Safe Harbor: Part 2
It was close to midnight when Reese left them. It had taken that long to sketch in the outline of the last twenty years of her life. They hadnít touched on deeply personal things; neither of them had been ready for that. But it was a beginning, and it felt right. She was too excited to sleep, so she decided to drive.
She turned off Commercial Street, following the meandering turn of narrow streets to the clinic. It wasnít exactly on her way home, but nothing in the two by three-mile town was out of the way. She frowned when she saw the Jeep Cherokee still parked in the lot. The clinic was dark. Reese left her truck on the shoulder of the highway and circled through the scrub and sand to the rear of the clinic. When she gently tried the handle, the rear door swung open. Gun in hand, she made her way slowly down the hall, carefully opening each door she passed.
Rounding a corner into the shadowy reception area, she sensed movement to her right. Swinging her outstretched arms in that direction, gun double-fisted, she shouted, "Police!"
Her movement deflected the already descending blow, but pain seared along her forearm where she was struck. She propelled herself forward, catching her forehead against the edge of a metal file cabinet as she dove. She came up into a crouch, poised to fire on the shape backlit in the moonlight when a voice called out, "Sheriff, no! Itís Tory King!"
The lights came on and Reese found herself face-to-face with the doctor, whose cane was still raised for a second sweeping strike.
"Stand down, Doctor," Reese muttered, wiping her face with one hand. Her hand came away bloody, and she swayed, suddenly dizzy.
"Sit down, Sheriff," Tory commanded, moving forward quickly. She grasped Reese around the waist, directing her into a chair. "Youíre injured."
"I need to secure this place," Reese protested, shaking her head, trying to clear her vision. "The back door was unlocked."
"Never mind that. Sally is always forgetting to lock it." Tory
scrutinized Reeseís face carefully.
"Youíre going to need stitches."
"I need to call for backupó"
"Whyóam I under arrest? I didnít know it was you until you spoke. I heard a noise in the halló"
"Terrific," Reese grimaced, doubly embarrassed. "First I announce my presence, then I let you take me out. Maybe you should be wearing the badge!"
Tory smiled grimly. "This cane is nearly as deadly as that gun of yours, at least at close range. Iím thankful I didnít break your arm." She looked at Reese with mounting concern. "I didnít, did I?"
Kneeling with some difficulty in front of Reese, she grasped Reeseís right hand in hers. "Squeeze my fingers," she said.
"Canít," Reese mumbled, battling a sudden wave of nausea.
"I must have hit the median nerve," she noted clinically. "It may be a couple of hours before you can flex your fingers, but nothing seems broken."
She continued to probe along Reeseís forearm, aware of the well-developed muscles under her fingers. "Youíre lucky youíre in such good shapeóyour muscle mass protected you. Still, weíll need to watch for compression injuries. Youíre going to get a lot of swelling." She rocked back and studied Reeseís face, brushing a lock of hair off Reeseís forehead. The sheriff was pale, but her gaze was clear. "Youíve got a laceration through your eyebrow. We need to go back to the procedure room so I can take care of it. Can you walk?"
Reese nodded, holstering her gun as she carefully pushed herself to a standing position. She extended her left hand to assist Tory to her feet.
"I canít tell you how sorry I am, Sheriff," Tory began as they moved to the rear of the clinic.
"It was a lesson well learned, Doctor," Reese said grimly. "Having a gun sometimes make you overconfident. A well-trained martial artist is a real threat in close quarters. Thatís what you are, isnít it?"
"Sit here," Tory indicated, motioning to the operating table in the center of the room. She was silent as she opened gloves and a suture tray. "Are you allergic to any drugs?"
"Lie back. I just need to clean this up a bit." As she set about her work, she continued, "Hapkido. Do you know it?"
"Some - Iím trained in jujitsu," Reese replied, wincing slightly at the sting of the novocaine injection. "Hapkido. Thatís Korean, isnít it?"
"Uh huh," Tory responded as she began placing the sutures. "Itís a combination of Aikido and Tae Kwon Do. Fortunately for me, it also teaches the art of the cane."
"Well, itís certainly effective," Reese said flatly. "Youíll have to show me sometime."
"If you like. There, thatís it. Iíll need to take these stitches out in five days." She pulled the stool over and sat down facing Reese. "What are you doing here?"
