Mystery Inc-Runaway

~Sequel to Lost & Found~

 

1

 

Bailey jerked upright in bed, gasping, not sure what had awakened her.

 

She caught herself groping in the nightstand for her gun. Shaking her head, she sat still and listened.


The house was silent. Mark had left early, going to his shop to get some bikes ready to ship to Florida to a client. Payge was back home with her mom Austin and Ken. Even Spiderman was gone, enjoying his new home with Ken.

 

Bailey glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand. It was just past ten in the morning on what looked to be a gray Saturday. She had stayed up late the night before, helping Glen track down some leads on a guy who skipped out on his child support. She wasn’t used to sleeping in, and was groggy because of it.

 

The noise made her eyes widen.

 

It sounded like a kitten mewling. From the front yard. Bailey rolled her eyes and climbed out of bed. Great. Now Mark’s house would be overrun by the neighborhood strays. Bailey did not mind animals, or pets, but didn’t particularly want one for herself. Spidey was all right, in small doses. She tolerated him. He seemed to love her, in spite of, or maybe because of, her standoffish attitude toward him.

 

She padded in her shorts and tank top-her standard pajamas-to the kitchen. Bailey peered through the fridge and found a bottle of Mountain Dew. She didn’t like coffee, so she trusted soda to get her caffeine fix. She twisted the cap and chugged half the bottle, shuffling toward the front door.

 

Bailey pulled the door open and peered outside, squinting in spite of the cloud cover. The bedroom had been relatively dim in comparison. She looked around the yard and saw nothing. She hoped the cat hadn’t crawled under the house, because she was not going to go crawling in after it.

 

She was about to turn back toward the kitchen, thinking breakfast, when the noise came again. This time from in front of her. Bailey looked down, blinking a few times to clear her bleary eyes.

 

There was a baby carrier on the porch at her feet.

 

More important than that…there was a small moving bundle seated in it. A tiny hand waved the air.

 

“Oh…shit…” Bailey muttered, staring, not believing her eyes. Whoever had dropped the baby had also left an overflowing diaper bag and a manila envelope. ‘Mark Calaway’ was scrawled across the front in black permanent marker. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit.” Bailey kept repeating the word. She glanced at the bottle of Mountain Dew in her hand, wondering if somebody had spiked it. She had to be hallucinating.

 

That thought ended as the baby cried out. At first it was just a hitching, soft sob. It turned into full on wailing. Little hands waved the air again, this time either in anger or…hell, she didn’t know. Bailey tossed her bottle into the yard and kneeled down, gathering the baby’s things. She gripped the carrier last by the plastic handle that rose from the side and shuffled into the house.

 

The baby was still crying. Bailey had no experience with babies. A kid Payge’s age was not so bad, she could talk and mostly take care of herself. A baby was a whole other ball game.

 

Bailey shoved her hair back with shaking hands and leaned down to peer at the squalling kid. It appeared to be a boy. At least, that was the impression she got considering everything was blue. Blue blanket, blue sleeper, even his carrier. Her observations were not quieting him down though.

 

“Shh…it’s all right…little…uh…guy.” Bailey said, experimentally rocking the carrier. He did not seem to like it as he let out yet another piercing cry. She was alarmed at how red the baby’s face was. Muttering under her breath, scared to hurt him, she reached out and worked at the clasp holding the kid in the seat. After two minutes of fumbling that felt like a lifetime, she finally freed him. She untucked the blanket and carefully eased her hands under him, supporting his head like she’d seen people do a million times.

 

Whoever the kid was, he was tiny. Couldn’t be more than a month old, if he was even that. His skin was a smooth cream color, his fine hair dark red against his scalp. His crying had quieted a bit, but he was still hitching like he’d start up again.

 

Over his pitiful sobs, Bailey muttered to him without realizing she was doing it. “Look kid, I know you don’t wanna be messin’ with me, I don’t know what to do with you…never been around a baby before…” She rattled the statements off again, and he seemed calmed by the sound of her voice. Bailey cradled him in her arms and watched his eyes blink open, stunned to silence by the intense green color. Mark’s eyes. What the hell?

 

“Oh, kid. I know somebody that’s got a shit load of explainin’ to do.” Bailey whispered. Swaying, keeping him fairly quiet compared to the fit he’d just thrown, she grabbed the cordless phone and dialed Mark’s cell.

 

“Hey, darlin’. You just now getting up?” Was his way of answering. Bailey sighed.

 

“And in the strangest possible way.”

 

“What do you mean?” Mark sounded distracted. Bailey could hear the distinct sound of metal hitting metal. He was working on one of the bikes.

 

“Someone left you a little gift on the front porch this morning.” Bailey winced as the baby began wailing again. “And you need to get your ass home NOW.”

 

*~**~*

 

“I just…I don’t know how this happened…”

 

“Do I need to break out the high school anatomy books?” Bailey asked, watching as Mark heated a bottle for the little boy.

 

“I mean…I’ve always been careful.” He gave her a look. “Except with you. Because you told me you couldn’t…”

 

“Yeah, yeah.” Bailey was once again holding the little one. She’d put him in Mark’s arms as soon as he walked in the door. Mark had taken one look at the kid and gone white. “I can’t. But somebody could, right?”

“Are you mad at me? I didn’t know about him, Bailey.” Mark said, looking at the baby, keeping his voice low. He’d changed the kid’s diaper because he was wet, and that had calmed him considerably. Every time Bailey held him, he made smacking noises with his lips, a sign of being hungry. So here he was…preparing a bottle. Something he hadn’t had to do since Austin was a baby.

 

“I’m not mad. Just confused.” She said, taking the bottle when he held it out. “Why am I feeding him? I don’t know what the hell I’m doin’!” She stepped toward Mark. Mark held up his hands.

 

“Sit. I’ll show you. I wanna go through his stuff, and maybe we’ll figure out what the hell is going on.” He led Bailey to a chair at the kitchen table and showed her how to correctly hold the bottle and the baby. She was reluctant…and that was an understatement.

 

Mark went to the living room, grabbing the diaper bag and envelope. At a glance, he did not recognize the handwriting. Not that he would. He didn’t make a habit of getting samples.

 

He returned to the kitchen. In spite of herself, Bailey was watching the little one eat with fascination on her features, cuddling him protectively in her arms. She glanced up when he pulled a chair out for himself. Mark gave her a sad smile. Bailey returned it.

 

“Well?” She asked, watching as the little one spit the bottle out.

 

“You gotta burp him.” Mark said. “Here…put him up on your shoulder…” He positioned the baby and grabbed a dishtowel to protect Bailey’s bare skin. “Sometimes they spit up.”

 

Bailey shot him a sour look and dutifully began patting the little guy gently on his back. “What good is this gonna…” Before she could finish, the baby let loose a loud belch that made her jump.

 

The baby sighed contentedly and snuggled into the crook between her shoulder and neck. Bailey absently stroking his back, watching as Mark went through the bag. It was full of diapers, toys, clothes. Three cans of formula were tucked in the bottom, along with a spare bottle. That was it.

 

He shook his head and studied the envelope as if it were a snake poised to bite him.

 

“Get on with it.” Bailey instructed, not liking the hesitation.

 

Mark smirked and tore the envelope open on one end. There were several papers inside, including what looked like a birth certificate.

 

Mark picked it up gingerly, looking it over, a frown forming on his features. “His name…”

 

When Mark could not seem to finish, Bailey reached for the paper. “His name is…” He didn’t hand it over, so she goaded him on.

 

“It says…Caleb Michael…Calaway.” He said haltingly.

 

“Caleb, huh?” Bailey shifted the baby a bit. He was drooling on her neck. He was a warm cuddly ball against her chest.

 

“He’s only two weeks old.” Mark said it almost helplessly. “Christ. It’s got MY name for the father. The name of the mother…it’s blank. There’s no name.”

 

“How is that possible?” Bailey asked.

 

“I don’t know. I know that sometimes women leave off the father’s name if he’s not involved in their life anymore. But I’ve never heard of a woman getting her name left out of it.”

 

“Mark.” Bailey said his name softly. He looked up and met her calm gray eyes. “Is it possible he IS yours?”

 

“I…” Mark sighed. “I don’t know how it coulda happened. But, yeah. It’s possible.” He looked to Caleb. “I just…I had a couple of dates with this girl…just a casual thing, we met twice, that was it. But I swear to you, Bailey, I used a condom every time.”

 

“Condoms break, Mark. It’s a well documented fact.”

 

“Not this time. I was especially careful because I didn’t really know her…and I knew that it was just for a couple of days before she left town. She was movin’ to Utah to live with family, at least that’s what she said. Hell.” Mark shoved a hand through his long, dark red hair. “It’s not possible, but it fits. She’s the only one besides you I’ve been with in a while. And the timing is just about right, if he was born this month…” Mark made a quick count on his fingers. “Fuck.”

 

“So what are we gonna do?” Bailey asked softly.

 

“I don’t know, darlin’…” Mark reached over and touched the back of Caleb’s head with a fingertip, sighing at the feel of downy soft hair against him. “I just don’t know…”

 

2

 

Mark carried the baby into the bedroom and laid him down to sleep, surrounded by pillows. Bailey picked up the phone and called the police. She had memorized the station number a long time ago. When someone answered, she brushed off their greeting and asked for Captain Porter.

 

“Porter.” Came his gruff voice.

 

“Hey, Cap. It’s Cooper.”

 

“Cooper! How the hell are you?” Porter’s voice lost the business-like tone. Over the last six months…in fact, since Glen had left the police force…Porter had been more than a friend to all of them. He knew the details of what had happened with Copeland, all the details, not the edited version. And he’d agreed to keep it quiet.

 

“Well…I’ve been better.”

 

“Uh oh. What’s going on?” Porter must have leaned back in his chair because Bailey heard the creak of hinges over the phone.

 

“Long story. I have a question, thought maybe you could answer it.”

 

“Go ahead.”

 

“All right. Let’s say you wake up and open the door and find a baby on your doorstep.”

 

“Then I’d call the authorities so they could track down whoever left it.” Porter said interrupting her.

 

“That’s what I said. But suppose this kid has a bag of stuff, including a birth certificate with your name on it.”

 

“Someone put YOUR name on a kid’s birth certificate?” Porter asked, sounding shocked.

 

“No, no. As an example, let’s say someone put Mark’s name on the birth certificate.” Bailey corrected, smirking. “And let’s also say that the mother’s name is not on there. And let’s also say that the hospital on the certificate will only answer questions about the kid, and not the mother, because of patient confidentiality.”

 

Porter whistled. “Sounds like a mess. Although if the father’s name is on the certificate, then he’d be the one to gain custody of the kid. If it were me…” He dragged the word out. “I’d order up a paternity test, NOW.”

 

“That’s what I figured.” Bailey said with a sigh. “So…theoretically…the baby would stay with Mark?”

 

“Theoretically, you could request that child services pick him up. But if Mark is theoretically the father, they would just place him in your home anyway.” Porter paused and sounded like he was sipping a coffee. “Any idea who the mother is?”

 

“Mark says he might know of someone.” Bailey said, smiling a bit. Saying it was a theory was bullshit and Porter knew it. Bailey just wanted to be sure they wouldn’t be getting into trouble having the kid around.

 

“You wanna report it?”

 

“Not if I can help it.”

 

“Good. Got enough on my plate as it is.” Porter said with a chuckle. “You’re a detective, Bailey. Put it to work and find the mom.”

 

“I already figured on that.”

 

“If Mark’s name is on the birth certificate, even if the baby got dumped on the porch, he’s still gotta take care of the kid, at least until DNA tests are done.”

 

“How long will it take?” Bailey asked. She didn’t ask to be mean about the baby. She just wanted to know what to expect.

 

“Six weeks…eight weeks. They’re always backed up and court cases take precedence.” Porter said gleefully.

 

“Great. Well.” Bailey cleared her throat. Six weeks. With a baby. She didn’t know if she’d survive.

 

“Good luck, Coop. Keep me informed, will ya? Don’t wanna tread any toes here, especially mine.”

 

“You got it, Cap.” Bailey hung up the phone and stood thoughtfully at the kitchen sink, looking into the backyard. It was raining. She hadn’t even noticed it start up.

 

Mark walked into the kitchen and watched her for a moment before going to her and wrapping his arms around her from behind. Bailey leaned back against him and watched the rain fall, feeling oddly sad, out of sorts.

 

Nothing was said for a few minutes. Mark finally cleared his throat. “So what are we gonna do? Any ideas?”

 

Bailey sighed. “You wanna keep him.”

 

Mark said nothing for a moment, just closed his eyes and held onto her. “If he’s mine…then yeah.”

 

“All right.” Bailey nodded.

 

“All right?” Mark repeated as a question. “I don’t wanna push…”

 

“YOU didn’t push. So don’t go all noble on me.” Bailey turned in his arms, looking up at him. “We have to find his mother, you know. Find out WHY she dumped him. Porter says you can get a DNA test, but the birth certificate means he’s yours until the tests prove otherwise.”

 

“We can do that Monday.” Mark said with a nod, wanting to get it over with. Although he was sure that Caleb was his. The kid had his hair, his eyes. Even Mark could see a resemblance.

 

“Ok.” Bailey gripped his shoulders and pulled him down for a quick kiss. “I’ll need her name.”

 

“You’re gonna find her.”

 

“I have to find her.” Bailey said with a sad look in her eyes. “What kinda woman would just up and leave her baby on somebody’s porch? She could be in trouble…or worse.” She did not have to say what ‘worse’ could be. Mark knew well.

 

“Her name is…Erica Tolliver.” Mark said, pulling it from somewhere in his memory.

 

Bailey put her hand against Mark’s cheek and stroked it. “Good boy.”

 

Mark smirked. “I’m still tryin’ to figure out…how.”

 

“Does it matter?” Bailey asked. The baby cried from the bedroom. They both looked in that direction. “Forget it for now. Go on, take care of him. I need to make some calls.” She gave Mark a gentle push to get him going. He went, looking a bit stunned by her acceptance. Bailey was nothing if not flexible. It would take a lot more than a kid to knock her off her feet.

 

*~**~*

 

Ken and Austin showed up fifteen minutes after Bailey called them.

 

“Where is he? I wanna see!” Austin was excited. She did not care how Caleb came to be there, she was just tickled that Mark might be the father.

 

“In the living room. With Mark.” Bailey said with a laugh as Austin went in that direction. She let Ken into the house, grinning at him. “She’s hyper today.”

 

“Tell me about it. Morning sickness is over.” Ken said with a smile.

 

“Look at you. Puttin’ on a little weight?” She smacked him on the stomach.

 

“Probably.” Ken admitted with a laugh. They went into the living room, just in time to see Austin take Caleb from Mark.

 

Austin cooed at him, holding Caleb in her arms with a confidence that Bailey admired. Of course, she had Payge, so Austin had practice. She kissed the baby on the forehead and grinned. “Oh God, I love how a baby smells.”

 

“He smells?” Ken asked, moving forward. Austin laughed and sat down.

 

“Don’t be sniffing him too much, Kenny. And yes, babies have a smell.” Austin settled comfortably, Caleb cradled against her. “He’s adorable. So tiny.”

 

“He’s two weeks old.” Mark told her.

 

Austin looked at him, then down at the baby. “How could anybody…”

 

“We’re tryin’ to figure that out ourselves, sister.” Bailey said, sitting next to Mark.

 

“Do you think…something happened to her?” Ken asked, phrasing it carefully. Austin was easily upset sometimes, due to her pregnancy, and he never knew which buttons could set her off.

 

“I think that’s fairly obvious.” Bailey said softly. “We just have to find out what that is.” She looked thoughtfully at the tiny little one in Austin’s arms, feeling like crying at the situation he’d been thrust into.

 

3

 

Bailey was in her office.

 

Mark had entrusted Caleb to Austin for a little while so they could go shopping. They needed a car seat, among many other things. He wanted Bailey to tag along, but she’d wanted to check and see if Tolliver popped up in her computer first.

 

She sat at her desk and turned the computer on, waiting for it to boot up. She pulled up her police database and typed in Erica Tolliver. There was nothing. That figured. The only reason she’d be on that list was if she’d ever been arrested.

 

Bailey kept digging, not wanting to take too long. Mark was waiting outside. She checked local papers, national papers, a few other databases she’d cruised before. Nothing. Again. She could not even find a social security number, or a birth certificate. No weddings, no divorces, no school records. As if the woman did not even exist.

 

Bailey shut the computer off and rose to her feet. She knew from experience that sometimes, when records came up empty, it meant that the person in question had changed their name. Not legally either. So why would some woman, involved in a very brief affair with a stranger, give him a fake name?

 

She locked up and climbed into the truck. Mark was looking at her expectantly.

 

“Nothin’.” She said.

 

Mark nodded. “Figures.”

 

“That’s what I said. Do you even know what we’re supposed to be shopping for?” Bailey asked, changing the subject. She needed to think over what had happened, not talk about it. Talking would only muddy her mind. She knew that from experience.

 

“I think we can figure it out.” Mark said with a smile, putting the truck into gear and guiding it down the road. They stopped at a Wal-Mart and went inside, Mark prepared to do some serious spending.

 

“Don’t you think you’re going a little overboard?” Bailey finally had to ask. The cart was full. They’d gotten a car seat, clothes, diapers, bottles, toys. Now Mark was looking at cribs with a seriousness she would have found funny any other time.

 

Mark shook his head and finally decided on a wooden crib. He corralled an employee into bringing another cart, then put the crib, a mattress, and bedding into it.

 

“Ok. I think we can go now.” He said with a smirk.

 

Bailey laughed. “Now that you broke the bank, you mean?”

 

“Yeah. Guess the bills will have to wait til next month.” Mark said with a grin. He walked next to her toward the check out lines. Their purchases were rung up, the cashier giving Bailey knowing looks at all the baby items she scanned. Bailey just smiled enigmatically, not wanting to tell the lady that the baby was already born and definitely not hers.

 

Mark loaded everything into the bed of the truck and covered it all with a tarp. It had stopped raining, but the sky was still overcast. They headed home in comfortable silence.

 

Caleb was awake when they entered the house, gurgling happily at Ken, who cradled him in his arms. He smiled at Bailey when she entered the house, loaded down with shopping bags.

 

“Hey. Damn. Get enough stuff?” Ken said, eyes wide when he saw Mark lugging everything else.

 

“I thought so about ten bags ago. He thinks differently.” Bailey set her bags down and smiled. “Just wait. You’ll have your turn.”

 

Ken groaned good-naturedly. “Don’t remind me. Better yet, keep reminding me. I might have to try to outdo Mark.” He held out the baby. Bailey hesitated. “Come on, Coop. You’re gonna be living with him for a while, might as well get used to him.”

 

Bailey reluctantly held out her arms. Ken handed over Caleb. He stared up into Bailey’s face with big green eyes, and she could feel her heart melt at the sight of him. He wasn’t so bad when he wasn’t screaming his head off. She smiled at him without realizing she was doing it, and barely paid attention to Ken when he excused himself.

 

Grinning, Ken wandered down the hallway looking for Mark and Austin. They were in what used to be Austin’s room, trying to decide how to set it up.

 

“Hey babe. What do you think? By the window for the crib or by the door?” Austin asked as Ken kissed her on the cheek.

 

“Wherever. I don’t think he’s old enough to care about where his bed is.”

 

“Well…you can help Mark take apart this bed…” She gestured to the double bed that was in the corner. “And haul it out to the barn.” Mark used one of the barns as a storage place. It had been a long time since he’d kept anything in it. “Oh. The tall dresser too. Caleb won’t be needing that for a long time.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.” Ken gave her a mock salute and shared an amused look with Mark.

 

“Where’d Bailey get herself off to?” Mark asked as he tugged the mattress from the frame of the bed.

 

“You might not believe it. She’s in the living room, bonding with your kid.”

 

“Bonding?”

 

“Oh yeah, got all dewy-eyed when he gurgled at her.” Ken laughed. “Gotta give her time though, Bailey’s never been around a kid younger than five.”

 

“I know.” Mark said. He was smiling. He knew that he would not let child services take Caleb, not until they proved with a DNA test that Caleb wasn’t his. Mark had a feeling that was not going to happen. Caleb was his. It was easy to see. He was already attached, and proved it by the amount of money he’d just spent on the kid.

 

With Austin issuing orders, Ken and Mark had the room emptied in half an hour. They set to work assembling the crib and the changing table Mark had bought. Austin busied herself storing diapers in the closet, filling drawers with tiny baby outfits, fussing over the bedding for the crib. It took almost two hours to get it all finished, and by that time they were all starving.

 

“I’ll see what you have, cook some supper.” Austin said, grinning. “Someone should call Glen, get him to bring Payge over to meet her cousin.”

 

“Babe…” Ken said softly.

 

Austin shushed him. “I know. You don’t have to tell her he might be related, just tell her your watching him for a friend. She’ll be thrilled. Its good sister practice.” Austin gave her stomach a pat, her grin returning. “

 

“We might not ever get her home. You know that, right?”

 

“That’s all right. She can stay if she wants to.” Mark said with a laugh. Austin headed to the kitchen.

 

“I’ll run this out to the garbage.” Ken said, picking up the boxes they’d left on the floor.

 

“Thanks, man. I appreciate it.”

 

“No problem.” Ken gave him a smile and wandered toward the front door. Mark followed, but turned to go into the living room.

