GUN SHY

Part 2 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: one scientist, a doctor, 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 2 of 11, and I’ll post regularly so you won’t be left hanging. J

 

 

PART 2

The fall class of Police Academy cadets, 13 recruits, milled around the track oval awaiting the arrival of their instructor. They had started with 16 in the class, but already three had dropped.

The breezy and sunny autumn weather made it a perfect day for footraces. Jaylynn and her fellow rookies had been told to warm up by jogging the three blocks to the high school track, and they arrived in a pack. After running wind sprints in the center of the oval, Jaylynn sat on the grass and did some hurdler’s stretches.

"Hey, Savage," said Dwayne Neilsen. "You gonna stop to stretch out when you chase after the bad guys?" He sneered at her, his rugged face affecting a look of superiority. The three other young men who had become his buddies in the first three weeks laughed along with him, and one of them said, "Sure hope you never have to lift anything heavy on duty. Probably have to stretch those pecs huh?"

Jaylynn smiled sweetly at the four men whom she had begun to call the Four Stooges behind their backs. They were all a bit above average in height and had indeed excelled at the weight-lifting component of the physical fitness tests. But here she knew she was in her element. Paula Marshall came to sit near the blond and stretched her legs out too. She rolled her eyes at Jaylynn when the Four Stooges weren’t looking.

Of the 11 men and two women, Jaylynn was the smallest. At 5’5" she was at least three inches shorter than everyone else, including Marshall, but as she stretched her legs, she looked around and appraised the fitness of her cohorts. She decided some of them were likely to be fleet of foot, especially Mahoney and Schmidt. But none of the Four Stooges worried her. She just hoped Marshall would be able to keep up.

Their instructor, Sgt. Vernon Slade, finally strolled on the field. Like the rest of them he wore navy blue shorts and a gray sweatshirt that read SPPS on the front. Slade was a lean man in his late 20’s, with a gaunt face and piercing brown eyes. His brown hair was cut short on the sides, but it was longer on top and puffed to the side in the wind. In one hand he held a stopwatch. With the other he held a silver whistle, which he blew, one short, sharp shriek, and said, "Okay, listen up. I’m going to set a pace, and all of you will follow. This is not a race, but you all have to keep up. I’ll line you up, and each of you is to follow three yards from the person in front of you. Not four yards. Not two yards. How many yards?"

"Three, sir!" they said in unison.

"When I blow the whistle, the person at the end of the line sprints to the front and falls in behind me. Got it?" When everyone nodded, he called off the 13 names. Jaylynn found herself sixth in the pack with Marshall two behind her.

Sgt. Slade began an easy lope around the track. After a minute had passed, he blew his whistle and the man at the back cut outside the group and sprinted to the front where he dropped in behind the sergeant. The whistle blew again, and along came Neilsen, one by one followed by the others until it was Jaylynn’s turn. By then the group had traveled half a mile, and the blond’s legs were feeling warmed up and strong. She cut to the front and fell in, waiting patiently for her turn again.

By the time the group hit the fourth round of sprints, they had traveled nearly eight laps around the 400 meter track and had begun to lag and spread out. "Come on people," Sgt. Slade hollered over his shoulder. "Get a move on!" Jaylynn admired the sergeant’s fortitude. He was obviously a regular runner. Only he and two men, besides herself, continued along without a lot of panting and groaning.

After the sixth round of sprints, Slade dodged out of the line and turned around, continuing to run backwards. "Mark my pace," he said, as he slowed. The group gradually decreased speed and came to a stop. Jaylynn caught sight of Neilsen and his Stooges, bent over and gasping for air.

Slade said, "Everybody warmed up now?"

"Yes, sir!" they huffed.

"All right," he said. "Next exercise." A harmony of groans erupted. "Anybody here have a problem with that?"

"No sir!"

"Line up again in original order. On my mark, you will take off one at a time and run one lap. If the person behind you passes you, then you will run again."

Tweet! The first man took off. Slade waited for five seconds to pass on the stopwatch, then tweet! The next man sprinted away. Five more seconds . . .five . . . five . . . five . . . and then it was Jaylynn’s turn. She followed a shy recruit named Oster, and she could see that he would never catch the man ahead of him. She ran smoothly, glancing back as she rounded the first turn. Mahoney was behind her, and she caught his eye for a moment. He shot a glance at Oster. She didn’t know why she knew it, but she could tell Mahoney wouldn’t push hard enough to catch her, and that meant that she could back off on Oster who was struggling. At the next turn she looked back again and no one was threatening to catch anyone.

One by one they each crossed the finish line and slowed up until the 13 stood waiting the next drill.

Sgt. Slade, a half grin on his face, nodded at the group. "I see," he said. "Esprit de corp. Hmmph. Guess we have to raise the stakes." He put his hand to his chin and considered for a moment. "Line up again. New rules: anybody who doesn’t pass the guy in front runs again. And if you get passed, you run again. Let’s go."

"Sir," said Mahoney. "What happens to the person running first? Denton, I mean. He doesn’t have anyone to catch."

"Luck of the draw, Mahoney. If Denton can hold you all off, he’s done for the day."

They lined up, and the sergeant whistled Denton off. At five second intervals the whistle blew, and then it was Jaylynn’s turn. She didn’t have any trouble catching up to Oster and passed him after the first turn. She ran loosely and effortlessly, not straining at all, but on the last turn Mahoney caught up with her. They ran abreast for the last 30 yards, and then he pulled ahead at the very last.

She concentrated on catching her breath and waited until the sergeant said, "Denton, Mahoney, Vell, Chin, and Sprague—you’re all out. The rest of you line up and be ready to go in sixty seconds."

Jaylynn was still winded, but she was amused to see that only one of the Four Stooges, Sprague, had managed to get out of the next race. Then she spent the next minute focusing on her breath, letting her muscles relax. She shook out her legs and kept walking. She looked at Oster, lying on the grass gasping. "Oster," she said quietly. "C’mon. You can do it." The red-faced man looked up at her from his sprawled position, a pained expression on his face, and shook his head. She stuck out her hand. "C’mon. Just put one foot in front of the other." He accepted her hand and let her help drag him up.

"On your marks," shouted Slade.

The eight hustled over to their spots. Jaylynn was now fourth, and Marshall followed her. The Three Stooges brought up the rear. She easily caught and passed Oster and drew near Pike, but couldn’t quite catch him. She crossed the finish line well ahead of the remaining six, none of whom had managed to pass the others.

When the last runners stumbled over the line, Slade said, "Pike and Savage, you’re out." He put his hands on his hips and faced the six other sweating, heaving runners. "What am I gonna do with the rest of you? Tell you what. You have a choice, each of you. You can either take four laps right now, or select any one of those who are out and challenge him or her to a race. Laps or race. Schmidt?"

"Laps."

"Oster!"

"Laps, for sure, sir."

"Marshall!"

"Laps, sir."

"Neilsen!"

The Head Stooge directed his patented sneer toward Jaylynn. "Sir! I’ll take Savage."

"You will, huh?" With a twinkle in his eye, Sgt. Slade said, "You sure about that?"

Neilsen smiled broadly revealing large white teeth. "Yes, sir."

"What if you lose?" said Slade.

"Oh come on!" Neilsen said confidently.

"If Savage beats you, then you run the mile anyway."

"No problem." He turned to his buddies. "You guys up for this?"

Slade cut in. "That’s for me to determine." He looked at Grainger and Fuller, but they were already assenting. "Okay then," the sergeant said. "Line up."

Jaylynn didn’t have long to get her head into the race. She had watched the entire interchange thoughtfully as she formulated a plan, which was something she had always attempted to do whenever she competed. Running another 400 meters full out didn’t appeal to her, so she decided to run smarter, not harder.

The three men slapped hands and lined up in lanes one through three, and she took the outside lane by default.

Slade said, "Stay in your lanes, people, until that white line outside the first turn. Understand?" When they all nodded, he said, "All right. On your marks . . . get set . . ." and he blew the whistle.

The three men took off gleefully, one of them even making a whooping noise. Jaylynn settled into a restrained pace for the 75 meters, and as she expected, she fell behind. When the three men came tearing out of the first 100 meter turn, Neilsen was narrowly in the lead and she was fifteen yards back. She made up ground on the straightaway though. She felt some fatigue, but she calculated that she still had plenty of strength for the final 200 meters.

Vaguely Jaylynn could hear distant shouts, but her eyes focused on the back of Neilsen’s legs while her mind played out the chant she often fell into when running a race: "I can do it I can do it I can do it . . . ." She could see the three men slowing slightly, their strides shortening and becoming more labored. Though she would have rather waited for the straightaway, halfway through the second turn she eased out of the inside lane to pass Grainger and Fuller. And then she was right behind Neilsen’s over-sized muscular legs.

"I can do it I can do it I can do it . . . ." She reached down and summoned up the fiery ball of energy which was sapping her breath and causing her legs to burn, and she willed herself into a strong kick. Thighs pumping, calves straining, arms flashing, she pulled past a startled Neilsen, and continued to chew up the last 50 meters, beating all three men by six seconds and at least 25 yards.

As she crossed the finish line she heard a click, and then she slowed, her legs flaming, and her lungs near bursting. For the first time of the day she was so winded that she bent over and gasped for breath.

Marshall took her arm as Sgt. Slade strolled over, a funny look on his face. "Savage," he said, "you just broke the new recruit record for the 400 meters. 58.5. Not bad."

A jubilant Oster smacked her on the back and said, "Afterburners—that’s all they saw." She stood up straight and shook her legs out, still winded.

