The majority of the characters in this story (you know which ones) are not mine.
The others are. This is a 'the third season never happened' story since I could
never really get into the third season. Many thanks to Tenille for her support,
encouragement and beta reading.

I was a little unsure about posting this one, since my other Due South story sat
here for a over a year without any reviews...but then I decided, "Hey, I'm doing
this for fun, not for the reviews, right?" So, read and enjoy. If you want to
review, wonderful. If not, that's fine, too.

One Witness, Extra Small
By Donna

Murder was always bad, but this one was worse than usual.

Detective Ray Vecchio was no longer shocked by the casual brutality that human
beings could inflict on one another, but he still found it a little depressing.
In this case, he was also more than a little angry. The body lying in a pool of
blood and formerly internal organs had been a witness who was going to help Ray
put away a drug dealer for a very long time.

He stood in the alleyway watching the forensics team do its job and cursed
inwardly. It looked like it was back to the drawing board building a case
against Shane Waters...and the drawing board had been pretty bare to start with.
As he turned around, he had an urge to kick the large metal dumpster sitting
nearby. In his head, he could hear his best friend, Benton Fraser, telling him
that such an action would serve no purpose and would likely injure his foot.

"Maybe so, but it would sure feel good for a moment," he thought, following
thought with action. "Make that a half a moment," he amended, as the pain
coursed through his foot and up his leg.

As he bit back a curse, he heard a small sound, like a sob, quickly muffled.

He tapped on the dumpster again, softer this time.


Maybe he was imagining things...

Limping only slightly, he walked around to look in the small space between the
dumpster and the wall of the alley. Crouched in the corner, Ray could barely
make out a figure, brown hair above dark brown eyes, staring back at him,
small arms wrapped around equally small legs to form a tight ball.

'Oh, God,' he thought, 'What had she seen? And had the killer seen her?'

He quickly realized the answer to his second question. If the killer had seen
her, she would be dead, too. And the look on her face answered the first
question...she had seen far too much.

He called for help to move the dumpster out enough that he could reach the
little girl, but when he started towards her, her eyes widened in fear and she
tried to scoot further away.

He stopped. The poor kid was already terrified; he didn't want to make it any
worse. He told one of the other officers to call for help and sat down about
six feet away from her.

Ray suddenly wished Benton was here. He seemed to strike a chord with kids and
they instinctively trusted him. But Fraser was on some important Canadian task
today and Ray was on his own.

Well, first things first.

"My name's Ray Vecchio and I'm a policeman."

He showed her his badge. When she looked interested, he carefully laid it down
on the pavement about halfway between them.

"I know you saw something pretty bad, but everything's going to be okay. I'm
going to take you someplace where it's warm and safe."

She seemed to draw back again and Ray sighed, searching for the right words to
reassure her. He didn't know what to say, so he just started talking about
whatever entered his head...his car and how particular he was about taking care
of it (hey, nobody else will listen to me talk about it)... his ma and what a
fabulous cook she was... Frannie and what an airhead she was sometimes... his
nieces and nephews. Finally, she took a deep breath and got up. She picked up
her small bag and Ray's badge and walked over to him. She held out his badge
and when he reached for it, she placed her small hand in his.

"You ready to blow this joint?"

Her brow wrinkled in confusion and she looked at him questioningly.

"Are you ready to go now?" he corrected.

She chewed her bottom lip and hesitated, then nodded slowly.

Ray realized that she was remembering the scene on the other side of the

"Hey, I've got an idea here, Kid."

He took off his coat and wrapped it around her, stood up, and gently lifted her
into his arms. She secured her bag between them and then wrapped her arms
around his neck, closed her eyes tightly and lay her head on his shoulder. He
pulled the top of the coat over her head and then walked past the grisly scene
to the shiny green Riv parked illegally on the street.

As he carefully strapped her in, other eyes were watching, narrowed in thought.

Ray drove toward the precinct, watching the child in the passenger seat more
closely than the traffic around him. She was probably about five or six years
old and about as cute as a kid could be. Though her face was now tearstained
and somewhat pale, he would bet anything that it normally reflected a quick
intelligence and an intense curiosity. She was neatly dressed in blue jeans and
a character T-shirt and obviously well cared for, so there was probably someone
somewhere very worried about her.

"So, kid, ya' got a name?"

She nodded.

"You gonna' tell me what it is?"

She bit her lip and then turned to look out the car window.

"You want me to guess?"


"Anna? Katherine? Laura?"


"Cinderella?...Snow White?...Rumplestiltskin?" he asked, hoping for a laugh at
the very least.

He looked at the T-shirt she was wearing.

"Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too?"

A soft giggle.

"I'll bet you're a Tigger, aren't you?"

Another giggle, and a nod.

"Okay, Tigger it is."

She smiled and snuggled down in his coat for the rest of the ride.

When they arrived at the station, he carried her inside and over to his desk.

"Elaine!" he hollered. "I need you to check for a report on a missing kid."

He set her on his desk chair and turned to give Elaine the details. She took
down the relevant information and looked properly concerned.

"I'll check, but I don't think I'll find anything. A missing kid is usually
pretty big news around here. You say she hasn't spoken since you found her.
Have you contacted children's services about getting someone in here to talk to

Ray shook his head. "She still seems pretty scared and I don't want to force
any more new people on her than necessary."

"So are you planning on taking her home with you, Ray? You know that goes
against policy."

"Actually, I was thinking along the lines of protective custody. She is a
witness to a murder after all."

"Poor baby. Maybe there's something in her bag to tell us where she belongs."

As Elaine smiled and started toward the little girl, the child scrambled off of
the chair and down into the kneehole of Ray's desk. She hugged her bag close
and looked out with wide eyes.

"I am so sorry. I had no idea that she would react like that. Usually I'm
pretty good with kids."

Ray kneeled down in front of the desk.

"I'm sure Tigger here would normally take right to you, Elaine, but she's had a
really rough day and is probably a little spooked by all the activity going on
in here."

He held his hand out to her.

"How about if we take you into Lt. Welsh's office. He has a nice big
couch that you can lie down on and it's a whole lot quieter in there. I can
probably get Elaine here to bring you some milk and a doughnut or something."

"Sure," Elaine said. "I think there were still some chocolate doughnuts in the
lounge. I'll sneak them out and meet you in Welsh's office." She looked at Ray
and then at the girl.

The girl hesitated a moment, nodded at Elaine and crawled into the safety of
Ray's arms. He gave her a quick squeeze before heading into the privacy of the
enclosed office.

Welsh looked up as Det. Vecchio walked into his office carrying what looked like
a little girl.

He shook his head and rubbed his eyes.

It didn't still looked like a little girl.

"Sorry, lieutenant, I figured you'd be gone by now. Tigger, this is my boss,
Lt. Welsh. He's a policeman, too. Lieutenant, this is Tigger."

"Pleased to meet you, Kid. Why don't you have a seat over there while I talk to
the detective here?"

Ray set her down on the couch and covered her with his coat.

"I'm sure Elaine will be right back with your snack. You need anything else?"

She shook her head and pulled the coat around her. Ray patted the top of her
head and walked back over to his boss.

"I heard you lost your witness against Waters today," Welsh said.

"Yeah, got his guts blown out in an alley downtown. That's where I found the
kid. She hasn't said anything, but I think she probably saw who did it."

"You know that children's services should be brought in on this."

At that moment, Elaine came into the office with a plate of doughnuts and
cookies and a pint of milk. "That's what I tried to tell him, sir, but the
truth is, she seems frightened around anyone but Ray. Also, he can probably
protect her better than child services can and if Waters finds out that there's
a witness, she's going to need all the protection we can give her."

"You're not giving the kid doughnuts and cookies for dinner!" Welsh protested.

"I thought that would be better than the fuzzy green stuff in the back of the
refrigerator or the furry black stuff in the drawer," Elaine responded.

Sighing, Welsh reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a brown paper bag.
From it, he extracted a huge submarine sandwich, which he handed over to Ray.

"From what you say, the kid's already had a pretty rough day. Let's not make
her sick, too."

"She would get sick if she ate all of that."

Ray unwrapped the sandwich and broke off a small piece. He pulled a chair over
in front of the child and arranged a napkin, the sandwich and milk where she
could easily reach them. He looked her in the eyes. "The boss says you have to
eat something healthy first, but then you can have all the sweet stuff you want,

She smiled at him and then threw a smaller, shy smile at Elaine and Welsh before
beginning to delicately eat her meal.

The detective returned his attention to his commanding officer and filled him in
on the details of the case. Elaine added the information from her missing
persons check, which was nothing. As the trio bounced around ideas, they pretty
much forgot about the child until a soft knock sounded followed by the click of
the door opening. Four sets of eyes met Constable Benton Fraser and his wolf,
Diefenbaker, as they entered the room.

"Good evening, Elaine. Leftenant. Ray. I hope I'm not interrupting anything."

The little girl gave a soft cry. Ray started towards her, fearing that she was
frightened by another new face, but she slid from the sofa and threw herself at
Fraser, wrapping her arms tightly around his leg.

"I know the feeling, kid," Elaine murmured softly.

Fraser gently dislodged her arms and squatted down to look her in the eyes.

"I don't believe we've met. I'm Constable Benton Fraser of the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police."

She bit her lip and turned to look beseechingly at Ray.

"Benny, this is Tigger." At Fraser's questioning glance, Ray shrugged. "I had
to call her something and she seemed to like that."

Fraser looked back at the girl. She nodded.

"Very well. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Tigger. The wolf over there
devouring your dinner is Diefenbaker. I wish I could say that he normally has
better manners, but the truth is, he doesn't."

Tigger smiled at Fraser and then wrapped her arms around his neck. He stood up,
holding her as she laid her head on his shoulder.

'Geez,' thought Ray, 'Once again, the Mountie shows up and I'm old news. If he
weren't my best friend, I could really hate this guy.'

As he begin to explain the situation, Fraser sat down on the couch so that the
child could reach the remainder of her least what Dief hadn't eaten.
Ray felt a little better when she pulled his coat around her again and smiled up
at him before snuggling back in Fraser's arms.

"She's a little spooked. She hasn't said a word since I found her and she
hasn't let anyone but me get close to least, until you came along.
Women of every age seem to have this irresistible urge to throw themselves at
you, Benny. What's your secret?"

Fraser blushed slightly.

"Really, Ray, very few women have actually 'thrown' themselves at me, although I
guess what Tigger did could be considered 'throwing'. Often, it's actually more
a case of them falling and me being in the position to catch them...although
that really doesn't happen as often as your comment would seem to imply."

He looked down to where the girl was contentedly drinking her milk and polishing
the already sparkling buttons on his uniform. "I think, though, there may be a
very simple explanation in this case. I believe she may simply have been drawn
to something familiar...perhaps the uniform."

Ray walked over and stooped down in front of Fraser and the child in his lap.

"Is that it, Tigger? You recognize his uniform?"

She looked at him and then up at Fraser before nodding.

"Great...another Canadian!"

She nodded again.

"How the heck did she end up here?"

"Perhaps her family is visiting and she became separated from them."

"Wouldn't they have still filed a report with us or do you Canadians not do
that? Do you expect your kids to find their way home by the stars?" Ray asked.

"Don't be silly, Ray, of course they would file a report. But perhaps they
weren't sure how to best proceed and called upon the consulate for assistance in
locating her. I think the best thing to do would be to take her over there and
see if anyone has spoken with the Inspector."

"Of course," said Ray. "My day hasn't been quite enough of a disaster so I have
to go see the Dragon Lady!" At the disapproving look from Fraser, he amended,
"The Inspector!"

He sighed heavily. "Okay, let's go."

"If you will excuse us?" Fraser asked Welsh and Elaine.

"Go," said Welsh. "And good luck."

"Bye, guys. Bye, Tigger. It was nice meeting you." Elaine echoed.

They left the office, Ray in the lead, followed by Fraser with the girl in his
arms, and Dief bringing up the rear because he had to finish up the last

As they got settled in the Riv, all remained unaware of the watcher standing in
the shadows. Someone was not going to like this one little bit.

