In Harm's Way --Chapter 7----by Luckymama

The Comfortable Couch
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Chapter 7


            It had been less than a week since the attack and Muff wanted me to stay home and rest some more.  He told me the surgeon said I would have a better chance at some skin grafting later on to cover up the scars if I took the time to let them heal properly first.  But being that it was Monday and a workday, I was itching to get back to the office and see what else we could do to catch my attacker and the killer of a dozen innocent young men. 

            Muff reluctantly agreed, but told me that we didn’t have to go in right at the beginning of our shift.  He was still pouring over the forensic reports that Mike and Larry had left at my apartment.  I decided I wanted one last look at my PC before we dropped it off at the CSU lab.  In the early morning hours when I woke and couldn’t go back to sleep I remembered that I had written up my report on the Beckman interview and I wanted to look it over again.  I wondered if the disk with the copy of the report was still in my purse.  I had put that interview out of my mind in all the fuss over the attack and subsequent drug induced grogginess.  I made up my mind at that point that I would not take the stuff the hospital gave me for pain but would try to get away with over the counter stuff.

            I poured myself a cup of coffee that Muff had fixed and sat down at the computer and while I waited for it to boot up, I grabbed my purse and started rummaging through it.  It was a very large bag and things tended to find their way to the bottom making them impossible to find.  I knew that Muff had found the letter with the picture in my purse because I had put them in there.  The thing that was kinda strange, thinking back on the hours and days since the attack, no mention of the Beckman interview was ever made by any of the guys.  It made me realize how out of it I had been.  I knew if they had found my notes they would have been all over me for going behind their backs, wondering if the interview might have triggered the attack.  Even I couldn’t answer that question. 

            Knowing now that Muff and the others couldn’t have seen my notes and were in the dark about the interview, I knew they hadn’t found the disk.  But then it dawned on me that even if they hadn’t found the disk, the report was on my hard drive.  They had looked on my PC after they had taken me to the hospital so I know they should have seen it.  I dropped my purse on the floor by the PC and frantically opened My Documents.  Scanning the list of hundreds of files I kept on there, I desperately looked for the file marked “Beckman”.  It wasn’t on there.  I tried to think back to where I would have saved it, if not in My Documents.  I decided to do a file search but came up empty.  Now I was panicking.  I dumped my purse on the floor and dug my way through the piles of stuff, vowing to carry a smaller purse in the future.  The disk wasn’t among the articles.

            My actions had gotten the attention of my partner by this time. “What’s the matter, Jan?” Muff asked as he came over and saw me sitting on the floor with a look of anxiety on my face.

            “It’s gone...” I mumbled.  “He must have taken it and erased the file from the PC.”

            “Taken what?” Muff asked, helping me up from the floor where I had landed when I went through the belongings in my purse.

            I knew I was in for a severe reprimand by my partner about the clandestine meeting with Mr. Beckman but I knew that interview was one of the key elements in solving this case.  I took a deep breath and explained to Muff what I had done the afternoon of my attack. As I related it, Muff’s eyes got wider and I could see the little anger lines forming around their sides and the sides of his mouth.  When I finished telling him the whole story, ending with my discovery that my notes from the interview were gone, I braced myself for the backlash.  What I got, instead, was a surprising silence but one so thick you could cut it with a knife.  I had never seen my partner so angry.

            “Muff, I’m sorry.  I should have told you but I was afraid I would spook him again and I needed to hear what he had to say.”

            Muff turned away from me and walked over to the couch and gathered up his belongings.  “Look, Jan, we are a team.  If you can’t handle that fact then put in for a transfer right now.  Either you trust me to help you with this case or I will request another partner.”

            “I said I was sorry.... I know I was wrong...” I followed him as he headed for the door.

            He turned around and looked me in the eye.  “Either you trust me or you don’t.  I can’t lose another partner because they don’t trust me to be there.  When you have decided let me know.  I have work to do.”  He turned and headed out my door and down the stairs.  It had all happened so fast and his attitude about it took me so by surprise that I found myself just staring at his back as he flew down my stairs and out the main door.

            I slowly went back into my apartment, feeling hurt and betrayed.  I knew I shouldn’t have cut him out of the interview with Mr. Beckman but I felt he had way over reacted.  I wasn’t thinking too straight at the moment but it slowly dawned on me that I had been abandoned to find my own way to work.  I would have taken a cab but I knew that we needed to get my PC to the lab on our way to work, a fact my partner, in his snit, had forgotten.  I sat down by my computer and picked up my cell phone from the mess on my floor and dialed Mike hoping he hadn’t left for the office yet.  While it was ringing I closed down my computer and unplugged the monitor, mouse, keyboard and printer from main unit. 

            “Poole residence,” I heard Nancy’s voice on the other line.

            “Nance, this is Jan.  Has Mike left for work yet?”

            “No, he is just getting ready to go out to the car.  Lemme put him on.”  She must have put her hand over the receiver because the next thing I heard was a muffled shout of “MIKE!” and then a lower muffled “It’s Jan”.

            “Jan, what’s up?” Mike asked.

            “Do you have time to swing by my apartment to pick me up and help me drop off my computer to the CSU lab on your way in?”  I knew the question would bring inquiries about Muff’s ability to do this for me but I knew I couldn’t get the computer in without help. 

            “Sure, I’ll be there in a few.  I’m guessing Muff isn’t there?”

            “Nope, left already.  Thanks for the ride.”

            “You OK?”  I guessed Mike could hear the obvious strain in my voice.

            “Yeah,”  I muttered.  “I’ll explain when you get here.”