Neilsen, Grainger, and Fuller were also doubled over, wheezing. Slade blew his whistle. "Okay, all of you who selected laps, get going. You’ve got exactly ten minutes!" When the Three Stooges didn’t immediately move, Slade said, "Hey, you three—get a move on it!"

They looked up, shocked, but were gasping too hard to speak.

Slade said, "Get your rears in gear, gentlemen. Your ten minutes are ticking away."

*****

Later in the locker room at the training center Marshall said, "Jaylynn, I hope you didn’t make enemies of those idiots."

Jaylynn finished pulling on street clothes and reached for her hairbrush. "I don’t care." She brushed her damp hair out of her face then waved the brush toward Paula Marshall. "They’ve been rude since day one, as though they have more right to be here than you or me. I refuse to let them win."

Marshall picked up her gym bag and gave Jaylynn a serious look. "I hate to make enemies."

"They were already your enemy, if you want to look at it that way. They’re selfish, mean-spirited, and juvenile. I’m not going to do any less than my best, even if it makes them look bad." She tossed the brush into her own bag and zipped the top closed. "Think I should dry my hair? How windy is it out there?"

"It’s not bad," said Marshall as she waited for Jaylynn to follow her. "Hard to believe it’s already October though."

"No kidding. In a week we start our field training. Amazing how fast this is going."

*****

Dez sat on the end of the locker room bench, her back against the far wall and one foot up on the bench. Fully dressed in her uniform, she held a hand gripper, which she squeezed together rhythmically. She considered how much the gripper resembled the handle of a hedge clipper without the blades. After 20 squeezes she stopped and rested her hand a moment, then did another 20 squeezes. And another.

Five full weeks had passed since she had broken the radius in her arm, and tonight would be the first time back on evening patrol. Relieved to be healed, she was more than ready to get back to the street. She stood and tossed the gripper on the top shelf in her locker, grabbed a bottle of water, then closed the door and locked up. With one last adjustment to her gun belt, she strode off and up the stairs to the roll call room. She knew she was good and early, but she was anxious to get back on the job. She decided desk duty was not something she wanted anything to do with again—not for a very long time.

She ambled down the long hall, by the main entrance, and strolled past the lieutenant’s office. The duty sergeant looked up. "Hey, Reilly," he said.

"Hi, Belton."

"Lieutenant wants to see you."

"Why?"

Belton shrugged.

"Am I in trouble again?"

"Have you busted into any crime scenes lately without backup?"

"No." She gazed at him intently.

The sergeant crossed his arms and grinned at her, his ebony face gleaming in the fluorescent light. "So go on in, Reilly. "

She stepped past the beat up desk and poked her head in the open door. Lt. Malcolm looked up. "Afternoon, Reilly," he said.

"Afternoon, sir. Heard you were looking for me."

"Yeah, come in and sit down. Shut the door."

Dez did as she told and sat in the ancient solid wood visitor’s chair. She shifted in the uncomfortable seat and put her elbows on the arm rests.

"We’ve got 13 new recruits coming our way, and God knows we need the new blood. How long we been running short on this shift?"

"Since way before I got injured."

"Do you realize how many guys are retiring April 30th?"

Dez looked down at her hands. "Yes, sir. I think over thirty."

"Forty-three, Reilly." The lieutenant leaned back in his tattered leather chair and pulled at his mustache. "I want to see these new cadets trained properly, and you know the new Chief is expecting miracles. She’s going to personally watch this class of recruits—says she wants to be sure her new training protocol is followed." He sat forward, put his arms on the desk, and picked up some papers. "I didn’t expect Stevens to go out on paternity leave, but his wife had the baby early and needs help for a while. So I want you to know I’m assigning you his Field Training Officer duties."

Dez started to say something, but he cut her off. "Reilly, I know you haven’t been an official FTO before, but I really need you now. Tour III doesn’t—in fact, none of the shifts—have enough experienced vets, and we’re getting a bunch of these rookies in rotation. They’ve gotta ride with somebody, and you’re one of my best. Will you do it?"

With a sigh Dez said, "Of course, sir." She wanted to roll her eyes, but instead kept a steady attentive gaze leveled at her superior.

"Thatagirl. Thanks. I’ll make sure you get a commendation for the extra work."

Lt. Malcolm was only in his mid-40’s, not old enough to be her dad, but a little too old to be a brother. He had always been respectful toward the dark haired cop, and though some of the other cops made fun of him, she never minded his old-fashioned sayings like "thatagirl" and "okey-dokey." She appreciated the fact that he had always treated her fairly and gave her a shot at many challenges. She said, "What’s the plan?"

"New bids are coming up for January. Between now and then we’re gonna cycle the 13 through the three Tours. I want you to ride with one from the first group, then the second group, then the third, and then I need you to stay with one of the ones who bid for our shift until he or she is settled in."

Trying to hide her exasperation she said, "But sir, you’re talking months."

"Yup. Maybe six or eight—at least until some of them can be trusted in one-man cars alone." He nodded solemnly. "It’ll be worth it in the long run because they’ll get really good training. And I hear that this group is darn talented." He tapped his temple with his forefinger. "Got some smart ones this time. Might not have gotten very many new recruits this round, but they’re supposed to be bright."

"When’s this start?"

"Next week. In the meantime, here." He tossed her a folder and a sheaf of papers. "Go over the protocol, memorize all the Chief’s new rules and regs, and check the folder to decide who you want to select."

"You’re not assigning the recruits?"

"You pick who you want, Reilly. I’ll assign the rest." He flexed his hands and began to systematically crack his knuckles, one finger at a time. "I’m giving you first choice . . . seems only fair since you aren’t getting any warning. All the other FTOs have been prepared for weeks. Besides, I know you’ve had it tough lately—just thought it was only fair to let you decide since I am asking this as a favor."

Dez knew she wouldn’t have had a choice and that it really wasn’t a favor at all, but she was grateful for the respectful way the lieutenant coerced her into doing the extra duty. She rose. "When do you need this stuff back?"

"When shift starts?"

"Tonight?"

He grinned. "Yeah." Looking at his watch, he said, "That gives you 17 minutes to make copies. Go on. I’ll see you in a few." He spun in his chair and rolled backwards to his file cabinet. Leaving him pulling files, she headed toward the copier. While the machine auto-copied the eighty pages of training rules and regs, she opened the folder and shuffled through thirteen slim packets of paper. The information was filed according to who was performing best—on top of the stack—to the worst—on the bottom. Leading the pack was a 27-year-old named John Mahoney, then came Savage, Vell, Schmidt . . . . Dez stopped and flipped back: Jaylynn Savage. She didn’t forget many names. 24-year-old female, bachelor’s degree from the U of M, resides on Como Boulevard. Damn!

Dez hadn’t thought much about it when she got two phone messages from the blond spitfire who had helped with those two serial rapists. She hadn’t called her back but had, instead, passed the messages on to the Lieutenant. Then the young woman had shown up at the station, and Dez had taken exactly sixty seconds to discourage her from applying to join the force. The small woman had seemed energetic and intelligent, and the big cop didn’t believe she’d be all that interested in police work. Dez hadn’t thought she was serious. Surprise, surprise. The young woman had followed through after all. She thumbed through the report to see that Savage excelled at the written work and was leading the class in many categories, including basic law, investigative procedures, records/forms/reports, authority and jurisdiction, and communications. Her weapon work was not at marksman level yet, but showed steady improvement, and her unarmed self-defense appeared to be good and improving. Physically she was noted to be in excellent condition.

The copy machine finished the job and clunked to a halt. Dez lifted the cover and copied Mahoney’s dossier as well as Savage’s, then looked quickly through the rest. She reviewed the last recruit, the one rated thirteenth in his class. Oster. Average in the written work, average at weapons, slightly below average for a male in unarmed self-defense. His physical condition was noted as mediocre, but improving. In the area for notes, however, Dez read the following: "This cadet has a great deal of desire to join the force. He displays courage and esprit de corp. Though originally expected to wash out, he has shown remarkable fortitude and perseverance. V. Slade."

Dez knew Slade to be a good teacher and a fine cop, and after a moment’s hesitation, she copied Oster’s paperwork, bundled the originals back in order in the folder, and returned to the lieutenant’s office.

He looked up and smiled at her. "Well?"

She said, "Mahoney," and Lt. Malcolm nodded. "Savage." He inclined his head again. "Oster."

"Oster! Isn’t he the cellar dweller?"

She leaned against the doorframe with a slight smile on her face. "He is. I got a hunch about Mr. Oster though. Sounds like he should have washed out, but he hasn’t. If he should be kicked, then you know I’ll do it. But if he can grow, then he’ll be a worthwhile project."

The lieutenant shook his head. "You’ve always got the dangdest rationale for things, Reilly, but go ahead. And thanks." He looked back down at his paperwork, and she turned to leave. "Reilly!"

She glanced back. "Yes, sir?"

"Not a word about this, okay? I’ll have all the assignments made, your choices included."

"Thank you sir." She headed off down the hall with her sheaf of papers thinking to herself that she had a difficult task ahead of her and that there was no doubt it would be a giant pain in the ass.

*****

Jaylynn dressed in the required clothes for the night’s work: black oxfords, black jeans, a black t-shirt with POLICE emblazoned on the back in orange, and a dark blue patrol jacket with no insignia sewn on yet. Sgt. Slade had provided each of them with a black baseball cap, also bearing bright yellow letters spelling out POLICE. She looked at herself in the mirror and the first thought that came to mind was Cat Burglar. She strapped a bulging but compact fanny pack around her waist and got in Tim’s beater to drive down to the police department.

