Carling tossed her briefcase on the foot of her bed, and kicked off her heels as she flopped down on the bed. Thinking about the luncheon with her parents brought a bright grin across her face. Not only had they been supportive, but insisted on meeting Kate as soon as possible to welcome her to the family.
They had spent most of lunch discussing the last three and a half weeks and insisted on having a dinner party for her the following night so she could relay her news to the remainder of her family. Carling sighed as she wished Kate could be there with her, but they would arrange something as soon as the lake had been searched.
The afternoon at her office had been spent in reviewing her notes, and the forensic evidence that her testimony would cover the next day. The DNA findings and slides were in the slide cartridge for the trial, and she had diligently gone over the questions in her mind that she knew the district attorney would be asking her. She was confident in her preparation and was ready to offer her findings.
Her mind returned to Kate, and she quickly looked over at the clock radio to see the time, hoping it would be late enough to call her lover.
"Nope, she won’t be home for at least another hour. I might as well take a hot bubble bath." Carling sat up and started removing her blouse. "Hmmm… hot bubble bath. Geewillikers! I wish Kate were here to bath me," she sniggered, easing off the bed and pulling her panty hose down slowly, almost as if she were in a trance thinking about the long fingers of the tall woman and the last time she had undressed her. "Well, at least to take a bath with me," the green eyes flashed an impish flicker before she entered the bathroom and turned on the water.
The days passed with a persistent loneliness that pulled at Carling’s heart. Even Shelby running around the house, jumping up on her only partially alleviated the lonesomeness. They had discussed Shelby returning with her. Kate was ecstatic about having a dog around, and said there was no reason for Carling to be without her pet. Kate made it even easier when she said the ducks and geese needed some exercise and that there was plenty of room at the lake for her dog. She smiled at her lover’s suggestion and had agreed to bring her longhaired housemate back with her. But, that didn’t help all that much. She simply missed her lover. She missed Kate!
She gazed at her laptop bleakly. Not that it mattered; she hadn’t written a word since she’d sat down. It looked terribly out of place on the coffee table for she had become so used to sitting at the kitchen table in the evenings with Kate. She’d worked on one thing or another, often lying on the couch with the computer on her tummy while her feet rested in Kate’s lap. She missed the tall woman so much.
Shelby ran over to her, and back through the hallway to the back door of the townhouse, indicating she needed to be let out in the back yard. Carling got up, and stepped aside as she opened the door and the golden haired dog ran out to do her evening business. "That privacy fence is one of the best investments I have ever made," she said, seeing the lovable animal run full speed around the fence. She closed the door, knowing Shelby would bark when she was ready to come back in.
A knock at the door startled her somewhat. Going into the living area of the townhouse, she felt the blood drain from her face as she saw a feminine outline through the curtains covering the glass inlaid glass side window of the door. An unwavering resentment seized her, making it impossible for her to move. "How did she get past the security gate?"
When the knock was repeated, Alison yelled, "Carling, are you all right? Come to the damn door."
Carling expelled her breath in a rush, but took her time in reaching for the night chain. She unlocked the door and pulled it open. "Hello, Alison, stop yelling on my front stoop, you’ll disturb my neighbors. Much more to the point, how did you get in here?"
"Please, Carling let me come in. We have to talk." Alison pleaded, and attempted to push past the shorter woman into the townhouse.
Carling quickly placed her arm across the door opening and leaned her shoulder against the doorframe. "It’s not going to happen, Alison."
Alison scanned her face searchingly, and then frowned. Carling looked immaculate and as radiant as a new shiny penny. Alison’s long, lean fingers gently wiped away a fake crystal tear that clung to her cheek.
"Tears? Carling’s voice was sympathetic, but she was not going to give her ex so much as an inch.
Alison clinched her teeth, "What have you been doing, Carling, and where have you been?" The shorthaired blonde had tried for three years to get back in Carling’s good graces. However, the young pathologist had drawn the line with her previous behavior and had stated many times she wanted nothing to do with her, not even as friends.
Carling took a deep breath, paused, but didn’t answer, and let the intrusive questions clunk to the floor.
"Stop being coy, Carling and let me in so we can talk." Alison retorted bluntly.
Carling continued to look at the questioner, blinking in an amused way, her eyebrows raised, and a wry smile on her full lips.
"Come on, Babe, don’t be such a hard-ass, let me in." The voice changed to a plea, hoping to touch the sensitivity she knew Carling possessed.
"I beg your pardon!" Carling continued, looking at her questioner in a way, which clearly implied, no.
"Carling, when are you going to forgive me? Can’t we at least be friends?"
The small figure blocking the doorway only observed how repetitious and ridiculous her former lover was behaving and tried not to laugh.
"Answer me damn you!" Alison took a step forward.
Carling held up her hand, palm towards the approaching woman. "Don’t."
Alison knew the young blonde had a black belt in kickboxing and would defend herself if necessary. "Babe, let us be fiends."
"That would be using you Alison and I would never do that." Carling disliked having to use the psychological answer. But, having discussed these issues with her ex many times, and having forgiven her years before, she knew firmness was the only response to use on the full buxom blonde standing on her stoop.
"HEY! Carling, you okay?" Janet asked, standing with an arm around Nancy’s shoulders. Janet and Nancy, her next-door neighbors and long time friends stood next to Janet’s truck, which was parked in its normal place in Carling’s double size driveway. "We were going to the grocery store, and couldn’t help but hear Alison’s bellowing."
"I’m fine," she smiled at the couple that had worked out there differences and were now in a committed relationship, "She is just leaving, aren’t you, Alison." It was not a question. "Could you guys bring me back a quart of milk, please?" Carling requested, and smiled as Janet opened the door of the GMC for Nancy.
"Sure girlfriend, you need anything else?" Nancy asked through the open truck window.
"Nothing else. Thanks, guys." She waived to the women, noticing Janet was now standing with her arms crossed, just looking aggressively towards Alison, who was still standing on the stoop.
"You need to move your car so we can get out, Alison. We will follow you out of the subdivision to the security gate, and you can tell the guards how you gained access without a sticker, or a pass." No alternative was offered Alison, and the tall attorney placed her hand on her hip in a no-nonsense manner. "COME ON, ALISON. We don’t have all evening."
Alison turned to Carling, seeking a reprieve, but met firm and determined eyes.
"You need to go, Alison. Please don’t come back."
The beaten blonde turned, let out a few words of profanity as she stomped off to her car. Janet and Nancy were true to their word and followed the uninvited woman to the security gate.
Early morning twilight filtered through the thin lace curtains into the room as Carling awoke. A chilling mountain breeze from the open door touched her back with crispness that caused her to clutch the bedding to her body momentarily before she threw it back on the bed. Summer was coming to a close, and the first tinges of fall settled over the lake and house. The young woman shivers continued as she carefully eased her feet into her slipper’s warmth and pulled on her terry cloth robe, which was draped across the foot of the bed. She felt queasy, and rushed to the bathroom.
As she stared into space, not really seeing the apple orchard from the bathroom window, her thoughts drifted back to the staggering revelation she had faced the night before. What had gone wrong? What had suddenly brought her world to an abrupt halt?
Kate hadn’t talked to her in two nights on the phone and had avoided her calls during the day. She cut her off stating she was too busy or that something pressing was making it impossible to talk. She had arrived back at Kate’s home and found it empty. Kate had not come home all night, and had not called. When Carling attempted to reach her on her cell phone, it rang and rang, but Kate didn’t answer.
Carling reached for her toothbrush when she heard the front door open and Kate slowly ascend the stairs. "Finally," Carling murmured hopefully, turning to the opening bedroom door.
