Belief by Troubleshooter Copyright 2000 all rights reserved.

Chapter 6

Today is day four of the Hayden Invasion. I had to come in here and clear my head for a little while.

I woke up about five o’clock this morning, thinking I had heard a noise. I had. It was that little shit, Maya, chasing Arabella down the hall. I got up and threw on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt and ended up taking Maya outside so she wouldn’t wake up everybody up. That dog gets bursts of energy at the strangest times. Of course, she was probably sleeping peacefully at the foot of the bed until Arabella jumped up and whacked the holy hell out of her. Arabella can be a real bitch.

After I tired Maya out, I ended up making some coffee and sitting outside, just listening to the night noises and waiting for dawn to come. Apparently, Jules’ mother does not share Jules’ penchant for sleeping in, because she appeared at the patio table with a cup of coffee and settled down in a chair across from me. I looked hopefully at the back door, but no Jules or Ed appeared. Have I mentioned that Jules’ mother scares the hell out of me?

Jules is almost a carbon copy of her mother. Younger, of course. In fact, all of the Hayden women look alike. It can be intimidating at family get-togethers. Very intimidating. I’ve swapped more than one understanding look with all the husbands and brothers.

“Morning.” If anything, I do have manners.

“Good morning, Damian. You’re up a little early, aren’t you?”

“A little,” I acknowledged. “Maya was a little rambunctious. Didn’t want her to wake anybody up.” Maya lifted her head and yawned sleepily then laid it back down in my lap and closed her eyes. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was trying to make a liar out of me. The dog. Not Jules’ mother.

She turned her chair slightly so that she could look out over the backyard. “It’s very peaceful out here.”

“Mmmm,” I agreed as I sipped my coffee.

We silently drank our coffee for a little while. I...she makes me nervous. Kind of like Jules did when we first started going out. She’s arrestingly honest and straightforward. And she’s got that same way about her that Jules has of getting information out of you. I thought of what Ed had said.... “She’ll get it out of you eventually. Make it easy on yourself.” Like mother, like daughter, I suppose. I sighed.

I felt those eyes turn on me. Here it comes, I thought.

“Juliana tells me you have to go in tomorrow morning for reevaluation.”
“Yes, ma’am.”

“Ma’ make me feel old.” She snorted a little and took another sip of coffee. “Are you thinking of going back to the job?”

“Don’t know if they’ll let me.” It’s true. I don’t know if they will. Seems the shrink isn’t too pleased with what I did.

“Give me one of those damn cigarettes.”

I looked at her, surprised. I’m pretty sure my jaw was hanging open as I slid the pack and lighter across the table.

Her nose wrinkled a little bit and she almost whispered, “Don’t tell Juliana. She’d kill me.”

What was it with these Hayden women? Jules is sneaking around wanting to have sex at the oddest times and her mother’s sneaking a smoke. “I won’t.”

“Uh huh,” she said knowingly. “I know Juliana. A little batting of the eyelashes and you’d spill your guts.”

I started to protest, but then stopped and laughed. She’s right. Maybe that’s the Hayden women’s secret weapon. Marilyn probably started teaching all of them that when they were still babies. Damn. I never stood a chance. “Probably.”

“Zippo...haven’t seen one of these in ages,” she commented as she lit her cigarette. “I always loved the smell of the lighter fluid.” She closed the top of the lighter with a click and set it back on the table. “So, if they’ll take you back, will you go?”

Do I want to go back? I thought about it and realized that I hadn’t really thought that much about going back to the job. I mean, I have, but I haven’t. I definitely hadn’t made any decisions. “I...I don’t know.”

I heard the crackle of the tobacco and paper as she took a drag on her cigarette. “You’ll know when you’re ready to know.”

What the hell was that supposed to mean? “I imagine so.”

“How does my daughter feel about it?”

Uh oh, I thought. My daughter. Somehow, I always get the feeling that when she uses that term, my answer had better be the right answer. This was no exception. I had no clue what the right answer was. I wondered if she yelled when she got angry, or if she would want to talk about it. I hoped that she would yell. I like it so much better when Jules yells. “I...I don’t know,” I mumbled and returned my gaze to the tree line, waiting for the repercussions. I had the feeling that it wasn’t the right answer.

She didn’t yell. Instead, she was silent for awhile as I sat there thinking about why I didn’t know how Jules felt about me going back to work. Why didn’t I know how Jules felt about it? I know how she felt about it before all this happened. We had talked about it on different occasions. Does she feel any differently now? Why would her mother ask that? Did Jules say something to her about my job?

Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words.

She finally asked, “How’s my daughter doing?”

How is her daughter doing? “She...has her good days and her bad. She misses him very much. I...sometimes, I find her...just staring out of the window...or looking at a picture of him. She hurts....” My voice trailed off.

“And you?”

I scanned the tree line. How am I? I feel like I died, without all the fringe benefits of death. The one...the only thing that makes me feel alive is when your daughter touches me...looks at me. “I’m okay.”

“How’s your arm?” Even her sounds like Jules.

Which one, I wanted to ask. The left one that had been broken or the right one where they had put the shunt while I was on dialysis so I wouldn’t strain my good kidney? “Right’s fine. Left hurts when we’re gonna have bad weather.”

“So what’s the forecast?”

I had to laugh. “Clear, hot, humid...afternoon thunder showers a possibility.”

“That’s some arm. Juliana’s lucky to have you”

“Nah...typical South Louisiana weather.”

“She’s still lucky to have you.”

I felt her eyes on me. I couldn’t look at her. “I’d rather she had Diego.”