She was amazed at everything she had learned so far. They had learned to march, stand at attention, salute, and perform like a well-organized military unit. She knew First Aid and CPR, and she had training for how to deal with all sorts of catastrophes: gas leaks, explosions, live wires, broken water mains, radioactive materials, and toxic chemicals. She knew how to shoot, use a baton, search suspects, put on cuffs one-handed, and subdue someone much bigger than she was using the rudiments of judo, boxing and karate. She had memorized so many procedures and policies, statutes and ordinances that her head felt packed full of data. She was ready for the street.

At the end of the first six weeks in Police Academy, Jaylynn was aware of two indisputable facts. One: John Mahoney was a nearly perfect cadet and would undoubtedly be first in the class. And two: Dwayne Neilsen hated her guts.

She was nervous about the next stage of the training, but she was more bothered about being around Neilsen. She had now handily surpassed him in every classroom topic and nearly every physical fitness category. He could lift much more and carry heavier loads, but pound for pound, ounce for ounce, she was just as strong and fit. For her audacity of seeking to excel, he never stopped picking at her. He and his friends made sport of her every moment that they were away from the instructors. She was relieved to get a change of scenery, even if she was still likely to have to deal with him in the classroom three days a week.

From mid-October to mid-November, in addition to the classroom training three days per week, she’d have field observation on three weekdays with only Sundays off. After that, if she made the grade, she’d go into six weeks of Tour rotations for more observation and a gradual shift into taking on responsibilities. In January, the course work would be over, and she’d become a full-time St. Paul police officer on probation.

Her first two weeks of observation were on Tour I—the graveyard shift. She didn’t look forward to staying up all night. She’d never been able to stay awake much past two in her life, and during the entire five years she attended the University she’d never pulled an all-nighter to study. She didn’t have a lot of time to adjust to the odd hours, so the first night when she showed up at the main station house, she had managed to sleep only two hours in the early evening. She wondered if she could stay energized from nine p.m. to six a.m.

She arrived at the main station 45 minutes early, considerably before Vell, Chin, and Sprague appeared. Entering through the front door, she found the place brimming with cops and citizens coming and going, everyone talking at once. The entrance led into a large room with a high ceiling. A thirty-foot long counter spread out directly ahead. At one end on the far right there was a gate, but an officer was posted nearby, seated on a tall stool. In front of him was a plastic sign, "Information and Complaints." The entire area was painted in two tones of blue with several framed landscape prints hanging on the walls. To the right and to the left of the entryway were long benches, resembling pews, upon which a variety of people sat waiting. Despite the obvious effort at creating a restful, pleasant environment, the station smelled musty, like a damp cave.

Jaylynn strode toward the counter and caught the eye of the officer at the complaint desk. He stared impassively as he watched her approach. His crew-cut hair and lack of a neck made her think he must have been a football player in his earlier days. She held up a plastic card. With a toss of his head, he directed her to the gate at the end and pressed a button somewhere under the desk to release the latch. Jaylynn pushed through and let the wooden gate slap shut behind her.

"Here, I’ll take that card," the desk sergeant said. He opened a drawer behind the counter, fished around a moment, and then came up with a blue card. "Don’t lose this," he said. "This mag card works out back at the staff entrance. If you do lose it, report it right away and we have to re-key everything. The brass does not take kindly to that." He watched as she tucked the card into her fanny pack, then said, "This your first night?"

She smiled and said, "Yes," and stuck out her hand. "Jaylynn Savage."

He took her hand into his crushing grip. "Finch. Bob Finch. Nice to meet ya."

"Thanks," she said with a broad smile.

"Head on back to the briefing room—you know where that is?"

She nodded. Sgt. Slade had given them all the nickel tour earlier in the week, so she knew her way around. He pointed back over his shoulder and turned his attention to the desk where an elderly woman was now standing, demanding his immediate attention.

Jaylynn took her first walk alone down the hall, past the comm center, past the watch commander’s office, and to the stairs that led down to the briefing room, also called the roll call room. Beyond it lay stairs down to the department gym, outfitted with scads of excellent weight equipment she looked forward to using. Beyond the first set of stairs lay another smaller flight of steps that led down to the men’s and women’s locker rooms which were also connected to the gym. The blond moved slowly down the small flight of stairs to the locker rooms. She wouldn’t be assigned a locker until the middle of November when she went on rotation. Still, she went in to look around.

When she entered the large gray room, she saw that the rest rooms were to the left and around a corner. Five bright blue stalls sat in a row across from four sinks and an entire mirrored wall. Through a glass and metal door there were also two enclosed showers and a small sauna. The rest of the locker room was large and square with a main aisle running down the middle from the door to the far wall. On either side of the aisle four sets of over-sized bright blue lockers jutted, the only color in the otherwise gun-metal gray room, and there were backless wooden benchs, embedded into the concrete, sitting in front of each of the locker rows.

The room was unnaturally bright due to multiple rows of fluorescent lights. There were no windows whatsoever. At present, no one was in the room, and all Jaylynn could hear was a quiet drip-drip-drip echoing from the bathrooms. She went back into one of the stalls to use the facilities, and when she was done washing up, she went back upstairs to the roll call room and sat down. Seconds later, in walked Vell dressed identically to her.

"Hey Vell," said Jaylynn with a raish grin on her face. "How’s it feel being dressed like a cat burglar?"

*****

The first two weeks of Tour I graveyard observation went well, though Jaylynn was exhausted by the third day. Despite sleeping from the moment she hit the bed in the morning until late afternoon, she could not get used to the night hours. It occurred to her that if she had to work that shift, she’d never make it—so much for her police career. She hoped to go on Tour III swing shift once her training was over.

Jaylynn also kept watch for the raven haired cop, but she hit the streets before Tour III ended, and her shift ended hours after all of swing shift had gone home. It wasn’t until she started riding days with Officer Felder that she ran into Desiree Reilly, literally. After she and Felder ended their tour early one day, they returned to the station. She pushed open the door to the police entrance only to find six feet of scowling electricity staring down upon her. Jaylynn came to an abrupt halt, stock still and tongue-tied.

"You’re in an awful hurry," the tall woman said. Her police cap was tucked under one arm, and she had a paper sack in one hand and a quart bottle of water in the other.

Felder pushed the door open further and squeezed past the two of them. He said, "Afternoon, Reilly."

She gave him a glance. "This rookie giving you any trouble, Felder?"

He stopped and smiled, running his thick hand through short brown hair. "Nope. She’s picking it all up nicely." He turned and moved away. "See ya tomorrow, Savage."

"Bye, Felder," she managed to squeak out, but he probably didn’t hear her. She turned her attention back to the piercing blue eyes inspecting her face.

The big cop said, "Guess I’ll be seeing you week after next."

"Oh?" Jaylynn said, a surprised look furrowing her brow.

"Yeah. You drew the short straw and got me for Tour III observation and then for field training. Didn’t the lieutenant tell you?"

"No, I think we’re getting information on a need to know basis. Are you sure?"

"Yup." The cop slid a foot forward, and Jaylynn became aware of the fact that she was blocking the door. She stepped aside to let Dez Reilly pass.

"Hope you have a good night," said the blond.

"Yeah. You too."

Jaylynn watched as the long-legged woman ambled out toward the parking lot of police cruisers, reached a vehicle, and disappeared into it. The rookie let the door swing shut and restrained herself from running down the hall, screaming maniacally, but she did allow herself a happy grin as she went to sign off shift. Only a few more days with Felder, and then she’d do the two weeks of Tour III observation in the company of Desiree Reilly. And if she heard the policewoman right, she was planning on being Jaylynn’s FTO too. The blond could hardly wait to get home and tell Sara.

*****

The first thing Jaylynn noticed once she got in the passenger seat of the squad car was that Officer Reilly wore silver reflective sunglasses until the sun was down and it was so dim that the streetlamps clicked on. Only then, almost as an afterthought, did the dark haired cop slip the glasses off and tuck them into her shirt pocket. Out of the corner of her eye, Jaylynn noticed how the veteran’s eyes constantly scanned the area, intently examining every passing person, every car, every movement.

Jaylynn watched the early evening gradually shade from gray to darkness. The night life emerged like moles creeping out of deep holes. There were a lot of people out in the cool, crisp air. At present there was no snow on the ground, and though it was only 28 degrees out, there was no wind. With just a warm jacket, anyone out on the street would be comfortable tonight.

Jaylynn racked her brain for something to say to the taciturn woman beside her, but her earlier attempts at conversation had met a brick wall. The quiet FTO didn’t offer comments, and she answered any questions in the sparest of language. They’d been in the car for over two hours, getting out only three times so far to check on an underage smoking call and two reports of possible domestic disputes, both of which turned out to be unfounded.

Despite the calm demeanor, Jaylynn thought Reilly was like a tightly coiled spring, with waves of tension radiating from her. She was silent, though it was anything but silent in the car. In addition to the regular dispatch noise on the radio, the car’s AM/FM radio quietly played a top 40 station. Then the cell phone rang and Reilly picked it up and listened, her eyes narrowed, punctuating periods of silence with terse statements: "Yes, sir." "Mmhmm." "Okay, thanks."

When she hung up she said, "Savage, our meal break isn’t until nine. Can you last that long?"

"Sure," said Jaylynn. "I brought a couple snacks here." She pointed to her fanny sack.