Kate looked at her but continued to the closet, shedding her uniform shirt. Remaining in the closet until she had donned a fresh shirt, she exited the closet with a couple of uniforms on hangers.
"Carling, I have a couple of critical meetings set." An almost gruff voice dropped an octave as the tall woman added, "I’ll be gone for two or three days."
"Three days. Sounds like a nice vacation."
Kate answered her with a harsh, guttural sound. "Not hardly."
"Okay. I get the point," Carling said. "Are you going to be alone?" Carling wasn’t sure where Kate was going, or if she was going to be with someone else. She was dealing with her fears of not being enough for Kate.
"Maybe you shouldn’t be."
"I’ve got no choice, Carling. Right about now I’m not good company for anything that lives and breathes. I wouldn’t wish myself on a dog."
"Kate, talk to me. Let me in, please. What happened? Why won’t you let me go with you?
The tall woman’s steel blue eyes stared deeply into the green ones, "I don’t do anything drastic, or on the spur of the moment, Carling. I really need to think."
"I think we have made a mistake. You are giving up too much and I have so little to offer. I’ve had time to consider what we were about to do, and I have to think this through before your life is ruined." Kate pulled a couple bras and panties from a drawer and shoved them into an overnight bag. ‘I can’t tell her how fearful I am. I am scared to death that I’ll lose her like I did Lois. It’s best I admit my fears and not put myself through that again. Okay, Kate, you are a pillar of strength in most everything, but you just can’t admit to Carling you’re afraid you’ll loose her. Just be a chicken-shit Kate and say, I have nothing to offer, she’ll never know the truth that way.’
"Don’t you think we should discuss this together? You know how I feel. That isn’t going to change. At least not from me, Kate." It was Carling’s turn to pause before she offered a very quiet and heartfelt, "Please."
The tall woman wanted to, but wanting didn’t make a case, and she had to get away from the temptation. Carling was too much of a temptation, but that wasn’t the main concern. Kate had such anxiety about losing anyone that loved her and she could not face it. Her strength only went so far. Then again, Carling was just too young for her. She needed someone closer to her age, someone that didn’t have a brilliant future and profession ahead of her. Kate wasn’t going to allow the younger woman to give up all she had trained for, and her bright future in forensics for a few years of increasing regret with her.
"No!" Kate retorted bluntly. "Willa will be assisting you the next couple of days. Check with Elaine if you need anything."
She sucked in a breath, desperately wishing Carling wouldn’t use that soulful tone with her. It was cruel and it stood for so much. As though to rid herself of the sound, she shook her head sharply. "It would never work, Carling."
"I think it would," her green eyes searched the blue ones, not understanding Kate’s reservations.
"Of course you do. Whenever you set your mind to something you think it will work."
"Kate, in the short time you have known me, have I been wrong all that often?’
The tall woman sent a beseeching glance toward the ceiling. "No, Carling, you’re usually right in your professional life. But we just jumped into this so quickly. I didn’t have the opportunity to work with you long enough before it turned personal. I’ve never mixed business with my personal life before."
"Don’t you think it’s time you tried?"
"No!" she responded seriously. The thought of working with Carling and seeing her often was both heaven and hell; she found herself being pulled by both sides, trying simply to survive.
Carling’s expression grew tight. "What is it, Kate? Don’t you think YOU can make it, can’t you commit?"
"If you’re talking about doing the work, of course I can."
"Are you afraid of the give and take in a relationship?" There was a short pause and Carling knew she had struck a nerve. "That’s it isn’t it Kate?" Carling searched Kate’s eyes. "You’re afraid we can’t work it out so that both of us are happy. You’re afraid I’ll also give up my profession aren’t you?"
Kate’s mouth dropped open, and she stared at her in disbelief. "Are you kidding? How can you even think about giving up your profession for me."
"Please, Kate, wait!" Carling pleaded, reaching up and touching Kate’s forearm. Kate turned and brushed past the smaller woman and hurried down the stairs.
"So much for being irresistible," she said irreverently as the tall woman disappeared from view. She had pleaded with Kate to let her come with her. She had asked Kate to talk, but the tall woman only shrugged her shoulders and walked out.
"Sure, Carling," her conscious taunted her. "But it isn’t fair. I should be allowed to make the decision about what I want in my life. How could she just walk away from me? I’m her soul desire, and she is mine." Talking to the air in the room, the young blonde ran her fingers through her hair. None of this was making any sense. No sense at all.
Slowly she descended the stairs, and went into the kitchen to prepare her breakfast. As usual, when she became nervous, she cooked. She cooked way too much.
Rejecting the depression that was threatening to overtake her, she reached for a plate and filled it with food she really didn’t want. As she sat down at the table, her glance was drawn to hovered at the empty chair opposite her before setting down her plate. How could she eat? Her appetite had fled when Kate had turned her request down, and refused to talk. Lethargically she picked up her fork and forced herself to eat. She tried to concentrate on the forensic analysis she had waiting for her at the laboratory, but to no avail. Two blue eyes, alight with mockery, kept getting into the way of her thoughts. Her favorite combination omelet, for all the enjoyment she received from it, might just as well have been mush. The link sausage was pushed from one side of the plate to the other.
She was wallowing in rejection when a more constructive thought struck and Carling was momentarily taken aback. Kate wasn’t accustomed to people standing up to her, particularly when she used her guaranteed-to-have-them-shaking-in-their-boots look. Kate was tough. Cracking her, or getting her to change her mind would take a different approach. But what?
The ringing of the telephone interrupted her lonely meal, and she welcomed the distraction. But when a husky, feminine voice that she recognized asked to speak to Kate, she found herself gritting her teeth. "I’m sorry, Kate can’t come to the phone right now. May I take a message?"
"Are you sure?" the caller asked suspiciously. "If you tell her Gloria Carey is on the line, I’m sure she’ll take the call. We have a dinner date tonight, and it’s imperative I speak with her."
Carling immediately took exception to the woman’s haughty tone. It would serve her right if she just told her to go jump in the lake. With an acquiescent murmur, however, she laid down the phone. Grudgingly she snatched up her cup and went to the coffee pot and poured herself another cup of the brew.
So Kate was having dinner with that cagey old lion! She sounded more like a purring cat to Carling! And if Kate wasn’t careful, she just might be dessert. The woman’s voice was irritating. Just let her wait awhile longer. If Kate was having dinner with her, she knew she wasn’t here, or did she?
Clouds of confusion drifted through Carling’s mind. What was wrong with her? She was depressed and angry, her thoughts centered on things she believed weren’t possible. Kate would never have dinner with Gloria. Never!
This state of confusion and turmoil was new to her. It wasn’t like her to blow up over trivial things, but Gloria Carey wasn’t trivial, and neither was Kate’s total rejection of her. Had she made the biggest mistake of her life? Had she wanted Kate so much that she overlooked the possibility that they simply weren’t meant to be?
"NO!" Carling stomped back to the table and picked up the portable telephone. "Gloria, Kate isn’t available to come to the phone. I have to go, I have work to do." The young blonde clicked off the phone and returned it to the cradle without saying goodbye.
"No way is Kate having dinner with that woman. No way!" She grabbed the plate and silverware from the table and took the dishes to the sink.
Squirting white dishwashing detergent into the stainless steel sink, she watched the force of the water turn the soap into bubbles. Carling thankfully immersed her hands in the warm water, hoping the activity of washing dishes would chase away her disquieting thoughts.
She could still hear the sensuous voice of the caller asking for Kate. Regardless of how she referred to their dinner date, the woman definitely didn’t have business on her mind! Carling scowled at the frying pan she was attempting to wash. Gloria was tall and leggy, with a voluptuous figure that had drawn more than its share of wolf whistles. And she had that kind of voice, the kind that oozed charisma.