“There’s a rule.” Her voice sounded distant, remote. “Parents are supposed to die before their children. It’s something every parent knows. I...think whoever makes those rules needs to add another one. Every grandparent is supposed to die before their grandchildren.” Her voice broke on the last sentence.

I turned my head and looked at her. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I...I had no idea what to do...what to say. “I’m...sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too. So very sorry.” Her hand brushed at the falling tears. “I don’t know how to make this any better for the two of you. You have to do that....together. My daughter loves you very much. I know.... Please...remember that you have each other. Don’t lose sight of that fact. I don’t want either of you to be hurt any more than you already have been.” Her eyes dropped down to her coffee mug. “I need...some more coffee.” She stood and went into the house without another word.

I stared at the door for a long time after she went inside.

Sometimes, I just feel numb. Inside. Outside. Just numb. It’s always been that way. Me, I mean, having these periods of numbness. Even when I was little. I really don’t know how to describe it. I can think about the best things that happened to me or the worst, and I just don’t feel it. Nothing. Like I’m stone. It’s...cold. I don’t even feel lonely. Just hollow, mostly. Empty.

That’s how I felt at the end of our conversation. I don’t like it any more. The first time this happened when I was with Jules, I think it scared her. Scratch that. I know it did. Harry Becnel had filed some papers with the court asking them to grant Diego asylum. We had been dealing with the Mexican consulate, and no one was cooperating. If you think it’s hard trying to adopt in the U.S., try Mexico. Harry figured it would be easier if the U.S. had, I guess, custody of him. We had gone to the hearing. As I heard the judge say, “Denied,” I could feel the numbness set in.

We went to lunch with Harry after that. It’s not that I can’t function when it happens. I can. Very well, actually. I’m just not very reactive emotionally. At least that’s what Jules says happens. I think I agree with that. I never had anybody talk to me about it before. Maybe other people noticed it, but I didn’t and nobody else ever told me they did. He talked about what losing the hearing meant and how he would appeal, and all that legal crap that he needed to do.

Jules kept looking at me strangely during lunch. I had to go back to work after lunch. There were people from some of the other task forces in town and we were having meetings.

When I got home that night, Jules was upset. I could tell but she still kissed me hello. At least she did kiss me. She never doesn’t do something because she’s angry or upset with me. It’s...she’s consistent like that. That means a lot to me. Consistency is very important. I never had a lot of that in my life. It’s Jules’ way of letting me know that even if she’s upset or angry, that she still loves me.

I figured that she was upset about the hearing, so, needless to say, I was a little surprised when she asked me what was wrong.

“Nothing,” I responded.

She looked at me for a long time. “I...You’re....” She started and stopped and stared some more. It was uncomfortable and I started fidgeting. “Are you upset about what happened today?”

I knew I was supposed to be, but I couldn’t feel it. “Um, yeah.” She looked at me expectantly. Apparently, there was more that I should have said, but I didn’t know what it was. “Are you?” It’s all I could think of.

“Well, of course, I am, Damian. I feel incredibly frustrated and angry about this. I don’t understand why the judge would deny Diego asylum. He’s just a little boy and he shouldn’t be put through any more hell.”


“Why are you apologizing? You didn’t do anything.”

“I...don’t know. I....” I really had no earthly idea why I was apologizing. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Jules moved closer to me and rubbed my arm. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“About what?”

“Whatever’s bothering you. Damian, you’re acting... I don’t know.” She put her arms around me and hugged me. “It’s gonna be okay, honey. We’ll win the appeal, and if not, we can request a re-hearing. Harry said we have a good chance at that. Please...don’t give up hope on this.”

Her last words...hope. I didn’t feel any. I didn’t feel any thing. I was silent.

“Please...tell me what’s bothering you.” She drew back and looked up into my eyes. One of her hands caressed my cheek. There were tears in her eyes.

I had to say something. She was getting really upset. “I don’t feel.”

Those green eyes.... With one look, she can do so much to me...take me higher than I’ve ever been before or devastate me. Her voice was so soft, so gentle. “Don’t feel what?” I suppose she assumed that I hadn’t finished my sentence. But I had.

“Anything.” Her eyes searched my face. I could see her trying to understand. “I...since I was little...I just go numb sometimes.” I shrugged my shoulders lightly. How could I explain it to her when I didn’t understand it myself? I still don’t really understand what happens, but I know what to do about it now.

“I don’t understand, Damian.”

“I...I....” I searched for words. “No angry, no happy, no sad...nothing.” I couldn’t stand to look in her eyes anymore, so I looked away.

“Kind of empty?”

I nodded. That’s the word I was looking for, I thought. Empty.

I felt a gentle pressure against my jaw. It was her hand, urging me to look at her. I did. Her head tilted up and she stood on her tiptoes and started to kiss me. It was a gentle, loving kiss. The kind that makes your soul sigh.

“Did you feel that?”


“Not so empty anymore?” she asked, a little unsure.

I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close, my lips brushing the top of her head. “Yeah, baby, not so empty anymore.” And I wasn’t.

It took a long time for me to realize that I didn’t have to feel that way. Not as long as I had Jules. So that’s what I did after her mother went inside. I went to find Jules.

Gotta go now. Jules just came to get me. Day four of the Hayden Invasion continues. We’re launching an assault on New Orleans proper. I have a feeling I’m going to be a pack mule today. Jules and her mother have already been talking about which antique shops we’re going to visit on Magazine Street.


Good evening.

