-1Rita stood there on the porch shading her eyes from the sun. She watched as her daughter Lucy ran around the yard playing with the dog. Buster never tired of fetching the ball for Lucy and Rita knew they could play for hours. She also knew she never had to worry about Buster as he was very docile and loving with the people he trusted. He was also very protective of those same people and would probably have died rather than let any harm come to them. Lucy was still very young, just recently four years old. Rita looked at her daughter and studied her features as she often did. It gave her comfort to see herself and Chris in her daughter. Lucy had dark hair, which came from both parents. However, her hair was curly now as Rita had been told Chris' was when he was a young child. Lucy was a small girl like Rita but she was built tough like her mother and was not a fragile girl. What Rita loved the most about her daughter was her face. She had Chris' dark intense eyes and his bright smile. When Rita locked eyes with Lucy and smiled, Lucy would smile back and Rita knew Chris was still here with her in some way.

Of course Rita loved her daughter regardless, but this fact made Rita truly cherish Lucy. As she stood there watching she felt a gust of wind pass lightly across her back. This startled her for a moment and she turned around as if there was somebody there. She saw no one and this was always the case. But she never could stop hoping that one day it would actually be Chris' arm on her shoulder. That he would wrap his arms around her and hold her close the way he used to. The reality was that Chris was gone and had been for about four years now. She had packed up and left Palm Beach shortly there after and headed northwest. There were just too many memories in that town and even the good ones had become extremely painful. Rita had decided it was best for her and her daughter to start over and establish a new sense of normal. Rita eventually found this peaceful little prairie town somewhere in Middle America. The people were kind and most of all there was this feeling of relaxation and safety in the town. Not much murder or hunger for money and power, as had been the case in Palm Beach. Here Lucy could have the kind of childhood Rita had always wanted but never experienced.

Rita found a small old farmhouse on the outskirts of town. It wasn't in the best of shape, but she had hired some local men to make the necessary repairs. It had a nice yard that was surrounded by a white fence. The street was quiet and the neighbors were close but not too close. Rita felt protected here and for the first few years she had relished in the isolation. The days had not been so hard; she spent them with her daughter or working on the house. Sometimes they would go into town and walk around or stop for ice cream. All the townspeople and the storeowners would wave and smile or say a friendly hello. They were curious about Rita, where did she come from? And who was this mysterious and solitary woman who had come to their town? Most of the people had been ready and willing to embrace Rita. A pregnant woman all alone would need friends and people to lend her a hand. They quickly learned Rita was fiercely independent and had the opinion that she needed to take care of herself and her daughter by herself. The men were intrigued by Rita as she was extremely beautiful and this became more obvious after Lucy was born. She had a small, thin but firm body. Many of the single men pursued Rita but she was very hands off and made it clear she was in no way ready for a relationship. Her face and eyes looked sweet, but if you could see inside of her there was so much pain there under the surface. Rita had seen much hurt and disappointment over the years. Chris' friendship and later love had started helping her put the pain of her father's suicide to rest. She had always thought the day she found him lifeless in the bathtub would be the worst of her life. But losing Chris had been just as hard and perhaps in some ways even harder.

This is why the nights were still so hard for Rita. She wanted to drift off to sleep and dream sweet dreams. Ones where Chris would come to her and hold onto her comforting her. Be with her the way she had prayed he would as she sobbed at his gravesite before leaving Palm Beach. But he never came to her that way as she was still haunted by the memory of his death. When she closed her eyes she did not see him smiling back at her with that big grin. There were different images that normally flashed before her eyes. She would see the man on roller blades moving toward them. It still seemed so innocent until they noticed him removing the big gun from his shirt. They both instinctively shielded themselves with the car door, grabbed their guns and started opening fire. Chris and Rita were excellent shots and almost never missed their marks. The attacker had a semi automatic and was firing twice as many shots in half the time. Rita feels herself watching in horror as Chris steps away from the door in order to get a clean straight shot. She cries out to him in her sleep as the bullets rush through the air and into his chest. She feels like she is not there but watching the past event from the sidelines. Officer down! She sees her younger self-yelling into the car radio. She wants to help him, to save him, but she feels powerless.

