UNDER THE GUN
By Lori L. Lake
a/k/a Lorelei, Bard of the Lakes
firstname.lastname@example.org -- www.LoriLake.com
DRAGON CON/FANFAIRE UPDATE: I just returned from Atlanta earlier this afternoon. It was a ton of fun. I met so many wonderful people-authors and fans alike. Thanks to all the fans who swarmed the FanFaire. It was wonderful to see and talk to so many women excited about RAP's books! I had no idea I would sell out of everything in less than an hour. I should have brought five times more GUN SHY's and about three times more RICOCHET's. If you didn't get books, check any online dealer. And go to my website and get my address if you want to send me bookplates to complete so you can have an autograph in your books.
REMINDER: This is a sequel. If you haven't read the first book, GUN SHY, you might want to go to: GUNSHY.
You can purchase a copy of GUN SHY, published by Renaissance Alliance Publishing (Quest Division), at any bookstore or online bookseller. Also, I have another book just published, RICOCHET IN TIME (Yellow Rose Books), which has never been posted online. Right now, I just discovered that the best prices on both books are at:
Another 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
Dez pulled into a pot-holed gravel lot outside a solid looking log cabin. Gray smoke billowed from the stone chimney, giving the cabin a homey look. There were traces of the last snowfall clumped here and there around the house, but much of it had melted away, leaving patches of gray and brown and pale green. The deciduous trees were bare, but the little tan cabin was surrounded by a stand of evergreens, which afforded the brightest color in evidence. Dez parked and got out. Shivering, she opened the rear door and reached in the Xtra cab for her heavy jacket.
Before she could start toward the cabin, the front door burst open, and a barrel chested man in jeans and a red plaid shirt appeared on the threshold. He wore tan leather slip-on scuffs on his feet and sported a full gray beard. When she was little, Dez had always thought Dewey Cantrell looked just like Paul Bunyan. She had told him that when she first met him, at the age of eight, and ever after, he teased her about it whenever he saw her.
His deep voice rang across the parking lot. "You got a blue ox in that there pickup, Desiree?"
She smiled and shook her head, shouldered her gear, and headed toward him. "How ya doing, Dewey?"
"As well as can be expected." He took her duffel from her and patted her on the shoulder. "Get in here and get warm, you little urchin." He chuckled as he ushered her into his home, taking her jacket and hanging it on a hook next to the front door. "Sit there by the fire and get ready for some of the best hot cocoa you've ever had."
She did as he said, choosing the rocking chair furthest from the blazing fireplace. There had to be a 75 degree difference between the temperature inside and outside, and already she found herself feeling too warm. Unbuttoning the top button of her rugby shirt and pushing up the sleeves, she let herself relax for a moment, her breathe wheezing out of her. She listened to the big man as he whistled tunelessly behind her.
The log cabin was the same as she remembered it. One large room with a galley kitchen on the north side and a small bedroom and bathroom through doors on either side of the fireplace. It was a double-sided fireplace, too, which served to heat both rooms. Through the flames she could just barely make out the fire screen on the other side and the outline of the bed beyond it. The hearth truly was the center of this home.
The main room was furnished with a leather recliner, a well-worn couch and matching loveseat, and the rocking chair she currently sat in. Behind her, newspapers were heaped upon an oversized dining table with eight chairs around. The framed pictures on the walls were of pastoral scenes, ducks, and forests. Two wooden bookshelves, packed full, sat against the wall to her right, and she noted a hardcover copy of Michael Crichton's Timeline and a paperback by Robert Harris. Now there's something I can do when I finish my other paperbacks and get bored. I haven't read a book for quite a while.
Dewey came toward her carrying two steaming mugs. He put one down on the end table near her rocker, then went to the couch and set his on the heavily ringed coffee table in front of it, sat on the couch, then put his feet up on the scarred coffee table. When he saw her examining the table, he said, "What's the use of a table like this if you can't abuse it a little bit, right?"
"I'd say that thing has taken some major abuse." He laughed, his solid middle shaking. She thought he looked happy. Once upon a time, he'd ridden with her father on a regular beat, and the day Michael Reilly died, Dewey had been with him. She still remembered how kind he'd been to her during the funeral and before and after all of that terrible time. He'd retired from the department three years earlier after twenty years of service to the citizens of St. Paul and bought the log cabin and a string of ramshackle cottages, which he had been working to clean up and remodel. He rented them out during the busy season, mostly to hunters and fishermen, and during the cold weather, he closed up for the season, winterized the cottages, and hunkered down for the winter himself.
"I was surprised you wanted to take a vacation now, Dez."
She picked up the mug and took a sip, expecting the cocoa to be rich and fragrant. Instead, it was thin and flat.
Noting the look on her face, he said, "Uh oh, I think I forgot something." He launched himself up off the couch and across the room, where he opened a drawer and pulled out two spoons. He handed her one and stuck the other in his own cup, stirring slowly. She did the same, and her second taste of the steaming chocolate was not a disappointment.
"I'm not on vacation, Dewey. I'm on leave."
He frowned and nodded slowly. "Medical leave or you-got-yourself-into-a-heap-of-trouble leave?"
Her eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms. "Maybe both."
"Hmm." He let out a big sigh and shook his head. "What'd you get yourself into, kiddo?"
She debated at how much to tell him, opting for the spare truth. "Excessive force. I beat up a suspect."
He looked at her quizzically. "Reilly. That isn't your style."
She gave him a level stare. "He knocked out my partner-broke her jaw and wrist, tossed her around like a cat in a gunnysack. So I conked him good." She hesitated. "And I didn't stop when he was down either."
He put his mug on the coffee table and winced. "Oh, I see. Lots of witnesses?"
She shrugged. "Could be. It was dark, but it also happened in the middle of a residential street."
He ran his hand through his beard, tugging on it for a moment as he thought. "Who'll rule on this?"
"First I see a shrink, then Commander Paar will decide."
"You'll get a fair shake then. And if the guy assaulted a police officer, the whole thing may get shoved right under the rug. He got priors?"
"Lots-mostly drugs and assault."
"Ahh-I'd quit worrying if I were you."
"Yeah, well, we'll see. In the meantime, thanks for letting me stay here."
"Oh sure. No problem. I've got that great cabin for you-you'll remember G-but not until tomorrow. Guy in it now is leaving in the morning. But you can stay in that other little crib-you know, cabin D-the one with the baseboard heat."
She knew exactly which one he was talking about. It was little more than ten-by-ten with a small, full-size bed, a side table, and a tiny bathroom with a shower the size of a phone booth. But the one large window looked out through the trees upon Lake Superior, and two summers earlier when she had stopped to see the place, out that very window she had seen a buck, doe, and fawn silhouetted in the waning evening light.
"I could just stay in that one, Dewey. Then you can rent the bigger cottage out."
"Nah. I don't have any prospective renters coming now. You take G. It's a good spot. No phone service in any of the cabins though-maybe next spring."
"I don't care. I have a pager and my cell phone. I talked to my Lieutenant before I left. If the department decides to have a hearing or wants me for anything, they know how to page me."
"Okay, that works out well then."
She reached into her back pocket and pulled out her checkbook, but before she could open it, he said, "You can just put that away, young woman. I don't need your money."
"Hey, Mr. Bunyan. I didn't come up here expecting a free ride."
"Look, I owe your dad a lot and wish he was still alive so I could pay it back. He always watched my ass, especially when I was a young rookie who didn't know his head from a hole in the ground. This is the least I could do."
"I don't know how long I'll be here, though." She felt uncomfortable about this, but tried hard not to show it. For the first time, she realized that a part of her was tempted to move up here and leave everything behind.
"Fine by me. You can stay as long as you like, Dez. I could use a hand around here as I winterize things. If you wouldn't mind giving me a couple hours a day, I'd be very grateful."
She nodded. She'd give him more than a couple hours. She had a lot of empty hours ahead of her before any administrative hearings. And there was always the psych eval-that is, if she went to the shrink appointment. Maybe she'd just tell them to shove it. But she wasn't yet sure. She needed time to think.
