Dragon at the Gate
"I'm sorry, he's in a meeting.
Let me check his schedule...."
"I want to see him now, the bleached
blond insisted, arms folded across her chest and one pointy-toed shoe-clad foot
She smiled sweetly up at the rude woman and sadly shook
her head. "I'm sorry, but he's not in, at the moment." She opened a day planner
and, holding it so the other woman couldn't see anything, turned a few pages.
"He's got an opening the day after tomorrow at 0800, if you like? I'm afraid that's
the earliest appointment he has available." She looked again at the irate woman,
who now had her mouth open in shock.
"You've got to be kidding! Eight
in the morning? Don't be ridiculous. I'll wait." She looked around and
realized that there wasn't any place to sit. When the secretary shrugged and went
back to her work, she humphed in frustration and spun on her spiked heel
and strode angrily away.
Isabel raised just her eyes and smiled to herself
as she watched the irate woman stride off. It was a perfect exit, marred by the
breaking of the woman's left heel, which nearly spilled her onto the floor. Her
smile broadened as there were snickers from the few people who'd been watching,
and Kelly Blake then slunk from the room, trying hard not to limp.
The phone rang and she picked it up before it had a chance to ring a second
time. "Hundred and First Precinct, Detective Division. How may I direct your call?"
She listened to the voice and frowned. "I'm sorry, but he's in a meeting, just
now. Could someone else help you, perhaps? Oh, I see. May I take a message, then?
Oh, all right." Her hand groped for a pencil and scribbled an almost indecipherable
message. "Yes, I'll be sure to tell him. Would you care to leave a number where
you can be reached?" She flinched as the caller slammed down the phone. With a
slight huff of annoyance, she shook her head and hung up. Then, she looked at
the note she'd scribbled and copied the information somewhat more legibly onto
a telephone message form.
"Hey, lady, how'd you like to do lunch?"
up, smiling. The sunglassed detective settled one hip on the corner of her desk
and lowered his glasses just a bit to look at her. "I'd love to, but the captain
is still in that meeting with the mayor and the chief, so I've got to stick around."
She glanced at the wall clock across the room and sighed. "I don't suppose I could
convince you to bring me back something, could I?"
The detective grinned and
stood up. "Gladly. What would you like?"
She gave him her most soulful look,
"A nice, hot, New York style pastrami?"
"Torpedo or rye?"
Heavy on the mustard, and an extra pickle, please." She reached for her purse
to give him some money.
"I've got it."
She frowned. "Kermit, you buy my
lunch most of the time. At least let me buy yours for once, since you're doing
all the work for it."
Kermit scowled. He liked buying her lunch. And
dinner. And going out with her and her daughter. And living across the hall from
them. He liked their cat and, most importantly, he liked them.
He sighed. Amazing what that one word from her could do. "All right. You can
get lunch, this time." He agreed rather grudgingly, but it was still a concession.
"Thank you." She opened her purse, pulled out a wallet, and handed him a twenty-dollar
Accepting the money, he stood up and headed for the door. "I'll be back,
She watched him and smiled. The phone rang and, sighing, she answered
"Hundred and first precinct, detective division, how may I direct your
She hoped that Kermit came back with her lunch, soon.
She'd overslept that morning and missed breakfast, and with the captain in that
meeting all day, she'd been extra-busy fending off calls and visitors. The detectives
understood, but some of the callers didn't. But if the man wasn't there, he simply
She looked up as a man entered the bullpen. She hadn't seen him,
before, but he made his way unerringly towards the captain's office. She stood
and blocked his path.
"May I help you?"
"No, thanks. I'll just wait in his
office." He moved to go past her, but she shifted as well and continued to block
"I'm sorry, but the captain isn't in, just now."
The man scowled.
"Look, Blaisdell knows me, it's all right, I'll just wait in his office for him."
He waited for her to move and when she didn't, he tried to push her aside.
wasn't heavy enough to keep from moving a little when he pushed her, but she pushed
right back and again kept him from the door to the captain's office. "The problem
is, I don't know you and I have instructions from the captain that no one
is to enter his office when he's away." That was a blatant lie, but she certainly
wasn't going to allow this total stranger access to her boss's office.
man glared. "Do you have any idea who you're dealing with?"
"The correct grammar would be 'do you have any idea with whom you're dealing?'
To which the answer is, no, I don't. Nor do I particularly care. You could be
the president of the United States and I still wouldn't let you in that office
with him not there. Now, if you'd care to give me your name and the purpose of
your visit, I'll be sure to give him the message when he returns."
get out of my way," the man growled angrily.
"I won't. I must ask you to leave.
No one is allowed in the captain's office in his absence. And I don't even
know you, so you're even less likely to gain access." She'd tried being reasonable,
but this guy just wasn't listening.
He drew himself up and tried to intimidate
her, but she simply raised an eyebrow and looked at him.
Furious, he drew his
hand up to his shoulder and backhanded her. The blow was hard enough to cause
her to stumble into the door to the office she was guarding. Her hand went to
her face and came away covered in blood, mostly from her nose, but partly from
the lip his ring had split. She looked up at him in fear, but then something inside
flipped like a switch, and she came back upright and prepared to do battle.
you're such a big, strong man!" she announced, only she was speaking baby-talk,
much to the stranger's surprise, and annoyance. "So powerful and masterful," she
continued, still in baby-talk, "You slimy piece of moldy excrement!" She stepped
closer to him, and he backed up, startled. Her voice was low-pitched and intense,
not hysterical, but very, very angry. "How dare you come into a police
station and try and throw your weight around? I don't care who you think
you are, but you are not, repeat, not gaining free access to the
captain's office." She was advancing on him, finger poking him in the sternum,
and he was backing up.
Broderick had entered the bullpen
to bring some messages to the Chief of Detectives, Frank Strenlich, so he was
the only one to see the man actually strike the captain's secretary. Everyone
had, however, heard the slap and turned to see what was going on. Seeing the blood,
every last one of them stood and began to silently gather behind the stranger
who'd had the temerity to strike their captain's secretary.
Strenlich had any idea of who the man was, and he groaned in dismay.
"If you think that just because I'm a woman and you're a man that you can beat
and batter me into submission, you can think again. You are not getting
into the captain's office. You are not going to throw your weight around
here like you do at home with your own family. I am not your punching bag!"
She had continued to advance, jabbing him with a pointed forefinger for emphasis
on ever 'not', and he had continued to back up, until he bumped into one of the
officers standing behind him and he jumped forward.
Isabel took his sudden
lunge forward as another attack on her and reacted defensively by raising and
extending her hands to keep him away from her, and bringing up her right knee
just as hard as she could, connecting solidly right where Kermit had assured her
it would count.
The man screamed and dropped to his knees, curling around himself
Kermit was waiting in the long line at the deli
when he spotted a familiar figure. "Hey, Paul, what did you want on your sandwich?"
he called out, effectively allowing his friend and superior to cut into the line.
"Roast beef on whole wheat, mustard, mayo, and all the good stuff." Paul said
as he joined his friend.
"Got it. Isabel's been fielding calls all day. She's
back at the office, starving."
Paul sighed. "I'm sorry about that, but the
meeting went a lot longer than I thought it would." Then he frowned. "What kind
Kermit shrugged. "Minimalistic and uninformative, from what I could
"Great." Paul grimaced and rubbed at his eyes with the thumb and forefinger
of his right hand.
"She wasn't the problem, this time."
snorted a laugh, knowing his friend was referring to the mayor. "Who was?"
sighed and grinned ruefully. "Circumstances and statistics, I'm afraid. Thankfully,
I'm just a precinct captain, and not the commissioner. She was having a hard time
of it, and there isn't a lot any of us can do except to keep on doing what we've
been doing. It's hardly our fault if the courts let the bad guys go, after all."
"Yeah, but it doesn't make it any easier for the rest of the city when they
do. Too bad we can't get the judges to cooperate."
Paul snorted. "Like that's
ever going to happen."
They got their order and Kermit paid. Paul thanked him
and they walked out, intending to eat back at the office.
It was quiet when
they entered the precinct house and quiet all the way up the stairs to the bullpen,
but entering, both men froze and Paul placed a restraining arm in front of his
"No," he softly commanded, and then spoke to the room at large.
"What the hell is going on, here?" Paul Blaisdell's voice thundered
through the silent bullpen.
Broderick turned to see not only the captain, but
an absolutely livid Kermit Griffin. Warily, he approached, expecting to have to
help restrain the infuriated ex-mercenary.
"I'm not sure what started it, but
it looked like your secretary was trying to keep that guy out of your office.
When I came in, it was just in time to see him slap her. Then she got mad and
backed him up and when he bumped into Jody, he jumped forward and she nailed him
Paul turned and placed his hands on Kermit's shoulders. "Go to your
office and cool off. Wait until I come for you."
"Paul," Kermit began, plaintively.
Isabel was his lady and it was his responsibility to defend her.
no. I'll take care of this. Go on."
With a grim expression and extreme reluctance,
Kermit stalked to his office while Paul turned back to the carnage.
Paul asked, approaching her. She was breathing hard, most likely from the adrenaline,
but possibly from the exertion of felling her opponent.
She looked up at her
boss and flushed scarlet with embarrassment. She was covered with her own blood
and her nose and lip were already swelling. She didn't think her nose was broken,
but it certainly hurt. There were tears of pain, anger, and frustration in her
eyes and she was fighting valiantly to try and keep them from falling.
sir?" She asked softly, straightening up.
Paul had to fight a smile, recognizing
all the emotions she was trying so very hard to hide. "Good job. Why don't you
go see about getting yourself cleaned up while we handle the rest of this?"
sir." She paused. "Uh, I'm expecting Kermit back any minute with lunch."
in his office, waiting for you." Seeing her dismay, he smiled gently. "He's understandably
concerned, and it might be a good idea if you hurried. You know how he gets."
She did. Nodding, she almost slithered out of the bullpen to go down to the
ladies' room to try and clean up while Paul turned on the other people in the
"Mind telling me why no one helped her?"
Mary Margaret Skalaney snorted.
"She didn't need our help. Well, maybe if we'd noticed anything wrong before he
hit her. But I just heard the slap and turned around to see her bounce off your
door, and then, man, it was like watching Kermit. She suddenly turned into superwoman.
She got all cold and quiet and just started advancing on him and he started backing
up. He bumped into Jody and jumped forward and Isabel took it as an attack and
grabbed him by the shoulders and kneed him, but good!" There was admiration in
her voice and expression that had the other three all nodding.
Captain," Frank Strenlich softly apologized. "I was talking to Jody and Skalaney
and didn't realize there was a problem until he hit her. Like Skalaney said, she
just backed him right up. It couldn't have been more than about a minute from
the time he hit her to the time she kneed him. We were all coming up behind him,
ready to grab him, but I guess he didn't realize it," he finished rather lamely.
Paul sighed. He could understand. You didn't expect anyone to be foolish or
stupid enough to assault and batter someone in a police station. He looked down
at the man on the floor, still whimpering and clutching himself in agony. Served
him right for smacking his secretary around.
"Grimes? What the hell were you
thinking?" He folded his arms across his chest and watched as the man on the floor
continued to gasp and whimper. He reached out a foot and toed him in the back.
"Come on, I know she couldn't have hit you that hard. Get up."
"Uh, you know
this guy, captain?" Jody asked, surprised.
Paul looked up. "Yeah. I know him;
although, there are times I wish I didn't." He turned his attention back to Grimes.
"Come on. You going to let a little civilian lady like that win?"
With a mighty
groan, Grimes reached out to grasp the nearest desk and drag himself up, still
gasping for air. He managed to get to his feet and stood, hunched over and perspiring.
"Sir? Aren't we going to arrest him?" Broderick had the temerity to ask.
smiled. "That's right. You actually saw the assault, didn't you?"
sir. She was just keeping him from going into your office, and he backhanded her."
Paul nodded, pleased. "Good. I'll let you do the honors, then." He started
to turn away when Grimes spoke.
"You're wanted in DC," he gasped, trying to
straighten up past the pain.
Paul turned to look at him like he'd look at a
dog that messed on his lawn. "I don't think so."
Grimes looked annoyed... more
annoyed. "You have to."
Paul's expression went cold and he turned back to the
man. His voice was low and hard. "Grimes, I don't have to do a damned thing. You
don't own me, remember. Just because I haven't before doesn't mean I can't say
'no'. You came in here and assaulted and injured my secretary. She's a civilian,
and not a part of your slimy, filthy world. You struck her, and there's quite
a lot of her blood on the door to my office and the floor, not to mention ruining
her clothes. I suggest you shut up and try and think of how you're going to explain
all this to your masters." He smirked. "Besides, you should thank me."
looked up at the captain in shock. "What?"
Paul grinned and looked at Broderick.
"Why don't you explain it to him, sergeant?"
Broderick smiled in return. "Yes,
sir." He turned to Grimes and took him gently by the arm, easily putting him into
handcuffs. "You are under arrest for assault and battery, you have the right to
remain silent. If you give up this right, anything you say may be used against
you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney, and to have an attorney
present before any and all questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one
will be appointed to you at no cost. You've got to be the luckiest s.o.b. in town."
He shook his head as he gently guided Grimes towards the door.
asked, still not realizing what was happening.
"You hit Griffin's main squeeze
and lived. "Do you want an attorney?"
"Do you understand these rights
as I have explained them to you?"
Grimes suddenly seemed to realize what was
happening and began to struggle, but weakly, as he was still suffering from the
blow he'd received from that woman. That little woman. "Wait, Griffin?
"Yeah. Captain sent him to his room. Come on, pal,
move a little faster, will you? I'd rather not have to stand between you and him
if he should come out of his cage, just now. So, did you understand these rights
as I have explained them?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah."
"Do want an attorney?"
"Do you give up your right to remain silent?"
"Uh, not right now."
come on; let's get you down to booking."
his head. Broderick had managed to get the man clear down to the elevator, talking
the entire time. He glanced at the closed door to Griffin's office and shivered.
Looking at the captain, he tilted his head and asked, "Now what?" He knew that
the few other times Grimes had come, the captain, and Griffin, tended to vanish
for a few weeks without explanation. But the guy had hit Kermit's lady, and drawn
blood. That wasn't something the ex-merc would take lightly.
"Now, we wait
for Isabel to come back. He glanced around and realized that his two female detectives
had disappeared. He frowned. "Now where did they get off to?"
went after Isabel," Strenlich replied. "Help her get cleaned up?"
and sighed, glancing at the closed door to Kermit's office. "Well, let me see
if I can calm Kermit down."
The son of a bitch had hit
Isabel. Kermit prowled his miniscule office like a caged leopard, furious and
frustrated - never a good combination. Only Paul could have ordered him not to
act and he obey. But it was very hard for him to take, having seen his beloved's
blood all over the place. That thought made him stop and look down at the floor,
groaning. His hands came up and ran roughly through his hair. Too hyped up to
be able to sit, he began to softly mutter to himself on what he'd do to Grimes
and how long it would take him to die.
When the door finally opened and Paul
entered, Kermit froze and stared. "Well?"
"Broderick arrested him and is escorting
him down to booking."
Kermit looked surprised. "You arrested Grimes?"
Paul grinned and shrugged. "What else could we do? He assaulted my secretary
in front of witnesses."
Kermit shook his head. "They aren't going to like that
you arrested him."
"I, personally, didn't. Broderick saw the assault and he's
the one who arrested him. Besides, I can think of no good reason to strike a woman
unless she's coming at you with a weapon and you're defending yourself. That was
definitely not the case, here."
Kermit nodded. "Is she all right?" he asked,
"Well, she was able to take him out with a knee, and she walked
down to the ladies' room under her own power, I'd say she was going to be just
fine. Although there was a lot of blood." Paul grimaced and sighed. "Better call
the hazmat for cleanup."
Kermit bristled. "She doesn't have AIDS!"
but it's policy. Blood gets spilled, you call hazmat for cleanup. Just like we
did when Perez got you."
Kermit grumbled and subsided, sinking down into his
chair to bury his head in his hands, elbows on his desk.
There was a soft tap
at the door and Paul opened it. He smiled to see that his secretary had apparently
had extra clothes down in her locker to change into. Her nose had stopped bleeding,
but her lip had a nasty cut on it. "Kermit, why don't you take Isabel to the emergency
room to see if that cut needs a stitch or two?"
Kermit instantly looked up
and, seeing the damage, stood. "Sure. Come on and I'll take you."
and looked down. "Could I please eat, first? I skipped breakfast, this morning,
and it's after one, and I'm really hungry."
"Certainly," Paul replied.
"Kermit, why don't you bring the sandwiches and we'll all eat in my office. It's
quiet, there." Kermit only nodded and grabbed the bag of sandwiches and followed.
All three were hungry, although Kermit, under stress, tended to lose his appetite.
But he ate, never taking his eyes off of Isabel, who kept glancing at him and
then away. Paul was careful to control his urge to smile at them both. It was
so very obvious how concerned Kermit was for his lady.
When they finished eating,
Paul stood and gathered their wrappings. "Kermit, take her to the ER and get her
checked out. Then I want both of you to go home for the day. Isabel, you'll have
to give your statement to someone tomorrow. I think I'll assign TJ to this case."
Seeing Kermit's scowl, he explained. "He wasn't here, so isn't involved. We'll
all be giving our statements."
Kermit sighed and nodded. "What are you going
to tell them when they call to find out where we are?"
Paul smiled. "I'm going
to tell them to go take a hike. We've retired from that line of work and them
sending someone who assaults one of my people for no good reason other than bad
manners is as good as a pink slip, as far as I'm concerned, don't you agree?"
Kermit looked surprised, then almost smiled as he nodded. "Works for me, boss."
His expression turned somber as he turned his attention back to Isabel. "Shall
She tried to smile, but her cut and swelling lip reminded her and she
winced instead. "Yes. Let me get my purse and I'll be ready."
the solicitous way Kermit held her hand as she stood and the way he positively
hovered as he escorted her out. Shaking his head, he leaned back in his chair
and stretched. With Kermit getting ready to settle down with his lady, it was
a good time to tell their former and occasionally not-so-former masters that their
retirements were permanent. For himself, he was getting too old for it. He wanted
to stay home with his beloved wife and family. After all, he was a grandfather
twice over, his youngest was in college, and if he really wanted to, he could
retire completely...IF he wanted to.
For Kermit, though, it wasn't quite so
easy. He still had...issues. But right now, he had the perfect reason to permanently
cut off that part of his past. Two perfect reasons. And he hoped his friend would
do just that. Grimes had done them a favor, really. By striking and hurting Kermit's
lady, he'd maybe helped sever that old tie. At least, he hoped so.
Two stitches in her lip, but the bloody nose was just that, thank goodness.
The lip was impossible to bandage, and she constantly wanted to touch the wound
with her tongue, but fought off the urge. The local wore off quickly and it hurt.
Now that the adrenaline rush had ended, she felt the pain, and she wanted to just
lie down in a warm, dark corner and sleep until she healed. Which was not, unfortunately,
possible. She was glad that the captain had given them the rest of the day off,
Kermit watched her pensively as she leaned back in her seat and closed
her eyes. She looked tired, and her lip was badly swollen, despite the icepack.
