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A Past Hurt
By Lynn Bango

Walker heard something downstairs. The wind had been blowing all night long, but something didn't feel right. He hoped it was just nerves from the case he and Trivette were working on. Then to top that off, Alex had been acting odd. When he had asked what was bothering her, she would just tell him, "Nothing, I'm fine."

He wished he could believe that.

Alex stood downstairs in Walker's living room, drenched from the walk to the house. She'd expected Walker to be downstairs by now. Sleep was something she wanted badly, but couldn't seem to get. Why am I bothering Walker with this? I bet he's sleeping right now. I'll just sneak up and check....

Decision made, Alex quietly climbed the stairs to Walker's room.

Naturally, Walker had to check out what he had heard. It was instinct that he had learned a long time ago. Halfway down the steps he saw a figure in front of him. Grabbing a shoulder, he started to push the figure backwards. Then, he saw the blonde hair. "Alex?"

She met his gaze for a moment, and he saw a pair of scared blue eyes.

"Alex, what are you doing here?" Her head went down in shame.

Walker put his finger under her chin and made her look at him. "Are you okay?"

"I had a dream and I don't want to be by myself. Can I stay here tonight?" she asked shakily.

"Of course you can. Your clothes are soaked. Lets get you a change of clothes before anything." The Ranger turned and walked back upstairs.

Alex had known Walker wouldn't ask any questions. He'd be there whenever she thought she was ready to talk. She just looked on as Walker got her a pair of black sweats and his Texas Ranger sweatshirt.

"Thank you, Walker. You didn't have to do this," Alex told him.

"Don't worry about it. I'd do anything for you. You should know that by now." Walker pulled back the covers. "You must be freezing. I'm going to get another blanket. I'll be right back."

Alex climbed into bed. Maybe I should tell him. Look at what he's doing for me already. All Walker will do is support me. Be there for me. Just like he is now. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Walker's footsteps.

"Here we go. My parents gave this to me when I was about seven years old."

At the mention of parents, Alex started to cry.

Walker gently spread the blanket over her, then climbed in to join her. Putting his arms around her, he pulled her close, letting her cry. "Are you okay?" he whispered.

"No "Alex whispered through her tears.

"Do you want to tell me what the dream was about? That usually helps."

"Not now. Maybe later."

"When you want to, you know where I am. Now get some sleep."

"I'll try." Alex's crying calmed down a little.

Walker continued to hold her close. Her face was red from the exertion when she finally slept. He hoped that she would talk to him in the morning. It hurt, seeing her like this. Knowing she needed help, yet not knowing how, made him sick to his stomach. For now, he'd continue as he had. That was all that he could do for her until she told him the problem.

Monday morning brought dread for Alex. How am I going to get through this? She checked her appearance. She wore a gray business suit, and carried a black briefcase. I have to act like an attorney. I am an attorney. A professional. I have to act professional, she told herself over and over again. After this, I can go to C.D. 's. Things will be just fine. With that in mind, she felt a little better.

Court recessed at four o'clock. Alex usually loved being in a courtroom, yet she had never been so quick and happy to get out of there as today. On the way down the hall, she passed Jimmy Trivette.

"Hi Alex. Where are you going in such a hurry?"

She looked at him for a moment, then kept on going without saying a word.

He stood there, watching her go. After she was out the door he went to Walker's desk. If anyone knew what was wrong, it would be him.

"Hey, Trivette. Do you know what happened to those files on the Matthews case?"

"In the top drawer of my desk. Do you know what's wrong with Alex? I just saw her in the hallway. When I said hi she looked at me and kept on going. Did I do something to get her mad?"

"No, you didn't. I don't know what's going on with her. She won't say anything about it to me." Walker thought about how Alex had acted this past weekend. Something was up and Alex wouldn't say what it was. "I'll try to talk to her at C.D.'s."

"She looks rough. Man, her face was turning red. I don't think you're going to want to mess with her."

"I have to. Don't worry about me, Trivette. Worry about Alex," Walker told him.

"I'd never think about worrying about you," the younger man answered sarcastically

Walker and Jimmy walked into C.D.'s and went up to the bar.

"Hey, you two. Busy day?" C.D. Parker asked the two Rangers.

