Part 6 of 11
By Lorelei, Bard of the Lakes
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. Oh yeahtheres also a little swearing here and there.
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 therehmmm, just read the novel to see what I mean, okay?
SUBTEXT: There is no subtext whatsoeverit'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: Couldnt have done this without my trio of true blue beta readers: one scientist, a doctor, and a police officer. To Buff, Joy, and Erinyou are the BEST! Thanks to Tragedy88 and Dreambard for advice and inspiration. 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 ones 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 itthree times, in factand not at all in any reasonable semblance of order. She deserves a medal.
Any and all comments are welcome, and I have greatly enjoyed what people have e-mailed so far. You can e-mail me at: email@example.com. This is part 6 of 11, and Ill keep posting regularly. J
Jaylynn was happy to see the end of March and the beginning of April, though in her household, April Fools Day was always a chore. Last year Tim had put green rubber garter snakes in Saras and her beds and had duct taped the refrigerator door shut. This year Jaylynn decided to get back at him, so she had soaked his toothbrush overnight in white vinegar. She also hid his car keys and emptied out the coffee can of all the grounds. She knew she would be home when he woke up, so she figured after he groused for a while, she would confess and have a good laugh.
The funny thing was that Kevin, who had apparently spent the night, was the recipient of two of the three jokes. He went to use the toothbrush, and from her room, Jaylynn heard the response to that quite plainly. He was also the one to discover there were no coffee grounds. That kind of took the fun out of it since Tim was the real target. Jaylynn gave Kevin a clean toothbrush and got out the coffee for the poor guy. She put the car keys back out in plain sight. She was amused to discover that Tim completely forgot about April Fools Day, which was just fine with her.
She went back to her room and turned on her CD player, selecting an Enya album for background music, then flopped down on the couch. She picked up a letter she was writing to her Auntie Lynn in Seattle, but after rereading a bit of it, she put it down. Arranging the couch pillow behind her head, she kicked her feet out on the cushions and slumped down. She picked up the book of stories she had been reading, The Worldwide Church of the Handicapped, and tried to focus, but she couldnt. She let the book fall next to her and closed her eyes.
The face that came to mind, as usual, was one she did not want to think about. She couldnt avoid it. Dark hair, arched eyebrows, high cheekbones, liquid blue eyes, and an occasional smile. Jaylynn hadnt seen that crooked half-smile for weeks. She was tired of riding with a variety of officers. She wanted her old FTO backunder any circumstances. She missed the tall woman desperately, and it occurred to her that police work was all drudgery lately. Face it, she thought to herself, I joined the force because of her. I couldnt admit that to anyone, but if anyone asked, Id have to be honest. Maybe its ridiculous, but its the truth. Am I an idiot or what?
Suddenly full of nervous energy, she stood and went over to make the bed. Looking around the room she decided it was time for a good spring cleaning. In three days her mother and sisters were due for a visit, so she figured she had better get things organized. It was going to be close quarters for five days with her mom sharing the double bed and the girls on the hide-a-bed couch in sleeping bags. She couldnt wait to see them.
"Is this it? Is this it?" Two perky little girl voices warbled away excitedly from the back seat as Jaylynn pulled into a parking space and put her Camryin park. The two sisters opened the back doors and prepared to tumble out.
"Wait, girls," said Jaylynn. "Leave the toys there in the car. You cant bring those Barbies in with you."
After carefully setting their dolls down on the seat, two compact little girls emerged from the gray Camry. They looked a great deal like Jaylynn: hazel eyes, long legs, twitchy with nervous energy. Only their hair was different from their older sisters. Both little girls had a shock of straight sandy brown hair like their fathers, while Jaylynns short hair was blond like her mothers.
Their mother, a slender woman in her middle 40s, picked up her purse and got out. Jaylynn waited for the girls to slam their doors shut, then pushed the auto-lock. She looked admiringly at her new car, which her mother had eagerly approved. It was so nice to travel in a clean vehicle, unlike Tims which was always packed full of newspapers and candy wrappers and styrofoam containers from McDonalds. She was glad shed been able to buy the car before the girls spring break. It made it much easier to show them around town.
"Amanda," their mother said, "tie your shoe. And you there, quit acting so squirrely." In excitement, Jaylynns youngest sister, Erin, bounced up and down on the balls of her feet. She paused. When her mother looked away, she resumed her determined bouncing.
"This way, Mom," said Jaylynn, and she led the three of them to the front entrance. The mid-afternoon sun slanted down upon them, but it shed no warmth on this breezy April day.
Erin pushed past Amanda and took Jaylynns hand. "Will we get to see your gun?" she asked.
"No, sweetie, my gun is locked up in my locker. Police work isnt about guns, Erin. Its about helping people."
"Not on TV," chimed in the worldly-wise Amanda.
"This is definitely not TV," said Jaylynn. She pushed through the front door and led them into the police station.
With a whine in her voice, Erin said, "Do we at least get to meet our hero?"
Jaylynn and her mother looked at one another over the top of the girls heads and rolled their eyes.
Their mother said, "I dont know why you two insist on this Our Hero business."
"She is our hero, Mother," said Amanda in the patient voice of a 9-year-old who knows adults are not always aware of what is important. "She saved Jay and Sara and everything. We cant wait to see her."
Jaylynn interrupted, "Theres always a chance she wont be here, so dont get your hopes up." In fact, Jaylynn didnt expect Dez to be around for another half-hour, saving her the discomfort of being in the harsh womans presence. In a way, she did want her mother to meet Dez, but she was also acutely aware of the awkwardness shed feel.
Amanda and Erin skipped through the halls. They both wore white tennis shoes and blue corduroy pants, but Erins jacket was pink with purple trim while Amandas was a solid forest green. They giggled their way along, asking questions, stopping to greet every police officer they saw. Once when they saw a dark-haired female cop, they asked, "Are you Desiree? Were looking for our hero." Erin pronounced her name oddly: Desert-RAY with the emphasis on the last syllable. Jaylynns mother shook her head as she tried to herd the rambunctious girls down another hall while Jaylynn apologized to the perplexed officer who was definitely not Dez. As they moved through the building, she pointed out the Complaint Desk, the Comm Center, and the Property Room.
After telling the girls not to bother anyone, especially if they were changing clothes, Jaylynn led them down the stairs and pushed open the door to the womens locker room. The girls skipped through the door and paused at the first row of lockers, followed by their mother and big sister. Jaylynn winced when she heard Amanda say, "Hi there. Are you our hero? Were looking for Desiree."
A low voice answered. "And whos asking?"
In unison the girls said, "We are." They stood at the end of the locker room bench, looking up, waiting.
The tall woman smiled. "And who might you be?" She finished buttoning her shirt and slammed her locker shut as Jaylynn and her mother came around the corner and stepped up behind the girls. Ah. I should have figured this out, Dez thought to herself. The little girls resemble Jaylynn, and all three of them look just like their mother.
Dez met the eyes of the older woman and stood for a moment stunned. Why, shes beautiful. What a great figure. If Jaylynn looks like that in twenty years, shell be beautiful too. Her eyes shifted to take in the rookie, and she was even more amazed to realize that Jaylynn was, already, quite a looker. She had rarely seen the rookie out of the boxy, blue uniform or workout sweats, and the few times Jaylynn had worn street clothes, Dez had to admit she hadnt paid much attention. Today the younger woman wore tight black jeans and a form-fitting white scoop-necked sweater that revealed her to be shapely. She had a soft tan leather jacket over one arm, and a gold locket on a chain rested in the hollow of her throat. Her face looked worried.
Erin looked up over her shoulder at Jaylynn. "Well? Is this her or what?" she said in exasperation. She turned back to the tall woman.
Jaylynn gently placed her hands on Erins shoulders. "Yes."
Amanda and Erin both let out a cheer. "Yay! Its about time we found her!" Erin started her bouncing routine until Jaylynns hands squeezed her shoulders to settle her down. She knew her face was crimson, but Jaylynn took a deep breath and said, "Desiree Reilly, these are my sisters Erin and Amanda. And this is my mother, Janet Lindstrom."
Jaylynns mother reached out and shook hands with the tall woman. "I am so happy to meet you. Ive heard a lot of good things about you from Jaylynn."
In an excited voice, Amanda said, "We think we might want your autograph."
Dez frowned and gazed over at Jaylynn with a quizzical look on her face. She arched one eyebrow, then turned back to Amanda and said, "Why?"
Jaylynns mother started to answer but before she could get a word out, Erin cut in. "Because youre our hero. You saved our sister from the bad men, and now shes a policeman saving other people from the bad men."
Dez nodded. "Actually, shes a police woman."
The girls nodded in unison.
Janet sighed and said, "Its a good thing theyve finally met you. I swear its all theyve talked about since we left Seattle. They got this notion in their heads about you, and you know how eight and ten-year-olds are. I think they expect you to be able to fly or astral project or something like that."
The girls protested, and Dez laughed.
Jaylynns mother went on, "But seriously, hows your arm? Jaylynn told me you broke it in the ruckus."
"Oh," Dez said, surprised. "Its just fine." She flexed her right hand. "No problems at all."
Erin said, in a small plaintive voice, "Can we see your gun?"
