Joyce checked her watch as she descended the stairs in front of the Field Museum in Chicago. She still had twenty minutes before she was supposed to meet her sister, Arlene, for lunch. The restaurant that they were supposed to meet at was close enough that Joyce could get there in time if she walked, so she didn't bother hailing a cab. She set off down the street at a brisk walk.
She was about half way to her destination when it happened. She didn't see the man come up behind her. The first thing she noticed was a tugging on her purse. She looked and saw the man, just as he gave her purse another yank, breaking the strap that was over her shoulder. He took off at a run.
Joyce ran after him. "Hey! Stop that man! He stole my purse!"
The sidewalk was crowded, but no one did anything to stop the man. If they reacted at all, it was merely to get out of his way. The man's lead on her grew steadily.
Joyce was beginning to despair of getting her purse back when the man suddenly stopped. At least his head stopped. He'd been clotheslined by a red clad arm that had been extended into his path. His feet had kept moving for another step or two, until they swung up into the air, and then the purse snatcher had fallen onto his back on the sidewalk, with the wind knocked out of him.
Joyce ran up to her rescuer. "Oh, thank you! I was afraid that he'd…" She stopped. Red tunic, wide brimmed hat, she'd been rescued by a Mountie?
The Mountie touched the brim of his hat. "Good morning ma'am." He picked up her purse from the ground. "Is this yours?"
"Oh, yes, uh… You're really a Mountie? You're not an actor on your way to an audition?"
Another man was rolling the purse snatcher over onto his stomach. He pulled a set of handcuffs out of a back pocket. "He's the real deal." He slapped them onto the man's wrists.
"Constable Benton Fraser, at your service," said the Mountie. "That's my partner, Detective Ray Vecchio, of the Chicago Police."
"Uh, what's a Chicago detective doing with a Mountie for a partner?"
"I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father," said Constable Fraser, "and for reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture I have remained, attached as liaison to the Canadian consulate."
"Oh, well, ah, may I have my purse back?"
"Certainly." He handed the purse over to her. "I'm sorry about the strap."
"That's alright, it wasn't you who broke it."
Detective Vecchio was standing up now, holding the snatcher down with a foot between his shoulder blades. "Can we see some identification, please? Make sure that the purse is really yours."
"Of course." Joyce pulled her wallet from her purse and got her driver's license from it. She handed it to Detective Vecchio.
He looked at her photo, and then at her. "Joyce Summers, of Sunnydale California. Is this your current address?"
"Yes, it is."
"Alright then," Vecchio pulled out a cell phone. "I'll just call for a patrol car to come collect this scumbag."
"What brings you to Chicago?" asked Constable Fraser, while Detective Vecchio talked on the phone.
"I'm visiting my sister, and doing some shopping for my gallery."
"You have a gallery?" asked Constable Fraser.
"Yes, it's a small art gallery in Sunnydale. We specialize in native art: African, North and South American Indian, things like that."
"I know an Inuvialuit stone carver, in Tuktoyaktuk. He does wonderful work."
"You would," said Detective Vecchio, who had finished on the phone. "There should be a car here in a couple of minutes. You'll have to come with us, to make a statement."
Joyce looked at her watch. It was nearly time to meet her sister. "Oh dear, I'm supposed to be meeting Arlene for lunch."
"Where are you meeting her?" asked Constable Fraser. "Is it close? I'm sure we can leave a message for her, tell her what happened."
Joyce looked around. "Well, actually, just across the street." Her run after the purse snatcher had gotten her to the restaurant ahead of schedule. "Oh, there she is now!" She waved and shouted. "Arlene! Over here!"
Arlene waved back. She waited for a break in the traffic, before she came across the street. "Joyce, what's going on?"
"Your sister had her purse snatched, ma'am," said Constable Fraser. "And, pardon me for saying so, but you really shouldn't jay-walk. It's much safer to cross at an intersection, with the light."
Arlene gave Fraser a good look up and down. "Uh…right, I'll try to remember that."
"Don't mind him, he's Canadian," said Detective Vecchio.
"Oh Joyce! Are you all right?" asked Arlene.
