Rachel fell asleep, snuggled up in Ben’s arms. Her eyes burnt from crying and she had intended only to close them for a moment, but slipped into slumber. She slept deeply, feeling like a massive weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She felt safe in Ben’s arms. He held her happily as he listened to her, breathing softly. He didn’t want to let her go. The early afternoon sun beamed into the bedroom, warming the room with its slopped Cape Cod-style ceilings.
Ben nodded off himself and woke to the noise of his phone, buzzing in his pocket. He tried to fish his phone out of his pocket without waking Rachel. He managed to grab it and answer it just before it went to voicemail.
“Hello,” Ben answered softly, not to wake Rachel.
“We got em. We got that son of a bitch. Smug fucking asshole thought we wouldn’t get him. I called Callie Carlson and asked her to come down to be here to I.D. him, its a match. Serena is on her way to ID, and we have a warrant for DNA. His lawyer is on his way. Man, you should have seen the look on Rhett Lawson’s face when we barged into his office. Derek was sitting in Rhett’s office. I thought Rhett was going to shit himself. One of the guys has got to have bodycam footage of it.”
“That is great news. Thanks for keeping me in the loop.”
“Hey, how’s Rachel?”
“Sleeping right now.”
“I don’t want to pry but can you connect the dots for me?”
“I can’t really right now, and not without her permission, but eventually, I hope so.”
“It didn’t happen recently, did it?”
“No, a while ago.”
Rachel stirred from her slumber at the sound of Ben’s voice. She looked up at him, only half awake, and then buried her head back in the crook of his shoulder.
“Well, I will keep you in the loop. I know what you have going on there is really important, but you should try to make the press conference if this is for sure our guy. We should know in a few hours.”
“I’ll have to let you know.”
“Ben, this is the collar of our careers. We’ve been looking for this animal for months now.”
Ben hung up his phone. As much as he wanted to be there, to finally celebrate in catching the man, he wanted to be with Rachel more. He knew six months ago, nothing would have kept him from hauling the criminal in, himself, but Rachel had changed all of that. He reached down and stroked her hair as she rolled over. Ben pulled the blanket up over and snuggled up next to her, careful not to press his body too hard into hers. Awkwardly, he put his arm on his side; he didn’t want to make Rachel uncomfortable by holding her, he wanted her to rest. She reached out and grabbed his arm and pulled it around her.
“No more.” She murmured.
They slept for most of the afternoon cuddled up together. Ben’s phone rang again, and he rolled over to answer it looking at the time on the screen, it was 2 pm.
“It’s for sure him! The DNA matches, we got him, Ben!”
Ben exhaled louder than he had intended.
“Thank God. What’s the D.A. thinking? Any word from him yet?”
“I think he’s going to go for the max, life without parole.”
“Good. That monster should never be on the street.”
“Agreed. Hey, the Chief is calling a press conference at 4. You really should be here. He wants you here when he makes the statement.”
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”
“He wasn’t asking, neither am I. I know Rachel is important, but this is too. We’ve worked hard for this.”
Rachel rolled over, having overheard the conversation. She reached out for the phone, grabbing it gently.
“Hi Marty, he’ll be there. He isn’t going to miss this. I won’t let him. So you really got him, Derek, I mean?”
“Yes, he will never be a free man again.”
Rachel handed Ben back the phone, unsure of what to respond. Ben finished his call and hung up the phone, setting it on the nightstand. Rachel snuggled back up to him.
“Do you remember the first morning you accidentally stayed? You said to me, waking up next to me was your most favorite thing on Earth, well I think this is mine. Just laying next to you in bed.”
Ben smelled and leaned down and kissed her.
Two hours later the Chief announced in front of all of the Chicago press that The South Side Strangler had been caught. Rachel declined to come, knowing it would be too much for her. Ben stood proudly next to Marty, as they were both commended for their work. Ben was grateful when to step out of the glare of the bright lights for the t.v. cameras. He wanted to get back to Rachel.
On his way back to his desk, he walked past the cell that held Derek. He locked eyes with the man he had been hunting, seeing Derek’s carnage and brutality. Marty patted Ben on the shoulder as they kept walking past. Before Ben stepped into their office, he turned back around; he wanted to look at Derek.
“Hey man, don’t rip him limb to limb,” Marty said cautiously.
“I just want another look at him.”
“Yeah me too, with Calle’s pipe wrench in my hand.”
Ben walked back into the room where Derek sat in his own cell, still in his collared shirt. His tie and belt had been taken. Derek did not look like a serial rapist and killer. He was clean-shaven, with deep brown eyes and sharp jawline. He was handsome, not the sort of man who was pure evil incarnate. Ben starred through the bars; he couldn’t help himself.
“What?” Derek asked.
Ben stayed quiet.
“What are you looking at, man?” Derek asked again.
Ben looked at Derek’s hand; his left hand had a scar on the ring finger in the shape of an oval. The back of Rachel’s legs flashed through his mind. Ben grabbed ahold of the building rage inside of himself.
“Whatever, man.” Derek turned away.
