Ray told story at home that night to Francesca and his mother. Fraser stayed late at work at the 10th precinct, as he often did since beginning his assignment to the Special Assault Unit, reporting to Lt. Shannon. But he had promised Ray solemnly, over lunch, to call Ray at home as soon as he was through with his paperwork so that Ray could pick him up and bring him over as soon as he was available. Diefenbaker was already there, he spent more time at the Vecchio house than at the apartment these days, because of Fraser irregular and demanding work hours.
"So, I came over to the 10th to pick Benny up for lunch. We were almost out the front door when Lt. Shannon stops us and tells Benny she wants him to look at a line up. She's made an arrest in his case and she wants him to identify the suspect. So I go along too, for moral support, like. And, man, does he need it. Benny's walking like he's in a trance. And then identifies two of the men that assaulted him in the line up. Two. The actual suspect and another guy who's been a detective at the 10th for years. Benny and Shannon confronted him. They didn't let me in to watch that part but Benny says he only had to push him a little and he caved. Benny says he was willing to - as Benny puts it - squeak on his friends in order to get off himself."
"My God, they'll catch all of them," Francesca said, excited.
"And once Shannon has them in custody she can match their DNA against the samples taken from Benny and from the bodies of the other twelve victims."
"I don't usually condone the death penalty, but I hope these monsters all die," said Ma, grimly. "To jump innocent men, beat them to death and rape them. Unthinkable. They're not human."
"What's scary, Ma, is that they ARE human. And at least one is a cop like Benny and me."
Francesca said, "Bro, don't you mean rape them and then beat them to death?"
Ray and Fraser had kept the full extent of the attack on Fraser from Francesca. She knew that Fraser had been found unconscious and naked in a dumpster, and that an injured Diefenbaker had led Ray to the location. She knew Fraser had severe internal injuries from the beating and had been apparently left for dead. She knew he had been sexually assaulted by many men. Ten different DNA sample had been identified in testing of the residue left on him when he had been found. And she knew that Lt. Shannon's unit had been investigating a pattern of a dozen such assaults on other men in the last two years - with Fraser the only one to have survived to describe his assailants.
Ma Vecchio was in on the whole story for the simple reason that Ray was not capable of hiding anything from his mother.
Getting Benny to actually work in the Special Assault Unit had been Ray's idea; Ma Vecchio had counseled that feeling busy and needed would help the Mountie cope. Fraser had been so depressed and hopeless after the rape that both Lt. Shannon and Ray had feared he might take his own life. Ray managed to foil one suicide attempt but feared that his clever, inventive friend must succeed in killing himself eventually unless he was given a good reason to want to go on living. Spending his time standing immobile outside the Consulate door wasn't going to give him that.
The plan worked splendidly. Working with other rape victims and bringing their attackers to justice was proving a magic tonic for the Mountie.
"I mean exactly what I said. These sons-of-bitches got twelve victims before they made the mistake of jumping Benny."
"May they rot in Hell," Francesca declared.
"At least they'll rot in jail. There's no better witness in the world than Benton Fraser, RCMP," Ray declared.
Lt. Shannon would have agreed with that statement. In front of her on her desk was the transcript of Fraser's description of the attack. It would have been comical in its minute detail, had the subject matter not been so horrific. Together with the transcript were four pencil sketches of men who had been involved in the attack. These four were already in custody, together with Detective Michaelson. That made five, with the others soon to be picked up, now that Michaelson had identified them.
Fraser was amazing. Lt. Shannon mused that she had been wise to listen when Vecchio of the 27th suggested that she take the Mountie onto her staff.
There was one thing wrong with this rosy picture. She was going to get all ten men convicted for assault and attempted murder, of that she had very little doubt, but getting them on the murder of the previous twelve victims was going to be trickier. She buzzed for her assistant, Sgt. Darrin, to come in so that they could discuss the options.
After an hour of tossing the situation around, the lieutenant and the sergeant agreed that the case was very strong, but not foolproof. And there wasn't anything more they could do about it. At least that was the conclusion to which Lt. Shannon came and Sgt. Darrin, while sitting with her, didn't say anything to contradict her.
Sgt. Darrin dropped in to see Fraser in his own office the next day.