Glumly she swished the pans through the rinse water before banging them loudly onto the drainer to dry. The noise relieved her tension, bringing a smile to her lips as she reached behind her to untie the apron. Turning toward the kitchen counter again, she threw the apron toward the toaster.
"Arrrggggh," sounded from her mouth as she stomped up the stair to get dressed before Willa arrived.
She came down into the hallway several minutes later to answer the ringing doorbell, shrugging into the lightweight beige sports jacket that matched her beige-colored slacks.
"C’mon, let’s go." Her lips twitched at the deputy’s questioning glare. "Don’t cloud up like a thunderstorm, Willa. In my current frame of mind, sulking won’t get you anywhere with me today."
"Well good morning to you too, Carling and I’m not sulking!" The redheaded deputy denied indignantly. "What’s your problem?"
Carling stalked to the patrol vehicle and huffily slid into the passenger seat. She wasn’t ever again going to put herself in this position. After all, she didn’t have to be beaten over the head before she got the point. If Kate wanted her to know something about her distancing their relationship, she’d have to volunteer the information, because she certainly wasn’t going to ask! Crossing her arms across her chest, she stared moodily out the window, not even bothering to look at the deputy when she got into the car.
‘What in the hell did I do?’ the deputy questioned herself, starting the car and peeling down the driveway.
Glancing over at the speeding deputy, Carling hung her head. She had been rude, unnecessarily rude. "I’m sorry, Willa. I have a million things on my mind this morning, and I had no cause to take my frustration out on you."
Willa returned the young blonde’s glance, "That’s okay. Forget it." A smirk crossed the redheads’ features.
The expression on Willa’s face would have been hilarious if Carling hadn’t been so sickened with the entire situation with Kate. As it was, she was in no mood for smart-butt remarks.
After that, they slipped into silence, but it was a comfortable silence. Willa occasionally glanced at Carling’s profile, but quickly returned them to the road. ‘Obviously, there is trouble in paradise, or my middle name isn’t Marie,’ the redheaded deputy thought, turning off the expressway onto the hospital exit. ‘This will be one of those days when I should have called in sick,’ she reflected, pulling into the laboratory parking lot and stopping next to the lab entrance.
She was correct in her assumptions, for Carling attempted to be her charming and graceful self, but was abrupt several times with the deputy. Willa didn’t understand the change in Carlings demeanor. In spite of this, Willa admired the young pathologist. Anyone that was involved with the strong willed Kate had to have something much deeper inside. Carling had jumped every time the phone rang, but none of the calls were from the sheriff. ‘So, my sweet Carling, old Kate is being her strong willed, butt headed self. I have to take my hat off to you lady, because, I damn sure couldn’t put up with her.’ The young deputy thought.
Even though Carling attempted to make the afternoon go by easier, Willa promised herself several long drinks at the local tavern after she dropped the young forensic scientist off at Kate’s. It didn’t even bother the deputy when the investigator slammed the door a little too hard and mumbled goodnight. Willa was just glad her shift was over and she didn’t have to be around the young pathologist another minute.
"Susie, I hope you’re tending bar tonight, for I definitely need your sweet company," the deputy said aloud, driving away from the sheriff’s home. Even though she knew it was against regulations, she turned on the flashing lights of the patrol car as she sped down the highway to her own house to change clothes, and head off to the bar for the much needed drink.
Entering the empty house, Carling sighed and leaned back against the front door. For a fleeting moment, an unfamiliar feeling of longing swept over her, but determinedly she hardened her heart against it. If Kate thought she was going to start chasing her, she was crazy! She may have been temporarily blinded by her charm, that feeling of déjà vu she had felt in her heart, but is wasn’t a permanent condition by any means. Her eyes were wide open. She didn’t care what Kate did, or didn’t do, or who she went to dinner with, or lying about going out of town. Any contact between them would be limited to the discussion of the cases and nothing more. Kate’s lies and rejection were of no consequences to her. If Kate didn’t care, then she didn’t care either. "Right?" Carling looked toward the stairs and muttered under her breath, "Wrong. I do care, and I can’t stand this."
Carling went through the motions of eating, but after stirring the crackers around in her soup for an hour, she placed the dishes in the sink and went up for a bath and bed.
Huffily she tossed the damp towel into the hamper and tugged a oversized sleeping shirt over her small frame and pulled the cover of Kate’s king size bed down with haste. Flopping down on the bed, and sliding her feet under the cover, she leaned back on her arms and closed her eyes.
Carling stirred herself from the near unconscious state that encased her, fighting enveloping webs of exhaustion to murmur, "Kate, I love you. Please, my darling, don’t leave me." Her arm came from beneath her head to cover her eyes as an exhausted numbness robbed her body of strength and her voice slipped to a whisper. "Lord, I’m…tired."
Shadows were rapidly shrouding her mind when Kate’s voice urged her back to consciousness. She frowned as she tried to catch her words. "Carling, you’re not going to work today. You should not have driven four hours after working all day. It was three a.m. when you arrived in that down pouring rain. You are exhausted, and you’re going to spend the entire day with me. Did you hear me? You’re spending all day with me!"
"Mmm huh." Her dreams were now heavenly, and Kate was a part of them. With a contented sigh, she snuggled into her pillow, a smile on her lips as she heard Kate’s soft voice again, "Honey, come on, wake up. I fixed your breakfast. I have it on the serving tray. I thought you could have breakfast in bed."
She had to be dreaming!
Carling groaned, squeezing her eyes tightly at the full lips nibbling on hers. How could anyone be so disgustingly happy in the morning? How did Kate manage it on so little sleep?
The events of last night came flooding back. Her body shot up from the bed, her forehead catching Kate in the face as she sat up. "Arrrrhhhh! God, Kate I was having such a bad dream." Her arms enveloped her lover in a tight bear hug. She must have been out of her mind to dream such an awful dream. No! It was a nightmare, or she was more exhausted then she had realized.
"Oooohh," moaned Kate, holding her nose between her fingers and thumb.
Alarm bells clanged loudly as the moan registered with the young blonde. With a muffled shriek, Carling jerked away from Kate and pushed the taller woman back to examine the cause of the whimper. "Kate, what’s wrong?"
Blood trickled down the cupped hand; small drops of water from the blue eyes slowly joined the blood. "I think it’s busted," Kate shrugged.
Carling jumped from the bed and raced to the bathroom, returning with a damp washcloth. Handing it to the dark-headed woman, she sat down beside her lover, attempts to control the tears failed, and a stream crept down the cheeks. "Honey, I’m so sorry. So sorry! Here let me check it." Her hand cupped Kate’s and she removed the hand and washcloth slowly. Green orbs never left the tan face, "Honey, I’m afraid I broke it," she whimpered. "God, I’m so sorry."
"Don’t worry about it. I’ve broken it before. Here, I know how to get it back into place." Her large hand went back to the nose but was stopped by a smaller hand.
"Don’t do that Kate. You should see a doctor."
"Carling, please answer that. If it’s Elaine, unless it’s something really important, I’m off today." She smiled, a tight smile that was an effort, and pressed the cloth back over her nose.
"Very well." With resigned reluctance she moved toward the nightstand.
"McGuinness residence," Carling spoke into the receiver, never taking her eyes off the tall woman still sitting on the bed. Before the words were out of her mouth, Kate screeched again. A prickling sensation ran down her spine. The older woman had quickly snapped her nose back into place, and slumped forward, moaning into the cloth. "Kateeee," Carling threw the phone down on the bed and quickly sat beside Kate. "Why did you do that? You should have waited for a doctor to do that."
"Well, see who is on the phone and I’ll let you take me over to Dr. Taylor’s to check it out." Kate replaced the damp cloth to her nose and motioned to the phone lying beside Carling.
