By Lori L. Lake

a/k/a Lorelei, Bard of the Lakes

lorelei-bard@juno.com -- www.LoriLLake.com

Part Twelve

TODAY’S COMMENT: Here’s a substantial chunk of the story. After this, I think there are only two more parts…..maybe one, if I can get it edited/beta-read quickly. In any case, we ought to be done with this novel by Halloween. Spooky, but true.

DEDICATION: I dedicate this section to my new friend, Jip. It’s funny how the Universe sends us help just when we need it. J

BOOKPLATES: It’s been fun to get requests for autographs and bookplates. Thanks for the honor of doing that! Don’t forget that if you send me an SASE, I will send you a bookplate for your book(s). See "Bookplates" on my website at www.LoriLLake.com. Also, let me know your email addy if you have written me before. It’s fun to know if I have corresponded with you in the past.

REMINDER: This is a sequel. If you haven’t read the first book, GUN SHY, you might want to go to: GUNSHY. You can purchase a copy of GUN SHY, published by Renaissance Alliance Publishing (Quest Division), at any bookstore or online bookseller. Also, I have another book just published, RICOCHET IN TIME (Yellow Rose Books), which has never been posted online. I just discovered that the best prices on both books are at Books-A-Million. Go "Books" on my website to order from them.

REITERATED DISCLAIMERS: The characters and the plot are original and mine. Please give me advice, feedback, and criticism. If something doesn’t square up for you, go ahead and let me know. I won’t bite. At least not very hard. This sequel is still about cops. It contains scenes of violence and/or their aftermath as well as one or two swear words here and there. The story depicts a love/sexual relationship between 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, either be very sneaky about reading this or else don’t. I’m not your mother. Do what you want. J





Part Twelve

Dez and Jaylynn rode in the big Ford with the blonde in the center seat leaning her head against her partner’s shoulder. She held the big woman’s hand tightly, even though her arm and left wrist were bothering her today. The doctor had told her to be careful with it or she could be reinjured. She was not sure what she had done to it the night before, but it felt slightly strained, so she decided to make a point to protect it a little more today.

On the seat next to her was a black backpack filled with mittens, sweatshirts, and an extra layer of dry long underwear; and behind the driver’s seat was another backpack that Dez had packed with snacks and supplies. A bright blue, Gore-Tex anorak with a hood lay over the back of the seat, too, so she figured that wherever they went to hike, she would be warm. She was wearing padded hiking boots, gaiters from knee to ankle, and several layers of clothes. They’d only been in the truck a few minutes, but already, she was a little too warm and reached over to turn down the heat.

"What?" Dez asked. "The frozen princess is turning the heat down? Unbelievable!"

"Thick socks, long underwear, and lined hiking pants will do that to a person. For once, I’m actually too warm."

"Don’t worry. We’re almost there." She went another quarter mile, and then turned into a graveled lot next to Highway 61. As usual, there were no other cars in the small area. She drove in, backed up and turned, parking the truck facing out toward the road. "Okay, here we are. Ready?"

Jaylynn was pulling her second mitten on over her stiff hand. She nodded. "Yup. Let’s do it."

Dez picked up the daypack from behind her seat and waited until Jaylynn slid out behind her before locking up the truck. "Hey, did you want to take anything out of that other backpack?" She gestured toward the front seat.

"Nah. If I get wet, I can come back and change, right?" Dez nodded. "Then there’s no need to haul it around. And I can take turns carrying that pack if you like."

Dez zipped the truck keys into the pocket in front of the backpack, then adjusted the straps. "If I get fatigued, I’ll be sure to take you up on that."

Jaylynn grinned. She knew full well that her hiking partner would never admit to getting tired. "Suit yourself. Just wanted you to know I would do my part." She breathed out to see if she could see her breath, but it really wasn’t that cold. There were heaps of snow alongside the road and melting patches of ice here and there in the parking lot, but she didn’t think it was any colder than thirty degrees, and there was almost no wind. "Weren’t we lucky to get such a nice day?" The dark-haired woman nodded "Is it going to be slick and slushy where we’re headed?"

"No. Not too much. This trail is somewhat protected from the wind and snow—lot of big evergreens on it. But there are some sloppy spots and some ice ridges. We’ll get around ’em. Don’t worry."

"I’m holding you to it. Better not be any avalanches."

Dez just smiled and didn’t answer. She turned and walked through the lot and along the edge of the road pavement until she came to the wide path which turned uphill and led off into the trees. "Jay, have you ever been here before?"

"No, I haven’t. Hope we don’t get lost. Are we wandering, or do you know really where we’re going?"

Dez let out a snort of laughter. "Yeah, I know this whole area better than the back of your hand."

"My hand’s been in a cast—sure you haven’t forgotten?"

"Nope." The rookie fell in behind the taller woman to begin the hike up the steep incline. They quickly fell into a steady pace. Dez had walked up this hill so many times in the last couple weeks that she did feel she knew it well. She smelled the pungent evergreen and behind that, the mustier smell of mulch and evaporating water. It was cool and shaded under the trees, and as long as they stayed under the cover of the branches, the ground was frozen solid and easy to tread. She was so focused on the scenery, and upon the feeling of being alive that coursed through her body, that she didn’t notice the first time Jaylynn cleared her throat. The second time, she checked her stride, then paused and turned. The smaller woman was straggling along behind.

"Ahem. Is there any reason why we’re practically running up this hill?"

Dez grinned. "It’s not even a mile."

She caught up to the dark-haired woman and reached out her mitten to touch the front of Dez’s lightweight jacket. In an accusing voice, Jaylynn said, "You told me we were going out for a hike in a beautiful forest."

"We are. But don’t you want to get your heart rate up—burn a little extra fat?"

"Are you calling me fat?"

The dark-haired woman snickered. "Not you, honey—me!"

"You can lose weight any old time, but how am I supposed to see this beautiful forest if I’m practically running—and uphill, at that?" Dez swept her into her arms, pulling her tight to her chest. "Hey, no fair! I can’t even get my arms around you with this fat pack."

In a gruff voice, the tall woman said, "I’ll have you know that fat pack mostly contains stuff for you."

"I didn’t bring two quarts of water—or the Glock."

"Always handy to have a weapon, you know."

"Yeah, just in case we wanted to target shoot or deer hunt."

Dez snickered, and then bent slightly and lifted Jaylynn off her feet.

"Whoa! Put me down! You’re getting to be as bad as Cowboy."

Laughing, the big cop set her back on the dirt path, then leaned over and planted a brief kiss on her lips. When she pulled back, she was still smiling. "Okay, cut out the whining, and I’ll slow down and stroll with you. It’s a bit too narrow here, but when we get to the top of this long hill, it’s not so steep, and the path—well, the meadow—is wider and more open.

They toiled up the hill, and just when Jaylynn said she thought her thighs were going to burn up, they reached the crest. Dez slipped the backpack off, set it at her feet, then reached back to take her partner’s hand and pull her up onto the ridge. They stood there, arms around one another, looking out over the woods ahead of them. The evergreen trees stood in stark contrast to the leaf-less birch, aspen, and poplar. Icicles had formed on some of the tree branches, but at the moment they were frozen solid and twinkling in the sunlight. Patches of snow and some deep drifts made the field look like a picture from a Christmas card. The greens and grays, silvers, tans, whites, and browns were a combination of colors pleasing to Dez’s eye.

"It really is beautiful," Jaylynn said. "And I’ll bet it’s just gorgeous when all this is in bloom."

Dez nodded as she felt a lump grow in her throat. Every other time she had been here, by the time she had hiked to this point in the trail, she had been crying with pain and loneliness. Now, tears welled up in her eyes, but not tears of anguish or sadness. A light wind blew against her face, and she felt an expanding feeling in her chest, almost as if she were filling up with some invisible magic air. Hope. The one word came to mind. She felt a sense of possibility and hope. When she turned and looked down at the blonde, she found the younger woman examining her with a funny look on her face. "What?" she choked out.

"What does this place mean to you?"

Dez bent and opened the "fat" backpack and removed one of the quart bottles of water. She uncapped it and took a long pull from it, then offered it to Jaylynn who shook her head. She took another drink, then wiped her mouth on the back of her mitten. The blonde was waiting patiently for an answer to her question, so Dez squatted down, and while she returned the bottle to the backpack, she said, "I’ve walked this trail and that other one down there," she pointed, "almost every day that I have been here at Dewey’s cabins. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking—and crying—and wondering about my life." She stood and Jaylynn watched her, an open look on her face. "I guess I wasn’t sure how I would feel up here because it has been such a place of sorrow. But it doesn’t feel that way today."

Jaylynn nodded as though she understood completely. "It’s light and—and cheery. Sort of a bright spot in the middle of the forest. It seems like a place of hope, Dez."

The tall woman thought it was funny that Jaylynn would use the word hope, but she didn’t say anything, instead, nodding. "It’s been a good place for me to hike and get my priorities straight."

"How many miles can you travel on this path?"

"I guess I don’t know. I’ve walked five or six different trails, but I always hook up with this one path that will eventually lead back down to the string of parking lots below. If you want to walk for forty minutes, there’s one way to go. If you want to hike for three or four hours or anything in between, there’s another way. Depends on what you want."

"We won’t get lost, right?"

"No, I can promise you that."

"Then let’s just go. Take me wherever you want. Show me everything."

Dez scuffed the heel of her boot against a rock in the path until it came up, leaving a walnut-sized hole. "We could be out here quite a while . . ."

"I don’t care one bit. That’s why you’re carrying that fat pack full of food."

The tall woman grinned. "So I am. Well, then, let’s get going, little lady. We’ve got miles to go before we sleep."



Late in the afternoon, just before dusk, they arrived back at Dewey’s cabins. Dez pulled into a parking space next to Dewey’s truck. "I want you to come in and meet my friend, Jay. Okay?"

The smaller woman stifled a yawn. "All right." She’d only been in the warmth of the truck for a few minutes, but already she was sleepy. She followed the dark-haired woman out the driver’s side and shut the door behind her. The wind was starting to pick up, and she hastened to catch up with her long-legged partner.

Before they even reached the front door, the big burly man had it open. "Desiree! It’s been days. How the heck are you?"

Jaylynn watched as Dez broke out in a grin. "I’m good."

"Get in here, the both of you." He threw the door wide, ushered them in, and slammed the heavy wood door shut. They stood inside, taking off coats and scarves and mittens. "I think you ought to stay for supper—that is, if you didn’t already have plans?" The two women looked at one another and shrugged. "I’ve got about three gallons of beef stew going."

Dez raised an eyebrow. "Gallons?"

"Yeah. I like to make big batches, freeze ’em, and eat ’em later. Saves me a lot of time. Go ahead—have a seat and warm up by the fire."

"Dewey, I’d like you to meet my partner, Jaylynn Savage."

Jaylynn smiled and said, "It’s good to finally meet you, Dewey."

The big man stuck out his warm hand. He leaned in close to the blonde and said, "I was wondering when she was going to get around to that minor detail of introducing us. She’s got her own sense of timing." He released her hand. "Nice to meet you, too, Jaylynn. How long you two been riding together?"

There was a moment’s hesitation before Dez cut in. "Actually, Jay and I are partners, Dewey—as in she’s like, well, my spouse."

"Oh." Dewey stood for a moment with his mouth open and a puzzled look on his face. Five seconds passed, and then he said, "Girls, it’s hell getting old. I just had a very, very old memory hit me upside the head." He looked at Dez, and then the rookie. "Have a seat. I think I have to explain this one."

Dez’s heart was pounding. She wasn’t sure what was coming next, but in the nearly four weeks she had been staying at the cabin, she hadn’t ever seen her burly friend look so stunned. With a queasy feeling in her stomach, she followed the blonde into the sitting area, passed by the recliner and rocking chair, and lowered herself onto the loveseat right next to Jaylynn.