"So, Ben. Can you take time for lunch today?"
"I've got a hearing at two, and I'm picking up the witness half an hour before," he glanced at his watch, "I guess I have time for a bite. Thanks for reminding me, I probably wouldn't have noticed the time and worked right through."
"That was an invitation, Ben."
Fraser looked sheepish. "Oh, sorry. Thank you kindly. Lunch would be great. When do you want to go? I have to . . "
". . . pick up a witness at one-thirty. I heard. Meet me outside in twenty minutes?"
Fraser nodded and Darrin left him to get back to his paperwork.
There was a Chinese restaurant two doors down from the 10th precinct, and Fraser didn't want to spend much time on lunch, so they went over, took a place in a booth, and Fraser ordered in Chinese for both of them. He ordered lunch specials, which came almost instantly.
While they were eating Darrin said, "This is about your case, Ben."
"I thought it might be. Officially, you're the officer in charge."
"I've been thinking about whether there's a way we can get these assholes for the murder of the first twelve men."
"We've discussed this. We don't have eye-witnesses to the other attacks. We have DNA evidence that their ejaculate was on the other victims, but no other physical evidence as to who committed the killings. Logic tells us that the pattern is the same. All twelve men were found dead, beaten and covered with 'cum'. The thirteenth man - me - remembers being beaten and raped and hearing them discuss killing him, then stopping the beating when someone said 'enough, he's snuffed'. Strong reason to think the same thing happened to the first twelve, but an attorney could claim there isn't enough physical evidence. No reasonable person could conclude they didn't murder these men, but there's a physical possibility that the victims agreed to the sexual encounter or that someone else did the actual killing. Without an eye-witness an attorney could claim reasonable doubt. Logic - yes. Proof - maybe not."
"That's the way Shannon and I see it, too. It's eating us up, Ben. With only one count of sexual assault and attempted murder, they could get out in a few years."
"Thirteen counts of assault," Fraser opined.
"Based only on their cum all over the victims' bodies. Strong evidence but not as good as a real witness. And nowhere near what we need for twelve counts of murder."
"That's a shame," Fraser allowed. "Are we having lunch together to commiserate?"
"Oh course not. Why do you think we're having lunch together?'
"Please tell me it isn't because you have designs on me. You've worked with enough rape victims to know I'm totally not in the mood for romance these days."
Darrin laughed, but ruefully. "Shannon doesn't like us to date victims, even if they are in the mood. You'd be surprised. Some of the victims are so grateful for our help, they get into these transference things - like what shrinks encounter - and start having a crush on us. You should have encountered that already."
"I have," Fraser said, briefly, and then changed the subject. "Does Lt. Shannon have a suggestion about my case?"
"No. But I was thinking we might do something for her. It would have to be unofficial - without her knowledge. It's in your power, Ben, to get these bastards on all twelve murder counts."
"I don't see how. I've told you and Lt. Shannon everything already. I don't see what else there is I can add."
Darrin glanced around first, then in a lowered voice, said, "You could remember something new and add it to your testimony. It's plausible. You were depressed when you dictated the first draft and since then you've had a chance to think back and remember more."
"If that were true," Fraser asked, cautiously, "what else might I remember?"
"You might remember that while you were playing dead you heard them talk amongst themselves about the other murders. Something like: we'll do this one the way we did . . . yada yada. They probably don't remember everything they said to each other that night word for word, and even if they do try to deny it - it will be your word against theirs. And you'll already be established as a reliable witness."
"Lying isn't something I do lightly, Darrin. And . . . under oath. I'm not sure I'm capable of that."
"Ben, is there any doubt in your mind that these bastards killed the other twelve men?"
'None at all. We'll have to bring charges of murder against them and hope that the circumstantial evidence is enough. I won't lie under oath."
"Ben, I knew that would be your first reaction. Just think about it. There's lying and there's lying. Sometimes a technical untruth can bring a greater good."
"I'm aware of that. But whenever I lie, I usually end up regretting it."
"Just think about it. And don't tell Shannon. She doesn't know I'm asking you. She'd never permit it."
