Part 8 of 11

By Lori L. Lake a/k/a 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 yeah—there’s 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 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 Buff, Joy, and Erin—you 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 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.

GREAT NEWS!!!!! You’ve probably already all heard, but Justice House Press is going to publish this puppy as a paperback. My head is still spinning with delight. I plan to finish posting this on the wonderful Bards’ Corner though so as not to leave all of you faithful in the lurch. J

Comments are welcome, and I have greatly enjoyed what people have e-mailed so far. J You can e-mail me at: This is part 8 of 11, and I’ll keep posting regularly to the end.





When Dez arrived at the station an hour before roll call, she was surprised to see Jaylynn’s gray Camry already in the lot. She angled her truck in, a few spaces away, and grabbed her gym bag, then hopped out of the Ford. It was blazing hot, the black pavement oozing heat which she could feel burning against her sandals. She didn’t think it would be much fun to patrol this afternoon, and she looked forward to the sun going down.

Dark blue Docker shorts and a tank top revealed her well-muscled legs and arms. Despite the rib injury, she hadn’t gained weight—or lost any substantial amount of muscle. She strolled across the lot and to the back entrance shifting her shoulders from side to side and feeling the tension around her rib cage. She wasn’t entirely healed up, but every day the muscles in her torso felt looser. She just wished she could sleep better.

With a light step she hustled down the stairs to the locker room, but all was silent there. Puzzled, she wondered where the young woman was. She hadn’t seen her anywhere on the way down. She found herself wishing she had gathered up the courage to call the rookie the last two days, but she felt she would somehow be intruding. Luella had told her Jaylynn had phoned her with a positive update, so she knew from her landlady that all was well.

Dez opened her locker and sorted and arranged her things. She laid out her uniform and dressed, then sat down on the end of the bench with her back against the wall. She checked the magazine in her Glock and ran a long forefinger down the barrel before holstering it. Pulling her handcuffs out, she checked their mechanism, then put them away. She sat for a few moments, letting her breath come and go, trying to relax. Checking her watch, she saw it was 40 minutes until roll call.

She rose and rooted around on the top shelf of her locker until she found an ankle knife and sheath, then she pulled up her pant leg to affix it over her sock. She rearranged her slacks to conceal it, then fussed with it some more until she got it set just right on her ankle. She sat back on the bench and leaned against the wall, bringing her knee up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her shin.

Every moment that went by made her more and more nervous. She had been looking forward to seeing Jaylynn tonight. After over a week of wondering and worrying, she thought this would be a relief. Instead, she knew she was becoming edgier by the moment. It didn’t help that she had gone back on the low carb diet. The doctor had pronounced her healthy, though still bruised, and the minute he had given her the go-ahead, she shifted back into weight training mode. The last two nights she’d surprised herself with how well she’d lifted.

She heard voices, and the locker room door opened and shut a couple times, but no Jaylynn. The nasally sound of Pilcher’s voice wafted down the corridor. Dez had never much cared for Pilcher, and she concentrated on ignoring the sound. So she was taken by surprise when the rookie rounded the corner abruptly and said, "Oh. Hi Dez."

Dez hadn’t thought at all about what she had expected to feel, but it certainly wasn’t this sudden thunderbolt to her heart and the immediate rush of blood to her head. She stammered out, "Jaylynn. You’re back," instantly feeling stupid for stating the obvious.

Considering all she had been through in the last ten days, Jaylynn had never looked better. Her blonde hair had been recently cut and shaped close to her head. Hazel green eyes shone brightly, and she looked rested. She walked right up to the bench, swung a leg over, and put a hand on Dez’s ankle as she sat down. "How are you?"

Dez nodded, still feeling dull-witted. "Great."

Jaylynn squeezed the dark haired woman’s ankle, then frowned and tilted her head to the side. "What is this . . . a gun?"

"Knife." Dez shrugged. "Just felt like wearing it tonight."

"In case we wanted to whittle, or what?" The rookie peered up at her, a smile on her face, her hair shining white-gold under the fluorescent lights. She wore a loose gray T-shirt that said "U of M Track & Field" in maroon lettering on the front and a pair of jeans shorts that revealed suntanned legs. Setting her car keys down on the bench, she reached down to untie the laces of her Adidas.

Dez smiled. A series of words came to mind to explain how she was feeling: foolish, silly, bird-brained, idiotic, giddy. Perhaps giddy described it best. She could almost imagine herself wrapping her arms around the blonde, but of course she restrained herself. In a low, controlled voice, she said, "How was Seattle?"

"It was good." The blonde stood and unlocked her locker, pulling out various items. "Ugh. What a mess I’ve got going here."

"You have some fresh uniforms back from the laundry. Want me to go get ’em for ya?"


Dez was glad to head to the rear of the locker room so that Jaylynn could undress in privacy, but when she came back with two hangers full of clothes, she found the rookie waiting in her bra and briefs. She could honestly say she had never before paid attention to Jaylynn when she dressed, but today she couldn’t keep from looking. Her eyes traveled up from the floor taking in the lean runner’s legs, the flare of hips, the slender waist with tight abs, and the swell of breasts, topped off by well-rounded shoulders and, of course, those eyes. Eyes that were currently looking at her with amusement.

"Earth to Dez. Hey, you wanna give me those?"

Mechanically she handed Jaylynn the two heavy hangers full of uniforms and turned away to her own locker, attempting to swallow but realizing there was no liquid in her mouth. She pulled a water bottle from her top shelf, sat on the bench with her side to the young woman, and drank three big swigs. "You’re here early, Jay," she mumbled.

"Yeah, I came down to see the Lieutenant and then to meet with the department psychologist. Gosh, she’s sure nice."

"What’s her name?"

"Raina Goldman."

"Goldman! You liked her?"

"Oh yes! What’s not to like?"

Dez remembered the intense, intrusive woman she had been required to see—six times—after Ryan’s death. She had hated every moment. The poking and probing and prying of her psyche was more than she could bear. "Isn’t she a nosy twit?"

"Nosy? No . . . inquisitive, maybe. I thought she was real nice, and I’m going to see her twice a week for a while, at least until things settle down some."

Dez was amazed. Someone would actually want to see the department shrink? She spun around on the bench and gaped at Jaylynn, but the young woman didn’t notice. She was pulling on her black oxfords and tying them.

"Dez, how’s the bruise coming along? Is it fading any?"

"Oh yeah." She took another pull from her water bottle and then set it on the bench so she could lock up.

"Oh crap!" said Jaylynn. I forgot to tell you that Lt. Malcolm wants you to drop by and see him for a minute." She looked at her watch. "You’ve got lots of time . . . I’m sorry I forgot." She looked over at Dez with a sheepish look on her face.

"Okay. I’ll check with him now. See you up there."

She took the stairs two at a time and appeared in front of Belton. "Evening," she said.

"Go in, Reilly. He’s expecting you."

She ducked her head in the door and found the Lieutenant looking the same as he always did, a bit harried and tired, but in good spirits.

"You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Yes. I just wanted to make sure everything’s on track. Savage and I talked, and she requested to continue riding with you. You okay with that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Internal Affairs ruled it a good shoot. You don’t have any problems with that, right?"

"Heck, no. She did everything by the book."

The Lieutenant smiled. "She did, didn’t she? She didn’t panic, didn’t freeze up. You can take some credit for that. You’ve taught her well."

"She’s got a good head on her shoulders, Lieutenant. She’s an excellent student."

"I’m really glad to hear it." He paused. "One more thing, Dez. I’ve been meaning to say this for a couple days. You’ve had a lot of stress this year. I’d like you to see the department psychologist again."

She scowled. Glaring at him she said, "That’s really not necessary sir. I’m not suffering any trauma or anything. Believe me, if I was, I’d go."

"Look, you’re a valuable member of this team here. I don’t want you to be offended, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t look after you a little. I just want you to check in with Goldman, okay?"

"But sir, with all due respect, I’ve been fine for a week and a half. There’s no need—"

"Reilly!" he interrupted. "This is not negotiable. I’ve meant to say something sooner, but I got hung up on other things. This is important, and I should have mentioned before."

She gave him her best stony gaze, but he didn’t pay attention.

He went on. "One session. Answer her questions, let her give me a report, and you’re outta there. Okay?"

Reluctantly she said, "Yes, sir." She rose. "Is that it?"

"Yup. Go forth and do good things, hear me?"

"Yes, sir." She turned and strode out of the office, a slow burn starting at her neck and reaching up to the roots of her hair. She felt like hitting someone. She imagined hitting Goldman. Instead she stomped downstairs to the locker room and tossed some water on her face. After drying off with a crinkly brown paper towel, she walked back upstairs, her hands and face now feeling chilled in the station’s air-conditioning.

Jaylynn took one look at Dez’s face when the tall woman entered the room, and she knew something was wrong. When she asked though, Dez shrugged her off and sat in the next chair, placing her water bottle on the floor. Her face went flat and expressionless, and she wouldn’t meet the rookie’s gaze. Jaylynn watched her from the corner of her eye. Tight-lipped and angry, the dark haired woman seemed to be struggling for control. No one else was in the room, so the blonde reached over and patted the muscular thigh closest to her. She let her hand rest there for a moment and craned her head around, silently asking her partner to look at her. When those blue eyes finally did turn to meet hers, what she read there was stubbornness. And something more—an angry pride. She couldn’t resist; her lips curled up into a tiny ghost of a smile, and as she studied Dez’s face, the shock of recognition and desire welled up in her again. Her stomach kicked into performing gymnastic feats while the ability to remember how to breathe departed from her brain.

The anger in the pallid face before Jaylynn drained away to be replaced with something else she couldn’t quite identify. The rookie pulled her hand back as casually as she could, relieved when the tall cop bent to pick up her water bottle. Oh no, thought Jaylynn. These feelings of mine just won’t quit! She reminded herself of the commitment she made to focus only on friendship, and she had hoped that with a little perseverance and discipline, it would be easy to carry out. She could see now this wasn’t the case, and she found herself disappointed. It was going to be a long shift.




