Videotaped Memories - By: LELANI DIXON

LELANI.DIXON@worldnet.att.net

 

Chapter 1

 

      Jimmy pulled the videotape from the shelf and wiped off the dust and then sneezed. What had ever possessed him to start this project? It was supposed to be a simple matter of clearing out some old videotapes and making room for his new DVD collection in his entertainment unit. Pretty sad way for an eligible bachelor to spend his Thursday evening, but here he was. He hadn't realized just how many tapes he had collected. They were stacked in piles on the floor. There was the pile of keepers, a pile that he would donate to charity and then there was the pile that was going straight to the trash. Jimmy grimaced and wiped his hands together. He was nearly finished, there were a few unlabeled tapes that he needed to put into the VCR to see what was on them and then he was done. He popped in the first tape and a Cowboy's football game started to play. It must have been one he had recorded when he was on duty and not able to watch. He watched a few minutes of it, but it wasn't a very good game and he fast-forwarded to the end. Nothing he needed to save. The next tape was a PBS Jazz Special he had taped and watched several times when he first recorded it three or four years ago and then forgotten. He put the two tapes in the trash pile. He put in the last tape and pushed play. "Dang it Jimmy, point that dadgum thing somewheres else, before you end up wearing it." The sound of C.D.'s booming voice rang through the room. Jimmy stopped still; he didn't even breathe. The tape cut off and the next scene was of the lake and cabin where Alex took her Battered Women's Support Group and they ran the Ranger's Teen Camp. The camera panned and showed Walker unpacking C.D.'s SUV. "Jimmy, put that blasted camera down and get over here and help." Walker's image bellowed toward the camera. "Can't, I'm injured," he heard his own voice reply from behind the camera. The camera continued to pan the area in front of the cabin and there was Alex, her back to the camera sitting alone on a chair facing the lake. Alex's shoulders were slumped forward and seeing Alex with anything but perfect posture was enough to flag the fact that something was seriously wrong. C.D. walked in front of the camera and looked straight into it. "Jimmy, if you don't put that thing down and help unpack this here vehicle, both you and it are going to be at the bottom of that lake." Jimmy pushed the pause button on the remote control and the image of C.D. stayed there on the screen as large as life. CD. Friend, mentor, father figure, sparring partner, such an integral part of Jimmy's life and now...gone.

 

   Jimmy had forgotten this tape existed. His closest friends, Walker, Alex and C.D. constantly teased him about always having the latest gadget. He had bought a camcorder and used it only the one time. It was right after the courtroom ordeal with Victor LaRue. Alex had wanted to observe his sanity hearing and Trivette, who was nursing a wounded shoulder from taking down a creep, had left her there alone. It was one of those decisions you never quite forgive yourself for. He knew how devastated Alex had been by her two encounters with LaRue. He had tried to rape her twice and Walker had told him that she still had nightmares. And yet, he had left her in the courtroom thinking that Victor LaRue was impotent in his shackles with two armed guards watching over him. When he had gotten word that LaRue had taken the whole courtroom hostage and had killed several people, Jimmy had felt an equal share of guilt and fear. He had left Alex vulnerable and he had to make it right. The first chance he got, he went back into the courtroom with the television and peanut butter and bacon sandwich that LaRue had demanded. He watched as LaRue toyed with and tormented Alex. He'd been re-injured and lay face down on the floor in shackles when LaRue forced Alex to her knees and pointed the gun at Jimmy's head to make her comply with his demand to unbutton her blouse. Walker had come bursting through the doors and despite LaRue firing the first shot, he had killed him with both of his shots finding their mark.

 

     Jimmy resurfaced from his memories of the courtroom ordeal and refocused on C.D.'s face. It was C.D. who had insisted the foursome take a fishing trip to the lake. They had taken the week off and C.D. had figuratively twisted Jimmy's arm, telling him that Alex needed all of them together to help her get over what had happened. Thinking back, Jimmy knew that C.D. had also known that Jimmy needed to talk about what had happened, get his guilt out in the open and forgive himself. He had taken along the camcorder so that he could hide behind it and avoid facing the others. Now, he had a videotape documenting the trip and recording forever the image and voice of the man they had all loved and had lost at the end of last year. He looked at the face on the screen and remembered standing at his graveside in the brisk wind of late fall as the bagpipes played. Sydney and Gage, who had also loved C.D., just for a shorter period of time, had joined him, Walker and Alex. There were many others there that day, people who had been taken into the retired Ranger's heart. Jimmy didn't want to watch this tape by himself. It would be painful for Alex and Walker to see, not only remembering C.D., but also a very difficult time in their lives. Jimmy debated on what to do, but decided he had to share this tape with his friends. At least he needed to tell them of its existence and give them the choice of watching it with him. His decision made, he pushed rewind and ejected it from the VCR. After replacing it in its case, he finished the chore of cleaning off the shelf and boxing up the sorted tapes and taking them down to put them in the trunk of his car.

 

     The next day at work, he found himself in Walker's truck riding out to take a homicide witness's statement. It sounded like a possible gang related shooting and the Rangers were working with a task force to get some of the more violent gang members off the streets. There had been an increase in these types of shootings and the Mayor had decided a crackdown was in order. Jimmy hadn't yet told Walker about the tape and decided that this was a good time. "Walker, remember that time you, me, Alex and C.D. went out to the lake after LaRue's death?" Walker gave him a puzzled look, wondering why Trivette would bring up the subject after all this time. It was years ago that the events he referred to had taken place. "Yeah, I remember." "Do you remember I took along a camcorder." Walker thought back, "I remember wanting to weigh it down and drown the thing in the lake." "Yeah, C.D. threatened a few things too, he thought up some pretty colorful demises for an innocent piece of technology." Walker smiled, remembering some of the more colorful suggestions C.D. had come up with. "What made you think of that?" Walker asked. "Last night I found the tape from that trip." Walker looked over at him, thinking of what that meant. Alex had been in bad shape that trip. She barely spoke to any of them for days. C.D. had done his best to fill in the silences with some of his tall tales. C.D... Walker looked over at Jimmy. "C.D.'s on that tape isn't he?" "Yes, he's on the tape, larger than life just like always. Walker, I couldn't watch the tape once I realized what it was. I thought maybe you and Alex should be there too. Of course we don't have to watch it at all. What do you think?" Walker considered it for a few minutes. "I'd like to spare Alex, especially now that she's getting further along in her pregnancy, but I know my wife. If she ever found out about this..." "She'd skin us both for not telling her," Jimmy finished. Walker nodded in agreement. "She would say that it's important to face our demons and to share our feelings about C.D." He remembered how she had hounded he and Jimmy when C.D. passed. She made them talk about good times and share memories. They'd laughed and cried together. Jimmy spent a weekend at the ranch with them and the three had devoted the weekend to their lost friend. "Would you like to bring the tape to the ranch tomorrow afternoon? We have plans in the morning. Alex is dragging me to a class on different birthing options. She says that we should decide if we want to try natural childbirth or use a more modern method. I tried to convince her that since she's the one who's going to be doing all the work, she should get to choose, but she says she wants my input." "Where's the class at?" "It's at St. Matthews Hospital. It's taught by an RN who is also a midwife." "Why don't the two of you come to my place after you get finished?" "All right, sounds like a plan." The two partners fell silent, each thinking their own thoughts as they drove out to the witness's house.

