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A Guilty Verdict

Lelani Dixon

Chapter 1

"Not guilty," the verdict was spoken in a clear voice by the foreman of the jury. Deputy DA Alex Cahill-Walker surreptitiously clenched her fist and bit her tongue. This was a case she had poured a great deal of time and effort into. More than that, she had taken this case on as a cause and felt a personal affront at the verdict. How could the jury look into the cold dead eyes of Herman Tucker and not see the guilt and lack of remorse so plainly revealed? This sorry excuse for a human being had kidnapped, raped, tortured and ultimately killed Sally Jenkins. She knew it in the depths of her soul, but somehow she had not managed to convince the twelve men and women who sat in the jury box. Alex closed her eyes and realized that the worst moment was yet to come. She had to turn and face the man who had been seated right behind her every minute of this long tedious trial, Roland Jenkins, Sally's grieving widower. Taking a fortifying breath, she turned and faced the man. He looked at her with anger, frustration and something akin to hate. She couldn't blame him really. She had been the one whose job it was to see that justice was served and the monster who murdered his wife in a particularly cruel and vile way was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison if not death. "I'm sorry," she started, but Roland Jenkins held up his hand to silence her and with one last look of disgust, turned his back and left the courtroom.

That night, Alex drove into the long driveway of the ranch where she and her husband of several months, Ranger Cordell Walker, lived. She parked her Sebring convertible next to his Ram truck. They both worked long hard hours and often one or the other of them was late back home. When their schedules coincided, she rode back with him and left her car at work, but more often than not, she made the long drive home alone. Tonight he had gotten home before her and she was glad to see the light on welcoming her home. He had heard her drive in and met her at the door where he pulled her into his arms. Of course he had heard the news, he knew everyone she worked with, they worked in the same building after all. She stepped into his embrace and just melted against him and accepted the comfort he offered.

Finally, after several minutes, Alex stepped back and looked into her husbands' eyes. She saw concern, understanding and love. Certainly more reassuring than what she had seen in the eyes of the two key players in the trial she had just finished. Alex gave Walker the faintest of smiles, her gratitude and love expressed in her own startlingly blue eyes. "I just don't understand how I could have failed." She expressed all of her frustration in the first words either of them had spoken. "Alex honey, you know that it wasn't your fault. You did the best you could. You yourself admitted that the case was mostly built on circumstantial evidence. Hey, if a jury couldn't convict OJ Simpson..." Alex smiled a little broader, "well, I'm no Marcia Clark." "I Thank God and the Spirits every night for that honey," Walker teased. Alex suddenly became somber again. "If you could have seen the look in Roland Jenkin's eyes. He blames me and I can't help but accept some of that blame." Walker pulled her back into a tight embrace. "He is a man in great pain and he is bound to blame the most convenient person, which in this case, is you. He may as well rail at the judicial system. It isn't your fault that Herman Tucker's past criminal record was ruled prejudicial and that you weren't able to let the jurors in on the fact that he has a long history of battering women." Alex sighed, these were all arguments she had gone over with herself on the drive home, but it didn't alleviate her guilt and regret at how the trial had ended. One man went home without any justice and a sick psychopath was set free to hurt other innocent people.

Walker stepped back and took her hand, pulling her toward the informal dining room where he had the table set. He urged her into a chair and walked around the counter that separated the kitchen. He walked back in carrying two bowls of clam chowder and set one in front of her. He went back for the breadbasket that contained rolls and brought a carton of milk to fill her glass. Alex couldn't help the small smile that played on her lips. Her husband had obviously stopped at their favorite Deli that made wonderful clam chowder on Fridays. He placed a small dinner salad next to each of their soup bowls and sat down at his usual place at the end of the table. "Milk again..." she complained. "Doctor's orders, you need to get plenty of calcium so the baby will have nice strong bones." "The way you keep pushing the milk, this baby is going to be born ready to break concrete bricks with his skull." "Or her skull, not that I plan to encourage that. Wooden boards with a hand or foot maybe, but not the skull." "Don't you even start. This baby is going to ride horses and dance in the ballet, not kick box." "Why not? Kick boxing is a great sport." Alex gave him one of her looks and Walker responded with one of his 'What?' looks. Secretly he was glad he had managed to distract her.

Alex enjoyed the clam chowder and the rolls were warm with a hard crust on the outside and soft bread on the inside. She wasn't typically nauseous at night, but she found that if she ate greasy or spicy foods at night, her morning sickness was worse and lasted later in the day. After cleaning up the dishes, the Walkers went upstairs where Walker read in the comfortable chair in their room and Alex soaked in the tub. She eventually came out just as her skin was starting to prune up. She had blown her hair partially dry and was brushing it as she walked into the master bedroom. Walker looked up to see her. He set his book down, got up and came to take the brush from her hand. He seated her in the low-backed chair in front of her vanity table and continued brushing the slightly damp blond locks of hair. Alex watched him in the mirror as he continued intent on his task. Never in a million years would she have predicted that this would be one of her husbands' self-imposed nightly duties when she married the man. He had kept this side of himself hidden for the seven years it had taken them to establish and fortify the bond they shared and to finally seal it with their marriage. Walker laid the brush down on the table and started to give her a scalp massage. Alex arched her neck, closed her eyes, and sighed at the pure pleasure that rippled through her. He continued on, massaging her neck and shoulders, loosening the knots that had formed there. He picked the brush back up and smoothed her hair back out, until it lay soft and smooth down past her shoulders.

