UNDER THE GUN
By Lori L. Lake
a/k/a Lorelei, Bard of the Lakes
firstname.lastname@example.org -- www.LoriLake.com
PLEASE NOTE: Its about time, but finally, the online sellers (besides Open Book) are starting to get GUN SHY and RICOCHET IN TIME properly listed. Bamm.com is quite up-to-date. If youve ordered either of my books, you should get copies within the next week or so. I have heard August 28th as the date. However, if you ordered from Barnes & Noble, you might want to double-check your status. It seems they had some problems and may have wiped out some of the order requests.
UPCOMING APPEARANCE: Ill be at the RAP FanFaire in Atlanta next weekend. Come by and say HI if you get the chance. More information can be found at: http://www.rapbooks.com/whatsnew.html
REMINDER: This is a sequel. If you havent read the first book, GUN SHY, you might want to go to: http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/g/gunshy1.html.
Or you can purchase a copy of GUN SHY, published by Renaissance Alliance Publishing (Quest Division), at any bookstore or online bookseller. Also, I have another book just published, RICOCHET IN TIME, which has never been posted online. A good source for both books is at The Open Book:
The characters and the plot are original and mine. Please give me advice, feedback, and criticism. If something doesnt square up for you, go ahead and let me know. I wont bite. At least not very hard. This sequel is still about cops. It contains scenes of violence and/or their aftermath as well as one or two swear words here and there. The story depicts a love/sexual relationship between consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state/country where you live, either be very sneaky about reading this or else dont. Im not your mother. Do what you want. J
Dez rode silently, her eyes systematically scanning the streets of the University "Frogtown" neighborhood. Three days had passed since Nielsen had ratted out her relationship with Jaylynn to the Lieutenant. She wouldnt even have known who had reported them if it werent for the fact that Nielsen had gone around the precinct bragging about it.
Now here she was, bored, angry, stuck in a one-man car, and wishing she could get Nielsen alone in a dark alley.
She found she despised riding alone. It was bad enough during the weeks when Jaylynns collarbone had been injured, but at least she had something to look forward to after the rookie healed up. But now they would never be paired again. Nielsen had made sure of that. What an asshole. I hope he fails probation!
She cruised down University Avenue, slowing to eyeball anyone walking on the sidewalk. So far, she had seen no Ladies of the Night. Of course, it was only about twelve degrees out. Not a good night for mini-skirts and fishnet stockingsalthough she was constantly surprised at the fortitude of the women who braved the bad weather to make a few bucks off the willing johns who cruised the area.
She came to a stop at a red light on Snelling and University, and the car idled while she thought about the situation. What had she done after Ryan died and before Jaylynn entered her life? She didnt have much memory of the time other than the feeling of a heavy weight pressing, non-stop, on her chest. Unfortunately, in the last few days, the feeling had returned, though not to such a painful degree. Every night at roll call she held her breath, hoping Jaylynn would be assigned to a cop with integrity, one who would watch her back. So far the duty sergeant had succeeded in assigning Jaylynn to Pilcher, when Pilchers regular partner, Stevens, was off for the day, and to Crystal Lopez. Pilcher was okay, but Dez breathed a sigh of relief when the rookie was assigned to ride with Crystal. She knew Crystal would never let anything bad happen. Shed been friends with Crystal since shed joined the force almost ten years ago, and Dez relied on her buddy. That didnt stop her from worrying. She had programmed her radio to scan several extra channels so she could listen to dispatch for both of the sectors. She paid careful attention to the calls that the rookies squad was sent out on.
Tonight was quiet. Too quiet to help the time pass. She pulled over into the Big K parking lot near Hamline and University, angling her car toward the main street so that she could make a fast departure if Dispatch called. She clicked on the sidelight and picked up a sheaf of papers and a clipboard to start completing reports.
After thirty minutes, she was bored with the paperwork. She was grateful not to be riding a desk. She didnt much care for filling out forms and trying to figure out how to explain things in the fewest words possible. That was one of the reasons she had never taken the sergeants exam. Every step up the ladder seemed to decrease street action and increase the amount of time spent poring over statements and records. She liked being on her feet, moving around. Sometimes she got into a flow where time just sped by, and her shift was over before she knew it. Some days, though, like today, nothing she did could hasten the slow hours.
She looked at her watch. Crystal and Jaylynn were scheduled for meal break at nine. Some nights they had been able to meet at a restaurant on the border of the two sectorsnot that she needed to eat. After all the Thanksgiving treats she had packed away the week before, she felt she shouldnt eat again for about a month. But she was hungry now, so she pulled out her cell phone and dialed the rookies pager, then started counting. She knew if it took longer than about fifteen seconds, they were likely on a call . . . but the rookies cell was answered right away.
The tall cops spirits rose when the cheery voice came loud and clear over the line. "Is it as dead over in your sector as it is in ours, Dez?"
"Want to go hang out for break?"
"Yup." In the background she could hear Crystals voice, though Dez couldnt understand what she said.
"Same bat place, same bat channel?"
"Kay. ETA six minutes."
They both hung up simultaneously. Dez turned on the ignition key and the engine roared to life. Her ETA, without speeding, would be at least six minutes. She was glad there was so little traffic out. It didnt matter if she exceeded the speed limit.
Only seconds apart, they arrived at Danny Boys, a quiet Irish pub that served excellent hamburgers and sandwiches. There were two sections of the bar. One side sported open tables surrounded by huge TVs tuned in to local sports events. Little food was served in that section, but the beer ran like water from the taps. A brick wall separated tonights crowd of football fans from the other, darker side where there were wooden booths, cloth napkins, and menus on the tables. They were greeted warmly by the waitress who had been around long enough to know that they might get a call in the middle of dinner, but could be counted on to come back for their boxes of food, not to mention pay for it.
Crystal slid into one side of the booth, right in the center, leaving the other two cops to squeeze in next to one another on the other sidenot that they minded. Dez liked the feeling of Jaylynns blue clad leg pressed up against her thigh. She found herself smiling, for no reason, and she pushed down the happy feeling and tried not to look so lovestruck.
Crystal gazed across at her and shook her head. "You, chica, got it bad."
Dez raised an eyebrow and let her face take on a passive expression. "I sure have no idea what you mean."
She felt a warm hand slide over her leg and stop at her knee to give a squeeze. Boom! Her knee came up reflexively and smacked against the underside of the table. "Ouch! Geez, Jay. Thanks for giving her fodder for her sick twisted mind."
The waitress arrived with three glasses of water and a recitation of the evenings specials. They all ordered sandwiches, which were quick and portable. Crystal ordered a diet Coke.
The tall cop shook her head. "How can you drink that stuff, Crys? Its like battery acid."
"Yeah, but no calories. I need to keep the weight down. Gotta run that two mile thing again here in a couple weeks, and the less Im packin the better." Jaylynn nodded. Crystal pointed her finger at the blonde. "Dont you be nodding. You never have trouble with the qualifying run." She turned her gaze toward Dez. "But youll be a bit slower, I see."
"What?" The dark-haired woman squinted in the dim light at her pal.
"You know what I mean. Must be the honeymoon. Youre packing the poundage, too."
Dezs face burned. If she could have gotten up and walked out, she might have, but she was parked on the inside of the booth. Besides, though she knew Crystal was teasing, her first response was to go across the table and choke the ever-living life out of her friend. She restrained herself.
"Hey, earth to Desiree." Crystal snapped her fingers up in the air. Dez stared daggers at her causing the Latina to raise both hands in the air, palms facing them. "Sorry. Sorry. Didnt know you were so sensitive. Just thought maybe you could give me a little moral support."
The tall cop glanced to the side to find hazel green eyes peering up at her, puzzlement showing. "Dez, is it just me, or is she calling you fat!" A smiled twitched at the sides of Jaylynns mouth, an infectious look that made Dez relax. Jaylynn grinned and said, "Well, Officer Lopez, obviously youve never seen my honey naked."
"Oh, geez, Jay!" Dez rolled her eyes, but she was gratified to see, even in the dim light, that the black-haired cop was blushing.
The rookie went on. "Just sticking up for my loved one." She picked up her menu. "Enough of this poor body image discussion. Lets order, preferably something good and fattening."
The rest of the conversation was much less embarrassing to Dez, and instead of the cheeseburger she had originally planned to have, she ordered a turkey sandwich, which came piled high on wheat bread and was much better for her than the burger would have been.
After they finished their food, talk turned to station politics. They debated about who would pass probation and speculated about the new group from the Academy. The latest crew, which had signed on mid-year, had one woman, and Jaylynns class had had only had two. Nobody understood why so few women were joining up. They knew the classes were small because unemployment was low. Despite vigorous recruiting, not many young people were applying. They were short on patrol and in the investigation squadswith more retirements on the horizon. Several promotions had occurred, and Dez and Crystal agreed that they didnt respect a couple of the officers promoted.
Jaylynn scooped out a last bite of coleslaw. With her mouth partly full, she said, "A lot of people are slated for retirement. I heard two of the lieutenants talking about it when I was on desk duty. They said something about having ten percent salary savings because of vacancies."
Crystal wiped her mouth on the napkin, then folded it and set it on the table. "Youd think theyd use some of that cash to replace a couple of those caca cruisers. Im sick of the heat going out in 223. Its a piece of junk."
