, Ma. We'll look into it when we get back." He nodded a few times. "Thanks, Ma. I'll see ya soon. Love you too. Bye." He hung up and tossed the phone back. "Ma doesn't want us out of the house."
"Tough. I can't run around naked in front of your family," she reminded him. "I can't even run around in my jammies since they all give me odd looks." She glanced around. "By the way, none of the stuff in storage was touched yet. They're running behind."
"At least that's good," Ray agreed. "How much longer?"
"The doctor said three days for Constable Frasier," Rennie offered.
"Let me at 'em," Cat sighed, standing up, rubbing her stomach. "Come on, kiddo. Lets go soften up another doctor." She walked out, going to find the doctor. When she came back it was with a nurse wielding a wheelchair. "Here you are, dear. You're both getting out and you're going to have to rest in the same spot so we can look them over. Therefore I'm going to be making a quick stop on the way back to the city. We may have to stay at a hotel tonight." She got Ray some clothes and waited while he went to change, letting Rennie go help the other Mountie and Stan. "I'm driving one car," she ordered when they joined up outside.
"I doubt it," Stan said dryly, smirking at her. "Rennie, you drive Ray's car with them. I'll drive Benny and the wolves."
Rennie nodded. "Of course, Detective. That way Catherine can coo at her husband and be calm and rest herself." He jogged off to get the car, with Stan following behind him more slowly.
Catherine looked around the apartment they had been found by the insurance agent. "I like this place, I always have. Even when Helena used to have it while she was under. Okay, we've got the upstairs bedroom. There's three more down here. Rennie, put Eric in one, put yourself in another, and put the other couple in the last one. Stan, we're going grocery shopping in twenty minutes. Furry creatures, learn to get along with the cats when we get back with them or else you'll be sleeping on the porch." She helped Ray up to the loft bedroom, getting him settled in, then grabbed her purse and walked back out, heading out with Stan to do some quick shopping.
"Helena used to live there?"
"Yeah, back when the Feds first took her over. She got that one after she came back from Peru. It's also where she nearly died, twice." She held open the passenger's door for him but he had walked around the back of the car. "Uh-uh. I'm driving."
"Fat chance," he said with a smirk. "Not until the doctor said you're able to have stress again. It's rush hour, get in." She groaned but got in, letting him drive her this time. "Just the grocery store?"
"And to get the cats. So we'll need to pick up litter and stuff."
"That's fine," Stan agreed, pulling out of the garage and heading down the road. "Should I get Ray stuff to make real food tonight?"
"Nah, let's get easy stuff for tonight. Unless you or Rennie wants to cook?"
"Not really," he admitted. "It was nice to get Rennie into our spot."
"Yeah, well, his building is trash," she reminded him. "It's unstable. It shakes in a small breeze. No one should have to live that way." She slumped down in the seat as they passed by a row of cop cars pulling out for evening shift. "Wonderful, we're next to the thirteenth. Skinhead central."
"It'll be fine, Cat. It's not like we can't take care of the house by ourselves," he pointed out calmly. "Sit up. They wouldn't dare do anything."
"Yes they would. Two of them were interviewed on national news saying that it's a shame I wasn't put to death anyway, even though it was a setup, because I was going to cause too much trouble for the department because I was female."
He snorted. "Imbeciles. I saw that. He's suspended at the moment. His boss thought he was unsubtle." He saw the lights go on behind him and pulled over, putting his badge on. "What?" he demanded. "There's no way I was speeding and nothing's wrong with the department's car."
"Detective," he said, backing away slightly. "I didn't know it was you."
"Yeah, it's both of us. She's now a consultant with her husband while we work this out. So get over it and spread it back around. Ya touch her, ya touch the Mounties and the rest of us. We don't need a precinct war, right?" He shook his head. "Now, what's wrong?"
"There was a general call out to warn dispatch when you guys came back. Is everyone all right?"
"Fine," Stan said, grinning at him. "Benny and Ray are resting at the new place. Along with the wolves and the baby."
"Good. Thank you, detective. You might want to call your home precinct. You actually expected someone to do that?"
"Um, yeah," she agreed dryly. "They have in the past."
"No, detective. That's why they had *me* stop you instead of one of the skinheads. Speaking of which, if you had to transfer in as a patrol, which precinct would you go to in this part of town?"
"Nineteenth. Mostly petty crimes and rich people," she told him. "Some stress but once you get the list of untouchables down it's pretty easy. I did a few cases with them and the detectives are pretty decent, mostly major crimes guys like Ray and Stan."
"Thank you, detective. Where might you be?"
"Helena's pad after Peru." She smirked. "Tell Dispatch that. Anyone who's a vet should remember."
"Thank you, ma'am." He nodded and walked off, going to radio that in. Then he thought better of it and called on his cellphone. Just in case one of the bad guys was listening. They had every right to be nervous, he knew most of his precinct would bother them, they'd been ordered to.
Cat walked into the Nineteenth two days later, waving off her escort. "Stay, boy." She walked into the Captain's office, waving. "You yelleth for me?"
"And you came. Here, we have some weirdos who just moved in and our guys can't understand them. They're presently wondering what's going on. Can you interpret?"
"Sure," she agreed happily. "That's much easier than doing cult killings." She took the folder and sat down to read it, then smirked at him. "This is so easy. They're not weirdos. They're actually a very nice Druid family. I know them." She stood up and walked outside, waving the folder. "Okay, who needs the interpretation from Druid and Nature religions back to their own sort?" Everyone raised their hands. "Good. Should we do this individually or as a class?"
"Let's do a quick class. Can you do it under an hour?" the captain asked.
"Sure!" she agreed happily. "I've had to teach this lecture before when a commune came in." She walked over and sat on the front of an empty desk. "Is this one missing?"
"Yeah, me too soon," she sighed, patting her stomach. "Okay. Druids and Wiccans are normal people, they just believe that Nature is a Goddess and that there is a dual God relationship with a Hunter God, or a dark God. That's what the early Christians took and turned into Satan. Got a chalk board so we can do the major holidays? Most of them are celebrations in nature areas, like woods, and a few have bonfires." Someone nodded and went to get her one so she could diagram and illustrate so they'd know what to get upset about. She was a very good teacher.
Ray wandered into the twenty-seventh and waved at the desk sergeant. "Wife?"
"Nineteenth explaining pagans to the cops."
"Goodie. Better her than me," Ray sighed, heading up the stairs slowly. He was still coughing now and then. "Hey," he greeted, nodding at his boss as he walked past him. "Eric and I came in to clean off our desks. The DA called, we've got court this afternoon."
"That's fine. We left everything the way it was but Cat's desk got moved to the corner. Her new self is here," he said smugly. "You'll like her. Syvette was in homicide and does the same stuff your wife does."
Ray snorted. "Wonderful. I still don't understand all the stuff she does, so let her have all the ones she wants," Ray quipped, heading in to sit at his desk. Someone grabbed the baby off his back so he stared at her. "And you are?"
"Syvette," she said with a smile. "Hello, Eric." He cooed and leaned forward, sucking on her nose. "That's a good boy," she cooed, pulling him off. "Come on, we'll sit over here while Daddy does the mound of paperwork since the Auntie doesn't have anything to do yet. No we don't."
"Cat's giving Pagan lectures to the nineteenth," he said dryly. "You're an Auntie now? Have we even met?"
She smirked at him. "Cat promised I could be an auntie if she ever had kids. She trained me, relax. Stan and I know each other really well." Stan nodded from his corner. "See?"
"Hey, Eric, bite her for me, 'kay?" Stan called. Eric laughed and leaned forward to suck on her again. "Good boy, kiddo."
"Don't give him any ideas," Ray complained. He glared at her again. "We don't usually encourage people to come up and steal the kids from us. Only Mounties get to do that."
"Chill, Vecchio, I'm one of the nice ones. Call Cat, she'll tell you."
"She is, Ray. I trusted her when I was injured," Stanley promised, grinning at him. "Where's the wife?"
"Wonderful. What's going on over there?"
"The Henderson family moved into that precinct," Syvette reminded him. "She's probably translating Druid into cop."
"Ah," he said wisely, nodding. "I remember getting one of those lectures. At least she makes it interesting." He waved at Eric when he cooed at him. "Hey, squirt. What's up?"
"He is. He wouldn't go back to sleep for anything and Ma had an appointment today," Ray told him. "Both Mounties are back at work. It was scary, Thatcher actually smirked at us this morning." Stan shuddered. "Exactly." His phone rang. "Vecchio?" He listened to te rant. "Shut up. Yay. Then you can come down here and say that to my face, little boy. Come on down, whenever you're ready." He hung up. "SWAT's not happy that we're back." He found the files he needed for court and pulled them out, rereading them to refresh his memory. It had been a while since he'd seen these. "Stan, Benny's got statue duty today along with their new one. They've got a third Mountie in. Really young guy."
"Wonderful! So I guess she can steal Rennie more often?"
"Probably. The ambassador was really happy that he was working with her."
"She's known to be a good trainer of detectives," Syvette offered, letting Eric help her check her email. "Hey, the new chief wrote and said welcome to the 27th. I should go kick my ex-husband's ass for that." Everyone stared at her. "Yes, he's my ex, people. He's a bit odd but he's not dangerous and he's not a bad guy. He just likes dirty jokes and pranks. Cat trained us together actually." She smirked at Huey. "So, since I was homicide and you're basically robbery are we teaming up or did you want to work alone most of the time? I'm good either way."
"We can team up but I hate homicides," he offered.
"What a shock, so do I. I tried to transfer out for two years before I got sent here." He smiled at her for it. "Relax, Huey, I'm a nice girl. I do some odd things but nothing at all like Cat. She's actually had to participate in ceremonies to get people to move on from a precinct in the past. I only stand there and watch." That got another smile. "Vecchio, did I inherit a Mountie?"
"Rennie," Stan told her. "Cat's been working with him so I'm guessing he'll split between you two." He looked over at her. "Well, you've got the touch. He's napping."
"My three all did," she promised. "I'm an experienced mother and a Mother when you're on my bad side. But fortunately there are no more coming."
"That's fine, Cat's pregnant again," Huey assured her. She squealed and shifted in her seat, making him smirk at her. "You can soothe the mood swings then."
"I found rubbing the baby stopped about half of those," she assured him. "But I'm sure Ray's figured out that trick as well."
"Yeah, but we can't do that in public," he said dryly, going back to his reading. "He's going to hit the desk."
Syvette shifted Eric up to her shoulder, patting him on the back. "There you are, little guy. You rest on the snuggly auntie and everything will be just fine. Yes it will," she cooed. He sucked on her neck, making her chuckle. "We should nickname you Vlad, baby boy."
"Put his thumb in his mouth. He's not to have blood. He tried that on mom too," Stan told her. She shifted him and put his thumb in his mouth for him, making him a happier baby. "Good job. We'll share babysitting duties but Rennie might pout."
"That's fine. I can deal with a pouting man. Mine did all the time," she said happily. She smirked at Harding as he came out and held out his arms. "He's fine. He's sleeping soundly."
"I was going to lay him in my office, that way the noise won't bother him. You've got a perp coming in soon."
"Fine," she sighed, handing him over. Eric snuffled a few times but calmed himself and went to nap on the soft, scratchy spot. He was used to it. When the perps were drug in, she stood up and smirked at them. "I'm Syvette. I'm taking over for Cat." They groaned. "Heard of me?"
"You're the bitch from Homicide," one of them said miserably.
