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10 Vision

Oak and Hamilton ….

Officers stood at the end of either street directing traffic, their shirt sleeves blowing in what passed for a breeze. Their white and blue cars sat blocking the crime scene. Ray pulled into a convenience store parking lot. The crowd parted for Fraser in his red serge, Ray and Meg followed while Dief zigzagged around the scene. A gruff, uniformed officer met Ray half way, a wary eye on the strangers.

“I'm Detective Vecchio, what've we got?” Ray showed his badge. Most of the uniformed officers didn't pay him any mind.

“The victim, Jenny Stillwell, just left in a bus, she said a guy tried to choke her to death, would have too, if a neighbor on the second floor hadn't started shouting out the window, said neighbor called us.” Ray made quick notes, one eye on the uniformed officer and the other on Fraser. The Mountie had wandered over to where a gold chain lay, pulled from Ms. Stillwell's purse. Meg stood beside him, watching the crowd for spectral faces.

“Ms. Stillwell must have had her purse strap on her left shoulder, there was a struggle, from the blood, the assailant is left handed, she fell to his right.” Fraser stood facing the now empty parking spot, running through the scenario in his mind.

Meg's eyes widened and her jaw clenched so it wouldn't drop. She saw a familiar face in the crowd watching the police. A young man with a striped shirt and short hair looked back at her.

“Fraser,” she tapped him on the shoulder, eyes locked on the ghost. “Fraser,” the young man stood out from the crowd of contemporarily dressed on-lookers. Pain ripped though Meg's skull, jumbled images of people moving, walking, assaulted her. A slender blonde with feathered, frosted hair swayed, the sound of a car hitting the curb, it's frame grinding against the cement curb pierced Meg's ears. Her knees buckled, like someone had taken a sledge hammer to them. Her body shook violently, thrown to the side of it's own accord. The next thing she saw was blue sky and Fraser's face.

“Inspector, are you alright?”

Meg felt his arm across her back, supporting her as she lay backward, arms dangling at her sides. His other hand checked her pulse.

“What happened?” Meg managed, trying to stand on her own two feet. Fraser's arm hovered behind her, should she fail. Still weak kneed, she clutched his forearm. Her free hand clutched her aching head. She'd never had a migraine before. It felt like someone had her head in a vice, twisting for pure, sadistic pleasure.

“You appeared to have had a seizure.” Slowly, he led her to the sidewalk.

“I saw Jimmy Glassberg's death, he was watching a blonde in front of him when the car hit him, he didn't see it coming.” Meg explained, her hand on her forehead. The pain made her want to cry. Jimmy hadn't even been afraid. He died almost instantly.

“Do I need to call for an ambulance?” Ray asked over Fraser's shoulder, peering questioningly at the Inspector.

“I'm fine, I just lost my balance.” Meg looked up, summoning strength to pull herself to her full height.

“I got this if you two want to go, right now it's just taking witness statements, Fraser and me can go to the hospital later to check on the victim.” Ray hitched his thumb over his shoulder at the scene. He wore a loose, rayon shirt and slacks, the coolest clothes he could find that still passed for professional dress.

Meg didn't want to take his suggestion, it showed weakness. She also didn't want to crumple like a Jenga tower again.

“Perhaps the Inspector and I could follow up on Ms. Stillwell's vehicle with Elaine.” Fraser suggested.

“Yeah, that'd be great, I'll have one of the squad cars take you to the station.” Ray used his notebook as a fan as he spoke.

“Thank you, Ray.” Fraser nodded, hands behind his back. The detective moved off to find the least useful uniform and put him to work driving the Canadians.

“Are you alright, Sir?” Fraser asked again, examining her eyes, the way she slumped back against the brick wall.

“No, I am not alright, I just saw the last few moments of a young man's life from his perspective.” Meg rubbed her temples, eyes closed to the bright sunshine beating against the wall behind her.

“Would you like to go home, Inspector?” Fraser stepped closer, his shoulder against the wall.

“No, it won't help.” She brushed the pain away and stood up straight. The pain wasn't going to leave until Meg caught Austin Parker. His victims' pain had lingered for too long.

“Because of the apparitions?” Fraser asked conspiratorially, his blue eyes concerned.

“Just one of many reasons.” Meg looked up from rubbing her temples, a tired smile pulling at her lips.

***

Author's Note: Oak and Hamilton Streets are completely fictitious, I have no idea whatsoever about Chicago's geography. They're generic names.

Tags:

9 Hot off the Press

The Consulate ….

Meg lay on the leather sofa in her office to nap. She'd given Turnbull strict, do not disturb instructions. If he wasn't bleeding when he woke her, he would be afterward. The junior Mountie nodded his understanding and exited the office gladly. As she lay against the arm of the sofa, Meg heard Turnbull and Fraser's quiet voices in the hallway.

“There's no rest for the wicked.” Meg muttered to herself as she rose again and walked into the hallway.

The two constables stood tall and proud in the middle of the hardwood floor in conference. Diefenbaker sat on his haunches beside his human, looking from Fraser to the really weird human.

“Please tell me this disruption is relevant to the mugging case.” Inspector Thatcher spoke, her voice rough.

“Yes, Sir, it is, Detective Vecchio and I believe we've identified the suspect. We'd like you to come down to the precinct and look at a photo line up.” Fraser informed her, trying to subtly study her. Without make-up, she seemed softer, more natural and beautiful. Ben wanted to take the haunted look from her dark eyes. Her impossibly thick, dark lashes framed them perfectly. He almost didn't hear her answer.

“I'll get my purse, I should swing by my apartment before I go as well.” Inspector Thatcher turned to walk back into her office.

“I'll fetch the consulate car.” Fraser seated his Stetson on his head and turned to leave. Diefenbaker followed, enjoying being on the go.

A few minutes later Margaret stepped into a comfortably cool car on her way to the Twenty-seventh Precinct. Fraser had started the air conditioner for her. Diefenbaker sat in the floor board of the front passenger seat. From somewhere, Meg smelled fresh cut cedar.

“Where did you get that air freshener, Constable Fraser?” Meg asked, enjoying the clean, natural scent.

“The city recently cut a stand of cedars while clearing right of way, I asked if I could take a few limbs. They make wonderful deodorizers, especially in this heat.” he held up a potpourri bag with cedar chips inside.

“I'll have to remember that.” Meg filed it away in her memory.

“It smells like my mother's house in here.” Robert Fraser added from his place on the backseat beside Margaret. All eyes turned to him. Dief poked his nose between the seats, Fraser looked at him in the rear view mirror and Meg turned to the old man's ghost.

“Where are we going?” Robert asked, unconcerned at the stares.

“To the Twenty-seventh Precinct, Dad, Inspector Thatcher is going to identify the suspect in a photo line up.” Fraser repeated himself, trying not to give his resentment away.

Margaret waited for the elder Fraser to say something but he didn't. Robert and Ben began bickering about Ben's driving. Meg could have sworn she saw Diefenbaker roll his eyes and shake his head at them. She kept silent, thinking she was too tired to know for sure what she'd seen. A constant migraine she'd had for two weeks didn't help.

Meg's Apartment ….

Meg directed Fraser to the parking outside her building. She hesitated going to her apartment alone. With a deep breath and a silent prayer, she opened the back door and stepped out. Dief and Fraser stood waiting for her.

“I don't need a babysitter, Fraser.” Meg turned to him, her dark eyes steady.

Fraser's mouth opened to protest then promptly closed again. He began to rake his left thumb nail across the same brow.

“Ugg, come on, Constable, you've already gotten out of the car.” Meg took off toward the apartment building door. Fraser had to jog to get there ahead of her. He opened the door and followed her inside. Diefenbaker wasn't so mannerly. He trotted in ahead of the lady Mountie.

At her door, Meg unlocked the door and allowed the wolf inside. Let the ghosts worry the wolf first.

Meg turned to see Fraser standing uncertainly on her welcome mat. She was going to change and he didn't want to be anywhere nearby. She wasn't sure if she wanted him nearby. If he had to be around, she wanted him in her bedroom and at her mercy. The thought made Meg blush.

“Have a seat and I'll be out in a moment.” Meg pointed toward the sofa, a long, dark blue velvet affair with a matching arm chair.

Hesitantly, he complied, perching on the edge closest to the door. The whole apartment smelled like her, like rushing wilderness air and a box car full of horses and hay. Intoxicated, Ben had to remind himself that she outranked him and had forbidden him to remember certain events.

“The memory is a funny thing, Son, it can lie to you, cripple you even.” Robert Fraser sat beside his son on the sofa. Legs crossed, he sat far more comfortably than the younger Mountie.

Fraser turned to look at his father, incredulous. The older man studied his nails, as calm as a blue summer sky.

“What is that supposed to mean, Dad?” Fraser demanded quietly.

“It means you're not the only one who remembers the train, Son.” Robert answered, meeting his son's gaze. His light blue eyes radiated wisdom and knowing.

“Do I have additional company?” Meg's voice broke the stare between father and son.

“Yes, Sir.” Fraser popped to his feet. Meg stood beside the couch wearing a knee length red skirt and loose, short sleeve, white blouse. It wasn't a particularly provocative outfit but it still took his breath away.

Robert Fraser stood beside the couch at parade rest. He couldn't help but see the way his son looked at the Inspector before looking away.

“Detective Vecchio is expecting us, we should be on our way.” Meg slipped her purse strap up on her shoulder.

“Yes, Sir.” Fraser nodded, following her out. Dief trotted ahead of him and into the hallway.

***

By the time they arrived at the precinct, Margaret was ready to run screaming from the back seat. Fraser had circled the block three times to get a parking spot. Dief and Robert both fussed at him for being so polite.

“Constable Fraser, if you do not park this car immediately, I'll put you on sentry duty for the duration of your career, do you understand me?” Meg growled at him, her head throbbing.