"I’m going to give this stew a quick stir." He moved over to the galley kitchen and picked up a long metal spoon, pulled the cover off a huge silver pot, and gave the steamy contents a vigorous blending. He banged the spoon against the edge of the pot, replaced the lid, and tossed the spoon in the sink. Wiping his hands on a towel, he came over to the rocking chair and sat, still holding the towel in one hand while pulling at his beard with the other. He shook his head back and forth slightly, then met Dez’s eyes. "How long have you two been together?"

Dez glanced at Jaylynn and didn’t know what to say. She was relieved when the rookie spoke up. "Depends on what you mean by together, Dewey. I guess you’d have to say that our relationship is only a couple months old, but we’ve known each other over a year."

The big man smiled and looked up at the ceiling as though he was recalling something pleasant. He rocked slowly backward and forward. "Let me see if I can remember all of the details of this. Dez, do you remember that Frogtown TV store robbery that went bad and the owner got shot? Back when you and my son were both in junior high?"

"Yeah, why?" The tall cop’s voice was gruff and guarded.

"Remember Lance Varona?" Dez nodded. "He and your dad had a bet. Your dad said that you and he had discussed it, and you both thought the store owner set up the robbery. Lance bet your dad it was random. Come to find out, you and your dad were right." To Jaylynn, he said, "The stupid store owner hired some thugs to come in and fake a robbery so he could write off money he’d gambled away. There’s such honor among thieves that they held him up for real when he wasn’t expecting it, took his money, and shot him for good measure. He didn’t die, though, and when the moron came to in the hospital, he named names and told all. The day the news broke, Lance, Dez’s dad, me, and three or four other cops were sitting in Uncle Al’s Coffeeshop over in Frogtown, and your dad was so proud because he said he hadn’t really figured that out. You did, Dez. You’d predicted it."

Dez frowned. At a total loss, she cleared her throat. "And?"

Dewey let out a big sigh. "Dez, he was just so proud of you. So tickled by your smarts. All us guys bragged about our kids all the time, and he talked about you and Patrick a lot. He really teased the hell outta old Varona. Lance’s kids were in trouble all the time, and if you remember Varona at all, he was a know-it-all who just thought he was right about everything. Overly critical, too. So we all gave him a bad time that day, but then we got to talking about our kids, and after a while, your dad confided that you were having some trouble at school. You were a big, tall girl, real athletic. He was proud of that, but I guess you’d been getting some flak from classmates about not being feminine enough." The dark-haired woman narrowed her eyes, preferring not to think back to those teenage times. "Good old Varona, that big mouth ass, he pipes up and says, ‘Well, Reilly, what if she turns out to be queer?’" Dewey let out a huff of air and shook his head slowly. "Now, if I’d been your dad, I’d’ve decked him. Instead, Michael just sat back, crossed his arms, and said, ‘She might well be, Varona, but I don’t care. It doesn’t matter one bit. She’s the best daughter I could ever hope for, and that’s all that matters.’ Something like that anyway."

Dez leaned back against the loveseat, her fists clenched in her lap. She fought back the rising tide of tears that threatened to burst forth. Fortunately, Dewey went on, allowing her to maintain her composure.

"When you just now told me about you and Jaylynn here, that whole scene—the smell of coffee, the cigarette smoke, the warm sun shining in the dirty window—it all came back to me like it just happened. Gee, I haven’t thought of that for, what? Fifteen years?"


"Hmm?" He looked over at Dez, eyebrows raised.

"Seventeen years. Dad died a little over seventeen years ago." She thought her voice was calm and controlled, but Jaylynn looked up at her with concern etched all over her face, so she wasn’t sure. The smaller woman laid her hand on Dez’s left thigh, gave it a squeeze, and left it there.

Dewey shook his head. "It’s hard to believe that sometimes, kiddo. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday."

"Why are you telling us this, Dewey?"

He grinned. "Well, hon, I guess I owe him some money. When the rest of those yahoos left, I bet him ten bucks you’d grow up, get married—probably to some varsity boys basketball star—and have a whole houseful of really tall kids. He said he thought you’d grow up and be a cop and that you’d never get married." He pulled at his beard and grinned. "Well, your dad was right a lot more than he was ever wrong."

Jaylynn spoke up, her voice warm and amused. "I do play a little basketball, Dewey, but any children we have who get my DNA are seriously unlikely to be hoop stars."

Dewey met the blonde’s eyes and chuckled, then looked at Dez. "I know I keep saying this to you, Dez, but your dad would be real proud of you—and probably happy for you now, too."

Though her chest was burning, and she was fighting back tears, the dark-haired woman choked out the next words. "I’m not so sure of that."

"I am. You knew him as a child knows a parent, but I knew him as an adult, and I knew him pretty damn well, Desiree." He leaned forward and popped up out of the rocking chair, hitching up his jeans as he went. "I don’t know about you two, but I think it’s time for some supper. We’ve got some stew, some brown bread, some wheat bread, and beer or milk or orange juice. Which do you prefer?"




It wasn’t until later, in bed, that Jaylynn brought up the subject of Dewey and the bet. She had watched her partner carefully for the last couple of hours. Though Dez started out being quiet at dinner, she gradually became more animated. By the time they had departed into the cool evening air two hours later, she seemed her normal self. They’d jumped in the truck for the short, chilly ride back to their cabin, and without a single word, they hung up their coats and headed straight into the darkened bedroom, the blonde in the lead.

Before Jaylynn could get to the bedside lamp, the dark-haired woman wrapped her arms around her from behind and whispered in her ear. "Hey."

The soft breath made her shiver. "Hey yourself." She put her hands on top of the arms encircling her waist and looked back over her shoulder.

"I’m not feeling particularly scared right now. Wanna have a roll in the hay?"

Jaylynn giggled. She turned in Dez’s arms and hugged the bigger woman, pressing her face into the front of her shirt. In a muffled voice, she answered, "I thought you’d never ask."

This time when they made love, she thought Dez was fearless, and then afterwards, as they lay in one another’s arms, she said, "That’s quite the story Dewey told." Dez didn’t speak. She nodded and looked up at the ceiling. "Your father must have been pretty close to him."

"They rode together a lot on swing shifts."

Jaylynn nestled in close, lying along the side of the taller cop’s body. She had one arm over Dez’s ribs and her head on a firm shoulder and tucked under the dark-haired woman’s chin. "I know you didn’t want to take the ten bucks from Dewey—"

"It wasn’t necessary."

"I know, but he tucked it into the pocket of my jacket as we left."

"What? Geez, that nut."

"When you were putting your coat on, he said to tell you he always pays his debts."

Dez didn’t speak for a moment, then she choked out, "I only wish he could have paid the debt to the person he owed it to."

"Mmm hmm. I wish he could, too."




They spent the next four days exploring the forest and each other, taking their afternoon meals in little cafes in the string of towns along the highway near Lake Superior. On the fourth day, New Year’s Eve, they awoke to three inches of snow and decided not to do any hiking. Instead, they put the truck in four-wheel drive and headed north to the town of Grand Marais to have brunch at Gwen’s Goodies, a place they had eaten lunch at the previous Labor Day weekend. Mostly, the two women talked—about the past and about their future.

After their brunch, they returned to the cozy cabin and lounged in the living room on the couch with Dez sitting up and the blonde lying on her back with her head in the tall cop’s lap. Both of them were over-full from pancakes and sausage, so they stayed on the couch, silently, for a while.

Jaylynn was feeling drowsy and not really thinking at all when Dez asked, "Jay, where do you want to be when you’re, oh, say, about sixty?"

Taking a deep breath and yawning, the blonde said, "Can’t we stay right here . . . forever?"

"Hmmph." Dez grinned. "Afraid not. Sorry. Tomorrow’s our last day. What was your second choice?"

The rookie looked up and into the dark-haired woman’s deep blue eyes. "I really don’t know. I haven’t imagined that far into the future. Have you?"

"Some. I’m already halfway there, you know."

Jaylynn chuckled and shook her head. "You’ve got a lot of years ahead of you until then. Why don’t you narrow it down? What do you imagine for yourself over the next couple two or three years?"

With a frown on her face, Dez put the flat of her hand on Jaylynn’s solar plexus, just below her breast. The smaller woman reached up with both hands and covered the large hand, hugging it tightly to her. "I think I’ve been living my life around my work. I can’t remember when things were normal—though I know the line of demarcation was when Ryan was killed. But since then, I don’t know, Jay. I haven’t really felt I had a future to look forward to—well, until lately. Between you and Marie, it’s like the world is sort of coming back into focus after being really fuzzy for a while." Jaylynn didn’t say anything, but just squeezed the hand she held. "I think I’d like my life back, please, and way before I turn sixty. What about you?"

"It seems like most of my main attention right now is getting a career in order."

Dez nodded. "You’re past probation now. You can bid around to different sectors, take on various special assignments, whatever."

Jaylynn had a thoughtful look on her face. "I honestly don’t know what I want to do. Are you going back on patrol?"

"Sooner or later. It’s either that or join the circus."

The reclining woman burst out laughing. "Trapeze Artist or the Strong Woman? Or maybe a combo of both?" Dez pressed her fingers into the abdominal muscles under her hand. "Hey, hey! None of that now. Be serious."

"As serious as you’re being?" The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes and sighed. "Okay. Maybe I’ll take the sergeant’s exam."

"You’d pass, no problem."

"Maybe. Maybe not. There’s more to it than just the paper exam."

"Yeah, but sweetie, they love you down there. You’re a cop’s cop. You’ve got the brass in your pocket."

"After the last few weeks, I wouldn’t go that far."

Jaylynn sighed. "Dez, you just don’t ever give yourself enough credit. Guys at all levels are in awe of you."

Dez shook her head and gave her a funny look. "Where do you get these ideas?"

"I’ve just spent weeks hanging out at the main stationhouse. I’m young, have an innocent face, and I have great hearing. I’ve heard Commander Paar’s comments as well as a whole bunch of off-the-record comments by lieutenants and captains, not to mention the rank-and-file. Trust me. You are very much respected."

She gave a little snort and shook her head slowly from side to side. "Wait ’til they get a load of this condition I have. I won’t be so respected then."

Jaylynn sat up and turned around to face her. "I got news for you, pal, you aren’t the only one with PTSD."


"I understand that you are going to be inducted into an exclusive little club when you go back. There’s several guys who have had the same experiences as you." Dez frowned at her, the scowl on her face deepening as though she didn’t believe the rookie. "Listen, sweetie, I’m not making this up. I heard Commander Paar tell Lieutenant Graul that he expected him to come talk to you."

"Graul? Why?"

"Graul was involved in some sort of critical incident twenty years ago, when he worked for another city. I guess he shot a teenager. The kid didn’t die, but Graul has had the same symptoms you did." Dez’s face was a mix of surprise and hope. Jaylynn got up on her knees and scooted along the couch until she could climb up onto Dez’s lap. Strong arms went around her, and she reached up to stroke the pale cheeks with both of her hands. "You aren’t alone, Dez. I’m pretty sure that everything is going to work out just fine."

"Think so, huh?" She eyed her partner as the hazel eyes moved closer. Soft, warm lips covered her own. She tightened her hold, gathering in the smaller woman as close as she could. She leaned to her right, and Jaylynn slipped to the side, on her back, cradled in the dark-haired woman’s arms. Dez pulled away from the kiss, her heart racing. She looked shyly into the hazel eyes below her, then shifted out from under the blonde, leaving her lying on the couch, her head against the pillow next to the arm of the sofa. As she lowered herself onto the smaller figure, she said, "I’m not squashing you, am I?"

Jaylynn grinned. "Not a bit. I love the feel of you on me." She tucked her fingers inside the waistband at the back of the dark-haired woman’s jeans. "Besides, I don’t know how you did it, but you’ve sure lost weight. I don’t know why you’re worried about your weight, you crazy woman." She poked under Dez’s ribs, and the big woman flinched. She moved her hands up, and massaged the muscles in her shoulders.