Ben walked back to his office and sat, although he hadn’t said anything to Derek, he had wanted to say so much, not just for Rachel but for all of the women Derek had hurt. Ben knew that there were no words to make that kind of hurt right, nor was it his place to try. Marty popped his head back into their office.
“Guess who’s here to try to post bail?”
“Don’t’ tell me, Rhett?”
“No, it’s his dad.”
“Yeah, he’s pissed. He’d better watch it, or he’ll end up in the cell right next to Derek.”
Ben stood up and walked out over to the counter where Andrew stood red in the face.
“Is this you? Did you do this?” Andrew asked Ben.
“No, Mr. Lawson. Derek did this to himself. I am not the district attorney. There is no way Derek will ever walk free again.”
“We’ll see about that. I take care of my own.”
“Like you took care of Rachel? You and your creep of a son. You two belong in there with him.”
“What did you just say to me?”
“You heard me. You are all fucking animals.”
Ben walked away and back towards Derek’s cell. It was empty. Panic stabbed through Ben as he jogged to the interrogation room. Relieved, he saw the district attorney, along with Derek’s attorney in the room. Marty walked up and looked into the room through the two-way mirror. Marty switched on the audio so they could hear the exchange.
“Full cooperation and we won’t seek the death penalty. Life in prison without parole, that’s our offer.” The district attorney said as he slid the paperwork across the table towards the attorney.
“How long is to offer good for?”
“Until 9 am. Tomorrow morning.”
“We’ll discuss it. Thank you, Ken.”
The D.A. stood up and walked out of the room. He saw Ben and Marty standing outside watching.
“Good work, guys.”
The D.A. walked away as Derek’s attorney came out of the room looking for him.
“Hey Ken, wait. I want to talk to you for a second.” Derek’s lawyer said as he caught up.
Ben walked into the room, not quite sure why. There was something to be said, but he wasn’t sure what, and he wasn’t sure if he could say it without doing bodily harm to Derek.
“Why?” Ben asked rhetorically, knowing that Derek probably didn’t know the answer himself.
“Why?” Ben repeated.
“Because I could. Because they belonged to me.”
“Belonged to you? People don’t own people.”
“Oh but they do, Mr. Carter, I am guessing. Am I right, you are Ben Carter, the guy who’s banging Rhett’s ex. My hat’s off to you sir, that is one fine piece of ass, or at least it was until I got to her. Like my handy work? She’s mine, always will be. I branded her. Rhett’s the only reason she is not face down in the canal like the trash that she is.”
Ben could feel his insides shaking with rage.
“I may not be ever able to see her again, but she will see me every time she closes her eyes. She will think of me every day. I own her. She can never be yours, not fully.”
“ That’s where you are wrong, she will stop thinking of you every day, over time. Sure, you will never fade away completely, but you will fade. You don’t control her life, not anymore.”
“You don’t get it; she belongs to me, they all did. They were mine to do as I wished. Rachel was my first. Do you know what it is like to have free will over another human being like that? Mmmmmm…. Turns me on just thinking about it.”
Ben turned to walk out.
“Thinking of Rachel’s face twisted in pain, so beautiful. Her pleading for me to stop, willing to do anything for me, to please me. I’ve done things to her you could only dream of.”
Ben turned around and lept across the table, taking Derek down to the floor. He hit him as many times as he could in the face before Marty got to Ben and pulled him off.
Derek sat up and spat blood on the floor as he began to laugh.
“See, felt good, didn’t it?”
“Come on man; this asshole is going to get to know what getting rapped every day is like, where he’s going. A pretty boy like that…” Marty said, trying to calm Ben.
Meanwhile, two officers that had followed Marty in, had hauled Derek up to his feet to take him back to his cell. The chief walked in, seeing Ben’s hand dripping blood from his knuckles.
“Everyone out, Carter, you stay.”
The room cleared out and the door shut, leaving only the chief and Ben in the interrogation room.
“Feel better?” The chief asked.
“Not really. Sorry, I know better.”
“Marty says, that animal hurt your girl. Is that true?”
“Yes. I know I shouldn’t have…”
The chief raised his hand, and Ben stopped mid-sentence.
“Law and order only work if we all stick by a strict code of ethics and strive to uphold them. As much as we would love to take justice into our own hands, we don’t. I know I don’t have to tell you this. I also know that if that animal had hurt my Debra, I would have done the same thing or worse. Good job, not knocking any teeth out, I don’t want to have to explain it to the judge.
Ben, you know I have to ask, what happened that you put the pieces together? We have been searching for this guy for months, then one morning you call and give his name?”
“He branded her, Rachel. I didn’t see it until this morning. I mean, she had not shown me.”
The chief’s face looked distressed.
“I’m sorry, Ben. It must have taken a lot for her to show you.”
“Is she okay, or is she going to be okay?”
“In time, I hope so.”
“This didn’t happen recently, did it?”
“No, a few years back.”
“Well I understand if she doesn’t want to, but her testimony and physical evidence will only help the case if she’s willing.”
“I don’t think she’ll want to do that, but I’ll mention it to her.”
“In the meantime, why don’t you take a few days off, take her somewhere. His face is going to be everywhere, and that will be difficult for her.”
“Thanks for not knocking that asshole’s teeth out, saved me a shit ton of paperwork.”