Jaylynn said, "Theyve got the whole budget based on line items, though. You cant take money from one line item because its dedicated for that purpose only. I think they have to get special permission from the City Council. So instead, they try to run quite a bit of overtime, not just to cover the job, but also to use up the money."
"Whered you get that idea?" Her partner looked at her out of the corner of her eye, and Jaylynn gazed back.
"Heard a lot of things when I was at the main stationhouse."
Crystal sighed. "Somebody ought to take a stick to the City Council then. Whats the point of a budget if it isnt flexible?"
Dez checked her watch, then reached for her wallet. "Speaking of funds, my turn to leave the tip." Everybody ponied up cash for the meal, and the three of them wormed their way out of the booth.
Jaylynn reached her hand over and placed it flat on Dezs stomach. "Shes not so fat, Crystal . . . its just the vest."
The Latina rolled her eyes and muttered, "Yeah, sure. Otherwise wed be able to see her six-pack right through her shirt, right?"
Dez turned and stalked out. Shed taken all the flak she could stomach. Her long legs carried her out to the car, and she unlocked it and got in. As she drove past the front of the pub, Jaylynn gave her a little wave, so she saluted, then hit the gas.
She didnt know why Crystals comments irritated her so much, but they did. She headed back to the north end of her sector and to patrol the dark streets by herself. Two-plus more hours left alone.
Dez didnt think it had been a good night at all. Saturday nights all right for fightin She sighed. There had been a slight warming trend, and the late afternoon and early evening were uncommonly balmy. Only now, after dark, had the cold set in. Despite the dropping temperatures, even at seven p.m. the loonies were out, and everyone seemed to be grumbling about the sudden onset of the cold. Homeless people, drunks, vandalsseemed everyone was fighting or yelling and disturbing the peace. Dez had already been to a nightclub on Selby Avenue twice because the residences around it reported fights in the alley. The Sharks and the Jets scattered when she drove her car down the alleyway. She wondered how many more times shed have to go back before someone got knifed or knocked unconscious.
It didnt help that she was exhausted. She hadnt had more than three consecutive hours of sleep for nearly a week. Didnt matter how late she stayed up. Even when she should have been tired, she wasnt. Lying next to the slumbering Jaylynn used to be thrilling, but had lately grown old when she couldnt get enough rest to be anything but crabby the next day.
Seeing another unit with flashing lights in front of the Tora Tora Bar on University, Dez turned onto a side street and parked along the curb near the vacant lot on the corner. She had heard the call a while ago, but shed been busy at the nightclub and hadnt paid attention who had been dispatched. It was still early in the evening, but the sun had set long ago, and it was dark. She got out of the car and realized it wasnt balmy any more. She found she was actually shivering from the cold breeze. Zipping up her jacket, she made a mental note that it was time to break out the winter coat for cold nights such as this.
She stood on the corner, with the street on her left, and looked ahead down the sidewalk. The bar was on the right, and its door led right out on to the sidewalk. Ahead of her, in front of that doorway, Arturo Alvarez stood, his back to her, his hands behind him, as he spoke to three teenage youths on bicycles that seemed too small for the kids large frames.
To her left, Alvarezs Crown Victoria cruiser was parked on the street, up close to the curb. Dwayne Nielsen lounged against the right quarter panel of the squad car, his feet crossed at the ankles and hands pressed together at his chest as though he were praying. As she drew nearer, she saw him break into a wide smile and tip his head first to one side, then the other.
She looked at him, knowing that the hatred shone in her eyes, but not wanting to give him the satisfaction of knowing how much he had hurt her. She knew that if she were given the opportunity, shed deck him. Too bad that wasnt a possibility.
His eyes darted toward the bar where Alvarez stood under the dim streetlight, speaking earnestly to the boys. Nielsen uncoiled himself and slithered toward her, his gait smooth, his face mocking. "Wheres your little gal pal, Dez honey?" he hissed.
She slowed to a halt, her hands in fists. In a soft voice, she said, "Youre makingno, you have madea big mistake."
He stopped four feet from her, grinning and giggling softly. "Uh huh, right. Seems like youre the one suffering."
The tall cop eyed the rookie officer. They stood nearly eye to eye with Dez being only perhaps an inch shorter, though he probably outweighed her by thirty pounds. She maintained eye contact, letting the hate she felt surge through her. Crossing her arms, she began counting silently, all the while staring him in the eye. By the time she got to six, he was laughing nervously. "Big, tough Reilly. You think youre so great"
"Little weasely Nielsen. How does it make you feel that most of the precinct is wondering why, why, why were you at a gay bar? Everybody knows about me, but they simply had no idea about you."
If it hadnt been so dark out, Dez was sure she would have clearly been able to see Nielsens face blanch.
"Bullshit!" His voice rasped, but she noticed that he kept it down. He glanced back over his shoulder to see Alvarez still busy with the boys, then stepped closer to Dez. He pointed his index finger at her jacket and punctuated his next sentence by nearly touching her with every syllable. "You. Lying. Bitch!"
She grinned and nodded. "Im so sad that you dont believe mea reliable FTO whos done everything to give you a fair shake. Why dont you ask around, you poor sweet thing? I am sure some of the old timers will have many choice words for ya."
Now he got in her face, stabbing his finger viciously, nearly poking her in the eye. "I shouldve filed a complaint against you before!"
She leaned away from him, letting her hands drop to her sides and casually taking a stronger stance, feet apart with one foot slightly ahead of the other. "You mean back when you were going around beating up on small women who weigh about a hundred pounds less than you?"
"Thats right," he snarled, little bits of spit flying from his lips.
She backed up and to the side, off the sidewalk and into the gravel of the parking lot. "You know what? Youre disgusting. Totally revolting. A poor excuse for a human being."
He started to turn away, making a motion with his hands like he was shooing her off. She laughed out loud and said, "Once a weasel, always a weasel."
Over his shoulder he said, "Fuck you."
In a mocking tone, she sneered, "I didnt know you were that kinda fella."
With a snarl of rage, he whirled around and rushed her, his big hands forceful against the front of her bulletproof vest. She couldnt help but grin, and her laughter further enraged him. He shoved her again, and she let herself be driven back two steps. As he gathered his hands to push her a third time, she stepped to the side, then moved in close, bringing her knee up squarely into his groin.
Instead of slowing him down, this infuriated him. With a bellow, he took a wild swing at her, which she ducked under. She tried to step around him, but he got hold of her gun belt, which pulled her off balance so that she stumbled.
From a distance she heard Alvarez shoulting. "Hey! Cut it out!"
She spun, slipping out of Nielsens grasp, and with unerring accuracy mashed her right fist into his face. Instant blood. By then Alvarez was there, shouting, "Stop it! Stop it!" and pulling his partner away.
Dez shook her hand out, relaxing and tensing her fingers. She figured she was going to have bruises on her knuckles, but as far as she was concerned, it was well worth it. Only one punch, but hey! It was something, wasnt it?
Dez had no idea about any problems until the end of her shift. She signed out and headed for the locker room only to have Sgt. Belton buttonhole her to tell her the Lieutenant wanted to see her.
She reversed course, went back up the stairs, and to Lt. Malcolms office. When she tapped on the doorframe, he was standing with his back to her. "Lieutenant, you wanted to see me?"
He turned to face her, his face livid. She hadnt seen him upset like this in quite some time, perhaps not since last summer when she had gone alone without backup into a now familiar house near Como Lake where an assault was in progress. He hadnt been this upset when he had found out about her relationship with Jaylynndisappointed, yesbut he hadnt been angry. Now his voice was curt, and she knew something was up. "Reilly. Come with me. Got something to show you."
He came around the desk and pushed past. Puzzled, she followed him as he led her out into one of the work rooms down the hall from the roll call area. He picked up a remote control and pointed it at the TV set over in the corner, then popped a video into an attached VCR. Dez stood in the middle of the room next to piles of newspapers, file folders, and video cassettes marked with dates, times, and places. She waited as the fuzz on the screen turned into a recognizable picture. The lieutenant fast forwarded through a commercial, then hit the play button. He pressed the button to increase volume, and Dez heard one of the local TV newscasters. She recognized the woman but didnt know her name.
"Citizens often wonder and worry about police brutality, and occasionally, we newscasters cant help but wonder ourselves, especially when faced with the evidence that officers on the St. Paul Police Force cant even get along with each other."
The camera cut to a hazy and dark scene, but it was instantly identifiable to Dez. Two figures stood about thirty feet from a remote camera, which was likely perched beneath the rafters at the Tora Tora Bar on University. The broken glass in the gravel of the vacant lot glittered in the moonlight, giving the picture a shimmery fluidity. Dez watched with a sinking feeling as Nielsen shook his finger in her face, pushed her once, twice, and tried a third time. Her knee moved quickly, cat-like, though his body obscured the camera angle, but it was very clear then that he took a swing at her. She frowned. He looks pathetic. Terrible form for such a big guy. She looked almost balletic as she stepped around himuntil he grabbed her belt, and then she was obviously off balance.
Alvarezs back appeared on camera, large at first, then reducing in size, as he rushed toward them. One more step and he would partially obscure her jab but no. There it was, clear as day on video. Nielsens head snapped back and he stumbled. Dez saw how she had brought her hand up, shaking it, but the grin on her face, even from thirty feet, was unmistakeable. It was the same grin she currently sported and attempted to suppress.