 

     Walker waited until after dinner before telling Alex about the tape. His instincts were right, she insisted that the three of them should watch the tape together. He sat in the chair in the living room reading a book and looking up occasionally at his wife who sat sideways on the couch with her feet up. She tried to look involved in her book, but he wasn't fooled. She hadn't turned a page in over thirty minutes. Alex was reliving the courtroom scene in her mind. When Walker burst through the doors and shot LaRue, she was overwhelmed with relief. He came and helped her up off the floor and pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly to him. People were swarming all around and it wasn't long before the bustle around them intruded and they broke apart. Walker went to Trivette and checked with the medics who were tending to his reopened shoulder wound. Alex stood behind him and listened to the report while she buttoned her blouse and straightened her clothing. A medic tried to examine her jaw where LaRue had struck her with the butt of the gun, but she waved him away. Walker glanced up at her and frowned, but he hadn't pressed the issue.

 

     There were people everywhere and little Karen's estranged parents had come to thank her for helping to protect their daughter. Others came to her wanting to discuss the events, but she was in shock and barely acknowledged them. She didn't remember how she got out into the hall, but she remembered watching as they wheeled the gurney with the body of the judge past. Soon after, it was followed by the gurney transporting Victor LaRue's body to the Coroner's Office. Alex still jumped as she remembered the vision that had flashed in her mind of LaRue sitting up on the gurney and looking straight at her.

 

     Alex had left then and gone to her office. She sat at her keyboard and typed a thorough report on what had transpired in the courtroom. She finished her statement and put it into a sealed envelope and placed it on the DA's desk. She then collected her personal items and headed for the hospital to check on Jimmy. When she arrived at the hospital, she found C.D. in the waiting room. He told her that Jimmy was going to be fine, but they had given him painkillers and he was sleeping. She peeked in on him and then told C.D. she was headed home.

 

     Walker watched his wife without her knowing. She had given up her pretence of reading and instead stared into the fire he had started after dinner. He remembered that courtroom day nearly as well as she did. He remembered seeing her on her knees once again a victim of LaRue. He had promised her the last time, after LaRue he had chained her spread eagle to a bed and tried to kill him with scorpions, that he would never bother her again. It was pure luck that LaRue had fired first. He felt such rage when he saw Alex so defeated that he believed he would have fired on Victor LaRue regardless. After hugging her, he had checked on Trivette and then there were people everywhere. She hadn't let the medics check her jaw, but he didn't want to pressure her so he kept quiet. Something in the way she held herself told him that it wouldn't take much to break her at that moment. Police swarmed everywhere and the Captain was there asking him for details. The next time he had a chance to look for Alex, she was gone. He hadn't been able to leave for some time and when he did, he went to the hospital expecting to find her there. C.D. told him that she hadn't yet been by and that Trivette would be fine after he had some time to heal, so he went to her apartment. Again he didn't find her home. He even let himself in with the spare key she had entrusted to him. Walker went back to the office and found that she had been there, but she had left. He went to the DA to ask if he knew where and the DA shared her statement with him. As he read the report, it was as if the writer had been watching the drama play out, but hadn't taken part. She spoke of herself in the third person and showed no emotion in the telling of the horror she had been through. Walker also took the time to view the tape of what had transpired in the courtroom. He saw the judge shot and he watched as Victor LaRue forced Alex to take the stand by threatening to kill the young girl if she didn't. He heard the obscene threats LaRue had made to her. Saying he wanted to make love to her while her boyfriend Ranger Walker watched. She had been defiant and strong throughout.

 

     Walker had finally tracked Alex down at her apartment. He stopped and bought Chinese take out food and brought it up with him. He remembered knocking and calling her name for the longest time. Finally, he let himself in and heard the shower running. She must have stayed in the shower for over an hour. When she finally emerged, she was wearing a man's extra large sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants. Her face was free of makeup and her hair had been combed straight back from her face in a severe style. It was wet and plastered to her head, which accented the severity. Walker remembered thinking that she looked beautiful and so very fragile. There was no sign of the defiant woman who had faced down LaRue on the tape he had watched. He tried to get her to talk, but she wouldn't. She went through the motions of eating, but consumed next to nothing. He went over to a cabinet where she kept a few bottles of wine and a decanter of brandy. He poured her some brandy and insisted that she drink it. He had made a fire and she sat on the floor in front of it with her knees drawn up to her chest under the sweatshirt and her arms wrapped around them. "Alex, honey, please talk to me," he had implored her. She sat there so still, not responding to his words. He reached out his hand to stroke her drying hair and she flinched away from him. Walker dropped his hand. "Alex, I read your statement and I saw the tape. I know what happened, but I don't know how to help. Please Alex, let me in." Alex sat staring in the fire and finally responded. "I want to be alone. Just go home Walker." "I'm sorry Alex, but I'm not leaving. It was only a couple of weeks ago when you had that horrible nightmare about LaRue, remember?" He paused to see if there would be a response, he saw a tightening of her mouth, but nothing more. "We worked through it together. We talked about it and you haven't had a nightmare since have you?" He knew she hadn't, she had promised to tell him if she had and he knew she would keep her promise. "I am so sorry I wasn't there today. I would do anything to keep you from being hurt. I can't tell you how much it hurts me to see you like this, to know what you've been put through by that evil..." "I really want to be alone. I'm tired and I'm going to bed. Please just go." Walker had looked at her and seen that he wasn't going to get through. Whatever walls she had erected to protect herself from feeling all the emotions that were boiling under the surface, they would stay in place tonight. "I'm not going to leave you alone. I'll sleep out here on the couch, but I'm not leaving." She hadn't even argued. She hadn't offered to get him a blanket and pillow, which was so uncharacteristic, southern hospitality was second nature to her. She just stood, walked out of the room to her bedroom and closed the door.

