Four Days At Time and a Half: an Easter Story
The bells woke me at seven. In the morning, Chief. I was unimpressed. I dragged my guts up out of bed and stood brushing my teeth at the window watching all the poor bastards heading to mass. You know the scene: girls with bows in their hair and those knee-high stockings, boys in little suits, everybody in patent leather shoes.
I know that theyāve had chocolate for breakfast and their little cuticles are stained from colouring eggs.
I know that down at the church my brother Michael is lighting the candles, one for his heathen sister.
And I know that across town Holly McInerny is howling a coal minersā song at the top of her lungs as she runs the red lights. Instead of ornaments, her fridge is covered with pictures of the rear of her vehicle zooming past a clear stoplight. Sheāll be here soon, half an hour early for the shift, the fruitcake.
Holly and I donāt have kids so we get the snow from the boss every holiday: Come on! Time and a half. Have a heart! Think of the kids. We stop him before he makes us spit up but insist on time and a half plus four days off. Itās usually pretty quiet at the station. Most of the uniforms are out on the highways trying to keep the road toll down.
I find myself considering which shirt to wear and snap myself out of it. I know Iām not Hollyās type. I mustnāt be. Sheās shown no serious signs of interest in all the holidays weāve worked together. Still, I pick the shirt in the shade that I know makes my eyes so blue they make people blink and slip it on over my armoured vest.
I hear a car horn and look down through the branches of the tree outside my window and see a flash of blonde. Sheās here. I pull on my jacket, settling it over my harness and holster. I pull the head off one of the ceramic elves that serve as my kitchen canisters and remove my Smith and Wesson. Itās a big gun but Iām a big girl. I like the weight of it against my ribs. The horn blows again. I hate that.
"Goddammit!" I curse wishing the window wasnāt painted shut so I could swear at her directly. Grabbing my crib bag, I move quickly out of the apartment and down the stairs.
"You cut your hair. What kinda tree is this, Star?" Holly asks handing me the jumbo long black and donuts sheās smart enough to bring.
"Yeah, terrible split ends. Grayus barkus leafius. How the hell should I know?" I grumble, throwing my bag onto the back seat. Weāre on 24 hour call and will sleep up in the cramped cots of the crib all weekend.
"What ya call that? A bob? You knew what the flowers in Mickoās wreath were. I thought you might be botanical."
"Dunno what they call the hair. I asked for a shorter Scully. I slept with a florist once. Thatās how I knew the flowers."
"Oh." She reached across the front seat and moved the rolls of wrapping paper there into the back.
I raised an eyebrow and nodded toward the paper. "You know you should have that fetish seen to."
"Why? Itās harmless. Not like I collect childrenās toys or anything."
"They arenāt toys," I protested. "Theyāre models."
"Right," she said when clearly that wasnāt what she meant. "You want to go to the Station or jump right in and see whatās doing out and about?"
"Got some paperwork to clean up on a burg over on Queen," I say wrinkling my nose.
"Better stay clear of your desk then. Letās go see what the bad guys are doing."
With a grin she made the tyres screech away down the street. Holly is the worst driver on the force. She started in the bicycle squad in the inner burbs. She drives like sheās on two wheels, leaning into the corners. My knuckles were white where I gripped the dash.
"Slow the hell down."
"So. Howāve you been?"
"Susan left me for that firefighter chick Donovan."
"Yeah? Susan? Which oneās she?"
"You know. The Jello wrestler?"
"Ah. Right. Werenāt up to her speed?"
"Nah. We had different taste in music."
"Thatās it? She left you because of music?"
"Hey! Love me love Pattie Loveless."
"Iām beginning to see her point."
"Hey! I donāt crap on your heritage. I drank your damn ouzo, right?"
"Right. Then you sang songs about dying in cave-ins until dawn."
"My Grandaddy ..."
I sighed. She calls me Star now because I was followed around for a month last year by one of those reality TV teams. NOT my idea. I was famous for a minute. She thinks Iām a poser. I sighed, suddenly despondent.
"Hey, Helen? You OK?" I hear her say.
I reach down and turn on both the radios: cop and normal. Two things happen right away: Dolly Parton reminds me that she can play a helluva banjo and Peggy hales us.
