This story is number seven in the 'Goofy Mountie' Series, the continuing saga of Renny and Kerri. It contains no spoilers for Due South that I am aware of, but several spoilers for the 'Goofy Mountie' Series. It is a sequel to 'The Best Intentions' and will be much more effective if you have read at least that one. If there are any more stories in this series the 'title' of the series will be changed. I can no longer think of you know who as a 'goofy Mountie'!
All original due South characters are the property of the geniuses who created them. No infringement of copyright is intended. No profit is made or expected from this story. Caution: this story has a major angst warning ...but what else would you expect from me? It is about love and friendship, and what they mean in times of trouble.
First posted to the RSY list, 'That's What Friends are For' is © January 2000, and is rated PG for mild language and adult content. Please do not reprint or post to any other site without my express written permission.
That's What Friends are For
by Shirley Russell
Constable Renfield Turnbull sat at Gate 17 on the B Concourse at O'Hare Airport waiting. And waiting. And waiting. He hadn't seen Kerri in six weeks, and by now he was just about sure he wasn't going to see her today either. What was it about Northwest Airlines, that they could not seem to get a flight to Chicago on time to save them? For the umpteenth time in the last three hours, he silently wished Air Canada had a flight between Seattle and Chicago.
He sighed deeply as he checked the arrival monitor one last time...delayed. God how he hated that word! Why couldn't they just admit that the darn thing was cancelled, and leave it at that? He decided to leave a message with the gate attendant and go home.
As he returned to the car that he had parked some four hours ago, he found himself becoming irritated with Kerri. He knew it was irrational. It wasn't her fault the flight was delayed, but darn it, he was getting awfully tired of her traveling all the time. Why couldn't she just get a job here in Chicago? Then they could have a 'normal' life together. He reluctantly smiled to himself as he remembered that he would have never met Kerri if it hadn't been for her chosen profession. He reminded himself again that it wasn't Kerri's fault that Seattle was the foggiest city in the world! And he had to also reluctantly admit it wasn't Northwest's fault either. It was also not their fault that he was tired and grouchy!
But he sure didn't feel like giving anybody any credit for anything just now.
When Kerri arrived in Seattle six weeks earlier, she had anticipated a routine financial review, and then a quick weekend in Chicago with Renny, before moving on to Detroit. But what she found at the Seattle Consulate was anything but routine.
Unlike the Chicago Consulate, a Consul General, Mr. Robert Wayne, oversaw the operations of the Consulate in Seattle. During the conduct of her review Kerri noticed that Mr. Wayne seemed to be acting rather strangely. Unfortunately for him his actions made Kerri curious, and an overly curious auditor can often be a very dangerous thing. What she eventually uncovered required the immediate intervention of Ottawa authorities, and made it necessary for her to remain in Seattle for much longer than originally planned.
Although she missed him terribly, it would have never occurred to Kerri to leave her work for a quick couple of days with Renny. What she had done in the past six weeks was exactly what the RCMP and the Canadian Government paid her to do. Uncovering embezzlement to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars was what made her work worthwhile. Not that she enjoyed seeing people she knew, however vaguely, lose their careers, or worse, but she certainly did enjoy putting a stop to fraud.
This particular case of fraud had turned out to be bigger than even she could have imagined, and involved not only Mr. Wayne, but also his good buddy, a highly respected and high placed RCMP official in Vancouver. Kerri was pleased with the results of the six weeks investigation, but saddened that two men with such successful careers had found it necessary to risk those careers for monetary gain. Now they had nothing, except of course for a portion of the embezzled funds, some $25000, for which Kerri could not account. She suspected, although could not prove, that the missing money was secreted away in a numbered bank account in Bermuda. She was able to prove that the good buddies had gone on a deep sea fishing excursion to the Island many months ago, but her investigation came up short there. Now the RCMP would have to take over, and Kerri could go home.
The end to her involvement in this case could not have come too soon for her. The exhilaration she had initially felt at uncovering the fraud began to wear off about a week ago, and now even adrenaline was letting her down. She had been feeling odd for several weeks, and now was more tired that she could ever remember being. All she could think of was home and Renny.
There were few constants in Kerri's life. Renny, of course, was one, and probably the only other was Northwest Airlines. She often wondered why she even bothered to arrive at airports on time, and why she kept believing that arrival and departure times would be exactly as stated on her itinerary. She wondered why they even bothered to be specific about it. In her mind itineraries, should say something like 'We anticipate that flight blah-blah will depart somewhere between 12 noon and 12 midnight. We will call you at the number registered with you travel agent approximately one hour prior to the anticipated exact departure time.'
Kerri sat at the gate and smiled to herself. Even though it wasn't their fault, Northwest was a terrific scapegoat for the blanket of fog that currently enveloped the entire Sea-Tac Airport. At least Inspector Scott had given her the next week off, so she could relax at Renny's apartment. Relax...what a marvelous word, a word that meant exactly what it said! And she would do just that for a whole week.
She was so tired that she fidgeted constantly, not seeming to be able to find a comfortable position. And to top off this wonderful day, now she had cramps. 'Dear God,' she prayed, 'just let me get home to Renny. I promise I will be good from now on...'
Though her flight was late, it was still only about 9:00 p.m. when Kerri finally arrived at the apartment. Renfield must have heard her coming, because he jerked open the door just as she was about to turn the knob.
"God it's good to see...Kerri you look awful! Are you feeling all right? Get in here and sit down. Let me get you some water." He didn't even kiss her hello. He just grabbed her things, led her to the couch and ran to the kitchen to get her something to drink.
As he handed her the glass, he took a closer look at her face, and found himself becoming angry. The dark circles under her eyes he had seen several weeks ago were back, with a vengeance. She was very pale, and her normally bright blue eyes were almost feverishly bright. How dare the RCMP work someone so hard as to make her sick! And how dare Kerri allow herself to get like this!
"Why have you allowed yourself to get into this state? You are working far too hard. You should have--"
Kerri was shocked at the harshness of his words and immediately became defensive. "I have been doing my job, Renfield. It's important work, and I told you before, these men had to be stopped. I'm proud of what I've done. If it took some personal sacrifice then..." She was really beginning to feel awful, her cramps were much worse, and she felt rather lightheaded.
"Well I'm not proud of it, if it causes you to become ill. You look terrible, and that's too much of a sacrifice." He tried his best to take the anger out of his voice as he continued, "Kerri you need to consider changing careers. There are plenty of people who can do what you do..." As soon as the words were out of his mouth he regretted them.
"Renfield, do not trivialize what I do! It is important work...I'm am highly trained..." She began to sputter, as her anger built. "It's what I've..."
Renfield also felt his anger growing. "That not what I meant. I know you take your job seriously..."
"It's not just a job..."
"Kerri, you are intentionally misinterpreting what I say! Your career has become too much for you. I want you to give it up!"
Kerri could not believe her ears! Renfield was shouting at her, and was demanding that she..."I will do no such thing!" If he could shout so could she! "I've worked long and hard..."
"Kerri, I can not, and will not watch you destroy yourself!"
"I will not give up my career, just because you tell me too! How dare you...I've been doing this for a hell of a lot longer than I've known you..."
"I think you should just go on to Detroit tonight, how I feel about you obviously doesn't mean as much to you as your career!"
The meaning of his words hit them like a speeding locomotive, and after the locomotive sped on out of the room, you could have heard a pin drop. They stared at each other in silence for several moments.
Kerri finally found the strength to speak. "You want me to leave?" It was more a statement than a question.
"Will you quit your job?" Their volume had gone from shouts to whispers.
"Then I think you should go..." Renfield was amazed at how easily the words came out of his mouth, and how easily he could send his world away.
He saw the firm look of resolve he knew so well settle in her eyes, and then she turned to leave. As she bent to pick up her suitcase a stabbing pain in her abdomen threatened to send her to the floor with it's intensity, but she wasn't about to let Renfield know just how badly she felt.
Kerri walked through the door without another word.
She found a taxi with surprising ease. Knowing where to go was just a little harder, but without too much thought she told the driver to take her to O'Hare.
The cabbie took one hard look at her and automatically assumed she was a junkie. The pallor of her skin, her wide, unfocused eyes, but especially the hugh dark circles under her eyes, all told him to be wary. No one looked like that without artificial enhancement! "Hey lady, you okay? It's 36 bucks to O'Hare..." he looked at her again in his rear view mirror, "in advance."
By the time she arrived at the airport, Kerri finally remembered that she didn't need to go to Detroit, Inspector Scott had given her a week off to relax. "That's right, I'm supposed to go to Detroit next week." She began to mutter to herself as she became more and more disoriented. "Home, I'll go home. But I don't have a home anymore... Edmonton, that's where I live..."
Kerri didn't quite make it to the ticket counter. This time a stabbing abdominal pain did send her to the ground, where she passed out, right in the middle of the main terminal of Chicago's largest airport.
When she arrived for work Monday morning Meg Thatcher was surprised to find the front door of the Consulate still locked. Fraser was in Toronto, but Turnbull should have been there by now. It wasn't at all like him to be late. She smiled at the thought of her junior officer. Turnbull often did foolish things, but he always did them on time.
She tossed her briefcase and purse on her desk, just as she'd done countless times before, and hit the play button on the answering machine. It seemed odd to her that any one would leave a message over the weekend...
