Actions

Work Header

Echoes

Work Text:

Bec sat back and rubbed her forehead with the heel of her hand, leaving behind a grey streak that she would find later. She sighed as she surveyed the dusty attic. This place hadn't been cleaned in...ever, really, but now that her father was finally ready to move into a smaller place, the time had come to tackle it.

She pulled another box over just as her dad appeared at the top of the stairs with the sodas he'd gone to fetch. She accepted a can with thanks, popped the top, and took a long swig.

"Better?" her father asked.

"Yeah. Thanks, Dad." She returned her attention to the box next to her. It was better constructed than most of those in the attic: it boasted an actual lid, rather than interlocked or taped flaps. She opened it to find her own eight-year-old face smiling out at her from the jumble of objects inside. "Dad? What's this?"

David Cohen looked in his daughter's direction. "Hm?" His eyes closed briefly when he saw the box she had unlidded, then he crossed the attic floor to crouch by her side. He lifted the photo out. Beneath it was another framed photo that Bec recognized as her maternal grandparents. "This is from your mother's office, Bec. They sent it home after the crash."

A hollow space opened up in Bec's middle. She put a hand on her father's arm. "Oh. Sorry, Dad."

He squeezed her hand with a sad smile. "Don't worry about it, Bec; it's all right. It was a long time ago. I'm actually glad you found it because there's something in there that you should see." He started to pull items from the box: photographs, framed citations and commendations, an old copy of Emily Weiss' last vampire novel.

"She actually read that?" Bec demanded, when her father handed it to her.

Her father shrugged. "She actually met her."

"Mom met Emily Weiss?" Bec loved Weiss's novels, but she couldn't imagine her mother reading them. The rather racy plots didn't square with the proper person she remembered. She looked down at the book, then opened the cover. Inside, in a strong hand, was written, To Captain Cohen, with appreciation for all your help. Thank you. Emily. "Oh, there has to be a story behind this."

"Ah, here it is," David said. He handed a thick manilla envelope to Bec. "Why don't you let your mother tell you?"

"What? What's this?"

"Open it," her father directed.

Bec opened the envelope. It was full of loose sheets of paper. Some were printed or typed while others were covered in what she recognized as her mother's handwriting. She looked up at her father quizzically.

"Letters," he said. He shrugged. "Your mother felt very strongly about family. A lot of cops struggle with leaving their jobs behind when they go home. Your mom never wanted to bring the worst parts of her job into our home, so...she left them behind. She wrote these letters so that she didn't have to come home and yell at me -- or worse, at you."

"What about you, Dad? Did you write letters, too?"

Her father huffed a short laugh. "No. Somehow the drama of academia never seemed as disruptive as the drama of your mother's work. And she wanted to hear about my days." He shrugged. "It was her way, too, of sheltering us from the violence of her job."

"May I read these?"

Her father nodded. "I want you to read them, sweetheart. You'll find that a few of them are actually addressed to you." He glanced at his watch. "Let's knock off for today. Take the envelope home with you. We can talk again after you've read them."

"Thanks, Dad." Impulsively, Bec leaned over and gave him a one-armed hug.

Later, in her own apartment, as she poured a glass of wine, Bec eyed the envelope resting on the hassock in front of her couch. Now that it came down to it, she wasn't entirely certain how she felt about reading these letters, about hearing the echo of her mother's voice. She remembered the days and weeks following her mother's death: the salutes from so many men and women in blue uniforms. The folded flag that her father never quite knew what to do with, finally putting it in a closet after displaying it all over the house. It had been a long time before she was willing to board a plane herself. And then there was the other side of things: so many things that other girls learned from their mothers, she had to either figure out on her own, or ask her friends to ask their mothers for her. She had been embarrassed, in her teens, to not have a mother like her friends did. It all seemed so distant, now, though -- nearly twenty years had passed, after all.

She sighed. Her father wanted her to read them, so read them she would. And, to be perfectly honest, she was curious. She took a sip of wine, set the glass on the side table, and pulled the envelope closer.

~*~*~

Dear David,

Word came down from the chief's office today that there is going to be some "organizational restructuring," which is just a fancy way of saying that there are going to be some transfers. Somewhere along the line, some detective somewhere got someone higher up the food chain's knickers into a twist. Instead of moving just that one person, they're shifting a whole bunch of people to make it look less like retaliation and more like that's what they intended all along. I'll be losing Wiley and Cross and gaining two detectives from the 27th precinct: Donald Schanke and Nicholas Knight. They've got a good reputation and a good closure rate. I spoke with Joe Stonetree who is their current captain. He likes them, but cautions that Knight has an odd disability -- a rare allergy to sunlight -- that means he always has to work nights. Apparently, Schanke originally worked days, but has since switched to working nights with his partner.