"Me too," said the big cop, gesturing to the paper sack she’d set on the seat between them.

Dispatch came over the radio, and Reilly picked it up to respond. Jaylynn frowned. How had Reilly known to answer that call? She was too embarrassed to ask. Already she had relegated the two radios to background noise, but she could see that she shouldn’t do that—at least not the dispatch radio anyway. She needed to listen to it all the time, but how did she do that while conversing—if you could call what they’d just had a conversation. She also did not know what dispatch had been asking their unit, but it didn’t cause the dark haired woman to speed off to any call. They continued to drive down University Avenue, occasionally taking a side street and then coming back to the busy thoroughfare.

Jaylynn ventured forth a question, "How long have you been on the force?"

"Eight and a half years," came the low response.

"And you like the job?"

"Yeah."

The quiet officer turned off University down Thomas, slowing when she saw a glut of cars parked and double parked in front of a ramshackle house scattering streams of light from all windows. Small knots of people stood on the front porch and on the lawn, tiny points of orange light giving evidence to all the cigarettes being smoked. Other party-goers wended their way through gathering and up the stairs to enter the house. Reilly wheeled the car past, rolled down her window, and meandered on around the block casually. She approached the house again and parked across the street. From the passenger seat Jaylynn could hear the pounding of the bass. Looked like a really good party going on—probably a bunch of Hamline University students.

Reilly said, "Just follow me in and don’t say anything." She got out of the car and Jaylynn hastened to open her door and get out too. She put her hands in her pants pockets and cut across the street, literally following the long strides of the big cop. Every step brought them closer to the shrieking, pounding sound of Metallica. The crowd quieted and parted when they caught sight of them, and three men in the front yard began to back off and sidle away. By the time the two women hit the top of the stairs, most of the occupants of the porch and yard had miraculously disappeared, leaving three women and a man who came up the stairs behind the officer and the cadet.

Before Reilly could ring the bell, one of the three women, a perilously thin person really no more than a girl, shouted over the musical din, "Can I help you officer?"

"Yeah, you can either turn the noise down or break up this party. Are you the owner of the house?"

She nodded. "I rent this place, yes." The woman dropped her lit cigarette on the cement stair of the porch and ground it out with her foot. She pulled at the screen door to the house and stepped in, holding it open so that her companions and Reilly and Savage could enter. Letting loose of the door, she moved over to the stereo system and turned the music off.

The woman smiled brightly and said, "Would you like something to drink, officer?" She raised her eyebrows and leaned toward the kitchen. Meanwhile, behind them, Jaylynn heard the screen door open and close, open and close, as some of the party-goers quietly departed. Still, dozens of young men and women remained in the kitchen, on the staircase, and on the couch and chairs.

The dark haired cop narrowed her gaze and gave her a withering look. "No thank you, ma’am." She raised her voice and said, "This is your one and only warning, people. If I get one call from dispatch, I’ll be checking IDs and arresting you." She narrowed her eyes and looked at the owner. "You, Miss, you get the violation tag, the fine, and the report to the college that you disturbed the peace." She paused a moment and breathed in, her eyes covering every square inch of the room. "And that better not be anything more than cigarettes burning in here. Got it?"

The thin woman nodded solemnly.

"We’re outta here then." The big cop turned and ushered the cadet toward the door. Jaylynn grabbed the cool metal of the screen doorknob and turned it, bursting out into the crisp air. She bounded down the stairs and over to the car. When they got in, she was surprised when Reilly turned to her and said, "We’ll be back before the evening’s through. Just wait and see."

"Why do you say that?"

The car roared to a start and Reilly pulled away from the curb. In a thoughtful voice she said, "Because she’s not the only occupant of the house. I don’t think she can control all those people. If it’s that loud this early—it’s only gonna get louder. Plus there’s too many kids coming and going. So she’s gonna end up getting tagged."

It was the most information Jaylynn had gotten out of the woman all night, and she jumped on the information.

"So how many calls like this do you generally get?"

"Anywhere from two to twenty, depends on the time of year."

"Because of the weather?"

"Nah . . . more the status of the students. Weekends, holidays, certain school events. There’s a lot of colleges around here." She steered the car back onto University Avenue. "Hamline kids aren’t so bad. Saint Kate’s girls are pretty rowdy, but the worst by are the kids all around St. Thomas. Bunch of rotten troublemakers. Got plenty of money for drugs and alcohol, not to mention super sonic stereos, and a lot of them think they own the world."

She followed a dented gray Chevy Nova that pulled into an Amoco convenience store/gas station. The Nova parked on the side of the store in the regular parking spaces, while Reilly parked at one of the four gas pumps.

"We need gas?" said Jaylynn.

"Nope. Get out."

The occupants of the gray Nova hadn’t noticed the police car. They opened their car doors and staggered into the store. The veteran and the cadet strolled behind. Reilly moved up behind the young man and woman as they stood in front of the soda pop case. The man wore jeans, tennis shoes, and a red and brown plaid shirt under a jean jacket. The woman was dressed just the same, except her plaid shirt was green and blue. Both of them were close to Jaylynn’s height. The young woman reached into the refrigerator case and pulled out a liter-sized Mountain Dew, and the pair turned and halted, looking up at Dez with fear on their faces.

"Good evening, folks," the tall officer said.

They mumbled greetings.

"You two been out partying?"

Jaylynn watched the thin man suddenly begin to quiver as he tried to shake his head no. She could see both kids’ eyes were vacant and glassy.

The big cop said, "You got any ID?"

The girl pulled a driver’s license out of her back pocket, but the boy shook his head.

"You better not be driving," Dez said to him.

"No sir, I mean no ma’am," he said.

In a low menacing voice, Dez said, "You better not be jerking me around."

"No!" he said, a note of desperation in his voice. "Honest. I’m not."

"What’s your name."

"Arnie Jensen."

"You go to school around here Mr. Jensen?"

He nodded. "St. Thomas."

"And you don’t even have any school ID?" She handed the license back to the girl.

"Not on me officer." His speech was slow, but he was trying hard not to slur. He swallowed and took a gulp of air. The girl tucked her license back into her pocket and stood sullenly holding the cold bottle of Mountain Dew.

Dez said to the boy, "Hmpf….I’ll bet you’re not 21."

The boy did not respond.

"Where do your parents live?"

"Duluth."

"You play any sports?"

"Hockey."

"How would you like me to call up your parents and tell them that their son is stoned out of his mind and should be taken home? How would you like me to contact your coach and let him know about this little incident?"

The boy’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. "I wouldn’t like that at all. Please, please don’t do that."

Jaylynn marveled that the boy was still on his feet since his legs seemed to be shaking so badly. The contrast of his black hair against pale skin made him look unnaturally pallid. She looked up at the tall woman beside her and realized the cop was enjoying the confrontation. Her eyes sparkled and she seemed to be working very hard to maintain a stony face. She turned to the girl and said, "I would suggest you leave that car of yours right out there and either walk home or call for a ride. If I see you drive that car out of this lot, you’re goin’ downtown for a fun night in jail."

Now the girl’s eyes nearly bugged out. She set the liter of Mountain Dew down on a stacked display of Valvoline motor oil. "Can we go?" she said.

The dark haired woman inclined her head slowly, nodding while she fixed a mean stare on the two. As if a starter’s gun had gone off, both plaid shirted kids bolted for the door, the boy looking back only once. Jaylynn saw them walk around the side of the building to the Nova. The girl reached in for something, then locked up, and without a backward glance, they took off down the street.

Dez picked up the sweating bottle of pop and returned it to the cold case. "I’ll be back in a second," she said, and she disappeared around the corner to the rest room.

Jaylynn watched the boy and girl as they ambled away from the gas station. The girl’s gait was steady, but the boy lurched along. The second time he stumbled, the girl took his arm and leaned into him. They turned the corner and that was the last she saw of them. She hadn’t been one to get wasted in high school or college. She’d been a "good kid" and hadn’t gotten in much trouble—at least not trouble anyone had ever caught her at. She smiled thinking about all the small parties she’d been at where everyone had mostly sat around drinking beer or wine and playing Trivial Pursuit. She’d always enjoyed staying sober enough to converse—not to mention being lucid enough to laugh about intelligently funny things. She’d never liked hangovers anyway, and from what she could see, both those kids were going to feel rotten in the morning.

Dez reappeared next to her, startling her from her thoughts. The tall cop flashed a glance toward Jaylynn. "You want a pop or something?"

"Sure." Jaylynn stepped to the cold case and pulled a glass door open. She snagged a Pepsi, then watched as Dez picked out a quart bottle of Chippewa Spring Water.

When they got to the counter, the big cop waved her away and pulled out her own wallet. "I’ll get this," she said. "You can get the next round."

In a pleasant voice the counter clerk, a grey-haired man with a significant five o’clock shadow, said, "You running my business outta here again, Reilly?"

"Yeah, can’t be helped. Buncha drunk college students. They’ll be back to get that car." She pointed to the gray heap out the side window. "You’ll get some business from them then."

He said, "Why don’t you go ahead and take that on-the-house?"

"Thanks, Mr. Fisher, but this is your livelihood." She offered him some bills. He rang up the purchase, took two pennies out of the penny dish by the register, and handed her even change.

"Thanks for keeping an eye on this place," he said.

"No problem. See ya later." She twisted the cap off the bottle as she turned towards the door, her long legs eating up the distance in four steps. Jaylynn scooped up her Pepsi and strode quickly behind her. They got back in the car, and the rookie took a swig of her pop.

