Comdex - 11 - You Want me to do WHAT!!!

COMDEX Chapter 11, “You Want Me To Do WHAT???
“This has to be a Joke!”
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Steven’s Hall, 1400 hours EST, Friday, December 28,

Linda turned to her wife, still asleep on her shoulder and gently shook her, “Hi Honey, we’re home.”

“Ow, that hurt. Is it morning yet?” I muttered, disoriented.

“Uh, I don’t think you wear your UZI to bed honey,” Hal informed me, trying to be helpful.

“I’m sorry Love, I didn’t think.”

“It’s okay, I try not to think about it either. Can I get eggs this morning?”

“Hon, don’t you remember? It’s afternoon.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, I feel better, not good mind you, but better.” I could see the estate entrance, where even we were identified.

“Good job, Kate!” One of the guards shouted.

I looked at Hal, “So everyone knows everything?”

“It seems some Birmingham TV station took LOTS of film of this morning’s raid, some long range stuff until a cameraman shot the rescue from close range, shouting “Press, Freedom of the Press.” An arrangement was made, and our actual footage will be released today. Then some of the Newies sold the pictures and it found its way to CNN, in Atlanta before noon. It’s being called the single most dramatic apprehension since John Dillinger – ever. The focus seems to be on our ELINT and IT, with a great shot of you tossing in your grenade then rushing in with the team. No one, yet, has identified you as being one of Maxwell’s victims. Our PR office is putting together a release with the “official” details of the raid. Something like:

Today’s actions by officers of the Commonwealth’s Special Operations teams, which includes officers from many local jurisdictions in the Commonwealth, in coordination with the Birmingham, Alabama, Police Department, and the Alabama State Police apprehended John Maxwell, under a warrant signed by Governor Jane Swift, and a fugitive arrest warrant of the Boston Federal Court. The suspect was located using sophisticated systems designed by Cendar Corporation, a Massachusetts company. The raid was led by a senior executive of Cendar, Major Kathryn Steven’s of the State Police, who teaches special weapons and tactics. Birmingham, Alabama, Police Chief Walter Douglas praised the speed and efficiency of the action. Apparently from start to finish the special operations team located and arrested Mr. Maxwell in less than 30 minutes. Mr. Maxwell is being held at the Essex County Jail without bail until he can be returned to Federal Custody.

This morning’s actions were precipitated by a phone call Mr. Maxwell made. From that, Cendar was able to locate Mr. Maxwell. A rapid deployment unit of special weapons and tactics officers of the Commonwealth, with technical assistance from Cendar Corporation, mounted, executed, completed and returned Mr. Maxwell to custody in less than twelve hours.

Colonel James Kincaid, Commandant of the Commonwealth’s State Police praised the operation for its swift insertion and execution of its mission. In particular Colonel Kincaid cited “Kate Steven’s planning and leadership” as being “in accordance with our finest traditions.”

“Wow, who was that masked woman?”

My attention was immediately drawn from the conversation to the front entrance to the house. On either side of the entry way, what appeared to be 16th century guards, complete with Halberds, helmets, and swords who came to attention and presented arms.

I was grinning from ear to ear, when Lisa in “garb” came rushing out of the house to greet us, and to hug Annie, Linda, and I. To Hal she curtsied “Welcome home My Lord Baron.” Lisa grabbed Lin and I, and led us into the house, her mouth running a mile a minute.

“Mommas, you must change into appropriate clothing for ladies of your estate. Well after you shower that is.”

I laughed, and pulled her into another hug. Inside, another set of guards with halberds came to attention and presented arms as we passed by. I could swear I heard snickering coming from the guards.

“How many guards have you drafted Lisa?”

“Not many Momma, no more than 8, at a time, with an officer in charge.”

I looked at Annie, “I don’t even want to know how much this is costing, do I?”

“No Momma, but think of how much fun it is, and how famous this will make Lisa and I. This celebration will go down in Society history!”

“Famous, as in for bankrupting your parents, the billionaires?”

Annie just laughed and asked Lisa if “they had come?”

Lisa just grinned and nodded her head.

Annie was almost jumping up and down. “My Lord and Ladies, we need to stop by your Lordship’s office.”

Hal turned to me, “do we play along with them or should we get back in the car and visit the mountain?”

“Well, they HAVE gone to a lot of trouble, I guess we have to play along, at least for the weekend.”

Then I remembered. Someone told Someone it would be fine to go dragon hunting in the Misty Mountain. I suspect Hermione and her crews have been marking traps, secret doors lairs, Lots of “unseen” guardrooms, and the like. I would practically guarantee our daughters’
Have much more in store than we’ve heard. “Oh Lisa”?

“How many guards do you have working for you in the Misty Mountain??”

“No more than twenty Momma, and they all get used again and again and again.”

“Will the quest be finished in one day?”

Oh NO Momma, we start Tuesday morning although I’ll head up the night before to be certain the potties were delivered correctly, and the town laid out properly. We’ve craftsmen from all over new England to sell their wares. They start arriving Monday. I asked the forrester if there were a number of trees that needed culling. He was SO helpful I think he’s sweet on Annie. Anyway, the logging crew cut the trees down, then his backhoe people dug a trench three feet deep all around the townsite, then cut the trees in 15 foot sections and buried them in the ground so only the top ten feet are above ground level. Then we had a well dug with a “wishing well” type of top. It tests clean of any impurities. Dr Tom tested and said the water is safe. This is where the adventurers are going to stay. Daddy, it’s on our property, but it’s well away from the road. The only time Mr Garcia (the mushroom grower) raised any issues was what would happen to his mushroom harvest. We’ve guaranteed at least the same if not more profit for Mr. Garcia and he’s happy. There’s a BIG red strip in front of the areas we don’t want anyone into. Additionally Anyone caught crossing a red line, had better have permission.
We’ll also try to stay out of sight of the on-site Security. I’ve my key and at meals we’ll use the kitchen, beans and fanks that kid of thing. At night, we’ll use the showers and the bunks in the Mountain, if we need to. Then we do the last day of our “Adventure,”
That night we’ll have a bonfire and whatever foodstuffs are brought to town. That all get’s put together for an evening meal. Hermione is going to do the thing with a turkey riding a boar.

“I’m hesitant about what I’m going to say next. The next day after breakfast we’re having a war.”

“I ordered two trucks of hay. We’ll use the hay as the walls and battlements of the opposing groups. The swords used are usually wood or often rattan that has been heavily wrapped, and padded.”

When the word is given the two sides come out to do battle. Armor is acceptable, and usually worn. The victor is crowned by you Mother’s. Yes, both of you are welcome, maybe take turns?

The award is a small golden arrow about 6 inches long and weighs about 2 ounces of 14 carat gold.

With no knowing how many we’d need, I ordered 250 smaller gold arrows. Each arrow is only 1/10th ounce 14 carat, so we got them pretty cheap. Any leftovers we can store in the credenza. I’d like to schedule a dungeon crawl and war once, or maybe twice a year. I was thinking if we did some some

“With you and Mom, I wasn’t thinking all that well. My Lord Baron has sponsored our Canton of the Two Towers for many years. I assumed you’d know what an SCA event was all about.

