TITLE: Race Against Time
(WTR Virtual Episode VI – 2001/2002 season 10)

AUTHOR: Mare

EMAIL: DANCEMOMRI@AOL.COM 

RATING: PG13

SUMMARY: It’s early November and Dallas has been experiencing unusually scorching temperatures exceeding well over 100 degrees. The Company B Rangers have taken full charge of a Texas serial murder investigation where eleven young women have been brutally beaten, raped, and murdered.  The air conditioning has been on the fritz in the justice building for the past three days and the unbearable heat has started to get the best of the overworked Rangers and the rest of the employees in the building. A second storyline runs in parallel.  A rabid wolf has been attacking small farm animals along the Texas countryside where Walker and Alex live.

Fade in ~

TEASER November 8th, 2001 – 4:28AM.

Walker ranch house, Dallas, Texas. It is pre-dawn and Walker and Alex are resting in a dormant state beneath the comforting bedcovers.

The baby monitor is vibrating relentlessly as both parents fake a sound sleep, each hoping the other will harvest their squealing cherub from her crib. Walker pulls his pillow up over his murky head while Alex opens one eye to see if he is going to react to the situation at hand. After a few spirited wails sound out through the monitor, Alex’s maternal instincts kick in and she is feeling guilty for slighting her needy offspring. She hoists herself up from the comfort of her bedcovers and turns on the bedside lamp. She steps into her slippers and staggers to a tentative balance before she heads out of the bedroom doorway. It is more then obvious that the short-lived euphoria that comes with new parenting has long since worn off and both Alex and Walker are showing signs of extended sleep deprivation. Alex’s eyes are at half-mast as she moves on autopilot down the hallway towards the room that harbors her bellowing child.

“Okay little morning angel, mommy’s on her way.”

The strong-lunged infant emphatically beckons her source of food to her immediate disposal.

“I’m coming Angela. Mommy’s coming.”

Alex enters the nursery and the alert infant espies her mother’s familiar face and knows that she is the keeper of her nourishment. Angela turns the volume up on her howl by a half-octave to communicate her sense of urgency.  Alex quickly replaces Angela’s soggy diaper with a dry one, then cradles her close to her breast.

“Is that better, angel?”

The wailing stops in an instant as the baby is snuggled against the customary warmth of her mother’s chest. Alex’s face displays her gratitude for the temporary hushing of her infant. She makes her way back to her bedroom and sneaks back under the covers on her side of the bed with the momentarily pacified Angela. Alex snuggles the blanket around them and lifts the baby up to nurse for her breakfast. A precious suckling sound overtakes the silence and Walker cannot stay in hiding under his pillow for much longer.  He peaks out from underneath and smiles uncontrollably. He tosses the pillow aside, confessing his consciousness.

“She loves this time of day, doesn’t she?”

“Of course she does…and you do too. Both of you get to relax while I serve as a continuous milkmaid.  After she’s fed, the two of you usually drift off into an extra hour of sleep while I race for the bathroom, praying I can conveniently schedule my nature call until after Angela’s belly is full.”

“Come on, we’re not that ungracious, are we?”

 Walker dons a searching grimace.

“The two of you are downright selfish.  She draws on me like a high-school kid siphoning gas from a car and you ease back into a comfortable sleep while I provide unlimited dairy service. I feel like there’s a neon sign flashing over my head that says ‘open 24 hours.’  I can understand her selfishness; she’s only a baby, but you! You, Cordell Walker…could offer just a little more support. She was up three times last night and you just laid there playing dead while I tended to her. As a matter of fact, you’ve managed to avoid getting up with her for the last four nights in a row. She’s teething now so she’s not sleeping as well as she was. Ouch!…”

“What…what’s the matter?”

“She just bit me.”

 Alex huffs in frustration as she shifts the baby to her other breast.

“How can she bite you? She doesn’t have any teeth yet.”

“Well, we could let her latch onto your breast and bear down with those strong gums of hers and then you’ll know firsthand how effective her bite is.”

Walker’s fuzzy-headed expression turns to a guilty one as he pulls himself up on one arm so he is near eye level with Alex.

“I’m sorry hon. It’s just that this has been a really rough week at work.  This serial killer case has made for some long hours and we’re short staffed with Sydney and Gage away on their hiking trip. Not to mention the air conditioning going south during the hottest November in more then a decade.  All of the Rangers are overworked and on edge with the heat, which makes my job that much more stressful.”

“Have you forgotten that I work in the same building and my staff is working under the same uncomfortable conditions?  We’re putting in the same crazy hours as all of you while we try and keep up with the endless indictments you need to secure your case. Angela doesn’t care if we’ve had a bad day.  She needs to be taken care of and I need your help. Ouch….”

Alex flinches as the baby bears down on her flesh for a second time.

“That’s it!  I need a break... Here..”

Alex passes Angela over to Walker, buttons her pajama top and jumps up from the bed.  Walker looks down at the already fussing baby and then up at Alex who is heading for the doorway.  The hungry nursling begins to fret for more food.

“Where are you going?”

Alex stops in her tracks and turns back towards her husband.

“First, I’m going to the bathroom before my bladder ruptures, then I’m going to the kitchen to warm up the bottle of mother’s milk that I have stashed in the fridge so you can finish feeding our daughter…Then… I’m going to soak in a tub for at least an hour before I have to start getting all of us ready for another day of fun!”

Alex turns back for the door and storms out of view. Walker’s watches after her with a shell-shocked expression.  He looks down at Angela whose bottom lip has begun to quiver and he knows she is going to start crying.

“No, no…don’t cry Angela. Mommy will be right back with your breakfast.”

The baby’s nose wrinkles up and she begins to whimper. A look of panic overtakes Walker’s face.  It’s obvious that he can’t bear to see his little girl cry.

“Alex, are you coming with that bottle?”

He calls out nervously but gets no response.  Walker puts his pinky finger in the baby’s mouth to pacify her need to suckle while he waits impatiently for Alex to return.  She latches on to it and instantly quiets down.

“There…that’s better. Ouch….. Dang it!  I mean darn….no—I mean...”

Walker stutters through several inappropriate cuss words that are unfit for her tiny ears before he finds a milder substitute.

Fudge! That hurt.  Your mommy was right. You sure can do some damage with those cast-iron gums of yours, can’t you?”

Walker shakes the pain from his finger as he looks up to find Alex perched against the doorframe of the bedroom. Based on her Cheshire-cat expression, it is obviously that she has been standing there long enough to witness his minor troubles and she is thoroughly enjoying his paltry humbling.

The camera moves in for a close up of Alex who is flaunting a complacent smile of victory.

Fade out ~

Fade in ~

WTR series intro and theme-song.  *In the eyes of a Ranger, the unsuspecting stranger*… (you know the words). There are lead-in clips extracted from season 9, as well as a few new clips from up-coming episodes introducing the new, reoccurring cast members, Chen and Cooper (Thanks to talent scout Lelani). The names of the series regulars are flashed on the screen and the last thing we see is Walker, Alex, and baby Angela in a family photo op on the front porch of their ranch while their friends look on... *’Cause that’s where the Ranger’s gonna be*…

Fade out to commercial~

*****************************************************************

Fade in~ Driveway of the Walker Ranch – 7:18AM.

Walker is putting the baby into her car seat in Alex’s Durango.  Both car engines are idling smoothly and the air conditioners are cranked up to full tilt in an attempt to combat the oppressive temperature that has already infiltrated the early morning air.

“Listen Angela…we need to have a little father/daughter talk. There’s an old Cherokee saying that you’ll hear a lot in your lifetime so you might as well learn about it up front. ‘You don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ and that goes double for other certain sensitive body parts that I don’t need to mention. Are you with me angel?  No more biting mommy, okay? She takes good care of you.”

