SOMEONE TO TALK TO

By Chris (ckline-usa@foreverliving.com)

Trivette watched his partner slowly climb the steps of the Governor’s private jet.  Walker entered the cabin and took a seat as a soft sigh escaped his lips.  Trivette was worried about him.  He hadn’t had much sleep in the last 3 days and he was physically battered.  But more than that, Trivette was concerned about his mental state.  He knew Walker needed someone to talk to and he’d tried, without success, to get his partner to open up.  He’d seen Walker like this before and knew that the only “someone” that had any chance of getting him to talk was Alex.  Trivette planned to call her as soon the opportunity presented itself.

********

Walker settled himself in his seat, fastened his seat belt and covered his face with his hat.  He was exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and all he wanted to do was go home and see Alex.  He needed to feel her in his arms again, needed her to help him forget the horrors of the past three days.  Trivette had tried to get him to talk about it but the wounds were too fresh.  He needed time to work things out in his own mind before he could talk to anyone, even Alex.  He’d hoped to do that on the flight home.

********

It had all started with a phone call from the Governor.  A new designer drug had sprung up in San Antonio and the local authorities were having a tough time dealing with the situation.  It seemed that the drug cartel, headed up by a man called El Diablo, was always one step ahead of the police.  Since Walker and Trivette had the best record in the State when it came to breaking up drug rings, the Governor had asked them to work with the SAPD to shut down this newest threat to society.  It was to have been a three-week operation but no one had been prepared for what happened a week into the mission, especially not Walker and it was something that he knew would haunt him for a long time.

With only six weeks to go before their wedding, Alex was not exactly thrilled when Walker told her that he and Trivette had to go to San Antonio on assignment for three weeks.  She was even less thrilled when she found out that the assignment involved breaking up a drug cartel.  Walker explained that the call had come directly from the Governor and he and Trivette had little choice in the matter.  Although she understood, she still wasn’t happy.

Walker met Alex for dinner at C.D.’s the night before they left for San Antonio.  Alex was very quiet all through dinner and Walker knew just what she needed—time alone with just the two of them.  When they finished dinner, he suggested they go back to the ranch rather than spending the evening at C.D.’s.  She just smiled.  He always knew just what she needed.  When they arrived at the ranch, Walker asked her if she’d like to take a ride to the lake.  There was full moon and night was warm and inviting.  They saddled the horses and took a leisurely ride to the lake.  They arrived at the lake and were both amazed at how beautiful the area looked bathed in the moonlight.  They tied the horses to a nearby tree, spread a blanket on the ground and spent the rest of the night making love under the stars and closing out the rest of the world.

********

Walker and Trivette arrived at the SAPD early on Monday morning for a meeting with the newly appointed Drug Task Force team.  When they entered the conference room, Walker was surprised to see his old friend, Jonathan Taylor, among those present for the meeting and his surprise showed on his face.

When Jonathan saw Walker enter the room, he immediately went to greet him.  “Cordell Walker, it’s been a long time!”

Walker eyed Jonathan carefully, smiled and extended his hand, “Yes it has, Jonathan.  It’s good to see you again.”  No one but Walker caught the imperceptible nod of Jonathan’s head.  Turning toward Trivette, he continued, “Jonathan, this is my partner, James Trivette.  Trivette, Jonathan Taylor.  Jonathan and I went through the academy together and then served together on the Dallas PD.”

Taylor turned to Trivette and shook hands.  “We sure did.  That is until this guy decided that he wanted to join the Rangers.  I’ve kept up on your exploits, Walker, you and your partner here have quite a reputation.  I’m glad you’re both on our side!”

Trivette smiled.  Often times when they were called in to work with local law enforcement, it was not pleasant.  This certainly did not seem to be the case in this situation. “So Jonathan, how long have you been here in San Antonio?”

“About 6 months.  I transferred here from Houston.”

“Well,” Walker said, “let’s get things underway.”

“Sure.”  Taylor walked to the front of the room and cleared his throat.  “Gentlemen, may I have your attention, please.  I’d like to introduce Texas Rangers, Cordell Walker and James Trivette.  They’re going to head up this Task Force.  They’re two of the best so listen closely to what they have to say.”

