Dark Night of the Soul
by Peggy Hartsook
Alexandra Cahill stood by nervously as the two repairmen carefully lifted glass into the window frame. It evidently was a good fit, for both men exhaled with, satisfaction. "Shouldn't be long now, Mrs. Walker," the taller man remarked over his shoulder.
"Good," she replied shortly. The glass repairmen had been under the she was the lady of the house ever since they arrived and Alex saw no reason to correct them. When they saw the name on the check she would write them they would wonder for a moment, then dismiss her as one of those flaky broads who wouldn’t take her husband's last name. She didn't care what they thought -- just that they got out of here.
Just then someone rattled the front door. "Hey, Alex, I'm here!" C.D. Parker’s cheerful, down home voice hollered down the hall.
Alex jumped, something she'd done a disgusting amount of times Iately and her irritability focused on C.D. "I thought you said you'd be here by eleven!" she hissed. "It's eleven forty five now!"
The older man looked momentarily affronted but he quickly put down his displeasure. "I'd just stopped off at the hospital for a moment, honey. Ol’ Cordell’s about all those nurses can handle right now so I had to give'em some moral support."
Alex did not smile at the joke. "I'm going to write the check for the glass now, so you watch them, okay?"
CD gently caught her arm as she turned to leave. "I don't think Cordell expects you to pay for his window, Alex, darlin'. Jimmy can do some fancy accounting with that little ol' computer of his and the Rangers will pay for it."
Walker kicked Victor LaRue out of that window saving me, CD. The least I can do is repair it." Alex abruptly became aware of the repairmen beginning to be in the kitchen," she said shortly and left.
While waiting at the kitchen table, Alex was annoyed to hear CD start up a conversation with one of the men and she scowled. Now it would be forever before they got rid of them. She had a million things to do and no time for CD's backwoods charm. Alex twisted her hands nervously; perhaps she should make more coffee. She dismissed the idea; Jimmy Trivette was supposed to be here around one o’clock to take her apartment hunting and she still wasn't ready to go. Alex hated waiting at best of times and now was hardly the best of times. Waiting meant she had nothing to do; nothing to take her mind off her latest ordeal with Victor LaRue.
A soul numbing chill went down her back even thinking about the psychotic madman with his passions for opera, Alex and revenge. He had come so close this time. He had violated her apartment, destroying some of her most precious memories. He had stalked her at her work, at her home and finally at Walker's home. She was afraid to close her eyes anymore; whenever she did she saw that ugly face with his shark dead eyes leering over her; eyes undressing her and hands moving to follow. Worst of all, she saw LaRue nearly killing Walker over and over again. Alex admitted to no one that in her nightmares LaRue did kill Walker -- and was moving to dispatch her when she awoke screaming.
Cordell Walker was still hospitalized with his multiple scorpion bites but Alex knew he'd be released very soon. She'd been brave when she'd visited him in the hospital that night, unwilling to admit she'd nearly succumbed to hysterics when he'd collapsed on the bed next to her after finally defeating Victor LaRue. It had been her only outing by herself since the ordeal and she'd tried hard not to worry Walker about her fragile emotional state. Judging by the searching looks the Ranger had given her at the hospital, Alex had a feeling she had not fooled him at all.
Alex Cahill despised this sudden weakness in herself. She'd always prided herself on her independence and now she felt helpless; not only with Victor LaRue but now with her own emotions. She couldn't bring herself to go back to her own apartment so she cowered here at Walker's and avoided the upstairs bedroom where LaRue had chained her to the bed and lay across her, mouthing disgusting things and ambushing Walker when he came to get her. Alex knew she had to pull herself together; she had to regroup and fast. It would not do to have Walker come home to find her still here at his house. But where to start rebuilding? Jimmy had tactfully suggested a new apartment and she leaped at his offer to go with her. But now, with Trivette's arrival imminent, Alex had doubts about the whole thing. She was so tired. She didn't know her own mind anymore, one moment she wanted to be left alone and then suddenly she didn't.
CD was kneeling before her, caring concern written all over his face and he worriedly took one of her hands. "Alex? You all right, Alex?"