Today has been a whirlwind. We got back just a little while ago. We went into New Orleans for the day, and, as it turned out, for part of the night. Shopping can be incredibly tiring. I’m pretty certain that we didn’t miss many stores. It was a great day, though, and I really enjoyed it. It felt really good to enjoy it.

Damian’s already gone to bed. She’s tired from doing her beast of burden duties today. She is really very indulgent. I have to laugh. I’ll show her something and ask, “Honey, do you think this would look good in the living room next to the fireplace?”

She’ll laugh in return. “If you think so, baby, go ahead and get it.”

Not exactly a response to my question, but it’s about as good as I usually get. She says that she has no taste. She even jokes that she needs...oh, what are they called... those kids’ clothes that had the animals sewn into the labels so you were assured of a match? Grrranimals. That’s it. Adult Grrranimals. But it’s not that. She does have an excellent eye for things. She just doesn’t care about material things. They mean nothing to her. Our walls could be bare and she wouldn’t care. She’d care if it meant something to me, but not because it meant anything to her.

The first time I went into her apartment it seemed so Spartan, at least to me. It wasn’t cold or anything like that, it was just, well, so Damian. It was neat, ordered, practical. Everything was tasteful, but it was definitely not overdone. There weren’t a lot of knickknacks on the bookshelves or things on the walls. Not that I’m a knickknack person. But I do have things, mementos I suppose you could call them, from the places I’ve visited. Some I’ve bought. A painting. A piece of sculpture. Earrings. Others I’ve just picked up. A rock. A piece of wood. A book of matches. Things that call to mind people I’ve met or places I’ve visited.

I think the thing that struck me the most was that there were no pictures of people anywhere, save one next to her bed of an older woman whose smile extended from ear to ear. I could tell that the picture was old. The woman was standing in a kitchen and there were very large pots on the stove behind her. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the stove the pots rested on was like the kind you’d find in a restaurant.

We had made love and were lying in the bed, relaxing. Her head was resting on my stomach and I was idly running one hand through her hair. I asked her about the picture. “Who’s that?”

“The cook from St. Vincent’s.”

That seemed like such a sterile explanation to me. Damian had obviously had the picture for a long time. And this picture was the only one in her apartment. No pictures of family or friends. Then I remembered that she didn’t have a family to have pictures of. I wondered if this woman, the cook, was like Damian’s family. Whoever she was, she was obviously an important part of Damian’s life, or at least had been.

“What’s her name?”


“That’s a beautiful name.”

I felt her head nod in agreement.

Sometimes, when I talk to Damian, I feel like a dentist taking a stroll through the countryside in Afghanistan. Getting information is like pulling teeth and one wrong step and there’s an explosion. Sometimes, with her, it’s an implosion. I know that’s a mixed metaphor, but it’s very accurate.

I’ve learned to not worry about it. I ask the questions I need to ask and deal with what happens. I’ve realized that the anger she displays sometimes is not directed at me. It’s from keeping everything inside and not knowing how to let it out. I can’t tell you that it doesn’t hurt, because it does. I want her to feel like she can tell me anything and that it will be okay, because that’s the way I feel. I think that she finally does feel like that, but it’s taken a long time. And old habits are very hard to break. I still pull teeth sometimes.

“She seems very nice.” I know you really can’t tell from a picture if someone’s nice, but if that smile was any indication, she was a wonderful person. “Was she...important to you?” I waited so long for an answer that I didn’t think I was going to get one.

“That’s who taught me Spanish.”

Ah, I thought, not exactly an answer, but Damian must have spent a lot of time with her to learn Spanish. “Do you still see her?”

“She moved away.” Her voice was so cold that my skin chilled where her breath moved across it.

I wanted to cry. My love, my mind whispered to hers, someone you loved left you again. I didn’t pursue it any further that day. Instead, I moved down and held her.

Damian worried me a little bit this morning. She woke me up before the sun even came up and laid her head on my belly and curled up into a fetal position. She generally doesn’t do that, so that concerned me. “What’s wrong, angel?”

She lifted her head slightly and looked up at me. I saw that look in her eye. It made my stomach turn. I hadn’t seen that look in so long. I don’t even know if I can describe it. When she looks like that, she says she feels numb...has no feelings.

I’m not sure what she means by that. I don’t think I’ve ever been numb. At least not without some outside event triggering it. There have been a few occasions in my career where I’ve been scared out of my mind and didn’t think about the fear, or anything else for that matter, except what I needed to do to get out of harm’s way. I imagine that I operated more as an automaton, just reacting to the situation. But the feelings returned full force as soon as the danger was over, bringing with them the weak knees and roiling stomach.

I think that it’s a coping mechanism for her when she needs some relief from the pain. She buries those feelings so deep and puts her mind on auto-pilot. Actually, come to think of it, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before with everything that’s happened. I did the only thing I’ve ever known to do for her. I kiss her and hold her. It seems to work. Words have no effect.

I’ve done some research on orphans. When we started the adoption process with Diego, I had gone to the library to do some research. One of the librarians, Kasinda, who as I found out later knew Damian from her frequent trips there, pointed out an article to me. We were talking about the origin of her name. I had met a woman named Kasinda in South Africa and I told her that I thought it was a beautiful name. One thing led to another and we started talking about adoption and orphans.

I can’t recall the name of the article, although I’m sure it’s still packed away in the files somewhere. The author, a child psychologist, brought up some very interesting points. He cited a medical study that had been conducted on children who had been orphaned. I’ll spare you the technical details and get to the point. It seemed that the orphans’ production of a certain chemical during the fight or flight response was significantly less than the amount produced by children that had been raised by their biological parents. They were less reactive to stressors and weren’t as easily frightened, surprised, scared, etc.