 

He stopped in his tracks. Bailey was lying on the couch on her back. The television was on, but the volume was turned so low it was barely audible. It was a movie, probably one she’d seen a million times. Caleb was lying against her chest, on his stomach, dozing comfortably in her arms. Bailey looked a bit sleepy herself. Mark smiled and walked over, meeting her gray eyes.

 

“I guess I shouldn’t disturb ya. You look like you’re pretty settled.” He said softly, touching the baby’s back with his fingers.

 

“Very settled.” Bailey said, smiling a bit. “You wanna put him in his new bed? I take it everything came out all right. I didn’t hear much swearing.”

 

Mark laughed softly. The baby stirred a bit but slept on. “We managed.” He eased Caleb away from her and cradled him against his chest. “Austin’s cookin’ dinner. Hungry?”

 

“Starving.” Bailey said, having missed breakfast and lunch.

 

“Glen’s gonna bring Payge by too.”

 

“Good. I hope we had food in the fridge.” Bailey pushed herself up. Mark gave her a hand to her feet.

 

“You can go lie down for a bit. I’ll come wake you when it’s ready.” He said, looking down at her.

 

“Nah. I’m good. I was feelin’ sleepy with warm baby on top of me.” Bailey grinned, looking at Caleb. His hand was curled against his cheek as he slept. Her heart melted a little more. It was hard to stay indifferent to the little guy. He was adorable.

 

Mark nodded and leaned down to kiss her gently. Bailey watched him leave the room with the baby, sighing. She’d been prepared to have to someday maybe adopt a kid, but had never expected one to be dropped in her lap. With a wry smile, she went into the kitchen to see if Austin needed a hand.

 

*~**~*

 

After dinner, in which Payge and Ken kept everyone entertained, Caleb woke from his nap. Payge was itching to hold him, so Mark heated another bottle and walked her through the steps. He helped her hold the baby, watching as Payge gave him the bottle. He slurped noisily, hungrily. Everyone laughed.

 

“Well, guess he gets his appetite from you, too.” Glen said, watching as the milk disappeared. He grinned at Mark. “I’ve seen Ken eat more than that though. Recently.”

 

“Damn it…I’m going through a sympathetic pregnancy here.” Ken protested.

 

Mark smiled and waiting until Caleb was done, then he took the baby and rubbed his back to burp him. This time, a bit of the milk he’d drank came up. Payge squealed in revulsion, moving away, making everyone laugh.

 

“He managed not to puke on Bailey this mornin’.” Mark grumbled good-naturedly.

 

“Maybe he likes her better.” Austin said, grinning at him. “Kinda like her relationship with Spidey. All that unrequited love.”

 

“Shut it, sister.” Bailey said, giving Austin a withering look.

 

“I’m just sayin’…” Austin laughed. “Payge, you used to spit up all the time, so stop actin’ like a doofus.”

 

Payge sighed dramatically. “I don’t want…puke…on me.” She shuddered when she said the word.

 

“It’s not puke. And can we please stop calling it that?” Austin looked a little pale.

 

“Sorry, Mom.” Payge said, smiling sheepishly. She knew her mother got an upset stomach at the strangest things lately. She tried to be careful about it. “Can I hold him some more? Without the…uh…whatever?”

 

“Sure thing, kiddo.” Mark helped her again, watching as Payge stared down at her little cousin in wonder.

 

“Was I this little Mom?” She asked, not looking up.

 

“Maybe even smaller.” Austin said with a smile. “You were a tiny little thing, but you made up for it in lung power.”

 

The adults laughed. Payge looked confused. “What’s that?”

 

“It means when you cried you put all the other babies to shame, little bit.” Ken said, grinning at her.

 

“Dad.” Payge rolled her eyes. Ken laughed.

 

“Well, it’s true.” Austin interceded. “You were loud. I could hear you from my room one floor up.”

 

They chatted for a bit, and passed Caleb around. It was late evening. This late in the fall, it was already dark outside.

 

“I suppose we should head home.” Ken said, looking at Austin. She nodded.

 

“I’m feelin’ a bit tired. And hungry.”

 

“Of course you are.” Ken said, patting her hand. Austin smacked his arm.

 

“C’mon Payge. Let’s go home.”

 

“I don’t wanna.” Payge said, cuddling close to Mark on the couch.

 

Mark shrugged. “She can stay. We don’t mind.” Bailey nodded in agreement.

 

“Ok. Well, then Ken can take me to McDonald’s and I’ll get the happy meal. And the toy.”

 

At those words, Payge was up and running across the room to her mom. “I wanna go with you, can I? I’ll stay here next weekend!” She didn’t get fast food often, and she loved it when they went. She would not want to pass up the opportunity to go.

 

“All right, bug. Just tell Mark and Bailey goodbye.” Austin said with a laugh. Payge gave Mark a hug and kiss, then treated Bailey to the same thing. Glen accepted his hug with a grin.

 

“We’ll stop by tomorrow to check on you.” Austin told Bailey.

 

“Why? Am I going to be doing something major?” Bailey asked with a laugh as she escorted them to the front door. Ken was carrying Payge, who was laughing at him.

 

“Keeping up with a newborn is very major.” Austin said, grinning.

 

“Well, Mark’s here.”

 

“I know.”

 

“And if Payge wants to stay, she can anytime. It’s not a problem.” Bailey reminded, watching as they pulled on jackets.

 

“Oh, I know it’s not. But it’s your first night with the baby, and he’ll be waking up a few times, and it’s just better if she waits until you’ve all settled in.” Austin said, grinning, reaching out to hug Bailey. “Good luck, sister. Call if you need help.”

 

“Don’t worry. I will.” Bailey said with a laugh. She kissed Ken affectionately on his forehead, shared a butterfly kiss with Payge, then they were gone into the chilly evening.

 

Glen came to the door. “I guess I’ll go too. Meeting Jez in an hour.”

 

“Jez, huh?” Bailey smiled. Jez and Glen had attended Ken and Austin’s wedding, but Bailey didn’t know they were seeing each other.

 

“Yeah. She’s in town for the weekend. So we’re goin’ out for a drink.” Glen said, turning a bit red at the admission. Bailey laughed.

 

“Well…give her hell, G.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. “It’s nice to see you goin’ out with someone besides your ex. She was a loser.”

 

Glen laughed. Monica had been a problem. “I still only manage to see this one once a month though. Maybe it’s me.”

 

“Maybe you just like the long distance thing.” Bailey said, holding the door for him. “I have a favor to ask.”

 

“Uh oh. What kinda trouble are you getting me into?” Glen’s eyes twinkled in amusement.

 

“No trouble. At least not yet.” Bailey laughed. “I want you to try to track down a name for me. Erica Tolliver.” She spelled it for him. “Not tonight. Just…soon.”

 

“All right. I’ll see what I can do.” Glen had more contacts at the station, knew more people. Sometimes he could track down a person in minutes after Bailey had spent a day on them.

 

“Good. Let me know.” She waved at him as he walked to his truck. Bailey closed the door and went back to the living room to stand in the doorway. “I’m gonna finish up the dishes.”

 

“All right.” Mark said, smiling gently at her. Caleb was in his arms, eyes wide again, awake and taking in his new surroundings. Bailey couldn’t help but smile as she went to the kitchen.

 

By ten that night she was wiped out. Mark looked tired too, but he’d been up since five in the morning. They tucked Caleb into bed, then headed for their own room, leaving the doors open to both.

 

Bailey lay awake for a while, unable to fall asleep even though she was tired. “Mark?”

 

“Yeah?” It was obvious he was not close to sleeping either.

 

“I guess…” Bailey’s voice was soft. “I’m just…I don’t know. I can’t understand how anyone, especially a MOTHER…could just leave her baby with strangers.”

 

“I know.” Mark said, his tone low. “Makes me think something bad happened. There was no note, nothing. Just the birth certificate and his medical record. That was it. And no name but Caleb’s on any of it.”

 

Bailey sighed and turned toward him, on her side. “We’ll figure it out.”

 

“I know you will.” Mark said, looping an arm over her and pulling her against his body. Bailey smiled when he ducked his head and kissed her neck.

 

“Mark…”

 

“Hmm?” His teeth caught her skin and she shivered. His hand stroked her side, her stomach, up until he was cupping her breast through the thin material of the tank top she was wearing.

 

Bailey had to fight back a moan. “I don’t know…how comfortable I am…messin’ around with a baby across the hall.”

 

Mark chuckled. “He doesn’t know what’s goin’ on.”

 

“I know. But I do.” Bailey pushed his hand away regretfully. “Maybe I just have to get used to him being here. I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t have to be sorry.” Mark said, smiling against her neck. He kissed her one more time, then brought his head up and caught her lips with his. Bailey tangled her hand into his hair and kissed his back. She could feel her resistance crumbling, which was good, it was silly to be prudish just because a baby was in the house.

 

She arched her body against him just as Caleb started crying from the other room. Mark muttered and broke the kiss, sighing heavily.

 

“Damn. All right. Maybe you have a point.” Mark said, his tone wry. Bailey laughed and swatted at him in the dark room.

 

“Go on, feed him.” She caught Mark’s hand and kissed the back of it. “I’m going to TRY to sleep. I’ll get up with him next, Ok?”

 

“All right.” Mark said, sounding pleased. Bailey knew it would be hell if Mark had to get up every time Caleb cried, she was willing to do her share. She just hoped she didn’t screw it up.

 

4

 

Caleb woke again at three-thirty.

 

Bailey hadn’t been sleeping deeply. She was out of bed before he could really get started. Mark muttered something. Bailey smiled as she went into the baby’s room. He was on his back, little hands and feet waving in the air, ready to unleash a louder cry.

 

Bailey scooped him into her arms carefully and headed toward the kitchen. Mark had made a bottle already, it was in the fridge waiting to be warmed. She cradled Caleb against her chest, swaying with him to calm him, while the bottle heated in the microwave.

 

She tested it on her wrist, nodded, and carried the baby and the bottle into the living room. Bailey sank onto the couch and gave Caleb his bottle, watching as he sucked hungrily at it. She couldn’t help but smile. He’d just been fed not long ago, but he was starving apparently.

 

Bottle finished, Bailey burped him and carried him slowly back to his bed. Now that she was up…she was up. She wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep for a while. Caleb was already out, making faces in his sleep as she settled him in his bed.

 

Bailey went to what was unofficially Payge’s bedroom. The bed was still there, the walls still little girl pink. He’d put a desk and computer in the room though. She sat in the chair and powered the computer on, signing onto the internet.

 

She didn’t know what to look for. For a while she just cruised around. A soft trilling noise came from the kitchen. It took a moment to realize it was her cell phone.

 

Bailey went to the kitchen and found it on the counter. She glanced at the clock as she answered.

 

“Glen…it’s after four in the morning.” She said instead of a greeting.

 

Glen chuckled. “Yeah, well, I was just gonna leave a message, but since I have you live…”

 

“Yeah, yeah. What is it? Something wrong?” Bailey took a seat at the table, keeping her voice down.

 

“I dunno. Something’s weird. I fiddled around, looking for your Tolliver woman.”

 

“I thought you had a date.” Bailey interrupted him.

 

“I did. She had to leave.” Glen said simply. Bailey detected more to it, but didn’t want to press him. Glen would talk about it when he talked about it. He was stubborn that way. “Anyway…couldn’t sleep, came to the office, started messing around on the computer.”

 

“Great minds. Although I was only playin’ blackjack on mine.” Bailey said with a smile. “Did you find something? You said something weird.”

 

“Yeah. Weird.” Glen sighed. “I looked in every database I could find. Finally lucked out on the last one, if you wanna call it luck. The only Erica Tolliver I could find in this area…died about ten years ago.”

 

“What?”

 

“She was eighty-three.” Glen continued. “There were a couple more, statewide. A four year old. Died in a car wreck. And another eight-plus woman. Heart attack. That’s it. I could go nationwide, but I don’t think it would do any good.”

 

Bailey was stunned to silence.

 

“It’s pretty safe to say…she was using a fake name.” Glen said when Bailey didn’t immediately comment.

 

“Yeah. I think that’s what she did. Buy why?” Bailey still didn’t understand.

 

“I don’t know. My guess…she was hiding from something, met Mark, thought he was nice, decided to have a night without having to deal with her issues. Then she disappeared. She could be anywhere right now, using any name.” Glen sighed. “I’ll call Porter in the morning, see if I can get a look at some mug books for Mark to go through. Not that I think it’ll do any good. I don’t think this girl was runnin’ from the cops.”

 

“Thanks for looking. I guess.” Bailey was even more confused now. “It doesn’t help much.”

 

“I know. Sorry that’s all I could find.” Glen sighed again. “I guess I’m gonna get back on the ‘net, see if I can figure out where Thompson’s daughter ran off too.” Geneva Thompson was a client of theirs. Her nineteen-year-old daughter had disappeared several weeks ago. Glen had found out she had met someone over the internet. Now he was just trying to figure out who.

 

“Why don’t you get some sleep?” Bailey said. “It can wait til morning.”

 

“Insomnia blows, darlin’. I’ll sleep later on.” Glen said goodbye and hung up. Bailey set her phone aside and padded to the bedroom. Mark was curled on his side, undisturbed by her conversation. She climbed into bed with him, scooting right up to his back, wrapping her arm over his waist. He muttered again, but did not wake up. Bailey sighed and closed her eyes. She was going to force herself to sleep. She couldn’t think straight when she was tired, and Glen had given her way too much to worry about.

 

*~**~*

 

Mark got up with the baby at seven, and decided to just stay up. It was Sunday, he didn’t have to go to the shop, and he could always take a nap later. Caleb was wide awake, wanting to play, so he obliged the little guy, making faces, making him smile.

 

A bit after eight he bundled Caleb in a blanket and went outside to pick up the newspaper from the driveway. The baby was wide eyed at being outside, staring up at trees, at the sky. Mark had to smile.

 

By the time he got back to the house, Bailey was up. Mark could hear the shower running. He went to the kitchen, baby still in his arms, and looked in the fridge. Someone needed to grocery shop. They had barely any food in the house.

 

Caleb yawned sleepily, his eyes heavy. An hour of play had worn him out. Mark smiled, humming softly, and went to Caleb’s room. He set the baby gently in bed, tucking a blanket over him.

 

Mark went to the living room and settled in his recliner to look at the paper. He was about halfway through the sports page when Bailey padded into the room. Her hair was still damp, and she had a towel wrapped around her. Mark smiled at her over his paper and went back to reading.

 

“Somebody needs to go shopping.” He said without looking up.

 

“Hmm.” Bailey snatched the paper from his hands and let it fall to the floor. Mark smirked as she sat down in his lap, her head against his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her and held her for a few minutes, wondering why she was suddenly being so affectionate. Not that she didn’t show her affection in other ways…Bailey was more of a hand-squeeze/back-pat kind of person.

 

“Somethin’ wrong, darlin’?” Mark asked softly.

 

Bailey shrugged. “Not really. I love you, Mark.”

 

He was, as always, stunned when she said it. The first time she’d admitted it had been like pulling teeth, and thereafter, Mark had always been the one to say it first before she’d say it back.

 

“I love ya, too, Bailey. Now I’m really worried.” He said with a chuckle.

 

Bailey herself could not explain why she suddenly wanted to be especially close to him, to tell him how she felt. She’d had a bad dream before getting out of bed, and she couldn’t remember all of it, but what she did remember stood out. She’d woken up with tears on her face. Bailey shoved the thoughts away and clung to Mark like a lifeline.

 

“Nothin’ to worry about. Really.” She kissed his neck. Mark rubbed her back, sighing in contentment.

 

“Is it…Caleb?” He asked cautiously.

 

“No. Mark, nothin’ is wrong, I just woke up in a weird mood. That’s all.” Bailey sat up and kissed his lips gently. “I’ll run out for breakfast. Want anything in particular?”

 

Mark shook his head and watched her walk out of the room, thoughtful frown on his face, wondering what was wrong with her.

 

*~**~*

 

Bailey stopped at a restaurant and loaded her Jeep with bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits…a bit of everything since she was starving. The smells were making her stomach growl.

 

She was almost back home when her cell phone rang.

 

“Yeah?” She asked, negotiating a curve.

 

“Coop, it’s Porter.”

 

“Hey, Cap.” Bailey said with a smile. Then it faded. Why would Porter be calling HER this early on a Sunday morning?

 

“How’s that theoretical baby?” He asked, trying for levity, falling just short.

 

“Theoretically fine.” Bailey replied.

 

“Good. Good.” There was a sigh. “Got called in earlier today for a DB I thought might interest you.”

 

DB. Dead body. Bailey frowned and pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, sure she wasn’t going to like this.

 

When she didn’t speak, Porter cleared his throat. “Had an anonymous tip a few hours ago. Found a woman floating face down in a pond. She was stripped naked. Her clothes were layin’ on the ground about forty yards away.”

 

“Oh.” Bailey whispered.

 

“The ME says she recently gave birth. Recently as within the past month.”

 

“Ok.” Bailey closed her eyes, and felt like crying again. It could be anybody, it did not have to be Caleb’s mom.

 

“Have you ever heard of an Erica Tolliver?”

 

“Erica…Tolliver?” Bailey repeated, her voice hollow.

 

“Yeah. Found an ID in her purse, which was with her clothes. Strange thing is…her prints don’t belong to Tolliver. She was carrying a very convincing fake ID. Good, but not really good enough.” Porter cleared his throat. “Glen was asking about an Erica Tolliver last night.”

 

“Was he?”

 

“He was. You don’t have to beat around the bush with me Coop. You can talk.”

 

Bailey rubbed her face with one hand, her head suddenly hurting. “The baby…we think she’s his mother.”

 

“I figured as much. I’m keeping that part quiet. For now. Don’t need a swarm of reporters around you again, do you?”

 

“No. Sure don’t.” Bailey said, remembering what it had been like for a few weeks after Copeland had died. They knew that Glen, Bailey and Ken had something to do with it, they just never figured out what.

 

“Hmm. Well…I just wanted you to know. And Bailey…”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I hate to ask. Since this woman is a Jane Doe, technically, do you think Mark might be able to ID her?”

 

Bailey shook her head, knowing Porter couldn’t see it. “I don’t know, Cap. He only knew her as Tolliver. So he’d be ID’ing her fake name.”

 

“That’s as good as anything else. We just want to make sure that’s the name she’s been using for a while. How old did you say this baby was?”

 

“Two weeks.”

 

“So that’s a bit over ten months at least, that she’s used the name. We’re gonna try to backtrack her trail. See how long the name’s been in use.”

 

“When do you want Mark to come in?”

 

“Sometime today would be good. The ME won’t release the body, since we have no family to claim her.”

 

“How did…”

 

“Well…at first glance it looks like suicide. Recent birth, giving the kid up, smacks of postpartum depression.”

 

“And at second glance?” Bailey asked, not really wanting to know.

 

“Most suicidal people don’t try to strangle themselves…no matter how far gone they are.”

 

“Strangled?” Bailey choked out.

 

“Yeah. We’ve got bruises on her throat. Maybe she was just held long enough for her to pass out then dumped. She had a bit of water in her lungs, but not nearly enough to prove it was the drowning alone that did her in. She might have been strangled in the water. We don’t know yet.”

 

“I’ll bring Mark down later.”

 

“Good. And Coop?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Take care of that little guy, will ya?” Porter sounded like he was smiling. He hung up before she could say anything.

 

Bailey set her phone aside and sat there for a few minutes, her hands wrapped around the steering wheel, in a bit of shock. So Erica…or whatever her name was…was dead. How strange that her body was found just a day after Caleb showed up on Mark’s porch. She couldn’t help but wonder what kind of trouble they would find themselves in because of the little one.


Shaking her head, she put the Jeep in gear and finished her trip home. It didn’t really matter what kind of mess Caleb made, he was too little to fend for himself, obviously. And Bailey would not let whatever mess this was touch him.

 

5

 

Bailey walked with Mark down the hallway, holding his hand, neither one talking.

 

When she’d arrived home, he was giving Caleb a bath. Bailey regretted disturbing them, but had to. Porter could be insistent when he wanted to, and she really didn’t want to push him.

 

Porter had been kind enough to keep Caleb in his office while she and Mark headed for the morgue in the basement. Porter had four grandchildren-he’d immediately hit it off with the little guy.

 

The medical examiner was a woman named Carolyn Pierce. She was small compared to Bailey, and downright tiny next to Mark. She had spent most of her career as a family practitioner, only becoming the ME when her husband had died two years earlier.

 

“Right this way. I’m glad you could come down so soon. I know it’s a pain in the ass.” Carolyn’s voice carried a thick Texan accent. She looked like the world’s perfect grandmother, but in reality she was a tough little woman.

 

She led the way into a large room that consisted almost entirely of metal surfaces. The floor was bright white tile, as was the ceiling. There were tables, and a row of doors that took up the far wall. Bailey had been in this room a few times during her tenure as a cop, so it did not faze her. Mark seemed calm, although she knew he was pretty good at hiding his nerves.

 

There was a single table in the middle of the room. A white sheet did not hide the fact that a body lay underneath.

 

“Ready?” Carolyn asked, gathering a clipboard and a pair of plastic gloves. Mark nodded. Bailey stood aside, just waiting. Carolyn handed the clipboard to Mark. “This is a statement to be signed before I can let you view the body. You agree that this is an inquiry only, and that what happens in this room is not to be discussed with anyone but myself and the captain pending notification of next of kin.” She rattled off as if she’d rehearsed a script. She might as well have, she’d said that particular phrase enough during her time as ME. Mark scribbled his signature on the paper. Carolyn set the clipboard aside. “Pending you recognize the DB, I’ll have another paper for you to sign.”