"I happened to be driving by and I saw your Jeep. The place was dark. I was worried. Youíre not supposed to be here alone, remember?"
Tory sighed, "I know. We ran so late I sent everyone home an hour ago. I had literally just finished and was heading out the door when I heard you. I am so sorryó"
"Please," Reese said, pushing herself up to a sitting position. Thankfully her head felt clear. "Iím glad to know you can take care of yourself so well. Letís just leave it at that, okay?"
Tory stood, reaching for an alcohol swab. When she cupped Reeseís chin in one hand, Reese tensed.
"Youíve got blood on your neck," Tory said quietly, wiping the skin gently.
"Thank you," Reese murmured, her eyes meeting Toryís deep hazel ones. She was acutely aware of the warmth in Toryís touch.
Tory stepped back quickly, averting her gaze as she quickly broke their contact. The withdrawal was so abrupt, Reese shivered involuntarily. Tory frowned. "You need to be in bed. Come on, Iíll drive you home."
"Iím okay," Reese muttered, jumping down from the table. She swayed with a sudden wave of dizziness, and would have fallen if Tory hadnít slipped her arm quickly around her waist.
"Not quite, youíre not. You may be strong, but youíre not made of steel. Youíve had a nasty blow to your head and with that arm, youíre not fit to drive. I mean it."
"I canít leave my truck on the road," Reese protested.
"Iíll drive it. Come on."
"Go get into bed," Tory said when Reese led them into the living room of her new home. "Iíll get some ice for your arm - kitchen through there?" she indicated with a nod of her head.
"Yes, but I can get itó"
Tory rounded on Reese, her eyes flashing. "Look Sheriff, you can save the butch routine for the bad guys. I know you can get it. The point is that I want you to lie down, so Iím going to get it."
Reese stared at her, an uncomprehending look on her face. "Iím not trying to be butch! Iím just used to doing things for myself."
Toryís features softened, and a smile curved her full lips. "Yes, Iíll bet you are. But tonight you donít have to. Now go onóplease."
Tory found her a few minutes later awkwardly trying to hang her gun belt and uniform in the closet. Her right arm was still uncoordinated and visibly swollen. She had managed to pull on a faded cotton T-shirt, USMC stenciled over her left chest. Her legs were bare below the hem of the shirt. Tory tried not to stare at the expanse of smooth skin and tightly muscled limbs, finally deciding she couldnít avoid looking at her unless she suddenly went blind. Taking the hanger from Reeseís fumbling grasp, she said firmly, "Bed."
Tory folded the trousers carefully and hung them up in the precisely ordered closet. Shirts and pants were neatly segregatedódress clothes to the left, casual clothes to the right. She stared thoughtfully at the crisp Judo gis and the carefully folded hakamas on the top shelf. The mysterious sheriff was more than a casual martial artist.
Turning, Tory found Reese propped up in bed, her hands folded on the sheets that covered her to the waist. She was watching Tory carefully, her face inscrutable. Tory stared back at her, thinking that this woman spoke volumes with her silence.
"What?" Tory asked softly.
"I was watching you study my closet with such interest. Are you always so observant?"
"Occupational hazard. Being a doctor is a little like being a detectiveóyou have to learn not to overlook the subtle details. How about you? Always so neat, ordered, and controlled?"
Reese laughed. "Yes. Fifteen years of the Marine Corp will do that for you. Although it might be hereditary. My father is career military."
"And your mother is an organizational systems manager?" Tory joked.
Reese grew suddenly still, her expression thoughtful. "No, my mother is an artist. Iím afraid I didnít inherit anything from her."
Tory saw the subject was clearly off limits and once again a vast distance settled between them. "Here," she said, approaching the bed with the plastic bag of ice in her hand, "hold out your arm." She wrapped a towel loosely around Reeseís forearm, then applied the ice pack, securing it with another towel. "Keep this on as long as you can. If you have more pain during the night or the numbness worsens, call me. Itís unlikely youíll have a problem, but I donít want to take any chances."
"Whatís your phone number?" Reese asked politely. She had no intention of taking up any more of this womanís time. The whole ridiculous situation was her fault to begin with. No one had ever taken her by surprise like that before.
"Just yell - Iíll be on your couch."
Reese shot straight up in bed. "You are not staying here!"
"My Jeep is at the clinic, and Iím tired, and Iím starting to get cranky. I intend to go to sleep - immediately. Donít worry, you wonít even know Iím here."