 

     Walker remembered that night as being one of the longest in his life. He had gone in to check on her several times throughout the night, but she lay there not acknowledging his presence. She didn't sleep, he knew by her stillness that she was awake, but he let her be and returned to the couch each time. Walker shook himself from the memory and looked at the woman who was now his wife. They had survived Victor LaRue, but the scars remained. All these years later, the thought of the man could still put that haunted look into his wife's eyes. Walker set his book down and crossed over to the couch where his wife still gazed into the fire. He crouched down on his haunches so that he was eye level to her and picked up her hand. Bringing it to his mouth, he kissed the back of her hand and then turned it and kissed the palm. Alex's eyes refocused onto his face and she looked into his eyes and saw the concern there. She smiled and cupped the side of his face with the hand he had kissed. "I'm okay, Cowboy. Don't look so worried." "It was a really hard time Alex. I'm sorry that you have to be reminded of it." She smiled a slightly larger smile and leaned over to place a feather light kiss to his lips. "But we survived it together and ultimately we grew closer because of it. It was a hard time. I remember feeling so dead inside. And then all I could feel was anger. And for some reason I directed that anger at you, which just made me feel guilty. I remember how patient you were with me and how wonderful C.D. and Jimmy were." Suddenly Alex laughed out loud. Walker looked up at her startled. "You three men probably made up one of the most 'unique' support groups a woman has ever had." She continued to smile and this time, there was only a trace of the sadness left in her eyes. "We don't have to watch that tape if you don't want to. I think we both remember that time pretty well without needing to see bits and pieces of it." "I want to see it. Jimmy had a rough time of it too and maybe it's time we brought out those old memories and aired them a little. Make sure the feelings they evoke are completely put to rest. It will be good to see C.D. and hear his voice again too. Sometimes I get so incredibly sad thinking that our baby won't ever get to know him. Maybe there's one of his stories on that tape that we can show our kids so they can have an idea of what a wonderful loving person he was." "I hadn't thought of that. You're right, maybe there will be some parts we can put together, kind of a video scrapbook of C.D." Alex smiled, she had managed to reassure her husband and he was actually looking forward to seeing the tape. "We have a big day tomorrow and I for one am tired. What do you say to calling it a night, Cowboy?" Walker stood and extended his hand to help her up off the couch. He grunted and acted as if it was a great effort to pull her up. She playfully slapped his arm and laughed. "I was just at the doctor yesterday and I have gained less than ten pounds, so don't even try to suggest otherwise." He pulled her close to him and placed his hands in the small of her back. She didn't mold to him as well as she used to, but she really wasn't that big yet. She was only at the end of her fifth month and she could still camouflage her pregnancy in the right clothes. "You get sexier by the hour," he said and dipped his head to kiss her. Stepping back finally, he said, "I'll get the fire and the lights, you go on up." She nodded in agreement and headed on up to the master bedroom.

     Walker was only minutes behind her, but when he reached the bedroom, he could tell by her breathing that she was already asleep. He smiled and shook his head. She was working as hard as ever and meeting all of their social obligations. They also had their charity events, what with HOPE House and Kick Drugs. Not to mention other causes they both believed in and tried to support as much as possible. It was no wonder his wife fell asleep the moment her head touched the pillow. Just because they were still in the first year of their marriage, didn't mean they had to make love all the time. Once in a while would be nice though. He laughed quietly at himself. What was he complaining about? Just because it had been over a week, didn't mean that their sex life was over. It had been the longest they had gone since the wedding though and he decided to make sure to create a romantic evening very soon. He started planning as he climbed under the covers and shifted to accommodate his wife's sleeping form in the curve of his own body. Victor LaRue was a bad memory, but he had more important things to think about.

 

Chapter 2

 

     "Walker, natural childbirth is just that, natural." "Alex, there is no way I'm going to let you go through all that pain when there are perfectly good drugs that can make things bearable." "Walker, my god, you spent years on the reservation. You never learned about natural childbirth? I should call White Eagle and tell him about your view on the subject." "Call anyone you want, I will not stand there while you go through that. Did you hear that woman talk about the hours of labor? Especially with your first delivery." "Good grief Walker, if I had known you were going to be so squeamish, I wouldn't have taken you to the lecture." "Alex, you said that you wanted my input. Well, you've got it. That epidural thing doesn't sound pleasant, but if it takes away the worst of the pain, then I'm all for it." "Look, why don't we go to the classes and prepare for a natural birth and hold off on making a final decision closer to the due date? I'm sure the doctor will be able to give us some advice as well." "I thought the doctor was the one who sent you to this class." "Yes, but just so that I could be informed. Different doctor's have different preferences and there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. Weren't you listening?" "After that graphic description with pictures, I wasn't really able to process much else. All I could see was you lying in a hospital bed screaming in pain." Alex smiled, "my big brave Ranger husband." "When it comes to my wife in pain, there is nothing to be brave about." "Okay, don't shout at me." "I'm not shouting." Alex sighed, "well then don't talk in such a loud voice." Walker just glared across the cab of the Ram at her. "Tell you what. We'll go get some lunch and then head over to Jimmy's and we'll talk about this when you're more rational." "I'm completely rational. We are never again having sex. The possibility of going through this more than once..." Alex couldn't help it, she threw her head back against the seat cushion and laughed long and hard. "You're rational huh? How long do you think we could go without sex?" "We seem to be doing fine without it now, we'll just continue." "What's wrong, Cowboy? Feeling neglected lately?" That earned her another glare. "I don't know what you find so amusing about this." "Walker, you've delivered babies on street corners, how can this be such a shock?" "It was never my wife lying there. God Alex, when I think of all the things you've endured." Alex took pity on her husband and decided to change the subject. "Okay, I won't argue with you about it. I won't insist on natural childbirth. Really Walker, I don't know that I would be up for it anyway. I just want to know about everything related to this baby. I am so incredibly happy to be carrying this child. Remember when we first found out that we were going to be parents?" Walker's face softened at the memory. When she told him that she had the baby flu and then clarified that she was eight weeks pregnant, well it was one of those moments that you remember for a lifetime. "Okay Alex, we'll shelve the subject and go have lunch." "And we can continue to have sex? I mean after all, I can't get pregnant right now..." Walker looked over at her and said, "maybe... we'll see." She saw the teasing glint in his eye and she provocatively placed her hand on his leg and ran it up from his knee to his thigh. His thigh muscle contracted beneath her hand. "Somehow, I'm not too worried," she gloated. He slapped her hand away and pulled into the parking lot of a cozy Italian restaurant they had discovered recently.