Dez sat down on the bench so that she was eye-to-eye with the girls. "No, Im sorry, but its not a toy. I only take it out of the holster for two reasons. Do you know what they are?"
Amanda said, "To shoot someone?"
"No, I get it out if there is a threat and think I might have to use it. I also have to clean it and make sure it always works right, but other than that, it stays right here snapped shut in the holster." She patted her hip.
Erin said, "How many people have you killed so far?"
Jaylynn, who had been bearing the interrogation with great embarrassment, piped up and said, "Erin! I told you: zero. The police dont go around shooting people."
"Listen to your sister," said Dez. "Shes right." Dezs amused eyes met Jaylynns, and it happened again, that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Hastily she turned and snapped shut her locker. When she turned back she avoided the rookies eyes though she smiled and said, "When you told me you had two younger sisters, it didnt connect that they would be grade-schoolers."
Jaylynns mother said, "Third and fourth gradeand quite a handful." She smiled, and Dez was struck by how friendly the woman was.
She nodded in understanding, then turned her attention to the two girls staring up at her. "Well," she said, "why dont you two come up and have a tour with me. Then well see the roll call room. Ill introduce you to all the guys and you can hear how we get assigned our nights work."
"You dont have to do that," Jaylynn protested.
"I dont mind. Ive got plenty of time," said Dez. "Shift doesnt start for" she checked her watch, "forty-two minutes."
As if theyd known her forever, Erin and Amanda both reached up and took a hand. Dez smiled at Janet and led the two girls past and out the locker room. The two women followed. In a quiet voice Janet said, "Shes seems very nice, Jaylynn. Shes not at all what I expected. You never mentioned that shes seven feet tall."
"Shes . . . well, shes really tall, hon."
For the first time since joining the police force, Jaylynn went back to work reluctantly. She hadnt wanted to say goodbye to her mom and the girls when theyd left the day before, but of course she did, trying not to cry at the airport as she watched them move away from her down the long ramp to the plane. She was filled with such contradictory emotions. On the one hand, after five days of little girl energy, she was ready for a break, but on the other hand, she wished it wouldnt be months and months before she saw them all again.
She was glad Sara was home when she got back from the airport, and they went to see a movie, Life Is Beautiful, which she decided might be one of the most wonderful films shed ever seen, despite the Italian subtitles. Then she spent a quiet evening reading in her room, went to bed before midnight, and slept until nearly ten in the morning. She awoke feeling groggy, remembering violent, scary dreams. By the time she got to work in the middle of the afternoon, she decided she was feeling more chipper, but still, she was out-of-sorts.
Fortunately, the shift with Crystal went by swiftly, and when midnight rolled around, Jaylynn parked the cruiser and the two women strolled toward the station. With a twinkle in her eye, which Jaylynn missed in the dim midnight light, Crystal said, "Hey, how bout we stay an hour or so and lift some weights? Weve been on our butts so long, I feel like I need a bit of a workout."
"Sure. Good idea." Jaylynn took off her police hat and tipped her head forward to stretch her neck. "I feel pretty dang stiff from all that sitting."
They went to their lockers and changed into shorts and t-shirts, then reconvened in the gym. The dim overhead lights cast weird shadows on all the equipment, and the reflection of the mirrors ringing the room multiplied the odd light into strange specters. At 12:15 a.m., all was quiet.
Crystal said, "You wanna work out together or just go at it alone?" She held her arms out to the side and stretched them, rolling her neck in circles.
"Together," said Jaylynn. "Im still learning stuff, so itll be good to watch you, okay?"
"Muy bueno, chiquita. Im doing chest and maybe triceps today. That all right?"
Jaylynn nodded and followed Crystal to the bench press.
"What weight do you start with?" asked Crystal.
"Im only up to 65 pounds max. Ill do some light stuff and work up to that."
"Okay, you start then, and Ill add weights when its my turn."
Jaylynn laid down on the blue bench and situated herself. She said, "Let me warm up a bit with just the bar."
"Yeah, then Ill slap on the weights for you."
Jaylynn lay on her back and gripped the 45-pound bar, lifted it off the rack, and let it drop slowly to her chest, then pressed it up ten times. She racked it, and Crystal slipped tens on each end and stood over to spot for her. After a brief rest, she repeated the ten reps and replaced the bar. Crystal slipped a 25 on each end and changed places with Jaylynn.
"Thats real good," said Jaylynn. "Id die doing 115 pounds."
Crystal gripped the bar. "Have you ever seen Dez do 185?"
Jaylynn shook her head.
"Well, she can. Makes it look easy too. And you know what? She can leg press six plates on a side over there, you know, like 600 pounds. Spot for me now, okay? Im trying for eight reps. I might need help at the end." Crystal pressed the bar up and began her set.
Jaylynn watched Crystal closely from where she stood above, ready to help if needed, so she didnt notice Dez enter the gym, then stop abruptly when she saw the two cops. The tall woman wore tight black shorts, black shoes and socks, and a heavy-duty black sports bra with criss-cross straps on the back. She hesitated for a moment, then shrugged and pulled on a pair of soft leather Ocelot workout gloves, cinching them around her wrists. Moving to the lat pull-down bar she adjusted the weights to warmup settings, then got a wide grip, sat on the seat and tucked her knees under the pad, then pulled the bar. She warmed up slowly, keeping her back arched and pulling the bar down to her chin, letting her back and shoulders get used to the motion. After she did two sets of 15 light reps, she let the bar back up and stretched her arms and neck. Readjusting the weights to a heavier setting, she got situated to pull down the heavier weight.
Crystal racked the weights she was bench pressing and sat up. She looked back at Jaylynn and was amused to see the young woman watching Dez intently. She cleared her throat. "Guess it was lucky I didnt need your help on that last one, huh partner?"
Jaylynn shook herself and blushed. "Im sorry. I got distracted." She jerked her head toward Dez and in a whisper said, "Crystal, will you look at her? How does she do that?"
As Dez pulled the bar down, the muscles in her broad back and shoulders bulged and rippled smoothly. Each lat pulldown revealed muscle definition Jaylynn had never before noticed on a woman.
Dez set the weights down and let go of the lat bar, and Jaylynn took that moment to stride over and lock eyes with her in the mirror. "How did you do that, Dez?" She came to a stop directly behind her, crossed her arms, and waited demandingly.
"Do what?" came the low drawl.
"Get such incredible muscle definition in your shoulders and back? How in the world did that happen?"
The pale skin of the dark-haired womans face went from white to pink to crimson in the few seconds it took her to answer. "IwellI just worked at it hard. Ate right. You know, stayed at it. It just happened."
"How long did it take for that to just happen?"
Dez spun on the seat to face the smaller woman. "I dont know . . . couple years or so."
Jaylynn continued to stare at her, fascinated, completely oblivious to Crystal who sat on the bench behind them and watched with an amused expression on her face.
"How did you learn what to do to build up like that?" said Jaylynn.
"Books. Magazines. And from Ryan. Mostly Ryan. He pretty much coached me."
"Can you teach me?"
Dez shrugged. "I guess," she said, doubt in her voice.
"You dont think I could learn?"
Dez smiled a full smile, her white teeth twinkling in the low light. She shook her head. "No, I dont think that at all. I just didnt think youd be interested. Youve got a lean runners body. And youre fast. Wouldnt you rather work at wind sprints and cross country type stuff?"
"No, not really."
Crystal sidled up to the two of them. "Are we gonna get a back lesson from the master? Cause if we are, then Im gonna stop working my chest right this minute." Both women stared at her blankly. Crystal observed that the air about her fairly crackled with energy. Ooh baby, she thought. Any fool can see these two got it bad for each other. She looked at her dark haired friend, then at the new recruit and back to Dez again. She wanted to laugh but forced herself not to. "You know, on second thought, my back has been bothering me. I think Ill just do a quick chest routine and be on my way."
Crystal returned to the bench press and sat watching the two women as Dez grabbed the lat bar and began to explain something, a serious look on her face. Crystal couldnt quite hear what was said, but Jaylynn nodded and asked questions, watching closely as Dez demonstrated.
Crystal lay back on the bench and gripped the free weights. She managed to eke out 7 reps before racking it again. When she sat up, she noticed that now the rookie was seated at the lat pull down station holding onto the wide bar with Dez standing behind her, hands patting Jaylynns shoulders as the tall woman explained something intently. Neither woman paid Crystal the slightest bit of attention. She wondered if she should feel hurt, then decided that the two women needed very much to patch things up. She continued with her presses, moved on to dumbbell flyes, did some push-ups, and decided to call it a night. When she exited, she looked back to see Dez squatting next to Jaylynn as the smaller woman worked at the seated row. Neither woman gave any indication that they noticed Crystal leaving.
Jaylynn arrived for roll call right on time, and as usual, Dez was already perched on a chair in her regular back corner. They nodded at one another, and Jaylynn sat in a seat in the middle of the room and waited for the flow of cops to settle so the sergeant could start.
Cheryl entered full of vigor and excitement. "Hey, Jaylynn," she hollered across the room. "Guess what? Stevens is back to work. I didnt expect him until next week, but his wifes doing so well, hes back tonight." She helped herself to a doughnut and came over to sit in the chair next to the rookie. She leaned over closer and said quietly, "He also said hes up every night with a crabby wife and baby anyway, so he may as well get back to work."