Soon enough they are in the hospital room and doctors surround Chris. They work on him and eventually she is allowed in to see him. She sits by his bedside and soon he opens his eyes. He speaks to her and it looks for that moment as if everything is fine. He says he loves her and he will never leave her. Rita holds onto him just praying for him to make it through. Then there is this beeping sound and Chris begins to fade away. The doctors rush back in pushing Rita aside and telling her to leave the room. She falls to the floor and wraps her arms around her knees hugging them against her chest. She begins to cry and shake as she feels Chris slipping away. Then she sees herself at his grave and this is when it becomes real to her that he is gone and never coming back to her no matter how much she may pray. Then Harry appears and holds onto her offering his deepest sympathies. In the back of her mind she thinks about Harry and Franny and how she doesn't talk to them enough. How she needs to invite them to come visit. Every night she looses Chris all over again tossing and turning in her bed. Buster is usually awakened from his sleeping spot next to the bed during those dreams. He jumps on the bed and licks Rita's face in an effort to calm her. Sometimes she wakes up and gently strokes Buster until she feels calm again. Other times Buster simply lays his head on Rita's stomach and watches until her breathing slows and then he falls asleep there.

In the morning she is usually awakened to the sun shining through her window and Buster licking her face. Rita hears Lucy calling for her and she throws on a robe to go see what she needs. Rita always feels tired first thing in the morning as her sleep is deep but short. She never feels quite refreshed the way she hopes she will. But Rita made a promise to her daughter on the day she was born that she would always be there for her. That she would come out of the sad and dark state she had been in after Chris' death. Pull herself together and be the mother that Lucy needed. Be active and as happy as was seemingly possible. Most days it was no easy task for Rita. After those dreams she would much rather roll over and bury her face in the pillow. She picks up Lucy and carries her to the kitchen to fix breakfast. Lucy wants pancakes, Rita pushes for cereal and they settle on eggs and toast. Buster whines at the door and Rita lets him out watching as he darts across the yard after a rabbit. He never catches the rabbits and Rita knows he would have no idea what to do if he ever did. Buster rolls around in the grass, relieves himself, stretches his legs awhile and then comes back begging for his food. Rita tosses him a scrap from the table and tells him to wait until they have finished eating. He sits next to the table and stares longingly at the food. Rita tells him to go lie down and he does. He knows that soon it will be his turn to eat. When they finish eating Rita goes to the cupboard and takes out the dog food pouring some for Buster. Buster hungrily attacks his bowl eating every last bite and licking his lips.

Rita and Lucy walk outside and down the driveway to the mailbox. There are a bunch of bills and a letter from Harry and Franny. They ask her how she is and that would she please contact them so they know she is all right. Rita promises she will call them or at least write them a letter, as it is the least she can do. The thought of sitting down and writing how she feels is terrifying to Rita. She is afraid that once she starts there will be no stopping the onset of all these emotions. She knows Harry and Franny only have the best intentions. They had always been there for her and wanted to continue to be there now. She just wasn't ready to face them yet even though she knew she owed them that much after all this time. This time will be different she said to herself trying to sound convincing. She walked with Lucy around the property picking flowers to bring inside and brighten up the house.

Later on she laid Lucy down for a nap and reached for the phone. She only dialed a few numbers of Harry's phone number before hanging up the phone. Instead she grabbed a pen and paper and began to write.

Dear Harry and Franny,

I am sorry I have been so out of touch these days. Ok, years it has been, and I know I all but disappeared as far as you are concerned. It was not what you expected or deserved and not very much like the person I consider myself to be. It is just that I have never been the same since he, well you know what I mean. They say time heals all wounds but sometimes it feels as fresh as ever. One minute I am daydreaming of him walking through the front door and the next minute I am crying because I know it will never be. Lucy is four years old now if you can believe that. She is full of energy and wonder and this keeps me alive and motivates me to get up each morning. I try to tell her everything I can about her father and show her pictures. I want her to feel like she knows him and knows how very much his presence is missed. It is one of my greatest disappointments that she will never truly see him, but I feel it is my duty to fill her mind with ideas. So she can form the kind of image that is likened to the way we always knew Chris to be. Next year Lucy will start preschool and this also frightens me. There will be this emptiness in the house and I feel like I won't know what to do with myself. I feel I should work and have some more purpose and meaning in my life. But what do I do when all I have ever known is being a cop? I feel as if now that is just another thing that has been taken from me. I don't know really. Our town is very quiet and calm. The people seem very nice, but we have been keeping to ourselves mostly. I know I need to make contacts if only so Lucy can have some friends. I have started to become accustomed to the solitude and the strange comfort it provides me. This is wrong I know, but it is how I feel. I am not sure what else there is to say. I am surviving and I will keep surviving. It is not as if I have a choice anyway. But as I know you are thinking I have a strong will and this will help me through. Take care and please do continue to send letters.

