GUN SHY

Part 1 of 11

By Lorelei, Bard of the Lakes
lorelei-bard@juno.com


DISCLAIMERS: All the characters in GUN SHY (except the gods) were dreamed up out of my bizarre little noggin and are mine, mine, mine, with the exception of any characteristics Dez and Jaylynn possess that belong to my partner, who is also mine, mine, mine. So the bottom line is: please don't steal my characters without permission. I wrote this for fun and fame, not profit, so please be kind when you critique me.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This novel does contain scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. The protagonists are cops, and they live in a sometimes dangerous, sometimes gritty, always frustrating world. This story contains scenes where there are assaults, shootings, car accidents, arrests, domestic disturbances, and the aftermath of one rape. If you get queasy watching "Law and Order" or "Xena: Warrior Princess," you might not want to read this. However, I would put the level of explicit violence at about PG-13.

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state/country where you live, you should move to Minnesota where we have human rights protections and a new governor, Jesse Ventura, to beat up anyone who's mean to us.

HURT/COMFORT WARNING: I've never totally understood what this means, but yes, indeed, each of the main characters (and some of the minor characters) do get hurt in more ways than one, and there is comfort afforded to each here and there—hmmm, just read the novel to see what I mean, okay?

SUBTEXT: There is no subtext whatsoever—it's all maintext. While there are no overly graphic scenes (apologies to those of you who were hoping for that and are now sadly disappointed), there are love scenes, and the theme of two women falling in love runs throughout the story. If this bothers you, click BACK PAGE and go immediately to the Jerry Falwell v. Tinky-Winky claymation slugfest scheduled for tonight.

SPECIAL THANKS: Couldn’t have done this without my trio of true blue beta readers: two doctors and a police officer. To Erin, Buff, and Joy—you are the BEST! And many blessings to MaryD, Web Goddess Extraordinaire, for encouraging me and keeping me on track. Lastly, to MaryAnn, Linda D, and Susan who listened ad nauseum about this and read parts in the early stages and never stopped cheering me on.

DEDICATION: This one’s for Diane, because she had to live with an obsessed madwoman while it was being written. Not only that, she had to read and make sense of it—three times, in fact—and not at all in any reasonable semblance of order. She deserves a medal.

Any and all comments are welcome, and I am curious about what people think, so you can e-mail me at: lorelei-bard@juno.com . This is part 1 of 11, and I’ll post regularly so you won’t be left hanging. J

PART 1

The gold and white squad car swung around the corner onto Como Boulevard, no headlights and little sound but the tires squeaking on the hot pavement. To the left was Como Lake, a small body of water in St. Paul only a half-mile in diameter. The street ran parallel to a walking and biking path that ringed the lake. To the right was a row of darkened homes set up on a slight slope and heavily shaded by huge elm and oak trees.

The police car paused four houses away from a white two-story stucco house. Officer Dez Reilly turned off the air conditioning and powered the window halfway down, staring at the house up the street. With a weary sigh she let herself listen for the night time noises over the engine of the car. The neighborhood was silent, almost too quiet. She should hear crickets, but all was still. She cut the engine, picked up her flashlight and stepped out of the car, shutting the door so it clicked quietly. As she strolled along the sidewalk, the hum of night time insects started up, and she stood in front of the stucco house, waiting, listening. Somewhere down the street came a faint bass thump of music as a car passed through the intersection and faded off into the distance. Otherwise, no one was out. Her eyes scanned the street and the houses with practiced speed. Nothing seemed out of place, but someone had reported the sound of a woman screaming and had pinpointed the noise as coming from the house in front of her. A string of residential break-ins had occurred lately in this area, and also, though the public had not yet been notified, a serial rapist seemed to be at work. She herself had been extra vigilant lately; she lived less than a mile from Como Lake.

Outside the air-conditioned car, the August humidity seeped into her pores through the short-sleeved blue uniform shirt, through the bullet-proof vest, through the white cotton t-shirt she wore, adding to her fatigue more than she thought possible. She took a deep breath of the dank air and felt herself sweating. August in St. Paul was no fun. At least the mosquitoes weren’t after her. Yet.

She was tall, lean hipped, and broad-shouldered with long black hair caught up in a French braid. She walked with a confident stride across a strip of grass, over the sidewalk, and up the cracked walkway to the house, pausing periodically to listen. There were six stairs to the porch, and the first floor windowsills were slightly above her eye level. The front windows were dark, but a shaft of golden light shone from an open second floor window around the corner of the house. Leaving her flashlight off, she strode around to the south side and paused for a moment. Now she could hear angry muttering, the sound of an urgent, high-pitched voice, and then a frantic scream quickly muffled.

Dez heard a ripping sound, and then deep-throated laughter. A male voice growled, "Stop it! Stop fighting or . . ."

"No, you stop it. Get out of here!" shouted a woman’s voice.

"Oh shit!" said the man. "You move, I cut her throat. Got it?" In a different tone, he hollered, "Get her!"

That was all Dez needed to hear. She touched her shoulder mike and called for backup as she ran toward the back of the house and around to the other side, visually checking the doors and windows until she found what she suspected: a sliced window screen leading into what she thought would be the dining room.

Hearing another scream, she flicked on her shoulder mike again and advised the dispatcher to hurry the backup team. In a hoarse whisper she reported, "This sounds bad. I think there are at least two male suspects and one, maybe two, female victims." In the background she could hear far off sirens. Her skin crawled, and she felt an uncharacteristic compulsion to do something and do it now. A loud crash hit her ears, and she hit the shoulder mike again. "I’m going in. Tell ’em to follow quick as possible—north side window."

Hooking her flashlight on her belt, she hoisted herself up over the windowsill headfirst and tumbled into the darkened house as quietly as she could. She scuttled across the floor on her knees, moving toward the faint light of the doorway. She peeked around the corner. Stairs, where are the stairs? She rose and inched around the corner out of the dining room as she grabbed the flashlight off her belt, the metal warm against her palm. She clicked it on and unholstered her gun.

 

 

 

Jaylynn Savage realized she was tired when her watch chimed eleven. She had spent the entire evening in the air-conditioned college library cramming for her summer term finals, and visions of Con Law danced in her head. She persisted for another ten minutes, then gave up. Running hands through short white-blond hair, she hoped the political theory exam would go well in the morning, but she just couldn’t study one more minute. Going over and over the material was no longer productive. Since the library closed at midnight anyway, Jaylynn decided to head home. She packed up her books, said hello to friends on the way out, and emerged into the musty air.

 

Jaylynn liked to say she was five-and-a-half feet tall, but that was only if she was wearing shoes with an inch tall heel. Her build was slender, and her lightly tanned skin and sun-bleached blond hair were evidence of time spent outdoors. Her face, framing hazel green eyes, was full of youthful innocence and of something else perhaps best described as contentment.

As she strolled away from the library, her legs felt strong, but fatigued from the five mile run she’d taken earlier in the day. She walked slowly from the library to the bus stop, going over first amendment issues. That’s one area of the exam that I’ll ace, she thought. I know that cold. She thought about how glad she would be to be done with this final class. Perhaps she’d have time then to write a few poems again.

The bus deposited her half a block from the rented house she shared with two friends. Cutting up the alley, she let herself in through the kitchen door. Jaylynn loved the old house she and Tim and Sara lived in. Not only was it situated right across the street from Como Lake, but it was enormous. Every room was spacious with tall ceilings, ornate woodwork, and walk-in closets. She shut and locked the door quietly so as not to awaken Sara. Her other roommate, Tim, wasn’t home yet. She could tell, because his beat-up red Corolla wasn’t parked out back. She tossed her keys on the table and crept up the stairs.

