This is an original work of fiction, copyright October 2006 by Jenah Watson.
Author's Note: Kellie and Shannon are back for another installment. Previous excerpts can be found at the Academy.
Warning: One of the main characters is an Animal Services officer and there is mention of an animal cruelty case (nothing graphic is depicted).
Dedication: This story is dedicated to those who devote their careers to making a difference in the lives of animals.
Kellie was ready to call it a night. Earlier in the evening, there had been a steady flow of children arriving at her door for Halloween treats. But in the last half hour, it had dwindled to a couple of groups of teenagers, not wearing costumes and mumbling a flat "Treat or Treat" as they held out their already bulging pillowcases. Kellie greeted them warmly, remembering herself at that in - between age; too old to wear a dorky costume, but not old enough to resist the opportunity to collect a bunch of free candy.
She turned off the porch light and stood at the front window, looking out and thinking about Shannon. The two women had been spending a lot of time together and Kellie missed having her friend there to help pass out the treats. But Shannon was working an extended shift tonight. She had explained that it was one of the busiest nights of the year for the Animal Services Department and it was unlikely she would have time to call.
Nonetheless, Kellie looked at the phone, wishing it would ring, as she carried the bowl of leftover candy to the kitchen. She made herself a cup of tea and decided to read for awhile. She got settled on the couch, resting her legs on an ottoman and covering her lower half with a brightly colored throw. She placed the portable phone on the cushion next to her, picked up a book from the end table, and began reading.
Several hours later, the telephone rang. Kellie, who had dozed off, fumbled for the receiver. "Hello?"
"Hi. I know it's late. I hope you weren't sleeping."
At the sound of Shannon's voice, Kellie was instantly wide awake. "Hi! I'm so glad you called."
"I wanted to let you know - " Shannon stopped speaking as a helicopter flew in quite low and hovered over the area. "Hang on a sec." She jogged to the Animal Services van and got in. It was relatively quiet inside and she put the cell phone back up to her ear. "Sorry about that."
"What's going on?"
"A terrible cruelty case. It's pretty chaotic right now with us, police officers, fire department and news crews all here." Shannon sighed wearily. "So, what I needed to tell you was, I won't be coming by after work."
"Oh." Kelly couldn't hide her disappointment at the cancellation of their plans. She'd been looking forward to sharing a homemade breakfast with Shannon in the morning. "Are you sure?"
"By the time I finish my shift and then fill out the ton of paperwork for this case..." The emotional toll of the evening caught up to Shannon and she paused, trying to collect herself. "I wouldn't be very good company."
Kelly wanted to reach through the phone and hug Shannon. Even though the officer often shared hilarious stories about her job, Kellie knew there was a rarely - mentioned dark side to it that affected Shannon deeply. "I'd still like for you to come over," Kelly said gently. "I want to see for myself that you're okay. You don't have to stay if you don't want to, but at least stop by. Please?"
For a number of seconds, there was silence on the line. Kellie waited, worrying that she might be pushing too much. However, more important than that was the distress she'd heard in Shannon's voice. She wasn't about to let the woman go home to an empty house after a horrific night at work. "Shannon?"
"All right," Shannon grumbled, "I'll stop by. But I'm warning you - I'll probably be grouchy."
"I think I can handle that."
"I'll be napping on the couch. Just tap on the door when you get here, okay?"
"Okay. I'll see you later."
"Bye." As soon as Kellie hung up the phone, she grabbed the remote control and turned on the television. Shannon had said there were news crews there, so maybe the local twenty - four hour news channel was covering the story. Sure enough, following the weather forecast, sports, and commercials, the local news came on. The anchorman warned that the next story would have disturbing content and viewer discretion was advised. Thinking this must be Shannon's animal cruelty case, Kellie sat on the edge of the couch, her attention riveted to the screen. The scene changed from the newsroom to a reporter standing in a wooded area. The man wore a somber expression as he started to relay the events that had occurred. As she listened to the heartbreaking story of violence perpetrated against defenseless cats, Kellie watched the activity going on behind the reporter, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shannon. It looked as if things were wrapping up, because some of the vehicles were leaving and the Animal Services van was nowhere in sight. Just then, the reporter's image left the screen and was replaced by footage taken earlier in the evening. The wooded area was cordoned off and law enforcement investigators were taking pictures and jotting down notes. The camera zoomed in on a cloth covering one of the cats that had been victimized. Kellie gasped when she saw a badly charred ear poking out from the edge of the material.
