Day of Regret
By Katheryn Sandoval (FanFiction.net’s hearthandhomeauthor)

 


Part 1


This sixth installment begins shortly before the episode "On The Border" and recalls old enemy Jake Lyons in a new storyline that features the same cast of Walker favorites plus OCs Katheryn and Molly with the exception that the Rangers and Miss Cahill will soon be occupied with the events that took them away from Dallas in said episode. New recurring characters Donna Hutchinson and her daughter Bree Anna make their first appearance. Both appeared in one episode of WTR, the wedding, Donna as one of Alex's bridesmaids and Bree Anna as the beautiful young lady who sang their wedding song "Written in the Stars." Lastly, we see a peek into series regular Sydney Cooke's life before the Texas Rangers as she makes her first appearance as an officer with the Dallas Police Department.

A bit of a wind gust was all that could be heard in the pin-drop silence of the Malloy's darkened living room set to the background din of the third John Wayne movie in that night's marathon lineup. Empty VHS tape sleeves and two empty pizza boxes graced the coffee table that continued to reflect the light of the Duke who battled some sort of pestilence of the prairie it seemed at that moment. But he wasn't entertaining much of a crowd anymore as the youngest had already been carried off to bed by Katie, leaving Tommy strewn out across the recliner on the brink of snoring while Trent followed close behind in another chair. Molly had since decided to return to Katheryn and her shared apartment, leaving a quite drowsy Katheryn on the Malloy's sofa next to Carlos who also fought the oncoming onslaught of sleepiness that ensued. Katheryn had at one point notice him drift slowly into oblivion during John Wayne's pursuit of Maureen O'Hara in McLintock's final scenes and had not dared interrupt the rather amusing moment taking place next to her. Slightly disappointed that he began to recover from the intense dose of drowsiness that plagued him for a few seconds, she hid a smirk, easing ever so closer to him and leaning her own tired head on his shoulder.

It was almost thirty minutes later as the credits rolled that Carlos finally pulled himself out of his stupor with a yawn. "Is it over?" He rubbed at his eyes.

Katheryn eased away from his shoulder as he stretched. She stifled an oncoming chuckle and yawned instead. "Yup. It's over. And you missed the good part." She slapped at his mid-section causing him to double-over in a fake display of pain. "Oh, stop it." Katheryn chuckled softly.

Carlos glanced at Trent and Tommy wish a grin, easing his forefinger to his lips as he quietly shushed Katheryn playfully. "Out like a light," he whispered.

Katheryn admired the scene too, comically thinking in the back of her mind that snores would begin to ensue at any moment. She turned to Carlos. "Should we wake them?"

Carlos shook his head. "No." He nodded towards the exit into the foyer. "C'mon. I'll walk you to your car."

Katheryn stifled yet another oncoming yawn as she rose to walk alongside Carlos. They quietly tiptoed out of the room, hoping not to wake the sleeping beauties. "I'm almost tempted to stay the night here. I'm so tired." She sighed, lifting her eyes to the ceiling and back down at Carlos who reached for Katheryn's jacket on the peg and lifted it so she could ease her arms into it. "Thanks." Katheryn flashed a smile as she slowly turned around to face her helper who was already smiling her way. After a brief moment of silence, Katheryn reached with a kiss on his cheek before turning away, not willing to admit the flood of emotions that overcame her every time they were alone together. She took up her handbag by the door…still smiling only to herself…as Carlos pulled himself out of the moment and opened the door for her.

The two walked together the short distance from the Malloy's side door to Katheryn's Stingray which was situated to the far side of the driveway opposite of Tommy's basketball goal before they stopped, turning to face one another as they reached the shiny red convertible. Katheryn's eyes danced about the vehicle's door as she ran a finger alongside the edge. The only other sound was the birds' soft night calls in the faraway distance.

"Will I see you tomorrow in church?"

"You know it." Katheryn smiled as her jovial gaze met with his.

"Oh!" A thought suddenly occurred to Carlos as he lifted a finger in gesture. "I almost forgot to tell you. Trent said to tell you that you and Molly are invited to come to the dojo tomorrow afternoon. He thought we all could get in some group practice together without one of his classes going on. It would be only Trent, myself, you, and Molly. Tommy may be coming also." He smiled the only way he could, finishing his thought.

Even as Carlos was putting forth the invitation, Katheryn couldn't help but smile, hoping he would finish talking so that she could accept. "I'd love to come." She returned Sandoval's smile with a cordial, broad one of her own.

"Great!" Carlos clapped his hands together once, the sound of which echoed ever so thinly into the night air. "See you tomorrow morning then?" He grinned as he took a step back, turning towards the house with a shift of one foot.

Katheryn nodded twice…firmly…aiming a meaningful smile his way as she turned to get into her car. She almost impulsively added another requiem to her goodbye…But she stifled the urge and shut the Stingray's door, enclosing her inside. She fired up the engine with one swift turn of the key and flashed on the headlights, moving to put the top down on her convertible. It was a bit cold this evening…or was it really the weather that gave her the chill?

She shook away the notion and waved one last time at Carlos before the top was secured over her as she put the car in reverse, slowly easing down the driveway while glancing briefly behind to ensure that the traffic was clear. Confirming the notion, she eased into the street, put the car into drive, and sped forward into the wake of the night's bright moon…still envisioning Carlos' last words as the wheels rolled fiercely upon the pavement before her bringing her closer and closer to home.

Katheryn glanced once at her watch before easing out of her car onto the asphalt that lined the entrance to her apartment complex. She barely remembered what it had said. Eleven o'clock? Midnight? It didn't matter. It was late…very late. She could tell by how tired she felt no matter what her watch said.

Reaching for her handbag, Katheryn swiftly found her footing on the ground nearly twisting her ankle as her foot reached some uneven pavement. She shut the door to her Stingray and ensured it was locked before continuing onward. After finding her way to the lift, she eased within it, closing the heavy door to it before softly resting her head on one side of the lift as she let her body's weight rest against it. She closed her eyes…feigning the rest she longed for as she crossed her arms, her handbag dangling from the middle of her arm as the lift raised her to the third floor she and Molly shared.

The thud of the lift drew her out of her stupor, landing in a bit of a jerk that she had to admit she wasn't one hundred percent accustomed to yet…surprisingly enough. Gaining her footing yet again, she eased to the exit, lifting the door from the floor to the ceiling with her confident might, stepping out and into the hall without a thought almost before the door was completely up as she had been doing constantly for the past few months since she and Molly had moved here.

Katheryn reached the door of the apartment slowly, almost dragging her feet as she craved a good night's rest. She had not worked in a catnap like Carlos had finagled in. Everything within her longed to simply collapse onto her bed and sleep for days. No, not days. She had a full day tomorrow. It would be the first time she sang with the choir of the First Christian Church of Dallas. It had taken some convincing on the part of Pastor Roscoe, Trent, and Mrs. Malloy to get her to do so. It's not that she was nervous. She had sang a solo just this past Christmas. It was more about her lacking the confidence to sing with harmony. She had never sang with others before. Well, besides that one time she sang backup on one song with a lady at a previous church when she was a teenager. But this was even more surreal to be leading a congregation in joyous worship in one accord with a body of melodious voices. It was a big deal to her…probably more so than others would quite understand. That is, except her closest friends.

Katheryn was processing this all for the hundredth time when Molly met her at the door, the hinges squeaking ever so gently as Katheryn extended her had towards the knob only to bring her arm back to her side swiftly at Molly's arrival. She forced a grin. "My Lord, Molly. You scared me."

Molly feigned a sad face. "I'm sorry, Kath. I just had a feeling you'd be tired and thought I'd meet you at the door."

"And for that I'm grateful." Katheryn nearly limped into the apartment, relinquishing her belongings to her willful best friend as she maneuvered her way to the living room area and let her weight collapse onto the sofa. She let out a blubbering sigh whilst forcing her eyes open. Yet it was nearly to no avail.

"Tired huh?" Molly chuckled, setting Katheryn's handbag on the kitchen counter and moving to her friend's side.

"More than you'll know."

Molly smiled. "I decided to drink a cup of coffee when I came back earlier. Big mistake!" The twosome shared a laugh. "Now I'll chatter for half an hour before I can even calm down."

Katheryn lifted a hand to her forehead and rubbed at the slight ache that surfaced there. "I hate to disappoint you, but I don't think I'm going to be much of company right now." She smiled, her eyes closing into the slumber she fought off with all her might.

Molly nearly rose to leave, sensing her friend was nearing a deep sleep and would be better left alone when Katheryn's voice stopped her. "Oh! I almost forgot. Carlos told me that Trent invited us both to join him and Carlos at the dojo tomorrow afternoon to get some karate in. I told him we'd love to." She closed her eyes back, situating her head comfortably on the arm of the sofa as she felt deep sleep coming on. She was not far from full surrender.

Molly took note of this, slowly backing away as not to wake her and gave her full reign over the sofa for the night. Molly had the feeling that Katheryn had made the sofa her bed for the night. Whether intentional or not, it was how it was going to be.

Hastening her quiet, sock-cushioned steps, Molly hurried to her bedroom and retrieved a pastel-colored afghan from her meager supply of heirlooms and returned shortly, laying it gently on the sleeping beauty and rising back to her full height, observing the little scene with a sly grin. She then made her way around the little apartment and switched off all the unnecessary lights, leaving the small corner bookshelf lamp on in case Kath were to wake up in the middle of the night. Molly knew her friend well enough to how she hated to be left in the dark. She wasn't afraid of the dark by a long shot. She was simply apt to having light rather than not being able to see her hand in front of her face.

Molly slowly tiptoed out of the room, pausing once to peek over at her roommate before continuing on into her own bedroom. She silently questioned why. For she wouldn't be getting much sleep for a while after having drank so much coffee. Molly resolved to find something resourceful to keep her occupied, knowing well that her friend needed all the rest she could for the day to come.

##

A small streak of sunlight poured in from the living room window of Katheryn and Molly's apartment, highlighting the still sleeping figure on the sofa. The little strain of little danced about Katheryn's eyelids and caused the young woman to stir in her sleep. She fought against the unseen foe that awoke her slightly as she turned over forcefully, the pretty afghan falling limp towards her other side on to the floor. The cool spring air seemed to nip at her bare arms, causing her to come awake…much to her dismay.

Katheryn yawned broadly once…then twice…before letting out a little growl as her disheveled hair fell over her face. She blew at it slightly, causing it to fall back to the side of her head as she firmly rested the base of her neck onto the arm of the sofa, gazing at the ceiling above with wandering thoughts. Shortly after, a sly smile eased onto her face, erasing her morning aggravation for a rare but brief moment. It was Sunday. She then rolled onto her other side, facing the open living space as she tucked both of her hands one on top of the other one under her as a pillow.

Taking in a deep breath of surrender as she glanced at the wall clock, Katheryn slowly rose to sitting position, her feet hitting the ground and causing her to realize she still had her shoes on from the night before. A bit of embarrassment overtook her at the thought. Yet she simply brushed it aside with a brief chuckle before shutting her eyes to the morning and stretching one last good time to start her day.

"I see you're awake." Molly grinned as she eased from her bedroom and neared Katheryn from behind.

Katheryn managed a smile despite her morning drowsiness. "Yep. I guess you'd say that." The twosome shared a brief laugh.

"How did it go last night?"

"What do mean?"

"With Carlos." Molly gave her friend an urging look.

Katheryn's breathy laugh hid her confusion as she repeated herself, "What do you mean?"

Molly shook her head. "The last I saw, you two were enjoying each other's company rather well on the Malloys' sofa."

Katheryn glared at her friend. "We were watching the movie. Same as you and Trent and Tommy."

"Right," Molly stated sarcastically rolling her eyes toward the clock. "We'd best be getting going if you want to get to church in time for choir practice."

"Why the hurry?"

It was Molly who offered the glare this time. "If I remember correctly, we got to church a couple of Sundays ago just as the choir stopped singing and Pastor Roscoe got up to preach all because you had a writer's thought just as you were putting on your makeup. You'd best start getting ready early just in case that might happen again."

Katheryn stretched one last surrendering time as she rose to her feet. "I guess you're right." She smiled. "Now I know why you're my best friend."

Molly grinned. A layer of deep satisfaction laced her demeanor. "You got that right."

After another brief laugh, the two went their separate ways…Molly to the kitchen to make some more coffee and Katheryn to the shower.

The morning passed rather quickly, not giving Katheryn really any time for diverted thoughts and waywardly listless thoughts of the imagination. No…Time was of the essence. And time was what they didn't have as they both piled into Katheryn's Stingray at a quarter passed eight, nearly sure that they would not be there in time for choir practice at eight thirty.

Ten minutes and several barely escaped stop lights later, they finally anticipated the last leg of their journey, waiting as patient as they could at a four-way stop not five miles from the church. It was rather crowded as others made their way to church, work, or whatever the day held.

Katheryn was last in queue for the right of way as she waiting, her face issuing a slightly displeased look while a cramp seized her foot. Finally, traffic let up, allowing her to successfully cross the road in full legal stance. Yet…just as she eased her foot off of the brake pedal ever so softly, causing the car to roll forward confidently into the street, a rather large van came from out of nowhere, slicing through the thin morning air into the stop, coming to screeching halt and immediate turn as it veered into the next road.