"Meg? Walter Scott here. Can you check on Kerri Hurst for me, ah...personally? Got a message from her at home last night. Said she wouldn't be back to work for several weeks, something about emergency surgery. She sounded dreadful, she's been working awfully hard on that Wayne mess in Seattle. Hope she didn't make herself sick. Let me know, all right? Hope that dimwit of yours...uh...Turnbull is treating her all right. Thanks Meg. Oh, and she's at St. Mary's. Thanks."
Meg was out the door and down the steps before she had time to take a breath. St. Mary's? That hospital was all the way across town. Why in the hell had she gone there, and why hadn't Turnbull let her know? Where was he anyway? She had about a million questions as she sped across town. But the most important thing on her mind was not really a question. She was desperate to know what had happened. Kerri meant a lot to her, and right now Meg was scared to death for her friend.
At the hospital she was directed to room 546, where she found Kerri sitting in a chair staring out the window. "Kerri?"
When she turned to face her, Meg was appalled at Kerri's appearance. "Oh my God, what's happened?" Kerri's skin was the color of the sheets on her bed and her normally pretty blue eyes were sunken and colorless. Even her beautiful blonde hair, that Meg so envied, looked dull and washed out. "Kerri?"
When she still did not respond, Meg went to her and took her hand. Kerri wore a navy blue RCMP sweatshirt that, up close, made her pale skin seem almost translucent. Meg knelt by her chair, just as a buxom nurse came through the door with a wheelchair.
"Yer taxi's a-waitin', Missy. Ya jest come on along and git yerself in this here ole chariot, and we'll git y'all on outta this here place. Hello, y'all a friend of Miss Kerri's?"
Meg smiled at the kindly nurse with the Southern accent. Her nametag identified her as 'Thelma'. "Yes, Thelma, my name is Meg, and there is no way in hell I'm letting my friend leave here in a taxi."
Thelma returned Meg's smile. She thought that it was about time some of her friends came to visit this poor little girl. Girl needed her momma or at least a girlfriend. Shouldn't be no one have to go through what she'd been through by their selves! "Good! She shouldn't be a ridin' in none of those crazy taxis no how." Thelma turned to Kerri. "Now honey, ya'll remember what that there Doc told ya. Off yer feet for a week. No workin' fer six weeks, and NO travelin' til he says so! Ya got that?"
Kerri nodded at the nurse and received a gentle pat on the shoulder for her effort. "Now ya'll gets in this here contraption and we'll be a makin' room fer the really sick folks." Meg left to bring her car around, and Thelma helped Kerri into the wheelchair.
At the curb, Meg and Thelma help a shaky Kerri into the car. As she closed the passenger door, Thelma stopped Meg momentarily. The sweet southern mammy act was dropped in an instant. "This little lady needs some extra kindness right now, the kind of attention I save for my most special patients. Please watch out for her, she's had a rough couple of days. She needs her friends around her now."
"Thank you, Thelma. We'll take good care of her."
When Meg got into the car Kerri was resting her head against the seat back with her eyes closed. "We'll get you home first, and then I want the whole story, okay?"
It seemed to Meg that it took Kerri a very long time to summon the energy to speak. "I can't go home yet. Have to go to a hotel...the doctor said no traveling for awhile..."
"No, I meant to Turnbull's place. We'll get you to his..."
"I don't...live there anymore..." Kerri was whispering, but even over the traffic noise Meg heard her, and the sadness in her voice.
Meg was horrified! God, what had happened? "We'll go to my place then. There is no way I am taking you to a hotel!" What had happened, and where in God's name was Turnbull?
Meg got Kerri settled in, fixing her a cozy nest of pillows and blankets on the overstuffed sofa. "Would you like some coffee...or tea? Or maybe some soup and crackers? There's not much here, I eat out a lot..." Meg knew she was babbling, but she was so worried about Kerri. She looked like an advertisement for death.
"Kerri, you have to tell me what's wrong. And where is Renfield? He wasn't at work this..."
"If he wasn't at work...I have no idea...I don't know where he is..."
"Kerri please tell me what's happened! I'm really worried about you..."
Kerri closed her eyes tightly and sighed. "Renfield and I had...had a...a fight. He said I was working too hard, and he...he ordered me to quit my job." Kerri laughed slightly. "Can you believe the irony of that? Not all that long ago I told you he would never ask me to give up my...my career for him." Kerri ran a shaky hand through her hair. "I wasn't...I didn't feel very well...and... and I told him I wouldn't do it. We both just got madder and madder...until...until he told me that if I didn't give up my work, he didn't want me around. So I...I left."
Meg could not imagine Turnbull so much as raising his voice to Kerri, let alone ordering her to do anything. Turnbull was many things, but he was never harsh...with any one! "Kerri all couples fight, and say things they don't mean, it's just the natural order of the universe. But Renfield...he would never... I'm sure he didn't mean...I'll bet if I was to call the Consulate right now..."
Meg was stunned by the vehemence of Kerri's reaction. "No! Please don't call him. Meg, you have to promise me you won't tell him I'm here! If you can't do that, then I can't stay..." Kerri struggled to get up, but her body would just not cooperate. Plus Meg was at her side in an instant, holding the weaker woman in place.
"I promise, I won't tell him you're here. But you have to tell me why you won't give him the chance to apologize. You two love each other too much to not try to work this out..."
"I had a miscarriage."
Oh, God poor Kerri! "Oh Kerri, I'm so sorry...I didn't know you were pregnant..."
"Neither did I." Kerri smiled slightly, but it did nothing for her emotionless eyes. "I was so busy with that damn Wayne case, I couldn't be bothered to even notice I was pregnant."
"Kerri, I'm certainly no authority in such matters, but you can't blame yourself for what's happened..." Meg suddenly realized that in addition to Kerri blaming herself for her miscarriage, she also might believe that Renfield would blame her too. "You don't think Renfield would blame..."
"I don't know what he would or would not do anymore, Meg. All I know is he can't know about this..."
"A miscarriage is rough, but doesn't have to be the end of the world...he won't..."
"It may not be the end of the world...but as far as Renfield and I go, a hysterectomy is..." Kerri closed her eyes and quickly turned away from her friend.
Her words seemed to suck all the air right out of the room. Meg could hardly breathe. "The emergency surgery?"
Kerri just nodded. Meg was stunned, but not into inaction. She gathered her friend into her arms as she perched on the edge of the sofa. She expected Kerri to sob into her embrace, or at least cry softly. But Kerri did not shed a tear, instead she remained rather rigid as Meg held her. Meg was very concerned, she knew the healing power of grieving, and Kerri sure did not seem to be grieving.
"Are you sure you don't want me to call Renfield? You could really use his support..."
Kerri drew back from Meg resoundingly. "No! Please, you have to respect my wishes on this..." She sighed deeply. She had obviously given this a great deal of thought. "Think about it Meg. Is there any one person you know who loves children more than Renfield? Any one who relates more with seven year olds more than Mister Mountie? There is no way I will force him to stay in a relationship with someone who can't give him children of his own."
Meg knew that now was definitely not the time to argue the point. Kerri wasn't thinking rationally, and was obviously on the verge of exhaustion. She saw to it that Kerri was comfortable, gave her the pain medication the hospital had provided and prepared to go back to work.
"My cell phone is right here, but I'll only be gone a couple of hours. Will you be okay by yourself...?" But Kerri was already asleep.
Renfield Turnbull regretted a great many things in his life, but those regrets could not hold a candle to the pain he felt when he realized that Kerri was gone, and that she was not coming back. He had told her to go, and then just stood there and watched her leave. How could he have been so stupid? What had he been thinking, or more appropriately, not thinking? Their first argument and he had chosen a time when they were both exhausted! He sat in his lonely apartment and wished Ray would come over and kick him in the head. Or maybe he could think of something worse, he certainly deserved whatever Ray could dream up.
He spent the entire weekend searching for her. By the time Monday rolled around, he had called all the major airlines and every hotel in the greater Chicago area. Since he believed she was heading for Detroit, he had even called all the hotels there. He had even driven around for hours looking for her. He was now at his wit's end as to what to do next.
Seeking Ray's help was the obvious answer. Ray was more familiar with Chicago than any one else he knew, and Reinfield knew how deeply Ray cared for Kerri. He just hated to admit to Ray what he'd done. He would probably threaten to kill him, or worse. Not that Renfield didn't feel he deserved whatever punishment the fates rained upon him; he just hated to admit he had done something so totally stupid.
But he was desperate, and would suffer any embarrassment if it helped him find Kerri. That was why he showed up at the 27th Precinct bright and early Monday morning.
In between sips of thoroughly wretched coffee Ray acknowledged the Mountie's presence. "Hey, Turnbull. Haven't seen ya around here lately. What's up?" Ray was obviously off to a rather slow start today.
"Ray, could I speak to you...privately?" Renfield tried in vain to remain as inconspicuous as his great height and red uniform would allow. When Ray continued to sip his coffee and stare at him Renfield continued. "It's rather important, and concerns..." He leaned in a little closer and spoke in a whisper, "it concerns Kerri."
Ray came out of his Monday morning stupor immediately upon hearing the tone of Turnbull's voice. He grabbed his second best Mountie friend by the sleeve and dragged him into the first unoccupied room he could find, which was Interview 1.
"Okay, no stutterin', stammerin', or beatin' around no bushes. What's up?"
As always, Renfield admired Ray's ability to get right to the heart of the matter. He just wished the matter didn't concern his heart. It made the words he wanted to say just that much harder. "Kerri and I...we...uh...she...that is I..." Ray's glare immediately set all Renfield's words in the correct order. "We had a fight, and now I can't find her."
