The Road Back Home
© February 2001
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers.
The hours past by and day turned into evening. Regina raised her head and rubbed the back of her neck, working out a kink in her tired muscles. The blonde closed the journal she’d been reading and stared blankly up at the wall in the medical library, wondering how the young girl she admitted earlier to the oncology floor was doing.
She’d walked into that exam room dreading the words she knew had to speak to the family. Cancer. The word itself evoked images of something unholy and evil in most people’s minds. It was a silent enemy, once whispered in fear by some who held the superstition that the word itself would bring the scourge to one’s self or family. Today there was more hope for survival, but the simple fact remained that to society it was still a disease, a genetic defect, something that was somebody else’s problem until maybe one day it wasn’t anymore.
The girl’s father was a tall heavyset man with light skin and blonde, wavy hair. He stopped pacing as Regina entered the room, walked over to the view box on the wall, and flicked the light on. Thick eyebrows knitted together as he eyed her suspiciously.
“Christ, this one looks barely out of high school,” he muttered contemptuously.
Regina ignored the obnoxious comment about her youthful appearance and walked over to the stretcher where the teenage girl lay fidgeting with the frayed edges of the blue hospital gown. Terry was fourteen and in the throes of those awkward sometimes painful adolescent years. Her reddish blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her face still held some of the youthful innocence characteristic of her age. The girl’s mother sat in the corner; one hand clutched the small chain around her neck and the other hand wrapper tightly around a plastic soda bottle that was half empty.
“The x-rays are back,” Regina told the family calmly, her voice belying the emotions she felt inside. She slipped the film up under the clip and stepped back to stand beside Terry.
“It’s not good is it?” the girl asked anxiously, looking up at the blonde-haired doctor.
“I’m afraid not, Terry.” Regina directed her words to the girl. “That spot on the bone may be a tumor.” Regina moved her finger in a circle pointing it out to them all. The mother stared up at the picture and said nothing.
“I want a second opinion,” the father announced from his corner of the room. “Some wet behind the ears doctor is not going to walk in here and tell me that my daughter has a damn tumor on her leg.”
Regina could feel the man’s animosity radiating from him. It was understandable given what she just told them and only added to the guilt she felt for having to deliver this news.
“Mr. Edwards, I’ve consulted with the Director of Oncology already but you can request another doctor look at the findings as well.”
“You’re damn right I can.”
“Dad, stop,” Terry protested, the girl’s face reddening as she sat there on the stretcher, staring down at her leg. She looked up at Regina as tears washed across her eyes and spilled over, falling down her cheeks. “A…are they going to have to c…cut my leg off?”
There was a muffled sound as the mother jerked her head up, focusing on her daughter for the first time since Regina walked into the room.
The young doctor looked the girl in the eyes and laid a hand on her thin shoulder. “I don’t know, Terry. After we have all the tests done, we’ll have a better idea of where we’re going with this. Right now we’re going to get you down to radiology and get a CT scan done.”
Regina left the family after answering a barrage of angry and fearful questions from both parents. It was an inauspicious start for her first day on pediatrics and she let out a heavy sigh.
“Hey.” A warm voice floated down, interrupting her heavy thoughts. The blonde looked over her shoulder at the dark haired woman standing at the head of the table, gazing down at her.
Alex lifted her leather bag off her shoulder, set it on the table and pulled out the chair next to Regina. She sat down facing the blonde, one knee lightly touching a firm thigh.
“Hi, yourself. You look beat,” Regina replied.
Alex tilted her head and gave a half smile. “We had five drunk high school kids in the ER this morning. One went to the OR for an open reduction of his shattered tibia and the other four are working off their well-deserved miserable hangovers on pediatrics.” She flashed a Cheshire grin at the petite blonde.
“Lovely. Rounds will be a blast tomorrow.” Regina shook her head in bewilderment. “Wait, you said they were drunk this morning.”
“Yeah, a couple of seniors thought it would be cool to bring alcohol with them on their skiing trip last night. We even had the police stop by since one of them was eighteen. What a friggin’ mess trying to convince them that he needed to stay until he was medically stable.” Alex caught the alarmed look in Regina’s eyes at the mention of the cops being there. “Easy, Derrick wasn’t there.” She reached out and touched Regina’s hand. “Rumor has it he’s on foot patrol now.”
The blonde sunk back in the chair, her head dropping forward onto her chest. “Great, one more thing he can be pissed off at me about.”
