A/N: Happy New Year, everyone! I hope everyone had a good holiday. Enjoy the updates and the new story!
Goren adjusted his vest and glanced at Eames, who nodded. He pounded on the apartment door. "Police, open up!"
Nothing. He repeated the order. Again, not a sound issued from within the apartment. He glanced at the vested officers who waited, weapons drawn, and nodded. They broke down the door and hurried into the apartment, Goren and Eames right behind them. The all-clear came from the kitchen, bathroom, hallway...and then... "I have a locked door here!"
"Hold on!" Goren made his way down the hall. "Clear the hallway."
Standing clear of the doorway, he knocked. "Gloria? This is Detective Goren. My partner and I talked to you in the hospital last week. Remember?"
"Go away," she sobbed.
"We can't do that. Open the door, Gloria. I want to talk to you again."
"Go away!" Her voice was approaching a screech. "Just go away!"
"Open the door, Gloria. It's just me and Detective Eames here. No one else is going to come in."
She was quiet for a minute, but he could hear her sobs. Finally, she said, "Just you."
He looked at Eames and nodded. She shook her head. He bent his head toward her. "It's all right. I'll be fine."
She studied his face. "If I even think there's a problem, we're coming in there."
"There won't be a problem."
If she had not trusted him and his negotiating skills as much as she did, she would never have consented. But she did trust him. Finally, she nodded and moved a short way down the hall.
"All right, Gloria. It's just me."
He could hear her moving in the room, and then the door unlocked. With a final look down the hall at Eames, he opened the door and went inside. The room surprised him. He would have expected Kelly's room to look like this, not Gloria's. It was decorated in pink and white, with stuffed animals everywhere. Gloria was seated in the center of the bed, her clothes bloody. Her uninjured arm was wrapped around a teddy bear. She was rocking back and forth, and looking down at the bed in front of her. Laying on the bedspread, directly in front of her crossed legs, was a handgun.
Goren closed the door behind him and stood near it, unwilling to increase her agitation. "Gloria?"
"This was Daddy's gun," she said softly. "He kept it locked away, until he died. I found it on the floor next to his chair, and I took it and left home."
"Where was home?"
"Oklahoma. I came here and got my job working for the major."
"Why was the gun on the floor?" He already knew the answer.
"He dropped it when he was done using it."
"Your father committed suicide, didn't he?" She nodded, not taking her eyes from the gun. "Where was your mother?"
"In the bedroom."
"He shot her first, didn't he?"
Again she nodded. "But it wasn't Daddy's fault. She was bad."
"She brought someone else home."
He nodded his head slowly. "Were you home when she did that?"
"Yes, and I ran to get Daddy. I thought that guy was hurting her. It never occurred to me that she was doing it willingly."
"When did that happen?"
"The week before I left home. Daddy wasn't mad. He was really quiet, and he never smiled again. Not even for me."
He had very slowly approached the bed as he talked to her. He was standing several feet away from the foot of the bed when he asked, "Can you tell me what happened that day in the park?"
"Matt hurt me."
"Why did he hurt you, Gloria?"
"Because I had to punish Kelly. Matt was my boyfriend, and she was taking him."
"Like that other man took your mother."
"Yes! You see, don't you?"
He nodded. Yes, he was getting the picture. "Why did you leave the hospital after we talked to you?"
"I knew Kelly was going to tell you what happened and I didn't want to see you look at me that way."
"Like I did something bad."
He tipped his head to the left and leaned over to catch her eye. "Am I looking at you like that?"
For the first time, she raised her eyes to his face. Then she lifted her head to look at him. The condemnation she expected to see was not there. "But I did something wrong."
"I'm glad you can see that. Tell me what you did that was wrong."
"I hurt Kelly. But I didn't really mean to. I...lost control of myself when I saw her taking Matt away."
He nodded as he eased himself down to sit on the foot of the bed. "So what happened to Matt?"
"I realized I was wrong to blame Kelly. And I was wrong to blame my mother. It was that man, and it was Matt. That man was never punished. I couldn't find him. I never even knew his name. But I knew where Matt was, and I didn't want him to get away with it. I fixed it so he can never do that again."
He reached forward slowly, keeping his eyes on hers. "Did Matt ever hurt Kelly?"
"No. He always played ball with her and made her laugh. He was good with her. But then he made her try to take him away from me."
His hand covered the gun. "We were told you broke up with him, but he continued to bother you."
She turned her eyes from him to the bear in her lap. "He just wanted to be friends. And he wanted to see Kelly."
