By Dee Creamer
Disclaimer: I am borrowing the Diagnosis Murder characters to write this story. No money has or will be made from this, and I hope the creator and producers of the TV show don't mind.
A ringing phone woke Steve from a sound sleep. It was probably the station. It was his night to be on call. "Sloan." he managed to mumble.
"Lieutenant we just got a call of a body in an alley," the dispatcher told him and gave him the address.
"Okay, I'm on my way. Call the ME."
As Steve drove toward the scene, he was glad that Amanda was catching calls tonight for the Medical Examiner. Amanda was very thorough, but also pretty quick. Some MEs he'd worked with would stare at the body for an hour and then say they couldn't tell him anything till they had done a complete autopsy. On a number of cases, though, Amanda had come up with something right at the scene that had given him a quick lead to the killer.
Steve parked by the other cars and started walking toward the crime scene. As he got closer, he thought he maybe knew the victim. He started walking a bit faster, and as he approached the group of uniformed officers standing by the body, he knew. He looked down at the face of his onetime adversary, and then friend, Ron Wagner. The officer who'd been first on the scene started to fill Steve in on what they knew so far, but Steve wasn't really absorbing the information. He heard another car drive up and turned. As Amanda started to get out of her car, Steve told the uniformed officer to call in the backup for the ME.
"But Lieutenant, the ME's here."
"Just call in whoever's on backup. Now!" With that, Steve started toward Amanda. She'd only gotten about halfway to the scene, when he reached her and stopped her.
"What's up, Steve?" Amanda could see the concern on Steve's face.
"Amanda...I don't know how to tell you this, but...it's Ron."
"No, Steve, it can't be. We just had dinner together. I just saw him tonight. That can't be him. You made a mistake." Amanda tried to break free from the hand Steve had put on her arm, but Steve wouldn't let her go. She struggled and hit at him. "Steve, let me go. I need to see him. I need to..." with that Amanda broke down.
Steve gathered her in and held her against his chest while she cried. He felt awkward. He didn't know what to say to her. He knew nothing he said would make the pain go away, so he just kept silent and held her close. After a while, he told her that they'd called in her backup ME and that she probably should go. "I don't think you should go home, though. You shouldn't be alone right now. Why don't you go to the beachhouse? I'll call Dad and let him know you're coming over. When I get done here I'll stop by the house and let you know what we've got so far." Amanda gave a small nod, and Steve led her to her car.
As soon as Amanda had left, Steve called his father. It took a few rings before his father answered the phone. "Dad, I got called out on a case. It's Ron Wagner. I didn't know that before Amanda had been called in for the ME's office. She's in pretty bad shape. I suggested she go by there instead of going home. I hope you don't mind."
"No, not at all. How did it happen?"
"I don't know yet. I had just gotten here myself, when Amanda pulled up. I'll stop by there as soon as I finish up at the scene and fill you and Amanda in. Dad, maybe you could also talk to Amanda and see if she knows anything that might be helpful. I don't want to press it right now, with the condition she's in, but if you can get anything, I'd appreciate it."
"I'll see what I can do."
As Steve hung up, the crime scene techs arrived, and Steve went over to the body, kneeling down to get a closer look at the wounds. Looked like two bullets, one to the head and one to the chest, either one could have killed him. No powder marks, so the killer wasn't standing very close. Steve stood up and surveyed the area. The only real cover was a doorway about halfway down the alley. Steve walked over to the doorway for a closer look. "Could we get another spotlight down here?" He asked the sergeant in charge of the scene.
With the additional light, Steve scanned the door and frame for any trace evidence the killer might have left. He didn't see anything, though, till he started to turn away. Then something caught the light. As he looked closer, he noticed some strands of hair caught in the wood of the doorframe. He motioned one of the lab techs over and showed him the hair strands. "Make sure you give this doorway a good going over." Steve continued with his survey of the rest of the alley. While he was doing that, the other ME arrived and started an examination of the body. Steve let the ME work in peace. Some folks didn't take kindly to having a cop standing over their shoulder while they tried to work.