Alex leaned forward. “If he values his job at all he won’t come near you, Reg.”
“I know but he just makes me nervous. He’s not the type to just give up and go away.”
“What are you reading?” Alex changed the conversation and lifted the corner of the journal, reading the initials then glanced back up at weary green eyes. There was no sense trying to tell Regina that Derrick would stay away. The restraining order might help her piece of mind but it was not a guarantee of safety.
The blonde rested her head in her hands and rubbed her eyes. “I had a fourteen year old with an osteosarcoma on her tibia. I just wanted to review the different options for treatment.” Regina pushed the journal away from her. “Not that it will make much of a difference. The best chance for a cure might be an amputation depending on the biopsy and lab results.”
“Shit.” Alex folded her hands together and hung her head, knowing that it was a highly malignant tumor and if not treated aggressively could metastasize to the lungs quickly.
Regina nudged Alex’s leg with hers and tilted her head to look into the pale blue eyes. “How did your day go?”
The doctor shrugged. “Not bad, just weird getting back into the swing of things. Nobody quite knows what to say to me.”
Regina glanced up as an exhausted looking resident staggered blindly past their table toward the rear of the library. She remembered those nights when she was so exhausted that her whole body ached and the only thing that kept her going was the knowledge that each minute that ticked by brought her one step closer to going home to sleep. Once all was clear again, she reached out and squeezed Alex’s shoulder through her brown leather jacket, enjoying the feel of the well-worn soft leather beneath her hand. “You have no idea how proud I am of you, Alex. I don’t know if I could have come back if it was me.”
“Yes, you would have.” Alex lowered her head and stifled a yawn. “Besides, it’s the only thing I know how to do. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Home. Alex drummed her fingers restlessly on the steering wheel as she guided the Jeep around a turn, squinting as the headlights from another vehicle illuminated the inside of the Jeep for a brief moment. The vehicle jostled over a bump at the beginning of the driveway and the blonde mumbled softly as she stirred in the passenger seat.
The dark haired woman glanced over at her companion and smiled wistfully. I think there are too many memories here for this place to really be home to me anymore. She reached over and touched Regina’s face after she turned off the engine.
“Wake up, sleepyhead.”
The young woman startled and opened her eyes, a fleeting look of confusion clouding them until she got her bearings.
“Oh, I fell asleep. Sorry, I guess, I wasn’t much company for the ride home.”
Alex smiled warmly at the slightly disheveled look Regina had from just waking up. “It’s ok. Come on, let’s go in.”
Regina pulled her bag out of the Jeep and met Alex at the front door to her townhouse. The fact that Regina practically slept walked to her car on the way out to the parking lot at the hospital earned her a ride in Alex’s Jeep. She waited as the doctor keyed the lock and pushed the door open. Inside the taller woman turned on the overhead light, walked over to the kitchen, and set down a bag of Chinese food they had picked up on the way home.
The blonde walked slowly around the first floor, and then poked her head into the kitchen to see what Alex was doing.
The taller woman looked over at Regina and motioned to the closet behind her. “Just hang your jacket in there. I’ll get some plates out and we’ll be ready to eat in a minute.” The Chinese food was a compromise to a full-blown shopping trip that neither of them was up for after their first day back.
Regina shrugged out of her jacket and glanced around kitchen. The floor was tiled in a white and blue diamond pattern and the appliances looked new. “Do you want some help?”
“No, I got it.” Alex reached up into a cabinet and pulled down some plates, wincing at a pain that shot through her chest.
Regina stepped back out of the brightly lit room, missing the look of pain on Alex’s face and opened the closet. She located a hanger and as she reached in to hang her jacket up she noticed the black guitar case shoved in the back corner behind the coats. Curious, she leaned closer and made out the initials A.M. etched into the black vinyl case.
Hmm, Alex didn’t tell me she played the guitar. She made a mental note to herself to ask Alex about the guitar later on. Straightening up, she shut the door and turned around.
There was an entertainment center with a large television at one end of the living room. A brown leather couch faced the TV and a top of the line stereo system filled the shelves. Always intrigued by electronics, the young doctor walked over to investigate the sound system.
A single picture on the third shelf, caught Regina’s attention and she stepped closer to see the youthful faces looking back at her from within the silver brocade frame. A much younger looking version of her lover stood with her arm draped casually over the shoulders of a teenage boy she was standing beside. They shared the same strong angular facial features, piercing blue eyes, raven hair and wiry athletic builds. There was no mistaking the family resemblance.