Sara must still be up, she thought as she turned the corner on the landing. The lamp in her roommate’s room cast a faint patch of light that slightly illuminated the top stairs. She thought of her friend sitting on the couch, studying in the spacious master bedroom. Jaylynn heard a thud and a ripping noise, and she paused on the stairwell, heart beating fast for reasons she didn’t understand. She eased up the last two stairs and peered into her friend’s room. Sara lay twisting on the floor in the wide space between the twin beds, her hands taped together. A huge figure in a dark gray sweatshirt and black pants straddled her waist, muttering and threatening. He held a knife in one hand and a silver strip in the other. Sara screamed as he tried to put the duct tape over her mouth. She shook her head furiously, whipping around her long brown hair and causing it to stick to the tape. Her assailant slapped the side of her face and she screamed again and struggled, tears running down her cheeks, as he forced the strip of tape over her mouth.

He said, "Stop it! Stop fighting or I’ll . . ."

Without a thought, Jaylynn pushed into the room, "No, you stop it. Get out of here!"

"Oh shit!" He rolled aside and spun around, grabbing the girl on the ground by the neck. "You move, and I cut her throat. Got it?" He wore a tan nylon stocking over his head, obscuring his face and making his features looked distorted and diabolical. He glanced across the room behind the door and said, "Get her!" Jaylynn turned to see a smaller man, dressed like the first and also wearing a nylon mask. She screamed, a loud throaty bellow. He was no taller than she, but was much stockier and held a wooden bat in one hand. As she screamed again and backed toward the door, the smaller man grabbed her by the shoulder and arm. He dragged her onto the twin bed near the door and shoved her so hard that she bounced on her back when she hit the mattress. She saw the baseball bat coming at her face and rolled to the side to avoid it. It hit the wall with a resounding crash. As he dove toward her, Jaylynn got her feet up, knees to her chest, and kicked him in the torso, sending him sprawling against the opposite wall and to the floor. Before she could roll off the bed, he was up. He dove on her again, the bat in one hand and a hank of her hair in the other. .

Jaylynn shrieked and growled, kicking at him and swinging wildly, some of her blows connecting. He stumbled back from the bed, panting. Getting a grip on the bat, he said, "I’ll kill you bitch!"

Footsteps on the stairs. A husky voice shouting, "Police!" A flashlight beam from the hall. Jaylynn’s attacker turned toward the doorway, and she saw him swing the bat. It struck a blue-clad arm coming low through the doorway and she heard a clatter. Jaylynn rolled off the bed. She yelped when her knees hit the floor, and then she looked up to see a blue-uniformed officer dive into the room and roll. Instantly the cop was back up.

Dez winced when she saw the bat descending, but it was too late to pull back. She felt an explosion of pain when the bat connected, and her hand involuntarily turned and opened. Her Glock flew from her grasp and skittered behind her. She knew she didn’t have time to find it in the hallway and instead burst into the room shouting in rage.

The big man with the knife let go of Sara and pulled himself to his feet. His partner with the bat rushed Dez, only to be met by her right elbow slamming a solid blow to his face. He dropped the bat and staggered back, cradling his face. Jaylynn took the opportunity to kick him behind the knee, and he screamed in pain and fell. She looked for Sara, caught her eye, and saw her friend’s look of terror. Jaylynn gestured, pointing toward the closet, but when Sara tried to rise, the big man pushed off her and knocked her down. The bound woman dropped back and slid halfway under the twin bed on the far side of the large room.

The big man came at Dez in a rush, but out of control. She got the flashlight up to block his thrust, then kicked at his groin with her steel-toed service boot. He yowled but kept on coming, managing to slice downward through her shirt to imbed the knife in her vest. She knocked aside his knife arm and gave him a right elbow to the chin, sending him off balance, then punched him in the side of the head with the flashlight. As he went down, the other man regained his footing and picked up the bat. He swung high and Dez ducked to a squat, then launched herself to head-butt him across the room. He hit the bedside table and smashed the lamp to the ground. Sara squeezed further under the bed to miss being landed on.

Dez extricated herself from the little man’s grip as Jaylynn sprang across the room and wrenched the bat from his hand. She whacked at his head. Though he raised his arms in defense, the blond woman nailed him solidly on the collar bone, feeling a surge of adrenaline when he roared in pain. She stepped back, tripping over the big man’s leg as he rose, cradling his bleeding head. Scrambling on all fours, Jaylynn crawled across the carpet, up and over the twin bed near the door, and dove into the hall. I’ve got to find the gun. Find the gun. Find the gun. It repeated like a chant in her head. She spotted it on the landing three stairs below and picked it up. Much heavier than she expected and she realized she didn’t know how it worked. Was there a safety? As she came back through the doorway, she saw the woman in blue whirl, graceful and deadly in the same motion. Every time an attacker came at her, she used quick left jabs and kicks to flatten one, then the other. The larger man wailed in a high-pitched voice and tried to get up. The cop nailed him in the side of the head with a vicious roundhouse, then kicked him in the chest.

"Stay down," she shouted. The smaller man lay on his side, heaving with exertion. The officer handcuffed his wrist to the big man’s ankle, then jumped clear of them and with her left hand dragged Sara out from under the bed and toward the closet across the room.

Jaylynn stood in the doorway holding the bat and the black gun. "Here," she said, offering the Glock to the police officer. She kept the bat for herself.

The tall, dark woman turned, her face white despite the exertion. She seemed enormous to Jaylynn—not fat, just solid and very powerful. Later Jaylynn would remember the feral smile of satisfaction on the cop’s face and consider that she might be a very dangerous woman. But at that moment, as she looked into steel blue eyes for a heartbeat, she felt as though she knew this woman. A thrill of recognition coursed through her. The blue eyes narrowed as they met her own, and for a brief moment, Jaylynn wondered if the woman recognized her. But of course she couldn’t know her. The cop hurried across the room and snatched the gun from Jaylynn’s hand.

Sara whimpered, and Jaylynn moved into the room saying, "Sara! Sara, are you all right?"

"Wait," said Dez. She held the Glock in her left hand and stood over the two panting men. "Don’t move," she said to them. "I’d be so very happy to shoot your fuckin’ heads off if you move a single muscle." Dez could hear the sirens coming, their whining becoming more insistent as her backup drew nearer. She glanced at Sara and made a quick motion with her head toward Jaylynn. "Get her outta here," she growled. "Now! Into the hall. And be sure to stay clear of these two jokers. Wouldn’t wanna have to blow their brains out, now would we?"

Jaylynn wanted to tell her it was perfectly all right with her if the cop emptied her gun into their sorry carcasses. Instead, she leapt to Sara’s side and helped her to her feet. She pulled her out into the hall where her friend sank to the floor sobbing. Jaylynn slowly pulled the duct tape off her mouth. She was still trying to loosen the twisted tape from Sara’s hands when the backup officers burst into the house.

 

 

 

The house was surrounded with spotlights, curious onlookers, sirens, police running in and out of the stucco home. A tremendous commotion, both inside the house and outside, engulfed the neighborhood with noise and light. After a few tense moments, Dez relinquished her guard role and let the backup cops take over. Once the suspects were properly cuffed, she stepped over and pulled the nylon masks off their heads. Two white males, early 20’s, neither very handsome—especially in light of the damage she was glad she’d inflicted. The big man was bruised and bleeding from three gashes in his brows. His ear bled a trail down his neck. The slimmer man bled profusely from a cut below his left eye. At the moment they were both sullen and angry and sat on the floor muttering and cursing her. The backup cops read the two men their rights and dragged them out of the room and down the stairs.

Dez’s right arm throbbed painfully as she eased down the steps, passing the emergency medical team coming up the stairs for the injured young woman. A stream of cops crowded through the front door to take a look at the two suspects, both of whom Dez suspected were responsible for the neighborhood’s recent rapes.

The living room, now flooded with light and activity, was furnished with overstuffed chairs, a fluffy sofa, an upright piano, and a futon couch. Four oak bookcases full of neatly ordered books stood along one wall. Movie posters covered most of the other walls: a black-clad Schwartzenegger from The Terminator, Jackie Chan in a flying kick, Geena Davis pointing a gun, Stallone hanging from a cliff. The dark haired cop walked through the room, past a Bruce Willis poster from Die Hard, and out the front door. As she stepped listlessly down the front stairs, a thin man, dressed in khaki slacks and a tan t-shirt ran up the walkway.