I don't have a problem accommodating Knight; it's not like I have officers begging to work overnight -- and Stonetree said much the same thing. And I don't mind losing Cross at all, as you may imagine. While he has never been outright insubordinate -- nothing I could really call him on, anyway -- he has made it quite plain what he thinks of being commanded by a woman.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

It has been a quiet day, thankfully. Schanke and Knight reported this evening. They are definitely an odd pair. First impressions: Schanke is loud, a bit overweight (not that I have anything to say in that department), and, unless I miss my guess, a bit of a schmoozer. Knight, on the other hand, is quiet, well-spoken, respectful, and very, very pale. That would be the sun allergy, I suppose. They seem to like each other well enough, and, as a bonus, they are already acquainted with our medical examiner, Dr. Lambert, as I learned when she stopped by to deliver some paperwork.

I gave them the usual welcome speech, and pointed them to Wiley and Cross's desks and unfinished cases. As I suspected would happen, Knight immediately dug into the files while Schanke drifted around the room meeting and greeting. I caught Knight's eye just before I came back into my office. He shrugged, and gave me a little half-smile, as if to say that it was just the way of things. If he doesn't mind, I don't suppose I have any reason to -- as long as work gets done and cases get solved.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Oh, here we go. Schanke is not only a schmoozer, he's a suck-up. So far, he hasn't done anything to warrant me paying too much attention, but I've overheard him offering people little favors: his wife's baking, sporting tickets, and the like. Oh, and I caught him asking Johnson how I like my coffee.

This should be interesting -- in the "May you live in interesting times" sense of the word.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

All right, now Schanke is beginning to annoy me. He showed up at a murder scene this evening -- which would be commendable, were it not his day off. And he was wearing pajamas with little red deer all over them. At least Knight had a reason for showing up on his day off: he lives nearby and heard the commotion.

I finally had to tell Schanke that I am not impressed by his behavior. Unfortunately, I don't think he believed me.

The murder was another drug dealer, strangled and no prints. IA believes that it's a cop. I argued that it couldn't be any of my officers, but you know what IA is like -- if they believe something, then it's so. They have no concept of "innocent until proven guilty." I don't like where this is heading.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Rogers and Wilkinson from IA arrested Detective Knight this evening. His watch was found clutched in a victim's hand. Worse, he was found at the scene. He claims that he heard the victim screaming and came to help. Fortunately, Dr. Lambert was able to find DNA evidence on the victim, and has taken blood samples from Knight for matching. Until the results come back, however, Knight remains in the lock-up. He is handling it with grace, at least, and I think I'm beginning to see hints of the real Detective Schanke under that brown nose.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I have to tell you that I have finally been won over by Detective Schanke. He has finally showed himself to be the cop that Joe Stonetree assured me he was. Not only did he not betray his partner (who had escaped from custody, but who was not the murderer for whom we were searching), but he then talked down the real murderer, a coroner's assistant whose brother died of a drug overdose.

I am, however, rather disappointed in Dr. Lambert. She willfully falsified the samples sent for DNA testing. Apparently, she didn't have enough faith in Detective Knight not to try to give him a little "help" passing the test. It was only by one of those weird cosmic coincidences that the blood sample she passed off as Knight's happened to be from the real murderer. She tried to give me some folderol about mislabeling samples, but I know her work. She's very precise and methodical and the last time she mislabeled a sample, she was probably in high school biology. I suppose that nearly getting Knight tossed in prison is punishment enough for her; she seems to be fond of him. Knight is fortunate in his friends, and I told him so. I do hope he appreciates them.

Still. I think I will be keeping an eye on the three of them.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Some would say, "Another day, another dead prostitute," as if such women were entirely disposable. You know my opinion of that particular refrain; if anyone uses it in my presence, they'll be treated to my opinion, also. And possibly my sensible black pump up their backside.

Knight seems to be living up to his name; he is attempting to save the damsel in distress...who refuses to admit either that she is in distress or that she needs his help.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I was greeted this morning with the news of a dead cop -- Goodman, in Vice -- and a shooting at The Raven, a nightclub whose owner is not only an old friend of Knight's, I am told, but who takes an active interest in helping out the local ladies of the night. (I suspect quite the past there.)

It seems that Knight's damsel in distress was no such thing, but rather a shrewd businesswoman looking to carve her own piece of the underworld pie. Knight's expression was pretty sheepish when I saw him before he went off shift; apparently he narrowly missed getting his friend killed.

I will have to remember to get my good suit cleaned for Goodman's funeral.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Here's a name to conjure with: Emily Weiss. I know that you don't care for her novels, but I certainly enjoy them. Everybody needs a guilty pleasure -- which, given your stash of Spider-Man comics, I think you already know. I am keeping my copy of The Denied locked in my desk drawer, but I can't resist occasionally taking it out and dipping into it. It's not at all appropriate behavior for work, but I won't tell if you don't.

Miss Weiss is coming to Toronto for a book signing. I wonder if it would be beneath my dignity to attend.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

You may or may not have read the newspaper article about attack on Emily Weiss, but surely your students were abuzz with the news. In any case, Miss Weiss has suddenly become my problem. Her publisher has requested protection for her while she is in town, so we will be placing her in a safe house.