"4-5. You there girls?" Peggy asks. Normally sheās not that informal but this weekend thereās only us on this band.
"Go ahead, Peg," I answer.
"Is that Dolly?" she asks.
"Yes," I say.
"Good for you. Got a body for you. Corner of Creek and Wharf. Uniforms are in attendance. Science are on their way."
"Got it," I say, slapping the bubble onto the roof and switching on the siren.
Holly jumps and almost steers us into a concrete wall.
"Jesus, Star! Youāre gonna give me a coronary."
"Just keep her on the road, Fangio. Creek and Wharf," I said pointing down toward the river.
"Got it," she murmured swinging into the corner far too late and ineffectively trying to counter by leaning.
"Stop the damn car," I bark at her.
In response she accelerates and corrects, screeching to a halt only when she hits the chequered tape around the scene. I pry my fingers from their grip on the dash and seat, exiting the vehicle without a word. I donāt even look at her.
I approach Donna Morris, smart and crisp in her uniform. Even in that tragically cut gear sheās a bomb. I plaster on my most charming smile. It turns to a snarl as a blonde head presses past my shoulder. I watch as Hollyās hand rests lightly on Donnaās arm just below the elbow and the smart Senior Constable becomes a doting teenager with an obvious crush.
"Donāt you ever stop?" I ask peevishly when weāre crouched over the body ö formerly a Caucasian female of between 25 and 30.
"What?" she asks, genuinely puzzled. "Oh! Donna? Sheās just a kid."
"A kid with a great big crush."
"Yeah, well, I canāt go round like you hiding my light under a bushel. I aināt built for tall, dark and enigmatic. What do you think?"
"Yeah. Up close and ..." she says pointing to the hand marks on the throat.
"Whatās this black powder here?" I ask.
Holly wets the end of her finger with the end of her tongue and I momentarily see clearly what sends Donna Morris into a spin. Then the damp finger is dipping into the edge of the powder and I push that feeling back where it belongs. She rubs the powder between her fingers and somehow I know what sheās going to say.
"Ship," we say together as we stand as one and look down the docks.
Itās a reflex that garners us nothing. These docks have long been silent except for the pounding of joggersā feet and the drifting chatter of the café set. I get out my phone and call the Harbour Master. He confirms thereās been a coal carrier in dock. Heāll fax the details ASAP. When I finish my call I see Holly is crouched down beside the victim again. There is a sad, determined look on her face. I love that about her. Err, that is I ...
She turns and catches me watching her.
"Wanna keep your mind on the job here, Champ? Dead girl. Strangled. Purse under her head like a pillow. Equals?"
"Sick bastard out there we need to find."
"Welcome back. Where were you?"
"You donāt want to know," I say looking into her eyes.
I watch as she reads whatās in mine. I donāt bother to hide it. She and I have played this game long enough.
"I had no idea," she whispers.
"Well now you know," I reply quietly.
"Knowledge is a powerful thing," she says, resting her hand gently on my stomach just under the edge of the vest.
At her touch, I collapse to my knees onto the planking of the dock. I hear her gasp and feel her grab for the lapels of my coat to slow and direct my fall. Sheās very strong for someone her size. I know if I think about that too long Iāll swoon. My reputation couldnāt stand that. For the sake of my rep, in case anyoneās watching, I pretend to find something I dropped and put it in my pocket.
"Whatcha got there, tough guy?" Hollyās amused voice is right in my ear causing some more powerful sensations to pump around my body.
I clear my throat and try to speak. I do the fish out of water routine a few times with no sound emerging. I feel her tug upward on my coat, helping me stand. I bend and dust off my knees.
"Well, thatās a first for me," she smiles up at me, her eyes almost solid green and full of light. I feel a falling sensation again. "Pull yourself together. Work to be done, bad guy to find," she says not unkindly. She reaches up and pats my chest. I imagine how that would feel without my armour on.
"Yeah," I finally manage to say.
The uniforms have left us alone doubtless thinking weāre into some heavy detective business to which their lowly rank is not privy. For the first time in my life Iām relieved to work within such a rigid structure.
