UNDER THE GUN
By Lori L. Lake
a/k/a Lorelei, Bard of the Lakes
firstname.lastname@example.org -- www.LoriLake.com
PLEASE NOTE: Is anybody out there going to Dragon Con over Labor Day weekend? A whole bunch of us RAP writers will be there. On Saturday, we will be doing a book signing at the Amerisuites Hotel. For information about this "FanFaire," go to: http://www.rapbooks.com/fanfaire.html. There will also be some great refreshments and a drawing to try to win free books. I'll be there signing and selling copies of GUN SHY and my new book, RICOCHET IN TIME. If you want me to try to reserve a copy for you, send me an email at the above address. I have limited numbers of copies.
UPCOMING CHAT: I have the great honor of being the featured author at an online chat at The Uber Abode next Saturday, August 25, 2001 at 2 pm Pacific Time (Sunday August 26, 2001 at 7 am Victoria Australia Time). For more information go to: http://www.angelfire.com/ab2/fanfiction/Talk.html.
REMINDER: This is a sequel. If you haven't read the first book, GUN SHY , you might want to.
Or 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, which has never been posted online. A good source for both books is at The Open Book.
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
UNDER THE GUN
The dark-haired cop sat at a stop sign on Hoyt Street in an unmarked car with the radar gun aimed out the window at the traffic traveling on Dale. It was cold out, but only her hands felt it. The car's heater, even on low, was doing an admirable job keeping her warm on this mid-November Wednesday night.
Jaylynn left Monday morning for Pursuit Training, and with her out of town, Dez had been assigned to a speed sting with Reed and Barstow. Right now, her job was to shoot the radar, then radio data about the speeder ahead. The other two units, which were posted five or six blocks ahead, took turns pulling over the surprised offender. When she got tired of the radar role, she'd switch with one of the guys. The speed limit on Dale was only 35. So far, in two hours, they'd nailed six cars in excess of 45 and three in excess of 55. One fool had been careening along at 62. He'd also been legally drunk, so Barstow had been gone for a while to book him at the station. She and Reed carried on.
With Jaylynn off at pursuit training for the past two days, Dez was starting to get crabby. She was glad the rookie would be returning Thursday. The day before, the tall cop had confided in Luella that she was now ruined. Once upon a time, she had been thoroughly self-sufficient. Now after a couple of months of spending nights with the rookie, she didn't seem to know what to do with herself when Jaylynn wasn't with her. What had she done before Jaylynn entered her life? She couldn't quite recall. And to be honest, she was disconcerted to realize how much she had come to rely upon the pleasure of the younger woman's company.
She zapped a late model Chrysler . . . 47 mph. She radioed ahead to Reed, then returned to her musings, waiting for Reed to call and say he was ready for the next speeder. Jaylynn had called late the night before to report that the first day at Michigan International Speedway had gone well. She bubbled over with excitement about how much fun she was having driving like a maniac. She had also been happy because two of her classmates from the Academy, who had gone to work for other agencies, had also been there. She was having the chance to get caught up with her buddies' lives. Obviously, Dez thought the rookie wasn't missing her work partner as much as Dez was missing her.
Today and tomorrow, Jaylynn would be at a different site to learn the elements of more aggressive pursuits. In addition to the art of roadblocks and the use of stop sticks, which punctured tires, she'd be introduced to pursuit intervention techniques-PIT training-which was basically having contact or ramming another vehicle to conclude a pursuit. Dez hoped her young partner wouldn't take as much delight in that as she had enjoyed speeding around the racetrack. Intentional collisions or even light contact were considered deadly force and not allowed by the department unless the suspect had committed a violent crime against persons or if somebody's life was in immediate danger. Still, all officers had to learn the techniques, should they ever become necessary. The tall cop had last attended that training the year before-for the seventh time in her career. She was glad she had fast reflexes because the cars could easily go out-of-control, even at low speeds. And she had to admit, spinning and skidding on the safe, flat surface was a lot of fun.
The radio crackled, and Reed reported that he was done with the Chrysler, so she turned her attention to the oncoming traffic. A small car, which looked like a Neon, sped toward her. She hit the trigger on the radar gun and radioed the results right away. "Here's a good one, Reed. 53 mph. Yellow Neon." She recited the license number and waited for his response. Glancing at her watch, she realized it was going to be a long night. She gave a sigh. This would be a lot more fun with Jaylynn. 48 more hours and she'd see her again.
Dez arrived at the precinct early on Thursday, and in a good mood. Jaylynn and the rest of the crew would be returning this afternoon from their long drive. She hoped they'd come rolling in before shift started, but she knew she couldn't count on it. They had a six hour drive ahead of them.
Full of happy expectation, she climbed the stairs, camped out in the roll call room, and sat on alert, awaiting the first sign of the caravan's return. She was disappointed when the sergeant released them all to their cars, and there was no sign of Jaylynn. She went out to her assigned cruiser and left to patrol her sector.
Many times during the course of the shift she was tempted to call in to Dispatch to ask about the travelers, but she knew they'd have to call her precinct to get information, and she could do that herself. She didn't want to draw attention to herself, so she just did her job. The first few hours of the afternoon and evening were quiet, almost boring. Around nine p.m. things started to pick up with a noise complaint and then a backup at a repeat domestic dispute. Sorenson answered the initial domestic call, but nobody liked to go into those kinds of inflammatory scenes without a second officer nearby, so she joined him as quickly as she could get there. It was a standard call-drunk man shows up at ex-girlfriend's house to slap her around and terrorize her.
The tall cop watched from the doorway as Sorenson handled it. Unlike Jaylynn, Sorenson tried to give the intruder every opportunity to get out of the mess. If there was any evidence of assault, Jaylynn just cuffed the abuser immediately and almost always hauled the person in. Sorenson was patient, but the man was scathing and insulting, so the other cop finally arrested him. As he hauled the man out to his squad car, Dez asked the woman if she would be pressing charges.
"You bet, Officer!" She pushed her long blonde hair away from her faice and pointed at her bleeding lip defiantly. "That's the last time he's ever gonna do this to me again. Next time, I'll have a gun waiting for him."
Dez winced. "You know, you'd do better to spend the money on a peephole for your front door."
"He came to the door-you opened it."
"Oh, so this is my fault?" Now she focused her anger on the dark-haired cop, her pretty blue eyes sparkling with rage.
"No, ma'am. Not at all. He made the choice to assault you. He's in the wrong. But look-" She pointed at the front door and the wall next to it. "You can't tell who's out there without opening the door, right?"
"That's the problem. If you had a peephole, you could see when it was him and just call 911. We'd come and haul him away, and that's that. Saves you a lot of money, too-guns aren't cheap, you know. And it would also prevent a criminal charge of manslaughter or murder. You rent here?"
The woman nodded as she reached for a tissue and dabbed at her cut lip.
"Here..." Dez pulled a card out of her pocket. "Call me there at the station and leave your landlord's name and phone number on the voicemail. I'll call him or her and see if I can get them to install something in the front door. Maybe if you purchase it-and they're pretty cheap-the landlord will put it in. Okay?"
The woman looked surprised. She nodded. "Thank you. Thanks for your understanding."
"No problem. Now lock up good." She turned and with a wave of her hand, went out the door and headed to her car. She was constantly amazed at how little foresight some people had. This was a repeat performance by the assaultive ex-boyfriend. You'd think the ex-girlfriend would catch a clue and do something to avoid the scene. She hoped that the woman would leave her the landlord's information. She didn't mind calling and trying to help, but so many times people didn't listen.
The rest of the evening dragged by, and finally, she arrived back at the station, turned the car in, signed out, and went down to her locker. There was a note taped to the blue door. "Call me before you leave" was all it said. Jaylynn hadn't signed it, but she knew the blonde's scribble.
With a light heart, she changed clothes and went upstairs to use a phone. "Hey! You're back."
The blonde's warm voice came over the line. "I am."
"You sound tired."
"Is that all you can say-'I am'?"
"No. Mostly I just wanted to check and see if you'd still want to come over-"
"Sure," interrupted Dez.
"-but there's a catch."
Dez waited, puzzled.
"Do you mind sleeping against the wall?"
"I sort of hurt my left shoulder a little bit, and-well, I-I guess I need to sleep on the outside so I don't bump it."
Dez's blood ran cold. "You're hurt?"
"Um, well, sort of."
"What do you mean, 'Not exactly'? What happened?"
Jaylynn hesitated. "Come over, okay? It's easier to explain in person."
Dez didn't bother to say anything further. She hung up the phone and took off, out toward the parking lot. She didn't stop for pleasantries in the doorway when she ran into some officers who said hello to her. She leapt into her truck and zoomed down Dale Avenue, glad that there was no speed sting there tonight.
She passed the string of darkened homes, everyone hunkered down for the night, until she got to Jaylynn's house, from which light spilled out of every window, both upstairs and down. A chill wind blew from the north, cutting through her leather jacket, making her shiver as she walked toward the brightly lit two-story house.
Before she could even knock, the rookie opened the door and let her in, and they stood for just a moment, both uncertain. Dez glanced at the navy blue, heavy-duty sling the blonde wore on her left arm. She looked across the room to see that Sara and Bill were sitting next to one another on the couch, eating a bowl of popcorn, and watching a video.
"Dez," Sara called out. "We just started this. It's Pitch Black. Want to join us?"
Without taking her eyes off Jaylynn's face, Dez said, "Not right now. Maybe later." She gave a jerk of her head and gestured to the stairs.
With a miserable look on her face, Jaylynn turned and mounted the steps. Dez followed her up to the peach-colored bedroom, where she found Jaylynn's bags and gear strewn haphazardly across the bed and couch. The room was much more disorganized than usual, and the smaller woman leaned down slowly to pick up a suitcase and slide it aside. Dez stepped in the room and shut the door behind her. She leaned back against the door and crossed her arms.
"Sorry," the rookie said. "I haven't even unpacked." She stood in the middle of the room and looked back apologetically. Dez wanted to go to her, wrap her in her arms, but first she wanted to know the extent of Jaylynn's injury.
"What happened?" It came out in a flat voice, almost accusatory.
"I broke-or kinda like cracked-my collarbone." Jaylynn sighed, then moved her black duffel with her good hand off the couch and onto the floor. She clambered onto the soft orange sofa and squeezed back in the corner, her feet up under her as she cradled her left arm.
In silence, Dez remained leaning against the door, her heart beating fast.
Tired hazel eyes looked over at her. "It was totally an accident on the last run of the day. All I was supposed to do was accelerate to catch up with the other vehicle and use my left front quarter panel to tap its right rear and send him out of control. Guy named Davison was driving the tank-it's like a tank, you know, since they're the vehicle that is supposed to go out of control."
Dez nodded. She remembered exactly what it was like from the last training she had attended.
"The car I was in was pretty much like a regular squad car, though it did have a nice roll bar and some extra internal reinforcement-which, as it turns out, was lucky. Anyway, I was cruising along, drawing close to him, going about 45, when suddenly I heard a pop and my car-well, it kind of like dipped, and I skidded. I was fishtailing and losing control, so I hit the brakes. I spun out."
"I ran off the flat area onto the side of the course."