 

Carolyn snapped the gloves onto her hands and went to the table. She slowly peeled the sheet back, exposing dark blonde hair. Mark’s eyes were riveted. Bailey was torn between watching the ME and watching Mark. With a professional flick of her wrist, the sheet folded and pooled around the body’s shoulders. Her face and neck were exposed.

 

Bailey watched as Mark’s face paled. She looked at the woman on the table, eying her critically, as she’d done so often when dealing with a DB. It was hard not to slip back into cop mode sometimes…and at times like this, it actually helped.

 

The woman was young looking, especially in death. There were no marks on her face. Her skin was clear, no bruising, not even under the eyes, where natural dark marks occurred. She looked like a wax figure, a comparison Bailey had made before. When there was no really violent markings, it was easy to believe that.

 

There were angry red marks around her neck though. She’d been choked before she died, and slight bruised had formed. Carolyn caught the direction of her gaze and nodded. “My theory is that someone strangled her with gloved hands near the water she was found in. Probably ducked her under when she didn’t immediately die. She had a bit of water in her lungs, not enough to prove a drowning. And the pressure on her neck…applied smoothly, as if planned before hand. Not skin breakage, no signs of resetting his grip.”

 

“So it was a man?” Bailey asked, leaning over the table.

 

“You ever see a woman with hands this big?” Carolyn asked. “Realistically speaking, the answer is no. Plus…it goes back to nail marks. Women who choke tend to leave crescent moons. Most women keep a bit of fingernail on them.”

 

Bailey listened in fascination as Carolyn talked, completely forgetting Mark was there. He’d stepped back from the table, and was looking at the wall of small doors. Carolyn offered a grim smile. “Should I assume by your reaction that you know this woman?” She asked softly.

 

Mark nodded. “Yeah. That’s Erica…or…whoever she is. She told me her name was Erica though.” Mark still refused to look at the woman. All the color had drained from his face.

 

Bailey shared a look with Carolyn. “Why don’t you wait outside, Mark? I wanna ask a few questions, and I’m sure Porter will have the paper for you to sign.” She said, smiling at him. Mark nodded once, his expression a careful neutral, and walked stunned from the room.

 

“He wasn’t expecting it to really be her, was he?” Carolyn asked. Now that Mark was gone, she peeled the rest of the sheet from the body, laying it at the corpse’s feet. She knew Bailey was not bothered by the body, therefore, she felt safe in talking about it.

 

“Probably not. Seeing is believing, I guess.” Bailey was studying the marks on the woman’s neck again.

 

“So she gave him a fake name? Her ID was fake, the dicks ran it this morning.”

 

“That’s what I hear.” Bailey said, looking down the rest of the body. The woman’s stomach was a bit distended, although whether it was from a pregnancy or because of bloat, she did not know.  There was a jagged red mark across her lower stomach. “Is that a knife wound?” Bailey had experience with knife wounds. And scars. She absently touched her own stomach, where her twisted tissue arced across her belly.

 

“Scalpel, actually. It was not what killed her. This…” Carolyn touched the stomach. The red mark did not separate. “This happened at least a week ago, considering the healing, and probably more than that. The baby was taken through this wound.”

 

“So somebody cut the baby out of her?” Bailey asked, eyes wide.

 

“It was no doctor. No doctor on this planet would make the cut so high on the stomach. Sloppy work, whoever did it. I’m surprised they didn’t kill her then. There’s no sign of vaginal delivery though. Her cervix never dilated, as far as I can tell.”

 

“None of this is making sense.” Bailey said with a sigh.

 

“Welcome to my world, hon.” Carolyn grinned. It looked ghoulish, given the circumstances, and especially chilling from the older woman.

 

“Can I tell you something in confidence?”

 

Carolyn nodded. “Consider this a confessional hon. I’m not recording, so whatever you say is strictly off the record.” She pointed to the microphone that dangled from the ceiling. During an autopsy, they would talk to the mic, stating their findings. Right now it was off.

 

Bailey quickly ran through the events of the day before, of their theories, of their sureness that Caleb was Mark’s.

 

“Condoms break.” Was Carolyn’s observation. Bailey smiled.

 

“Mark says it didn’t. He said he threw them away himself.”

 

“Doesn’t mean it didn’t break. It only takes a tiny hole.”

 

“What are the odds against that though?” Bailey asked, watching as Carolyn covered the dead woman with the sheet once more.

 

“Pretty damn good. Although there are other options to consider.”

 

“Oh? I’m all ears.”

 

“Suppose the condom didn’t break. After Mark left, she could have easily inseminated herself after pulling the condom from the garbage.” Bailey made a face at that. Carolyn laughed. “Stranger things have happened, hon. We won’t know the truth because the lady isn’t going to tell us.”

 

“I understand that.” What Bailey could not understand was a woman purposely taking a used condom and getting herself pregnant with it.

 

“Your other option is that she had a fling with another red-haired, green-eyed man at around the same time. He knocked her up. Mark either came first or second.” Carolyn’s eyes twinkled at the words.

 

“Ugh. Spare me, please.” Bailey grinned and washed her hands next to the older woman.

 

“Food for thought. I love a good mystery.” Carolyn dried her hands and led the way back upstairs. “I wanna get a look at this baby.”

 

“Sure you do.” Bailey smiled. They entered Porter’s office to find Mark sitting with Caleb in his arms. Carolyn immediately took charge of him, cooing at him like a doting grandmother.

 

“Can we go now?” Mark looked like he wanted to be sick. Bailey looked to Porter, who nodded.

 

“Sure. If Carolyn wants to give up the kid.”

 

“I don’t know. You might have to pry him away.” Carolyn laughed and reluctantly handed Caleb back to Mark. She looked to Bailey. “You think about what I said. I’ll email you some pictures, her ID photo, some post-mortem shots. Find somebody that knows her. Find the truth.”

 

“I plan to.” Bailey assured her.

 

“Keep us in on it, Coop.” Porter said with a smile. “You can’t do everything on your own you know.”

 

“I have Ken. And Glen.” Bailey said, smiling. “We’ll see you later. Let’s get outta here Mark.”

 

Mark nodded to Carolyn and Porter, and followed Bailey to the parking lot. He said nothing until they climbed into the truck. “How can you stand it?”

 

“Dead people?”

 

“Any of it.” A pained expression crossed his face. “It was her. Hell, even dead, it was her. She got a tattoo after we…” He trailed off.

 

“A tattoo?” Bailey had not noticed it, she’d been too busy looking at wounds. “She got a tattoo when she was pregnant? Isn’t that frowned upon?”

 

Mark shrugged and looked down at his own arms. They were covered with ink. “Depends on the shop.”

 

“What was it? Do you think it means anything?”

 

“I don’t know, Bailey. You’re the detective.” Mark eyed her uncomfortably. “It was on her shoulder. Looked like Japanese lettering. I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Can we go now?”

 

“Yes. Go. Drive.” Bailey reached across the seat, over Jacob’s car seat, and touched Mark’s shoulder. He seemed unusually tense. “We’ll get home, you can take a hot shower, I’ll give you a massage. It’ll be all right. We’ll figure it out.”

 

Mark nodded. He didn’t look at her though, he kept his eyes on the road ahead of them. Bailey sighed and looked down at Caleb. He was dozing in his seat, unaware of anything around him. She envied the kid that, at least. She couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t have something or other to worry about.

 

6

 

The next three days passed uneventfully.

 

Bailey got used to having the baby around, as much as she could get used to anything, she supposed. She got up with Caleb at night because by nature she was a light sleeper. She had it down to a science. Within a minute of the baby’s first cry, she would be in his room to carry him to the living room for a feeding.

 

Mark went to work earlier and came home early. Bailey would watch Caleb until he returned and then go to work herself, to the office, to sort through whatever case was on their hot list at that moment.

 

All three of them had gone to the doctor to have Mark and Caleb’s DNA test. The baby got checked while they were there, and was proclaimed healthy. It would take six weeks for the tests to come back.

 

Later in the week, Bailey sat at her computer, looking at the pictures that Carolyn had sent to her. Caleb was sleeping. Mark had run to the store to do some grocery shopping. She was totally engrossed in studying the pictures, paying close attention to the wounds inflicted.

 

Bailey jumped when a knock came at the front door. Rubbing her eyes, she went to the door and opened it, grinning when she saw Ken standing there.

 

“What’s up?” She asked, letting him in. Ken smiled back and followed her back to the computer.

 

“Nothing. Payge is at school, Aus is takin’ a nap, and Glen’s at that office dealing with some lady who swears her husband stole all her jewelry.”

 

Bailey laughed. “Sounds like a new one for him.”

 

“She’s gotta be wearing a couple thousand worth of diamonds right now.” Ken shook his head as Bailey took her seat at the desk. He pulled a chair closer and looked over her shoulder. “Uh…usually people surf the net for porn, Coop.”

 

“Yeah, well…call me crazy.” Bailey said with a smirk. “We think this is Caleb’s mom.”

 

“Ah. Carolyn sent ‘em, huh?” Ken leaned closer and whistled. “Somebody sliced her up.”

 

“Yeah. That’s not what killed her. Carolyn says it’s asphyxiation.”

 

“Strangled?”

 

“Looks like it. Mostly. The water didn’t help either.” Bailey sighed and clicked another picture. She was going to zoom in on the marks on the woman’s neck when Ken muttered a curse under his breath. “What?”

 

“Just….hold on a sec. Go back up.” Ken gestured. Bailey shot him a look and did as he told her. He muttered again. This time she didn’t pick up what he’d said.

 

“What is it?” Bailey asked.

 

“Nothing. Hell.” Ken rubbed a hand down his face. “Just…she looks like that…uh…shit, what’s her name? Something Thomas…Jamie?” Ken looked to Bailey, tearing his eyes from the screen.

 

“Jamie…Thomas.” Bailey repeated the name slowly. It sounded familiar. “Ok. Who is she?”

 

“You don’t remember? The academy? Her dad ran the weapons division…” Ken frowned, troubled. “At least, I think he did. It was a long time ago.”

 

“You dated her.” Bailey said softly. She looked at the woman’s face. “Wasn’t she a brunette?”

 

“Yeah. Had streaks, remember?” Ken sighed. “It might not be her. It just really looks like her. Kinda…shocked me I guess.”

 

Bailey looked at Ken. “It’s a small world if it is her.”

 

“Getting smaller all the time.” Ken said dryly.

 

“I’m getting quite annoyed at the coincidences that are fueling my life lately.” Bailey said with a smile.

 

“You and me both. If that is Jamie…” Ken trailed off, looking at the picture on the monitor again. “Her dad died right before graduation. Had a stroke, I think.”

 

“But…”

 

Ken smiled. There was no humor in it. “She had a sister.”

 

Bailey cocked an eyebrow. “Twins.”

 

“Yeah. Jamie and Jenny.” Ken sighed. “Christ, I haven’t thought about them in years.”

 

“Jamie was the quiet one.” Bailey said, remembering now that Ken was pointing out things she’d pushed to the back of her mind. Jamie and Jenny were not law enforcement students. They both worked at the training center on the weekends, mostly doing office work. They were identical and only a handful of people could tell them apart. Most of them never noticed that they had different colored-eyes. And Bailey remembered that in detail now. Jamie’s were blue. Jenny’s were hazel. Jenny had been something of a wild child back then, only working because her father had procured the job for her. She took every opportunity to rebel against him. Jamie on the other hand, was a real daddy’s girl and did everything he asked of her.

 

“How can you tell it was Jamie, though? I mean…if it is her?” Bailey asked.

 

“Easy. Jen was more into dating ex-cons than doing any self-help. Jamie was the one who liked playin’ with hair dye.” He reached over and moved the focus of the picture, making it smaller. “What’s that?”

 

“A tattoo. Mark says she didn’t have it there when they…uh…”

 

“Is it Chinese?” Ken squinted and made the image bigger, this time focusing on the lettering.

 

“Maybe. Could be fuckin’ Greek for all I know about foreign languages.” Bailey said with a smirk.

 

“I know a guy, might be able to tell us what it is.” Ken said with a shrug. “Print me a copy out, will ya? I’ll run it out to him.”

 

“Yeah, yeah.” Bailey cropped the photo so that only the tattoo was visible. She clicked and the printer hummed to life. “I’m not telling anybody until I know for sure it’s her. It could just be an uncanny resemblance.”

 

“It could be. I doubt it though. I never forget a face.” Ken smiled. “What I’m more worried about it Jen. If this happened to Jamie, then where the hell is her sister? They were like day and night, but they were close.”

 

“Shit happens.” Bailey said with a shrug. She leaned over and pulled the paper from the printer. “Maybe they had a falling out. Who knows?” She sighed and handed the printed photo to Ken. “I’ll have to call Carolyn. See if she can track her down, or at least find a way to identify if it’s Jamie or not.”

 

“Sounds like a plan.” Ken looked at the picture and rose to his feet. “I’ll call ya in a little while.”

 

“I’m not getting my hopes up.” Bailey said, walking with him to the door.

 

“Me either. Could just be a fuckin’ limerick she put on her arm.” Ken said with a smirk. “We’ll see.” Caleb wailed from the back of the house. Bailey looked in that direction. “Go on, get him before he really freaks.” Ken said with a laugh.

 

Bailey hesitated. She had forgotten something until just that moment. “How did Austin’s doctor appointment go?” It had slipped Bailey’s mind until Caleb’s crying had reminded her.

 

Ken grinned widely. “Great. It’s a girl.”

 

“Yeah?” Bailey laughed. “Poor you. Houseful of women. Got a name yet?”

 

“Hell, I still have to get used to the fact it’s a girl. Give us a couple of days.” Ken kissed Bailey’s cheek. “I’ll call later.”

 

“See ya.” Bailey smacked him playfully on the arm as he walked away. She closed the door and went into the baby’s room to pick him up. He was sniffling, smacking his lips, sucking on his fingers. Definitely a hungry little guy. “C’mon honeybunch.” She lifted him into her arms and went to the kitchen to warm a bottle up.

 

Caleb was drinking his milk, blinking sleeping in her arms. Bailey had gone back to the computer, this time closing out her email and shutting everything down. She was done for now. Looking at the pictures was too depressing considering that this woman’s baby might very well be in Bailey’s arms at this second.

 

Propping the baby’s bottle under her chin, Bailey reached out and scooped up a couple of ink pens that were lying on the desk. She opened the center drawer to put them away and paused, noticing a small black box set into one of the pen-holders. Bailey frowned and picked it up, wondering when the hell she’d thrown that in there. She sighed and opened the lid, freezing at what she saw inside.

 

It was a ring. Bailey lifted it from it’s protective nestle and peered at it. It was stamped platinum on the inside, the metal shined to a mirror finish. A square cut stone was the centerpiece. It was not huge, but not exactly tiny either. It looked like a deep purple amethyst, surrounded by smaller round stones that had to be diamonds. It was beautiful.

 

Bailey carefully put the ring back into the box, biting her lip as she put it back into the drawer. Mark had to have put it there. She would remember buying herself a ring, after all.

 

The thought of the ring in the drawer made her decidedly nervous for some reason. Bailey cradled Caleb against her chest and rose to head for the living room, purposefully ignoring thoughts of the ring in favor of thoughts of the baby.

 

7

 

Bailey sat Mark down and told him what she and Ken suspected. He nodded thoughtfully but said nothing, and did not ask questions. Bailey eyed him worriedly as he headed down the hallway to check on Caleb. He seemed to be taking things a little too well. She thought he might still be in shock. Baby shock, dead body shock, hell, she didn’t know. She knew she didn’t like seeing him accept everything she said with that blank look on his face.

 

She set about making the only thing she really knew how to cook. A huge pot of chili. She focused on putting ingredients together and cooking for a while, not hearing Mark come in the kitchen for a bottle, not hearing the baby crying hungrily from his crib. She set the pot to simmer and washed her hands, glancing at the clock. She was amazed at how much time had gone by. Apparently she’d been really involved in her minimal culinary skills.

 

Bailey peeked into the living room, but it was empty. The house was quiet. She went down the hall and looked into Caleb’s room. He was a small blue shape under his blanket. Night was already falling and the only light in the room came from a small nightlight on the far wall. Caleb made sounds in his sleep, chuffing noises, making Bailey smile before turning from the door.

 

She crossed the hall and saw Mark lying on the bed, his arms crossed behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. Even if it was dark in the room, Bailey knew he was not napping. He seemed wound up like a spring. She went into the room and crawled onto the bed next to him, not touching him, just lying there waiting.

 

“You all right?” Mark asked, his voice low.

 

Bailey smirked. “I was gonna ask you the same thing.”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Sounds like a familiar tune.” She said wryly. She rolled onto her side to face him, her eyes adjusted enough to the dim room to see his face clearly. “It’s gonna be all right.”

 

“I know.” Mark caught her hand in his and brought it to his lips, kissing the palm.

 

“Try not to think about it.” Bailey advised, enjoying the tingle that ran up her arm at the feel of his breath on her skin.

 

“I’m tryin’.” Mark kissed her hand again. “You smell good.”

 

“I smell like chili powder.” Bailey said with a laugh. She pulled her hand, trying to free it from his grip. Mark rolled onto his side, releasing her hand to pull her into his arms.

 

“Still smells good.” He said with a chuckle. Bailey sighed in relief. He sounded a lot better than he had in days. That weird robotic quality was gone from his voice.

 

“It’ll be about an hour til dinner.” Bailey mumbled, snuggling against his chest.

 

“Mm…I can wait, I guess.” Mark lowered his head and nuzzled her hair.

 

“Need a time waster?” Bailey asked impishly, stroking his back with one hand.

 

“It’s definitely not a waste of time bein’ with ya, Bailey.” Mark said, smiling a little.

 

“Figuratively or literally?” Bailey asked, pushing at his chest. Mark rolled easily enough onto his back, watching as she straddled his hips. She leaned over him, her eyes meeting his in the gloomy room.

 

“Both.” Mark said, still smiling. Bailey reached down and began unbuttoning his shirt, making slow progress as she stroked the skin she exposed along the way. She pushed the material to the side and ran her hands up and down his chest, his stomach, gently rubbing him. “Bailey…you sure you wanna…”

 

“Are you kidding me?” Bailey snorted. She tugged her shirt over her head and tossed it to the floor. “It’s been a week, bud. Put out or get out. That’s gonna be my new motto.”

 

“A week?” Mark cocked an eyebrow. He guessed that was right. They’d both been kind of tired, and then the baby showing up… “The baby…”

 

“Yeah, yeah. He’s out cold.” Bailey unsnapped her bra and let it dangle from her fingers for a moment before flinging it away.

 

“I did keep him awake for a while…” Mark said thoughtfully. He reached out and touched Bailey’s arms, stroking his way up, holding on to her and pulling her down. “I guess I kinda thought…after all this drama and having Caleb…you wouldn’t wanna…”

 

Bailey kissed him quickly on the lips, pulling back before he could respond. “You thought I wouldn’t wanna…what?” She whispered, grinding herself against him a bit. They were both wearing jeans but she could still feel him through the thick material that separated their lower bodies. She pressed her breasts against his chest, then pulled back, rubbing her hardening nipples against his smooth skin.

 

“Do…this…I dunno.” Mark sounded embarrassed. Bailey grinned.

 

“Hell, the past is past, right?” She shook her hair back over her shoulders and met his eyes. “Sometimes things happen for a reason, ya know? You can’t control it any more than you can control the weather. You just gotta ride it out.”

 

“Ride it out, huh?” Mark’s whisper was hoarse as he arched himself into her.

 

“So to speak.” Bailey giggled and cupped his face in her hands, stroking his cheeks with her thumbs. “So you wanna talk about it or you wanna get physical with me before the chili burns?”

 

“I guess we could just talk…” Mark said thoughtfully, laughing when she took a playful swat at him. He growled wordlessly and rose up, taking her with him, flipping them over so he was on top. Bailey was trapped under him, her legs hooked in his, arms pinned to her sides.

 

Without another word, Mark captured her lips with his, wasting no time in delving his tongue into her mouth. Bailey moaned against him and opened up for him, accepting his kiss, returning it with matching passion, sliding her tongue along him. His hands were everywhere, touching, squeezing, stroking, until she thought her body would combust with heat.

 

Mark muttered hoarsely and broke their kiss, letting her go long enough to slide down her body and yank her jeans off. He made quick work of the rest of his clothing, then rejoined her on the bed, once again settling his weight on top of Bailey. She tangled her fingers into his hair, letting the silky strands trail through her fingers, smiling up at him.

 

Mark ducked his head and kissed her on the neck, his tongue nibbling gently. Bailey could do nothing but lie still and let him do what he wanted to do. Not that she had any complaints. He found the sensitive spot below her ear and licked it playfully, making her squirm. His teeth nipped her earlobe and she gasped. She felt him smile against her skin as he slid down, trailing his mouth across her collarbone, the hollow of her throat, the tops of her breasts.

 

Bailey whimpered as he took one turgid nipple into his mouth, arching up into him as his tongue flicked the hard surface. His hand went between their bodies and found her center. He stroked her gently in time with his measured stroking of his tongue. Bailey had to bite her lip, hard, to keep from crying out at the rush of pleasure that speared through her body. Once again, she felt him smile against her when he realized she was holding it in.