"Where’s Jay and Sara?" he asked her breathlessly. He ran his hand through his red hair.

"Inside. Who are you?"

"Tim Donovan—I live here too. Are they okay?" He started to push past, looking back at her for confirmation.

"Yup, I think so." She stepped wearily down the last of the steps, suddenly feeling a bit sick to her stomach. As she moved down the walk, she tried to roll up her right sleeve, but it hurt too much. She looked at her watch: 11:58. In two minutes her shift would be over. She headed for the ambulance to have her arm looked at.

Tim took the stairs two at a time and blasted into the house just in time to nearly mow over the EMTs and his two roommates.

"Sara! Jay! What happened?"

"Oh Tim," Sara cried as she fell into his arms weeping.

"Come along Miss," said the EMT. "Let’s take you in for a little look-see and make sure you’re okay." He helped Sara onto a stretcher and covered her with a blanket.

"I’ll go with her," said Jaylynn.

"Only room for one, ma’am," said the EMT.

Jaylynn said, "We need to close up this house too." She looked around at all the open windows.

"Here Jay," said Tim. "Take my keys. You can drive over, and I’ll go with Sara."

"Wait, which hospital?" Jaylynn said. "How do I know where to go?"

A patrolman approached her and said, "I’m Officer Milton. I’ve got a lot of questions for the report. Why don’t you follow me over to the hospital?"

"There you go," said Tim. "I’ll see you over there." He disappeared through the door following Sara and the paramedics.

"I have to lock up the house," said Jaylynn.

"Good idea," said Officer Milton. "I’ll help you with the windows."

Jaylynn collected her things and locked up the house. As Officer Milton escorted her through the yard, a white van pulled up, and two men piled out of the vehicle. One shone a bright light in her face while the other man held a microphone and shouted questions at her.

The reporters did a double-step on the lawn next to Jaylynn and the officer as he tried to hurry them down the walk. "Can you tell us what happened?" said one reporter in a breathless voice.

Jaylynn said, "I came home to find two men in our house attacking my roommate. They tried to get me too, but before they could, a cop . . . " She stopped and looked around the yard, letting her eyes come to rest on the various police cruisers. "It was a woman cop. I don’t know who she is, but she nailed both of them, even without her gun. It was incredible, a sight to behold!" She looked up at Milton. "Who was she, Officer? Where’d she go?"

"Reilly," Milton muttered.

"Who?" said Jaylynn, but the reporters had already heard.

"Desiree Reilly?" said one of the men. "Reilly was the officer? Oh, this is going to be a great story! What else can you tell us?"

"That’s it folks," said Milton as he pushed past them. "You know the channels to go through." He took hold of Jaylynn’s elbow and rushed her down the walk. Wordlessly he helped her into Tim’s Toyota, then got in his cruiser and slammed the door. He turned on his lights, but not his siren, and pulled around the other police cars parked haphazardly along the street, slowing to wait for Jaylynn to catch up with him. Jaylynn looked back at the scene. Neighbors stood in tight little bunches watching from the front stoops of their houses. She waved as she passed the couple on the corner, and they hesitantly waved back, not quite sure who she was.

 

 

 

Dez’s forearm swelled so quickly that before she even arrived at the hospital, the paramedic had to slit the seam of her sleeve. "It’s likely broken, you know," he said.

"That’s what I’m afraid of."

At the emergency room they led her through the crowded waiting area and toward an examining room. She didn’t want to look around, but couldn’t help herself. Last time she had been here was for Ryan . . . even now her eyes filled with bitter tears, and she bit her lip to try control her thoughts. She hated this place, didn’t want to be here. She considered turning around to leave, but before she could, the nurse on duty was at her heels ushering her into the ER and onto a table. The nurse helped her unbutton and remove the bloodied and tattered blue shirt, and Dez pulled at the velcro on the bullet-proof vest. The nurse picked up a pair of trauma shears.

Dez said, "Hey, no! These things are expensive."

"Do you keep them if they’re sliced open like that?" The nurse pointed to the big cop’s left breast. Dez looked down, surprised to see an 8-inch gash.

"It’s easier to cut it away. Otherwise I might hurt you," the nurse said, a question in her voice.

Dez shrugged her shoulders. "Don’t worry."

The nurse put down the shears and ripped away at the velcro straps on the vest as Dez looked around.

The emergency room wasn’t all that big, with six bays, three on either side of an aisle that ran up the middle of the area. Her overall impression of the room was that it was filled with a lot of pipes and tubes and contraptions, and the dominant color of everything was white or dull silver. It smelled like some sort of cleaning fluid. Dez sat on the exam table closest to the door. In the back corner, furthest from the door, an elderly lady lay hooked up to oxygen and strands of other tubes. With eyes closed, the woman’s hands fluttered across the chest of her pink robe as a technician fussed over her. Heart attack, thought Dez. That’s what that looks like.

The nurse managed to get the vest loosened and off. She pulled at Dez’s t-shirt.

"It’s just my arm. No need to strip naked is there?"

"I need to be sure you’re not hurt anywhere else." The nurse pulled the curtain around the bay.

Dez frowned. It occurred to her that if she hadn’t realized her vest was shredded, then the nurse probably thought she might not know about other injuries. "Here, check me over." Dez lifted her shirt with her left arm and the nurse ran her hand across her back, down her abdomen. "I think I’m fine. Really. I’d tell you if I was hurt anywhere else."

The nurse nodded as she helped pull the t-shirt back down. "Can’t help it, officer. They’d have my head if I missed anything." She leaned down and untied Dez’s black oxfords and slipped them off. "Step out of the slacks, too. Stand up . . . here, I’ll help you." She laid the blue pants over the exam table and checked the big cop over, then handed her a nearly translucent sheet to put over her bare legs. "Just sit back up there." Once she was situated, the nurse got out a blood pressure cuff and strapped it on Dez’s arm, checked her pulse and heartbeat, shone a light in her eyes. The big cop bore the exam patiently.

"Okay, you’re doing fine," she said as she removed the cuff. "Let’s go ahead and get you dressed again, and I’ll have the doctor come in as soon as possible." They worked together to get her redressed as Dez cautiously held her right arm.

The nurse whipped open the curtain around the area and tried to catch the attending physician’s eye. When that failed, she sighed and her brown eyes looked tired.

Dez said, "Been a long shift, huh?"

"Yes, and I’ve only been here four hours. It’s been quite a night. As soon as he checks you over, we’ll get you across the hall to radiology."

From the tiny box of a room where the x-ray machine was kept, Dez observed the arrival of the victims of the evening’s melee. Paramedics rolled a weeping Sara into the E.R. followed closely by the red-haired man who stutter-stepped alongside in order to hold the hand of the young woman. Moments later, Jaylynn came running in, Officer Milton at her heels. Not long after, a middle-aged woman appeared in the doorway and was ushered over to the partly curtained area.

When the x-rays were done, the nurse gave Dez an ice pack for her forearm, and she was led back into the emergency room where she eased herself back up on the exam table.

"Hey Milton," Dez called out at her fellow officer as he finished talking to the young woman on the gurney and flipped his notebook closed.

He looked up and nodded, then strode toward her and smiled. "Reilly. You’re hurt, huh?"

"Arm. Guy hit me here." She lifted the ice bag and gestured toward the middle of her forearm. "Think it’s busted—maybe I’ll get lucky and it’ll just be a bad bruise, but I have a hunch it’s broken."

"Tough luck, but hey—you did good tonight."

"Yeah, I’m glad for them."

Their backs were to Dez, but she could see the red-haired man with his arm around the feisty blond. Dez’s face took on a puzzled look as she stared at the young woman. Where have I seen her before? She surveyed the lean legs and khaki shorts, the hot pink tank top and the well-rounded hips and shoulders. Short white-blond hair topped a long, regal neck. Dez wished the woman would turn around so she could study her more closely.