"What the hell caused it? You blew a tire?"
The blonde nodded. "Somebody left a string of stop sticks real close to the side of the course, and I hit one. They told me that when my tire punctured, they saw a poof of dirt go up, then I started skidding."
"Weren't you in your protective gear?"
"Oh yeah! Of course. Helmets, vest, and everything"
"But the steering wheel hit you hard-or what?"
"No." Jaylynn shook her head and looked away. "It was the tree."
"What? You hit a tree?"
"Dez! You make it sound like I'm a rotten driver or something! The instructor said I did an admirable job steering out of the spin and bringing the car to a stop."
"You slammed into a tree?"
"No . . . not exactly. Actually it was just the one big branch that came in through the driver's side window."
"Oh, I see. So you didn't hit the tree-it hit you?"
"Something like that. But don't worry, I had already passed the driving class before the final runs, so I don't have to go again for two years."
"Like I give a shit whether you pass pursuit training?" It came out in a shout, and Dez straightened up and pushed away from the door she was leaning on. "You're hurt, Jay! You could have been killed."
"Nuh uh! No way! It was just-just an accident. Kind of a freak thing. Davison joked that it would have been better to have the branch smack me in the head instead of the chest since I had that great helmet on."
"For cripesake! The guy must be an idiot! Who the hell do they have running training these days!" She clenched her fists against her hips as she worked hard to contain her fury.
Jaylynn turned red and looked like she might cry. "Why are you so angry, Dez? Stuff like this happens. One cop from Faribault actually rolled one of the cars . . . he didn't get hurt though."
Dez shook her head. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then made herself relax her fists. Opening her eyes, she stepped into the middle of the bedroom, square in the center of the braided carpet. Her hands were cold, and when she looked down at them, she was surprised to see that she wasn't outwardly shaking. Inside, her heart was pounding and she suddenly found she could hardly breathe. The images in her head frightened her: blood and darkness, bright lights, and screaming sirens.
There was no way to communicate the feelings of terror-not without sounding like a three-year-old. She looked at the worried hazel eyes peering up at her from the couch, eyes in a face that looked afraid and hurt. Taking a deep breath, she moved over to the couch, put one knee on a cushion and lowered herself onto it, her other long leg still planted on floor next to the sofa. In a gentle voice, she said, "Let me see-are you in a cast or splint?"
Jaylynn shook her head. "No-I'm just dinged up a little so I have to use this support." With her right hand she unbuttoned her blouse and shifted the heavy canvas sling to the side. She flinched as she moved her arm and the sling. Closing her eyes, she took a deep, ragged breath. "Hurts like hell."
Jaylynn pulled her blouse open. Peering down, she missed the horrified expression on Dez's face and didn't look up until the dark-haired woman sank down beside her on the couch.
"Jesus, Jay . . . that looks terrible."
All around the collarbone, the skin was blue and purple with bruising, and a jagged two-inch gash was held together by three butterfly bandaids. It was swollen and puffy.
The blonde shook her head slowly, and Dez had to restrain herself from taking the smaller woman into her arms. The dark-haired woman sighed. "I don't even know how to touch you without hurting you."
With that, Jaylynn teared up. "I know-I know, and it's all my fault." A tear rolled down her cheek. Dez reached over and wiped it away. "I can't even button up my shirt by myself," she said, her voice cracking.
The tall woman scooted over right next to her. "Oh, JayÖit's not really your fault." She started with the lowest button and worked her way up, careful not to touch anything but the cotton material and the little white buttons. "Looks like you're going to be wearing shirts like this for a couple of weeks."
The rookie nodded in agreement. She sniffed. "I can't put my arms over my head. It hurts to turn my head quickly. I can't even blow my own nose very well." She shifted her arm back in front of her, looking forlorn and pained.
"Bet you don't do all that well with your Aikuchi knife for a while either."
Jaylynn smiled through her tears. "Dez, I just want you to hold me."
The dark-haired woman shrugged. "Okay." She shifted back against the sofa cushion and put both feet flat on the floor and her arms up along the back of the couch. "Arrange me how you want me-just so I don't hurt you."
The blonde stood and went to Dez's left side and sat next to her. She brought her legs up on the couch off to the left side and leaned into the bigger woman's chest, cradling her sore left arm carefully. Once the smaller woman got settled, Dez brought her left arm around her shoulders. "Is that okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." The blonde snuggled in close, the side of her face pressed against the flannel of the big woman's shirt.
They sat quietly for a moment until Dez suddenly sighed.
"What was that for?"
"I suppose I'm stuck doing that damn DARE class by myself again."
"Ohhh . . . never thought of that." She grinned. "Those kids like you. You'll do fine." She began to giggle. "It's kind of funny, you know. They listen to me, but they're transfixed by you. You'll have a captive audience."
"Yeah, right," she grumbled. In an irritated voice, she said, "How long before this will heal? And how long will you be off work?"
"Two to three weeks. My own doctor will be able to tell more when the swelling goes down. I stopped to see Lieutenant Malcolm, and he said I'm on desk duty starting tomorrow night."
"That'll be fun," Dez said, the sarcasm in her voice evident.
"I'm sure there's something I can do to help."
"Yeah, coffee patrol, sorting, filing, phone messages, and the like. It'll be very stimulating." She chuckled and shook her head, then after a moment, felt a cold chill pass over her. She wanted to speak her mind, tell Jaylynn that she didn't think the younger woman was cut out to be a cop. Ninety-nine percent of the time, she thought the rookie handled things just fine, but her small, slender stature was a distinct disadvantage. It was too easy for her to get hurt. Am I just being sexist, she wondered? Or size-ist? Half of the women on the force were Jaylynn's size, maybe only slightly bigger or taller. The rookie had smarts, that was for sure, and she had determination, but still, Dez couldn't help but feel constant apprehension, especially when they rode separately. More than ever, she decided that it was important that the two of them continue as partners, otherwise, who could she trust? There were few officers she had total faith in-and even then, errors and mistakes could happen. She couldn't stand to see anything more happen to this miraculous person who was now drowsing against her chest.
Jaylynn looked down at the last two reports on the desk. Once she filed them away, she was all caught up with every single task she had been assigned. The only thing good about being on desk duty was that she didn't have to carry every single item on her duty belt-just her weapon and cuffs. The difference in weight was amazing. She filed the second to the last report and thought about how it was going to be a very long night. Dez had been so right. After three days, the rookie had to admit that light duty was no fun. She ran out of computer updating to do after the last shift. With only one good hand, she couldn't do any variety of tasks, and now that she had organized, sorted, filed, tidied, and cleaned up everything within sight, there wasn't anything further to do, except wait to answer the phone, which, tonight, was just not ringing. Sunday nights were usually a crashing bore. Nearly two more hours to kill.
She let out a sigh just as Lt. Malcolm came into the room.
"Hey, Savage. You've got things looking pretty good around here."
She smiled at her superior. "Thank you, sir." She liked him a lot. He was always respectful, always calm, even when other officers were in serious trouble or had done something stupid beyond compare. So far, she had received only praise and constructive criticism from him, never any sort of reproval, despite the fact that in her less than a year with the department, she had been involved in a shooting, several physical tussles with suspects on the beat, a fire, and now a training accident. This was the first time she'd had to be taken off patrol though.
The gray-eyed man hitched up his trousers and swung a thigh up onto the edge of the desk, sitting comfortably half on and half off. "How long before you get released for duty?"
Jaylynn opened and closed her left hand, flexing the forearm muscles. She still couldn't move her arm away from her torso without pain. "Couple weeks, Lieutenant."
He nodded. "That's what I thought. I can't keep you busy, Savage. Unless you have an objection, I am going to reassign you to Lieutenant Finn over at the main station."
"Oh?" She was surprised. "What will I do there?"
"It's a lot busier, for one thing. Besides doing some phone detail, Finn can assign you to something, maybe an active case or two, maybe some follow-up on citizen complaints. I'm not sure what she'll want you to do, but I guarantee it'll be a lot more interesting than this." He gestured out at the empty room.
"I haven't minded, Lieutenant, really."
He smiled. "I know. But you'll start minding pretty quick when there's absolutely nothing to work on at all." He laughed and said, "I couldn't even assign you to paint the lockers. I just had Cameron do that when he broke his foot." He stood. "I'll get you back over here once you're healed up, okay?"
"You're to report to Lieutenant Denise Finn tomorrow at two. Your hours are going to change for the next couple weeks-two to eleven, Monday through Friday. You ever meet Finn?"
"She's a good leader. You'll like her. Just follow her instructions, and you'll get along great with her."
"Okay, thanks. Sorry about this, Lieutenant. I know this leaves you short."
"We'll get by. Reilly and Patterson both said they'd pick up a couple extra shifts, and I can move people around. We'll be all right through the end of the month." He stepped away, then turned back. "You want some coffee or something, Savage?"
"No, thank you." She gestured at a thermos on the desk. "I'm drinking tea right now."
He gave a curt nod and strode out into the quiet hall. She watched him leave, wondering how old he was. He reminded her a little of her stepfather-the light colored eyes, the calmness, the gentle disposition. But he was no softie. She had seen him upset, stern, eyes flashing, and being very direct with his officers. He was not someone she would want to disappoint either. Somehow, he had a way of making her want to do her very best, and she liked that about him. She respected the three sergeants who rotated on and off her shift, but she didn't feel that they cared quite as much about her well-being or her professional progress.
The phone rang, and as she picked it up, she looked at her watch. Nearly ten-thirty. She hoped this call would keep her busy for a long time.
Lieutenant Denise Finn was a solidly compact brunette who wore her dark blue pant suit and jacket well. Her shoulder length hair was swept off her forehead and held back by metal combs. She wore a rock of a wedding ring on her left hand. Jaylynn had already been clued in that Lt. Finn was married to a police captain who worked at the Minneapolis Police Department, and that one of her four children was a rookie on the Duluth force north of the Cities. Finn didn't look old enough to have an adult son. Jaylynn guessed the attractive woman's age to be less than 45, but she figured she was wrong.
The brunette crossed the room with quick steps and stuck her hand out. "Savage. Good to meet you. I've heard good things about you from Culpepper."
It took a brief second before Jaylynn realized the lieutenant meant Cowboy. As she released the strong, warm hand, she said, "Yes, ma'am. He's a great guy and an excellent cop."
Finn nodded. "That's what he says about you. Lt. Malcolm also speaks highly of you." She turned, making a gesture for Jaylynn to follow her, saying over her shoulder, "I don't know how you feel about investigations, but we've got too many things going on right now and not enough clerical help. I've got three detectives out with that dratted flu bug, and we've got two priority murder cases, both of them somewhat political. The heat is on."
She led Jaylynn into a cubbyhole of an office and pointed at the visitor's chair on the other side of the desk. The rookie sat, carefully arranging her sling so the arm of the chair didn't press against her. She looked around. The room was perhaps eight-by-ten and completely dwarfed by the metal desk and two battered file cabinets. On the only wall with open space three framed items hung: a diploma from the University of Minnesota, an advanced P.O.S.T. certification from the Peace Officer's Standards and Training school, and a photo of Finn reaching out to shake the hand of a familiar looking woman wearing a blocky reddish-orange colored dress.
