Meg sighed deeply and closed her eyes.
Today was off to a really bad start, even for a Monday. It had started a little
too late, thanks to her cats new trick of unplugging the alarm clock, followed
by the inevitable finger-through-the-last-pair-of-pantyhose, the lost hairbrush
(another trick by her on its-way-to-the-pound cat), the misplaced car keys, and
the realization halfway to work that she would need to stop for gas if she
wanted to be sure to make it all the way to work.
She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Nothing had changed...the consulate
door was still standing slightly ajar when it should be firmly closed and
One part of her wanted to march right through the door and demand to know who
had been so careless. After all, Fraser could have arrived early and simply not
latched the door properly.
The trained police officer in her knew that it would be foolish to enter an
unknown situation with no weapon and no backup.
As she debated, a green Riviera pulled up to park illegally in front of
the consulate. Her second in command, Constable Benton Fraser, emerged,
followed by his wolf, Deifenbacher. She could hear Fraser telling the driver,
Detective Ray Vecchio, that he really shouldn't leave the car there, but Vecchio
simply ignored him and got out of the car.
"Hey, Inspector, what's the matter? Canada couldn't afford a statue for
the front sidewalk so you're filling in?"
"What seems to be the problem, sir?" Fraser asked.
Looking up into his deep, blue eyes, she almost forgot that there was a
problem. She blinked and stammered, "The...um...door...it's open."
"No wonder they made you an Inspector, with observations like that.
"No, Ray, the point is, that door should still be locked. Someone has
been in there who had no business being there."
In an instant, Ray went from wise guy to full cop mode. He drew his
weapon and started up the stairs.
"I don't suppose either of you is armed?"
Meg and Ben both shook their heads.
"Then stay behind me."
"May I remind you that you are in Canadian territory," Meg commented.
"So, what, you want to wait out here until we can get more red suits down
here, or do you want to find out who's poaching on your territory?" Ray asked,
the irritation plain in his voice.
"Your assistance is appreciated, Ray," Benton assured him hurriedly,
glancing quickly at his commanding officer, "and since we are far from
reinforcements, we welcome the cooperation of a fellow police force."
Meg sighed, nodded, and followed the two men up the stairs and through the
consulate door, Dief close behind her. A quick survey of the building showed no
one present. Dief, though, seemed to have found an interesting scent, and one
that he apparently wasn't too fond of.
"I'll get a fingerprint crew out here, and then you two can check and see
if there's anything missing."
"We really don't have the time to waste waiting for your people, Detective," Meg
said impatiently. "I'm already running late and I have about a thousand things
to do to get ready for the annual inspection next week. I'll be in my office.
You may check the rest of the consulate, but I really can't wait for you to dust
She turned and entered her office, Fraser close behind her while Ray used his
phone to call for a fingerprint crew. She hung her coat and purse on the rack
and sat down at her desk.
"Was there something else, Constable?" she asked Fraser as she reached to open
her right hand desk drawer.
"I really think you should allow the fingerprint crew to check your office
first, sir. This is the room where important information is most likely to be
kept and is therefore the room most likely to be searched by an intruder. You
don't want to disturb any prints that might have been left."
He sniffed...a familiar scent... but he couldn't place it.
"Be that as it may, I can't wait around forever...and I can't get this stupid
desk drawer open!" she snapped in frustration.
The drawer seemed to be hanging on something just inside. As Fraser started
around the desk to assist her, Meg stuck her hand in the drawer to move whatever
was blocking it.
Fraser moved quickly to her side and carefully reached his hand beside hers to
ease the drawer open. Clamped on her hand was a small trap of the sort hunters
might use for small game.
As the odor he had noticed earlier became stronger, Fraser noted the slight
discoloration of something painted onto the teeth of the trap. He leaned for a
closer look and sniffed again as Ray entered the room, drawn by Meg's shout.
"Constable, would you mind terribly saving your inspection for later and getting
this thing off of me NOW!"
