WRONGFULLY ACCUSED

By:  Chris (ckline-usa@foreverliving.com)

and Sissy (sissy@svs.net)

 

 

Walker flew through the doors of the Emergency Room, his face full of concern.  Searching the waiting room with his eyes, he saw Phil Holland standing off to one side speaking quietly with a nurse.  He rushed toward him.

 

“Phil, what’s going on?  Is she all right?  What happened?”

 

“Walker, I’m glad they found you.  Nurse, this is Ms. Cahill’s fiancé, Ranger Cordell Walker.  He can probably answer your questions better than I can.”  Walker turned his attention toward the nurse.

 

“Ranger Walker, is Ms. Cahill allergic to any medication?”

 

“No.”

 

“Is she currently taking any medication, being treated for any illness or had any recent surgery?”

 

“No.”

 

“Okay.  I think that’s all I need for now.  Mr. Holland gave us the other information we needed.  The doctor is examining her now.  I’ll let him know you’re here.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

He turned his attention back toward his friend and Alex’s co-worker.  “Phil, what the hell happened?”

 

“I wish I knew, Walker.  Alex and I had a meeting at 10:00 a.m. to go over evidence for an upcoming trial.  I got to her office just before 10:00.  She seemed fine.  She was arranging the flowers you sent.”

 

“Flowers?  What flowers?”

 

“Oh…she was putting a dozen red roses into a vase.  I just assumed they were from you.”

 

“No…they weren’t.  That’s funny.  I wonder who sent her roses?’  Anyway, what happened?”

 

“Well, we sat down and started going over the file when all of sudden Alex stopped talking mid-sentence.  I asked her what was wrong and she said that she suddenly felt kind of faint.  She also seemed to be having a hard time catching her breath.  I went to get her a glass of water and when I came back, she’d passed out on the table.  I yelled to Amy to call 911, then moved her to the sofa.  It just so happened that the paramedics were in the building on another call so one of them came up.  He couldn’t seem to revive her and her breathing was very labored so he called for a second ambulance to have her transported.  I rode in with her in case she woke up but she didn’t.  I told Amy to track you down and have you meet us here.  You arrived just minutes after we did.”

 

“I don’t get it.  We met for breakfast this morning at C.D.’s and she seemed fine.”  Looking down the hall toward the examination rooms, Walker saw Dr. Matthews walking toward him.  He breathed a small sigh of relief knowing that Jerry was taking care of Alex.  Jerry had become a good friend over the years and had treated Walker several times in the past.  He was a good doctor and Walker knew that Alex was in good hands with him.

 

Extending his hand, Dr. Matthews shook Walker’s.  “Walker.  It’s good to see you.  Sorry it has to be like this.”

 

“Me too, Jerry.  How’s Alex?  What happened to her?”

 

“Well, I’m waiting to get the toxicology report back but it looks like she’s been poisoned.”

 

“Poisoned!  How?”

 

“Well, we’re not sure.  Depending on what kind of poison was used, it could have been ingested in something that she ate or drank or it could have been absorbed through the skin.  We won’t know until we find out what we’re dealing with.  It seems to be very fast acting, though, and is primarily affecting her respiratory system.  She’s still having a lot of trouble breathing.  In fact, if she gets much worse, I’m going to have to put her on a ventilator.”

 

Walker’s head was spinning.  He was struggling to come to terms with what the doctor was telling him.  How could someone poison Alex?  And why?  He shook his head slightly to clear it then looked back toward Jerry.  “Can I see her?”

 

“We’re moving her to ICU but you can see her for just a minute.  Follow me.”

 

With a backward glance at Phil, Walker followed Jerry down the hall.  He entered the curtained area of the Emergency Room and was startled by what he saw.  She was lying on the gurney, covered with a sheet and blanket.  She looked so pale and fragile and she seemed to be fighting for every breath.  He approached the side of the bed, leaned over and kissed her softly on the cheek.  It broke his heart to see her like this.

 

He leaned close to her ear and whispered, “Alex.  Everything’s going to be okay.  I’m right here.”  He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Jerry standing behind him.

 

“We’ve got to move her to ICU, Walker.  I want to keep a close eye on her in case we need to put her on a vent.  I just got the toxicology report.  They can’t seem to identify the poison.  It appears to be a combination of several different toxins.  Walker, we need to know what she was given before we can treat it and I’m afraid we’re running out of time.”

 

“I’ll get you the information you need.  Just take good care of her, Jerry.  If she wakes up, tell her I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

 

“Will do.”

 

Walker exited the curtained area and headed back toward where Phil was waiting.  “Phil, do you have your phone?”

 

“Sure.”  He pulled the cell phone out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Walker.  Walker placed his call.

 

“Trivette.”

 

“Trivette, it’s me.”

 

“Walker!  I just heard, man!  Is Alex okay?  What happened?”

 

“She’s been poisoned Trivette.  The lab here at the hospital says it’s a combination of several different toxins but they can’t seem to break it down.  We’ve got to find out what it is and how it got into her system before they can treat her and we don’t have a lot of time.  I want you to send a forensics team to her office and one to her apartment.  Phil and I will meet the team at the apartment if you can cover the team at her office.  Oh, and Trivette, Alex got some roses this morning.  See if there was a card and have the crime boys check them closely.  Jerry said that the poison could have been ingested or absorbed through the skin.”

 

“Okay, Walker, I’m on it.  You want me to call C.D. and see if he can come to the hospital and keep an eye on Alex in case whoever is behind this decides to try to finish the job?”

 

“Yeah, that’s a good idea.  They’re moving her to ICU and I have a security guard posted but I’d feel a lot better having C.D. here.  Call me if you find anything?”

 

“Will do.  Hey…Walker?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“You okay, partner?”

 

“Yeah, Trivette, I’ll be fine.  I just want to find out who’s behind this.”

 

“We will.  I promise.”

 

“Thanks.  I left my cell phone at the office when I ran out.  If you need me, call me on Phil’s cell.”

 

“Okay.  Talk to you later.”

 

He hung up and looked at Phil.  “Mind taking a ride to Alex’s apartment with me?  Then I’ll take you back to the office.”

 

“Sure.  Let’s go.”

 

******

 

Walker and Phil arrived at Alex’s apartment about the same time as the forensics team.  Walker let them in with his key and as they began dusting for fingerprints, Walker and Phil looked around for anything that seemed odd or out of place.

 

It was almost an hour later that the forensics team finished their inspection of the apartment.  Steve Morris, the head of the team, and another friend of Walker’s, walked out onto the balcony where the two men were standing.

 

“Walker?”

 

“Yeah, Steve.  You and your guys about finished?”

 

“Yeah.  I think we’ve gotten everything.  We’ve dusted the entire place for prints and picked up the dishes that were left in the sink.  We also took samples of everything in the refrigerator.  I’ll get this stuff back to the lab and call you as soon as we find anything.”

 

“Okay, Steve.  Anything you can do to speed up the process would be a big help.”

 

“You got it.”

 

Walker turned to Phil, “Well, guess that’s all we can do here.  Let’s head back to the office and see if Trivette turned anything up in Alex’s office.”