Walker stepped back over to the bed and pulled the covers down on her side, the one nearest the door. He came back and scooped her up into his arms and carried her over to the bed. She was really being pampered tonight. Next, he undid the buttons of her silky pajama top and slid it from her shoulders. As much as she wanted him, she didn't know that she had the energy to make love after the day she had had. Walker slipped her down into the bed and rolled her onto her stomach. The sheet and pillow felt cool against her bare skin. Walker went back to the vanity table and Alex heard him rub his hands together, realizing that he had placed massage oil on his hands and was warming it before smoothing it over her skin. He started at her shoulders and smoothed the oil down the length of her torso. He pulled her pajama bottoms down to hip level and tucked the edge of the sheet into them keeping them out of his way. Alex should have known that Walker would be sensitive to the exhausted state she was in. He made long sweeping motions, soothing the tension knots out of her back. He found the spots where she held her tension and he kneaded these until the muscles gave in to his insistent pressure. He shifted onto the bed, straddling her hips and continued to soothe every inch of aching back, neck, shoulders and arms. Alex knew that he was aroused, how could she fail to notice? But for the life of her, she couldn't do anything more than lay there and turn into an amorphous blob.

Finally, when Walker was satisfied that his ladylove would be able to sleep a sound and dreamless sleep, he shifted back off the bed. He put her top back on her, turned her over and buttoned it up. She couldn't muster the energy to help and allowed him to do everything for her. After a quick trip to the bathroom, he returned and switched off the reading light that he had left on, climbed into bed and pulled his Alex against him into their preferred sleeping position. As soon as she was snuggled into his arms, he felt her give in to the sleep that she so desperately needed. Walker made a decision to speak to the DA about restricting the type of cases that came across Alex's desk while she was pregnant. This high-profile case that included such a dark depraved side of life had taken too much out of her. She was still battling morning sickness and fatigue. He planned to spend the weekend helping her refresh her spirit. He would cocoon her in his love and remind her of how wonderful the life they were building together was.

Back in the city, a man sat in a darkened room and thought about ways to make Deputy DA Alexandra Cahill-Walker pay for what she had done to him...

 

Chapter 2

Walker read the note left on his desk in his wife's handwriting. Of course the lipstick imprint of her lips at the bottom of the note was another clue, if he needed one, as to who it was from. It said that she had wrapped up her paperwork early and was heading over to HOPE House and would see him at home. Walker wished he could finish up his paperwork early and meet her over there, but he and his partner, James Trivette, had finally collared the ringleader of the recent mini-mart robberies. They still had to interrogate him and file the reports that would give the DA's office the necessary tools to put the guy into Huntsville Prison for a long time. He was glad that Alex had gone to the HOPE Center. The people there would rejuvenate her. They had enjoyed a great-uninterrupted weekend together, but he knew that showing back up to work this morning had been a strain for her.

Alex liked her job; it challenged her in many ways. She enjoyed the different cases she was assigned to prosecute. She liked the mental challenge of always keeping up with changes in the legal system and using them to the advantage of the State's case against the perpetrators of crime. She had one of the best records in Texas. Still, there had been something missing and it had taken being shot at her friend Kim's wedding and lying in a hospital bed for her to realize what it was. She became a focal point for the victim, their family and friends during the course of a trial. As the prosecuting DA, they looked to her to find them the justice they sought. Then the trial verdict came in and regardless of what it was; she stepped out of their lives. These people remained victims; the pain of whatever they had been through did not go away. She wanted to do something more. She wanted to help the people whose lives had been forever changed by some criminal act. She wanted to help them put the pieces back together. She also wanted to be a part of the prevention of crime and thus the Help Our People Excel Center had evolved into what it was today. She took credit for establishing the center, but Josie, who ran it on a daily basis, gave it the character it had taken on. The people who came there had shaped it as they shared their needs. Large donations from corporate sponsors and private donations, like the one left to the center by her and Walker's dear friend C.D. Parker in his will, kept the center financially sound. Each year they had fund raisers to allow the community to contribute and to encourage a sense of ownership, but truthfully, the work done at the Center drew enough regular donations that it really was a secure non-profit organization.

The center provided grief counseling, support groups for victims and families, shelter to battered women, day care for children whose families qualified. They also provided educational classes in a variety of subjects such as childcare, budgeting and self-defense. There were tutors who volunteered to spend time with kids who needed extra help in school subjects. They also had started a literacy program for adults and taught classes in English as a second language. So much of what the center did was supported by volunteerism. Housewives came and spent two or three hours in the daycare. Retired couples provided much of the tutoring and stocked the food pantry that gave out emergency supplies to families in need.

Professionals provided some of the services. The counselors who came and gave of their time to facilitate the support groups. The author of children's stories who used the daycare children as a testing ground for new ideas. Alex herself gave legal advice and guided people to the right community resources for long-term assistance.

As Alex walked into the foyer of Hope House, she saw Sarah who came over with a huge smile. "Alex, guess what? Tommy ate cereal with fruit today." Alex returned the woman's smile. This was a person Alex had helped with a legal issue. Sarah and her husband Tom were both mentally retarded. When Sarah became pregnant despite the use of birth control, Sarah's sister had filed for legal custody of Sarah's baby. Her argument was that Sarah and Tom were not able to be fit parents and she used the argument that Sarah's pregnancy was testimony to the fact that she wasn't able to be responsible. Alex had put holes in that argument citing the statistics of couples who unexpectedly found themselves expecting despite using precautions. She had also promised the Judge that Hope House would provide Sarah and Tom with parenting classes and help to keep an eye on them, ensuring that baby Tommy was well cared for. Of course they also received support services from the state and a Social Worker checked in with them periodically to check on things, but it was the people of Hope House who provided the day to day support and advice the couple needed.

Alex looked at the pudgy smiling infant in Sarah's arms and knew that this was one family who deserved the chance to stay together. Sarah had come to Hope House every day during her pregnancy and volunteered in the nursery to get experience with babies. She knew that she didn't have good short-term memory, so a system had been developed for her to track her babies' feedings and diaper changes. Tommy was on a very regimented schedule that Sarah and Tom were able to follow and Sarah came to Hope House with any questions and concerns. Alex sighed and realized that this was why she had come here today, to reaffirm her faith in herself. She was a good person who did her best to help as many people as possible. The look she had seen in Roland Jenkins eyes had been unfair and based on one bad outcome of which she had little control.