The van had barely missed colliding with Katheryn's Stingray Corvette as the twosome found their necks sore from having been thrown forward ever so violently. Yet Katheryn had thankful found the brake pedal in time.

Regaining her composure, Katheryn took a deep breath and glanced at Molly who was busy watching the road beyond as two flashing police cars also came through with a vengeance, veering onto the road the van had chosen to turn on to. It seemed at the time that more than reckless driving was to be the cause for the young ladies' near miss with eternity.

Katheryn's wide eyes greeted the scene before her with intrigue. "What in the world?"

"My word!" Molly was at a loss for words as well and settled back into the comfortable seat of the car, breathing a soft prayer of thanks that they had survived this near miss.

Despite being so shaken up, the two were able to make it to the church in one piece and carefully took a moment to consider what divine intervention had aided in that close-call as they entered the First Christian Church of Dallas with notes of the choir's anthem of joy falling on their ears and raising immense gratitude from their hearts.

##

"You did a great job." Trent offered Katheryn a warm, brotherly embrace after Pastor Roscoe had dismissed his congregation. The congregants were busy fellowshipping and filing out of the pews as the little gang remained at the front of the church.

"Thanks."

Carlos eased out of the pew behind Trent, smiling from ear to ear. "I second that."

Katheryn met with his loving gaze as she silently accepted his compliment with a broad smile.

"Now…What's this I hear about you two ladies getting into a wreck before church?" Pastor Roscoe had eased up behind Katheryn and Molly, placing a hand around each young woman.

Molly grinned. "It's no doubt that angels must have been looking out for us."

"Is that right?" Roscoe smiled, intrigued by the situation.

"What?" Carlos was as serious as he could be, fervently ignoring any other thing said as the word wreck echoed in his mind. "What happened?" He looked towards Katheryn with legitimate concern.

"I think it was a police chase. It probably came about a foot or two from kissing the front of my Stingray."

Trent's protective instincts kicked in as well. His eyes were aflame, wanting more than anything to see that all details about the situation were given to him. "Are you sure you both are okay? That sounds rather dangerous."

Molly chuckled and lifted her gaze to Trent. "We're fine. I promise. Not a scratch."

"Still," Carlos sternly shifted his gaze from Molly to Katheryn, lingering longer upon the latter as he spoke. "I'm glad you both came out of it okay."

Both Molly and Katheryn nodded and smiled routinely and repetitively as the two gentlemen walked with them down the aisle of the church, Carlos' arm securely and lovingly around Katheryn while Trent kept in step with Molly. It seemed that it would take some convincing to assure Trent and Carlos that Molly and Katheryn were safe. There was nothing to worry about...at all…whatsoever. Yet funny thing is how caring for someone else can play all sorts of tricks on the mind.

Mrs. Malloy had a large Sunday spread ready for them all when they arrived at 118 Providence Way a short while later. It was just the Malloys, Carlos, Katheryn, and Molly who joined in the feast. Miss Cahill was busy with final preparations for that week's Spring Festival while the Rangers had been called in last minute for an emergency drug ring bust to aid an undercover Ranger who was in danger of having already blown his cover. They had no choice but to miss both church and the feast at the Malloy home. Needless to say, the food would by no means go wasted with Sandoval and Tommy at the helm of the operation. They seemed to always come in handy when extra food was around.

"Alright, guys!" Trent clapped his hands together, sighing sharply as he rose to his feet, leaving his family and friends at the dinner table while he traveled the short way to the foyer to retrieve his jacket. "Time to get a move on," his voice floated into the next room where they all still enjoyed jovial conversation and some ice cream to finish off the grand Sunday lunch.

Tommy groaned slightly, stretching in his seat. As much as he wanted to stay and sprawl out in the living room with a second bowl of rocky road, he knew that an afternoon pow-wow with his brother and friends at the dojo would be the very thing that would help him train even harder and perfect his skills even more for his second state karate competition which was coming up again this summer. He had learned a lot. He was good. But he could be better.

"Right behind you!" Carlos shoved in one last bite of the creamy goodness, garnering a silent chuckle from Mrs. Malloy and Katheryn as he eased from the room, heeling Tommy from behind as the three young men met in the foyer while Katheryn and Molly were not that far behind.

##

They arrived at Thunder Karate in high spirits all five of them—Trent, Carlos, Tommy, Katheryn, and Molly—not missing a beat as each of them exchanged bits and pieces of memories they had begun exchanging during the ride over in Carlos' brand new jet black Durango which he had purchased nearly one week ago for personal use. It still smelled of newness and triggered thoughts of new beginnings as had taken place in each of their lives over the course of the past year or two.

A welcome warmth surrounded them as they filed out of the SUV and onto the sidewalk, clustering together in front the dojo, still carrying on over something of the past.

"No," Carlos shook his head with laughter, eyeing his best friend as he eased his car keys back into his pocket while tracing a path in front of his new car to the sidewalk where his friends awaited him. "I never said that."

"Yes you did!" Trent threw back with a smile as he shut the passenger door of the SUV. "You stood there and wanted me to just let the hotline ring with no regard."

Carlos feigned a pout. "But we could have had a wonderful time on that Louisiana fishing trip." He turned to Katheryn while still discussing with Trent. "We still haven't even been on that trip we planned yet. And that was nearly a year ago, mind you." Carlos pointed his finger at Trent playfully.

Trent chuckled, brushing it off while knowing it would annoy Carlos. "C'mon." He threw his arm around Carlos and began walking towards the dojo entrance. "Let's get to work."

The girls and Tommy laughed at the little exchanged with a hint of pleasure at Carlos' expense twinkling in each of their eyes. And as much as Carlos hated being teased, he also kind of loved it…but would never dare admit that!

"Alright," Trent was the first on the mat several moments later, having retreated to change into his instructor's karate uniform.

Tommy was the next one out, then Katheryn, Carlos, and lastly Molly as they all gathered on the broad blue surface of the karate classroom.

"How about a little one-on-one to begin with?" Trent continued, playfully pivoting on the surface, bouncing softly as he threw a fake punch which Carlos dodged for no reason with a sly grin.

"I'd be glad to." Katheryn was the first to speak, stepping before just as Tommy was opening his mouth to volunteer. He glared at Katheryn with a sarcastic grin which she heartily returned, a glint of victory highlighting her hazel eyes.

Carlos, Molly, and Tommy quickly retreated to the edge of the mat towards the window, not wishing by a long shot to receive any wayward side action that may be dealt by these two fierce competitors.

Trent and Katheryn exchanged eager smiles, glaring into each other's eyes fervently as they raised their hands to guard, forming a circle with their feet as they paced while finding a place to plant themselves for the first strike. They both stopped…suddenly…Trent offered the first high roundhouse kick which Katheryn dodged and blocked beautiful, sending Trent to the floor with a floor sweep as she went down low.

Trent was immensely impressed as he sprang back up in no time, pivoting some more as he panted a bit, a sweat beginning to form on each of their brows. "I can see somebody's been practicing." He smiled.

Katheryn's snarky smile was all her answer to Trent's opposing quip as she prepared for his next move.

"Haha…I see how it is." Trent stated just before he dove in, offering a swift palm block to Katheryn's oncoming pivoting round kick to the front.

The eager learner repelled backwards, nearly stumbling to the floor but regaining her fighting stance before her body had a chance to fall.

Carlos clapped a few times from the sidelines. "Good job, Kath! Keep it up!"

"Thanks!" She called back sarcastically, thankful for the cheering section but hoping he wasn't trying to put one of her playfully so that Trent could get an edge on her. It would be a cold day before she let that happen…even if Trent was her sensei.

The twosome was just about to continue on, intensifying their little mock battle when the door to Thunder Karate slowly drifted opening, the sounds of the street filtering in to be heard by the little gang as their eyes all uniformly shifting to the sounds they heard.

"Well well well…If it isn't the do-gooder Trent Malloy and his gang." A guffaw emanated from the man who had his hands stuffed in his leather coat pockets as he sauntered into the place as if he owned it.

Trent and Tommy immediately recognized the face that belonged to none other than Jake Lyons…enemy, opponent, and overall prize-winning jerk of the Dallas metro area.

Trent stopped the session with Katheryn, raising up to full height and making stern eye contact with Lyons who currently took his time surveying the growing school and Trent's friends.

Lyons glared at Carlos with a smirk. "Aren't you a little…old…for Trent's karate?" He laughed. "Cause you do realize Trent's teaching is for little kids."

Carlos glared at the man, heat rising to his cheeks as he absorbed the accusations about his best friend. He felt Molly and Tommy stepping up alongside him to look at the newcomer, putting his hand out to stop the latter from advancing on Lyons as he continued to laugh. Jake Lyons was clearly full of himself; he laughed as if he was victorious in something.

Jake Lyons continued to laugh…He was clearly full of himself…as if he knew he was victorious in something.

Trent dismissed Lyons' snarky comments with a single nod. "What do want, Lyons?"

The proud enemy scoffed. "Oh, nothing. Just came by to see how you've been holding up since I last grace your door with my presence." He scanned the ceiling above as he spoke, bringing his eyes back down below to survey the classroom yet again. "And I must say…" He began pacing the open floor in front of Trent and Katheryn. "…You've done a heck of a job with this place."

"Thanks for the compliment."

"Oh, don't be so cynical and sarcastic, Malloy. We're old friends, right?"

"Hardly."

Lyons smirked. "What do you say we prove it?"

"Prove what?"

Lyons' raised his eyebrows high. A smiled danced at his lips. "That I'm better than you. Once and for all." He chuckled, looking to the others. "He can't even keep his promises. He told me he'd face me on the mat one day. And look at him…" Lyons returned his disgusted mien of distain back onto Trent. "…He is nothing but a coward."

Trent was unmoved, keeping a firm stance as he stared Lyons down with little emotion rising to the surface of his demeanor. "That's a lie, and you know it. It was never the time…or the place."

"Yeah!" Lyons scoffed.

"But…maybe it is time now."

"Trent, you can't be serious," Katheryn whispered from the side.

"It's okay," Trent's eyes seemed to communicate to her as he glanced her way, not saying a word before returning his eyes to Lyons.

"What? You want to fight me? After all this time? You still want to get your butt whooped all over the mat?" Lyons' deep laugh echoed around them all, sending chills through them all as they watched Trent's fervent stand.

"Yep. That's what I mean. After all, we can close up this argument once and for all. And maybe…just maybe you might be able to tuck your tail and run when I'm through with you."

Lyons' laugh had died down, being replaced with a hard swallow as he forced himself back into his bitter rant. "I see. You're quite serious. Well then…" he slowly started back away, one footstep at a time as he turned, pointing his finger at the mat below quite forcefully. "I'll see you at my dojo one week from today."

"No chance. It has to be neutral ground."

"Well then Thunder Karate is clearly out of the question!"

"What about Ranger Headquarters?" Katheryn whispered to Trent from beside him.

Trent shook his head. "I'd have to ask Walker."

Lyons cupped his hand around his ear, bowing closer to them sarcastically. "What's that I hear? Oh, you're in need of calling on friends to help you out…cause you're too much of coward to do anything for yourself!" He stood back upright with a hearty laugh.

Katheryn had had enough as she sighed sharply and marched over to Jake Lyons with her finger pointed in his face. "Look, mister. We will get word to you where the fight will be. It won't be here. It won't be at your place. So shut up and be patient. It'll happen, and you'll have a chance to fight Trent. But let me assure you…Trent's going to put a big hurting on you. You can count on that!" She nodded firmly and returned to her place by Trent who had since surrendered to the urge to stop her. For it was much too late.

Meanwhile, Carlos hid a smirk of a laugh behind his hand as he watched Katheryn's display of courage. It happened again…she had surprised him.

Jake Lyons knew he was beat but still couldn't help but let another laugh escape his foul mouth. "Alright. I can see you have a generous amount of support here, Malloy. But believe me, hiding behind your friends won't help you any when I get ahold of you."

Trent was still unmoved as Lyons retreated, turning back towards the exit with a sarcastic display of hasty victory in each step he took.

No sooner had the door shut behind the villainous karate teacher than Carlos, Molly, Tommy hurried over to their two friends.

Tommy patted his brother on the back with a grin. "You'll get him good, Trent."

Trent shook his head, sighing and just barely releasing a measure of apprehension as he forced a smile.

Carlos nodded. "Yeah. You'll be able to take him."

"But where?" Molly inserted.

Trent sighed sharply once more as he raised his head. "That's a good question."

Katheryn took note of Lyons' disappearing figure as he climbed into his convertible outside and sped away. "I just hope it's not some sort of trap, Trent."

Trent nodded. "Yeah. I thought about that."

"Even if it is," Tommy insisted. "You can still prove you're better."

"Tommy," Trent turned to face his younger brother. "We can't make this about proving who's better. That would be prideful. But it is a chance to finally keep a semi-promise."

"Did you really promise that you'd fight him?" Molly eased around Carlos to offer her question to Trent.

"Sort of." Trent nodded, crossing his arms against his chest. "After Tommy secured a victory in the karate tournament last year, he made it quite clear he wanted to prove himself against me on the mat."