            While I waited for Mike to show up outside my apartment building, I gathered the mess on the floor and placed it back in the bag I used for my purse.  I knew I should have taken my laptop from work, this way the report would have been on this instead of my PC.  I never lock out my PC because I am the only one in my apartment most of the time but I always password protect the files on the laptop because it is out in the field with me.  I suppose I thought if they had been on the laptop the perp wouldn’t have been able to get to them.  I didn’t really know that for sure.  This guy was plenty smart and seemed to be in my apartment for a while.  Who knows what he would have been able to do.  I couldn’t think about it right now.  All I knew was I had to get ready for work and figure out how I was going to patch this up with Muff.  And I was hoping I would remember some of the things Beckman had told me so I could recreate my report.  I was afraid that all the medicine I had been taking might cause me to miss vital points.  I didn’t know if he would be amicable enough to grant me another interview.  And, I reasoned in an afterthought, the perp knew about the interview.  Who knows what that would do to the investigation.  “Damn,” I swore aloud.  I knew I was big trouble.  Muff had every right to be mad at me.  I was doing to him what Jim did to me the night he got himself killed.

            The knock at the door brought me out of my brown study about the mess I had gotten myself into.  It was Mike, who came in and went straight to my computer desk, picked up the PC unit and asked me if I was ready to go.  I nodded, knowing that the ride would be awkward.  He didn’t know what to say and I didn’t know what to tell him so I guess it was probably better not to say much.  I grabbed my things and headed out the door, taking the extra time to double lock the door. 

            On the way into the lab I mused about what I should tell Mike.  I knew he needed to know, if I thought the ride in was going to be awkward, the atmosphere at the station would be unbearable. We remained in silence the whole time.  I was grateful for Mike sensing I needed time to sort this whole thing out.  When we got to the lab I explained to the techs that I was looking for a file that I thought was deleted.  I knew if any traces of it were left they were the people to find it.  They took my PC and told me they would get right on it and call when they had dumped my hard drive.  Mike and I left them to their work.

            On the way to the station I realize what I needed to do.  “Mike,” I started, deciding I needed to clear the air with him first.  “I was stupid.  I know I was stupid and I am deeply sorry for being stupid.”

            “Hell, Greig, we all can’t be smart all of the time,” he bantered, trying to put me more at ease.  “What did you do that was so brainless?”

            “The afternoon of the attack, before I went home, I went over to Mr. Leiberman’s office.  I had some hunches about the fingerprints we found on the negatives and I hoped that, using that information as leverage, he would be willing to set up another interview with his client.  He did and the two of us went to Rikers to talk to Mr. Beckman.  Afterwards I went home and typed up a report of the interview on my PC and saved it to a disk, which I placed in my purse along with the letter and the picture I got in the mail hoping to take them all into work after I had something to eat.  I just discovered this morning that the guy who attacked me erased the file from my PC and took the disk.  Between the attack and the meds, I had forgotten about the interview till this morning.”

            Mike sighed.  “I am guessing Muff didn’t take this disclosure very well hence the call for the ride this morning.”

            “Well that is putting it mildly.  But, Mike, it was my fault.  He is right, I cut him, and you and Larry, out of the loop.  I deserve his wrath right now.”  I hung my head, not knowing what else to say.  The worst of it hadn’t even been revealed yet, even to Muff.  I didn’t know how I was going to tell them I practically handed Mr. Beckman, my partner’s killer, grounds for a lighter sentence.  Mr. Liberman was no dummy, he could see that what I had told them would give them a lot of bargaining power.  I then thought about what Peter would do to me when he found out.  I thought things were bad with Muff, Peter would eat me alive.  Mike saw me and said, “Chin up, Greig.  We all step in it sometimes.  We have your back.  It can’t be that bad.”

            “Well it is worse than even Muff knows.”  I told him what I had told Liberman and Beckman about Beckman being a witness for these killings, and how I knew he wasn’t directly involved in them, giving him just cause for feeling like the police were ganging up on him for no reason that night on the roof.

            Mike just whistled and said, “I don’t think you need to worry about Muff as much as you will Peter.   When Mr. ADA, not to mention half the NYPD, hears what you did   .... well, I wouldn’t want to be you, that’s for sure. You know Jim had a lot of friends on the force.  If word gets out that you practically handed his killer a walk.....  well, you might want to consider working in another jurisdiction.”

            Mike wasn’t telling me anything I hadn’t already thought about.  I was just glad he wasn’t reacting the way Muff did this morning.  “Thanks,” I said, in my sincerest voice.

            “For what, adding salt to your wounds?”

            “No,” I answered, thinking about his uncanny choice of metaphors and putting my hand over my injuries. “For not biting my head off when you stated the obvious.”

            Mike pulled into a parking spot behind Muff’s Impala.  He turned and glanced at my hand over my chest. “Look, Jan.  If it is any help, the fact that you are now a victim in this crime spree might carry some sympathy weight with the powers that be.”

            “Yeah, but I wasn’t a victim when I spilled my guts to Jim’s killer’s lawyer.  I knew I shouldn’t have told them as much as I did, but I was desperate for an interview.”

            “I know.”  Mike looked thoughtful.  “You think the interview might have had something to do with the attack?”

            “I dunno, but if it did, that would make the whole thing even more boneheaded on my part.  Muff is always telling me I act before thinking, putting myself in harm’s way.”

            Mike looked me in the eye.  “Jan, why did you feel you needed to do that, I mean, feel so desperate as to show Beckman and his mouthpiece all our cards?”

            That was the heart of this whole problem, and I knew it.  “Mike, that night on the roof, something happened that I can’t seem to remember, something nagging at my brain.  It is in my subconscious, eating away at me.  I thought if I talked to Beckman, re-lived that night with him, I would remember.”

            “Did you?”

            I shook my head and exited the car. 




            It was cold at command central, as we had so lovingly christened our little office space at the one two seven.  And I wasn’t only talking about the air conditioning, which thankfully was cranking away at full blast.  Even though the summer was starting to draw to a close, the weather didn’t get the message, it was as hot and humid as the day I arrived.  But like I said, it wasn’t the A/C I was meaning,  when I took my spot at my desk and no one said a word to me.  How quickly things can change.  One day they are tripping over themselves worried about my welfare and the next minute I am in the dog house for what I did.  Not that I blamed any of them, it was my fault and I knew it.  Still, what I wouldn’t give to turn back the hands of time and relive that day over.  What do people say, hindsight is 20-20.  I had guessed that Muff had filled in Larry and Mike was busy telling the two of them that we dropped off the computer at the lab on the way in here.  I thought I noticed a glimmer of regret on Muff’s face when he realized he left me to fend for myself with the computer, but it didn’t last.  At that moment, the chief put his head in the door to our little cubicle and said, “Kovack, Greig, in my office, NOW!”  I knew he wasn’t happy and I knew it wouldn’t be a pleasant encounter.  I looked at Muff as if to ask, “Did you tell him?” without actually saying the words, and all he did was shake his head from side to side and shrug.  I guess all forms of communication weren’t out between the two of us, just talking.