The drive to the consulate was brief and when they arrived, Fraser carried the
child into the building and down the hall towards the Inspector's office. Her
door was slightly ajar and they could hear her yelling at someone over the

"I would never do something so foolish or irresponsible, even if I had the time
to! I've been tied up in meetings all day!"

As they approached the door, Ray slowed slightly. "It sounds like she's busy at
moment. Maybe we should come back another time."

At the sound of the Inspector's voice, the girl had straightened up and seemed
to concentrate intently. She suddenly gave one of those odd wiggles that only a
child of a certain age is capable of, slid out of Fraser's arms and ran to the
door. Before Ray could reach her, she pushed open the door and entered the
room. Meg Thatcher turned, the phone still in her hand and her face a mask of

What happened next was the last thing that Ray or Fraser expected. If Dief was
surprised, he didn't show it. Or, maybe, being deaf, he just didn't hear.
Regardless, both men froze with shock when Tigger looked over at the Inspector
and cried out "Mommy!"

"Emily!" she answered, dropping the phone as she kneeled down to gather the
child in her arms. As the child wrapped her arms around Meg's neck, she finally
broke and began sobbing. Meg just held her close and whispered softly in her
ear, waiting for the sobs to pass. Both seemed unaware of the two shocked men
witnessing their reunion.

After a moment, Fraser became aware of a voice coming from the phone, now
dangling off the Inspector's desk. He walked over and picked it up.

"Constable Benton Fraser, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. How may I assist you?"

He listened for a moment.

"I'm sorry, but Inspector Thatcher is rather busy at the moment."

He looked over at her dark head bent so tenderly over the smaller one.

"Does this concern Emily?"

He paused again.

"Her grandfather. I see. I'm not clear on the details, but she is here in
Chicago. She is safe, but a little upset at the moment. The Inspector is
taking care of her right now, but I will have her call you as soon as she
can...Thank you kindly."

With that, he replaced the receiver and looked over to find Ray still rooted to
the spot.

"Mommy?" he mouthed.

Fraser shrugged and picked up a box of tissues from the desk.

He squatted down next to his boss and her now quiet daughter and offered the
box. Meg smiled at him slightly and took a tissue. She shifted the little girl
so that she could look at her face. She kissed her tenderly on the forehead and
proceeded to wipe the tears from her face.

"I'm really happy to see you, Sweetheart, but how did you get here? Your
grandparents are worried sick."

Suddenly remembering the telephone, she glanced over at her desk.

"I informed the gentleman on the phone that Emily was safe and that you would
return his call as soon as you were able," Fraser informed her.

"Thank you, Constable. Where did you find her?"

She rose to her feet. With Emily still in her arms, she was a little off
balance, and Fraser had to reach out to steady her. She flashed him a grateful
look and walked over to a chair where she could sit and hold her daughter.

"Actually, Detective Vecchio is the one who found her. He had taken her to the
station to try to ascertain where she belonged. Her strong reaction to
my uniform...indicated that there was a strong possibility that she was
Canadian, so we brought her here to see if perhaps her family had contacted the
consulate to help locate her. We had no idea that she was your daughter."

"We had no idea that you even had a daughter," Ray added.

Meg looked at the girl in her lap. "What are you even doing in Chicago? How
did you get here?"

Emily straightened. "I told grandma and grandpa that I wanted to come see you,
but they kept saying that they were too busy to bring me, so I decided to come
by myself. I know where the bus station is and I went down there and found a
bus to Chicago. I 'membered that was where you lived now, so I got on it."

"Surely they wouldn't sell a ticket to a little kid all alone?" Ray questioned.

The girl looked down at her shoes. "I guess maybe they didn't see me get on. I
am kinda' little, you know."

"Okay," Meg answered, "You took the bus to Chicago. Then what?"

"Well, I knew you worked at the consulate, but there weren't any signs showing
where it was. I asked some people, but everyone didn't know or didn't even
answer me. Didn't their mommies teach them that's rude?"

Ray commented "Welcome to Chicago, Tigger."

Meg looked at him curiously and encouraged Emily, "And then what?"

"Well, I went outside and asked some more people. I figured somebody had to
know where the consulate was. One man said he would take me, but he didn't look
very nice, so I told him 'no thank you'. He started to grab me, but then
another man came over and said that he had been looking all over for me and told
the first man thank you for watching me. I think he just said that to make the
other man go away. Then he said that he was going to the police station and
that I could go with him and someone there would take me home to my mommy and
daddy. I told him that I wasn't supposed to go with strangers and he said that
I could just follow him. I thought that would be okay so I walked behind him
for a long ways. Then he stopped. I think maybe he saw someone he knew and he
turned into an alley. Then he told me to hide, because a really bad man was
after him but he had something and everything would be all right. He helped me
hide behind the big trashcan and told me to stay really quiet until he told me
to come out. I peeked out a little bit and another man came up to him and
started talking to him. I think they were fighting, 'cause they were yelling.

She paused and seemed to shrink in on herself. She looked up at Ray and then
buried her face on Meg's chest again.

"...There was a loud noise and the man fell down," she continued softly. "I
think he shot him. I'm sorry, Mommy. I wasn't very brave. I didn't go help
him. I stayed hid."

Ray kneeled in front of the chair.

"You did exactly the right thing, Tigger. There was nothing you could do to
help and if you tried, you would have been hurt too. You were a very brave
young lady."

She smiled at him and continued.

"That's where the 'tective found me. I was really scared and wouldn't talk to
him, but that was okay. He told me about his car and about his nieces and
nephews and said that maybe I could come over and eat some time 'cause his mommy
is a really good cook. Then he took me to the police station and him and some
other police people gave me something to eat."

She turned her smile toward Constable Benton Fraser.

"Then the Constable and Diefenbaker came in and I knew everything would be okay
and they brought me here to you."

She looked back at her mother and her smile faded.

"I really missed you, Mommy, but I wish I didn't have to see that."

Meg hugged her close, a look of worry on her face. "Me too, Sweetie. Right
now, we need to call your grandparents and let them know that you're all right.
They were very worried that someone took you away to hurt you."

Fraser brought the phone to her, which earned him another smile of thanks. As
she made the phone call, he walked over to the window where Ray stood watching.

"The Dragon Lady has a kid? I can't believe that she never told you that she has
a kid!"

"Well, there has never been any reason for her to tell me that, Ray. It's not
like we're involved or anything. Besides, the inspector is a very private
person and I'm sure the separation has been very painful for her."

"That's another thing," Ray added, "why hasn't the kid been living with her? I
know that if I had a kid I would move heaven and earth to be with her. What's
her problem?"

Fraser responded sternly, "Ray, we really don't know enough about her situation
to make that sort of judgement. I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable

In the silence that followed, they could overhear Meg's conversation.

"Yes, Christopher, I know you've been very worried about her, but she's here and
she's safe. Apparently she decided that she was big enough to come visit me by

She paused.

"You know full well I would never encourage her to do such a thing! I'm a
police officer, I've seen far too much of what people do to each other to want
my child to be out there alone. I've been worried sick, too."

She listened again.

"Actually, she did run in to a bit of trouble. It seems she witnessed a

There was an interruption from the other end of the line.

"No, at the present time, we don't think anyone knows. She was found at the
scene by a Chicago police officer. He happens to be good friends with my second
in command and when she recognized his uniform, they brought her here."

Another pause.

"I really think that it would be best for her to remain here until the case is
closed. Detective Vecchio will need to find out just exactly what she saw
tonight. He is a very fine police officer, and I have complete confidence in
his ability to solve the case and to provide protection for Emily. In addition,
he will have the full cooperation of Constable Fraser and myself. We will take
every precaution to look out for Emily's physical and emotional well being."

She listened again.

"All right. I'll put her on now."

She rose from the chair and settled Emily in, handing her the phone. "You need
to talk to your grandfather. He and your grandma have been very worried. He
wants to know that you're all right."

As the child spoke to her grandfather, Meg walked over to where the two men

"'A very fine police officer' Inspector? I had no idea you thought of me as
anything other than a nuisance."

"You are a nuisance, Detective, but you also happen to be a fine officer. I've
looked over your record."

At his surprised look, she added, "Surely you don't think I would have allowed
the Constable to continue working with you if I thought you incompetent? Even
though I have great confidence in his judgement, I still thought it best to
check you out. You tend to have a bit of a problem with authority, but you get

Ray found himself speechless.

He was really knocked for a loop a moment later, when she stretched up and gave
him a small kiss on the cheek.

"And thank you kindly for taking care of Emily. She is the most important
person in my life and I would die if anything happened to her."

Before the embarrassment could overtake her completely, she repeated the
treatment on Constable Benton Fraser.

As all three stood awkwardly, turning various shades of red, Emily called to her

"Mommy, grandpa wants to talk to you again."

Meg shook herself and walked over to take the phone.

The time spent finalizing plans allowed the three police officers to regain
their composure so that by the time she hung up, the awkward moment had passed.

"Okay," said Vecchio, "now we need to talk about a safe house for her."

"She has a safe house, house," Meg responded.

"I mean a police safe house, where she will have round the clock police
protection and no one will be able to find her."

"At the moment, no one is looking for her."

" Not that we know about..." Vecchio interrupted.

"Furthermore, as you seem to often forget, I am a police officer, so she will
have round the clock police protection...unless you're insinuating that I'm not
capable of protecting my child."

The peace of a few moments earlier shattered as Meg and Ray argued about the
best place for the girl. Fraser and Diefenbaker shared a look of resignation.
Fraser cared deeply for both of them, but he was beginning to realize that it
was futile to hope that they could get along for any length of time. He shook
his head and looked over at Emily.

She had fallen asleep in her mother's office chair and was completely oblivious
to the conflict she was causing.

He skirted the bickering duo and walked over to her, picking her up gently. She
sighed softly in her sleep and snuggled close. Fraser smiled. He had never
realized how good it could feel to hold someone so small and helpless. As he
sat down on the sofa, he silently promised her that he would protect her with
his very life should the need arise.

"Okay, so here's the deal. I'll follow you over to your place, check it out,
and wait there until the surveillance team arrives. There will be two officers
in an unmarked car on the street outside. You will have a radio so that you can
contact them immediately should any problem arise. I don't suppose you have a

Meg shook her head, "No, I don't, and I won't have one now. Not with Emily

Benton cleared his throat.

"If it would help, I would be willing to spend the night with the Inspector."
Meg and Ray both looked over at him, startled looks on their faces.

He blushed and clarified, "At her house, I mean..." he stumbled on, "to watch watch them, I additional protection..."

Ray nodded, "Yeah, I think I would feel a little more comfortable with you and
Dief there. You don't have a gun either, but you seem to have this incredible

Meg considered. "It really would not be proper, but I will admit that I would
feel more comfortable with someone else close by...someone that I know I can

She turned to look at Ray. "Nothing against your officers, but this is
my daughter, and there are very few people that I trust when it comes to her

Ray recognized the protective maternal look on her face and nodded in agreement.

"So it's agreed. Give me your address and I'll have a car meet us over there."

While he made the call, Meg collected her things and Fraser gathered Emily up.
She looked at them and couldn't help thinking how right they looked together.
She banished the thought and started turning out lights and locking doors.

The group walked out to the parking lot where Meg's car was, Ray's being
illegally parked on the street out front. As the men watched, she unlocked the
doors and put her belongings inside. Then she took Emily from Fraser and
carefully buckled her into the back seat. When they were all in, she pulled
onto the street and waited for Ray to fall in behind her.

No one noticed the third car following from a distance.

The drive was painfully silent and mercifully brief. When they arrived at Meg's
house, a car waited at the curb of the small, neat house. While Benton and Meg
waited, Ray went over and talked to the occupants. Two men got out and walked
with Ray over to the waiting vehicle. Ray made the introductions and asked Meg
for her key.

"I'd like for you to wait out here while I check things over inside. Maybe I'm
being over cautious, but I'd rather do that than have something happen to the
kid," he explained.

She nodded in agreement, handed him her keys and told him the code to disarm the
burglar alarm. As lights went on in the house, she got out and gathered Emily
from the back seat.

Standing waiting for the all clear from Ray, Fraser asked her, "Would you like
me to carry her? I'm sure she's starting to get a little heavy."

Meg smiled. "No, we're just fine."