Walker gently kisses Angela’s nose, then her tiny fingers before he checks the safety latch on the car seat and closes the door.  He is making silly faces as he waves playfully to his daughter through the window. Alex closes up the ranch and makes her way towards her husband. A sentimental smile escapes from her lips as she watches her gentled giant completely absorbed in a priceless interplay with his pint-size lady. She drapes her arms around Walker’s neck and gazes into his eyes.

“Just because you look irresistibly handsome playing with our daughter, doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook.  You’ve got baby duty tonight, Cowboy.”

Walker circles his arms around her waist and draws her in for a mouth-watering kiss.  After a long moment, he reluctantly parts the persuasion of her lips so they can take an essential breath to refill their deflated lungs.

“Can I wake you up to keep me company after she goes back to sleep?”

His eyebrows rise up and down as he flashes a suggestive grin.

“You can give it the old eagle-scout try, but after being up for four nights straight, I can’t promise that I’ll be good company.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

Their lips wed once more before they head for their respective vehicles.  Alex buckles up and begins to back her Durango down the long driveway.

Before Walker can follow suit, an old beat up Chevy pick-up slides into the driveway alongside of him.  Alex waves to the familiar visitor and he returns the friendly gesture. Walker’s longtime neighbor, Zebb Wilkenson, dismounts his rotund frame from the raised cab of his Chevy and approaches the Ram as Walker rolls down his window to greet him.

“Morning Zebb. What can I do for you?”

 Zebb tips the brim of his John Deere cap, acknowledging Walker’s greeting.

“We got some trouble, Walker.”

“What kind of trouble, Zebb?”

“I chased a wolf off of my property last night when he got after some of my chickens.  I got three dead and one penned up with a nasty bite. The vet’s coming over later this mornin’ to give ‘em a look see…but I think we got ourselves a rabid animal lurkin’ round our properties.  Joe Beaton lost one of his piglets last week, and Roland Grimes can’t find hide nor hair of his ‘ole barn cat Sadie.  I just wanted to let you know so you wouldn’t leave your horses to graze when you weren’t here to keep an eye on ‘em.”

“A wolf, huh? Are you sure, Zebb?”

“Saw ‘im with my own eyes, Walker. Took a couple a shots at ‘im too, but he slithered off into the brush before I could tag ‘im with my rifle.”

Walker trusted the old farmer’s word and decided he’d better take the proper precautions with his animals and his wife and daughter.

“I’ll be on the lookout, Zebb. I’ll send an animal control officer over to your ranch and if there’s anything else I can do, you be sure and let me know, okay?” 

“Thank you Walker.  I’ll keep an eye on your place durin’ the day. We’ll catch this varmint one way or another.”

“I’m sure we will, Zebb.  You be careful now, you here?”

“Careful’s my middle name.  I haven’t lived for sixty seven years by being careless, that’s for sure.”

Walker smiles and nods in agreement.

“Take care Zebb.”

“Have a nice day Walker.”  

Fade out~

Fade in~ Justice building / Ranger Headquarters – 8:10AM.

Walker enters the Company B office through the door, which has been propped open to help circulate the stagnant, oppressive air. Fans are blowing throughout the room, but they are simply creating heated gusts. They offer little comfort to the sweltering employees who are already hard at work. Even in the unbearable heat, Walker still heads for the coffeepot, thinking the temperature of the hot liquid will still be cooler then the temperature in the sticky room. As he fills his cup, he can’t help but hear Trivette talking on the telephone in a soft and sappy voice.  His back is turned away from his desk for privacy, but Walker can still hear him giggling foolishly. Walker shakes his head and grins at his love-struck partner as he walks towards Trivette’s desk.   He leans over Trivette’s oblivious shoulder and speaks loud enough for the person on the other end of the call to hear him.

“Hi, Erika.”

Trivette vaults from his chair, startled by his partner’s undetected approach. He juggles the phone in his hands, nearly dropping it.

“Yeah, ahemm.. Erika, I gotta get to work. Walker’s here and we’ve gotta jump on some leads that just came through.”

Jimmy tries hard to regain his composure as he struggles to speak to Erika in a professional manner  - for Walker’s benefit. If a black man could blush, Walker figured Trivette would be as red as beet right about now.

“Erika says hi.”

Jimmy reluctantly delivers her innocent message.  He tries to end the conversation as quickly as possible so he can avoid giving his partner any additional ammunition that would surely be used to rib him when they were alone in the inescapable confines of the cab of the Ram.

“I already said hi… Bye, Erika.”

“Walker says bye.… Erika says bye too… Everybody says bye.  Does anyone else in the office want to say goodbye to Erika?”

Trivette’s voice upsurges in a flustered tone. His expression is a painful one as he appeals to end his own misery.  Rangers Chen and Cooper look up from their workstations and grimace at Trivette’s quirkish behavior.  His attempt to be discreet has somehow backfired and he has drawn the collective attentions of the entire company.

“Listen Erika, I’ll call you later, okay?  I’ve really gotta get to work… Yeah, me too……..I can’t right now Erika; I’m at work. There are people around.”

Trivette’s eyes are rolling and the volume of his voice has been lowered to a near whisper. Walker is pretty sure that Erika has demanded an equivalent response to her likely closing words (‘I love you Jimmy’) before she will allow him to hang up the phone.  Walker knew only too well from his experiences with Alex that ‘yeah…me too’ wasn’t going to cut it with any member of the fairer sex.  Walker seizes the phone from Trivette’s ear and raises it to his own.

“Hi, Erika, it’s Walker. Can you hang on for just a minute? Great... thanks.”

Walker covers the mouthpiece of the receiver and turns to Trivette who is visibly taken aback by the fact that his partner has ripped the phone from his hands.

“Listen Trivette, just tell her you love her so you can keep the peace in your private life and we can get something done in our professional ones. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s simply a ritualistic ending to every phone conversation between committed couples. If you don’t say it, you’ll never hear the end of it.  She’ll think you’re afraid to say it because you really don’t mean it, and then one thing leads to another and you’re in more hot water then you could ever imagine.  Just trust me on this one buddy. Say the words… and you’re off the hook.”

Walker gives his partner an encouraging pat to the shoulder then hands him the receiver. The office is quiet as all of the Rangers have shifted their attention to Trivette’s little ‘phone’ predicament.  Trivette reluctantly takes the phone and resumes his once-private conversation with his fiancée.

“Yeah, I’m back. Walker needed a file… Well, listen honey, I really gotta go…”

Trivette turns his back on his nosy co-workers before he gives in to Erika’s need to hear those three magic words.

“I love you too… Okay, - bye.”

Trivette hangs up the phone and the entire company claps and cheers for his small but significant overcoming.

“I’m gonna kill you, Walker!”

“After last night, I get first dibs on him.”

Alex has just entered the company office and she can’t help but chime in on Trivette’s fervent remark.

“You can have what’s left of him when I’m finished with him, Jimmy.”

Alex intentionally dispenses a derisive grin as she places a condemning hand on her husband’s shoulder.

“So what are you two fighting about now?”

“Walker was butting in on my love-life with Erika.”

“I wasn’t butting in. I was just offering some friendly advice.”

YOU were offering Jimmy advice on how to deal with woman? Have you ever heard of the old saying ‘physician heal thyself?’”

“Yeah, why?”

“Maybe you should make sure your advice is tried and true before you go offering it up to a trusting comrade.”

“What’s that suppose to mean?”

“If I have to spell it out for you, then you’re in more trouble then you were a few hours ago, Cowboy. Here’s a file that you might find some interest in. Stay cool and don’t work too hard. You’re in for a long night.”

Alex nonchalantly passes over the manila file folder as she flaunts a forewarning smirk for Walker before she exits the Company B headquarters. The convincing tone of her voice reminds her husband that she will surely deliver his bidding as promised.

“Hey, Walker...”

“WHAT?”

“Remember that ‘hot water’ you were talkin’ about?”

“Yeah…what about it?”

