Disclaimer: The Characters of Due South belong to Alliance Communications. No copyright infringement is intended.
I've been out of DS for a couple of years, now... but it's still one of my favorite shows, and I really do like the characters. Particularly RayK. This take place before CotW... but after Damien and Barbara Kowalski return to Chicago. I have to rate this at minimum, heavy PG-13, due to some not so graphic references and descriptions of child molestation. It seems that I actually enjoy torturing RayK, but that's not why...he's just so easy to write for.
Why Didn't You Believe Me?
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"Look, it's late and we're all tired." Lt. Welsh looked at his companions. Of the three of them, Kowalski appeared the most alert, standing there fidgeting, unable to hold still. Their interviews had taken most of two days and they were finally heading back to Chicago. He hated when he had to travel to interview victims and witnesses. But they had what they needed now and, although he was exhausted, he was content. It had been a good idea to bring the Mountie along; he'd proved invaluable, once again, in helping elicit information from reluctant witnesses. At least he wasn't wearing the red, for a change. Except for the hat, he looked almost normal in his plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans. Ray, well, Ray looked like he always did, jeans, t-shirt and a pullover sweater with his leather jacket. He kind of wished he'd dressed down, but that wasn't him. You work, you wear a suit. It was how he'd been raised, how he had been trained. Lieutenants wore suits - with ties.
"Here, you drive." He handed the keys to his sedan to Ray, figuring all that pent up energy might as well be put to good use. Ray looked surprised for a moment, then grinned and climbed into the driver's seat. Since he was a few inches shorter than the lieutenant's six foot three, he adjusted the seat up a couple of notches, checked the rear and side-view mirrors and fastened his seat belt, while the other two men got in; Welsh deciding on the back seat, leaving Fraser the front. Welsh planned on catching a few z's on the two hour trip back to the district house.
"You want the highway, or the bypass?" Ray asked as he started the car.
"Take the bypass. The main highway's being worked on heading in, remember? The bypass will be quicker, I just hope the snowplows have been through," Welsh replied.
"You got snow tires on this, don't you?"
"Yeah. Standard winter studs."
"Then we should be all right...we got chains, too, right?" Ray asked as he backed the sedan out of its parking space and shifted into drive, heading towards home.
"Yes, Ray," Fraser answered. "I packed the trunk, we have everything we may need for a winter trip."
"Good," Ray answered with a grin as he got the feel of the sedan and began to accelerate.
The bypass roads were rather narrow where they wound through the woods, but he wasn't going all that fast. When the flashy sports car came up behind them, he simply held his speed and lane position. The sports car had other ideas, however. He tapped the bumper of the sedan, wanting them to go faster. Welsh woke up, startled.
"What the hell?"
"Some jerk wants to play bumper tag, sir. I'm gonna pull over as soon as I can and let him pass, then call it in." Ray kept most of his attention on the road ahead, but also kept glancing at his rear and side-view mirrors, checking on the sports car.
"Good. I don't want to have a wreck out here."
"No, sir." Ray agreed.
The sports car bumped them several more times, each time harder than the last, so when the road widened marginally, Ray pulled over, planning on slowing to a stop.
There was no guardrail and the ravine was steep, but invisible in the darkness. The sports car started around them, then sideswiped them heavily, trying to push them over the edge. The sedan spun, and the rear end slipped over the edge of the cliff and they hovered there. The sports car, having misjudged, went tumbling to the bottom of the ravine.
Ray was practically standing on the brakes as the front brakes held them from falling. He knew they wouldn't hold for very long, and that they needed to get out now.
"Okay, the brakes are holding, you two get out, but go easy. Try not to tip us the rest of the way over the side." Ray spoke through clenched teeth, fear coloring his voice.
Welsh and Fraser carefully eased open their doors, Welsh used the back driver's side door to try and keep them balanced. The two men stepped out, slipping a bit on the slope, but managing to keep from sliding down the ravine without hanging onto the car. Fraser came around and opened Ray's door.
Ray was white-knuckling the steering wheel, knowing that the slightest movement of the front wheels could result in the car slipping into the abyss behind him. His pale blue eyes met Fraser's as his friend carefully reached in and unbuckled his seatbelt for him. With his right foot still firmly pressing the brake, he cautiously moved his left foot to the open door ledge. Looking at his partner for reassurance, he swallowed hard.
"I'll catch you, Ray." Fraser promised, holding his hands out for him to reach for.
With a quick nod and a silent prayer accompanied by a quick look upwards, Ray took one final, deep breath, let go of the steering wheel and lunged for the open door, twisting as he went to try and clear the car before it could take him with it down into the ravine.
He made it, for the most part. The door caught him, nearly taking him with it down the cliff, but Fraser's hands caught his right arm and the back of his jacket, swinging him away from the path of the car. Even so, he landed hard, snapping his left wrist when he tried to use his left hand to break his fall and landing heavily on his left hip. Welsh was there suddenly, keeping them both from following the car down the cliff.
"I gotcha." Welsh grunted, holding tightly to whatever pieces of clothing he had managed to grab. Shifting slightly, he braced his feet and pulled, hard, hauling the other two men back up to the top of the slope and safety.
Ray pushed with his feet to scoot further away from the drop-off, whimpering in pain. Fraser and Welsh, recognizing that Ray was hurt, scrambled to check him out.
"Ray? Where are you hurt?" Fraser asked.
"I think I broke my wrist, and my back hurts where the car hit me, and my left hip hurts where I landed on it. But I think I'm okay, otherwise. Are you guys all right?"
"We're fine, Ray," Welsh assured him. "Right now, though, we need to figure some way out of here. Did your cell phone survive?"
"Uh...It's in my jacket pocket. Can one of you get it?"
Fraser, being closest, reached into Ray's pocket and retrieved the cell phone, handing it to the lieutenant.
"Well, it survived, but we're out of range, here." Welsh announced, turning the phone off to save the batteries.
"There has been remarkably little traffic on this road. I rather doubt that anyone else will come along tonight," Fraser remarked as he deftly used his handkerchief and some small sticks of wood he'd found beside Ray to splint his injured wrist.
"We'll freeze out here," Welsh muttered. "How far are we from town?"
"At least another fifty miles," Ray replied.
Fraser helped Ray to his feet, having to help support him as he was very wobbly. "Lieutenant, if you would be so kind as to help me get Ray situated?"
Welsh looked curiously at Fraser, but nodded and followed him to the other side of the road, where he was instructed to sit down and Ray was positioned beside him. "If you would be so kind as to hold him? He's going into shock and we need to keep him warm."
Welsh nodded his understanding. "What are you going to do, constable?"
"I'm going to climb down to the cars, check on our assailant, and bring back our gear from the trunk, if it's not too badly damaged, that is."
"What's in the trunk besides our suitcases?"
"I packed for a winter journey, sir. There's a tent and sleeping bags in the trunk. If I can get them up here, we should be safe until morning, when we can safely either hike out or I can climb to a point where the cell phone will work. It's too dark to see to safely do anything else. The headlights of both cars are still on, which will provide sufficient illumination for me to safely negotiate the ravine."
Welsh just stared at him and nodded his agreement. Ray was already in shock, barely conscious, and shivering. He turned his attention to the younger man and wrapped both arms around him, sharing his body warmth with him.
The climb was a bit tricky, but Fraser managed it. He found the driver of the sports car was dead, impaled by a shard of glass from the shattered windshield. As quickly as he could, he got the trunk of the sedan open. From inside his pack, he pulled a length of parachute cord, tied all their gear to one end, and the other end around his waist. Then he proceeded to climb back up the cliff. Once at the top, he simply drew their gear up, hand over hand. Once he'd gotten it to the top of the cliff, he made several trips across the road to his companions. Pulling out one of the sleeping bags, he opened it up and wrapped it around the two men. Then he set about putting up the small dome tent. It was listed as a three-man tent, but that was only true if they were very friendly. In this case, close and cozy was the way to go. He looked up just as the snow began to fall.
"I've got the tent ready, sir. I put two of the sleeping bags together. If we share them, using the third bag as an extra blanket, we should be safe and warm until morning."
"Good. That's good, constable. Ray? Come on, son, we gotta get you moved to a nice, warm bed."
Ray was only semi-conscious. Fraser, worried, carefully ran his fingers around Ray's skull, feeling a swelling knot along one side, where the door must have hit him as he dove out. "He may have a concussion, lieutenant."
"All the more reason to get him warm as soon as we can. The snow seems pretty light, and as I recall, they were talking about it clearing and getting colder. Give me a hand and we'll carry him." Taking Fraser's extended hand and pulling himself up, the two men carefully picked up their slighter companion and gently carried him to the tent. There, Welsh crawled in first, then turned back and pulled Ray in. Removing his shoes, then Ray's, he got them settled in the sleeping bag. When they were comfortable, Fraser entered, pulled off his own boots and settled in beside them, spreading the third sleeping bag over the top of them.
It was more cramped than cozy, but they were warm and would be safe from the elements until daylight when they would get help, one way or another. Snuggled like spoons, their shared body heat held in with the sleeping bags, soon found all three men sound asleep.
"Please, no. Don't. Don't!" Ray's whimpering cries and sudden struggling woke his companions. Fraser managed to turn around and grabbed Ray's flailing arms.
"Ray. Ray. Ray. Ray. RAY!"
With a shout of fear, Ray awoke, bolting upright, only to fall back immediately with a cry of pain.
"Easy, kid," Welsh murmured, trying to calm the younger man. "It's okay, you're gonna be fine."
Ray, still only partly conscious, tried to get away, "Please, don't. I-I'll be good. Please, don't hurt me."
"No one's going to hurt you, Ray," Fraser tried to reassure his friend. Recognizing his voice, Ray scooted towards him.
"Don't let him hurt me, please, Fraze," Ray gasped out, throwing himself at his friend.
"Ray, Lieutenant Welsh has no intention of harming you." Fraser could see nothing in the dark tent, but knew that Ray's fears were real, for him.
"Ray, I'm not going to hurt you. You're injured. Do you remember what happened?" Welsh's concern was evident in his voice.
"L-lieutenant?" Ray's voice showed his confusion, even as he pulled away from Fraser and rubbed his right hand through his hair. "Uh...I guess I had a nightmare?"
"Yeah, you did. Are you all right?" Welsh asked gently.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm good.," Ray replied, uncertainly.
"Would you like to talk about it, Ray?" Fraser asked softly.
"Uh... I'm not even sure what it was," Ray admitted, shaking his head in confusion.
"Do you think you can go back to sleep?" Welsh asked, shifting about so he could sit up. Ray flinched as he felt the larger man move behind him, a flash of memory...
"Uh, yeah... Sure... Sorry I woke you guys."
"Don't worry about it, kid," Welsh said reassuringly. "It was kind of a weird night, anyway, y'know?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Ray agreed, but lay tensely between his companions.
"Ray?" Welsh whispered. "Tell me about it?" He shifted, putting a bit of space between them, which eased the tension Ray was feeling.
"Nothing to tell, lieutenant."
"Bullshit, detective. I didn't get to be a lieutenant without first being a pretty damned good detective."
Fraser remained silent, wondering what in the world they were talking about.
"My uncle Adolph..." Ray whispered.
"How old were you?" Welsh's voice softened and he gently patted Ray on the chest, then left his hand there, gently stroking Ray's shoulder; Ray relaxed marginally.
"Six... to eight. My folks had him watch me when they'd go out."
"I'm not going to ask what he did, I think I probably already know. What happened? What did your parents do?" Ray turned on his side towards Welsh.
"Nothin'." he whispered.
"What, you didn't tell them?" Welsh was surprised.
"I tried, but he told them that he had to spank me and they didn't believe me."
Welsh had to strain to hear the faint whisper. Damn... "Are you tellin' me that they never figured it out?"
"No. I remember tryin' to tell them, but they just told me to stop bein' bad, and he wouldn't have to spank me. I never got them to believe me." Ray couldn't help the tremors that shook his body, in fact, he wasn't even aware of them.
"I'm sorry, kid. Although, I'm not real sure I can understand them not listenin' to you. You're their kid, fer cripe's sake... They didn't listen to you at all?" His hand kept gently rubbing Ray's shoulder and, although he couldn't see anything in the dark tent, he could feel it when Ray's head shook negatively.
"Why did it stop when you were eight, Ray?" Fraser's voice came softly from behind him.
"My grandmother moved in with us... Bubbe watched me after that. Taught me Polish, how to make Latkes and stuff. She was great."
"Was that when you started having problems with your father?" Fraser asked.
"Yeah. After that, he never believed anything I said."
"So, what happened to your uncle?" Welsh asked, still rubbing Ray's shoulder and feeling the slender man relaxing beneath his touch. He could feel Ray shrug.
"Nothing? You mean that no one ever turned him in?"
"I was eight years old, Lieutenant. Nobody was listenin' to me, remember?"
"Ray? Is it possible that your uncle is still... well, still molesting children?" Fraser asked in a hushed tone.
Ray stiffened again, realizing what they were asking. "I ain't seen him since I was a kid. I don't know, and I don't really care."
They were all silent for several minutes. Then Ray sighed. "Twenty-five years. I ain't thought about any of that for more than twenty-five years, and now...." he shivered. "Now, I gotta find out if... if he's still hurtin' kids. This sucks, you know?"
"I'm sorry, kid. If you'd been my son, I hope I'd have listened to you." Welsh was just as upset as his detective, but able to focus on the bigger picture. There was very likely a predator of children out there... and Ray was the only possible lead at the moment. He gently moved his hand up to Ray's face, patting his cheek and then ruffling his hair.
"I think maybe you would have, too," Ray admitted, softly.
"C'mere," Welsh urged, tugging the younger man closer, "Use my arm for a pillow and try and get some sleep. We can talk more in the morning. After we get back to town."
"Yes, sir." Ray shifted closer to Welsh and lay his head on the lieutenant's outstretched arm, feeling safe and warm sandwiched between his companions. He quickly fell back to sleep.
"Lieutenant, what will happen now?" Fraser asked when he was sure Ray was once again sleeping.
"That's mostly up to Ray, Constable. Unless he's willing to pursue it, there isn't a whole lot we can do about it." Sensing the dismay from the Canadian, he continued, "Oh, I intend to check up on his uncle, see if he's ever been caught, but if he hasn't, there's not a whole lot that can be done, unless Ray is willing to pursue it."
"Hasn't the statute of limitations been exceeded?"