 

Grinning wickedly, Mark moved down her body again, ignoring her hands when she tried to stop him from going lower. He spread her legs to accommodate his movements, sliding his fingers through her wet center, finding her clit. His tongue followed the trail his fingers had made. Bailey clamped her hand to her mouth and bit the meaty part of her thumb as he began stroking her clit with the tip of his tongue, as he penetrated her with one finger, then two, slowly testing her body, rubbing against her g-spot maddeningly. Bailey’s mewling noises did nothing but fire him on as he quickened his pace, both with his tongue and fingers until she was writhing against him, her cry of ecstasy muffled by her hand.

 

Mark licked her gently, watching her as she rode out her climax, loving the taste of her on his tongue. She slowly settled against the bed, her breathing ragged. He moved his body, keeping his fingers inside her for the time being, until he was hovering above her, his knees between her legs. Bailey was watching him dreamily, her hands reaching for him. Mark grinned and pushed them away, ignoring her protest as he stopped touching her.

 

Moving slowly, Mark turned Bailey on her side, shifting around her, stretching out on his side with her spooned against his body. He lifted her leg, draping it on top of his, and guided his throbbing cock to her dripping entrance. He slowly entered her waiting body, gritting his teeth at the hot sensation of her surrounded his already overheated flesh, forcing himself to take his time. Mark propped himself up on one elbow, draping his free arm over Bailey’s waist, holding on to her as he began to move his hips, rocking them back and forth, entering her and leaving her with dream-like thrusts.

 

Bailey wiggled against him, moaning softly, and reached down to feel his cock going in to her. Mark slid his hand up and cupped her breast, fingers tweaking her nipple gently, making her moan again.

 

Mark began to pick up speed even though he had not intended to. He could not help it. She just felt too good, her body tight, hot, wet, welcoming. Bailey gasped in anticipation, her fingers sliding against his cock, then up to her clit, then back down. She knew he was holding himself back, waiting for her, so she began to stroke her clit in time with his thrusting, feeling that tension form in her stomach again.

 

A few more thrusts, a few more strokes of her finger, and Bailey moaned Mark’s name as she climaxed for the second time. Mark groaned out at the feel of her inner walls spasming and lost all control, whimpering back a loud moan as he came.

 

They lay there panting for a few minutes, neither one ready to move. Bailey finally shifted, smirking as Mark hissed a protest. “I gotta check my food. I only know how to make one thing, and I don’t really want it to burn.” She said with a giggle.

 

Mark kissed her ear with a smile. “I’m starving.” He didn’t have to say it, she’d noticed he had not been eating much the last few days.

 

“Good. And after dinner maybe we can…” Bailey didn’t get to finish her thought. The baby let out a weak sounding cry, making them both laugh.

 

“I’ll get him.” Mark said, kissing her one last time before sliding from the bed and tugging his jeans on. Bailey watched him go, satisfied smile on her face. She slowly dragged herself from the bed and got dressed, humming under her breath. At least she felt better. Mark seemed to show the same improvement too. Of course it might be too early to tell.

 

They were definitely going to have to sit down and have a serious talk. Not just about what was going on, but about them, about the baby, and about where they were going. Seeing the ring…Bailey shook her head. It didn’t have to mean anything, it really didn’t. But they’d joked for a long time about getting married, hadn’t they? She’d shot him down, and he’s laughed, because it was all in fun. Or at least she thought it was. Now it looked like he was serious. And she didn’t know how she felt about that just yet.

 

8

 

Bailey went to her office.

 

It was nice staying home, nice ‘sleeping in’, as Ken put it. Anything past seven in the morning constituted sleeping in to her at this point. But she definitely needed a baby-break. Not that she didn’t enjoy having him around, taking care of him. She was still getting used to Caleb.

 

It was Saturday. Caleb had been with them a full week. It was amazing how easy it was to fall into a routine with him. Bailey was not into routines though. Never had been. So here she was, climbing the narrow stairs to go to the upper floor of their office.

 

Ken had panted the large room, put in a couple of beds, a small television. Bailey had moved all of that to the side, storing boxes of her things up here until she figured out what to do with them. Right now she wanted her yearbook from the academy. She’d gotten one when she’d graduated out, and hadn’t bothered to really look at it. She knew it was in one of the boxes because she remembered putting it there with her high school yearbooks, and her diplomas.

 

Bailey was settled in the middle of piles of boxes two hours later, sorting through them, and didn’t hear Glen clear his throat from the doorway. He grinned and spoke her name, making her jump.

 

“Glen. What the hell are you doin’ here?” Bailey asked, grinning at him. He was pretty sneaky for a big guy. She had her yearbook in her lap, and had been idly flipping pages, wondering what the hell she was looking for.  Neither Jamie nor Jenny had been cadets…they were there to work as interns on account of their father being a higher up.

 

“Saw your Jeep, thought I’d see what kinda mess you were up here makin’.” Glen lowered himself to the floor and peered into a box. “Traveling down memory lane?” He asked, pulling out a picture. In it, Bailey stood with her brother and father, all three in full police dress uniform. Her mother was also in the photo, wearing a blue dress, smiling happily at her brood.

 

Bailey looked down at the picture before shaking her head. “I’m pretty sure Dad would run me off the road if he thought I was.”

 

“Coop.” Glen sighed and put the picture back in the box. “Your dad always seemed like such a level-headed guy.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So he really disowned you?” Glen leaned back, letting the boxes behind him support him. Bailey looked down at the book in her lap and took a deep breath.

 

“If by disown you mean he said I was a disgrace to my family, to my uniform, and I wasn’t welcome anywhere near him…then yeah. Oh…and he said that I shouldn’t bother goin’ to his funeral, cuz he’d roll over in his grave.” She looked up at Glen and gave him a sad smile. “Drama queen, that’s my pops.”

 

Glen reached over to touch her shoulder. “Fuck him, Coop. I’M proud of you.”

 

“I’m glad. I guess.” She grinned. It did not really bother her to talk about her Dad, because she had convinced herself over time that his opinion really didn’t matter. He hadn’t been the one to get shot. He didn’t know what she was going through.

 

“What’re you lookin’ for?” Glen asked, leaning over to peer at the book.

 

“Oh. Well…I dunno. Ken said maybe our DB looked familiar, so I’m tryin’ to find a picture of the girl he thinks it is.” She said with another shake of her head. “No luck.”

 

“Need a hand? I’m good at findin’ people.” Glen pointed out needlessly. Bailey smiled.

 

“If you want. I’m looking for Jamie or Jenny Thomas. They’re twins, about 30-ish now I would think.”

 

Glen nodded and gave her shoulder a squeeze, then rose to his feet. “I’m on it. Oh…guess what?”

 

“What?” Bailey looked at him expectantly.

 

“Found that Thomson girl.” Glen said with a smirk.

 

“Finally? That took what, a whole day of time?” Bailey asked with a laugh.

 

“Almost. You’ll never guess where she was.”

 

“Not dead, I hope.” Bailey said, picturing the girl’s mother in her mind.

 

“Oh, not even close. Vegas.”

 

“Vegas?” Bailey’s eyebrows quirked.

 

“Yeah. Met up with her eighth grade boyfriend, decided to get married. She was afraid to tell her mom.” Glen said with a laugh. It was always nice when the cases they took on had happy endings with no deaths, no arrests, just things falling into place.

 

“I can almost hear the lecture now.” Bailey said with a giggle.

 

“I went up there yesterday, tracked them down to some run-down little trailer park, read her the riot act about keeping in touch with her mom. Intimidated the hell out of the guy. He’s nineteen too, green, just a baby. I think I scared him.”

 

“You? Scare somebody? Never.” Bailey’s voice was full of sarcasm.

 

“Yeah, it’s a talent.” Glen stretched. “I’ll be downstairs if you need me. I’ll find those chicks in a hour. Maybe less.” He boasted as he went out the door. Bailey just shook her head. Glen could boast with good reason. He was adept at surfing the net looking for lost people.

 

Bailey stood up, looking around at the mess, yearbook still in hand. She set it aside and replied all the boxes, stopping to take the family photo out to put it with the book. Finished, she gathered her things and went downstairs. Glen was bent over his computer, typing away, look of complete concentration on his face.

 

“I’m goin’ home. Call me if you find anything.” Bailey said, hating to interrupt him. Glen glanced at her and smiled.

 

“I’ll try to call before midnight this time. I thought I’d start on the Gulliver case too. Just background.”  Glen said with a wince. Gulliver was an elderly man who claimed his son was robbing him blind. Glen had taken the case reluctantly. The old man didn’t seem to be in control of all his senses.

 

“Good luck.” Bailey said with a snicker. “I’ll call my list Monday, see what I can do.” Bailey’s ‘list’ was a sheet full of names and phone numbers of people with less than urgent cases. They tackled them where there was time. She’d spent a week taking it easy. She was ready to plow back into the thick of the office.

 

Glen waved. Bailey went outside and locked the office door behind her. She dashed to her Jeep, wondering when it had started to rain. It had gotten even cooler since that morning. Bailey warmed the Jeep up and sat there for a moment, wondering how it was nearly Christmas and the holiday had just snuck up on her. Two weeks away. She shook her head and put the vehicle into gear. She definitely had to get some shopping done.

 

Three hours later, the back of the Jeep was nearly full as she headed for home. She’d shopped for Mark, Austin, Ken, Glen, Payge…she’d even gotten a gift for Porter. And Caleb. Now she knew how Mark felt when they had shopped for him the past weekend. She had to force herself to stop, reminding herself that he was not even a month old and wouldn’t know what to do with the things she’d bought anyway.

 

Mark was in the living room, stretched out on the floor, Caleb next to him. The television was on, the sound muted. The baby was kicking his legs, waving his hands, having a good time as Mark cooed down at him. He saw Bailey hauling bags in and started to rise.

 

“No, no. You stay.” Bailey shook a bag at him. “I have your Christmas present in here, and you’d better not peek.”

 

“Got it, boss.” Mark resettled himself on the floor and watched as Bailey made several trips outside. “Damn woman, did you leave anything at the store?”

 

“Maybe.” Bailey said with a laugh as she collapsed into a chair. Mark sat up and moved so he was in front of her, then got on his knees to kiss her.

 

“Is that some kind of hint I should dig out the tree and decorate it?”

 

“You could. If you want.” Bailey stroked his cheek and smiled. “Or you could go get me a real tree.”

 

Mark made a face. “Needles everywhere…”

 

“Smells good.” Bailey said, her tone final. Mark smirked and kissed her again.

 

“I guess I could see what I can come up with.” He looked down at Caleb. The baby was sucking on his fingers, green eyes wide as he stared up at the ceiling. “You want me to cook dinner?”

 

“Is that a hidden request to keep an eye on the baby?” Bailey asked with a laugh.

 

“I could take him in the kitchen with me.”

 

“Yeah, well. Not necessary. Let me at him.” She waited until Mark moved before taking Caleb up from the floor. The baby eyed her with apparent surprise, his eyes even wider. She grinned down at him, and could have sworn Caleb smiled in return. Mark shook his head and went to the kitchen, grinning.

 

Bailey gave Caleb his bottle before she and Mark sat down for dinner. They ate in comfortable silence, listening to the baby make noises from his room. It sounded as if he were talking to himself. Bailey laughed when he got especially loud.

 

“Kid’s getting used to staying awake.” Mark observed. “I guess I could rock him.”

 

“Nah. He’s all right as long as he’s not screaming.” Bailey pushed her plate aside, full.

 

Mark looked at her thoughtfully. “You’ve been very accepting about this. Thank you.”

 

She smiled at him. “No need to thank me. I’m open to experimentation. You lucked out, that’s all.”

 

Mark chuckled. “You don’t have to tell me.” He sobered. “Would it bother you, keeping him around permanently? If the tests come back…and he’s mine…”

 

“Why would it bother me? I wouldn’t ask you to give up your kid for me.” Bailey stated softly. “No matter what the circumstances of his birth are.”

 

Mark nodded slowly, his eyes meeting hers. “Bailey…” The phone rang, interrupting what he was going to say. The noise must have scared Caleb. He started crying from his room. “I’ll get him.” Mark said with a sigh. He rose and went down the hall. Bailey picked up the phone.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Nice.” Ken’s voice was amused.

 

“We were eating dinner, freak.” Bailey said with a laugh.

 

“Sorry. Just wanted to let you know, I finally heard back from my tattoo guy. He says it’s Japanese lettering. He knows somebody who can translate…so he’s going to call me back tomorrow.”

 

“Ok.” This was not big news. Bailey had known it was not English. She just wondered what it said.

 

“I found pictures of Jen and Jamie.” He continued. “Had to call up some old buddies. Jack Donaldson sent me almost a whole album. He dated Jen on the sly for a while. I got it today. He sent it over night.”

 

“You bringing it over?” Bailey asked, her interest piqued.

 

“Nah. Tomorrow. Or Monday. It’s the weekend, Bailey. You got a DB. She’ll still be a DB tomorrow. No sense rushing in and messin’ up your weekend.”

 

“Yeah. Ok. You’re right.” Bailey agreed reluctantly.

 

“I know I am. First thing Monday, at the office. I’m gonna keep Aus and Payge occupied tomorrow, so you’ll have a nice quiet day. Oh…and I called Glen. He told me he was digging around for you. So I told him to hold off until Monday as well. Enjoy.” Ken laughed and hung up before Bailey could reply. She stared at the phone for a moment before setting it aside.

 

Ken did have a point. She did have a habit of wanting to get to the bottom of things immediately. She had no patience, she hated waiting. But he was not going to let her go headfirst into this mess. Bailey supposed that was a good thing. Even if it was annoying.

 

Mark entered the kitchen, smiling a bit. “He’s asleep. Wanna watch a movie?”

 

Bailey smiled at him. “Sure. You pick.” She followed him to the living room, trying to push thoughts of Caleb’s origins to the back of her mind to enjoy a quiet night with Mark.

 

9

 

Bailey dragged the playpen Mark had bought into the kitchen, settling Caleb inside while she washed their lunch dishes. It was late afternoon, and a cool beautiful day outside. Mark had asked her to keep an eye on the baby. Bailey had agreed with no argument. He said he needed to take care of something, so here she was, up to her elbows in suds. She could have used the dishwasher, but she wanted something to do with her hands. It helped her think.

 

Caleb cooed from behind her, making her smile. Bailey rinsed the last plate and put the pans in the water to soak. She looked over her shoulder just as Mark came into the room.

 

“That was quick.” She stated, reaching into the water to scrub at the pans.

 

“Didn’t take as long as I thought. Do you have to finish those right now?”

 

Bailey shrugged. “I’ve only got two left. Just a minute.” She drained the water and set the pans on the counter to dry. She picked up a dishtowel and wiped her hands before finally facing him. “All right. What did you do?”

 

Mark smiled. “I have something for you.”

 

“Do you?” Bailey’s eyebrow quirked upward.

 

“I do. In the living room.” Mark’s smile widened. “Come on.” He reached down and picked up Caleb. Bailey followed them into the living room, shaking her head.

 

She stopped in her tracks and laughed. “Do you think it’s big enough?”

 

Mark chuckled. “Biggest I could find. Barely fit it thought the door.” He nuzzled Caleb’s cheek. “What do you think?”

 

“I love it.” Bailey stepped forward to admire the tree Mark had found. It almost touched the ceiling. The smell was heavenly. He’d set it into a base, adjusting it so it was straight. “It’s almost too pretty to cover with tinsel.” She said thoughtfully.

 

“Yeah?” Mark smiled, proud that he’d made her so happy by doing such a minor thing. Sometimes it did not take much to please Bailey. He was slowly learning that.

 

“Yeah.” Bailey concurred. “We’ll go shopping for ornaments, unless you have some laying around.”

 

“Got some from last year. I can drag ‘em up from the barn later.” Mark grinned down at Caleb. “What do you think, little man? Wanna decorate a tree?” Caleb waved an arm in the air. Mark laughed and looked to Bailey. “Unless you want me to get ‘em now. In which case, you’ll need to take him and I can get it done in five minutes.”

 

Bailey held out her arms and looked at Mark thoughtfully. He did not seem to notice as he walked toward the kitchen, whistling a Christmas tune as he went. She heard the door close and looked down at the baby. He looked up with comically big green eyes. “He’s almost gushing sweat pea. Makes me wonder if he hit his head.” She kissed the baby on the cheek and went to the kitchen to prepare a bottle for him. She’d gotten used to his habits, and knew he’d be hungry shortly.

 

The rest of the evening was spent decorating the tree. Mark had to test at least ten strings of lights for every one string he found that worked. Bailey dug through boxes, finding ornaments that weren’t broken, and a big silver star that lit up with twinkling white lights. Finally finished, they shut off the lights and turned the tree on to sit in its glow.

 

“Good work, Coop.” Mark said with a snort.

 

“I’m singularly focused.” Bailey said, grinning at him. “I wanted a tree. You got me a tree. Thank you.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. Caleb was on the floor on a blanket, staring at the image of the tree in front of him, seeming to be mesmerized by the blinking lights.

 

“I have something else for you.” Mark said softly, the jovial tone gone. He’d suddenly gone serious on her. Bailey looked at him and waited. Mark cleared his throat. “I know…that we’ve talked about…us.” Now he was having trouble talking. Bailey lounged back against the couch, still waiting him out. “Hell. I’m no good at this stuff.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black box.

 

Bailey eyed it warily. “Mark.”

 

“Look. It doesn’t have to mean anything. Right? It could be just a gift. It could be…more. If you want it to be. I saw this and I mean for you to have it.” He stated, looking at the box, as if afraid to meet her eyes.

 

“I suppose it could be.” Bailey conceded. Mark sighed and opened the box. Inside was the ring she’d seen the other day, twinkling as the lights flashed on its jeweled surface.

 

Mark watched as she carefully took the ring from the box with shaking hands. Bailey hesitated, licking dry lips. He reached over and took the ring, sliding it onto her right hand. “I kind of used Aus as a guide. I figured it might be close.”

 

Bailey smiled, although it was weak. The ring was snug, but not tight. Perfect. It felt so strange to her, to wear it. She looked up at Mark and tugged the ring from her finger. He looked at her, his face a mask of confusion. Bailey eased the ring onto her left hand.

 

“I think if you were bein’ honest, you’d admit what this really was.” Bailey said softly.

 

“I don’t wanna push you, Bailey. But I love you. I wanna spend the rest of my life with you.” Mark reached out and took her hand, touching the band that encircled her finger. “Keep it. Wear it. You don’t have to give me an answer right now.” He shrugged. “I want you to take your time and think about it…cuz it’s about all I CAN think about.”

 

Bailey nodded hesitantly. She loved Mark, she knew that she did. It was hard for her to say it. She preferred actions over words, and hoped that he understood where she was coming from. And Bailey had always been one to shy away from thoughts of being married. She didn’t know why. She could have a million excuses, and all would sound all right, but in truth she did not know why the thought of being married to Mark freaked her out.

 

Caleb started to cry, and Bailey was relieved. Mark gave her one last look before moving to pick up his son, taking him to the kitchen for a bottle. Bailey sat there for a few minutes, staring at the ring on her finger, trying for the first time in her life not to think. Her problem was she over-thought a lot of things. Right now she needed to rely on what she felt.

 

With a sigh she pushed up from the floor and turned on the lights. She unplugged the tree, listening as Mark cooed to the baby in his room. It was just past ten, early by any standards, but she wanted to go to bed. To lie in the dark and try to figure out what the hell she was doing.

 

Bailey quickly showered, tugged on her usual pajamas of shorts and a tank top, and crawled into bed. The ring seemed warm against her skin as she lay there under the blankets. She sighed and hugged Mark’s pillow to her, breathing in his scent.

 

Mark came in a bit later. He’d taken a shower himself. He chuckled a bit as he pulled his pillow from Bailey’s arms, settling down next to her. Her breathing was deep and even, a sign she was sleeping. He pulled her into his arms, cuddling her close, smiling as she snuggled into him. His eyes drifted shut. The baby cried from his room what felt like moments later. Before Mark could fully wake up, he felt Bailey move away from him, felt the bed shift as her weight left it.

 

“Mark.”

 

“Hmm…” He’d only been asleep for a few minutes. At least that’s what it felt like. Mark cracked one eye open and glanced at the alarm clock. It was after four in the morning.

 

“Hey.” Bailey was kneeling on the bed, leaning over him. Mark blinked to clear his vision, willing his eyes to adjust to the dark room. “Sorry. I didn’t want to wake you up, but this can’t wait.”

 

Mark felt as if he’d been dunked into a tub of icy cold water. Her words could really only mean one thing, couldn’t they? She wanted to give the ring back. Maybe she wanted to move out. Maybe he was rushing things when she didn’t want to be rushed.

 

“Stop worrying.” Bailey whispered, managing to sound commanding.

 

“Who’s worried?” Mark pushed himself up on his elbows. “Ok. Yeah, I’m worried. Is something wrong? Are you all right? Is Caleb all right?”

 

“No, yes, and yes.” Bailey toyed with the ring he’d given her, twisting it on her finger. “I’ve been thinking.”

 

“How were you thinking? You were sleeping.” Mark said, trying to stall her.

 

“I can do both, big red.” Bailey poked him. Mark did not want to hope, but he could not help it. If Bailey had decided to dump him, would she be feeling playful like this? He seriously doubted it.

 

“Ok. You were thinking.” Mark said, almost afraid to hear it.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Yes?” Mark waited.

 

“My answer. Yes.” Bailey said, speaking slowly as if he could not understand English.

 

“Wait.” Mark sat all the way up, facing her. “Yes?”