On Wednesday, the big open area away from the town, We have 400 hundred fighters, and guests. About 15 crafters. I also bought 10M 3.5Mx3Mhigh sheds. They’re rustic wood, but weatherproof.
1 One is for the administration/Dr. Tom gets the First aid and Radio Room. He’ll have a “4 bed” hospital, proto-type and beta-type diagnostics will be on site,
along with a Beta and Prototype diagnostics, the portable xray in the Mountain
if we need it. Everything will be logged and replaced from central stores.
2 One is for the chaperone and Tim/Terry
3 One is for me, Lisa, Maeve, and Si
4 One is Hal, Linda, and Kate
5 One is a bunkroom for staff, I hope to have
9 Four Connected together for the serving area. We’ve actually hired 2 roach
coaches. They were perfectly happy to provide Victuals from a limited menu.
Besides there will be a whole roast pig, and a whole half a steer.
10 One a “garb store.” Besides off the rack, Annie’s agreed to link to the site
11 through an encrypted radio link to her workshop in the basement, We’ll garb you for basement level prices.
12 One set up to sell beer, wine, Meade, hard cider, and soft drinks.
Yes I have all the proper Licenses. For the sales, and the kitchen. Every registrant
will be banded with red or green hospital type. Don’t sell to the red bands.
13 One to the Blacksmith. He get’s very hot.
14 One for a food store (extra big 15x25M
15 Musician Corner – The Filk Song Connection
If the weather turns bad, we will go ahead and use areas as needed. Daddy, that means we may take over the kitchen area cooking our own store bought food. None of the pantries will be opened except by my twin Lisa, and our step-sisters Maeve and Siobhan.
Each of the buildings can be relocated into Misty Cave. Believe it or not I got them to attach caterpillar treads. At the very worst, we’ll take over Supply tunnel one. The classified areas will remain just that, classified. This time the contracts will have sanctions attached for failure to follow the rules. The size of the drift tunnels will allow setup of the 14 buildings inside at need.
I’d like to simulate thatch on the roof. We’ll may use one of the Mountain kitchens and move the food in hot and cold chests. Eventually, I’d like to use some of the Mountain, maybe with eight foot wide and twenty feet deep off one of the drift tunnels, that way we’d have permanent storage, and do an adventure actually in the mountain, from hiking to city. It would have a rather heavy encumbrance upfront; especially the Stores we intend to operate, a central meeting area, Stand-alone kitchen facilities front but it should start producing revenue by the fifth year. At which time we could afford a full-time caretaker and administrator. Especially if we can provide secure storage on site. The inside would have two lighting systems. The first indirect full light, and one the approximate level of torch light.

“Annie, just try to not inconvenience our tenants the mushroom growers, or any of the others. Can you setup a call for me with “Call Blast explosives” and set up a time. Call Crazy Eddie tonight, yeah, that would be better. If he’s not too busy, tell him I’d appreciate tackling this ASAP or even tonight. Double pay for whatever shift. It’s for my daughters. This contract will be costs plus 25% Net 5. Smooth floors so they have about have a half a bubble incline, front to back. Almost forgot. Three radial walls spokes off of a central “commons.’ The commons must be roughly 45M square and at least 15M high. One room off of administration, the kitchen needed dimensions of 15x15x30, height at fifteen feet. This room needs gas, oil and plumbing. The kitchen area Hot Water Heater will provide hot water to the showers, so it must be substantial. Ansel Fire hood, filtration and scrubbers that returns the feed air to the corridor. If you can find a large commercial refrigerator and commercial stove, and any other cafeteria fixtures, I’ll pay for someone to track them down and buy them. Now the bad part. I need it done in thirty six hours from right now. Tack on whatever pay you think necessary, just keep in mind you are the only blasting company I use – so far. To sweeten the pot, I’ve another subterranean tunnel to be built. Details are 30-35 percent overburden, same size and depth as my current tunnels. To connect at one end to the current tunnel. Same blast doors. It will connect my two outbuildings, and the Jacobsen estate – which I just bought. So it’s a good half mile, probably more with a way station/safe room to accommodate 50. I will be buying another two, maybe apartment campuses. I’ll want some tunnel, and probably walls for each campus. If that’s enough to get you out here NOW, let’s get moving. If not, what do I have to do to get you working immediately?
Between the spokes, cut Administrating offices, one may need a bore hole to the surface for an outside Offices are to be a normal door, which will be provided if you need. We need 3 10M by 20M In the rest of the
All finish to be all rock, no projection of more than two inches. Floors rook if it can be done, otherwise pour concrete.
Finish. If you can make three bathrooms, one male, you might use a rock “trough” for the urinal; two female; 1 coed. Build large showers in the women’s and the men’s rooms. Eddie, I don’t want people to wait to take a leak. So build them big enough. For now, each eight rooms, four to each side. Dimensions of width on the radials can be 3 MH x 8M square, with 8M ceilings. Tell him to remember this is the first stage. Do it well, and I’ll be doing a LOT of blasting in that area. What kind? Mazes, corridors that lead to a throne room (don’t worry about what goes in, I’ve three someone’s too provide all that? The “city” has have its own private entrance. Portcullis and draw bridge, fifteen foot wide 4foot tapered to ten feet deep, some deeper holes to twenty-twenty five then tapered back to a 4 foot deep. Yeah, it’s also a swimming moat. Above the portcullis, my two daughter’s idea, we would like. The moat means we need filtration, and a tech to start testing all of our water. Also, above the portcullis, a defensive gallery, with slits for shooting arrows.

Rubble can be driven to my estate. The first left turn will take you to the former Jacobsen estate, follow the road around to a former rock quarry. Dump all material rock and earth there. Up to an even 20 foot at deep end, 4 foot as shallowest. 0 foot below at that point, pour concrete with drain hole for filtration. As for permits, I believe my current ones will cover this, but you might send Erik or Leo of my legal staff down to plans.

“Daddy, I’ve wanted to do this for years. Now I’ll have Lisa, and Maybe Tim, and no one knows what Maeve and Siobhan will want. BUT if we really, REALLY do it right I believe we can reduce that encumbrance to zero in three years, with the simple advertising this could become THE war Centre of New England, with Wars and Adventures taking place each week.”

If we do this, we can dominate several types of events. Summer, we offer a standard Camping program. A Scenic Wedding venue. Maybe Nor-War, Nor-War Winter for SCA; Residential and short term (1 Week); Misty Mountain camping/adventuring. Daddy, it’s mind boggling the usage we can make of that mountain.

We went into the downstairs office and a couple of officer’s in full tactical gear stood post by a credenza I didn’t remember, on top of which was a glass case, the glass etched in a series of Celtic knots. The attached brass plate informed us they were the Royal Jewels of the Barony of Stevens. Inside were the coronets. In the center of each were jewels, and the circlets were also done in a series of Celtic knots.

“Oh Wow,” Hal exclaimed.

“Oh No, are those real?” I asked.-

“You said gold Momma, did we hear wrong?”

Moan… “No girls, you did just right. When do I see the bill?”

“Oh not for a couple of weeks, I charged them to your credit card. The state forrester, when he found out who my parents were laughed and said “Why Not?” Then Mr. Garcia was VERY helpful. He let us tap into his power, and told me every night he’d leave the oversize mushrooms out for us.

Oh, by the way, Dr. Ledbetter and Dr. Saul and his wife want to come up and observe. He’ll take the first aid clinic for his own. Tom said he’d head up there most afternoons.

If I’d been sitting, I’d have done a face plant.

“The gems were only 10% over actual invoiced cost, and the detail work was really quite reasonable,” Annie explained. “The Diamond Exchange was very reasonable, they let us have the price they were charged by DeBeers, plus the three percent And the gold is a good investment. Also, we were able to get this lovely credenza which is also a T60 rated safe. Oh, and they waived the usual 3% processing fee. We save a LOT with that!”

“Can I ask a couple questions? Was it more than $50K?”
“Was it less than a $Million?”

“Yes Momma, and No Momma.”

“Was it more than $Ten Million”

“With or without gemstones,?

“No Momma

That’s enough, but If I have to hock my BMW to make the payment SOMEONE’s going to be in trouble.

I THOUGHT the legs looked awfully stout, but I was in shock. I suddenly realized there was a HUGE difference between thought and action, at least in the marketplace.