When the ME stood up from the body and motioned the morgue attendants over, though, Steve walked over to see if the ME had found anything significant.
"Hi, I don't guess we've worked together before. I'm Steve Sloan, Homicide. What can you tell me?"
"I'm sorry detective, but I can't really tell you much without a complete autopsy, other than the fact that he was shot, of course."
"Of course," Steve replied. Inwardly he groaned, well so much for an early insight. Steve went back to what he had been doing, checking the alley for clues.
* * * * *
The sky had started to lighten with dawn, when Mark heard Steve drive up. Amanda had cried herself to sleep, and was now resting her head against Mark's shoulder as they sat on the sofa. Amanda hadn't wakened when Steve entered, so Mark hesitated to speak. Finally he tried whispering, "What did you find out?"
Steve started to whisper as well, but Amanda started to stir, so he decided to wait till she was fully awake before he continued. "Amanda, I was just about to tell Dad what we've got so far." Amanda nodded. "Ron was shot, and I think I know where the shots were fired from. There's really only one place a shooter could have stood and been somewhat concealed from sight. There were some hairs there, but they won't do us much good till we've got a pretty definite suspect."
"Who are the suspects so far?" Mark asked.
"You don't have any suspects?" Amanda asked. "Steve you have to go back out there," Amanda continued, her voice somewhat shrill. "Every moment you're here, he could be getting further away, out of the city or even out of the country! You have to go back out there. You have to find Ron's killer." Tears filled Amanda's eyes. "Please, Steve."
Steve knew Amanda was hurting and gently tried to explain what his plan of action would be. "Amanda, the first thing I need to do is check with the people in Ron's office to see if they can tell me anything about any cases he was working on. I can't do that right now, because I don't have any of their home phone numbers, and there's no one in the office yet. I also wanted to see if there's anything you could tell me, since you saw him that evening."
Amanda was still upset, but she tried to remember every thing that had been said that evening. "He did say that he had an appointment later, but nothing more than that. I didn't ask about it because I figured it was something connected to a case he was working, and I thought that if he wanted me to know about it he would have told me."
"Alright. I'm going to catch a couple of hours sleep before I go see what the FBI has to say." With that Steve started toward the door.
"You're going to sleep? Steve isn't there anything that can be done now?" Amanda pleaded with him.
Steve looked to his father for help.
Mark gently turned Amanda toward him so that Steve could slip out of the room, unnoticed. "Amanda, Steve is doing the best he can. He was up most of the night, and he needs to get some sleep so that he doesn't let anything slip by him out of shear exhaustion. I assure you, he's doing everything in his power to solve this case for your sake." Amanda didn't look convinced, but Mark decided to leave it for now.
* * * * *
Steve had just spent a very unproductive hour at the FBI field office trying to get some information on what Ron had been working on. Steve was continually amazed by their uncooperative attitude. Here he was trying to solve the death of one of their own agents, and they didn't feel they could trust him with any information about ongoing investigations. Steve had finally gotten fed up and decided to see if his father could call one of his contacts to shake the FBI loose.
His father was, surprisingly enough, in his office. "Dad, I need your help. I'm getting absolutely zero cooperation from the FBI. They won't tell me anything about Ron's cases. I was wondering if you could call a Senator or the Governor, or one of your other VIP buddies to put some pressure on them."
"Sure, Steve. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Not right now, Dad. If I need help later, I let you know. And thanks."
"Anytime, son, that's what fathers are for," Mark said with a grin.
Amanda happened to see Steve as he was leaving. Unfortunately for Steve, he happened to have a smile on his face, thinking about his father's eagerness to get involved in the case. "Well, I'm glad you're so happy. You must have come up with a good lead."
Steve stopped short, but it was too late to try to escape. "Actually, I needed Dad's help with something."
