“Two more weeks! That's totally unacceptable!” Inspector Meg Thatcher slammed the telephone down and sighed.
Constable Benton Fraser stuck his head nervously around the door of her office at the Canadian Consulate in Chicago. “Is there a problem, Sir?” Of course he knew exactly what the problem was. He'd been standing outside the office of his superior officer for the last five minutes listening to her berate the poor girl on the other end of the line. He placed his completed 8841C reports on the Inspector's desk.
“Fraser, they told me they'd be finished by the day after tomorrow,” replied Meg, still fuming and getting to her feet, “how long does it take to redecorate an apartment?” She waved her hands in the air in despair.
“Sir, if you don't mind me saying, it's not simply a case of redecorating,” Fraser pointed out, gingerly, “they need to ensure that the walls of your apartment are completely dry. When that pipe burst...”
“I do realise that Fraser,” Meg interrupted him, sighing again. She was annoyed because she knew he was right of course, but she just wanted to move back into her own home. “I'm afraid I'll just have to sleep with you for a while longer.”
Fraser's head snapped to attention at her words and his eyes widened. Meg felt the colour in her cheeks deepen. “I mean sleep here at the Consulate...where you also sleep,” she corrected herself as Fraser ran his index finger around his collar in an attempt to allow some air to flow. “Of course, you sleep in your office,” she continued, desperately trying to talk her way out of her embarrassment. Fraser nodded furiously. “Alone...” Meg continued. She felt her throat tightening and she knew she should probably stop talking now, but she couldn't help herself, “whereas I'm sleeping upstairs in the bedroom...also alone.”
Fraser and Meg stood perfectly still, staring at each other for what seemed like the longest few seconds of their lives. Eventually, Fraser swallowed deeply and spoke. “Will that be all, Sir?” he said quietly. He really wanted to leave the office now. Ever since the incident on the train, the one that they had agreed never to speak of again, he and Meg had shared some particularly awkward moments and this was definitely one of them.
“Dismissed,” Meg snapped, before adding, a little more gently this time, “thank you for completing your 8841C reports.”
Fraser almost ran out of the door, barely avoiding Diefenbaker who had been napping in the hallway. Dief growled. “There's no need for language like that,” Fraser hissed at him as he headed back towards his office, taking some deep breaths as he walked. He was certain that he would never understand his relationship with Inspector Thatcher.
Fraser sat at his desk and glanced at his watch. It was almost three o'clock in the afternoon and he wondered how his best friend and unofficial partner at the Chicago Police Department was getting on. Ray Kowalski, who was currently maintaining his undercover identity of Ray Vecchio, had been spending the day attempting to organise some of his old files. The Twenty Seventh Precinct was expecting a visit from the Chicago PD auditors and while Lieutenant Welsh had insisted that the visit was purely routine, he had also insisted that every one of his detectives ensure that there wasn't a single detail out of place. Fraser, of course, would have liked nothing better than to be at the Twenty Seventh assisting his partner, not only to ensure that the department passed their impending audit with flying colours, but also because he gained a curious pleasure from neatness and organisation. He could almost hear Ray calling him a freak at that admission, but he simply couldn't help it. Unfortunately, as Constable Turnbull had been out all day representing the Consulate at a function – and Fraser really didn't want to even imagine how that was going, or why his presence had been specifically requested – it had left Fraser unable to get away.
Suddenly Dief came running into Fraser's office. Fraser looked at his wolf with mild disdain. “Dief, I'm sorry,” Fraser sighed, “it was an accident, I didn't realise you were...” but he trailed off and got out of his seat. “What is it?” he asked his wolf, suddenly serious. Fraser's face was now etched with worry as he listened to Dief's response. “Thank you,” he said quietly and quickly headed out of the door and back along the hall.
He got to Inspector Thatcher's office and hesitated slightly before knocking twice. He waited for the response that he knew would never come. He slowly pushed open the door. “Sir?” he said, gently, stepping into the room. Meg was sitting silently at her desk, holding the telephone receiver in her slightly trembling hand. Fraser crossed the room. “Sir? What is it?” Meg simply shook her head. Fraser carefully prised the telephone out of her hand and after quickly checking that there was no one on the line, he replaced the receiver with one hand, keeping a tight hold of her wrist with the other. She was clearly very distressed and Fraser was extremely concerned about her now. He crouched down next to her chair. “Who was on the telephone?” he asked her.
Meg took a deep breath and turned her head to look into his eyes. “It was Sergeant Malone from Toronto,” she began in a shaky voice, “my...my sister...Lizzie...she's been in an accident...”
Fraser slipped his hand into hers and squeezed it supportively. All thoughts of awkwardness from earlier were immediately dispelled. “What happened?” he asked.
“A truck hit her car on the freeway,” Meg replied. “She's...she's in a critical condition Fraser.”
“I wasn't aware that you had a sister,” Fraser said. His superior officer had never talked about her family at all.
“We...we haven't spoken for four years, we had a...um...a falling out,” Meg replied, unable to look Fraser in the eye now. “Her husband and daughter were in the vehicle too, but...” she paused and took a breath, “but they only have minor injuries.”
“I'm sorry,” replied Fraser, not really sure what else he could say at the moment.
“Malone said I should go to Toronto immediately,” explained Meg.
Fraser's heart sank. It was clear that her sister's prognosis was not good. He got to his feet and gently pulled Meg out of her seat. “Go upstairs and pack a bag,” he ordered, gently, “I'll book you a flight.”
“Fraser,” Meg began to protest, “I can't just drop everything...”
“Of course you can,” replied Fraser as he guided her towards the door, “Constable Turnbull and I will take care of everything here.”
“Fraser, I...” Meg's voice cracked.
“Go to your sister,” Fraser insisted.
Meg nodded and headed out of the door, but before she completely left the room, she turned back to Fraser. “The last time I saw her Fraser,” she began, her voice wavering again, “the last thing I said to her...I called her a selfish, arrogant bitch.” As the tears finally came, Meg ran up the stairs to the bedroom that had been her home for the last few days and threw a few essential items into her overnight bag as Fraser called the airport.
Two days later, Fraser had heard nothing from his superior officer and he was more than a little worried. “C'mon, buddy,” Ray tried to sound encouraging. “No news is good news, right?”
Fraser sighed as he sipped at his cup of bark tea. “I hope you're right Ray,” he said.
Constable Turnbull appeared at the door of Fraser's office. “Is there anything else I can get you Sir?” he asked, “or you Detective Vecchio?” he added.
“No thank you Turnbull,” replied Fraser.
“I gotta get back,” said Ray, putting his empty coffee mug on Fraser's desk. “Now that the, er, the auditors have gone, I gotta get all my stuff back where it belongs.”
Fraser and Turnbull looked puzzled. “Surely all the work you did prior to the audit has resulted in everything being in the correct place?” queried Fraser.
“Hey buddy,” laughed Ray, shaking his head, “the correct place is not where my stuff belongs.”
Fraser shook his head, slightly dismayed. He and Turnbull followed Ray out into the hall. “I'll, er, see ya at about seven thirty then?” said Ray, as he opened the heavy wooden front door.
“Right you are Ray,” replied Fraser, nodding appreciatively at his friend. He was aware that Ray had been spending as much time with him as possible since Inspector Thatcher had left for Toronto and was grateful at his friend's attempts to take his mind off the situation.
Ray was about to step outside, when he almost bumped into a woman and her young son who were already standing on the doorstep. “Sorry,” he said, puzzled as to why they were standing there.
“Can I help you?” enquired Fraser.
“We're Canadian. We need new passports,” explained the woman, slightly nervously, before adding, “urgently.”
Fraser glanced at Ray, both were immediately a little suspicious of the situation. “Then I guess you're in the right place,” said Ray. “I've really gotta get back,” he said to Fraser, apologetically. Fraser nodded as Ray walked down the path towards his GTO.
“Welcome to Canada,” smiled Turnbull to the woman and the boy. “Please come in.”
The woman smiled back and stepped inside. “My name is Constable Benton Fraser,” said Fraser, extending his hand for the woman to shake. “We'll use the Inspector's office,” he said, noting the woman's weak handshake with slight concern. Fraser directed them towards the large room. “Turnbull, perhaps our visitors would care for some tea?”
“Yes please,” replied the woman.
“What about you, young man? Would you like something to drink?” Turnbull asked the boy, dipping his head slightly as he spoke.
The boy looked nervously at his mother. “Answer the man, Jason,” insisted the boy's mother.
The boy looked back to Turnbull. “Milk please,” he said quietly. Turnbull hurried off to the kitchen.
“Please take a seat,” said Fraser, pulling a chair out for the woman to sit down. She pulled her young son onto her lap. “Now then,” began Fraser, taking out a pen from his desk drawer and selecting a green form from the shelf behind the desk, “the first thing I need is your name.”
“Nicole Lavine,” replied the woman. “This is my son Jason.”
Fraser began to fill in the form. “And you are in need of new passports,” he continued, “have your old ones expired?”
“No,” replied Nicole shaking her head. “They are no longer in my possession. I've...um...we had to leave our apartment in a hurry a few weeks ago. I'm afraid that we weren't able to bring many personal belongings.” The woman hung her head.
Fraser looked puzzled. “And you're not able to return and collect them?” he asked. Nicole shook her head again, still looking at the floor. Fraser hesitated for a moment. The woman had clearly been through a difficult time recently, but she'd only come to the Consulate to organise her passports, so he didn't feel he could ask inappropriate questions. “My friend who just left, Detective Vecchio, he works for the Chicago Police Department,” he began gently, “is there some way he could help you?”
The woman shook her head again. “No,” she insisted, “please Constable, I just want to take my son back home to Canada.” Jason began to fidget on his mother's lap. “Jason please sit still,” she scolded him.
Fraser nodded and began asking her a few more details that he needed for the forms. As he noted their birth dates, he smiled at the young boy who was getting more and more fidgety. “So, you're six years old then,” he said. Jason nodded as Constable Turnbull returned with a tray of cups.
He placed a cup of tea and a glass of milk on the desk in front of Nicole and Jason and then held out a plate of chocolate cookies. “Is he allowed one of these?” Turnbull asked Nicole.
Jason looked hopefully at his mother. "Yes of course," replied Nicole and Jason snatched at a cookie and ate it at such a pace that even Dief was surprised, quickly helping himself to another one as Fraser went through the passport application form with Nicole.
"Do you really need my previous address?" Nicole asked.
"Yes," replied Fraser, unsurprised at her reluctance to give it to him after she'd already hinted at the problems associated with leaving there. "Don't worry, it's purely a formality."
Nicole proceeded to give Fraser the address of an apartment in a rather run down neighbourhood, telling him that they'd been living there for almost two years. When Fraser asked for her address prior to that, her face brightened and she told him about the apartment she used to share with Jason's father in Quebec.
"Are you currently married?" enquired Fraser, working his way down the questions on the form. Usually, completing a passport application was not in the least bit uncomfortable for him, but in this instance the woman was clearly finding it distressing to answer the questions about her private life.
Nicole shook her head. "No," she replied quietly. "Not any more."
"Divorced or widowed?" probed Fraser gently. He had to tick the right box on the form.
"Divorced," replied Nicole, almost under her breath. "Jason, I think you've eaten enough of those now," she reprimanded her son as he tried to grab another cookie from the plate. The young boy looked devastated and instead turned his attention to Diefenbaker who had been patiently lapping up crumbs that Jason had dropped on the floor.
"Why don't you and Diefenbaker go and find Constable Turnbull?" suggested Fraser, seeing that the boy was really bored with sitting still now. "He can give you some of Dief's biscuits, and perhaps you could feed him those? They are much better for his digestive system." Jason eagerly jumped off his mother's lap and headed out to the kitchen with the wolf who was willing to go along with Fraser's plan to use him to keep the boy occupied in exchange for biscuits. Even if they were dog biscuits. He made a mental note to remind the Mountie that there was nothing wrong with his digestive system.
Fraser completed the passport form as much as he could. He was disturbed by her extreme reluctance to allow him to take her photograph, but he was eventually able to persuade her that it was necessary for the passport. There were a few other matters, but Fraser insisted that there was nothing that should cause a problem. “It shouldn't take more than a couple of days,” Fraser reassured Nicole, “I need to fax this to Ottowa, but they usually get back to me very quickly.”
Nicole looked devastated. “Two days?” she said, her voice shaky, “but I wanted to leave first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Oh dear,” replied Fraser, “have you already made travel arrangements?”
Nicole shook her head. “Not really. I've rented a car and I'm just going to drive.”
“All the way to Quebec?” enquired Fraser, rather astounded.
“No...maybe...I don't know...” Nicole trailed off. “I just need to get away from here and I can only afford to pay for one more night at the motel.”
Fraser felt very sorry for her, but he wasn't sure if he could speed up the process. “I'll telephone the Passport office,” he suggested, “if I explain your situation, they may be able to treat you as a priority case.”
Nicole nodded sadly. “I'll come back tomorrow then,” she said. Fraser nodded and smiled supportively. Nicole got to her feet, but stumbled slightly as she did so.
“Are you alright?” asked a concerned Fraser.
“Yes, I'm fine,” she replied curtly.
Dief and Jason came back from the kitchen. Jason was eating an apple. “You are hungry aren't you, son,” smiled Fraser.
“He's just being greedy,” snapped Nicole. “Come on Jason.”
“Actually, we have an abundance of apples,” explained Fraser, “my superior officer was called away unexpectedly and so we have more than we need. Would you like to take some with you?”
“I'm not, oh, what's the English expression?” Nicole screwed up her face as she tried to recall it. “I'm not a charity case,” she finally half whispered.
Fraser was a little taken aback. He hadn't meant to insult her. “I'm sorry,” he replied, “it's just that your son appeared to be enjoying his apple.”
“Please Mum,” whined Jason.
Nicole sighed and looked at Fraser. “Thank you, that's very kind of you,” she reluctantly agreed.
Fraser darted off into the kitchen, returning seconds later with a bag containing four apples and a carton of milk. Nicole looked at the milk and then at Fraser, but before she could say anything, Fraser spoke. “We also have far too much milk,” he said.
Nicole closed her eyes for a moment. She realised that Fraser was trying to help her and she was actually grateful, but it made her feel like a bad mother all the same. She opened her eyes and looked directly at Fraser. “Thank you,” she said quietly.
“It's no trouble,” replied Fraser. “I will see you tomorrow. Hopefully I'll have some good news for you.” He opened the front door and watched as Nicole and Jason walked down the path. “Enjoy those apples,” he called out.
Fraser closed the door, slowly coated his lower lip with his tongue and turned to look at Dief. “I know,” he said to his wolf, “but I'm not sure what else I can do.” He sighed and walked back to his office.
Ray returned that evening with a pizza, just as he'd promised. Turnbull had already left by the time Ray arrived, much to the detective's relief. He'd had an exhausting day and he really just wanted to relax with his buddy. He wasn't in the mood for Turnbull at all. “So, er, what're you gonna do about the woman and her kid?” he asked Fraser.
Fraser had been talking about Nicole Lavine with Ray. “I will do my best to facilitate the speedy processing of her passport application,” replied Fraser.
Ray looked surprised. “That's it?” he queried, slightly puzzled at Fraser's impassiveness.
“I got the distinct impression that she didn't require any further assistance,” Fraser replied. “I gave them some apples and some milk.”
Ray looked at his partner, bemused. “C'mon buddy,” he urged, “this isn't just about them bein' hungry is it? Ya said she had some kinda trouble at, er, at home. Ya don't leave without your passports unless, y'know, ya really have to.”
“I'm inclined to agree Ray,” admitted Fraser, running his thumbnail across his left eyebrow, “however, it appears that she has now left that particular situation behind.”
“Fraser, she left everythin' behind,” stressed Ray, “not just the situation. Look, I'll call it in, get someone to go to that address she gave ya...”
“No Ray,” insisted Fraser, interrupting his friend, “I asked if I could help and she assured me that she was alright. I believe that as soon as she returns home to Canada, she will be able to bring stability back to her life.”
“Ya don't know that,” Ray pointed out. “Why are ya bein' like this?”
“Like what Ray?” Fraser looked puzzled. He wasn't aware that he was behaving any differently to normal.
“This is exactly the type of, er, situation that normally ya can't keep out of,” Ray tried to explain. “A woman and a kid, no money for food, possibly runnin' from an abusive situation...”
“Ray that is pure speculation,” Fraser interrupted him with raised eyebrows.
“Instincts buddy,” Ray said, tapping the side of his head with his finger. “Ya know how these things work, ya got a ton of evidence.”
Fraser shook his head. “I have no evidence whatsoever,” he said, “all I have are a few comments and circumstances that I found concerning at the time. As I said, Miss Lavine assured me that she was alright.”
Ray sighed. This was not at all like the Fraser he knew. The Fraser he knew wouldn't have been able to rest until he checked out Nicole Lavine's story and satisfied himself that she wasn't in any trouble. He knew that Fraser had been worried about Inspector Thatcher's situation, that's why he'd been making sure that his buddy wasn't alone with his thoughts for too long over the past couple of days, but he didn't expect Fraser's concerns would ever change the way he acted when faced with someone in trouble. “Buddy,” he began, gently, “I'm sure the Ice Queen, I mean, the Inspector will call ya as soon as there's any news.”
Fraser looked at his friend and managed half a smile. “I think I may have been a little preoccupied these past few days,” he finally admitted. Ray nodded. Fraser's face grew serious again. “She seemed so...so...” he couldn't think of an appropriate word to finish that sentence. He took a deep breath. “She never speaks about her family, I just assumed that, well, that she had no family I suppose. I've never seen her like that Ray. It was...unnerving.” He hadn't gone into too much detail with regards to the situation between Meg and her sister, but Ray of course had instinctively been able to conclude exactly what the issues were.
“Y'know buddy,” began Ray, “sometimes I think maybe you're the lucky one, havin' no family I mean.” Fraser was about to protest, but Ray waved a hand in the air to stop him. “Wait, here me out,” he continued. “Sometimes families fall out over the dumbest things, hell, I know all about that.” Ray sighed as he thought about all the wasted years after his relationship with his father had broken down.
“Ray, I am not entirely ignorant when it comes to matters of family discord,” Fraser pointed out. “In fact, the circumstances surrounding my relationship with my father at the time of his death make me somewhat of an expert on the situation that Inspector Thatcher may well be facing at this juncture.”
Ray hadn't really thought of it like that before. He was suddenly very grateful that he was rebuilding his relationship with his own father while he still had the chance. He put a supportive hand on his buddy's back and Fraser nodded his appreciation. Just then, Diefenbaker leapt to his feet as they heard a noise. “Is that the front door?” asked Ray, his gun hand twitching.
Fraser nodded. “Perhaps Turnbull forgot something?” he suggested as he and Ray followed Dief out into the hall, adding, “He often does.” The huge wooden front door opened and the three of them were completely surprised to see Inspector Thatcher step into the hallway, half dragging her bag behind her and carrying a smaller, bright pink bag on her arm. “Inspector!” exclaimed Fraser. “I wasn't expecting you back so soon...” but his voice trailed off as he became aware of someone else standing in the shadows behind his superior officer, a young girl Fraser surmised was around eight years old.
Meg looked at Fraser with sad eyes. As she spoke, Fraser could hear the strain in her voice. “I'm sorry, I probably should have called first,” she began. Then realising that she hadn't introduced her guest, she added, “This is my niece, Amy.” The little girl took a tentative step forward and Ray and Fraser could see that her arm was in a sling. “Amy, don't be shy,” Meg prompted, “this is Constable Fraser and Detective Vecchio.”
Fraser instinctively held out his hand for her to shake and then realised how inappropriate that action was, considering the young girl's current predicament. “Ah,” he said, lowering his hand.
Ray shook his head at yet another display of his partners social ineptitude, realising of course that the presence of the Ice Queen was hampering Fraser's attempts. Ray took a step forward and bent his knees slightly, lowering himself to look the little girl in the eye. He smiled his biggest, toothiest smile. “Hey Amy, call me Ray, OK?” The little girl nodded. “Guess that hurts, huh?” he gestured towards her arm. She nodded silently again. Ray glanced at Fraser. He knew that his friend really needed to talk to his superior officer and Ray realised the conversation should take place in private, certainly away from the ears of the little girl. “So, er, d'ya like curlin'?” he asked.
A small laugh flickered at the corner's of the little girl's mouth. “No,” she replied quietly, “it's stupid.”
Ray smiled again. “Y'know Amy, I think you and me are gonna get along just fine. C'mon,” he held out his hand and Amy nervously took it in hers as he led her into the reception room, beckoning to Diefenbaker to follow them.
“Thank you Detective,” Meg called out after them. She turned to look at Fraser. “My sister's not dead, if that's what you're thinking,” she said, rather abruptly.
Fraser was stunned at her manner. “Perhaps we should step into your office?” he suggested, reaching out to take her bags for her. Meg sighed and nodded as she followed him. He placed the bags in the corner of the room and gestured towards the small sofa against the back wall. Meg slumped down onto the seat and Fraser rather gingerly sat beside her. Then he leapt to his feet again. “I'm terribly sorry Sir,” he said, “can I get you something to drink?”