Alex went home and prepared salmon steaks for dinner. She steamed vegetables to go with them and added a potato dish that Walker had liked in the past. She had called to get an ETA of his homecoming and smiled when she heard his truck pull in just as the steamer dinged that it was done. Walker strode in with his hat in his hand and smiled at the domestic scene. His pregnant wife in the kitchen preparing him dinner, he glanced at her feet and saw that as usual when she was relaxing at home, she had no shoes on. Walker decided to keep his observations to himself and settled for a smile and a hello kiss. "Hi gorgeous, how was your day?" Alex smiled back and gave him a quick squeeze around the middle. "It was good and you have five minutes to shower, change and get down here. I'm so hungry, I won't be able to wait longer than that." Walker rubbed the barely perceptible swelling that kept her from wearing her tighter jeans and skirts and said; "Junior's put in a request for dinner huh?" "Well after losing breakfast and lunch today, he or she is definitely entitled to be hungry." Walker gazed at her with concern; "you haven't kept anything down today?" "Well I did manage some Jalapena Poppers around 2:00 and some yogurt." Walker grimaced at the combination, "sounds appetizing." Alex stuck her tongue out at him and flounced back towards the kitchen.

Walker showered and changed in double time and came downstairs to see Alex pick up some crookneck squash with her fingers and eat it. He slid into his chair and they ate a companionable meal each sharing the day's events with the other. Later they moved to the living room where Alex lay on her side on the couch with decorating magazines and Walker sat on the floor his back against the couch. The evening was spent discussing plans for the nursery. They had decided which room to convert, but were still debating nursery themes. Walker had a feeling that the word compromise was going to be stretched to its limit by the time they settled on an idea. "Look Walker, there's a picture in this magazine of the circus theme I was telling you about." Walker looked at the picture and his eyes got round. He decided he was going to have to go for humor here if he was to get out of this one gracefully. "I don't think the pink and purple elephants will go with the maroon punching bag I had picked out." He earned himself a swat on the head with the magazine, "I said, 'no kick boxing.'" "Well, what about just boxing?" "Oh forget it. I guess I'll just have to drag you to the Baby Expo that's planned next month." This time, Walker's eyebrows shot up so high; the fringe of red hair on his forehead covered them completely. "Baby Expo? Sounds ominous." "Yeah, well I was going to spare you, but I can see we're going to have to go together since we have such disparate tastes." "Alex honey, since it's a given that you'll win any argument we have on the subject, why not go ahead and take Josie or Sydney?" "Nope. You're coming cowboy and this argument may as well end since you're going to lose it too." Walker knew when to concede defeat. Tough Texas Ranger that he was, his wife always won their arguments. Of course she had a pout that could rip a guys heart out and leave it feeling like a squashed useless piece of goo.

Walker felt Alex's fingers tickling the nape of his neck and they were soon replaced by her lips. When his wife said end of subject, she meant it. He turned to face her, their faces were level and he took advantage of the fact pressing a kiss to her lips. Her arm reached around him and she started rubbing her fingertips down the back of his shirt sending electric sensations all the way down his body. He deepened the kiss and her mouth opened to him in the most deliciously seductive way. Walker reached his hand up and feathered his fingers under the bottom of her shirt, touching her abdomen lightly until he reached the soft mound of her left breast. There he cupped her breast with the palm of his hand and began rubbing against the hardening tip of her nipple. Alex let out a moan of pleasure and Walker drew back slightly. "Do we finish this here or go upstairs to bed?" She pondered the question for a moment. She hated to move, but it was nice to just be able to relax after the release of a climax and fall into a deep sleep in Walker's arms. "Upstairs," she purred. Walker was up pulling her off the couch in record time.

Outside the ranch house, a man sliced the back tire of the Sebring convertible parked in front of the Ram.

 

Chapter 3

Ranger's Gage and Cook came into Ranger Company B Headquarters and flopped into their respective chairs. Walker looked up from the endless paperwork he was filling out. "You two look beat." "Dejected may be a better word for it," Sydney Cook clarified. "Yeah," agreed her partner, "it's been a great big waste of a day." Francis Gage propped his feet up on his desk and leaned back in his chair dipping his cowboy hat low on his forehead and placing his folded arms across his chest. Sydney looked at him and rolled her eyes thinking, 'he's seen one too many Westerns.' She switched her attention to Walker who was waiting for a more detailed report. He had 'unofficially' assigned the young Ranger's to watch Herman Tucker. They had sat outside his apartment in a less than pristine neighborhood all day while the man watched television and napped. She finished telling Walker that the only sign of life was when he walked down to the mini-mart for a six pack of beer and a carton of cigarettes. Walker listened intently and sighed, "I'm sorry your talents were wasted. I just have a feeling that this guy won't wait much longer before selecting his next victim. I'd rather we were there to stop him before he has a chance to do what he did to Sally Jenkins." Gage sat up, proving that his posture had been an act and that he was in fact paying attention. "I'm sure you're right Walker, it's just hard when the department won't allocate the man hours to watch the guy. Instead we're forced to give him less than adequate surveillance." "I know," Walker agreed, "we just do the best we can." "Well Hopkins and Morales said that they're good for a four-hour watch, after that, I guess I can go back and take another turn," Gage offered. "No," Walker declined the offer; "I'll go by and see what's happening at the end of my shift and make a decision from there." James Trivette walked in and greeted his friends and coworkers. "Are we mourning a lost pet?" he asked of the glum group. "No, we're just frustrated by the lack of action in the Tucker case," Sydney explained.