Benton couldn't help silently agreeing. They certainly made a beautiful picture
standing there in the moonlight. He, best not to even wish.

When Ray motioned them inside, he followed her up the porch steps and into the
house. Like the outside, the inside of the house was small and neat, reflecting
its owner's careful tidiness and excellent taste.

Ray handed Benton the keys and a two-way radio.

"Every thing in here is clear, doors and windows locked. This radio goes
directly to the two guys outside. If there is any noise, any movement, anything
at all that goes on, I want you to let them know. I'll probably be at the
station for a while, then home. You know how to get in touch with me. I want
to know if anything happens. I'll be by in the morning. Maybe then she'll be
ready to talk about what she saw. Be sure and lock this door and reset the

He walked over to Meg and touched Emily softly on the cheek. "You sleep well,
Tigger. I'll see you in the morning."

As he left, he couldn't resist adding, "And you two, behave yourselves. Don't
do anything I wouldn't do."

Ben locked the door and set the alarm before turning to Meg. "What does he
think we would do?"

She looked at him for a moment before turning and walking down a short hallway
to her bedroom. As she laid Emily down on the bed, she told Fraser, "I think he
was just trying to be funny. I often wonder what you see in that man."

She dismissed the matter from her mind. "I think I've got a T-shirt that she
can wear to sleep in. Would you look in the bottom drawer of the dresser there?
Just pick out any one."

Fraser did, and was surprised to discover a Rolling Stones concert shirt. There
was much about his boss that he didn't the fact that she had a

He watched as his stern and proper boss tenderly undressed her daughter, moving
slowly and carefully so as not to awaken her. When she held out her hand to
him, he handed her the shirt and watched her slide it over the girl's head. She
then lifted her and attempted to pull down the bed covers. Fraser quickly
stepped over to assist, and the two of them managed to get her tucked in without
disturbing her slumber. Fraser picked up Emily's discarded clothes as Meg sat
on the edge of the bed, just watching her sleep. As she leaned over to kiss the
child, Fraser felt a pang of longing. He had always been content with what he
had, but now he was wishing for something he might never have. He turned to put
the clothes in the hamper, trying to shake off the feeling.

As Meg rose, Diefenbaker came into the room and gracefully leaped onto the bed,
making himself quite at home.

"I'm not sure..." she started to say. When Emily rolled over and draped her arm
over the wolf, she stopped. She looked over to Fraser.

"You needn't worry, sir," Fraser assured her. "He's quite clean and completely
housebroken." The wolf completely ignored the adults and curled up with the
child on the bed.

Meg surrendered. "Okay, but if he eats her during the night, you'll be standing
sentry duty for the next century, Constable."

She smiled at him and turned on the bedside lamp. She waited by the doorway as
Fraser knelt by the bed.

"You take good care of her, Dief," he told his companion. Then he gently
brushed a lock of hair from Emily's face, kissed her forehead and rose to join
his boss.

There was a strange look on her face as she turned off the light and pulled the
door almost closed.

He followed her back into the living room where she turned on some lights and
motioned him to sit. After a long silence, she spoke.

"I imagine you're wondering why I've never mentioned my daughter before."

"No, sir, it's really not any of my business...well, that's not exactly true. I
mean, I know it's not any of my business, but I am a little curious...not that
you owe me any sort of explanation or anything..."

"Shut up, Fraser," she interrupted.

"Yes, sir."

She sat on the sofa and picked up a framed photo from the end table. It showed
a smiling Meg, dressed in jeans and a heavy sweater, her hair windblown and her
arm around a tall dark-haired man. He was also dressed casually, equally
windblown and equally happy. His right arm was around Meg's shoulders and his
left hand rested on her belly, swollen with child. Meg remembered how the baby
had kicked right as the camera snapped, making them both laugh out loud.

"I met Greg when I was at university. He taught a class on pathology and most
of the women in the class were in there simply because they thought he was good
looking. While I didn't disagree, my purpose in being there was to learn. I
found the subject fascinating and thought it would be helpful knowledge to have.
Some time later, when my partner and I were investigating a case, I wasn't very
confident of the way certain pathological evidence was being interpreted. I was
new, so I didn't want to make a fool of myself by questioning my partner or the
pathologist, so I went back to the university. I was somewhat surprised to find
Dr. Thatcher still there and even more surprised to find out that he remembered
me. We went out for coffee and he looked over the case file and answered my
questions. When I went to my partner the next day, I had a solid case to
present and it ended up helping us find the real killer. I went back to Greg to
let him know how it all worked out. He said if I really wanted to thank him, I
would let him take me to dinner. I did and we had a wonderful time. We started
dating, and before long I was hopelessly in love. The first real problem was
when he took me home to meet his family. They were very upper class and thought
he could do much better. After all, I was a police officer with no "important"
family, not raised in their social strata, no money, and no blue blood in my
veins. Surely, he could find someone more...appropriate. Fortunately, he
ignored them and asked me to marry him. About a year later, we decided to start
a family. I wasn't real sure; after all, I had no experience with families,
with children. To be honest, I was terrified, but he assured me that I would do
fine. I figured that as long as he was there with me, I couldn't mess up too
badly. When we found out we were pregnant, he was ecstatic. We had so much
fun, decorating the nursery, picking out names, buying little clothes and toys
and baby things. Everything was perfect."

Benton sat across the room from her, the emotions playing across her face as she
told the story. She hugged the photo to her chest, seeming to be lost in her
memories and almost unaware of his presence. She continued.

"It was about six weeks before my due date. We had gone to some function at the
university and were on our way home through a mountainous area. It was late and
there was a bad storm going on. Visibility was poor and he was concentrating
completely on his driving. I was exhausted and was dozing off in the passenger
seat. Neither of us heard the car come up behind us until it was too late. It
was going much too fast and sideswiped us when it tried to pass. The roads were
very narrow and Greg couldn't regain control. I remember the car rolling
several times and then nothing. I woke up in the hospital almost three months
later. The doctors told me that Greg had been killed instantly. They had
performed an emergency c-section to deliver the baby because they weren't sure
whether I was going to make it or not. She had a rough first few days, but she
was fine. Greg's parents had taken her home. I still had several weeks in the
hospital. They brought her to see me and told me that I could stay with them
when I was released, since I could barely take care of myself, much less an
infant. I did stay with them for a week or so, but it was pretty clear that
they still didn't think much of me, so I left. I knew that I still wasn't able
to take care of Emily, so when they offered to keep her until I was ready, I
agreed. I was extremely depressed and wasn't thinking very clearly. When they
asked me to sign some papers, I did so without even reading them. Eventually, I
got back on my feet and back into the swing of things at work. I had been going
over to the Thatcher's house and spending time with Emily, so I felt fairly
comfortable with her. When I told them that I was ready to take her, they told
me I couldn't, that I had signed over custody to them. I know that I could have
fought them, but at that time, I just didn't have the strength, or the money. I
knew the kinds of lawyers they could afford and I didn't think I had much of a
chance. They let me spend time with her and occasionally have her for a few
days at a time. I sometimes thought about just taking off with her, but I knew
that would be wrong, that they would find me and I would probably never see her
again. I figured I would fight them on their ground. I've almost saved up
enough to hire a good lawyer. Part of the reason I accepted the position here
in Chicago is because of the extra pay. Maybe I'm being selfish to want her
with me. Her grandparents can give her so much more than I ever could."

She looked at Benton who had crossed the room to sit by her side. Without
thinking, he took her hand and looked deeply into her eyes.

"No, Meg, that's not selfish. I've been where Emily is now. After my mother
died, my father left me with my grandparents most of the time. While I had
everything I needed there and I knew they loved me, what I wanted most in the
world was to be with my father. She obviously wants to be with you, she ran
away from them to come here. There is a bond between a parent and child and
from what I've seen tonight, that bond is very strong between you and Emily.
You are a very good mother."

Silence fell, as they continued to look into each other's eyes, still holding
hands. After a moment, or perhaps an eternity, Meg smiled and squeezed his

"Thank you, kindly, Benton. You always know just the right thing to

He blushed (he seemed to be doing a lot of that tonight) and looked away.

"I could really use a hot shower," she said, pulling her hand away and standing.
"The kitchen is through there, if you need anything."

She walked to the linen closet and pulled out a spare pillow and blanket,
placing them on the sofa near him.

"Please, make yourself comfortable."

With a quick smile, she went into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

"I cannot believe I did that!" she told her reflection in the mirror. "I just
spilled my personal life in the lap of a subordinate!"

She wondered what it was about Benton Fraser that made her willing to lower her
defenses, defenses she had thought strong and solid.

*It's about time you talked to someone* a voice behind her said.

She turned to see Greg, standing with his arms folded across his chest, leaning
against the wall.

*You haven't really opened up to anyone since I had to leave. It's not
good for you to keep that all bottled up inside, Sweetheart.*

"We've discussed this before, Greg. I worked hard to get where I am and I
cannot allow anyone to see anything that could be construed as a weakness."

She tested the water and began to undress.

*You consider Emily and I to be a weakness?*

"No, of course not. But I have to keep my personal life and my work separate.
Your death devastated me..."

*I know...I'm sorry...*

"I'm not blaming you; I know that you didn't have a choice any more than I did.
I'm just saying that the depression I went through in those next few months made
a definite impression on my superior officers. They think of me as 'fragile'
and I have to be even tougher than before to fight that label. Breaking down
like that in front of one of my officers does nothing to foster the image of a
strong, in control commander."

*First of all, I don't think that you 'broke down'. You simply told your story.
Secondly, I get the feeling that very little you could say or do would change
your Constable's opinion of you.*

She froze in the act of getting in the shower. "What's that supposed to mean?
And he's not MY Constable."

*It means,* he smiled at her, *that you are still the very beautiful, exciting
woman that I fell in love with and someone has finally been perceptive enough to
see it behind the stone facade that you have so carefully cultivated.*

"I don't know what you're talking about," she responded coldly. "Now, would you
please leave me in peace to take my shower."

*I'll leave, but I don't know how much peace your thoughts about Constable
Fraser will give you, Meg.* He smiled and slowly faded away.

In the other room, Fraser leaned his head back and glared up at the ceiling.

*I'm sorry, son. I had no idea you were so miserable with your grandparents.*

Fraser sighed and looked at the ghost of his father, standing contritely in the
center of the room. "I didn't say I was miserable, Dad, I simply said that I
would have rather been with you. You did what you thought was right at that

*It's not like I had a whole lot of choices, son. I couldn't very well take you
with me.*

"I know. I'm not blaming you for anything and nothing can change the past."

The senior Fraser looked at his son, contemplating.

*Perhaps if I should have given it all up...settled somewhere and been a proper
father to you. Maybe then you wouldn't be so alone*

Benton shook his head. "You were doing a very important job. I have always
been proud of what you did, proud to be your son. If you had made different
decisions, things would have been different, that's all...not necessarily
better. Besides, I'm not lonely. I have Dief and Ray...I'm actually quite
content with my life."

The ghost snorted.

*Don't give me that...I've seen the way you've been acting
around that pretty boss of yours and her little girl. It's written all over
your face how much you want to be a part of that.*

Fraser smiled sadly.

"What I want doesn't matter much...the Inspector is my boss and I can't see her
ever forgetting that little detail."

*Well, we'll just have to see about that, won't we?* Fraser senior added, fading

Meg stepped out of the shower, relieved to discover that her dear departed
husband had once again departed. She quickly toweled herself dry, slipped into
a comfortable sweatsuit and ran a comb through her hair. She caught herself
starting to check her reflection in the mirror.

"He's only here for Emily's sake. He could care less how I look."

Shaking her head with disgust, she opened the bathroom door and stepped out into
the hallway. Meg knew that a proper hostess should check on the well being of
her guest before turning in, but she couldn't bring herself to face Fraser again
so soon after baring her heart to him.

Instead, she walked into her bedroom, only to find her guest awaiting her there.

Fraser was stretched out on her bed, eyes closed, humming softly. Emily was on
his chest, her head under his chin. She was smiling contentedly in her sleep as
Fraser ran his fingers through her dark hair. Meg felt herself smiling too as
she watched from the doorway.

