A Time to Weep, A Time to Laugh
by KF Garrison
"Bail out!" Officer Pete Malloy yelled at his partner, Jim Reed, a split second before the windshield of their LAPD radio car shattered from the impact of a bullet. Even as he yelled the warning at his younger partner, Malloy pushed his way out of the driver's side of the unit, drew his gun, and took cover behind the opened door. He spun on the balls of his feet and aimed his service revolver toward the house where an unknown person had decided to open fire on them with a high-powered weapon. Pete had spotted the rifle protruding from the front picture window as he'd pulled the car up in front of the innocent-looking ranch home and called out the warning. Dispatch had sent them there on an unknown trouble call; it hadn't taken long for the trouble to identify itself.
A second bullet took out the window on Jim's side of the car and sent glass cascading down on the officer.
"Jim, you all right?" Malloy spared a quick glance at his partner. Jim was hunkered down on the side closest to the gunman, and therefore the most vulnerable.
"Yeah. You?" Jim crouched lower behind the open passenger side door. He reached inside the unit and removed the shotgun from its rack, then aimed it at the window of the house.
"Yeah. You'd better try to get around to this side of the car." He'd barely gotten the words out of his mouth when the gunman shot a third round from the rifle. It took out the back window on Jim's side of the car.
"I'd better get us some back-up first," Jim responded through clenched teeth. "We're gonna need to block off the area." He carefully reached for the hand mic on the car's radio and depressed the red button. "This is 1-Adam-12. Officers need help at 4698 Pine Lane. We have a barricaded gunman shooting at us with a high-powered rifle. We need units to block off the streets." Jim's voice was calm, but clipped, and Pete could hear the tension underlying the professional demeanor.
"1-Adam-twelve, roger. All available units, 1-Adam-12 needs help at 4698 Pine Lane. Gunman barricaded in the residence. Shots fired."
As his partner called for help, Pete thumbed sweat off his forehead, wondering just how much assistance they could count on and how long it would take to arrive. The Los Angeles Police Department was suffering a manpower crisis at the moment. Between budget cuts, low recruitment and the height of the summer vacation season, getting sufficient units out on the street had become increasingly difficult. He and Jim had worked several double shifts during the past week or so and just today their Watch Commander, Sergeant MacDonald, had been six men short of a full shift for the PM watch.
Pete glanced at Jim again, remembering his partner's breathless, late arrival at roll call earlier that afternoon. Mac, already close to the boiling point over the emaciated ranks, nearly bit Jim's head off for being late. Jim had apologized, but offered no excuse. He had simply slid into his seat, opened his notebook and stared at it like he'd lost his best friend. And unlike other times when Jim had a problem, he hadn't said a word even after they were out on patrol.
Pete pulled his attention back to the street. Jim's problems, whatever they were, would have to wait. Pete caught motion out of the corner of his eye. When he turned his head, he saw that some neighbors were standing on their porch, watching the house. "You people stay in the house!" Pete yelled at them. He motioned with his left hand for them to get back. Pete's warning seemed to have little effect on the onlookers, but the gunman's next move caused them to scatter.
The gunman popped off three shots in quick succession and the black-and-white was the victim of all three. The first shot flattened the right front tire, and the next two found their mark somewhere in the front end of the car. A loud hissing sound accompanied curls of steam that poured from under the hood.
"Jim! Get over here!" Pete barked. The black & white's door would not be sufficient protection for his partner from a well-placed bullet at this close range.
Jim flattened himself onto the front seat of the car and squirmed through, still clutching the radio mic in his left hand and the shotgun in his right. Pete grabbed his partner's shirt and helped pull him through to a safer position on the far side of the car.
"So much for moving the unit," Jim said breathlessly. He squatted next to Pete and looked at him. "Now what?"
Pete nodded at the mic in Jim's hand. "Make an announcement for the neighbors to stay put. Then see if you can talk him out. I don't wanna return fire until I'm more sure what the situation is."
"All right." Jim handed the shotgun over to Pete, then reached in and turned the radio to its PA function. "This is the police. Everyone please stay indoors and away from the windows until the situation is under control. I repeat: please stay in your houses and away from the windows!" Jim paused briefly before continuing. "You in the house! Throw out your weapon and come out with your hands up! You're completely surrounded! There's no way out! Throw out the weapon and come out with your hands up!"
"Come in and get me, pigs!" The voice that responded to Jim's commands sounded hoarse and angry. "I'm waiting on you!" To emphasize his point, the gunman put three more rounds into the black and white. This time, the right rear tire went down and the rear windshield shattered, falling into the cruiser's back seat.
"Throw out your weapon and come out with your hands up!" Jim repeated.
"Come in and get me! I'm waiting on you!" the gunman called again. His voice turned more desperate than angry, and it sounded much younger.
"Sounds like a kid," Pete commented.
"A kid with a death wish," Jim agreed grimly.
"Get Mac on the horn," Pete instructed. "Make sure he's on the way with a teargas kit."
"Right." Jim reached in again and put the radio back on frequency 1. "This is 1-Adam-12. Have 1-L-90 meet us on Tac 2."
"1-Adam-12, roger. 1-L-90, 1-L-90, meet 1-Adam-12 on Tac 2."
Jim switched frequencies and waited for a beat. The response was almost immediate. "1-L-90 to 1-Adam-12, go."
"Mac, we've got a situation here."
"I know. I've been monitoring. I'm on my way with the tear gas kit, but the traffic is moving slowly. I'm doing the best I can, but my ETA is about ten minutes."
"Roger, Mac," Jim said around a sigh.
"Just try to talk him out, but keep the situation under control. Stay on Tac 2 and keep me updated."
Jim met Pete's eyes. "You heard that. Ten minutes."
"Yeah. And our backup isn't here yet, either."
"Hey, you pigs! You filthy, scum-sucking stormtroopers! Are you still out there? I'm waitin' on ya!" The gunman yelled through the window again, accentuating his words with two more rounds. The bullets found their marks in the rear door of the black-and-white.
Pete couldn't keep from flinching. They were simply too close to the gunman, and their patrol car provided only flimsy cover from bullets fired from such a high-powered rifle. If they didn't do something, one of the slugs was sure to find their way into one of them. Where's our backup?
A movement from Jim drew Pete's attention back to his partner. The younger officer had switched back to PA function to talk again to the gunman.
"This is the police! Throw your gun out and come out with your hands up! You're gonna come out of there one way or the other, so let's do it the easy way!"
"I'll make it easy for you, pigs!" The gunman stepped into full view in the window. He held the rifle in one hand, then raised both arms above his head. "Here I am, pigs! Go ahead! Shoot me! Shoot me now! You know you want to!"
"My God, Pete, he is a kid!" Jim exclaimed quietly. He'd drawn his revolver and trained it on the window after the kid had tossed the last rounds of bullets at them, but now his gun hand hung at his side.
Pete continued to sight down the length of the shotgun. He studied the young figure who stood, exposed, in the picture window of the house. The gunman's shock of long, black hair fell over narrow shoulders. Jeans and a flannel shirt covered a slight, almost emaciated frame. Odd clothing for the middle of summer. He's a hype. He's probably high now...or needs a hit. But the face, so contorted with desperate anger, looked youthful. Pete pegged him at 17 at the oldest. Damn. Come on, Mac -- we need that tear gas.
"Looks about 17," Pete said aloud.
"You figure he's a hype?" Jim asked.
"Can't be sure, but it looks that way."
"Come on, you bloodthirsty pigs! I'm standing here! Shoot me! Come on!" The boy screamed again, pounding his chest with his free hand.
"What makes a 17 year old so ready to die?" Jim asked. He depressed the red speaker key. "We don't want to hurt you, son. Throw out the gun and come out with your hands up!"
"No! You have to come in and get me!" The young gunman pulled the rifle down and popped off three more shots.
This time, the young man took out one of the reds and skipped two bullets across the hood of the unit. Pete involuntarily ducked even lower as the slugs pinged past his ears. He lost his balance and tipped onto his rear, sitting hard on the pavement.
"You hit, Pete?" Jim asked anxiously.
"No, but one of us is gonna be if we don't do something." Pete got back on his haunches and took aim with the shotgun again.
"We need that tear gas," Jim said tersely.
Pete looked over at the profile of his young partner. "Take it easy, Jim," he said quietly.
Jim nodded curtly. He still clutched the mic in his left hand, but he'd re-sighted his target with his service revolver. Jim's blue eyes were clouded with concern, but as far as Pete could tell, his concentration remained focused solely on the situation at hand. Whatever problem was bothering his partner, Jim wasn't letting it interfere with the job. Unlike me, Pete scolded himself mildly, and once again forced Jim's troubles out of his mind.
"Keep him talkin'," Pete urged.
Jim nodded and spoke again into the mic. He kept his voice firm, but calm.
"We don't want to hurt you. Make it easy on yourself and throw out the rifle. Then walk out with your hands up."
"No! Come and get me! I want you to come and take me yourself! Come on, stormtrooper! Stinking, lousy fuzz! Come on! I'm standing in plain sight! Shoot me or I'll kill you!"
"Listen to me, son. You don't have to die. We can help you if you throw out the rifle and give up. We won't hurt you! Come on out with your hands up!"
The young man screamed in anger, then raised his weapon to fire. He sent out a volley of bullets that caused both Pete and Jim to flatten themselves against the car in self-defense.
"He's not giving us any choice," Pete gritted to Jim. "We've gotta keep him away from the window. He's gonna kill somebody...one of us, probably. If he makes to fire again, put a few rounds through the window...high, or wide...just to scare him off."
"And here comes our back-up," Pete looked past Jim and saw a black-and-white headed their way.
"Can you tell who it is?" Jim asked. He had his sights intently targeted on the window of the house.
"Not yet. But I'm gonna wave 'em off to the side street, or our boy in there's liable to take a couple of pot shots at 'em." Pete moved out away from the car so he could be seen by the approaching officers, still crouched low. He frantically waved to the unit, indicating they should take a left onto the cross-street. The oncoming radio car slowed, and whoever was driving gave a turn signal to indicate he'd seen Pete's warning.
A sudden exclamation from Jim caused Pete to spin around quickly.
"Pete! I think he's...." Jim broke off and fired four rounds at the house in quick succession, shattering the window over the gunman's head. Almost simultaneously, two shots rang out from the gunman's weapon, aimed in the direction of the approaching black and white. The unit peeled off to the left, burning rubber as the driver quickly moved to get out of harm's way.
Pete unloaded both barrels of the shotgun into the far side of the window, hoping to drive the youngster away from his vantage point. But the gunman stood his ground. He lowered the weapon and began to scream again in anger.
"Go back to the radio and get the back up to meet us on Tac 2. I don't even want to try to move right now." Pete tapped Jim on the shoulder.
"Right." Jim reached in and manipulated the dial and made the request of the dispatcher. After her acknowledgment, he flipped back to Tac 2, then handed the mic over to Pete.
"1-Adam-36 to 1-Adam-12...go!"
Pete did a mental check. Woods and Brinkman manned Adam-36 today. "You guys okay over there?"
"Roger, Malloy. Guess Brink was just too quick for 'em."
"Woods, you and Brink need to seal off the street and make sure everyone stays indoors. Mac's on his way with the tear gas kit, but his ETA's about five more minutes."
"Roger, Adam-12," Woods acknowledged.
"This is L-90," Mac's voice broke in. "Malloy, what's the situation?"
"We have what appears to be a lone gunman, who looks to be about 17. He's using what looks like a .30-.30. He's shooting at anything and everything and trying to get us to charge him. He might be high on something, but he sounds like he's got a death wish."
"Hang tough, Malloy, I'm moving as fast as I can."
"What's taking you pigs so long?" the voice of the angry young gunman cut through the air. He moved back in front of the window and raised his arms again, not in surrender, but as if offering himself for sacrifice. "I'm standing right here! Shoot me!"
Pete handed the mic back to Jim, then reached in and switched to PA function again. "He's used to your voice. Try to get him out."
"I don't think he wants out," Jim muttered, then depressed the red speaker's button. "Come out with your hands up! Throw out your weapon and come out with your hands up! If you give up now, you won't be hurt. We don't want to hurt you, son. But if you don't come out now, we'll take you the hard way. We have a tear gas kit on the way. We'll smoke you out if we have to!" Jim paused to let that sink in. "Make it easy on yourself, son, and give up now!"
"No! No tear gas!" the young gunman punctuated his exclamation with another barrage of bullets that sent both Malloy and Reed ducking lower behind their unit. The bullets peppered the car, cracking more glass and making loud metallic clangs that reverberated through the stillness of the early evening.
"Put a few more rounds through the window," Pete ordered, then followed his own command by emptying both barrels through the window. Jim simultaneously emptied his gun into the window, then ducked down to reload.
"Okay, okay!" the gunman yelled through the window when the shooting stopped. "I'll give up! I'm coming out!"
Pete looked over at Jim. The pleased expression on the younger officer's face reflected his relief. "Finally," he said.
"Yeah," Pete agreed uneasily. He didn't think it was time to relax just yet. Pete watched Jim put the last bullet into his revolver, then retrieve the mic. "First, throw the rifle out the window! Put your hands up and come out the front door, slowly."
"Okay, here's the rifle!" The young gunman threw the rifle out, then put his hands over his head.
"Come out the front door, slowly. Keep your hands high, where we can see them!" Jim instructed. The boy turned and slowly disappeared from their sight.
Pete stood, shotgun still aimed toward the window. "Jim, I'm gonna take up station behind that tree there," he inclined his head toward a large oak centered in the yard on the left side of the sidewalk. "I don't exactly trust this guy. I've got a feeling...."
"Okay, Pete. I've gotcha covered." Jim moved out of his crouch and leaned over the rear of the unit, his revolver aimed at the door.