Ray was immediately relieved. He and Stella had had plenty of fights, and lots of fun making up, until the last time, of course. "Hey man, she'll cool off and come back. She's..."
"Ray, I sent her away...and I think she may have been sick."
Ray absolutely did not believe his ears. "I hope I didn't hear ya right. What do ya mean ya sent her away?" He glared at his soon to be former friend.
"Her flight was late on Friday, and when she got home...well she looked so bad it really scared me. It scared me to death, I've been so worried about her...and I missed her so much. She's been traveling for so long..."
"Dammit, Turnbull yer driftin' on me! I hate it when ya do that! What did ya do ta Kerri?" Ray suddenly felt like stranglin' the guy. If he'd hurt her again Ray would...would...well he'd sure thinka sumthin'. That deal with Susan was bad enough. Kerri was a special lady and deserved ta be treated...
"I asked, no, I told her to quit her job. Damn it, Ray..."
Uh oh, this was worse than Ray thought! Turnbull only used words like darn, and then only occasionally. "Sit down and tell me what happened!"
"I have been really worried about her pushing herself and working too hard. It seemed to me that she hasn't been well the last few times we've been together. When I saw her Friday I just kind of...snapped. I've lost one woman I loved and I couldn't bear the thought of another working herself to...to death." Renfield began to pace around the room. "I told her I thought she was working too hard, and she got mad. Then I got mad and we started saying things that...that should have waited until another time. I told her she had to make a choice...me or her job. She made her choice, and I haven't seen her since."
Jeez. How could one man be so lucky and so stupid all at the same time? "So why ya comin' ta me?" Ray wasn't really angry with Turnbull, he was more concerned about Kerri. The angry part would come later.
"I've tried everything I could think of to locate her, Ray. I've called airlines and hotels here and in Detroit. I've called taxi companies and even her travel agent. I cannot find any trace of her. I don't know what to do next."
Ray could tell Turnbull was on the verge of losing it, so now he was worried about Kerri and Turnbull. What was it about Mounties that touched a soft place in his heart? Well maybe not all Mounties, Thatcher didn't touch him anywhere. So maybe it was just the Fraser/Turnbull type Mounties, but that was something to think about later, much later. Ray cracked his neck uncomfortably.
"Okay. First, sit down! Yer makin' me dizzy. Good. Now, why Detroit?"
"It's the next city on her agenda..."
"Okay. I'll call the local cops and have them do some checkin'. Have ya checked at her house in Edmonton? If she was sick maybe she went there?" When Turnbull shook his head Ray continued, "You call there. She got neighbors or someone who looks after the place? Good, check with them. I'll have Frannie get copies of the airline's passenger manifests. Airlines will tell cops a lot more than some yutz on the phone." Ray watched as Turnbull retreated from the edge of losing control, and he smiled ever so slightly at his friend.
"We'll find her Turnbull, we did it before, and we'll do it again. But once we get her back, put a bell on her or somethin'? This chasin you two to the ends of the earth is getting pretty old." Ray gave Renfield a reassuring slap on the back as both men left to begin making phone calls.
As soon as Turnbull was out of the bullpen Ray started calling the places he hadn't dared suggest to the other man. He began calling hospitals. Turnbull had said that he thought Kerri might be sick, and if that was true...God he hated to think. But he was a cop, and his cop's instinct told him to call all the hospitals.
He hit pay dirt on the third call. St. Mary's had a patient admitted on Friday night named Kerri Ann Hurst, but she had just been released a couple of hours ago. Even with his badge number and the promise of his first born, like that was ever going to happen, they would still only tell him who had signed her out. But that was really all he needed to know: the patient had been released to Inspector Margaret Thatcher, RCMP.
Now Ray had a dilemma. Knowin' who ta go to ta find Kerri was an immense relief, but goin' ta that person for help made him wanna toss his cookies.
He had long ago decided that he would rather cut off his right hand than ask the Ice Queen for anythin'. Sure, she was finally treatin' Fraser and Turnbull like a human beins, and she and Kerri had become all buddy-buddy, but there was somethin' about that woman that...that...okay, that scared him. She kinda reminded him of Stella, he could never quite get a handle on what she was thinkin', or what she was gonna do. Damn Turnbull! Why'd he hafta go an have a lady who'd pick the Ice Queen as a friend?
Ray reluctantly drove to the Consulate in search of Inspector Thatcher. He had to get in to see her without Turnbull knowing, because he didn't want the big guy to know Kerri had been in the hospital, at least not yet. He just couldn't figure out why Thatcher hadn't told him where Kerri was.
He was in luck. Turnbull was not at his post, and Thatcher was in her office, with the door open.
Ray knocked on the doorframe and Inspector Thatcher motioned for him to come in. "Thank you Lieutenant Welsh, he just walked in to my office. Yes, nice speaking with you too."
"Detective Vecchio, please close the door. I guess you can tell from that call that I was attempting to locate you."
"Well, so much for the pleasantries. Yes, Detective, about Kerri."
"Ya know where she is, don't ya? Turnbull's worried sick."
"Yes, I do. But we have a problem. That's why I was trying to locate you. Kerri is not well and needs him very badly." She held up her hand as Ray started to interrupt. "But she does not want to see him."
"Exactly." Meg detested Detective Vecchio, but admired his ability to quickly grasp most situations.
"What's wrong with her? Why was she in the hospital?"
Meg shook her head and sighed. "She's going to have to tell you that. Let's just say she's an emotional wreck, and she's worried that Turnbull will blame her for her illness."
"Well, that's just dumb!"
"Kerri is not thinking clearly right now. She needs some time."
"Turnbull can't stand much more not knowin' where she is."
"That's why we need to talk Detect...Ray. I don't know what to do. I promised her I would not tell Renfield where she is. I only saw him for a minute, but I could tell the man is hurting. Do I betray a friend to help another, or let another friend worry himself to death?"
Ray was almost touched by Thatcher's plea for help...almost. He found it very hard to believe she would want to take him into her confidence. "Where is she?"
"I wish it were that easy. I could tell you and then you could tell Renfield, and I would be off the hook. But that's not what Kerri wants. And right now Kerri's emotional state is just too precarious."
Ray frowned at Thatcher. Something was very wrong here, very wrong.
"Okay, I take care a Turnbull, you take care a Kerri. I'll tell him I'm workin' on findin' her and keep reassurin' him that she just needs some time. At least that part's true. You think she'll be ready ta see him by the end a the week?"
"God, Ray, I have no idea! But I'll keep pressing her. But gently, I have to do it gently. She's really fragile right now."
Ray could tell that something major was wrong with Kerri, and he was worried about her too. Friends! Life would be so much easier without them...and so much lonelier.
Meg returned to her apartment to find Kerri exactly as she had left her, asleep on the sofa. A great many things ran through her mind as she watched her friend sleep. She and Kerri were about the same age, both career women who had put off starting a family in favor of their chosen professions. Meg had sacrificed a lot to attain her current position, but the choice to have a husband and children still remained an option open to her. Kerri no longer had that option, at least in her mind. Meg could not allow Kerri to push Turnbull away. She needed him, whether as a lover or as a husband. She would never be able to bear his children, but there were other ways to build a family. Kerri would just have to come to terms with that. And that's where her friends came in.
Meg busied herself in the kitchen as Kerri continued to sleep. The list of instructions Thelma had given her said that Kerri should only eat light meals such as soup for the next few days, so Meg had returned from work loaded down with all the fixings for chicken noodle and vegetable soups. She was determined that her patient would get the best care in the world!
Kerri began to stir slightly as the aroma of the cooking soup filled the apartment. She reluctantly woke up just about the time the meal was done. Meg put on her best cheerful smile and greeted her sleepy friend. "How do you feel? You're looking a whole lot better than you did this morning. Want something to eat?"
In the hospital Kerri hadn't cared if she ever ate again, so she was very surprised to find she was starving. "That smells wonderful. Did you make this from scratch?"
Meg smiled. "Hey! There might not be a whole lot to eat around here, but that doesn't mean I can't cook!"
Kerri attempted a weak smile to thank Meg for the delicious soup. "The food in the...in the hospital was awful. But this is great."
They sat in silence as they ate. After Kerri finished almost the whole bowl, she smiled again. "I really do feel a lot better." She hesitated for a bit before continuing, "I really appreciate your doing this for me. I don't know what..."
"I was going to talk to you about that. I am very upset with you. Why didn't you call me? I thought I was your friend."
Kerri sighed and hung her head. "I didn't want anyone to know. I'm so ashamed of what I'd done. I worked myself into such a state that I...I caused...caused myself to miscarry."
Meg didn't know what to say. Words of comfort such as 'Everything will be all right' just didn't seem appropriate. "Kerri, you can't know that. And you certainly can't blame yourself, you didn't even know you were pregnant. Give yourself some time to let your body heal, then you'll be able to think more rationally." And give Turnbull a second chance, she thought. "When do you go back to the doctor?"
"To be perfectly honest, I don't remember. I was kind of out of it the last time I saw him. He gave me his card with the time and date though. It's probably in my stuff somewhere." Kerri walked very slowly to where her purse was sitting on the entry hall table. The first thing she saw upon opening the bag was a picture that Mr. Murphy had taken of her and Renfield in front of his bookshop. Kerri had to toss it aside quickly so she could breath again. "Friday, the card says Friday at 1:00 p.m." Kerri walked ever so slowly back to the sofa, where she also sat down, ever so slowly.