"Thatís not the point!" Reese exclaimed. "Youíve already done too much for me!"
Tory raised an eyebrow. "And just how would you define "too much", Sheriff? Is any help at all too much? Just tell me where the sheets areóIím beat."
Reese pointed to a military footlocker pushed under the windows. "Beddingís in there, Doctor. Military issue Iím afraid. Iíve only been a civilian a short time, and shopping has not been high on my list of priorities."
"Itíll do for a night. Thanks," Tory said as she headed for the door. "Now lights out, please."
"Yes, maíam," Reese sighed, realizing she had been out maneuvered in more ways than one that evening.
At five a.m. in May, sunrise was still a long way off. Reese stood in the dim light reflected from the kitchen, looking down at Tory King. She slept on her side, her arms wrapped around the pillow. Her tousled hair framed a face soft and youthful in sleep. Her clothes were tossed over a nearby chair, her leg brace and cane leaning within arms reach. Reese was captivated by how peaceful she appeared. Before Reese could move away, Tory rolled onto her back and opened her eyes, moving from sleep to full wakefulness almost instantaneously. She saw the curiosity in Reeseís face before all expression fled.
"What?" Tory asked. "Is there something strange about the way I sleep?"
Reese contemplated her for a moment, aware that she was naked under the light covering. The curve of hip and the slight swell of breasts were outlined in light and shadow. Reese knew she was staring, and forced her eyes to Toryís face.
"You donít just sleep - you seem to embrace it, as if it were nourishing you." Her voice trailed off. She had no words to express how beautiful the woman had been. "I didnít mean to disturb you," she finished awkwardly.
Tory sat up, holding the sheet to her chest with one arm. With the other she brushed her hair back from her face. "I think I felt you in my sleep, but it didnít disturb me." She looked at Reese uncertainly. She knew Reese hadnít touched her, but her skin tingled with the sense of a lingering caress. Abruptly she swung her legs to the floor. This was getting ridiculous. Too much turmoil in the last twenty-four hours had her imagining things.
"I need to be up anyhow," Tory said more sharply than she intended.
"Right. Iíll let you get dressed," Reese said, turning away, nonplussed by the abrupt change. "Coffee?" She asked as she retreated quickly to the kitchen.
"Please," Tory called after her. She joined Reese in the kitchen a few moments later, looking around her in surprise. The room, newly renovated, was modern and equipped with professional appliances. "What a great kitchen! You must cook!"
Reese grinned, ducking her head shyly. "A secret vice." She handed Tory a steaming cup of freshly ground French Roast.
"However did that happen? Werenít you forced to eat in the mess hall or something?"
Reese laughed, warming Tory with the rich timber of her voice. Tory relaxed, leaning against the large center cook-island that dominated the space. She sipped her coffee as she examined Reese in the bright morning light. She was in uniform again, the creases in her sleeves and trousers razor sharp, her tie knotted square under a crisp collar. The surface of her shoes sparkled with a flawless shine. She seemed flawless, too. Her black hair was trimmed precisely around her ears, and above her collar. The full front fell rather dashingly over clear blue eyes, a straight nose, and full strong chin. She was handsome and beautiful at the same time, and warning bells began clashing in Toryís brain. Women this good-looking generally knew it, and that always spelled trouble. The years had not quite erased the pain left behind by someone nearly as heartstopping as this. She forced herself to concentrate on what Reese was saying, reminding herself she would never make that mistake again.
"I lived mostly off base. Learning to cook gave me something to do, since Iíve always lived alone."
"Always?" Tory asked. It was hard to believe that a woman with her appeal wasnít attached.
"Yes, always," Reese replied quietly.
Once again Tory sensed a door closing as a distant look settled in Reeseís eyes.
"How is your arm?" Tory asked, retreating to neutral ground.
"Stiff, but the sensation has returned."
"Can you handle your weapon?"
Reese looked surprised. "I think so."
Tory shook her head. "You have to be able to or you canít work. Seriously, Sheriffó"
Reese held up a hand. "Please, call me Reese. You canít keep calling me ĎSheriffí in my own kitchen."
Tory laughed. "And Iím Tory. Now, draw your weapon."