"Still no leads? Steve, I know you and Ron didn't work together very well, but I would have thought that, at least for my sake, you'd be putting a bit more effort into solving his murder." The entreaty in Amanda's voice cut Steve to the core. Amanda continued, with a firmer voice and a note of scorn, "Well at least if Mark is working on it now, Ron's killer might actually be caught." She turned on her heels and walked away.
Amanda's parting words had hit a sensitive spot. Steve loved his father and enjoyed seeing his dad excited about helping with a case, but Steve did like solving his own cases occasionally. Steve knew that Amanda was just upset about Ron's death and anxious for his killer to be found. He didn't think she'd really meant to be hurtful, but it stung just the same. Steve left the hospital, the happiness of his meeting with his father, forgotten.
Steve had no more than walked up to his desk, then he was told he'd received a call from an Agent Lincoln from the FBI office. If Steve would return to their office, Agent Lincoln would be happy to assist Steve and answer any questions he might have. Steve went back the way he'd just come. A father with VIP connections came in very handy sometimes.
* * * * *
His trip to the FBI office had been a lot more productive this time. Ron had been looking into the rumors of a new terrorist organization starting up a cell in LA. Now Steve had three names he could start looking at, people Ron had talked to during his investigation. Chances were Ron had stirred somebody up, maybe gotten too close, and that's why he was killed. Two of the leads would have to wait till that night for him to follow up, because all that Lincoln could give him was the name of the bars where Ron had made the contacts. The third one, though, Steve could get started on now.
The first person Steve interviewed was a Ms. McReady. She worked for an import agency. As he approached her desk, he noticed what a very pretty woman she was. "Ms McReady, I'm Detective Steve Sloan, Metropolitan Homicide. I wonder if you would mind answering a few questions concerning a murder that I'm investigating. Is there somewhere we can talk?"
"Detective Sloan, I'm really quite busy right now, but my lunch break is at noon, if you'd like to come back then?"
"That'll be fine. I tell you what, I don't want to deprive you of your lunch, so why don't we meet at the deli next door at noon and you can eat while we talk?"
"Alright. I'll see you at noon."
* * * * *
As Steve sat at the table in the crowded deli, waiting for Ms McReady, he couldn't help wondering about her. His background check on her hadn't shown anything unusual, not anything that made her look like an informant on a terrorist group. The company she worked for also looked clean and had a good reputation in the business.
Steve stood as he saw Ms McReady approach the table. "Thank you for giving me some time Ms McReady."
"Please, call me Helen. Ms McReady sounds so stuffy."
"Alright, Helen. I was wondering if you could tell me about any contact you had with Agent Ron Wagner."
"Why don't you ask Agent Wagner?"
"I can't. He's dead. He was killed last night when he went to meet someone." As he said that, Steve watched her face for any reaction. She seemed flustered and, possibly, upset.
"I...We...I'm sorry Detective, I'm afraid I'm a bit in shock. Ron and I were seeing each other. We'd been going out for a couple of months now. How did he die?"
Steve was a bit shocked, himself, at her statement. Ron and Amanda had been seriously involved for several months now and Ron struck Steve as being a one-woman man. Steve took out the picture of Ron he'd gotten to show to the people he interviewed. "Is this the man you know as Ron Wagner?" Steve couldn't keep the doubtfulness from his voice.
"Yes, that's Ron."
"Ms McReady, Helen, somehow I don't think one hour is going to be enough to cover this. Can we meet after you get off work so we can go over everything you know about Agent Wagner?"
"I leave work at 5. Do you want to meet me somewhere?"
"If you don't mind, I'll meet you at your office and then drive down to the police station from there. I'd like to have a stenographer handy to take everything down." Somehow, Steve thought he was going to learn a whole lot more about Ron than he really cared to hear.
"The police station? Am I a suspect?"
"Helen, right now I'm just trying to find out anything I can about Agent Wagner. It's hard to tell at this point what information might be useful. I'll see you at 5."