The veteran and the rookie fell into a routine again, and the next two weeks passed quickly. On Wednesday and Friday afternoons Jaylynn came to the station early to meet with Raina Goldman. She was surprised to learn that some of the old-timer cops were appalled that she’d go willingly to see the "department shrink," as they called Goldman. At first Braswell tried to sympathize, telling her it was tough luck she had to go "get her head shrunk." When she told him she didn’t mind, he looked at her through narrowed eyes as though she’d lost her mind. Dwayne Neilsen cornered her and tried to make sport of the counseling angle. She laughed at him and cut into the women’s locker room.

Jaylynn was to the point where she didn’t care what anyone thought. Very few officers seemed to understand that she relished the chance to talk about what happened and how she felt about it. She certainly didn’t get to do that with Dez, much as she wished she could. Every afternoon they got in the patrol car and made small talk, casually avoiding any emotionally loaded conversations. In fact, most of the time lately Dez was distant and cranky. When Jaylynn tried to kid her out of her constant mood, the tall cop just glowered. All in all it was a tiring couple of weeks.

It was actually a relief to ride with Crystal on a Friday night. Dez had been in court all day on an old homicide case, so she was off work for the evening. For two days it had been extraordinarily humid. They had the air-conditioning going full blast in the car, but the late afternoon sun still beat in on them, and heated up the dark seats.

Crystal brought up Dez. "Hasn’t tall, dark and handsome been tall, dark and bitchy lately?"

Surprised, Jaylynn turned from her spot in the passenger’s seat. "You noticed, too?"

"Noticed? Everyone on the East Side has noticed. I think the main headquarters must be in the know by now. If you see her heading your way, everyone knows to split. God, she’s been unbearable. How can you ride with her?"

Jaylynn shook her head sorrowfully. "It’s been tough. I just cut her a lot of slack and don’t talk too much. It’s tiring, I’ll admit. I thought she was gonna clobber this foul-mouthed drunk last night. You should have seen this guy. I thought he was going to wet his pants by the time she got done with him."

"I pity you, you poor thing."

"Oh Crystal. It’s really not that bad. It’s just a little too tense. I can’t wait ‘til this stupid diet is over. It’s that more than anything, I think."

"Yeah, maybe," said Crystal thoughtfully. "I figured maybe she was having trouble with getting shot."

"quot;You noticed, too?"

"Noticed? Everyone on the East Side has noticed. I think the main headquarters must be in the know by now. If you see her heading your way, everyone knows to split. God, she’s been unbearable. How can you ride with her?"

Jaylynn shook her head sorrowfully. "It’s been tough. I just cut her a lot of slack and don’t talk too much. It’s tiring, I’ll admit. I thought she was gonna clobber this foul-mouthed drunk last night. You should have seen this guy. I thought he was going to wet his pants by the time she got done with him."

"I pity you, you poo

"Not Dez. She would have handled it."

Crystal looked over across the dimly lit car with an incredulous look on her face. "You’re kidding, right?"

Jaylynn shifted to her left a little and laid her left arm across the top of the seat so she could look at Crystal better. "Actually, I’m serious."

"Chica, let me clue you in on a little secret. Miss Big Bad Cop—the one you’ve got on a pedestal a thousand feet high?—had her own quiet little breakdown after Ryan was shot. You think you were shook up? You shoulda seen her."

"What do you mean?" Jaylynn said, her face puzzled.

"She was on admin leave for two weeks, and when she came back, she retreated into some faraway place, deep inside herself. She only talked when talked to, carried out orders, pretty much didn’t look anyone in the eye. She basically started coming out of her shell when she began training you. At least you have the smarts to go to counseling—not her! Well, her body went, but her mind didn’t." Crystal sighed. "I was really afraid for her. Didn’t you notice how out-of-sorts she was when you first started?"

Feeling guilty Jaylynn said, "No. Maybe I was too preoccupied with training. I didn’t—I never had any idea . . . I probably should have paid closer attention." She thought back to those first days observing with Dez. The big woman had seemed shy, certainly standoffish, but after some initial awkwardness, she remembered Dez being helpful and attentive. As the weeks traveled on, the tall cop had seemed to relax and settle in. She had chalked it up to them getting to know one another.

Crystal said, "You’ve been good for her, Jaylynn. She needed a friend, somebody who wouldn’t let her sit around and brood. I couldn’t get through to her at all. I’m really glad you came along when you did."

Impulsively Jaylynn reached across the seat and gave Crystal’s shoulder a squeeze. "That’s nice of you to say. I’ve really enjoyed working with you too. You’re the best."

"Hey, hey! Don’t go getting all mushy on me now. I have to deal with enough of that from Shayna."

Jaylynn clicked her tongue and shook her head. "You butchy cops are all the same—tough on the outside, marshmallows in the inside."

Crystal smiled across the humid car, her teeth flashing white in the slanting sunlight. "Works for me," she said.




Dez had spent the better part of her day cooling her heels in court, and she hadn’t testified until mid-afternoon. Despite the book and magazine she brought along she was bored silly, and now that she was home, she almost wished she were on duty for the night. At least it would give her something to do other than think about all the breads and pastas and potatoes she was missing. Time for some aerobic work. Morning, noon, and night she was walking or biking. If she got her heart rate up to about 115 beats a minute for at least 45 minutes, she knew she was burning the fat off her tall frame. She’d already gone from 172 pounds down to 154 in the last six weeks, and she hoped to be under 150 for the body building competition. She was glad she only had to work at it for another week, and she knew it would be an incredible relief when it was over.

She changed into biking shorts and a hot pink sports bra over her regular bra, then snagged a quart of water on her way through the kitchen. After getting her bike and helmet out of the garage, she mashed the helmet on her head, pushing down the neat French braid. She mounted the bike, and put her feet in the toe clips. Sticking to residential streets she began what she hoped would be a good 90 minutes of riding. It took little time to get good and warm on the back streets as she passed yards of freshly mown grass and young boys playing basketball at driveway hoops. After she figured the rush hour traffic had slowed down, she ventured out to a busier street, Larpenteur Avenue. Hunched over and dripping sweat in the eighty degree heat, she pedaled powerfully up a slope toward Rice Street. Glancing to the side, she saw a white vehicle tracking her and realized it was a St. Paul cop car. Darting a glare at the occupants, she found a pair of warm hazel green eyes peering out the window at her. She almost fell off the bicycle as her stomach did the funny little leaping trick it had been doing lately every time she looked at Jaylynn.

In fact, she had been spending a considerable amount of energy lately trying not to look at Jaylynn and coming to the unavoidable conclusion that she was attracted to the younger woman. She’d been attracted to plenty of people in the past, but she’d never had so much trouble controlling her reactions before. She found that worrisome. Of course, she hadn’t had to ride around with the other objects of her interest in a hot squad car for hours on end. She remembered when Jaylynn had told her, last winter, about how much trouble it was to ride around lusting after her—a thought that embarrassed the big cop to no end. But the rookie didn’t appear to be having any trouble with that at all anymore. Jaylynn could look her straight in the eye—with that infectious little smile—and she didn’t seem to be having a single issue.

Dez didn’t know what she was going to do about the unwelcome feelings, but right now she thought she’d pull into the strip mall up ahead and talk with Jaylynn and whoever was at the wheel.

She nodded upon seeing that Crystal was driving. She hadn’t seen much of her lately. Frowning, she pulled up to the sidewalk surrounding the drugstore and stopped the bike with her foot on the curb. It’s August, she thought, and I can’t remember the last time I spent any time with Crystal and Shayna. She felt bad about that and decided she should probably have them over to Luella’s or do something with them soon. She caught her breath as she pulled her helmet off and hung it on her handlebar.

Her colleagues got out of the car to find a scowling, sweating Dez swigging half a quart of water. Some of the water escaped as she drank and ran along her chin, dripping down her neck. The big woman wiped her face and forehead on a bare arm glistening with sweat. It didn’t help, and Jaylynn thought Dez looked overheated and miserable.

"Uh hi," said the rookie as she met a pair of dark blue eyes which bored right through her and traveled through every nerve ending from her head straight to her groin. She crossed her arms uncertainly and tried not to stare at the bare muscular mid-section, the broad shoulders, the beautifully planed face.

With a grimace Dez nodded. "How’s it going?"

"Not bad," said Crystal. While Jaylynn hung back, leaning against the front panel of the car, Crystal strode up to Dez and grabbed hold of her forearm. "So, mi amiga, you ready for the show? Let’s see a nice biceps."

Dez stared daggers at her, but pulled her arm away from the laughing cop and made a fist, then flexed her biceps.

"Not bad, chica. Not bad." Crystal flexed her own arm and said, "Not quite as good as mine, but hey, who’s counting."

In a dry voice Dez said, "Who could tell with that T-shirt and uniform sleeve covering it up."

"Trust me, it’s there. A mountain of strength."

"Yeah, right." She took another long pull of her water. "Anything exciting going down tonight?"

Jaylynn and Crystal shook their heads simultaneously, and the rookie said, "You’re not missing a thing—though maybe it’ll pick up when the sun goes down."

Dez looked around. "I better get going before that happens." She tucked her water bottle away and pushed off the curb and past the police car. "See ya."

Jaylynn gazed after her, watching the incredibly long legs and the lean hips. She’d never seen anyone look so luscious in biking shorts, thighs rippling with muscle and sinew. Nice buns, she thought. Really nice everything. The rookie hoped that if she fainted right now, Crystal wouldn’t figure out it was because of excess lust. She let out a soft sigh and gulped in some air as she got back in the stuffy car.

Crystal slammed her own door and started the engine. "See what I mean," she said. "She’s got no sense of humor at all right now. She looked like she wanted to hit me."

"She would never do that."

"Who knows what goes on in that dense head of hers."

Yes, who knows, thought Jaylynn. I sure don’t.




Saturday night, Crystal and Dez left the locker room for roll call at the same time. Cautiously Crystal said, "Hey, Dez, what’s up?"

"Nothing much."

"We’re going bowling tonight after shift. Wanna come?"

"Nah, I’m a terrible bowler."