Molly offered a slowly-growing smile, confidence twinkling in her eyes. "I believe you can beat him."

"Thanks." Trent smiled back, reflecting upon Lyons' threats, accusations, and assurances of what he was capable of doing. Yet his thoughts also fell back upon his first days back home when Thunder passed away. How although Lyons could fight, he didn't really have the heart of a fighter. A heart that knows what they are doing. The man was blinded by rage and pride that hindered any level of sense that tried to permeate his heart. It just wasn't there.

Trent knew he had the upper hand in this respect. And humbly remembered the days that had led him up to this point. It had been a long time coming. He had known this for a while. And now it had come unexpectedly…out of nowhere…just like how your opponent could throw a punch you never saw coming.

Trent drew himself out of his reflection and glanced at Carlos with a grin. "You next?"

Carlos chuckled dryly. "I don't know. But here goes nothing."

It would take far more than threats from an old enemy to spoil the afternoon for the five close friends who battled it out on the mat that radiant Sunday afternoon.


Part 2


One of C.D.'s small square center tables was occupied by Trent, Carlos, and Katheryn two days later, following the challenge that had been put forward to Malloy by Lyons in such a blatant fashion. Trent could still picture the arrogance steaming from his enemy as he sat there in C.D.'s, staring at his drink, toying with the handle of the mug as lively country tunes filled the air and the gap of silence among the three friends.

Carlos also found solace in the silence as he recalled the event.

Katheryn too sat unmoved, her eyes focused on the salt and pepper shakers as she wondered which of them would be the first to speak up. With arms crossed at her chest, she turned her head to her left and then her right…and then her left again…trying to read the thoughts of the guys before her. She sighed, landing her gaze on Trent. "I'm sorry, Trent."

Trent attempted a smile. "For what?"

Katheryn's upper lip curled towards her nose as she spoke. "I shouldn't have spoken out like I did yesterday." She sighed sharply once more. "God knows how worse I may have made things for you."

"Nonsense," Trent offered, finally gripping the handle of the cup and taking a sip of the steaming liquid before him and returning the mug to the table. "Jake Lyons is who is…no matter what you or anyone else could say."

"Still…I feel kind of bad about it."

"I was kind of proud of you," Carlos interjected, drawing Katheryn's gaze toward him.

Katheryn glared at him. "Oh?"

Carlos nodded. "That was a heck of speech, Kath. You sure did put him in his place."

Katheryn sighed, unconvinced that she had helped anyone. "Still…What if Jake Lyons causes more trouble than it was worth?"

Trent drew her eyes back to him as he laid a hand on her shoulder. "Kath…Don't ever be ashamed for speaking up. I wish more people had the guts. You do. And I'm glad of that." He ended with a smile on that final note.

Katheryn finally smiled, convinced somewhat that Trent was right. "I suppose. I just couldn't live with myself if something I said or did caused you guys harm."

"I know." Trent nodded, drawing his hand back to cradle his coffee. "And for that we are grateful." He glanced up at Carlos in anticipation of the detective's approval of his statement.

Carlos received it heartily with a broad smile and nodded affectionately towards Katheryn.

A bit of breeze could be heard from the entrance to the little restaurant as street noise mingled with the lively music before ceasing quickly upon the door's quick close. The door opened again. Several patrons filed in and out passed the young woman who had just entered and remained confused, glancing at the bar and then the dining area as she seemed to be looking for something in particular.

Carlos shifted his gaze, nodding towards the young woman as he lightly tapped the table to get Trent and Katheryn's attention. Trent turned to see the befuddled girl and watched her a moment. She still stood near the entrance in danger of colliding with someone else who was leaving. She huddled by the window and toyed with the strap of the little purse she held, glancing over the place continually.

Trent stood soon after and crossed the short distance to the young woman. "Are you alright, Miss?"

The cautious young woman glared at Trent with deep apprehension glazing over her eyes. "I—I'm okay. I—I'm just meeting someone here."

Trent offered a smile, waving a hand towards the table that he occupied with Carlos and Katheryn. "If you'd like, you're more than welcome to join my friends and I while you wait."

The young girl eyed Carlos and Katheryn from a distance. They seemed trustworthy enough, she thought to herself, directing her attention back to Trent. "I—I guess that would be alright."

"Great. I'll introduce you." Trent led the way to the table, the young woman cautiously following from behind while her eyes scanned left and right as she walked. "Kath…Carlos…Would it be okay if this young lady joins us while she waits on someone?"

Carlos grinned and stood swiftly, pulling out the vacant chair for the girl. "Absolutely!"

Katheryn stood and offered a handshake. "My name is Katheryn. What's yours?"

The shy girl accepted the hand offered from across the table as she sat down. "Bree Anna…Bree Anna Hutchinson."

Katheryn reclaimed her seat with a smile. "That's a pretty name, Bree Anna. Very lovely indeed. Who are you meeting?"

Bree Anna's eyes surveyed the nice folks before her. "Um…my mom. I think. She didn't say when she'd come. Just said to meet her at C.D.'s Bar and Grill."

"Well, you're at the right place," Carlos grinned yet again.

"Good." Bree Anna returned flatly, her smile far from the surface and her eyes shifting towards the door as she propped her chin on her fist while her elbow rested on the table.

Trent, Carlos, and Katheryn each exchanged wary glances as silence fell among the table yet again. None knew quite what the girl was up to…or why she seemed so…distant.

Katheryn couldn't stand the tension but held her tongue, concluding that the girl would speak when she was good and ready to.

The young girl's eyes suddenly widened, her chin coming off of her fist with one swift movement as a smile crept on to her sullen face. She kept her eyes fastened upon C.D.'s welcoming doorway as Trent and Carlos both turned to view what had caused such a jovial reaction in the young lady. Katheryn glanced to and from Carlos and Trent, hoping they would hint as to what was going on so that she wouldn't have to turn around so foolishly. Yet her curiosity nearly got the better of her, almost causing her to twist in her seat and land her own eyes upon the scene. Yet she fought the urge successfully.

"Momma!" Bree Anna called out as a middle-aged woman clad with her purse held securely to her shoulder against her business-like attire and her flowing brown locks approached the table with an undetectable laugh gracing her voice as she smiled and moved to embrace her daughter.

"Oh, honey I've missed you so much." The woman pressed Bree Anna's cheek to her shoulder with her hand softly upon the girl's head. She held her tightly, not wanting to let go as she willed away a tear. The woman reluctantly drew the girl away from her and looked into her eyes. "It's so good to see you. Where's your father?"

Bree Anna nearly rolled her eyes. "He dropped me off here and left for some errand."

The woman hung her head and sighed, raising it upwards with a sarcastic laugh edging her quiet voice. "That no-good, rotten…."

"Donna?" Katheryn had suddenly gotten a clear look at the woman's face and could swear it was her. "Is that you?"

The woman turned, facing Katheryn as if trying to determine the voice's identity that drew her out of the pain and anger that had preoccupied her for a moment. She slowly smiled. "Katheryn?"

Katheryn quickly rose from her spot, abandoning the falling chair beneath her as she moved to give "Donna" a quick embrace. A chuckle soon followed. "So you finally decided to take me up on that offer, huh?"

Donna drew away from the embrace with a smile still gracing her lips. "I suppose so. Seemed like the right thing to do."

Katheryn turned to Trent and Carlos, knowing they were clueless. "Um, Trent. Carlos. This is Donna Hutchinson. We briefly met at a writer's conference a couple of years ago and stayed in contact since then." She glanced at Donna. "I've been trying to convince her that she should come work for Miss Cahill at the H.O.P.E. center with her experience as a teacher and charity board member back in Tennessee. Looks like she finally decided to come." Her forehead wrinkled. "Donna, I didn't know your husband and daughter already lived here."

"Yeah." Donna nodded with displeasure. "My husband and I got a divorce last year. He moved here, taking Bree Anna with him without full custody. I'm hoping once I can get settled at the H.O.P.E. center that I'll be able to claim official custody and not have to worry about Brian anymore."

Katheryn offered her friend a smile. "Well, I pray nothing but the best for you."

"Thank you," Donna replied with affection, her lips pursed together as she willed away joyful tears this time.

Trent nodded towards the women. "What brings you by C.D.'s today, Donna? I'm guessing it's not the food."

The little group issued a light chuckle at Trent's humor.

"Actually I've already been here once this past Saturday with Miss Cahill when she wanted to interview me."

"And a good thing!" Katheryn sighed. "The renovations going on at the center has been a little crazy lately."

"I told Bree Anna to ask Brian to drop her off here after school." Donna continued. "It was the only way I could see her I'm afraid. Besides, Miss Cahill wanted to give me her answer of whether or not she was hiring me today. She said to meet her here." Her eyes shifted to her daughter who returned the gaze as Donna gently stroked her light brown hair that gathered by her temple.

Miss Cahill's familiar step sounded in the entryway, garnering all their attention.

"There she is now." Carlos grinned. "Hi, Alex."

Alex returned the detectives smile. "Hello, Carlos. Trent. Katheryn." She raised her eyes to Donna. "Donna…"

Miss Cahill slowed her step, approaching Donna as Katheryn stepped aside to make way.

"Welcome aboard," Miss Cahill released with another grin and extended her hand towards the now teary-eyed woman.

Donna took hold of Alex's hand and gave it three firm shakes before glancing at her daughter with a tear streaking her face. "Thank you so much, Miss Cahill. You don't know what this means to me. You truly don't."

Miss Cahill's smile of satisfaction graced her demeanor well. Her eyes sparkled at having been a small part of bringing this little family a small ounce of joy back into their lives. "Can you start first thing in the morning?"

"Absolutely!"

"Great!" She turned to Katheryn. "Would you mind taking Donna over to the center and getting her settled in this afternoon. There's a spare room she could take to get out of her hotel room while she looks for a more permanent place."

Katheryn nodded and put a foot forward, ready to be on her way. "I'd love to. And I'm sure Bree Anna would love a little tour. What do you say?" She focused her joyous eyes on the young girl who answered her question with a brisk nod and soft smile. "Then it's settled." She turned to Trent. "Can you come with us? There's something I'd like to run by you."

"Sure." Trent nodded, standing to his feet at the same time as Carlos who gazed at his watch. Trent turned to Carlos. "Duty calls?"

"Yup!" Carlos grunted a bit as he stretched. He nodded towards Katheryn. "I'll see you guys later." He waved a hand, moving away and towards the entrance of C.D.'s to return to work.

Miss Cahill briefly notice the glint of longing in Katheryn's eyes as the young woman watched Carlos leave. Alex smiled and returned her attention back to the group before her. "You all have fun." She slowly moved passed the foursome and set her handbag on a barstool nearby.

Trent stepped aside, indicating for the ladies to leave ahead of him. "I'll keep a fast eye on them all."

Alex grinned approvingly and leaned against the bar, her arms crossed one over the other as she watched the group leave. She slowly lifted a hand and waved as they crossed the threshold to the comfy spring weather outside. Returning her attention to her now lonesome state, she glanced at her watch. She had promised to meet with Alice Rialto who had received some very devastating news just yesterday…hours after Alex had offered the H.O.P.E. center to host a grand party for Alice's son Andy's return home after years of being away in the trucking business. After a brief moment, Alex sighed, gathering up her purse and willing her steps back out of C.D.'s. She knew Alice would be grieving. Losing a son was hard. And Alex wasn't sure if she could offer the support the woman needed…since evidence had suggested the young man had been dealing in drugs just prior to his death.

Shaking her head, Alex pressed on, pushing her way out of the little bar as a swift breeze blew at her shoulder-length locks. She has a hard task of ahead of her…telling Alice what had been found out about her son…before she could ever think of returning here later on to join Walker and Trivette for a casual evening meal.

##

Katheryn walked alongside Donna up the narrow sidewalk affront the H.O.P.E. center, a smile edging her lips as the two ladies turned up and towards the sidewalk that led to the front entrance of the center. Bree Anna was not far behind and turned also a short second later as the sound of Trent's roaring Stingray pulled up alongside the street next her.

The noise seemed to disturb the young girl as she sped up ever so softly, nearing her mother with a hastened need.

Trent silently questioned the little scene as he tore away his sunglasses from his eyes and tossed them onto the seat next to him, stepping up and out of the car with ease as he made his way behind the little group.

Katheryn skipped a step jovially as she made her way up the veranda steps and opened the center's door for Donna who gladly accepted the invitation and eased into the cool building with Bree Anna heeling her from behind.

"I can't quite get over how much this place does for the city. It's definitely been a God-send." Trent also skipped a few steps as he landed on the veranda near Katheryn.

Katheryn rounded the door to enter herself, returning Trent's statement with a smile. "Indeed!"

"Oh, look at this place!" They could hear Donna's voice from the room to the immediate right as they entered.

Katheryn's beaming smile approval could be shadowed by nothing.

Donna scurried from one room to another…maturely of course…inspecting every element of this place she had come to Dallas to work in. She soon returned back to the first room where Katheryn and Trent remained waiting, glancing upwards towards Kath. "And what's this room being used for?"

