Payment

Dee Dee McCall hit the 'T' button on her typewriter and groaned in frustration. This was the fifth time that she'd messed up this report.

"This thing's gonna have so much white-out on it that it's gonna look like some type of top-secret government document," she mumbled to herself, ripping the page out and carefully inserting another. She hated having to retype reports.

McCall looked up and squelched the urge to hit her partner over the head with her coffee mug. Rick Hunter was lazily turning the pages of the sports section of a newspaper, stopping every now and then to read some article.

She especially hated having to retype his reports.

"McCall, why are you staring at me?" Hunter asked, a teasing look in his baby-blue eyes.

"I was just wondering what my coffee cup would look like if it came in contact with your head," McCall returned without missing a beat.

"No, I think you were wondering how you ever keep your hands off me when we're on stakeouts."

McCall rolled her eyes. "You wish," she replied, giving the 'S' key an extra hard punch. She didn't fail to notice that Hunter winced as the key clicked loudly.

"What, feeling guilty that you used a two headed coin to flip for the report?" she asked tartly.

"Nope, I was just wondering what bit you."

"The only thing that bit me was your report."

"Aw c'mon McCall, don't be a sore loser."

"You cheated."

"No I didn't, I just put the odds in my favor."

McCall humphed loudly and Hunter shrugged his shoulders. The ring of her telephone came as a welcome distraction from her partner's illegible handwriting, as well as the big grin on his face.

"Homicide, McCall," she spoke into the phone.

Nobody answered, but the line was open.

"Hello?" Hunter looked up curiously.

McCall felt a growing irritation as the silence on the other end continued. She waited a moment, and hung up.

"Who was that?" Hunter asked.

"Nobody," McCall replied, but she wished she knew. This was the fifth day in a row she had answered the phone and no one had spoken. It was starting to make her a little uneasy, but she didn't let on to Hunter. If she did, she knew her partner wouldn't let the issue rest until it was resolved.

Hopefully it was just a string of wrong dialings or people asking for the wrong unit.

Another hour passed with relatively little happening, except for McCall using excessive amounts of paper.

"Well." Hunter stood up and stretched. "I'm going home. I'll see you tomorrow. Make sure you dot all the I's and cross all the T's on my report."

He flashed a grin at her, and was gone before she could think of a comeback.

McCall stayed late that night, even though she finished Hunter's report just a few minutes after he left. She wanted to catch up on her own paperwork, and get the jump on him. She couldn't wait to see the look on his face the next morning when he saw that all her work was finished, and his was still piling up. She smiled a little as she headed for the elevator.

It was dark, and McCall cautiously scanned the precinct parking lot as she hurried to her car. It came as second nature to be in defense mode when she was in deserted public places: to be looking and listening for anything that might pose a threat. It wasn't something she thought about doing; it was automatic, like breathing.

As McCall approached her car, she looked curiously at the front left tire. Maybe it was just an optical illusion, but from where she was standing, the tire looked flat. As she got closer, she let out a tired groan of frustration; the tire was definitely flat – very flat.

"Dang it," she hissed, kicking the tire. "Great. And I chose today to wear a skirt."

She looked around the parking lot; it was deserted. Besides, she knew she would feel like a total idiot asking someone help her change the tire. But oh man, it was going to be tough in her heels and skirt.

McCall didn't have any trouble getting her tire iron and spare tire out of the trunk; she just had trouble getting down on the grimy macadam with the tight, just-above-the-knee skirt she was wearing.

She was fairly competent at changing tires, but it still took her close to an hour to replace the flat with the spare. She packed up her equipment, mournfully observed the ruined state of her skirt, and stepped wearily into her car

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He took a sip of the cold, bitter coffee out of the Styrofoam cup, swallowing it without tasting it. He crushed the cup and tossed it onto the floor of his car, where it blended in with an assortment of candy wrappers, paper cups, and papers.

He ground his teeth together and a primal growl escaped his lips as he watched the dark haired woman wrestle with the jack. His eyes were cold as they moved, following every movement of her slender form.

The burnt-out cigarette slipped from his motionless fingers as his lips moved, a low, steely voice filling the car.

"I won't forget."

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"So, how was your evening?" Hunter asked McCall as they stepped off the elevator together the next morning.

"Well, nothing great happened. I finished my reports, changed my flat tire, and went home and went to bed. How was your evening?" McCall responded, pouring herself a cup of the dark liquid the precinct called coffee.

"Wait a minute, you had a flat tire? Where, when?" Hunter's voice took on a rather concerned note.

"Outside, in the precinct parking lot. I came out to go home and it was flat, so I changed it, end of story."

"Which tire?"

"The left front one, why?" she replied a bit peevishly.

"When I left that tire was fine."

McCall raised an eyebrow and looked at Hunter, puzzlement in her dark eyes.

"Was it slashed?" Hunter queried.

"No, I don't think so. I didn't inspect it too thoroughly. It was dark and I thought I picked up a nail coming back from lunch."

Hunter shook his head firmly. "I distinctly remember looking at your tires last night, and none of them were flat."

McCall sighed. One more thing to add to her already hectic life, a mysterious flat tire.

"Maybe we should go look at it," Hunter suggested.

"If you insist."

Hunter was already on his way down to the parking lot, and after a moment, McCall was following.

Hunter spent several silent minutes inspecting her tire, and then he turned to her with a worried expression on his face.

"It looks like the tire was drained. I don't see any holes, or anything that would've caused it to lose air," he announced. "I think you should have someone fill it up and see if it holds air. Ask the motor pool mechanic."

"Fine," McCall agreed, although she let him know by the sound of her voice that she didn't share his concerns. "I'll have them check it out. Now, can we get back to work?"

Without waiting for an answer she left for the homicide squad room.

When Hunter joined her a few minutes later, he was still wearing a very grave expression. McCall stifled a growl. Now he would be worrying about her, and wanting to keep a close eye on her. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate it; it was just that it smothered her at some points.

"I gave your tire to the police mechanic. He said he'll let us know if there's something wrong with it, ASAP," Hunter informed her.

"You think someone's trying to harass me or something, don't you?" McCall voiced the idea that she knew was running around in Hunter's head.

"I never said that, McCall. All I said was that the tire looked like it was drained." Hunter absently finger through his reports, avoiding looking her directly in the face.

"Hunter, look at me and tell me that thought hasn't crossed your mind."

Hunter looked up at her and, without flinching, said "That thought hasn't crossed my mind." Then he proceeded to take out his type writer and insert a piece of paper.

McCall stared at him, trying to figure out what he meant. He was so hard to read sometimes, even after five years as her partner. She shook her head and got up to make a copy of a newspaper article.

When she came back, she noticed several folders sitting in her paperwork tray, folders that weren't there when she left.

"Do you think you're being funny?" she asked sternly, albeit with a smile in her eyes. "I know for a fact there were no files in my tray."

Hunter looked up at her, dead pan.

"You're sure?" he asked earnestly, not a flicker of a smile in his eyes or on his face.

But it didn't faze McCall. She shook her finger at him as though scolding a naughty but irresistibly adorable child, and then tossed the files back on his desk.

"I think those belong to you," she said, seating herself and grinning across at Hunter's disgruntled face.

"You think you're something, don't you. Hey, listen, you type my reports, and I'll take you out to dinner," Hunter offered, a coaxing look filling his face.

"No thanks. I have no desire to eat your kind of food."

"Naw, I'm talking something nice, your pick."

McCall just stared at her partner. What was behind his sudden burst of generosity? He rarely offered to take her to dinner, especially someplace besides a pizza parlor, or chili dogs. The last time they had gone out to a fancy restaurant was two years ago. They'd had such a wonderful time. It had seemed almost magical to McCall, the whole evening, and the night. It was something she kept close to her heart, and thought about in quiet moments.

"Earth to McCall!" Hunter's insistent voice brought her back to the present, and she gave herself a little shake, as if trying to shake off the past. "You're just staring into space."

"Oh, uh sorry. Um, I guess, how 'bout I do half?"

Now it was Hunter's turn to stare with puzzlement at his partner.

"You're agreeing to do even half? You feel okay?"

"Yeah," McCall assured him with a grin. "It's not every day that I get the chance to eat good food that you pay for. Besides, I'm only doing half."

Hunter couldn't seem to think of a reply, so he silently handed her half of his files, and then continued working on the report in the typewriter.

McCall bought lunch at their favorite hamburger joint, and they ate it in a little park. It was too nice of a day to be inside. Hunter had complained about the food, but McCall said it wasn't fair that she buy a lunch that valued almost as much as dinner.

On their way back from lunch, the dispatcher came on the air, saying that there was a 187 going down in a motel on Fifth. Hunter rogered the call, saying 1 William-56 had it. He turned on the siren, reached up and stuck the cherry light on the roof, and made a u-turn.

There was a black and white at the scene, and two officers had already roped off the apartment when Hunter and McCall arrived on the premises.

"Hey Jack. What we got?" Hunter asked, ducking under the tape and then holding it up for McCall.

Jack Dawson sighed, and motioned for them to follow him.

The body was lying on the bed, still uncovered; the coroner hadn't arrived as of yet, and even from a distance, McCall could tell from the clothing that she had been a prostitute.

A rush of sorrow and dismay filled McCall as she looked down at the body of the woman lying on the rumpled bed. She bit her lip and tried to quiet the sharp intake of breath, but not before Hunter heard her and looked over.

"What?" he asked.

"I - she was one of my snitches," McCall explained, sighing heavily. "Her street name was Trixie, alias Annaliese Carlton."

Hunter shook his head, then pulled out his notebook and started to investigate the seedy little room. McCall continued to stare down at Annaliese's body, a heavy feeling pervading her.

The cause of death was obvious; her throat had been slit, and now her blood stained her blond hair and the sheets and blankets red.

The forensics team and coroner arrived, and McCall stepped out of their way.

"I'm going to talk to the desk clerk," she told Hunter, and he nodded.

The desk clerk's name was Kate Samuels, a heavy set older woman. As McCall took down her name and address, she kept pushing her graying hair back out of her eyes, and staring at McCall a great deal.

"So, did you find the body?" McCall asked.

"Well, I got this phone call, and this really weird voice told me to go look in room 28. Whoever it was didn't tell me who they were, and they just hung up. So I went and looked it room 28," Kate replied, shuddering strongly. "It's so awful, blood everywhere…" She shuddered again and sat heavily in a chair.

McCall gave Kate's hand a gently sympathetic squeeze, and gave her a moment to regroup. Then she asked if she was ready to go, and Kate nodded.

"Alright, who registered for the room?" McCall asked.

"The girl. I didn't see whoever she was with."

"Before the phone call, did you see any cars drive away?"

"No. I didn't see any cars pull in neither."

"Did the person you spoke to sound male or female?"

"I couldn't tell. I guess it sounded like one of them voice distorter thingies."

"About how long after the girl registered for the room did you get the phone call?"

"Oh, I guess about maybe fifteen, twenty minutes after."

"Okay. Thanks for your help. If you need to speak with me, here's my card."

Kate nodded, taking the card, and McCall gave her hand another gentle squeeze before leaving.

Hunter had finished with the coroner, and he was just coming down the stairs when McCall walked out of the office.

"Get anything?" he asked.

McCall filled him in on what the clerk had told her, and he frowned.

"We'll check the phone records, but it's probably from a pay phone," he said, as they got into the car.

"Probably," McCall agreed. She leaned back in her seat. "What'd the ME say?" she asked, closing her eyes.

"Well," Hunter began, starting the car's engine. "Whoever slit her throat was real good. And the fingerprint team doesn't think they're going to get any prints."

"Great, just great." Suddenly McCall felt so tired. "Where do we start?"

"How 'bout with her pimp? And the girls she knew? Somebody's bound to have seen who picked her up."

"Alright. I think we'd better split up on this one. You try to find her pimp and talk to him, and I'll talk to the girls on the stretch where she worked. You'll have to take me back to the station so I can get my car."

Hunter dropped her off at the station, and left with the name of Annaliese's pimp, and a general idea of where to find him, and McCall headed back down to Fifth.

She found a small gathering of three streetwalkers, all loitering around a pay phone and trying to pick up customers. She approached them, and showed them her badge. At first they tensed up, but she told them she needed to talk to them about Trixie, and they calmed down. They all seemed relatively upset when they found out she was dead, but nobody could tell McCall anything. None of them had seen who she'd left with, or anything out of the ordinary. McCall thanked them and went in search of more girls.

It was a very tiring and discouraging day for McCall. None of the girls she talked to could tell her anything - none of them had paid any attention to any of Trixie's customers. One girl said she might've seen a man with a beard pick up Trixie, but she said she wasn't sure, and then she said that she thought she had seen Trixie after that.

"So, what'd you find?" Hunter asked when they met back at the precinct.

"Zilch. You?"

"Dancing Pete Bosco said he hadn't seen her at all today, and he's got an alibi, a good one. He was at the dentist at the time of the murder. That guy's hard to track down though."

"Yeah," McCall said tiredly. "I'm going home now."

"Say, you want anything to eat, I'll buy. We can take it home. You can even have Chinese if you want."

McCall shrugged, and she knew since she hadn't said no, Hunter was going to make sure she ate something. They picked up a pizza, and he followed her to her house.

"Okay," Hunter said, handing a slice of pizza to McCall, "One for you, and one for me. You want anything to drink?"

"I'll get us something," she motioned for him to stay where he was, and went out to the kitchen. The only thing she could find was a carton of orange juice, so she took that and two glasses back to the living room.

McCall sighed as the phone rang, and she put down her slice of pizza.

"Hello?" she said.

For a moment there was silence, and she was about to hang up in annoyance when a voice said, "Sgt. McCall."

It sounded distorted, and she couldn't make out the gender of the speaker.

"Who is this?" she asked quickly.

"This is the person you're looking for," the caller announced, and McCall's eyes widened.

"Who are you?"

"That's not important right now. What's important is that you know I exist, and that I know more about you than you might imagine."

"What do you mean?"

By now Hunter was paying close attention to McCall's end of the exchange, and she could see worry starting to bring his eyebrows together.

"I'll tell you now as my next calls won't be as long."

