This is a continuing saga which started with "Here Comes the Rain Again." Inexperienced in fanfiction writing, I forgot to label the stories with sequential identification, an oversight since corrected. Sorry for any inconvenience. Enjoy!
By Patti Cherry
A Due South Fiction
The city was quiet as the 1971 Buick Riviera made its way cautiously through the empty streets. Most of her inhabitants had spent the better part of the day hard at work; shoveling, scraping, and chipping away at the ice and snow that had been left behind by the weekend storm. These people had long since retired for the night, muscles sore and aching from the exertion inflicted upon them. The children, exhausted from their day of fun, slept deeply, entrenched in sheets and blankets bundled closely around their bodies. Tomorrow they would return to school.
The clean up crews had done a decent job clearing the streets and parking lots of the nearly two feet of snow that had fallen. Truckloads of the white stuff had been dumped into the lake. The streets were covered with a mix of sand and salt, tinting the slush an ugly shade of brownish pink. There wasn't a vehicle within the city that didn't wear this pinkish residue. The car wash operations would be busy the next few days.
Detective Ray Vecchio and his partner, Constable Benton Fraser, had just been relieved of duty and were now on their way home. They had spent the past eight hours holed up in an empty apartment. The target of their focus had been an all night coin laundry, located directly across the street. The laundry was one of several sites under surveillance in the credit card fraud investigation. The Chicago Police Department was assisting the FBI in this endeavor. A special team had been assembled and assigned to various stakeouts in the suspected vicinity. An unexpected outbreak of supposed food poisoning had left the team shorthanded. It had been Ray's misfortune to draw the stakeout duty.
There had been practically no activity at the laundry. The few customers who had braved the weather had been photographed and documented upon arrival and departure, as had pedestrians passing by the establishment. Over the course of the evening, Ray noted how subdued the Mountie had become. He had asked his friend if there was something bothering him; but Fraser had attributed his pensive mood to fatigue. He had spent the greater part of the day counting rolls of toilet paper and then there had been the episode with Diefenbaker. Ray knew from experience how exhausting paper work could be. Just the thought of the stacks of files amassed on his desk made him weary.
Ray glanced in Fraser's direction as he turned onto Racine and brought the car to a halt in front of the apartment building. The Mountie just wasn't his normal Canadian self. Whatever his preoccupation, Ray hoped he would resolve it soon. It was bad enough that the guy hardly split a grin, but the bleak countenance Ray had witnessed tonight was totally out of character.
"There you go, Benny. Get a good night's sleep. You need it."
"Thank you kindly, Ray." Fraser exited the car, holding the door for Diefenbaker, then shut it soundly. Ray watched as the man and wolf entered the building. He then put the car in gear and headed for home. He was tired and couldn't wait to get home to bed. As he drove, Ray's mind drifted back to the day's earlier events. He was still perplexed over Fraser's apparent dejection. The incident with Dief hadn't been all that disturbing. It wasn't like the wolf hadn't ever disappeared before. No, Ray thought, it had to be something else. He had first noticed the change in his friend when they got in the Riv outside Fraser's place. Just moments before, Ray had met Jo Spenser, Benny's mystery woman, and had been surprised to discover that he had known her as a child. They had laughed and teased one another over an incident that had occurred more than a decade ago. Ray smiled to himself as he once again remembered the moment they had shared on the front porch.
"Oh my God! You moron!" Ray slapped himself in the head as the sudden realization hit him. Fraser had misinterpreted the conversation. When Ray and Jo had been reminiscing about the time she had proposed, no mention had been made of the fact that she had been twelve years old then. No wonder Benny had been acting like a condemned man. He was under the impression that his best friend and a woman that he was interested in had once been romantically linked.
"Oh man, Fraser. Why do you do this to me?" Ray quickly checked the street for traffic and then executed a sharp U-turn. As he headed back, mental images of the Mountie assaulted him. He could see Benny wearing his red long johns, perched on the edge of the bed. His head would be slumped in his hands, and he would be surrounded by hundreds of lit candles. This was a sight Ray never wanted to witness again.
As Ray hurried across town, Fraser was in the process of preparing a cup of herbal tea. There were so many thoughts going through his mind, he knew sleep wouldn't come easily. Herbal tea always seemed to soothe him. He sat at the table, mindlessly dunking the tea bag. It wasn't until Diefenbaker gently nudged his leg that Fraser quit this senseless activity. He glanced down at the wolf. "What?" Benton removed the tea bag from the cup and placed it on the table. He turned in his seat, rested his forearms on his thighs and stared at Dief. The wolf responded with a sympathetic gaze. The man released a long sigh.