“Sit down Fraser,” she commanded him and he instantly complied. Then an uncomfortable silence fell. Fraser wasn't sure whether he should speak or not. Eventually, Meg spoke, her voice much softer now. “Amy was released from the hospital this afternoon,” she explained. “she suffered a dislocated shoulder in the accident, but her father sustained slightly more serious injuries so he'll be in for at least another week. Amy had no one else to look after her.”
I see,” replied Fraser slowly. “If you don't mind me asking Sir, why return here with her? I assume your sister is still in a serious condition? I would have thought that you'd rather...”
“She's in a coma,” Meg interrupted him, “there's nothing I can do there. She's in good hands. I thought this was the best thing I could do for Amy.” Fraser wasn't entirely sure he agreed with her and Meg saw the doubt flicker across his face. “I've just been sitting there Fraser...for three days...” her voice cracked and she paused to compose herself. “They think she can hear my voice. They said the sound of my voice might bring her round, what a ridiculous idea.”
“Actually Sir, a lot of research has been carried out on the subject,” explained Fraser, gently, “studies have revealed that a comatose person's heart rate and respiration change when they hear a familiar voice, they appear to become calmer.”
Meg laughed ironically. “Fraser, if she really could hear my voice then she would most certainly not be calmer,” she said.
“There is evidence to suggest that the voice of a loved one can help to stimulate the brain into regaining consciousness,” Fraser said.
Meg looked at him, as a tear began to form in the corner of her eye. “I didn't know what to say to her...” the tear escaped and ran down her cheek and she angrily wiped it away as she spoke.
“Sir, I'm not sure it's important what you say,” Fraser suggested.
“I can't go back,” Meg whispered. “I just can't...I can't deal with that.” She looked away from Fraser now, bowing her head in shame. “I suppose you think I'm a terrible person,” she added.
“Not in the least,” replied Fraser, gently putting his hand on her shoulder. That one simple gesture was enough for Meg to crumble and succumb to the feelings she'd been trying to suppress since her sister's accident. She turned and buried her head into Fraser's shoulder as she wept and he could do nothing except wrap his arms around her and hold her.
A short while later, Fraser walked down the hall and was pleased to hear Amy giggling. He pushed open the door and found Ray trying and failing to make a house of cards. Every time the playing cards collapsed, Ray pulled an exaggerated face of annoyance and Amy clearly found his frustrations amusing. Inspector Thatcher had asked for some privacy and Fraser respected that. He'd never experienced her raw emotions like that before and he was concerned about her. Ray glanced up as Fraser entered the room. “Hey buddy,” he said.
“Where's Auntie Meg?” asked Amy, the smile suddenly gone from her face.
Fraser took the pack of cards from Ray. “She's in her office,” he replied, quickly creating a perfect house of cards, at a near impossible speed, on the table in front of them. “She has a few things to do, she won't be long.”
Amy's eyes were wide now. So were Ray's. “Wow!” said Amy, “how did you do that?”
“Get used to it kid,” said Ray, shaking his head, “he's like, um, a Super Mountie or somethin'.”
“That's just silly Ray,” retorted Fraser. Amy laughed. “Ray, could I have a word?” asked Fraser, nodding his head in the direction of the door.
“Course buddy,” said Ray, getting to his feet, “keep an eye on Dief for me,” he said to the little girl and Amy nodded as Ray and Fraser stepped out into the hallway. Fraser briefly explained the situation to Ray.
“Inspector Thatcher will be staying here tonight with Amy as her apartment is still uninhabitable,” said Fraser, “although she has suggested they may move to a hotel tomorrow.”
“She's gonna regret leavin' Toronto if something does, y'know, happen to her sister,” sighed Ray.
“I agree,” nodded Fraser, “however she is insistent at this juncture. Perhaps tomorrow, after some sleep, she may change her mind?” Ray nodded as the door to Meg's office opened and she appeared, looking much better than she did when Fraser had left her.
“Talking about me?” she enquired in mild annoyance.
“I'm sorry Sir,” replied Fraser uncomfortably, “but Detective Vecchio...”
“I was askin' if you were OK,” said Ray, interrupting his friend.
“I'm fine thank you,” replied Meg, her voice a little softer now, “and thank you for taking care of Amy for me,” she added.
“Hey, it was no trouble,” insisted Ray, “she's a good kid.”
Meg nodded. “She seems to be,” she said, a comment which was rewarded with a puzzled frown from Fraser. “I barely know her,” Meg explained, looking at her feet, “the last time I saw her she was four years old.”
“She's been through a terrible ordeal,” said Fraser, trying to change the subject as she saw Meg's face displaying the regret she felt over her family situation again. “It is rather late and I think she's very tired. She should probably go to to bed now.”
“Yes, yes of course,” replied Meg, “I'll take her upstairs now.”
About an hour later, Fraser and Ray were playing poker using the pack of cards that Ray had been struggling with earlier. Inspector Thatcher had insisted that she wanted to spend a little time catching up on some work and although Fraser had initially objected, he eventually decided that the best thing was to let her deal with things her own way. “I fold, again,” sighed Ray, slapping his cards down on the table.
“Ah,” replied Fraser, displaying his fourth winning hand in a row.
“We should really find another game to play,” smiled Ray, “I'm gonna run right out of air!”
“I'm sorry Ray,” began Fraser, “but these days I have very little difficulty in determining your thoughts from your facial expressions.”
Ray laughed. “My poker face doesn't usually suck,” he said, “I guess ya know me too well buddy.” Fraser nodded. Ray got to his feet. “I gotta go,” he said, “see ya tomorrow?”
Fraser replaced the playing cards in their box. “I will be here for most of the morning I imagine,” he said, “I am expecting Miss Lavine and her son to return. I really hope that I will be able to issue their passports, otherwise I'm not sure what they'll do?”
Ray slapped his buddy on the back. “You'll think of somethin'” he grinned, “ya always do.”
The headed out to the hall and were slightly taken aback to find Turnbull opening the front door. “Oh, Constable Fraser,” he said, quite flustered, “I am so sorry to have disturbed you, but I appear to have lost my handkerchief,” he said. Ray looked at Fraser and grinned. “I was hoping that you may have found it.”
“Sorry Turnbull,” replied Fraser, “I'm afraid I haven't. Perhaps you should retrace your steps? Although I should inform you that we have visitors, well, that is, Inspector Thatcher has returned, she's in her office at the present time.” Turnbull looked surprised. “Also, her eight year old niece is currently sleeping upstairs.”
“Oh,” said Turnbull, a little puzzled. “In that case I'll do my best to move around with the utmost stealth.” Ray bit hard on his lower lip to suppress a giggle. He couldn't imagine Constable Turnbull behaving stealthily if his life depended on it. Turnbull tiptoed along the hall and Fraser watched him in disbelief. He knocked almost silently on the door of Meg's office, but there was no reply.
“Turnbull,” began Fraser, shaking his head, “Inspector Thatcher will need to be aware of your presence if you wish to obtain her permission to enter her office.” Turnbull nodded furiously and knocked again, much louder this time. Fraser turned his attention back to Ray.
“I'll call round tomorrow when I'm done at the station Fraser,” said Ray, fishing in his jeans pocket for his car keys.
“Right you are,” replied Fraser, but before Ray could leave, they were both shocked by a blood curdling scream and the sight of Turnbull running out of the Inspector's office.
“She's dead!” Turnbull was hysterical. “Inspector Thatcher!”
Ray had never seen Fraser move so fast. He followed his partner and Turnbull as they ran into Meg's office and were horrified to see her sprawled face first on the floor. Fraser fell to his knees and felt for a pulse, his own heart pounding in his head as he did so.
“I assumed she wasn't in here after all,” Turnbull was babbling, as Ray reached for the telephone on the desk and dialled 911. “So, I...I came in anyway and...and she was just lying there dead!”
“Turnbull!” Fraser yelled, as a sense of relief washed over him, “she's not dead.”
“Oh thank heavens,” sighed Turnbull.
Fraser began checking Meg for injuries, but as he did so, his delicate senses detected the rather overpowering smell of alcohol on her breath. As he gently moved her into the recovery position, he also noticed the discarded bottle under her desk and sighed a little. “Ray,” he said, glancing up at his partner, “I do not believe we are in need of any assistance from the emergency services at this juncture.”
Ray immediately caught the look in his partner's eye and while he didn't fully understand what was going on, he informed the emergency operator of the situation and apologetically ended the call. Ray ran round to where Fraser was tending to the Inspector and crouched down beside her. Fraser didn't think it was fair on his superior officer to broadcast the details of her current predicament, but Ray was too sharp and he also spotted the empty bottle. “Oh hell,” he said quietly to Fraser. Fraser wasn't sure what to say. Ray got to his feet, desperately trying to think of an excuse for Turnbull to leave. “Y'know, Turnbull, er, I think that, er, the Ice, I mean, the Inspector's real tired right now.” Ray manhandled a protesting Turnbull out of the office as he spoke. “She's had a really bad day and, um, so I guess that, er, she just needs someone to help her up the stairs to bed. Fraser can deal with it.” They'd reached the front door now and Ray opened it, almost pushing a slightly stunned Constable Turnbull outside. “If I find that hanky, I'll put it on the desk for ya,” he said and then adding with a wave of his hand, “goodnight Turnbull!” Ray slammed the front door and ran back to Meg's office.
“Thank you kindly Ray,” Fraser managed half a smile. He'd managed to lift Meg into a chair and he was trying to rouse her by gently tapping her cheeks with the back of his hand. He began softly calling her name and she started to make quiet moaning noises in response.
“How much has she had?” enquired Ray. He'd never heard Fraser call the Ice Queen by her first name before.
“I'm not sure,” replied Fraser, “that bottle under her desk was new, it was a gift from the French Ambassador and then there's another bottle on her desk. Is that empty too?”
Ray picked up the other bottle and shook it gently. “Almost,” he replied, sniffing the bottle and recoiling in disgust. “Smells like cheap stuff,” he said, raising his eyebrows to Fraser, “pretty, er, potent though.”
Fraser nodded sadly. He shouldn't have left her alone, he thought to himself. He knew that Meg enjoyed a drink now and again and had, on occasion, been known perhaps to overindulge during social situations, but nothing like this. Meg groaned again and her eyes flickered open and a huge smile spread across her face. “Ben?” she croaked and draped her arms around his neck.
Fraser's face turned a deep shade of red. Meg never used his first name either and he hoped Ray would realise that it was just the drink talking. “Maybe I should make some strong coffee?” suggested Ray.
“I believe that would be prudent,” agreed Fraser and Ray headed out to the kitchen.
“Was that, was that Decktec, er, was that Vecchhiii...um, er...” slurred Meg.
“Yes, that was Detective Vecchio,” acknowledged Fraser.
Meg tapped the side of her nose knowingly, “but we know, we know, don't we Ben,” she said smiling, her eyes wide.
Fraser looked puzzled. “Know what Sir?” he asked.
She put her finger on his lips and his whole body stiffened at her touch. "It's our ssshh, our ssshecret," she slurred. “That's he's not really Vecch, Vecchii, er, Vecch...” Meg gave up trying to speak with a sigh.
"It's alright," replied Fraser carefully helping her to her feet. "Let's make you more comfortable." She giggled as she stumbled along the hall with one arm draped around his neck. As Fraser lowered her gently onto the large sofa in the other room, Ray came in with a large mug of coffee.
"Here, drink this," said Ray offering her the cup.
Meg took one look at the coffee and all the colour drained from her face. Fraser took one look at her and then turned to Ray. "Perhaps you could fetch a glass of water instead Ray?" he suggested, hesitating slightly before adding, "and a bucket?"
"Oh, er, yeah," replied Ray, running back out into the kitchen.
"Take some slow, deep breaths," Fraser suggested to Meg.
Meg did as she was told and the wave of nausea passed. She began to giggle again. "I had too much to drink, didn't I!" she said with a smile.
"It would appear so," replied Fraser, quietly.
Meg's smile quickly disappeared and she began to cry again.
Fraser handed her his handkerchief. "I'm sorry," she mumbled.
"Ssshh, it's alright," he soothed.
"I was thin...th...thinking about her, about Lizzie," she sobbed.
"I know," replied Fraser. Ray reappeared and handed Meg the glass of water, putting the bucket on the floor at her feet next to Dief. Ray suddenly felt a little uncomfortable and began backing out of the room. Fraser spoke quietly to Meg. "I'll just be a minute," he said and got to his feet, following Ray out into the hall. Meg nodded and sipped at her water.
"She'll be OK when she's, y'know, slept it off," Ray reassured a concerned looking Fraser as he opened the front door. Fraser nodded. “I could stay tonight, if ya need me to?” Ray offered.
Fraser shook his head. "That's very kind of you Ray, but I'll be fine. We'll be fine,” he quickly corrected himself. He had never really had to be responsible for other people in this way before and now an eight year old girl and a woman he thought very highly of were both relying on him. He took a deep breath. “Thank you so much for all your help tonight Ray," he said, appreciatively.
"Hey, what are buddies for," grinned Ray. "Call me if you need anything," he said.
Fraser nodded and closed the door behind him. He sighed, steeling himself for a difficult night, but as he walked back into the other room, he was somewhat relieved to find Meg asleep on the sofa, her half empty glass in danger of slipping out of her hand. He lunged forward, grabbing the glass before the contents spilled onto the floor and placed it on the coffee table before swinging her legs around onto the sofa. He carefully arranged the cushions so that she was supported in a semi-upright position and then went to fetch a blanket from the closet in his room, hoping that he wouldn't find his father in there with some inappropriate words of advice. He really didn't think he'd be able to refrain himself tonight from saying something to the irritating older, albeit dead, Mountie that he would no doubt immediately regret.
A few hours later Fraser was laying on his back on his makeshift bed with his hands clasped behind his head. He'd been unable to sleep, despite being very tired and he'd already crept up the stairs once to check on Amy and twice into the other room to make sure that Meg was alright too. He'd also been thinking about Nicole Lavine and her young son. Ray had been absolutely right of course, he had avoided becoming involved, despite his concerns for her situation, because of his preoccupation with Meg. He vowed to rectify that situation in the morning.
He sighed and looked across at Dief who was also still awake. "I don't know what you're staring at?" he said rather curtly. Dief whined and put his head on his paws. "I admit that I may have made an error of judgement, but I'll sort it out. I am expecting her to return to collect her passports tomorrow so I will speak to her then." Dief made another noise in his throat. Fraser propped himself up on one elbow. "Oh I'm so glad that meets with your approval!" he snapped sarcastically, before deliberately rolling over so that he was facing away from the animal. "Go to sleep," he ordered, as much to himself as to Diefenbaker.
Within a few minutes, Fraser finally felt his eyelids becoming heavy, but before he was completely asleep, a noise snapped him back to full consciousness and he sat bolt upright to find Dief already on his feet, pawing at the door. "Amy," he sighed as he heard the little girl's footsteps coming down the stairs. He walked out into the hall to find her standing by the desk crying. "What's the matter?" he asked gently.
“I had a bad dream,” replied Amy, tearfully.
Fraser crouched down on one knee and she gratefully ran into his outstretched arms. "It's alright," he tried to reassure her. "Would you like some milk?" he asked, pulling back slightly. Amy nodded silently. Fraser led her into his room and she sat on the edge of his bed. Dief jumped up to sit beside her. Fraser rushed off to the kitchen, returning moments later with a glass of milk. Amy took it from him and began to drink it, the coolness helped to calm her.
“Where's Auntie Meg?” she asked.
“She's asleep on the sofa,” replied Fraser, “she, um, wasn't feeling very well.” Amy looked a little worried. “I'm sure she'll be fine in the morning. Why don't you tell me about your dream?" prompted Fraser. Amy remained silent. Fraser wished Ray had stayed after all, Ray always seemed to find interacting with small children much easier than he did.
“My arm hurts,” she sniffed. Clearly she would rather not talk about her nightmare. “I took my medicine, but it still hurts.” She had removed her sling to go to bed, but now she was holding her wrist across her chest, supporting her arm with her other hand.
“Oh dear,” replied Fraser, finally feeling that this was something he could do something about, “maybe I can help you with that. Can you show me?”
Amy slipped the wide strap of her nightdress off her shoulder, revealing the full extent of the bruising she had sustained in the accident and she pointed to the areas that were causing her the most discomfort. Fraser felt so sorry for her. He walked around to the other side of his desk and took a small jar out of the bottom drawer. As he walked back towards Amy, he unscrewed the lid and waved the jar under his nose. “Ah,” he said. Amy frowned at him. “Now Amy,” he began, “I believe that Ray would complain about the aroma of this particular substance, however, I can assure you that it's pain relieving properties are second to none.” Amy wasn't sure she understood what he'd just said, but she nodded anyway. “If I apply this to your shoulder you should feel some instant relief.” Amy looked suddenly nervous. “It's alright,” Fraser said reassuringly, “I won't hurt you, I promise.”
Somewhat reluctantly, Amy nodded and as Fraser began to carefully apply the ointment to her bruises. She smiled at him. “It feels all warm,” she said.
“Good,” Fraser smiled back.
“Why does it smell funny?” she asked.
“Well,” he began, but then he remembered that Ray always preferred not to know what was in some of his natural remedies, so instead he said, “some of the ingredients do carry a particularly overpowering pungency don't they.”
Amy didn't know what 'pungency' meant, but it sounded like a funny word to her so she laughed. “You're funny Constable Fraser,” she said.
Fraser was pleased to see a smile had returned to her face. “You don't have to call me that,” he said, “if you prefer, you may call me Benton, as that is my given name.”
Amy giggled. “That's a funny name,” she said.
“So people keep telling me,” Fraser frowned and laughed simultaneously.
“My name only has three letters in it,” Amy pondered for a moment, “so can I call you Ben?”
Fraser nodded. “Of course you can,” he replied, “some people do prefer to use that contracted version of my name.” Amy giggled again. He was using more words she didn't understand, but she didn't really mind, at least he wasn't treating her like a baby like her Auntie Meg did.
“I was dreaming about them trying to get me out,” Amy said quietly, her face suddenly serious again.
Fraser pulled the strap of her nightdress back into position. “I see,” he said, “I imagine it was a terrifying experience for you.” Amy nodded. “Do you remember the accident or did you sustain a concussion?” Amy looked puzzled. “Did you get a bump on the head?” he clarified.
“No, only on my shoulder,” replied Amy. “I remember that they had to cut off the roof of my dad's car and pull me out. My dad was screaming...I wish my mum was here...” Amy started to cry again and Fraser sat beside her on the bed, wiping his hands on a towel.
“Has your Auntie Meg told you what's happening with your mum?” Fraser asked gently, but he had a feeling he already knew the answer.
“No,” replied Amy shaking her head. “She just said she and my dad have got to stay in the hospital, but I didn't have to, so she was going to take care of me for a while.”
Although Fraser understood why Meg had avoided the subject, he felt that at eight years old, Amy was old enough to understand the basic truth about what was happening so he proceeded to tell her, in the most appropriate language he could think of, all about her mother's situation. He tried his best to be honest without frightening her. Amy seemed to take it all in and she asked a few questions that Fraser was able to answer which seemed to put her mind at rest. Finally she asked the one question that Fraser had hoped she wouldn't ask. “Is my mum going to die?”
Fraser took a deep breath. “I'm sorry, but I don't know Amy,” he said, wrapping her hand in both of his, “but I do know that she has lots of doctors taking care of her and they are doing everything they can to stop that happening. We just have to wait and hope. We'll know more soon.”
“Why didn't they let me see her?” asked Amy.
“Well,” began Fraser, “sometimes it can be somewhat frightening to see someone you love when they're hurt. There will be lots of machines that are looking after her and if you don't understand what they're all for it can be a little overwhelming.” Amy nodded again. “Is there anything else you'd like to ask?” added Fraser.
“Why does Auntie Meg treat me like I'm dumb?” she asked.
Fraser frowned. “I'm sure she doesn't,” he protested.
“She does,” replied the girl, “she said my mum was fine, but she's not fine. Why did she lie to me? I knew she was lying.”
“Amy,” Fraser really didn't know how to answer that one, “your Aunt hasn't seen you for a few years and perhaps she hasn't realised how grown up you are now? She was trying to protect you. She didn't want to see you upset.”
“I don't think Auntie Meg and my mum like each other,” she sighed, “my mum says Auntie Meg is too busy being a Mountie to be interested in us any more.”
Fraser closed his eyes briefly and then opened them to look directly at Amy. “Amy, your Aunt loves you very much.” Amy shrugged with her one good shoulder and yawned. “Let me take you back up to bed,” said Fraser scooping the little girl up into his arms.
“Can't I stay here with you?” she asked, sadly.
“The bed in the Queen's bedroom is much more comfortable than my bed,” replied Fraser as he carried her up the stairs, with Dief bounding ahead.
“The Queen's bedroom?” replied Amy in amazement.