* * * * *
Based on his lunchtime talk with Ms McReady, Steve decided to hold off on the other two people Ron had contacted until after their session that evening. Instead, he thought he'd better talk to Amanda again, not a pleasant prospect, with her present attitude towards him. He decided to start looking for her in the doctors' lounge, hoping that if she was with Jesse and Dad, she wouldn't give him a hard time.
As he walked in the door and saw his dad and Jesse with Amanda, he gave a mental sigh of relief. His relief was short lived, however.
"Well, Mark, it looks like your son is lost again and needs your help," Amanda's voiced dripped with disgust. She'd found herself getting more and more angry with Steve and his apparent lack of haste in finding Ron's killer. The killer was probably long gone by now, in some other country, using a different name.
So much for Amanda going easy on him, Steve thought. "Actually Amanda, I need to talk to you a bit more. That is, if you can spare some time from your hectic schedule."
Mark and Jesse were both taken aback by tension between Steve and Amanda, and Amanda's outright hostility. "Uh, we'd better get back to work," Mark said. "Yeah, what he said," Jesse added.
Amanda, however, did not seem fazed by Steve's remark. "Well, Detective, I'm sure Ron's killer is long gone by now, but if it will help you find your way out of the fog, I'd be glad to help."
Steve ignored the cut, as he tried to think of the approach to take. If he was too blunt, Amanda would probably just close up and not want to discuss it further, so he tried for a more oblique approach. "Amanda, in the past couple of months, have you noticed anything different about Ron, anything about how he acted?"
"Amanda, please, I'm doing the best I can on this and I don't need for you to be questioning everything I do and say. Can you just answer the question?"
"Alright. I'm sorry. I guess you just hit a nerve with that question. Ron had been a bit distant for about the past few weeks. I tried to get him to talk about it, but he wouldn't. I thought... I guess I thought that maybe we were growing apart."
"Amanda, I hate to ask this, but do you think he'd started seeing someone else?"
"I don't think so, no. I think if he had, he would have been up front with me about it. He just wasn't the type to go sneaking around, you know that Steve. You know what he was like."
"I thought I did, yes."
"Steve, why did you ask? Do you know something you're not telling me?"
"I'm not really sure yet how it fits in, so I'd rather not go into it just now. It may turn out to be nothing. Listen, Amanda, I'd like you to take some time and think about every time you and Ron were together over the past couple of months. Try to remember every thing he said. Let me know if there's anything that now strikes you as odd, anything he said that might give a clue as to who killed him."
Walking out to his car, Steve reflected that Amanda actually seemed somewhat more human toward the end of their conversation. Maybe she could see that he really was trying to solve the case and she was getting over her anger at him.
* * * * *
Steve sat in the interrogation room facing Helen McReady. "Helen, do you mind telling me how you and Agent Wagner met?"
"Actually, we met through his contact with my husband....excuse me, my ex-husband. We were still married at the time, though."
"And your husband is..."
"Don Dunwoody. I went back to my maiden name after the divorce."
Don Dunwoody was one of the three names Steve had been given by Agent Lincoln. "Did you and Agent Wagner become romantically involved while you were still married, or did that develop after the divorce?" Steve asked. He just couldn't picture Ron getting involved with a married woman, especially while he was still seeing Amanda.
"Well, we were both interested, that was clear to both of us, but Ron was reluctant to act on it, at least not till after the divorce.
"Was your husband aware of this *interest* between the two of you?"
Helen gave a short laugh. "If my husband had been more aware of me and what was going on in my life, we wouldn't have wound up divorced." Helen commented with bitterness.
Okay, so probably not a jealous husband, Steve thought to himself.
"Do you know what Agent Wagner wanted with your husband....ex-husband?"
"I know it had something to do with something Don had overheard while he was working, but other than that, I really don't know."
"Can you tell me where Don works? I'll have to talk to him as well."
"Sure, he's a bartender at the Starlight Bar. He's probably working tonight."