It struck me because it fit so perfectly with Damian’s behavior and I wondered about the validity of the study. I had always assumed that she was just very good at hiding things. I still think she is very good at hiding things to some extent, but I definitely think that being an orphan has had an impact. I did some further research that day, and went home to present my findings to Damian. It was clear to me that we were going to have to make some decisions.

We.... I’m not really sure in this whole thing where it changed from a “Damian adopting Diego” thing to a “Damian and Jules adopting Diego” thing. I don’t recall ever sitting down and talking about it and having us make a conscious decision. It seemed to have happened so naturally.

I came home with the articles. I was still living by myself at the time. We never did officially move in together until we bought the house, but Damian was there as much as she could be with the odd hours that she worked. I sat down and curled up in my reading chair and started reading all the articles. There were seven total at the time.

Neither of us are stupid or innocent. We’ve both experienced a lot and seen a lot of things. But I felt totally clueless about what we were getting into by the time she got there. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t in a bad way that I was thinking about the adoption. I wanted to make sure that we did things right. That Diego had every opportunity to be loved and to grow. I wanted to make sure that we provided a good home for him.

I’ve found that love alone, sometimes, isn’t enough to insure success, and from what I had been reading, Diego would be facing some adjustment problems, not only from the language barrier, but from his past. I think I knew that in the back of my mind, but it was colored by my delusion that love would conquer all. Maybe it does, but you can lend it a helping hand. And this was way too important not to find and use all the helping hands we could get.

I showed her that article and the others that I had found. We had a long discussion into the night about what would be best for Diego. We had already gotten a tutor for him very early on. He was so behind, education wise, only able to read a little bit of written Spanish. My angel. He was so bright. Maybe part of that is a mother’s pride speaking, but putting that aside, he was a bright little boy.

One of the things that I think we did right with Diego was that Damian and I both were very committed to putting him first. We didn’t do it perfectly, but the commitment was there nonetheless. It’s hard to balance life sometimes. You make a decision at the time that seems like a right one and find out later that you chose wrong. You learn from your mistakes and go on.

The end result of our discussion that night was that we would bring Diego to a child psychologist. That first visit we brought Diego... How we got through that, I’ll never know. Damian and I met with him prior to bringing Diego in. I had lots of questions. Damian wanted to size him up. To the man’s credit, he survived meeting Damian and her interrogation. “He’s okay,” she grudgingly admitted after it was over. I had to smile. My angel is so protective.

Damian has an inherent distrust of people. It’s not a paranoia. She doesn’t think everyone has ulterior motives or anything like that. She doesn’t just automatically trust someone. I think that’s a good thing, actually. I tend to be a bit too trusting.

The first time we brought Diego to see Scott...that was his name, Scott Harrelson...we were seated in the waiting room. Well, I was seated and Damian was stalking around the tiny waiting room. If I heard “How long has it been?” once, I heard it a thousand times that hour. She finally sat in the chair next to me when I told her she was acting like a child on a long trip. I had heard enough of that in my lifetime from my sisters and brothers when I was little...the proverbial “When are we going to get there?” and you hadn’t even pulled out of the driveway yet.

Diego came out of Scott’s office with a big smile on his face. Damian was exhausted from the stalking back and forth. I wondered if we were going to go through this every time. Diego loved Scott. He got to play with toys during his visits. We did family visits as well. Damian liked playing with the toys as well. I was amazed at the things she told Scott when she was preoccupied with the toys. It was almost off-handed. Like she wasn’t really thinking about it.

She’s going to the department psychiatrist tomorrow. I wonder if he has toys. I suspect that would be the only way he’ll get anything out of her. I knew the appointment was coming up. I should have talked to her about it before. With mom and dad here, we haven’t had much alone time. She doesn’t have to go until ten. I think I’ll set the alarm and wake us up early so we’ll hopefully have some alone time. I need to get to sleep. Good night.


Fucking assholes! God damn mother fucking assholes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sanctimonious pieces of crap. That’s what they are.

Not one shrink, but two! I could not believe it when I walked into that fucking office. I expected to see Limp Dick, but he had another person with him. A woman. Anne Kastl. Whoever the hell she is.

Limp Dick tells me, “We thought it would be best to bring in someone else.”

Who the fuck is ‘we?’ I sat down. “Why?”

“Damian.” He got that look on his face.

I hate how fucking patronizing they are. I wanted to slap that look off of his face. You know the one. It says ‘I know what’s best so shut up and do as you’re told.’ And saying my name. It’s one of those tricks they use to make you seem important to personalize the relationship. He’s got another thought coming if he thinks using my name’s gonna endear him to me in some way. Asshole.

“I thought that it would be better if we could get someone else’s perspective on this matter.”

I nodded my head.

“Dr. Kastl and I have discussed your case.” He motioned to the woman sitting across from him like I had forgotten who she was. I may be a homicidal maniac, but I can still remember people’s names. I had to sit on the couch. I hate that couch. Why do shrinks have couches anyway? “It seems that you’re uncomfortable speaking with me about what happened. We’re not making as much progress as I had hoped.”

Uncomfortable? Really? How perceptive. How about I hate your guts? And ‘we’ aren’t making progress because there is no ‘we.’ The only ‘we’ I’ve ever been a part of is Jules and Diego. And part of my ‘we’ is gone. Fuck you and your ‘we,’ Limp Dick. “I’ve made a lot of progress.” It’s true. I don’t feel like killing myself every day anymore.