The duty sergeant stomped into the room and hollered at everyone to listen up. In the daily updates, he brought up the latest rash of burglaries. "You all know about the Bat Boy Burglaries from this mornings paper. Thereve been six break-ins in six weeks, usually on Saturday or Sunday evenings. Witnesses ID them as kids with baseball bats. They knockif no answer, they whack in a window and take money, jewelry, small items of value. Keep an eye out for three white boys dressed urban style. So far all the burglaries have taken place in the Selby-Dale neighborhood."
The sergeant called roll and made assignments. Jaylynn was paired with someone she didnt know at all named Calvin Braswell who didnt often work their sector. After roll call Cheryl gripped her forearm and leaned over to speak in Jaylynns ear. "Good luck tonight. Hes a dinosaur, that one," Cheryl whispered. "Youll have to put up with some bitchin from him. He despises women cops. I rode with him a couple of times, and hes a disrespectful, foul-mouthed jerk."
"Great," said Jaylynn. "Just what I need."
Cheryl said, "Maybe youll have better luck charming him than I did."
Cheryl slid past and headed out the door with Stevens. Jaylynn rose and fell in line behind the rest of the cops. She sauntered up to the front where Braswell, a rotund sandy-haired man with 1970s sideburns, was engaged in a heated conversation with the duty sergeant. She saw Dez pause behind Braswell, and by then Jaylynn was close enough to hear for herself.
Braswell was saying, "Im not riding with some fresh-faced punkspecially not a female one. What a pain in the ass. Rather ride alone!"
"Why dont you do that, Braswell," said Dez in a deep voice over his shoulder.
He jumped and half-turned. "Jesus Christ, Reilly! Whatchu doing sneaking up on a guy like that?"
"Since it offends your masculine sensibilities so much to ride with a woman, Ill take Savage tonight. Okay, Sarge?" she said as she nodded toward her superior officer.
"No skin off my nose," he replied. "Ill just update it on the roster and let the Lieutenant know."
Dez turned to Braswell. "You oughta buy me lunch or something though."
"Bullshit! You girls should stick together, leave us guys alone."
Dez turned with a twinkle in her eye to find Jaylynn behind her wearing a puzzled look on her face. Dez said, "Lets go, Savage. We gotta make sure we dont get the car with the broken heater." Loudly she said over her shoulder, "I hope Braswell snags it and freezes his fat ass off." She took off out the door, her long legs beating a staccato sound on the tile as Jaylynn raced along behind her.
Dez picked up the keys and loped out to the parking lot. She slid into the drivers seat and Jaylynn got in and buckled up. She waited for Dez to say something, but after theyd traveled a good mile she couldnt take the silence anymore. "Why did you do that?"
Jaylynn pondered for a moment. She wasnt satisfied with that. "Im serious. Why?"
Dez said, "You woulda hated riding with Braswell. Hes a sexist mean-spirited asshole. Also not a very good cop. You cant trust him with your back. I just figured you didnt need the kind of grief hed put you through."
"And what?" said Dez, irritably. She pulled her sunglasses out of her breast pocket, flipped them open, and put them on.
"And what else? What do you care if I have to ride with some old dinosaur?"
Dez hesitated, then shook her head and looked over at Jaylynn. "All right. Ive been thinking maybe its time we put this cold war behind us. Call it a gesture of good will and concern."
Jaylynn frowned, then looked away. She caught sight of something out the window and did a double take. "Dez, you see em?"
"Yeah," said Dez. "Do they match the description or what?" Two slender white boys and a fatter tall boy, all in mid-teens, walked away from them down the alley between Selby and Victoria Street. They wore over-sized sweatshirts and huge baggy jeans. One skinny kid carried a cardboard box in his arms, and the tall boy was juggling two awkward-looking grocery bags. The third boy held two shiny aluminum bats. Their baseball caps were pulled down low and they looked around constantly, surreptitiously checking out the houses along the row.
Dez hit the gas and circled the block. "This has gotta be too good to be true." When she arrived at the mouth of the alley, the boys looked up, surprised, then dropped the bags and box and ran.
"Oh great, they made us," said Jaylynn. She wrenched her door open and decided on a hunch to go after the biggest kid, hoping he might not be as fleet of foot. Dez grabbed the radio to report as the two skinny boys split, one going through a yard on the left of the alley, the other through a yard on the right side. The big kid turned and ran down the alley. He cut through a yard, struggled over a waist high chain link fence, stumbled, and then fled out onto Ashland Street. Dez saw Jaylynn vault the fence in one fluid motion and start to gain yardage.
The dark haired cop hit the siren and lights and followed down the alley issuing descriptions over the radio to dispatch. Once Jaylynn and the kid veered off into the yard, Dez lost sight of them. She gunned the car forward and drove back onto the avenue, hoping to pick them up on Laurel Street. Wrong direction. The rookie and the boy were nowhere to be seen. They must have crossed another street and run through more than one yard.
She wheeled the car back around the block and up to the next street. As she turned the corner she caught sight of Jaylynn bolting away from her and across the pavement, just yards behind her quarry. Dez couldnt help but smile. Perfect sprinters form. The blond hardly looked fatigued. The fat boy was ready to have a heart attack and from all appearances, the rookie wasnt even warmed up yet. Dez accelerated and drove up onto the parking strip, then leapt out of the car in time to see Jaylynn grab the back of the kids sweatshirt and drag him down with a nicely executed tackle. She had his arms behind his back and the cuffs on before he could even get his face out of the grass. Dez leaned against the door and grinned, then radioed in to report to dispatch.
There were sirens close by, and Dez hoped theyd snag the other two boys. But with just this one, they would likely get the names and information they needed. Shed bet money the Bat Boy Burglaries were over. As she stood watching, neighbors peeped out windows or came out on their porches to watch.
Jaylynn hauled the kid up. He staggered, but she kept hold of his arm, dragged him over to the cruiser and stuffed him in the back seat. Then she leaned back against the cars rear panel and put her hands on her knees to catch her breath. If you didnt count her shirt coming partly untucked, then she had escaped the chase with only a grass stain on one knee. After a moment, she was aware of Dezs gaze. She looked up to see the older cop smiling, her bright blue eyes merry. Dez stood facing the rear of the car, one foot in the car and one on the ground with her right shoulder draped over the open door. "Couldnt have done that better myself," she said.
"Lets go back and get the goods," she said. With a satisfied look on her face, she said, "That ought to be a good collar for us."
"No," said Dez. "That ones all yours. You spotted them first, you took him down on your own. Its yours. And you know what that means?"
"No, what?" Jaylynn stood up and tucked her shirt in.
"You also get all the paper work." Dez laughed and got in the car.
Processing juveniles always took longer, and it was well over an hour before they got back to the car again. By then it was eight oclock, and Jaylynn was desperately hungry.
"Where do you want to go for meal break?" said Dez. "Burger King? Mickey Ds? Taco Bell? Your choice."
"Lets hit the The Cutting Board and get some of those sandwiches."
"Oh, I can swing by there later. Pick where you want to go."
"That is where Id like to go," said Jaylynn. "I dont eat fast food anymore."
Dez was surprised. "You dont? Why?"
"I hate to admit it but you were right. I cant sit around on my butt in a squad car night after night and expect to maintain my girlish figure. I could tell I was putting on weight. So I took your advice before I had an ass the size of Mankato."
Dez laughed heartily. "And youve been working out too."
"No wonder you were flying earlier. You looked soso effortless. Just think what would have happened if youd been paired with Braswell tonight for that." Dez started laughing. "Youd have made Mr. Pot Belly look really bad. I almost wish I could have seen that."
Jaylynn looked at Dez out of the corner of her eye and found herself wondering what the hell had gotten into her. This was hardly the taciturn, distant woman of the last several weeks. Why the change? "Hey, Im starving here," said Jaylynn. "You gonna drive or do I have to?"
"Should I put on the siren?"
"I hardly think my meal warrants a code red. Just get a move on," she said hiding her smile of happiness.
Jaylynn didnt know what to expect when she arrived for work the next day. Riding with Pilcher had been okay, and she liked when she got assigned with Crystal, but some of the other cops were not fun. She couldnt avoid admitting to herself how much she preferred Dez. She had forgottenno, shed chosen on purpose not to rememberhow enjoyable a shift could be. The evening before had flown by. It took no time at all for the two of them to slip into an effective work rhythm. Little needed to be said. On calls, a quick nod or hand gesture, maybe a raised eyebrow, and they knew what the other was thinking. Two domestics and three noise complaints kept them busy until midnight, and when shift ended, shed felt a twinge of longing for the night to go on and on. But she was Cinderella at the ball, and at the stroke of twelve, it was all over. She laughed ruefully at herself for comparing Cinderellas tribulations to hers. At least I dont have to wear high-heeled glass slippers. Or a skirt with a giant hoop.
She arrived nearly 45 minutes early because she needed to see the Lieutenant, then went to the locker room to change into her uniform. She dressed hastily. Sitting on the bench in front of her locker, the back of her knees pressed against the rickety wood, she worked at threading her wide belt through the loops on her pants. The locker room door opened. She didnt look around until she realized someone loomed behind her, someone very tall with long black hair.