Before Jaylynn could figure out who the other woman in the photo was, the Lieutenant smiled wickedly and said, "How do you like working with sexist, egotistical, and overly-cologned men?"
The rookie sensed a presence behind her and a deep voice she recognized said, "Now is that any way to refer to two of your best detectives?"
Dark-haired Tsorro sidled past Jaylynn's chair and moved into the room to stand next to the filing cabinet. Parkins slid by, too, saying, "Besides, boss, it's not me wearing all that smelly stuff."
Finn smiled up at them, then turned back to Jaylynn. "I hear you've met Tsorro and Parkins and that you've been interested in this case they caught-the Tivoli case. We've got a lot of clerical work and phoning to do. That's what I want to assign you to. You will work under the direction of these two. Basically, you're going to be communications central for them."
Jaylynn was having trouble holding back the grin that was bubbling up. She'd expected to sit out in the reception area or file police reports. Instead, it sounded like she was being given the opportunity to be junior investigator.
"Don't get too excited, though, Savage. You won't be doing any field investigation."
"Ah, Lieutenant," Tsorro said, "the little lady might want to come along on a few calls-you know, just to get the lay of the land."
Finn nodded. "That's fine. You guys make that decision. But Savage," she turned her attention back to the rookie, looking very serious, "you're a total greenhorn at this. I can't have you do anything, not make one move, without clearing it with the detectives or me. If you get a lead or even the smallest scrap of information, you bring it up immediately, okay?"
"Sure. No problem, Lieutenant."
"All right. The first thing you have to do-which I guarantee you will take most of the day-is get up-to-speed on what's happened since the night of October 13th. There's the initial reports-yours included." She smiled, her dark eyes looking warm and kind. "Look at the coroner's autopsy reports on both vics and the folders of photos . . . and they're pretty graphic, so I hope you have a strong stomach."
Jaylynn nodded. "I remember the scene quite clearly, Lieutenant."
"We've got some preliminary tox screens, but DNA hasn't come in yet." She turned her head up toward the detectives. "And we've got what, guys-over a hundred statements?"
Parkins nodded. "I think we're at 129 now."
"And about that many more to go," Tsorro grumbled. "Damn amazing how people make themselves scarce after something like this happens."
Finn gave a curt nod. "It'll take you all day to read the reports. But once you're current with what's gone on, you can start helping us track down the other witnesses. Hope you've got a tough ear because you're going to be on the phone a lot."
Jaylynn smiled at her temporary supervisor, then looked up at Tsorro and Parkins. The Italian man hunched his shoulders and took a deep breath. He looked tan, his hair well-oiled, and his suit impeccable. Parkins sighed and looked around, as though he expected the ceiling to fall in at any moment.
"Let's get some answers on this one, people."
The two men squeezed by Jaylynn's chair. She waited to rise until they had passed, but before she could get up, the lieutenant held a hand up. "One more thing . . ." She glanced out into the hall, then turned back to the rookie. "I was serious that my guys are a bit sexist. They don't direct it at a person, but they do seem a little small-minded at times. If they-Tsorro in particular-should say anything that offends you, I want you in my office immediately. I can rein him in any time."
She must have seen some confusion on Jaylynn's face because she went on. "Don't get me wrong, Savage. They're good cops and they really are gentlemen, but in the old school sense. You'll get the full respect befitting a lady, but some women officers have felt their competence is questioned-perhaps even denigrated."
"I've got to admit, that's nothing new to me."
Finn chuckled. "Don't sit out there stewing. If you need to blow off steam about anything they say, come in. I need to know what's going on, if you're unhappy, running into roadblocks, having difficulties with any aspect of the job, whether it's minor or major. Question their assumptions. Ask for clarifications. Be a pain in their hide all you want." Now she was grinning. "They need a little of that."
"You can count on it."
"You'll learn a lot, Officer. They really know their stuff. Make 'em share it." She winked. "Also, if you like, this is plainclothes division. You can wear your uniform, but you can also dress business casual if you'd rather."
"I'll stick with the uniform, Lieutenant. I think it would be better than wearing civvies which might give other officers the wrong idea.
Finn paused a moment, then nodded. "Okay. I see your point." She rose then, and Jaylynn did, too, following her out to the floor where she was assigned a desk right across from Tsorro's so that his phone could be slid over for her use. After some initial instructions and encouragement from Zorro and Tonto, she scooted up to the big desk and gazed at the stack of paperwork in front of her.
From across the room, Parkins said, "Want a little advice?"
She looked over, raising her eyebrows.
"Start at the beginning and work forward." He put a toothpick between his lips as he strode toward the desk and came to stand next to it. Putting a sizable thigh on the edge of her desk, he lowered himself and half-sat there, arms crossed, as he worked the toothpick with one side of his mouth and talked through the other side. "Re-read your own initial report, then look over the crime scene lab work. Examine the photos first, then the scene description and sketches, our reports, then the autopsy report. And finally, you've got a multitude of witness statements to review. The lieutenant was right. This'll take you the better part of the day." He patted the desk twice. "It'll keep you going into tomorrow I bet. Meantime, me and Zorro are off to track some of these reluctant witnesses at their workplaces. We'll check back in toward the end of the day, 'kay?"
She smiled. "Thanks. I'm going to do exactly what you said."
"I tried to stack things up in a linear progression-might've got it off on a few items, so watch for that."
"Okay, Parkins. I appreciate it."
He rose with a sigh. "May as well call me Tonto. Everyone else does." He shook his head wearily and walked back over to his desk, opened a drawer, and pulled out some keys. "Ready to roll?" Parkins said to his partner.
With a nod, Tsorro adjusted his suit, buttoned the jacket, and strolled past. "Later, doll," he called over his shoulder as he shot his cuffs.
Jaylynn snickered. She looked over her left shoulder to see the lieutenant staring out inquisitively from her small office. The rookie raised her eyebrows and shrugged. Finn nodded once, then looked back down at her paperwork, and Jaylynn opened the first folder of reports.
Hours passed, punctuated by a quick sandwich and an occasional call. Parkins had forwarded his phone to Tsorro's line one, which Jaylynn understood she would soon be answering. Line two calls were transferred internally from other desks or departments and were unlikely to be about this investigation, so she was to concentrate on line one. She figured she may as well start taking messages right away, since it would save the detectives time. When a Tivoli witness returned a previous call and stated he was ready to meet with the investigators, she put him on hold, and went to the lieutenant's office to ask what she should do.
"They're out in the field now, but they've got cell phones." Finn reached down and opened a drawer, pulled out a sheet of paper, and held it out for Jaylynn. The rookie entered the office and accepted the sheet. "This is a list of every detective's cell and pager. You'll get an occasional misdirected call, too, so if it sounds like something important, relay it out. When in doubt, just come ask me."
Jaylynn thanked her, and went back to the desk. She called Parkins, gave him the name and address for the witness, and was told that they could be to that location in twenty minutes. She rang off, picked up the other phone, and got back to the man on hold to explain. When she hung up, she picked up a legal pad and started a four column log: Caller's Name, Address, Phone Number, Notes.
She went back to the crime scene reports. The photos had been harrowing-and sad. Although the medical exam had fixed the man's chronological age at as much as a decade older, Tivoli had only been age 36. The medical examiner's report indicated that he already had the beginning of hardening of the arteries as well as lungs damaged by heavy smoking. Still, he probably had many years before him. She knew he didn't deserve to have his life end in such a brutal way.
Even worse was the girl's murder. Jaylynn gave an involuntary shudder when she thought of the terror the young teenager had known in those last few seconds of her life. The evidence and the M.E.'s report verified that Tivoli had been shot in the right side of the parietal region of his brain. He had been kneeling in the trailer at the time. The girl, in contrast, had been shot in the back as she opened the screen door to the snack shack. They knew this because she had been spattered with blood not her own, and she left a smeared footprint near the victim. She was in the shack at the time of the shooting, but had somehow managed to get up and to the door. Once hit by the .38 caliber bullet, she tumbled down the stairs, out onto the parking lot cement, and somehow got onto her hands and knees. Exactly fourteen feet, three inches, from the foot of the metal stairs, she had dragged herself, over into the shadows behind the snack stand. Her life ended there with a gunshot to very nearly the same spot in the back of her head, parietal lobe, right side.
Jaylynn came up for air and focused her bleary eyes up at the ceiling. A righthanded killer. That rules out about twelve percent of the U.S. population. She arched her back and shifted in her chair, then looked around the homicide squad room. After years of watching NYPD Blue and Homicide: Life on the Street, she wouldn't have been surprised to find herself in a cramped, dingy, dirty hole of an office. Instead, the large windows let in light. Clean walls were painted beige, the carpeting was relatively new, and the place actually looked downright cheery. But it was cramped. There were desks angled into every nook and cranny, on either side of the windows, next to the pipes that ran along one wall, and pushed right up against the large support pillars throughout the room. She sat in one of four desks placed end to end up the middle of the room. It was tight, but workable. At the moment, there were two other detectives in the room, working studiously at computers, she assumed compiling reports. She was surprised at how quiet it was.
She went back to the pile of reports before her and began examining pages and pages of copies of fingerprint lift cards. She discovered that the investigators had had a stroke of good luck. Someone they assumed to be the shooter had left partial prints on the inner and outer frame of the metal doorway, part of which was made all the more vivid by the fact that one finger had pressed against a speckle of blood. Most of the palm print was smeared as though the assailant had grabbed the frame and pulled himself through in a hurry, but it was a big palm print, presumably a man's. Jaylynn paged through the sheets of fingerprint information and the results received from the FBI's AFIS-the Automated Fingerprint Indentification System. The submissions had gone to the AFIS computers less than 24 hours after the murders, and the results were returned electronically one day later. Tivoli was a positive match. Seven other prints from inside the shack, including the bloody ones, were unknown. The prints for the Jane Doe were unknown. It was unlikely that AFIS would have had her prints on file. Jaylynn remembered learning that the feds had about thirty-five million prints, but unless this teenage girl had been arrested for something major and fingerprinted, she wouldn't show up in their records.
She was disappointed to see that the prints from the doorjamb were not identified. The preponderance of prints lifted from the scene came from Tivoli and the girl. There were also prints from the three young boys on the shelf that stuck out from the snack shack. She found the cards for Sai Vang, his cousin Xiong Vang, and the other boy, Pao Lee. Many other prints were taken from that shelf, but she speculated that the killer's weren't there. None of them matched the doorframe prints, and she thought it unlikely that he-or possibly she-had ever touched the shelf. The murderer had entered the shack intent on killing. He probably never approached the window.
Jaylynn looked at her watch. 6:20 already. She had been sitting in the same place for the better part of the last two hours. Her left shoulder throbbed, and she felt a deep ache somewhere in the vicinity of her collarbone. The skin there also itched, but she resisted the temptation to scratch, knowing that it would only cause problems, maybe even make it bleed. All her shoulder and neck muscles ached, so she stood and tried to stretch and move without causing any pain. While occupied with the reports, she had been able to ignore it. Now it was time to take some ibuprofen and move around a little. She strode down the hallway and filled up a cup at the water cooler.