"Kate, what am I going to do with you?" She asked, picking up the portable phone once again. "Hello."
"Carling, what is going on over there, and what’s the matter with Kate?" asked Katilyn.
"Oh! Mrs. McGuinness, I accidentally bumped Kate in the nose with my head, I think I broke it."
"What? What are you two doing over there? "The sheriff’s mother asked. "It must be serious if Kate is actually going to let you take her to the doctor? It’s a little early to be rough housing it, don’t you think?"
"Ugh…well…you see, I…ugh. Heck, I was dreaming and she startled me. I sat up quickly and smashed her nose." The blonde answered defensively.
"Whoa, slow down Carling. Kate is always busting that snoot of hers. She usually just pops it back into place and goes on. I’m glad you are there and are taking her to see Doc Taylor. She never would go with me or her father," the salt and pepper haired woman responded calmly, trying not to sound that she was in anyway upset, although she clutched her hand to her chest.
"Ask Mom why she called," Kate shrugged laconically.
"Oh, shoot! Right. Sorry. Mrs. McGuinness, Kate wants to know why you called? Do you need to talk to her?"
"No, Carling, just wanted to ask you two over for dinner tomorrow night?"
"Okay, I’ll ask, please hold for a minute. Kate, your mother wants us to come to dinner tomorrow night." Her head was nodding up and down as she relayed the message.
"Sure, tomorrow is good. That is, if you want to go?"
"Mom, we would love to come. What time?" She asked and waited for the answer. "Good, we’ll be there at seven, and I will have Kate call you back when we return from the doctors." Carling replaced the instrument into the cradle.
"Let me dress, and we’ll go see Dr. Taylor." Carling rushed to the bathroom before Kate could stop her. She returned and dressed quickly as Kate continued to hold the cloth on her nose.
"Carling, that must have been some dream you were having?" Kate asked, giving her a soft chuckle.
"Dream? Darling it was a nightmare. Come on, I’ll tell you about it on the way to Taylor’s." Carling heart suddenly shifted into high gear at remembering the dream. Snatching the keys from the top of the chest, she went over to assist Kate down the stairs, but was stopped when they reached the door.
"Leave your keys, Carling. I can hardly get into that small vehicle of yours. You can drive my Cherokee, please," Kate said.
"Oh! Okay." Carling started to smile; remembering the last time Kate had ridden in her BMW, her knees were almost up to her chin and the seat was as far back as it would go. She tossed the keys on the dresser next to the breakfast tray, and placed her arm around Kate’s waist as they left the bedroom.
An hour later, they reentered the house. "See I told you he wouldn’t do anything about my nose, except tell me to ice it down."
"Well, I wanted to be sure. I’ll get the ice pack for you. Kate, I’m starving. You hungry?"
"Yes, I am, but your breakfast will be cold by now." Kate answered.
"How about some scrambled eggs, bacon and toast?" The young blonde asked, placing the Jeep keys on the board inside the kitchen door.
"Hmmm, sounds good."
"Great. Why don’t you go up and get that tray, and I’ll start breakfast. You can put this ice pack on your nose while I make coffee."
They talked as they ate, and when Carling got up to pour them the second glass of orange juice, Kate refilled their coffee cups.
"So, Gloria Carey is what you consider sexy. So sexy I’d dump you for her?" Kate asked with an easy smile. Carling almost choked on the orange juice before she realized her tall companion was teasing her.
"Not only did you dump me for that frumpy, twitchy pooh of a broad, you insisted you were too old for me, and you’d be dammed if you let me give up my plush job for the likes of you." A smirk darted from her green eyes.
Kate remained quiet for what seemed like an eternity to Carling before she pushed back her chair, took another sip of her coffee and looked deeply into the eyes of her partner.
"Carling, I did feel that I was a little too old for you and that it could pose a determent to our relationship. I also felt that you have too much of a future in forensic to just get out of it for a mundane life with me. I reasoned that if I truly loved you, I’d be willing to give up my life here and move to Albany or anywhere you decided you wanted to continue with your profession. I suppose the hardest difficulty I overcame was with my own fears about you leaving eventually or being taken from me unwillingly for whatever reason." She stood up, went to the coffee pot and poured the beverage into the cup. Holding up the pot to Carling, who shook her head no, she returned it to the coffeemaker.
"Carling, from the time I was a small child playing at the feet of my grandmother, I was taught that love gives meaning to our journey through life. Thus, if the universe and everything in it, us included, has been designed with a specific purpose in mind, our destiny if you will, why can't that purpose be to find one's true soulmate?" Kate reflected and finished her juice, then placed the glass down next to the coffee, which she picked up again.
"I remember so well what she repeated to me year after year, that the right two people are going to meet by an arrangement of destiny. That destiny is for two souls to be reunited in love that knows no beginning and no end. Call it soulmates, or Sole Desire, or whatever–it’s our destiny, Carling- -our destiny!"
The young woman’s heart was pounding, and her eyes were misting. She started sniffing. Kate was pouring her heart out. She had never heard anything so sweet, so honest and with so much meaning.
"How does that song go? — "A heart will search for love until, eternity pasts and the earth stands still ". It is love that makes life worthwhile. Life worthwhile in spite of the pain and the torment it can hold. Only love. Only love can save us from complete despair. Love saves us from our fears. Love saves us from self-destruction. What is the source of love? That question defies an answer, Carling. But anyone who has felt love deeply knows it exists. After love has faded they may explain it away, but in the midst of love, in the center, in the moment, they know! Love is not the source, but it is from the source and that source is our destiny. Our destiny is to love," her voice soft and heartfelt, as her eyes continued their contact with Carling’s.
"If soulmates, or our sole desires are the very source and meaning of existence, and thus the fundamental meaning of our lives, then that is our destiny. What's more, in order that the meaning of the destiny is complete, I believe, or we learn that we must have a one and only soulmate." Kate held open her arms for the small blonde who had tears streaming down her cheek. Carling settled into her lap and placed her forehead on the tan forehead before her.
"You are my soulmate, Carling. My Sole Desire! I desire no other. I seek no other. My soul searching, my destiny is now complete- -complete in you." The tall woman closed her arms tightly around the smaller woman. "I’ll follow you where ever you desire to work or live. I love you, My Sole Desire." Kate whispered as their lips touched.
"Oh, Kate. I love you with all that I am, or ever will be. I want no other but you and we will live our lives together for however long this lifetime gives us, then we’ll find each other in other lifetimes, for I too, believe you are My Sole Desire and my eternal soulmate." Their lips met again, this time the heat didn’t stop until they were both breathless.
"Kate, I thought I was the writer in the family, but I have never heard anything so profound, so touching." Her sapphire eyes were watchful, barely concealing the smoldering fire of her yearning.
Carling closed her eyes, leaning against Kate weakly, unable to fight this deliberate assault on her senses.
Kate’s lips moved to the young face, exploring every inch of it with soft, light kisses. Her hands began a slow, subtle investigation of the small back and hips before sliding around her body to capture her breast. Carling’s nerve ends screamed in awareness, and she suddenly grabbed both sides of Kate’s oxford shirt, and ripped it open, the buttons popped off and went in various directions. "Kate…" she gasped.
Kate’s mouth cut off her words before she could begin, her tongue slipping between her parted lips to take her fill of the sweetness within. And then Carling was lost. The full force of Kate’s sexual vitality encompassed Carling. Kate's seductive prowess easily stripping away Carlings’ resolve and make her aware of her needs as a woman. The needs of a woman in love. The need of her sole desire. She felt her lips soften and tremble beneath the mastery of Kate’s, and she couldn’t remember what she had wanted to say to her. Her hands clutched the open shirt as her legs quivered as Kate clasp her large hand over Carling’s small thighs.