"Hey, Big Dog. You have no idea," Jimmy informed him.

"I'll get you both something to drink. Your dinner will be done in a bit."

"Wait, C. D.," Walker stopped him. Looking around the room, the bearded Ranger spotted Alex in a booth at the far end of the bar. "Has Alex said anything to you at all?"

"Well, Cordell, she came in and went right to that seat over there. The little lady's upset. Won't even drink her coffee. That's a bad sign."

With that on his mind, Walker approached her. "Hello there, Alex. You all right?" Walker scooted in next to her.

She looked at him, then turned, staring at the empty side of the booth.

"Your coffee is gettin' cold, you know."

"So. Don't ask questions, Walker. This case is just really rough. You saw me this weekend. I can barely get any sleep. As soon as this is over I'll be back to normal. Promise."

"Sure you will." He tried to hug her, but she pushed him away.

"Leave me alone, Walker. Please? This is something only I can fix. Thank you for caring. I know you want to help, but I need to do this myself."

"How about you follow me back to the ranch," Walker suggested, unwilling to give up. "We can drive to work together in the morning. What do you say?"

"No, not this time. I don't think I'm really up to it."

"You sure?"

Alex sat there for a minute before turning to meet his gaze. The hurt shone clearly in his eyes. This was killing him. She couldn't bring herself to say yes, though. "I'm sure. Maybe another time."

"I can live with that." Walker decided not to push her. That was the last thing he should do if she was ever going to come to him with this problem.

Over the next week, Alex continued to get worse day by day. Thursday, after court, she left in a hurry, even faster than previous days. The pain was building to a point that she didn't think she could stand.

Walker saw her leave, and decided to follow. This had been going on too long now. He needed to do something to help her before he went crazy.

She drove nearly a half-hour before she reached her destination. As he followed her into a cemetery, his face took on a grim expression. He parked his truck far enough away so she wouldn't see it, then watched her from there.

****

Alex walked over to the grave and looked down. "Hi, Mom. I know I haven't been to see you in a while. So much has happened. I'm engaged." Alex pointed her hand downward so that the ring faced the gravestone. "His name is Cordell Walker, and he's a Texas Ranger. I really wish you could have met him. You'd have loved him. He has done so much for me. He convinced Daddy to get help for his drinking problem. That's not why I'm here, though." She paused, taking a deep breath, then slowly releasing it. "They finally caught Daniels. About time, don't you think? I'm the one prosecuting, so you don't have to worry. He'll pay for what he did to you."

Alex stopped. A hot tear escaped, running down her cheek. She wiped it away. "When I get done with this case, I'll come for a visit again. I think I'll bring Walker with me. We'll buy you some white roses. I know those are your favorites. Bye, Mom. I love you." With that, Alex walked away.

When she had left the cemetery, Walker checked out the headstone for himself. Looking down, he read: "Elizabeth Marie Cahill, June 12,1942 - February 24,1989, Beloved mother and wife, 'God's angel for eternity'."

"If only you were here to see what she is putting herself through for you. I'll make sure she is okay, Mrs. Cahill."

Right after he left he went back to the Company B Ranger Station. He was going to find out what was up. "Hey, Trivette, can you do me a favor?"

"Sure thing," Jimmy told him. "Name it."

"Look up the name Elizabeth Cahill."

"Cahill? As in Alex?" Jimmy questioned.

"Just do it." Walker looked at the screen. "Something tells me she has something to do with why Alex is so upset."

"Okay, man." Jimmy typed in the name and pushed "search". A few moments later, the file came up. "Here it is. Elizabeth Cahill was murdered February 24, 1989. Alex's mom was murdered?"

"By who?" Walker didn't say anything else. What could he say? He'd just found out himself.

"Let me check. . . a Frank Daniels. Walker, isn't he the guy Alex is--"

"Yeah, he is. Now we know why she's been so upset. Do you know if she's back in the building yet?"

"Haven't seen her," Jimmy told him.

"I'm going to find her. I want to know what happened. I think she needs to tell me."

"Let me know how it goes."

Walker nodded, then walked out.

