Safe Harbor: Part 3
"Whatís this about my daughter and jujitsu?" Nelson asked the minute Reese walked into the station house at the end of her shift.
"She talked to you already, huh?" Reese said with a faint smile. Bri was eager, and that was encouraging.
Nelson nodded. "I stopped home at lunch to see how she was, and thatís all she talked about. You really want to do this?"
Reese settled one hip on the corner of her desk, regarding him intently. "She seems serious, Chief. Itís a great way for a kid - for anyone, really - to learn self-confidence and self-control. And it never hurts for a woman to know how to protect herself. Iím willing to teach her if sheís willing to put out the effort. Itís not easy, and it requires a real commitment over a long time."
Nelson walked to the front windows and stood staring out. Reese recognized this as a habit of his when he was working something out. She waited silently. He didnít look at her when he spoke.
"I found her out under one of the piers about six months ago with some kids from a couple of towns over - kids weíd had trouble with before. They were fooling around with drugs. Bri swore to me that she hadnít done anything, but it scared me pretty good. Sheís smart, and she always did real well in school, but this past year - somethingís changed. She doesnít get along with any of her old friends, sheís skipped school some. Nothing real bad yet, but the signs donít look so good. She doesnít talk about anything; in fact, she hardly talks to me at all. This is the first thing sheís shown any interest in in a long time. I canít pay you much, but itíll be worth it if you think it might help her."
Reese chose her words carefully, not wanting to offend him. "Nelson, teaching your daughter something I love is not a hardship for me. It helped me when I was her age. Sometimes I think it kept me from going a little crazy. I donít need you to pay me, but I will expect Bri to help me out in the dojo. Thereís still a lot of work to be done."
Reese grinned. "Well, right now itís my garage."
"Iíll see that she understands thatís part of the arrangement."
Once home, Reese changed into sweats and a tee shirt and went in search of Sarah James, the crew boss of the women she had hired to finish the renovations on her house. The previous owner had left many things uncompleted, or in some cases, had done the work improperly.
"Howís it going," she asked the small blond when she finally located her in the basement.
Sarah grimaced. "Save me from do-it-yourselfers! The plumbing to the master bath is a nightmare. No shut off valves anywhere you could use them, of course. And donít get me started on the wiring!"
Reese smiled at Sarahís exuberant display of distress, then asked seriously, "Can you fix it?
"Oh, sure. I might need a week more than I originally thought though. Is that okay?"
"Fine - just tell me where youíll be working and Iíll try to stay out of your way. If you need me to, I could move out for a while?"
Sarah shook her head. "Not necessary, but there will be some additional costs. Iím sorry - I underestimated the state of things here. No one's lived here for quite a while, and there was some water damage and other -"
Reese interrupted her. "Donít worry about it. Just do whatever needs to be done. If you need another advance for materials, just let me know."
Sarah looked at the other woman appreciatively. God it was nice to work for someone who didnít think you were trying to rip them off all the time. And such a good looking woman at that. Sarah had been considering asking her out, but she couldnít get a clear read on her. As friendly as Reese was, she was personally unapproachable. She never discussed any thing other than business, and never gave a hint of sexual innuendo. Sarah wasnít a hundred percent sure the sheriff was gay. Just because she had a rock hard body that looked impossibly good in a uniform and a face so androgenous it belonged on a Greek statue, didnít necessarily make her a lesbian. But Reese Conlon was turning womenís heads all over town, and they couldnít all be wrong!
Sarah realized with a start that Reese was waiting for her reply. She blushed and assured Reese that she would keep her appraised of the work schedule.
"Great. Iíll get out of your way then," Reese said.
Sarah watched her take the stairs up to the kitchen two at a time, uncomfortably aware that just talking to her had turned her on. She shook her head, deciding that the gorgeous cop was too dangerous to fool with. If a simple conversation could do that to her, who knew what might happen if they actually touched. She wasnít ready for anything that serious, and something told her everything about that one was serious.
Oblivious to Sarahís lingering glance, Reese grabbed her gear and walked the mile into town to the gym. Three or four times a week she worked out at the woman-owned facility in the center of town. Usually she had the place to herself. Most of the tourists were sunning or shopping in the late afternoon, and the regulars tended to work out in the morning. Reese nodded hello to the owner and headed for the free weights. She placed her gym bag against the wall within easy reach. The Chief had informed her that he expected her to carry her weapon with her at all times. Their force was small, and though serious trouble rare, they did have recurring problems with drug use and the violence that accompanied it. Nelson said he wanted her to be available at short notice, especially since she was second in command. Reese didnít mind - she was used to readiness as a way of life. Her gun and her beeper were as much a part of her life as her car keys. That she was essentially always on call didnít bother her either - she didnít really have a personal life beyond her job and her training. She worked, she worked out, and she trained in the dojo. That was the life she knew, the one she had built since the time she was a teenager, and one she was content with. She lifted the barbell over her head and began to count.