            “Close the door,” the captain said in a low but intense voice.  I took a seat as Muff closed the door and then joined me, sitting in the other chair that had been cleared facing the captain’s desk.  I braced myself for the worst.

            “Det. Greig, how are you doing, physically, after your attack?” he started, which took me a bit by surprise.

            “Ok, coming along.  I should be up to 100% in a few days, but I am ok to be back to work.”

            “I am so glad to hear it, because I just got a phone call that has me seeing red.  Did you or did you not go to see Mr. Beckman at Rikers without informing the DA’s office or your commanding officer?”

            I cleared my throat.  “Yes, sir, I did and I just want to say that...”

            “Det. Greig, we have procedures we follow so we don’t get cases thrown out of court.  I know most cops don’t care for the DA’s office, but we have to work with them if we have any hope of being effective in our jobs,” Capt. Jackson continued, not letting me explain.  I realized this wasn’t going to be a discussion.  I wasn’t sure why Muff was called in, I knew he didn’t do anything wrong. I took my cue from this and answered a simple “yes, sir”.

            “Captain?” Muff started.

            “What is it, Kovack?” the captain answered him gruffly.

            “Who told you that she went to Rikers on her own?”  I am glad he asked this question, because I was wondering the same thing.

            “Mr. Franklin at the DA’s office called me all upset, and practically jumped down my throat for authorizing Det. Greig to go and talk with Mr. Beckman.  Did you give her permission Muff?”

            “No, sir, I only found out that Det. Greig went this morning.” Muff answered truthfully.  I really felt like a heel putting him through the humiliation of telling the captain that I cut him out of the investigation.  I expected to get thrown off the force for that.

            “Greig, I know you have been through a lot, but damn it, this puts us all in a bad light.  Till further notice, you are confined to the command center.  You can coordinate all the data that comes in here.  No field work till you are completely healed.... and I mean completely.  I should put a formal reprimand in your file, but I am holding off till I see what kind of damage your little interview has caused this case.  Now get out and see if you can catch this guy before he kills again.”

            “Yes sir,” Muff and I said in unison.  I guess that was the end of woodshed session with the captain.

            We walked back to the command cubby in silence.  I sat down at my desk, trying very hard not to cry in front of the guys.  I screwed up big time and I should take my medicine.  But the sting of knowing I let everyone down and probably jeopardized the case against Mr. Beckman was almost too much for my ego to bear at the moment. 

            “Well, what did he say?” asked Mike.  I decided I was too upset to talk about it, so I let Muff do the explaining.  When he had told the other two what had happened, they all stared into space for a few minutes.  Finally Muff said to me, “Look Greig, we all know you are gun-ho to catch this guy, but you need to work with the team.  Why did you feel you needed to do this on your own?”

            I shook my head through the beginnings of the tears stinging my eyes.  His calling me by my last name wasn’t lost on me.  I guess I deserved to be out of his good graces. I said in a choked up voice, “I don’t know, Muff.  I guess I thought that if I went to see him alone he might be more prone to open up to me.  He did give me some very useful information.... if I can only remember what he said.  I had it in my report, but that seems to be gone....”  I put my head in my hands, trying to think what had transpired that afternoon.  Between the attack and the drugs, I was still a little fuzzy on all that happened that day.

            Mike came over and put his hand on the back of my neck.  “Look, Jan, I know you will remember what happened, we need to let you just think.”

            “Well she will have all the time in the world to do that, since she is confined to this desk for the duration,” Muff said in a rather angry tone.  “I guess Capt. Jackson will be getting me a new partner for the time being.”

            I couldn’t take the strain anymore, and not wanting to break down at my desk, I excused myself to the restroom.  I left one angry and two stunned detectives standing there looking at me as I ran down the hall to the ladies room.

            I was glad that there weren’t too many female cops in this precinct, because it meant I had the place to myself to get it all out of my system.  I don’t know what came over me, I really could take the pressure better than this, but I holed up in a booth, sat on the edge of the toilet and balled like a newborn.  The whole time I cried I kept asking myself why this killer was interested in me.  I guess I had suspected it had something to do with me personally when I got the negatives, and it was this connection that made me pursue Mr. Beckman on my own.  They tell you at the academy not to let the job get personal, but some cases it was hard to not be a human being an care about what was going on.  The letter the killer left on my computer only made me feel more responsible, and the weight of that responsibility overflowed in a torrent of tears and sobs.

            I was probably in the restroom about 15 to 20 minutes, trying to get myself together only to lose it all over again in another wave.  Part of me was telling myself to get it together, but another part of me was wanting the comfort a good cry can have on a person.  After a while someone came into the outer part of the restroom and I tried like hell not to make any noise.  I didn’t care who it was, I didn’t want anyone to find me in here crying.

            “Jan? You still in here?”  I heard my partner call out.  I was surprised he would invade the sanctity of the ladies bathroom.

            “Yes,” I said weakly, trying to sound normal and failing.

            “You decent?” He asked.

            “Yes,” I answered.

            He came to the stall I was in and opened it a crack.  “Come here.”

            I was too emotionally drained to fight his request, so I got up and went to him.  He took me in his arms and put my head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry I lost it with you earlier.  I’m sorry I deserted you before.  I just got so mad that you would cut me out of the loop like that.  I lost a partner once to that same thing.  I thought I was going to lose you when you were attacked.  When you told me where you had gone the day of the attack, all I could think about was how it might have caused your attack and how I might have lost you like I lost Jerry.”