For the next hour, the Task Force briefed Walker and Trivette on the exploits of El Diablo’s gang and the SAPD’s efforts to stop them.  They decided to take a short break before working on a plan to bring down the cartel.  As Walker and Trivette were leaving the conference room, Taylor called to them, “Hey, Walker, Trivette, you two have a minute?”

“Sure, Jonathan.  What’s on your mind?”

Taylor lowered his voice to a whisper.  “I can’t talk here.  Can I meet you at your hotel say around 7:00 tonight?”

“Okay.”

“Thanks.”

A few minutes later, the rest of the Task Force members returned and the group spent the rest of the afternoon devising their plan.  Walker and Trivette returned to the hotel around 6:00 p.m., just enough time to freshen up before Jonathan arrived.  Trivette knocked on Walker’s door about 6:55 p.m.

Walker opened the door then turned to sit on the bed and put his boots on.

“Hey, man.  Any idea what Jonathan wants to talk about?”

“Yeah, I think I do but we’ll wait until he gets here.”

The words no sooner left his mouth than there was a knock on the door.  Trivette answered it and invited Jonathan inside.

Jonathan strode over to Walker and shook his hand.  “Thanks for not blowing my cover, Walker.”

Trivette was baffled. “Cover, what cover?”

Walker turned toward his partner.  “Jonathan is DEA.”

“DEA?  But I thought you were a detective on the SAPD?”

“That’s just my cover.  I was sent in to uncover a suspected leak in the department.  This El Diablo gang has been slowly taking over San Antonio and it seems that every time the police get a lead, by the time they arrive, the place has been wiped clean.”  After about six months of this, it was suspected that someone in the department is leaking information to El Diablo.”

Walker said, “I assume it was DEA who put the call into the Governor?”

“Yeah.  I didn’t know whom I could trust and I needed help.  Since you and Trivette are the best and jurisdiction isn’t an issue, I asked my superiors to contact the Governor for permission to bring you in.”

“So how do you want to handle this?” Trivette asked.

“Well, I know you’re a computer genius so I was hoping that you could do some digging and see if you could find anything to tell us who’s behind this.”

“Do you have any suspects?”

“A few, but nothing I can prove.  This Task Force was hand-picked by Captain Bridges but I’m still concerned that word will leak out about this mission and it could spell real trouble for us.”

“Man, you aren’t kidding,” Trivette answered.  “Walker, do you think we should go about this from another angle rather than sending you in undercover?”

“No, I’ll be fine.  Now that I know what I’m up against, I’ll just have to be a little more careful.”

“Actually, Walker, I was hoping that I could convince you to let me go under with you.  I really wanna bring this El Diablo down.”

“Sounds personal.”

“It is.  My kid brother was among the SAPD officers involved in the take down of one of El Diablo’s labs.  They thought they had everyone rounded up, but they missed one.  Sam never knew what hit him.  Bullet went right through his vest, killed him instantly.”

“I’m sorry, Jonathan.”

“Yea, me too.  That’s gotta be tough.”

“I swore I’d identify this El Diablo and bring him down if it was the last thing I ever did.”

“Jonathan, are you sure you aren’t too close on this one.  Maybe I should go in alone.”

“No, Walker.  I promise, everything by the book.  My personal feelings won’t be a problem.  I just want to see this guy brought to justice.”

“Okay, then, I’ll talk to Captain Bridges tomorrow.  I assume he knows you’re DEA?

“Thanks, Walker.  Yeah, Bridges is the only one who knows about my assignment.”

“In the meantime, Trivette, why don’t you see what you can pull up on the members of the Task Force.  Let’s make sure we don’t have a problem before we even start.”

“You got it.  Jonathan, why don’t you give me the names of anyone you suspect might be involved and I’ll start digging.”

********

The next day, Walker talked to Captain Bridges and got approval for Jonathan to accompany him on the undercover mission.  They put word out on the streets that they were looking to buy and within about an hour they had a bite.  They arranged several buys over the next two days, each one increasing in quantity.  At the end of each buy, Trivette and the Task Force would be there to take down the supplier.  By the end of the week, they had worked their way up to El Diablo’s second in command.  They made a large buy from Henry Martinez and told him that they would need another even larger shipment the next day but that they would only deal with El Diablo personally due to the amount of money involved. 