"I'm fine, but I'm going to have to cancel our lunch," said Joyce. "I have to go with these gentlemen to make a report. Can I have a rain check?"
"Of course!" said Arlene. "Same time tomorrow?"
"I'm sorry," said Joyce. "You came all the way into the city."
"Don't be silly! It's not your fault!" said Arlene. "There's still some shopping I want to do, anyway. We can do this tomorrow!"
Joyce and Arlene talked, catching up on each other's news, until the patrol car arrived to take the snatcher away. Then Joyce said goodbye to her sister, and she accompanied Fraser and Vecchio to their car.
Constable Fraser slid the piece of paper on which he'd typed up the report of the purse snatching across the desk to Joyce. "You just sign here…" He made an X with his pen beside the spot for her signature. "…and we're done."
Joyce signed the form. "Thank you Constable." She handed the page back to him. "So…since I missed lunch, is there anywhere around here where I can get a bite?"
"I'm going off duty now," said Fraser. "Why don't I take you to lunch?"
"Oh, you don't have to!" said Joyce.
"It will be my pleasure, Mrs. Summers." said Fraser.
"Please, call me Joyce."
"And I'm Benton."
Benton was easy to talk to. He listened and understood as Joyce told him about Buffy—not about her being the Slayer, but about how hard it was being alone after her daughter had moved out of the house to attend university, even if her dorm was only five miles from her house. She even told him about Hank, how she worried about her ex-husband's diminishing role in his daughter's life. He in turn had told her about his own problems with his own father, how he had striven all his life for his approval, and how he never really felt that he had earned it. Lunch had segued into an afternoon perusing Chicago galleries and antique shops together, looking for items that would suit her own gallery in Sunnydale, and then dinner. Joyce surprised herself when she asked him to come back to her hotel.
It had been a long time since she'd had her man in her bed. Not since Hank. (She and Rupert had never been together in a bed.) Actually, not since well before she had left Hank. Benton had been wonderful. Strong and masculine, and a perfect gentleman throughout. She went to sleep that night feeling happier about herself than she had for a long time.
It was early in the morning when she was awoken by Benton shifting in the bed. Joyce snuggled herself closer to her. "Hmm…good morning."
She felt his arms around her. "Good morning, Joyce." He kissed her. "I'm sorry, but I have to go," he whispered.
"So soon?" she asked, wrapping her legs, as well as her arms around him to keep him in the bed.
"Well, I've got some time, if I skip breakfast," said Benton. He rolled himself on top of her.
"I can give you something to eat," said Joyce.
Benton Fraser showed Joyce off at O'Hare Airport when she returned home to Sunnydale the next evening. He saw her a few more times over the next year, when she came back to Chicago to visit her sister, and to shop for her gallery. They also kept up a lively correspondence with each other.
He was surprised one day to see an envelope in his mail box with a familiar return address, but addressed by an unfamiliar hand. He ripped it open.
Dear Mr. Fraser: We've never met, but our mother talked about you often over We know that she told you about her recent diagnosis with a Buffy and Dawn Summers.
the last year. We know that you were very important to her.
Talking about you made her smile, and we thank you for that.
brain tumour, and the outcome of her surgery, but there were
complications. We regret to inform you that our mother died
from an aneurism, a complication from her surgery. We wish
that she had gotten the opportunity to introduce us to you.
We've never met, but our mother talked about you often over
We know that she told you about her recent diagnosis with a
Buffy and Dawn Summers.
Benton was stunned by the news. Joyce was dead? How could that be? She'd written to him just a couple of weeks ago telling him how she was feeling so much better, and was planning to make a trip to Chicago soon. And now he gets this letter from her daughters… Benton frowned for a moment. He remembered Joyce talking about Buffy, but… Oh yeah, how could he have forgotten? Buffy might have been her daughter who was always in one sort of trouble or another, but Dawn, the straight 'A' student who at fourteen was reading at a college level, how could he have forgotten about her? Joyce had always been proud of both her daughters.
He sat for a while wondering how he could respond to this letter. How to tell Joyce's daughters how he understood what they were going through, without sounding trite. He picked up his pen and began to write:
Dear Buffy and Dawn: It has only been a few years since my own father's death…
It has only been a few years since my own father's death…