Pete made an effort to be extra early for duty on PM watch the next day. Not that he looked forward to pulling an eight-hour shift on the desk, arguably his least favorite thing to do, ranking slightly above having a root canal without benefit of anesthetic. Pete merely wanted to dress in peace, without having to answer a lot of questions about how he was doing and how Jim was doing, and what did he think of the whole mess, and had he read the papers and so forth and so on. Pete understood that his colleagues were merely concerned, but he still didn't want to have to answer the same questions over and over. He also hoped to talk to Mac privately, and swing by the detectives' room and see what he could find out about the continuing investigation around the incident. He thought surely that nearly forty-eight hours after the shooting, detectives would have come up with some background on the kid and his family.
Pete was rewarded for his effort; he walked into an empty locker room and dressed in peace. As he put the finishing touches on his shoelaces, Mac walked through the locker room door.
"Well, hello, Pete," the sergeant said with genuine surprise. "You're early."
"You know what they say, Mac. The Early Bird...."
"Doesn't have to answer a lot of questions," Mac interrupted with a grin.
Pete returned the grin. He grabbed his hat and briefcase and joined Mac at his locker. "How'd you guess?"
"I've been there, that's how." Mac's grin faded into a look of concern. "I hope you don't mind if I ask, Pete. You look tired. You holding up okay?"
"I'm okay, but I am tired, Mac," Pete didn't bother denying what he knew his face and eyes revealed.
"It's fine with me if you go back home. We can handle it without you if you need the extra rest."
"I gotta come back sometime, Mac. Besides, you know you need me -- you're shorthanded as it is, and with Jim out, that makes it worse," Pete explained. "And I'd rather be in the loop, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah, I know. So, how's Jim today?"
Pete's expression lightened. "One hundred percent better," he told Mac happily. "I talked to him before I came in, and he said he felt pretty good. He sure sounded better."
"That's good to hear. Sounds like he gave everybody quite a scare yesterday."
"I'll say. You should have seen him - all puffy and red like a big ol' balloon." Pete shook his head. "Amazing what swallowing the wrong pill will do to you. Getting that straightened out helped, and he really just needed some sleep and something to eat. Do you know that until this morning, he hadn't eaten since noon on Thursday?"
"No kidding? The way Reed eats, that tells you something," Mac allowed.
"Yeah." Pete gave Mac a sideways look. "Mac, has the official autopsy and tox report come out yet?"
"I'm not aware of it, if it has," Mac responded. "Why?"
Pete related to Mac the details of Mike Cleary's visit to Jim's house the previous evening.
"I'll ask the Captain if he's seen anything," Mac promised, "but I'm sure I'd have been told if it was in. And I wouldn't hide anything from you, Pete."
"I know that, Mac. I was just wondering how much credence to give Cleary's story."
Mac snorted. "You know what a sleaze the guy is, Pete. He may very well have inside information. But don't worry about it. High or not, the fact remains the kid took a high powered rifle and shot up a neighborhood, took out a black and white, then wounded one officer and would've gotten another if we hadn't gotten him first."
"I know, Mac. I don't need a pep talk," Pete assured him.
"But your partner might?"
Pete scowled and shrugged.
"What about Jean?" Mac asked suddenly.
"Doing fine, apparently," Pete told him. "It's a waiting game now. They should hear something Wednesday." Pete paused a beat. "I think that's the only thing Jim's focused on right now - hearing that Jean's gonna be okay."
"I'm assuming Jean had some type of biopsy," Mac stated, with a lift to his eyebrows. "You don't have to say anything," the Scotsman continued when Pete looked uncomfortable. "But if that's what it is, I've been there myself, and I completely understand what he's going through. I just wish I could talk with him about it. I might could help."
"I'll tell him you said so," Pete nodded.
The door to the locker room opened and Lieutenant Moore stuck his head in. "Mac, Malloy...glad I
caught you both. Step into my office when you're dressed - Sergeant Sanchez has some information for you."
"I don't know if you wanna hear what I have to say or not," Sergeant Ric Sanchez said with a burst of breath that sounded suspiciously like a tired sigh.
Pete settled back on the small, uncomfortable chair he'd pulled up to the side of Lieutenant Moore's desk. He'd grabbed a cup of coffee on the way in, and took a sip of it now to hide a frown. "Lay it on me," he said, after swallowing the scalding liquid.
"How's Reed, by the way?" Sanchez asked. He opened a manila file that lay across his crossed legs. A fresh coffee stain streaked across the folder, a testament to long hours working on the case.
"Doing better," Pete assured him.
"Good." Sanchez nodded. He gathered the eyes of all in the room - Pete, Mac, and Lieutenant Moore, before he began rolling off the facts. "Well, now, Pete, let's start with the neighbors. We interviewed everybody on the block and the houses on the opposite block directly behind the Sanford house. They all agree on one thing: none of 'em had a clue anything was wrong until you pulled up in front of the house. Some of 'em noticed you coming down the street and started rubbernecking before the kid shot. Others said they didn't know anything until they heard the first shots."
"Who called it in, then?" Pete asked.
"Apparently the victim did. I talked to communications and the operator who took the call. She said the voice was harsh, agitated, male, and youngish. He said that he 'needed the police, because he was in trouble.' Said they'd better hurry, something bad was about to happen. She said he refused to identify himself, just gave the address and hung up."
"So it goes out an unknown trouble," Pete nodded. "Fair enough, based on that information."
"Yeah. Too bad you didn't have more information going in, but that's the way it usually goes down for you patrol guys, right?"
"Right," Pete agreed.
"Most of the neighbors do recall hearing the rifle go off first, right after you drove up. But that's about where the agreement stops with the eyewitnesses. You know how it is - ten different people, ten different stories. Most couldn't hear what the kid was saying - all they could hear was Reed talking over the PA. Some of 'em couldn't hear the kid at all, just the PA and the gunshots and breaking glass. The closest neighbors said you ran 'em inside, and they were more than happy to go."
"That's right," Pete agreed. "Most of the street was well in range of his rifle."
"There were only a couple who saw the end of the confrontation," Sanchez continued. "When the shooting stopped, a few of 'em came back to the windows. One lady said she never saw the gun in the kid's hand, just saw Reed shoot him down."
"Oh, and I guess Reed shot himself, too?" Pete rolled his eyes.
Sanchez couldn't hide a sardonic grin, but the Lieutenant jumped in at this point.
"Malloy, you know how unreliable eyewitnesses can be," Moore reminded gently.
"I also know how most of 'em don't like the police," Pete shot back, but he carefully held back on the bitterness he felt at the public's cynicism.
"Easy, Pete," Mac soothed.
"Nobody ever said being a cop would make you popular," Moore said grimly. "Go ahead, Sanchez."
"Let's see," Sanchez turned a page in the folder. "The other eyewitness to the shooting agrees down the line with your and Reed's story - said the kid shot Reed, then turned on you, and Reed shot him. Of course, we don't necessarily need corroboration of that, but it's nice to have an eyeball witness who'll independently back up your statement."
"What do they say about the kid?" Pete asked. "And did he have a record?"
"No record, no. There was an FI card on him in the juvenile files, taken six months ago. He was loitering around a local park with a bunch of kids, some of whom do have records, but he had no drugs, alcohol, or weapons on him. The neighbors said he was a nice kid, decent, made good grades, was polite. They were all really upset about the whole thing, said he shouldn't have died, you know the song."
"He shouldn't have died," Pete agreed. "He had the chance to live. It was his choice to die. I take it you didn't turn a suicide note?"
"Nope, sorry. We looked everywhere there was to look. Most suicidal types don't hide their suicide notes - they leave 'em out in plain sight. We checked the kid's room thoroughly, and the parents' room, and the kitchen, all the public areas. There just wasn't one."
"The parents have been giving us a lot of static," Lieutenant Moore said. "What are your impressions from the interviews you've conducted?"
Sanchez's lip twisted and he shook his head. "They're so upset they aren't a lot of help. The mother is hysterical and can't say anything but that her 'baby is dead.' The father's emotions are coming out as anger. He's blustering about lawsuits and excessive force and...well, you've read the papers. He insists that his son was a good kid, and that he had to have been goaded into shooting. When we told him that the facts showed otherwise, he just kept blustering about 'overzealous police.' When we told him that his son was the one to make the call, he still won't allow that the kid had problems."
"What about drug use?" Pete asked.
"Parents deny he was a hard-core user. The father admitted he'd caught him smoking pot a few months back, and that he'd suspected that he'd experimented with pills. He blamed that on the friends he was hanging around with."
"Have you questioned the friends?" Mac asked.
"We're tracking them down. The father insists that he didn't know any of their names. We've picked up a few names from things in the boy's room, and we've talked to a few, but it's summer, and a lot of them are hard to track down. Some are out of town, others are just bumming around and hard to locate." Sanchez ruffled a few more papers. "The one's we've seen say that the boy had been 'uptight' lately, because his parents were coming down on him pretty hard to conform to their 'establishment lifestyle.'"
"Uptight enough to wig out?" Pete asked.
Sanchez shrugged. "Opinions vary. Some say yes, others no. I'll tell you, we're trying to track down a girlfriend of his that might give us some better insight, but we're not having any luck. Apparently, she's out of town visiting relatives, but the parents said they'd try and bring her back for the boy's funeral. We'll talk to her then." Sanchez closed the file folder and uncrossed his legs to stand. "I'm hoping the parents will be a little more coherent in a few days and we can get more out of 'em. I know they're torn up over this, but my cop's nose tells me that the father's not being entirely truthful with me."
"About what?" Lieutenant Moore prompted.
Sanchez repeated the shrug. "I can't pin it down yet. I hope it isn't just wishful thinking."
"Us, too," Mac seconded.
"What about the autopsy and the toxicology report?" Pete questioned.
"I don't have it yet, but I'm hoping to get my hands on it by tomorrow. Don't worry, Malloy, I'll keep you in the loop," Sanchez promised.
"Thanks," Pete stood and shook Sanchez's hand. "I appreciate your hard work on this."
"Hey, pal, I've been where you are. And I remember I didn't like it. Don't sweat it; we're gonna get to the bottom of this."
"Do my best," Pete assured him.
"Well, Malloy, we've got a watch to get off," Mac announced. "Roll call's in five minutes."
"Right behind you, Mac."
Jim Reed generally craved spending quiet moments with his wife, especially if they could just lie around with nothing in particular to do but enjoy each other's company. Between maintaining a home and rearing a toddler, those moments proved rare. But tonight, as he lay beside Jean, trying to ignore the lingering ache in his arm, he found the stillness oppressive. The empty silence stretched all around him and gave his thoughts too much room to crawl down dark tunnels.
He shifted in bed, trying not to jostle Jean. She slept peacefully, the magazine she'd been reading carelessly draped across her stomach. For the thousandth time that day, he watched her sleeping, trying to memorize every detail, capture every moment to keep in his heart. In case . . .
No, I won't accept that. I won't. He forced his thoughts down safer paths, thinking instead about her
parents, who'd watched Jimmy all day. We're going to owe them a huge steak dinner as soon as they
recover from chasing that little imp all over the house. He figured the only break Jimmy had given his
grandparents was when he insisted on squeezing in bed with him and Jean for his afternoon nap. Jim
couldn't blame the little guy for wanting Mommy and Daddy's company, although after the third time
Jimmy twitched in his sleep and kicked Jim's sore arm, Jim's patience had started to wear thin.