Fraser watched her from underneath not quite closed eyelids. He knew that he
should let her know that he was awake, but he was enjoying observing her without
her knowledge. She looked so relaxed and beautiful. It was a side of her he
had rarely seen, and he found himself savoring the moment. He was slightly
disappointed when she turned away, but she returned moments later with the
blanket that she had laid out for him. He almost stopped breathing when she
spread it over him and the little girl on his chest, leaning across him to
straighten the other side. He inhaled her soft scent as she bent to kiss Emily
gently on the top of the head.

It took a major effort on his part to keep his hand from reaching out to stroke
her hair.

'This is all for Emily,' he reminded himself. 'The gentle smile, the glow in
her eyes, even the's all because of Emily.'

As she kissed Emily, Meg couldn't help looking at Fraser's hand, still stroking
the girl's head, even in his sleep. She momentarily wondered how it would feel
to have that same gentle hand stroking her own hair.

'Get a grip, Meg! What kind of mother is jealous of her own daughter? He's
here to help protect her. Be grateful and let it go at that.'

She headed towards the door, prepared to spend the night on the couch, only to
discover that Diefenbaker had pushed the door shut and planted himself firmly in
front of it. She tried everything to get him to move, cajoling, ordering,
threatening, even bribery. Momentarily, she considered physically lifting him
back onto the bed, but quickly changed her mind when he growled softly.

'Oh, well,' she thought, 'I've slept places worse than the floor.'

She pulled a pillow from the bed and tried to get comfortable on the carpet.
Sleep, though, refused to come. Lying on the hard floor, the little aches and
pains of daily life refused to be ignored. Meg tried first one position then
another, but only found herself growing more and more irritated by the whole
situation. Furthermore, she was getting cold since she usually kept the
thermostat set fairly low.

'This is utterly ridiculous,' she told a sleeping Diefenbaker. 'There's a
perfectly good bed with a perfectly good quilt on it and I'm sleeping in the
floor because there's someone else already sleeping on my perfectly good bed.
It's a very large bed and Emily and Fraser take up less than half of it, so
there is plenty of room for me to join them.'

She got up on her knees by the side of the bed and looked at its occupants.

'It's not like I have to worry about him trying anything. This is the original
Dudley Doright we're talking about here.'

With that reassurance, she put the pillow back on the bed and climbed under the
quilt next to Fraser and Emily.

,Now that wasn't so hard, was it?' she asked herself as she reached across the
bed to gently stroke the child one last time before closing her eyes.

On the other side of the bed, Fraser relaxed a little. He had been feeling
guilty about Meg sleeping on the floor and was just about to get up and insist
she take the bed. He knew that he should move to the floor anyway. After all,
it was highly improper for him to be sharing a bed with his commanding officer,
but every time he moved he feared waking the girl asleep on his chest. She had
awakened with a nightmare while Meg was in the shower and she still seemed to be
clinging to him in her sleep. Hopefully, she would soon slip into a deeper
sleep so he could move her without disturbance.

In the meantime, he would just relax and listen for unusual noises. After all,
someone should remain alert, just in case someone was going to try something.
That was his last thought as his eyes drifted closed again and the long day
caught up with him.

The first thing Benton was aware of was the sunlight streaming across his face
at an odd angle. Next, he realized that the bed beneath him was far too soft to
be his normal cot. Close behind those two thoughts came the awareness of a
soft, warm body curled up to his side. He quickly opened his eyes and looked
down to where a sleeping Meg snuggled in the curve of his arm. He stared at
her, enraptured by the peaceful innocence on her sleeping face. She breathed
softly through slightly parted lips, lips that he could taste in his
memory...warm and soft, full of promise and possibility.

He was pulled from his wonderful memories by a sharp poke in his back. He
looked over to see Emily standing by the side of the bed.

"Me and Diefenbaker are ready for some breakfast."

He nodded to them. "Go on into the kitchen. I'll be right with you."

Reluctantly, he pulled his arm from under Meg's head and eased out from under
the quilt. He pulled it back up around her sleeping form and softly caressed
her cheek before heading into the kitchen to see what could be found to feed a
hungry wolf and a six year old girl.

Meg awakened slowly, luxuriating in the sunlight across her face. As she
stretched long and hard, the events of the previous day came back to her with a
rush. She sat up and quickly scanned the room, finding herself alone. There
was still a warm place on the mattress and pillow next to her, so she knew that
the others had not left long ago. She threw back the quilt and opened the
bedroom door, following the sound of voices to her kitchen.

In the doorway, Meg stopped, smiling at the scene in front of her. Emily sat on
the counter, brow furrowed in concentration as she stirred something in a bowl
in front of her. Fraser stood in front of the stove with a frying pan,
carefully watching it's contents and Emily, all the while relating one of his
numerous Inuit stories.

The little girl listened and made comments in the appropriate places and asked
questions where she should. She made a most appreciative audience, and Fraser
seemed to revel in her attentiveness.

This time, Meg couldn't stop the thoughts that popped into her brain.

This feels so right. He would be such a wonderful father.'

She was a little surprised at herself. In the years since Greg's death, she had
been very careful to keep all personal relationships light and easy. If
anything seemed to be getting serious, she simply compared the gentleman in
question to her late husband and every one had come up very short...until now.

Here was a man who interested her, was intelligent, kind, and gentle, had an
extraordinarily strong sense of right and wrong and understood her job and the
demands it placed on her. Furthermore, not only did he seem to return her
interest, he had quickly developed a rapport with the most important person in
her life. She hadn't thought of her family ever consisting of more than herself
and Emily, but she suddenly realized that she could easily add Fraser to that
picture. It was a picture that widened the smile on her face.

Fraser caught sight of her as he reached over to take the bowl from Emily. He
answered her smile with one of his own.

"Good morning. I hope we didn't wake you."

He helped Emily down from the countertop and watched as she ran across the room
to be scooped up by her mother.

"How could I possibly mind waking up to this?" she replied. She hugged her
daughter and planted a kiss on her cheek. "How are you doing this morning,

"I'm okay except that I'm hungry."

"Well, then, we'd better see what we can do to get you fed," Meg laughed,
lowering the girl to the floor. "It looks like Benton has the bacon and eggs
just about ready, so how about if you set the table while I fix some toast and
drinks," she said, pulling down plates and silverware and setting them on the
table. "Detective Vecchio said that he would be coming over this morning so
we'll go ahead and set a place for him, too."

While Emily set the table, Meg set about her tasks. The kitchen was rather
small and she found herself often brushing against Fraser as she collected what
she needed: bread from the countertop, butter, jelly, orange juice and milk from
the refrigerator, glasses from the cabinet, butter knife from the drawer.

"Hey," said Emily from the small dining area, "You didn't finish your story."

"Oh, um...well..." Fraser stuttered, looking towards his superior officer.

Meg realized that his hesitance was probably due to the fact that she often cut
his stories off at the office. She poked him gently in the side as the passed
him once again

"Yeah, Benton, finish your story." She smiled at him in encouragement.

He wasn't sure what pleased him more, her smile or her use of his first name.

"If you're sure..." he took a deep breath and decided to take a chance,

She almost laughed at him, standing there holding his breath and looking as
though he expected her to explode at any moment.

"Yes, Benton, I wouldn't have told you to if I wasn't sure, now, would I?"

He blew out the air he had been holding and smiled broadly at her. "No, I
suppose you wouldn't have."

As he picked up his narrative, the three continued breakfast preparations
completely unaware of the two ghostly figures observing them.

*They really look good together, don't they?* asked the ghost in red serge.

*Yes, they do. They look like a family.* his companion replied.

When the doorbell rang, Emily started for the door. "I'll get it!"

"NO!" both adults yelled, causing the girl to freeze in her tracks.

Using only their eyes to communicate, Fraser moved to the door while Meg picked
up a large kitchen knife and pulled Emily into the kitchen and out of the line
of sight from the doorway. Diefenbaker padded over to stand next to them.

Fraser nodded to Meg and she called out, "Who's there?"

"It's Vecchio! Would you please hurry up and let me in? It's freezing out

Everyone relaxed as Fraser opened the door to admit the Detective. He turned
and waved to the unmarked car sitting in front of the house before firmly
closing and locking the door behind him.

"The guys out front said everything was quiet here last night."

Emily skipped over to him and he squatted down to hug her.

"Good morning, Tigger. Did you sleep okay?"

"Uh huh. Me and Mommy and Benton and Diefenbaker all slept in Mommy's bed."

She hugged him and then wiggled out of his grasp.

"Oh, really?" he asked, looking up with a leer at the two red faced Mounties.

"Uh huh. We almost have breakfast ready. Can you help me finish setting the
table? You can do the napkins."

Ray shrugged off his coat and started towards the table. As he walked past his
best friend, he couldn't resist a soft rabbit punch to the ribs.

"Hey, Benny. Way to go! I didn't think ya' had it in ya, pal."

Fraser turned even redder as Meg pressed a stack of napkins into Ray's hand and
told him, "That will be quite enough, Detective. Now make yourself useful and
help Emmy with the table."

Eventually, breakfast was ready and the foursome sat down to eat. Emily and Ray
chatted while Meg and Benton sat in uncomfortable silence. When they finally
finished, Fraser jumped up and started clearing the table while Meg began
cleaning up in the kitchen. In the close space, they again brushed one another,
causing them both to blush, Benton to stammer, and Ray to laugh.

Meg looked at the Detective with fury in her eyes. "That's enough of your wise

"I didn't say a word!" he protested.

"No, but it's written all over your face." She threw the dishtowel at him.
"Get in here and get this kitchen cleaned up. I have to get dressed." She
stalked down the hall, gesturing for Emily to follow her.

He saluted her closed door and rose from the chair. "Yes, Ma'am!"

"My, she's awfully touchy today, isn't she Benny?" Ray commented as he moved
into the kitchen to pick up where she had left off.

"She's under a great deal of stress, Ray. Remember, her daughter was missing
yesterday afternoon and has now witnessed a murder. There's a lot for her to
deal with right now."

Fraser continued cleaning as he spoke, not meeting Ray's eyes.

"Come to think of it, you're acting a little odd yourself this morning. What's
up? Did the Dragon Lady bite you last night?" Ray asked laughing.


"Or...oh, no...she got fresh with you, didn't she?"


"Whose idea was it to share a bed last night?"


"You'd think having her kid here would put a damper on things..."

"Enough, Ray."

Vecchio could tell that his friend was serious. "Hey, Benny, I'm only teasing."

Fraser continued with his work, not answering Ray.

"Look, Benny, I know nothing happened between you two last night. I just think
it's funny to watch the two of you tiptoeing around each other. She's a hot
looking lady, you're attracted to her, she's attracted to you. I really don't
understand what the problem is."

Fraser finally answered. "The problem is that she is my boss and I am her
subordinate. There can be no hint of improper behavior. It would reflect badly
on her and I will not be responsible for tainting her reputation."

"Come on, Benny! Improper behavior? Who says it's improper? You are both
consenting adults. All I'm saying is don't dismiss what you feel for each other
simply because you think it might not look right. Just keep that in mind,

Fraser saw the seriousness in Ray's expression. "Alright, Ray. I'll remember."

In Meg's bedroom, Emily sat on the bed, getting clean clothes out of her bag
while her mother furiously pulled clothes from her closet.

"Mommy, why are you mad? Did I do something wrong?"

Meg sat down beside her and began dressing. "No, Emmy, I'm not mad at you.
It's that annoying Detective."

"You mean Ray? I thought he was your friend."

"No, Ray is not my friend. He's a friend of Fraser and I'm very grateful to him
for taking care of you, but I do not appreciate his comments about the Constable
and myself."

"What comments?"

"About us...being together last night. You need to get dressed, Emmy."

"But you were together last night."

"Yes, but not like he means. Hurry up, sweetheart."

"What did he mean?"

Meg looked up from her makeup bag to meet her daughter's eyes in the mirror.
How could she explain this? "Like we were...boyfriend and girlfriend."

Emily pulled her shirt over her head. "Well, aren't you?"

"No," Meg answered quickly. "He works for me."

The little girl thought about that as she tied her shoes. "But why can't he be
your boyfriend, too?"

"He just can't," her mother replied.

"But why?"