The Ranger finally found Alex at the local park. She was a mess. He walked up behind her and sat down. "Hey, there. Why didn't you tell me where you were going?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Here. You could have told me. We could have come together. Maybe have a small picnic. Also, you went to your mom's gra-"

"You followed me?" she interrupted. "Walker, you had no right!"

"I was worried about you. I don't think you would have told me what was going on. Do you know how much it hurt to watch you like this?"

"I didn't want to bother you with this. I know how rough the case is that you have been working on. The last thing you needed was to deal with this."

"Don't you know that I would have stopped everything to help you? This has been tearing you apart."

"Maybe you would, but I wanted to try to take care of it myself first. Can we get out of here?"

"No problem." Walker stood and took Alex's hand to pull her up next to him. "Did you walk or drive?"

"I walked. Needed some time to think. Had to clear my head. Where are we going? The HOPE Center will have kids in there yet. I need quiet," she informed him.

"I can understand that. We can get your car tomorrow. Let's head out to the ranch."

On the way to the ranch, Alex and Walker talked about his case. Finally, Alex felt ready to tell him about what was going on. "Are you ready to hear about what's been bothering me?"

"Are you ready to tell me?"

Alex stared out the window for a minute. "Daniels and Mom met through a friend. They went out a few times and started getting close. About two years later he wanted to move forward in the relationship." She stopped for a minute, taking a steadying breath. "Mom wasn’t ready. Daniels didn't like the idea. He tried to convince her that they were right together. That night. . . that night he beat and raped her. Then, when he was done, he shot her. Her employer called me the next day when she didn't show up for work. Neither of my parents were able to see me graduate. I didn't even know how to get hold of Dad to tell him what happened."

"How old were you when this all happened?"

"I was twenty-four, and in my last year of school. She was the only real thing I had left in my life. How could he have just disappeared? Why did the police just now catch him? It seems like my mom was just another case number to them."

"And now they've finally caught him, you have to do the prosecuting."

"Right. He killed two other women that year. There were a total of eight, all together. He did the same thing to all of them. I have to get this guy convicted. For my mom, and for me. She deserves justice."

"Why didn't you let Phil handle this case?"

"Because I need to do this. What Daniels did to us . . . he deserves to pay. I'm going to make sure that he does."

"You will. I know you. When you put your mind to something it gets done." They rode in silence for a little bit. About fifteen minutes later, they reached the ranch. As they walked inside the house, Walker asked, "Alex, are you really okay?"

"Yeah. I'm just tired. Haven't gotten that much sleep lately."

"Why don't you go upstairs and get some rest. It'll be time for dinner, soon. I'll cook something for us."

"Okay." She smiled and walked upstairs.

Alex looked at the closets in Walker's room. Opening one, she found the blanket that Walker had covered them with the other night. It was beautifully decorated, full of vibrant colors and designs. I'm sure he won't mind if I use it, Alex thought to herself.

Removing the blanket, she spread it over the bed, then pulled back the covers. Before getting in, Alex changed into one of her favorite shirts that Walker kept for her. With that, she crawled into bed, falling asleep in minutes.

A little while later, Walker came up to check on Alex. He walked in and saw her curled up in the middle of his bed. Around her, he saw the handcrafted blanket that he had loved dearly his whole life. Even more so, after he lost his parents. Smiling to himself, he decided to let her sleep. She needed it more then she'd ever admit.

He left the room quietly, pulling the door closed behind him.

Alex slept through the night. She woke the next morning, a little disoriented at first. Then she recognized her surroundings and relaxed.

Donning Walker's robe, she walked downstairs. She found her cowboy in the kitchen, cooking them breakfast. "You know, "Alex started, "There was a time when Uncle Ray told me you couldn't boil water."

"There are some things about me that not even he knows," Walker answered.

Alex walked up and gave him a hug. As she did so she took a peek over his shoulder. "Smells great, Cowboy. Can't wait." Then Alex noticed a book on the counter next to the stove. It was entitled "Cooking Made Easy". "what's this, Mr. Hotshot?"

"Okay, okay. I'm trying though."

"Do you want me to cook? You can go take Amigo for a ride," Alex suggested.

"No, Alex, I've got it. You go take a shower and get dressed. This is looking pretty good to me," Walker told her.