Reese studied her for a second, recognizing the solemn set to her features. She reached behind her with her right hand to set the coffee cup on the counter. In the next instant, she had pivoted away from Tory, her revolver in both hands, crouched in a shooting stance. The tailored uniform stretched taut against coiled muscles, the gun unwavering.
Toryís caught her breath, surprised by Reese's speed and grace. "You pass," Tory said lightly, aware that her throat was dry and her pulse racing. She had to admit the combination of physical beauty and controlled power was a compelling image.
Reese straightened, holstering her revolver. She smiled faintly and saluted Tory casually. "Thank you, maíam."
Reese wasnít sure why Tory was staring at her
so curiously, but she liked the way she laughed. For some reason, the laughter
made her happy.
After returning Tory to the clinic, Reese circled through town to the station house. Nelson was at his desk, frowning over yet another voluminous report he had to complete.
"Jesus, Conlonówhat happened to you?" Nelson asked when he saw the bruise on his deputyís face and the fresh stitches on her forehead.
Reese shook her head ruefully, tossing her hat on her desk. "If I told you the truth, youíd fire me."
"Try me," he ordered. He was laughing by the time she finished the story. "I told you the doc could look after herself! Just be glad sheís only got one good leg, or she really might have hurt you!"
They stared at one another as he grimaced in disgust. "Oh hell, I didnít mean that. Itís a damn tragedy, and here I am joking." He shook his head in discomfort.
"What do you mean?" Reese asked quietly.
"I guess itís not a secret - as if anyone in this town has secrets. She was a rower. Did you know that?"
"I know she rows," Reese remarked, recalling the photographs in Tory Kingís office.
"She did row. She rowed for the Canadian Olympic team. She was their big hope for a gold medal in the Ď88 Olympics. Another rower hit her scull in a trial heat just before the games. Cut her boat in half and nearly took her leg off with it. She never rowed again."
Reese turned away, her chest tight. "Is this stuff last nightsí dregs again?" she said gruffly, snatching the coffeepot from the burner.
Nelson gaped at her in surprise. He was never going to understand this woman. She closed up faster than anyone he had ever known, men included. But he respected her moods, so he just grunted as he returned to the endless paperwork on his desk.
Reese focused on making coffee, forcing the painful image of Tory lying injured in a shattered boat from her mind. Unexpectedly, she flashed on the way Tory had looked asleep that morning, remembering the still beauty of her form beneath the light covering. The image was inexplicably calming. Reese took a deep breath, her emotions under control once again, and turned back to the Chief.
"Iím going to start my tour."
"Sure. Hey, grab me some donuts, will you?"
Instead of turning right into town, Reese went the opposite direction to Route 6 and Herring Cove. The fishermen and women were out in numbers, casting in the offshore depths for the plentiful sea bass. Reese parked at the watersí edge, searching the horizon. Sunlight shimmered on the cold blue-grey morning water, two forces of nature meeting. There, off to the right, cutting swiftly and surely toward Race Point, was the red kayak. The tension in her chest eased as Reese watched Tory fly across the surface, unfettered and free. Calm once again, she wheeled out of the lot to start her day.
After her second pass through town, she headed east on Route 6, the main highway that ran the length of Cape Cod. A roller blader a hundred yards ahead of her caught a wheel on something in the road, flying off onto the shoulder. The skater didnít get up.
Reese pulled up nearby, lights flashing. She ran to the prone figure.
"Take it easy, son," she said as she bent down next to the wiry youth with short cropped dark hair. "Oops, sorry," she amended as she looked closer, realizing the skater was female. "Are you hurt?"
"Jammed my knee pretty good," the young woman muttered, grimacing as she tried to get to her feet. She had been skating in tight shorts without gear, and the length of her thigh was badly scraped and bleeding.
"Donít try to stand up," Reese cautioned, slipping an arm around her waist. She bent slightly, getting her other arm behind the youthsí legs and stood, lifting her easily. "Come on. Iíll take you to the clinic," she said as she walked the few feet to her cruiser.
"Iím okay," the pale young woman protested.
"That may be, but weíd better make sure." Reese pulled the rear door open, sliding the girl gently onto the back seat. "Whatís your name?"
"Brianna Parker," came the quiet reply.
Reese looked at her carefully. Her hair was very short and spiked; she wore no makeup. She had a small silver ring through the corner of her left eyebrow, a tattoo encircling her right upper arm, and a wide silver band on the middle finger of her left hand. At first glance she appeared like a typical teenager, but on closer examination, the girl had a haunted look.