“Yes,” said Fraser, smiling, “didn't your Aunt tell you? This bedroom is reserved for the Queen when she visits, but it's alright for you to sleep here tonight as we're not expecting Her Majesty in Chicago for a while.”
“Wow!” Amy's eyes were wide now.
Fraser pushed open the door of the bedroom with his foot and carefully laid her down on the bed. “How does your arm feel now?” he asked.
“Better, thank you,” replied the girl.
Fraser pulled the covers up over her and tucked them in. “Good night,” he smiled. “You know where I am if you need anything. Come along Dief.”
As he turned to go, Amy called out to him. “Ben,” Fraser turned back, “please can you tell me a story?”
“A story?” Fraser thought for a minute, ignoring the sarcastic whine coming from Dief, “I think I can manage that,” he smiled as he sat on the chair next to her bed. “A long time ago,” he began, “there was a young Inuit girl named Nilak.” Dief whined again and slowly backed out of the door. Fraser continued with his story. “Every day, Nilak would walk through the forest to the stream...” and he proceeded to tell her the one story that he remembered his mother telling him when he was a little boy. Amy was asleep long before he finished, but he finished it anyway and then almost immediately, he too fell asleep in the chair.
He awoke a few hours later, just as the sun was beginning rise and was pleased to see Amy was still sound asleep. He crept out of her room and back down the stairs to his office where he found Dief asleep on his bed. “There you are,” said Fraser, deliberately loud enough to wake the animal. “You may get off now,” he instructed and Dief jumped down, somewhat reluctantly.
Fraser began to get dressed, folding his red longjohns tidily and placing them on a chair. He opened the door to his wardrobe and reached in to get his uniform. “Morning son!” came a cheery voice. Fraser groaned to himself and stepped into his father's office.
“Good morning Dad,” Fraser tried to sound equally as cheery as he slipped his red tunic on and began fastening the shiny buttons.
“Parenting can be tough Son, but I'm sure you'll soon get the hang of it,” Bob Fraser said, pouring himself a cup of tea.
“Parenting?” replied Benton, incredulously, “Dad, she was only staying here for one night.”
“Still,” Bob went on, “you did a reasonable job with her.”
“Oh well, thank you for the high praise Dad,” replied Benton, sarcastically.
“There's no need to take that tone with me,” said Bob, “I may be dead, but I'm still your father. I could still have you across my knee you know.”
“Dad, you never had me across your knee when you were alive!” exclaimed Benton, adding quietly, “you were never there.”
“Well, there was that one time,” admitted Bob.
“Ah,” replied Benton, suddenly remembering. “I'd rather not talk about that, if you don't mind.”
“It was a misunderstanding on my part,” agreed Bob, “I realise that now, but the girl's father was none to pleased with you either.”
“We were practising survival techniques,” Benton insisted.
“Well, you can understand how it looked,” shrugged Bob.
“Dad, we were seven years old!” Benton was getting annoyed now.
“You're a Fraser, Son,” replied Bob, “we've always been early developers.”
“Dad!” exclaimed Benton, uncomfortably, “can we please move on?”
“The Québécoise and her son need your help,” said Bob, changing the subject as he sipped at his tea.
“I know Dad,” sighed Benton, “I should have been more proactive yesterday.”
“You'll need the Yank to get involved,” added Bob.
“Do you believe that Miss Levine is involved in criminal activity?” asked Benton, trying to ignore his father's spectacular ability to insult Ray by avoiding the use of his name.
“Surely that's for you and the Yank to determine?” shrugged Bob.
“Ray and I will do everything we can,” replied Fraser, with heavy emphasis on his partner's name.
A short while later, Fraser was busying himself in the kitchen. Turnbull had arrived for work, but Fraser had managed to find some errands that he hoped would keep his colleague away from the Consulate for most of the morning. He heard a noise and, quickly assembling a few items on a tray, he walked along the hall to the reception room. Knocking softly on the door, he heard a muffled “Mmmm,” in response and entered the room.
“Good morning Sir,” he said softly, placing the tray on the coffee table. Meg was sitting up, with one hand over her mouth and the other poised to grab the bucket.
Fraser crouched at her feet and lifted the bucket. “Are you in need of this?” he enquired.
Meg took a deep breath and shook her head slowly. “I thought...but...no,” she said, quite relieved. Fraser put the bucket back on the floor and reached across to the table.
“You should drink this,” he said, passing a large glass of water to Meg, “you are terribly dehydrated.” Meg nodded and took the glass from him. “I also took the liberty of bringing you some bananas,” Fraser continued, “they are high in potassium and your levels will be low at this juncture. Bananas are also a natural antacid which should help with the nausea and contain a high level of magnesium, so will ease your headache.”
Meg looked at him as she sipped at her water. The last thing she felt like eating was a banana. In fact she didn't feel like eating anything at all. “Thanks,” she managed to say.
“There is also a mug of coffee which I've sweetened with honey as your body will absorb the natural sucrose much faster than from regular sugar,” Fraser went on, “and there is a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice as you need to replenish your vitamin C level.”
“Fraser, please,” sighed Meg, slightly annoyed at the amount of fussing, “I really appreciate all of this, but I think I'd just like some aspirin.”
Fraser shook his head. “Sir, combining aspirin with the amount of alcohol currently in your bloodstream could be potentially very dangerous.” Meg looked completely confused. “Both are anticoagulants and if you were to be involved in an accident, you could bleed to death as your blood would fail to clot.”
“Fraser!” exclaimed Meg, “I am not planning on having an accident, I'm just going to sit here for a while until the room stops spinning.”
“Understood,” replied Fraser, getting to his feet. “In that case I'll leave you alone, unless there's anything else you need?”
“I think I've got more than enough here,” Meg looked towards the tray that Fraser had brought her. Fraser turned to go, but Meg called him back. “How's Amy?” she asked.
“Still asleep,” he replied, “she had a nightmare last night and she was experiencing some pain in her shoulder.”
Meg sighed. “They told me she was having nightmares in the hospital,” she explained. “Not surprising really,” she added.
“Indeed,” said Fraser and turned to leave again.
“Fraser,” Meg called out again, “um, I'm not sure I remember...um, did I...um...”
“Sir, it's quite alright,” Fraser tried to reassure her, but before he could say anything else, they heard the front door open and Ray appeared. He gingerly poked his head around the door.
“Er, hi,” he said, a little nervously, stepping into the room, “How are ya feelin' Inspector? I brought ya some bananas...oh, I see ya already got some,” he laughed and put the bananas down on the coffee table.
“Thank you Detective,” replied Meg, a little embarrassed as she was beginning to remember Ray being there last night. “I would like to apologise for my behaviour,” she added.
“No need,” Ray shook his head, “been there, done that. Too many times, believe me. Not, er, not so much these days though.”
“I can assure you that I don't make a habit of it,” insisted Meg.
“I know, you're a Mountie!” grinned Ray and Meg managed a small smile. “Look, I get it, there were extrenu, er, extran, um, what are those circumstances Fraser?”
“Extenuating circumstances,” confirmed Fraser.
“Yeah, those,” agreed Ray. “Where's Amy?” he asked.
“Still in bed,” replied Fraser, “she had a somewhat difficult night, unfortunately.”
“Poor kid,” Ray shook his head, “do ya want me to run up and check on her?”
“Thank you Detective,” smiled Meg. “I just need a few more minutes.” Ray headed upstairs to see Amy. Fraser peeled a banana and handed it to Meg who sighed and took it from him. She felt incredibly foolish after last night and her headache felt like it was getting worse. She took a bite of the banana.
“Have you given any more thought to the possibility of returning to Toronto today?” Fraser asked.
“Fraser, I'm not going back,” replied Meg, determinedly, “I told you that. I'll admit I do feel somewhat guilty about that decision, but that's my final decision. I can't be there, if she does wake up I'm the last person she'll want to see.” Meg took another bite of the banana.
“Sir, if you don't mind me enquiring...” began Fraser, somewhat nervously, but Meg interrupted him.
“It was a typical family argument Fraser, if that's what you're asking,” she said.
“I'm sorry,” replied Fraser, “but I thought that perhaps...”
“You thought that considering that she may be dying, perhaps I should try to forget about it you mean?” Meg interrupted again. Fraser shrugged. That wasn't exactly how he would have put it, but it was exactly what he meant. He'd never had any close family and the thought of having a sister and then not speaking to her for four years was not one that he could comprehend. “Look, Fraser,” Meg continued, “really you don't understand.” She sighed and choked back the wave of emotion that had suddenly and unexpectedly washed over her. Fraser looked at her with concern. “When my mother passed away, we agreed that Lizzie and Gary could continue living in her house. They'd been living there for over a year to care for my mother anyway and Amy was so young it seemed only right. I still own half the house technically, but I don't need the money. It wasn't that at all, but Lizzie seemed to think that it was.”
“Then what was it?” Fraser prompted gently.
“She cleared out all of Mum's things,” replied Meg. “All of our memories, things from our childhoods, things that were Dad's, I couldn't believe it. She just threw it all away.”
Fraser was quite shocked. She knew that Meg liked to display an air of cold heartedness at times, but Fraser knew she wasn't like that really, not underneath. Ray had given her that nickname that amused him so much, the Ice Queen, but Ray didn't really know her at all. Fraser had seen glimpses of the real Meg Thatcher and he knew that it didn't take much to melt her. However, from what she'd just told him, the nickname might be more suitable for Meg's sister. “Did she give you a reason?” he asked.
Meg shook her head and threw the banana skin down on the tray. “She said if I'd been there to help her with the sorting out, I could have had whatever I wanted, but I was too busy with my career. That's always the thing she throws in my face Fraser, just because I have a successful career and she doesn't.”
“May I suggest that she has a career,” replied Fraser, “she is a mother. As I understand it, that can be quite a demanding job at times.”
Meg laughed. “I wouldn't know,” she replied, “and I've talked myself out of the idea of ever finding out for myself now,” she smiled and picked up the glass of orange juice.
“You know, Sir, people deal with grief in different ways,” suggested Fraser, “perhaps your sister felt that by disposing of everything that reminded her of your mother, she could cope with the loss?”
Meg shrugged. “Perhaps you're right,” she said and took a sip of her juice, “but anyway, there was more too it than that. We both said a lot of things in anger and maybe there was an element of grief talking too, who knows? It's too late to repair our relationship now Fraser.”
“What about Amy?” asked Fraser, “it's not too late to build a relationship with her. In fact, I think she would welcome it.” He paused for a moment, before continuing. “She was asking about her mother last night. I took the liberty of answering some of her questions.”
Meg nodded. “Thank you for doing that. I just couldn't,” she sighed, “I couldn't find the right words.”
“I understand,” replied Fraser,, “but I would say that, in my experience, children appreciate it if you are honest with them.”
Meg nodded. “I think I'd better go and see Amy.” Meg got to her feet and then suddenly wished she hadn't. Fraser quickly handed her the bucket, but she waved it away with her hand and took some deep breaths. “I'm alright Fraser,” she said, trying to convince herself as much has him.
A short while later, Ray and Fraser were talking in his office. “It always seems like such a good idea at the time, y'know,” said Ray.
“Consuming alcohol to excess you mean?” enquired Fraser.
“Yeah,” nodded Ray, “I know ya don't drink buddy and I get that, I do really, but believe me, sometimes when ya just don't wanna think about stuff any more...” his voice trailed off as he remembered some of the times he'd woken up in exactly the same state as the Inspector had that morning and while Stella hadn't physically poured the drink down his throat, she might as well have done. Either that, or it had been a really bad day at work, one of those days that ended with blood and tears and Ray kicking someone in the head.
“I prefer to meditate,” Fraser replied flatly.
“Yeah, well, I have no idea how to do that,” sighed Ray.
“I could teach you?” offered Fraser.
Ray laughed. “Can ya really see me, er, sat crossed legged on the floor hummin', or chantin', or somethin' buddy!”
“Ray,” began Fraser, “meditation can take many forms. At it's most basic level, it is simply the art of focussing one's mind, allowing you to bring greater calm and clarity to your thoughts.”
Ray laughed again. “Er, maybe I'll pass,” he grinned.
“You of all people, Ray, could really benefit from some calm and clarity occasionally,” Fraser responded, his eyebrows raised. Ray shook his head, still grinning. Just then, the fax machine in the corner buzzed into life. “Ah,” said Fraser, getting to his feet. I'm hoping this is the authorisation I'm waiting for regarding Miss Lavine's passports.” He reached over and lifted the printout from the tray. Scanning down the words, he frowned.
“What is it?” asked Ray. “Problem?”
Fraser nodded. “Unfortunately,” he replied. “There appears to be a discrepancy with regards to Jason Lavine. According to Ottawa, his name was changed a year ago to Jason McDowell and prior to that, his surname was Bouchard.”
Ray looked puzzled. “Ya think she'd, er, she'd know what her own son's name was?” he said.
“Hmmm,” agreed Fraser. “I will talk to her about it when she arrives. I can only issue her son a passport carrying his current legal name of course.”
As Fraser put the fax down on his desk, Meg Thatcher came in. “Sorry Fraser,” she said as soon as she saw Ray was there. Ray waved his hand dismissively. “Um, Amy's asking about something you put on her shoulder last night?” enquired Meg. “She wants some more, she said it smelled really bad but it felt good.”
Fraser reached into his drawer and retrieved the jar, handing it to Meg. “Apply it liberally,” he advised.
Meg nodded and turned to go, but then she turned back and looked as though she was desperate to speak, but couldn't quite find the right words. Ray glanced at Fraser, suddenly feeling a little uncomfortable. “Er, I'll go and make some coffee, or something,” he mumbled, getting up from his seat, but Meg raised her hand.
“No Detective,” she said, “it's alright, this is going to involve you as well, I imagine.” Now Ray was really intrigued. Meg took a deep breath. “Amy and I have been talking,” she said, “really talking I mean. She's a very intelligent child.” Meg smiled now and Fraser nodded in agreement.
“I've decided that I will return to Toronto,” continued Meg, “today, hopefully. I want to be with my sister. Whatever happens.”
“If you don't mind me saying Inspector, I think you've made the right decision,” said Fraser solemnly. Meg nodded.
“Er, yeah, me too,” agreed Ray, “but I'm not sure how this involves me?”
“Well, you see Detective,” Meg paused for a minute before continuing, unsure how what she was about to say would be received. “Amy and I have discussed it and we both think that I should go alone. Under the circumstances, I really can't be there for Lizzie and take care of Amy at the same time so I was wondering, um, that is, we were hoping that Amy could remain here under your care Constable. I know I can rely on you Fraser.”
“It would be my pleasure Sir,” smiled Fraser.
“Good,” Meg sighed a huge sigh of relief, “Detective, I'm sure you'll be helping your partner as usual.”
“Sure,” shrugged Ray, “she'll need someone to take her to the candy store and, er, to watch TV with.” Ray grinned at Fraser.
“Ray, I fully intend to encourage her to engage in whatever age appropriate pursuits she desires,” replied Fraser indignantly.
Ray and Meg exchanged a knowing glance. “I'll go and tell Amy,” said Meg, “she'll be so happy. Oh and Fraser,” she added, “for the duration, I'll wave the requirement for your daily 10989B reports.”
Fraser looked totally shocked. “Are you sure Sir?” he asked. Ray had to turn away so they didn't see him trying desperately not to laugh.
“Yes Fraser,” reiterated Meg. “I think you'll have enough to do.” Fraser nodded and Meg left the room.
About an hour later, Fraser was loading Meg's bag into the back of the taxi and Meg was giving Amy a huge hug. “I'll telephone you every day,” she promised the little girl. “Promise me you'll be a good girl for Fras, er, for Ben.”
“I will,” smiled Amy.
Ray stepped forward and took Amy's hand. “C'mon kid,” he said, glancing at Fraser, “it's cold out here, let's go back inside. Ya can wave outta the window.” He headed back into the Consulate with Amy, turning back just as they got to the door. “Er, hope, er, things turn out OK for ya Inspector.”
“Thank you,” smiled Meg, watching as the blonde detective took her niece inside. She turned her head back towards Fraser. “Look after her, please,” she said, her voice cracking, “she might just be the only family I have left.” As a single tear ran down her cheek, she fell into Fraser's arms.
“Don't worry about Amy,” Fraser said gently as he held her. “Ray and I will take good care of her.” He released her and opened the door of the taxi. With a wave to Amy, Meg got into the car.
As Fraser headed back up the steps to the Consulate, he heard another vehicle pull up outside and he turned to see Nicole Lavine getting out of her car with her son Jason. “Constable Fraser,” she called out to him, “I'm here for our passports.”
“Miss Lavine, please come in,” smiled Fraser as he led them inside. Jason ran up the steps, but Nicole grasped the handrail tightly. Fraser watched her with concern as he ushered them into the reception room, where Ray and Amy had been waving to Meg.
“Ben,” said Amy, “can I play outside with Dief?” she asked.
“Of course,” replied Fraser, “but make sure you put on your coat and don't leave the backyard.” Ray couldn't help smiling at his tone of voice.
“Hey, let me help ya with that coat,” said Ray, following Amy out of the room.
“Can I play outside too Mum?” asked Jason.
“No!” snapped Nicole, “I just want to get our passports and then we can leave.”
Fraser noticed that the woman's hands were shaking as she spoke and her skin was pale. “I'm afraid there's been a slight delay,” explained Fraser, “I need to discuss some discrepancies with you.” Nicole looked suddenly terrified and she began to tremble. “Don't worry,” Fraser tried to reassure her, “I'm sure it's just a misunderstanding.”
“What...what discrepancies?” asked Nicole.
“Your son's name,” replied Fraser, “I believe it has been recently changed, I think you may have misunderstood some of the questions on the application form.”
“Yes, yes, that's it,” replied Nicole, nodding furiously, “I misunderstood, I'm sorry. Sometimes I get confused with English.”
“No need to apologise,” smiled Fraser, “we can sort it out. First, let me get you some tea and perhaps something to eat?”
“Constable Fraser,” Nicole snapped, “can we please just get the passports. I want to get on the road, I have a long drive ahead of me.”
Fraser sighed. “Miss Lavine, if I may be blunt,” he began, “I know that you have had little or no food for a number of days now due I assume to financial difficulties. I'm sorry if you are embarrassed, I really don't wish to do that to you, however I would be neglecting my duties if I didn't insist that you eat something substantial.”
“Your duties?” replied Nicole, angrily, “this really is none of your business.”
“That's where you are mistaken,” replied Fraser standing with his hands clasped firmly behind his back. “It is my understanding that you wish to undertake a journey across the border into Canada by road today. It is my considered opinion that you are not fit to be in charge of a motor vehicle Miss Lavine. You are undernourished and physically weak and if you continue to refuse to eat I will have no choice but to confiscate your keys and impound your vehicle for your own safety, the safety of your son and that of other road users.”
Nicole was completely taken aback by Fraser's speech. Deep down she knew he was right, but she was desperate to leave today so she swallowed her pride and spoke. “I'm sorry Constable,” she said quietly. “It has been a very difficult week for me. I need to go home. I need those passports so that I can go home and then everything will be alright again.” She looked lovingly at her son and then back to Fraser.
Fraser nodded, acknowledging how difficult it was for Nicole to discuss her situation. “I'll go and see what we have in the kitchen,” he smiled, adding, “do you like bananas?”
As Fraser prepared two plates of food, Ray was talking on his phone to Lieutenant Welsh. From what Fraser could ascertain, it appeared that the Lieutenant was looking for a particular piece of evidence that he thought Ray might still have, but Ray insisted that he'd passed it to Francesca to be logged. The argument went on for several minutes. Out of the window, Fraser could see Amy and Dief playing in the backyard. Ray finally finished on the telephone. “I think I gotta get back to the station buddy,” sighed Ray, “but, er, I'll get back as soon as I can.”
“That's quite alright Ray,” replied Fraser. “I'm expecting Constable Turnbull to return shortly and I expect it will take me a while to resolve Miss Lavine's passport difficulties.”
“Are ya gonna ask her about, y'know, whatever her problem is?” asked Ray.
“I'm encouraged by her agreement to this,” replied Fraser, lifting the two plates off the side, “hopefully, once she has regained some physical strength, she may find it easier to discuss her difficulties.”
“Call me at the station if there's anythin' ya need,” said Ray. “I'll, er, just go and tell Amy that I gotta go.”
“Diefenbaker appears to be comfortable in the role of Amy's guardian,” said Fraser, nodding towards the window.
“Yeah,” agreed Ray and as he headed out to the backyard, Fraser carried the plates of food back to the other room.
Jason's eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw all the food. “Thank you,” he said as he tucked in.
Nicole picked up a banana and began to peel it. She glanced at her son and then looked at Fraser sadly. “I gave him everything I could afford,” she said quietly. “It wasn't enough.”
“You did what you could,” said Fraser supportively. “We really should discuss your son's legal name.” Fraser crossed to the table where he'd left all the paperwork. “Your son's legal name is still McDowell, therefore his passport needs to be issued in that name.”
