Chapter One

Dr. Catherine Rawlings pushed the last patient file aside with a sigh and glanced at the clock. Nine-twenty pm. Her days seemed to be getting longer despite her frequent resolutions to reduce her evening office hours. Since she taught full-time at the medical school, she had limited time for private patients, and yet she constantly found herself making "one more" exception and adding another patient to her already crowded schedule. She ran a slender hand through her shoulder-length auburn hair and tried to shake the fatigue out of her neck and back muscles. She looked forward to a hot bath and a cold drink.

She was half-way to the door when the intercom on her desk buzzed. With a frown of surprise, she turned at the sound. At this time of night, with her office hours over, her secretary, Joyce, rarely put a call through. Puzzled, she leaned across the wide teak desk to push the return button.

"Yes?" Catherine asked.

"Theres a Detective Sergeant Frye here to see you, Doctor," Joyce replied in the voice she reserved for professional exchanges. Catherine noted the serious tone and replied immediately, "Show him in, Joyce."

Catherine sat down behind her desk, wondering what had prompted a visit from the police. She occasionally did consultation work for the police, but it was never on an emergent basis. She looked up as Joyce pushed the heavy mahogany door open. Joyces face revealed her curiosity, but she had no time to speak before a figure moved from behind her and strode into the room. Catherine was used to revealing little of her inner feelings by the expressions on her face, and she was glad of that now. For she would not have liked her surprise, and chagrin, to be displayed to the woman who approached her.

Catherine noted the gold shield clipped to the waistband of the detectives grey gabardine trousers and the tailored fit of her navy-blue blazer.Vikingwas a term that flashed through Catherines mind, and it certainly seemed appropriate. The woman was tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and moved with a degree of assuredness that suggested she was rarely intimidated. She was slender, but there was power in the sleek lines of her shoulders and narrow hips. Altogether, Detective Frye presented a most imposing and attractive figure.

Catherine rose to accept the detectives outstretched hand.

"Dr. Rawlings, Im Detective Sergeant Rebecca Frye. Im sorry to disturb you, but I need to ask you a few questions." Her voice was as cool as Catherine expected it to be, totally professional, revealing nothing. Catherine nodded, settling into her high-backed leather chair, waiting expectantly.

Rebecca chose her opening words carefully. She was a relentless interrogator when she needed information, and she desperately needed it now. However, she was also experienced, and this was a situation in which professional issues were cloudy. She studied the psychiatrist seated across from her, trying to get a fix on the best way to proceed.

She saw a woman in her late thirties, classically attractive, composed, not appearing anxious or hostile, regarding her expectantly. Rebecca found her unreadable. She decided on the straight-forward approach. She pulled a small black notebook from the inside of her jacket, flipped it open and glanced at it cursorily.Maybe a little surprise will soften her up.

"Dr. Rawlings, do you have a patient by the name of Janet Ryan?" she asked. Rebecca had hoped to catch her off guard, but the grey-green eyes that regarded her were calm, almost gentle.

"Detective," Catherine said softly, leaning forward over her desk, "surely you know that I cant answer that question."

Oh, fuck, not this again!Rebeccas irritation was intense, but she fought to contain it. God, how she hated dealing with these ethically rigorous types, when all she needed was a little assistance. These were the very people who kept saying that the special crimes unitreadsexcrimes unitwasnt responsive enough to the needs of the community. It was damn hard to be effective when no one wanted to tell you anything, including the victims themselves sometimes. But Rebeccawaseffective, precisely because she wouldnt allow the resistance of professionals or the fear of victims to deter her. She could be persistent to the point of belligerence, but she never harassed the victim. With them she was infinitely patient, explaining as many times as necessary how she could help if given the chance. Most of the time her sincerity and compassion won their cooperation, and she was able to bring an offender to trial who might otherwise have gone free. This time the stakes were so high that her usual imperturbation was taxed to the limit.

"Believe me, Doctor, I wouldnt be here if this werent serious. I understand that you have to protect your patients privacy, but this is official police business."