"Of course, sir." Benton put his heavy gloves on and carefully removed the trap
from her hand, examining the wound with the same care he had bestowed on the
trap itself. He noted with a sinking heart the same discoloration around the
"Boy has someone got it in for you, Inspector," Ray commented, looking into the
desk drawer. "They even left a note."
He used a pencil to push the sprung trap aside so that he could read it.
"DING, DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD"
Benton glanced at the note while wrapping his scarf around Meg's hand.
"We need to get her to the hospital as quickly as possible...and bring the trap
"We shouldn't disturb any more evidence, now that we know someone was definitely
in here," Ray said.
"I really don't think this is bad enough for the hospital. It may need some
stitches but an emergency clinic can take care of that."
Meg started to stand, only to sink back into her chair and close her eyes.
"Maybe they can find something to make the room stop spinning, too. I guess
it's a little worse than I thought."
Benton pulled a small plastic bag from her wastebasket and carefully placed the
trap in it.
"Actually, Inspector, I think you may have been poisoned. I
detected a certain pungent aroma, reminiscent of a herbal tranquilizer used by
some hunters in areas of the far north. The discoloration on the teeth of the
trap and around the wound itself is also consistent with this theory. That is
why I recommend immediate medical treatment."
"Hey, maybe a good tranquilizer is just what the lady needs," Ray quipped.
As Benton handed him the bag containing the trap, his eyes dropped to the note
in the desk drawer. Ray suddenly had the feeling that this poison was much more
than a mere tranquilizer. He swallowed hard and glanced back at Benton, who
Meg caught their look and demanded, "What are you not telling me?"
She pushed Benton aside and looked in the drawer.
"Dead...?" she whispered.
Ray coughed. "I'm sure they've got an antidote at the hospital, right, Benny?"
"Doubtful, Ray. The particular plant that this poison is derived from grows
only in the far northern territories, as does the only known antidote for it.
Both are rare enough that it is unlikely to be kept on hand here in Chicago."
He looked over at Meg's pale face. "Of course, I could be wrong."
"Not likely," she replied. "How long do I have?"
"That kind of attitude isn't going to help, Inspector," Ray said, with forced
cheerfulness. "I think what we need is to get the lady to the hospital like
Benny suggested and see what the doctors there have to say. My car's right out
front. With lights and sirens, we can be there in no time."
He grabbed her purse and coat off the rack and started for the door.
"I'll start the car and call ahead and tell 'em we're coming. Hurry it up,
Meg started to stand and felt the room begin to spin again. Benton caught her
around the waist before she could fall. She looked up into his eyes.
"Fraser, there's something I really need to tell you."
"Ray's right. They probably have an antidote at the hospital and in a few hours
we'll be looking back at this and laughing. We need to go now, before Ray
leaves without us."
With that, he picked her up and felt her relax into his strong arms as he strode
from the consulate out to the waiting car.
At the hospital, Benton sat in the waiting room while Ray paced anxiously,
talking on his cell phone.
"I don't care if you're working on something from God himself! I want you to
drop it and get me a match on those fingerprints and I want it yesterday! You
got it?" He slammed the phone closed muttering.
Ray looked over at his best friend. "No way. Surely she has far too much sense
than to come back here. Besides, why would she try to kill the Dragon Lady?
She doesn't even know her."
"She's been watching me. I've thought someone was for several days. She's made
a hobby of hurting me and if she saw something to make her think I have feelings
Benny must be worried to be calling his boss by her first name, Ray thought to
himself. Regardless of how he obviously felt about her, he always referred to
her by her proper title.
"Benny, anyone with eyes can see your feelings for the Inspector."
Benton blushed furiously and looked up at Ray.
"She is my superior officer. Nothing more. It is my duty to protect her as you
would a fellow officer."
"Come on, Benny. This is Ray you're talking to. I've never seen you look at
any other fellow officer the way you look at her. You certainly never looked at
your previous superior the way you look at her. Admit it, pal. You've got it
bad. But you know what? I think she's got it just as bad."
Benton looked at him hopefully. "Yeah, I've noticed her looking at you
sometimes, when you're not watching, and she's got this almost smile on her
face...real soft and sweet like. I'll tell you, if I ever caught anyone looking
at me like that, I'd sweep her off her feet so fast she wouldn't know what hit
"But she's going to die," Benton said flatly.