She had just swallowed the pills and thrown away the paper cup when her pager went off. Looking at the display, she saw a familiar number and smiled. Holding her slinged arm close to her, she cut through a group of cops blocking her way in the hallway. From Tsorro's phone she dialed the number. "What's up?"
The reception was clear. "I get dinner break at 6:30. Want me to meet you there at the station?"
"Sure. Where are you now?"
"Turning into the lot."
Jaylynn smiled. "No wonder this sounds so clear. Meet you in the lunch room?"
The connection broke. She put the phone back on the cradle, and went to the lieutenant's office. "Do you mind if I take a dinner break, ma'am?"
A tired looking pair of brown eyes met hers. "I hate being called ma'am, Savage. Boss, Lieutenant, even sir-but ma'am?"
With a sheepish look on her face, Jaylynn said, "No problem, boss."
The lieutenant looked at her watch. "Good God. It's already half past six." She stood, grabbing the dark blue jacket off the back of her chair. "Go take dinner break. In fact, use your own judgement whenever you need your breaks. I have to leave by seven, but first I need to check in with the Captain. Lieutenant Graul will be here shortly. You'll report to him for the rest of your shift." She came around the desk. "You meet him before?"
Jaylynn shook her head.
"Quiet guy. He'll answer any questions you have. Won't take your head off if you ask something obvious. Come on. I'll walk with you toward the lunch room-that's where you're going, right?"
The lieutenant pulled her suit jacket on and adjusted the sleeves. "What do you think so far-of the Tivoli case, I mean." They turned and walked out into the squad room and toward the hall.
"Well, it seems to me that if we could figure out the Jane Doe's identity, we might have something to go on." She hesitated, and when the lieutenant didn't comment, she went on uncertainly. "But then again, Tivoli is an ex-con. I haven't read far enough to get into the interviews and investigation of his old associates, but I assume Tsorro and Parkins are hunting up that angle."
"Oh yeah. As you read on, you'll see that's being looked into. Got any hunches on motive?"
"Hard to say what the motive is. They were executed. Could be drug-related, gambling, old debts, something personal?"
The lieutenant nodded. "We're thinking it wasn't a professional job-they wouldn't have left fingerprints."
"I didn't think of that. Believe me, the whole case has got me very curious."
They reached the lunchroom door, and the lieutenant paused. "That's perhaps one of the most important qualities of a good investigator: curiosity. Talk about the case out loud to Tsorro and Parkins. Ask questions. Perhaps some odd angle or a small fact will jiggle loose, and it will give us something to go on. Fresh eyes are always an advantage."
Before Jaylynn had a chance to say anything, a six-foot tall, dark-haired woman ambled up.
"Dez!" the lieutenant said.
"Hey, Denise, how's tricks?"
"Good. Real good. You know Savage here, right?"
Dez nodded solemnly. "Been her FTO-at least until she went and had a close encounter of the tree kind."
Finn smiled. "I meant to ask you more about your injury, Savage, but I've been so consumed with paperwork today. I'll get it out of you tomorrow. Gotta run now." She reached over and patted Jaylynn's upper arm with the flat of her hand. "Keep studying, and I'll see you tomorrow." She turned and hustled off, and Jaylynn preceded Dez into the empty lunchroom.
The smaller woman glanced over her shoulder. "How do you know the lieutenant?"
"She was on patrol over in our sector when I first joined. We know each other pretty well. She and Ryan rode together sometimes. Then she made sergeant and got reassigned across town."
"She seems to know her stuff, and she's quite pleasant."
"Yeah. Denise has always been able to handle people well. That's probably how she has moved ahead like she has." The dark-haired cop pulled a chair out and lowered herself into it.
The room was small and claustrophobic and contained only two tables and eight chairs total. The counter sported the smallest and deepest sink Jaylynn had ever seen, and the tiny bit of counter top was completely covered with an ancient fakey wood colored microwave with silver trim. Next to all of that sat a huge Frigidaire. Somebody must have just tidied up, though, because the counter was clean, the sink empty of any dishes or food, and when the blonde opened the refrigerator door, things inside looked orderly. She rooted around to find her own lunch bag and took it over to the table. "What? No lunch for you?"
"Not hungry yet."
"How's the overtime shift going?"
"Quiet. Nothing much going on besides a little petty vandalism over at the junior high. What'd they give you to work on?"
Jaylynn's eyes brightened and she set her sandwich down on the lumpy paper bag. She swallowed quickly. "They're letting me work on the Tivoli murder! And Dez, it's really interesting-all the evidence and what they've done to try to track this killer down."
The dark woman nodded. "That'll be a real education. I hope you can help-and even if you don't, I sure as hell want them to find the bastard who did that."
Jaylynn took another bite, and with her mouth full, said, "No kidding."
Dez reached over and picked up a napkin, stretched a long arm out to blot mayonnaise from the corner of the smaller woman's mouth, then handed her the napkin.
Jaylynn took it, and they brushed hands. She looked up into shiny blue eyes, feeling her heart skip a beat. She chewed vigorously and swallowed. In a soft voice, barely audible, she said, "You are so sweet, Dez."
The tall woman rolled her eyes. "How many times I gotta tell you, I'm not sweet."
"You can say that all you want, but I'll believe what I know to be true."
"Yeah, right. Let's stick to business here, all right?" She bit back a smile and settled back into her chair, legs stretched out under the table, her hands clasped and forearms on the dark brown formica surface. "How's your shoulder feeling?"
"Oh, that's really business! For your information, it still hurts-not like hell-but it definitely hurts. Looks like you'll be riding alone for quite a while."
"That's what I figured. You still want me to come get you after work?"
"Absolutely. Or would you rather I walked home?" She grinned mischievously and took another bite.
"That's not what I meant. If you get off at eleven, the soonest I can get up here would be around 12:15. I thought maybe you might want to go home earlier."
"Nope. I don't mind hanging out until you come."
"What if I get a late call?"
Jaylynn looked into her paper sack. "I've got two more sandwiches in here and a candy machine down the hall. What more could a woman want?" She put her right hand on the blue-sleeved forearm on the table. "I swear, if they'd let me, I'd take all these reports with me and read until I fell asleep. It's just fascinating, Dez."
"That's just what we need-a foot tall stack of police reports in our already cramped quarters."
"Oh, no. It's way more than a foot tall. I'll bet it's going on two feet tall. And they still have piles of witnesses to interrogate."
"They question witnesses. Only suspects get interrogated."
"Whatever." She frowned. "Quit smirking at me. I'll get the lingo down."
Dez grinned and shook her head. "Yeah, that's my girl. I just bet you will."
The week passed swiftly for Jaylynn as she became familiar with all of the facts of the Tivoli case. The full tox screens came back-negative for both victims. Nothing unusual. She served well as Reception Central, scheduling interviews, taking information by phone, and relaying data to Tsorro and Parkins. She printed out motor vehicle records, requested credit bureau histories, and systematically checked every jurisdiction in the midwest for missing teenagers fitting the description of the Jane Doe. She traced information about Tivoli's co-conspirators and cellmates, and the detectives followed up everything local.
Finally, one day, as she sat sorting the mounds of paper and writing lists and charts to try to keep track of everything, she got so frustrated that she stomped into Lieutenant Finn's office and requested a few minutes of her time.
"Sure, Savage. What's up?" She motioned the rookie toward her visitor's chair across the desk.
"It's like this, boss. I am wasting hours of time here arranging and rearranging all this paper and trying to help Tsorro and Parkins stay organized. Why in the world doesn't the department use databases?"
The lieutenant looked at her, surprised. "We do." Now it was Jaylynn's turn to look startled. Finn went on. "But Tsorro and Parkins can't be persuaded to make a giant leap into the the 21st Century. You can't even imagine what I had to go through to get them to start carrying cell phones. For the longest time, they preferred getting paged and then stopping somewhere to call." She let out a sigh. "We have C.I. Techs to help them . . ." When she saw Jaylynn didn't understand, she said, "Criminal Intelligence Technicians-people who create the databases, follow the paper trails, sort the tips and records. But, oh no. The guys won't even think of it. They'd rather carry around a thousand scraps of paper." She rolled her eyes and leaned back in her chair.
Jaylynn sat for a moment. "Hmm . . . is there anything to stop me from creating a database, boss-for my own organizational use, I mean?"
The lieutenant shook her head. "Go ahead. If you can sell them on the idea, I will personally put in for a commendation for you." She shook her head slowly. "But you don't have a chance with them. I'm surprised they even watch TV."
Jaylynn laughed. She stood and moved toward the door. "Okay, boss. I am going to monkey with a database."
"Wait a minute . . ." Finn opened a drawer and pulled out a department directory and wrote a number down on a post-it note. "Call this woman. She's our best C.I. Tech, and she can give you an already created format to use."
"That would be great." The rookie accepted the slip of yellow paper. "I thought I'd have to start from scratch."
"Oh, no. We have used a good system for a few years. It'll keep track of all sorts of stuff-names, addresses, dates of birth, interview dates, general facts, tips, conviction records, driver's licence numbers, et cetera. It's really a great program, and you'll be able to get that awful stack of paper off the desk once you load the data. It'll help you keep track of what's missing from the interviews, too, and whenever you want, you can print out cross-referenced info from other databases like arrests, convicted felons, even property records. Instead of giving the detectives little slips of handwritten paper, you can print out what you need."
"All right," she said enthusiastically. "Thanks for the help."
"I don't know how much help it'll be, Savage." With a twinkle in her eye, she said, "The dinosaurs you're working with might take exception to it. Come see me if they give you a bad time."
Jaylynn returned to the desk and put the call through to the woman the lieutenant referred her to, and by the next day she was loading the data every chance she had. Despite her sore arm and slow typing, inside a week, the program was up and running. Once she had everything loaded that she could input, she pulled two print-outs: one of witnesses interviewed and the other of witnesses left to interview. Instead of the sheaf of dog-eared sheets of legal paper, she handed a total of 7 sheets to Parkins saying, "Here you go. This will be easier to read." She purposely did not mention the word "database."
He looked at the labeled print-outs, then at her. "Must've taken a while to type all this up."
She smiled. "It's all on the computer now, so you let me know anytime when you want a new list. I'll keep retyping it every single day."
"Good work, Savage. Thanks." He wandered off down the hall, and Jaylynn didn't think he looked upset at all. In fact, each day when she presented him with an updated version, he seemed quite pleased. After three days, Tsorro confronted her and demanded his own copy.
After nine days on the unit, she felt she had the entire investigation organized for anyone who came after her.
And every day, the ache in her collarbone abated a little bit more until one morning she woke up, and it didn't hurt to lift her arm until she got it up to chin level.
She scooted up in bed, her back against the headboard. "Look at this, Dez!" She lifted her elbow up, dropped it to her side, lifted it up again.
Her sleepy companion nodded, her eyelids at half-mast, then turned over and fell back asleep.
Jaylynn was jubilant. She took off the sling she had been struggling with every night and tossed it aside hoping she never had to use it again. She got out of bed and put on slippers and her warm emerald green terrycloth robe. As she wandered downstairs to the kitchen, she stretched and moved her stiff arm with glee, then got to work pulling together the ingredients for pancakes. Today, she felt like making them with some sort of fruit, but she couldn't find anything in the fridge except some Red Delicious apples that seemed a little too soft. She debated going to the store, but then decided cinnamon would have to do. She whipped up the batter without fruit and poured three circlets into a frying pan.