When Sydney and Gage watched Tucker go get his beer and cigarettes, they didn't notice the man in the dark blue sedan who sat parked several cars behind them. He too witnessed the only energetic thing Tucker had done all day. He also witnessed the changing of the guard when a car pulled in and parked in front of the Ranger's and they pulled out to leave. He waited patiently knowing that his moment would come. He had planned very carefully for this and he could afford to be patient. Two hours later, as dusk settled over the city of Dallas, an emergency call for all units in the vicinity came over the police band. Hopkins and Morales felt they had to respond. There was a jewelry store heist right around the corner and it was a hostage situation. As they pulled out from the curb, the man in the dark sedan sat and waited patiently to ensure no one came to replace them. He then slid out of his car and proceeded up the stairs to Herman Jenkins filthy second floor apartment. He knocked loudly, "police Jenkins, we have a warrant, open up." Jenkins came to the door in his T-shirt and sweat pants. He had a beer in one hand and a cigarette hanging from his lips. He opened the door with a scowl on his face and looked into the eyes of a man he thought he would never see again. "You," he spat, "what do you want?" The other man didn't say a word; he aimed the tranquilizer gun at Jenkins and shot the dart straight into his chest. He had calculated the fast acting sedative carefully. A groggy Jenkins stumbled toward him and he reached out putting an arm around him and guided him down the stairs to the waiting car. He had just managed to get him into a prone position on the back seat when Jenkins completely lost consciousness. The man slipped behind the wheel and drove away.

An hour later, Hopkins and Morales returned to their post outside of Jenkins apartment and saw the light of the television flickering in his apartment window. When Walker drove up, they filled him in on the days events. "So we aren't a hundred percent certain that he's in there?" Walker asked. "Well no, but there's no reason to believe he isn't." "With this guy, I don't want to take any chances," Walker said." He debated on his next course of action, when he saw an elderly woman walk out of the apartment building towards the mini-mart. Walker approached her, "excuse me ma'am." The woman whirled around and held a can of mace up towards his face. "Whoa," said Walker, "I'm a Texas Ranger, I don't want to harm you, I just want information." "Sorry Ranger, a lady can't be too careful. I don't usually leave my apartment at night, but I'm out of onions and you can't make chili without onions." Walker felt a brief flash of pain as he was reminded of his friend C.D. who had been a chili connoisseur. "I understand. I just wanted to know if you knew if Herman Jenkins had left his apartment this evening. He's on the second floor, apartment 2B." "Oh yes Ranger, I know the dirt bag. He walked, or should I say stumbled out here a couple hours ago." "He did," Walker was instantly on alert, "which way did he go?" "A man half carried the drunken slob out of here and helped him into his car and they drove off." "Can you give me a description of the man who drove the car or a description of the car?" "The man was dressed in a dark suit, much nicer than what you usually see around here, he drove a dark four door sedan. I can't tell you more, I'm sorry, but my eyesight's not so good these days, especially if the light's bad." "I understand, you've been a great help, thank you." Walker tipped his cowboy hat and walked back across the street to put an APB out on Herman Jenkins.

Alex drove into the driveway at the ranch and wasn't surprised to see that Walker wasn't home yet. He had been putting in extra hours on a case he was working on, but he hadn't shared the details with her. She went on in to change out of her business suit that she had worn to court. She was upstairs in the master bedroom when she heard the phone ring. "Hello," she answered. "How's the most beautiful District Attorney in Tarant County?" came the drawled reply. Alex smiled, "lonely and feeling particularly amorous tonight. These pregnancy hormones do have some effects besides the mood swings and morning sickness." "I'm glad there's good to go with the bad. I'm heading home and I should be there in half an hour." "Half an hour? Now that is a dilemma."  "Why's that?" "Well, I'm standing here with nothing on and I hate to get dressed for such a short time. On the other hand, it's rather cold, I have goose bumps all over." "All over?" "You heard right cowboy." Walker's breathing rate increased in her ear. "Tell you what, you go draw a nice warm bath and I'll be there to wash your back in no time. I may even turn the siren on and break all the speed limits." Alex chuckled in his ear and said, "You'll find me in the bath with nothing but soapsuds on." She set the phone down and walked into the master bathroom. While the tub filled, she lit candles and placed them around the bathroom. Then she pulled on a robe and padded downstairs where she put cheese, crackers and fruit on a plate. She grabbed a bottle of chilled sparkling cider and two glasses and placed the snack on the nightstand next to the bed. "For after," she said to herself. Then she climbed into the tub to await her husband.

Herman Jenkins awoke with a throbbing headache. His first thought was that he had really tied one on. Then he remembered what had happened and he felt his chest where the dart had struck him. He was a little sore and bruised, but he didn't think he was otherwise injured. He got up to explore his surroundings. He was locked in a warehouse that was subdivided into storage crates. The one he was in was about ten by twelve. There wasn't food, but there was drinking water, a chair, a cot with a blanket and a portable commode, the kind people used for camping. He checked for a way out and found none. The only light source was a Coleman lantern that sat on the floor. He banged on the walls and door for awhile, but knew that there was no one to hear him. For the first time in his life, he felt the beginnings of an emotion he had never bothered with before. He felt fear.

A dark four-door sedan sat parked off the road just before the turn-off to the Walker ranch. 'One down, one to go' the man thought as he ducked down and watched the Ram pickup turn into the ranch driveway in what appeared to be a great hurry. Had the Ranger been tipped that his wife was in danger? He watched as the man jumped from the trucks' cab and he bounded up the stairs into the house. No lights were on and none came on as the man entered. 'That's odd,' thought the man as he started the cars' engine and drove off. He was a patient man and time was on his side.