"It was all the walking . . . and pining over you."

"Pining? You pined?"

Dez settled her elbows in against the rough cloth of the couch, on either side of the blonde’s neck, and looked across the room. "Yeah. You could say that." She looked back down, and pressed her face against her lover’s cheek.

Into her ear, Jaylynn said, "You’re so funny, Dez. I ate way more than usual. How could you eat less?"

"Hmmph. I’ve just spent the last four weeks thinking and crying and remembering and letting Marie the Archeologist excavate out all my best kept secrets." She sighed. "I didn’t have the energy to eat."

The rookie ran her hands down the big cop’s back to the firm waist and then to the tight buns, which she grabbed and squeezed.

"Hey! That’s not the kind of touching I had in mind, you little tease." When Jaylynn snickered, Dez found her lips and kissed the giggle away. The smaller woman responded to her kiss immediately, and slowly the passion between them escalated until Dez came up for air. "Whew. Is the heater in here malfunctioning? Seems a little warm."

The rookie took a deep breath. "No, it’s perfect. I feel very toasty and comfortable. But if you want to cool down, you can take off any clothes you want, you know." With a sly grin on her face, she said, "I’ll even help." She scooted herself up a little, and unbuttoned the top of the dark-haired woman’s flannel shirt, but she couldn’t get to the lower buttons because Dez was lying on them. "Here. Help me out a little. . ." Reaching past the bigger woman’s head and to the middle of her back, she grabbed on to the bottom of the shirt and tugged it up over the dark head.

Suddenly Dez was all tangled up in her shirt. "Wait a second." Her voice came out muffled as she managed to get one arm out and then her head. "Geez. They always make this look so easy on TV." She let the shirt slip down her arm, and now her skin was warm against Jaylynn’s sweatshirt. In a breathless voice, she said, "What about your top?"

"Hmmm…we’ll get to me in a moment." The blonde ran her hands up the broad back and down the sides of her ribcage. "You’re definitely thinner. I can feel your ribs again." She reached around and unsnapped the clasps on Dez’s bra. "Oooh, you have such nice skin—so incredibly soft." With her arms, the tall cop pushed herself up off the sofa enough to let the bra slip down, and she dropped it out of the way and onto the floor. Before Dez could settle back down, Jaylynn reached up and put her hands on the wide shoulders, then let her hands caress down the collarbones to the chest and then to the breasts. Dez trembled, and Jaylynn whispered, "I thought you were too warm."

"I’m not shivering from cold." She closed her eyes and exhaled a long breath as Jaylynn stroked the front of her. In a raspy voice, she said, "Oh, wow." Every nerve ending tingled, as though a current of electricity had been turned on. She trembled again and swallowed. "That feels really good, Jay." Breathing fast, she lowered her upper body and tucked her face in next to the right side of the blonde’s neck. She leaned a little to the side, shifting a bit, and her hand found its way under the thick sweatshirt. She untucked the t-shirt underneath.

"Ooh, you’re letting the cold air in—ooh—whoa! That feels good." Jaylynn turned a little, and they ended up lying on their sides, with the rookie pressed against the back of the couch and Dez teetering on the outside. With her free left hand, the blonde began stroking her partner’s skin with a gentle, emotion-filled touch. She trailed small nips down the long neck, then found the dark-haired woman’s mouth and kissed her lips and face, which ratcheted up the intensity even more.

When they broke off, Dez opened her eyes and looked into the face so close to hers. "I missed you so much, Jay. I—I just—I don’t know how to explain it."

"Me, too."

The dark-haired woman closed her eyes. In a slow, quiet voice, she said. "I’m so sorry I hurt you."

"I hurt you, too, you know. I didn’t mean to either."

Dez whispered. "I know. I know you didn’t." In the small pink ear, she whispered, "Jay, I will never ever leave you—never for good, anyway. I love you. I just want to be with you now and forever. Okay?"

Jaylynn answered by kissing her once more,then she said, "Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere. I’m stuck like glue."

Dez laughed quietly. "That’s lucky because my ass is hanging off the sofa and without that little bit of glue, I’d be on the floor."

The blonde giggled and tucked her head under Dez’s chin. She tightened her grip. "For all the things I want to do to you, I think we require a little more space."

"I agree."

"Shall we retire to a little larger playground?"

Dez nodded. "Good idea. Don’t let go too fast, though, or you’ll be picking me up off the floor."




Jaylynn lay on her side, swaddled in blankets, and pressed up against her sleeping partner. They had made love three times over a period of a couple of hours, and she was now pleasantly fatigued. It was mid-afternoon, and she knew she would soon be hungry, but until then, she lazed next to the dark-haired woman, reveling in the warmth. Before Dez fell asleep, the blonde had said, "You know, for someone who just a few days ago was nervous about letting her guard down, you sure have been a wild woman today."

Dez laughed and pulled her closer. "It’s ’cause you’re irresistible, hon."

"Yeah, right."

"It’s true. I’ll be lucky if I can keep you to myself. I’ll be fighting off packs of lovestruck people—both men and women."

"Oh, brother! I don’t think so!"

Jaylynn thought that was an odd thing for Dez to have said, but as she thought about it now, she realized that she thought the very same thing about her partner. Didn’t everyone want to touch her? To kiss her? To pull her to themselves and hug her tight? How was it that nobody else had come along and been swept off their feet by the blue-eyed beauty? There must be a God, and he—or she—is definitely looking out for me.

If someone had asked her, "Why Dez?" she didn’t think she could answer. She didn’t know exactly why. It was everything all rolled together. Her touch, her smell, her stubbornness, her sincerity, her sense of humor. When she fixed those piercing blue eyes on a person, the blonde felt they could see right through. She liked the fact that there was a defensive fortress around her taciturn partner, but that the tall cop had let her find the few chinks in the armor so that she had free access to come and go as she pleased. She thought there was a strange balance between the two of them. On the one hand, she felt safe with Dez, as though her partner was a refuge of warmth and safety. At the same time, she also felt that she protected and defended the bigger, stronger woman, who was, in many ways, so very vulnerable. The more she thought about it, the more it seemed an odd juxtaposition.

Dez stirred and turned over. Jaylynn lifted her head and slid her arm up, bent it at the elbow, and rested her head in her hand. Her wrist felt very tight, but it didn’t hurt and she was grateful for that. As the blonde peered over in the dim light, the dark-haired woman’s eyes looked gray. They stared blankly up at the ceiling, and the blonde knew she wasn’t fully awake yet. The tall woman cleared her throat and blinked, then turned her head to look at Jaylynn. "I had the oddest dream."


She didn’t say anything for a few moments. Then in a soft voice, she recounted the dream. "I was in the cockpit of some sort of small plane, going very fast, and I crashed into water. I went down, down—way to the bottom of the ocean where the aircraft broke open, and I swam out and up. At first I was panicked, and then I found I could breathe under the water. So that was weird. When I broke the surface, I was treading water looking around, and you were on the beach screaming to me and holding a baby. So I swam toward you, but it was really hard. The waves were choppy, and the wind was blasting, and both of us struggled like crazy. But you hung in there, standing in this hurricane of weather, until I dragged myself out of the ocean onto this windy, sandy beach. And then, the baby—and Jay, this was a tiny little baby—this little black-haired baby smiled up at me and said, ‘Good swimming. Way to go.’ She reached up for me. I took her into my arms, and then the rain started pouring down, so we went into this big beach house where it was warm and cozy and—well, I guess that’s all I remember." She turned on her side and slid the pillow under her head. Her braid was starting to come undone, and there were tendrils of hair around her face. She brushed a few strands up off her forehead. "What the hell do you think that was all about?"

"Beats me."

"But it’s so clear. I don’t usually remember dreams like that . . . unless you count my horrible nightmares."

"What does Marie know about dreams?"

"I don’t know. I’ve only talked about nightmares.

"Ask her, why don’t you?"

Dez nodded and then yawned. "Wonder what that baby was all about? I’ve never even wanted kids."

"Babies in dreams can mean a lot of different things, if I remember correctly from my class on Jungian psychology. New life, growth, something being born."

"Guess that makes sense." She yawned again.

The blonde reached out her hand and threaded her fingers through Dez’s. "You have really good hands, woman."

Dez smiled. "Yours aren’t half bad either."

"Are we going to lay around all day? Or how ’bout we get up and go get something to eat?"

The dark-haired woman lifted her head and looked over Jaylynn’s shoulder at the bedside clock. "Oh wow! We’ve gone without food for, what? Three and a half hours? Quick! Better hurry."

Jaylynn shook her head and rolled her eyes, then she pounced. Dez wasn’t ready and made an "oomph" sound when the blonde dove on her. They wrestled, giggling and laughing, for a few moments, then settled down, wrapped in one another’s arms. Jaylynn lay against the dark-haired cop’s chest, her breath coming fast. Suddenly, she heard a gurgling sound and lifted her head up in surprise. "Hey! That’s you!"

"Yeah, so I got hungry before you for a change. Is it a crime?"

Jaylynn grinned. "No, but it’s a first." She sat up, pushed the sheet away, and clambered out of bed. "Let’s get a move on. We could go get a really good dinner somewhere, and then later, we can usher in the new year."

The dark-haired woman raised an eyebrow? "At a restaurant?"

"No, you fool. Right here, in bed—with lots of snacks to fortify us."

"I see. Well, your wish is my command."

"My wish is that you get outta bed and get dressed. We’re burning daylight."




"Dez," the blonde whined, "how can it be Tuesday already?"

"Comes right after Monday, I guess." She opened the refrigerator door and started pulling items out to either throw into the garbage or stack into a box.

Jaylynn sat at the dinette table and looked around the cabin’s tidy kitchen. "I don’t want to head home."

"I don’t either, but I’d like to get out of here by noon. I figure this New Year’s Day traffic is going to be pretty treacherous. Let’s get home while it’s still light."

"I can see now why you moved all your stuff up here."

Dez paused and turned around. "I didn’t move everything here."

"Well, close."

"No, not close."

"Look around, Miss Obviously Blind As A Bat. I hope we can get all this into the truck."

The tall cop straightened up and looked around the kitchen. She had to admit that she already had two boxes packed in here, and sitting in the living room there was a three-foot high stack of boxes, bedding and towels, her guitar, a box of CD’s, about twenty books, and an assortment of other things. On the bed were five duffle bags—though two of them were Jaylynn’s—and a couple of other smaller kit bags. She frowned. How did I get so much stuff up here?

Jaylynn watched her tall partner and wondered what was going on behind the troubled blue eyes. She wondered if she should ask—then worried that if she did, Dez might close off from her like she so often had in the past. Before she could say a word, the dark-haired woman spoke up.

"I think you might be right," she said thoughtfully. "I had a lot more stuff here than I realized."

"How did you manage that?"

Dez shrugged. "Seemed like every few times I went down to the Cities, I grabbed some more stuff."

"I can’t believe how unlucky I was that for all the times I called your apartment, you never happened to be there."

The tall cop shut the fridge door and turned around, her pale face turning pink. "Ah, well, actually, I just never answered the phone."

Jaylynn gaped at her. That had never occurred to her. "You mean to tell me you could have answered the phone, but you didn’t?" Dez gave an embarrassed half-smile and a slight nod. "I can’t even begin to tell you how mad that makes me." Jaylynn’s face turned red, and Dez was taken aback by her vehemence. "You just disappeared, and dammit, Dez! Not hearing from you, not knowing if you were okay, was really maddening."

Dez’s face started to flush, too, and what she really wanted to do was flee the room. Instead, she took a deep breath and stayed rooted where she was. "I’m sorry about that—but hey, at least I did send you a postcard."