Her nose was almost back to normal, already, but still a little pink. As he waited
for the light to turn green, his gorge again rose and he had to fight the almost
overwhelming urge to go and maim Grimes. Then he'd look at Isabel again and his
ire would ease. To his surprise, he'd rather comfort her than commit mayhem on
Grimes. Besides, it was getting harder and harder to find good hiding places for
the bodies. At that thought, he almost smirked. He'd have to go and have a chat
with Grimes, he decided. It definitely wouldn't do for anyone to get the idea
that his lady was in any way a target.
"I'm sorry," Isabel softly spoke.
glanced over at her. She had her eyes closed and a worried expression on her face.
"You don't have anything to be sorry for."
She shook her head. "I should have
seen it coming and ducked."
Kermit couldn't help but chuckle. "In a police
station? In the detective division?" He shook his head. "Only a fool or an idiot
would do that."
She rolled her head to the side and cracked open her eyes.
"And which one was he?"
Kermit's moment of humor vanished. "Both, I suspect."
Isabel sighed. "How am I going to explain this to Abby?"
"Just tell her
the truth." He turned pensive and then softly offered, "How about I order us in
something delivered for dinner, tonight?"
She smiled, and winced as the stitches
pulled. "That would be nice. One thing, though, don't make me laugh or smile until
the stitches come out, okay?"
He grimaced, "I'll do my best not to. If I do,
just stomp on my foot to remind me, okay?"
Just the corners of her lips turned
Abby was surprised to arrive home and find her
mother already there. But she was lying down in her room and Mr. Kermit was sleeping
on the sofa. Frowning, she made some noise, which woke their visitor, who sat
She looked towards her mother's open bedroom door. "What's
wrong? Is mommy okay?"
Kermit sighed. "She will be. A man came to see the captain
and thought he could just go into his office and make himself at home and your
mom told him that he couldn't. He, uh, hit her and cut her lip."
welled up with tears. "Was it my daddy?" she whispered. In her experience, the
only man who ever hit her or her mother was her father.
"No. He's a man Captain
Blaisdell and I know. He was very rude to your mom, who was just doing her job,
keeping him out. She's going to be fine, though. But the doctors gave her something
to make it not hurt so much and it made her real sleepy." He could see how upset
the child was and opened his arms, "Can I have a hug, please?"
was Abby asking for hugs and reassurances. He forestalled her agitation with his
request. She nodded and came into his arms, where he lifted her into his lap,
her arms around his neck and they sat, hugging one another for comfort.
the circumstances, Kermit found that holding and hugging this little girl did
wonders for his mood. All the rage he'd felt towards Grimes just dissipated. He
was still upset that Isabel had been hurt, but now his attention was on comforting,
rather than revenge.
And he recognized the change in himself and accepted it.
He changed his mind about ordering in food and instead got
Abby to help him make a pot of stew. At eight, now, she was old enough to be allowed
to help cook. He set her to work washing the vegetables while he wielded the knife,
cutting the meat into small chunks and slicing the vegetables while the meat seared.
By the time the painkillers wore off and Isabel awoke, the apartment was filled
with the wonderful smell of stew.
She awoke and stretched, feeling the swelling
on her lip and nose from the earlier blow and sighed. Sniffing the air, however,
she could tell that something very tasty was simmering away on the stove. She
stood and paused in the bathroom. Seeing her face in the mirror, she winced. With
a sigh, she opened the medicine cabinet and took out the infamous blue and yellow
tube and applied some of the ointment to her bruised and swollen face. Then she
washed her hands and walked out into the living room.
Despite the pain, she
smiled. Kermit was stretched out on the sofa, with Abby beside him, book fallen
to the floor, and their kitten, Froggie, now an adolescent, curled up atop Kermit's
hip. She couldn't help but envy her daughter's position, cradled in his arms,
She slipped over to the sofa and knelt down beside the sleepers. She
just watched them for a time, content to be close. After a bit, she shifted so
she could lean against the sofa and eventually, her head came to rest against
her daughter's back and she fell back asleep.
inner timer went off, he awoke and sat up, carefully avoiding waking Abby. He
was surprised to find Isabel sitting on the floor and gently touched her cheek,
"You okay?" he softly asked.
"I will be." She smiled sleepily,
and winced as the stitches pulled. "Something smells good."
Kermit smiled and
offered her his hands. She took hold and he gently helped her to her feet. He
noticed that she was favoring her left shoulder a bit, but considering she'd been
bounced off of Paul's door, that wasn't really surprising. He hoped that Grimes
was still hurting from her blow.
Isabel looked down at her peacefully sleeping
daughter. "Was she terribly upset?"
"A little. I kind of forestalled her by
asking for a hug. Seemed to work."
"Good. Of course, she's not going to sleep
tonight, but that's okay."
"Let me get dinner dished up and we can wake her
up." He smiled and stood, giving her a gentle hug before going into the kitchen
to serve dinner.
Isabel crouched down by the sofa and gently awoke her daughter.
"Hi, sweetheart. Ready for some dinner?"
Abby stared at her bruised face and
cut lip and her eyes filled with tears. "Are you okay, mommy?"
"Just a little
bruised. I'll be fine. Can I have a hug?" She smiled slightly as her daughter
sat up and slipped into her arms, giving her a hug. Isabel closed her eyes and
sighed. "I'm okay, baby. And the man who hurt me is in jail. They arrested him
for hitting me."
"He's lucky," Kermit growled as he came in to call them to
the table. "If I'd been there...."
"He'd probably never would have had the
chance to hit me. I know." She looked up at him and smirked. "But I'm just as
glad that Sergeant Broderick was there to see what happened and arrest him. What's
going to happen, now, though?"
Kermit grinned. "Now, he gets sent before a
judge who will listen to Paul explain that Grimes has means to leave the country
and he'll get remanded until his trial. Unfortunately, it's one of those borderline
charges. It can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. I have no way of knowing
what the DA will decide."
"Why was he here?"
Kermit's smile faded and he
sighed. "Grimes is someone from my 'other' life. The one I can't tell you much
She looked concerned. "Oh, dear. Is this going to cause trouble for
you and the captain?"
Kermit grinned again and shook his head. "I don't think
so. Not after Paul tells them what Grimes did and to whom. He said it was as good
as a pink slip." He gently stroked her unbruised cheek. "Besides, they wouldn't
want either Paul or me to have to work with Grimes after this. And I assure you
that Grimes didn't much like me before."
She tilted her head and looked at
him. "And if he's smart, if he gets out, he should run far and fast, looking over
his shoulder for a man in sunglasses?"
Kermit's grin faded again as he looked
deeply into her eyes. He didn't wear his sunglasses when he was with her, for
the most part, and she could read his every emotion, as he well knew. "If he runs
and doesn't ever come back, I'll let him go. But if he ever comes back here, I
won't make any promises."
He'd told her as much of his former life as he could,
including the horrors and nastiness he'd done, and his friend Paul had been involved
in as well. But unlike her ex-husband, it was only words. She'd never actually
seen him in 'his world' as he called it. Looking deeply into his dark brown eyes
now, however, she could see the spark of something very dangerous, and she smiled.
"Let him go. He'll go the rest of his life, wondering when and where you'll
come for him, and that will be a better punishment than anything you could possibly
Then his expression turned pensive and slowly,
he began to smile. "You know, I think I like the way you think, lady."
"You're telling me that the one day Blake and I are stuck in court is the day
someone comes in and assaults your secretary?" Peter Caine was furious. What a
rotten day to be stuck away from the station! He paused in his pacing in his foster
father's office and his expression was grim. "And no one helped her?"
sighed. He loved his volatile foster child, but there were times.... "There wasn't
time. The three in the bullpen weren't looking that way, and only Broderick actually
saw him strike her, and they all turned to watch her back him down and then take
him out." He shrugged. "She was obviously listening when Kermit and I were trying
to teach her some self defense." His lips quirked up a bit, "To be honest, I'd
have liked to see her take out Grimes. He was always such a shithead."
how did you keep Kermit from killing the S.O.B.?"
Paul sighed. "Because I outrank
him. And he respects me." There was a note of chiding in his voice that Peter
picked up on, which made him blush slightly.
"At any rate, Grimes
has been arrested, and I imagine that by now he's gotten his phone calls, and...."
The phone rang and Paul sighed. "Right on time. Go home, Peter. Tomorrow's another
day." He lifted the handset of his phone and spoke, "Blaisdell."
like he wanted to argue, but seeing the captain's glare and gesture to leave,
he did. Damn! He missed all the fun.
"No." Paul leaned
back in his chair and put his feet up on his desk. He was, surprisingly, enjoying
this. "Grimes backhanded my secretary. My civilian secretary. No. Go right
ahead; however, I wouldn't advise it. Why? Simple. The lady Grimes struck happens
to be someone Griffin cares about." His amusement vanished and he sat up, bringing
his feet to the floor with a thump. "You go right ahead and try it. I'm warning
you right now that 'mercenary rules' will apply. Anything, and I mean 'anything'
happens to her or her daughter, you won't be able to find a hole deep enough to
hide in. Grimes blew it. He attacked a civilian in my office, in front of witnesses.
I don't care how much you think you need me, his actions have put paid to either
Griffin or me ever working for you again, in any capacity." He listened
and shook his head. "I don't care. When he attacked her for doing her job, he
severed all loyalty we may have felt. What did she do to make him hit her?" He
could barely contain his rage. "She refused to let him wait for me in my office.
He didn't identify himself, she didn't know him, and he thought that he could
do as he wished. Well, he's cooling his heels in a holding cell, and if you ever
want to see him again, I suggest you find him a good lawyer." He stood, too agitated
to remain seated. "This terminates Griffin's and my involvement with you. I suggest
that in future, you be a bit more considerate to the real world, or else just
stay under your rock and leave it to people who understand, to handle things."
And with that, he gently hung up the phone. Shaking, he scrubbed both hands over
his face and back through his hair. If they contacted Kermit.... He'd better figure
out a good place to hide the bodies. Just in case.
was getting ready to go to his own apartment after Abby went to bed, but Isabel
stopped him. He looked at her, concern in his eyes.
"I know that we agreed
that we wouldn't spend the night together, but please, stay?"
He realized why
and nodded. "I'll sleep on the sofa. Let me go change into sweats, okay? I'll
be right back."
She wrapped her arms around herself and nodded. He smiled gently
and gave her a hug. "I'll be right back."
When he returned five minutes later,
she had covered the sofa with sheets and blankets and a pillow. He engaged the
deadbolt and took her into his arms and just held her for a time, until she stopped
shaking. Then he released her and she gave him a wan smile.
"Thank you," she
whispered, "Good night."
"Good night." He watched as she went into Abby's room
to check on her and then made her way to her own room. She didn't close the door,
and with a shrug, Kermit turned off the lights and kicked off his shoes. He sat
on the sofa, fluffed his pillow, and stretched out, pulling the covers over himself
and settling down to sleep.
Too many years of training had
him awake in an instant. He didn't move as he listened for whatever it was that
had alerted him. Then he heard it again. A soft sniffle. He sat up and looked
towards the sound. Abby.
He slid off the sofa, not even disturbing the covers,
and approached the crying child. "Abby? It's all right, sweetheart."
jumped at the sound of his voice, and then tentatively whispered, "Mr. Kermit?"
"That's right, honey. It's okay." He drew closer and gently lifted her into
his arms. "See? I'm here to make sure nothing bad happens. What woke you up?"
"Bad dreams." She craned her neck to look towards her mother's door. "Can I
go see mommy?"
"Sure, sweetheart. We can go see her." He moved silently towards
Isabel's open door and paused. In the dim ambient light, he could see that Isabel
was dreaming, and by the stifled sounds she was making, that it was probably more
a memory of her ex's abuse or a nightmare than a dream.
"Isabel?" he softly
called, not wanting to startle her awake. "Isabel, Abby's had a bad dream."
awoke and sat up with a gasp. "What?" she asked in confusion.
"Mommy? I had
a bad dream." Abby whispered, as though afraid that her nightmare might have been
Still more asleep than awake, Isabel stared at the figures in her doorway.
"Abby? Are you all right, baby?"
"Yes, mommy. Mr. Kermit's here. He won't let
the bad dreams come," the child said confidently.
"Kermit?" Isabel asked in
"Right here. You looked like you weren't having a very good dream."
Isabel sighed. "I wasn't. Thank you for waking me."
"Thank Abby. She's the
one who woke up." Now that she was awake, Kermit approached the bed and placed
the reaching Abby in her mother's arms. He started to turn to go back to his sofa
when Isabel's next words stopped him.
"Please don't go."
He turned back
and stared at her. "Are you sure?"
"Abby's right. You won't let the bad dreams
Kermit nodded, understanding. Approaching the bed, he eased down beside
his ladies, intending to sleep atop the covers, but Abby lifted them for him.
He hesitated a moment, staring into Isabel's eyes. Seeing her tremble, he nodded
and slid into bed beside her and took both mother and daughter into his arms.
He closed his eyes, just to feel them closer. There was nothing sexual, merely
offering and accepting comfort; and it felt wonderful.
he next awoke, it was to find Isabel spooned up in front of him, with Abby in
her arms. His body was reacting to the close proximity and he shifted, planning
on slipping away, but Isabel's hand on his encircling arm tightened. "Please stay."
"Isabel," he began.
"We can put Abby back in her own room. Please, Kermit?"
It was so tempting. For a moment, he was going to agree. After all, it had
been her decision to not have a sexual relationship, not his. For a moment, his
inner cad rejoiced in the pleading tone in her voice, but then Paul's wise counsel
spoke, 'that's a nice lady, Kermit. Don't blow it...you've always gone for flash
over substance... don't blow this...'
"I can't. I can't take advantage of you
when you're this vulnerable." He gently kissed her cheek and slipped from the
bed to make his way back to the cold sofa.
A few minutes later, Isabel came
out of her bedroom. Kermit sat up. The clock on the VCR said it was almost four
a.m. He stood and found his shoes and slipped them on. She came into his arms
and he held her, neither saying a word for the longest time. Finally, she released
him and looked up into his face. "Thank you for being strong when I wasn't."
smiled, relieved. "You're welcome, fair lady." He thought for a moment. The night
was nearly over, so he decided to remove himself from temptation. "Look, it's
after four, I'm going to go back to my place for the rest of the night. You'll
be okay, won't you?"
"Yes, thank you." She understood.
"Lock the door behind
She couldn't help the almost smile that would have been broader, but for
the twinge of pain from the stitches. "Yes, sir." There was no mockery in her
tone, only gratitude. She followed him to the door.
He opened the door and
turned back. "I love you," he whispered and kissed her cheek, then turned away
and waited to hear the deadbolt slide into place.
He heard her whispered 'I
love you, too," just before the bolt slid home. Grinning, he crossed to the door
to his apartment and unlocked it. He engaged the deadbolt and started for bed,
hoping for another hour or two of sleep, when he saw the flashing light that indicated
he had messages. With a sigh, he hit the play button. 'you have two messages.
Six-twenty-eight, p.m. "Kermit, call me when you get home," Paul Blaisdell's voice
demanded. With a sigh, he lifted the handset and hit the correct speed dial.
"Tell me I woke you up."
Paul chuckled. "As a matter of fact, you didn't."
Kermit winced. "Sorry to interrupt."
*"You didn't. How're your ladies?"*
Kermit sighed. "Sleeping, I hope. They each had a nightmare. I just got in,
in fact." Paul didn't ask, and Kermit took that to mean that his friend didn't
question his actions. "So, what was so important?"
*"I severed our ties, this
evening. I got a call. I told them that they could call you, but not to expect
an answer any different from mine. For me, I've got two grandkids to spoil, and
as for you, I thought you might want to take this opportunity to get out from
under once and for all."*
Kermit stopped breathing for a few moments as the
words sank in. He glanced down at the still blinking light on his answering machine.
It was, no doubt, his former masters, yanking his chain to come back to heel.
And across the hall were two extremely valid reasons to bite through that chain
once and for all. He grinned. "Oh, yeah," he softly replied. "Thanks. I think
I have a message from them, and after today, I can't see any reason to ever go
*"I threatened to come after them if anything ever happens to either
of your ladies. They know better than to try and come for us, Kermit. They know
they'll be far better off to just cut their losses and delete our numbers from
the system."* Paul waited tensely for his friend's reply.
"Thanks. I think
*"One last thing?"*
"What's that?" Kermit was feeling rather
excited. Not that he was giving up the game, but that he was giving it up on his
*"Don't you think it's time for you to ask that lovely lady to marry
Grinning ruefully, Kermit shook his head. His body was still reacting
to how it had felt to be lying next to his lady, "Oh, yeah." How Paul knew things,
he'd never know, but when he was right, the man was right. "Yeah, I think it is.
Care to stand up for me?"
Paul chuckled "I'd be delighted, frog man."
"Thanks. Now to see if she'll say yes. Meanwhile, I doubt either of us will
be on time, this morning. Kind of a rough night, if you know what I mean?"
do. Go ahead and get some more sleep. I'll see you whenever you get in. Good night,
"Good night, Paul. Thanks." He cradled the phone, grinning. Yeah,
it was time. He listened to the second message and smirked. He didn't bother to
erase it, saving it for contingencies. Humming softly to himself, he headed for
bed and another hour or two of sleep.
Paul hung up the phone
and turned back to his wife's arms. "He agrees."
"I always knew he was smart,"
Annie replied, kissing him. "Now, where were we when he interrupted us?"
chuckled. "Right about...here, I believe?"
He stood. "Yes?" he asked hopefully.
"My name is Kearns. I've been retained
for your defense."
Grimes nodded, smiling. "Great. When do we leave?"
frowned. He was very slender, middle-aged, with graying light brown hair and enormous
blue eyes. "I've read the police report."
Grimes waved that aside. "Don't worry
about it. When do we go?"
"We don't go anywhere, except to court in
a few hours for your arraignment. Whatever possessed you to assault a woman in
the detective division, of all things? Is she your ex-wife, or something?"
stared at him. "I thought you were here to get me out?"
Kearns shook his head.
"I was retained for your defense, and frankly, my best advice to you is to plead
guilty and pray that they are feeling generous."
Grimes gaped, his jaw dropping
in shock. "What?"
"Do you know yet how much damage you did to the woman?"
to her! What about what she did to me?"
Kearns frowned and glanced through
his copy of the police report. "Ah, when you backed into the lady detective and
jumped towards Ms. Wardleigh." He looked at his client. "I suspect she thought
you were going to hit her again. What do you think?"
"What do I...? I think
you should get me out of here, right now! Do you have any idea who I am?"