Pete ran from his cover to the tree, taking a safe, concealed position just as the front door opened slowly. He braced the shotgun against the giant oak and took aim on the door. Something about the gunman's sudden change of heart bugged him. It didn't feel right.
Jim yelled to the gunman. "Okay, get your hands up and come on out!"
"I'm coming out!" The boy cried in response. He stepped through the door, with his left hand held high, but as he became fully visible, the officers saw that he was holding a revolver to his head with his right hand.
Oh, great! Just great. This kid really does want to die. He only came out to avoid the tear gas, so he could still be in control. He's thinking more than I gave him credit for. Pete stiffened and resighted, hoping the kid wasn't about to do anything stupid. He decided to remain silent and let Jim continue to deal with the boy. Pete figured having two officers talking with him would only serve to agitate him more. Besides, he didn't want to give away his position. He had a bad feeling that they needed an ace-in-the-hole to resolve this crisis.
"Put the gun down, son!" Jim ordered.
"No! I told you! I'm ready for you!" The young boy stepped down the three small steps leading down from the front porch and stood on the sidewalk. "You want the gun, you come take it from me!"
"I don't want to hurt you son," Jim said. Pete noticed that his partner's voice took on a warmer, more conversational tone. "Tell me your name."
"No small talk!" The teen shrieked. "Just shut up!"
"What will it hurt to tell me your name?" Jim asked. He straightened behind the unit and took two small steps away from the rear fender. "My name's Jim."
"I said, shut up!" The young man's face contorted in his distress. He held the handgun to his temple with a shaking arm.
"I just want to help you," Jim insisted calmly. "Let's talk about it."
Pete studied the young gunman's face as Jim tried to communicate with him. Pale skin covered cheekbones that protruded prominently from the painfully thin face. Dark circles hugged the area under the boy's dull eyes, giving him a haunted, skeletal look. Pete was more convinced than ever that this kid was a hype, and, based on what he could see, probably high as a kite. There was no time to wonder what would drive a kid of his age to this point; no time to wonder about his parents or family situation. Like too many other times, all he and Jim could do was try and put the pieces back together in the moment of crisis.
"There's nothing to talk about! Come on and take me!" The gunman slapped his chest with his free hand.
Jim lowered his gun and took a tentative step toward the young man. "Put your gun down, son. What you're threatening is the wrong solution to whatever problem is bugging you. Problems come and go, but death is permanent. Let me help you."
Careful, partner! Don't let your guard down. He's right on the edge. Pete tightened his grip on the shotgun and made sure he had the boy in his sights.
Surprisingly, the young man didn't balk as Jim took even another step toward him. "Life is too precious to throw away, son. You're young. You've got your whole life ahead of you. Step back from this and think about it." Jim lowered his gun to his side with an exaggerated motion. The young officer took his free hand and slowly extended it, palm up, to the shaking youngster. "Hand me the gun."
Not too close, Jim. There's something hinky about this kid. Pete chanced a quick glance at his partner. Jim's eyes remained locked onto the boy, his expression sympathetic and open. But Pete could see lines of perspiration running down the sides of Jim's face. Slow and easy, partner.
The gunman seemed to hesitate for a moment. He didn't remove the handgun from his head, but took two halting steps toward Jim.
"That's right," Jim encouraged. "Come on, now, just put the gun down, and we'll talk."
The gunman remained silent. Sweat trickled into the boy's eyes, but he didn't seem to notice as he stared at Jim with vacant blue eyes. He took two more small steps toward Jim. This brought him almost even with the tree, and Pete shifted slightly to keep out of the young man's peripheral vision.
It bothered Pete that the young man kept walking, almost zombie-fashion, but he wouldn't drop the gun. The fact that the gunman had stopped talking bothered him, too. It just didn't feel right. The veteran officer felt a real need to communicate with his partner, but he feared a sudden word from him would detonate the tension-charged situation. Reluctantly, he held his tongue.
"It's okay, you're doing fine," Jim said. He allowed a small, encouraging smile to tug at his lips. "Why don't you just put the gun down?
Two more steps and the young man passed the tree. The boy stopped, looking spooked, about twenty feet from Jim, and little more than a good arm's length from Malloy. He kept the gun pressed to his temple. His eyes darted around the yard. Pete pressed himself against the tree and pulled the shotgun back so that he didn't give away his position. If the kid took just two more steps, he could work his way in behind the boy and end this standoff.
Apparently Jim realized that. His partner didn't look his way, but kept his eyes focused on the youngster, making his expression as inviting and encouraging as possible. "Don't stop," he said softly. "It's okay. You can bring me the gun. Just stay calm and we'll work this out. I just want to help you. Why don't you lower the gun, son? It's gonna be okay. Just keep walking."
Jim kept his gun hand down. He motioned with his empty, outstretched hand for the boy to keep coming forward.
Pete willed the youngster to move. Come on, kid, just a couple more steps. Just a couple more steps and it's all over. You'll live to see another day and we'll get you some help.
The young man took another three, small steps toward Jim, then stopped. He pulled the gun away from his temple, holding it about six inches to the side of his head, pointed toward the sky.
"That's it," Jim encouraged. "Lower the gun, son."
Perfect! Just hold that pose. Pete set the shotgun against the tree and moved quietly into position so that he could grab the gun hand and take the kid down if the boy didn't immediately drop the gun.
But before Pete could make his move, the whole thing came unraveled.
"I'm gonna make you kill me, you stinking, stupid pig!" The boy suddenly growled angrily. Instead of dropping the gun, he thrust his arm out, aiming the gun right at Jim's chest.
Jim dove for the grass even as the young gunman pulled the trigger. But not even Jim's speed was a match for that of a bullet at close range. The bullet struck Jim's left arm, and he cried out with a gasping grunt in response to the shock and pain. Jim hit the ground hard, landing on his gun hand. He tried to roll over, apparently anticipating a second bullet, but his movement was sluggish, and Pete knew that he had to do something fast.
In the split second Pete had to make a decision, he had to choose between drawing and firing or rushing the teen as he had earlier planned. He chose the latter.
"Hey!" Pete yelled, lunging for the boy's arm. He hoped his cry would divert the gunman's attention away from Jim. He had no idea how badly Jim was hurt, but he sure as hell wasn't going to give this kid another chance to make a bad situation worse. All they needed was just a second.
But they weren't going to be granted that second. Pete's plan for diversion worked too well. Just as the officer's hand was about to close around the gunman's wrist, the boy jerked around at the cry and amazingly danced out of Pete's reach. Pete saw the gun whip around to face him, now. Even as he reached for his own gun, he knew he was too late. He braced himself for the bullet to come, cursing himself for his stupidity.
Two shots rang out and Pete tensed. But the expected impact from a bullet never followed. Pete realized then that the shots hadn't come from the young man's gun, but from Jim's.
The young gunman crumpled without a sound and the weapon fell from his hand as he hit the ground.
Pete sucked in a deep breath, almost weak with relief, and stepped forward to scoop up the gun. He spared a quick glance at Jim. His partner sat on the ground, his bloody left arm hanging limply at his side. Jim kept his right arm extended, gun aimed in at the fallen suspect, but Pete could see his arm start to tremble. "Easy, Jim," he called out. "Stay put." The senior officer then turned his attention quickly back to the fallen gunman. He leaned over to check for a pulse, but one look at the teen's slack face and the stains of blood on his shirt told Pete all he needed to know.
Pete touched the junction at the neck and jaw where he would normally have found a carotid pulse. But no rhythmic beating pumped under his fingers. Pete moved his fingers a fraction to see if he could feel anything, but this boy's heart was still.
Well, son, you got your wish. Pete straightened and a bitter anger raged through him. You got your wish and now Jim has to live with the consequences.
Pete turned away from the dead youngster and jogged over quickly to check on Jim. The young officer still clutched his gun, but he'd dropped his hand down to his side. Perspiration soaked Jim's uniform and rolled down his face, shining on sheet-white skin. He stared at the prone body of the teenager, but looked up when Pete knelt beside him.
"How you doin'?" Pete asked. He lifted Jim's shirt sleeve slightly to reveal the bullet wound in the fleshy part of the arm over the bicep. The wound oozed blood, but it didn't look as bad as Pete had feared
"O-okay," Jim responded shakily, but he gasped slightly and winced when Pete gently turned the arm to check for an exit wound. He found one and, as expected, a more gruesome view of the wound. A good amount of blood seeped from the torn flesh on the underside of Jim's arm, soaked his uniform sleeve and ran down the length of the injured limb.
"Sorry, Jim," Pete apologized. He tried to sound reassuring. "It's not too bad. You're gonna be fine." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief. Pete folded the cloth once and placed the square over the exit wound. "This may hurt a little, but we need to slow this bleeding down until help gets here." Pete applied pressure to the wound and apologized again when Jim flinched.
"He's dead, isn't he?" Jim again looked up at Pete with eyes that reflected a pain that Pete knew wasn't entirely physical.
Jim squeezed his eyes shut and dropped his head. He sighed heavily.
Pete dropped a comforting hand gently on Jim's back. "Take it easy," he soothed. "You didn't have a choice. Now you just sit here and I'm gonna get an ambulance. You think you can hold this in place?"
"I don't need an ambulance," Jim objected tiredly.
The sound of pounding footsteps coming toward them interrupted Pete's response. He looked up to see Brinkman running their way.
"Brinkman!" Pete shouted. "Put out a four and get an ambulance! Jim's been hit!"
"Right!" Brinkman spun around and headed back for Adam-36.
"Pete, I told you, I don't need an ambulance." Jim said again.
"You gotta get to the hospital somehow," Pete drawled mildly, "and I don't think our car's going anywhere any time soon." He paused. "Except maybe to the garage to see Tony."
"It's in worse shape than I am," Jim agreed. His voice was tight and he trembled slightly under Pete's pressure-grip on his arm. Pete wondered if he might be heading into shock.
"You cold?" Pete asked.
"A little, maybe," Jim nodded, but his gaze still focused on the boy.
Pete noticed Jim's death grip on his revolver. "Can you manage to put your gun up, Jim?" He asked gently.
"Huh? Oh, yeah....yeah," Jim placed his service revolver back in its case with jerky movements.
"Here comes Mac," Pete informed Jim as their Watch Commander's station wagon came roaring down the street.
"He'll probably chew on me some more," Jim muttered. "Of all the days for this to happen...God...what a day."
The bitterness in his partner's tone surprised Pete. Mac wouldn't chew on any wounded officer, and Jim had to know that. Again, Pete suspected that something else weighed heavily on his partner's mind.
"Just relax," Pete tried to comfort him. "Everything's gonna be all right."
Jim blew out another shaky breath. "I hope so," he whispered.
"Don't worry. Just relax," Pete repeated. He kept a firm grip on Jim's wound with one hand and supported him with the other, and watched as their Sergeant angled his wagon in behind Adam-12.
The big Scotsman got out of his car and jogged over quickly to his officers, his face furrowed in concern. "How bad is it?" Worry caused Mac's characteristically gruff voice to sound even more like sandpaper scratching on a chalkboard.
"Not too bad," Pete assured him. "Looks like the bullet went clean through. It's bleeding a good bit, though."
Mac knelt down beside Jim and placed a meaty hand gently on his shoulder. "You okay, Jim?"
"I'm all right," Jim assured him with a nod.
"What about the shooter?" Mac directed this question to Malloy.
"Dead, Mac," Pete answered. "He didn't give us any choice."
Mac looked over to where the young boy lay on the ground, studied the scene a moment, then returned his gaze to Malloy's face. "Whose bullet?" He asked quietly.
"Mine," Jim said. His eyes closed briefly.
"I'll need a statement," Mac reminded them, getting down to necessary business. His voice was not unkind. "Pete, you can do that while Jim's getting patched up. I'll make the necessary notifications, and get Woods and Brinkman to start talking with the neighbors. He paused as Pete nodded acknowledgment and turned his gaze back to Jim. "You want me to have someone pick up Jean?"
"No!" Jim exclaimed. The mention of his wife seemed to put some spark back in the young man. He struggled to sit up straighter.
"Easy, Jim, don't move around," Pete admonished.
"Settle down," Mac seconded. "I can give her a call..."
"No, please," Jim's voice held a pleading tone. "Don't...I'll call her. This is nothing....she doesn't need....I mean, I don't want her to worry. If somebody calls her or shows up at the door, she'll get all upset. Let me call her when I'm done at the hospital."
"All right, all right," Mac closed his hand on Jim's shoulder in a reassuring squeeze. "If you're sure?"
"I'm sure." Jim nodded assent. He shifted on the ground, obviously uncomfortable.
"Take it easy, partner," Pete advised again. He strengthened his brace on Jim's back.
"Hang in there, Jim," Mac urged. "You'll be fine."
"I know," Jim tried to sound confident.
Mac caught Pete's eye as he stood. "Take care of him, Pete," he instructed unnecessarily, then strode off toward his car.
"You bet," Pete assured him. He felt grateful for Mac's quiet, calm support. Before this is all over, we're both gonna need it. Pete took another look at Jim's face. "You doin' okay, buddy?"
"Will you stop asking me that?" Jim griped. "I told you, this is just a scratch."
"It's a little more than a scratch, Jim," Pete drawled, tolerant as always of his partner's stubbornness. Jim typically denied any discomfort associated with an on-the-job accident. "Are you sure you don't want me to call Jean for you?"
"No, I don't!" Jim replied irritably. "I told you, I'm not gonna scare Jean with this. I'm gonna go get a band-aid put on this and then I'll call her so she can hear my voice and know I'm okay."
"All right, all right, settle down. I understand." Pete sighed. "Listen to you...a band-aid."
"Might as well be," Jim insisted. "You and I both know we're gonna be at the station half the night in front of a shooting team."
"You can't face a shooting team in this kind of shape," Pete objected. "Mac'll call it for tomorrow."