            I knew the best thing I could do would be to tell him that I was the one who was sorry, that I knew I was wrong, that I am a good cop and I do trust him as my partner, but for some reason the words wouldn’t come, only the tears again.  I wanted to pull away from him, to run away, to turn in my badge and go home and just curl up and never come out of my apartment again.  This wasn’t like me, I was tough, I was a former MP in the Army.  I had served my country in the middle east.  Why was I acting like a .. a ... FEMALE!

            After a few moments, I stopped myself and gently pulled away from Muff’s friendly embrace.  “Look, Muff.  I’ll be all right.  You and the others have every right to be angry with me right now.  I lost my head, I let this get too personal.  I stopped thinking like a cop.  The captain is right to put me on a desk.  I am not ready to go out there an face this job right now.  I thought I was, but maybe I need more time to heal.  The last thing you need is an emotional partner.  I screwed up and you don’t deserve to suffer because of my mistake.”

            Muff leaned up against a sink and looked down at his feet.  “We all screw up sometimes.  I have had some major screw-ups in my time, hell I was a convict once, remember? You’re a damn good cop, Greig, and I don’t want anyone else as my partner.  Forget all of this and let’s get out there and find this guy and nail him.  And don’t feel sorry for making this personal, this perp seems to have done that for you, so you can’t help feeling that way.”

            I knew he was right.  Maybe this all would work out.  Damn, I hope so, I thought to myself.  To Muff I said, “Why the change of heart?”

            Muff smiled, “Mike gave me both barrels in the squad room.  He told me all you told him in the car and reminded me of what demons you are chasing right now.  Plus, I decided I didn’t want to have to break in another partner, seeing as I just got you broken in the way I like ‘em...  for a woman, that is.”

            He smiled at me and I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit under my breath at his attempt at levity.  “Thanks,” I said.

            “Don’t mention it again, OK?”

            “OK,” I answered.

            “Well, let’s get back to the desk.  People will start talking.”

            I thought about how he was in the ladies room and how many people might be outside the door wondering why he came in here and when he was coming out.  We needed to get out and let others use the facilities.  We walked out one at a time, I went first looking around to see if the coast was clear before Muff exited.  No sense getting the gossip mills working overtime on this.

            When we got back to the desk, I sensed that the guys had discussed this latest development as much as they were going to, because it was all business when I sat down at my desk.  I brought up my laptop and tried to get down everything I could remember from my interview with Mr. Beckman.  It had cost my reputation dearly, so I wanted it to count for something.  The whole time I was typing, I kept thinking about the original report and how it was now in the hands of our perp, my attacker.  I didn’t know if the information would do us any good now that he had it, but I tried not to let myself get depressed about that.  We had to do everything we could to catch him before he killed again.

            Mike and Larry were working on getting the last of their notes typed up from the Staten Island case.  With my attack, they hadn’t had a chance to finish it.  Muff was surfing the Internet, or at least that is what it looked like he was doing.  Our desks faced one another, so I couldn’t see his screen, only his mouse working, clicking and moving every time I looked up from what I was doing to glance his direction. 

            I was in the middle of the part about Mr. Beckman not owning a computer and using the one at the library when I heard Muff exclaim, “Ave Maria, Purisima!” under his breath.

            “What?” we all said as we came over to his desk.  On the screen was the picture of Muff and I my attacker had mailed to me.  Underneath it was the caption, “This is how far our society will go in permitting this perversion to co-exist with the natural order of things.”  I noticed up the top that Muff was on the People for a Free America site.  All of a sudden I  felt ill.  I sat down in Larry’s chair, which was at his desk next to Muff’s.  “Why won’t he leave us alone?”  I said aloud.

            There was an article with the picture, explaining again the views of the author who went by the name A.V. Enger.  At the end of the article there was a plea for the white women of America to rid themselves of their subhuman lovers and pledge themselves to the purity of the race before more die.  “Not that hunting these subhumans is so wrong, but our society with it’s archaic laws forbids it, so we are all at risk of jail time or even the death penalty for carrying out our God give duty to ethnically cleanse our world of this disease.” A.V. Enger wrote.

            “God, this guy is sick,” said Mike.  The others nodded.  I only worried that Muff would be a target.  Maybe you should stay with me at the station and let Mike and Larry do the leg work for a few days,” I said to Muff.

            “Why should I do that?”  he asked, rather darkly.

            “Don’t you see, you’re one of those ‘subhumans’ this nut is talking about and your picture is now plastered all over the website.  Who can say how many people look at this site and could be gunning for you?  It is bad enough when this guy was the only one doing all the killing, but with this article, how many others might join him, and you might be next on his hit list?  Mr. Beckman said he talked to this A.V.Enger in a chat room that is sponsored by this site.  He told me that he agreed with this guy’s philosophy, but only agreed to take pictures for him.  Someone else might agree to do more.”

            Mike and Larry looked at Muff and nodded in agreement with me.  Muff reluctantly saw the wisdom in what I was saying.  I sat back and sighed.  We had only been there a couple of hours and already I was feeling drained.  Plus the pain was coming back.  I closed my eyes for a moment. 

            “You OK, Jan?”  Muff asked me.  Mike came up to me and felt my head with the back of his hand.  “She’s a little warm.”

            “The doctor said she might develop a fever if the wounds got infected,” noted Larry. 

            “No, the wounds are fine,” I whispered, not opening my eyes.  “I think I have just gotten over tired.  Maybe I need to go home for today.”

            “I’ll take you home,” Muff said.  “We can stop by the lab and see if they have found anything on your computer.  I’ll take my laptop and work at your place while you take a nap.”

            I was too tired to argue with him.  He went to tell the captain and then came back and gathered up both our laptops.  Mike and Larry said they would stay at the station and wait for any more developments, coordinating what we had so far in order to see if they could come up with any fresh leads.  I left them my report of the Beckman interview.  It was almost done, and I thought they could add it to what we had.  Maybe they could check out his story.

            On the ride to the lab, I kept falling asleep.  Muff told me to wait in the car with the A/C on while he went up to check on my computer.  I must have fallen into a deep sleep by that time because I never heard him get back in the car.  The next thing I knew I was at the apartment.  Muff helped me up the stairs and got me into bed.  He got a glass of water for me so I could take the pain meds and then went back down to get the laptops out of the car.  I don’t remember much after that.