“Understood, Sir.” Fraser pulled into a free parking spot half a block away. Meg didn't care, glad to be stationary. The three Mounties and the wolf walked to the precinct, signed in and made their way to Vecchio's desk.

Ray looked up at them from his endless supply of paperwork, glad to have a distraction. Dief sniffed around the desk, looking for the detective's stash of donuts.

“Hello, Inspector.” he motioned for her to have a seat across from him.

“Fraser tells me that you believe you've identified the suspect who mugged me.” Meg sat down, her purse on her lap. She looked around to see if Sergeant Fraser were listening to find he'd disappeared.

“Yep, we think it's one of these guys.” Ray handed the Inspector a page of photos, each one numbered. She studied the page, eyes narrowed.

“I believe number three and seven are the same suspect. I believe it is him.” she laid the page down on Ray's desk, her short but manicured nails pinned to number seven.

“That's who we believe it is too.” Ray nodded, silently impressed that she'd recognized the two pictures as the same suspect, not that he'd ever tell her in a million years.

“Are there any leads as to his whereabouts?” Meg asked, hoping something had come up since the last time she'd asked.

“I've got the whole squad looking for him, I just got off the phone with his parole officer, he hasn't been seen in two months.” Ray shrugged, the muscles in his jaw working in frustration.

“Ray, here's one hot off the press.” Elaine called across the bull pen.

“An armed robbery, car stolen and the victim at the emergency room.” Ray summed up the sheet Elaine handed him. She hung back, standing beside Fraser. The Civilian Aide took a good, long breath of his clean scent. A dreamy smile picked at the corners of her full lips. When she saw the Mountie swallow hard, she reluctantly moved away. She didn't want to make him unduly nervous, it wasn't nice or fair to him.

“Let's go check out the scene, you comin', Fraser?” Ray stood up, grabbing his gun and shield.

“If the Inspector is agreeable, yes.” Fraser looked from Ray to the boss lady.

“I'd like to accompany you, if possible.” Meg met his gaze, giving him a pleading gaze. She hoped he'd catch on.

“Yeah, just let us do the work, okay.” Ray gave her a stern look. A Chicago crime scene was his territory and he didn't want the Ice Queen taking over. She could bully Fraser all she wanted, but not him.

“Lead the way, Detective.” Meg nodded curtly, rising to her feet.

Ray set off toward the door. Fraser allowed the Inspector to precede him and Dief had to run to catch up. Elaine had fed him a leftover hot dog with chili and onions. He was one happy wolf.

***

Tags:

9 Hot off the Press

The Consulate ….

Meg lay on the leather sofa in her office to nap. She'd given Turnbull strict, do not disturb instructions. If he wasn't bleeding when he woke her, he would be afterward. The junior Mountie nodded his understanding and exited the office gladly. As she lay against the arm of the sofa, Meg heard Turnbull and Fraser's quiet voices in the hallway.

“There's no rest for the wicked.” Meg muttered to herself as she rose again and walked into the hallway.

The two constables stood tall and proud in the middle of the hardwood floor in conference. Diefenbaker sat on his haunches beside his human, looking from Fraser to the really weird human.

“Please tell me this disruption is relevant to the mugging case.” Inspector Thatcher spoke, her voice rough.

“Yes, Sir, it is, Detective Vecchio and I believe we've identified the suspect. We'd like you to come down to the precinct and look at a photo line up.” Fraser informed her, trying to subtly study her. Without make-up, she seemed softer, more natural and beautiful. Ben wanted to take the haunted look from her dark eyes. Her impossibly thick, dark lashes framed them perfectly. He almost didn't hear her answer.

“I'll get my purse, I should swing by my apartment before I go as well.” Inspector Thatcher turned to walk back into her office.

“I'll fetch the consulate car.” Fraser seated his Stetson on his head and turned to leave. Diefenbaker followed, enjoying being on the go.

A few minutes later Margaret stepped into a comfortably cool car on her way to the Twenty-seventh Precinct. Fraser had started the air conditioner for her. Diefenbaker sat in the floor board of the front passenger seat. From somewhere, Meg smelled fresh cut cedar.

“Where did you get that air freshener, Constable Fraser?” Meg asked, enjoying the clean, natural scent.

“The city recently cut a stand of cedars while clearing right of way, I asked if I could take a few limbs. They make wonderful deodorizers, especially in this heat.” he held up a potpourri bag with cedar chips inside.

“I'll have to remember that.” Meg filed it away in her memory.

“It smells like my mother's house in here.” Robert Fraser added from his place on the backseat beside Margaret. All eyes turned to him. Dief poked his nose between the seats, Fraser looked at him in the rear view mirror and Meg turned to the old man's ghost.

“Where are we going?” Robert asked, unconcerned at the stares.

“To the Twenty-seventh Precinct, Dad, Inspector Thatcher is going to identify the suspect in a photo line up.” Fraser repeated himself, trying not to give his resentment away.

Margaret waited for the elder Fraser to say something but he didn't. Robert and Ben began bickering about Ben's driving. Meg could have sworn she saw Diefenbaker roll his eyes and shake his head at them. She kept silent, thinking she was too tired to know for sure what she'd seen. A constant migraine she'd had for two weeks didn't help.

Meg's Apartment ….

Meg directed Fraser to the parking outside her building. She hesitated going to her apartment alone. With a deep breath and a silent prayer, she opened the back door and stepped out. Dief and Fraser stood waiting for her.

“I don't need a babysitter, Fraser.” Meg turned to him, her dark eyes steady.

Fraser's mouth opened to protest then promptly closed again. He began to rake his left thumb nail across the same brow.

“Ugg, come on, Constable, you've already gotten out of the car.” Meg took off toward the apartment building door. Fraser had to jog to get there ahead of her. He opened the door and followed her inside. Diefenbaker wasn't so mannerly. He trotted in ahead of the lady Mountie.

At her door, Meg unlocked the door and allowed the wolf inside. Let the ghosts worry the wolf first.

Meg turned to see Fraser standing uncertainly on her welcome mat. She was going to change and he didn't want to be anywhere nearby. She wasn't sure if she wanted him nearby. If he had to be around, she wanted him in her bedroom and at her mercy. The thought made Meg blush.

“Have a seat and I'll be out in a moment.” Meg pointed toward the sofa, a long, dark blue velvet affair with a matching arm chair.

Hesitantly, he complied, perching on the edge closest to the door. The whole apartment smelled like her, like rushing wilderness air and a box car full of horses and hay. Intoxicated, Ben had to remind himself that she outranked him and had forbidden him to remember certain events.

“The memory is a funny thing, Son, it can lie to you, cripple you even.” Robert Fraser sat beside his son on the sofa. Legs crossed, he sat far more comfortably than the younger Mountie.

Fraser turned to look at his father, incredulous. The older man studied his nails, as calm as a blue summer sky.

“What is that supposed to mean, Dad?” Fraser demanded quietly.

“It means you're not the only one who remembers the train, Son.” Robert answered, meeting his son's gaze. His light blue eyes radiated wisdom and knowing.

“Do I have additional company?” Meg's voice broke the stare between father and son.

“Yes, Sir.” Fraser popped to his feet. Meg stood beside the couch wearing a knee length red skirt and loose, short sleeve, white blouse. It wasn't a particularly provocative outfit but it still took his breath away.

Robert Fraser stood beside the couch at parade rest. He couldn't help but see the way his son looked at the Inspector before looking away.

“Detective Vecchio is expecting us, we should be on our way.” Meg slipped her purse strap up on her shoulder.

“Yes, Sir.” Fraser nodded, following her out. Dief trotted ahead of him and into the hallway.

***

By the time they arrived at the precinct, Margaret was ready to run screaming from the back seat. Fraser had circled the block three times to get a parking spot. Dief and Robert both fussed at him for being so polite.

“Constable Fraser, if you do not park this car immediately, I'll put you on sentry duty for the duration of your career, do you understand me?” Meg growled at him, her head throbbing.

“Understood, Sir.” Fraser pulled into a free parking spot half a block away. Meg didn't care, glad to be stationary. The three Mounties and the wolf walked to the precinct, signed in and made their way to Vecchio's desk.

Ray looked up at them from his endless supply of paperwork, glad to have a distraction. Dief sniffed around the desk, looking for the detective's stash of donuts.

“Hello, Inspector.” he motioned for her to have a seat across from him.

“Fraser tells me that you believe you've identified the suspect who mugged me.” Meg sat down, her purse on her lap. She looked around to see if Sergeant Fraser were listening to find he'd disappeared.

“Yep, we think it's one of these guys.” Ray handed the Inspector a page of photos, each one numbered. She studied the page, eyes narrowed.

“I believe number three and seven are the same suspect. I believe it is him.” she laid the page down on Ray's desk, her short but manicured nails pinned to number seven.

“That's who we believe it is too.” Ray nodded, silently impressed that she'd recognized the two pictures as the same suspect, not that he'd ever tell her in a million years.

“Are there any leads as to his whereabouts?” Meg asked, hoping something had come up since the last time she'd asked.

“I've got the whole squad looking for him, I just got off the phone with his parole officer, he hasn't been seen in two months.” Ray shrugged, the muscles in his jaw working in frustration.

“Ray, here's one hot off the press.” Elaine called across the bull pen.

“An armed robbery, car stolen and the victim at the emergency room.” Ray summed up the sheet Elaine handed him. She hung back, standing beside Fraser. The Civilian Aide took a good, long breath of his clean scent. A dreamy smile picked at the corners of her full lips. When she saw the Mountie swallow hard, she reluctantly moved away. She didn't want to make him unduly nervous, it wasn't nice or fair to him.

“Let's go check out the scene, you comin', Fraser?” Ray stood up, grabbing his gun and shield.