They spent a little more time talking, with Dewey mostly reminiscing about the old days when her dad was still alive. Dez listened with half an ear, responding appropriately when it was called for, but the other half of her focused on keeping back a rising feeling she couldn't quite define. The longer she sat in the warmth of the cabin, the more exhausted she felt, but her mind was clicking along, seventy miles a minute. She wanted to stay and half listen to Dewey for the rest of the night, but before long, he rose and took a keyring from the rack of keys next to the door.
"You know where D sits, so go make yourself comfortable. If there's anything you need, come on by. I'm up all hours of the night, so if a light is on, feel free to knock."
She pocketed the keyring. "Thanks, Dewey. I really appreciate your hospitality."
"Think nothing of it."
Heading back out into the cold, she shivered and plunged her hands deeper into her coat pockets. I should have borrowed some of his books. Oh well. I'm tired tonight. Maybe tomorrow.
Jaylynn sat on the couch in her room. She looked around-at the rumpled bed, the messy desk, the stack of clean laundry at the other end of the sofa. The place was entirely too disorganized, but her wrist hurt so much that she just wanted to sit and not do a thing to straighten things out. Her stomach was so upset that it was doing flip-flops. She thought it was the combination of greasy fast food and the pain pill, medication which had obviously not yet taken affect. With every beat of her heart, her jaw and wrist pounded with pain.
She had changed, with difficulty, out of her blue uniform and into sweat bottoms and one of Dez's baggy sweatshirts, and she sat with a pair of white athletic socks in her lap, attempting to summon up enough energy to put them on. She crossed her left ankle onto her right knee and began to work the sock over her foot. With a sour look on her face, she thought, I guess breaking my collarbone was a real stroke of good fortune -otherwise, how would I have ever learned how to dress myself one-handed? Putting a sock on her right foot was a little bit harder because of the odd angle, but she managed, then slumped back on the couch, feet on the floor.
God, I am tired. She didn't want to go to sleep, though. It was two in the afternoon and she still had a long day ahead of her. She would prefer going to sleep at midnight, close to her regular schedule, so that she got up on time in the morning. She knew the day after tomorrow she'd be back on the two to ten-thirty p.m. shift, and it wouldn't look too good if she were to drowse through the her assignments.
She wondered where Dez was, whether she had perhaps gone home to sleep. Glancing over at her bedside clock, she debated whether she should call or not. She was so upset when she stomped out this morning. I shouldn't have been so bitchy to her, but grrrrr! She just made me so mad. She took one deep breath, then another, then let out a long sigh. Even though she infuriates me, I still think I need to call and apologize. She debated, finally deciding to wait a few hours, just in case the dark-haired woman was sleeping. In the meantime, what to do to make herself useful-and keep from falling to sleep? She rose and shuffled over to the walk-in closet and found a pair of slippers to put on, then went down the stairs to the living room. She picked up the TV guide and found that the movie Romancing the Stone had just begun a few minutes earlier, so she picked up the remote control and settled in on the couch, an afghan wrapped around her legs.
Sara came downstairs a little before six p.m. to find Jaylynn curled up, asleep on the couch, while a rerun of Any Day Now played. She paused behind the sofa and looked down at the blonde head, debating whether to wake her up or not. Instead, she went around to the other side of the couch and picked up the remote control to click off the TV. Jaylynn slept on, her face peaceful and unlined. Sara tiptoed out of the darkened room and into the kitchen, letting the swinging door shut quietly behind her.
Today was the first day after Thanksgiving that the kitchen seemed back to normal. Tim and Kevin had made a monumental mess of it over the holiday and nobody had really cleaned up very well since then. The guys had run one load of dishes, and since then, Sara had loaded up two more dishwasher loads full, wiped the counters down, and thrown out quite a lot of junk from the refrigerator. Men. Gay or straight, they're such slobs.
She took a plastic Tupperware container out of the fridge and poured the contents into a saucepan, then set it to heating on the stove. She turned the oven on to pre-heat, then got out salad makings and began putting a salad together. As soon as the smell of beef stew began to permeate the kitchen, she got a pan ready for a loaf of bread-from-a-tube. She was just opening the oven door to slide the dough in when the door swung open, and Jaylynn dragged in wrapped in the afghan. Sara grinned to herself-the smell of food would never stop Jaylynn, broken wrist or not. She shut the oven door and turned to watch her friend hobble over to the rickety table and sit down. "You slept for a while?"
"I guess. What time is it?"
"Quarter after six." The brown-eyed woman went over to the blonde and put her hand on her forehead. "You look over-warm. Feels like you might have a bit of a fever." She brushed the white-blonde hair back and examined the tired looked face.
Jaylynn sighed. "I hate taking pain pills. They just screw me all up. I'm cutting the dose in half each time I take it from now on. Maybe by the day after tomorrow I'll feel halfway normal."
"You want a little supper?"
The blonde nodded. "Sure. That'd be nice. What smells so good?"
"Beef stew, salad, bread. It'll be a few minutes though."
"Okay," she said, as she rose, leaving the afghan over the back of the orange chair. "I think I'll give Dez a buzz."
Sara watched her move slowly across the kitchen floor and through the swinging doors. In less than a minute she was back with the cordless phone.
"No answer at Dez's. Wonder where she is now?"
"No, it's Sunday. We're both off." She set the phone on the table and eased into a chair. "God, I'm tired. I hate this."
Sara leaned back against the counter and crossed her arms over her chest. "I'd be sore, too. Seems like you just got out of a sling, and here you are in a cast again."
"I could go a lot more years now without any injuries, thank you very much. The only thing good is that I can go back to work on that case with Zorro and Tonto." Sara moved over to the table and sat. She put her chin in her hands. Jaylynn looked at her a moment, then said, "Where's Bill tonight?"
"He's been gone all weekend to drill. Should be home now about nine."
"Oh. What have you been doing all day?"
"Nothing. Just reading. Laundry. Taking it easy."
"It's Sunday-why aren't you working at the video store?"
"Another guy wanted the hours so I let him have 'em. I'm quitting that crummy job as soon as Bill and I figure out what we're going to do."
A look of alarm passed over the blonde's face. "What do you mean-you're still getting married, aren't you?"
"Of course. This spring. I just mean that we aren't sure if we want to stay here or move into an apartment or go buy a house or what."
"Oh. That's a relief. You had me worried for a minute." She frowned. "I feel sort of bad. You two should have your old room back-"
"No! I do not want that, Jay. Thank you anyway." The buzzer on the stove went off, and she rose abruptly and opened the oven door to check on the bread. It was done, so she pulled it out and set it on some hot pads on the counter. "Should I just dish you up?"
"That would be good. I suppose I should be grateful that this stupid broken wrist is my left hand. I am so right-handed. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't use my right hand." Sara set a small bowl of stew in front of her, a plate of salad, and a plate with a hot slice of bread on it. The blonde closed her eyes and inhaled. "This smells really good. Thanks for making it."
"There's plenty, Jay. I didn't know how much you'd be up to eating, so I started with a conservative amount." She settled in across from her friend and opened a bottle of French dressing. "Want some?" Jaylynn nodded and accepted the bottle from her. "Were you going to take some pain pills?"
"Oh yeah." She moved to get up, but Sara rose and waved her back into her seat.
"Where are they? I'll go get 'em for you."
"You don't mind?"
"Nope." She started across the kitchen.
"They're on my bedside table."
While Sara was gone, Jaylynn picked up the phone and dialed Dez's apartment again. No answer. On impulse, she called Vanita's house and briefly talked to Luella who had no idea where Dez was. When Sara returned to the room, Jaylynn was filling in Luella about her latest accident. Sara set the small brown plastic container on the table, and the blonde juggled the phone trying to get it open. Sara took it from her, twisted the cap off and handed it back. By then, Jaylynn was saying goodbye. She clicked it off and set the phone to the side of the table.
Sara met her gaze. "Find Dez?"
"No. Luella doesn't know where she is either. Where the heck could she be?"
"Shopping . . . at the movies . . . visiting other friends . . . sleeping with the phone turned off . . . driving around . . ."
Jaylynn sighed. "Guess I'll wait until around midnight and try again. She ought to be home by then."