She couldn’t see the girl who had been attacked, though she could see an older woman she assumed to be the young woman’s mother leaning over her. Dez could hear a soft murmur of reassuring words being spoken to the girl. The doctor and another nurse swept past Milton and headed for the bay where the brown-haired girl lay. The nurse stopped for a brief moment and waved the two onlookers away. It was clear that the blond tried to protest, but the doctor reached up and pulled a curtain around the bay to shut them out. They stepped back and Milton called out, "C’mon people. Let her mom handle this for a bit. They’ll take good care of her. Come out and wait with me."

Jaylynn and Tim looked disappointed, but they headed toward the door, both focusing on Milton. The blond glanced briefly at Dez and did a double-take. "You! It’s you!" She stopped in front of Dez, close enough to put her hand on the big cop’s knee and say, "What happened to you?" Behind her the red-haired man stepped up to peer over his friend’s shoulder.

Dez shrugged as she felt herself start to blush. She lifted the ice bag again to display her swelling arm, which was also beginning to show the pale outline of a wide bruise.

Puzzled, Jaylynn said, "How did you . . . how did that happen?"

"Little guy hit me with the bat when I first came in the room."

"But—but, how did you do that—stop them, I mean—with your arm like that?"

Dez shrugged again and knew her face was fully crimson.

Jaylynn said, "Well, that was totally exhilarating! It was amazing to see! You were incredible."

Dez mumbled, "Not really . . . actually you did half of it. If you hadn’t kicked them a few times, I’d’ve been in worse trouble."

Dez’s nurse returned just then. "All right, all right," she said. "Enough with the visiting. I’ve got work to do. Out. Out into the waiting area." She shooed them out, waving at Milton too.

Dez put her hand on Milton’s sleeve to hold him back. "Before you go, what are their names?"

"Don’t know the young man yet, but I’m gonna question them now," he said. He flipped open his memo book and thumbed down a few pages. "Her name’s Jaylynn Savage, and that one over there," he nodded toward the bay in the corner, "she’s Sara Wright."

"Thanks," she said, and then the nurse demanded her attention to tell her the doctor would be in shortly to set her arm and have it casted. Broken it is, Dez thought. Now that’s just great. Three or four weeks of desk duty. Just what I need now. Shit.

 

 

 

Jaylynn and Tim settled into the waiting room among a conglomeration of sickly and unhappy people either waiting to be seen or waiting for some loved one.

"She didn’t look so good, did she, Tim?" said Jaylynn.

He fidgeted and said, more sharply than he meant, "Well, she just survived a beating and a near rape. What do you expect?"

"No, I don’t mean Sara . . . the cop, I meant the cop."

"Oh yeah, her too." He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a comb to nervously style his hair.

Jaylynn winced, remembering the dark-haired cop’s battered arm. And to think I didn’t even notice the injury happening! How could I have been so blind? I remember him hitting her with the bat . . . but now that I think about it, of course she wouldn’t escape unscathed. In bat versus arm, the bat always wins.

Tim put his comb back in his pocket and said, "I don’t know what would have happened if I had come home and found you both being raped. Oh god!" Shaking, he took a deep breath and put his head between his knees, messing up his hair.

Jaylynn draped her arm across his back and leaned down to speak in his ear. "That didn’t happen, so don’t even think about it. It’s all right, Tim."

He sat back up and shivered. "Keep reminding me, okay?" He got his comb back out and repeated the styling, his hands shaking.

It took almost an hour before they learned the hospital would keep Sara overnight for observation. But until then, they sat in the waiting room watching wounded people being hauled in and scores of cops coming and going through the ER entrance. Jaylynn wondered if every cop in St. Paul had stopped by the hospital to check on Officer Reilly.

She turned the events of the night over and over in her head. What if she hadn’t come home when she did? What if Sara had been killed? She shuddered. What if both of them had been killed? What if the cop hadn’t shown up when she did? Too many what ifs. Jaylynn looked over at Tim. His head was tilted back against the wall, and he was asleep, his hand in hers. Just then the glass door leading to the exam rooms opened, and the woman cop emerged, followed by a nurse. She carried her blue uniform shirt and vest in her good hand. In the thin tank t-shirt, her broad shoulders were nearly as white as the cast that covered her right arm from knuckles to elbow. She and the nurse went to the main desk and spoke briefly with the clerk who handed her a white prescription bag. Jaylynn watched her as the dark haired woman tried to sign something with her right hand, then gave up, and switched to her left hand which she held awkwardly above the paper on the high counter.

Two patrol officers rose from the rickety waiting room chairs and strolled toward the woman cop. The male officer was young, his bleached white hair in a buzz cut, and he wore golden wire-rimmed glasses. He swaggered over, his bow-legged stride confident and sure. Taking shorter paces next to him was a smaller, wide-shouldered Latino woman. Her short-cropped hair was jet-black and she was probably in her late 30’s. The male cop came up behind the wounded woman and gave her a mock blow to the lower back, and she turned. A slow smile crossed her face, and she smacked him in the stomach with the back of her good hand as the shorter black-haired woman slid her arm around Reilly’s waist. She said something in the big woman’s ear which must have been serious because the tall cop looked down at her cast and nodded grimly.

That Reilly sure is tall, thought Jaylynn, a good head taller than the nurse and maybe six inches taller than the other woman cop. Without the bulk of the vest she looked slimmer than she had during the fight. Jaylynn admired her lean hips and very wide shoulders. From behind she was as broad shouldered as a man, except that with her brunette hair French braided so beautifully, it wasn’t likely she’d be mistaken for one. The big officer slung his arm around her, and as the three moved to leave, Jaylynn could see how tired the injured cop looked.

"Hey," said Jaylynn over the low din in the room. She almost didn’t expect to be heard, but Dez looked at her and gave her a quick nod.

 

"Wait a minute," Jaylynn heard her say to the two cops, then she strolled toward Jaylynn and the sleeping man. The blond stared at the dark woman’s angular, high cheekboned face and was captivated again by the bluest, steeliest eyes she’d ever seen, eyes that bored right through her. Her heart beat faster and she choked in a short intake of breath, tilting her head slightly to the side to try to take in the strange, almost disturbing glimpse of something familiar yet forgotten. Jaylynn extricated herself from Tim and rose to face the woman in blue. She reached out for Dez’s left hand saying, "Thanks for what you did," and squeezed the bigger woman’s hand, then reluctantly let go."

"No problem. It’s my job."

Jaylynn smiled and gazed up into tired but warm blue eyes. "I hardly think getting your arm broken is in the job description."

Dez shook her head. "Not usually." She took a deep breath and turned to go. "Good luck to your friend in there, Ms. Savage. She’s going to need a lot of support."

"We’ll take care of her," said Jaylynn. "Thanks again."

"Yup. See ya around." Dez turned and made her way out the door as Jaylynn peered after her thoughtfully. Nice looking woman. And so familiar. . . .

Jaylynn and Tim finally got home after two a.m. The house was a little spooky to her, but she was so tired that she fell into bed, taking only enough time to set her clock for her 9 a.m. final. If her professor asked any questions about arrests or searches and seizure, she was sure she’d have some good examples from tonight.

 

Dez stirred awake the next morning to the thump-thump sound of her downstairs neighbor Luella beating a broom handle on the ceiling. She looked at her bedside clock: 6:40 a.m. She didn’t think three hours of sleep was going to cut it, but her landlady, Luella Williams, had given the signal, and from the warning, Dez knew she’d be on the way up the stairs. Luella lived downstairs in the two-story house, and she and Dez had grown close over the nine years Dez had lived there. Groggy from the pain pill she had taken in the middle of the night, she rolled out of bed, barefoot, still wearing her duty slacks and t-shirt. Her arm throbbed mercilessly.

She opened the apartment door just as Luella, in all her plump elderly blackness, rounded the newel post with newspaper in hand and turned to face her.