"I honestly don't know what I would have done had I made it aboard that train. I was fully prepared to relinquish all that I held dear, for what I truly believed was a second chance at happiness. The funny thing is, she never made me happy. Not really. When I looked into her eyes, I saw a coldness. Her heart didn't beat in time with mine. When I held her, I could feel her restraint. I told myself it was because she was afraid that I would betray her. Again. She had no faith in me and I couldn't blame her. Not after what I'd done. I wanted her to forgive me." Ben laughed bitterly and shook his head.
"I wanted her forgiveness for fulfilling my duty. For upholding my moral and legal obligations. I apologized for acting in the appropriate manner. I did the proper thing and I lived with my guilt, praying for a chance to make it right, somehow." Benton was quiet for several seconds, lost in the past.
"I knew. I knew in my heart what she wanted, and I almost gave it to her, knowing it would destroy me. I felt I owed her. If it hadn't been for Ray..." Ben sighed deeply. "She never loved me, but I just didn't care. I thought I loved her and I wanted so much to believe that my love would have value. That it would make a difference...that I would matter to her. I was prepared to forfeit everything. My honor, Ray's friendship, you. I nearly lost it all." Ben got up and crossed the room to the window. He leaned against the frame, staring blindly at the street.
"The irony of the situation is that, now, I believe that second chance wasn't intended for Victoria a'tall, but for Jo. She makes me happy. I feel a closeness with her I've never felt before with a woman. She fills a need inside me I never knew existed. And I can't possibly have her. Not now. Not if it means hurting Ray." A sudden knock at the door startled Fraser out of his musing. He looked at his watch, taking note of the time as he went to answer. Before he reached the door, Ray entered.
"Hey, Benny. You awake?"
"Yes, Ray. What are you doing here? Has something happened?"
Ray stepped into the room and hastily looked around. Good, no candles burning, he thought to himself.
"Did you forget something while you were here?" Fraser was perplexed by the lateness of Ray's visit.
"You're still dressed."
Fraser glanced down at himself, then raised a puzzled face to his friend. Ray was acting more peculiar than usual. "Yes, Ray, I am. Is there a reason for your visit?"
"Yea, Benny, there is. I was on the way home and I suddenly remembered that I forgot to tell you the story of how I know Jo."
"It's rather late. This couldn't wait until tomorrow?" The last thing Ben wanted to hear was another story about Ray and Jo's past. He had yet to deal with the fact that they had once been involved in a romantic relationship.
"Not if I want to get any sleep. So here it is: she was twelve, I was twenty-two. She had a crush on me, I was in love with Angie. She asked me to marry her, I said no. End of story. See you in the morning." Ray opened the door and stepped into the hall. "Don't forget about dinner tomorrow night. Seven o'clock. The three of us." The door closed firmly and Fraser was left staring in bewilderment.
He stood facing the door for quite sometime. As comprehension took root, the anguish he'd felt suddenly disappeared. He could breathe again. His heart filled with a joy unlike anything he'd ever experienced. Well, except for that time when he and Ray had been attached to the bomb at the courthouse. His relief was so immense, it was palpable. Fraser picked up his cup and carried it to the sink. He poured out the cold tea, rinsed, then placed the cup on the drain board. Diefenbaker was stretched out on the bed when Benton returned.
"There, you see. Nothing to be concerned about. Ms. Spenser obviously isn't Ray's type. I should have surmised that. He prefers taller women." As Fraser prepared for bed, Dief regarded his man with some amusement. He had a knack for deflecting subjects he found uncomfortable and attributing the cause to an unrelated topic. Dief yawned loudly. All this emotional upheaval had been draining.
Benton slipped into his sleeping bag. With his hands clasped behind his head, he pondered his apparent good fortune. Jo had been Francesca's friend, not Ray's girlfriend. He had merely been the object of a girlish infatuation, nothing more. He frowned abruptly. Although, there is a saying that you never forget your first love. Ben wondered if a "crush" would be considered a first love. He decided to reserve that quandary for another time. He was feeling too good at the moment to ruin things with this particular line of thought. He closed his eyes and began to drift. In minutes he was sound asleep, lost in a world where nothing made sense except to the dreamer.
Ray lay on his back feeling quite satisfied with himself. He was glad he had taken care of the business concerning Fraser tonight instead of waiting until the morning. The guy probably would have been a basket case if he had waited. Besides, Ray could finally get a decent sleep. He rolled over onto his side and immediately nodded off.