"Good idea. You want to watch a video with me until then?"
"All right. What've you got checked out?"
"You name it, I've got it-drama, comedy, suspense, even an oldie."
"What's the oldie?"
"North by Northwest."
"Hey, that's a good one. Let's watch that."
Sara scooped out the last bite of her stew and noticed that Jaylynn's bowl was empty. "You want some more?"
"No, but I could use some butter for this bread."
Sara rose and went to the fridge. "Butter-or margarine?"
"Butter, of course."
"We've got three kinds of tub-o-butter going here. Just thought I'd offer."
"Let Kevin eat that crap. I'll take butter any day."
The dark-haired cop's chest hurt and her breath came in short gasps. Flashing lights-neon red and blue and white-swirled all around her in the darkest night she had ever experienced. She looked up but there was no moon, no light from street lamps. Only the neon swirls cast light, but they made her sick to her stomach. She smelled something dank and sour, like poison gas, and it stung her eyes. Scalding hot tears ran down her face. She reached up to wipe them away and was shocked to see, in the flashing lights, that there was blood all over her hands.
She almost cried out, but then looked around in fear. Who is after me? What is happening?
Wiping her bloody hands on her pants, she moved down an uneven walkway, squinting into the flashing lights that kept blinding her. Her chest hurt, her eyes burned, but she forced herself on, closer to the glare of the multi-colored lights.
No. No no no...I won't...I can't....
A voice in her head whispered, "You must, coward. You must."
No, I won't-I can't! I can't!
With a howl, she turned to run, but the ground tilted. She fell to her knees, then slid backwards down the cracked walkway. Frantically she scrambled upwards, grabbing at anything, trying desperately to get purchase on solid land, but it was to no avail. Her bloody hands grabbed at crevices in the walkway, but the cement pulled away each time, and she continued to slide closer to the neon lights. Frozen ground, like a sheet of ice, chilled and numbed her. As she slid and struggled, she grew colder until she could hardly move, then she had no control of her body at all. Only then did she stop her downhill slide. She closed her eyes and rolled over to her side, breath coming fast.
Don't look...don't look. It will go away if you don't look...
A voice in her head whispered, "You must, coward. For once, you must."
Oh God, please.... She opened her eyes saw the crumpled blue-clad body face down before her, but she couldn't see who it was. Grabbing one shoulder, she started to roll the body over...until she saw those dead blue eyes. She let out a scream...
No! No, Ryan, no! Sinking . . . sinking . . . flashing lights receding . . . darkness all around. She screamed again.
Dez awoke. She lay from corner to corner on a surprisingly comfortable mattress, but the air was bitter cold. The covers were all on the floor. She sat up, moved back and against the bed's headboard, and grabbed at the sheet and blankets, still remembering the images in the dream. It's a nightmare-just a nightmare . . . but no, she understood that it was real. It had really happened. He was dead. Her best friend was dead. She couldn't quite believe it. Tears sprang to her eyes. She reached up to blot them away and found her face already covered with water.
Huddled against the wooden headboard in the dark cottage, knees to her chest and swathed in a blanket, she let the tears come. Little mewling sounds mingled with sobs as she cried. She banged her forehead against the top of her knee until it began to throb too much to continue, then scooted down, curled up on her side, and shook with cold and fear and mourning until finally, sometime later, she fell into restless sleep punctuated with more bad dreams.
The dark-haired woman woke the next morning and lay motionless in the small bed. She remembered her dream about Ryan, and even worse, she remembered another one in which a towering man with flaming red eyes beat her to the ground, then punched and kicked Jaylynn until the young blonde fell dead in the street. It seemed that every time she had awakened, frightened and heart beating wildly, she had gone back to sleep only to dream a similar horrible nightmare.
Tears filled her eyes. She ached for the comfort of Jaylynn beside her, holding her, consoling her. The anguish was so intense that she couldn't move, and a pain in her chest swelled and grew until she thought she would burst from the sheer intensity of it. She didn't remember feeling this misery ever before, not even when her father had died . . . but then again, she hardly remembered the death of her father. It was a dry fact, not something with memories attached. She couldn't even call up clear memories of the house they were living in at the time.
She looked around the cabin, which was blazing bright with the early morning sun shining in through the bay window on the east side of the cabin. The sun hurt her eyes, so she closed them and curled up into a ball, her long t-shirt soft against her arms.
Her eyes popped open, and she let a burst of anger fuel her. Stubborn, pigheaded woman! Jaylynn doesn't know what's good for her. Geez, I hate choices. And it's even worse when someone else needs to make a choice and the one they make is stupid! Dez was certain that if the blonde continued on the police force, something terrible would happen-and no one would be there to protect her. Oh God. What if something awful happens?
She sat up, resisting the urge to pull her hair out as her emotions swept back and forth between anger and desolation. Before she could begin to make any sense of her feelings, she was startled out of them by an insistent, shrill beeping. She sprang from the bed, and grabbed her duffel bag, rooted around in it, found the small black device and pushed the button. The number the pager displayed was familiar. She knew why Lt. Malcolm was calling. The department had either scheduled her psychiatric evaluation or else a hearing with internal affairs
With a heavy heart, she found her cell phone and punched in the numbers.
Jaylynn rose at ten the next day. She had tried calling Dez up until two a.m., but no answer. No response at ten a.m. either. Now she was starting to get worried. Maybe Dez was so mad at her that she wasn't answering the phone . . . but no, that wasn't how Dez reacted. Maybe something is wrong, like she's sick or something. Jaylynn was struck with fear. What if something is wrong-she's been in an accident or something has happened to her?
She kept calling until early afternoon, then decided to just get in the car and drive over to the duplex. But when she got there, the curtains on the main floor were closed, and the upstairs looked dark. Shivering, she strode around to the back door and rang both bells. Nobody answered. She went back down the back porch stairs, through the yard, and to the stairs that led down to the garage. By going up on her toes, she could see in the garage window, and it was empty. No truck, no Dez.
Where the hell are you, Dez?
She retraced her steps and hurried through the cold air back to her car. With her casted left arm cradled against her chest, she drove to Vanita's house. Although she had a pleasant visit with Luella and her sister, neither of them had heard from the dark-haired cop. She went back to her house an hour later and ate some lunch, then fell asleep in front of the TV until Sara and Bill awakened her to ask if she wanted take-out Chinese.
Tuesday morning, the first thing that surprised Dez when she arrived at the therapist's office in downtown St. Paul was that it wasn't an office at all, but an old converted warehouse containing an enormous art gallery in the spacious entrance, a printing company in the west wing, and in the east wing, a small publishing company called Jumping Bean Press. Scanning the directory, she could see that the second and third floors were inhabited by doctors, lawyers, and small businesses, while the remaining nine stories housed an apartment collective. Dr. Montague was listed on the third floor, east wing.
Forgoing the elevator, the tall woman took the stairs two at a time, all the while seething with resentment. I do not want to be here. I can't believe they can make me do this. She shook her head slowly from side to side, and as she reached the top of the last flight of stairs, she let out a forceful breath. Opening the door she walked down a dusty hallway toward 305, which she found was at the very end of the east wing. Each door along the way was painted a different color-red, orange, green, then yellow, and she found the one she was looking for was a deep rich royal blue. It figures, she thought. Shrinks always want everything to be restful blue and comforting hues so they can lull you into admissions or revealing things that are none of their damn business. With great reluctance, she reached for the doorknob.
She entered a small waiting room with three chairs on either side facing one another. There was room for nothing else, other than one small table in the corner where an oversized lamp perched, shedding golden light. Ivory-colored walls were adorned with 12x15" framed glossy photos of the North Shore. None of the twelve frames matched, some being plain light wood, some ornate plastic, others fancy, engraved metal. She glanced at her watch. 9:56. She was on time.
Before she could make a move to be seated, a door opened, and a woman stood before her, coffee mug in hand. Sunlight shone from a window behind the woman's head, so Dez could not get a good look at her. All she could see was a plump, wild-haired person wearing red stretch pants, a white top, and white Nike tennis shoes. She glanced at her watch again-still 9:56. Just my luck she's going to start early. She let out a sigh.