"Yeah, for Ray, but he was probably only the first. Usually, they start out on a family member, then, if not caught, they continue on, escalating, until they eventually are caught."
"It's been more than twenty-five years," Fraser complained.
"So, he's either been caught, or not...and, if he hasn't, it's because he's real smart. He's found a sure way to keep the kids from tellin' on him."
Fraser gently reached out one hand and ran his fingers across Ray's shoulder. "I don't know if I'd have the courage to follow up on this. He's repressed the incidents for twenty-five years and more, but now they're back, and giving him nightmares."
"Yeah, like I told you, he's a good man. But he's going to need us to help him through it. I'll help as much as I can, but I need to get this scum off my streets, and I'm dependin' on you to back up your partner and help him keep it all together."
"I'll do my very best, sir."
Both men lay awake for some time before finally settling into sleep. Each one thinking how to handle this predicament, but not coming to any conclusions.
When Ray started to stir and moan in his sleep, Welsh woke immediately. Pulling the younger man close, he softly whispered into his ear reassurances of safety and promises of protection. "It's okay, son. I won't let anyone hurt you," he whispered, only to have Ray react by pressing closer and mumbling.
"Dad? You believe me?" Ray asked, his voice sounding like that of the child he had once been.
"Yeah, I believe you, Ray. It's gonna be all right, I'll take care of you, son." Ray snuggled closer and sighed, settling deeper into sleep.
Welsh held the younger man for a time, but eventually, his bladder reminded him that he had ignored it long enough. "Fraser?" he whispered, afraid of waking the sleeping Ray. "Fraser?"
"Here, hold him, I gotta go take a leak." He carefully shifted Ray into Fraser's arms, gently enough not to wake the injured man. Fraser, although uncomfortable with his duties, cradled his slighter companion against his shoulder, pleased that Ray didn't wake up.
Welsh pulled his shoes on and, unzipping the tent door, crawled outside. Walking a short distance away into the trees, he quickly relieved himself, noticing that the temperature had dropped dramatically. Even with his overcoat on, he was cold. He hurried back to the tent and crawled back in. He was just about to pull his shoes off, when Fraser spoke.
"Snowplow. There's a snowplow coming." Welsh immediately headed back out and into the road. He could now hear the machine himself and stood in the center of the road, waiting and shivering. When the lights appeared from down the hill, he started towards it, waving his arms, his shield in one hand. As the snowplow ground to a halt before him, he hurried to the driver's side.
"Chicago PD, we were run off the road. I got a man injured and our assailant is dead at the bottom of the ravine. Tell me you got a radio that works."
"Yeah, I got a radio," the operator replied, looking closely at the badge. "How long you guys been stuck out here?"
"Since about nine, we're doin' okay, but I got a man with a busted wrist, some bumps and bruises, and maybe a concussion. I'd appreciate it if you'd call it in for me," Welsh was shivering from the cold.
The snowplow driver stared at him in shock, "You've been stuck out here since nine last night?! How'd you keep from freezing? It's two degrees out here, man. Did you stay in your car?"
"No, the car went over the cliff after the guy that hit us. My injured man, he was driving... Look, can we do this later? It's cold as hell out here, and the longer it takes you to make the call, the longer it's gonna take for help to arrive."
"Oh, yeah, sorry." The driver reached over and snagged his radio microphone from it's clip. He quickly called in as instructed. "You want me to wait here with you?"
"How long before they get here?"
"Well, we'll have the Sheriff's unit here in about ten minutes, but the ambulance will probably take a bit longer."
"Will you get in any trouble if you wait?"
"Nah, part of the job is to report accidents and stuff. You want to come in here? It's warmer than out there."
"So's the tent," Welsh muttered.
"You have a tent?" the driver was amazed.
"Yeah, one of my guys packed it in the trunk, then, after we got out and the car went over the cliff, he climbed down to get it.
The snowplow operator stared at him in amazement. Seeing the man's look, Welsh tried to explain, "He's Canadian."
The sheriff's patrol car arrived and, while Fraser packed up their gear, the deputies questioned first Welsh and then Ray. Then the ambulance arrived and while Ray was prepared for transport, Fraser gave his statement, as well.
The Ambulance was large enough to give them a ride as far as the nearest hospital, where Welsh called in for someone to come and get them. After making the call, he joined Fraser in the waiting room, where they relaxed in anticipation of Ray's release.
By the time Jack Huey arrived to take them back to Chicago, Ray had had x-rays of most of his body and was listening to the instructions as the technician prepared to cast his broken wrist. When asked what color he wanted his cast, he looked surprised.
"Uh, I thought they came in white?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, the plaster is white, but we're giving you a fiberglass cast. You won't have to worry about accidentally cracking it. They're much sturdier than plaster and, you get a choice of colors. So, what'll it be?"
Ray stared at the selection of colors. Finally, he grinned and asked "Can I have a combination of colors?"
When he limped out to his colleagues, Huey caught sight of the cast and started to snicker. When Welsh saw it, he chuckled, as well. When Fraser saw it, he raised one eyebrow.
"What?" Ray asked. He'd come out smirking, but now wasn't quite sure about how his cast was decorated.
"Nothing," Fraser replied, turning away.
Fraser looked closely at Ray's cast, "Political statement?" he asked.
Ray blushed. "You don't like it?" his eyes were on the floor.
"You aren't Canadian, Ray."
"No. But it was the only thing I could think of." Ray was flushing with embarrassment. Fraser reached out and gently turned Ray's arm to get a more complete look at the cast. Frowning, he placed Ray's arm back in his sling. Stepping back, he regarded the effect. Welsh and Huey watched him curiously. A slow smile twitched the corners of Fraser's mouth. "Nice effect, Ray. But you still aren't Canadian."
"Sorry, Frase. I can maybe get them to change it if you want." Ray still was still looking at the floor.
Fraser looked at his friend and sighed, realizing that Ray had meant no disrespect. "It's all right, Ray. In fact, it looks just fine."
Ray looked up uncertainly. "You sure?"
Welsh spoke up, "So, you two ready to head for home?"
Fraser winced, nearly unnoticed, but Ray saw it as his gaze came up to his friend. "Yeah, we're ready, lieutenant." Ray turned away and limped towards the exit, the others trailing along behind him.
They were silent on the journey into town. Jack was wise enough not to ask questions, simply driving them to the station. Upon arrival, he finally spoke, "Do any of you need a ride home?"
"Nah. Thanks, Jack." Welsh said as he got out. Fraser was watching his partner, who seemed more depressed than the effect of the pain medication the hospital had given them would warrant. When he reached out a hand to assist him, Ray pulled away, never lifting his eyes from the ground. Fraser exchanged a concerned look with the lieutenant, who shook his head and led the way over to where Ray's car was parked.
It was early, yet. Far too early for any of them to be at work. The sun was just barely up. Not that it was visible through the heavy clouds. Besides, it was a Saturday and they were all off. Ray was barely conscious; a side-effect of the pain medication he was on.
"Ray, where are the keys to your car?" Welsh asked.
"Hmmm?" Ray could barely keep his eyes open. He knew he was flying, but didn't really care, just now. The pain from his broken arm and the bruised muscles was still there, but who cared?
"Keys, Ray. Jacket pocket?" Fraser asked.
"Keys? Sure." He dug in his right front jeans pocket, pulling out his keyring and holding them up. Welsh shook his head and with, a faint smile, took the keys.
"Come on, kid. Let's get you home to bed." Welsh gently grasped Ray's good arm and pulled him towards the GTO.
Welsh looked at the minuscule back seat and shook his head. "How about you ride in the back, Ray?" he suggested. Ray, in no condition to actually understand much of what was going on, slid easily into the rear of his vehicle, stretched out across the seat and fell almost instantly asleep.
Fraser watched Ray, worriedly. "Sir?" he asked Welsh as he slid into the passenger seat and the lieutenant squeezed behind the wheel and adjusted the seat back as far as it would go.
"I don't think it wise to leave Ray alone, sir."
"I agree, constable." He fastened his seat belt and started the car. "Which is why we're going to his apartment and pack him a bag. I've got extra room at my place."
Fraser was surprised at the offer. "You're going to take care of him, sir?"
Welsh frowned as he cast a quick glance at Fraser, "Actually, I thought we would take care of him this weekend. You don't have to work, do you?"
"Good, that's good, then. We'll get him some stuff from his place, then go and you can get yourself some stuff from your...the consulate, pick up your wolf, and then head for my place."
Since Ray was dead to the world, Welsh went with Fraser up to Ray's apartment. He fed the turtle while Fraser packed a bag for Ray. They would only be gone for two days, but Fraser, being Fraser, packed enough clothes for a week, focusing on warm clothes which would be easy to get on over Ray's cast, and sweats to wear while sleeping.
"Ready, sir." Fraser announced as he exited the bedroom.
"He's got a nice place here, constable."
"Yes, sir, he does." Fraser agreed.
"Well, let's go. The sooner we get to the consulate for your gear, the sooner we can get to my place and relax. I would like to sleep the rest of the weekend, but I doubt if that's gonna be possible."
Diefenbaker was a bit put out to discover he would be required to squeeze himself onto the floor in the rear, seeing as how Ray was taking up the entire back seat, but once he understood that Ray was injured, he settled down with only faint grumbling.
The drive to Welsh's 'place', took nearly forty-five minutes, even though it was still fairly early. The house was on the outskirts of the city. Fraser was impressed when they pulled up the long drive to an enormous house.
"You live here, sir?"
"Only on weekends. I got an apartment closer to the station. It's easier, you know? Who wants to make a commute like that twice a day?"
Fraser nodded. "Why don't you sell it and buy a house closer in?"
Welsh chuckled. "No way. My great-grandparents built this house. It was originally a farm, but over the years, most of the land's been sold. There's only about fifty acres left, and my grandparents left it to me."
"Not your father, sir?"
Welsh glared for a moment. "No. They didn't. He'd have sold it in a heartbeat, and then drunk it all up. No way his folks wanted that to happen." He shook his head. "It's not important, Fraser. Let's just get Ray inside." He pulled to a stop beneath the porte-cochere and turned the motor off. He readjusted the seat back to where Ray had it, and got out.
Fraser got out and pulled the seat-back forward to allow Diefenbaker to exit. He then leaned in and gently shook Ray's shoulder, forgetting for the moment that Ray's entire left side was badly bruised. Ray gasped and awoke.
"Sorry, Ray. We're here."
Ray was only semi-conscious, despite his ability to function. He grunted his understanding and crawled out. Fraser had to help him stay upright as they followed Welsh inside.
While Fraser got Ray out of the car, Welsh got their suitcases from the trunk and carried them to the house and opened the door. Fraser, holding onto Ray as he helped him into the house, took no time to look around, simply following their host.
"The bedrooms are upstairs, I'm afraid. You gonna need help with him?"
"I don't believe so, sir. He seems fairly steady on his feet, but I doubt he's truly conscious."
Welsh chuckled. "Yeah, his eyes are pretty glazed and I think you're holding him up more than his legs are." He turned and led the way, past the kitchen via a short hallway that led to a flight of stairs. Fraser talked softly to Ray, encouraging him to lift his feet up to clear the risers. It took several minutes to make it up the stairs, but eventually, they succeeded in making it to the second floor. Welsh led the way down the hall and opened a door. Fraser guided Ray in and with a quick look around, settled him on the bed. Welsh set Ray's suitcase down.
"You want some help getting him into bed?" Welsh asked. Fraser gave him a grateful look.
"Sure." He set Fraser's suitcase down beside Ray's and came over. "You just want to strip him to his skivvies, or does he wear pajamas?"
"I think for right now, just getting him out of his clothes should suffice, sir."
Welsh paused. "Look, Fraser, we're off-duty, you don't need to be calling me 'sir' all the time."
Fraser looked uncomfortable. "As you wish, si...lieutenant."
Welsh sighed. "Look, Fraser...Ben. Relax. You can call me 'Welsh' or 'Harding', just... relax a little, okay?"
Fraser smiled a bit uncertainly, "Very well," he paused a moment, "Harding."
Welsh smiled in satisfaction. "Okay, let's get Ray out of his clothes and tucked in." They worked well together. Welsh knelt down and unlaced and removed Ray's boots, while Fraser worked Ray out of his jacket and started working on his shirt. Welsh finished and stood back up to help work the sleeve of Ray's shirt over his cast.
"Mmmmm, lemme go. 'm tired," Ray muttered, trying to wiggle away and lie down.
"Just a bit longer, Ray." Fraser replied, gently pulling Ray forward while Welsh pulled the covers back. For just a moment, Fraser pulled Ray to his feet so Welsh could clear the covers down far enough, immediately easing the semi-conscious man back, settling him back against the pillow.
Hesitantly, Fraser reached for Ray's belt, unfastening it and then gingerly undoing the button and unzipping the fly. Welsh then lifted Ray's hips while Fraser tugged the jeans down the slender legs. While Fraser folded the jeans, Welsh pulled the covers up over the now sleeping Ray. He then moved over to the window and drew the blind, darkening the room from the morning sun.
"C'mon. I'll show you your room." Welsh led the way out and down to the next room. Opening the door revealed another well appointed and sunny room. Fraser set his suitcase down, while Diefenbaker came in and examined the room in his own manner. "My room's across the hall, and the bathrooms are at each end of the hall. If you're hungry, there's food in the reefer. Just make yourself at home."
"Thank you, sir." Fraser realized his error and tried to recover, "I mean, Harding. Thank you very kindly."
"I'm gonna take a shower and then head for bed. Like I said, make yourself at home. If the wolf needs to go outside, there's a fenced yard out back, turn right at the bottom of the stairs and the hallway leads to the mud room and the door out."
"Thank you. I think that sleep is primary on my own list of things to do." He avoided the discomfort of calling him by his first name by not calling him anything at all.
"Sleep well, then." Welsh turned away, heading across the hall, leaving Fraser to explore his temporary quarters.
Fraser went over to the window and looked out over the grounds. There was a small orchard, bare in the snow, and several outbuildings were visible through the trees; there were signs of a good-sized garden, as well. Turning back to the room, he opened his pack and pulled out his long-johns. He stripped quickly and changed, then pulled back the covers and settled into the bed. Within minutes, he was sleeping soundly.
Welsh finished his shower and padded barefoot back towards his room. It was chilly in the house, as he kept the thermostat set at a mere fifty degrees when he wasn't there. He paused in the hallway to turn it up to sixty-eight and continued to his room. Once inside, he removed his terrycloth robe and put on a pair of flannel pajamas. Slipping on his warmer flannel robe, he went to check on his guests prior to bed.