But worse than enduring his wiggle-worm son's occasional kicks were the disturbing dreams that plagued him every time he dozed off. He guessed it was the pain medication doing it. Painkillers almost always made him loopy, awake or asleep. His dreams consisted of a cacophony of disjoined, irrational vignettes. Jim dreamed of his late father, he dreamed of being on patrol, wearing neither gun nor uniform, and he dreamed that he lost his job and became a truck driver, driving endlessly down a dark road, his visibility limited to about two feet in front of the rig. But the worst dream of all had been of he and Jimmy eating dinner at the table alone, doing things together in the house, alone. Jean simply wasn't with them. The dream was vague enough so that Jim couldn't be certain his wife had died, but he felt the void of her absence so strongly, even in dream state, that he awakened with an aching heart and tear-filled eyes. He had reached for Jean after the dream, just to touch her and confirm the solidity of her presence. Feeling her warmth and watching her even breathing had calmed him, but the suffocating fear that the dream might come true continued to haunt him.
And so he watched her, memorizing every detail, in case . . .
No. No. But the fear he'd been fighting threatened to overwhelm him, and he couldn't keep from taking
a shaky breath.
"Honey?" Jean startled him from his dark thoughts by reaching out and taking his hand in hers. He hadn't realized she'd awakened. "You okay?"
"Sure, hon," Jim flashed what he hoped was a reassuring smile at her. He raised her hand to his lips and gave it a kiss.
"You seemed a million miles away," Jean said as she snuggled next to her husband. The forgotten magazine crinkled and she tossed it aside. "What were you thinking about?"
Jim put his good arm around her and pulled her close. "Nothing," he lied.
"Uh huh," Jean responded, humoring the falsehood. She lay still against him, quiet for a moment, gently patting his chest as if to comfort him. After a space, she said quietly, "Jim, I really think you should talk about it."
Which "it?" The "it" that you might have cancer, the "it" that I killed a boy, or the "it" that I might lose my job? There's too many "its."
Since he really didn't know how to respond, he fell back on reassurance. "Honey, I'm okay," he said, attempting to sound confident. He leaned over and kissed the top of Jean's head to punctuate the words.
Again, Jean stayed silent for a space, still patting and rubbing his chest. "We've been lying in this bed all day and I've been watching you," she finally said, her words partially muffled by Jim's chest. "and all day long, you've either been staring at the ceiling, or the floor, or sleeping restlessly. You've got all the usual signs of being worried and upset. You'll feel better if you talk about it."
Honey, I wouldn't even begin to burden you now with everything on my mind. And if I give you any opening, you'll worm it all out of me like you always do. You need as much peace of mind as you can muster, and I won't be the one to take any of it away.
"Honey, you know how I get when I take any kind of medicine," Jim reminded her. He had no desire to keep lying to his wife, as he'd been forced to do over the past couple of days, and he'd vowed to himself he wouldn't do it any more. Distraction and misdirection would have to do. "It makes me all crazy." Jim entwined his fingers in Jean's hair and stroked the silky strands. He knew she liked for him to do that; it relaxed her. Maybe now it would relax her to sleep.
Jean sighed. "I know that. Believe me. But I also know you well enough to know when it's more than just that. And you can stop hoping I'll go to sleep by doing that with my hair."
"I like touching your hair," Jim defended himself. "And I like holding you and kissing you...." he reached down to kiss her, but she put her hand up to stop him.
"Okay, if that's the way you're gonna be," she pouted. "I can't make you talk to me." She carefully wriggled from his embrace and turned her back to him. She fluffed her pillow and hugged it to her.
"No, no, don't say anything. It's obvious you don't want to talk." Jean didn't try to keep the hurt from her voice.
What can I say to her? She's right. I don't want to talk. If I start talking I'm liable to go to pieces and she doesn't need that right now. But how can I reassure her? God, I don't know what to do.
Floundering for something to say, Jim said the only thing he knew for certain. "I love you, Jean." He reached out and caressed her back, knowing that even that sincere statement probably wasn't enough right now.
She didn't flinch from his touch, nor did she respond to it. "I know you love me," she responded, her voice flat. "And I know, in some weird way, that's the reason you aren't talking."
"Honey, don't be mad."
"I'm not mad."
"You could've fooled me," Jim rubbed her back in a conciliatory gesture. "There's just nothing to say," he finished, in what he hoped was a lighthearted tone. It wasn't quite a lie; he really had nothing to say.
"Don't make it worse by lying," Jean snapped. "You've done enough of that lately." She reached over and snapped out the light on her side of the bed.
Even as he reeled from the stinging anger in her voice, the truth of Jean's words sent a guilty pang slicing through him. His motives had been pure, but he knew he'd hurt her on some deep level. And his unwillingness to share his feelings with her only compounded her hurt. But what's worse? Hurt from silence or hurt from hard words? Hurt from my own insecurities and fears when she's the one facing the verdict of cancer? I can't tell her how scared I am I'm going to lose her -- she's scared enough as it is. And I don't want to talk about the shooting. I can't tell her I don't care about that, either. What's losing a job compared to losing a life? I can't do it. I just can't do it now.
"I only wanted to spare you worry," Jim said quietly.
The deafening silence from the other side of the bed spoke volumes. With a quiet sigh, Jim took his hand from Jean's back and reached across to turn out his own light. The darkness couldn't cover the obvious tension in the air.
Jim blinked back burning tears that seemed to spring from nowhere. Forgive me, Jean. I just can't.
After a space, Jean spoke in the darkness. Jim could hear the frustration in her whispery voice. "Has it ever occurred to you that maybe I need to talk about it?" she choked.
Again, the stinging indictment of Jean's words tore at his heart. He didn't trust himself to speak, and struggled with the tightening of his throat, swallowing back the swelling emotions. He knew with certainty that every second he stayed silent acted like a stake in Jean's soul, but he still couldn't bring himself to unburden himself to her now. Jim cast about for words, for anything that would reassure her or satisfy her. But he came up blank, and he hated himself for it. I can't solve this problem with all my brawn, with all my skills, with all my love for her. It isn't enough. I could save Pete with one well-placed bullet, but for my wife, the love of my life, I can't do a thing. Not one damn thing. I can't even give her words. God help me. Help us both.
Jim once again reached over and with his one good hand, and caressed his wife. "I'm sorry, honey," he managed to get out. He cringed at the inadequacy of the words.
Jean responded with a sniffle and a sigh. But she did reach up and clasp his hand, and Jim squeezed it gently.
"Don't forget to take your medicine," Jean said. She dropped his hand and curled away from him further, effectively ending the conversation.
Pete Malloy grit his teeth so hard he thought they'd surely shatter when the pen-clicking started up again. He'd been patient the first hour of the PM watch when Jim first started clicking the ball-point pen he carried in his uniform pocket, but as it closed in on six o'clock on a dull Sunday evening on the desk, and Jim continued his rhythmic click-clicking of the pen, his patience began to crumble.
Pete prayed for a complainant - any complainant - to come through the front door so that Jim could take a report, because about the only time Jim stopped clicking the pen was when he had a report to fill out. Unfortunately, except for the two of them and the security guard at the door, the lobby remained empty and still.
And the click-clicking continued.
Don't yell at him. You know it's just his way of dealing with the stress in his life right now. God knows he's got enough of that. If it keeps him sane, you can stand to listen to it for a few hours.....oh, Lord, hours of that.... "Hey, Jim?" Pete kept his voice as light as he could, pushing the growl and bark back down into his gut.
"Yeah, Pete?" Jim looked up from the pad he'd been doodling on in between pen-clicking fits.
Pete's irritation at Jim's nervous habit started to fade as he looked into his partner's face. Even though Jim had insisted on returning to work, apparently against Jean's wishes, he still looked a little pale, and though he'd ditched the sling, a bit prematurely, in Pete's opinion, he noticed that Jim surreptitiously rested the injured arm against the counter, or let it fall into his lap for support.
"How about a cup of coffee?" Pete offered.
"No, thanks, Pete," Jim flashed him a tight-lipped, brief smile. "But if you want one, I'll be okay here while you grab one. Not many customers tonight."
"No, I'll wait a bit," Pete responded, resigned.
"Well, whenever you're ready, that's fine." Jim turned back to his doodle pad, but it only took a few seconds for him to start working on the pen top.
Right now, Pete wouldn't even care if Jim told that bad alligator joke if he'd just stop clicking the damn pen and talk. After riding together for over three years, Pete could always evaluate Jim's mental and emotional state a matter of seconds after being with him. The Jim Reed that stood beside him now was strung as tight as a piano wire and looked fragile enough to fall to pieces if someone said the wrong thing to him. But as usual, Jim claimed to be fine and declined to elaborate further. Though the front desk of the station definitely wasn't the place for baring one's soul, Pete felt a real need to do something to help his partner talk about some of the things that were eating at him.
If I ask him questions, he'll either bite my head off or clam up even tighter. Maybe both. Maybe if I just make an innocent observation, I can draw him into a conversation.
"I thought Jean looked good, partner. She's got her color back," Pete remarked casually.
Click-click-click. "Yeah, she says she feels like she's back to normal," Jim responded. "Loafing in bed yesterday did both of us good."
"It was hardly loafing," Pete grinned. "Recovery is more like it."
"I guess," Jim agreed absently. Click-click....click-click....click.
"I have to admit, I was a little surprised when you called me to pick you up for work today," Pete said. "I thought you might need another day at home."
Click-click.....click........click-click-click.......... "I thought it'd be best to come on in," Jim answered after a long pause with furious clicking. "I think Jean..."
Ric Sanchez burst through the doors behind the desk, interrupting Jim.
"Hey, Reed, I heard you were back today," the sergeant greeted him. He extended a hand to the young officer. "How're you feeling?"
"Much better, thanks," Jim answered. He shook Sanchez's hand and grinned.
"You still look a little peaked," Sanchez observed, "but driving a quiet desk'll be okay until you're one hundred percent. Evening, Pete."
"Sanchez," Pete nodded, irritated at the interruption. Rotten timing! Just when I was about to make some headway!
"I came to give you a little information, and then tell you I'll be out with most of Robbery/Homicide for the rest of the night, probably. Had a big heist down at that
pawn shop at the corner of Olympic and Broadway about an hour ago."
"We heard the call go out for all units and Adam-5," Pete told him, "And then the code four came pretty quickly after that. What happened?"
"Three masked gunmen with shotguns broke in, shot up the joint and pretty much took off with anything they wanted. Cash, guns, jewelry, small electronics."
"Anybody hurt?" Jim asked.
"Minor injuries. The gunmen tied up the workers and the one customer that was in the shop. Of course, they had to get in a couple of licks, just for meanness, apparently, so there's some bumps and bruises. They were long gone before 5 got there, though. But we're gonna be all night, I reckon, cataloging the stolen merchandise, getting prints and physical evidence, interviewing and going through MO's for comparison," Sanchez sighed. "So I wanted to update you on the latest."
"Looks like you've got a long night ahead of you," Jim sympathized.
"Par for the course," Sanchez waved it off. "Look, I talked to the coroner and he said I'll have the autopsy and toxicology report in my hand first thing in the morning. So the SRB meeting will probably go on as planned on Tuesday. He told me a couple of things, unofficially. Cause of death for the kid was heart trauma - both your bullets penetrated the heart. Pretty good shooting to be wounded yourself. The kid wasn't high, but there were traces of speed and heroin in the blood, so he probably had been high within the past twelve hours. Probably was coming down off it. And they found tracks in the boy's toes -- apparently he'd been hiding his habit from his parents that way. Or trying to, anyway. Once the SRB's met, I'll share it with the father and see if he still maintains that his kid didn't have a drug problem." Sanchez paused. "I wouldn't want to do it today, anyway...you know they buried him this afternoon."
"That's what the paper said," Pete stated quietly. He stole a look at Jim, whose face had gone very still. The boy's funeral had been one thing Jim had mentioned to him on the ride in to work. Pete knew it weighed heavily on Jim's mind.