You're Reginald Grimes, charged with assault and battery on the person of one
Isabel Wardleigh, secretary to a precinct captain, one Paul Blaisdell." He leafed
through his papers. "I don't seem to have her statement, yet. However, I do have
the statements of the arresting officer, one Sergeant Broderick, who witnessed
the attack, plus Chief of Detectives, Frank Strenlich, and detectives Skalaney
and Powell. Admittedly, only Sgt. Broderick saw you actually strike her, but the
other three all indicate that they turned to look in time to see her 'bounce off
the captain's door'," Kearns looked mildly disgusted. "As I asked before, what
were you thinking, assaulting a secretary in the detective division of a police
station?" He looked at his client and began to wonder if a plea of diminished
capacity might be in order.
Grimes was becoming more and more agitated. "Look,
do you have any idea who I work for?"
"For whom. Yes, Mr. Grimes. I
know perfectly well for whom you work. Who do you think retained my services?
The problem is you assaulted this woman in her place of work and in front of witnesses.
Very credible witnesses, I might add." He turned towards the door and signaled
to be let out. "In case you haven't quite figured it out, yet," he turned to make
very clear eye-contact, "They're cutting you loose to hang." And with that, Kearns
left, leaving Grimes to gape after him in horror.
arrived just before eight, with Isabel. He was in what those who knew him best
as his 'protective' mode. His eyes kept moving, seeking a threat that wasn't forthcoming.
No one in their right mind would challenge him at this point. He got her to her
desk and hovered, glaring at his coworkers, who basically ignored him.
though secretly pleased, had to put a stop to his behavior before it got any further
out of hand. She gently touched his arm and he spun to look at her. "Don't you
have any work to do, detective?" she asked softly. He flushed, first in anger,
then embarrassment, and there were few besides this woman who could have told
the difference. Her smile, slight due to the stitches in her lip, informed him
that she did, indeed, know. He dropped his head in defeat.
"Fine. If you need
anything, just holler."
She slid her hand down his arm to his hand. "I need
you in my life, Kermit. Thank you again."
He lifted his gaze to hers and slowly
smiled. "Oh, yeah. Likewise." Nodding his understanding, he straightened up and
headed for his own office. He had things to do and plans to make.
been watching them through the glass in his door and smiled. Standing, he crossed
his office and opened the door. "Isabel, I need you to go talk to TJ. He'll be
taking your statement."
"Yes, captain." She gave him an 'almost-smile' and
stood to go and track down the detective in order to give her statement.
"You are charged with assault and battery in the second degree, how do you
Despite Kearns advice to the contrary, Grimes said "Not guilty."
judge looked at the file before her and frowned. "I see." She looked at the DA.
"Your honor, the defendant is a visitor to our city and has known
contacts capable of getting him out of the country at a moment's notice. We seek
remand, your honor."
"For a misdemeanor?" The judge seemed surprised. "Mr.
Sighing, Kearns stood. "No objection, your honor." Grimes stared at
him in horror.
"What?" he hissed, as Kearns sat beside him. "Are you out of
Kearns frowned at his client. "No. My job is to keep your employers
out of this. It would have been much easier on all concerned if you'd simply pled
guilty, paid the fines and gotten probation. But you have to make it into a circus.
If you'd prefer to retain your own counsel, be my guest."
Grimes was remanded
and a court date set for one week hence. He fumed all the way back to his cell.
He knew a few favors to call in, and intended to do so.
sighed in relief as he placed his dismissal papers in his briefcase and made his
way to the 101st precinct. He announced himself and got an escort up to the detective
division and the captain's office. He winced upon seeing the face of the secretary.
"My name is Kearns, and I'd like to speak to Captain Blaisdell, if he's free?"
"Yes, he mentioned that you were coming. He said you could go right in. Will
you be wanting to see Mr. Griffin, as well?"
Kearns seemed surprised. "Kermit's
"Yes. Shall I ask him to join you?"
Kearns smiled at her. "Yes, thank
you, my dear." And with that, he turned, tapped once on the glass of the door,
and entered the captain's office.
Using it as an excuse, Isabel stood up and
went over to Kermit's office, knocked twice and then opened the door. Kermit was
scowling as he turned towards her, but his expression cleared immediately upon
"To what do I owe this lovely interruption?" He turned completely
from his computer and focused totally on her.
"A Mr. Kearns is in with the
captain. They'd like you to join them."
Kermit's scowl returned. "Kearns? A
little taller than me, thin, with light brown hair turning gray, almost straight,
parted on the left, big blue eyes with luggage?"
"And the captain's age, maybe
a bit older, or at least a lot more booze, but yes."
"Son of a bitch!" Kermit
jumped up and Isabel quickly got out of his way, following quietly in confusion.
"Sit down, Dick. I'm rather surprised they sent you up here
Dick Kearns smiled. "Well, I needed a break. I heard about how you
responded to the call."
Paul was relaxed. He hadn't stood or offered to shake
Kearns' hand when he came in, and Kearns hadn't taken offense and simply sat down.
"Well, I'm getting a little old for the game. And Kermit's finally ready to
settle down, I think."
Kearns laughed. "Oh, come on. That loose cannon? I don't
see how you can keep him from killing every other suspect. For that matter, I'm
surprised Grimes is still alive, considering that your secretary is reportedly
his current lover? She's not his usual type, is she?"
Paul shook his head.
"I'd be very...." He was interrupted by his office door bursting open and Kermit
entering and slamming it behind him. Paul watched as Kearns jumped and paled even
more than his fair complexion normally was as he stared at what was obviously
a very irate Kermit Griffin.
"What the hell are you doing here, Kearns? Trying
to get that piece of slimy excrement out on bail so you can spirit him away again?"
Kermit loomed over the seated Kearns, weight forward, hands balled into fists
and the flush of fury on his face.
Kearns blinked and looked past Kermit to
Paul and raised an eyebrow. "Oh. I see."
Kermit slammed his fists onto the
arms of Kearns' chair. "Yeah? Just what do you think you see?"
Too late, Kearns
realized his mistake, but he'd been in the game a very long time. Much longer
than Griffin. He'd not been on the front lines, like Kermit and Paul had been.
He was much more the behind-the-scenes puppet master. He stared up into Kermit's
sunglasses and nodded. "I see that you have both, indeed, retired." He smiled
when Griffin deflated and backed away, a puzzled expression on his sunglassed
Kearns stood and turned to Paul. He shook his head and smiled. "Congratulations."
Glancing at Kermit, he shook his head again. "If anyone would have told me that
he could be housebroken, I'd have laughed and called them a liar."
back. "Who says he's housebroken?" he asked mildly.
Kearns looked surprised
and turned his attention back to the glowering Griffin. "I see what you mean."
He bent to pick up his briefcase. "I came as a courtesy. Grimes has 'fired' me
as his counsel and will be paying for his own attorney. I advised him to plead
guilty, as his witnesses are all police officers and I can't see him getting off,
unless he manages to plea diminished capacity, which is even worse, in his line
of work." He turned his attention to Kermit. "And thank you for not killing him."
Kermit gave him one of his shark-like grins. "Isabel gave me a wonderful suggestion
on how to deal with Mr. Grimes."
Kearns' smile faded. "I see. You're well suited,
then, I take it?" He glanced at Paul for corroboration, and got only a bland expression
that told him nothing. "Of course, I should have known. You'd only want your own
kind around you. I think I noticed old Shaky Blake out there, as well? Where'd
you recruit the woman from? I don't recognize her."
"You wouldn't. She came
by way of a husband who thought it was 'fun' to play Russian roulette with a four-year-old
Kearns looked aggrieved and looked at Kermit. "He's dead, I trust?"
"In prison. For other crimes and misdemeanors. I haven't ever seen the son-of-a-bitch."
"If he's lucky, you never will." Kearns sighed. "I wish you both the best.
You'll be missed, but I think you're making the right decision. Not the one our...your
former masters would prefer, but the one that's best for both of you. Congratulations."
Paul stood, and this time, when Kearns offered his hand, he shook it, as did
Kermit. With a final smile, Kearns left.
"Why did that seem too easy?" Kermit
Paul shook his head. "It wasn't. His masters will be very displeased
"But he can handle it?"
Paul smiled sadly. "Oh, yeah."
"Ms. Wardleigh, thank you for your assistance."
"You're welcome Mr. Kearns.
Will you be coming back?"
Kearns smiled. "No, I don't think so. So I'll have
to continue to wonder how on earth you managed to tame Griffin."
softly. "Whatever makes you think he's 'tame', Mr. Kearns?"
Yes, they were well suited, amazingly enough. "I wish you both the best, Ms. Wardleigh."
"Thank you, Mr. Kearns." She watched him cross the bullpen and pause by Detective
Blake's desk, who looked up at him with recognition. Smiling, she returned to
her proofreading of the reports.
"Hello, Dicky. Been a long
time." Blake looked up at the older man and thought how the booze had aged him.
The man wasn't all that much older than Paul, but looked a good decade beyond
his sixty years.
"Not long enough, you probably think."
Blake shook his
head. "I don't mind seeing you again. Some of the others, now...."
hung his head. "But I was one of those 'others'."
"Not at heart, Dick. That's
why you drink so much. To dull your conscience so you can keep on doing what it
is that you do. You here to rescue Grimes?"
Kearns smiled. "No. I came to try
and get him to plead guilty to the second degree assault and battery. He insisted
on pleading not guilty. He'll be going to jail. Up to a year for each charge,
"Yes. He only bloodied her nose and split her lip. Nothing broken,
nothing permanently damaged." Blake sighed. "Wish I could have seen her take him
"You, me, Blaisdell, and Griffin," Kearns fervently agreed.
chuckled. "She's an amazing lady."
"She must be to have tamed down Griffin."
He couldn't help himself, he kept fishing.
Blake looked up at him in surprise.
"What makes you think he's tame? He's like a... leopard. You may be able to train
him to obey, but he'll always be a wild animal. Isabel accepts Kermit as-is. She
doesn't want or expect him to change. And her little girl has us all wrapped around
her little finger, and doesn't take advantage of it. Add to that that she's a
smart lady who knows her business and does her job well...it's no wonder that
we all like her."
"She sounds like an amazing woman. She really took down Grimes?"
Blake sighed. "I was in court. Ask Broderick. He's the desk sergeant downstairs.
He actually saw him hit her." He glanced around, "Or Mary Margaret. Dark haired
lady over at Isabel's desk."
Kearns considered it for a moment, then saw both
Griffin and Blaisdell watching him from the office and changed his mind. "That's
all right, thanks anyway. I read the reports. It was good to see you again."
was okay seeing you, too." Blake watched as Kearns left the squad room and shook
his head before returning to the delicate electrical work he'd been doing.
"Hey, lady. How's about I take you away from all this?"
Isabel looked up
to see Kermit lounging in the doorway to the captain's office. "Sounds lovely.
Where would you like to go?"
"Oh, I don't know. The Caribbean? Azores? Canary
Islands? Greece? Australia?" He was grinning.
Isabel frowned, wondering what
was up with him. "Uh, right. How about the deli?"
"How about something a little
She looked at the clock and back at him, a little uncertain.
"Oh, how about Cherchez?"
She blinked. "For lunch?"
little table for two, outstanding cuisine...how about it?"
Before I lose my nerve. Come on."
She saw Paul standing in his office doorway
behind Kermit and he smiled and nodded. "All right. Let me get my purse and sweater."
Kermit rubbed his hands together. "Excellent." He hurried to his office and
returned less than a minute later with his leather jacket on. Isabel took his
arm and they walked out. Blake sat back, watching as Paul came to stand beside
"They look good together, don't they, Paul?"
"They look very good together,
"Where's he taking her for lunch?"
had a moment of surprise and then grinned. "Good for him! I hope she says yes."
"You hope who says yes?" Mary Margaret Skalaney asked, joining them.
just have to wait and see," Paul agreed, returning to his office.
scowled and looked from one man to the other. Blake was tinkering with some miniaturized
piece of electronic equipment and didn't even look up. "Come on, guys, who? Say
yes to what?" She looked down at Blake and back to the captain. "Guys? Come on,
To her surprise, Kermit stopped by the school to
pick up Abby to join them for lunch. This was certainly out of the ordinary. Abby
was just as curious as she was, only she, at eight, didn't feel the constraints
of having to not ask questions; but even she was somewhat cowed by the daunting
edifice and sumptuous dcor. They had reservations, much to Isabel's surprise.
"I hope you don't mind, but I called our order in ahead, so we won't be so
late getting back."
That had concerned Isabel. "That's fine." She was surprised
that there was wine to go with their lunch. And the food was even better than
she had imagined it would be. After they'd finished eating and were sitting over
coffee for the adults and chocolate milk for Abby, Kermit cleared his throat.
Instantly, both ladies were looking at him and Kermit flashed back to the previous
year when he'd first invited them to the county fair.
"I, uh, have something
to ask you both." He began a bit hesitantly. He took a deep breath and reached
into his pocket. "I realized last night, that we've gone beyond just being friends
and neighbors." He gazed into Isabel's eyes and saw surprise and...hope?
uh, was thinking, if it's all right with both of you, that I'd like a more...active
and permanent role in your family."
Abby frowned, not quite understanding.
"I don't get it."
"I think he's asking if I'll marry him, Abby." Isabel's voice
was very soft and uncertain.
"Yeah, I am." He looked at Abby, "Would you like
me to be part of your family, Abby?"
"Would you be my daddy?"
"I'd be your
step-father, but yes. I'd like to try."
"You love us?"
Kermit smiled. "Very
Abby looked at her mom. "I wish Mr. Kermit was my daddy, instead of
my real daddy. He doesn't hurt us, and he's nice, and he doesn't hit or yell."
"But I have a big gun."
Abby scowled at him. "But you're a p'liceman. P'licemen
gotta have a gun to stop the bad men from hurting people."
Isabel was trying
hard not to cry. Since her lower lip had the stitches, she sucked her upper lip
between her teeth. "Are you sure, Frog man?"
He gazed into her eyes and nodded,
blinking to keep back the moisture. "Oh, yeah."
"We'd love to be your family,
then. Wouldn't we, Abby?"
Suddenly, there was oxygen in the
air again and Kermit took a deep breath and held out his hand, which contained
a small velvet box. He opened it and took out an obviously antique ring. "This
was my grandmother's. I'd like you to have it." To his credit, he'd never offered
that particular piece of jewelry to any of his former wives. Perhaps he'd somehow
known that they weren't worthy of the honor of his Nana's ring. But Isabel was.
He took the ring and gently placed it on her left ring finger. Amazingly, it was
a perfect fit. Isabel looked down at the ring and gasped.
Kermit. I'll be very careful with it."
"I love you, Isabel. And you, too, Abby."
In fact, he'd first fallen in love with the child, and then her mother. But it
was a different kind of love. He glanced at his watch and sighed. "Unfortunately,
as much as I'd rather spend the rest of the day with you, I need to get us back
to work and you back to school, munchkin." But he was smiling as he rose. He dropped
a hundred dollar bill on the table and escorted his ladies out. The waitress,
upon seeing the huge tip smiled happily and wished them a great afternoon.
Abby was only a little late getting back to school. And when they got back
to the precinct, no one seemed to notice they'd been gone particularly long. Neither
of them made the announcement, although Paul did come out of his office, glanced
down at her left hand and went back to his desk, grinning.
The afternoon just
flew by and when it was time to go home, they walked out together, holding hands.
Mary Margaret stared. She was positive that Isabel hadn't
been wearing that huge diamond ring that morning. And she was actually holding
hands with Kermit. Sensing someone close by, she turned to see Paul looking at
"Something wrong, Skalaney?"
"Did I see what I think I saw?"
just what did you think you saw?"
"A huge diamond ring on your secretary's
left hand, which was being held very nicely by our resident spooky computer hacker?"
Paul nodded. "I think you may well be correct, detective. So?"
gaped, while the other detectives still in the squad room shamelessly eavesdropped.
"When did he ask her to marry him?"
"I suggest you ask them, Mary Margaret."
He looked at the rest of the people in the squad room. "And I suggest that there
be no unseemly rumors spread about?"
There were a chorus of 'yes, sirs,' and
Paul smiled benignly and returned to his office.
Kermit offered to cook for 'my ladies', as he called them. Much to said ladies'
amusement and delight. He'd prepared for this day by purchasing the ingredients
a day or two before. To a covered casserole dish, he placed a wild rice mixture
and added the appropriate amount of water. Then he sliced two lemons in half and
squeezed the juice into the water covering the rice. Some butter and some frozen
fish fillets, on went the lid, and into the oven. When the rice and fish were
nearly cooked, he put some fresh asparagus on to steam. Then he served their dinner
and sat quietly as Isabel said Grace. To his surprise, she thanked God for bringing
Kermit into their lives and hearts. It had never occurred to him that he was anyone
to be thankful for, but he knew that she was honest in her beliefs. And it gave
him a funny feeling inside that someone should ever be grateful for him.
Abby looked doubtfully at the fish and rice, but took a tentative bite and
smiled. Isabel sighed in relief that her finicky daughter always seemed to like
whatever Kermit cooked up. After dinner, he helped with the dishes, even though
Isabel told him he didn't have to.
"I know I don't 'have' to. I just want to,
okay? I'll wash, you dry."
"All right." He wasn't overbearing about it, but
it was a little hard, still, to get used to a man who not only cooked, but cleaned.
Her ex would never think to offer, let alone do anything. It was just another
reminder of how different the two men were. And how lucky...no, blessed, she was
to have had him come into their lives. Up until the previous night, she'd felt
perfectly safe ever since she'd met him.
She glanced down at her left hand
They watched some television together and
then Kermit read a story to Abby and after they both kissed her good night and
tucked her into bed with her two gigantic stuffed frogs, they returned to the
living room to discuss the particulars of their upcoming nuptials.
a sister and her two kids. That's all the real family I have left. And I asked
Paul to stand up for me. Who do you have to invite?"
"I've got a cousin, but
we aren't really that close. My parents are gone, and my sister won't speak to
me." She sighed. "How about our shared 'family' at the station? I've got a few
friends I made at the city offices I'd like to invite. Maybe ask Patti to be my
maid of honor? How big do you want this?"
Kermit thought about it. "Personally,
I'd like something small and not too ostentatious. But it's your wedding, too.
What do you want?"
"I want it in my church."
and leaned against his shoulder. He'd taken to attending church with them, even
though she wasn't certain he actually believed, still, it was important to her,
and he at least accepted its importance and didn't put her down about it. She
just hoped that her pastor didn't get too upset and tell her that they shouldn't
marry because he wasn't a believer. Silently, she prayed that he would become
one, because she didn't think she could ever love anyone as much as she loved
"I used to believe, you know?"
Hearing him speak on what she'd just
been praying about startled her. She moved her head to look up at him. "You did?"
"Yeah. I remember praying that my mom not die until I got home from 'Nam. Then
I prayed I could keep my brother and sister, but they went to live with my aunt,
and finally, I prayed that David wouldn't die. Then I stopped praying."
was such pain in him. She sat up and shifted so she could wrap her arms around
him. "Sometimes, when we think our prayers aren't answered, we have to realize
that the answer is 'no'. We may never know why, but it's like with Abby. Sometimes,
she asks for things or to be allowed to do something and I say 'no'. It's not
because I don't love her, but because I do. When she has to have shots, she screams
and cries, because it hurts, but then afterwards, she wants to be held and reassured.