The blonde stared at her for a moment. "I never got a postcard."

The big woman shrugged. "Well, I sent one."


"Geez, I don’t know. A couple weeks ago, I guess."

"When we get back to St. Paul, I’d better check through my mail."

"What, you don’t believe me?"

Jaylynn’s face had returned to its normal color. "No, that’s not it. I guess I just tapped into a little bit of the anger I felt at you. Ooh! I went back and forth between being so mad at you and then just hurting and then missing you." She looked up silently into Dez’s face, her hazel eyes a little troubled, but then she took a deep breath. "Sure is lucky I love you, you big lug. ’Cause if I didn’t love you so much, I’d get up and smack you."

"Oh, you would not. You’re all bluster and bravado, Jay." She stepped over and grabbed the ribbed collar of the rookie’s sweatshirt as the smaller woman rose. With mock roughness she pulled the blonde to her. "Go ahead. Smack away." Bending her head and looking her partner in the eye, she grinned slyly, then leaned in, hands on either side of Jaylynn’s face, and put a firm kiss on the pink lips.

Jaylynn wrapped her arms around the tall woman’s waist and kissed her back. When she pulled away, she looked up into eyes that looked dark blue in the dim light. "You’re incorrigible, Desiree Reilly, and I can’t help it—I’m still crazy about you."

"Let’s just keep it that way, shall we?" She dropped her hands to the narrow shoulders below her. "I guess you’re right that it’ll be a bit of a stretch to get all this crap in the back and in the Xtra cab. I’ll take the first load out."

"I still don’t want to go."

"Me neither, but we have to go to work tomorrow."

"Don’t even bring that up!"

"Let’s just get this stuff loaded up and go home, Jay."

Jaylynn smiled and took her hand. "The house or the apartment?"

Dez shrugged. "Doesn’t matter. Anywhere you are is home."





Dez took down another banker’s box, and pulled the lid off. She checked her list. Box 1148—Case No. 004-01: Jenkins Homicide—02/14/98. She upended the box and dumped the contents on the table. Must’ve been a really bad Valentine’s Day.

She found two clothing items wrapped in plastic, three large manila envelopes, and one small white envelope, which felt like it contained jewelry. She turned that over and saw that someone had written 004-01—02/14/98—Victim’s Necklace. Most of the boxes here belonged to cases that had not yet been solved, and for most of them, what she was finding could be filed in much smaller boxes.

She looked around the large, dim Evidence Room. In the three days she had been working in it, she had managed to reorganize the open, metal shelves so that everything was stored in numerical order, by box number, but every shelf was crammed full, and there were boxes stacked all over the floor. It looked worse than it had when she had first started, but she knew everyone would have to put up with a little disorder until she got things better organized. Already she had found sixteen articles that others had neglected to return to their proper boxes. The previous Tour II Evidence Room attendant, who had recently retired from his day shift, likely meant to re-file those pieces of evidence, but over time they had, instead, wound up stuck between the wall and a shelf, or on the floor behind everything. She knew for a fact that the absence of one of the items she had found, a switchblade, had caused the prosecutors to hold off from charging a gang member with a stabbing six months earlier. Lt. Finn was quite happy when Dez went to see her to discreetly explain her discovery. The dark-haired cop remembered what happened in the stabbing case because the crime had occurred in her sector, though it hadn’t been her call. She didn’t know about the other fifteen articles, but she had made a list and would notify the detectives on those cases just in case.

Once she re-filed all the "lost" items and got things in numeric order, she found that several boxes on her manifest were not there. That could mean that the case was solved and the contents relegated to the Closed Case storage—or someone had not properly checked out the evidence. Not good. I sure hope I can track those down. Five boxes on her list were highlighted, and she decided to track them down later.

Now she was going through each box, starting with the ones from the last couple years, to find out if the contents could be fit into smaller storage boxes. Everything from the Jenkins murder fit neatly into a carton one-third the size of the big brown banker’s box. She relabeled the smaller carton and carefully blacked out the data on the side of the original box so that she could use it again.

She put the lid on the smaller box and placed it on the upper shelf, then yawned. Glancing at her watch, she found it was only noon. Working the day shift had been a real change. She wasn’t at all adjusted to rising in the early morning and coming to the station, then leaving, like normal people, at five p.m.

She lowered to one knee and bent over another box, then heard a rustle at the front window. With a sigh, she rose from bended knee and set the black marker aside. What do they want now? This organizing would go a hell of a lot faster if people would just stop dropping by to chat. She wiped her dusty hands off on her blue duty pants and went around the tall shelf toward the window. The hazel eyes that met her gaze made her smile and blush. She leaned her elbows on the counter and slouched over it, holding the blonde’s gaze. "What’s up?"

Jaylynn sighed. "I’m bored. I’m hungry. What are you doing?"

Dez looked at her watch. "In about fifteen minutes, my relief will come, and I can get some lunch with you. Okay?"

"Sounds good. In the meantime, can I come in and take a look at the crime scene stuff from the Tivoli murder?"

"Sure. I know exactly where it all is, too." She pushed away from the counter and went to the locked door to open it. "You gotta sign in—and follow all the regs, you know. No special treatment."

"Oh, yeah. I know." Jaylynn picked up a pen off the counter and started filling in the sheet Dez placed in front of her. "I haven’t ever looked at the evidence. I’ve read the files and records, so I know everything that’s in there, but I’m curious."

Dez nodded, then led her to the far side of the dusty room, stepping over and around boxes until she stopped in front of a stack of boxes that looked new. "Here we go. We’ve got four boxes, total. What do you want to start with?" She picked up the first one and set it on a waist-high side counter, then put the other three next to it all in a row.

Jaylynn flipped the lid off the first one, got on tiptoes, and looked in. She pulled the tops off the other three, too.

The dark-haired cop stood to the side smirking. "You want a boost—or a little ladder?"

Jaylynn gave her a mock glare. "I’m not too proud to accept some help. Sure. Where’s the stepstool?"

Dez eyes searched the messy floor until they came to light on a stool with two steps. She made her way across the room and brought it back.

The rookie scooted it in front of the box and stepped up on the first stair. "Okay, looks like this has the contents of the snack shack." She pulled out plastic bags and manila envelopes, opened the clasps and looked in the envelopes, and read the titles on the sides in an absent-minded mumble that she didn’t expect Dez to answer. The tall woman went back to where she’d left off in consolidating items.

"Ooh, yuck! Dez, look at this." The rookie held up a big Ziplock filled with several smaller zip-lock bags containing bright yellow packages of Peanut M&M’s.

The big cop set down the box she was carrying. "What about it?"

"There’s dried blood all over these M&M’s. Blech!"

"Yeah, Jay. It’s evidence. They collect it however they find it." She bent and picked up a different box and set it on the middle shelf.

Jaylynn put that Ziplock back in the box, put the lid on, and moved to the second container. "Hmm, what have we here? Oh, this stuff is from the station wagon."

Dez turned and looked at the blonde, but Jaylynn wasn’t paying attention to her at all. She just kept talking out loud. "Here’s a worn out old blanket, a pair of sunglasses, a denim shoulder bag full of girlie junk . . ." She rooted through the bag. "Strawberry flavored lipstick, garish eye makeup, eyeliner, two mirrors—oh look, a Hello Kitty wallet. My little sister loves Hello Kitty." She opened the snap on the wallet and found two crumpled dollar bills and some coins in the change purse. There were five school pictures slid into the plastic holders, four girls and one boy, all appearing to be junior high aged. She pulled each picture out, one at a time, and checked the backs. Not a single one had a last name on it, though three of them did have first names: Courtney, Brittany, Jim. She fished through everything in the wallet and the bag, but nothing gave a clue as to the identity of the dead girl. She replaced the shoulder bag and picked up a sealed plastic package. With a frown on her face, she turned to Dez. "Hey, you. I still want to know how come you never ever called me the whole time you pulled your disappearing act?"

Dez sighed. She put a lid on the box she had just rearranged and slid it out of the way with her foot. "I didn’t have a phone at the cabin."

"What about your cell phone? I called it after about a week, and it always said it was out of service."

She shrugged. "Battery died."

"How hard would it have been for you to buy some phone cards like these?" Jaylynn held up the package she had just found. "Listen here, Miss Uncommunicative, these babies are only $22.99 for 5 cards and you get 100 minutes on each. Pretty good deal, too." She cocked her head to the side. "Hmm, wait a minute . . ." She examined the package, turning it over, then peeled some of the plastic away from the hard red cardboard backing.

"Whoa." Dez strode quickly across the room and stretched her arm out to take the package. "You don’t want to open that, Jay. It’s evidence."

The rookie pulled back. "I’m not opening it . . . it’s already been opened."

"What?" Dez leaned down and peered at the red package the blonde was picking at.

"See, someone peeled open the end, took a card out, then this gooey stuff on the plastic sort of reattached itself so it doesn’t look open. There’s only four cards in here and the plastic instruction card." She slid one out the side. The remaining cards rattled against the hard plastic. She took all of them out, too.

In a dry voice, Dez said, "No matter how much you want me to keep in touch, you can’t give me that, Jaylynn."

The rookie giggled. "Don’t be silly." She turned the cards over and studied the tiny lettering and numbers on the back of each. "Check this out. There are only four cards in here and this fifth card is just some sort of informational instructions. I’ll bet the detectives looked at this, saw it contained five credit card sized cards, and didn’t realize it had ever been opened. What if the fifth card was used by Tivoli?" She looked up, excitement etched all over her face. "Dez! What if we could find something out from the phone records?"

Dez nodded, surprised. "That’s a really good idea."

The blonde flipped through the cards in her hands. "The cards are numbered in order. All four of them are 398-045—and then there’s a third set of numbers that are consecutive—0642, 0643, 0644, and, oh, this one’s out of order, 0641. So that means the fifth card should either be 0640 or else 0645."

"Is there a number to call for information?" Jaylynn nodded. "Looks like you have a clue to follow up on."

"I’ll be back . . ." The blonde sped over to the closed door, wrenched it open, and fled down the hallway without even shutting the door.

"Hey! Wait a minute. I thought we were . . . having lunch." It was too late. The blonde was long gone. Dez looked at her watch. She doubted that Jaylynn would be back any time soon, so when her relief came, she would go up and check on her, then go to lunch by herself if she had to.



Jaylynn emerged from Lt. Finn’s office, her excitement evident to everyone in the squad room. She hustled over to Tsorro’s desk with the lieutenant on her heels, speaking very calmly. "It might not be anything, Savage. Don’t get your hopes up."

"I’ve got a feeling about this, boss." She plopped down into the desk chair and grabbed the phone to punch in the numbers for the phone card provider. Once she connected, she was put on hold. She grinned up at Lt. Finn. "I’m on terminal hold."

"Just get whatever information you can, and then come see me. Where are they located?"

The rookie checked the number on the card. "I can’t tell. It’s an 800 number. I’ll find out."

"We may have to send a court order to them. I don’t suppose we’d be lucky enough to have the company here in Minnesota."

Jaylynn shrugged. "The cards are sponsored by one of our own local department stores, but who knows."

Lt. Finn brushed her dark hair off her forehead and looked out the window. She turned on her heel abruptly. "Let me know what you find out," she called over her shoulder as she headed back to her office.

It took Jaylynn twenty minutes and gradually more complicated explanations to four different people, but eventually she spoke to someone in charge. When Dez came by, she was in the middle of a heated conversation and didn’t even notice the dark-haired cop wandering past. She told her story yet again, and the manager agreed to send her the records if she would fax him the request, signed by her commanding officer. He also said it would take at least a day to research the information, but that he would do all he could to cooperate. Since today was Friday, he told her he would try to have it to her by Monday afternoon. Lastly, he informed her that they could not keep records of where calls came from, only where they went to.