My phone plays Bach. Itās the Harbour Master. Heās checked his records. The coal ship has sailed on the dawn tide. I thank him, hang up, swear, call the Water Police. They refuse to chase until we have a time of death. I hang up and swear again.
"You can see their point, though," Holly says. "Why bother if she died after they sailed? Iāll go talk to Sally," she said, indicating the presence of the Science team leader.
I followed her back to the body.
"Sal," Holly said in a low intimate voice she reserves for people she really likes.
Holly dropped a hand on the kneeling womanās shoulder and bent forward. Sally leant back into her a little tilting her head to listen. I stayed back refusing to acknowledge the jealousy curling my toes. Holly nodded, patted the woman on the head and returned to me.
"We got a break. Bodyās still pretty warm. Sal says sometime in the last two or three hours. Sailors are clear unless someone jumped ship. We can radio to find that out."
I nodded. "Letās see what else the uniās know. Then weād better check out the wharfies."
"Great." I looked at her and raised an eyebrow in inquiry at her almost fearful tone. "They arenāt exactly choirboys down there."
"Shouldnāt believe everything you read in the papers. I grew up around these guys. Stick close to me and ö if you can possibly manage it ö let me do the talking."
I pushed through the door of the bar and blinked into the gloom.
"Helen!" a huge shout went up. I felt Holly flinch next to me as forms became visible then faces.
"Taki? How are you?" I slipped into Greek without a thought. "And Tina? Excellent. Come. Speak with me a moment."
"Who is this vision you have with you?" he asked, also in Greek as we moved into a quiet corner. "She is beautiful."
"We work together this weekend. Just for the holiday."
"You donāt ... you know?"
"Not yet, Uncle. But I live in hope."
"She would be lucky to have you."
A tug at my sleeve brings my attention to the subject of our conversation.
"In English please, Champ."
"Of course. Uncle Taki, my partner Holly McInerny."
"Always a pleasure to meet Helenās friends," he said, gallantly showing Holly to a seat. "Especially one so beautiful," he added, kissing her hand.
Holly grinned at him. He was a goner and sat down bonelessly staring at her.
"What do you need to know?" Taki asked her.
I sat back and folded my arms across my chest. Coffee and pastries appeared on the table. When Holly shifted her eyes to me I nodded moving my hand in gracious permission for her to proceed.
"Well, Taki, hereās what we have: weāve got a young woman strangled and a little pile of coal dust by her body. Now, the coal ship sailed at dawn so the sailors are clear." She stopped to let him work out the rest.
"So, Darling, you need to know who unloaded the ship?" She nodded. "Hey!" Taki yelled making her jump. "Who worked the coal?"
A few men moved towards us. I saw Holly swallow. They were big guys.
"Manos," I called.
"Helen, Taki," the big man grinned sliding into the chair beside me. "Whatās up?" He took a moment to take Holly in.
"Holly McInerny, Manny Costa, my cousin."
"Pleasure," he said taking her hand and kissing it his eyes stuck on her chest.
I knew she probably wanted to tear his head off and stuff it down his throat but to her great credit she gave him the killer smile and didnāt jerk her hand out of his big paw.
"Youāre skating on thin ice, Cuzz," I warned him. "Let her go."
He blinked, not understanding me for a moment, then realised he still held her hand.
"Sorry," he said, dropping her hand like a hot cake.
"Thatās OK. Iām beginning to think I trigger some genetic reaction in your family." She smiled just for me. I blushed.
"So, Manny," Taki broke in. "Helen needs to know who unloaded the coal. They got a dead girl."
"My crew did. Over at 12."
"Just the regulars?" I asked.
"No. We always hire some of the rats to do the dirty work. Coalās ..."
"Gets inside your panties, doesnāt it?" Holly said sympathetically.
Manny grinned and nodded.
"So these rats?" I asked. "Got a name?"
Manny shook his head. "Nah. Give Īem cash in hand. They hang out every morning though around dawn to catch work."
"Dawn," I heard Holly groan. "Perfect."
"You vouch for your guys?" I asked.
Manny glared at me.
"I have to ask, Man. Really we should interview you all but your wordās OK with me."
He nodded. "Theyāre all OK."