"Oh hi," Jaylynn said. She willed herself not to blush, but it didnt work.
Dez didnt seem to notice. She sat down on the other even more rickety bench across from Jaylynns back. In a low, soft voice she said, "We need to talk."
Jaylynn swung around, lifting her feet over the bench to the other side, and faced the bigger woman. Not looking up, she finished buckling her belt. "What about?"
Jaylynns head came up swiftly and her eyes met shards of smouldering blue. She waited, not trusting her voice to speak.
The dark haired woman looked away, her face grim but determined. "I think Ive been sort of hard on you lately." She leaned forward, put her elbows on her knees, and looked down. Quietly she said, "I just want you to know that youre developing into a damn good cop, and Id like to go back to riding with youwhenever you want, that is, if you want to, I mean"
"Your apology. I accept."
Dez looked confused. "I wasnt aware I was apologizing."
"Well, you shoulda been," Jaylynn said with a great deal more vehemence than she intended.
Her face now a carefully guarded mask, Dez rose to full height, towering over the rookie. She gave Jaylynn her most merciless stare. "Now see here, youre the one who asked outnot me."
Jaylynn stood up, too, and all five and a half feet of her met the tall cops gaze with unflinching firmness. "You gave me no choice. Besides, can you stand there and tell me you werent going to pass me off anyway?" Dez made a gesture with her hand, but Jaylynn interrupted, "Dont lie to me to make me feel better. You didnt want to ride with me anymore, did you?"
Dez glared at her. This discussion was not what shed had in mind when shed begun it. She had felt better during last nights shift than she had in a very long time. It feltright. Like all was right with the world. And she had thought of nothing else all day, had debated back and forth whether she should even approach Jaylynn, and now she was sure she should not have. "What do you want from me?"
Abruptly, Jaylynn sat down and put her head in her hands. "Nothing. Really. Forget it."
Dez stepped over the bench and squatted in front of Jaylynn. She tapped the blond haired womans knee with her fist. "Hey. Lets not be so serious, okay? If youd rather not ride with me, thats okay."
"No, Dez, thats not it. I like riding with you. A lot." She looked up and saw the guarded look on the other womans face. "But what about your reputation?"
"Whaddya mean?" Dez rocked back on her heels and stood up again.
"Youve got a reputation to uphold. You told me that before. You sure you want to partner with the lesbian rookie? Believe me, enough people know now."
"God! Why are you making this so hard?" Dez tightened her fist and smacked it into the palm of her hand, making a growling sound in her throat. What she really wanted to do was pick up the lockers and throw them out the windowbut upon further examination she realized this was the basement and there were no windows. She sat on the bench again and squeezed her eyes shut. "All right then. I apologize."
It was all Dez could do to keep from screaming. She shut her eyes, drew a deep breath and held it, then expelled it forcefully and opened her eyes. She looked into Jaylynns hazel eyes and saw a trace of amusement. Suddenly, inexplicably, she relaxed. What did Ryan use to say? In the face of female adversity, either run like hell or throw in the towel. Shed already run like hell and that hadnt worked. She wondered how good her towel tossing skills were. She cleared her throat. "What Im sorry about is that everything I said and did hurt you. I didnt mean to hurt you, Jay. Can you accept that?"
"And Id like us to go back to riding together again. Ill keep teaching you what I know if youll forgive me for being such an oaf."
"So, should we go talk to the Lieutenant?"
"No," said Jaylynn.
Exasperated, Dez groaned. "Why the hell not?"
"I went to see him when I first got here and already put in the request. All you have to do is okay it."
Dez got to her feet and loomed over the smaller woman. "You made me go through all of that?"
Jaylynn tipped her head back, and with a smile of satisfaction said, "Yup. And it was worth it."
In mock anger, Dez grabbed Jaylynns collar and tugged her to her feet. "You are the most pig-headed woman Ive ever met."
"You looked in the mirror lately? Maybe you should have someone introduce you to yourself." She shrugged Dezs hand off and straightened her collar.
In a grumpy voice, Dez said, "Very funny."
The locker room door swung open and in came Cheryl. "Hey there girls." She launched into an account of her fabulous day. Dez took the first opportunity to slip away, leaving Jaylynn listening intently to Cheryls rambling. What Dez didnt realize was that although on the outside Jaylynn appeared to be listening; on the inside, she was still talking to Dez, still with Dez, totally immersed in happiness.
After shift that night Jay was still wired. Shed been full of energy for nine straight hours. They got back to the locker room and she called out over her shoulder, "Are you lifting weights tonight, Dez?"
"Nah, day of rest from lifting."
"Too bad. I feel like I need to work off some of this nervous energy."
"Lets take a run then," Dez said, as she wrestled off the bullet-proof vest.
"Very funny. Just jog up and down the halls of administration or what?"
"No. Im serious. We take off and run down to the river and back. I do it all the time."
Jaylynn started to pull off her t-shirt, then paused. "Do I need to remind you its after midnight?"
"I strap my weapon on over my jogging clothes, and prestono problem. Nobody ever bothers me."
"Im not running with a gun flapping at my side," she said, but she pulled her t-shirt back down and got out a pair of sweat bottoms.
"You dont have to carry. I dont think we need more fire power than what my weapon offers," Dez said dryly. "Im used to it anyway. So are you game?"
Jaylynn swung around on the bench and waited as Dez pulled on her socks and shoes. Jaylynn was already dressed in leotards under blue sweats and three layers of shirts: t-shirt, long sleeved jersey, and an orange sweatshirt. Dez pulled on black sweats and a heavy gray sweatshirt with the St. Paul Police Department logo on it. The big cop finished tying her shoes and fished through her locker until she found a neoprene sport holster. She pulled up her sweatshirt and velcroed it around her waist, secured her gun, and turned it so the gun was at the small of her back.
"Hey thats cool," said Jay, "but thats not your Glock is it?"
"No, its a .38 I like to carry when I run or ride my bike."
She reached over and tugged Dezs sweatshirt up to examine the holster. "Its like scuba dive material."
"Yeah, so it keeps my middle warm, thats for sure." She tucked some money and her license in her sock and faced Jay.
They went out the building into the cool night air. "So whats the route?" said Jaylynn.
"You want, say, a mile down and back, or the long route?"
"How long is long?"
"Maybe four miles."
Jaylynn stopped to think for a moment. "Lets go long then."
By now they were out on the empty avenue, the street lamps shining down on Jaylynns hair and making her look as though a halo reflected around her head. Dezs face was shrouded in shadow. Jay walked next to her and looked up, trying to see her eyes, but it was dark enough that they were obscured in the gloom.
"Okay," said Dez, "lets go down Jackson, under the train overpass, across Warner to the river, and then run on that path for a mile or so. Then lets come back up and go through Rice Park. Itll be a nice loop."
Jaylynn nodded and they took off into a slow jog, gradually stretching their legs further, speeding up, until they found a steady rhythm that suited them both. For the first mile they heard only the rasp of one anothers breath and an occasional far-off siren. They reached the river and ran side-by-side on the path. Jay said, "I likethose lightson the water."
Dez looked out across the Mississippi. Reflections from the buildings on the other side cast wavy golden light on the surface of the water. "Its pretty." The path was well-lit by lamps placed every thirty feet or so, and a waist-high bright blue metal fence ran beside the path between them and the drop down to the river. When the weather improved, there would be flowers and plants galore alongside the footpath.
Soon they reached the end of the river path and turned around. With a sly grin, Jaylynn said, "Ill beat you to the boat mooring sign . . ." and she took off. Dez accelerated after her, long legs beating staccato on the cement. She gained slowly on the blond and drew next to her. Now it was a battle of wills since their legs were fatigued and tiring. Jaylynn fell into a familiar rhythm: knees up, hands loose, breath even. Her peripheral vision slowly narrowed until she was focused only on the sign 70 yards, 60 yards, 50 yards ahead. . . .
With her longer, stronger legs, Dez pushed herself, tenaciously remaining alongside the fleet-footed woman. She was determined to stay with Jaylynn, maybe not beat her, but at least reach the sign simultaneously. Her breath was ragged, and she could feel her lungs burning. 40 yards, 30 yards, so close, so close.
They blew past the sign, abreast, and slowed gradually until they both came to a stop next to the fence along the path. Panting, they bent over and tried to catch their breath.
"Good speed there," gasped Jaylynn, "for an old lady."
Dez reached out and whacked the blond womans shoulder lightly with the back of her hand. "Easy for you to say," she choked out. "You arent . . .packing a . . . heavy gun."
Jay squealed with laughter. "Oh right . . . thats a good one. . . . want me to take it . . . . and well try another. . . . 400 yards or so?"
"Nah, thats okay . . . I concede to the . . . superior sprinter."
Jay looked up at her in mock horror. "Oh my god . . . what a day. Apologies . . .and concessions . . . all in one night!"
Dez could finally breathe better and started walking along the path, still taking deep breaths of the cool night air. "Thats where youre wrong. Its after midnight . . .a whole new day. Yesterday was apologies. Today is concessions."