The blonde jumped as the floorboards creaked behind her.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” Alex stopped a couple of feet from where Regina was standing.
The blonde looked up at the pair of wary blue eyes watching her. She folded her arms over her chest and smiled nervously. “You didn’t.” Regina turned around and looked at the picture. “Is this your brother?”
Alex glanced at the picture and nodded her head, avoiding Regina’s eyes. “Michael. Yeah, that’s him.”
Her mother had taken that picture outside in the backyard of the single-family house they were renting. Alex felt her heart rate go into high gear, remembering how the moment was shattered seconds later when her father burst through the backdoor, drunk and pissed off at the world. He was out of work again and his drinking always got worse during those times. He hated that his wife showered Alex and Michael with love and affection; hated it because he wasn’t a part of it.
His drunken anger guided his actions and he ripped the camera out of Anna’s hands and slapped her viciously across her face. There was no hesitation on Alex’s part when she let go of her brother and bolted across the yard, tackling him against the picnic table. Her father grunted in pain as he tumbled onto his back.
Alex found herself in a brief stranglehold and then was shoved facedown in the dirt. Overhead, her father’s gravelly voice broke through the momentary fog.
“Well, it seems your sister has a pair of balls, Michael. Good thing one of ya does ‘cause you sure as hell don’t,” her father sneered.
She felt a touch on her arm and looked down to see Regina peering up at her. “Are you ok? You looked a million miles away for a second.”
“Yeah, I’m fine, just hungry and tired.” Alex slipped an arm over Regina’s shoulder, guiding her away from the picture and the memories she wasn’t prepared to deal with yet.
“Let’s eat, then I’ll give you the nickel tour.”
Alex filled their plates with food and handed one to Regina. She glanced up at the blonde and tilted her head, as a wistful smile played across her lips.
The smile faded and the brunette ducked her head, trying to hide the light blush coloring her cheeks without much success. “I guess I didn’t think the first time I brought you here with me we’d be having take out Chinese food for dinner.”
Green eyes sparkled and Regina set her plate down on the table. “Oh? What did you have in mind?
Alex pursed her lips and folded her arms over her chest. “Well now, if I tell you it won’t be a surprise anymore will it.”
Regina pouted and slipped into her the chair. “Fink.”
A moment of silence hung between them and the blonde felt her heart speed as she decided whether or not to pursue her earlier curiosity about what she found the in the closet. “Can I ask you a question?” Regina leaned forward, resting her chin on her palm.
Alex’s fork stopped mid-motion and she studied Regina for a second before she answered. “Sure,” she responded and then popped the noodles into her mouth.
“Do you play the guitar?”
Blue eyes widened briefly, Alex stopped chewing and nodded her head slowly. “Oh, you found that old thing,” she finally managed after she swallowed.
“It was in the closet,” Regina offered quietly, trying to read the perplexed look on her lover’s face.
“I…I thought I got rid of it with all of Lana’s things. I just forgot.” Just leave it, Regina. I really don’t want to go there right now.
“So…do you still play it?”
Alex dismissed Regina’s question with a wave of her hand. “No, not for a long time.”
The blonde toyed with her fork, feeling dejected by her friend’s response, but still wanting to know the answer. “Alex, I’m sorry. You just don’t talk a lot about yourself. I just want to know you better.”
Alex’s eyes darted nervously away from Regina’s gaze and she stabbed at the pile of noodles on her plate. What’s to know?
They sat across from each other at the wooden kitchen table eating in silence for a few minutes. Finally, Alex sighed and peered across the table at the blonde who was focusing on the food on her plate. Only you could bring her over and manage to get into a fight in less than thirty minutes, Alex.
“I think there’s a chance we may be re-opening a clinic downtown,” the brunette offered as way of a truce.
Regina lifted her eyes and focused on Alex. “Oh, was that what Dr. Timmons was so excited about?”
Alex swallowed some water and nodded her head, feeling her way tentatively. “Nothing fancy, just routine check-ups, giving vaccinations and treating bumps and bruises. It really helped those people that couldn’t get up to the hospital or didn’t have insurance.”
“So, why did they close the clinic?” Regina asked, trying not to let the disappointment come through in her voice.