"How very astute of you!" she agreed happily. "For that knowledge, you get to go *first*!" They shuddered and obediently sat down where she wanted. She ordered them around like they were toddlers and she was the nanny. One guy tried to act up so she glared at him, making him piss himself. Yeah, she'd do as a substitute for Cat.
Cat wandered back into the office, looking around. "Hey, Syvette's here," she said happily, sitting down at her new desk. "Eric?" she called. He came trotting out of the break room, hugging her around the leg. "Hi, mommy's favorite little boy. How are we today?" she cooed, smiling down at him and straightening out his hair. "Where's the daddy?"
"He's in court," Welsh called from his doorway. "He's been good. He's been helping that new wolf settle in while she explored. He's even tried to ride her a few times. Who's is she?"
"Dief picked her to help Benny when he retired."
"Oh, good. Does she have a name yet?"
"Not that I'm aware of. I've been calling her Elizabeth. She is very queenly and alpha female."
"Okay. I can do that too," he decided. "He's been mostly good. Where was he?"
"In the break room. Where's Syvette and everyone?"
"Big robbery downtown. Armored car. You'd almost think Lupin was back."
"No, we'd have seen him if he was," she offered. "Besides, I talked to Helena late last night and she said that Jigen was napping on the couch with Mal on his chest and Jissan in the chair next to him. They're sparing her some sleep."
"Is she okay?"
"She thinks she might be pregnant again. She's doing the test next week, when it'd be official that she's missing a cycle. Everyone's pretty well settled into the house. Fujiko hates kids, thinks they're contagious. She said that if she is, there might be a wedding we'd have to attend." She shrugged. "Nothing more major than that. We'd get to play in Paris for a while."
"Have fun. Bring back a lot of pictures," Welsh told her. "I've thoughtfully dropped the consultant's handbook on your desk." He looked around. "Where did he go?"
"Back to the break room." She stood up and wandered that way, noticing the other door was open too. "Hmm. Eric?" she called, stalking the pair. That wolf was in trouble if her son was. She found them all the way down in the holding cells, her son sneering and making faces at a few of the perps. "Son," she said patiently. "Don't make fun of them. Not all of them are smart enough to realize you're doing that." The perps all stared at her so she smirked at them. "Yes, that's the mini-Vecchio. Eric, say hi."
"Hi!" he called, waving and smirking at them.
"And the wolf if Constable Frasier's if anyone has a doubt. Diefenbaker adopted her." They all shuddered and backed away from the bars. "Eric, you are not allowed out of the squad room. You know better. Get your little butt back upstairs and with the wolf." She pointed. "Now!" He pouted but did so. You didn't tell the mommy no, she'd glare. It was even worse than the daddy scowling when you woke him up in the middle of the night for no reason. He pouted all the way back up to the squad room, his wolf buddy traipsing behind him once she had sniffed out the drugs and nearly licked the poor guy to death. He had been scared enough to hand them over without protest, even getting the balloons out of his anal cavity himself. She glared at them. "Do remind everyone that my son is precious to me and something I will destroy this entire fucking city over, boys. Have a nice day." She followed them, making sure they got back up there. They found Turnbull in the office. "Go sit on Rennie's lap and tell him about the perps and the drugs." Eric toddled that way to babble at his buddy. He loved Rennie, he was a neat sitter. She sat down to read the handbook, making sure she had everything that she'd need. When Ray came back in, she gave him a smug look. "Eric went down to introduce himself and scare the crooks. Elizabeth likes to sniff out drugs and lick them, and the guys down there are now properly scared. How was your day, dear?"
He groaned and went to pick up their son so they could have a talk, man to man, about why you didn't go around the bad guys. Cat said it was his job so he'd start now. He had it with the wolf too, just in case.
A few weeks later, Cat looked up from her fascinating new case when someone coughed. "Yes?" she asked the unfamiliar Mountie standing there. "What's up? Do you work with Rennie and Benny?"
"Yes, detective." He held out an envelope. "From Inspector Thatcher. She has need of your skills if you wouldn't mind." He gave her a shy smile. "Plus, Renfield is in a tizzy today. There's an important personage coming in today."
"Sure, kid. Give me ten and I'll give you a lift back." She slit open the letter with the dagger on her desk, reading it quickly. "Uh-huh. Hey, Ray." His head popped up. "We've been invited to help on a cross-country case with the Mounties. Our choice of Mounties as well."
"Why?" he asked patiently.
She looked at him and smirked. "Sex ring and gun running."
"We've got a meeting in about an hour. I'm giving him a lift back now if you wanted to come."
"Sure. I'm done for the day unless something new comes in." He looked around, seeing only Huey. "We'll be in Canada."
"Fine. I'll call over there if something comes in. You going to teach this one too, Cat?"
"Maybe. If he needs me to." She picked up everything, packing up her briefcase and purse, then led him down to the car, getting in to drive before Ray could.
"Fat chance, wife. Scoot," he ordered from the door.
"Get in, dear, or I'm leaving you here to walk," she said sweetly.
"Fine," he complained, getting into the other side. Once the Mountie was in the back, they drove off, his wife actually going a normal, careful speed today. "Are you feeling okay?"
"Fine. A bit tired. The newest little heathen kept me up all night. What do you think of the name Sebastian?"
"It's the name of a lobster in the Little Mermaid," he snorted.
"It's a fine, upstanding ancient name," the Mountie offered.
"Fine. It's still the name of a Disney character."
"I was thinking Sebastian Thomas or Sebastian Morgan."
"The first, wife. No Morgans. It's a bi name and I hate those."
"Fine. You don't like bi-gendered names," she said patiently, pulling up in front of the consulate. She found a parking spot not too far away and headed inside with the Mountie, following him to Benny's office. "What's up? Canada needed us?"
"Apparently they needed someone with some experience," he offered. "The Inspector's in with the ambassador again," he said quietly. "She wanted to see you when she was done." He glanced around. "No Eric?"
"No, Ma's got him," Ray promised. "Thanks. Um, what's your name again?"
"Thanks, Percy," she said with a grin for him. "Do you work in the Ministry too?" He blushed but chuckled and shook his head, walking away to take over guard duty. She smirked at Benny. "Is he like the books?"
"No, he's not. He's very efficient but he hates doing paperwork," he shared. "He'd never make a bureaucrat. Plus he's not a redhead either."
"Hey, that's what hairdye is for and his roots are showing," Cat said smartly. She looked over as the door behind them opened. "Hold on, I'm in the way of the door." She got out of the way by walking around the desk. She caught a glimpse of the file on the desk. "They're using what as a base?"
"They're using two different things as a base," Benny said, closing the file. "It's eyes- only," he apologized.
"That's fine, but you might want to call Brass. That's his town and he knows all out there. He works with the CSI guys actually." Benny smiled at her for the advice. "Really. Twenty year vet and he's a nice guy. He watched out for Ray for me." She looked at the waiting diplomats. "Hey. Canada needed us?"
"We do," Thatcher admitted. "That file is just part of it I'm afraid. We should go to my office. I've got Renfield getting coffee. Shall we?"
"Sure. More seats," Cat agreed, following Ray that way. She grinned at Turnbull, straightening out his apron. "Naughty you. Eric would love that on you." He blushed and chuckled.
"Eric?" the ambassador asked.
"Our son. He thinks Rennie's better than sliced cheese," Ray told him, taking a seat. "What's up? You guys don't like us that much."
"We don't but we believe that between you two we'd have a better chance of stopping this person. He's a gunrunner who's taking girls and turning them into his ...employees after taking them from smaller colleges. Then he kills them in odd manners. We've got files on him from Interpol and they don't think he's that big of a problem but he's running guns between the two countries and feeding a major pipeline in Canada. Hence us calling in help on this side. He's using both here and in Las Vegas. He's also touching on some of the more odd people out there."
"Have you talked to anyone out there?" Cat asked.
"I tried to but they weren't that helpful. They thought it was Canada's problem."
"Okay, I've got a few contacts out there," Cat admitted. "When's his next run and what do you have on him?"
"We have nearly his entire life's history. He used to be a chemist for the government a few years back but then he was fired for some experimental work that was not suitable. He was making mind-control drugs that end up reprogramming someone basically. Suppressing their natural personality to put a new one in place." She shuddered. "Exactly. He took an older formula that used to be a street drug down here named Oblivitus and used that as a base to make his own formula."
"Then you've got problems. If those girls get pregnant, they're probably going to have seizure problems. I know someone who did," Cat offered.
"We've seen that in one case and we've found all we can on that drug but there's not much on it."
"I know someone who knows. There's an OB in town who deals with it. He's the one Helena went to."
"That's what she used?" Ray asked with a frown. She nodded. "Wonderful. How bad is it?"
"She's having breakthroughs again and the seizures were because the thing basically blocks off pathways in the brain. I'll get the name of the guy from her tonight and anything she or Lupin might have on it."
"Why would you include a thief in that?" the ambassador asked delicately.
"Because Helena Nichols is one of my best friends and she's married to his gunman so Lupin did some research on it when she was coming off the streets," she told him simply. He looked stunned. "She can't help you. She's in France."
"No, I just realized that you were a better choice than I had thought," he assured her. "Is she all right?"
"Just fine. Her two kids are wonderful. The house in France is filled with them and her boyfriend Jigen. Zenigata's over there compulsively too but she's said she'll handcuff him to the lightening rod if he tries for Lupin on the grounds. She's a big one on neutral territory."
He smiled. "Excellent. You can still get information to her?"
"Sure. And off her if necessary. There might be some turnaround time."
"That's fine. This won't be a simple case where you can solve it in a few days. Who should we talk to out in Las Vegas?"
"Let me call out there tonight," Cat told him. "I know a good detective out there and he'll know who to talk to." He nodded eagerly. "File?" He nodded for Benny to hand it over. "Thanks. Give us tonight to call around and get back to you."
"Thank you, detectives. I knew it was right bringing this to you. You understand the Mountie way and you've worked with us before, plus you're both some of the best in the city. I'll be back tomorrow afternoon. Thank you again." He hurried out.
Cat looked at Thatcher. "How long were you looking at this to take? Just so I know if I should alert an OB I was using out there or up by Benny's house."
"Hopefully not that long and you'll be going back and forth," she offered. "There are rumors of you being able to train a few of the more urban Mounties to do what you do if possible."
"Hey, I like working on Rennie's training. Within a few more months I'll have him kicking in doors in that apron." The man in question blushed again so she pinched him. "Joking."
"Thank you, detective. I'd rather wear a vest than an apron to a bust any day. Would you like to bring your coffee to my office? You could probably make your calls from there."
"Sure, Rennie. You made really good coffee and I hate to miss even a drop of it." She followed him, letting Ray go work with Benny on the guns angle. That wasn't her thing, sex was. She sat down at his computer, pulling up her email account once she was logged on by him. She sent a long message to Helena asking her to send the file that she'd need and told her to tell her definitively one way or the other by the end of next week. Then she logged onto her home system, via that new networking system that the precinct was using. They had managed to get Rennie a copy to use here as well. That got her into her files and she did a quick search for the ones involving the drug used or the guy's name. The drug brought up three files, including a letter from Helena.
The guy's name brought up a file and she read it, frowning at it. "He was used over here as a consultant on a case," she said thoughtfully, picking up the phone and dialing downtown. "Hey, it's Demoranth-Vecchio." The person on the other side hung up so she sighed and did it again. "Hey, it's Demoranth-Vecchio. I need some references pulled on the cases a consultant named Peter Vranksi worked on. Yeah, him. Why?" She grimaced. "Since when?" She chuckled. "No, middle initial A," she said, reading off the file. "Yeah, chemist guy from Canada. He's making a new street drug and using it on girls to turn them into working girls. Nope, consulting happily away, Terry. Thanks. Oh, hit the other one for me. Thanks again. Sure, later today. Love you too." She hung up. "There's two guys by that name who've worked down here," she told him.