The following day, they received word that a meet had been arranged between them and El Diablo for Sunday.  Jonathan was thrilled that everything was going so well and that in less than a week, they had worked their way to the top.  Walker, on the other hand, was concerned.  It had been too easy.  No one had given them any resistance.  When the lower level supplier were interrogated, they gave up their superiors easily, almost willingly.  Walker suspected a trap but he knew that they had to go through with the buy if they were ever to shut down El Diablo’s operation.

In the meantime, Trivette’s investigation into the members of the Task Force and Jonathan’s suspects had turned up nothing.  He had moved on to the rest of the department but so far had found nothing of substance on anyone.

Jonathan and Walker arrived at the designated location just before 10:00 p.m. Sunday night.  The park where they had been instructed to wait was deserted.  Trivette was standing by with backup several miles away.  Walker had been wired and a tracking device had been planted in his belt buckle just in case something went wrong.  What went wrong was something that even Walker had never considered.

They waited and at exactly 10:00 p.m., a figure emerged from the darkness.  It was Henry Martinez.

Walker spoke, “Where’s El Diablo?  I told you that we would only deal with El Diablo.”

“I was sent here to take you to him.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Jonathan replied.

They followed Martinez to a black sedan that was parked near the entrance to the park.  Before they got into the car, they were frisked.  Walker got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach when Martinez made him remove his hat.  The wire had been planted in the inside brim of his hat.  Martinez reached inside the hat and ripped out the wire.  Walker glanced at Jonathan.  They both knew they were in serious trouble.  Only a handful of people knew that Walker was wired.  The tracking device was another story, though.  Only Walker, Jonathan, Trivette and Captain Bridges knew about the tracking device in Walker’s belt.  Although they may not get anything on tape, at least Trivette could track their movements.

They drove for nearly an hour but did not travel more than a few miles from the park.  Martinez spent nearly the entire time doubling back and trying to make sure that they were not followed.  They finally arrived at a gated estate.  Martinez nodded to the guard and the gates were opened.

They were escorted into the living room and told to wait.  A few minutes later, Martinez returned and said that El Diablo was ready to see them.  He led them through the house and out to the swimming pool.  They could barely make out two figures standing by the pool.  All of a sudden the back yard was flooded with light and standing before them was a tall man, most likely Colombian, and at his side was none other than Captain Bridges!

Walker and Jonathan were both stunned.  Neither had suspected that the leak in the department was at such a high level.

Bridges laughed when he saw the looks on their faces.  “Well, gentlemen, you seem surprised.” 

Jonathan was the first to find his voice.  “You’re El Diablo?”

Bridges replied, “Me?  No.  I’m just the head of security.”  Nodding toward the man to his left, “This is El Diablo.”

“Benito Juarez.”

“Well, Ranger Walker.  I’m impressed.  I did not think you would remember me.”

“I don’t easily forget the man who killed a friend of mine.  I thought they deported you.”

“Oh, they did but as you can see it did little good.”

“You’ll never get away with this.”

Bridges responded, “Oh, I think we will Ranger.  That tracking device in your belt buckle.  It stopped functioning 10 minutes after you arrived at the park.  So you see, your partner has no idea where you are right now.”

“You don’t know my partner very well.  He’s very driven and one of the best.  He’ll figure you out and take you down, regardless of what you do to us.”

“Enough of this idle chatter.”  Motioning to his guards, “Take them.”

Before Jonathan and Walker could react, they were hit from behind.  As Walker slumped to the ground, his last conscious thought was of Alex.  He knew that there was a very good chance that he would never see her again.

********

When Walker came to, he found himself lying on a dirt floor in what seemed to be some kind of cell.  His ankles were shackled to the floor and his wrists were handcuffed behind his back.  He looked around and saw Jonathan in the same condition on the opposite side of the cell.

“Jonathan.”

No response.

“Jonathan,” he yelled.

Slowly, Jonathan started coming around.  He pushed himself to a sitting position and shook his head to clear the cobwebs.