Breaking off the kiss, Kate stared down at Carling, her eyes narrowing at the sight of her parted lips and her passion-darkened eyes. As if unable to stop herself, she captured the smaller mouth in a long sensual kiss before picking her up and starting off toward the stairs with long sure strides.
The raging desire that enflamed Carling’s heart vanquished the remaining affects of the dream. She knew they would never resurface. She loved Kate, and she wanted to spend the balance of her life with her. This was what they both wanted; even her parents and Kate’s mother had approved.
‘You can’t put restrictions on love,’ Carling told herself decisively; it would die if it weren’t given freely. Kate was giving her love freely, and Carling knew her love for Kate was also freely given. She loved this tall woman and this was her chance to be happy with the woman of her destiny. She would never turn her back on this freely given love. She loved Kate, and nothing else mattered. Nothing.
They approached the bedroom, and Kate, still holding Carling in her arms, pushed open the door and stepped inside. In the bright sunlight peaking through the window, Kate’s eyes searched Carlings flushed face, her anxious eyes, her kiss-bruised mouth. Sitting down on the bed with Carling on her lap, she reached behind her to pull down the cover. Her arms closed around her as she moved her head toward hers and whispered huskily, "I’m in love with you Carling, and I want you to be my wife." Her lips covered Carling’s possessively, stealing her breath.
Carling’s thoughts tumbled over themselves with sudden assurance. Tears of happiness burned her eyes, and with a wrench she tore her mouth free. Carling’s eyes locked with Kate’s. "I love you, Kate." Her words came out in a whisper, but Kate heard them.
A light flared deep in the blue orbs as they reached out for Carling’s green ones. "You will marry me won’t you?" Kate’s eyes blazed, scanning Carling’s face slowly before the dark head leaned in and took the offered lips in a hungry kiss that ignited the flames of passion deep within both women.
Her hand slipped off the clinging material of Carling’s top, trailing a scorching fire as she reveled in the silkiness of the young blonde’s skin. Kissing her ear, she murmured Carlings name over and over again, her lips wandering down the sensitive cord at the side of her neck, caressing and tasting, melting surrender. Then Kate turned back to her mouth, quickly parting her lips to taste the full, intoxicating sweetness there, while her fingers worked at the neck opening of her blouse.
Carling’s emotions were reeling, like a leaf floating on a raging river, passionate currents sweeping over her. Before she realized what Kate was doing, the creamy skin of her breasts was revealed to her. When her lips followed the path of the large hands had blazed, Carling couldn’t hold back the low moan that escaped her lips, or prevent her nails from digging into Kate’s taut neck.
"Dear Kate, do you know what you’re doing to me. I’m on fire for you," her fingers fighting with the remains of Kate’s oxford until finally it gave way and she pushed the tattered shirt’s remains aside so that her hands could glide across her lover’s breasts. She longed to make Kate feel what she was feeling- -an all consuming need that blocked out the rest of the world. Her senses gloried in the touch and scent of the tall woman; she couldn’t get enough. Kate was taking her on a ride of sensuous delights, and her mind no longer had control of her responses. Not that she wanted to have control. All she wanted was to feel the desire Kate had stirred within her, and incinerate in the flames of her desire. Kate’s lips retraced their path to her parted lips, kissing her hungrily when she answered her passion with that of her own, their embrace deepening until they were enveloped in a raging inferno.
Shifting Carling in her arms, Kate followed her down to the soft bed. Her weight pinned Carling beneath hers, her arms wrapped around her. Carling welcomed her, straining to be closer, to breach the physical barriers. When Kate’s wandering hand went to the waistband of her jeans, her eyes, velvety soft with desire, pleaded with her to hurry. Her small hands quickly unfastened the trousers Kate was wearing and even quicker, they both wiggled out of the pants. The bras and panties joined the jeans and trousers tossed on the floor.
Kate’s hand once more wandered down the small body and settled on the heat of young blonde’s passion. Her long fingers slowly entered the moist area and began a slow message of the clitoris, which was joined by the quickening rhythm of Carling’s hips.
Kate moved her leg over Carling’s and felt the smaller woman’s hand searching for her thick bushy heat. The dark-headed woman moaned as the small fingers slipped into her core. Kate increased the pressure between Carling’s legs, and the smaller woman whimpered.
Both hearts pounded in the other’s ear, the reassuring beat almost engulfing the other in its insistence. Their feeling overpowering as they found each other’s mouth with a fierce kiss, the urgency of their common need sweeping them into another storm--a storm filled with savage passion and the ultimate tenderness.
Morning settled into afternoon and the sun continued to shine brightly on the two lovers, who continued to lay entwined in each other’s arms for hours.
A sparkle of mischief appeared in Kate’s eyes as she suddenly grinned. "Now see, this is where my age is an advantage. I’m old enough to handle the responsibility of a younger lover, but I’m young enough to adapt-to pace myself." Her teasing look became more serious as she gently stroked Carling’s cheek. "And I can adapt, Carling." She smoothed her fingers across Carling’s mouth, her expression becoming ever more earnest.
Carling blinked back tears and lightly touched Kate’s mouth. "You don’t need to pace yourself, sweetheart. You have more stamina then anyone I’ve every known, and you fulfill my every desire. I’m in ecstasy with you," the young blonde said softly.
Kate slid her fingers through Carling’s long hair, resting her palms gently along the back of Carling’s head. She didn’t say anything for the longest time. Finally she spoke, her voice quiet. "Doesn’t our age difference bother you even a little?"
Carling smiled and shook her head. "Not even a little. I like being with you. I like who you are and what you do and how you think. You give me a sense of rightness, Kate. Rightness I’ve never had before and I am going to hang onto that."
"I might feel guilty about loading you down with an old lady," Kate quietly pointed out.
A flicker of mischief then appeared in the emerald eyes as she leaned down and nibbled Kate’s lips. "Now see, that’s where my age is an advantage. I’m old enough to handle the responsibility, but I’m young enough to adapt." Her teasing look became just as serious as Kate’s had been just moments before. "And I can adapt, Kate." She chuckled, echoing Kate’s earlier comment and nibbled at her lover’s lips once more.
The taller woman’s eyes lightened as she laughed, then she raised her head and gave Carling a quick kiss. "So you keep telling me." They both laughed and snuggled closer if that was possible.
"No more talk about age, Kate. You might as well accept that you are stuck with me. Stuck with me until I am old and very wrinkled."
Kate gazed up at Carling, her heart in her eyes. "Then you know exactly how I feel about you, my sole desire. Forever won’t be long enough."
Kissing Kate again, Carling began a slow descent down the long body, but was caught and gently pulled back up to meet hungry lips once more. Kate’s voice wasn’t quite steady when she whispered, "You didn’t answer my question, Darling."
In spite of herself, she grinned and teased. "What question was that, my darling Kate?" The grin faded as she saw the puzzled look in Kate’s eyes. "All right, Kate. I’m a tease. As I said, you are stuck with me now and for all time, my sweet, darling Kate. Yes, my love, yes I want to be your wife. And I want you to be mine? So, I think the answer to your question is… yes. Yes, Mary Kate McGuinnes, I will marry you."
Kate swallowed, her grandmother’s words ringing in her ears. The right two people are going to meet by an arrangement of destiny. Knowing that she had met and found her destiny- - her sole desire and she was never, never going to let her go.
Carling pressed her slender curves to the larger frame and her mouth hovered over Kate’s as she taunted softly, "Just try and get out of walking down the aisle with me, blues eyes. Just try!"