God's kind of like that. There are a lot of terrible things that happen. And I've
learned that when they do, I can lean on God to get me through. Even Mark."
arms tightened around her. "I love you."
"I know. And I love you. And I'm still
having a hard time believing it's all real." She hugged him, hard, and then kissed
him. "So, how long do you want to wait before we get married?"
"Well, it takes
about two weeks for the blood tests and the license...."
"Kermit, that's too
He chuckled. "Pick a day, then. Just not Valentine's, okay?"
got married before on Valentine's day?"
He sighed. "Yeah, my first. And the
last one was on April first, so that when it went bad we could just tell people
'April fools!' and pretend it didn't hurt like hell to have failed again."
takes a lot of work to make a marriage work. We've already got a pretty good relationship
going, although, I do think that we seem to agree on an awful lot of things."
"So we have a similar philosophy. That's good, isn't it?"
She snuggled into
his arms. "Oh, yeah. That's very good."
They cuddled and talked for a while
longer and then Kermit reluctantly rose to return to his own apartment.
night, Isabel," he softly murmured as he kissed her good night.
Kermit," Isabel replied as she released him and closed and dead bolted the door
behind him. She sighed and leaned against the door, looking forward to his not
having to leave, ever again.
At nine-thirty the next morning,
Isabel looked up when Kelly Blake breezed in. She stood and blocked the blond
woman's way to the captain's office.
"I have an appointment!" Kelly huffed
"Your appointment was at eight o'clock. It's now nine-thirty
and Captain Blaisdell isn't in."
Kelly sneered. "Oh, come on. Don't give me
that." She waited for Isabel to move and when she didn't, she huffed in annoyance
and looked her up and down. "I heard the toad is going to marry you. Guess that
makes you Miss Piggy." She snorted a nasty little laugh and gloated as Isabel
first paled and then flushed scarlet.
"You can call me all the names you want,
but it's still not getting you in to see the captain. If you can't arrive on time
for an appointment, that's your problem, not mine. The captain waited until eight-thirty
and then left for his meeting with the commissioner and the other division captains.
If you'd like to reschedule your appointment, I'll be happy to give you another
chance, but if you don't show up, I doubt you'll ever get another."
her foot in rage. "Just who the fuck do you think you are, Miss Piggy? I'll wait
for the captain, and if he's in that office, you're going to be in so much
trouble!" She shoved Isabel aside and strode to the door of the captain's office.
To her surprise, the door was locked. She spun back to confront Isabel, only to
find that Captain Blaisdell, as well as the police commissioner, and her own captain
of Vice had come in. Not realizing that they were aware of anything that had gone
on, she smiled.
"There you are, Paul," she practically simpered. Paul didn't
return her smile, in fact, his frown deepened into a scowl. He glanced over at
the Vice captain.
"You can see what I'm talking about, Mike." He looked at
Isabel and frowned. "Are you all right, Ms. Wardleigh?"
"I'm fine, captain,"
Isabel replied, rubbing her hip where the shove from Kelly Blake had bounced her
into the corner of her desk.
Paul turned to his colleagues. "Either you do
something, or I'll file formal charges."
Mike shook his head. "Detective Blake,
what are you doing here?"
Kelly's smile dimmed. "Uh, I wanted to talk to Paul
about his... something."
"Ms. Blake, you do not know me well enough to call
me by my first name. It's Captain Blaisdell to you, and it always has been.
If you think that pushing my secretary around is going to go unnoticed, think
"Besides which," Commissioner Simms growled, "All three of us saw you
push Ms. Wardleigh, and we heard what you said, as well."
Kelly didn't even
blink. She straightened up and sneered. "I'm entitled to my opinion."
growled. "Ten seconds." He spun on his heel and headed to the closed door of Detective
Griffin's office. He tapped once and opened the door.
"Kermit, would you like
to explain to Kelly Blake why it's not a good idea to call Isabel 'Miss Piggy'?"
Kermit, who had been engrossed in what he'd been doing, looked up in surprise.
"She called her what?"
"She referred to you as a toad, and called Isabel
Miss Piggy. Twice. I think that perhaps you should be involved. I have Mike Davis
from Vice, and Commissioner Simms, who heard her as well. And we also saw her
push Isabel into her desk. She's probably got a pretty good bruise forming on
her hip. She says she's fine, but she's a little embarrassed."
"Court with Blake, again."
Kermit growled and stood up. Paul turned
and stalked back to the group by his office, with Kermit close behind him.
the look on Kermit's face, even behind the shades, Kelly finally realized that
she just might be in trouble. She straightened up and her chin jutted belligerently.
Mike Davis shook his head.
"Blake, do you have any official reason to be here?"
"I wanted to talk to Captain Blaisdell."
"Does it involve a case
you're working on?"
"Does it involve a police matter?"
"If it was personal, then you should talk to him away from the department,
and on your own time."
Kelly flushed with anger. "But what about Peter?"
Davis, having heard all about it from Blaisdell and Simms, wasn't happy. "What
about him? He broke up with you. So what? It happened months ago, and you're still
hassling him. If they wanted to, you could be charged with harassment and stalking.
My advice to you is to cut your losses and stick to your own bailiwick. If I hear
of you hanging around here or that you're continuing your behavior, I'll be forced
to suspend you. And if I even hear of you calling anyone from this precinct, I'll
suspend you. Do you understand?"
Mike was glaring. He'd only taken charge of
the Vice Squad a week earlier and was still learning everyone's names. To have
both the commissioner and a fellow captain on his case already wasn't going to
make this transition any easier. That and the fact that he'd come from another
city, which made it hard for him with his subordinates. And he'd heard things
about Kelly Blake from others even before he'd gone to this meeting. He looked
hard at Kelly.
"Detective Blake, are you working a sting operation today?"
"No. Why?" Kelly's cheeks were still burning and she was about ready to lose
"Because unless you're going out on the streets to try and make
solicitation arrests, I don't find your attire acceptable for work. Surely you
don't go to court dressed like that?" If he was going to start laying out the
ground rules, he might as well go all the way.
Kelly looked confused and glanced
down at herself. "What do you mean?"
Simms had to stifle a giggle, while Paul
turned to Kermit to hide his smile. Kermit was still too angry to find any of
this to be amusing.
"I mean that a woman your age, dressed in a plastic micro-mini,
with fishnet stockings, visible garter belt, spike heels, crop top and matching
plastic bolero jacket looks more like a suspect than a cop, to me. And I'm sure
that most civilians would agree." Mike's voice was perfectly reasonable, but Kelly
was shocked, not to mention, furious.
"What do you mean 'a woman my
No one said anything for the longest moment, until Kermit took a step
closer to Kelly and softly said, "I'd be more careful about who I called 'Miss
Piggy', if I were you."
Paul coughed to hide his laugh, while Simms bit her
lips to keep from grinning and Davis simply nodded. "Going a little soft around
the middle, I think."
"Oh, yeah. And her ankles are starting to look a little
thick," Kermit agreed.
Kelly sucked in a breath in shock. "What the hell do
Captain Davis scowled. "Detective, you're about one comment away
from insubordination. I suggest you get to work, and since I know that your shift
was supposed to have started at seven, you're going to have to take leave
for the time you've missed. You work for me, not yourself. You no longer
get to set your own hours. I want to see you in my office every morning at eight-oh-five.
If you're not there, I'll dock you two hours every single day. I also expect you
to dress professionally unless you're actively participating in a sting operation.
Do I make myself clear?"
Mike Davis was a big man. Well over six feet in height,
and built like the fullback he'd been a dozen years before when in college. He'd
become a cop because he'd wanted to make a difference. He'd transferred to Sloanville
because his wife had been offered an excellent job, and he was able to buy a house
with a big yard. In fact, he lived just a block or so from Captain Blaisdell.
He might be new to this city, but he wasn't new to police work, nor to supervision.
While Vice wouldn't ever be his choice of jobs, it was the one they gave him,
and he was determined to make the most of it. And in just the week he'd been here
he'd understood why they'd wanted him.
And he was looking at one of the reasons
they needed him.
"Ms. Blake, are you waiting for an engraved invitation?"
realizing that absolutely nothing was going her way, huffed and started to push
her way between the two captains.
"Excuse me?" A new voice interrupted.
focused on the two women who'd just arrived.
"Yes? Can I help you?" Paul asked.
"Captain Blaisdell?" The shorter woman asked, glancing down at a small spiral-bound
"Yes, I'm Blaisdell." Paul frowned, wondering 'now what?'
sir. I'm Belinda Martinez, and this is my partner, Sadie Hawkins. We're from Internal
Paul glanced at the commissioner, who looked as puzzled as he felt.
"Yes?" He focused on Martinez, as the spokesperson.
"I'm looking for Peter
Paul frowned, a little worried. "He's in court today. May I ask what
you need to see him about?"
"We've had reports that he's being harassed and
wanted to talk to him about it."
Kelly Blake went as pale as her bleached blond
hair. "Who say's he's being harassed?" she snarled.
The two IA officers turned
their attention to her. "Who are you?" Martinez asked, frowning and wondering
why a street walker had any business asking questions or making demands in a police
"Kelly Blake, and I,"
"Oh, good. We don't have to hunt you down,"
Hawkins interjected, smiling with delight, much to the other officers' discomfort.
Kelly's eyes widened. "What are you talking about? I'm not harassing him! He's
Martinez and Hawkins exchanged a look and turned back to their
audience. The annoyance on the faces of the two captains and the commissioner
were only obvious, the look on the detective with the sunglasses was not.
frowned. "Aren't you working out of Vice?"
"Yes, she is. I'm Captain Mike Davis,
the new guy in charge. Could we speak privately for a moment so I can get up to
speed on what exactly is going on, here?"
"Of course, Captain." Martinez looked
around for a quiet corner and realized that every cop in the room was staring
at them with varying degrees of curiosity and animosity. "If there's someplace
we could go?"
"Use my office," Paul offered with a gesture.
"Thank you. Captain Davis?" And led the way to the office, opened the door and
Kelly scowled. "How come it isn't still locked?"
wasn't locked before," Paul said blandly as he smiled and cast a quick glance
at his secretary, who had what could only be described as a soft smirk on her
face. "Kermit, why don't you take my secretary out to lunch for me?"
turned his scowl from Kelly Blake to his superior. "Is that an order, sir?"
Merely a suggestion. It's after twelve and I'm sure that Ms Wardleigh would like
to at least get out and stretch her legs a bit."
"Yeah, she could use a little
more height," Kelly Blake sneered.
Paul closed his eyes and dug the thumb and
forefinger of his right hand into the sockets. "Please, Kermit. Don't make this
"I'd love to go to lunch, thank you. Come on, Kermit, let's go
to the deli. Corned beef on rye, Captain?" Isabel had gotten her purse and was
pulling on her sweater as she spoke. She was smiling, now, and totally ignored
Kelly Blake's presence.
"Thank you. Let me," Paul started to reach for his
"I've got it, Paul," Kermit interrupted. He grinned, also ignoring
Kelly Blake. He turned to Isabel. "Shall we go, my lady?"
replied, "Yes, kind sir." As she stepped between Kelly Blake and the Captain's
office, in order to get to where Kermit awaited, she 'accidentally' trod very
firmly on one of Blake's pointy-shoed toes.
Isabel was moving just fast enough
to be out of range when Kelly tried to shove her, and didn't bother to look back
as the larger woman sat on the edge of the desk to lift her foot and look at the
ugly scrape-mark Isabel had left behind, and the possibly broken toes within the
Again, Paul turned his back on Blake and caught Sadie Hawkin's
grin. "I imagine it was hell growing up with that name."
Hawkins grinned. "Not
at all. Hawkins is my married name. And it doesn't bother me in the least."
tilted his head to one side, slightly. "Dave Hawkins?"
Sadie looked surprised.
"You know him?"
Paul grinned. "He's a good man, for a lawyer."
"He's a good man, period." She regarded him for a moment, frowning, and then her
expression cleared. "Blaisdell, I think I remember him talking about you. Something
about you and your son saving his life?"
"My foster son, Peter Caine. That
was a long time ago."
Sadie nodded. "Six years. Thanks. We'd never have met
if it weren't for you."
Paul grinned as he slid his hands into his pants pockets
and slouched comfortably in place. "Well, it's always nice when the good guys
win, I suppose."
Sadie nodded. "Yes, it is."
"How long have you been in
IA, Mrs. Hawkins?" Karen Simms asked.
"Only six months. I was recruited when,
well, you would know."
Karen Simms most certainly did know. When Paul
had returned and all the shit had hit the fan over Peter Caine's having been forced
out of the department, there had been quite a shake-up. Mike Davis was one of
those recruited to correct the problems and corruption that had insidiously infiltrated
to the highest levels. And to which she'd played right into the hands of those
who were most involved. She'd been lucky, she knew, and if her smile at the woman
from IA was a little reserved, at least it wasn't as sickly as Kelly Blake's was
on overhearing them.
The door to Paul's office opened and Davis and Martinez
exited. Davis's expression was cold and he was obviously annoyed. Martinez didn't
look any happier. Davis looked at his detective.
"Ms. Blake, I'll have to ask
you to turn in to me your gun and your badge."
Kelly's jaw dropped as well
as her injured foot as she straightened up. "What?"
"As of this moment, you're
on suspension for harassment and stalking. Pending resolution after a full investigation,
you will be on suspension with pay. Now, if I might have your weapon and badge?"
"Who says I harassed or stalked Peter? Did that little shit file a complaint
against me?" Her tone became strident as she lifted up her miniskirt to pull her
gun from the holster on her inner thigh and slammed it down on the desk as she
ripped open her purse to pull out her badge holder and slammed that down beside
the gun. "Well he'd better look out, is all I can say. When I get a hold of him,"
"I suggest you not finish that sentence, Ms. Blake," Martinez interrupted.
"Because if you do, we'll be forced to assume that you are, in fact, a danger
to society and arrest you."
Kelly's eyes grew large and her complexion turned
a rather interesting shade of plum. "You...you wouldn't dare!" She stamped her
foot and then yelped as the bruised and possibly broken phalanges reminded her
of their injury.
"I suggest you call your union advocate. You'll be receiving
formal documentation as soon as we've interviewed everyone involved." Martinez
turned to the Commissioner. "Ms. Simms, could you arrange a time when we can get
together and ask you some questions?"
Simms almost smiled, just one corner
of her mouth quirking up, and glanced at her watch. "If you don't mind my making
a stop to grab some lunch, you can follow me back to City Hall right now. For
once, I haven't any meetings until tomorrow."
"Thank you, ma'am," Martinez
said. Turning to Paul, "We'll be back, what would be a good time to talk to you
and your people, sir?"
Paul took out a business card. "Call this afternoon
and my secretary will schedule a time for you."
"Yes, sir, thank you." She
looked at Captain Davis and said, "Thank you, too, Captain. We'll be in touch."
"You're welcome." He looked at Kelly Blake. "Do you need a ride home, Ms. Blake?"
Kelly was somewhat dazed. She'd come to cause her former lover trouble, and
instead, she was in deep shit, herself. She needed to go home, pour herself a
drink or four, and try and figure out what happened...after she spoke to her union
rep. "No. I have my car, here." Realizing that they were all staring at her, she
straightened up and tried to stalk from the room, but her sore toes made her limp
all the way.
"Well, ladies, let's go. I'm somewhat curious to know what's going
on, myself," Commissioner Simms told the IA officers. She looked at Paul and Mike,
"Talk to you both later, gentlemen."
"Yes, ma'am," Mike replied as he picked
up Blake's gun and badge. When the women had gone, he glanced over at Paul. "I
know that Caine didn't report her, and I doubt you reported her, so, I wonder
who did report her?"
Paul shrugged. "You've got me. She was going out
with Frank Strenlich when Peter and I came back, but that didn't last once Peter
was again available." He frowned, and wondered.
"How involved was Strenlich?"
"Well, he was separated from his wife. Our return sort of coincided with their
reconciliation. Which may be why Kelly hasn't been after him, as well."
sighed. "Well, I'd better head for my office and see what's going on. My apologies
for Blake's actions."
"Don't forget, she worked for both me and Karen Simms.
It's hardly your fault, and no one is going to lay it all at your feet. It sort
of looks to me like it's landing just where it should, on her."
sounded relieved, then looked rather pointedly at Paul, "Look, if I need some
help getting things sorted out, can I call on you?"
Paul smiled. "Certainly.
Just give me a call. For that matter, stop by the house, if you'd prefer." Seeing
Mike's confusion, his grin widened. "I live about two blocks from you. The big
old cedar sided house?"
"The one on the large acreage?"
Paul nodded. "With
the greenhouse in the back."
Mike nodded. "For some reason, I thought that
belonged to some horticulturist who raised orchids or something."
softly. "Let's just say I like my garden - year round. We always plant tomatoes,
peppers, and greens so we can have them fresh, even in the winter."
must like salads."
Paul shrugged. "I like to garden, we all like to eat. It's
a worthwhile expense, particularly in the winter when tomatoes may go for more
than two dollars a pound."
"Boy, I hear that." Mike lowered his head, "So,
what can you tell me about the rest of my officers? How many of them have worked
Paul smiled. He'd taken an instant liking to this man and so far,
was pleased that his instincts were, as usual, correct. "Come on in and have a
seat." He led the way into his office and closed the door.
The detectives out
in the bullpen glanced at each other and then returned to their work.
The date had been set and all preparations were underway and everything seemed
to be running smoothly. Kermit couldn't quite believe just how well everything
was going. Grimes had wound up with two twelve month sentences to run consecutively,
as well as the maximum fine for each charge. Any time Kermit wanted, he could
go and see him. But Paul had advised him not to, so he didn't.
On their days
off, the three of them were practically inseparable. Sunday was always church
and brunch afterwards, but Saturday, after the weekly 'chores', was spent in enjoyable
endeavors. The zoo, long walks in various parks, movies, picnics, and the like.
Just practicing at being a real family.
Two weeks before the wedding, Abby
came to Kermit with a question.
"When you and mommy get married, she'll change
her name and be Mrs. Griffin, right?"
Kermit grinned, as he did every time
he thought about it. "That's right."
Abby nodded her acceptance, "So, will
I get to be Miss Griffin?"
The breath froze in Kermit's lungs and he was glad
he had on his sunglasses as his eyes widened.
"Uh, is that what you want?"
Abby nodded emphatically. "Yes, because then you'll be my daddy."
dropped to one knee and wrapped his arms around his little girl and kissed her
cheek. "I'll see what I can do, okay?"
"Okay." Abby hugged him back and then
skipped off to see what they were having in their picnic lunch.
sat and pondered this small wrinkle in their plans.
I need a couple of days off."
Paul took off his reading glasses and stared.
"A week before your wedding?" He stood. "You're not getting cold feet, are you?"
Kermit shook his head. "No. But I have to make a trip. Abby wants to become
Miss Griffin, and the only way we can do that is for me to adopt her." He sighed
and began to pace. "And the only way that can happen is if her real father gives
up his parental rights."