“Jonathan, are you all right?”

“Yeah.  I think so.  How about you?”

“Yeah.”

“Any idea where we are or how we’re going to get out of here?”

Walker struggled to his feet and shuffled toward the small window at the back of the cell.  The shackles did not quite reach but he was able to get close enough to look out the window.  What he saw did not encourage him.

“Well?  What’s out there?”

“We’re in some kind of training facility and from the looks of things, I don’t think we’re in the US anymore.”

“What!?”

“The guards out there and the trainees are in uniform and unless I miss my guess, we’re at one of Juarez’s training camps in Colombia!”

********

It was Wednesday.  Walker and Jonathan had been missing for nearly three days when Trivette finally got the break he needed.  He’d checked and double-checked everything relating to the plan that had been put into action the night they disappeared.  He couldn’t imagine what could have happened to the tracking device in Walker’s belt.  He’d personally checked it over before Bridges took it to have it installed in the buckle.

One of the Task Force members came rushing through the door.  “Ranger Trivette!  I think we’ve got something here.”

“Great.  What is it?”

“Ranger Walker’s belt.”  It was found by the side of the road near an estate just outside of town.”

“Get it to the lab and have it dusted for prints and get a team out to the estate”

“Already did.  The estate is clean.  Belongs to a wealthy businessman who has been traveling in Asia for the last two months.  The only prints found on the belt were Ranger Walker’s.  But check this out, they found a tracking device in the buckle.”

“I know, we put it there but it stopped working about 10 minutes after Walker and Jonathan got into the park that night.”

“Well, the boys in the lab say that it’s been tampered with.  They found one partial print on the device itself.  They’re running it now and will call you when they have something.”

“Great.  Let’s just hope they come up with something.”

Ten minutes later, Trivette got a call from the lab boys.  They told him that the print they found belonged to Captain Bridges so it must have been left behind when he installed the device.  Trivette thanked them and hung up.  Something kept gnawing at the back of his mind.  He was overlooking something.  He knew it.  He just had to figure out what.  He mentally went over everything again and suddenly the light bulb went off.  Bridges!  That had to be it.  It was the only logical explanation.  Proving it, however, was another story.

He spent the rest of the day and most of the night digging through the files on El Diablo and any computer records he could get his hands on pertaining to Captain Bridges.  Finally, at about 3:00 a.m., he found what he was looking for.  An offshore account in Bridges name into which approximately $1 million had been deposited over the past six months.  Suddenly, everything fell into place and it made Trivette sick to know that it was one of their own who had betrayed them.  He called the San Antonio Police Commissioner and asked for a meeting.  He presented all the evidence he had and a warrant was immediately issued for Captain Bridges.

“Commissioner, I’d like us to hold off bringing Bridges in.”

“What are you talking about.  He’s probably responsible for the death of your partner.”

“Commissioner, my partner’s not dead!”

“How do you know that?”

“It’s just a feeling I have.  Trust me.  I’ve worked with Walker a long time.  I’d know if he was dead and he’s not.  I’d like to tell Bridges that we know the identity of El Diablo.  Hopefully, he’ll panic and contact El Diablo.  If we can trace the call, maybe we can bring down the entire operation and find Walker and Jonathan.”

“Okay, I’ll give you 24 hours but if you don’t get anything, we bring him in.  I don’t want to lose him if he starts getting suspicious.”

“Thank you.”

Bridges fell for Trivette’s story and when he contacted El Diablo via cell phone, they were able to trace the call and get a location.  Bridges was arrested immediately and Trivette, the Task Force and nearly the entire SAPD converged on El Diablo’s location.  Trivette immediately recognized El Diablo as Benito Juarez.  He tried to get Juarez to tell him what he had done with Walker and Jonathan but Juarez just laughed at him.

Trivette personally interrogated all of Juarez’s men.  At first, none of them would talk but as time went on and Trivette became increasing impatient with them, they began to sweat.  Finally, after nearly 12 hours of interrogation, one of them agreed to tell them where Walker and Jonathan were taken if they promised to protect him from Juarez.  Trivette agreed.  When the man told him that Juarez had sent Walker and Jonathan to one of his training facilities in Colombia, Trivette bolted from the interrogation room and placed a call to the DEA.