"No matter what," said Dez, "pay for everything wherever you go. Some guys take stuff on-the-house. Don’t do it, Savage. It’s too short a step to being on the take."

Jaylynn nodded. "Okay," she said. "By the way, would you mind calling me Jaylynn—or just Jay, if you want. I’m still not used to everyone calling me Savage." She giggled and said, "Makes me sound like a brute."

"Okay," said Dez. "Eat if you want now. We may not get much chance later." She opened her paper sack and drew out an item wrapped in wax paper. Jaylynn unzipped her fanny pack and pulled out a package of Hostess chocolate cupcakes. She started picking at the cellophane as Dez’s wax paper opened to reveal a sandwich, thick with turkey or chicken. The dark haired cop saw her peering at the sandwich in the dark. "Want half?" she said.

"Oh no, that’s okay," said Jaylynn. "I’ll just eat this."

"A cupcake won’t stay with you long, Savage—I mean, Jaylynn. Here, have half. I’ve got three more in the bag."

The rookie accepted the sandwich and said, "You brought four sandwiches?"

"I usually do." She took a big bite and while chewing said, "I don’t always eat the bread, but I need the protein."

Jaylynn nodded as though she understood completely, though she had no idea why Dez would need four sandwiches. She took a bite and found the turkey to be cool and moist, even if it was all too dry for her taste. "What’s on this?"

"Turkey. Nutty oat bread."

"That’s it?"

"Yeah. You don’t like it?"

"No, no, it’s good," she hastened to say. "The turkey is nice and tender."

"I try to spice up the meat because I don’t put on mayo or anything like that."

"I see," said Jaylynn. "Want one of these cupcakes?"

"Sorry. Never eat sugars after six. But thanks." She popped the last of the sandwich in her mouth and swiped her hands on her pants legs, then started the car. "Okay, let’s get back at it." She pulled out of the parking lot and swung onto the dark street. "I think we should take a look at that little party over by Hamline again." With gusto she said, "Won’t be long before we get to arrest a few people. That ought to liven up your night."

From that moment on, Jaylynn noted that Dez’s demeanor toward her changed. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, the dark haired cop began to talk—rather, she gave information, and lots of it. She explained what she was doing and why. She gave advice. She quizzed the rookie about procedures and laws. In short, she made the nights of observation fly by, and every day when midnight approached, Jaylynn was sorry to have to knock off and go home. By the time the ride-along observations were over, she was enthusiastic about getting into her regulation uniform and assuming her duties.

*****

The dark haired cop sat at a desk in the Reports Room putting the finishing touches on FTO reports for Oster, Mahoney, and Savage. They had performed adequately—or better—during their initial rotations with her, and she was recommending to Lt. Malcolm that all three be advanced to official rookie status after the first of the year. She slid open the metal drawer on the rickety desk and pulled out a stapler to tack the pages of each report. Rising, she scooped up her bottle of spring water and the reports and headed off down the hall to turn them in.

The watch commander’s office was next to Lt. Malcolm’s and as she passed it by, she saw it was decorated with red and white Santa mosaics, pictures of misshapen Christmas trees, and yards of red and green chains made of construction paper. Every year, Commander Parr’s five kids trimmed the office he shared with the other commanders, and every year Dez was amazed at the sheer volume of bad art.

The duty sergeant looked up from his report and greeted her. Belton, a slim black man in his 50’s, had always gotten along well with her. She gave him the stack of reports. He said, "Hi, Reilly. You working Christmas Eve?"

"Yeah. I took Christmas Day off, but I’ll be here tomorrow. And New Year’s Eve and Day too."

He shook his head. "Glutton for punishment, huh?"

She shrugged. "What the hey. I’ll use the double time money for something special—maybe get myself a facial or something."

He frowned and looked up only to see the twinkle in her eyes. He stifled a grin and said, "Try the pedicure. My wife swears by it."

She nodded solemnly. "Pass these on to the Lieutenant for me, okay?"

"Will do. And Reilly?"

She paused. "Yeah?"

"Merry Christmas.

"You too Sarge. Hope you have a nice holiday."

She turned away, catching a whiff of evergreen smell that reminded her of Christmas trees and reindeer. She headed off down the hall to the back entrance to get some fresh air, realizing she had grown to dislike Christmas. She paced outside in the late afternoon light, her hands behind her back. Don’t wanna be a grinch though, she thought. She didn’t hate the holidays, but she was grateful when they passed. The only thing that made Christmas bearable was Luella. Her landlady always had her clan of family and friends over starting Christmas Eve, and the celebration extended for several days after, with people coming and going, bringing presents, sharing holiday food. Dez lived upstairs in a small apartment at Luella Williams’ house, so she could get away when she needed a break or she could choose to hang around the pack of laughing, jovial people who showed up for the cheer and good food.

Other than Luella’s shindig, Dez attended no festivities. Her father was dead, she didn’t speak to her mother, and she had no idea how to contact her younger brother. Family had not been in her picture for a number of years, and she liked it just fine that way.

An old red Toyota rolled into the parking lot and stopped a dozen feet away, the occupants unaware of her leaning against the side of the building. She watched as Jaylynn and the red-haired man from last summer turned toward one another. Jaylynn leaned over and gave the man a brief kiss, then launched herself out the passenger door and hustled through the chilly air and into the back entrance.

Dez shivered. The red-haired man backed up the clunking car and made his way out of the parking lot, unaware that the big cop was staring daggers at him. She exhaled a big breath of air and watched as it clouded like smoke in front of her face. Full of tension, she stomped over to the door and went in, making her way downstairs to the roll call room.

The big cop sat on a metal folding chair near the back of the silent briefing room and took a long pull from her water bottle. Checking her watch she noted it was 19 minutes until roll call. She set the water bottle on the floor and closed her eyes. Starting with her feet, she began to systematically tighten and release her muscles until she sat motionless and relaxed. A tiny squeak caused her eyelids to snap open, and she saw Jaylynn standing uncertainly in the doorway.

The younger woman said, "Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt."

"You’re not interrupting," came the low drawl. The big cop straightened up in her chair and stretched neck muscles that still felt tight.

Jaylynn strode into the room and sat in the chair next to Dez. "So you have big plans for tomorrow?"

"The usual."

The rookie suppressed a grin with difficulty. Getting any personal information out of the dark haired cop was next to impossible. She’d already learned that prying didn’t work; the tall cop just retreated further underground. So far, the only tactic that yielded results was to overflow Dez with her own personal details and then occasionally the tall woman volunteered something.

Jaylynn said, "I guess I’ll have quite the phone bill this year. I’m staying in town, so I’ll have to call my family. Lucky I can go to Sara’s folks’, and of course Tim has the house decorated to the nines." She paused, giving the big woman opportunity to speak. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Dez take a swig of her water. It occurred to her that the dark haired cop used those bottles of water like some people used cigarettes—as a distraction. Dez didn’t appear to be listening at all, so when the dark head swung toward her and penetrating blue eyes bored into her, she was taken aback.

Dez said, "Where does your family live?"

"Seattle."

The tall cop nodded slowly. "Why don’t you fly out for Christmas?"

"There isn’t really enough time."

"You could have taken some extra days. The sergeant would have worked it out."

Jaylynn smiled warmly. "I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to miss any training. Besides, they’ll all be here over spring vacation in a few months, so I’m looking forward to that."

Dez took another drink from the bottle. "You’re off tomorrow though, right?"

"Yeah, I think we’re planning on eating about six different meals at various places. I’ll be a couch potato by shift time, so I didn’t want to have to work."

Just then Oster shot into the room. "Hey guys!" he said. "How you two doing?" He clapped a meaty hand on the rookie’s shoulder and sat next to her, two chairs away from Dez.

Dez tossed him a glance and nodded. Jaylynn said, "Things are going okay. What are you doing for the holiday?"

Oster crossed his arms across his chest and with a smug self-satisfied look said, "I’m givin’ my girlfriend the biggest diamond rock I could afford and hoping she will say yes."

Dez watched as Jaylynn gasped and socked the smiling man in the arm. Then the rookie threw an arm around him and gave him a hug. "I am so happy for you, Mitch! I just know she’ll say yes. Who could resist you?" She sat back in her chair, eyes shining, and then gave the blushing man another punch in the upper arm. "Where you going on your honeymoon?"

"That’s totally up to her," he said. "If she’ll marry me, we’ll go anywhere she wants. I think she’ll pick Hawaii though."

Dez said, in a low tone, "Hope you’re packing away a ton of dough, Oster. Hawaii ain’t cheap."

Oster leaned forward in his chair. "Ever heard of charge cards, Reilly?" He grinned as he sat back. "Jay, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in my life. I’ve got this great job that I really like, and I think I’m gonna marry Donna." He did a little chair dance but stopped when a clatter of footsteps came down the stairs and some of the other officers filed into the room followed shortly by the duty sergeant.

Dez casually turned her attention to Oster, staring at him over Jaylynn and out of the corner of her eye. She frowned. For some reason Oster’s happy news had rankled her. She wanted to smack him. She turned away and focused on the sergeant’s updates.

Dez’s sour mood persisted through the shift, which was eventful, though routine. She and Jaylynn broke up the same kind of bar fights, arrested battling spouses for the same kind of domestic disputes, and answered the same kind of noise complaints as any other night. The only difference was the proliferation of seasonal red and gold and green splattered all over every home and business. By the time midnight rolled around she decided she did indeed feel like a grinch.