Nicole nodded sadly. “I should never have let it happen,” she sighed. “At the time, I thought that I would become Mrs McDowell,” she explained, “but circumstances changed and...” her voice trailed off.
“Do those circumstances have anything to do with why you are no longer in possession of your belongings?” Fraser probed.
Nicole hung her head. “I don't want to discuss that,” she said.
“As you wish,” replied Fraser. He heard Ray in the hallway. “Would you like to speak to Detective Vecchio before he leaves?” he asked. “If you are in trouble, we can help you.”
“Constable, please,” insisted Nicole, “I told you that I don't want to talk about it. To anyone.” She was quite insistent.
“Understood,” replied Fraser. “If you'll excuse for one moment.” He went out to speak to Ray.
“I gotta go,” said Ray, “how're ya getting' on?”
Fraser shrugged. “She is still refusing help,” he said quietly. “I'm not sure...” but he wasn't able to finish his sentence as Dief came running in, barking. “Oh no,” said Fraser, running back after Dief.
“Amy?” Ray guessed, following them both outside. He wished he'd been wrong as they found Amy sitting on the path, crying and holding her leg tightly with one hand as a nasty looking graze on her knee began to throb. Her other arm was half out of it's sling and there was mud on her skirt.
Fraser crouched down in front of her and Ray sat beside her. “It's alright,” said Fraser gently, looking at her knee, “it's just a graze, nothing serious.”
Amy couldn't speak through her tears. “It's OK kid,” smiled Ray, trying to dry her face with the back of his hand, “Fraser, er, Ben'll fix it.” Fraser nodded and smiled. Ray scooped the little girl carefully up into his arms and carried her back into the kitchen.
“Sit her on the table please Ray,” asked Fraser, grabbing the first aid kit.
Ray gently sat Amy on the edge of the table and then hopped up next to her. “Whatever ya do, don't tell Turnbull we're sittin' up here,” he whispered, readjusting her sling. Amy managed a small smile.
Fraser began unpacking the first aid kit. He took another look at Amy's knee. “I'm going to need to clean it first,” he explained, “it may sting a little.”
Amy moved closer to Ray. “It's OK,” said Ray, “ya just gotta be a brave girl, can ya do that for me?”
“I don't know,” said Amy quietly.
“Sure ya can,” said Ray, “hold my hand and I promise ya, ya won't feel a thing.” Amy nodded and slipped her hand into Ray's. “There,” continued Ray, glancing at Fraser, “so, er, why don't ya tell me about school, do ya like school?”
Fraser was grateful to Ray for keeping Amy distracted while he worked on her knee. Amy told Ray all about her school and her best friend. She spoke about the school rabbit called Timmy and the dressing up box. She proudly told Ray that maths was her favourite subject because she was really good at it. Occasionally, Ray felt her grip tighten as Fraser carefully cleaned her wound. “I like writing stories too,” she said.
“I used to write, er, poems,” said Ray. “I guess I was a bit older than you. I was in high school and I had this, er, this crazy English teacher, Mr Parker and he said they were good. He said I had, um, a flair for it or somethin'.” Ray laughed, slightly embarrassed now. “He put some of them in this book that they had printed. It was a charity thing, I can't even remember what it was for now.”
“You wrote poetry?” said Fraser, raising his eyebrows in surprise as he unwrapped a dressing.
“Yeah,” replied Ray with a shrug. “They were stupid.”
“Your teacher didn't seem to think so,” Fraser pointed out. “Do you still have any of them?”
“I guess my Mom has them,” shrugged Ray. “I think I got the book at my place somewhere though.”
“I'd like to read them one day,” said Fraser earnestly. Ray looked at his partner and really wished he hadn't mentioned it now. He seemed to remember that they were mostly quite personal and reflected his thoughts and feelings throughout his difficult teenage years. “I'm sorry Ray,” said Fraser, tearing off a strip of tape, “if they're too personal...” he left it there and Ray marvelled at his partner's uncanny ability to know exactly what he was thinking again. “How does that feel Amy?” Fraser asked the little girl.
Amy looked at the clean, white dressing now securely taped to her knee and smiled. She slowly bent and straightened her knee, testing it out. “It feels good Ben,” she smiled, reaching out and surprising the Mountie with a hug.
“Good,” Fraser smiled back. “Now, I have to organise something urgently and I'm afraid that Ray has to go before Lieutenant Welsh gets too upset with him,” Ray nodded as Fraser said this, “but if you'd like to come with me Amy, a little boy named Jason is likely to get rather bored while his mother and I discuss legal documentation. Perhaps you could play a game with him?”
Ray gently lifted Amy down from the table. “OK Ben,” she said, hobbling slightly as she walked. They got back to the other room and Amy took the opportunity to give Ray a hug before he left.
Fraser pushed open the door to the reception room and found Jason sitting on the sofa eating a banana, but Nicole was nowhere to be seen. “Where's your mother?” asked Fraser, slightly puzzled. Jason just shrugged. Fraser looked behind the door, around the corner and went back into the hall.
“What is it buddy?” asked Ray, his hand on the front door handle.
“Nicole,” replied Fraser, spinning around on the spot. “She's gone.”
Ray looked confused. “Gone?” he repeated.
“It would appear so Ray,” replied Fraser, running along the hall and checking both his office and Inspector Thatcher's.
Ray raced up the stairs and looked in the bedroom, but she wasn't in there either. He came back down the stairs to find Fraser shaking his head. “She's not here Ray,” he said. He opened the front door to find the woman's hire car still parked outside where she'd left it. He closed the front door and went back into the reception room, closely followed by Ray and Amy. He crouched down next to the sofa and spoke gently, but firmly to Jason. “Did your mother say where she was going?” he asked.
“Don't know,” Jason shook his head. “She just said she loved me.”
Fraser glanced up at Ray. They both instantly knew what had happened. Nicole had been so desperate that she'd decided to run, leaving her young son behind. Whatever her problems were, they must be quite serious, decided Fraser. He now felt even more guilty for not doing more to help her yesterday when they'd first met. Ray pulled his phone from his pocket. “I'll call it in,” he said. “They'll get a social worker over here,” and he started to punch out the number.
“Ray,” said Fraser getting to his feet, “I agree that we need to find Nicole, but I don't believe that she intends to abandon her son indefinitely. If the social workers get involved, that will create even more problems for this family.”
Ray sighed and clicked off his phone. “It's procedure Fraser, ya know that,” he said, “I don't like it any more than you do buddy.”
“Twenty four hours,” Fraser suggested, “we can look after him here for twenty four hours. That should give us plenty of time to locate Nicole Lavine. She needs our help Ray. I let her down yesterday, I cannot allow that to happen again.”
Ray nodded. “OK,” he agreed, his instincts telling him his partner was making the right decision. “I'd better call Welsh and tell him that I won't be in. I got a missin' persons case now.”
“Thank you kindly Ray,” smiled Fraser. He took a deep breath and looked at Jason and Amy. Now there were two young children under his care and he was a little overwhelmed. He glanced at Dief and decided to ignore the wolf's derogatory comments about his childcare abilities at this juncture.
A short while later, Amy and Jason were playing happily. They had piled up some cushions to make a secret fort and there were sounds of giggling coming from the room. Fraser and Ray had been making countless telephone calls. Fraser had faxed all the information he had on Nicole Lavine over to Francesca at the station, together with the photograph he had of her and Lieutenant Welsh had arranged for several units to be out looking for her. Ray had called the address that Nicole had given and talked with Steve McDowell who was her ex-boyfriend. Ray had been very vague about the situation and didn't say that Nicole had disappeared, but McDowell didn't have very much to say. He told Ray that Nicole had told him one morning that she was leaving him and then she and Jason had just left. “He was hiding somethin',” announced Ray as he put his phone back in his pocket.
“I don't doubt it for a minute,” replied Fraser, “Nicole had quite clearly left under difficult circumstances.” They heard Constable Turnbull arrive back. “In here!” Fraser called out.
Turnbull knocked on Fraser's door before coming in. “Sorry I took so long Sir,” he puffed, slightly out of breath.
“That's quite alright,” replied Fraser, suddenly feeling slightly guilty for sending his colleague out on so many errands. He'd only done it to avoid any awkward questions regarding the state of Inspector Thatcher's health. “There have been one or two developments this morning,” Fraser went on, “have a seat Turnbull.” The younger Mountie moved a box from a chair and sat down. Fraser and Ray proceeded to tell him all about Meg's return to Toronto and also about Nicole and Jason.
“You know you can rely on me to assist you in any way you need me to Sir,” Turnbull said earnestly when he'd been told everything.
“Yes, um, thank you kindly Turnbull,” replied Fraser a little hesitantly. That offer shouldn't have made him quite as nervous as it did.
Just then there was another knock at the door. Ray opened it and Amy and Jason walked in. “Hey kids, how ya doin'?” he asked them.
“Where's my Mum?” asked Jason, sadly.
Ray glanced at Fraser. “Er, she's not back yet,” he began, “but she's got some really important stuff to do, so don't worry, she'll be back for ya real soon.”
“In the meantime,” Fraser said, getting to his feet, “who's hungry?”
“Me!” chorused the children in unison and Diefenbaker joined in with a bark.
“Allow me,” insisted Turnbull and Fraser nodded in agreement. “Come along children,” continued Turnbull, “perhaps you could help me?”
The two children excitedly skipped out of the room after Turnbull and Ray couldn't help laughing at the sight. “I think I'll pay Mr McDowell a visit,” said Ray, refocussing his mind on Nicole Lavine.
“An excellent idea,” agreed Fraser. “We can ask him exactly what happened between him and Nicole and we can enquire as to the circumstances surrounding changing Jason's surname.”
Ray held up both of his hands in protest. “Woah there buddy,” he said, “what's all this 'we' business? I'm goin' alone, ya gotta stay here.”
Fraser looked like he'd been slapped in the face. “But...but we always do these things together?” he said.
“Today is kinda different,” explained Ray. “Ya got responsibilities here. Those kids need ya here.”
“I'm sure Constable Turnbull is more than capable...” began Fraser, but Ray interrupted him.
“No way Fraser,” Ray interrupted him, shaking his head. “Last time we left Turnbull babysittin' he wound up bound and gagged!” Ray was referring to the time that they had helped bounty hunter Janet Morse and her three children had taken great delight in taking full advantage of Turnbull.
“I agree, but Amy and Jason are far better behaved, I'm sure that they won't cause any trouble,” Fraser protested.
“Fraser, I just don't think it's fair on them. Ya saw Jason just now, he's scared,” said Ray, seriously. “His Mum's left him and he can't figure out what's goin' on. She left him in your care Fraser and then there's Amy too. The Ice, er, I mean the Inspector entrusted you with Amy. D'ya really think she'd have wanted Turnbull takin' care of her niece? They're two really, um, really vulnerable kids Fraser and they need to be with you right now.”
Fraser was completely taken aback by his partner's impassioned speech. He hadn't thought about it like that. Jason was confused and frightened and whilst Amy was coping admirably with the events of the past few days, inside Fraser knew she was terrified of what her future held. “You're absolutely right Ray,” he said quietly. “I wasn't trying to shirk my responsibilities.”
Ray smiled. “I never said ya were buddy,” he said. “Perhaps I could take Turnbull with me?” he added.
“Are you absolutely sure?” queried Fraser in surprise.
“Yeah, why not?” shrugged Ray. “He's a cop, a trained observer right? Who knows, he, er, may just surprise me.” Ray grinned now. “Besides, people respond to the uniform, we both know that.”
“Well, Turnbull did offer to assist,” agreed Fraser, “and a second pair of eyes and ears may prove beneficial. While I'm here I can access the RCMP computer system and research Nicole's background and also see if I can shed any light on the situation regarding Jason's legal name.”
Ray and Turnbull pulled up outside the apartment block where Nicole and Jason had been living previously with Steve McDowell. “Now remember,” Ray said to Turnbull before he got out of the GTO, “let me do the talkin', OK?”
Turnbull nodded silently, he was so nervous. Since he began working at the Consulate, he'd had very little opportunity to carry out any field work. He really hoped he didn't mess this up. He thought perhaps that if he impressed Ray today, then maybe he would be invited to liaise with the Chicago PD again in the future. He really hoped so.
They walked up to the apartment and Ray knocked on the front door. It was opened by a slightly overweight man with heavy eyebrows and unkempt dark hair. “Vecchio, Chicago PD,” said Ray, flashing his badge, “we talked on the phone earlier, can we come in?” Ray barged his way into the apartment without waiting for an answer and Turnbull dutifully followed.
“I told you on the phone Detective,” began McDowell, “I don't know where she is. You said this has something to do with her passport? She left them here, hers and Jason's. I'll get them for you.”
Ray glanced at Turnbull. Ray could almost see his brain working as he mentally noted everything in the apartment in case anything was of significance. Ray couldn't help but be impressed. McDowell returned moments later with the two passports and handed them to Ray.
Ray quickly glanced at the photos before handing them to Turnbull. “When was the last time ya saw her?” asked Ray.
“I went over this,” replied McDowell, beginning to get annoyed, “she left here over two weeks ago and I haven't seen or heard from her since. Is she in some sort of trouble?”
“Nope,” lied Ray, “just checkin' up on a few things, that's all. When she made the application for new passports, she said her son's surname was the same as hers, Lavine, but the kid's old passport has his name as McDowell.” Ray nodded towards the passports in Turnbull's hand.
“We had our son's name changed legally,” explained the man. Ray of course already knew this as Nicole had told Fraser before, but he wanted to hear exactly what McDowell had to say about it. “Nicole and I were engaged to be married. We were meant to be getting married this year. I wanted to go to the Bahamas.”
“How romantic!” exclaimed Turnbull, but he was immediately silenced by a glare from Ray.
“Your son?” Ray queried, “Jason isn't your son though, is he?”
McDowell hung his head sadly. “I loved him as my own,” he replied.
Ray wandered over to a bookcase and picked up a photograph in a wooden frame. It was of Steve McDowell with a young boy. They were laughing at the camera. “This isn't Jason, who is it?” Ray asked abruptly.
“That is my son, my real son, Angus,” explained McDowell. “My ex-wife has full custody.”
“I see,” Ray said as he replaced the photograph. He couldn't see any other photographs on display in the room, certainly none of Nicole or Jason, although McDowell could have removed them following his recent split, Ray thought, if they were too painful to look at.
Ray asked McDowell a few more questions and then they went to leave. “If ya do hear from Miss Lavine, please call me on this number,” Ray offered the man his card, “or ya can contact Constable Turnbull here at the Canadian Consulate. Number's in the book.”
“Thank you kindly,” smiled Turnbull, shaking McDowell's hand as they headed out of the door. Once back in the car, Turnbull was ready to share everything he'd noticed. “Did you see Detective?” he said, eagerly, “that photograph of his son was the only one in the room, there were none of young Jason or his mother, even though Mr McDowell said he loved them. I thought this was rather odd.”
“Yeah, got that,” agreed Ray.
“Also, did you see his eyes whenever you mentioned Miss Lavine's name?” Turnbull continued.
“His eyes?” Ray was puzzled.
“Yes Detective, his pupils contracted approximately point two five of a millimetre every time,” explained Turnbull enthusiastically, “I'm surprised you didn't notice it yourself.”
“Well, I, er, I was lookin' at other things,” Ray said, “so, er, what d'ya think that means exactly. The, er, the eye thing.”
“Well it means he probably knows where she is of course,” replied Turnbull, not quite able to believe that Ray even had to ask.
“Oh yeah, I knew that,” Ray lied. “Let's head back to the station, I want to see if Frannie's got any more info.”
Meanwhile, at the Consulate, Fraser had been researching Nicole Lavine's past. Jason's father, Pat Bouchard, had filed for divorce from Nicole when Jason was less than two years old and Nicole and Jason had moved to the US soon afterwards. Fraser had attempted to contact Nicole's ex-husband by telephone, but he'd had no luck so far. Fraser switched off his computer and decided that Amy and Jason had been entertaining themselves for far too long. He got up from his chair, but as he did so, the door slowly opened and Amy stepped into the room. “Ben, Jason's crying,” she said.
“Oh dear,” replied Fraser and followed the little girl back to the other room where Jason was sobbing into Dief's back. Fraser sat down on the floor next to the little boy. “Jason,” he said softly, putting his hand on the child's back, “Jason, what's wrong?”
Jason lifted his head and looked at Fraser. “I want my Mummy to come back,” he sniffed.
Fraser really felt for the young boy. “She'll be back as soon as she can,” he tried to reassure him, “I'm sure she's missing you as much as you're missing her.”
“She said we were going home,” he wailed, “she said we could go back and see my real dad. I hate Daddy Steve.”
Fraser was a little shocked at the boy's last statement. “You hate him?” he repeated, “why?”
“He was mean to me,” replied Jason, “he never let me do anything I wanted.”
"What kind of things?" asked Fraser.
Jason shrugged. "He said I couldn't have a skateboard because they were too dangerous," he replied wiping away his tears, "and he never let me play outside."
"Maybe he didn't want to see you get hurt?" suggested Fraser.
Jason shrugged again and then began to get really upset. Fraser put a strong arm around his shoulder. "Sshhh," he tried to soothe the boy, "it's alright. Your mum will be back very soon. Amy, perhaps you could get Jason a glass of milk?"
"OK Ben," replied Amy.
"Carry the glass very carefully," Fraser called out after her. He turned his attention back to the little boy who was weeping in his arms. "Jason, listen to me," he began softly, "it's alright to cry sometimes, but I think your Mum would be really sad if she thought you were this upset wouldn't she?" Jason shrugged. Fraser brought his handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to the boy. "I want you to dry your eyes now and try really hard to be happy. Can you do that for me?"
"I don't know?" sniffed Jason, drying his face on Fraser's handkerchief.
Fraser looked into his sad eyes. He felt so sorry for the child. He'd been through so much emotional turmoil and upheaval in his young life and it didn't seem fair. "Your mum is going to take you home to Canada very soon," Fraser said encouragingly. "I don't suppose you remember much about it there do you?" Jason had been a baby when they'd left. Jason shook his head. "Canada is a beautiful country," Fraser's eyes lit up as he spoke, "of course I've never been to Quebec, but I'm sure it's as delightful as the Yukon."
Amy came back in with a glass of milk and passed it to Fraser. "Thank you kindly Amy," he said. "Shall we sit on the sofa?" he asked, getting to his feet and offering his hand to Jason, "we might be more comfortable."
Jason reached up and took hold of Fraser's hand, but as he got to his feet, Fraser noticed his breathing was a little raspy. He led the boy to the sofa and placed the milk on the coffee table. "Jason," began Fraser with some concern, crouching on one knee in front of him, "do you have asthma?"
"Yes," replied Jason, "sometimes." He was taking shorter breaths now.
“Try to breathe slowly,” urged Fraser, “do you have medication?” he asked urgently, undoing the two small buttons at the neck of the boy's t-shirt. Jason didn't understand and now he was beginning to get frightened as his breathing was becoming more difficult. “An inhaler,” Fraser clarified, miming the action of using one. He glanced at Amy who was looking really worried.
“Yes,” gasped Jason, “I've got...one of...those,” he was wheezing badly as he tried to speak.
Fraser grabbed the small bag that Nicole had left with her son and began rummaging in it, looking for Jason's inhaler. “I'm sure it's in here somewhere, it's alright, you're going to be fine,” said Fraser. He felt sure that Nicole would have left such an important item in the bag. Fraser couldn't see it, so he tipped the contents of the bag out on the floor. He searched through the items of Jason's clothing that filled the bag. He realised that Nicole must have pre planned leaving Jason at the Consulate, presumably she'd thought she'd go if she wasn't able to collect their passports immediately, which is exactly what had happened. What he still couldn't quite work out was why.
“I...don't...like this...” Jason was beginning to panic now. That was the worse thing he could do, thought Fraser. Finally he unzipped one of the side pockets of the bag and found Jason's inhaler.
“It's alright,” Fraser said reassuringly, handing the trembling child his medication, “you're going to be alright.” As Fraser sat down next to him, Jason took two puffs from his inhaler and the medication quickly began to work. “That's it, take deep breaths,” urged Fraser, putting a steadying hand on the boy's shoulder. He looked at Amy again. “He's fine Amy, don't worry,” he said.
“What's wrong with him Ben?” Amy asked, still worried.
“I get asthma,” replied Jason, who was much calmer now, “it means I can't breathe properly sometimes.” Amy seemed satisfied with his explanation.
“It may have been triggered by your close proximity to Diefenbaker. How do you feel now?” Fraser asked Jason. He could hear that the boy's airway was much less constricted now.
“I'm OK Constable Ben,” replied Jason.
“Good,” Fraser smiled at Jason's name for him, “you just sit still there for a while and tell me if you start to feel unwell again. You may feel a little tired now, but that's fine, it's nothing to worry about.” Jason nodded. Fraser looked at Amy. “Why don't you come and sit here with us?” he asked her.