"Thanks. Make love to your wife for me," I grinned and dodged his slap as I stood.
Holly followed me up. Outside she tossed me the keys. I raised an eyebrow in surprise.
"Iām tired of you staring at me. My turn to look."
"Whereād you get those scars, Star?" she asked after a bit, nodding to where my hands rested on the wheel.
My knuckles are covered in little white scars.
"I used to work my Dadās fishing boats when I was at college. Some of them are from the work, some are from conversations that got out of hand."
"About how I could be cured."
"They thought Iād been caught up in the terrible lesbian epidemic of the time. You know: DeGeneres, lang, Etheridge."
"Ah. The nineties plague."
"Yes. There seemed to be a predilection amongst fisherman to believe that the penis was the cure."
"Of course. Did you win these conversations?"
"Mostly," I answered grimly.
"You were raped?"
"No. Boats are small places. Most of the guys were great. They wouldnāt have let it happen. And I was the bossās daughter. But they let me stand up for myself."
"What about this?" she asked running her fingers over the thin white mark that ran from my eyebrow down past the corner of my eye.
"Hockey," I grinned.
"You wear one of those little skirts?"
"Oh my," she said and immediately sank into an uncharacteristic silence that lasted until we were back in the Station.
The guys had left us a huge basket of chocolate eggs and vouchers for a few of the local restaurants who delivered. I prayed sheād like Thai and set about cleaning up my old paperwork before starting on todayās. Holly whose desk was downstairs in Juvie where she usually worked logged on and started typing her report of the morningās events. I was almost finished when the phone on my desk rang. It was Peg.
"Got an ID on your vic, Beautiful," she said.
"Go ahead, Sexy" I said smiling as I saw Hollyās head snap up in my peripheral vision.
"Sandra Jane Reynolds, 224 Northgate Ave."
I whistled, writing quickly. "Thatās a classy neighbourhood. Next of kin? Ouch!" Holly had walked over and slapped the back of my head. Mental note: does not take teasing well.
"Are you sitting?" Peg asked. My heart sank.
"Knew youād love it. Want me to get a uniform to notify?"
"No. I got it."
Holly looked over my shoulder at what Iād written.
"Vicās next of kin."
"You know him though?"
"Yep," I nodded. "I know him."
"And?" she prodded impatiently.
I sighed and tried to decide where to start.
"Come on. Iāll tell you on the way."
She sat silently as I told the tale. Then, when I finished she still sat silently, watching me.
"So he was your boyfriend?" she asked finally.
"No. We ran together."
"And you sold drugs to other children?"
"No. He sold the drugs. I stole cars."
"Pardon me. This was in high school?"
"Then you went to college, were a fisherman ö person, then a cop?"
"No. After college I lived in Greece for four years. Worked for my Uncle Nick. Did my National Service there."
"How old are you?"
"Busy life. You still friends with this guy?"
"This guyās a major drug lord."
"Not what I asked."
"No," I said. "Not still friends."
"So you donāt know who this Reynolds girl is or was?"
"Not a clue."
I pulled over in front of Gerard Mitchellās house.
"Holy crap," Holly gasped. "This guyās loaded. Look at this place." She turned and looked at me. "Ever regret turning your back on the dark side?"
"Never," I said and I knew how cold I sounded.
"Hey!" she protested.
"If you donāt trust me this wonāt work."
"It was a joke."
"It wasnāt funny."
"OK. I get it. You want to lead or me?"
"You do it. I donāt want to get too close to him."
"I told him Iād kill him next time I saw him."
"OK. Any other pertinent info to pass on before I ring the bell?"
"OK. Here goes nothing."
Holly handled it beautifully. Gerard didnāt even acknowledge me and was plainly shaken by the news. Sandra was his niece. If I ever knew, Iād forgotten his sister Faith and her husband were killed in a car crash. I remembered Faith as a hard, unforgiving girl.
"Have you found Thomas?" he asked Holly.
"No Sir," she responded respectfully. "Who might that be?"
"Her brother. Heās ... heās been living rough for a few years. He was in the car when his parents ö he never really got over it."
"Were you his guardian too, Sir?"