"What?" Disoriented, it took a moment for Alex to get hold of her thoughts. "I'm all right. Here's the check, CD. Will you please pay them?"
"Yeah, okay." CD shook his head sadly. "Still seems like a waste of good money." Still mumbling and grumbling, the older man ambled off down the hall.
While CD paid the glass repairmen, another car roared into the driveway and jerked to a stop. James Trivette, the GQ model for the Texas Rangers, got out and made his way into the house, bypassing CD and the departing repairmen. Entering the kitchen, he tossed his cowboy hat off on the table and leaned over to give Alex a hug. "How are ya, today, Alex?"
"Fine, just fine," Alex replied quickly.
Jimmy gave her a doubtful look, but said nothing.
CD entered the kitchen, having paid the repairmen and seen them off. "Cordell’s doing pretty good today, Jimmy," he remarked to the younger Ranger.
"Yeah, I know. Stopped to see him before I came out here, Big Dog. Nurses are sayin' he'll be out tomorrow, Walker says today and everybody's waiting for the doctor to make his rounds.
"Today!" Alex cried, jumping up. "My God, why didn't you say something! I’ve got to get my things picked up. We've got to get going!"
"Now, just hold your horses there, missy! You're carryin' on like a dog that forgot where he buried his bone," CD admonished. "Now, I seriously doubt Cordell will be that put out to find you here when he gets home."
"That's right," Jimmy agreed. "Besides, he might still need some T-L-C."
Looking at the two smiling faces in front of her, Alex felt an odd combination of sadness and exasperation. "Did it ever occur to either of you that Walker might want some peace and quiet? Some time to himself? A place where other people's problems don't invade his space?" Alex saw immediately that her words upset and worried her friends but she couldn't take the time to explain all now. "Are you ready to go now?
Trivette nodded. "Yes, ma'am," he said meekly.
Alex paused, remorseful about the emotional havoc she'd just wrought. "I'm sorry." She paused to give the older man a hug. "I'll see you later, okay, CD?"
Apartment hunting was the same old nightmare it had always been. Every place Jimmy suggested or Alex had phoned about did not measure up. Gradually, it began to dawn on Alex that she really didn't want to leave her own apartment. Despite the fact that LaRue had inflicted his insidious hatred on her cherished possessions and had made arrangements to move in across the hall, it was still her home. She had not been back there since Walker had moved her to his place after LaRue's break in.
As they pulled into the driveway of Walker's house, Jimmy remarked, "There’s something about your own place, isn't there?"
Alex sighed. "I guess so. I'm torn, Jimmy. Part of me wants to get out of there and never look back, and yet part of me refuses to give up on my home. I don't want to give Victor LaRue the satisfaction of knowing he forced me from my apartment. Trivette braked the car to a stop, his eyes scanning Walker's house. No signs of activity within. "God, I can't believe there'd be any doctor in the state of Texas strong enough to stand up to Cordell Walker, but I don't believe he's home yet."
"You don't suppose something went wrong," Alex worried.
"No, no," Jimmy instantly soothed her. "The nurses were all sure he'd have to stay another day." He studied the blond woman's tired face. "You know, you really could stay here tonight. Walker is always taking in strays!"
Alex couldn't help but return his grin. "Gee, thanks, Jimmy. I've always wanted to be compared to stray dogs, cats and horses!"
Trivette shrugged, then gave her a serious look. "Alex, I think it would be a lot easier on you if you stayed here tonight."
Her hand on the door handle, Alex paused, looking out at the old house. "That's the problem, Jimmy. It would be too easy."
For all of her good intentions, Alex Cahill had to admit she was tired. And Walker's wonderfully comfortable old house in the country was a lot more peaceful than her city apartment. She'd spent some time halfheartedly gathering up her things, then sat outside on the porch swing, quietly watching the Texas sun set. Halfway expecting Walker at any moment, Alex had an odd sense of relief that he didn't show. This way, she didn't have to pretend to be strong, to shrug off Victor LaRue's evil like it was an momentary inconvenience. Best of all; it would give her one more night to steel herself for the hardship of convincing her friends she would not be a burden to them. She had the feeling CD would see through everything, but if she could throw off Jimmy and have him mislead Walker as well, she would get through this.