Jaylynn fell in beside her walking swiftly. "What will tomorrow bring?"
"Who knows, confessions? Maybe Ill divulge a few long-lost secrets."
In a droll voice Jay said, "Ooh, cant wait to hear that!"
"This is not a race now, but lets pick it up now that I can finally breathe again."
They shifted into a slow jog and struggled up the hill to Kellogg toward Rice Park. The ornamental street lamps shone brightly all around the one block circumference of the park. Two cement paths formed an X from corner to corner of the block, and in one quarter of the X was a beautiful fountain, ringed by a wide, waist-high marble retaining wall which enclosed a pool of dark water. The fountain was not operating, and all was quiet in the park. The two women jogged up to the wall and stopped. Jaylynn proceeded to stretch out her hamstrings on it. At the center of the pool of water was a 10-foot-high iron statue of a woman. She looked downward, her head cocked slightly to the side. She had powerful arms and legs, a narrow waist, and long hair. Her face was mysteriously passive and hard to make out in the murky night light.
Dez leaned back against the wall, pulled herself up, and balanced on the wide edge. The cement was cold against her legs, but she disregarded it.
Jaylynn stopped stretching and shook her legs out. She could keep running. She wasnt yet tired, though she thought she should be. Instead, nervous energy coursed through her limbs. She glanced up at Dez and found thoughtful blue eyes already on her. In two steps, she could put her arms around the bigger womans waist, her head against her middle. She willed herself not to think about that. Shed be damned if shed make a fool of herself again. The mischievous side of her was even tempted to push Dez into the pool, and she gave a strained laugh and leaned her elbows on the wall a safe two feet away from the dark form perched nearby.
"Whats so funny?" came the low throaty voice.
"Youre in a mighty vulnerable position. If I wasnt such a nice person, you could be doing the backstroke right now."
"And youd have joined me, count on it."
"Hmm, Im not going to see if youre right. Especially since I see a squad car coming our way now."
Dez turned and looked over her shoulder. Sure enough, a car was slowing on the street. The cruisers spotlight illuminated and a streak of light shone their way. Dez jumped off the wall and faced the cops, raising her hands out and above shoulder level. "Hey," she shouted. "Who is that? Patterson? Bentley?"
The spotlight went out and the drivers door opened. "Reilly? Is that you?"
"Yeah," she shouted. "Bentley?"
"No, Patterson." A tall skinny form moved toward them, stepped over a low brick wall, and came around the side of the fountain. "What the hell are you doing out here this time of night? And whos this?"
"Savage and I went for a run."
"Jesus, Reilly, its almost two-fucking-oclock in the morning." He was close enough now for them to see his tired face.
Dez said, "Best time to run. Theres no roller bladers competing for the jogging path."
"You gals might not be safe, you know. I wouldnt be out this time of night."
"Patterson, you are out this time of night," said the tall cop.
"But Im working. What if somebody came along, hassled you, attacked you?"
"You worry too much. Im packing." She turned a bit so he could see her holster. "Nobody messes with me. But if it makes you feel any better, were on the way back up to the station."
"Okay. Whatever." He peered at the blond. "I havent met you Savage. Heard your name. Im Gus Patterson." He stuck his hand out and she told him her first name. He let go and turned toward the tall woman. "Hey, Reilly," he said. "I hear youre competing in a couple months. Is that right?"
There was a long pause. "Yeah, I am."
"Well, Ill come and root you on. Its for a nice cause. So good luck."
"Thanks Patterson," came the quiet answer.
"See you two girls around. Just be careful." He spun on his heel and moved away from them.
"Dont worry, Patterson," Dez called out confidently. "Anybody messes with us, Ill shoot em. And if I miss, Savage here can just run away."
His voice came back faintly, "Yeah, yeah. Dont call me to take the report." He got back in the car and drove off.
Jaylynn looked at Dez quizzically. "What competition was he talking about?"
"Nothing. Never mind." She moved away from the wall. "Lets head back up"
"Wait." Jaylynn grabbed her forearm. "Tell me. What was he talking about?"
Dez shook her head. She spat out the next words. "I didnt want everyone and their brother to know about this, but apparently they must."
"Im not everyone and their brother, Dez." Jaylynn was getting mad and trying to keep it cool. She still gripped the taller womans arm and felt warmth and moisture through the cotton sweatshirt.
Dez gave a sigh. "Im in a bodybuilding competition in four months, and I pledged the proceeds to Ryans memorial fund, for the kids college. If I place, that is. It might not be a lot of money, but its something. Come on. Lets walk."
Jaylynn let go of her arm, and they silently moved out of the park. "You werent going to tell me?"
"Oh, I dont know. Maybe tomorrow. Its a day early for confessions you know."
Jaylynn looked over at her, startled, then realized she was kidding. "I think thats a really good thing to do. I hope you win."
Dez shrugged. "I guess theres a pool going with some of the officers too. Some betting for, some against me. Theyll probably raise a couple thousand dollars that way." Dez lengthened her stride, and Jaylynn picked up her pace to keep up.
"Where is it? I want to come."
Dez stopped. "This is going to be hard."
"Dont worry. Ill give you moral support."
"Its not that . . . Geez, I dont know! Ryans wife will be there. His kids . . . its going to be . . . I dont know why in the hell I agreed to do it." She shuddered. "Except that Id give every dollar Ill make for the rest of my life to have him back." Her shoulders slumped and she shook her head. In a soft, bitter voice she said, "But I know thatll never happen, so the best I can do is help out Julie and his kids."
It was all Jaylynn could do to keep from throwing her arms around the dark-haired woman. She reached out hesitantly to pat her on the back, but Dez was already swinging into action, loping along the street in a slow jog.
The entire month of May blew by and Jaylynn hardly knew where it went. She spent one entire week doing in-service training with the twelve other rookies and a number of the officers hired in the previous 24 months. They focused further on records and forms, report writing, court testimony, note-taking, elements of proof, and ethics. She was careful to avoid Dwayne Neilsen, though every once in a while she caught him glowering at her. When she stared back, he would return to his own paperwork.
Dez was gone for a whole week at an in-service training for Field Training Officers, so Jaylynn only saw her once, in passing. She rode with Crystal every day that week.
On Monday, the first of a three days off cycle, the rookie rose early, ate a light breakfast, and got ready for a run. She wore a lightweight t-shirt with a gray U of M sweatshirt over it, her favorite Adidas, and light blue pair of nylon shorts over a pair of soft running leotards. Strapping on a waist pack containing her wallet and house keys, she stepped out into a crisp sunny morning, 50 degrees and rising. She stretched her limbs a little and then set out at a leisurely pace to warm up.
She was so glad winter was finally over. All along the roadway she saw buds blooming and little shoots of plants inching up out of the dark Minnesota soil. Children were out in full force, milling around on corners waiting for their schoolbuses. A few brave souls were even wearing shorts and Jaylynn saw one coatless boy standing dismally, his bare legs quivering in the cool air while he clutched a backpack to his t-shirt clad chest. Bet his mother didnt see him out the door, Jaylynn thought. She waved as she ran by and called out to him, "Jump up and down . . . Move around . . . Youll stay warmer that way."
She continued down Lexington Parkway and decided on a long run all the way to Minnehaha Falls Park, a twelve mile round trip. She didnt love to run, but after a couple of miles she always fell into a smooth pace and her legs carried her forward, nearly effortlessly. It felt good and gave her mind time to wander. She thought about how she used to write in her journal a lot, but lately, she hadnt been able to. Of course she never rode the bus anymore, so some of her journal writing time had disappeared. She was lucky if she even got a letter off to her folks or Auntie Lynn once a month any more. She needed to make time for her journal. It seemed like she lost track of herself when she didnt record things occasionally.
She had no idea anymore what was happening with her life. Where once she felt self-directed and certain about her goals, now she found herself drifting along in a holding pattern. Since she and Dez had patched up their differences, work had been much steadierless stressfulbut she still found herself often on edge. For one thing, she didnt really know where she stood with the taciturn cop with whom she so often rode. Nothing had changed for the rookie. Every time Dez fixed a razor-sharp gaze on her, the blond felt the same exact butterflies in her stomach that shed always had. Fortunately, they spent most of their time staring out the windshield of a squad car or dealing with squabbling people. When their eyes met outside the car or while on the street, it was usually to communicate about the altercation they were involved in and nothing else.
Jaylynn cut through a grassy schoolyard, feeling the springy soil beneath her feet. She felt strong today, like she could run forever. She wished she could run more often with Dez. Lately they had been lifting weights every night after work, but since the middle of May, the big cop hadnt wanted to run any distances anymore, saying she wouldnt be able to until after the August competition. She said it was too hard on the muscle she was trying to preserve. Soon, Dez had told the rookie, she was going to have to go on an even stricter diet. Jaylynn wondered how her partners food intake could get any more severe than it already was. Shed have to ask about that later.
Theyd both been on their best behavior for weeks, and if she was honest with herself, Jaylynn had to admit she felt a little stressed because of it. How much longer could she continue to be so cautious? And they had never talked about what had happened when she had spent the night on the couch in the tall womans arms. She never would have thought she could kiss someone like that and then turn around and pretend it never happenedbut apparently that was what was expected of her. Nothing was resolved. With a passion, Jaylynn hated things left hanging.