He checked on Fraser first, tapping with a single finger on the door. When there was no answer, he silently opened the door. He was greeted by the wolf, who raised his head from his paws. The animal was laying on the braided rug beside the bed. It was obvious that the Mountie was sound asleep, already. With a smile, he silently closed the door and made his way to Ray's room.
Ray lay curled on his right side, his cast arm cradled against his chest. His features were lax, but showed the pain he was going to be in when he next awoke. He'd kicked the covers down, and was shivering slightly in the chill room. Welsh shook his head and entered. He drew the covers back up over the sleeping form, gently tucking them around Ray's shoulders. He then turned away and left, leaving the door part-way open. Returning to his room, he also left his door open, so he could hear if Ray woke up and needed anything. Confident that his guests were comfortable, he took himself to bed, falling quickly into an easy slumber.
It was mid-afternoon when the whimpers awoke him. It took a moment for him to remember what had happened, then he was up and out the door, Diefenbaker at his heels. He immediately headed for Ray's room, only to find that Welsh had gotten there first. He paused on the threshold, quietly observing. Ray had obviously been having another nightmare, this one far worse than the one he'd had the previous night in the tent. Welsh had gathered the slight figure into his arms and was softly reassuring him.
"Shh, it's okay, Ray. You're safe, son. No one's gonna hurt you. Shhhh." Welsh was gently rocking, cradling the still mostly unconscious Ray against his chest and soothing him by rubbing his back. "It's okay, son. You're safe, now. I won't let anyone hurt you."
Ray tried to snuggle closer into the embrace, "Y-you b-believe me, dad?" he whispered uncertainly.
"Of course I do, son. You're a very truthful kid, considering. Just relax, now, son. I'm here and I won't let anyone hurt you." He glanced over his shoulder at Fraser and gestured with his head to come over.
"Why don't you tell me what happened, Ray?" Welsh continued encouragingly to the man clinging to him.
"I-i-it was U-uncle Adolph. He-he hurt me." Ray's voice sounded like the small boy he had been when he'd been molested by his uncle. Welsh used his disorientation to gather more information.
"What did he do, son?"
"He-he h-h-h-hurt m-mmme." Ray ducked his head down, burying it against the lieutenant's chest.
Welsh and Fraser looked at each other, both faces mirroring the shared pain of their friend. Welsh tightened his arms around the now sobbing Ray. "It's all right, son. He's not going to hurt you ever again. I promise."
It took several minutes of Welsh's gentle assurances and promises of safety to finally calm Ray down. Even when he'd stopped crying, however, he was unwilling to release his hold on the older man. Welsh looked up at the still concerned Fraser and sighed.
"Okay, do me a favor, Ben. I'm gonna get up and I want you to pull the comforter down. Just the comforter."
"Yes, sir." Fraser moved into position, then, "Sir?"
"He's still upset. If I leave him now, he's probably gonna panic. Surely you can see that by the way he's hangin' onto me?"
"So, I'm gonna stay here and hold him until he lets go. It's still kinda chilly in here, and I'm still pretty tired, so, I'm gonna stretch out here beside him until he lets go. Get it?"
Fraser nodded, "Understood."
Welsh stood and turned, while Fraser pulled the comforter back. Then the big man, still cradling Ray against his chest, sat back down and pulled his legs up onto the bed, after which, he turned on his side, facing Ray, who tried to snuggle even closer in his embrace. Fraser pulled the comforter up over the two men.
"Is there anything I can do?"
Welsh looked up at him and smiled sadly, "Not just now. But be prepared for him needin' us to keep him goin' for a while."
"Understood." With that, Fraser headed back to his own room, not that he expected to get any more sleep.
Ray was murmuring in his sleep. Welsh listened closely and asked questions, which for some odd reason, Ray answered. He gathered even more information on Ray's childhood and had to stifle his immediate desire to go and find a certain Damien Kowalski and pound him into the ground for not protecting his son. Of course, he also had a burning desire to also do some heavy maiming of a certain uncle named Adolph, as well. At the moment, it was a tossup as to which one he'd prefer damaging.
Finally, Ray's grip on Welsh relaxed and Harding eased away, replacing his presence with a pillow, to try and keep Ray from waking up. Ray snuggled into the warm spot he'd vacated and wrapped himself around the pillow, burrowing into the warmth. Harding tucked the covers carefully around Ray, to make sure he didn't lose them if he started moving around. Once sure that Ray was was comfortable and looked to stay asleep, he slipped from the room and headed back to his own room for some more sleep.
It was late afternoon before anyone stirred again. Diefenbaker placed his front paws on the edge of Fraser's bed and whined. When he got no immediate response, he whined again, a bit louder. Fraser shifted in his sleep, but didn't awaken. Growing desperate, Dief reached out and pawed at Fraser and yipped a bit louder.
"What?" Fraser asked hoarsely as he awoke. Diefenbaker simply whined again, more insistently.
"Oh. Sorry." Fraser slid from beneath the covers and padded barefoot to let his companion out. "I'm afraid I was more exhausted than I at first thought," he explained to the wolf, who simply urged him to hurry.
Following the instructions Welsh had given him earlier, he let Diefenbaker out into the fenced yard. He was perfectly aware that the wolf could easily escape, but hoped that the yard would be sufficiently of interest to keep him occupied. He watched for a few minutes as the wolf trotted around, sniffing everything and looking for the 'perfect' spot. He also marked the entire fence line. Shaking his head, Fraser left the wolf to his own devices and returned to the kitchen. Looking around, he discovered what he needed to make a pot of coffee. He set up the coffee maker and turned it on in the expectation that it wouldn't be too much longer before the others awoke.
He checked the refrigerator, surprised to discover it fully stocked. Glancing at the clock, he decided that soup would be a good idea, as it would be warm and nourishing without being too heavy. Taking what he needed from the refrigerator and finding a pot to cook it in, he began preparations.
Coffee. He smelled fresh coffee. It pulled him back to consciousness faster than anything else would, except perhaps a phone call in the middle of the night. However, the sun was still up, although, from the looks of it, not for much longer. This time, however, he remembered instantly the previous twenty-four hours. He decided that he wanted to do a little checking on Ray's uncle, maybe after they had something to eat. Decision made, he rose and just pulled on his robe, then headed out. He checked on Ray, pleased to see him still asleep and apparently dreamless, as his expression was calm and unconcerned. Welsh turned away and headed down to find Fraser standing at the stove, stirring a pot of something.
Taking a deep, appreciative sniff, Welsh smiled. "Smells good, Ben. What is it?" He grabbed a mug from the cupboard and poured himself some coffee.
Fraser looked up and smiled. "Just some soup. You said to make myself at home, so I thought that soup might be a good meal. It's hot, nourishing, and relatively simple."
Welsh moved over to look over Fraser's shoulder. "Looks homemade."
"Yes, sir. I used some of the beef you had in the refrigerator, potatoes from the pantry, and frozen vegetables from the freezer. It is ready to eat any time, now, but it won't do any harm to leave it on to simmer a bit longer."
Welsh nodded, taking a sip of coffee. "My mother always made soup the day before, said it tasted better. However, I have nothing against fresh soup, either." He patted Fraser on the shoulder and moved over to sit at the kitchen table. "Ray's still sleeping, but I imagine that the smell of coffee will eventually wake him up, too."
"Yes, I am hoping he will." He stopped stirring the soup and turned down the burner to simmer. He took the lid of the pot and covered it, laying the spoon on the spoon rest that lay in the middle of the stove. Turning away, he got a mug and filled it with coffee. He looked at the dark brew and sighed. "I don't suppose you have any chocolate?"
Welsh looked at him, "What?"
"Chocolate. Ray likes chocolate in his coffee. Candy is acceptable, if you have any?"
"Uh, I've maybe got some powdered around here someplace, but...wait." He stood up and went to a cupboard by the refrigerator. Digging on a high shelf, he grinned as he came back with a rather dusty bottle of chocolate syrup. "Well, it's never been opened, but I have no idea when the expiration date was." He squinted at the bottle, "Huh. Not until next year. Here you go." He handed the bottle to Fraser, then watched in horror as he poured what seemed to him to be an enormous amount of the syrup into the coffee.
"Why doesn't he just drink hot chocolate?"
Fraser shrugged, "I'm not sure. Perhaps he simply enjoys chocolate flavored coffee?" He then added powdered creamer and stirred.
"He actually drinks it like that?"
Fraser smiled, "Yes. I think it's more the sugar than the caffeine. Or, perhaps the combination?" He shook his head. "I'm not really certain."
Welsh looked at the cup, considering the contents. "Well, the chocolate syrup has less sugar than just sugar, and chocolate has caffeine...but it sure goes a long way to explain his hyperactivity." He returned Fraser's smile. "Go ahead and get him up. We need to feed his skinny ass."
Fraser's smile dimmed and he sighed. "Yes, he does seem too thin, doesn't he?"
"High metabolism. Give him a few more years. It'll catch up to him."
Fraser glanced at the massive lieutenant. Welsh was a big man, but not particularly fat, more the big, barrel-chested sort he was used to seeing working down on the docks. "Perhaps," he cautiously agreed.
Warm. Safe. The sound of mum downstairs fixing supper. The sweet scent of chocolate laced coffee tickled his nose. He smiled, still trying to stay asleep. The touch of a warm, gentle hand on his shoulder brought him closer to wakefulness.
"Ray, wake up."
"Wanna sleep, Mum."
Fraser froze and glanced over his shoulder at Welsh, who smirked at him.
"Ah, Ray? I don't think I'm your mother."
Ray opened his eyes. "Fraser?" He looked around, wincing at the pain moving brought him. "Uh, where am I?"
"You're in bed, Ray."
"I realize that." Ray lifted the covers and realized he'd been undressed. Not remembering doing it himself, he frowned in concern. "But where am I in bed?"
"In a house, of course, Ray." Fraser frowned in confusion.
"Ooookay. Whose house is this, Fraser?" Ray was beginning to feel panic setting in, but was fighting the rising tide.
"Oh. Lieutenant Welsh's house, Ray."
Ray frowned. "He's got a house? I been to his apartment, once. It's even smaller than mine."
Welsh stepped into the room, carrying the mug of coffee Fraser had prepared for Ray. "Yeah, I got an apartment in town. This was my grandparent's place. I come here most weekends, well, when time permits." He extended the cup, leaning down so Ray wouldn't have to stretch. "Here. Fraser said you'd need this."
Inhaling the scent of chocolate, Ray grinned and sat up, gasping at the pain. Fraser reached out and helped him, leaning Ray forward and piling pillows behind him so he could sit up. Just as Ray took the mug and had his first sip of coffee, he frowned, then blushed furiously and hung his head.
"Uh, Did I...? did you...? Oh, crap." He refused to look up at his companions.
"It's all right, Ray." Welsh said.
Ray looked up through his lashes at Welsh, still blushing. "Uh, it wasn't a dream, then, was it?"
"No, it wasn't a dream," Welsh said gently. "Don't worry about it. No one will ever know."
Ray looked up, surprised. His wallowing and begging to be held...hell, his mistaking his lieutenant for his father! He was terribly embarrassed. Seeing only concern on his companions' faces, he took another sip of his coffee to help him regain his composure. "Sorry. I'm sorry."
"You got nothin' to be sorry for, Ray," Welsh softly reassured him. "Actually, you told me a lot. I got a few questions. Was Adolph your mom's or your dad's brother?"
Ray looked up in surprise. "Uh, I'm not sure. I think..." He shook his head. "I don't know." He frowned as he tried to remember.
"That's all right. What was your mother's maiden name?"
"Kaminski, with an i, not a y."
"Okay. I'll be able to find out about him. I'm gonna go in after supper and do some research. I don't want anyone else in on this until we got somethin' to go on." Welsh's willingness to protect him was not lost on either Ray or Fraser.
"Thanks," Ray murmured, looking down again. Once more, he hid his discomfort in his mug. Welsh gently patted his good shoulder and rose.
"I'm gonna go get dressed. When you're ready, we'll have supper downstairs. You two okay to stay here?"
"Certainly, sir." Fraser stood up from his seat on the edge of Ray's bed. "I'll go finish preparing dinner."
Ray was left alone with his coffee. He looked around the room. It was nice. Bigger than the bedroom at his apartment, with a huge window that would let the morning sun stream in. He noticed that the blinds were drawn, obviously so the earlier sunlight wouldn't wake him. He wallowed for a few minutes, feeling sorry for himself and sipping his coffee. Then he realized that they had made sure that his coffee was the way he liked it. He looked at the closed bedroom door and considered. Welsh was going in to do research on Uncle Adolph, and they had cared for him, taken care of him. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth at what his friends were willing to do for him. Finishing his coffee, he set the cup down on the night stand and tossed back the covers. Mentally and emotionally, he felt great, but the moment he started to move, his battered body reminded him that he was injured. He ignored the ache of his bruises and crawled out of bed. Standing in his bare feet, he decided that besides needing to relieve himself, he wanted a shower and to get dressed. He opened the door and looked around, totally lost. As he was puzzling over where he might be able to find a bathroom, a door across the hall opened and the lieutenant stepped out. Ray had never seen his superior not in a suit. He was wearing jeans and a brown pullover. Spotting Ray's confusion, he grinned.
"Bathrooms at either end of the hall." He pointed towards one, "That one is a full bath, with a tub and shower, the other one just has a shower. There's towels in cupboards in each one. Make yourself at home. When you're done, come on down. Fraser made soup, so it's not like there's any hurry."
"Uh, thanks. Um, I need somethin' to keep the cast dry..." he was too embarrassed to look up.
"Right. Right. I'll get a plastic bag and bring it up for you. There's some tape in the medicine cabinet."
"Thanks. I'll just...go...." he pointed towards the full bath and started towards it.
"You might want to take some clean clothes with you." At Ray's confused expression, he smiled and explained. "We stopped by your place and we packed you a bag. It's in the room."
"Oh. Yeah, good idea. Thanks."
"You're welcome, Ray." Welsh watched as Ray turned away and limped back into his room. Wincing in sympathy, he turned and headed down the stairs to get the plastic bag.