“Looks like I’m out and you’re in.”

Trivette makes no attempt to curb his enthusiastic grin over his partner’s unforeseen abashment.  He chuckles aloud and makes a mental note to remember to thank Alex for helping him to even the score with Walker.

“That’s enough, Trivette.  Let’s get to work.”

Walker drops the manila folder onto Trivette’s desk, dismissing it temporarily while he fights to regain an elementary level of professionalism with his longtime partner and best friend.

“What’s going on with Parish? Have we gotten any new leads on his whereabouts?”

Chen and Cooper join the two senior Rangers at Trivette’s desk.

“Is our fearless bloodhound in the proverbial doghouse?”

Lisse Chen still has a problem with knowing when to keep her mouth shut and her ears open.

“Shut up, Chen.”

In unison… Walker and Cooper scold her verbal antics before they get out of control. Trivette conveniently dismisses her corny remark that confirms his teammates’ attentions have been shifted to Walker’s colored love-life instead of his own.   

“Chen and I faxed his mug-shot to the FBI and every police and Ranger station within a thousand-mile radius of Dallas.  It’s only been two days since the last murder. We’re hoping he hasn’t gotten too far. He’s gotta be lying low somewhere.”

Cooper drops an intimidating black and white photo of the suspect, Walter (The Snake) Parish onto Trivette’s desk.

“We’ve covered the airports, the train and bus stations, and we’ve got roadblocks at every major access road out of Dallas. No one has so much as caught a glimpse of Parish. Do you think he’s still in Dallas?”

Trivette looks to Walker for his second-sighted opinion.

“Not likely. That wouldn’t fit his M.O.  With the first ten murders, he slipped through everyone’s fingers, leaving no trail to follow. In three of the cases, he killed again within twenty-four hours and he was more than one hundred miles away from the location of the previous murder. In all eleven cases, Parish stalked his victim, beat them with a baseball bat, raped and killed them, then left them with the weapon in a conspicuous location to make sure they would be found quickly. His only slip up was when he left Jennifer Benton for dead along the lower riverbanks on the eastside of Dallas. He couldn’t know that she lived long enough to ID him from a composite sketch.  Her death was reported in the Dallas Tribune the very next day.  We don’t intimidate him. He’s slithering through Texas at his own pace, leaving his sick calling card of innocent victims to taunt us along the way.  Wherever he is, I think he’s openly socializing with the natives while he scopes out his next sacrifice. We’re not going to find this guy hiding out in an abandoned warehouse or a dark ally. He’s dangling himself right under the noses of unsuspecting lawmen and innocent townspeople.  It’s all part of his game. This character likes to push the envelope to the edge of the table. He enjoys the adrenaline rush of exposing himself openly to his prey.  He’s probably sitting in a coffee shop or a diner right now, having bacon and eggs and chatting harmlessly with the locals.  The million dollar question is…what diner or coffee shop…and where?”

Fade Out To Commercial~

*****************************************************************

Fade In~ Ranger Headquarters 2:32PM

Walker finally makes it back to his desk after several hours of meetings, research calls, and routine tail chasing.  He notices the manila folder on his desk that Alex had palmed to him earlier that morning.  As he relaxes in his chair, its contents force him to rebound to an alert, vertical stance.  He scans the company office for his partner and finds him intently absorbed in a conversation with the green, yet high-spirited Ranger Cooper.  Walker squelches their discussion as he tears in with his newest lead on the Parish case.

“Trivette, it seems that Parish has had a long-term girlfriend that no one has picked up on so far.  She visited him on numerous occasions during both of his sabbaticals in the slammer. She wasn’t mentioned in his profile, but Alex has somehow dug up the particulars and I think it might be worth our while to track this woman down.”

“You got it Walker. Who is she?  I can get a locale on her in a New York minute. All I need is a name.”

“I’ll give you one better. I’ve got a name and a Texas driver’s license number. The prison visitor’s log requires a picture ID and the number is logged right beside her signature. Her name is Angie Deegan and here’s her license number.”

Walker hands the folder over to his computer whiz of a partner.

“It’ll be like taking candy from a baby. Let’s go find Angie.”

Trivette jumps up from his chair and heads for his trusty computer. Walker and Cooper follow his lead. As Trivette is surfing through the appropriate screens for secured data, Ron Tetreault, a seasoned veteran of twelve years joins their business gathering.

“Walker, I just got a call from the Abilene PD.  Seems they’ve got some trouble with recurring bomb threats.  None have come to fruition, but it’s becoming a menace for them and they just can’t dedicate enough officers to it to find out who’s jerking their chains. They’ve asked for Ranger assistance.  I’d be happy to go, but my partner’s down with flu.  Who would you like me to take along?”

“Cooper, you tag along with Tetreault, and take Lisse with you.  Oh and Ron…”

“Yeah, Walker?”

“Take the surveillance van so you can put Lisse Chen in the back.”

“Why the van Walker? Abilene is a long drive. Wouldn’t the SUV or one of the squads be more comfortable for everyone?”

The rookie Cooper steps up to answer Tetreault’s puzzled question.

“With the van, we can close the sound proof window if Chen gets out of hand with her bad jokes.  We gave it a road test last week and it worked like a charm. Right, Walker?”

“Right, Cooper.”

“Okay, the surveillance van it is.  I’ll go gas up while you find Chen.”

Tetreault chuckles and nods to his young charge and exits the office to prepare for their departure to Abilene.

“Well, I guess I better go and find Chen. Good luck with your lead, guys. I’ll see you when I see you.”

“Be careful, Cooper.”

The young Ranger leaves and Trivette returns to his power search on Angie Deegan.  After a few methodical keystrokes, the computer screen populates with more information on the subject than Angie Deegan herself could recollect.

“Looks like we found our gal, Walker.”

Trivette reads the confidential details from his terminal.

“Angelica Deegan; born June 2nd, 1962, in El Paso, Texas.  Her social security number and her income tax records show that she’s been working at a truck stop in Amarillo for about a year.  Her address is 2234 Birch Drive, Amarillo. Even got a phone number… Wanna give ole’ Angie a call?”

“No, not just yet.  I have a feeling we may have found Parish’s home base.  He needs a place to hang his hat in between the murders, and my gut tells me that Angie Deegan’s place is where he’s hanging it.  Call Amarillo PD and let them know we’re on our way to check things out.  Make sure they’ve received a copy of Parish’s mug shot and tell them to be on the lookout for him, but I don’t want them to move in until we get there. I’ll book us on the next flight to Amarillo.”

Fade Out~

Fade In~ Justice Building – ADA’s Office - 3:10PM

Alex is reviewing a file on a murder case that will go to trial in four days. Based on the rock-solid evidence, she assures herself that the Judge and jury will rule in favor of the Tarrant County prosecution and the defendant will be sentenced to the death penalty. 

Walker gently taps on her door before opening it a little more then halfway.  He sticks his head in to show her his cautious smile.

“Can I come in?”

“Yes...You can come in.”

Her soft eyes and inviting smile are transparent proof that she can’t stay mad at her husband for very long.   Walker closes the door behind him before he joins his wife at her desk.  He sits down directly across from her and reaches for her hands, tucking them inside of his own.

“I know I’m supposed to be on baby patrol tonight, but it looks like Trivette and I are going to have to take a brief trip to Amarillo.”

“Amarillo?… Why?”

“That’s where Angie Deegan lives. I think you hit the nail on the head when you subpoenaed the visitor’s logs from the prison.  Parish needs a safe house to retreat to after he commits his crimes and I think Angie Deegan is the one who’s harboring him.”

“If I’d known that information was going to whisk you away to Amarillo, I would have waited to give it to you until AFTER I’d gotten a good night’s sleep.”

“I know, sweetheart and I’m sorry.  I’ll make it up to you as soon as I get home. I promise.”