Crystal snorted out a loud laugh. "Who isn’t? Geez, that’s the point, Reilly. We have a hilarious time. You really ought to come. I tell ya, my abs usually hurt for three days afterwards from laughing."

"You ought to work ’em a little harder in the gym. You’d have more fortitude that way."

Crystal stopped, put her hands on her hips, and gave Dez her best dirty look. "Very funny. Too bad yours are in such good shape that a little laughter isn’t necessary."

"Aw come on," said Dez. She considered for a moment. What could it hurt? "Who’s coming?"

"Me and Shayna, Merilee, Jay, and that other new rookie, Marshall—I think her first name is Paula. If you join in, we’ll have six and we can use two lanes. That’s even more fun."

"Shayna’s coming? Hmmph. All right," Dez said reluctantly, "but only if I get to keep score."

"Fine by me! I can never keep it all straight anyway."

After shift, they converged on the lanes shortly after midnight. Merilee and Paula, both tall and slender, took to one another right away and were soon discussing vacation hot spots. For the first time, Jaylynn got to meet Shayna, and she was pleased and surprised at the same time. For one thing, Shayna was friendly and gregarious. She gave Dez a hug—which surprised Jaylynn—and patted the rookie on the shoulder. Warm brown eyes shown upon the rookie. Taller than Jaylynn by only a couple inches, Shayna’s skin was cocoa-brown, and she was plump. She wore a pair of half dollar-sized dangly gold earrings and six or seven gold bracelets on each wrist. The blonde liked the tie-dyed shirt Shayna was wearing and told her so. With an arm across her shoulders, Shayna walked her over to the shoe counter, talking non-stop about tie dye methods. Before she knew it, Jaylynn had committed to taking a tie dye class with her.

Bo’s Bowling Center was crowded, but they were lucky enough to get the last two lanes together. True to Crystal’s description, it was amusing. Once Jaylynn threw a strike on the first ball and followed it up with a gutter ball. Shayna managed to roll one ball across the double gutter and into the next lane, surprising their neighbors with a strike. Dez made up for lack of finesse by rolling powerhouse tosses, fast and furious, which caused the pins to explode noisily, though there was often one or two pins left standing. Everyone teased everybody about everything. After the first game, Dez had won with 120 points.

"Should we do another round?" asked Crystal.

Shayna, who had managed to rack up a mere 56 points, said in a grumpy voice, "No! Now I remember why I hate bowling. The ball’s heavy, the shoes hurt your feet, and they play crappy music."

"Oh come on," said Crystal, laughing as she circled Shayna’s waist with a strong arm. "We’ve only been here a half hour!"

"You come on," said Shayna. "Admit it. Do you actually like this music?" Blaring over the tinny loudspeaker was Billy Ray Cyrus doing "Achy Breaky Heart." Suddenly Shayna’s face lit up. "I know! Let’s go dancing."

"Yeah, good idea," said Merilee. "Let’s hit the Metro and dance the night away. Whaddya say?"

"I don’t know," said Dez doubtfully.

Jaylynn watched the interactions from her seat next to Paula.

Crystal aimed a karate chop at Dez’s mid-section, which the tall woman blocked handily. "It’s not even one o’clock yet," said Crystal. "Listen, Chica, you need to kick up your heels a little bit."

"Yeah," said Shayna. "Please come. And you too, Paula. Jaylynn?" She looked around at everyone with a hopeful smile on her mahogany brown face. "Girls?"

Jaylynn shrugged and glanced over at Dez.

Crystal feigned another series of jabs at the brunette. "If you’re real nice," she said, "you can dance one with me. I’ll even let you lead. Maybe." Her eyes twinkled with glee as she stifled a laugh and took hold of Shayna’s arm. "Come on," she said as she looked back toward Dez. "Let’s get Twinkle Toes out of her uncomfortable shoes and go."

Throughout this discussion Jaylynn felt torn, not sure if she wanted to tag along or not. She was surprised Dez relented so easily, but the dark haired woman was changing her shoes and didn’t appear to have a problem with the idea. Jaylynn sat on the molded blue plastic chair and exchanged the two-tone leather monstrosities for her pair of Adidas. Silently she followed the laughing group of women to the shoe return counter, threw in some cash for the line, and then listened as they all argued about who should ride with who, who would drink, who would abstain. Jaylynn rode with Crystal, Shayna, and Paula, while Merilee hopped into Dez’s truck to follow Crystal’s Chevy Impala over to the dance bar.

"It’s a hot spot tonight," said Merilee gleefully as she got out of the car. "Looks like fun." The boom of the bass could be heard in the parking lot. "Cool. Must be a live band."

The six women made their way to the door, which Dez grabbed and held open. Jaylynn stepped into a dim room, about sixty feet wide and forty feet deep. The bar, on the far wall from the entrance, was staffed by three busy bartenders surrounded by thirsty patrons. The left half of the room contained tables and chairs while the right section was a dance floor, currently full of writhing bodies moving to the thump of the band. The stage for the band was set in the wall in the far right corner. Jaylynn saw a drummer, guitarist, bass, keyboard player, two horn players, and two backup vocalists. A scary looking man wearing what appeared to be a black fright wig—but wasn’t—was singing a rousing rendition of Rod Stewart’s "Do Ya Think I’m Sexy." The crowd danced at a fever pitch.

"Let’s go, girls," shouted Shayna. She and Crystal, Paula, and Merilee made a beeline for the floor, leaving Jaylynn standing, uncertain, next to an equally reticent Dez. The four women pressed through the crowd and joined the swirling mass.

The music pounded loud, so Jaylynn jumped when a voice tickled her ear. "Dance? Or sit?" came the low voice.

Jaylynn shrugged. She shouted, "I hate this song."

Dez nodded in agreement and gestured toward the tables. Jaylynn sat at a rickety brown table. Spilled beer dripped off the side, so Dez wended her way through the crowd and got a rag at the bar. She returned and wiped up the table. She leaned down and said, "You want something to drink?"

Jaylynn shook her head.

Dez took one last swipe at the tabletop, then headed back. Jaylynn watched the brunette gracefully negotiate between tables and patrons, her broad shoulders dipping and twisting to pass through the throng. She slipped into the crowd and the waiting woman lost sight of her.

Jaylynn looked around the busy nightclub full of happy, dancing people. Scooting her chair forward she put her elbows on the table and leaned her chin in her hands. Her eyes combed the crowd until they lit upon a dark form, half a head taller than most everyone around, and Jaylynn watched Dez, carrying two glasses, worm her way through the mob surrounding the bar.

As the tall woman made her way back, women seated nearby stared at her appraisingly, some with obvious interest. Dez didn’t seem to notice. She set the drinks down and slipped into the seat next to Jaylynn, facing the dance floor, and slung an arm across the back of the rookie’s chair. With her other hand she picked up the tumbler and drained it, then set it back on the table.

Jaylynn shouted, "What did you get there?" as she nodded toward the glasses on the table.

"Ice water," said Dez.


Dipping her head down near Jaylynn’s ear, she repeated herself and said, "Want some?"

Jaylynn shook her head. Dez picked up the other glass and took a sip. They sat like that through three more songs. Every once in a while Jaylynn caught sight of one of the other cops out on the floor dancing, laughing, caught up in the music.

Next to her Dez sipped her drink, then bent to say, "You like to dance?"

Jaylynn nodded. Dez’s face was inches from her own, and she was glad it was dark enough to disguise the fact that she was blushing. The band was now playing an old Van Morrison song, "Wild Night," and she couldn’t resist tapping her feet with the rhythm of the horns and the upbeat tempo.

Dez leaned in again. "Sure you don’t want something to drink?"

"Maybe later."

"What?" Dez leaned down very close, tipping her head to the side to hear.

"Later," Jaylynn enunciated.

Dez nodded as she sat back, but she kept her arm on Jaylynn’s chair. The band segued into a Madonna song, "Holiday," complete with the horns playing. Jaylynn smiled. She turned to Dez. "I love this song," she said into the dark woman’s ear.

"Me, too," shouted Dez. "Shall we?" She downed the last of her water, then inclined her head toward the dance floor. Jaylynn swallowed, her heart pounding mercilessly. Suddenly she didn’t want to do this at all, but Dez grabbed hold of her wrist and pulled her up and toward the floor. She let herself be dragged along behind like a skier on a towline. Once they merged into the throng of dancers, once she let herself feel the beat, once she allowed herself to breathe again, she relaxed. The singer was doing a passably good job with Madonna’s vocals, and the band’s sound was lush and full. Dez did a little shimmy and then Jaylynn let herself slip into a rhythm complementing the taller woman. She was surprised at how adept Dez was, all sinew and legs. But why wouldn’t someone as coordinated and physical as Dez be a good dancer? Jaylynn just didn’t expect if for some reason.

A new song began, one that Jaylynn didn’t recognize at first, but it had a nice fast beat, and she slipped right into a groove. Then she heard Gloria Estefan’s voice and broke out in a smile. She moved closer to Dez and shouted, "I love Gloria!" Dez nodded back at her.

She lost herself in the dance, feeling her body purring with the fun of it. She closed her eyes and just let the pounding of the music guide her motion. Opening her eyes, she watched Dez for a moment until the tall woman moved closer and bent down, saying into her ear, "You got moves, woman."

Jaylynn blushed some more and ripped a quick jab to the dark woman’s shoulder.

"Hey!" said Dez as she stopped and grabbed Jaylynn by the shoulders. "How come everybody’s hitting me tonight?"

Jaylynn twisted away and grinned back. Then the song was ending, winding down to a slower beat, and the keyboard cut in, playing the first few strains of a song Jaylynn couldn’t quite identify at first, but then recognized as Toni Braxton’s love ballad, "I Don’t Want To Sing Another Love Song." Half of the dancers fled the floor, leaving the rest to move closer to their partners and gear down into a slower, more sensual dance.