"You must be Desiree Reilly."
Dez nodded grimly and stood waiting, her hands clenching and unclenching.
"I'm Marie Montague. Come on in." She stepped back to allow Dez entrance, and then Dez could see that the wild hair was actually very curly and silver-gray. Rather than being a young woman in her 30's, like Dr. Goldman, Dez guessed her to be closer to 60.
The second thing to surprise Dez was that the office she trudged into was much larger than she would have expected. She estimated it to be thirty feet square. It was divided into quadrants. One quadrant was filled with toys and dolls and games, haphazardly stacked on two benches and spilling out of two toy boxes. Next to it was an area containing a kitchenette complete with microwave, sink, and cupboards. An over-sized, wooden-framed window from which bright sunlight spilled was above a dinette type of table where packages of crackers and cookies were stacked. There were pots of flowers on the window sill and on plant stands in every corner of the room.
Two doors, neither of which was painted, were off to the left, but both were closed, so Dez didn't know where they led.
The other half of the office was separated from the kitchen and play area by two large round posts that served as structural support for the building. Chairs formed a circle in the nearer part of the third quadrant, and there was a large wooden table pushed up against the far wall, dozens of photographs strewn across it. Above the table, hanging on the wall, were five framed 8 x10" photographs. Unlike the ones in the waiting room, these were black and white. The center photo showed a slender, young woman with curly black hair. She wore Army fatigues and a billed Army cap, which Dez assumed to be olive green. The shot was a full body profile with a lush background of foliage behind the figure. The woman's pant legs were rolled up to mid-calf, and she stood in a couple inches of water, deep enough that you couldn't see her feet. Laughing, she looked back over her shoulder toward the photographer, one hand raising as though to wave. Dez didn't get a chance to inspect the other four photos. The therapist gestured toward two chairs facing one another. There was a coffee table in between on which sat a variety of objects, but Dez did not take time to survey them, instead stealing suspicious glances at the other woman, who was now saying, "Would you like a cup of coffee?" She raised her white mug, which sported a comic of Minnie Mouse in a hot pink dress.
Dez shook her head. "Never drink the stuff."
"Okay. Well then, have a seat."
Dez folded her long frame down into a soft brown chair that sat low to the ground. She expected to be cramped, but found instead that it was comfortable. Taking a deep breath, she crossed her arms tightly and settled in for what she figured to be a long hour.
The therapist bent and carefully placed her steaming, full mug on the coffee table. She picked up a clipboard that was leaning against the chair and sat, squirming a little to get comfortable. She adjusted the clipboard on her lap, giving Dez time to study her. In police fashion, the description "Caucasian, 5'4", 145 pounds, gray hair, brown eyes, no scars" flashed through the policewoman's head. Someone she had little in common with. Someone from a whole different world than the one in which she-and her police cohorts-existed. She decided the silver haired woman looked a lot like the young woman in the Army photo, perhaps enough to be the Army girl's mother. Strong jaw, high cheekbones, lightly tanned complexion, unruly hair. She had probably been a pretty woman in her day, and now she was what Dez would call an appealingly handsome older woman.
The eyes that rose to meet Dez's were warm and dark brown, almost black, signifying that she might be descended from a Greek or Italian family. A slight smile on her lips, Marie Montague let a breath out and didn't break her gaze. Dez watched her warily, waiting. Her heart began to beat faster, and she felt like she was being scanned, emptied of her secrets. But no, that couldn't happen. This woman couldn't get in any further than Dez allowed, of that she was sure.
A long pause went by and finally the older woman said, "Desiree, why are you here today?"
"It's Dez, Doctor Montague. Call me Dez."
The doctor inclined her head once, her eyes never leaving Dez's, as though she were waiting for more.
Impatiently, Dez said, "I'm here because I have to be here. You should know it's required."
The doctor nodded slowly, her hands motionless on the clipboard in her lap. "I see." She paused for a long moment, looking toward the sunny window across the room. "Why don't you call me Marie, then, and I'll call you Dez."
The black-haired woman nodded. Great. That's settled. She glanced down at her watch to see it read 10:01. One down, 59 to go.
"So you're here because you have to be, not because you want to be."
Dez nodded again.
"If you don't want to be here, why are you here then?"
The tall cop frowned. "It's required. If I don't show up three times a week until you release me, I get deep-sixed by the department." She uncrossed her arms and let her fists drop into her lap.
"You're saying they would throw you away?"
"Why do you think that is?"
Dez looked down at her hands. She could see one of the veins throbbing on top of her right hand, which was still sore and bruised. She turned that hand over and looked at her palm, then made a fist. "They think I'm out of control, that I've lost it." She moved her fingers, including the one that was supposed to have a hairline crack, and she found it didn't hurt much.
"Have I what?"
"Lost it-gone out of control?"
Dez shook her head and looked toward the window. In the distance she could see part of the Capitol dome and a flash of gold from the Quadriga sculpture above the columned marble entranceway. In sixth grade she had mounted the stairs and climbed up to the portico where the Quadriga was displayed. She had always liked the gilded statue of Prospero with the two women walking on either side of the four horses pulling the chariot. She thought it was the head of one of the golden horses that was shining so brightly. Turning her head back toward the curly haired woman, she said, "Don't you want to know about my childhood? My family? About my schooling? I thought all you psych people started out with a history from birth to now that takes about six hours."
Marie surprised her by laughing out loud. Her teeth were white, and Dez could see that there was a small chip in the right front incisor.
"No, I prefer not to start with the past because it's the here and now that is apparently causing you a problem. Perhaps if you could tell me, from your point of view, what possessed your lieutenant and Dr. Goldman to refer you to me, then we could move through all of this swiftly and get you on your way."
Dez crossed her arms again. "Don't you have a report, some sort of explanation from Goldman or my supervisor?"
"Yes, I do. But that's from their point of view. I want to hear what you think."
Dez had no desire to relive the experience at the house on Forest, when she felt the terror ripple through her, when she lost her cool. People always talked about "seeing red" when doing drastic and violent things, but red was not the color she had seen. Gray and silver and crystal clear pictures of the location-that is what she had observed-in mostly black and white splendor. Click: Jaylynn on the ground covered in blood. Click: the man laughing gleefully after having wounded the blonde. Click: the look of surprise and pain on the fat man's face as she struck him and he fell to his knees on the ground.
Dez was certain she could have killed the man-she'd wanted to kill him. But the department couldn't have known her feelings, and she hadn't killed him after all. Broke his nose and cheekbone, bruised his kidneys, fractured seven ribs...but she hadn't killed him. She never even unholstered her gun. She felt a grim satisfaction about that.
The dark-haired woman snapped to alertness, her eyes narrowing as she focused in on the doctor.
"Dez, you know you're free to go."
Confused, Dez looked at Marie long and hard. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not holding you here. You can go any time you wish."
Dez leaned forward. With more hope in her voice than she intended to reveal, the tall woman said, "You'll give a report to my Lieutenant that I cooperated?"
A faint wisp of a smile crossed the older woman's face. "Actually, I can't give any sort of report to him. You haven't told me anything."
Dez glared at the other woman. Why is she jerking me around? She didn't bother to disguise raising her wristwatch to look at the time, which showed 10:07. A gust of air escaped from her lips, and she sank further down into the chair.
Marie took a loud slurp of coffee and set the Minnie Mouse mug back on the table. "It's important to me that you understand that I'm not holding you here. You can go anytime you wish."
"I'll lose my job then." It came out in a hoarse whisper, and for the first time Dez felt a feeling of hopelessness surface.
"What could be so serious that you would be fired?"
The rage bubbled up and Dez growled, "Didn't you read the goddamn report? What the hell kinda doctor are you anyway?"