"Who is the other one?"
"That's what we've got to find out, see if he's the same person," she told him, grinning at him. "It's not unheard of and something we can weed out with some searching. Terry down in records can help with that. He's weeding them out by person and description. We can pick those up later this afternoon. When are you coming back tonight?" She leaned back and sipped her coffee. It was really strong. "Does Thatcher need it this strong?"
He nodded. "Unfortunately she had a long night on the phone back to Montreal about this case." He sat on the edge of his desk. "I have to finish cleaning tonight with Percival then I'll be back. I should be home after dinner. I can stop and pick up something if necessary."
"Why? We're ordering out tonight," she promised. "Ray's already said he doesn't feel like cooking." She smirked at him. "Pizza good for you?"
"Of course, detective, or I can get my own if you want."
"Rennie, you're like family. Get over it," she ordered. He nodded quickly. "And don't humor me either or I'll have a mood swing and scream at you."
"Yes, Catherine. I won't." He gave her a gentle smile. "Did you want some cream?"
"Rennie, you're not my secretary. You're my protégé. Act like it," she demanded. He nodded again. "You're a cop, not a maid and not a coffee bearer for the masses. Now, we've got to get to Brass tonight. He works nights. We've got to talk to the guys in Canada working on this. We've got to let Vice know there is a case so they can send it our way when and if they get something." She took another sip. "What's next?"
"Compiling information from all the sources?"
"I meant any other sources to call."
"Getting his records and doing an internet search for anything on him?" he suggested. "He might have published something on this and it may help us quite a lot more, if only to help profile him. Um, I would probably talk to someone he had worked with to see what sort of nature he had at work, it could bleed over into his new field."
"Good job. You do that part. I don't get on well with researchers and lab geeks. That's why CSI guys hate me." He smiled at that. "Get that to me by the meeting tomorrow if possible. If not by this weekend." He nodded quickly, picking up a pen and a piece of paper to write that on. "Good, Rennie. Now, I'm going to do one last check then head back. We'll pick up Eric on the way home and you come home when you can." She checked her email again and frowned. "That nosy bastard." She pulled out her cell and called France, getting Lupin again. "Yo, we need the case files and notes. There's a guy who's turned it into a personality eraser to make working girls and he's running guns too. Yay. All I want are her notes and the formula if she has it, plus the names of people who deal with the drug, like her OB." She smirked. "I thought so. Thanks. No, just pass it on. She can email it to me or fax it over. No, we're helping Canada." She chuckled at his audible shudder. "That's what you get for being a crook, Lupin. What did you expect? You're surrounded by cops. You've got to get used to." She snorted. "Have fun and tell her I need it by this weekend at the latest if possible. Tonight if available." She hung up. "He was dealing with her email since she is pregnant and Jigen is presently pouncing his wife over and over again," she said happily. She stood up and dropped the cup, clutching her stomach. "Ow."
"Detective?" he asked, helping her sit down again, patting her on the stomach. "Are you all right? Did he kick?"
"No, we just had a false labor pain," she groaned, wincing. "It's fine. I'll clean up the coffee if you've got a rag or something."
"Don't worry, it didn't hit anything but a girly magazine and I can buy a new one," he promised, patting her on the hand. "Let me get Ray."
"No, I'm good."
"He told me I had to," he assured her, heading out. He walked down the hall and tapped on a door. "Detective, your wife is having false labor pains." He scowled. "She's in my desk chair protesting that I didn't need to get you."
"Then I'm sure she'll be having a headache when I get done yelling. Come home tonight, Rennie, we're ordering out."
"She suggested pizza, Ray, and I can get something if necessary."
"Shut up, Rennie. You're family. We won't make you buy nasty fast food. Unless you've got a date?" The younger man blushed. "Then come home when you're done. Don't worry about it or dinner. I'll save you a few slices in the fridge." He patted him on the arm. "I'm going to take Cat home. Come home tonight when you can, guys."
"Sir, she was just talking to Lupin. Apparently Helena is pregnant."
"Wonderful," he said dryly. "So I'm guessing Jigen is jumping her repeatedly, leaving Lupin in charge?" Rennie nodded. "Decent enough. He'll know where to send anything she called them for." He headed that way, tucking the folder into his back waistband, then carrying his wife out to the car. "You okay?" he asked as he trudged.
"It was just a false pain, Ray. I'm fine. You can put me down." She gave Thatcher a helpless look. "My first false labor pain and he's overreacting."
"I never knew he was that strong," Thatcher muttered as she walked away. She found Turnbull dusting his office. "Nothing new yet on that case?"
"No, ma'am. I'm doing an internet and people search on the criminal. We're waiting to get some information from a former detective who took Oblivitus and is now in France. Detective Demoranth-Vecchio called her house and got one of her husband's friends, who also did some research. We're sitting down tonight to put together information on the individual in question."
"Good work, Turnbull. That's real police work, not the busting in of doors in a drug bust."
"No, ma'am, I know that, inspector."
"Good. Keep up the good work. Was he a criminal?" He nodded. "Did you talk to him?"
"No, ma'am, she was on her cellphone. Then she had a false labor pain and dropped the coffee cup, so I'll be cleaning that up in a moment." She nodded and strode off, making him slump and relax. "I wonder if she's ever been in the field as an officer," he muttered as he got to work cleaning. It had been his favorite copy of the magazine but he was sure he could find a new copy. He got everything straightened up and went back to his searching, writing the college the man had worked at to get information from his supervisor as well. He was in the middle of an email session with him when someone tapped on his door. "Yes? Enter." A delivery man walked in and tipped his hat, handing over a small package. "What's this?"
"That is from Detective Cat, she said she was sorry she had messed that one up and she hoped she remembered which one it was." He tipped his hat again then left.
Renfield opened a corner and looked inside, then blushed and put it with the rest of his collection. Not only had she remembered, she had given him the newest month's as well. How did one write a thank you note for that? His etiquette book didn't have a suggestion at all.
Renfield walked into the apartment late that night, noticing how quiet it was. He slipped into his room to look over the information he had gathered, smiling at how much there was, even though it was mostly small details. At the very least it could help them build a profile. Someone tapped on his door so he got up to answer it, holding out the file. "My searches from earlier."
"That's fine, Rennie. There's a few slices of pizza in the fridge and we're doing this tomorrow morning," Stan told him. "She's fine, it was a false labor pain. She's supposed to be careful tomorrow and go in for a visit if she's had another one. We'll be giving you handcuffs in case it's necessary to use on her," he said with a small smirk. "Got anything good?"
"Mostly minor details. How he works, what his home was like while he was in the lab, details of his employment history at his last job, where he had many absences and quite a few trips to conferences in Asia. Mostly small details. Including who he was dating at that time according to his supervisor and coworkers. She also suggested that I do an internet search for anything he'd been mentioned in so there's copies of newspaper articles about him going to society parties and his academically published works."
"Good job, Rennie," she called down. "But that was your idea, not mine. Take credit for it, especially if it helps."
"Yes, detective." He leaned out of his room and smiled up at her. "Aren't you supposed to be resting?"
"Yeah, but bring everything to the table. We'll go over what Brass found out and what we were sent from France." He nodded, bringing the stack out there. "You want in, Stan?"
"No thanks. I've got enough work for all of us right now."
"Ray would take normal cases if he was asked," she reminded him as she came down the stairs. She got Rennie his pizza and sat down across from him, handing over the stack to him while she took his. She glanced through everything, making a new pile of what she thought was most important. It narrowed it down but it did give her some contacts that he had made in Vegas and it made her no more happier than she had been. One of the papers joined it since it was about this subject and then she filed it in order with Brass's stuff. "There, now look it over," she ordered. He relooked everything over and suddenly stared up at her, making her smirk. "Seeing the pattern?"
"I do," he said excitedly. "I hadn't seen it before."
"That's because we had a puzzle, this is the framework of the puzzle and now we're working on the inside pieces. The inner pieces are the connections in this instance. Most people think about these sort of things as a spider web, but in truth they're more like a puzzle most often. If you take out a piece, there'll be other pieces that won't quite fit the same way and change the picture, and if you change enough of the pieces, then you really change the picture, but usually it's nearly as bad." He nodded quickly. "So, using this new framework, what can we create out of this puzzle?"
"He has a desire for power. He likes being seen with the highest of the high celebrities, but not athletes. I'm not sure if he considers them unworthy?"
She snorted. "Most academics don't really hang with the jocks. I'm betting there were a number of them that used to pick on him. Either that or he was one and then he changed his life around, which is nice and all but not the usual thing. You don't get too many football players who end up Nobel quality chemists. Did we get anything on his educational background?"
"Yes, actually I did. His last supervisor forwarded his entire application to us." He patted that file. "Sorry, thought I had included it."
"I was kinda hoping it was romantic plans for your next date with Syvette," she said with a grin and a wink. "If you like her, she's a great woman. Very gentle and tender, but a lioness when it matters. Someone once tried to snatch her kid from school, with her waiting there. They had to call in a counselor for the kids who witnessed what she did to the imbecile. And her husband's nearly as bad. Him I trust as chief. He was never in it for the power or the prestige. He was in it to help people and to make sure things got done. The whole time he was doing his precinct, he was wonderful. He was a massive bear of an asshole to any dirty cops, but any good cops got his full support. He actually helped Syvette when she went through her detective's training year. He joined in all her lessons, joined in on our cases, and learned a lot from me too. He's also a guy I learned some off of. He's got a great touch with a victim, and so does Syvette. Her rookie detective year, I actually had to bring her to a rape case interview. I don't usually do that. I let her run it too and she got the poor thing calmed down and talking. It was her first exposure to anything that bad and it was a male rape case at that. She didn't flinch, didn't cry on the way back to the station, but I heard she did later that night. She once told me she would have gone into Sex Crimes but it would have eaten her. She went into Homicide to help those who had no one left to speak for them but the cops. So yeah, you and her getting together is a wonderful match and I'll support you, but if you hurt her I'm going to shove my foot so far up your ass you're gonna feel it tickling your brain."
He smiled at her. "Thank you, Catherine. I appreciate the information and the warning but I would never hurt her on purpose."
"Yeah, but there's plenty of ways to do it by accident that'll make me want to do it too," she warned him. "Got me here, Rennie?" He nodded quickly. "Good. And for the record, I had this same talk with Benny too. The same as I had a long talk with Stan about whether or not he was sure he wanted to be with a guy."
"You make a great big sister," Stan agreed as he came out. "You an' Syvette?" he asked. Rennie nodded. "Good. She needs a good guy who'll like her kids and get along well with her ex, since he's around and all." He sat down. "Do we got info now?"
"Actually, Rennie brought me the pieces we needed to finish the pattern. Go on, Rennie. What else do you get from the pattern?"
"He was doing something illegal, but I'm not sure if he was doing it for his own benefit or not. He may have first tried it out on a girlfriend and decided that it wasn't for him? Or do you think he created it only to use for himself and found that as another thing to give him the influence and power he wants?"
"I think he the first," she admitted. "I'm doubting he had to fight to get a girl but a girl would have to compete with his work. Most of the super-brains I know in research fields are like that. They get lost in their work. I doubt he really wanted one, maybe it was for fun or something." She shrugged. "We'll have to ask him why he started off on this path. Did you find any massive debts?"