Paul silently sighed in relief. "I'll come with you."
Kermit shot him a glare. "You don't have to do that."
Paul shook his head.
"Of course I do. If you think I'm going to let you go without backup, you can
just think again."
Kermit's tense posture eased and his head dropped, slightly.
"Thanks. I figured I'd take off Thursday night and come back Friday night. Get
it all done in one quick trip."
Paul nodded. "Have you contacted the prison
and gotten permission to see him?"
"Yeah. Friday morning."
"Okay. Get the
airline and hotel set up and we can go straight from work on Thursday."
"You're more than welcome, Kermit." Paul watched as his one-time protege
made his way out of the office and back to his own. He was subdued, which worried
Paul, but considering that he had to make a request of the man who had terrorized
Isabel and her daughter, he wasn't too concerned about it.
Mark Wardleigh wasn't at all what Kermit had expected. He was taller than Kermit,
almost as tall as Paul, and he was running to fat, now. He was also surly.
do you want?"
"You to sign this," Kermit replied, passing over the partially
filled out form. Wardleigh looked at it and sneered. "Why would I want to do that?"
"Why wouldn't you? This way, when you get out, you won't have to pay any child
Wardleigh scowled. "Yeah? Well what I want, is to play a little Polish
Roulette with them both. Shove it back up their cunts and pull the trigger. Maybe
up the ass, too, this time."
Kermit's blood ran cold for an instant as what
Wardleigh said sank in, and then it began to boil. "You raped them with your gun?"
he softly asked, horrified.
"Yeah, well, that's why she left. She caught me
with the little cunt. Said I could do what I wanted to her, but not the kid."
His laugh was a nasty little giggle. "So why would I give up the kid? Next time
I see them, it'll be five full chambers and one empty. Shove it hard up their
cunts, or maybe their asses, and see how lucky they are." He sat back in his chair
and laughed as Kermit stood, picked up the papers, and left, the sound of that
maniacal giggling wreaking havoc with Kermit's already stretched and tense nerves.
When he'd gotten the door closed behind him, he stared at Paul, trembling in
Paul, seeing his distress, approached a bit warily. "Kermit?"
he quietly asked.
Kermit looked up at him through his protective sunglasses.
"He raped them," he whispered.
Paul went cold and still. "What?"
them. With the gun. When he'd play Russian Roulette with them. He - he'd ...Oh,
God, Paul." He started to turn away when Paul's hands came to lightly rest on
"Easy, Kermit. He'll never get near them again. You know that."
Kermit bleakly looked at his friend. "I want to kill him, Paul. I want to take
my Eagle and ram it so far up his rectum that I won't even have to pull the trigger,
just pull it out of his mouth." He was shaking, now, in rage, horror, and the
agony of knowing what that creature had done to his ladies. "Abby doesn't
even remember," he whispered, wondering how he could ever forget.
all the emotions and thoughts running through the younger man's mind, stepped
closer and wrapped his arms around Kermit's shoulders, holding him tightly. "Calm
down. You can't let them know you know, Kermit. They don't deserve your hate and
anger. They're the victims, and Abby was so young that she'll probably never remember
it quite like it really was. God willing."
Kermit leaned into the embrace,
clinging to every word Paul spoke. He couldn't stop shaking and finally, a single
sob broke free. Paul's embrace only tightened as he softly reassured his friend.
He absently noticed a guard and a trustee across the room exchange a look that
he understood, but didn't really register at the moment. When he felt Kermit take
a deep, steadying breath, he released his friend and stepped back.
Mark Wardleigh is something the cat failed to bury. Come on; let's get you back
to that family of yours." He didn't, at the time, realize why he'd spoken somewhat
louder than necessary, but he received a nod of acknowledgment from the guard
as they left.
Kermit tightened his fist around the papers he'd brought for
Wardleigh to sign and threw them into the waste basket by the door on the way
When they got back to Sloanville, Kermit spent the entire weekend in a
funk that not even his ladies could pull him out of. For the first time in months,
he refused to go to church with them. Later in the afternoon, Isabel confronted
"Do you want to call the wedding off?"
He looked up at her, startled.
"Kermit, you've been brooding ever since you got back Friday night.
You didn't answer the door this morning, you didn't eat dinner last night, and
you didn't come to church with us. I know that you don't necessarily like our
church habit, but something's wrong and you haven't said a word. What did we do
to upset you?" Isabel looked at him, worried that maybe he'd changed his mind
about them, and the very thought of that was tearing her up inside.
sighed and gently placed his hands on her cheeks and bent down to tenderly kiss
her. "I love you with all my heart, and soul, Isabel. It's just. Well, Abby asked
if she could be Miss Griffin." He released her and turned away. "Unfortunately,
that would require her father relinquishing all claim to her."
Her heart stopped
for a beat, then began pounding. "Is that where you went? To try and get him to
give her up?"
Kermit turned back to her and wished he had his shades on, knowing
his every thought was visible on his face. "Yeah." He looked away. "He said 'no',
Her heart breaking, she had to ask, "What else did he say?" The
anguish on Kermit's face and in his eyes told her before he could say a word,
but she forced herself to stand there and listen, knowing it would probably be
the end of their relationship.
"He said he raped you both. With his gun." His
voice was a harsh, broken whisper and he watched as the woman he loved folded
in on herself, wrapping her arms around her middle as though she was cold, and
she turned her back on him, nodding.
"He did," she whispered. "I'd gone shopping
and when I came home, he. He had his gun up inside Abby, who was crying and begging
him to stop hurting her. She was only three. The next time he left the house,
I grabbed her and we ran." She couldn't look at him, fearful of the disgust she
expected to see on his face. When his arms gently encircled her from behind and
he pressed his cheek to hers, she turned in his embrace and stared at him, lower
lip between her teeth. "I divorced him, but he kept finding us. He never got another
chance to rape either of us, but he loved to track us down and shove that damned
gun of his in our faces and pull the trigger."
Kermit pulled her close and
just held her until the fear, anger, and frustration from those incidents ran
their course and she cried, deep, heart-wrenching sobs, as her arms wrapped themselves
around his body and clung to him. "I'm sorry, Kermit," she whispered brokenly.
His embrace tightened. "You have nothing to be sorry for. You were his victims,
not his willing accomplices. I just wish I could have saved you both from ever
having to go through that."
"Abby doesn't remember. Only later, when he'd find
us and he'd point the gun at her." She sniffled hard. "I should have told you."
Kermit hugged her even harder. "Maybe. It doesn't matter, though. I still love
you. That won't change. It just makes me think of things I'd like to do to him.
And if he ever comes around after he gets out, I'll see about doing some of them,
myself." He sighed. "I just hate to disappoint Abby. And me," he admitted, shrugging
and letting Isabel go. There were tears on his cheeks that he didn't bother trying
to wipe away. "I wish she could be my little girl for real." His smile was a bit
self-mocking. "But as long as I get to have the two of you in my life, that's
enough. She doesn't have to have my name."
Isabel's breath caught at the enormity
of how much this man loved her and her daughter. "Oh, Kermit." She reached for
him and they hugged again, hard. "Please, just promise me that the next time something
upsets you, you won't leave us hanging for days worrying?"
Kermit's laugh was
half-sob. "I'll try. It's not something I'm at all used to, but I promise I'll
try. Just remind me, okay?"
"I love you, Kermit."
He closed his eyes and
just held her. "I love you, too. More than I ever thought I could possibly love
And they clung together for the longest time, their embrace reassuring
each of them that their love was strong enough to deal with this and anything
else that might come their way.
Paul received the notice
on the day before Kermit was to be wed. He read it twice before sighing and putting
it in his desk. He was NOT going to tell them until after they got back from their
honeymoon. There was no urgency, after all. Speaking of the honeymoon, he'd better
get his rear in gear and get on the road to get everything ready for their arrival
the next afternoon. He took out the message one more time to re-read it before
shaking his head and going out the door.
"Isabel, I'm leaving for the day.
I'll see you tomorrow at the church. And I'm kidnapping Kermit for the evening."
Isabel smiled up at him. "Yes, captain. Just don't let him drink too much?"
Paul chuckled. "He won't have time. We'll see you tomorrow at eleven."
sir." She watched as Paul walked over to Kermit's office, banged once on the door
and opened it. "Let's get this show on the road, Griffin."
Kermit looked up,
startled, glanced at his clock and began shutting down the computer. "Five minutes."
"Three." Paul closed the door and turned to grab his foster son's shoulders.
"You coming to help us get ready for them?"
"Huh?" Peter looked up, confused.
Paul sighed and shook his head. "The cabin? Where Kermit and Isabel are going
to spend their honeymoon?"
"Oh! Yeah, let me just grab my jacket and I'm ready
to go." Peter got to his feet and grabbed his coat from the back of his chair.
Paul turned as Kermit exited his office and then herded the two younger men out
to his car and drove them north to the cabin.
He didn't mention the message
Surprisingly, Kermit didn't feel the least
bit nervous as he stood with Paul in the front of the church, waiting for Isabel
to walk down the aisle. His breath caught as he spotted them. Abby led the way,
carrying a velvet pillow with their rings, followed by Isabel's friend Patti and
two other women Kermit only knew as her friends. Then came Isabel, proudly escorted
by Shaky Blake. His gaze finally settled on his bride, and never left.
ceremony had only one surprise for him. When the minister asked who gave this
woman in marriage to this man, the entire congregation shouted "We do!" Staring
into her eyes, Kermit realized that she'd been in on it, but he only smiled. A
few very short minutes later, they were pronounced husband and wife and he was
given permission to kiss his bride. He did so, to cheers and catcalls from their
friends and colleagues. Marilyn and her children beamed at the couple, pleased
he'd finally found what seemed to them to be the perfect woman for him.
reception went by in a blur, until Paul pulled him aside and told him to get going
before it got dark. Kermit's face was aching from all the smiling he'd done that
day, and he gave Paul a big hug. "Thanks, Paul. You'll take good care of Abby,
Paul chuckled. "Like she was my own, Kermit. You just remember my advice
and be gentle with your lovely bride."
Kermit nodded, hugged his friend one
last time, sought out his step-daughter, who was holding Annie Blaisdell's hand
and regaling her with everything she saw, and said his goodbyes to them, as well,
then he found his bride and spirited her away before anyone else noticed.
"Where are we going, by the way?" Isabel asked as they headed north out of
"Paul's got a cabin on a lake up north about three hours. It's quiet,
peaceful, and private."
"Cabin?" she asked a bit uncertainly. "Um, my idea
of camping includes hot showers and electric lights."
Kermit chuckled. "It's
got solar panels that heat the water and charge the emergency batteries, plus
a gas-powered generator that's also got battery backup. The tank is full and,
as I recall, capable of providing power for a month or more."
"Okay. That sounds
good. I'm afraid I'm just not the outdoorsy type, is all." She reached across
and placed her fingers over his wrist, just below his hand on the steering wheel.
He smiled and let go of the wheel and turned his hand over to hold hers.
not exactly my favorite thing, either, but Paul's cabin is very nice. Even Annie
The first time she'd met Mrs. Blaisdell, she'd been surprised to
discover she was blind. But having seen the dynamic between her and her husband,
and how much they obviously loved and adored one another, she'd quickly adapted.
And the older couple seemed to know exactly how to fill the voids in her life
left by her own lack of family. They made perfect surrogate grandparents for Abby,
too. And, having raised two daughters of his own, she found him to be not only
a wonderful boss, but a good friend and advisor on how to raise her own daughter.
And most of the rest of the people at the station, and particularly those directly
under Paul, had also become her adoptive family. Although, most of the timer she
felt she played the role of mother. But still, she truly liked the people they
worked with. And then there was Kermit. She glanced over at him. He'd released
her hand as they turned off the main highway and traversed the smaller back roads
on their way to their destination. She'd never imagined finding any man to love,
again; let alone one she could trust. But here he sat beside her.
It was late afternoon when they finally
pulled up in front of the cabin. Isabel had dozed off some time earlier and Kermit
smiled at her as he turned off the engine. Gently reaching across, he lightly
stroked her cheek with just his index finger. She stretched and turned to look
at him. Then her gaze turned to their surroundings. "You call this a cabin?"
"Yeah, that was my first reaction, too. But it's what Paul calls it. Seems
like a pretty good sized house, to me. And it has all the amenities. Solar heating
for the water, generator, solar battery backup, propane stove and heat, several
of the rooms have those new brick floors that absorb heat and retain it. Even
in the winter, it's pretty comfortable. He opened his door and got out. Closing
the door, he circled around to open hers and hand her out. Then he got their luggage
from the trunk and led her up the steps of the porch and set down their bags.
He took out a key and unlocked the door. Turning to her, he grinned and scooped
her up in his arms.
"Kermit! I'm too heavy for you to carry."
"You are hardly
that heavy, my love."
"Kermit, I'm almost as tall as you are, and..."
stepped across the threshold and gently lowered her, sliding her body down his.
"And you're simply not that heavy." He gently kissed her. Then, smiling, he turned
back to grab their luggage. "Now, my dear, if you'll go up that flight of stairs,
right there, we can change and I'll give you the two-bit tour."
him closely and saw that, indeed, he seemed to have no ill-effects from lifting
her and carrying her over the threshold. There was, in fact, quite a spring in
his step as he trotted up the stairs.
Feeling a thrill shiver through her body,
she lightly followed him. Maybe the tour could wait until later.
complain when he again insisted on carrying her across the threshold of the bedroom,
and this time, as he lowered her, she knew that he was thinking much as she was.
She didn't look in his eyes as she began to unbutton his dress shirt. "The
tour can wait, can't it?"
Surprised, he froze for half a moment, and then relaxed
and grinned. "Oh, yeah."
He took his time. Despite their
having been a 'couple' for just over a year, they'd never been intimate - physically,
at least. They took their time undressing each other and exploring one another's
bodies. Knowing that she'd been abused by her first husband, he was very careful
to be as gentle as he could be. When he'd put his keys in the bedside table, he
noticed a new box of condoms and it gave him a moment's pause.
"You know, there's
one thing we haven't discussed," he murmured, ignoring his body's pleas to just
get on with it.
"What's that?" She kissed him, her hands running up
and down his back.
"Whether or not we have any more kids." He felt her stiffen
slightly and he shifted away from her, not wanting to pressure her into anything.
She gazed into his dark chocolate eyes and tried to read him. Only in this, she
"I'd love to have your baby. But do you want a child?"
thumped once, extra hard, and then settled down to a fairly fast rate. "I never
wanted kids, before I met Abby. I figured I'd be a lousy father. But Abby seems
to think differently. Of course, compared to her real father, I suppose Vlad Tepes
would seem pretty good."
Isabel shook her head, smiling. "As I've told you
before, you on your worst day is still better than him on his best." She stroked
his cheek. "Kermit, we both love you. I think it would be wonderful to have more
children." She giggled. "Of course, if we have girls, I pity the boys who try
and date them."
Kermit blushed and grinned, lowering his eyes from her face.
"Yeah, well, if you think I haven't learned about girls and dating from Paul,
think again. I promise not to physically torture any boy Abby goes out with. Just
a little interrogation, is all."
Isabel smiled. "I love how protective you
are of us." She kissed him. "The question is, do you want children?"
had never really considered the idea, before. Did he? "I'd be satisfied with just
Abby," he began.
"But?" She tilted her head so she could look into his eyes.
He shivered. "I honestly don't know. I'd be terrified of hurting them."
niece and nephew, have you ever hurt them?"
"No, but they also never lived
"Maybe we should wait to decide?"
Relieved, he sighed. "Yeah,
maybe we should." He smiled and kissed her.
"Kermit, I'm not on the pill,"
she hesitantly informed him. She hadn't needed to be, after all. And, like him,
hadn't considered the possibility of another child.
"Paul left us a box of
condoms." Kermit rolled over and opened the nightstand drawer. "The man thinks
"Or at least leaves a clue as to what we should have thought
about," she replied, giggling in embarrassment.
"Now," Kermit murmured, kissing
her and beginning to touch her again. "Where were we?"
was having a great time with Abby. It was almost like having his own girls again
at this age. They were out in the back yard, playing, with Annie listening to
Abby's excited shouts of glee as Paul held her by one arm and leg and 'airplaned'
her around and around. The momentary shriek of terror as he tossed her into the
air before catching her turned into giggles and a request to 'do it again!' Panting
with exertion, Paul firmly told her not now and, hand-in-hand, they made their
way back to the deck.
"I am definitely getting old," Paul panted, dropping
into the chair beside his wife.
Annie smiled and reached over to pat his hand.
"You're not old. Just out of shape."
Paul chuckled. "For playing airplane,
most definitely." He gazed adoringly at his wife. "But it's still a lot of fun."
He took her hand in his and kissed it, then gave it a gentle squeeze.
you tell me a story?" Abby asked, standing nearby, face still flushed with exertion
"What kind of story, honey?" Paul asked, smiling.
my new daddy?"
Paul racked his brain to try and come up with a story about
his friend that was suitable for an eight-year-old.
"Tell her about his first
day as a beat-cop, Paul," Annie urged.
Paul thought a moment and chuckled.
He pulled Abby into his lap and got them both comfortable. "Let's
see. Kermit didn't become a cop until he was older. He wasn't sure that he'd be
any good at it, but I told him that his job was very similar to our previous careers.
He went through the academy with only one small problem. Seems the self-defense
instructor thought he was too old. Kermit took him down and demonstrated that
he wasn't too old at all."
"Is that like the things he taught mommy and me
in case somebody tries to grab and hurt us?"
Paul, having helped in some of
that training, nodded. "Yes. The teacher tried to beat him up and after getting
thrown around a few times and the teacher trying to hurt him, he got angry. The
next time the teacher told him to attack, he did it for real and when the teacher
tried to hurt him again, Kermit ducked and then threw him across the gym, breaking
the man's arm and dislocating his shoulder."
Abby's eyes were wide. "He shouldn't
have tried to hurt Mr. Kermit. It kind of makes him mad."
Paul and Annie both
laughed. "Yes, honey, it does."
Paul continued. "Well, despite that little
incident, Kermit made it through the academy and got put on patrol. His Training
Officer was younger than Kermit and didn't have any idea about Kermit's past.
When they pulled over a speeder, Kermit, as the rookie, got to take point. He
asked the driver if he knew how fast he was going."
"What did he say?"
driver said he didn't know how fast he was going. So Kermit said 'So you don't
know how fast you were going. I guess that means I can write anything I want on
the ticket, huh?' and his partner started laughing and stepped in and explained
that they'd clocked the driver going fifty in a thirty-five mile an hour zone.
Poor man was more than willing to sign the ticket."
Abby giggled. "What else?"
"Well, there was the man they picked up on warrants. Kermit cuffed him and
the man complained that they were too tight. Now Kermit hadn't put them on particularly
tight, so he simply explained that his handcuffs were new and that they'd stretch
out after they'd been worn for a while."