The hot water pouring down on him from the shower-head felt great. The water pressure was good and the massage setting felt wonderful. He had, of course, quite a bit of difficulty scrubbing himself, what with the cast that nearly covered his fingers. He managed, however. Just standing under the hot spray was enough to ease the ache in his bruised side. Reluctantly turning the water off, he snagged a towel and dried off before stepping out. He pulled on a clean pair of boxer briefs, then sat down on the closed lid of the toilet and put his socks on. Standing again, he pulled on a fresh pair of sweat pants, but when he tried to pull his t-shirt on, he was unable to get his cast through the sleeve. Frustrated, he gathered his dirty clothes and headed back to his room. Carrying the t-shirt and picking up his empty mug, he headed down the stairs he'd seen Welsh go down earlier. At the bottom, he tried to decide which way to go, there were three choices. Hearing a scratching noise coming from one of them, he followed the sound. The hallway ended in a small room with an exterior door. Opening it, he found Diefenbaker standing outside, half-covered in snow.
Dief woofed softly, shook the snow from his fur and entered. Ray looked out at the setting sun. There were a lot of clouds, but it didn't look like it had been snowing, certainly not enough for the amount of snow Dief had had on him. "You stand under a tree and a pile of snow fall on you, Dief?"
The animal made a grumbling sound and wouldn't look at him. "Uh huh," Ray said, then chuckled. "So, you've been through the house, right? Where's Fraser?" Dief's tail started waving and he led the way to the kitchen, where Welsh was just pouring himself another cup of coffee. Both men looked up when Dief trotted in with Ray right behind him.
"Ah, Ray, thank you for letting Diefenbaker in. Did you enjoy your shower?"
"Yeah, it felt great. I, uh, I can't..." he held his shirt out, hanging his head in embarrassment. Welsh stepped over and took the shirt and worked the left sleeve open farther than it was meant to go. Ray set his mug down and held out his cast arm. Welsh worked the sleeve over it, then held the rest of the shirt out for Ray to slide his right arm in, after which Ray was able to pull it on. Welsh reached out and tugged the hem down while Ray wiggled the shirt into place.
"Thanks," Ray murmured softly. Welsh patted him on his good shoulder and picked up Ray's mug.
"You want some more coffee? Although how you can drink it with that much chocolate syrup in it, I don't know."
Ray chuckled. "Yeah, thanks. And I started using chocolate in my coffee one day when I ran out of sugar and all I had was some chocolate candy. I put the candy in the coffee, smashed it up and it tasted good. So, now I like chocolate in my coffee, okay?"
Welsh stared at him. "You know, that makes sense, in a weird sort of way."
Fraser looked at them, smiling. "Dinner, gentlemen?"
They ate quietly. Ray surprised himself by going back for seconds. His friends were also surprised by his appetite. After eating, Welsh prepared to head down to the station. He promised to give them a call if he found anything and for them to make themselves at home.
Fraser washed the dishes and put the leftovers in the refrigerator. When he was finished, he joined Ray in exploring the huge old house. The downstairs had a formal dining room, as well as a real library, along with the standard parlor, kitchen and bathroom. They ended up in the library, where Ray sat before the television and found a hockey game while Fraser perused the library shelves for something to read. Choosing a book, he settled on the couch beside Ray and both men relaxed with their chosen entertainment.
Ray dozed off during the game and Fraser found an afghan in the parlor and covered him with it. When Welsh returned several hours later, Fraser met him at the door, cautioning silence.
"He's sleeping. Did you learn anything?"
"Yeah. The guy has no record, not even any parking tickets," Welsh replied as he removed his coat and hung it in the hall closet.
"Do you think he's...no longer, well..." Fraser rubbed his eyebrow, uncomfortable with saying the actual words.
"Not a chance. Besides his regular job at the factory, he runs a baby-sitting service for his apartment building. Somehow, I suspect he's figured out how to keep them from knowing what's goin' on. Maybe druggin' the kids. I don't know, but my gut tells me the guy hasn't changed in twenty-five years, and has most likely gotten worse."
"Yeah." Welsh walked down the hall and into the library. He shook his head and smiled as he saw Ray. Apparently, sleeping on the sofa agreed with the younger man. "He have any nightmares?"
"No, sir, but he's only been asleep for a bit over two hours."
"Okay. Look, I'm gonna try and get him up to bed without waking him up." Welsh crouched beside the sofa and prepared to lift the sleeping Ray. Fraser, somewhat surprised, pulled the afghan away and began folding it. Carefully slipping his arms beneath Ray's body, he lifted the younger man like a child. He had to make one small adjustment once he got upright, but then he simply turned and headed upstairs towards Ray's bedroom. Fraser hurried ahead to make sure the door was open and the bed turned down. Welsh slid Ray beneath the covers, settling the still sleeping man into a comfortable position. Pulling the covers up and tucking them around Ray's shoulders, Welsh gently brushed his hand over Ray's forehead, smoothing the unruly hair back. With a final, gentle pat, he turned away, to find Fraser standing right behind him, watching them.
"Something wrong, Ben?"
Fraser was frowning. He looked from his partner to their superior. "Do you have children, sir?"
Welsh looked away. "Four."
Fraser's eyebrows rose in surprise. Tilting his head slightly, he asked, "Do you see them?"
"Sir?" Fraser knew there was a story here, but wasn't sure he was entitled to the information.
Welsh eased past him and went back down the stairs. Heading for the kitchen, he put on a kettle of water for tea for Fraser, then started a pot of coffee for himself. Fraser followed him, curious and a bit uncertain.
"Relax, Ben," Welsh growled. Fraser sat at the kitchen table and continued to watch the older man. Once everything was set up and all they had to do was wait, Welsh turned towards Fraser and leaned back against the sink, folding his arms across his chest.
"About a year before you got here, I was workin' in vice. It was a really crappy case. Kids. I hate vice. Especially when it involves kids. Anyway, I came home one morning to find my wife and kids gone, nothing but a message on the answering machine." He didn't look at Fraser.
Welsh smiled. "I shoulda seen it coming." He shook his head. "Anyway, she took the kids and went to New York. She's got relatives there. She filed for divorce there and, since I couldn't go to the first hearing, she got everything she wanted."
"Are you not allowed to see your children?"
"Not exactly. But anything I send them gets sent back. Even checks."
"Child support?" Fraser asked.
"She didn't want any. She remarried two weeks after the divorce was final." The tea kettle started to whistle and Welsh turned off the burner and pulled a tin from the cupboard and offered it to Fraser, who chose a mild black tea. Welsh, who had poured a cup full of boiling water while Fraser chose his tea, handed it to him. Fraser dropped the teabag into the cup and waited for it to steep. Welsh poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down across from Fraser.
Taking a sip, Welsh continued. "Seems she'd met him here in Chicago a couple of years earlier. When he was in town and I was workin', they'd get together." He shrugged and took another sip. "I haven't seen them since."
"I miss them. The kids, anyway. I got a couple of friends who pass on information sometimes."
"Haven't you ever gone to see them?"
Welsh raised his gaze to the concerned countenance of his companion and grinned. "Yeah, I've been a couple of times. Even managed to talk to my oldest son, once. They know their mom intercepts their mail. Jeff manages to get a letter to me once in a while. He'll be fifteen this summer."
Fraser tilted his head again, regarding the older man. "How old is your youngest?"
"Abby is eight." Before Fraser could ask, he continued. "Jefferson is fourteen, Madison is twelve, Adams is ten, and Abigail is eight."
"You continued with naming your children after presidents?"
"Been going on in my family for six generations, Ben. I was kinda surprised when my wife wanted to name our first daughter Madison. But I figured why not? I also managed to give my boys names that can be shortened to a normal sounding name."
"Unlike your own?"
"Unlike my own." Welsh smiled and took another sip of his coffee. ''Why did you ask if I had kids?"
Fraser flushed and looked down to his tea. "The way you've been treating Ray. How understanding you've been." He shrugged, "It was... enlightening."
"I've seen a lot of kids in my years as a cop. You've seen Ray's file, haven't you?" Welsh didn't look directly at Fraser, not wanting to make him nervous.
"Yes. I have."
"He got out of high school with a D- average. Flunked out of his second year of college. Graduated in the middle of his class at the academy and got a ninety-three on his detective exam. He's a good cop, a good man. Despite his learning disability, he's done well. I've seen him through the years, I always wondered. Now I know. I've seen other kids grow up. Most of them don't adjust as well as he has, but he found something he was good at. I'm proud to have him in my squad."
Fraser nodded. "Yes, he's very good," Fraser agreed. He finished his tea. "How are we going to handle this... case?"
"I'm gonna work this one, myself. I don't want Ray involved at all. I'm gonna need his statement to get us a warrant. I don't want him there when we make an arrest. Can I count on your assistance?"
Fraser clasped his hands and stared at them. "I think it might be better for Ray if you let him be involved. He's having nightmares. I suspect that if he could be involved with stopping Adolph, he might have an easier time recovering."
Welsh finished his own cup of coffee. He stared into his empty cup, thinking. Then he sighed. "You may be right. But he's got to keep it under control. It won't do anybody any good if we screw up and the guy walks. Can I count on you to help him keep it together?"
"Certainly, sir," Fraser vowed without a second's hesitation.
Welsh nodded. "Good. That's good. You want some more tea?"
"Thank you, no. I think I'll just head for bed, now." Fraser rose and rinsed his cup in the sink. As he left Welsh pouring himself another cup of coffee, he softly added, "Good night, Harding."
"Good night, Ben."
He knew it was going to happen, so he waited for it. Less than an hour later, just after he dumped out the last of the coffee and headed upstairs, he heard it. The faint whimper of a child with night terrors. He had gone upstairs earlier to change into his pajamas and had been waiting patiently for what he knew was going to occur.
He turned out all the lights as he headed up the stairs. He didn't hesitate for a single moment but went straight in and gathered the whimpering Ray into his arms, just as if he were his son. He stretched out beside Ray, cradling him and soothing him, murmuring soft reassurances. He didn't turn when Fraser came to the door, just kept murmuring soothingly.
"Is he all right?"
"The usual. He'll be fine."
Fraser watched as Welsh cuddled the nightmare away. He felt tears sting his own eyes as Ray brokenly asked "Dad?"
"I'm here, son. You're safe. I won't let anyone hurt you again. I promise."
"Y-you believe me?"
"Of course I believe you, Ray. You're a good boy."
"I love you, daddy."
"I love you, too, son."
Fraser had to turn away, hanging his head; despite the reason for it, he envied Ray at that moment.
Welsh didn't even notice when Fraser left, he was too concerned with calming Ray back to sleep.
He had planned on only staying a short while, until he was sure Ray was going to be all right, but his own tiredness caught up with him and he fell asleep as well.
Warm, snuggled close. For just an instant, he thought of Stella, then the shape he was cuddled up to registered. Opening his eyes in surprise, Ray discovered himself cradled in Welsh's arms, his head on the older man's shoulder. Welsh was sound asleep, breathing heavily. For a moment, Ray was totally confused, then the nightmare was remembered, and he was embarrassed. Unfortunately, his attempt to withdraw only served to wake the lieutenant.
Seeing the blush on Ray's face, he grunted and sat up. "Don't worry about it, Ray. None of this is leaving this house," he said gruffly, his vocal chords not yet fully functioning.
"I'm sorry." Ray whispered. Welsh turned back to look at him. He smiled gently and reached out to grasp Ray's shoulder.
"You have nothing to be sorry about, son. I can't understand why your folks wouldn't believe you, but I do. I've been a cop a long time, so I know what you're going through. I promise, I'll stand by you and help you get through this."
Ray looked at him in surprise. "Why?"
"Because you're a good man, Ray. And you didn't deserve what happened to you. On one hand, I'm sorry you ever remembered, but on the other, I'm glad you did. He's got no record, Ray. He's been getting away with it for more than twenty-five years. How many other kids has he hurt in that time?"
Ray nodded. It wasn't just about him, but all the victims that came after him. "So, what do we do? You say he's got no record?"
"Yeah. He lives in an apartment in our district. Besides his regular job at one of the factories, he's also the building's favorite baby-sitter. He's been there about six months. He seems to move about every six or seven years, when the kids in the building get old enough to say something. He always moves to apartments where there are a lot of younger couples with kids. He spends some time making friends, then starts to offer to baby-sit. He's probably drugging the kids so they don't remember. It keeps 'em quiet, and unaware of what happens to them." He stopped when he saw how pale Ray got. "We're gonna get him, Ray."
"How? We got no probable cause. We got nothin' to go on."
"We have you, Ray. I think we need to bring CPS into this. I've got a friend over there. I'm sure she'll help us. After all, it's her job, but it's also her calling, if you know what I mean?"
"Not really," Ray looked up at him, uncertain.
"Kinda like Big Red and righting wrongs. She's got a real jones for kids. She's a good lady. I think you'll like her."
Ray grinned slyly. "Sounds like you like her a lot, sir."
Welsh blushed. "Yeah. I do. But we're just friends, is all." There was a wistfulness to his voice that Ray readily recognized.
"You ever tell her how you feel?"
"Nah," He turned away and stood up. "She's divorced, too. Her husband left her because she can't have kids, and she blames herself. It's just one of those things."
Welsh smiled a bit sadly, "Me too, kid. Me, too." He left the room. Ray stared after him, wondering about how someone as tough as he'd always seen the lieutenant to be could be so...so gentle and caring.
Shaking his head, Ray pushed back the covers and rose, shuffling down the hall to the vacant bathroom.
Fraser was, of course, already up and outside, taking Dief for a walk. He returned just as Ray came downstairs. Welsh had started the coffee and put the tea kettle on to boil.
"I got some information last night. I'm afraid there's no way to get any more until tomorrow, during business hours. CPS is closed on the weekends, except for emergencies, and this doesn't constitute an emergency. Not at the moment. Next Friday is another question, however..."
"Oh, yeah. Date night," Ray muttered.
"What is CPS?" Fraser asked.
"Child Protective Services. We need to bring them into this. I think that Ray's memories will be enough to get them on the case, and with their help, I'm hoping we can get this taken care of this week, with any luck."
Fraser nodded, "That does sound prudent, sir."
"Prudent, right, Fraze," Ray sniped. "Sorry. I kinda wanna go and just kick 'im in the head, you know?"
"I know, Ray. But we have to do this by the book. I'm going to have Huey and Dewey assigned to the case, so there will be no question of impropriety."
Ray nodded, "I get it. I don't like it, but I get it." He hung his head, the muscles across his shoulders and neck tightened. Welsh moved over behind him and began to gently rub the tightened muscles.
"I'll keep you in the loop, son. I promise. I'll want you there when we arrest him, too. You just have to promise me not to go nuts on me, okay?"