 

     Jimmy heard the doorbell and went to open the door to his apartment. The Walker's stood there hand in hand smiling at him. He was a little surprised to see the relaxed attitude; he was a bundle of nerves himself. He invited them in and Walker led the way, his wife in tow. "How was the class?" he asked the couple. "Don't ask," they said in unison. Jimmy raised his eyebrows, but heeded the warning. "I made popcorn and lemonade and everything is set up to watch the video." Alex was touched to see the boxes of Kleenex on the tables at each end of the couch. Jimmy danced around nervously. "Sit anywhere," he offered his guests after taking their jackets and Alex's purse and hanging them in the coat closet. They walked over to the couch and sat on it together, leaving the overstuffed chair with the footrest for him. They both knew it was his favorite spot. "Walker, would you like a beer instead of lemonade?" Jimmy offered in host mode. "No, I had a glass of wine with lunch, I'll stick to lemonade." "Where'd you guys go for lunch?" "That Italian place we told you about, The Blue Grotto. They have the best manicotti." Alex told him. "Yeah, I've been meaning to try that place. Maybe I'll take Wendy there next week." Jimmy had just begun dating Wendy and the restaurant sounded like a good third date kind of place. He wasn't seeing her this weekend as she was out of town on a business trip. She was a buyer for a large department store and she traveled quite a bit. It slowed down the pace of their relationship and he was just fine with that. "Well I guess I should get the tape started," he said as he handed his guests each a glass of lemonade. "Wait, before you start the tape, I just wanted to let you two know that however morose I appear on this tape, I really am over the Victor LaRue ordeal. It was not a pleasant process, getting over what that psychopath did to me and to both of you, but I had you there to help me through it and I'm grateful. I'd rather concentrate on the good memories of C.D. and not focus on the other stuff." Alex looked at the two men to see their reaction to her short speech. They both nodded in agreement and then Jimmy sat down with the remote control and turned on the television and pushed play.

 

     "Dang it Jimmy, point that dadgum thing somewheres else, before you end up wearing it." And there he was, C.D. Parker. The tape continued and after their gear was unpacked, it showed a scene of all but Jimmy sitting around a campfire. Jimmy was doing the taping and C.D. was telling a story about a raccoon that had invaded his cabin when he was a Boy Scout leader. "I knew that there was no way the eatin' was going to be good, so I brought along a few extra goodies. I put 'em in a nap sack and tied 'em to the ceiling and settled down for the night. That critter snuck in and climbed up on my belly and swung that bag until it broke and spilled everything out all over the floor. I got hit in the head with a can of garbanzo beans and I sat up ready to do battle. I don't know which one of us was more startled, me or that raccoon. He looked at me with them beady eyes and I hollered loud enough to rouse the whole campground. The thief jumped to the floor, grabbed a bag of dates and ran out to the woods." "Who brings garbanzo beans and dates on a camping trip?" Jimmy's voice could be heard from behind the camera. "Well now Jimmy, I guess I do." The story drew the expected chuckles from the group, except for Alex. She stood after the story ended and said; "I'm going in, goodnight." The camera watched her head toward the cabin and then C.D. said, "she's really hurtin'." "She won't talk about it, she won't even look me in the eye and I doubt she's slept more than a few hours since it happened." Walker's voice expressed the concern that the darkness kept the camera from seeing in his eyes. "I've got those painkillers the doctor gave me for my shoulder. If she took one of those, she'd get some sleep," Jimmy offered. "She'd never take one," Walker said. "We don't have to tell her. We could give it to her without her knowing." "No, I wouldn't do that to her," Walker stated. "If you did and she found out, your life wouldn't be worth a plug nickel," C.D. commented. The group fell silent and the camera was switched off.

 

     Alex remembered that night. She had been given the only bedroom at the cabin with a full sized bed. The men had each taken a room with single beds and bunkbeds. She had gone in and lain on the bed in the dark trying to relax and go to sleep. She was exhausted and she craved sleep, but she was also afraid to give in to it. She knew who awaited her in her nightmares and it was preferable to stay awake than to confront LaRue again. In her nightmares, he always won. He did the horrible things he had only threatened in real life. The next day, she was grateful when the sun came up and she could get out of bed. She slipped out quietly and walked to the lake's edge. She stood there watching the gentle slapping of the waves on the shore and then she spied the kayak tied to the boat dock. It hadn't taken her long to decide to use it. The camera followed her strokes as she pulled the oars through the water and the kayak glided over the surface of the lake. Alex hadn't known that Jimmy had captured her on the lake that morning. "I don't remember that," Jimmy said. He paused the tape and looked at Walker. "You wouldn't. You were sound asleep. I borrowed your camera when I saw Alex on the lake. It was just such a beautiful sight, I thought it should be recorded." "I never knew that you even touched the thing, you griped about it almost as much as C.D. did." Alex looked at the still image of herself on the water and remembered the feeling of trying to escape. At the time, she didn't know what she was trying to escape, she just knew that she couldn't get away. What a coward she had been. Why hadn't she simply told the men what she was feeling? They would have understood. Thinking back, she realized that she wouldn't let herself feel anything at that point. She was running from her own emotions. The image was beautiful though. From that distance, you really couldn't make out who was in the kayak, the oar dripped water and the wake followed the boat. The sunrise was still casting a rosy hue over the water. Alex looked at Walker and smiled, "that would make a good still photo." Jimmy was really surprised at how well Alex was dealing with this. "I could get it done for you if you want," he offered. She looked at him and smiled. "Actually, I'm going to want several photos made from this tape. I also would like to splice together some of the scenes with C.D. Like the one of him telling that raccoon story. I'd love to share that with the next generation of Walkers." She patted her abdomen for emphasis. "That's a great idea," suddenly Jimmy was looking at this tape in a whole new light. It was a blessing to have captured C.D. on tape. Regardless of the circumstances at the time, the friends had gotten through the ordeal and now they had some wonderful memories on tape. "Hey, pass me some of that popcorn," he said. He relaxed back in the chair and pushed the pause button again to resume play.

 

     The next scene showed C.D. and Walker on the boat dock fishing. C.D. had hooked a fish and he was giving Walker directions on what he should do. "Cordell, get that net and get ready, this one's puttin' up a fight. Boy, we're gonna be eatin' good tonight." Walker stood patiently next to C.D. and waited as he reeled the fish in. Finally it was out of the water and Walker swooped under it with the net and pulled it on to the dock. "Well C.D., one of us is going to be eating good tonight," he said as he looked at the medium sized trout. "Jimmy, this is how it's done. You watch an expert and learn. And don't you worry none Cordell, this fellow has friends and they're gonna have a reunion in my fryin' pan tonight." The scene continued with C.D. and Walker both catching enough fish to feed them all that night. "Now tomorrow, I'll take you out in the boat Jimmy and we'll go lookin' for Sly Arnold." "Who's Sly Arnold?" Jimmy's voice could be heard asking. "He's a fish I named after a snitch I used to deal with. He's big enough to feed all four of us. I had him hooked one time, but he slipped the line and waved his tail at me as if to say, 'come back and try again'. Well I'm back and I'm gonna find that slippery devil."