McCall stifled a gasp. There were going to be more calls? A cold feeling settled over her as the person went on.

"I saw you change your tire last night. You did a good job considering the clothing you were wearing. That's all I'm going to tell you for now. Oh, one more thing; I have a purpose to all of this."

"And just what is your purpose?"

"You'll find out soon enough."

The line went dead. McCall held the receiver a moment longer, then placed it in the cradle. She felt stunned.

"Who was that?" Hunter asked. His voice sounded distant to her.

"I don't know." McCall was quiet.

"Well, was it a man?"

"I couldn't tell; the voice was disguised."

Hunter moved over beside McCall on the sofa, and bent down so he could see her face.

"What did the person say?"

Slowly, McCall repeated the exchange to him. As she did, his eyes grew darker, and an angry, yet extremely concerned look filled his face. As she finished, he placed a large hand over her small one.

"I'm staying here tonight. No arguments."

McCall didn't argue. The truth be told she was frightened, but she tried not to let on to Hunter. Someone had been watching her the entire time. Just how long had she been watched? Was someone stalking her? She couldn't shake the cold fear that someone was.

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"I'm tellin' ya Charlie, I think McCall should have a protective detail," Hunter insisted the next morning. Hunter had told the whole incident to Captain Devane, and now he was fighting to get McCall a protective detail, and she was fighting against it.

"I don't need a protective detail. I can't work this homicide with one," she protested just as strongly. "Besides, we can't spare the manpower right now."

Charlie shook his head and held up his hands.

"I won't give you a protective detail, yet. But if anyone makes any type of move, then you're getting one."

"Charlie! If anyone makes a move on McCall, she could end up dead!" Hunter nearly exploded.

"Hunter, it's a volunteer matter right now. I can't insist that she has one."

Hunter growled loudly, but Charlie went on. "I will have a tap put on your home phone, McCall, and your desk phone, and a trace."

"That's fine. I just don't want a protective detail." She had a feeling – no, she knew she was going to have Hunter following her around, whether she liked it or not.

They left Devane's office, and Hunter picked up a message that had been left on his desk.

"I was right," he said, "The call to the motel came from a pay phone, two blocks down. If this person that called you is Annaliese's killer, then I think we should probably assume it's a man."

"I'll go with that."

Hunter phone rang and he picked it up, saying, "Hunter, homicide." There was a short pause, and then he thanked the caller and hung up.

"That was Barney; he finished his report."

"I'll go down and talk to him."

"I'd kinda like to hear it first hand, so I'll go with you."

McCall rolled her eyes. She could tell from Hunter's body language there'd be no changing his mind, so she didn't try.

"What do you have?" McCall when they contacted Barney at the morgue.

"Well," Barney began, opening a file folder and looking at its contents. "The knife wounds on her throat were the definite cause of death. Whoever killed was careful to cut the aorta in her throat, as well as the jugular on both sides. She was dead in about a minute."

"She never stood a chance," Hunter sighed.

"No she didn't," Barney concurred. "Anyway, we also have several marks from a very large hand on her throat and arms. Unfortunately, there aren't any prints. From what I can tell, whoever killed her used gloves."

"Anything else?" asked McCall.

"We found some fibers from clothing, cotton and polyester, but that's it."

"No skin under the finger nails, no hair, nothing?" McCall felt a sensation of anxiety rising, and she fought to keep it from entering her voice.

"Sorry McCall, nothing. I'll go back over the body again, but I'm afraid that this guy is a professional."

McCall and Hunter thanked the ME, and then slowly walked back through the stark halls of the morgue, out to the entrance.

"Well," Hunter said, putting on his sunglasses as they stepped out into the hazy LA sunlight, "we've got a guy who's obviously covered his tracks real well, but he made one mistake."

"Oh, and just what was his mistake?" McCall asked, a little bit cynically.

"One: he wasn't sloppy."

McCall rolled her eyes, but Hunter went on without seeming to notice.

"And two; he called you."

"Gee, you seem to be able to find encouragement in anything. And here I thought you were a real big cynic," McCall retorted, stalking off to the car.

When Hunter got in, he didn't say anything to her, and she was thankful for that, because at the moment she felt like biting his head off. She didn't see anything encouraging at all. In fact, she didn't see any clues. So they had a guy with big hands who wasn't sloppy when he killed people, and he had called her, and planned on calling her again. That didn't look like anything to her, but for some strange and unfathomable reason, it looked like something to Hunter.

"Alright," she said as they sat at a red light, "where do we go from here?"

Hunter didn't answer immediately, and McCall could tell from his face that he was in deep thought, trying to figure out their next move. Finally he heaved a sigh, and spoke.

"I think we should go talk to the lab boys, see if they can tell us anything."

McCall didn't bother to voice her opinion that she thought it was a waste of time. She had some ideas of her own, but she couldn't put them into action with Hunter glued to her tail. One specific idea being to hit the streets again, to talk to the girls some more. When she had talked to them yesterday, she had just gotten a feeling that some of them might've seen more than they were saying. But she knew that the hookers would probably clam up even more with Hunter tagging along.

"Listen, uh Hunter, I need to hit the streets again," McCall broached the idea to him. As she spoke, she could see his jaw tighten. "I think some of those girls I talked to yesterday might know more than they're saying. But," here McCall hesitated, watching Hunter's eyes narrow, "if you're with me, they're going to shut down tight. So I think the best course of action is for me to go alone."

"McCall, someone should really be watching your back," Hunter began but she cut him off.

"I'll be fine. It's broad daylight, with a whole bunch of people around. Look, I have a job to do; it needs to get done, and I can't do it with people shadowing me."

Even as she was speaking, McCall could see that she had made her point. Hunter nodded, and then looked over at her.

"Be careful, will ya?"

"Don't worry, I will."

Hunter dropped McCall off at the precinct, and then headed over to the forensics lab. For the third time that week, McCall was on her way down to Fifth, hoping to get some kind of information out of the wary, streetwise women.

Six hours later, McCall hadn't turned up so much as a hair's worth of information. Now she was tired, hungry, and even more discouraged. Even another one of her semi-trusty snitches couldn't give her anything.

She was just starting her car when Hunter's car pulled up behind her. He got out and walked up beside her window and looked in.

"How's it going?" he asked.

"Lousy," McCall replied. "What are you doing down here."

"I was on my way back to the precinct and I saw your car."

"Well, did you turn up anything?"

"No. I went through Annaliese's file, and I ran down some of the guys she'd had trouble with in the past, but all of them have alibis. Also, I talked to Sporty, but he hasn't heard or seen anything."

"That's unusual for Sporty."

"Yeah."

"Okay, I guess I'll see you back at the precinct. Oh, what about the lab?"

"Nothing yet."

"Alright."

Hunter followed McCall back to the precinct, and they wrote up their notes on the case.

"Hey, I think I'm going to head out for the night," McCall announced after a large yawn almost split her head in two.

"How 'bout I buy you some dinner? You can pick, but nothing too expensive."

Before McCall could reply, Charlie bellowed across the bullpen for the two detectives to get in his office.

"What's going on, Charlie?" Hunter asked, following McCall into the office.

"There's another body. Looks to be the same MO," Charlie told them, and McCall's heart dropped. "I'm going down there with you two."

"We don't need you to baby-sit us, Charlie," Hunter began to protest, but Charlie held up his hand, and Hunter became silent.

"I want to see what's going on."

Both detectives nodded in understanding, and then they all drove down to another seedy little motel of Fifth.

The crime scene was much like the last one; blood staining everything it touched, and it touched so much. When McCall saw the body, hot tears stung her eyes, and she bit back a cry. It was Crystal, another one of her snitches. She had just talked to her not more than two hours ago and now she was dead.

"Do you know her?" Charlie asked, and McCall nodded.

She swallowed the lump in her throat, and said, "Her name is, was Dana Schubert. She was another one of my snitches. Her pimp was Pete Bosco, too."

McCall walked away from the body, and stood looking out at the cars and people hurrying by on the street. Two people she knew, had dealings with, even liked, had been killed. It didn't make any sense, not unless someone was trying to get closer to her, and they thought the only way was by killing people.

A hand touched her back and she jumped slightly.

"Hey, you okay?" It was Hunter.

"Yeah."

"I'm going to talk to the manager."

McCall nodded, and then she heard Hunter walking down the metal stairs. After a minute, she swallowed her emotions, and walked back into the room.

It didn't take an ME to see that Dana had died from the same type of wounds. This time though, it looked like she must've fought back before her killer finally got control of her, because a lamp had been knocked off the stand, and the blind at the window was hanging jaggedly from the rod. The little mirror on the dresser had been cracked as well, and the straight back chair was now three-legged.

"We might have more of a chance of getting some type of evidence from this one," said Barney, as he entered the room behind the gurney.

"I hope so," McCall replied quietly. She was having a difficult time focusing on this as a police officer. A myriad of emotions were running through her, jumbling her thoughts.

"McCall." Charlie's voice sounded through the confusion and she glanced over at him. He beckoned her to him with a wave of his hand, and she slowly crossed the room, looking back once at Dana's lifeless body.

"I think you've put in enough time for the day; why don't you head on home?" he suggested.

"Captain, this case, it needs to be solved," McCall put up a feeble protest.

"McCall, it'll be here in the morning, and you'll be thinking clearer after a good night's rest. Go home and get some sleep."

McCall didn't feel like putting up a strong fight, so she was happy for the pass. She thanked Charlie and told him goodnight, then headed down to her car.

Hunter was just coming out of the manager's office when she reached the sidewalk.

"Hey, where are you going?" he asked, pocketing his notebook.

"I'm going home for the night. I need some sleep," she replied, getting in her Daytona. "So, what did you find out?"

"Basically the same as the other murder. Dana registered for the room, fifteen or so minutes later, someone called and told the clerk to go look in room 45. The voice was disguised, and nobody saw anything."

"Yeah, well, Barney says we have more of a chance of getting evidence out of this room. It's really cracked up."

"It sure is." Hunter ran his fingers through his hair. "So, did you think about my offer?"

McCall stared at him blankly.

"My offer to take you to dinner, remember?"

"Oh, yeah. Um, well, how 'bout we just pick up some Chinese, or whatever you want." McCall knew what he was doing; trying to keep an eye on her without being too obtrusive and annoying. She felt too drained to fight him, so she just gave in.

"I'll be following you," he said, heading for his car before she had a chance to change her mind about dinner.

McCall stayed in her car when they stopped at their favorite pizza parlor to order pizza. She could see Hunter through the big glass window of the shop, talking to the manager while he waited for their food. The manager was a pretty, dark-haired woman, and she and Hunter seemed to be having an interesting conversation, or at least an amusing one, because every once in a while she would laugh. Finally, McCall saw another woman hand Hunter something in a box, and he paid and left.

"That's not pizza," McCall remarked as they walked into her living room and she saw that Hunter wasn't carrying a pizza box. It was smaller than a pizza box, but deeper.

"You're right, it's not," he said, his eyebrows going up and down. "It's ravioli and bread sticks."

"But I thought we were getting pizza."

"This'll be good for a change. Now, get us something to drink while I get some plates. Oh, and no orange juice."

McCall was pretty sure she didn't have anything but orange juice, but she went and checked her fridge just the same. In fact, she didn't have much of anything in her fridge.

"When was the last time you went grocery shopping?" Hunter asked, leaning over her shoulder to look in the refrigerator.

"I have no idea, but I think you're just gonna have to make do with orange juice."

"Orange juice does not go with Italian food. It has to be wine or milk, apparently neither of which you have."

"Well, I'm sorry for wrecking your culinary world, but you're right, I don't have any. So, deal with it."

Hunter shook his head and reached past McCall to grab the orange juice carton, and poured some into two glasses. McCall helped him carry some paper plates and utensils into the living room, along with the orange juice.

The food looked and smelled good, but McCall found she didn't have any appetite. She sat scrunched in the corner of the sofa, listlessly turning a ravioli over and over on her plate. After a little while, she started prying off the top and pulling out the stuffing with her fork.

"Why, Dee Dee McCall, if I didn't know better, I'd swear you were playing with your food," Hunter commented, breaking a bread stick in half.

McCall didn't answer and just let the meat stuffing drop off her fork into a little pile that was growing on the side of her plate. She looked up at Hunter with a small, apologetic smile.

"Sorry. Guess I'm just not hungry."

"Quit mangling it. You're making it disgusting," Hunter ordered. "How can you not be hungry? This is the third best ravioli in the world."

"Lemme guess: your mom makes the best, and your Aunt Sophie makes the second best."

"You got it."

"I guess I should, you've only mentioned it about a thousand times."

The phone rang, cutting off Hunter's reply and making McCall's heart flip. She had a horrible feeling that she knew who was on the other end, and she didn't want to speak with him. But her hand automatically reached for the receiver and lifted it to her mouth.

"Hello?" She hoped her voice didn't betray the confusion and trepidation swirling through her mind.

"Sergeant McCall, it's me," the undistinguishable voice said, and McCall's free hand clenched into a fist. "I just thought you'd like to know that I killed that second girl."

"Why?" McCall asked. She fought down anger and disgust as she waited for the reply.

"Because it's part of my plan."

"What plan?"

"My plan to make you pay for what you did to me. This is just the beginning." The line went dead and McCall dropped the receiver as if it were on fire.

"That was him, wasn't it." It was more of a statement than a question, and even as he said it, Hunter was dialing a number on the phone.

McCall nodded slowly.

"What'd he say?"

"There's a tap on my phone, it recorded the whole thing," McCall said shortly. She didn't want to repeat the message, it would only serve to imprint it deeper in her memory.

She heard Hunter sigh, hang up the phone and then move from the chair to the sofa beside her.

"I don't have a copy of it at the moment, so can you please tell me?"

McCall sighed and said, "He told me he killed Dana, and that it's part of his plan to make me pay for what I did to him, and that it's just the beginning." Her voice was low, and she unconsciously scrunched further back into the seat cushions. She glanced up at Hunter and shook her head. "That was it. He didn't say anything else."

"Okay, can you think who you might've ticked off in the past few months?"

"Hunter, that's a ridiculous question. You and I have arrested so many people over the past few months, there's no telling who could be mad at me. This person can't be in jail though because he's killing people."