Finally, leaving the peace of the evening outside, Alex went into the kitchen, clicked her tongue at Walker's lack of groceries, and made herself a sandwich. Settling on the couch in front of the TV, she munched through the weather report and began experiencing something she didn't even notice; five minutes without Victor LaRue's abhorrent presence.
But then the local news came on.
Victor LaRue's leering face dominated the screen as the announcer droned on about "the convicted felon's attack on Assistant District Attorney Cahill and Texas Ranger Cordell Walker--"
Alex snatched up the remote and turned the set off. But the damage had been done. The cold chill was back in her spine and her hands shook. She burst into hot, silly tears and sobbed into a pillow.
Somehow, exhaustion claimed her. When Alex awoke, the house was completely in darkness. Straightening her hair, she started to rise -- then froze in the darkness. She was not alone in the house.
Blind, unreasoning panic set in. Somehow that human scum had come back to soil her world and threaten Walker once again. Alex launched her attack from the couch, screaming, legs kicking, nails headed for the eyes.
She thudded into a man all right and the impact knocked him backwards to the floor. Alex followed him down and sat on his chest, going for the throat. The man caught her hands however and finally his voice penetrated her consciousness.
"Alex! Alex, stop it! It's me. Stop it! It's Walker."
Alex's face crumpled. "Oh my God!" She got up immediately and fumbled for the light switch, before turning back to help Walker, who was rather gingerly getting to his feet. "Oh, Walker, I'm so sorry! I didn't know it was you--" She stopped. How in the world do you explain an unprovoked attack on a man just released from the hospital? What words could she say? Alex turned away, feeling her self control slip away again. "I'm so sorry," she mumbled.
Walker sprang after her, caught her by the shoulders, turned her around and pulled her into a fierce embrace. Alex broke down, clutching him and sobbing into his shoulder. For a long time, they simply held each other.
When Alex had finally finished, she wiped her eyes self-consciously. Walker took her by the hand and they both sat down on the couch. "You shouldn't have been out here alone," he said quietly.
Alex merely shook her head. "I have to get over this, Walker. I can't let Victor LaRue continue running my life."
"Give it some time first, Alex" Walker insisted.
She had to laugh at that. "That's funny, coming from you. What're you doing out of the hospital, may I ask?" Alex finally noticed his wan color and stiff movements.
"I'm all right," Walker evaded her searching eyes.
"Walker, Victor LaRue nearly killed you!" Alex didn't add that for a short, panic stricken time, she thought Walker was dead.
"Well," Walker grinned a little, "he didn't. I'm still here."
"Thank God for that," Alex replied fervently. They both looked at the floor a little; Alex found it strange and endearing how Walker could still be a little shy with her sometimes. She patted his hand. "Would you like some food?"
"Oh yeah," Walker moved to get up but Alex made him stay there. "I'll get it. Not that there's much to choose from!" she added tartly.
"I just hadn't got around to grocery shopping," Walker protested but his tone lacked conviction. Alex laughed at his injured tone and went into the kitchen.
Coming back with a bowl of soup and a sandwich, Alex found Walker on the couch, boots off and feet on the coffee table, with the time honored male tradition of the remote control for the TV in hand, flipping through the channels.
Not much on," he remarked, disappointed. He finally settled on a western that Alex knew for a fact he'd seen twice before.
Watching him eat, and surprised to note he had a voracious appetite, Alex felt a sense of peace here -- and a sense of unease. A shadow crossed her face as she glanced up the stairs Victor LaRue had climbed up the day before. Walker noticed her discomfort. "Alex, I wish you would talk to me," he said quietly.
"It's nothing, Walker."
"It's definitely something." Walker happened to glance towards the front window
"Hey, who fixed the window already?"
"Some guys from town," Alex evaded. Walker was not fooled. "Did you pay for it?"