Meg was frustrated. How could she explain something she wasn't really sure
about herself?

"Because I said so, that's why."

"That's not a very good reason," Emily said softly under her breath.

Meg turned to run the brush through the girl's soft dark curls.

"Why is it so important to you, sweetheart?"

Emily looked up at her mother, a serious look on her small face.

"Because I really like him and because you smile a lot when he's around. Also,
he's really nice and I think he really likes you."

Meg laughed. "Really?" she asked.

"Yeah, really!" Emily replied, throwing her arms around her mother's neck.

Meg held the child close as she tentatively changed the subject. "You know why
Ray came over this morning, don't you?"

Emily became very still in her arms. "He wants to talk about what I saw
yesterday, doesn't he?"

Her mother nodded.

"I know it's not very nice to remember, but I really think it will help you feel
better if you talk about it."

The two sat in the middle of the bed arms wrapped around each other while Emily
thought and Meg waited. After a few moments, the girl spoke.

"That man did a bad thing, right, Mommy?"

"Yes, he did," Meg replied.

The girl thought a little longer. "And if I tell Ray about what I saw, he'll go
to jail for a very long time, won't he?"

"When we find him, yes, he will go to jail for a long time." Even though the
justice system sometimes failed, Meg sincerely hoped this would be the case.

"And if he's in jail, he won't be able to hurt anybody else, right?"

Again, Meg hoped she was telling her daughter the truth. "No, he won't hurt
anybody again when he's in jail."

"And you and Ray and Benton and Diefenbaker will stay with me all the time?"

Meg was on much firmer ground with this question. "Absolutely. One of us will
be with you as long as you want, Emmy."

There was silence again while Meg wished desperately that she could ease her
child's pain and fears. Finally, the girl looked up at her mother and smiled

"Okay. Let's go."

Mother and daughter walked hand in hand into the living room where the two men
waited. Ray and Benton looked at Emily and then at Meg. Meg nodded slightly
and Ray nodded back before slipping back into wise guy mode. He snapped to
attention and executed a smart salute.

"Kitchen cleaned and ready for inspection, sir!"

Meg couldn't help smiling back before responding in kind.

"Ready for inspection, are you? Let's just see about that, shall we? Miss
Thatcher, would you care to assist me in the inspection?"

Emily giggled before matching Meg's stern expression. "Yes, I would,

Meg made a "lead the way" gesture and Emily marched into the kitchen, Meg, Ray,
and Fraser close behind. The room was neat and tidy, all evidence of the
morning meal carefully cleaned and put away. Meg made a show of closely
examining cupboards and countertops, her small shadow imitating every motion,
every expression. Ray stood at attention, awaiting their verdict, but he did
glance out of the corner of his eye to observe Benny's reaction. The goofy grin
on his face almost brought a laugh from the Detective. He knew that Benny had
been on the verge of falling in love with his boss, but it seemed that meeting
her daughter and seeing the two of them together had pushed him right over the

To be honest, Ray could almost understand his feelings. In the last
several hours, he had seen a side of the Dragon Lady that he didn't think
existed, despite Fraser's insistence to the contrary. His thoughts were
interrupted by a loudly cleared throat, and he looked back into the twinkling
eyes of said Dragon Lady.

"I thought you told me this kitchen was spotless, mister."

He followed her eyes to where Emily was standing next to a chair, dishtowel
carelessly draped over its back.


"Miss Assistant Inspector, what do you think his punishment should be?"

As the assistant inspector thought about that, Ray saw a grin creep across her
face as she advanced towards him.

"I think...that he should be...TICKLED!" she yelled, running towards him.

He turned to run. "Oh, no! Not that! Anything but that!"

She caught him in the living room as he attempted to run around the coffee
table. They ended up in a heap on the floor, Emily on top tickling as best she
could while laughing herself, while Ray pretended to struggle.

"Hey," he protested. "Benny helped with the kitchen. Shouldn't he be punished

Emily thought about that for a moment, looking to her mother for help.


"Now wait just a minute," Fraser countered. "I washed, he dried. Therefore,
the dishtowel was his responsibility."

"Now Constable," Meg responded, a mischievous look on her face, "What about
teamwork and looking out for your partner? Doesn't a team win or lose as a

Before he could think of a reply, he found himself pulled down by Ray and Emily
to join their play.

As the three lay on the carpet, winded from the ticklefest, Ray looked up at Meg
still standing against the wall smiling. He poked Emily lightly. "I think
there's something wrong here. Look who didn't get in on the fun."

Meg shook her head sadly. "Inspectors don't get to have fun."

Ray had a feeling that she was talking about much more than just rolling around
on the carpet laughing your head off.

Emily sat up and looked at her mother. "I guess I need to tell him now, right?"

"Whenever you're ready, sweetheart," Meg answered.

She sat down on the floor and Emily crawled over to sit in her lap. Ray and
Fraser both sat cross-legged in front of them. Diefenbaker joined them, his
head resting in the little girl's lap. She stroked his silky fur and asked
softly, "What do you need to know?"

Fraser noticed that Ray had pulled out a small tape recorder to record Emily's
statement. Ray thought for a moment.

"Okay. You said that you met the man at the bus station and her told you he was
going to the police station."

She nodded.

"You followed him to an alley. When he went into the alley, you were still with
him, right?"

She nodded again, her eyes never leaving the wolf lying in her lap.

"What did he do when you got into the alley?"

She glanced up at her mother and then back down to Dief.

"He helped me hide."

"Did he say anything to you?"

She nodded.

"He said that there was a really bad man coming but to not be scared because he
had something and everything would be okay, but he didn't want the bad man to
hurt me so I needed to hide and stay really quiet until he told me to come out."

"How did he sound? Was he nervous or angry?"

Emily thought a moment.

"He talked really fast. It was kind of hard to understand him."

"Okay. He helped you hide. When the other man came, could you hear what he

"At first, they were using their inside voices, so I couldn't tell what they
were saying, but then the other man started yelling and I could hear some of

"What did he say?"

"He said something about the first man being a rat and being really stupid."

She paused and looked up at Ray. "My Grandma says it's not nice to call someone

Ray nodded his head. "Your grandma's right about that one."

The girl continued. "The first man said that he was getting out, that he was
sick and tired of it all. Then the bad man told him that it was too late and
there was only one way out."

She stopped and leaned down to nuzzle Diefenbaker.

Ray knew what happened next, so he just waited until she was ready to say it.
With her arms wrapped around the wolf and her eyes closed, she continued in a
low voice.

"That's when I heard the loud noise. At first I thought it was a
firecracker, but then I saw the all the blood and stuff. He fell down and
didn't move anymore. The bad man looked around but I made myself as little as I
could so that he couldn't see me. He looked in the first man's pockets and
stuff and then he said a bad word and shot the other man again and then he

Silence fell as the three adults contemplated what they would like to do to the
man who had put the little girl through this experience. Meg leaned over and
wrapped her arms around Emily and the wolf she was embracing.

Ray cleared his throat. "Thank you for telling me that, Tigger. That's going
to be a big help." He hated to prolong the incident, but there was something
else he needed to know.

"Can you tell me what the bad man looked like?"

She sat up and looked at him.

"Well, he was tall...a little taller than the first man, but not as fat...but
not as skinny as you are. I guess he was about Benton's size."

"What color was his hair?"

"Um...I couldn't tell, 'cause he didn't have much. It was really short, kind of
like yours. He did have a mustache and a funny little beard. They were brown,
but not as dark as mine and Mommy's hair is."

"Could you see his eyes?"

She closed her eyes, concentrating, before slowly shaking her head. "I'm sorry.
He was just too far away."

"That's okay, kiddo. Do you remember what he was wearing?"

"He had on blue jeans, but they were all ripped up at the knees and black boots
with shiny things on the toes."

"What about a jacket? It's pretty cold."

Her brow wrinkled in thought as she shook her head.

"No, and his shirt didn't have any sleeves in it either. I think he was cold
though, because his arm was all different colors."

She straightened suddenly. "Hey, Ray. What's a dragon lady?"

"Huh?" he asked in confusion.

"Last night at the police station, you said something about seeing the dragon
lady," she reminded him.

Meg threw Ray a chilly look. "That's just a name he like to call me when he
thinks he's being funny," she told her daughter.

Emily looked at her mother. "You don't have a dragon on your arm, do you?"

"No, I don't. Why do you ask?"

"Because that's what was on the bad man's arm. Only it was all different

Ray felt a tingle run down his spine.

"This guy had a dragon tattoo on his arm? On his right arm?"

Emily looked at him. "It was a picture of a dragon, like from the stories."

Meg looked a question to the Detective.

"Waters is something of a tattoo aficionado. He has several, but he's most
proud of the big dragon that covers his right arm. I'd like to take her down to
the station to look at some pictures, see if she can pick him out."

Fraser interrupted.

"Emily, you said that the first man told you that he 'had something and
everything would be alright.' What did that mean?"

Emily looked at him. "He said he was a big word that I can't

Fraser probed gently. "Was it maybe 'insurance'?"

She brightened. "Yeah! That's it! He said he had insurance!" She frowned
again. "What does that mean?"

Ray answered. "It means that somewhere out there is proof of what Waters has
been up to. The only problem is..."

"We don't know where it is." Meg inserted.

"Or even what form it's in." Fraser added.

"He didn't say anything else about the insurance?" Ray asked Emily.

She shook her head. "No, just that he had some. I'm sorry."

"That's okay, Tigger. At least we know that there's something out there."

Meg looked down at her daughter.

"Ray has some pictures at the police station. Do you think that you can
recognize the bad man if there's a picture of him?"

She nodded solemnly. "I think so."

Meg gave the girl a quick hug. "Let's go brush our teeth and go look at some
pictures, okay?"


Elsewhere, a man of medium build with a brightly colored dragon tattoo on his
right arm was pacing the floor in the main room of a nondescript house.

"What do you mean they have a witness? The alley was deserted except for the
two of us. I have enough sense to check something like that."

He was angry and the object of his anger cowered against the wall while other
observers thanked their lucky stars that they hadn't been the bearers of this
particular bit of bad news.

"I'm just telling you what I saw, boss. I guess some kid was hiding behind a
dumpster in the alley and saw the whole thing. They took her to the police
station, then to the Canadian consulate, then to a house over on Oak Street.
They had unmarked cars watching the place all night. Look, she's just a little
kid, maybe six or seven or so. Even if she told the cops anything, why would
they believe her?"

Waters stopped his pacing.

"Why would they believe her? Because they're out to get me, you moron. We've
got to get ahold of that kid and find out what she told the cops and if she
knows where the disk is."

"Then what do we do with her?" the other man asked.

"What do you think we do with her?" Waters replied.

"You'd kill a little kid?"

"Hey, man, it's her or us."

At the police station, Emily had picked out Waters' picture with no hesitation.
Five different times, she selected his mug shot from groups of a dozen photos of
men with similar characteristics. The last time, she took the picture and
handed it to her mother.

"Don't give it back to him. He might mix it up with those others again and I'm
getting tired of having to find it for him."

"Don't you worry, Tigger. I'm not about to lose this guy," Ray assured her with
a quick kiss to the top of her head. "I need to go run this by Welsh. I want
to make sure we do everything by the book on this one. This is one scumbag
who's not walking on a technicality some lawyer pulls off."

Emily turned to her mother. "Can we go with him to see Lt. Welsh? He gave me a
sandwich last night and I forgot to say thank-you."

"We can't have that, can we?" Meg answered. "As a matter of fact, I should
speak with the Lieutenant as well, since we have become involved in a matter
that is under his jurisdiction."

"Oh, don't worry about that, Inspector. The Lieutenant pretty much expects
Fraser to be involved in any case that I'm involved in," Ray responded. "But
you're more than welcome to join us."

The foursome walked through the squad room towards the Lieutenant's office.
Emily held her mother's hand and stayed very close to her, but looked around the
busy room with curious eyes. As Ray detoured by his desk to check for messages,
Emily tugged on his pants leg.

"What's that lady's name? The one who got me the cookies and milk last night?
I should thank her, too and say that I'm sorry for running away from her."

"That's Elaine. Hey, Elaine!" he called. He beckoned her over. "There's
someone over here that wants to talk to you!"