"No, she's not, " Ray said. "You said that there was an antidote up in the far
north somewhere. If Victoria was responsible, she may have some of it with her
to entice you to come to her...or else you can go get some up wherever it is
that it grows."
"It's winter up there and the trip would take me far longer than she has left,
Ray. I would never make it back in time."
"So, what? You're not even going to try? You're going to sit here and do
nothing while the woman you love slips into a coma and dies? That ain't the
Benton Fraser I know. She's going to need your help to fight this thing off."
Just then, the doctor came into the waiting room.
"Constable Fraser? Detective Vecchio? We have confirmed the poison used. We
don't have an antidote for it. We are in the process of checking with other
hospitals, clinics, and research facilities in the area, but I really don't
think we're going to find anything. I'm sorry."
Ray saw that Benton was fighting for control of himself and asked, "How is she
doing right now?"
"We cleaned and dressed the wound to her hand and are giving her intravenous
antibiotics. We're hoping that might slow down the spread of the poison. For
right now, she's resting fairly comfortably."
Ray saw Benton straighten his shoulders and take a deep breath. The look on his
face indicated that he was once again ready to fight for the woman her loved.
"May we see her now?"
"We also gave her something for pain, so she's a little groggy, but she's still
awake and did ask to speak to you."
When they entered the room, Meg appeared to be dozing. Ray noted how worried
and frightened Benny looked.
Benton only had eyes for the woman on the hospital bed. She looked so small and
pale and helpless. Ray stopped at the foot of the bed while Benton quietly
approached her side. When she opened her eyes and smiled, Benton was
transformed. He smiled back at her and leaned forward to brush a wisp of hair
from her face.
She seemed delighted by his use of her given name and her smile brightened
"Hello, Benton. This doesn't look very good, does it?"
"Everything will be fine. I'm going to head up to one of the villages up
north to get the antidote for you. I really hate to leave you, but Ray will be
here to take care of anything you need."
They both looked over to Ray, who nodded his head in agreement. "Besides, it's
your best chance. You just hang on until I get back. Then we'll have a nice
long talk about some things that have been on my mind for a while."
"Just in case I'm not here when you get back..."
"Don't even think like that. You're one of the strongest people I know.
You can hang on until then, no matter what the doctor thinks."
"Please, let me say this. We both know that there's a good chance I won't
survive that long. Whether I do or not, I want to apologize for the way I
treated you when I first arrived here and to tell you that you are a fine
officer and it has been an honor to serve with you."
"Thank you, sir."
"'Meg' will do just fine. On a personal note, I think you are a fine
person and I hope that we will have the opportunity to explore the future
together. I think I may very well be in love with you, Benton Fraser."
Her voice was very soft by the time she finished and her eyes were fastened on
As Ray quietly eased out of the room, Benton took her hand and raised it
to his lips, kissing it gently before reaching for her chin. He raised her face
until she looked him in the eyes.
"The feeling is entirely mutual, si...Meg. I wonder, do you think this
situation might compare to a trainload of unconscious Mounties headed for a
In answer, she leaned forward and kissed him.
As they held each other close, Ray stood outside the door talking on his
cell phone. He smiled at the contented look on his best friend's face and made
a promise to him...I'll keep her alive for you...no matter what.
When Meg had drifted off to sleep, Benton eased her down on the bed and
pulled the sheet up. He leaned over and placed one last kiss on her forehead
before backing out of the room. Ray was waiting for him with news.
"We got a clear print off the Dragon...off of the Inspector's desk. It
was definitely Victoria."
"I already knew that Ray. I recognized the handwriting on the note she
Ray cleared his throat. "I also went ahead and made some arrangements for
you. There's a police car outside waiting to take you to the airport. You have
a little less than an hour until your flight to that little airport up north.
The guy up there will have your gear waiting and will get you anything else you
Benton hugged him gratefully. "Thank you, Ray. I know you've never liked
Meg very much, so I really appreciate your efforts to help her."