“And I have every intention of holding you to your promise, Cowboy. Now you’re in for double duty when you get home.”

“I was afraid of that.”

“You should be afraid. Have you taken a good look at me lately?  I’ve got bags under my eyes and I feel like a walking zombie most of the time.”

“I don’t know about that. You look pretty appetizing to me.”

Walker gives her soft hands a gentle squeeze as he sends a lustful wink her way.

“I keep telling you that you need to have your eyes checked.”

Alex rises from her chair and circles around to the front of her desk. She rests her hands on Walker’s rugged shoulders as she climbs into his lap.

“Not that I mind having you lounge provocatively across my lap, but how do we explain this cozy little scene to your secretary if she walks in on us?”

“Unlike you, Cordell Walker, my secretary waits for my permission before she barges into my office.”

“Oh... Then I guess we’re safe then, huh?”

“We’re safe and sound.”

Alex wraps her arms around Walker’s neck and she rests her head against the curve of his defined chest.  Her shapely legs curl up onto his. She is determined to take advantage of this rare moment when she is able to relax with her man without interruption.  Knowing that he will be away from her for a day or more causes her to tighten her hold in an attempt to keep him close to her for as long as she can. Her tired body eventually relaxes into his as he begins to trace his fingers along the profile of her face.  After a few seconds, Alex reminds herself that it would be too easy to fall asleep in the molded comfort of her husband’s embrace.  She sits up in his lap and looks into his contented face.

“So, when’s your flight?”

“At 4:30.”

“Walker it’s 3:20. You’d better get going. You’re going to miss your plane.”

“You’re not getting rid of me that easily. Come here.”

They kiss for a long, savory moment before their eyes flutter open and their lips reluctantly part.  Their faces are within a few inches of one another as Walker brushes her hair away from her face with a tender stroke; already regretting what he will miss out on while he’s away. He grazes her nose with a tiny kiss then touches the same spot with the tip of his finger.  Their eyes are locked in a longing gaze.  He would like nothing better then to stay home with his wife and daughter, but he knows he will have to leave them for a short time.

“Kiss my angel for me and I promise to call you as soon as we get in, okay?”

“Okay. She’s going to miss her daddy, you know.”

“I know. I’ll miss her more, but I’ll hurry back, I promise… Oh, can you do me a favor?”

“For you? I think I can spare a favor or two.  What do you need?”

“Call Zebb Wilkenson and let him know that I’ve arranged for the animal control officer to pay him a visit around five o’clock.”

“Animal control officer?  Why?”

“Oh… I forgot to tell you this morning.  The reason Zebb stopped by was because he believes we have a rabid wolf lurking in our neighborhood.  He sounded pretty convincing so I want you to park up close to the house and stay inside at night, okay?”

“Okay, honey. I’ll be extra careful and you should be careful, too. I heard the weather report on my way to the H.O.P.E. Center while I was going to give Angela her lunch.  They’re calling for heavy rains and wind gusts exceeding 60 miles per hour. Your flight could get rocky. Are you sure you want to go?”

“Alex, I have to go. If the FAA doesn’t cancel my flight, I’d better be on it. This is a high profile case.  We have to stop Parish before he kills again.”

“I know. You’re right. Give me one more kiss and I promise that I’ll get off your lap.”

“That’s one promise I wish you didn’t have to keep.”

Walker kisses her powerfully before he snuggles her against his chest for a lasting hug.  He gives her a gentle pat on the bottom to tell her that he is ready to depart for the airport.

Alex rises with reluctance and her husband joins her with the same regrets.

“I love you, Mrs. Walker.”

“And I love you, Mr. Walker. Now get out of here before I make you miss your plane.”

Walker steals one more hug and kiss before he heads for the door. He doesn’t look back because he knows he will never leave if he does.

Alex slumps into her chair and remembers the last time Walker was away.  She didn’t sleep a wink, and she wasn’t expecting to do any better this time around. At least she would be in an ‘ever-ready’ mode for Angela’s frequent awakenings. The two Walker women would have to find comfort in each other until the man of the house returned to his indispensable post.  Alex releases a heavy sigh before she picks up the phone to call Zebb Wilkenson.

Fade Out~

Fade In~ H.O.P.E. Center – 6:00PM.

Josie is toying with the soft, blonde ringlets of baby hair that frame Angela’s cherubic face. She is singing a soothing lullaby in an attempt to quiet the teething infant after her near sleepless day at the center. Alex stops at the doorway to savor the precious sight.  She joins them at the bassinet and places a grateful hand on Josie’s arm.

“What would I do without you, Josie?”

“You’d find some other caregiver with an insatiable love for children and a halfway-decent singing voice. I’m only one of a million softhearted women who would love to take care of this little girl.”   

“No…. You’re one IN a million.  Angela responds to you and you alone.  If it can’t be mommy or daddy, ‘it had better be Aunt Josie.’ It eases my mind knowing that she’s here with you during the day.  I could never have gone back to work so quickly if you hadn’t agreed to watch her for me.”

“Are you kidding? I couldn’t wait for you to go back to work so I could get my hands on this sweet little baby. Believe me Alex, the pleasure is all mine.”

“I’m glad.  That means the two of you feel the same way about each other. Did she nap this afternoon?”

“No. She’s been awake for hours because of her teething. If you feed her before you leave, I’ll bet she’ll be asleep before you back out of the driveway.”

“Good idea. Can you pack her bag for me while I feed her?  The storm clouds are really developing outside and I’d like to make it home before the sky opens up.”

“Of course I will. I’ll even put it in your car for you.”

“Thanks Josie.”

Alex reaches into the bassinet to scoop up her precious baby.  Angela has her tiny fist buried deep in her mouth and she is drooling like a pro.  The baby gives her mother an excited smile that makes its way past her soggy little hand. Angela’s legs are kicking wildly as her mother lifts her into her comforting arms.

Fade Out~

Fade In~ Somewhere on the Dallas freeway – 7:04PM.

Alex is humming the lullaby that Josie had sung so sweetly to Angela.  Alex’s cell phone rings abruptly and she reaches into her purse to find her phone and acknowledge her call.

“Hello.”

“Hi, beautiful. Where are you?”

The voice on the other end of the phone is intimately familiar and more then welcome to Alex’s ears.

“Hey, Cowboy. I’m almost home. Can I assume that you’re safe and sound on Amarillo soil?”

“You can. Trivette and I are on our way to the Amarillo Police Department. I just wanted to check in with my two favorite ladies.  It’s raining cats and dogs here. Looks like it’ll be heading your way soon.”

“Maybe the rain will finally cool things off.”

“Amen to that!”

“Oh, I almost forgot. I got a call from Sydney after you left for the airport.”

“Sydney? I thought she and Gage were out enjoying the adventurous hiking trials of the Grand Canyon. Their cell phones can’t be working out there.”

“They called from a youth hostile that had a phone.  They needed to get Gage some first aid so Sydney figured she’d check in and see how things were going while they were away.”

“First aid??  What did Gage do to himself this time?”

“He broke his nose and I’m not absolutely sure about this, but I think Sydney did the damage.”

“On purpose?”

“I can’t say. You can ask her yourself. They’re coming back a few days early so Gage can get to a doctor.  They should be home late tomorrow evening.”

“I’m sure it will be an interesting story with two very different sides. Listen sweetheart, we’re pulling up to the station now.  It’s probably going to be a busy night so I’ll call you first thing in the morning, okay?”

“I’ll be waiting impatiently by the phone.”

“I love you, Alex.  Kiss our girl for me.”

“I love you too, honey.  Be careful.”

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”   

Fade In~ 07:12PM - Walker Ranch.