"Anyway, I managed to get to the funeral and check out some of the friends. The girlfriend - found out her name is Patricia Kosloff - was there, but I didn't talk to her, either. I'll run out and see her tomorrow and get the information from her. It's always hard to judge at a funeral, especially when a kid's so upset, but she had that junkie look herself. Things are starting to rumble around in my head and a picture's forming. Call it gut instinct."
"So, what's this picture look like?" Jim asked, his voice low.
"Still a little fuzzy right now, but I tell you what....I think Patricia Kosloff is gonna bring it into focus." Sanchez smiled. "Hang in there, Reed. It's gonna be okay."
Jim nodded. "Thanks."
"Hey, gotta run," Sanchez gave them a little salute. "They're already looking for me down at the pawn shop."
"Thanks for the info, Sarge," Pete called as the detective disappeared through the doors.
Pete looked at Jim and saw that he had his gaze fixed on something beyond the four walls of the station. "Must be hell," Jim said, almost tonelessly, his voice pitched so low it could hardly be heard, "burying a child. Someone you love that much."
Pete held his breath for a beat. The opening he'd thought he'd lost had just presented itself again, but how to ease into the doorway without Jim slamming it shut in his face... "Yeah," he finally said quietly. "That's gotta be rough."
Jim didn't comment further, but his long-range stare continued, accompanied by more click-click-click. Pete waited for his partner to work through whatever emotions he was fighting and hoped that Jim would finally open up and get some of it off his chest. He had a gut feeling that thinking of Bobby Sanford's funeral had led Jim's mind down the path to the darker, more painful possibility of facing a similar situation with Jean.
Jim suddenly slammed the pen down on the desk. "Damn it," he muttered, then pushed off the stool.
"Take it easy, Jim," Pete soothed, as Jim began to pace in the limited space behind the desk.
"I'm all right, I'm all right," Jim insisted. He ran his right hand through his hair and blew out a shaky rush of breath.
"Sure you are," Pete said quietly, with a bite of sarcasm. "Talk to me, Jim."
Jim shook his head. "There's nothing to say."
"Jim, you can't go on like this," Pete insisted. "You're gonna...."
"Pete! Just leave me....." Jim snapped, then immediately looked chagrined. "I'm sorry, Pete. I'm really sorry."
"It's okay," Pete assured him. "But it'd be a lot more okay if you'd talk about it."
Jim shook his head again. "There's nothing to say," he repeated softly. He sat back down on the stool and rested his injured arm on the counter top.
The phone jangled loudly, startling them both. Jim punched the blinking extension button ferociously, then picked up the receiver. "LAPD, Officer Reed."
Shortly after that phone call, the station became a very busy place. Pete and Jim spent the better part of the next hour and a half writing reports on a stolen car, 2 stolen bicycles, and even a stolen concrete birdbath. They also gave directions to a lost tourist desperate to find Disneyland, helped a woman pick up her husband who'd been busted on a 502, and reunited a lost ten-year-old with her parents. There'd been no time for casual conversation, a cup of coffee, or even a bathroom break. That suited Pete just fine, since it kept Jim busy and prevented him from continually clicking his pen.
But now, at a little after seven p.m., Pete was more than ready for Code Seven. The lobby had finally emptied once again once Jim had sent the last complainant out the glass doors.
"I don't know about you, partner, but my stomach is telling me it's time for seven," Pete patted his abdomen for emphasis. "My mouth is watering for that roast beef sandwich and chocolate cake Jean kindly packed for me."
"You go ahead, then," Jim offered. "I can wait a while."
Pete looked momentarily surprised, then laughed at his memory lapse. "I forget we're not in the black and white. I suppose Mac wouldn't be happy if we left the front desk unmanned."
"I suppose not," Jim managed a weak grin. "You'd better go now, before things heat up again."
"I'll go see if I can yank somebody up here for a few minutes," Pete said, "and maybe we can both go now."
"Good luck. We've got every able-bodied man out on the street," Jim reminded.
"It's worth a try," Pete looked up at the doors as they opened and a teenaged girl entered.
"I can handle her," Jim informed him. "Go on."
The girl walked past the security guard's post but stopped half-way to the desk. She looked hesitant, yet defiant at the same time. Something about her demeanor caused Pete to delay leaving.
"Can I help you, miss?" Jim called to her. He slid off the stool.
The petite teenager looked at Jim out from under too-long blonde bangs that hid most of her eyes. The rest of her hair hung loosely around her shoulders and fell into her face, but it didn't cover the scowl that twisted her lips. She had her hands jammed into pockets of an ill-fitting, long, fringed jacket that partially covered a pair of bell-bottom hip-hugging jeans liberally decorated with patches of peace symbols, rainbows, butterflies and flowers. "I need to talk to Sergeant Sanchez," she responded. Her voice held a hard edge, its tone belligerent.
"Sergeant Sanchez isn't in, I'm afraid," Jim told the girl. "I'm Officer Reed. Maybe I can help you?"
When Jim gave her his name, the girl's head jerked up and her eyes flashed fire. "You're the one," she said, her voice shaking and angry.
"I beg your pardon?"
"You're the pig that killed Bobby," the girl spat.
Pete saw Jim stiffen, but his partner kept his face neutral.
"You must be Patricia Kosloff," Pete spoke up, hoping to deflect her anger from Jim. "I'm Officer Malloy. Are you here to give a statement?"
Patricia's glare flicked briefly to Malloy. "You were there too," she said accusingly. "The papers said so."
"That's right," Pete agreed. He kept his voice calm and even.
"I'm so sorry for your loss," Jim found his voice and spoke quietly.
"Spare me that crap," Patricia turned her angry glare back full on Jim. "I'm not interested in hearing anything you have to say. I don't buy into your gestapo regime."
"Then why are you here?" Pete prompted.
"Because I figure you pigs'll hunt me down anyway. Goose said that your Sergeant Sanchez was nosing around about me at Bobby's funeral. Stinking cops - can't even let people mourn in peace!"
"Who's Goose?" Pete asked.
"A friend. Look, I'm not here to salve your consciences or to get anybody off the hook for killing Bobby," Patricia growled. "Goose is waiting for me outside. I'm gonna say what I have to say and split. If you wanna hear it, fine. If not, I'm outta here."
"Jim, call back and see if any of the robbery/homicide detectives are here,"Pete said quietly. "If not, get Mac up here."
"Look, man, I don't wanna be here, and I'm not walking any further than where I'm standing right now," Patricia said angrily as Jim picked up the phone.
"You won't have to," Pete assured her, fearing she might bolt out the door. "Someone will meet you out here, if that's what you want."
"That's what I want. But I'm not waiting on any more pigs to get out here," she insisted.
"It won't take long," Pete said patiently.
Jim hung up the phone. "All the detectives are at the pawn shop still, and Mac got called out on another 211 about five minutes ago," he reported.
Pete sighed. "Miss Kosloff, we'd like to call Sergeant Sanchez here to talk with you. He's at the scene of an armed robbery, but he can be here within twenty minutes."
"I'm not waiting that long! I'll say what I have to say to you and if your pig bosses don't like it, that's too bad." Patricia shook her head. "I have to be home before eight o'clock, because I have to be there when my parents get back. They don't know I'm here. In fact, they told me not to talk to the police, because they don't want the truth getting out."
"What truth is that?" Pete continued to do the talking for the both of them.
"The truth about Bobby and me. We were in love, man. We wanted to be together...we.. were gonna be together..." Patricia's voice choked and she had to stop to clear her throat. "But our parents couldn't accept it. Them and all their establishment rules and ancient lifestyles. They said we were no good for each other. Bobby's father said I was a tramp and a junkie and he forbid Bobby to see me anymore. My parents thought Bobby was a bum, and they shipped me off to the mountain to a rehab home for girls so I could get my head together."
"You're in a residential rehab center?" Pete asked. "We were told you were staying with relatives."
Patricia snorted. "So that's what they're telling everyone? Just more of their lies, trying to cover up everything from their friends in their perfect little world - their perfect little world that I'm destroying, according to them. They sent me away because they couldn't deal with the fact that their perfect little daughter didn't buy into their straight lifestyle. Just because I smoked a little weed, dropped a few pills...chipped around a little..."
"Maybe they were trying to save your life," Pete contradicted.
"More likely their reputations," Patricia sneered. "But that's why I'm here. One thing Bobby and I said was that we'd never fall into the same establishment traps our parents did. Money and power - man, what bull that is! Peace and love, and truth...that's what Bobby and I dug, man."
"Peace and love, and truth through drug abuse?" Pete questioned.
"I told you we just chipped around a little!" Patricia insisted. "Smoked a little weed, a few harmless pills. We weren't hurting anybody! But our parents freaked out, man, when they found out. I got shipped off to the mountains, and Bobby got put under house arrest by his old man. Bobby was freaking out! He couldn't call me, and he had to sneak letters out to me when his old man was at work and his mother sleeping. And I could only get word to Bobby through friends - his old man tore up any letters I mailed to the house. It was killing Bobby. We just wanted to be together...that's all we wanted. The last straw happened on Wednesday morning, from what Goose tells me."
"What happened?" Pete prompted.
"Bobby's mother and father were leaving for a business trip. Right before they left, his old man hit him with some news that really bummed him out. He told Bobby he had pulled some strings and gotten him accepted into a military school in the Valley. A military school! Bobby freaked completely out! They had this huge, huge fight. Bobby begged them, pleaded with them not to make him go. That's just not his scene, all that military crap. But his old man told him it was final and that when they got back, they'd pack him off to the school.
"After they left, Bobby called Goose and told him all this and begged him to get him a couple of hits and some reds. So he did - and don't ask me from who 'cause I ain't burning anybody, you dig?" Patricia exclaimed defiantly.
"Just keep talking, Patricia," Pete urged.
"Anyway, Bobby took the pills and got high and basically stayed locked in his room tripping the rest of the day and Thursday morning. He called Goose Thursday around lunch and told him he wanted to die. Bobby told Goose to tell me how much he loved me but he just couldn't take it any more. He hated his parents for what they were doing to him and he hated life. He asked Goose to get him some more drugs so he could OD and die in bed. Goose refused and tried to talk Bobby out of it." Tears pooled in Patricia's eyes as she continued with her tale. "Bobby finally told Goose he was okay, just to get him off his back. But he wasn't okay. Goose wouldn't bring him drugs, so Bobby got some of his old man's guns."
"Wait. How do you know this part?" Pete interrupted. "I thought you weren't in contact with him."
"I haven't been. If only I could been! I could have stopped him," Patricia's voice quavered as a tear ran down her cheek. "Right before Bobby called you, he called Goose to say goodbye. He told Goose his plan and asked Goose to make sure that I got the note he left for me."
"Bobby left you a note? A suicide note?"
Patricia nodded and wiped tears away. "Goose said he wrote two. One to his parents and one to me. I figured the police took them that night. I certainly haven't seen mine."
"Detectives couldn't find a suicide note," Pete informed her. "They've been all over that house and there's not a note to be found."
Patricia frowned. "Tell them to look again. If Bobby said he wrote notes, then he wrote notes!"
Jim spoke for the first time. "Did Goose try to call the police when Bobby called him?"
"No," Patricia shook her head sadly. "He got in his car to try to make it over to Bobby's before he did anything. But the traffic was so bad, he got caught up in it, behind a wreck...and by the time he made it to the neighborhood, you pigs already had it blocked off. Goose knew he was too late."
"We'll need to talk to this Goose," Pete said. "I don't suppose you'd ask him to come in?"
"No way man. And I'm not giving you his name, either. If you pigs want to talk to him, you'll have to dig for it."
"Don't worry, we will," Pete assured her.
Patricia turned to leave. "That's all I have to say. I've gotta split this scene. I've told the truth, and I've honored his memory by doing that."