 

******

 

On their way back to the office, Walker used Phil’s cell phone to call the hospital and talk to C.D.  C.D. told him that Alex was stable but that her breathing had become so labored that Jerry had decided to sedate her and place her on a ventilator.  Walker asked C.D. to stick close to Alex and call him at Headquarters if there was any change.

 

They arrived at Headquarters about 30 minutes later and headed straight to Alex’s office to see if Trivette and the other forensics team had found anything.

 

As they approached Alex’s office, Walker saw Amy sitting at her desk.  Her face was sad and he could tell that she had been crying.  She’d been with Alex since Alex started in the DA’s office and they had become close friends.  When she saw Walker approaching, she stood up and came toward him.  He opened his arms and gave her a warm hug.  “It’s okay, Amy.  She’s gonna be fine.  Trust me.”

 

Pulling back, “I know, Ranger Walker and I do.”

 

Phil took Amy’s hand and said, “Come on, Amy.  I’m meeting Kim downstairs for lunch.  Why don’t you join us?”

 

“Thanks, Phil, I think I will.”

 

“Walker, you’ll keep me informed?”

 

“Sure, Phil.”

 

Phil and Amy turned and headed down the hall.

 

“Hey, Phil?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Thanks for everything this morning.  I really appreciate you taking care of Alex and staying with her.  I’m glad you were with her when it happened.”

 

“So am I, Walker.  So am I.  And no thanks are necessary.  She’s a good friend.  Tell her Kim and I will be by to see her later and if you need anything, call me.”

 

“Thanks, I will.”

 

Walker turned his attention back toward Alex’s office just as Trivette was coming out.  “Hey, Walker.  Man, I’m glad you’re here.  I think we’ve got something.”

 

“Great, Trivette.  What?”

 

“Well, those flowers you mentioned.  When I checked the box that they’d come in, there was no card, no indication of a florist, nothing.  I gave the box to the crime boys to check for prints and one of them said that there was a strange odor in the box.  We smelled the flowers and noticed a hint of the same odor on the flowers.  They took the flowers and the box downstairs for analysis along with everything else.  Did you come up with anything at the apartment?”

 

“No, nothing seemed out of place.  Right now, all I want to do is identify this toxin so that they can begin the treatment before we run out of time.  I talked to C.D. and he said that they needed to put her on a vent because her breathing got so bad.  I’m going to head back over there.  Let me know if you hear anything from the crime lab.  I’ll pick up my cell before I leave.”

 

“Sure thing, partner.  I’ll keep after them.  Give Alex a hug for me and tell her I’ll be by this evening.”

 

“Okay.  Talk to you later.”

 

As Walker left Alex’s office, Trivette thought about how calm he seemed.  “I don’t think what’s happened has sunk in yet.”

 

******

 

Later that evening, Walker sat in a chair next to Alex’s bed and thought back on everything that had happened during the day.  Trivette had called around 3:00 p.m. to tell Walker that the lab boys had identified the toxin and had already been in direct contact with the hospital to provide advice on treatment options.  The poison was the type that was absorbed through the skin.  Apparently, the stems of the roses had been dipped in the poison so that when Alex removed them from the box, the poison was absorbed through her fingers.  Treatment was begun immediately and within about 4 hours Alex was breathing easier and was taken off of the ventilator.  She was still unconscious but Jerry had assured Walker that they had started the treatment in time and he did not feel that Alex would suffer any permanent damage. 

 

Phil and Kim, Trivette and Amy had all stopped by the hospital to check on her progress before calling it a night.  Walker had sent C.D. home with them and had spent the last couple of hours alone with Alex.  They had taken her off the sedative when they removed the ventilator but Jerry had told Walker that it would probably be morning before she woke up.   He leaned forward and took her hand in his, rubbing his thumb gently across the back of it.  She looked peaceful.  He was so thankful that she was finally resting comfortably.  As he watched her, he was overwhelmed by the realization that he had nearly lost her again.  He hadn’t let himself think about it all day, knowing that the best way to help Alex was to keep his head.  But now that he knew she was going to be all right, the tears started flowing down his cheeks before he realized what was happening.  He wrapped both his hands around hers and bowed his head, silently thanking God and the spirits for taking care of her.  All he needed now was to see her beautiful blue eyes and that brilliant smile.  He knew that if he saw that, everything would be all right.  When he felt a slight pressure on his hands, he looked up to find her staring back at him, a small smile on her lips.  She pulled her hand from his, reached up and wiped away his tears.  He smiled at her, his eyes locked on hers.

 

“Hi, beautiful.  How are you feeling?”

 

She whispered, “Like I’ve been hit by a truck.  What happened?”

 

He sat on the bed and gently stroked her cheek.  “You had a nasty run in with a bouquet of roses but everything’s gonna be okay.”

 

She could barely keep her eyes open.  “Roses?  Walker, what are you talking about?”

 

“Shhhh…I’ll explain everything in the morning.  Just close your eyes and go back to sleep.  I’ll be right here when you wake up.”  He leaned forward and softly kissed her lips.

 

******

 

The next morning, Trivette showed up at the hospital with a small duffel bag.  He headed straight for Alex’s room and opened the door quietly.  He found exactly what he had expected—Walker asleep in a chair next to Alex’s bed, his hand protectively around hers.  Knowing that Walker was a light sleeper; Trivette whispered his name as he approached.  Walker woke up instantly.  When he saw his partner, he motioned him out into the hall and the two exited Alex’s room so as not to disturb her.

 

“Hey, pard.  I knew you’d never leave last night so I swung by your place this morning and picked you up a change of clothes.  I also asked your neighbor to feed and water the horses.  He said he’d be glad to.”

 

He took the bag from Trivette.  “Thanks, partner.  I appreciate it.  I just didn’t want to leave her, you know?”

 

“Yeah, I know.  Did she wake up at all?”

 

“Once.  Asked what happened.  I told her I’d explain everything in the morning.  She could hardly keep her eyes open.  I knew she’d never remember anything I told her.  Any leads on who could have done this?”

 

“Not yet.  Actually, I was hoping that maybe Alex could help us.  You know, maybe someone made a threat against her in court or maybe a problem with her women’s group—something that might give us a starting point.  We’re trying to track down the manufacturer of the box that the roses came in since we couldn’t find a card and no one saw who delivered them.  Amy said they were on her desk when she came back from her break just before Alex’s 10:00 a.m. meeting with Phil.  Sounds like someone didn’t want to be seen and knew that everyone takes a break at 9:45 a.m.”

 

“I agree.  See if Phil can tell you anything about this upcoming trial.  Maybe this has something to do with that trial.  I’ll talk to Alex as soon as she wakes up and then meet you back at Headquarters.  In the meantime, let’s get a guard on this door.”

 

“I’ve already made the arrangements.  Someone should be here within the hour.  I also talked to C.D..  He’ll be over as soon as he gets things under control at his place.  Mabel’s gonna watch over things for the afternoon so C.D. can give us a hand if we need it.”

 

“Great.  Hey, you mind staying here while I catch a shower and change.”

 

“No problem.”

 

Walker returned about a half-hour later.  Alex was still sleeping so Walker told Trivette to head into the office and he’d meet him there as soon as he talked with Alex.  As he entered back into her room, she started to stir.  He sat on the edge of the bed, took her hand in his and kissed it gently.