“The hospital was losing money on it.” Alex shrugged. “Now with all the negative publicity that the hospital is getting the administration might go for it again and try to win some public support back.”
She’s trying, Regina give her a break here. “How convenient.” Regina leaned forward and slid a hand across the table to touch Alex’s hand. “I missed you today.”
“Me too.” Contrite blue eyes glanced back up at Regina. “I’m sorry, Regina. I didn’t mean to bite your head off before.”
Regina squeezed Alex’s hand and smiled.
For a moment, they stared at each other, in quiet contemplation both wondering what the other was thinking. Alex broke off her gaze first and rubbed her face, feeling the fatigue from the day starting to weigh her down.
The young doctor watched as Alex finished off the last of the chicken fried rice and quickly rose from her chair to rinse her plate off in the sink. There was an air of edginess around the dark-haired woman tonight and she wondered what was troubling her, beside the questions about the guitar.
The blonde rose out of her chair and carried her plate over to the sink. Alex turned around, colliding with Regina just as she reached out to put the plate on the counter. The smaller woman lost her grip on it and gasped as it crashed to the floor, shattering on the ceramic tile.
“Shit I’m sorry, Alex.” Regina knelt to pick the pieces up, then stopped and looked up when she realized that Alex hadn’t moved or said anything. “Alex?”
Blue eyes blinked and then slowly focused on her face. “I…I’ll get it. Don’t worry about it, Regina.” Alex took the pieces from Regina and quickly knelt to gather the rest from the floor.
The blonde stepped back, confused by the hollowness to Alex’s voice. Regina realized as she watched the taller woman that her hands were trembling as she picked the broken pieces up. “Alex, what’s wrong?”
The dark haired woman turned away from her and shook her head. “N…nothing.”
Regina frowned and walked up beside her. Bullshit. “Hey, look at me.”
Alex’s jaw clenched and she blinked several times before turning her head. She didn’t meet Regina’s gaze, just looked out into the living room over her shoulder. No…no not now. You can’t let her see you like this. A soft mewling sound escaped her lips and Alex shook her head, fighting back the tears threatening to fall.
Alarmed, Regina reached up and touched her face. “Honey, what’s wrong. Does something hurt?”
“It’s nothing…just a pain inside.” Alex tried desperately to brush it off. “Dr. Kelly said I’d have them occasionally.”
“This bad? You’re pale as a ghost.”
Alex allowed herself to be led to a chair and slumped into her it, praying for the sickening feeling to go away. The broken pieces of the plate were lifted from her hand and Regina knelt in front of her. She felt like a runaway car careening out of control down a dark, wet, winding highway and the wheels were starting to come loose from the undercarriage.
“Your pulse is racing and your soaked. Are you short of breath? Any chest pain?” Regina asked, as she took hold of Alex’s wrist, feeling her pulse.
The dark head shook slightly. “I…I’m ok. It’s gone now. Just caught me by surprise, that’s all.” Alex glanced up at Regina from underneath her bangs and forced a wan smile. “I think ten hours back to work took more out of me than I thought it would.”
The worried look on Regina’s face gave to mild displeasure as she studied her lover’s face. “Maybe it’s too soon for you to be back full time.”
Alex shook her head again and ran her hand up and down Regina’s arm reassuringly. “It’ll be fine, Reg. I just have to get used to it.”
“Well, if that’s the case then we can skip the nickel tour and get you straight to bed.”
Alex wrapped her arms around the blonde’s waist and buried her head between the smaller woman’s breast inhaling the warm, clean scent of her, glad that at least for now she had avoided any further questions about what was really bothering her. She glanced around at the kitchen quickly and decided that she could clean up the dishes in the sink tomorrow. The dark haired woman stood up onto shaky legs and pulled Regina into a hug.
“I’m glad you came over tonight,” she whispered into the blonde wavy hair.
Regina rested her head against Alex’s shoulder and held on to her tightly. “I’m glad you asked me to come over.”
Alex led the way up the stairs to the second floor of the townhouse, all the while holding onto Regina’s hand. A few photographs mostly landscapes, decorated the walls in the hallway. She stopped at the first door on the left, stepped into the darkened room, and turned the lamp on the nightstand on. She stood quietly, waiting for Regina to join her.
Everything was as she left it, weeks ago. The room had a Spartan like appearance to it, with bare hardwood floors and what looked to be an almost new coat of white paint on the walls. A few toiletries sat on the bureau in a silver tray and some loose change lie in a pile to the left of it.