Meg cringed as she watched her. The thought of Kerri leaving the hospital to stay in a hotel was almost more than she could handle. She and Ray had to come up with something quickly. If ever two people needed each other, Turnbull and Kerri needed each other now.
In all his years of being a cop, in fact in all his years of being alive, Ray had never seen anyone come unraveled as completely as Turnbull. The poor man couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't even sit still for worrying about Kerri. Ray could hardly imagine what it must be like for him, not knowing where she was and believing the woman he loved might not ever come back. Hell, Ray was worried about her too, and he knew Thatcher was looking after her! Ray finally took him to his apartment and, with Dief's help, got Turnbull to stay put long enough for Ray to go to the store. He ate out most all the time, so there was very little food for two adult males and one wolf, even if one of the men wasn't eating.
When Ray returned from the market, Turnbull had cleaned his apartment! The whole thing! "God! What are you, the cleanin' elf? Man, I knew where everythin' was! Now I won't be able ta find nuthin'." Ray knew immediately that he had hurt the big guy's feelings. Turnbull was just trying to keep busy by being useful. "Sorry man, just vacuum or mop or somethin'. Don't put stuff away. Ya remind me of my mom!" He was sorry again, but this guy was gonna make him more nuts than Fraser ever thought of. "I got some of them mix things that ya put hamburger in. Wanna fix it?"
Renfield would have preferred to prepare a six course meal, just to have something to do, but this would have to suffice. As Ray wandered around his squeaky clean apartment, waving his arms and shaking his head, Turnbull set upon making something called 'Hamburger Helper'.
Ray watched as Turnbull ate exactly two bites of his meal. "Ya know yer gonna get sick if ya don't eat somethin'. We'll find her, ya know? It's just takin' so long cause she doesn't wanna be found. She'll get over bein' mad, and then she'll come lookin' fer you."
Renfield slammed his fork on the table in the biggest show of anger Ray had ever seen him display. "It's been five days! I don't know how much more of this I can stand! If we don't find her...I will never forgive myself! Never!" He stormed out of the room, at least he tried too, Ray's apartment was very small.
"Look, Kerri's an adult. Ya didn't force her ta do anythin'. Arguin' with her right after she got off a plane prob'ly wasn't the smartest thing ya've ever done, but..."
"I've done some pretty stupid things?"
"That is not what I was gonna say. I was gonna say that nobody picks a time ta get mad. If people could bottle up their anger there'd be a whole bunch a people walkin' around poppin' their corks all the time."
For the first time in several days Ray saw Turnbull smile. God, it felt good to see him smile again! A small smile was one thing, but trying to convince the guy that Kerri was going to be okay was an entirely different matter. Even Ray wasn't sure he believed that.
By Thursday the only one of the group that was showing any signs of improvement, physically at least, was Kerri. Meg noticed first thing Thursday morning that Kerri was moving more easily and that some color was returning to her face, but her eyes were still very pale and expressionless.
"You're looking much better today! I've made some porridge, would you like some?"
"I think that's why I'm awake. It seems like all I've been doing the last few days is eat and sleep!"
"So you like my cooking, huh?" Meg smiled as she gave Kerri the bowl of hot cereal, but turned serious as they both sat down at the kitchen table. "We need to talk about something. Kerri, you have to consider talking to Renfield, he's about to..."
"No! He'll get over missing me. I cannot let him believe I was responsible for the..."
"Kerri stop it! You are destroying yourself with guilt. Turnbull is destroying himself with guilt! Both of you have got to stop this nonsense..." Meg was angry, but a poorer choice of words had never left her mouth. "God, Kerri, I'm sorry. I know it's not nonsense. This...situation is a...life crisis. It's just...we care about you both so much, it's killing us to see you this way."
"Renfield went to Detective Vecchio to help him locate you. Ray knows you've been in the hospital." Kerri's shocked look caused Meg to grab her hand. "He promised he wouldn't say anything to Turnbull...and I didn't tell him what was wrong. That's for you to do, if you wish."
Kerri just shook her head and left the room.
Meg took Kerri to the doctor on Friday, determined that if Kerri's mental state hadn't improved she'd speak to the doctor herself. She was terribly worried about her friend, but also felt growing concern for Turnbull. If something wasn't done soon the Consulate would be in shambles. He had broken one lamp, a Waterford goblet, a vase that had been a gift from the Armenian Ambassador, and two castors off their best serving cart. Those things could be replaced, but his sanity could not.
Meg could tell that the man was driving himself crazy with blame for all sorts of imagined wrongs. As much as her heart went out to Kerri, Meg had come to believe that Kerri was just not being fair to Turnbull. He deserved an explanation, he deserved to know what had happened, and he deserved to be allowed at least some input into the situation.
When Kerri emerged from the examination room Meg could not interpret the look on her face. It was as if she was in shock, but that wasn't quite right either. As they walked to her car Meg had to ask, "What did the doctor say? You're healing properly and...and everything ...aren't you?"
"Everyone told me it wasn't hereditary...I never thought...it never occurred to me... Kerri turned to Meg. "My mother died in childbirth when I was about three. Some... something happened...she had uncontrollable hemorrhaging. It was a detached placenta...and... and...Dr. Kantor just told me the same thing happened to me. He said he told me while I was in the hospital...but I don't...don't remember. He said there was nothing I could have done to prevent it...it is highly unlikely that it's hereditary, but the same thing happened to me."
Meg hugged Kerri tightly. "That's what caused the miscarriage. There was nothing you could have done. You know it wasn't your fault...right?" Kerri nodded and Meg breathed a giant sigh of relief. Maybe things were finally starting to look up.
They drove back to the apartment in silence. Meg could tell Kerri was desperately trying to process a lot of conflicting emotions. She felt it best to remain silent.
She fixed them both something to eat and watched Kerri closely for any sign that she might be ready to talk about Renfield. But as the day wore on, Meg was no closer to finding a way to broach the subject than she had been first thing that morning.
When Kerri finally fell asleep early in the evening, Meg felt today's chance for reconciliation slipping away with the sun.
Meg was awakened somewhere around midnight by an alarming sound she could not identify. She grabbed the gun she kept in the night table and tiptoed to her bedroom door. The door stood slightly ajar, but she still could not identify the sound.
Suddenly she knew, and she ran to Kerri. Kerri had curled herself up in a tiny ball and was sobbing hysterically into her pillow. Meg felt a wave of relief sweep over her so intense it took her breath away. Finally Kerri was crying! Finally she was grieving for her loss, a loss so deep that Meg could not begin to comprehend it's magnitude.
She gathered Kerri up in her arms, but this time rather than remaining rigid, Kerri sobbed into her shoulder. "I...I...I'm...s...s...sorry. I...I...d...d...didn't m...mean to wake you."
"Shh. It's okay." Meg didn't say another word as she let her friend cry it out.
After a long while, Kerri's tears began to subside. Meg pulled away and smiled slightly at her friend. "How about I get you some tissues and me a dry top?" As she left the room in search of another T-shirt, Meg also grabbed her phone.
The call came in the middle of the night, but Renfield was not asleep. He couldn't bear to go near the bed without her. Kerri hadn't been with him that often, but in the last two days he had convinced himself that she would never be with him again. All he could do was pray she was okay, and could one day forgive him.
When the phone rang, it almost sent him through the roof. "Turnbull here."
The caller was whispering, and at first he thought it was a crank call. But then he thought he recognized Inspector Thatcher's voice. "Inspector?"
"Turnbull get over to my apartment NOW. Kerri needs you."
He didn't even bother with the car; he ran the two miles to her house.
When Meg answered the door she was almost bowled over by her junior officer. She stood her ground however, placed her hand firmly on his chest and pushed him back into the hall. "Oh, no, you don't! Some ground rules first. Before you put on the hair shirt Constable, Kerri is upset, but it is NOT your fault. Do not press her, let her tell you in her own time. But most importantly, don't be shocked by her appearance. Take a minute and catch your breath...oh, never mind, go on in." God, she hoped she had done the right thing.
Kerri was standing in the center of the room, blowing her nose, when Renfield rushed in. She was wearing a faded flannel nightgown, her eyes were swollen with tears, her puffy face covered with red blotches, her nose red and running, her hair hanging limp around her shoulders, and she was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. He didn't give her the chance to say a word as he quickly enveloped her in his arms. Meg just grinned at them and made a discreet exit to her room.
Kerri couldn't help herself; she began to sob again. Renfield knew she needed him to hold her, so he gave her what comfort he could simply by sheltering her in the warm cocoon of his embrace.
When, at last, he felt her begin to go limp in his arms, he led her to the sofa, where he sat next to her. He gently wiped her tears with his fingers and kissed her eyes. "I've missed you," he whispered, "I looked everywhere. I never meant to...I'm sorry..."
The tears began again as Kerri shook her head. "It's not that..."
But he already knew. Somewhere very deep inside of him he knew she needed him desperately. And he would do whatever it took to help her. He smiled ever so slightly at her. "Whatever it is, we can work it out." He brushed her tears away again. "Just let me help you. We can get through anything, as long as we're together. At least, that's what you told me."
When Kerri did not respond, Renfield frowned as he whispered to her, "You know you're not being very fair to me. Ever since we've known each other, you have been the strong one. You stood by me, traveled across half a continent to keep me from making a big mistake." He tenderly brushed a lock of hair from her eyes before he continued. "You forgave me when I did something completely stupid. You did what no one had done for me in a very long time: you believed in me."
"Now you have to let me return the favor. Let me prove to you that you can depend on me. Let me be strong for you. Isn't that what love is all about, a partnership, with two equal partners?"