Hal rescued the two damsels who were about to be in distress.

“I think you two did VERY well. You’re right Annie, gold is a great investment. All I ask is one little favor. When the bill comes, make sure I’m in the office to see Kate’s reaction.”

“Of course my Lord.” This time it was Annie who curtsied, and bowed her head.

“And while you’re being so agreeable, I’d like this to be a real-world teaching assignment for Lisa.

“Annie, I’d like your instruction to contain the constant and appreciated value, the costs associated receipts. Profit and Loss statements encumbrances’ amortization, and long term deterioration. Hell I’d be willing to let her finish the old semester and bring her on board as an intern. Her job? Learn Business Mathematics and accounting 101 -104. That will take special arrangements, and YOU young lady, will be a very, VERY busy girl. You will spend your free time being Annie’s assistant. Don’t frown at me, you’ll get paid, very well paid, I dare say you make more than any of your schoolmates. Plus you get in on the ground floor of the mountain, and since you’ll be apprenticed to Annie you’ll also get in on the ground floor of Gowns-R-Us. By the time you’re done, if you like business we’ll get you into a good business school and help you through the CPA exam, and a Master’s degree in Business. With what you’ll make, PLUS your fees, room & board, books, and stipend you will be well on your way to becoming a moderately wealthy woman on you own!!”

“Part of your annual bonus will be based on cost savings. You’ll probably have to game that out, then set your preliminary numbers in stone and try to chisel your costs downward. What I do NOT want is you to get tummy sick over it. Oh, as I understand it, Cendar pays 25% to the employee for saving money. So, say your C-Store Sells two million over the course of the first year, and you figure out how to keep the costs down by $100,000, your bonus that year would be $25,000. Cash.

I figured out his ploy. “For instance you’re ordering two double trucks of Hay, change that to alfalfa. What is the actual cost?

“Mom, that’s easy. The price per bale times the number of bales, plus fuel and delivery costs.

“Very good Lisa, now, what happens to all that alfalfa?”

“I supposes it decomposes into mulch.”

So, if you had spent all your allowance on those bales you’d just leave them there to rot.”

“Momma, you already have a solution, could you tell me?”

“With a very put on expression, and a deep sigh, I suppose I’ll give you a hint. What do horses eat?”

“Hay, grain, apples, carrots.

“Very good sweetheart. And how many horses to we have now?”

I swear you could see the light go on in her eyes.

“So we don’t lose any hay, we bring it back and feed it to the horses and wild animals.”

“See Annie she can learn economics. I would hope you will use her and Carol both in figuring out what the Jacobsen property will cost. Everything from costs of different grades of plywood and paint, to how many emergency doors have to be constructed. What’s the garden going to cost. Do we need a high wall around the property? If so, why. If not, why not. Lisa you are going to learn so much. How much is it going to cost to extend the tunnel system? What should be included, what is redundant? Safe rooms? If so where? On site convenience store? Work it from the real life instance of a probable attack on Stevens hall. Can costs be lowered by including C-Stores in the Burlington and Methuen plants?

Work through the statistics for college. How does the Poissant Distribution affect the staffing needs for various programs at the Castle and the Mountain?

Then you can tackle the cost of each horse, feed, grain, vet services, shots, ferrier, saddles, saddle guns, construction of trails. Cost vs Age of Horse. And Mares? Can we get them gravid?

Oh well, you need to start somewhere. I’m sure Annie will absolutely wonderful in helping you.
“Sweatheart, I was hoping you’d fall into that

That was when Carol caught up with us. Carol came to me and gently pulled me into her arms. “Thank you. CNN’s been playing a video clip from this morning and one from this afternoon. Whose idea was it to dress him in a bunny suit?”

I pointed to Annie, who started to giggle. “I wanted to finish the manacles and hand-cuffs in pink too, but somebody (she was pointing at me) said it wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“I think it will have the desired effect just as is. And it’s NOT a bunny suit. It’s the first model in Cendar’s anti-suicide anti-escape prison wear. The product has a proximity coil and is embedded with a GPS chip device. Alarms will scream bloody hell if the wearer goes into an area they are not authorized to be in. The pink color is just a result of the manufacturing process.” I confess, I was giggling too. Hal was infected by the ludicrous claim, and started laughing along with us.

“Linda, would you come with me, I really need to put the hardware away and take a shower, scrub my back?”

“Eeew gross!” Lisa moaned.

“Hey, I need a shower too, anyone want to scrub my back?” Annie made smootchy faces at Lisa.

“Ack! You’re all gross, I’m going to find the girls!”

“Kate, I know it’s only been a couple of days, but the kids really love Lisa and Tim. They’ve never really had any friends outside of school. I’ve you to thank for that.” Carol looked like she needed to hug, so I did!

“Where’s Leo?”

“Would you believe negotiating the final details on the Jacobson acquisition? He’s going to be a real asset to the company.” Hal informed me.

Lin and I turned to go when one of the Cendar security officer’s interrupted, “Uh, Kate, you did a great job this morning. Some of the guys called the details into the office. It’s also, uh, kind of a consensus that you might want to think twice before going in with the first team again. We’d really like to keep you around.”

I could see his blush through the gold faceplate of his helmet. I reached up, undid his chinstrap and lifted his helmet off. I kissed him on the cheek. “I kind of want to stay around. I was in no danger. I NEEDED to be there this time. Pass along my appreciation.”

“You know any of us would have gone. It was just the luck of the draw that Kim and I got stuck with duty here today.”

I handed him his helmet, turning to his partner, “and you must be Kim?” She nodded her head, I pulled her helmet off and pulled her into a hug. “Thank you. Neither of you can possibly know how much I value you; as employees, teammates, friends, and especially family.”

My tough security officers had the good graces to blush, and look down around their feet.

“I’m serious you two. It’s been a rough couple of months. Had it not been for you guys I probably wouldn’t be here. I mean all of you, not just Sheila and Patrick, or Andy, all of you! It’s always been our goal to create a company that cares enough to be a family – no matter how large we get; and we will be getting much larger this next year!”

“Thank you Kate,” Kim said, “that’s one of the reasons I left the HRT and the FBI. I saw a group of likeminded people who cared. Not just for their partner’s, but for everyone in the organization. Do you remember the SWAT action two years ago? It was in the North End, and tied up Boston traffic just before rush hour. One of the SWAT officer’s got shot – nothing major, but his partner was really torn up. I saw you take time out to sit with him, to be sure he got to cry it out. There’s no telling how much it cost in lost productivity. But no one begrudged the time. I saw that, and applied for a position with Cendar the next day. I’ve never regretted it.”

This time I was weeping. I hadn’t been there, obviously, it was my twin. Still I couldn’t stop crying. “Thank you for telling me that Kim, I didn’t know,” I managed to say between sobs.

“You weren’t supposed to know Boss.” She replied. “Please just don’t ever change.”

“Come on Boss lady, time for some lunch and a shower. I’ll bet Vikki’s got your soup and Spam sandwich just waiting for you upstairs.” I let Linda lead me off.

Once again, Kate and I fused in intention and action. I’m certain I got the better deal. I racked my weapons, pulled off the Tactical Suit, shucked off the rest of my clothes and stepped into the shower. Linda helped me get cleaned up, and I pulled a flannel nightgown on. Sure enough, Vikki knocked on the door as soon as I’d put my robe on.

“Lunch Kate! Your order was called in for you. I hope you like these pickles, they’re not as sweet as you’re used to. Good job this morning, you brought everyone back in one piece, and without any holes! Just leave your dishes, I suspect you’ll be napping for a while. I’ll send someone to pick them up later. I’ve a nice roast cooking for dinner, and I’ll see you there. Bon appetite!”