"Okay, thanks. Helen, did you see Agent Wagner the night he was killed?"
"No, he said he had something he had to do so he wouldn't be able to see me."
"Do you have any idea who might have wanted to kill him? Did he ever mention anything to you that might indicate somebody might be after him?"
"No. I'm sorry. I wish I could be more help." This last was said with a hint of tears in the voice.
"Alright, if you think of anything that might help, please call me." Steve said as he handed her his card. "You can go now, but I might have to talk to you again." Steve ushered her out of the room.
As she left, Helen put her hand on Steve's arm and gave him a slightly teary-eyed smile. "Detective, if you find out anything, will you please let me know?"
"Certainly." As he said it, Steve couldn't get over the difference between this woman's attitude toward him and Amanda's attitude toward him. Maybe Amanda had, subconsciously, been aware of a problem and just hadn't wanted to face up to it. Maybe that was the reason for the hostility toward him. She couldn't be angry with Ron, so she was directing the anger at him. Oh well, he'd better head over to the Starlight bar and see if he could find Dunwoody.
* * * * *
The Starlight Bar was a dive, a real pit, and Steve made sure he sat in a spot where his back was to the wall and he could keep an eye on the bar's patrons. The bartender was a big man who looked like he might double as the bouncer. And this bar probably had a lot of need for a bouncer, Steve thought as he motioned the bartender over.
"Yeah, what can I get for you?" the big man asked.
"Are you Don Dunwoody?" As he asked the question, Steve noticed a hint of fear?, guilt?, suspicion? in Dunwoody's eyes.
"Why are you looking for Dunwoody?"
"I thought he might be able to help me out." Steve decided he'd better go cautiously with this guy.
"I was told he knew a friend of mine....Ron Wagner." Steve watched closely for Dunwoody's reaction.
"We can't talk here." Dunwoody quickly whispered at Steve. "I get off at two. Come back then and we can talk. Don't let anybody see you when you come back."
Steve gave a mental groan. He could see that this was going to turn out to be another looooong night.
* * * * *
When Steve walked into the other bar that Agent Lincoln had mentioned, he was both amused and embarrassed. Amused, because he couldn't even imagine the stiff, officious Ron Wagner coming here. Embarrassed, because it was a gay bar and some of the patrons were giving Steve a look that made him extremely uncomfortable. Once again, Steve chose a seat at the bar where his back would be to the wall, for a slightly different reason this time, Steve admitted to himself with a chuckle.
"I'm looking for a guy...." Steve started.
"Hey, ain't they all," the bartender put in.
Steve turned slightly red as he added, "I'm looking for a particular guy, by the name of Turner. Rick Turner."
"I'm Turner. What do you want with me?"
Steve decided to use the same line he'd used on Dunwoody, "I was told you knew a friend of mine....Ron Wagner." Again, Steve looked for the reaction, which was not at all what he expected.
Turner eyed Steve with a grin, "So, you and Wagner were *friends*?" Turner gave the word friends an emphasis that made Steve turn redder.
"Not that kind of friends," Steve said. "Look, is there somewhere where we can talk?"
"Yeah, sure. Pete, you want to watch things for a while? I'm going to take a quick break." The other bartender nodded and turned back to his work, as Turner led Steve to a back room that served as the office.
As they sat down, Steve brought out his badge. "I'm Lt. Steve Sloan, Homicide. I, ah, didn't think it would be a good idea to be showing this out there."
"Smart move," Turner agreed. "You said Homicide?"
"Yes. Ron Wagner was killed last night. I'm trying to find out who killed him and why. I'd like you to tell me everything you and Wagner talked about."