The two women’s eyes met. Jaylynn stepped back. I can’t do this tonight. Definitely not possible. She tore her eyes away from the shiny blue chips burning into her, but before she could turn to go, she felt hands on her shoulders guiding her into a light embrace. She let her hands drop to Dez’s hips, feeling the leather of a belt against her palms. Her cheek would fit so perfectly in the crook of Dez’s neck . . . but she resisted the urge to press her face there, holding herself just a little apart. A brush of lips against her ear and the low voice said, "You okay with this?"

"Yes. No. I mean . . . I don’t know."

Warm hands against her back pulled her closer, and she sighed as she dropped her forehead into the crook between the tall woman’s neck and chin, only to hear a heartbeat that matched her own, beating wildly. She couldn’t stop herself from moving closer, wrapping arms tight around the slim waist, her body craving more while her mind told her to resist.

She felt a gentle stroke from the top of her head, through her blonde hair, down the back of her neck where the hand stopped, the palm hot and dry against the skin above her collar.

It was too much.

Jaylynn tore herself away and dashed through the crowd, heading blindly toward the door. She passed a startled Merilee and apologized to Crystal as she cut by her. Then she was at the door, pushing against the heavy wood, and she burst into the humid night air, gasping for breath. The door behind her popped back open, and Dez was at her heels, grasping her shoulder, but Jaylynn refused to face her and tried to shrug her off.

In a low, frightened voice, the tall woman said, "Jay, what is it? What’s the matter?"

Jaylynn turned, eyes blazing, and said, "I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. I won’t. I can’t take it." She closed her eyes and retreated within, backing away from Dez. When she opened her eyes again, Dez stood before her, hunched over, trying to look in her eyes.

"What do you mean?"

Jaylynn drew a deep breath. "I thought I could do this, be with you, pal around, ride with you every night. I thought I could, but I just can’t. Not anymore."

Dez stared back at her as though she’d had the wind knocked out of her. "What are you saying? You don’t want to ride with me anymore?"

"Look," Jaylynn said, "you made your feelings very clear, and whether you realize it or not, now you’re sending an entirely different message to me. I could handle it when it was all business . . ." She leaned back and sat against the front grill of a car, then put her foot up on the bumper. She rested her elbow on her knee and her head in her hand. "I just can’t ride around with you anymore, pretending I don’t feel the way I do. I can’t slow dance. I’m not sure I can fast dance with you." In a strangled voice, she said, "I just can’t," then turned away to hide the tears threatening to come.

"Then don’t pretend," said the low voice. The door to the club slapped open and a crowd of laughing men emerged, casting curious glances their way. "Come on," Dez said impatiently, tapping the blonde on the shoulder. "Let’s get outta here."

"What about the rest of the crew?"

"They’ll manage," Dez growled as she ushered Jaylynn toward the red truck.

Jaylynn was appalled at her lack of control. She had been in far more tense situations with Dez and she hadn’t cracked. What had come over her? She ran her fingers through her blonde hair and took a deep breath before stepping up into the truck. She had no idea what to expect now—much less what to do.

Dez backed out of the spot and gunned the engine out of the lot. She found she had been holding her breath and let it out in an audible rush, then glanced over at Jaylynn who slumped silently against the passenger door. Where should I go, Dez wondered. My place? Hers? A restaurant?

"Where are you taking me?" said a soft voice.

"I—I guess I don’t really know. Any suggestions?"

"I think I need to go home."

Disappointment in the form of a sudden sinking sensation hit Dez’s stomach hard, and she decided she had made a monumental mistake. For once she wanted to talk, to attempt to express the conflicting emotions boiling up inside, regardless of the awkwardness. But what would she say? How did she really feel? With unexpected clarity, it occurred to her. She wanted Jaylynn—it was as simple as that. She wanted her, and she needed to let her know that, even at the risk of rejection. She turned onto the lane that led around to Jaylynn’s house. Como Lake, glittery in the moonlight, shone in front of her. She pulled the truck to a stop and cut the engine as Jaylynn popped open the door, which turned on the overhead lamp. Dez blinked in the harsh light, then reached across the truck cab to rest her hand lightly on Jaylynn’s knee.

"Please . . . don’t go," she said in a choked voice. "Not just yet. Please?"

Jaylynn clicked the door closed, extinguishing the light, and Dez pulled her hand back reluctantly. By the dim light of the streetlamp Dez thought the blonde woman looked beautiful, her face all sharp planes and large hazel eyes, eyes that now looked haunted and unhappy. How do I say this? How do I make her understand? She swallowed nervously and said, "Could we walk by the lake for a while?" She held her breath waiting for Jaylynn to say no.

"Okay," was all the smaller woman said, and with a sigh, she opened the passenger door. The overhead light startled Dez again. She hopped out of the truck, slammed the door, and was glad for the dim light of the streetlamps.

Wordlessly they walked across the street, through the grass, across the bike path. They stopped at the lake’s edge. Dez put her hands in her pockets and looked out on the shimmery surface of the lake, smooth as glass. Jaylynn headed toward a bench and sat, pulling her feet up and wrapping her arms around her knees. Hesitantly Dez followed and sat a couple of feet away on Jyalynn’s bench.

In a quiet voice the smaller woman said, "I like to come here with my journal some evenings and watch the sun go down."

Dez angled her body to face Jaylynn and leaned her left shoulder against the back of the bench. "If we sit here long enough, we can watch the sun come up."

Jaylynn sighed. "Not tonight. I am way too tired."

The normally talkative woman sat in silence watching the lake. Dez tried to see her face, but it was shrouded in darkness. Tell her. It’s now or never, thought Dez. Say something. She cleared her throat and mentally kicked herself. "Jay," she began.

The smaller woman turned and cocked her head to the side a bit and studied her. Jaylynn waited a moment, then when Dez didn’t go on, she said, "I’m confused. What do you want?"

With an explosive sigh of relief, Dez said, "I want to talk about us."

The crickets chirped in the background. Far away a car could be heard speeding into the distance, gears grinding. Dez held her breath as seconds passed and Jaylynn did not respond.

"Why now?" whispered Jaylynn.

Dez was at a loss to respond. Was Jaylynn saying it was too late? She knew she had been slow to understand, slow to come to the realization that she loved this woman. Love? She gulped and gripped the back of the bench hard, glad she was seated. Yes. That was it: love. How embarrassing.

The last time she’d thought she loved someone she had been betrayed, laughed at and mocked, and since then, she had purposely made sure no one could get too close to her. She liked it that way. No complications. No risks. She always thought she had reconciled herself to spending her life on her own. But this was different. All of the old rules of the game seemed trivial, totally inapplicable. She stood, put her hands in her pockets, and paced, taking four steps with long legs, then twirling on her heel and pacing back.

"Why does this have to be so hard for you?" said Jaylynn.

Dez shrugged. She faced Jaylynn and turned her palms up. "I don’t know."

"Dez, I am not Karin."

Dez felt like she’d been socked in the stomach. For a moment she couldn’t breathe at all, and her legs felt weak. She managed to get her breath and choke out, "How—how in the hell do you know about Karin?"

Jaylynn said simply, "Crystal told me."

"I’m gonna kill her," said Dez. She smacked her fist into her palm. "Why did she tell you? Why?"

"Because she cares about you. Because she wanted me to understand you a little better."

"That’s a goddamn excuse. How did she even know—dammit!" Furiously she paced back and forth in front of the bench.

Jaylynn waited silently until Dez slowed down, then the tall woman abruptly sat on the bench and put her head in her hands. "There was no reason for Crystal to run around spilling her guts about my life."

"She was very worried about you at the time."

"Oh, what the hell for?"

"For God’s sake, Dez you’re starving yourself! Do you hear me? You’re starved! You’ve deprived yourself in every way. Food. Sleep. Love." Jaylynn paused and stared at Dez’s passive demeanor. "Aren’t you listening?"

Dez looked up defiantly, then looked away. "Yeah, but I don’t have to agree."

In a bitter voice Jaylynn said, "Look at you. You’re thin as a rail. You don’t sleep more than three or four hours a night. You work yourself to exhaustion, and most of the time you shut out all your friends."

"What’s your point?"

Jaylynn let out an exasperated growling sound. "My point is—you don’t have to do that. Stop the punishment. You’re slowly choking the life out of yourself." She scooted down the bench, grabbed Dez’s arm and implored, "Don’t you want to live? To be happy?"

Dez stared over at the rookie’s sincere face and shrugged. "I’m okay with my life."

"You’re okay with your life?" The sarcasm in Jaylynn’s voice was unmistakable. She let go of the arm she was grasping tightly. "You’re miserable! How can you not see that? How come everybody else on earth can see that so clearly—except you?"

Dez sighed. "What do you want from me, Jay?"

Abruptly Jaylynn started to cry. "Nothing," she said. "And everything." She quickly wiped away a tear and tried to choke back her feelings. "You don’t realize what gifts you have, what a gift you are. You don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to feel this way, Dez. Look at you! You don’t even defend yourself. I’ve just told you your life is shit and you don’t even fight back."

In a detached voice, Dez said, "Why is your life so great in comparison?"

Jaylynn squeezed her eyes shut, took a deep breath, and composed her thoughts. "I wake up most every morning feeling alive. I feel a pulse of happiness here in my heart that runs through my whole body. I look forward to the new day and wonder what interesting things will happen. Food tastes good. I feel the weather. I have energy. I talk, listen, hug, yell at people. I learn. I follow you around watching, trying new things. I laugh. Sometimes I cry—whether you approve or not. At the end of the day, I’m tired, and when my head hits the pillow, I sleep and wake up ready to go again. That’s it. That’s my simple little life. It may not be much, but I’ve been happy with it."

"Maybe compared to your life, mine isn’t as great, but I’m content."

"You either need to see a psychologist or raise your expectations!"

Dez sighed again and looked away.

"You asked for it," said Jaylynn, "you got it. Obviously you aren’t going to change, no matter how much concern anyone shows. So I’m not going to bug you anymore. I guess this is another area where we’ll just have to agree to disagree." She stood and turned to leave.

"Hey," said Dez, "where ya going?"

"I’m outta here. See you tomorrow."