 

     The camera hadn't recorded the rest of that day; Alex had avoided the others and sat alone, lost in her own thoughts. Walker had approached her and tried to force the issue, but she had told him to 'get lost' in no uncertain terms and he had conceded defeat. That night, Alex had fallen asleep. The workout in the kayak had tired her physically to the point where she couldn't fight it any longer. It was around two in the morning when Walker heard her screams. The other two men heard them as well, but when they heard them grow louder as Walker opened the door and let himself into her room, they both decided not to interfere. Walker remembered looking at her thrashing in the bed, trying to escape her attacker. "Alex, Alex honey, wake up. It's just a dream." Walker tried to wake her without touching her. Finally he reached out and shook her awake. She sat up swinging and accidentally caught him square in the eye. He caught her arms and pinned them to her sides as he held her to his chest and spoke softly to her. Alex came out of the dream and slowly realized where she was and who was holding her. As that realization set in, she stiffened in Walker's arms and pulled away from him. "I'm fine now, I'm sorry I woke you up." "Alex, talk to me. Tell me about the nightmare, maybe it will help." "I don't want to talk, please let me go." Walker watched as she scooted away from him to the other side of the bed. "I'm here when you're ready," was all he said as he left the room.

 

     Alex hadn't known that he was sitting outside with an ice pack to his eye when she let herself out a half-hour later. He followed her without her being aware as she once again got into the kayak and rowed for a full two hours. She then went back to her room and didn't resurface until later that morning. Walker had a black eye to show for his efforts the next morning. When Alex saw him, she stopped dead in her tracks and then ducked her head and walked on by. He reached out to touch her arm, but she saw his hand from the corner of her eye and again flinched away. Her not being able to bear his touch hurt him far more than his bruised eye.

 

     The videotape showed C.D. and Jimmy in the fishing boat out on the lake. "Looky here, Jimmy. These rocks here are where Sly Arnold likes to hide out. You drop your line here and see if he's in the mood to play." Jimmy again hit the pause button, "Walker, did you tape this too?" "Not me partner," Walker denied. "I did," Alex confessed. "I saw the camera on the table as I was going out for a walk and I picked it up. I spotted you two out on the lake and decided to film you." "Oh no," Jimmy moaned, "you know what's about to happen don't you? You didn't manage to catch that on tape did you?" "Why not see for yourself?" she chuckled in anticipation. The tape continued and showed the two men sitting companionably in the boat. "C.D. get the net! Get the net! I got him! I got Sly Arnold! Boy he's a big 'un! Get the net!" Jimmy was shouting in excitement. "Don't lose him son. Reel him in nice and slow now. Keep your line tight, but let him play some." Jimmy continued to get more and more excited as he fought to bring in the fish. "Look here Big Dog, I got your nemesis for you." C.D. looked a little chagrined, but he continued to give Jimmy directions as he brought the fish nearer the boat. The small boat tilted to the port as C.D. scooted over toward Jimmy and held the net near the water to scoop under the fish as soon as he got close enough. C.D. was leaning forward and in his excitement, Jimmy did the same, standing up and peering over the side. "Jimmy, what in tarnation are you tryin' to do son? Sit down!" The boat lurched further to the port and within moments, both C.D. and Jimmy were in the water with the capsized boat bobbing next to them. "Walker, come quick!" Alex's voice could be heard calling to Walker. Alex continued to film as Walker rowed the kayak out to the two men and helped to right the boat. Jimmy retrieved his fishing pole that was floating near the surface. He reeled the line in and looked at the empty hook. He swam in unassisted, but Walker towed C.D. in with the fishing boat. What followed was a scolding by C.D. that nearly dried Jimmy's clothes.

 

     Walker and Alex were laughing so hard they nearly fell off the couch. When Alex was again able to talk, she said, "I think we'll have to mute that last part. I don't want my child exposed to that kind of language." She grabbed a tissue from the box closest to her to wipe the tears from her eyes as she continued to chuckle. Jimmy reached for a tissue as well, he had to admit, the scene was hilarious. Of course at the time it wasn't all that funny, except to Walker who had not been able to hold back his laughter when C.D. said, "Sly Arnold strikes again, of course this time he had a partner in crime." C.D. stomped off toward the cabin, his shoes sloshing and water dripping down the side of his face from his fishing hat.

 

     The next scene was filmed that evening just before dusk. Jimmy had seen C.D. go down to where Alex sat on the lakeshore and he followed and filmed the conversation between the two. "Mighty fine night, isn't it honey?" Alex glanced up and nodded in agreement before returning her gaze to the water. "I hate seeing you all tore up like this. I wish I could just make it all better." "No one can do that C.D. I'm just going to have to get through it. I'm tough though, I'll be fine." "You sure will, but not at the rate you're goin'. How long are you goin' to make Cordell suffer? He got there as soon as he could you know. When he came in and heard what was going on, he ran right through the Captain and the swat team and burst in there like a madman." No one had told Alex this, but she could imagine it. "I don't blame him. At least my mind doesn't. I can't explain it. All my emotions are locked up so tight. It's like I'm afraid to feel anything C.D." "What would happen if you let your guard down?" "I don't know, but I'm afraid that I'll break into a hundred pieces." "So what if you do? Cordell and Jimmy and I will help you put them back together. We're all here for you honey. Jimmy's so tore up about what he feels he allowed to happen to you, he's being eatin' up inside." This made Alex look up, "why would Jimmy think he allowed something to happen?" "He left you alone in that courtroom. He thinks that if he'd been there, well none of this would have happened." "If he'd been there from the beginning, he probably would have been killed. With his arm in a sling, chances are LaRue would have gotten off the first shot." "Maybe. That doesn't make him feel any better. And Cordell feels guilty too." "Why C.D.? He wasn't even there and when he did get there, he shot LaRue." "Didn't he promise you that LaRue would never bother you again after that time out at the ranch?" "Yeah, but C.D., I don't hold him responsible for what happened, it wasn't his fault." "Then whose fault was it?" "I don't think anyone's to blame. Except of course for Victor LaRue. It's not about blaming someone." "Then what is it?" "C.D. I couldn't fight him. There I was on my own turf and I still couldn't beat him. The courtroom is the one place I am always in control. You and Jimmy and Walker, you fight on the streets. You use your bodies or weapons to fight, but my weapon is my brain. I've argued cases no one thought I could win, but I did win. This time, nothing I said mattered. Every time I made a stand against him, he used the threat of injuring someone else to get me to comply." "He wasn't playin' by the same rules honey." "I know that C.D. I can argue the point with myself 'til I'm blue in the face, but I can't accept what happened." "Alex, have you cried once since then?" Alex looked up and shook her head. "You know what I admire about you the most?" She again shook her head. "Well the lord knows you are one beautiful lady. You're funny and as smart as a whip. I don't know many women who can hold their own against Cordell Walker, but you do honey, time and again. You're generous to a fault, kind and compassionate and you have strength of character." "You make me sound like a saint C.D." "No darlin' you've got your faults. You have a temper and your bite is near as bad as your bark. You're also a perfectionist and you don't tolerate less than perfection from others.  You're headstrong and proud and I've heard you referred to as stubborn, even muleheaded once or twice and you don't like to admit that you have a weak side. We all do honey. But what I admire the most about you is that you can hold your own in a man's world and still be so very feminine. You cry at them sappy commercials, you appreciate pretty things and you know how to get others to open up and share their feelings with you. Look at Cordell. You've made that man tell you more about himself than all the women he's known his whole life put together. It's okay to cry about what happened. I recommend it." Alex scooted over to C.D. and leaned against him. He put his arm around her and she just sat there for a long time. Jimmy had stopped filming.