"No, not in the least," he admitted. "Could he have been fooling himself that he was doing it for noble deeds and just got caught up in the side effects of creating something like that?"
"No. Oblivitus was pretty rare even when it was going strong. He'd had to have looked for it to find it at all." Both guys looked confused. "Okay, you know that there's many sorts, or flavors, of acid on the market. Right?" They nodded. There wasn't one true formula anymore. "Well, there's two that are all herbal. Some chemistry geek in San Fran got happy one day in the greenhouse and started to breed some plants, he came up with something that does the same thing, only it's a plant and it's not a mushroom. It's as strong as the original acid was, the stuff they did back at Woodstock. But it's fairly rare."
"How do you hear about these things?" Stan asked in awe.
"I actually found a baggie of it and had to call the DEA to see what it was," she admitted. "Someone's personal stash. You can only get it from the guy, he's only got ten plants of it. He never lets anyone have more than the equivalent of six hits. He never sells to the same person more than once a month. Oblivitus was the same way. One guy, a drug researcher here looking for a better anti-schizophrenic drug ran into a way to block off passages you've made to certain memories. It works beautifully, until something happens to change your body chemistry, like you get pregnant. Then it can cause seizures. There's exactly four people who know exactly what Oblivitus was. One of them was Helena. Two were therapists who did a lot with trauma victims. One was the nephew or whatever he left his recipes to when he committed suicide to stop people from using his drug wrong."
"Back in the day, to get an ounce of that stuff you had to go to the doc, you had to talk to him, basically going through therapy to see if it could be helped other ways, and then he gave you a single dose. He gave Helena enough to fix herself when she came off the streets. He did that to the two counselors he trusted as well. I mentioned Oblivitus to the DEA in an analogy when I called about that herbal acid. He hadn't heard of it and had to look it up. He was the person that you call to identify things." Stan's mouth fell open. "It took him finding Helena's file to find a mention of it and I explained that to him. To find this stuff is nearly impossible now. So either he had a dose sometime in the past, he knows this guy, he got a really graphic version of Helena's records, or he worked somehow with the doctor who was doing this. He's got to have some connection to the drug to have even *heard* of this stuff."
"What about Lupin?" Ray called down. "You said he did some research."
"He's still doing some. He thinks that Helena's going to have a lot of breakthroughs someday and someone had better be ready to do something. I hadn't considered that. I'll ask him who he went to for the research if you think it'll help."
"This man doesn't seem to believe in the criminal element," Rennie complained. "He's never touched it in the past. I couldn't even find where he'd had a parking ticket and most researches have to be meticulous about their work, so they drag that into their home lives."
"True," Cat agreed, "but in your undergrad you get approached to help with drugs and things when you're a chemist. The same as doctors in medical school do," she reminded him.
"I thought about going through that but I didn't want to compete that badly," Rennie admitted. "I was even approached about going a few times."
"Wow, you're way smarter than I am," she said with a grin for him. "I did good to sit through biology. I tend to take a more community based approach to humans." He grinned at her. "So, how did he get connected if he wasn't?"
"What about what you said about there being two?" Stan asked, yawning again.
"Go to bed," she snorted. "We can fill you in tomorrow."
"Some of us have to work normal hours tomorrow," Stan complained.
"Then go to bed," she repeated. "We'll keep you in the loop, I promise." He sighed and nodded, getting up to go back to bed. "You too, Ray. They need you to do some of the real cases at the 27th."
"Ray," she warned. "If you don't, that overloads everyone else. You can work regular cases. I'll follow along behind you," she assured him with a smirk. He gave her a long look, his arms crossing over his chest in the classic stubborn look. "Dear, they need you more than they do me right now. I'm taking up space more than I am anything else."
"Fine. Don't keep me out of this. I want to help. Especially if we end up in Canada." He went back to bed, resetting the alarm so he could get up early enough to go in with Stanley.
She rolled her eyes. "Sometimes I think they believe I'm still a rookie," she sighed. He patted her on the hand. "Okay, so how did he get connected?"
"I found something interesting. There had been three people with that name but one of them changed it a few years back," Rennie offered.
"Not the same guy?"
"No, he was African and Armenian according to the records I could find about him. It wasn't that hard, he was an immigrant to Canada a few years back. He changed his to something more Western sounding, John Varansk."
"Interesting. And we're sure this isn't the same guy?"
"No, I compared their pictures. The person in question is a blonde man." She stared at him. "He does bear superficial resemblance to Stanley, but not enough to pull a switch."
"Very interesting," she agreed. "What about the third guy?"
"I can't find any pictures of him except the one taken for his CPD ID card," he admitted. "He does look similar but he had red hair and blue eyes, instead of the blond and green."
"So maybe a cousin?"
"Possibly. I couldn't do a genealogy search at work."
"Not an issue, I can do one tomorrow before I come in for the meeting. Maria's youngest is running a fever and we're thinking she's getting chicken pox so I'll have Eric tomorrow anyway." She made a note to herself. "Okay. We've got some major points outlined for the meeting." The fax machine in the kitchen started off, making them both jump. "Lupin has bad timing," she noted, going over to get it. She read the threat and sighed. "Rennie, very calmly, go get my son out of his crib, pack him a bag. Guys, get up!" she called quietly. Stanley came trotting out and she handed it over, giving him a long look. "Yours or mine?"
"Mine," he admitted, going back to his room to call it in and pick up their keys. If someone was going to blow them up, it'd be easiest to do it while they were in their cars. He came back up an hour later, shaking his head. "None. Let's go, just in case. I've called Welsh, he's sending bomb squad over to pick up the threat and search the building." They nodded, grabbing jackets, wallets, a few pictures, and the things they'd need for the next few days in a hotel. Eric started to fuss until Elizabeth nuzzled his foot and barked at him quietly, then he settled down. Ray went back for his teddy bear and joined them down at the cars. "Which?" Stan asked.
"You know what, I've had enough of this. Ray, call your mother. Just in case," she said at his long stare in her direction. "They said my family. They're part of it now. Which is why we're going to go somewhere a bit safer. Someone dial Thatcher at home for me. We're heading somewhere very safe." She got into her car and let Rennie and the baby get in with Elizabeth, letting Ray take his and Benny and Stan go together, then pulled out once the phone was dialed for her, sticking in her ear bud. "Inspector, I know it's late, but we just got a bomb threat. I'm moving the family. Possibly also Ray's family," she sighed. "Got a pen?" She waited while the light changed, then headed toward the interstate. "Know any Latin?" She smirked. "Then take it down phonetically. The Ambassador does. It was on his public profile. It was his minor in college. Yup, sure did." She said something smoothly as she pulled onto the on-ramp, speeding up. "Tell him we've got a pretty detailed analysis going. We're down to the details. We'll be calling in tomorrow. Call Welsh and tell him we're going fishing at Cali's. Yeah, he'll understand but almost no on else will. Thanks." She hung up. "Okay, you're good for the day, Percy can cover for you both she said." She changed lanes, getting into the fast lane. A trooper passed them and she waved, getting a nod in response. "Call Stan's phone, tell him we're going to Cali's. He should remember. If not, tell him it was where he was bitten. Tell him if I lose him to lead Ray up there. We've got it going well. Or you can call Ray and tell him to take the family to a hotel for the night," she admitted.
"Where is this place?"
"Not too far away. Not as far as the house but too far to commute easily in the morning," she admitted. "You'll like it, it's pretty." She changed lanes back and got off at the next exit, heading off into the night toward the middle of nowhere, at least as close as one could get an hour outside of Chicago.
Welsh tapped gently on the door, smirking when Cat opened it. "I always hated this place."
"You and Stan both. If you hadn't picked on the alligator it wouldn't have bitten you."
"Is this one of those stories that I'll blush about?" Rennie asked.
"Probably not. The owner has an alligator named Cali. Cali is a sweetheart if you 're female but if you're male and get within snapping distance you usually end up missing the seat of your pants." She smirked at him. "How's the ambassador?"
"Doing very well. He got your notes and he agreed with you, he sent you this," he said, pulling out a package and handing it over. "A more detailed set of records of what they've found and the guy's phone number up in Montreal who's dealing with it. By the way he doesn't speak English."
"Fine. I've got rudimentary French," she admitted. "Not enough to order at a good restaurant, but enough to hit Burger King in Paris." She sat down to read over the notes. "Watch out for the toddler, he's playful," she said when Eric went running past. "He and Queen Liz have been at it all morning long." She flipped the page. "Interesting. Rennie, did you know that this guy went to school with Canada's equivalent of Dillinger?"
"No, I hadn't," he admitted, coming over to read over her shoulder. "That would give him a connection."
"It would. Gods, this guy is Junior's cousin," she said in awe. "We should warn him about this."
"Probably not. He'd know who in the family was connected."
"In his family it's not who, it's who's not. It's a shorter list," she pointed out dryly. "Sorta like among some of Ray's father's generation." She heard a bark. "Liz, drag him back inside. Now. Before he falls in the pond again." Eric let out a scream but his wailing was picking up as she drug him back into the house. "Thanks, babe. Eric, cuddle the uncle. You won't get to see him for a few days."
"Hi," he said, still sniffling. "Meany," he said, pointing at the wolf, who licked his fingers. "Eww!" He started to swat at her but big people hands stopped him.
"Do not swat at her," Rennie said sternly. Eric gave him a scared look and hugged his other uncle's legs. "You know better."
"Meany," he repeated, then stuck his tongue out.
"Couch, now, son," she ordered, pointing at it while still reading. "Harding, please put my son on the couch and make sure he sits there for the next five minutes."
"Sure, Cat." He did so, gently placing the boy on the couch and putting him back when he wiggled. "Your mommy said no. You have to sit here." Eric started to cry again.
Cat lowered the papers and looked at the clock, then at her son. "Time for a nap," she decided, getting up to put him down, letting Rennie read the papers for now. She could steal them back in a moment. Once her son was back in his portable crib she came back and found both men staring at a large cat, and the wolf growling with her ears back. "Hey, Hilde." She smiled and reached down to pet the cat, making it purr like the big kitten it pretended to be. "Where's your mommy?" She looked out the door. "Bertha! Did you lose Hilde!"
"Hilde!" floated down from the main house. "Don't scare them!" A large Nordic looking woman came out onto the back porch. "You okay, Cat?"
"Fine. Hiding from a bomber." She grinned. "Harding's here!"
"I'll bring Cali down!"
"No, that's okay," he called, waving a hand. "No need." He glared at the cat. "Go back up to the house, please? Before she brings the alligator down." Hilde flopped down and smirked at the wolf, then casually started to clean her ears.
Bertha came down the hill and got her cat, carrying her back up the hill. "Sorry, she's being stubborn and playful today."
"That's okay, so's Eric," Cat called after her. "Thanks." She looked at the wolf. "Can't get along with cats?" The wolf snorted and laid down to watch the door. Just in case something else came in to eat them all.
"I used to wonder if Diefenbaker would be able to handle the city lifestyle," Rennie said, shaking his head. "Now I see that there are more unusual animals in Chicago than a wolf or two."
"Oh, honey, Bertha's brought Hilde downtown before without a leash and had her perfectly beside her, at least until Hilde decided to help a kid eat an ice cream cone. Everyone thought it was an ad for a new Tarzan movie or an Animal Planet special." She waved a hand around. "Bertha's got Hilde, Cali, and Simone, who is a ferret rabid to protect her and her things. Helena once took Jigen up there to visit Bertha when she had her second child, he was in town and she wanted to see the baby. He came back and told Lupin that she had some fantastic stuff up here but they'd never get past the ferret or the alligator. She'd barely gotten Hilde at that time. Hilde's not quite a year old. She was still a nursing kitten when the three of them went up to see Bertha's tot."