Marge Price, who owned the gym, leaned against the counter leafing through a magazine and watching the quiet one work out. Thatís how she thought of her - "the quiet one". She knew who Reese was of course. Something as exciting as a new deputy sheriff, especially a good-looking female one, didnít go unnoticed in a place this small. Margeíd been watching her for a couple of weeks now. Moderate weights, high reps - an occasional heavy set thrown in. The sheriff was obviously working for strength, not mass, though from the stretch of her tee shirt across her broad chest and the muscular tone of her thighs it was obvious she could have done heavy lifting if sheíd wanted. Bulk clearly wasnít her goal, and the ease with which she stretched after every work out revealed how flexible she was. Marge admired her as an athlete, and was intrigued by her as an individual. She was always polite, considerate, focused, and completely remote. Marge wondered if she was so calm because she wasnít easily disturbed, or if there simply wasnít anything in her life to disturb her. If you avoided involvements, you usually avoided much of lifeís turmoil, and Marge had never seen the quiet one with anyone. In fact Marge hadnít seen her anywhere around town unless she was in uniform working, or in the gym working out.
What does she do for enjoyment? Marge mused. If she were younger herself, she might be tempted to try unsettling that one a little bit. Something told Marge that if you got her started she might surprise you. That rare flicker of a smile of hers hinted at the heat of a fire long banked and ready to flare.
At that moment, Reese approached, asking, "Can I get a bottle of water?"
"Sure," Marge replied, reaching into the small refrigerator under the counter. She wiped the condensation off the plastic container with a towel before she handed it to Reese.
Reese took it gratefully, asking as she twisted off the top, "How much do I owe you?"
"On the house," Marge answered.
"Thanks just the same, but Iíd rather pay," Reese said, no hint of censure in her voice.
"A dollar then," Marge said. She regarded the other woman seriously. "Weíre not looking for any favors you know, with the little handouts people are probably offering you. You do a job we all appreciate. Our businesses are our lives, and if the community isnít safe, tourists wonít come. Without them, we starve. In two days this place will go crazy, and your life will get complicated."
Reese drained the bottle dry. "I know that, and Iím grateful for your appreciation. But itís my job to keep order and see that the streets are safe. I donít need any extra thanks for doing what Iím getting paid for."
Marge stared at her. Reese looked back at her with a steady, unwavering gaze. "The boy scouts really lost out when you turned out to be a girl," Marge stated without a hint of a smile.
"What makes you think I wasnít a boy scout?" Reese rejoined just as seriously.
Marge laughed in surprise, and Reese joined her. As they were both catching their breath, Marge asked impetuously, "How would you like to have dinner with me one of these nights after you finish your workout?"
Reese was momentarily uncertain. She wasnít used to casual social encounters, especially with people she didnít know well. But there was something so comfortable about this woman that Reese didnít fear the intrusiveness she experienced so often with strangers.
"So how about tomorrow," Marge persisted. She had a feeling this one was shy, and she didnít want to give her a chance to change her mind. She couldnít say exactly what there was about the younger woman that appealed to her, but she simply liked her.
Reese nodded after a moments thought.
"Iíll be here."
Tory glanced toward shore as she stroked rhythmically through the water at six a.m. in the morning. There were a few anglers out, hoping for a jump on the other fishermen, and there on the drive off, the police cruiser. It had been there every morning for a week, and she felt sure she knew who it was. She almost waved, then stopped, chiding herself for her foolishness. There was no reason to think that Reese Conlon was there to see her. She hadnít heard from the sheriff in over a week, since the day she had showed up with Brianna Parker in her patrol car. Tory had to admit she had hoped Reese might call with news of her investigation. Tory found herself looking for the police car each day when she kayaked, her pulse racing a little when she saw it.
A wave took her by surprise, rocking the small craft and reminding her to stop daydreaming. She glanced once more toward shore, trying to make out the profile of the driver, then turned her mind to the sea and the soothing cadence of her strokes.