 

“Yup.” Bailey nodded. “I love you. I love Caleb, even when he’s wailing his head off for food. I love this house, I love Aus and Payge, hell…I love Spiderman on rare occasions. I don’t wanna lose all this cuz I’m afraid.” She sighed out a relieved breath. “So if you were asking one specific question, I wanted to give you my one specific answer.”

 

Mark was silent for a minute, feeling like crying. He was happy. Too damned happy. It was what he wanted, all he’d ever wanted. He moved until he was in the same kneeling position as Bailey, and took her hand. “I wanna hear you say it, Bailey. Tell me you wanna marry me.” Mark whispered.

 

“I wanna marry you.” Bailey imitated his accented voice with no hesitation. “Right after I throw up.” She rubbed her stomach and grinned nervously.

 

Mark laughed. “That’ll pass. I can’t…” He didn’t finish. Instead he pulled her forward into his arms. “I love you Bailey. You won’t regret it, darlin’.”

 

“I’d better not.” She said, her voice muffled by his chest. “One more thing.”

 

“Yeah?” Mark let her go, still holding onto her hand. As if he were afraid she’d run away if he didn’t tether her to him.

 

“If those tests come back and Caleb is yours…”

 

“There’s no if. He’s mine.” Mark corrected.

 

“IF…” Bailey said firmly. “Small shot but still. If he is yours, and you keep him, I want to adopt him.”

 

Mark could not breath for a moment. “You’d want to…be his mother?” He said in a whisper.

 

“As much as I could be. Yeah.” Bailey grinned. “I’m already up for the three o’clock feedings, the diapers, the bottles. I figure the only difference is my name on a piece of paper. That is…if you want it.”

 

Mark laughed shakily. “You can’t know how much I want that, Bailey. And not just that. More. Everything.”

 

“I’m willin’ to try if you’re willin’ to be patient.” Bailey said. “Now, Mister Calaway. We have two hours until the baby wakes up wanting attention. What should we do with that time that doesn’t involve sleeping?”

 

Mark grinned. “I can think of a couple of things.” He said, pulling her against his body, reveling in the feel of this woman who had just agreed to become his wife.

 

10

 

“So you really think that’s her?”

 

Glen was leaning over the pictures that Ken had spread across the table. Ken had stopped in early that morning, and they were still sitting in Glen’s kitchen, drinking coffee, looking at ten year old pictures of twins.

 

“I don’t know, man. If it’s not, it’s an amazing coincidence.” Ken heaved a sigh and shoved all the photos back into the folder. “Jen and Jamie both fell off the radar five years ago…it’s like they just fell off the edge of the earth.”

 

Glen nodded. “Whoever they were hiding from must have meant business. So what do you think?”

 

“I think we should go talk to my tattoo guy. See if he knows who gave her this tat.” Ken pulled out a picture. This was a photo from Carolyn’s office. The Japanese lettering was prominent on the body’s white skin.

 

“Long shot in the dark.” Glen muttered.

 

“Yeah. But what else can we do?”

 

“I could call around. I have a friend with the FBI. See if he can scrounge up anything.”

 

“It’s a start.” Ken rose to his feet. “I’m all for keeping Bailey as much out of this as possible, but do you really think she’s gonna sit back and let us work?”

 

Glen laughed. “Hell no.”

 

“I didn’t think so.” Ken shook his head. “I’ll call in a bit. Do me a favor…see if they had any family still in state.”

 

“Take me about five minutes.” Glen said.

 

“I’d like to know if they know where Jen and Jamie are.” Ken finished. “You can talk to ‘em. People like you.”

 

“People are intimidated by me.” Glen said with a smirk. “But it works. I’ll start digging.”

 

“Great.” Ken tucked his folder under his arm and went outside to his truck. He was in for a very long day, probably a very long fruitless day. But that was all right. It was what he did for a living after all.

 

*~**~*

 

Bailey had been the only one in the office that day. Ken and Glen were tracking down someone for a case-they said they’d be back by late evening. Bailey didn’t even ask what they’d found out. Ken would have just given her the runaround anyway.

 

Mark was not home. He had not been planning on going to work until noon and Caleb was supposed to go with him. Bailey got the feeling he wanted to show his son off, a notion that was pretty adorable in her opinion.

 

She checked the messages on the house answering machine, and shook her head when Mark’s voice filled the room. “Hey…we decided to go visit a couple of friends. Probably be home around seven or so. You’re cell’s turned off…” He paused. She could hear the baby making noises in the background. “Well…I’ll see you when I get home. Love you.”

 

There were two more messages, one for Mark, one from Carolyn. Bailey got herself a bottle of water and picked up the phone to call the medical examiner back.

 

“ME.”

 

“Hi, Carolyn. It’s Bailey. Got your message. What’s up?”

 

“Oh. Bailey.” The older woman sighed heavily. Her tone became friendlier. “Sorry for bein’ short, hon. Damn mayor’s got two new ME’s here, looking over my shoulder.”

 

“Understandable.” Bailey said, taking a seat at the table. “You said you wanted to ask me something?”

 

“Oh…yes…” There were rustling sounds from the other end of the line. “I was thinking of taking a drive out to the pond where our DB was found. Just to get a feel for the place. Maybe take a couple more water samples.”

 

“They didn’t get enough when they found her?” Bailey asked.

 

“Three samples, two contaminated.” Carolyn said with a groan. “They’ll learn to call me instead of the coroner one of these days. Anyway…we’re going to have a re-enactment team out there by the end of the week. I need to get some pictures first. For my own files, not for the PD.”

 

“Ah. Ok.”

 

“Is that your subtle way of telling me to get to the point?” Carolyn asked with a laugh.

 

Bailey grinned. “I’ve had a long day myself. Dead cases. So…what is your point?”

 

“I have dead cases all day, every day, sugar.” Carolyn sounded like she was smiling. “I was wondering if you might want to meet me out there. I’m not sure how much of a conflict of interest it might cause, since you all do have that adorable little one, but I know how you are Bailey. I only have one roll of film, and it won’t be enough pictures for you.”

 

Bailey snorted. “You got that right.”

 

“You got a pen handy? I have one more meeting to get through, shouldn’t take more than half an hour. I’ll meet you out there, around seven thirty?” Carolyn rattled off directions, giving Bailey time to jot them down.

 

“Got it. I’ll see you later on.”

 

“See ya in a bit, hon.” With that Carolyn was gone. Bailey sat there, tapping her fingers on the table for a few minutes, thinking. The pond where the body had been found was a forty minute drive. She’d have time to stop and eat some dinner on the way. She scribbled a short note to Mark, telling him she was meeting Carolyn to talk over the case, then snatched up her cell phone from the counter. It wasn’t that it was not turned on, the battery was dead.  Bailey grabbed her purse and keys, and headed to her Jeep. She plugged the phone into the charger and started the vehicle, trying to decide what she wanted to eat.

 

At seven, she was pulling onto a grown-over dirt road, as per Carolyn’s directions. Bailey was too impatient to sit around and wait for the other woman to catch up. She wanted to get out there and see what there was to see. It did not help matters that it was dark out…it seemed like just yesterday she was complaining about the heat and the sun. Now she wished for a little of both as she cleared an overgrown patch of the ‘road’. A field opened in front of her. Even this close to wintertime the area was overrun with wild growth. Weeds grew waist high as far as she could see in the darkness.

 

According the Carolyn’s directions, the pond was two hundred yards to the right of the entrance to the field. Bailey pulled forward as far as she dared, then climbed out of the Jeep, leaving the engine running. The headlights were her only illumination. She reached under the driver’s seat and pulled out a small flashlight. The batteries were working, barely. It was enough. The headlights on high beam reached far enough to reflect a bit off the water’s surface that was still a hundred yards ahead.

 

She clicked the flashlight off, relying on the Jeep for now, and made her way across the field, keeping her eyes on the ground in front of her. That’s all she needed…to trip and fall and break an ankle. The pond was right ahead. It was small, apparently shallow, the surface of the dark water smooth. It looked like a mirror lying on the ground, reflecting the stars. Bailey thought it was lovely, until she remembered why she was there. She had no clue where their DB had been found, and it had rained since that morning. Any grass that was trampled by the killer or the police who retrieved the body would have been destroyed.

 

With a sigh, Bailey walked the circumference of the pond, keeping her eyes to the ground. She turned her flashlight on but it barely helped. She would just have to wait for Carolyn. She would definitely bring some high-powered lighting.

 

There was a noise from the direction of the entrance. Through the trees, Bailey could see the flickering lights of an approaching car. Finally. She glanced at her watch, momentarily paused to look at her ring, and walked toward her parked Jeep. She’d meet Carolyn, help her carry whatever equipment she brought with her.

 

Bailey reached her Jeep just as Carolyn’s car cleared the trees. She waved and opened the door to her vehicle, meaning to turn off the lights and get her keys. She was leaning over, tucking her flashlight back under the seat, when rough hands grabbed her and jerked her backward.

 

Bailey’s first instinct was to jerk away. She fought it, instead going with her momentum and flinging herself backward. Whoever grabbed her wasn’t expecting it. He whooshed out a breath of air as he stumbled backward, Bailey slamming against his chest.

 

She had time to think he was a huge freakin’ guy before he regained his balance and tangled his hand into her hair. He pulled her backward again, this time dragging her by the hair toward the darkened field. Bailey struggled, trying to get her hair from his hand even if it meant ripping it out at the root. It was too dark out with the Jeep’s headlights off to really get a look at him. From what she could discern in the darkness, the guy was even bigger than Mark, heavyset, seeming to have no trouble dragging a struggling woman along with him.

 

Near the pond the man suddenly released his hold. Bailey wasn’t ready for it. Her head thumped to the ground, dazing her momentarily. The guy was doing something…she didn’t know what. She heard water splashing. She struggled to get up, feeling as if she were moving in slow motion, her head swimming dizzily.  She supposed that was what happened when hard head met hard ground. Shaking off the nonsensical thoughts, Bailey rose shakily to her feet, meaning to run.

 

She got all of two steps when she was grabbed again, this time by the neck. Large hands completely circled it, squeezing. Bailey wheezed for air, clawing at the hands with all her strength. The man cursed and dropped her, snatching his hand back as the ring Mark had given her tore a line across his skin. Bailey stumbled, fell to one knee, then rose back up to try to run again.

 

Sharp pain exploded from the side of her head. Bailey was not aware of falling…one minute she was upright, the next she was facedown in the deep grass. Another pain tore across the back of her head, not as sharp, but still enough to make her cry out weakly. The world seemed to loose all of its reality as darkness overtook her vision. She felt a sharp tug at her leg, and had the sensation of her body sliding backward. She kicked, weakly, not nearly enough to break his hold on her leg.

 

The big man stopped and moved so he was straddling her prone body. Bailey could do nothing as he dropped down, his weight pressing her into the cold ground. Hot breath puffed across her ear as he spoke from an inch away.

 

“You’re a nosy bitch. Stay out of it. This is your ONLY warning.” At that, something hard slammed into the back of her head. Bailey jerked, then went limp, all thought gone as she lost consciousness on the cold ground.

 

11

 

It was past eleven.

 

Bailey should have been home.

 

Mark paced the kitchen, worried frown on his face, glancing occasionally at the phone. She’d left a note, saying she was meeting that ME, and she’d take her cell. Mark had called her at least a dozen times with no result. It went straight to voice mail every time.

 

The phone trilled. Mark jumped and almost fell over himself to reach it. “Yeah? Bailey?”

 

“Uh…” It was a woman. A vaguely familiar voice too. “Is this Mr. Calaway?”

 

“Yeah? Who is this?”

 

“This is Carolyn, the ME?” The woman said. She sounded as worried as Mark felt. “Bailey was supposed to meet me earlier tonight. My meeting ran late. When I finally got out there, the road was flooded, I couldn’t get in. I wanted to see if she made it home all right.”

 

Mark closed his eyes and took deep breaths, trying to calm down. “She’s not here. She hasn’t been here at all tonight. I can’t get her on her phone, either.” He said tersely, not bothering to hid his distress. “You think she’s maybe stuck out there?” He had hope of that. It was pouring rain, and if she was stuck in the mud, all he’d have to do was go pick her up.

 

“In that Jeep?” Carolyn sighed. “She’s got four wheel drive, hon. I don’t think I have to tell ya that she’s a good driver. She wouldn’t get stuck.”

 

“Jesus.” Mark felt his spirits fade. Worry returned in spades. “I gotta get out there. Where the hell did she go?”

 

“To the pond where we found our DB. I’ll give ya directions, and I’ll get porter up outta bed.”

 

Mark jotted down the directions and hung up without bothering to listen to Carolyn’s assurances. He dialed Austin’s number and got permission to drop Caleb off without going into detail. He could explain everything when he got there.

 

*~**~*

 

 Her head hurt.

 

That was the first thing that registered.

 

The second thing was that something heavy was covering her. And she was hot.

 

The third…it was raining. Not just raining. Pouring. As if she were in a tin-roofed shack under a waterfall.

 

She blinked and forced her eyes to open. The room was dim. The only source of light came from a lantern in one corner. She had a strange sense of déjà vu as she pushed against the uncomfortable surface beneath her into a sitting position.

 

The heavy thing was a very thick quilt. She was hot because the lantern turned out to be a tiny fireplace in the corner. The heat came from it in waves, making her feel dizzy.

 

“Hey, no…just relax. Head must be poundin’ right about now.” A drawling voice came from her right. She looked in that direction and picked out a shadow that was vaguely man-shaped.

 

She let herself relax once more against the hard surface. Some kind of table. She felt rough would under her palms when she reached out to explore.

 

“Where…” Her voice was weak, shaky. She cleared her throat. “Where…am I?” She finally managed to choke out.

 

The man stepped forward. She had a fleeting moment when her heart wanted to leap from her chest. Fear sent a shudder down her spine. Then it was gone. She frowned at the feeling, wondering why she’d be afraid of this perfect stranger.  He pulled a stool close to her side and sat down so she could get a good look at him. He was tall, she’d seen that, and completely bald. His eyes were a piercing shade of blue. He wore a faded blue-jean jacket and a black t-shirt. He looked very comfortable.

 

“You’re at my huntin’ cabin, darlin’. Found ya layin’ in the field out there.” He pointed toward one wall.

 

“Lying in the field?” She asked, her frown deepening.

 

“Yeah. ‘Bout tripped over ya, you were layin’ in the deep grass.” The man leaned forward, peering at her. “You don’t remember how ya got there?”

 

She met his eyes and couldn’t look away. She tried to remember. The last thing that came to mind was telling…someone…Ken…to be careful with boxes. But the memory was fuzzy. She couldn’t ever remember her own damn name. She reached up and rubbing her forehead with one hand.

 

“Are…are you Ken?” She asked in a whisper.

 

The man shook his head. “Nah. Name’s Steve. Steve Williams. I own land I found ya layin’ on. Freaked me out, on account of findin’ that other woman out there last week.”

 

“Other…woman?” She asked softly.

 

“Yeah. Godawful mess that was.”

She didn’t know why, but hearing the man’s drawl, listening to his low tone, set her at ease. “I don’t…I can’t remember anything.”

 

Steve propped his chin up on one hand, leaning the elbow against the table she was lying on. “How ‘bout your name, darlin’?”

 

She frowned again. “I dunno. Barbara? Brady?” Neither sounded right, but she was sure it started with a B.

 

“Hmm.” Steve made a noise. “You don’t look like a Barbie to me.”

 

“Doesn’t sound right to me either…” She muttered. “BAILEY!”

 

Steve jumped, not expecting her to shout. “Damn, darlin’. Easy now.”

 

“It’s Bailey…Bailey…something. Shit.” Bailey reached back and rubbed at her head. A large lump had formed there, and her fingertips came away sticky with blood. “Did I fall?”

 

“I don’t know, darlin’. There were rocks, but none big enough to do that damage.” Steve sounded impressed. “Bailey, huh? Got a last name? Might help figuring out where you belong.”

 

Bailey was frowning again. “I don’t know. Why can’t I remember?”

 

Steve shrugged. “You took a good knock to the head. It’ll come back to ya. Sometimes it happens.”

 

Bailey sat up again, this time slower. Steve gave her a hand, holding on until she was in a sitting position. “Ok. Why not take me to a hospital and dump me off?”

 

Steve smiled. “You hear that?” He pointed to the roof. Bailey looked up. Her tin reference was dead on.

 

“It’s raining?”

 

“Pouring. This place is on a hill, so it’s dry. The pond is flooded. The road is about two feet of mud. My truck got stuck tryin’ to get outta here.”

 

“I have…a…uh…” Bailey squinted, trying to think. “A…Jeep?”

 

Steve cocked an eyebrow. “Where, darlin’?”

 

“I have no idea.” She admitted.

 

“Wasn’t a car where you were. Not a Jeep either.” He said softly. “I saw a light comin’ from the pond, and walked over there. It started rainin’. Like I said, I about tripped over ya on the way. Light turned out to be a mostly dead flashlight. I got ya, carried you back to my truck, piled ya in. Got about halfway to the road when the damn thing bogged down. Forecast didn’t call for this rain, and I didn’t expect to be leavin’ for a week or two, so I’m not drivin’ my all wheel. Didn’t know what else to do, so I brought ya back here. Let me look at that head of yours.”

 

Bailey leaned forward obediently and winced and hissed her breath as he gently checked her wound. “Lost a bit’a blood, but I think you’ll live, darlin’. I got a barrel of rainwater. Why don’t ya try washin’ that blood outta your hair?” Steve pointed to the corner near the fire. A waist high wooden barrel stood there. Bailey got shakily to her feet, leaning on him for support, as she went that way.

 

“I don’t wanna get blood in your water.”

 

“You hear that rain?” Steve said with a chuckle. “Won’t take but five minutes to refill it. You go on now, see if you can lean over. Grab the edge, it’ll help.”

 

Bailey slowly moved, tilting forward so her hair dangled into the water. A wave of dizziness washed over her, momentarily clouding her vision. Steve held her still, not letting her sink down.

 

“Fight out of it darlin’.” He murmured, stroking her back. Bailey managed to shake off most of the dizziness in a minute, and carefully dunked her head under the water. The rainwater had been slightly warmed by the fire, but it was still cool enough against her scalp to make her gasp. It felt nice against the wound, numbing it a bit. Steve did something behind her, rummaged, and poured something onto her hair.

 

“Don’t get used to this, darlin’. I don’t usually do hair.” He said with another chuckle. He began rubbing her hair gently, and she smelled something citrus. Shampoo. He was bald and carried shampoo. She would probably find that funny later, but right now he was rubbing that lump and it was making her want to cry.

 

Steve rinsed her off and gave her a towel. Bailey carefully wrapped it around her head, and stood up straight, ready to fight off another wave of dizziness. When it didn’t come, Steve helped her into a chair. “You hungry?”

 

She was surprised by the question. She knew she needed to get out of there, but had no idea WHY she needed to get out of there. Everything was still foggy. Except for Ken. She remembered him, remembered he was her friend, and somehow her partner in something. She just didn’t remember what.

 

“I don’t know if I can eat.” She finally answered, leaning back and shivering. She was hot but she was shivering. Weird.

 

“I’ll heat up some soup. See if ya can hold it down. Then we can go for lobster and caviar.” Bailey smiled weakly and closed her eyes as Steve set about warming a can of soup. She knew she should be uneasy, but didn’t know why. And she knew she had to get out of there and figure out what the hell had happened to her as soon as possible.

 

12

 

Mark stood in the rain, hands on his hips, watching as Ken struggled through the mud.

 

He hadn’t been able to leave Ken behind once he’d told him about Bailey. They had stopped at the entrance to the field so they could check how bad the pass was.

 

Ken was up to his knees in mud.

 

Mark sighed and looked at the rain. There was no sign of it slowing. “Maybe we should cruise around, see if we can get in somewhere else.”

 

“Probably a great idea.” Ken called, finally jerking free of the mud. The entrance ran downhill to the road…all the mud pooled at the entrance making it impossible to pass, even in Mark’s four-wheel drive. Ken looked down at his mud caked pants with a sigh, joining Mark at the truck. “You really think Bailey’s up there?”

 

“I hope so. Then again…” Mark shrugged. Worry gnawed at him. He thought he was doing a fairly good job hiding it. “Let’s go. Maybe there’s another way.”

 

Ken nodded and climbed into the truck, making a mental note to clean it out later. Mark slowly guided the vehicle down the road, watching for breaks in the fence that surrounded the property. There had to be another way in. He would not give up until he found it.

 

*~**~*

 

“So…where do ya live?”

 

Steve’s question brought Bailey out of her thoughts as she stared at the fire.

 

“Huh? Uh…” She frowned. “I have a house. I think.”

 

“Where?” Steve kept up his questions. He’d been asking them for the past two hours, and she was frustrated she could not come up with the answers.

 

“I don’t know.” Bailey said with a sigh. She looked down at her hands, frowning a bit at the ring on her finger. She didn’t usually wear jewelry, that much she knew, and she would not have bought herself the piece she was wearing. She twisted it on her finger, trying to remember where she’d gotten it.

 

“Nice rock, darlin’. Boyfriend give it to you?” Steve asked conversationally.

 

“I don’t know. I’m getting tired of saying that particular phrase too.”

 

“It’ll come back to ya. Here. Finished.” Steve had been occupying himself making her a bed on the old couch that rested against one wall. Bailey nodded and moved in that direction, feeling as if she were swimming to get to it. She had a fever, Steve had confirmed it, and she alternated between being hot and cold. She settled herself on the lumpy couch, sighing in relief. It was better than the table, anyway.