Jim shook his head tiredly. "Can't tomorrow. Gotta do it tonight."
"Jim, don't be ridiculous. What's wrong with tomorrow?"
"I...I just can't do it tomorrow. I can't." Jim's voice lowered.
Pete frowned, confused at Jim's strange behavior. It was obviously more than just emotional shock or pain-induced hysteria. Jim had brought whatever bothered him to work with him today, and not even this incident had been able to erase it from his head or his heart.
"Okay, okay," Pete patted him on the shoulder. Best just to humor him now and work it out later when Jim was feeling better. "Don't worry about it. We'll take care of it." He heard the shrill whine of an ambulance siren and breathed a silent sigh of relief. "Your ride's on the way," he told Jim.
"Promise me nobody'll call Jean?" Jim asked again.
"Okay. Good." Jim seemed to relax marginally and he blew out another shaky breath. He wiped rivulets of perspiration off his face with his good arm then looked up at Pete. "Don't look at me like that. I'm all right. Really."
"Whatever you say, Jim," Pete agreed dubiously, grateful to see the ambulance round the corner and grind to a stop beside their wounded car. As far as he was concerned, it wasn't a moment too soon.
"I'll come to the hospital as soon as I can," Pete promised Jim as the ambulance attendants settled him in the back of the transport.
Jim had sat patiently on the ground while medics put a proper pressure bandage on his wound, but had steadfastly refused to get onto the proffered stretcher. Instead, he walked to the ambulance himself, while frustrated medics and an anxious partner hovered close-by, ready to offer help if he needed it. He hadn't needed it.
Jim looked at his partner and managed a shadow of his usual sunny smile. "No rush. I'm fine."
Pete returned the attempt at a smile with a wry look of his own. "So you keep saying. Just take it easy, okay?"
"I will," Jim assured him. He flashed a "thumbs-up" sign to Pete with his uninjured hand.
Pete couldn't help but shake his head. Sometimes Jim's stubbornness exceeded all expectations.
"I'll see you later." Pete backed away as one of the attendants hopped down from the back and shut the doors.
Pete stared after the ambulance as it sped off, its sirens blaring and lights flashing. Oh, I bet Jim hates that! The slightly amused thought did little to alleviate the uneasy feeling that had firmly entrenched itself in Pete's gut. He knew that Jim would be okay, physically, but he wondered about Jim's emotional state. Beyond the normal emotional upheaval that accompanied taking a human being's life, necessary or not, Pete couldn't shake the feeling that Jim's heart carried another, non-job-related burden. Pete wondered idly if the topic of Jim's state of mind would come up during the shooting team's routine questioning. You know it will. It absolutely will. Pete sighed.
"Jim gonna be okay?" Officer Jerry Woods asked. Somehow, he'd managed to walk right up to Pete, unnoticed.
Pete started at the sound of his colleague's voice.
"Easy, Pete," Jerry patted Malloy on the back. "Maybe I should ask if you're okay."
"I was just thinking," Pete assured him. "Jim'll be fine. It went all the way through, here in the arm," Pete held up his own arm and pointed out the location to Woods.
"That's a relief," Woods said with sincerity.
"Who got the kid?" Woods asked.
"Tough one, huh?"
"Real tough," Pete agreed. "We're lucky we're not both dead. What'd you turn from the neighbors?"
"Kid's name was Bobby Sanford. Age 17. He was gonna be a senior at Taft."
"What about the parents?" Pete asked.
Woods frowned. "Neighbors say they're out of town. Nobody seems to know where, but maybe we'll turn an address or phone number in the house."
Pete turned and looked at the house, now filling quickly with various officers and detectives. Other officials, including a photographer, milled around the yard or prowled around the bullet-ridden Adam-12, marking items for evidence. Sergeant MacDonald stood by the body, talking with Lieutenant Moore, who had arrived just as Jim got into the ambulance. They caught Pete's eye and motioned to him. "Gonna be a long night," Pete remarked, then walked over to join his superiors.
Jim leaned his head back against the side of the ambulance as it made its way noisily but slowly through crowded city streets. He wished they'd shut off that damned siren. Jim cradled his injured arm against his chest. The limb burned and throbbed but he hardly acknowledged the discomfort. His mind churned with a thousand fractured thoughts.
Why, God? Why today of all days? I didn't wanna kill that kid. I didn't even wanna come to work. Why didn't I stay home? I shoulda stayed with Jean. Then I wouldn't be in this mess. Oh, Jean, Jean...I love you...I wish I was home with you. A stab of guilt sliced through him, and that pain hurt worse than the pain in his arm. Forgive me, Jean.
Jim shut his eyes as a wave of lightheadedness swept over him.
"You still with me, Officer Reed?" the medic, who sat next to Jim on the ambulance bench, touched his uninjured shoulder lightly.
"Hmmmm? Yeah. Yeah, I'm all right."
"I'll just check your B.P. again real quick." The medic slipped the blood pressure cuff onto his arm again and inflated it.
"Can't you turn off that siren?" Jim asked irritably.
The medic waited until he'd finished his reading before answering. "Traffic's too heavy. If we didn't have it on, we'd never get through. Your blood pressure's dropping some. Feeling a little dizzy?"
"Maybe a little," Jim conceded.
"I think you should lie down."
"I'm okay," Jim insisted. "I'd rather not move."
"Suit yourself," the medic shrugged. "But if it gets any worse, let me know."
"Sure," Jim wished the medic would just leave him alone. He wished everybody would just leave him alone. He wished he could just go home and hold his wife. God, how am I gonna explain this to her? Oh, Jean, I'm sorry. I'm just so sorry.
"Neither of you entered the residence at any time?" Lieutenant Moore asked Pete. It was just one more question in a series of questions the Lieutenant had begun asking Pete as soon as he'd gotten within earshot.
"No, sir," Pete answered. The officer patiently answered the Lieutenant's brief questions, but he simultaneously kept an eye on the scene at the Sanford residence. As time passed, the activity increased and became more chaotic. At least five other black and whites that Mac had scrounged up from somewhere had come to the scene to assist with crowd control and to help interview witnesses. Detectives from Robbery/Homicide, led by Sergeant Ric Sanchez, recovered spent shell casings, made measurements, and prowled the house for clues that might help unravel the mystery of why a seventeen-year-old boy suddenly turned violent.
"But you did fire into the residence," Moore stated.
"Both of you?"
"Yes, sir." Pete confirmed. He tried not to sound impatient, but all he really wanted to do right now was get to the hospital and check on Jim.
"Your log's in the cruiser, still?" Moore asked, after a pause.
"Yes, sir. Do you want me to get it?"
"No, I'll have someone pick it up from the garage. Looks like they're ready to take the car away." The Lieutenant nodded his head toward Adam-12.
Pete couldn't hide a grimace as a tow truck operator readied Adam-12 for towing, using what Pete considered to be heavy-handed movements.
Both Mac and the Lieutenant followed his gaze, then looked back at him with some sympathy.
"It's more than just a car, sometimes, isn't it?" Mac asked.
"It sure saved our lives tonight," Pete agreed.
"Tony'll have to pull a miracle out of his hat to get her running again," Mac commented with regret. "I think a couple of those bullets may have cracked the engine block. You'll probably have to use an X-car until we see what's gonna happen."
"I wouldn't expect to be out on the street for a few days anyway," Lieutenant Moore reminded gently. "You know the routine; you'll both be given administrative duties for a few days. Until it's all cleared up."
"Yes, sir," Pete nodded.
"Besides, since Reed's injured, I'll call the shooting team together for tomorrow. Give him some time to shake it off," Moore continued.
"Uh, Lieutenant," Pete spoke up, "Reed mentioned to me before the ambulance came...he really wants to do this tonight."
"Tonight?" The Lieutenant's brows climbed into his hairline, then he frowned at Pete. "You're sure of that?"
"Yes, sir, he was very specific." Pete hoped they wouldn't ask the next, obvious question.
"Why?" Mac blurted the dreaded question.
Pete bit back the sigh that almost escaped. "I don't know why," he admitted.
"Well, what did he say about it?" Moore pressed.
"He just said he 'couldn't do it tomorrow,'" Pete responded. He fervently hoped he wasn't putting a noose around his partner's neck.
"He didn't elaborate?" Moore asked. His face betrayed concern.
"No, sir, and I didn't ask."
"You think he's up to it?"
"That's not my call, is it, sir?" Pete inquired. "That's something for Jim and his doctor to decide."
Lieutenant Moore nodded once, tersely. "Mac, you see to that. I'd like to have answers tonight if it's possible; but I don't want Reed passing out during questioning. When we're done with Malloy here, take him with you to County General to pick up Reed and use your own judgment about calling the shooting team."
"I'll take care of it," Mac assured him.
"Call me from the hospital and let me know whether or not to call it for tonight or tomorrow. What about Reed's wife?" Moore inquired.
"Reed said he'd call her himself after he was treated," Mac informed his superior. "Said that me showing up at her door would scare her too much for an arm wound. He seemed concerned about it. In fact..." he turned to Pete as the Lieutenant nodded and harumphed an acknowledgment. "Did he ever tell you what was bugging him today?"
"Something was bugging him?" Pete asked innocently.
"Don't shadow-box with me, Pete," Mac growled. "He came in late for roll call - Jim's never late - with no explanation. Then he sat there, looking like he'd rather have been anywhere else but where he was. I even heard you ask him if he was okay."
"Mac, he didn't say anything to me," Pete said, a little bit of a growl creeping into his own voice.
"Malloy," Moore interjected sternly, "Your partner's state of mind is of critical importance to this investigation. If you have information that's relevant, you're duty-bound to reveal it."
"I swear, Lieutenant, he didn't say anything to me." Pete lifted his right hand to emphasize his point. It took a strong effort not to bristle at the Lieutenant's intimation.
"This is neither the time nor the place for this discussion, anyway," Moore declared quietly. "But you can be sure that this subject will come up again in questioning. I'll see to that."
"Yes, sir," Pete agreed. He kept his face carefully neutral, but inside he couldn't help but feel that the noose around Jim's neck was slowly tightening.
By the time Lieutenant Moore had been satisfied he no longer needed Pete or Mac on the scene and kicked them loose to check on Jim, twilight had descended on the city, and a bloated, red sun slipped behind the Pacific. Mac drove Pete in his wagon to County General to collect Reed. Traffic had thinned considerably, making the drive more tolerable.
Pete sat quietly during the ride, fiddling with his hat to relieve his tension. He stared out the window, watching the traffic, and used the time to gather himself. So far, Mac had respected his need for a few quiet moments, but Pete didn't expect the big Scotsman to stay silent for too much longer. In fact, Pete could see Mac's reflection in the passenger door glass, and he noted that every few minutes the Sergeant would glance his way, his forehead furrowed.
"You okay, Pete?" MacDonald finally asked, once again sending a concerned glance his way.
"Sure." Pete assured him. He turned to face his sergeant and gave him a tight smile.
MacDonald didn't look particularly convinced, but he nodded once, then inquired, "How do you think Jim's handling this?"
Pete shrugged. "I know he didn't want to kill that kid."
"Of course not," Mac agreed, then was quiet for a beat or two. "But Jim usually takes these things harder than most my men."
"Jim's got a big heart," Pete reminded him quietly.
"Yeah, I know," Mac conceded. "But even at that, Pete, he was acting so strangely..."
Mac was fishing, and it irritated Pete. "He'd just been through a dangerous standoff, Mac," Pete bristled. "He took a bullet, then he killed a kid he thought he'd been on the verge of saving. How did you want him to act?"
"All right, all right, settle down, Malloy." Mac sighed. "I'm on your side, here. I'm just not sure about the wisdom of him facing the homicide team right now."
Pete shrugged again. "I wish I knew what to tell you, Mac, but I'm telling you the truth. I have no idea what Jim's reasoning is about that."
"I guess we'll find out soon enough," MacDonald stated.
"Yeah," Pete said, but inwardly, he had his doubts.
They made the rest of the short drive in silence. When they reached County General, Mac let Pete out at the emergency entrance and went to park the station wagon.
Once inside the emergency department, Pete went straight to the nurses' station to inquire about Jim. They didn't seem to be too busy, and Pete was able to flag down a nurse fairly quickly.
"Excuse me, ma'am, but I need to check on a police officer brought in with a gunshot wound to the arm. Name's Reed." Pete used his most disarming smile.
The nurse returned the smile. "Let me check these charts, officer," she said.
"Thank you," Pete offered as the nurse bent her head to the task.
She thumbed through a few charts, then lifted her head and shook it. "His chart isn't here, which probably means they're still treating him. If you'll wait over there, I'll check and see what treatment room he's in. I just got back from dinner break, so I wasn't here when he came in."
"Thanks," Pete repeated. He walked over to the seating area as the nurse disappeared from his sight, but he didn't sit down. Mac joined him shortly and Pete updated him.
Pete had barely finished his narrative when a white-coated doctor emerged from one of the treatment rooms and made his way toward them. Mac noticed him first and, after getting Pete's attention, the two met the physician half-way.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Stephens," the doctor greeted them with a handshake. He looked to be right at Pete's age, but he sported coal-black hair and intense, dark eyes. "I assume you're here about Officer Reed."
"How is he?" Pete asked.
"Oh, he's fine. Just fine," Dr. Stephens assured them. "He's a very lucky man. The wound was a through-and-through, from a relatively small caliber weapon, apparently. I've cleaned, treated and dressed the wound, and I didn't detect any major damage. There's soft tissue damage, of course, but nothing to get alarmed about."
"That's good news," Mac commented sincerely.
"Sure is," Pete seconded.
"I've prescribed antibiotics as a precaution. I'm sure you gentlemen realize just now dirty a bullet wound really is. I've also prescribed some pain medication, but he's refusing to take it because of some interview he's got to go to?" Dr. Stephens looked questioningly at Mac.