"Hey, Ray! Any luck with Tigger?"

"Get over here and see for yourself!"

"Tigger?" Meg asked Ray.

"Yeah. When I first found her, she wasn't very talkative so I had to come up
with something to call her. Her shirt had Tigger on it, so I figured she was a
fan. I ran it past her and she seemed okay with it, so that's what we called

"What's up, Vecchio?" Elaine asked as she arrived at his desk. She saw Emily
standing next to Meg and kneeled down to look her in the eye, careful not to get
too close.

"Good morning, Tigger. I hope you're feeling better today."

Emily held out her hand and Elaine reached out and shook it. "Yes, I am. Thank
you for asking. And thank you for helping me last night. I'm sorry that I ran
away from you."

"That's quite alright. I know that you were scared. I'm glad I could help."

She looked up at Meg and Benton. "I guess the consulate is taking care of her
until her family arrives."

"Actually," Meg replied, "I am her family. Emily is my daughter. She's been
living in Ottawa with her grandparents and decided to come down for an
unauthorized visit."

Emily looked over at Elaine. "I think I'm in big trouble for that one," she

"Probably so," Elaine agreed with a smile.

"We need to see the Lieutenant. Turns out Waters pulled this hit himself. The
kid pulled his picture out of the lineup, so I want to get the warrant and get
this guy put away pronto," Ray informed her.

Elaine stood and faced him. "Lucky for you he just happens to be free at the
moment." She joined the group as they made their way into Welsh's office.
When they entered, Emily walked around the desk to look up at him.

"Good morning, Lieutenant."

"Good morning, Tigger. How ya' doing today?"

"Very well, sir. By the way, my name is Emily Anne Thatcher and I wanted to
thank you for sharing your sandwich with me last night."

"You're very welcome, Emily." He looked up at Meg. "Thatcher?"

She nodded. "Yes, Emily is my daughter. I want to let you know how much I
appreciate the care you and your officers have shown her."

"Think nothing of it."

"I also wanted make sure that it would be alright with you for the Constable and
myself to assist in this investigation. It's in your jurisdiction, but it does
involve a Canadian citizen, so I hope we can work together on it."

"Absolutely," Welsh assured her.

"Thank you."

"Thank you for the help." He turned his attention to his detective. "Okay,
Vecchio, bring me up to date on this thing."

While Ray told him about the latest developments on the case, Meg and Benton
listened, breaking in occasionally to add further detail. Welsh and Elaine
asked questions from time to time until The Lieutenant was satisfied that he had
the full picture.

During their discussion, Emily sat on the floor playing with Diefenbaker. When
she realized that she needed to go to the bathroom, she decided that the adults
were much too busy to be bothered and that she could probably find it herself.

She looked the wolf in the eyes. "I know I'm not supposed to go anywhere by
myself, but if you're with me I'm not really alone, right?"

When he didn't disagree with her, she opened the office door just enough for the
two of them to squeeze through and then quietly closed it behind her.

"Excuse me, Officer," she asked a detective seated at a nearby desk, "Where is
the bathroom at?"

"Go through the door over there, past the staircase, third door on the left," he
told her.

"Thank you kindly," she told him and started across the room, Dief close on her

When they arrived at their destination, she looked at Dief again.

"You can't come in here. This is a girls bathroom and you're a boy, so you'll
have to wait out here for me."

He didn't seem to like that idea very much, but she slipped inside and closed
the door before he had the chance to tell her so.

Back in the Lieutenant's office, Welsh picked up the phone to call the DA and
Meg looked around to check on her daughter. She wasn't there.

"Emily!" she called, walking over to check behind the couch. Surely she
wouldn't be hiding at a time like this. She turned back to Ray and Benton.

"Has anyone seen Emily?"

"She was right there with Diefenbaker just a minute ago," Ray answered her.

"Well, she's not here now, and neither is the animal," Meg responded testily.

Benton hurried to reassure her. "I'm sure she's fine. Diefenbaker is with her.
I know he gets a times, but he is a member of the RCMP and he
takes his duties as seriously as I do."

"Nobody takes their duties as seriously as you do, Benny," Ray said. "She can't
have gotten very far."

Meg reminded him, "She got to Chicago all the way from Ottawa."

As one, the three officers headed for the office door. Benton opened it,
allowing Meg and Vecchio to proceed him into the squadroom.

"Hey!" Vecchio hollered. "Did anybody see a kid go through here?"

"What'd it look like?" someone asked.

"A kid. You know, just like a real person only smaller. How many kids have you
seen in here today?"

"Just one," an officer answered. "Little girl, brown hair, red jacket, white
wolf...that the one you're looking for?"

"Where is she?" Meg asked, concern evident on her face.

"She asked where the bathroom was so I told her. She even thanked me. You
don't hear that from kids much anymore."

"Canadian," Ray responded, as if that explained everything.

"Oh," the officer nodded. Apparently it did.

The three headed across the room, Meg in the lead. Everyone froze at the sound
of a gunshot. An instant later, everyone in the room started into action,
pulling a weapon or taking cover or both. Fraser pushed past Meg and broke into
a run, Ray close behind him.

As they rounded the corner into the hallway, they caught sight of a man running
away from them, a squirming bundle of red jacket and brown curls in his arms.
He turned and fired towards the two officers. Coming up behind them, Meg
managed to push both men to the ground. In an instant, all three were on their
feet again in pursuit of the kidnapper. They reached the precinct door just in
time to see him jump car waiting at the curbside, engine idling. The driver
threw the car in gear and sped off into traffic.

Meg stood staring after it, fear settling like a stone in her gut. She shut out
the voices around her, others curious about what had just happened. The only
voice she heard was the one in her head, her own voice, asking Detective Vecchio
if he thought her incapable of protecting her child.

It seemed she was.

Ray was on his cell phone, calling the car's information in. "Get me everything
you can on that car and get it now!"

Fraser took note of the expression on her face and said nothing. He simply put
his arm around her and led her back into the building. Finally, another voice
did cut through the fog that surrounded her.

"Hey! Is someone gonna' do something about this dog? It's bleeding all over
the place."

She looked up and caught Fraser's distraught expression. They hurried over to
where a small crowd had gathered around the wounded animal. His thick white fur
stained with blood from a gunshot to his shoulder, Diefenbaker valiantly
struggled to rise. Fraser gently pushed him down.

"It's okay, boy. Just relax."

Meg kneeled beside him. She removed the silk scarf from her neck and pressed it
to the wound. He looked up at her and whined softly.

"It's okay. I know you did your best to protect her. Thank you." She stroked
his head and looked up to where Ray stood, his cell phone again pressed to his

"Great. Let them know we're coming."

He closed the instrument up and slipped it back into his coat pocket as he
squatted next to Fraser.

"I just spoke to the head of the canine division. He's calling the vet who
handles their dogs and telling him to be ready for us. He says this guy's the
best there is," he reassured the Mounty.

Lt. Welsh broke in. "They also sent one of their vans to give you a ride. It's
waiting at the front door."

"Thank you kindly," Fraser said, gently lifting Dief and heading towards the
door. Meg walked beside them, carefully keeping pressure on the wound while Ray
ran ahead to open the doors.

"Let us know how he is," Welsh called as the group climbed into the waiting van.

At the vet's office, Diefenbaker had been immediately rushed into surgery
leaving Fraser to restlessly pace the floor. Meg sat on a sofa, staring off
into space while Ray stood to one side, making phone calls and wishing there was
some way that he could magically erase the last hour.

Making yet another turn in the cramped waiting area, Fraser caught sight of Meg
still holding her bloodstained scarf. He cleared his throat.

"I'm terribly sorry about your scarf, sir. Naturally, I will replace it."

She looked up at him in confusion and then down at the scarf in her hands.

"Don't worry about it, Fraser. It's only a scarf. I didn't even like it very
much. Right now, you should be thinking about Diefenbaker."

"And Emily," he added. He walked over and kneeled in front of her. "You don't
have to stay here, Meg. Ray can take you back to the station so that you can be
kept up to date on what's happening."

She reached out and took his hand.

"In case you haven't noticed, Ray has been on the phone constantly since we
arrived. He knows as much about what's going on at the station as he would if
he were there. I'm sure he will keep us informed."

They both looked over at Ray who nodded quickly before returning his attention
to the phone.

"Besides, as you reminded me back at the station, Diefenbaker is a member of the
RCMP. As his commanding officer, I have a responsibility to him as well,
especially since he was injured in the line of duty."

"I'm sure he would understand."

"Fraser, I can worry here as well as I could anywhere else. At least here, I
have some company." She squeezed his hand and looked into his eyes. "I really
don't want to be alone right now."

"You would hardly be alone at the station."

She sighed deeply. Why was he being so difficult about this? Why was this so
hard for her to admit? "I really want to be with you right now, Benton."

"I appreciate your concern for me, Sir."

"No, Benton, you don't understand. It's not just for your sake." She took a
deep breath. "I need to be with you for my sake as well. You make me feel..."
she broke off, unable to continue, tears beginning to form in her eyes.

He looked down to where their hands were joined. Only then did he realize how
hard she was gripping his hand, how tightly she was clinging to him. With his
other hand, he reached up to stroke her cheek. "I'm here, Meg. Whatever
happens, I'm here."

When the veterinarian entered the waiting room a few minutes later, he found Ray
pacing the floor, the other two sitting holding hands on the sofa. They rose to
meet him.

"Constable, Detective, Ma'am. The wolf is going to be just fine. We were able
to remove the bullet without any problem. He lost some blood, but with you
getting him here so quickly he should make a full recovery."

"Yes!" Vecchio shouted.

Fraser let out the breath he had been holding and smiled slightly. Meg squeezed
his hand and looked at the doctor.

"That's wonderful. Thank you for everything. Would it be alright for the
Constable to see him?"

"Just for a moment," the doctor told them. "He's still a little groggy from the

Fraser gave her hand one last squeeze before following the doctor to the
recovery room.

Ray watched his partner walk away and then turned back to the Inspector. She
had her back against the wall and slowly slid down it to a crouch. She wrapped
her arms around her knees and buried her face. Ray thought that he had never
seen anyone look so fragile and least, not since yesterday when he
had found her daughter in almost the exact same position. He sat down next to
her. Again, he found himself not knowing what to say or do. This time, he kept
silent simply laying his hand on her back to let her know that he was there.
She didn't say anything, but she didn't pull away either.

Fraser found them in that position when he returned a few minutes later. He sat
down on her other side and gently put his arms around her.

Ray cleared his throat. "Hey, Benny. How's Dief?"

"As the doctor said, he's a little groggy, but he did respond to me. I told him
that you were both out here. I think he appreciated that."

"He told you that?"

"Well, not exactly. He did seem to perk us somewhat when I told him."

"You didn't happen to be holding a jelly doughnut at the time, did you?"

"No, though I believe that was also the same moment that the nurse walked in
with the doctor's lunch."

"I knew there had to be food in there somewhere."

"He just got out of surgery, Ray. I'm sure he wasn't thinking about food."

"Benny, this is Dief we're talking about here."

Fraser frowned a moment before nodding. "True."

"I guess the doc was right after all. He's going to be fine."

The two men continued their banter for a few minutes while Meg sat between them,
gathering strength. Finally she lifted her head and looked at them.

"Gentlemen, let's go find my daughter."

Ray and Benton both suddenly felt sorry for Waters.

They returned to the carefully controlled chaos that was the 27th division.
After reassuring everyone about Dief's condition, they gathered all the
information they had and headed for Lt. Welsh's office. There they combed
through every address and every phone number for every known associate Walter's
had ever been connected with in any way, form or fashion. They had narrowed the
list somewhat when Vecchio's phone rang.

"Talk to me."

"As usual, Detective. All talk, no action."


The room suddenly grew silent and all eyes focused on him. Fraser
had the presence of mind to reach over and activate the tracing equipment.

"I'm touched that you remember me, Vecchio."

"What do you want, Scumbag?"

"Now Detective, that's no way to talk to someone who has something that you

"What could I possibly want from you, Waters, except your head on a plate?"

Waters laughed. "Do you really want my head? Worse than you want this kid?"