 

Alex opened her eyes to find her cowboy right there beside her just like he’d promised.  She smiled and said “Morning.”

 

“Morning, sleepyhead.  Feeling any better?”

 

“A little.  I feel like I’ve run a marathon.  Everything aches.  Are you gonna tell me what happened now?”

 

“Sure.” 

 

Walker spent the next few minutes recounting the past day’s events for Alex.  “Alex, has anything happened recently that might explain this?  What about this trial you’re working on with Phil—anything unusual?”

 

“Nothing that I can think of.  As for the trial with Phil, it’s actually his case.  He just asked me to back him up and be his sounding board so I don’t think that’s it.”

 

“What about at the HOPE Center.  Any problems?”

 

“No.  Everything’s been running smoothly.”

 

“Any new members in your abused women’s group?”

 

“A few.  Maybe three over the last six months.”

 

“Any problems?”

 

“Nothing out of the ordinary.”

 

“Well, just to be safe, why don’t you give me the names of those women and we’ll check them out.  Someone wanted to hurt you and I plan to find out who and why.”

 

Her whispered “Okay” caused him to look back at her.  He smiled as he watched her fight to stay awake.  He leaned forward and kissed her gently on the forehead.  “Alex, sweetheart, can you stay awake long enough to give me those names?  Then you can sleep, honey.”

 

She opened her eyes and smiled.  “I think I can do that.”

 

******

 

Walker arrived at Ranger Headquarters and headed straight to Trivette’s desk.  “Trivette, you find out anything?”

 

“No, Walker, sorry.  I ran checks on the last couple of cases Alex handled and on all her current ones.  Nothing out of the ordinary there.  I checked with Phil.  He said the case they were working on was his case and he had asked Alex to be his backup so it really didn’t have a lot to do with her.  Was Alex able to come up with anything?”

 

“I’m not sure.  She did tell me about Phil’s case.  I asked her about the HOPE Center but she said things have been running smoothly.  She gave me the names of a few new members of her abused women’s support group.  How about checking them out as well as their spouses.  It’s probably nothing, but I’d rather be sure.  We could have another Brad Furnell on our hands.”

 

“I’ll get right on it.  How’s Alex?”

 

“Weak but feeling better.  I talked to Jerry before I left.  He’s wants her to rest today and then he’s gonna run some tests tomorrow morning to make sure that there’s no permanent damage.  If everything comes back clear, he’ll release her either tomorrow evening or Friday morning as long as she takes it easy through the weekend.  I’d like to get this thing wrapped up before she’s released if possible.  It’s a whole lot easier keeping an eye on her at the hospital than it will be anywhere else.”

 

“That’s for sure.  Well, let me get on these names.  Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

 

“How about I run over to C.D.’s and grab us some lunch?”

 

“Sounds good.  Maybe I’ll have something by the time you get back.”

 

******

 

When Walker gets back from C.D.’s, Trivette is waiting for him.  “I just got the reports back on Sara & John Blankenship.  You want to take a look at them while I work on the others?”

 

“Sure.  C.D. must have expected us.  He had sandwiches, chips and brownies waiting for me when I got there.  He was headed over to the hospital.  Said to call him if we need him.”

 

They worked for several hours, Walker going through the information on the Blankenships and Trivette continuing his search on the other two couples.  “Well, Trivette, looks like the Blankenships are clean.  Nothing in here other than the couple of domestic violence arrests for John.  How are you doing?”

 

“Well, I’ve gone through everything I can find on Maria and Javier Lopez.  Looks like Javier spent some time in prison on drug charges a few years back but that seems to be it.  There have been a couple of domestic violence complaints but Maria always dropped the charges.  The last couple isn’t married.  Her background is coming through now but I’m still waiting on his.”

 

“Why don’t we go talk to Sara Blankenship and Maria Lopez and see if either of them is having any problems with their husbands or if they know of any reason that their husbands would be upset with Alex.  Maybe by the time we get back, the reports will be back on the last couple.”

 

“Good idea.  I think we need to get outta here for awhile anyway.”

 

Walker and Trivette spent the next couple of hours interviewing Sara Blankenship and Maria Lopez.  Sara and her husband had been seeing a counselor for the past month and Sara felt that things were going well.  She was still attending sessions with Alex’s group because she liked Alex and the women she had met there.  She said that John seemed to be responding to the therapist and their marriage was improving.  John arrived home during their interview and informed them that he was grateful for everything that Alex had done.  He said that thanks to her recommendation, he had gotten a new job and the therapist was teaching him how to deal with his anger.  Both Walker and Trivette were convinced that neither of these individuals had anything to do with what had happened to Alex.

 

They experienced a similar situation with Maria Lopez.  She was very willing to talk to them and was very sincere in the gratitude that she felt toward Alex.  With Alex’s help, Jaime had entered an inpatient drug rehabilitation program and had been there for the past six weeks.  According to Maria, he was progressing well and hoped to be released in the coming weeks.  Walker and Trivette stopped by the rehab center and spoke with Jaime’s doctor.  He assured them that Jaime had not been away from the facility since his admission and seemed very dedicated to kicking his drug habit and getting back to his wife.

 

“Well Walker, looks like we’re no closer to finding out who’s behind this than we were before.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  Maybe something will come up on that third couple.  Hey, let’s swing by the hospital on our way back to the office.  I’d like to check in on Alex.”

 

“Sure.  If you want, maybe C.D. and I can go back to the office and check on that other couple and you can spend some time with Alex.”

 

“We’ll see how she’s doing.”

 

They arrived at the hospital around 5:00 p.m. and headed toward Alex’s room.  The guard at the door recognized them and opened the door.  C.D. was sitting in a chair next to Alex’s bed watching television and Alex was sound asleep.  “How’s she doin’, C.D.?”

 

“Hi, Cordell.  You know, son, I just don’t know.  I’m a little worried about her.  She hasn’t been awake more than a couple of minutes all day.  I was gonna mention it to Jerry next time he stopped in.”

 

“Mention what to me?”

 

All three turned to see Jerry Matthews come through the door.  “Hi, Jerry.  C.D. here said that Alex hasn’t been awake more than a couple of minutes all day.  Is this normal?”

 

“Perfectly.  Her body has been through hell over the last 24 hours.  After the ventilator and all the medication plus the fact that we pumped her stomach in case the poison had been ingested, I’m not surprised that she’s exhausted.  Give her some time, she’ll be fine.  That’s why I wanted to wait until tomorrow to run the tests.  I thought she would need today to get some of her strength back.  We’ll keep an eye on her but I’m sure everything’s fine.”

 

“Thanks, doc.  That’s good to hear.  You know how special this little lady is to all of us.”

 

“Sure, C.D.  Now, if you’ll excuse me for a few minutes, I need to examine my patient.”

 

When Jerry came out of Alex’s room a few minutes later, only Walker remained.  “Where’d your buddies go?”

 

“They headed back to the office to follow up on a few things.  I told the guard to go get a bite to eat and I’d stay with Alex until he got back.”