Mac briefly explained the procedure and purpose of the shooting team. When he finished, the doctor nodded, but asked, "Can't that be postponed until tomorrow? The wound isn't that serious, but he is in some discomfort, and I highly recommend that he just go home, take a pain pill and sleep."
"Sure, it can be postponed for an injured officer," Mac answered, "but Officer Reed seems to want to take care of it tonight. At least that's what he said earlier."
"It wouldn't put him in any danger, would it?" Pete asked with concern.
"Not unless he has to move around a lot. He did lose some blood, and his blood pressure is a little lower than normal. He needs to keep the arm immobilized as much as possible, also, because we don't the bleeding to start up again. I've put the arm in a sling to help out with that. I recommend that he stay home for a couple of days, then light desk duty would be okay for another week. I'll see him then, and make a recommendation on return to full duty."
"Can we talk to him?" Pete asked.
"Oh, sure," Dr. Stephens agreed readily. "One of the nurses is helping him get dressed and writing down his wound care instructions for him. And she's pulling together his medications. He'll be ready to go in about five minutes. He's in Treatment Room 4."
"Pete, why don't you go see if you can talk some sense into him?" Mac urged. "I'd feel a lot better, myself, if he followed the doctor's orders tonight."
Dr. Stephens smiled. "Good luck, officer. He seemed...uh...determined to continue as normal."
"That's my partner," Pete said ruefully. He shook the doctor's hand. "Thanks for taking care of him."
"Any time, officer."
Pete made his way to Treatment Room 4, and was nearly knocked over by a nurse coming out the door. He mumbled an apology, then walked around her to enter the room.
He found Jim still sitting on the side of the exam table, reading over a piece of paper. A blue cloth sling supported his injured arm. The medical personnel had cut off the left sleeves of both Jim's uniform and t-shirt, and Pete could see a swath of white bandages covering his partner's upper arm. Jim looked a little pale, but not alarmingly so.
"You gonna live?" Pete asked lightly.
Jim looked up from the paper. "That's what they tell me," he said, but he didn't respond to the teasing tone in Pete's voice.
"You in a lot of pain?" Pete's tone turned serious.
"Not too bad," Jim said.
"The doc thinks it'd be a good idea if you went home, took a pain pill, and slept it off," Pete ventured lightly. "And so do I."
"Yeah? Well, that's not an option," Jim almost snapped. He slid off the table, wobbled once, but pushed away the hand Pete extended to him. "I'm okay."
"Jim, listen to reason for once. Both Mac and the Lieutenant are willing to put the shooting team off until you've had a night's rest. There's no reason to...."
"Pete, I told you already, I can't do it tomorrow," Jim cut Pete off. His voice was just short of a growl. "I just want to get out of this place and get the questioning over with." He tried to walk past Pete but the older officer put a hand on his chest to stop him.
"Jim, what's wrong? And don't say 'nothing' because I know better."
Jim's eyes flared with anger, and he set his jaw in a manner that Pete knew from experience meant trouble. The young man's cheeks flushed pink and his entire body tensed.
"I only want to help, partner," Pete added quietly.
The anger drained from Jim's expression almost as quickly as it had overtaken him. Like balloon deflating, Jim' face went from flushed with anger to the opposite extreme, and his body relaxed almost to a slump. Pete could have sworn tears formed in his partner's eyes. Pete's level of concern bumped up five notches.
It took Jim several moments to respond. "I know," he finally said, his voice raspy and weary. He cleared his throat and blinked, then repeated, "I know. And I..." Jim paused, looked up at the ceiling, then back at Pete. "....you're just gonna have to trust me on this one, Pete. It's gotta be tonight." Jim gently pushed Pete's hand away and walked out the door, leaving the older officer staring at his retreating back, more convinced than ever that something was seriously wrong.
The ride from the hospital to the station had been made in almost total silence. When they'd first gotten to the car, Jim had asked a couple of questions about the shooting victim's identity, age, and whether or not the parents had been located. After Mac had answered him, Jim had leaned his head onto the window and had become totally absorbed in his own thoughts. Out of respect for Jim, both Mac and Pete had remained silent, as well.
Pete surreptitiously watched his young partner during the ride. Jim kept his face neutral, but his eyes betrayed his troubling thoughts. No police officer wanted the outcome of a situation to be a fatal one, but Mac had been right when he said Jim felt these things more than most of his other men. Pete had no doubt that Jim felt just as much pain in his soul as he did from his arm after the events of this evening. And then the question remained concerning the problem Jim had brought to work with him. Partner, I'm afraid that whatever it is that's eating at you is gonna end up biting us both before the night's over.
Mac pulled the wagon into the parking lot behind the station, and they all disembarked, still silent. Mac held the door to the station for Pete and Jim to pass through. The hallway was deserted, not uncommon for mid-watch.
"You two go ahead and change into soft clothes, and I'll see what's happening," the sergeant said, finally breaking the silence. He waved his hand toward the locker room door. "It's too quiet back here, so I'm betting the action's already starting up front."
"The press has probably already buried the place," Pete agreed.
"Just what we need," Jim muttered. "What time is it?"
"Eight forty-five," Pete answered. "Why?"
"I still haven't called Jean. I didn't want her hearing it on the news, but it's early, still," Jim explained.
"I'm sure they haven't given out any names anyway," Mac said reassuringly. He regarded Jim critically. "You're sure you're up to all this?"
"I'm sure, Mac."
"All right. You two stay back here until I come for you," Mac instructed.
"Sure thing, Mac," Pete acknowledged. He pushed the door to the locker room open and guided Jim inside. "You gonna call Jean first, or change?"
"Change," Jim answered. "I'm ready to get out of this hacked-up uniform."
"You need some help?" Pete asked.
"I can manage. Thanks, though." Jim started opening his locker.
Jim's response lacked the customary bristling that usually accompanied someone suggesting that he needed help. Pete tried not to let that worry him. He was more concerned about warning Jim that the Lieutenant intended for the shooting team to dig into Jim's troubled state of mind. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the door to the locker room opened and Officer Bob Snyder entered.
"Hey, Jim," he called, crossing the distance to the lockers quickly. "I heard you took one. You all right?"
"Yeah, thanks, Bob," Jim managed a smile. "Bad news travels fast."
"I'll say," Snyder agreed. "Everybody was concerned. I'll make sure the good news travels just as fast."
"Thanks again,"Jim flushed slightly.
"Can I get you two anything?" Snyder asked. "Coffee? Juice? Candy bar?"
"No thanks," Jim shook his head. He gently lifted the sling strap from around his neck and eased his arm out of the cloth so he could take off his shirt.
"A cup of coffee sounds good, Bob. Mac's got us prisoner in here until the shooting team's ready to convene." Pete shrugged out of his uniform shirt. "Take it easy with that arm there," Pete warned Jim. The comment earned him a half-hearted scowl from his partner.
"Shooting team? Tonight?" Snyder exclaimed. "Mac's got a sadistic streak in him all of a sudden."
Jim shook his head as he fumbled with buttons on his uniform shirt one-handed. "Huh uh. It was my idea. I'd rather get it over with."
"You're tougher than I am," Snyder chuckled.
"A regular iron horse," Pete teased. Jim scowled again, clearly embarrassed.
"Good luck. How do you take that coffee, Pete?" Snyder knew the drill; no discussion about shootings until the homicide team's work was done.
"I'll be right back."
As Snyder left, Pete turned once again to Jim to talk with him, but the locker room suddenly became a busy place. A pair of brother officers on Code Seven came in after their home-packed meals, and when they caught sight of Jim, inquired about his injury. Once they left for the coffee room, Snyder returned with Pete's coffee. After Snyder left for the second time, Mac returned with information.
"As soon as you're dressed, come on down to the small interrogation room. The team's waiting for you," Mac informed them.
"Who's handling it?" Pete asked.
"Miller and Johnson."
"Good men," Pete approved.
"Have they found that kid's parents yet?" Jim asked.
"No," Mac shook his head, his voice sad. "Detectives turned a number from the refrigerator in the house, but it's for a hotel in Boston. The parents were out when the detectives called. They left a message."
Jim blew out a quiet breath. His eyes looked troubled. "Their kid is dead and they're a whole continent away. Gonna be a hell of a plane ride back home." Jim turned away to pull his pants out of his locker. He missed the concerned, sympathetic looks his colleagues gave him.
"I warn you...it's a media circus out front," Mac commented, his voice grave. "If any of them happen to get to you, you aren't to talk to them at all."
"Right." Pete drained the last of his coffee, set the empty cup down, and slipped into his shoes.
"Right now, you're just 'two Central Division officers' to the press. We're trying to keep from using any names for the time being." Mac sent another concerned look to Jim. "You get in touch with Jean yet?"
"I'm just about to do that," Jim said quietly. His troubled eyes clouded over even more.
"Well, take your time. Make sure she knows you're okay," Mac advised.
"I will, Mac."
"Either of you want anything to eat? Sandwich? I know you haven't eaten and it's liable to be a while. Though with any luck, maybe you won't be too late getting home."
"No, thanks, Mac," Jim shook his head.
"Pass for now," Pete echoed.
"All right, then. See you in a few minutes." Mac turned and left the room.
Pete hoped for a few quiet minutes to talk to Jim after that, but he became distracted by the gyrations his partner performed in trying to get his pants up using only one hand. Jim managed to get both legs through the openings, but as he'd get one side up, it'd fall back down when he let go to hitch up the other side. Under other circumstances Pete would have laughed at the comical sight of Jim playing snatch-and-grab with his pants, but he couldn't see the humor in it at the moment.
"Jim, let me..."
"I got it, I got it," Jim declared. He did finally succeed by pulling the left side of his pants up and holding it in place with his left elbow until he could bring the right side up. He had more success zipping and hooking the waistband one-handed. "See?" He asked breathlessly. The effort to do that simple task had almost been too much.
"Congratulations," Pete offered dryly. "Now get your arm back in that sling. The doctor said if you used it too much you might start bleeding again. And that wouldn't be good."
Jim made a face. "Yes, doctor," he grumped half-heartedly. He reached for the sling and placed it over his head. He used his good arm to gently replace the injured left arm back in the sling and adjust it.
"Much better," Pete approved.
Jim grabbed his tennis shoes from the bottom of his locker and shoved his feet into them. He went through a few more awkward, precariously balanced positions to finally get them on his feet."Ah, nuts," Jim suddenly growled.
"What about your shoes?" Pete walked over and looked at Jim's feet.
"I put my arm back in this sling too soon, that's what. How'm I gonna tie these laces with one hand?"
"You keep that arm right where it is," Pete ordered in his best "freeze, mister" official police voice. "You've already moved it around too much. I'll tie your shoes."
"No way. What if somebody walks in?"
"They'll see your arm in a sling and say 'gee, how nice of Pete to tie his partner's shoes.' That's what. Now, put your foot up on the bench."
"Pete..." Jim balked.
"Do I have to get my gun?" Pete snapped. "I swear, Jim, sometimes your ego runs away with your common sense. Now put your foot up there."
"All right." Jim placed his foot on the bench. "Just hurry it up, will ya?"
"Promise." Pete leaned over and tied the laces. "How's that?"
"Perfect." Jim swapped feet. "Just get this one done, all right?"
"It won't take a second." Pete promised. Halfway through the process, though, the locker room door swung open and the last person either of them wanted to see stalked in.
"Awww, how sweet, Malloy," Ed Wells crowed when he caught sight of them. "Reed, you've really got this partner thing down pat. Does he feed you, too?"
"Take a hike, Ed," Pete growled. The last thing either of them needed right now was Ed's smart mouth.
"No-can-do, my man," Ed said as he sauntered up to the pair.
"Thought this was your night off," Jim mumbled, his face coloring.
"Well it was, until somebody had to go and get himself shot," Ed griped. "Mac had this funny idea that somebody ought to cover your district for the rest of the shift. And that somebody turned out to be me. Thanks a lot, pal."
"Don't mention it," Jim returned.
"Tell you what, Ed," Pete finished tying Jim's shoelace and straightened. "Next time you get shot we'll cover your district for you."
"You're all heart, Malloy." Ed moved to his locker and jerked it open. He held up his wallet. "I was in such a rush to get out on the street that I left without my wallet. Had to come all the way back for it." Ed slammed his locker shut, stuffed the wallet into his pocket, then stood staring at Jim, hands on his hips.
"What?" Jim asked.
"How long you gonna be out?" Wells asked.
"Just a day or so. Then a week of light duty."
"Oh. That's not so bad." Ed shrugged. "Well, I gotta get back out there and keep your district together. Uh, good luck with the homicide team."
"Thanks, Ed,"Jim said sincerely.
"Better you than me," Ed grinned. "Adios, gentlemen."
"I wonder if anyone will ever figure out what makes Ed Wells tick," Pete sighed once Wells was out the door.
"I wouldn't even want to try." Jim fished in his pocket with his free hand and pulled out a dime. He looked at the phone, then back to Pete. "I guess I'll call Jean now."
"Good idea." Pete looked at Jim, who looked at the phone but made no move for it. Probably wants some privacy, but he's too polite to ask me to leave. "Uh, I'm gonna step back here and, uh, wash up." Pete nodded toward the bathroom.
From the relieved expression that crossed Jim's face, Pete knew he'd figured correctly. "Okay," he said, then headed for the phone.
Pete went into the bathroom area, used the facilities, then took a longer time than usual to wash up and push some unruly bits of hair back into place. Now that the locker room was quiet, he could hear Jim talking in low tones, but he couldn't make out any words. Finally, Pete heard Jim place the handset back on the hook, and he walked back out to the main locker area.
He found Jim still holding onto the handset with his right hand, with his head leaned up against it. Jim had his eyes squeezed shut, and his shoulders slumped as if in exhaustion.