 

Chapter 4

The Walker's spent an uneventful weekend at the ranch. Well, there were 'events', but nothing they would share with anyone who asked how their weekend was. Alex had brought home some files to prepare for a case she had coming up on Tuesday and when she wasn't within earshot, Walker checked in to see if there was any news on Herman Tucker. It was rare for the Walker's to have two weekends in a row without commitments or interruptions from their close friends or work. Everyone in their lives knew by now of Alex's pregnancy and they were all trying to be as supportive as possible. The consensus was that the best way to do this was to give them time to themselves. Alex's father, Gordon Cahill called to check up on her. "I'm still fighting this morning sickness, I can't wait till this stage is over." "Yeah, I remember your mother had a real time with that as well." "Did she? Any tips to share on how to overcome it?" "Sorry honey, but as I remember, when she was carrying you, she stayed nauseous up until the latter months of the pregnancy." "Great dad, thanks for calling to cheer me up." Gordon chuckled on the other end of the line, "that's not to say that you will suffer the same fate. After all, you have the Cahill bloodline, we're known for our ironclad stomach linings." "I don't know Dad, I used to think so, but this pregnancy thing is pretty humbling." Alex could hear the smile in her father's voice, "you get through this and before you know it you'll be holding the most precious baby in the world in your arms, my grandchild. Now I had better go and get over to the country club. My tee time is in an hour." "Okay dad. Thanks for calling and thanks for your help with the case I told you about." "Anytime, Pumpkin. Talk to you soon. I love you." "I love you too."

Walker walked in to hear his wife ending her phone call. "And just who do you love?" He asked as he crossed over to her. "That was dad, you know he said my mother stayed sick right up to the last months of her pregnancy with me." "Leave it to Gordon to lift your spirits, I'll have to talk to that man." "Mmmm... I love it when you go all protective on me. Actually though, he was helpful on one front. I told him about the Jenkins case and he helped me to finally put the last of my demons to rest." Walker reached out and stroked the hair back from her face. "I'm glad honey. It's something that needed to be put to rest. You have new mountains to climb." "And new commodes to be sick in... Excuse me." Alex rushed out of the living room to the downstairs bathroom. She reemerged a few minutes later looking wan and tired. Walker just shook his head at her in sympathy. "Come lay on the couch and when you feel up to eating something, just tell me what you want and I'll get it for you. Even if it is something that no sane person could possibly come up with." He tucked the blanket around her and kissed her forehead, smoothing her hair back as she settled in for a nap.

Herman wasn't sure how long he had been locked in this crate. He figured three maybe four days. He had drunk about half of the water supply and he rationed his use of the lantern, there wasn't much to see anyway. The only way out was chained and padlocked on the outside. He had surveyed every inch of his prison and hadn't found any weaknesses he could exploit. He tried to figure out the mindset of the man who had imprisoned him. Herman wasn't good at figuring out what other people felt or thought. He had never cared for anyone's feelings but his own. The fact that there was drinking water made him think that the man wanted him alive, at least for a week. He could live without food for that long, not happily, but he could live. Damn he was hungry. If he ever got his hands on the slimy bastard that had done this to him... Herman's rational thought once again left him as he was eaten up with anger and hate. These were emotions he was familiar with and they felt good.

Sydney looked over at Gage. He was driving them back to Ranger Headquarters Tuesday afternoon. The two of them had followed up on a lead of a missing woman that turned out to be an errant wife enjoying a secret affair with her husbands' golfing partner. She hadn't expected her husband to return home early from a business trip and report her missing when he was unable to locate her through any of her friends or family. The couple would undoubtedly end up in Divorce Court, but at least the wife was alive and well and not a captive of Herman Tucker. "I don't get it," Gage stated. "Do you think maybe he skipped town?" Sydney asked. "No. Why would he? He won the case, he was a free man and his profile shows that he believes he is infallible. He wouldn't run scared." "No, you're right," Sydney agreed, "but he also has no known associates so who was the man who helped him out to the car?" "You know what bother's me about this is why would someone help a guy out of his home when he was drunk?" "Yeah, you're right, a friend might help a buddy get home if he was falling down drunk, but to leave home?" Gage looked over at his partner and they both shared a 'we're on to something here' look. "I think we should go check out Tucker's apartment," Gage stated. "Great minds think alike," Sydney agreed. Gage made a left at the next light and headed in that direction.

Trivette sat at his desk using his computer to gather as much information on Tucker and anyone he had associated with in the past. It wasn't a long list. His mother was a prostitute and drug addict. His father was unknown. His mother had brought up Herman until she overdosed when he was seventeen. No juvenile facility could hold him and the state gave up trying when he turned eighteen. Tucker had done some time when a woman he picked up in a bar and brutally assaulted pressed charges, but his cellmate was still in prison. The women in his life had been acquaintances. Convenient people he had crossed paths with. He had never had a relationship with any of them. Some had filed charges when he had put them in the hospital, but mostly they were life's throwaways who did not want to draw attention to themselves. They usually dropped the charges or dropped out of sight as soon as they had healed sufficiently. Herman worked when he had to, but never held a job beyond making enough to pay the rent and his bar tab. Trivette turned his attention to unsolved missing person's cases. He narrowed the search by eliminating women who had disappeared in places Tucker wasn't living at the time. Again, following Tucker's M.O., Trivette believed that Tucker wouldn't go out of his way to seek out these women. Convenience was key to all of his encounters with women. He thought of Sally Jenkins, a woman who delivered Meals on Wheels to the elderly and infirmed. She had been delivering meals to a couple who lived in an apartment next to a bar Tucker was known to frequent when she disappeared. It was a crucial piece of evidence, but only if you could establish that Tucker's history was to attack the easiest prey. Something Alex hadn't been allowed to do in court, but certainly something he could use. But how? Where did it all fit? Trivette continued on with his search.

The man sat in his sedan watching as Alex Cahill-Walker pulled her car out from the courthouse parking lot and eased into traffic heading towards home. He started his car and followed at a discreet distance.

It was Tuesday evening and she was determined to get home and go spend some time out in the pasture lunging her horse, Angel, before working on her summation for court tomorrow. She had spent most of her day in the courtroom, but this case had gone much smoother than her last. She had presented her case and her facts were rock solid. The defense was making a good show of it, but she was confident she would rap up the case with a guilty verdict by the end of the day tomorrow. She parked her car in the driveway and went on in to change into jeans and a soft long sleeved shirt. As she tugged her jeans over her hips, she tried to fasten them and found that she couldn't. Damn! These were the loosest jeans she owned. A smile played on her lips and she pulled out a pair of Walker's jeans. They were much too big, they hung loose on her hips and she had to wear a belt to keep them up, but they would have to do until she could get to the mall. Maybe she could go tomorrow if this case ended early. She wasn't ready for maternity clothes yet, but jeans in a bigger size and a couple of loose fitting dresses for court were beginning to be a necessity. She thought she would look for something with a high waist that hung straight down and maybe a little bolero jacket that would look okay in court.