 

“Well, everything’s fine, Walker.  She’s doing great.  I’m sure she’ll be back to her old self in no time.  I’ll check in on her before I leave tonight.”

 

“Thanks, Jerry, for everything.  You don’t know how relieved I was when I found out you were handling Alex’s case.”

 

“I’m glad I was available.  I’ll see you later, Walker.”

 

******

 

Alex opened her eyes to find Walker smiling down at her.  She smiled back, “Hey, cowboy.  You been here long?”

 

“Just a few minutes.  How are you doing?”

 

“Better, I think.  I’m just so tired.  All I’ve wanted to do today is sleep.”

 

“Well, then that’s what you should do.  Your body needs time to recuperate.”

 

She stretched her arms up, placed them around Walker’s neck and pulled him toward her.  “Mmmm, care to join me?  You look like you could use some sleep, cowboy.”

 

He kissed her lips softly, “I’d love to but I don’t think your doctor would approve.”

 

She released him and looked into his eyes pouting, “Walker, I don’t want to stay here anymore.  Can’t we just go home?  I can sleep at home as easily as I can sleep here and that’s all I seem to be doing.”

 

“Alex, you’re still weak.  You need to give your body time to heal.  Besides, Jerry wants to run those tests tomorrow.  If everything comes back okay on the tests, I’ll see if I can get him to spring you tomorrow night, okay?”

 

“I guess.  What’s happening with the investigation?”  A knock on the door made Walker look.  The guard poked his head in and nodded to let them know that he had returned from his dinner break.  Walker nodded in return and the guard stepped back into the hall.

 

“Trivette checked into all of your pending cases as well as the last few you prosecuted.  Nothing there.  We also pulled information on the Blankenships and the Lopezes, reviewed that and interviewed them.  Nothing there either.  We’re still waiting for the reports on Susan Finley and Mark Richardson.”

 

“I can’t believe that any of them had anything to do with this.”

 

“Well, you let me worry about that.  You just concentrate on getting better.  I’ve got plans for us this weekend.”

 

“Oh yeah?  What plans?”

 

“I’m not telling you so you’d better get your rest and make sure you get outta here tomorrow.”

 

“Walker!  Tell me…please!”

 

“Nope.  It’s a surprise.”  He leaned in and kissed her passionately on the lips.  “I gotta go, baby.  I’ll be back a little later after I finish up at the office.”

 

******

 

Walker arrived back at Ranger Headquarters around 6:30 and found Trivette and C.D. anxiously waiting for him.

 

“Cordell, we’ve been waiting for you.”

 

“Yeah, Walker.  I think we may have something here.  I’ve got Phil working on a search warrant.”

 

“Great!  What’ve you got?”

 

“Well, when we got back, the reports had come in on that last pair.  The girl checks out clean but get a load of this.  Seems Mr. Richardson is ex-Army with a background in chemical warfare.  He works as a Technician for a chemical research company here in Dallas.  He’s been arrested several times for assault and assault with a deadly weapon.  Also has a history of beating up women.”

 

“Sure sounds like our man, Cordell.”

 

“Sure does, C.D.  Trivette, did Phil say how long before we get the warrant?”

 

“All the judges are gone.  He had to track one down but said it shouldn’t take too long.”

 

He no sooner finished the sentence than Phil walked in the door.  “Okay, guys, here you go.”

 

“Great, Phil.  Thanks!  Let’s go.”

 

“Cordell, if you don’t need me, I’m gonna head over and relieve Mabel unless you want me to head back to the hospital.”

 

“No, C.D., you go ahead.  The guard is still with Alex and I’ll go over as soon as we check this guy out.”

 

“Okay, then.  You call me if you need me.”

 

“Thanks, C.D.”

 

Trivette and Walker arrived at the home of Mark Richardson.  Walker motioned Trivette to cover the back while he headed for the front door.  He knocked, identified himself and waited.  When there was no response, he kicked in the front door and entered the house.   When Trivette heard Walker kick in the front door, he did the same to the back.  They searched the house but did not find anyone.  They then went back over the house searching for any evidence to connect Mark Richardson to the attack on Alex.

 

When they descended the stairs into the basement, they found what they had been looking for.  On a worktable in the middle of the room were several bottles of liquid, some jars of powder, a scale, beakers and other items which Walker recognized from previous drug busts that he had been involved in.  They also found another empty box that is used to deliver flowers and pieces of stems from flowers.  Trivette immediately called for a crime team to seal the area and gather the evidence.  Walker called Phil and asked him to have an arrest warrant drawn up for Mark Richardson.  He then called dispatch and asked that an APB be put out on Richardson.

 

Walker and Trivette waited for the crime team to show up before they headed back to the office.  They had asked that a police unit remain at the house in case Richardson came back.  They had also put Richardson’s description out to all local authorities, airports, bus stations, rental car agencies, etc.

 

By the time they arrived back at the office, it was nearly 9:00 p.m. and they were exhausted.  They filed the reports on what they had found at Richardson’s house and filled out the paperwork on the arrest warrant so that Phil could pick it up first thing in the morning.

 

“Trivette, I want a unmarked unit at Richardson’s house around the clock.  I don’t want to miss him if he comes back.  You and I can take the first shift of the morning.”

 

“Sure, Walker.  I’ll make the arrangements.  What time do you want to meet tomorrow?”

 

“I’ll pick you up here around 6:00.”

 

“You got it.  You headed home?”

 

“I’m gonna stop in and see Alex then I’ll head out.”

 

Trivette smiled at him, “So I should bring you a change of clothes to the hospital tomorrow morning?”

 

Walker rolled his eyes, “No, Trivette, I said I’m going home and I will.  Alex is doing much better and the guard is there if anything goes wrong.  I’ll see you here at 6:00.”

 

Trivette laughed, “Okay, man, give Alex a hug for me.”

 

“Sure.”

 

******

 

Walker sneaked onto Alex’s floor using the back stairs.  Visiting hours was long since over but he couldn't go home without checking on her.  The guard on her door smiled when he saw the Ranger sneaking down the hallway, trying not to arouse the attention of the nurses at the nearby station.  The guard nodded toward Walker then walked over and began to talk to the nurses at the station while Walker slipped into Alex’s room.  Walker smiled when he saw the guard head for the nurses’ station.  He reminded himself to thank him on the way out.

 

The only light in the room was the one over Alex’s bed.  It had been turned down low so that it would not disturb her but would allow the nurses to check on her periodically throughout the night.  Walker stood by her bedside and just watched her sleep.  She seemed so peaceful and calm.  He reached out and gently touched her face.  She immediately snuggled closer to his hand, as if she knew it was him.  It made him smile.  He thought about what he had planned for them and his heart soared.  She would be so surprised!  He hadn’t told anyone of his plans, not even Trivette and C.D.  He wanted this to be a true surprise.  He leaned down and softly kissed her cheek.

 

Her eyes fluttered and she whispered, “Walker, is that you?”

 

“Yeah, baby, it’s me.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to wake you.  I just wanted to see how you were doing.  Go back to sleep; I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

She reached for his hand, “No, don’t go.”

 

“Shhh.  I’m not leaving.  I’ll stay right here until you fall asleep.  Just relax.”