The reporter's tone became more cheerful as he stated that there was a cat who had survived the brutal attack by escaping into a nearby tree. It had been rescued by the Animal Services Department and was currently on its way to be evaluated. Footage of a loudly meowing, black cat with a tuft of white on its chest was shown. It appeared to be unharmed, although it didn't seem the least bit happy about being contained in the cat carrier. The reporter made a few closing comments and the segment was over.
Kellie pressed the off button on the remote and sat with her head in her hands. Tears welled in her eyes as she thought about the animals that had been killed. And she could only imagine how traumatized Shannon must be.
Giving up on getting any sleep, Kellie moved the comfortable old rocking chair over to the front window. For the next five hours she sat, waiting for Shannon.
The sky was beginning to lighten when Kellie saw the car pull up. She opened the door and went out on the porch.
Shannon, dressed in blue jeans and a tee shirt, was carrying a small duffle bag. She walked up the steps slowly. Her damp hair hung loosely around her face. "Hi."
Kellie threw her arms around the woman and hugged her tightly. "Hi. I'm glad you're here. We'd better get inside. It's cold and your hair is still wet."
"I took a shower at work. I was pretty grungy."
Kellie ushered Shannon through the door, positive that it was more than dirt that Shannon had tried to wash away.
"I didn't want to leave my gun in the car." Shannon placed the duffle bag under the end table and dropped her keys on top, before collapsing on the couch.
Kellie quickly sat down next to her. "What happened to your arm?"
"I was trying to get a cat out of a tree and he wasn't very cooperative. He managed to get in a few swipes above my gloves."
"I saw him on TV. He seemed pretty feisty."
"You watched the news report?" Shannon shook her head. "You shouldn't have done that."
"It's not the kind of thing you should see."
"It's not the kind of thing anyone should see. However, the reality is, there are bad people out there who do bad things. You can't protect everyone from seeing that."
"Maybe not everyone," Shannon said softly, "But I want to protect you."
"Well, if the occasion should arise that I need protection, I'm certainly glad I have you around." Kellie teased, trying to lighten the mood. "Now, let me see that arm." She examined the injured area closely. There were some superficial scratches, but what really concerned her was a deep cut that was approximately three inches long. "This needs to be bandaged."
"That's not necessary."
"Oh yes it is." Kellie jumped up and hurried to retrieve the box of first aid supplies from the bathroom.
Shannon was prepared to put up a fight, but any thoughts of protest died quickly when Kellie began tenderly applying antiseptic cream to the gash. Her touch was soothing and Shannon truly relaxed for the first time all evening. She closed her eyes, only faintly aware that gauze was being carefully wound around her arm and secured with tape. Then her hand was being held and she heard Kellie saying something, but the words sounded so far away, she couldn't catch what they were. She forced herself to open her eyes and when she did, she saw Kellie smiling at her.
"I think you need some sleep ASAP, Officer Marshall." Kellie repeated. "Come on." She tugged on Shannon's hand to help her up.
"Okay," Shannon stood and took a step in the direction of her duffle bag.
"Nope." Kellie pulled the woman toward the hall. "You're not leaving in your condition. I have a perfectly comfortable bed and you're going to take a nap before we have a wonderful breakfast."
"But . . . but - "
"No buts about it." Kellie led the way down the hall to the bedroom. She sat Shannon on the end of the bed for a moment while she closed the drapes and then turned back the comforter and top sheet. "All set. Take your shoes off and climb in."
Shannon found herself too exhausted to argue. She'd been in this bedroom before, fixing this or that, and she liked it. It was feminine, but not too frilly. Just like Kellie.
Kellie sat on the side of the bed and watched as the drowsy woman's breathing deepened. "That's it. Sleep," she murmured. "I know your job isn't easy and you witness some awful things, but never forget that when you're here, you're surrounded by love." She leaned over and placed a light kiss on Shannon's forehead. She started to stand and was surprised when her hand was caught in a strong grip.
"Stay. Please." Shannon's eyes remained closed, but the quiet words were clear.
Kellie kicked off her shoes and slipped under the covers. She was immediately pulled close to Shannon and they snuggled into a mutually comfortable position. In no time at all, both women were sleeping peacefully, both surrounded by love.
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