“Lin, what’s going on? First the officers downstairs, now Vikki. Is there something no one’s telling me?”

“Are you that big an idiot? It’s a good thing I love you. Everyone is just saying “I Love You Kate and I’m glad you’re all right, but OMG that looked scary on TV.”

“But I explained, I really wasn’t in any danger.”

“Yeah, and who knows that? You, Hal, and me. And that only because Hal was ready to yell at you and damn near wet himself the first time he saw the video clip of you tossing in the flash-bang then rushing into the room. It LOOKED scary as hell! YOU looked HEROIC. Is it any wonder the people of the company just want to let you know they’re glad you’re okay?”

Sigh.

“Okay, I’ll grant you might be right. NOW I have to figure out how to teach special weapons and tactics for the next State Police class. A subject I know far less about than I’m credited with.”

I busied myself with my lunch, then shuffled off to the bedroom and continued my nap. I didn’t feel all that heroic, all I felt, really, was tired, and sore, and relieved, and embarrassed, and...

Steven’s Hall, 1800 hours EST, Friday, December 28, 2001

Linda insisted that I wear “something nice” to dinner. I was going to wear a pair of sweats, but apparently that was not allowed tonight. Instead, Lin stuffed me into a pale blue 16th century court gown, “just for practice.” I was truly glad the girls didn’t insist I wear authentic clothes. Then Linda fussed over my hair ‘til Lisa and Annie came up and when my back was turned, placed my coronet on my head.

“Okay, what’s the deal you two. Linda?”

“Don’t look at me, it’s your daughters’ idea.”

“Daughter’s’s as in both of them?”

“Yep.”

“Okay you two, I see you’re in garb (the word still seemed a bit silly), but why me? Why this” (I pointed to my gown, “and why this,” I pointed to my head.

“I’ll answer Lisa. One: why you? You’re the hero of the moment. Two: why the dress? Because of number one, and you need practice moving in it. Three: why the Coronet? Because you need practice wearing it, and it looks so good with your hair like that.”

She turned me around and I had to admit, “damn, she’s good at this clothing thing.” I did look special. The bruises on my face had faded, and Lin did a magnificent job on my makeup and hair.

I tried a curtsy at the two schemers, and managed to not fall down.

While Annie and Lisa had distracted me Linda slipped into a nice evening gown. “Well your Ladyship, are you ready for dinner?”

Two could play this game, “Why yes, your Ladyship, would you and the princesses care to make sure I don’t break my neck going down the stairs in this?”

I THOUGHT that would be the end of the nonsense. Little did I know. As we began down the stairs, from somewhere a staff struck the floor and a major domo called out: “Baroness Williams-Stevens, Countess Williams-Stevens, her highness Crown Princess Annie Stevens of the Canton of the Two Towers. Her highness Crown Princess Lisa Williams-Stevens, of the Barony of Stevens.”

Hal was waiting at the foot of the stairs, dressed in a tuxedo, with some kind of sash across his chest. He took Linda and me by the arms and escorted us past saluting guards in garb, and into “the Great Hall.”

Hermione outdid herself. From the roaring fire to the tapestries, everything was perfect.

Hal, gripped my elbow to bring me back to the present, and presented me to Jane. “Your Excellency, may I present Lady Stevens. My dear, her Excellency, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Jane pulled me into a hug. “You clean up real nice Kate. You also looked really scary on TV tonight. Are you sure you’re not overdoing it?”

“Jane, thank you, no, but the evidence suggests I am overdoing it; I do know I hurt a lot. As for the tape? By the time I entered the room John Maxwell was well in hand. Truly, do you think any of my people would let me go into a dangerous situation?”

“When you put it that way, no. But my oh my have you set off a firestorm. EVERYONE who is ANYONE will be trying to get you to their parties. You are the media’s current darling! COPS wants to do a special episode with you.”

“Oh farf! Please say it ain’t so.”

Jane just laughed.

I took my place at the foot of the table and sat down, signaling that everyone should find their places and be seated. Linda sat to my right, Carol to my left. Jane to Hal’s right, Simon to Hal’s left. Everyone else was seated in some order I couldn’t decipher. Lisa and Annie were wearing garb and their new coronets. Two girls, obviously twins, sat next to Carol, and I presumed they must be Carol’s daughters. They were dressed nicely, but were clearly intimidated by the whole thing.

Hal gave thanks, and the kitchen staff began serving dinner.

“Oh my, is this new china?”

Teresa who had let me help her set the table on Christmas day curtsied and answered, “Yes Your Grace,” then skittered out of the room. The china was beautiful. Someone had created a crest (I was guessing Lisa and Annie). The outer rim was banded in gold, the inner rim in a deep azure blue. Lettering in gold circled the dish. In Latin, around the rim of each dish was written:

DEUS FIDELIS, ET ITERUM ATQUE ITERUM PROVIDET!

“Annie, who designed the china?”

“Lisa and I worked with an antiquarian in Boston on the crest. My Lord Stevens provided the household motto.”

“Twenty questions Annie?”

“I’m sorry Momma, your question was?”

“What does the Latin say?”

“Latin? What Latin?”

I heard Lisa giggle, “Let me try this again. Lisa, what does the Latin say?”

Lisa gave me a very, ‘oh my let me see’ look and answered. “Deus fidelis, et iterum atque iterum providet.”

“Very funny you two. Now, who is going to translate?”

Annie and Lisa looked at each other and replied in unison, “Translate what Momma?”

“You two are not going to answer, are you?”

The answer again, was in unison, “No Momma.”

“You say Hal provided the text?”

“Yes Momma.”

“Okay, let me try this another way, Lin, do you know what the plates say?”

“Yes, but I distinctly heard Lisa read it to you.”

“So your other mother isn’t going to tell me either girls?”

“No Momma.”

By this time the two girls by Carol were giggling bad enough they weren’t even pretending to eat their soup.

“Carol? Could you introduce us?”

“Certe domina. Ego, ut Siobhan et Maev. Virgines, hic maior est Baronissa Kate Stevens.”

The girl’s immediately continued: “Lorem vita Iesu Stevens domine.”

I gave serious consideration to planting my face firmly in my soup bowl. “Is everyone in on this?”

Anne and Lisa answered, of course, in unison, “Yes Momma.”

I picked up my soup spoon and gently rapped on my water glass. The room went silent. Hal asked, for everyone, “Yes Kate?”

“You all have certainly gone to a great deal of trouble with your little joke, but could someone translate the Latin on the china? Otherwise I begin speaking exclusively Russian, which I’m fairly certain no one near my end of the table understands.”

“You know, that might actually be worth it,” Hal replied. “Oh never mind. The English translation is God is faithful, time and time again He provides.”

Hal looked straight into my eyes.

“Oh.” I could feel my eyes filling with tears. I gently dabbed at the corners of my eyes, desperately trying not to cry. The meaning was clear. Hal was telling me God had provided my Twin, and then me.

After a very pregnant pause people began eating, and chatting again.

I turned to Carol, “Thank you for that lovely introduction. How do you tell which is which?”

With a merry twinkle in her eye she replied, “who says I do? Girls, which is Siobhan?” The girls pointed to each other, “She is,” they said then laughed.

“See,” Carol said.

“It must be nice having Trevor around. At least you can be sure he’s him, himself.” I grinned at the girls, who just giggled.

Well, I’ll tell you their darkest secret. Maeve has a second earing in her left ear, Siobhan has one in her right year.

“Momm! You weren’t supposed to tell! The two said in unison.

That set the tone for dinner. The girls were far more mature than I expected, and became more animated as dinner went on.

“Mrs. Stevens, it’s no nice you had swimsuits for us, Mom didn’t even THINK of that when we left home.”