********

Juarez’s men had been using both Jonathan and Walker as fighting dummies to train their new recruits.  They were fed very little and given only enough water to keep them alive.  Each day, they were taken from their cell at daybreak, forced to fight the trainees throughout the day and then returned to their cell at sunset.   Walker’s military and martial arts training had proved invaluable and had allowed him to survive the ordeal.  Jonathan, however, was barely hanging on and Walker knew that he had to do something or Jonathan would not survive.

On the third day of their captivity, Walker made his move.  He had fought hard all day, inflicting as much pain as possible on his attackers.  Just before sunset, he managed to knock out the man he was fighting and slip into the woods.  However, in his weakened condition, it took the guards less than 2 hours to track him down and bring him back to camp.  When they got him back to camp, they placed him in what they called the “hot box”.  It was a small metal box, approximately 10 foot by 10 foot, in the middle of the compound.  There was a small hole in the top for ventilation but that was all.  The temperatures during the day reached the mid-90’s and the box became nearly unbearable.  Then at sunset, the temperatures would drop drastically.

When Walker awoke on Day 6, he knew that his chances of surviving another day in the “hot box” were very slim.  He also worried about what they had done to Jonathan in retaliation for his attempted escape.  Just as his hope was beginning to fade, he heard commotion in the compound.

********

Trivette and a large contingent of DEA agents blasted through the gates of the compound just before daybreak on Saturday morning.  The scene was chaotic, with guards and trainees making every effort to escape.  When they finally rounded everyone up, Trivette and a couple DEA agents went in search of Walker and Jonathan.  Trivette found Jonathan in his cell, still shackled to the floor with his hand still cuffed behind his back and two bullet wounds in his chest.  He immediately removed the handcuffs and shackles and carefully pulled Jonathan into his lap.

“We need a medic in here, NOW!!!!” he called.

Jonathan struggled for each breath.  “Walker.”

“What about him?  Did they take him somewhere?”

“Tried…to…escape.  Got…caught.  Box…in…compound.”

“Okay, take it easy.  We’ll find him.  You just rest.”

“You…have…to…go now.  Tell Walker…I’m sorry.  He was trying to…save me.”  Just as the DEA medic walked through the door, Jonathan’s head slumped against Trivette’s chest.  The medic checked for pulse but there was none.  There were tears in Trivette’s eyes as he gently placed Jonathan on the floor and stood.  He quickly regained his composure when he recalled Jonathan’s last words and took off out of the cell.

Trivette opened the metal box and Walker’s limp body came tumbling out.  For a minute, he thought he was too late until Walker raised his hand to shade his eyes from the blinding sun.

“Walker!  Oh God!  Come on, man, let me help you.”

Trivette helped Walker stand and the two made their way to a shaded area near one of the buildings.  Trivette lowered him to the ground with his back against the building and gave him a drink from his canteen.  When Walker tasted the cool water, he tried to drink it too fast and promptly choked.

Trivette pulled the canteen away and gently patted him on the back.  “Easy partner.”

Walker looked up at his partner, “Jonathan?” 

 Trivette did not think this was the time to tell him about Jonathan.  “Everything’s gonna be fine, Walker.  Just relax.”

Walker knew something was wrong.  He could feel it and he could see it in Trivette’s eyes.  “Trivette, where’s Jonathan.”

Trivette knew there was no way to get around it.  He lowered his eyes, “Walker, I am so sorry.  Jonathan didn’t make it.  We found him in his cell with a couple of bullets in his chest.”

“Bridges is the leak, you know and Benito Juarez is El Diablo.”

“Yeah, I know.  We’ve got them both in custody along with the rest of their gang.”

Walker lowered his head to rest against his raised knees.  “How did you find us?”

“I persuaded one of Juarez’s men that it was in his best interest to tell me where you and Jonathan were.”

Walker looked up with a small smile on his face, “Persuaded, huh?”

Trivette smiled back, “Yeah.  I can be very persuasive when I want to be, you know.”

“Yeah, I know, partner.  You’ve managed to persuade me a time or two.”  Walker then became serious again.  “How did you know where to look for me?”