The third thing to surprise Dez was the therapist's response. She laughed. And it wasn't a snicker or a sneer. Marie Montague burst forth with a deep, loud, belly laugh, genuinely amused, reminding the dark-haired woman of Jaylynn and sending a stab of pain into her heart and tears to her eyes. She looked down at the coffee table and, through the tears swimming in her eyes, saw a jumble of objects. Get a hold of yourself! The thought occurred to her that she could get up and march right on out, leave all of this behind. She imagined herself doing it...rising...grabbing the brass handle, flinging the door wide, stomping out into the hallway, and kicking each and every one of those multi-colored doors on the way to the stairwell. Who gives a shit about the job? I don't care. I don't want to care anymore . . .
Before she could say or do anything, though, the psychiatrist said, "Dez Reilly, it's clear that you don't want to talk to me about you-at least not right at this moment. So how about I tell you a little bit about me?"
Dez sat still for a moment, then nodded. Her vision was clearing, with the threat of tears and her momentary panic subsiding. Without thinking, she leaned forward and from the coffee table picked up a carving of two wooden bears. She didn't know what kind of wood it was, but she liked the toasty dark brown animal. She cradled it in both hands, then turned it over. Between the bear's front paws, she protected a bear cub, whose smaller head peeked out from the underside of the larger bear. The eyes and ears on both bears were small and the mouth and nostrils were carefully indented, showing that the woodworker had paid attention to detail. Holding the carving in her left hand, she rubbed the smooth surface of the mama bear's coat with the side of her left thumb, feeling an odd comfort from the burnished surface. Recovered, she looked up into the warm brown eyes, and felt a twinge of guilt that she would not-could not-give this doctor what she seemed to want and need in order to do her job.
"I'm sixty-one years old, Dez. I came of age in the late fifties and early sixties after growing up in a healthy and well-to-do family, most of whom still live in and around Mankato. I come from a long line of farmers, all the way back to seventeenth century olive growers in the Mediterranean. In southern Minnesota, my family raised cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat. I didn't have much to do with it, being a girl, but my four older brothers worked the farm.
"I wasn't satisfied hanging around small town Minnesota. I wanted to see the world. I was also interested in healing the body, so I went to college in Minneapolis for a year, then joined the Army where I could take college classes and train simultaneously to be a nurse and field medic. I was a good student, but I had a lot of fun, too. Went to many, many dances. Dated a few very sweet men. Enjoyed the whole free, liberating experience of the early sixties."
She shifted the clipboard in her lap, turning it one-quarter, and letting her forearms rest on it, then went on. "Six months before I graduated in 1964, a U.S. destroyer was bombed off the coast of North Vietnam, and our troops retaliated. The war started to escalate, and tensions at home and in Vietnam went through the roof. By the time Ho Chi Minh became a household name, I was on an Army transport to a port city called Da Nang, which had a huge military base . I was twenty-four years old. Young. Idealistic. Hopeful that I could make a difference and help save the lives of the wounded."
She picked up the Minnie Mouse cup and took a sip, then took the clipboard from her lap and set it next to her chair. Curling her feet to the side and under her, the doctor leaned on the arm of her chair. She took a deep breath. "No matter how many times I've told this story, I still can't quite believe how young and naïve I was. It's like I was a whole different person, just a sliver of who I have since turned out to be."
Pausing, she stared off toward the window, lost in thought. After a moment, she shrugged, shook her head as though to rouse herself, then went on. "I lasted more than three years, which, I have since then learned, was a long stint for medical support personnel. I didn't know that at the time. They rotated doctors in and out fairly frequently, but the nurses and medics-well, we stayed, and we pretty much ran the operation and kept everything going smoothly. Daily, sometimes hourly, the wounded were airlifted and delivered to us for medical treatment. Burned, shot, and fragged young men who were bloodied, bruised, with body parts ripped off. We triaged. We operated. We sutured and amputated and did the best we could to ease all the pain and agony these young guys were feeling. More died than we could save. We worked feverishly, like we were superhuman. Twelve hours on, twelve hours off. At first I cried myself to sleep after each shift. I had nightmares. I couldn't eat. I lost twenty pounds in two months. I cried and cried and cried, but we were all in it together, and sometimes my best buddies-Mark and Sandy and Deb and DeShawn-cried with me. It was hard, but we all managed, and it got better as I got used to the utter carnage. Sandy and I were extra close and told each other the daily prayers we said for one another. We all talked about how much we wanted the war to end, and we dreamed about the parties we'd have once we got back to the States."
Dez didn't look at Marie straight on. She watched the psychiatrist out of the corner of her eye, alternating her gaze between the wooden bears in her hands and the sunny window. She wondered why the doctor was telling her all this. Doctor Goldman had never told her much of anything about herself. She looked at her watch. 10:32. She would listen to Marie for 28 more minutes, and then she could escape. If the good doctor wanted to take a trip down memory lane, then it was fine with her.
"On a rainy morning in November, 1968, the day after Richard Nixon was elected President-incidentally, on the campaign platform of winning and ending the Vietnam war-ha ha-the Vietcong bombed the medical facility we all worked at. Direct hit on the hospital. I was standing in O.R., a scalpel in one hand, helping Sandy debride a burn wound in a G.I.'s leg, when we heard a horrible, high-pitched whistling sound. I looked up at Sandy. I still remember how she rolled her eyes and said, 'If that makes the power go off, I'll be pissed.' And then poof! The whole place exploded in flying dirt and fire and medical equipment. The G.I. on the table was screaming, and everywhere around me was chaos and noise and these horrible ripping, crushing sounds. The walls folded in like playing cards. The roof caved in. I looked down at my hand, and I was still holding the scalpel, but Sandy was no longer standing in front of me. She was on the floor on the other side of the gurney. I stepped around and called her name. She lay there in a puddle of blood, cut in half by a jagged sheet of metal. I looked around me, and as far as I could tell, the G.I. on the table and I were the only ones left standing-actually, I was standing, he was lying on the operating table and screaming bloody murder. But then he shut up. Everything grew quiet. A numbness descended upon me."
Marie picked up her coffee mug and took a sip. "Ish. This needs some serious warming." She rose and strode to the kitchen area and poured coffee from a Mr. Coffee glass pot.
Dez held the wooden carving in her hands, squeezing it so tightly that her fingers hurt. Her heart beat a fast staccato, and she found herself worrying that she wouldn't be able to breathe. While Marie's back was to her, she gulped in three deep breaths, steeling herself for the rest of the story. She didn't want to hear the rest . . . but at the same time, she was morbidly fascinated, like a teenager reading her first Stephen King horror novel.
The psychiatrist made her way back to her chair. "You're probably wondering why I'm telling you this, aren't you, Dez?" Dez shook her head and shrugged, not trusting her voice. "There is a point, and I'll get to it. Let me finish up the last little part, and then I know you'll understand." She took a big swig of the hot coffee and sputtered, "That's much hotter!" Minnie went back on the coffee table, and Marie went on.
"All the Army medical personnel-Sandy, Mark, DeShawn, Deb, and sixteen others, as well as 33 of the 46 patients died. It took 24 hours before the Army was able to airlift survivors out. I did my own triage. Saved who I could. Was very calm and orderly and efficient. I didn't even realize that I had lacerations all down the front of me until they came later and made me stop working on the wounded. Army medics who I don't even remember treated me and bandaged me up. They sent me briefly to a hospital in France. I wasn't happy to be taken from Da Nang. I wanted to help, to do something, to keep moving. But in a curious way, I also didn't care anymore. Forty hours after the bombing, in a tiny hospital bed hardly big enough for me, I slept for the first time, and I woke up screaming. For days on end, I never slept for more than an hour or two at a time, then would wake after having bloody, horrendously frightening dreams. It was worse than the LSD trip gone bad that some of my patients have described. I really don't remember what happened next. My sense of time passing was all out of sync, but I was found in the middle of the night walking half-naked down a dirt road six miles away from the military installation. I don't know how I got there, or where I was going. I had no will to care anymore. I was completely numb.
"It was 1968, a few weeks before Christmas. I didn't care. My family called, told me they loved me and asked me to hang in there. I didn't care. My father flew 2,700 miles to accompany me home. I didn't care. Some part of me had died. I went home to the farm in a deep depression, almost like a fog. A few weeks after the holidays, my favorite uncle-Uncle Fritz-died in a tractor rollover out in the fields. I went to the funeral. I have no real memory of it. I didn't cry. I didn't really seem able to feel at all.