A sly smile passed over Katheryn's jovial demeanor. "Well, Miss Cahill was using it as part of the daycare but is using another whole space for that now. She asked Josie and me to put our heads together and come up with a great use for this room." She rolled her eyes softly towards Trent, still grinning at the prospect rolling around in her mind.

Trent caught wind of the young woman's mischief, grinning slightly himself as she noticed her facial expression. "And that's why you asked me to come, right?"

"Yep!" Katheryn was quick to answer.

Donna shifted her eyes from one to the other as she tried to think of what could be the whole secret here. "What? What was your idea?"

Katheryn's smile softened. "Well, I was thinking, Trent, that you could utilize this room to perhaps hold some self-defense classes for some of the ladies we have coming through here." She turned somber, remembering a few of the recent women they had helped escape from near trouble. Had they had even meager defense skills, they may have not been hurt as much. At least that was the hope the women of the H.O.P.E. center held on to. "They could really use it, Trent."

Trent thought through the prospect for a moment and nodded. "That's a good idea."

"So you'll do it?"

"You bet."

Katheryn embraced Trent swiftly, garnering a few giggles from the three children who had wandered away from the daycare area and had found their way to the threesome there.

Donna also stifled a near-chuckle as she moved forward, waving her hands in front of her. "Come on, kids. Let's get you back to where you need to be."

Katheryn shrank back from the sisterly hug as she realized what had happened. "Sorry," she offered in a raspy sort of whisper.

"No need." Trent stifled a growing smile before stepping further into the open room, glancing at every inch of the room with his hands resting inside the edge of his front jeans' pockets. He pictured in his mind the equipment that would be needed. In his mind he saw the confidence of scared you ladies who feared some outside force growing to exceed their distance from happiness. It would work, he whispered only to himself. It would work. And it would make a world of difference for anyone who would ever enter the H.O.P.E. center.

Bree Anna slowly tiptoed into the room after completing a little tour of her own. "Nice place."

Katheryn spun on her heel to face the young woman. "Thank you, Bree Anna. Is there any part that's your favorite?"

Bree Anna's eyes scanned the floor below as she pondered the question, raising her head a moment later. "No, ma'am. I love every part." She ended with a smile…the first of which Katheryn had witnessed since meeting the girl earlier this afternoon.

Josie then entered the room in a flustered state, passing by Bree Anna with a forced smile, a sharp sigh, and a rather used kitchen towel gracing her shoulder while she wiped at her brow with another. "Oh, my Lord, you would not believe the mess those children make."

Katheryn chuckled. "That bad, huh?"

Josie joined in her laugh. "Donna is a God-send for sure! I left the room for just a moment and felt she had it all under hand."

"That's good," Katheryn smiled, waving a hand towards Bree Anna. "Bree Anna, I'd like you to meet Josie Martin who helps run this place with Miss Cahill."

Bree Anne extended her hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Miss Martin."

"Oh, call me Josie." Josie grinned, shaking the girl's hand three times with confidence in every shake that the young girl returned.

Trent laid his hand on Katheryn's shoulder. "Well, if you three ladies would excuse me, I've got a karate class to teach within the hour."

"Alright," Katheryn waved as Trent aimed for the door, his steps taking him rather swiftly back to his Stingray only to be stopped by a voice from behind as he heard a click and a soft shove of an object in his lower spine.

"Don't say a word," the voice warned.

"What do you want?" Trent still faced forward. His hands relaxed but ready for whatever was to come.

"Simple. You come with me…no one will get hurt."

"And if I say no?"

"Then I have a little barbeque courtesy of this nice establishment in front of you."

"Hmm…Attempted murder and arson. Nice."

The object was shoved a bit harder into Trent's back. "Shut up. Now move."

"Papa?" A shaky voice eased from the veranda and neared the sports car.

Trent sternly looked towards the girl with growing concern. "Bree Anna, get back inside!"

The girl didn't seem to mind Trent's harsh tone and did as told, nearly appearing sacred to death with only one look at the man behind Trent as she turned and scurried back into the building.

Trent took the distraction as an opportunity and spun on his heel, lunging forward and around to secure his hand on the gun. He brought the man's wrist within his grip and twisted it downward, sending the culprit helpless to the ground before doubling back into fighting stance, his guard held high in front of him in case that had not quite done the job.

The man who was close to Trent's own size and build tried to get back up but doubled forward easily, apparently not very skilled in the fighting arts as he groaned and cradled his hand against the asphalt pavement.

Katheryn and Josie quickly rushed from the center and surrounded Trent.

"Are you okay?" Katheryn looked towards him as he moved out of fighting position.

Trent picked up the revolver and swiftly flipped it open, tipping the rounds out of it and into his other hand. "Yeah. I'm alright. C'mon, get up," Trent tugged at the man's collar, giving him a start to his necessary leave.

Trent shoved the useless gun into the man's hand and gave him a small push from behind towards a nearby car he assumed belong to the man. "Get out of here."

"Who is he, Trent?" Josie rubbed at her arms amid the spring coolness.

"I don't know," Trent focused on the man's gruff expression as he glared at Trent threateningly shutting his car door on himself as a sped away from the scene. Trent then turned his focus to the steps of H.O.P.E. center, somehow sensing Bree Anna was not too far away. "But Bree Anna called him papa."

"Really?" Katheryn cringed at the thought of such a man being a father to such nice little girl. "Then Donna was right…He's a piece of work."

"I'll say…" Trent sighed, still cradling the handful of bullets from the revolver he had emptied. "And I have this feeling we haven't seen the last of him either."

Katheryn's gaze passed over Trent and landed on Bree Anna who now occupied the porch almost scared to leave it, it seemed. Silently, she hoped she could help the girl in any way she could. For there was indeed more to this family than Katheryn had assumed in the first place.


Part 3


Katheryn gripped the mug of hot, steaming green tea to herself securely in both hands the following day, a smile tempting her lips as she gazed out of her bedroom window onto the grounds below in front of the apartment complex. In the distance was the ever-familiar downtown Dallas skylines, slowly becoming shelter to the sinking ball of pink sunlight behind it.

An engine below sparked her interest out of her daydream. It was Molly. Katheryn's browed furrowed as Molly seemed in quite the hurry, leaving her car door ajar as she traced the path into the building rather swiftly.

Katheryn crossed to the other side of her bedroom, setting her mug on the coaster that rested on the dresser before hurrying cautiously into the living area to meet Molly as she arrived.

"Katheryn!" Molly's voice could be heard before she had even reached the apartment.

Katheryn moved quickly, opening the apartment door just as Molly appeared at the doorway. Their wide eyes met each other swiftly. "What is it, Molly?"

Molly panted hard, catching her breath with each bob of her head. She ceased the little scene, taking in a single large breath once and for all. "It's Donna."

"What about Donna?!"

"Well…While I was filling in at the daycare center today since Miss Cahill is away, she took a moment to introduce herself to me." Molly smiled. "She's such a nice lady. Anyways, while we were talking, she got a call from her daughter Bree Anna." Katheryn nodded, urging Molly to continue. "The girl on the other end seemed very upset. Donna hung up soon after and said she had to go. That it was an emergency."

"I see…What happened then?"

A single tear slid down Molly's controlled demeanor as she willed away the emotions stirring within her. "I heard a gunshot. When I ran outside to see what had happened, I found—I found Donna lying on the ground. She was still conscious. But she was shocked. I called an ambulance and they took her away." Molly reached in her pocket and drew out a crinkled piece of notebook paper, unfolding it as she extended it towards Katheryn. "I also found this near Donna when I found her."

Katheryn took the note in hand, reading it eagerly. This is just a warning. I have Bree now. Let it go, and I'll let you live. "Some note," Katheryn stated with every bit of sarcasm intended. She then turned her attention back to Molly with a slight dose of confusion. "Why didn't you call instead of coming here? It would have been much quicker."

Molly tossed a bit of disdain along with her words. "The line was cut at the H.O.P.E. center. Josie let me use her cell to call an ambulance and rode along with Donna to the hospital."

Katheryn's thoughts drifted as Molly stood before her. Walker, Trivette, and Alex had headed to Mournful this morning to help Mrs. Rialto. Walker had since called upon Carlos to follow and help with the case. Trent was busy looking after his siblings while Mrs. Malloy held a Bible study at the church. And yet a would-be killer and kidnapper was at large.

"What should we do?" Molly inserted, easing her way passed Katheryn into the apartment.

Katheryn pulled herself out of her reverie long enough to shut the apartment door and follow Molly into the kitchen. She stopped at the sink and placed her hands at each corner, leaning ever so gently against its edge. "Maybe I should call Ranger Hunt. She might be able to help."

A swift phone call later, it was revealed the Ranger Hunt too was unable to transfer from the current case she had been handed by Walker when he and Trivette left.

Molly sighed. "Looks like we'll just have to call the police directly."

"Yeah." Katheryn admitted defeat, resting the phone back into its cradle on the kitchen counter. "Unless…" Katheryn's eyes widened with a spark of an idea.

"What?"

"Maybe we can find her ourselves."

"No!" Molly was insistent and firm in her tone. "We can't. I know you have good fighting skills. But we need someone like Trent or Carlos or the Rangers with us. We can go at it alone." She stopped pacing, her eyes meeting with those of her close friend.

Katheryn knew Molly was right. They'd be risking their lives. But what about Bree Anna and her life? Her life was just as important as any of theirs. Still…She could hear what Carlos what say. That man's crazy. I wouldn't think of letting you near that man. Stay away from him. But she tried to push his voice out of her head this one time, reasoning over and over that this was the right thing to do. But she had a hard time convincing herself of this fact.

Katheryn caught a glimpse of her handbag from the corner of her eye as it rested by the edge of the counter and dove forward, grasping it in hand and securing it against her shoulder. "C'mon, Molly. Let's go."

Molly rushed forward, taking hold of her friend's hand. "Wait! Where are we going?"

Katheryn stumbled to a stop and turned around. "To the hospital to talk with Donna. Then we'll decide what to do from there."

Molly nodded in agreement before glancing listlessly around the room with a deep exhale. She truly hoped they could reach one of the guys or the Rangers soon. She had a feeling Katheryn would try to handle the matter herself. And for that reason, Molly could not help but feel concerned…Not because Katheryn lacked the ability. But because of the danger of the situation at hand. Molly then remembered she could still reach Trent by phone now that she was home. She glanced toward the open apartment door, very much aware of Katheryn's quick footsteps sounding upon the hall as she approached the elevator lift. She knew her friend was bound and determined. Again she glanced at the phone…and then back at the doorway. She had to at least try calling. Hoping with all her heart that Katheryn would not leave without her, Molly dropped her purse onto the floor and rushed over to the phone, scooting the little slip of paper that listed the girls' most used numbers from under the phone's base.

Molly eased her finger across the page, scanning downward as she search for the Malloys' number. Smiling slightly from the victory of finally finding the number, she dialed it quickly and placed the phone to her ear. Pacing a short distance as it continued to ring, Molly noticed the intense silence that surrounded her. But thankfully she had not heard the drastic thud of the elevator lift. Perhaps she still had time.

"Malloy residence. This is Trent speaking."

"Trent!" Molly ceased walking and called his name without thinking.

"Molly?"

"Yeah. It's Molly. Are you busy?"

"No, not all. What's up?"

Molly could hear Tandy's voice in the background as the little girl jovially argued with whom she assumed was Tommy by the sound of it. "Um…A lady was shot at the H.O.P.E. center. She's okay. But we think her husband kidnapped her daughter. I told Katheryn…" Molly's eyes surveyed the doorway yet again. "…and I could tell by the look in her eye that she might try to handle the situation on her own. That guy seems dangerous, Trent. Katheryn shouldn't handle it on her own. I—I know you're busy…what with that fight coming up and all…."

"Nonsense…" Trent stopped Molly before she could finish. "I'll be there as soon as I can."

"I'm at the apartment right now. But Katheryn insists we go to the hospital first to see Donna."

"Alright. Which hospital? I'll meet you both there."

"Methodist."

"Gotcha…Stay safe." Trent hung up a short second later, directing the duties of childcare to Tommy before he headed into the spring sunset outside, slipping into his black, leather coat before reaching the attached garage, removing the tarp from his since unused iron horse. A fleeting thought had crossed his mind that it might come in handy.

##

"How you feeling?" Katheryn offered a crooked smile as she surveyed Donna who lay helpless and groggy against the drugs that were still working their way through her system. Her left arm was in a sling now, and a decent layer of thick bandaging secured her shoulder.

"Alright," Donna made an effort to answer. She smiled, "A little woozy. But I suppose that's normal."

Katheryn chuckled lightly before slipping into every bit of seriousness. Molly stood on the other side of the hospital bed and remained alert to every changing look in her friend's eyes.

"Donna…We'll get her back." Katheryn gently squeezed Donna's unrestrained hand.

Donna stifled the tears that welled up in her eyes, contemplating Katheryn's words. "You know…Brian was not like this a couple years ago. Something changed…We stopped talking. It's like we were strangers. Sometimes if I think we could have told each other what we were feeling or going through on the inside, we…I could have avoided losing him."

"What happened?" Molly inserted.

"Brian…He, uh, got hooked on alcohol at first. He hid it well. Never smelt in on his breath when he came home. And he never let it affect him hardly. Then after he lost his dad a few years ago, he sunk down deeper. He hid it less. And I smelt it more and more.