Alex maneuvers her Dodge Durango into the driveway of the ranch. The wind is blowing fiercely as she peeks through the windshield to evaluate the development of the storm clouds swelling in the darkening sky.  She looks over her shoulder to check on Angela who is fast asleep in her car seat and smiles at the heartwarming sight.  Alex opens the driver’s door, purse over her shoulder and keys in her hand as she circles around to the passenger side of the SUV.  She stops to catch her breath for a moment, overwhelmed by the contrast in the air quality from her air-conditioned vehicle to the oppressive, sultry heat of the early night air.

“Whew…”

Alex wipes away the tiny beads of sweat that have instantly formed on her forehead.

“I hope the central air in the house doesn’t go on the fritz, too.”

She opens the door and begins to carefully unfasten the straps on the car seat, trying not to wake the baby.  She hears a low, guttural growl coming from behind her. She stops what she is doing, freezing the rest of her body as she turns her head in slow motion to find the source of the grisly sound. The rabid wolf that has been plaguing the surrounding farms is standing only twenty feet away. His stance is guarded and Alex knows he is preparing for his attack. Foam oozes uncontrollably from his muzzle and nostrils.

“Oh my GOD!”

Alex speaks in a near silent whisper; afraid she will antagonize her predator if she makes a sound. She puts her hand over her mouth to stifle the scream that is rising inside of her.

Fade out to commercial~

*****************************************************************

Fade in~ Amarillo, Texas

“Sergeant McClarnon… I’m Ranger Walker and this is my partner Ranger Trivette.”

Walker shakes hands with the Amarillo station’s commanding officer. Trivette extends his grip and the usual formalities are put to rest before they get down to business.

“We sent out an unmarked car to do a drive-by on Angie Deegan’s apartment.  The officer could definitely see the silhouette of a man with a mid-size frame walking by the window.  The shades were down so he couldn’t get a description of him. That’s all we can tell you right now, Rangers.”

“That’s good for starters, Sergeant.  We’ll need a couple of men to back us up if you can spare them.”

“Whatever you need, Ranger Walker. We’ll bring in off-duty men if it’s necessary. If your hunch is right, you’ll have saved the Texas taxpayers a whole lot of money to track this lowlife down.”

“Thank you Sergeant, but if we find Parish, it’s my wife who deserves most of the credit. She’s the one who pointed us to Angelica Deegan.”

“Oh, really? Is your wife a Ranger, too?”

Walker chuckles at the question.  He is thinking about all of the times that Alex has chastised the Ranger organization for keeping Walker away from her for much more time then she would like.

“No, she’s not a Ranger. She’s the Assistant District Attorney for Tarrant County.

“Oh, I see. Sounds like a real smart lady. She must be pretty handy to have around.”

“You could say that.”

Walker smiles to himself as he takes a brief moment to enjoy his private thoughts of his wife.

“Let’s get our warrants and move out.”

Fade Out~

Fade In~ Walker Ranch

Alex’s eyes are locked on the canine’s chilling stare. Even though it is dusk, she can see the profuse sickness in the animal’s eyes. They are bloodshot and jaundiced from the fast moving disease. A chill of terror erects the hair on her arms and neck as he seemingly glares through her with his glassy, infectious gaze.

Alex eases her left hand towards the inside handle of the car door. Even though she is sandwiched between the heavy door and the solid frame of the car, she has never felt so vulnerable and exposed.  Once she makes her move, she knows that she will have only one chance to escape into the safety of the Durango. Sensing her heightening distress, the wolf’s low growl transforms into a reverberating, throaty wail. He rises up from his haunches and lurches his head and upper body forward as he watches the blurred figured prepare for her getaway.  The sounds of his own bark aggravate his overly sensitive eardrums.  The pain caused by the vibration provokes him to bark louder, as if he were trying to silence the source of the tormenting noise.

Alex sends a quick glance to her infant daughter who is stirring in her car seat by the passenger door.  She knows that Angela will be the animal’s defenseless target if she is unsuccessful in her attempt to jump over the car seat and secure the door behind her. Her knuckles whiten from her strenuous grip on the handle as she readies herself to flee into the refuge of her SUV.

“God help me.”

Alex whispers a prayer for strength before she turns her body towards the inside of the Durango. Her sudden motion is detected instantly and the wolf thrusts towards his prey.  Alex heeds his approach out of the corner of her eye as she crouches into the crowded floor-space in front of Angela’s car seat. Her purse falls from her shoulder and it drops to the ground with her car-keys during her struggle to close the door behind her.  Just as the door is ready to shut, the wolf’s salivating snout intrudes into the framework of the car. The close range of his barking has startled the baby and she begins to scream franticly.  Alex yanks on the handle with all of her strength, causing a pinch to the animals flesh that forces him to back away momentarily.  The door finally slams into place, partitioning them from the enraged wolf that has quickly recomposed himself from his minor injury.  He is pouncing on the window and barking wildly, spurting his contagious sputum over the window and doorframe. Alex puts her hand over her racing heart and struggles to control her breathing. She climbs up onto the car bench beside her panicked infant.  She struggles with the straps on Angela’s car seat, her hands shaking uncontrollably.  Once the last clasp is unfastened, Alex scoops Angela up and buries her against her chest.  She rocks the baby back and forth in her arms and covers her tiny ears in a frenzied effort to muffle the loud barking that has frightened her.

The baby is still screaming - the bloodthirsty wolf is still bellowing - and Alex is chanting a quiet shushing sound in a feeble attempt to calm her baby… and herself.

Fade Out~

Fade In~ Amarillo, Texas – 08:33PM

Walker and Trivette have left their rented Ford Expedition at the Amarillo police station and they are driving an unmarked car that is furnished with a police radio and bullet-proof glass.  There are two back-up cars strategically placed within two blocks of the stakeout location.  Walker parks at the liquor store that is diagonally across from Angie Deegan’s apartment building.  The lights are on and the shades are closed for privacy.  A late-model Ford Tempo pulls into the driveway and a woman gets out, slowing as she tries to manage her umbrella in one hand and two Styrofoam takeout containers in the other.  The rain is heavy and the wind is blowing her umbrella in the opposite direction than she is walking.  The hood from her slicker covers her head and the rain and darkness make it impossible to determine if she resembles the woman in the photocopied Texas driver’s license issued to Angie Deegan. She makes a run for the front door and stops on the porch steps. The overhang shrouds her from the rain and she pushes back her hood before she fumbles for her keys.  The porch light is on and the Ranger’s finally get a scant look at her profile.  Trivette takes another glance at the copy of the license before he raises his binoculars and adjusts the focus.  He is determined to see her face before she slips into the building.  Her slicker falls open and he notices her waitress’ uniform.

“I think that’s her, Walker. She’s wearing a waitress’ uniform and her features could easily match up to Angie Deegan’s.  Looks like she decided to become a redhead somewhere along the way.  Her license says she’s a brunette.”

“We’ll wait a few minutes for her to get inside before we call for the backup teams to move in.”

Fade In~ Walker Ranch – 8:50PM.

It has been more then two hours since Alex took refuge with her infant in the back of the Durango.  The rains that Walker spoke of had started nearly an hour ago, but they provided no relief inside the stifling confines of the sealed up SUV. Without her ignition keys, the air conditioner is rendered useless. The mother and child have been sitting in total darkness for some time. Angela was afraid at first, but Alex has kept a comforting hand on her child to reassure her. Once Alex finally calmed her down, the muggy warmth of the air combined with her exhaustion from screaming and the tiny baby gave in to sleep. The rabid wolf has taken shelter beneath a nearby tree, but the torrential rains don’t seem to dissuade him from continuing his stalking of the frightened woman inside the automobile. 

Alex wipes her forehead with a cloth diaper from Angela’s daybag.  She gently dabs it around the edges of her baby’s sleeping face.  She is sure that the temperature inside the car is close to 100 degrees.  A wave of panic overtakes her as she considers the likely possibility that they will not be found before daybreak. Once the sun comes up, the temperature inside the car will quickly become fatal for her infant daughter.  She swallows her tears of terror and prays that the wolf will run away or die quickly from his lethal sickness.