She poured maple syrup into another pan to heat, then got out eggs to scramble. For a moment, she almost took out extra eggs to make some for Dez, but then decided it would be better to wait until the tall woman made an appearance-which might not be for a while. Cracking eggs into a small Teflon fry pan and using a fork to whip and scramble them, she thought about how things had been going. She was worried about Dez. The dark-haired woman had almost seemed depressed lately. She tossed and turned half the night, and usually didn't settle down until dawn or later. The last couple of weeks Jaylynn had been rising hours before her taciturn partner. She looked at the kitchen clock. It was just before eleven a.m., and she knew she had fallen asleep around two, awakening only once just before seven when Dez began talking in her sleep and thrashing around. Jaylynn was surprised at how poorly the big cop was sleeping. She didn't seem to have any recollection of it when she was awakened-or at least she didn't acknowledge that she'd had a bad dream or anything like that.
Worst of all, at this rate, their schedules were going to be so different that she didn't think they'd get to spend much time together. It was bad enough that she was working Monday through Friday, two o'clock until eleven, while Dez worked three to midnight Wednesday through Sunday one week and Thursday through Sunday the next. She was also putting in a lot of overtime on patrol to cover the shortage of officers. The waking hours that overlapped were not many-at least not enough for Jaylynn.
She put a piece of bread in the toaster and picked up a fork to scramble the eggs again. She liked them nice and dry, with lots of salt and pepper. When the toast popped up, she flipped it onto a plate and scraped the cooked eggs on top of it, then added the three pancakes on the side. She poured the warm syrup into a small pitcher, and got herself a glass of milk.
Chewing on a piece of cinnamon-flavored pancake, she sat in the nook looking out the window into the backyard. Looks like snow. The clouds in the sky were thick, and everything in her view appeared just a little bit gray and dull. There was a stiff north wind. She could tell because all the branches on the trees were swaying to the right as if they were over-stretching.
Someone clunked down the stairs, and she hoped it might be Dez, but then she realized Dez rarely clunked when she went anywhere. Sure enough, it was Kevin. He entered the kitchen barefoot, his blond hair tousled, and wearing a royal blue pajama top with white sleeves and blue bottoms to match.
Yawning, he said, "Hey, Jay. What smells good?"
"Pancakes. Want some? I made a gallon of batter."
He yawned again. "Yeah. Thanks."
Jaylynn looked at him fondly. She could see why Tim was nuts about him. The guy even looked great in the morning with his hair standing on end. His eyes were nearly as blue as Dez's, and he had long, graceful eyelashes, making his eyes wide and dreamy. His white-blond hair was cut short, and he allowed about an inch of sideburns. High cheekbones, broad shoulders, and a narrow waist made him a beautiful man to look at. Jaylynn had known men this handsome before who were vain, self-centered, or cruel. Not Kevin. He had a kind heart. She would bet money that his mother had loved him to pieces. He spoke highly of his parents, and so did Tim. They'd obviously raised him well.
The batter in the pan sizzled as he poured it in. "How's your shoulder doing?" He slid into the chair across from her, appearing more awake than when he'd first walked in.
"It's lots better. See?" She raised her arm up, feeling the tightness in her front deltoid and pectoral muscles. "It's not back to normal yet, but it's healing." She loosened her robe and pulled the collar of her t-shirt down to reveal the reddened scar from the gash on her collarbone. "That doesn't hurt at all anymore."
He inclined his head. "Amazing how fast the body can heal." Holding out his hand, he pointed to a scar in his palm near the base of his little finger. "I was cutting potatoes on a utility board in a kitchen once and whacked this all the way to the bone. Missed the tendon-just hurt like hell. I couldn't close my fist for weeks. And then all of a sudden, out of the blue, it didn't hurt anymore and never hurt since. It seems like forever . . . and then it's over." He rose and flipped his pancakes, then returned to the table.
"I think it might take me a while to get the flexibility back. The doctor said I'd have to do a couple sessions of physical therapy to learn some exercises to do. I see somebody for that on Monday. You want me to whip you up some eggs?"
"Nah. Pancakes will be enough. Where's Tall, Dark, and Dangerous?"
"Do you ever call her by her name?"
He grinned. "I just like to tease you. What a contrast you two make. Short and tall. Light and dark. Rowdy and quiet."
"Hey, I'm not rowdy. I'll have you know I go hours each day sitting in one place, concentrating."
He shook his head and smiled at her. "Face it, Jay. You're an extrovert-and big time, at that. And she's an introvert. It's a nice balance . . . like Tim and me. I let him make all the noise and do all the talking. She does the same thing with you."
"What's the appeal for you then, speaking from the introvert's point-of-view, that is."
"The show, of course. Extroverts are very entertaining. And fortunately, you need us introverts or else you wouldn't have an audience. They're matches made in heaven." He got up and flipped four pancakes onto a plate, then opened the refrigerator and took out the butter, which he sliced off in cold chunks and set to melting on the hot cakes. Carrying the plate over to the table, he said, "Speaking of extroverts and introverts, Bill and Sara have been real good sports lately, but how long do you think they'll stay, beings that they're cramped up in that little room?"
Jaylynn nodded. "I've thought of that, too. I should give them back my room-that is, if Sara could stomach it after what happened last summer. I have thought of asking Dez if we could move over to her place, but whew! Her place is smaller than small-more like miniature. I'd probably drive her crazy. It's really only big enough for one."
"I know Tim doesn't want to move." Kevin poured the syrup out so fast that some splashed onto the handle of his fork. He got up and dropped it in the sink, then opened the silverware drawer and got a clean one. Returning to the table, he said, "I don't want anyone to have to move. I like all of you." He cut into a pancake and guided a large wedge into his mouth. "Mmmm . . . I so love good pancakes."
Jaylynn rose and went to the sink to rinse her plate and put it in the dishwasher. She picked up the bowl containing the batter, intending to put it in the fridge, but Kevin spoke up. Though his mouth was full, she understood him to say, "Leave that, will you? Tim will want some, too." He finished chewing and swallowed. "Leave it all. I'll clean up. We're going to work on some kind of double baked cake creation he has to make for class. Ever seen anyone so compulsive? He tries out the recipe here before they do it at school."
"I don't blame him for not wanting to screw up."
Kevin made a face and shook his head. "He's not gonna screw up. It's a class on experimenting with food. The whole goal is to make sure you have problems so that you can try oddball things. I tell you, he's just compulsive."
"Who's compulsive?" The red-haired man rounded the corner, dressed in Nikes, sweat bottoms, and a white t-shirt.
Kevin smirked. "The valet at the restaurant."
"That weasel?" Tim said. "He's too dumb to be compulsive."
Jaylynn winked at Kevin and headed out of the kitchen. She tickled Tim on the way by, then scooted out the swinging door before he could recover. Heading upstairs to take a shower, she decided she had never been quite as happy ever before as she felt lately. It was a good feeling to have.
Jaylynn sat at the desk in the crowded squad room, happy not to be wearing the sling anymore. She flexed her hand and moved her forearm and shoulder gingerly whenever she thought of it. By Monday, when she was to see the physical therapist, she hoped to have increased the flexibility even more.
It was nearly five p.m., so there was a lull in the squad room due to change of shift. Only one of the secretaries was left for the moment. Tsorro and Parkins had been out following up leads on two old cases as well as talking to various witnesses to the Tivoli murder. Jaylynn shook her head. They were getting nowhere-and not even fast. Nobody had noticed anything out of the ordinary. A few people had heard what they thought was a car backfiring during the band performance, but that didn't help any since they already had a solid time of death for the two victims.
She went over the case in her head. At approximately 7:42 p.m. on that Saturday night, someone had confronted Tivoli in the snack shack. He-she thought of the assailant as male-forced Tivoli onto his knees, facing the south side of the trailer. The murderer was almost certainly right-handed. He shot the bald man in the head, and in the process got some blood on his hands and probably also on his clothes. The physical evidence indicated that he then turned and fired through the screen door. The bullet hit the girl in the back, and she fell to the ground at the foot of the metal stairs that led up into the snack shack. The killer slammed through the screen door, grabbing the metal doorframe on the way out. He left fingerprints and a partial palm print along with a smear of Tivoli's blood. He followed the girl, who was crawling on the cement, trying to get away, and put a bullet into the back of her head. After that, he left, but no one knew how. Nobody saw anything, and he disappeared off the face of the earth. The three Hmong boys had come upon the murders moments later. She and Dez arrived on the scene two minutes after the 911 call and secured the scene.
What were they missing? Better yet, who were they missing? Someone had to have seen something. Who was the girl? Jaylynn knew that the Jane Doe had been hanging around the snack shack for a couple days because witnesses reported seeing her. The investigation of Tivoli's apartment had turned up a travel bag of size two clothes that contained some cheap jewelry and teen magazines as well as her fingerprints. The girl had been with him, not an innocent bystander who just happened to come by at the wrong time. The thought occurred to the rookie that without more information, more evidence, they might not ever solve this crime. I can't let that happen. That girl, that man-they deserve to have their killer brought to justice. She closed her eyes only to have the scene swim up in her memory. The girl was such a little slip of a thing . . . she opened her eyes and exhaled quickly, shuddering, then looked out toward the light shining in the window. Whoever did this must be punished . . . .
"Hey, sweetie pie."
Jaylynn wheeled around in her chair to find Tsorro, trailed by Parkins, heading her way. Tsorro had never once called her by her name, but he had graced her with every sickeningly sweet endearment she had ever heard.
"DNA results are in, sweet bellissima." Tsorro sounded excited.
Parkins held a folder up in the air as he moved past his partner and into Lt. Finn's office.
Tsorro's dark eyes sparkled. "Wanna take a run down to the M.E.'s office with us and find out what the hell it all means?"
She was up on her feet in a shot. "Sure." She looked at her watch. "But don't they close? It's after five."
"Nah-doesn't matter to The Corpse. He's there until late every day, even Sundays."
Parkins came out of Finn's office. "We're clear to go. C'mon Jaylynn."
She hustled over to the coat rack, her forehead furrowed as she wondered who "The Corpse" was. She'd never been to the medical examiner's office and didn't know who worked there or even where it was located.
Parkins headed off down the hall, but Tsorro stopped to hold her heavy, down jacket for her and help her get her sore arm in. He patted her on the back once he slipped the coat over her shoulders and said, "Parkins has no manners."
Jaylynn didn't know what to say to that. She pulled her gloves from her pocket as she turned to face the dark-haired man. "Thanks for the help. Won't be long before my shoulder is totally back to normal."
"That's good to hear."
She followed Tsorro out the squad room door, watching from behind as he adjusted the collar of his long coat. They stopped at the door, and he buttoned his coat, all the while gazing out the glass door. An unmarked blue sedan pulled up. "That's our ride, doll. Let's go."
It was cold outside, and the chilled air immediately got to her. She was glad to be wearing her warmest winter coat and gloves, but her legs, even in wool duty pants, felt the frigid air immediately.