"I believe you, but police business or not, that does not supersede my responsibility to my patients," Catherine replied quietly, lacing her fingers together. "Perhaps if you could tell me what this is about?"

"I presume youve heard of the recent attacks along the River Side Drive?"

Catherines face grew tense as she nodded.

Good, that got some reaction!

"We have reason to believe that Janet Ryan witnessed the third attack by the same perpetrator around six oclock tonight. I need to find out what she saw."

"Why dont you ask her?"

"Because shes in the intensive care unit at University Central. Shes got some pretty nasty bruises; shes nearly incoherent; and the best weve been able to ascertain is that she cant remember anything about what happened. Your business card was in her purse."

Oh, lord, Janet!Catherine stood up and walked to the window that overlooked the downtown skyline. After a moments deliberation, she turned her gaze on the detective who sat silently watching her.

"Would you mind stepping into the waiting room for a few moments? I need to make a phone call."

Rebecca rose immediately, sensing that the psychiatrist was trying to meet her half way. Before she broke eye contact, Rebecca said vehemently, "I want this bastard, Doctor. I want him off the streets before he touches one more woman." She thought she saw a flicker of rage that matched her own in the green eyes that held hers. "Right now, I can use any help you can give me."

Chapter Two

As soon as the door closed behind Rebecca, Catherine reached for a file from her bottom drawer. Turning to the personal intake form, she jotted down a number. She dialed quickly, praying she wouldnt get one of those infernal answering machines. To her relief, a human voice answered after only two rings.


Sensitive to the slightest nuance of tone or expression, Catherine heard the anxiety and fear in the young womans voice, and began gently.

"Barbara? This is Dr. Rawlings"

"Its Janet, isnt it?" Barbara interrupted tremulously. "She should have been home hours ago, and she always calls if shes going to be late. What is it? Whats happened?"

"I dont know all the details, but I know that Janet is in the hospital. Shes alive and in no immediate danger. Do you understand that, Barbara? Janet is injured, but she was able to speak with the police a little."

"Oh, god! Where is she?"

"University Central. I was afraid you hadnt been notified." Catherine cursed the system that ignored the most important relationship in a persons life when it mattered most. "I know you want to be there, Barbara, but theres something I need to discuss with you first. The police are here at my office. They believe that Janet may have witnessed a crime. They need some information. Id like to help them as much as I can if youll trust me to protect Janets confidences." She hated to do this to Barbara now; her anxiety was practically palpable over the phone, but she couldnt discuss Janet Ryan with the police without the consent of Janets designated medical power of attorney. She was stretching the definition as it was, but she knew Janet well, and made the judgement that Janet would have given her permission herself had she been able.

"Yes, of coursewe both trust you. Do what you think is best. Please, I need to go now!"

"Do you have someone to drive you there?"

"Ill call Carol--shell go with me. Thank you for calling me--"

Catherine was left with a dial tone sounding in her ear. She replaced the phone gently in its cradle and walked to the door. Pulling it open she found Detective Frye slumped in a chair, her head tilted at an uncomfortable angle. For the first time Catherine noted the deep circles under her eyes and the lines of fatigue that marred her otherwise flawless face. The well-tailored clothes were also rumpled from hours of wear.She looks like she hasnt been to bed for days.

"Detective," she called softly.

Rebecca Frye jolted upright, her eyes snapping open. She focused instantly on Catherine. "Yes?"

"Come in, please."

When they were once again seated, Catherine spoke. "Janet Ryanismy patient. Im not sure how I can help you, however."

"I dont know either," Rebecca responded in obvious frustration. "We need a statement from her as to what happened tonight, but sheclaimsshe doesnt remember anything that happened. Is she likely to lie to us?"

"I doubt it," Catherine answered with certainty, "but it would help if you could tell me what the circumstances are."

"A twenty-year old woman was savagely beaten and sexually assaulted around six pm tonight. We found your patient wandering around not far from the site just before seven pm. The rape victim is in a coma, Dr. Rawlings. Shes one of the lucky ones. The first two victims are dead. We need a break--and your client may be that break."