Reese drained her coffee cup as she watched the red dot disappear around the corner at Race Point. She sat a bit longer before she started the engine. Those few minutes each morning watching Tory glide across the horizon were the most peaceful moments of her day. She couldnít have said exactly why, but she knew what she felt, and had no reason to question it. She pulled the cruiser around toward Route six, settled and ready to work.
She drove east to the town limits, then turned right toward the harbor to complete the circuit back down Commercial Street. At this hour, there was almost no traffic except for the delivery trucks double-parked along the narrow one-way street, their drivers servicing the many businesses densely crowding the thoroughfare. Bikers and roller bladers claimed the road that would be filled with tour buses and tourists on foot by eleven am. By the first day of Memorial Day weekend there would be a steady stream of cars crawling slowly through town until well after midnight. She looked forward to it despite the Chiefís gloomy predictions of chaos. Chances were sheíd be working twelve hour shifts, but that didnít bother her. Sheíd have to make adjustments in her workout schedule but that was her only concern. Most nights after the gym she spent completing the renovations to the garage, getting her dojo ready. By nine oíclock she was usually in bed with a book. Up at four, she ran five to ten miles on the beach, then showered and was ready to leave the house at six for work. She kept military hours, the same hours she had kept since she was fourteen years old. Her life was orderly, routine, and predictable. Her work as a peacekeeper, first in the military, and now here, provided her with a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Her martial arts training challenged her body and calmed her mind. The absence of close personal ties was not something she questioned or gave any thought to. This was the life she had always lived, and on the whole, she was content.
She waved to Paul Smith as she pulled into the small lot behind the Municipal Building. Paul was one of the young officers who worked the night shift, and they knew each other only well enough to say hello.
"Quiet night?" Reese called.
"Yeah," he said as he unlocked the door to his Dodge truck. "Couple of drunks needed an escort home. I swung by the clinic a few times like you asked. The doc left at midnight - after that it was like a tomb. Itís not warm enough for much action in the dunes yet."
The Park Rangers patrolled the dunes during the day, but at night they left it to the Sheriffís department. Soon the three miles of sand along Herring Cove would be packed with bathers and would-be lovers. The dunes above the beach and along Route Six were favorite areas for rendezvous. The police kept people out of the dunes to protect the habitat as much as to deter the sex and drugs. Reese didnít particularly like the duty, but it was part of the job.
No one was in the office, so she took advantage of the quiet to finish time schedules, make up duty rosters, and to peruse recent crime reports from nearby townships. Sooner or later whatever trouble the other towns had would filter down to her community. She was about to brew another pot of coffee and was starting to contemplate lunch when the scanner picked up a 911 call to the EMT station in Wellfleet.
"A guy fell out on the Long Point jetty," an anxious male voice reported. "It looks like his leg is twisted in some rocks and heís bleeding all over the place-"
Reese was up and through the door before the passerby finished giving the information to the dispatcher in the town fifteen miles away. She was two minutes from the scene. Long Point jetty was a long finger of rocks that formed a protective arch between Provincetown harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. It stretched a good two miles and was a favorite tourist attraction. Unfortunately, people often underestimated how treacherous the huge slabs of rock could be, especially when still wet from high tide. A crowd was visible as she swung around Bradford Street, angling her cruiser across the road to prevent access to more curious onlookers. People parted for her rather reluctantly as they pushed out onto the jetty, jostling for a better look. All Reese could see was another crowd milling about several hundred yards further out on the rocky causeway, presumably the site of the accident. She started toward them as quickly as she could, her progress hampered by the poor footing on rocks which were slippery with the debris left by the receding tides. The jetty was comprised of angled blocks of stone piled adjacent to one another, forming a discontinuos walkway. There were large gaps between some slabs, requiring her to jump from one uneven surface to the other. She had gone about a hundred yards, moving as rapidly as she could, when she overtook Victoria King, who was cautiously making her way toward the gathered crowd.
Reese was having trouble keeping her own balance; navigating this surface with a cane and a leg brace was suicide! Reese slipped her hand under the doctorís elbow to guide her down the steep surface she was descending, saying as she did, "You shouldnít be out here, Doctor."
Toryís temper flared as she looked up at the taller woman. The angry reply died on her lips when all she found in the blue eyes that met her gaze was a quiet concern. There was no condescension, and thankfully, no trace of pity.
"Youíre absolutely right, Sheriff - but here I am."
"Why donít you let me go up ahead and see what the situation is. The EMTs should be here in five or ten minutes," Reese suggested.