During the short trip over to the medical examiner's office, she took the opportunity to ask a few questions. She found out that "The Corpse" was the nickname for Leland Corsican, the autopsy specialist the detectives liked the most. He had worked with the two investigators for the better part of three decades. Rather than rely on in-house police expertise, they almost always turned to him for a more precise scientific interpretation of DNA or autopsy reports. She asked for the report that Parkins had in the front seat next to him, and from her spot in the back seat, she pored over the paperwork. She had spent time in Police Academy learning about DNA. It didn't come easy to her. Vague remembrance of chemistry and biology classes in high school didn't help much, and she found the concepts difficult to remember-too many acronyms and oddly spelled words. She couldn't even remember now what the D and N stood for, though she knew the A was for acid, and that DNA were microscopic strands, like a zipper, that revealed hereditary characteristics in every human being. She had learned that with even an almost microscopic sample of blood or tissue, a person's DNA "fingerprint" could be determined.
She looked at the charts of smudgy marks attached to the complicated report. One chart was labeled with Tivoli's name, a second with "Fetus Doe 01-02A," and the third with "Jane Doe 01-02." She frowned. Arraying them in front of her as best she could, she compared them to one another. Before she could say anything further, Parkins wheeled into the lot and slammed on the brakes.
"Let's go find out what The Corpse has to say, honeybun," Tsorro said. He was out of the car and opening her back door before she could get the report put back in order and into the folder. He waited while she organized the paperwork, then she got out and followed them into the building.
When they arrived in the lab, she saw that Leland Corsican's nickname was rather appropriate. He appeared to be in his late sixties and was a gaunt, cadaverous looking fellow wearing a blue dress shirt and a wrinkled white lab coat. His coloring was nothing less than gray-gray with dark circles under his eyes. His rheumy blue eyes watered, and she watched as he pulled a folded handkerchief out of the voluminous lab coat pocket and dabbed his eyes, then returned the hanky to his pocket. He stood to the side of the room, facing them, from behind a free-standing counter, which was covered with test tubes and beakers. There were metal tables in the center of the room, but none of them contained a body.
When "The Corpse" heard them enter, he looked up, startled. "Gentlemen . . . ." He nodded toward her, "And ma'am. I do not believe I have had the pleasure . . ."
Tsorro made introductions and Jaylynn smiled and said, "Nice to meet you, sir."
He made no move to shake her hand, instead plunging his hands into his pockets and stepping around the counter to follow them. They walked from the lab, down the hall, and around the corner to a large window-less office. A desk, table, and four visitor's chairs sat in the middle of the room, and all around, on every stretch of wall were bookcases, file cabinets, and shelves stacked and packed full of books, papers, notebooks, and folders. Next to the desk on a wide table sat a printer, a FAX machine, and some other device that Jaylynn assumed was a small copy machine. The desk was piled at least six inches high with papers that, when seated, formed an upside-down U around the sides and back of the M.E.'s desk. One open space perhaps two feet square gave Corsican enough room to write, but otherwise, there were no clear surfaces in the room.
He gestured to them to have seats, then went around the desk and sat in an executive-type tall black chair. Jaylynn sat in a chair near an overburdened bookshelf literally stacked to the ceiling. She looked up, and she could swear that the books and papers on the shelves swayed ever so slightly. It made her nervous.
Corsican reached a hand out over the desk, looking at Jaylynn. She froze, then realized he wanted the folder she held in her hand. Taking it from her, he opened the manila folder and spent less than a minute perusing the reports. "Hmm. This one's simple." He closed the folder and handed it back to the blonde, then turned to the men. Pulling his handkerchief out, he dabbed at his eyes, then stuffed the hanky back in his pocket. "I know you fellows figured on this being a happy little family-father, mother, and unborn baby. But I got bad news for you. The DNA shows otherwise, though they are all related."
Jaylynn watched the detectives out of the corner of her eye as her excitement rose. Ah, that's why the DNA smudge patterns looked funny to me. They're similar! And they're similar because they share some of the same genes.
Tsorro had a puzzled expression on his face, but his partner was nodding. Parkins said, "So Tivoli is related to the girl, but he did not father the fetus?"
"Exactly." The gaunt man sat back in the chair and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Well, I'll be damned," the Italian said. "What is he then-the girl's father? Uncle? Grandpa?"
Corsican said, "Looks like they did enough calculations to verify a 99% probability that Mr. Tivoli was Jane Doe's birth father."
Tsorro shook his head. "Well, shit. So the kid sees her papa shot in the head, then gets chased down herself." He looked over at Parkins and sighed. "At least we have a new lead. All we need to do now is find out about the kid."
Parkins was shaking his head slowly. "I gotta bad feeling here, Zorro. We never turned up a single scrap of evidence pointing to Tivoli having a child. No kid ever visited him in prison."
"Kinda reminds me of that one case a couple of years ago," Parkins said.
The three men began to discuss an old case they had resolved with the help of DNA. Jaylynn stopped listening to the men's conversation as her mind spun through investigative possibilities. Canvass every public school in St. Paul? Go through Tivoli's bank records and see if he ever paid child support to the girl's mother? Check with the county child support enforcement people? Her thoughts were halted when the three men rose. She stood, glancing up at the teetering stack of books and documents on the shelves over her head, then eased her way back.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Corsican-"
He interrupted her by raising a hand and shaking his head from side-to-side. "No need for formalities here. I'll call you Savage-you can call me Corpse like the rest of them do."
"Okay, sure. Thanks." She started to move as though she would reach for his hand, but Parkins hip checked her. She frowned and shifted past the chair, dodged the bookcase, and squeezed out the door in front of the two detectives.
"See you guys around," the M.E. said.
"Yeah," Tsorro said. "We owe you. Again."
"No problem. You guys pay your debts."
They strode silently to the front door, and Parkins grabbed the bar and pushed, sliding the heavy metal door open for Jaylynn to exit. He followed her and Tsorro brought up the rear. When they got to the car, Parkins opened the back door for the blonde and said, "Savage, I apologize for pushing you out the door in there. I figured you didn't know the unwritten rule at the M.E.'s office."
She had not yet gotten into the sedan and stood, one leg in the car and one leg out. "What do you mean?"
"Never shake hands with those guys." He must have been able to see that she did not understand. "The Corpse just walked out of the lab. Who knows what he's been touching-dead people, blood and guts, bacteria, germs. You never shake their hand."
"Oh. I see." She sat back onto the car seat and pulled her other leg in. It occurred to her that there were a lot of rules-written and unwritten-that she had no clue about in the world of homicide investigation.
Dez sat on the couch in her apartment, Shawn Colvin's new CD playing in the background. She had just finished cleaning the bathroom, and now her apartment was spotless. She looked at her watch. Six-thirty p.m. Picking up the phone, she dialed the phone number and extension for Jaylynn. Instead of the blonde, however, someone else picked up and informed her that the rookie was out on a call.
"What do you mean 'out on a call'? She's on desk duty."
There was a pause and Dez could hear a crinkling of papers, and then the female voice said, "I don't know where they went, but she and the detectives are on a call. That's all I know."
"Okay, thanks." Dez hung up the phone feeling a vague sense of unease.
She rose and went into the bathroom to look out the window there. She had a good view of the street in front of the duplex. Right now, the streetlights blazed and it was almost full dark, though she couldn't see any moonlight at all. She hunched down and looked up at as much of the sky as she could see. She didn't think the moon would be visible at all tonight. Earlier in the day, heavy clouds had moved in, and the forecast was for snow. As she watched, an oversized kid on a bike wheeled past on the sidewalk, and a fluttering around him caught her eye. Staring over at the streetlight, she saw the flecks clearly. Snow. The first snow of the season.
The tall woman stood and ran her hands through her long, dark hair. If Jaylynn was with Zorro and Tonto, she was probably just fine. She just hoped that they hadn't cracked the case and gone off to collar the bad guy, the rookie in tow. The thought of that made her shudder. Parkins wouldn't be that stupid . . . would he?
Staring at the angry face in the mirror, she grabbed a brush and raked it through her hair, then reached up and worked the thick mane into a French braid. She stared down at the scale on the floor near the big Jacuzzi tub. She couldn't resist and stepped up on it. She let out a sigh. 186. She was 28 pounds heavier than when she had competed in the bodybuilding competition earlier in the summer. She was carrying a minimum of ten pounds she didn't want. No wonder all her clothes were tight.
When she stepped off the scale, disconsolate and disgusted, she looked at her watch again. Six-forty. What was she going to do for the next four-and-a-half hours until Jaylynn came home safe?
Moving out of the bathroom, she returned to the couch and picked up the mystery she was reading. Maybe she could kill time with a good book.
The blonde reached out and touched the blue sleeve of her big partner. They sat in the break room at the main precinct at Dez's dinner break. "What are we going to do about Thanksgiving?"
Dez turned and looked at Jaylynn with a frown on her face, and the blonde almost laughed because the look on Dez's face said it all-Thanksgiving? What do you mean-
Before Dez could respond, Jaylynn rolled her eyes. "You know, Thanksgiving? The fourth Thursday in November when family and friends come together to celebrate their love for God, country, and each other?"
Dez gave her a level gaze. "I'm perfectly aware of the tradition of Thanksgiving." She looked at her watch. She had twenty minutes before she needed to be back in the car and on patrol. "What's your point?"
"Listen, Miss Anti-Holiday, Turkey Day is coming up in three days. What are we going to do?"
Dez shrugged. She didn't much care about the holiday. Most years she either worked or hung out helping Luella host her rag tag family. She hadn't given it any thought this year.
"Dez! We've got four invitations. Do you plan on attending all four and eating until we die of surfeit?"
"Where do you come up with this stuff? What the hell is surfeit?"
Jaylynn jabbed her in the ribs, but she couldn't get any pressure due to the thick protective vest the dark-haired woman wore. "This is no fair. You deserve a good poke in the ribs for that."
In a low voice, the big cop said, "Guess you'll have to wait until we're in private-and unclothed." Dez watched a flush of pink creep up into the rookie's face, and she found herself grinning in response.
"Listen, you can avoid the question all you want, but we have to make a decision-unless you want to go to two and me to the other two."
"What? I don't wanna do that. I'm not interested in any of them."
"Have you got a clue who's invited us?" The dark haired cop frowned. "You haven't paid the slightest bit of attention lately, have you?"
"Luella. Luella and Vanita invited us."
"That was a no-brainer!"
Dez searched her memory. Nope, nothing coming up. With a guilty look on her face, she mugged a funny face and shrugged again.
"You can remember every single car on the Hot List, but you can't think who might invite us to Thanksgiving?"
"I'm pretty sure it wasn't my mother."
"Good thinking." Jaylynn ticked off the names on her fingers. "Luella and Vanita. Kevin and Tim. Julie and the kids. Crystal and Shayna."
"What? Julie asked us to Thanksgiving?" She hadn't heard from Ryan's widow for several weeks.
"Dez! She called last weekend. I left a note on the table."
The big cop shook her head. "Never saw it."
"It's still sitting there, right on the kitchen table along with several other notes." She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "So what should we do?"
"Run away to Duluth?"
"Okay, then, drive to Duluth?"