She tossed the phone back on the cradle and nearly ran into the lieutenant’s office. "They’re sending us the info! All you need to do is write a formal request and then fax it to them at this number." She thrust the piece of paper at Lt. Finn, a grin splitting her face.

Finn looked up her and couldn’t help but smile. "You know, Savage, if this leads nowhere, you will have wasted an awful lot of energy."

"I’ve got a hunch. It just has to lead somewhere."

"Go out and write up a letter for my signature, and let’s get it out of here."

"You’ve got it, boss!"

The Lieutenant was shaking her head when the rookie left the office, but the older officer couldn’t help but smile at all the youthful exuberance to which she had just been treated.




Dez sat in the break room, holding the last of her chicken sandwich, when Jaylynn came skidding into the quiet room. "It could be something, Dez! They’re sending us phone records."

The dark-haired woman nodded as she watched the rookie whip open the refrigerator door and root around inside until she found her lunch bag. Dez swallowed the last bite of the sandwich. "I haven’t seen Tsorro and Parkins lately. Do they know about this?"

"I called Tsorro to tell him what’s happening. Can’t tell Parkins until he comes back from vacation." She closed the frigerator door with a smack.

"What happens if it’s nothing?"

Jaylynn set her bag on the table and pulled out a chair. "Well, at least we’re trying. If this isn’t it, that’s the way it goes." She sat in the hard metal chair and scooted up close to the table. "Sorry I left you in the lurch."

"It’s okay. I understand." Dez smiled and crumpled up the paper bag on the table and tossed it at the garbage can in the corner. She missed.

Jaylynn swallowed in a hurry. "Oh my! The great Desiree Reilly has missed the game-winning shot."

Dez rose and picked up the brown bag and dropped it in the can. "Nobody ever said I was perfect."

"Close enough for me." The blonde beamed up at her, then took a big bite out of her sandwich. With her mouth full, she said, "Whaddya wanna do tonight?"

"Nothing in particular. You got something in mind?"

"Maybe catch a movie?"

Dez sat back in her chair, nodding. "Don’t you think it’s kind of weird to switch to days?" Jaylynn nodded. "I’m so used to being home in the middle of the day. I know it hasn’t even been a week, but I just can’t get used to having evenings free."

The rookie swallowed. "I feel like I have hours more time. I was getting used to going to bed so late, and then it seemed like I needed ten or twelve hours of sleep to compensate. Lately, eight or nine hours has been plenty."

Dez checked a smile. She still didn’t get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, but it was getting better. She looked at her watch and started to speak, but two other cops came into the break room just then.

"Hey, Reilly," said an older officer named Leonard. "How’s it going in the Evidence Room? You got some of that crap organized that was laying all over?"

Before she could answer, the cop she thought of as Pretty Boy Barstow piped up. In a mocking voice, he said, "Sure doesn’t look like it. It’s messier now than it was when Floyd ran it." He moved to the refrigerator and pulled out a 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew.

Dez ignored him and directed her answer to Leonard. "I am systematically working through it. Gonna take me a few more days."

Barstow slid past Jaylynn’s chair and seated himself at the other table, with Leonard joining him. After taking a big swig of soda, Barstow wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve and said, "You still got a few more days left in there? I hear the guys are hoping you’ll get back on patrol pretty soon. Got any idea when that’ll be?"

Dez considered that Barstow was actually being halfway decent, so she responded. "I can’t be sure, but I think it’ll be pretty soon." She glanced across the table at Jaylynn, and was surprised to see the look on the younger woman’s face. The rookie was glaring at Barstow as though she was barely able to keep herself from flying out of her chair and choking him. The blonde, tense and red-faced, looked away from the handsome Barstow and met Dez’s eyes. Dez recoiled in surprise. Geez. She’s really doing a slow burn. Wonder what that’s all about? She gave a slight wink to Jaylynn and looking to the side, jerked her head slightly. Both of them rose.

"See ya, guys," the big cop said as she and the rookie pushed their chairs back under the table.

"Yeah, yeah." Barstow set his soda pop bottle down hard. "Hey, didn’t mean to run you girls out." He chuckled.

By then, the two women were at the door. Dez raised a hand into a wave without looking back. "No problem. Break’s over anyway."

When they got out in the hall, Jaylynn erupted into a noisy whisper. "Who the hell does he think he is?"

"He’s just being himself, a total ass. He can’t help it."

"Just because he’s good looking does not give him the right to make fun of you."

They reached the Evidence Room, and tall cop unlocked the door. The officer relieving her slid off the stool at the window. "That was quick," he said. "Not anywhere close to 45 minutes."

"Yeah," Dez said. "I can finish my break sitting in here just as easily as in the crowded break room, Monteith."

"So, you don’t need me any longer?"

"Nah. Not until 3:45. See you then."

"Okay, Reilly."

"Thanks, Monteith," she called after him, but he was already gone. Dez shut the door behind Jaylynn who was still visibly upset. "Jay, this place is a major gossip and rumor mill, just like any big organization. They all know why I’m on desk duty. No use in getting upset when someone says something about it."

"But he had no call to make fun of the work you are doing in here."

"Well, he’s right . . . as far as he can see. It does look pretty disorganized right now, but by tomorrow it’ll look much better. Listen, I can take a little ribbing. I can deal with jerks like Barstow—been doing that for a lot of years. You don’t need to worry about it, or—or, well protect me or anything like that."

Jaylynn walked slowly over to the step stool and sat on the second stair, one foot on the floor, the other on the first step. "Partners are supposed to look out for one another."

"Yes, that’s true." The dark-haired woman resisted the urge to go over and wrap her arms around the very upset young woman. "But this is one incident where I really am fine and don’t need any looking out for."

The rookie took a deep breath, then groused a little more. "Why are people so small-minded and stupid? Dammit, it makes me mad."

"It’s the shape of the world we live in. Don’t waste energy on people like him. And don’t worry—I’ll let you know when I need protecting. Now, are you going to finish going through those boxes for the Tivoli case?"

Jaylynn shook herself out of her thoughts, literally, and took another deep breath. "Okay. I did leave off in the middle, didn’t I?"

"Yup." She watched as Jaylynn got into the third box and started to root around. "Jay?" With a frown on her face, the rookie turned and looked over at the tall cop. "You remember that I leave at a quarter to four to go see Marie?" When the rookie nodded in a distracted manner, Dez said, "I’ll be back a few minutes after five to pick you up." Jaylynn nodded and turned back to the boxes, and Dez started back at the organizational task before her.




It was midway through the session with Marie, and Dez was feeling pretty good about how easy it had been to talk about things. Mostly, they had focused on the reunion with Jaylynn and on how going back to work was feeling. But then Marie asked about her mother, and Dez felt herself sink into the chair. Despite the fact that she had managed to make it through the Christmas celebration with her family, she found that her mother was still a sore subject. "What do you want to know?"

"I was just wondering what precipitated the distance between you and your mother? What happened to cause that?"

Dez looked away, toward the window. Outside it was cloudy and still cold—typical January weather. She looked back at the curly haired therapist. Try as hard as she might, she couldn’t force herself to answer the question. She looked down at her hands in her lap as the silence in the room stretched on.

Marie put her clipboard on the coffee table. "Dez, do you see those photos over on the wall there?" She pointed toward the wall over the worktable where five framed 8 x 10" black and white photos hung.

Dez squinted at the picture in the center of a thin, young woman with curly black hair wearing Army fatigues and a baseball type Army cap. "Is that you in the middle, Marie?"


Grateful for the change of topic, the tall woman rose and stood before the gallery of photographs. All five people in the pictures wore Army uniforms. On the far left a chunky white guy stood, profile to the camera, wearing an apron over his uniform. Smiling mischievously, he held a cigarette in one hand and an enormous slotted spoon in the other. The second picture, right next to the one of Marie, showed the upper half of a woman opposite in coloring from Marie. She had light-colored hair, light eyes—Dez assumed blue—and a serious look on her face. To the right of Marie’s photo was a head-to-toe shot of a scrawny-looking black man. He stood at attention, arms tight to his sides, and chest pushed out, but the official looking pose could not disguise a look of roguish playfulness. Dez imagined that the moment the shutter clicked, he collapsed into fits of laughter. The last picture was a side shot of a woman who obviously didn’t want her picture taken. As she backed away, she held up a hand, trying to ward off the photographer, but to no avail. The camera caught her in a wince-like grin, protesting. Dez turned to look at Marie and waited.

Marie cleared her throat. "I know that in a way this is sort of corny, but I think of that as my guardian angel wall. Remember me telling you about my nursing friends from the Da Nang hospital during the war? Those photos are all I have left of them—of Mark Dieter, Sandy Flynn, DeShawn Johnson, and Deb Maris."

The dark-haired woman was struck mute. She had no idea what to say and just stood there feeling stupid and not quite trusting her feet to walk the three strides back to her chair.

"I tell you this, Dez, because you, too, might need a wall like mine, if not in reality, then in your head."

"I—I just—I don’t know what you mean." The tall woman hazarded one step forward and then two more, and quickly lowered herself into the low chair, her heart beating fast.

"Well, they were, literally, my comrades in arms. And you lost your comrade, too. But then nobody understood. You had nowhere to turn to deal with it. Earlier in your life, you lost your father, also a sort of comrade to you. Again, no one understood, and from what you have told me about your youth, you went underground emotionally. All of your life, it seems, you have had no way to commemorate your losses for yourself—or to share your sorrow with others.

"I still don’t understand."

"With all of that in mind—especially the loss of your father—I asked you what precipitated the break between your mother and you."

Dez’s eyes filled with tears. "If you already knew that my father’s death caused the break, why do you need to ask?"

Marie smiled. "Details. I don’t know the details. What happened after your father died? What do you recall?"

Dez took a deep breath, swallowed, and tried to compose herself. What did she remember from the days after the shock of her handsome, dark-haired father’s death? She closed her eyes. "My mother crying. Sleeping and crying non-stop for days. Patrick and I, hungry, and both of us trying not to cry, trying not to upset our mom." She thought of her brother’s pale and pinched face, how he disappeared into their mother’s room several times each day, how he tried to bring her snacks, water, anything. She herself had, at first, felt desolate and griefstricken, but then she recalled a rage surfacing that she’d quickly squelched.

"What else?"

Dez’s eyes popped open, and she felt a rush of anger race through her. "She drank. She started drinking herself to sleep and waking up in the mornings with a hangover, then drinking some more."

"Does she still do that?"

Dez shook her head. "It seemed like it lasted forever . . . but I guess it really didn’t. At the beginning of my freshman year in high school, she went back to school—to medical school—to become an ophthalmologist. So she must have quit drinking before that." She looked down at her hands and tightened them into fists, feeling the muscles in her forearms flex.

"Then what happened?"

Dez leaned forward a little and looked down at the floor. "Shoot, I don’t know. Time passed. Patrick and I learned to take care of ourselves and each other a little bit, and then by the time he was in ninth grade, he didn’t need me anymore. Actually, he always seemed able to relate to my mother a lot better than I could."

"Why do you think that was?"

Dez shook her head slowly as she shrugged. "She didn’t have the time, really. She spent most of her waking hours studying and trying to keep up the house."

"But not you kids?"

"Yeah, us, too."

"Not really, though, right? She didn’t understand your loss any better than she understood hers."

"No," Dez said in a mournful voice, "she must not have."

"And how did you feel about that?"

Dez wanted to get up and move, to wrench open the door and leave. I haven’t felt this way for several sessions—why now? I thought I was almost done with this awfulness. She took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then exhaled and brought herself back to the question. "How did I feel about that? Lost. I felt lost." The next words came out hesitantly. "Alone. Very much alone, and unloved. And deserted. I felt completely deserted and like I no longer mattered to anyone at all."

The curly-haired woman nodded. She picked up her coffee mug and took a sip, then looked up at the ceiling.