Hunter held up a finger. "Unless he's getting someone to do it for him."

"He knew I changed my tire. He knew what I was wearing that night. I don't think he's getting someone to do his killing."

"I think you're probably right."

Both detectives sat silently for a few moments, each one trying to think of something that could help them. McCall realized after a minute that her mind was fuzzy and she really needed some sleep. But she made no effort to move away from Hunter. Somehow, just being near him gave her a small amount of reassurance.

Finally, it was Hunter who broke the silence.

"I think we both need sleep. Mind if I crash on your couch?"

McCall smiled inwardly. Yep, he wasn't going anywhere.

"Look, why don't you crash in the guest room. It's more comfortable. I don't want you getting a crick in your back."

"Thanks," he said, smiling up at her as she stood up and moved towards the stairs.

"Night, Hunter."

"G'night McCall."

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The loud, harsh tones of the ringing telephone persisted as McCall dragged herself out of a heavy sleep. Groggily, she glanced at the clock beside her bed. It was only two o' clock in the morning, and she reached for the receiver with a groan.

"Hello?"

"Sergeant McCall."

It was the voice.

A shot of adrenaline jolted through McCall, bringing her instantly awake and alert.

"What do you want?"

"I thought you might want to know about the third person."

There was a third person? McCall's stomach turned over.

"Where?" she asked, struggling to keep her voice from divulging her fear and revulsion.

"The park."

"The park? What park?" McCall demanded, but the line went dead. She sat frozen for a moment, her mind whirling. There was another victim, but where? He had said the park, but there were a lot of parks in LA.

Her body went into action even though her mind was still on the phone call. She hurriedly threw on some clothes and grabbed her service piece. She ran down the stairs, colliding with Hunter on the landing.

"Hey, slow down. Was that our guy?" Hunter asked, steadying them both.

"Yeah. He said there's another body, in the park, but he didn't say which park," McCall responded as she disengaged herself from Hunter's arms and continued down the stairs, Hunter on her heels.

"Maybe he means our little park, you know, the one where we eat lunch. It's close to here, and the precinct. That could be the one. I'll call for back up on the way."

"Sounds good."

The detectives were silent as they made the fifteen minute drive to the little park. McCall had always liked that park - she and Hunter had spent a great deal of time there, just talking, eating and watching the kids play on the swings and seesaws. They even had their own special bench, one they always sat on when they came to the park.

Halfway to the park, two squad cars met up with their car and they finished the drive with lights, but no sirens.

As they fanned out to search the park McCall's feet seemed to be leading her with a mind of their own. Soon she found herself headed towards their bench. She switched on her flashlight, but its beam was fighting a losing battle against the thick fog. The sparsely scattered park lights did little to help.

As she approached the bench, her heart sped up and her breath caught in her throat. She couldn't quite make it out, but it looked like there was a figure on the bench. She couldn't be sure though. Maybe her eyes were playing tricks on her. Cautiously, she advanced, her pistol held at the ready.

McCall stepped around so she could see. There was a man sitting on the bench, but in the low lighting, she couldn't tell if he was alive or dead. Gingerly, she checked for a pulse in his neck. Her heart sank when she didn't find one, and her fingers came away sticky with blood.

She didn't recognize him at first but after a moment's scrutiny, recollection set in. It was Pete Bosco, Dana and Annaliese's pimp. It wasn't as if she had ever liked him, but her heart ached that yet another person had died.

Numbly, she reached in her pocket and pulled out her radio.

"William-56, this is William-57. We have a DB," she said into the radio. "Down at the swings."

Hunter's voice crackled to life over the radio. "Roger William-57. We're on our way down."

McCall stood quietly, waiting for Hunter and the patrol officers to arrive. She didn't move or touch anything out of training, but she had a feeling that they weren't going to get any more evidence from this scene than the first one.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw lights moving swiftly in her direction, and a moment later she heard Hunter's voice.

"McCall, is that you?"

McCall took a breath and tried to put herself into cop mode. She cleared her throat and responded. "Yeah, it's me."

Hunter shook his head when he saw the body.

"Dancing Pete Bosco, huh? Well, I'll call it in."

It didn't take too long before the park came alive with lights and sirens. Hunter must've called Charlie, because he arrived just a few minutes after the coroner did.

Hunter informed Charlie about the two calls, and a very worried expression filled Charlie's face.

"I don't like this. I don't like this one little bit," he said, his eyebrows drawn together in a deep frown. "McCall, I think we should set up equipment at your house to trace the guy the next time he calls."

McCall hesitated at the idea. She needed some place where she could hide from everything, and with a tracing team in her house, she didn't have a refuge. But they needed to catch the killer, and the only place he was calling was her house.

"Okay." She looked back and forth between Hunter and Charlie, her eyes wide. "You both realize what this creep is doing, don't you?"

"Yeah, he's killing people," Hunter growled.

"I know that," McCall said. "But he's killing people that I've had dealings with. It's part of his plan."

Charlie shook his head as Hunter spoke. "You think his plan is to knock off people you know? That by killing people, somehow he's getting his revenge?"

"He thinks I did something to him, and he intends to make me pay for it." McCall sighed and shook her head. It was so much more than that, but she couldn't find the words to explain it to Charlie and Hunter. This person seemed to know so much about her; which things pushed which buttons. He seemed to understand her psyche, and that was what scared her.

McCall turned and walked back towards the car, and she could hear Hunter following her. He caught up with her and laid a hand on her arm to stop her.

"Hey, you okay?"

McCall wanted to roll her eyes. If there was ever a dumb question, that was it. But she realized that in his own way, Hunter was just trying to comfort her.

She gave an automatic nod.

"Listen, Charlie said he's going to send the communications team over in the morning," Hunter told her, and she nodded again. "C'mon, let's go home."

They didn't say much on the drive back to McCall's house, and when they got there, she silently went upstairs to bed.

But sleep didn't come easily. She tossed and turned, trying to put everything that had happened over the last few hours out of her mind. She was tired, and every few minutes or so, she would doze off, only to be awakened by a disturbing dream.

About five-thirty in the morning, McCall gave a little moan and sat up. She just couldn't sleep. She got out of bed and padded over to the window seat. Wrapping a blanket around herself, she curled up and leaned back against the wall, looking down at the street.

She hated that this creep knew how to get to her. And she hated that she couldn't stop him from doing it.

McCall's body jerked as the phone rang. She sat, looking at it, not wanting to answer it. If she didn't answer it, maybe he would just go away. But the phone kept ringing, and slowly McCall edged off the bench to answer it.

"Hello?"

"You can't sleep, can you Sergeant? I guess you're starting to feel how – well, let's just say you're starting to understand."

"Why are you doing this?"

"I already told you: you will pay for what you did to me."

"What did I do to you? I don't have any idea what I did to you."

For a moment, he didn't answer, and McCall wondered briefly if he had dropped the phone, but then he said, "You took something from me that can never be replaced. It hurt so much. And now it's your turn to hurt, Sergeant McCall."

"I don't understand what I did to you. What did I take from you?"

"If I were to tell you that, you might figure out who I am before it's time, and I can't have that. All you need to know for now is that I know what you feel, how it hurts you that innocent people have died. It's your fault that those people are dead, Sergeant McCall. They're dead because you hurt me in a place that will never fully heal. This is the only way you can pay."

The line went dead and McCall placed the receiver in the cradle. She looked down at her hands; they were shaking. She balled them into fists and sank down onto the bed.

A sudden resolve came over her; she wouldn't let him get to her. She wouldn't let this affect her.

McCall took a deep breath and got off the bed just as Hunter's head appeared between the railings.

"Can I come up?" he asked, and she nodded.

"I guess you heard the phone," she said.

"Yeah. I picked up downstairs; I heard the whole thing." Hunter crossed the floor and looked down at her. She did her best to meet his searching gaze without giving away the turmoil inside of her, and she seemed to succeed. She followed his glance to the rumpled bed. "Guess you couldn't sleep, huh?"

"Not very well," she admitted.

"It's only six, you could go back to sleep."

"No, we need to get going on this case."

Hunter studied her again for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, we do. Listen, Charlie and I talked it over; the com team is going to set up after we leave. That way, if this guy is following you, his attention won't be focused here, and he'll be more likely to call back."

"That's good thinking," McCall agreed, rummaging through her dresser drawer. She found the nylons she was looking for, and headed towards her bathroom. "Feel free to make yourself some coffee, and help yourself to whatever you find in the kitchen. I'm going to take a shower."

She left a rather puzzled Hunter standing in the middle of her bedroom, pondering her change in demeanor. And she really couldn't blame him. Last night she had been basically shell-shocked, and this morning she was acting all fired up and ready to go, as if nothing was bothering her. That was the way she wanted it. She was bound and determined to not let this get to her. She wouldn't fall apart over this case, no matter how much it hurt. If she did, that was just what he wanted, and she wasn't going to give that to him, not if she could help it.

McCall felt less groggy after her shower, but still tired. It was just something she was going to have to deal with.

She found Hunter sitting at her kitchen table, eating a piece of toast and drinking a cup of coffee. He looked up and smiled when she came into the kitchen.

"You look better," he commented, taking another sip of coffee.

"I look better?"

"Yeah, better than you did when you got up. You looked really tired then."

"Gee, thanks. Let me tell you that you don't look exactly perky this morning."

"Just trying to make conversation, McCall."

"Yeah well, choose a better subject."

"Okay, how 'bout you eat some breakfast and then we'll get going."

"I'm not hungry, so we can go now." She wasn't hungry, and the idea of eating turned her stomach.

Hunter shook his head with a sigh. "You really should eat something."

McCall gave him a look and he dropped the subject, popping the last piece of toast in his mouth. "Okay, I guess we're ready then."

After they got to the precinct, Hunter called communications and told them to send a team out to McCall's house, then they went in to talk to Charlie. After they updated him on the last phone call, they hashed around some ideas.

"He said something about being hurt in a way that would never fully heal," McCall stated. "That sounds like he, well, it sounds like someone he cared about very much was hurt, or killed."

"That's what it sounds like to me," Hunter agreed.

"I'd have to agree with both of you," Charlie added.

"Okay, then I'm going to start going through the arrests Hunter and I made over the last few months and see if anything turns up," McCall said, getting up to leave the office.

"It'll go faster if we both do it," said Hunter, following her. "Don't worry Charlie, we'll keep you posted."

The morning dragged by slowly. They went through every record of every arrest they had made in the last six months, even the traffic tickets they had both handed out.

Around lunch time, McCall stood up and stretched. This was going nowhere.

"I dunno Hunter, maybe this is just some sick freak who dreamed up some crazy idea in his head to come after me," she said, rubbing her neck. It was getting stiff from sitting hunched over files.

"Well, this is the only idea we can actually investigate, so we need to stick with it. But, we also need a break. How 'bout we go to lunch, and then come back and keep going," Hunter suggested, smiling a big, persuasive smile. McCall shrugged and got her purse. She wasn't hungry, but she'd humor him and go to lunch. Some fresh air would help her think more clearly anyway.

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He shifted uncomfortably in on the hard seat of the car. Waiting. He hated waiting – he had never acquired the patience necessary to wait. But he had to wait. She was always with that tall officer, no matter where she went. Besides, it wasn't time yet.

She obviously hadn't felt all the fear and distress she was meant to feel, because she was still smiling whenever the tall officer seemed to crack a joke.

But he felt a little bit of triumph as he observed her more closely. Her smile wasn't as spontaneous or as bright as it had been a few days ago.

He lit a cigarette and took a long draw as he contemplated his next move. Maybe it was time to try something a little more drastic, something she couldn't ignore as easily.

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McCall sighed in exasperation and tossed a file on her desk. Ever since she and Hunter had gotten back from lunch, they had gone through files. That was hours ago, she realized as she looked at her watch and saw that it was eight-thirty in the evening. She felt that this was a waste of time, but Hunter didn't seem to think so. He thought if they kept looking hard enough, or deep enough, they'd find something. McCall shook her head: that man had the tenacity of a bulldog.

But even bulldogs tire, and after about another half hour, Hunter yawned and stretched.

"Whaddaya say we call it a night," he asked, bending backwards to work the kinks out of his back.

"I was wondering when you'd say that," McCall said, gathering up her purse and jacket. "You'll get no argument from me."

"You wanna pick up something to eat on the way home?"

"No, I'm not hungry."

"That's the third time today you told me you're not hungry. You didn't eat breakfast, you barely ate lunch, and now you don't want dinner," Hunter commented as they headed for the elevator.

"Hey, lay off will ya, I'm just not hungry." It was true, she wasn't hungry.

"You know, starving yourself isn't going to help matters."

McCall gave a short, strained laugh. "I'm not starving myself. What, I don't eat much for one day, and you think I'm starving myself?"

"That's not what I said, or think. I'm just saying that you'll feel better if you eat something. The human body needs proper food and sleep to function correctly under stressful conditions."

McCall looked over at Hunter and shook her head as they stepped out of the elevator.

"Since when did you become an expert on health issues?"

"C'mon, didn't you ever have health class in high school?"

McCall didn't answer him, and since she didn't put up any more protests, Hunter stopped at the grocery store and picked up a jug of milk, and then a pizza at the pizza parlor.

As they were walking up to the front door, McCall stopped. She remembered that inside were two men, waiting to trace any phone calls that came in. She knew it was necessary, but she still hated it. She felt that her privacy was gone; she didn't have any place to hide and unwind.

"You coming?" Hunter asked, and she jumped slightly.

"Yeah."

Just as they entered the front door, the phone rang.

McCall's heart started beating hard, and she struggled to keep her fear in check as she waited for Kevin to give her the signal to answer the phone.

"Okay," he said. "Pick it up."

She swallowed hard, took a breath, and picked up the receiver.

"Hello," she said, her voice sounding stronger and more in control than she felt.

"Hello, is this Sergeant McCall?"

McCall breathed a small sigh of relief - the voice on the other end wasn't the distorted one she was learning to loathe.

"Yes. Who's calling?"

"This is Sergeant Tony Rivera. Um, there's no easy way to say this, but Captain Charlie Devane's been shot. They've taken him to Wilshire Memorial ER."