“I, um…” Alex ran a hand through her dark hair and blew out a long breath. “I got rid of a lot of stuff around here after Lana died. Most of it was hers anyway.” Her hands hung limply by her sides and she glanced nervously around the room. Christ, what is wrong with me? It’s not even the same room I shared with her.
Regina glanced up at the tortured blue eyes and rubbed her hand over the small of Alex’s back reassuringly.
“That had to be so hard; losing someone you…loved, I don’t know how you dealt with it.” Regina stopped, as a memory that haunted her subconscious sprang forward with a sudden harsh clarity, leaving her breathless until it slipped away.
“What?” Regina blinked her eyes, focusing once again on Alex
“I didn’t deal with it.” Alex leaned over and pulled the maroon comforter back off the pillows. “It took almost eight months for me to make it back up to Provincetown to settle her will with Dana.” She shook her head and turned to the blonde. “You don’t need to hear any of this.”
Regina gabbed hold of Alex’s arm and pulled her back as the taller woman started to walk away from her. “Hey, it’s the first time you’ve been here…with me anyway, since she died. It has to feel strange somehow,” her voice faded away as she looked up into the blue ones cautiously peering back at her.
The dark head tilted forward and Alex rested her forehead against Regina’s, smiling into the green eyes. “Thanks,” she whispered.
The blonde pulled away, a pink blush coloring her face. “W…Why?”
“Because no matter what’s wrong, you always have this way of making me feel better,” Alex replied, softly brushing her lips over Regina’s cheekbones.
Regina slid her hands around Alex’s waist and pulled her closer. “Funny, you do the same thing for me.”
They stood quietly, just holding each other until Alex stepped back, breaking contact first. The brunette was aware of the younger woman standing pensively behind and she kicked off her shoes before she turned back around. “Thanks for putting up with me these past few weeks,” she whispered, gathering Regina into her arms and tugged her down onto the bed beside her. “I know I’ve been a bitch most of the time.”
“You were in pain, correct that, still are and no you haven’t been a bitch - not all the time anyway,” the blonde conceded with a smile. “I’m just glad you’re alive, Alex.” The smaller woman rested her head against the strong shoulder and sighed, letting her body relax into the comforting embrace. It felt incredible to be lying here on the bed curled against the tall, lean body of her partner, the strong, yet gentle hands massaging her arms and shoulders. “God that feels wonderful.”
Alex nuzzled her neck and turned the blonde’s head to plant a gentle kiss on her lips. She was exhausted and if the nagging pain in her chest wasn’t so obtrusive she would have gone farther, but she just wasn’t ready to.
The blonde snuggled closer and pressed her lips to the base of the taller woman’s throat. “I love you, Alex.”
In response, the brunette tightened her arms around Regina. “I love you too, Reg.” She struggled with herself over dinner whether to share the significance of that damned guitar. It was difficult for her to open up the doors to her past and share them with anyone. They opened up old festering wounds. Alex ran her hands over the soft blonde hair and sighed, letting her heart guide her decision for the moment. “The last time I played that guitar…was at Lana’s memorial service.” Another piece in her well-constructed defenses fell away and she clenched her jaw tightly.
A small noise came from Regina’s throat, her eyes filling with tears, knowing the pain that Alex went through during that time in her life. She reached up and stroked the dark haired woman’s cheek. “I didn’t mean to bring up sad memories for you, Alex.”
Alex shook her head, blinking her eyes to hold back the tears. “You didn’t know. I never told you before.”
“I’m glad you did. Please don’t shut me out, Alex. I couldn’t bear that, not after….”
“Shh, it’s all right. I know,” Alex whispered, and squeezed the smaller woman tighter.
It wasn’t long before Alex felt Regina’s breathing deepen and slow as the young doctor started to fall asleep in her arms. She nudged her gently; smiling at the mumbled protest she received and thought better of waking her slumbering partner. Carefully, Alex rolled Regina onto her side and tugged the blonde’s shoes off, dumping them onto the floor.
Alex sighed as she stripped out of her clothes and pulled a clean tee shirt on over her head. The dark haired woman pulled the leather clasp of her barrette loose and shook out the thick French braid she was sporting, then crawled into bed beside the woman and curled up, spooning her body against Regina’s. The doctor lay quietly for a while watching her friend sleep before she leaned over and pressed her lips to Regina’s temple. “Sweet dreams, love.”