 

The sound of his voice and the feel of his hand against her cheek coaxed her back to sleep within minutes.  As soon as he was sure she was asleep, he kissed the top of her head, slipped out the door, thanked the guard for his earlier help and headed for home.

 

******

 

The next morning, Walker picked Trivette up at the office and they drove to the Richardson house for their stake out duty.  It proved to be a boring morning.  No one showed at the house and Walker was forced to listen to Trivette complain all morning about how boring stakeouts were when he would have much rather been at the hospital with Alex.  He had talked to her a couple of times during the morning and explained what was happening with Mark Richardson.  She had told him that her tests were scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and she hoped to have the results in the afternoon.  If all went well, she’d be released that evening.

 

It was 2:00 p.m. before their relief arrived.  They grabbed a quick bite to eat and drove back to the office.  Walker tried to call Alex’s room but there was no answer.  He read through his mail and checked his phone messages then said, “Trivette, I’m going to go shower and change and head over to the hospital.  I’ll keep my phone with me in case you need me or you can reach me at home later tonight.”

 

“Okay.  I’m going to finish up a couple of things here and then head home.  You coming to C.D.’s tonight?”

 

“I don’t know.  It depends on whether or not Alex is released and how she’s feeling.”

 

“Well, if I don’t see you tonight, I’ll meet you here bright and early tomorrow morning for another fun-filled day at the Richardson house.”

 

“You never know, Trivette, maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll show up before then.”

 

“I hope so, man.  I really don’t want to spend another day staring at that house.”

 

Walker grinned and shook his head, “Yeah, and I don’t want to spend another day listening to you complain about spending another day staring at that house!”

 

“I’m not that bad!”

 

“Yes, Trivette, you are!”

 

“Okay, Okay.  I’ll see you tomorrow, Walker.”

 

“See ya, Trivette.”

 

******

 

Walker arrived at the hospital around 4:00 p.m. and headed straight to Alex’s room.  The guard that had been on duty last night when he’d sneaked in to see her had just come on duty.  They exchanged pleasantries then Walker entered Alex’s room.  He opened the door and smiled at what he saw.  She was standing at the window dressed in a pair of faded Levi’s that molded to her every curve with a long-sleeved denim shirt tucked snugly into them.  Her arms were folded across her chest and her blond hair hung loosely over her shoulders.  She was a vision and he was so glad her heart belonged to him.

 

He strode quickly across the floor and slipped his arms around her waist pulling her against his chest.  She had sensed him behind her and didn’t even flinch when his arms encircled her waist.  “How are you feeling?”

 

She turned in his arms and placed her hands against his chest.  Looking into his eyes with a bright smile on her face, she said, “I…feel…wonderful!”

 

He pulled her closer and whispered in her ear, “Mmmmm…yes, you do!”

 

She giggled, wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and hugged him.

 

“I take it you’re ready to get out of here?”

 

“As soon as the nurse gets here with my walking papers.  Believe me, I’m more than ready to get out of here.”

 

“Tests all came back normal?”

 

“Yep!  I’m in perfect health.  Jerry said I should probably take it easy through the weekend but I can go back to work on Monday.”

 

“Can I convince you to spend the weekend at the ranch with me?”

 

“Well……”

 

He saw the mischief in her eyes and slowly lowered his lips toward hers.  “Please…”  His lips captured hers before she had time to say another word.  His kiss was deep and passionate; his tongue explored every inch of her mouth and sent waves of pleasure through her body.  She surrendered completely and became lost in the feel of his love.

 

The sound of someone clearing their throat broke the spell and caused them both to look.  They saw Jerry standing in the doorway, Alex’s discharge papers in his hands, smiling at them.  They felt like teenagers who had been caught by the principal and their faces showed it.

 

“Sorry to interrupt, but I thought I’d deliver these myself and say goodbye to my favorite patient.”

 

Alex broke away from Walker and walked toward Jerry.  “Why thank you, Dr. Matthews, it’s not everyday I get such a nice compliment.”

 

“Just remember, you promised to take it easy through the weekend.”

 

“Don’t worry, Jerry, I’ll make sure she keeps her promise.”

 

“I knew I could count on you, Walker!  Now, I just need your signature here and here and you’re ready to go.”

 

Alex signed the documents, Walker grabbed her bag and all three left the room together.  While Alex said goodbye to Jerry, Walker thanked the guard and told him that he could return to his precinct.  He then took Alex’s hand and they headed out of the hospital.

 

They drove in companionable silence; Alex snuggled closely against Walker’s side, her head resting against his shoulder.  “You hungry, Alex.”

 

She looked up at him with the devil in her eye “What’ya have in mind, cowboy?”

 

He chuckled, “Food, Alex.”  He then looked at her and added “For now.”

 

She laughed.  “Well, actually, I am a little hungry but I’m not sure I feel like sharing you with anyone tonight.  How about if we just rustle something up at home.”

 

He loved when she called the ranch home and he wondered again why he kept putting off setting a wedding date.  He pushed the thought from his mind; his plans would remedy that next week.  “Sounds good to me.”

 

They stopped by Alex’s apartment long enough for her to pick up some clothes for the weekend and arrived at the ranch around 7:00.  Walker built a fire in the fireplace while Alex heated up some soup she found in the refrigerator.  They had dinner, washed the dishes and settled down in front of the fire.

 

“Walker…?”

 

“Hmmm.”

 

“You mentioned something about plans for the weekend.  When are you planning to let me in on those plans.”

 

“All in good time, Alex.”

 

“Walker!”  She slapped him across the chest then started tickling him.  She knew all his ticklish spots and took advantage of each one.  “Tell me, Walker, and I’ll stop.”

 

He was laughing so hard he could hardly speak.  Alex thought she had him.  That was her mistake.  She let her guard down for an instant and it was in that instant that he made his move.  Before she knew what happened, she was pinned beneath him and he was tickling her!  She fought against him but it was no use.  Within minutes, she was reduced to fits of giggles.

 

“Okay, Okay, I give up!”

 

“What was that?  I didn’t hear you.”

 

She giggled harder, “I said I give up!  Walker, please!”

 

He finally stopped his torture and collapsed at her side.  It was several minutes before either of them could stop laughing long enough to catch their breath.  When they had finally calmed down, Walker rolled onto his side and propped himself up on his elbow.  He smiled down at the beautiful woman beside him and wondered again how he had gotten so lucky.  She smiled back at him, reached up and pulled him toward her waiting lips.  She kissed him with all the love and passion that she felt for him and he returned her kiss with as much if not more of the same feelings.  His hand caressed her body, starting along her leg and working his way up along her side.  When his hand reached her breast, he stroked it gently.  He felt her hardened nipple through her denim shirt and heard her soft moan.  She broke their kiss and looked into his eyes, “Darling, let’s go upstairs.”  He nodded then took her hand and helped her up.  He turned off the rest of the lights, locked the door and arm in arm they went upstairs to the bedroom.

 

******

 

The ringing phone woke them both.  Walker rolled over and looked at the bedside clock.  It read 3:55 a.m.  “Walker.”

 

“Walker, it’s me.  They just picked up Richardson at his place and are bringing him in.”