“If the Inspector is agreeable, yes.” Fraser looked from Ray to the boss lady.

“I'd like to accompany you, if possible.” Meg met his gaze, giving him a pleading gaze. She hoped he'd catch on.

“Yeah, just let us do the work, okay.” Ray gave her a stern look. A Chicago crime scene was his territory and he didn't want the Ice Queen taking over. She could bully Fraser all she wanted, but not him.

“Lead the way, Detective.” Meg nodded curtly, rising to her feet.

Ray set off toward the door. Fraser allowed the Inspector to precede him and Dief had to run to catch up. Elaine had fed him a leftover hot dog with chili and onions. He was one happy wolf.

***

Tags:

8 Research

Tuesday Morning ….

Fraser and Dief walked to the consulate along their usual, Tuesday path. The old wolf sniffed each tree and trash can along the way. Fraser had the opportunity to think about Inspector Thatcher as he walked. He'd never known her to give into a headache before. Though a skull fracture was far different from eye strain. He'd never known her to take a sick day or personal day for anything. She'd worked through colds, flu, upper respiratory infections and at least one yeast infection.

The Mountie and wolf arrived at the consulate a few minutes early. They walked in after unlocking the door, Dief's nails clicking on the hardwood flooring. Ben thought to himself that he was going to have to trim them.

“Who's there?” the Inspector's voice called out from her office.

“It's Diefenbaker and myself, Sir.” Fraser hurried to her door. She wore the same clothing she'd worn the day before. Her make-up had worn off and her hair had been finger raked often since he'd seen her last.

“Oh, Constable Fraser, good morning.” she sounded relieved to see him.

“Good morning, Sir, is something the matter?” Ben stood at her desk, his Stetson still sitting on his head.

“I, no, nothing is wrong.” she avoided eye contact, hands on her hips as she stood behind her desk. Her desk lamp was the only illumination in the room.

“Lying is unbecoming of an officer, Inspector.” Robert Fraser stepped out of the shadows to the left of Meg's desk.

“How do you get rid of him, Fraser?” Meg gestured with her hands at the older man grinning like a conniving school boy.

“She's been here all night.” Robert announced, enjoying his new found target. Benton had become too predictable.

Meg sat down at her desk, head in her hands. After a long, tired sigh, she spoke up, “I've been researching the ghosts I've seen, beginning with the one in the hospital.” she pointed to a stack of print outs lying on her desk blotter.

Fraser helped himself to the print outs. The first was of a young woman wearing a nursing uniform from the early sixties. She smiled sweetly in the black and white photograph.

“Phyllis Parker, twenty-two, a newlywed with a fifteen month old son, she died of a brain aneurism at the hospital while on the night shift.” Meg summarized the information accompanying the picture.

The second picture was of an older woman and her husband, both of them corpulent. They held hands and leaned toward each other in the color picture.

“That's Mildred Thompson and her husband Carl, she was a forty-six year old housewife who died in my closet, her husband where my kitchen table stands, both were killed during a home invasion by a group of teenagers. Only four of the five were caught. That was seventeen years after Phyllis Parker's death.” Meg sighed, leaning back in her chair.

“The last one is Jimmy Glassberg, he was hit by a car six months after the Thompsons were killed in my apartment, they never found the driver. He was on his way to a theater down the street for a play rehearsal of Grease.” the tired, lady Mountie massaged the bridge of her nose, tired from squinting. She'd left her reading glasses on the night stand beside her bed. “I knew I should have bought a spare pair.” she thought to herself.

“Have you found any links between these people?” Fraser skimmed the files for himself before laying them back down on the desk. Dief eased around the desk and sat beside Meg, laying his head on her knee. Absently, she rubbed his head.

“No, but my instincts tell me there is one, somehow I feel that they're linked to me as well.” she shrugged, still petting Dief.

“May I have Detective Vecchio take a look at these, Sir, perhaps he has more detailed files at the precinct.” Fraser asked, noting the dark circles under Meg's eyes and the coffee cup indention on her desk blotter. She usually used a coaster.

“I don't want him to know that I'm seeing ghosts, Fraser, that would put the whole investigation in jeopardy.” Meg leaned forward, her dark eyes shining with determination.

“I'll be discreet, Sir, you have my word.” Fraser moved to pick up the slim sheaf of papers when Meg's hand snaked out and landed on them with a determined thud.

“He mustn't know, Fraser, I have a hard enough time maintaining my authority in diplomatic circles without him gossiping that I see ghosts.” her voice wavered on the last word, her dark eyes pleading.

“You have my word, Inspector Thatcher, I won't divulge that information.” he met her gaze, his blue eyes earnest. Ben just wanted to ease her mind somehow.

“Thank you.” she sat back against the chair, her shoulders slumped and her face pale.

“Perhaps a short rest in the Princess Margaret Suite would be advisable, Inspector.” Fraser worded the suggestion as delicately as possible.

“Yes, perhaps just this once.” Meg took a deep breath, trying to stifle a yawn.

Fraser hoped she slept well. He suspected she hadn't been sleeping much since waking from the coma.

“Are you coming, Dad?” Ben asked his father who stood staring out the window at the birds flitting from place to place.

“Hmm, oh, yes.” the older Mountie followed his son out the door, along with Dief. Somewhere between the Inspector's office and the front door, he disappeared.

The Twenty-seventh Precinct ….

“Yes, Ma, I'll bring the oregano, fresh, just like you want it.” Ray whined into his cell phone. He looked up from the grocery list written on the back of a store receipt. “Ma, listen, I gotta go, Fraser's got that look on his face again.” he turned the phone off and leaned back in his desk chair.

“Good morning, Ray.” Fraser took off his Stetson and hung it on the coat tree near the desk.

“Hello, Fraser, what's up?” The Italian detective asked, his hands laced across the beginnings of a slight paunch.

“I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you,” Ray nodded, sitting his chair up right. “Would you pull the files for these people, they may or may not be connected to the Inspector's assault.” Fraser handed him the sheaf of papers.

“Sure, why not, I don't have thirteen other cases to solve today.” Ray began typing the first name into the police database.

“How'd you get these names, Fraser, they seem kind of far fetched, even for you.” Ray asked, not really caring.

“I'm obliged not to say, Ray.” the Mountie met his gaze, his blue eyes earnest. There was only one reason Ray could think of that would keep him from volunteering the information.

“Okay, just so it doesn't compromise the investigation.” He shrugged and dove back into the database.

“Here we go, Phyllis Parker, died of natural causes, left behind one husband and one son, Austin Parker.” Ray rattled off the information, watching Fraser from the corner of his eye. The Mountie seemed unfazed.

“Next are the Thompsons, killed during a home invasion, four of the teenagers were caught, they named a fourth suspect, one, well, look here,” Fraser came around the desk to peer over his partner's shoulder.

“Austin Parker, seventeen, questioned but he provided an alibi for the time of the murders.” Fraser frowned, his brain working at lightning speed.

“How does this connect to this kid?” Ray held up the picture of Jimmy Glassberg.

“I'm not certain yet, perhaps Austin Parker was the driver or Jimmy knew something about the Thompson murders.” Fraser theorized.

“How's that tie in with the Inspector's mugging?” Ray asked good questions that Fraser wished he could answer.

“I haven't the foggiest idea, Ray.” the Mountie shook his head, looking into the distance.

“Let's see what Mr. Parker is up to these days, shall we.” Ray turned back to his computer, typing slowly. The most recent picture at the top, left hand corner showed a long haired, bearded man with dark, narrow eyes.

“Armed robbery, grand theft auto and indecent exposure, it seems Mr. Parker urinated all over his boss' new Corvette.” The list of offenses went on for a quarter page. Fraser skipped the details.

“He's a bad one, but he doesn't match the Inspector's description.” Ray sighed, he'd hoped this would break the case.

“Pull up his mug shots from previous arrests, Ray.” Fraser stared at the photo, trying to mentally overlay the grainy security camera image against Austin Parker's recent mug shot.

“Here goes.” Ray used the mouse to pick out individual cases and arrests for the suspect. The first mug shot from his teen years very much resembled the security camera image.

“You're getting good at those hunches, Fraser.” Ray complimented him. The detective printed out Parker's first mug shot and his most recent. He'd aged, the soft, boyish features transforming into hard lines and crags.

“I'll show these to the Inspector in a photo line up, perhaps she can positively identify him.” Fraser hoped she could, he wanted to put the man responsible for her trauma in jail, (or a body cast).

***

Tags:

7 Disappearances

Monday Morning ….

Meg wore slacks and a blouse to work. Her ribs still ached, as did her head. She'd had a constant headache since waking up in the hospital, regardless of the pain medication the doctors had given her. She laid if off on stress.

Detective Vecchio and Fraser were still on the case. The assailant had dumped the stolen car he'd purchased gas for. The investigators deduced that he'd most likely stolen another car. They combed through all the mugging case files for the last six months for similar cases. So far they hadn't turned up anything.

The Inspector walked slowly down the hallway toward her office, briefcase in one hand and a coffee in the other. Despite doctors' orders, she'd chosen to come back to work, at least half the day. Meg hadn't slept well at all. The older woman hadn't shown up again but Meg couldn't get her out of her mind. Between the ghosts and the ongoing case, the Inspector's had a full plate.

“Good morning, Sir. How are you feeling this morning?” Fraser asked when he got to within arm's length of her. His keen blue eyes examined her closely. Meg wondered if she'd managed to cover the dark circles and bags round her eyes with make-up.

“I'm well, thank you.” Meg answered shortly. She held onto her facade tighter than ever. Fraser already knew that she saw his father's ghost, what would he say if he knew she'd seen two others?

“I see that your ribs are still giving your trouble.” Ben had had more than his fair share of injuries, he knew the posture.