Derrick walked into the empty locker room and set his bag down on the bench in front of his locker. He had a few minutes before the rest of the guys from his shift would start arriving so he took his time getting ready. Part of the disciplinary action following his arrest and the subsequent fiasco at the hospital included being put back on foot patrol with a veteran, ‘so he could gain some perspective about what it is that cops do.’ As far as he was concerned he didn’t need a new perspective, but he kept that opinion quietly to himself knowing the Captain could make his life a living hell if he chose to.
He stripped out of his street clothes and changed into his neatly pressed uniform. Derrick inspected his reflection in the mirror that was glued to the inside of his locker door. His hair was cropped so short now it looked military style and accentuated his jaw line. He narrowed his eyes and looked down at his body. Since he was working out more in the gym over the past couple of months he had regained some of his bulk and definition that he had lost over the past year. Who needs her, anyway? All she did was mess with your head, man.
The door to the locker room slammed open and brisk footsteps rang out on the concrete floor. “Hey, Black. How do you like your new digs?”
It was Mark Reilly, one of the foot patrolmen on his shift. Derrick shrugged his shoulders, ignoring the snide remark. From the time they were in the Academy together, he never liked the younger officer and liked him even less now that he had to share a month worth of shifts with him.
He could see the smug look on the cop’s face and knew the kid was thinking that maybe his shot at a promotion within the department was looking better. Go screw yourself kid, one of these days you’ll realize its who you know that gets you where you want to go.
“What’s wrong? You’re think you’re shit doesn’t stink is that it?” Reilly persisted. “From what I hear you stunk up the whole detective division with your bullshit.”
“Why don’t you shut your trap, Reilly?” Derrick finished buttoning his shirt and then turned to face the ruddy faced man. The locker room door opened and several loud, rowdy voices announced the remainder of the officers arriving for their shift.
Derrick slammed his locker shut, spun the lock and stepped past the shorter and stockier officer, knocking him hard with his shoulder.
Reilly grabbed his arm and held Derrick fast for a moment. “Man, it must really piss you off, knowing your little lady ditched you for another woman.” Mocking laughter bubbled up from the man’s gut as he watched Derrick’s face turn brick red with anger.
The officer curled his lip and snarled, before he shoved Reilly back into the locker, rattling the whole row. “Go to hell, Reilly.”
The younger man threw an elbow up catching Derrick under the chin, snapping his jaw shut and splitting his lip.
“You little shit,” Derrick spat the words out, balled his fist and cocked his arm back to hit the officer in the face. Before he could unleash it, two other officers rounded the corner having heard the scuffle and forcibly pulled Derrick off of Reilly before a real brawl got started.
“Ok, break it up guys,” the taller of the two officers growled, pulling them apart.
“Derrick, you’re in enough trouble already. Keep it up and you’ll be behind the desk doing dispatch again,” one of the officers hissed.
Derrick wiped the smear of blood from the corner of his mouth and curled his lip, glaring menacingly at Reilly.
“Get off me,” he growled, pulling away from the man who was restraining him. “This isn’t over, Reilly.” Derrick grabbed his gun belt from the bench, shoved past Reilly and the other officers. Angrily, he yanked the door open and stormed into the hallway. Still muttering to himself on the way to the equipment room he walked right past his partner.
“You look like your shift is starting out in the crapper.”
Derrick glanced up at the middle-aged man standing behind him. His new partner, Ed Carrotta, was a twenty-year veteran on the force. Ed had salt and pepper hair, thinning on the top and an average build. He had a reputation as being a tough but fair cop on the street.
“Don’t you start in on me too,” Derrick snapped, defensively.
“Hey, its not my business what you do on your own time.” Ed raised his hands up to ward off the verbal attack, then tilted his head listening to the crackling static of the handset as the dispatch radioed in a report of a young male acting suspicious. “We’re on anyway, let’s go check it out.”
Since there was hardly any traffic, the ride through the darkened maze of side streets took less than fifteen minutes. Derrick peered through the passenger window of the police cruiser, silently brooding over the earlier confrontation in the locker room. His attention was drawn to a flash of movement in the shadows backlit by the overhead street light.
“There’s our guy,” he told Ed.
“It’s too dark. Let me get him with the light.”