“You are very welcome, did you go swimming?”

“Yes Ma’am, Lisa, Trevor, Tim, and Brad went with us.”

“Have you two had fun?”

“Yes, there’s so much to do, and so MANY people here to do things with!”

“That’s because we’re in a castle, right Mrs. Stevens?”

I laughed then answered. “Well it’s certainly big enough, but we don’t have any moats, big walls, or drawbridges. Hmmm… What do you think girls? Should I see about walls and a drawbridge?”

“Oh my GOSH. Really?”

“Maybe we’ll still be here when it’s finished.”

“Girl’s, if it’s all the same to you, how about calling me Aunt Kate?”

“Can we Mom?”

“Of course Maeve, we’re going to be here for a long, long time! ‘Aunt Kate’ has offered me a job here. What do you think of that?”

“Really? Are we going to school out here too?”

“Yes Si. You’ll be going to school out here too. The two of you may get to do a LOT of babysitting if you would like.”

“First Dibs, Mom.”

“No fair Si. Mom said both of us.”

“That’s not what she said, she said we both would get to babysit. As in you get one and I get one.”

“Have you two ridden the horses much?

“That is the best thing ever! They love being brushed, a LOT.”

“I’d like you each to pick out your favorite horse. Can you see them in your mind?”

“Okay, now I want you to write down the name of that horse, and sign it.”

“Fold the papers in half, and give them to me.” I opened them up, the first was Maeve and the horses name was “The Appleator.” Siobhan’s was named “Sunset Rose.”

“I’ll take care of the paperwork this next week. Those horses now belong to you, you’ll have to let other’s ride them if we need them for the camps we’ll be running, but except for that, they are yours. Oh, and I’ll pay for their feed and any vet bills.”

I’m sure Carol’s hearing was impaired at the two screamed their delight. They got up from the table and hugged me.

Actually, we MIGHT be setting up a day care center and hiring both of you!”

“Really Aunt Kate? That would be so cool.”

“Just wait girls, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

This time it was the girls who responded in unison, “Thank you!”

It was one of the most enjoyable and memorable meals I’ve ever eaten.

At some point I asked where Tim, Brad, and Trevor were at.

One of the girls answered, “They’re just boys. THEY didn’t want to eat with the adults.”

“Just wait, you won’t be saying that soon, boys begin to look pretty good about the time you turn thirteen or fourteen.”

She scrunched up her face, gave a huge sigh, and said theatrically, “Maybe. I mean I know, but they’re sooo different.”

Her sister turned to her, “Duh, they’re boys,” as if that in and of itself were all that needed to be said on the subject. Carol and I shared a look, and laughed. Just as dinner finished Maeve pushed Si to come to me. “I have something we both want you to know.” She leaned down and whispered in my ear. “Thank you for saving Mom, my sister and me from another beating, or even worse. And thank you for keeping him from hurting any more women.”

I sat back, rocked to the very core of who I am. I looked in her eyes as they begin to fill with tears, then I looked Maeve in the eye, and it was also beginning to tear up as she gave me the very smallest of nods.

I think the two of them seeing me crying, staining my white silk blouse was the most important thing I’ve ever done. I nodded back, silently vowing to myself these girls would be learning three things before going back to school. First, NO FUCKING MAN would ever assault either again. Second, they would receive the very finest in self-defense training. And third, they would receive the training that would allow them to get a permit to carry a handgun. For a moment I felt a ghost of someone rubbing my back, a whisper in my ear, “My sister, what you felt is my small way of saying thanks.”

I closed my eyes and spoke to her subvocally. By your leave My Lady, thank you for that.

I was still very tired, and after dinner, stuffed and satiated, all I really wanted to do was go to sleep.

------------------

Stevens Hall, Saturday, December 29, 2001 0140 Hours

The phone was ringing. Tonight I was the closest so I reached over and muttered, “Oh this better be good.”

“Sorry Kate, it’s Andy. I hate like anything to wake you. We have a situation. I need to meet with you three, right now. Upstairs office. I’m having tea and coffee brought up. Jane needs to talk with you RIGHT NOW.”

“it’s okay, good night Andy.” I rolled back over, asleep.

The flippin’ phone was ringing. “Hello?”

“Kate, WAKE UP. Hand the phone to Hal or Linda.”

I handed the phone to Linda, “it’s for you,” I never even woke.

Linda answered the phone, “Hello?”

“LINDA WAKE UP NOW.”

“Huh?” she answered intelligently.

I suppose it was a good thing, ‘cause someone started pounding on the door. It dawned on me that it must be important when the door opened and the lights came on.
“Hal, wake up, and wake them up. Jane is on the phone. John Maxwell is dead.”

“Oh Farf!” I exclaimed. I’m not really sure where I got the word, but it seemed to put all the emotional crap I was feeling into a word not likely to get me in trouble with Linda.

Hal was handing me a robe as I grumbled. “I’m not going to sleep through the night this year, am I?” It was a good think the floor was carpeted, ‘cause I couldn’t even feel my feet, much less my slippers. Okay, that was an exaggeration. I stumbled down to the office, yawning and muttering imprecations under my breath.

Andy had the speakerphone turned on. “Good morning Jane, did you have a good night?”

“Ouch, I’m really sorry to wake you.”

“Oh, it’s okay, someone just called twice just before Andy turned the light on.”

Andy shook his head, “Kate that was me.”

My brain was only beginning to operate. I was up to the speed of an old PC. “Okay, I’m waking up. What’s going on?”

Andy spoke first, “Sorry Governor, I told her once; I can see it didn’t register.”

“John Maxwell is dead.”

“That’s a problem, isn’t it?”

“Yes Kate, it is. Maxwell was raped, then strangled in the protective custody module at Essex County jail. He was supposed to be on a suicide watch, no one knows anything. The PC module was supposed to be locked down, but someone, no one yet knows who, left the individual cells unlocked, and no one knows for certain when Maxwell was last checked in his cell.”

“Oh FARF!”

Jane asked, “Farf?”

“Don’t ask, she’s not really thinking yet.” Linda explained.

“You need me to tell Carol, don’t you?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“That’s why we pay you the big bucks, Major.”

“Low blow Jane, really low blow.”

“At this time in the morning I take anything I can get. Kate, I’m sorry. I’d have called you even if she wasn’t staying with you.”

“I know you would Jane, and believe it or not, when I wake up I’m really going to appreciate it.”

“The entire facility is on lockdown. I really shouldn’t ask, but will you watch over the investigation?”

“Jane, the bastard raped me. If I was awake, and a hundred pounds lighter I’d be doing handsprings.”

“Kate, that’s why.”

“Huh?”

“No one, especially when I leak your abuse at his hands, will think you have an axe to grind in finding his killer. Everyone will know you won’t rush to judgment. You will have to be certain before you name a suspect.”

“Jane, somehow I’m hoping when the sun comes up you’re going to rethink this. Okay, tentatively I’ll do it.”

“I’m sorry, but they are waiting for you at the jail.”

“Oh damn. Can I at least pull on my clean tactical uniform, or do I need to wake Annie to make me one?”

“I don’t care if you go in your birthday suit.” Jane snapped, “Wait, that would be bad. Yes, your tactical suit would be fine.”

“Okay Jane. Go back to sleep. I’ll talk to Carol then head to the Jail.”

I looked at Linda and Hal; “Why me? I’ve been a good girl I have, I have.”

“Forget it Eliza, I know better.”

I looked at Linda ferociously, “FARF!”

I went back to find my slippers, then went to the room Leo was in.

It appeared I wasn’t the only one still asleep, I tried knocking twice. I wound up pounding on the door, desperately hoping I wasn’t waking anyone else.