"One day I asked him about it. It was a mistake." Donna lifted her head to reveal a small scar on her collarbone. She then lowered her head back down. "I barely dodged the knife. I knew me and Bree Anna had to leave. But before I could do so, Brian left us for Texas. Used the excuse that he was going to look for a job and we could come later on."

"I'm so sorry," Katheryn bowed her head. "I regret ever asking you to come here. I shouldn't have asked."

"No," Donna was quick to reassure Katheryn that it wasn't her fault. "I wanted to come. I did. And this job at the H.O.P.E. center was a godsend after I filed for divorce. Trust me, Katheryn. You helped me greatly."

Katheryn's tear-filled gaze lingered upon her friend as she nodded softly, nearly convinced of what Donna had insisted.

A soft knock sounded on the hospital room's doorframe.

Molly was the first to glance upward towards the sound. "Trent." She smiled.

Katheryn turned completely to see Trent entering the room and easing up behind her next to the hospital bed.

"Mrs. Hutchinson…How are you feeling?" Trent issued a cordial smile to the woman.

Donna sighed. "Groggy."

Trent continued to smile. "That means the medicine's doing its job."

"I suppose you're right."

"Katheryn," Trent laid his hand softly on Katheryn's shoulder. "Can I speak to you outside?"

Katheryn nodded. "Sure." She slipped her hand into her jeans' pocket as she followed Trent out of the little hospital room and down the hall just a bit until they were out of view.

"Don't go after Donna's husband alone." Trent began immediately, not waiting a breath as he looked Katheryn straight in her eyes, knowing very well what she was thinking.

Katheryn sighed. "Trent…Bree Anna is with him."

"I know." Trent nodded and shifted his weight to his other foot, relaxing ever so slightly as he pondered what he should say next. "We can get this done together…but under no circumstances do I want you going alone. It's not because I doubt your abilities. Trust me on that. I don't. But even an expert like Walker can bite off more than he can chew if they're not careful. Do you remember what happened to Carlos when he went a little farther than he should?"

Katheryn turned away. She didn't want to think about that. They had told her the story before…how Carlos was nearly killed while undercover to capture the same men that had murdered his older brother when Carlos was only twelve. The story had been a bitter one to hear.

"I know," seemed to be all Katheryn could say in response. "But he's just one man, Trent. Not a drug cartel."

"Even so…You won't be alone when you go after him."

"What about Tandy and Ty? I know Tommy's old enough. But they shouldn't be left alone for long."

"I can go," a voice alerted them from behind. Molly slowly stepped towards them, a sullen expression over her face as she approached the twosome with arms crossed against her chest.

Trent stood back to attention as Molly neared them. "Are you sure?"

Molly nodded, communicating all she needed to Trent with her pleasing eyes.

"Then I guess it's settled." Trent clasped his lips together, nodding pensively, before moving past the ladies to lead the way.

Katheryn and Molly fell into sync as they walked beside each other not far behind Trent as they left the hospital. It was a rather cool and windy night atmosphere that met them as they exited through the automatic hospital doors, rounding the corner in the parking lot up ahead only to stopped by the sound of screeching tires that sped around the hospital building in route straight for them as the approached the edge where the sidewalk and asphalt pavement met.

Trent turned, eyeing the oncoming vehicle in a flash second as it sped forward in front of them. "Get down!" Trent doubled back and overcame Katheryn and Molly the best he could, bringing them all down onto the sidewalk just before a sea of bullets soared over them from the open window of the large van that had disappeared from sight almost as quick as it had appeared.

Hysterical shouts and cries were heard from various others who entered and exited the hospital as the aftermath of the chaos descended upon the entrance of the hospital.

A nurse rushed forward, her hand extended as she offered help to Trent and the girls. "Are you okay, young man?"

Trent slowly lifted his body away from Molly and Katheryn, almost not even hearing the nurse as he helped the girls back to their feet and prayed silently that no harm had come to them.

Both girls simultaneously worked at gathering their composure and catching their breaths.

"Trent!" Molly whispered loudly a brief second later, noticing a small bloodstain on his sleeve.

Yet before Trent could even find what Molly had seen, the girl became limp…slowly easing to ground helplessly before their eyes.

"Molly!" Trent rushed in, taking Molly into his arms as she finally collapsed. He looked her over as she slowly slipped away from him. "Hang in there, Molly!"

Molly's eyes flickered open and surveyed Trent's face. His brows were furrowed…his cheeks were red…his lips were pursed from stress as he applied as much pressure as he could to Molly's wounded shoulder with the now useless sweater Katheryn had carried at her side not moments ago. She wanted to smile as she saw the care in his eyes. But feeling weakness overcome her, she fought the urge to sleep as her shoulder throbbed. The last thing she remembered was Trent's reassuring voice and Katheryn's tear-filled urgings before she finally gave in…and slipped into unconscious sleep.

##

"I'm forfeiting the fight. And that's all there is to it." Trent worked passed Tommy, pressing beyond his brother as he crossed to the other side of the Malloy home.

"Trent, you can't be serious." Tommy scoffed and heeled his brother from behind, not letting his older brother get a moment's peace as Trent stopped at the foot of the stairs. Tommy ceased his swift step as Trent turned around to face him.

"Tommy, I can't fight Lyons. Not now. I've promised to help find the Hutchinson girl with Katheryn. Molly is in the hospital. The Rangers are in Mournful. And Carlos just left to help them. There will be other chances. But now isn't it." Trent considered the talk to be over and continued up the stairs to the second floor…only to hear Tommy coming from behind.

"Jake Lyons won't let you go so easily." Tommy's voice was edged with concern as they landed on the second floor.

Trent tried to ignore his own concerns he wrestled with as he entered his bedroom, reaching for the karate supplies he had stashed away in his closet. He set the said duffle of supplies just outside his door and faced a waiting Tommy who currently had his arms crossed and his displeased attitude written plainly across his face. Trent took one look at Tommy and wanted to chuckle but chose not to. He passed his younger brother and traced a path back downstairs and into the dining room.

"Tommy, you and I both know that threats from Lyons is meaningless." Trent stopped and turned to face Tommy once more who was still following him silently. He placed his hand on Tommy's shoulder. "Our friends are far more important."

Tommy's regret was not easily suppressed by the wall of insistence he had built around his emotions. He knew his brother was right…like most of the time. He sighed. "You're right, Trent. But what will you do if Lyons forces you?"

Trent did chuckle this time as he returned to his task of relocating Tandy's wayward toys back to their rightful place in the living room bin. "No one can force another into anything."

Tommy sighed remember the day he had stated, "How come I have the feeling there's going to times I'm going to love this?" right after Lyons and his goons had spilled their first empty threats right in front of the barely blossomed Thunder Karate. Trent's words had seemed to quiet them then. But they had both known since that day that a moment of reckoning would not be avoidable. Yet it seemed it would have to be postponed yet again.

##

Katheryn's mouth drooped against her chest, her arms crossed, and her head using the hospital wall as a pillow. The monitor's slow beeping gently kept her fast asleep. Exhaustion had since overcame her already weary body. For she had forced herself to remain awake until Molly came out of the stupor of the rather easy surgery to remove the bullet from her left shoulder. The doctor had been pleased and called the whole ordeal quite textbook. She would recover with no complications to be had as far as he was concerned. Katheryn was tempted to be angry at the doctor's coldness regarding the whole situation. But she couldn't convince herself to be angry while her dear friend had managed to avoid such a close tragedy.

Katheryn wiggled a bit in her sleep, adjusting to the agitation caused by the remembrance of what had happened as it replayed in her dreams. Or was she slowly waking? A gentle knock sounded upon the open doorway's frame. The three consecutive calls drew Katheryn from her sleep. Her eyes adjusted to the light coming from the window as she glanced at a sleeping Molly. She stifled a yawn as her eyes refocused on the figure standing in the doorway.

"Hi." A voice drew her from the side. The rather short figure with medium-length jet black hair and darkened skin slowly took a step forward into the cool room.

Katheryn blinked a few times to make sure she wasn't still dreaming before she forced herself to get her act together and greet the stranger properly. She rose from the seat and extended her hand…perhaps a bit early…as she approached the woman. "Hi. I'm Katheryn. And you are?"

The kind demeanor of the young woman was clear as her infectious smile lit up the room. She accepted Katheryn's hand with a gentle shake and made eye contact with the fellow stranger. "My name is Sydney. Officer Sydney Cooke."


Part 4


A narrow stream of relentless noonday sunlight poured over the hospital bed as Molly began to stir. The uniformed officer moved closer to the bed, shining a smile over the young woman. Katheryn was quick to move to Molly's bedside, covering Molly's hand with hers as she stooped over her just barely while awaiting Molly's first words as she began to come to.

"Welcome back." Katheryn couldn't stop smiling.

"It's rather good to be back." Molly's smile was a bit more lethargic than usual but still had a bit of shine to it. "Where's Trent?"

Katheryn reached a hand to smooth away a wayward lock of Molly's curly blonde hair. "At home. He needed the rest after last night. He refused to leave the hospital once they took you back into surgery. I bet he flattened the carpet in the waiting room from his pacing."

Molly finally chuckled a bit as she pictured in her mind what Katheryn had described. But then it didn't seem very humorous anymore as the flood of memories from last night came rushing into her mind. Her smile faded as she was back there, lying on the ground in Trent's arms as she felt the life draining from her by the second. A small tear slid down her cheek as she fought back the tears. She could have died in Trent's arms last night. But it seemed that he wouldn't let that happen so easily.

"Molly?" Katheryn gave Molly's hand a soft squeeze. Molly turned her head to look at Katheryn and forced a smile. "This here is Officer Sydney Cooke." Katheryn nodded towards the young woman on the other side of the bed. "Officer Cooke, this is Miss Molly Mason."

Molly greeted the officer with a brief nod and a wary smile. Yet only one question remained on her mind. "Who did this to me, Officer Cooke?"

Officer Cooke dipped her head low and sighed before returning her gaze to Molly. "We don't know yet. But what we do know is that you and your friends were targets. This wasn't random. I was sent so that I could perhaps ask you both a few questions." She centered her attention on Molly. "That is…if you're up for it?"

Molly could still feel a throb in her shoulder and a slight spell of dizziness. But she could not refuse the officer what she needed to get the ones who were behind this to justice. Blinking once or twice with firm resolution edging her delicate mien, Molly nodded the best she could. "Yes. I—I'm up for it."

"Are you sure?" Katheryn was compelled to ask.

Molly nodded yet again. "Yes. I'm sure."

Officer Cooke inhaled deeply, glancing between them both. "Do either of you remember what the vehicle looked like?"

"It was a van," Katheryn began first. "It was rather old with a scratchy brown paint job and a thin green stripe painted towards the top half of the side of the van."

The officer seemed to be good at taking mental notes. She listened closely and personally. She was also quite friendly and spoke as a friend instead of an officer. "Did you get any glimpse of the license plate?"

"No." It was Molly who spoke this time. "Trent had brought us down to the ground before the van had even passed us fully by."

"Do you remember anything that would have set the van apart from others?"

A thought suddenly struck Katheryn. "You know…" She glanced down at Molly. "Now that I think about it, the van reminds me a lot of another van we saw just this past Sunday."

"Where did you both see it?"

"It was hard to tell, but I think it was being chased by the police…about five miles away from the First Christian Church of Dallas."

"Do you know if the police caught up with them?"

Katheryn shook her head forlornly, wishing she could have said different.

Officer Cooke thought through the information she had been given so far for a brief second. "I do recall the DPD filing a report on a Sunday incident. I'll see if I can pull up that file and get more information on that incident. Maybe there are some connections that we could place between the two incidents."

Katheryn nodded and extended her hand from across the hospital bed. "Thank you, Officer Cooke. I do hope you'll be able to find something."

Officer Cooke grinned, stretching a bit to accept Katheryn's hand and give it a few solid shakes. "Me too. It's been a pleasure to meet you both." Cooke glanced at Katheryn and then Molly, giving the latter's hand a soft squeeze as she smiled. "You get well quick, Miss Mason."

Molly nodded wearily. "That's my plan."

"Great." Officer Cooke ended with a light chuckle and turned on her heel towards the door and soon disappeared from view.

"She seemed nice." Molly managed to say followed by a brief groan once Officer Cooke was completely out of earshot.

Katheryn's smile faded. She couldn't bear to see the pain in her friend's eye. "You want me to call the nurse for some pain medication?"

Molly didn't want to but shook her head anyways. If it would help her to get better, then she would force herself do to whatever possible to accomplish that.

##

The tires of her Stingray made a slight squeal as Katheryn came to a jaunting halt right outside of Thunder Karate. She threw open the door of the little car and rushed away, almost slamming the door upon her leave as she pulled open the door to the karate school and hurried inside, tracing a firm path across the short distance and into the classroom. She looked all around the room for Trent but didn't find him. He had left a message on her answering machine not a half hour go saying to meet him here. She had not even had time to rest after Molly insisted that she go home. He had to be there someplace.

"Up here." A voice called from behind and above her.