"Jim? Everything okay? How'd she take it?"
Jim straightened quickly and turned to face Pete, his expression almost guilty. "I....I didn't talk to her."
"Huh?" Pete asked in confusion. "You didn't talk to her? Then who?"
Jim scrubbed at his face with his hand. "Annie. I talked to Annie. Jean...Jean had just gotten in the shower."
"Jean and her sister go shopping or something?" Pete asked.
"No, Annie's just..... visiting tonight." Jim's expression saddened, and he seemed to choose his words carefully.
"Is she gonna tell Jean, or are you gonna call back later?"
Jim took a deep breath. "Neither. Annie's gonna keep Jean away from the TV and I'll tell her when I get home."
Pete gaped at his partner. "You're joking, right?"
Jim shook his head. "No."
"Are you aiming to get your other arm in a sling?" Pete asked incredulously. "Jean's liable to oblige you. Are you sure you didn't bump your head when you hit the ground?"
"Pete, believe me...it's for the best," Jim said quietly.
"It's your neck," Pete shrugged.
"It's for the best," Jim repeated. He nodded his head toward the door. "Let's go do this."
"Jim, I think..." Pete began, but again, the door opened and an officer walked in. By the time they exchanged greetings and briefly discussed Jim's injury, Jim had made it to the door himself. Pete found himself following his partner out into the hallway, still unable to warn him about the Lieutenant's determination to ask potentially uncomfortable questions.
Jim Reed walked down the hallway, ignoring his exhaustion and the persistent burning in his arm. All he wanted to do was get this questioning over with. He wanted to go home and be with his wife. He wanted to hold her in his arms and tell her how much he loved her. And more than anything he wanted tomorrow to get here and be over with. Thinking about tomorrow caused his stomach to lurch and he sucked in a deep shuddering breath to calm himself.
Pete caught up with him and gave him a concerned look. Jim knew that Pete wanted to help him; Pete had known something was wrong from the beginning of watch. And Jim wanted to talk to his partner. In fact, he wanted to talk to Pete now probably more than anytime in the almost-three years he'd known him. But he'd promised...he'd promised. So Jim just gave his partner a tight smile and braced himself for the homicide team's investigation.
Sergeant Jerry Miller stretched in the uncomfortable wooden chair, glanced at his watch, and then let his gaze fall briefly on the other men assembled in the small interrogation room. The Robbery-Homicide detective found himself in a sadly familiar position - that of heading up an investigation of an officer-involved shooting. He'd just been heading out the door for home when the boss tagged him with this shooting team assignment. So he'd pulled off his jacket, called his wife and said apologetically he had no idea when he'd be home. Chicken cacciatore and good-night kisses from his daughters would have to wait.
Miller glanced at Sam Johnson, slated to record this session. A homicide detective for only two years, Johnson was a good enough cop, but had a reputation for sometimes being antagonistic in shooting investigations. In light of that, Miller had made sure Johnson would be the recorder, where he'd have less opportunity to question.
Johnson appeared to be scribbling something on his pad; no doubt preparing for a long night. Mac MacDonald hovered over Johnson's shoulder, looking worried and tired. Miller liked Mac; he always found him to be calm, cooperative, and competent. Lieutenant Moore stood across the room, scowling and looking impatient and irritable. I'd be irritable, too, if I had to fend off the press. Vultures...always wanting to stir something up. Always seems like cops are their favorite targets. They're gonna have a field day with this one.
The door to the room opened and the subjects of the shooting investigation entered. Miller studied the two officers as he stood to greet them with a handshake.
Pete Malloy entered first, holding the door for his injured partner. According to his package, Malloy's ten-year anniversary with the department would be in a few months. Miller knew Malloy to be the quintessential police officer, a consummate professional, a man thoroughly satisfied with his job and damned good at it. Miller had worked with him many times and always enjoyed the experience. Malloy's personality and character held up to anyone's scrutiny; he employed a dry, lighthearted wit in his dealings with people, but he balanced that wit with compassion and a sharp intellect. Easy-going, modest, and low-key, Pete Malloy easily and deservedly garnered the respect of all who knew him. Right now, though, a grim expression shadowed Malloy's usually congenial face, and his eyes, focused on his partner, reflected worry.
Jim Reed followed closely on the heels of his partner, left arm encased in a sling. The young man's face looked as grim as Malloy's, but his eyes appeared troubled and tired rather than worried. Miller wondered at the wisdom of putting Reed through the grueling questioning so soon after taking a bullet, but apparently the officer had insisted. Reed had been with the department a bit over three years, but had already carved out a considerable reputation in the division. Reed's physical abilities set him apart from almost every other patrolman in the division, and his policeman's instincts were solid. Reed had a reputation as an exemplary family man, and a caring and sensitive officer. Honest to a fault, and one of the most trusting men Miller had ever met, Reed often exhibited a naivete that was unusual for a police officer. But Miller really liked the earnest young Reed and saw in him the desire and ability to become an outstanding police officer.
This wasn't the first time Miller had handled a shooting team involving Malloy and Reed. Miller remembered the first one with vivid clarity. The incident took place while Reed had still been on probation. Reed had shot a teenaged sniper - his first kill. As the interview began, Miller had thought Reed was handling himself well. Almost too well. But as the questioning proceeded, Reed slowly came unraveled, finally exploding in a burst of emotion that momentarily reduced him to a shaking, distraught raw nerve. But Reed managed to pull himself together and finish the investigation with quiet professionalism, even though it was obvious that inside he still suffered. It was that night when Miller first came to respect and like Jim Reed. His subsequent dealings with Reed had been satisfying as well.
And now, here Reed was again, facing another shooting team, having killed another teenager. Only this time, Reed had taken a bullet as well. Even though the injury turned out to be minor, Miller was sure it still hurt like the dickens. Add to that the stress of having killed a kid, and it was liable to be another rough go for the officer. And then there was this unknown factor that the Lieutenant had told him about, the suspicion that Reed might be carrying around a personal problem with him today. The Lieutenant had made it clear that he expected Miller to find out just exactly what that problem might be.
That wasn't going to be fun at all.
Miller shook himself back from his thoughts and extended his hand to Malloy. "Pete," he greeted him.
"Jerry," Pete shook his hand in return and offered a tight smile.
"Jim, how you doin' there?" Miller offered his hand to Reed.
"I'm all right," Jim assured him, returning the handshake. Miller noted that he didn't smile.
"Are you sure you're up to this?" Miller asked. He didn't like the color of Reed's face or the deep lines etched in it.
"I'm sure," Jim almost snapped.
"All right then," Miller spread his hands toward the table. "Let's get to it, gentlemen."
Even though Miller handled the preliminaries of the questioning with his usual quiet professionalism, Pete couldn't relax. Pete really liked and respected the Sergeant. They had worked together many times over the years they'd known each other and Pete had always found him to be easy to work with. Miller had also been on more than one shooting team that Pete had been involved with, and he knew that the sergeant would be thorough, but fair. Yet Pete couldn't shake the feeling of impending trouble that had a hold of his gut like an iron fist.
Pete glanced over at Jim, as his partner recited some facts about the call they had made just prior to the unknown trouble call that had landed them here, in a shooting team investigation. Jim seemed to be holding up, though he sat in the chair leaning heavily to his right, away from the injured arm. His partner spoke with quiet confidence, his voice level. But Pete could still see something reflected in the blue eyes that didn't belong there.
"Traffic was heavy, huh?" Miller asked with a grin. The question brought Pete back to the present.
"Yes, sir," Jim responded.
"That bug you?" Miller asked. "Frustrate you?"
"No more than usual," Jim answered.
"Only so far as wanting to get to the scene of a call as quickly as possible," Pete said. "It's always a little frustrating if we're stuck in slow traffic."
Miller nodded in agreement. "How far were you from the location of the 'unknown trouble' call when you got it?"
"Almost all the way across the division," Pete informed him.
"And how long did it take you to get to the scene?"
"Over six minutes," Pete said, looking to Jim for confirmation. His partner nodded.
"And all dispatch told you was that it was an unknown trouble call?" Miller questioned. "She offered no other information like 'see the man' or 'shots fired?'"
"No, sir. It was strictly 'unknown trouble.'" Jim answered for the both of them.
"All right...how did you feel when you got there? Everything okay? Either of you nervous? Feeling tight?"
Both officers shrugged, almost mirror images of each other. "No different than usual," Pete responded first. "That is, until I saw the rifle."
"Hold that thought," Miller put up a hand to forestall further talk from Malloy. "Reed, how about you?"
"Nothing unusual," Jim stated. "I was alert but not nervous or frustrated or anything."
"Had you taken the shotgun out of the rack?" Miller queried.
"Not at that point, no. We didn't know what was involved until we got on the scene. And after that, it all started happening really fast." Jim continued.
"All right, then. We've covered your activities up until the call. Now let's talk about what happened at the scene. Malloy, you start. You're pulling up to the residence. What do you see?" Miller settled back in his chair and steepled his fingers together.
Pete took a deep breath and began to recount the experience from his point of view. "I pulled up to the curb in front of the house. Jim's side was closest to the house. I thought I saw movement at the window, and when I looked at it, I saw the barrel of the rifle sticking out. I yelled for Jim to bail out, then I took my own advice. I took cover behind the car."
"You pulled your revolver," Miller stated.
"Okay, Reed, did you see the rifle when you pulled up?"
"No, sir, I didn't. I was putting the mic back on the rack after reporting us code 6 at the location. My head was still down when Pete yelled for me to bail out. So I bailed. I barely got out before the first shot hit."
"Where'd that first shot go?" Miller inquired.
"Took out the windshield of the black-and-white," Pete said. "His second shot followed almost immediately. That one took out the front passenger window."
"So, Reed, you're the most exposed at this point. What are you doing?"
"Hunkering down as low as I can get behind my door," Jim told him wryly. "After the second shot, I got the shotgun out of the rack."
"Could you see the suspect at this point?" Miller asked.
"Yes, sir. I could see it was a man holding a rifle. He was partially hidden by the curtains."
"Could you tell how old he was? Give a good description?" Miller questioned.
"Not then, no," Jim shook his head.
"No. Like Jim said, he was partially hidden. And he started popping off shots in quick succession. My main concern was getting Jim to the safer side of the car and taking care of the civilian onlookers."
"How many onlookers were around?" Miller asked.
"I'm not sure," Pete frowned. "I remember seeing a couple people on a porch next door. I yelled at them to get inside and stay inside. Then the gunman shot three times in a row, and they scattered. I never saw anyone outside after that."
"Neither of you have returned fire at this point?" Miller questioned.
"No. We were still trying to get a handle on what was happening. Call for back up and all that." Pete said.
"Tell me about calling for back-up. When did you do that?"
"After the second shot, I told Jim to get over to my side of the car," Pete explained. "He said he wanted to call for back-up first. So he did."
When Miller turned to look at Jim, the younger officer spoke up. "I put out an 'officer needs help' call. Dispatch acknowledged and put out the call. Then after that, Pete yelled for the civilians to get inside, then came the three shots. Pete yelled at me to get to cover, so I crawled through the front seat and Pete helped pull me through to the other side."
"How much time has elapsed now?" Miller wondered.
"Uh, about a minute, minute and a half. If that." Pete answered.
"Sounds about right," Jim agreed.
"And you still hadn't returned fire?"
"Why not, Malloy?" Miller asked.
"I didn't have a good handle on the situation," Pete responded. "I didn't think it was the best idea to start shooting until we were fairly sure what we had. Once the civilians were inside and Jim and I had gotten into as safe a place as possible, then we had time to take stock."
Miller nodded. "Good," he said approvingly. "So...the three shots. Where did they strike?"
"Tire, I think..." Malloy frowned, thinking, "and the front end. I had wanted to move the unit, but smoke started coming out from under the hood and I didn't want either of us to get stuck in the line of fire if the engine wouldn't start. So I had Jim make an announcement over the PA for the neighbors to stay inside, then try to talk the gunman out while we waited for backup."
"What did you say to him, Reed?"
"I told him to throw the gun out and come out with his hands up," Jim said. He shifted slightly in his chair, looking uncomfortable. He cupped his good hand around his left elbow to support it. "I told him he was surrounded, and that there was no way out."
"And the gunman's response was...?" Miller prompted.
"He yelled for us to come in and get him. Said he was 'waiting for us.'" Pete answered. "That was when I told Jim to call for Sergeant MacDonald to bring us a tear gas kit."
"What was your sergeant's ETA?"
"About ten minutes," Jim said. "He was already aware of the situation, but the traffic was so heavy he was going to be delayed."
"So what did he instruct you to do?"
"Try to talk him out and keep the situation under control. He said to stay on Tac 2 and keep him informed." Jim shifted in his chair again.
Miller nodded, then looked over to where Sergeant Johnson sat scribbling. "Sam, are you getting all this?"
"So far," Johnson affirmed.
"All right. Malloy, what happened next?"
"He put two more rounds into the black-and-white. And he taunted us again to come and get him."
"You used the term 'taunted.' Did he use derogatory names?"
"The usual," Pete said with a small sigh. "Stormtrooper, pigs, gestapo...along with other colorful adjectives to go along with it."
"And how did that make you feel?" Miller asked.
Pete lifted his hands and shrugged. "No different. I'm used to it. It just kinda goes over my head. But it does help me gauge the state of mind of the suspect. And I judged him to be pretty desperate at this point."
Miller turned to Jim. "What about you, Reed? Your partner's been on the job nearly 10 years, while you have just over three. Are you 'used to it?'"
"Yessir, pretty much," Jim nodded.
"Doesn't irritate you, just a little? Make you grit your teeth? Get under your skin?" Miller insisted.
"How about this time?"
"You're sure about that?"