Lt. Malcolm snapped the video off and hit rewind, then shut off the set. Tossing the remote on the table, he crossed his arms. In a voice filled with fury, he said, "You want to tell me what the hell that was all about, Reilly?"
Lt. Malcolm rarely swore, and the fact that he just had made Dezs blood run cold. "What do you want to know, sir?"
"I want to know what that was all about."
"Sir, Id rather not say." He glared at her. She met his gaze, then shrugged a little. "You might say I could have avoided it, Lieutenant, and that Im at fault."
"Its pretty clear to me that he pushed you first and that you didnt respondat first. But the fact that you struck him . . . ." He put his hands on his hips and looked down at the floor, his bald head glistening.
"Yes, sir," she said in a resigned voice. "You do what you have to do, cause you can bet that Ill understand."
"What is the problem with him and you?" When she didnt answer, he looked down, ran his hand over his bald head. "Reilly Reilly. Geez, what am I gonna do with you?" He stared at her. "Youre one of my best officers. Youve got nearly a decade with the force. Youve got so many talents, so much opportunity for advancement. One day you could be a lieutenantor captain. Hell, you could be Chief for all I know! But lately oh boy. Lately youve made some dumb choices." She looked down at the floor and waited. He scratched the top of his head and sighed. "Ill let you know tomorrowor later in the weekI have to talk to Commander Paar and wait to see what the political fallout is."
"You know what really ticks me off?" She waited, not meeting his eyes. "I just put in a request for a commendation for you, and you can be pretty certain its going to wind up back on my desk with a great big red denial on it." He let out a big sigh and slowly shook his head. "Go home, Reilly. And please, I beg you, stay out of trouble." With a wisp of a smile on his face, he turned and headed for the door. Almost as an afterthought, he threw a final comment over his shoulder: "Remind me never to get in the way of your fist. I hear Nielsens got a deviated septum."
She was glad he wasnt looking because she wasnt able to force back a grim smile of satisfaction.
The day following the altercation with Nielsen, the tall cop was in good spirits as she drove her squad car toward her special assignment. For the first three hours of her shift, she had been on regular patrol, but now she was headed downtown to join other officers who were working crowd control at a Saturday evening convention center event.
Shed already been quietly joshed by some of her fellow patrol officers about the previous days events. She was still surprised to learn how many of them despised Nielsen. She hid her amazement as officer after officer indicated support and faulted the hot-headed rookie for accosting her and for turning her and Jaylynn in to the brass. A couple of them said they had known about her and the blondes personal relationship for a while, and they would never have squawked to the bosses. She hadnt expected that at all from so many of her peers. Not one person was negative, though a couple of cops were silent on the topic. The ones who did speak up didnt seem to mind about her choice of lovers as much as they were incensed that the young upstart had ratted her out to the commanders. She thought about that for a little while, remembering how many years she had carefully guarded her personal life. Did I need to do that? She didnt know. What she did know that there was quite a double standard for men and women. If she and Jaylynn had been male, she could bet theyd be ostracized. In her opinion, that was unconscionable. She knew there was no reason that a gay officer couldnt and wouldnt be just as good a cop as a straight guyor a lesbian. I sure hope that changes some day. We desperately need young cops, and I dont care if they are gay or straight, men or women, younger or older. We just need more good cops.
She turned her thoughts to the "special assignment" ahead of her. Even though crowd control details were ordinarily boring and tedious, she looked forward to this one because Jaylynn was already there, working at the River Centre for the entire shift. The International Food Fair ran from noon to midnight, and if years past were any indication, it promised to be a madhouse right up to the end. There were extra officers on duty inside, and she, Jaylynn, and two others would work the Kellogg Boulevard traffic posts. She didnt think she had any worries about the rookies safety tonight. She figured the worst of her worries would be that Jaylynn would complain of the cold. It was down to twenty-eight degrees and dropping when they left home, and snow was in the forecast.
She pulled up to the River Center parking ramp, which was directly across from the convention center, and parked the cruiser in a No Parking zone behind another cop car. After updating dispatch, she emerged from comfortable warmth into crisp, damp air. Yup, snow is on the way. She grabbed her patrol jacket out of the back seat and shrugged it on. With her t-shirt, protective vest, and blue uniform shirt, she knew she would be plenty warm so long as she kept moving. She locked up, then stood for moment appraising the activity on the street. In the waning light, she could see people of all shapes, sizes, and colors scurrying across the wide boulevard, dodging cars, and slowing down traffic. Someone in a big white Dodge Ram honked his horn at two women in colorful African headdresses and bulky coats. They dragged two small children each by the hand, and another two young boys stumbled along behind them. As quickly as they disappeared into the center, ten more people emerged and wandered off the curb, over to the center island, and then across the other double lane to her side of the street.
She shook her head and rolled her eyes. Someone is going to get hit here. Why dont people cross at the lightsor even better, take the skywalk? How hard could that be? What idiots!
She scanned the street and located her fellow officers, Cheryl Pilcher to the east at the intersection of the boulevard and Seventh Street, Jaylynn in front of the entrance, and Crystal Lopez to the west. Well, whaddya knowan all-woman detail tonight. Now thats unusual.
She stood on the curb at the crosswalk and waited for a string of cars on her side of the street, then strolled across to the twenty-foot wide center island. She waited again, and when the road was clear, she strode straight toward Jaylynn.
The rookie watched as the tall cop ambled her way, and she couldnt keep the smile off her face. She was so glad to see Dez that if they hadnt been in public and on duty, she would have hugged the dark-haired woman.
"Keepin warm, Jay?"
"So far, so good. Hows your night?"
"Really quiet. Nothing happening in sector two."
Jaylynn nodded. "Thats because everyone in the city is here." She sniffed the air. "Get a load of that smell! Every time someone opens the doors, I want to storm the place."
"Take a break and go in. You could buy whatever you want, you know."
"Ha. Theres over two hundred booths. Id be in there snarfing down the food for so long that Id get reprimanded. No, its just as well that we stay out here and do our jobs, so dont tempt me. Weve had a couple of scuffles so far." Dez raised an eyebrow. "Youd think that multi-cultural events would bring out the best in everyoneyou know, peace, love, and international understanding."
Dez crossed her arms. "What happened?"
"We have two groups of kids who seem to be at war, and thereve been two minor run-ins so far." The tall woman waited for more. "Four Asian youths came out about an hour ago followed by a pack of white kids, and they were exchanging words. I radioed to Crys and went over and yelled at em. The Asians took off, and the ones who were left gave me a little lip. For a minute there I thought I was going to have to pull out the baton, but finally I told them to beat it or Id call their parents."
"And they did?" An amused look came over Dezs face.
"They were all of about thirteen years old, so yes, they took off in opposite directions before Crystal even got here."
"Okay. What else?"
"Same scenario, only these kids were oldermaybe seventeen or eighteenand they were a lot more worked up. The officers inside herded them out and told them to split, but they stood out here and taunted one another until I put a stop to it."
"Huh. They run when they got a look at you and your spanking baton?" She bit back a smile, and Jaylynn gave her a mock glare.
"Yes, that is exactly what they did, Miss Know-It-All. But Gentry and Kelvin, inside, say there is an awful lot of tension between the teens in there. Nobodys flashing gang colors or anything, but still, theyre watching closely."
"Thats good. Weve got plenty of backup out on patrol tonight, so if anything goes down, were well covered. Now if we could just make sure that nobody gets run over by a car, well have a good shift." She turned to survey the area. "How about you get your whistle and baton, and stand right in the middle over there." She pointed to a spot mid-point between the two crosswalks at either end of the block. "When people exit and start toward you intending to jaywalk, direct them to the crosswalks. Ill go down by the corner there and stop traffic as needed."
"Sounds like a plan."
"Yeah, well make sure theres no Jay walking tonight." She smiled broadly, her white teeth flashing in the diminishing light.
"Very funny." The blonde reached over and smacked Dez on the upper arm with the flat of her hand.
The last of the light in the sky had long ago faded away, but with the streetlamps and the warm glow emitted by the convention center itself, the street and sidewalks were well-lit. Even the skywalk that ran from the second floor of the convention center over the street and to the parking ramp spilled light out and illuminated the boulevard. She stood for a moment and studied the square metal walkway stretched over the street above. The light inside gleamed dull gold through the thick plate glass windows. Bright red lettering on the outside of the skywalk spelled out River Centre, and the gold light reflected glossy orange rays off that lettering. Jaylynn looked around and thought everything appeared a little shiny and surreal. She tipped her head back and looked up at the sky, which was dark with no moon evident anywhere. She hated to admit it, but it smelled like snow. The air was heavy, and the cloud cover was so thick that she just knew snow would fall before morning. I just hope it waits until after midnight when my shift is over.
She pulled her coat sleeve up and pushed her glove down to look at her watch. 10:40. More people were straggling out of the River Centre than were entering, and the volume of new visitors had decreased in the last half hour or so. She shivered. Despite wearing fancy super-intensity thermal long underwear under her slacks, she was still cold. It didnt help that she was in a patrol jacket that only came down to her waist, leaving her legs and rear end less protected from the elements.