“Why don’t you share that progress with us?”

How about I don’t and we can pretend I did? Then I can get the hell out of here. I promised Jules I would try to talk to him. Fucking promises. “What would you like to know?” I tried to say it nicely.

Dr. Kastl decided it was time to add her two cents. “Why don’t you tell us how you’re feeling right now?”

“Like I want to go back to work. I’m ready to get on with my life.”

“Are you?” Kastl asked.

I wanted to scream. What had I just said? “Yes. I do.”

It pretty much went like that the rest of the two hours. It was pure, absolute torture. I don’t understand how they can expect me to talk about this with them when I can hardly talk about it with Jules.

At the end, they wouldn’t give me an answer to the one question I wanted an answer to. Can I go back to work?

“We’ll write up our report and forward our recommendation to your commanding officer.”

I don’t know why I’m so pissed off about this. I guess it’s because I want someone who’s experienced what I have to be the one that’s judging me and not some spineless, wimpy-assed shrink sitting in a nice comfortable office. Has anyone ever kidnapped his little boy? Who is he to tell me what I should feel or think or how much progress I should be making?

He says that my reactions were extreme for the situation. I’ve got news for him. He hasn’t seen an extreme reaction from me. I want him to tell me what his choice would have been. They shouldn’t have taken my boy. They got what they deserved. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I want him to tell me what he would have done with an inconsolable wife who only wanted her boy back.

Vicente’s shoot was justified, in Limp Dick’s eyes. I was defending myself. Defending my fellow officers from a maniac with a gun threatening their lives. Good job, Lieutenant D’Avanti. Here’s your medal and your psych clearance. Back to work now. Does he think that made it any easier for me to live with the fact that I had killed someone?

But this. This is somehow different to him. I went after them. No medal. No psych clearance. No good job. That’s the only thing I agree with him on.

I don’t even know why it matters to me. I said I wanted to go back. But I don’t know. They all think I’m a homicidal maniac anyway. They thought that long before this happened. I don’t disagree totally. I am homicidal, if that means you’ve killed someone and are apt to kill again. Threaten my life or the life of someone I love and I will kill to protect. It’s the maniac part that I have trouble with. Maniac implies that there was no reason or logic to what I did and there was. Why can’t he understand that? All I wanted was our boy back.


Good afternoon.

I think I should have sent toys to Dr. Richard’s office. I must admit, though, that she doesn’t seem to be as angry as the last time she went to see him. I don’t know if it’s because my parents are here, or because it went better than the last time. I hope it’s because it went better than last time.

We haven’t had time to talk about what happened at her reevaluation. My parents and I were just finishing up lunch when she got back. She had that full body mask on, and every answer was “fine” or “okay” or “the usual.” I used to accept those answers, but I don’t like them anymore. She grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then excused herself and wrote a little. Now she’s outside with dad and Maya, doing God knows what somewhere in the woods. Mom’s taking a swim and I decided I needed to write a little bit.

I’ve been enjoying mom and dad visiting, but..... There’s always a ‘but,’ isn’t there? It was really great for the first few days, but I miss the alone time with Damian. Like today, when she came home. I wanted to talk to her about it, but I know she wouldn’t have said much in front of my parents.

Sometimes, all I want to do is isolate. It’s...I think that if we stay in our own little part of the world, and not bother anybody, then nothing else bad will happen. I realize that’s totally unrealistic, and I know that isn’t good for me or for her.

I get angry with myself for thinking that. I wasn’t ever like that before everything happened. Life was...balanced, and now the scales have been thrown horribly out of alignment. I wonder sometimes what it will take to get it back in balance or even if it can ever be balanced again. I know that it can’t ever go back to being like it was as much as I want that.

I know that this has changed I think...what’s truly important...irrevocably. I know it’s changed her. I don’t think that the changes are necessarily bad for either of us. That’s the thing about life. Most everything in it is a double-edged sword. Life cuts both ways. To me it’s about choices. I can either let this have a negative impact on me, or turn it into a positive thing. Making lemonade when life hands you lemons.

I just reread that paragraph. Positive.... It’s still so hard for me to see anything positive about this. I know it’s there. Experience has taught me that. I find it so hard to believe, though.

I’m a lot more serious than I used to be. That’s not to say I was a flighty, dumb blonde before. Everything means so much more now. I wish I hadn’t had to learn that lesson this way. I wish I had known it before. I don’t know if I would have done much differently, but I would have paid more attention...not allowed myself to get caught up in things that are really insignificant. I measure things now against a standard that I didn’t have before. It’s as if my thought process pauses, pulls out the memories of what happened and judges what’s going on against them.

This morning, Damian dressed in uniform for her visit to Dr. Richard. Something about the way she looked in that uniform always made me hot. The NOPD uniform is shades of blue. The pants are a deep midnight blue and the shirt’s a kind of sky blue. It always did interesting things for her eyes.

I hadn’t seen her in uniform since everything happened. She came out of the bedroom and I felt the little surge of adrenalin shoot straight down between my legs. Memories flooded my mind. The creak of the leather of her gun belt. How her leather jacket smelled, its subtle whispers as she moved. Except this time, it was quickly followed by an icy fear that grabbed my heart. That uniform...what she represents so much more now.

The danger’s been personalized. Our lives have been directly impacted by it. Not that it wasn’t before, but in a different way. We were never the story. But then our world collided with life.