 

“Okay, Trivette, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

 

He hung up the phone and immediately felt Alex’s hand on his back.  He rolled back toward her and took her in his arms.  “I gotta go to the office, hon. They’re bringing Richardson in.”

 

“Can’t you let Jimmy handle it?”

 

He kissed the top of her head.  “I could but I want to be there.  I want to find out what this is all about.  You go back to sleep.”

 

He kissed her again then got out of bed and headed for the shower.

 

Alex rolled over and tried to go back to sleep but her mind could think of nothing other than Walker in the shower.  A slow smile appeared on her face as she climbed out of bed and made her way into the bathroom.

 

******

 

Over an hour later, Walker was finally on his way to the office.  He couldn’t help but smile when he thought about how nice it was to wake up with Alex by his side and in his shower!  I could definitely get used to waking up like that every morning!

 

It was nearly 6:00 a.m. by the time Walker entered Ranger Headquarters.  Trivette jumped on him as soon as he walked in the door.  “Walker, man, where have you been?  I thought you’d be here an hour ago.”

 

“Trivette, I told you I’d be here as soon as I could.  I had a few things to do before I left.”

 

“I know.  I just thought you’d be anxious to talk to this guy.”

 

“I am, Trivette.  Where is he?”

 

“He’s down in interrogation room 1.  He’s waived his right to an attorney.  Says he has nothing to hide.”

 

“Well, let’s go talk to him and find out why he tried to kill the Assistant District Attorney.”

 

*****

 

“Kill who!?  Man, you guys are crazy.  Why the hell would I want to kill the Assistant DA?”

 

“That’s what we’d like to know, Richardson.  We’ve seen your record.  We know you have experience with and access to chemicals and a history of violence against women.  My guess is that you beat up Susan Finley one too many times and when Alex Cahill talked her into getting a restraining order against you, you decided to send a message to Susan by killing Alex.”

 

“Sounds like a good theory to me, Walker.  What do you think, Richardson.”

 

“I think you’re both crazy.  First of all, I have no history of violence against women.  Second, I’ve only gone out with Susan Finley twice and neither time did I “beat her up”.  I don’t know anything about any restraining order either.  Yeah, I have experience in chemicals.  Hell, I work for a chemical research company but I didn’t have anything to do with any attempted murder.  I’ve been in New York for the last week making a sales presentation on a new drug we’re developing.  My flight out of Chicago got delayed because of bad weather and when I finally get home at nearly 4 a.m., I find the cops waiting for me with an arrest warrant.  Go ahead, call the office in New York; they’ll verify that I’ve been there for the last week.”

 

Walker and Trivette continued to question Richardson for the next several hours.  He was more than cooperative but insisted that he had nothing to do with the attempt on Alex’s life and both Trivette and Walker were beginning to believe him.  While Trivette rechecked the facts they’d pulled off the computer, Walker contacted Richardson’s superiors in New York and confirmed that he had been there for the past week making presentations on a potential new drug the company was considering marketing.

 

Trivette dug deep into Richardson’s record and found that it had been tampered with, although he was unable to trace the tampering back to its source.  Trivette also dug deeper into Susan Finley’s background and what he found disturbed both he and Walker.  They decided to go back and talk to Richardson further, specifically about his relationship with Susan Finley.

 

******

 

Alex woke feeling relaxed, refreshed and very rested.  After her shower with Walker, she had gone back to bed and slept soundly until nearly 9 o’clock.  She got up, dressed and went downstairs to fix some breakfast.  After breakfast, she curled up on the sofa with a book and was just getting comfortable when the phone rang.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Hi, honey.  How ya feelin’?”

 

“Hi, C.D.  I’m fine.  Did Walker ask you to check up on me?”

 

“No.  I just wanted to see how you were doin’ since we didn’t see you two last night.  I called the hospital and they said that you’d been released so I figured you’d be spendin’ the weekend with Cordell at the ranch.”

 

“I was a little tired last night so we just came back here, had supper and called it an early night.  I’m feeling much better today, though.  Have you seen Walker today?  He went in early this morning.  They picked up Mark Richardson and were bringing him in for questioning.”

 

“No, I didn’t see neither him nor Jimmy this morning.  I figured somethin’ was up.  Jimmy don’t often miss breakfast.  Well, darlin’, I’m gonna let you rest.  Why don’t you and Cordell stop in tonight for awhile.”

 

“I’m sure we will, C.D.  Thanks for checking on me.”

 

“You bet.”

 

She hung up with C.D. and returned to the sofa and her book.  About a half-hour later, Alex was bored.  She decided to saddle up Angel and take a short ride—nothing too strenuous, just down to the lake and back.  She was sure Angel would appreciate the attention and it would give her something to do.  She put her book away, went up stairs and changed into her jeans and a shirt, slipped on her riding boots and headed toward the barn.

 

******

Walker and Trivette had spent the last few hours talking to Mark Richardson about Susan Finley.  Richardson had told them that he had only gone out with Finley twice.  When they asked why he had broken off the relationship, he stated that all Finley ever wanted to talk about was his job.  She seemed to want to know everything there was to know about drugs, chemicals and the interaction between various substances.  When Walker and Trivette told Richardson about what they had found in his house, he was extremely surprised.  He said that he never did any work at home other than paperwork and never had any sort of lab set up in his basement.  Walker and Trivette began to suspect that Finley had set Richardson up but they didn’t know why.  In speaking further with Richardson, they learned that Susan Finley had a sister, Theresa Jacobs, who had been murdered several years earlier.  Richardson didn’t know the circumstances behind the murder but indicated that whenever Finley wasn’t asking him about his job, she was talking about her dead sister.  He said that she seemed obsessed.  Walker and Trivette thanked Mr. Richardson for his help and apologized for detaining him for so long.  Richardson said it was no problem; he was glad to help.

 

After their conversation with Richardson, Walker and Trivette decided to pull the file on Theresa Jacobs to see if they could find a link between her and Alex. While Trivette pulled the file, Walker called to check on Alex.  The line was busy so he decided to return a few other phone calls before trying again.

 

Thirty minutes later, Trivette came through the door with Theresa Jacobs’ file in hand.  “Hey, Walker, I think you better take a look at this.”

 

“What’d ya find?”

 

Trivette opened the file and began to read “Theresa Jacobs, age 33, murdered three years ago in her apartment by her estranged husband, Martin Jacobs, age 34.  Seems that Theresa had filed for divorce and Martin didn’t like the idea.  He was apprehended less than an hour after the murder in a nearby park.  Still had the gun on him.”

 

“Was Alex involved in his prosecution?”

 

“No, actually, Alex was involved with Theresa.  According to a statement Alex gave to the police after the shooting, Theresa had come to her abused women’s group looking for help.  Martin had been physically and emotionally abusing her for years.  In the statement, Alex said that Theresa was really scared.  She felt that if Martin found out that she was involved with Alex’s group, he’d be really upset.  Alex said that Theresa was like a lot of abused women she had met—she wanted to break the cycle of abuse but was having a hard time doing it.  Alex convinced her to file for divorce, got her set up in an apartment and helped her find a job.  According to Alex, Martin didn’t know where Theresa was living or working so she was unsure how he had found her.”