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Hunter and McCall had been sitting in the waiting room of Wilshire Memorial's emergency wing for two hours, hoping for some news of Charlie. They had met with Sergeant Rivera, but all he had been able to tell them was that he and his partner had responded to a call for a gun shot, called in by one of Charlie's neighbors. When they had arrived at Captain Devane's house, they had found Charlie in his living room, barely breathing, and they had called the ambulance.

McCall twisted her hands in her lap, then clenched them so hard that her nails bit into her palms. When Rivera had said that Charlie had been shot, she had wanted to scream. Now their psycho was trying to kill people she cared about. She had felt so cold and sick the whole way down to the hospital. He was hurting people to get to her.

She glanced over at Hunter. He was sitting on a small sofa, his arms folded across his chest, and his head was bent down so that she couldn't see his face. Yet she didn't need to see his face to know how he was feeling.

Quietly, McCall moved from her chair to the sofa, and gently rested her hand on Hunter's arm. He looked up at her, and then put his arm around her, drawing her in close to him. She relaxed into his embrace and laid her head down on his chest, and they both sat there silently, trying to draw comfort from each other's presence. A few hot tears ran down McCall's nose and made a wet spot on Hunter's shirt, but he didn't seem to notice.

They sat for another hour, and McCall relaxed more than she had since the whole thing had started.

"Excuse me; are you here for a Charles Devane?" a deep voice asked, and both sergeants looked up, a little startled. A little oriental man in green scrubs was standing in front of them, waiting for their answer.

Hunter pinched the bridge of his nose and gently removed his arm from around McCall.

"Yeah, we are. I'm Sergeant Hunter and this is Sergeant McCall," he replied, standing up.

"I'm Doctor Harvey Chung."

"How is Charlie?"

"Captain Devane is in ICU. He was shot in the left upper chest, and he lost quite a bit of blood. Right now we have him stabilized, but he's in serious condition. We saved the bullet, in case you need it for evidence," Dr. Chung told them.

"Thanks," said Hunter. "Is he going to be okay?"

McCall waited anxiously for the doctor's reply, and it seemed to take forever in coming.

"As I said before, he's in very serious condition right now, but I'm hoping he'll make a full recovery."

McCall let out a little sigh of relief, and she saw Hunter's shoulders sag a little.

"Can we see him?" she asked.

"Yes, but he may not be awake. If he is, he'll be very groggy, almost incoherent."

"Thanks. We won't be doing any questioning tonight," Hunter assured the doctor. He gave his hand to McCall and pulled her up from the sofa, and a nurse took them down to the room Charlie was in.

She stopped short as they entered the room, her breath catching in her throat. She wasn't prepared for the scene in front of her. Charlie's normally ruddy face was white, almost as white as the sheets, and he looked so very still and weak. The room was full of different kinds of monitors, all with wires attached to him, and he was on oxygen. He looked so different than the strong, stubborn captain who had bossed and guided McCall and Hunter for the last three years.

A small whimper escaped McCall, and she hastily brushed her hand across her cheeks to stop the tears. She gently took Charlie's hand in her's, holding it.

"Hey Charlie, um, it's us," she said quietly, watching his still face for some sign that he might've heard her. "Hunter and I are gonna catch this creep, we promise. You just get well, okay?"

"Yeah, you get well, 'cause, well, we don't wanna have to break in a new captain," Hunter added, coming up behind McCall.

McCall stood quietly for a few minutes, gently holding Charlie's hand, and fighting back the tears that were always on the verge of falling. She felt so helpless, so angry. This should've never happened to Charlie. He shouldn't have gotten caught between her and a sick man who had a score to settle. It just wasn't fair. And who was next? Who was the next person she cared about to get hurt? She didn't know if she could stop him in time to prevent it from happening, and that made her sick.

"Do you think he's going to wake up soon?" she heard Hunter ask.

"Probably not until sometime tomorrow," Dr. Chung replied.

"Can we stay a little longer?"

"Well, visiting hours are over…"

"I know that, Doctor, but he's our captain, and we'd really like to be here when he wakes up."

Dr. Chung nodded his assent, and Hunter pulled two chairs up to the bedside, and McCall sat down, still keeping hold of Charlie's hand.

She didn't know how long they sat there. Objects seemed to merge into each other and fade in and out of her sight. At one point, she felt like things were all at the end of a tunnel, and she couldn't quite reach it, when she felt a slight movement on her hand. She looked quickly at Charlie's face, hoping to see something to indicate that he was waking up.

"Charlie, can you hear me?" she asked, praying that he would respond in some way. "It's McCall. Hunter's here too."

Hunter moved out of his chair and came to stand beside the bed.

"It's Hunter," he said. "The doctor says you're gonna be fine, Charlie."

Charlie's eyelids fluttered open, and McCall held her breath as his eyes came into focus, finally resting on her. A tiny smile crossed his lips, and he whispered, "I'm okay."

"Yeah, you're okay, you'll be fine," McCall said softly, squeezing his hand.

His eyes slipped closed again, and he seemed to be sleeping peacefully. McCall slowly released a shuddery breath, and pressed her own eyes closed. Hunter placed his hands on her shoulders and rubbed gently, but the tension still remained, and she flinched slightly under his touch.

Hunter must've felt her flinch, because he stepped back, and bent down so he could look at her.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

It took everything in McCall's power not to scream that she wasn't okay, that she was scared and that she wanted to cry, and she just wanted all of this to be over, but she swallowed hard and nodded.

"Let's go. We've got a long day ahead of us, and we need to be rested to think clearly," he suggested, taking her hand in his.

"What if Charlie wakes up again?"

"I don't think he's going to be able to answer any questions tonight, and we aren't in any condition to ask them. Besides, you look like you're about to fall over."

McCall couldn't argue with him there; she was dead tired and she felt spacey. She knew she needed sleep badly, but she didn't want to go home. Her home was invaded by people - it wasn't private anymore, and she desperately wanted privacy. But there wasn't any choice.

She pushed herself out of her chair, and followed Hunter out of the hospital. He had left instructions with the doctors and nurses to call if there was any change with Charlie, and they said they would.

It was a very silent drive home, and McCall fought the whole way to keep her eyes open. Everything would spin out far away, and then when some strange noise would hit her, she would jerk awake.

She had nodded off for the fifth time when she felt gentle shaking and Hunter sounded like he was saying something about being home. She forced her eyes open and blinked a couple of times.

"Oh, we're home," she remarked, somewhat thickly.

"That's what I've been saying," he countered. "Boy, you really do need sleep. I don't think I've ever seen you this out of it."

"I'm not out of it, I'm just tired."

"Wow, big difference."

McCall rolled her eyes, but Hunter ignored as he followed her up the walk.

Kevin Cohen and his partner, Ron Chen, were stretched on the furniture, and McCall glanced at them with pity. She wished not only for herself, but for their sakes they didn't have to do this job.

Kevin woke up and stretched when he heard them come in, and grinned at McCall.

"Hey, we helped ourselves to that pizza you guys brought in earlier," he told the detectives. "It smelled good, and we didn't want it to go to waste. It really knocked Ron out though – he's not to good at handling the heavy carbs."

"So I see," Hunter commented as everyone turned to stare at the still-sleeping Ron.

"How's Captain Devane?" asked Kevin.

"Well, he's in ICU in serious condition, but he's stable and the doctor hopes he'll make a full recovery. He woke up for a little bit while we were there."

"That's good to hear."

While Hunter had been talking to Kevin, McCall had gone to out to her garage and pulled a portable bed out of a storage cabinet. She figured Kevin could use it, and Ron could just keep using the sofa.

"Here," she said, pulling it into the living room and unfolding it. "You can sleep on this. I'm sure we'll hear the phone if it rings, but you guys should get some rest in the mean time. I'll get some blankets and pillows for you."

Kevin smiled at her gratefully, and when McCall returned with two pillows and a couple of blankets, the young man tossed one on his partner and then proceeded to make his own bed.

"Thanks McCall," he said. "I think this is gonna be much better than that chair."

A rather loud snore issued from Ron, and all three officers turned to look at him again.

"He's puts up quite a racket," Kevin warned. "I think I do too."

"Great," McCall sighed. "Three men doing their freight train routines in my house. Oh, well."

"Does Hunter snore?"

"Let's put it this way: there have been some stakeouts where the car starts shaking."

Kevin laughed. "Well, I hope you get some sleep."

"Yeah, me too." McCall gave him a wan look.

McCall headed upstairs to her bedroom, and slowly undressed. She was tired, and she wanted sleep, but mostly she wanted an emotional release. But she couldn't cry, she wouldn't, not with everyone in her house. They might hear her, and that was the last thing she wanted.

And she was too strung out to cry. Something in her wouldn't let go and allow the tears to come.

McCall plopped down on her bed and stretched out. She closed her eyes and forced herself to quit turning things over in her mind. But each time she would close her eyes, Dana or Annaliese or Pete's face would pop into her mind, slowly moving in front of her eyes. And then Charlie's face entered into the picture. Their faces wouldn't leave her alone.

McCall rolled over and buried her face in a pillow with a moan. She was so tired, but she just couldn't sleep. It felt like every muscle in her body was wound so tight they would break.

She jumped when the telephone's ringing broke the silence. Downstairs she could hear Kevin and Ron starting their gear, and then Ron called up to her that she could pick up the phone.

It took all her restraint to keep herself from grabbing the phone and slamming it against the wall. She didn't want to answer it; she wouldn't. But somehow, McCall found her hand reaching for the receiver.

"Listen, Sergeant, I know you have someone trying to trace my call, so I won't be on long enough for them to get it." A shudder ran down her back. "I was the one who shot your captain, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was meant to get your attention – I guess it worked pretty well."

The line went dead, and McCall heard Kevin give a groan of frustration. She knew without asking that they hadn't gotten the location, and she emitted a groan of her own. Her stomach rolled as she fought to swallow the anger and hate she so desperately wanted to give into.

After composing herself, she put on her bathrobe and headed to the railing.

"You didn't get him, did you?" she asked, already knowing the answer.

"No, sorry," Ron replied, shrugging apologetically.

"Well, he was probably calling from a pay phone. He would've been gone by the time we got there."

"Probably."

Hunter appeared from the hallway, his tie off and shirt sleeves rolled up.

"You know, I get the distinct feeling he's had practice at this before," he said, starting up the stairs.

"What are you doing up here?" McCall asked in a low tone as he came up to her.

"I came up to talk to you. Is that a problem?"

McCall shrugged. The young men downstairs were free to draw their own conclusions – she didn't care anymore.

"Look Hunter, we've hashed this case over pretty thoroughly for today; don't you think we could give it a break?"

"That's not what I wanted to talk to you about."

McCall stepped away from Hunter, eyeing him suspiciously.

"Just what do you want to talk about?"

"Are you doing okay? I mean, you're not letting this guy get to you too much, are you?"

McCall dropped her eyes. She wasn't ready to talk to anyone, to let down her guard and let them see how much this case really was affecting her. She wasn't even ready to admit that to herself.

"I'm doing okay," she told him, in a voice she hoped was convincing. "I mean, I'm upset about Charlie, but I'm okay." She absently fingered the tie on her bathrobe as she watched Hunter to see what his reaction would be.

His eyes narrowed slightly as he studied her face. Then he sighed. "Dee Dee, don't lie to me."

McCall blinked in faked surprise. "Lie to you?" she asked. "Why would I lie to you?"

"That's what I'd like to know." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Look, I know you're upset about Charlie, and so am I. But there's something else. We've been friends for way too long to just lie to each other and expect to be believed."

McCall turned and walked over to her window, staring out at the deserted street below. Yeah, he was right; they couldn't lie to each other and expect to be believed. She knew when Hunter was lying to her, or trying to convince her things were alright when they weren't, and vice versa. But right now, she couldn't talk to him. She couldn't let herself open up. There were too many things holding her back.

"You know," Hunter's voice was soft, and he gently slid an arm around her shoulders, "You hold on to something for too long, you keep a fear inside, and it just gets bigger."

Something Hunter said or did, something so small and pointless that she didn't even know what it was, stirred up a spark of anger in McCall, and she spun away and glared at Hunter. He didn't get it. She did not want to talk to Hunter. Not yet. She just wanted him to leave her alone.

"I said it before, and I'm gonna say it again. I don't want to talk about this right now. I'm just too tired. So, just, go away. I don't wanna talk to you. Just go," she snapped, bringing a shocked look to Hunter's blue eyes as she shooed him away with her hand. He backed away, looking at her with a bewildered expression. McCall watched him, a feeling of bewilderment of her own creeping over her. She couldn't remember in the years they had known each other that when he tried to comfort her, she'd ever reacted the way she had just now. And from the way Hunter looked right now, he couldn't remember a time either.

"Okay, we won't talk," he said quietly, and started down the stairs. He stopped and looked back up. "If you need anything, just holler."

McCall waited for him to disappear down the stairs, then she flopped down on her bed and hugged a pillow to her chest. She was scared; scared for Charlie, scared for Hunter, scared for anyone else that the killer might harm in his attempt to hurt her. And she was scared for herself. But what scared her most of all was the way she had reacted to Hunter: she didn't understand it.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

McCall woke up when her alarm clock went off at six-thirty the next morning. She felt like she had been drugged. Her head was heavy, her whole body was heavy, and when she got out of bed, the room started spinning. She hated not getting enough sleep.

She gathered her clothes and headed for the bathroom to get ready for work. The hot shower seemed to help wake her up.

When she was finished, she headed downstairs. She found Hunter talking with Kevin and Ron, and he looked up at her, offering her a tenative smile. McCall returned the smile, but her's was small, and even more tentative. She escaped to the kitchen to get some coffee.

"Did you get any sleep?" she heard Hunter ask, and she turned around from the coffee maker.

"Yeah, I did," she replied, looking in her cupboard for a cup. The silence was rather awkward.

"Do you mind if I borrow your shower?" Hunter asked next.

"Help yourself."

"Thanks."

Hunter stood in the doorway for a minute, but when McCall just continued in her feeble search for something to eat, he sighed and left.

McCall wanted to run after him and apologize for acting the way she had, but the fact that there were two other people in her house stopped her. And she couldn't think of a reason to explain herself to him.