That day I got the phone call from Damian asking me to come home...I knew something was terribly wrong. As she spoke, I could see in my mind’s eye that little muscle in her jaw twitching as she fought for control. Her voice was strained, haunted.

She never really calls me Juliana anymore. When she’s upset or very serious is usually when she uses my full name. She wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. “What’s the matter?” My mind raced as I tried to think of a reason for the obvious distress in her voice. And then it hit me. I couldn’t believe how calm I sounded. “Honey, let me speak with Diego.”

The silence before she responded seemed like an eternity. “Please...please, Juliana...just come home now.”

I knew. I knew then, as surely as I know that the sun rises in the East, that something had happened to our boy.

I don’t remember leaving the office or the drive home. I only remember her pulling the door open and standing there in her uniform. That was the last time i saw her in uniform. It could have been like a hundred other days of me coming home from work....Damian there to greet me, Maya bouncing up and down, Arabella meowing for food and Diego squirming around Damian to get to me to give me a hug.

But it wasn’t. Damian stood just inside the door. Maya sat still next to Damian. Arabella was perched silently on the kitchen counter.

No “Mami.”

No hug.

No kiss.

The little details...the ones that tell the story. They were telling me a story I didn’t want to hear. I got angry.

“Where is my boy?” I demanded.

“I...don’t know.” Damian’s voice cracked.

The’s a funny thing...a very fragile, funny thing. It could be my mind, her mind or even your mind. It doesn’t matter. It causes us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do under stressful circumstances. It protects us. I think that sometimes, my subconscious causes me to react in a certain way that really is best for the situation at the time. When I look back on a situation, I see a hundred different things I could have done differently...said differently, but what happened is what needed to happen at the time.

I yelled at her. “Where is Diego?”

I could see her visibly straighten and gather herself. That full body mask slipped into place. I felt grateful. Was it selfish of me to feel that? I don’t know. I needed her to be strong, because I felt like I was teetering on the edge of sanity right then. “He wasn’t at school when I went to pick him up.”

I was still standing in our carport as I started screaming again. “Why aren’t you looking for him?”

“I...we...Juliana, please. Come inside, honey. I’ll tell you what I know.” Her hand was shaking as she reached out and took my arm and pulled me in.

She sat me down at the kitchen table and explained to me that she had gone to pick him up from school. He wasn’t there. She went inside to look for him, couldn’t find him and fifteen minutes later, the police and FBI were swarming all over the place. She came home to tell me. “They’ll be here soon.” It was as if she was reassuring me. The only thing that would reassure me would be seeing our boy.

The doorbell rang. I watched her get up to answer the door.

“I hope he has his coat with him. It’s cold. I don’t want him to be cold.” I had no idea what I was saying. I had no idea what we were going to do.


I’m worried about Jules. She’s been so quiet. We got in bed last night and it was like she was just clinging to me. It’s not that I have a problem with that. It’s...I can tell something’s wrong. I wrapped my arms around her and asked her if she wanted to talk. She said no. That is so unlike her.

She didn’t sleep well last night. She had nightmares. I can tell when she has them. She struggles. I don’t know what she’s struggling against. She makes little painful noises. Sometimes she cries. She cried last night.

We’ve talked about her nightmares. She says that they’re just very hazy and that she’s very frightened in them. She doesn’t know what it is that’s frightening her. Just that she’s terrified. I wake her up when she has them and I hold her. It seems to help.

I hate that she has nightmares. She had them before all this happened, but they were few and far between. She’s seen a lot of things. Maybe more than I have. Or at least more things in a different context. Jules never did easy stories when she was freelancing. She always put herself right in the middle of everything. She’s got a lot of courage.

The moon was really full last night, and bright. I studied her face when she was sleeping. She’s looking better. For weeks, she had dark circles under eyes. I traced a few lines at the corners of her eyes. I used to tease her about them. We’d lay in bed at night and talk. That was our time, after we had put Diego to bed.

She says I’m stubborn. I’ve got news for you. I can’t hold a candle in the stubborn department to Juliana Lee Hayden. She hates wearing her glasses. They’re just reading glasses and she looks adorable in them. She writes poetry sometimes. She’d read me some of it at night. I always had to hand her the glasses, because she’d never put them on. I’d reach for them and then dangle them in front of her. “Missing something, grandma?”

If looks could kill, I would have died a thousand deaths. But then she’d laugh and thank me. She asked me one night if she thought that we were going to be grandmothers. That question floored me. I mean, I had never imagined myself a mother, much less a grandmother. “Anything’s possible,” was my answer.

It certainly seemed so at the time. I had more than I had ever dreamed of. I was happier than I ever had a right to be. We had a little boy, who would grow up and become a man. Maybe he’d get married, have kids. “Yeah, baby, we just might be grandmothers.”

But it’s not possible now. I don’t know what’s possible now.

People say that things happen for a reason. When they say it, it’s always with that little intonation that it was for the best. I can’t think of a single fucking reason why all this happened. At least not any reason that would make it for the best. Is it just because they have no idea what to say? Or do they not want to be honest? I think I’d rather them say, “Hey, life sucks sometimes. Bad things happen. Life’s cruel. Live with it, D’Avanti. It just is what it is. No rhyme. No reason.”

Life is cruel. If you don’t think so, look around you. There’s evidence of it everywhere. Is the cruelty the price we pay for the joy and happiness? What kind of god devised that payment plan?