Ray was silent. Watching him closely, Meg moved over to stand by Fraser. When
he reached for her hand, she let him take it.

"I thought not." Waters laughed again. "She's a cutie, but I don't think she
likes me very much. If looks could kill, I'd be dead a dozen times over. I'll
trade her though. Your stoolie had a computer disk that belongs to me. I get
that disk, you get the kid."

"Disk? What disk? I don't have any disk."

"Well, you'd better get ahold of it real quick, if you value this kid's life.
By the way, don't try to look at it. It's specially coded to wipe clean if
anyone tries to tamper with it or open it without the proper codes. The same
thing if you try to copy it. I know it wasn't on him or at his place, so that
should narrow down your search somewhat."

"What if we can't find it?"

"Then I won't be very happy, and you won't be either. I'll call you back in two
hours to make arrangement for the swap."

"Waters, if you hurt that kid, I swear..."

"Come on, Detective, you've been trying to stop me for years. I'll do what I
want and you won't be able to do squat! Two hours..."

With that, he hung up.

All eyes turned to the technician operating the tracing equipment. He shook his
head quickly. "Cell phone."

Ray muttered a curse word while Meg pounded the desk with her fist.

"Okay, we've gotta find that disk that he was talking about. We can assume he
put it somewhere where it could be found. Insurance doesn't do much good if no
one can find it," Ray said.

"It didn't do him much good, did it?" Meg muttered.

Ray turned on her. "We can't afford to think like that. He had to put it
somewhere accessible; someplace it could be found, but not easily. It's not at
his place and it wasn't on the body. Maybe he hid it someplace in the alley?"

He turned to Welsh's desk where the Lieutenant was quickly looking through the
case file.

"Nope. The crime scene people made a through search of the alley. There's no
mention of finding a computer disk."


Ray turned back to where Meg was standing, eyes wide as the thought struck her.

"Emily said that he helped her hide in the alley."

Elaine jumped in. "You think he might have given it to her?"

Ray shook his head. "She said that she didn't know anything about his

Meg insisted. "Maybe he didn't tell her. He could have slipped something in
her pocket or into her bag without her even realizing it."

Ray considered and reached a decision. "Well, it's as likely as anything. You
guys keep going over this stuff, see if you can figure out where he's holed up.
We'll go check through Tigger's stuff."

"You and Meg go ahead," Fraser told him. "I'd like to listen to the tape again.
Perhaps there's something there to help us locate Waters."

"Fine. Get on it. Inspector, you're with me."

Ray grabbed Meg's hand and pulled her out the door, barely allowing time for her
to grab her purse. In the car, Meg stared stonily ahead as though clearing a
path through the traffic with sheer willpower. Ray glanced over at her.

"Don't worry, Inspector, we're going to get her back."

"What if we don't?"

He barely heard her whisper over the noise of the siren.

"We will," he replied forcefully. "We will because we have to, because it's
time for the good guys to win one...because she's a good kid who got caught in a
bad situation. And because she's somebody's little girl, and no one should ever
have to bury their child."

Meg heard the pain in his voice. Being a police officer herself, she didn't
have to imagine what was going through his mind. She, too, had seen the
devastation on parents' faces when she told them that their child was dead. As
he pulled to a stop in front of her house, she reached across the car and laid
her hand on his arm for a moment.

"Thank you, Detective."

He patted her hand and nodded.

Once inside the house, it only took a few moments to locate the computer disk
tucked away in a zippered pocket of Emily's knapsack. Less than a minute later,
they were back in the car heading back to the police station.

Their good news was matched by Fraser's.

"We're pretty sure we know where Waters made the call from. By listening very
carefully to the tape, we were able to distinguish the sounds of a train and of
a large boat. By cross-referencing possible locations with lake and railroad
traffic at the specific time the call was made, we deduced that he was using an
abandoned warehouse in one of the old shipyards. An unmarked car cruised the
area and confirmed activity there."

"Benny, you are a genius!" Ray declared. "Now, for the plan."

Everyone gathered around the map on Welsh's desk as Ray explained how they were
going to go about shutting down Waters and bringing a little girl home, safe and

By the time Waters called, the plan was in motion. Ray pulled up in front of
the warehouse and parked his car. As instructed, he proceeded to walk across
the empty lot towards the door. He imagined that he could feel eyes on him from
every direction. He knew that Waters' men were watching; he hoped that his team
was as well. Ray looked around surreptitiously but could see no one. He chose
to interpret this as a sign that everyone was in place and doing his job.

Suddenly the door in front of him swung open. A bright overhead light
illuminated the scene in the middle of the warehouse floor. Emily was seated in
a chair, glaring defiantly at the teen-aged boy pointing a gun at her. Waters
sat nearby, feet propped up on a table studiously ignoring everything but the
muscle car magazine in his hands.

Ray stopped about 10 feet away and waited. After a few moments, he spoke.

"Alright, Scumbag, I'm here."

Waters looked up and feigned surprise to see him. He looked at his watch and
then back up at Ray.

"Right on time, Detective. I wouldn't have thought punctuality to be one of
your strong points."

"Yeah, well I want to get this over and done with as soon as possible."

"Don't like being outsmarted, do you? I'd think you'd be used to it by now.
But I must admit I do like a man who knows when he's beaten. I've been told
that you came all by yourself, just like you were told to. Now, if you've
brought me the package that you were supposed to, we'll be in business."

Ray pulled the disc out of his coat pocket and held it up. "This is what I
found. I can't promise you it's the right one, since I couldn't look at it."

"For her sake, you'd better hope it's the right one."

He signaled to one of his men to bring the disc over to him.

"If that's all, Emily and I will just be leaving now," Ray said as he started
towards her.

"Not so fast, Detective."

Waters looked towards the boy who immediately stepped closer to the little girl
and put the gun at the back of her head.

Ray froze and Waters laughed. "I have to make sure that I'm getting what I'm
paying for here." He slid the disc into the appropriate slot on the computer
and started typing.

Ray looked at Emily who was staring back at him, eyes wide with fear. He smiled
to reassure her and then quickly tried to assess the boy at the other end of the

The kid caught Ray's glance, straightened his back and threw his chest out
slightly. "What are you looking at, cop?"

Ray matched his glare. "Hopefully, not someone who's stupid enough to pull the
trigger on a six year old kid. Do you know what guys in prison do to people who
kill kids?"

"They don't do nothin' to guys who don't get caught!"

Ray went on. "Of course, that's assuming you make it to prison. You know, cops
don't like guys who kill kids either, especially when it's a cops kid."

Overhead, two figures in black silently moved through the rafters into a
position directly above the small group.

"A cop's kid?"

The teen looked shaken and called to Waters.

"You didn't tell me this was a cop's kid!"

Waters threw him an annoyed glance. "That's because she isn't. He's feeding
you a line of bull. How many times have I told you that you can't trust anyone
but me?"

"She ain't no cop's kid," the kid told Ray, not quite sure.

Emily turned and looked up at him. "Yes, I am. My mommy is an Inspector with
the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. She works at the Canadian consulate here in

"That sounds like cops to me," the kid told Waters.

"Canadian cops aren't the same," Waters reassured him. "They don't really

The kid looked back at Ray.

Outside, a wino moved closer to the building, pulling his cap down tighter and
muttering softly into his jacket.

"For us, any law enforcement officer in any country is a brother...or sister.
We all look out for each other. I would venture to say that killing a cop's kid
is one of the top things to get you on the shit list of any law enforcement
agency. Add in the fact that the mother is a widow and the kid is all she has
in the world...I'd say the best thing for you to do if you kill her is to turn
the gun on yourself next, 'cause that's the only way out."

"Is that true?" he asked Waters.

Waters was too involved in the data on his computer screen to calm the troubled

"Yeah, whatever. Just go ahead and kill them both. I've got what I need here."

"Kill them? You didn't say nothing about killing anyone...especially a cop and
a little kid!"

"What's the matter, kid? Ain't got the guts?" Waters rose and started towards
the group. "Fine, I'll do it myself."

"NOW!" Ray shouted.

As the lights went out, two ropes dropped from the rafters and the two figures
above quickly descended. Ray stepped forward and snatched Emily from her chair,
reassuring her as he sprinted towards the door. He was met at the door by the
wino who seemed to have suddenly sobered up. He handed Ray a gun and reached
for the little girl.

Ray kissed her forehead. "This is Officer Reade. You stay with him while we
get this bad guy wrapped up."

He returned to the warehouse floor where the lights had been restored. He saw
Fraser in hot pursuit of the kid while Meg battled it out with Waters. As Ray
started towards them, he saw another of Waters' men heading for the door. A
flying tackle brought the man down and after a brief scuffle he was cuffed.

The sound of a muffled gunshot caused Ray to raise his head. Not seeing anyone
down, he started again for his main target. When Waters had realized that his
opponent was a woman, he grinned and lay his gun aside.

"Come on, sweet thing. Show me what you've got."

He quickly realized his mistake when Meg landed her first blow. He found
himself so busy defending himself from the rain of kicks and blows that he had
no time to mount his own attack. In desperation, he lunged for the gun he had
just put aside. He managed to grasp it as Meg grabbed his wrist and twisted him
around painfully. He thought he heard the gun go off, but her assault continued
as the gun dropped to the ground with a clang.

Ray arrived at the battle site as Waters once again hit the ground. Before he
could find the strength to rise, the Detective put a foot in the middle of his
back and pinned him to the ground.

As he snapped the cuffs on Waters' wrists (maybe just a little bit tight), he
informed him, "By the way, that was a Canadian cop who just beat the stuffing
out of you. Still think they don't really count?"

He looked up at Meg. The grin on his face faded as he noticed her ashen
complexion. He stood up and reached for her just as Fraser arrived at her side,
the young gunman close behind him. Both officers were able to catch her as she
collapsed between them. As they lowered her to the ground, Ray's hand touched a
wet, sticky place on her shoulder. Even without seeing the blood on his hand,
he knew that she had been hit.

He spoke into the microphone on his chest. "We've got an officer down! Repeat,
we have an officer down! Request medical assistance!"

In the dozen police cars that were now pulling up around the building, every
officer uttered a quick prayer to whatever deity he or she believed in and
headed for the warehouse. In the car they were in, Welsh and Elaine exchanged a
quick glance before joining the rest of the officers.

Elaine headed straight for the officer who was holding Emily and took her from
him. "Hey, Tigger, it's good to see you again. Are you alright?"

The girl buried her face in Elaine's shoulder and nodded. "I want my mommy."

"I know. Why don't you and I go sit in the car where it's warm to wait for her?
The Lieutenant will find her and tell her where we're at." She looked at Welsh
who nodded in agreement.

"That would probably be least until we know who..."

Elaine nodded and returned to the car.

In the warehouse, the scene was carefully controlled pandemonium. Several
officers were going through the file cabinets in the office while others
exclaimed with delight over the information still scrolling across the computer
screen. Others collected various people from different areas of the warehouse
and read them their rights and listened to their protestations of innocence.

In the center of the room, Benton was oblivious to the goings on. His attention
was totally focused on the paramedics and the woman they were working on. His
jaw was clenched tightly as he took note of her pale skin and the large pool of
blood spreading around her. He tried to detachedly judge the severity and
location of the wound but found his emotions interfering.

After a few minutes of feverish activity, they slid a backboard under her and
transferred her to a wheeled gurney.

Fraser barely noticed when Ray and Welsh came up to stand beside him. Ray laid
a hand on his arm. "Between the computer records and all the people here just
itching to tell everything they know about Waters, he's going to be going away
for a very long time."

He noted where Fraser's attention was riveted and sought to reassure him.

"Relax, Benny. She's tough. She'll pull through. She has to."

As if on cue, one of the paramedics turned to them and nodded, smiling slightly.

"One of you gentlemen answer to the name 'Fraser'?" he asked.

Benton nodded.

"The lady would like to speak to you."

As the trio stepped over to her, the paramedic warned them. "Make it quick.
She's not in any immediate danger, but the quicker we get her to the hospital
and get this taken care of the happier she'll be

"Of course. Thank you kindly."

He took her hand and her eyes fluttered open. She looked at the three men with
a small smile before focusing on Ray.


"She's safe," he assured her.