Katheryn wheeled around to see Trent's face looking down from the loft office above. Without a thought given, she hurried up the stairs to the office, skipping one or two along the way and making a sharp turn to her left as she reached the top. "What's up?" She uttered before having a chance to catch her breath.

Trent motioned toward the empty chair beside him as he reached for a piece of paper on his desk. Katheryn tried to catch a glimpse of it as she situated herself in the seat. It was Trent's handwriting; but she couldn't quite make out what it said.

"Walker called." Trent seemed to be avoiding Katheryn's question. "They found Mrs. Rialto's son."

"What?" Katheryn's eyebrows were raised high with surprise. "But I thought he died in an explosion."

"Yeah," Trent scoffed. "It seems that's what the sheriff there wanted everyone to think."

"Wow," Katheryn relaxed in her seat, the magnitude of such a thing hitting her as she let it sink in. "Was he badly hurt though?"

"Yeah. But he'll live, thank God."

"That's good to hear."

Trent lifted the aforesaid paper off his desk. "I've been doing some research on this Brian Hutchinson character." Trent handed Katheryn the paper and turned to face her as he explained. "He seems to have quite the reputation on the streets."

Katheryn scanned the paper and read a few lines here and there, trying to comprehend what she read. "Oh?"

"Yeah. Take a look." Trent pointed to an area on the page. "Been a part of a few drug deals. Went to prison for a few months. Even was an accomplice in a few robberies. Yet he seems to always be the one who got away. Nobody can seem to book him on a solid charge."

Katheryn returned the page to Trent's desk and sighed. "Any leads?"

"Yeah. One." Trent began to get up from his desk.

"Where are we going?" Katheryn got to her feet also and asked by near impulse, heeling Trent from behind as he headed downstairs.

The afternoon Texas sunlight bared down on the twosome as they exited the dojo, Trent aiming for his Stingray while Katheryn stopped beside hers.

"We aren't going anywhere." Trent's sly smile followed his emphasis on the word we.

Katheryn gave a confused look, searching his eyes for a possible answer.

"Feel up to sleuthing a bit for me?" Trent piled into his Stingray and shut the door behind him.

Katheryn hesitated to say yes but did so anyway, approaching Trent in hopes for further details.

Trent handed her a slip of paper with an address on in before starting the blue beauty's smooth-sounding engine. He then reached over to the passenger seat of the car and drew up his cell phone, also passing it to Katheryn. "I need you to go to that address. Do a little snooping and call Carlos if you see anything suspicious."

Katheryn accepted the cell phone apprehensively. "I thought Carlos was still out of town. And…won't you need this?"

"Walker said they are coming back as we speak. And…just trust me." These were Trent's last words before he put his Corvette in drive and sped away, leaving Katheryn in the wake of a pile of questions that formed in her mind.

Secretly, Katheryn wanted to be a bit mad at Trent for leaving her sort of helpless like this. She had always been a sidekick so far it seemed like. But at the same time, she hid a smirk of pleasure as she realized Trent was giving her an opportunity to prove herself on her own. For he had seen the fire burning in her eyes for months now.

With a slight spring in her first initial step, Katheryn turned completely around, following her unseen footsteps back to her own Stingray. She put the vehicle in drive and sped away in the opposite direction from where Trent headed, repeating the address Trent had gave her over and over in her mind so that she would find the place as soon as she could.

Within fifteen minutes or less, Katheryn began discovering that the address was quite rural…very rural in fact. It seemed that more than five minutes and a mere seven or eight miles had passed between her and the immediate downtown Dallas area as she pressed the gas pedal downward and traversed the highway leading out of town.

By the time she had used her trusty map a tenth time, forty minutes was in the books and sunset would not be far away. But with spring in full force, perhaps a bit of extended daylight would buy her some time.

"Everything alright, missy?" An elderly gentleman clad in overalls and a plaid, flannel shirt underneath had questioned her as she studied her map yet again with a huff on her lips after she had filled up on gasoline at a rural gas station.

Katheryn simply nodded and grinned, insisting everything was alright…When in reality, she wondered just what in the blazes Trent was thinking when he sent her on what was beginning to feel like a wild goose chase. But she knew better than to think Trent would do that. He must have had a good reason. And with that placed firmly in the forefront of her mind, Katheryn put her foot to the gas pedal once more and aimed for the highway. If her estimations were correct, she was only about ten minutes away from the address Trent had given.

Fifteen minutes later, Katheryn slowed, turning effortlessly onto a dirt road path leading into a cluster of trees that lined the road. No end was in site as she followed the trail as quietly as possible. Three miles later, Katheryn sighed with relief at the sight of a clearing. Yet maintaining a sense of utmost caution, Katheryn eased to the side of the road and turned off her engine, taking up her binoculars and Trent's trusty cell phone before she proceeded away from her prized possession.

She followed the dirt road to the edge of clearing as quickly but as quietly as she could. Once she reached the edge, she found two more paths. One lead towards what appeared to a ranch pasture with no trees in sight. The other seemed to be a bit homier, shading a path leading to some building. A house maybe as Katheryn had assumed. She raised her binoculars into view to confirm her assumption. She had been wrong. Very wrong. Yet she now knew which trail she had to pursue.

Katheryn had almost started forward when she felt a hand softly rest upon her shoulder. She gasped softly and nearly dealt the one present with a healthy right cross but was held at bay by the body. Once Katheryn had seen who it was, she panted briskly, her heart rate slowly returning back to normal as she shook away the impulse of fear that had overtaken her.

"I'm sorry." The other party whispered, her lip curled upward with regret.

Katheryn raised a hand. "That's okay, officer. What are you doing here?"

Officer Sydney Cooke grinned. "Looks like we have the same lead here. Let's go."

Katheryn followed Officer Cooke closely from behind as they neared the distant building. Reaching the clearing, they walked side-by-side, examining the building that sat among the quiet Texas field.

It was rather shabby and old. A tin warehouse by the looks of it. It hadn't been kept up very well whatsoever. And not even one noise came from it, save the occasional field mouse or wild bird that entered or exited through tiny, makeshift doors and crevices throughout.

"You carry a gun?" Officer Cooke queried, undoing the latch on her holster at her right hip.

Katheryn shook her head and smiled. "No. Not yet anyway. But I'm working on my green belt."

The officer showed her a smile of understanding before they continued onward closer to the building…only to be stopped short by a faint cry.

Katheryn ceased her step, glancing all around her. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah." Officer Cooke tightened her grip on her handgun, keeping it close to her chest as she advanced forward.

Hearing the sound again, they both stopped.

Katheryn turned her head to the side, trying to identify the sound. "Is that singing?"

A nearly undetectable smile graced the officer's lips as she too paused to listen. "Yeah. It does."

Faint and distant echoes of a familiar chorus reverberated through the trees around the two ladies, mingling with the spring winds and pointing them ever so closer to the source of the sound. The notes seem to be perfect, even angelic as they became louder and louder as the two women drew closer and closer to the shabby makeshift building before them.

"It's coming from in there." Officer Cooke warned, stopping short by the door that led inside. "Stay close," she whispered just before thrusting the door wide open and extending the gun outstretched before her. She shifted it from left to right and back again. "It's clear!" Officer Cooke took a step to the side, allowing Katheryn to ease in behind her.

The room was quite dark and dank, extending as far as the eye could see. A stench of rotting wood and something that had been dead for quite some time seem to drift their way. They both proceeded with caution, wrinkling their noses and coughing slightly at the stench.

"Don't shoot! Please don't shoot!"

Both Officer Cooke and Katheryn's gazes darted towards where the voice came. It took a second for their eyes to adjust to the darkness before a little girl's figure finally appeared to them.

Katheryn smiled broadly, and rushed forward towards the girl. She found her huddled in the corner in a sort of ball, clustered tightly against herself with one rope securing her hands together and another around both of her ankles. And still another held her entire body captive. "Bree Anna!" Katheryn quickly worked at freeing the girl from the ropes that held her captive, yanking this way and that as she saw Bree Anna's beautiful hands with hints of purple mingling with her beautiful skin tone.

Officer Cooke was not as quick to rush forward, allowing Katheryn the chance at freeing the girl while she scanned the area around them, still wary of the atmosphere with her firearm held high but reserved close to her own body.

Although she still wasn't completely confident, the officer returned her gun to its holster and approached Katheryn and the little girl. "Are you okay, little lady?"

"I—I think so." Bree Anna shivered.

Katheryn took the girl into her arms and rocked her a bit. Although she was ten years old…maybe twelve, no amount of maturity hid the fact that the young girl had been through quite the ordeal before they had arrived.

The officer slowly stroked the girl's cheek. "Was that your singing we heard?"

Bree Anna only nodded, shivering again against the coolness that consumed her body.

Katheryn drew the girl away from her body and looked into her eyes. "That was very beautiful. Your voice is wonderful, Bree Anna."

The girl shrugged. "I do that all the time. Especially when I'm scared. It helps me not to be scared."

Katheryn exchanged a jovial smile with Officer Cooke before turning back to Bree Anna. "We'd best be getting you home."

Bree Anna stood to her feet on her own, but refused to take a step. "Where's momma?"

Katheryn hesitated, glancing at the ground below. "Um, she's at the hospital, sweetheart. She, um…she got shot."

Tears began to well up in the girl's eyes.

"But…" Katheryn began eagerly. "She's going to be just fine. Would you like to go talk to her now?"

Bree Anna wiped at the wayward tears and nodded, unable to speak for the time being.

"Then let's go!" Officer Cooke concluded the little discourse, beginning to lead the way out of the dingy place, down the well-traversed wooded path, and back to their vehicles. Although it was clear so far, Officer Cooke still stayed on alert, guarding the two persons with her as she scanned the distance beyond them every step they took. She wasn't prepared to take any chances as the elite officer she hoped to become.

##

Trent's hand slowly caressed the leather seat of his treasured motorcycle as sunlight filtered into the Malloy garage ever so subtly. It highlighted this feature and that feature of various nooks around the little place. Trent's beauty of an iron horse had sat in the driveway of the Malloy home since he had driven it home from the hospital just past midnight a little over a day ago. He hadn't ridden it much since coming home to stay a year or two ago. But for some reason it had just felt right to get it back out the other night. Now its memory was less than enjoyable. Trent eased around the bike to the other side, sifting his thoughts at a mile a minute. Visions of Molly's limp body lying helpless in his arms flashed through his mind, sending a brief moment of rage through him that caused him to close his eyes tightly. His clenched fist hovered over the bike as he hesitated to move closer to the vehicle.

Stray thoughts continuously went through his mind. First anger…then regret…maybe a touch of unrestrained fear…before his strong investigative instinct kicked in, willing him to find and bring to justice whoever had dealt the bullet that kept Molly in the hospital at that very moment. Yet his roaming thoughts were of no use. For somehow he wished that Molly's attacker and the case for Donna's husband had some sort of connection. But it didn't. He had promised to help Donna. And as much as he wished to hunt down the vicious criminal that had nearly taken Molly from them all, he was forced to set those notions aside and choose to handle them when the others returned.

Shaking the meager, useless thoughts to the wayside, Trent reached for his helmet with force, securing it on his head at the same time as he reached a leg over and climbed aboard the bike with ease. Starting the engine with a bit of intensity edging his every move, Trent guided the bike backwards out of the garage and into the driveway, pointing it towards the road ahead and the tip that Butch had so willingly given him over the phone just hours ago.

It was brief…and nothing to get excited about. But Butch had heard rumor around Dallas that there was a rather new group of no-accounts forming a cartel of sorts. It seemed to be gaining ground and getting bigger by the day. It wasn't the usual drug ring. Yet everything seemed to point to the fact that they were still up to no good in some way. His snitch had even hinted to their plans of taking down certain important people in the area while stealing supplies and ammo along the way. They were a meager, small force…but not one to be trifled with.

Trent arrived at a secluded warehouse about ten minutes from Dallas nearly fifteen a half hour later. Removing his helmet, he scanned the place from top to bottom, following the brick and broken glass to a shabby entrance at the front. He could have sworn he heard voices in the shifting winds that reached his ears. He dismounted his iron horse soon after, pausing to secure his helmet on his handlebars before continuing on.

"Yeah! Ya did a good job, Brian! And we got a million on top of the whole deal!" One goon slapped Hutchinson on the back, his laugh echoing beyond their open doors being heard by an unseen party.

Trent took a few steps forward and stopped. He lifted his eyes to view a freefalling piece of debris out of one of the broken-up windows. It fell to the ground…forgotten…as Trent tried to hear more of the faint voices coming from within the structure before him. Yet all noise had faded to a mumble that he couldn't understand. One thing he knew for sure…There was more than one person inside. He could tell there were two for sure…Brian Hutchinson being one of them.

Trent took another step forward and stopped, looking up to see an industrial ladder leading up to the roof of the structure. He shifted his gaze again…this time to the same jovial voices from within. So far he had evaded them. Putting all doubts aside, Trent reached up a hand onto a rung of the ladder and pulled his weight up and onto it, climbing each rung with ease until he was safe on top of the four-story brick structure.