She did a three hundred sixty degree turn and scanned the area. For the moment, nobody was coming or going, and for several more minutes, all was silent. At the west end of the street, Pilcher still stood, but Jaylynn could see her leaning against a lamppost, watching the few cars going by. To the east Crystal and Dez stood on the sidewalk talking. The rookie took a moment to readjust her belt. The only advantage to having gained a few pounds was that she had another inch or so at her waist for all the gear she had to carry. That was one of the things she liked the least about the job. It had taken her a while to get used to where her gear was and to decide what arrangement on the belt made the most sense for her. She liked to cross-draw her baton, and she was right handed, so the baton went on her left hip, and her Glock went on her right hip. Right in front of the gun, she kept her ASRaerosol subject restraint, often called Mace. She liked to keep her handcuffs right behind her gun, with only a keeper in between to make sure that her holster stayed firmly in place. Along her back was her flashlight and radio holder. Lastly, in front of the baton and against her left hipbone was her double magazine holder, mounted upright.
Some cops liked to have their baton and their ASR on the left side and their gun on the right side, but the rookies personal theory was that it was unlikely that she would use more than one weapon at a time. She also recognized that she was limited severely by space issues. Good old Cal Braswell sure doesnt have to deal with that! She reached behind her gun onto her hip, and there was the clasp for her cuffs. She flipped it up and snapped the cuffs into her hand. She felt most comfortable doing tactical handcuffing with her strong hand, and she doubted that she would ever cuff someone while holding her gun so it was perfect to keep those two items to the right.
She looked around her. Two women came out the River Centre door, hustled quickly to the crosswalk, and hurried across the street. Crystal and Dez didnt pay any attention to them at all. The women disappeared into the parking ramp, and Jaylynn focused back on her gear. She pulled her flashlight off the left side of her belt and flicked it on. She used it so rarely, mostly on traffic stops at night and that was it. She kept it on her weak side because she wanted to be able to keep her gun hand free at all times on traffic stops. She was pleased with her familiarity with her equipment. She had everything set so that she could get out of the car and turn on her portable radio, then grab her light in one motion. It had become a habit, and she realized with satisfaction that the tools of the job were there, right where she expected, whenever she reached for them. Still, she disliked the amount of awkward gear arrayed around her waist.
Looking at her watch again, she began to pace. Ten steps east, turn, ten steps back. Occasionally a small group left the River Centre, laughing, carrying food in paper bags and Styrofoam containers, but nobody was crossing the street to enter the Food Fair. The party was definitely winding down.
Just when she was starting to think that perhaps they should call in and suggest knocking off for the night, she saw movement above her in the glass skywalk and stopped to stare. From her right and traveling across toward the ramp, three small men sprinted, followed by four bigger figures. The chasers caught up with the littler guys in the middle of the skywalk and all but two of the seven were suddenly in a pile. Jaylynn touched the button on her shoulder mike to call in the fight in progress, which also alerted her fellow officers. As she sprinted across the street, she listened to Dispatchs acknowledgment and the instructions for backup. Both Crystals and Dezs voices came through the shoulder mike, and the rookie knew her buddies was right behind her.
She picked up her pace as she crossed over the center island. In the glowing light from the catwalk, she could see a scramble of arms and legs, fists and falling bodies. The back of a dark haired man slammed against the glass, and he slipped down. When she reached the other side of the street, she hit her shoulder mike and informed dispatch that there were seven subjects fighting.
Pilchers voice scratched over the radio indicating that she was moving into backup position, but the rookie couldnt see her yet. Without waiting for the others to catch up, Jaylynn dashed toward the parking ramps flight of stairs up to the skyway. She hit the first of six stairs that led to heavy metal doors. Beyond them were thirty or more stairs up to the skywalk above which extended off to the right. Behind her she heard the rat-tat-tat of footfalls, and Dez called out, "Right behind ya." She wrenched open the metal door and tore up the steps two at a time, hugging the wall on her right. Above, she heard shouting, grunting, and swearing, then a scream of pain.
Jaylynn reached the top three stairs, squatted down, and leaned out over the top step to look around the corner. She heard Crystal and Dez come through the door and hit the stairs below her but she focused on the same melee she had originally seen from below. She scanned the area for weapons but didnt see any knives, guns, or sticks. One of the white kids looked knocked out or dead. He lay motionless on his side along the far window. She wasnt sure, but there seemed to be blood on the floor near him.
She glanced behind when Dez and Crystal, breathing hard, caught up with her. Gentry and Kelvin were not yet in sight, but she knew they were on the way. Staying low, she went up the last three stairs with backup behind her. "Police, break it up!"
One of the small Asians, on the floor on his stomach, was squirming wildly while being pummeled from behind by a bigger white boy wearing a jeans, bulky jacket, and a backwards red baseball cap. The red-capped kids head shot up. He rolled away and got up to run the other direction as did two of the other white kids. The remaining young men, on the floor and bleeding, stayed down.
Crystal shouted, "Ive got em! You two, go!"
Pilcher made it to the top of the stairs as Jaylynn and Dez took off after the three runners, leaving Crystal to call in.
If the kids made it to the underground garage, Jaylynn figured they had a good chance of getting away through the parking exits, and once out on the street, they had a lot of options for escape. But just then, two of the three young men split to the right, toward glass doors leading into the convention center. Bad decision, thought the rookie. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the two runners skid to a halt when Kelvin and Gentry came through the doors and apprehended them. She fumbled for her ASR. Because she slowed slightly, Dez passed her. With a good grip on the ASR can, she watched as the one remaining suspect hit the horizontal metal handle on the stairwell door ahead. As quick as he was through, Dez was behind him, with the rookie on her heels.
Dez leapt down the stairs two and three at a time. At the bottom of the first flight, Jaylynn leaned over the handrail and pointed her aerosol can down to the flight of stairs below. When she saw the red-capped mans face, she shouted, "Dez! Im gonna spray him!"
The canister in her hand made a "shhhkeeee" sound as she nailed the man in the faceand then he was through the trajectory of Mace and down to the next landing. Two beats passed, Dez still in pursuit, before they heard a gasp and then a wail. "Owww get this shit off me!" She heard the sound of stumbing as she continued down the stairs, holding her breath. Dez was on him. With a jerk, she grabbed his coat collar and knocked him to the floor where he knelt gasping and coughing. After cuffing his hands behind his back, she opened the door on the landing and coughed a few times herself as Jaylynn descended the stairs. "Geez, Jay, thanks for the warning. I hate the that stuff."
Even though Jaylynn was trying not to breathe any more than she had to, it still felt like pins and needles in her throat. "Yeah, me, too."
The kneeling man choked out, "Me three."
Dez stayed in the stairwell doorway and coughed several times as the rookie took hold of the young mans arm. She said, "Get up, champ, and lets get you out of here." He rose, his eyes watering uncontrollably. He made choking and wheezing sounds as he let her half-drag him into the underground parking area where she proceeded to read him his rights.
Dez clicked her shoulder mike and called in then gestured toward the well-lit elevator area. "I think well stay out of the stairwell and ride back up."
"Good idea. And this bozo here needs to have his eyes and face washed up."
The red-capped man said, "You got that right. Shit, I need a kleenex."
In a weary voice, the dark-haired cop said, "Yeah, yeah, we all do."
It wasnt until they got the suspect outside that Jaylynn saw what she had predicted all night. Big fluffy flakes of snow were falling.
Jaylynn sat, her arms crossed over her chest, as Crystal recounted all the ways shed like to help the blonde wreak revenge on rookie officer Dwayne Nielsen. It was the end of a week of working Third Watch without Dez, and the young woman was already tired of spending the entire shift paired with someone other than Dez. Being apart gave her an ache in her chest, behind her breastbone. It faded when she wasnt thinking of Dez, but when she did conjure up the lovely blue eyes, the ache returned. She knew there would be many nights in the future when she wouldnt even see the veteran cop at meal breaks because the Sergeant would now always assign them to different sectors. Tonight she and Crystal were on the East Side, several miles away from Frogtown, where Dez was assigned.
The first five hours of Third Watch had been quiet: two possible breaking and enterings reported, a barking dog complaint, and a drunk and disorderly at the QT Tavern. It was full dark now, with a light breeze in the air. Last nights snow had already melted, leaving everything looking bleak and washed out. Jaylynn was happy to feel exactly comfortable temperature-wise, not too hot, not too cold, just right. But it was the first of Novemberany time soon it could start snowing non-stop and turn bitter cold.
Dispatch came over the radio to summon them to a domestic dispute on Forest Street. Crystal gunned the car up Mounds View Boulevard, turned on Forest, and pulled up to a dilapidated brown, two-story house on the corner. As she got out of the car, Jaylynn could hear high-pitched shrieking and a lower, deeper voice shouting. The windows werent even open, and she could hear thuds and scuffling. "Great," she said. "Sounds like a real dandy."
"What is wrong with people!" Crystal said, as she shook her head.
They moved swiftly up a walk bordered by bunches of patchy grass. Three not-quite-lifesize fiberglas deera buck, a doe, and a spotted fawngrazed in the dirt to the left of the stairs and below the front room window. The deer looked out of place in the shabby yard. Jaylynn followed Crystal up five cement steps to the concrete porch. She leaned on the black wrought iron railing that ran up the left side of the stairs and attached to the side of the house.
"Open up!" Crystal shouted as she beat on the front door. "Its the police."
All sound in the house ceased abruptly, and Jaylynn heard a shuffle of footsteps. The lock turned and the door swung inward, revealing the face of a frightened child, about seven years old. With dark, solemn eyes, he looked up at the officers. He wore a ragged yellow Pokemon t-shirt and blue sweat bottoms that were much too tight.