"She makes you happy, Benny," Ray shrugged, "That's enough for me."
Ray hugged him back. "I'll stay here and make sure she doesn't get into
any more trouble while you're gone. Now get out of here and go rescue your
Benton took one last look at "his lady" sleeping peacefully and then
turned and dashed down the hospital corridor to the waiting police car.
"Good luck, my friend," Ray murmured.
The flight was far too long and for once, Benton was unable to enjoy the
scenery out the airplane window. Every moment Meg could be slipping further
away from him. When the plane landed, he was the first one off and in less than
five minutes, he was aboard another, smaller plane that would take him on the
next leg of his journey.
Ray sat in the hospital room reading a magazine...or rather trying to read
a magazine. His mind was hundreds of miles away, wondering how Benny was and if
he would succeed. He looked at the figure on the bed in front of him and
frowned. She looked paler than ever and her breathing seemed slower. As he
watched, her eyelids fluttered and she looked up at him with a wry grin.
"Disappointed that I'm not dead yet, Detective? If you wait a few hours,
you might manage to accidentally pull the plug on my life support machine."
"You know, I was just thinking the same thing. Seriously, how are you
She grinned weakly. "I have felt better."
She struggled to sit up and Ray reached over and helped her get comfortable.
"Have you heard anything from Benton?"
"No, but I really don't expect to until he gets back. Meanwhile, I have
my hands full making sure that you will be waiting for him when he returns."
"We both know that the odds are against that, Detective. I'm getting
weaker by the hour and I can barely feel my hands and feet anymore."
She bit her lip and quickly looked down, but not before Ray caught the glimmer
of tears in her eyes.
He sat on the side of the bed and reached out, gathering her in his arms.
"Never thought this would ever happen, huh, Meg?" he said, rocking her gently.
"Why not, Ray? Just because you and I have never liked each
other..." Her laugh turned to a soft sob. "I am so scared of what's happening
to me, Ray. I'm not ready to die!"
He held her while she cried, and talked to her.
"Well, you're not going to die, yet and do you know why? Because I promised
Benny that I'd keep you alive for him. He has had more than his share of
heartache and if you make him happy, then I want him to have you. Besides,
there ain't many people can hold their own in a match with me. You keep me on
His words seemed to help as her sobs quieted and she rested in his arms
for a moment.
"Thank you, Ray."
Even though the man at the airport had warned Benton that the blizzard
made travel near impossible, he had still made the arrangements requested and
wished him luck. The trip had included helicopter, snowmobile, and dog sled,
but he was almost to his destination. He could see the smoke rising from the
village a short distance ahead. The village shaman would have what he
needed...he had to have it...Meg was depending on him. That was his last
thought as the sled pulled into the center of the village and Benton collapsed
And the first thought on his mind when he awoke, hours later in the house
of a village elder. He tried to explain who he was and what he needed, but the
villagers just smiled and told him everything would be alright, he just needed
to slow down. He had always appreciated the relaxed pace of the Inuit life, but
now he found it frustrating.
Finally, after he had bathed, changed and eaten, the family leader agreed to
take him to the house of the village shaman. He left him at the door, smiling
and motioning for Benton to enter.
He did and found himself in an empty room. No, there was someone by the
fire. She rose and turned to face him.
Neither moved nor spoke nor even breathed. The room was silent except for
the crackling of the fire.
"You came," she said. "I'm glad to see you again, even though I know
you're here for her, not for me."
"I need the antidote."
"...to save HER life. "
"Yes...why did you do it, Victoria?"
"Because you love her. Did what we had mean so little to you that you
could just turn to someone else?"
"What we had was so wrong...neither of us could be who we really were...to
be true to ourselves meant we couldn't be together. Deep inside, you know
that's true. I will always love you, Victoria, but I can't be with someone who
won't let me be true to myself...or with someone I keep wanting to change."
"And you can be true to yourself with her...you can be happy with someone
other than me?"
She walked towards him, slowly dropping the blanket she had wrapped around
herself. The firelight gleamed on the white silk gown she wore and picked out
the highlights in her dark hair.