When they returned to the station, Jaylynn headed straight downstairs after signing out. Dez took a detour to the property room and dropped off a watch they had found on the street. Sooner or later perhaps someone would come looking for it. She threw her empty plastic water bottle in the trash in the hall and headed down the stairs, meeting Jaylynn coming up. The younger woman carried a gym bag and had changed into tennis shoes, blue sweatbottoms and a big bulky coat.

"Have a good day tomorrow," said the blond in a tired voice.

"You too. See you Saturday," Dez said glumly. She squeezed past the rookie and made her way into the locker room, unbuttoning her shirt as she drew near the locker. In front of her bright blue metal storage locker sat a small square package, wrapped in red, blue, and green striped paper and adorned with a golden bow no bigger than a walnut. She bent over and picked it up, hefting the lightweight present and recognizing immediately that it was a CD. She pulled a tiny card off the front, ripped open the envelope, and read it: Merry Christmas, Dez. Thanks for all your help during my training. I can never thank you enough. Love, Jaylynn.

She tore away the wrapping paper and uncovered a disc by someone she had never heard of: Lisa Stansfield. Crunching up the cellophane and gift wrap, she walked over to the garbage and tossed them in. She felt bad. This was a kind gesture from the rookie, and she knew she had been such a grump all night that Jaylynn couldn’t have enjoyed the evening. Oh well. It wasn’t her job to entertain the new recruits.

She changed clothes and gathered up her things and trudged upstairs to the lieutenant’s office. The duty sergeant was away from his desk, so she tapped on the frame of the open door, and Lt. Malcolm looked up, startled. "Hey, Reilly. You have an okay shift?"

"Yes, sir. Went fine." She gestured at the compact disk in her hand. "My assignee, Savage, left me a Christmas present. I understand from the rules that FTOs aren’t supposed to . . ."

Waving his hand through the air, he cut her off. "Yeah, yeah, she mentioned it to me, and I gave her the okay." He smiled at her. "Will a ten buck item cause you to give her a good recommendation if she doesn’t deserve it?"

"No."

"That’s exactly what I figured. So don’t worry about it."

"Yes, sir."

"Have a good Christmas, okay? I’m off the next few days, so be good." He smiled at her.

"No problem. Merry Christmas to you, too, sir." She turned and hiked down the long highway and out into the icy air to her truck. It was snowing again, small frozen clumps, and the recently plowed streets were already covered over. She started the engine, then popped in the CD as she wheeled out of the lot. A funky bass and percussion beat began, and she listened to the smooth jazzy voice: I searched, I found and I lost love, now I’ve started all over, now not a day goes by when I’m not sure you’re the one, cuz you give me something, baby it’s a feeling I just can’t contain . . . She frowned. Happy music. Everybody’s so goddamn happy. She accelerated down Dale Street, her eyes taking in every movement, every light. I wake and feel you by my side and your touch is so tender, I’m so at home in your caress, in your arms . . .

She reached over and ejected the CD, one-handedly tucking it back in the case. The singer seemed to have a terrific voice, but she couldn’t take any more sappy happy stuff. Completing the rest of the drive home in silence, she parked in the garage out back and plodded up to the house which was alight, golden streamers of illumination causing the stucco house to look a little like a Christmas ornament. Dez didn’t notice. She plodded through the swiftly accumulating snow, climbed the back stairs, and with a weary sigh crept up to her apartment.

*****

Right on time, Tim was waiting for Jaylynn behind the police station. She tossed her gym bag in the back seat and climbed in front.

"How was your night?" said Tim.

"Not bad, not good, not really anything. Yours?"

He gave her a wide smile and peeled out of the lot. "The chef gave me a bottle of Cabernet and the boss slipped me a card with a hundred bucks in it."

"Tim! That’s great."

"And we have a new maitre de who started last week. Kevin. I just met him, and oh my, Jay, he is so sweet. Whoo-wee!"

She rolled her eyes. "Do tell."

"Blond. Slender. Beautiful blue eyes. About 25. He looks fantastic in the tux. My heart skips beats just thinking about him."

"Is he available? Hell, is he gay?"

"Oh yeah. He for sure registers on my gaydar. I invited him to come share the Cabernet with me, and he accepted! He hasn’t got any family here in the Twin Cities, so I hope you and Sara don’t mind if he comes along. Hey!" He reached over and turned up the radio. "Have you heard this new song? It’s just fabulous. Listen."

A nice driving bass beat started and then a sultry female voice. She looks like she don’t care, smooth as silk, cool as air, ooh it makes you wanna cry. She doesn’t know your name, and your heart beats like a subway train, ooh it makes you wanna die . . .

Jaylynn couldn’t help but smile a bitter little smile. Sounded exactly like Dez. "Who is this?"

Tim said, "I couldn’t believe it—Blondie! Remember them from back in about grade school? I saw her—Deborah Harry—in a movie a while back and she’s older than my mom! But man, what a voice."

Jaylynn agreed. Fool for love and full of fire, won’t come in from the rain, she’s oceans running down the drain, blue as ice and desire . . . I think I’ll be buying that CD, she thought. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat as they pulled up to the house. I wonder if Dez will like Lisa Stansfield? She was one of Jaylynn’s favorite musicians. She liked how the woman could go from jazzy tones to upbeat funk to solid love ballads. All three of her CDs were just so sexy and full of emotion. She couldn’t help but feel happy listening to even the saddest of the songs.

They got out of the car and she grinned as Tim nearly danced up the snow strewn walk to the back door. It was hard to feel sad or out-of-sorts around him. He had a way of cheering a person up without even knowing he was doing it. She decided there was no use mourning about things she had no control over. Smiling as she felt the cool snowflakes on her face, she took his arm, and they high stepped into the house.

*****

In the middle of the week following Christmas, Jaylynn had her final classroom meeting with Sergeant Slade and her fellow rookies. The tests were over, the rigorous physical regimen was complete, and all 13 recruits were scheduled to move on to the next phase of training.

Slade said, "You’re all done with the ‘grin and wave’ part of this training. Now you get down to the real thing. For the next six weeks you’ll all work closely with your FTOs, and you’ll be expected to perform with exemplary skill. Think about what you’re doing. Use your best judgment. Talk to each other and share information. And please feel free to call me or come by the western precinct any time. I have an investment in your successes."

After class each recruit shook Slade’s hand and filed out, everyone talking and animated as they departed. Jaylynn hung back and waited for the others to leave. She shook Slade’s hand. "You’ve been an excellent teacher," she said. "I’ve really appreciated what you’ve done for all of us."

"Savage," he said, "I know for a fact that you’re going to be a very good cop. You’ve got a lot of talent."

"Thank you sir. But could I ask you a question?"

"Sure! Any time. My door is always going to be open for you. I hope to hear great things from you in years to come." He looked closely at her face. "Hmm, what is it?"

She wasn’t sure how to put it, so the words just tumbled out. "I’m working with an FTO who’s like, perfect, sir. She can handle anything. She walks in a room and just by looking at people she can control the situation. She intimidates the hell out of anyone moving. I walk in the room and people don’t even notice. How am I going to be a good cop when I don’t have that kind of presence at all?"

He pursed his lips and squinted at her, then nodded. "Your FTO is Desiree Reilly, right?"

"Yes."

"You’re right. She’s imposing. She’s a lot bigger than you. She’s gotta be what?—six, eight inches taller?"

Jaylynn nodded.

"Bad news, Savage. I don’t think you’re gonna grow any taller." He grinned at her as she gave him a rueful look. "Seriously," he said, "you’re never going to work a room like she does. You’re not the strong arm type, and you look far too sweet to be able to threaten and compel the way she can."

Jaylynn let out a sigh of defeat and sat down in one of the desks. "That’s what I mean, sir. What am I going to do?"

Slade swung a leg over the desk chair in front of Jaylynn and settled down backwards, his arms resting on the chair back. "You obviously don’t realize that you have something Reilly will never have."

Startled, she looked at him, her hazel green eyes intent. "Sir?"

"Use your own talents, Savage. You have a whole different set of skills, and they’re just as effective as Reilly’s tactics."

Jaylynn was confused. How could she be as physically imposing, as daunting as her FTO without those same skills?

His brown eyes looked at her sympathetically as he reached a hand over and tapped her forehead twice with his forefinger. "Use this."

"But Sarge, she’s also very smart. She’s got it all."

At that, a hearty chuckle burst out of Slade. "Savage, it’s so apparent . . . hey, you’re totally overlooking the obvious. You’ve got a god given gift of quick wits and fast talk. Use your head. Use your mouth. You’ll never bully your way out of bad situations. You’re gonna talk your way out. And believe me, that’s every bit as effective. You go out on patrol now, and instead of thinking about all the ways you don’t measure up to Reilly—or anyone else for that matter—think about how you can use your own particular style. Be loud. Be flashy. Be yourself. Will you do that for me?"

Jaylynn sat feeling a little bit stunned. She felt like a dummy, but at the same time, a bubble of gleefulness rose inside her because what Slade was saying felt exactly right. All her life, what she lacked in stature she had always had to make up for in cleverness or perseverance or sheer dint of will. Why would this job be any different?

She rose from the desk smiling. "Thanks Sarge. You’ve given me a lot to think about." She reached for his wiry hand, and when he stood up, she gave him a little half-hug too. "I’ll check in with you every so often."

"You make sure to do that, Savage."

She picked up her bag and with a smile headed out the door feeling lighter than she had for days. She didn’t look back, so she missed the shake of her instructor’s head and the bemused look of respect he cast her way before he gathered up his own things and got ready to leave.