"Poor Mal got licked from what I heard," Harding agreed. "I'm just glad Cali didn't realize he was male and try to fix that for him."
"She didn't bite Jigen," she said smartly, sitting down to continue reading. "Sit, Rennie, you can have the pages once I'm done." He nodded, sitting beside her to take the next page.
"I'll go back to Chicago. You've got a phone call to make to Thatcher once you're done."
"Sure. Thanks, Harding. How's the guys?"
"Doing well. Thanks for getting Vecchio to fill back in."
"Eh, it's what he does," she said with a grin. Her phone rang and she answered it. "Yeah?" She listened to the babbling cop. "They sacrifice them to their Gods in prayer. The chickens don't really hurt and there's no law again it. They dispose of them in appropriate ways." She nodded while she listened. "I promise, they're fine, they won't be moving onto human sacrifices. They only do herbal and chickens. You're welcome. Just watch, you may learn something about a fascinating religion that's a meld of Christianity and ancient beliefs. Yup, have a good day, detective." She hung up. "One of the guys in Sex Crimes just ran up on a Santeria priestess making a prayer for a sick woman." The men shuddered. "It's actually a very fascinating religion. It's somewhere between the harder line Protestants who do the snake charming and believe in Spirit possession and their ancient beliefs that they brought over from Africa and the native ones already on the islands. I loved working with the priestesses when I got to. They were always so nice and calm." She went back to reading, grabbing the phone when it rang again. "Yes, she's possessed. No, it's like being in one of those churches where you get possessed by the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. Sure. Just calm down and watch. Quit panicking. No, just watch. Sure. That's probably a good idea, yeah." She grinned as she hung up this time. "He's going to go outside and wait until they're done to question the priestess about a neighbor."
"That's probably a good idea, I doubt they want to hear him babble," Rennie said dryly, taking the next page from her fingers. "Interesting. He's related to a gangster it seems." She snatched ti back, rereading over it. "That's how he got into the business at least."
"Hmm, it seems he was connected and there's a reason he likes the life so much." She chuckled and pointed at the page from his yearbook. "He quoted Capone in his yearbook saying."
Harding groaned and shook his head. "Better you than me. Keep me informed and be careful. I worry about you, witch." He opened the door, then slammed it. "Cali's here. Where's the back door?" She pointed. "Thanks." He left that way, taking the long way back to his car by going around the pond. He could hopefully outrun the alligator this time. He made it to his car and got caught unlocking it, getting bit again. His scream brought Bertha, who brought him up to the house to bandage it for him and to chastise the alligator yet again. So when he walked into his squad room, he was limping and everyone stared at him. "An alligator got me."
"They're in a swamp?" Huey asked.
"How is Cali?" Syvette asked with a grin.
"Cranky. She's laying eggs," he said bitterly as he went into his office and slammed the door. He came back out. "Vecchio, this new guy has some connection to Junior. His family's connected." He went back in and slammed the door again.
Ray looked at Syvette. "They're where?"
"There's a really nice lady named Bertha. She's got Cali, who's an alligator, she's got Hilde, who's a jaguar, and she's got Simone, the overprotective ferret who likes to bite if you think about touching the mommy," she explained. "Cali doesn't like men. Hilde's still pretty young so she's probably tried to play with Eric today at least once. And Simone never leaves her mother's side. Mommy has some pretty things like jewels in the house you see."
"Is that the one that scared Jigen?" he asked. She nodded, smirking at him. "Good, then she's well protected."
"Plus, Bertha was a nurse in her youth, before she married well. So she's in excellent hands." She smiled at the paperwork she was doing as she filled it out.
"Is she an ex too?" Huey asked.
"No. Bertha only liked one guy in her life. He died when she was thirty. She did freeze some of his sperm to have a baby a few years back. He's a few months older than Mal is."
"You know Mal?" Stan asked.
"Of course I know Mal. I met Mal a few times. His mommy and I were very happy together during the earlier part of her pregnancy. It was stress relief for both of us."
"You're *Melissa*," Ray said in awe. She smirked and nodded. "Wow. I never expected."
"Me either but I wasn' going back to the ex after he'd knocked me up again. It was a mutual scratching of itches. Nothing more." She went back to her paperwork. "Think they're getting married?"
"The last we heard, she was pregnant and they're with her now," Ray offered. She burst out giggling. "I know, but it's even worse. Fujiko apparently believes that children are contagious."
"They are. That's why most people go 'awww' at a cute baby. Fortunately I've been inoculated three times against that disease. I'm not having any more. I've got two girls and a boy to prove I don't need more."
"Better you than me," Huey pointed out dryly. "Maybe Rennie will babysit for you too, he seems to really enjoy it and Eric seems to adore him."
"Then who would I go out and have fun with?" she snorted. He stared at her, his pen dropping from his fingers. "He's a nice guy."
"He is, he's very nice, and I'll tell you the same thing she told him last night," Ray offered. "You hurt him and my foot's going so far up your ass that it'll tickle your brain." He stared her down until she nodded. "Good woman. I like you more and more each day. We'll have dinner to officially let you meet the rest of the family soon."
"Why do I feel like I just joined the mafia or something?" she quipped.
"Nah, that was the last generation," Ray said with a smirk. "Fortunately they're mostly gone now." She shivered and shook her head, going back to work. She was an interesting woman and a decent cop. He could get to like having her taking part of his old job. He and Stan shared a look and smirked at each other. Cat liked her, Rennie liked her, they could like her too.
"You don't have a voodoo doll collection, do you?" Huey asked.
"No, why would I?" she asked absently.
"Then I already like you more than Cat."
She laughed. "Don't worry, if I make one of you, I'll let you help," she promised with a grin for him. "That's not my area at all though. I'm more Druid or Wiccan with a dash of Buddhist thrown in for good measure."
"Hey, it beats the voodoo dolls," Huey assured her. He really could get to like her. She was more sane than Cat but cleared like her.
Cat looked up as someone yelled her name, slowing down so her husband could join her. "What's up?"
"Invitation," he panted, handing it over. "I hate jogging."
She kissed him gently. "There are better ways to raise your heart rate," she agreed happily, ripping it open. She squealed and hugged him. "We're going for the wedding! It's all expenses paid!"
"Wow," he said, taking it to read. "I'll tell Harding and Thatcher immediately. You're wanted back at the 27th. One of your flower giving posse just showed up with more for the newest angel."
"Hopefully the newest angel is a girl," she sighed, letting him take her back to the car. Her forms could wait. She even let him drive her back, being so good as to not even suggest a side trip down a dark alley to have some fun before they got back there. She walked up the stairs, smiling at the 'prophet' she had met last time. "Hey. What's up? New prophecy?"
"Nah, we just wanted ta see the new angel," he said, sneaking a pat to her stomach. "Hey, chicha. How're you?"
"It's a girl?" she asked hopefully.
"I hope so. If not, we're gonna have some problems before the next Angel of Mercy is born," he said with a grin. "Fuckin' A woman, I like you. You're wonderful. Thank you for having another one." He gave her a hug and then left, jogging down the stairs past Ray. "Good job, man. Hope it's a girl."
Ray paused, then shook his head and walked up the stairs. "What was that about?"
"Apparently someone's seen us having the next Angel of Mercy. If this one's not a girl, we're going to have to try again," she told him with a smug smirk.
Syvette looked at her. "It's a boy."
"It probably is," she sighed. "And I want a little girl so *bad*," she complained, heading into the office. "Hey, you yelped?"
"He wouldn't leave until you got back." He looked at the papers in her hand. "Those for me or the new case?"
"They're leave papers. I'm going on maternity leave early this time. Oh, and Helena's getting married so we're going. She's paying our way to France."
"Fine," he agreed, waving a hand. "Have fun." He smirked at her when she pouted. "I can't keep you here. You've got nearly a year's worth of leave time on the books, woman, go use some of it." She grinned and left, going out to tell Stan the good news. "He's only got a month," he called. "Thatcher wants to talk to you too!"
"Sure, Harding." She grinned at the Mounties as they came in. "Inspector, hi. I've got stuff for you on my Palm. Plus, Benny was invited to a wedding in France to a dear friend."
"Helena's getting married, finally," Ray added, making Benny's confused look soften.
"You've only got six weeks of vacation time, Vecchio, use them wisely," Welsh yelled.
"Yes, sir." He smirked at his wife. "She's paying airfare?"
"Yuppers and we're more than welcome to shack up at her house if we want, or we can take a week and do Paris."
"Sounds good to me. What about the baby?"
"Ray, your mother won't let your son out of the city without her consent, I doubt she'll let him out of the country," Rennie said patiently, smiling at him. "Tell her I said hello and that we wish her well."
"I will," Ray promised. "Cat, where is your Palm?"
"In my briefcase, which was in the car." He sighed and went to check for her. "I could have done that."
"Fine," she complained, sitting down. "Hopefully we can get rid of this case before we go," she told Thatcher. "It shouldn't be that hard. We know where he is, all we have to do is coordinate and arrest him. There's enough in the file to get a warrant in the US, which means that Canada can use any evidence given in their own case." She looked impressed. "What can I say, my mother was a civil rights lawyer." She grinned at Benny. "Do you speak French?"
"Some," he admitted. "You?"
"Enough to make it at Burger King."
"I'll help you with that later, Catherine."
"Sure, Benny, thanks. Rennie, you wanna help or do you have something to do tonight?"
"Unfortunately I've got plans. We've got a dinner tonight," he said sadly, looking at Syvette. "I could use a dinner companion. I know you've never been to Canada, but our little corner of it is very nice."
"I have nothing to wear," she pointed out dryly.
"Yes you do. You can wear that blue dress," Cat said helpfully, smirking at her. "It's stunning on you since you've gotten your figure back." Syvette glared at her so she smirked. "Or you could come steal my old green dress. It'd fit you again, you've really lost some weight since before the last baby."
"That green dress is nearly pornographic," she complained.
"It is not! It's merely strapless. And tight," she added with a smirk.
"This is a formal dinner."
"Then I've got something in storage if she doesn't," Cat said helpfully. "I've got tons of formal gear I can't wear since I gained weight way back when. Some of it very classy. Including that black dress you liked so much."
"Fine. I'll come borrow that and if it fits, I'll go tonight, Rennie. How's that?"
He picked up her hand and kissed the back of it. "I'd be delighted and enchanted all evening, Syvette. Thank you." He smiled at his boss. "Did you already hand in those forms, Inspector? You wanted me to remind you."
"No, I hadn't," she admitted, walking into the office to hand over the appraisal forms. "The higher ups want you to evaluate them now too if you wouldn't mind. Since you see them doing more police officer things than I seem to."
"Not a problem, Inspector. If Benny can't go to the wedding, we might ask to borrow them both for a few days to even out the staffing since the happy couple and Stanley are all apparently going."
"That would be fine. Percival is more than Mountie enough to guard Canada by himself." She nodded politely. "I'd best get back. We've got that dinner tonight." She came out and found her Mounties alone in the room. "Did they leave?"
"Syvette went with Catherine to find that dress, ma'am, and Detectives Huey and Kowalski both went to find their vests. There's a bust going on later tonight in a gang headquarters."
"Pity you'll be on your date, constable."
"Oh, no, ma'am, I have no desire to go into a gang situation. I don't understand the dynamics at all."