Kerri had taken so much comfort in his arms, she desperately wanted to take comfort in his words, and in his love. But she just couldn't bring herself to say the words. She couldn't bear the thought of telling him about...about what had happened.
Renfield continued to watch her. He could tell that there was a terrible struggle taking place inside her. But he was also certain that whatever had happened, whatever she was struggling against, he could handle it. All the strength she had given him in the past was just waiting to be returned, two-fold.
Kerri took a deep shuddering breath. "You...you were...right you know, about...my being sick? But it wasn't because I was working too hard." Kerri nestled her head against his shoulder. "I found out that...that the same thing that happened...happened to my mother...the same thing...the same thing happened to me." Renfield knew that her mother had died from complications of childbirth, but wasn't sure how that could pertain to Kerri.
Kerri reluctantly raised her head to look into his eyes. The love she saw there gave her the courage to continue.
"I had a miscarriage." The tears started to spill down her cheeks again, but her vision was not so obscured that she could not see his reaction. The only indication he had even heard her words was a slight clenching of his jaw; the love in his eyes never wavered.
Renfield smiled softly as he again wiped the tears from her cheeks. "There's something else...I know you too well, there's something else..."
"I don't care for me so much, I just...just know how much you love children..."
"Kerri, tell me what else is wrong..."
"The...I...had...I had to have a hysterectomy. I won't ever...ever..."
He pulled her to him and held her tightly. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply before he continued. "Are you okay...physically...?" Renfield was terrified that he might lose her again.
When she nodded into his embrace he thought he might pass out from the relief. Then he remembered what she had said earlier. He pushed her away slightly. "What did you mean about my loving children?"
"I...won't ever...ever be able to give you..."
He pushed her away just far enough to look into her eyes. "Stop right there! You couldn't possibly think that I would love you any less because you can't have children?"
Her silence and averted eyes told him that that was exactly what she thought. He gently turned her chin so he could, once again, look into her eyes. "Kerri, I may be dense sometimes, but I am not stupid." Well, even he knew that wasn't always, entirely, true. "My love for you is not based on your ability to bear children. Would you love me any less if I had had a vasectomy after Meghan was born? Or for some other reason was unable to father children?"
"Of course not, but..."
"Forget about the but, 'Of course not' is where this conversation needs to stop. Remember once a while back you said that we loved each other for better or worse...?"
"And this is the sickness and health part...?" Kerri tried desperately to smile.
"The sickness part is over with. Now we have to get you healthy. But you do have to do me one favor..."
"Please start calling me 'Renny' again?"
Kerri sighed deeply as she wrapped her arms tightly around the man she loved more than she thought humanly possible.
He whispered into her hair, "Besides, if I start missing children too much I can always go back to teaching, or we could adopt. Or maybe even get a puppy..."
Kerri smiled up at him as she ran her hand gently over his cheek. "I already have a puppy."
Renny kissed her tenderly.
While her dear friend and her junior officer where, hopefully, reconciling in her living room, Meg reluctantly came to terms with the fact she needed to make another call. As much as she disliked Detective Vecchio, he had kept Turnbull from coming completely unraveled, so she finally admitted to herself that she had to let him know what was going on.
Ray's phone rang about ten times before he finally answered. "This sure as hell better be good!"
"Good morning to you too, Detective!"
"This ain't mornin', it's the friggin' middle of the night!" Ray came fully awake when his mind finally got a handle on the identity of the caller. "God, Inspector, what's wrong? Is it Kerri?"
"In a manner of speaking. I just thought you should know that Turnbull is here with Kerri, and I think they are in the middle of a reconciliation."
"That has already been done."
There was dead silence on the line as both of them realized they had very little else to say. "Well, I just thought you would want to know."
Meg was about to hang up when Ray finally realized he should say something. "Thanks fer lettin' me know...And thanks...fer watchin' out fer Kerri."
"Yes...Ray, that's what friends are for." When Meg hung up, she realized she was dreadfully tired. But it was a good kind of tired, the way one feels upon completion of a job well done.
Renfield brought Kerri back to his apartment the next morning. He grinned at her as she walked over the threshold. "I was so afraid I would never see you in this place again." Before he could lose his nerve he hurried on, "I want to say one more thing and then let's work on putting all of this behind us. I won't apologize for being concerned about your health, which would be akin to saying I'm sorry I love you. But I am sorry I shouted at you, and...told you to leave." Kerri started to interrupt, but Renfield held up his hand to stop her. In a voice full of love for her, and reproach for himself, he continued. "Please, let me finish? I will forever regret not being with you when you needed me so badly. I will make a solemn promise to you right here and now that I will never...never let you down again. You needed me to be with you and I wasn't there. Please forgive me?"
Kerri felt tears forming again. "If you will forgive me for believing I needed to keep you away." Renfield embraced her tightly, and thanked God that He had brought Kerri back to him.
When they both were able to compose themselves, Renny gently pushed her away. "Okay, then...I am going to fix you something to eat."
Kerri almost giggled. "Why does everyone keep wanting to feed me?" Although, she had to admit she was awfully hungry.
"Because, my dear, you are very thin, and because I love to cook...especially for you!"
She smiled as she shrugged her shoulders. "That sounds like a pretty good reason to me!"
Later that afternoon Meg received the largest bouquet of spring flowers she had ever seen. The card read, 'Thank you for being our friend'.
Over the next few days Kerri received several visitors. Benton had returned from his trip to Toronto to find the world had turned upside down and righted itself, all in the span of one week. He went to see Kerri as soon as Meg told him what had happened. Meg did leave out the medical details, believing that Kerri's physical problems were her own business.
"Meg...er...Inspector Thatcher told me you had been ill. We just wanted to see if there was anything you needed." He presented her with a small bouquet of daisies. "These are for you." When Dief snorted at him, Benton gave his companion a dirty look and continued, "from both of us."
Kerri was touched by Benton's concern, and somewhat surprised that Diefenbaker seemed to sense that she needed comforting. He kept nuzzling her hand and rubbing up against her, for the all the world as if he were giving her a wolf hug.
"It's been a little rough, but I am doing much better. The doctor told me to start getting some exercise in a few days, so maybe I could go on walks with the two of you?" Kerri bent to kiss Dief on the head, and he was able to land one slurpy lick right up the center of her face.
"Sorry, he tends to get overly emotional sometimes. We'd love to have you accompany us on our daily constitutional. So, it's a date then...well...not actually...what I meant was..."
Kerri laughed at his embarrassment. "Yes, Benton it's a date. And don't worry, Dief can chaperone."
As Fraser left the apartment he turned to his companion. "That was a surprisingly nice gesture on your part, but the licking was a little over done, don't you think?" Dief snarfed at him. "Yes, you're right, she does seem to need some cheering up."
A few hours after Benton and Dief visited her, the doorbell rang again. This time it was Ray. Benton and Ray may have been partners and best friends, but they were as different as night and day.
Ray hugged her carefully. "What happened? You okay? You sure scared the hell outta us!"
"I'm much better, Ray." She hesitated briefly. "Thank you for watching out for Renfield. I am so sorry I worried all of you. It was a very hard time for me..."
"I brought ya a get well present." He smiled at her shyly as he shoved small package at her, a package that looked as if he had wrapped it while wearing boxing gloves. The gesture was so sweet it brought tears to her eyes. The contents of the package caused her some confusion, however. It contained a delicate silver chain with a small silver bell charm hanging from it.
"Thank you Ray, it's very pretty..."
"I made Turnbull promise ta keep a bell on you, so if ya ever ran off again ya'd be easier ta find. Hey! If yer gonna cry I'm outta here!"
"Thank you, Ray. I promise to not ever disappear again!"
Ray thought he might cry too. "We were really worried about ya. You sure yer okay?" There was something about her eyes that troubled him, he just couldn't put his finger on it.
Kerri knew that Ray deserved to know the truth. He had done so much for Renny, and was obviously worried about why she had been in the hospital. "I had a miscarriage, Ray...and I had to...have a hysterectomy."
Jeez, that was worse than he thought. "I'm sorry fer pushin' ya about details, Kerri. No wonder Thatcher wouldn't tell me the whole story. Okay, what can I do?"
Kerri was very grateful for Ray's no-nonsense, matter-of-fact approach to her problems. It felt very good to see someone set emotions aside for the moment. "Just keep being our friend?" She paused for a moment and then smiled. "God, that must be awfully hard to do sometimes!"
"Yeah, well...you guys are worth it. I figured out a long time ago that Canadians are freaks...the two a you're just freakier than most. I'm gonna go now, but if ya need anythin', just call, okay? And wear that bell!"
Before he could get completely out the door, Kerri hugged him. "All kidding aside, thank you for...everything."
Ray grinned at her shyly. "Yeah...well...that's what friends are for."
Over the next week her friends continued to be concerned for Kerri's well being. She was healing rapidly, at least physically, but they all noticed that she had lost the ever-present sparkle in her eyes. They each secretly hoped that it was just a matter of time, after all, she had been through quite an ordeal.
She went on daily 'dates' with Diefenbaker and his companion, went on a couple of short excursions with Meg, and played chess with Ray. Renny continued to cook for her and even read to her from the romance novels that he knew she loved, and she knew he hated.
She knew they were all trying to keep her mind occupied, and she was deeply appreciative. But she was slipping deeper and deeper into a kind of melancholy, and was unable to stop it, at least that is, until two weeks after her surgery.