He drew his hand back, taking the gun with him. She didn't object. He ejected the cartridge, placing it in one pocket and the gun in the other. "Are you ready to come with us, Gloria?"
"What's going to happen to me?"
"That's up to our district attorney. You can talk to him in the morning and he'll give you your options."
"I guess I can't do it Daddy's way, can I?"
"No. That isn't an option."
"Is Kelly all right?"
"She will be."
She nodded and laid the bear on the bed as she got up. He followed her to the door and pulled it open for her. Eames met her in the hallway and cuffed her. A uniformed officer led her away as he recited her Miranda rights to her. Eames looked at her partner, who pulled the gun and clip from his pocket. "She had this sitting on th bed in front of her. It's the gun her father used to kill her mother and himself."
Eames closed her eyes and shook her head. He leaned down and spoke into her ear. "Let's go get breakfast. By the time we're done she'll be processed in and Carver will be ready to talk to us."
"And what do we do when the major shows up wanting to talk to her?"
He half-smiled. "We piss him off again and tell him he can't?"
"Good plan. It's your turn to do that."
He laughed quietly and followed her from the apartment.
As they'd predicted, Cressmoor came in to the squad room as soon as he was told Gloria had been found. He was waiting for them when they got there. Leaning back against Goren's desk, he watched them approach. "The chief told me you found and arrested Gloria," he said as they approached him. "Would one of you like to fill me in?"
Goren moved his chair away from the desk and dropped into it. "Matthew Schroeder did not hurt Kelly. In trying to protect her, he ended up injuring Gloria, but he didn't hurt your little girl."
Slowly, Cressmoor nodded his head. "Two questions, then, detective. First, you had an easy out. Why didn't you take it?"
"An easy out? I'm not sure I understand, sir."
"Matthew Schroeder was dead. You could easily have blamed him and no one would ever have been any the wiser."
"But he didn't do it."
"You didn't know that."
"Yes, sir, I did."
"How? Can you communicate with the dead, Detective Goren?"
Goren suppressed an amused smile. "No, sir, but I can read the living. The picture we got of the man Schroeder was told me he would not have hurt your daughter. Pinning the assault on him did not sit right with me. It's not just about solving a case, major. It's about bringing the right person to justice."
"Who would ever have known?"
"I would have."
Cressmoor considered him carefully before he slowly nodded and asked, "Before my daughter told you it was Gloria who hurt her, did you know?"
"No, sir, I didn't know. But I suspected."
"We had no other viable suspect, and her behavior was suspicious."
"Did she confess?"
"Yes, sir, she did."
"May I talk to her?"
"That's up to Mr. Carver. The case is out of our hands now, major. We've done our job and it's over. The DA has it, so you'll have to deal with him."
Cressmoor looked from Goren to Eames and back. "I wasn't sure at the beginning of this case, but I am glad I trusted my friend's judgment about you and requested that you take this case. I apologize again for my initial...difficult behavior. Thank you for your work, and for finding justice for Kelly. You said Carver is the man I need to talk to now?"
Goren nodded. "Ron Carver."
They watched him turn on his heel and head for the elevators. "Wait until he finds out Gloria will probably never do time for the assault or the murder," Goren commented.
"You don't think so?"
He shook his head. "She has extenuating psychiatric circumstances. She'll get a bed at Bellevue's psych ward before she'll get a jail cell. Tell me you couldn't see that she's not in her right mind."
"Carver can prosecute."
"I don't think he'll waste his time."
"The confession won't stand?"
"The confession is what'll get her into a locked ward at Bellevue. She'll get what she needs and she won't be able to hurt anyone else."
She leaned back in her chair and studied him. "I guess that's what it's about in the long run, isn't it? Keeping them from doing it again, in any way we can?"
He nodded. "Punishment is secondary to prevention and protection, especially when there's no efficacy in it. Going to jail won't fix Gloria. I'm not sure anything can, but Bellevue is her best hope."
"And if she can't recover?"
"She'll stay there. Without evidence of recovery, the courts won't let her out."
"Suppose she ends up being one of the ones who slips through the cracks?"
"Then she'll be seeing the inside of a police station again. There's only so much we can do, Eames."
"I know. All we can do is hope for the best."
He just nodded and turned his attention to the paperwork necessary to closing the case. "Let's get this paperwork out of the way so we can go home."
She smiled at him, meeting his eyes. The flicker of desire she saw in those dark depths told her all she wanted to know. Home...with him... There was no place in the world she would rather be.