"You did the right thing," Pete said encouragingly.
"Did I?" the bitterness returned to Patricia's voice. "I'm not so sure. In one way, I feel like I've copped out to the establishment. But on the other hand, I want people to know why Bobby did what he did. He was a good person with a beautiful soul, and I loved him. I might only be sixteen but I know what love is! A lot more than some of you screwed up so-called adults!" Patricia's eyes bored into Jim. "You killed a beautiful human being. He was just a little messed up by parents who didn't understand him or even take the time to try. I did. I knew. That's why we grooved on each other. But you wouldn't care about that. He was probably just a number to you."
"No human being is ever just a number," Jim objected softly. "All life is precious."
"So that's why you carry a gun and kill people? Don't make me laugh, pig."
"I didn't want to kill him," Jim told her. His voice sounded strained.
"Bobby was given the chance to walk out clean," Pete interrupted, giving Jim a chance to regroup. "He didn't take it. We tried our best to disarm him peacefully. In the end, the choice to die was his. Period."
Patricia took a couple of steps toward the door, then turned back. "Like I said, I didn't come here to get anybody off the hook or make you feel better. I hope you remember Bobby's face for the rest of your lives. I hope you see his murdered body in your nightmares. And just so I have the last laugh on everybody - you and your fuzz friends, his parents, my parents - I'll tell you one other thing." Patricia placed a hand over her abdomen. "I'm pregnant. I'm carrying a dead man's baby. A baby who'll never know how beautiful his daddy really was. Think about that when you go to sleep tonight, mister 'all life is precious.'"
With a toss of her head, Patricia Kosloff turned and walked out the station doors.
Pete stared after her for a moment, almost too stunned to do anything else. The security guard turned and gave Pete and Jim an open-mouthed, wide-eyed expression. Mercifully, though, he didn't comment, save for a shake of his head. Pete gathered himself enough to glance at Jim; if the girl had shaken him up, her words must certainly have crushed Jim.
Jim looked like Patricia Kosloff had driven a nail through his heart. Which in a way, Pete guessed, she probably had. As Pete looked at his partner's struggle to clamp down his emotions, he wondered just how much more Jim could take. And Pete wondered what he could say to make it easier. "Don't let her get to you, Jim," Pete finally managed to get out. "She's upset."
"No kidding," Jim responded, his voice gravelly. He sank back down onto the stool, looking totally exhausted.
"I know it's little consolation, but Sanchez was right," Pete continued quietly. "She put the puzzle together for us. We know for sure his state of mind wasn't rational, and he'd decided life wasn't worth living any more. We also know the parents haven't been honest with us and now we've got a new witness. This Goose character - Sanchez'll need to talk with him, too. So, no matter what the parents want to do with a civil suit, it'll never wash."
"She's just a kid, Pete. Pregnant. The father's dead...and who knows what her parents'll do...or what shape that baby'll be in because of her drug use. Dear God, what a mess." Jim rubbed at his temple with his good right hand.
"All out of your hands, partner," Pete reminded. "You've got enough on your plate without taking on her problems." He's so torn up, he can't even feel relief over this news.
"Bringing up a kid alone..." Jim continued as if he hadn't heard Pete. "That has to be so hard. I can't imagine..." Jim's voice almost choked and he trailed off abruptly.
Pete realized, once again, that Jim's thoughts hadn't strayed far from his worry about Jean and the biopsy. Even Patricia Kosloff's words had apparently reminded him of the possibility of losing her. He shouldn't be here. He should be home. Even here, his mind is still with Jean. He's just got too much hanging over him.
"Don't try," Pete said firmly. "You're not going to have to do that."
Jim didn't answer, just closed his eyes and rubbed at his temple.
"Jim, why don' t you go home?" Pete suggested after a few moments of silence. "You know that's where you really want to be."
Jim shook his head. "I think it's better that I'm here," he insisted tiredly. "At least for now."
"I don't understand how," Pete stated flatly.
"I'm not sure I do, either," Jim admitted. "I'm not sure about anything anymore." Jim carefully avoided looking at Pete as he spoke. "It's like I'm in some kind of dark maze, and every time I turn around I'm hitting a wall. It's like there's no way out."
Everything that came to Pete's mind to say sounded hollow and trite. The reassurances sounded like cheap imitations of real help, help he just couldn't seem to give.
"I wish there was something I could do to help you," Pete said finally, letting a bit of his frustration peek through the words.
"So do I, partner. So do I."
Jim secured the front door of his home quietly, as he always did when he came in after a late PM watch to find the house dark and quiet. Usually, Jean would be waiting up, ready to greet him with a soft kiss, a warm hug, and loving words. But tonight, for whatever reason, Jean had already gone to bed. I don't blame her. She's tired, and worried, and God knows I haven't helped her any. She probably doesn't even want to look at me right now. Besides, if she's asleep, I don't have to pretend everything's okay. I don't have to pretend I'm the strong, secure husband she depends on. I don't have to hide how terrified I am that I might lose her.
Somehow, Jim had survived the rest of the shift without coming completely unglued. He'd managed to do his job, carry on conversations, and even help Pete relate the encounter with Patricia Kosloff to Sergeant MacDonald without any embarrassing emotional breakdown. It had taken every ounce of mental strength he owned to push Patricia's words out of his head - the words that had kicked him right in the gut. The grieving teenager's bitter accusations had touched a raw nerve he thought he'd buried, at least temporarily. Then, the revelation of her pregnancy and the thoughts of a child without a father had gone straight to the heart of his fears over Jean.
Jim peeked into Jimmy's room on his way back to the master bedroom. Illumination from a hidden nightlight revealed that his son slept out from under the covers on this sultry August night, with Boo hugged to his chest. While Jim watched, Jimmy shifted in his sleep, and his legs moved restlessly. But the sleep spasm passed quickly and Jimmy did not awaken. Jim walked over to him and planted a light kiss on his son's forehead before he left the room. Sleep well, son.
Jim found Jean asleep as well, apparently peacefully. As he quietly went about the ritual of getting ready for bed, Jim watched the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed easily. As he had done the day before, he found himself studying her intently, drinking in every tiny detail about her and burning it in his memory. He studied the way her hair fell across her face, the pout of her lips, how her hands curled over her stomach. Jim never wanted to forget those details.
But even the act of quietly studying his wife caused the knot of anxiety in his gut to swell. Stop it. Stop it. You don't even know yet. You don't even know and you're already putting her in her grave. That's stupid. Why can't you just get your head screwed on straight and stop this insane worrying?
Jim knew that the answer to that question was too complex to try and figure out at 12:30 a.m. when he was physically and emotionally exhausted. He longed to stretch out and rest his tired body and prayed that his mind would be still long enough to let him fall asleep.
His arm still ached and it took everything he had to just keep moving. Despite that fatigue, a part of him feared what he might dream when he finally did close his eyes.
A plaintive whimper from Jimmy's room prevented Jim from sliding into bed. He froze, listening to see if his son would settle back to sleep or would require his attention. When the whimper turned into a near cry, Jim pulled their bedroom door closed so Jean wouldn't awaken, and went to check on Jimmy.
Jim found Jimmy sitting up in his bed, his eyes wide, obviously still in that disoriented state between sleep and full wakefulness. The little boy clutched his stuffed dog to his chest and looked around fearfully, whimpering loudly.
"Hey, sport, what's the matter?" Jim asked in a whisper.
"My tummy huwts, Daddy," Jimmy complained.
"I'm sorry, buddy. Show me where it hurts." Jim sat down next to Jimmy on the bed.
"Wight hewe," Jimmy patted his stomach. "I want mommy."
"Mommy's asleep, son. I'll take care of you." Jim scooped him up into his lap with his good arm, and hugged him close. Jimmy threw his arms around Jim's neck and held on with a grip that would have done any wrestler proud. His tiny body trembled and he sniffled into Jim's shoulder.
"I want mommy," he repeated, as tears started to fall.
"Let's go get some medicine to make you feel better," Jim said. He stood up and carried Jimmy to the master bathroom and flipped on the light.
"Mommy get medicine," Jimmy sobbed.
"Mommy needs to sleep," Jim soothed. "Daddy'll get it." He started to rummage through the assorted baby medicines, looking for the right bottle. He found old colic medicine, cold medicine, vitamins, baby aspirin, and several other medications whose purpose eluded him. Which one is it? I don't wanna give him the wrong thing.
Jimmy's cries increased. "It huwts bad, daddy," he moaned, rubbing his tummy.
"I'm sorry," Jim rubbed Jimmy's back to try and calm him. He ignored the twinges that crawled up and down his still-healing arm. "Don't cry, son, it'll just get worse." Jim picked up a bottle of likely looking medicine and read the label to see if it was the right one.
"I want mommy," Jimmy sobbed.
"Ssssh, son, it's okay," Jim tried to comfort him, but he could feel Jimmy stiffen against the discomfort and realized he needed to get him something soon. Jim stuck that bottle back in the cabinet and grabbed another one. But that turned out to be ear drops and he put that one back, too. Meanwhile, Jimmy's wails got louder. "I'm so, sorry, buddy, Daddy's hurrying...."
"I want mommy," Jimmy cried. "Whewe mommy?"
"I'm right here, baby," Jean's voice came from the bathroom door, and Jim turned to see her tightening the sash on her robe, blinking sleep from her eyes. "What's the matter with my baby?"
Jimmy reached for her and Jim handed his son over. "Be careful, Jean...your incision," he warned.
"It'll be okay," Jean assured him, cuddling Jimmy to her shoulder opposite of the side where the biopsy had been performed.. "What's wrong, sweetpea?"
"My tummy huwts, mommy," Jimmy sobbed.
"I couldn't figure out which one of these was the right medicine," Jim explained helplessly, nodding toward the medicine cabinet.
"The one on the far left, there, with the purple cap," Jean told him, as she gently comforted Jimmy. "There's a medicine spoon in the drawer there...yeah, there. Pour a half-teaspoon in there and give it to him. Ssssh, baby, it's okay. Daddy's got your medicine that'll make you feel all better. Don't cry, love." Jean kissed Jimmy's forehead and stroked his hair. "Open up now..."
Jimmy obediently swallowed the medicine and his cries decreased as he responded to Jean's tender loving care. "Good boy," she praised, and kissed him again. "Mammal rock you until you feel better. Daddy, will you get Boo and his blanket?"
"Are you sure you can carry him?" Jim asked.
"I'm sure, honey." Jean disappeared into Jimmy's room.
Jim followed, scooping up Boo and retrieving Jimmy's security blanket from the floor where he'd dropped it. He put the stuffed animal in Jimmy's arms, covered him with the lightweight blanket, and gave him a kiss on the forehead. "You feel better now, sport?"
"Uh huh," Jimmy mumbled, already looking sleepy as Jean settled in the rocking chair to rock him back to sleep.
"Don't worry, honey, it's probably just a little gas," Jean assured Jim, apparently noting his worried look.
"I'm sorry we woke you," Jim apologized. He leaned over and gave Jean a kiss.
"It's okay. Sometimes a little boy just needs his mommy," Jean smiled. "Why don't you go turn out the bathroom light and go lie down. You look tired. I'll be right there." She turned her attention back to soothing Jimmy, who had settled down considerably. When Jim neither responded nor moved, she looked up. "Jim?"
Sometimes a little boy just needs his mommy. Jean's words, spoken in innocence, rocked Jim down to his toes. What if she hadn't been here tonight? I couldn't even help Jimmy with a little tummy ache. What if it had been serious? If I lose Jean, how can I ever take care of our son all alone? God, I can't do it. Please don't take her, please don't. I need her. Jimmy needs her. A boy needs his mommy just as much as his daddy. God, please...
