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And then there was Dwyer.
A heavy hand touched her forearm. "You've gotta stop thinking about him," Harry said quietly. "I can always tell when you do. Your whole face turns to glass. You let him see how much he spooks you, and he will get you this time. Be tough, kid."
"I'm really going to miss you, old man." Sam smiled. "There is one thing I need to ask you to do for me."
"I can kidnap you and take you with us to Cancún," Harry offered. "Gloria wouldn't mind. She'd enjoy having someone to talk to while I sleep on the deck chairs." He offered her a weak leer. "Bet you'd look great in a bikini."
Sam had been told she looked stunning in a bikini, not that she'd ever parade around in one away from the pool at her apartment complex.
"If something happens to me, whatever it is, I want you to stay out of it. Let Garcia handle it. No," she said before he could interrupt her. "Garcia knows about Dwyer, and I think he believes my side of things. Either way, he's an honest cop. He'll make sure Dwyer goes down for me." And as Florida was a death-penalty state that loved to execute cop killers, Wesley Dwyer wouldn't have a chance.
"How can you talk about being murdered as if it's like getting a bad write-up?" her partner demanded.
"I haven't had much of a life, Harry, but what I've lived has been okay," Sam told him. "I didn't end up a bored housewife or a corporate monkey. I did something good with what I was given."
She could have done better, if she'd met a guy like Lucan outside the job. Not him personally—guys that rich and good-looking wanted the Lena Caprell type—but someone like him waiting at home every night might have balanced out the stress involved in her job. As things stood, she was the job.
A shame Lucan was out of her league, a loner, and an alley cat with women. She had a feeling he was something special in and out of bed. She'd certainly never met a more confident, focused guy.
"Sam, you're not listening to me."
She looked at her partner. "Sorry."
"You're going to be careful, is what you're going to do, and stay away from that sick sack of shit," Harry told her sternly. "Or I will personally walk Gloria's Yorkies over to your grave site and let them piss on it every day. You hear me?"
"Aw." Some of the ice around her heart melted. "You do love me, Quinn."
"Yeah." He sighed. "God knows why."
They went back to the squad room to pick up their messages, and Sam saw Adam Suarez and two other men sitting in Captain Garcia's office. As soon as Garcia saw that Sam and Harry were in the squad room, he walked over and closed the blinds.
"Someone doesn't want us eyeballing his briefing," Harry muttered.
Sam felt sick to her stomach. She was almost sure one of the other men in with the captain was Wes Dwyer. "I've got to hit the can before we go," she told her partner. "Be right back."
Homicide shared a restroom with Violent Crimes. At night it was usually deserted, but during the day both genders used it, so the procedure was to knock first before entering. Sam knocked on the door, listened for a moment, then walked in. She didn't think she was going to vomit, but with the way her stomach was rolling, she thought she might wait and see.
Going to the sink and running cold water over her wrists helped. Naturally the prospect of coming face-to-face with Dwyer again was what was making her want to puke. She had never encountered anyone like him in her career. Even worst of the cold-blooded killers she had arrested had some motive for what they did.
Dwyer had none.
That made her side of the story so unbelievable—that an otherwise outstanding officer had fixated on her for no apparent reason. Sam often wondered if she had inadvertently done something to make Dwyer think that she was attracted to him, until she had a chat with a rape counselor from Violent Crimes.
"From the way you describe Dwyer's behavior," the counselor said, "I'd say he's been stalking you."
Sam couldn't believe that. "Isn't that usually a guy who can't accept that his girlfriend has split up with him? Dwyer and I were partners."
"It's more rare than the love-obsessional stalkers, but it happens. It's unusual that Wes was able to pass the academy psych screening—most stalkers are unemployed or underemployed, but they're also more clever than the average felon. Dwyer wasn't married, was he?" When Sam shook her head, the counselor added, "They rarely have successful intimate relationships. It's the reason they so often sexualize their victims, and eventually convince themselves that the object of their obsession deserves what they do to them."
The counselor explained the stages of delusion Dwyer would have built up in his mind as he began forming an obsession with Sam.