Sensing something unusual, Alex places her hand on her breasts.  They are supple and modest in size.  Her mother’s milk should have long since started to replenish after Angela’s last feeding 3 ½ hours earlier, but the softness of her breasts tells her that her body has stopped producing essential nourishment for her baby.  She had read about circumstances where trauma had temporarily slowed or stopped the production of mother’s milk and now she was forced to deal with it firsthand.  There is only one bottle left in Angela’s bag and the tiny cooler that it is stored in will barely keep it from spoiling for another hour or two inside the suffocating torridity of the Durango.  Alex reminds herself that she will soon have to wake her daughter. The baby will take her fill of the last bottle and there would be no more after that.  Though regular nourishment is essential for an infant, hydration is far more critical. As Alex wipes the profuse sweat from her brow, she is soberly conscious of the fact that she is rapidly losing her own body fluid without having any means to replenish it.  She is already weak and parched after only a few hours and she remembers that dehydration occurs three times faster in infants then adults. The thought of losing her daughter buries the veritable reality that she too, may lose her life. A desperate prayer fills the small confines of the Durango.

“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want…. He leads me into green pastures and delivers me from evil…”

Fade In~ Amarillo, Texas – 09:00PM

It has been twenty minutes since the female suspect has entered the apartment building. The blustering winds have picked up and Walker is getting antsy.

“Let’s do it!”

Walker gives Trivette the green light to call in the cavalry. The radio mike is in Jimmy’s hand before his partner can finish his short command.

“Okay, guys, it’s time to turn up the house lights. Quimby, you cover the back lot behind the apartment building. Alvarez… get over here and take the main entrance… just in case we have some funny business going on.”

“10-4 Ranger Trivette… We’re en-route.”

Without effort, Walker picks the lock on the outside door of the building. Once inside, the Rangers examine the mail slots that conspicuously catalog the current tenants. Walker is first to find what they are looking for.

“A. Deegan. Apartment 12C.”

The hallway is dark and dirty. Flaking paint scatters the floor from the neglected doorframes and baseboards.  The Rangers find the doors to apartments 12A and 12B. The next door is simply labeled with the number 12, but the grimy outline of the letter “C” can still be seen on the filthy entryway.

Walker and Trivette ready their weapons before Walker bangs on the door.

“Texas Rangers!  Open up!”

The sound of bodies scurrying like rats penetrates the hallway. Walker steps back and delivers a deadly roundhouse kick to the door of the apartment. It collapses easily and the Rangers use it as their gangplank as they storm the front room of the apartment. While clearing the doorway, Walker detects a blunt object coming towards his head. He reverses his direction and stops the solid baseball bat with his bare hands. Commandeering it from his opponent, he uses it to his advantage and buries it square across the offender’s chest. A solid kick is delivered to the abdomen of Walter Parish, naming the champion of their short-lived battle.  The elusive killer is silenced quickly in a man’s fight.   Walker can’t help but be disgusted by a coward of a man who kills defenseless women to make himself feel masculine.

Trivette has climbed onto the rickety fire escape after Angie Deegan.  The rusty, brittle rungs have left her dangling helplessly on the framework of the aged steel. Trivette extends his strong hand down to where she is stranded.

“Do you want to come up… or go down?  It’s your choice, girlfriend.”

She extends her hand up and Trivette pulls her to safety.

Fade out~

Fade In~ Amarillo Police Department – 9:45PM

“Well, that was too easy. In less then ten hours of Alex’s tip, we roped in a high-profile criminal and his accessory.”

Trivette sits at a desk with his legs crossed and his arms folded casually behind his head. After his long and eventful day, he is more than ready to relax for a moment. Walker is sitting at an adjoining desk filling out the mounds of obligatory paperwork. Trivette shifts his thoughts to Alex.

“You know, Alex sure did come through for us, didn’t she?  Who knows how long it would have taken us to think of checking Parish’s visitors while he was in prison? The SOP handbook for investigating an ex-con would have put that at the top of the list. We clearly missed it and it probably would have taken us a considerable amount of time before we realized our oversight. Why don’t you give Alex a call? It’s still early and she deserves to share in our victory. Tell her, ‘she IS the woman.’”

“You’re right, Trivette. She’s got my vote for ‘star of the day.’ If we had waited any longer, Parish would have been back out there on another killing spree. I’ll give her a call and fill her in on the particulars and I’ll let her know that we’ll be on the first flight out in the morning, weather permitting.”

The phone at the ranch rings five times before the answering machine turns out the familiar recording of Alex’s voice.  Walker is visibly troubled by the fact that Alex isn’t answering.

“There’s no answer.”

He returns the receiver to its cradle as he dons an expression of uneasiness.

“She’s probably taking a shower. Wait ten minutes and try her again.”

“Alex always takes the phone and the baby monitor into the bathroom with her when I’m away. She hates the thought of missing either one of us.”

“Maybe her hair is full of shampoo and she can’t get to the phone. Give her a few minutes. She’ll pick up, don’t worry partner.” 

Fade Out~

Fade In~ Walker Ranch – 9:50PM.

Angela has finished her last bottle and her diaper has been changed.  The baby is stripped down to her tee shirt in an attempt to keep her as cool as possible. Alex has shed her blouse and her nylons; leaving only her camisole and her light cotton skirt. As she rests her weary head against the side of her daughter’s car seat, she notices a shadow of something sticking out of the doorframe.  Shining the tiny flashlight that she had recovered earlier from her glove compartment, she sees the strap of her purse caught in the frame of the door.  A burst of hope fills her face.  If she can recover her purse, she can get to her cell phone and call for help.

Moving slowly past her daughter; Alex crawls into the space in front of the car seat.  Flashing the light again, she is able to grab hold of the strap of her handbag. She places the flashlight on the floor beside her so she can reach for the handle of the car door. She takes a deep breath in an attempt to regulate the pounding in her chest.  The handle is moist from the heat. She wipes her hand on her skirt, drying it as much as possible to prevent it from slipping off when she pushes the door open.  With a jerk of her wrist, the door cracks open and a burst of fresh air seeps past her arm and face. Though it is still better than eighty degrees outside, the gusty air is refreshing in comparison to the stagnant air inside the SUV. The door is open just enough for her to tug at her purse to pull it inside.  It is caught under the frame of the car and she must open the door wider to yank it free.  The interior light inside the Durango signals the wolf of Alex’s activity.  Just as the purse is freed from beneath the car, the door jolts forcefully as the determined canine pounces against it.  He is scratching and barking wildly and Alex can’t force the door open enough to complete her mission. Dangerous claws scratch the inside of the doorframe. She can no longer control the door with one hand and she must choose between recovering her purse or closing the door before the angry wolf intrudes any further. Her purse falls to the ground and the door seals shut.  Angela is screaming again as the wolf continues to attack the door. The SUV begins rocking back and forth from the unmerciful winds that have instantly materialized.  Startled by the gusts, the deranged animal retreats to his cover under the nearby tree.  Though Alex is thankful to Mother Nature for diverting the wolf’s violent attention away from her, she worries that the wrath of the impending storm may be just as treacherous.

Fade Out To Commercial~

Fade In~ Amarillo, Texas – 10:05PM.

Walker presses the redial button on the phone for the fourth time.  The answering machine replays again and again. 

“She’s still not answering.  I’m going to call her cell phone.  Maybe Angela is sick or hurt and she needed to take her to the hospital.”

He nervously dials her cell phone number and prays that he will hear his wife’s voice. 

Fade Out~

Fade In~ A Rural Access Road Outside Of Dallas – 10:07PM

A powerful funnel of deadly wind is gaining momentum across the empty fields that surround the majestic city of Dallas.  Its smaller sister follows close behind as the twisters prepare to touch down.  Two telephone transformers that stand vulnerably in an open field are eaten in a single sweep as the disastrous spouts of wind, rain, and debris pass over them.