Jaylynn gave her a withering look. "Will you be serious?"
Dez sighed. She hated holidays. It was so much easier if she just worked, but even so, they still had time before shift started this coming Thursday to make an appearance somewhere. "Do you have a preference?"
"Don't tell the guys, but I don't have any desire to get all dressed up for their Gay Soiree. They are having a formal luncheon, and Tim is doing all the food. He's been cooking and baking and doing origami with napkins all week. All those fussy gay guys will be there . . . I could do without all that pressure." Dez made a snorting sound. She was in total agreement with the rookie. Jaylynn went on. "Crystal and Shayna are hosting friends and various parts of both of their families, and I could do without all that Latino versus African energy and everyone arguing about everything."
Dez smiled and gave a little nod. Crystal's family was a very opinionated bunch, and Shayna's crew weren't far behind. They all liked to argue-and with great volume, too. It always sounded like fighting to Dez, though she had to admit that there was also genuine affection between various members of each clan. Still, she had no desire to try to eat at a table where everyone shouted at once. She looked to the side at the serious look on the blonde's face. When Jaylynn was thinking hard, she got a frown on her face and a little furrow of wrinkles just above her eyebrows. She looked so cute that Dez longed to reach over and take her into her arms-but of course, that was not an option, not when she could hear voices out in the hall and footfalls on the stairwell.
Hazel eyes met hers thoughtfully, and Jaylynn took a deep breath. "So it's down to Julie or Luella, and if you want to know the truth, I vote for Luella. Even if Vanita's little squirt grandkids come, it'll still be a more peaceful day."
Dez arched an eyebrow. "Luella, huh? My choice, too. We haven't seen Vanita for a while, and I'd like to."
"Okay, then. It's settled. You call everyone and-"
"Oh, no. I hate doing that."
"Well, I had to field all the calls, why can't you call 'em all back?"
"I hate social engagements."
"It's not so bad-come on, admit it."
Dez refused to admit anything. She crossed her arms and looked away. She thought that having obligations to other people was often a big pain. Expectations-another "E" word that she didn't like. She never knew what to say at parties, so she was glad they weren't going to Tim and Kevin's event or to Crystal and Shayna's. She wouldn't mind seeing Julie and the kids, but some of Ryan's family might be there, and it was just too hard still. She didn't want to think about him-didn't want to deal with the feelings his memory brought up. She was relieved that a group of officers entered the break room then. She half-listened to the good-natured bantering for a few minutes, responding to a few comments they directed her way. Looking toward Jaylynn, she knew they would have to resolve this issue soon. She changed the subject. "You told me the P.T. appointment went great, but did they say when you go back to work?"
Jaylynn nodded with enthusiasm. "The therapist is going to work with me two more times, and then it looks like I am all set for next Wednesday." Dez accepted the information without comment. "I'll miss Tsorro and Parkins."
"You will, huh?" Dez held back a smile. "You've enjoyed being coddled and called 'Dollhead' and all?"
"He's never called me 'Dollhead'! But he does use a lot of goofy endearments and Italian words that I don't even know the meaning of. He doesn't mean anything by it. I've grown to like working with Tsorro, and you know what? Parkins is really something. He looks like this cloddy, chubby duffer-but he's not. He's very astute. Doesn't miss much at all."
"Hmm. If you say so."
"What? You don't believe me?"
The dark-haired cop shrugged. "I know they close a lot of cases."
"Now you know why. They do a good job. They may be comical looking, but they're effective."
Dez checked her watch, then stood and scooted her chair back. "I better get back out there."
Jaylynn looked at her own watch and stayed seated. "I've got a few minutes left. See you shortly after midnight?"
"Just think, starting tomorrow, I can drive myself to and from work."
Dez reached an arm out and patted the rookie on the shoulder, then gave her a wink. "Later." She strode across the room and out the door, never looking back.
The blonde's eyes followed her until the tall cop turned the corner and disappeared. I can't believe how lucky I am. I just can't believe it.
Thanksgiving morning dawned cold and clear, with a silvery layer of frost on the yards all around the house on Como Lake. Jaylynn looked out the window into the early morning quiet. She had slept well, but Dez had been restless, so she let the bigger woman sleep. Creeping out of bed, the blonde slipped into some insulated warmup pants, a heavy sweatshirt, and running shoes. She headed downstairs for some orange juice, then slipped out the back door and walked around to the front of the house, across the street, and down the slope that led to the paved paths around the lake.
The air was so chilled that she could see her breath. She stepped onto the path, grateful that it was clear of ice. It hadn't snowed much so far after all, but it wouldn't be very much longer before ice and snowdrifts prevented her from running outside. That was one of the things she disliked about Minnesota. Even when the jogging path was clear, sometimes it was just too cold to run outdoors. And a workout just wasn't quite the same on a treadmill in a health club.
Shivering, she moved into a light jog, pumping her arms and letting her body loosen. Halfway around the lake, at about the three-quarter mile mark, she felt warm and her muscles moved effortlessly. She slipped into a faster, steady rhythm, legs stretching out and flying over the smooth concrete. By the time she had run for twenty minutes, her mind and body were in sync, and she no longer even noticed her surroundings. She strode smoothly, at about a nine minute mile pace, and her thoughts turned to her reticent partner. She was still worried about her. She couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, but she also couldn't figure out a single way to subtly broach the subject without seeming to pry or poke around in Dez's private thoughts. She was sure the dark-haired woman would not appreciate that.
She moved to the side of the path to pass a woman pulling a red wagon. Two tired looking girls, very well bundled in pink coats and swathed in bright-colored scarves and winter hats, sat motionless. Jaylynn moved past them, her warm breath emerging from her mouth in white gusts.
I don't think I have ever been happier in my entire life while feeling more on edge. Something doesn't feel quite right. For the remaining laps around the lake, she puzzled over that, but she was unable to explain her uneasiness.
When she returned to the house, she found Dez sitting in the kitchen, elbows on the rickety table, with a cup of hot tea in front of her. The kitchen felt like a hothouse compared to the brisk air outside, and she broke out into a sweat before she even got the door shut.
"Hey, sweetie," she said to the big woman as she came to stand next to her. She leaned into the dark-haired woman and put her arm across her shoulders. Stooping down, she placed a soft kiss on the pale forehead. "How'd you sleep?"
Dez shrugged. Her arm came up and wrapped around the smaller woman's waist and she leaned her head into the warm body next to her. "You're up early."
"Yeah, I needed to run."
"Shoulda got me up."
Jaylynn pulled away and went to the cupboard for a bowl. "Seemed like you needed your sleep." Dez didn't respond. When Jaylynn looked down, the big woman was staring out the window. "You want some cereal?"
"No, thanks. Tea's good for now."
The blonde gathered up the bowl, silverware, Rice Crispies, milk, and a banana and sat across from Dez. She set to work slicing up the fruit to put in her cereal. "What have you got planned for this morning?"
"Not much." The tall woman glanced at her wristwatch. "It's nine a.m. We go over to Vanita's in three hours."
Jaylynn nodded. "I probably should do a load of laundry-"
"Already in. I put in a dark load a bit ago."
The blonde smiled and reached across the table to grasp a big hand. "Thanks for doing that. You're spoiling me."
"Nah . . . you were already spoiled rotten."
The warm affection in the big woman's voice was a relief to Jaylynn. She looked up into the tired eyes and puffy face and without thinking said, "Should I be worried about you, Dez? You seem so exhausted lately."
Like a shade being pulled down over a window, the dark-haired woman's open look changed and she released Jaylynn's hand and looked away, out the frosty pane to the backyard. "I'm fine."
Jaylynn busied herself with her cereal. She knew now that something was wrong, but she decided there was no use pressing it. "Are you sure Luella didn't want us to bring something over?"
Piercing blue eyes turned back to her. "She won't let us bring anything-you should know that. Thanksgiving is one of her favorite holidays. So she'll have whatever she needs."
"Okay, just checking." She shoveled in another big mouthful of crispy cereal and banana slices.
"Maybe I should go back to my place and pick up a few things."
Jaylynn nodded. "I've got some chores to do around here that'll keep me busy. I am really thankful that we get a late start today at four."
Dez rose and carried her tea mug to the sink. "Yeah, that works out well." She turned and headed out of the kitchen, and Jaylynn could hear the creaking of the steps as the dark-haired woman went upstairs. She finished her cereal and cleaned up after herself, wondering when Tim and Kevin would descend upon the kitchen. Their Thanksgiving party didn't start until three p.m., so they could afford to sleep in. She crammed the milk carton into the bulging refrigerator and put her dishes in the sink, then headed upstairs where she found Dez lying on her side on the bed, fast asleep. She picked up an afghan and spread it over the tall woman, grabbed up her journal and a pen, and crept out of the room, leaving her partner to sleep.
On her last night in homicide, it was with some reluctance that Jaylynn bid farewell to Tsorro and Parkins when they went off duty at six. Her collarbone was healed, and the physical therapist had given her a clean bill of health. She was cleared to return to patrol the next day. She felt real regret about not being instrumental in solving the Tivoli murders, and she told the two detectives that.
"Don't worry about it, hon," Tsorro said. "We'll keep working on it, and when we track down the bastard who did this, you'll be the first to know."
She shook hands with both of the detectives.
Parkins patted her on the shoulder. "Thanks for your help, Savage. You really sped things up. I bet you saved us days-maybe weeks-of paperwork."
She smiled. "That's good to know. I just wish I could be here when you crack the case."
Lieutenant Finn came out of her office just then. Some days she was gone for the day by five or so, but tonight she had stayed late. She joined the three of them. "Savage, thanks for the good work you've done. You can come do desk duty here any time you're injured."
The two men chuckled as Jaylynn shook her head. "I think I've had enough injuries to last a few years, thank you very much." She flashed a bright smile. "But I've learned a lot. I appreciate all the three of you have done for me."
The lieutenant shook her hand and gave her a wave, and the rookie watched her follow the detectives out of the squad room.
The rest of the evening passed slowly. She made several calls to follow up on small details with witnesses, and she put the database in order. She was well aware that after she left, the guys wouldn't update it again, so she reformatted the whole document, leaving lots of space between the 188 people listed. She printed out two clean copies, one for each detective. She knew they would keep notes all over this final copy, and maybe it would help them after all.
When eleven p.m. rolled around, she tidied everything up, returned all files to Parkins' desk, and said goodbye to Lieutenant Graul and some of the other cops who happened to be in the squad room. Without fanfare, she strolled down the long hallway to the door, which led to the parking lot.
It was bitingly cold, with a stiff north wind whipping at her. She hustled to her Camry and wrenched the door open with difficulty. As she squeezed in, the blowing wind nearly shut the lightweight door on her leg. She sat shivering for a moment, then looked at her watch. Only about an hour and Dez would be off duty. Jaylynn looked forward to it. In the last few days, her chest and shoulder had finally started to feel more like normal. She longed to make some popcorn and cuddle up on the coach with her partner, and now she wouldn't have to worry about feeling kinked up or twisting wrong. The last couple of nights she had slept more comfortably, too. It made a huge amount of difference in her energy level.