 

“I’ll let ya get some rest. I’m gonna go out, see if I can find this Jeep of yours. Can’t have gotten far without ya.”

 

Bailey shook her head. “Don’t leave me here by myself.”

 

Steve looked at her for a full minute. “Darlin’, you don’t strike me as the type that’s scared of bein’ alone for an hour. I won’t be far. But we gotta figure out a way to get you outta here and to a doctor.” He have her shoulder a squeeze then turned and rummaged through a bag. “Here. Take a couple of these.” He produced a bottle of aspirin and found some bottled water in another bag. Bailey gulped both down gratefully, lying back against a rolled blanket Steve had made into a pillow for her. “Try to get some rest, darlin’. I’ll be back in a bit.”

 

Bailey nodded and closed her eyes. She was asleep before Steve left the shack. He looked at her worriedly for a moment before ducking out into the downpour.

 

*~**~*

 

Ken answered Mark’s cell phone when it rang, since Mark was too intent on driving to pay attention to it.

 

“Is this Calaway?” A male voice asked.

 

“No, actually, it’s Anderson, but your forgiven.” Ken refused to let the situation bring him down. They’d find Bailey soon, he knew it, she was a tough one, nothing had happened. She was probably just stuck. He could almost make himself believe that.

 

“Ken? It’s Porter.”

 

“Hey, Cap. What’s up?” Ken glanced at Mark. He was still watching the road, but now he listened with one ear to the phone conversation.

 

“Got a call from my ME. Find anything out there?”

 

“Nothin’ but a bunch of mud.” Ken said, sounding frustrated.

 

Porter sighed. “Well…”

“Out with it, Cap.” Ken knew his former boss had something on his mind.

 

“One of our patrol cars found her Jeep.”

 

“What?” Ken’s loud response made Mark jump. He slowed the truck to a stop in the center of the road to stare at the man in the passenger seat.

 

“What is it?” Mark asked, at the look on Ken’s face.

 

Ken held up a finger. “Where? When?”

 

“Ten minutes ago. Parked in front of her old house. The man who bought the house said he saw it pull up, and didn’t think anything of it. Didn’t see her or…anybody else…get out.”

 

“Christ.” Ken looked at Mark. “They found her Jeep. In town.”

 

“Are you kiddin’ me?”

 

“Anderson…we’re still poking around but this late in this weather, nobody’s gonna know anything.” Porter sounded defeated.

 

“We can’t even find a way up to that pond. Flooded out.” Ken said tersely.

 

“I hate to say it, but we might have to wait until the rain lets up. I can send an all wheel out there…”

 

“It’s no good. The mud’s too deep.” Ken interrupted.

 

Porter muttered a curse. “We’ll figure it out. Let me get ahold of the sheriff down there, let him know what’s happening. He might know another way in.”

 

“That’ll be good, Cap. Thanks.” Ken started to say goodbye when Porter interrupted him.

 

“Anderson…her Jeep…”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“It’s been stripped. Nothing inside, not even a scrap of paper. No plates. Looks like someone tried to pry the VIN off the dashboard. I guess they were hopin’ it would take a while to figure out who the vehicle belonged to.”

 

“What about her gun?” Ken knew she carried one in her glove box, locked in a small metal box.

 

“Gone. The whole thing was wiped clean too. No prints from her or anybody else that we can see. Ya’ll be careful out there. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Porter hung up, leaving Ken holding a dead phone.

 

He shared a look with Mark. “We gotta find her. Keep goin’. There’s gotta be another way in there.”

 

Mark nodded and said nothing. He was afraid to talk. Afraid he’d say something to show just how scared he was. With a sigh, he put the truck in gear and moved slowly down the road, eyes glued to the fence on his left.

 

*~**~*

 

She didn’t know how long she was out. Her eyes blinked open at a noise from across the room. Bailey turned her head and waited for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. The fire had died down a bit, making it hard to see. Steve was heating something at the fireplace, his back to her.

 

“Cooper.”

 

Her voice made him jump. Steve turned to look at her, half-smile on his face. “Actually, it’s Steve, but that’s all right. You’ve had a rough night.”

 

“No…Cooper…is my last name.” Bailey said softly.

 

“Bailey Cooper, huh?” Steve walked over and placed a hand on her forehead. “Still a little hot. But better than you were earlier. I about drowned myself out there, but still didn’t see your Jeep.”

 

“Parked it by the driveway, down by the pond.” Bailey pushed herself into a sitting position. The aspirin and the nap had worked to lower her temperature. She felt a bit better.

 

“You remember?”

 

“Bits and pieces.” Bailey pushed her hair back from her face with shaking hands. “I was supposed to meet…somebody…” She frowned. The name would not come to her.

 

“Don’t force it, darlin’. It’ll all come back soon enough.” He finished what he was doing and poured clear fluid into a cup. “Here, it’s broth. Drink up. You need to regain your strength.”

 

Bailey took the cup and inhaled the fumes, feeling warmed by it. She took a small sip. “Ken is my partner.”

 

“Ken who?” Steve asked, settling on the floor to face her.

 

“I don’t know. I just know we had a…some kind of business together.” Bailey said thoughtfully. Small things kept coming back to her. It was like puzzle pieces being fit together. “My head…”

 

“Is it hurtin’ again, darlin’?” Steve made a move to get up. Bailey waved him off.

 

“No. Well, yeah, but not too bad. I can deal with it. I was gonna say…I remember what happened. A bit anyway. I was out by the pond…looking for something…and someone snuck up on me. Hit me. With…” Bailey frowned. “I don’t remember. I didn’t see his face, at least, I don’t think I did. He was big though.”

 

“Yeah? My size?” Steve asked, pointing at himself. He was no small man by any means.

 

“No. Bigger. Seven feet maybe.” It sounded ridiculous even as she said it, but Bailey knew that it sounded right. The man had been huge.

 

Steve whistled. “Haven’t seen anybody that size runnin’ around here.”

 

“I need to get outta here.” Bailey said.

 

“Yeah.” Steve nodded.

 

“If that guy comes back lookin’ for me, I could be putting you in danger.” She said softly.

 

Steve grinned impishly. “Darlin’, ain’t nothin’ I can’t handle.” He pointed to the door. Propped against the wall next to it was a rifle. “You ain’t gotta worry about bein’ here. As soon as this weather clears up we’ll get you out of here. Try to remember more.”

 

Bailey relaxed and nodded, closing her eyes. “I…hmm…” In her mind she heard a child’s laughter. “Ok…uh…wait…” Images in her mind were blurry. “I think I have a sister. Or somebody has a sister that I call sister. I don’t remember.” She sighed and opened her eyes. “It’s like looking at things through a foggy window.”

 

Steve nodded. “Don’t rush yourself. Ya ain’t got anywhere to be, right?” He smirked. Bailey couldn’t help but smile.

 

“I guess. Or I probably do, I just don’t remember.” Bailey shook her head. Phantom hands stroked her back, making her shiver.

 

“You all right?” Steve asked, looking concerned. Bailey smiled weakly.

 

“Yeah. Just…I dunno. Thinking.”

 

“Don’t do too much of that.” Steve said wryly.

 

“My fatal flaw. I think.” Bailey shook her head. In her head, a very deep voice was whispering to her. She fought another shiver. “Ok. Well. Uh.”

 

“It’s late.” Steve said. He smiled. “I have a cot, I’m gonna set it up right in front of the door. Let’s get some sleep.”

 

Even though she’d just taken a nap, Bailey was still tired. Her head was throbbing. She accepted two more aspirin from Steve and snuggled under her blanket. Steve stretched out on his cot, blocking the doorway. For some reason, it made her feel safe. She relaxed and closed her eyes, willing herself to remember in the dark, to wake up knowing who she was and how she’d gotten here.

 

13

 

Something woke her up hours later.

 

Bailey sat up, blinking, already alert. Voices. There were voices coming from outside, at least two people, maybe three. She rose to her feet, steady, moving silently across the wood floor.

 

Steve slept, unaware she was awake. He was blocking the door as promised. Bailey wanted him out of the way though. She leaned down and grabbed the legs of the cot, sliding it across the floor to make a wedge toward the door.

 

“Hey…wha…” Steve muttered thickly, half-rising.

 

“Shh. I heard something.” Bailey waved a hand at him and picked up his rifle. She checked the safety, chambered a round, and put her hand on the doorknob in one fluid movement. The voices came again. They sounded familiar.

 

Bailey threw the door open, swinging the gun up as she moved onto the stoop. Three men stood in the darkness. She pointed the rifle at the one in the middle, feeling a bit of satisfaction at their gasps of surprise.

 

“Christ…Bailey?” The man on the right stepped forward, hands up. Bailey squinted into the darkness and sighed in relief.

 

“Ken.” She clicked the safety on and dropped the gun. “Sorry…I guess I’m jumpy…”

 

That was all she got out. Ken grabbed her in his arms and swung her around. “Do you realize how fuckin’ scared we were? And here you are, shacked up in some cabin.” He put her on her feet, grinning.

 

Bailey smiled back, and looked over his shoulder. Mark. Mark was the big shadow. Tears filled her eyes as she pushed Ken away and went to him, throwing her arms around his waist.

 

Mark murmured and held her close, cradling her shaking body against his, unable to say anything for a minute. Just seeing her open that door…he nearly cried in relief.

 

Bailey sniffled and held Mark in a death grip. Her memory was back, all of it. Nothing was foggy. She remembered where the ring had come from, remembered Caleb. “I’ve had a shitty night, hon.” She said, her voice watery against Mark’s chest. He chuckled.

 

“You and me both.” Mark kissed her on the forehead. “Had to wait for the rain to stop. Porter found a back way onto the property.”

 

“Hey, Cap.” Bailey said from the warm cocoon of Mark’s arms.

 

“Coop.” Porter nodded, smiling. “I suppose now would be a good time to get your initial statement.”

 

“You know these people, obviously.” Steve’s voice came from the doorway. Bailey untangled herself from Mark’s arms and turned to grin at him.

 

“Yeah. This is Ken, Porter…and Mark.” She gave him a squeeze. “Mind if they come in?”

 

“Nah. C’mon.” He waved and shoved the cot out of the way completely.

 

Bailey settled on the couch between Mark and Ken. Porter sat on the floor near the fire, legs crossed. Steve perched on the table, legs swinging, as the three men relayed all that had happened during the night. When they were finished it was Bailey’s turn.

 

“So you didn’t see the guy who hit you?” Porter asked when she’d caught them up.

 

“No. Just a shadow.” Bailey looked up at Mark. “He was bigger than you, though. Taller, wider, a real lumberin’ oaf.” Mark snorted.

 

“So my title goes to some thug that hit you? I’ll kill him.” Mark kissed her forehead again.

 

“Now, now. Don’t forget there is an officer of the law here.” Porter said with a grin. “So he spoke to you?”

 

“Yeah. Told me to mind my own business. Which I assume meant not to snoop around the crime scene.” Bailey nodded to Steve. “You might wanna consider putting a gate up or something.”

 

“It’s on my list, darlin’.” Steve said with a grin.

 

“Apparently this ‘thug’…” Porter said with a chuckle. “Doesn’t know you’re living with Mark. He left your Jeep at your old house. Stripped everything out of it.”

 

“My gun?”

 

“Gone.” Porter said with a nod. “I don’t think it’ll get used. Seems like, if this is our kill, he’s more into strangulation and drowning. Guns might be too impersonal. I think he just took it to shake you up a bit.”

 

“I’m shaken all right.” Bailey said with a sigh. “I have another gun at the house. Speaking of which…I can’t wait to go home.”

 

“We can go now, if you want. Oh…” Ken snapped his fingers and looked at Steve. “We found your truck axle deep in mud. Need a hand pulling it out?”

 

“Eh. I’m content to leave it be.” Steve said in a drawl. “My sis’ll be up in a week. I’ll use her truck to bog it out.”

 

“Well then…” Porter stood up. “I’ll write this up tomorrow. We can try to put an APB out on a gargantuan but I don’t think it’ll do any good. I’ll stop by sometime, we can brainstorm.”

 

“All right.” Bailey rose to her feet. She looked at Steve. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

 

“Don’t worry ‘bout it, darlin’. Glad to see everything workin’ out, that’s good enough for me.” Steve slid from the table to walk with them to the door. “Ya’ll be careful out there now…still muddy as hell.”

 

“We will.” Mark stopped and eyed the smaller man. “Thank for takin’ care of her.”

 

“My pleasure.” Steve grinned and shook Mark’s offered hand. “I’d say ‘anytime’ but only if the circumstances are different.”

 

Mark smiled. Bailey stepped forward and hugged Steve. He grinned again and hugged her back. “Take care, Steve. If you ever need anything…”

 

“You’ll be the first favor I call in. Don’t be a stranger now.” Steve smirked and walked outside, watching as they disappeared into the darkness. His eyes narrowed. That was twice some fool had done something stupid on his land. He was more than curious to find out who it was.

 

*~**~*

 

“You wanna hold him before I put him in bed?”

 

Bailey looked up from the bed, where she sat running a brush through her damp hair. Mark had insisted on stopping at the ER. The doctor had studied her lump and announced that she was hard-headed and needed nothing but rest and aspirin. The memory loss troubled her, but the doctor waved it off. Such things sometimes happened with head trauma. He told her to come back to the ER if she suffered a relapse, other than that, she was good to go.

 

She’d taken a long hot shower while Mark gave Ken a ride home and picked up Caleb. Bailey was in her pajamas, getting ready for bed, when Mark came to the doorway with the baby cradled in his arms.

 

Bailey grinned. “Give him here.” She held out her arms after setting the brush aside. Caleb was sleeping, his hand curled against one cheek. Bailey kissed his cheek and breathed in his sweet baby scent. “Best medicine of all, if you ask me.”

 

Mark smiled and stroked one finger down the baby’s head. “I can think of a few things that come close.” He met her eyes grew serious. “I almost lost you again tonight.”

 

“I know, Mark.” Bailey whispered.

 

“I know it’s not your fault.” He went on. “But I almost had a heart attack worryin’. I’m not done with you yet, Bailey. Not by a long shot.”

 

Bailey smiled. “I know, Mark.” She repeated, glad to hear him say that. “I love you.”

 

“I love you.” He reciprocated, leaning down to kiss her. “From now on, at least while you’re investigating, just promise me you won’t go anywhere alone.”

 

Bailey frowned and thought about it. Whoever had attacked her had been more than huge…and possible a bit too much for her to handle. She was a good fighter, she could hold her own, but did she really want to test her strength on a monster who stood over seven feet tall?

 

“I promise I will have someone with me wherever I go from now on. Preferably someone with three guns, a black belt, and a homing beacon.” She raised a hand and swore it to him. “Let’s get little one to bed, then get ourselves the same direction. I’m tired.”

 

Mark smiled and took the baby. “I’ve got him. You go ahead, get under the covers. I’ll be right back.”

 

Bailey watched him leave the room and climbed into bed, pulling the blankets to her chin with a sigh of relief. A few minutes later, Mark’s weight caused the bed to shift. He pulled her into his arms and held her until she fell asleep, his eyes wide open in the darkness. He didn’t know how much of her job he could take. Being a private investigator was turning out to be more dangerous than he’d given it credit for.

 

14

 

“All right, so what did we find out?”

 

Glen started laughing. “You sure she hit her head last night?”

 

“Pretty sure.” Ken grumbled, flipping through his paperwork. “She coulda faked it for a day off.”

 

“Ha, ha.” Bailey poked him. They were gathered in the office, sitting around the conference table Glen had put in the middle of the room. “Well…” She dragged the word out.

 

Ken rolled his eyes. “Only you would be so bossy after almost getting killed last night.” He cleared his throat. “The tattoo is Japanese, and it’s a jumble of letters.”

 

He slid the paper in front of him across the table. Bailey picked it up and glanced at the scribbled marks. “Code?”

 

“Could be she just liked the tat and didn’t know what it really meant. Happens all the time.” Glen stated.

 

“Yeah, but it’s not a small tattoo. You’d think somebody would do some research.” Bailey jotted the letters down in her own neater handwriting and studied them. AWPGULITH. She frowned. “Maybe it’s an anagram. Or something. Although it doesn’t really spell anything.” She sorted through a folder and produced a picture that Carolyn had sent to her. It was a close-up of the tattoo. The marks were placed three to a row, three rows.

 

“At any rate…” Glen shook his head. “Carolyn says our DB had blue eyes. Then she forced a DNA test with samples collected from Evan Thomas that were on file. They were a match.”

 

“Blue eyes.” Bailey muttered. “Who’s Evan Thomas?”

 

Ken and Glen exchanged a look. “We talked about him the other day. Jenny, Jamie? Remember?”


Bailey shook her head and doodled thoughtfully on her notepad. “Doesn’t ring a bell. Fuck.”

 

“Don’t worry, it’ll come back to you.” Ken said with a smile. Bailey was acting like normal, but they had found out over the course of the morning that her memory was still spotty in a few places. She didn’t seem too worried about it. Ken worried for her. Glen did too, although he hid it a bit better.

 

“Don’t give me that look.” Bailey said without looking up. Ken chuckled.

 

“Sorry.”

 

“So what does it mean? Blue eyes?” Bailey asked, waving off his apology.

 

“If I remember right, Jamie was the one with blue eyes. The quiet one. Her sister had brown eyes.” Ken dug through the papers in front of him, pulling out a photograph. “Got it from their maternal grandmother. They’re mom died when they were kids, Evan before they finished college. Took a while to track down this woman, she lives in Nevada in the middle of nowhere.”

 

Bailey took the picture from him and looked at it. It showed two smiling girls in their early twenties. She even recognized the place…the academy. She focused on the girls, and frowned. “It does look like our DB.”

 

“DNA confirmed it’s Thomas’ daughter.” Glen said. “So it’s the blue-eyed on. Jamie. Right?”

 

“Right.” Ken said. He rubbed a hand down his face. “Donna…that’s the grandma, said she hasn’t seen or heard from either of them in about five years or so.”

 

“So what does it mean?” Bailey asked.

 

“Exactly squat.” Ken said sounding frustrated.

 

Glen chuckled. “Well, we identified our dead body. It’s a start. It’s finding their back-trail that’s been hard.” He smiled. “Of course, I do enjoy a challenge. So I started after Thomas died. The girls split up for a while, couple of years. Jenny lived in Florida for a while, went to school, started on a nursing degree.”

 

Ken smirked. “Who woulda thought?”

 

Glen ignored him. “Jamie…went to California. LA. Didn’t stay long. The people I managed to talk to barely remembered her. But they remembered her boyfriend.”

 

“Oh?” Bailey looked at Glen. “Did you talk to him?”

 

Glen shook his head. “Can’t find him.”

 

“So why is he so memorable?” Bailey asked.

 

“Because according to one blue-haired old lady, the guy was a giant. Intimidating. She couldn’t remember his name, but she had no problem callin’ up how he looked.”

 

“A…giant?”

 

“Yeah. Bigger than me.” Glen tapped his own chest. “Seven feet tall, maybe more. She knew he had to duck to go into his apartment. I’m still tracking down a lease, or any kind of paperwork from that time but it’s like pulling teeth. One more interesting thing you might like though…”

 

“Go on, spill it.” Bailey waved her hand.

 

“He was arrested. Several times.” Glen’s smile hardened. “First time for breaking and entering. He spent two months locked up, got out for good behavior. The second time was an overnight stay in the county. Cops got called in for a domestic assault.”

 

“Jamie turned him in?” Bailey asked.

 

“No. Our nosy old neighbor called them.” Glen pulled out his own notebook and flipped pages. “Said there was screaming, pounding noises like they were coming through the wall, and she could hear the woman cryin’. So she called the cops. They arrested him even though Jamie didn’t want to press charges. To give him a chance to cool off, I guess.” Glen looked disgusted. “The lady said Jamie was banged up pretty bad too. She had to take her to the hospital. Forty-seven stitches, a split lip, bruises everywhere. She refused to talk to the doctor. They couldn’t make her press charges either. A few months after that they disappeared without a word.”

 

Ken blew out a breath. “So…”

 

“So?” Bailey looked at him.

 

“Well…don’t you think it’s conceivable that this guy is the one who killed Jamie?”

 

“It could be.”

 

“And he’s probably the one who attacked you last night.”

 

“Maybe.”

 

“No maybe to it. How many ‘giant’ people do you see wandering around?” Ken gloated.

 

“Well…at least two.” Bailey hooked a finger at Glen. “And Mark. I can’t point at him currently though.”

 

“Ok, I’ll give you that, but it’s all a little too coincidental.” Ken muttered.

 

“So why kill her? Because she was pregnant? Because he knew it wasn’t his baby?” Glen asked, not expecting an answer.

 

“Or maybe he just went too far.” Ken added.

 

“What about that scar on her stomach? Anything on that?” Bailey remembered belated the cut that went across Jamie’s abdomen.

 

“Bumbled C-section.” Glen said. “Autopsy shows she didn’t have the kid through natural birth. Whoever did it was clumsy but knew what they were doing.”

 

“Jenny.” Bailey muttered.

 

“What? Her?” Ken snickered. “Remember…Jen was the rebel girl. Why would she help her sister have a baby?”

 

“You said she went to nursing school.” Bailey directed that at Glen. “What kind of nursing?”

 

“Uh…” Glen looked confused. “Nursing is nursing I guess. Why?”

 

Bailey heaved a put-upon sigh. “Nursing is not nursing. There’s pediatric nursing, geriatric, cardiac, intensive care, OBSTETRICS.” She raised her voice on the last word. “You get my point surely.”