Fade In~ Split Scene: Walker Ranch/Amarillo Police Department –10:09PM.

Alex is startled by the sudden ringing coming from her cell phone, which is still tucked away in her purse outside the car door.  She is sure that it is Walker trying to reach her. No one else would be calling her cell phone at this late hour.

“He knows there’s something wrong.  He’ll be coming for us soon, Angela, I know he will.”  She whispers cautiously to her sleeping baby.

The high pitched sound pierces the wolf’s sensitive ears.  He is back up on his feet and brutally attacking the leather purse with his lethal fangs. In a matter of seconds, the purse is in shreds along the driveway.  He finds the source of the noise and ravages the phone in his mouth. By chance, his teeth press down on the ‘talk’ button and the phone line is opened.  The ringing stops, but the animal continues his assault on the phone.  Walker’s eyes fill with fear as he hears the frightening sound of blood chilling growls bellowing through the receiver.

“ALEX…….ALEX……”

The phone eventually splinters between the wolf’s powerful jaws. The connection is severed and Walker has never been more terrified in his entire life.

“Dear God…The Wolf!

Walker rushes to dial another number on the telephone.

“What wolf?  What’s going on with Alex, Walker?  Who are you calling now?”

“Ranger Headquarters. I’ve gotta get someone out to my ranch right away. We’ve had a rabid wolf lurking around and I think he has somehow cornered Alex.”

Walkers’ hands are trembling as he struggles to remember the phone number to his own office.  The connection doesn’t go through.  A familiar recording plays…

‘The number you are dialing is temporarily out of service. Please try again later.’

Walker ends the call and dials the Dallas Police Department where he gets the same disturbing recording.

“Dammit!”

Walker slams the receiver back into its cradle. Sergeant McClarnon has overheard some of their disturbing conversation through the open door of his office.  He joins the Ranger’s to find out what he can do to help.

“What’s going on, Ranger Walker? Did I hear you say that your wife is in some sort of danger?”

“My wife and daughter… I think they’re trapped by a rabid wolf somewhere on our Ranch.  The phone lines to Dallas are down. Can you call your local news station and find out what’s going on, Sergeant?”

“No problem, Walker.”

Sergeant McClarnon dials his main contact at the channel 8 news station.  He asks a few questions and listens attentively.

“It seems a couple of twisters have touched down in Dallas. The main transformers for the phone lines are gone. They’re estimating that it will take a couple of days to get them back up again.  The Governor has declared a state of emergency…I’m sorry, Ranger Walker.”

“Let’s go Trivette.”

“Where you goin’, Rangers?  There’s a God-awful storm out there.”

“To Dallas. I’ve got to get to my family.”

“You won’t get a flight out until sometime tomorrow. All planes are grounded from here to Austin.”

“We’ll drive then.”

“It’s an eight-hour drive; even more in this bad weather.”

“We can do it in six. Let’s go, Trivette.”

The Rangers make an abrupt exit and they are rolling down the freeway within minutes.  With their seatbelts tightened and the windshield-wipers moving at double-time, Walker maxes out the power of the Ford Expedition’s eight cylinder engine. 

Fade Out To Commercial~

Fade In~ Lubbock, Texas – Friday, November 9th 12:15AM

The weather has intensified as Walker and Trivette travel further east. Severe flooding and numerous accidents have caused them to leave the convenience of the main highway.  As they travel down a secondary road in Lubbock, Texas, a vibrant bolt of lightening strikes a massive tree in front of them.  Walker is traveling too fast to avoid it as it collapses like a twig across the hood of the Expedition.  The sprawling automobile is rendered useless in a split second.

Walker slams his fists on the steering wheel in frustration.  He is angry with himself for speeding and he knows that his careless actions have pushed him further away from Alex and Angela.

“What do we do now, Walker?”

After a few silent moments, Walker regains his composure and his unyielding determination.

“There was a bar about a half-a-mile back.  We can try and get help there.”

“The place with a hundred Harleys outside?  Walker, that place looked like they were holding some kind of Hell’s Angels sleepover party. Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“We don’t have any other choice.”

Fade Out~

Fade In~ Hog Heaven Tavern / Lubbock, TX - 12:32AM

Rain-soaked and windblown, Walker and Trivette make their grand entrance through the door of the ‘Hog Heaven Tavern’. The members of the private party instantly sense the uninvited intruders.  All conversations stop as the lawless patrons speculate on the reason for their unlikely trespassers.  Hands gravitate to chains, knives, and makeshift weapons as the bikers take note of the Ranger badges and the issued side arms conspicuously worn by Walker and Trivette.  More then twenty men shift their eyes towards two overgrown thugs that are sitting at the head of the bar.  Both men nod to their apparent followers as if they were giving the authorization to attack.

Walker takes note of their preparation to rumble and knows he must break the ice with the unruly pack before they decide to start breaking heads. He raises his arms in a truce: moving them away from his sides --- and his loaded weapon.

“We don’t want any trouble. My partner and I were on our way back to Dallas when a tree landed on our truck. The road is impassable and the truck is demolished.  Even if we could get another rental car at this hour, the weather is getting worse as we head farther east. I’m sure we’d be stopped again by fallen trees and washouts on the roads.”

Walker pauses to collect himself before he resumes his plea for help. His look of determination and inherent confidence has softened to a look of heartfelt fear.

“My wife and daughter are in Dallas and I know they’re in trouble. My instincts tell me they’re in great danger and they need our help. I’m positive that they’re still alive, I can feel it: But they may not be able to hang on much longer… if we can’t get to them in time.”

There is a distinct break in Walker’s voice as he speaks of the unknown fate of his cherished family.  The Ranger’s humbled genuineness and unrestrained emotion clearly touch his unorthodox, leather-clad listeners.

“We need a couple of dependable bikes that can handle bad weather and rough terrain. We’d sure appreciate any help you gentleman could give us.”

The room is severely still for a long moment. After what seems like an eternity to the outnumbered Rangers, the headmen of the squad turn to each other with commiserating expressions.  Almost simultaneously, the two proud bikers toss their keys into the air.  Walker and Trivette each find a cool set of ignition keys in their hands, transferred unconditionally from the surly leaders of the undisciplined pack.

The larger, more intimidating chieftain speaks for both of them.

“Those keys‘ll fit the two loaded Harleys right outside the door. They’re gassed up with high octane and they’re reading to roll. You won’t find two more dependable bikes within a hundred-mile radius of Lubbock.  Go save your wife and daughter, Ranger. God speed to you and your partner. Peace man. We’ll be ridin’ right beside you.”

“Thank you, gentlemen.  I’m forever indebted to your kindness.  We’ll have your bikes returned to you as soon as we can.”

Walker tips his hat with utmost respect to his unlikely comrades as he and Trivette bolt for the door of the tavern.  The bike engines scream wildly, signifying their readiness, as the Rangers force them into the menacing winds and rain that Mother Nature has unmercifully unleashed before them.

Fade In~ Walker Ranch - 5:39AM.

Alex holds the baby close to her chest and rocks her at a steady pace in an attempt to silence her daughter’s hungry cries.  She is afraid that the continuous shrieking will provoke the wolf, which will induce yet another traumatic episode that they will have to suffer through. It has been more than eight hours since Angela devoured her last bottle.  Alex’s eyes begin to swell with tears as she chastises herself for being unable to provide the fundamental nourishment that her vulnerable infant needs for her survival.

She quickly dries her eyes, remembering that she cannot afford to forfeit precious body fluids for tears of guilt.  She has to stay strong for her child’s sake. Alex lays Angela down in her lap and begins to remove her diaper. She has a fresh one ready to replace it, but she finds there is no need.  The baby hasn’t voided since her last diaper change at midnight. 