 

     Jimmy and Walker both had tears in their eyes as the scene ended. Alex grabbed another tissue and dried the fresh tears flowing down her cheeks. "C.D. had so much wisdom. He told it like it was," Alex admitted to the others. "I needed to hear that. I had been being so hard on myself, I couldn't let either of you in because I couldn't forgive myself." Walker pulled her into his arms and held her against his chest, kissing her temple. "I wondered what had changed. I didn't know C.D. had spoken to you, but you had another nightmare that night." Alex remembered. Walker had come in again and shaken her awake from the nightmare. This time though, she fell against him and sobbed out all of the fear and pain. He had held her against his chest and stroked her hair, whispering words of comfort. He told her that it was all right, that it was over and that he was going to help her get through it. He told her how much she meant to him and how good it was to hold her again. As the crying slowed and then stopped, he climbed into the bed next to her and pulled her fully into his arms. She fell asleep like that, feeling safe and loved for the first time in days.

 

     The next morning, Walker slipped out of the room quietly before the others woke up. He and Alex had always kept the status of their relationship private. He had simply held her as she slept, but he didn't want any raised eyebrows from the other two if they saw them walk out of the bedroom together. He had been sitting on the porch drinking coffee when Alex joined him. She had showered and she looked more rested and relaxed than she had in days. He held out the coffee cup to her and she swallowed some down before returning it to him. "Walker, I wanted to apologize to you, I know I've treated you abominably." "It's okay honey, I think. I'm not exactly sure what that word means." This earned a slight smile from her, the first one in days. "I really don't blame you for what happened, I can't explain it, I just feel ashamed that LaRue got the best of me again." Walker flashed back on the vision of Alex on her knees, her blouse partially undone and felt the anger fill him again. "Dammit Alex, he didn't win. He did everything he could to try to humiliate you, but he's the one in the morgue and you're going to be in that courtroom again putting some other slimeball in jail where he belongs." "But I didn't win, you shot him. Cordell Walker to the rescue. While Alex Cahill, damsel in distress, waits for her protector to ride in and sweep her up on his white steed." "My 'steed' is black and that's the biggest load of bull manure I have ever heard." "Is it? Let's see. LaRue kidnaps me with several others and who beats him to a pulp and stops the car crusher saving my life as well as the other hostages? Then LaRue gets out of prison on a technicality and stalks me, finally chaining me to a bed. I lay there helpless while he surprises you from behind and knocks you unconscious and then hits and kicks you and drags you off. Even after you had been stung repeatedly by scorpions, you still managed to come in and prevent him from raping me and again beat him to a pulp and put him back in jail where he belonged. Then, finally, he's in a courtroom where I have the upper hand and what happens? He shoots both bailiffs, shoots the psychiatrist, shoots the judge and proceeds to take me and everyone else in the courtroom hostage. There I am on my knees in front of all those people undoing my blouse when who bursts in and finally shoots LaRue, once again rescuing me?" "Pride goeth before a fall Alex." "Shut up Walker." Alex had stormed off leaving Walker to sip his coffee and ponder the realization that Alex didn't blame him for letting LaRue torment her, she blamed him for rescuing her. He shook his head trying to digest this latest information.

 

     The next scene on the videotape was of Walker and C.D. sitting on the porch talking. They were unaware that Jimmy was filming them. "What is it with women C.D.? They get mad if you don't do everything in your power to protect them and they get even madder if you do protect them." "Cordell, you know what a headstrong woman Alex is. She has fought for everything she has. You told me that her father is a drunk who left her and her mother to fend for themselves. Alex put herself through college and law school. Her mother died when Alex needed the moral support most and she only just made things up with her father. Think about how hard it must have been to work as hard as she did to educate herself, knowing her father was making more money than he could spend in a lifetime. After all that, she became a damn good lawyer. She moved up fast and became one of the most notable ADA's in Tarant County. Now you wonder why she doesn't like to feel that she needs a man to protect her?" "C.D., what happened was just one of those things. You can't win a mind game with a madman. The only way to silence LaRue was to put an end to his existence. It just happens that I'm a good shot. It's what I do. I'm not going to apologize for it." "Alex doesn't want you to. She just wants to feel independent and capable and she doesn't feel that right now. She's stubborn. In some ways, she's even more stubborn than you and I thought you took the cake." There was a noise to the right as Jimmy tripped over a chair, trying to get a better camera angle. "Jimmy, I'm gonna wrap that danged camera around your neck and string you up with it." Walker didn't say anything, but the look in his eyes was apparently enough of a warning as the camera clicked off.

 

     "If I ever need proof of spousal abuse, I'm gonna use this videotape as evidence," Walker said. The picture of his eye in the last frame of the scene they had just watched showed a multitude of colors. It was purple and blue with some green mixed in. Alex took the seat cushion and hit him over the head with it. "Ow, see what I mean. I don't know why you ever thought you needed me to protect you, you pack a mean punch lady." Alex just shook her head and said, "Jimmy, I need a bathroom break, can you keep it paused?" "Sure Alex, you got it." Alex got up off the couch and headed for the bathroom. Jimmy looked over at Walker and said, "I really thought this would be hard for her, but she seems fairly unaffected by it." "Yeah, well a lot of time has passed and she's more confident now than she was then. She doesn't have to prove anything. For one thing, her relationship with her father is mended and she is doing well with all of that. This pregnancy has really changed her too. I've never seen her so happy." "She's been walking around on clouds since the wedding Walker. You probably haven't noticed, because you've been up there with her." Jimmy grinned at his partner. He really did not realize what an integral part of Alex's confidence and happiness he was. Alex came back in and looked at the two men. "Okay guys, let's see what else we've got here."