It seems I will be meeting her after all -- shall I ask for some writing tips on your behalf? (I am, of course, only joking, but you were the one complaining just this morning about needing to find the time to finish that paper.)

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Damn it all to hell and back again -- Emily Weiss' stalker found the safe house and attacked one of my officers. McCabe will be all right, fortunately, but this is getting out of hand. Knight volunteered to put her up at his apartment for now, and his reasons were good ones. I hope none of us end up regretting this.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Emily Weiss's stalker turned out to be her publisher's assistant, of all people; it appears he was under the delusion that he was one of the vampires in her books. Miss Weiss was frightened but unharmed; unfortunately, her stalker committed suicide. Poor woman -- I know she feels responsible for his death. Although she may have been speaking in the heat of the moment, she has vowed to never again write about vampires. I don't imagine that her publisher will take that very well.

I have to confess that after she gave her statement I asked her into my office on the pretext of needing her signature on some paperwork regarding the safe house. Instead, insensitive as it may have been, I asked her to sign my copy of The Denied. I closed the door, though; I couldn't let any of the troops know....

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

We have a guest: Chief Inspector Liam O'Neal of the Dublin CID. He's here because the Volack murder fits the MO of a murderer he has been pursuing for years. He's charming, in a roguish sort of way. Certainly Detective Hellman was impressed enough to want to help out with the investigation. I would prefer her to start with a less visceral one -- and I mean that literally, as in viscera all over the place -- but Knight agreed to let her ride along. I know he'll keep an eye on her.

Meanwhile, Schanke has been avoiding me, lately. It's almost laughable, considering how far up my backside he tried to shove his head when he first started here. (Sorry, David. That's an extremely unladylike image.) If that report isn't on my desk in the next twenty-four hours, though....

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Bridget Hellman is dead, and it's my fault. She thought she had a lead on the murderer, and wanted to follow up on it. I was positive it was nothing, but let her go -- to humor her, to make her feel good about herself. I was so certain she couldn't be right, and why? Because of her age. Because of her lack of experience. I sent Schanke along to keep an eye on her, to let her down easy when it turned out to be nothing. Instead it turned out that Detective Hellman (to give her her proper title and rightful due) was correct. The murderer was hiding at Queen's Quay Mill -- and he got Bridget, and would've had Schanke, as well, if O'Neal hadn't turned up at the station and persuaded Dr. Lambert to drive him to the mill. He took out the murderer with Dr. Lambert's car, of all things. Definitely excessive force, but for Hellman's sake, I cannot be at all angry.

This is one of those times when I may have to infringe on our agreement about not bringing my work home. I need to talk about this. While I know, intellectually, that Hellman's death isn't my fault, if I had taken her seriously and sent more men to canvass that mill, she might still be alive.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Have I ever mentioned to you that the clock outside my office doesn't work right? It hasn't ever worked right -- at least, not as long as I have been at the 96th. It's always off by at least ten minutes, sometimes even more. And it's the only clock in the bullpen, which means it's the one everyone goes by...which means that everyone else is either much too early or late.

It's driving me absolutely batty.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Sometimes I wonder where Detective Knight gets his ideas. He had a bee in his bonnet about Jeremy Stanton (of Barrington Stanton Industries) having been behind the gruesome murders of a pair of little old ladies. There was nothing to base it on, and yet he delivered. Not only did Stanton have the two women killed, but he was also behind the murder of his business partner back in the Fifties. He was trying to find Mrs. Barrington, who disappeared after her husband's death. One of the old ladies had been her personal secretary.

Do you ever wonder about what money does to people? Jeremy Stanton is, as they say, richer than Croesus, but is willing to kill for even more riches. Not that we need worry about ever being in that position. Which reminds me...we need to talk about a computer for Becky.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Was it so recently that I wrote about Knight's intuition? It certainly failed him this time. He was utterly convinced that a convicted murderer -- a fugitive from the States -- was innocent. She wasn't. She played on Knight's sympathy, and now she's dead, the guy she was chasing is in the hospital, and I had to do some pretty fast talking to the U. S. Marshals to whom Knight was supposed to be delivering her. I'm certain to receive a call from Vetter's office tomorrow, too, because the Marshals were not happy.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I am quite pleased with Knight right now. At the same time, I'm so angry, I could spit. A serial killer whose MO was to hunt her victims -- while warning them and giving them a chance to fight back -- set her sights on Knight this evening. To get his attention and insure his cooperation, she kidnapped Schanke. Fortunately Knight rescued him. This is the part which makes me happy.

The part which makes me furious is that Knight never once considered requesting backup. He simply went after her alone. He claims that there wasn't time to organize backup. He says that when he got the hunter's tape, the half-hour clock was already ticking. "I had to move, Captain. I knew she was watching, Captain. I couldn't take the risk, Captain."

Oh, I suppose he's right. If he had followed procedure, Schanke would be dead. Still. I don't like it. It's dangerously close to taking the law into one's own hands. I don't want to find any of my officers crossing that line.