"Are you related to Sheriff Parker?"
"Iíll radio him," Reese said as she slipped behind the wheel.
"Do you have to?"
Reese swung around in the seat to face her young passenger.
"How old are you?"
"Youíll need your dadís permission to be treatedó"
"Canít we wait to see if I need to be treated? Heís going to be mad. He doesnít want me skating out here. Besides, Iím supposed to be in school."
Reese considered the request. Nelson was likely to be angry if she didnít call him right away, but there was something in the girl's face that swayed her. She could wait a bit.
"Iíll have to call him, Brianna - but letís check the damage first okay?"
"Yeah," the young woman sighed. "And you can call me Bri. Everybody does."
Tory pulled into the clinic lot just behind Reeseís cruiser. She looked at Reese questioningly as the officer approached.
"Hi!" Tory called, pleased to see her again so soon.
"Good morning," Reese replied, her voice warm. "Iím afraid I brought you some early business. The Chiefís daughter took a header out on Route 6 on her roller blades. Banged her knee up."
"Damn," Tory muttered, mentally already planning what needed to be done. "Neither Sally or Randy is here yet. I guess you can handle a stretcher, canít you?"
Reese didnít reply as she opened the door of her patrol car and leaned inside. To Toryís surprise, Reese straightened up with the young woman in her arms. Bri threw one arm around the tall officerís shoulder for support.
"Lead the way, Doctor," Reese announced.
Tory merely nodded, deciding that she should get used to being surprised by the seemingly totally self-sufficient sheriff. Reese followed her through the building to the treatment room, depositing Brianna gently on the treatment table.
"Iíll wait," Reese said. "Iím going to need to call her father."
Tory nodded distractedly as she bent over her patient, then as an after thought asked, "Think you can make some coffee?"
"Absolutely," Reese replied with a grin. She found the tiny kitchenette and soon had a pot brewing. She was just pouring two cups when Tory reappeared.
"Sheís fine," Tory answered to Reeseís questioning look. "A pretty bad sprain, but I put her in a knee immobilizer. Sheíll be skating again in a week or two."
"Thanks," Reese said. "Iím sorry to have bothered you, but I thoughtó"
"Nonsense," Tory said, stilling Reese with a touch on her arm. "You were right to bring her in. Sheís more worried about her father than her knee. Nelson keeps a pretty tight rein on her. She got into some kind of trouble a year or so ago. Teenager stuff."
Reese nodded. "Itís hard being that age. Iíll call him, then Iíll run her home."
"Youíre good at this small town policing, Sheriff."
Reese smiled, pleased. "Thanks. I donít have much experience with community life. I was a military brat, then active duty right after school." She halted self-consciously. "Iíd better go call Nelson."
It took her a few minutes to calm her boss down, but she finally convinced him that he did not have to personally come to the clinic. She thanked Tory once again, then settled Bri back into the cruiser.
"Is it true you have a black belt in karate?" Bri asked as Reese pulled out onto the highway.
"Not exactly," Reese answered. "I have a black belt in jujitsu. Theyíre quite a bit different. How did you know?"
"My dad told me."
Reese knew it was on her resume, and assumed the Sheriff had noticed. It was certainly true that there were no secrets in Provincetown.
"Could you teach me?" the young woman continued.
Reese turned her head to study the teenager. Her hopeful look touched a distant memory. Reese had been a solitary teenager in a world of adults. Her martial arts training had helped focus her aimless adolescent energy. It centered her still.
"Itís a very serious commitment, Bri - and it takes a long time to learn. Why do you want to do it?"
Bri knew she was being asked a serious question, and it felt like Reese really cared about her answer. She struggled to find the right words.
"Because I want something thatís my own - something I chose, something I earned. And because Iím bored, and I feel restless all the time."
Reese nodded. She had been about Briannaís age when she began her training, and she remembered that difficult time in her life. She didnít want to refuse, but it meant a commitment for her as well. Taking on a student was a deep responsibility.
"Youíd need to train three times a week. And your dad has to approve."
Briís face set in determination. "All right. When can I start?"
"Not until your knee is healed, and Doctor King gives you the go ahead. But you can come to my house on Saturday and Iíll explain some things that you need to know. Seven a.m."
"Iíll be there."