Amy smiled and jumped onto the sofa, sitting the other side of Fraser and resting her head on his chest. Fraser gently put his arm around her. He looked from Amy on his right to Jason on his left and the strangest feeling washed over him. Ray had been right earlier, these two children really did need him and it was both terrifying and amazing in equal measure.
A little while later, Jason had fallen asleep on the sofa, just as Fraser had anticipated. Fraser had covered him with a blanket and he and Amy had crept out of the room and into his office. Amy had asked for some of Fraser's 'smelly ointment' for her shoulder as it had started to ache a little and then Fraser had called Ray to see how his afternoon was going and whether they were any closer to tracking down Nicole Lavine. Ray told him about their visit to Steve McDowell's and said that Francesca was waiting on a telephone call that could yield some further information on Nicole's former boyfriend. As soon as that came through, he told Fraser, he and Turnbull would head back to the Consulate with a pizza.
“I love pizza,” smiled Amy, as soon as Fraser told her about their dinner plans. “My favourite topping is pineapple.”
Fraser laughed. “Ray would agree with you on that choice,” he said.
“Is Jason going to stay with us tonight?” asked Amy.
Fraser hesitated for a moment. Part of him had hoped that Nicole would have returned by now, or that one of the patrols that were out searching the city would have found her, but as the afternoon rolled into evening, he knew that was becoming more and more unlikely. “Yes, I believe so,” he replied. Just then, the telephone on Fraser's desk rang. It was Inspector Thatcher. She told him that there had been some very slight improvements in her sister's condition. “That is a very good sign,” commented Fraser. “Amy's right here, would you like to speak with her?”
Amy jumped up and took the receiver from him. “Hi Auntie Meg,” she said, smiling. She listened to everything her aunt had to say. “I love you Auntie Meg,” finished Amy with a smile and handed the telephone back to Fraser. As Fraser said goodbye to his superior officer, he could hear the emotion in her voice that the little girl's final comment had brought out.
“My Mum's still asleep,” Amy explained to Fraser, “but Auntie Meg is staying with her all the time and asking her to wake up really soon. I wish she could be better now.” Amy looked sad again and stared at the floor.
“Amy, look at me,” Fraser said, getting down on one knee and lifting the girl's chin with his finger. “Try not to be sad, your Mum is trying her best to get better and there are lots of people helping her.”
“Jason's Mum left him here on purpose didn't she,” said Amy, “my Mum doesn't want to leave me, I know she doesn't.”
“No, she doesn't Amy,” replied Fraser, suddenly thinking about his own mother and fighting a wave of emotion that was threatening to rise up and overwhelm him, “and Jason's Mum really didn't want to leave him either,” he tried to explain, “but she has some trouble that she needs to sort out and then she'll be coming back for him.”
Amy nodded, trying to understand. She noticed Fraser's guitar standing in the corner. “Can you play that?” she asked him, her eyes brightening a little.
“Well, yes I can,” replied Fraser, “would you like me to sing you a song?”
Amy smiled a huge smile now. “Yes please Ben,” she said excitedly swinging her legs to and fro as she sat on the chair. So they sang songs and laughed until Ray and Turnbull returned.
“So Steve McDowell has a rap sheet as big as your hat buddy,” Ray handed Fraser the printout that Francesca had given him and he picked up another slice of pizza.
“What's a rap sheet?” asked Amy.
Ray glanced at Fraser. “Er, it means he did some things in the past, some, criminal things,” he explained.
“Perhaps we should discuss this later?” suggested Fraser and Ray nodded.
“I have to go now I'm afraid, I'm expected at the soup kitchen,” said Turnbull, “but if you ever need my help again Detective, you know where to find me.” Turnbull got to his feet and saluted Ray.
Ray bit hard on his lower lip. He didn't want to laugh at Turnbull's over enthusiasm as he actually had been quite a help with the investigation that afternoon, not only at McDowell's house, but also back at the Twenty Seventh. How much of that help was borne out of a desire to spend time working closely with Francesca was debatable, but whatever the reason, the results had moved the investigation along and Ray was grateful for that. “Yeah, I will,” said Ray and Turnbull left for the evening.
Fraser went into the other room to check on Jason for the third time that evening and realised that he had just woken up. “Hello,” he smiled at the boy, “how are you feeling?”
“Is my mum back yet?” he asked, hopefully.
Fraser sat on the edge of the sofa. “Not yet I'm afraid. You're going to be staying here with me tonight, but I'm sure she'll be back tomorrow.” Fraser was pleased to hear Jason's breathing had completely returned to normal after his asthma attack earlier. Jason looked sad. “Would you like some pizza?” asked Fraser.
The boy tried to smile. “Yes please,” he said, swinging his legs around and getting to his feet.
Fraser and Ray left Jason and Amy to finish the pizza, with a little help from Diefenbaker and went into Inspector Thatcher's office to discuss the information on Steve McDowell that Ray and Turnbull had discovered earlier. “His ex-wife has a restraining order on him?” Fraser said, quite surprised as he read through the paperwork.
“Yeah,” replied Ray, “and that was after she filed harassment charges against him twice.”
“Does he have visiting rights for his son?” asked Fraser.
“He gets one supervised visit a month,” explained Ray.
Fraser frowned. “There are a number of petty theft and criminal damage convictions going back to the time of his marriage.” Ray nodded. “I'm sure Nicole didn't know about any of this. I don't believe she would have knowingly taken Jason to live with this man if she knew.”
“Maybe she loved him Fraser,” suggested Ray, “kinda makes ya do dumb things sometimes.”
Fraser let out a slow breath. Ray was absolutely right of course. Until they could find Nicole and ask her, they really had no idea what had been going through her mind, nor did they know exactly what her relationship had been like with McDowell. They had plans to marry at one stage, Fraser reminded himself. “We should pay him another visit tomorrow Ray,” said Fraser, “you mentioned that Turnbull was convinced that he was keeping something from you.”
“Yeah,” Ray nodded, “but maybe he just didn't like havin' cops in the house, considerin', er, his past history?”
“You could be right Ray,” Fraser pondered. “I assume there has been no further information regarding Nicole's whereabouts.”
“Sorry buddy,” shrugged Ray, “Welsh has got people all over it though. I guess she just doesn't wanna be found?”
Ray said goodnight to Amy and Jason and headed home. Fraser helped the children get themselves ready for bed, changing the dressing on Amy's knee and then he found some bedding to settle Jason on the sofa. “I'm just along the hall if you need anything,” he said and Jason nodded. “Come along Amy, let's get you up to bed.”
“Please can you tell us a story first Ben,” asked Amy. “Ben told me a great story last night,” she said to Jason.
“Do you know any stories about dinosaurs Constable Ben?” asked Jason.
“Um, no,” replied Fraser honestly, “but I do know one about a bear who...” but then he stopped and thought for a minute about the rather violent outcome of that story. “Actually that's not really appropriate,” he said, shaking his head, “but there is the tale of the beaver and the muskrat.” The children listened intently as Fraser told them the gentle tale of how the two animals had learnt to work together in the face of adversity.
“I think Jason's asleep,” whispered Amy.
Fraser nodded and pulled another blanket up over the sleeping child. He stood up and helped Amy to her feet. “How's your shoulder tonight?” he asked, keeping his voice low as they headed out of the room and up the stairs.
“I think it feels better than this morning,” she said, “but it still hurts.”
“It will take time before the aching subsides fully,” explained Fraser. “would you like more of the ointment tonight?”
“Yes please,” smiled Amy, as she climbed into her bed. Fraser removed her sling and carefully began to apply some more of the natural remedy. “Is Ray still looking for Jason's Mum?” Amy asked him.
“There are a lot of Police officers looking for her,” Fraser replied, “but I'm hoping that she will return of her own accord.”
“What does that mean?” asked a puzzled Amy.
“It means she will come back because she wants to,” Fraser explained. He was really trying to think about his choice of vocabulary around Amy, but sometimes he misjudged it.
“Can we go and look for her tomorrow?” asked Amy seriously.
Fraser smiled. “I'm sure that Jason would be very grateful for your offer of assistance,” he said, “but the Chicago Police Department have more than enough officers undertaking the search.”
Amy nodded and tried to get comfortable in her bed. “Goodnight Ben,” she said. Fraser switched the light off and went back downstairs, leaving the bedroom door slightly ajar. As she heard his footsteps get further away, Amy suddenly felt scared. She didn't want to have another nightmare tonight, but the darkness had already started to play with her mind. She closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep, but she kept thinking about her Mum and how much she missed her. Amy tried really hard not to cry, but she couldn't help it. “Ben,” she called out.
She was just about to call out again, when the door opened and Fraser appeared. He switched on the small lamp that was on the bedside table and sat on the edge of the bed. “Sshhh, everything will be alright,” he said gently and he wrapped his arms around her. He didn't need to say anything else, he could tell by the look in her eyes that she just needed someone to tell her that. Fraser didn't know what was going to happen to her mother of course, but he knew from his own experience that even if the worse was to happen, eventually everything would be alright.
The next morning, Fraser awoke early as usual. The first thing he noticed was the silence. No wolf snoring at his feet. Puzzled, he got up and went out into the hall. Now he could hear it. He carefully pushed open the door of the room where Jason was sleeping on the sofa to find Diefenbaker curled up at the boy's feet. Dief opened one eye as he became aware of Fraser's presence. Fraser put a finger to his lips, smiled and left the room to make breakfast.
A short while later, Ray let himself into the Consulate, as had become his habit. Fraser didn't like it of course. Technically, he kept reminding Ray, he was breaking and entering and one day Fraser would have no option but to place him under arrest for the crime. Ray, of course, ignored him. As he stepped into the hall he was met by Fraser running down the stairs, a look of mild panic on his face. “What's up buddy?” asked Ray, suddenly very concerned.
“Oh thank heavens you're here Ray,” said Fraser, “I need your help.” Before he could explain further, he stopped silent as he noticed that Ray had something tucked under his arm. “What's that Ray?”
Ray looked at him incredulously. “It's a cabbage,” he replied sarcastically, “it's a soccer ball, what do you think it is?”
“There's no need for that tone,” replied Fraser, slightly huffily. “What's it for?”
“Er, it's for playing soccer with Fraser?” Ray knew that Fraser had led a somewhat sheltered childhood, but surely he knew what soccer was?
“I realise that Ray...” Fraser began, but Ray interrupted him.
“I thought maybe we could go to the park today,” he explained, “y'know, you, me and the kids.” He stopped and laughed as he realised how weird that sounded.
Fraser smiled too. “That's a lovely thought Ray,” he said, “but we really should be concentrating our efforts on locating Nicole Lavine.”
“Yeah I know that,” sighed Ray, “but I was thinkin', maybe if we took Jason outside, played a bit of soccer, ate some hot dogs, maybe he'd, er, y'know, maybe he'd feel like talkin'. I mean, I figure kids are usually pretty observant, so maybe he knows somethin'?”
“That's an excellent idea Ray,” nodded Fraser.
“I mean, he's six years old so we can't interview him like we would any other witness,” Ray continued.
“Agreed,” replied Fraser.
“Doesn't seem fair to try good cop bad cop on the kid,” joked Ray with a grin.
“Indeed,” agreed Fraser, raising his eyebrows.
“Anyway,” Ray continued, “what was so urgent that ya needed my help?”
“Oh yes,” Fraser suddenly remembered, “it's Amy, she wants me to braid her hair and I'm afraid I have no idea how to achieve that.”
Ray laughed. “And ya think I do?” he replied with a surprised grin.
“Well Ray you always spend a lot of time and trouble on your own hair,” began Fraser by way of explanation, “so I thought perhaps...”
“Fraser!” exclaimed Ray, “I've never braided my hair, or anyone else's come to think of it.”
“Oh dear,” Fraser looked dejected.
“C'mon,” Ray turned Fraser around and manhandled him back up the stairs, “let's see if we can't add hair braidin' to your list of Mountie skills.”
It wasn't long before Fraser, Ray, Amy, Jason and Dief were at the park. Dief and Jason had run off ahead and Amy was holding Fraser's hand as they walked along. “Thanks for fixing my hair Ben,” she smiled.
“I'm sorry it took so long,” Fraser apologised, “if I'd known it was so similar to basket weaving when I started...”
“I love it,” Amy interrupted him.
They found a secluded spot on a gentle slope and Fraser spread out a blanket. Dief immediately made himself comfortable. Fraser tutted. “Why don't you take this opportunity to brush up on your hunting skills?” he suggested to the animal. “They have become rather sloppy.” Dief growled. “Yes, sloppy,” reiterated Fraser. “I'm sorry, but it's true.” Dief made another noise. “Diefenbaker!” exclaimed Fraser in disgust, covering Amy's ears with his hands. He was quite perturbed by the profanities his wolf had picked up since living in Chicago, most of them, admittedly, were from Ray but that was really not the point. Dief was Canadian, he should know better.
Ray and Jason were kicking the ball around. “How did ya sleep?” he asked the boy.
“OK,” replied Jason, running after the ball, “the sofa's pretty comfortable.”
“Sure is,” agreed Ray, thinking of the nights he'd spent crashed out on the very same item of furniture himself. “So, er, I guess you're lookin' forward to getting' back home.” Ray suggested.
Jason shrugged. “I guess so,” he said, kicking the ball slowly along the ground back towards Ray. “I like it here though.”
“Oh,” replied Ray, “I thought ya, um, I didn't think ya were havin' such a good time lately.”
Jason picked up the ball and looked at Ray. “I don't like Daddy Steve,” he said flatly, “but I like it in Chicago. Mum said in Quebec they all speak French. I don't want to speak French. Sometimes I talk French with my Mum but not all the time.”
“So what did your Daddy Steve do that you didn't like?” asked Ray, not wanting to push him too far at this stage.
“He shouted all the time,” said Jason sadly, walking back towards the blanket where the others were sitting. “He never let me do what I wanted and he shouted at my Mum.”
“Jason was just tellin' me some stuff about what's it been like livin' here,” Ray explained, glancing at Fraser.
“Oh I see,” said Fraser. “Dief, why don't you take Amy and see if you can forage for something.” Dief made a whining noise. “Please,” added Fraser, raising his eyebrows. Dief recognised that look and got to his feet. “Amy don't touch anything unless Dief says it's alright,” Fraser called after them. Amy wasn't exactly sure how Dief was going to be able to tell her if it was alright, but she figured they'd work something out.
Ray watched them head off towards the trees and then turned back to Jason. “I guess ya were pleased to get outta that apartment then?” he asked.
Jason nodded sadly. Fraser glanced at Ray before speaking. “Jason,” he began, gently, “did Steve ever hurt you or your Mum?”
Jason shook his head. “He was just weird that's all.”
“What d'ya mean?” asked Ray.
“Just weird, I dunno,” replied Jason, “sometimes he called me Angus.” Ray and Fraser looked at each other. They both recognised that as the name of Steve McDowell's son. The one he only ever got to see during supervised monthly visits. “He drove me to school every day and he made me play with these old toys too,” Jason continued, “I wanted to play with my own toys.”
Ray frowned. Steve McDowell appeared to be very controlling, but that in itself wasn't a crime. It also sounded like he had a bit of a temper, but if that temper had not developed into physical abuse then, again, there was very little they could do in terms of investigating him in respect of criminal activity.
“Ben!” Amy called out and Fraser leapt up and ran over to her. “Look,” smiled the little girl, “Dief found an ant's nest.” Amy was watching the ants as they walked in a perfect straight line. Fraser told Amy all about how a colony of ants lived and she listened intently asking questions and taking in all the information. Fraser loved the way children soaked up information like a sponge and he wished that adults could be the same. Sometimes the cynicism of adults saddened him, Ray in particular, on occasion and the real Ray Vecchio could be even worse. He never seemed interested in learning anything from Fraser, although Fraser of course realised that most of that was just his way and Ray Vecchio had been very set in his ways when he'd first met him. The time they'd spent together in Chicago, before Ray had gone undercover, had been enlightening for both of them and he really hoped that he'd had as positive an impact on Ray Vecchio's life as Ray had had on his. He thought he had, although Ray would never tell him so of course. He and Ray Vecchio rarely talked about such things, not in the way he and Ray Kowalski did. He missed his friend and he really wished that, when the undercover assignment was over, his two best friends would get along. He glanced over at Ray and suddenly a wave of doubt washed over him. Well, maybe they wouldn't hit it off straight away, he thought.
After buying hot dogs from Ray's favourite hot dog stand, they decided to head back to the Twenty Seventh to check on a few things. Amy and Jason were very excited to be going to a real police station.
“Hi Frase,” Francesca sidled up to him as soon as they walked into the squad room.
Fraser blushed and cleared his throat before speaking. “Good afternoon Francesca,” he replied.
“Hi Frannie,” Ray waved his hand deliberately in front of her face as he spoke, “I'm here too y'know.”
Francesca sneered at him. “Um, yes, so you are,” she replied curtly. “There's a fax from Quebec on your desk.” Then she looked to the children. “Hello,” she said, smiling, “you must be Amy and you must be Jason.” The children nodded shyly. “Would you like me to show you around?” she asked, glancing up at Fraser for permission. Fraser nodded and Francesca took Jason and Amy on a quick tour of the precinct. Fraser noted how at ease Francesca was with them and momentarily thought what a great mother she'd make, before quickly erasing that thought from his head, with a crack of his neck.
“Ya OK?” asked Ray.
“Yes,” replied Fraser shortly. Ray suppressed a grin as he noticed Fraser desperately trying not to look at Francesca's behind that she'd managed to somehow squeeze into a tiny skirt again, as she walked out.
Ray went to his desk and picked up the fax. “Oh,” he said, surprised, “looks like Nicole had a, er, a pretty bad time of it up there too.” He handed the piece of paper to Fraser.
“An ugly divorce on grounds of her husband's adultery,” nodded Fraser, scanning down the details. “No wonder she wanted to leave the country at the earliest opportunity. I imagine she wished to make a fresh start for herself and her son.”
“Divorce sucks,” noted Ray, quietly and Fraser gave him a small supportive and understanding smile.
Detective Dewey came over. “Vecchio,” he said, “got word from one of the patrol cars. They think they spotted her coming out of McDowell's apartment earlier, but they lost her.”
“They lost her!” exclaimed Ray, “graduates from the Thomas Dewey school of detective work are they?”
“I'm going to ignore your derogatory comment,” replied Dewey, remaining remarkably calm, “Francesca has been teaching me about achieving inner peace.”
“Inner peace?” Ray said incredulously.
“Yes,” replied Dewey, seriously, “I have learnt that I can attain my own inner peace by ignoring the negative affects of those around me.”
Ray slapped him on the back. “Yeah, er, good luck with that.” Ray shook his head in disbelief as Dewey walked back to his desk.
“You know Ray,” began Fraser, “you could really benefit from...”
“Shut it,” Ray interrupted him, wagging his finger at his partner, “I get inner peace by kickin' scumbags in the head, got it?” Fraser shook his head sadly. “C'mon, let's get outta here,” said Ray, “Dewey, let me know if the clowns find the kid's mother, OK.” They collected the children and drove back to the Consulate.
When they arrived, Constable Turnbull was waiting for them at the door with a tray of freshly baked cookies. “Try one,” he insisted. They had to admit, they were delicious. “I've found this old jigsaw puzzle for you,” he said, producing a rather tatty box and handing it to Jason.
“Thanks,” said Jason with a smile and he and Amy ran upstairs to do the puzzle.
“I have made a stew Sir,” said Turnbull, “there's plenty for all of you. I assume there's no further word on Miss Lavine?”
“I'm afraid not Turnbull,” replied Fraser, “and thank you kindly for cooking for us tonight.”
“It was no trouble,” replied Turnbull, “I thought you already had enough to do.” He saluted to Fraser and Fraser returned the gesture. “If you'll excuse me now, I must be going.”
After dinner, Amy and Jason were trying to make another secret hideout using chairs and blankets. “I used to do this when I was a kid,” grinned Ray as he and Fraser helped them.
“I would often construct a shelter between two trees using animal hides,” said Fraser. Ray laughed. Same game, just in a Fraser kind of way, he thought.
Just then, Dief leapt up and started barking. “What is it?” Fraser asked him. “Oh no,” he said, quietly as he listened to the reply. He ran out into the hall with Dief and Ray followed, sensing something was wrong. Fraser opened the front door and they were both shocked to see Nicole Lavine standing on the doorstep, shivering in the cold. “Come in,” urged Fraser, beckoning her inside and taking her elbow as she stumbled slightly.
As Nicole stepped into the light, Fraser drew a sharp breath as he saw her face was battered and bruised and her upper lip was swollen and bleeding.
“Good god what happened?” exclaimed Fraser, supporting her with both hands now.
“Steve,” Nicole half whispered.
“Oh jeez,” said Ray, running his hand through his hair, but as he did so, Nicole let out a groan, bent double and staggered forward into Fraser's arms.
Ray quickly pushed open the door to the reception room and cleared the sofa of toys so that Fraser could lay Nicole down. Jason and Amy came out of their hideout to see what all the fuss was about. “Jason,” began Ray, trying to keep him from seeing his mum, but it was too late.