"St. Paul Police," Crystal said. "Can we see the adults who are here?"
The boy stepped back and opened the door wide to admit the two women. They walked into a tidy living room. The ancient gold carpeting still bore the signs of a recent vacuuming, and as they moved into the room their duty boots left footprints in the deep nap. Two shabby couches, a standing pole lamp, and a recliner were the only furniture in the room. The sole illumination in the front room came from the light shining in from the street lamp outside.
Just then a door ahead of them on the opposite wall opened up, and a woman emerged who appeared to be Jaylynns age. She pulled the door shut behind her and stood leaning against it. Holding her left arm crossed over her chest, her opposite hand covered her mouth and chin. Perilously thin, with bags under her eyes, she displayed the same dark eyes as the young boy standing by the front door. She had obviously been crying but had tried to dab away the tears. As Jaylynn stood looking at the womans impassive face, she saw water collect in the corners of her eyes and seep out onto her cheekbones.
"Maam," Crystal said. "We received a report of a dispute. Is everything all right?"
The woman mumbled through her hand, and Jaylynn thought she said, "Yes, officer. No trouble."
Jaylynn watched the woman closely. It was clear something wasnt quite right, but she wasnt sure what.
Crystal said, "Whats your name, maam?"
Jaylynn thought the woman said Cindy Sterling. She stepped closer to the woman and said, "Ms. Sterling, please hold your hands out in front of you so I can see them."
She saw the look of fright in the brown eyes, but the woman did as she was told. Her right hand came away covered with a generous amount of blood. Her bottom lip was split in at least three places, and Jaylynn wondered if some of her teeth had been knocked out because of all the blood in her mouth. In the dim light, her teeth looked black and white, like something out of a Bela Lugosi movie.
"Who did this to you?" barked Crystal.
The little boy, still holding the front door handle, piped up and said, "Bucky hits mommy all the time."
"Shut up, Vinny!" the woman hissed.
The little boy ran to the stairwell leading up to the second floor and hid on the other side, his scared, white face peeking out between the spindles of the railing.
"All right, lady," Crystal said. "Thats enough. Where is this Bucky?"
Defiantly, Ms. Sterling turned the handle of the door behind her, stepped aside, and let the door swing slowly open. A short hallway, about six feet long, led back into another dimly lit room. From where they stood, Jaylynn could see a large figure lying on a couch against the opposite wall, the only light the flickering blue emitted from a TV somewhere else in the room.
"Sir," Crystal said loudly. "Please get up and come out here. Now."
The man didnt move.
Jaylynn and Crystal looked at one another. They waited a moment. Jaylynn thought perhaps the man was asleepor deadbut then she saw one large arm lift and scratch his chest. She saw no weapons anywhere, and she could see both his hands, so she moved down the tight hallway, Crystal at her back. "Youre under arrest, sir, for domestic assault. Get up. Youre going downtown."
"Screw you." The mans voice was deep and soft. Crystal paused in the hallway, one hand on her ASR, the other hand on her gun, as Jaylynn moved into the center of the room. Bucky continued to look past her at the TV set where WWF Smackdown participants were tossing one another around in the ring. He lay motionless, wearing black levi pants, square-toed brown leather boots, and a dirty white t-shirt that didnt completely cover his mound of a beer belly. He had three days growth of beard on his face and chin, and he looked like he hadnt bathed for a few days either.
"Listen, Bucky, dont make me do this the hard way." The rookie glanced over her shoulder at Crystal, who just shrugged and seemed to be encouraging Jaylynn.
The man tore his eyes away from the television, and looked at her. "You are going to do what the hard way? Take me in? Ha!" He crossed his hands over his chest, chuckling quietly to himself.
Crystal moved into the room, standing next to Jaylynn. "We can call for backup, Mister, and youre just going to get a charge for resisting arrest. Be a good sport and get up off your ass."
The man rolled his eyes, showed them a two second display of his middle finger, then turned his attention back to the television.
Jaylynn saw the remote control on the floor. As Crystal pressed her shoulder mike to report to dispatch, the rookie bent and darted out a hand. She grabbed the remote and pointed it at the huge TV set. She pushed the off button, and the set went black.
"Hey, you little fucker!" roared the man. He was up off the couch much faster than Jaylynn ever expected. He moved so suddenly that he knocked Crystal backwards onto the floor, then lunged for the rookie. Jaylynn twisted away, turned and blasted through the little hallway, knowing Crystal would follow and back her up. She headed toward the front door. As she emerged onto the blocky, cement porch, Bucky caught her in one ham-sized hand by the collar of her leather jacket, stopping her in her tracks.
Jaylynn drove her elbow back into the big mans stomach and tried to pull away. He grunted but held fast.
"You bitch Ill show you "
"Crystal!" She could smell the alcohol on his breath as he loomed over her. She swung wildly with her right arm, succeeding only in smashing the remote control against the porch railing. Twisting to her left, which caused her head to be forced below his arms, she leaned back against the wrought iron railing and grabbed her baton in her right hand. With one smooth swing, she struck out at his left knee connecting to make a solid thwack noise. He snarled, a wild beastly roar, and slammed her against the railing, mashing her ribs and reinjuring the muscles around her tender collarbone. She dropped the baton, but he didnt let go of her.
"Freeze, buddy," shouted Crystal. She stood behind him in the doorway, both hands cradling her weapon. "Hands behind your head, asshole, or I swear to God Ill shoot you!"
For a split second, the big man stood very still, one arm wrapped around Jaylynns waist, his other hand clutching the collar of her jacket. Her left side was pressed into his mammoth middle, and she could feel him breathing. She let her body go slack, hoping he would let go. For a freak second, she thought his hold was loosening, then he spun, swinging her around in front of him as he backed down the stairs.
In a high pitched squeal, he said, "Go ahead. Shoot me! But youll have to go through this little bitch first." He laughed maniacally and continued to back down the cracked cement walkway, holding her well off the ground.
Her legs dangling, and one arm free, she took every opportunity to kick backwards and to strike him with her right arm. Her left arm was pinned in front of her, and she wasnt able to pull away, and his arm was over her gun, so she couldnt draw. She squirmed and kicked, feeling the hard edge of her heel nailing him in the shins and knees a number of times, but it didnt slow him in the slightest.
Wide-eyed, Crystal followed them down the stairs, her Glock trained on the man. She lifted a hand to her shoulder mike, called the code, and quickly reported the situation. Clicking the mike off, she said, "Put her down. Now. Youre in enough trouble already. Let. Her. Go!"
Jaylynn could feel the mans hold slipping, and his breath was coming in labored gasps. He let her slip down several inches, but she was still pinned tightly across the middle, her protective vest shifting upwards slightly. He hiked her higher up in the air so that her gunbelt dug in to her back and hip. The rookie realized her gun had to be poking him, too, and she thought, Oh, please God, dont let him get my gun. Please! She formed a fist and brought her elbow back into his stomach, but to no avail. He made an oomph sound, but it didnt stop him. Now he was to the curb, still backing up. He sidled backwards between the police car and an old red Camaro, which were parked about three feet apart. Jaylynn saw her chance. She pulled her feet up, put one on the back bumper of the Camaro and the other on the front of the police car, and used her legs to push off and slightly to the left. This threw Bucky off balance, and because Jaylynns feet were placed at different levels, it threw her off, too. They fell against the Camaro, the side of her head striking the back windshield. The rookie twisted and kicked. The big man lost his hold, and she rolled off the rusted red vehicle.
Crystal was on them in an instant, but not before he had a chance to pull back his foot and nail Jaylynn solidly in the chin with his square-toed boot. The last things she remembered as the world went blank were a flash of pain in her jaw, the taste of metal in her mouth, and an antlered fiberglas deer gazing her way as though surprised to see her.
Cruising University near Rice Street, Dez heard the first call and Crystals clipped tense words to Dispatch. Holding down the panic, she flipped on lights and siren and did a U turn right in front of oncoming traffic. She didnt care that the other cars had the right-of-way. She hit the gas and drove up University, turned on Jackson, and careened around the corner onto 7th Street. She weaved and swerved as cars attempted to get out of her way, once even going up on the curb.
Another loud, clear voice came over the radio instructing backup units to head to the Forest Street address and shortly after, another series of messages came over between Dispatch and Crystal. They used the cryptic 10-codes, but it was very clear to Dez that an officer was down and needed medical attention in a hurry. If she could hear Crystals voice, who else could it be other than Jaylynn?
The cold, hard knot in Dezs stomach twisted into a frozen ball. She forgot how to breathe. She was conscious of the whine in her ears, the flashling lights, the grainy black and white and gray of the world she passed by, but her mind held no thoughts. Driving purely by instinct, she was impelled forward by a liquid-cold fear surrounded by a deadly calm.
She made the right turn onto Mounds Bouldevard going forty, slowed enough to negotiate the red light on Kellogg, and sped toward Forest. She heard the tires scream when she made the right turn but she was intent only on reaching the house. She caught sight of the police car and saw figures in a yard on the right. A limp figure lay sprawled on the sidewalk ahead, between a large laughing man and Crystal, who stood, feet apart, left hand cradling her right, with her gun trained on him. Dezs squad car rolled easily up onto the sidewalk. Ripping the door open, she was out as though ejected and moving smoothly with the speed and velocity of a Mack truck.