“Yeah? Oh, it’s you Kate, what’s going on?”

“Can I come in?”

“Sure, what couldn’t wait until morning?”

“John Maxwell’s dead.”

“Oh damn. Carol’s going to be devastated.”

“Huh? I’m not thinking too well yet Leo, devastated wasn’t the word I was expecting.”

Leo patiently explained, “I think deep down she was hoping John would change.”

“Leo, even I know that wasn’t going to change.”

“Kate, you’ve a very different perspective. I knew John, and Carol since Junior High School. Once John was very different than you knew. He was kind and caring. I don’t really know where things went bad. John and Carol were this perfect couple. John changed, Carol never really accepted that.”

“Oh damn, and I thought this couldn’t get any worse. The Governor called to ask me to tell her, then to watch over the investigation into Maxwell’s death.”

“That’s just crazy.”

“That’s what I tried to tell her. She thinks that after she releases the details of my rape that everyone will be certain I won’t just, as she put it, “Rush to Judgment.””

“That actually makes sense in an ass backwards kind of way.”

“Will you go with me to tell her?”

“Let me pull some clothes on.”

“Leo, I hate to tell you, but Essex County jail is on lockdown, waiting on me. I’ll take as long as Carol needs me, but others are clamoring for my attention.”

“Okay Kate, I’ll keep that in mind.”

I went down to the office, to get a cup of coffee, I was really hoping it was a very high caffeine variety. That’s where Leo found me a few minutes later. Linda handed him a mug. Then the three of us went to tell Carol.

Carol must have been a light sleeper, she answered my knock on her door very quickly. “Kate! Leo, and Linda, what’s happened? Are the kids all right?”

“Carol, the kids are fine. The Governor called me a few minutes ago. I’m sorry, there was some kind of incident at the jail. John is dead.”

Carol stood there for a couple of minutes. “Thank you Mrs. Stevens. My children and I will leave in the morning.”

“Carol, there’s no need to leave. My understanding is the FBI are still investigating, and now this, it will be a while. I would ask that you stay here.”

“Isn’t it enough you’ve managed to kill my husband?”

I felt like someone had slapped me, HARD.

Leo intervened. “Carol, that’s not fair and you know it.”

I left the two of them and I walked back to my bedroom with Linda. It wasn’t right. I was a victim of that bastard and now I was losing another night’s sleep because of him. Worst of all, Carol thought I was somehow responsible. Hal came up behind me, and wrapped me in his arms. I turned around, buried my face in his neck, and sobbed.

“I know it hurts, but you’ve got to be moving,” he told me. “Carol will get it right in the morning.”

“Is life going to keep on doing this to me? I didn’t ask for ANY of this.”

Linda tried to shush me. “Hon, it’s not fair, it’s not right, but you need to quiet down before you wake everyone up.”

“Fine. Just fine!!” I grabbed a bra then stepped into my clean coverall. I dragged a brush through my hair, and put a minimum of makeup on. I was so damned upset I didn’t dare try to put any more on. I would have looked like a clown the way I was feeling.

Pulling my boots on, I snatched my duty belt out of the closet, and holstered my pistol. I jammed a few dollars, some change for the coffee machine, a lipstick, Kleenex and my ID in my pockets, and started to stomp down the hall to the stairs, Linda following behind me. Reaching the stairway, I found Carol waiting for me.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Maxwell. I have to leave. The Governor ordered me to supervise the investigation into the death of your husband. I really am very sorry for your loss.”

I tried to go around her when she grabbed at me. “No Kate! I’m the one who’s sorry. I shouldn’t have spoken to you, of all people, like that. Please forgive me.”

I stopped. With tears running down my face I turned to her. “Carol, I would never hurt you. Of course I forgive you. I’m tired, and haven’t really slept in three days? I think it’s three days. The entire jail is in lockdown, waiting on me. We’ll talk. I really am sorry.” I was crying, but so was she. It wasn’t fair. I shouldn’t have to be the one responsible for her pain. Hell, it felt like my life was a non-stop horror show for nearly two months now. The worst part, there was no way I could get off the treadmill I found myself on.

“Honey, I’m sorry, you have to go.” Lin told me, handing me my helmet.

“Oh no you don’t!” A shout stopped me, again. I looked to see Sheila hastily pulling her zipper closed with one hand, gun belt and helmet balanced in her other. “I’m like your American Express card, you don’t leave home without me.”

Nodding, I accepted a hug from Carol. I’d turned to go when Leo came up to us.

“Kate, let me go with you. As John’s attorney my presence may help you.”

I just nodded and turned to go. Two of my officers were waiting downstairs, dressed the same as Sheila and me. One of them had the presence of mind to pack my briefcase with a few essentials, including a portfolio, my laptop, tape recorder/voice stress indicator, and some of Vikki’s baked goods. It wasn’t worth trying to tell any of them to stay. I just nodded, then continued down to the basement, and from there through the tunnel to the garage complex. The helicopter was waiting, rotor turning slowly. The five of us climbed aboard. The co-pilot handed a pair of headphones to Leo, I should have thought to have a helmet for him. Huddling in a corner, I lowered the gold lens on my helmet, and tried to nap.

“Kate,” Sheila shook my arm, waking me. “We’re there.”

I nodded, and climbed out. Pulling my helmet off, I left it in the helicopter and followed a deputy into the jail. First stop, gun check. Why, you ask, did I bring a gun if I was only going to check it in? Because. It makes no more sense than that. There are RULES. One said unless otherwise required, a police officer was to be armed. Like I said, just because.

People looked at me like I knew what I was doing. We were led into a medium sized room, a gurney, presumably with John Maxwell’s body on it, was against one wall. It really creeped me out. Not that I’d ever admit it. There was something just wrong about being responsible for him being here, then having his dead body just lying there. Leo walked over to the gurney, and reluctantly I followed him. A man in uniform, with the insignia of a Lieutenant, came over and lifted the sheet off of the face. There was no doubt. John Maxwell was dead. I really, really wanted to be glad, but with the memory of Carol’s words echoing, all I could feel was a numb feeling.

The man was the watch commander. Three other uniforms were the three correctional officers from the protective custody unit were waiting on me there. Additionally, attorneys from: the union representing the correctional officers, the Attorney General’s office, the District Attorney’s office, and the Federal Court were there. As if that weren’t enough, the Special Agent in Charge (SAIC) of the Boston field office of the FBI, and a court reporter were also there.

“I have to say your reputation precedes you Major,” the Lieutenant, Don Miller, said reaching out to shake my hand.

“Thank you, but you really shouldn’t believe everything you see on TV,” I said with half a smile.

“Ma’am, I wasn’t just speaking of Birmingham. Your tactics and principles have become the virtual bible for Special Weapons teams.

“Thank you Lieutenant.”

I shook his hand, and we sat down. “Gentlemen, my name is Kate Stevens. I’ve been asked by Governor Jane Swift to oversee this investigation. This is a task I do not want, and made that very clear to the Governor. You’ll hear the rest of this in the morning anyway, so let me be clear why I don’t want this. John Maxwell raped and brutally beat me less than two weeks ago. I still have a broken nose and collar bone. If I were whole, and 100 pounds lighter I would be doing cartwheels.”

“Unfortunately, the facts of that case will not be tried in a court of law. It is still under investigation by the FBI. I understand Mr. Maxwell’s property has been seized pursuant to RICO. I will ask the Federal Courts to rescind that seizure, Mrs. Maxwell is also a victim and does not need the added burden of being impoverished for the actions of her husband. This is especially true in the case of Mrs. Maxwell. She has been the repeated victim of his abuse.”