"You don't think about me...dream about me...want me?"
She stood in front of him, now, looking up into his eyes. She reached up,
slipping her arms around his neck and meeting his lips with her own.
When she pulled back, Benton removed her arms from his neck and gently
pushed her away from him, smiling sadly.
"No, Victoria, I don't. I wasn't really sure until this moment, but I
don't want you any more. The only woman I want is lying in a hospital bed in
Chicago fighting for her life. Please, if you ever cared for me, let me save
Victoria turned away. "I thought if you saw me again, if we could be
alone together again that everything would go back to how it used to be...but it
won't. You really do love her, don't you."
"Yes, I do."
She walked into the other room and returned with a small vial of liquid.
"Here is what you want. I hope you get back in time."
"If I don't, I'll be back to arrest you for murder. The only reason I'm
not taking you with me..."
"Is because it would delay you're return to your precious Meg. So hurry
up and go. I hope you will be happy with her."
Benton turned to go.
"Someday, you will find the right person...someone who can accept you for
who you are...or someone you will be willing to change for."
As he left, Victoria did something she hadn't done in a long time. She
In the hospital, Ray sat by Meg's bedside watching...watching her chest
rise and fall...watching the line on her heart monitor go up and down...watching
the doctors and nurses shaking their heads as they checked her vitals...and
watching the clock.
Where was Benny? She had slipped into a coma early this morning. He hadn't
left her side for more than a moment in the last two days. His family had
brought him clothes to change into and had made sure that he ate.
He held her hand and prayed like he hadn't prayed in a very long time.
Voices in the hall seemed an answer to those prayers. The door opened for
Benny, followed by a highly agitated doctor.
"We can't just administer this drug to her without testing it. It may
worsen her condition or even kill her."
Benton looked at Ray and then at Meg.
Ray spoke up. "She's dying right now. This stuff couldn't make things
much worse and if Benny thinks it's the cure, then I'd be willing to bet my own
life that it is the cure."
Benny looked at him gratefully and looked back at the doctor, holding out
The doctor shrugged and took it. "You'll have to sign a waiver..."
Meg felt herself rising towards a bright light. There was something
waiting for her there, something peaceful and comforting. As she started
forward, she heard a slight cough. She looked around to see a man in a red
uniform. He looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn't quite place him.
"Are you sure you're ready to go there?" he asked.
"What concern is it of yours?" she asked, squinting slightly to try to
read his nametag.
You mean I'd still need glasses in Heaven?
"Well, actually I'm a little concerned about my son, Benton Fraser."
"Robert Fraser!" she gasped, "But you're dead!
"I wish everyone wouldn't feel the need to remind me of that."
She paused. "Am I...?"
"Dead? No, not yet...but you're pretty close. I just want you to look at
what you're leaving behind."
She turned and looked back.
She could see herself lying on the hospital bed. Benton was sitting beside her,
holding her hand as he stared down at her face, as if his willpower alone could
keep her breathing. Ray stood behind him, hands on his shoulders offering
silent support. As she watched, Benton leaned over her still form and placed a
tender kiss on her soft lips. In that instant, she knew she had to be with him
and raced back without a backward glance.
"I thought so..." the ghost smiled to himself.
As Benton straightened up, Meg's hand tightened on his and her eyelids
fluttered. He turned to Ray.
"Did you see that?"
"Do it again."
Benton kissed her again and this time her eyelids opened and stayed that
way. Her weak smile was answered by two brilliant ones, Ray slapped Benton on
the back and rushed out to get the doctor while Benton bent down close.
"Welcome back, my love, welcome home."
After Meg had properly recovered and was released from the hospital, she
and Constable Benton Fraser had a proper whirlwind courtship, followed by a
quite proper fairytale wedding. The groom wore his dress uniform and the bride
wore an elegant gown of the palest pink, which, even though it wasn't red, still
suited her. In time, they produced two beautiful children who weren't quite
perfect or always quite proper, but in the eyes of their parents were quite
properly, perfectly wonderful.
Oh, and they all lived happily ever after.