“Jonathan told me where you were just before he died.  He said to tell you he was sorry.  He said you were trying to escape to help him.”

Walker shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb.  “Can we get outta here?”

“Sure, partner, let’s get you to a hospital.”

Walker looked up, “No, no hospital.  Let’s just go home.”

“Walker, are you sure.  You really should get checked out.”

Walker’s eyes met Trivette’s, “Please, Trivette.”

Trivette had never seen Walker look so defeated.  “Okay, partner, you got it.  The Governor’s plane is standing by to take us back.”  He helped Walker to his feet and they made their way across the compound to a waiting jeep.  As they climbed in the jeep, Walker placed his hand on Trivette’s arm.

“Trivette.  Thanks.  I knew you’d figure this out and find a way to get us out of here.”

“I’m just sorry we didn’t get here soon enough to save Jonathan.  I’d do anything to change that.”

“I know and I appreciate that.”

********

On the way to the airport, Walker gave Trivette a brief rundown of what had occurred during his captivity.

Trivette now sat thinking about what Walker had been through.  His physical wounds were not life threatening, just some cuts and scrapes and more than a few bruises, and would probably heal in a few days.  His emotional scars were another matter.  Trivette suspected that it would take a lot longer to heal those.

When he was sure that Walker was asleep, he picked up the air phone and called Alex.  He didn’t give her all the details; he could do that later.  He just told her that they were on their way home and that Walker needed her.

********

Walker jumped when Trivette touched his shoulder.  “Sorry, partner.  We’ll be landing soon.”

“Okay, thanks.”  Walker stood and walked to the restroom at the back of the plane.  He splashed some water on his face and took a good look at himself in the mirror.  He looked like hell.  He had a black eye, a few cuts and more than a few bruises on his face and he needed a shower badly.  He thought about Alex and what she would say if she saw him looking like this.  Just the thought brought a small smile to his lips.

Trivette had phoned ahead and had both his car and Walker’s truck brought to the airport.  As they walked down the stairs of the plane, Walker turned to Trivette.

“Thanks again, partner.  I guess I’ll see you in the morning.”

“You sure you’re okay to drive?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“Walker, why don’t you take tomorrow off.  I can get the paperwork started and we can finish it on Monday if you’re feeling up to it.”

“No, I’d rather get it done while it’s still fresh in my mind.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay, be careful driving, huh.”

“I will.”

As he drove toward the ranch, he thought again about stopping at Alex’s.  She was all he could think about right now but he knew that it wasn’t a good idea.  It was late and she was probably sleeping.  He wouldn’t want to frighten her by showing up on her doorstep at this hour, looking the way he did.  He’d just head home and get some sleep.  He could see Alex in the morning.

He made the turn onto the dirt road leading to the house and as he got closer, a smile appeared on his face when he saw her car parked outside the house.  Trivette must have called her from the plane.  He shook his head and made a mental note to thank his partner in the morning.  He parked the truck behind her car and made his way up the front steps.  When he opened the door, he realized that the only light was coming from the fireplace in the living room.  He removed his hat and gun belt, placed them on the table in the hallway and headed for the living room.  He stopped in the doorway and smiled.  Alex had fallen asleep on the sofa while reading a book.  She looked so peaceful and so beautiful.  He took a step toward her and then looked down at himself.  He quietly backed out of the living room and headed up the stairs.  He took a long, hot shower, letting the water ease some of the stress in his body then dressed in a pair of workout pants and sleeveless sweatshirt and headed back down to his angel.

********

When she opened her eyes, she found her cowboy smiling down at her.  She reached up and gently touched his swollen eye.  “What time is it?”

“Late, or early, depending on how you look at it.  It’s a little after 2:00”

“Are you all right?”

“I will be.  Did Trivette call you?”

She nodded.  “Are you upset?”

“No, not at all.  In fact, remind me to thank him when I see him tomorrow.”

Alex sat up and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck.  He cringed slightly when she hit a tender spot and she jumped back, “Oh, Walker, I’m sorry.  Did I hurt you?”

He pulled her back into his arms and whispered, “I’m fine, just a little sore.”