"Then what were you thinking?" Miller leaned forward and looked at Jim expectantly.
"That I wanted to get him out. His voice sounded young...and desperate...and I was trying to think of something to say to get him out."
"His voice sounded young," Miller repeated. "So you still hadn't gotten a good look at him?"
"No," Pete stepped in with an answer to give Jim a minute to regroup.
"But you both thought he sounded young."
"Yes," both officers responded in unison.
"Did that make a difference in how you handled the situation?" Miller inquired.
"I'm not sure what you mean," Pete frowned.
"I mean, were you less willing to shoot? Did you handle anything differently because you suspected you were dealing with a minor?"
"I don't think so," Pete shook his head. "At this point, we hadn't taken any aggressive action. We were still evaluating the situation. We were still trying to talk him out and keep from getting shot ourselves. I don't think we would have handled it any differently had we thought the gunman was older."
"Do you usually let Reed handle talking out barricaded suspects?" This question came from Johnson. His tone of voice left no doubt that he thought it less-than-wise to do so.
Pete got the feeling he was being led into a trap. He knew a little of Johnson's reputation for antagonizing officers during shooting team questioning. "Reed already had the mic in his hands. We were taking fire. He'd already made voice contact with the suspect. Why change?"
"Let's see," Johnson made a show of turning a page back on his writing pad. "Your ten years experience vs. just over three for Reed. That's significant. Surely in a life-threatening situation such as this, the senior officer should take control."
"The senior officer was in control," Pete assured him smoothly. He tried to keep any growl he felt inside from being heard in his voice. "And in my opinion, the division of labor in this situation was appropriate. Had I felt otherwise, I would have made a change."
"Okay, Malloy," Johnson said.
"Was this the first time Reed had ever attempted to talk down a barricaded suspect?" Miller jumped in with a question of his own and Johnson returned to his writing.
"Certainly not," Pete said with conviction. "He's successfully talked several suspects down in the past couple of years."
"Fine. Now, how long before you actually got a look at the suspect?"
"Right after Reed had talked with MacDonald and made first voice contact with the suspect," Pete supplied. "He moved into full view and raised his hands up. Said he'd make it easy for us. Called for us to shoot him."
"Okay, let's freeze right here. First of all, let me have your impression of the suspect. When you got a look at him, how did you size him up? Describe what you saw. Reed, I want to hear you first." Miller shifted his gaze to the younger officer.
"I saw how young he was," Jim responded. "Young and angry."
"How old did he look to you?"
"Sixteen or seventeen. A high schooler."
"All right, Reed, so you saw his face. Is that all? Could you describe his physical appearance?"
"Sure. Long black hair, very thin, wearing a flannel shirt."
"A flannel shirt in the middle of summer. That put any suggestions in your mind?" Miller asked.
"That he might be a hype. High. Or desperate for a hit." Jim nodded tightly.
"Pretty much what Jim said. Young, seventeen at the most, skinny, long dark hair, wearing a flannel shirt. I figured him for a hype, too."
Miller considered for a moment. "Did the fact that you took him for a hype cause you to reevaluate your handling of the situation?"
"I'd say that it did," Pete admitted.
"How was that?" Miller asked.
"If the suspect was under the influence of narcotics, it could mean that his actions might be extremely erratic and even more unpredictable than usual. If he was in need of a fix, it might make him desperate." Pete paused. "Jim and I were in a vulnerable position. We were stuck without back up or tear gas. There were people in the surrounding houses. The suspect was a wild card. My primary concern was our safety, the safety of the civilians, and the peaceful resolution of the situation."
"What were your emotions?"
Pete shook his head. "Nothing more than tension. I was concerned about our safety."
"The age of the boy didn't enter into your thinking?"
"Sure. Nobody wants to have to shoot it out with a suspect...and I think it's only natural to feel more concern over a kid. You hope you don't have to be the one to end his life so young." Pete stated. Almost as soon as he said it, Pete wished he hadn't. He looked over at Jim apologetically, but his partner's gaze was directed at the tabletop.
"Reed," Miller prompted. Jim's head shot up. "What about it? You had the mic...you were gonna have to talk him out. What were you thinking?"
The silence stretched for an uncomfortable length of time before Jim finally responded. "I was wondering why a 17-year-old boy was so ready to die," he said, his voice strained.
"Did you think about having to shoot him?" Miller asked.
Jim pushed hair back off his forehead, a gesture that Pete knew Jim employed when under stress.
"The possibility crossed my mind," Jim admitted.
"I see," Miller commented.
"But of course, that's not what I wanted to have happen," Jim added quickly.
"Of course not,"Miller agreed. "All right, let's move on. You've seen the suspect, determined his probable age and have a suspicion he's a hype. What happened next?"
The sergeant nodded for Malloy to continue.
"Jim tried to talk him out again, but the kid screamed for us to come in, then he popped off a few more shots at us. Those hit the car again...one of 'em came close to hitting me. I told Jim to talk to him some more, but the kid wasn't listening. He shot off several more rounds, and they were missing us by inches. I decided then we didn't have a choice; we'd have to return fire. I told Jim if he made to fire again, put a few rounds through the window, high, or wide, as a scare tactic. I thought if we could just buy some time, MacDonald would show up with the tear gas and we could take him without hurting him." Pete took a deep breath. "About that time, our back up showed up. I saw 'em coming down the street. I moved out so they could see me, to wave them off to the next block, and about that Jim yelled and started firing."
"Why did you fire, Reed?" Miller questioned.
"The gunman was making like he was gonna fire at the backup unit. I was following Pete's orders to shoot if the gunman looked like he was gonna fire." Jim answered.
"Would you have fired if Malloy hadn't given you that order?" Miller continued.
Jim thought a beat, then nodded. "Yes, sir, I would have."
Jim's brows furrowed. "Because I wouldn't have let him shoot at the back up unit. They were sitting ducks."
"Would you have shot at the gunman or just warned him off?" Miller asked. "If Malloy hadn't issued the order to do that?"
Jim looked taken aback by the question. He glanced at Pete quickly, then back to Sgt. Miller.
"Sarge, I started firing, too," Pete spoke up. "As soon as Jim yelled and started firing, I emptied both barrels at the window."
Miller nodded but waved a hand to stop Pete. "Okay, fine, but I still want an answer to my question."
"I don't understand why you're asking it," Jim said, a little heat crawling into his voice. "It's useless conjecture. That isn't what happened. I had an order, I acted on it. I don't think what I might or might not've done is important."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that?" Miller insisted, his own voice carrying an edge. "I want to know what your state of mind was at that point. Were you ready to take the gunman out right then, if you'd had free reign?"
"No!" Jim exclaimed.
"Yes, I'm sure!" Jim confirmed in an almost-yell.
"Tell me why. Tell me why you know you wouldn't have killed him right then."
"Because we had back up there! Tear gas on the way!" Jim spluttered. He made an expansive gesture with his good hand, but the motion cause him to grimace. "All we had to do was contain him! There wasn't any need to kill him! Not then...." Jim took a deep breath and made an effort to calm himself. "Not then," he finished quietly.
"All right, all right, relax," Miller held up both hands in an conciliatory gesture. "I'm satisfied."
Jim nodded and took another deep breath. Again he cradled his injured arm close to his body.
"You okay, partner?" Pete asked quietly. He shot an irritable look at Sgt. Miller. He had to agree with Jim; that question had been unnecessary. Pete suspected that Miller was laying the groundwork for those tough questions that were sure to come.
"I'm okay," Jim assured him.
Pete remained unconvinced. Jim's cheeks flushed crimson on his pale face, and drops of sweat danced on his brow. Pete knew Jim well enough to read the pain reflected in his eyes.
"You need some water, or coffee?" Miller suddenly seemed sympathetic. "A break?"
"No, I'm fine," Jim insisted. "Let's go."
"Okay." Miller settled back in his chair. "All right. So you put rounds through the window. How did the gunman respond?"
"He did manage to get a couple of rounds off at 36, but I suppose our shots had him off balance. He didn't move from the window, either. He stood his ground." Pete reported.
"What happened next?"
"I checked with 36 to make sure they were okay, then ordered them to seal off the street and check on the civilians. I talked with MacDonald and verified his ETA, which was another five minutes. The gunman started yelling at us again to shoot him. He stood in plain sight and raised his arms up like he wanted us to take him out." Pete paused for breath and a glance at his partner before continuing. "I had Jim talk to the guy again. Try to calm him down."
"What'd you say to him, Reed?" Miller inquired.
"I tried to reason with him, but he wasn't buying it. I told him tear gas was on the way, and that only got him more agitated. He started shooting at us again, screaming 'no tear gas.' After that, Pete said to put more rounds through the window. We were in a lot of danger pinned down so close to that kid with such a big rifle."
"How many rounds did you shoot?"
"I emptied my gun. I'd already shot four, I think, so only two rounds, then I reloaded." Jim supplied.
"And I emptied both barrels again," Pete seconded. "It was right after that the kid had his 'change of heart.' He said to stop shooting, that he was coming out. Jim finished reloading, picked up the mic and ordered him to throw out his weapon."
"So you were in charge of the situation," Miller turned to look at Reed. "Tell me exactly what you said, best as you can remember."
Jim thought for a beat. Pete watched him, thinking that Jim looked too tired to hold up much longer. And that shadow that Pete suspected had nothing to do with the shooting still lurked in Jim's eyes.
"Like Pete said, I told him to throw the rifle out the window. Then I told him to put up his hands and come out the front door. He threw out the rifle, then I told him to come out slowly, keeping his hands high."
"Okay," Miller stopped Jim's recitation, "this is a critical point, I think. If the suspect leaves the window, then you lose sight of him before he opens the door, right?"
"That's right,"Jim agreed. "It wasn't the best solution, but it was the only solution. I didn't think it was safe to expose ourselves to go in while he stayed in the window, in case he had another weapon nearby we didn't see."
"What about calling in your back up to go in the back way?" Miller asked.
"That really didn't occur to me," Jim admitted. "I assumed they were away from the unit, anyway, sealing off the street like Pete told 'em to."
"What about you, Malloy? You found this solution satisfactory?"
"Not completely," Pete said carefully. "But given the situation, it was about all we could do. There was no real reason to believe the suspect wasn't coming out, just like he said."
"Yet you moved from cover at this point, right?" Miller questioned.
"I did," Pete confirmed. "When the kid disappeared from sight, I moved from behind the car to cover behind a huge oak in the yard."
"What made you do that?" Miller wondered.
Pete shrugged. "A hunch. A gut feeling."
"Feeling of what?"
"I'm not sure. Distrust, maybe."
"I suppose that I thought it was going down too easy. Just a few seconds earlier he'd been hysterical, shooting at anything that moved, screaming, and suddenly he's giving up and nearly calm. It didn't add up. So I wanted to move closer, where I could have an angle on him - just in case."
"Is it fair to say that you really didn't think the gunman was ready to give up?" Miller asked.
"I think that's fair to say," Pete nodded, after a beat of silence.
"What about you, Reed? Did you think it was over?"
Reed looked a little embarrassed. "I did. Maybe that was wishful thinking on my part, but I thought he was ready to give up."
"Did it surprise you that your partner moved to the tree?"
"No, not really. Malloy's always thorough and careful. I didn't think that move was out of line for him. I told him I'd cover him and concentrated on the boy."
Miller smiled slightly at Jim's sincere compliment of his partner. "Okay. So Malloy moves to the tree. You stay in place?"
"And the gunman comes out the door. Tell me what you saw. Malloy, you first."
"He came out slowly, kinda sideways, so that the hand he had up in the air was visible first. But when he got onto the porch I could see that he was holding a gun to his head in his other hand." Pete sighed slightly.
"Which hand was the gun in?"
"Right. He was right-handed."
"What went through your head then, Malloy?" Miller questioned.
"My first thought was that the kid really did want to die. That he was thinking more than I gave him credit for. It made sense then that the only reason he gave up like that was because he knew if the tear gas came, he'd be out of control of the situation. This way, he kept control."
"Did you call out to the kid at all?"
"No. I decided to keep my position unknown and let Jim handle it, since he'd been talking with him from the start. I figured maybe I could get behind him eventually and disarm him." Pete frowned, remembering how badly that plan had backfired, and shook off the pang of guilt that followed. "I stayed behind the tree and kept the shotgun aimed at him."
"All right. Reed, your version."
"I was still crouched behind the car," Jim began. "When the boy came out, he had the gun in his right hand, pressed against his temple. His left hand was up in the air. I told him to put the gun down. He refused. He said 'I'm ready for you' or something like that, then he said if I wanted the gun, I'd have to come take it from him. I told him that I didn't want to hurt him, and I asked him his name."
"Did he tell you his name?" Miller asked.
"No, sir," Jim shook his head. "He said 'no small talk.' I got up from my crouch and came around the back of the car. I told him my name and asked him for his again."
"So you're now out in the open," Miller observed. "Were you nervous? Didn't you think about getting shot?"
"I was nervous, yeah, but not for myself...for him. I didn't want him pulling that trigger."
"What did you do next?" Miller prompted quietly.
"I told him I wanted to help him. I told him we should talk. I started walking toward him."
Johnson spoke again from the table. "Didn't you think that was a little provocative, moving toward him? That it might precipitate the very thing you didn't want him to do?"
Jim turned his head to look over at Johnson. "No, sir. I thought it might show him I was sincere...that he could trust me, and that I wanted to help him." Jim paused a moment. "I also thought that if I could keep him totally focused on me, that Malloy might get in behind him and disarm him."
"But you and Malloy weren't communicating with each other," Johnson pointed out.
Jim shrugged marginally, then grimaced as the movement caused pain from his wound to flare. "We'd been in similar situations before. I felt certain that Pete was thinking about doing the same thing."
"And I was," Pete spoke up and supported Jim's assertion. "Jim was doing exactly what I needed him to do."