"Good lord Dez!" she said. "Sorry if I woke you. You’re on the news again. What have you done to yourself now?" She shuffled in, her pink bedroom slippers skiffing on the hardwood hallway floor, her flowered robe swirling around her, and her silver hair in wild disarray. What Dez liked best about her landlady was the indomitable spirit that animated her deep brown eyes. Luella had a good-hearted smile always full of love and compassion for her moody tenant.

Dez looked at her casted arm and shrugged. She pulled the door open wide and Luella entered. The dark haired cop sank down into a seat at the dinette table. Luella laid the folded newspaper on the table and moved over to the cupboard.

"What are they saying on the news?" Dez said as she watched Luella set the teapot in the sink and fill it with water, then put it on the stove to heat. Dez stood, and with her good arm, she reached to the top of a cupboard, took down a wicker basket of various teas, and set them on the table. Both women sat down and gazed at one another.

As Luella fingered the packets of tea, she said, "Channel 5 is calling you a hero. Channel 4 asks why the police didn’t catch the criminals sooner. Channel 11, as usual, did a more in-depth story. They say you caught two rapists—in the act, too."

"Not exactly. I got ’em before that happened." Dez lowered herself in a chair across from Luella, not sure what to do with her casted arm. She set it on the table, but that felt awkward and made it throb. She moved it to her lap. It still throbbed. Oh well. She was going to have to get used to that.

Luella picked up the newspaper and unfolded it to the bottom of page one. "Check this out. Already one of them stinkers has welched on his buddy, even told the cops that they’d done four other rapes, so it looks like this is a good collar for you. It’s a pretty decent story—see?" She handed the paper to Dez, who winced immediately upon seeing the headline: The Life of Reilly: Tragedy and Triumph."

"Geez, what a stupid headline."" Dez dropped the paper onto the table and looked away.

"You might not want to read it right now, Dez. They go into detail about, you know, about Ryan’s death and everything." The older woman hesitated when she saw the pain in Dez’s eyes. "But according to the paper, this was a great collar. You captured two very nasty guys, and since they gave each other up already, I think it’s safe to congratulate you."

Dez was relieved. From what she’d seen, she knew they had enough evidence to convict the two men of assault, but if they didn’t have criminal records, which she suspected might be the case, then they could have gotten off easily. Of course there was always DNA evidence from the other attacks, but sometimes that didn’t work out in court either. Much better that they’d turned against each other.

Luella gestured toward Dez’s arm. "Is that broken?"

Dez nodded. "One of the jerks hit me with a bat. I can’t believe I didn’t really feel it until later," which was, actually, a lie. She had known immediately that something was wrong because she had no grip in her hand, but she decided Luella didn’t need to hear about that. "It’ll be a good three or four weeks, I guess, before I can go back on regular duty." She shook her head in exasperation. "Just what I need now."

Luella reached over and covered Dez’s good hand with her soft fingers and patted her. "A little bit of rest might be just what you need after what you’ve been through lately. You look exhausted, and you’ve been pushing yourself like there’s no tomorrow. Ever since Ryan’s . . ."

"Yeah, I know," Dez said abruptly as she stood up to check the teapot, which was hardly warm yet. She leaned back against the counter and tried to cross her arms, but that sent a shooting pain up her arm, and she suddenly felt nauseous. She moved back to the chair and sat, allowing Luella to reach out again and stroke her pale arm with her soft mahogany colored hand and pink fingers.

Dez said, "I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can take you over to Vanita’s house today."

"Big deal. She can get off her fat butt and take a cab. You’re always running us around."

"That’s no way to talk about your sister," Dez said in mock seriousness. "Look at the bright side though, you won’t have to iron for me for a couple weeks."

"No more chores for you for the rest of the summer either."

"Not much summer left. Wish I’d mowed yesterday."

"Oh don’t even worry about it. I can hire out the lawn," Luella said.

With a sudden fierceness, Dez said, "For crap sake, I suppose I won’t be able to play guitar for weeks."

Luella gazed at her grumpy friend and nodded. "Could be. You heal fast though." Then she clucked and frowned. "But right now you don’t look so good, little missy." An understatement. Dark circles under her eyes paired up with lines of pain across her forehead. "You look beat. And when was the last time you ate?" Luella accused.

Dez gave her a half smile and a shrug, then got up to set the teapot off the hot burner with her good hand. She took down two mugs one at a time and set them on the counter.

"Here let me do that," said Luella. "You sit down there." In the absence of protest from Dez, Luella got the two mugs of tea ready and shuffled back over to the table where she stood and added three spoons of sugar to hers. She lowered herself into the dinette chair, took a big sip, and said, "You’re nothing but skin and bones, Desiree Reilly. You need decent food to recuperate. I’ll be making up some good stuff for you today. It’s not like you’ll be able to cook. And besides, that so-called healthy stuff you eat isn’t enough to nourish a squirrel." She reached for the sugar bowl and proceeded to heap another teaspoon of sugar into her lemon tea.

Dez had to smile. Luella was from the old school of red meat and potatoes, rich desserts, and three squares a day. Dez had long ago ceased to eat fatty foods, beef or pork, but she didn’t skimp. She ate plenty of grains, poultry, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruit. She certainly ate enough to keep 170 pounds on her muscled, six-foot frame.

"You’re going to let me help whether you want to or not," Luella was saying. "I’m not going to stand by this time while you waste away. For once you’ve got to . . ."

"Okay."

". . . take better care of your—what?"

"I said okay. Whaddya got for breakfast?"

The speed at which Luella rose belied her 74 years. As she hustled toward the door, she said, "Fresh made jam and toast, pancakes, fruit. You want a little bacon or ham?"

"Everything but the meat sounds great."

As Luella made her way down the hallway, Dez could hear her: "I’ll let you off this time, but you need good meat to heal. I think we’ll be having roast beef tonight. . ." Skiff, skiff, skiff. Luella’s arthritic knees navigated the stairs. ". . . and some nice roasted potatoes to go along with it . . . and fresh juicy corn . . . ."

Dez stood up and got out some protein powder and a shaker cup. She drizzled water into the cup with the powder and shook it vigorously with her good hand, then sat down to drink it. She knew she couldn’t ask for a better landlady. She and Luella had an arrangement that worked for both of them. Dez kept up the yard and lawn, fixed anything mechanical that she could, and helped with heavy spring cleaning. In return, Luella did her wash and ironed her uniforms, looked out for Dez, and served as a loving mother. The arrangement had evolved over the last nine years until Dez was as fond of Luella now as she would be her own mother, that is, if her own mother were still speaking to her.

 

 

 

Good to her word, Luella brought a tray of breakfast treats up. She sat drinking tea at the dinette table while Dez tried to eat. The food was excellent, but she had no appetite. After she ate what she could, Luella cleared everything away. She smoothed the hair off Dez’s brow and brushed her warm lips across her forehead. "You go get some rest, honey," she said. "I know you haven’t had much sleep. Call me if you need anything." She shuffled to the door balancing the tray carefully.

"I’ll get the door, Luella." Dez stood and saw her out, then shut the door and turned to face the empty apartment. She was so terribly tired, but when she went to lie down, sleep would not come. She lay on her back, light slicing in through the small window high above the bed. Her mind raced, and she couldn’t help but think of all the violence she had witnessed lately. Over eight years she had been a cop, and she’d only been in minor altercations, usually just scuffles with people who didn’t want to be arrested. Those periodic chances to flex her muscles she had actually enjoyed, not minding busting a few heads if it was needed. But she had never broken a bone, never been seriously injured. Then all of a sudden in the last three months, Ryan had died and she’d been hurt by last night’s attackers.

The department shrink had told her after Ryan’s death that it was normal to be upset about these things, and Dez had eventually admitted she wasn’t sleeping well. The shrink gave her instructions: don’t go to bed until sleepy; if sleep doesn’t come within about 20 minutes of lying down, get up and do something else until sleepy; get up on time, regardless of whether she’d had enough sleep. She’d tried all these things with no success. When she mentioned that to the counselor, the word depression came up. The doctor spent time talking about it, which scared off Dez completely. She resolved not to be depressed, and the next time the topic came up, she told the shrink she’d finally started getting good sleep again. She attended the mandatory six sessions with the department psychologist, and that was it. She never went back.