All my love,


Rita sealed up the letter in an envelope stamped it and set it aside to take to the mailbox. She realized after that letter just how much of her life had been wrapped up in her daughter. Rita knew she needed more purpose to life than just being a mother. She had to be role model for her daughter. She could not spend the rest of her life pining over a man who was lost to her forever. It was then that her eyes became heavy and she drifted off to sleep on the couch. This time when the dreams came they were more pleasant. Chris appeared to her not in a state of dying. Not in horror and in agony, but in the image of love. He leaned in and kissed her forehead softly. She felt herself being wrapped up in his strong arms and she loved the feeling of security it brought her. "Chris," Rita said, whispering his name softly. "I am here," he answered. She needed him so badly, prayed for so long that he would come to her like this and he finally had. They made sweet love in her dreams as they had done only a few precious times before he had been taken away from her. Rita felt so alive and so at peace all at the same time. When they had finished his arms were still held tightly around her. She awoke from that dream all too soon when she felt Lucy pushing her. She picked up her daughter and gave her a big hug and kiss.

Chris came to Rita several times over the following weeks. She felt as if she had him back and everything was the way it was meant to be. She felt strong and confident and bolder. The people in the town started to see Rita coming out more often. She talked to people in the stores and on the streets. When the men smiled and waved she now smiled back instead of pretending not to notice. Chris was giving her this new confidence and this she knew. Of course in the back of her mind she understood that these dreams were bittersweet. Because Chris was with her but he wasn't at the same time. She also felt that as quick and spontaneously as these dreams had come, they could leave in the same way. She tried not to think that way and just enjoy them while they lasted. As long as Chris was coming to her she would accept that without question. If he left her again she would deal with that then. As she began to get stronger Rita wanted to be more active and more involved in the community. One day she decided to take Lucy to the park to let her play for awhile. This time Rita took her not later after all the other families had already left or early before they arrived. Rita took Lucy at a time when she knew there would be other children. She had kept Lucy to herself for too long and it was time for her daughter to socialize much like Rita knew she needed for herself. When they arrived Lucy noticed all of the other children running around. She looked at her mother with an expression that was mixed with some confusion and fear. "It's alright Lucy, go on and play with the other children," Rita said. Rita let go of her hand and Buster gave her an affection lick on the face and a nudge. Lucy slowly walked over and sat with some others in the sandbox. Rita watched hoping that Lucy would be accepted. She heard one of the children say,

" Hi I'm Julie"

"I'm Lucy."

"Want to play?"


Rita relaxed seeing her daughter had instantly found a playmate. Now it was her turn and she was probably more nervous than her daughter had been. She hoped people had not formed too many opinions about her just yet. She looked around contemplating when Buster pulled her arm to the right. Rita lost her grip on the leash and Buster ran off as Rita called after him. She ran after him and noticed him standing next to a picnic table attracting the attention of a bunch of women. Rita grabbed at his leash apologizing to the women. "That is a sweet dog you have there," commented an attractive blonde haired lady. "Yes, Buster loves attention from anyone who will give it," Rita answered.

"My name is Melissa," the woman said.

"Hi, I am Rita," Rita answered.

"We've seen you around," Melissa said before introducing the other women. "Have a seat."

Rita sat down and the woman pointed to Lucy asking about her daughter. Four years old Rita said telling them a little about Lucy. The others pointed out their children and spoke loving words. The women said they were happy to see Rita and Lucy out interacting. That they felt the town was full of very nice people and they were concerned they had done something or not been welcoming enough to Rita. Rita said she had intentionally kept to herself all this time. That it was a rather long story, but she had been healing and she felt recently that she had better get out more. That she wanted for Lucy not to feel sheltered because of her mother's pain. The women saw the sadness in Rita's eyes and chose not to ask for too much information. It was obvious Rita had suffered some tragedy and they all knew how painful that could be. The women chatted and watched their children play. When it was time to go Melissa turned to Rita and invited her to come to a cook out at her house over the weekend. Rita said she would think about it as she took Lucy by the hand and began to walk away. Lucy was talking excitedly about her new friend Julie and how much fun she was.