“Yes, the doctor said they'll be sore and bruised for the next several weeks.” Meg sipped her coffee, trying to avoid eye contact with her subordinate officer. Fraser's intuition spooked her at times.

“Is there anything I can do for you, Sir?” Ben asked, wishing he could express what he wanted to say. He hated to see her in any kind of pain.

“No, I'm fine.” Meg answered stiffly. She wanted to ask Fraser all the questions that had kept her awake through the night. Making herself was another story.

“Fraser,” Meg began, pushing herself.

“Yes, Sir?” Ben stood stock still, wondering at the pained look on her face. Her brows drew together and she seemed to be holding her breath.

“Fraser,” she paused. “I'll only be here until after lunch.” Mentally, she kicked herself for retreating into work.

“Understood.” Ben answered, his head cocked slightly to the left.

Meg walked into her office, still angry with herself.

“What's wrong with me, Fraser would understand this sort of thing.” she muttered to herself.

“Benton never was one to believe in the supernatural, at least until lately.” Robert Fraser's voice startled the younger woman.

“Damn it!” she hissed as he stepped out of the shadows behind her desk. “Don't do that!”

“Sorry, I forget that you can see me.” Robert looked at her sheepishly. He wore his dress reds, hands behind his back. “What were you saying about Benton understanding something?” the older Mountie redirected the conversation.

“What business is it of yours?” Meg demanded indignantly, popping her fist holding her brief case on her hip

“None, I suppose.” the Mountie shrugged. His sparkling blue eyes beneath thick, white brows peered at her as if he knew something she didn't and wasn't going to tell.

“Then I suggest you exit my office, I have a week's worth of paperwork to catch up on.” Meg hitched her coffee cup toward the door behind her.

“Sheesh, only two people in the whole world can see me and neither of them will make time for a friendly chat.” Robert Fraser shook his head as he turned to walk out the door.

Meg had settled into her desk chair and gotten comfortable when she heard a tap at the door.

“Come in.” she called, her ribs reminding her not to breathe deeply. Fraser stepped through the door. His brows knit in silent concern at the perspiration on her forehead and the pain in her eyes. She'd come back to work too soon and they both knew it.

“Sir, Ray called and he would like you to come for a line up, if you feel up to it.” he stood with his hands clasped behind his back, the only way he could keep himself from reaching out to offer comfort.

“I always feel up to putting a criminal behind bars, Constable.” Meg slid herself backwards then eased to standing. She grabbed her purse from the coat tree and lead the way to the consulate car. It wasn't exactly consulate business but she'd write the miles off somehow.

The Twenty-seventh Precinct ….

Ray stood in the small room on the other side of the one way glass waiting when they arrived. He brushed lint off of his dark, pleated front slacks. Of the eight guys standing against the wall, Meg recognized seven of them as officers she'd seen around the precinct on the rare occasions she'd had to visit. None of the other three were the perpetrator.

“None of these is the man who mugged me, number three could be his brother but his eyes are wrong.” Meg shook her head, disappointed and angry.

“Damn.” Ray hissed to himself. He knew the Inspector's prediction of the next victim's death would come true.

“I had hoped the suspect would be in the line up as well Detective Vecchio.” Meg shook her head slowly. Every day that monster roamed the city the more likely he would kill someone.

“I've been going over the most recent carjackings and thefts, so far none of them match our suspect's M.O.” Fraser added gravely.

“Ah, he's probably skipped the state by now.” Ray ran his hand over his face, wishing he could wipe away the sick feeling he had in his stomach.

“Elaine has alerted neighboring states with the suspect's description.” Fraser added hopefully. He'd spent hours looking over reports of stolen cars, convenience store robberies and muggings. He couldn't get the image of Meg lying on her back behind the dumpster to leave him alone. The Mountie had to find this guy, to put him behind bars.

“The Yank doesn't know what he's doing.” Robert Fraser's voice interrupted Ben's thoughts. He hung his head before looking around. The Inspector was staring back at him.

“Will you excuse us, Detective, I need to have a word with Constable Fraser.” Meg headed toward the door, Fraser and Robert on her heels. She stopped in the hallway outside the lineup room.

“Must you always show up like that?” Meg hissed at the older officer, her dark eyes blazing.

“Listen here, you may out rank me but you should respect ...”

“Dad, the Inspector has a point, it is difficult to carry on a conversation with a ghost without unnecessary attention.” Ben packed up Meg's complaint.

A beat cop walked by the Canadians, staring at them as they stared into space, talking to someone or something he couldn't see. He shook his head as he went on his way toward the restroom. He'd heard the Canadians were different, he just didn't know how different.

Meg began rubbing her head, wishing the incessant headache would leave her alone. A skull fracture couldn't last this long, could it? She felt so old and tired suddenly.

“Should I tell Ray that we're leaving, Sir?” Fraser's voice brought Meg out of her pain.

“Yes, thank you, Constable.” she met his concerned gaze, the only one he fixed her with lately. Did she look that bad?

“I'll be back momentarily.” Fraser stepped back into the room to speak to Ray a moment, leaving Meg and his father together.

“I see that you don't like the Yank either, that's a relief.” Robert Fraser broke the silence between them.

“Detective Vecchio is a good detective, it's his personality that I'm not overly fond of.” Meg answered, rubbing her temples. “Fraser speaks highly of him though.”

“Benton has always been a good judge of character.” Robert looked thoughtfully down at his high browns.

“Sir, I'll bring the car around if you're ready to leave.” Fraser interrupted.

“Very well, Constable, I'll be at the entrance waiting.” Meg dismissed him, weary to the bone.

A few minutes later she was on her way back to the consulate. Robert Fraser had followed the younger Mounties and rode in the back seat, watching the scenery.

“Take me to my apartment, my head is killing me.” Meg ordered from the passenger seat. Fraser changed course and headed toward her apartment building.

“Have you taken your pain medication today, Sir?” He asked quietly, taking side streets to navigate traffic more quickly and smoothly.

“I don't need it, it's just a headache, I've taken extra strength acetaminophen already this morning.” Meg answered tensely. She felt as if her fractured skull were being pulled apart like a melon.

“Fraser, Stop, you'll hit him!” She screamed when they eased through a cross walk. The car came to a lurching stop in the middle of the empty street. Other drivers began honking their horns. Meg threw open her car door and rushed around the front of the consulate car. All she saw was stained, faded pavement. Empty sidewalks and an empty street lay around her in every direction.

“Sir, have you seen another apparition?” Fraser stood beside her, peering at her. She met his gaze and watched him watch her for any sign of trauma.

“I did, it was a young man, fifteen maybe, he wore a pair of black and white Converse shoes, jeans and a yellow and brown striped shirt, his hair was average brown and cut short, like yours.” Meg clasped her hands to keep them from shaking. If they shook on the outside as badly as she shook on the inside, they'd rattle off her wrists.

“The younger generation doesn't wear that sort of outfit these days, perhaps it was someone from the fifties or earlier.” Fraser theorized, scratching his brow with his left thumbnail.

“Hey, buddy, are you stalled or somethin'? It's too hot to sit here.” a delivery truck driver shouted from his cab window.

“We're sorry for the inconvenience.” Fraser took Meg by the elbow and helped her into the car before getting in himself.

“I thought we'd hit someone, you wouldn't hit anyone, you're too careful.” Meg said to herself, not really realizing she'd said anything aloud.

Fraser couldn't imagine what she was going through. The only ghost he'd seen was his father.

“Where is your father, I haven't heard him in a block or two.” Meg wondered, running her fingers through her dark hair. Perspiration dampened it as she pushed it away from her face. She would be glad to see her now cool apartment and comfortable bed.

Fraser checked the rear view mirror before answering, “He disappears without a word sometimes, it's quite a relief.” from the corner of his eye he saw a small smile pull at the corner of Meg's lips.

“I've heard he was a legendary officer.” she commented, rubbing her temples. “The last of a breed.”

“He was an exemplary officer, there are few officers of his caliber in any force.” Ben agreed, thinking back to his first few years with the Force. He'd had big shoes to fill and a day hadn't gone by that someone hadn't said, 'There's Bob Fraser's son'. It had taken a while before people recognized him for his own merit.

“Some would say that there are few officers of your caliber on any force.” Meg's voice was neutral, making Ben wonder if it were a left handed compliment or an insult. The woman perplexed him to no end.

Fraser parked the consulate car in the two story parking garage beside Meg's building. He escorted her to the apartment door. She pulled her keys from her purse and began fumbling with them. He watched her blink and feel of the keys.

“Here, it's the one with the red rubber ring.” Finally, she handed them to Fraser. He found the key on the first try and had the door open in a moment.

“Is there anything I can get for you, Sir?” Fraser offered, not knowing what to do or what she wanted him to do. He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to lead her to bed and tuck her in with a cup of calming tea and her pain medication.

“No, I'm just going to rest for the rest of the day, try it again tomorrow.” Meg hung her purse on the back of a kitchen chair and shuffled toward the refrigerator.

“Very well, Inspector, I'll be a the consulate should you need anything.” the Mountie turned to leave reluctantly.

“Please keep Turnbull from burning the place down won't you.” she turned back to him, a glass of iced tea in hand.

“Yes, Sir.” he let an amused smile pull at the corner of his lips as he played with the buckle on his Stetson.

Meg watched Fraser walk out the door and close it behind him.

“He's concerned for you you know.” Robert Fraser's voice behind Meg didn't startle her.

“Yes, I know, I'm concerned about me too.” Meg answered, sipping her tea.

“He doesn't look at the Civilian Aide or the detective's sister with concern, he doesn't have to be concerned about you.” Robert Fraser supplied nonchalantly. He'd disappeared before Meg could turn to respond.

Fraser was right, his disappearances were a relief, especially when he was right about something.

***

Tags:

6 Did You Forget Something, Dear?

Bad Dream ….