A vision of Patricia Kosloff rearing her child alone insinuated itself into his head. Is losing Jean my punishment for taking Bobby Sanford's life -- some weird universal balance thing? No, God, that's not fair...
"Jim?" Jean said, more sharply this time. "What's wrong?"
"Uh, nothing," Jim snapped back to the present. He reached out and touched Jimmy's back, then caressed his wife's cheek. "Don't be long, honey," he husked, then quickly left the room before the tears gathering in his eyes gave away his distress to his wife.
Pete tossed his car keys down on the kitchen table and dropped the Monday morning edition of the Los Angeles Times down on top of it. He took greater care with the sack he held in his other hand, which contained his lunch for the day - a Philly cheese steak sandwich with a side order of cole slaw and fries.
Pete grabbed a cold can of soda from the refrigerator and popped the top before he settled into a chair at the table. He'd just come in from picking up a paper and his lunch, and he'd been surprised how hot it had gotten outside, even at 11:30 a.m. The cold soda felt good and cooled him down a bit.
I hope that sandwich is as good as it smells. I'm hungry. Pete arranged his food in front of him and took a generous bite of the sandwich. Perfect! He reached for the paper and folded it to read the front page, though he wasn't sure why he wanted to ruin his lunch by reading it. He'd read the headlines before he'd given up his dime to buy it, and discovered that he and Jim were front and center again, in yet another article about the shooting. You'd think it'd be old news by now. He scanned the article, not really caring to read it, but mildly interested in seeing what new slant this article would take. Well, they still don't have the whole story...and they won't until after tomorrow's SRB...oh, great, now they're pulling up our service records. Finally got their homework done. More quotes from the kid's friends...I don't see any quotes from OUR friends. Jerks in the press...they smell blood and they're swooping in for the kill. Well, they're gonna be disappointed when the whole story is released.
The phone on the wall next to him jangled loudly, and Pete stared at it for two more rings, debating on whether to pick it up or not. Surely all the reporters have given up on me by now. It might be Sara, wondering why I haven't called her in two weeks...or it might be Jim. I might as well...
"Hello?" Pete barked into the phone. He'd apologize later if it turned out to be someone he really wanted to speak with.
"Malloy? Sanchez here."
"Hi, sarge. Sorry I snapped at you there."
"Whaddya think, I'm another reporter?" Sanchez laughed.
"Something like that."
"I don't blame you for being a little on the grouchy side after all the pressure the press is putting you guys. But the end is in sight, Pete. In fact, that's the reason I called. You think you and Reed can get in here a little early this afternoon? I think I've wrapped this case up tight."
"I'm sure I can," Pete agreed. "Have you talked to Jim?"
"No, I thought I'd let you call him, if you don't mind, Pete. I'll let you wake up his kid from his nap."
"Thanks," Pete drawled. "But I'll call him. What time you want us in?"
"Come on back to my desk about 30 minutes before roll call. That's all the time I'll need," Sanchez suggested.
"Sure. See you then. Thanks, Sanchez."
"Anytime, Pete. Later, then. Goodbye."
"Bye." Pete put his finger on the hook and cut the connection. He held it there as he looked at the clock. Five after twelve. Jimmy should be in between naps, and surely Jim's up by now. I was gonna call him anyway, to try and talk him into staying home today. But he'd never want to miss what Sanchez has dug up. Pete lifted his finger and dialed the familiar number. Jean answered on the third ring.
"Hi, Pete," Jean greeted him warmly. "Everything okay?"
"Everything's fine with me," Pete assured her. It sounded to him as if Jean had her customary energy back. "I should ask you the same question. How are you feeling?"
"I feel fine," Jean said. "I think I'm back to normal. I'm just a little anxious, that's all."
"I can imagine," Pete sympathized. He paused. "What's my partner doing?"
"He's reading to Jimmy while I finish up a bite of lunch. Jimmy woke up with a little tummy ache last night so we're keeping him as quiet as possible today."
"Is he all right?" Pete asked. He didn't like hearing that his godson wasn't one hundred percent well.
"Oh, yeah, he's fine. I think he ate a little too much of mother's leftover spaghetti last night is all. He had a piece of toast for breakfast and he handled that fine. It's just so hot we just decided not to let him play out."
"It really is hot," Pete agreed.
On the other end of the line, Jean sighed heavily. "Pete...."
"Pete, I'm so worried about Jim," Jean said, all in a rush. She lowered her voice, but couldn't hide the concern in her voice.
Oh, boy...how to handle this... "I think the feeling's mutual, Jean."
"I know that, Pete. I know how worried he is...but...he won't talk to me about anything. Not the shooting, or the biopsy...he's just bottling it all up inside. Has he talked to you at all?" Jean's voice quavered with emotion.
"No, not much," Pete admitted with a sigh. "But he's strong. He'll be fine. Once he knows you're gonna be okay, he'll be fine." Pete hoped he sounded convincing.
"Oh, Pete, it's killing him - this whole thing...and he won't let me help him..." Jean's voice broke, and she tried unsuccessfully to stifle a sob.
When Jean's voice broke, Pete's heart broke right along with it. "Now, Jean, don't cry, please," Pete cajoled. "I'll talk with him today, and see if he'll unwind a little. But just don't...cry."
"I'm sorry," Jean sniffled. "This has been the worst five days of my life. And who knows what Jim's thinking...I'm sorry. Did you want to talk to Jim?"
"Are you gonna be okay, Jean?"
"Yes, just ignore me, Pete."
"Jean, everything's gonna be all right," Pete said, with as much confidence as he could muster.
"Thanks, Pete. I'll try to hold onto that thought. Hang on a minute, and I'll go get Jim."
"You think Sanchez caught up with Patricia Kosloff?" Jim asked. He placed his badge onto the proper spot on his shirt after giving it a final swipe on the shine rag. "Or that Goose character?"
"Whatever he's got, he's confident about it," Pete held the door as Jim joined him and they headed toward the detectives' squad room. "But we'll find out soon enough."
"You said he's wrapped it up tight?" Jim asked.
"That's what he said," Pete responded tolerantly. "Relax. Everything's okay. I thought you'd agreed with me that everything went down by the book."
"I have, I have," Jim assured him quickly. "I guess that...thinking it's all wrapped up and that it'll go to the SRB just has me a little nervous."
"Like I said, relax." Pete urged, realizing the futility in that advice even as he gave it. They reached the detectives room and Pete led the way in.
"Hey, Malloy, Reed, come on back," Sanchez called from his desk in the back of the room. His voice sounded fatigued, and he waved them over distractedly.
Pete and Jim threaded their way through a busier-than-usual detectives squad room. Pete noted that nearly all the detectives in the division happened to be in the room at once, a highly unusual occurrence. Most of them had at least one suspect at his desk, in the process of either booking or questioning. Other detectives had their hands full of files or other assorted papers. A lot of patrol officers loitered in the area as well, standing guard over prisoners and assisting with administrative details. A considerable din filled the room, so that they barely heard Sanchez's call.
"It's like a circus in here!" Pete grinned when they finally reached Sanchez's desk.
Sanchez rolled his eyes. "We're pulling in everybody off the street who even remotely has an MO like the bozos that pulled that heist at the pawn shop yesterday," he explained.
"Any luck yet?" Pete asked.
"Are you kidding?" Sanchez gave another theatrical roll of his eyes. "Everybody's innocent! They were all in church yesterday! All day!"
Pete and Jim laughed along with the detective.
"All of them veritable saints," Pete continued wryly
"Naturally. Sit down, sit down," Sanchez pulled up a chair and motioned Jim into it. Pete scrounged a chair from a central table and pulled it up for himself. "You're looking better, Reed," the detective continued, as he pulled at folders and papers.
"Thanks. It's getting there," Jim patted his arm.
"Well, I think you're gonna feel a whole lot better when you see what I've got here," Sanchez grinned. "I tracked down both Patricia Kosloff and her buddy, Goose."
"Great," Pete said with enthusiasm.
"How'd you find Goose?" Jim asked.
"It wasn't hard," Sanchez shrugged, but he still had a satisfied grin on his face. "I walked down the hall to narco, dropped his name, and within one minute I had his package. His real name is Karl Gescanio - seventeen, rising senior at Taft and good buddy of both Patricia Kosloff and Bobby Sanford. He's had a couple of minor busts for possession, but best we can tell he doesn't distribute and he isn't violent.
"I tracked him down this morning at his home, dragged him outta bed about 8:15. I read him what you reported Kosloff told you yesterday, and he confirmed it. Said that was pretty much the way it went down, with a couple of minor variations, mostly to make him look a little better. You can read his official statement," Sanchez handed a sheaf of papers to Jim, "but what it says is that Bobby Sanford was despondent over being forcibly separated from his girlfriend and over the prospects of being sent off to military school. He got high, came down hard and depressed, and decided to end it all. Only thing is, he couldn't get Gescanio to bring him more drugs for an OD, and he was too chicken to pull the trigger on himself. So he called the police and got you to do it for him. Gescanio's statement ties it all up nice and neat. Those are copies, by the way. I gave the official package to the Lieutenant a couple of hours ago. After he reviewed it he took it over to Parker Center so the SRB could review the information before tomorrow."
"What about a suicide note? Patricia Kosloff says he wrote two," Jim asked.
"And she said so again this morning. After I left Mr. Gescanio, I drove up to the mountains to the rehab home where her parents sent her, and got a formal statement. It didn't vary from what she told you last night, but it's there for you to read as well. And there's a copy of the autopsy and toxicology report there, too."
"You've been busy," Pete commented.
"I haven't been to bed yet," Sanchez grumped. "Between that armed robbery yesterday and trying to wrap up this case, I only went home long enough to shower, change clothes and inhale something that passed for breakfast."
"I appreciate that," Jim said sincerely.
Sanchez waved it off. "Like I said before, I've been where you are, and I didn't like it. I'm glad it's worked out the way it has. As for the notes, we didn't turn any, and we've asked the parents time and time again. They say there wasn't any note. They still maintain that Bobby was an innocent victim."
"Have they seen the statements made by Kosloff and Gescanio?" Pete asked.
"Nope," Sanchez shook his head, "And they won't until after the SRB tomorrow. I did talk to the Sanford's lawyer a while ago, and I told him that after the SRB makes a decision that they can examine the entire file. That seemed to satisfy him."
"Sounds good to me," Pete found himself joining Sanchez in a satisfied grin. "Whaddya think, partner?"
Jim looked up from flipping pages of the copied report. "Looks good," he confirmed.
"What, you can't even spare a smile for news as good as this?" Sanchez asked with a grin at Jim.
"Sure," Jim obliged him with a small smile. "It really is good news."
"I know it won't be over completely for you until tomorrow," Sanchez acknowledged. "But I'm betting the SRB interview will be a breeze. In my opinion, it's open and shut."
"I hope you're right," Jim handed the papers back to Sanchez.
"Trust me on this, Reed. It's in the...."
"Sergeant Sanchez!" A booming male voice sounded from across the room. "Sergeant Sanchez!"
Sanchez, Pete and Jim turned toward the voice. A well-dressed, angry-looking middle-aged man strode across the room, dragging an equally well-dressed woman behind him.
"Oh, God, trouble," Sanchez hissed. "Play it cool, men, that's Mr. and Mrs. Sanford."
"We should leave," Jim stood quickly.
Pete followed suit, silently cursing fate for having put them in such a position. The last thing either of them needed was a confrontation with the parents of a shooting victim. Unfortunately, in the overcrowded squad room, their only avenue of escape was the exact route being taken by the Sanfords on their way to see Sanchez. He glanced over at Jim, who had the look of a deer caught in the headlights. Oh, man, Jim doesn't need this.