The hunter, by the way, got blown up by her own bomb. No matter how hard I try, I can't bring myself to feel sorry for her.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

It'll be in the news tomorrow that Councilman Cardelli's son was electrocuted at the Luminology headquarters this evening. It looks like a horrible accident: the kid was working on some wiring at the time, and he's hardly an electrician. We can't get any straight answers out of the center's residents, however.

There's something about this Matthew Davidson who leads the group that raises my hackles. Maybe it's just the mother in me, picturing Becky getting caught up in something like this. Yes. I know. She's only eight years old. But someday, she won't be. Someday, she'll be Vincent Cardelli's age. And then what? We can't always protect her, and sometimes...sometimes, I just remember that.

Sorry for the interruption; I just got off the phone with the mayor, who has already heard from Cardelli. I have been ordered to investigate the son's death as a murder. I don't know how we're supposed to do this when we can't get anyone to talk....

It seems to be the night for interruptions. I no sooner wrote the above than Knight and Schanke knocked on the door. Knight volunteered to go undercover as a Luminologist. It's not a bad idea. If these people don't want to talk to outsiders, maybe we need an insider. I gave the go-ahead; we'll see what he comes up with. And it gives me an answer for Cardelli and the mayor: We're working on it.

I'll be home soon. I hope.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

We haven't heard from Knight in a few days. Schanke maintains that he's fine. We assumed that there would be a period when he would be isolated and out of touch; standard procedure for such groups is to watch newcomers closely so that they can't be persuaded to leave. Still, we had hoped that Knight would manage to contact us.

I've been reading up on Luminology. While they seem harmless enough, they're anything but. People go in there and don't come out again. They seem to favor wealthy "converts," who then funnel all their money into the cult.

I don't like it. I'm worried about Knight -- and so is Schanke, even though he won't admit it.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Another week has passed with no word from Knight. I am now extremely concerned. It doesn't help that Cardelli is now bypassing the mayor and calling me directly on a daily basis. There are certain indications that his son was murdered for his trust fund. I've ordered Schanke to contact Knight and find out what the hell is going on.

Is it possible that one of my own officers could have been subverted by Davidson and his mystical nonsense? I would certainly not have believed it of Knight. He has always seemed so solid, so rooted in the here-and-now. But I suppose we never really know people, do we? It shakes one's faith in others, it really does.

Except you. I have absolute faith in you.

And your collection of Spider-Man comics, of course.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

The Luminology case is solved. The cult is finished, thankfully. While David Matthews didn't murder Vincent Cardelli -- one of the cult's members has confessed to that -- he will nevertheless be up on charges for fraud, at the very least. I'd say that I'll miss the councilman's daily calls, but...well, I won't.

Knight deserves to be nominated for an Oscar; he had Schanke quite convinced that he was staying with the cult -- so much so, in fact, that when a shaken Schanke told Dr. Lambert the news, she actually tried to infiltrate the cult herself to get Knight out. While I admire her bravery, it was an extremely stupid thing to do. She's a pathologist, not a police officer; she's not trained for this sort of work. It's a damned good thing for her that Knight really was acting.

Natalie -- Dr. Lambert, that is -- seems awfully attached to Knight. I'm wondering if I should be paying more attention to that? No, I suppose not. They're colleagues, yes, but more importantly, they're adults. They can manage their own affairs. Or lack thereof.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

A little girl is missing. I know, I know. Little girls go missing all the time. But this one has a personal connection: the little girl is Dr. Lambert's goddaughter. Natalie has taken a leave of absence to volunteer at the tip center.

Becky's photograph is right in front of me as I write this. I imagine her going missing and my heart just stops. It's every parent's worst nightmare. Do you remember that time we were at the zoo, and she decided she had to go to the bathroom, so she just ran off? Do you remember the panic? That icy sensation in your gut? It was awful. And we found Becky again after fifteen minutes. Imagine days of that, and of knowing that the longer she's missing, the less hope there is.

Oh, no. The call just came in. They found Cynthia Luce. She's dead.

I don't think I'll be getting home anytime soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

There are very few people upon whom I personally want to commit violence, but I have to say that Ronald Gault is one -- his assigned duty counsel is another. We know that Ronald Gault kidnapped Cynthia Luce. We know that he killed her. But we don't have any evidence, so we cannot charge him or even hold him until we get some. Not only that, but Counselor Shepard insisted that we provide protection for him. Protection! And then we had to give him medical attention on top of it. Thankfully, Dr. Reston seems quite steady and unemotional about the whole thing. Whatever she thinks, she isn't showing it. We need that sort of impartiality right now.

After interrogating that man -- after even being in the same room with him -- I need a bath. I want to say that I cannot imagine how hard this is for Dr. Lambert. She was at the station tonight, but she didn't stay long. Unfortunately, I can imagine how hard it is for her, and that frightens me a little.