"Yes. Both of them."
"Were they close? Sandra and Thomas?"
"Yes. I know she saw him often. I asked her not to go down there by herself but ..."
"Down there, Sir? Where exactly?"
"The old docks. He lives down there somewhere. One of the warehouses they havenāt renovated yet I think."
"Thank you, Sir. Youāve been most helpful. Iām sorry for your loss. Is there someone we can call for you?"
"No. Thereās no one. Thank you Detective for your concern. Youāll keep me appraised?"
"Of course, Sir."
He showed us to the door.
"Find who ever did this, Helen, or I will," he said as he closed the door, tears beginning to fall down his cheeks.
"Well, that was uncomfortable," Holly remarked.
"Sorry. He ... I didnāt expect to feel so for him."
"Youāre much nicer than you think, Champ," she said softly. "Letās go back and order some Thai."
That did it. Now I was in love.
The crib was way up on the top floor of the Station right under the roof. Possums thumped around all night like Santaās sleigh with full reindeer compliment. If Hollyās presence in the cot next to mine hadnāt wrecked any chance of slumber they would have. I listened to her even breathing and synchronised mine with it.
I woke when her phone went off like a howling fiddle. She didnāt move. I felt around in her pile of clothes until I found it and answered.
"You two finally get together?" Paul whoād taken over from Peg at seven crowed happily.
"No. Weāre in the crib. She sleeps like the dead. Whatās up?" I asked sitting down on the side of Hollyās cot.
"Theyāve found your boy. Thomas Reynolds?"
I bent down and kissed Hollyās lips slowly but thoroughly. When I felt her returning it I stopped, watching her smile and begin to wake.
"You there Helen?"
"Yep. Where is he?"
I closed the phone. Holly stretched, her eyes fluttered open then closed then flew open to focus on me. She frowned up at me.
"You kissed me while I was asleep."
"Sorry, I ..."
She pulled me down and kissed me completely numb.
"Donāt start anything you canāt finish, Champ. Why are we awake?"
"Paul rang." I tossed her phone onto the bed. "Thomas Reynolds is dead."
"Huh. Not such a good Friday for the Reynolds clan. You think itās got something to do with Uncle Gerard?"
"Maybe. Somebody trying to get at him through the kids."
"Do we have to get up? Itās not like poor old Thomās going anywhere."
"Go back to sleep."
"What will you do?"
"Iām going to check around see what Gerardās been up to lately."
"At this time of night?"
"My people donāt keep normal hours."
"You sure you wanna do it now?" she asked throwing back her covers.
She wasnāt naked but she was close enough to it for my imagination to do the rest. I felt my jaw drop. I saw my hand reach for her as she swung her feet to the floor. I turned her face up and kissed her again. I felt her smile then pull away.
"If you seriously think that this is an appropriate place for us to make love for the first time I gonna have to find myself a new dream girl," she said smiling and patting my thigh.
"Of course," I stuttered pulling myself together and observing our surroundings. My sex clogged mind latched onto her words. "Dream girl?"
"You have no idea, Champ," she teased. "So weāre awake now. Iāve always found a trip to the morgue to be as good as a cold shower."
With that she rose, stripped, and put on some clean clothes from her bag. I put all my energy into not drooling because for the life of me I couldnāt look away. She turned and took in my slack jawed appreciation. She sank onto her cot and leaned forward, forearms on knees.
"Now you," she said.
I did as I was told. She was shifting uncomfortably by the time I was done.
"So, Thomas has got coal dust on him. You think he killed his sister?" Holly asked as we left the morgue.
"Yeah. Remember? He put her purse under her head. Laid her out nice, straightened her skirt, tucked it under her legs."
"Right. OK. Iāll buy that. But who whacked him? Gerard?"
"I sense it."
"You sense it?"
"I know it sounds ..."
She raised her hand to stop me. "If you knew how flakey it sounded you wouldnāt have said it. Hereās a tip: anybody else tell Īem you got a hunch. Sensing it sounds ..."
"I got it. Flakey. OK, well, I got a hunch it wasnāt Gerard."
"You got a hunch who it might be?"
"Care to share over breakfast?"