Sanchez apparently had figured out their dilemma, for he stood, too, and walked around Jim. "Take it easy, Reed," the sergeant whispered as he passed Jim. He took two strides before meeting the parents in the aisle. "Mr. and Mrs. Sanford," Sanchez greeted them, but Mr. Sanford cut him off.
"Sanchez, I understand you have some new information on my son's murder," Mr. Sanford snapped, his temper barely under control. "I want to see it."
"Mr. Sanford, I do have some information that's new to you. I have official statements from two friends of Bobby's and the official coroner's report. They've been placed in a file and sent to the chairman of the Shooting Review Board that will hear this case tomorrow. After that, I'll be happy to share with you any information. Until then, it's confidential."
"I'm tired of all this runaround!" Mr. Sanford declared, his face reddening. His wife stood silently at his side, looking distressed and nervous. "All this police subterfuge...it's enough to...." Mr. Sanford's eyes suddenly tracked past Sanchez to take in Jim, standing behind the detective. The angry man locked his eyes on Jim's face, and his mouth hardened. "You!" He exclaimed, hands balling into tight fists. "And you!" Sanford cried as he caught sight of Pete.
"Mr. Sanford, why don't we step outside where we can talk?" Sanchez suggested smoothly, in an attempt to distract the angry parent.
Sanford attempted to shove past Sanchez. "You murdered my son!" He spat angrily at Jim. His wife gasped as she, too, recognized Pete and Jim.
Sanchez muscled Mr. Sanford back with little effort. "Mr. Sanford!" The detective barked. "Cool off."
Jim had frozen in place. He looked over at Pete, who held a hand up to him in a calming gesture.
"What were you doing in here, getting your stories straight?" Mr. Sanford growled. "Plotting on how you can beat the rap, Officer Reed?"
"Mr. Sanford, this isn't appropriate," Sanchez said, still holding on to the irate, grieving parent. "You shouldn't be here. I spoke with your attorney this morning, and I thought we had an understanding."
"Well, I didn't agree to anything!" Mr. Sanford insisted. "And it's a good thing I came down here...I find you talking to the man who murdered my son! Talk about inappropriate!"
"Mr. Sanford, I'm investigating this case. It's completely appropriate for me to interview the officers involved. The final disposition of the internal investigation lies with the Shooting Review Board and that interview isn't until tomorrow. We've gathered all the pertinent facts - including statements you've made to me, Mr. Sanford. Officers Reed and Malloy have the same rights you do - innocent until proven guilty. This investigation has gone strictly by the book, I assure you."
"You cops - you always stick together! I know how this is going to go down tomorrow...you'll have a little meeting and a guilty man is going to walk free! He'll be free to go back out on patrol and murder another innocent kid!" Sanford leveled a finger at Jim. "I don't care what your Shooting Review Board says tomorrow - you're guilty of murder and I'm going to see that you pay for it! No matter what happens tomorrow, I'll have you in civil court for wrongful death."
"Reed, Malloy, get out of here while I deal with this," Sanchez said calmly, apparently having decided that Mr. Sanford could not be reasoned with.
"How do you sleep at night?" Sanford hissed at Jim, as Pete prodded his partner around Sanchez toward the door. "Do you have any idea of what you've done to my wife and me? You've taken our only child from us! Do you have any idea how that feels? To lose a child? Someone you love more than your own life? I hope you burn in hell for this!"
"Keep moving, Jim," Pete said quietly.
"Officer Reed!" Mrs. Sanford called, speaking for the first time. Her voice trembled and sounded as if every syllable was an effort.
Don't stop, Jim, don't stop...
But Jim did stop. Right in front of Mrs. Sanford. He looked at her, his eyes and face full of compassion, but he didn't speak.
Mrs. Sanford didn't speak, either. Instead, she locked eyes with Jim and held the gaze for a full five seconds. Then, without preamble or warning, she struck Jim with an open-handed slap, full across the left cheek. She then dropped her hand and began to sob. "Why?" she demanded, her voice broken. "Why did you kill my baby?"
The blow sent Jim staggering backward a step. Pete reached out to balance him, and with an angry glare, placed himself between Mrs. Sanford and his partner. The report from the slap was loud enough to cause the entire room to suddenly fall quiet, save for Mrs. Sanford's sobbing, and all eyes turned their way. A fellow patrol officer, standing nearby, stepped up to assist, and Mr. Sanford shook off Sanchez's grip and moved to a position protective of his wife.
"Okay, let's all calm down," Sanchez insisted. "Mrs. Sanford, you just assaulted a police officer. That's against the law I could book you right now." He didn't try to keep an edge from his voice.
"You wouldn't dare!" Mr. Sanford exploded. "He took the life of her only child! He should be the one going to jail!"
Sanchez held up a hand to silence him. "I'd be well within the bounds of the law to arrest her. But if you both will just turn around and leave quietly, I'll forget the whole thing. That is, unless Officer Reed wants to press charges?" He looked over at Jim.
Jim shook his head. His cheek flamed red from the blow. "No," he managed to get out.
Mr. Sanford put an arm around his sobbing wife and guided her toward the door. "You haven't heard the last of this, Officer Reed, I promise you that," he growled over his shoulder.
"Jim, are you all right?" Pete asked quietly. He had to almost jog to keep up with Jim as his partner took long, fast strides down the hallway. As they passed fellow officers, their eyes widened as they caught sight of the angry red imprint on Jim's cheek.
Jim ignored them. He ignored Pete, too, and just kept walking.
"Jim!" Pete hissed.
"I'm all right," Jim finally answered him.
Jim's voice did nothing to reassure Pete he was telling the truth. "Where're you goin'?"
"I dunno... somewhere...anywhere...." Jim strode on.
"Jim, go to the coffee room and we'll talk," Pete suggested.
Jim didn't stop at the coffee room. He headed, instead, for the door leading to the back parking lot.
"Jim, come on..."
"Leave me alone, Pete. I just want to be alone for a little while." Jim jerked the door open and almost bowled over Ed Wells coming in from the other direction, apparently running late, as usual.
"Hey, watch where you're goin', Junior!" Ed snapped.
"Sorry," Jim mumbled. He attempted to push past Ed, but the smaller man grabbed Jim's arm. Luckily, he didn't grab the injured one.
"Whoa, there, Junior! What happened to your face? Jean finally wise up and belt you one?" Ed asked
Jim jerked his arm away and continued out the door without responding.
"What's eatin' him?" Ed asked.
"Ed, go get dressed," Pete snapped, glaring at Ed angrily. "You've got about four minutes 'til roll call."
"Last time I looked, they held roll call in here!" Ed called after them as they continued into the parking lot.
"Jim, you gonna walk all the way home?" Pete asked breathlessly, when he caught back up with his partner.
"Go back inside and leave me alone," Jim insisted.
"No," Pete said flatly. He reached out and took Jim's good arm, more gently than Ed Wells had. "I've been hearing you say that too many times in the past few days." He pulled Jim to a stop.
Jim turned to face him. The redness on his cheek had diminished except for a tiny welt that bloomed under his left eye. "Go to roll call," he said, his voice as flat and lifeless as Pete had ever heard it.
"Dammit, Jim!" Pete exclaimed, his frustration finally boiling over. "Stop it!"
"Stop what?" Jim's voice remained quiet.
"This!" Pete exclaimed. "You're running!"
"Running from what?" Jim frowned.
"From yourself," Pete said.
"I'm not....Pete, you don't understand." Jim ran a hand through his hair and turned his back to Pete.
"You're right. I don't." Pete moved around to look Jim in the face again. "And neither does Jean."
"What does that mean?" Jim asked, obviously startled.
"It means she's just as worried about you as you are about her. She knows you're hurting, I know you're hurting. Hell, I think everybody knows you're hurting except you."
Jim's posture took on that stiff, totem-pole straightness that Pete had come to learn meant Jim was trying to maintain emotional discipline. He stared past Pete.
"Let us help you, Jim."
Jim continued to stare. He swallowed a couple of times before he spoke. "I have to be strong," he insisted. "Jean needs me to be strong."
"I agree," Pete nodded. "She does. But she doesn't need you to make yourself sick pushing all your emotions under a rock. Jim, you've been through enough in the past five days to make the strongest man buckle. And it's not like you to not talk about it at all. You've been acting more like some emotional zombie."
When Jim didn't respond, Pete sighed, and repeated his earlier plea. "Talk to me. Let me help you through this."
"I...can't, Pete. I told you, I can't. Not right now. If I think about it....if I give in to it...I'll crumble. I won't be able to function. And I have to function. Tomorrow's the SRB...then Wednesday, we get the biopsy results...I have to hang on. I have to get through these next two days." Jim finally looked Pete in the eyes. "I have a wife and a son who need me to be a strong husband and a caring father. I can't afford the luxury of giving in now. Try to understand."
Pete sighed again. "I'm trying, partner, but it's hard to watch you do this to yourself."
"If you really want to help, then don't force me to think about it all for the next two days. Talk to me about the Rams, or cars, or the weather, but don't ask me to talk about any of this yet." Jim swallowed once more, and Pete could see the struggle in Jim's face.
"All right, if that's what you want," Pete agreed quietly.
"That's what I want." Jim nodded once, for emphasis.
"Fair enough. You okay to go in to roll call, or do you still want that minute?"
"You go ahead. I'll be there in a minute."
"Okay." And I'll be here to pick up the pieces when you finally crack under the pressure.
Pete gave Jim a brotherly pat on the back, then headed back into the station.
Sergeant Sanchez was waiting for Pete outside the door to the roll call room.
"There you are," he said with a relieved rush of breath. "How's Reed?"
"Who knows?" Pete shrugged. "Struggling."
"I'm so sorry that happened," Sanchez apologized. "I had no idea they were coming in. I thought that talking with the lawyer..."
Pete held up a hand to stop him. "Don't sweat it, Sarge. It wasn't your fault. Jim knows that."
Sanchez shook his head. "Damn shame. Reed's a nice guy, and a damn good cop. I hate it for him. Seems like his whole life's goin' sour all of a sudden."
"How's his wife doing?"
"Fine, right now. They're sweating out test results," Pete told him.
"So I hear. Where is he, anyway?"
"Out back, trying to get the strength to walk back in here," Pete's tone held more bitterness and frustration than he'd meant.
"Hey, Pete," Sanchez tapped Pete on the shoulder. "You can only do what he lets you do."
"Knowing doesn't make it any easier, though, does it?" Sanchez asked.
"Well, tell him I'm sure sorry, Pete. And tell him to hang in there. If you need me, you know where to find me. And take it easy, yourself, right?"
"Right. Thanks, Sarge."
"Anytime." Sanchez gave Pete another tap on the shoulder and left.
"I can't believe it, Pete, I just can't believe it," Jim repeated for the fourth time in three minutes. "I can't believe that's all there was to it."
Pete couldn't help but smile as he pulled the car from its parking space near the Parker Center and headed it into the Tuesday mid-morning LA traffic. "You've been through an SRB before, Jim. It wasn't like they were going to draw and quarter us."
"I guess not, but after what the press has been doing to us, I guess I expected the worst. How long were we in there? Twenty minutes?"
"About that," Pete agreed. He didn't want to admit it to Jim, but he, too, had been surprised and relieved by the relaxed, abbreviated interview conducted by the Shooting Review Board members.
"You know, I need to go shake Sanchez's hand," Jim said. "He really put a lot into getting the details of the case nailed down."
"That he did. And don't forget Miller," Pete reminded. "His original report from the shooting team interview probably had a lot to do with the ease of the interview today."
"I'm sure it did. I'll thank him, too." Jim assured Pete. "Now, how long do you think we'll have to wait
before we get a decision?"
