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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.

***

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