Holly drowned her pile of French toast in maple syrup and signalled to the waiter that she needed a coffee refill.
"So," she said. "You think one of Gerardās guys wants to inherit the farm when Gerard goes and Thomas was in the way?"
"But Thomas was nuts. He couldnāt run away from home effectively let alone an operation like Mitchellās."
"OK. How about this: Sandra is the heir apparent. Our guy with ambition strangles her. They find out Thomas was going to meet her ..."
"Thomas was a witness. He didnāt kill his sister just tried to make her comfortable."
"That sounds good."
"We have to take it to Mitchell, find out who the likelys are."
"Heāll kill Īem before we get anywhere near them."
"What am I not understanding?"
"I think theyāll whack Mitchell. Or try."
"Pick another word, that oneās making me nuts. Hadnāt we better get over there?"
"Heāll know. He lives with it all the time. Heāll have figured it out."
"You donāt know that. You want them to kill each other."
Her tone had changed. She was accusing me of murder by neglect. I could hear the disgust.
"This aināt Juvie, Doll," I said coldly. "This is grown ups crime."
She threw her coffee at me then dumped her plate in my lap.
"Iām not gonna sleep with you," she yelled. "Hell, Iām not even gonna work with you. Iām calling in sick. Theyāll send a replacement to pick you up. You need to go home and change."
There were many clues to tell me how angry the boss was: he was running out of swear words; he was spitting and the vein on his forehead was standing out so far I thought it was going to blow. I watched him breathe deeply. He turned away from me looking out into the office where Holly sat calmly reading a magazine.
"No one has ever had any trouble working with McInerny. Hell, she partnered Karen Kim for eighteen months and you know what a bitch she was. Now whatās all this shit about Mitchell? Why havenāt you called me about it?"
"I thought I could handle it, Sir."
"A turf war? You thought you could handle it. All by yourself. Without even the pocket Terminator out there for backup. Youāre an idiot, Criaco."
"At least we agree on something. Now, Iām calling everybody back in from leave whoās in town." He held up a hand as I opened my mouth. "Shut up and listen. You and McInerny are going to run an around the clock watch on the Mitchell place. Follow whoever comes out of there and see who they talk to. Go."
Relieved to still have my badge I stood to go.
"One more thing, Criaco."
"See she comes back without a scratch," he said fondly looking out to where Holly sat greeting my disgruntled colleagues as they wandered in.
"Everybody loves Holly," I muttered under my breath.
"What was that, Detective?"
"Of course, Sir."
"You too, Helen. Sheās quite fond of you."
"Sir?" I said completely confused by his attitude.
"Sheās my daughter you idiot," he said.
"Uh ... did she mention ..."
"Look," he said holding up his hand like the good traffic cop he had been thirty years before, "all she said was she thought you two were getting out of your depth but you were too proud to ask for help. Should I choose, I could fill in the blanks myself. Say, in the event of my daughter coming to harm. Anything from a bullet hole to a broken heart could make all the pieces drop into place for me. My mindās like that. We clear?"
"Crystal. Sir? If I might? I had her out of harmās way. Now sheās back in it. Why?"
"I canāt play favourites, Criaco. The Department wonāt allow it and neither will she."
We both looked out at Holly who chose that moment to look up at us. She smiled and pushed herself off my desk making her way to her fatherās office.
"Can you give a second, Boss?" I asked.
He closed the blinds covering the glass wall of his office then gave his daughterās hand a light squeeze on the way past. The door snicked shut behind him and we were alone in the silence. I cleared my throat.
"Apparently if I break your heart heāll ruin me."
"You suffer anything from a bullet hole to a broken heart, he said and Iām toast. Must be nice having someone love you that much."
"You should know," she said stepping forward to kiss me.
"Weāre here to protect and serve, Babe. Not to stand aside and let people kill each other."
"Oh. Maybe Iāll stick with Champ. Until we sleep together. Then whatever I call you when you make me scream thatās what Iāll stick with."
"Youāre killing me."
"But what a way to go."
"Weād better get out of here before your father comes back."
"Youāre scared of Dad?"
"Hell, yeah. Letās go to work."
It was Martyās turn and there was some good-natured heckling starting to come his way because he was taking so long to choose a fabulous word.