In the six running strides to the man, Dez saw the blonde womans face, covered in blood and unmoving. She was dead. The rookie was dead. Dez let out a shriek, a sound of desperate fury and loss, and all about her the world suddenly became muted. The colors washed out. Sound muffled. Her vision narrowed until all she saw was a dirty white t-shirt.
Like a lineman tackling the quarterback, the dark-haired cop lowered her head and plowed into the beer belly, driving the big man several steps back into the street. He brought a large fist up and mashed it into her brow, but that was the last blow he got in. She kneed him in the groin, and when he doubled over, hit him with an uppercut. She laced her hands together and brought them to the side like a batter, then smashed them into the side of his head. He made a choking sound and tried to back away. She hit him in the stomach, again and again.
"You killed him," she sobbed. "I shoulda killed you when I had the chance. You murderer, you killed him, you scum, you you "
She nailed him with a roundhouse to the side of the jaw. The big man fell to his knees, and she brought her bloodied fist back. Her entire world reduced to a gray whirling tunnel that led from her fist to his face. A gash opened up in his brow, spurting blood that looked black in the moonlight. She drew her fist back again, unconscious of the damage she was doing to her own hand, and suddenly she was off balance, being pulled away. In her ear a familiar male voice shouted.
"Cut it out, Reilly! Calm down. Calm down, for chrissake!"
With a shriek of frustration she tried to extricate herself, but two sets of arms held her.
"Let me go! Let go of me! He killed Ryan. He deserves to die." The last word came out a rasping shout, and she found herself panting, wheezing. She was filled through and through with a feeling of horror and rage. "Goddammit, let me go!" she screamed. She kicked out, flailing with hands and feet, twisting, shouting.
Gritting her teeth, she closed her eyes and continued to struggle. In her minds eye she saw the blond hair, the blue eyesthe vision from a hundred terrifying dreamsand she redoubled her efforts to free herself.
She was on her back, heavy weights on her chest, arms and legs. A sharp rock dug into her right hip. The whine of a siren split her eardrums, then quavered down to nothing. She heard slamming doors, shouts, the murmur of urgent voices. She opened her eyes, gulping air as best she could, and the world changed from the gray swirling confusion it had been to solid black and bluethe solid, dark hues of blue uniforms. Gasping for breath, she came to her senses, a feeling a dread coursing through her. "Oh, shit. Braswell, get the hell off me."
She gazed up at the fat cop, Braswell, with his porkchop sideburns. His red, sweating face looked at her with concern. He straddled her thighs and pressed down on her collarbones while two other cops, Tilden and Oster, knelt on her arms and pressed her shoulders into the dirt. She thought for a moment that she might vomit, but she forced the feeling back. "Let me up," she said in a quiet and reasonable voice.
Braswell said, "You aint gonna go nutso on us now, are you, Reilly?"
She took a deep breath. "No."
Mitch Oster was the first to loosen his grip. He shifted from his knees back to a squat, peering at her with worry in his eyes. Tilden let go and stood up to brush off his pants legs. Braswell rose with effort, hitching up his pants over his prodigious belly.
In a hoarse whisper, Oster said, "Dez, what in the hell are you doing over here?"
She sat up, feeling queasy once again. It all came back to her in a jumbled flood of sounds and images: the roar of a gun going off loud in her ear; short blond hair; the sound of laughter; her own legs running; the pool of blood under a still body; but no. Wait. Something was wrong. It was all out of order, confused. The mishmash of scenes wasnt right. There were two scenes, two separate events, both equally terrifying.
"Jay!" she whispered, and she was on her feet, ready to move again, but not before the three cops could grab her once more.
Braswell grunted, "Hold your horses, Reilly!"
She stood motionless, her knees weak, with the three cops grasping her, their hands and arms firm against her. She had the feeling that if it werent for their touch, she wouldnt be able to support herself. Across the street, three EMTs clustered around a figure seated on the ground. Turning her head, she saw on the grass to her left, about forty feet away, another EMT kneeling next to the huge man in the dirty t-shirt.
She stepped forward. One short step. Then another. The three cops fell into stride with her, Oster and Braswell on either side with Tilden bringing up the rear. She crossed the street, stepping around neighborhood onlookers who backed away in fear, and came to stand a few feet from the knot of people surrounding Jaylynn. A dark head popped up to see who was towering above, and Dez met Crystals anxious eyes.
"Dez." Crystal slowly rose.
Now Dez could see the blondes battered face, blood on her left cheek and chin. The young woman was not dead, after all, but she didnt seem to be fully conscious, despite the fact that her eyes were open.
Crystal reached over to put a hand on Dezs forearm. "Dez"
In a whisper, Dez said, "You were supposed to watch her back, keep her safe"
"Dez, there was nothing I could do. She was"
"I trusted you."
An EMT rose just then, and gestured the two cops out of the way as he went to the ambulance for the stretcher.
The tall cop turned away and put her face in her hands. Oh my God. What have I done. What in the hell do I do now?
It was seven a.m. and Dez sat, dressed in street clothes, in the Commanders office. Shed already been read the riot act by Lieutenant Malcolm five hours before, and now she waited for Commander Paar to show up on his day off and finish the reaming. With her left hand, she held her right fist, rubbing the knuckles gently. She couldnt close her hand, and her index and middle two fingers were swelled and bruised. She knew she needed to ice them, but she hadnt had the time.
Compounding the fact that she left her sector the previous night and beat up an alleged attacker, she had also chosen to ignore Dispatchs order that she return to her sector. Instead, she had driven the squad car to the hospital. Not until she received word near eleven p.m. that Jaylynn was going to be all right did she return to the car, call in, and ask if she should go back on patrol. By then, Lieutenant Malcolm had left orders for her to return to the precinct.
She had listened to his diatribe calmly. In fact, she barely took it in at all. She felt curiously disconnected, as though someone else, some sort of puppet, was moving her through the proper motions, saying "Yes, sir," nodding, shifting in her chair. Meanwhile, part of her hovered a few inches above and behind her, observing dispassionately. She supposed she was in some sort of shock. She had to admit that she certainly felt numb enough. It wasnt that she didnt care about all that had happened; she just didnt have the energy or strength to feel any caring. Dez chalked that up to lack of sleep.
Only when he said the words "medical leave" did she snap into some semblance of attention. "What?"
"Im sending you to the psychiatrist, Reilly."
She looked at him in disbelief, not quite able to comprehend what she had just heard.
After Lt. Malcolm dismissed her, telling her she was on paid suspension pending psychiatric evaluation, she changed clothes mechanically, as though in a trance. She went out to her truck and drove to the hospital where she was promptly informed that only family could be admitted. She had to flash her badge before the overly cautious nurse reluctantly allowed her in.
The nurse back on the unit explained that Jaylynn would be spending the night for observation because of concussion. She ushered Dez into the hospital room, saying that the young woman had a hairline crack in her jawbone, numerous facial cuts and bruises, and a broken wrist. "Weve given her something to calm her, so she may not awaken. She needs her rest, now, so dont stay too long." The nurse pulled the door shut, and Dez stood several feet from the still figure on the bed.
Jaylynns head was turned away from the bedside light, but even from where Dez stood, she could see how puffy and bruised the pale face was. Something bubbled up from deep inside, and Dez was at a loss for a moment to determine what it was. It made the back of her knees weak and took her breath away, leaving her heart fluttering and her temples pounding. She had to force back the feeling that she was going to be sick. Staggering slightly, she stumbled over to the bedside chair, sat, and put her head between her knees. After a few breaths, the world stopped spinning, and she lifted her head tentatively.
Jaylynn slept on, her face relaxed, her breathing regular. She didnt wake for the next three hours, and Dez sat quietly next to the bed, not thinking, unable to sleep, feeling little or nothing. At 6:30 she left in order to meet Captain Paar at seven a.m., and now she sat brooding outside his office, wondering what would become of her.
Jaylynn awakened to a crashing headache that seemed to encompass the entire left side of her head all the way to her jaw. Throbbing. My head is literally throbbing. Gawd! Ive had one hell of a dream! She didnt recall exactly what had happened, but what she did remember involved struggle and fighting and pain. She winced as she opened her eyes, taking a moment to get adjusted to the bright light. She frowned. Her bedroom walls were now white. Wait a minute! I painted them peach colored . . . why are they . . . ?
She sat up, looked around, and immediately hit upon the amazing realization that she was in a hospital room. To her left was a metal rail with a call device hooked to it. She lifted her left hand, then did a double takeher arm was in a shiny white cast that ran halfway up her forearm. Rotating her wrist a little, it hit her that her hand was throbbing in concert with her head. She reached across her body with her good hand and pressed the red button, and when it stayed red, she laid back in the bed, feeling a rush of fatigue.
Only a minute passed before a slender black man in blue scrubs appeared. "Youre awake. Good." He stepped up to the bed railing and pressed a button on the side so that the bed inclined up. "Jaylynn, my names Everett, and Im one of the nurses assistants. How would you like a little something to drink?"
"Okay." She let him straighten out her covers and arrange pillows. "Why am I here? Besides the fact that there is something obviously wrong with my hand, I mean."
"Ill let the doctor come talk to you in a bit, Officer."
With that wordOfficereverything abruptly came back to her the big man, the fight, trying to get away. She had this fuzzy recollection of Dez standing above her, looking down, her face angry and fearful. Must have been a dream. Dez couldnt have been there. She did remember the doctor in the ER. She had been very soothing, very warm, reminding Jaylynn of her own mother. After that, she couldnt summon up any memory. "What time is it?"
