THE SEVENTH CROSS

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DEREK

Derek was burned out, simple as that! He’d spent over ten years working on the homicide team in L.A. and had seen the depth of man’s inhumanity to his fellow human beings. He’d finally reached a point where he had to walk away to preserve his own humanity but he knew he wouldn’t stray far.

When he picked up the novel Cold Case Christianity by James “Jim” Warner Wallace, former homicide detective with the L.A. county, he knew what he had to do. No, he wouldn’t be chasing down the disciples killers or anything like that, but he could make a difference in the lives of the families of the “forgotten victims” of yesterday.

He found it particularly interesting that Wallace had emphasized over and over that most Cold Cases were solved with good old detective work, not suddenly solved by DNA overnight as in the movie versions. That’s not how it worked. In fact, rarely did it work that way. If it did, there wouldn’t be over 200,000 unsolved homicides yet today, and that’s just since 1980! And if one thinks about the families and friends affected by each and every homicide the figures are staggering!

Barely a month after reading the book, Derek made the decision to join the Cold Case squad, and that’s when he found out a whole lot more. Basement, alone, very little if any help, good luck, go for it. Ouch!

And did he! It was as if new life had been pumped into him. Where many considered this to be a step down, it was anything but to Derek. He had indeed found his calling, and if anything, he’d need to pace himself. It wasn’t as if there was anyone at home waiting to make him dinner. At least not yet.

He’d met Claire about a year ago at a conference in Houston and she could have easily threatened his single status if he had pursed it a bit more. God, he had wanted to, but he was, quite frankly, chicken! She seemed to like him as well but the conference had ended before his fear did, and she was long gone. Still, he did have her number . . .

Anyway, back to work. So many cases to choose from. Where to start? But start he did, and before long he was getting results, and getting attention from the big boys upstairs. He had shone a small light into a very dark place and life began to replace death. Despair turned into hope. And a few families were able to move on with their lives. He found it impossible to put a price on his feelings, and instead buried himself even deeper in the lives of the “forgotten.”

But then he got the call. From Claire, the lady at the conference. She’d be in town for a couple of days and wondering if he’d be up for a coffee.

“Are you kidding me?” to himself.

“You bet. Let me know where you’re staying and we can meet for dinner, if that works for you?”

It did, and two nights later he met her face to face for the first time in over a year. God, did she look good! “Don’t screw this up, Derek, he muttered to himself.

They never missed a beat, and before either one realized it, three hours had disappeared. And that’s when he realized that he hadn’t screwed up one bit! What a conversation! What a woman! Now he knew a whole lot more about her, and she, him, and neither was about to let this pass. Needless to say, they would be meeting the next day, and it was guaranteed that Drake would not be working late that night!

She spoke of her investigative work, and her long hours undercover exposing the ugliness of humanities underbelly, and how she felt she was making a difference in a world gone mad. And he spoke of the same. Two different, yet strangely similar worlds. If only they weren’t 2400 miles apart! That was a long drive! But, planes do fly every day, don’t they? But even by air it was nearly four hours of flight time plus 2 hours checkin on each end. Basically, it sucked!

But there was something about her. This wasn’t over by a long shot!

There’s something about this guy! He’s not getting off that easy!

And that’s how it all began. That’s when he realized that she would be perfect digging into some of these cold cases, she being an investigative reporter. And that’s when she realized what a gold mine Derek could provide. There had to be a bunch of cases that needed her expertise. What they could accomplish together could be incredible! But, the fact remained, they were a hell of a long way apart.

But the conference soon drew to a close and Claire flew back to Houston. She usually enjoyed going home as it gave her a chance to recharge before the next big assignment that often saw her displaced for weeks, if not months, at a time. But this time it was different. Before she even opened the door to her suite, she was lonely. She was alone and it didn’t feel good. Not at all. “It’s your fault, Derek.” she muttered under her breath. “It’s all your fault.”

He wasn’t in any better frame of mind. Suddenly the basement seemed dank and uninviting. And lonely. Had he really voluntarily picked this place to work?

But having a one person pity party wasn’t very exciting so reluctantly he got back to work. And after a few minutes he began to settle in and soon he was back to being himself. Well, mostly. But checking for text messages every few minutes didn’t help one bit!

Both settled back into their respective lives but they knew their lives had changed. Each would tackle the demands of their jobs as they always had, but each knew there was something missing, and each knew exactly what that was. Both were workaholics and took pride in being so. Neither was that great at relationships, and a betting person would have picked their careers as the winners in this battle. But they would have been wrong. But how to pull this off was the thing.

He couldn’t just up and relocate to Houston at a moments notice. She, on the other hand, roamed around the globe continually, so if they were to be together, or at least within commuting distance, she’d have to make the move. And besides, they barely knew each other. Relax. Take your time. What’s the rush? Yep. All practical questions. The kind of questions that any decent reporter, or for that a matter, a detective would ask. But neither wanted to be practical!

So they kept in touch, and on occasion, one or the other would fly to the others home for a few days. Over the next year they commuted until finally they knew they had a decision to make. And make it they did. She would make the big move to Seattle. She would get her own place and they would go from there. She’d managed to sell the idea to her boss, and even though it was slightly out of the way, he didn’t want to lose her so they had come to an agreement of sorts.

Derek was over the moon. So was she. And Seattle would be the better for it. And so would the cold cases, and perhaps a few more families would finally get the peace they needed and the perpetrators the punishment they so rightly deserved.

She’d always loved forensic science and as an investigative reporter she was able to access information that would allow her to go down bunny holes few ever had access to. And now that she and Derek were working together, albeit for different organizations, she was granted access to certain files that she definitely couldn’t have access to without a whole lot of sucking up. Of course, he benefited as well. Anything she dug up that might prove useful she passed along. And that had helped crack more than one cold case, and made Derek the unofficial poster boy in the Cold Case Division.

He had worked as though possessed while with the homicide division. But it paid off, until the burn out, that is. Case after case was transferred to the solved file. Now the same thing was happening with the cold cases. And having an investigative journalist looking at the cases proved to be a huge advantage!

Interestingly enough, one of the cases he was currently working on seemed to really speak to Claire. There was something about this one . . . so he gave her full access to all his files. If anyone asked, she was doing contract work for him. But this one was different, and soon, she’d know a lot more than she ever wanted to know about that case.

They had started discussing this particular case like they had so many others over a bottle of wine and pizza late one Friday night. They had become close, these two, and she’d even moved to be closer to him, but both were afraid of losing what they already had. Nuts! They acted like a pair of eighteen years olds instead of thirty somethings!

So they talked as they ate and sipped on their wine while he filled her in on the case he had just put aside. Claire had proven herself time and again that she had what it takes to land the big ones. And besides, now that she was here, it meant he could spend more time with her. Definitely a win, win situation.

There would never be enough time in his lifetime to address even a fraction of the cases that he was personally involved in, and there were hundreds of others doing the exact same job he was. How utterly depressing for the families torn apart knowing full well that the person or persons that took their loved ones life may still be out there doing the same thing to others right now. Why he stuck with this job he did not know. Still, with each victory, though they were few, he knew that at least some lives would be saved once the perpetrator was behind bars and the families of the victims would find some degree of peace. At least a little.

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