Becky will have been in bed for hours by the time I get home. Please give her a hug and a kiss from her mama.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

It seems that I was mistaken about Dr. Reston's impartiality. She murdered Gault, and she did it right in front of us all -- poisoned him when she administered the local anesthetic before she stitched his scalp wound. She had her reasons, poor woman, and while we certainly sympathize with them, we cannot condone what she did.

Dr. Lambert discovered it. Poor thing, she went in and conducted her own tests on the bodies -- exactly what we were trying to spare her by calling in Dr. Reston. Natalie had a choice, David. She could have destroyed her results, let it go, covered up the murder, but her own integrity would not allow it. I have to say that, as sorry as I am for her, I am also proud of her for doing the right thing. It had to be so hard. I wonder if I would have had such strength.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

What do you think of when you hear the name Thomas Constantine? I can guess: university endowments, scholarships, philanthropic endeavors. For me, the name means something entirely different: gambling, prostitution, drugs, organized crime. Constantine's into everything, and we know it...and we can't touch him, because there is no evidence. I've wanted to bring him down for years.

We were so close. So close. Constantine's great-grandson was going to turn Queen's evidence. Instead, he disappeared. He turned tail and ran from the old man. I'm certain that Knight knows where he is, though he claims otherwise. I have to wonder if he's even alive, and if so, how long he'll stay that way. Constantine isn't the type to take betrayal lightly. The excitement seems to have rejuvenated him, rather than killing him, more's the pity.

Thoughts of Family remind me that I have to tuck your Fathers Day gift into my purse before I leave the office this evening. I'm certain that by the time I get home, Becky will already have given you whatever horrendous adorable glitter-covered thing that her teacher had her make in school. Family and Fathers Day seems to be a theme; I heard Schanke trying to get his partner to help him complete a questionnaire for his daughter's class, and I even caught that Nightcrawler DJ ruminating on the subject.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Knight has this ridiculous idea that Casey Brooks is involved in a murder. Casey Brooksm, who spends his evenings working with kids on probation. Who runs all those programs aimed at keeping kids out of trouble. Who has turned more kids around than any other thing out there. Apparently our victim tried to contact Brooks numerous times, so Knight immediately connected him with the murder.

Ridiculous.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Does everyone have secrets? Is everyone hiding something? Casey Brooks turned out to be a former American soldier whose unit destroyed a village in Viet Nam and killed all the inhabitants. The victim who had been trying to contact him was the last survivor of his unit; the others had all been murdered. Brooks' real name was Travis Drake. Was. He committed suicide early this morning. I suppose now we'll never know who killed the rest of his unit. I have to wonder if the good work he did in Toronto made up for what he did in Viet Nam. Obviously someone didn't think so.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Given that Schanke's desk is right outside my office, I sometimes hear more than I really want to about his life. For instance, their marriage is solid and happy enough. Their daughter is about Becky's age. I am not, however, going to suggest a play date. That is a slippery slope I do not even want to get near, let alone teeter at the top of. I don't need a return to the brown-nosing of Schanke's first couple of weeks here.

Today is his wife's birthday. I'm surprised he didn't take the night off to spend it with her, but it wasn't being at work that he was griping about. He seemed far more concerned with his own mortality.
Birthdays have a way of doing that to people, I guess. Perhaps they need to think more about celebrating life than fearing death.

The next time I have a birthday ending in five or zero, you may remind me that I wrote that.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I have seen a lot of psychotic killers in my time. Peter Barlow, though.... He was up at Laurier for assessment and escaped. He was apprehended -- but not before he killed two young women and went after a third. (She survived.)

I don't want to get into a philosophical debate over the nature of good and evil, but that man is definitely evil. He frightens me -- and I don't frighten easily. But you know what they say: face your fears or be overwhelmed by them. So I interrogated him myself, though I was never alone with him -- I'm not a fool.

Unfortunately, what we learned was unsettling. He definitely committed the second murder and attempted another -- but while he was perfectly willing to claim credit for the first murder, he didn't do it. So now we have to find a copycat. What was that tagline from one of the Jaws movies? "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water?" Something like that.

I just found this letter on my desk, so I may as well add to it. Perhaps we should have that discussion about good and evil after all.

We discovered how Barlow escaped from Laurier. The doctor who evaluated him helped him; she wasn't precisely sane herself. She committed the first murder. The patient was being discharged and Dr. Welsh didn't want to let her go. She killed the poor girl using Barlow's MO, then arranged for his escape to cover it up.

Knight caught up with her just as she was about to murder another patient. Instead of the victim, she poisoned herself. That.... I'm sorry, but that is not a punishment fitting her crime. Compared to what she did to Whitney Davis? Far too easy.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

You know what they say about things being weird at the full moon? A prisoner escaped lockup tonight. No one seems to know how. The officer who was on duty at the time acts almost as if he was on something: his memory is fuzzy, and he claims the chief of police was down in the lockup. I suppose the prisoner's girlfriend could have slipped him something and taken the keys.

In any case, they're gone; her car was found abandoned near the CN Tower. Schanke suggested that they caught a train; he's probably right. We're looking for them, but I don't really expect to find them. I sent Schanke home early; he was acting punchy -- a little vague, not quite answering questions.