Abby, who had played with Kermit's
handcuffs a few times, giggled. "That's silly! Metal doesn't stretch!"
grinned and hugged her. "You're right."
"What else happened?"
got a call for a convenience store robbery. They spotted the perp running from
the scene and Kermit jumped out and took off in pursuit. When he got the robber
cornered in a blind alley, he told him that running would only get him to jail
tired...and that if he tried running again, he'd better be really fast, because
the bullet from his gun could travel at twelve hundred feet per second and he
was too tired to bother running any more."
Abby giggled again.
"Well, it wasn't his first day, but I think my favorite one was when he pulled
over a woman for speeding and running a red light. She was beautiful; Blond, tall,
and shapely. He was writing her a ticket and she said that she didn't think that
cops gave pretty women tickets. He told her that they didn't, and then handed
her the ticket to sign."
Annie chortled. "I remember that. He said she looked
like his ex-wife."
"Was she prettier than my mommy?"
Paul shook his head.
"No. Your mother is the second most beautiful woman in the world."
and asked. "Who's the first?"
Paul hugged her and set her on the deck. "Why,
my Annie, of course." He stood up, leaned down and kissed his wife. "But Kermit
might have a different opinion."
Abby giggled. "I think you're both the prettiest."
"Thank you, sweetheart." Annie pulled on Paul's hands and he lifted her to
her feet. "And now, I think it's time for me to start fixing us some dinner. Anyone
care to join me?"
"Oh, yeah," Paul and Abby chorused, following her.
It had been a wonderful week, although they'd both missed Abby. So much so,
that they cut their honeymoon short by a day. They'd had enough solitude and were
ready to finish forming their family. When they got back to the city, they stopped
off at the Blaisdell's to pick up Abby.
"You're home early," Annie said as
she answered the door.
"How'd you know it was us?" Kermit asked.
"I won the bet with Paul. He said you'd be home yesterday."
The newlyweds exchanged
a look. "Oh. So, how's Abby been?"
Annie grinned. "She's wonderful, of course.
But don't be surprised if she asks you about your early days on patrol. She only
wanted stories about you."
Kermit groaned. "Oh, great."
"He made sure they
were suitable for an eight-year-old, Kermit. But you may have to explain just
how beautiful Isabel is."
Kermit grinned. "Gladly." He hugged his wife and
then asked, "So, where's Abby?"
"I think she's out with Paul."
get her," Kermit murmured, giving Annie a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for taking
care of her for us."
"Any time, Kermit. She's a delight."
"Thank you," Isabel
"Uh, Kermit, there's something you need to know."
Kermit had scooped Abby up in his arms when she ran to him. He looked at Paul,
concerned. "Oh? What's that?" He looked at Abby, who was grinning.
you were gone, we did a little remodeling on the apartment building."
paled. "Oh? What kind of remodeling?"
"Well, you're going to need to reset
the code. It's currently 007."
"On the front door." Paul was grinning,
but there was a touch of worry in his pale blue eyes.
Kermit shook his head.
"I don't get it."
"It's a surprise, Daddy." Abby explained.
was talking about flew from his mind as what his step-daughter had called him
registered. He grinned at the child and hugged her and kissed her on the cheek.
"Well, whatever it is, I'm not going to worry about it right now. At the moment,
I just want to get my ladies home, fix something to eat and relax."
a crock pot full of pot roast waiting for you when you get home," Annie informed
Kermit looked over his sunglasses at her. "What if we'd stayed
"It would have been none the worse for it," Annie insisted.
Paul chuckled. "She had me up and over there at seven to make sure it would
be done when you arrived." He pondered a moment, "Look, why don't I go over and
show you the changes we made?"
Kermit looked down at his bride, who smiled.
"Why don't you come for dinner, then?"
Annie frowned, a bit worriedly. "Are
you sure? I mean, you just got back."
Kermit read his wife's expression and
grinned. "We'd be delighted."
"I'll get my sweater," Annie said with a smile.
They stepped off the elevator and turned towards their apartments
and stopped. There was a wall with a door in it where there had been a corridor,
just a week before. There was a blinking keypad on the wall by the door. With
an uncertain glance at the smirking Paul, Kermit pushed the buttons, 0-0-7, and
the blinking light turned green and there was a click, and Kermit pushed the door
open. He glanced back at the Blaisdells and grinned. "Blake?"
"Who else?" Paul
smiled in return.
Kermit walked in and stopped again. What should have been
a ten-foot wide hallway was now what would have been called in another setting,
a lobby. There was a sofa by the window, and a credenza on one side with a lamp
on it. And the doors to their apartments were open.
"I wasn't sure if you'd
want to completely open it up or not. But I checked, and these aren't bearing
walls, except by the outer wall."
Kermit stared at his friend, frowning in
confusion. "I don't get it."
Paul sighed and shook his head. "Kermit, where
did you plan on putting all your computer gear?"
Kermit thought for a moment
and flushed slightly. "Oh."
"We also switched the apartments around."
"Because your apartment faces south-west and has a lovely view. Not that you'd
ever notice with those drapes of yours. I thought that the ladies would like it
and when you're buried in your computers, they could enjoy the sunlight and the
"I like it," Abby piped up. "It's pretty."
Kermit frowned for a moment,
and then shrugged. "Okay." He looked at his bride. "Well, shall we take a look?"
After looking at the rearranging and the new furniture in
the living room, which Paul insisted was just a wedding present, they discussed
it and decided to open up the walls and enlarge the living room. Later.
was perfect, as was the company. Afterwards, while Isabel put Abby to bed, Paul
drew Kermit across the entryway to his half of the apartment. Kermit was instantly
"What is it?"
Paul wouldn't look at him. "I didn't tell you before,
because I wanted you to have some time together before having to deal with it."
"Paul, what are you talking about?" He was finding himself feeling very anxious.
Paul wasn't normally quite so reticent about things.
Paul took a deep breath
and let it out in a sigh. "I'm talking about Mark Wardleigh."
went hard. "What about him? He change his mind about signing?"
Paul shook his
head and brought his eyes from the floor to Kermit's. "Not exactly, although,
I do have all the papers ready for your signature to adopt her."
"I don't get it."
Paul sighed again. "Remember when you came back into the
waiting room after talking to him?"
"Yeah, so?" Kermit's hands began to spasm,
forming fists, then releasing, again and again.
"Remember the guard and the
elderly trustee that were also in the room?"
Kermit had to close his eyes to
concentrate and remember. "Okay, old guy pushing a broom, guard was younger, your
age, maybe. Standing by the door, watching the trustee?"
"And us. They overheard
Kermit's eyes opened, showing his confusion. "Yeah? So?"
again. "Kermit. They heard us."
Kermit still wasn't getting it. Paul
shook his head and tried again.
"Mark Wardleigh is dead, Kermit."
eyes widened with the surprise of that information. "Dead? How?" He still didn't
Paul placed a hand on Kermit's shoulder. "I got a report the day
before your wedding. Seems he was cornered in the laundry room. You've heard how
inmates don't like guys who hurt kids. You inadvertently told them that she was
only three. They grabbed him, pulled down his pants, placed his genitals on the
steam press, and closed it. Then they sodomized him with a broom handle. He made
it to the hospital, but when he saw what they'd done to him, managed to slice
his wrists with a plastic knife. He wasn't discovered until the next morning."
Paul watched his friend closely as the information sank in. Finally, Kermit
sighed and looked up. "Can't say as I'm sorry." He honestly couldn't think of
anything else to say.
"And, technically, he killed himself."
"My only concern is how to tell Isabel and Abby."
"I can do that, if you want.
Tell Isabel, that is."
Kermit shook his head. "It's not your responsibility."
"Sure it is. Come on. You can provide the comfort afterwards."
Surprisingly, Isabel took the news rather well. Paul didn't give her any details,
only that he'd been attacked and later committed suicide.
After Paul and Annie
had gone, she went into Kermit's arms. "I want to feel something, but I honestly
don't. All I'm feeling is relief."
Kermit sighed. "Good." He hugged her more
tightly. "I love you."
She clung to him. "I know. And I'm ever so grateful.
And I love you. And I think it's absolutely wonderful that I don't have to worry
about him ever again. We're safe. I don't have to be concerned with the thought
of his coming after us." She drew back a bit and looked into his eyes. "Am I bad
for feeling like this?"
Kermit smiled. "No. Relief is the perfect feeling,
I think. And I suspect your minister would probably agree." He held her close
again and kissed her cheek. "What are we going to tell Abby?"
"The truth. He died in prison."
Kermit nodded. "Paul brought me some papers
Isabel thought for a moment. Then smiled. "So you can adopt her?"
"Yeah. She asked me that since you were going to become Mrs. Griffin, if she
could become Miss Griffin." He shrugged. "Only way that could happen was if he
gave up his rights." He held her silently for several moments. Then he pulled
away slightly and said, "Or die."
Isabel looked up into his eyes. "You didn't
kill him." She stated it as a known fact, not a question.
"No. But I may have
said something that was overheard." He looked away. "He told me what else he liked
to do with his gun besides play Russian Roulette."
Her breath caught and her
head dropped. "Oh."
He held her closer. "I love you. I'll always love you.
For the rest of my life. You were a victim, but you're not one now. You don't
ever have to be a victim again. Not as long as I live."
She sighed. "Come to
Kermit grinned. "Oh, yeah."
Abby was walking on
air. She couldn't stop smiling. Her teacher frowned at her, wondering what made
her so happy, all of a sudden. Since it was the day she was planning on videotaping
her class, she decided to start with her.
"You seem particularly happy today,
Abigail. Care to tell me why?"
"I get to be Miss Griffin."
"Oh?" Her teacher
"Uh-huh. My new daddy is going to adopt me so I can have the same
last name as him and mommy." She grinned happily.
"Oh, your mother recently
"Uh huh. My new daddy said he married my mommy so I could be his
little girl." Abby grinned proudly and didn't notice the look on her teacher's
face and kept burbling on about her new father and how happy they all were.
enough, Abigail. I need you to come with me, now." She stood up and grasped Abby
by the arm, just at the elbow and pulled her to her feet. Abby cried out.
hurting me. Let me go!" She struggled but found herself dragged bodily to the
principal's office. She was shoved down in a chair and told not to move. Tears
running down her face, she rubbed her sore arm and sat, trembling and wondering
what she'd done wrong?
The teacher went in to speak to the principal, who called
Child Protective Services, who came down and took her to the hospital. Her questions
went ignored and unanswered and her tears were mistaken for something other than
from her teacher hurting her.
Isabel was at her desk, proofreading
reports when the dark blue suited couple came in and looked around. She noticed
them and stood.
"Can I help you?"
"We're looking for a Kermit Griffin?"
"May I ask why?"
"We're from Child Protective Services. His stepdaughter
has accused him of molesting her. With her mother's permission."
"Is Mr. Griffin in?"
Isabel was finding it hard to breathe.
"What do you mean, she accused him?"
"She reported to her teacher that he married
her mother so he could molest her."
The captain's door opened and Paul stood
in the doorway, scowling.
"I don't believe it."
"You're Captain Blaisdell?"
"Yes." He folded his arms across his chest. "Abby's been going on about how
much she loves becoming Miss Griffin. I can't see her making an accusation like
"You know the whole family, then?"
"Where is Abigail now?"
"She's at County General, being examined."
"And who is
there on her behalf?" Isabel was getting annoyed.
smiled sweetly, and Paul, seeing it, eased out of the line of fire.
know her well enough to be able to reassure her?"
The woman from CPS frowned.
Isabel leaned forward. "Because her natural father, who recently died
in prison, molested her. He enjoyed using a revolver to play Russian Roulette,
and...other things." She stepped out from behind her desk.
"Who says she accused
her father of molesting her?"
"Her teacher, Mrs. Stevens."
"Did anyone else
ask Abby about it?"
The two CPS people looked at each other, frowning. "Uh,
just who are you?" the man asked.
Isabel smiled sweetly and insincerely. "Why,
I'm just her mother." She straightened up and took another step closer. "If you've
upset or harmed my daughter in any way...."
She was interrupted by the sound
of a cell phone ringing. The female CPS officer gratefully turned away to answer
it. Everyone in the room watched her as she spoke softly into the device. She
began to shift nervously and looked over her shoulder at her partner, who turned
to join her. She turned the phone so he could hear as well, and they both started
to fidget, realizing that everyone in the room was glaring them with a great deal
of animosity. The call finally ended, and they put their heads together, obviously
arguing over whatever the call had been about.
Just then, two men entered the
squad room, laughing and talking. They hadn't come more than six feet into the
room when the shorter, older man froze. The taller, younger man continued talking
for a few seconds until he realized his companion had stopped.
to look. "Kermit?"
"What's going on here, Captain?" Kermit had his gaze fastened
on the unknown couple who were looking decidedly nervous, now.
"Uh," the man
began and had to stop to clear his throat. "Kermit Griffin?"
"Yeah?" His shoulders
almost imperceptibly inched higher as his weight shifted forward and his knees
flexed, preparing for a physical confrontation.
"Uh," the strangers looked
at one another again and then back at Isabel, who had managed to get her sweater
on and had her purse over her arm. "You'd better take us to our daughter, and
don't be terribly surprised if we wind up suing over this." She looked past them
to her worried husband. "Someone said that Abby said that you married me so you
could molest her." She said it quietly and very matter-of-factly, so her husband's
reaction wasn't expected...at least, not by the couple from CPS. His colleagues
were impressed by how calmly he reacted.
"They WHAT?" Kermit roared.
Peter closed his eyes and shook his head, wondering where they could possibly
hide the bodies. Paul, expecting this reaction, had started moving while Isabel
spoke and was in front of Kermit, holding him by the shoulders and speaking softly
"Take it easy. It's obviously a mistake. Don't go ballistic just yet.
We need more information, first." Paul's soft voice of reason wasn't very reassuring
to the couple from CPS. That 'yet' was hardly promising.
Paul turned to the
couple. "What's the problem with Abby? That's what that call was about, isn't
The couple glanced at each other and then the woman spoke. "She's in hysterics
and won't let anyone near her. She keeps screaming for help and that she wants
"Both parents?" Paul asked rather pointedly.
"Kermit, Isabel, you go with these two. I'll be right behind you." Paul went
back into his office and grabbed his suit jacket and came back out, rolling down
his shirtsleeves as he moved. "Strenlich, keep a lid on things here. We'll be
back when we get back."
"You heard the captain, folks. Back to your own jobs,
now. Captain, you'll keep us apprised?"
"I will. Meanwhile," he paused beside
Strenlich. "See what you can find out about this. There's no way Kermit would
ever hurt a kid, most particularly not Abby."
"Who do you suggest I send?"
Paul shook his head, watching the tense posture of both of the Griffins as
they preceded the couple from CPS out the door. "Use your best judgment. I'll
keep Kermit from killing anyone, if I can. Abby in hysterics does not bode well
for anyone involved."
"Take care of them, Captain," Strenlich called as he
turned back to his detectives. "All right. Who wants to go down to Abby's school
and try and find out just what happened?" There was no lack of volunteers, and
that was a problem. "Blake and Skalaney," he chose. "Get down to that school and
find out exactly what went on."
from CPS nervously ferried their passengers to the hospital. Detective Griffin
occasionally growled, and his wife continually muttered what could have been threats.
Once at the hospital and parked, the two CPS officers gladly followed them into
the Emergency Room. Neither felt comfortable in having either Griffin behind them.
They hadn't even gotten through the doors and the screams of a terrified child
could be heard. The CPS couple hurried to block the Griffins' progress until they
could ascertain exactly what was going on, but there was no holding them back.
Isabel, upon hearing her daughter's screams, began running, while her husband
prevented anyone from stopping her. He wisely didn't draw his weapon, but the
expression on his sunglassed face kept anyone from challenging him. He backed
down the corridor, following his wife, the two CPS officers following him.
found her daughter in an examination room, naked and shrieking at the top of her
lungs for help, alternating between calling for her mother and father with pleas
to stop hurting her. Seeing her child, Isabel's breath caught for a moment. She
had livid bruises over much of her small body, and she crouched huddled in a corner,
screaming her lungs out while several medical personnel stood around, trying to
figure out what to do. All but one, who was trying to talk to the child and calm
"Abigail!" Isabel spoke over the din. Her daughter saw her and launched
herself into her mother's arms, crying loudly.
"I want Mr. Kermit! Where's
Mr. Kermit? He'll take care of us, mommy!" She was still practically screaming,
interspersed with hysterical sobbing. Isabel knelt on the cold linoleum floor
and held her daughter, softly talking and trying to calm her down.
and saw his ladies on the floor. Realizing that Abby was naked, he practically
ripped off his suit coat and popped a couple of buttons on his shirt as he stripped
down to pull off his t-shirt and then redressed. He went to his knees and gently
slipped his t-shirt over Abby's head and dressed her, using his tie for a belt.
Seeing him, Abby wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her head against
his chest, sobbing. He wrapped his arms around her and stood. Abby's legs came
up and wrapped around his waist, so she was clinging to him with all her might.
"Shhh, sweetheart, it's okay. I'm here. I'm here. I won't let anyone hurt you
any more, sweetheart. Shhhhh." He managed to keep his voice low and soothing as
he tightly held his child. He'd heard her calling for him, and it broke his heart
to have gone from being called 'daddy' just that morning to 'Mr. Kermit' again.
But she still trusted him to protect her.
The woman who'd been trying to calm
her down stood up from where she'd been sitting on the floor. The relative silence
of the sobbing child and murmuring man was a blessed relief. She watched, frowning,
as the man swiftly calmed the hysterical child. She spotted the four CPS people
and walked over to them.
"What's going on, here? I thought you said she accused
her father of molesting her?"
The two pair of CPS officers looked at each other
and shrugged. "That's what the school said, so we brought her in to get examined.
She cried all the way here, but when the doctors tried to examine her, she went
nuts and started screaming. She's been shrieking for nearly two hours, now. I'm
surprised she's got any voice left at all."
The woman scowled and glanced back
to where Kermit had sat on the examination table, still holding and comforting
the child, with Isabel standing beside them with one hand on each of their shoulders.
"Does that look like a pair of abusive parents to you?"
The four CPS officers
squirmed. "Uh, no?"
"Right." The woman shook her head and turned to the family.
"I'm Dr. Jacobs. I'm the psychiatrist that was called in when she wouldn't
Kermit looked up. "What did you do to her? When she went to school
this morning, she didn't have a mark on her, and now she's covered with bruises,
and it looks like someone gave her an injection of some kind." His voice was a
low, incensed growl that made everyone in the room flinch.
"The injection is
my fault. I thought she was hysterical and gave her a sedative." She glanced down
at her watch and shook her head. "She should have been unconscious half an hour
ago. That's one determined little girl."
Kermit's growl was inarticulate as
he held his daughter tighter; returning his attention to trying to sooth her terror.
Isabel's expression varied between fury and anguish. "What did you do to her?
What happened to her clothes?"
"We tried to examine her for sexual abuse,"
one male doctor began. "But she went nuts, kicking and screaming. It took four
of us to get her clothing off, but then she really went wild and started biting,
as well. She finally wiggled away and tried to run, but we managed to stop her."