"Now, where was I before I was so rudely interrupted? Oh, yeah," she quirked, leaving Kate’s lips, Carling kissing her way down the tall body below her before her lips surrounded Kate’s right nipple. Her lips gently kissed the erect nipple causing Kate to moan, "Oooohhh, Carling" and tighten her arms around the shoulders of the smaller body. Carling’s tongue slowly circled the areola and began a gentle feather touch licking the top of the nipple. Kate’s moaning was joined by an upward jerking movement of her hips as Carling began a slow, lingering suckle of the dark nipple, setting off an electric charge in the taller woman.
Kate moaned Carling’s name over and over, and repeated, "I love you, Sweetheart." Kate’s thigh muscles tensed as Carling’s tongue moved further down her abdomen and settled between the swollen, slick folds of her nether lips. Two digits of her right hand, which entered Kate slowly, causing the tall woman’s hips to buck and sway, joined Carling’s warm tongue. Kate smelling her own arousal cried out, "Oh, Carling," when a third finger joined the other two in her wet center. "Darling, oh, Darling, it’s so good…I’mmmm," she cried out again as the pulsing waves of a tense explosion erupted within. Kate’s slow grinding towards Carling’s mouth incited the smaller woman’s own blissful release from her convulsing core. Drained, they rested in a sensual gratified daze only momentarily before the yearning revisited the lovers.
The raging desires that enflamed both women rekindled and became a persistent flame of desire. Soon Carling was moaning and calling out Kate’s name and showering her lover with words that came out in a deep moaning, "I love you." Hours later, they slipped beneath the covers and lay in each other’s arms, sated. The kissing stopped, and the words of love faded into breath and skin and finally - silence.
Kate looked up, catching Carling in an unguarded moment, her steel blue eyes regarding the young blonde with happiness. She observed the facial expressions of the forensic scientist, diligently stroking the keyboard of her laptop. Kate didn’t know if Carling was working on one of her forensic reports, or if she was just browsing the Internet. It really didn’t matter. Just to catch a glimpse of the harmony on Carling’s face caused Kate to have a lump in her throat. Her heart continued to fill with love. The sheriff went back to polishing a pair of her boots with a very content grin covering her face.
Mastery of the gentle art of look touching was one of the key skills the two lovers were developing. Each attempted to catch special quick, almost lovesick looks at the other woman was quite comical at times. Once caught both would shyly blink and pucker their lips in a loving kiss, or wink an all expressing, "I love to look at you. I love to watch you. I love you."
Both women knew a warm look could hold the promise of a kiss, and more, much more between them. But, each was careful not to stare at the other. Neither wanted to bruise the delicate flower of the other’s private self. Words lie, facial expressions deceive, but the language of the eyes does not lend itself to falsehood. The eyes speak mutely, but they speak truly, and both women’s eyes spoke only love for their chosen…for their sole desire.
When Kate was close, Carling would allow her fingers to slide slowly and ever so gently down the tall woman’s arm, ending her soft touch on the long fingers of Kate’s hand. The petite woman knew well that sensitivity and a delicate touch are as requisite in this endeavor as in any other involving personal relationships. In return Kate’s initial awkwardness in the verbal department was being supplemented by her smiles, humor, "small talk", or whatever else worked at the time. With practice, Kate was able to loosen up and become more spontaneous, and the talk flowed from her without effort. Though at times the tall woman would just hold Carling while they sat on the pier, she loved to listen to the small woman chat away. Hearing the delicate voice of her lover soothed her soul, and she didn’t care if she talked all night.
Often, while sitting on the sofa with her laptop lying on her stomach, Carling would sneak a quick look at her lover who was sitting at the other end of the couch with Carling’s feet in her lap. The dark headed woman was frequently seen with a book or report in her left hand. While her right gently rubbed her long fingers up and down Carling’s feet and over her ankles, unconscious of the tingling sensation that her fingers were sending up the legs of her lover.
Carling talked to her family daily out of habit, and sent emails as well. She smiled as she read an email she was sending to her grandmother.
‘You were so right, Grams. I knew and I am so blessed. I’ll tell you this Grams, everyone wants a conventionally beautiful woman hanging on their arm, one they can proudly show off to friends and family as a mark of personal achievement, a trophy, a status symbol, and who doesn’t want that. But, I’ve come to realize that is not real. That part is only icing…and hey, from the photo I emailed to you, Kate is beautiful, desirable and would make any woman proud to be the one hanging on her arm. She is real, oh so real. But, Grams, Kate has taught me something more important. What you need is closeness and honesty in an intense, emotionally supportive relationship. Look for a real woman, a woman who, like yourself, has experienced pain and rejection because she does not conform to society's standards of appearance. Look for a woman whose beauty is more than skin-deep… And Grams, I found her…or I should say, we found each other. Thanks for emailing me LORD BYRON"S words: She walks in beauty, like the night, Of cloudless climes and starry skies. Not only is Kate a beauty, she lights up my starry skies. I Love you Gram. Carling’
Carling had examined young Clayton’s body with the assistance of Dr. Musicale, the acting coroner, and the remains had finally been released to his parents. Kate had to deal with her own ethnic background when she talked to Tommy’s parents about his funeral. Against everything she and the Clayton’s believed in, she had to convince them not to have the native American ceremony of spreading his ashes, but to lay the body to rest intact. Kate would have given anything that day, not to see the horror in the parent’s eyes.
"We may have to have the body exhumed once we find the killer. I don’t want this person to get off with some technicality because the defense didn’t have a chance for any type of examination essential for their case." Kate hung her head, allowing her words to sink into the devastated old friends seated before her.
"Kate, you are asking us to let Tommy’s soul wander and not rest. How can we do this?" The hollow-eyed unshaven, devoted father asked. "You know our customs, they may not be the same as yours because of the blood line, but even the old Greek ceremony is by fire. Your Seneca blood only confirms this. How can you ask such a thing?"
"Believe me when I say my heart is heavy, Mr. Clayton. And yes, my heritage is crying out to see Tommy at peace, as is the tradition. But, would you want to take the chance that once caught, his slayer might go free? I don’t think that is the case. I wish there were some other way, but right now, there just isn’t. Later, after we bring this person to justice, a proper ceremony can be held, and Tommy’s ashes can be spread as the burial ritual requires."
"Kate, we will have a burial ceremony, and we will spread ashes to the four winds as required by custom. We will supply a suit of his clothes, shoes, and his headdress to be consumed. We will spread these things for now, Kate. But I will not allow my son to remain in the ground, but for six full moons, for he will be laid to rest properly at that time." Mrs. Clayton stood; her words were final.
Kate knew the old woman would not recant later, and she would only have six months to find Tommy’s slayer. "Thank you, Old Mother. I will not rest until I have brought this foul person to justice." The old woman hugged Kate before she exited the room.
Mr. Clayton extended his hand to the sheriff, and then took her into his arms as his wife had before him. "I’ll see you out, Kate."
"No need, Sir. Please see to your good wife." She picked up her hat from the table and left. On the porch Kate replaced her hat and looked over at the old truck that had been driven back to the Clayton home. "Rest assured Tommy, I will bring your killer to justice."
Several days later, the memorial service was held. The token ashes were scattered beneath the bare fall branches of a dogwood slumbering till spring. The sky had been gray, the ground damp, layered thinly with a light spray of rain that had quickly turned to slush. Everyone there looked as haggard as the sky, hollow-eyed, with a narrowly darkened range threatening.
The tempest broke back at the office the day after the service. Kate had lain down the law. She wanted this woman found.
In the seven days since the discovery of Tommy’s body not too far from his boat, the entire Catskill County Sheriff’s department had been on twenty-four hour duty, most of it voluntary, looking for the killer, or any connection, to the identification of the killer, with no success.