She heaved a sigh of her own. Talking to Hunter would just have to wait until later.

Since no one would be at her house to answer the phone, Kevin and Ron were scheduled to leave when McCall was, and they would return that evening when she did.

"Thanks for the cot," Kevin said, as they headed out the door. "I actually got some decent sleep."

"You're welcome. I'll see you guys tonight," McCall returned.

Hunter stepped out, and McCall looked up at him as she locked her door.

"I'm taking my car today," she told him. "I'm also stopping in to see Charlie."

"Okay. I'll come with you."

All the events of last night seemed so far away at the moment. McCall had trouble making herself believe that Charlie had been shot and hospitalized in intensive care. When they arrived at the hospital, though, everything came flooding back to reality, and she swallowed a painful lump in her throat as tears filled her eyes.

Charlie still looked as pale and breakable as the night before. His eyes were closed, and the oxygen mask was still firmly in place.

"Has he woken up at all?" Hunter asked Dr. Chung.

Dr. Chung shook his head. "Not really," he said. "He opened his eyes briefly a couple of hours ago, but nothing more than that. He's still in serious condition."

McCall gazed down at all the wires surrounding Charlie, and her heart squeezed painfully. She wished he hadn't become so closely involved in this. Slowly she reached out and stroked his white cheek.

"McCall, do you want to stay here for a little bit, in case he wakes up?" Hunter asked.

"What are you going to be doing?"

"I'm going down to the forenscics lab to see what they've got. After that, well, it depends on what they've got for me."

"Yeah, I think I'll stay here for a little while. I'll call you when I leave."

"Okay."

McCall stayed with Charlie for about an hour. She talked to him some, and kept holding his hand. When she was just about to leave, a husky voice asked, "Hey McCall, did you stay here all night?"

Charlie's eyes were open and coherent. A big smile spread across McCall's face, and she gave his hand a gentle little squeeze.

"Hey Charlie, it's good to see you awake."

He shifted slightly and grimaced, and McCall winced in sympathy.

"Really hurts, doesn't it?" she asked, and he nodded.

"So where's Hunter?" he asked in a whisper.

"He's gone down to the forensics lab.

Charlie nodded again as his eyelids drooped with fatigue. In a moment, he was asleep, but McCall felt a small degree of relief flow through her. At least he had woken up and talked to her.

When McCall got into her car, she had dispatch patch her through to Hunter. It took a moment, but he finally picked up.

"What's going on, McCall?" he asked.

"I'm leaving the hospital now. Charlie woke up and he talked to me a little bit."

Hunter didn't respond for a moment and then he said, "That's great. I think he's gonna be okay." It sound to McCall like Hunter's voice had cracked, but she couldn't be sure because of the radio. "Listen McCall, we need to get back to the precinct. We have a meeting with our new, temporary captain."

"Okay, I'm on my way there now."

"Roger, William-56 out."

McCall hoped their temporary captain would be a reasonable person. She and Hunter had had their share of jerks who called themselves leaders, and right now she wasn't in the frame of mind to deal with one.

When she walked into the squad room, her eyes quickly sought Hunter's face. It was tired, but relatively relaxed, and she relaxed some too.

"Hey, what's going on?" she asked.

"Well, I saw our temporary captain. So far, he seems like an OK guy," Hunter replied, handing her a cup of coffee.

McCall let out a silent breath. That was one thing to be thankful for.

"So, do we have some kind of briefing?" was her next question.

"Yeah. All the detectives that are here are to meet in the briefing room at eleven am."

"That's a hour and a half from now. What do we do in the mean time?"

"We go over what I found out from the lab boys. Here," he placed his hand on her lower back and guided her towards the biefing room. "Let's talk in here; quieter."

McCall seated herself and looked expectantly at Hunter.

"Anyway, they found some skin under Dana's fingernails, and they found a fingerprint on a table top."

"Is it traceable?"

"They said it is, so if our guy's in the system, we should find him."

For the first time since the whole ordeal had started, McCall felt a slight sense of relief and encouragement.

"Did they find anything from the park?"

"Unfortunately, no. And ballistics is still working on the bullet that was in Charlie."

"Well, I'm going to keep going through my files, and see if anything comes up."

For the next hour and a half, McCall searched through her high profile arrest records, but nothing struck her as any good.

"Okay," she said to herself. "I've been looking for someone I've arrested; they've lost a lot, maybe they've even lost a loved one because of their crime." Suddenly a thought hit her. What if the person stalking her had never been arrested? What if that person was seeking revenge because she had arrested someone they deeply cared for?

"I'll still go on the assumption that this person is a man," she said, digging rapidly through her files, and pulling out the ones with female names. The stack was now narrowed down to a very thin pile, and she began to flip each one open and read them.

There were six women she and Hunter had arrested. Two of them were for petty crimes, and they were now out on parole. One of them had been extradited back to New York on charges of grand larceny; the fourth one was serving time in a low security female prison in northern California. She was there for small time robbery, even though Hunter and McCall had tried to find enough evidence to arrest her for the murder of which she was guilty. The fifth woman had been arrested for vehicular manslaughter, and was out on parole.

McCall stopped and rubbed her eyes tiredly. It was only ten forty-five in the morning and already she felt as if she had put in a full day. Sighing, she opened up the sixth file and began to read. Her eyes opened wide as she saw what was printed on the paper, and she could remember what had happened a year ago as clearly as if it were yesterday.

Tina Travosky had been a model for local stores until she began a career of robbing banks. In her fifth bank job, she shot an unarmed woman, and the woman had died on her way to the hospital. McCall and Hunter had spent over a month trying to track Tina down, and they had finally caught up to her in a rundown motel in downtown San Francisco. There had been a long, tense standoff when Tina had grabbed a young child and held the little girl hostage for five hours. Finally Tina had emerged from the motel room, still using the child as a shield. One of the officers on the scene had moved out from behind a car and Tina fired at him, hitting but not killing him. McCall took that instant to fire at Tina, and the single bullet killed her instantly. The little girl was shaken up, but other wise unharmed, and the case was declared closed.

Tina had always worked alone, and McCall couldn't remember if anyone was notified of her death. But at the moment, Tina was the most likely canidate to have someone seeking revenge for her.

McCall glanced up at the clock, and flew out of her chair, grabbing a notepad as she ran for the briefing room.

"Oh, this is just great," she muttered. "I'm five minutes late."

She pushed open the briefing room door, and all eyes turned to see who was coming in late. Hunter motioned her over to him, and she shrunk in her skin as much as she could as she moved through the officers to him.

He bent down and whispered in her ear, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," she whispered back, and then turned her attention to the tall dark haired man standing by the black board. He had written his name up there for the benefit of anyone coming in late and McCall quickly copied it down: Chris Mecconi.

He glanced over at McCall and looked her up and down for a moment, then went back to his briefing.

"Now I don't intend to change any of Captain Devane's policies, so none of you have to worry about getting split up," he said. "I'm a pretty easy going guy. All I ask is that you follow department regs, turn in neat reports, and work hard to protect LA. Ya'll will be staying on the cases already assigned to you. This briefing is over, so you can get back to work. If you need to talk to me, I'll be in the office, unless otherwise noted, yadda yadda yadda."

All the detectives chuckled as they headed out of the briefing room to carry on with their tasks.

All in all, McCall felt comfortable with their temporary captain. He seemed like he'd be reasonable to work with.

"Oh, Sergeants Hunter and McCall. Can I talk to you for a moment?" Captain Mecconi waved them over to him.

"Sure Captain, what about?" asked Hunter.

"Well, the case you two are working on. I read your reports and you say that the killer is also stalking McCall, and that he's the one that shot Captain Devane."

"Right."

"So you'll be covering Devane's shooting as well as the three original murders?"

"Yes we will."

"Okay, that's all I wanted to know."

He gave them a smile as they walked back to their desks.

"Why were you late?" asked Hunter as they sat down.

"I got side-tracked with a file, and I found something very interesting," McCall said, and as she told him what she had found, Hunter's face grew very interested.

"Let's run a search on the name Travosky, and see what comes up," he suggested after McCall finished bringing him up to date.

"Okay." McCall got up and started down to the computer room, but Hunter placed a hand on her arm and stopped her.

"How 'bout we get some lunch first. I don't think you ate breakfast, did you?"

"I don't really feel like eating, but you can go to lunch if you want," McCall shrugged off his question by basically ignoring it, but Hunter wasn't going to be brushed aside that easily.

"I really think you should eat something," he persisted, and for the second time in less than twenty-four hours, McCall felt the same strange irritation with him, and she couldn't understand it. She took a deep breath and turned around slowly.

"Look, I'm not hungry, so I'm not going to lunch, and that's final," she said firmly, and then continued to the computer room.

McCall ran the last name Travosky with the only requirements being that the person was a man. After twenty minutes of searching the database, she gave up with a sigh of disappointment. Why couldn't they just get more breaks in this case? Why did it have to be so difficult?

"Hey, did you find anything? Hunter asked, coming up behind her. McCall shook her head.

"Nothing. I hope forensics can give us something on that fingerprint," she said.

Hunter handed her a cup of coffee, and she gratefully took a sip. It wasn't the best coffee, but it was caffeine, and she definitely needed caffeine.

"Thanks."

"Are you sure you won't reconsider about lunch?"

"I'm just not hungry."

Hunter frowned and sat down in a chair beside her.

"You haven't eaten very much in the past couple of days; I'm getting kind of worried about you," he said, staring deep into her eyes. His gaze was searching and concerned, but there was something else there that McCall couldn't quite read, and for some reason, she felt heat go through her body.

She looked away, but not before a blush had turned her pale face red. Hunter didn't fail to notice either.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, uh, I'm um, I'm just tired is all," McCall said in a rather flustered way. "I don't know, maybe I will have some lunch."

A big smile filled Hunter's face, and he said, "That's my girl. The precinct caffeteria or some place else?"

"Some place else."

"Okay."

He placed his hand on the small of her back and together they walked out to his car. He chose a small resturaunt that served relatively good food, and then told her he was buying.

McCall ordered a salad, and Hunter's face took on a bemused look.

"I thought I was the one who ate the rabbit food," he said, surveying her healthy-looking choice.

"I'm not really hungry, so this isn't too much," she replied, taking a bite.

"There aren't a whole lot of calories in salad, or any type of energy for that matter."

"Oh, just stuff it, Hunter."

Hunter chuckled and McCall glared at him. He was such a pain sometimes.

McCall ate about two bites of her salad and then found that she couldn't eat anymore. Each time she tried to swallow, it would stick in her throat, and her stomach felt like it was in knots.

Hunter watched her pushing a tomato around on her plate, and sighed.

"What?" she asked, looking up at him.

"You're not eating."

"Do you ever quit?"

"No."

"Well maybe you should learn how," McCall mumbled under her breath.

"What did you say?" he asked, giving her a supsicious look.

"Nothing."

"Yes you did."

"It wasn't important."

Hunter remained silent for about a minute, and then asked, "Would you eat dessert?"

McCall considered before answering him. Dessert sounded nice, but she just wasn't hungry, in fact she felt almost sick at times. She shook her head no, and Hunter growled in exasperation.

"McCall, I can't have you passing out on me from lack of food."

"Don't worry, if I think I'm gonna pass out, you'll be the first to know," retorted McCall, getting up from the table. She left the tip and headed out to the car.

Hunter came out after a few minutes and got in. He popped on his sunglasses and started the engine, and then said, "You wanna go check on Charlie?"

"Sure," McCall responded quietly. She felt regretful for the way she had reacted to Hunter in the resturaunt; he had only been trying to help, but she just couldn't bring herself to say she was sorry.

McCall waited for Hunter while he parked the car, and then they walked down the hall to Charlie's room together.

When McCall saw that it was empty, a cold feeling swept over her. She and Hunter both checked to make sure they had the right room number, and then looked at each other.

"He's not here," McCall stated the obvious, and Hunter nodded. He spotted a nurse passing by and stopped her.

"A friend of our's, Charlie Devane, was in room 207, but he's gone. Would you happen to know where they've taken him?"

"No, but I can check for you."

"Thank you."

As they waited for the nurse to return, McCall fought a growing panic. She felt deep inside that something had happened to Charlie. They wouldn't have moved him to a regular room, he wasn't ready for that.

She steadied herself against the wall as her head grew light, and she prayed that everything was alright.

"Are you the ones inquiring about Captain Devane?" a woman's voice caused McCall to open her eyes, and she saw a another nurse with the original one.

"Yeah, that's us," Hunter told her.

The nurse's face was grave and McCall felt a sick feeling growing in the pit of her stomach. Something was definitely wrong.

"Captain Devane is in emergency surgery. He started hemmoraging shortly before you got here, and they had to restart his heart," the nurse said. "I'm not sure how long he'll be in surgery."

Hunter looked stunned, just like McCall felt. She didn't want to believe this. This couldn't be happening, not to Charlie. It just couldn't.

"Will you be waiting?" the nurse asked, and Hunter nodded slowly, and then she turned and walked away. Hunter looked over at McCall and she could see the fear and turmoil in his eyes.

McCall's chin started to shake and tears filled her eyes. So many things were happening and she had no control over them. A tear slipped down her cheek and dropped to the cold white hospital floor.

"Why, Hunter?" she whispered. "Why is this happening? Why is it happening to Charlie? Why'd he have to get hurt? This guy is after me, why take it out on people around me?" Even as McCall asked the question, she knew the answer. This was part of his plan. He wanted to make her pay for what she had done to him, and hurting innocent people was something that caused her a great deal of sorrow and pain. He knew just how to play her.

Hunter didn't respond, he simply pulled her into his arms and held her close, softly stroking her hair. This time, she didn't pull away from him, but let him hold her, and she held onto him.

After a little bit, McCall realized they were attracting attention from people, and she gently diengaged herself from Hunter's embrace. He smiled down at her, not a full smile, but just a little one that was meant to be encouraging.

They walked down to the waiting room and sat together on the sofa. It was only two in the afternoon, but somehow it felt so much later.

McCall prayed that Charlie would be okay, but she felt so helpless. The only thing she could do was wait.