“Mum!” yelled Jason, scrabbling past Ray to get to her and reeling at the sight of his injured mother.
“Stay back son,” said Fraser, as he checked her pulse, “your mum's alright.”
“Jason,” Nicole managed to say in a raspy voice.
Amy look shocked too but she grabbed hold of the younger child's hand. “Let's go upstairs and finish that jigsaw puzzle,” she said in a shaky voice, dragging him towards the door. “Ben will look after her.” Fraser glanced up as the children left the room and couldn't help a small smile at Amy's quick thinking.
“We should get you to the hospital,” said Fraser, carefully examining her face.
“No!” replied Nicole, “please, no, I don't want to. I just want to go home.”
“What were ya thinkin' going back there?” Ray asked, as he handed Fraser a blanket.
“I wanted to get my things, get our passports and go home,” Nicole explained.
“We could have done that for you, we could have protected you,” explained Fraser, covering her with the blanket.
“I wanted to show him that I wasn't scared of him,” replied Nicole, “I ran away the first time, I didn't want to give him the satisfaction...” She stopped talking and groaned again.
Ray went to fetch the first aid kit and some ice. “I really think you should go to the hospital,” Fraser said, “you may have a concussion.”
“No,” insisted Nicole as Ray returned, “it's not as bad as it looks, I think I'm just a little shocked, that's all. He never hit me before.” She looked away from Fraser now.
“I assume you are unaware that his ex-wife has a restraining order against him,” said Fraser. Nicole shook her head. Fraser handed her an ice pack. “Here, hold this over your eye,” he instructed and began treating her cut lip.
“So ya went to get your things an' he laid into ya?” queried Ray.
“I went there yesterday, as soon as I'd left here,” explained Nicole, “but he wouldn't let me in the house. He said he wanted to see Jason.”
Fraser glanced up at Ray. They both thought that was a little unusual, although they had been living as a family for two years, so McDowell understandably had some affection for the boy. “Why didn't ya come back last night?” asked Ray.
“Because I thought I could go back during the night. I still had a key,” Nicole replied, “I was going to sneak in, collect our passports and grab as much as I could and then come straight back here, but he heard me and he wouldn't let me leave.” Nicole started to get upset. Ray crouched down on one knee next to the sofa.
“He held ya against your will?” he asked. Nicole nodded. “We'll charge him with that and the assault,” said Ray, his nostrils flaring in anger. “I'll call it in.”
“Wait!”, exclaimed Nicole, pushing Fraser away and trying to sit up. “Please don't, I don't want any charges brought against him.”
“What!” Ray couldn't believe what she was saying. “Why the hell not?”
Nicole was crying again. “I just want to take my son home,” she sobbed.
“Nicole,” said Fraser, seriously, “this man should be punished for what he's done to you.”
“It was my fault,” sniffed Nicole, “I should never have gone back there, I just made him angry.”
“It was not your fault!” exclaimed Ray, getting to his feet and beginning to pace around the room. “Ya cannot take the blame for some violent bastard beatin' on ya!”
“Ray,” Fraser spoke quietly, trying to get Ray to calm down a little. “It's Nicole's decision.”
“You're agreein' with her?” replied Ray, incredulously.
“Of course not,” said Fraser, but before he could continue, Nicole let out another groan and clutched her arms tightly around herself.
“Nicole?” Fraser was rather concerned now. “What is it? Show me.”
Nicole looked up at him and slowly lifted her blouse to reveal what looked to Ray suspiciously like a boot shaped bruise on her side. Fraser sighed sadly.
“Jeez!” exclaimed Ray, “he gave ya a kickin' too and ya don't wanna press charges?” Ray was fuming now. He was desperate to go and see how Steve McDowell liked a good kicking and he couldn't believe why Nicole was defending the man.
“Ray,” Fraser could see how Ray was getting worked up and although he fully agreed with his partner's sentiments, his reaction wasn't doing Nicole any good. “I think we need more ice here,” he said, raising his eyebrows. Ray looked at him and immediately caught his double meaning. Fraser needed ice to deal with the swelling of course, but he also wanted Ray to cool off. Ray took a deep breath, nodded and went out to the kitchen.
Fraser carefully examined her bruised ribs. “It's nothing,” mumbled Nicole, wincing every time he touched her.
“Take a deep breath,” instructed Fraser and as Nicole complied, he listened for any tell tale noises that could indicate serious internal injuries. Ray returned with another ice pack. “There does not appear to be any serious damage,” said Fraser hesitantly, “but I'm not a doctor, I really wish you would let me take you to the hospital.”
Nicole shook her head. “I'm sorry to have caused you so much trouble,” she said.
“Not at all,” replied Fraser, “I just wish you'd told me what you were planning, we could have saved you from all this.”
“How did ya escape?” asked Ray, who was a little calmer now.
Nicole shrugged. “He went out and left me there,” she explained. “After he...” her voice trailed off and she had to take a second to compose herself again before continuing, “he did this and then he stormed out. He didn't lock me in or anything and I just ran out and got a taxi back here. The taxi driver didn't charge me, I guess he felt sorry for me, looking like this.” She hung her head.
Fraser glanced at Ray. It did seem odd that McDowell would allow Nicole to go free and alert the Police to his actions, particularly considering his previous history. Just then the door slowly pushed open and Amy appeared. She was carrying the jar containing the natural remedy that Fraser had been using on her shoulder. “I thought Jason's mum might need some of this,” she said quietly, handing the jar to Fraser.
“Thank you kindly Amy,” Fraser smiled at her thoughtfulness.
“Is Jason alright?” asked Nicole.
“Yes,” replied the little girl. “We're playing.” Nicole smiled.
Amy turned to go and Fraser followed her out into the hall. “Thank you for taking care of Jason,” he said, “that was a very good thing that you did for him earlier.”
“I remembered what you told me the other night,” explained the girl, “that it was scary to see someone you love when they're hurt.” Fraser smiled. “Is Jason's mum going to be staying here with us tonight?” she asked him.
“I imagine so,” replied Fraser.
“Then she should sleep in the Queen's bed,” continued Amy, “she's hurt and it is the only comfortable bed. Jason and I would like to camp in our hideout.”
Fraser smiled again. “That is very kind of you Amy,” he said. “I think Jason's mum would love to see him now. She has some injuries, but she's alright.” Amy nodded and ran back upstairs.
A short while later, Fraser and Ray were talking in his office. “We need to get an APB out on this creep before he skips town,” said Ray, clenching his fists.
“Ray, you realise that if you arrest him for attacking Nicole and she refuses to press charges, then you will have to release him,” said Fraser, tugging at his ear. He was fully aware that Ray knew exactly what the situation was, but he knew that sometimes his partner needed to hear things in order to prevent him doing anything rash.
“What if he followed her here?” suggested Ray. “I mean, he's definitely got some kinda weird thing for her and Jason. Maybe I should stay here tonight too, just in case he, er, shows up and tries anythin' stupid.”
“I agree,” said Fraser, moistening his lower lip with his tongeue, “I have to admit I am struggling to understand his motive, or anticipate his next move at this juncture.”
“Why would Nicole wanna let him get away with it? I don't get it?” Ray started pacing again.
“She wants to put her past behind her I imagine,” suggested Fraser, “and if you don't mind me saying, I am concerned about your blood pressure at this juncture. When are you due for your next physical?”
“My blood pressure is great Fraser, greatness,” snarled Ray, “I just can't let this one go buddy, he punched her in the head and kicked her in the gut. What kinda man does that to a woman?”
Fraser sighed. “I cannot understand it either Ray, but we have to respect Nicole's wishes, we have very little choice.” Ray kicked Fraser's waste bin and it clattered across the floor. “Blood pressure Ray,” Fraser reminded him in a low voice. The telephone on his desk rang and Fraser picked it up. “Good evening, you have reached the Canadian Consulate, Deputy Liaison Officer Constable Benton...oh, hello Sir.” It was Inspector Thatcher. “How are you?”
Inspector Thatcher explained that her sister had made some more progress and although she was still in a coma, the doctors were beginning to be much more hopeful. She asked to speak to Amy and Fraser went to fetch her from the other room. As Amy spoke to Meg on the telephone, Fraser showed Nicole to the bedroom upstairs and made sure she had everything she needed for the night. Nicole was extremely grateful for his kindness. “I didn't mean to upset Jason,” she said, “you do understand don't you? I was trying to do what was best for him.”
Fraser nodded. “I could have arranged suitable care for your son whilst I accompanied you to liberate your belongings,” he sighed. “Leaving like that was quite disorientating for him I'm afraid. He suffered an asthma attack last evening.”
“Oh no,” Nicole looked devastated. “He doesn't have them very often.”
“We were able to bring it under control fairly quickly,” Fraser replied, offering her some reassurance.
“Thank you,” smiled Nicole.
The next morning, Ray was awoken by the smell of coffee. “Are you still wallowing Ray?” He heard Fraser's voice and opened one eye to see his partner standing over him with a mug of his favourite early morning beverage. Sleeping on the floor of Fraser's office was not the most comfortable of nights, but at least Steve McDowell hadn't shown up.
“I was still sleepin' buddy,” croaked Ray.
“Oh I'm terribly sorry,” said Fraser, “I'll leave this here.” He placed the coffee on the corner of his desk. “I was about to make breakfast.”
“Sounds good,” Ray managed half a grin.
As Fraser went out to see if the children were awake, Ray dragged himself out of his sleeping bag and got dressed. He drank his coffee and almost immediately he began to feel more normal again. As he ventured out into the hall, he could hear the sounds of laughter and barking coming from the other room and he poked his head around the door. He couldn't help grinning at the sight of Fraser lying on his back on the floor with Amy and Jason tickling him and even Dief was joining in, licking the Mountie's face with exuberance. “Help me Ray!” Fraser wasn't in need of help of course, he was quite happy to let them continue. He was just pleased to see them both laughing after what had been quite a difficult couple of days.
“C'mon,” laughed Ray, “give the guy a break. Let's go get breakfast.” Amy and Jason got to their feet, somewhat reluctantly and Ray held out his hand to help his partner to his feet.
“I was ambushed!” laughed Fraser as they headed towards the kitchen.
“Don't tell me, Canadian's ain't ticklish, right?” enquired Ray with a grin.
“On the contrary Ray,” replied Fraser, “actually, I do have an affliction of that nature, however I have learnt over the years that it is quite possible to counteract that particular reflex with some simple techniques.” Ray wasn't at all surprised at that answer.
As they ate their breakfast, Nicole appeared. “Mum!” smiled Jason with a mouthful of food. Nicole managed to smile back at him.
Fraser leapt to his feet. “How are you feeling this morning?” he asked her with concern.
“Sore,” replied Nicole. Her eye had turned an ugly shade of purple overnight as Fraser had anticipated. “Can I talk to you please,” she asked quietly, “and Detective Vecchio. Outside.”
“Sure,” replied Ray. “You kids eat your oatmeal, it's good for ya,” he said which was met with a surprised look from Fraser who knew that Ray's idea of a good breakfast was less than three cups of coffee.
They left the children to enjoy their breakfast and headed into Inspector Thatcher's office. Nicole eased herself rather uncomfortably into a chair and Ray and Fraser sat either side of her. She took a deep breath and spoke in a shaky voice. “I've changed my mind,” she said.
Ray glanced at Fraser. “I don't get ya?” he said, slightly puzzled, “about what?”
“I want to press charges,” she explained, “I want Steve arrested, before he does this to someone else.”
Fraser nodded understandingly. “I think that's a wise decision,” he said.
“You're gonna make a full statement?” Ray wanted to confirm. Nicole nodded.
“He's changed,” Nicole said, fighting back tears, “he was always protective of me and of Jason and to start with it was nice,” she explained. “I came here and I knew nobody and he was kind and he seemed to care about Jason too. I wanted my son to have a father after Pat and I divorced.” She hung her head. “I guess I never really knew him at all. He just got stranger and stranger over the years.”
“His protective nature became too controlling,” suggested Fraser. Nicole nodded.
“You'll have to come down to the station,” explained Ray. “I'll arrange to get him brought in.”
“I'm scared Detective,” she said, looking at Ray. “I ran away from Canada and I wanted to run again, but I'm not going to, I'm going to be strong this time. I want my son to know that running away doesn't solve anything.”
“He's gonna be proud of ya today,” said Ray. Fraser smiled supportively and Ray went out into the hall to make the call to Welsh.
Later that morning at the Twenty Seventh, Nicole was sipping tea in interview room one. Detectives Huey and Dewey had been dispatched to bring in McDowell and Ray was taking Nicole's statement. “Did he ever behave aggressively towards ya before yesterday?” he asked.
“No, not really,” replied Nicole, “he had a temper and he'd shout at Jason sometimes...” she stopped talking and closed her eyes. “He shouted at me too, he said some horrible things, but...” her quiet voice trailed off.
“Did he ever threaten you with violence?” Fraser asked her gently. He could see she was finding this difficult. Nicole just nodded. “What about Jason?” he added. Nicole shook her head this time.
“I never heard him say he was going to hurt Jason,” replied Nicole, “I know Jason didn't like some of the things he did, like driving him to school every day and not letting him play outside, but I always thought Steve was just, um, what's the English expression? Um, looking out for him, you know? It was only the last few months that he started to do things that made me feel...I don't know...”
“Uncomfortable?” suggested Fraser. Nicole nodded.
“What kinda things?” asked Ray.
“Sometimes he'd call Jason Angus,” sighed Nicole, “that's his son's name. His ex-wife doesn't let him see his son very often.”
“The courts don't let him, ya mean,” Ray clarified, “I told ya yesterday she's got a restraining order. He's only allowed one supervised visit a month.”
Nicole looked shocked. “Supervised?” she said. “Why? What does that mean?”
“It means that the authorities are concerned about leaving him alone with the boy,” explained Fraser, “that may be because they are unsure about what he may do to the child, or they consider him a flight risk.”
“I didn't know, I didn't know about that.” Nicole said, looking very pale now, “I left him alone with Jason a number of times. He could have done anything to him. Oh god, what if he'd hurt Jason?” Nicole became upset again and Ray passed her a box of tissues.
“Nicole, you were engaged to be married to this man,” Fraser said, placing a supportive hand on her arm, “you said yourself that he's changed in recent months, don't get upset over something that didn't happen.”
There was a knock at the door and Francesca appeared, wearing a particularly short skirt. “Frase, I think you should read this,” she said, smiling at the Mountie and handing him a piece of paper.
“Thank you kindly Francesca,” said Fraser, desperately trying not to look at her legs, although he didn't want to make eye contact with her either as he found that very uncomfortable at times too. “Have Detectives Huey and Dewey apprehended Mr McDowell?” he asked.
“Nope,” Francesca shook her head, “they went to his place, but he wasn't there. Maybe he's hopped town?”
“Er, that's skipped town Frannie,” sneered Ray.
“Hopped, skipped, jumped, what's the difference?” Francesca sneered back at him looking to Fraser for back up.
Fraser just shrugged and as she walked out of the room, he ran his finger around his collar. He quickly refocussed his mind on reading the printout. “Oh dear,” he said.
“What is it buddy?” asked Ray.
“It is the latest report from the social worker assigned to Angus McDowell,” he explained. Nicole suddenly sat up straight. “It appears that Angus' mother intends to take him out of the country,” Fraser continued, passing the paper to Ray, “Steve McDowell has lodged an appeal, but it appears likely that it will be rejected, given his past history of harassment.” Fraser thought for a moment. “Ray, I have a bad feeling about this,” he said, rubbing at his eyebrow with his left thumbnail.
“Instict?” asked Ray.
“No Ray,” insisted Fraser, “a logical conclusion based on the new evidence that has just come to our attention.”
“If ya say so,” replied Ray.
Nicole was beginning to get very nervous. “What is it?” she asked.
“It is kinda queer for McDowell to be, er, getting' all weird with Jason just as his own kid's gonna be taken away from him,” said Ray, thinking aloud.
“Exactly,” agreed Fraser, “and the only reason he became violent towards you, Nicole, was simply the fact that you'd returned without Jason. It appears that he has become more possessive towards your son ever since the situation has developed with...” he didn't need to finish his sentence. Ray was on exactly the same wavelength.
“Oh hell,” said Ray, “we'd better get back to the Consulate.”
“Agreed,” said Fraser, getting to his feet.
Nicole stood up too. “Oh my god, you think he's going to try to take Jason?” she was terrified now.
“I think you should stay here,” said Fraser picking up his hat and placing it squarely on his head, “the situation could become...”
“No!” replied Nicole, interrupting him as she followed them out into the corridor, “if my son is in danger I can't stay here.”
Fraser glanced at Ray. They both knew that she instinctively wanted to protect her son. “OK,” said Ray as they ran down the stairs, “but I bet the kid's fine,” he added, trying to sound convincing. In reality, he was quite worried
“I'm reassured that we left Diefenbaker with Constable Turnbull and the children at the Consulate,” added Fraser as they got into Ray's car.
Ray raced along the streets, hoping that they would find everything was alright at the Consulate, but as he pulled up outside they saw the front door was wide open and quickly realised that something was in fact very wrong. Fraser heart was in his mouth as he grabbed his hat from the dashboard and raced up the steps towards the open door. Ray leapt out and immediately drew his gun. “Stay back,” he hissed at Nicole.
“Jason!” cried Nicole, ignoring Ray.
“Stay back!” Ray yelled more forcefully and Nicole reluctantly complied as Fraser and Ray stepped cautiously into the Consulate building, not exactly sure what they would find.
Immediately, Fraser heard Dief whimpering and he raced into the reception room followed by Nicole. Ray ran in and out of Inspector Thatcher's office first and then Fraser's office, but he found no one. Fraser was stunned to find his wolf tied tightly to the heavy sofa and Constable Turnbull unconscious on the floor. He quickly untied Dief and tried to rouse Turnbull as Ray appeared.
“Where's Jason?” screamed Nicole, as her knees buckled and she slumped to the floor in shock.
“And Amy?” added Ray, his heart pounding as he helped the trembling woman into a chair.
“What happened?” Fraser asked Dief as Turnbull began to show signs of coming around. Dief whimpered again. “It wasn't your fault,” Fraser tried to reassure the animal. “You couldn't risk Jason being hurt.” Dief whined. “No Dief, you're injured, Ray and I will find them.” Fraser patted his wolf gently on the back before turning his attention back to Turnbull.
Ray was pacing about, running one hand through his hair, his breathing becoming rapid. They should have anticipated this. Steve didn't want Nicole, he wanted Jason and he must have been very determined to have overpowered both Turnbull and Diefenbaker. Suddenly, Dief began barking and ran out of the room, limping slightly. Fraser looked up at Ray. “Don't worry buddy,” said Ray, running after the wolf.
Ray followed Dief up the stairs and into the bedroom. He was still barking, but it was much quieter now. “What is it?” asked Ray, “I don't speak wolf, remember?” Dief lay himself on the floor and barked directly towards the bed. Ray frowned, got down on his knees and looked first at Dief and then under the bed. He was shocked to see Amy hiding under there, trembling in fear. “Hey,” he said, breathing a small sigh of relief to see that she was safe, “there ya are, it's OK, ya can come out now.”
Amy was so scared, she couldn't move. “A man took Jason,” she whispered.
Ray laid himself flat on his back on the floor with one knee bent upwards and he held out his hand. “We know,” he said softly, “but we're gonna get Jason back. I promise ya. It's OK. C'mon outta there.” Amy shook her head. Ray tried to wriggle himself under the bed to get closer to her. “C'mon Amy, no-one's gonna hurt ya.” Amy slowly reached out her good arm and gripped Ray's hand tightly, but she still couldn't bring herself to move. “Amy,” Ray couldn't think what else to say to her, so he just tried to sound as calm and reassuring as he could, which was no easy task for Ray. “You're safe now, I promise ya, I'm not gonna let anythin' happen to ya.” Amy crawled a little closer to Ray. “C'mon,” he urged, “it's OK.” Dief stuck his nose under the bed. “Hey look,” grinned Ray, “Dief wants ya to come out,” he gently pulled at Amy's hand, “Fraser, I mean, Ben'll wanna know you're OK. Let's go downstairs, what d'ya say?” Finally Amy began to move and Ray carefully pulled her out from under the bed. “Good girl,” he said and he scooped her up into his arms and raced down the stairs with her. “Fraser, I got Amy, she's OK!” he shouted as he headed into the other room.
Turnbull was semi-conscious now and was holding a huge ice pack to his head, but Nicole was looking very pale. “Jason?” she whispered, but Ray shook his head.
“Sorry, he's not here,” said Ray.
Fraser turned as soon as he heard Ray enter the room and he reached out and took Amy into his arms. “I'm sorry I left you,” he whispered to her as a wave of guilt washed over him. He could feel her trembling as he held her. “Can you tell me what happened?” He sat her down on the sofa and crouched on one knee directly in front of her. He didn't want to put her through any more torment, but she was their only real witness apart from Dief. Turnbull was very disorientated and wasn't making much sense.