 

“Did they ever find out how he tracked her down.”

 

“Yeah.  According to some of the women that worked in the same office as Theresa, Martin just showed up at the office one day.  Apparently, Theresa had called him and asked him to meet her for lunch.  She was going to tell him that she had filed for divorce.   When she came back, she told her co-workers that she didn’t have the heart to tell him about the divorce.  He had been so glad to see her and was really trying to change.  He’d told her that he was in counseling and wanted to give their marriage another chance.  Her co-workers tried to convince her to stay away from him but I guess they weren’t successful.  She was killed three days later.  Martin apparently followed her home from work that day.  Neighbors called the police when they heard the gunshot and saw Martin running from the apartment.  You think Finley somehow is blaming Alex for what happened to her sister?”

 

“Looks that way, Trivette.  She sure went to a lot of trouble trying to kill Alex and make it look like it was Richardson.  She’s obviously been planning this for a long time.  I need to get a hold of Alex and let her know what’s going on.  Why don’t you get a couple of units and go to Finley’s office.  I’ll go to her last known address and see if I can find anything.”

 

“I’m on my way.  You want me to call C.D. and have him go out to the ranch and stay with Alex?”

 

“No, I’m sure Finley doesn’t have any idea where the ranch is.  I’ll tell Alex to stay inside until we get Finley into custody.”

 

“Okay.  I’ll let you know what we find.”

 

As Trivette left the office, Walker picked up the phone to call Alex.  There was no answer at the ranch and the answering machine hadn’t been turned on.  Walker hung up and called C.D.

 

“C.D.’s.”

 

“C.D., it’s me.  Have you talked to Alex today?”

 

“Hi, Cordell.  Yeah, as a matter of fact I talked to Alex about an hour ago.  Why?  Something wrong?”

 

“I’m not sure.  I just tried to call and there’s no answer.”

 

“She may just be in the shower or something, Cordell.  You have Richardson in custody so I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about.”

 

“Richardson’s not the one, C.D.  It’s Susan Finley.  It looks like she’s the one who’s been after Alex the whole time.  She was framing Richardson.”

 

“Oh my!  Do you want me to take a run out there, Cordell?”

 

“No, C.D.  Finley has no idea where the ranch is.  I’m on my way to check out her apartment and then I’ll head out there myself.  Just do me a favor and keep trying to call in case she was in the shower.”

 

“Sure thing, Cordell.”

 

“Thanks, C.D.”

 

He then hung up the phone, grabbed his hat and headed for Susan Finley’s apartment.

 

******

 

When Alex opened the barn door, she noticed that the horses seemed restless.  As she stepped into the barn, she realized the reason.  Susan Finley was standing in the middle of the barn, a gun pointed directly at Alex.  Alex stopped in her tracks and stared at the other woman.

 

“Susan?  What are you doing?”

 

“I’m going to finish what I started.”

 

“What you started?  You mean you’re the one who tried to poison me?”

 

“It would’ve worked, too, if it hadn’t been for that other Assistant DA.”

 

“Susan, I don’t understand.  What did I ever do to you to make you want to kill me?”

 

“You killed my sister.”

 

“I what!?  Susan, there must be some mistake.  I didn’t even know you had a sister.”

 

“There’s no mistake.  My sister was Theresa Jacobs.  Name ring a bell?”

 

“Theresa.”  She lowered her eyes.  “Yes, I remember Theresa.  But Susan, I had nothing to do with her death.  Her husband killed her.”

 

“Only because you wouldn’t help her get away from him.”

 

“Susan, that’s not true.  Theresa was confused.  It took me a long time but I finally convinced her to file for divorce.  I helped her find an apartment and a new job.  Martin had no idea where she was until she called him.”

 

Susan screamed, “NO!  She never would have called him.  She hated him and would have done anything to get away from him.”

 

Alex tried to remain calm.  “Susan, I know that may be what Theresa told you but believe me, it’s not always true.  I’ve seen a lot of women who at first seemed strong and determined to get out of a bad relationship but then, after they are alone for awhile, they get lonely and end up going right back to the relationship.  Theresa called Martin and asked him to meet her for lunch.  She told her co-workers that she was going to tell him about the divorce but when she got back, she said she didn’t have the nerve and that he had changed.”

 

NO!  NO! You’re lying!  Theresa never would have called him.  She hated him!

 

Alex saw her chance and took it, she lunged toward Susan and tried to grab the gun from her.  Just as she got her hand on the gun, it went off.

 

******

 

Walker was just getting back into his truck after his search of Susan Finley’s apartment when his cell phone rang.

 

“Walker.”

 

“Walker, it’s me.  I think we’ve got trouble, man!”

 

“What’s wrong, Trivette.”

 

“When we arrived at Susan Finley’s office, they told us that she had called in sick but when they tried to reach her earlier this morning, there was no answer at her apartment.  She had mentioned to one of her co-workers that she was having trouble with her boyfriend and needed to reach Alex.  I just got off the phone with Amy.  Susan Finley called Alex’s office this morning crying and telling Amy that it was a matter of life and death that she reach Alex.  Walker, Amy gave Susan your address and told her that’s where Alex was.”

 

“Damn it!  Where are you?”

 

“Just leaving Susan’s office, you?”

 

“Just leaving her apartment.  Meet me at the ranch.”

 

“You got it!”

 

It took Walker less than 15 minutes to get to the ranch from Susan Finley’s apartment.  As he flew up the dirt road toward the house, he heard the sirens in the distance and within seconds saw Trivette’s Mustang coming up the road behind him.  They arrived at the house, jumped from their vehicles and headed toward the front door when they heard the first gunshot.  They stopped in their tracks.

 

Walker looked at Trivette, “The barn!”

 

They turned and sprinted toward the barn.  Just as they reached the door, they heard the second shot.  Walker and Trivette drew their weapons and dove through the door.  They stopped short when they saw Alex sitting on the floor of the barn and Susan Finley lying several feet away, the gun still in her hand.  Walker immediately holstered his gun and rushed to Alex’s side.  Trivette did the same and went to check on Susan Finley.

 

As Walker approached Alex, he noticed a deep flesh wound on her upper right arm.  She was staring at Susan Finley, seemingly unaware that Walker and Trivette were even there.  He knelt down beside her and gently touched her shoulder and whispered, “Alex.”

 

She jumped and her head snapped around to look at him, fear in her eyes.  “It’s okay, Alex, it’s me.”

 

The fear in her eyes was immediately replaced with relief as she fell against him.  Walker sat down on the floor of the barn and gathered her tightly in his arms.  He looked over toward Trivette, who shook his head, indicating that Susan Finley was dead.

 

“Trivette, call for an ambulance.”

 

“No!  Walker, please.  I don’t want to mess up your plans for the weekend and I don’t want to go back to the hospital.  It’s not that bad, is it?”

 

“Alex, I can’t really see it but from the amount of blood on your sleeve, I’d say it’s bad enough.”

 

“Walker, please.”

 

“Okay, okay.  Let’s get you into the house and let me take a look at that arm then we’ll decide if you need to go to the hospital.  Deal?”