The slim man looked at his wristwatch. "Ten after seven. Would you like some tea or coffee?"
She nodded. "Coffee would be great."
"Okay. What else."
"Im hungry. Ill take whatever you can get me."
He grinned. "Thats what we like to hear. Appetite is a good thing, but I cant get you anything solid until the doctor does her rounds."
"Oh." Her stomach was clenching painfully. "How long will that be?"
"Shouldnt be too long. She comes on duty today at half past seven."
"Reilly, you realize youre in big trouble." The captain made it a statement, not a question. She nodded, watching him warily from across his desk. Lt. Malcolm sat in the chair to her right. "You have the right to have a union rep here, you know."
"Sure you dont want to call for one?
"Are you disciplining me?"
He glared at her. "Not at this point, Im not."
"All right then, I dont need a rep now."
"Youre awful goddamn calm for someone who I understand went fuckin nuts last night."
There was no reasonable response to that, so Dez kept her mouth shut. She looked down at her hands, rubbing the knuckles of her right hand.
The captain picked up a folder and leafed through it. "You left your sectorwhich I might have done, too, under the circumstances. Then you beat the crap out of the suspect." He looked up at her over his glasses. "I might have done that, too. But you ignored communication from Dispatch, failed to return to your assignment, just did what you pleased without even calling in to let the duty sergeant or anyone know." He slapped the folder down on the desk. "Its not enough that youre personally involved with the officer who got hurt last nightSavageyou also had to go postal? What the hell is wrong with you, Reilly? And whats the deal with your hand?"
He rose from his chair and came around the other side of the desk. Smoothing out his gray slacks, he crossed his arms, leaning back against the desk as he looked down at the top of her head. "Hold your hand outno, dammit! Your right hand."
She sighed and held her hand out, palm up.
He smiled a grim smirk and shook his head. "Turn it over." He surveyed her hand, pointed at her knuckles. "Youre going to the doctor today to get that checked. Thats an order. And then youre going to the psychiatrist. You havent been yourself for months, Reilly. We should have made you keep going." He stood, his arms still crossed over his white starched shirt. "Lt. Malcolm here thought youd pull through on your own. Its obvious to me you havent." He paused. "Have you got anything to say for yourself?"
She looked up at him, trying to hide her misery. Very slowly, she shook her head from side to side.
"Nothing at all, huh? Fine," he said in an angry voice. "Get an appointment for an x-ray today." He glanced over at the lieutenant. "Youll need to file work comp papers, so Malcolm, get in touch with H.R. And Reilly, I want verification that you saw the doctor for that hand by the end of the day tomorrow. As for the psych eval, well let you know when it is. Go home. Your lieutenant will be calling later in the day with instructions for you. For now, youre on medical leave."
She reached down next to her chair and picked up her holster, extracting the department issued gun, which she laid on his desk. From her back pocket she removed her leather ID folder which contained her badge, but before she could set it next to the gun, he interrupted her. "Oh no. Youre not suspended. Yet. You keep all that. Put it in a safe place. Im giving you four weeks to get your act together. Then Ill decide whether we need to take further action. Lt. Malcolm has great faith in you. You go get your head straight, then well talk more."
She rose, her legs a good deal shakier than she expected them to be. He uncrossed his arms and turned away, so without another word, she left his office and drove herself to the Urgent Care Clinic where she sat for two hours before finding out that the bone in her right middle finger was cracked. They gave her a splint and told her to ice itexactly what she would have done anyway.
Jaylynn was sitting up in the hospital bed, leaning back against two pillows, with the tall, rolling tray in front of her. Upon it were two cartons of juiceapple and grapeand a styrofoam plate with one piece of dry toast cut in half. Shed been waiting for food for almost three hours and wasnt too thrilled when all they had brought was toast and juice. She would have preferred cereal and yogurt and bacon and pancakes and . . . the list in her head seemed endless. Instead, she was stuck with a miserable piece of cold bread and juice. What kind of hospital is this, anyway?
She held a plastic fork in the fingers of her casted left hand and, with her good hand, was trying to peel away the plastic from a tiny container that had a picture of a bunch of grapes on the front. So intent was she that she didnt notice the dark-haired figure in the doorway.
Dez crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe to watch the blonde. She saw that a hank of blonde hair had fallen into Jaylynns eyes, which the younger woman impatiently brushed back. She set the plastic knife down and leaned forward, trying to open the jam, so focused, so occupied with her taskso like Jaylynn. Dez thought about how the rookie threw herself into everything, into life in general, with a passion and an energy she herself seemed to lack. And to think that the big loser on Forest Street could have deprived the world of that. To have this womans love, her caring, just her attention was frightening and overwhelming to the tall cop.
Click: a huge fist striking the sunny blonde woman. Click: the small figure crumpling, falling. Click: Jaylynn on the ground, blood all over her face. ClickDez didnt want to see anymore of the images and forced them out of her mind. Taking a deep ragged breath, she realized that the weak feeling behind her knees and the shakiness of the last several hours was fear, pure and simple. Endangered. Exposed. Now there were two "E" words that explained her feelings. She was terrified, and there wasnt anyone on the planet, least of all Jaylynn, to whom she wanted to admit that. It made Dez shudder, and that small movement caught the rookies eye.
"Dez! Where have you been?" She held a hand out, gesturing her to come close, and Dez automatically allowed herself to be reeled in. Next thing she knew, she was seated on the edge of the bed, facing the blonde, and wrapped in a tight hug, tight enough to disguise how shaky she felt.
Jaylynn leaned back and examined the dark-haired woman. "You look like hell! I swear, Im the beat up one whos been in the hospital all night, but you look like you should be the one here in the bed!"
"Oh, Jay . . . ." She made a huffing noise and looked away.
"Have you slept at all?" Without waiting for an answer, Jaylynn picked up the jam packet and put it in the dark-haired womans palm. "Can you get a fingernail under that? I cant get this stupid little teeny thing open."
Dez reached over and picked up the plastic knife and plunged it right through the plastic top a little more viciously than shed meant to. Jam oozed out the sides onto her palm.
Jaylynn grabbed it out of her hand. "Geez, Dez! I could have done that!" She dumped the remaining jam onto the cold toast, scraped some out with the plastic knife and spread it around, then reached for the tall womans hand and rolled her eyes. "You gonna go around with jam on you like that?" She bent her blonde head, and sporting a mischievous look, licked away the sticky grape stuff from Dezs thumb and palm. "There. Better, huh? You get any on your other hand?"
She reached for Dezs right fingers, but her touch caused Dez to gulp and draw it back.
"Hey, whatd you do there?" She gently examined the splinted finger. "Ouch, that looks painfulit looks awful. Is it broken?" With a puzzled frown on her face, she looked up into the troubled blue eyes. "What happened?"
"Buckminstera.k.a. BuckyReginald happened."
Jaylynn looked at her blankly. "Buckminwhoa! You didnt go over this morning and beat up that asshole Bucky from the call last night?"
"No, I didnt beat up Bucky today. I answered your backup call."
Jaylynn frowned, and Dez could almost see the wheels spinning behind the hazel green eyes. "You were there?"
"Too late. I was there too late. You were already down. I thought hed killed you."
"So you helped Crystal subdue him?"
"I nailed the bastard," she said, feeling a tiny sense of satisfaction, even though she also felt regret she wasnt going to admit.
"Dez, you werent working our sector. Youyou left your post?" The dark head nodded slowly, and in response, Jaylynns jaw dropped. "Ow! God, it hurts to open my mouth. How the hell am I supposed to eat?"
"You have a cracked jawbone."
The blonde reached up and lightly touched the side of her face. "I know. My whole head is just pounding. But that will go away . . . what I want to know is what happened last night. Didnt you get in trouble with the Lieutenant?"
"Yes. And with Captain Paar."
"Oh no." Jaylynn looked positively horrified. "You are in deep doo-doo then. Start at the beginning. Tell me everything. I want a blow-by-blow accountno pun intended."
Dez shook her head. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I cantnot now. I really dont want to talk about it."
"But Dez, wait. I"
The tall cop held up a hand and scooted back down the bed slightly. "Stop. Listen to me. It doesnt matter what happened or why. What matters is that youre safe. And once you get outta here, you can put in your resignation. This kind of thing"
"What?" Jaylynns forehead crinkled and her face took on a perplexed look.
Dez leaned in close. In a low voice she said, "You dont have to put up with this shit. Theyll probably make a settlement with you for your injuries. You can use the money to go to law school or something."
"What? Are you crazy? Im less than a month away from passing probation. Why would I quit now?"
"Jay, its dangerous for a small person like you. Youre tootoo"
"Im not small! Im five and a half feet tall!"
"Youre barely five-foot-fiveunless you have shoes on."
"Im just as big as about half the women on the force, Dez!"
Dez exhaled forcefully, then stood up, crossing her arms. She paced toward the wall, then came back four steps and glanced over at Jaylynn who held the mangled jam container in one hand as though she had forgotten all about it. "Jay, honey, youre not listening to me."
"Im listening quite well, Desiree, and I dont like what Im hearing."
"Look. This is your chance to get out before you get hurt. Thats what Im saying. Youre a good cop, but youre littleandandyou know . . . youre at a disadvantage." She wheeled on her heel and paced toward the wall again.