"One of the GI's I saved that day in 1968 sent me a Christmas card-in fact, he still sends me one every year. In it he wrote, 'It was a terrible tragedy, and if not for you, I'd be dead, too.' When I read that, something happened, and I was overcome with a kind of hopelessness that I never ever want to feel again. I took to my bed and slept and slept and slept. I never wanted to wake up again. In the middle of January, my father and mother took me to Minneapolis to the Veteran's Hospital. The VA people knew a little bit about what was wrong-not as much as they do now-but they were already dealing with soldiers in my predicament."
Marie picked up her coffee cup and drank from it for a moment. She set the mug on her knee, holding it there with a steady hand. "I stayed there in treatment for sixteen weeks, and when I came out, I knew that I would change the focus of my career from healing bodies to healing minds." She set the mug down on the table and leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. Her eyes drilled into the tall woman's, and Dez felt herself shiver. "You know why, Dez?"
She paused, and Dez loosened her grip on the bears. The dark-haired woman didn't answer. She swallowed and held her breath.
"I'll tell you why. Because what I learned there in that godforsaken jungle hole is that the human heart can only take so much horror, so much loss, and then it collapses and falls into itself, becoming numb in order to protect itself from further pain. Your mind will do everything in its power to help anesthetize you from the enormity of that much pain. And once it starts protecting you that way, it won't stop without assistance. Your mind is a marvelous thing, but once it takes a hit like that, it doesn't know how to reverse the protection process-not by itself." She paused. "Do you understand?"
Dez stared at the older woman, unable to breathe.
"Officer Reilly, you and I have something in common." The curly haired woman gazed intently at Dez. "Ahhh. You don't believe me, hmmm? Do you remember that old saying, 'It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'?"
Dez nodded slowly, unable to tear her eyes away from the doctor.
"Here's what we have in common. You and I both know that saying's not true. Under the circumstances of your life-and mine-to have loved and lost was about the worst thing that ever happened, wouldn't you agree?"
Dez couldn't take it any more. She rose from the chair and stumbled to the window across the room, still holding the carving of the bears cradled against her chest in her right hand. With her left hand, she reached up, to the top of the window frame, and rested her hand there to steady herself. She gasped air in and out, closing her eyes until her heart rate slowed down to something closer to normal.
I'm not like her, she thought. I'm not at all . . . not like her . . .she's-she's-normal. She's normal, and I . . . am . . . a . . . wreck. The bright sun shone in, bathing her face in warmth, but she didn't feel it. She opened her eyes slightly, squinting into the glare, which made her eyelids itch with warmth. Letting her left hand drop from the top of the window frame, she rubbed it across her forehead and down over her eyes, which she was surprised to find were wet.
All was quiet behind her, and she didn't want to turn around. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the bright sunlight, and after a few moments, she heard Marie clear her throat, and then the older woman said, "Dez, you don't have to turn around, but I want you to consider a list I'm about to read to you, then answer one simple question. I'll give you the list, then the question. Here's the list: nightmares, flashbacks when you are awake, intrusive memories, numbed emotions, insomnia, bottled up rage, irritation, feelings of helplessness, and the inability to respond to others in social situations in the way you used to or the way you want to." She shuffled some papers. "Okay? Now here's the question: are you experiencing any of the above?"
Dez looked out at the capitol building several blocks away. The golden figure of Prospero stood flanked by the two women and four golden horses. The sun shimmered so brightly that the golden display reminded her of the locket her father had given her on her ninth birthday. The contrast of all that gold against the white marble of the capitol was striking. Far off in the distance, she saw tiny figures walking up the marble stairs. She took a deep breath. "Yes."
Dez heard the click of the coffee mug on the table. "Yes to which ones?"
The dark-haired woman hugged the wooden carving to her mid-section, and with her arms held tightly across her middle, she turned to face Marie, who still sat calmly across the room in the low-slung chair. "All. I experience all of those things. Every day. All day. Every night, most nights."
Marie nodded. "I see." She looked down and wrote something on the clipboard in her lap.
Dez stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to say and appalled at her admission. If she could have taken it back, she would have, but it was now too late.
Marie set down her clipboard and pen. "Dez, you don't have to feel that way anymore. There's a way out, and I can help you. Will you come back on Thursday?"
For a moment Dez was confused. Thursday? Come back? Then she turned her wrist, glanced at her Timex, and was astounded to see that it was 11:08. She ran a big hand through her hair, brushing back the long tresses. "Okay."
"How about same time-ten a.m.?"
Marie reached over to the coffee table and opened a wooden box. She took something out and rose. "Can you do something for me now?" Dez shrugged, feeling like a gradeschooler struck dumb in the principal's office. "Promise me that if you get upset later in the day or anytime before Thursday, you'll either call me-or you can call or see somebody you care about and trust. Can you do that?"
"Here's a card with my number on it. The answering service will refer you to me day or night." Dez took the card and tucked it in her back pocket.
"All right then," said the doctor. "I'll see you the day after tomorrow." Marie moved toward the door, and opened it wide. "Take extra good care of yourself, Dez. Try to get as much rest as you can."
Dez passed through the waiting room and out the blue door into the hall. Confusion, doubt, fear-she was a mass of conflicting feelings. It wasn't until she reached the door on the first floor that she realized she was still holding the wood carving. She stopped, one hand on the metal bar of the door, and hesitated, thinking she should retrace her steps and return the carving, but suddenly her knees felt week. She tightened her grasp on the door and took a deep breath, feeling almost like she could faint. In a moment the sensation passed, and she pushed out into the fresh November air. I'll bring the bears back on Thursday. She can wait until then.
Jaylynn reported to the main station, Investigations Division, at precisely two p.m. In a perfect world, she would have liked to have arrived early, but she stopped at the precinct on the way in, and chatting with a variety of people had slowed her down. It was worth it, though, because she had managed to get a little information out of Sergeant Belton. In their conversation, he mentioned that Third Watch was terribly short-handed with her on light duty and Dez on leave. She confided that she hadn't talked to Dez since the altercation where she got injured, and he looked surprised, then said that she had left town for a short while. That was all that she could get out of him without prying, but it was enough.
Now she stood in the middle of the division holding her lunch in a brown paper bag and tried to get her bearings. Someone new was sitting in the desk next to Parkins' that she had used before. Several more plainclothes officers sat working at desks right now than she had been used to seeing previously. But there had been a drive-by shooting the week before, and an eight-year-old boy had been shot and killed. She suspected that a few of these detectives were working on that case. She moved across the room, keeping her sling tight against her middle, and tapped on Lieutenant Finn's door.
"Savage. Good to have you back. C'mon in and have a chair."
Jaylynn sat, feeling a little sheepish.
"The guys are saying you'd do anything to work with them again-even get clonked in a beat-down."
"No, Lieutenant, it's not . . ."
Finn waved at her. "I'm just kidding. Take it as a compliment, okay? Working as well as you did with Zorro and Tonto is a real feat. They are happy you are back, though nobody wishes an injury on a fellow officer."
Jaylynn nodded, her face flushing.
"We're pretty tight here right now, what with the Kenolly murder. You're going to have to share desk space with Tsorro and Parkins, but they're out in the field so much that it won't be too bad. I'll call Tech and have them bring a computer up." She opened her desk drawer and pulled something out. "I saved your database to disk. Will you get it up and running again?" She handed it across the desk, and Jaylynn accepted the black diskette.
"Sure, boss. No problem."
"Good. The guys have run into a dead end with Tivoli, and now we have this new murder, which they are working on part-time. It's time to go back over everything on Tivoli again, re-interview, refigure every angle. How long will you be on light duty?"
Jaylynn shrugged. "Could be two weeks, or worst case scenario, as much as six weeks. I won't know for sure until I have a follow-up appointment with the doctor next week."
Finn inclined her head slowly. "Okay, well, maybe that's enough time to make a dent in this case again."