"No telling. But based on the length of the interview and the lack of in-depth questions, I'd say not too long. Sanchez was right when he told you yesterday it was open-and-shut. And by the way, partner, I thought you handled yourself real well in there."
"Thanks. I don't mind telling you, I was nervous. I thought they'd harp on Jean and the hospital thing more than they did."
"You explained the situation calmly and clearly. You were obviously under control. Why should they harp on it?"
Jim shrugged. "I dunno. I guess because everything's gone so wrong for me since that day," he explained quietly.
"Sure seems that way," Pete agreed, "but maybe things are looking up now."
"Maybe." Jim suddenly seemed to lose his earlier enthusiasm.
Pete bit his tongue to keep from probing any further. He'd promised Jim he wouldn't talk about the issues he and his wife were facing until the final verdict was in. And he intended to keep that promise. "Hey, how about we ditch these uniforms and go grab a bite to eat?"
"Well..." Jim hesitated. "Maybe I'd better get back home to Jean and tell her things went well. Why don't you come to the house? There's a little of that chocolate cake left."
"I don't want to intrude. Maybe Jean doesn't need me hanging around."
"She won't mind. And Jimmy'd love to see you."
"Is he feeling better?" Pete asked.
"Yeah, he's great. He slept all night and got up hungry. So I'd say he's back to normal," Jim smiled.
"Okay, I'll stay a while," Pete agreed.
After the short drive back to the station, Pete got the car parked and they went in to change back into their soft clothes.
"It's weird being here when we're not on duty," Jim commented as he shrugged into a blue plaid shirt.
"What's weird is having to dress twice today," Pete responded.
"By the way, how's the arm? You seem to be moving a little better."
"It's much better. Hardly hurts at all now." Jim waggled the arm in question back and forth. "I've been more sore after a hard football game."
"When do you go back to the doc?" Pete asked.
"I guess Saturday. He should clear me to go back on patrol Sunday," Jim finished buttoning his shirt and put his off-duty weapon into his holster. "That is, if the SRB clears me to go back on patrol first," he amended.
"I have no doubts." Pete finished buttoning his own shirt, letting the shirttail hang out to cover his own off-duty gun.
"You ready? Let's go find Sanchez and Miller."
"Lead the way," Pete motioned Jim ahead of him.
When Pete and Jim entered the squad room, they encountered a far more tranquil scene than the frenetic one of Monday afternoon. Only about half the regular contingency of detectives sat at their desks and only Johnson had suspects with him. Sanchez sat scrunched over a pile of files on his desk, and, across the room Miller seemed to be deeply engrossed in a telephone conversation.
"Quite an improvement over yesterday," Pete remarked. He caught Miller's eye and gave the Sergeant a short wave. In response, Miller beckoned them over.
"It's only my daughter," Miller explained as they drew close to his desk. "She's in the process of begging me for a puppy."
"You gonna get her one?" Jim asked.
Miller grinned and nodded, but spoke back into the phone. "Listen, sweetie, now...we'll talk about this when I come home tonight. Yes, if you clean up your room that'll be good. Yes, and help mommy with the dishes, that'd be...no, no, don't touch the lawnmower. Daddy'll do that later. I gotta go now, punkin. I love you, too, princess. Bye."
"She offered to cut the grass for you?" Pete laughed.
"She wants a dog real bad," Miller's grin widened. "So, how'd it go this morning?" he asked. "Wait, let's get Ric over here. Hey, Ric! Get your head out of the files and get over here - Malloy and Reed have a report for us."
Sanchez sauntered over, stretching a kink out of his back. He stuck out his hand and Jim and Pete shook it. "It was a breeze, right?" he ventured.
"Yeah," Jim confirmed. "You really called it."
"What did I tell you?" Sanchez practically beamed. "When I crack a case, I really crack a case."
"Oh, brother," Miller rolled his eyes. "Ric, the case was open and shut from the getgo - as I pointed out in the transcript of the initial shooting interview."
"We're grateful to both of you," Pete told them sincerely.
"Our pleasure," Miller assured them. "But you haven't heard the decision yet, right?"
"Right. But it was such a relief to have such an easy time of it in the meeting, we're feeling optimistic," Jim said. "I don't know how to thank you."
"You just keep doing the job you're doing," Sanchez suggested, "and don't let things like this eat at you. Bad things happen sometimes in a job like ours. We all have to learn to live with it."
Miller's phone jangled as Pete and Jim nodded agreement with Sanchez's statement.
"Sergeant Miller." Miller paused, then looked up at Jim and Pete. "Uh, yeah, they're standing right here, as a matter of fact." Another pause. "Okay, I'll tell 'em. Sure thing. Bye." Miller put the receiver back on the hook. "That was the Captain's secretary. He was looking for you two. He wants to see you in his office now."
Pete and Jim exchanged a look.
"Ahhhh, this is probably your decision now," Sanchez speculated.
"This soon?" Jim expressed surprise.
"Stranger things have happened," Miller pointed out.
"Let's go, partner," Pete prompted.
Jim slowed his pace as they approached the Captain's office.
"What's the matter?" Pete frowned.
"All of a sudden, I'm not so confident," Jim admitted.
"No sense putting off the inevitable. Go on."
Jim took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
"The Captain's expecting you," the secretary greeted them with a warm smile when they entered. "Go right on in."
Jim held back, so Pete led the way into the inner office of Captain Bart Davis.
"Malloy, Reed, come in." Captain Davis stood. The venerable, gray-haired Captain stood eye level with Pete and Jim. Broad-shouldered and bright-eyed despite having put in almost 40 years in police work, Davis exuded a quiet intelligence that made him well-respected by peers and subordinates alike. Rumor had it that Davis would retire at the end of the year, and that Lieutenant Moore would step into the vacated position. Pete hated to see the old man go, but Moore would be a more-than-capable replacement.
"Reed, how's the arm?" Captain Davis asked. He extended a hand and both of them shook it.
"Great, sir," Jim told him. "It's almost one hundred percent."
"Good to hear it. Sit down, both of you." Captain Davis sat as well. He studied them for a beat before speaking. "You boys have really taken quite a beating in the press over this Sanford shooting," he stated baldly.
"Yes, sir," Jim answered for them both.
"I also heard about that unfortunate confrontation yesterday." Davis peered at Jim. "No permanent damage done, I trust?"
"I've been quite concerned over the whole situation myself," Davis admitted. "When officers are involved in an incident such as this, everyone's a loser. The victim, the family, the reputation of the department, public trust - they all suffer. But we all suffer, too. No one but a fellow officer realizes just what a policeman goes through when he takes someone's life, no matter how necessary it is. And when that life belongs to a teenager, it makes it that much harder.
"This was a particularly sad case to me. A 'suicide by cop' is something that the general public doesn't quite understand, I don't think. And this case was a clear-cut example of that. The press has been so busy going after the two of you, they've neglected the fact that you were wounded and that Bobby Sanford could have easily killed half the neighborhood.
"But I want to commend you both on the way you've handled yourself through the whole thing. Everything I've heard and read about the incident indicates that you handled yourself with professionalism and restraint. I'm not surprised, though. Malloy, I've known you since Moore broke you in, and you've always exhibited both of those traits. Plus, you're street smart. MacDonald says you're the best he's got, and I've no reason to doubt it."
"Thank you, sir," Pete said.
Captain Davis nodded. "And you, Reed...I have to admit, I've been impressed with you ever since you came up with that truancy idea last year. You put a lot of thought into that plan, and it worked beautifully. It's still working beautifully. Mac speaks highly of you as well. I believe you have a bright future with the department."
Davis leaned back and smiled. "Who knows? Maybe you'll be sitting here one day."
Jim smiled and looked over at Pete, who raised an eyebrow in return.
"But here I am rambling, when I know what you really want to know is what I'm about to tell you. I just got a call from the chair of the shooting review board. They've cleared the both of you from any improper actions. The shooting has been classified as a justified, in-policy shooting. You're both cleared to go back to patrol duty, effective immediately. That is, Reed, once you're medically cleared."
"Thank you, sir," Jim sighed, obviously relieved. "That's great news. Thank you."
"Don't thank me, son, thank your training. You went by the book, so you were cleared. That's the way it works."
"The official report from the SRB should be in my hands by this afternoon. I'll take care of notifying the press and getting the paperwork pushed through. You realize there's liable to be a backlash in the press over this - you may be contacted, and the frenzy may escalate for a couple of days. Now that the information's going public, so to speak, I can't tell you specifically not to speak to the press, but I'd advise against it." Captain Davis warned.
"Don't worry, I don't think either of us want to do that," Pete assured him.
Jim nodded his head in agreement.
"Do you have any questions?" Captain Davis asked.
"No, sir, I think that's covered it," Pete replied.
"I don't have any," Jim seconded.
"Good." Captain Davis stood and extended his hand to them once again. "Congratulations, gentlemen, you've survived yet another crisis working in the LAPD," he joked lightly, as he shook their hands.
"Seems like we get one of those a week," Pete grinned.
"Par for the course," Davis agreed. His smile faded as he turned to Jim. "Reed, I know this has been difficult for you. But if you're getting overwhelmed by all of it, just remember that the department has resources for you. Don't hesitate to ask for help."
"Thank you, sir, I'll remember that," Jim promised.
"And next time I see you in here, I hope it's to share with me another top-notch crime-busting idea, Reed." Captain Davis flashed a toothy grin at Jim.
Jim returned the grin. "You and me both, sir."
"Well, now, things are definitely looking up, wouldn't you say, partner?" Pete asked, once they'd closed the door to the Captain's office behind them. He couldn't keep a silly, lop-sided grin from lighting his face. Even though he had a lot less to lose than Jim, hearing the favorable verdict lifted a ten-ton weight from his shoulders.
"Nice to know I still have a job," Jim agreed.
"And that we can get out from behind that desk! Even a couple of days stuck back there's like an eternity," Pete shook his head.
"Rub it in, why don't you?" Jim groused, hefting his injured arm. "I'm still stuck there the rest of the week."
"Oh, you are, aren't you?" Pete teased. "Well, I'll think about you stuck back behind the desk while I'm feeling the breeze ruffle my hair in the great outdoors."
"Just for that, I hope Mac pairs you with Ed, and your air conditioner breaks down," Jim shot back.
Pete laughed. I'm glad to see him at least have some bite to his personality...even pouting's better than that emotionless state he's been in lately. "Come on, I'll drive you home, Jim, so you can give Jean the good news."
The jovial mood that had pervaded the locker room before PM watch roll call spilled over into the daily ritual, as news of the SRB's decision spread quickly. When Mac formally announced the verdict, the watch had burst into spontaneous applause with some scattered whistles and cheers. Pete had been mildly embarrassed by it all, and, judging from the sheepish expression on his partner's face, Pete figured Jim had been as well.
Deep inside, though, the response had pleased Pete. Nice to know we're appreciated. And supported. He half-listened to Mac's briefing, anxious to get back out on the street finally. Pete had been relieved that Mac had paired him with Jerry Woods for the watch. Even though Jerry talked a blue streak, he had enough sensitivity to know when to shut up. Pete still had enough on his mind to wish for a quiet partner, since Jim had to fly the desk.
Thinking of Jim stuck on the desk caused a pang of guilt to wash through Pete. He knew that Jim physically wasn't ready to return to patrol, and that emotionally, his younger partner still had a lot on his plate. I hate abandoning him like this. But Mac needs me on the street. And I can't really do anything for him but let him know I'm here. He's not ready to talk, but God knows he needs to. It had been obvious to Pete even in the brief time he'd spent with Jim and Jean earlier in the day that they both still tiptoed around the issue of the biopsy results. And Jim still hadn't shared everything about the shooting with his wife. Can they hang on twenty-four more hours?
"Have you taken root in that chair, Malloy?" Mac's booming voice intruded into Pete's thoughts.