I’ve notified families about deaths before. Shown up, ringing their doorbell in the middle of the night, to tell them. “You know how everything was okay when you went to sleep? Well, guess what? It ain’t now. Little Johnny decided that the family sedan could fly and he decided to test that theory as he came around that curve on I-610 at 110 miles an hour. He found out differently. He’s not coming home. Ever. Hang onto your memories, because that’s all that’s left.”

How cruel is that? They know, when they open the door, that it’s not good news. It’s never good news when a cop shows up at your door at three a.m. Especially if it’s a rank. Rank does injury and death notifications. You can see it in their faces. They hate you. You can see the denial. “You’re wrong.” “It’s not possible.” “There must be some mistake.”

And you stand there and insist that it is no mistake. That you’re not wrong. That it is entirely possible. Because life is cruel and it just is what it is.

One of the cruelest things I’ve ever done was to tell Jules that someone had taken our little boy. I took away her joy and happiness with those words. I looked at her and watched as my words reached inside her and ripped out her heart. Tell me that life isn’t cruel.


Good afternoon. It’s Sunday, thank God. My parents will be gone in the morning.

It’s not that it hasn’t been great to have them here, because it has. I love them very much. And I know Damian does, too. It’s always very interesting to watch her relate to them. That whole “parental” makes her really uncomfortable at times. She thought there was this certain mystique to becoming a parent. Kind of like, once you became a parent, you were raised to some level of knowledge and wisdom that others were forbidden to have. You would magically become as close to perfect as you could get...all-knowing, all-seeing...hell, all-American as far as I could figure. She quickly discovered that there was nothing mystical about it.

I learned long ago that parents make mistakes. It wasn’t exactly a rude awakening for me, but I remember the first time my mom sat me down and told me that she was sorry and that she had made a mistake. I don’t remember what it was about. Something inconsequential, I’m sure, but I remember being slightly dismayed at the thought that they made mistakes. I was forced to reconsider my concept of “parent.” I think that’s a good thing, and something that was a vital part of my learning about life.

Damian, on the other hand, thought parents were perfect. I can still remember the conversation we had when she realized she had made a mistake with Diego. We were sitting at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning drinking coffee. Damian had been working nights, and had Friday off and was trying to get back in the swing of being awake during the day. She had come home early Friday morning and slept for just a little while, then got up and stayed up, exhausted and cranky for the rest of the day, picked Diego up from school and stumbled back into bed shortly after I had gotten home. And we had just gotten Maya. We hadn’t even named her yet.

Her eyes narrowed as she stared at me. “Jules, are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“It’s not possible,” she stated adamantly.

“Honey, I’m telling you it happened. When I got up this morning, the damn dog was on the counter, rooting through the box of croissants. I have no idea how many of them she ate. There were crumbs everywhere.”

“It’s not possible,” she stated again, a little less sure of herself as her eyes glanced over to the counter top.

“It is very possible,” I assured her. “That dog is part monkey.”

She looked back at the counter top and then let her eyes survey the room. “How did she get up there?”

I shrugged. “I have no idea.”
“She’s too little to have jumped. Christ, she only weighs five pounds. She’s just a puppy.”

The dog in question trotted into the room, her nails clicking on the floor. She stopped, looked at both of us and then the counter top before looking at us again. I swear her belly was swollen from those croissants. Then she turned and trotted out again.

“We need to get her to the vet. She’s got shots due and I want to have her nails clipped.”

“Jules, that dog could not have gotten up on the counter by herself.”

I sighed. “Sweetheart, Diego’s still sleeping, you were sleeping and I certainly didn’t put her up on the counter.”

“” Her eyes dropped and she stared into her coffee cup. She finally said, “I need to apologize.”

I was confused. Very confused. “You’re going to apologize to the dog?”

“I’m not sure I’m going to make a very good parent.”

I mentally reviewed the number of cups of coffee we had already consumed. Only one so far. We had just started on the second one. Damian usually wakes up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, except when she was finishing a stretch of nights. Perhaps she needed more coffee. Or maybe I did.

Okay, I thought, she hasn’t answered my question about apologizing to the dog, but even if she did need to apologize to the dog, how would that impact on her fitness as a parent? I definitely needed more coffee.

“You’re already an excellent parent.”

“No, I’m not.” The distress was clear in her voice.

Sometimes, trying to piece Damian’s verbal conversation together, along with the one she carries on with herself in her head, is really difficult. She’ll be so far ahead in her thought process that you have to make giant leaps in your own thought processes to handle some of the statements that seem to come from left field. I hadn’t had enough coffee to make any size leap right then.

“Damian, slow down for a second.”


“Why do you need to apologize to the dog?”

She blinked at me. “Why would I apologize to the dog?”
“You said.....” I stopped. Maybe she meant she needed to apologize to me. I had no idea why she would think that. I had barely seen her yesterday, and when I climbed in bed last night, the only thing she did was roll over, grab me and grunt a little. But I was starting to get a little irritated. It was seven o’clock on a Saturday morning, after all, and I hadn’t finished my second cup of coffee yet. An apology directed to me was starting to sound pretty good. My mind could manufacture some offense that I could apply it to. I told myself to take a deep breath.

Her eyes squinted as she looked at me. “Apologize to the dog?” she questioned again. She sounded as confused as I felt.

I waved my hand at her. “Forget the dog.” Like the dog would understand an apology anyway. If she wanted to apologize to the dog, she could. I didn’t care about the dog right then.


“What makes you think you’re not a good parent?”

“I...the dog was.....”

Not the damn dog again, I thought. I cut her off. “Honey, do you consider yourself the dog’s parent?”

“” She sounded slightly offended.

“Then please forget the dog.”