“I heard shouting and banging,” said Amy, her voice shaky, “I was upstairs and then I heard...I heard Jason screaming.” She began to cry and Fraser squeezed her hand.
“It's alright,” he said, soothingly, “just try to remember what you saw and what you heard.”
Amy nodded. “I came out of the bedroom and I heard the man shouting at Constable Turnbull,” she said, “he said he was going to take Jason but...but Constable Turnbull said he couldn't. Then the man tried to grab Jason and I...I don't know what happened next, but I think he pushed Constable Turnbull and he...he fell over and I think he hit his head on the stair rail and he didn't get up.”
Fraser nodded. Turnbull had a huge bruise on his head consistent with the events that Amy had described. “Where was Dief?” he asked, glancing down at his wolf.
“Dief was barking and growling and being really scary and I think he bit the man's arm, but the man kicked him really hard,” sniffed Amy, “it was...it was horrible. Are you OK Dief?” Amy reached out and patted Diefenbaker on the head.
“He'll be fine, don't worry,” Fraser tried to reassure her. Ray was on the telephone to Francesca, relaying all the details.
“Then the man dragged Dief in here I think and Constable Turnbull too,” Amy continued. “Then...then he picked up Jason and took him out of the door. I was so scared and I thought he was going to come back for me so I...I hid under the bed. I could hear Dief, he sounded like he was really hurt, I wanted to come downstairs and see if he was OK, but I was too scared. I'm sorry Dief.” Amy sobbed and Dief whined.
“He understands,” explained Fraser, reassuringly, “you did the right thing.”
“We have to find my son,” said Nicole, her voice panic stricken, “he's taken my son!”
“Try to stay calm,” urged Fraser, “Ray and I will find him, I promise you. Ray,” he turned to his partner who was still on the phone, “there is the possibility that McDowell will attempt to take Jason out of the country.”
“Already on it,” replied Ray, pointing to his phone, “Frannie's gonna put the word out to all the border crossin's and airports. Huey and Dewey found nothin' at his apartment.”
Fraser turned back to Nicole. “He hasn't had time to get far yet,” he said, “can you think of anywhere that he might have taken Jason.” Nicole thought for a moment and then shook her head. “Perhaps there was a place they liked to go?” suggested Fraser. Nicole still couldn't think of anywhere.
“What about, er, with his son Angus?” asked Ray. “I mean, did he ever talk about things they used to do together?”
Nicole closed her eyes, trying to remember. “He used to talk about going to football games with his own father, they used to watch the Bears junior team practice,” she said suddenly. “I don't know if that means anything?”
“Possibly,” Fraser nodded, “in the absence of any other theory, it's a good place to start.”
Ray nodded. “C'mon, pitter patter, Frannie's sendin' an ambulance for Turnbull.”
“Thank you kindly Ray,” said Fraser, squinting into Turnbull's eyes with concern. “Turnbull, do you know where you are?” he asked.
“Tuktoyaktuk,” replied Turnbull emphatically.
Fraser frowned and spoke to Nicole. “Please keep an eye on him, the ambulance will be here soon.”
“No!” Nicole replied, “I'm coming with you. He's got Jason.”
Fraser glanced at Ray. “I'm sorry Nicole,” he said, “it's too dangerous. It is possible that your presence may antagonise him further.”
“Let us handle this,” urged Ray, “we don't know what he's plannin' right now.” Nicole sighed and nodded reluctantly. She didn't want to make the situation any worse.
Diefenbaker barked and ran out into the hall, Fraser followed him. “No Dief,” he said, “you're already hurt, you should stay here with Amy.” Dief whined. Fraser crouched down and gently pulled back the fur around his neck to reveal an angry looking rope burn and letting out a slow breath, he took a small container from his pocket. “It's powdered horn,” explained Fraser, as Dief queried his actions, “hold still,” he said, applying the treatment. Then he carefully ran his hands over the animal's ribs, finding the spot where McDowell had kicked him. He was slightly shocked at the amount of swelling and he knew he should get him checked at the vets. Dief whimpered and tried to back away from Fraser towards the door. Fraser took Dief's face in his hands and spoke directly at him. “It wasn't your fault,” he said, enunciating perfectly to ensure that his wolf understood. Dief barked again. Fraser sighed, he knew there was no point in arguing with him when Dief was in one of these moods. “Alright, but you do exactly what I say. Understood?” Dief barked again and darted off towards the door.
Ray appeared, checking his gun. “Is Dief OK?” he asked.
Fraser looked at his partner and shrugged. “He's feeling guilty,” he explained, “he feels the need to redeem himself.”
Ray nodded, feeling unusually sorry for the wolf. “Let's go,” he said, turning as Nicole and Amy came out into the hall.
“I'll meet you in the car,” said Fraser, glancing at Ray and nodding towards Amy.
“OK buddy,” replied Ray and he and Diefenbaker ran out of the door.
Fraser got down on one knee, adjusted Amy's sling and took her hand in both of his. “Are you alright?” he asked her softly. Amy nodded silently. “Don't worry about Jason, we're going to find him. I need you to look after Constable Turnbull until the ambulance arrives,” Fraser continued, knowing that Amy needed something to focus on. “I need you to keep talking to him and make sure he doesn't go to sleep again. Can you do that for me?”
“Yes Ben,” replied Amy, smiling, “I'll look after him for you.” She pulled her hand away from Fraser and turned to Nicole. “Ben and Ray are going to find Jason,” she said. Nicole couldn't help a small smile at the little girl. Fraser got to his feet, grabbed his hat and ran after his partner.
They arrived at the Bears' training ground just as it started to rain. Ray was pleased to get inside as he hated what the rain did to his hair. “D'ya think they're here?” he asked Fraser.
“I have no idea Ray,” replied Fraser, “but I hope so. There have been no reports of them leaving Chicago on any of the main routes. We can only assume they they're still in the city and as McDowell appears to be confusing Jason with his own son Angus, it is quite possible that he has brought him here to enjoy a passtime he shared with his own father.”
Ray ran over to a cleaner who was mopping the floor. “Hey, are the juniors trainin' today?” he asked the man.
“Sure are,” replied the cleaner, indicating with his mop, “in the main stadium. It's an open session, ya'll can go and watch if ya wanna.”
“Thank you kindly!” Fraser shouted over his shoulder as he, Diefenbaker and Ray raced in the direction of the stadium. They headed out of the stairwell and came out at the top of the stands, high above the visitor's bench. Fraser held out his hand to stop Dief as they surveyed the area. There were a handful of people watching as the team practised out on the field, the coach was berating two of the young players and his voice could be heard echoing around the stadium. It was disorientating to Fraser's highly tuned hearing. Ray drew his gun and started down the stairs. “Ray, wait,” said Fraser in a low voice, “there are too many children about, I would feel more comfortable if your weapon remained in it's holster unless it's absolutely necessary.”
“Fraser!” exclaimed Ray, “I'm not about to shoot a kid!”
“I didn't suggest that you were Ray,” explained Fraser, “but we don't know as yet if McDowell has a weapon himself and what we don't need at this juncture is a gunfight.”
Ray sighed. His partner was right of course. He put his weapon away, but he hated approaching a situation like this without his gun in his hand and now he was even more jumpy than usual. He pointed across the row of seats, suggesting that Fraser go that way while he went even lower down towards the playing field and circled around. Fraser nodded and set off with Dief. Suddenly, Ray spotted a man and a young boy in the next block of seats across. He couldn't see if it was McDowell and Jason or not, so he raised his hand to Fraser and pointed towards them, while fumbling in his jacket for his glasses with his other hand. Fraser squinted, but even he couldn't make out the faces of the two people as he was too far away. Ray walked down another two steps and now that he was wearing his glasses, he could see clearly that it was them. He waved manically at Fraser who gestured his acknowledgement with a thumbs up sign. Fraser crouched down and whispered an instruction in Dief's ear and the wolf silently began jumping over the seats so that he was closer to Ray, then Fraser ran across to the next stairway and down the steps until he was at the end of the row where McDowell and Jason were sitting. “Steve McDowell,” Fraser began in a low, but firm voice, hoping not to startle Jason, “please release the boy.”
“Constable Ben!” cried Jason.
McDowell jumped to his feet, pulling Jason with him. “Another Mountie!” he exclaimed, “why are there so many Mounties in Chicago?”
“Well,” replied Fraser, “I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father and for reasons that...” but he was interrupted before he could finish his well rehearsed explanation.
“I don't care!” yelled McDowell. “You're not taking him away from me!”
“Mr McDowell,” replied Fraser, calmly, “you are frightening Jason. He belongs with his mother. He is not your son.”
“Why?” shouted McDowell. “Why with the mother? Doesn't the father get any say in this?”
“You are confusing your own family situation with Nicole and Jason Lavine,” said Fraser, taking a step closer. “Unfortunately your criminal record causes the social workers some understandable concerns.”
“Criminal record?” replied McDowell incredulously, “I only want to be with my wife and son and the cops keep arresting me. What's so damn illegal about wanting to be with my wife?”
“She didn't want to be with you,” Fraser spoke gently, “your continual refusal to accept this fact was harassment.” Out of the corner of his eye, Fraser could see that while Fraser had been distracting McDowell, Ray had got himself into a good position a few rows down and Dief was close behind. “Please let Jason go,” Fraser pleaded. He could see that McDowell didn't know what to do next. Clearly, he didn't really have a plan, he'd simply wanted to take Jason, but from there he was virtually making it up as he went along. Fraser was increasingly concerned about the man's state of mind. He held out his hand. “Please,” he repeated and he watched with a faint hint of hope as McDowell slowly loosened his firm grip on Jason.
Suddenly, there was another yell from the football coach that echoed around the stadium and startled everyone. McDowell was already very jumpy and unfortunately it spooked him enough to make him change his mind. “No!” he yelled, “no one is taking my boy away from me. I'll...I'll...” he was very agitated now and Fraser was getting nervous. Ray had his hand on his gun and Dief was baring his teeth silently. McDowell suddenly wrapped his arm around the boys neck. “I'll kill him!” he yelled. Jason was shocked and his fear was more than evident to Fraser.
“It's alright Jason,” Fraser tried to reassure the young boy and he took another step closer to them. He spotted Jason's sweatshirt on an adjacent seat together with a coat that he assumed was McDowell's and there was something else too, Jason's asthma inhaler. “Let him go, you don't really want to hurt him,” he said, keeping his voice even.
“Stay away from me,” shouted McDowell, “you don't know what I want. I'm going to kill him and you can't stop me.” Jason began to cry with fear.
“I know that you don't want him to come to any harm,” replied Fraser. He glanced quickly at Ray who was waiting for a signal from his partner. He wasn't exactly sure what Fraser was talking about. “When you came and took Jason from the Consulate, you attacked my colleague,” Fraser paused, before correcting himself, “my friend and you hurt my wolf. However, despite these acts of violence and your desperation, you still took the time and trouble to collect Jason's sweater and more importantly, his asthma medication.” He nodded towards the inhaler which was laying on top of Jason's sweatshirt on the seat. “That is not the action of someone who wishes to hurt the child.”
McDowell began to shake now. His mind was racing and he was completely confused and angry and Fraser was playing with his head. Jason was really upset now and his sobbing was just making everything seem worse to McDowell. He looked directly at Fraser and suddenly released Jason from his grasp, pushing the boy forward and sending him stumbling towards the Mountie. Fraser reached out and took Jason's hand, pulling him quickly behind him. “You're alright, you're safe now,” Fraser spoke softly to the trembling child, not taking his eye off McDowell. He was instantly concerned to hear that Jason's breathing was beginning to sound slightly noisy, but his thoughts were interrupted by the events that followed.
Ray stood up from his position a few rows down and made his presence known. “Don't move McDowell,” he shouted, “you're under arrest.” McDowell turned towards the sound of his voice and let out a huge sigh and hung his head. He knew he had nowhere to go. He was so angry and suddenly he took his frustration out on the one thing that had been his downfall, the item that had relayed his true feelings. He reached forward and grabbed Jason's inhaler, hurling it high up into the stands. Unfortunately, as he did this, he also caught the sleeve of Jason's sweatshirt and it fell to the floor, revealing his own jacket underneath and unwittingly displaying the gun he had concealed.
All three men saw it at once. “Gun!” yelled Fraser as Ray drew his own weapon. McDowell lunged forward, just grabbing the gun before Fraser could get to it as he'd had to release Jason's hand from his own before he could move.
“Freeze!” yelled Ray, aiming his own weapon, but McDowell already had his gun trained at Fraser, who slowly raised his hands.
“I'll shoot the Mountie,” threatened McDowell, “just let me walk away, or I'll shoot the Mountie.” He started backing away from Fraser, but Jason's breathing had become slightly more difficult now and McDowell was slightly distracted by the sound.
“It's alright Jason,” said Fraser, calmly, “you're alright. Everything is fine. Take slow, deep breaths.”
“Put the gun down McDowell,” instructed Ray. The man looked from Fraser to Ray and then back to Fraser again. He was visibly shaking now, but still had his gun aimed. “Put it down,” repeated Ray, climbing over a seat to get a row higher. “You're scarin' the kid.”
“Jason needs his medication,” said Fraser with a worried glance over his shoulder at the little boy, who had sat himself down in one of the seats. “You don't want this to happen. Place your weapon on the floor.” He looked back at Jason again. He was really struggling to breathe now. Fraser looked with his eyebrows raised at Diefenbaker, who had patiently been waiting for his moment. He'd hoped that Fraser would want him to attack McDowell as he was desperate to get him for what he'd done, but Dief realised that wasn't what he had to do. He had to find Jason's inhaler from wherever it had landed after McDowell had thrown it. Dief leapt up and bounded over rows of seats to search for it, ignoring the persistent throbbing in his side.
McDowell hadn't acknowledged Dief up until that point and he was slightly stunned to see the wolf spring into action. Fraser lowered his hands, even though he still had a gun pointed at him. He looked back at Jason again, who was in some distress now. “I'm going to help Jason now,” said Fraser, slowly stepping backwards, but keeping his eyes trained on McDowell. He couldn't gauge exactly what McDowell might do, but he was almost certain that the man didn't want to see Jason suffer in this way. Fraser lowered himself slowly into the seat next to Jason. “It's alright,” he said, finally breaking eye contact with the man and focussing his attention on the boy. “Dief is going to retrieve your medication. Just try to breathe slowly.”
Jason looked up at Fraser and then saw the gun that McDowell was still aiming in their direction. He managed to muster enough air to let out a scream and his breathing immediately became faster and harder. Fraser looked to the man, his usual calmness was being severely tested now. “Mr McDowell, please,” he said with clenched teeth, “lower the weapon and surrender yourself to Detective Vecchio. You are exacerbating an already serious situation.”
McDowell looked devastated as the reality of what he'd done began to sink in. He threw his weapon on the ground and Ray moved in to arrest him, snapping his handcuffs around the man's wrists as he read him his rights. “Is...is Jason OK?” asked McDowell, quietly.
Fraser looked at him with uncharacteristic anger in his eyes. The reply he wanted to give was really unsuitable in front of Jason, so he restrained himself. Instead he called out to Dief. “C'mon Dief,” he urged, “now would be a really good time. Pick up the scent.” Dief scrabbled around amongst the discarded hot dog wrappers, chewing gum and cola cans. He was in quite a lot of discomfort now and he was finding it a little distracting, but he was determined to locate his 'prey'. Fraser turned back to Jason and tried to help him stay as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Jason was becoming very distressed and he was really struggling for breath. Fraser moved the child into the best position he could in the cramped seat, with his forearms resting on the back of the seat in front and his head bowed slightly. “Try to relax your diaphragm,” said Fraser, but almost as soon as he'd said it, he realised that Jason had no idea what he was talking about. “Breathe with me,” Fraser said instead and he began to demonstrate the long, slow, deep breaths that would be best for Jason and the boy copied as best he could. “Well done,” encouraged Fraser, “you're doing really well. Ray, I think it may be prudent at this juncture to request an ambulance.”
Ray immediately caught the seriousness in his partner's voice and called 911, slightly encouraged as Jason started to breath a little easier with Fraser's help. After giving all the necessary details, Ray clicked off his phone and then he picked up McDowell's gun and tucked in his jeans. “What were ya plannin' to do with this?” he hissed. Fraser listened for the answer with come concern. He'd been sure that the man hadn't wanted to hurt Jason, but maybe he'd been wrong?
“I wasn't going to hurt him,” replied McDowell quietly, his head bowed. “I thought...I thought that if this didn't work, I don't really know what...I mean, I thought that then...then...” he was starting to lose his composure now, “I was going to kill myself.”
Ray glanced over at Fraser and he could see the compassion in his partner's eyes. Ray himself wasn't quite so compassionate. “In front of the kid?” he asked in a low voice, raising his eyebrows. McDowell shrugged and shook his head.
Just then, Dief began to bark loudly. “Good boy!” shouted Fraser as Dief jumped over the rows of seats and dropped Jason's inhaler into Fraser's outstretched hand. Fraser gave it a shake and handed it to Jason. “Here...slowly,” he urged as Jason gasped in his medication and Ray watched with relief as it began to take effect.
“Thank you kindly,” said Fraser and he handed the telephone receiver back to the nurse at the desk. He walked back along the corridor and knocked gently on the door of Jason's hospital room before opening it. Nicole looked up from her chair at the side of the bed as he entered the room and smiled. Jason was laying in the bed with an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. “How is he?” Fraser enquired, keeping his voice low.
“Sleeping,” replied Nicole. “They're going to keep him in tonight, just for observation.”
Fraser nodded. “Purely a precaution,” he said, reassuringly.
“I don't know how I can ever thank you,” said Nicole, her voice wavering.
Fraser waved his hand dismissively. “No need, I'm just glad he's safe now.” He pulled up another chair and sat opposite her. “I've just been speaking to Ray on the telephone,” he said, “were you aware that Steve McDowell was taking Citalopram?” Nicole looked puzzled. “Antidepressant medication,” explained Fraser.
“No,” replied Nicole, “ he didn't say anything to me about it.”
“That's not really surprising,” replied Fraser, “it appears that he was diagnosed soon after he first learnt that his ex-wife was planning to take Jason to Europe. Ray has been speaking to his doctor and it appears he has missed several appointments recently. The doctor suggests that the medication may have been causing his mood swings and violent tendencies and an alternative prescription is required.”
Nicole tried to take all this new information in. She looked at Fraser with sad eyes. “I don't think I ever loved him,” she said quietly. Fraser wasn't sure what to say to that. “He was kind to us and I guess I wanted someone...anyone...after my divorce. This is my fault.”
“No,” replied Fraser in a low, but firm voice. “None of this is your fault. The issues surrounding his medication could have been avoided if he'd attended his appointments.”
“I'm not talking about that,” replied Nicole, “I agreed to marry him, I agreed to allow my son to take his name, I made him believe that our relationship was something it wasn't and that wasn't fair of me. I should have been honest with him.” She sighed.
“You should have been honest with yourself first,” Fraser pointed out.
“Under the circumstances, I'm not going to push for a custodial sentence.” Assistant States Attorney Stella Kowalski closed her file with a slap and tried to ignore the fact that Ray had been staring at her for the past five minutes, as they sat around Inspector Thatcher's desk at the Consulate. “He will be sent for psych evaluation and then into whatever rehabilitation programme is recommended.”
“Mr McDowell's doctor has furnished you with a detailed report and his recommendations would appear to suggest that is the best way forward,” agreed Fraser.
“Are ya OK with that?” Ray asked Nicole who was sipping at the tea that Constable Turnbull had made for her. “I mean, he beat ya and kidnapped your kid?”
Nicole nodded. “I understand why he did what he did now,” she replied, “I never knew about anything he was going through with his ex-wife. I wish he'd talked to me about it.” Ray wasn't convinced, part of him couldn't help feeling that McDowell was getting away with what he'd done to Nicole and Jason, but he respected Nicole's position and he knew Fraser agreed with her. Personally he felt that McDowell deserved a kick in the head at the very least.
“Actually I've spoken to his ex-wife,” said Stella, “I suggested that she meet with him. They appear to have been communicating solely through their lawyers about their son and I thought perhaps if they were to sit down together and actually talk properly...well...anyway, she sounded quite agreeable. She mentioned that her job in Europe is not definite yet, so they may not even be leaving the country.”
Ray couldn't believe that was his ex-wife saying all that. “Um, sounds like a great idea Stella,” he said, “greatness.”
“Well, we know how these things can turn, well...” she hesitated, searching for the right word, “once communication breaks down, that's when things can become difficult.” Ray smiled ruefully and Stella immediately knew she had said too much. She quickly got to her feet. “I need to get back to the office,” she said, heading for the door, “there's no guarantee the judge will agree with me, I need to put together a strong argument. I've got a lot of work to do. Good day Ms Lavine, Constable Fraser.” Ray followed her out into the hall. “I can see myself out Ray,” she snapped.