"Good," Miller nodded. "All right. You're moving toward the suspect. Tell me your observations now. You can see him - his age, his condition. Tell me what you were thinking."
"I could see just how young he was. He didn't look in good physical condition. He was unkempt and really thin, and his eyes had that vacant, hysterical look that a lot of addicts have. I was convinced that he was a hype, and that he was desperate. I didn't think he was high, though, at that time. He seemed more in need of a fix than high from one. But that's just an observation." Jim stopped and took a deep breath.
"Take your time," Miller urged. "You need a break?"
"Oh, no, sir. I'm all right."
"Okay, then, go ahead." Miller leaned back in his chair.
"Well, I kept talking to him and walking toward him. I was trying to convince him he didn't need to throw his life away. When I got closer, I held out my free hand to him, hoping he'd come put the gun in it."
"Where was your gun at this time?" Miller suddenly sat up and leaned on the table.
"Still in my hand, but I lowered it to my side, slowly. Like a gesture he might understand, that I didn't want to hurt him."
"And what did the boy do then?" Miller prompted.
"He didn't lower the gun, but he did walk toward me...but it was like he was on automatic, you know? Like his head wasn't with his body. Like he was far away. So I kept talking to him."
"Can you remember what you said?"
"Mostly. I kept assuring him he was okay. That he should drop the gun. I kept motioning for him to come to me. I tried to smile at him, to encourage him - reassure him. I wanted him to either come close enough to give me the gun or for Pete to get behind him and take it. But I didn't dare look away. I kept my eyes right on the boy and kept talking to him and encouraging him." Jim frowned. "It looked like he was going to comply. He pulled the gun out away from his head about six inches, and held it up, like this." Jim demonstrated with his good arm. "I thought he was about to give it to me."
"Now here's where it all came unglued, right?" Miller asked. "Where the boy made his move."
"Right," Jim nodded.
"Okay, hold it just a minute, then, and let's hear what you're thinking up to this point, Malloy."
"I was behind the tree, still," Pete began his explanation. "I was waiting for the boy to move to where I could get in behind him. I was certain he didn't know I was there. He hadn't seen me, and Jim hadn't given my position away. Everything looked good for me to take him from behind. The kid had all his concentration on Jim - it was a very tense situation. I was confident I could take the gun. So I put down the shotgun and got ready to make my move."
Miller nodded. "Go ahead, Malloy, let's hear it from your point of view. Take us through the shooting."
Pete glanced over at Jim before continuing. Jim stared at the table top, not looking up at his partner. "Like I said, I put down the shotgun and move around into a position to take the gun. But before I could move, the kid went nuts. He yelled at Jim something like 'I'm gonna make you kill me, you pig,' then he lowered the gun aimed right at Jim's chest. Jim dove to the ground about the time the kid pulled the trigger. "
"Did you know at this point that Reed had been hit?" Miller interrupted.
"I heard Jim kinda grunt, and figured he'd been hit, but I had no idea how badly. The kid was still aiming Jim's direction, so I had to make a decision on what to do. I'd put down the shotgun, and my revolver was still in the case, so I had to decide to draw or take him. I thought the latter would be faster. So I went for him. I yelled 'hey!' and made a dive for him."
"But you missed?" Miller asked.
"Yeah," Pete felt his face color a bit. "I startled the kid so much with my yelling he jumped back, just out of my reach. I knew I wasn't going to be able to touch him."
"So now he's got the gun pointed at you. That right?"
"Right. And I realized that I was about to take one. I tried to draw my gun, but I knew it was too late - that I'd miscalculated. But I had to try. I was pulling out my gun when I heard two shots. There was a pause, then the kid hit the ground." When Miller stayed silent, Pete went on. "I looked up, and Jim was sitting up, his gun aimed in my direction. I called out for him to relax and stay put, then I checked the kid. He was dead, so I went over to check on Jim."
Miller nodded a few times before he spoke. "So Reed fired twice."
"Right," Pete confirmed.
"And you never even pulled your gun."
"Never had the chance," Pete admitted. He hadn't realized until just now how that fact bothered him. Maybe if he'd been faster, or smarter, Jim wouldn't have had to kill that kid. Maybe he wouldn't have taken a bullet. Maybe they'd be on patrol now, sharing a joke, instead of facing a shooting team and days of uncertainty.
"Do you think there was anything you could have done to have changed the outcome of this incident?" Miller asked pointedly.
Pete blew out a breath and thought a moment. "I don't know," he finally said, with a tinge of regret. "Maybe if I'd made my move sooner, I could have taken him. Maybe if I'd let the kid know I was behind the tree, it might have changed things. Maybe if I hadn't yelled at him and just grabbed, he might have been close enough to subdue. But I guess we'll never know. It's just a lot of maybes."
"That's right, it is," Miller agreed. He looked at Pete with sympathy for a moment, then shifted his gaze to Jim. "Reed."
"Yes, sir?" Jim looked up.
"You're thinking that the boy's about to give up, but suddenly he's got the gun pointed right at you. What went through your head?"
"To get out of the way," Jim responded.
"Were you shocked? Surprised? Angry? Scared?"
"Maybe a little surprised. Disappointed, mostly."
"Yeah, because I realized that there wasn't gonna be a peaceful resolution to the standoff."
"But Malloy's still behind the tree. Didn't you think he could take him? Had you already made up your mind to shoot him?" Miller asked.
"Uh, no, no, not at all," Jim stammered. "But I thought it likely that one of us might have to. I thought Pete might shoot him if the boy shot at me."
"Okay. So what did you do?"
"What Pete said I did. I dove for the ground. The kid shot, and I felt it hit me in the arm. I tried to roll when I hit the ground, but I was stunned, and I just kinda laid there for a second."
"Did you realize what Malloy was doing?" Miller questioned.
"Not really. Like I said, I was a little stunned. I did hear him yell, and I heard movement. It took a lot of my concentration just to sit up." Jim explained.
"What's the first thing you saw when you sat up?"
"I saw the kid aiming his gun at Pete."
"You said you were stunned. How could you be sure he was going to shoot Malloy?" Miller asked.
"The kid was facing him, the gun was aimed right at him...point-blank range. Pete wasn't in position to take him. I saw him reaching for his gun. I saw he wasn't gonna make it. So I fired."
"How long after you sat up did you fire?" Miller questioned.
"I'm not sure...just a second or two."
"That sure is a lot of decisions you made in one or two seconds," Johnson said from the corner.
"That's usually all we get," Jim stated. "Sometimes not that much."
"You said you were stunned from the bullet, and the fall," Miller spoke up before Johnson could say anything else. "You said you needed your concentration to get up. How do you know you were interpreting what you saw correctly? You say you saw the gun pointed at Malloy, Malloy out of reach of the suspect, and going for his gun. How did you know that the situation was out of control?"
"I...I just knew. I could tell."
"How was your vision?" Miller asked quickly. "Was it blurry?"
"Maybe a little..."
"How about pain? Were you in a lot of pain?" Miller's questioning picked up in speed and intensity.
"Some pain, but not unmanageable," Jim admitted.
"And how long did it take you to sit up after you'd been hit?"
"Three or four seconds, I suppose," Jim responded with a frown.
"And you're not sure what happened in those three or four seconds, are you? You didn't see what was happening. You said you heard Malloy yell, but you really don't know what that meant, do you?"
"No, I didn't see, but..."
"What was your state of mind today, Reed?" Miller switched tacks.
"My state of mind?" Jim repeated.
"Yeah. What kind of mood were you in today?"
Pete tensed. Oh, boy, here it comes. He kept his expression neutral, but his heart began to race.
Jim looked nonplused at the sudden change of questioning. "My mood? Normal, I guess."
"You guess? You don't know what kind of mood you were in today? Were you tired, mad, glad, sad, happy, irritated?"
Jim stared at Miller but seemed to be searching for the right words.
"Well, come on, Reed, surely you know what kind of mood you were in," Miller prompted.
"I said, normal," Jim insisted. "What's to say?"
"Malloy, what kind of mood was your partner in today?" Miller suddenly switched his stare to Pete. "Was he in a 'normal' mood? Was he his usual self?"
Pete glanced over at Jim. The younger man met his eyes briefly, then looked away, over Miller's head. Pete sought frantically for the right words to say. He couldn't lie, but he didn't want to bury Jim with the wrong words.
"Well, Malloy?" Miller pressed.
"He wasn't as talkative as usual," Pete said neutrally.
"He wasn't as talkative as usual," Miller repeated, in a musing tone. "What does that usually mean with your partner?"
"I don't understand," Pete stated.
"I think you do," Miller contradicted. "But I'll spell it out. When Reed doesn't talk, does that mean he's preoccupied? Upset? Angry? Tired?"
"Sometimes it means he's just quiet," Pete tried not to growl at the sergeant.
"Well what about today? You've been riding with Reed over three years. You've got to know his moods pretty well by now. I'm asking you point-blank - was he in a normal mood today, and if not, in your estimation, what kind of mood was he in today?"
Pete stared at Miller a full ten seconds before answering. I'm sorry, Jim. "No, he didn't seem in a normal mood to me," he finally said. It was like putting a knife through his soul to say even that much. "He seemed disturbed about something." There. He'd said it.
"Were you disturbed about something, Reed?" Miller asked.
Jim didn't answer, but continued to stare at a point across the room, his eyes focused above Miller's head. The tension in the room jumped exponentially.
"Why were you late for roll call today, Reed?" Miller asked when Jim remained silent.
"I was just late, that's all. It happens." Jim said. He never took his eyes off that point on the far wall.
"Not to you, not according to your watch commander," Miller contradicted. "MacDonald says you're never late. Always punctual. Now why were you late today?"
"I...I...was just late," Jim stammered. His chest rose and fell rapidly as his breathing picked up. He reached up to wipe a trickle of perspiration off his brow.
"Reed, you shot and killed a 17-year-old boy today," Miller narrowed his eyes and slapped his hand down on the flat of the table. "Your watch commander says you were late to roll call and that you seemed preoccupied. Your partner says you weren't in a normal mood but seemed disturbed. Now, I gotta know what your state of mind was when you pulled that trigger! If you got something eating at you, boy, we've got to know that! Now tell me why you were late for work and what was bothering you, because we're not going anywhere until we find out."
"It had nothing to do with work!"Jim finally met Miller's gaze. "I was fully alert and my mind was on the business at hand during that incident. Now that's all you need to know!" Jim's voice rose.
"Take it easy, Jim," Pete soothed.
"I saw a kid with a gun aimed at my partner's heart! There was no way I was gonna let him pull that trigger!" Jim's voice level continued to rise.
"Why were you late for work, Reed?" Miller repeated. "Is there trouble at home?"
"That's none of your damned business!" Jim exclaimed. He slammed a fist down on the table, then stood so quickly his chair skittered backwards and hit a metal filing cabinet with a reverberating clang.
"Jim," Pete put out a hand to his pale, sweating, shaking partner. "Calm down."
"It's nobody's damned business but mine why I was late!" Jim's eyes flashed with anger and distress. "I'm not gonna talk about it, I don't want to talk about it, so stop asking me!"
MacDonald spoke up from his position across the room for the first time. "Reed, maybe I should remind you that this is part of an official investigation. You're bound by duty to answer the questions the shooting team puts to you. We're only trying to learn the truth."
"I promise, Mac, my being late has no bearing on what happened out there today," Jim's voice lowered slightly as Mac's words sank in through the emotion. "Why can't you just take my word for it?"
"I think you know the answer to that," Miller said quietly. "I know it might seem like we're prying, but we have to know where your mind and your emotions were before and during this incident."
Jim rubbed his face with his uninjured hand. It shook so obviously that he couldn't hide it. "I....I can't...I can't.....don't ask me to, please." Jim's voice lowered to a husky whisper. Then, just as he had done nearly three years earlier, he turned his back on everyone in the room and leaned heavily on the filing cabinets.
"Can we take a break?" Pete requested. He could hardly stand seeing Jim so distraught.
"Might be a good idea," Miller nodded. He lowered his voice. "See what you can do, Pete."
Pete nodded, then eased out of his chair to stand beside Jim as Miller walked over to Johnson and MacDonald.
"Leave me alone," Jim mumbled.
"Jim, you've gotta calm down," Pete insisted quietly. "You're gettin' all worked up. It's not good for you."
"I feel sick," Jim said suddenly. "I...need some air." He turned and half-stumbled toward the door.
"Jim," Pete called after him. He reached out and snagged Jim's good arm and gently drew him to a halt.
"Lemme go, Pete...I need to get outta here," Jim pulled against Pete's grasp, but he didn't have the strength to escape.
"No, you need to sit down," Pete shook his head. Mac had already moved to pull out a chair for Jim, and Pete steered him into it.
"I'll get him a cold drink," Mac offered, his face a study in concern.
"Thanks," Pete answered for Jim.
Miller found a box fan from somewhere and set it up to blow a breeze in Jim's direction. "Maybe this'll help," he said. The sergeant squeezed Jim's shoulder briefly. "Relax."
Jim nodded and slumped in the chair. He leaned heavily on his good arm, head in his hand.
Pete gave Miller a look over Jim's head and nodded marginally toward the door. Miller nodded comprehension, then spoke.
"Johnson and I are going to check in with the detectives at the scene," the sergeant announced. He tapped his counterpart on the shoulder and the two of them left the room.
Only the mechanical whirr of the fan broke the silence of the room. Pete stayed quiet, giving Jim a minute to pull himself together. He pulled up a chair and sat close to his partner.
"You really know how to clear out a room, partner," Pete remarked lightly after a few more minutes of silence.
Jim looked up at Pete but did not return the small rueful smile the older man gave him.
"Look, I'm really sorry...." Pete began, but Jim cut him off.
"Forget it," Jim waved off the attempted apology.