 

Chapter 3

 

 

     Jimmy started the tape and they saw the group once again assembled around the fire. C.D. was stirring a pot of his famous chili as it hung over the fire. Jimmy had set the camera up on a tripod and it filmed the group without focusing on any one person. Alex sat next to Jimmy and waited on him as if he were far more injured than he was. He still wore the sling to keep his arm immobile while the tissues of his shoulder healed. Getting it wet when he was dumped into the lake and then swimming to shore had not been part of the recuperative plan. Walker had cleaned and rebandaged it for him every day and it was on the mend. Far be it for Jimmy to turn away sympathy and attention though. He was lapping it up and Walker sat on the log across from them fuming. C.D. tried to play peacemaker and he regaled them with a story of his first ever chili cook off. "I was in the army over in Korea. My outfit had taken a hill and had lots of casualties to show for it. We were at a M.A.S.H. unit recuperating. One of the docs there started mouthing off about how good his chili was. Well my Lieutenant came back and said that he had a man who could make the best chili in all of Korea. Anyways, one thing led to another and there I was, my arm in a sling after they took a bullet out of my shoulder." He looked pointedly at Jimmy who was accepting a mug of coffee from Alex. Alex was feeling guilty that Jimmy blamed himself for what happened, she wasn't using him to make Walker jealous. The friendship between the partners was too important for her to ever play a game like that. It was simply a byproduct of what she was feeling and how she reacted that caused it to seem as if she was intentionally ignoring Walker and showering Jimmy with attention. "The only problem with the chili cook off was that we didn't have any fresh meat and the only canned meat available was Spam." "Spam?" Jimmy asked. "Yep. I had made substitutions to my recipe before, but Spam chili was not somethin' I was prepared for. I got to work though and knowing that Spam is pretty salty, I cut down on any salt I might add to it. I made it extra hot, you'd 'ave appreciated that Alex, and I came up with what I thought was a pretty fair chili. When it came time for the judges to taste it, they all agreed my chili was the best. I won first prize and it was unanimous. That's when I realized that I had a gift and that I was duty bound to share my gift with the world. It was the first time I imagined a C.D.'s. I knew I wanted to be a Texas Ranger, but I figured that when I got to retirement age, I would devote myself to bringing my chili to those who never knew what chili could be. I've made all sorts of chili, used all sorts of meats, but I've never again been as proud as I was of that Spam chili." Jimmy and Alex shared a smile and Walker sat with his back to the camera and his shoulders hunched forward.

 

     Jimmy again paused the videotape and looked at the other two. "I thought I could live the rest of my life without chili after all that C.D. made me eat. I can't believe how much I miss it." His voice choked with emotion, Jimmy fell silent. "I haven't had chili since we lost him," Walker confessed. "It's strange to think of chili as a mans legacy, but really it's the one thing I identify with C.D. the most. He was a great fisherman and he was so active in charities. God knows he could tell a story, but for all the things I loved about C.D., I miss his bragging about his chili the most." Alex took a tissue and wiped her face. The two men sat on either side of her, agreeing with her. "When C.D. and I were partner's, he used to tell me how he was going to open a bar and grill and serve chili and hamburgers. He experimented with recipes and there were nights I didn't think my stomach was going to survive being his taste tester. When he got shot in the knee and had to take early retirement, I felt so guilty until the day I walked into C.D.'s and saw him beaming with pride. I knew that he was happy and I needn't worry. Of course when he pulled strings to get me partnered with some rookie who came from Baltimore and liked all sorts of gadgets and computers, I decided that there was a maliciousness in him I had somehow overlooked." Walker smiled over at Trivette and Jimmy shot him a mock glare. "You should have known that C.D. knew best. He wanted you to have the best partner on the force. I was the one who got thrown into the deep end. You and your Cherokee blood and bull riding. It's a miracle I've survived intact." Alex laughed at the two men as they sparred with each other. They would lay their lives down for the other, but that didn't mean they were going to get all soft and emotional about it. "That's enough boys, you both know that C.D. did you a great favor helping to partner you. He made sure that we were all taken care of and that we were family before he left us. We all owe him for helping us through rough times. I for one am a better person for having known and loved C.D. Parker." "Amen" Jimmy said. Walker nodded his head in agreement. "So what else do you have on this tape?" Walker asked.

 

     The camera hadn't documented the next day. Not much had happened worth noting. They had gone along fishing and hiking in a companionable way. Alex had done more kayaking and she steered clear of Walker. The camera caught the moment when Walker confronted Alex as she came in from kayaking the next day. Walker reached out from the boat dock and pulled the kayak alongside. He steadied the boat and offered his hand to Alex as she began to climb out. "I can do it," she said ignoring his hand. "Dammit Alex, no one's saying you can't. Can't a guy offer a friend a hand?" "Is that what you are Walker, my friend?" "Among other things, yes." Alex harrumphed and pointedly pulled herself out of the boat and started to walk away from Walker. He grabbed her and forced her around to face him. "Don't walk away, we need to get this settled," he said in a tone that brooked no argument. "There's nothing to settle. You run hot and cold and I'm tired of trying to guess which way you'll be from one minute to the next," Alex challenged. "Liar. You know how I feel about you, this isn't about our relationship, this is about you having a chip on your shoulder because you had to lean on me. Big tough Alex Cahill needed a friend. Now there's a terrible crime." "Don't mock me. If you want to see someone who can't let another person help him, go look in a mirror." "You're right, I was like that. Then I met C.D. and then you and finally Trivette. Tell me that I haven't let each of you help me at some time." Alex stopped; he had her there. As stubborn and independent as he was, he had begun to rely on each of them. "Alex, I wouldn't ask you to ride a bull or go hand to hand with a suspect. And I wouldn't be able to argue a case in court or be able to say the things that someone who has just been raped or beaten needs to hear. You do things I can't and I love you for it, I don't hold it against you. Why in the world are you holding it against me that I shot LaRue?" The camera focused directly on Alex's face as it crumpled into tears. Walker reached for her and this time she didn't resist as he pulled her close. He stroked her hair and whispered things the camera didn't pick up. "I'm sorry Walker, I was just so scared. He said such awful things and I couldn't fight him. I wanted to so badly, but I just couldn't." She sobbed into him and he comforted her and cradled her against him. As the storm of tears past, he handed her a handkerchief and she wiped her face and blew her nose. "I must look a mess," she said embarrassed. Walker cupped her face in his hands and made her look up at him. "You're beautiful," he said as he leaned down to kiss her. The kiss became long and passionate and sitting on the couch, Walker's cheeks were turning rather red. Then C.D.'s fishing hat was lowered in front of the camera's lens and his voice was heard saying, "one day those two are going to make some mighty handsome children, but let's let nature take its course without an audience." The camera was turned off and the tape ended. There were no more scenes recorded. The group had left the cabin the next day and Jimmy had come home and put the tape on the shelf and forgot about it. He had stored the camcorder and never got it out again.

 

     The three friends looked at each other and then Alex spoke. "Walker, I think this baby is determined to be a kick boxer." Walker smiled as he placed his hand on his wife's belly and felt the fluttering movements that signified his child's movement within her womb. "Can I feel?" Jimmy asked. Alex nodded and reached her hand out for his. He got up and came over letting her guide his hand to the spot. "Wow, that's amazing! There's a little Walker in there. C.D. was right; nature did take its course. I just hope the baby gets your looks Alex, after all, C.D. did predict that your kids would be good looking." Walker batted his arm away from Alex and replaced his hand to again feel his baby move.