Meg lay on her back, trying to sleep. Despite the pain meds, she wasn't comfortable. As she shifted onto her side, the Inspector saw a white shape at the foot of her bed. It took a second to focus. When her vision cleared, Meg saw a young woman with a neat bun behind an old fashioned nurse's cap. She wore a white dress with puff sleeves and thick, white shoes. Her beautiful face had such a confused expression, especially in her large, doe eyes. Their eyes met for a moment and locked. The sound of the door opening pulled Meg's gaze away. When she looked back the out of place nurse had disappeared.

“Good, you're already awake.” a cheerful, older nurse greeted Meg. She wore rectangular glasses and flower print scrubs.

“Ah, did someone else come in here with you?” Meg swallowed, her throat still raw.

“Nope.” the older nurse shook her head, salt and pepper strands cut into a short, fashionable hairstyle around her thin face.

“I thought,” Meg tried to recall if the young woman had worn a name tag. “perhaps it was a student.”

“There aren't any student nurses on this floor tonight. Is everything alright?” the older nurse peered more closely at Meg before picking up her chart. She began to nod when she saw the list of medicines they'd given her earlier.

“I guess I was dreaming.” Meg took a deep, calming breath, leaning back against the head of the bed.

“Yes, pain meds will do that.” the nurse began taking Meg's vitals; listening to her heart, taking her pulse and temperature. When she finished, she asked if there was anything her charge needed.

“No, I'm fine, I just need to rest.” Meg pasted on a diplomatic smile. She wasn't so sure the pain medication had caused what she'd seen. It didn't explain the dream she's had of standing at the foot of her own hospital bed with Fraser and his father. Meg could still see the small cabin Robert had called Borderland.

“I've suffered a major head injury and I'm on strong pain medication, everything is fine.” Meg told herself as she turned on the television to distract herself.

Twenty-seventh Precinct ….

Fraser had stopped in at the consulate shortly after six and left Turnbull a note. The Mountie and Diefenbaker had walked, enjoying the coolest part of the day while they could. Ben bought them each a bear claw, and himself a large cup of tea. He walked into the bull pen a little after seven. The scent of humanity filled his nostrils. Chicago was definitely better smelling during the winter freeze over. Sweat, bad cologne and cigars permeated the space.

“Hello, Fraser.” Elaine greeted him with practiced insouciance. The Mountie noted the way her eyes widened and her voice rose a fraction. She couldn't hide her attraction to him but she didn't make as much fuss over him as most women, thankfully.

“Good morning, Elaine, has Detective Vecchio arrived yet?” Fraser paused, keeping Dief in the corner of his eye. The wolf went from desk to desk, begging for sweets.

“Yes, he's in Welsh's office, the door's open, that's a good sign.” Elaine pointed one finger toward the Lieutenant's office.

“Thank you kindly, Elaine.” Fraser nodded before turning to leave.

“You're welcome, Fraser.” the dark skinned beauty watched him leave.

Fraser rapped on the door frame to announce his presence.

“Good morning, Constable, what brings you here so early?” Lt. Welsh waved him inside with one, beefy hand.

“I came to update Detective Vecchio on the Inspector's improving health. She awoke late yesterday evening. I'm on my way to visit right now.” Fraser delivered the report as succinctly as possible.

“Great, think she'd be up for questions?” Ray asked, relieved to hear she'd woken up. That meant this case would be out of his hair sooner.

“I'm not certain, Ray, the Inspector has been prescribed heavy pain medication.” Fraser answered truthfully.

“Detective, why don't you take the Constable here down to the hospital and see about Inspector Thatcher for yourself.” Welsh recommended. He didn't want the Canadians to think he wasn't doing his best work on this case.

“Will do, Sir, I'm on my way right now.” Ray turned and left the office.

“Thank you, Leftenant.” Fraser nodded briefly before turning to leave as well. He and Dief caught up to Ray at the Riviera.

“Here we go, into the dragon's lair.” Ray groused, sliding into the emerald green classic.

“Ray.” Fraser growled, “I know that the Inspector isn't your favorite person, but she has been the victim of a viscous mugging. If I hadn't found her this would be a murder investigation.” the Mountie reminded him.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm glad she's okay. Let's go see what she can remember.” the detective fired up the engine of his beloved Riviera and backed out of the parking space.

Room 203 ….

Meg hoped the knock on the door was Fraser coming to visit. She desperately wanted good coffee and a breakfast bagel. She'd had enough hospital food.

“Come in.” she croaked.

The door opened and in walked her favorite Mountie and her least favorite American detective.

“Good morning, Inspector.” Fraser greeted her, taking his Stetson off and laying it on the window sill.

“Hello, Constable Fraser, Detective.” Meg pulled the hospital blanket up closer to her chest.

“Is there anything that I can get for you, Sir?” Fraser knew the answer already. Meg dispatched him with her breakfast order almost before he finished speaking.

After Fraser exited the room, it left Meg and the Detective alone together. They stared at each other for a moment, sizing up opponents. Ray looked away first.

“Do you have any updates on the case, have you arrested the thief yet?” Meg spoke first, getting down to business. Her dark eyes narrowed and surveyed the detective critically.

“No, no arrests yet, but we have a print out of his face in every cruiser in the state.” Ray informed her calmly.

“From security camera footage?” Meg asked.

“Yeah, a gas station along the highway.” Ray answered, feeling ill at ease.

“I assume the vehicle's license plate came back for a stolen car.” The Inspector pushed a strand of dark hair behind one ear, her eyes finally shifting away from Ray.

“Yeah, the thief hit the car's owner over the head and took his keys outside a convenience store two weeks ago. The victim never saw his face.” Ray referred to his notebook just to avoid eye contact.

“The thief is escalating his crimes, the next time he robs someone there will most likely be a fatality.”

Ray hid his new found respect for the sour Canadian well. She'd put the pattern together quicker than Fraser. Of course Fraser was distracted and the Inspector was personally motivated.

“Yeah, I was hoping you'd be able to give us a better description of this guy, the security camera footage is grainy.” Ray and Meg's gazes both turned to the tap on the door a moment before Fraser let himself inside.

“I'm sorry for the delay, here is your coffee and bagel, Sir.” Fraser set a cup container and a brown paper bag on the rolling tray at the side of Meg's bed. He'd even remembered to bring paper napkins.

“Thank you, Constable. Hospital food is deplorable.” That was one statement that all three could agree on.

“I'll send a sketch artist by this afternoon, Inspector.” Ray informed her as she bit into a bacon and cream cheese laden bagel. Meg simply nodded, not really caring.

“The assailant was about Fraser's height but stockier built, muscular, he had dark, thinning, slicked back hair pulled into a short ponytail. His eyes were dark, I'm not certain of their color. His hands were square and calloused as well as greasy. I would say he works in mechanics, cars, trucks, boats maybe. He wore a gray, sleeveless shirt, light colored denim jeans and black boots of some kind. I didn't see any scars or tattoos. He came at me from the side, grabbed me around the shoulders, forced me toward the alley and hit me on the head. I didn't have time to fight back.” Meg felt her attacker's hot breath on the side of her face again and shuddered.

“You have a keen memory, Inspector.” Ben wanted to sit down on the side of the bed, take her hand and tell her everything would be alright. Nothing about that urge was appropriate.

“Hind sight is 20/20.” Meg agreed bitterly, her head throbbing and her throat protesting all the talking she'd done.

A tap at the door brought the conversation to an end. Dr. Caldwell and an understudy walked timidly into the room.

“Good morning, Mrs. Thatcher, Constable Fraser.” Dr. Caldwell looked from her patient to the red clad officer at the foot of her bed.

“Dr. Caldwell, this is Detective Vecchio, he's handling the mugging case.” Fraser introduced Ray quickly. The doctor introduced her intern but no one really paid the fresh faced student much attention.

“A little harder blow to the head and it would be a murder investigation. Mrs. Thatcher is very luck.” the doctor looked from Meg finishing her bagel to the slouching detective. For a second Ray thought he saw an 'I told you so' expression on Fraser's face.

“I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you gentlemen to step outside, just until I'm finished with Mrs. Thatcher.” Dr. Caldwell gave them an apologetic smile as she hitched her thumb toward the door.

“They were just on their way anyway, Doctor.” Meg had finished her breakfast and sat brushing crumbs off her gown.

“Yeah, we were headin' out.” Ray started edging toward the door, Fraser following him.

“You have Ray's cellular phone number should you need me, Inspector.” Fraser pointed toward a slip of paper he'd left on the nightstand. Thatcher shooed him out the door with one hand and an annoyed glare.

****

Tags:

6 Did You Forget Something, Dear?

Bad Dream ….

Meg lay on her back, trying to sleep. Despite the pain meds, she wasn't comfortable. As she shifted onto her side, the Inspector saw a white shape at the foot of her bed. It took a second to focus. When her vision cleared, Meg saw a young woman with a neat bun behind an old fashioned nurse's cap. She wore a white dress with puff sleeves and thick, white shoes. Her beautiful face had such a confused expression, especially in her large, doe eyes. Their eyes met for a moment and locked. The sound of the door opening pulled Meg's gaze away. When she looked back the out of place nurse had disappeared.

“Good, you're already awake.” a cheerful, older nurse greeted Meg. She wore rectangular glasses and flower print scrubs.

“Ah, did someone else come in here with you?” Meg swallowed, her throat still raw.

“Nope.” the older nurse shook her head, salt and pepper strands cut into a short, fashionable hairstyle around her thin face.

“I thought,” Meg tried to recall if the young woman had worn a name tag. “perhaps it was a student.”

“There aren't any student nurses on this floor tonight. Is everything alright?” the older nurse peered more closely at Meg before picking up her chart. She began to nod when she saw the list of medicines they'd given her earlier.