The winds kicked up a bit and played at the hem of his leather coat and his blonde locks as he turned around to gaze at the landscape below. His bike was safe tucked behind a little cluster of trees on the outskirts of the property he had just come from. Other than that, not a single person could be seen for miles around, though there were a few other abandon buildings dotting the landscape. Now they lay dormant and at the mercy of time and the elements.

Having checked the landscape over one last time, Trent turned back to trace the flat concrete roof of the building over to where he assumed was a trapdoor leading right down into one of the rooms inside. For this to be a notable group of assailants, they surely didn't care about security too much. This put Trent on edge some, wondering if the place was being surveyed more than even he could know. Some of Walker's instinctive abilities had rubbed off on him in the year past. Trent shook away the concern that taunting him. He trusted his instincts…and his instincts had been right so far. No use worrying about things that was not even real.

Trent arrived at the trapdoor seconds later and went to work on the padlock that kept him from getting the door loose. Apparently the goons didn't care much about keeping their hideout safe. It was loose. Trent tossed the little piece of metal that one horrible excuse for a lock to the side and braced himself against the concrete beneath him, tugging at the handle of the trapdoor until it gave way and lifted with ease. Trent slowly and quietly eased it open, resting it gently on the other side opposite its rusty hinges that gave a little squeak away as it fell.

Trent immediately and without a hesitation began guiding his body downward and feet-first onto the rusty steel ladder below him. He was alert the entire time, not letting his mental guard down even once as he found his footing on the floor away from the ladder. Sunlight beamed down the narrow metal chute onto his face as Trent gaze upward toward the open trapdoor. He opened his mouth with a brief sigh, catching his breath before turning his attention back to the room around him.

It seemed to be a little catch-all utility room he had lowered himself into. It's rather filthy surroundings left much to be desired. Spider webs lined every little space that wasn't occupied by scurrying rat or pile of abandoned furniture or documents from the past. Trent briefly wondered if this room had any evidence of a crime committed. He would definitely be back if need be.

Then suddenly without one warning, Trent's gaze shifted upwards to where he had just come from as a loud thud echoed down to him. Someone…something…had seen fit to close the trapdoor with such a violent force. To make matters even worse, Trent soon discovered that the only door leading out of the small, dank room was padlocked much more securely than the previous entryways he had just came from.


Part 5 (final part)


"Momma!" Bree Anna's voice filled the entire corridor of the hospital as she rushed forward, turning into the single-bed room without stopping for breath. She rather haphazardly threw herself on the bed, wrapping her arms around Donna's neck before she could get a word in edgewise.

Officer Cooke and Katheryn looked on the scene with a broad smile gracing each of their faces as they slowly caught up to the girl, allowing her a quiet moment with her mother before they intruded into the space. It wasn't very private. So every moment alone they could spare the child with her mother was a blessing for the twosome.

Donna's free hand securely held her child's head to her chest as tears fell freely from her now reddened face. She sniffed hard as a silent breath of thanks to God came from her mouth. "Oh, dear God, I'm so glad you're safe." She pulled Bree Anna away to look into her eyes which also contained their share of flowing tears. "Let me look at you. Did he hurt you?" A flare of anger edge those last words.

Bree Anna couldn't speak through the tears but simply shook her head, hoping to ease her mother's worries.

Katheryn arrived in the doorway first followed by Officer Cooke as they strode in, still beaming from seeing Bree Anna light up so quickly at the sight of her mother.

Donna turned a tear-filled gaze toward the two ladies. "Thank you so much! You'll never know how thankful I am." She clasped Bree Anna a bit closer to herself as she spoke.

Katheryn exchanged a glance of understanding with Officer Cooke. "I think I can understand somewhat. Although…I know I'll never quite understand until I am a mother myself."

Donna smiled. "Yes. I think you'll be an excellent mother one day."

Katheryn's dry chuckle hid her doubt. "I don't know. I hope so."

"You have a good heart." Donna insisted, looking Katheryn in her hazel eyes intently.

Katheryn accepted her gesture with a brief smile, turning to Officer Cooke shortly after. "I should call Carlos. Let him know what I found. Trent told me to let him know if I found out anything."

"Carlos…" Officer Cooke's forehead was creased as she settled into a brief moment of thought. "Carlos Sandoval?"

Katheryn nodded, another smile of different meaning easing onto her face as she turned back to Donna and Bree Anna. "I'll see you both later," she whispered amid her happiness and turned to leave.

Officer Cooke nodded her goodbyes and stated briefly that she would stay behind and see to it that Bree Anna was kept safe and given a ride home…Home would be the H.O.P.E. center for the night, as Katheryn had insisted.

Hints of darkness shaded her surroundings as Katheryn made her way to the pay phone situated just outside the hospital's entrance. She quickly looked away from the lawn as she turned, unable to bring herself to look at the same place where Molly had been so ruefully attacked a short time ago. Katheryn swallowed hard and picked up the phone, slipping a couple of coins in before crossing her arm into her occupied arm and leaning gently against the metal box that housed the phone. She was forced to look out on that same lawn as she waited for Carlos to pick up. Visions of the other night swept of her with such a force, almost letting her forget she was on the phone. It was night again. That notorious van screeching around the corner and the sea of bullets from the automatic gun paraded against the side of the hospital with the same fervor as the night before as the scene replayed in Katheryn's mind.

"Detective Sandoval."

Katheryn jerked out of her little reverie and blurted out something inaudible before backtracking, remembering why she was even talking to Carlos in the first place. She attempted a smile. But it was hard in coming. "Carlos."

"Katheryn," Carlos beamed as he pressed the gas pedal to the floorboard, aiming for Dallas in his police issue. "It's good to talk to you again. Sorry I haven't called since leaving for Mournful."

"No…no…That's okay." Katheryn still had a hard time shaking away her reverie as she pushed some rebellious hair out of her face. "Um, Trent sent me on a bit of a sleuthing mission today and told me to call you if I found out anything."

"Oh? Where did Trent go? Seems like he would be doing that."

"I'm not sure. He gave me an address and sped away without another word. I haven't heard from him since."

"Hmm." Carlos' forehead was creased as he thought through Katheryn's words. "So what did you find?"

"Well, to make a long story short, Bree Anna was kidnapped by her father we think. He's up to no good. He put Donna in the hospital. She'll be okay though. And Molly…" Katheryn choked up a bit and had to stop for fear Carlos would hear her.

Carlos waiting a moment, trying to listen for her voice. "What? What about Molly?"

"She—she was shot too."

Concern overwhelmed Carlos. He slowed down a bit as he drove, sensing he wasn't paying very much attention to the road as he was to Katheryn's words. "Is she okay?"

Katheryn nodded as she spoke. "Yeah."

"What did you find out?"

Carlos' words brought Katheryn back to the moment. "Um, we found Bree Anna…that is…Officer Sydney Cooke. She was by herself at the address Trent gave."

"Why didn't he go with you?"

"I don't know. He must have had a lead on Brian."

Carlos shook his head with a sharp sigh.

Katheryn sensed worry in Carlos' tone; his silence told her more than his words. "Trent will be okay," she reassured. "You know him. He can handle himself."

Carlos grinned a bit, realizing the girl he was falling for these days had just read his thoughts. "I know. Still…I wish I knew what he was up to."

"I know." Katheryn smiled. "Are you headed back home?"

"Yup. Should be there any moment."

"I'll call again if I find out anything more."

"You do that," Carlos couldn't hide his smile. It faded some as he was tempted to add an additional requiem to end the phone conversation but stopped himself before the words could come out of his mouth. He instead ended with a goodbye and drove a bit faster in search for that familiar Dallas exit sign that wasn't too much farther away from him.

Katheryn hung up the phone and stood there for a minute, arms crossed as she gazed at the fiery orange sunset before her. A slow smile eased to the surface of her face as she exhaled through her nose. She slowly stifled the growing smile as she thought about Trent. Why hadn't he said where he was going? It wasn't like him to withhold information. But if he did, he had to have a good reason. She quickly picked up the payphone again and inserted another coin. Katheryn dialed the dojo just to be sure. No answer. She dialed the Malloy home. Still no answer. She even tried dialing Butch McMann over at Uppercuts. Although she still had no luck with locating Trent, Butch did tell her that he had passed on to Trent a passel of information he had received…including the address for on old hideout that used to have been used by an old acquaintance a few years ago. After taking Butch's warning against her finding Trent alone, Katheryn said goodbye with a smile and hurried away from the hospital, boarding her Stingray and punching the gas before ever giving a thought to telling Carlos what she had heard.

##

A touch of wind blew at Katheryn's straight blonde locks that rested gently on her chest and swayed this way and that as she eased out of her Stingray. She swiftly found her footing on the stray dirt path beneath her and proceeded to investigate the property. Bending a bit low, she hurried quickly across an opening in some bushes that was exposed to a rather large building that she could just barely see beyond her meager view. It was then that she noticed Trent's bike off on its own in a cluster of trees. Katheryn quickly scurried to it, inspecting it quickly and found it in perfect condition. For a moment she glanced up and around herself, wondering if Trent would suddenly show himself and greet her with that knowing smile of his. Yet that was not the case as Katheryn sighed, surrendering to her failed hopes and backtracking a few feet to trace the path leading to the large building up ahead.

The rather intimidating brick structure seemed to stare down at her. Its broken and dilapidated state made her question if approaching the building was even the best of ideas. Yet something seemed to tell her she was in the right place while a whole other part of her questioned if she was doing the right thing.

Her first once-over of the place brought her searching eyes to an industrial ladder situated on the far right and extended all the way up to the roof. Katheryn carefully considered her next move. It wouldn't hurt to look, she concluded, using her newly-attained upper body strength to pull herself up the ladder. She reached the top out of breath but full of determination as she spotted a trapdoor and hurried to its edge. She gave it a tug…and another…before a click behind brought her to a standstill. Her eyes widened. Her palms became full of perspiration.

"Get up!" The voice was sharp and degrading as its source eased the barrel of some gun into her back.

Without turning around, Katheryn slowly eased to her feet. She half-lifted her hands in the air to show an amount of surrender.

"Turn around!" The voice seemed to bark at her again.

Katheryn did as bid, making a full circle as slowly as she dared turn. To her surprise, Bree Anna's father seemed to be the man who favored the one before her. He had the same disheveled brown hair and unkempt facial hair. His hands and arms were feeble-looking, causing his voice to be the only defense he held in his favor.

"Why are you doing this?" Seemed to be the only thing Katheryn could come up with to say. She knew it was a dare to speak up. But she longed to know why a man would suddenly stop caring for a little girl who had a heart to take the world by storm. It was something Katheryn couldn't quite comprehend.

Brian wrinkled up his forehead, s stream of tobacco leaving his mouth with a force at Katheryn's feet. "What do you mean?"

Katheryn wanted to cringe as she glanced at her feet before turning back to face the barrel of Brian's weapon. "Bree Anne." She breathed the little girl's name ever so softly; it mingled with the winds and seemed to echo between the short space that separated the two.

"Because…" Brian's voice almost softened as his eyes lost a bit of fervor. It was short-lived and disappeared as quickly as it had come. "They don't mean nothing to me anymore!"

It wasn't what she had hoped to hear. Katheryn lowered her gaze to the concrete roof, biting her tongue and pursing her lips sarcastically as anger rose up in her. She suppressed it long enough to look back at the enemy before her. "What have you done to Trent?"

"Trent?" Hutchinson threw back her words with a sting.

"My friend." Katheryn's teeth were nearly clenched together as she spoke…this time with a touch of harsh determination. "I know he's here."

Brian rolled his eyes. "Oh, him." He laughed a bit before briefly pointing to the trapdoor with his gun. "He's down there. And there's no way out."

Katheryn's breathy chuckle hid the bit of sarcasm that rose to her already shaken attitude. Yet holding a firm focus on the moment at hand, she turned her gaze back to Brian in a split second, diving forward and clasping one hand atop the semi-automatic pistol and another on the man's wrist. She gave the weapon a hard tug while her loud kiais covered her as she drove her knee into Brian's mid-section. Hutchinson finally doubled over, allowing for one final uppercut to his lowered face dealt by Katheryn's strong right hand.

Once Hutchinson had been successfully contained, Katheryn took a step back and ran a hand through her hair at her scalp as she caught her breath. She had taken a big chance just now. But it had paid off.

Hurrying back over to the trapdoor, Katheryn stepped back, planting one foot firmly in front of the other as she clasped the goon's pistol in both hands and aimed for the lock at the base of the door. A light whistling of the wind and an eagle overhead added a measure of focus as she squinted, aiming for the lock with a hard-pressed focus. One shot was all it took and sent the pestering lock flying into the air to the other side of the trapdoor.

Katheryn let an unashamed grin cross her lips as she tucked the weapon into the base of the shirt at her lumbar and quickly swung the door open with all her might. She eased over the open and cupped her hands around her mouth to funnel her voice downward. "Trent? Are you there?"

Katheryn's eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness below to see Trent smiling from below. He quickly gathered up something from the floor and began his quick ascent up the trifling ladder to meet her.

"Boy are you a sight for sore eyes." Trent stated as he found his footing on the roof. He quickly noticed Brian lying unconscious before him. "So that's what I heard up here." He flashed a grin Katheryn's way of which she hesitantly returned.

"Only did what I had to."