            I woke from my nap with a start.  I had just had a dream about the night on the roof.  Something that had been in my sub-conscience finally made itself known in the dream.  I was coming around the corner of the stairwell, as I had the night Jim was killed.  I remember seeing Jim and Beckman facing one another, their guns trained on each others’ chests.  As so often happens in dreams, the events took on a slow motion effect.  I saw Jim’s surprised face, when I called out to the perp.  Then I turned and looked directly into the eyes of Beckman.  He turned and looked at me with a look of recognition on his face and said, “It can’t be... YOU??” and then fired, not looking back at my partner.  He did it so all of a sudden I didn’t have time to fire my weapon except in response to the report coming from his.  It was at that point in the dream that I woke up.

            Muff came into the bedroom and without hesitation made his way to my bedside.  “Jan, are you OK?  You let out a scream.”

            I didn’t remember screaming in my dream.  “I just had a dream about the night Jim was killed.”

            “Oh.” Muff said.

            “Muff, I remembered something about that night.  I think Beckman knew who I was, or had seen me before.  It might mean something, I dunno.  I wonder why he seem to know me?”  I put my head in my hands and mumbled, “Damn, I wish I could make sense of this.”

            “You will, don’t worry.”  He got up and said, “Get dressed and come out and have some dinner.  You were so out of it I didn’t get a chance to tell you what the tech guys found on your computer.”

            He closed the door on his way out.  I made short work of getting more decent and quickly exited the bedroom.  Muff had dinner out on the table by the time I sat down.  He had made a simple dinner of enchiladas and rice.  It smelled wonderful.  I hadn’t eaten much all day and I was starving.

            “So, spill, what did they find?” I said as a spooned a fork-full of rice into my mouth.

            Muff smiled, “I am glad you are getting back to your enthusiastic self.  They found your original file.  The perp didn’t think to go in and erase the hidden traces of it.”  He took a bite and then continued, “which means he isn’t as savvy as we thought.”

            “At least in the tech department, but don’t underestimate his intelligence in other areas.  He got into my apartment, subdued me with a medicine that is hard to trace, and with the skill of a surgeon, carved me up, just like he carved up his other victims.  He knew to look on my computer for any evidence that might help him and he has people running around taking pictures for him.”

            Muff nodded and we ate in silence for a while, each mulling over what we knew.  “Jan,” Muff said quietly with a question mark in his tone.

            “What?” I answered him.

            “Promise me  you won’t do anything foolish again.  You have been through enough and as you just so eloquently put it, you are one of this guys victims too.  You are evidence, evidence he might come back to destroy when he thinks about it.”

            “Yeah, that has crossed my mind too.  Believe me, Muff, I am through taking chances.  I am playing everything by the book from now on, and I promise I won’t cut you out of anything I think of.”

            Just then the phone rang.  I got up, went into the living room and picked up the receiver by the couch.  “Janice Greig’s residence.”

            “Jan, it’s Peter.  How are you feeling?”

            I put my hand over the receiver and mouthed to Muff, who had joined me on the couch, “It’s Peter.”  He nodded in acknowledgment and turned on the TV low so I could have some privacy with my conversation.

            “Peter, I am so sorry about my screw-up with Beckman.”  I knew I had to apologize and get the air cleared about that first.

            “I know, I called your Captain back after he chewed your butt out and after talking to him I realized you were just being the gun-ho lady cop you have always been.  Forget it, but do me a favor.”

            “I know, next time ask you first,” I said, anticipating his request.

            “Well, yeah, that too, but that goes without saying.  No, what I was going to ask is if you would have dinner with me tomorrow night so we can put our heads together and come up with a strategy about how to handle your testimony in the case against Beckman.  I found out this afternoon that the trial date is set for Thursday.  That only give me about 48 hours to put some finishing touches on this.”

            I thought about what he had just said.  “Damn, they don’t give you much time, do they?”

            “Nope,” answered Peter. “But really, we have had several weeks already since the grand jury.”

            I thought back and counted the days since I had gone in to testify.  I realized he was right.  The attack had messed up my sense of the passage of time.  “Well I guess since I have thrown a monkey wrench into whatever strategy you had planned, the least I can do is help you figure out what to do now.  Sure, what time tomorrow night?”

            “What time do you get off of work?” he asked.

            “Well the Captain probably told you I have been confined to desk duty till I am 100% healed, so anytime after 5 is good for me.”

            “Then I will pick you up around 6:30.  That will give your partner time to get you home and time for you to get ready.”

            “Sure, that would be fine.  Where are we going?” I wondered how I was supposed to dress for the occasion.

            “My surprise and my treat.  Just dress nice but casual.  Nothing too fancy I promise, but not fast food either.”  I could almost hear him smiling on the other end.  He had tried to get me to go out with him in the past and now he was reveling in the fact that he was successful, even if it was going to be a working dinner date.  After all that had happened to me, I didn’t care anymore what he thought.  Besides, I owed him big time for not getting mad at me in person.  I knew he had every right.

            “OK, Peter, I will see you around 6:30 then.  Goodnight.”

            “’Nite, Jan.” and then I heard a click.

            I put the phone back on the cradle and looked over at Muff.  I knew he had tried hard not to listen in on my end of the conversation, but I hadn’t really cared if he did or not.  I answered the inquiring look he gave me.  “Peter is taking me out to dinner tomorrow night to discuss the trial.  Beckman’s court date is Thursday and he wants me to help him with damage control,” I lowered my head and continued, not wanting to look him in the eye, “MY damage control.”

            “I gotcha,” Muff answered.  “Was he mad?”

            “No, not really.  I guess he got it out of his system with the Captain.  And I am guessing he is thrilled he is finally getting to take me out to dinner, even though it will be a working one.  He isn’t a bad sort, really.  He just isn’t my type, but then again, I dunno if I have a type.  In the kind of work we are in, it is hard to think about forming attachments with anyone.”

            “I know what you mean,” Muff answered. “I’m glad this trial is coming up soon, though.  You need to get it behind you.”