"She's out in the car with Elaine," Welsh added. He looked over at Ray. "We
got your 'officer down' call just as we pulled in and figured it would be better
for her to wait out there until we knew what was going on."

Meg closed her eyes for a moment, gathering strength.

"Thank you all," she whispered. She opened her eyes again and smiled weakly at

"Take care of her for me, please."

He looked at her solemnly and nodded.

Her eyes drifted closed again.

"Okay, people, time to get moving," the paramedic informed them.

Ray and Welsh stepped back. Fraser gently kissed her hand and returned it to
her side.

"Don't worry, I'll take care of everything."

He wasn't sure if she heard him, but there was a look of contentment on her face
as the EMT crew loaded her into the waiting ambulance.

The next day, a man stood looking in the doorway of Meg Thatcher's hospital
room. The scene inside was an odd one. The dark-haired young woman sat in the
bed, one arm in a sling, the other lovingly wrapped around the little girl
sitting next to her. A white wolf, his shoulder also heavily bandaged lay on
the bed with them, stretching across both sets of legs. In the chair next to
the bed sat a young man in red serge, so perfect he might have been a recruiting
poster for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Perfect, except for the silly
look on his face as he looked at the two on the bed. Leaning up against the
wall was another young man, this one in a neatly tailored gray suit. He, too,
was grinning as he listened to Emily tell her mother about the experience of
spending the night at the Vecchio house.

"...and everybody talks all the time, and nobody uses inside voices, and there
were so many other kids there to play with, mommy, and then Ray told us all a
story that was so funny that I laughed until my stomach hurt, but then his mama
said that it was time to settle down and go to sleep. There wasn't enough beds
for everyone, so I slept on the floor in his sister's room."

She paused and looked over at Ray. "She really is funny."

She looked back at her mother.

"Benton slept on the couch in the living room, but him and Ray helped me say my
prayers and then tucked me in first. They're pretty good at that...not as good
as you...then Ray's mama...she said for me to call her that okay?"

She paused and looked up at her mother.

Meg smiled down at her. "That's just fine, sweetheart."

"Anyway, grandma fixed us all a really big breakfast before we came here to see
you. Maybe when you're better you can come and stay there too?"

Before Meg could respond, a horrified Ray spoke up. "I'm sure your mother would
much rather stay at her house where she wouldn't have to sleep on the floor."

"Besides," Meg added, "We wouldn't want Ray's mother to have to go to all that

Emily thought about that for a moment. "Well, can we at least go over there for
dinner sometimes? She cooks even better than grandma and grandpa's cook."

"She does, does she?" the man at the doorway asked, entering the room. "I just
might have to look into hiring her then."

Emily looked at him and smiled.

"Grandpa!" she cried before suddenly freezing, realizing he was probably there
to take her home.

Meg swallowed a sudden lump in her throat.

"Christopher. It's good to see you."

He stopped at the foot of the bed. Fraser rose to stand close beside her on one
side while Ray stepped over to stand on the other side. On the bed, Dief raised
up slightly to fix the man with a cold stare.

Meg proceeded with introductions.

"Gentlemen, this is Emily's grandfather, Christopher Thatcher. Christopher,
this is my second in command, Constable Benton Fraser, his aide, Diefenbaker,
and Detective Ray Vecchio of the Chicago Police Department."

There were nods all around.

"Detective. Constable." He looked at Fraser, noting the way he had reached
down, clasping Emily's hand...the same hand that Meg was holding, leaving her
small one sandwiched protectively between theirs.

"I believe we spoke on the phone. Thank you...both of you...for looking after
my granddaughter." He turned his attention to Meg.

"And Margaret, it's good to see you looking so well. I spoke with the Constable
at the consulate...Turnbaum?"


"Yes, Constable Turnbull. From the way he spoke I was prepared to find you at
death's door, but you seem to be recovering nicely."

"Thank you, Christopher. I'm being very well cared for here and these two
gentlemen have been kind enough to take care of Emily with a little assistance
from the Detective's family."

"Thank you," Christopher said, "and my apologies for putting you to the

"No trouble at all," Ray hastened to assure him. "Ma has always felt the more
the merrier, especially when it comes to kids. My sister's kids love having
someone new around. Besides, Tigger here's no problem at all."

"Nevertheless, I appreciate your assistance." He turned his attention to the
little girl.

"No hug for your old grandpa?" he asked her with a slight smile.

She smiled back and reached for him.

He closed his eyes as he held her close.

"You had us so frightened, Emmy."

She pulled back to look at him. "I know. Mommy told me about how there are bad
people out there who like to hurt kids and that you thought one of them might
have taken me. I'm sorry that you were scared. I just really wanted to see my

"I know...I should have brought you here myself. I'm sorry about that. Just
promise me that you won't be making any more trips by yourself."

"No, Mommy already said I can't watch television for two weeks!"

"Well, good for Mommy!"

Christopher squeezed her once more.

"Tell you what...since the Detective and the Constable here have taken such good
care of you, why don't you take them down to the cafeteria and buy them some ice

She turned to look at her mother.

"Can I?"

"May I?" her mother corrected.

"May I?" she asked.

"I'd like to speak to you alone for a moment," Meg's father in law informed her.

She swallowed the lump in her throat and forced a smile.

"Of course."

He set the girl down and handed her some money.

"Be sure you stay with Ray and Benton," her mother reminded her.

"I know."

Fraser looked down at Meg. "Are you sure about this?"

She smiled at him. "It'll be fine, Fraser. Thank you."

He turned to follow the others out.

Ray commented, "Did you notice how Dief seems to suddenly be able to move better
when someone mentions food?"

Fraser responded. "It's you imagination, Ray. He knows better than to expect
junk food from me."

"Come on, Benny, he's a hero! Doesn't he deserve some kind of reward too?"

Christopher and Meg heard Emily lend her support as the quartet moved out of
hearing range.

They smiled at each other as a heavy silence descended in the room.
Christopher walked over to the small window.

Meg cleared her throat.

"You're looking well, Christopher. How's Laura doing?"

"Not well." He continued staring out the window. "You seem...content here."

She thought about that. "I suppose I am. I really hated it when I first came
here, but there's something about this city that just kind of grows on you."

"And Constable Fraser?"

She fought down a blush. "He is a fine officer and I'm lucky to have him as my

"Emily seems quite taken with him. And with Detective Vecchio. She told me on
the phone last night that either one of them would make a good daddy."

Meg was speechless for a moment. "Detective Vecchio? He's a fine police
officer and I have a great deal of respect for him, but there is no possible way
whatsoever that we would ever be together like that. We are far too good at
getting on each other's nerves. He only became involved in this matter because
of the drug case he was working on...and because of Emily and Constable Fraser."

"I see...and what about Constable Fraser?"

"We work together. That's all."

"Margaret, I'm not blind. I saw the way the two of you were looking at each
other. If there's nothing going on between you, it's only a matter of time. I
took the liberty of checking up on him. He seems to be a fine young man."

He took a deep breath and changed the subject.

"You asked about Laura. The truth is, her health is not good, and mine isn't
much better."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"Actually, this situation has forced us to think about some things we've done
and our motives for doing them. I know that we were not the most supportive of
parents when you and Greg were married. It wasn't you...Greg was our only
child, our pride and joy, and no woman would have been good enough for him.
When he died, we felt that we had lost a part of ourselves as well. In Emily,
it was as if we could keep a part of him with us. We didn't think about you or
really about her either. We convinced ourselves that we were doing it for
her...that we could provide for her much better than you could, but the truth
is, we wanted her for selfish reasons."

"You've done well with her. She's a beautiful little girl."

"Yes, she comes from good stock...on both sides of the family. The truth is,
she's been very unhappy of late. We thought she would snap out of it, but it's
only gotten worse with time. She misses her mother."

"What can I do to help?"

"Forgive us. We had no right to keep you separated. We've were concerned about
her being raised by a single parent, about you not being able to spend enough
time with her. We really haven't done any better, and it takes a great deal of
energy to keep up with her. Laura and I are no longer able to do so. We haven't
the energy or the patience to do things with her anymore."

Meg's heart skipped a beat. She fought to keep her hopes from soaring.

"We feel that it's time for us to step back, to allow you the chance that we
took away from you...the chance to raise your daughter as you see fit."

Meg sat in stunned silence as he continued.

"Of course, that's supposing that you are interested."

"Absolutely...that is, if she wants to."

"I have no doubt that she will. I'm also certain that the Constable will be
more than willing to provide assistance."

He lifted a hand to silence her as she started to protest.

"I know, he works for you, there's no personal relationship, you couldn't
possibly ask for personal help from him...give it up, Margaret. Just in the
short time I've seen the man, it's obvious that the two of you are interested in
each other. There is no doubt in my mind that you loved my son with all your
heart, but he's gone now and it's time you started living again. Greg wouldn't
want you to be alone. Nor would he want Emily growing up without a father.
Please, just think about what I've said."

At that moment there was a knock on the door. Benton stuck his head in.

"Sorry to disturb you, ma'am."

"That's alright, we're finished," Christopher assured him.

He pulled the door open to allow the others to enter.

"Emily thought that the two of you might want some ice cream too."

The little girl was carefully balancing one bowl while Ray carried another.
Benton noticed the tears in Meg's eyes as she reached over to take the treat
from her daughter. He was concerned and wondered just how to subtly find out
what had happened. Ray also noticed the tears but had no intention of being
subtle. He sat the other bowl on the bedside table and turned to confront

"'re going to drag the kid back to someplace that she ran away from.
You don't care that she wants to be here with her mother, that she belongs with
her mother."

Fraser knew that he should step in and stop his friend, but he agreed with
everything that he was saying. Instead, he stepped over to Meg's bedside and
lifted Emily up to sit on the bed with her mother.

Meg tried to interrupt, but Ray wasn't going to stop until he had said his

"Look, the woman is laying in a hospital bed because she risked her life for her
kid. Yeah, she may be a little uptight sometimes, but part of that's her job.
I mean, Benny here is my best friend, but even I get annoyed with him sometimes.
The point is, she's a really good mother and she deserves the chance to be with
her kid. I can't think of anything lower than someone coming in and dragging a
kid out of her poor hospitalized mother's arms..."

"Are you quite finished, Detective?" Christopher asked him with an amused smile.

"No, I've got plenty more..."

"Then could you possibly hold it for a moment? I need to ask my granddaughter
about something."


Mr. Thatcher looked at Emily. This was the hardest thing he had ever had to do,
but deep down, he knew it was the right thing.

"Emily, would you like to stay with your Mother?"

Confused, she looked up at Meg, then back to him.

"You mean here?"

"Yes. Here. In Chicago."


"Well, for as long as she wants to live in Chicago."
A light was breaking across the girl's face.

"You mean I can really stay with my Mommy?"

She looked back and forth between the two. They both nodded and smiled.
Ray's jaw dropped.

"I can live with her and go to school here and play with Ray's nieces and

Christopher walked over to the bed. "Yes, sweetheart. Your grandma and I know
how much you've missed your mommy and we think it would be better for you to
live with her. Of course, we still want you to come and visit us."

Emily threw her arms around him. "Oh, thank you thank you thank you."

Benton took Meg's hand and she smiled up at him.

Christopher noticed and smiled, too. "You and your mommy will be just fine here
and I'm certain that the Constable and the Detective will be more than willing
to help out."

"Of course," Fraser assured him. "We'll start by helping her find a new place
to live." He looked down at her. "Your place is much too small for a growing

"And I'll need to buy her some things..."

"We'll have all of her clothes and things shipped down here for you, so you
won't need to worry about that. Nor will you ever need to worry about finances.
You never asked so we never mentioned it, but Greg had a pretty sizable trust
from his grandfather which now belongs to you."

Emily ran over to where Ray was still standing in the middle of the room.

"Hey, Ray! Did you hear? I'm going to stay here with my Mommy!"

She hugged him and then raced back to Benton to be lifted to her mother's side

Christopher, Meg and Benton started making plans while Ray stood frozen, trying
to figure out what had just happened.

Diefenbaker finished off the second bowl of soupy ice cream, because good food
shouldn't be allowed to go to waste just because people got caught up in less
important matters.

The end.