She relaxed in his arms and put her head against his shoulder.  “I’m so glad you’re home.”

“Me, too.”

She looked up into his eyes; “Do you feel like talking about it?”

“Not right now.”

“Are you hungry.  Can I fix you something?”

“I have everything I need right here.”

Walker shifted his position so that they could both sit comfortably on the couch.  They stayed wrapped in each other’s arms staring at the fire for a long time.  When Alex felt him starting to doze, she spread a blanket on the floor, threw some pillows down, took him by the hand and gently guided him to the floor.  She made him comfortable and then began massaging his shoulders and back.  A sigh escaped his lips as her hands glided gently over his back, working his tired, sore muscles.  It wasn’t long before Alex felt his body relax and heard the soft, steady breathing that indicated he was asleep.  She retrieved another blanket from the back of the sofa, lay down beside him, covered them both and drifted off to sleep.

Alex awoke about an hour later.  The fire had died down and Walker was no longer beside her.  She looked at the clock—3:30 a.m.  She sat up and looked around.  The house was still and quiet.  “Maybe he went upstairs to bed,” she thought.  She got up and headed toward the stairs when she noticed the front door was ajar.  She opened it and looked out on the porch.  He was sitting on the railing staring up at the stars.  She returned to the living room, picked up the blanket and went outside.

She wrapped the blanket around herself and approached him, “Walker, are you all right?”

“I’m sorry Alex, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“It’s okay.  Aren’t you cold?”

“Actually, I hadn’t given it much thought.”

“Come on, join me on the swing?”

He followed her to the swing and sat down.  She wrapped them both in the blanket and snuggled against him.  She looked into his eyes; “You ready to tell me about it?”

“Yeah, I am.”

For the next 2 hours, Walker told Alex the story of the last two weeks.  He told her everything, including his ordeal in the “hot box”, how Bridges had betrayed them and how Jonathan had been killed.  She listened quietly and when he was finished, there were tears in her eyes.

“Walker, I’m so sorry.  I know how hard this must have been on you, both physically and emotionally.  You have to remember that you did the best you could under the circumstances.  Unfortunately, sometimes our best isn’t good enough.  You can’t torture yourself with “what ifs.”

“I know, I just wish…”

Alex placed a finger against his lips, “I know.  I do too.”

He kissed her softly and looked into her beautiful blue eyes, “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For being here when I got home, for understanding that I wasn’t ready to talk right away and most of all for listening when I was ready to talk.  I don’t know what I would have done tonight without you.”

She returned his kiss. “Your welcome.  I’m glad I could help.  I know that it’s going to take some time for you to put this behind you and I want you to remember that I’ll always be here for you.”

“I know you will.  It’s one of the many things I love about you.”  Walker noticed the sky getting lighter and looked out toward the fields, “Alex, look.”

Alex followed his gaze and was greeted by the most beautiful sunrise she had seen in a long time. “Oh, Walker, it’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is.”

As they watched the dawn of a new day unfold before them, they both began to yawn.  Alex looked up at Walker and smiled.  “How about we get some sleep, Cowboy?”

“Sure.” 

********

The following week was hard on Walker.  He and Trivette traveled to Houston to attend Jonathan Taylor’s funeral and then on the way back to Dallas, stopped in San Antonio to give their depositions in the cases of Benito Juarez and Captain Bridges.  The District Attorney in San Antonio had asked that they give their depositions as soon as possible.  He was concerned that critical information might be overlooked if they waited too long and he wanted to make sure that their testimony was preserved in the event that they were unable to appear in court during the trial.

The two events took their toll emotionally on Walker and by the time he and Trivette returned to Dallas on Friday, Walker was a mess.  He was not sleeping due to recurring nightmares about Jonathan’s death as well as his confinement in the hot box.  He was barely speaking to anyone and the few words they did get out of him were usually terse ones.  They were all worried about him, especially Alex.  She felt like she was losing him.  She decided to offer to cook him dinner on Saturday night in the hopes of getting him to open up again like he had done the night he had come home.

********

Alex cooked a wonderful dinner that was barely touched by either of them.  Both were lost in their own thoughts.