*****

New Year’s Eve was always a hopping night, and here it was, the end of 1998. Dez figured it would be busy what with everyone on earth wanting to party til it’s 1999. She had reluctantly offered to let the blond drive, and to her dismay, the rookie had agreed with excitement. The big cop hated riding along, but she also knew Jaylynn needed experience behind the wheel, so she sat in the passenger’s seat, arms crossed, feeling exceedingly crabby.

The first six hours of their shift had been spent dealing, mostly, with drunks. Drunks on the street, drunks in bars, and drunken brawlers beating on their wives in their own homes. When Dispatch put out the next call—another threatening drunk— Dez snapped a reply at the Dispatcher, her temper frayed at the edges from the repetitiveness of the situation.

When they arrived in front of the Castlewalk Bar on University, another unit was already there. Neilsen, the rookie from Jaylynn’s class, was just getting out of the car with his FTO, Alvarez, with whom the rookie had ridden her second observational rotation. Two men stood blocking the doorway to the bar, but both appeared skittish. Another man, a scrawny mope in his late 60’s, stood several feet away from the bar door screaming to be let back in. His tan jacket was tattered, and his jeans, greasy with age, drooped on his hips. Dez exploded from the cruiser as Alvarez and Neilsen approached, and the three closed in on the screaming man.

Jaylynn got out of the car, shivering in the cold breeze. She was glad the streets were cleared of snow and ice. Even after five years, she still didn’t like to drive on ice. As she came around the nose of the car and stepped up on the sidewalk, Alvarez said, "Hey there, sir. Can we help you?"

The drunk wheeled around, saw the three huge officers, and fumbled in his jacket. All three cops pulled weapons, but not before the staggering man revealed a gleaming Bowie knife. He began to wave it out in front of himself as he teetered and lurched. "Get the hell ‘way from me. I had ‘nough of p’lice brut—brut—you know . . ." He took another step and shook his head from side to side as though he were dizzy.

All three officers trained their guns on the swaying man. They looked up started when Jaylynn shouted, "Wait! Stop! Yoo hoo. Hey Mister!"

This distracted him. He wheeled her way and squinted. Now the four officers formed a box around the drunk. She could see he was inebriated beyond the point of fully understanding what was happening. She opened her hands and held them up, palms out. "Sir. No need to be afraid of me. I won’t hurt you."

"A little girl cop?" he said. He brandished his knife her way, his back to the other officers.

Jaylynn looked over his shoulder at the ice cold chips of blue and gave the dark haired cop the slightest toss of her head.

"Mister, I may look little, but I’m the boss of those three right now. Look at them." He cast a nervous glance over his shoulder. "Officers, back up," she said. "Give this man some room."

The three officers took two steps back, though Neilsen had to be waved back by Alvarez.

"See," she said. "They’ll follow my orders. Now listen. Nobody’s gonna hurt you, but you gotta give me the knife. Then how ‘bout you and I go get a nice nightcap?"

"Say," the wobbling man said. "You’re kinda cute."

"Thank you." She gazed across the sidewalk and smiled at Dez who didn’t seem to be seeing any humor in the situation. Turning her attention back to the man, she said, "What’s your name?"

"Denny."

"I’m Jaylynn. Glad to meet you Denny." She stepped close enough to see tendrils of steam coming out of the man’s mouth and wafting around the steel glint of the knife. Her three coworkers tensed and stepped forward. She gave them a stern look. "Well?" she said. "Is that any way to treat a lady, Denny—waving a knife at me? Is that your style with the girls you date?"

"Oh no, I c’n be a gentleman," he slurred. "I’ll put it away."

"I’d like to get a better look at your knife," she said suggestively.

"You would, huh," he mumbled, leering at her. "Here." He turned it in his hand so that the handle faced her, and she moved one step closer to accept it from him. Before she could pull it away, her colleagues had him. Neilsen cuffed him and shoved the old coot, screaming, over to his vehicle. Jaylynn handed the knife to Alvarez.

"Nice work, Savage," he said. "It’s good to see you doing well." He turned and walked toward his car. "See you later when the next drunk call comes in."

Jaylynn stood near the car, feeling elation flood through her body. Slade was right. Maybe she couldn’t bully her way through a situation, but she could bluff and use bravado with the best of them. She hadn’t felt anger or uncertainty, and she hadn’t been a bit afraid just now. She had reacted, and it felt so natural that every atom in her body was alert and singing throughout the entire altercation. She felt wonderful.

And then Dez grabbed her sleeve and strong armed her over to their car. The tall cop opened the passenger side, gesturing for Jaylynn to get in.

"Hey!" said the rookie. "I’m driving."

In a low voice, the big cop said, "Not anymore you’re not. Gimme the keys."

The blond pulled them from her pocket and handed them over, stepping into the car, brow furrowed and her heart pumping faster now than it had during the confrontation with the drunk.

Dez went around to the other side, and in a whirlwind of motion started the car, threw it into reverse, and squealed away from the curb. Once the car accelerated to the speed limit she said in a stiff voice, "What the hell did you think you were doing?"

Jaylynn turned in her seat and looked at the side of Dez’s face, pale in the moonlight. "Let me get this straight. I just subdued a drunk, and you’re mad about it?"

"No," she said in tense but measured tones, "you just put yourself at risk."

"Oh come on! The three of you would have shot that man to death if he’d made the tiniest move. I’ve never felt so safe in my life."

"I’m the senior officer. You take orders from me. You don’t tell a crazy drunk you’re in charge unless you are."

Jaylynn knew she should feel cowed and put in her place, but she didn’t. Instead, a streak of stubbornness rose up in her. "I was in charge. At that particular moment, I was in charge, and it was appropriate. We four worked as a team. I never lost sight of him or any of you, and I never compromised anybody’s position, much less my own. It was by the book." She twisted in her seat to face forward and crossed her arms tightly over her chest.

The dark haired cop didn’t respond at first. When she did finally speak up, she said, "You’re in training, Savage. There’s still a lot you don’t know."

"You’re the Field Training Officer, but respectfully, I beg to differ. How exactly do I get any training if all I do is hang back and watch you handle all the calls? How do I gain your trust if I never show you I’m trustworthy?" When she got no response to that, she fired her last parting shot. "Fine. Go ahead and put it in your report to the lieutenant, and I’ll deal with it with him." She turned away and looked out the window.

The dark haired cop lapsed into silence which was broken only by yet another dispatch for—what else—a fight at a bar. At that call and the remaining few for the night, Jaylynn hung back and let Dez handle everything, taking direction as it came and following the instructions precisely.

When they returned to the station at the end of Tour III, she couldn’t wait to get out of her uniform and go home, but before she could sign out and hit the stairs, Lt. Malcolm came around the corner.

"Hey Savage," he said. "I hear you did a nice job tonight with some drunken pirate."

She glanced over her shoulder at the glowering form behind her. "How’d you hear that, sir?"

"Alvarez gave you high praise." He clapped her on the back. "Good job to both of you," he said, including Dez in his smile. "Keep up the good work." He started on down the hall then tossed over his shoulder, "Happy New Year, ladies."

"Happy New Year to you too, sir." Jaylynn couldn’t help herself. She turned and gazed pointedly at her FTO, only to find the blue eyes gentle and thoughtful. She cleared her throat, but she couldn’t think of a thing to say, so she stepped past the big cop and headed for the stairs.

Dez took a moment to sign out, stopping to think in the hallway before descending slowly down the steps. She hated to admit it, but maybe the rookie had been right tonight. If Jaylynn were Ryan and the whole thing had gone down the same exact way, wouldn’t she have congratulated him for his quick thinking? Hmmm . . . so why was it any different with the rookie? One hand on the stair railing, she paused on the last step and thought back to the night’s scene. She closed her eyes and remembered the crisp breeze in her hair, sensed the eyes of the two men standing at the tavern door. Knees bent, heart beating madly, she sighted down her arm, over the barrel of her gun, keeping the laughing hazel green eyes in her line of vision.

Fear. She had been afraid. The man waved the shimmering knife, and he was going to use it on Jaylynn. Some badly dressed loser drunk, stinking of booze and out of his mind, threatened her partner. From somewhere, deep in the far recesses of her memory, a vision of fire and pain leapt out at her. Not again. I can’t lose her again.

Dez opened her eyes and shook her head vigorously. She decided she must be even more fatigued than usual. Taking the last step down, she walked toward the locker room. This must be about Ryan more than anything. I feel she is under my protection—sort of like I was under his protection and he was under mine. She reached for the locker room door only to have it pull open away from her.

"Uh—hi," said Jaylynn. "Sorry." She opened the door wider and stepped back to allow the bigger woman to pass. She had already changed into jeans and was wearing a huge dark blue down coat. She held a pair of brown mittens in one hand.

"Hey, can we talk?" said Dez.

Jaylynn shrugged and waited for the taller woman to pass. Then she let go of the door and followed her over to the lockers. Dez removed her gun belt and hung it in her locker, then straddled the bench and looked up at the blond. She fell into searching hazel green eyes and felt her stomach drop right out from under her. Looking away, she discovered she was glad to be sitting down because she didn’t understand why her legs suddenly felt shaky. A feeling of dj vu struck her, and from out of nowhere a thought popped into her head: she’s the one.