“But...I...yesterday afternoon, I yelled at Diego for putting the....” She hesitated for a moment. “Puppy...on the counter.”

I finished a huge swallow of coffee. I wondered if the morning light that had just crept in through the kitchen window was nature’s signal for dawning realization as everything clicked into place in my mind. It’s times like these that I realize exactly how much I love her.

“Damian, first of all, you don’t yell.” She really doesn’t. And she has the patience of fifty Jobs. “You made a mistake. You’ll make more. So will I. Just talk to him about it. It’s not the end of the world. You’re a wonderful parent. ”

“Parents don’t make mistakes.” She said that with all the conviction in the world.

“Yes, they do. They’re not perfect.”

“I thought...parents aren’t supposed to make mistakes.”

“In an ideal world, they don’t. But this isn’t an ideal world. If this is the worst mistake we ever make as parents, we’ll be damn lucky.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Neither do I, but we’re not perfect.” I could see by the look on her face that I wasn’t very convincing.

“I didn’t even listen to him when he told me he didn’t do it.” Her tone was full of self-reproach.

I reached for her hand and held it, my thumb rubbing the back of her hand. “You didn’t think the dog could get up there without help. I wouldn’t have thought the dog could, had I not seen it with my own two eyes, half-awake as I may have been.” I gave her a gentle smile. “The important thing is that you tell him you were wrong and apologize to him. That’s how he’ll learn that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that you rectify them if you can.”

“Jesus, Jules. Whatever made me think I could do this?” She shook her head. “I never even had parents.”

Ah, a little insecurity and fear raising its ugly head, I thought as I reflected on what she had just said. I always have to remember that she does have those moments, because most of the time she’s so damn competent and in control. I love her for her weaknesses. I think it makes me love her even more, really. It may be a little bit of my ego talking, but I don’t like perfect. And knowing how closely guarded she keeps her feelings and emotions, it’s an excellent sign to me that she loves me and trusts me. I’d rather lose my right arm than betray that trust.

“You thought you could do it because you can.” I leaned over and kissed her softly. My angel. “It takes a lot of courage and sacrifice and love to have kids and do it right. You have all of that.” I hesitated, because I wasn’t sure what I was about to say next would go over well, and I really didn’t want to get her upset so early in the morning. Discussing her parents, or lack thereof, was not a subject we ventured into frequently. At best, she would remain silent. I hoped for silence.

She’s very circumspect and analytical when it comes to her feelings and emotions. She doesn’t trust her initial emotional reaction to most things, even though it’s usually the same thing that she ends up deciding she’s feeling. It’s good and bad, because I’ve seen her try to rationalize and justify things that really are incapable of rationalizing and justifying. It’s as if she says to herself, “Okay, what am I supposed to be feeling?” rather than “What am I feeling?”

I learned early on that it takes her some time to process things on an emotional level and determine what she is really feeling. We’d talk about this again. That much I knew. It might be later this afternoon or it might be two weeks later. That’s what’s important. That we would eventually talk about it.

I don’t know if that makes much sense, but that’s how she is. I think that she does it because of her experiences or lack of them. I was lucky. I had parents who set a good example. She didn’t have that. What I find amazing is her outlook on all that. She’s angry with her parents, her mother in particular. But she’s never used things that happened to her as an excuse for anything. It just is what it is, as she’s so fond of saying.

“Having parents is no guarantee that you’re going to be a good parent. You know that, sweetheart. You’ve seen it plenty enough times on the job.”

She dropped her eyes down and fiddled with her coffee cup, but didn’t let go of my hand. That was a good sign.

“You care about Diego. You love him. You want what’s best for him. And I know you’ll do everything in your power to make sure that it happens.” I reached over and brushed her hair back. “I love you, you know.” She looked up and those blue eyes blinked at me.

“I love you, too, Jules. I’m, um, being kind of silly about this, huh?” She had the cutest little sheepish look on her face.

“Not silly at all, baby.”

She cleared her throat a little. “It’s...I just worry about all this. I want to do it right.”

“I know you do. I do, too. We’ll get it right, okay?”

“Okay.” A shy smile. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

I would do anything for her, you know. She’s definitely low maintenance. She and I laugh about it. She’ll look at me with that goofy, lop-sided grin. “Darling, just a pat on the head every now and then is all I need.” She’s actually very serious about that. That’s what she’d settle for, because that’s the only thing she ever got from anyone.

I won’t settle for that, and I’m not going to let her settle for that, either. It would be so easy just to take from her and not give anything back. She’d let me. Most of the time, it takes very little effort on my part. I just have to listen and be patient. Damian D’Avanti may not have loved many people in her lifetime, but God, when she does, you get it all. I have to really watch myself to make sure that I don’t forget to give back to her when I’m stressed out. I know that I did that after everything happened with Diego. I’m not very proud of myself for doing that. But I did it. I need to follow my own advice - talk to her and apologize.

Maya just came in. Damian’s not too far behind, I’ll bet. It’s a funny thing about that dog. She loves that dog to death. I bet if I asked her today if she considered herself to be Maya’s parent she’d still act offended. But I know better. I’ve even caught her standing in the kitchen next to the counter, the dog sitting happily on top of it as Damian talked to her. Makes me wonder if the dog would have understood the apology I thought she was going to get. I just fold my arms and glare at both of them. It’s kind of fun. That “I didn’t put her up there” protest she reminds me so much of Diego. I miss him. I wonder if it will ever stop hurting this much. I think I’ll go find her and get a hug.

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Part 7

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