Uh-oh. Dez took a deep breath and prepared for the next questions, which she had a hunch would be tough ones.

Marie kicked her foot out from under her thigh and resettled herself in her chair. "And you have never entirely gotten over that feeling of desertion and aloneness, have you?" The dark-haired woman shook her head, unable to say anything. "And you have never forgiven your mother." Marie said it as a statement, not a question. "Hmm, how did you go on? Who did you rely on?"

Dez looked at her, feeling a little surprised. "I don’t know. A coach here, a teacher there. Later on, Luella. My mother was there—she just wasn’t there, if you know what I mean. Now it seems as though she has a sense of that, and it’s seems possible that she wants to relate better to me, but neither one of us knows how to talk about it. Besides, I don’t need her now anyway." The tall cop heard a little chuckle come from the therapist. She scowled. "Why is that so funny?"

"It’s that rugged individualist in you coming out again. You always want to do it all yourself." She smiled at the younger woman. "And yet, Dez, when you successfully connect with others—in your family, at your work, in your personal life—you are a much happier person. So—

I would suggest to you that you do need your mother. We know you can’t go back and re-write the past. You can’t escape the fact that, in her grief, she abandoned you; and really, she did a dreadful thing in not knowing how to help you work through the loss of your father. But what about Ryan? She had a chance to redeem herself when he died. What happened?"

Closing her eyes, Dez summoned up the scene at the hospital, pacing in the waiting room seconds after the paramedics had taken her partner’s lifeless body in through the sliding glass doors. Using lights and siren, she had actually beaten the ambulance to the emergency room entrance and met them at the doorway as they rushed him in. When the medics disappeared into the E.R., she had had two minutes, tops, before a whole raft of other cops descended upon the place. But in those two minutes, she remembered feeling the same despair and desolation she had felt when she discovered her father was dead. Even so, she had harbored the tiniest flame of hope that the paramedics had been wrong at the scene. Ryan wasn’t dead. He hadn’t bled out. The physicians would perform a miracle. Instead, a doctor emerged from the E.R. shaking his head. But by then, Cowboy was there, red-faced and crying. Julie came through the doors with the lieutenant and a chaplain and needed only one look at everyone to collapse into a chair sobbing. Even Crystal broke down. Their tears stopped Dez in her tracks. Every cop around her was crying, it seemed, every one of them unavailable and lost in their own grief.

She turned away from them all.

And then, some time later, her mother and Mac had materialized before her, had tried to reach out. She stared at them, stone-faced, and told them to go away, that she needed to be left alone. As soon as Colette Reilly left, Dez felt herself crumple inside. Once again, her mother had failed her. This time was just as unforgivable.

"Dez?" Opening her eyes, the dark-haired woman blinked back the tears that had been seeping out. "Can you tell me a little of what happened between you and your mother when Ryan died?"

"She showed up. I pushed her away. She left. She never came back." The dark-haired woman crossed her arms and pushed down the pain that was rising in her chest.

"I see." Marie sat for a few seconds nodding and thinking to herself.

Dez glanced at the clock and was relieved to see that the torture she was feeling would soon be over. She actually let out a sigh of relief.

"You know you’ve got resources and you’re much stronger now, right?" The warm brown eyes met Dez’s and held. "You’re not alone, and you aren’t thirteen anymore."

"Yeah, I know that."

"But it still hurts, doesn’t it?"

Receiving a nod from her client, Marie said, "That’s enough for today. Let’s talk some more about it next time, okay?"

In a wry voice, Dez said, "Well, that’s something to look forward to." She rose, grabbing two tissues from the box on the coffee table on the way up to her feet. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose, then placed the tissue in the wastebasket by the door as she said goodbye to Marie.




Jaylynn sat at Tsorro’s desk, putting the finishing touches on her database update, when someone crept up behind her and startled her.

"Scared the hell out of you, didn’t I?" the Italian man chortled.

She should have known it was Tsorro from the aftershave smell. "There’s no hell left to scare out, you rude dude." She tried to hold back a smile, but didn’t quite succeed.

He grinned back at her, then looked at his watch. "It’s five after five, sweet pea. Time for you to toddle on home, right?"

"Yes, I will relinquish your desk, Tsorro."

"I don’t need the damn desk, caramella mia. I’m going home pretty quick, too." He walked toward the coat rack with her. "I just have phone calls to make, then I’m out of here. I’ll be glad when Parkins gets back from vacation. It’s no fun without him to rib."

"Don’t worry. You can always pick on me while he’s gone."

"Yeah, right. Good idea. Well, I have a couple of calls to make, and I’ll see you in the morning, doll."

"’Night, Tsorro." She smiled. He seemed to have a limitless supply of pet names for her, some of which were in Italian. She wasn’t even sure what some of them meant. For all she knew, he could be calling her terrible names. But knowing him as long as she had now, she thought that each Italian comment he made was a special term of endearment. She shook her head as she watched him wander into the Lieutenant’s office, all the while adjusting his jacket. She got up and pulled her coat off the rack and around her shoulders. As she slipped her gloves on, she walked toward the Lieutenant’s office, stuck her head in, and said goodbye to Finn and Tsorro. As soon as she’d wrapped Vanita’s wool scarf around her neck and zipped up her coat, she headed for the front door.

Bursting into the cold winter air sometimes took her breath away, but today it actually seemed slightly warmer, if fifteen degrees could be described as warm. There was no wind, so that made it seem less bone chilling. She still shivered a little as she descended the stairs, scanning the parking lot to look for Dez. She waited a minute, watching for her partner to roll into the lot. Nope. No big red truck. Guess I’ll go back in and watch from the window. Before she could turn around, someone hooked her arm and pulled her down the last two stairs and into the parking lot.

"Hey! What—" She lost her footing on a patch of ice, and as her feet slipped from under her, her right arm was yanked up so that she did not fall. She fought to regain her balance, and tried to pull away from her assailant. He wrenched at her arm again as he thrust her forward, and her head jerked back. Her footing slipped again, but not before she was got a glimpse of a very red-faced, angry looking Dwayne Nielsen. She got her feet back under her and tried to pull away, but he had a firm grip on her arm and shoulder and propelled her off to the side of the lot between a dirty, black conversion van and an old, green Impala. "Take your slimy hands off me, Nielsen!" she shouted as loud as she could, then drew back her foot and kicked him in the shins.

He snarled, sounding very much like a wild dog. "You stupid bitches cost me my job!" Before she could even respond, he shouted, "You got everything the goddamn easy way because you’re a fuckin’ woman!" He tightened his grip on the front of her coat and smacked her back against something cold and metal. "They handed it to you because of that. You and her—that bitch!" He shoved her against the side of the dirty van again and got in her face, kicking at her, pressing against her, screaming at her with his mouth so close that she could feel spit hit her face.

She tried to knee him, but that only enraged him more, and she could not get away.




Dez drove up Wabasha Street in a funk. The session with Marie had drained her of energy, and she felt as though she needed about ten hours sleep. She knew Jaylynn wanted to see a movie, though, and she wondered if she would be able to perk up enough to go along with the plan. The rookie was probably going to be pretty wired. After all, she had to wait a couple of days to find out if the phone card clue would pan out. Knowing Jaylynn, Dez figured she would be on energy overload and have enough vigor for the both of them. Good, then she can make supper tonight.

The last of the daylight was quickly disappearing. Thick, ominous clouds overhead didn’t help the illumination, either. The whole day had been dreary. Peering over the steering wheel and up through the windshield, she stole a quick glance at the skies. She could tell they were in for more snow any time.

She pulled into the police station lot and looked at the clock display on the dashboard. 5:13. The five o’clock shift had peeled out since she left, and half the lot was already empty. There were no blond-haired women in sight, so she pulled into a space facing the building to wait. The door to the station opened, and at the same moment, a muffled sound came to her ears. She heard it over the hum of the heater. It was not repeated, but the hair on her arms stood on end and she shivered, though not from cold. Without knowing why, she opened the truck door, swung her legs out to the side, and listened. While keeping her eye on the opening precinct door and the figure that stepped out, she reached back, turned off the ignition, and tucked the keys in her jacket pocket. Her heart beat fast for no reason that she could have explained.

She slid out of the warm truck. At the same moment, she saw that it was Detective Tsorro. leaving the building. The muffled sound came again. This time she located it: to her right and along the parking lot fence. With a growing sense of urgency, she moved toward the spot where she thought the sound had come from. At the same time, Tsorro’s head came up. He picked up his pace, descending the stairs.

The Italian cop reached the back of a dirty, black van one step before Dez did, but they both saw the same thing simultaneously. In one voice, they let out an identical roar. "NO!"

Nielsen stood over Jaylynn, his right fist raised in the air and his left hand gripping her coat at the collar. His head whipped their way. His fist wavered. Blood was smeared on the rookie’s face, but she was far from down and out. She kicked and struggled, pushed and squirmed.

Tsorro edged Dez out by a step and reached Nielsen first. He grabbed the bigger man by the arm and pushed him. Nielsen lurched to the side and lost his grip on Jaylynn, and when he did that, the rookie wrested away from his grasp. He pitched to the side and banged against the Chevy Impala.

By then, Dez had scrambled up on the trunk of the Impala. She launched herself past Tsorro’s right shoulder to tackle the already stumbling Nielsen and knock him to the ground between the two vehicles. On her knees, she straddled one of his legs, grabbed his coat front, and tried to hold him down. There was nowhere for him to go. He tried to roll to one side, but the van’s tire was there. He struck out at her, catching her in the eye, and she let out a shriek of pain. Her fist flew through the air and landed a glancing blow to his jaw, and then she saw a black wing-tip shoe in the right corner of her peripheral vision. As if in slow motion, the point of the shoe traveled past her face to the side of Nielsen’s head.

The big man let out a yowl, and for a moment, Dez saw not Nielsen, but the face of the big man, Bucky, from the Forest Street attack the month before. A strange gray haze surrounded her, and she couldn’t see out of either eye very well. Wait a minute! Stop! I can’t lose track here. She shook her head vigorously and loosened her grip on the man below her.

"I’ll blow your head off!" Tsorro yelled. Dez saw the gun in Tsorro’s hand, and so did Nielsen. He stopped struggling and held his hands, palms up and open, on either side of his head.

Dez’s vision cleared in her right eye, though she couldn’t see at all through the other. Then someone was pulling at her collar, and she let herself be dragged up and away, all the while watching as Tsorro yelled and kicked and stomped Jaylynn’s attacker repeatedly. Bent half over, Dez staggered backwards, but she smacked a palm against the muddy van and regained her balance. She leaned forward, put hands on her knees, and tried to catch her breath. Jaylynn reached out to touch her face, but she shrugged her off and kept her eye on the two men. "I’m fine," she wheezed. "It’s okay, Jay."

The rookie’s voice came out sounding strangled. "But yo’ bweeding—"

Dez swept her coat sleeve across her brow. "I’ll be fine." She tossed a quick glance toward the blonde. "What about you?"

The blonde wiped at her face with her scarf. "By dose hurts like hell. T’ink he bwoke it."

Dez squinted toward the two men. Her eye throbbed, but when she saw Nielsen roll into a ball and cover his face and head with his arms, she jumped forward. "Tsorro! Tsorro! That’s enough." She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away, out of the small space between the car and van.

Gasping for breath, he pointed the weapon, his right arm down and straight out, and stood staring at the man on the ground. "Who does this—this malfattore think he is? I spit on you, diavolo!" He made good with his promise and let loose some saliva. "How dare you hit a woman, and a good, kind woman at that? You are scum." He sprang forward, letting loose a string of Italian invective, and gave Nielsen another final kick in the side before backing away for good.

By then two cops in full uniform were striding up. "What’s going on?" one said.