Ray relaxed under the gentle massage. He understood the need to keep him out of the primary investigation. He really did, it just...hurt so much. He nodded. "I'll keep it under control. You just better hope he doesn't run, or I'll be all over him."
"Fair enough. No one but Meredith has to know that you're the one who was the source for our information, okay?"
Ray nodded, grateful. He hardly needed for it to be common knowledge that he'd been...a victim.
The three men spent Sunday in quiet companionship. They watched a basketball game, then a movie. Welsh was a surprisingly good cook. The three men talked about things other than the current case, focusing on sports, music and, eventually, food. It was quite peaceful, much to everyone's surprise.
Ray took several naps, his bruises and broken wrist causing him to tire easily, or perhaps it was simply a case of boredom or the reaction to the medication he'd been given. Or an innate ability to store up energy when having a bit of downtime. No matter, he would doze off for ten to fifteen minutes at a time, waking just often enough to keep track of how the game was going, or how the movie was progressing. His companions let him do what he pleased, preferring him asleep to agitated over their inability to work on what was concerning them all.
Right after supper, Ray decided to go back to bed. Even though he'd been dozing off and on all day, he was still tired. His body was hurting and sleep was the best way for him to cope with it, unless he had something more pressing to keep him going. He stopped off in the library and found a book that looked interesting and took it with him to his room. He only got a few pages read before dozing off. Fraser, checking on him a short while later, took the book from his hand and his glasses from his face, placing them on the nightstand beside the bed. Carefully, so as not to wake him, Fraser eased Ray down flat, removing one of the pillows he'd bolstered himself with. Ray barely moved as he was tucked securely in, merely shifting onto his right side, cradling his cast arm to his chest. Fraser gently grasped Ray's shoulder before turning to leave. Welsh was standing in the doorway, watching.
"He's hard not to care for, isn't he, Ben?" Welsh asked softly.
Fraser looked down at his partner. "I find his usual demeanor to be merely a facade for a very gentle, childlike man."
"Tender-hearted. Yeah. He's got too much heart for this job. But that's part of what makes him good. He actually cares. Despite what he sees on the job, how bad things can be. He's still kept that...innocence. I think I understand how, though. Like these memories. He buries all the bad stuff, hides it. But every now and then, it comes back to bite him in the ass." He shook his head. "I don't know if I could be that strong, you know?"
"Yes. I understand. He's very good at what he does. He does care a great deal about things."
"Yeah, like that ex of his...can't understand why he lets her beat him up, though." Welsh shrugged. "Oh, well, not like I can do anything about it." He turned to go back downstairs and back to the movie.
"Do you think that Ms Kowalski might be assigned to this case, sir?"
Welsh paused. "God, I hope not. That's the last thing he needs."
One thing about spending most of a weekend sleeping, come Monday morning, you tend to wake up early. Ray awoke slowly, stretching himself awake. His eyes were still closed as he snuggled down under the covers. Opening his eyes, he smiled to himself. Yeah, the bruises still hurt, but he wasn't as stiff as he had been. His wrist still hurt, but that, too, was better than it had been. He was hoping that he could stop taking the pain pills, but knew that he'd keep them with him, just in case. He smiled. He'd slept without nightmares, and he was feeling good about it.
Sliding out of bed, he went downstairs and started a pot of coffee. Going back upstairs, he gathered fresh clothes and headed for the bathroom to shower and dress for work.
Fraser was surprised to find Ray not only awake before him, but already downstairs drinking coffee. He'd even taken Diefenbaker out for a walk and fed him. Adjusting his lanyard as he entered the kitchen, he was even more astonished to be handed a cup of hot tea. Ray just grinned at him.
"Thank you, Ray. I take it that you're feeling better?" he asked, taking a sip.
"Yeah. Not a single nightmare." He shook his head, uncertain. "I don't know why, but I slept great."
"Perhaps you feel safe, here?" Fraser ventured, softly.
Ray grinned up at him. "Could be, Benton-buddy. Could be."
Welsh chose that moment to come downstairs. Ray jumped up and poured him a cup of coffee. Welsh gratefully accepted it.
"Thanks. You seem pretty chipper this morning," he observed. "Sleep well?"
"Great, thanks. Slept great." Ray grinned, then blushed and looked away. "'Course, you probably noticed that, seein' as how I didn't wake you both up from my stupid nightmares."
"Your nightmares aren't stupid, Ray," both Welsh and Fraser said at the same time. The three men looked at each other and Ray started to snicker, then Welsh chuckled while Fraser smiled and rubbed his eyebrow.
"Okay. My nightmares aren't stupid. Yes, I'm feelin' pretty good this morning." Ray shook his head. He couldn't get over how his partner and his boss had stayed with him, took care of him. He was more grateful than he could say, so he didn't try, much. "Thanks for takin' care of me. Both of you," he said softly.
"You're welcome." Welsh said.
Fraser smiled, "You'd have done the same, Ray."
Ray looked surprised, "Well, sure, but..."
"No 'buts' detective. You are a valuable man, and well worth taking care of." Welsh admonished, sternly.
Ray met his eyes, seeking reassurance. He apparently saw what he needed, because he nodded. "Okay." His shy smile returned, "Thanks." Welsh nodded his acknowledgment.
"You up to workin', detective?" Welsh asked, taking another sip of coffee.
Ray shook himself, wincing only a little from his bruises. "Bring 'em on, lieutenant."
"Good. How about we stop off for breakfast on the way? I hate the morning traffic and if we take the time to fix breakfast here, we'll be in the middle of it." Ray and Fraser agreed. "Good. Ray, if you'll give me a hand, maybe I can get one of the cars started so you can have your car back."
Ray's eyebrows went up in surprise. "You got another car?" He pulled on his jacket. He'd brought his suitcase down with him, so he left it by the door as he followed Welsh out. Fraser, who had also brought his pack down with him, followed them out, Diefenbaker on his heels.
Behind the house was what had once been a barn. Welsh pushed back one of the sliding doors to reveal several canvas covered shapes within. Pausing for a moment to decide, he pulled the cover off the nearest vehicle.
Ray gasped in awe. The canvas had covered a pristine 1959 Caddilac Biarritz "I didn't know that they sold any of those in the US. Man, it's cherry." He looked at Welsh who was frowning at the vehicle. "What's the matter?"
"Well, I haven't driven the boat for quite a while. Couple years." Seeing Ray's horrified expression, he chuckled, "Hey you want to try and park this thing in the city? It'd be stripped so fast..."
"Yeah. I suppose so. But a Biarritz... wow. That is some car."
"What's so special about it, Ray?" Fraser asked.
Ray turned to look at him. "The Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz was the fanciest of convertibles. It was sold mostly overseas, it's got four doors, and is the biggest rag-top ever made, I think." He shook his head in awe. "I've seen some '59 El Dorados, but never a Biarritz. Man, and it's cherry. How many miles on her?"
"Uh, I'm not sure. Eighteen thousand, maybe?"
Ray gaped. "Original?"
"Yeah. My granddad bought it just before he died. Grandma thought it was too big. Since I was the one who had kids, she gave it to me in her will. Wilson got the Mark IV Jag, and there are some others that I found when I took over the house." He shook his head and looked at Ray. "There's a '29 Duesenberg in here..."
Ray's eyes got even bigger. "OH, man! A Dussie?" He looked at the other canvas covered cars. Over in the corner, that had to be it. "Is it okay if I look?" His expression was so wistful.
"Sure, go ahead," Welsh shrugged and walked around to get into the Caddy. "I just hope this thing will start," he mumbled.
A 1929 Duesenberg. Ray couldn't believe it. He'd seen one at a car show, once. His dad had taken him. It was about the time they got the goat. Reverently, he gently folded the canvas cover up over the classic, moaning in delight as the pristine vehicle came into view. It was a bit dusty, despite the protective cover, but it was still in beautiful condition.
Fraser followed Ray. He watched in amusement, the way his friend treated the old car. It certainly had a great deal of chrome on it. He walked around the car, wondering what was so special about it. "Ray, why are you so...well, enamored with this vehicle?"
"Aw, Frase. This is one of the all-time classics. It's probably worth more than you and me make altogether in ten years." He looked in at the controls, careful not to actually touch anything. The odometer read a measly sixty-two thousand miles. He shook his head. "Oh, man. This is such a great car." Sighing, he gently re-covered the vehicle. He headed back to where Welsh was trying to get the Caddy started.
"Sounds like the battery's dead." He popped the hood and looked. Of course, he would have wanted to look anyway, but this way he had an excuse. "Hold on." Welsh stopped and Ray checked the connections, finding them tight. He also checked the fluids, which seemed okay. He then checked the plug wires and distributor wires. He found that the coil wire was loose. "Try it again."
The motor turned over, but didn't start. "What's your gas gage read?" Ray called out.
"Crap. It doesn't." Welsh called back, disgusted. "I coulda sworn there was gas in this thing."
Ray winced. "Yeah? Well, quit trying to start it. You may have varnished the carburetor. You'll need to deglaze it. When you leave gas too long, it evaporates and leaves some really crappy junk. I can maybe take a look at it next weekend for you, but not right now." He closed the hood and stroked the hood ornament. "You think you can get a car from the motor pool?"
"Yeah. Not a problem. Thanks." Welsh got out and slammed the door in annoyance.
Ray winced, then nodded. "Well, then, pitter-patter, let's get at 'er." He helped replace the tarp over the classic and then led the way back to his car. He looked at his cast, then at his car. Dropping his head, he climbed into the back seat, handing the keys to Welsh.
"Ray?" Fraser asked, letting Diefenbaker into the back with Ray.
"I don't know the way, and I'm not exactly in any shape for a lot of driving," Ray grumbled. "I'm not real comfortable with driving one handed, not with the stick."
Ray had a hard time riding in the back of his own car, but the lieutenant was so careful with his driving that he managed not to say anything about it.
"Vecchio, my office." Welsh called across the bullpen from his office door. Ray looked up from the report he'd been working on, one handed on the keyboard and, grateful for the interruption, saved it and rose to head for the lieutenant's office.
The woman was a few years older than he was, her auburn hair was short, but looked good the way it curled around her face. She could hardly be called beautiful, but there was a special warmth she exuded, kind of a 'motherliness', for want of a better word.
"Detective Ray Vecchio, this is Doctor Meredith Chapman from CPS. Ray's, uh." He frowned suddenly. How to explain how he could be Kowalski when he was still playing Vecchio?
"It's complicated, but please don't ask questions? My real name is Kowalski. Ray Kowalski." Ray knew that there was no way they could explain themselves, so he just went for it.
Dr. Chapman looked from one man to the other, her right eyebrow rose in an almost Spock-like gesture. "Harding," her voice was low, for a woman, probably got mistaken for a man on the phone, Ray thought. "What's going on?"
Welsh and Ray exchanged glances. "Uh, it's my fault. We were in a car accident Friday night and we got stranded out in the woods in the middle of nowhere. I busted my wrist and the three of us ended up huddled together to keep warm. I fell asleep, and, uh, well, I had a nightmare, the lieutenant, here figured out what it was about and started askin' me questions, and I remembered stuff from when I was a kid." Ray rattled off his explanation with almost Uzi-like speed.
She frowned. "How old were you?"
"Six to about eight, I think. Like I said, I kinda forgot about it." He blushed and suddenly couldn't meet her eyes.
She nodded. She'd dealt with other adult survivors before. "But now the memories are back and you remember who and what, right?"
Ray flinched, she sounded so... so clinical. "Uh, yeah. Pretty much."
"Can you give me your statement?"
"Sure." Ray handed her a folder he'd tucked under his left arm before he came in. Inside, was his signed statement indicating the time period and circumstances, although the description was somewhat uncertain.
She read the statement. Her frown deepened the further she read. Ray began to squirm and was looking like he was going to hyperventilate.
"This was almost thirty years ago, Ray?"
"Yes, ma'am." He couldn't stay still. His right leg began to bounce to release the pressure. She noticed.
"You remembered very well, Ray," she said as she finished reading. She looked at Welsh. "What have you found?"
"He works in a factory, Monday through Friday. Same job for the past forty years. He moves every five to seven years, always to apartments with young families in them. It looks like he makes friends with the young couples and before too long, he's offerin' to baby-sit for them. He's got no arrests, no suspicion. But it just may be that he's figured out some way to maybe drug the kids so they don't remember."
She nodded. "I tend to agree with you." She looked at Ray. "What do you think?"
"I think he's still doin' it. Like I wrote, my Bubbe came to live with us and he stopped comin' around after that. I ain't seen him since, I don't think."
"Which grandmother lived with you?"
"My dad's mum."
She looked at Welsh, calculatingly. "Okay. Thank you, Ray. If you'll excuse us, I need to talk to Harding." She saw the hope dim in his eyes. He felt she was discounting his statement. "I believe you, Ray. I just need to get some more information from Harding. You aren't actually assigned to this case, are you?"
"No. I'm just the dummy he played with first."
She was suddenly standing and leaning over him, her face flushed with anger. "You are not a dummy!" she hissed from three inches away from his face. He was still sitting, so he could only lean back a few inches to escape her. "You are the victim. He's the monster, he's the animal, he's the bad guy in this. It is not your fault. You are not to blame. Do you understand me?"
Ray desperately wanted to escape. This woman frightened him. Then the lieutenant was there, pulling her back. "Easy, Meredith. Don't get all bent out of shape. What's the kid supposed to think? His own folks didn't believe him when he tried to tell 'em. He was six years old and his parents wouldn't listen to him. Take it easy, will you?" He'd spent two nights soothing Ray from his nightmares, the last thing any of them needed was for her to bring them back.
She took a deep breath and backed away. "I'm sorry, Ray. Harding is right. You are not to blame. Not in any way. But, I also don't want to hear you disparaging yourself again, understand?"
"Y-yes, ma'am." He cast a pleading look at Welsh, "Uh, can I go, now? I still got some reports to get finished and it takes even longer when I only got one finger to type with."
"Go ahead, Ray." As soon as his detective was out of the office and the door closed behind him, Welsh turned on his friend. "I spent most of Friday night and all of Saturday with him in night terrors, and last night he didn't have one single nightmare, and now you probably just destroyed all that." He sighed. "He's a terrific cop, but he's got probably the worst self-esteem of any cop I've ever met." He shook his head and moved back behind his desk. "In spite of all that, he's the guy I'd want to handle kids in any crime."