 

“So if Jenny knew Jamie was pregnant, if she helped her have the baby, why did she let that asshole presumably kill her sister?” Ken asked.

 

“That’s the million dollar question isn’t it?” Bailey said with a sigh. “We have to find Jenny. That’s the only thing I’m sure of right this moment. She might be in danger, and barring that she might be the only one we can get some answers from.” She rose to her feet. “I call this meeting to a close. Should I help you guys or am I once again relegated to backlog duty?”

 

Ken and Glen looked at each other with a smirk. “Actually…” Glen started, getting a moan from Bailey.

 

“Don’t tell me.” Bailey rubbed her forehead.

 

“We aren’t the ones with memory problems today, Coop.” Ken said with a grin. “Besides, I have something else I need you to do.”

 

“Yeah? What?”

 

“Here.” Ken reached into a bag that was sitting at his feet, and held a large black binder across the table.

 

“Mug shots?”

 

“Very astute. She might be making a recovery.” Glen said wryly.

 

Ken snickered again. Bailey rolled her eyes and waited.

 

“I went to the station and pulled records on every arrest made in the last five years, on guys with domestic assault issues, and narrowed it down to two hundred forty guys who were six foot five or taller. It’ll be something to do.” Ken said.

 

“I didn’t see his face.” Bailey muttered, flipping the book open.

 

“They’re full body shots. See?” Ken pointed. He was right. The pictures were long instead of tiny squares. “Most of these guys got stuck in the federal prison because of overcrowding. This is the way the do mugs on the big guys there. Drives home the height.”

 

“All right. I get it.” Bailey snapped the book shut. “Still doesn’t mean shit. I didn’t see his face.”

 

“Well, something might come to you.” Glen stood up and gathered his things. “I’m going to check out some area hospitals. See if Jenny Thomas was every employed in this area. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ll start tracking her from the college she went to. And I’ll find out here specialty.” Glen said with a grin. It was a detail that had slipped past him before.

 

“You do that.” Bailey said with a smile. “I’m going home.”

 

“What? It’s not even noon yet.” Ken said, poking her.

 

“I know. Isn’t it great? If all I have to do is look at pictures, I’m gonna do it where I’m comfortable.” Bailey stored her things and picked up the mug shots…and her notebook. She’d try to puzzle out the letters later as well.

 

Half an hour later, she was nestled on the couch, book open in front of her. She really had no focus at the moment, too many things were running through her mind. She was almost glad at the knock at the door. It gave her an excuse to stop moping.

 

Austin stood on the porch, grinning. “Heya sis. I brought you lunch.” She held up a brown paper bag.

 

“And the invalid gets a hot meal after all.” Bailey laughed and let Austin into the house. They went to the kitchen where they pulled down plates and Bailey fixed them both a glass of iced tea.

 

Austin had brought fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. Bailey dug in as if she hadn’t eaten in ages. They were quiet for a while, Austin eyeing her speculatively.

 

“What? Did I grow another nose or something?” Bailey finally asked to break the silence. Austin laughed.

 

“Nah. Just wondering.”

 

“Wondering what?”

 

“When the wedding is going to be.”

 

Bailey choked on her food. “He told you?”

 

“I helped him size the ring, remember?”

 

“He told you?” Bailey repeated.

 

“Yeah, sister. He told me.”

 

“Damn.” Bailey looked at her ring. “So much for keeping it quiet. And I don’t know when it’s gonna happen. We haven’t really had time to talk about it.”

 

“Well make time. I can’t wait to have a sister in law.” Austin said with a laugh.

 

“For you, I suppose I will. Since your pregnant and all. And how is our little one today?” Bailey reached over and rubbing Austin’s slightly rounded stomach. She knew that Austin hated it when strangers came up to her and did that, but she let it slide when Bailey did it.

 

“Kicking up a storm.” Austin made a face and pressed her hand to her back, stretching. “I didn’t show with Payge until almost six months. Here I am four months and I’m like a house.”

 

“You are not.” Bailey said, laughing. Austin’s stomach was rounded against her shirt, that was it.

 

“I will be. Give me another month.” Austin dug into her potatoes. “So…what are your colors gonna be?”

 

Bailey rolled her eyes. “Did I not just tell you we haven’t talked about it?”

 

“Oh come on. We all know that this is going to be your wedding to plan. Mark just has to show up at the right place.” Austin said with a grin. “If you said you wanted to be married while deep sea diving with sharks swimming around you, he’d do it. No questions.”

 

“No questions, huh?” Bailey asked, wry smile on her face.

 

“Well…yeah, no questions.” Austin sighed. “It’s so romantic.”

 

“Oh boy. Here come the hormones.”

 

“Why must you blame the hormones whenever I talk mushy stuff?” Austin asked with a straight face.

 

“Because it’s the simplest explanation. And I wouldn’t know what romance is, so I don’t know…uh…well…whatever.” Bailey waved her fork in the air.

 

“I just mean…he’d do whatever it took to be with you, to show you how he feels. Romantic.” She sighed again.

 

“Why do I feel the urge to remind you that he IS your brother?” Bailey said with a smirk.

 

“Half-brother if you want to be technical.” Austin corrected.

 

“Doesn’t make it any less creepy.” Bailey forked some food into her mouth, trying to tell her friend without words that the conversation was closed. She didn’t want to discuss her relationship with Mark, not even with her best friend, not at the moment. And she hadn’t had time to get used to being engaged, let alone have her wedding planned out. Austin picked up her vibes and changed the subject, chatting about Payge and school, and Ken until they were finished eating.

 

Bailey managed to hold up her end of the conversation, even though she hardly felt like it. Not that she didn’t enjoy Austin’s company…it was just…She couldn’t describe the feeling. As if a dark cloud hung over their heads, waiting for the right time to dump a storm into their laps. She thought of Caleb and felt inexplicably sad. Everything was going to work out. It had to. She’d figure out what was going on, Ken and Glen would save the day, and they’d all live happily ever after. At least, that’s the way she hoped it would work. At this point Bailey was just not sure.

 

15

 

“You were talkin’ in your sleep last night.”

 

Bailey eyed Mark, fork full of eggs halfway to her open mouth, eyebrow up. “I was?”

 

“Yeah. When I got up with Caleb.” Mark nodded, sipping his coffee. It was early. Very early. Six in the morning. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon.

 

“What did I say? Anything dirty?” Bailey smirked and took the bite of egg she’d been aiming at her mouth.

 

“No. You said a name. Twice.”

 

“Uh oh. Was it…a man’s name?” Bailey grinned.

 

Mark shook his head. “Nope. Woman’s name. Makes me wonder about ya.”

 

Bailey laughed. “All right, I admit it. I’m cheating on you with another woman.”

 

“I might be able to forgive that.” Mark said with a smirk.

 

“Sure. If you can watch, right? Typical.”

 

Mark chuckled. “Man’s fantasy you know.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. So what did I say?”

 

“You said Carrie.” Mark shrugged. “At least that’s what it sounded like.”

 

“Carrie?” Bailey poked her eggs thoughtfully with her fork. “Hmm. Carrie, Carrie…”

 

“Don’t know a Carrie?”

 

“I don’t think so.” But there was a troubled little frown of concentration forming on her face. Mark watched her for a moment, then put his cup aside to take her hand.

 

“Another blank spot?” He asked quietly. They had sat down the night before and talked, just running through some memories of hers. She remembered everything but occasionally small details would elude her. Mark made a mental note to arrange an appointment with Doctor Randall for the next day.

 

“More like a black hole.” Bailey said with a sigh. “I don’t know a Carrie. A Karen, yeah, Carolyn, Kristen…no Carries.”

 

“Maybe it was something you saw on television.”

 

“Yeah. Maybe.” She didn’t sound convinced. “It’ll come to me. I know. Don’t say it.”

 

“I wasn’t gonna.” Mark said with a chuckle. They finished breakfast. “You sure you don’t mind watching Caleb this morning?” Mark was going in early, this time to work on a friend’s motorcycle personally.

 

“Yeah, I mind.” Bailey rolled her eyes. “Go on. You’ll be late.”

 

“I’m the boss, I can be late if I wanna.” Mark said, leaning over to kiss her gently before rising to his feet.

 

“What kind of example are you setting for your employees?” Bailey called after him as he left the kitchen. He laughed but did not respond.

 

Bailey finished her orange juice and picked up their dishes. She was not going to the office that day, she had a feeling Ken and Glen would just send her home anyway. When Mark got out of bed, she’d followed him, unable to go back to sleep.

 

“Carrie.” She muttered the name as she loaded the dishwasher. It seemed like it should be familiar but she did not know why. With a sigh, she headed for the living room. Caleb, if he kept to his schedule, would sleep for another hour before wanting to eat. She picked up the mug shot album and settled on the couch. She looked at the Christmas tree thoughtfully for a minute before flipping the book to the page she’d left off on last night.

 

Nothing was ringing a bell. A few of the guys were tall enough but too skinny. Some were too short. Some were too fat. “Needle in a haystack.” She mumbled. “And now I’m talkin’ to myself. Great.” She turned another page. There were only two photos. One showed a very tall, very thin man who hunched down to make himself seem shorter. The other looked to be about the right size and shape. Of course, her memory at the moment was for shit. She didn’t trust it. She turned another page, freezing for a moment before turning back.

 

The man’s name was listed under the picture. Paul Wight. Something in her mind seemed to buzz. Bailey grabbed her notebook from the coffee table and started to open to a clean page when her eye caught the translation of the tattoo.

 

“Holy shit.” Her hands shook as she used her pen to scratch off letters and re-write. AWPGULITH became Paul Wight. “Holy shit.” Bailey repeated. She grabbed for her cell phone, which she’d also left on the table. She dialed Glen’s number, knowing he’d probably be awake.

 

“Yeah?”

 

Of course she could be wrong about that.

 

“You up?”

 

“I am now. What’s wrong? You sound weird.”

 

“I think I might have found our guy.” Bailey said, looking at the man’s picture. He was actually SMILING in his mug shot. Crazy bastard. “And the tattoo…the letters…if you mix ‘em around they spell his name.”

 

“You’re sure?” Now Glen sounded awake.


”Positive. Get your ass over here. We gotta talk. Wait…” She stopped him before he could hang up. “Do you know a girl named Carrie?”

 

“Uh…” Glen was silent for a minute, thinking. “I don’t think so. Of course, I did just wake up. Let me think on it, I’ll tell ya for sure when I get there.”

 

“All right. Hurry up.” Bailey snapped her phone shut and set her things aside. Caleb was whimpering from the bedroom, a few minutes early but almost on schedule. At least he would occupy her until Glen arrived.

 

*~**~*

 

“I’ll be damned.” Glen said, looking at the picture and the name.

 

“Yeah. That’s about what I said.” Bailey said, tapping the photo. “He looks about right from what I remember from the other night, but it was the name that caught me.”

 

“Hmm.” Glen made a noise and rocked Caleb in his arms. He’d taken the baby so that Bailey could get the book and move them to the kitchen, and he’d monopolized Caleb ever since.

 

“I think it’s him. Give any thought to Carrie?”

 

Glen nodded. “It’s like I SHOULD know it, but I DON’T know it.”

“Ha. Now you know what it feels like.” Bailey laughed. Caleb turned his face toward the sound, eyes blinking.

 

“Look, he recognizes your voice already.” Glen muttered, grinning.

 

“I was loud. That’s all.”

 

“Nah. I’m loud too, you don’t see him watching me.” Glen chuckled. “Here. I think he wants you, Momma.”

 

Bailey snorted but took Caleb, cradling him against her chest. He stared up at her face as if fascinated. She smiled at him and kissed his forehead gently. He sighed and snuggled against her. She watched as his eyes grew heavy, forgetting for a moment that Glen was in the room.

 

“Freaks you out a bit, does it?” Glen asked softly.

 

Bailey looked at him. “A little.”

 

“I wish you could have one of your own.” Glen said sadly.


Bailey smiled. “Wasn’t meant to be, I guess. Doesn’t matter. Adoptions happen.”

 

“Yeah. I’m glad.” Glen reached over and stroked a finger across the soft auburn hair Caleb sported. “I think he’s already attached.”

 

“Yeah? How can you tell?” Bailey looked at the baby. He was in his usual sleeping position, tiny fist against his cheek, face turned toward her body. His ear was near her heart.

 

“I can tell. It’s my super power.” Glen pulled the picture from the book. “I’ll run him through, see what I can find out. Lock the door behind me.”

 

“Duh.”

 

“I’ll check to make sure you do, Coop.” Glen eyed her. “You’ve got more than just yourself to protect now. And part of protecting him is protecting yourself. Lots of responsibility.  You can handle it.”

 

“I know.” Bailey whispered. She followed Glen to the door, waved goodbye, and snapped the deadbolt firmly in place. Then she armed the alarm Mark had installed after the Copeland incident. It was scary, having to worry about the little guy, but it made her feel good in a way she couldn’t describe.

 

She tucked Caleb into bed and watched him sleep for a minute before heading for her notebook. She had to figure out who this Carrie person was. The best way to do that was the force herself to remember. With a sigh she sank into the chair, cold soda in her hand, frowning in deep concentration.

 

16

 

When Caleb took his afternoon nap, Bailey did something she never did at home.

 

She put her holster on and slid her .45 into it so it nestled against her back. She never wore the gun at home, hell, she’d hardly worn the gun to work lately, but for some reason it made her feel better.

 

That done, she went about doing some housework. Busy work, really. She was trying to clear her mind, which struck her as funny for a minute. She didn’t notice Mark come in, didn’t hear him keying in his alarm code, as she ran a vacuum under the Christmas tree to pick up a few stray pine needles.

 

She jumped when he touched her shoulder, smiling guiltily at him as she turned the vacuum off. “Hey. You’re early.”

 

“Got finished. Not a lot goin’ on right now. Winter is always our slow time.” Mark smiled. “Caleb sleepin’?”

 

“Yup.” Bailey stowed the vacuum in the hall closet and turned to let Mark wrap his arms around her. His hand brushed the gun at her back and he cocked an eyebrow at her.

 

“Uh…Bailey?”

 

“Yup.” She repeated, grinning. “I just feel better with it on me.”

 

Mark nodded then kissed her. “All right. Be careful with it.”

 

Bailey rolled her eyes. “I think I know how to handle my own gun.”

 

“Of course you do.” Mark stated with a smirk. “Did you eat lunch?”

 

“Nope. Not yet.” Bailey followed him into the kitchen and glanced at the clock over the stove. It was a little past noon. It felt as if it should have been much later. Mark started pulling things out of the refrigerator. “You know, I wasn’t the one who worked today. So I could fix lunch.” She tried to edge in around him. Mark laughed and gently pushed her toward the table.

 

“Sit. I’ll do it. I kinda like making sure you eat, Bailey.”

 

“If you say so.” Bailey sat down and sighed. Mark started putting together a salad as she filled him in on what had been going on. He kept a worried frown on his face but didn’t interrupt her.

 

“So this guy…” Mark said when she grew quiet. “He’s the one who hit you?”

 

“Could be. Don’t know for sure. I guess I’d have to hear his voice.” The only thing Bailey had no trouble remembering was the guy’s voice. The thought of it was almost enough to send a cold chill down her spine.

 

Mark nodded thoughtfully, but said nothing as he finished the salad. It had chunks of ham and chicken in it. He brought it to the table while Bailey grabbed some plates for them to use.

 

They were just eating when Bailey smirked. “So you told already, huh?”

 

“Told?”

 

“Yeah. Told Aus you asked me to marry ya.” Bailey said with a laugh.

 

“Oh. Well…she did help me size the ring.”

 

“That’s amazing. Cuz that’s what she said. She wants to know when.”

 

“Impatient, that one.” Mark said wryly.

 

“So when do you want to get married?” Bailey asked with a smile. Mark looked at her for a minute, chewing his food before answering.

 

“Bailey…if you wanna go right now and do it, I’ll do it. If you wanna wait a year or two, then I’ll wait. Whatever you want.”

 

Bailey shook her head. “All right then. Do you prefer a regular wedding, or just a quick thing in front of a judge?”

 

“What do you want?” Mark asked, cocking his head to the side.

 

“I asked you first.” Bailey laughed.

 

Mark thought it over for a few minutes. “Don’t know. Don’t really care. As long as the end result is the same.”

 

Bailey snickered. “Las Vegas, here we come.”

 

“You want a Vegas wedding?” Mark asked with a surprised look on his face.

 

“I don’t know what I want. Maybe. Let me think about it.” Bailey finished her food. She chatted with Mark about idle things while she cleaned their plates and turned the dishwasher on. Mark was yawning when she turned back to face him. “You look tired. Why don’t you go take a nap? I’ll get you up in an hour or two.”

 

Mark smiled. “Why don’t you come with me?”

 

Bailey shook her head. “Because Caleb will be up soon, and we kind of took a little nap earlier. So I’ll get you up in a while.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him onto his feet.

 

“All right, all right. I’m goin’. Wanna tuck me in?” Mark asked, eyes twinkling with mischief. Bailey laughed and smacked him on the ass as he walked past her.

 

“You’d never let me outta the room, darlin’.” She said with a grin. Mark turned and kissed her gently.

 

“Ok. Wake me up in an hour. Love ya.”

 

“Love you.” Bailey muttered back as he walked away. She glanced at the clock. Might as well get on the computer while she had a few quiet minutes to spare. She loading her explorer and connected to the office computer. As soon as she did, a message popped up on her screen.

 

‘Taking a day off?’

 

It was from Glen. Bailey smiled and sent him a reply. The phone rang a minute later.

 

“Just cuz you got knocked on the head is no reason to be lazy.” Glen stated instead of saying hello.

 

“Yeah, yeah. What’s going on? Am I missing anything good?”

 

“Nope. We can handle it. I think Ken has an admirer.” Glen said with a chuckle.

 

“Really?” Bailey snorted.

 

“Yeah. She came in this morning, talked to him for about five minutes before she started making big eyes at him. It was funny watching him flash that wedding band. She didn’t pay a bit of attention.”

 

“Leave it to Ken.” Bailey said with a laugh. It would not be the first time a female client had been drawn to him. Bailey had the same issue with some of the men who came through the office. “So…did you find anything?”

 

“Plenty. Wight’s our guy from LA. Found his arrest record. Someone tried to hide it, but it wasn’t a very good job.” Glen said with a sigh. “The guy spent a bit of time in a mental hospital. Apparently he has anger issues.”

 

“No shit.”

 

“Any luck with that Carrie business?”

 

“Not remotely.” Bailey knew it was there, in the back of her mind, she just couldn’t shine any light on it.

 

“Well, I gave it some thought…and I do remember one Carrie.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“She was a nurse at that hospital you were in after Copeland tried to cut you open, remember?”

 

“Why the hell would I be thinking about her now?” Bailey asked after thinking it over.

 

“I don’t know, hon. Seems kind of coincidental, she being a nurse, and us looking for a nurse. And you were right.”

 

“Right about what?” Bailey asked, trying to remember the nurse from her last hospital stay.

 

“Jenny Thomas was working on her RN with a labor and delivery specialty. She wanted to be a surgical nurse.”

 

“Your sure?”

 

“Yeah. Talked to some people at the college she was going to. She was almost done, had a semester left, when she disappeared. She just quit one day.”

 

“How long ago was that?” Bailey asked, taping her fingers on the desk.

 

“About six months ago.” Glen said after a hesitation. “I think we need to talk to this Carrie person. Or at least go get a look at her in person. Maybe she knows something.”

 

“We can go tomorrow.” Bailey said with a sigh.

 

“What? You don’t want to go now?” Glen laughed. “Miss Impatient wants to wait a day. Hell, it’s gonna snow.”

 

“I have some things to do today. In the morning is soon enough. Hopefully she’s still there.”

 

“It’s only been a month. I could find out I guess.” Glen said goodbye and they hung up.

 

Bailey rose to her feet after shutting the computer down again. Caleb was making noises from his room, not crying, just babbling. She smiled as she went to collect him for his lunchtime bottle.

 

She let Mark sleep for almost three hours before finally going into the bedroom. Caleb was once again sleeping, she knew from several people that newborns tended to sleep a lot. In six months they’d be wishing he was this age again, she was sure.

 

Mark was on his stomach, sheet draped over his hips, sleeping deeply. He didn’t move as she climbed onto the bed next to him. Bailey leaned over and began kissing him on the ear, licking his earlobe with a smile.

 

“Hey…” Mark was waving a hand at her, trying to shoo her away. Bailey laughed and kissed his neck.

 

“You gonna sleep all day?”

 

“Thinkin’ about it. What time is it?”

 

“Three. I think.”

 

“You were supposed to wake me up.” Mark grouched, rolling onto his side. He gathered her up in his arms and nuzzled her hair.

 

“I did. You’re up.” Bailey sighed against his chest. “You were tired. I let you sleep. Now it’s your turn to be on baby watch.”

 

Mark chuckled. “Is he awake?”

 

“Nope. I just put him back in his crib.”

 

“Hmm.” Mark began kissing a hot trail down her cheek, her neck. Bailey smiled and smoothed his hair with her fingers. “Good. I can think of a good way to pass the time til he gets outta bed…”

 

“Yeah? I’m all ears.” Bailey said, her voice breathless as his lips found the sensitive spot under her ear.

 

“I hope that’s not the only thing I have the attention of.” Mark nibbled her skin gently. Bailey laughed and pulled him closer, giving in to his slow lovemaking with no argument.

 

17

 

Bailey idly swung her legs as Doctor Randall flashed a small light into her eyes.