"Talk to me," Pete said bluntly.
Before Jim could respond, the door creaked open and a cacophony of noise burst through as Mac squeezed in with a cup in his hand. "Media," the sergeant said with distaste. "Here, Jim." He set the cup down on the table in front of his officer.
"Thanks," Jim mumbled. He reached for the drink with a shaky hand and gulped down some of the icy soda.
"I'll go out and check with the Lieutenant for an update," MacDonald said. "We'll be back shortly."
When MacDonald had closed the door on the hallway noise and the room fell quiet once again, Pete looked expectantly at Jim. "We won't have long," he prompted.
Jim nodded wordlessly. He didn't meet Pete's eyes, but stared at the table as he clutched the cup in his good hand with a white-knuckle grip.
Pete had to resist the urge to reach out and shake the words right out of Jim. His partner rarely had this much trouble talking, even about events that bothered him. A knot of anxiety settled in Pete's gut. This has to be bad. Very bad.
Jim took a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. He opened and closed his mouth a few more times, until Pete felt ready to scream. Finally Jim looked up at him with eyes brimming with moisture. "Jean...." he said, then stopped, swallowed and blinked back the moisture. He then whispered, in a voice so strained and quiet that Pete could barely understand him, "Jean might have cancer."
"What?" Pete said, dumbfounded. Whatever he'd been expecting Jim to say, that certainly wasn't it.
Jim swiped at his eyes with the flat of his hand. "I'm scared, Pete....I'm scared I'm going to lose her." Jim's voice broke as he struggled to contain his emotions.
Jean might have cancer. The terrible words echoed through Pete's brain but he refused to fully acknowledge them. Cancer. She's only twenty-six! The picture of health! It just can't be! Now Pete understood why Jim couldn't bring himself to say the words, for he found himself suddenly speechless as well.
Pete gripped Jim's shoulder and it shook under his grasp. He floundered around for words - any words - that might reassure his terrified friend, but he found none. Instead, he fell back on denial.
"Surely...you're mistaken. A screw up in a lab..."
Jim shook his head slowly. "Her doctor found a lump in her right breast. Today." His voice trembled. "He told her....he told her..." Jim trailed off as his voice grew too tight to speak.
Pete tightened his grip as Jim choked back his tears. "Take it easy, Jim, take it easy," Pete tried to comfort his partner, but he doubted his efforts made a dent in Jim's distress. But the need to know details drove Pete to push him to talk. "Just tell me what happened, Jim."
Jim took a couple of shaky deep breaths and managed to pull himself together enough to talk. "She had a routine check-up today. You know, that annual female thing."
Actually, Pete didn't know, but he nodded anyway.
"I stayed home with Jimmy and she went in this morning. Jimmy and I were eating lunch and she called me. She was very upset. She told me to come down to the doctor, that something was wrong and he wanted to talk to me. So I left Jimmy with the neighbor and drove down there." Jim took another shaky breath, but falling back on training and reciting facts seemed to calm him some, as Pete had hoped.
"When I got there,"Jim continued, "the nurse took me back to his office. Jean was in there by herself and when I came in she started to cry...about scared me out of my mind. And then when she told me what was wrong, that she might have cancer....I thought I was gonna come unglued myself. All I could think about was my Dad, and how he suffered, and what he went through with his cancer. The thoughts of Jean going through all that...of the pain..." Jim swiped at his eyes again.
"Don't think about it," Pete ordered firmly. He'd heard some of Jim's horror stories of his father's slow, painful death. "Is the doctor sure? I mean, couldn't it be something else? What's he gonna do?"
"He said that it feels very suspicious. It's big, too. He doesn't want to waste any time, so Jean's going into the hospital in the morning for a biopsy."
"Tomorrow? Oh, that's why you insisted on doing this tonight," the light suddenly dawned in Pete's brain.
Jim nodded tiredly."I have to take her in at 5:00 a.m. The biopsy's scheduled for seven."
"So, how long before you know anything?" Pete asked. "Will they be able to tell right away?"
"Not officially," Jim straightened and rubbed his hand over his face. He pushed damp hair off his forehead. "We won't get an official report for about a week."
"A week?" Pete sucked in a breath.
"Yeah." Jim paused and shook his head. "A week that'll seem like an eternity."
"Did the doctor say what it might be other than cancer?" Pete fished for something that might give Jim some hope. "I've heard of women having lumps that are benign."
"He pretty much ruled out a fluid cyst. But he said that it could be something he called a fibroid tumor. He wouldn't quote me any odds, but he didn't sound optimistic." Jim's red-rimmed eyes reflected the bleakness in his voice.
Pete's mind rebelled at the very thought of cancer growing in Jean's body. Jean's warm personality and compassionate nature had won Pete's heart from the first time he met her, and as the years passed, he'd grown to love her like a little sister. In fact, the Reeds had become a second family to him. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for them; unfortunately, the solution to this problem was far beyond the scope of his ability.
"I can't lose her, Pete," Jim's raspy voice broke into Pete's musings.
More than anyone, Pete knew just how much Jean meant to Jim. Hardly a day of patrol passed that Jim didn't speak of his wife and son with love and pride. Watching the two of them together confirmed the love they shared. Jean was the light of Jim's life; his reason for living. Pete knew that his partner had to be sick with fear and dread.
"You won't," Pete said with conviction, fighting down his own anxiety. He squeezed Jim's shoulder for emphasis. "You won't."
"I want to believe it, but...."
"I should be with her," Jim almost moaned. "I should be with her now."
"Why did you come in to work?" Pete asked. "You should have called. Mac would've understood. We'd have called in someone to cover for you."
Jim sighed. "I got so shook up over all this, Pete, and I was trying so hard to keep Jean calm, and we had to go over to the hospital and do some paperwork, and...well, time got away from me. By the time I even thought about work it was after 3:00 and I just didn't think I could call Mac so late. We're shorthanded, and I guess I just was so upset I wasn't thinking straight." Jim dropped his head briefly, then looked up and met Pete's eyes sadly. "And now look what happened. I killed a kid, I took a bullet...Jean sure doesn't need this to worry about. Hell, I don't need it."
"I wish you'd told me," Pete said quietly. He didn't want to add anything to Jim's burden, but he couldn't help but think that if Jim had been forthcoming, they could have avoided their current situation by sending Jim to desk duty, or even back home.
"Believe me, Pete, I wanted to. I really wanted to. But Jean made me promise that I wouldn't tell anyone."
"Why? Surely she has to know how hard this is for you. That you might need to talk to somebody."
"Yeah, sure she knows. But she's just trying to keep anyone else from worrying."
"What about her parents?"
"They're out of town."
"That's right, they're in Denver," Pete remembered. He frowned as the implications of that hit home. "She's not going to tell them, is she?"
Jim shook his head. "Nope. I tried to talk her into it, because I really think she needs her mother right now. But she won't do it. She doesn't want to ruin their vacation. The only person we've told is Annie, and she only told her because somebody's got to watch Jimmy tomorrow, and because it's so early we wanted someone to come spend the night."
"So you were just gonna sit over at the hospital by yourself and worry yourself sick?" Pete asked.
"Jean wants to keep it quiet until her parents get back," Jim shrugged, then grimaced, apparently forgetting the motion caused him pain.
"Well, I'm not gonna let you do that," Pete informed him. "Jean'll be asleep; she won't have to know I'm there."
"No arguments. I can't let you go through this alone."
Jim's eyes got watery again. "Thanks," he husked. "I have to admit, it helps talking about it."
The door to the interrogation room opened and Mac stuck his head in through the crack. The noise in the hall once again filled the room.
"Two more minutes," Pete requested.
Mac nodded and closed the door back.
"You know you have to tell Miller something," Pete reminded Jim.
"I know," Jim nodded. "And the thing is, now they're gonna try to hang this shooting on me as unjustified. I know they'll claim that I was distracted and that I wasn't thinking straight. But I was, Pete, I swear it! Sure, I was upset, and when we were just patrolling I was thinking about Jean, all right, but once we got that call, my mind was on what I was doing! I swear, Pete my mind was clear and I was only thinking about the situation!"
"Take it easy, Jim," Pete urged. "I know your mind was clear. And you can be sure I'll tell Miller that."
"I shot that kid because he was about to kill you! And he'd shot me already! I wasn't gonna just sit there and let him shoot you, too!" Jim's voice rose.
"Relax, Jim, relax. Nobody's gonna hang anything on you. Nobody expects you not to shoot in the situation we were in. Miller just has to cover all the bases. Everybody knew you weren't yourself today. I knew it. Mac knew it. And Mac mentioned it to the Lieutenant, and of course he told Miller to make sure he got to the bottom of it. You know that's Miller's job. You'll be cleared; there's no way it can be otherwise. You just gotta calm down and finish up the interview so you can get home to Jean and some rest for yourself."
Jim took two quick, deep breaths and tried to regain his calm.
Pete pushed the cold drink into Jim's hand. "Drink some more of this and pull yourself together. How's the arm? You need more aspirin?"
Jim gulped down some more of the now watered-down soda. His hand still shook, but Pete noted that it wasn't as bad as before.
"It's not too bad," Jim told him. "Feels like a toothache in my arm is all."
"What are you gonna tell Miller?"
"I guess I'll have to tell him the truth. But I don't have to say exactly what the problem is."
"No, you don't. But whatever you say, just try to stay calm and focused so we can get you outta here. I know it isn't easy, but just hang in there a few more minutes." Pete gave Jim's shoulder a final squeeze as the door opened and Miller, Johnson and MacDonald reentered the room. "It's gonna be all right," he whispered.
Jim nodded, rubbed his face, swiped his hand through his hair, and cleared his throat.
Johnson and MacDonald took up their former positions in the back of the room. Miller stopped and touched Jim on the shoulder.
"You doin' better, Reed?" The sergeant asked, genuinely concerned.
"I'm fine, Sarge. I'm sorry I lost it back there," Jim apologized.
"Forget it. You're doing just fine. I've been doing these shooting team interviews for a lot of years, and trust me, I've seen it all. You're doing great." Miller pulled out his chair and took his seat. He looked at Jim expectantly.
"I know that everything we say is on the record," Jim started, a bit hesitantly, "but it doesn't have to go to the press, does it? What I'm about to say is very personal and private and involves innocent people."
"You have my word that only those who need to know will know," Miller promised. "It'll have to go in my report, and eventually the Review Board. But no one in this room will speak of it to the media at this time." Miller looked over Jim's shoulder to Mac and Johnson. "Right?"
"Right," Mac spoke up immediately. He still had the worried look on his face.
Johnson nodded assent.
"What the Review Board decides to make public will be decided by them, at a later date," Miller cautioned.
"I understand," Jim acknowledged. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "The reason I was late today was because I had to make arrangements to admit my wife to the hospital. It was very unexpected and I just got caught up in paperwork and lost track of time." Jim paused and the silence in the room settled in like a blanket. "She had a routine visit to her doctor today, and he found....something....that needs immediate attention. She goes in in the morning." Jim's voice, though quiet, came through clear and strong.
"I'm very sorry to hear that," Miller offered sincerely. "That's why you insisted on doing this tonight, even though you're injured. You need to be with her tomorrow."
Jim nodded. "Yes, sir."
Miller pressed his lips together and nodded himself. "And this is the reason you were acting in an unusual manner today. Why you were preoccupied and by your partner's description, disturbed."
"Yes, sir," Jim agreed, "but I want to go on record and say that during the call, my mind was 100 percent on the situation at hand. From the moment we got the call until it was over, my mind was clear, I was focused and concentrating on the events at the scene. At the time of the shooting, I fired because I judged Malloy's life to be in imminent danger, not out of despair, or anger, or any other reason. I give you my word as a fellow officer that's the truth."
Miller stared at Jim for a full fifteen seconds, as if waiting for him to crack yet again. To his credit, Jim didn't flinch or avert his own stare, but kept his cool and waited for Miller to make the first move.
"Malloy?" Miller finally broke his stare and focused on Pete. "Was your partner focused? Was his mind on the situation?"
"Absolutely," Pete confirmed with conviction. "When I first realized Jim wasn't quite himself, I kept a closer eye on him than usual. I wanted to make sure that he had his mind on business. And he did. If for one minute I had thought he didn't, I'd have busted his chops over it."
"You in the habit of having to keep a close eye on your partner?" Johnson asked from over Pete's shoulder.
"Partners look after each other," Pete growled. "It's part of the responsibility of having one. That's all I meant by that. Jim's a damn fine police officer, and I oughta know. I'm the one who broke him in, and I'm the one who rides with him every day. He saved my life tonight, and not for the first time. Despite having been shot himself, he had the presence of mind to do what had to be done. There isn't another man in the department who I want riding beside me or guarding my back in a dark alley."
Again, the silence hung heavy in the room, the noise from the fan the only sound. Finally, Miller spoke. "Does anyone have any other questions for Malloy or Reed?"
"Nope," Johnson responded.
MacDonald shook his head.
"All right then. If you gentlemen will give me a diagram of the scene, we'll wrap up here and go back to the scene to recreate the incident. Uh, include in that diagram the house, Adam-12's location, and then your positions at the time of the shooting. Sergeant MacDonald, will you please tell Lieutenant Moore we're about ready to head back to the scene?"
"Right," Mac acknowledged, then left.
"Johnson, how about giving us a piece of paper off your pad, there?" Miller requested. "I'd like a little bigger picture since so much is going on."
Johnson tore out a blank sheet from the back of his writing pad and handed it off to Pete.
"I'll do the writing," Pete offered with a little smile.
"This is one time your illegible scribble would be better than mine," Jim agreed. He managed to lighten his expression marginally, and Pete's smile widened.
"Hang in there, Jim," the older officer said supportively, then bent his head to the task of drawing. You'll get through this. We'll all get through it.