But here it was nearly three months later, and still, no good sleep. Instead, her mind busily spun through traumatic events, tried to rewrite what actually happened, though she knew it was futile. The only good thing about last night was that she had enjoyed subduing the two rapists, had enjoyed the solid sound of her fist and feet on flesh. At least after this altercation she felt a sense of grateful relief—nothing at all like the feeling of helplessness she had experienced after shooting Ryan’s killer. She would have liked to have beat that man to death, make him pay for what he’d done, but she didn’t get the satisfaction. Ryan was dead, and that man was still alive. It made her angry to think about it.

She banished thoughts of Ryan from her mind, tried to breathe deeply, to let her thoughts float away. Instead, her monkey mind took a few more twists and turns and brought other painful images to mind: a tall, willowy red-haired woman with laughing eyes and a deep tan standing on a rock in front of the water at Lake Superior, sitting in the low light of a banked campfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, lying here in this very bed. The eyes, the smile, the presence. Karin. She put her out of her mind as best she could and turned over on her side, annoyed and restless. She tried to settle her cast somewhere comfortable and ended up placing it on a pillow, her arm tucked close to her side. She tried not to think of Karin, but the more she willed her from her memories, the more stubbornly the redhead stayed.

It was the oldest story in the book: older woman woos the younger, treats her special, gets her in the sack a few times, has fun for about three months, and then when commitment was at hand, it was "so long, been nice knowing ya." Dez was totally smitten, ready to plan a life, move in together, spend the rest of her days at Karin’s side. The Day Of The Dumping, as she had come to think of it, she showed up at Karin’s place as planned. They had made plans to go out to dinner, but as usual, they skipped the plans and wound up in bed, a trail of clothing dotting the hallway from the front room to the bedroom. Karin was inventive, passionate, beautiful. Dez couldn’t get close enough to her. They lay in the brass bed after making love, and the phone rang. "No, don’t go," said Dez. "Just let it ring." She wrapped her arms tightly around Karin, laughing and teasing her.

Her lover struggled. "Let me go," she said coldly. She pushed Dez away and struggled out of the bed, pausing to grab her robe, but before she could get down the hall, the answering machine clicked in. A woman’s voice, a husky, trash-talking woman’s voice, filled Dez’s ears. In the middle of the message, Karin picked up, and Dez didn’t hear the rest. She lay wide-eyed in the bed trying to understand why a woman was calling her lover, her Karin, and begging to come over for sex and shrimp cocktail.

Dez was shocked at the change in Karin when she returned to the room. She held a handful of clothes and tossed them on the bed. "It’s been fun," she said, "but it’s over, Dez."

"What?" The black haired woman sat up in the bed, pulling the covers around her to try to stave off the ice cold shock invading her body.

Karin began pulling on her own clothes. As she slipped on jeans, she said, "You had to know this wasn’t going to last forever."

"But—but—but, I don’t understand. Why?"

Karin sighed and squeezed her eyes shut. "Dez, please don’t tell me you’re going to make this difficult. Get up and get dressed. Go home. The party’s over." She pulled a sweater over her head and smoothed it down, then stood with one hand on her shapely hip, a look of disinterest on her face.

Dez was shaking too hard to get up. She reached over for her t-shirt and slipped it on over her head. "This was all a game for you?" She couldn’t keep the disbelief from her voice.

"No, no, it wasn’t a game. It was just—good fun. Like sports. A little action here, some fun times there." She gave a jaded laugh. "Don’t tell me you ever thought this was something meaningful?" She laughed uncomfortably.

Dez fought back tears as she untangled her clothes and tried to make her fingers work to put them on. She stood and slipped on her jeans, then turned to face Karin. In a low voice, she said, "Yeah, I thought we had something good going here." With an aching plea she couldn’t hide, she said, "Are you seeing someone else, that other woman?"

Karin let out a deep breath. "Of course," she sighed. "I thought you knew. Never stopped seeing her. She’s not the jealous type."

"How would I have known?"

Karin shrugged. "Just thought maybe someone from around the department would have said something. I may have a bit of a reputation."

"No. No one said," she whispered.

And how could anyone tell her anything? She had done all she could to distance herself from Karin, to hide from others the fact that she was a lesbian. Perhaps people might wonder, but she didn’t think so. It was a secret she kept to herself, and no one in the department would have known, except that Karin seemed to have had very effective radar. She’d played the seduction game to the hilt, and Dez had fallen for it completely. A wave of anger washed over her, then a feeling of physical revulsion. She grabbed her things and stalked out of the house.

The next six weeks were nearly unbearable. After a week, she didn’t care about Karin’s other lover. She went to Karin and told her she would look the other way, but Karin had laughed at her, said the break was final and that it was over. Every day at work, Dez had to see Karin at roll call. Every day was a misery.

Then two things happened. First, Ryan asked her to partner with him in a two-man car, and second, Karin accepted a position with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Out of sight, out of mind. With the woman gone, Dez could finally begin the process of sorting out her feelings. She had never considered herself a particularly violent person, but in this case, she found herself wanting to hurt or maim Karin. The images came to her in dreams: Karin, beaten and bloody, begging for forgiveness, falling off bridges to the rocks below, shot repeatedly. Dez was filled with a hatred so strong, she felt sick to her stomach at times. But slowly it abated. As the winter days grew longer and spring beckoned, the injury that had felt like a death-wound began to heal. After nearly seven years, she still bore the invisible scars, but she wasn’t dead. She had survived, and never again would she let that happen to her.

Ryan had brought light into her life, his laughing presence a balm to her pained soul. Without even knowing the kind of medicine he was dispensing, he had taken her into his heart and made her a friend. With Karin assigned across town at the BCA, the constant reminder of her smile, of her shapely legs, of the passion they’d shared, all of this faded into the background. Dez had dated a few other women since then, but no one that stuck, nobody who was particularly special. In the past year, even before Ryan’s death, she hadn’t wanted to go out with anyone at all. It didn’t seem worth the effort, and she tried hard not to think about there being an emptiness in her life. At one time she had wanted a partner, but she was younger and na‘ve then. These days she didn’t like to think about it.

Now Dez was left with those old images and memories only when she slowed down long enough that they could intrude, uninvited, upon her. Nothing like what occurred with Karin would ever happen again. Never again would she have to face her coworkers feigning good humor and pleasantness when deep inside, a pain festered and burned. A wall went up, a rule was made: all cops are off limits.

 

 

 

Jaylynn closed her second blue exam book and wrote her name on the front of it. She stifled a yawn as she set the little essay pad aside and opened the first blue book to go over her essays one last time before turning them in to the professor. Pausing to add punctuation where needed, she read carefully through her answers to all five questions. Satisfied, she closed both blue books, picked up her backpack, and got up to turn in the exam. The proctor took them without even meeting her eyes and stacked them in the corner of his desk.

She felt like she was sleepwalking her way out the door and across the campus to the parking lot where Tim was to pick her up. She looked at her watch. 15 minutes early. She stopped and sat on one of the many benches in the Commons, closed her eyes, and let the warm morning sun bathe her face. It was going to be another hot day, but at ten a.m. it had only just begun to heat up.

A honk sounded from the parking lot and she peeped open one hazel green eye and spotted Tim’s faded red Corolla. She rose wearily and made her way over.

"Hey there," he said. "You’re early."

"So are you," she said as she dropped her backpack onto the front seat and slid in next to it.

"Yeah. I’ve seen you write—five miles a minute. So I figured you’d be done early, and I want to get over to the hospital and see when they’re gonna let Sara go."

He gunned the car and sped off down the street. Jaylynn leaned back against the head rest and closed her eyes.

He said, "How’d the test go?"

Without opening her eyes she said, "Fine. I think. Nothing unexpected. Gotta get at least a B."

"Ah, that’s nice."

They rode the rest of the way to the hospital in silence, parked, and found their way to Sara’s room.