Tory put her hand on Reeseís shoulder to steady herself as she pushed up onto the next rock face. "Why donít you go up ahead and get that crowd under control so Iíll have room to work when I get there," she rejoined. "I need to be sure that whoeverís trapped down there isnít bleeding to death. I made it this far - Iíll be fine."
Reese knew the plan made sense. She wasnít sure why she didnít want to leave the doctor alone, but some instinctive desire to safeguard her made Reese want to protest. Stomach tight with tension, she yielded to reason. Her training was too ingrained to allow individual concerns to interfere with logic.
"Right. Just be careful, will you?"
"Yes - now go."
By the time Tory reached the scene, Reese had enlisted a few of the onlookers to keep the others back away from where a man lay twisted among the boulders. His leg seemed to disappear into a crevice between two angled sheets of stone. Reese was kneeling, her back to Tory as Tory inched her way down the rockface toward them. Tory gasped when Reese glanced up at her. The sheriffís face and shirt were streaked with blood.
"Are you hurt?" she questioned anxiously as she slid the last two feet.
"No, itís his," Reese grunted with effort as she inclined her head toward the man who lay wedged in the rocks. Blood welled up from the wound in his leg, a gaping tear which Reese was attempting to hold closed with both hands.
"Open tibia fracture," Tory assessed as she searched for the pulse in his neck. It was faint and thready. "Heís pretty shocky. We need to get this bleeding stopped." She pressed two fingers into his groin over the femoral artery and the steady stream of blood from the open wound slowed to a trickle. "Reese, thereís a towel in my knapsack. Tear it in half and wrap the wound closed as tight as you can."
Reese let go of her hold on the injured manís leg. "EMTs are here," she said as she finished the compression bandage. A siren signaled the rescue vehicles approach.
"Good," Tory gasped. "My arm is fatiguing."
"Want me to take it?" Reese offered.
"No, youíd better go give them a hand. We need their equipment out here. And tell them we need the hydraulic jaws to shift these stones."
"Iíll be right back," Reese said, unable to keep the concern from her voice.
"Iím fine," Tory assured her.
The few minutes it took for Reese to return carrying one of the equipment cases seemed like hours as Tory crouched awkwardly in the cramped space, afraid to move lest she lose her tenuous hold on the artery beneath her fingers. She was starting to develop spasms in her own injured leg from the bent position she was kneeling in. She gritted her teeth and cleared her mind, focusing only on the next thing she needed to do.
"I need to start an IV," she said as Reese dropped down beside her. "Can you get the line and the bag ready, then take over the compression?"
"One minute," Reese said as she tore the plastic wrapper off the tubing and saline bag with her teeth. Behind her the two EMTs were trying to find a place to wedge the hydraulic jack between the rocks. "Okay," she said, placing her hands on Victoriaís, following her fingers down to the artery. She pressed inward so Tory could let go.
Tory reached behind her for the emergency kit, pulling out a length of soft rubber tubing and wrapping it around the manís upper arm. She found a large bore IV needle and expertly slid it into the antecubital vein in the bend of his elbow. She attached the tubing Reese had readied and allowed the saline to run in at top speed.
"How much longer?" Tory called to the techs, a worried frown on her face. "This guyís in trouble. He needs blood, and if I donít get the fracture at least partially reduced he could lose his foot."
"These rocks are going to shift all over the place when we activate the jack," the taller of the two female paramedics warned. "Itís not safe where you are. Youíre going to have to get out of there."
Tory looked at the steady trickle of blood from the compound fracture in her patientís leg and shook her head. "Weíve only got this partially controlled as it is. If we reduce the compression, he may bleed out. Let me get back in there, Sheriff. Iíll keep the artery tamponaded."
Reese looked up over her shoulder at Tory. Her face showed no trace of strain. "Heís going to need you a lot more than me when they get him out of here. Youíd better climb back out of the way. Iím staying with him."
The fear took Tory by surprise. She had a sudden image of Reese pinned under tons of rock, and something close to panic clutched at her throat. She didnít want Reese to be the one in danger when that jack started.
"No!" she started to argue.
"This is my call to make, doctor. You worry about keeping him alive.
Now climb up out of here."
The tone of unrelenting command was unwavering. Reese turned her attention back to the injured man, the conversation clearly at an end.
Tory knew there was no other way, and no more time to argue. "For godís sake, be careful," she murmured as she carefully pulled herself up the steep rockface to safety.
"Are your legs clear?" one of the EMTs called.
"All clear," Reese responded.