My only real question right now has to do with Knight and the girlfriend. It's clear that they know each other; they had a slight altercation at the station last night. I would guess that their history is not entirely harmonious. While I am confident that Knight was not the "chief of police" that Mandrake claims was down in the lockup, I had better not find out that he helped them in any way.

I'll be home soon. The moon is spectacular tonight, and it looks like I'll be able to catch moonset. If you're awake, maybe you can watch it with me.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

What a couple of days. Schanke's home troubles have been bleeding over into his work of late. It didn't help that his latest case involved marital discord. He left his wife and was staying with his partner, then they started squabbling like an old married couple.

They got there in the end, though, and I'm pleased to report that Schanke moved back home (mostly because it means that I can leave my office door open again without having to hear Schanke ranting). I'm sure Knight is relieved. Mind you, Schanke didn't confess any of that to me. I finally had to ask Knight what the hell was going on.

It makes one wonder, though, about the nature of love and marriage and family. Schanke seems to have a very traditional marriage. He's the breadwinner; his wife works from home as a Skin Pretty saleswoman. You and I, on the other hand, are not exactly a typical couple, David. If we were following tradition, you'd be the police captain and I'd be the professor...except that I probably wouldn't be a professor, would I? I'd probably be an elementary school teacher -- if we were being traditional. Sometimes, I wonder if that wouldn't be a good thing. We probably wouldn't see any more of each other, but I would get to see more of Becky. I miss so much. I am so fortunate in you, David -- don't think I don't know it.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear Becky,

I'm sorry I missed your recital. I know you worked very, very hard on your piece. Your daddy told me that it was absolutely perfect and that you looked beautiful in your new pink dress. I really wish I could have been there. We talked a long time ago about how when I'm trying to keep the city safe, it means I miss a lot of things I'd much rather be doing. I know you don't understand now, but I hope you will someday.

Love,
Mama

~*~*~

Dear David,

I told Dr. Lambert about Prewett today. The last person I told that story to was...you, actually. It has been more than two decades since that happened. I don't think about it -- about him -- every day anymore, but.... I suppose this means I'll have that dream again tonight. Maybe I should sleep in the spare room so that I don't disturb you.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Somehow, Schanke talked me into letting him give some kids from his daughter's school a tour of the precinct. Despite his experience as a father, he doesn't appear to have any experience with large groups of kids -- but it went as smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, little Jenny is down with the mumps, poor thing, so she missed out.

You haven't heard of any mumps at Becky's school, have you? I suppose it doesn't matter; she had her vaccination.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear Becky,

I just wanted to tell you that I love you. I love you and Daddy more than anything else in the world. Yes, even cookies. Even ice cream with chocolate sprinkles. Even puppies. I hope you're still awake when I get home so that I can tell you in person.

Love,
Mama

~*~*~

Dear David,

Schanke has been out of my hair lately because he somehow ended up as a technical advisor on a movie. It's one of those police actioners that your brother is so fond of. I don't know why they bother with technical advisors; if you watch the movies, it's clear they aren't listening anyway. If it were me, I'd probably punch someone in the face and walk off, but Schanke is too impressed with the idea of being considered an "expert." He's probably being quite the nuisance.

Meanwhile, Knight is working by himself. He doesn't seem as troubled by that as he might. I know he's fond of Schanke, but I think he's just as glad for the break.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Of all the stupid, pea-brained, idiotic tricks! Schanke (from whom I would expect such stupidity) and Knight (from whom I would expect better) took that actress along with them to meet some gang members. Not only did they endanger a civilian, but they endangered themselves as well. I could throw them both out a window and be happy about it. And the actress, too, for that matter.

Unfortunately, she has connections. We've been ordered to extend her every courtesy from now on. How marvelous. I hope the legal department had her sign an iron-clad waiver, because I don't want to be held responsible if she gets hurt.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

It seems that Miss Alex Cross actually learned a lesson or two from her recent experiences. Knight says that the script of her movie has been rewritten to be more accurate -- and, unfortunately, to include a bit part for Schanke. I don't think his feet have touched the ground for a week; they're being held aloft by his swelled head.

I suppose I'll have to go see it when it's released. Maybe I can get some free tickets for your brother.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Schanke is taking the death of Brian Sykes very hard. It's always difficult to lose a friend, of course, but when it's suicide, it's even worse. If IA then swoops in declaring that the friend was dirty.... Schanke vehemently denies such allegations. Knight, in a fine show of support, offered to investigate Sykes' death as a murder. IA, in the person of Fred Berman, actually tried to intimidate me into ordering them to let it go. Let's just say that he did not succeed and leave it at that.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Schanke's belief in his friend, and Knight's intuition paid off; they uncovered a huge corruption scandal. It won't look good for the department, but the house cleaning is clearly overdue.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Officer-involved shooting -- a phrase I never want to hear. My officer wasn't shot, but a bystander was. She died, and Knight blames himself. As far as I can see, he didn't do anything wrong. In fact, he probably prevented a bad situation from becoming worse. He's off duty until Internal Affairs reaches their conclusion, but I am confident that their report will agree with me.