"Huh?" Pete looked around and noticed that the watch was breaking up to get out on patrol. "Oh, sorry." Pete scrambled for his briefcase, hat, and baton.
"I thought you'd be the first one out the door," Mac's eyes twinkled as he teased Pete.
"Me, too," Jim echoed.
"Don't worry, I'm going," Pete assured them. "I just haven't been in a hurry to get to the desk the past few days. I gotta get my old form back."
"Hey, Malloy, I'm going for the shotgun," Woods called across the room.
"Okay, Jerry, meet you at the car," Pete called back. He looked at Jim and almost winced at the wistful, solemn expression on his partner's face. "Don't fall off the stool," he admonished.
"Do my best," Jim promised.
"All right, Malloy, get out there," Mac gruffed. "I'm shorthanded, remember?"
Before Pete could move, however, the door opened and Sergeant Sanchez stuck his head in the door. "Oh, good, Malloy, you're still here. Mac, I hate to do this to you, but there's someone here who has something to say to Malloy and Reed. You should hear this, too, probably."
Sanchez stepped back and allowed Mr. Sanford to enter the roll call room.
Pete felt Jim tense beside him. Pete resisted the urge to step protectively in front of his partner, as a surge of anger overtook him at the sight of the unwelcome visitor. But a second look at Mr. Sanford cause some of that anger to dissipate. The man who stood before him now didn't display a hint of the belligerent anger he'd exhibited yesterday. Instead, the grieving father's face seem deflated, defeated; his swollen, reddened eyes betrayed deep sorrow rather than anger.
Still, the tension emanating from Jim was palpable.
"Officer Malloy, Officer Reed," Mr. Sanford cleared his throat and spoke haltingly. "I'm here to apologize...especially to you, Officer Reed. I was very much out of line yesterday. I said some things I regret very deeply. I don't expect you to forgive me, but I wanted to tell you how sorry I am. My wife...she sends her apologies as well, but she's just not up to getting out today. Maybe one day..."
"That's not necessary, Mr. Sanford," Jim said quietly. "We've all been under a lot of stress the past few days. Let me tell you how sorry I am that things worked out the way they did. Please believe me when I tell you that I didn't want to shoot your son."
Tears pooled in Mr. Sanford's eyes. "I know that, now, officer. I do believe you." He paused and looked at the floor a beat, gathering himself. "Sergeant Sanchez told me that you'd been cleared."
"I....I'm glad. In fact, that's why I came down here in the first place....to make sure you got cleared."
Jim frowned. "I don't understand."
Neither did Pete. Come on, man, put us out of our misery and get to the point.
Mr. Sanford reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out two white envelopes. "I found these this morning," he stated quietly.
"The suicide notes?" Pete questioned, as the light dawned.
"Yes," Mr. Sanford's voice cracked. He had to take a couple of deep breaths before he continued.
"Where did you find them?" Pete asked. He glanced over at Jim, who had a strange mix of sadness and relief on his face.
"The sun visor of my car," Mr. Sanford answered. " a place Bobby would have expected me to look immediately. I'm in my car a lot, so when Bobby needed a paper signed, or needed to remind me of something, he'd tuck it in the visor. But when we went out of town, we took my wife's car to the airport. And when we got back, we continued to use her car - it's our luxury car - during this whole thing. I usually drive only my car to work, but with Bobby's funeral and all the other uproar, I haven't been in my car until this morning. It's been sitting in the garage.
"I decided to drive it in to talk to our lawyer this morning. When I reached up to get the garage door opener, I found them. I opened and read them, then showed them to my wife. I spent the rest of the morning keeping her from falling to pieces. The letters explain his entire plan to have a police officer kill him, because he just didn't have the courage to pull the trigger himself. He mentioned something about 'eternal damnation from God' if he took his own life." Mr. Sanford paused and rubbed at his face. "Said he couldn't face life without his girl, couldn't stand the thoughts of military school, and generally just wanted to die. I tell you, it's not an easy thing to accept that you've failed your son so miserably."
"I'm sorry," Jim said, his voice husky.
"So am I," Mr. Sanford sighed. "I'm not sure how we're going to live with this knowledge; the knowledge that our son was a drug addict, that he shot a police officer, and tried to shoot a second one, and that he was willing to take his own life rather than face the future. I know it's too late to make things right with him, but I knew I could at least try to make things right with you."
"Thank you, sir. We know that this isn't easy for you to do," Pete offered.
"No, not easy. But necessary. I've got to face life without a son, now. I won't be able to do that if I don't start with a clean slate. It goes without saying that I won't be bringing any civil charges against you."
"Sergeant," Jim spoke up, "Have you told Mr. Sanford everything Patricia Kosloff told us on Sunday?"
"No," Sanchez responded. "I didn't think that was my place."
"Mr. Sanford, you should have a talk with your son's girlfriend and her parents," Jim suggested. "They may be able to give you some information that can help you face the future with a little more hope."
Mr. Sanford looked puzzled, but he nodded. "I'll do that, Officer Reed." He stuck out his hand to the younger man. "Again, I apologize."
Jim shook Mr. Sanford's hand. "Don't apologize. I have a son, too."
Mr. Sanford nodded and tears threatened to spill over.
"Come on, Mr. Sanford," Sanchez took him by the arm. "Let's go to my desk and talk."
"Well, how about that?" Mac asked quietly, after the door closed behind the two men.
"That took a lot of guts," Pete allowed.
"There's always a story behind the story," Jim said quietly. "We don't know how some people suffer."
Look who's talking. You're hiding all your feelings from everyone right now, even from yourself.
"I think we've all done our share over the past few days," Mac said sympathetically. "Come on, let's get to work."
They followed Mac out of the room, and stopped as Mac walked off to his office.
"Take it easy, huh?" Pete said to Jim. He didn't like the sadness he still saw in Jim's eyes.
"Hey, Reed!" Jim's desk companion for the day, Gary Smythe, stuck his head through the door leading to the front of the station. "Your wife just called. She says to call her right now...it's urgent. She sounded agitated."
Jim paled and turned a panicked look on Pete. "You don't think..."
"Don't panic," Pete advised, though the message unnerved him, too.
"Oh, God..." Jim said. "It's only Tuesday. It can't be..."
"Go call her!" Pete spun Jim toward the locker room. He fished in his pocket and pulled out a dime for the pay phone. "Here."
Jim took the dime and walked toward the locker room as if it were the last mile. Pete stayed by his side, praying every step of the way.
Luckily, the locker room was deserted, but Jim froze by the phone. "What if it's bad news?" He whispered. "And I'm not with her..."
"Jim, stop it and call," Pete ordered, though his own heart pounded. He lifted the receiver off the hook and put it in Jim's hands. "If it's bad news, we'll get you home, don't worry."
Jim's hands shook as he dropped in the dime and dialed his home phone. Pete backed away to give him privacy. Maybe she just wants him to pick up bread on the way home. Or maybe the toilet's stopped up. Or there's a bug in the kitchen.
"Jean?" The fear in Jim's voice leaped across the room and caused Pete to hold his breath. "Jean...you all right? What? He did? What did he say? What? He's sure? Oh, Jean...." Jim lowered the receiver and put his head down. He sagged against the wall, then slid down its length, taking a ragged breath that sounded suspiciously like a sob.
Pete's heart sank. Oh, God, no...please, no... "Jim? Jim, tell me." Pete walked over and put a hand on Jim's shoulder. It shook under his touch. He could hear Jean's voice coming from the phone, but Jim couldn't seem to do anything but tremble. "Jim, what's going on?" Pete shook him gently.
"She's...she's....the doctor called....got the report early...." Jim's eyes brimmed with tears, and he took another deep, shaky breath, "and she's okay. She's okay. It's not cancer!"
"Thank God!" Pete breathed. He squeezed Jim's shoulder and smiled.
"She's okay, she's okay," Jim repeated. He shut his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall, but he still kept shaking.
"And she's still on the phone," Pete reminded him gently.
Jim raised the receiver back to his lips. He opened his mouth several times and tried to say something, but he couldn't get the words out. Finally, he croaked out a hoarse, "I love you....I'm so happy....oh, baby...." Jim had to stop talking as long pent-up emotion threatened to burst through. He pressed a shaking hand against his eyes to staunch the tears. Jim held out the receiver to Pete as he attempted to gather himself.
"Hi, Jean, it's me...yeah, he's okay. Just very, very, happy," Pete told her. "And he's not the only one. Congratulations. Yeah, I think that's a very good idea, Jean. He'll be there before you know it. Yeah, I will. Bye, now." Pete took the receiver from Jim's hands and hung it back on the hook.
"She's okay," Jim repeated, his voice barely audible. "It's over....just like that...it's all over." Jim's voice broke once again. "And here I go again....I can't stop shakin'...."
Pete knelt beside him. "It's okay. You shake all you want. You deserve some release after all you've been through."
"God...I....didn't realize just how much.....I feel like I can breathe again, after being underwater...six days of hell....and just like that.....it's over..."
"I told Jean I'd bring you home," Pete told him. "I think that's where you need to be."
Jim nodded. "Home....to my Jean....she's all right, she's all right....I can't believe it...."
"Believe it. See, I told you everything would be okay, didn't I?" Pete asked.
"Yeah...but I couldn't ....everything was piling on, and on...oh, man. It's over." Jim took a deep breath and rubbed his face.
"Can you get up?" Pete asked.
"I dunno," Jim said truthfully. "My legs...feel like spaghetti all of a sudden."
"You've been running off adrenaline and sheer stubbornness for days, Jim. Now that the pressure's off, it's like popping a balloon. You're coming down off that adrenaline high, and your body's reacting to it," Pete explained.
"It's weird...I'm so happy I want to shout, and dance, and run around yelling....but all I can do is shake and try to keep from blubbering like a darn fool."
"I'd say that's pretty normal, too," Pete grinned.
"Normal," Jim sighed, closed his eyes, and leaned his head back against the wall again. "What a beautiful word, Pete. Normal. Everything's over. Life can go back to normal. I didn't think anything could ever be normal again. Jean's....okay...normal. Normal. I'm normal again."
"Weelll," Pete hedged, "I dunno about that last part. I don't think I've ever known you to be completely normal, Jim."
Jim opened one eye and looked at Pete, who flashed him an innocent, lopsided grin. After a small eternity, one side of Jim's mouth quirked upwards, and he chuckled. "Normal's relative, huh?" he said, and his smile widened. After another second, he snickered. Then he chuckled again, and suddenly, Jim was laughing, a full-bodied, joyful belly laugh that reverberated happily from every corner of the locker room. Jim laughed, red-faced, until tears streamed from his eyes. He held his stomach, breathless, and still he laughed."
Pete watched him, a silly grin splitting his own face. Those tears needed to be shed, and he knew Jim would more easily accept breaking into raucous laughter than racking sobs. What's more healing than a great big laugh, anyway? Now to get him home to share that laugh with Jean - and they can start putting their lives back together.
"I'm gonna go tell Mac that you need to leave," Pete told him. "You'll be okay?"
Jim nodded, still laughing.
"Malloy!" The locker room door burst open and Woods strode in. "We're fifteen minutes late rolling....what's wrong with him?" Jerry stopped in his tracks and pointed to Jim.
"Who, him?" Pete asked innocently. "Why, he's just acting normal." Pete took Woods by the arm and led him out the door, giving Jim privacy to continue laughing - and healing.
As always, the author wishes to thank the creators of Adam-12 for making such delightful characters to work with. Thanks to Lisa M., who kept me on my toes working on this one. Also to Susu and Cathy, wonderful friends, critics, and editors, who keep me honest. A special thanks to Cathy, who is a genius at reworking my often convoluted paragraphs.