She arrived at the entrance of Minnehaha Falls Park and jogged over to the waterfall. A cascade of fresh water poured off a small rock shelf, fell thirty feet, and splashed with a roar in a wide pool. Many of the trees were still bare, but some were starting to bud out, and three immense evergreens provided plenty of green to enjoy. She watched the water churn until she caught her breath, then put a leg up on the back of a park bench overlooking the pool and stretched out each of her hamstrings. The park was silent and peaceful, and she liked the fresh smell of water and leaves as she stood alone on the dirt path surrounding the waterfall. She stretched some more, still feeling plenty limber, and then let her eyes scan the area until she found a water fountain and strolled over to it. She turned the knob and a burst of water sprayed up, catching her in the face. Brrr! It was cold. Wiping her face on the sleeve of her sweatshirt, she tried the knob again, this time not leaning in until she had the stream of water under control. She drank her fill, then went to sit on the bench.
Her thoughts went back to Dez Reilly, and she asked herself a series of questions she hadnt yet dared to ask. Can I go on like this, indefinitely, feeling the way I do? Is it enough to be with her every night, maybe occasionally at Luellas or with others? If its not enough, whatever do I do?
She slouched on the bench, her arms spread wide across the top of the bench, and tipped her head back, looking up to the peak of the evergreen tree overhead. She had never been much for ultimatums, but part of her wanted to confront Dez and deliver a big one. She decided that was why she felt like she was walking on eggshells so much of the time. She was deathly afraid she would just blurt out her feelings and challenge the dark haired cop to deal with them.
Fat lot of good that would do. In her heart, she knew confrontation was not only unwise, but unfair to Dez. Just because she didnt return the rookies feelings in the same way didnt mean Dez needed to be hit over the head with it. This is my problem, thought Jaylynn. Even though she may be attracted to me, it doesnt mean she can love me, and shes got enough class not to act on purely physical feelings. Id rather she actually fall in love with someone and be happy than just "love em and leave em."
Maybe over time our friendship will deepen and strengthen. SoI guess we can never be lovers. I have to accept that. I must. Ill be the best friend I can, and I will be satisfied with that and only that.
She stood up and shook her legs out, stretched her arms and shoulders, and jogged away from the falls, looking back once to see the cold, clear water splashing persistently, ceaselessly, over the rock rim and falling to the bottom. Ill be as steady as that waterfall. Ill just keep on, and no matter what, I wont think of her anymore as anything but a friend.
She picked up the pace as she exited the park and continued the long run back to her house, still feeling strong.
Dez woke up the morning of June 7th knowing immediately that it would not be a day just like any other. She got out of bed and padded over to her desk and rolled the top back. She sat in the desk chair in her t-shirt and boxer pajama shorts and made herself look at the two 4"x6" framed photos sitting on the wood surface. They contained pictures of the two most influential men in her life.
The one of the left was a photo of her tall father in full dress blues. The laughing little dark haired girl wrapped around the policemans leg was gazing up at him, a look of adoration on her smiling white face. She wore a red corduroy jumper over a white turtleneck. White leotards and brown and white saddle shoes completed her outfit. They stood in the front yard, a low-slung rambler in the background. His black hair was cropped short and blue eyes stared directly at the camera with only the slightest trace of a smile on his smooth face. Circa 1975, her father peered back at her as if to ask why she had locked him away for so long.
The photo on the right was of a grinning blond man, obviously on a sunny day at a picnic. He wore light blue shorts, and no shirt. His bare chest was golden tan, his abdomen tight and rippled with muscle. He looked like he had just arisen from a picnic table, and in one hand he held a cob of corn which he appeared to be ready to use as a club on the picture taker. Dez picked up the photo and peered closely at it. She had avoided looking at it every time she got into her desk, but todaytoday was the one-year anniversary of Ryans death. This morning she should look at his face, remember him, honor his memory. She set the picture down and turned away. Tears sprang to her eyes, but she did not want to cry, didnt want to start feeling something that would escalate and get out of control.
After she took a shower and ate breakfast, she called Julie and spoke to her for a while. Ryans wife hadnt adjusted well to her husbands death at first, but today Dez could tell the woman was trying very hard to make peace with it. They managed to make it through the conversation without breaking down and crying, so Dez considered it a success. Now if she could just get out of the house before Luella got a hold of her.
She looked out the window and saw it was beautiful outside: sunny, breezy, no clouds. A day suitable for a picnic, just like the day in the photograph had been. It was a day, she decided, when she needed to keep busy. She didnt want to slip into sadness, didnt want to think of Ryan while being sullen and blue.
On an impulse Dez dialed Jaylynns house and was
surprised when the rookie answered the phone. In a low voice, she said, "Hey,
its early. What are you doing up?"
Jaylynn said, "You expected me to be some sort of lazybones lounging around? Ive got things to do, places to go, people to see."
"Why? Whats happening?"
"Nothing. Ill let you go."
"Wait a minute! To tell the truth, I was just getting ready to take a walk around the lake. Want to join me?"
"Is this really a walk or some kind of a puking sprint?"
"A nice brisk walkthats all! Ill meet you at the east end in what? 15 minutes?"
Dez thought for a long moment. She liked the lake on weekdays. There were usually few people there compared to Saturdays and Sundays. "Okay. Ill see you by the stone arch," she said, then rang off and changed into running shoes, lightweight shorts, and a tank top. She paused long enough to apply some sunscreen to her neck, shoulders, and arms, then grabbed a Twins cap and headed downstairs. Sure enough, her landlady lay in wait with the back door open.
"Desiree Reilly, what are you up to today?" She came to stand in the back doorway, a smile on her face.
"Im meeting Jaylynn at the stone arch for a walk around the lake."
"Well, thats a good idea. How you getting there?"
"Why Luella, Im walking. Its only half a mile."
"So it is. Bring her over for lemonade later if you want."
"Ill see what she wants to do. See ya." She jammed the Twins cap over her dark hair and scooted out the back door.
She was surprised that she beat Jaylynn to the meeting place. It was only about two blocks for the blond. When the rookie finally appeared, she came running up in very tight nylon shorts and a white t-shirt. Dez quickly stifled her admiring glance and said, "Hi, Slowpoke."
"Hey," said Jaylynn as she slowed to a walk. "I had to have a snack, and then I had to change from my jammies."
"Ah ha! So you were lazing around in bed." Dez fell into step next to her.
"But of course. But Ill have you know I was awakejust remember that." Neither woman made a move to walk briskly. They ambled away from the stone arch on the path in the bright sunlight for a couple minutes before Jaylynn said, "I know today is an important day, Dez."
"Yeah. Unbelievably, its been a whole year. Seems like less though. Seems like just yesterday . . . " She looked away and out across the lake. An entire flotilla of ducks floated along one side in the shade.
"I cant imagine what itd be like. The only thing I have to compare it to is when my dad died."
"What? When did that happen?"
"He died when I was 11."
"Butbut you always talk about your parents."
"My mom remarried when I was 13, and my step-dad has been just like a father to me. I call him Dad. Hes a real good guy. Ive been lucky to have three good parents."
"What happened to your father?"
"He was killed in a semi accident. He was an over-the-road trucker."
"My father was a cop. He died on dutyheart attack. I was 9."
"Well thats a strange thing we have in common, both losing our dads that young."
"Yeah. Thats true." They continued along the cement path under the canopy of elms and oaks, but after another minute, Jaylynn said, "I wish Id known Ryan. He mustve been quite a guy."
"That he was."
Gradually they increased their walking pace, Jaylynn taking three steps to Dezs two, until both were sweating freely. As the sun shone down upon them and glared off the water, they circled the lake with the rookie chattering about various subjects.
During a quiet moment, Dez abruptly said, "Do you have any hobbies?"
Jaylynn looked up at her. "You mean like collecting tea cups and saucers?"
"Not really. Like fishing or boatingor wood carving, you know, hobbies."
"Cant afford a boat, never liked to hurt the poor fish, and wood carving? Do I look like an artistic person?"
"Sure. Why not?"
"I cant draw worth beans. Havent you noticed what horrible crime scene sketches I do?"
"Youre not that bad."
The blond scoffed at her. "Stick men are embarrassed to have been drawn by me."
"That doesnt answer my question."
"About hobbies? Okay." She tucked her short hair behind her ears and thought a moment. "School has been my hobby, I think. I mean, it took me so long, and I was so busy with it that I didnt have time for much else. I like to run, so I guess you could count that. I love music and to read and write in my journal. Id like to get into photography but havent been able to afford a decent camera until recently. Id also love to travel. I like going to the movies, the theater, to concerts. But I guess I dont really have any actual hobbies. Do you?"
"Weight lifting. Playing guitar. Guess thats about it."
They continued walking in silence and soon they were back at the stone arch for a second time. Jaylynn said, "Thats about three miles."
"Yeah, I suppose."
They slowed from the swift walk and to a saunter. Dez said, "Luella asked if you wanted to come by after were done and have lemonade."
"At your house?"
Dez arched an eyebrow and said, "Well, that is where she lives."
Jaylynn socked her in the shoulder, made a face, and said, "Im all sweaty!"