"Little? Shrimpy? Youre calling me delicate?" In an ominous voice she said, "Or do you mean spineless?"
The dark haired woman turned again, putting her right hand up to her forehead. "No! Thats not what Im saying. I just mean that youre no match for some huge monster of a guy like he was"
"What! Who the hell do you think you are telling me Im too frail, like, like some sort of puny little baby doll?" She smacked the jam container down on the rolling table and heaved out a deep breath from a very angry mouth.
"No, no, thats not what I meant . . ."
The rookies face was flushing red, and Dez could see it coming. She raised a hand as though to ward it off, but it was too late. With fury in her voice, Jaylynn said, "How dare you call me a wimp?"
"I didnt say wimp"
"Thats what you mean! Ill have you know you couldnt have dealt with this guy yourself. He was bigbig as a mountain. And we got sort of ambushed by him, but believe me, nothing like thats ever going to happen again."
Dez bent forward, holding one fist up in front of her. In a tight, clipped voice, she said, "Youre right. It wont happen again, Jay, if you just resign. If you want to stay in law enforcement, theres plenty of civilian jobs at the station that"
"Grrrrrrr " A growling noise came from the younger woman, startling the dark-haired cop. The blonde crossed her arms and glowered. "I am not resigning. Never. I cant believe youd even suggest it. So, I got into a beat-down. It happens. Im fine now. Ill heal up in just a day or so. Dammit! You listen, Dez. Crystal and I should have called for backup sooner. Theres not a person on the force who could have dealt with that giant idiot."
"Youre wrong, Jay."
"What do you meanwrong? I am not wrong. He was mammoth. You couldnt have handled him."
"I more than handled him," Dez said sharply, and the words came pouring out, like a leak in a roof that she couldnt stop. "I beat the hell out of him. Hes in intensive care right now, and itll take his broken ribs, bruised kidneys, busted cheekbone, and mashed-in nose a hell of a lot longer to heal than your injuries will ever need!"
Jaylynn sat back against her pillows, speechless, and Dez felt her fierce pride deflate and shrink, replaced with shame. The cold knot in the pit of her stomach expanded, like water freezing in a glass jar, threatening any minute to crack and explode. She struggled for words. How could she tell her partner that if they went on like thisJaylynn out on the street, unprotected, away from hershe would quite simply have a nervous breakdown from the fear and stress of it? She couldnt explain that. Nobody would ever understand. "Jay! Jay, honey, listen. Last year, you offered to quit the force if it meant that we could be together. This isnt all that different."
"What do you mean?" The rookies voice was soft. "Are you saying that we cant be together anymore if I dont quit?"
Dez looked down at her hands, trying unsuccessfully to flex the right one.
"I cant believe you would say that," Jaylynn said, amazement in her voice. Neither spoke for several seconds, then the rookies face gradually went from pink to pale. After a moment, she said, "You cant control me, Dez Reilly. Its my life, my job, my choice to decide what I do. Get out! You need to go away and leave me alone. I dont want to see you ever again until you can accept that Im a cop, just like you."
Dez stared at the blonde, shock on her face. Jaylynn pushed the rolling table a few inches away and looked toward the gray light coming through the hospital window. The tall woman backed up, and now her legs were really shaking. She wanted to say you dont mean that, Jay please, take it back dont send me away. But it seemed that her voice would not work. Jaylynn did not turn her head, would not meet her eyes. Tears sprang to the tall womans eyes, but before a single drop could fall, Dez spun on her heel and sped from the room.
She hustled down the long hallway, found the stairs, and ran down four flights, bursting out into the lobby area. She didnt even see Crystal and Shayna striding across the open lounge area, and she never heard them when they called out her name.
It had been so long since she had spent any time at her apartment that it took Dez a while to find all the things she needed. She wasnt thinking very clearly. Any minute she was sure she would shatter into a couple thousand pieces on the floor, but somehow she held it together to get herself ready. She grabbed her comfortable old St. Patricks day sweatshirt off the hook on the back of the door in the bathroom, but she was disappointed when she realized her favorite jeans were over at Jaylynns house along with at least a third of her wardrobe. She would have to make do without those things. She packed quickly, stuffing clothes, clean towels, and various toiletry items in the big bag. She had already called to make arrangements for her stay, and she knew she wouldnt be back for several days or a week, so she moved around the apartment, mentally checking things off. She picked out CDs to listen to in the truck. On the way out of the main room to the kitchen, she stopped to grab two paperback books that had sat so long on top of her desk that she could see a few flecks of fine dust.
She stacked her things on the landing outside her door and sat at the kitchen table. Taking a sheet of paper from the pad she kept there, she wrote a note to Luella, then got up and rooted around in the junk drawer until she found some masking tape. She ripped off a three-inch strip and stuck it to the note, then dashed downstairs to tape it to her landladys door. She strode back up the stairs, locked her door, and picked everything up from the landing. With each step she took, as she descended the stairs, her grief threatened to spill over. She pushed it back, biting her bottom lip so hard that it began to bleed.
Unlocking the truck with the remote, she balanced her bag on her upraised knee and opened the door to the extra cab. She tossed in a heavy jacket, a pair of snow boots, and a large duffel bag, then slammed the door with more force than was necessary. She climbed up into the drivers seat and paused. She had CDs, but she realized she hadnt brought any other music. For a moment she considered going back up to the apartment for her guitar, but then she changed her mind. Luella could come home any time. Someone else could drop by. She felt too precarious, too vulnerable. She pulled the door shut and started up the engine. Shed probably be back soon enough for her psych evaluation, and she could get it then if she wanted it. For now she was traveling light.
She backed out of the parking spot and pulled onto the road and in short order was on the highway heading north.
So its over and done with. Thats it. Tears filled her eyes, and she wiped them impatiently on the sleeve of her shirt, but they wouldnt stop. Well, whats new? Nothing good has ever lasted for me.
It was afternoon before Jaylynn was released. By then she had told every one who entered her room that she was starving, but the nurses and aides kept telling her she would be released any moment so they werent ordering any meals. When Sara came to get her, Jaylynn talked her into stopping at the first fast food place they drove by, which was the drive-thru at Burger King. The hungry rookie began eating the French fries right away in the car, but she didnt think she could juggle the hamburger. As she munched on greasy fries, all the rest of the way home she explained to her friend what had happened the night before.
"Geez!" Sara said. "You should have called me at the video store. I would have come over last night, you know."
"Sara, I didnt even wake up until this morning."
"Oh. Well, did you call your parents?"
Jaylynn frowned and shook her head. "Im afraid theyll have a cow like Dez did."
"What do you mean?" The brown-eyed woman slowed the car at a light and idled, taking a moment to look at the blonde. Jaylynns face was pale, and her uniform rumpled and blood stained.
The blonde closed her eyes and shook her head. "Sara, she just pissed me off to beat the band. She showed up this morning and started telling me I have to quit the forcethat Im too small and weak for the job. Damn, she made me mad!"
Sara turned on Como Avenue, and took a second to look across the car at her roommate. "I wouldnt say that youre weak, Jayyouve got a lot of muscle packed on your framebut you have gotten hurt a number of times now."
"Well, so what! It happens to everybody now and then!" She tried to cross her arms and winced when her wrist flared in pain, so she set her hands in her lap.
Sara pulled up to the front of their house and turned the car off. "Dez cares a lot about you. Remember how you felt when she was shot in the vest? Imagine how scared and upset you were then, and thats probably how she feels."
"Yeah, I know, but did I tell her she had to quit being a cop? No! I never even thought of that." With an indignant exhalation, she hauled herself up out of the car. They walked up to the house, Jaylynn holding the Burger King bag and her holstered gun awkwardly in her good hand. "Im not supposed to have my gun at home, you know."
Sara nodded as she jingled the house keys looking for the right one.
"Dammit! Thats a stupid rule. Only twenty-nine days until I pass probation and then I can keep it at home all I want."
"Maybe I can run you down to the station later on so you can drop it off."
Jaylynn sighed and nodded. Her hand and head were both throbbing in two-part harmony, and it wasnt pleasant.
Sara unlocked the front door and they both went in and headed for the kitchen. Jaylynn shrugged out of her leather jacket with difficulty, her cast getting hung up on the coat sleeve. "For cripesake, now I know what a pain that cast was for Dez. Geez!"
"You want a cup of tea?" the brown haired woman said.
"Yeah, sure." She threw herself wearily into a chair at the kitchen table and opened up the bag to dig out the hamburger.
"How long are you in that cast for?"
With her mouth full, Jaylynn said, "Ten days. Then Ill get a removeable splint."
"Youre off work for a while then?"
Jaylynn looked surprised. "No, just for today and tomorrow. Then I get light duty again. Lt. Malcolm came by to see me this morning. He said that Tsorro and Parkins would be pleased to get help again on the Tivoli case." She set the hamburger down on the greasy yellow wrapper and wiped her mouth with a paper napkin. "To be honest, I would really like to work on that case some more. If we could just catch a break . . . "
Sara leaned back against the counter, waiting for the teapot to boil. "You know, Jay, Dez is right about one thing. Your talents are wasted on patrol. You should be an investigator."
"Fat chance of that. Ive only got a year of experience."
The teapot started to whistle. Sara turned to pull it off the burner. "But youre good at that, and youd enjoy it a lot more. Admit it."
Jaylynn took another bite of her sandwich and refused to comment.
Continued - Part 6
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