“The Governor decided that very fact would make me the one person without any political or personal reasons to influence my search for the killer. THAT is the only reason I let myself be talked into investigating this fiasco. I will do my duty, and complete it to the best of my ability. No one who knows me would believe otherwise.”

“Everything is going to be by the book. The “book” will be the laws of the Commonwealth, the Federal Government’s Correctional Procedure Code of 1986, and this facilities policies and procedures. Lieutenant, I’m also going to need a copy of your manual. No corners are going to be cut. It is my duty to find out what happened. I was asleep, for the first time in the last 72 hours when the Governor herself called to wake me up. I do NOT want to be adversarial to anyone here; I recognize in some cases it will be inevitable.

The gentleman with me is Mr. Leo Sweeney, esquire. Mr. Sweeney is, or rather was John Maxwell’s attorney. He also represents the interests of Mrs. Maxwell. In the last hour I’ve been wakened by the Governor, ordered to notify Mrs. Maxwell of her husband’s death, had Mr. Sweeney at my door, and traveled by helicopter to this facility, all after a very busy, very public three days. Mrs. Maxwell is not happy with me, the Governor, or the Commonwealth. I expect to hear from the State Police Commandant, and the Sheriff in the morning. Mr. Sweeney, and Mrs. Maxwell, while pissed to a fare thee well, have expressed their confidence I will make an honest best effort to see Mr. Maxwell’s killer is found and brought to justice.”

“I see a court reporter is present. I will be recording these proceedings. Please state your name for the record. I reached into my briefcase and pulled out the recorder and started it. “My name is Kathryn Elaine Stevens, Major with the Commonwealth State Troopers.” Each of the people the stated their name, and who they were with.

After consulting with their union attorney, the three CPO’s (Correctional/Police Officers) politely informed me they would not answer any questions at this time.

“Gentlemen that is your right. For the record, Lieutenant Miller, please read your Miranda continued, “That reading will constitute your full and complete notification of your rights under the US Constitution, for this investigation. Do each of you understand these rights? Again, you are required to answer by name… They did I’m going to dismiss the three of you in just a few minutes Warnings.” The lieutenant did, and I. When I do, you are specifically ordered not to speak to each other, except in the presence of your Union attorney or your own attorneys. By that I mean you are not to speak or communicate on the phone, or by any other means with each other. Let me make it clear, by my Authority, as the officer responsible for this investigation you will obey this order, or be locked up as material witnesses. In this, I speak with the Governor’s authority,” (and Jane had better back me up!!). “I do require that you answer this question. Do you each understand your rights as explained?”

Each of the three admitted they understood.

“Thank you. Lieutenant Miller, I need and require the video recordings of all cameras in this facility for the last two weeks, or if you do not have them for two weeks, all the tapes currently recorded, the duty roster for the last two weeks, the access logs for the last two weeks, and copies of the case files for all prisoner/detainees in the Protective Custody module (PC Mod). I need those before these gentlemen are dismissed.”

I turned to the Assistant Attorney General from the Boston Federal Court. “Mr. Franklin. Will you act as the party responsible for the original evidence in this case, and the chain of evidence for that material? And please, would you mind sending copies of everything to me?”

Bill Franklin agreed to my request.

“Agent Tatro (SAIC of the FBI), has your office agreed to be responsible for gathering the material evidence?” Agent Tatro responded affirmatively, indicating his lab was already processing the PC Mod. “Thank you, please preserve the chain of evidence and transfer of the material to Mr. Franklin.”

“A word of explanation. I’ve asked the Federal officials here to handle the evidence. This is not meant to cast doubt or suspicion on any particular group, or person. That is in fact the very reason they are being asked. No one will be able to cry the evidence was selectively gathered. This case is going to be scrutinized by the public. Since the correctional officer’s do not wish to proceed, as soon as the evidence, logs and videotapes, is delivered to the SAIC, and/or the Assistant Attorney General for the Federal Court, you will each have the opportunity to raise any objections you have with me to the Governor, or the Massachusetts’ Supreme Court. I will now allow any of you who wish to avail yourself of the opportunity to make a statement, while Lieutenant Miller gathers the video evidence.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. No one spoke up. “While we are waiting on the items from Lieutenant Miller, please feel free to discuss anything relating to this case.”

I sat back and listened. There was discussion of Commonwealth involvement in the lab work. A couple of attorney’s hashed out my rules. Another conversation came up about my alleged rape and beating. There was some question raised about my rank within the police structure of the Commonwealth. I explained I donated my time, and spent the majority of that time working with the Special Weapons and Tactics teams throughout the Commonwealth. They even wanted to discuss the action in Birmingham. That last I discouraged with a polite statement about not believing what the TV reported. No one really believed my modest answer. Somehow it had already seeped into the collective consciousness of the people of the Commonwealth, and I had become a “hero.”

FARF!!

“Officer Gilman, Officer Seuss, and Officer Adams, you are now dismissed. Until this matter is resolved you are on administrative leave, with pay, unless or until I am over-ruled or decide otherwise. This is not to be construed in any way to suggest you are a suspect. All of your rights will be scrupulously observed.”

“Unless anyone else has something to contribute I’d like for us to meet again on Monday, after lunch. Would this facility be convenient?”

I’m not sure they really thought it would be “convenient,” but no one raised an objection. “Lieutenant Miller, would you see to scheduling this room for 1300 hours? Last item. If any of you are not satisfied in any way, you are welcome to pursue a remedy through the Courts. We stand adjourned.”

I asked the transcriptionist to deliver the transcript to Mr. Franklin, with a copy to me. Then I thanked her for coming out at this ungodly hour.

Of course, every flippin’ person there wanted “just one minute, or two” of my time. Forty-five minutes later Sheila, Leo and I signed out, Sheila and I retrieved our weapons, and we left.

My other two officers, who I really wasn’t quite certain why they had come along, escorted us back to the helicopter, we boarded, and were headed home. Imagine my joy when I discovered it was only 0600. I groaned, five farfing hours.

“I have to tell you Kate, for being the middle of the night, you were awfully damned sharp in there. I would not want to be ANY of those attorney’s or the correctional officers.”

“I gave up nothing. It will take till Monday afternoon to get copies of those video-tapes, and to scan through them. Monday, I plan to begin discovery. I expect to spend some very late nights at that jail this week. You probably want to associate with a local attorney. www.youtube.com/www.youtube.com/You might have noticed I didn’t allow anyone to ask if you were admitted to the Massachusetts bar.”

“Actually, I did. Like I said, you’re awfully damned sharp, especially for someone who’s not a lawyer themselves.”

“Thank you Leo. I appreciate you saying so, even if it isn’t necessarily true. You might consider associating with Erik Moore and Liz Rodriguez Cendar’s Chief Counsel.”

Sheila, proving she was human, snapped at me, “Knock it off Kate, you WERE damned sharp. From the moment you walked in the room no one could doubt you were in charge, and not happy with it. By telling them all you were one of his victims you eliminated any hint of preferential treatment for anyone. If the Governor appointed you, and Leo and Carol accepted you, then everyone else HAD to accept you or look guilty and/or stupid. You gave them time to file complaints, but kept that time to an absolute minimum. THAT served notice there would be no nonsense tolerated. Hell, I know you and what you’re capable of and I’m STILL impressed.”

“Yes boss.”

“Damned straight, just don’t forget it or I’ll tell Lisa and Annie.”

“Oh no! Not that!” It was a sign of how tired I was that I laughed all the way back to the estate.

Steven’s Hall, Saturday, December 29, 2001, 0700

We staggered in through the kitchen, frightening poor Vikki half to death. Sitting at the table in the breakfast nook, I asked for some breakfast, but please no coffee or tea, I was headed to bed. That’s where Mom and TJ found us.