 

“Well…” Was all he said as he straightened up.

 

“Well what?” Bailey asked. Mark had insisted on this appointment, and he was home with Caleb. Which meant Glen was in charge of making sure she kept her check-up. It was convenient that Randall was on call at the hospital…they could track down this Carrie person and get Bailey looked at in one morning.

 

“You’re fine. How’s the memory?” Randall smirked. Bailey rolled her eyes.

 

“I remember you asking me that twice already.” She said wryly.

 

“All right. Well, other than random blanks, I think you’re fine. Probably had a bit of a concussion.” Randall tapped her arm and looked at her sternly. “Which you know is a bad thing.”

 

“I came to the ER.” Bailey informed him.

 

“Not by your choice, I’m sure. We’ll make an appointment for the first of the month, just to make sure you’re all right. If you have any problems…”

 

“Come to the hospital. I know the drill.” Bailey slid from the table and followed the doctor from the exam room. She smiled at Glen as she made her next appointment. “You ready to go?”

 

“Yup.” Glen tossed aside the magazine he’d been looking at. “I called up to the fifth floor. That’s where she was working. They said she gets a break at eleven. So we have about five minutes to catch her.”

 

“Good. Plenty of time.” Bailey pressed the elevator button in the hallway. They rode up in silence, not wanting to talk in front of the other people who boarded. At the fifth floor, they walked toward the nurses’ station.

 

“Can I help you?”

 

The woman who asked might have been fresh out of high school. She had dark hair, pale skin, and didn’t look more than twenty years old. Bailey nudged Glen. He smiled.

 

“Hi. We’re looking for Carrie.”

 

“Oh. Carrie?” The young nurse leaned against the counter. “She’s not here.”

 

“She’s not?” Glen mimicked the girl’s pose. “We called earlier, we were told she was getting ready to go on break.”

 

“I know. I’m the one you talked to.” She smiled. “I told Carrie someone called, wanting to know if she were here. She told our ward nurse a few minutes ago she was feeling sick and needed to go home. Kind of suspicious, if you ask me.”

 

“Probably is.” Glen said conversationally. He shared a look with Bailey. “Thanks for your help then. We’ll try to see her tomorrow.”

 

Glen took Bailey’s elbow and strode toward the elevator. “Slow down, gargantuan.” Bailey said with a smirk as he practically shoved her into a waiting elevator cab. It was empty.

 

“If we hurry, we might catch her before she disappears.” Glen said, pushing the button for the underground garage. They ended up stopping on practically every floor. They finally reached the garage. It was two levels, mainly catering to employees. “I’ll go up. You check down here. Ten minutes.”

 

Glen didn’t wait for her reaction, he walked off, peering into the gloomy parking garage. Bailey sighed and walked forward, not expecting to find the woman. It was obvious the thought of unknown people looking for her had shaken her. The question was…why?

 

There was no one else in the garage. It was not quite lunchtime. In half an hour, it might be crowded, but for now, Bailey was alone. With a sigh, she retraced her steps and headed for the ramp that led up.

 

The first thing she noticed was the car stopped in the middle of the through-lane. Bailey glanced to her right and saw Glen walking in her direction, pulling a distraught-looking woman behind him. She was struggling to get out of his grasp, but he held her as if she were not fighting. Bailey crossed her arms and leaned against the car, waiting.

 

“She tried to run me over.” Glen said, sounding amused. The woman cursed.

 

“You shouldn’t have been walkin’ in the middle of the road.”

 

Bailey watched as they stared at each, feeling amused herself. And the woman was familiar. It was their nurse all right, but there was something else about her…

 

“Jen Thomas.” Bailey said softly. The woman froze, her features stricken.

 

“How did…” She didn’t finish. She looked scared to death.

 

“So this is the infamous Jennifer Thomas I’ve heard so very much about?” Glen asked, pulling the woman forward a little. He did not let go of her arm. He was afraid she’d run off and he wouldn’t catch her this time.

 

“In the flesh.” Bailey pushed away from the car and walked toward the other woman. “We need answers, Jen. And we need them yesterday.”

 

Jenny shook her head. “I can’t…they can’t know you found me! They’ll fuckin’ kill me!”

 

“Who?” Glen asked. He ignored the small woman’s attempts to wrench loose from his grip. “How’d you know it was her?” He directed it toward Bailey.

 

“Her eyes mostly. I forgot a lot of stuff from academy, and not cuz of getting hit in the head. But I remember saying something specifically to you about your eyes.” Bailey looked at the other woman. Gray eyes met hazel. Jenny looked defeated.

 

“All right. Fuck. Let’s just…get out of here. It’s too open, and I don’t know if anybody else knows where I am.” Jen stepped toward her car. She forgot momentarily that Glen still had a hold on her.

 

“I think you’ll ride with me. Bailey will drive your car. The office?” Glen asked.

 

“Good enough for me. I’ll call Ken on the way.” Bailey was already tugging her cell phone from her jean pocket. Jenny protested the entire walk down the ramp to where Glen had earlier parked his truck.

 

Bailey got in the sedan and adjusted the seat and mirror. She didn’t remember Jenny or Jamie being short, but the woman rode too close to the dashboard for Bailey’s taste. She eased the vehicle down the ramp and followed Glen’s truck through town. She had enough time to wonder how exactly Jenny was involved in her sister’s death…and how exactly they were going to find the real man responsible for it.

 

*~**~*

 

“I don’t know!”

 

It was the tenth or so time that Jenny had said it in the hour she’d been taken to the office. They were all seated at the conference table, Glen taking the role of lead interrogator.

 

“All right, how about we start at the beginning?” Glen asked. “Your father died, you two decided to go your own way…”

 

“Yeah.” Jen sipped from a bottle of water Ken had placed in front of her. “I went to Florida. Rode with an asshole on a hot bike. He dumped me near Jacksonville, and I hitched down to Fort Lauderdale. Some old woman took pity on me, let me stay with her for a couple of weeks until I found a job. I decided I was tired of making absolutely no money bein’ a waitress, so I got into nursing school. The money’s decent, the hours are all right…and I like the job. I was a partier in my younger days, yeah, sure, but I like taking care of people.”

 

“Ok. So you went to school. Did you have any contact with Jamie while you were there?” Glen continued.

 

“Every month or so she’d call me. She went to Hollywood, see, got talked into going with a couple of friends for a month, decided to try her hand at writing screenplays. She met a guy who said he’d help her get her start…and well…it never happened. It was a total asshole. She was too afraid to leave him after a while, and then she was too afraid to tell me about it. He didn’t want her to call me, and I kinda figured out he was beatin’ on her when he found out she did.”

 

Jenny took another sip of water. Her hazel eyes were clouded with pain at the memories. “I finally told her to get the fuck out of there. I was studyin’ to be an obstetric nurse after I got my registration, cuz specialized nursing pays more. Plus…I like the idea of bein’ around for the babies bein’ born. I dropped out of school when she finally agreed to meet up with me.”

 

“So…that was here?” Ken asked gently.

 

“Yeah. Old stompin’ grounds.” Jenny smirked. “Our aunt used to live here, long time ago. We thought we’d be able to just meet up and disappear. Get her away from psycho boyfriend and he’d eventually forget about her.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“I was late.” Jenny shrugged her shoulders. “Weather grounded my plane for twelve hours. I got here finally and she was gone. Disappeared on her own. Or so I thought. Turns out she got tired of waiting and left a couple days early. Asshole tracked her down.”

 

“Ok…so what did she do while she was here?” Bailey asked. Jenny grimaced.

 

“Went out to bars, trying to pretend she was a tourist. Met a guy from what she told me. Had a little fling.” Jenny met Bailey’s eyes. “I gather that’s your boyfriend. I saw him at the hospital. I knew who he was after I…” She sighed. “I’m getting ahead of myself.”

 

Glen rubbed absently on Bailey’s shoulder. “So your sister disappeared.”

 

“Yeah.” Jenny sighed. “When she got in touch with me again, she was cryin’. I was living here, hoping she’d find me, ya know? I got a job at the hospital, changed my name, dyed my hair. But Jamie would know me, damn it. She’d know. Carrie was my Aunt’s name, see. So when she called the hospital, I was too fuckin’ shocked to ask where she’d been. We met up at an old farm outside of town we used to play at as kids.”

 

“She managed to get away from him again.” Glen muttered thoughtfully.

 

“Oh, yeah. She got him drunk one night, so drunk he couldn’t move, then she ran.” Jenny uttered a harsh laugh. “Lotta good it did. So we met up at this farm…and she was pregnant. Extremely pregnant.”

 

“How long ago?” Bailey asked, scribbling a note to herself.

 

“About a month or so.” Jenny frowned. “We sat down and talked, she told me everything. She told me that she had a one night stand with a guy here, told me his name, told me she managed to get knocked up somehow. Her asshole boyfriend thought the baby was his, see. So he tapered off on the beatings. Until he figured out that she wasn’t home when the doctor said the baby was conceived. So he wanted to kill her. But he still wanted the kid. Cuz he wanted to track down the daddy and kill him too.”

 

“He told her all of that?” Ken asked, feeling ill.

 

“Yeah. It was how he kept her in line most of the time. Jamie didn’t like to see anybody hurt. If it was just her, she’d probably still be with him, but when he saw how she got when he threatened other people…”

 

“Ok. So she’s here, she’s pregnant…”

 

“And that asshole shows up.” Jenny nodded. “I saw him. Kinda hard to miss his gigantic ass roaming town. He was going from hospital to hospital, a couple of times a week, cuz he knew that Jamie was due any time. We couldn’t go to a doctor. Jamie was so weak at the end, I couldn’t move her out of that old farmhouse. She went into labor one night. I tried to move her on my own, couldn’t do it. Something was wrong with the labor, it was too fast, she was in too much pain. She was in labor for almost two days, constant contractions, and she didn’t dilate. I didn’t know what else to do…So I came to town and stole some things from the hospital. I had seen c-sections, had assisted in a few, so I figured I would have to do it.”

 

“Explains the cut.” Glen said with a thoughtful frown.

 

“Yeah.” Jenny nodded again. “I coulda done a better job, but there wasn’t time…I loaded her with pain meds and did it. Stopped the bleeding, got her sutured, cleaned the baby. Cute little boy, red hair, green eyes. She wanted him named Caleb. She was weak for a couple of days after that. I had some meds for her, to keep her from an infection. We figured out what to do with Caleb within a week. She wanted him to live with his father…she thought it would be the only safe place for him. So I filled out his birth certificate, filed it myself at the records bureau, and took him to see a doctor friend of mine for a check-up.”

 

Jenny sighed. “We decided to do it when he was two weeks old. Jamie was feelin’ better by then, able to get around on her own. She kissed Caleb goodbye, cryin’ the whole time, tellin’ him she was sorry. Then I took him.” Jenny shrugged. “Used a phone book to find the house. Dropped the baby on the front steps. What I didn’t know was that Jamie…”

 

There was silence. “Go on. Jamie…” Bailey urged.

 

“She went to find Paul.”

 

“Paul?” Bailey shared a look with Ken and Glen.

 

“Yeah. Asshole boyfriend.” Jenny sniffled. “She thought she could go to him and he’d forgive her. Or maybe she thought having her back would take his mind off her bein’ pregnant. At any rate…he killed her. Down there by that pond. It’s on the property behind the one we were stayin’ at. We used to swim there as kids.”

 

Silence once again descended.

 

“Uh…” Ken was the first to break it. “One thing.”

 

“Yeah?” Glen turned to him.

 

“We’re assumin’ this Paul guy is the one that knocked Bailey out. So how did he know she was involved in this at all?”

 

“Maybe because I was snooping around at the pond?” Bailey asked.

 

Jenny nodded. “Probably. He was probably hanging around there waiting to see if I’d come back. He knows I’m around here, he just doesn’t know where. Hell…I didn’t know you were livin’ with Calaway. I didn’t know you were a detective either. So he wouldn’t figure it out that fast. He’s big and dumb, and he doesn’t think around corners.”

 

“Let’s hope it stays that way.” Bailey muttered. “All right. So what do we do?”

 

Glen shrugged. “We have to track him down. Find out where he’s hiding, what he’s planning. You are out of this. You’ve already been knocked out once. He knows who you are, at any rate.” He pointed at Bailey as he spoke. Bailey raised an eyebrow and said nothing.

 

“One of us should go talk to Porter. Get him in on this.” Ken observed.

 

“You do it.” Glen said, rising to his feet. “I’m going to start nosing around some motels. See if I can turn him up. You…” He pointed at Bailey again. “Go home. Get some rest. We might need you later.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. What about Jen?” Bailey asked. The woman sat there numbly, as if in shock.

 

“She can hide out here. Upstairs. That’s why we put the beds and stuff up there right?” Glen asked.

 

“Actually, I thought it was where Ken went when Austin got mad and kicked him out of the house for a while.” Bailey joked.

 

“Funny. And yeah, so what if I do sleep up there on occasion?” Ken tugged on her hair as he moved around her. “C’mon Jen. I’ll get you settled.”

 

“But…I have to work…and…”

 

“Not until this is over with.” Ken said sternly. “This place isn’t much, but it’s safe. There’s alarms, one of which goes directly to our houses.” It was something they’d had installed after the Copeland incident. Fortunately, it had never been put to use.

 

“You’ll stay here, stay hidden. We’ll keep this asshole away, catch him, get him for murderin’ your sister.” Glen finished. He smiled. “I’m goin’. Gotta lot of work to do.”

 

Ken shrugged. “I’ll stick around here for a while. Porter will probably want to talk to ya, Jen. Best to just get it over with.”

 

Bailey sighed and rose to her feet. She’d never felt more useless. At least she could go home and spend time with the baby and Mark. The thought made her smile. “I’ll be back later. Call if you need anything.”

 

Ken waved at her. Bailey went out to her Jeep, shaking her head. She wondered how these crazy things, these crazy people, seemed to be drawn to her, to Ken. “Must be somethin’ in the water.” She muttered as she guided her vehicle toward home.

 

18

 

Three days.

 

It had been three days since Bailey and Glen had found Jenny. The men were working, trying to figure out where Wight had gone. Nothing came up. He was not an unmemorable man.

 

Bailey was getting antsy. And when she got antsy, she got ideas that were probably best left un-thought. She took care of the baby, took care of some busy work at the office, and spent the rest of her time worrying.

 

Mark knew something was on her mind, and Bailey decided to tell him what it was. She knew he would argue with her, but she was right, she knew it.

 

“Ok, so swing that by me again.” Mark was sitting at the kitchen table, looking over some paperwork he’d brought home. Christmas was just days away…after tomorrow all of his shop help would be off for a week. He wanted to get as much done as possible before closing for the holidays.

 

“I’m saying that Wight is either stayin’ at that farm the twins stayed at…or he’s camping somewhere on Steve’s property.” Bailey took a seat. She’d been pacing. Pacing sometimes helped her think.

 

“So tell Glen and Ken.”

 

“Why? Afraid I can’t find out for myself?” Bailey asked with a smirk.

 

“No. But we all know what happened last time you went out there by yourself.” She finally had all of his attention.

 

“I wasn’t planning on going by myself.” Bailey grinned.

 

“Uh huh. Why do I smell a lie?” Mark cocked an eyebrow and waited, letting the silence after his statement draw out.

 

“Ok. So maybe I was planning on going out there. In the daytime this time.” Bailey raised her hand to keep Mark from interrupting. “It’s probably nothing. Probably I’m just graspin’ straws. But it makes a weird kind of sense. He apparently knew about the farm, why else would he drop her body by that pond?” She sighed. “Or maybe I’ve got cabin fever and need a freakin’ hobby.”

 

“Sounds a bit on the safer side.” Mark said amicably.

 

“Safe…” She dragged the word out. “Is for old ladies. I was born for action, ya know?” Bailey couldn’t say it was a straight face. Mark laughed.

 

“Do me one favor, Bailey.”

 

“O…k.” She dragged that out too, suddenly wary.

 

Mark smiled. “If you do decide to get the wanderlust and wanna go diggin’ at the old farm, please, for my sake, take somebody with you.” He reached over and took her hand. “Ken. Glen. Hell, if you really wanna explore, I’ll go with you. Just…don’t go alone.”

 

“All right.” Bailey nodded, smiling back at him.

 

“I don’t wanna be the one that squashes that adventure lovin’ attitude of yours.” Mark said.

 

“I don’t think it’s an attitude. I think it’s a magnet. Weird stuff gets drawn to me. I’ll use you as my case in point.”

 

“Me?”

 

“Yeah, you. If Spidey hadn’t run off, Payge wouldn’t have come into the office, and you wouldn’t have been trailin’ behind her. And we wouldn’t have stopped Copeland…and blah, blah, etcetera…”

 

“So I’m weird?” Mark asked with a smirk.

 

“Weirdest person I know.” Bailey squeezed his hand. “You put up with me.”

 

“That I do.” Mark laughed at the look on her face and brought her hand up to kiss her palm. “I guess I need to run this stuff to the shop…it can wait for tomorrow…”

 

“Nah. I can take care of Caleb for an hour or so while you get it shut down.” Bailey smiled. Mark had left one of his guys in charge of storing things away. She knew he would go there to make sure he did it right anyway. Might as well get it over with.

 

“I guess you won’t have to twist my arm.” Mark kissed her palm again, sending a shiver up her arm, before rising from the table to leave. Bailey sat there, staring thoughtfully out the back door, tapping her chin with her fingers.

 

*~**~*

 

“So do you think it’s possible?”

 

Later that afternoon, she decided to head to the office. Not to do any actual work. Just to get out of the house and sound her idea out on someone who might have a better understanding of the situation.

 

Jenny sat on the bed upstairs, running a brush through her hair. She’d called work and had told them she needed to take leave for a family emergency. She had not left the office…Glen had gone to her apartment and retrieved some of her things. She’d settled in as best she could, but Bailey knew she had to be going about as crazy as she was.

 

“Hmm…” Jenny set the brush aside and pushed her hair from her shoulders. “It makes sense. Paul’s crazy. He might think he’s close to her if he’s at the farmhouse. Then again…he might have gone back to LA to try his shit on some other naïve girl.”

 

“True.” Bailey sighed and crossed her legs. She was sitting on the floor, back against the wall, as comfortable as she was going to get. Jenny was giving her a strange smile. “What?”

 

“Nothing. Just…it’s funny I guess. I remember you from the academy. We never said two words to each other. Back then I was kind of a…wild girl, I guess. I was only there because Dad made us work there.”

 

“Yeah.” Bailey nodded. She had loved being a cop, it was in her blood, but she had felt pressure from her father to become a police officer before she was old enough to know what a police officer was.

 

“It’s just strange…here we are now, talkin’ like we’ve known each other forever.” Jenny smiled again. “It just struck me, I guess.”

 

Bailey was eyeing her speculatively. “Your hair used to be lighter.”

 

“I know. I dyed it.” Jenny looked at her hair. “It used to be shorter too.”

 

“You and Jamie had the same hair color, right?” Bailey asked.

 

“Pretty much. I went darker, she went lighter after we went our separate ways.” A look of sadness crossed Jenny’s features, but she got control of herself before she could show how upset she truly was.

 

“I think I have an idea.”

 

“Another one?” Jenny laughed shakily. She did not know Bailey well, but she had a feeling the look on her face meant nothing but trouble.

 

“Don’t worry. You’ll call me crazy, and we can think of something else.” Bailey smiled. “Are you up to a little exploring?”

 

“Exploring?” Jenny echoed.

 

Bailey shook her head. “That repetition thing must be contagious. Tomorrow morning, I mean you and I can go out to that farm and get a look around. You know the place pretty well, right?”

 

“I was practically raised there.” Jenny said, sliding across the bed to sit on the edge. “You mean to go after him, don’t you?”

 

“Oh yeah. Big time.” Bailey grinned.

 

“You’re crazy. You saw his picture. The guy is freakin’ huge.”

 

“I don’t mean to find him tomorrow…I just wanna look around. Maybe see if he’s been staying there.”

 

“It’s trouble. I knew it.” Jenny was smiling though. “What if he’s there?”

 

“Then we knock on the door and say howdy.” Bailey’s grin widened.

 

“Uh oh. I get the feeling he’s not going to like what he sees when he answers the door.”

 

“Yeah, me either. So…how do you feel about hair color?” Bailey pushed herself up, using the wall for support. Jenny was nodding. She’d picked up on what Bailey was thinking with little effort. But the thought of going out there…to the place where Jamie had been killed…

 

Bailey seemed to sense the direction of her thoughts. “Don’t worry. I think while we’re there I’ll introduce you to a friend of mine. He’s my knight in shining armor, so to speak.”

 

Jenny smiled and followed Bailey downstairs. “Knight, huh?”

 

“Kinda.” Bailey laughed and decided to fill her in on Steve while they went shopping for hair color. She debated on whether or not to tell Ken…or Glen. Then decided it could wait. She had to get it straight in her head first, before subjecting herself to their questions and demands that she stay at a safe distance. She could do without taking another blow to the head, but with any luck, this time they’d go in with the upper hand. She only hoped it worked out the way she was planning.

 

*~**~*

 

They were back to the office in under an hour. Using a picture that Jenny had dug from her purse, Bailey went to work on her hair, highlighting it as best she could according to the picture. Jamie was smiling, she looked happy. It was hard to believe she was dead.

 

Bailey finished with Jenny’s hair and eyed her critically. “If we find him, we can’t let him see your eyes. Shoulda got some colored contacts, but we don’t have the time.”