Even the inquiries to every law enforcement department in the state for any speeding tickets for the suspected gray Volvo had proved unproductive.
Finally, some forensic evidence came to light. The coroner and Carling did not find any fingerprints on the body or the boat. However, they had recovered several hairs from Tommy’s body that were mingled with his pubic hair. They matched the hairs found on the bed and in the bathroom of the Bait Shop.
Carling had tested the 45 automatic with the magazine the divers had found against the bullet embedded in the dash of the boat. The bullet had been the one to kill the young man, and was fired from the automatic found. Although the gun and the magazine had been wiped clean of any prints or hand oils, Carling had made a remarkable discovery when testing the bullets from the magazine and had come up with several partial prints. The state CID files and the FBI’s were evaluating the partial prints. Hopefully, a match would be found. The serial numbers on the automatic had been filed down, and had even had an acid bath, but Carling’s expertise had brought up a partial serial number. Unfortunately, a trace of the numbers led them to a reported stolen automatic in New York City some two years prior to the shooting.
Carling had also found the tests she performed on the Longgear bullet had come from the 308 rifle that had also been brought up from the lake bottom. Sheriff Department research revealed the rifle was registered to Tommy Clayton, but the gun had been wiped clean of any prints, including Tommy’s. Bullets inside the rifle contain only Tommy’s prints. However, Kate knew Tommy had not fired the shot at the two women across the lake. She was sure the same person who pulled the trigger on the forty-five had done the sniper shooting at the two young women.
The evidence was slowly coming to light, and each piece brought them closer to apprehending the female suspect, and Kate was certain it was a female.
The County was full of isolated areas that made un-witnessed crimes distressingly easy to orchestrate. Tommy’s watch, graduation ring, and wallet were still on the body. Robbery had been eliminated, personal robbery that is; Kate was sure the murder was to cover up the shooting across the lake and the scuttled boat had been the means to the shooting.
DNA testing of hair and fiber removed from the front seat of the boat was inconclusive without a suspect, but the hair did match that found in the Bait Shop and on the young man’s body. Carling was still collecting samples for comparison with anyone who might conceivably have been in the boat, including the Claytons. The elderly shut-in Tommy had ferried out to the municipal dock to pick up groceries had even been asked to give samples of hair, but that too, was no match.
Bullet and blood patterns indicated the killer had sat or stood next to Tommy, within five inches, when the fatal shot was fired. No blood or tissue was found under his nails, suggesting there’d been no physical battle. And that was the thing right there–the puzzle piece that didn’t jive, the thing that none of them could live with: the fact that all appearances suggested that Tommy had entered the boat, cranked it, put it in reverse, then pushed the throttle forward with his assailant sitting next to him. Tommy had steered the boat to an area without a fight and had been deliberately killed. The fact remained that in order to steal the vessel, the boat-jacker hadn’t needed to kill Tommy at all. Except to keep their identity secret.
Kate couldn’t live with leads that led them in circles to nowhere. She went on a rampage, ransacked hers files, looking for possible connections to old cases, possible released cons who might have it in for Tommy, the Claytons or even herself. She was however, tender when she requested Carling’s advice on some issue or any point of evidence she had questions on. Frequently in private Carling had to remind her that the deputies, who’d already worked every possible lead from every possible angle, had been awake as long as she.
She wanted results. And she wanted them four weeks ago. Kate refused to take time off to make the trip to Albany to met Carling’s family, but did arrange for them to come down. She was just about exhausted, and finally agreed to slow it down, not only for herself, but including the deputies as well.
Then, suddenly, three days later, it was as if the berserker Kate had never existed; an uncommunicative, lone-ranger ice-Kate had replaced her. In a calm as dead as an ocean’s doldrums she’d arrived at the office one morning and stalked into her office. A single jerk of her head when she passed Elaine and informed her to call all deputies to the office for a meeting left the long- time dispatcher tense. When everyone arrived, Kate thanked them for everything they’d done and all their efforts. Kate had almost lost it. And the department forgave her, embarrassed but understanding, cutting her slack because God knew how they’d react in the same situation–possibly worse.
All were relieved when the state artist arrived to interrupt their meeting. The artist apologized for taking so long to come do the composite, but had been doing overtime with other cases. He would attempt to recreate a composite of the woman Paul had seen driving the Volvo weeks before. After almost a full day, Paul was still unsatisfied that the computer likeness the artist had compiled, even after hours of composites being created, discarded, and re-created. They had to be satisfied with the composite being as close a similarity to the deputy’s remembrance of the caramel skilled woman, because now, there were no other eyewitnesses.
In the six weeks that followed, both women were extremely busy working on the two cases. Large volume of forensics evidence was evaluated, tested, and recorded and official duties continued, always bringing the two women closer together professionally.
Finally the sheriff’s department received a couple of breaks on the two pending cases. Kate went to the makeshift forensic laboratory to talk with Carling about some of the analysis results.
"The nitrate tests?" Kate asked Carling, who was still looking through the microscope.
"Inconclusive on the body, but positive on the partially burned lifejacket found in the trash drum. Whoever fired the gun held the vest up to his head when they shot him."
"Probably to muffle the shot. Does the gunpowder residue match that from the found weapon?"
"Damn! I was afraid of that." Kate sat down on a stool across from Carling. "The serial numbers you were able to bring up on the weapon, even though there was an acid treatment to make tracing difficult were sent to the State and FBI for a serial number check. We received positive results back from both the FBI and the State Firearms Division. The forty-five was stolen two years ago from a man in Yonkers, along with twelve other handguns. The collection belonged to a retired Army Major, who stated he kept them all in prime working condition."
"Does the NYPD have any leads on the theft?" The young forensic investigator jotted down notes as she examined the bullet.
"No. They speculated the gun was bought on the street." The sheriff fiddled with an empty vial before she placed it back into the container.
Carling looked up hopefully at her lover. "Kate, the bullet found in the tree at the Stern cabin came from the 308 you found in the lake."
"The rifle was Tommy’s," Kate replied softly
"Which could mean that whoever used it to shoot at the women across the lake either stole it beforehand or after he or she shot Clayton." She raked a hand through her hair then looked up at Kate beseechingly. "We went over every inch of that boat and the bait shop. There were dozens of other fingerprints, apparently left there over a period of time, Kate." Carling sighed. "I’ve got the main lab in Albany doing extra tests on that footprint. If we can find something in it, some unique or characteristic kind of mark, anything, it will help the case." She paused for a breath.
"And in the meantime?" Kate asked.
Carling sighed, "In the meantime we review every piece of evidence again. There may be a clue one way or the other that may have been overlooked. The partial prints on the bullets from the rifle, are being reviewed by the State Lab, and the FBI."
"Yeah, I know. They weren’t thrilled when I told them I’d be hounding them daily for results. It’s frigging politics I think. They insist on holding the results up. Can you believe that? Hell, we’re supposedly working on the same side!" Kate’s irritation was apparent.
"Slow down Kate!" Carling spoke softly. "It’s okay, Honey."
"It’s not okay, damn it! By the time we get a shot at finding this killer, the evidence may be tainted!"
"I don’t think so, Kate," she whispered. "I know they are doing the best they can and as quickly as they can. If you want, I’ll call my contacts in Albany and see if I can get them to speed up the process?"
"Thanks, Sweetheart, I’d appreciate that. I don’t mean to be so paranoid, or take it out on you." Kate leaned over the counter and kissed Carling gently.
Extending her arms over the dark head, Carling’s tongue gently touched the full lips that were seeking hers for a deeper kiss when Kate’s cell phone went off. "Shoot! Just when it was getting interesting," Carling faked a whine.
"Yeah, I know what you mean," the sheriff grinned as she flicked the cell phone into use and placed it to her ear. "McGuinness here."