Jaylynn stomped off leaving Dez sitting on the park bench. The longer she sat thinking, the more upset she became. That upstart rookie thinks my life is shit. How dare she? Who does she think she is judging whether I’m happy or not?

Upon reflection though, she wondered if maybe her life was indeed shit. Am I happy, she wondered? Do I enjoy each day? She sat for a few moments, not really thinking any coherent thoughts. Dez stood and faced the lake. The water was silent, no waves, no noise. All she could hear was the chirping of crickets. Streetlights on the other side of the lake winked and blinked as the warm night wind blew tree limbs back and forth in front of them. I envy her. Where does she get all that energy? And why is she so upset with me? A chilling thought rose and with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach she considered it. What if the rookie asked for a transfer again? What if she changed shifts? Last time they had this kind of disagreement, it had resulted in a time of misery. Would that happen again?

Bone-tired and feeling depressed, she turned and made her back to her truck. It occurred to her that Jaylynn was likely (???probably) right about her life—or lack thereof—but she was too tired to explore it further. Tomorrow. I’ll talk to her more tomorrow.




With a heavy heart Dez got ready for her shift. She had had another restless night full of awful nightmares. She had dreamed again of Ryan, and though she couldn’t remember most of the dream, she awoke at five a.m. remembering a vision of his face, pale and lifeless, his eyes staring blankly up at her. She couldn’t get back to sleep after that, and now here she was before roll call, feeling so tired that she almost wanted to go home sick.

"Hey, girl," said Crystal. Dez looked up in surprise to see Crystal leaning against the bright blue locker at the end of the row. The smiling cop said, "You’re here early today."

"On the contrary," Dez said in an icy voice as she rooted through her locker. "You’re the early one. What’s up?"

Crystal sat down on the bench and unlaced her street shoes. "Shayna had to go in to work early, so I just moseyed down here myself."

Dez picked up an old belt and hung it up on a hook. She glanced back over her shoulder. "You’re always so full of it, Crys. You’ve never been early on purpose in your life." She returned to sorting items in the locker.

"All right, so maybe I did have an ulterior motive." She pulled her socks off and wiggled her brown toes as she relaxed on the bench. "What happened to you guys last night? Everything okay?"

Dez glowered at her. "Why?"

"You two tore outta there like you were on fire. And—well, Jaylynn didn’t look any too happy. We were just—we just wanted to make sure—"

"What? That I didn’t beat her or something?"

"Oooh! Groucheee. Must have been a rip-roarin’ fight, huh?"

Feeling a sudden surge of energy, Dez got in her face and in a quiet, deadly voice said, "Who the hell do you think you are telling her about Karin? And how the hell did you know?"

Crystal rolled her eyes. "Good God! I’ve only been friends with you for what, eight, nine years? And everyone knew what Karin was all about. Come on Dez! I could tell. Why do you think I made a point to get to know you? I could see what she’d done to you, and you didn’t deserve it."

The dark haired cop backed away. She reached up and gripped the top of her locker door and squeezed it so hard her knuckles turned white. "You never said anything."

"You’re a private kinda gal, mi amiga. I respect that."

Dez turned abruptly and sat down at the other end of the bench. "Why didja have to talk to her about that?"

"Oh chica . . . you can’t even see it, can you? Nothing is so amazing as she who will not see."

"What’s that supposed to mean?"

Crystal slid down the bench and began to speak, her face near Dez’s ear. She whispered, "Listen to me—because I’m only going to tell you this once, and then if you must, you can go back to your self-imposed isolation." She paused as Dez put her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. The big woman looked down at the floor, but she appeared to be listening, so Crystal went on. "That girl, she’s so much in love with you—it shows in every smile, every glance, every pore of her body. You two, you got some kinda electricity going. And if you don’t feel it, well, you’re blind, deaf, and dumb. Shayna—she laughs about this—says she feels we’ll all be electrocuted soon if you don’t get your head outta your ass."

Dez’s head jerked up and she glared at Crystal. "How do you know this?"

Dark eyes snapping, Crystal stood and put her hands on her hips. "Oh pullease! For once in your pig-headed life could you trust someone else? I’m telling you, it’s the truth. Pay attention! Wake up, girl!"

In a muffled voice, Dez said, "I feel like I’m in a soap opera."

Crystal let out a deep belly laugh. "Maybe so. Maybe you are." She picked up her shoes and socks and padded over to the other side of the locker room. She didn’t say anything when she heard Dez open the door and leave. She just shook her head and mumbled to herself, "Get a clue, Dez, before it’s too late."




Dez found Jaylynn digging through her locker twenty minutes before roll call. "Hey," she said. "How are ya?"

Jaylynn turned to face her, misery etched into the worried planes of her face. The rookie stood for a moment studying the taller woman.

"What?" said Dez. She arched an eyebrow and spread her long arms out, her palms upright as though she expected rain. "All I asked is how you’re doing."

"I can’t believe you’re still speaking to me."

"What do you mean?"

Jaylynn shook her head. "You don’t remember last night’s conversation?"

Dez took a few steps and slid down onto the flat bench, facing Jaylynn on the rickety bench in front of her locker. She put her elbows on her knees and rubbed her eyes with her knuckles. "Yeah, I remember it clearly. Why?"

"How can you not be upset? You should be pissed at me." Jaylynn dropped down on the other bench across from Dez. "I’m sorry. Okay? I—I said—I said some things I didn’t mean, okay? I shouldn’t have done it." She looked as though she was about to cry.

In a quiet voice, Dez said, "You don’t have to apologize. You were right."

"No, Dez. I was pretty harsh. I didn’t mean it that way."

"Yes, you did." Dez met Jaylynn’s gaze and held it. "Aren’t you the one always telling me to be honest? You were just being honest."

The rookie put her head in her hands and stared down at the floor. She looked so miserable that Dez rose and sat next to her. She nudged the rookie’s leg with her knee. "Hey. Stop thinking about it. I took it to mean that you cared, Jay, that you were worried about me. You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already sort of know anyway." When the rookie didn’t respond, Dez said in a soft voice, "Look, I’ve been a pain in the ass lately—I know. The competition is this weekend, and I’ll be less crabby when I can start eating more carbs. I gotta tell you," she said, as she hung her head, "I haven’t been much fun these last few weeks. I’m sorry."

"That doesn’t excuse me for how I acted—"

Dez cut her off. "Please . . ." She stood and leaned back against the lockers with her hands behind her. "Just quit talking about it. I—I don’t want to talk about this—not now." She ran her hand over her head smoothing back already tidy hair. "Can we just make it through tonight? Then I’m off ’til after the show. You won’t have to put up with my crankiness, okay?" Abruptly she turned and headed for the locker room door.

Jaylynn hustled to throw her stuff in her locker. Her relief was so great that she actually felt shaky. She had imagined all sorts of terrible things since the night before, and to be honest, she was just exhausted from lack of sleep. She hadn’t realized that Dez would be off work for the next several days, but in a way, that was okay with her. She needed a break from her intense partner, and the big cop needed to get away from the stresses of the street. She locked up and raced up the stairs to roll call.




Saturday of the competition dawned clear and beautiful. Jaylynn dressed in lightweight slacks and her favorite green v-necked shirt. She ate a huge breakfast of cereal, toast, juice, and leftover fried potatoes, and she took a few minutes to pack some goodies to eat during the day.

The rookie arrived at Central High School an hour before the competition was scheduled. She figured Dez would be there early, and sure enough, she was. The tall woman, dressed in grey sweats and flips, was seated on the floor next to an oversized black gym bag. She leaned against a brick wall in the hallway, her knees drawn up to her chest, and her arms around her legs. Her face and hands and feet were so brown that for a moment Jaylynn didn’t recognize her. Her dark hair was woven together from the top of her head and down the back in a tight French braid that tucked under leaving no hair on her neck. She was gazing out the side window and didn’t even notice the blonde until she was sliding down next to her.

"Hey," said Jaylynn. "How’d you sleep?"

The dark head swung around and bright blue eyes in a mahogany-colored face surveyed the younger woman. "Hi Jay. Okay, I guess."

"Which means what? Five? Six hours?"

Dez gave her a slight smile and looked away. In truth, she had probably slept most of the last twelve hours. She actually remembered some pleasant dreams between waking every three hours when her internal clock told her she needed to eat. At this point she was so sick of protein powder, amino acid pills, romaine lettuce, and chicken breasts that she could gag just thinking about them. But she didn’t feel tired; she also did not feel very energetic, but she knew she had to get pumped by shortly after eight.

Jaylynn said, "Any competition to watch out for?"

Dez stretched her legs out and let her hands fall into her lap. "Yeah. Looks like at least two heavyweights. They both look pretty good from what I can tell."

Jaylynn reached over and patted the grey-clad forearm. "I’ve got a good feeling about this. You’re going to do well."

"Thanks for coming so early. I just hope Cowboy gets here soon."

She pulled her gym bag over closer to her and hunted around in it, coming up with a pint of bottled water. "Want a swig?" she said as she twisted the cap open.

"Nope. I brought my own." She gestured to her own leather bag, which contained plenty of goodies to make it through the day. "So tell me, what happens now?"

Dez closed up the bottle and stuck it back in her bag. "We weigh in at eight and then get pumped up for the 8:30 start. It’s all compulsory poses at first, then we do our one minute programs. They start with women teens, then the boys. I’m pretty sure they do the Masters competitors, then the rest of us novices, women first, followed by men. Somewhere along the way, the pairs get squeezed in. I haven’t actually seen the schedule yet, but I know from the one other show I did that they’ll give us a timeline to follow."

"Where’s the best place to sit?"

"Oh, anywhere. The closer you are, the better though. You can see symmetry from the distance, but muscles and vascularity are best seen up close."

"So you don’t care if I sit in the front row?"

Dez chuckled and shrugged. "Whatever."

"How long does this take?"

Dez thought about that for a moment, then said, "Mmm . . . two, maybe three hours. I like to stay and see the men. When I’m done, I’ll come out and sit with you to watch—that is, if you’re staying that long?"

"Sure I am." Jaylynn grinned. "I’d like that. Maybe then you can give me enough information so I understand all of this."