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McCall stretched out her stiff legs and sighed. Four hours had passed since Charlie had been rushed to emergency surgery, and there was still no word. She was fighting off a growing panic that had started trying it's best to overwhelm her two hours ago.

Hunter was getting fidgety. He was squeezing his hands open and closed, and every time a doctor or nurse would walk by, he would tense up.

Finally McCall couldn't take it anymore. She had to go somewhere or she was going to scream.

"I'm going to get some coffee, you want any?" she asked Hunter, standing up and getting her purse.

He didn't answer and she looked at him a little closer. His eyes weren't really focused; it looked like he was spaced out.

"Hunter? Hey Hunter, are you okay?" she asked in alarm, giving him a little shake.

Hunter snapped his head up and looked at her questioningly, and then said, "Yeah, I'm okay. I was just thinking."

"Right. Looked more like you were visiting another planet, to me."

"I guess, sorta."

"I had asked you if you wanted some coffee."

"No, thanks. And you shouldn't have any either; it'll make you jumpy."

McCall didn't bother to respond as she headed for the hospital cafeteria.

It was a large, airy room filled with people, mostly doctors and nurses. McCall had found that they always served good food in this hospital. At least, it was better than precinct cafeteria food.

She didn't know whether it was nerves or lack of energy, or maybe a combination of both, but today all the smells of food in the cafeteria nauseated her, and she left without getting any coffee.

"Where's the coffee?" Hunter asked when McCall sat back down beside him.

"I didn't get any."

"Was the line too long?"

"No, I just decided against it."

"Why?"

"Must you know everything?"

Hunter grinned at her and nodded, and McCall rolled her eyes. There was no way she was telling him she felt sick; he got more protective and caring than an old mother bear when it came to McCall's health, and she wasn't in the mood to be mothered.

A young nurse entered the waiting room and came over to where the detectives were sitting.

"Sergeant McCall," she said, "there's a telephone call for you at the nurses' desk."

McCall thanked her and followed her back to the desk, with Hunter at her heels.

She picked up the phone the nurse indicated, and put it to her ear. "Hello?"

"Hello, Sergeant McCall. Waiting is difficult, isn't it?" said the distorted voice on the other end of the line, and McCall's stomach did a slow roll. This creep never gave up.

"Why'd you shoot Charlie?" McCall asked, her voice almost breaking.

"I told you, I had to get your attention. I had to make you understand pain. You didn't seem to be understanding."

"I'm not going to quit. I will find you and you will go to jail," she spat out. "I'm not just going to lay down and give up."

"It would be best for you and everyone if you didn't fight this. It will happen, whether you want to fight or not."

McCall didn't want to listen to anymore. She slammed the receiver down so hard that it let out a ring, and then whirled around, hurrying away from the nurses' station. She didn't know where she was going, she was just leaving.

"McCall, hey, where are you going?" Hunter called after her as they came out into the late afternoon sunshine.

She didn't stop until Hunter jogged up and grabbed her by the arm.

"Let me go!" she snapped, jerking away from him, but he caught her again.

"Where are you going?" Hunter persisted, trying to look her in the eyes, but she wouldn't let him.

"I don't know," McCall responded, her shoulders drooping. "Somewhere."

"We can't go anywhere, McCall, we need to find out about Charlie," Hunter said in a softer tone, but he still didn't release her.

"You can stay here. I'm not sitting around anymore, waiting for this guy to make another move," she hissed, glaring at him.

Hunter's eyes narrowed and his voice became stern as he stared back at her. "And just what do you plan to do?"

"I'm going to find someone who saw something."

"How?"

McCall just gave him a defiant look as she wrenched free, and headed for the street. She heard Hunter holler at her to wait, but she didn't stop. She wasn't going to wait until her stalker decided to hurt another person she held dear.

She signaled a taxi and gave the driver directions to the precinct, where she picked up her car and headed back for the streets where Dana and Annaliese had worked. There just had to someone there who could tell her something, and this time she wasn't leaving until she found her witness.

"William-57, I have a call from Sergeant Hunter," dispatch said just as McCall was about to leave her car.

"Put him through."

"McCall, Charlie's out of surgery, and I talked to him briefly."

McCall breathed out a shuddery breath as her body relaxed some, and she closed her eyes. A little ray of hope seemed to filter through the dark cloud that was hanging over her.

"McCall, you still there?"

She swallowed and pushed the radio button. "Yeah, I'm still here," her voice broke a little and she paused to clear her throat, then went on. "Did he tell you anything?"

"He didn't say much except that his shooter was a man, but he didn't see anything else."

"Is that it?"

"Well, I talked to the nurse who answered the phone and she said that the person who wanted to speak to you was definitely a man."

"Okay."

"Listen McCall, why don't you just go home for the night. It's late and you're tired and you don't have anyone out there to back you up."

McCall couldn't bring herself to explain to Hunter over the radio that she didn't want to go home. Out here on the streets seemed to be the only place where her stalker couldn't reach her. At home, at the the hospital, at the precinct, he could and did talk to her at all of those places, and she didn't want him talking to her.

And then the communications team would be at her house. She wished that Captain Meloni would take them off her case: they weren't doing any good anyway. The guy always called from a pay phone, and he never stayed on the line long enough for them to even trace whichever phone it might be.

"McCall, did you hear me?"

McCall came out of her trance with a jump and responded, "Yeah, I heard you. Look, we have to find the killer, and we can't let him hurt anymore people."

"But we can't do it tonight. We're both tired, strung out, and we need to take a break. And we aren't going to argue about this over the radio."

McCall angrily agreed with him by switching him off. There, they weren't arguing. She hastily exited her car before dispatch could patch Hunter through again.

McCall spent about two hours out on the street, but she came up just as empty handed as before, and feeling more depressed than ever.

Maybe it was time to head home. Hunter was right; she did need sleep. She decided not to take anymore calls for the evening and turned off her radio.

When McCall saw police cars and an ambulance parked in a convience store parking lot, she pulled in to see what was happening. She parked next to a crusier and hurriedly got out. Officers were swarming everywhere and when she saw her partner's green Dodge Monaco at the center of attention, her knees buckled and she grabbed the door of a squad car to keep from hitting the pavement. Hunter couldn't be hurt, he couldn't.

"Oh please, please don't let it be him," she prayed silently, gathering her strength and heading for the ambulance. Her head was spinning as she stepped around the back of it and when she saw Hunter sitting on the edge of the step, safe and sound, she didn't know whether to start bawling or not. She just stood there, staring at him. Captain Mecconi was there as well, and both men looked up simultaneously and saw her standing there, her face white and her eyes big.

"I'm okay, McCall," Hunter hastened to assure her, and she barely nodded.

"What happened?" McCall asked, her voice just above a whisper, and her face very still.

"I was just pulling into the parking lot when someone took a couple of shots at me," Hunter explained. "They missed, but it broke the glass and a piece got me in the hand. That's why the ambulance is here. It's nothing bad though, doesn't even need stitches."

He held up his bandaged hand with a grin, but McCall failed to see it. All she kept hearing was someone had taken a shot at Hunter. He could be dead or dying right now, all because someone wanted to teach her the meaning of pain.

"Sergeant Hunter," a patrol officer interrupted them, "I'm afraid the second bullet lodged in your gas tank; you're extremely lucky that the only result was a leaky tank. Unfortuantely, you're not going to be able to drive that baby until it's fixed. I'll call the police mechanic to get it towed."

"Thanks," Hunter said, and looked back at McCall, and she stared blankly back at him. After a moment he turned to the captain. "Captain Mecconi, do you think it would be possible to dispense with the communications team tonight. I mean, this guy has been calling from pay phones, and he never stays on long enough for us to trace him. Maybe we should just take a break tonight. It might make him let down his guard a little."

Captain Mecconi pursed his lips and ran a hand through his hair.

"I think it's a reasonable idea. Might work too," he said.

"Thanks Captain."

"No problem."

McCall watched Mecconi stride to his car, and then she sighed a small sigh. At least she would have her house to herself for the night. Well, Hunter would be there, but she could deal with that.

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He sat in his darkened car, observing the scene at the convience store. It looked to the casual observer to be just a swarm of officers and emergency personnel running around aimlessly, but he could see they were all very organized.

A groan of frustration rumbled from his chest. He couldn't believe he had missed Sergeant Hunter. It had been a clear shot, and with a scope, it should've been child's play. But somehow he had missed. And when he had tried for the gas tank with the second bullet, he knew he hit his target. But there was no explosion, no flames, no death… he couldn't understand it. It made him angry.

It was obvious to him how much Sergeant McCall depended on Sergeant Hunter. When she had pulled into the parking lot and seen her partner's car, he had seen her horror and fear. Even now she looked like she was going to be sick.

If he could take out Sergeant Hunter, Sergeant McCall would probably fall apart; but he didn't know if would be able to do it in time. Maybe another push like the ones he had been giving her would break her.

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McCall washed her face with a cold washcloth and then pressed it on the back of her neck. She was still too uptight too sleep, and it was already ten in the evening. Hunter was downstairs, eating cereal, and watching the news from the sound of it.

She slowly went downstairs and walked past Hunter into the kitchen. A minute or two later, she heard him come in behind her.

"I thought you had gone to bed," he said, eyeing her pale blue pajamas.

McCall clenched her fists into little balls and slowly opened them, trying to release some of the tension that kept her from relaxing. She didn't answer Hunter and simply proceeded to look in her fridge for something to eat. She wasn't hungry, but she needed some way to avoid looking at him.

"You know," Hunter's voice was hesitant, and each word sounded like it had been carefully thought out. "Maybe you ought to take yourself off this case."

Though she knew Hunter was only trying to look out for her best interest, McCall felt anger surge through her. She was a cop, she was supposed to be able to handle stress, and she wasn't going to quit a case simply because it was agitating her.

She whirled around, her eyes flashing and her voice sharp.

"Lookit Hunter, I'm a cop. I can handle this and I don't need you telling me that I should take myself off this case," she snapped vehemently.

Hunter was taken aback by her outburst, and for a minute he looked like he was struggling to figure out what had just hit him.

Then he got his tongue back.

"Whoa, hold on just one minute. I never said you can't handle this, I just thought it might be better for you if you didn't work the case."

Stress, lack of food and lack of sleep were the key to making McCall's temper rear it's ugly head, and it lashed out quickly.

"I don't want you telling me what is better for me. I don't need you to look out for me. I am a cop!" she hissed, her hands starting to shake. She felt like she was losing all control and she had no idea how to get it back.

"Yeah, you're a cop, and a real good one, but you're also human, and this is getting to you," Hunter said calmly, but there was an underlying edge to his voice.

"You don't have any right to tell me what to do!"

"I'm not telling you what to do McCall!" Hunter raised his voice ever so slightly. "I'm just being your friend and looking out for you."

"I don't want you too!" she yelled. "So just, stop it!"

Hunter's eyes went wide when he heard that, and too late McCall realized what she had said, and her stomach twisted sickeningly.

They both stood staring at each other; both shocked at what McCall had said. She couldn't believe she had just hurt her best friend like that. He had never had anything but her best interest at heart, and she always appreciated it – no, loved that he cared about her so much. She wanted to yank her words back and make the memory go away, but once the damage was done, it could never be erased, only repaired.

"You don't really mean that, do you, Dee Dee?" Hunter asked in a confused voice, and McCall's heart nearly broke.

"No, no I don't. I'm so sorry Rick. I didn't mean it, I didn't," McCall whispered brokenly, her shoulders slumping. "I don't mean it, I just, I don't know what came over me. I don't know what's wrong with me. Please forgive me."

McCall couldn't bear to look at Hunter as she tried to explain herself to him. Her body was shaking and tears started running down her cheeks.

Hunter stepped over to her and wrapped his arms around her, saying, "I know you didn't mean it, and you're forgiven." He paused and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. "You're just tired and strung out, is all."

McCall's emotions seemed to have a mind of their own, for no sooner had Hunter finished speaking than she started to sob, crying so hard that she could barely breathe. She cried for the people who had died, and she cried for Charlie. It was so unfair that they had been the keys for someone's twisted plan of revenge.

She clung to Hunter and he held onto her. She was crying so hard she felt like she was going to be sick.

Slowly, McCall cried herself out, and she slumped against Hunter, feeling completely exhausted. Hunter was running his hand up and down her back in circular motions, and he asked, "Feel better?"

McCall didn't know whether she felt better or not. She supposed she did feel less strung out, but the whole case still weighed heavily on her mind, leaving a dark, eerie feeling hanging over her.

"I guess so," she replied, sniffling and shrugging. Hunter tightened his grip on her and gave her another kiss on the forehead.

"You wanna sit down?" he asked, and McCall nodded, realizing how shaky her legs were.

They sat down on the sofa together, with McCall tucked in Hunter's embrace, her head leaning on his chest.

Suddenly she heard herself saying, "I'm scared, Rick," and she couldn't believe she had actually said it.

"Why?" Hunter asked, without blinking.

Now McCall couldn't think of a reply. There were so many reasons she was scared. There were the obvious ones: her revenge-seeking stalker, Charlie getting shot and almost dying, and the fear that the creep would kill again before Hunter and she could stop him. But there was another fear, one she couldn't quite understand or describe.

"I don't know," she said slowly. "I'm scared about a lot of things."

"You wanna talk about 'em?"

McCall shook her head, and then said, "I don't really know what's scaring me."

"I could think of a number of things," Hunter retorted, and McCall smiled a small smile.

The two detectives sat on the sofa for a long time, just holding each other. McCall felt safe and comfortable in Hunter's arms: she wasn't in a hurry to leave his embrace. It was one of the rare moments in a long time that she had felt completely at ease with him. And then it hit her: she was scared of the tension between her and Hunter. Not just the tension of the past few days, but the tension that had been between them for the last two years.

Since that night two years ago, their teasing banter had slowly disapeared, and McCall had found that she had trouble being completely open with Hunter. She often wondered if anything better could have come of that night if they had only talked about what had happened. But they never had, and she didn't want to risk their friendship, no matter how strained it was at the moment, by bringing up memories.

McCall's eyelids drooped closed and before she knew it, she was asleep.