"Kate, we got a match! Hot digidy damn! We’ve got a match." Paul almost shouted into the instrument.
"A match? On what Paul?" Swallowing a large gulp, Kate stood up.
"On the car! We found a match on the car Kate. Would you believe there are over three hundred license plates with X&G on them in the state of New York? Heck, to make it worse, there are seventy-six silver Volvos like the one I saw with those three digits on them in NY City alone." The deputy was ecstatic about his search through DMV records.
"Slow down, Paul. How many of the Volvo owners have been contacted," she asked crisply but calmly, calming herself in the process.
"I’ve checked twenty-three of the owners, so far. Hey Kate, I hit pay dirt on number twenty-three," Paul was jubilant with his news. "The owner, one Elizabeth Brawling, a marketing publicists in New York City was most helpful about her ‘windshield green and yellow parking permit sticker’ Volvo. Seems she loaned her Volvo, with a ‘New York Jets sticker’ on the bumper, twice the first of last month to the same woman." The deputy chuckled at the stated particulars of the windshield permit and the Jets sticker he had reported weeks before.
Kate was momentarily taken back. She wasn’t accustomed to people being so helpful over the phone. This was definitely good news. "Was it on the two days in question Paul?" Upon hearing the one-sided conversation, Carling came around the counter; her arms encircled her lover’s waist. She too, knew they might have finally received the break they needed.
"Bingo!" he snapped out, "She admitted to loaning her Volvo to a friend for two days the first time, and for one day the second time which matches the dates exactly. Are you holding onto something, Kate?" Paul asked ecstatically, before he continued. "The vehicle came back with scratches on both sides and the friend handed over twenty-five hundred dollars to get the scratches out. She gave her five hundred more when she returned the car the second time she used it." Kate heard Paul slap his desk with his declaration.
"Tell me the physical description matches and that you have a name, Paul?" Kate placed one hand on Carling’s back.
"Ms. Brawling not only described the woman over the phone Kate, but confirmed the fax I sent her of the composite we have. She was discussing her strange friendship with the woman when she received the fax. She asked me to hold as she went to their fax machine to get the composite I sent her. Upon returning to the phone, she confirmed it was her old college friend, one Melissa Ann Albright Long. Her physical description of Long fits the one Carling gave at her last briefing. She asked me what was wrong. I told her I needed her cooperation in an investigation and that I needed everything she could tell me about this woman and where we can locate her." Paul poured out the information he had obtained.
"Slow down Paul. Were you able to get a location or address?" Kate asked nodding her head to Carling that the information was beneficial.
"Ms. Brawling indicated Ms. Long allegedly lives in Texas, although she didn’t have an address. Seems Long comes to New York City every few months on some kind sort of computer business and contacts her a couple times a year for them to get together. She lent her the car because Long stated the airlines had lost her luggage, which her credit cards were in. She couldn’t rent a vehicle for a necessary business trip to New Jersey. Her driver’s license was in her wallet she said, along with her money, but no credit cards for a proper car rental. Ms. Brawling said she had no reason to believe anything different." Paul stated.
"She positively identified the composite Paul?"
"Yep! She sure did. Before you asked Kate, I’ve contacted the Texas DMV and Licensing for any information on Long. They are running a license and vehicle check as we speak."
"Excellent job, Paul. Well done." Kate praised the deputy.
"Thanks Kate, we finally received a break. Ms. Brawling will fax me a photograph she has of Melissa Long tomorrow. Said it would be from their college days, but that Ms. Long hasn’t changed much. I asked her to contact us immediately the next time she heard from Ms. Long."
"That’s good Paul. Did you request for her not to discuss your call or inquiry with Long?"
"Sure did." Paul responded. "Sheriff, she said Ms. Long was acting a little strange the second time she asked to use the car, and even more peculiar when she returned it, but she had assumed Long was uptight about some business deal."
"I’m glad we kept the shooting and Clayton’s disappearance out of the papers. I bet the second trip was to check out that Clayton was dead or at least missing and what happened to Joanna Stern and Raven Longgear."
"You are probably right about that Kate."
"Good work Paul. I’m leaving here now; I’ll be back at the station in about twenty minutes. We’ll go over the information again, and you might fax those partial fingerprints to Texas before I get there. Maybe this woman has prints on record there. I’ll call Ambassador Stern and ask if Joanna Stern and Raven Longgear are back. They may know the name we have been given. Tomorrow we’ll fax them the composite and the photograph Ms. Brawling faxes to us. I have a deep gut feeling, that they know exactly who this woman is and that we are about to solve our two cases." Kate clicked the cell phone off and slipped it back into her uniform pocket.
"Oh, Kate. That is such good news." Carling hugged the tall sheriff.
Kate placed her other arm around the young scientist. "It sure made my day. Now, all we have to do is locate this woman."
"That will happen Kate. I just know it will. Everyone is working so hard on these cases and now that you have a positive identification on her and the car.
Within the hour, Kate had called Stern and Longgear with the suspect’s name. Raven Longgear did not seem as surprised as Joanna Stern was with the sheriff’s information. However, Stern was shocked and bewildered by the implication of a former trusted employee and friend in the shootings. In faxing the composite of Long to the stage office of the theater, both women report to Kate the composite was of the former Production Designer. Through a lengthy discussion with Joanna, Kate learned that Melissa Long had reportedly been doing the production design for a television show based someplace in France. Although the young actress didn’t know for sure about Long being in France, she and Raven stated they hadn’t seen the production designer in several months.
After getting over the initial shock Joanna called Kate and told her she had design boards and design sketches by the production designer that had not been out of her office and would have Long’s fingerprints on them. Joanna and Raven agreed to bring the boards and sketches to the sheriff’s office for testing.
Within four hours Carling had positively identified one print on the bullet casing found in the clip of the forty-five that killed Clayton to be Long’s. Passport fingerprints obtained by the FBI confirmed Carling’s findings. The FBI also supplied the sheriff’s office with a copy of the passport photograph. With this evidence, Kate was able to obtain two warrants for the alleged killer, and an all points bulletin was issued for Long. Now all they had to do was wait until the suspect surfaced again.
Life in the sheriff’s office, which had suffered both mentally and physically from the effects of the two crimes, had eased up somewhat with the warrants being issued. As the emotional relief in all the sheriff’s department personnel returned to a more relaxed atmosphere, Kate took time to express her gratitude and appreciation to her staff for a job well done. For his exceptional and outstanding dedication to his duties and persistence in tracking the vehicle used in the crimes, Paul was promoted to Sergeant, and made squad leader. Three other deputies were also promoted to corporal, including Willa, who strutted around like a peacock with the new rank on her sleeves. Chief Jailer Booth was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, with additional duties and everyone received letters of commendation, including the various diving teams. .
Both women made sure their personal life didn’t suffer, either, for a long weekend was planned for Carling’s parents to come to the Catskills to meet Kate, and her mother and the following weekend, Kate would return to Albany to met the balance of Carling’s family.
The two lovers also made time for each other, attempting to spend at least part of each evening relaxing and enjoying their closeness. The lovers were often found nestled together on the dock, in the rocking chair, swing, or just standing together looking out over the water.
Fall was arriving quickly. Out on the old pier, a breeze blew a reluctant rocking chair into a tiny sway, passing on to ripple the water of the lake. Then it danced further, flipping the silky tassels of Carling’s reddish-blonde hairs into a gentle tangle as she placed her arms around Kate’s waist and leaned into the embrace. Kate wrapped her arms around the smaller woman, shooing the impudent breeze away.
More importantly, they made time to plan their up and coming wedding. A wedding that would unite two sole desires for now and all time to come. Forever they had said. They knew about forever.
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