Dez nodded. "You also better buy tonight’s tickets now or else you’ll get crummy seats."

"I told Luella I’d get a pair for her and Vanita. She tried to tell me her tired old eyes needed to be up close."

"Go get them now then." Dez looked at her watch. "They’ll open up any minute. Go be first in line. They’ve already sold a lot in advance." When the blonde reached for her bag, Dez said, "You can leave that here. I’ll keep an eye on it."

Jaylynn rose and hastened to the table where two men were setting up to sell tickets. Dez watched her walk away, smiling approvingly at the cream-colored dockers, white Adidas tennis shoes, and a form fitting forest green v-neck shirt. Her hips were shapely and her white-blonde hair shone under the fluorescent lights. Dez felt a little blush creep into her face as she remembered some of the images of a dream she’d had the night before. In it, they were in a sunny glade near a lake. Jaylynn had been wearing considerably less than now—a green top that wasn’t much more than a bra and the shortest of skirts. Her legs were lean and sinewy, her stomach muscular and tight. And she had long red-blonde hair. Dez frowned and shook her head. She didn’t know where that had come from. But it was definitely Jaylynn, and the part that caused her to blush occurred when the young woman had slipped out of those clothes and stood nude before her. She looked down and realized that she herself wore no clothes either. They waded into the water, and the dream went on, but she couldn’t remember any more details, only that she had awakened from it unwillingly, her stomach protesting for food.

She looked at her watch again. 7:55. Time to weigh in. Jaylynn was walking back toward her, tucking tickets into her back pockets. Dez rose and picked up both of their bags.

"Time to go?" said Jaylynn.

"Yup. I’ll look for ya in the audience."

The blonde stood awkwardly until Dez handed her the leather bag.

"Good luck," said Jaylynn. "I’ll be rooting for you." It seemed so lame, but it was all she could think to say.

Dez flashed her a smile, and her white teeth were such a contrast to the dark skin that Jaylynn was taken aback. That was the face of her Warrior Woman. It was uncanny and gave her the shivers. She watched the grey-clad woman walk away from her, and she was struck by how thin she appeared. In fact, those sweats bagged on the tall woman so much that Jaylynn thought they’d look more shapely on the hanger. As she turned away she heard a clock-clock-clock noise, and in came Cowboy wearing his ever-present leather boots and hauling a bag even bigger than Dez’s. He was nearly running as he caught up with the tall, dark haired woman who stood next to her bag, hands on hips, and shaking her head at him.

Jaylynn made her way into the auditorium where the audio techs were making final checks on the sound system. The high school’s theater hall was large and seated around two thousand. Right now there were seven judges sitting at a long table right in front of the stage and little knots of early birds scattered throughout the first 15 rows. The blonde picked her way down the stairs toward the front row, passing a huge man eating from a gallon-sized tupperware container full of rice and chicken. Picking a spot to the right in the fourth row where she thought she had the best angle of vision, she sat and proceeded to think about Dez.

The dark haired woman hadn’t seemed nervous at all. Then again, she had done this before. If she were Dez, Jaylynn was certain she’d be throwing up right about now. She looked around the auditorium. On the stage there were three banners that advertised other sponsors, including the Sports Nutrition Warehouse, a chiropractor, and three fitness clubs. On one side wall, two men were hanging a 30 foot long banner with red, white, and blue lettering that read "1999 Excalibur All Natural Bodybuilding Championship sponsored in part by the St. Paul Police Department." The wall on the other side already contained another gold banner that carried the seal of the police department and the words "To Serve and Protect: In memory of Ryan Michaelson, 1960-1998."

Jaylynn felt the hair on her arms stand on end, and once again she found herself wishing she had met the man who all of her colleagues had respected so much. In photos around the department, he was as blonde as she was. He was dark-eyed, stocky, broad-shouldered, and wearing a mischievous grin in every picture. She thought she probably would have liked him a lot.

A string of people—many of them cops who Jaylynn vaguely recognized—wandered in and found seats. And then the chief judge up front spoke into a microphone before him. "Let’s get started, ladies and gentleman." Without any fanfare or introductions, he went on, "Let’s have the teen women—oh, wait a minute. We’ve got no teen female competitors. All right. Bring out the teen males."

Jaylynn watched as the judges took the six boys through a series of mandatory poses. She was impressed at the muscle and sinew the young men displayed, not to mention their poise. They were all clearly nervous, but each held steady throughout the ten minutes of poses. After the compulsories were completed, each of the boys was called individually to the stage to perform his sixty second program, a succession of poses chosen by the competitor to highlight his best features. The first teen emerged and stood waiting motionless at center stage. Suddenly, Jaylynn was startled to hear acid rock music blaring out of the speakers. She covered her ears and winced for the full sixty seconds. The accompanying music for all six boys was variations of painful, screaming guitar, booming bass beat, indistinguishable words. Jaylynn had to grin. I guess I’m old now, she thought as she protected her ears. She didn’t know how the judges could stand it.

By the time the Masters women and men had done their compulsories and individual programs, Jaylynn was beginning to understand what bodybuilding was all about. She listened to the comments from the crowd, some of whom obviously knew what they were talking about, and she studied the physiques. What she found most appealing were men and women with well-defined muscle, and a lean, symmetrical presentation of it. She thought about how thin Dez had become, and she wondered if that would be detrimental.

In the Novice/Open class, the judges started with the lightweight women and moved on to the middleweights. As each moment passed, Jaylynn found herself becoming more and more nervous until her stomach was a roiling mess. She purposely closed her eyes and made herself breathe twenty deep breaths. Then she re-situated herself in the lumpy auditorium chair and watched the final middleweight finish her routine.

The judges called the heavyweights out. The three women filed out on the stage, their muscles pumped up. Jaylynn’s eyes found Dez immediately, and her jaw dropped. In an electric blue suit, Dez’s skin was super-shiny with a deep, dark tan, though Jaylynn could see that the lights made her look less brown than she had appeared in the hall. What stunned the blonde the most was how impossibly huge the dark haired woman looked. The other two women were shapely and muscular, but they were four and six inches shorter respectively. Dez, standing in the middle, towered over them, a veritable mountain of muscle and sinew. The three women stood, "at rest," which meant they were not striking any poses, but every muscle in their bodies was tight and flexed.

The judges took them through the compulsory quarter turns. She saw the tall cop’s broad shoulders with the defined delts, the abdominal six-pack, and legs bulging with muscle. Somewhere off in the distance Jaylynn heard cheering, but everything seemed muddied and unintelligible. She only had eyes for Dez. The three contestants turned to face away from the audience to do back lat spreads, and Jaylynn wondered if she could believe her own eyes. The back the tall woman presented was sinewy and so rippled that she looked hard as rock.

Before Jaylynn knew it, the compulsories were over and she realized she hadn’t paid the slightest attention to the other two women. She had no idea what their strengths or weaknesses were. She hoped Dez wouldn’t ask for any comparisons because she wouldn’t be able to give them.

The judges called for the first individual program, and Jaylynn was relieved that Dez was first. The sooner she performed her sixty second routine, the sooner the blonde could relax. The tall woman strode out to the middle of the stage and waited for the music to start. The first notes of "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves" came over the speakers bringing a smile to the blonde's lips. Holding her breath, Jaylynn was struck by how much her dream Warrior Woman looked like Dez. Near the end of the incredibly quick minute, Jaylynn felt faint, then realized that she should remember to breathe. She took in great gulps of air and settled back in her seat as the music ended and Dez exited the stage. Now Jaylynn managed to look around, and she heard and saw the enthusiasm of the spectators.

The final two heavyweights performed, but it was all a blur to the young woman. She couldn’t get over how Dez had appeared. It wasn’t until the judges called the pairs out that she was able to focus again. She watched three different routines before Cowboy and Dez came on the stage. Next to him, the dark haired cop looked diminutive. Both had huge shoulders and biceps, but his musculature was so much larger and even more defined than Dez’s. They did their routine to "Simply Irresistible" and with a wave, left the stage.

The judges called for a ten-minute break. It was then that Jaylynn realized she was sweating. Her face was hot, and suddenly the auditorium seemed to close in on her. Jaylynn reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of water. In addition to drinking it, she considered pouring some of it down her shirt, maybe over her head. With a start, she discovered she was dizzy from hunger, so she rooted through her bag again until she found a Snickers bar. She had just opened it and taken a bite when someone slid over the back of the chair beside her and settled in next to her. She looked over and was amazed that it was Dez, dressed again in her grey sweats.

"So, how’d we do?" said Dez.

"Good," the rookie said, her mouth full.

Dez shook her head and laughed. "I should have known you’d be out here munching away on something."

Jaylynn chewed furiously and swallowed. "I just got this out this very moment," she said indignantly.

Before Dez could reply the blonde saw someone standing in the aisle to her left. She craned her head back to see a thin, fortyish, red-haired woman with striking blue eyes. She wore tailored jeans and a black blouse with a starched collar. Boots with stiletto heels—and Jaylynn’s seated position—made the woman look quite tall and thin.

"So Dez," the woman purred, "you looked pretty good up there." Her eyes raked over the dark haired woman. "You’ve certainly changed since I last saw your—ah, physique."

Jaylynn looked to her right. The brunette’s face was grim, but she didn’t seem too upset.

Dez said, "Well, hello Karin. Surprised to see you here. You run outta sweet young things at the BCA?"

Karin looked Jaylynn up and down appreciatively. "No, but the sweet young things around here aren’t too bad."

Comprehension dawned on Jaylynn and she realized who the red-haired woman was. In a fury, she shot up out of her seat so fast that her bag, which had been on her lap, spilled onto the auditorium floor. Without warning the red-haired woman found herself faced with a 130-pound spitfire.

"Who the hell do you think you are discussing me like a piece of meat?"

Karin stepped back, obviously surprised.

"Get lost," said Jaylynn fiercely. "I’ll kick your ass if I see you here again."

Karin looked down at Dez who was still slumped in her seat. "You let your little friend do all the protecting around here, huh?"