"Without waiting for help?" Trent searched for her eyes as he issued the little reprimand.

Katheryn laughed softly, a level of sarcasm in her tone. "I seem to recall that you did the same thing just now, and look where it got you."

"Point taken." Trent sighed and used the rope he had brought from below to secure Brian's hands tightly behind his back.

Katheryn could hear the goon groaning a bit behind her as she searched the ground below. "You think that's all of them?"

Trent shook his head. "No. There's at least one more I think. At least he was here at some point. Here…"

Katheryn turned around just in time as Trent tossed a rolled-up up piece of paper towards her. She caught it just in time nearly smashing it against her chest. "What is it?"

"Insurance."

"What?" Katheryn worked at unraveling the stubborn wad in her hands so that she could eliminate the confusion.

"Came across it while I was down there. It's a map to another hideout. Plus evidence that our man here has been involved in some arms dealing."

"You think there could be more guys there?"

Trent nodded and hoisted the man before him up by the collar. "Yeah. Let's get Hutchinson here to Ranger headquarters."

Suddenly, Katheryn ducked behind the wall, jerking around and motioning to Trent to get down. "They're down there!" Her whisper was sharp and pointed. She slowly eased back into view, scanning the ground below with only her eyes above the roof wall.

Trent left Hutchinson in place and stooped low as he made his way over to Katheryn's side and also raised his eyes above the short wall to view the activity on the ground.

One camo-clad man emerged from the shabby main entrance with rifle in hand, uttering some useless words inaudible to Trent and Katheryn. He seemed to be looking for something…or someone…and almost gave up the search and returned back inside when a second man appeared from around the corner of the building. He seemed flustered and furious. His voice was significantly louder as he hurried to tell the other man something.

Trent knew immediately what he was saying as he swiftly moved away from the wall. "They know Hutchinson's gone. Let's go."

Katheryn did as told, heeling Trent as he made his way across the roof to another ladder that led down the back side of the structure. It was opposite the front entrance and would not be noticed by the other two goons.

Trent's boots made a soft thud against the dirt below him not to be long-lived by Katheryn's arrival off of the ladder right above him. Once Trent was sure she had made it off safely, he hurried alongside the building, tracing a path parallel to the time-worn bricks as he sought out the two men out front.

He stopped at the first corner and pressed his back against the wall, catching his breath while Katheryn caught up to him and also pressed herself against the wall. Her knees were bent only slightly as she rested a bit before readying herself behind Trent, erect and ready to fight if need be.

Trent waved his hand towards himself as he faced the turn as if to say, "This way. Follow me." He rounded the corner quickly with Katheryn not very far behind. By near reflex, the twosome simultaneously ducked behind a pile of garbage as one of the two men appeared around the next corner. He had just barely missed them.

The soft pounding of Katheryn's heart against her chest prompted her to close her eyes and take a deep breath as she waited, crouched down low with Trent while they waited for the other man to make his next move.

Trent then eased forward slowly and confirmed it was clear by another waiving of his hand. They made it to the next corner only to hear footsteps approaching. Trent put up his hand rigidly. Katheryn came to a stop at his signal and ducked against the wall behind Trent as the sound of the enemies boots grew louder and louder by the second. Yet as soon as his face appeared before her, the entire body dropped helplessly to the ground thanks to Trent's stellar high punch.

Only one more goon remained…but not for long. Trent stepped out into the open and was met with a helpless young man's gaze.

His eyes showed feared and his hands shot up in the air in surrender once he threw his rifle down.

"Good choice." Trent nodded resolutely, kicking the gun away a few feet before securing the man's hands behind his back with a spare sliver of rope he had kept.

Katheryn finally exhaled, all stress leaving her body as the adrenaline of the chase slowly came to a victorious halt. Trent too was relieved. And although he greatly wished Katheryn would have waited for Walker or Carlos, he secretly admired the girl's bravery and tenacity that had helped him greatly. She was definitely an asset to him as still a novice private investigator. But he would still be having a brief talk with her soon regarding her hasty decision to go rogue without anyone's knowledge.

##

Trent's motorcycle engine roared to a stop alongside the grassy edge of the road leading into the cemetery. Soft hints of morning sunlight filtered through the trees overhead and highlighted Trent's path as he removed his helmet and traced that familiar walk to Thunder's grave. Trent came to a stop stood silently for a brief moment.

"Hey, Thunder. Dad. It's me again." His words seemed to fail him. He glanced upward and sighed. "It's been a while since we spoke." Trent looked back down towards the grave. "But I needed to talk to you. We're doing alright so far. Mom's getting by. Tandy and Ty are growing up way too fast. And Tommy…He's a changed young man for the better. You'd be proud of him, Thunder.

"I'm doing okay too. So many things seemed to have happened since you left us. But I know I'm doing the right thing…helping people…like I told you I would. Being a karate teacher and private investigator definitely wasn't in my plans when I left seminary for the Army. But I wouldn't give it up for the world." Trent paused and glanced at his watch briefly. It was almost eleven o'clock. He had promised to meet Carlos and Katheryn at the dojo ahead of time. "I've got a promise to keep, Thunder. I just wanted to let you know I love you…I miss you…And you still encourage me every day to be the man that you was. I'm not there yet. But I hope to be."

Trent's words seemed to come to a standstill. He took one step back and turned, facing his motorcycle with his back turned to the grave. He walked about half the distance before turning around to face the grave again. After looking it over briefly, his thoughts raging, he turned back around and zipped up his leather jacket a portion of the way. He then reached for his helmet, climbing over the bike as he secured it on himself before starting the thunderous engine and heading for Thunder Karate.

Carlos, Katheryn, and Tommy were already there when he arrived. Even Miss Cahill and the Rangers were there.

"What's up?" Trent's forehead was creased intently as he neared his friends.

"Good news." Alex's radiant smile lit up the dojo floor. "Brian Hutchinson and the others were indicted today for multiple charges due to that evidence you found Trent. They'll be behind bars for a long time."

Trent beamed. "That great. Sorry it had to happen to Donna and Bree Anna. But at least they're safe now." He glanced toward the door. "Any sign of him?"

Carlos shook his head sarcastically. "First he insults you. Then he challenges you. Geez, the least he could do is be on time to the fight he's so confident he can win."

"Well," Trent sighed and eased out of his leather jacket, tossing it across a nearby chair. "I'm sort of glad he's late. Gives me a chance to get warmed up some." He grinned from across the distance to Carlos. "You up for it?"

"Up for what?" Carlos was a failure at trying to act oblivious.

Trent simply chuckled and retreated down the hall to change into his instructor's uniform and returned a short while later.

Carlos glared at Tommy and Katheryn as he took his place on the mat. "You two set me up. Didn't you?"

The two never said a word while exchanging gleeful smiles. Trivette, Alex, and Walker had a hard time hiding a chuckle also. Yet noisome footsteps in the nearby hall alerted them all, stealing the brief moment of joy as Jake Lyons' demanding presence seemed to drown out the joy.

"Not exactly how I planned on getting out this," Sandoval uttered under his breath as he looked onward at Lyons.

"Well well…Looks like the gang's all here." Lyons' hearty laugh echoed against the broad walls of the dojo. He clapped his hands together in front of his all-black karategi. "Shall we begin? Or—or are we just going to stare at the walls of this no good institution?" He stifled another oncoming laugh as he spoke.

Carlos had no problem with vacating the dojo floor, finding his place next to Tommy and Katheryn on the wall beneath the loft office.

"Well?" Lyons pressed, glaring into Trent's steadfast eyes.

"I'm ready when you are," Trent peacefully returned. His fists were clenched intensely at his sides as he stifled the growing anger within him.

Jake Lyons' cocky stride brought him onto the mat seconds later.

Both competitors faced each other in fighting stance, feet planted on the broad blue surface and hands fisted and raised. With no warning, Lyons was the first strike, triggering cringes from all bystanders as Trent doubled back and placed a hand to his jaw. He rebounded just as Lyons laughed a bit under his breath and pivoted on the surface before him.

"Come on, Lyons. This isn't a boxing match." Trent tried a level of reason that was clearly not in the intentions of the so-called karate teacher.

"What?" Lyons responded in a shrill whisper. "You getting tired already?"

"Nope. Just getting started." With that in mind, Trent sparred a bit, fooling the prideful fighter before foot sweeping Lyons right onto his back and placing his heel firmly in Lyons' middle before rolling backwards and springing back up to his feet.

Lyons too sprang back upward, a light panting on his lips as he recovered from the blow and began to be impressed by Trent's skill…but was far from letting on about the fact.

"Come on, Trent." Tommy whispered through clenched teeth from his place by the others.

"You can do it," Alex and Walker encouraged from afar.

It was a game of cat and mouse for almost three straight minutes as they exchanged punches and kicks of equal skill…neither tiring out to let the other get an edge passed the other one. One thing was for certain. There was only one fighter on the mat who was using his head to truly give his craft a good name. The other opponent was simply testing the other, hoping he'd give in to his haphazard aggression of will he had since dubbed karate and taught to countless others under his tutelage.

Trivette leaned in to Walker as the two fighters paused and rested in fighting stance. "You think Trent's got a chance, Walker?"

Walker's eye remained fixed on his protégé. "Yes. As long as he doesn't get too confident. Then Lyons will take him if he's not careful."

Trivette returned his gaze to the fight just as it recommenced with Lyons issuing a blow which Trent blocked and sent over his head along with Lyons himself. Trent circled and landed Lyons in a mock chokehold. Lyons grunted and heaved and slapped the blue mat more than three time. Trent knew he should let him go and did so reluctantly. That would be his third point...He had won according to the rules of competition. There was no need for another punch or kick to be thrown; for the fight itself had served its purpose and proven who the better of the two masters was.

All those gathered around the room applauded Trent and cheered for him, sending Lyons into a silent rage as he huffed and tugged at the hem of his shirt upon gathering himself off of the mat. He coughed a bit from the chokehold and pointed his finger in Trent's smiling face as he backed up and out of the room. "This isn't over, Malloy! Not by a long shot!" With that said and done for, Lyons disappeared around the corner and out into the street, piling into his open-top, shiny red Cadillac and speeding away as streams of exhaust spilled from the car's end in the wake of his hasty yet gladly anticipated departure.

##

Both Carlos and Katheryn were equally tired from the previous events that had transpired in the several days past yet appreciated the quiet moment together in the welcoming atmosphere of the Malloys' living room. Everyone had since gone their separate ways. Tommy tossed around the ole pigskin with Tandy and Ty in the backyard while Mrs. Malloy worked steadily on dinner. And Trent would be home soon to rest after visiting Molly in the hospital once more. She was doing much better according to the doctors and would be able to go home within a couple of short days.

A silence fell between them as Katheryn hesitated to look Carlos in the eyes. Katheryn glanced at her hand instead as she drew unseen lines on her jeans with the tip of her index finger. "What happened to Donna has me thinking lately."

Carlos raised his eyes higher, looking toward her face with unashamed interest.

"When I thought about how her family was separated…it—it caused me to realize just what was important to me. Who…is important to me." She finally gave in to the urge, turning her head slowly to see Carlos' eyes upon her. "I know you're nothing like Brian was. But…seeing how much it tore up Donna to have had something so valuable torn from her life because of the problems Brian hid…I realized how valuable those we love really are. And…" She swallowed hard, hoping Carlos had not seen it. "…I promised myself that I'd never miss a chance at telling someone how I truly felt. We don't know what may happen next in life. Who knows…Perhaps if Brian could have told Donna what he was going through, they could have kept their family together. I never want something like that to happen to me." A breathy chuckle escaped her shaky lips. "So…Carlos Sandoval…I want to tell you the truth. And that is…I think I'm starting to love you…More than I ought to be allowed I think." She cleared her throat nervously as she turned away. "There. I said it," Katheryn mumbled.

A slow, pensive smile eased onto the detective's face and the silence caused Katheryn even more undue tension. "Well…I guess there's just one way to answer that…"

Katheryn willed herself to look back into his loving, brown eyes.

Carlos ran his finger ever so gently along the side of Katheryn's face as he slowly eased closer to her. Katheryn breathed in a shallow breath as he neared her, tempted to shut her eyes. As she did, she felt his lips touch hers. It was soft…gentle…brief…pure…all while being perfect as she gently returned his kiss. It was over as quickly as it had started but left a flood of emotions racing between them in its wake.

Drawing away from each other, they both couldn't help but smile and both wished their cheeks would relax from the tension the smiles caused them both.

"I suppose I should get going." Katheryn hesitated to move from her spot on the sofa as she remained affixed on Carlos' convincing smile.

"So soon? Aren't you staying for dinner?" He queried.

"If not, Molly'll send out a posse for sure if I don't call her from home." The twosome shared a brief chuckle.

"Alright. I'll walk you to your car."

Katheryn nodded and rose with Carlos nearly in unison, falling into step next to each other once they had reached the veranda outside. Almost without thinking, Carlos slowed his step to Katheryn's speed and tried slipping his hand into hers…successfully. Neither looked towards one another as they walked…but a sly smile crept back onto Sandoval's face the moment he felt a soft squeeze surrounding his own hand as it seemed more than just their physical steps had fallen into sync that very afternoon.