Alex walked to the pasture with the lunge line and halter in her left hand. She carried the hoof pick and curry in the other and had a couple of carrots stuffed in her back pocket. Angel whinnied when she saw her coming. Alex felt a little guilty about not being able to ride her, but she had promised Walker. She could only ride when he was there and then she wasn't allowed to do more than walk. She didn't hear the person behind her until a hood was thrust over her head. She tried to scream and fight, but her captor soon had her hands bound behind her back and he clamped a hand over her mouth and dragged her to where he had his car parked around the bend from the house. He forced her into the trunk and closed the lid. Alex felt the car begin to move and tried to get the hood off of her head and free her hands. The man driving the car thought to himself, 'now you'll pay for what you did, now you'll pay.'

 

Chapter 5

Gage and Sydney strode into Ranger Company B Headquarters with a definite purpose to their step. Walker had just got in from pumping his snitches for information on Tucker and Trivette was looking frazzled sitting in front of his computer glaring at the screen. Both men wore dejected expressions, but the young Rangers were about to change that. "Hey Walker, Trivette, we may have something helpful," Gage announced as they approached the older partners. "What is it?" Walker asked hopefully. "Well," Sydney explained, "we got to talking and we decided that it was odd that a man would help Tucker out of his apartment when he was falling down drunk." "So," Gage took up the story, "we decided to go check out Tucker's apartment." "Who would sign off on a search warrant like that?" Trivette asked. Sydney decided to brazen it out, "no one I know. So we went to his apartment and guess what we found? Of the six-pack Gage and I saw Tucker buy, only one beer was missing. We checked the house and there were no signs of any hard alcohol." "Yeah," Gage chimed in, "so we went to the bar around the corner where we know he hangs out and the barkeeper there said that he is only a beer drinker. He never orders anything else." "He could have been drinking beer all day long before he went to buy that last six-pack," Trivette volunteered. "Yeah, but he didn't look drunk when he walked to the store, we watched him go there and back. We even checked with the store owner who had waited on him and he agreed that he was sober when he made his purchases that day," Sydney concluded. "Okay," Walker said, "so we know he wasn't drunk before he drank a beer from the six-pack he bought, we can assume that he had drunk all the beer in the house before he went to buy it, otherwise he wouldn't have bothered to go out." "Wait," Trivette interrupted, "you said he also bought a carton of cigarettes, maybe he was out of those and bought the extra beer while he was there." "Nope," Gage answered, "we checked. He still had a pack and a half of cigarettes on his coffee table and he hadn't opened the carton he bought." "So the cigarettes were the convenient purchase, not the beer," Sydney finished. "Well we know Tucker didn't get falling down drunk from one beer," Walker said. "So who is our mystery man and how did he get Tucker in a state that required him to lean on him to get to his car." "Guys is this getting weird or what?" Sydney asked, "We're making it sound as if Tucker was the victim of a kidnapping." Sydney jumped as Walker smacked his desk. "That's it, Sydney. I'd kiss you if I wasn't afraid of my wife." The friends shared a brief moment of laughter and then sat down to continue with this train of thought to discover where it led.

Alex practiced breathing deeply and slowly as the car drove around with her in the trunk. She was trying to control both her fear and her nausea. She continued to try to loosen the rope tying her hands together, but she had already rubbed raw spots on both wrists. The car slowed and started taking frequent turns. It came to a stop about forty-five minutes into her ordeal and she wasn't sure if she should be glad or not. The trunk opened and she was forcibly removed. "Who are you and what do you want?" Alex questioned her captor. He did not respond and escorted her in silence into a building. Alex's head was still covered by the hood that had been placed over it. She thought it might be a cloth laundry bag. Her captor had pulled the drawstring and tied it before putting her in the trunk. Her efforts to remove it had been about as successful as her efforts to remove the rope binding her wrists. The man who guided her into the building stopped and Alex listened intently as he unlocked a padlock. "What the...." she heard a male voice say. There was the sound of a shot and a thud. It wasn't a gunshot though, she wasn't sure what she heard, but it sounded more like a dart gun. Her hands were untied and she was shoved inside. "Now there will be justice," she heard her captor say. The voice seemed familiar, but she couldn't place it. She heard the sound of a metal door being closed and padlocked.

Alex reached up and untied the drawstring that kept the hood in place. She pulled it over her head, but was met with total darkness. She felt her way around the room. She bumped into a chair and then nearly fell over a body lying on the floor. She shrieked and then regained her composure. She felt for a pulse and it was there, strong and steady. The man seemed to be unconscious. So she had a fellow prisoner, but who was he? She reached back for the chair to help herself up and felt a Coleman lantern sitting on the seat. Thank god for all the camping trips with Walker, she knew she could light this in the pitch darkness. Once she had the lantern lit, she held it up and gasped as she identified the man lying unconscious at her feet. Herman Tucker! She held the lantern up and looked around frantically, a bottle of water, a commode like the ones used for camping, a cot with a blanket, a chair, the lantern she held and Herman Tucker. Nothing in the tableau before her brought her any comfort. Alex looked at Tucker more closely; he had a dart protruding from his chest. She pulled it out and looked at it. So this is what she had heard. Her captor had tranquilized Tucker with a dart. Presumably, he wanted to be sure that Tucker didn't rush him and escape while he put her in the storage crate. This was her only advantage and she needed to put it to good use before Tucker woke up. She didn't think she'd live long locked in here with this psychopath. She had seen the photos of what remained of Sally Jenkins.