"She’s a better cop than you ever were."

Again, Karin looked surprised. She shook her head as though she didn’t quite believe what she’d heard, and then turned on her heel and disappeared up the aisle.

Jaylynn picked up her bag off the floor and sank down into her seat feeling foolish and embarrassed. She sneaked a glance at Dez expecting the worst. Instead the big woman sat with a goofy grin on her face. She turned to Jaylynn and said, "Now that was rich. Did you see the look on her face?" She started laughing, then stopped abruptly when she caught the look on the Blondeee's face.

Dez said, "What! What’s the matter?"

"How could that—that woman be so rude? I’m still furious!"

"Jay, Jay. It’s just the chocolate."

Jaylynn gave her a blank look. "What?"

"The Snickers. What have I been telling you? Too much sugar is bad for you." The tan woman couldn’t hold back anymore and laughed uproariously. "That was great when you told her you’d kick her ass. Ha ha ha . . ."

"I’m glad you find this so amusing."

"I needed a good laugh." Dez started laughing again, but tried to stifle it. "Be quiet now. It’s the guys. We gotta root for Cowboy."

For the next hour they sat in the fourth row, heads together, while Dez told Jaylynn everything she could about proper form, posing, muscularity, and all the myriad details that made up the sport of bodybuilding. When Cowboy came out on stage, Jaylynn was surprised at all the hooting and catcalling from Dez, but it only made Cowboy preen and look all the more confident.

Once the heavyweight men finished and the morning judging concluded, Jaylynn turned to Dez and said, "Now what?"

Dez, who had been munching on a rice cake, shrugged her shoulders. "I come back in six hours. Until then, I just meander around avoiding anything remotely related to those Snickers bars you’ve been snacking on."

Jaylynn felt herself blushing. "One Snicker bar. It was one. Didn’t you pay attention to the sandwich or the banana or the orange or the pretzels—"

Dez interrupted her. "Yes! I paid attention to all that, and believe me, the endless parade’s been killing me!" Irritably she said, "I can’t wait until I can eat something other than rice cakes and chicken, chicken, chicken." She stood and stretched.

Jaylynn rose, too, and put her hand on Dez’s arm. "Hey, I didn’t know it would bother you—me eating, I mean."

Dez scowled at her. "It didn’t bother me. You could have been eating dried squid and I woulda wanted it. I’ll just be glad when this is over." She crumpled up the wrapper from the rice cakes and flung it on the floor.

"Uh oh," said Jaylynn, still gripping Dez’s forearm. "I think your blood sugar is low. Let’s go get you some salad and chicken." She picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder and pulled Dez along behind her. "Where’s your bag, Dez?"

"I put it in the truck." She let Jaylynn drag her up the aisle. "I can’t go out to a restaurant or anything like that," she protested.

"I know. You’ve got the next three meals all set up in your frig, right?"

"Yeah. How’d you know?"

"Desiree Reilly, I know you far too well." She rolled her eyes. "Come on. I’ll drive. You can just sit and cogitate, okay?"




Jaylynn and Dez spent a leisurely afternoon hanging around at the tall woman’s apartment. After Dez had a meal—cold chicken breast and romaine lettuce—she sat on the couch to watch TV and promptly fell asleep. Jaylynn went out to the kitchen and opened cupboards until she found Dez’s toaster, but despite looking high and low, she found no bread.

She cracked open the kitchen door and crept downstairs to tap on Luella’s door. When Luella opened it, she put her finger to her lips, squeezed inside, and pushed the door shut. "Dez is actually sleeping, and I don’t want to wake her." she said. "Just one little problem—I’m starving."

"Well, you’ve come to the right place." Luella beamed at her, her silver hair swept back and bobby pinned stylishly. Jaylynn took a deep breath. Luella’s house always smelled like fresh backed bread and fruit—maybe strawberries.

"Really, all I need is two or three slices of bread and I’ll be fine."

In her pink slippers and blue green housedress, Luella shuffled down the hall and into her kitchen. "I’ve got some nutty oat bread. That strike your fancy?"

"Sounds great."

"You want some jam or some roast beast with that?"

"Nah, I was just gonna make an omelette upstairs."

"Bet she has no butter either." When Jaylynn shrugged, the landlady shook her head and said, "What are we gonna do about that girl?"

Luella foraged around in her pantry closet and pulled out a loaf of bread. "She got anything to drink in that godforsaken icebox of hers?"

Jaylynn leaned against the doorway and tried to visualize the contents of the upstairs refrigerator. "I think she has ice tea . . . but that may be it."

"An omelet's no good without a little milk in it and a little in a glass to down it with. You agree?"

Kind brown eyes twinkled at Jaylynn, and it made the younger woman smile. Impulsively, Jaylynn blurted out, "Luella, I wish I’d met you years ago. You have to be one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met." Jaylynn could see the flush of happiness suffuse the chestnut colored skin. "Oh, I didn’t mean to embarrass you," she said.

Luella set the loaf of bread down and stepped over to Jaylynn, taking the blonde woman’s chin in both her soft brown hands. "How can she resist you, Jay? That’s what I don’t understand." The wise old eyes gazed seriously into the now bashful face of her friend. "Don’t give up on that fool. She’s gonna figure this out sooner or later, you know." With a final stroke, she released Jaylynn’s face and turned to the cupboard to get a plate down. Her back to the blushing woman, Luella said, "Guess you didn’t think I knew about that, huh? Well, these eyes may be old, but they’re not blind."

She moved over to the refrigerator and opened the door. Over her shoulder Jaylynn could see it was packed more full than she had ever seen it. Luelled ducked in and pulled out a plastic half-gallon container of milk and a stick of butter. Just before she shut the door, she reached back in and snagged an egg from the indentations in the door.

"Am I so obvious?" Jaylynn choked out.

Luella handed her the milk jug, then arranged the bread and stick of butter on the plate so that the egg wouldn’t fall off. "No," Luella said thoughtfully. " I wouldn’t say that. But I do know the two of you. That girl is really something else, but she’s street savvy and not heart smart. You’ll have to be patient with her." She handed Jaylynn the plate. "Careful not to drop the egg. It’s no fun cleaning up yolk. Now if you mix it in with one of those little boxes of egg whites she uses, your omelette will have a lot more body. Tastes better too."

"Thank you Luella. I’ll bring this milk right back."

"You’re always welcome, Jay. No hurry on the milk either. I don’t need it for hours. And hey, hon, I’m rooting for you."

Momentarily confused, Jaylynn realized Luella was referring to her love life—not to Dez’s competition—and she felt her face flushing again. She retreated down the hallway, and Luella followed to open the door for her.

"See you in a bit, Luella."

The old woman gave her a brilliant smile, her teeth flashing bright and her brown eyes sparkling. Once again Jaylynn was struck by how beautiful she was. A little gray hair and a few wrinkles didn’t mar the effect.

The blonde made her way up the stairs and set everything down on the counter, then peeked around the corner. Dez continued to sleep on the couch, her face frowning slightly even in her sleep. This brought a smile to Jaylynn’s face. She got out the egg whites, sliced up a tomato and green pepper, added Luella’s egg and milk, and put some chunks of Dez’s baked chicken breast in a fry pan to make the omelette. With a glass of milk and three pieces of toast slathered with the rich butter, her stomach was satisfied.

She went into the living room and sat on the couch near the slumbering woman. She didn’t want to wake Dez, but she got up and put a video in. Truly, Madly, Deeply. She’d wanted to watch it since the first visit to the apartment, and now she had three more hours to kill.




The wind blew in her face and she smelled a musty, verdant odor. As she opened her eyes, Dez thought she was flying in a green tunnel, but as her eyes adjusted, she realized she was traveling at high speed through a forest of trees and bushes. She looked down and her eyes focused on the horn of a saddle. Her hands held taut reins, and, astride a powerful horse, she galloped on a narrow path. Something constricted her waist and she noticed tawny suntanned arms around her middle.

"Yah!" she found herself saying, and the cream-colored horse leapt forward even more quickly than before. An inexpressible joy raced through her. Blood coursed in her veins, pumping with excitement. Her legs gripped the horse tightly, and she knew without a doubt she could outrun the Fates themselves. She felt the warmth at her back and knew who it was without looking back.


The horse galloped through a slim opening in the brush and burst out onto a vast plain covered with wild grass and flowers. She slowed the heaving horse to a canter and angled along the treeline. Hearing a protest from the body fastened to her back, she signaled the animal to a walk.

Her breathing slowed as the feeling of glee rushing through her body slacked off. Without warning, a flurry of movement caught her eye. Looking sideways to the treeline from which they had just ridden, she saw a line of figures on horses erupt shrieking and screaming. Wearing battle armor, they carried banners and spears, swords and bows. With a gasp she dug her heels into the horse’s side.

"Yah! Come on! Get us out of here!"




Something wasn’t right. Dez inhaled as she struggled to consciousness. One blue eye squinted open, and she found herself curled up on the couch next to one silently sobbing blonde. She jolted up, alarmed, and said, "What’s the matter?"

Jaylynn turned to her, tears running down her face. She choked out, "That is the saddest movie I’ve ever seen."

"What in the hell are you watching?"

"Truly, Madly, Deeply. It just got over." She picked up the remote and clicked it to rewind.

Dez let out a deep breath and sat back. "I thought I told you it was a three hanky movie."

"But you lied. It was a three boxes of hankies movie."

"Yeah, well, at least it had a happy ending," she said grouchily.

"But it’s such a sad happy ending." Jaylynn wiped the tears away. She stood and took the video out of the VCR and returned it to its place on the shelf.

Dez said, "What time is it?"

Jaylynn looked at her watch and said, "4:10."

Dez rose to her feet and stretched her arms so high she could touch the ceiling. "Guess we’d better get a move on. I need to stop at the store and buy another can of Pam."

"Pam? Cooking oil Pam? Hey, we gonna fry something good after the show’s over?"

"No, that’s what we use on stage. I have enough, I think, but just in case, I like to be prepared."

"You use Pam on stage?"

"Yeah. Works better than any other oil. Everybody uses it."