The lone figure froze as the light blinded him momentarily and then bolted down the dark alleyway. Derrick cursed angrily and shoved the door open, his feet hitting the pavement as he jumped out of the cruiser and flicked his flashlight on. He heard Ed curse loudly, then call for backup before he started running down the alley between the two run down buildings.
Ahead of him he heard the sound of fleeing footsteps and the crash of garbage cans as the man he was chasing blindly knocked over whatever was in his path trying to slow Derrick down.
“Police, stop!” Derrick shouted and increased his pace. He hurdled a trashcan and quickly gained on his prey. The figure ahead of him grabbed hold of a railing and leapt over it, landing at the foot of the darkened stairwell.
Derrick redoubled his efforts, and chased him down the narrow concrete staircase. He grabbed the door jam at the bottom of the stairs, swinging his body through the opening ducked under a broken door hinge and raced down the narrow hallway following the echo of retreating footsteps.
The radio attached to his shoulder strap crackled and he heard Ed’s voice requesting his location. Completely focused on catching the suspect, Derrick ignored the request. His chest burned as he sucked the moldy, dank stale air into his lungs. On no you don’t, you bastard. You don’t get away that easily.
A dim light at the end of the narrow hall filtered onto the concrete floor as a door swung open. Derrick yanked the door open and lunged at the figure scrambling frantically up the steps. The police officer grabbed the man’s belt and threw him against the wall.
“Get off me, man. I didn’t do anything wrong.” To Derrick’s surprise, the voice was young and hardly sounded like that of a grown man.
“Yeah, then why did you run?” Derrick hissed into his ear.
“Cause you’re a cop,” he spat back at him.
“Wrong answer.” Derrick drove him to the floor with a vicious kidney punch. A sharp cry escaped from the boy’s throat as he curled into a fetal position. Across the street from the alley a dog started barking.
Derrick glanced up as he shoved his knee into the boy’s back pinning him to the floor.
“Teach you to run next time, you jerk,” the cop panted as he crouched over his quarry and roughly handcuffed his wrists together.
“Ow, they’re too tight,” the boy cried out, struggling beneath his captor.
Derrick’s radio crackled again, this time Ed’s voice was louder telling him to stop his chase, another unit having found the suspect in question.
“Son of a bitch,” Derrick muttered. Shit, shit, shit! I went after the wrong guy. A friggin’ kid, no less. God dammit all to hell!
“Did you hear that? You got the wrong guy, you bastard. Let me go.”
Derrick knelt on top of him, still panting as he considered what to do. If someone found out he would be screwed for sure this time. Across the street, the barking grew louder and more excited. He didn’t think the kid had gotten a good look at him and he intended it to stay that way.
“Must be your lucky day, kid.” He quickly unlocked the handcuffs, and then shoved himself roughly off of the kid’s back. Before the boy could roll over, Derrick kicked him in the head with his boot sending blood and spittle splattering across the cement floor. Without a second look back he slammed the door behind him and strode angrily back through the basement.
The boy curled up into a ball and clutched his head, moaning in pain. He could feel warm sticky blood dripping down his neck and the skin on the side of his face burned.
Somewhere above him, the boy heard a scrabble of claws as a large dog bounded down the concrete steps and circled around him curiously. A low growl rumbled deep from within the Shepard’s chest after he sniffed along the base of the metal door. In response the boy curled up tighter and rocked himself as he heard a snuffling noise come closer and then a cold, wet nose nudged at his neck.
“P…please d…don’t hurt me,” the boy pleaded before he started to slip into unconsciousness.
The dog cocked his pointed ears, wagged his tail and lay down next to the boy, whining a little as he pawed at the boy’s shoulder.
It was several hours before the large trucks with the flashing lights pulled back into the building across the street. He could hear his master calling for him, but instinct told the dog not to leave the boy’s side. The large Shepard raised his face to the sky and howled; a low, mournful sound that rose in crescendo and then faded into the night. Once, twice and three times he howled before the sound of running footsteps across the macadam told him that help was coming.
“Lucky? Hey, are you hurt boy?” A bright light swept over the stairwell and the Shepard raised his head, sniffing the air and identifying the familiar man’s scent.
“Ah shit. Guys we need help over here, now! We got a kid down here.”
The fireman climbed down the stairs and crouched beside the limp form. “You did good, Lucky. It’s ok. We got him, now.”
Continued in Chapter 3