"We only talked twice. I'd heard a couple of guys talking about something kind of weird, you know, kind of anti-government stuff. I had told a friend of mine about it. I didn't take it too seriously, but he did and he went to the FBI with it. So this Agent Wagner came to see me here. Boy was he uptight," Turner grinned. "He wanted to know if the guys were there that night. They weren't. He wanted to know if they were regulars. They weren't. He wanted to know if I'd seen them again since then. I hadn't. Then he asked me if I could describe them. I did. Then he gave me his card and asked me to call him immediately if I ever saw either one of them in the bar again. I said I would. Then, about a week ago, he came by to see if I'd seen them again, you know, kind of reminding me that he was still interested in them. I told him I hadn't seen them, but that I'd call if I did. That was it, that's all we said, and I haven't seen him, or them, since then." Turner concluded his recitation. "Now, I've got to get back to work," Turner started to rise from his chair.
"Just a minute," Steve stopped him. "Can you give me the description you gave to him?"
"Sure." and Turner rattled off a description that was pretty much useless - medium height, medium build, medium weight, medium length medium-brown hair.
Steve took down the information, but didn't really think it would do much good. It was unlikely that this was the lead he needed anyway, since, if the bartender hadn't ever seen these guys again, it wasn't much likely that Ron had gone any further with this particular lead himself.
"Were you working last night?" Steve asked.
"What time did you get off work?"
"I get off at two, why?"
"Is there anyone who can vouch for your whereabouts?"
"Sure. Pete was here last night as well. What, you think I'm a suspect?"
"Not any more," Steve said as he got up and left the room. With the autopsy putting the time of death at midnight, Turner could be crossed off the suspect list.
* * * * *
When he interviewed Dunwoody, Steve decided to start with the personal angle first. "Mr. Dunwoody, would you mind telling me why you and your wife divorced?"
Dunwoody looked confused. "What does that have to do with Agent Wagner?"
Now it was Steve's turn to look confused. "You weren't aware that Agent Wagner had started seeing your wife after your divorce?"
"Is that what she told you?"
"Yes. Isn't it true?" Steve was getting more confused by the second.
"I guess in a way this may relate to why we got divorced, after all. Detective, my wife is a sick woman. She thought every man she met had the hots for her. What was worse, she acted on her fantasies. She'd call the men and bother them, asking them out, asking when they could get together. Some of those men were my friends and let me know what was going on. I tried to get her to go to a therapist, but she refused. I couldn't take it any more, so I filed for divorce. I was there when she first met Wagner and, believe me, there was nothing between them. I would be extremely surprised if they ever saw each other again after that one meeting."
As Dunwoody talked, Steve started getting a feeling in his gut. The feeling that said, this is the lead you were looking for, this is the way to the answer.
For the sake of thoroughness, and to be on the safe side, he continued with the interview and asked Dunwoody about his professional contact with Ron. His story was pretty much the same as Turner's, except it was Dunwoody himself who had gone to the FBI, instead of a friend. Steve took down the information, but his mind was concentrating on his next move. He was going to have to tackle McReady again, look into her background a bit closer. Had she ever actually attacked any of the men she'd been after, when they hadn't returned her interest?
"Mr. Dunwoody, can you give me the names and addresses of any men that your wife said was attracted to her?"
"Yeah, some of them, the ones I knew personally anyway."
* * * * *
Steve woke with a groan to the smell of coffee and the sound of voices. He'd decided, the night before, that he'd better get some sleep before talking with McReady again. By the time he'd finally gotten into bed, after going back to the station and writing up the reports on the interviews, it had been getting on toward 6:00. With somewhat bleary eyes he looked at the alarm clock. Eight o'clock. As he struggled to grasp the fact that he'd only had about two hour's sleep, he started to recognize one of the voices. Oh God, not now, not this early, he thought. Not Amanda. She'd called his office about a half dozen times yesterday trying to get updates on how the case was going. Fortunately, he'd been out most of the day, so all he'd gotten had been the messages. He really didn't need the pressure.
"Mark, I hope you don't mind my coming by, but I'm really concerned that Steve doesn't seem to be taking this case very seriously. When he talked to me yesterday, he was still floundering around looking for suspects. And here it is, 8 o'clock, and he's still in bed! I would have thought that at least for my sake, if not for Ron's, he'd be giving it more of an effort."