"Chicane," Martyās voice sounded smug.
We all made complimentary noises.
"Very nice, Mart," I said.
"Hollyās turn," Rich chimed in.
"Visceral," Holly said immediately looking me up and down.
"Fearless?" Rich called me in turn.
"Voluptuary," I said.
"Heās moving," Marty said before anyone could ask me what my word meant.
It had taken us until Easter Monday to figure out who our ambitious guy was. Now we were camped around his place and he was making his move.
"This is it, guys," I said over the wire. "I ..." I looked into Hollyās eyes. "I have a hunch. Marty and Rich you tag him. The rest of us will go to Mitchell. You comeback with a location please, Peg?"
"Uniforms have Mitchell just coming out of St. Peteās."
"OK. Weāll spread out on the route between the Cathedral and his house. Leapfrog every four blocks guys, got it?"
I was pleased to hear only sounds confirmation.
"Leapfrog?" Holly asked as we got into the car.
"Yeah. We each take four blocks. Thereās three pairs of us. We watch him for four blocks then jump eight. So on until we get him safe home. Here we go."
"Got him, Fearless," Rich said. "Heading straight for you."
"Whyās he call you that?" Holly asked.
"Fearless Leader. Itās a joke."
"I donāt think it is," she said.
"Weāre coming in behind Mitchell, closing fast," Marty shouted.
"I see it," I said as our manās Merc drew level with Mitchellās vehicle.
But Mitchell didnāt come down in the last shower and neither did his driver. He threw the big car around in a surprisingly tight U-turn and took off in the opposite direction. I accelerated our car out from the kerb while Holly slapped the bubble on the roof and flipped the siren. The Merc veered off down a side street. I stuck with him.
"This is 4-5 in pursuit blue Mercedes saloon XTC666 proceeding north down Flinders Lane," Holly alerted in a general broadcast. Switching to the unit band she continued. "Heās rabbitting, guys. Heās just taken a right up Bass."
I did the same but the Merc was out of sight. There was only one place he could have gone. I turned into a narrow laneway only to see the Merc parked. Instinctively I flung my arm out to protect Holly as I braked. I knew we would hit and tried not to tense up. It hurt. I was winded. Holly was out of the car, gun ready, eyes moving quickly from one place of possible concealment to the other. Coming around the car she yanked my door open and sprung the buckle on my seat belt. She pulled me towards her just before a bullet shattered the windscreen and annihilated the headrest on the driverās seat. I took in the damage and then I kissed her.
"Thanks," I said.
Then I was up on my feet and running. The shots were coming from up and in front so thatās where I sent my rounds. I was pleased to see other bullets zinging off the brickwork as Holly lay down a covering fire for me. I leapt up and caught the end of a fire escape ladder. Firing blindly I raced upwards, blessing the part of me that made me get up and run every morning. Something hit me and it stung. I kept going thinking a piece of masonry had flown in my direction. Then I was up and over the top onto the roof of the building.
And he had me. The end was as easy as this, I thought. One day you climb up a ladder and a guyās standing there with your death in his hand. I heard the report and watched him fall, confused.
"Helen!" I heard Holly scream before I surrendered to the shock.
I hadnāt been hit by a bit of brick but by a bullet. They wanted to keep me a few days in hospital but Holly just kept getting more and more gorgeous. I had to get home.
"You, Helen Criaco, are a voluptuary," Holly laughed putting down the dictionary.
"Guilty as charged," I readily admitted sinking back into the cushions of my sofa.
"So," she said approaching me warily, "here we are."
"At last," I said hiding nothing from her.
"You know what else you are?"
"You are dashing. And handsome. And brave." She paused for a moment to look into my eyes. "And mine," she said coming in for a bruising kiss. "But ..." she continued and I groaned. "No more running straight at armed murderers. That was the first time Iāve ever shot at somebody and Iād like it to be the last."
"That why you work Juvie?" I asked.
"Weāre finally alone together in a private place with a bed and you want to talk about my career path?"
She had a point that I was gracious enough to acknowledge. When sheās right sheās right.
Oh. And to my great delight she calls me Helen.
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