“I guess I was dreaming.” Meg took a deep, calming breath, leaning back against the head of the bed.

“Yes, pain meds will do that.” the nurse began taking Meg's vitals; listening to her heart, taking her pulse and temperature. When she finished, she asked if there was anything her charge needed.

“No, I'm fine, I just need to rest.” Meg pasted on a diplomatic smile. She wasn't so sure the pain medication had caused what she'd seen. It didn't explain the dream she's had of standing at the foot of her own hospital bed with Fraser and his father. Meg could still see the small cabin Robert had called Borderland.

“I've suffered a major head injury and I'm on strong pain medication, everything is fine.” Meg told herself as she turned on the television to distract herself.

Twenty-seventh Precinct ….

Fraser had stopped in at the consulate shortly after six and left Turnbull a note. The Mountie and Diefenbaker had walked, enjoying the coolest part of the day while they could. Ben bought them each a bear claw, and himself a large cup of tea. He walked into the bull pen a little after seven. The scent of humanity filled his nostrils. Chicago was definitely better smelling during the winter freeze over. Sweat, bad cologne and cigars permeated the space.

“Hello, Fraser.” Elaine greeted him with practiced insouciance. The Mountie noted the way her eyes widened and her voice rose a fraction. She couldn't hide her attraction to him but she didn't make as much fuss over him as most women, thankfully.

“Good morning, Elaine, has Detective Vecchio arrived yet?” Fraser paused, keeping Dief in the corner of his eye. The wolf went from desk to desk, begging for sweets.

“Yes, he's in Welsh's office, the door's open, that's a good sign.” Elaine pointed one finger toward the Lieutenant's office.

“Thank you kindly, Elaine.” Fraser nodded before turning to leave.

“You're welcome, Fraser.” the dark skinned beauty watched him leave.

Fraser rapped on the door frame to announce his presence.

“Good morning, Constable, what brings you here so early?” Lt. Welsh waved him inside with one, beefy hand.

“I came to update Detective Vecchio on the Inspector's improving health. She awoke late yesterday evening. I'm on my way to visit right now.” Fraser delivered the report as succinctly as possible.

“Great, think she'd be up for questions?” Ray asked, relieved to hear she'd woken up. That meant this case would be out of his hair sooner.

“I'm not certain, Ray, the Inspector has been prescribed heavy pain medication.” Fraser answered truthfully.

“Detective, why don't you take the Constable here down to the hospital and see about Inspector Thatcher for yourself.” Welsh recommended. He didn't want the Canadians to think he wasn't doing his best work on this case.

“Will do, Sir, I'm on my way right now.” Ray turned and left the office.

“Thank you, Leftenant.” Fraser nodded briefly before turning to leave as well. He and Dief caught up to Ray at the Riviera.

“Here we go, into the dragon's lair.” Ray groused, sliding into the emerald green classic.

“Ray.” Fraser growled, “I know that the Inspector isn't your favorite person, but she has been the victim of a viscous mugging. If I hadn't found her this would be a murder investigation.” the Mountie reminded him.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm glad she's okay. Let's go see what she can remember.” the detective fired up the engine of his beloved Riviera and backed out of the parking space.

Room 203 ….

Meg hoped the knock on the door was Fraser coming to visit. She desperately wanted good coffee and a breakfast bagel. She'd had enough hospital food.

“Come in.” she croaked.

The door opened and in walked her favorite Mountie and her least favorite American detective.

“Good morning, Inspector.” Fraser greeted her, taking his Stetson off and laying it on the window sill.

“Hello, Constable Fraser, Detective.” Meg pulled the hospital blanket up closer to her chest.

“Is there anything that I can get for you, Sir?” Fraser knew the answer already. Meg dispatched him with her breakfast order almost before he finished speaking.

After Fraser exited the room, it left Meg and the Detective alone together. They stared at each other for a moment, sizing up opponents. Ray looked away first.

“Do you have any updates on the case, have you arrested the thief yet?” Meg spoke first, getting down to business. Her dark eyes narrowed and surveyed the detective critically.

“No, no arrests yet, but we have a print out of his face in every cruiser in the state.” Ray informed her calmly.

“From security camera footage?” Meg asked.

“Yeah, a gas station along the highway.” Ray answered, feeling ill at ease.

“I assume the vehicle's license plate came back for a stolen car.” The Inspector pushed a strand of dark hair behind one ear, her eyes finally shifting away from Ray.

“Yeah, the thief hit the car's owner over the head and took his keys outside a convenience store two weeks ago. The victim never saw his face.” Ray referred to his notebook just to avoid eye contact.

“The thief is escalating his crimes, the next time he robs someone there will most likely be a fatality.”

Ray hid his new found respect for the sour Canadian well. She'd put the pattern together quicker than Fraser. Of course Fraser was distracted and the Inspector was personally motivated.

“Yeah, I was hoping you'd be able to give us a better description of this guy, the security camera footage is grainy.” Ray and Meg's gazes both turned to the tap on the door a moment before Fraser let himself inside.

“I'm sorry for the delay, here is your coffee and bagel, Sir.” Fraser set a cup container and a brown paper bag on the rolling tray at the side of Meg's bed. He'd even remembered to bring paper napkins.

“Thank you, Constable. Hospital food is deplorable.” That was one statement that all three could agree on.

“I'll send a sketch artist by this afternoon, Inspector.” Ray informed her as she bit into a bacon and cream cheese laden bagel. Meg simply nodded, not really caring.

“The assailant was about Fraser's height but stockier built, muscular, he had dark, thinning, slicked back hair pulled into a short ponytail. His eyes were dark, I'm not certain of their color. His hands were square and calloused as well as greasy. I would say he works in mechanics, cars, trucks, boats maybe. He wore a gray, sleeveless shirt, light colored denim jeans and black boots of some kind. I didn't see any scars or tattoos. He came at me from the side, grabbed me around the shoulders, forced me toward the alley and hit me on the head. I didn't have time to fight back.” Meg felt her attacker's hot breath on the side of her face again and shuddered.

“You have a keen memory, Inspector.” Ben wanted to sit down on the side of the bed, take her hand and tell her everything would be alright. Nothing about that urge was appropriate.

“Hind sight is 20/20.” Meg agreed bitterly, her head throbbing and her throat protesting all the talking she'd done.

A tap at the door brought the conversation to an end. Dr. Caldwell and an understudy walked timidly into the room.

“Good morning, Mrs. Thatcher, Constable Fraser.” Dr. Caldwell looked from her patient to the red clad officer at the foot of her bed.

“Dr. Caldwell, this is Detective Vecchio, he's handling the mugging case.” Fraser introduced Ray quickly. The doctor introduced her intern but no one really paid the fresh faced student much attention.

“A little harder blow to the head and it would be a murder investigation. Mrs. Thatcher is very luck.” the doctor looked from Meg finishing her bagel to the slouching detective. For a second Ray thought he saw an 'I told you so' expression on Fraser's face.

“I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you gentlemen to step outside, just until I'm finished with Mrs. Thatcher.” Dr. Caldwell gave them an apologetic smile as she hitched her thumb toward the door.

“They were just on their way anyway, Doctor.” Meg had finished her breakfast and sat brushing crumbs off her gown.

“Yeah, we were headin' out.” Ray started edging toward the door, Fraser following him.

“You have Ray's cellular phone number should you need me, Inspector.” Fraser pointed toward a slip of paper he'd left on the nightstand. Thatcher shooed him out the door with one hand and an annoyed glare.

****

Tags:

5 Bad Dream

Bad Dream ….

Meg lay on her back, trying to sleep. Despite the pain meds, she wasn't comfortable. As she shifted onto her side, the Inspector saw a white shape at the foot of her bed. It took a second to focus. When her vision cleared, Meg saw a young woman with a neat bun behind an old fashioned nurse's cap. She wore a white dress with puff sleeves and thick, white shoes. Her beautiful face had such a confused expression, especially in her large, doe eyes. Their eyes met for a moment and locked. The sound of the door opening pulled Meg's gaze away. When she looked back the out of place nurse had disappeared.

“Good, you're already awake.” a cheerful, older nurse greeted Meg. She wore rectangular glasses and flower print scrubs.

“Ah, did someone else come in here with you?” Meg swallowed, her throat still raw.

“Nope.” the older nurse shook her head, salt and pepper strands cut into a short, fashionable hairstyle around her thin face.

“I thought,” Meg tried to recall if the young woman had worn a name tag. “perhaps it was a student.”

“There aren't any student nurses on this floor tonight. Is everything alright?” the older nurse peered more closely at Meg before picking up her chart. She began to nod when she saw the list of medicines they'd given her earlier.

“I guess I was dreaming.” Meg took a deep, calming breath, leaning back against the head of the bed.

“Yes, pain meds will do that.” the nurse began taking Meg's vitals; listening to her heart, taking her pulse and temperature. When she finished, she asked if there was anything her charge needed.

“No, I'm fine, I just need to rest.” Meg pasted on a diplomatic smile. She wasn't so sure the pain medication had caused what she'd seen. It didn't explain the dream she's had of standing at the foot of her own hospital bed with Fraser and his father. Meg could still see the small cabin Robert had called Borderland.

“I've suffered a major head injury and I'm on strong pain medication, everything is fine.” Meg told herself as she turned on the television to distract herself.

Twenty-seventh Precinct ….

Fraser had stopped in at the consulate shortly after six and left Turnbull a note. The Mountie and Diefenbaker had walked, enjoying the coolest part of the day while they could. Ben bought them each a bear claw, and himself a large cup of tea. He walked into the bull pen a little after seven. The scent of humanity filled his nostrils. Chicago was definitely better smelling during the winter freeze over. Sweat, bad cologne and cigars permeated the space.