Kermit was listening, but he was more focused on Abby. When she went limp in
his arms, he was startled. "Abby? Abby!" He loosened his grip and stared in horror
down at the limp little body. He began to hyperventilate as he looked up at the
assembly of CPS officers and medical personnel. "What the hell did you do to my
daughter?" he roared. Fortunately, he was unwilling to give up his limp burden,
but he wanted answers. Now.
"Kermit, calm down." Paul Blaisdell stood in the
doorway, taking it all in. He could see that Abby was breathing just fine and
turned his attention to the psychiatrist. "You said you sedated her?"
Forty-five minutes ago. She should have been unconscious within two minutes, but
she was so hysterical that she managed to fight off the effects until she calmed
"You drugged my daughter?" Isabel snarled, shifting closer to
her husband and child and placing herself between them and everyone else.
groaned silently, recognizing the posture. He moved into the room and confronted
Isabel. "Take it easy. First of all, who claimed that she'd been molested?"
teacher," one of the CPS people said.
"Exactly what was she supposed to have
said?" Paul continued, maintaining eye contact with Isabel and his back to the
others. He knew where the danger was, and, amazingly, it wasn't Kermit he needed
to worry about.
"Something about him marrying her mother so she could be his
Paul sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. Upon opening
them, he saw the confusion on Isabel's face. Glancing down, he saw the same confusion
on Kermit's. Shaking his head, he turned.
"It's a family joke," Paul explained.
"Yes. It's a family joke because Kermit met Abby before he ever
met her mother."
The four CPS officers looked at each other in confusion. "But
the teacher said..."
"And she was crying when we arrived...."
think to ask her why she was crying?" Paul asked reasonably.
It was obvious
that no one had.
Paul shook his head and turned towards the psychiatrist. "Does
he fit any of your profiles of a child molester?"
Dr. Jacobs shook her head.
"No. All he's demonstrating is caring concern. Not to mention parental pain that
his child has been hurt. You said he's her stepfather?"
"Yes. They have a court
date next week. Her natural father died and he's adopting her."
and looked at the still irate and belligerent Isabel. "May I ask how long you've
"Just over a month, now. We only told Abby about the adoption
this weekend. She was so excited...." Silent tears began to trickle down her cheeks
as she wrapped her arms around her husband and child.
Dr. Jacobs turned to
the CPS officers. "I think you've made a terrible mistake, here."
Kermit growled out. "No one has yet explained where all these bruises came from."
He shifted, adjusting the limp Abby so her head rested on his shoulder. "I know
for a certainty that she didn't have any bruises on her arms or legs this morning,
because she dashed from the bathroom to her room in just a towel. So, where did
the bruises come from?"
"Uh, well, most of them probably came from us trying
to restrain her so we could examine her," one of the interns explained.
that little kid can kick!" another agreed, still unable to stand up straight
from where her foot had connected. There were several nods of agreement, all from
medical personnel unwilling to even now get too close to the unconscious child.
Kermit glanced up at his wife and couldn't help the smirk that briefly flashed
across his face. "Yeah, well, that's what we taught her to do. If someone tries
to grab her or hurt her, she's to kick and bite and gouge and scream her head
off until she gets help."
"She learned pretty good," someone softly said, garnering
soft murmurs of agreement.
Dr. Jacobs noticed Kermit softly rocking and frowned.
"I think we're finished, here."
One of the CPS officers, a man, frowned at
her. "But the child hasn't been examined, yet."
Dr. Jacobs scowled up at him.
She pointed at Kermit. "Oh, come off it. Does he look like he'd ever harm
Isabel squeezed her husband's shoulder and approached. "I can
already answer your questions. If you examine her, you'll find some old scars,"
she hissed. "From her natural father, my first husband. He thought it was fun
to hurt me, but when he started to hurt our daughter, I ran. I ran for four years,
and every time I got on welfare, they'd tell him where we were and he'd come back
and stick that rotten gun in our faces and pull the trigger. Thankfully, the live
round never coincided with his aiming it at us, but it got to the point that I
wished it would!" She was nearly spitting in her rage.
"Thank God we met Kermit.
We'd moved into an apartment and I'd managed to find a job. A lousy one, but still
a job so that we didn't have to be on welfare. Abby lost her key and knocked on
the neighbor's door to ask to borrow his phone." She glared at the CPS officers.
"He met my daughter first. He fell in love with her long before he noticed me."
She sniffed, trying to stop the flood of tears that were beginning to fall. Paul,
seeing her distress, stepped close and put one arm around her shoulders and his
free hand on one of Kermit's.
"He's the sweetest, most gentle man I've ever
known. He's kind, and caring." Her expression turned to one of wonder. "He knows
all about what my ex did to us, and he still loves us." Her breath caught in a
sob. "When some idiot attacked me a couple of months ago, he stayed with us and
held us both throughout the night to keep the nightmares away." She glared at
the CPS officers as well as the medical personnel. "How long will the nightmares
last this time?" Her face crumpled up and she turned, sobbing, to Paul, who held
her gently for a few silent moments as most of the medical people slipped out,
leaving only Dr. Jacobs and the four CPS officers.
"I think you'd better go
back to whoever made the report and see what the hell really happened," Paul told
them firmly, then turned his back on them again to try and comfort his friends.
"How long?" Kermit rasped, lifting his head to look at Dr. Jacobs.
down at her watch. It was nearly two in the afternoon. Normally, the sedative
she'd given the child would wear off in three to five hours. But she'd never had
anyone fight off the effects so well, before. "Normally, just a few hours. But
she was terrified and thought she was fighting for her life. She may not wake
up until morning." She watched as Kermit shifted her in his arms again and rubbed
his cheek against the child's temple. It was obvious to her that this was a loving
and caring father. Not one who could ever abuse a child. She noticed the slightly
odd dynamic with the older gentleman.
"May I ask how you fit into the family,
Paul looked at her, his eyes cold and unforgiving. "I'm Captain Blaisdell,
hundred and first precinct. Detective Griffin works for me, and Mrs. Griffin is
His hand gently gripping Mrs. Griffin's shoulder and his other
hand gently kneading Detective Griffin's shoulder told her a different story.
"But how do you fit into their family?"
Paul frowned. "Dutch uncle, perhaps?"
"Grandfather," both Isabel and Kermit said at once, lifting their red-rimmed
eyes to his. "You're the one we can go to when we have a parenting or marital
question," Kermit added as Isabel nodded.
Paul smiled and shrugged. "All right.
Why not? I've got how many 'kids' down at the station?"
"All of them," the
couple again chorused before returning their attention to their unconscious child.
"I suggest you take her home and put her to bed." Dr. Jacobs paused a moment.
"If she's ever allowed to sleep with you, this would be a good time."
yeah," Kermit bitterly agreed. He stood up, trying to shift his daughter so he
could carry her comfortably. Paul came to his rescue, helping him to get his left
arm under her legs, so he could cradle her against his body. Kermit nodded and
started to walk out. "My car's downstairs. I'll drive you home and pick you up
in the morning."
"All right." Kermit's voice sounded defeated. Once he was
out of the room, Paul turned on the CPS officers.
"You'd better find out fast
what the hell happened. There is no..." He was interrupted by the arrival
of Blake and Skalaney.
"Captain, you've got to see this," Mary Margaret exclaimed.
Her lips were tightly pressed together and steam practically rose from her fury.
She held up a video camera in one hand like a trophy.
"I have a VCR in my office."
Dr. Jacobs led the way.
"There. Stop it right there!" Paul glared at the four
now very subdued CPS officers. "That's where the bruise on her arm came from,
and explains why she was crying. Do you agree?" His tone brooked no arguments.
"Yes, Captain. She wasn't trying to say she was being molested, she was bragging
about being adopted by her stepfather." The woman CPS officer shook her head.
"The teacher hurt her, so she was crying. Then we terrorized and traumatized her."
She looked at her colleagues. "We blew this one, big time."
"I want that woman
arrested for assault and battery, and I want her charged for child abuse. There
was no reason for this to have happened. None at all, and I, for one, will not
tolerate it," Paul was incensed. He stood up. "I'm taking the Griffins home, now.
I want a report from CPS on my desk in the morning."
The four CPS officers
exchanged a look. "Yes, Captain," the woman agreed. After he and his two detectives
had gone, the four CPS officers heaved a relieved sigh.
"Hold on a minute.
I want to talk to you, but I need to catch Captain Blaisdell, first." Dr. Jacobs
stood up and ran after the departing cops.
"Captain, just a moment, please."
He turned back to her, his expression hard and forbidding. "What now?"
I'm sorry about everything, but...."
Paul sighed, relenting. "It wasn't all
your fault, Dr. Jacobs. What did you want?"
She bit her lip, knowing how what
she was about to say would probably be received. "I'd like to talk to Abby tomorrow,
after she wakes up, of course. I know that's probably the last thing any of you
wants, but it may help. I want to apologize to her and talk to her about what
happened today. Reassure her that she didn't do anything wrong. If you don't want
to bring her back here, at least get her to someone to talk to. The school psychologist,
perhaps? Or I could invite him to join us here? Say, two o'clock?"
going to refuse, but then his brain took control over his heart. "All right. But
don't expect them to just forgive and forget."
"I don't. I just don't want
that little girl to develop a phobia about doctors." She shrugged. "And I do want
"I'll tell Kermit. You won't be able to see her alone; I can
tell you that much right now."
"Actually, I'd like the whole family to come.
Which obviously includes you." Seeing his scowl, she quickly added, "And any other
family you feel might be helpful."
Paul nodded, rubbing his eyes with the forefinger
and thumb of his right hand. "All right. I'll tell them. Two o'clock tomorrow."
He turned and walked away, joining the two detectives who were waiting for him
by the elevators.
It was a good thing that Paul was driving.
Kermit was unwilling to let go of his daughter. Ensconced in the back seat of
the Cadillac, he shifted Abby so that she lay across his and her mother's laps,
then he put his free left arm around his wife. The trip home was completed in
Paul followed them up to their apartment. Once there, Paul sighed.
"If I fix something, will you eat?"
Kermit and Isabel looked at each other,
then at Paul. "No," Kermit admitted.
Paul nodded. "I didn't think so. It's
only a little after three. Go to bed, comfort each other, and stay home tomorrow.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Jacobs, would like to see all of us tomorrow at two."
of us?" Isabel asked wearily.
"Yeah. The three of you, me and probably Annie.
I don't think Peter would be of much use. He's probably too angry about this to
even remember how to spell his name."
Kermit almost smiled. "Oh, yeah. Two,
huh? What about finding out what really happened?"
"Her teacher made an egregious
error. That bruise on her arm came from the teacher. She was crying because her
arm was hurt and she was afraid. She didn't know why she was in trouble, and didn't
understand what was happening to her. Not until they tried to take her clothes
"What happened to her clothes?" Isabel softly asked. She was leaning
against her daughter and husband, eyes closed, emotionally exhausted.
cut them off of her." Paul grinned rather snidely. "You taught her well. Will
she need some throat spray tomorrow? She was screaming her lungs out, I understand."
Kermit grinned. "Probably not. When we taught her to 'scream', we just found
the highest, loudest note she could sing, and told her to sing it at the top of
her lungs for as long as it took."
Paul sighed, relieved. "Good. She still
may be a little hoarse, though. Go on, get yourselves to bed and I'll see you
tomorrow. I'll pick you up to go see the doctor."
"If I wasn't so wrung out,
I'd go kill that teacher," Kermit muttered, coming back to himself now that he
was somewhere safe that he didn't have to defend so carefully.
"Well, I sicced
CPS on her. Seems she videotaped their conversation." Paul shook his head. "How
anyone could mistake an obviously happy and excited child for an abused one, is
far beyond me." He could see they were out on their feet. "Go on. Get yourselves
to bed. I'll lock up behind me."
"Thanks, Paul," Kermit murmured as he turned
and followed his wife towards their bedroom.
Paul unplugged their telephone,
locked up and left.
They cuddled their daughter between
them and, surprisingly, slept until the next morning. Kermit awoke first and sighed.
He looked down at his ladies and smiled softly. He just hoped that there were
no lasting ill effects of the previous day's trauma. He was realistic enough,
however, not to count on it. He slid carefully from the bed to avoid waking them
and padded his way to the bathroom. After a twenty-minute shower, he felt ready
to finally face the day.
He checked on his sleeping family and gathered his
clothes to go back and dress in the bathroom. He padded silently around the room,
dressed only in a towel, as he decided on just what to wear. Not going to work,
so he didn't need a suit. He finally settled on black trousers and matching turtleneck.
Dressed, he stood and watched Isabel and Abby sleep. They hadn't moved an inch
since he'd slipped out of bed, which was good. It meant that they still felt safe.
He scrubbed one hand over his face, wondering what to do if Abby had a lot of
bad dreams from this. Or worse, what if she remembered what happened when she
was three? With a silent sigh of frustration and worry, he walked from the bedroom
to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee.
He was on his
third cup when there was a soft noise and he turned to see Abby standing in the
doorway, still dressed in his t-shirt and tie.
"Hey, sweetheart. How're you
"My elbow hurts." She held up her left arm, where the livid bruise
left by her teacher had turned spectacular colors.
Kermit winced and set down
his coffee mug. Turning to her, he opened his arms and she smiled and ran to climb
into his lap. He sighed, glad she still trusted him. "Yeah, it looks like it hurts,
sweetheart. She sure didn't understand what you were talking about, did she?"
Abby shook her head, snuggling close. "Oh, yeah. She doesn't listen. How come
I got in trouble?"
"You're not in trouble. It was a mistake." Kermit was having
a hard time accepting what had happened, but knew that it was more important to
downplay it in order to reassure his daughter.
"Mrs. Stevens is a mean lady.
I don't know what I did wrong. I didn't back talk her or anything!"
sweetheart. She didn't listen to what you were saying and only heard what she
wanted to hear." He paused, thinking, and then added, "She didn't understand about
my marrying your mom so you could be my little girl."
Abby shifted away so
she could look up into his face. There was a frown on her face. "Why not?"
guess it's something like an inside joke. Only family and our friends understand
it. Outsiders don't, or can't, or won't."
Abby considered it for several long
moments. Finally, she nodded. "Okay. Just for us, then. Like the number for the
"Oh, yeah. Just like the number for the front door. Although,
I do hope you don't give it out to all your friends!"
Abby giggled and snuggled
close again. "Of course not, silly. That would be like giving away my old key."
Kermit marveled at her seeming resiliency. And astuteness. He hugged her and
kissed her temple. He was content, for the moment, to simply sit there with her
in his lap and arms.
A few minutes later, Isabel came out, dressed for the
day. Her eyes were still a little puffy from having cried the day before, but
otherwise was looking well. Kermit grinned up at her as she came and drank the
last of his now-cold coffee, grimacing at the taste.
"Blech. You could have
Kermit chuckled. "Sorry. How are you feeling this morning?"
looked at her contented child in her father's arms and smiled. "Much better, I
think. How about you two?"
"My elbow hurts." Abby held up her bruised arm and
both adults winced at the livid hand-shaped bruise.
"I bet. Why don't you go
get dressed and I'll see if I can find something to help make it feel better?"
"Can I take a bath?"
The adults looked at each other. Abby always bathed
at night, before bed. And even then, sometimes had to be coerced. "Sure, sweetheart.
Do you need one of us to fix the water for you?" Kermit let her slide from his
lap and stood up.
Kermit went into the bathroom and turned
on the water, adjusting it for her. "Do you want a shower, or a bath, sweetheart?"
Kermit adjusted the shower head to provide the softest
spray and angled it for her height. Then, he gave her a quick hug and a kiss and
left her. Returning to the kitchen, he found a fresh cup of coffee and his concerned
wife waiting for him.
"She wanted a shower."
"She hates showers."
know." He took his wife into his arms and hugged her. It was rather worrying to
think that maybe something had happened that they didn't yet know about that would
cause their daughter to suddenly want to bathe, and in a shower, to boot.
they waited, Isabel began pulling things out to fix breakfast, even though it
was closer to lunch time than breakfast.
"Mommy!" Abby screamed from the bathroom.
Isabel shot one terrified look at Kermit and ran.
She found her daughter
huddled in the bottom of the tub, soaking wet and sobbing. She turned off the
water and gathered her dripping child to her bosom. Then Kermit was there, wrapping
Abby up in a big, fluffy towel and gently cradling her to his chest.
is it, Abby. What scared you?"
The little girl shivered and then laughed nervously
and pointed. "Froggie scared me!"
There, huddled behind the toilet was their
cat, staring up at them all with enormous eyes....and dripping wet.
exchanged a relieved glance and had to fight back smiles. "What'd he do, sweetheart?"
"He hit at me through the shower curtain. Then he fell in and he scared me."
"He didn't mean to scare you, honey," Isabel explained. "But it's okay. Are
you clean enough, yet?"
Kermit kissed her cheek and handed her
over to her mother to finish drying and help pick out her clothes for the day
while he rescued their cat from his hiding place behind the toilet and wrapped
him up in another towel.
"Come on, Froggie, you don't need to drip dry."
Paul arrived at one-fifteen to take them to the meeting with the psychiatrist.
He arrived to what appeared to be a very normal Griffin type morning, save for
the still somewhat damp cat. But the whole family was smiling and in good moods.
He was relieved, to say the least.
"What happened to the cat?"
Abby in the shower was unusual and batted at her through the curtain and then
fell in the tub," Kermit explained. His expression told Paul just how unusual
it was for Abby to take a shower.
"No permanent damage, I trust?"
Isabel answered. "He scared Abby, though. But everything's fine, now."
You all ready?"
Kermit sighed and nodded. "Yeah. I don't want to, but I guess
we have to. Any further word?"
Paul nodded. "Oh, yeah. The school board is
terrified you'll sue them."
"I don't want to go back to school." Abby announced
"Mrs. Stevens has been put on suspension pending the outcome of CPS's
"Good. But what about rumor control?"
Paul sighed. "I don't
know. If Dr. Jacobs got the school psychologist to join us, we can ask."
wasn't the psychologist called in before that bi-teacher and the principal called
"I don't know. We can ask. Meanwhile, Annie's down in the car, waiting.
Shall we go?"
Reluctantly, they went.
"Thank you for
coming, Mr. and Mrs. Griffin. Have you met Mr. Freedman? He's the school district's
Kermit scowled. "We have not. Why weren't you called instead
of CPS, though?"
Freedman sighed. "I don't know. Particularly since I was there
yesterday. I didn't hear a thing about it until late yesterday afternoon after
the police had been by to try and ascertain what had occurred." He frowned, not
making eye contact with anyone, "I apologize for Mrs. Stevens' behavior, but I
really don't understand what happened." He focused his gaze on Abby, who sat in
her mother's lap, with Kermit between them and the two doctors. On their other
side, sat Annie, and then Paul. To the two mental professionals, the family was
presenting a very united front, with the two men on the outside, protecting the
female members of their group.