            “You’re right as usual.  I do need some closure on my part of all of this.  Hopefully the trial will bring it.”  I let out a big yawn.

            “Hey, I should be going.”  Muff got up and gathered up his belongings.  “The CSU guys will have your PC ready to give back to you in the morning.  We can stop by there on our way to work and pick it up.  I have a transcript of your hidden file.  They were able to restore it to your documents folder.  You gonna be OK sleeping here alone tonight?”

            “Yeah, I have to get used to it sometime, and you have been more than generous sleeping on my couch for as long as you have.  You deserve a better night’s sleep than I know you have gotten since the attack.”

            “I have slept well, thank you.  Your couch isn’t that bad,” Muff smiled.  I walked him to the door.  “Jan, promise me you will double check your locks tonight.”

            “I will, Muff.”

            He reached down and planted a kiss on my forehead.  “I don’t know what I would do if I lost you, you know.  Sleep well.”

            “Thanks, I will.  You too.  Don’t worry, OK?”

            “Too late for that,” Muff answered as he made his way down the hall to the stairs.  I closed my door and locked it up, making sure it latched properly.  I noticed for the first time that some of the locks were a little loose.  I then remembered that Muff had been doing the locking up since my attack.  This was the first time I had an opportunity to mess with my locks.  I made a mental note to call the superintendent of the building in the morning and have him look at tightening up the existing locks and maybe installing another dead-bolt, just to be on the safe side.  I dunno what possessed me to do it, but for this night, I hauled a heavy bookcase I kept in the living room and placed it against the door.  On the top of the shelf I placed an old fashioned school bell, one my dad had given to me when he retired.  It had been a gift from the school system.  He said it depressed him to look at it, making him feel old, so he gave it to me.  I figured, if someone tried to break in that night, they would knock over the shelf and the bell would make enough of a racket to wake me up.  I put my service revolver by my bed on the night stand, just in case.  Then I got myself ready for bed, hoping that my precautions would not be needed.  Fortunately, no one came to disturb my sleep and I was able to sleep soundly till morning.




            The following workday passed uneventfully.  I was really glad that we didn’t have any new cases to deal with, but I wasn’t that happy that we didn’t have any new leads to pursue either.  Mike and Larry were wondering if they shouldn’t get back to the three four and resume their old haunts.  I was sure they were short handed down there, a fact that no detective likes to deal with.  I told them to check in with the captain, but if we weren’t getting anything new in, they should just get back to work.  They knew they would be on call if anything new developed.  The captain was in agreement.  In fact, he said he wanted to put Muff and I back in the rotation as soon as I was well. 

            We all wondered if the perp had moved on to another area of the country, was incarcerated on another felony, or even dead.  All we knew was he hadn’t left us a new body in weeks.  I hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be a cold case, with us never knowing who had done these horrible crimes.  That has happened in the past, one only has to think of the Ripper case in London or even more recently, the Zodiac case on the west coast in the late sixties.  No one knew for sure who had committed those crimes, and I was afraid these would join them among the unsolved mysteries in the annals of crime.  I didn’t want that to happen, especially since I had been one of the victims, but without any new leads, we were no closer to closing this case.

            I added a copy of the transcript of my original report on the Beckman interview to the main file and kept a copy with me.  I thought Peter might need to see it as we figured out how he would proceed with the prosecution.  I was really starting to feel sorry for him.  He had been so nice on the phone last night, not giving me the ass chewing I deserved.  He really was a good person, only thinking about how to get the bad guys behind bars.  I guess he got as frustrated at the cops as we did at them.  We always think we are collecting good evidence, the kind that will stand up in court, but to be honest, cops don’t know all the ins and outs of the law the way the DA’s need to.  Maybe they needed to beef up the criminal law portion of the detective training at the academy.  I always thought it might be good if we could do some on the job training as well, letting us help out in the DA’s office for a period of time, and in turn, having the DA’s ride along with us for a while, to see it from our side.  I had expressed those ideas once in a continuing ed. class I took at Hofstra, but the professor shook his head and said it would never happen, given the egos on both sides of the law enforcement business.  He was probably right. 

            Muff took me home at 5 and helped me get my PC hooked back up in the apartment.  He told me to have fun even though it was a working dinner.  He said I deserved a nice night out with a friend.  When he left, I locked myself in, noticing that the super got to fixing the locks while I was gone.  I was glad of that, since I didn’t want to have to lug that big bookcase again.  It had been a struggle last night and then again this morning.  I had Muff help me get it back into place in the living room, but I had to at least move it out of the way to let him in.  I think he would have laughed at my precaution if it weren’t for the fact that he knew my locks were bad and that I had been attacked once already.  He worried that I had aggravated my scars, which were healing nicely.  I told him I tried to be very careful, the bookcase actually took me 20 minutes to move into place.  I had took the precaution of emptying it first, and then putting all the books back in it when I moved it.  Muff was able to move it in the morning without disturbing anything, and he did it in a fourth of the time it had taken me.  It was helpful having a guy around when you needed one.

            I couldn’t help but notice a wee bit of jealousy in Muff’s voice when he had told me to have fun.  I wondered if he had a right to be jealous.  It wasn’t like we were dating or anything, we were only partners.  And I wasn’t really dating Peter either, and he knew that.  Still, I guess all the time he had spent with me helping me to recover the attack had somehow bonded us in a way that was more than just being partners on the force.  I wondered if that was a healthy thing, but let it go, knowing there wasn’t much I could do about it.  It still stung at me that he had been the only one to go off on me when I admitted my mistake.  Mike had been upset but forgiving, the Captain had just reacted to what Peter told him, besides he was in charge and had the right, and Peter had gone off on the Captain, but I guess had gotten the venom out of his system before he got to me.  I know most of what Muff reacted to was the shock of learning what I had done.  Still, I couldn’t help wonder if there had been more to Muff’s anger and concern.