Alex quickly scanned the room and decided that the only thing to secure Tucker to was the cot. She picked the blanket up off of it and grabbed both of his arms dragging him up onto the cot one body part at a time. Once his chest was up on the cot, she managed to push the rest of his body up. She stretched him out on the bed and then rested a moment. He reeked of unwashed body odor and she wondered how long he had been in here. Once she caught her breath, she reached down to the belt around her waist. It was a braided rope belt and she was glad that she had worn it instead of a leather one. Actually, she rarely wore belts and the impulse to wear Walker's jeans just might turn out to be the means to save her life. She tied Tucker's arms together and to the frame of the cot. Then she took the hood and tied it over his head similarly to the way she had been taken captive. A part of her felt remorse, but it was a matter of survival and she knew very well what this man was capable of.

Alex stood and surveyed her handiwork. She felt fairly confident that he was securely fastened, at least it would buy her some time. Time for Walker to somehow figure out where she was and rescue her. Alex walked over to the water bottle and drank some down. With her chronic nausea, dehydration was always a concern. She then used the portable commode while she had some modicum of privacy. Afterward, she ate one of the two carrots she had in her back pocket and did a thorough search of her prison walls. As she expected, there was no way out. If there had been, surely Herman Tucker would have found it. Alex took the blanket and folded it into a mat. She then sat on it and leaned her head back against the metal wall. Walker would miss her soon and then he would come looking for her. All she could do was wait and try to figure out who did this and why. "Now there will be justice." Whose voice was that and what did he mean?

Walker looked at his watch and realized that it was past 8:00 p.m. He was surprised that Alex hadn't phoned to find out what was keeping him. She must have fallen asleep. She was tired a lot these days and who could blame her? He got up from the table where his three fellow Rangers and closest friends worked deconstructing the list of people who had a grudge against Tucker. The list they had built was certainly longer than the list of Tucker's associates. Walker went to his desk and dialed his home number. Alex didn't pick up the phone. He dialed her cell phone and again got no answer. "Guys, I'm going to need to run home for a bit. I'll be back," Walker stated to the group. "Why don't you just go home and stay there," Trivette offered. "We'll stay on this for a while longer and then call it a night. We're getting too tired to think straight and we may miss something vital." Walker rubbed the back of his neck. "You're right. Finish what you've already got started and then wrap it up. We'll come at it again tomorrow."

Walker drove into the driveway and saw Alex's Sebring. She must have been in the tub or fallen into a deep sleep. The house was in darkness. He looked up when Alex's horse Angel walked out of the shadows of the house and approached him. She nuzzled him and he asked, "what are you doing out girl?" He grabbed a hunk of her mane and led her back to the pasture. When he got there, he noticed the corral gate was open. Then he saw the halter and lunge line on the ground as well as the curry. Walker's Cherokee instincts went into overdrive and he scanned the area. He found the hoof pick lying next to the curry. Sure signs that Alex had been here. What would make her drop everything and leave the gate open? If Alex had felt ill, surely she wouldn't have tried to make it back into the house? Walker went into the house and turned on lights calling Alex's name. He searched every inch of the house, but his heart knew that she wasn't there. He put a call into Ranger Headquarters and asked for Trivette. "Trivette here." "Trivette, Alex is missing." "What?!" Came the shocked response of his partner and best friend. "She was here Trivette, but she's gone and suddenly. There were some things dropped down by the corral and the gate was left open. She came in and changed, that's all I know." "I'll send a team out to collect as much evidence as we can. Who could have done this?" "I've been thinking Trivette. You know with Tucker and Alex both missing, the list of people they have in common is pretty short." "Roland Jenkins?" "I know it sounds crazy, but Alex was very upset the night she got home after the verdict was announced. One of the things she was most upset about was the way Roland Jenkins blamed her for Tucker being set free." "Okay, partner. I'll dig up everything I can on Jenkins and I'll send Gage and Sydney over to his house to try and find him." "All right. As soon as the crime scene team gets here, I'll come back in and help you." "Walker, we'll find her. Hang in there." Walker nodded at the phone, but didn't say anything. He hung up and began his own evidence gathering.

It was early the next morning, but Alex only knew that because her watch told her so. She ate the second carrot and drank more water. Tucker was awake and he had used every invective she had ever heard and a few new ones. He knew he wasn't alone, but he didn't know who was there and she wasn't going to let him in on the secret. If he knew a woman was sharing this cell, he would become even less lucid and he would have one goal, causing her as much pain and humiliation as possible before killing her. Alex had come to the conclusion during the night that Roland Jenkins was the mastermind behind this. What a perfect way to make the people he blamed for ruining his life pay for their crimes. First, Herman Jenkins would torture, rape and kill her causing her to suffer the same as his wife had done. Then, Tucker would die from dehydration as the water supply ran out and he had no way of getting more or escaping. It was ingenious really, in a sick pathological sort of way. Whatever had snapped in Roland's mind was far beyond repair.

Walker hadn't slept at all the night before. He had found tire tracks off the shoulder of the road and footprints in the soft dirt that did not belong to either Alex or himself. The crime scene team had come up with little else, but they were running the model of tires from the tread. They knew that the man wore a size eleven shoe, wore dress shoes and weighed 175 to 185 pounds. Gage and Sydney had not found Roland Jenkins at home, but they had put out an APB on his car a dark blue four-door sedan. Trivette had dug up more information on Roland Jenkins. He had married his wife young and her father had disowned her for marrying him. He had provided her with a comfortable lifestyle with his job as a manager at a feed processing company. Sally had wanted children, but Roland was unable to father children and they had remained childless. Four years ago they attempted to adopt a child, but Roland lost his job due to layoffs. Sally had gone to work at a department store until Roland got work as a sales manager at a farm equipment retail store. Roland had insisted that Sally quit work, but without children, she found life at home unfulfilling. She began volunteering, delivering meals to people who were unable to leave their homes due to declining health. She reportedly loved her volunteer work and all of the people she delivered meals to loved her. Then Sally had gone missing and the horrifying discovery of her mutilated body had been another strike against Roland's self-esteem. Roland's final failure in his eyes had been when the evil that was Herman Tucker was set free. He hadn't even been able to give Sally the justice she deserved.