"Patterson," Dez said with relief. "This—this jerk attacked Savage." Nielsen rose, on shaky legs, panting and coughing. His lip and chin were bleeding. His face was mottled with rapidly rising red marks, and from the way he held his mid-section, Dez could tell he was hurt. "If Tsorro and I hadn’t come along when we did . . ."

Tsorro lowered his gun hand and held his left forefinger in the air. He turned and pointed dramatically at the coughing man. "This asshole needs to be arrested. If you don’t do it, I will. Aggravated assault is a good charge for starters."

Patterson gaped at Dez, then at Tsorro, and moved toward Nielsen to cuff him. He and his partner, Bentley, hauled the big ex-cop toward the station house.

Jaylynn sat down suddenly against the bumper of the dark green Impala. "By dose won’t stob bweeding."

Tsorro holstered his weapon and pulled a clean handkerchief out of his pocket. "Here, babycakes," he said in a concerned voice. "Take this." He leaned over her, put his arm around her shoulders, and dabbed at the blood on her face.

Dez stood and watched through one eye, as her stomach spun and heaved. She put her right hand to her brow, and when she drew it away, bright red blood stained her hand. For a moment, she was afraid she might faint. Tsorro, still comforting Jaylynn, stood and turned her way. Dez reached out and steadied herself against him. The shoulder pad under his coat felt thick, but substantial.

Tsorro looked at her, a scowl on his face. "Jesus Christ, Reilly! You both look like hell. C’mon. We’re going inside to call the paramedics."




Before she knew what was happening, Jaylynn found herself seated next to Dez in the break room, a bag of ice on her face. Six uniformed cops crowded into the room along with Tsorro, one of the dispatchers, and Lieutenant Finn.

"What in the world happened here?" the lieutenant asked, concern etched on her face. She made her way through the crowd of men and leaned down to look, first, at the rookie’s face and then Dez’s. "You both better keep the ice on."

Jaylynn let Tsorro and Dez do the honors of describing what had happened. Her mind was in a whirl. She had always thought Nielsen behaved badly and that he was selfish and arrogant, but she hadn’t actually expected anything more from him than intimidation and threats. They fired him? He said we cost him his job. What was that all about? She moved the ice bag away from her nose. Two more officers crowded into the small room, and she was feeling claustrophobic and dizzy. "Was Nielsen fired?" Everyone was talking at once, and her question was lost in the din. "Hey!" she yelled out. The noise dropped off and quizzical faces turned to look at her. Her head was pounding, but she choked the words out. "Whad habbened wid Nielsen?"

A crew-cutted, thick-necked officer named Bob Finch answered. "I heard he got canned."

Another cop nodded. "Lost his appeal hearing."

All eyes moved to the lieutenant for confirmation. She made a fist and turned her hand over to rap against the table with her wedding ring. "You are both correct. Dwayne Nielsen did not pass probation." She paused as though considering her next words. "Obviously, the decision not to allow him to join the force permanently was a good one."

Jaylynn’s eyes slid to the right to check on Dez. The tall cop had an ice bag over her left eye, and she looked unusually pale.

A commotion occurred at the doorway, and the blue-shirted crew of officers stepped aside to allow two EMT’s into the room. The medics put their big orange bags on the break table as Finn waved all the cops back. "Okay, everybody. Out. Give these guys room to work." The dispatcher and pack of curious cops backed up, one by one, and exited the room, followed by the lieutenant.

A brown-haired EMT squatted down in front of Jaylynn. "Hey, my name’s Chuck, and I’m going to take a look at you. Are you hurt anywhere besides your nose?"

"I don’t—I don’t t’ink so."

"So—" he looked at the nametag on her uniform as he stood, "Officer Savage, can you sit up straight—no, don’t tip your head back too much. There. Just sit back and let me check you over."

Jaylynn’s nose throbbed, and her neck canted at an uncomfortable angle as the medic examined her. He shone a light in her eyes, then pressed along the base of her skull, up the sides of her head, to the top. "You got this from a blow to the face?"

"Uh huh."

He pressed the bridge of her nose and her cheekbones lightly. Though he was gentle, the pressure brought tears to her eyes. "Guess that hurts?"


"You’re going to have a lot of bruising and swelling, Officer. I don’t think it’s broken, though. You should be checked over by your doctor to be sure. He or she may wish to do an x-ray. But you’ll be okay for now. Apply ice on and off for the next several hours."

The other medic spoke up. "Take a look at this, Chuck. What do you suggest?"

The medic turned and stood with his back to Jaylynn, so she couldn’t see. She scooted her chair back and stood, moving over next to the break room counter and behind Dez. Gosh, she sure has been quiet. Suddenly, a shiver ran through her as she listened to the two men muttering back and forth. "What’s the trouble there?" She put a hand on Dez’s shoulder, and found the muscles there tense. Oh, my, she’s in pain.

Chuck stepped back. "Excuse me, ma’am, let me get around here." He angled himself between the rookie and the back of the chair and shone a skinny penlight down into the dark-haired woman’s eyes from behind. To his colleague he said, "What do you think? Butterfly? Stitches?"

"Good question," the other EMT replied.

Chuck clicked off his penlight. When he stepped aside, Jaylynn leaned over Dez’s shoulder and peered around into her face. What she saw stopped her short. The big cop’s left eye was swollen shut. Above it, along her eyebrow, the skin was split and gaped open, oozing red. Chuck shifted away, fished around in his bag and pulled something out. As he opened a small package, he turned and bumped into the rookie. With irritation in his voice, he said, "Excuse me, Officer. I need room to work here."

Just then, Lt. Finn returned to the room. "How’s everyone doing?" She smoothed her dark hair out of her face and looked expectantly at the medics.

Chuck answered. "I don’t think Officer Savage needs to go to the hospital, but her nose is going to be pretty sore for a while."

The other EMT added, "Officer Reilly here needs stitches, and I’d like a doctor to take a look at this wound."

Finn’s face took on a surprised look at the same time that Dez said, "Hey, wait a minute." Her voice was slow and slurred. "Don’t I get a vote in this?"

The lieutenant moved around the table. She reached out an arm and patted the injured cop’s shoulder. "No, in this case, I’m afraid not." She turned toward the EMT’s. "Guys, if it’s all the same to you, I officially request that you take both of these officers to be checked over by the hospital medical personnel. It’s basically a work comp injury, so the department would prefer that they be fully examined."

As she rose, holding the ice to her forehead, the tall cop said, "I’m not getting on a gurney."

Finn chuckled. "Never would have suggested it."

Dez didn’t say anything further, but she allowed the medics to help her put her jacket on, and then she started toward the door. She stepped out in the hall and stopped. "Jaylynn? You coming?"

The rookie had stood, but a bout of dizziness overtook her. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, opening them when she felt a hand on her elbow. Chuck was hunched over, squinting into her face, a look of concern in his eyes. "Ms. Savage, looks like you may need some help here."

She closed her eyes again and nodded. The throbbing pain in her head was killing her.




The ride to the hospital was uneventful, and when they arrived at the emergency room entrance, the EMT’s helped both women in. Tsorro and Lieutenant Finn were on their way, too, but hadn’t yet parked and come in.

Nothing had changed since the last time Jaylynn had been there. The same brightly lit, spacioua waiting room was filled with the same uncomfortable vinyl chairs. It didn’t look like a very busy night—but that wouldn’t have mattered. There was an unwritten, unspoken rule that when cops were brought into the E.R., they were bumped to the head of the line. Neither officer even had to check in. A nurse took one look at the blood on Jaylynn’s coat and uniform shirt and immediately beckoned them to follow through the sliding door to the inner sanctum.

They were taken to examining tables next to each other, but the nurse pulled the curtain between. Jaylynn’s nose hurt too much for her to protest. The perky nurse helped her get her coat off and efficiently removed the young woman’s uniform top and t-shirt, then had her slip out of her shoes and slacks. She checked her patient over, making clucking noises and saying, "There’s the beginning of a bruise—and another one—and another. She pointed to one above the rookie’s right breast. Does that one hurt?"

Jaylynn looked down with effort and shook her head. She wasn’t feeling any serious pain except in her sinuses, so she was surprised to discover how many bruises she had—and how many strange places they were located. She racked her brain to try to figure out how she could have gotten one on the back of her neck. She didn’t remember bumping her head against anything. The nurse suggested it could have been from Nielsen’s grip, and she thought that might be true.

The nurse handed Jaylynn her ice bag. "Here you go, dear," she said, as she adjusted the examining table so that the head was raised up. "Why don’t you just lie back and rest for a minute until the doctor comes in." She pulled a sheet up over the blonde, then saw her shiver. "You cold? Let me get you a blanket, too." She disappeared through the curtain and reappeared moments later to smooth a blanket over the trembling blonde. "That better?"

The young woman nodded and closed her eyes. The melting ice made her nose feel much better. With her eyes shut, she strained to hear what was going on next to her. She could hear the murmur of a deep voice, but that was all. Then she must have dozed for a moment, because she started awake when she felt a pressure on her knee through the blanket.

A young Chinese woman in a white coat stood before her. "Hi. I’m Doctor Chang. How are you holding up?"

Jaylynn let out a breath of air. "Just got quite the headache."

"I would imagine so." The doctor was gentle with her probing, and in just a couple minutes, she came up with exactly the same comments that the paramedic had. "It’s not broken, but you are badly bruised. Ice on and off for the next few hours, twenty minutes on, half an hour or so off. Take ibuprofen. In fact, I think I will have the nurse give you some right now to start off with."

"Thank you, Doctor."

"No problem. You’re good to go, Officer."


"Yes. Just try to keep your head elevated on a pillow tonight when you sleep, and you’ll be fine. You can also put ice on your brow and cheeks to help keep the swelling down. As for all the body bruising, I want you to ice any area that feels tender or sore, especially around your thighs and pelvis. No hot baths for a day or so, all right?"

"Okay, thanks. How’s my partner doing over there?"

"Not sure. Let me get the nurse to help you dress, and I’ll go check."

She disappeared through the curtain at the foot of the bed, and within seconds, the pleasant nurse was back and bustling around to help her get dressed again. The nurse kept up a steady stream of chatter, but right in the middle of a sentence, Dr. Chang poked her head in through the curtain and interrupted. "Officer, I’m going to release you, and you can step through here to see your partner. I’m off duty now, too, so I just wanted to wish you good luck."

Jaylynn thanked her, and then the nurse handed over a small Dixie cup full of water and a large white pill. "800 milligrams of Ibuprofen," she said. "Doctor’s orders." She took the empty cup from the rookie when she was done, and held out her down coat. Jaylynn took them and thanked her, then followed her through the white curtain to the next cubicle. Dez lay flat on the table, balancing an ice bag on her forehead with both hands. With pants, shoes, ands socks off, her long legs were crossed at the ankle, and a thin sheet covered her from mid-calf to waist. She still wore her white tank top undershirt. Somehow a smear of blood had gotten on the ribbing at the top of the shirt, leaving a stain that was bright red in the middle and turning dark brown around the outside. When she heard the rookie’s voice, she reached out with her left hand. "Jay?" She didn’t lift the ice bag from her head, instead waiting for the blonde to take her hand. She felt the cool fingers close over hers, and then the dark-haired cop could feel Jaylynn standing as close as the bed would allow. "Are you okay?"

"As the EMT’s said, my nose is not broken. What’s your prognosis?"

Dez took a deep breath. "Well, as far as I can tell, this guy on duty, Shelton, is a greenhorn. He’s not sure if anything is wrong, but he sounds worried. His bedside manner leaves a shitload to be desired. I said I—"

The curtain whipped aside just then. "Oh. Hi." The lanky young doctor hesitated, then stood awkwardly opposite Jaylynn and cleared his throat. He held a clipboard in his pink-colored hands. An unruly cowlick in the front of his dark hair made him seem about twelve years old, though he was likely in his late twenties. "Ah, Officer Reilly, I’ve, um, called the supervising doctor." His voice was deep, and he looked troubled. He glanced up when Dez shifted the ice bag up further on her forehead, and he seemed taken aback that she was blinking at him with her good eye.