“I thought you gave up cops and robbers YEARS ago Honey. Did you lose your Barbie again?” Mom said pouring a cup of coffee.

“Don’t say anything yet to Annie and Lisa, but Maxwell was killed overnight, even though he was on a suicide watch. It’s a mess. I’ll give you one guess who got drafted by her friend the Governor to investigate. We just got off the helicopter. I am so tired.”

Of course, it was Kismet. Tom walked in just as I said that.

“Tired? You should have let me known, I have the industrial sized bottle of sleep meds in the basement, along with other THINGS I’ll use if you don’t take care of yourself.”

“What kind of things Tom?” My brother asked.

“TJ, just the usual doctor things. Needles, syringes, RESTRAINTS, just stuff like that.”

“If you all will just let me finish my breakfast I’ll go right to bed.”

“Oh go right ahead Dear, don’t let us stop you.”

“You’re not stopping me, I just don’t want to gross you out talking with my mouth full of food.”

“Are you are still eating?” Leo contributed.

“There’s nothing I can do to get you all to stop, is there?”

“You see TJ, in a couple more years YOU can be callous and cynical, just like your big sister.”

“Tom if I take my plate upstairs would be please bring me drugs Dr. Honey?”

I should have just suffered in silence.

“Good morning all,” Hal joined the bustling throng. I half way expected someone to ask if we would put in a train station in the basement. “Who are you calling Honey Kate?”

“Hal, why would you call her ‘Honey Kate?’” Predictably that was Linda, walking into my bad dream.

“Tom? I really think I’d rather sleep than eat. Would you meet me upstairs?”

Tom decided to let me off the hook, “Sure Kate. Why don’t I ask Vikki to heat this up?”

“Sure. Fine. Great!” Grumble, mumble. “Good night one and all.”

Behind me I heard, “I can’t believe how grumpy she is in the morning.” TJ snarked; it figures.

I dragged my body up the stairs, feeling virtuous (but exhausted) for not taking the elevator.

Carol met me going down, as I was going up. “Kate, you look terrible,” (I WAS glad someone noticed).

“I’m just tired. I’m so sorry Carol, it was John.”

“I’m not.” Carol sat down on stairs.

“Huh?”

“I realized something, sometime during the night, it was only a matter of time before John killed me, or God forbid raped or hurt one of my babies.”

Carol patted the stair next to her, so I sat down beside her.

“Leo’s wife Pam was my very best friend. We knew each other since elementary school. For fifteen years, or more, she tried to get me to leave John. You didn’t know John in school. He truly was wonderful. His family were all hard scrabble farmers, they didn’t have much, and John seemed happy just being with me. I was certainly happy then, being with him. In college something happened, I never figured out what. Pam thought it was being around people who had money. He became obsessed with getting and holding onto things, including me.”

“Carol, you don’t have to do this.”

“Hush, yes I do, for you, and more so for myself; I’ve never told this to anyone. You, I think, might actually understand. Anyway, I saw John change before my eyes. In the beginning I really tried to keep him from changing. Nothing I did seemed to make any difference. It’s the reason I had babies. John was FURIOUS when he found out I was pregnant, but after a time he was taking pride in the fact I was having triplets. It was like this great big pissing contest. He was firing triplets, our friends only had one child at a time. So, in his mind he was this super-stud.”

“Carol…”

“Let me finish. After the babies were born he made me get my tubes tied, and made sure all our friends knew it. So he never had to prove his virility, his “super-sperm” I once heard him call it. That was when he started getting abusive, especially in bed. He made me do, things. THINGS I didn’t want to do. He seemed to enjoy hurting me. It started with small things, like a slap on the butt. It got worse, as you know. He also began to sleep around. He’d leave for a day, or a week, once he was gone for a month. Then he’d come back from his “business trip,” and when he did, he would beat me.”

As she talked, the tears became steadier. I tried to get her to stop. She became more insistent in telling her story.

“The first time I was sure he was cheating was when my doctor, a friend of John’s, told me I had an STD. The doctor immediately called John and told him. That was the first time he broke one of my arms. Leo and Pam were livid. Pam called every day. She timed it so John never knew. Usually she called while the babies were sleeping. Leo and Pam were my babies’ Godparents. More importantly, she was my friend, my sister in all but blood. They doted on the babies.”

“Then Pam found out she had uterine cancer.”

“Oh no!”

She fought the cancer for years. I would pack up the babies and go visit her. No real reason, just to sit with her, to let her know of my love. Two years ago she lost her fight. Afterwards, everything went to hell really fast. It was as though he knew as long as Pam was alive there was a line he couldn’t cross. Actually, I think Pam scared him. She knew EVERYTHING. Without her, he would beat me almost all the time. I couldn’t leave the house, no parent-teacher conferences, no anything.”

Tom started up the stairs, saw the two of us, and went up the elevator instead.

“Shopping was all on-line. The kids stayed in their rooms anytime he was home. I know they heard me cry. They saw the bruises, the arm or leg in a cast, I think Maeve even told one of her teacher’s, because Social Service’s scheduled a home visit. John was on the City Council; the visit was canceled. That earned me a broken arm, and one eye was swollen shut for a week. My babies are smart. I think Maeve and Si realized telling anyone would result in a beating for me and they told Trevor. John would beat me, leave for a week, then come home and beat me again. It was this week I figured out those week long “business” trips were John’s cruises, and the rape of a woman.”

“Then this marvelous woman came along.” Carol pulled me into a hug. “John raped and beat her. Her husband and oldest daughter flew into the Cayman Islands and saved her life. She was strong enough, barely, to stand up to John. She had the resources to stop the violence. Thank you Kate. I owe you my life, I owe you the lives my children.”

I was crying so hard I couldn’t see straight for the tears. “I’m not very marvelous. I’m really pretty broken Carol. I tried to kill myself, damn near did. I’m just a good actress.”

“But you didn’t kill yourself. When the system turned him loose, YOU were the one who cared enough to open your home and your heart to Leo and me. Because of you John was re-arrested and thrown in jail. Leo also, probably owes his life to you. John would have had to kill him. You stopped him.”

“Carol, Hal sent the plane. I was so panicked Tom had to knock me out.”

“Hal told Leo he did it because that’s what you would want him to do.”

“He did? I didn’t know that.”

“He respects you. Yes, he loves you, but what you have, that so many women never find, are two people who respect you, and then love you. No matter how you started life, or how you got here, those are facts.”

“And so Kate Stevens, thank you. I’m glad he’s dead. It’s the only way my babies, Leo, or I would ever be safe from the monster he became. I’m sad for the man I loved, but he’s been dead for at least fifteen years. I can’t grieve for him any longer… or hope somehow he would change.”

“You know Leo loves you, don’t you?”

“Love? Leo’s the only friend I have, but he doesn’t love me.”

“Carol, you have at least three other friends in this house. You insisted on telling me, the least you can do is listen in return. He loves you.”

Carol pulled away from the embrace we were in and looked into my eyes, “Really?”

I couldn’t speak so I just nodded my head.

“So, I guess I owe you for that too.”

“No Carol, you don’t owe anything. All I’ve done is shown you a mirror.”

“Bullshit Kate. Sometimes you think like a man, wanting to fix everything other than yourself, then claim you didn’t do anything. You know that? You want me to believe you? Then believe in yourself.”

“I’m sorry. I am really tired.”

“Come on, you’re going to bed.”

“Huh?”

“I said come on, you’re going to bed.”

Carol pulled me to my feet and up the stairs. I really didn’t feel like fighting anymore. When we got to my room, she insisted on helping me, leading me around like a baby. I sat down and ate a few bites. After she pulled a clean nightgown out and made sure I changed, she tucked me in.

The last thing I remember is her kiss on my forehead. “Thank you Kate.”



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