"Amanda, I think you're being a little hard on him. It's only been a little over 24 hours. I know he was working late last night on it. I don't even know when he finally got in. I'm sure by now he's got a lot more than he had when you saw him yesterday morning. Give him a chance."
"I'm sorry, but I guess...." Amanda's voice trailed off as she looked out toward the ocean. "I guess maybe I'm feeling a bit guilty. I think that Ron and I were headed toward a breakup. I don't think we would have been together much longer if...."
"If he'd lived." Mark finished for her quietly.
Amanda nodded, with tears in her eyes. "Mark, you've got to find his killer. Please?"
"Thanks, Amanda, but I don't think I'll need any help on this. As a matter of fact I think I've got a pretty solid lead on the killer." Steve's face was clearly etched with anger. "I thought I might have some breakfast first, to go along with the all of two hours sleep I got this morning. I wouldn't want to get too much sleep, it might dull my thinking. You don't object to my getting a bit to eat before I head out again, do you?" Steve knew that his comments were cutting, but he couldn't help himself.
"Steve..." Amanda started.
"Don't Amanda," Steve cut her off with a raised hand. "I'm really tired and I'm really not in the mood for you to ride me, alright? Just let me gulp down a cup of coffee and some toast or something, and I'll be out of here."
Both Mark and Amanda were speechless. Neither on of them could ever remember Steve directing such hostility towards one of his friends.
Steve proceeded to do said gulping while Mark and Amanda recovered from their shock.
"Steve, I'm sorry..." Amanda put a hand on Steve's arm as he ate.
Again, Steve cut her off. "Save it. I'm out of here." And with that Steve got up and left.
* * * * *
Steve walked up to McReady's front door and knocked.
"Who's there?" A voice asked from behind the door.
"It's Steve Sloan, Ms McReady. I need to talk to you."
"Okay, just wait a minute while I get dressed."
As Steve stood there, he realized he really hadn't been thinking very clearly that morning. He should have backup, should have had someone stationed by the back door in case she decided to run. He was extremely relieved, therefore, when the door opened and Helen McReady let him in.
"It's so nice to see you again Detective. I must admit, though, I hadn't expected to see you again quite so soon."
"I'm sorry to bother you, but I needed to follow up on some information I got from your ex-husband last night."
"And what did dear, old Don have to say?"
"Well for starters, he said that you and Agent Wagner had only seen each other once, and that he seriously doubted that Agent Wagner had any desire to see you again after that one encounter." Steve had decided that stinging her ego might be the best way to get her talking, maybe let something damaging slip out. "He also said that you have a tendency to chase after men who aren't at all interested in you and then you get very angry when they don't fall all over you."
Steve knew from her measured response that he'd hit home. "Really. I've also talked to some men who have confirmed what your ex-husband told me. One of the men said he had to get a restraining order against you."
"Detective, those men are Don's friends. They'd say anything to back up the lies he's telling about me."
"That's funny. If, as you say, this never happened, how do you know whom I talked to? How did you know that some of them were Don's friends?"
McReady's hand clutched at the edge of the chair and kneaded the fabric. A storm of emotion crossed her face.
"Ms McReady, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to come to the station with me. You have the right to remain silent..."
As Steve started to read McReady her Miranda rights, she pulled a pistol from under the cushion of her chair and pointed it at Steve. She rose from the chair, keeping the gun pointed at Steve's head. "I'm sorry Detective Sloan, but I really can't go anywhere with you right now," with that, she pulled the trigger.
* * * * *
Steve woke with an incredible pain lancing through his head. An involuntary moan escaped his lips.
"Steve, thank God. I've been so worried about you." Mark stood by Steve's bed. His concern deeply etched in his face.
"Dad, what happened? What am I doing here?"
"What's the last thing you remember, Steve?"
"I remember I was going to question Helen McReady about Ron's death. I'd gotten some information that made me think she was the prime suspect. I don't remember ever getting there, though."