Fraser did think about it - and about little else - for the rest of the day, except for the time he spent with the rape victim he was accompanying to court. On these occasions the victim always had his full attention and the occasions were getting more and more frequent. Shannon was finding Fraser so effective in persuading victims to testify in open court and supporting them while they did so that she assigned him more and more to this kind of duty and less and less to active investigation.
Court clerks and judges got to know him. So did defense attorneys, who cursed amongst themselves whenever they learned an upcoming sexual assault case was a "Mountie case". Rarely did one of the victims Fraser worked with fail to testify, and in full, unashamed and damning detail.
Finally it was evening and Fraser presented himself to the Vecchio house where Ma, Diefenbaker and Ray were waiting for him. After dinner, Fraser took Ray out onto the front porch for a private talk.
"Ray, remember when we were chasing Gerard and you offered me your gun? You said if I shot him, you'd be willing to say it was in self defense."
"Of course I remember."
"I don't break the law easily and I don't lie much," Fraser said.
Ray chucked his friend on the shoulder. "Ya think?" Then he became serious, "Is somebody asking you to lie, Benny?"
"No, of course not," Fraser said, without conviction. "But, suppose that, in one of my therapy session, I suddenly remembered some detail of the attack I didn't remember before. Maybe because I was blocking it out or . . ."
"I get the picture. Nobody wants you to remember something new about that night. Nobody at all. Crazy idea. I wonder where I got it. Now, what exactly does nobody want you not to remember?"
"That's a double negative, Ray. You should say . . . oh Hell!" Fraser interrupted himself, realizing how absurd it was to be correcting Ray's grammar at this point.
"Okay, I'll say it. Oh Hell. Happy?"
"Not in the slightest. Just forget it."
"No way. Let's have this out. What is there fresh that you can add to your testimony, if you did have a sudden revelation?"
"Ray, I could remember hearing the assailants discuss the previous murders amongst themselves when they thought I couldn't hear. Then, I would have eye witness - well, no, strike that - ear witness evidence that they killed the previous dozen men. Right now we only have circumstantial evidence."
"Their cum all over the dead bodies," Ray supplied, not without a slight cringe.
"But a clever attorney might persuade a jury that there is sufficient reasonable doubt about them actually doing the killing. The thought of these men going unpunished for the murders - Ray, it horrifies me."
"And you'd consider falsifying your statement. Come on, Benny, I know you better than that. The only woman you ever loved asked you to let her go and you didn't. The only man you ever hated was yours to kill and you didn't do that either. So forgive me but I can't see you committing perjury for people you don't even know."
"It's the fact that I don't know them that makes it so tempting. Gerard and Victoria, I stuck to the book with them perhaps because I knew that going against the rules would be for my own personal satisfaction. This would be purely for justice. I never met these men. I never met their families. That's what makes it so tempting, Ray. I somehow feel that this time my motives would be pure."
"They fucked up your head when they fucked up your ass, Benny. This isn't you talking."
"Meaning you don't think I should do it. Funny, I expected that you'd approve. It's something you might . . . well, don't take that too literally."
"No, it's okay, Benny. You can say it. I've been known to bend the truth a little here and there. I don't deny it. In fact, I wish I were better at it. But that's me and not you. You're smart, Benny. You could pull off a very good lie and make it stick."
"I could," Fraser agreed, not bothering with false modesty on so serious a topic.
"You never met the families of the other men. Maybe you should."
"Oh no, Lt. Shannon has been adamant that I'm not to have contact with any of the relatives of the other victims."
"It's a free country. You're allowed to talk to whoever you want to."
"Drop dead, Benny. Whomever. You're the most irritating man in the world. What am I going to do with you?"
Fraser made an effort to smile. Ray was lightening the moment for him and Fraser appreciated his friend's gesture. "You're going to take me back in the house and let your mother give me cake and coffee."
It was indeed a free country and the 10th precinct was a public building. Nothing stopped Mrs. Edwards from walking into the station one morning and asking the desk sergeant to make her appointment with Mr. Ben Fraser. Fraser had no court appearances scheduled for that afternoon and so Charlotte made her an appointment for 2:00 pm and then buzzed Fraser to let him know to set that time aside. Edwards being a common enough name, he didn't make the connection that this woman was the mother of one of the men killed by Michaelson and his cohorts.