"Nondomestic stalkers target someone they have idealized from a distance. They keep their feelings secret at first and will steal personal belongings and other intimate trophies. Sometimes they will build shrines in their homes to the object of their obsession, but eventually the trophies aren't enough. By that time they have worked up to a delusional state in which they believe the target will respond to friendly or even romantic overtures. Rejection only puzzles or angers them, because in their minds, you're already having a relationship."
"But I never encouraged him to think of me as anything but a partner," Sam said. "What would make him believe I could ever want to be with him?"
"It probably was something quite ordinary, a glance, a word, and he was hooked. It didn't matter that you would have treated anyone else the same way; in Dwyer's mind it took on delusional significance and triggered the obsession. Every ordinary gesture or conversation that you had with him would take on even more significance." The counselor's mouth twisted. "I had one stalker describe it as how he and his victim fell in love."
"Dwyer didn't want love from me," Sam assured her. "He only wanted to have sex."
"Stalkers often equate sex with love," the counselor explained. "Frustration over his inability to have a normal intimate relationship, or sexual abuse as a child, or even an unfortunate sexual initiation could have caused him to fixate on sex."
"What could I have done to avoid this?" Sam asked.
"Very little, I'm afraid," the counselor said. "Your ex-partner would have fixated on someone; you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. You're an attractive woman who was depending on him to work together as a team; he's a lonely, unattractive man with no sexual outlet. He probably thought he deserved you as a reward for his dedicated police work."
Sam shuddered. "Will he stop now that he's been transferred to Miami?"
"If Dwyer does not have contact with you, it's possible that his fixation will fade in time. However, men who have been unsuccessful at obtaining the object of their obsession and are forcibly removed from it have been known to take extreme measures to be reunited with their victims. In some cases, the only thing that stops them is their death—or the death of their victim."
"So it's possible that the only way Dwyer will stop is if he never sees me again or he kills me." Sam covered her face with one hand. "What can I do?"
"You can move, but with Dwyer's access to police and public records, it would only be a matter of time before he found you. Samantha." The counselor waited until Sam looked up at her. "Half of all stalkers threaten to harm their victims, and over a quarter of those carry out their threats. You are in a very precarious situation. Whatever you decide to do, don't underestimate Dwyer."
Sam washed her hands and her face and went to the paper-towel dispenser. I am not going to think about Dwyer. I am not going to stand here and throw up a perfectly good lunch. I'll think about Lucan. Erotic dreams were better than living nightmares.
Sam didn't turn around; she knew the voice of the man standing behind her. "This is a coed restroom. It's customary to knock before entering to make sure no one is in here."
"I couldn't wait to see you again," Wesley Dwyer said. "I've been anticipating our reunion for a long time."
Sam put her hand on her weapon. No doubt Dwyer could knife her or shoot her before she could draw it, but maybe she wouldn't die right away. "Officer Dwyer. Please step back."
"You're not afraid to face me, are you, Sam?" Dwyer asked.
She turned slowly. Dwyer stood like an apologetic usher at a movie theater, his hands in his pockets. One of them was moving slightly, as if he were fingering something.
Dwyer was not a handsome man. If asked to describe him, any person on the street would compare him to a weasel, minus the handsome parts. The pinched face, thin nose, and pursed mouth might have given him an ugly/interesting look if he'd been given any sort of reasonable personality; unfortunately Dwyer was as charismatic and charming as the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Two years at Metro Traffic had changed some things about Dwyer. He had lost more of his thinning brown hair and was now sporting a skimpy mustache. His skin, which had once been a sickly purple-orange from three weekly sessions in a tanning booth, now displayed many small pits and craters from what must have been skin cancer treatments. The horn-rimmed black geek glasses that he used to wear were gone. Sam was sorry about the latter, because now nothing hid the shiny, avaricious gleam of his close-set muddy brown eyes.
Sam watched as Dwyer licked his lips, a nervous habit she remembered him having from the days when they were partners. Seeing his tongue sweep around his thin lips made a surge of bile rise in her throat—he'd tried to put that darting tongue in her mouth too many times—but once his lips were damp, he smiled, showing straight white teeth.
"You do remember that I was fully exonerated in the investigation into your tragic shooting, don't you?" He rolled his shoulders back. "I did tell you not to go into that warehouse. You should have listened to me."