Ray found himself standing in a large unfamiliar room. There didn't appear to be windows or a door. The floor was bare wood plank, dulled from years of wear. The area was well lit, although he couldn't discern a light source. The sound of voices attracted his attention. He turned in the direction of the noise and observed what seemed to be a poker game in progress. Five people sat at the circular table. They were talking and laughing as they played cards. As Ray drew near, he recognized the players. Lt. Welsh, Elaine, Agent Ford, Inspector Thatcher, and his sister, Francesca made up the participants. Elaine looked up and caught sight of him. She smiled and waved him over. Ford was in the process of dealing, counting out loud as he dealt.
"Did you finish your paperwork, Vecchio?" Welsh glanced at him as he arranged his cards.
"Yes, sir, it's all done."
"I'll believe that when the Bills win the Superbowl."
"Vecchio, grab me a beer." Agent Ford finished the deal, then scooped his cards off the table.
"You got a broken arm, Ford?"
"Just get him one, Ray, will you."
"Frannie, what the hell are you doing? You don't smoke." Ray gaped at his sister. In her mouth she sported a large Cuban cigar. The blue smoke hung like a cloud around her head.
"I know. This is your dream, not mine. If it was my dream, Fraser would be here and I'd be naked."
"I don't care whose dream it is, you keep your clothes on."
"Brothers! Hey Meg, you got any brothers?"
"Not that I'm aware." Margaret Thatcher squinted at the cards she held.
"Hey darling, you going to place a bet or pass?" The Inspector shot Agent Ford a look full of venom. "He's calling me 'darling' again. Didn't you learn your lesson? Pass."
Ray noticed that the pot contained an enormous amount of cash. There had to be thousands of dollars. He glanced down at the cards in Elaine's hand. There was something wrong with the cards she held. Instead of the usual suits, the cards displayed different colored fish. He thought they looked like anchovies. Ray shrugged his shoulders. What difference did it make? A full house was still a full house. As he observed the game, he was suddenly overcome with an urgent desire to play. "Deal me in." Everyone at the table looked up at him simultaneously.
"Sorry, Vecchio. You can't participate at this time." Welsh then threw several hundred dollars into the pot as he raised the bid.
"Take a look around, Detective. Do you see any extra chairs?" Margaret folded her cards by throwing them down angrily.
"Temper, temper, sweetheart." Ford smiled condescendingly in her direction.
"Oh, shut up!"
"I'll stand. I don't mind." Ray was practically pleading, which he thought was totally unlike him.
"Sorry, Ray. The rules are, no chair, no cards. I'll raise four hundred." Elaine counted out four bills and placed them on top of the growing pot.
"What kind of rules are they? I never heard of such a rule."
"Rules are rules, Vecchio. But then, I would hardly expect you to conform to any of our regulations, such as they are. I'll see your four and raise two." Lt. Welsh dropped two hundreds onto the table.
"I can't believe this. You're not letting me play because I don't have a chair? That's ridiculous!"
"If you can't be quiet, Ray, you'll have to leave." Elaine raised her eyes to him. He could tell she was serious.
"Yeah, Detective. Shut up or get out. I'm out." Ford put his cards down and stretched his arm out towards Thatcher, who promptly took hold and twisted.
"OK, OK. Let go, you're hurting me."
"Be glad it's only your arm."
"Come on. How about if I squat down right here next to Elaine. She won't mind, will you?" The players ignored him as they continued with the game. "Hey. I'm talking here. Frannie? Do you hear me? Elaine?" Ray leaned into Elaine's line of vision as he spoke her name. She seemed to look right through him. He waved his hand back and forth in front of her eyes, getting no response. "Okaaay."
Ray ran his hand back through his hair as he pondered his next move. It didn't look as though he would be playing poker any time soon. They all seemed oblivious to his existence. "The hell with you then." He turned and began walking across the room. He noticed a door directly ahead of him. He didn't recall seeing a door when he first entered, but somehow this thought didn't trouble him. He reached out and turned the knob, half-expecting to find it locked. The knob twisted easily. Ray pushed the door open and walked through.
The sun was shining brightly. Ray opened one eye and looked at the bedside clock. He still had a few minutes before the alarm would sound. He rubbed his face, then turned onto his side. He replayed the dream sequence, trying to make sense out of it. " Anchovies," he mumbled. "I don't even like anchovies." The next thing Ray heard was the voice of Jim Morrison singing "Hello, I Love You." He always liked the Doors. He sang along as he headed to the bathroom. If he was lucky, nobody would be up yet, and he could take a shower in peace for a change. Today, luck was with him.