"You're right about that. I'll be back down in a bit."

After quickly showering and dressing, Alex came back downstairs. As she entered the kitchen, she smelled Walker's cooking. "Smells good, but how does it taste?" she teased.

"Come and find out."

"This should be interesting," Alex mumbled under her breath.

"What?"

"Nothing."

It ended up being pretty good after all.

****

That Wednesday, the verdict was ready. Alex felt as nervous as her first time in court. She didn't even recall that as this bad. Walker would be going with her for support. All they had to do was wait for the call. They decided to go to C.D.'s. Both figured that would be the best place.

"Darlin', you look much better," CD told her.

"Thanks, C.D. I feel better, to tell you the truth. As soon as I find out what'll happen to Daniels, I'm sure I'll feel even better."

"Can I get you some lunch?"

"I'm too nervous to eat."

Just then the phone rang. "C.D.'s. Okay . . . okay. I'll tell her."

"Who was it?" Walker asked.

"That was Jimmy. Word just came from court that a verdict has been reached."

"Here we go. Walker, are you still coming with me?"

"Of course," the Ranger assured her. He escorted her out to his truck.

Walker led Alex into the courtroom, choosing a seat right behind her. As soon as they were seated, Daniels was brought in. He looked at Alex and she met his eyes. She shivered.

"You okay?" Walker asked in a low whisper.

Alex took a breath. "I'm fine, I think." She stopped talking when the judge came into the room.

"I have made my decision," Judge Kelsey stated. "Will the defendant please rise?" It was a statement. Alex reached behind her to take hold of Walker's hand. He gently squeezed it. Judge Kelsey began again. "You are found guilty of the murder of eight women. I sentence you to life in prison with no chance of early release." The judge looked at Alex. "Court is adjourned."

A smile lit up Alex's entire face. "I did it, Walker. He'll never hurt anyone ever again. My mom would be so happy."

"I'm proud of you." He gave her a hug and a quick kiss. "Why don't we go to C.D.'s and celebrate."

"Can we do something else, first?"

"Go visit your mom." It wasn't a question.

"How'd you know?"

"Took a guess."

"We have to stop at a flower shop, first. I promised her."

"Okay."

****

Walker pulled into Dallas's best florist shop. "Do you want me to come with you?"

"No, just wait here." A few minutes later Alex came out. She was holding a small bouquet of white roses in her hands. She opened the truck door. "I promised Mom that I would bring her these."

Walker smiled. "Okay, let's go."

It took around thirty minutes to get to the cemetery. Walker held Alex's hand on the way there and when they walked over to the grave. When they reached it, Alex slowly knelt down. "Hi, Mom. Told you I'd bring you your roses. Now, if only I can get Walker to buy me some." She gently placed the bouquet by her mother's name.

Walker quietly said, "Hello, Mrs. Cahill."

A single tear fell down Alex's cheek. "We got him, Mom. Daniels will never hurt anyone ever again. If only I'd have known Walker then. Every time I get into trouble, he gets me out of it. He really looks out for me. One day I'll have to bring C.D. and Jimmy with me. They're more of a family to Walker and I than they are friends. C.D.'s been like a father to me. You know how I felt when Daddy left."

Walker had stood silently until that point. "Alex, do you want me to leave?"

"Uh . . . I guess. I'll be there in a sec, Cowboy."

"No problem. Take all the time you need." Walker knew she needed some time to herself, so he went back to his truck.

Alex returned to her conversation. "What do you think of him? I never thought I'd fall for Ranger Cordell Walker, but I did. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I wish you were here, so that we could really talk about this. I need to know that you are proud of what I did, that you're okay with my choice in life, and most of all, to know that you approve of Walker. But I'd better go. Walker and I need to get to C.D.'s before he and Jimmy get worried about us. Love you, Mom."

Alex knelt down and kissed her mother's name. The marble felt warm against her lips. She sat up and stared at it for a minute and then went to the truck.

As they drove away, Alex looked at Walker. She then turned back to her mother's resting place. A smile came across her face as she made the connection. He mother heard everything she said.

Walker saw her face. "What are you smiling at?"

"Just thinking."

"That usually is what gets you into trouble."

"Look who's talking."