 

     Alex laughed as the two men fought over getting to feel the baby. She was so happy, she thought she would burst. She was completely confident in Walker's love. They were going to have a baby. Sydney and Gage were new friends who had been accepted into the close circle of people who made up their family. She and her father were close and he had stopped drinking. They had lost C.D., but at least they had this videotape to remind them, if their memories ever dimmed, of what a special man he was. Best of all, she was bringing a baby into the world knowing that it was going to be loved and cherished by some very special people. It would have a wonderful father and an Uncle Jimmy. The baby would get to know its grandpa C.D. through stories and pictures and now this videotape. Alex released a sigh of pure contentment. "Thank you Jimmy for sharing the video with us. It reminds me of how lucky I was to have the three of you in my life when I needed you most." She reached up and hugged Jimmy tightly around the neck. With one last squeeze, she said, "we'd better get going. We have quite a bit to do at the ranch. The weekends are just never long enough." She and Walker said their good-byes and headed home.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

     Later that evening, after Walker came in from the barn and showered, they sat and shared a light meal together. Walker volunteered to do the dishes so Alex could go take a soak in the tub. She sat in the bath enjoying the feeling of weightlessness. She had only gained a few pounds, but her body was being taxed in ways it wasn't used to and her back got tired much more quickly than she had anticipated. After a long soak, she got out and dried herself off and pulled on her nightgown and robe. She walked into the bedroom and found it lit with candles that Walker had placed all around. There was romantic music playing low from the radio and the covers were pulled down. Her husband stood in the middle of the room wearing only the sweat pants he often slept in. He stretched his hand out to her and she walked into his arms. "I thought about the suggestion I made about not having sex ever again and I decided you were right. There is no way I can keep my hands off you lady. I hope you're not too tired, because I predict this is going to be a very long night. We have a week to make up for." Alex smiled as he pulled her closer and started to sway to the music. "Suddenly, I'm feeling wide awake," she said as she tilted her head up for his kiss. They danced together around the room, touching and kissing and removing articles of clothing until they stood together nude. "It's lucky Jimmy filmed the scene out on the boat dock and not what followed later that night in your room. Remember how narrow that bed was? We almost fell out of it more than once." Alex chuckled as she remembered that night. Their lovemaking had been rather athletic and the bed was only a full sized bed, not the King sized they had been used to. "One thing I have to hand to you darling, when you make up, you make up." It was Walker's turn to chuckle. Their arguments were as heated as their lovemaking. They both had tempers and they both had stubborn streaks. The passion they shared afterward though, more than matched the passion of their arguments.

 

     Walker lifted Alex from the floor and carried her the few steps to the bed. He lay her down and then sat next to her and touched every inch of her body. He ran his hands over her abdomen and smiled when he felt the flutter that still awed him. Alex lay passive for as long as she was able and then pulled him down to her and began to kiss him with growing urgency. They both craved the release that making love would bring them and taking their time was not possible. Their joining was fast and furious and they lay panting on the bed afterward. Walker had shifted his weight so that he was not directly above her, but they remained touching, the full lengths of their bodies pressed together. Alex ran her nails up and down her husband's back causing him to arch toward her. After all their years together, they knew what pleased the other and rather than becoming tired or bored with the others body; they both continued to cherish their intimacy. Walker loved to explore the changes in Alex's body that the pregnancy caused. Rather than feeling awkward and unattractive, Alex grew more confident and bold. Her husband made it very obvious that he desired her as much if not more than he ever had. "That was just a sample," her husband teased as he began to arouse her willing body again.

 

     Hours later, the candles had burned down and Walker had turned off the music. They lay together, spent by their passion, but curiously neither one felt like sleeping. Instead they talked about the videotape and what scenes they would want on a video for their child. Alex suggested they get a video camera of their own and use it to document their baby's birth. Walker wasn't excited by the idea, but Alex thought she could convince him given time. They talked about Jimmy and how they wanted him to be part of their child's life. They revisited old feelings the video had brought up that hadn't been talked about in years. Walker spoke of the night they shared together in the small bed at the cabin. He had entered her room long after Jimmy and C.D. had gone to sleep. He used the skills that he had learned growing up on the reservation to enter her room soundlessly. She was awake and expecting him. The feelings that had been aroused on the boat dock would need to be assuaged for both their sakes. They made love trying very hard to be quiet and finding it nearly impossible. They had recently resumed the physical side of their relationship after one false start on their rafting trip. Walker had left before dawn to return to his own room. Keeping C.D. and Jimmy guessing was nearly as fun as if they had been teenagers hiding their relationship from their parents. Actually, C.D. and Jimmy knew way too much as it was and keeping the physical part of their relationship private was almost a necessity. Apparently, Walker's thoughts had paralleled her own, because he said; "you know what the best thing about being married is?" "Mmm... What?" "Not having to be quiet when we make love and being able to start and end the night with you in my arms." "I don't know Walker, it was kind of fun planning secret rendezvous and sneaking around. Remember the time the phone rang and we were right at a crucial point..." Walker laughed, "the time C.D. called about the charity event for the soup kitchen and I picked up the receiver to stop the noise and put it under the pillow?" "Yeah, I still remember him shouting 'Cordell, Cordell are you there?' And you were trying so hard to be quiet and not let on what was going on." "Yeah, when I realized it was him and what he might hear, I picked the phone up and said, 'C.D. I'll call you right back, I cut myself shaving and I don't have anything to stop the bleeding.'" Alex was laughing so hard she could hardly speak. "The man who never shaved, but only trimmed his beard. What in the world made you come up with that excuse?" "I have no idea. My brain cells were not exactly working at that moment." "Yeah, but then you had to shave because you didn't want to get caught in the lie." The two lovers shook with mirth. "That's when I started wearing my beard shorter. I figured why bother growing it out if I was going to have to shave every time we nearly got caught in the act?"

 

     "Remember the time Jimmy almost caught us in the bed of the Ram?" Walker groaned, "and whose bright idea was it to make love in the back of the Ram in the middle of the afternoon?" "We were on your ranch and we weren't expecting company." "I have never put my clothes on so fast in my life. Then I had to run around the barn and distract him while you climbed out and went around the back of the house." "Yeah, and I grabbed a glass of lemonade and walked out like I was bringing you a glass because you'd been working so hard in the barn." "Well I had been working hard..." His wife pinched him and laughed at the charade they had pulled off. At least they thought they had pulled it off, Jimmy had never let on that he knew what he'd interrupted. "Do you think our friends know now that we do have sex?" "Well, I think your pregnancy has pretty much settled the argument." "Well next time one of them calls at an inopportune moment, I plan to just say, 'not now we're busy' and leave the rest up to their imagination." "You would not," Walker looked at his wife, "you would." She grinned at him mischievously, "you bet I would. After all, who in the world would think that two very healthy adults who had been coworkers and then best friends and finally husband and wife would really think we had waited seven years to consummate the relationship?" "Alex honey, I don't think we really fooled anyone, they were just being nice and playing along for our sakes." "You're probably right, it was fun though." "I know something that's more fun..." "Walker, not again, you're insatiable." "If you're not up to it, I'll understand." "Get over here," she purred. And being the dutiful husband that he was, he complied.