Rita felt freshly calm as she walked toward the road with her daughter. In the shadows behind a group of trees a man stood watching them walk away. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. He wondered if this woman he was seeing could possibly be the same Sgt. Lance who had arrested him those years before. The same one who had put an end to his beautiful killing spree. In truth Frank should have still been in jail and still would be had he not managed to escape. After he had been tied to the now past death of another prostitute new charges had been filed. While being escorted to the courthouse there had been a car accident jarring the door open and allowing him to run. He had stolen a car and decided to get as far away from Florida as possible and travel until he reached a place where no one knew who he was. He had been attracted to the Midwest because it was a place he had not been. Each town he came to the people were so comfortable with their lives almost ignorant of the fact that fear and danger existed. This is what caused his urges to resurface. Maybe there were not dozens of filthy sinful women to clean off the streets, but there were still women. Women in his opinion who needed to learn about fear and the beauty of leaving this world to meet God. He had managed to bed some of the slightly more risqué women he met while on the run. But soon it became not enough and he longed for that high and that thrill that got from killing. It wasn't sex that really got him going it never had been. And after what he had been forced to do in prison he could have cared less if he ever had sex again. He wanted to be the one with the power and he wanted to feel like a man again.

That is why he had done what he had just last night. He had just arrived in the town and had noticed this group of teenagers talking outside a pizzeria. There was one girl who held his attention. She was thin and beautiful with blonde hair around her shoulders and a sweet innocent face. Frank looked at her and he despised how perfect she was. She was probably the homecoming queen he thought and dating the captain of the football team. She was popular and one of the girls who would never have even talked to him back in his High School days. He heard everyone say good-bye and go his or her separate ways. The girl crossed the street and walked towards her car. Frank took a knife from his pocket and came up behind the girl. As she went to open her car door he placed a hand over her mouth and the knife at her throat. He told her not to fight or he would slit her throat. He opened the car and threw her down on the seat. He held her down and pulled some rope out of his other pocket. His trip to the local hardware store had provided him with everything he needed. He tied up his victim then he reached his hand up her skirt. She flinched in fear of what might happen. He pulled off her panties, balled them up and shoved them into her mouth to keep her quiet.

Then he drove until he came to the outskirts of town where there was an old abandoned barn on some land that seemed uninhabited. He dragged the girl into the barn and felt the surge inside of himself. He was in charge again and he was going to show this tight little daddy's girl who was boss. Frank took the panties from her mouth so he could listen to her beg. He always enjoyed that part the most. The girl pleaded with him to stop as he ran the knife over her body and started undressing her. She closed her eyes expecting the sexual assault to commence at anytime. "Go ahead and have your way, but don't hurt me," she said. Frank looked at her and said "Is that what you think I want from you?" "This is so much greater than that would ever be you little slut," he added. He thought maybe he had in fact found himself a whore in disguise and this pleased him. "You have apparently already given that away too many times," he said. "I want you to give me something else," he added. "In death you can be pure again the way God intended you to be." The girl began to scream and thrash around. Frank punched her in the face and she stopped moving. He ran the knife over her piercing her skin ever so gently. Small trickles of blood began to drip out. He light a cigarette took a puff and then burned her skin over and over. She cried out in pain and at that moment he took out a leather strap and strangled her. He choked her until he felt the last breath of air leave her lungs. He left her there on the floor of the barn and left the strap dangling around her neck. Instinctively Frank felt like he should get as far away from this town as possible. Kill along the way if he wanted but over a larger area as he would be more easily caught in a small town. Frank also knew that when Rita heard about the murder the similarities would haunt her. This is what Frank wanted. He wanted to bait her into doing some investigating of her own. Then when he got her alone he would finish what he started those years ago. He had been doing her a favor cleaning the streets of those no good dirty women. And for that she had tricked him and locked him up in that prison. She was the enemy because she didn't understand him and now she would pay. This is why he stayed.