She woke up that Friday morning knowing exactly what was wrong, and exactly what she needed to do. She hoped one phone call would be all that it took, but that proved not to be the case. By the time Renny returned from work that evening, she had just barely accomplished her objective.
If there was one thing Kerri thought she knew about their relationship, it was that it would never again be possible for them to keep secrets from each other. They had progressed to the point where they might not be able to read each other's minds, but they certainly could read each other's faces.
And Renfield could certainly read Kerri's. He knew immediately upon walking through the door that something had changed, and it took only about two minutes for him to determine what it was: the sparkle was back!
As they both prepared a light supper, Renfield attempted to ferret out what had caused the remarkable transformation. "So what did you do today?"
"Benton and Diefenbaker took me for a walk. You know, I think I'm beginning to understand him."
"No, silly, Diefenbaker. Benton is much harder to understand!" Renfield smiled at the truth in her words.
"I think that there might be a relationship developing between Constable Fraser and Inspector Thatcher."
"Oh, Renny I hope so! How can you tell?"
"They still think I'm a little dense, and they forget I'm around sometimes. I've noticed a few looks pass between them..."
"I certainly would like to see that happen. They seem so suited to each other."
"My thoughts exactly. That's why I almost destroyed our friendship..." He frowned slightly at the thought as Kerri turned to kiss him.
"You did a very sweet thing, and it all turned out all right in the end." Thank goodness!
"So, what else did you do today? Inspector Thatcher said she might take you to lunch..."
"No, we had to change our plans. We're going out tomorrow."
"You do anything else?"
"No, I was on the phone quite a lot...Here, taste this. I know my marinara sauce is not as good as yours, but I think it's getting better."
"Mmm, that is good. You keep this up and I'll have you fixing all our meals in no time."
"Oops. I don't want to get too good."
Kerri took the salad to the table and they sat down to eat. "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you...I quit my job today..."
Renfield froze with a fork full of pasta halfway to his mouth. "If you're not going to eat that you probably should close your mouth." Kerri grinned at him.
"God, Kerri are you sure? You're not doing this just for me, because I asked..."
"I've done it, and I did it for both of us." She sighed as she put down her fork. "I haven't had a real home for most of my adult life. Oh, I've got a house...in a city where I spent most of my teenage years, but it's not a real home." She smiled into the sweet, sensitive eyes she loved so much. "I suddenly realized something, just this morning. Chicago is my home now, my friends are here, and the man I love is here." Kerri's heartfelt admission caused her to blush slightly, something she rarely ever did. "I don't need to run all over the country anymore, I've proven to myself I can be successful in my career. Now I want to stay put for a while."
"Renny, look at me. Even I can tell my decision was the right one, by looking in the mirror! I've been healing on the outside for the last two weeks, now I've started healing on the inside too."
She leered suggestively at him. "Besides, it will give us a whole lot more time together."
It took Renfield a few moments to comprehend the full import of her words, but when he did, he blushed too. And then he reminded himself to count his blessings a lot more often.
That night Renfield lay awake with Kerri sleeping cuddled tenderly in his arms. He had a very self-satisfied smile on his face, as he listened to her breathing softly. If she could have seen the expression on his face two words would have come to her mind, 'Oh, dear'. Her beloved Renny was wearing his 'I've just had a wonderful idea' look.
Ray, Fraser and Meg also noticed a dramatic change in Kerri. Her mind was more focused on her strategy when she and Ray faced off for their biweekly games of chess, her step livelier when she took her daily constitutional with the Mountie and wolf, and the conversation less one sided when she and Meg chatted over lunch.
Renfield was desperately proud of the way she was pulling herself together and facing life. The only time he noticed even a small shadow pass through her eyes was when she happened upon a baby or small child. He had attempted to shield her from as much contact as possible, but Kerri would have none of it. "I have to get used to the... situation, and with your help I will." She stood on her toes to kiss him on the cheek.
"You know I'm very proud of you..."
"Ah, shucks sir, ya'll make a little girl like me go an blush." Kerri's attempt at a Southern accent caused Renfield to laugh. "Hey, I'm from south Alberta, not the southern US!"
As the days wore on, Kerri began to realize that when she was well enough to be released from her doctor's care, she was going to have to find a job. She didn't think that it would be too hard to find work, she just wasn't sure what kind of work she wanted to find.
Inspector Scott had offered her a desk job in Ottawa, but was unable to offer her anything in Chicago. She wasn't sure that she really wanted to remain in the finance field anyway. She was thirty-something, and was not sure what she wanted to do when she grew up!
And Renny wasn't being his usual helpful self. "Don't be in such a rush, we've got more than enough money. You've been working so hard for so long, take it easy for awhile longer. You don't really need to work at all..."
"God, Renny I can't just quit cold turkey! I'll get the bends or something! I wouldn't know what to do with myself. As it is every time I see a taxi I think I need to hail it! NWA and Marriott's net worth is going to fall through the floor without the money I give to those two companies."
"You're not thinking of traveling again?"
The panic in his voice surprised her. "I was just kidding! I do feel well enough to try to make a joke. I have no intention of getting on a plane any time in the near future!"
Meg wasn't really much help either. Kerri asked her for her input on a couple of separate occasions, but got basically the same advice as Renny had given her. "There really isn't any need to push yourself, give yourself some time."
When she brought up the subject with Benton, she began to think they had all rehearsed the same response. "I don't see why you need to return to work right away. Turnbull would rest much easier if you were to just be at home for awhile."
"You know I'm beginning to think that there is some sort of conspiracy afoot. All of you sound like you're talking out of the same mouth!"
Kerri had absolutely no clue what she had said to cause Benton to act so embarrassed. But she had long since stopped trying to figure him out. As she had once told Renny, Diefenbaker was much easier to understand.
By the time the day of her six weeks checkup arrived, she had long since given up getting any advice on her future career from her friends.
Renny took Kerri to lunch prior to what they hoped would be her last checkup. If everything checked out all right she would be released into the land of the living.
They sat in the small deli on the first floor of the medical building, eating salads and sharing a chicken sandwich. Kerri wore a pale pink sweater and gray slacks that still fit her rather loosely, but Renfield scrutinized her closely and determined her to be gorgeous. "You look wonderful. I'm sure the doctor will take one look at you and pronounce you completely healed."
"He'll take one look at me and know that someone has taken fantastic care of me. Thank you Renny, I could have never made it without..."
He smiled at her as he took her hand. "Thank you for allowing me to..."
"Aren't we getting a little maudlin here? Let's go get this over with, I like Dr. Kantor well enough, but I'd just as soon never see him again!" Renfield could tell, even with her valiant attempt to hide it, that Kerri was very worried about this visit.
Before they went into the doctor's office, Renny gently squeezed her hand and gave her the smile that she had come to rely on for most all of her strength over the last few weeks.
Kerri returned his smile. "I'll be right back..."
Renfield passed the time waiting for Kerri by making several phone calls. It was killing him not being able to oversee the preparations, but it would have been far worse if he had not been here. So, he oversaw the preparations by phone.
When Kerri finally emerged from the exam room Renfield didn't even need to ask, it was written all over her face. "He told me to get the heck out of here, and never come back!" She fidgeted anxiously as they waited for the elevator, and as soon as the doors closed behind them, she threw herself into his arms. "Everything's going to be okay now! The doctor said everything's fine!"
Renfield hugged her tightly and sighed. "I would not have allowed it to be any other way!" He was glad that Kerri could not see the intense look of relief on his face.
By the time the elevator reached the first floor, Renny and Kerri had composed themselves enough that anyone watching them exit the car would have thought they were just an ordinary young couple, holding hands...and smiling as if they shared some wonderful secret.
As they walked to the car, Kerri babbled on about all kinds of things, but Renfield wasn't really listening. It was time to unveil his latest and greatest 'idea', and he had planned everything down to the last detail, except where to start. As it turned out he needn't have worried.
Kerrie grabbing his hand brought him from the depths of his preoccupation. "Earth to Constable Turnbull...earth...Goodness, you were a long ways away. Where were you?"
Kerri smiled warily at him. Hmm..."Okay, 'fess up! What's got you all in a dither? You're not worried about me, are you?"
"Oh, goodness no! You're wonderful!" He frowned slightly and then said the three words that could strike both fear and wonder in the hearts of even the strongest man, or woman, for that matter. "It's just...just...well...I've done something..."
As Renfield attempted to start the car Kerri grabbed his hand. "Oh, no you don't, buster! You can't say something like that to me and then just leave me hanging...it's...it's inhuman."
"It's just...well...it's a surprise."
Renny was stalling and Kerri knew it. "A surprise for whom? You're not up to something for Meg and Benton again, are you?" She thought he had learned his lesson. The last time he 'did something' for them it almost resulted in disaster.
"Oh, no! I just wanted to get them started on the road to...well...whatever. I never intended to anything more..."
"Is it Ray then?"
He frowned again. "No, I'm not sure what to do about Ray...I've been thinking that maybe..." His words drifted off into unspoken thoughts.
"Don't you dare wander off on me again! You're making me nuts! What have you done?"
When he turned to her with his most serious 'Mountie' face, Kerri suddenly became very apprehensive. "Okay." He took a deep breath before continuing. "Remember I told you my mother died when I was twelve? Well, she had quite a bit of family money that she left in trust for me. I've never really needed it, I had intended to pass it on to Meghan... but... well...my father just kept it invested for me. I never needed to touch it...until recently. I decided to buy a business..."
Kerri was stunned. Whatever she thought, it was certainly not this! "Oh, my God! Renny you're not thinking of leaving the RCMP? It's your whole life...I can't believe..."