“Hello, Fraser.” Elaine greeted him with practiced insouciance. The Mountie noted the way her eyes widened and her voice rose a fraction. She couldn't hide her attraction to him but she didn't make as much fuss over him as most women, thankfully.

“Good morning, Elaine, has Detective Vecchio arrived yet?” Fraser paused, keeping Dief in the corner of his eye. The wolf went from desk to desk, begging for sweets.

“Yes, he's in Welsh's office, the door's open, that's a good sign.” Elaine pointed one finger toward the Lieutenant's office.

“Thank you kindly, Elaine.” Fraser nodded before turning to leave.

“You're welcome, Fraser.” the dark skinned beauty watched him leave.

Fraser rapped on the door frame to announce his presence.

“Good morning, Constable, what brings you here so early?” Lt. Welsh waved him inside with one, beefy hand.

“I came to update Detective Vecchio on the Inspector's improving health. She awoke late yesterday evening. I'm on my way to visit right now.” Fraser delivered the report as succinctly as possible.

“Great, think she'd be up for questions?” Ray asked, relieved to hear she'd woken up. That meant this case would be out of his hair sooner.

“I'm not certain, Ray, the Inspector has been prescribed heavy pain medication.” Fraser answered truthfully.

“Detective, why don't you take the Constable here down to the hospital and see about Inspector Thatcher for yourself.” Welsh recommended. He didn't want the Canadians to think he wasn't doing his best work on this case.

“Will do, Sir, I'm on my way right now.” Ray turned and left the office.

“Thank you, Leftenant.” Fraser nodded briefly before turning to leave as well. He and Dief caught up to Ray at the Riviera.

“Here we go, into the dragon's lair.” Ray groused, sliding into the emerald green classic.

“Ray.” Fraser growled, “I know that the Inspector isn't your favorite person, but she has been the victim of a viscous mugging. If I hadn't found her this would be a murder investigation.” the Mountie reminded him.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm glad she's okay. Let's go see what she can remember.” the detective fired up the engine of his beloved Riviera and backed out of the parking space.

Room 203 ….

Meg hoped the knock on the door was Fraser coming to visit. She desperately wanted good coffee and a breakfast bagel. She'd had enough hospital food.

“Come in.” she croaked.

The door opened and in walked her favorite Mountie and her least favorite American detective.

“Good morning, Inspector.” Fraser greeted her, taking his Stetson off and laying it on the window sill.

“Hello, Constable Fraser, Detective.” Meg pulled the hospital blanket up closer to her chest.

“Is there anything that I can get for you, Sir?” Fraser knew the answer already. Meg dispatched him with her breakfast order almost before he finished speaking.

After Fraser exited the room, it left Meg and the Detective alone together. They stared at each other for a moment, sizing up opponents. Ray looked away first.

“Do you have any updates on the case, have you arrested the thief yet?” Meg spoke first, getting down to business. Her dark eyes narrowed and surveyed the detective critically.

“No, no arrests yet, but we have a print out of his face in every cruiser in the state.” Ray informed her calmly.

“From security camera footage?” Meg asked.

“Yeah, a gas station along the highway.” Ray answered, feeling ill at ease.

“I assume the vehicle's license plate came back for a stolen car.” The Inspector pushed a strand of dark hair behind one ear, her eyes finally shifting away from Ray.

“Yeah, the thief hit the car's owner over the head and took his keys outside a convenience store two weeks ago. The victim never saw his face.” Ray referred to his notebook just to avoid eye contact.

“The thief is escalating his crimes, the next time he robs someone there will most likely be a fatality.”

Ray hid his new found respect for the sour Canadian well. She'd put the pattern together quicker than Fraser. Of course Fraser was distracted and the Inspector was personally motivated.

“Yeah, I was hoping you'd be able to give us a better description of this guy, the security camera footage is grainy.” Ray and Meg's gazes both turned to the tap on the door a moment before Fraser let himself inside.

“I'm sorry for the delay, here is your coffee and bagel, Sir.” Fraser set a cup container and a brown paper bag on the rolling tray at the side of Meg's bed. He'd even remembered to bring paper napkins.

“Thank you, Constable. Hospital food is deplorable.” That was one statement that all three could agree on.

“I'll send a sketch artist by this afternoon, Inspector.” Ray informed her as she bit into a bacon and cream cheese laden bagel. Meg simply nodded, not really caring.

“The assailant was about Fraser's height but stockier built, muscular, he had dark, thinning, slicked back hair pulled into a short ponytail. His eyes were dark, I'm not certain of their color. His hands were square and calloused as well as greasy. I would say he works in mechanics, cars, trucks, boats maybe. He wore a gray, sleeveless shirt, light colored denim jeans and black boots of some kind. I didn't see any scars or tattoos. He came at me from the side, grabbed me around the shoulders, forced me toward the alley and hit me on the head. I didn't have time to fight back.” Meg felt her attacker's hot breath on the side of her face again and shuddered.

“You have a keen memory, Inspector.” Ben wanted to sit down on the side of the bed, take her hand and tell her everything would be alright. Nothing about that urge was appropriate.

“Hind sight is 20/20.” Meg agreed bitterly, her head throbbing and her throat protesting all the talking she'd done.

A tap at the door brought the conversation to an end. Dr. Caldwell and an understudy walked timidly into the room.

“Good morning, Mrs. Thatcher, Constable Fraser.” Dr. Caldwell looked from her patient to the red clad officer at the foot of her bed.

“Dr. Caldwell, this is Detective Vecchio, he's handling the mugging case.” Fraser introduced Ray quickly. The doctor introduced her intern but no one really paid the fresh faced student much attention.

“A little harder blow to the head and it would be a murder investigation. Mrs. Thatcher is very luck.” the doctor looked from Meg finishing her bagel to the slouching detective. For a second Ray thought he saw an 'I told you so' expression on Fraser's face.

“I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you gentlemen to step outside, just until I'm finished with Mrs. Thatcher.” Dr. Caldwell gave them an apologetic smile as she hitched her thumb toward the door.

“They were just on their way anyway, Doctor.” Meg had finished her breakfast and sat brushing crumbs off her gown.

“Yeah, we were headin' out.” Ray started edging toward the door, Fraser following him.

“You have Ray's cellular phone number should you need me, Inspector.” Fraser pointed toward a slip of paper he'd left on the nightstand. Thatcher shooed him out the door with one hand and an annoyed glare.

****

Tags:

4 Reconnection

AN- Inspired by my favorite Reese Witherspoon movie “Just Like Heaven”.

The Next Day ….

The consulate ceased to hum with activity about six o'clock the day after the Inspector's mugging. Fraser had gone straight from chasing leads with Ray to duty at the consulate. As the deputy liaison, he had to pick up the slack. Diefenbaker took the opportunity to sleep in under the Mountie's desk through the morning. By quitting time, Ben was ready to curl up and take a nap too but decided it would be more effective to visit the Inspector.

Dr. Janet Caldwell, a fresh, young doctor still paying her dues, greeted him at the door. She pushed her wire rimmed glasses up with the back of her hand. It had been a long shift and she was just finishing her rounds. Her burnished, ebony skin glowed in the florescent lighting overhead. She kept her hair short and fuss free.

“How is she, Dr. Caldwell?” Ben held his Stetson in hand, his light eyes searching her face for truth.

“Ms. Thatcher is stable but still unconscious.” Her tone was neutral.

Ben listened intently as she went into more detail, none of which told him when she would wake up

“Is there anything I can do?” Ben asked, knowing the answer.

“Visiting and talking to her is always a good idea.” Dr. Caldwell gave him an encouraging smile.

“Thank you kindly, Doctor.” Ben shook her hand politely.

“You're welcome, Constable.” Dr. Caldwell stepped back out into the hallway to continue her rounds.

Ben took a seat in the hard, plastic chair beside Meg's bedside. He heard snatches of conversations out in the hallways, television programs, and patient buzzers calling for attention. Acidic, poorly disguised disinfectant had recently been used in the room. Not a single get-well card or flower sat in the room.

“I should have stopped and bought you a bouquet before visiting.” Fraser spoke, wondering what her favorite flower would be. “You once said you don't like perfume, perhaps you don't like flowers either.” The Mountie studied his high browns for a moment, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“I've never heard of a woman that didn't like flowers.” Robert Fraser's voice spoke from the darkened corner of the hospital room.

“Hello, Dad.” Ben greeted him, lifting his head to see his father. The old man wore his dress uniform, his Stetson cut flat across the back, just the way he'd looked the final time Ben had seen his corporeal body.

Meg looked down to see herself also dressed in full dress reds. “This isn't what I was wearing a moment ago.” She lifted her arms out to see her hands, her nails were also painted a soft, matching red.

“What happened to her, Son?” Robert asked, standing at parade rest at the foot of Meg's bed. The younger officer came to stand beside him, looking down at herself.

“He's been able to see you all this time?” Meg inquired incredulously.

“Yes, he just said hello didn't he?” Robert turned to her.

“Who are you talking to, Dad?” Ben asked, searching the room. Nothing had changed in the slightest.

“Why, the Inspector, Son.” Robert gestured to the woman standing beside him.

“Inspector Thatcher is lying right here, Dad.” Ben stood up, perplexed.

“Yes, she is, but she's also standing beside me.”

Ben walked around the foot of the bed twice before doing a pirouette to look around the room again.

“I think you're confused, Dad, Inspector Thatcher isn't dead, she can't be where you are.” Ben ran a finger behind his ear before pulling on the lobe.

“Well she is, and she won't hush.” Robert Fraser narrowed his eyes at the younger woman.

“I've finally gone over the edge.” Ben shook his head, tapping it against the heel of his hand.

“The Inspector rolled her eyes and called you a moron.” Robert relayed.

Ben heard a peculiar whisper as he stared at his boots again. The voice was familiar but faint.