Sara was asleep, her brown hair splayed across the pillow and her face turned slightly toward the light streaming in the window. Tim and Jaylynn crept in quietly, but as soon as they neared the bed Sara awakened with a start, her eyes wide. "Oh!" she said. "God, you scared me."

Jaylynn moved to the far side of the bed, and she and Tim both reached simultaneously for Sara’s hands. "Don’t worry," said Tim. "It’s just us chickens." He leaned down and gave her a kiss on the forehead.

Jaylynn studied her friend’s pale face as she leaned against the bed. She stroked Sara’s arm and squeezed her hand tight, then said, "So, how’re you feeling this morning?"

In a grouchy voice, Sara grumbled, "I didn’t get a wink of sleep. I can’t wait to get outta here. I’ve never been checked on and awakened so many times in my life. And when I did fall asleep—geez!—what rotten dreams. How bad do I look?"

Tim said, "You look beautiful, as usual."

Sara shook her head wearily and turned to Jaylynn. "The truth now," she demanded.

Jaylynn studied her friend’s face. "Double black eyes are on the way. Your chin is gonna be black and blue for days, and that wallop on your temple, oh girl, does that hurt?"

Sara reached up and touched her forehead. "They kept shining lights in my eyes all night. I guess they thought I had a concussion."

"Where’s your mom?" said Jaylynn.

"She’ll be back at two when they release me. She stayed until about seven this morning, then went home to sleep a few hours."

"Two!" Tim said outraged. "Damn. When I called this morning, they said you would leave sometime after ten."

"Well two is sometime after ten, Tim," said Sara. She gave him a playful poke to the stomach.

Jaylynn smiled and thought to herself what a good sport Sara was. She didn’t know how she herself would handle it if she were in Sara’s shoes. Then again, she too had been attacked . . . but somehow it wasn’t at all the same. How could she ever admit to Sara that the experience was completely different for her than for her friend? Already, since last night, she’d relived it in her dreams, and she had thought through it over and over during her Con Law exam. She kept seeing the intense and powerful officer in a flurry of kicks and punches. She remembered the heavy feel of the wooden bat swinging in her own hands, the weight of the black gun. So fast. It had all happened so fast, in a thirty second jumble of sounds and sensations. When she slowed it down in her mind and remembered the sequence of events, she was astonished at how much had happened. She couldn’t quite get her mind all around it.

Jaylynn stopped leaning against the bed and sank down on it, still holding Sara’s hand. Sara was saying, "When I get home, I want to sleep for about 15 straight hours."

"No problem," said Jaylynn. "I’m going to collapse in my room too."

Sara winced and took a deep breath. "Jay?"

"Yes?"

Sara looked down at the covers and then squeezed her friends’ hands. "I can’t go back and sleep in that room . . . at least, not right away. I just can’t." Tears welled up in her eyes.

Tim leaned his hip on the edge of the bed so that now Sara was flanked by two very concerned friends, both talking at once. She let them soothe her for a moment, then went on. "I’m wondering if maybe we could switch rooms, Jay?"

Jaylynn shrugged and nodded. "I’ll be getting the best part of the deal. I get a huge room, and you get the little one. It doesn’t have as much closet space, you know?"

"I’d give you my room—" said Tim.

Sara cut in, "No way. No thanks. I’m not sleeping in the attic. I don’t care if it is nice up there. It’s too creepy for me." She squeezed his knee and made him jump. "Besides, you’ve got it set up so nice with all the lava lamps. I wouldn’t want to wreck your love nest."

Jaylynn said, "As long as you don’t mind—just remember though, the phone won’t go that far. What about those long distance calls from Billy Boy?"

Tim said, "That’s no big deal. We’ll just get her a longer cord." Glad to have something useful to do, Tim stood and with enthusiasm said, "We’ll go home and switch things, won’t we, Jay?" He looked at her for confirmation and when she nodded, he said, "A new room coming up in a jiffy."

"One more thing," said Sara. "We’ve got to do something about those downstairs windows."

 

 

 

By the time Mrs. Wright brought her daughter back to the house, Jaylynn and Tim had switched Sara’s and Jaylynn’s rooms. Jaylynn’s queen-sized bed, dresser, bookcase, and computer desk went in the master bedroom with plenty of room to spare. Sara’s twin beds fit in the smaller room with no problem, but the couch couldn’t go, so Jaylynn found herself the proud possessor of a solid orange over-stuffed sleeper sofa.

Sara’s mother stayed for an hour or so helping her daughter get settled, then left saying she would be back later that night. Jaylynn slipped into a sweatshirt and shorts and fell onto her bed exhausted. She slept through the afternoon and into the early evening, and when she finally did awaken, it was only because of hunger pangs. She shuffled downstairs to the warm kitchen and ate two bowls of Wheaties as the final light of the day faded away and the cricket noises of the night began. She put the milk and cereal away and went back to her room.

As she lay down on her bed in the dim light, a muffled scream rang out. She was up and across the room in an instant.

"Sara!" Jaylynn took three strides down the hall and breathlessly smacked open the closed bedroom door. She found Sara sitting up in bed, a sheet tangled around her legs and her eyes wide. Tears ran down her face.

Jaylynn moved over to the bed and wrapped her arms around her friend. "What is it? Bad dream?"

Sara nodded. Jaylynn pulled the shaking woman closer and stroked her hair. "Shh. It’ll be okay. You’re safe now."

"I don’t feel real safe."

"That’ll pass. It’ll take a while. It hasn’t even been a day yet. Here, roll over on your stomach. Good God, it’s hot in here." She rose and opened the window to allow the slight breeze into the stuffy room. Sara turned over and put her head on her arms. Jaylynn came away from the window and slid down on her side next to the brown haired woman. With her left arm supporting her own head, Jaylynn used her right hand to rub gentle circles on Sara’s back. Gradually Sara’s tears subsided, and she lay quietly, her head turned toward Jaylynn.

"When I was a little girl," said Jaylynn, "I used to have a lot of bad dreams. Drove my mom crazy. It got even worse when my dad died. I bet I woke up at least twice nightly, night after night after night. Then my dad’s sister, Auntie Lynn—she and my dad are who I’m named for—anyway, she came to stay with us for the summer. She slept in my room right across from me every night for three months. The first time I woke up screaming, she crawled into my twin bed—pretty much just like this."

Sara gave an embarrassed chuckle. "I’m sorry to be such a coward . . ."

"Oh no! You’re not at all." Jaylynn smiled warmly at Sara and smoothed the hair out of her friend’s face. "That’s funny because what you just said is exactly the same thing I told Auntie Lynn. Here’s what she told me. You are a willing participant in your dreams. They come from you and they come to you. She asked me what I was dreaming about that was so scary."

"Do you remember?"

"Oh yeah. I have several varieties."

"Have?" Sara said incredulously. "You still have them?"

"All the time. I think I can remember three main kinds. In the first one, I am running and running, and every time I look back I see these terrifying wraiths chasing me and getting closer and closer. The faster I run, the heavier I feel until I just can’t run any more. I scream, and they just laugh and surround me, choking the life out of me."

"Doesn’t sound like fun at all."

"Just wait, there’s more. I have this other horrible one where I totally lose control of my body, and I am surrounded with fire and lifted up high in the air. I spin and spin. The fire is burning all of me, inside and out. . I feel totally helpless and violated . It’s awful. I scream and try so hard to get away, but I know that if it lets go of me, I’ll fall twenty or thirty feet and be dashed on the concrete slab below. I gotta say that’s about my least favorite dream. In the third one, I am falling. I’ve almost always been pushed off the side of a mountain by some sort of evil henchmen. There’s a stream of hot lava below. I grab for this rickety little bridge—which I have NO idea why I’m on since I am totally scared of heights. I scream and scream, and I always wake up just before I hit the lava at the bottom. Ew!" She shuddered.

"So how come you aren’t waking up screaming every night?"