"It's like a small clan village," Benny told him. "Only they form for other reasons and have a very uneasy peace with the other villages."
"That does make much more sense, but I'm not exactly the most village-trained Mountie, Constable. Remember, I grew up in the city."
"I had forgotten, I'm sorry. If I can, I'll explain it to you later," he offered as they walked out.
Harding came out and looked around. "I wonder what the other one's like?"
Cat stuck her head back in. "Rambo." She smirked. "I'll bring Syvette back in an hour. We've got to head to the storage area." She wiggled her fingers and left, leaving her new flowers there.
Harding thoughtfully moved them to her desk and went to tell the new Chief of Police about this old problem coming back. Maybe it would make him laugh too. Huey certainly had.
Cat ended up taking Syvette to her favorite shop to get clothes, which also seemed to dress a lot of strippers back in her thinner days. "Hi, she needs something for a formal tonight that will allow her to conceal her badge and gun."
The shopkeeper didn't even blink, just led them back to a rack of special dresses. "We can put a hidden strap on the inside of any of these, detective." She looked at the other one. "You look like you're a size eight so probably a size six in our styles," she said as she pulled down a deep green dress, holding it up. "Yes, I think this one would look wonderful. Here, you can try it on behind the screen." Syvette took it and went back there to try it on. "Now, detective, you've been a naughty girl. You haven't come in recently. You or Helena."
"She's in France. She's getting married to Jigen." She smirked. "So I will be back with Ray to find something to fit me and baby." She patted her stomach, letting her hand fall when Syvette came out in the dress. "Wow. You have good taste, Hillary. You're drool- worthy in that outfit, Syvette."
"Hush, Cat." She looked at herself, then turned to look at her backside. "You're sure? Oooh, I've got a pimple."
"I'll get that for you in a minute and we can cover it up and all that," Cat promised. She walked closer. "Take that one. You look wonderful. You can conceal your piece on your thigh even. Rennie will definitely drool on his highly polished boots tonight."
"Shouldn't I wear a dress uniform?"
"No, not unless it's our police ball. Which, by the way, is next month. So you'll need something new for it as well. Maybe by then I'll be able to find the black dress for you."
"We've got one of those," Hillary offered, pointing at rack behind her. "I wouldn't put her in black. Maybe midnight blue?"
"Against a Mountie?"
"Good point. Hmm." She walked over to that rack and held up a deep red dress. "Would that look good against their uniform?"
"Theirs is like bright red. Like Pringles can red," Cat told her, coming over to help. She pulled out a black dress, holding it up. "How about this one?"
"I do like that one," she admitted. "It is fairly daring though." She smiled at Syvette. "What the hell, you only live once and there's only one of these balls a year. Try this one on as well."
"Cat, unlike you, I'm not made of money," Syvette protested.
"Dear, shut up and try it on before I have a mood swing," Cat warned. Syvette did so, coming out in the inflammatory black dress. Cat whistled. "Good. She'll take them. I'll be back next week with Ray to do some shopping for the wedding." She handed over her debit card. "Run it on there and if it won't go, then I've got the real one."
"Sure, Cat, anything for you, lovies." She went to run the card, coming back with a slip to sign. "Changing accounts?"
"Trying to," she agreed happily. "I wonder if I'm a bridesmaid."
"You can call them later," Syvette complained when she pulled out her phone. She took a picture of her as well. "What was that for?"
"For Helena," she said smugly. "She's been a good girl and deserves it." She handed back the slip and waved at Syvette to go change back. "Come on, I promised Harding I'd have you back in an hour and we're already late." Syvette rolled her eyes but complied before Cat had a mood swing. The woman was odd when she was pregnant.
Rennie waited patiently while Syvette got ready in the changing room, fussing with his uniform. Catherine had loaned him her car tonight so he could drive them there then take her home. He was looking at the keys when she coughed, dropping them when he saw her. He gasped and walked over, pulling her into his arms to kiss her as hard as he could.
"I didn't need to see that," Harding and Stanley complained as they came up the stairs. But they did give her long looks when she pulled back.
"Wow, if I didn't have Benny and you didn't have the other Mountie, I'd ask you out," Stan admitted.
"Ditto," Harding agreed. "Have a good time tonight, detective and be safe. I'm sure Renfield will be on his best behavior."
"Of course. A Mountie always acts in honor," he reminded them, grabbing the keys in a swift move and then leading her down to the car. "That is a fantastic dress, Syvette. I adore it on you. It's wonderful and it makes you glow."
"Thanks. You don't want to wear it, right?" she asked.
He chuckled. "No, I have no intention of doing that. I've never found women's clothes very stimulating except when there's a well dressed one near me." He kissed the back of her hand again before opening the door and helping her in. "There we are." He let her arrange herself before getting the door for her, then jogged around to get in and drive. He hoped he was careful tonight. He didn't want to mess up such perfection.
Upstairs, Stanley was shaking his head, downloading the pictures he'd taken on his phone to his computer to send them to Cat. "Besotted," he said, sounding amused.
Somewhere in Europe, Helena was leering at the pictures and smiling. "That's Melissa," she said proudly. "She's dating a Mountie now."
"Wonderful," Jigen agreed. "She's a beautiful woman."
"She's taking Cat's place at the 27th. By the way, they're coming up for the wedding." She kissed him. "Hopefully your buddy planned for that?"
"I'm pretty sure she's a bridesmaid. I'll check on that later," he promised, giving her another kiss. "Sleepy?" he asked hopefully.
"No, but I might be encouraged into a nap," she offered smoothly. He pounced her right there in her office.
Cat looked up as she walked off the plane, waving at the guy meeting her. "Hey, is he ready?"
"Nope. We had to pry him out of his cell. We've changed your reservation to later." Brass looked her over. "Again?"
"What can I say? Ray is *goooood*," she purred with a smug little smirk. Brass shook his head, chuckling softly. "So, is he in the ICU unit or somewhere less necessary?"
"Somewhere less necessary. He's in the jail's infirmary. The doctor we bring in said you could have him later tonight. We've already changed your tickets and called your spouse, who pouted. Apparently you had plans?"
"Tomorrow." She looked around. "I don't have a bit of clothes either," she admitted. She shrugged. "I'm sure I can find something cute." He nodded, that was likely in Las Vegas. "So, give, how's things?"
"Odd. Ecklie, you remember him?"
"Yeah, him," he agreed, nodding and smirking at her for that description. "He's changed things around. Catherine's got her own shift."
"Tell her I said congrats. I hope it makes her a happy and pleasant boss."
"No, he's trying to ride her ass."
"That's a nasty mental image," she declared, shaking her head. "Eww. That poor woman."
He had to stop to laugh, he couldn't hold it in. "That's so bad, Cat."
She grinned. "I know." She looked over as three security guards ran toward them, getting out of the way. "Hmm." She looked at him, and he shrugged. "You don't get to butt in?"
"No, we have transport cops here just for things that happen here," he said smugly, leading her out to his car and helping her into it. Then he got around to drive them back to the station. "So, how far?"
"Um, about five months," she admitted, stroking her stomach. "And I've got a kicker too. I'm hoping for the little girl I want. Ooh, remember Helena?"
"Yeah, I remember hearing about her. Why?"
"Um, Zenny's buddy at all the conventions."
"Oh, her!" he agreed, merging into traffic. He had played poker with her a few times. "What's up with her?"
"She's left the country. Chicago got real unstable there for a bit so she went into hiding and eventually left for France. She and Jigen are getting married soon."
"I'll send you a card to send onto her," he offered.
"I'm sure she'd like that. She's only got Zenny there to keep her a sane and cop-like person. I swear, every time I call her I get Lupin."
"I'm sure he likes you with the way you arrested him on your flight in to get married."
"Yeah, but he's forgiven me," she said smugly. She had to grab the dash as they were cut off, glaring at the idiot driver. "He's got a death wish."
"He does, and most likely he'll be getting it later on," he soothed. "I'm sure you've got a few of those."
"Ray refuses to let me drive if we're together. So I only get to drive with my Mountie in the car."
"Your Mountie?" he asked, sounding confused.
"Yeah, Rennie Turnbull. He works with Benny and Stan. I've taken over his advanced training and trained him to work with me and Syvette on the streets. They're actually dating," she said smugly. "Plus, remember hearing about Cali and Hilde? The 'gator and the jaguar?" He nodded as he changed lanes. "He got their seal of approval too." He shot a smirk at her and took an exit. "Man, we're taking the long way?"
"Yeah, we've got a caravan behind us," he complained, getting off the exit. He even pulled into a gas station to let the caravan of six cop cars, two unmarked cars, and two armored trucks go past. He looked at her. "Want to get back on the interstate?"
"Unless you're required to help them, go for....." She looked over at the explosion. "I'm guessing that was the Goddess's version of 'no'." She got out to lean on the door, watching the cops in the wreckage. "They're gonna need help," she noted.
"Get in. I can get us closer." He picked up his radio and called it in. "Dispatch, this is Brass. The caravan is hit. I repeat, the caravan is hit. We're at the gas station end of the strip. Send emergency and fire as a precaution." He hung up and noticed she was back in the car checking her bullets. "Got enough?"
"Probably not. They gave me a flat so I should be fine." They moved closer, him letting her out at the rear position, making sure she had her badge on openly. She was a good cop, she'd be fine. He parked and took up his own position behind his car, picking off the people in gas masks and body armor. He saw one of his targets go down suddenly and glanced at her but it hadn't been her. So he looked and found one of the cops barely moving. "Hold on," he called. "Backup's coming!" The cop nodded and flopped back down. Brass got a few more and Cat got the rest, all but the two people who took off in a squad car and they were stopped by the incoming people. He walked over to check on that one cop, checking his pulse first. "We need a medic here!" he yelled. "He's living!" A paramedic rushed over to get him and the rest came to check bodies. He walked over to where Cat was now sitting on the car she had used for cover. "You okay? I don't want to have to tell Ray you got hurt while here again."
"No, I'm good," she admitted, looking at her gun. "I ran out of bullets so I'll need a few more," she said with a shrug. "I'm a cop, it's not my first one," she sighed.
"Yeah, but you didn't have a vest."
She gave him a long look. "They haven't found a vest to fit me recently, Brass. I haven't worn a vest in years, with the exception of the time I put one on to make Rennie quit glaring at me. They just don't fit my tits all that well and it throws off my aim." He patted her on the arm, turning to sit next to her and watch. They'd be questioned by the CSI people when they got there. "Hi, Griss," she said happily, giving him a hug. "How's tricks?"
"Going well. What are you doing here?"
"Picking up the idiot arms dealer," Brass said dryly. "He's in the infirmary so she had to wait. We have bad timing."
"Obviously. Wait over here, we'll get to you two in a minute."
"Sure. Fair warning I was using non-puncturing rounds."
"Thanks." He smiled and walked off, going to talk to the others. Greg jogged over to give her a hug then went back to work, making him shake his head.
"She's a great giver of advice," he explained at the odd looks. He started marking shell casings near his section of the scene, and other things like blood puddles and big things that they'd need to take pictures of.
Cat's team joined in and she saw who was waiting on the sidelines, going over there to start the interview. "Hey, Cat."
"Hey, Catherine. I hear congrats are in order," she said with a grin. Then she winced and shifted. "Sorry, kicker this time."
"That's okay. Need to sit?"
"No, I'm good." She nodded behind her. "This was my lone position. I'm using non- puncturing since I came to pick up the arms dealer."
"Have fun with the slimebag," she shared. "He's a nasty greaseball."