The dark haired cop pinched her eyes shut and shivered, gooseflesh rising on her arms. For the briefest moment, she felt sick to her stomach, but it passed and she looked back up at the younger woman. Taking a deep breath, she cleared her throat and tried to focus on a spot right over the rookie’s left shoulder. In a low quiet voice she said, "Listen, Jaylynn. I was too hard on you tonight. I questioned your judgment, and I shouldn’t have. You caught me totally by surprise . . . I – I was wrong."

Jaylynn had a hard time keeping her jaw from dropping open in amazement. The great Desiree Reilly was apologizing. The rookie was so stunned she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "You pulled rank on me."

Dez winced a little and looked away. She nodded her head twice then returned her gaze to the young woman standing above her. "You noticed that, huh." It was a statement, not a question. She nodded once more. "I’m not saying I won’t do it again, but I’ll try not to unless it looks like an emergency, okay?"

"I think you should let me drive for the rest of the month."

Dez found a giggle pushing its way up from her diaphragm, but she stifled it. Holding back a smile, she said, "How about just tomorrow night?"

"Oughta be for at least a month!"

"Don’t push your luck." With a twinkle in her eye, Dez said, "How about for the rest of the week?"

In her best Seven of Nine voice, the rookie said, "That would be acceptable." She turned to leave, but Dez’s voice stopped her.

"By the way, Jaylynn, thanks for the CD last week. That was nice of you."

The blond was flustered for a moment before she realized what the big cop was referring to. "Oh, you’re welcome. Hope you liked it."

"Yup." The dark haired woman turned back to her locker to finish changing.

*****

New Year’s Day found the two cops fatigued and bored. In contrast to the previous night, all was quiet. There weren’t even any good parties to bust up. When a call came at nine p.m. reporting a suspected shoplifter at work in the Target store, Jaylynn floored it and zoomed up to Hamline. She pulled into the parking lot and parked the car near the front entrance. As she stepped out of the cruiser, she heard a shout.

Dez reacted exactly as Jaylynn did. They both focused on the man just outside the glass sliding door who was shouting, "Stop! Thief! It’s him." He pointed. A slender Asian man cut across the parking lot and headed for the street.

Jaylynn slammed the door shut and was off like a shot. Legs and arms pumping, she felt the adrenaline surge and hurdled the pile of snow in the parking strip. Her feet came down solid in the street, and she zeroed in on the fleeing man who was heading around the back of a large office building across the street. To her right and slightly behind, she heard Dez’s breath. "I’m left," the rookie shouted, and peeled off around the front of the building, while the dark haired cop was in hot pursuit around the back.

The blond poured on the speed and passed the front of the office building just as the man came around the side, followed by the tall cop. Seeing the rookie, he veered away and headed down a grassy embankment toward the freeway. Jaylynn scampered down behind him, skirting a pile of snow and feeling warmed up and ready to fly. Now she turned on the speed and narrowed the distance. She knew Dez was close behind, and trusted that if she herself fell trying to get the guy, then her partner would clean up after her.

The rookie grabbed the sleeve of the man’s jacket and stuck a leg in front of his shin as she passed him. He tripped and fell hard, rolling once onto his side. He was panting as she turned around and jogged back, and then Dez was cuffing him and pulling him up. The tall cop patted down the wheezing man and removed a Walkman, four unwrapped CDs, and a pack of batteries from his pockets. She handed the merchandise to Jaylynn and jerked the man’s arm. "Let’s go, buddy boy."

Jaylynn fell into stride with Dez, noticing that her partner was much more out of breath than she. The big woman looked down at her and said, "You never mentioned you were a sprinter."

"Oh. Yeah. Why?"

"That was a good run, Jay."

"Why thank you."

Dez shook her head and turned away, dragging the young man along.

That was the most excitement that cropped up for the evening. The rest of the shift dragged along as they cruised darkened streets and listened to the radio. Jaylynn wasn’t sorry when midnight rolled around. She was more than ready to go home and catch some sleep.

The rookie didn’t even bother to change clothes. In a hurry she tossed her patrol jacket and hat in the locker, grabbed up her down coat, and bid Dez goodnight, heading out to the parking lot to wait for Tim. She passed through the rear police entrance, followed by Dwayne Neilsen. "Hey Neilsen," she said, then paid him no attention as she scanned the parking lot for the beat up Toyota. So she was startled when Neilsen took hold of her arm and forced her another ten steps and around the corner into a darker area by the side of the building.

Still clutching her arm he said, "I suppose you think you’re pretty cute after last night with that drunk."

"What? Take your hands off me."

He tightened his grip and raised his right hand to shake his finger in her face. "You bitch. If you think I’m gonna stand aside and let you make me look bad . . . "

"I’m warning you," she spat out, "let go of me or I’ll report this. I’ve put up with your shit long enough, and now I’m—"

"You’ll what?" he said, venom in his voice. "Ha. I’m bigger than you and—"

A white hand appeared from out of nowhere and removed the finger shaking in Jaylynn’s face. A deep low voice she recognized said, "And I’m as big as you, asshole. Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?" The grip on Jaylynn’s arm loosened. Surprised, she watched as the snarling man whirled and tried to free his hand. He kicked out at the tall woman. She neatly sidestepped, then nailed him in the forehead with an elbow. He dropped to his knees, and she twisted the hand she held in a death grip until it was behind his back and she stood behind and over him.

Grabbing him under the chin with her free hand, she tilted his head up so that she could see into his face. "Can you hear me?" she said.

He closed his eyes. "Yes."

"This is gonna be reported. That’s a done deal. How I report it is up to you." She jerked his neck and jammed her knee into his upper back, still kinking his arm upward so hard that he grunted with pain.

"Savage," she said. "Stand in front of him and say your piece."

Jaylynn didn’t know exactly what the dark haired woman meant, but she moved around in front of Neilsen and looked down at his flushed face, the veins on his forehead standing out in the dim light. "You’ve been nothing but rude and cruel. And for no good reason," the rookie said. "I put up with the teasing, but this has gone too far. You touch me again or make trouble for me, and I’ll make sure you get fired."

He choked out, "What are you gonna do now?"

Dez abruptly let go of him, and he fell face forward. He caught himself on his hands and rose to his feet, a look of hatred on his face. He towered over Jaylynn, but he was only about two inches taller than Dez. The big cop got right up in his face and stared him down. "I’ll tell you what we’re doing now. We’re all going back into the station and you’re gonna tell the Lieutenant you lost your temper with Savage, and then you’ll apologize. It’s that, or I’m writing you up."

"You hit me," he said. "I think I’m the one who should . . ." A withering glance from the dark woman shut him up. He brushed off the knees of his pants and ran a hand through his short hair, but he followed them in and did what Dez demanded, though not with much conviction. Jaylynn thought Lt. Malcolm was pretty savvy though, so she wasn’t surprised when he asked Dez to stay behind as the two rookies filed out of the room.

On the way out the door, Jaylynn said, "Dez, before you leave, may I have a word with you?"

The tall cop nodded. "I’ll look for ya in a few minutes."

Jaylynn headed downstairs to the locker room, several strides behind a very angry Neilsen. She figured she had a couple of minutes, so she stripped out of her uniform and tossed the blue shirt and pants in the department laundry. Pulling on jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweater, she thought about what had happened. One thing she knew for sure, she’d never want to be the object of the tall woman’s ire. She was one ferocious fighter when she got mad.

The rookie didn’t turn around right away when she heard the locker room door open, but when she did, she found her protector standing cross-armed and lounging against a locker in a posture of arrogant confidence. Her black hair glinted under the fluorescent lights and her eyes shone bright blue.

Jaylynn smiled at her and said, "I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I was handling things just fine out there."

This obviously surprised the dark haired cop. She straightened up and frowned. "He was attacking you, Jay."

"He was doing the same bullshit he’s been doing since day one at the Academy. I had it under control. He just needed to whine."

In a menacing voice, Dez said, "He was threatening you. It looked like he was going to hit you."

"I don’t think so."

"Well, he’ll think twice about it in the future now."

"Yeah, if you didn’t make it worse for me."

"You won’t be seeing all that much of him. Lt. Malcolm is assigning him to the other sector from here on out."

"Oh great! Now he’ll really be plotting to show me up."

In a dangerous voice, Dez said, "He better not or I’m bouncing his ass outta here."

"Don’t you see, Dez? He’s just an insecure jerk. But he really does want to be a cop, and he might turn out to be a good one—who knows?"

"Character is everything in police work. He doesn’t have any. Men who hit women don’t deserve to be cops."

Jaylynn grinned. "What about women who hit men?"

"Nobody should hit anybody."

"Spoken by the Perennial Pounder who just left a goose-egg the size of St. Paul on the guy’s forehead."

Dez crossed her arms and gave Jaylynn a serious look. "You think I overdid it, huh?"

"Just slightly. Look, I’m not ungrateful. In fact, for a moment, I really enjoyed seeing him on his knees, unseemly as it is for me to admit it."

Dez snickered. "You couldn’t have enjoyed it half as much as I did. I wanted to beat the crap out of him."

"Thank you for not doing that."

"You’re welcome."

"I better go now. I’m sure Tim is wondering where I am."

"I’ll go with you just to make sure Neilsen’s not hovering in wait for you."

"No, no!" Jaylynn stomped her foot. "It’s fine, Dez. I’ll see you tomorrow." The rookie turned and marched out of the locker room. Dez watched her go, a thoughtful look on her face, then sighed. She decided she still had a little too much energy, so she went back to her locker and unlocked it. Time to do some sprints, she thought. If she was going to keep up with a certain blond spitfire, then she had better put some effort into it. She pulled out her running clothes and changed.

 

Continued in Part 3


Return to The Main Page