            I decided that I would give Peter a treat and dress up a little for a change.  I wore a blue sleeveless linen dress, one that would be cool enough for the humid air we still had lingering over the city at night.  I even wore my hair down, something I rarely did.  It wasn’t too long, but it annoyed me when it got in my way at work.  I had gotten in the habit of tying it up for work that I usually just wore it that way most of the time.  I even took some time to put on some light make-up, something I rarely did.  I guess I was still feeling really guilty about what I had done to Peter’s case against Beckman, I thought I owed him this much attention to detail.  I also knew it wouldn’t be lost on Peter.  I wondered if I was also doing this for my benefit, sort of testing my feelings for Muff by making this extra effort to impress Peter.  I will admit, I was confused about some of the guys in my life these days.

            Peter was at my door around 6:30.  He looked sharp in his short sleeve tan golf shirt and chinos.  I was glad I hadn’t over dressed for the occasion.  He dressed exactly how he had told me to dress, nice but casual.  He helped me into his late model black BMW.  I thought about how it contrasted with Muff’s old Impala.  I knew DA’s didn’t make as much money as private practice lawyers, but I remember Peter telling me once that his parents had left him some money when they died a few years ago.  It had been a real tragedy.  They had been vacationing off Martha’s Vineyard one summer and a sudden storm capsized their sailboat.  They both washed up on the shore a day later.  Peter and his sister were devastated.  She was a few years older than he was and had moved away from the northeast after it happened.  I thought he had told me she moved to Texas and had gotten married to an oil executive.  I guess they were both used to money.  I don’t know what his dad did for a living, but I think he was loaded.  That would account for Peter having enough money to afford his car.

            Peter had taken the time to tell me how nice I looked when he got to my door, but in the car he switched to business mode.  I could tell that my speaking with Beckman had really thrown him off his game.  I started to feel bad about that again, and apologized to him one more time, but he told me to forget it, it was water under the bridge.  He said he just had to concentrate on getting it turned back in our favor again.

            We arrived at the restaurant, a little Irish pub in the Wall Street district of the city.  I knew this was his favorite place to hang out after a busy day.  He had tried to get me to come with him once after a trial where Jim and I had to testify, one that went in our favor for a change.  He was in a celebrating mood.  Jim took him up on the offer, but I declined and went home.  When we entered, many of the people in the bar greeted him.  Several looked at him with admiring eyes as he strutted in with me on his arm.  I could tell that his friends were impressed with the look of his date for the evening.  Some of the guilt I had been feeling about what I had done melted when I thought of how I gave him an ego boost by having him be seen with me in his favorite watering hole.  I had suspected it was no secret that he had carried a torch for me for a long time.  We both might have known that we were only there on business, but it made me feel good to let him let his friends think he had finally snagged the one that had always gotten away.  I didn’t think it would hurt anything to let them think it.

            I let Peter order for the both of us, corned beef and cabbage and a couple of stouts on draft.  I wasn’t much of a beer drinker, but I thought since he was buying, I would indulge.  I was off the prescription meds so I figured it was safe enough.

            After he had ordered, he got right down to business.  He had picked an out of the way booth near the back of the pub, a place he felt he would have the freedom to discuss sensitive business.  I gave him the copy of my transcript of the interview.  He read in silence as the waiter brought us our beers and a basket of pretzels.  I sipped the dark concoction, noticing it was sweeter than most stout’s I had tasted.  I didn’t want to interrupt him while he was concentrating, so I asked the waiter about it.  He told me that it was a special import from Ireland that the owner kept in stock especially for Peter.  I nodded and he left.

            When Peter was finished reading, he said, “Well you did seem to get more to go on in your case with those mutilations.  Have you tracked down any of this yet?”

            “No, Muff was going to do that tomorrow.  Mike and Larry have a copy of the report and planned on doing some of their own snooping.”  I took a bite of a pretzel.

            “Well maybe it will help you solve it finally.”

            “I dunno,” I said, in a noticeable dejected voice.  “We have run out of leads and the Captain has given Mike and Larry permission to go back to the three four.  I am guessing they will be happy to see them back in the rotation down there.  It isn’t very fun being short handed.  Muff and I will be back in rotation at the one two seven as soon as the doctor tells me I am 100%.  I don’t see what I got from Beckman really giving us much fresh information.  This guy has covered his tracks well.”

            “Well don’t give up yet.  I know you will outsmart him.”  Peter smiled and grabbed his glass and raised it.  “Here’s a toast to the both of us being successful.  A successful trial on Thursday and you catching your bad guy.”  I raised my glass to his and then we both took a sip.  “I don’t know if I got to tell you or not, but the DA has assigned your case to me if you get the guy who has been doing this.”

            “Oh?” I said.  “I thought each of the cases would be tried in their separate jurisdictions.”

            “Well normally that would be the case, but if there is only one person behind all these killings, they want to get him for all of them at once.  Since the first ones were in our back yard, oops, I mean my back yard and your former back yard, I would be the lead prosecutor on the case.”

            I smiled, knowing he missed having me at the three four.  Down there we had worked together on cases.  Now I would be working with other ADA’s.  “I am glad you will be prosecuting this guy.  Your the best man for the job.  I know you will make the charges stick and convince the jury that he deserves the death penalty.”  I blushed and continued, “Oops, sorry, I guess I am getting ahead of the game.  I was assuming that since this is a serial case it would be murder in the first.”

            “Oh, you assumed correctly.  I am already looking at it as a real case, you know.  I know we haven’t caught the guy, but I know you will and I am ready to throw the book at him.”

            “Good!”  I said and raised my glass again.  I was feeling really good about the case again, better than I had in a while.  “Here’s to catching the bastard real soon.”

            “Amen!”  Peter said with as much enthusiasm.  After we took a drink the dinner came and we spent time eating and talking about the Beckman trial.

            “My first order of business is Thursday and winning the trial at hand,” Peter began as he cut himself a slice of corned beef.  “Reading your transcript tells me all might not be lost.”

            I couldn’t see how he could make the manure I handed him smell like roses, but I listened to him intently. “The way I see it, he had something to hide when he went up on that roof.  If he is implicated in this serial killings business, it would make him less credible.”