It was midday the following day when the girl's family reported her missing. The whole town was in a panic wondering where she could have gone. That night Rita decided to take Lucy out for dinner and that is when she heard the news break. The body had been found and some people were talking about what they had heard. Rita could not help but listen in and as she did she felt a tingle of fear rush through her body. Cut, burned and strangled with a leather strap. Those words echoed in her mind over and over. Rita knew Frank should still be behind bars and they were a long way from Palm Beach. The idea of a copycat murder briefly came to her mind. But all these years later and so far away? She thought to herself. It didn't make any sense. She tried to put the thought out of her mind and let the police handle the investigation. She wasn't a cop anymore and she didn't think she cared to be. The police could find almost no leads or clues as to what happened. The girl's friends said they had been at the pizza place and then they parted ways to go home. That is the last time anyone saw her. No one noticed any unusual people around or knew any reason why anyone would have wanted to hurt the girl. Frank hid out in his car parked in the woods just outside town. He listened to the news on the radio and waited to hear of Rita coming forward with a story of how she knew who the killer might be. Two days had passed and nothing. Frank was furious and decided he would just have to find another whore to eliminate and prove that this was indeed a spree and not just a random murder. He wandered into town that night and walked around looking to see what he might find. He knew now that even in the smallest and most unassuming of towns sin lurked in the background. He entered a bar sat down and ordered a drink. Frank was a snappy dresser and he stood out in his surroundings. It was not long before a lady came over and sat beside him. He gave her a smile and they started talking. All about how she had not seen him around and where was he from and… Frank fed her some story about being a businessman passing through on his way to a nearby city. The lady asked him if he could use a little diversion while he was in town. Frank offered to buy her a drink because he knew he had found what he was looking for. The woman probably planned to seduce him and steal his money. All he had to do was play along and soon they were walking out together and talking of a motel room. Instead he drove her out to a big field, tied her to a fence post, and killed her in the same fashion he had done the previous night.

Rita felt that much more uneasy after hearing of the second murder. She was tossing and turning in her bed one night when Chris appeared to her. He wrapped her up and she began to calm down. He whispered "Rita" in his soft voice and she gazed lovingly back at him. He explained to her that she needed to be strong now. She needed to protect their daughter and she needed to protect the people of this town. That Frank had indeed shown up here. Rita had been so sure that he was locked away in a prison cell and would never be set free. Chris explained to her that he knew how Frank had managed to escape. That he was now a fugitive and had been eluding law officials ever since. Chris told her how she had been the one who had finally caught him the first time and she had to do it again. That it was possible his coming here had been no accident. Perhaps he wanted revenge on the woman who had sent him away. Rita knew all about revenge as all cops did. She had experienced small forms of it in her years on the force and ultimately for Chris it had caused his death. Rita was not interested in involving herself in police work, but she was also terrified for her daughter. She knew she could not let any harm come to Lucy or to the people of this town. She had just begun to know them and Frank now threatened the peaceful existence she had come to know and love. Rita knew that if Frank indeed had discovered she was living here it was her he was after. The other victims had just been pawns to get her involved. She had to act fast before he killed again.

Early the next morning Rita awoke ready to face the day and catch her perp. She was not going to let this ghost of her past come and haunt her life now. Rita called Melissa and asked her if she could watch Lucy for awhile. "I have something pressing I need to take care of," Rita said. Melissa didn't ask for more information and agreed to watch Lucy. Melissa knew Rita had her secrets but she believed she was a good person and a good mother. After dropping off her daughter Rita drove across town to the police station. She had no idea if the police would take her seriously. They could always call Harry she thought, but Rita didn't want Harry and Franny on the next plane. She wanted to handle this herself with the local officials if they would allow. True to her detective on a mission fashion Rita barged into the office and demanded to speak to whoever was in charge of the recent murder cases. Everyone sort of stared at her as if asking who the hell are you? "I know who killed those woman! So get me whoever is in charge," she shouted. Commander Smith came out and introduced himself. He had seen Rita around town, but she looked different to him now. She looked tough and strong and not like the shy woman he had first seen. Rita talked to him about Frank and the way he operates. She told him some of the case back in Palm Beach and how they had managed to capture him. Commander Smith was not sure what to think about all this information. He thanked Rita for the information and said he would pass that onto his men. That they would catch Frank if he was indeed the one behind the killings. He also told Rita that she was no longer a cop and need not concern herself with the investigation. That she should stay home and protect her family. Rita walked out of the station angry at the fact that this Smith had chosen not to take her very seriously. Rita knew that she was in danger and it was up to her to keep herself and Lucy safe. She also knew that self defense was not murder so she drove until she found a store selling guns. Being in the Midwest it was that not difficult for her to obtain a gun. She purchased a small handgun and assured the clerk that she did know how to use it. She went behind the store to try out a few rounds. It had been a long time since she had fired a gun and she was nervous. She pointed at the target and fired five consecutive rounds. They all hit the paper man square in the chest and she knew she still had it. The clerk looked at Rita with this amazed expression. She simply smiled and said "see I told you I knew how to fire a gun," as she walked away.