"Auntie Lynn taught me something. She told me to think of a hero, someone to protect me, and then while I’m dreaming, call for help and they’ll come. We spent half the night listing out all the qualities I’d have in a hero and then she had me visualize her."

"Her?"

Jaylynn laughed. "What can I say? Even at 12 I wanted a woman hero."

Sara rolled over onto her back and scooted over a bit. Jaylynn did the same and the two roommates lay shoulder to shoulder on the twin bed, sides touching. Sara reached down and took Jaylynn’s hand. "If I was gay, I swear you would be exactly my type, Jaylynn. Sometimes I wish I was."

"Oh, but Mr. Bill would be so very disappointed. Have you called him yet?"

"No. I will. I’m too tired right now. He’ll be upset. It’s the middle of the night in Germany anyway. I’ll wait until the regular time we talk tomorrow." She gave Jaylynn’s hand a squeeze. "So tell me, after you created this wonderful woman, what did you do with her?"

"I was just a kid, and a the time, I was reading about King Arthur and mythology, and I was quite taken with Joan of Arc and the Amazons, too. I imagined this woman warrior. She was kind of a cross between a knight and an Amazon."

"You mean with the arrows and the one breast sawed off?"

Jaylynn laughed. "No, you goofball. That’s all bogus. The Amazons never cut their breasts off! No, my hero was tall—or taller—than most men, broad-shouldered, strong, fierce, really resourceful. Pretty much the opposite of me at 12. She was dark and had long beautiful black hair that I could comb. She rode a horse, a pale yellow horse, the color of Old Yeller, and I rode a horse like Black Beauty. She had swords and knives and daggers and whips, and nobody crossed her. She’d kick their ass from here to eternity."

"What was the point of this little exercise," said Sara as she grinned and elbowed Jaylynn, "besides giving you something to fantasize about?"

"Well, it took many nights, but every time I had a bad dream, Auntie Lynn would get in bed with me, have me close my eyes, and then ask me to tell her what happened. As I told her about the scary parts, she’d ask me to imagine the Warrior Woman and how she could save me. So I’d lay there and visualize all these fantastic feats that she would do. And then Auntie Lynn would listen, maybe add a few suggestions, and then say, ‘Good. Now go back to sleep and dream that same dream again—only this time, call on the Warrior Woman. She’s a part of you. Use her.’ And Sara, it worked. It really works, even today."

"Hmm. Interesting," said Sara. "You really still do this, even now?"

"Cross my heart—maybe once or twice a week. Even though the dreams are scary, I don’t mind them so much any more because she always appears. She always rescues me. My dreams have truly become odd little adventures. Weird, but exciting too." Jaylynn paused for a moment. "And there’s one more thing," she said thoughtfully. "And anybody but you would think I’m crazy, but—that officer from last night, you know, Reilly? She fits the bill. Give her a tan and dress her up in armor and a sword . . . I’m telling you, she could be my Warrior Woman."

Sara turned over on her side and leaned up onto her elbow. "How convenient," she said dryly and tried to hide her smile.

"Hey! What’s that supposed to mean?"

"How convenient for you. But I can tell you for a fact, I would not be imagining some six foot Amazon Police Woman. I’d go more for the Antonio Banderas type. He could have a sword all right, and an Uzi for all I care, along with that sexy Zorro costume."

Skeptically, Jaylynn said, "Are you serious? You sure you wouldn’t rather have that incredibly beautiful brunette Zorro fell in love with? Catherine Zeta Jones?"

"Oh no, no, no. Not my type at all. Antonio—now he would fit my bill."

"You’d pick him as a hero?"

"Absolutely."

"Okay, Sara. If you’re serious. Let’s talk through this."

"You mean talk about what happened last night?" When Jaylynn nodded, Sara swallowed, took a deep breath, and said, "I’m not sure I can."

"Yes, you can. I’ll stick with you. Let’s go over it step by step, and let’s rewrite it with Antonio coming in at every step to save the day. Trust me, this really works. I’ll be right here for you. Will you try?"

Sara nodded, a grave expression on her bruised face.

"Okay then, how did it start?"

 

 

 

Jaylynn sat on the couch cross legged, barefoot and in shorts and a t-shirt. At her friend’s request she hadn’t opened the main floor windows, but she had the oscillating floor fan on high. She munched on a bowl of salty popcorn as she watched a "Star Trek Voyager" rerun. It was after midnight when Sara crept into the house, and Jaylynn was waiting for her. She leapt up from her position on the couch and greeted her friend enthusiastically. Reaching down to pick up the remote and flick the TV off, she said, "How was your first night back at the video store?"

Sara double checked the lock on the front door and said, "Okay, I guess. They were all really nice. One of the guys stuck by me at the register a lot." She plopped down on the couch and Jaylynn re-seated herself sitting sideways on the couch facing her roommate.

Jaylynn held out the popcorn bowl. "Want some?"

Sara said, "Nah—I’m not up for it right now. Maybe later." She ran her hands through her hair and lifted it off the back of her neck. "I’ve never missed a whole week of work like that. It’s hard to get back in the routine." She sighed and gave Jaylynn a puzzled look. "Something’s up. What’s your news?"

Exasperated, Jaylynn said, "How can you always tell?"

"I don’t know—I just can. You get this gleeful look about you, Jay, like something really cool happened."

"Something cool did happen. You are looking at a proud—and probably successful—applicant to the St. Paul Police Academy."

Jaylynn couldn’t help but laugh uproariously when she saw the look of disbelief and surprise on her friend’s face. "I know, I know it sounds incredible, but I went down to the Police Department today and talked to one of the Lieutenant Commanders, and he called the POST Board right from there."

"What’s the POST Board?"

"The Police Officer’s Standards and Training Board. I guess they’ve had a tough time filling the last few classes of officers, and by the end of the year 2,000, they’ll have almost a third of the police force retire. And right now, employers are begging for workers, including the police. Since I have a college degree with solid law and psychology majors, I’ll probably get in. They’re starting background checks tomorrow."

"But you were accepted to law school. I thought you wanted to be a lawyer?"

"I still may. But I think this will be great experience. And the surprising thing is that if they do expedite the paper work like they said they would, I’ll start the week after next! And after the initial orientation and screening, I’ll even get paid."

Sara looked at her thoughtfully. "I have a hunch your mother is going to be very surprised. Are you sure about this?"

"Yeah. Why do you ask?"

"Well, Jay, it’s not like you to be quite so impulsive. I—I guess—I’m just really surprised, that’s all. You sure you want to jump right into something like this?"

"Sure, why not?" She gave her friend a puzzled look. "You don’t think it’s a good idea?"

"No," Sara said forcefully. "I didn’t say that. I just wondered if you had thought it through. What possessed you to go down to the Police Department anyway?"

Jaylynn felt sheepish to admit it, but she told her friend the truth. "Actually, I wanted to talk to Officer Reilly."

"Oh, I see." A smile crossed Sara’s face, which she quickly stifled.

Jaylynn got a fierce look on her face and picked up the popcorn bowl from her lap and smacked it onto the coffee table. "What’s that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

"Then get that smirk off your face!"

Sara started to giggle, and Jaylynn turned red. "It’s not what you think," said the blond. "She tried to talk me out of it too. She even held up her cast and told me broken limbs were run-of-the-mill experiences."

"And you didn’t believe her—or what?"

"Sara, I want to learn all about police work. After last week—well, it’s just fascinating to me, that’s all. I think it’s a career I’d enjoy. There’s excitement, but also structure. And if I find it isn’t perfect for me, then I’ve always got my deferred acceptance to law school. Plus it’d be a good job to have if I do go after a law degree. Either way, it’s a perfect solution, don’t you think? I was going to have to get a job sooner or later anyhow."

"Gimme some of that popcorn." Sara snagged the bowl when Jaylynn slid it down the coffee table. "If your heart is set on this, then that’s great. I was just curious. At least you look good in light blue." When Jaylynn gave her a puzzled look, Sara went on, "You know—police blue? It’s a good color on you.

 

 

Continued in Part 2


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