 

“Deal.”  She looked up into his eyes and relaxed against his chest.  Walker nodded toward Trivette and then helped Alex up. 

 

“Walker, I’ll get things started out here.  Let me know if you need that ambulance.”

 

“Thanks, Trivette.”

 

Walker helped Alex into the house and up the stairs to the bathroom.  He sat her down on the commode and knelt down in front of her.  He then helped her unbutton and remove her shirt.  The wound was about three inches long and nearly an inch deep.  Walker knew that he needed to get her to the hospital.  He just had to convince her of that.

 

He placed a hand under her chin and raised her head to meet his eyes, “Honey, we’ve got you get you to the hospital.  I know it’s a flesh wound but it’s very deep.  You’re gonna need stitches.  Does it hurt much?”

 

“Actually, I can’t feel much of anything.”

 

Walker touched her hand and it was like ice.  “Alex, the bullet may have grazed a nerve.  When the feeling comes back, I think you’re going to be in a lot of pain.  We need to get you to the hospital, now.”

 

“Okay, just promise me I won’t have to stay and can’t we just go in the truck.  Do we need to have an ambulance?”

 

He smiled at her.  “No, we can skip the ambulance and I promise I won’t let them keep you.  Come on, let me wrap this up and we’ll go.  He went to the closet, took out a clean towel and wrapped it tightly around her arm to stop the bleeding.  He then went to the bedroom and got her a clean shirt.

 

After Walker got Alex settled into the Ram, he went in search of Trivette to let him know what was going on.  He found him still in the barn supervising the investigation.

 

“Trivette, I’m gonna take Alex to the hospital and have that arm looked at.  It’s pretty deep and she’s lost some of the feeling in her hand.”

 

“Okay, I’ll finish up here and then head back to the office and start the paperwork.  Walker, you know we’re gonna need a statement from Alex when she’s ready.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  I’ll bring her by the office after we get through at the hospital and she can do it then.”

 

“Okay, I’ll see you later then.”

 

On the way to the hospital, Alex told Walker what had transpired between she and Susan while in the barn.  She told him how she had lunged for the gun and how Susan had pulled the trigger just as Alex had gotten her hand on the gun.  Fortunately, Alex was able to push the gun away so that the bullet just grazed her arm.  She’d staggered back but had managed to regain her balance before falling.  When she looked up, Susan was coming at her again with the gun.  They wrestled for several minutes and Alex was shocked when she heard the gun go off again.  Susan had stumbled back and then fallen against the stall.  That was where Walker and Trivette had found her with Alex kneeling nearby.

 

By the time they arrived at the Emergency Room, the feeling in Alex’s arm had returned and she was in quite a bit of pain.  The doctor took x-rays to make sure the bullet hadn’t chipped the bone.  When the x-rays came back clear, he called in a plastic surgeon to stitch the wound so that there would be as little scarring as possible.  Walker and Alex left the hospital nearly two hours later with instructions and a prescription for pain medication.

 

They stopped by Headquarters long enough for Alex to give her statement and then headed back to the ranch.

 

Alex was quiet during their ride and Walker knew she was having trouble coming to terms with what had happened with Susan Finley.  He could also see that she was in pain by the way she held her arm and he knew that the anesthesia must have worn off.

 

When they arrived at the ranch, Walker got Alex settled on the couch with a pillow and blanket, gave her a pain pill and went to the kitchen to make some tea.  When he came back, he found her in the exact same position as when he had left.  He sat down next to her and gently guided her head onto his lap.  

 

He looked down into her eyes and could see the torment in them.  “Hey, you okay?”

 

“I guess.  I just wish there were something I could have done to change what happened this afternoon.  Maybe if I had spent more time with Susan.”

 

“Alex, don’t beat yourself up over this.  Susan Finley obviously had this planned for quite some time.  I’m not sure that there’s anything that could have changed her mind.  She was convinced that you were somehow responsible for Theresa’s death.”

 

“Maybe I was.”

 

“Alex, you know that’s not true.  It was Theresa’s choice to call her husband.  You did everything possible to help her make a clean break.  You couldn’t be with her 24 hours a day.”

 

“Walker, I know you’re right.  It’s just that lately all I’ve been seeing is the bad side of what we do.  I guess it’s starting to get me down.”

 

“So what can I do to help?”

 

“You’re already doing it, darling.  Being here with you always helps.”  Then she smiled and closed her eyes.  “Unless, of course, you happen to know of a place we could run off to for a week or so?  I’m sure that would help too!”

 

His fingers glided over her face and gently began massaging her temples.  “Hmmm…how about a secluded little beach house on a remote part of Maui with a private beach and no one around for miles?”

 

“Mmmm…sounds wonderful.  When do we leave?”

 

“Tomorrow afternoon.”

 

Her eyes flew open wide as she looked up at him.  “Walker, don’t tease me like that.”

 

“Who’s teasing.”  With that, he reached behind the couch, picked up two plane tickets from the table and held them in front of Alex.

 

She slowly sat up and took the tickets from him, her face a picture of amazement.  “Walker, are you serious?  We’re going to Hawaii?”

 

He reached up and turned her head to look at him.  “I’m very serious, Alex.”  I’ve already cleared it with the DA and Captain Price.  For the next two weeks, we have nothing to do but relax on our private beach.”

 

“These are the plans you had?”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

“Oh, Walker, this is wonderful.  Thank you!  Where did you find this place?”

 

“It actually belongs to a friend of mine.  He kept bugging me to take a trip there and use the place but I never got around to it.  I started thinking about it a few weeks ago.  We were both so stressed out and we hadn’t had much time alone together so I gave him a call and asked if I could take him up on his offer.  There’s just one catch.”

 

“Oh, great.  Let me guess.  We have to escort a prisoner back, right?”

 

“Wrong.  You have to marry me before we leave.  Otherwise, it’s not gonna be much of a honeymoon.”

 

“But, we don’t have a…,” he silences her with a kiss.”

 

“Yes, we have a license.  I took care of that yesterday and I had Jerry run our blood tests while you were in the hospital we there’s nothing stopping us from getting married unless, of course, you’d rather wait.”

 

“Wait!  Are you kidding?  I’ve waited long enough, Cowboy!  If you want to do this tomorrow, then tomorrow it is!”

 

“Alex, seriously, if you want to plan a big wedding, we can just go to Hawaii and set a date when we get back.”

 

“Walker, the only thing I want is to be your wife.  I don’t care about anything else.  So, I suppose Jimmy and C.D. know all about this?”

 

“Nope.  I wanted it to be a surprise.”

 

“Well, it certainly was!  I love you so much!”

 

As his lips meet hers, “And I love you.”

 

******

 

Alex opens her eyes as the morning sun streams in the window.  Outside, she hears the waves of the ocean gently lapping at the shore.  Immediately, she looks at her left hand and a slow smile appears on her lips as she sees the beautiful gold wedding band that surrounds her engagement ring.  She stares at the ring for few minutes, then whispers, “It wasn’t a dream.”

 

A strong arm gently rolls her to her back and she finds herself staring into his blue gray eyes.  As he captures her lips with his, he murmurs, “No, Mrs. Walker, it wasn’t a dream.”

 

THE END