"She doesnt care."
They headed over to the house, strolling along in companionable silence in the sunlight as the sidewalk heated up beneath them. Luella was glad to see Jaylynn and insisted on giving her a hug, ignoring her protests about sweat. They sat in the coolness of the dining room swigging lemonade while Luella stood over them with the pitcher.
"So what have you girls got planned for today?" said the silver haired woman.
Jaylynn shrugged as Dez said, "Im getting out all the gear and painting the back hall finally."
Luella said, "That sounds like a lot of work. Why dont you two go do something fun today?"
Dez said, "It needs doing. Ive been meaning to work on it for a long time."
"You want some help?" said Jaylynn.
"Nah, its a lot of work," said the dark haired woman.
The older woman sputtered, "Isnt that what I just said?" She smacked the pitcher down on the table, crossed her arms over her purple housedress, and proceeded to give Dez the evil eye.
Dez turned and gazed at her landlady, her face expressionless. "Its work for her, pleasure for me."
Jaylynn rose and moved to stand next to Luella. She put an arm on the older womans shoulder and with a challenging look on her face said, "How do you know its not pleasure for me?"
"Yeah," said Luella. "Shes gonna get a real good lunch out of it, arent you honey?" She wrapped an arm around the blonds waist.
Dez sighed and shook her head. "I give up. I bow to the greater powers." She rolled her eyes. "If you really want to stay, Jay, youd better take my truck home for painting clothes."
Jaylynn eagerly accepted the keys to the Ford. Shed never driven such a big truck. Once she got the seat moved forward about a foot, she found that it was easy to maneuver and even easier to see out of, which she liked a lot. She returned a short time later with a change of clean clothes and wearing a pair of very short but shabby gray shorts, a baggy Minnesota Twins t-shirt stolen from Tim, and her oldest pair of tennis shoes. She found Dez, wearing much the same outfit, setting up a ladder in the back hall. She had already spread newspaper over the floor and hung drop cloths on the hardwood at the foot of the stairs. Luella stood in the back doorway, an apron over her housedress. When the rookie opened the screen door and stepped inside, the old lady said, "You got your choice, Jaylynn, chicken or roast beast?"
She thought for a minute. "Chicken, I think."
"Baked or fried?"
Jaylynn glanced over at Dez. As if reading the tall womans mind she said, "Baked."
"What else strikes your fancy?"
The young woman stood thinking for a minute. "Everything you make is great. Surprise me."
"Okay. A bevy of surprises coming right up." The silver haired woman disappeared into the house and soon the two women could hear the clatter of pans.
Dez bent to open one of the cans of paint, and Jaylynn saw it was a creamy yellow. "Thats a nice color, Dez. Itll look good in here."
"Luella picked it out. She didnt like this pale gray. It does look pretty miserable, doesnt it?"
"Roll or trim?" said the big woman, holding a roller rack in one hand and an angled paint brush in the other.
"Good. I hate trimming." Dez handed the brush over.
"Thats lucky because I never liked rolling. Im not good at it, and it always seems to turn my hair into a sticky mess."
"Ah. You gotta know the trick of always keeping the roller in front of you." The dark haired woman screwed an extender onto the end of the rack, then picked up the can and poured paint into the metal pan. As Dez finished pouring, Jaylynn bent automatically with the brush to wipe away the drips on the can.
Jaylynn said, "Ill stick with the detail work, thank you. That way my hair will survive the ordeal." She picked up the paint can and poured a shot into a plastic butter container, then said, "Where do you want me to start?"
"Wherever. On crews we found that if the trimmers follow behind the rollers, we tend to stay out of each others way. Im starting here over the door and working toward the kitchen." She stepped up on the ladder and began to roll the first stripe across the high ceiling.
"Okay." Jaylynn moved to the left of the door and began to paint along the edge of the door molding. "What crews were you talking about?"
"Oh, in college I did a lot of painting. Thats basically how I supported myself. I worked for a couple of companies."
Jaylynn finished the edge as Dez came down the ladder, loaded up her roller again, and slid the ladder further down the wall. She watched the dark haired woman step back up the ladder and systematically apply the paint, very quickly settling into a rhythm.
"Can I borrow the ladder for a minute to do above the doors?" the blond said.
Dez stopped rolling and pointed over at the hall closet. "Open that door. Theres a step stool in there thatll do."
Jaylynn followed her instructions and pulled out an aluminum mini-stepladder. "You know what we need, Dez?"
The tall woman stopped rolling and gazed at her, no expression on her face.
"Tunes. We need some good tunes."
"Fine, go up and move the little CD player off the kitchen table. The cordll stretch into the hall up there. Then just pick out whatever you want, crank it up, and well deafen Luella." The brunette stepped down off the ladder and refilled the roller with more pale yellow paint.
Jaylynn put her paint container on the stair and carefully set the paintbrush over the top of it. She checked her hands for stray paint and wiped them on her shorts, then jogged up to Dezs apartment.
It had been a long time since she had been up these stairs. The door to the kitchen was open, and everything looked the same as before. She stepped inside and headed into the living room toward the entertainment center. Scanning through the CD titles, she grabbed four, then turned to leave the room, but the open rolltop desk caught her eye. She hesitated, then couldnt resist. Striding quickly to the foot of the bed, she stood in front of the desk. The pigeon-holes were neatly filled with pads of paper, envelopes, a stack of small notebooks, a stapler, and various folded papers. On the desk surface an electric bill sat on top of some sheets of paper, and holding it down was a flat clay paper weight, about six inches across and olive green in color, with a small childs handprint in the middle of it. Embedded in the clay, someone had scratched DEZ. Squinting to look closer, Jaylynn noticed that before the pottery pancake had been fired, someone had written "Jeremy 1997" at the bottom.
Flanking the clay creation were two photos. Recognizing Ryan immediately, she took note of the mans clean cut good looks. Shed seen pictures of him at the station, but not with his shirt off. He had really been builtno wonder he won bodybuilding competitions. The other picture struck her so strongly that she set the CDs down and picked it up. She was amazed by how much Dez resembled the dark haired man, and she could see where the tall cop got her height and build. He was a nice looking man. But what struck her most was the leggy little girl in red hugging her fathers leg. Her black hair was shoulder length and wavy, and her upturned face displayed rosy cheeks and an irrepressible smile.
Jaylynn was filled with a strange longing. She wanted to go back in time and know this little girl, reach out to her, protect her from the impending loss she was soon to experience. She didnt want the elfin smile on the girls face to be marred by sorrow. The feeling was so intense that she abruptly set the photo down and backed away. Confused, she turned to leave, then caught sight of the stack of CDs and reached over to pick them up. She heard the scrape of the ladder on the floor downstairs, and with a guilty start, hustled over to the doorway and back to the kitchen.
Dez situated the ladder and climbed up to the third rung. She rolled the paint right up to the last corner, and now the ceiling was done. She wasnt used to working overhead, and already it had tightened up her neck muscles. Since her shouldersand traps were already tight from the workout the day before, she was glad to be done with that. She heard Jaylynn out on the landing up above and then a percussion and synthesizer beat started up. The blond clonked down the stairs as a smooth voice began singing.
Dez frowned. The voice was familiar, but she didnt know why. She listened to more of the song as she started rolling the far wall. After a minute of puzzling, she said, "Who is this?"
"Lisa Stansfield. Isnt she great?"
Oh, the tall woman thought, its that CD she gave me for Christmas. "Yeah. Shes got a really nice voice."
The next song started and Dez listened to the words. Never mind the stars in the sky, never mind the when and the why, got a feeling higher than high, this is the real thing . . . She got down off the ladder another time and got more paint. It occurred to her that she should have listened to this CD again since Jaylynn had given it to her, but in truth, she had forgotten about it. She couldnt recall why she hadnt liked it before . . . she wondered about that, but she couldnt remember. Now she listened to the soulful voice and decided she liked her very much. Never mind the rain and the storm, well keep each other warm, we got something stronger than strong, this is the real thing . . .
Jaylynn said, "Are we going to paint up the stairs and around the landing above there too?"
Dez paused on the ladder and fixed her with cool blue eyes. "No, we stop at the foot of the stairs right there. And Ill get done rolling way before you ever finish trimming, so Ill get another brush and help." She paused and fixed her gaze on the younger woman. "You dont have to do this you know."
"I wasnt complaining. Just wanted to get an idea of the flow here. Ive got the doors done and Ill do along the floorboards next, okay?"
"Sounds good. On to the walls for me."
They worked away in companionable silence for several more minutes, listening to Lisa Stansfields expressive voice. Then Jaylynns favorite song on the CD began. The very thought of you, the very mention of your name, Babe Im caught on you, I just wish you felt the same . . .
She had played this song over and over in her room until Sara had asked if there was something wrong with her CD player. She hadnt listened to it for several weeks though, and now she realized why. Turning away from Dezs line of vision, she sat cross-legged on the hardwood floor and tried to focus on the paint strokes, but the song evoked too many feelings. She was faced with two contradictory sets of emotions. With one set of emotions she just enjoyed being with Dez, talking to her, getting occasional unexpected responses about things from the dark haired woman. She liked riding with her, feeling protected by her tough partner, continually haggling over any number of subjects throughout the course of each shift. In the last two weeks, ever since her resolution at Minnehaha Falls, she had relaxed, and so had Dez.