"Well, short term memory loss isn't that unusual with head injuries. Nobody knows exactly what happened, but apparently you were questioning McReady when she shot you. The bullet grazed your skull, which is why your head is hurting, but fortunately it didn't do any serious damage. A neighbor heard the shot and called it in."
"What about McReady?"
"The last I heard from Capt. Newman, they had an APB out on her. That was some time ago, though. I don't know if they've caught her yet."
"When can I get out of here? What time is it?" Steve started to rise from the hospital bed.
"Whoa, whoa, take it easy, son." Mark gently pushed Steve back to the bed. "You're not going to be going anywhere for a while. I said there wasn't any serious damage, but there is a severe concussion and we need to keep you here for a couple of days for observation."
"Dad, I need to find out what's going on with McReady. Did they recover the bullet that she shot at me? Does it match the bullets that they took from Ron's body?"
Mark couldn't help but smile at Steve's eagerness to get back on the job and finish up what he'd started. "I tell you what. You lie down and take it easy, and I'll ask Capt. Newman if he can come down here and fill you in on what's going on with your case. Okay?"
"Alright, alright." Truth be told, Steve didn't really think he had the energy to get out of bed right now. When he'd started to get up before, his head had started hurting something fierce and the room had started spinning. Maybe he'd just close his eyes for a while and get some rest.
* * * * *
When Steve woke next, it was to see the grim face of Capt. Newman looking down at him.
"Well, Sloan, how long do you intend to milk this injury before you get back to work?"
Steve ignored Newman's sarcasm, knowing it for Newman's way of avoiding showing real concern. "Captain, what's the word on McReady? Have they got her yet? Were they able to find the bullet she shot at me and match it to the bullets that had killed Wagner?" Steve had raised himself from his bed in his eagerness for the latest news, but fell back as dizziness washed over him.
For a moment, Newman's mask of non-concern slipped. "Your father was right, Sloan. You need to take it easy. We've got McReady. She was picked up driving south on the freeway, probably trying for Mexico. They did recover the bullet that went through your head, and they are in the process of comparing it to the bullets taken from Wagner's body. If they match, she's toast." Newman's voice slipped back to a bantering tone, "You know, Sloan, it would have been nice if you'd filled me in on the progress you were making on this case. That way, if the bullet had killed you, as McReady intended, we'd at least have had some idea as to why you were killed."
"I know, I know. I guess I was just driving so hard to find the killer that I didn't want to slow down long enough to fill anybody else in on what I'd found. I didn't want the trail to get cold."
"Well, we've got her now, so just take it easy. Not too easy, though. While you're loafing around here, we've got cases piling up waiting for you."
With that last comment, Capt. Newman left Steve alone.
But not for long. The door opened slowly and Amanda hesitantly entered Steve's room. Steve cringed mentally, not knowing what to expect, but as Amanda got closer, Steve could see tears glistening in her eyes and on her cheeks. And then she was at his side, hugging him, holding him close, crying, saying how sorry she was that this was all her fault, that if she hadn't kept pushing him he might have been more careful, might not have been so tired. Steve wasn't sure what to say, how to react, so he put his arm around her and returned the hug and whispered that it was all right now, they'd found Ron's killer and it was all over, everything was going to be all right.
Amanda pulled back and smiled at him with tears still filling her eyes. "You don't understand, Steve. I was horrible to you and my nagging nearly got you killed. If you'd died, I never would have been able to forgive myself. When I heard that you'd been shot in the head, it made me realize that I felt for you something that I'd never felt for Ron. I think that's why I was so angry with you." Amanda leaned down and gently kissed Steve's lips.
Before Steve could react, Amanda had gotten up and left the room. Steve could still feel his heart racing from that brief contact. He slowly traced his fingertip over his lips, trying to reassure himself that it had really happened, he hadn't just imagined it. Things had definitely taken an unexpected, and interesting, turn.