A wave of panic forces Alex to revert to the unthinkable.  Without any fluids to sustain her, she knows her child will die of dehydration if she stays in the sealed car for much longer. The sun will be up in less than an hour and the temperature in the automobile will quickly climb to 100 degrees or more. 

Baby Angela is returned to her car-seat so her mother can harvest the first aid kit from the glove compartment of the Durango.  Alex removes the sharpened bandage scissors, antiseptic, gauze, and paper tape from the case.  She lays them out on a sterile blanket of gauze and she begins to clean the scissors and her left arm with the sterilizing liquid.  As the baby pleads for nourishment with her unendurable cries, her mother prepares herself to feed her child in the only way she can: with her own vital blood.

Fade Out~

Fade In~ Highway 104 / Dallas – 5:41AM.

When Walker and Trivette passed by Ranger Headquarters, they parked the loaned motorcycles and traded up for Walker’s ever-faithful Dodge Ram.  Not knowing what they were getting themselves into, Walker figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a solid hull of steel surrounding them when they arrived at the ranch.

The Rangers near the entry road that leads to the ranch and Trivette can’t help but wonder if his partner is ready for what they might find.

“You okay, partner?”

“I’ll be okay as soon as I see Alex and Angela with my own eyes.”

Fade Out~

Fade In~ Walker Ranch – 5:44AM.

Alex mentally prepares herself to slice a horizontal incision across her left wrist.  She knows that the direction of the cut will not be fatal, but she must be careful not to penetrate the inner layers of the skin.  A sterile dressing will need to be applied afterwards to prevent infection.

She stops herself at the last minute.  A car engine is heard in the distance. As the vehicle makes its approach, Alex recognizes the sound of the familiar engine and she exhales a gasp of beholden relief.  The Ram creates an impressive cloud of dust as it pulls into the driveway behind the Durango.

Walker can see movement in the back of his wife’s car. Both Rangers exit the truck with their weapons drawn.  The baby’s distressed cries steal her father’s attention. Acting on pure adrenaline, Walker races to his wife’s static Durango. The dust prohibits Walker’s view of the agitated wolf that is lurking at his heels. He notices the dents and scratches caused by the animals repeated attempts to get to Alex and his daughter. As he reaches for the handle of the rear passenger door, a primitive snarl fills the quiescent air.  Before he can turn his body towards the rancorous noise, a shot is fired, followed by a deadening wince of anguish from the vulnerable canine. The dust clears and Walker can plainly see Trivette holding his fired weapon that has ended the life of the languishing wolf. His distorted carcass lays motionless on the ground only three feet away from Walker and the Durango.

The door flies open and the car is filled with fresh air. Walker reaches in to rescue his little girl from her car-seat. Her tiny cheeks are red and chapped from her ordeal but she still has enough strength to bang her clenched fists on his chest.  Though she is glad to see her daddy, her first concern is for her empty belly and she lets him know that she’s not happy about it. Walker extends his free hand into the car and helps his wife as she climbs out of the SUV.  Her legs are stiff from sitting for more then eleven hours and she is weak from the loss of body fluids. Her legs buckle beneath her as she tries to stand. Walker catches her with a powerful hold around her waist.  Trivette is at Walker’s side and he scoops his godchild up from his partner’s arm.

“Are you okay?”

Walker wraps her in his arms to steady her balance.  She holds onto him with all of the strength she has left. The thought of what could have been is still fresh in her mind.

“Just a little dehydrated.  Angela needs to eat. I couldn’t produce any milk. It’s been hours…”

Alex’s voice trails off as her tears are finally allowed to fall.

“Let’s get the two of you to the hospital.”

Trivette transfers the car-seat while Walker quickly carries Alex to the Ram. The tires squeal as the pickup backs out of the driveway. 

Fade Out~

Epilogue

Fade In~ One Week Later – Walker Ranch.

The Walker family is enjoying their quiet Saturday afternoon snuggled together on the porch-swing. Angela has just finished nursing and Alex hands her to Walker so he can burp her. Alex’s mother’s milk had started to produce again within hours of receiving intravenous fluids during their overnight stay at the hospital.  Both of the Walker women were given a clean bill of heath before they were released into Walker’s tender loving care.

Alex fastens the buttons on her blouse before she rests her head against Walker’s shoulder.

“It’s such a beautiful day. I could stay here with the two of you and do absolutely nothing for the rest of the afternoon.”

Walker raises one eyebrow at her contented statement, realizing he has neglected to mention the fact that a ‘few friends’ will be stopping by and that they should be arriving any time. 

She snuggles in closer to her husband as she releases a contented sigh.  Before Walker can confess the plans he has made without her consent, a host of revving engines intrude on the tranquil silence.

“What is that?”

Alex sits up straight and looks out towards the access road that borders the ranch. Orderly lines of Harley motorcycles are making their approach in two-by-two formation.   She widens her eyes in disbelief and looks towards her husband whose expression appears to be unchanged by the approaching motorcade of intimidating bikers.

“Oh, did I forget to mention that they were coming by this afternoon?  Those are the guys who lent us their motorcycles during the storm so we could get home to you and Angela.  They’re just stopping in to pick up their bikes so we don’t have to worry about shipping them back to them.”

“Walker, you borrowed two bikes, not twenty. There are at least twenty, very large, motorcycle men pulling into my driveway.  How could you forget to mention something like this to me?”

“I’m sorry honey.  It just slipped my mind.”

“Well, I’m just going to ‘slip’ into the house with the baby until they’re gone.  I don’t want the loud engines scaring Angela. And don’t let any of them inside.”

”Ah…Alex??”

“Yes…”

Alex turns back towards her husband with a suspicious look on her face. She fears there is more to this ‘little visit’ than he has mentioned.

“I sort of invited them to stay for dinner.”

“You did what?  And just who is going to cook for that overgrown army of men??  You didn’t volunteer MY services, did you?”

“No, I thought it would nice if we cooked out on the grill.  I’ll give Trivette a call and ask him to pick up some burgers on his way over.”

“You better have him bring the whole cow…”

Alex opens the front door and tries to sneak inside before the unruly crowd docks at her doorstep.

“Mrs. Walker?”

One of the pack leaders who had offered his bike to the Rangers calls out to Alex as he dismounts from his passenger seat behind one of his comrades.

“Me and the boys wanted to make sure you and the little tyke were okay.  I can’t explain it, but we just had to see you for ourselves.  Your husband is a real convincing man; even if he is a Texas Ranger.  After seeing you and your pretty baby firsthand, I can see why he was so determined to get back home to the two of you.  You’re a lucky man, Walker.”

“Don’t I know it, Pake… Alex, I’d like you to meet Pake Wilder.  He was one of the men who gave up his bike without question to a complete stranger.”

“Think nothing of it, Walker. I may have a wild streak in me, but I’ve always been a good judge of character.  I knew you were worth gamblin’ on.  As for these two beautiful ladies of yours, we’ve got a few presents for them.”

He opens his leather shoulder bag and carefully reaches inside and pulls out a fresh bouquet of breathtaking wildflowers.  He hands them to Alex and offers her a respectful nod. Another man joins Pake on the porch steps. Pake helps to unfasten a large bundle that is strapped to the man’s back.  They remove the black plastic covering and a four-foot lavender monkey makes his debut.

“This is for the little miss. We hope she likes it.”

Alex is dumbfounded by the gentle kindness of the rough-looking biker. She admires the contrast between his tough exterior and his soft heart.  Her thoughts shift to another man who possesses the same charming qualities; a man she knows intimately.   A gentle smile graces her lips and Walker knows the rider has won her over.

“Thank you, Pake. Thank you all. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate all you have done for our family.  Why don’t you all come inside and freshen up after your long ride. I’ll make us some lemonade.”

Alex makes eye contact with Walker and her tender gaze tells him that he has, once again, managed to turn a farfetched scheme into a pleasant surprise.

Fade Out~

All of the usual disclaimers……..