Rita went back home to develop a plan. She was sure that by now Frank knew she was here and that had been why he had not left after the first murder. In a small town like this she knew he normally would have ran out as fast as he came in. However, she believed he was waiting for her and she wanted to end that wait. She had read the papers and knew the bar in which this past victim had last been seen. There was no way Frank would go back there again, but there was a similar bar on the opposite side of town. There was a good chance that Frank would look for his next victim there. She decided she would be at the bar when he got there. She would be having a drink and talking to whomever was present. Simply mingling so Frank would believe it was only by chance that she was there at the same bar. She would pretend not to notice him and after awhile had passed she would say her good-byes and head for her car. She knew that Frank would sneak out behind and her follow her home. Once inside her house Frank would think she had retired for the night and he would make his move. But, Rita would be waiting for him and when he tried to hurt her she would shoot him. Rita went to her bedroom and picked out some clothes to wear. She put on a pair of jeans that nicely hugged her body and a sleeveless red shirt. She applied make up and red lipstick. She normally would not dress in tight clothes or wear a lot of make up. She wanted Frank to think of her in a sleazy way so he could justify his intended actions. Rita called Melissa and asked if Lucy could spend the night. She talked to her daughter reassuring her it would be fine and she would see her mother in the morning. Rita told Melissa she just needed a night alone. Rita then loaded her new gun with bullets and hid it under her pillow. She did not bring it with her, as she was sure Frank would wait to make his move. She got in her car and drove to the bar. She sat down and ordered a beer. She would just have one or two and sip at them as to be sure and not get drunk. It was no time at all before men gravitated her way and she began talking.

She talked and danced with a few of them. A couple of hours passed and then she noticed Frank enter the bar. Rita was sure to act oblivious and not let Frank know that she knew he was there. She was in the middle of a game of pool and continued playing until she was finished. The men offered her another game and she played again. After the second game she said she was tired and ready to head home. All of the men offered to give her a ride home. She told them her car was right outside and that she was capable of driving herself home. She flashed a smile at the men as she walked out the door. Out of the corner of his eye Frank had been watching Rita all night. "Just look at her flirting with all those men," he thought to himself. Frank easily convinced himself that Rita had become some little slut and that she was only waiting for a real man. Frank fancied himself a real man and in his mind he knew what Rita needed and wanted. He left some money on the bar and walked out to his car. He followed Rita home staying just far enough behind that she would not noticed. He parked on the street just down from her home. Frank looked around and noticed that the nearest house was still a ways down the road. He grinned thinking how no one would be able to hear her scream. Rita entered her house and locked the door. She knew that she needed to leave Frank a way in, but it had to look accidental. Leaving the front door opened would be too obvious and he would never believe that. Instead Rita left a kitchen window slightly open. It was something that could be easily missed and easy enough of an entrance for Frank. She went upstairs and into the bathroom. She took a shower and tried to make it look like she was going about her normal nightly routine. Out of the shower she threw on some silk pajamas and slipped into bed.