"Abby, are you all right?"
Safe in her mother's
lap, the child could afford to be brave and, perhaps, a little snide. "My elbow
hurts where Mrs. Stevens jerked me around." She lifted her arm to show off the
livid bruises. "And I have lots of other bruises, too."
"And I have to apologize
for those," Dr. Jacobs said, leaning across her desk a bit to see her better.
"I didn't know that you were just doing what you were supposed to do when you
think someone's trying to hurt you."
Abby's expression turned petulant. "You
gave me a shot. I don't like shots."
Dr. Jacobs nodded. "I know, and
I'm really sorry. I didn't understand what was really going on."
"Do you have
any idea what Mrs. Stevens thought you had said, Abigail?"
"She didn't understand
the family joke," Abby said bitterly. Hearing the tone of her voice, her parents
exchanged a glance and Isabel hugged her child, while Kermit placed a hand on
her shoulder, gaining her attention.
"Don't be rude, Abby," Kermit softly murmured.
Abby flashed a moment of fury, but then sighed and nodded.
"I'm mad, daddy.
Mrs. Stevens hurt me and then nobody would listen to me or tell me why I was in
trouble. They scared me and touched me like you said people aren't supposed to
touch kids, and they held me down and cut my clothes off and I got scared and
nobody would listen and nobody would tell me anything and you and mommy weren't
there and I got scared and nobody cared and...."
"Shhh, Abby, we know. It's
over, now, honey." Isabel tried to calm her daughter, who was again becoming agitated.
Kermit slid to his knees beside them and wrapped his arms around mother and
daughter. "It's okay, sweetheart. We know. We need to talk about what happened
so we can figure out how to keep it from ever happening again to anyone else,
Abby pouted. "But why'd it have to happen to me?"
and spoke up. "I think I have the answer to that, Abby."
Everyone focused on
Paul in surprise. Kermit slid back into his chair. "Oh?"
Paul looked sadly
at his friend. "Mrs. Stevens has a son."
There was only confusion on everyone's
faces. "Yeah? So?"
"So, his name isn't Stevens. It's Jennings."
"Jennings?" His wife and daughter watched as he raked through his memories until
he finally reacted. "Ralph?"
"That was what, twelve years ago?"
"I don't understand?" Dr. Jacobs quietly interrupted, exchanging a confused
look with Freedman.
"Ralph Jennings was a young man Kermit arrested when he
was still on patrol, and a rookie, at that," Paul explained.
Freedman sighed. "I remember him. Or at least, hearing about him. He was the
high school football star. Had a brilliant career in front of him. All the big
colleges were offering him scholarships. This place was lousy with recruiters,
as I recall."
Paul nodded. "Until that night," he murmured softly.
Isabel, and Abby had no idea what they were talking about. "So, what happened?"
Isabel asked her husband.
Kermit sighed. "I was on patrol. We saw this car
weaving badly all over the road and I went to pull him over when my T.O. recognized
the car and told me to let it go. I asked why, and he said it was this Jennings
kid. I said I didn't care, he was driving like a drunk and our job was to protect
everyone else in the city from his stupidity. Unfortunately, by the time I convinced
him that I was right, Jennings had turned a corner. Since I was driving," He glanced
at Paul and shook his head, "and it was my first night I actually got to drive,
I went looking for him. I spotted him at a red light, next to another car. From
the way his car was shaking, I knew he was planning on racing off from the light,
whether or not the other car wanted to play. The light turned green, he floored
it; he sideswiped the car next to his and accelerated away. I flipped on lights
and sirens and went after him. He ran the next light and took out a bunch of kids
in the crosswalk before losing control and smashing into an ice cream shop and
killing eight more kids." He closed his eyes and sighed. "It was Halloween, about
seven-thirty, and twelve kids died, three others were seriously injured, and two
never walked again." His expression was bleak. "I was the arresting officer."
"If your T.O. had listened to you to begin with, you might have prevented that
tragedy," Dr. Jacobs softly murmured.
Kermit grinned sardonically. "I was nearly
driven off the force. They tried to say that my going after him caused him to
panic, causing the accident. Mr. Murphy, however, the man in the sideswiped car,
came forward and told them all off. Fortunately, Mr. Murphy was the editor of
the Standard, at the time."
"They nearly drove him out of town, too. But Jennings
was .18 on blood alcohol, and there were traces of cocaine in his blood. He got
life and won't be eligible for parole for another twenty-five years." Paul sighed
and shook his head. "Such a waste. But he did it to himself. No one forced him
into it. Once the recruiters found out about the drugs and alcohol, even if he'd
gotten off, no one would have wanted him. It was bound to happen. You were just
unlucky enough to be the one brave enough to do the right thing."
sardonically. "Oh, yeah. That was before I went to work for you. Come to think
of it, I went straight from rookie to detective. Kind of unusual, isn't it?"
smiled softly. "Not for someone like us. I didn't even pull patrol."
understand," Freedman said. "Why not?"
Paul straightened in his chair. "Because
of how I came to be a cop. I ... transferred from my old career and got to skip
the academy and patrol. I went straight to detective and within a year made sergeant,
and three years later, lieutenant, and then a couple years after that, captain."
"That's very unusual, isn't it?" Dr. Jacobs asked.
Paul's smile hardened.
"Not when you come from the profession we did."
"Were you military?" Freedman
Freedman and Jacobs exchanged a look and decided not
to probe any deeper. There was a decided chill developing in the air.
a deep breath, Dr. Jacobs asked, "So, she recognized your name and decided to
cause you trouble by hurting Abby?"
Kermit sighed and glanced at his wife and
daughter. "So it would appear." He shook his head. "I'm sorry. I worry about my
past coming back to haunt me, but not this past."
"He killed twelve children.
I don't feel sorry for him in the least. As you said, no one forced him. He probably
got several warnings and didn't believe there could be any consequences of his
actions. Now, his mother has attacked and abused Abby because of her own lack
of responsibility in raising her son." She shook her head and looked down at her
daughter. "She has no one to blame but herself. She didn't have any cause to hurt
Abby. Or anyone else." She looked up and turned her head to see Paul calmly regarding
her. "I want to sue her. I want to make sure she never gets the chance to hurt
Paul nodded. "She's been charged with willful child endangerment,
abuse, assault, and battery on a child. If it goes to trial, it will all come
out about her son and the families whose lives he ruined. And that's just the
Isabel turned to her husband. "I want to file a civil suit,
as well." She turned to Dr. Jacobs. "We'll need pictures of all the bruises and
statements from everyone involved, please. What happened to Abby should never
"You're right, of course. Although, the CPS officers should
have checked it out before dragging her in, but they were going on the report
of Mrs. Stevens." She sighed. "If you'd rather, I'd suggest you take the photos,
yourselves. It would be less stressful for the child."
Abby scowled. "I'm right
here, you know," she spoke out rather stridently. "I'm not dumb." She wiggled
out of her mother's embrace to face the doctor.
Kermit grinned. "She's trying
to tell you not to patronize her." He shifted in his chair, "Come here, sweetheart.
They just don't understand."
Abby looked disgusted. "Why not? They're grownups.
They're supposed to know everything." Her expression turned to one of worry. "Aren't
Paul winced, but answered for his friend. "Not always. Grownups don't
have all the answers, Abby. Your daddy and I don't know how to set a broken bone
or operate on a damaged heart. But we know about getting bad people off the streets
and keeping them from hurting anyone else." He watched as the child frowningly
considered his answer.
"Oh." Her anger dissipated and she sighed. "I don't
want to go back to school."
Kermit sighed and gathered her into his lap. "I
know, sweetheart, but it's the law that you have to."
Freedman shifted forward
in his chair. "I talked to the other kids in your class, today. They were all
afraid that Mrs. Stevens was going to hurt them, as well. At least, most of them
Abby's lips twisted into a frown. "All but Heather and Stacy, I bet."
"Were they teacher's pets?" Freedman asked gently.
Abby nodded, and received
a hug from her father.
"Well, they're bringing in a new teacher for your class.
Mrs. Roberts. I think you'll like her." He could see the doubt on her face, but
had no way to reassure her. He glanced at Kermit. "There is something else, if
I may be so bold as to ask?" He was instantly skewered by every eye. He smiled,
a bit uncertainly, and said, "I understand that you managed to, and I quote, 'scream
your head off for more than two hours' yesterday?"
Abby smirked. "Uh huh."
:How come you can even talk, today? I'd think your throat would be too sore
to even swallow, let alone speak."
Abby frowned and looked up at her grinning
father. "I guess I'd better answer that." He set Abby on the floor. "Abby, sing
'ah' for me, please?"
Abby folded her hands in front of her and closed her
eyes a moment and then sang a clear, true note, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh"
"One more, please."
"Now, like we practiced, that note,
sing 'eee' please?"
Kermit sat back
and grinned at the amazement on everyone but Isabel's face. "Okay, honey, that's
very good. Thank you."
Abby smiled broadly and climbed back into his lap, looking
smugly at everyone. She giggled when Paul winked at her.
Dr. Jacobs shook her head. "So, when everyone was thinking that she was screaming
hysterically, she was just singing?"
"Sort of. That particular note is C above
High C. It's very irritating, as I'm sure you noticed."
There was a hesitant
knock at the door.
"Come?" Dr. Jacobs called. The door opened and a nurse stuck
her head in. "Is everything all right? I heard someone screaming?"
fine, thank you. It was just a demonstration." The nurse looked at everyone somewhat
nervously, and paused a moment when she saw Abby, sitting in her father's lap
"All right, just checking." The door closed and Abby giggled.
Freedman stared at Abby, awestruck. "And you kept that up for two hours?"
nodded. "I got tired, though. And nobody would get mommy and daddy." Her eyes
filled with tears and she turned her head against her father's shoulder and softly
began to cry.
"It's okay, sweetheart. We're here and you're safe, now. Shhhhhh."
Kermit's voice was soft and soothing to his little girl, who soon sniffled hard
and looked around again.
"Can we go home, now? I don't like it here."
a bit, sweetheart. I think Mr. Freedman has some more questions for us." Kermit
leaned forward to grab a tissue from the box on Dr. Jacobs' desk and handed it
to Abby, who blew her nose and then slipped from his lap to throw the tissue away
before climbing back into his lap and snuggling into his embrace.
her how to protect herself from abduction by telling her to 'sing' and kick and
bite and everything?"
Kermit frowned and cast a puzzled look at Paul, who had
helped him come up with the training for his little family. "Uh, yeah?"
became excited. "Do you think you could teach our students?"
looked a bit flustered.
"Would you be willing to demonstrate how to fight off
an abductor in an assembly at some of the schools?" Freedman looked at Paul, who
had a considering look on his face. "You're cops. You know how many kids are snatched
Paul sighed. "Yes. We do." He tilted his head at Kermit and grinned.
"Let us think about it and maybe we can come up with a presentation for you."
He glanced at his wife, who had been remarkably silent throughout this entire
day. She was listening intently, however, and would no doubt have something to
say later. In private. He reached his hand across and covered hers where they
sat folded in her lap. She smiled at him and turned one hand over to grasp his.
"Thank you. In the meantime, I know it will be hard, Abby, but I'd really like
it if you came back to school. Your classmates have been asking if you were okay."
"We want to meet the new teacher before she goes back," Isabel spoke up. There
was no room for negotiation in her voice.
Freedman nodded. "Of course. I fully
understand. You just want to protect your daughter."
"Oh, yeah," Kermit agreed.
To everyone's relief, Abby's retransition back to school
went well. The new teacher was young and very friendly to all the children, without
being a pushover. A month after the incident, Kermit, Peter, Paul, Skalany and
several other officers came to Abby's school to give their safety presentation.
"Now, you all know not to talk to strangers, right?" Blake asked. There were
loud calls of yes, along with some catcalls from some of the older children. But
Blake wasn't fazed. "So, what do you do if a grownup tries to grab you or drag
you into their car?" He looked around. "Anybody?" Still no answers. He smiled.
"Well, here's one possibility." He backed to the side of the stage and the curtain
rose, showing Abby skipping across the stage. Peter Caine called her over.
do you think you could help me find my puppy? He got loose and I lost him."
frowned at the 'stranger'. "I don't know you. Leave me alone!" she said loudly,
not quite shouting.
"Please help me find my puppy?"
"Get away from me!"
Abby shouted, starting to back away. Peter, playing the part of the bad guy, lunged
for her and grabbed her by the body and lifted her. Suddenly, it was like he was
holding a wildcat, as Abby 'screamed' for help and began to twist and struggle
and elbow and bite and gouge and kick. One foot caught Peter in the knee quite
soundly and he yelped and let her go. Abby, well trained, ran off stage.
"Okay, so, you manage to get away. What do you do next?"
home?" came a tentative answer.
"That depends. How close are you to home? If
very close, then by all means, go home and dial 911, and if someone's home, tell
them what happened and have them call 911. What if you're not close to home?"
There was silence.
"Well, if you're near a store, like one of the convenience
stores you buy your candy at after school, run in there. There's almost always
people inside. You tell the clerk what happened and ask them to call 911 for you.
It does mean that you'll have to wait for the police to arrive, so be prepared
to wait for a while for them. Suppose you're not close to a store or anywhere
there's a lot of people?"
"Run and hide?"
"Only as a last resort. If you're
on your way home from school, you can run back to the school and find a teacher.
Or, you could run up to a house and bang on the door and ask for help. You don't
want to be alone, is the main thing. Got it?"
"Man, my ears
feel like they're going to echo with their 'screams' forever," Peter grumbled
after the assembly. Paul and Kermit had taught the kids how to 'scream' properly
to avoid losing their voices and be able to continue calling for help, no matter
what. "One thing, though?"
"What's that?" Paul asked, slumped in his chair
and with his feet up on the coffee table. They were at his house, the entire contingent
from the earlier presentation. The coals were started and in a few more minutes,
he'd be going out to start grilling steaks.
"Let the perp be a punishment detail,
would you? I've got bruises on bruises, and my knee is killing me."
some ice on it. And be grateful she was pulling her punches," Kermit growled from
his supine position on the sofa.
"Oh, yeah," Paul and Kermit chorused,
Mrs. Stevens went to prison. She showed no remorse
for what she'd done, insisting that Kermit had to be a child molester - after
all, look what he'd done to her son. And when she said that on the stand, it opened
the door for the prosecution to bring up what her son had done. Abby was an excellent
witness, repeating almost verbatim the events of the day. She even had the excitement
in her voice over getting to become Miss Griffin. The jury was captivated by her,
and when, at the end of her testimony, she announced that she was getting a new
little brother or sister, there was amused laughter; except for the embarrassment
and chagrin of her parents, who hadn't yet made the announcement. But how could
they possibly be upset with their so obviously happy and proud daughter?
As Kermit cradled his new son against his chest and chatted with their friends
at the christening, he spotted someone he hadn't expected to see again. He handed
their son to his wife and murmured an apology before he strode purposefully from
the church. Paul, seeing his friend's agitation, followed.
"Kearns, you weren't
"Sorry. Just had to see for myself. Married and kids. Who'd believe
"I, for one," Paul grumbled. "What do you want, Kearns?"
"Just came to offer my congratulations to the happy couple, is all."
Now go away."
Kearns sighed. "Still the same hardass as ever, eh, Griffin?"
Paul grinned as he spotted Mrs. Griffin making her way towards them. "Actually,
Kermit's just a sweet little frog."
Kermit looked at him in shock, as Kearns
laughed. "Yeah, sure he is. Just a soft, squishy little tadpole."
his smile as Isabel stopped behind Kearns and scowled. Kermit, seeing the expression
on her face realized what Paul was up to.
"Mr. Kearns, isn't it?"
jumped, startled and spun on his heel. He hadn't heard her come up behind him.
He smiled. "Mrs. Griffin, congratulations."
"Why are you here? If you think
you can coerce my husband or Paul into going back to work for you, you'd better
Kearns blinked. "I only came to...."
"Try and talk one or
both of them into coming to work for you, yes, I'm sure. It's not going to happen.
They both have better things to do, like loving their wives and children. I don't
recall inviting you, so I'd appreciate it if you simply leave without making a
scene." Her arms were folded across her chest and her expression could only be
Kearns smiled. "My dear young woman,"
"Don't you 'dear
young woman' me, Mr. Kearns. I know who you are and who you work for. You are
not welcome here. In fact, I'd rather not hear of you coming back to this city,
if at all possible." She advanced on him, and he backed away. "I don't want you
near my family. I don't want to have to wonder if you or any of your cronies are
sniffing around. I don't want to worry about some creep either trying to hurt
my family or coerce them into doing things they don't want to do. I don't want
to see you again, Mr. Kearns. And I want you to go away and tell your masters
that Sloanville is off limits to them. If you need to warn us of something, either
use the phone or email." She smiled sweetly at him, turned to her husband, gave
him a quick kiss, and headed back to her new son, after whispering that the ceremony
was about to start, so he'd better hurry.
Kearns stared after her. "Wow."
grinned. "You'd better get going, Dick. You don't want her to come after you.
Kearns looked at him, eyes wide, and then turned his attention
to Kermit, who was smirking. Unsure, he started to shake his head, when Paul leaned
close and softly said, "When I hired her as my secretary, she mentioned that what
I was looking for was a dragon to guard the gate. Believe me, she's more than
lived up to that comment. The only woman I'm more concerned with displeasing is
my wife. And you know how Annie can be."
Kearns did. Much to his chagrin the
one time he tried crossing the blind woman. He shuddered at the memory and his
eyes widened. "You mean, she's worse than your wife?"
softly. "Oh, yeah. But only because Isabel can see to aim."
again and gave the two men a rather sickly smile. "Well, best wishes to all of
you. I hope your families thrive and that every happiness will be yours."
a good wish. And attainable, providing you delete all reference to us from your
little databases." Paul smiled. "I'm certain that Kermit would be more than happy
to help you in that particular endeavor."
Kermit stepped closer to Kearns,
causing the man to back away, towards the exit. "Oh, yeah," he softly murmured.
"Uh, well, yes. Well. I do have to be going, now. Good luck!" And with that,
he beat a hasty retreat while the two men watched him flee.
Paul grinned at
his friend. "Now, I believe we have a christening to deal with?"
turned and led the way back into the chapel. "Dragon at the gate, huh?"
frog, dragon, not a whole lot of difference, if you think about it."
chuckled. "Yeah, both reptiles, I suppose."
"But hardly cold blooded, my friend."
"Oh, yeah." Kermit grinned and made sure that he was watching Paul's face when
his new son's name was announced. Paul David Griffin squalled like a banshee when
the water was applied, but Kermit didn't notice. He was too busy watching the
emotions crossing his friend's face. His son was handed to him, and he gently
cradled the infant to his chest. Now, it was definitely time to celebrate. Paul
was having a barbecue for the occasion, and would very likely take a very close
interest in his new godson.
With Isabel and Abby flanking him, they led the
way out of the church. It was a clear, balmy morning with just the lightest of
breezes. A lovely day filled with great promise, just like his life.
his wife was a dragon.
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