She started her car and sat, waiting for the motor to run for a minute and heat up. A peppy pop rock song was just ending on the radio. She closed her eyes and inhaled, thinking of snuggling up close to Dez, running her hands over soft skin, kneading lean muscle, kissing her neck, her mouth, her-she opened her eyes and took another deep breath. Suddenly it was warmer in the car than she expected. Whew! I think I've missed making love. Throwing the car into gear, she backed out of the lot and headed toward home.
Sometimes she didn't understand things at all. Sara had asked her recently what exactly it was about Dez that drew her to the tall woman. She was at a loss to explain. She just had a craving to be with her, to talk with her, to touch her, to be touched. Nobody had ever made her feel so cared for or nurtured. She liked how the big cop made her feel.
A new song came on the radio
Please forgive me if I act a little strange, for I know not what I do. Feels like lightning running through my veins, every time I look at you, every time I look at you . . .
She smiled and turned onto University Avenue. Yes, this guy's got it! It does feel just like lightning in my veins. She headed down the dark street, passed the State Capitol, all lit up with spotlights, then wheeled by all the closed up office buildings and stores.
Help me out here all my words are falling short, and there's so much I want to say.
Want to tell you just how good it feels, when you look at me that way.
Throw a stone and watch the ripples flow, moving out across the bay, like a stone I fall into your eyes, deep into that mystery, deep into some mystery . . .
She turned the song up and drove along, humming. She didn't understand Dez, and she didn't always understand herself. What she did know was that she wanted to make a life with Desiree Reilly. She hoped and prayed that her partner felt the same way, and for a moment she allowed herself to imagine a taste of the anguish she might feel if things didn't work out. She got a lump in her throat and felt tears spring to her eyes. She pushed back the feelings and reasoned with herself that it was unlikely. She was pretty sure of Dez's love for her-even if the other woman hadn't yet shared it in precise words. She shared it every day in the way she touched the rookie, the way she listened to her.
That's it. Tonight I'm talking to her.
She steered the car down Dale Street and over toward Como Lake. When she pulled up to the house, she was surprised to find it dark. She knew Tim and Kevin were working at the restaurant. Bill and Sara must have also gone out somewhere. She parked and ran from her car to the front door and was relieved to find that someone had left the heat on. Lately, their fuel bills had been high, so half the time it was less than sixty degrees in the old house when she arrived home. She hated that. It took a good hour to warm up ten more degrees, and her electric blanket had stopped working weeks earlier. She kept meaning to get a new one, but hadn't gotten around to it. After checking the thermostat and cranking it up another five degrees, she went to the kitchen and foraged for a snack, coming up with milk and some Oreo cookies.
She went up to her room, flipped on the radio next to her bed, and changed from her uniform into flannel pajama bottoms and tops, socks, and slippers. Rummaging around her desk, she pulled out a pad of paper and a pen, then sat on the couch to munch on cookies and write a letter to her Aunt Lynn.
An hour passed quickly, and it was nearing Midnight. She couldn't keep her eyes open any longer and leaned her head against the back of the couch. The pad slipped from her lap along with the pen, and she drifted into a warm, blissful place.
It felt like hours had passed, but it must have only been a few minutes when Jaylynn felt something. A tremor of alarm coursed through her, and she stirred. She didn't want to open her eyes, didn't want to awaken at all, but she did, her heart beating wildly.
In the dim light of the doorway stood six feet of tension topped off by a face more pale than usual. The big cop held her black duty boots in one hand with her other hand clenched tightly into a fist.
Jaylynn jerked to attention. "Dez! What's the matter?"
The dark-haired woman, still dressed in her blue uniform, radiated fury. "I probably shouldn't be here . . ." she growled out.
"Why? Why not?"
"Because I am so goddamn angry that I wanna kill somebody." The boots in her right hand hit the floor hard, and she kicked them, one at a time, across the room. They each came to a stop against the wall near the foot of the bed. She stepped into the room, shut the door, and paced five steps forward, five steps back, like a tiger in a cage.
Jaylynn watched her as the tall cop put her hands to the sides of her head and literally pulled her hair until it came loose from the neat French braid. The rookie debated rising from the couch and going to Dez, but instead, she waited, watching the taut figure in front of her.
After a few moments, Dez came to a stop and stood looking across the room toward the younger woman.
Jaylynn frowned. My God, she is furious. "What in the world . . . Dez tell me."
Shaking, the big woman spat the words out. "Lieutenant Malcolm called me into his office after shift was over. He-he-dammit!"
She looked at Jaylynn, misery etched on her pale white face. Still Jaylynn waited, her heart beating fast.
Dez shook her head and let out a big sigh. "We aren't allowed to ride together anymore. Some fuckhead reported us, Jay." All the air seemed to go out of her, and she took two big steps over to the unmade bed and sank down onto the edge with her head in her hands.
Jaylynn stayed on the couch, stunned. Reported us? Reported us for what? "I don't understand, Dez. What-"
"For cripesake, Jay! Somebody told the brass that we're lovers."
"Oh." She sat back on the couch, letting it sink it. "Did he say who?"
"Hell, no! They never tell you shit like that." She stood again and paced back and forth.
"I see." Jaylynn nodded absently. Somebody ratted them out. She wondered who, but it could have been a number of people. It could also have been something innocent that led the Lieutenant to put things together. Who could tell?
"Are either of us facing any sort of discipline?"
"No," Dez said in a scathing voice. "He was pissed as hell, though, that I hadn't informed him. Said I shouldn't have stayed your FTO and that it puts him in a hell of a position now that he has some performance problems with another rookie." She passed her hand through her hair again, which was looking quite bedraggled. "Dammit! I should have told him. I knew it."
Jaylynn wondered what the source of Dez's desperation was. Was she ashamed? Caught off guard and embarrassed? She hoped it wasn't either of those. "You know, it's not the end of the world."
Dez gave her a withering look and turned away. She put her right forearm up against the wall and leaned her head on it. Even from ten feet away, Jaylynn could see that the dark-haired woman was shaking, so she rose from the couch and moved over behind the tall cop. She put her arms around the trembling waist, realizing that Dez still wore her protective vest. Pressing herself against the back of the long legs, she laid the side of her head against the broad back. Even through the vest she could hear the beat of her heart, fast and loud. Dez did not respond, but her heartrate slowed perceptibly.
Jaylynn pulled the big cop away from the wall and turned her around.
"I should go," Dez said. Her eyes filled with tears, and she turned her head to the side, toward the door, so that Jaylynn wouldn't see.
The blonde didn't say anything. She reached up and undid the top button of the blue uniform top, then the second button, then the third. She unbuckled the belt, untucked the shirt, and finished unbuttoning the shirt. Reaching up, she tugged the shirt down off the broad shoulders and let it drop on the floor behind them. She ripped away the velcro straps and loosened the vest.
Dez shrugged out of it, and let it fall on top of the shirt behind her. She unsnapped and unzipped her pants and let them fall so she could step out of them. Still quivering, she stood uncertainly in briefs, t-shirt and socks until the rookie took her arm and led her over to the bed. She all but pushed the dark-haired woman onto the bed and crawled in with her only to find the big cop stiff and unyielding. She turned on her side, away from the rookie.
Jaylynn went up on her knees and leaned over as Dez curled into a near fetal position. With her arms on either side of her, the blonde said, "Dez. Talk to me. C'mon Dez."
"There's nothing more to say."
Jaylynn sat back. She reached a hand out and stroked Dez's left shoulder. "Gosh, you are unusually cold." The pallid skin was chilly to the touch, and even in the dim lamplight, she could see goosebumps on the tall woman's back. She pulled the sheet and blankets up from the foot of the bed and covered them both with them, then arranged the pillows next to Dez. She curled her body around the bigger woman, her right arm under the dark head and her left around her shoulders.
They lay like that for several minutes until Jaylynn felt warmth emanating from her partner. She pressed her lips to the warm neck next to her and leaned her cheek against the side of the wan face. A big hand moved up and took hold of the fingers on her left hand.
In a whisper, Jaylynn said, "It's going to be all right, Dez. Really."
The tall cop didn't respond.
Morning found the two women wrapped in one another's arms, Dez's head against the smaller woman's chest. She could hear Jaylynn's heart beat, feel the slow, steady pull of her breath. She didn't move for fear that she would awaken her.
The dark-haired cop had not slept well. As usual. She awoke remembering wisps of dreams . . . but before she could nail them down, they were gone. Then the events of the previous evening came rushing back to her: the Lieutenant's patient, hurt face; her own feelings of panic and dismay; throwing her gear and gun into her locker and stomping out of the precinct; the surreal drive over to this house. She hardly remembered how she got from the truck, through the cold wind, and into the house. She was suddenly standing, bootless, at the top of the stairs in the doorway to Jaylynn's room, and she felt exactly like a volcano must feel moments before it erupted. She had wanted to throw things out the window-maybe bust in a few walls.
How had Jaylynn been so calm and reasonable? She didn't seem particularly shocked about the new revelation-just concerned about my feelings. Dez winced and closed her eyes tight. For cripesake, I was a total jerk. I would never forgive me if I were her.
She opened her eyes and stared across the room at Jaylynn's messy desk. The entire room looked like a tornado had whirled through. Her own castoff uniform across the way on the floor didn't help matters.
Jaylynn let out a little whimper, and the dark-haired woman looked up with a start to find a pair of hazel eyes gazing at her.
"Hard to believe it could already be morning what with being kept up all night with you tossing and turning," she said in a grouchy voice. "It was the longest night of my life."
Dez scooted up and rolled onto her back next to Jaylynn, then situated the pillow under her head. "Hmm, I thought the longest night of your life was in the E.R. when I got shot."
Jaylynn let out a snort. "No, that was the most stressful night of my life. There's a difference."
Jaylynn turned on her side, facing the tall woman, and snuggled up next to her. She put her arm across her partner's ribs, and Dez put her hand on top of it. She rubbed the soft forearm with the side of her thumb, feeling the silky skin. The rookie's breathing evened out, and Dez could tell she had fallen back to sleep.
She lay there thinking about all the things she liked about their life together. She liked the sheer comfort of it, the decadence of reveling in warmth and tranquility. She liked the way this sunny woman could turn her day from dark to bright, all with just a few words. She liked to touch her, to hold her, to make love with her. She liked it all far too much.
Her stomach tightened up, and she felt a wave of tension come over her body. What will I do if she leaves? What if something happens to her?
When the lieutenant talked with her the night before, she had been thrown into a state of panic. Who would he send the rookie out with? There were few officers she trusted with such a precious charge. She wondered how she could influence his decisions or the decisions of the shift sergeant. And how long would it be before the gossip about their relationship got around? She wasn't sure about any of this at all, and the uncertainty made her feel crazy with alarm.
"Dez?" The sleepy breath blew softly on the skin of her shoulder.
"Why are you clenching your muscles like that? It's like sleeping with someone in rigor mortis."
"Oh-well, that sure makes me sound appealing."
The smaller woman sighed. "You are very appealing-just stop with the convulsions."
Dez let out a quiet chuckle. Obviously last night's scene hadn't turned Jaylynn against her. Still, she figured she had better apologize. Later, though. Much later. For now, she had one very tired blonde on her hands.
More to come next weekendÖ..
: ) Lori
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