Alex attempted a casual shrug. "Well, it was broken because of me." Walker put down the soup bowl with a bang and shut the TV off. "Alex, you didn't ask for Victor LaRue to stalk you. You make it sound like you invited him in" "Well, he followed me out here. It wasn't your problem; I should've been able to handle it myself! God, I hate being a victim, Walker!"
"Alex, in all the cases you handle, don't you think a lot of other people have felt that way?"
"Yes!" Alex heard her voice rising and hated the latent hysteria in it. She attempted to calm down. "But, a lot of other people aren't Assistant District Attorneys, Walker. This is my business. But when it came down to it, I was just another," her voice caught, "helpless woman!" The blonde woman swabbed angrily at her eyes, as the damn tears began stinging her eyes again.
Walker put his arm around her shoulders. "Alex, you are not a 'helpless woman' and never will be. No one could accomplish what you have without courage and integrity. And if you'll remember, you were not the only one Victor LaRue had helpless. I didn't do too well against him either!" he added in anger.
Alex looked at Walker curiously; very seldom did Walker let his emotions surface and only now she began to realize what a toll this sordid affair took on him. "You got him in the end," she insisted.
"After he trashed your apartment, stalked you and followed you out here!" Walker snapped. The anger he felt at LaRue's depravity burst forth in a red hot flame. "All I was able to do was follow around after him and pick up the pieces," he added bitterly.
Alex leaned in and settled her head on his shoulder, her other hand behind him massaging his neck. "Oh Walker, what has that madman done to us?"
"Nothing that can't be undone."
One of the strange things about Walker, Alex decided, was that he rarely raised is voice, but he gripped your attention all the same. "Do you really believe that?" she asked earnestly, wanting to believe but all too aware of her own doubts and securities.
"It won't be easy," Walker conceded with a small rueful smile, "but we will do it."
"Right now, I'm scared to be alone," Alex murmured, almost to herself. "Then almost at the same time, I hate myself for feeling this way. It's like I've let LaRue win. He's still in control." She shuddered, suddenly back on the bed, LaRue on top of her and Walker dying on the floor beside the bed.
Walker tightened his hug and kissed her forehead. "You don't have to go it
alone, you know. No one will think any less of you. In fact, some of us would consider a favor if you'd let us help."
"Some of us?" Alex couldn't help teasing.
"Trivette and CD have lots of time," Walker shot back, grinning.
Alex laughed, then sobered instantly. "I hope to God Victor LaRue never gets
out of prison!"
"There's no way. I'll see to that," Walker promised.
"No," Alex corrected, straightening. "It's my job. And I'll do it."
"Okay, Counselor. But it had better not happen," Walker added grimly.
They both sat silent for awhile, lost in their thoughts. Finally, Walker stood up.
hungry. Want anything?"
"Didn't they feed you in the hospital?" Alex asked in mock suspicion. "Only bean
sprouts and stuff that Trivette eats," Cordell said with disgust.
Alex laughed, then glanced at the time -- almost midnight. She jumped up. "Oh, look at the time! I should go home."
"Why?" Walker asked curiously.
"Well, I don't want to intrude," she began. Seeing his look of doubt, she decided
on honesty. "I'll have to start sometime, Walker. It would be so easy to lean on you, Jimmy and CD. But I couldn't live with myself if I did."
"I agree. But. .. " Walker came over and placed his hands on her shoulders.
" ... it doesn't have to start tonight. Give it just a little time, Alex. Give yourself a fair chance."
Alex thought it over. "All right," she decided, "but only for a little bit. Oh, and one
"I go grocery shopping in the morning!"
"Better you than Trivette," Walker said glumly, remembering his partner's carrot juice, health foods and bean sprouts.
Alex laughed. Later on, she and Walker snuggled on the couch, eating popcorn and watching another one of his beloved Westerns. Walker finally dozed off, still weak and tired from his ordeal. Alex let the TV drone on and re-arranged the afghan around him. She held Cordell Walker tight, laying her head on his chest and listening to his heartbeat. For once, instead of brooding about how much Victor LaRue had taker. away, she gave thanks for what she still had.