“I know Nicole appreciates everythin' that you're, er, doin' for McDowell,” said Ray, barely avoiding the huge pile of bags containing all of Nicole and Jason's belongings that they'd collected from Steve McDowell's apartment earlier that day.
“I'm just doing my job Ray,” replied Stella. “The prison system is already overcrowded.”
Ray gave a small laugh. “This ain't about overcrowded prisons,” he said, “these people got under your skin didn't they, ya actually feel for 'em, ya actually care what happens to 'em.”
“Don't read too much into it Ray,” replied Stella coldly.
“C'mon Stell,” Ray encouraged, “ya looked at these people and ya figured that maybe, er, maybe that could've been us if we'd had a kid before we broke up.”
“Ray, I have no idea what you're talking about,” Stella opened the front door as she spoke. “Goodbye Ray, I'll be in touch if I need you.” Ray grinned and raised his eyebrows. “About the case Ray, about the case,” she clarified, shaking her head and walking down the steps towards her car. Ray closed the door and sighed.
Turnbull hurried into the office and began collecting up the empty cups. “Turnbull, you should be resting,” Fraser reminded him, “you shouldn't even be here today.”
“Don't worry about me Sir,” replied Turnbull, “I feel fine.”
“I could make it an order?” suggested Fraser.
Turnbull put the tray down and sighed. “I appreciate your concern Sir,” he said, “actually I do feel a little tired, perhaps I should go.”
“An excellent idea,” replied Fraser.
“Miss Lavine, may I wish you and your son a safe journey home,” smiled Turnbull.
“Thank you Constable,” replied Nicole. “Where are the children anyway?”
“They're out in the yard with Diefenbaker,” advised Turnbull, “shall I call them in?”
“Yes please,” nodded Nicole, “I want to set off soon, before it starts to get dark.” Turnbull went to find Jason, Amy and Dief.
“Here are your passports,” Fraser smiled as he handed the documents to Nicole. “Are you sure you wish to undertake your journey today?” he asked, “you and Jason are most welcome to stay another night.”
Nicole smiled. “Thank you, but I really want to get home. After everything that's happened, I want to get on with the rest of my life and I want Jason to be happy and settled as soon as possible.”
“I understand,” replied Fraser and was startled as Nicole suddenly threw her arms around him.
“Hey buddy, what are we...oh sorry,” grinned Ray, as he came back into the room.
Nicole released her grip on Fraser and turned to Ray, pulling him into a hug, then she released him too and spoke quietly. “I hope you don't mind me asking, but do you and Ms Kowalski have...what's the English expression? A history together?”
Ray looked a little uncomfortable, glancing at Fraser slightly concerned that it was that obvious. “Er, yeah,” he replied, but thankfully for Ray, Amy and Jason came running in before the conversation became any more awkward.
“Jason, it's time to say goodbye now,” said Nicole.
Later that evening, Fraser was stoking the fire and Amy was petting Dief. “You're making too much fuss of him you know,” said Fraser with a slight frown.
Dief whimpered. “But he's hurt,” replied Amy, ruffling the animal's ears.
“The excessive size of the bandage he managed to dupe the veterinarian into using is purely for the purposes of garnering sympathy,” sighed Fraser, glaring at his wolf. Dief whimpered again. “Oh stop it,” scolded Fraser.
Amy giggled. She hadn't understood every word Fraser had said again, but she'd got the general idea. “I think I might like to get a wolf when I go home,” she said.
Fraser smiled. “Perhaps a small dog might be a more appropriate pet?” he suggested.
“I'm going to write letters to Jason,” said Amy.
“That's a lovely idea,” smiled Fraser.
Amy's face fell suddenly serious. “Why did that man take Jason?” she asked.
Fraser sat down on the sofa next to her. “Well,” he began, “because he misses his own son very much and he thought that maybe he could spend some time with Jason instead.” Fraser tried to explain, not sure if he was doing a very good job. “Also, he's taking some medication that made him confused and angry and so he decided to come and take Jason without asking first, which was wrong.”
“Did the medicine make him want to hurt Dief and Constable Turnbull?” Amy enquired, trying to understand.
“Yes,” replied Fraser, nodding, “I don't think he normally likes hurting people, or animals and now he's taking different medication so I'm sure he won't do it again.”
“That's good,” smiled Amy. “Ben, can I take this off please?” she asked, pointing to her sling.
“How does your shoulder feel tonight?” he asked her.
“It's OK,” replied Amy, “please can I Ben? It's really annoying.”
Fraser laughed and unfastened the sling from around her neck. “Don't try to move it about too much,” he warned her. “When you go home, you will most likely undertake some physical therapy.”
“What does that mean?” asked the little girl as she slowly tried to move her shoulder up and down.
“It means that someone will help you with a series of exercises that will ensure your shoulder returns to full strength as soon as possible,” replied Fraser. Amy nodded, slightly nervously. “Don't worry,” urged Fraser, “it will be fine.” Amy smiled.
“Ben,” she said with a slight frown now, “why aren't you somebody's daddy?”
Fraser froze for a second. Her question had taken him completely by surprise and he wasn't sure how to answer. He cleared his throat. “Well,” he began, “because, um...” but then he heard the telephone ringing in the hall and raced out to answer it, breathing a huge sigh of relief. It was Inspector Thatcher. Fraser listened carefully as she was speaking particularly quickly this evening. “Oh that is wonderful news,” he said finally, “I'll call Amy to the telephone.”
A few moments later, Amy was wrapped in Fraser's strong arms, tears running down her cheeks. “Why am I crying?” she sniffed, “I'm so happy, my Mum's awake and she's going to get better.”
“It's alright,” Fraser comforted her, with a smile, “it's perfectly normal. You've had a lot to cope with and,” he added, pulling back slightly and wiping away her tears with his thumb, “I have to say that you've coped remarkably well. You should be very proud of yourself. I'm proud of you.” Amy smiled and Diefenbaker wandered over and began licking the back of her hand.
“I'm going to miss you so much when I go tomorrow,” sniffed Amy, “I mean, I really want to go and see my Mum and Dad and I want to go home, but I didn't know I was going to be leaving so soon. I wish you and Dief and Ray could come with me.”
“I have to stay here at the Consulate,” explained Fraser.
“I know,” sighed Amy sadly. “Maybe I could come back and visit?”
Fraser smiled. “I'd like that very much,” he said. Dief barked loudly and Fraser laughed. “I think Diefenbaker would like that too. You know, your Mum is going to be in hospital for a while and I'm sure that your Auntie Meg will remain heavily involved in your care, so maybe we might see you again sooner than you think.” Amy nodded. “Now,” continued Fraser, “I think it's time for you to go to bed, your Aunt will be here tomorrow to take you home so you want to be refreshed for the journey.”
“Ben, will you tell me a story again please?” she asked.
“Of course,” he replied, “I have a particular one in mind that I think you'll find quite fascinating. Do you know the tale of Anartek?”
“I really think you should try to eat something Sir.” Fraser placed a bowl of soup on the table in front of Inspector Thatcher.
“Fraser, I'll eat on the flight back,” replied Meg with a sigh.
“If I might be so bold Sir, airline food is not renowned for it's nutritional value,” said Fraser, handing her a bread roll.
“The breakfast I had on the flight down this morning was perfectly adequate,” retorted Meg.
“I may also add that you are looking particularly undernourished at this juncture,” Fraser sat in the chair next to his superior officer.
“Fraser, I've had other things to think about recently,” snapped Meg, “eating really hasn't been high on my list of priorities.”
“Understood,” replied Fraser, “however now that your sister is on the road to recovery, you can begin to rectify that. She will need you at full strength, she has a long and difficult time ahead of her.”
Meg sighed. “I know that Fraser,” she replied quietly. “She was pleased to see me. I realise that she has a brain injury, but she recognised me this morning before I left and...” her voice trailed off as she thought hopefully about the prospect of rebuilding her relationship with her sister. “Are you certain that you and Turnbull can manage here without me for a few weeks?”
“Of course we can,” smiled Fraser, reassuringly. “I will also update you on the progress of the works taking place in your apartment, as soon as I have had a chance to speak to the contractors.”
“Thank you,” smiled Meg, who hadn't even thought about the state of her home in the past few days. “I'll try to divide my time as best I can,” she continued. “You I trust, but Turnbull...” she trailed off.
“Constable Turnbull is a very capable and courageous officer,” Fraser assured her, “his recent actions while protecting a young child demonstrate that.”
“He does have a rather large contusion on his forehead,” agreed Meg and Fraser nodded. Just then they heard the front door open and the sound of footsteps running down the stairs.
“Ray!” Amy almost leapt into his arms as he stepped into the hallway. “I was hoping you'd be here.”
“Hey, I wasn't gonna let ya go without sayin' goodbye now, was I?” grinned Ray. “Have ya packed all your things?”
“Yep,” nodded Amy, “I can't wait to see my Mummy, I'm going to give her the biggest hug in the whole world.”
“Sounds good to me,” smiled Ray. “Where's Fraser, I mean Ben?”
“He's in there with Auntie Meg,” replied Amy, pointing to the kitchen.
Ray went to find them. “Er, hi,” he said gingerly as he walked into the kitchen. “How was the flight?”
“Fine, thank you Detective,” replied Meg, as she ate her soup, much to Fraser's satisfaction.
“And you're sure ya wanna fly back today?” enquired Ray. “Flyin' always takes it outta me.”
“Ray the flight time between Chicago and Toronto is approximately an hour and a half,” Fraser pointed out, “not really the most exhausting of journeys.”
“Yeah I know buddy,” agreed Ray, “but ya got all that time wastin' at the airport beforehand, makes me kinda weary.”
Meg managed a small smile. “I just want to get Amy back home as soon as possible,” she explained. “I can't begin to express my gratitude to the two of you for taking care of her, even if she did become embroiled in a kidnapping.” Meg's smile faded.
“Ah, yes,” agreed Fraser, “I am so terribly sorry about that.”
“It's alright Fraser,” Meg smiled again, “I should have guessed something like that might happen. I look forward to reading your report.”
Fraser wasn't entirely sure what the Inspector was trying to say with that comment, but he decided that it was best to leave it there.
A short while later, Fraser and Ray stood outside the Consulate as Meg berated the taxi driver for being ten minutes late. Amy was down on one knee hugging Diefenbaker, who had decided that he was really going to miss the child. He had quickly come to realise that he actually enjoyed the amount of affection she freely offered him. Perhaps he was going soft in his old age? Dief wasn't sure he liked that idea.
Amy stood up and threw her arms around Ray. “Thank you for helping to look after me,” she said.
“C'mon kid,” grinned Ray, as Amy let go of him, “ya were no trouble, right Fraser?”
“None at all,” replied the Mountie and Amy hugged him tightly.
“I'll be coming back really soon, I promise,” she said, “Auntie Meg said so.”
Fraser looked at Meg with his eyebrows raised. “When she needs a place to stay, I wouldn't be happy if she was anywhere else,” she said, then adding. “I'll continue to telephone every evening, if you're agreeable to that. I have become...” she paused, searching for the most appropriate way to finish her sentence. Eventually she said, “I have become comfortable speaking to you with such regularity, on a personal level I mean.”
Fraser was quite taken aback at her honesty. He too had come to look forward to her telephone calls each evening. He had been happy to act as a friendly ear for her as she coped with the distress of not knowing whether her sister was going to survive, but now that situation was over, the thought of continuing to have friendly chats was both unnerving and exciting at the same time. He swallowed hard and ran a finger around the starched collar of his tunic. “Thank you kindly,” was all he could manage to say. Ray glanced up at him, trying to suppress a smirk and then he and Fraser took a step backwards as Meg and Amy got into the taxi and with one final wave, they headed off to the airport. As soon as the taxi disappeared around the corner, they turned and headed back into the Consulate.
“I should get back to the two-seven,” sighed Ray as Fraser closed the door behind them.
“Yes Ray,” agreed Fraser quietly as he stood in the hall.
Ray looked at him for a moment, suddenly aware that some of the sparkle had gone from his buddy's blue eyes. “Er, y'know, maybe we should work on the McDowell report together? I mean, ya were there too and y'know how I use the wrong words sometimes.”
Fraser smiled, touched by his partner's empathy and spoke quietly. “I'd like that very much Ray, thank you kindly.” There was a moment of silence between the two friends.
Then Ray spoke again. “Quiet here, ain't it,” he said. Fraser nodded sadly. “Back to my place?” suggested Ray.
Fraser's eyes immediately regained some of their shine and he smiled. “Right you are,” he agreed, “but you must allow me to cook dinner this evening, we have indulged in far too many take out meals of late.”
“OK buddy,” agreed Ray, “but, er, we may have to call into the grocery store on the way. I don't think I've got much food in right now.”
Fraser frowned and shook his head. “You know Ray, feeding oneself is a basic necessity. There are some very simple yet delicious recipes that you could follow that, while taking very little time to prepare, provide more than adequate sustenance.”
Ray laughed. “Thing is buddy, me and cookin', er, not a good mix.”
Later that evening, Ray was putting the finishing touches to his report about the arrest of Steve McDowell and Fraser was busying himself in the kitchen. “Do you have more than one wooden spoon Ray?” Fraser called out.
“Um, I didn't even know I had one wooden spoon Fraser,” replied Ray with a shrug. Fraser shook his head and rummaged around in a drawer for an alternative.
“I spoke to Stella y'know,” said Ray.
Fraser immediately stopped what he was doing. “You did?” he replied with surprise. “I mean, I realise that you and Stella regularly converse, but I assume by the inflection in that last statement that it was a particularly personal conversation?”
“Yeah,” replied Ray, quietly. “She felt some kinda, I don't know, like I think she saw that McDowell got screwed up by his divorce and they had a kid too and maybe, maybe...”
“Do you believe that she felt a personal connection to the situation?” enquired Fraser. Ray shrugged. “But you and Stella didn't have children,” Fraser pointed out somewhat gingerly. He knew how much Ray had wanted to have children when he was married to Stella.
“Yeah,” replied Ray, quietly, “and thank god we didn't huh. That coulda been us, draggin' a kid through a bitter divorce. That woulda sucked Fraser, sucked big time. I just don't know what I...” he went suddenly quiet.
“Ray, I don't think you would have got yourself into the same situation at Mr McDowell, if that's what you're suggesting,” Fraser said, walking back from the kitchen area and sitting down next to Ray.
“Y'don't know that buddy,” said Ray, looking at the floor. “If we'd had a kid, don't ya think Stella woulda just used him or her as some other way of gettin' to me?”
“For one thing Ray,” began Fraser, “I can't envisage Stella as a mother, so I think your argument is moot, however I do think you're underestimating her.”
Ray smiled ruefully, “Maybe,” he said.
“However,” continued Fraser, hesitating slightly, “I can quite clearly see you as a father. You were very natural with both Amy and Jason.”
Ray closed his eyes. “Too late now, don't ya think?” he whispered.
“That's just silly Ray,” retorted Fraser and Ray snapped his eyes open and looked at his partner. “You are in your mid-thirties, you have plenty of time left for procreating.”
Ray laughed. “Procreatin'?” he said, “is that what they call it in Canada?” Fraser shrugged. “Anyway Fraser, I don't think I could handle it, y'know. Bein' a dad I mean.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Fraser with a frown.
“Responsibility buddy,” replied his friend. “Freaks me out. I was shakin' when Amy fell over and grazed her knee. Stupid. Like I, er, like I felt guilty for lettin' it happen or somethin'? Then when Jason was havin' his asthma attack, jeez...” Ray shuddered at the memory.
“Ray the situation with Amy and Jason was rather different,” replied Fraser, “we had parental responsibilities thrust upon us with very little warning. The decision to bring a child of your own into the world is usually undertaken with very careful consideration.”
“Not always buddy,” grinned Ray.
“Well, you're right of course,” agreed Fraser, “but that aside, under regular circumstances you would be far more prepared, both physically and mentally, for the arrival of your offspring.”
“Hey, I never prepare mentally for very much of anythin' these days,” shrugged Ray. “Anyway, it takes two to tango, right? So I don't need to worry anytime soon.”
“Are we discussing dancing now Ray?” said Fraser, completely confused at the apparent shift in the conversation.
Ray grinned. “No buddy, I'm talkin' about procreatin'.”
“Ah,” mumbled Fraser, making a mental note to remember that particular expression to avoid any unnecessary future misunderstandings. He got to his feet and headed back towards the kitchen to check on the dinner.
Ray walked over to his bookcase and began scanning along his video collection. “So what movie do ya wanna watch tonight?” he called out to his friend.
“I have no preference,” replied Fraser, “you choose.”
Ray nodded and turned his attention back to his videos. Then something else caught his eye. “Hey look what I found!” he exclaimed, pulling a book from the shelf. He took it into the kitchen to show Fraser. “This is that book of poems from high school I was tellin' ya about,” he explained, handing the book to Fraser. “See, I told ya I had it somewhere.”
Fraser immediately turned to the contents page. “What's The Point? by Stanley Kowalski, page twelve,” he said aloud, turning to the correct page. He cleared his throat and began to read Ray's poem. “What's the point of trying, when nobody cares? What's the point of caring when nobody's there?...”
“Jeez buddy,” Ray interrupted him, looking rather embarrassed, “don't read it out loud.”
“Sorry Ray,” Fraser apologised and continued to read the poem silently. When he'd finished, he closed the book and looked at Ray in mild surprise. “That really is excellent Ray,” he said, “you really have an ear for the rhythm of language.”
“Had, Fraser,” Ray corrected him, “I was a kid when I wrote that, it was a long time ago. Mr Parker had to correct a whole bunch of spellin' mistakes before it was printed too.” He laughed as he remembered.
“Ray, the technicalities of a piece of writing can be corrected by anyone with a working knowledge of the structure and rules of the language and a good dictionary, but the content is entirely yours,” Fraser tried to explain. “Your ability to convey your sentiments using words is remarkable, not everyone can do that. Have you considered returning to it as a hobby?”
“I don't have time for hobbies buddy,” laughed Ray, “besides, I already told ya, I was a kid then. It was for school, I didn't exactly, er, choose to write poems!”
“Alright then, how about a journal?” suggested Fraser. “As you know, my father kept journals and I have garnered both knowledge and comfort from reading them. I truly believe that everyone needs a hobby Ray. You may find it relaxing at the end of a stressful day? I often play my guitar for just such a purpose.”
Ray shrugged. “I never really thought about it like that,” he admitted. “My idea of relaxin' after a bad day is a beer and a game on TV.”
“Neither of which can be considered relaxing, in the true sense of the word,” Fraser pointed out.
“So ya think I should, er, write a journal so when I'm dead, my kids can read about all the crap I have to deal with every day?” asked Ray.
“Well, I wouldn't have put it quite like that Ray,” began Fraser, “but returning to our previous topic of conversation, it would be a wonderful legacy for you to leave for any future offspring. My father's journal is very precious to me.” Fraser fought a sudden wave of emotion that threatened to overwhelm him.
Ray gave his partner a friendly slap on the back when he noticed that look in Fraser's eyes. “When ya put it like that buddy,” he smiled as he spoke, “maybe I'll think about it.” He walked back over to his bookcase and replaced the poetry book in the space he'd removed it from. “So, what about you, anyway Fraser?” Ray called over his shoulder to his friend.
“What about me?” asked Fraser, as he returned to stirring the sauce. “I do have a journal although I admit that my entries are somewhat sporadic.”
“I wasn't talkin' about that Fraser,” Ray grinned. “Do you wanna have kids someday?”
Fraser thought about the question for a moment. “Ray, it's not something I've ever really thought about,” he replied.
“Oh c'mon Fraser, ya must've thought about it?” insisted Ray.
Fraser stopped stirring and looked back at Ray. “Hypothetically?” he asked.
“Yeah buddy,” agreed Ray, grinning. “Do ya, hypothetically, wanna have kids of your own?”
“Well,” began Fraser, “as you've already pointed out, I would first require a dance partner, so to speak.”
Ray shrugged and nodded. “OK, go with me on this buddy,” he said, “let's say that, er, hypothetically speakin', ya wound up with a beautiful girl and ya tango all the time and ya got a house in the suburbs, or an igloo in the Yukon or whatever,” Ray frowned slightly, realising that he was entirely unaware of what Fraser's idea of domestic bliss was. “Do you wanna have kids? Do you, Benton Fraser, wanna be a daddy?”
Fraser closed his eyes, slowly moistened his lower lip with his tongue and tried to imagine what his life would be like if he were a father. He thought about his childhood and he realised that he couldn't draw on experiences with his own father to guide him into parenthood himself. If he were to become a father, he would have to work it all out for himself. That thought was a little terrifying, but the more he thought about it, the more he relished the challenge. He knew he could be a better father than Robert Fraser had ever been and suddenly it hit him exactly how much he wanted to prove that, how much he wanted to experience being a parent, to experience the highs and the lows and everything in between. The responsibility of bringing a new life into the world was almost overwhelming, but at the same time, he knew that the rewards would be immeasurable. He opened his eyes and looked at Ray. “Yes I do Ray,” he said, seriously, “I really do.”