It took over an hour, but finally Jaylynn was set up at Tsorro's desk and reviewing her database. As she'd expected, nobody had done anything on it after she left. Pausing for a moment to consider, she opened Tsorro's desk drawers, and in the top side drawer, she discovered the old list, dated from her last day. She pulled it out, along with a sheaf of notes and pieces of scratch paper. She went over to Parkin's desk and did the same thing, finding a similar pile of papers. She set to work deciphering the notes on each page of paper and gradually updating the database.
She was hard at it when the two detectives slipped into the squad room and crept up behind her. So intent was she at the task that it wasn't until she smelled Tsorro's cologne that she knew they were standing behind her. She spun around in the chair.
The dark-haired man grinned, flashing his even teeth. "Nice sling, Savage. With the white trim, it's very fashionable. Much more feminine than that last one."
Parkins rolled his eyes. "It's the same one, you schmuck. Such powers of observation you have. Geez. How do I work with you?"
Tsorro ignored him. "How ya doing, little lady? Sorry to hear you got hurt."
Jaylynn didn't know how he could get by with such sexist endearments, but somehow, she didn't take any of it to heart. "I'm hanging in there. Thanks." She gestured toward the paperwork strewn across the desk. "Sorry I had to commandeer your desk."
"Oh no, think nothing of it."
Parkins shifted a toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other. "Don't worry about it, Savage. He never does any work at the desk anyway."
Tsorro ignored him. "You need anything, caramella? A soda? Something from the vending machine? We're off duty pretty quick here."
"No, thanks. Brought my own lunch tonight."
"Okay, then. Tomorrow we hit the Tivoli case hard again."
She nodded. "I'm working a little slow, but I'll get your master database updated. I rifled through your desks to find your notes. Hope you don't mind."
Tsorro put his hands behind his back and smiled at her. "No problem at all. Glad to have you back on board-even if only for a while."
They bid her farewell and she returned to the computer. After another two hours, she was bleary-eyed and her arm throbbed. She rose from the desk and meandered back into the break room. She sat alone at one of the tables, eating a ham and cheese sandwich. The pulse in her hand surged a steady beat. She wished she could go home and elevate it, but it was only half past seven, and she still had three hours to go. She sat, feeling the fatigue through and through, when out of the corner of her eye she saw a tall, dark-haired figure flit past the doorway. She was up in an instant and across the room. She skidded out into the hall, the name "Dez" on her lips-only to find that it wasn't the tall cop after all, but another officer several inches shorter.
She returned to the break room and slid wearily into her seat. Now the fatigue washed over her anew, and she felt even more tired than she had before.
Oh, Dez. Where are you? She willed the dark-haired woman to call her, leave her a message, send her a note-anything. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she pushed them back. Cops don't cry . . . at least not at work. I am not crying here. But dammit, where are you, Dez? Underneath the feeling of grief, a current of anger ran through her. She pushed all the feelings down and finished the last bite of her sandwich, then rose and put away the cookie, carrots, and celery. She would eat them later. For now, she would go concentrate on the database.
Wednesday afternoon found Jaylynn back at the Investigations computer, polishing up the work she had done on the database. She printed a scratch copy, corrected a few mistakes, then printed out two corrected copies, one for Tsorro and one for Parkins.
The phone at Parkins' desk rang, and she picked up.
"Hey, cutie pie," a deep male voice said.
"The very same. Parkins and I are coming to get you. ETA two minutes."
"You are? Why?"
"Just talked to the Lieutenant, and she approved us taking you on some interviews with us."
A shadow loomed over the blonde, and she looked up to find Lieutenant Finn standing above her. Jaylynn said, "Speaking of the boss-hold on a moment." She met Finn's eyes.
Jaylynn gave a little shake of her head. "Tsorro."
Finn nodded. "I've okay'd you going out in the field to observe. Tell him you'll be out in a minute."
Jaylynn spoke into the phone. "See you out front," then without waiting for a response, she hung up. The rookie rose and looked up at the lieutenant.
"Here are the rules, Savage. You may observe. You may not question any witnesses. You may-you should-take notes, if you can, given your bad hand and all."
"No problem, boss." She reached down to the desk and picked up a small spiral notebook.
"Just get a feel for what the detectives are doing, and after each interview, let them know if you noticed anything in particular. Go get your coat and head out."
Jaylynn rushed over to the coat rack and slipped her down coat from a hook, then hustled back to the desk and grabbed her cell phone which she put in the deep pocket. "This is great, boss. I am really happy to get to observe. Thanks."
The rookie got her good arm in one sleeve, then did a weird gyration to try to swing the coat up over her other arm, all the while juggling the notebook. The cell phone and house keys in her pocket jingled around.
"Here, let me give you a hand." Lieutenant Finn adjusted the jacket. "You want it zipped?"
"If you wouldn't mind?"
Finn bent and joined the zipper then pulled it up. "This must be a giant pain."
"It is, believe me."
"See you when they go off duty." She smiled, her eyes bright and warm. "Don't let 'em stop for too many doughnut breaks."
Jaylynn started off toward the doorway and was two steps into the hall before she remembered her database. She backtracked to the desk and picked up three printouts. She folded one in quarters and tucked it into her notebook, then turned to go. The lieutenant was already in her office and didn't seem to notice. When the rookie hustled out to the front, she found the detectives waiting. Tsorro leapt out of the front seat and held the door open for her.
"I can sit in back . . ."
"Don't be silly. Get in. I'll hop in back."
She handed him a copy of the database, which was now 17 pages long, got in the front seat, and set a copy down next to Parkins. As soon as the dark cop was in the back, Parkins floored it.
"So what's the plan," she asked.
Parkins drove with his left arm on the driver's door and his right loosely gripping the steering wheel. His light blue suit sleeve stuck out from his overcoat, and he looked rumpled but at home in the car. Jaylynn could imagine him having once been a street cop.
Tsorro spoke up from the back seat. "We start at the very beginning, honey. Back to the beginning. First stop, the company that rented the snack shack to Tivoli. Then we talk to the private security cop who was around each night. Then we interview the first witnesses again-you know, those kids."
Jaylynn was relieved that they were doing this today and not yesterday when she had been so tired. She had gotten a good night's sleep. This helped considerably because they proceeded to spend the next three hours getting in and out of the car, standing around talking to people, and drinking the very bad coffee various witnesses offered.
They reached the Lee household shortly after four p.m. and entered a small apartment. Pao Lee, one of the three boys from the original scene, ushered them into the living room and brought in three wooden straight-back chairs from another room. He remembered her and said a special hello to her, then sat on a couch protected by a forest green slipcover. Next to him on either side sat an older woman and man who Jaylynn soon found out were Pao's grandparents. His mother and father were at work.
The boy, who Jaylynn knew was age eleven, said something in the Hmong language to his grandparents. They answered, and Pao turned to Jaylynn and asked if they could offer refreshments.
Parkins said, "Please tell your grandparents we are very grateful, but that will not be necessary."
Pao translated, and his grandmother nodded. She had dark hair, streaked with gray. Her skin was light brown and much lighter than her husband's. He appeared older, with unruly white hair and many wrinkles around his eyes and mouth. The old woman pointed toward the rookie and said something to Pao.
The boy turned to Jaylynn and said, "My grandmother is curious how you hurt yourself. She asks if you are comfortable because you look like you are in pain."
Jaylynn, was, in fact, in pain. Her wrist and hand were aching, but she had been ignoring it. Now that it had been mentioned, the throbbing seemed twice as bad. Looking the woman in the eye, she nodded. "Yes, it hurts a little. I was injured trying to arrest a suspect, but I am okay."
As the translation was made, the woman said, "Aha. O.K." She gave a little half-smile and a nod, then turned her attention to Parkins as he said, "Pao, could you please tell us again everything that happened that night when the man and the girl were shot."
Jaylynn opened her notebook and steadied it in her lap. She made notes as Pao retold the story. There was nothing new that she could ascertain. As she watched the young boy, it occurred to her that he seemed very well-adjusted. The way he described the murders showed that he was appalled and that the event had upset him, but he spoke in a matter-of-fact manner. He also asked whether they had found out who had done the killing and was disappointed when they told him "Not yet."