“Did the Inspector say something else?” Ben peered closer at the space beside his father, trying to imagine Inspector Thatcher standing there. With her lying there in a hospital bed, it was difficult.

“Yes, she's asking what happened, why she's in the hospital.” Robert didn't have to finish, Ben heard Margaret a moment before her image became clear to him.

“She was mugged Saturday afternoon, I found her, ah, you, on my way to the consulate.” Ben addressed her himself, standing at parade rest.

“Have there been any leads, who's on the case?” Meg demanded, going into Inspector mode.

“Detective Vecchio and I are on the case. There's been activity on your credit card, we're in the process of tracking down the thief.” Ben answered calmly.

“Great, I'll have to cancel my card and replace all my identification.” Meg growled, already making a mental to-do list for Turnbull as soon as she woke up.

“At the moment I'm more concerned with your well being, Sir. Doctors are still determining the reason behind the coma.” Ben informed her.

“Yes, well,” Meg didn't have anything to say. She pulled on the hem of her serge tunic, looking at her body lying in the hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and wires.

“Perhaps if you tried to connect your spirit to your body again.” Robert Fraser offered, hoping to get the Inspector out of his Borderland cabin. Ben lifted an approving brow but remained silent.

“It's worth a try.” Meg took a deep breath and sat down beside her body. Slowly, she eased back, her image melting into her flesh. It was a unique feeling, reattaching herself to her body. Meg felt a temperature change and a heaviness in her limbs as she sank farther and farther into her body. When she felt pain, she almost pulled free of her body. Her ribs ached, her mouth was dry and her head felt like an anvil had been dropped on it.

Ben and Robert watched as the monitors began changing, noting her rise in breathing and heart rate. A moment later the Inspector began to cough and thrash in her bed. Ben went out in the hallway to flag down a nurse. Dr. Caldwell and three nurses came rushing into the room.

“I'm sorry, Sir, but you'll have to leave for now, if you'll have a seat in the waiting area someone will come out to speak to you.” one of the nurses herded Ben out the door and down the hallway. Robert Fraser reappeared as soon as the nursed turned to leave.

“How's she doing, Dad?” Ben whispered, looking down the hallway to the open door.

“She'll be fine, she's tough.” Robert shrugged, glad to have Meg out of his hair. He saw the reason behind his son's attraction to her, but since she wasn't Caroline, he didn't really care.

Two Hours Later ….

Dr. Caldwell came into the waiting room looking tired. Her shift had ended an hour ago, but Meg's awakening had delayed getting home to a bowl of ice cream and a long shower.

“Constable Fraser, she's ready to see you now.” She noted how the Mountie's eyes lit up but his face remained neutral. His eyes betrayed his feelings for the woman.

“What's her prognosis?” Fraser asked. He needed to know to inform Ray and his superiors in Ottawa. They'd already been pressuring Fraser to let them send a replacement. He feared they'd reassign her if they sent someone else. He assured them her absence was temporary and that her recovery would be quick.

“We have more tests to run, but she's on the road to recovery. I'd appreciate it if you'd keep your visit short. She needs the rest.” Dr. Caldwell smiled, fiddling with candy papers in her lab coat pockets.

“Thank you, Dr. Caldwell, I will.” Ben walked into the Inspector's room, relief written on his face.

“Inspector Thatcher, how are you feeling?” Fraser stood at the foot of her bed, Stetson tucked under his arm.

“I've been better, Constable Fraser.” Meg's voice sounded harsh and her throat felt raw. She still had an oxygen tube under her nose and a half dozen monitors hooked up.

“I'm pleased to hear that.” What Ben really wondered was if she remembered seeing his father and spending time in Borderland.

“I had the strangest dream while I was out, I woke up in a northern forest, there was a cabin and inside I met your father, at least I think it was him. Somehow we ended up here, in the hospital together. We were both talking to you.” Meg wiped her eyes, her head still pounding despite the pain medication the doctor had given her.

Ben balked at telling her it wasn't a dream. He didn't want to aggravate her recovery in any way.

“The mind is an uncharted territory.” He left his response vague.

“Yes, it is.” Meg agreed, watching Fraser's mask settle into place.

“I should go, the doctor asked that I kept my visit short. Is there anything you need before I go?” Ben offered, expecting a full to-do list.

“No, I'm fine, just tired. I'll see you tomorrow, after you report to the consulate.” Meg coughed after that sentence, making her head hurt worse. Ben poured her a glass of ice water and handed it to her, his brows drawn together in concern.

“Thank you, Constable, dismissed.” Meg relieved him of duty before laying back against the raised head of the bed.

“Good night, Sir.” Fraser nodded to her and exited the hospital room. He had a dozen things to do anyway.

****

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3 Lead

At the Hour of Our Death

After Hours ….

Ben sat in the shadow of the private, hospital room, listening to the steady rhythm of Meg's ventilator. He'd been sitting beside her still form since night fall. She hadn't moved, hadn't made a sound. He wasn't use to the Inspector being so quiet, so motionless. He wished she'd sit up and tell him he was being a moron, that there were things to be done. Ben would have gladly run errands for her, just to know she was better.

“What were you doing outside the consulate on a Saturday? Why weren't you at home?” Ben whispered, speaking for the first time in hours. “Why wasn't I there?” he asked himself as much as the Inspector. He knew that he shouldn't blame himself, yet he did.

Softly, Ben slipped his hand beneath Thatcher's, her small, slim hand swallowed by his large, rough one. He'd felt her hands before, holding onto his waist as they rode horseback. She was stronger than she looked.

“You are stronger than you look, Inspector. You keep your true beauty behind a mask. I've seen you smile, I've heard you laugh, I've witnessed your passion. Come back, allow me one more glimpse behind the mask. Let me see your inner beauty again.” With the touch of an angel, Ben pressed a kiss to her palm and closed her fingers around it.

A tap on the door brought Ben back to the present. He laid her hand down and stood up, taking a deep breath first. Quietly, he opened the door to Ray. They stepped out into the hallway to talk.

“I just got a hit on one of Thatcher's credit cards, someone used it at a gas station along the highway.” Ray handed Ben a freshly printed sheet with the store's name and address listed.

“That's excellent.” Ben ran his thumbnail over his brow, debating on whether or not to accompany Ray to the gas station. He didn't feel right leaving the Inspector alone.

“Come on, if we hurry the station attendant might still be on duty.” Ray was chomping at the bit to catch the perp. From the way Thatcher's skull had been fractured, her ribs cracked from being kicked and her arm sprained from being twisted up behind her back, this guy was a real beast. It was a miracle she hadn't died before Fraser found her.

“Just a moment, Ray, let me find Inspector Thatcher's nurse.” The Mountie found the middle aged nurse and gave her Ray's cell phone number, just in case. He thanked her kindly and met Ray at the end of the hallway.

***

Red light on the emerald hood of the Riviera turned it a shade of murky brown that reminded Ben of the blood on his hands at the scene of Thatcher's mugging. No, attempted murder, that's what Ray planned on charging the assailant with when, when, he caught him.

In his head, Ben still sat at Thatcher's bedside when they pulled up to the gas station. The car stopped and Diefenbaker moved to be let out behind Ben before the Mountie moved. White and red, neon signs lit the small gas station still open at one o'clock in the morning. A bleary eyed woman about thirty greeted the fashionably dressed detective and the Mountie in full, red serge uniform. She ran her fingers through her short, brunette hair and smiled invitingly.

“How may I help you?” she leaned forward, a red badge spelling her name as 'Tori'. Ray pulled out his badge and held it for her to see clearly.

“I'm Detective Vecchio, this is Constable Fraser, our computers say someone used a credit card here about forty-five minutes ago, we'd like to see your security camera footage.” Ray leaned on the counter between a beef jerky display on his left and scratch-off lottery tickets on the right.

“This way.” Tori pointed over her shoulder to the manager's office. It was a small space, barely large enough for a desk and roller chair.

“Look, I'm here alone, Bobbi went home sick at eleven, can you do this without me?” Tori looked from American cop to Canadian cop.

“Yeah, sure, no problem.” Ray shrugged.

“Thank you kindly, Toni.” Fraser gave her a polite smile, which put a dreamy look in her eye.

“I'll be out front if you need anything.” she shrugged, her loose, red shirt and black slacks hiding much of her average figure. Ben and Ray got down to business, rolling back the feed and making a copy of the pertinent time periods. Ben studied the camera carefully, trying to identify the mugger, making his face real in his mind. He wanted to recognize him immediately so that he wouldn't get past him somehow.

“There's that SOB.” Ray hit the pause button on a frame. The time stamp of the credit card hit and the video matched perfectly. The suspect stood approximately six foot two inches, heavy bodied with a slick shaven head wearing jeans, a tee shirt and work boots. The overhead lights gleamed on his pale head.

“What's he driving?” Ben pointed to one of the small screens in the corner of the television. Staring directly down the aisles between the pumps, the camera captured license plate numbers quite well. Ray replayed the suspect arriving at pump number four, the one farthest away from the store. He drove a rusty, limping Oldsmobile with Illinois plates. They watched him walk into the store, choose a beer from the cooler and pre-pay twenty dollars worth of gas, swiping the Inspector's credit card without flinching.

“Okay, let's get this out on the wire, I'll call the station, you make a copy of all this, okay, Fraser?” Ray asked, looking nearly straight up at the Mountie peering intently at the security footage. He asked twice before waving his hand in front of Ben's face. “Earth to Fraser.”

“Hmm, sorry, Ray. From the amount of fuel the suspect purchased and the condition of the car, it isn't in very good mechanical shape, he will have to stop for more fuel soon.” Ben nodded resolutely, his eyes hard as diamonds.

“And when he does, we'll be around to catch him.” Ray stood up and began dialing the Twenty-seventh Precinct.

“Perhaps more than catch him.” Ben amended silently.

***

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