She stared at him in surprise. "You're serious, aren't you?" At his nod, she shook her head and sighed. "I'm sorry. I just get so tired of the victims taking the blame for being the victim. I sometimes forget that the adults have often never progressed past the point in their emotional development when the abuse began." She looked through the glass to see Ray, shivering at his desk, working his computer keyboard with one finger. She watched as the civilian aid sashayed over and put her arms around him. He leaned into the embrace and the woman kissed his cheek, then pulled him to his feet and led him away.
"Who's the woman?"
Welsh looked out, "That's our Civilian Aide, Francesca Vecchio."
Meredith looked at him speculatively. "Well, she's got good instincts." They both watched the way Francesca's arms remained around Ray's slumped shoulders. They couldn't hear what she was saying, but they did see when Ray straightened up and the smile tugging at his lips when he turned to look at her as his arm slipped around her to return the hug.
"Yeah. She's a nut, but she's got a good heart."
"You okay, Ray?" Francesca asked, wrapping her arms around his slumped shoulders.
"I can't talk about it, Frannie." She hugged tighter and he leaned against her. She kissed his cheek.
"C'mon. I'll buy you some coffee and maybe, if you give me a smile, a donut." She tugged at him and he stood. Keeping one arm around him, she pulled him through the bullpen and headed for the break room. "You know, if Ray could see us right now, he'd probably punch your lights out."
Ray straightened up and couldn't suppress the smile that lifted the corners of his mouth. "Yeah, him and what army?" he asked, lifting his right arm to wrap around her shoulders, pulling her closer. They made their way to the break room.
"I really can't tell you what's goin' on, Frannie."
"I understand that, Ray, but you can tell me how you're feeling, can't you? I mean, you looked a lot more down than just a busted wrist and a ton of paperwork should make you."
"Yeah, kinda. It's somethin' that happened a long time ago that's kinda come back to haunt me. It involves my folks, and you know how me and my dad don't get along." He sat down at one of the tables.
She rubbed his shoulders, "You mean how you can't talk to your dad about anything but that old car of yours?"
"Yeah. That." He looked down into his coffee, not wanting to talk about it.
"Well, I think your dad's a jerk." Ray looked at her in surprise and she blushed, "I mean, look at you! You're a nice guy and a good cop. You work hard and you really care about people. He's stupid not to see that."
Ray relaxed and smiled at her. "Thanks. That's probably the nicest thing you've ever said to me."
"Hey, well, don't let it get around, okay?"
"Okay." He stood up and turned to take her into his arms for a hug. "Thanks, Frannie." He lightly kissed her on the lips, only to hear Dewey as he came in.
"Ewwww. Kissin' your sister, Vecchio? That's gross, man." His partner, Jack Huey elbowed him, hard.
"Leave 'em alone. Don't you know how touchy-feely Italians are with family? Back off, Tom." Jack smiled embarrassedly at the couple, who had stepped away from each other. Francesca was looking down and playing with a tendril of hair, not looking at anyone.
"Uh, yeah. Well, I got to get back to work. Hope you feel better, soon, Ray." She hurried from the room.
"Yeah, Thanks, Frannie." He looked at Dewey, "Whassamatta? Jealous?"
"Of you? Get a life." Dewey sniped back.
"Oh, so you're jealous of Frannie? That's sick, Dewey." With a final smirk at the shocked expression on Dewey's face and the laugh that Jack was trying to smother, he sauntered out.
"It's going to take a while, Harding." Meredith was re-reading Ray's statement. "He's got some good details, here. Surprising, considering he's repressed the memories for what, almost thirty years?"
"Yeah. After we got back to town and got his wrist taken care of, they gave him some stuff for the pain and between that and the rough night, he was wiped. I figured he shouldn't be left alone, in case he had any more nightmares, so I took 'em out to my house."
"You keep saying 'them'. Is someone else involved?" She was making notes from Ray's statement as she listened.
"Yeah. Benton Fraser, RCMP was with us."
She looked up, surprise on her face, "A Mountie? What's a Mountie doing in Chicago?"
"It's a long story. I'll let him explain if you meet him. He's Liaison Officer with the Canadian Consulate. He is sort of Ray's unofficial partner. He's a good cop, a little strange, but a good man."
"So, he was with you?"
"He's the reason any of us survived. We spent two days out of town talkin' to victims and witnesses. He was very helpful. He also packed our stuff in the car for the trip. When we were gettin' ready to come back, I let Ray drive, he being the most alert of the three of us. He asked if we had chains, and Fraser answered that he'd packed the car for a winter trip. His idea of packing for a winter trip includes a tent and sleeping bags."
She stared at him. "You're serious, aren't you?"
"Like I said, he's a bit strange. Grew up in the Northwest Territories. It's how he does things. How he was raised. It saved all our lives. We'd have frozen to death. It was minus two not counting the wind chill."
Meredith shook her head, "I have got to meet this man."
Harding chuckled. "Well, he should be here any time, now."
"Okay, well. I really do have enough here to get started. I'll try to work fast on this. Is this the complete list of his former residences?" she asked, holding up a printout.
"Yeah, for the past thirty years. I'm thinkin' he may have gone straight from his success with Ray to his current habit. It seems to have worked. Maybe, though, we can find one of the earlier victims who maybe remembers? Before he got quite so good at it?"
Meredith nodded. "We can try." She looked back out to the bullpen, where Ray was back at his desk, leaned back, feet on the corner, smiling and talking to a man in a red coat. "Is that your Mountie?"
Welsh looked out, "Yeah. That's him. You want an introduction?"
"Not right now. First, I want to get started on this. I'd really like to have it ready for a warrant by Friday. This creep has been successful for far too long."
"Yeah. He has." He shifted uncomfortably. "What should I do about Ray?"
She looked at him. "He probably shouldn't be left alone."
"Yeah. That's what I figured. Look, I'd like to help you on this case. Is there anything I can do?"
"Well, you can trace some of his old neighbors. Find the kids. Do a couple of interviews. Just keep me apprised of anything you find."
"You got it. Thanks, Meredith." He almost hugged her, but refrained.
"Thank you, Harding. Without this, we'd never have caught on to this animal." She patted his shoulder and exited.
Welsh approached Ray's desk. "Gentlemen."
Fraser and Ray looked up. "What's she think?" Ray asked.
"She's putting first priority on it." He almost smiled at the relief on Ray's face. "Look, I gotta do some research, so, here." He held out a house key. "I want you to stay at the house, for now."
Fraser took the key, surprised; Ray scowled. "I don't need a baby-sitter."
"No. You don't. But you shouldn't be alone, either." Seeing the stubborn expression on Ray's face, he continued, quickly, "Meredith is afraid that you might go out huntin' for this creep. We want a clean arrest. If you're never alone, you can't be accused of anything. It's for your protection, too, Ray."
"I agree with the lieutenant, Ray. You've been a bit, well, despondent. If you don't wish to avail yourself of the lieutenant's hospitality, I'd be happy to stay with you at your apartment; or, we could stay at the consulate."
Ray frowned at them both. "You don't trust me?"
Welsh sighed and came closer, leaning down and placing a gentle hand on Ray's shoulder. "I trust you, son, but Meredith doesn't know you as well as we do. Besides," he blushed slightly, "you don't really want to be alone, do you?"
Ray looked into the lieutenant's eyes, seeing only concern there. He sighed. "No. I guess not. 'Specially if I'm gonna have any more of those dreams." He shuddered.
"Yeah, that, too. Go on out to the house. I'll be there later." Ray and Fraser nodded their agreement.
It felt strange, entering the house without Welsh there with them. It was nice and warm inside, though, especially after the well-below-freezing temperatures outside. Once inside, however, they were at a loss for what to do. Welsh had promised to bring supper home with him in a couple of hours, so, for now, they were free to do... what?
"So, now what, Frase?" Ray asked, looking around the kitchen. He'd immediately put on a pot of coffee.
"Perhaps, you could go and work on the car, Ray?" Fraser suggested.
For an instant, Ray's eyes lit up, then dimmed. "I didn't bring any tools with me, Frase."
"Perhaps the lieutenant has tools out in the barn with the cars, Ray?"
Ray looked up and his shy smile appeared. "Yeah. Maybe." He looked at Fraser, "But you better change out of the monkey suit. You don't want to get grease on it. While you're doin' that, I'm gonna go get a couple gallons of gas." Since he was still in his coat, Ray turned and went back outside to his car. There was an excited spring to his stride that brought a pleased smile to Fraser's face. He was happy to see his friend acting normally.
Thirty minutes later, they were under the hood of the classic Cadillac. Ray was panting with excitement as he checked the fuel lines and found the clogged fuel filter. He'd thought of that and had picked up a new one, just in case. He'd also bought a gallon of B-12 ChemTool. He explained to the baffled Fraser as he worked.
"If the carb needs boiling out, we can use the B-12 for it."
"You boil car parts, Ray?"
"Not really, that's just what it's called. You dip 'em in a chemical bath to remove the deposits, the varnish and crap."
"Then, why is it called 'boiling'?"
Ray glanced up with a grin. "Because sometimes the chemical reaction bubbles, so it looks like it's boiling."
"Anyway, first problem is to replace this clogged fuel filter." He got the clamps loose and quickly blew through each side of the line to check to see if there might be something else in the line to clog it. Getting no resistance, he then installed the new filter.
"One nice thing about these big old Caddies, you can sit right inside with the engine. Of course, if this one had air conditioning, it might be a different story." He was sitting on the radiator, basically straddling the motor, his feet braced on the wheel-wells. Fraser stood to one side, acting as 'nurse', handing him tools as he requested, although Ray generally had to describe them as Fraser didn't know the proper terminology for many of them.
"Okay. That's done. Let's get the air filter off and take a look at the carburetor." He spun the wing nut that held the air filter cover on, then lifted the cover and took a good look at the air filter. He was amazed. "Oh, man. I bet this is the one it came with." He gently lifted it out and examined it. "Yep. I bet it is. Still looks good, though, considering how old it is." He handed it to Fraser, who set it gently on the mobile tool rack.
"Let's see...yeah, there's some varnish here. Pass me the B-12, Frase."
He took the gallon can and poured just a bit down the open throat of the carburetor. "Okay, Frase, go try and start it up."
Fraser climbed gingerly into the seat as Ray climbed out of the engine compartment. He turned the key and the motor caught for an instant, backfiring through the carburetor, sending up a flame accompanied by a loud bang and a puff of black smoke. Ray nodded.
"Okay. That's good. Let's get the gas in 'er and we'll see what happens. Fraser insisted on carrying the five gallon can of gas to the rear of the car, where Ray lifted up the license plate and removed the gas cap. "Wait a second. I want some B-12 in there, first." Ray carefully poured at least a quart of B-12 into the tank, then nodded for Fraser to add the gas.
"I know it's a little much for just five gallons, but you never know how bad the crud might be." He left his friend pouring gas and returned to the front, where he manually pumped the carburetor until he saw fuel spurt through the jets. He went around to the driver's side and gingerly climbed in. He sat for just a moment, feeling the luxury of leather seats and the classic elegance of the car. He took in a deep breath, smelling that classic, never to be forgotten 'Caddie smell'. Reaching for the key, he pressed the gas pedal down half-way and turned the key.
It took a few seconds, but then the engine roared to life. Fraser stood beside him, watching. As the plume of black smoke emerged from the tailpipe, Fraser started coughing and quickly removed himself to outside, watching in amazement as Ray simply smiled at him and revved the engine a bit more.
It took about five minutes for the black smoke to stop. As soon as it had, Ray stopped revving the engine and let it idle. The bass purr of a big, prime engine had him grinning like a kid in a toy store. He left it running and climbed out. Going back to the engine compartment, he checked the fuel filter and carburetor. Satisfied, he got the new air filter he'd bought and installed it, then replaced the cover and tightened down the wing nut. Fraser ventured back in.
"What was the black smoke from, Ray?"
"The crud in the fuel system, Frase. The B-12 dissolved it and sent it through the fuel line, where it was burnt in the carburetor, but since it wasn't clean enough, yet, it just kind of blew out the exhaust. Black smoke is a dirty carburetor, Frase. Blue smoke means you're burnin' oil, and white smoke means you've probably blown a head gasket, it's steam from water leakin' in where it doesn't belong."
Ray grinned up at his friend, "Now, that kind of 'ah' I understand." Fraser returned the smile.
Ray went back into the car and, with his foot firmly on the brake, shifted the car through the gears, waiting almost a minute between each shift. Once he'd gone all the way through the gears, he put it back in park and got back out. Searching the engine compartment, he found the dipstick for the transmission and pulled it out. He nodded, pleased that the color indicated a clean transmission and that the fluid level was correct. He replaced the dipstick and gently closed the hood. He closed his eyes and smiled beatifically at the solid 'thunk' of the hood settling into place.
He sighed, "Oh, man. That is just beautiful."
Welsh had done some research and found that one of the neighbor kids was in jail. He made a phone call and asked to speak with the prisoner. He asked his questions and then asked if the man would be willing to make a statement. Somewhat to his surprise, the man agreed. Welsh made an appointment to go and talk to him the following day, not that the man was all that busy, sitting in the county jail, but still....
He made a call and left a message on Meredith's voice mail explaining what he'd found out. It seemed that 'Uncle Adolph' hadn't figured out his perfect set-up immediately. The man in jail had been a victim just twenty years earlier. The case was building.
Satisfied that he'd done what he could, he'd sent out inquiries to locate the now grown children of Adolph's neighbors, now all he could do was wait. He left his office. He was surprised to find Francesca Vecchio waiting for him.
"Ms Vecchio. Is there something you need?"
"Is Ray okay?"
Welsh sighed. Leave it to her to recognize that something was wrong with her pseudo-brother. "He will be."
"He said it had something to do with when he was a kid. Is he in any trouble?"
"No. He's not in any trouble. He's just got some issues that have reared their ugly heads and now, after a long time, he's got to deal with them."
Francesca examined his face, then nodded. "You taking care of him?" She was surprised when the stern lieutenant's features softened.
"Yeah. I'm takin' care of him. He'll be all right, Francesca. Maybe not right away, but he'll be okay."
"Thank you, sir. If you need any help, I'm here."
"I'll keep that in mind, Ms Vecchio." He watched as she turned away and gathered up her coat. He stepped forward and took the heavy coat and held it for her. She looked over her shoulder at him in surprise.
"You like him a lot, and I don't mean as your brother, don't you?"