Mrs. Edwards was a woman in her mid-fifties, petite and unassuming. She had on a conservative, grey wool suit, just a smidgeon too small for her and sat in Fraser's visitor's chair clutching a black patent leather handbag on her lap, as though for security. Her handbag matched her shoes, Fraser noticed, in the fashion of years ago.
"What can I do for you, Mrs. Edwards," Fraser asked. He leaned slightly forward in his chair and rested his elbows on the table to indicate to the woman that she had his full attention.
"My son was one of the victims of the men that also attacked you, Mr. Fraser. I heard from some of the other families that your case is coming to trial soon and there's going to be charges of murder brought for my son and the others."
"Murder and sexual assault. Yes, that's true but I shouldn't be talking to you about this, Mrs. Edwards. I'm under instructions not to."
"Why? I don't see why? We're in this together. You survived and my son didn't. You owe me."
"Well I . . ." Fraser was at a loss. "I'm sorry about your son, but I'm not involved in the case, except as the victim. I'll be testifying as a witness. That's all."
Mrs. Edwards twisted the handle of her purse. "Do you think it's fair, Mr. Fraser? That you you're sitting here behind a desk and my son is dead. Shouldn't you be doing something about it?"
"I am doing everything in my power. If I hadn't survived, there would have been no witness alive to testify against these men. It's cruel to say so, but you can't blame me because I had the presence of mind to save my own life and your son didn't."
She slumped in the chair, deflated. "I want justice for my son."
"Ma'am, with all due respect, you want vengeance. Justice isn't FOR anyone. It just is."
"I've heard you're a policeman, Mr. Fraser."
"Not in this jurisdiction, ma'am. I'm a Mountie."
"How dare you mock me? Have you no shame!"
"Mrs. Edwards, is there something specific you want me to do? Something you don't think I'm planning to do already. I've provided a complete description of what happened to me the day of the attack. I'm going to repeat that testimony in open court, and it was my identification of the perpetrators that led to their arrest. I don't really know what more you think I can do."
"You can say that you heard them say they killed my son. Tell the court you heard them mention his name specifically. George Edwards. It's an easy name to remember."
"Did someone ask you to come here, Mrs. Edwards?"
"Me? Why no."
"You haven't been in touch with Sgt. Darrin?"
"Oh course I have. The Sergeant keeps us informed of
all the developments in the case."
"All the families of the victims. We're all very interested in hearing your testimony."
"Nobody asked you to come and talk to me? Sgt Darrin didn't send you?"
The woman fidgeted some more. "We did talk about it. A little."
Fraser rose and stood behind his chair. "It's been nice meeting you, Mrs. Edwards."
"Are you going to help me?"
He held out a hand to her and repeated, "It's been nice meeting you, Mrs. Edwards."
Mrs. Edwards looked at the hand and seemed to be thinking about what if anything to say next. Then she too stood up, turned and walked away from the desk leaving Fraser's outstretched hand empty. At the doorway of Fraser's office, she turned and looked at him again. "You shouldn't be so high and mighty. This isn't just about you. It's about my son and all the other victims."
"Punishing these men won't bring your son back to life, Mrs. Edwards."
She made a harrumphing sound of disgust and marched out the door.
Fraser didn't sleep that night. Tossing in his bed, he relived the searing memories, felt again the blows, held his breath in imitation of the efforts he had made to play dead. He lived the pain and humiliation of the rapes.
Twelve men before him were dead. He lived. Did he owe it to the dead to bend the truth? He'd told Mrs. Edwards that justice cannot be FOR any specific person. It was an axiom of his existence - justice was an ideal. His role was to serve justice, not to ask justice to serve him. That's what he had always believed. He hadn't raised a hand against Gerard; he hadn't let Victoria go. But, as he had tied to explain to Ray, this wasn't selfish. This wasn't for his own personal satisfaction nor for anyone he loved. So, was it more virtuous to tell lies for strangers than for one's self? It was a twisted concept of altruism, but a compelling one.
As the sun was coming up, he made a decision.
A couple of days later, he had an appointment with the psychiatrist. At everyone's urging, he had been going to and he had been co-operating with the doctor, without really feeling there was much benefit to be gained. But now he was glad to keep the appointment, because the psychiatrist was going to form part of his plan.