When they activated the power jack, bits of stone chips and sand filled the air, clouding Toryís view of the chasm where Reese and the victim were wedged. As the grating noise from the shifting rocks subsided, she peered anxiously downward. She could just make out Reeseís tall form hunched over the injured man.
"Are you okay?" she cried.
"Yeah," Reese gasped. "But heís slipping down into the crevice. I need a harness of some kind - fast!" Her arms were straining to hold up his dead weight, and she was afraid she might lose him.
One of the EMTs threw her a harness and a guide line, and moments later they had the victim up. They secured him to a backboard while Tory adjusted an inflatable splint over the mass trousers they applied to improve his blood flow.
"Take him to the heliport in Dennis," she said. "He needs to be air-vaced to Boston. Run two IVs wide open, and give him whatever plasma substitutes you have. Give him a loading dose of Ancef, too."
As soon as they left she turned worriedly to Reese, who was bent over trying to catch her breath.
"Let me check you out," Tory said.
"Iím okay," Reese panted. "Just a little winded. I almost lost him there at the end."
"Well, you didnít," Tory replied as she ignored the sheriff's protests and quickly examined her. "Youíve got a lot of small cuts on your hands, but I think we can forego stitches today."
Reese held up her hands tiredly, looking at them as if she were seeing them for the first time. "Just little nicks from the stone chips," she noted with a shrug.
Tory nodded. "Are you ready for the hike back?"
Reese got to her feet, her strength returning. "Iím ready when you are," she said.
Tory took one step and grimaced. She wasnít going to make it without help. The muscles in her injured leg were strained from the arduous and unaccustomed climbing, and beginning to cramp. She didnít think she could trust her balance.
"Iím in a little trouble here," she admitted.
Reese searched her face in concern. "What can I do?"
"If I lean on you, I should be able to make it."
Reese slipped one strong arm around Toryís waist, holding her securely. "Letís just take it slow," she said, guiding them over the treacherous rocks.
When they finally reached the end of the causeway, they both sank gratefully onto a stone bench provided for sightseers.
"Thank you," Tory said quietly. She hadnít needed nor sought assistance from anyone in a long time. She was surprised it didnít bother her more. There was something about the implacable deputy sheriff that made accepting her help easy. Reese radiated strength and self-assuredness, but there was also a simplicity about her that was captivating. She saw a problem, she dealt with it, she made no judgements. Despite her competence and air of command, there was never a hint of superiority or condescension. Tory couldnít remember ever having met anyone quite like her. Certainly no one had ever made her feel so safe without making her feel diminished.
"Youíre getting to be indispensable around this town, Sheriff," Tory added sincerely.
Reese shrugged. "Iíd like to think Iím earning my pay." She looked at Tory thoughtfully. "That took real courage for you to make it out there today. That guy doesnít know how lucky he is that you were there. Howíd you know?"
Tory blushed at the compliment and spoke hurriedly to cover her embarrassment. "You forget that this is Provincetown! Probably everyone in town knows that I swim at the Inn on my lunch hour! Itís just across the street, so when someone ran in to make the 911 call, the manager came to get me. I would have gotten to him a lot sooner if it hadnít been for this damn leg!"
"You did a great job," Reese remarked. She sighed, stretching her stiff muscles. "Can I buy you some lunch?"
Toryís tried to ignore the racing of her heart. She was certain Reese was just being friendly. "Thanks, but Iím already late for the clinic. Iím going to be backed up all evening at this rate."
Reese nodded. "It was good working with you, Dr. King. Iím going to head on home to change into a uniform that isnít filled with sand."
"Youíve still got sutures that need to come out," Tory reminded her.
Reese fingered the row of nylon stitches in her brow. "How about if I come by the clinic later?" she offered.
Tory smiled ruefully. "Iím sure Iíll be there. Tonightís my late night anyhow."
Reese stood looking down at her, her face partially shaded by the brim of her hat. She was an imposing figure outlined against the clear blue of the sky. Tory had to work not to stare at her taut, sleek body.
"Iíll be by," Reese informed her.
"Good," Tory said as Reese strode
away. Tory couldn't resist watching her go. She moved with a fluid self-assuredness
that suited her vigorous personality. There wasnít a single thing about her
that wasnít attractive, and that was enough to warn Tory to be on her guard.
Every unattached woman in Provincetown, and not a few of the married ones,
would be taking a second look at this new addition to the scenery. That was
exactly the kind of woman Tory needed to stay far away from!