But despite the resolution, the other set of emotions proved harder to repress than she had hoped. She went home alone every night burning so bright with attraction for the big cop that she was surprised no one else noticed. She purposely tried to keep a safe distance from the tall woman because when she got too physically close, she was overwhelmed with a longing that she truly couldnt explain as merely sexual. The very thought of you, it sees me through it keeps me going. Babe Im caught on you, youre all I see and all I know. Cant you see just what youre doing to me, baby. The very thought of yous enough to drive me crazy, and the very thought of you is keeping me alive . . .
The rookie had never felt so miserable in her life while feeling good at the same time. But she knew full well that unrequited love was a huge downer. Shed had her fill of it with Sandi in high school. She didnt know how much longer she could go on repressing her feelings. Even though things were definitely going better, it got harder and harder every day to ignore the emotions.
Jaylynn was grateful when that particular song ended. The next tune, which was fluffy and mindless, made her feel a little less desperate. Leaving the paint container on the floor, she set the brush on it, rose, and stretched her lower back.
Dez said, "You having trouble with your back lately?"
Surprised Jaylynn said, "Why?"
"Youve seemed uncomfortable. You stretch it a lot like youre in pain."
"Its not so much pain . . . but my lower back is tight. It loosens up when Im off duty, then Im back cooped up in the car with all that gear on. Its just bugging me."
"Its the belt."
"The duty belt. Theyre designed for men. Mine fits me fine because I have no hips, but you do."
Jaylynn grinned up at her. "So, what youre saying is that as long as I have a big fat butt my back is going to bother me?"
"No! Thats not what I meant. And you do not have a fat butt." She shook the paint roller in the air for emphasis, then descended and pushed the ladder to the side. She set the roller in the paint pan and rubbed her hands on her shorts, then came to stand in front of Jaylynn, her hands on her own slim hips. "Where does the duty belt hit you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Where does it rest?" She gestured at Jaylynns middle. "Up here closer to your waist, more over your hips? Where?"
Jaylynn put her hands on her waist. "It kind of sits about here."
"Yeah, thats the problem. Its not balanced for your build, Jay. You need one thats molded and cut to fit around a womans hips instead of sit on them like mens belts do. You want it to sit here . . ." She bent slightly and brought her hands to the blonds hips where she firmly pressed on either side. "Thatd be about right."
Jaylynn blushed. "Or I could just lose some weight."
"What? Are you kidding? Thats your natural shapetotally normal. Even if you did lose weightwhich you dont need to doyoud still have the same problem because your waist is slim here." She moved her hands up and made a karate chop motion on either side of the rookies waist, then stepped back. "You can get a much better belt at the uniform store. Theyll measure you and even special order for ya. Theyre kinda spendy, but you wont have your back bugging you."
"Okay, Ill do that sooner or later."
"Lets take a break and get some more lemonade," said Dez. "Havent heard anything from Luella for a while. Shes probably fallen asleep. Lets go wake her up." She arched an eyebrow and started tiptoeing into the house. Jaylynn followed quietly, relieved that Dezs back was now to her so that she could take a minute to recover from the tall womans touch.
Later, after an excellent meal courtesy of Luella, they worked on the finishing touches of the painting. The sun was high in the sky, and it was humid in the back hall. Wet paint didnt make it any better. Jaylynn felt the sweat dripping off her back. She wiped her forehead with the back of her arm and resumed trimming. A minute later when Dez caught sight of her, the tall woman laughed out loud, pointing at the rookie.
"What?" said Jaylynn.
"You got the biggest smudge on your forehead. Its practically as big as a playing card."
"No, really." She set down her paint and brush, picked up a damp rag and came to stand in front of Jaylynn. Palming the back of the smaller womans head with her left hand, she scrubbed away at the paint with her right hand until it came away.
Jaylynn looked to the left of Dezs shoulder, holding her breath. She felt the blush start and was grateful when Dez said, "There. Now you dont look like youve been branded." She stepped away and tossed the rag to the side.
The rookie let her breath out in a rush and turned away. She squatted down and slapped some paint in the corner near the floorboards, then cursed silently when it dripped. She set the plastic container down, licked her thumb and wiped the drip off the hardwood, then ran her thumb and fingers across the chest of her shirt until they were dry.
From behind her she heard, "Now I see why you look like this wet rag here while I continue on in pristine splendor."
Jaylynn stood up and turned, and it occurred to Dez that the blond woman could effect a wicked look quite well. The smaller woman advanced upon her, her eyes narrowed and lips pursed, and Dez backed up, a grin spreading across her face. "Wait a minute . . . " She stuck her arm out only to have the younger woman grab her wrist and push her back against the closed closet door. "I could wear this shirt again . . . I"
Jaylynn smacked Dezs midsection with the flat side of the brush, then grinned devilishly as the big woman extended her hands wide, looked down, and said, "Hey, do I deserve"
The rookie drew a line diagonally from one broad shoulder down to the other hip, managing to smear a dab of paint on Dezs shorts before the tall woman decided enough was enough. She gave the smirking woman her most fiendish look, then suddenly snatched the paintbrush from her hand.
Weaponless, Jaylynn backed up toward the screen door. In a mock serious voice, she said, "Careful. That things loaded." Dez didnt stop advancing upon her. "Hey! Hey!" said the rookie. "We just painted all these walls. Dont be messing" The blond turned the handle to the screen door and darted out, followed by a laughing maniac who chased her around the back yard. In a flat out run, Jaylynn might have been able to outdistance Dez, but in the backyard the big woman proved to be quite agile. Before the blond could reach the fence, the Dez had a hold of the back of her shirt. One handed she pulled the shrieking rookie around in a half hug and lifted her in the air, holding her there while she applied a pale splotch of paint to the hip of the already smudged gray shorts.
"I was going to wear these again," said Jaylynn in a sorrowful voice as Dez set her down. The rookie looked down as she gripped the edge of her shorts. She tried to give the big woman a recriminating pout but ended up laughing instead. "Gimme that paint brush. I have to go finish that final corner, you big lug."
Dez sheepishly handed her the paint brush. Big mistake. Jaylynn used it immediately to swipe another line from the opposite shoulder to hip, leaving the dark haired woman with a giant X across her shirt. The rookie burst out laughing and dashed away. "Youve been marked with the yellow X," she shouted as her feet hit the stairs and she scrambled inside through the screen door.
The big cop stood grinning in the hot sun. She looked down at her paint stained t-shirt and suddenly experienced an easing of worries she hadnt even known she was holding. This was the old Jaylynn: the lighthearted, hopeful, confident, sometimes comical, and occasionally irreverent young woman she had first met. It had been some time since the "real" Jaylynn had shown herself, but sure as she herself was now marked, Dez knew that she had just seen the relaxed and happy version of the blond. She strode toward the house, up the stairs, and through the screen door. Jaylynn was down on one knee finishing the last of the trim.
"Thank god were almost done," said the rookie. "This stuff is drying and getting tacky." She stood up and smiled Dezs way. "Lovely outfit by the way. I hear its all the rage in Paris."
Dez grinned back. "Thats meDesigner Dez."
Luella chose that moment to clear her throat. "If you two are done horsing around, Id like to know if you need a snack."
The two women exchanged glances. Dez said, "Im still stuffed from lunch. What about you, Jay?"
"I couldnt eat another thing for at least two hours."
Dez said, "How bout we all go to the movies then?"
"What?" said Luella and Jaylynn simultaneously.
"Yeah, Ill even buy," said the big woman.
"Nonsense," said Luella. "You girls just worked like dogs. Ill buy. But what would we see?"
Dez said, "Thats easy. Youve been wanting to see that new Entrapment flick." She pointed over at the silver haired woman, but looked at the rookie as she said, "Shes got the hots for Sean Connery."
Luella pointed at Dez, but looked at Jaylynn and said, "Shes got the hots for that Zeta-Jones woman."
The dark haired woman blushed. "Luella!"
"Excuse me," said the rookie, "but Im just vain enough to be concerned about my attire, and you" She pointed at Dez. "Im sure Luella would be embarrassed to be seen with you in that outfit. I know I would."
"Even though you created it?" Dez said, dryly.
The rookie gazed up at the tall woman and they both smiled warmly. For the first time in a long while, Jaylynn could meet the big cops eyes without reservation.
Luella said, "Well? What are we all waiting for?" She slapped Dez on the behind and said, "Get your skinny butt upstairs and make yourself presentable. And you" She gestured to Jaylynn. "Come with me and get into those clean clothes you brought."
Dez took the stairs up to her apartment two at a time, pulling her t-shirt off as she reached the top. The apartment was warm and muggy, almost moist against her damp skin. She ducked into the bathroom and stripped off all her clothes, then stepped into the shower for a quick rinse. After toweling dry, she moved back into the living room and dressed. Seated on the couch, she slipped on her Nikes and double-knotted the long laces. She rose, and her eyes came to rest upon the two photos on her desk. She walked over and stood for a long moment studying the picture of Ryan, then closed the roll top desk and headed downstairs.
Continued in Part 7
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