"You’re kidding, right?"


"I did wonder how you all got so shiny. Pam, huh?" Jaylynn didn’t say it, but she had begun to think bodybuilding was a wee bit odd.




The evening program began at 6:30, and it was a packed house. Jaylynn sat through the first hour, waiting impatiently for Dez’s appearances.

There was a short break between the middleweight and heavyweight divisions when something went wrong with the PA system. Jaylynn sat in the audience between Luella and Vanita, and the two older women talked across her to one another. She had already offered to switch seats with one of them so they could talk more conveniently, but they both hushed her and said they each wanted the fun of sitting by her. A soft, warm hand patted her arm, and Luella gazed at her kindly, then went back to giggling with her sister.

Jaylynn was so nervous that she hardly heard what the two sisters were discussing. When Luella finished a statement with, "…and don’t you think it’s true?" and then looked at her expectantly, all she could do was shrug and say, "I’m sorry Luella. I can’t concentrate at all."

"You’re not worrying about Dez now, are you?"

She nodded.

"Oh, stop fretting. She’s done this before. The girl’s a powerhouse. No need to worry. You said she did good this morning."

Jaylynn fidgeted with her program. "I know, but this feels different." Tonight Julie and the kids were there, and pretty much every cop she’d ever met and several dozen she had never seen before. The morning compulsory posing hadn’t been nearly as well attended, and she had liked sitting right near the front. Tonight she was stuck 12 rows back, and the place was so full it made her feel claustrophobic. "This is just more nerve-wracking than the morning was."

Vanita said, "You haven’t seen nerve-wracking until you hear about what happened to me the time I—"

The announcer interrupted. "Okay folks, we’re back and ready for the women’s heavyweight routines. We’ve got three contestants tonight, all three from the Twin Cities. And here’s a little about our first contestant."

Jaylynn didn’t pay attention to the rest of it. Dez was scheduled to perform third. The rookie sat through the other two womens’ programs and tried to evaluate each fairly. In her estimation, neither of them was anywhere near as good as Dez. The first woman was well built with incredible biceps. You could see every muscle in her back, and she had washboard abs. But Jaylynn thought her legs looked weak in comparison. The second contestant had great shoulders, muscular legs with good definition, and actual striations in her pec muscles, but her abs and her upper back didn’t have the kind of cut her competitors had. The rookie wasn’t a judge, but she knew she favored the symmetry Dez displayed—not to mention the fact that she felt weak in the knees every time she saw Dez in the very skimpy electric blue two piece suit. That didn’t happen when she looked at the other two contestants.

When the second routine was over, Jaylynn’s stomach went crazy, and for a moment she thought she might be sick. She was so relieved when that feeling passed, but then it was replaced with a general inability to breathe. She found herself holding her breath until the announcer began to introduce Dez. And then the tall woman emerged onto stage walking gracefully, her body impossibly long and lean and muscular. The cops in the audience went wild.




Dez stood in the stage wings with her eyes closed, concentrating on keeping her body loose and yet tight at the same time. It was a delicate balancing act, staying pumped up and flexed while at the same time not cramping. She was past the bout of nerves she’d experienced earlier, and now she only had to get through this sixty seconds, just this short routine. And then, unless she won her weight class—which she dearly wished would happen—she would be done with the hard part.

The sixty seconds ended for the second competitor, and the music stopped. From the wings Dez could hear the appreciative applause. Unlike the morning’s quiet attendees, tonight’s crowd was a rowdy stomping wild bunch, a lot of them cops. She pushed that out of her mind and focused on breathing and on gathering all her energy inward so that she could direct it outward as needed. Her main competitor was statuesque and a steady poser. The dark haired woman knew she needed to be solid in this routine.

She didn’t even hear the brief biographical announcement about herself that preceded her performance. Instead she found herself thinking of Ryan and knowing that he would have been out in the front row watching and cheering for her until it was time for the men’s division to start. And suddenly she felt a crack in her legendary control. She looked about in alarm. There was nothing to be done. The stage monitor tapped her on the shoulder and gestured her out to the stage.

The house erupted into applause as she strode uncertainly to the middle of the stage. She knew she did not want to look at Julie or the kids or at Luella or at any of her brothers in blue. Unlike the morning where she concentrated on the judges, tonight she was expected to work the crowd. She didn’t know how she could do it.

She stood at ready, every muscle in her body flexed, arms out a few inches from her sides, and one foot in front of her, toe pointed downward. She knew it was cocky, but she had worked up a completely different routine from her morning program using new music. She had chosen Queen’s old song, "We Are The Champions," because it was Ryan’s body building theme and she knew that would matter to Julie. The first strains of the song began. And that crack in her control widened.

She didn’t have time to think. She knew she had to hit every pose to the best of her ability. But as she moved through the poses—front facing abs, twisting double biceps, side chest—she broke. Not physically, but emotionally. On the outside, she continued through the longest sixty seconds of her life, but on the inside, a tidal wave of raging grief welled up and threatened to spill over. There was a moment of relief as she turned away from the audience and moved into the rear lat spread and rear double biceps, but as she she hit the right side triceps and looked out at the audience, tears sprang up. Her vision blurred, and she blinked, horrified at what was happening.

Dez didn’t hear the cheering, the loud clapping, the rising crescendo. In her head everything clanged in an indistinct din. In a panic, she jerked into the next pose, a front lat spread, and through the tears she gazed out into the crowd. She blinked again, and when her vision cleared, what she saw was a shock of short blonde hair and warm, hazel green eyes. Despite the tears running down her cheeks, Dez held eye contact. She saw the younger woman’s fist go up in an emphatic movement, and over all the crowd noise, she swore she could hear the rookie say, "It’s okay, you’re doing fine."

The tall woman breathed in and steadied enough to move into the lunging single bicep twist she liked to end with. As she turned away from those green eyes and bowed her head in the final pose, the last strains of music sounded. She held the pose, tightened every muscle until it felt like she would fly apart. Looking down she saw one glistening silver pearl of liquid fall and splat on the floor below her.

The song ended. She exhaled in a huff and stood up straight, and the house went wild. Giving a wave she turned to walk off stage. Once more her eyes sought out the rookie, but she couldn’t find her in the confusion.

Once off stage Dez bent over, hands on knees, and tried to get her breath. Someone handed her a towel, and she daubed at her face. She knew she had to return to the stage right away with the other two heavyweights, and she took the brief moment to steel herself. All she really wanted to do was escape. She felt like she had when she was 14, when she used to grab her bike and ride miles and miles just to get away from everyone and everything. And here I am without a bike, she thought sarcastically.

Back at the podium the announcer was saying, "I believe the judges have their final decision. It’s time now for the presentation of awards. Let’s bring out our three heavyweight competitors, Cindy, Nancy, and Desiree. Here they are, ladies and gentlemen!"

He turned and gave them a hand as the three women filed out to center stage and stood in their "relaxed" poses. For the first time this evening, the three women stood next to one another on stage, and it was clear that Dez, on the far right, was much taller and more powerful looking than either of her rivals.

The announcer went on: "Presenting the trophies is last year’s champion and three time Ms. Minnesota winner, Sandy Marx!"

The crowd applauded, then grew quiet.

"And now ladies and gentlemen, third place in the heavyweight division goes to Nancy Daniels."

The audience clapped and cheered. Through it all, a stony-faced Dez gazed out into the audience at Jaylynn. She didn’t break eye contact and the rookie returned the gaze. Then Jaylynn smiled mischievously and blew her a kiss, and for the first time in hours, Dez broke out in a full smile. She almost didn’t hear the announcer call the runner-up, Cindy Schmidt, and was startled when Nancy and Cindy smacked her on the back and gave her admiring hugs.

"Dez Reilly," said the announcer, "step into the center there." She moved into the middle position between the two body builders and accepted the gold statuette from the presenter. She looked at it a bit dazed, then set it down in front of her like the other two women had. The announcer said, "Okay now ladies, for the cameras, go ahead and strike a double bicep pose."




Jaylynn rose. Frantically she said, "Excuse me, Luella. I’ll be right back." She crawled over Luella and into the aisle. It was all she could do to keep from running up the section. She made it out the side exit and back to the Pump Up Room before it occurred to her that perhaps she was being too hasty. What if Dez didn’t want her there?

Too bad. She couldn’t stop herself.

She scooted around pairs of dumbbells left lying throughout the room. As she rounded the corner and headed toward the stage wings, she saw the three heavyweights being interviewed by a man with a video camera, but as she neared, they finished, and Dez turned away. The brunette held a baggy gray sweatshirt in her right hand and was turning it right side out. Jaylynn reached her. She wanted to grab Dez into a hug, but she wasn’t sure that was a good idea. Instead she stretched out a hand and gripped the bigger woman’s glistening forearm.

Surprised, Dez spun around. Her face softened when she saw who it was. "Hey, you."

Jaylynn broke into a grin. "You did good."

"Right." Embarrassed, Dez looked down. "I choked."

Jaylynn squeezed the taller woman’s arm, which was warm and oily. "Just because it was emotional doesn’t mean you choked." She took both of Dez’s hands into her own. "I’ve got news for you, Dez. Cops do cry. Half of the police in the audience were anyway. It was really beautiful. You were wonderful."

Dez gave her hands a squeeze, then let go, and they looked at one another intently. The rookie started to say something, but then the stage director interrupted. "Hey, all of you women pairs. . . some of you are gonna be called out on the stage now. They’re awarding the pairs trophy."

"Afterwards, okay?" said Dez as she moved away, her eyes smiling though her mouth didn’t.

Jaylynn nodded, her heart full, her eyes brimming. She didn’t wait to hear Dez and Cowboy’s names called as one of the top three pairs of couples. She knew they would be. She made her way back to her seat and sat patiently, relaxed, for the rest of the program. And she wasn’t one bit surprised when a totally composed Dez Reilly confidently took the pairs trophy, hugging and kissing Cowboy on the cheek, or when she won the posedown between the three weight classes to take the Overall Champion Award.



Continued in Part 9


Return to The Main Page