"Oh, no, I could never resign! I love my career...I was just thinking of having someone else run it for me..."
He looked at her sideways, but she didn't notice. She was staring through the windshield of his car, her mind racing. "Renny...maybe I could work for the business? I have a great deal of experience with computers and bookkeeping...I'm sure I could be useful in some way..." The eagerness in her eyes warmed his heart. She looked at him as if she were applying for a job! "What kind of business is it? Is it a new venture, or an established company? Do they manufacture or is it retail? It is in the city or..."
Kerri kept babbling without realizing that Renny wasn't really telling her much of anything. As they drew nearer to the apartment he still hadn't revealed very much at all.
When he parked the car near the corner of Grand and LaSalle, Kerri was totally confused. "Why are we stopping here? Do you need to pick up something from the dry cleaners?"
"Kerri, do you trust me?"
"Well, that's a silly question!" But the intense look on his face caused her to immediately reconsider. "At least...I think I do..."
"I'd like you to put this over your eyes..." He held up one of her silk scarves that he had pulled out of his pocket.
"What!? What in the world are you...?"
"Please...this is very important to me. Please, do this for me?" The imploring look on the face she loved so much caused her to at least consider his request, but she was extremely wary.
"I don't understand...nothing's going to jump out at me, or anything...right?"
He smiled sweetly. "I promise, I won't let anything scare you. Please...?" Kerri reluctantly complied with his request, and he helped her out of the car. He glanced at his watch, right on time!
He led her slowly down the street, then turned the corner and stopped in front of the dry cleaners. She didn't say anything, but she desperately hoped he hadn't bought a dry cleaning business. She had worked in one when she was in school, and the only memories she had of the place was that it was horribly hot, and smelled of chemicals, and right now she could sure smell those chemicals!
Renfield was surprised at the small crowd that had gathered across the street, but smiled broadly when he saw Inspector Thatcher, Constable Fraser and Ray. He guessed that the others were just curiosity seekers.
"Are you ready?"
"I've been more than ready for the last half hour. What is..."
Renny removed the scarf and turned Kerri to face the other side of the street. "It's yours, if you want it." What she saw caused her to completely lose the power of speech. Her eyes flew open wide and she gasped loudly enough for everyone across the way to hear her.
The sight she was gaping at, the sight that had gathered the small crowd of pedestrians, and stopped the flow of traffic on LaSalle, was Mr. Murphy's bookshop. Hanging from the top of the second story to the ground, and stretched from the north to south corners of the building, were two two-foot wide red ribbons. And where the ribbons intersected was a huge red bow that must have measured at least five feet across.
Kerri continued to gape at the building, with both hands over her mouth, for several moments. She then proceeded to slowly cross the street. It wasn't really necessary, but Fraser jumped into the street, just in case anyone driving by failed to stop to see what everyone else had already stopped to see.
The people watching the spectacle tittered quietly, more at Kerri's reaction than the decorated building. She was totally dumbfounded. She turned her head rapidly from side to side as if seeking help back to the real world from the people nearest to her. She continued to hold both hands over her mouth as Renfield came up behind her. "If you're not going to eat something, maybe you should close your mouth."
Kerri looked at him as if she had no idea in the world who he was. This was not at all the reaction he had expected, and he was becoming concerned. Maybe the Inspector had been right, maybe he should have consulted Kerri before doing something so extravagant. She probably wanted to choose her own direction.
Ray was the first to notice Turnbull's crestfallen look, and knew immediately that he must intervene. He came up behind Kerri and put his arm over her shoulders as he whispered in her ear. "Now might be a really good time ta say thank you."
Kerri still had the 'who are you, who am I, where am I, what is this' look in her eyes, but Ray's words finally sank it. As she turned to hug Renny, the small crowd gathered on the sidewalk cheered, and the drivers on the street honked their horns.
Someone, Meg, she thought, shoved a large pair of gardening shears into her hands, and pointed her toward the ribbon suspended over the front door. As Kerri stumbled toward the door, a woman standing close to her shoved an elbow into her companion's abundant mid-section. "Harry, why couldn't you ever do something this nice for me?"
"Honey, if I'd known it'd shut ya up like that, I'd a dun it years ago!" Everyone in the crowd, with the exception of Kerri, laughed.
When she cut the red ribbon to enter the shop, they all cheered again. Several people patted Renfield on the back or shook his hand as the small crowd disbursed.
Meg had to nudge Kerri slightly to get her to enter the building. "There's some punch and a small cake over there, if you want anything to eat. But I sort of thought you would be a little too overwhelmed to be in the mood for food." Meg was enormously relieved that Kerri was not upset with Turnbull. She had been very concerned that he had really over done it this time. But it seemed that no matter what that man did of late, the outcome was always successful. The man was like the proverbial cat, he always landed on his feet...well maybe not always. Meg was certain that he had landed on his head, at least once in his life!
Kerri was quite literally in a state of shock. She had not said a word since Renny removed the scarf from her eyes. She simply could not remember how to speak, or what words to say, if she could remember how to say them. She wandered around the shop, running her hands over the shelves and tenderly touching the books. She tried to take everything in at once, and although she had been here numerous times in the past, it was as if she was seeing it all for the first time.
Renny broke into her semi-trance with all the exuberance of a small child. "You've got to see this..." He grabbed her hand and pulled her on a whirl wind tour of the first floor. "My dad said he would send us his scone and biscotti recipes, and he would share his croissant secrets with you...he really likes you, you know...he wouldn't even tell me his croissant secrets...so we could serve them with special teas and coffees in the tea room... I could help out in my free time... And over here I thought you could put in a rack for some of those scented candles you love so much...and back here is a place for incense and potpourri. I know it's just books now... but I know you, you will make it your own in no time. You could even add a 'rare books' section...and we could search the internet for all kinds of first editions...and look back here...if it's okay with you, I'd thought I could turn this area into a place for children's books. And maybe every Saturday I could have a children's hour...and I could read to them and tell stories and they could wear costumes of their favorite fictional character..."
When he finally ran out of breath, and places to show her, he realized she had still not spoken. "Kerri, you do want this, don't you? I mean, I thought..."
Kerri was still completely overwhelmed, but she did manage to whisper, "How did you know..."
"...that this has been my dream...just about all my life? I've never really said much to any one..."
"Oh, that part was easy! I saw it in your eyes every time we came in here. And when I came to talk to Mr. Murphy about the copy of 'A Christmas Carol' you bought me for Christmas, he mentioned he was planning on retiring, and, well...I just had an idea."
"I know it's a very old building, but it has so much character. Did you know that there's an apartment upstairs? Mr. Murphy was just using it for storage, so Ray and Constable Fraser and I have been working on it, to get it habitable. They've already moved some of our things, and we're going to move the rest this afternoon. It's really great, it's got really large rooms, and a big kitchen and..."
At that moment Kerri remembered that there were other people in the shop with them... their friends, who had been watching them for the past several minutes with very poorly disguised amusement. Ray was silently wondering how it was humanly possible for one person, even one as big as Turnbull, to say so many words without pausing to take a breath!
She looked at them and smiled. "I don't know...what..." She waved her arms wildly, "...how... to thank you. It's exactly as I've always dreamed. The only thing missing is a..." As if exactly on cue, Diefenbaker ran down the stairs, humpffed past the small group of humans, and threw himself on the floor under the front counter. Close on his heels, a yellow and red ball tumbled down the stairs.
"What on earth?" Everyone laughed out loud as the yellow and red ball shook itself and looked around wildly. It then bounded up to Renfield, all flapping ears, wagging tail and fat little belly.
The yellow and red ball had turned into a golden lab puppy, biting at a red ribbon, almost as big as he was, tied around his neck. Renfield laughed as he presented the puppy to Kerri. "I think this is probably the rest of your dream. Although personally, I think he's going to be more of a nightmare."
The puppy took one look at the unknown human holding him and proceeded to pronounce her acceptable through a series of licks, all over Kerri's face. "Oh, Renny, he's sooooo cute! Does he have a name?"
"Yeah, I've been callin' him..."
"Ray!!" Renfield shot Ray what was, for Renfield anyway, a dirty look. "I named him Dickens, but you can change it if you'd like...he's your puppy!" This was the one part of the surprise Renfield wasn't too sure about. But when Kerri set the squirming bundle of fur on the floor and threw her arms around Renny's neck, all his doubts vanished.
A sharp, rather loud 'woof' turned everyone's heads. "Hey, Frase, what's up with the wolf?"
"I think he's pouting, Ray. Kerri, could you talk to him?" Fraser leaned in to whisper in her ear. "I think he's a little upset that I left him to 'puppy-sit'. He's never been very good around youngsters, except for his own, of course. He's also jealous. You know how he can be!"
Kerri immediately left her human companions for the furry four-footed one...er...two. There was no way Dickens was going to let her anywhere near Dief with out him tagging along. "Could someone take him for a minute?" Ray stepped in and took the fur ball from Kerri, and the fur ball promptly proceeded to pee all over his shoes.
"Friggin beast! I can see this is gonna be tons a fun!"
Meg thought she might die from laughter, made even more hilarious by the death wish look from Vecchio. "Your turn to puppy-sit, Detective?"
Meg laughed even harder at the sound of Vecchio growling at her.
"I'm sorry Ray, but you know he's afraid of you. Let me take him outside." Renfield was trying desperately to control his laughter.