Hours later, McCall awoke with a start. She was still on the sofa, her head on Hunter's chest. She could tell by his even breathing that he was asleep too. She looked down at her wristwatch; it was one in the morning.

Hunter must've felt her movement, because he opened his eyes and looked down at her with a little smile.

"I guess we fell asleep without realizing it," he said, clearing his throat a little.

"Yeah. I think we'd bettter get to bed."

Hunter nodded, but he made no move to let her go or to leave the couch. Finally, McCall slowly left Hunter's arms and stood up.

"Whoa," she moaned, and pressed her hand to her head as the room started spinning.

"What's wrong?" Hunter asked, reaching out to steady her when he saw her swaying.

"The earth moved," McCall replied. She plopped back down on the couch, and Hunter sat down beside her, peering at her with concern.

The dizziness passed, and Hunter helped her stand up, slower this time. He walked her up to her room, keeping his arm firmly around her waist.

"Are you still dizzy?" he asked as he watched her walk over to her bed and sit down.

"No, not really, just spacey," she sighed. "I just need some more sleep."

"Yeah, definitely," Hunter agreed, and turned for the stairs. "Can I borrow your shower in the morning?"

McCall nodded wearily. "I don't care if you use it while I'm still asleep."

"Thanks."

Hunter started down the stairs when McCall heard herself call after him.

"Rick, wait," she said softly, getting up and going over to him. She laid her hand on his arm and looked up into his eyes. For a moment or two they looked at each other, and then McCall said, "I really am sorry for what I said. I know you only ever have my best interest at heart, and I thank you for it. I appreciate all you do for me."

Hunter smiled at her and nodded. "I know that, Dee Dee."

McCall stood on tiptoe and gently kissed Hunter's cheek, then hugged him.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"You're welcome."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The next morning, McCall woke up to the sounds of running water. She slowly opened her eyes and looked around. Sunlight was streaming through her window, and she could birds singing outside. When she saw that her alarm clock read seven-thirty, she flew out of bed with a gasp, and started scurrying around finding things for work. She made it halfway to her dresser when a piercing, dizzying pain in her head brought her to her knees with a moan.

"Oh great," she mumbled, rubbing her temples. Now she had a raging headache.

"McCall!" at the sound of Hunter's alarmed voice, she looked up quickly, and regretted the movement as her head spun. He hurried over and knelt down beside her. "What's wrong?" he demanded.

McCall tried to brush off his concern, but her head was aching too much to put on a charade for very long.

"I've got a horrible headache," she said.

Hunter scooped her up and put her back into bed. "When did it start?"

"Well, when I woke up, my head felt achy, but nothing too bad. Then I got out of bed and all of a sudden it hit me."

She sighed and moved to get out of bed, but Hunter held her back.

"Hunter," she protested, "it's already going on eight. We're going to be late if we don't get going. Just let me get some aspirin and I'll be fine."

"Listen, I called the Captain, and told him we'd be in a little late this morning, and he said that was fine, considering what you've been through. Now, you've been under a lot of stress lately, and you haven't been taking care of yourself, so why don't you just stay home today and get some rest. I don't think if you call in sick that anybody's going to hold it over you."

McCall shook her head. They had a job to do, and she wasn't about to let Hunter go places without her to back him up.

"I'll be okay," she said more convincingly than she really felt, and pushed herself off the bed to get ready for work.

They left about a half hour later, and since Hunter's car was in the repair shop, they had to take McCall's. Hunter persuaded her to let him drive. She didn't put up too much of a fight, and closed her eyes on the way down to the precinct.

"Is it like a migraine?" Hunter asked, and McCall said no, it wasn't, it just hurt.

No sooner were they seated at their desks than the desk sergeant informed them that the forensics lab had some information for them.

"Okay, thanks. Well, I guess it's on to the lab," Hunter said.

McCall sighed and followed him out.

Down at the lab, they met with Pete Sacks. He said he had several things for them and McCall and Hunter listened in eager anticipation.

"We ran the fingerprint, and we found a name for you," Pete told them, and the detectives' eyes opened wide.

"Well, who is it?" Hunter demanded as Pete gave a dramatic pause.

"It's a guy by the name of Leroy Cole. Now, he doesn't have any priors or anything like that, but we found that he has a liscense for a Ruger 9mm. The bullet that came from Captain Devane was from a 9mm."

Hunter and McCall were listening with open ears, and wide eyes. McCall tried to fight a growing anger and hate, but she didn't feel as much fear. At least now she had a name and face for her emotions to be directed at.

"Well, do you have an address on this guy?" was Hunter's next question.

"No, not yet. I sent his name to the DMV, but they haven't turned anything up yet."

A halfcocked grin spread across Hunter's face, and he rapidly thanked Pete, then he and McCall headed out.

"This turns the tables, doesn't it," he said as they got in McCall's car.

"It does make a difference," McCall agreed, and there was silence for a little while.

"Hey," Hunter said, breaking the silence. "How 'bout we stop in and see Charlie?"

"Sure, I'd like that."

They found that Charlie was back in his regular ICU room. McCall knocked lightly and they entered, finding him awake. Tired and sore, but awake.

"Hey," he greeted them in a hoarse voice. "How's it going?"

"Well, we got good news, Charlie," Hunter told him, a big grin on his face. "We got a name for the guy who killed those girls and Bosco, and shot you. We're running his address right now."

"That's good," Charlie replied.

"So how are you feeling?" McCall asked.

"Tired, and kind of sore, but other than that, I'm okay. I think I'm on a lot of pain killers."

McCall smiled and Hunter gave a small understanding chuckle.

"How are you two doing?" asked Charlie, and McCall could tell that even though he was on a lot of medication, he was still relatively sharp.

"I'm doing okay," Hunter said, and McCall shrugged. She wasn't going to lie to Charlie and tell him she felt fine, but she didn't want to worry him by saying she had a splitting headache, and that she was sick to her stomach from the pulsating pounding.

"We're a little tired," she said, just to say something so that Charlie wouldn't think there was something amiss. She caught Hunter giving her a very stern, scrutinizing look, but she chose to ignore it.

"Well, hopefully you'll wrap this case up soon."

"Yeah."

"So, how's your temporary captain?"

"Well," said Hunter, "Captain Mecconi's a nice guy, and he seems to know his job."

"Sounds like you might not need me back after all," Charlie said with a little smile.

"No, we definitely need you back," McCall told him. "The place just wouldn't be the same without you."

"Glad to hear that."

They could see that Charlie's eyes were starting to look heavy, so they said they needed to get going. They assured him they'd be back soon to keep him updated, and after McCall gave him a soft kiss on his forehead, they left.

"I'm glad to see Charlie's doing better," Hunter remarked as they drove back to the precinct.

"Yeah, me too," McCall said quietly, staring out the window. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Hunter open his mouth, and then clamp it shut. They were both silent for the rest of the ride.

As soon as they stepped off the elevator, the desk sergeant came hurrying over to them.

"What's going on?" Hunter asked.

"Well," Sergeant Heathrow replied, "they have another car to issue you."

"Anything else?"

"Yeah, hold on a minute," and the sergeant squinted at a piece of paper. "The DMV has an address for a Leroy Cole."

McCall's head shot up and Hunter quickly took the piece of paper from Sergeant Heathrow and studied it.

"Thanks very much. I want two black and whites to follow me to this address," Hunter ordered, already heading for the elevator. "Thanks again."

The patrol cars followed their car out of the parking lot, and they turned on their cherry lights as they drove to the address for Leroy Cole. McCall found herself hoping that this would be an end to the nightmare that had been her life for the past few days.

The house was a large, old, Victiorian era style mansion with heavy vines crawling up the porch pillars and two huge live oaks in the front yard. The lawn looked looked like it hadn't been taken care of in years. The porch steps creaked under their weight, and the screened door swung lazily back and forth on its hinges. If the place had been cared for, it would have been beautiful, but it gave McCall the creeps just to look at it.

Hunter announced their presence and ordered whoever might be there to open the door, but nobody answered, so he gave the old wooden door a kick and it burst open.

The police made a quick but thorough search of the downstairs, and when they didn't find anyone, they moved to the second floor.

Hunter had checked the first and second rooms in the hall with no luck, but when he looked into the third, he stopped and frowned.

"What's in there?" McCall asked, as she couldn't see past his large frame.

He just shook his head as he stood in the doorway, and McCall tried to duck around him, but he stopped her.

"I don't think you wanna see this," he said.

McCall didn't respond, but just moved past him into the small room. She stopped short and sucked in her breath at what she saw.

All four walls were covered with photographs of her. They were taken of her at work, some on dates, and outside her house. And some of them were of the inside of her house.

As McCall stared at the photos, she realized that Cole had been following her for at least six months. He had been everywhere, watching her every move. He had seen all her personal belongings, he had seen as much of her personal life in the past six months as Hunter had. And more, she thought darkly, observing a photo of her kissing one of her dates at her front door.

How could she not have noticed someone following her, photographing her? How could she not have known that someone had been in her house? There must've been some little clue she should've picked up on, something that would've prevented all this from happening. Yet, even with all her training and experience, she hadn't seen anything.

"McCall?" Hunter's voice brought her out of her trance.

McCall glanced up at him, her chin shaking.

"I never saw anything," she whispered. "I should've seen something."

"I never saw anything either, McCall."

"He was in my house," she said, and then her stomach did a roll and she headed for the door.

"Where are you going?" Hunter asked.

"I need some air," she mumbled, swallowing hard. She was afraid she was going to be sick.

McCall hurried outside and leaned against her car, taking slow calming breaths and trying to forget the photographs. The whole idea that he had been in her house and knew so much about her life angered and disgusted her. And it frightened her too.

"Are you okay?" Hunter asked, coming up and touching her lightly on the shoulder.

McCall didn't answer him, she simply stared blankly at a butterfly in the long grass. It frightened her even more that she had been watched and photographed for so long and hadn't noticed a thing. She hadn't even known that he had been in her house.

"Dee Dee?"

Hesitantly, she looked up at Hunter. He was studying her with concern.

"I can't believe I never noticed anything." McCall spoke softly, hoping her emotions didn't show through too much in her voice. "I'm a cop, I should've seen something."

"Nobody's perfect, McCall. And this guy's good, real good. You can't be hard on yourself. I mean, I never saw anything either."

"He wasn't in your house, he was in mine." McCall turned away, and slumped against the car. She was so tired and she just wanted all of this to be over.

Hunter draped his arm around her shoulders and then gave her a small hug.

"Don't blame yourself for this," he said gently but firmly, and McCall glanced up at him with a distressed expression.

"Come on," she sighed heavily. "We'd better get surveillance set up on this guy." She ducked into the car and started the engine. She pulled out onto the street and headed back to the precinct with Hunter following her.

With all the confusion she felt right now, there was one thing she was positive of: Cole was not going to hurt anyone else.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Cole held very still as Sergeant McCall's car passed his car parked along the sidewalk. He had just narrowly missed meeting the police at his house. If he had left a moment later, they would've found him there. As it was, they had found the photographs, and they knew who he was now.

He was seething that his plans weren't going the way he wanted. It was only a matter of time now before they eventually tracked him down and arrested him. He knew they would set up surveillance on his house: he had no refuge now.

If he wanted anything to happen at least somewhat according to plan, he would have to make his move, and soon.

A cold smile slowly spread across Cole's face. He was sure she was going to learn the meaning of pain.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

"Here, you need this," Hunter's voice interrupted McCall's halfhearted efforts to thread a new ink ribbon for her typewriter. He placed a donut and a cup of coffee next to her telephone, and then sat down with a pleased look.

"What's that for?" McCall asked, picking up the donut and inspecting it.

"It's for you to eat. And don't give me that 'I'm not hungry' garbage, or that other line about 'it doesn't taste good'," Hunter warned her before she could say anything. "This is from a good coffee and donut shop, so you'd better eat it."

"Well," McCall said, "I guess since you bought it for me I should eat it."

McCall wasn't expecting the big, delighted smile that spread from one ear to the other on Hunter's face when she said she'd eat the donut.

Hunter was right about it being good, and he was right about her eating something. She felt like she had a little more energy once she had eaten it.

"There, was I right?" Hunter asked teasingly, and McCall rolled her eyes, albeit with a grin.

"Yeah, I guess you were right. There, ya happy?"

"Actually, yeah," Hunter said, still with a big smile. Then he handed McCall a folder. "Take a look at this."

"This is Tina Travosky's file," McCall stated, glancing at it. "What's so special about this?"

"Well, look at her birthdate."

"May 5th, 1955, what about it?"

"McCall, tomorrow is May 5th."

For a moment McCall stared at Hunter, mulling over in her mind what he was getting at. Then it hit her.

"Cole must have something plannned for tomorrow. He's doing all of this stuff for her on her birthday," McCall exclaimed, her brown eyes widening in realization and horror.

"Exactly. This guy is giving her a present in his sick, twisted way: revenge on you," Hunter growled. "I don't know why we didn't figure this out before."

McCall shook her head.

"I think we ought to have surveillance posted on your house," Hunter suggested after a minute. "Just in case he tries something."

"I really don't think it's necessary."

Hunter mumbled something under his breath and then heaved a tired sigh.

"McCall, it's necessary; you're being threatened by a sicko," he said, then paused, and stood looking at McCall, and she stared back at him, pleading with her eyes not to have more people watching her. "Okay, we'll talk to the Captain and see if he thinks it's a good idea."

"Okay," McCall agreed, then stood up and headed for the elevator.

"Where are you going?" Hunter called after her.

"Outside to get some air."

"I'll come too."

McCall shrugged, and walked outside with Hunter on her heels.

The late evening sun was comfortably warm on McCall's face, and she slowly walked over to a wooden bench.

"Nice out, isn't it," Hunter remarked, and she nodded in agreement.

"I wish I knew what Cole was going to do," McCall said quietly. "That's what I hate the most, all the uncertainty."

Hunter draped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her in close to him. She relaxed into his embrace, trying to draw some comfort from it.

McCall pulled away from Hunter as they saw a uniformed officer approaching them.

"Sergeant Hunter, Sergeant McCall, Adam-15 just radioed that they saw your suspect going into his house," he told them.