Unfortunately, that does leave us short-handed, and we're a bit backlogged here (when are we not?), so I'm not certain when I'll be home. Kiss Becky for me.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

IA's report cleared Knight of any wrong-doing in the Raven incident, as I knew it would. Knight is still feeling guilty about that woman's death, of course. He'll work through it. We all do.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Have I ever got a mess on my hands. Two murdered women, the RCMP, diplomatic immunity, and Knight and Schanke in the thick of it. I don't like that RCMP weasel threatening my officers, but diplomatic immunity is diplomatic immunity. I ordered Knight and Schanke to stay out of it, but if that look in Knight's eyes was any indication, there's more trouble ahead.

I'll be home soon, I hope.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I hope Knight appreciates right now how lucky he is. He broke into the Kazakhstani embassy, arrested the ambassador for murder, and dragged him all the way down here in handcuffs. Frankly, I'm amazed that he managed to get off the embassy grounds without being shot. Tremblay (the RCMP weasel) was all set to arrange for Knight's extradition to Kazakhstan on kidnapping charges -- it's nice to know that the RCMP has our backs -- when it all suddenly worked out.

The ambassador has graciously decided to overlook his treatment by the Toronto Police Department. The fact that he was covering up murders committed by his son may have had something to do with his about-face.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

You wouldn't think that a musical instrument would excite so much greed, but two men are dead because of an antique Celtic harp. One of the deaths was an accident, but the other was murder. If you believe in that sort of thing, though, both can be laid at the feet of the harp (do harps have feet?) which is supposedly cursed. Well, we shall see. It is apparently on its way back to Wales to go into a museum.

Remind me if we ever need to buy Becky a new piano to make sure it's not cursed.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I know I have mentioned before how much I dread the phrase "officer-involved shooting." This time, the officer in question was Schanke. It was a clear case of him or the other guy, so I don't see a problem with it. Schanke says he's okay, but he has been at the station for most of the day, acting a bit odd. What he really needs, in my opinion, is to go home, kiss his wife and daughter, and get some sleep. He's been awake for close to twenty-four hours.

It's never easy. I know that as well as anyone, and I know that everyone copes a little differently. I'm just not sure Schanke's way is particularly healthy.

I'll be home soon. I'll try to shoo Schanke out the door on my way.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear Becky,

I'm glad that you called earlier today. I'm sorry I won't be able to see the valentines you got at Sunday School until tomorrow, since you'll be in bed by the time I get home. But you can show them to me before you go to school in the morning.

Love,
Mama

~*~*~

Dear David,

Thanks for letting Becky call. She was very excited about those valentines, wasn't she? Dr. Lambert overheard part of our conversation; from her smile, I think she misinterpreted what she heard. Ah, well. I don't suppose I really mind; she's not the gossiping type.

Speaking of gossip, I have been keeping an eye on Dr. Lambert and Det. Knight. I rather think she's sweet on him -- though he appears to be oblivious.

Unfortunately, it looks like Valentine's Day here is going to be unpleasant. We may have a serial on our hands, one who killed twice last year in Montreal. Just what we need: more misery on top of the usual holiday miasma.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Knight and Schanke caught the valentine killer, thank goodness, but not before he killed someone else. He won't be doing it again, however.

And in other good news, it looks like maybe Knight's not so oblivious, after all.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I can't decide whether to be worried about Schanke or annoyed. He's been consistently late for days, and when he does get in, he has the sort of hangdog expression that makes me want to ask if everything's all right at home. As that wouldn't be appropriate behavior from his captain, I won't. Mind you, a male captain could probably get away with it. I can see Stonetree asking, for instance, and getting an answer without anyone thinking anything of it.

Never mind. There's nothing I can do about it, and there's no sense in getting all worked up when the purpose of this letter is to prevent just that.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Don't we have a bottle of Provatrex in the medicine cabinet? You'd better dispose of it. We have a couple of deaths so far that look like they may be due to a tainted batch; the company is recalling all of it.

It seems that whatever is going on with Schanke hasn't dulled his investigative faculties: he's the one that put this all together. I am really impressed with him right now; I must make a point of telling him so. I think the arrival of his old friend Patrick -- a charming, likeable sort of fellow -- has cheered him up immensely. Unfortunately, now he's on the outs with Knight, who believes that there is something more than tainted Provatrex involved in these deaths.

Do you ever feel like you can't win?

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

P. S. Well, that was unexpected: Schanke just came into my office and handed me a typed resignation letter, along with his gun and his badge. I was so shocked that he left before I could think of what to say. I've locked them in my desk for now; I'll deal with them tomorrow.