"I wouldn't be so smug, if I were you Renny." Ray gave him a big self-satisfied smirk when he saw the look of shock on Turnbull's face. Yes! Score one for Vecchio!
Even though Kerri was still a little sore, she knelt down, rather gingerly, on the floor next to the wolf. "Dief, are you upset with me? I hope you know that I would never purposely do anything to hurt your feelings. I promise I will not ask you to puppy-sit, unless you really want to, and then only rarely." Kerri could not believe that she was apologizing to a pouting wolf. This whole day had her believing she was Alice, taking a trip through the looking glass.
"Dief, I consider you my friend. I don't know the puppy well enough yet to consider him a friend...right now he is just...well...he's just a pet." She smiled broadly as she saw him perk up. "You are welcome to come visit us whenever you please. And maybe you might consider showing him the ropes?" She leaned in to whisper to him. "He so young, and is pretty naive, you know?" Dief snorted in agreement, and begrudgingly came out from under the counter. "Thanks Diefenbaker, I appreciate any help you can give me."
Dief whined softly and shook his head. If Kerri understood him correctly, and she was sure she did, he said 'that's what friends are for'.
The others left Renfield and Kerri alone in the bookshop while they went to gather the rest of the things remaining in the old apartment. Meg had made the suggestion to allow Turnbull to show Kerri their new home, without benefit of an audience. Her woman's intuition and keen insight into her friends' relationship also told her that Kerri and Renfield needed some time alone. She hoped the time it took to load up the few things that remained in the other place would be long enough.
Kerri had never seen the upstairs of the shop, and was wildly pleased with what she saw. The kitchen was very large, with an old style, gleaming enamel range and porcelain over cast iron sink. She could see Renny's cleaning handy work there. The floor was comprised of tiny hexagonal white ceramic tile, a little dirty from years of neglect, but she was going to love sprucing it up. The counter tops where what once had been pink speckled Formica, but she could live with that. She was just thrilled with the high ceiling and that there was plenty of room for a large table and chairs.
The living room was also large, and she could see immediately that their meager furniture was going to need supplementing. Someone had placed an old oval braided rug over the worn hardwood, in front of the fireplace, and Dief and his adopted charge had already claimed it as their own.
Renny's enthusiasm for the first floor spilled over to the second. "We're concerned about the chimney, so we won't be able to use the fireplace for awhile. But we'll get that attended to, first thing. Look over here, there's a kind of bay window that looks down on the street. And look at the window, it has leaded glass panes at the top. Did you notice the millwork and moldings? They just don't build things with this much character anymore."
Renny needn't have been the least concerned with Kerri's love of the place. She couldn't have loved it more if she had designed the apartment herself. At the back were two bedrooms, with a bath in between. The bathroom was exactly as she had hoped, with a claw foot tub and pedestal sink. The floor had the same white ceramic tile as the kitchen, except it was much cleaner.
Kerri saw immediately which bedroom would be theirs. It too had a bay window, with a window seat that overlooked...well, it overlooked the alley, but strategically placed curtains would give it a wonderful view of the sky. She smiled as she thought of herself and Renny standing in this room in the moonlight. She certainly hoped that the bookshop made money, because she already had some wonderful plans for their...home. Home. Just the thought caused her to smile deeply.
Renny looked at her rather tentatively. "I have one request. I hope it doesn't sound silly...but ever since I was a boy I have wanted a four poster bed. A Queen Anne rice bed, like my parents had. When my mom got sick, I remember spending afternoons after school with her in her room. I'd sit on the bed playing checkers with her for hours. My dad said he would ship all the bedroom furniture to us...if that's all right with you..."
Kerri almost cried. All right with her? "Oh, Renny...of course, I would love...I could never deny you anything...and after this...I will never be able to repay..."
She walked into his outstretched arms. "I didn't do it expecting anything in return..."
"And that's what makes you the wonderful, special person that you are." Kerri finally knew what it was like to have a real home, a place where she belonged. She knew that if she were to die right then and there, she would die a happy woman. God had given her everything she had ever wanted, in the person of Renfield Turnbull.
They stood there for what seemed like a very long time, in the warm, comfortable closeness of each other's arms, loving and being loved, without action or deed...until the spell was broken by a loud curse from downstairs.
"Turnbull! Come help us with this damn thing!"
Renfield bounded down the stairs to find that Ray and Constable Fraser had gotten his old, rather disreputable looking sofa stuck in the front doorway. Inspector Thatcher was pushing Fraser, who was pushing the sofa from the sidewalk side, and Dief and company were nipping at the heels of Ray, who was pulling from the inside. By the time Kerri, who still moved much more slowly, got down the stairs, Renny had joined the circus and was making a valiant attempt to help Ray pull. All she could do was lean against some shelves and dissolve in laughter.
"Oh, my god. I wish I had a camera...you guys l ...look...l...like the Keystone Cops. This has got to be the funniest thing I have ever seen!"
Renfield was anything but amused. "Kerri, I think your remark is only serving to exacerbate an already bad situation."
Kerri shrugged as she giggled. "Hey, like you guys have told me so often lately...that's what friends are for!"
If looks could kill, Kerri would have died right there. Murdered by her five best friends. She didn't count the puppy, because as with some many other silly puppies, he remained completely clueless.
Sometime very early the next morning:
Renfield awoke with a start. He was alone, and her side of the bed was cold. He was momentarily alarmed, until his head cleared and he remembered: he hadn't lost her...she was here...somewhere. He looked around and decided that she must be downstairs.
He descended the creaky wooden stairs as quietly as possible. When he finally saw her, he realized she hadn't heard him. She was standing at the front of the shop, holding the sleeping puppy, and staring out onto the street. The street lamp shone into the window, bathing her in it's golden glow.
He stood in the shadows at the back of the darkened shop for several minutes, lost in the world of his own thoughts. It had been the better part of a year since Kerri had come into his life, and oh my, how things had changed. Once upon a time he had lived with the knowledge that he would never love any one again, and forced himself to not mind. Now he could not imagine how he could ever survive without the love contained in that slender, beautiful woman standing in the lamp light.
Nine years ago he had railed against God for destroying his life, and now God had given him the most precious gift he had ever received, the chance to live again, with a second wonderful woman.
Over the last several weeks he had cared for her, seeing to her healing, both physically and emotionally. He smiled as he watched her staring into the night. He had succeeded admirably, if he did say so himself. But one of the things he had not allowed time for was his own grieving.
And so, as he stood in the shadows, he began to realize that it was now time for him to confront his own loss. As he continued to watch the woman he loved, he reluctantly remembered the self-satisfaction he had felt as he had watched Melanie's belly swell with their child growing inside her. He remembered the overwhelming pride and awe that he had experienced when he first held their newborn daughter in his arms.
Tears spilled down his cheeks as he finally came to terms with the certainty that he would never again experience those wondrous emotions. He grieved for the child he and Kerrie had lost, and the children they would never have. But even in the depths of grief, he knew that the love that he and Kerri felt for each other would sustain them. They would survive anything that life would bring them, as long as they were together.
When he thought his heart might burst in his chest, he wiped the tears from his cheeks and came up behind her. He pulled her gently back against him, as he put his arms around her. "Oh, you're cold! Put that silly puppy down and let me hold you."
Kerri put the fat little guy down and smiled softly as the puppy whined in his sleep, turned around twice, and with his eyes only partially open, plopped himself down on Renny's bare foot. She snuggled back against Renny's chest. "Once upon a time I thought you were a 'silly puppy', but of course you were never fat."
Renny laughed quietly as he wrapped his arms tightly around her. "Mmm...much better, warmer now? What are you looking at?"
"Nothing really. Just watching the night, I guess."
"You are happy, aren't you?"
When Kerri did not answer immediately, he frowned and turned her around to face him. She had such a curious look on her face, it troubled him. "I mean, I thought you would be happy with..."
"Happy?" Her hesitation was not at all what he had anticipated, and she could tell by the look on his face she'd better think of something quickly. "Happy isn't exactly the word I'd use..." She looked so befuddled, it really began to worry him. "I've been standing here, trying to determine how I feel, and I can't seem to put my finger on it..."
She cast about for the appropriate words. "You know how you feel when you search through the whole box, and finally find the right piece to fit the jigsaw puzzle? Or when you're writing a letter or report, and need just the right word, and you think and think, and finally...there it is, the perfect word to express exactly what you want to convey? Or when you're running late for work, and can't find the other black shoe, and suddenly...?"
"I wear boots..."
Kerri grinned at him. "You know what I mean...I think when you took that scarf off my eyes...everything just fell in to place...everything...fit. It was if my whole life just... suddenly made sense...like everything I am, every experience I've had...was just the prelude to today. Like everything was building to this one climax. Does that make any sense?"
Once again, the smug look on his face told her exactly what he was thinking.
She looked at him sideways and a slow smile crept over her face. "You knew..." When he just shrugged his shoulders, she stood back from him and shook her head. "You knew exactly what you were doing!"
He shrugged his shoulders again, but this time he grinned at her. "I knew what I thought you needed." His grin widened to the point Kerri that thought it might split his face. "And I was right, right?"
She just nodded her head and smiled. "To answer you previous question, yes, I'm happier than I have ever been. Thank you."
She smiled broadly as she looked into his eyes. "Renfield Turnbull, you are the most... perceptive... intuitive...insightful...wise...and I can't think of any more adjectives, man I have ever known."
He continued to grin as he pulled her closer to him and whispered in her ear. "You know it, and I know it, but please don't tell anyone else. I wouldn't want you to blow my cover."