They were finished in fifteen minutes. When they rose to go, Pao's grandparents stood. Jaylynn was surprised to find that she towered over the old lady by a good four inches. The grandmother was taller than her husband. On impulse, the blonde reached out a hand, and each of the adults shook it, grave expressions on their faces.
"Thank you," Jaylynn said.
"My grandparents say that you are welcome, and we all wish to know when you find the killer."
Tsorro nodded. "We have your phone number, and we will let you know as soon as we can. Thank you, Pao."
When they reached the car and got settled, both men sighed. "Nothing new," Parkins said.
Tsorro shook his head slowly. "It's too much to expect that anything would turn up, but you never know. On to the Vang place. Maybe those Orientals will give us a lead."
Jaylynn glanced toward Parkins to find him glancing her way. They both rolled their eyes simultaneously and looked away.
Sai Vang and his cousin Xiong Vang lived in the same apartment complex just two blocks away from the Lee household. Before Jaylynn had a chance to even feel any warmth from the heater, they were getting out again. Xiong told much the same story as Pao had. They had each remembered small details in slightly different order, but their stories were essentially the same as they had been the night of the murders.
By five p.m., they were trudging through snow across the parking lot to Sai Vang's family's apartment. Great big fluffy flakes fell all around, obscuring Jaylynn's vision for more than about ten feet ahead. She was glad to go up some stairs and under the cover of an outdoor walkway.
They were introduced by Sai to his mother, Blia Her, to his younger brother, Tong, and to a little sister named Sue who appeared to be only about four-years-old. Jaylynn had learned early on that in the Hmong culture, the mother kept her maiden name, and all the children took the father's last name. When Tsorro called her Mrs. Vang, Jaylynn elbowed him and reminded him of that fact.
"Oh, sorry, Mrs. Her. My mistake."
She was very gracious and spoke perfect English. Though almost exactly Jaylynn's height, she was totally the opposite in looks and build. Where Jaylynn was fair and solid, Mrs. Her was dark eyed, dark-haired, and very thin with almost no apparent muscle. If the rookie had been asked how old the woman was, she would have said fourteen or fifteen, but a glance at the database printout showed that she was 28, older than Jaylynn.
They sat in a living room cramped with furniture. There was a couch, a smaller divan, two rocking chairs, a shabby olive green recliner, and a rolling hassock upon which Sue was lying and using her feet to move slowly around the room. The way her head bobbed about made Jaylynn think she looked like a small turtle. Jaylynn sat in an ornate rocking chair next to a boxy old-fashioned console television, which was on, but with the sound was off. Tong, who looked to be about nine, sat with art supplies in front of the TV, off to her left.
The detectives perched on the edge of a divan across from Mrs. Her and Sai, both of whom sat on the couch. A dark-haired, leggy youth who looked on the verge of leaving boyhood, Sai wore baggy jeans and a t-shirt. He didn't seem to know what to do with his legs, and Jaylynn watched him as he scooted back onto the couch and squirmed around before finally crossing his legs to sit Indian style. His mother gave him a frown, and he sighed and slipped his shoes off, then recrossed his legs.
Parkins began to ask questions, and Sai answered. Jaylynn made notes. It soon became apparent that there was nothing new in Sai's recollection either. As the interview wound down, she stopped taking notes, half-listening as her gaze wandered around the room. Over the couch was an elaborate wall hanging. Colorful tigers and birds, deer and other animals were embroidered on a rich royal blue background. Through the archway into the next room she saw a wood table with six chairs around it. On the walls of that room hung a gallery of 8x10" photographs of the three children. The room was dim enough that it was hard for Jaylynn to see the pictures very well.
A Scooby Doo cartoon played on the TV. Tong lay on his stomach, facing the set, with an array of crayons, felt markers, and colored pencils spread out in front of him. He drew intently in an over-sized artist's sketchbook, his nose three inches from the page. The half of the page Jaylynn could see contained some trees, a path, a tank-like car, and dark-haired figures with guns. Drops of blood dripped from the muzzle of one of the weapons.
Tsorro and Parkins were wrapping things up. Jaylynn leaned forward in the rocking chair, ready to rise. Sai got up off the couch came toward her, asking what she did to her hand. She explained that she had been hurt arresting someone and then asked if they wanted to sign her cast.
"Sure," said Sai.
"Your brother is quite the artist. Think he'd let us use one of his markers?"
Tong rolled over and sat up. With a very serious look on his face, he offered two pens, one black and one green. He kept a red one for himself. Sai signed his name with a flourish and helped Sue draw squiggles that no one would recognize as an S, a U, or an E. Tong knelt next to her, and in block letters wrote his name on the topside of her cast.
She looked down at his artwork again. "You are drawing a very complicated picture there, Tong."
Tong's dark eyes met hers, but he didn't say anything.
Sai squatted and surveyed the half-finished drawing. "Hey Tong, is that the flight out of the mountains?" When Tong did not answer, he turned to Jaylynn. "Did you know our grandfather was a hero? When mama was little, littler than Sue, she had to run a hundred miles through the forest."
Mrs. Her interrupted. "I didn't run, Sai. My father carried me through most of it."
Sai went on. "Soldiers were chasing them, and they shot anyone they could find. My grandfather saved thirty people's lives."
The detectives rose, and Mrs. Her stood as Jaylynn did. She moved toward her children. "My father created a diversion so that the rest of us could escape. He was shot and killed by the Viet Cong."
Jaylynn nodded. "So your family is from the mountains of Laos?"
"Yes. When the war was over, my people were hunted down and killed. My brothers and sisters and I were lucky. We lost our father, but my mother and other adults got us to safety in Thailand. We came here when I was five."
Twenty-three years later, the blonde could see the woman was still bothered by the death of her father, though she spoke in a calm, factual voice. Having lost her own father, Jaylynn's sympathies rose to the surface, but she could think of nothing appropriate to say.
"We honor my grandfather," Sai said proudly, "and I am named after him."
"I am named after my father, too," the blonde said. Sai smiled at her as she picked up her coat from beside the chair.
Tsorro cleared his voice. "We'd best be going."
As Jaylynn reached down and picked up her brown coat, she said, "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Her. You've got very nice children."
The woman smiled. "Thank you, Officer. I'll tell my husband you said so." Sai helped the rookie into the coat and she thanked him.
They said goodbye to Mrs. Her and the children, and headed to the car through swirls of snow. Jaylynn wished she had a hat. The snowflakes were big and moist, and as fast as they hit her hair, they seemed to melt. Her whole head was chilled and damp by the time they reached the car. She wasted no time getting in.
Parkins started the engine. Shivering, Jaylynn said, "Well, that was a shame."
"Yeah," grumbled Tsorro. "Those kids were the first on the scene and they didn't see a damn thing."
"That's not what I meant. I'm talking about the family having to flee their homeland."
Tsorro said, "Practically everybody's family had to do that, Savage. My grandparents fled Mussolini during World War II."
"Really? I didn't know that."
"But we came here and worked. None of my family got put up in government housing and given refugee money and a bunch of welfare."
In a soft voice, Parkins said, "Different time-different climate, Tony. And your people weren't systematically hunted down and killed like the Hmong people were. It's different."
"Maybe. Maybe not."
Parkins shuffled the database printout in his hands. "Besides, it says here Mr. Vang works at the Ford plant and Mrs. Her is a-"
"Office worker," Jaylynn said.
"Yeah, that's right." Parkins nodded. "That family looks like they are working plenty hard. Tsorro didn't respond.
They arrived back at the station and Jaylynn got out. The detectives drove off to return the car, and the rookie plodded up the stairs through the gathering snow into the warm station. By the time she reached the coat rack, she was yawning from fatigue, lack of food, and the muggy warmth in the squad room.
After checking in with Lieutenant Finn and giving her a brief update, she went to the break room and got her brown bag out of the refrigerator. She sat at the table and ate, not really tasting any of the tuna sandwich. As long as she was busy, she was fine, but it was quiet times like these when she found she missed Dez the most. She had continued to call the apartment periodically, but no one ever answered.
She finished her sandwich and some carrots, and put the remaining items back in the bag and into the refrigerator for later. She still had a long night ahead of her.
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