"Wonderful," she said dryly. "We're hoping that he'll give us the person who's supplying him with that and the drugs. Ray and I crossed over on that Mountie case."
"Better you than me," she offered. "So, what happened?"
"The guy's in the infirmary according to Bras so he was taking me back to the station to wait for him to be released. Or at least I'm assuming he wasn't taking me to dinner, he never mentioned food." Brass shook his head but he was smirking at her. "He was driving and noticed the sirens and lights so we got off here and pulled into the gas station to get away from them."
"I was hoping we wouldn't get caught up in something like this," Brass added.
"Then I saw the first smoke go up and the explosion. He called it in, drove us to our positions, and we went to work like the good cops we are." She grinned. "I didn't move from behind this spot. He was behind his car."
"I had help from that first cop to be taken care of," Brass told her. "He shot one in the back of the head from the ground."
"Hopefully he'll be fine," Catherine promised. "Okay, I'll get a formal statement later. Sounds pretty typical. Fill out the forms and I can use those." They nodded. "Have fun with that. How many rounds did you fire, Cat?"
"I had a whole row, minus two, from the airline." Catherine looked confused. "You know how the boxes come in layers? Well, I usually call one of those a row or a flat. I had one of those from a standard sized box minus two."
"Okay. And you only stood here?"
"Yup, sure did. A few may have went down the sewer since there's an open grate right next to where I was."
"That's fine. I'll let Warrick do that stuff for you guys." She went to get sucked in, ordering Warrick to go mark shells where the cops were.
He walked over with a smile. "Where were you?"
"Behind this car, right next to the open grate. I'm sorry, is she mad at you?"
He snorted. "Not today. We'll need to note your piece, ma'am."
"Detective," Brass said before she could. "This is Ray's Cat. She's here for the arms dealer."
"Oh. Sorry, I was on vacation when you were in last time. May I?" She put it on the hood of the car, letting him take pictures of it. Then he bagged it. "We'll get it back as soon as we can run a ballistics test."
"Sure, or you can call Bethes back in Chicago. He's got mine on file too."
"Thanks." He walked around to start gathering evidence, listening as she pulled out her ringing phone.
"I'm fine. I was behind a car. Brass is fine too and he says hi. Thanks, Lupin. Huh?" She looked at Brass. "Yeah him, why?" She smirked at Brass. "You know, since I never seem to hear from Helena anymore....." She laughed at his complaint. "Fine, you're bored. No, I'm fine. Where's Ray?" She smirked. "I thought so. No, that's fine, go ahead and send that to him and tell him I'm fine too. That way he and Rennie don't have to vibrate themselves into a heart attack this week. Thanks for that, man." She hung up. "Lupin's selling one of his older condo hideouts and Helena's forcing him to give it to me."
"How do you know him?" Warrick asked.
"Helena's my best friend and she's marrying Jigen soon. We're going over for the wedding."
Brass looked back at him. "Helena would be Detective Helena Nichols. The former Angel of Mercy in Chicago."
"Oh!" He nodded quicker this time. "Gotcha. It's good that she's happy with him. Even if he is on the wrong side of the law."
"Ah, but she's also keeping him from doing so much work," she said smugly. Her phone rung again and she actually checked the caller id this time. "I'm fine, Ma," she answered. "I was behind a car, the baby only kicked once and I think he was really liking the shooting stuff. Yes, I'm perfectly fine. Did you want to talk to the detective with me?" She looked at Brass. "My mother-in-law said thank you for making sure I was safe."
"Not an issue. You're a great cop, Cat," he offered dryly, smirking at her. "Should we expect Junior or Ray to show up next?"
"Junior might. He's in town somewhere from what he told me." She went back to listening to Ma rant. "I'm fine, Ma. I was behind a car. Yes, a real car. Not one of those cheap fiberglass sports car, a real sedan. Thanks, Ma." She rolled her eyes as she hung up. "Ray's going to be calling soon," she promised. Brass broke out in snickers, shaking his head.
Ray picked up his desk phone. "Yeah?" he asked bitterly. His wife wasn't even on the ground yet probably so it couldn't be her. "What!" He listened to the calm male voice. "Yeah, thanks for that, Lupin. Sure, send the addy to me in my email. Or in hers. Hey, is Helena not allowed to talk anymore? Cat was wondering." He smirked. "I thought so. No, we'll see you guys soon. Thanks again." No sooner had he hung up than his phone rang again. "Hi, Ma," he said when the screaming started. "Ma, she was out there to pick up a guy and bring him back here, nothing more. You know how these things go. I'm sure she's fine, Ma, if she said she was." He looked over as Rennie jogged in, panting really hard. "Gotta go, Ma. I'll call her in a moment. Yes, I'm sure she's fine if she said she was, Ma. Trust me, she wouldn't lie to you." He shook his head as he hung up. "Vegas?" he suggested. Rennie nodded and turned on the tv to CNN so they could see the live reporting. "See, she's standing up and joking with Brass, she's fine," he said loudly enough for everyone to get the point. Which of course brought Welsh out of his office. "They had a caravan be attacked, sir."
"Wonderful. I see she's chatting with Brass so she's got to be fine." They all paused when she gripped her stomach and the other detective's arm. "Another false labor pain too."
"I'll call her doc for her," Ray said patiently, watching as his wife slid up onto the car's hood and calmed herself. Then she smiled and waved at the news helicopter. "Yeah, she's fine. Brass will watch out for her."
"Of course he will," Stan agreed as he walked in. He stopped under the tv and turned to watch it, then groaned and shook his head, heading upstairs to pay off his bet with Steve in SWAT. "On the way to the station," he said bitterly, handing over the twenty.
"Of course. I'm betting that the guy's probably in pain too."
"Nah, she's with Brass," he said smugly. "Which means the CSI guys are all cooing over her stomach. She even waved at the chopper after having another false labor pain." He trudged back downstairs, going to fill out something to kill time.
Syvette and Huey walked in with a guy in handcuffs, stopping to look at the tv. "Good ol' Cat," she said fondly. "Always getting into trouble in Vegas. Did she ever tell you about the convention we had out there with the poker game for kisses?"
"Brass said she didn't have to pay up anymore," Ray told her, frowning at her. She smirked and he snorting, going back to his forms.
"Hey, she's being kicked really hard today," Huey noted.
"That's a false labor pain," Ray said patiently. He checked the screen, Brass was walking his wife off, going to take her to an ambulance if he knew what was good for him.
"Why such a fine woman is in such vulgar and lower class company I'm not sure, but I am more than willing to rectify that situation," a deepish voice said in Cat's ear, making her swat at it. "Aw, come on now, lovey. Let me take you away from all this mundanity."
"Speaking as an avid reader and grammar checker for my precinct, that's not a word," she said dryly. "Perhaps you meant mendacity since you're such a slimy crook?" she asked. "Or did you mean mundaneness or perhaps terrestrial or even usual?" she asked, pulling her badge to flash it. He backed off then smirked at her so she glared at him. "Now, in case you didn't recognize the badge, this is a detective's shield. In case you're also unobservant enough to not note the wedding band with the nice sized diamond in it, I am married. That makes me strike two for a little playboy wanna be like you so let me give you strike three," she said as she shifted around, stroking her bulging stomach. "I'm five months pregnant as well. Needed anything else?" He backed off and nearly went running away. She put her badge away and smiled at the pretty bartender. "Can I have another coke?" she asked while the guys around her laughed.
"Sure, detective. Is that real?"
She nodded. "Chicago PD."
"I like my women tough," he flirted.
"So does my husband, who's one tough little Italian cop with a big gun." He laughed and got her the requested soda refill then went to hit on another woman. She looked at Brass, who was still snickering. "Am I glowing with a big sign that says 'lonely and hot'?"
"Glowing yes, big sign, no," he said between chuckles. He led them over to a table, making sure she had her soda and her purse. "You do look good in that dress, Cat. I should take pictures and send them to Ray."
"If you do, be sure to tell him people hit on me," she said smugly. "I might not make it to the wedding walking if you do." She sipped her soda. "So, how has Junior been doing?"
"He's doing well. He's in town to watch the state basketball championship, his school's in it and he's brought a date from what I hear from those who're watching him. Ricky's still guarding him too from what I hear. I also hear he's coming out your way for college?"
"Forensic accounting," she said proudly. "I'm proud of the little guy. He's been fairly good from what he's reported since he's only got Ricky watching over him now." She took another sip and looked around. "Hmm, either I've picked up another female admirer or you've got a stalker, dear."
"I know," he sighed. "She won't leave me alone." She smirked at him. "No thanks, Ray would *kill* me."
"Not if I tell him first." She pulled out her phone, dialing Ma's house. "Ma, is Ray there?" She sighed. "Thanks." She called the station. "Honey?" She chuckled. "No, not you, Stan, why are you answering Ray's desk?" She listened as he chatted about the normal day around there then handed the phone over. "Love, I'm here with Brass and a very staring woman. Sure, that's what I was checking in for." She rolled her eyes. "I'm fine, Ray. Really. Oh, yes I will be! He can bite me." She sighed. "Fine." She hung up. "My OB got told about the false labor pain and said I can't go to the wedding. Ray's working on softening him up." She stroked the top of his hand. "But he did say I could save you from a fate worse than my former stalkers."
"Thanks, Cat. I'd still feel awkward." She shrugged and grinned at him. "If necessary," he offered. He groaned as the woman walked over to them, shaking his head. "Please, don't," he pleaded quietly.
"Why would I, Brass?" She smirked up at the woman. "Hi, another cop?"
"No, but you're playing with my boyfriend's hand."
"Really? I could have *sworn* that I had the prior claim," she said, stroking her stomach. The woman's eyes bugged and she backed away shaking her head. "Anything else, sweetie? I mean, you're cute and all but he's the one I gave up women for," she said slickly, looking at Brass and slowly wetting her lips. "Later?"
"We'll see," he said with a sigh. The woman started to cry and left. He groaned. "That's so bad, Cat."
"Yeah, but I hate groupies. I used to get a lot of them when I was younger and prettier. And gay."
"Eh, it happens to the best of us," he promised with a wink. "Ray would be laughing his ass off if he had seen that."
"Yeah, but I'm out of practice for flirting," she complained. "Ray won't let me flirt with him across the squad room."
"Good point." He patted her on the hand. "Finish up your drink and I'll take you back to your hotel."
"Sure, Brass." She gulped her soda and put down a small tip on the table since she'd paid for her drinks up front, heading out with him. The sobbing woman was waiting for them outside and she shrieked as she tried to jump Cat, but Cat got her down and onto her back, kneeling across her stomach. "Try it again, honey. Brass is a very old and dear friend. Brass is one of those guys that my lovers like me to be with. I will protect Brass. Even if it means arresting you for attempted assault and battery." She looked at Brass. "Got cuffs? I foolishly left mine back in the room."
"Sure," he agreed, digging his out and handing them over. He watched as she got the woman cuffed and standing, calling in for a squad. The responding officers stayed far, far away from Cat, delicately taking the woman from her. "She tried to help me with my stalker there by pretending we're together with permission from her husband," he said. "So the woman waited and jumped her."
The cops nodded and took off with the suspect, going back to let someone less delicate question the pregnant woman with the gun. When they walked in and presented her, the senior one shook his head. "She tried to jump that woman who was helping Brass, sir," he reported. "Detective Brass said that this woman has been stalking him and that woman pretended to be his with permission from her husband. So this woman tried to jump the very pregnant woman."
"Don't they make their pregnant women go on maternity leave once they start showing?" the younger cop asked. "She still had on a gun and everything."