Walker really didn’t want company but he never was very good at saying “no” to Alex.  He knew that in addition to wanting to cook him dinner, she also wanted him to talk to her about what was bothering him.  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to talk to her.  He didn’t even know himself exactly what was bothering him so how could he possibly talk to someone about it.  What he really needed was to get away for awhile by himself.  But how could he make Alex understand that without making her feel like he was pushing her away.  He glanced over at Alex.  She seemed as lost in thought as he was.

Alex could see the wheels turning.  She knew he was struggling with his feelings.  He had mentioned to her that he hadn’t been sleeping much but he didn’t elaborate.  She suspected he was having nightmares but he didn’t seem to want to talk about it.  In her heart, she knew what he needed and after dinner she would talk to him about it.

They finished their meal and cleaned up the dishes with barely a word spoken between them.  As they walked into the living room, Alex decided it was now or never.

“Walker, we need to talk.”

He could feel his anxiety increasing.  He turned to face her.  “Alex, I know but I can’t.”  He started pacing around the room.  “I don’t even know what’s bothering me.  I can’t seem to get any sleep because it seems as soon as I fall asleep, I’m waking up in a cold sweat but I can’t remember what I was dreaming about.  I know this probably isn’t making any sense.  Something is tearing me apart inside and I can’t seem to stop it because I don’t know what it is!  I need…I need…”

Alex had to physically stop him from moving by grabbing him by the shoulders.  She turned him to look at her and said, “You need to get away.”  She could see the relief in his eyes.

“Yes.  But…”

She stopped him, “Darling, it’s okay.  I understand.”

“You do?”

She smiled, “Of course I do.  Come on.  Sit on the sofa with me.”

They sat together and she turned so that she could look him in the eye.  “Walker, I love you and I’ll always be there for you but I understand that sometimes there are going to be things you will need to work out on your own and no amount of talking to me or anyone else is going to change that.  The important thing is that you remember that IF you want to talk about something that’s bothering you, all you have to do is come to me.  And IF you need to get away and be alone for awhile, all you have to do is tell me.  I promise, I’ll understand.”

There were tears in his eyes as he reached up and caressed her cheek.  “You are one remarkable lady and I don’t know what I ever did to deserve you.”  

She smiled up at him. “We going to celebrate the happiest day of our lives in just a few weeks and I don’t want anything to spoil it.  If you need some time away to put this horrible ordeal behind you then that’s what I want you to do.  Just promise me you won’t be gone too long.”

“I promise,” he whispered and then sealed that promise with a passionate kiss.  “I love you so much.”

“And I you, my love.  Now, how about I help you pack and then I’m going to get out of your hair so that you can get some rest.  I know you’ll want to get an early start in the morning.

********

The following Thursday, Alex was working late in her office.  She was trying to finish everything up before tomorrow since she would be off for the next three weeks.  She’d asked her assistant to leave her office door open in case anyone came by.  It was nearly 8:00 p.m. when she sensed someone in the office.  She looked up from her work and standing in the doorway was her fiancée with a smile on his face and a bouquet of roses in his hand.  For a moment, she just stared at him, taking in every aspect of him.  He looked wonderful—well rested and the sparkle was back in his eyes.  She rose from her desk and he met her halfway between her desk and the door.  He swept her into his arms, twirled her around the room, set her back on her feet and softly kissed her.  “Hi.”

“Hi, yourself.  How did you know I was here?”

“I stopped at C.D.’s first.”

She nodded toward the roses, “Those for me.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“They’re beautiful.”

“So, you ready to get out of here?  I kind of promised C.D. and Trivette we’d come back and visit for awhile.”

“Sure.  Just give me a few minutes to straighten up my desk and I’ll be right with you.  Would you mind putting those in some water for me?  There’s a vase in the cabinet above the sink in my restroom.”

“No problem.”

When they walked arm in arm into C.D.’s about a half-hour later, C.D. and Trivette both knew that everything was going to be fine.  Once again, their friends had overcome a tragedy and strengthened an all ready rock solid relationship.

********

A week later, in the presence of God, their family and friends, Cordell Walker and Alexandra Cahill were joined together forever in holy matrimony.

THE END