Walker read the bio that Trivette had put together on Roland Jenkins and it all culminated into a picture of a man who had decided he was a failure and who had been pushed beyond the limits of his sanity. Trivette had also researched any business transactions Jenkins had trying to find where he could have taken Alex and Tucker.

Another day past before the Rangers found the information they were looking for. The company Jenkins worked for had an old warehouse that had been used to store inventory. There had been a fire and the building had been abandoned. Walker drove there with Trivette like the hounds of hell were chasing him. Trivette looked over at his partner and decided the man shouldn't be driving. He hadn't slept in close to three days. Trivette wasn't about to bring the subject up though. He was too busy hanging on for dear life. Trivette offered up a prayer that they would find Alex unharmed. If Jenkins or Tucker had harmed her, well Trivette didn't know if Walker could live without Alex. She was his world and the baby they were expecting was the future. Trivette knew that it could all be ended and a lump formed in his throat at the thought.

Alex knew that her time was up. She had drunk as much of the water as she could just before Tucker finally managed to break free of his bonds. He ripped the hood off of his head, but the lantern had long since run out of fuel, so it was just as dark. Tucker roared with anger and lunged around the cell until he found the water bottle and drank down the rest of it. He then turned on her, still not knowing who she was. Alex sincerely doubted that Tucker was possessed of conscious thought. His vocalizations were those of a trapped wild animal. He would kill her as soon as he got hold of her. She didn't think he was even capable of sadistic torture anymore. Whatever part of his brain that had been human was now completely gone. Alex eased around the cell until she felt the chair. She picked it up and swung it in front of her as she heard him lunging toward her. The leg cracked against the side of his head and he roared in pain and lunged again. He wrestled the chair from her gripped and then pounced on her. His hands closed around her neck and as she sank into oblivion, she thought, 'I love you Walker.' Suddenly there was light in the cell as the door was forced open. Two shots rang out as the DPD officer aimed at the man who turned and rushed him. The look in the madman's eyes was so murderous, that the police officer instinctively pulled the trigger. Tucker slumped to the ground, dead before he hit it.

Walker rushed in past the body and reached for his wife. He felt for a pulse and found a weak one, but she wasn't breathing. Walker gave her two breaths and she began breathing on her own again. "Get us some oxygen here," Trivette shouted to the paramedics who stood by waiting for the all clear. Alex was loaded onto a gurney and rushed to the helicopter that was landing in the nearly empty parking lot outside of the warehouse. Walker clasped her hand and held it all the way into the helicopter. He sat next to her talking to her and reassuring her throughout the fifteen-minute flight to the hospital rooftop.

Two hours later, Gage and Sydney joined Trivette in the waiting room at St. Matthew's Hospital. "How is she?" they both asked in unison. "She's dehydrated, anemic, weak from hunger and she has a bruised larynx, but the prognosis is for a full recovery and there should be no lasting effects to the baby. "Thank God, " Sydney breathed. "Amen," Gage added. Walker came out of the hospital room where Alex was and joined them. "She's asleep, she is utterly exhausted. Apparently she was afraid to fall asleep because she knew that Jenkins would eventually get loose from the makeshift bindings." "Poor Alex, she's been through so much," Gage said. "I don't know if this will make it worse, but we found Jenkins. He locked himself in a garage with his car running. He's dead." Walker nodded in acknowledgement of the news and then looked at the three younger Rangers. "Will you all please finish up the urgent paperwork and then go home and sleep for at least two days?" Walker asked in a tone that brooked no argument. "Yeah," his partner agreed for all of them. "I'll drop your gym bag by on my way home so you can shower and change while you wait for Alex to be released." "Thanks, Trivette. Actually, Alex and I owe you all a debt of gratitude." Walker surveyed the friends standing in the waiting room and knew that he was indeed blessed to have such good caring people in his life. Sydney hugged him, Gage slapped him on the back and Trivette gave him one of his silly Trivette grins. "Tell Alex we love her and we'll visit when she's up to it," Sydney said. "You got it, now get out of here all of you."

The next day, Alex lay in bed propped up against pillows in the master bedroom at the ranch. She was talking to her father on the phone, reassuring him again that she was fine and that Walker was making sure she followed the doctor's orders. Walker entered with a tray of food just as she replaced the receiver. "Walker, I could have come down for lunch," Alex croaked in her still hoarse voice. "No way lady. You stay in bed for the rest of the day and then maybe we'll see about you venturing out of bed tomorrow." "Well if you keep this up I'm going to have to borrow your jeans again to go shopping in. The way you keep feeding me, I won't be able to fit into even my baggiest outfits to go shopping for maternity clothes." Walker grinned trying to think of just one outfit Alex had that could be classified as 'baggy'. Alex had always been so slender; it was going to be fun watching her body change to accommodate the child growing under her heart. His child. "Oh God, I can see the male ego rearing it's ugly head. Why do men enjoy the fact that their wives look as if they've swallowed a watermelon when they're pregnant?" "I don't know about other men, but I enjoy showing you off regardless of your waistline." Alex tried to pout, but her heart just wasn't into it so she ate the Caesar salad her husband had brought her instead. "You want to take a nap now?" her husband asked solicitously. "Yeah," she agreed sliding down lower under the covers, "but not alone." She reached her arms up and Walker set the tray down on the floor and climbed straight into them. He kissed her softly until she took the initiative and deepened the kiss. "Are you sure you're up to this?" Walker questioned as he pulled back to look into her eyes. "Oh yes," she breathed. Walker smiled into her eyes; "I love you, Alex Cahill-Walker." "Prove it Cowboy," Alex challenged. Walker wasn't sure if this was what the doctor meant when he said to make sure she got plenty of bed rest, but he wasn't about to stop and ask.  The kissing commenced.

The End

All the Usual Legal Disclaimers.