"Thanks, Sanders – this could be our break."

The detectives hurried to their car, and Hunter radioed Adam-15 to hold their position until they arrived.

McCall breathed a little prayer as they parked in front of Cole's house that this would all be over soon, and then she steeled herself and followed Hunter to the front door. He motioned for the two patrol officers to go around back, and after a moment, he pounded on the door and announced the police presence.

McCall held her breath, listening intently and waiting for something or someone to make a noise. After a minute, Hunter pounded again and yelled for Cole to open up. When nobody did Hunter stepped back and, with a well-aimed kick, broke the door open.

They quickly stepped inside, keeping their service pistols aimed in front of them. McCall's chest felt tight as she cautiously and rapidly scanned the room

Hunter and McCall moved through the living room into the dining room and met up with the two patrol officers.

"The backyard and kitchen are clear," Officer Lorenzo informed them.

"The front's clear," Hunter responded. "McCall and I'll check upstairs, you guys check downstairs."

"Got it."

Hunter started up the stairs first, and McCall followed a few steps behind, her breath coming in little puffs between her dry lips.

It was dark and dusty on the upper floor, and it smelled old and musty. Shadows shifted across the floor as the late afternoon sun tried to penetrate the thick layers of dust on the windows. It seemed that each and every board creaked as the detectives stepped on it, and every now and then one board or another would protest extra loudly.

They stopped on either side of the first closed door, and Hunter nodded for McCall to open it. She slowly turned the knob, and pushed the heavy wooden door back with her foot. Together they went it, aiming their pistols in front.

McCall felt a mixture of relief and disappointment when they found that the room was empty. Relief that they didn't have to confront Cole just yet, and disappointment that he was still giving them the slip.

They moved on to the next bedroom, and then the next, until they had covered the whole upper floor.

"Well," said Hunter as they slowly walked back to the head of the stairs, "I guess he's not here."

"We got here too late," McCall muttered sourly.

"We'll get him."

McCall stared at Hunter doubtfully. She was starting to wonder if they would ever find Cole, before it was too late.

"Don't move," came a cold, hard voice, and McCall's heart skipped a beat. "Put your hands over your head."

Slowly, Hunter and McCall raised their hands over their heads. They exchanged an anxious glance, and McCall bit her lip.

"Now, one at a time, drop your pistols. Slowly."

Hunter dropped his pistol on the floor, and after a moment of considering her chances of escape, McCall followed suit.

"Place your hands on the back of your head and interlock your fingers. Good, now turn around very slowly."

They turned around, and came face to face with Leroy Cole and a .44 Magnum. McCall's stomach twisted into a sickening knot as she studied the face of the man in front of her. It was cold and calculating. His gray eyes held no warmth, no emotions at all it seemed.

Slowly, a smile spread across his tanned face, but the smile held no warmth or amicability.

"We finally meet, Sergeant McCall," he said, his eyes moving up and down, looking her over.

"What do you want, Cole?" Hunter asked in a growl.

For a brief moment, something like anger flashed in Cole's eyes and his jaw flinched. Then he said, "Sergeant Hunter, don't say anything until I talk to you. Now, Sergeant McCall, I'll answer that question if you ask it."

McCall swallowed hard and cleared her throat before asking quietly, "What do you want?"

"I want to teach you the meaning of pain."

"Haven't you done enough Cole? Haven't enough people died? I think I know the meaning of pain. Yeah, you knew how to get to me. What good is killing me going to do anyway?"

Cole laughed softly, but it sounded hollow. "I don't intend to kill you, Sergeant. That would be far too easy. For you, that is." He paused, and McCall stared at him, holding her breath, and praying he wasn't thinking what she thought he was thinking.

"Oh, by the way, if you're hoping those blues are going to pop in and save your tails, don't bother. The basement door locks from the outside, so they're stuck down there for a while."

As he spoke, McCall bit back the fear that was enveloping her, and beside her, she could see Hunter deflate.

"I couldn't help what happened to Tina," McCall told Cole, futilely hoping to somehow convince him that she had no choice but to shoot Tina. "She shot one of our officers, and she used a little girl as a shield."

"You didn't have to kill her!" Cole almost shouted, his voice and body shaking with anger. He took a breath and reverted to the cold, calculating manner of before as he repeated, "You didn't have to kill her. Don't you see, Sergeant? You took her from me. You have no idea how much it hurts to lose someone you love with your whole life and heart."

Tears stung McCall's eyes at Cole's words, but she blinked them back, trying to remember that this was an insane killer talking.

"Yes I do, I do know."

"I don't think you do. You see, I lay in bed and think and think and think. And then I think some more. I think about Tina, and I can't get her out of my mind. It hurts just as much now as it did six months ago, and maybe more. Every time I see her picture, or her favorite dog, or even a flavor of ice cream she liked, it just rips my heart out."

Cole's eyes were wild looking, and McCall could feel Hunter tensing beside her, sizing up the distance and speed of Cole.

"Those people I killed, and your captain, that was just a taste of what you're going to feel before I'm done with you," he said, his eyes suddenly going hard and emotionless again. "Here's my little plan. You're going to handcuff yourself to that railing and then you're going to watch as I kill Sergeant Hunter."

McCall's breath caught somewhere in her throat and all the color drained from her face as her worst fears were realized.

"I can see from your face that this is the best plan. You won't die Sergeant; instead you'll spend the rest of your life wishing you had never fired that gun at Tina, and hating yourself because you couldn't prevent the death of someone very dear to you."

McCall closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then opened her eyes and whispered, "Please don't do this."

"Begging isn't going to help. In fact, keep begging. It just makes me all the more determined to do it. Now, Sergeant Hunter, handcuff yourself to that radiator there, and then toss me the key. And move slowly."

Hunter took out his handcuffs and did as Cole directed, effectively cutting down their chances of getting out of the situation. Now it was only McCall.

"For a few months I watched you, trying to figure out how to make you pay. I knew you hated innocent people dying, but it wasn't a strong enough pain. Then one day, as I was watching you interact with Sergeant Hunter, it hit me: you're in love with your partner."

McCall's eyes opened wide, and Hunter's mouth made a little O shape. She wanted to deny it, say it wasn't true, but as she stood there, trying to fight the fear and anger, she knew she couldn't say anything to prove Cole wrong. She was in love with her partner.

"If I kill Hunter, then you'll know the type of pain I've felt, won't you?"

McCall didn't answer and Cole's hand shot out and grabbed her thoat. She gasped as he squeezed and Hunter jerked at his restraint, but he couldn't reach them.

"Won't you?" Cole repeated the question.

"Yes," McCall choked in a low strangled voice, but loud enough for both Cole and Hunter to hear.

"Good," Cole snapped, releasing her and backing away. "Now, handcuff yourself to the railing."

McCall slowly took her handcuffs and opened them, eyeing Cole. She knew it was all over if she handcuffed herself to the railing; there would be no way to stop Cole from there. Her heart felt like it was pounding out of her chest, and she could barely hear because of the roaring in her ears. Her hands were shaking so badly she could barely open the handcuffs, so she used that to stall for time.

"Go ahead, take your time," Cole said with a cold smirk. "It's not going to change anything."

Above the roaring in her ears, McCall could faintly hear pounding downstairs; maybe Lorenzo and Connley could break out of the basement. She didn't think they'd get there in time. Cole was getting nervous and he looked like that at any minute he was going to put the handcuffs on her himself.

McCall took a deap breath and lunged at Cole. The force and surprise of her body hitting his caught him off guard and they both tumbled to the floor, with McCall on top. Cole outweighed her by at least a hundred pounds, and he was so much stronger than she was, but McCall was fighting for her life and her partner's life.

They both were fighting for control of the gun, and Cole had a better advantage. McCall started trying to twist it away from him, but her hands were slippery with sweat, and she had to fight to just hang on. Suddenly, Cole slugged her across her face so hard she saw stars and her ears started ringing. Her grip loosened even more and he tossed her off of him. She landed hard on her back and he rolled on top of her, pinning her legs to the floor as he fought to get control of her swinging arms. He hit her again, this time with the butt of the pistol, and her vision blacked out briefly.

As McCall struggled to stay conscious, she felt one cold metal bracelet go around her wrist and she forced herself to fight back. She hit Cole with a right hook, and it staggered him but not for long, but just long enough for her to catch a glimse of Hunter's horrified eyes. In that brief moment, they connected mentally, and they both saw her purse at the same time. Her handcuff key was in there, but it looked like it was just out of Hunter's reach.

Cole delivered a powerful backhand to her jaw, and McCall's body gave a shudder at the pain. She tried to get away from him, but with her legs pinned, she could barely move. If she could just get her legs free, then maybe she could get out of his grasp.

Suddenly Cole's body went limp on top of hers, crushing her breath out of her. Hunter rolled Cole off of her and quickly handcuffed him to the radiator, then knelt down beside McCall. She was lying there, stunned, trying to catch her breath and comprehend that it was over.

"Are you okay?" Hunter asked, gently helping her sit up.

Downstairs, there was a gigantic crash, and then the sound of pounding feet, and a moment later Lorenzo and Connley appeared at the top of the stairs. Their eyes opened wide when they saw the scene before them.

"Are you okay?" Lorenzo asked.

"I think so," Hunter replied.

"We, uh, he locked us in the basement. Man, I'm sorry," Connley said, shaking his head in chagrin.

"Hey, that's okay."

They all heard the sound of sirens in the distance, and Lorenzo gave a small grin.

"We still had our radios, and we called for backup, and an ambulance."

"Good work," Hunter told him.

McCall flinched as she saw Cole coming to. He groaned and slowly raised his head. He gave a growl when he saw that he had been handcuffed, and he had lost.

"Mirandize this creep and take him downstairs," Hunter instructed the two officers, and they pulled Cole to his feet and moved him out.

When they disappeared down the stairs again, Hunter turned his attention back to McCall.

"You didn't answer my question; are you okay?"

McCall groaned softly and pressed a hand to her head. It ached fiercely, causing nausea to sweep over her.

"I think I'll be okay," she finally managed to say.

"You got wacked in the head about three times. I think you should go to the hospital."

McCall was too tired to fight him. She could hear the officers downstairs, and the ambulance in the distance, but she made no effort to move.

"Do you want to get up?" Hunter asked, and McCall answered 'yes' in a small voice.

He helped her up and the whole room started spinning wildly, and McCall slumped against Hunter, trying to regain her euilibrium.

"Are you dizzy?"

"Yeah, and the room is spinning."

"You wanna sit back down?"

"No. I just wanna get out of here."

They took a few steps and McCall emmitted a small moan as her stomach started rolling.

"Are you sure you don't want to sit down? You're looking a little green," Hunter tried to persuade her, but she simply held onto him and resulutely headed for the stairs. She wanted to leave the house, to get away from all that had happened there, and no head injury was going to stand in her way.

Hunter kept his arm around her waist as he guided her downstairs and outside to where the paramedics had just arrived.

McCall caught a glimpse of Cole sitting in the back of one of the patrol cars, and they locked eyes for a minute. His gaze sent a shiver of fear down her back. There was still no warmth, but this time she could see an intense hatred, and his look said so much. She quickly looked away, and then the parmedics began patching her up.

They agreed with Hunter that she should go to the hospital, and she was too tired and hurting too much to put up a protest, so in a short amount of time McCall was on her way to Wilshire Memorial in the back of the ambulance, with Hunter following behind in his car.

It turned out that McCall had a slight concussion, so the emergency room doctor who treated her, Dr. Amanda Waller, admitted her for overnight observation. A few hours later McCall was tucked into a hospital bed in a private room.

McCall lay back against the pillow in a daze. Everything still seemed like it was a dream. Was it really over? Had they really caught the man who had killed three innocent people and attempted to kill Charlie and Hunter? At the moment, she had trouble believing they really had, and that it was really over.

A knock at the closed door brought McCall out of her reverie, and she cleared her throat before telling the person to come in.

The door opened, and Hunter cautiously poked his head in, then he came in the rest of the way.

"How are you feeling?" he asked with a small sympathetic grin.

McCall shrugged. "They gave me a pain killer: I can't really feel anything."

"I guess that's good."

"I guess so."

Hunter pulled up a chair to the side of her bed and sat down, clasping his hands in front of him. He sat quietly, looking at her until she got nervous.

"Quit staring at me," McCall ordered in a weary voice.

"I'm not staring at you."

"Then why are you just sitting there, looking at me?"

"'Cause I am."

There was an awkward silence and McCall couldn't meet Hunter's gaze.

"You know, what Cole said at the house, about you being in love with me, was it true?" Hunter asked.

McCall felt her stomach fall to the floor. She couldn't do this, not now; she couldn't talk about that.

"Look Hunter," she said, brushing her hand across her forehead, "I, look, tonight is, not the time to talk about what Cole said."

"Well, it's kind of strange. I mean, he said he knows you're in love with me. Why would he say that if there wasn't some kind of hint to give him that idea?" Hunter persisted.

"Because Cole is a sick, twisted man and he had to have something to use against me. He's right that I care about you a lot, but…"

Hunter frowned. "But it's not true that you're in love with me?"

McCall sat, staring at her hands in her lap, wondering how to answer him. What was she going to say? That she was in love with him? That she had been in love with him for a long time? What would he say if she told him? She didn't want to lose what they had; she couldn't stand it if they lost their friendship.

The fear of uncertainty clutched at McCall like a dark, heavy hand, and she could barely look Hunter in the eyes as she answered him.

"I don't want to talk about this anymore. We're friends, that's all."

For a moment, Hunter stood there, with a thoughtful expression on his face, then he nodded and gave her shoulder a gentle pat.

"Good night, McCall," he said, heading for the door. "I'll pick you up tomorrow."

"Yeah," McCall returned quietly. She continued to look at the door after it closed behind him.

Why couldn't she tell him how she felt? Why was she so scared? It was like she was surrounded by her own personal prison of fear that stole her voice, and kept her from saying anything.

McCall dropped her head in her hands and groaned. She wanted so desperately to tell Hunter how she felt, but she just couldn't.

Maybe someday she could break free from her prison and tell him she loved him. Maybe someday she would find the courage to take a chance at the unknown.

Maybe.

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