She blushed and looked away, shrugging her shoulders and blushing a bit. "He's a nice guy."
"Yeah. He is." He waited while she buttoned her coat and gathered the rest of her things. "Let me walk you to your car, Ms Vecchio."
She looked up at him in surprise. "Uh, sure, thanks, lieutenant."
"You're quite welcome, Ms Vecchio." They didn't speak as he escorted her to her car. He stood silently as she got in and started the engine. He raised a hand to return the wave she gave him as she pulled away. Turning to his own temporary vehicle, he got in and prepared for the long drive home, forgetting to stop for supper on the way.
When he pulled into the driveway, he saw what looked like black smoke coming from the back of the house. Concerned, he parked and got out of the car. Walking quickly, he went around to the back and heard the sound of a big car engine. He came quietly up behind Ray as he put the hood down.
"Oh, man. That is just beautiful." Ray said, a big smile on his face as he looked at the now purring car.
"Sounds good. What was wrong with it?" Welsh asked.
Ray jumped and spun, his eyes widening in his startlement. "Oh, man. You scared me." His right hand was at the base of his throat as he gasped for air.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you. So, what was wrong with it?"
"Clogged fuel filter and dead gas, mostly. I picked up a new fuel filter, an air filter, and some B-12 ChemTool. Fixed it right up."
"And five gallons of gas, Ray," Fraser reminded.
"Sounds good." Welsh looked over the car. It did, indeed, sound good. He glanced at Ray. "Wanna take it out for a spin?"
Ray goggled at him. "You mean I can ride in it?" He was vibrating like a hunting dog upon seeing his master take down his rifle.
"How about I let you drive it? We can take it down to the gas station and fill it up."
"Oh, man," Ray moaned. "I'd love to!"
Welsh smiled. Catching Fraser's pleased expression, he winked. "Then let's go. Constable?"
"Certainly, sir." He opened the driver's side rear door and climbed in. Ray scrambled into the front seat and began looking for the lever to adjust the seat forward. Welsh went around to the passenger side and got into the front seat.
"Controls are in front, underneath. They're electric." Ray quickly found the proper control and the seat glided smoothly forward.
"If you need to sit higher, the control is on the side, there's two toggle buttons, one for the seat height, the other for tilt. Go ahead. I can always readjust it when I need to."
Ray played with the controls for a couple of minutes until he had them adjusted just right. The car didn't have seat belts, and he frowned. He'd never driven a car that didn't have them. Welsh grinned and shrugged. Ray beamed at him and carefully shifted into drive.
"You know, this is the only car I ever heard of that had the gears set up this way."
"Yeah. They found out real quick it's not a good idea to put reverse below first. Probably one reason why there's so few of them left, that and that they were recalled in '79 for some kinda transmission problem."
"What's so odd about the gear shift, Ray?"
"Well, from left to right, you got park, neutral, drive 4, drive three, low two, low one, then reverse. If you gotta downshift, like for a steep hill? You might overshoot and put it in reverse by mistake."
"Understood. Drive four?"
"Yeah, it's got a four-speed automatic. For highway driving. Kinda like overdrive. You know, fifth on a modern stickshift."
"Oh." Fraser's reply indicated he didn't really understand, but Ray understood.
"It's for high-speed cruisin', Frase. You use the drive three around town." He glanced at Welsh as he came to the end of the driveway. "So, where to?"
"Make a left, go down to the stop sign, make a right." Welsh instructed.
The enormous eighteen-and-a-half-foot long car drove like a dream. Ray followed directions and soon they came to a shopping mall. People turned to stare at them as they cruised by, the huge car's engine purred like a lion, and Ray was practically dancing in his seat. Spotting the gas station on the corner, Ray made for it. Pulling up at the pump, he turned the motor off and just sat for a moment, relishing the attention they, or rather, the car, was getting. All three men got out. Ray insisted on pumping the gas, and Welsh just smiled and let the kid have his fun. He went to the booth to pay.
"Premium, Ray," he advised when he saw Ray's uncertainty. Ray gave him a huge grin and picked up the nozzle and started pumping. At twenty-one gallons and over forty dollars later, the tank was filled. Welsh paid and headed back to the car. There were several people standing around and staring, none daring to come too close to the vehicle.
"What is that?" One man asked. Welsh smirked when Ray frowned and turned on the questioner. "It's a '59 Caddy. Ain't you never seen one?"
"Well, sure. But not a rag-top with four doors. I've seen an El Dorado, but they only have two doors.
"Yeah, this is the El Dorado Biarritz. Not a lot of them ever made." Ray grinned. He was thrilled with the attention the car was getting, and he got to drive it.
The man nodded. "It's pretty cherry." another, younger man said.
"All original, and only eighteen thou on her." Ray bragged. The men looking at the car were practically drooling.
"Yours?" one asked.
"Mine." Welsh put in. Seeing Ray's face, which was still happy, after all, he'd been allowed not only to ride in the car, but to drive it. "I figured my kid fixed it, so he should get to drive it, for once." Ray's face, happy before, lit up in ecstasy. Fraser beamed at Welsh, planning on thanking him on behalf of his friend, later.
The men gathered around admiring the car cast envious looks at Ray. One muttered, "Some kids got all the luck." Ray turned on the man. He was older than Ray, and Ray's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"I know you from somewhere?" he asked. The man pulled out a pack of cigarettes and shook one out. Ray looked at the man's right hand. He was missing two fingers. Like a lightbulb going off, he remembered. Backing away, he drew his pistol and pointed it at the man. 'Ralph Jessup, you are under arrest for, uh," he had to think.... Oh, yeah. "For grand theft, auto, carjacking, and felonious assault!"
Jessup stared at him in shock. Welsh had drawn his own revolver to back Ray up, even though he had no idea why Ray had pulled his weapon. Hearing the guy's name, he remembered. The rest of the group froze, terrified at the sudden appearance of the guns, too afraid to run away. Fraser watched the crowd while Welsh cuffed the suspect. Tilting his head to one side, he moved around and firmly grasped one man by the elbow.
"I believe the officers would like to speak to you, as well." Ray looked over and saw Fraser. He also saw the man Fraser was holding pull a butterfly knife from his pocket.
"Fraser!" Ray practically screamed, turning his gun from Jessup to the new threat. Fraser had been paying attention, however, and Ray's panicked warning didn't distract him. He saw the knife come up, flipping open and dodged the blow. Still holding on to the man's arm, he twisted, getting behind him, and wrenched the captive arm up behind the man's back.
"I believe this gentleman might be an acquaintance of Mr. Jessup's, Ray."
Welsh looked over, having secured Jessup. "Why, Charlie Wexford. I thought you were still in stir." He moved over and took Ray's cuffs from his hip and then proceeded to cuff Wexford. "Good work, detective. These guys have been on the hotlist for what, three weeks, now?"
"Yeah. Lucky I still read the watch commander's notes, huh?"
"Very good, Ray. Excellent work." He looked at Jessup. "You thought you were gonna take my car?" He shook his head. "You gotta be nuts. This is one of maybe a dozen Biarritzes in the country. You couldn't even cut it up for parts." He looked over at Ray, who was scolding Fraser for, once again, risking his life when he wasn't armed. The gas station attendant had called 911 the moment he'd seen the guns. By the time Ray was scolding Fraser, sirens could be heard approaching. Welsh looked around and saw the attendant had locked himself in his booth. He smiled and gave the kid a thumb's up. The kid smiled uncertainly and stayed where he was. The rest of the group who had been admiring the car had backed off, afraid of the two men with guns; although, since they had handcuffed the other two men, they were fairly certain the two men were cops.
"Fraser, how many times do I have to tell you? Do not do that! You do not have a gun, you could get hurt. You're just lucky that guy didn't stick you, you know?" Ray was on a roll. Fraser had to struggle not to smile. He knew he had been perfectly capable of handling the situation, but it made him feel good that Ray cared so much for him.
Ray had finished his scolding by the time the patrol cars arrived. Welsh identified them to the officers and turned the suspects over to the patrolmen to transport. He assured them that he and his men would pass on their reports to the local district the next day.
"Well, gentlemen. How about some supper? I'm in the mood for a nice, steak dinner. How about the Sizzler?"
"Is it safe to leave your car in the parking lot, sir?" Fraser asked.
"Sure, 'cause we'll be in a window, keepin' an eye on it as we eat." He insisted that Ray drive. Ray was all over that idea. He followed Welsh's directions to the Sizzler and parked very carefully, a bit out in the parking lot, where no one was likely to park next to the car and thus protect it from any damage.
Ray was always hyper after a good bust. Probably due to the adrenaline rush. He could hardly hold still as they ordered their food. Welsh was secretly pleased. Between arresting a couple of bad guys and getting to not only work on the car, but to be allowed to drive it, maybe he'd be able to sleep through the night without any problems. Welsh certainly hoped so, and from the look he exchanged with Fraser, the Canadian was thinking the same thing.
It also appeared that an adrenaline rush also increased Ray's appetite. He'd gotten the salad bar along with his steak and baked potato. He wound up going back through the salad bar four times, and still put away a sixteen ounce porterhouse. His companions watched him in awe.
"Where the hell do you put it all, Ray?" Welsh asked.
"Huh?" Ray replied as he dug into his third helping of Fetuccine Alfredo.
Welsh shook his head. "You must have the metabolism of a bird, Vecchio."
"Why?" Ray frowned, trying to decide if he was being insulted.
Fraser couldn't hold back the chuckle. "A bird eats its own weight each day, Ray. They have very high metabolisms. The humming bird, for example needs to consume three times it's weight each day just to survive."
Ray frowned. "You sayin' I eat too much?"
"Not at all, Ray. Just that it's nice to see you actually fill up, for a change." Welsh smiled at him. "Go to it, Detective."
Ray still wasn't sure, but shrugged and continued eating. After supper, both Welsh and Fraser cast surreptitious glances to see if Ray's middle showed the quantities of food he'd crammed in. For once, there was a slight bulge to his usually concave abdomen. Welsh and Fraser exchanged knowing smiles. Get Ray excited, then feed him. One way to maybe put a bit of meat on his bones.
Once again, Welsh let Ray drive. Now, however, Ray was full and starting to feel drowsy. They headed straight back to Welsh's house, where Ray carefully backed the enormous car into its place in the barn. Getting out, the three men pulled the canvas cover back over the vehicle. Welsh closed the doors to the barn and, for the first time in a long time, locked them. Then they headed into the house.
Diefenbaker met them at the door, and was satisfied with the leftovers from their meal. The steak bones were just what he'd been wanting and he flopped down in the kitchen to gnaw on them.
Welsh saw that Ray was coming down from his adrenaline rush and sent him to bed. He and Fraser soon followed, since they had to get up earlier than they were used to in order to make it to work on time in the morning.
Before Welsh turned in for the night, he paused for a moment to check on Ray. He found him sound asleep, face down, the covers already kicked off the bed. Shaking his head, he went in and pulled the covers back into place, tucking them around Ray's shoulders. Ray mumbled in his sleep and turned towards him.
"Shh. It's all right, son. You're safe and no one's gonna hurt you." He was surprised when Ray smiled in his sleep. Gently tousling the spiky blond hair, Welsh headed for his own bed.
Ray slept through the night without nightmares again. He woke to a feeling of contented well-being. He stretched, thinking about the bust the night before. Talk about dumb luck! The odds of them catching Jessup and Wexford had been pretty low, but that car...and he'd gotten to drive it! That was worth a lot. He could hear someone out in the hall and slid out of bed, pulling the covers neatly back into place. He opened the door just in time to see Fraser and Dief head down the stairs. He figured that Welsh was still sleeping, so he headed to the bathroom to shave and shower before getting ready for work.
First thing on the agenda was the report of the previous evening's bust. He was smiling as he pecked away one-handed on his keyboard. Francesca sauntered by and paused to watch him.
"You're looking better today, Bro," she told him.
"Yep. Had a great night. Got to drive a real rare classic and caught a couple a bad guys ,too." He smiled at her.
"What were you driving?" She came over and sat on the corner of his desk.
"'59 El Dorado Biarritz." Seeing her incomprehension. "It's a big, four-door ragtop Caddie," he explained.
"How'd you get to drive it?"
"I fixed it, and the owner let me drive it down to get some gas in it. At the gas station, that guy, Jessup, the one's been in the dailys? Well, he was there. I thought he looked familiar, but when he pulled out his smokes, I saw his hand, the one with the missing fingers?" His partner was with him, and Fraser snagged him while Wel...we were slapping the cuffs on Jessup. It was a great night, only now I gotta do the report."
"Good work, Ray. So, this guy who owns the fancy car, he rich?" She was fingering the paperwork on his desk, trying to look innocent. Ray was not fooled.
"I don't think so. He inherited the car. Though, I suppose if he sold it, he'd have some big bucks. I think he plans on keepin' the car, though."
"Oh." Frannie sighed. "Well, if he ever lets you drive it again, can I have a ride?"
Ray looked up at her in surprise. "I can ask, but I doubt if he'll let me drive it again any time soon."
"Okay. Hey, you want me to bring you some coffee?" she offered.
Ray gaped at her. "Uh, you don't have to do that, Frannie."
"I know I don't have to.. I'm just offering, okay?"
He smiled warmly at her. "Sure. Thanks."
The entire week went like that, quiet, peaceful. Ray was allowed out to do follow-ups and investigations, as he was deemed capable of going out on the street by the Police Medical Unit. That was a good thing, as it gave him little time to worry about what was happening with his uncle.
Late Thursday afternoon, though, Welsh got a call. He spent over an hour on the phone, his shoulders stooped and one hand covering his face. Both Ray and Francesca noticed, and exchanged concerned glances. Dewey was oblivious, as usual, and Huey cast a couple of worried glances their way. Obviously, he'd noticed too.
When Welsh finally hung up the phone, he sat, elbows on his desk, face buried in his hands. Ray, who felt he had the best chance to find out what was wrong, tapped lightly on the door. When there was no answer, Ray took a deep breath and entered.
"Not now, Ray." Welsh's voice was a harsh, broken whisper.
"I'm sorry. What's the matter?" Ray softly closed the door behind him and approached. "I saw the call, what's wrong?" Ray was insistent. He came around behind the desk and hesitantly lay his right hand on the Lieutenant's shoulder. The muscles were bunched like rocks. Ray rubbed the base of Welsh's neck. "Tell me. You been helpin' me, now it's my turn."