Fraser found himself standing in the center of a vast field of clover. In the distance grazed a pure white donkey. He was a bit dismayed to discover that he was bare chested, but even more perplexing was the fact that he was wearing snowshoes. Ben found his situation to be rather odd. He was quite certain there were no clover fields in Chicago. He began walking towards the donkey and in a few seconds arrived at his destination. He reached out and laid his hand gently against the animal's forehead. The donkey looked up at him and indicated with a tilt of its head for Fraser to climb on. He mounted with ease, snowshoes and all. As the beast headed out in a westerly direction, Ben noticed a door set in the open field. As they approached, it swung open, revealing a set table. He dismounted, made his way to the open doorway and stepped through.
The oval table was dressed with a white lace cloth on which was laid out a dinner setting for two. Fine Lennox china, embossed with a single pink rose in the center, sparkled in the sunlight. Alongside the plates, sterling silverware glimmered. In the middle of the table were three cut crystal goblets in which votive candles burned. As he contemplated the significance of this display, a familiar voice greeted him.
"Hello, Benton." He turned slowly to face her. She was standing six feet away, bathed in sunlight. She wore her hair down and he was pleased to note that it nearly touched her waist, just as he had suspected. The dress she wore was sleeveless, long, and flowing. A faint breeze stirred the skirt, teasing him with a glimpse of her bare leg. Her attire seemed to be made of sheer, white lace. As her virtual nakedness registered, Ben quickly averted his eyes. "Were you expecting company?" He indicated the table with a sweep of his hand, trying desperately not to look in her direction.
"Just you." She now stood only inches away. She placed her hand on his arm and drew his attention back to her. He kept his eyes locked on hers. Her nearness caused his breath to catch in his throat. "Don't be afraid, Benton. I would never hurt you." Jo softly laid her hands flat against his chest. The pounding of his heart sounded like thunder. He placed his hands on her waist, amazed by her slenderness. She slid her right hand up his body and encircled his neck, gently massaging him. Her left hand cupped his face. He moved his hands in turn, gliding them smoothly up her back and pulling her close.
He was overcome with a sudden urge to carry this woman off into the field of clover and make love to her. He wanted her in a way he had never wanted any other woman. He wanted to claim her as his own, to know her fully, in every sense of the word. He began to tremble as passion took control. In the back of his mind, a voice cried out an ill-timed reminder. She didn't belong to him. He had no right to impose his desire on her like this. "I have no right," Ben whispered. He didn't realize that he'd spoken the words aloud until she answered.
"Yes, you do. You were given the right long ago, Benton." As she spoke, she drew his face down towards hers. He clutched her tight against his body. The beating of her heart coincided with the rhythm of his own. Her body seemed to mold itself perfectly to his. He stared at her parted lips, eager for a taste, yet yearning to prolong the moment. Her eyes drifted closed as she urged him on, whispering his name soft against his lips.
His eyes flew open. Diefenbaker was inches from his face, breathing heavily. The wolf licked Fraser one more time, catching him on the nose. "What are you doing?" Ben wiped at his face and sat up. "You have extremely bad timing. You couldn't wait a few more minutes?" Dief tilted his head and stared inquisitively at him. The Mountie was usually pleasant upon waking. This morning, however, he appeared to be irritable. "I'll need to take a shower first. A long, cold shower. You'll just have to be patient." Dief whined plaintively at him. "Well, I'm sorry, but it's necessary. You wouldn't understand." Fraser glanced at Dief as he prepared to bathe. "Perhaps you would, but I have no intention of explaining the reason at this time." Diefenbaker jumped up on the bed and stretched out. He was a little annoyed. Of course he understood the necessity for the cold shower. Dief just hoped that Fraser wouldn't take too long.
Across the hall, Jo Spenser was sleeping soundly. She lay on her back with her right arm bent at the elbow and thrown back on the pillow. Her left arm rested across her chest. During the course of the night, she had kicked off the blanket, leaving most of her body uncovered. She wore a sleeveless, white lace nightgown. Her hair had come loose of the band she had wrapped around the end of the braid and now lay loosely spread out on the pillow. A sudden frown creased her brow. Her lips pouted like a child deprived of a promised treat. As she turned onto her side, a soft moan escaped her parted lips. She whispered softly. "Benton."
The saga continues.....Chances Are...
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