Fraser began the session by asking the doctor to hypnotize him.
Dr. Schmidt was skeptical. Fraser had never asked for anything specific in his months of therapy, only gone along with whatever the doctor had proposed. The doctor of course asked for an explanation.
"My trial is in two weeks. Not MY trial. The trial. In any case it is in two weeks. I've told the police everything I remember but I was in a state of shock and disorientation when I made my statement. Maybe now that time has passed, I'll be able to remember some elements I've been repressing."
"Don't try to impress me with jargon Mr. Fraser. I'm the psychiatrist. It's MY jargon, after all," the doctor said, a little amused.
"I really do think I might be repressing certain details," Fraser insisted.
"Fine, let's see what you can remember. Begin with .
. . "
"No, I really think hypnosis is the way to go. Unless you have a specific objection."
"I have. You have astounding recall. I've never seen anybody with powers of observation and retention like yours. To think that anything may be missing from your memory is ludicrous."
Fraser tried a different approach. "I would make me feel better to try this, Doctor. Are you really so opposed to the idea that you won't give me benefit of the doubt?" He gave a sweet half-smile to the doctor, and widened his eyes to look as childlike as he could.
"You're making google-eyes at me. That's what my mother used to call that look. Very well, Mr. Fraser. If it's so important to you that you're trying such a ridiculous approach on me, I guess there's no harm."
Dr. Schmidt guided Fraser through the steps to reach a hypnotic state and spent the rest of the session probing for details. Feigning being hypnotized didn't strain Fraser's powers of invention very much and if Dr. Schmidt was aware Fraser was faking, he didn't mention it.
After his therapy session, Fraser returned to the 10th precinct and presented himself in Lt. Shannon's office.
"Problem with your schedule, Ben?"
"No ma'am. It's about my . . . our . . . the . . . upcoming trial. I'd like to add something to my statement."
Lt. Shannon had only been paying Fraser half of her attention, but at this she looked away from her computer screen and regarded him quizzically.
"At this late date?"
"I've been hypnotized by my psychiatrist and I want to add to my statement some things said by my attackers." This statement was carefully phrased to make his change in testimony sound plausible to Shannon and also to give Fraser the satisfaction of being literally true, albeit misleadingly phrased.
Shannon narrowed her eyes and regarded him suspiciously. "Whom have you talked to?"
It pleased Fraser that, for once, he reported to someone who knew the correct use of 'whom'. As much as he respected Lt. Shannon, he pretended not to understand what she was suggesting. "To my psychiatrist. As I said."
"How stupid do you think I am, Ben?"
Fraser was cornered. "I don't think you are stupid at all, ma'am."
"Did somebody get to you? Answer me truthfully."
It took all of Fraser's will power not to give in to this appeal to his basic honesty. "I've remembered something new. I'd like to tell it to you and have it recorded in the official transcript of my report."
Shannon sighed. She got up from behind her desk and walked around to sit on the edge of the desk so that she was close to Fraser. "I want to nail these sons-of-bitches too, Fraser. But your first instincts are the right ones. You told me the whole, ugly truth. It doesn't need embellishment. Let it be."
"But ma'am. They might beat the murder charges."
"They might. But remember this: these men couldn't have been identified and captured without you. You don't have to do more than you've already done. I want you to always be the same honest, dedicated man that I hired."
"I want to change my statement, Lieutenant."
"I could go to Sgt Darrin. She's the officer officially assigned to the case. I don't need your permission. I only thought . . . "
"If you intended to do that, you'd have brought this to her first. And I doubt she would have argued with you. Let me play psychiatrist a little here. Didn't you come to me because deep down you wanted to be talked out of it?
"That's ridiculous. Oh, sorry. Ma'am."
"You're making a difference here, Ben. Isn't that making you feel better about yourself? You know, when you were in the hospital, it was me that warned Vecchio that you were suicidal. I know the thought patterns of men who have been raped. You had all the classic signs. Trust me when I say I know how your mind works. Get back to work, Ben. Forget about changing anything. We'll do the best we can with the truth."
Fraser shrugged, muttered, "Yes, ma'am" and returned to his office.
End (for now)