"No, the rules there are like they are here, boys," the desk sergeant said patiently. "You're behind a desk if you can't fit into your vest and you're still allowed to carry your gun. Which woman?"
"That one at the caravan shooting earlier," the senior one said. "The one who was having labor pains."
"Ah, Detective Demoranth-Vecchio. We saw her during that travesty of a trial. Good instincts staying away from her, boys. She's fierce and she's a friend of Brass's." He looked at the suspect. "You just messed with one of Chicago's top detectives. One of their deadliest too. She was a Vice detective for nearly twenty years. Perps out there actually give up when they see her instead of trying to run. Aren't you dumb?" He nodded. "Book her and set her aside for questioning. I'll make sure Detective Brass has a complaint and we've gotten a statement from the nice detective. Good work on not pissing Cat off, boys. She's not the most friendly to men." They nodded and took their suspect away. "I wonder how much longer she's staying," he mused. "We should get a break when she's gone."
Rennie and Syvette met Cat and her arrestee at the airport, Syvette taking him to lead him to the car. "Are you all right?" Rennie asked quietly. "You look tired."
"I am tired, but I'm okay," she promised with a grin. "Brass said hi, Syvette."
"Great. I haven't seen him in ages. How's he doing?"
"We helped break up his stalker last night," Cat said happily. "That's why I look so tired. Paperwork." Rennie patted her hand and took her arm to walk her out. "I'm fine, Rennie."
"Detective, your husband said I was to keep a firm grip on you at all times or else you'd have to be in a wheelchair until he sees you again when you manage to convince your doctor to clear you for flight. Otherwise he was going to kick my rear-end and make me cry to his mother, who'd finish me off."
She smirked at him. "No, Ray's not overprotective at all, Rennie," she quipped. He chuckled at that and she turned to look at one guy, who was paused in mid-walk. "Are you on my list to arrest today?" she asked him, hands on her hips. He shook his head and walked off. "Huh, he looks just like one of my arrest warrants." She shook her head, she'd figure it out when she got back, just in case she was wrong. It had happened in the past. She took Rennie's arm again and let him lead her out to the car, finding their crook stuffed awkwardly in the backseat and Syvette bent over holding her stomach. "You okay?"
"Fine," she grunted, standing up. "He decided to try to get away. Where were you two?"
"Looking at someone I could swear was one of the arrest warrants on my desk," she admitted. "Sorry." She opened the back door and stood there. "Try it with me, little boy." He flinched and sat up, scooting to the other side of the car. "Good boy," she said snidely. "Get back there with him, Rennie, and make sure he's buckled up." He nodded, doing so, including the strap around his cuffs. "I call driving," she offered, helping Syvette into her seat and taking the keys to get in and drive. She even got to run the siren since traffic was so horrible. By the time they got back there, Syvette was back to normal, Rennie had relaxed, and the crook was now scared for his life since she had told them about the Penya bust and how they'd done it. Rennie had backed her up with an 'unfortunately all true' as they trooped the guy up the stairs.
The guy looked around and went right to Stan, sitting down at his desk and starting to babble at him. He still seemed safe and sane.
The next day, Cat sat down with her insurance person and the contractors redoing the house again. "How much is coming out of our pockets?"
"Nothing," the insurance agent promised. "Not only is it covered but you'll be able to rebuild the whole thing since another fire was set two days ago," she offered. Catherine groaned, shaking her head. "I hear you were in Las Vegas at the time?"
"I went to pick up a suspected arms dealer. He's the link we needed to arrest a major smuggler with the Mounties."
"That's got to be exciting," the contractor offered.
"Sometimes, but after so many you get kinda bored. This guy was decent, he didn't try anything. It was a nice change." She shrugged. "Drug dealers are usually worse than arms dealers. So, how bad is the house?"
"Nearly destroyed," the contractor admitted, handing over some pictures. "We're pretty sure the bigots who did it the first time did it again."
"The good news is that someone looted the house first," the agent offered gently. "The State Troopers informed us that they found some artwork in one of their basement's. Most of it graphic and nasty that you'd hate."
"Hell, then we'll either donate it to a museum who tracks the inhumanity or burn it," Cat said, shifting to get more comfortable. She checked her watch. "I've got to meet with the OB in about an hour," she reminded herself. She looked up at them. "So, we can rebuild?" The agent nodded. "And this'll stop, right?"
"They were mostly arrested. There's two that haven't been. They couldn't prove it but the state boys are watching them harder," the contractor offered. "One's the local chief of police."
"If we had a house, we'd move up here and offer to run," she promised, "but we can't do that until we've got a house."
"Good point. The bad news it that it'll take about a year to fully go up. If we use the old plans it'll be faster. You may want to make some design changes. You said that you weren't happy with a few of the rooms."
"No, they didn't come out quite like I had wanted," she admitted. "Okay, we can do that. Oh, the elevator, very necessary."
"We can easily hide that behind the staircase," he promised. "What part of the kitchen didn't you like?"
"I didn't like the flow. It was a compromise thing but you always had to trudge to get stuff. Plus I want a small fridge in the upstairs playroom."
"Sure," he agreed. "If you've got time, I can easily go over this with you. I know you've got that appointment soon."
"Sure. How are we doing the money thing? Are you paying us and then we're paying them?" The agent nodded. "That'd be fine. Oh, I hated that color of marble Ray chose. Something lighter, please." He nodded, making notes of that too. "Thanks. Okay, let's go do that. You probably still have everything on file?" He nodded. She shook her insurance agent's hand. "Thanks. We'll be talking about life insurance soon enough. I'm tired of the pitiful policy the department gives us for our offspring and since this is number two...." She grinned. "And probably a second son. I so much want a girl though so there'll be more." Her agent laughed and nodded, handing her the check. "Already?"
"We talked to our corporate office and they agreed that it'd be better to move quickly. We did check the policy and it was updated to the current replacement value since it was an ancient policy. Whenever you're ready to talk about life insurance, just call, Detective. Thank you for being so patient with us."
"Hey, you handled things without me having to complain. I like that." She got up with some help from the contractor, letting him lead her out to her car. "I'll meet you there, I've got to deposit this before I lose it." She looked inside and her eyes bulged. "Damn," she breathed. "I'll be there in a few."
"Want an escort?" he suggested. She nodded, letting him walk her to the bank. She might be armed but she was in no shape to be alone with that check. He led her right to the woman he usually dealt with. "This is Catherine Demoranth-Vecchio. She just got her insurance check."
"I'd like to deposit most of it in an account so we can pay for the new house," she said weakly, sitting down in the chair. "And can I have a photocopy of that check?" The girl looked at it, then at her and nodded. "Thanks, I don't think my husband's going to believe me in the least. Speaking of, let me get him on the phone so it's a joint account." She dialed the house in France. "Hey, Goemon, put Ray on," she said weakly. "No, just fine, just got the insurance check where someone burned down the house. Thanks." She smiled at the contractor. "Give me a few, this shouldn't take too long." He shrugged and sat down next to her. "Ray, someone finished off the house. I'm setting up an account with the check locally. Yeah, that bank. No, the contractor was nice enough to walk me over. No, you won't believe it," she said with a grin for the woman doing the paperwork. "Sure. No, I've got a photocopy of it too." She handed it to the woman. "Here, my husband." She looked at the contractor. "We can fix all those awkward rooms, right?"
"Most of that was storage space," he offered. "We've found a few burned paintings in there and some that weren't in such bad shape. We've put everything we found into the storage building in case you wanted to have someone look them over."
"Yeah, I probably should. Was it art like the murals?"
"Some but not all of it," he promised, patting her on the hand. "I'll escort you out after your appointment to look it over and help you move it if you want."
"Yeah, I know someone in the University's art program. We go to them about any art- related robberies and things. Plus we've consulted with a good auction house in the past too," she admitted. "I'd better have them appraised. I'm guessing they probably weren't on the insurance policy."
"According to what my mother said, there was a second policy on the house's artwork," the woman told her. "Maybe only the murals but we're not sure who it was through." The voice on the other end of the phone said something and she made note of that, handing it to the poor dear. "Your husband said to call him about that. He could find it if it existed." She smiled and went back to the forms. "Of course. Thank *you*, detectives, for thinking of us with this nice account. Of course. Yes, that's fine. I can arrange all that and set aside a special account for just the contractors." She smiled at him. "That good with you?" He nodded. "That's fine then. Yes, detective. Thank you, sir. No, we'll need you to sign the forms when you come back. Where are you now? In the city?" She paused. "Wow. I've always wanted to go to France." She grinned at Catherine. "I'll tell her sir, thank you. Yes, that's fine. Would you like her back?" She smiled and hung up, handing back the phone. "He said he'd see you in a few days, detective. He said that your doctor has been whined too twice now so you can go whenever you're ready."
"I need to find my passport," she admitted. "I can't at the moment. What did he want you to do?"
"To put this into an IRA draw account, so you have some interest but you can still write checks off it, plus a special account just for the contractor's expenses," she offered. Cat nodded slowly at that. "It's probably the best that you can do. Some interest, a way to track expenses in that special account. If you want, we can authorize him to draw directly from that one. Perhaps a debit card system?"
"That would be fine if Ray said so. I don't handle the money stuff," she admitted. She smiled and nodded, doing that for her. "And we'd be transferring over money each month you think?"
"It would probably be best that way. That way I could order materials and take our fees directly out of there for labor costs," the contractor offered. "You'd be able to track expenses and all that plus you would control how much was in there."
"Sure, I like that idea," she agreed, smiling at him. Her watch beeped. "Crap. I'm going to be late."
"Are you going here in town, detective? We can call your next appointment."
"It's with my OB. He's at that small hospital in the next town."
"That's fine then, detective. I know who you're talking about. My sister went to him with hers too. We can easily call over there. This shouldn't take that long." She started typing on her computer, inputting information to start everything for her. It only took her ten minutes to get everything set and signed, putting a note saying that her husband would be coming in to sign them when he got back but to start the accounts now. "There we are." She handed over the photocopy of the check and the cash Catherine had requested on the deposit slip. "Do you need anything else today, Detective?"
"No, thank you," she said quietly, getting up and heading out, shaking hands with the contractor on the way out. She hurried to her appointment, hoping she wouldn't be too late.
Ray greeted his wife with a long kiss, and a short grope of her backside. "I missed you," he moaned.
"It's a boy," she told him, grinning at him. "Everything's set up." She kissed him again, earning some appreciative looks from those around her. "Let's go to the hotel, Ray."
"Sure, Cat." He walked her away, taking her to his rental car. It was a very nice rental. Even if it wasn't American made. He'd never driven a BMW before and they were *nice* cars. "Do you want to take the scenic way or just straight there?" he asked, figuring she was tired from the flight.
"Ray, I don't care if you park us in broad daylight in the middle of the most crowded park in Paris. Just get us somewhere I can make myself happy on your body." He blushed but put the car in gear and sped off, going to the hotel. She deserved a bed instead of a big backseat this time. "How's Kathy?"
"Doing good. She's just starting into the same stage," he noted smugly, changing lanes like a pro and taking a fast turn to get them back to their hotel. He even paid for valet parking this time. Just so he could go make his wife scream in pleasure. "You're gonna love the wedding, it's renfair stuff and Lupin planned it all," he said as he led her up to their room, dropping everything so he could toss her onto the bed and have his way with her. She chuckled and got out of her clothes, spreading out for him. "Ahhh, my kitten. I've missed you," he purred as he dove in to kiss other parts of her. He was even nice enough to shoo away hotel security when they came up to check on her howling in pleasure.