Frank watched as the light in Rita's bedroom went out and the house was dark. He sharpened his knife and waited about an hour and a half before getting out of his car. He hoped that by this time Rita had fallen asleep. Frank crept around the house looking for a possible way in. He found the window by the kitchen and managed to crawl in. With some duct tape and his knife in hand he slowly walked through the house and quietly up the stairs. He found Rita's bedroom and noticed it was slightly ajar. Buster came running out of the room toward Frank. He stabbed the dog once and Buster fell to the ground. Frank taped his legs together and his mouth shut. Buster lay on the floor helpless and alone. Frank stepped into Rita's room and saw her lying there peacefully. Frank felt the taste of anticipation on his lips. This time was going to be so good for him and he could hardly wait. He planned to tape her wrists around the bedposts and then tape her legs together. She could scream and squirm all she wanted but would be rather helpless. Frank walked over to the bed and pulled the sheets back exposing Rita. Rita lay perfectly still faking sleep as Frank took out his knife and ran it over her body. He wanted to cut her so bad, but first he had to tie her. Frank took Rita's left hand and she let him guide it to the bedpost and begin to tape it. As he worked on her left hand Rita carefully reached under the extra pillow with her right hand. A few seconds she had her gun pulled and aimed at the middle of Frank's forehead. "Hi Frank, did you miss me?" Rita said staring him down. "You bitch," Frank said as he aimed his knife at her throat. "Do you think you can cut me before I put this bullet in your brain?" she said goading him. At the same exact moment Frank pushed his knife forward and Rita pulled the trigger. The knife pierced her neck but barely cut her before Frank collapsed on top of her with blood seeping from his head. Rita pulled her left arm free and crawled out from under Frank. She checked his pulse and knew he was dead. She went to the bathroom and cleaned out her wound and wrapped it with a bandage. She called the police to tell them that she had been attacked and the victim was dead in her bedroom. Rita then thought of Buster and wondered why he had not surfaced during the commotion. She opened her bedroom door and saw her poor dog on the floor. She ran over and removed the tape from this mouth and legs. "Be still Buster," she told him. Rita took a towel from the bathroom and wrapped it tightly around Buster's chest where the knife had pierced him. The wound was not grave, but he was bleeding. Rita had learned some medical training over the years and began to stitch up and bandage her dog's wounds. Commander Smith had no idea what to say to Rita once he heard what had transpired that night. He was smart enough to know that Rita had set the whole plan in motion. She had been telling him the truth the entire time and he felt like a fool for not believing her. Although there was still no concrete evidence linking this dead man to the other murders Smith was sure he would find some. The commander arrived at the house to the site of Rita over Buster's body. After having killed a man she was helping her dog as if it was the most natural thing. Smith was quite amazed at this fact. Rita didn't say much else to Commander Smith besides her statement. She simply watched as they wheeled away Frank lifeless body and then she knew it was over. She knew that she had protected herself and Lucy and that nobody else had to die. Chris would be proud of me she thought as she stripped the sheets off of her bed and replaced them with clean ones. Normally she would not be able to change the crime scene so soon after, but this case was cut and dry and she was sure The commander would not be asking anymore questions.

As she fell asleep Rita felt strong and she was not afraid. She could take care of herself and she had proved this once again. That night Chris came to her again, but she could not have known it would be the last time. He kissed her gently and told her that she had done the right thing by taking action. He looked her in the eyes and told her that he had to go now. That just as Rita had needed him before that she didn't need him anymore. That she was ready to stand on her own and live her life. That Lucy needed her mother to really start experiencing life. Chris told her it was ok for her to go out and make friends and spend time with other people. That she should date and perhaps fall in love again. Rita could hardly think about loving anyone else, but she knew what Chris meant. Lucy would never have Chris physically there, but she needed a father figure in her life just the same. Rita kissed Chris one last time and bid him goodbye. He would always be in her heart and this she knew, but she could no longer put her and her daughter's life on hold. The next morning Rita awoke to the sun shining into her bedroom window. She rolled out of bed and walked to her closet. She found this cute sundress and slipped in on. She went to the bathroom and fixed her hair and washed her face. She drove over to Melissa's to get her daughter. Everyone was outside eating some breakfast at a picnic table and Melissa motioned for Rita to join them. Lucy ran over to her mother and Rita scooped her up giving her a big hug and a kiss. Rita carried her over to the table and sat down to eat. Rita chatted with Melissa as Lucy ran around the yard playing with Melissa's daughter. There was this sense of real and true peace that Rita felt. Even Melissa could sense that this was not the same woman she had met in the park the other day. Lucy stopped playing and looked at her mother for reassurance. Rita smiled a big smiled and waved at her daughter. Lucy smiled back and continued to play.