"You called the supervisor?" she said.


"Where is he—or she—at?"

"He’s doing rounds and won’t be done for—" he looked at his watch, "twenty more minutes or so. But you aren’t in any danger, so don’t worry about that. The butterfly bandage will hold the brow wound for now until we decide if we want to suture it closed."

Jaylynn said, "Is Doctor Colette Reilly on duty tonight?"

He frowned, looking puzzled. "Dr. Reilly? No, she’s never on duty at night. She works over in the clinic."

The blonde nodded. "Let’s call her and get her down here."

Shelton looked alarmed. "Oh, no. We can’t do that."

The blonde gave him a little half-smile. "Sure we can. This is her daughter."

"Well," he said, "doctors are supposed to be objective, so if they’re related, that might not be a very good idea. And besides, what if Dr. Reilly has surgery to perform in the morning? We aren’t supposed to disturb the surgeons unless the supervising physician orders it."

"So you won’t call her?" Jaylynn said in a controlled voice.

"It wouldn’t be appropriate. I wouldn’t be allowed to. I—"

Dez squeezed the younger woman’s hand and spoke up. "Forget it, Jay. It’ll be all right."

Jaylynn gave her a withering look. "How do you know that? Your mother is an expert. We should get her in here."

Before Dez could response, Dr. Shelton said, "I’ll go see if I can hurry things up." He swept out of the area, leaving a swirl of curtain behind him.

In a quiet voice, Jaylynn said, "Maybe he won’t call, but we can." She fumbled around in the oversized pocket of her coat and pulled out her cell phone. "That is, if Nielsen didn’t bust the damn thing." She pressed the On button, and the phone lit up with a dial tone. "What’s your mother’s number?"

The tall cop recited it from memory, and Jaylynn pushed the corresponding keys, then pressed the phone into the dark-haired woman’s hand. Dez set the ice bag back over her brow, being very careful not to touch the sore eye, and listened to the phone ring. It was picked up on the fourth ring. "Mom?"



"What’s the matter?" Her mother’s voice was sharp.

"Now how do you know something’s wrong?"

"I don’t know—I can just tell."

"I think I need your help. I’m down here at your delightful hospital with an eye injury." She heard her mother’s intake of breath. "I don’t know if it’s anything or not, but neither do these E.R. docs. Could you—"

"I’ll be right there." Dez heard a click on the line and then dead silence. Blindly, she handed the phone up and away until she felt Jaylynn take it. "She didn’t give me a chance to say much before she hung up, but I guess she’s coming down here."

"Good," Jaylynn said in a worried voice. "At least she knows what she’s doing." She held Dez’s hand tightly.

The injured cop smiled. "I don’t suppose it would look too good if my mother arrived and found you curled up here next to me, huh?" Jaylynn let out a snort of laughter. "Believe me, Jay, I wouldn’t mind it. To be honest, this is scaring the crap outta me."


"Either this doctor is a total amateur or else something is seriously wrong. I can’t see out of my eye at all. It doesn’t help that it’s practically swollen shut, but even when I open my eyelid a little, I don’t see anything—just a glob of black with a little gray around the edges." She felt a soft stroke on her arm, and she opened her good eye to find the blonde leaning over her, tears in her eyes. "Damn, Jay, you’ve got quite the couple of shiners starting there." She reached up and touched the rookie’s cheek lightly with just her index finger. "I hope your eyes don’t turn as black as they look like they will."

"Me, too. At least my nose stopped bleeding."

"Well, don’t start crying, ’cause if you sniff, it’s gonna hurt."


"We are pressing charges against Nielsen, you know."

"No doubt about that. He’s going to jail. I might have been easy on him in the past, Dez, but not anymore. He’s going to pay."

"Oh yeah, and if I end up with a peg leg, an eye patch, and toting a parrot on my shoulder, I’m gonna sue him in civil court, too."

Jaylynn started to giggle. "A parrot? Where did that come from?"

Their conversation was interrupted by a noise outside the curtain, and then a woman’s voice called out, "Where’s Doctor Lefsky?"

The deep voice of the lanky Doctor Shelton answered, "On rounds. He should be down any minute—"

The curtain whipped open, and Colette Reilly entered. Her normally pale face was red and her eyes fiery. She carried a black bag in one hand and was followed by a crew, all of whom crowded around the foot of the examining table. Jaylynn recognized Mac MacArthur, Lt. Finn, and Tsorro. A woman the rookie didn’t recognize held the hand of a dark-haired man. She did a double take when the tall man looked at her, his blue eyes sharp and steely. She stared in wonder, realizing that this was surely Patrick, Dez’s brother. They looked enough alike to be twins. Dr. Shelton crowded in behind Dez’s mother and gaped over her shoulder.

Dez lifted the ice bag away from her forehead. In a tired voice, she said, "Geez, Mom, what’d you do, call in the cavalry? Hey, people, what are you all doing here?"

Colette took the ice bag from her hands and set it aside. "We were at dinner, so they came with me."

Mac said, "It’s handy to have a retired cop along, Dez. We broke every speeding record getting down here."

"Yeah, you must have," the dark-haired woman said. "What’s it been—four minutes?"

"Maybe less," Mac said. :Luckily, nobody stopped us."

Colette leaned down, one hand on her daughter’s forehead. "Settle back, and let me see." She clicked on a slim penlight, then got out a magnifying scope, which also had a light on it. She examined the injured eye, asked questions, and checked the brow wound. "How did this happen?"

"A guy hit me."

"With what—a board with a nail in it?"

Jaylynn said, "No, he wears a big signet ring on his right forefinger."

Dez’s mother nodded her head slowly. "Ah—that’s consistent with this injury." The curtain behind her flapped open again, and someone else crowded in. She looked around in irritation.


"Oh, good. It’s you, Brad. I could use your help." She set the penlight and scope on the edge of the examining table along Dez’s thigh. Absentmindedly, she took hold of her patient’s hand and patted the dark-haired woman’s thigh with her other hand. "Desiree, this is my colleague, Bradley Lefsky. Brad, this is my daughter. Age 30, in good health, with what looks like a hemophage to the right eye. Dez, a hemophage is a bruise to the eyeball." She looked around at all the people, suddenly aware of how crowded it was. "All of you—out. We need room to work now. Should only be a few minutes and we’ll come report to you." Everyone, including Dr. Shelton, moved to file out. "Wait, Officer, you stay. And Shelton, where do you think you’re going?"

"Uh, you said, everybody out."

In an exasperated voice, she said, "You’re not everybody. You’re the physician on duty. Get over here so you can observe and learn a thing or two. But first, give Dr. Lefsky the rundown on the patient’s vitals." Shelton, red-faced and stammering, flipped through the pages on the clipboard and spoke to Lefsky on the side. Meanwhile, Colette’s eyes came to rest on the rookie, and the irritation in her voice dissipated when she spoke. "I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your first name."


"That’s right. You look too worried, Jaylynn. Don’t be. My daughter’s eye is injured, but she won’t lose her sight. Pull that damn curtain open, Shelton, and get Jaylynn a chair. The poor woman looks like she’s about to fall over." With concern on her face, she turned to look down at the patient below her. "Shelton," she called out over her shoulder as the resident slid a chair up behind the rookie. "Get on the horn and get the best surgeon on duty. This cut needs stitches, not just a butterfly bandage. My daughter is not going to look like a prizefighter. And while you’re at it, get the x-ray tech. We need to rule out any occipital fracture or crack. Okay, Brad, what do you think?" The two doctors poked and prodded, shone lights in her eyes, and Dez listened as they discussed the injury in that strange, acronym filled language that only other medical personnel understand.

Despite the pain in her eye and forehead, Dez felt a strange bubble of happiness floating up through her, beginning somewhere in the vicinity of her solar plexus and traveling up to her heart and into her throat. Her eyes filled with tears, but at the same time, she couldn’t hold back a grin. Her mother probably thought it was because she was relieved to hear that her eye was just badly bruised, but that wasn’t it. For the first time in many years, she realized how much she loved her mother.




It was after nine p.m. before the two cops finally made it back to the parking lot at the police station to pick up the truck. Despite feeling exhausted, Jaylynn decided she should drive them to Dez’s place because the dark-haired woman's right eye sported a large gauze bandage, which threw off her depth perception. Her mother and Dr. Lefsky had initially been concerned that her eye had sustained serious injury. After what seemed like hours of examination, they had determined there was no structural damage, and she hadn’t fractured any bones in her face, but the blow had caused some bleeding in the anterior chamber of the eye. She would have to keep it covered for a few days until the blood reabsorbed and what amounted to an internal bruise healed. Colette Reilly had been concerned, too, that her daughter might have suffered a concussion, but after further examination, she decided Dez was a little woozy because she was in a lot of pain from the trauma to both the exterior and interior of the eye. The cut was deep and in a line just beneath her eyebrow, so the surgeon on duty took eleven stitches with very fine needle and thread, then dressed it and sent them on their way.

Now she sat, a passenger in her own truck, feeling grumpy, her head pounding. She was also hungry. "Jaylynn, I swear to God you’ve become a trouble magnet."

"What?" The rookie glanced over and back to the road, looking alarmed.

Dez shook her head. "We’re like the walking wounded. Look at us."

They shared an amused examination, and then the blonde focused on driving again, saying, "You look worse than me."

"Hah. Your whole face is going to be black ’n’ blue—in fact, it’s already turning blue under your eyes and around your nose."

"And you’re not going to have a huge shiner?"

"Like I said, we look like hell." Dez was glad to see the alleyway to the garage.

Jaylynn pulled the truck in, waited for the garage door to open, then gunned it up the little hill and inside. "Think we can make it into the apartment without getting attacked, falling, or having a piano drop on our heads?"

Dez took a deep breath. "I don’t know. I’m just glad that Luella’s not home."

But the dark-haired woman was wrong. They approached the back of the house to find light shining from all the windows on the main floor, and when they entered, the door to Luella’s place popped open.

"Girls, girls! Hey, it’s great to . . . see . . . goodness! What happened?" She looked from one to the other. "You look like you fell into a pit with a bear!"

"It was something like that," Dez said.

The blonde sighed. "Hi Luella. You’re a sight for sore eyes—or in Dez’s case, sore eye, singular."

"Very funny," Dez grumbled. "What are you doing here, Lu?"

"Vanita and I started movin’ in. Her granddaughter brought us over earlier today, and a load of our stuff, too. Figured we might as well start getting settled in since you two are going to want to get into the other house and make changes."

"We haven’t even signed the papers, Luella," Jaylynn protested.

The older woman smiled and shrugged. "It doesn’t matter. It’ll all go through. Worse case scenario would be a contract-for-deed. Either way, it’s a happening thing."

The door behind Luella opened wider, and Vanita appeared. "Jiminy Cricket—I go off to the bathroom, and all the fun happens. What’s going on here?" She squinted into the bright hallway and surveyed the two tired looking women. "Geez! How bad does the other guy look?"

Jaylynn shook her head. "Courtesy of one very angry Anthony S. Tsorro, the other guy has some serious dents upside his head. I also wouldn’t be surprised if his ribs are broken."

Luella gestured at them, beckoning them in. "Why don’t you two get in here and tell us all about it. I’ll make you some tea. You hungry? I’ve got left over chicken pot pie."

"You are a guardian angel," Jaylynn said. "This is one time I’m not going to be shy—yes, I am starved beyond belief. Feed me. I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a chicken pot pie today."

If she could have rolled her eyes, Dez would have. Instead she smiled and relaxed. Her eye throbbed and her head hurt a little, though the painkiller they’d given her at the hospital had numbed things; but she knew they would be all right. In more ways than one.




More to come next weekend!

LLL 10/14/01

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