~*~*~

Dear David,

Schanke was both right and wrong about the Provatrex. There was tainted Provatrex on the shelves, but it was put there in order to cover up tainted Marrow Comp since Provatrex is so commonly used for pain after surgery. Such a reprehensible scheme probably seemed quite logical to someone: hide the deaths from tainted Marrow Comp with tainted Provatrex. The thing that worries me is that the company making Provatrex was so willing to take the blame and recall their product. What does that say about their manufacturing processes?

I do feel sorry for Schanke. His friend Patrick was involved in the whole scheme, and was killed. I am glad that I hadn't yet done anything with his resignation; he rescinded it this morning when he handed me his amended Provatrex report. I wish he would take a few days off to mourn Patrick, who I gather was not only a former partner, but a friend since childhood. He insists that he'll do better by concentrating on the job, though. I hope he's right.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear Becky,

I just wanted to let you know how much I love you. I hope I've told you enough times. I hope that somehow, I've shown you that I love you, even if I'm not home as much as I would like, even if I miss your school concerts and piano recitals, even though your daddy is the one who helps you with your homework and cooks your suppers and bandages your skinned knees. Oh, my little girl. I love you so much.

Love,
Mama

~*~*~

Dear David,

I learned tonight that the world is going to end. An asteroid is going to plow into our planet and destroy us. Everything we've worked for, everything we've built, everything we are. Gone. We have three months.

I think, in a little while, I will be very frightened, but right now...right now I'm still numb. I wonder if I would ever have learned this if one of the astronomers who discovered it hadn't committed suicide in despair. I wonder if, in the end, she won't have been the smart one.

I just realized that no matter what, I can't tell you this. Very few people know: myself, Knight, Schanke, Lambert, a few scientists. It has to be kept quiet or the world will tear itself apart.

How am I going to get through this?

I love you.

Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I'm sorry I kept it from you for even as long as it took to leak. You learned the truth ten hours later than I did. I wish you could understand that I was doing my duty...and that I was trying to protect you and Becky, for just a little while longer. I knew the truth couldn't stay hidden very long; I just wanted to spare you this cold, hard dread for as long as I could.

The speed with which panic has spread has surpassed even my worst predictions. I am sitting in my office; the station is practically empty. Uniforms, detectives, everyone is out on the street, trying to do what they can to maintain order. I hope to God that none of them get hurt tonight.

No, I'm not quite alone. I can hear Knight and Schanke out there. Knight has one of his famous gut feelings that there's something more to Dr. Carter's suicide. I'm allowing him to work it for a little while longer; one cop on the street more or less is not going to make a whole lot of difference. If this is his way of coping with impending doom, then fine.

I don't know when I'll be home.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I arrived at work to find my office and my precinct taken over by the army. Martial law. They don't want me here. You'll only get in the way, they tell me. I feel like a little girl again, trying to keep up with my big brothers. Go away. We don't want little girls here.

I may as well come home.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Do you feel as though you have been reborn? As though every day is amazing and full of wonders? The little girl that still lives inside me wants to blow bubbles and twirl and laugh. The cynical police captain wonders how long the world-wide euphoria is going to last.

The army is gone, thank goodness, and my officers chipped in for flowers for me and doughnuts for everyone. I haven't had a dougnut in ages, but you can bet I had a nice, fluffy, sugary one tonight.

It will probably still be a while before I get home; there's a lot to do here.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

I have been contemplating violence again tonight. This time it was a high-priced defense counsel; his fee is probably more than our mortgage. He's representing a young man who has just come into a lot of money of his own and a lot of money belonging to other people. He may also -- or may not, according to Det. Knight -- have had his father murdered in order to access said money.

As I have said before, it's a good thing we're not rich. At least we'll never have to worry about Becky murdering us for our millions.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Some excellent news: Officers Melvoy and Lang won the lottery! Everyone is very happy for them with the exception of Jenkins, who refused to go in with them on the ticket, and Schanke, who couldn't get people to go in with him for a ticket. Apparently he never actually went out and bought one.

Ah, well. There will be another big jackpot in a few months.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Remember the courthouse bombing in Edmonton last summer? We caught the bomber this evening. I should say "the alleged bomber," but I think it's pretty clear that Dollard is the one.

Alberta was quick off the mark; the extradition paperwork has already been faxed.

I'll be home soon.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Dear David,

Schanke and I are just about to leave the precinct to head to the airport. I hope the flight is quiet and that Dollard behaves himself. For that matter, I hope Schanke behaves himself.

I'll call you when I get settled in the hotel. Kiss Becky goodnight for me.

Love,
Amanda

~*~*~

Bec put the last letter down, tears prickling at the corners of her eyes. She picked up her wine glass, but didn't drink. She could hear her mother's voice in these letters: tired, angry, amused, resigned, even afraid. She understood why her father had kept them all these years, and she wished that her mother hadn't destroyed the others. She would have liked to have read them, to get to know a little better the woman her mother was when she wasn't little Becky's mama, because it was clear that Captain Cohen and Mrs. Cohen were quite different people.

She raised her wine glass in a toast. "To you, Mama. We love you. And we miss you." Then she gathered the letters together, squared the corners, and started to read them again from the top.