Welsh sighed. "That was NYPD. Seems that my ex-wife and her husband were killed last weekend in a car accident. They'd been drinking." He shook his head. "The kids were at his parent's house. They didn't want to admit that their son wasn't the kid's real father. Jeff told the social worker this morning that I was their real dad and gave them what information he had. They finally called me." He looked up at the concerned face of his detective. "Jeff said he wants to come live with me, and the others are following his lead. I gotta get an attorney and fight the step-grandparents for custody. Jeff and Madison can choose, but the other two aren't old enough to."
"You need any help, just ask." He squeezed Welsh's neck and backed away. "I'm sorry."
Welsh smiled up at him. "I am, too. Kind of. Kind of not, though. If it means my kids come home with me, then I'm glad. I just wish it didn't have to be this way."
"Yeah. I know. I guess I'm sorta glad me and Stella didn't have any kids, although I think if we had, I'd have 'em with me."
"You're good with kids, well, except that bounty-hunter chick's kids. Those three were little monsters."
Ray smiled and Welsh returned it, albeit a bit sadly. "Well, Stell always did say I never got past bein' a kid, myself. Maybe that's why, ya think?"
Welsh couldn't help himself. He chuckled. "Oh, God. Thanks, Ray. I needed that."
"How about I take you out for supper tonight?" Ray offered. "Hey, maybe Stell could help you? She's a lawyer, after all. Why don't you ask her?"
Welsh stared at him. "You know, that might not be such a bad idea. Thanks." Ray grinned and turned to leave.
"You're welcome. Anyway, supper. Tonight, on me."
Welsh watched Ray, he seemed to be handling the stress far better than he thought possible. "You're on. Then back to the house for the Wings at the Blues?"
"I am all over that, sir." Ray grinned and left.
Ray and Fraser had spent the week staying at Welsh's house. Ray wasn't having any nightmares, but understood Welsh's concern that he not be alone, just in case. Dr. Chapman had come by several times to talk to the lieutenant, but hadn't needed to speak to Ray again. By Friday, however, Ray had begun to brood.
Welsh had kept him apprised of the investigation. They now had quite a bit of evidence. Meredith was ready to ask for a warrant. But first, Ray needed to do something for himself.
"Frase, I need to go do something." Ray was fidgeting, unable to remain still. He'd been brooding since the day before, prior to Welsh's call. He had been angry and growing more-so the more he learned about his uncle's activities.
"Where are you going, Ray?"
"I gotta do something. Uh, I may be late gettin' back. If I'm late, go ahead and go with the lieutenant, if the warrant comes through."
"Ray? Should he ask, I need to be able to tell the lieutenant where you've gone."
Ray wouldn't look at him. "I gotta talk to my folks before we do this." He looked up, misery in his eyes. "I gotta ask 'em why. Depending on their answer, I...I may be walkin' back." Head down, Ray moved quickly to the door and out. Fraser watched, concerned. Frowning, he considered for a few moments, then went and knocked on the lieutenant's door.
"Constable. Good news. The warrant has been sighed. We can go as soon as we decide how to go about this." He frowned, "Where's Ray?"
"He, ah, has gone to speak with his parents, sir. He said he needed to ask them why. He also indicated that he might have to walk back from their residence."
Welsh frowned. "Damn. That is not a good thing." He looked at Fraser, "Okay, you stay here, when the warrant arrives, start putting together a team to go in."
"If I may make a suggestion, sir?"
"Of course, constable."
"If we wait until this evening, there would be an excellent chance of catching him, uh, in the act, as it were."
Welsh stared at him, frowning. Then he nodded, reluctantly. "Good point, constable. And, if we go in with cameras..." he shuddered..."Yeah. That might be a good idea." He stood and grabbed his coat. "Okay, get Huey and Dewey and have them set up some uniforms and patrol units. Get someone out there to watch now. I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Yes, sir. Ray left about fifteen minutes ago. I doubt if you'll be able to catch him."
"I don't want to stop him. I just need to be there to pick up the pieces."
Fraser looked at the floor, frowning. "Understood."
Ray pulled up beside his parents motorhome. He got out of the car. He was frowning. He took a deep breath to steel himself and headed for the door. He knocked softly. He looked up as the door opened, seeing his mother standing there, smiling in surprised delight at his appearance.
"Stanley! Why, come in, dear. Look, Damien, look who's come to visit! Are you hungry, Stanley? Of course you are. Come on in. I'll fix you something."
As usual, his mother rambled on, never letting him get a word in edgewise; not to mention that she wouldn't have listened, even if he'd tried. He looked at his father, who gazed at him, his expression neutral. Ray thought of all the times he'd tried to talk to his father, and how he never seemed to be able to communicate with him, unless it was about the car. He fingered the keys to the GTO in his pocket.
"What brings you out here, Raymond?" his father asked him bluntly, somehow knowing his son's appearance was serious.
"I gotta ask you about Uncle Adolph." Ray straightened up to his full height and forced himself to meet his father's eyes.
Damien Kowalski looked at him in surprise. "What about him?"
"When I was a kid, when I tried to tell you he molested me, why didn't you believe me?"
"What are you talkin' about? You callin' a spankin' abuse, now?"
"No. He never spanked me, dad. He did...other things, but he never spanked me. Why didn't you know that? Why did you let him keep on hurtin' me for two years?"
"You're crazy, Raymond. You don't know what you're talkin' about," his father raged. "He said you were bad and he had to spank you."
"I said he hurt me. I never said he spanked me, I said he hurt me. Why couldn't you understand? You know I never was good with words. Why didn't you listen to me? Why didn't you believe me? Why did you let that monster do those things to me for two stinkin' years? Why..." He broke off abruptly as his mother stepped in front of him and backhanded him. His head snapped to the side, his lip split by her ring.
"How dare you say such things, Stanley," his mother raged. "You don't know what you're talking about."
He had tears running down his cheeks. He looked her in the eyes, his fingers touching the handprint on his cheek. He said not a word. He pulled out his keys and lay the two keys to the GTO on the counter. He turned and exited the motorhome. He ignored his parent's shouts for him to come back, His father's pleas to just listen, his mother's cries to wait, that she was sorry. Shoulders slumped and head down, he walked away, his tears blinding his eyes, his hands in his pockets.
He kept his blurred vision on the patch of road before him, not looking anywhere else. His heart and mind were in turmoil. He never imagined his mother would hit him. He couldn't understand, but he would deal with it. Much as he was hurting, he had a job to do. He just hoped he could get back in time.
"Get in, Ray."
He jumped at the car that had pulled up beside him. He looked around, startled at the familiar voice. Frowning, he approached and opened the door, climbing into the passenger seat. "Fraser tell you?"
"He was worried. I figured out what you had planned. The warrant is on the way. We're goin' in tonight. You want in on this?"
Ray wiped the tears from his face with his right sleeve. "Yeah."
"Okay, then. Just remember to stick close to me, all right?"
"Yes, sir." Welsh cast a concerned look at his passenger, the kid was doing his best to pull himself together, but it didn't really look very successful.
"I'll be okay, sir. Just give me a minute, okay?" His eyes clenched closed when Welsh reached over and clasped his shoulder.
"Who hit you, Ray?"
Welsh stifled a curse. He pulled over and stopped, turning the engine off. "Come here," he urged, taking the now sobbing Ray into his arms. He just held him until Ray regained control. He pointed to the glove box and Ray opened it and took out some tissues to wipe his face and blow his nose. He turned to look out the window, unable to meet Welsh's concerned gaze.
"Yeah. Me, too."
Understanding that there was nothing he could do, Welsh started the car and continued back towards Chicago.
They got back just in time to finish coordinating the serving of their warrant. CPS was prepared to go in with cameras. Their stakeout indicated that several parents had already dropped their young children off at Adolph's apartment. They waited one more hour, then moved in.
Ray was given the dubious honor of kicking the door in. The hit was a complete surprise to Adolph and his accomplices. Ray took one look and turned away, falling to his knees and vomiting. Unfortunately, he hadn't eaten since breakfast, so the only thing that came up was bile. The CPS people came in fast, cameras flashing. There were two with video camcorders and one each with a digital camera, a thirty-five millimeter camera, and a polaroid camera.
The four men didn't have time to react. The rest of the police came in fast, several officers having to fight the desire to join Ray in tossing their cookies. They quickly rescued the children, discovering immediately why the perps had never been caught. The six toddlers were, at best, semi-conscious. The paramedics came in and took charge of the victims. Ray remained on his knees, unwilling, or unable, to look. His dry heaves kept him rather helpless.
There was, unbeknownst to the officers, a fifth perp. He'd been in the bathroom and attempted to sneak out. He reached the door and started running. Ray, despite his weakened state, saw him and lunged at him, managing to snag him by one leg. Surprised, the man fell, yelling. Ray was up and had him pinned before the man had a chance to recover. Ray sat on the man's back and held him down, pulling out his handcuffs and fastening the man's hands behind him.
"Good job, Vecchio," Welsh said softly as he bent to help Ray up. Ray was trembling violently, unable to look at anyone. "Constable?"
"Yes, sir?" Fraser was there immediately. Welsh gave him a look and gestured with his head for the Mountie to take Ray out of there. Fraser nodded and took Ray's arm, gently urging him to follow him out. Ray didn't say a word, but followed his partner from the building.
Once they were outside, Ray pulled away. He sucked in great draughts of air, as though he'd had the wind knocked out of him. He wrapped his arms around himself and started to shiver. He couldn't take his eyes away from the ambulances and the paramedics working on the children. Fraser was extremely uncomfortable and didn't know what to do. When he noticed the tears running down Ray's face, he hesitantly approached and reached out one arm to his friend.
Ray felt the hand touch his shoulder. He turned towards the figure and brought up one hand to wipe his eyes. Shudders shook his body as he swallowed hard. "Benton? Uh," he gasped, trying to regain control of himself.
Fraser was surprised at the use of his first name. "What do you need, Ray?" he asked gently.
"I uh, I need a hug? Please?" Fraser couldn't resist the plea. He tugged at Ray's shoulder, drawing him closer, Ray's breath caught, he moved closer and wrapped his arms around Fraser's body, burying his face against his chest, sobbing. Fraser wrapped his arms around Ray's shoulders, hugging him close.
They stood for a while, as Ray soaked up Fraser's warmth and comfort. When they brought the suspects out to transport them, one of them looked over at them and made a comment.
"Stinkin' fags," he sneered.
Fraser stiffened, his arms tightening around his friend's body. The cops hadn't thought anything of it. They'd all seen how Ray had lost it over the kids. Some of them were even looking at the pair somewhat enviously. Fraser glared at the suspect. He felt something snap inside. He couldn't help himself.
"I have three words for you, 'Legal Consenting Adults'." He felt Ray stiffen and let him pull away.
Ray didn't care what anyone thought at the moment. He glared at the man. "And I got," he had to pause to count up the number of words, then smiled, "Six words for you. 'You, Prison, fresh meat, sexual hijinks'." His smile turned feral as the man paled and one of the cops snickered. "Oh, and four more. 'Get used to it.'" He stood on his own with Fraser behind him providing more than just moral support. They watched as the suspects were hustled into the paddy wagon and transported.
Ray glanced at Fraser, who was looking at him in concern. "Ray, would you like to leave, now?"
"No." Ray looked down for a moment., then back at the apartment building. "No, thanks Frase, I think I need to go back inside and see if I can help. Even if it's just to clean up the mess I made."
"Understood," was Fraser's soft answer. He followed his partner back into the apartment.
Welsh spotted them the moment they came in. He frowned and made his way over to them. "You all right, detective?"
"No," Ray answered honestly. "But I will be. I need to work this. What can I do?"
Welsh looked closely at his detective. Satisfied with what he saw, he nodded shortly. "We need to locate the parents. See what you can do."
"I'm on it." Ray headed for the kitchen, as Welsh watched him go.
Turning to Fraser, he asked, "How is he, really?"
Fraser looked embarrassed, he rubbed his eyebrow and his eyes were on the floor, "He, ah, needed a hug, sir."
Welsh nodded. "And? Did you give him one?"
Fraser looked up and met the older man's eyes. "Yes, sir. I did."
"That's good, then, constable. Why don't you go keep him company?"
"Yes, sir. I think that might be a good idea." Fraser followed Ray's path to the kitchen.
:"Ray?" Fraser asked, spotting his partner sitting at the kitchen table.
"I'm okay, Fraser. Just tryin' to get up enough nerve to call the kids' parents."
Fraser was surprised. He couldn't have been more than two minutes behind Ray. "You found something?"
"Yeah. List of where they were going to be by the phone." He took a deep breath, held it a moment, then let it slowly back out. "Okay. Go tell the lieutenant that I'm making the calls."
"Ray? Would you rather...."
"Yeah, of course I'd 'rather', Fraser. But I need to do this, okay? Please?" He turned his pale, drawn face up to look at his partner, the pleading expression in his eyes made Fraser's decision for him.
"Understood. I'll just go and tell the lieutenant."
"Thank you, F...Benton."
Fraser paused, concerned, then realized what Ray had really meant was 'that's being buddies'. "You're most welcome, Ray." They nodded their understanding to one another and while Fraser turned towards the door, Ray picked up the phone and dialed the first number on the list.
He was careful in his approach to the parents of the children, merely informing them that something had occurred and that they needed to come home, at which time they would have everything explained in more detail. When he had finished the final call, he dragged himself up and out to pass on his information. The CPS people thanked him and got ready to receive the parents. The police investigation was complete, for now, and everyone was starting to wrap things up before returning to either the station or, in the case of the uniforms, to patrol.
Welsh watched Ray as he talked with the CPS people. When Ray had finished, he caught his eye and waved him over. Ray wearily came, his hands stuffed in his jacket pockets; his head down and his shoulders slumped as though the weight of the entire world had settled on him. Welsh could understand.
Welsh lightly lay a hand on Ray's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I hate to do this, but we need to go in and make out our reports. Then we'll go back out to my house and just relax for the rest of the weekend, if that's okay with you."
"Sure, lieutenant," Ray replied, taking a deep breath and forcing himself fully erect. His eyes were haunted as he observed the first of the parents arriving, only to be intercepted by the CPS people. He turned away, unable to face the anguish that they would be feeling when they learned what...a woman's scream nearly took him to his knees and he didn't even try to stop the tears. With a gasp, he pushed away from Welsh and ran blindly for the car.
"Fraser, stay with him," Welsh demanded as he turned away to finish up his portion of the raid.
To Part Two
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