            “Yes, but we are no where ready to be charging him with anything in relation to those cases, and your trial is the day after tomorrow,” I lamented.  “Besides, his lawyer knows we know he didn’t do the actual killings, and doesn’t know who did.  So he knows he isn’t looking at being charged with much there.”

            “I know, but I think that I can still talk his lawyer into seeing that his client had a guilty conscience when he went up on that roof, leading to him being suspicious of the cops, and giving him motive to kill one of them in order to escape prosecution.  That would still be murder in the first.”

            “Forgive me for doubting you, but it still seems a stretch at this point.”  I didn’t mean to deflate Peter’s legalistic ego, but it seems Beckman had just as much of a chance to claim self-defense as he ever did.  “Liberman is no fool lawyer, and I saw the light in his eyes when I spilled my guts to him.  I think you will have a hard time convincing him.”

            “Well your testimony on the stand Thursday will go a long way to helping my case.”

            As I chewed my mouthful of cabbage I suddenly remembered my dream from yesterday afternoon.  “I dunno if this means anything, but I think Beckman knew me from somewhere.”

            “How do you know that?”

            “Well I don’t really, but  I was thinking back to that night on the roof and I just remembered that he looked at me with a look of recognition and said “Not you” or something like that, indicating that he knew me.  And, I think he might not have been looking at Jim when he fired his gun, but at me.  I was so startled when he seemed to know me that I didn’t fire my weapon till he got his shot off first.”

            “Are you sure of this, Jan?” Peter said intently.  I could tell the wheels in his lawyer brain were turning at full RPM’s.

            “No, not 100%, but I am pretty sure.  I have to be honest with you, my memory of these details just came to me in a dream when I was taking a nap yesterday.  But I knew something about that night was nagging at my brain, and I think, subconsciously in the dream, the details came to me.  It all happened so fast that the details kinda buried themselves in my subconscious.  I was more concerned for Jim at that moment then I was about remembering all the little details of the shooting.  So if you can rely on the testimony of dreams, yeah, I am sure, but if not... well....”

            Peter finished his beer and called the waiter for another one.  The waiter looked at my half empty glass and asked me if I wanted another, but I waved him off.  I didn’t want alcohol to cloud my thoughts at that moment.  When the waiter went to fetch Peter’s beer he turned back to me and said, “Well at least with this new information, we can nail Beckman for firing the first shot.  We always knew Jim hadn’t got off any shots so Beckman started the battle.”

            “Yeah, but if he was thinking he was firing at me and forgot to turn in his surprise of the moment, then he didn’t mean to kill Jim.”

            “But if he meant to kill you, then it is the same thing.  You are a cop too.”

            “But what if he didn’t know I was a cop?  Maybe he knew me as someone else?”

            I got frustrated and showed it.  I slammed my fork down and said louder than I wanted to, “What if, what if, what if....  damn it, Peter, even I know enough law to know you can’t build a case on what if’s.”

            “I know, Jan, I’m just thinking aloud here, and keep it down, will ya.”  He looked around and noticed that some of the patrons had started to glance in our direction.  I smiled at them and then lowered my voice.  “I’m sorry Peter, this whole thing has me frustrated, that’s all, and I am mostly frustrated at the fact that I screwed up your case.”

            “Look, I will pull this one off, OK?”  I nodded at him.  “We will get Beckman, I promise.”

            At that moment my cell phone rang.  I opened the flip top and said, “Greig here.”

            “Jan, it’s Muff.  I need you to come to the station ASAP.  Something just broke.  I can’t talk over the phone about it.”

            “I’m on my way.”  I flipped the phone off and turned to Peter.  “Sorry I can’t finish up this nice dinner with dessert, but I have to get up to the station.  Something has happened.  Muff wouldn’t say, but I think we have a new lead.  I hope to hell it isn’t another victim.”

            “Oh, I hope not either.  I understand.”  He got up with me and took my hand and drew me closer to him.  “Thanks, Jan, for coming tonight and helping me show off in front of the guys here.  I know what you did when we came in and I appreciate it.  You are a great lady and you know how I feel about you.”

            “Hey, anytime,” I answered, hoping he wouldn’t get all mushy on me.  I was in cop mode at the moment and didn’t want to break it.”

            He lifted my hair and said, “I appreciate this too.  I always liked your hair.  I wish you would wear it down more often.  You do look so much different when you do.”

            “Do I?” I asked, really wanting to know.  There was something in that simple statement that had me thinking.

            “Yeah, you really do.  Having it down changes the way your face looks, softens it somehow.”

            “Damn, you might be onto something, Peter.”  I said as I put some distance between us and grabbed my purse.  “Look, I think I know why Beckman might have acted the way he did.  I dunno for sure, but it would confirm some of what I remembered in that dream.  Can you arrange a meeting with them tomorrow?  If I am right, you might be able to save the taxpayers some money and deal him out on murder two and at least put him away for life.”

            “Murder two?  Are you nuts?  No lawyer worth the bread will have his client deal on murder two?”

            “Trust me, if what I think is true is, he will.  He will gladly do it to avoid the death penalty.  And,” I added in a softer voice, getting real close to his ear as I whispered, “I’ll promise you a month of dates right here with your cronies so you can have bragging rights for the next decade if you can get me in to talk to Beckman and his lawyer tomorrow.  Agreed?”

            I backed up and looked at the stunned look in his eyes.  “Jan, I don’t know what you are up to, but if you can hand me a murder two plea and promise to go out with me, I have to believe you.  It’s a deal.”

            I decided to seal the ferocity of my convictions with a kiss on the lips.  I think I stunned Peter as much as I stunned myself with that little maneuver.  It wasn’t a wimpy kiss, but a passionate one, good enough to convince all his friends who I knew were looking on that there might be something between Peter and I.  I dunno why I was feeling so magnanimous toward him all of a sudden, but I knew that I would need his help in a big way and this was the best idea I could come up with.  Shame on me for using my femininity to get what I wanted, but hell, when you got it, you might as well use it sometimes.  When we broke the kiss, I left him looking like a deer in the headlights.  “Gotta run.  Call me tomorrow when you get the interview set up.”  And I ran out the door not waiting for him to say anything in response.