UNDER THE GUN
By Lori L. Lake
a/k/a Lorelei, Bard of the Lakes
firstname.lastname@example.org -- www.LoriLake.com
THANKS: I am amazed that of all the people who have written and all the wonderful people who have beta-read this, no one but Hydraulic Woman has noticed a little error in Part I regarding musical notation. To be exact, a high C is two notes higher than B-flat. Oops! Thanks, Kristen. Ill fix that down the road.
I am dedicating this part to my wonderful Websister, Angela. Check out what a spectacular job she has done on my new website which is at www.LoriLLake.com. We still have a few details to correct, but she has most of it up and running just great!
REMINDER: This is a sequel. If you havent read the first book, GUN SHY, you might want to go to: http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/g/gunshy1.html.
Or you can purchase a copy of GUN SHY, published by Renaissance Alliance Publishing (Quest Division), at any bookstore or online bookseller. Also, I have another book just published, RICOCHET IN TIME, which has never been posted online. A good source for both books is at The Open Book.
The characters and the plot are original and mine. Please give me advice, feedback, and criticism. If something doesnt square up for you, go ahead and let me know. I wont bite. At least not very hard. This sequel is still about cops. It contains scenes of violence and/or their aftermath as well as one or two swear words here and there. The story depicts a love/sexual relationship between consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state/country where you live, either be very sneaky about reading this or else dont. Im not your mother. Do what you want. J
UNDER THE GUN
Dez awoke the next morning to find that the Thomas Street fire had made the front page of the newspaper. There was even a small photo of Jaylynn, obviously cut out from her Academy graduation picture. Their quick thinking was credited with saving the boy and his three-month-old sister, both of whom had been left sleeping in the house alone while the mother ran to the grocery store. Dez suspected the mother would be doing some real fancy explainingperhaps even some time in the workhouse.
Dez crept out of bed, leaving the rookie crashed, and dressed in shorts, running shoes, and a sweatshirt. Taking Jaylynns car keys, she jogged the two miles to the station, using the time in the cool November air to think about the events of the last twenty-four hours. She realized she was still freaked by what had happened. When Jaylynn had gone up and over the windowsill, she had leapt up, trying to catch the rookies foot before the smaller woman disappeared into the house. She just barely missed, falling back and landing heavily on the squad car. Maybe she missed grabbing the rookie, but she sure hadnt failed to notice how she landed and crunched in the roof of the cruiser, that was for sure. Thank God so many neighbors had shown up by then. When she yelled for help, some of them actually did.
It had felt like minutes before she was helped up to the window ledge. Even now, jogging down Dale Street, she still felt the same wash of relief as she had the night before when she visualized how the rookie came stumbling toward the window. She couldnt quite remember feeling that level of desperationat least, not since Ryan had died. And then, a bit later, when the upstairs floor caved in . . . she shuddered. Try as she might, she couldnt get the images out of her mind. Fire, crashing timbers, smoke, the squeal of sirens. She had a hard time believing she had slept at all last night.
She reached the parking lot and, breathing hard, stopped next to the gray Camry. Despite the chilly air, she was sweating. She took a couple minutes to stretch out the back of her legs, then managed to jackknife herself into Jaylynns small car.
The rest of the day passed in a blur of preparations, of meeting Bill, and of watching Jaylynn, keeping a close eye on the laughing blonde. Dez ran errands, picked up more odds and ends at the grocery store, and delivered Vanita and Luella to the party. Each time she left the rookie, she found herself replaying the fire scene over and over in her head. After a while, she became grumpy from the constant reminder and from hunger.
Things calmed down for her once the party was in full swing. She watched the antics with amusement from the corner where she leaned, a plate of lasagna in hand. She was on her third piece, though this one was smaller than the previous two. The tall cop skipped the lemon-butter green beans, the garlic French bread, all of the hors douevres, the desserts, and the salad upone which Tim had worked so long, and she cut right to the steamy, fragrant, chili-pepper flavored lasagna. She chewed slowly as she leaned up against the wall in the living room near the door that led to the kitchen.
The light of her life was currently bent over with two hands on a large multi-dotted plastic mat, her cute tush in the air, and surrounded by Sarah and four big hulky Army men in various ridiculous poses. Dez took a bite and listened to Jaylynn laugh as the blonde tried to shove Bill aside and get her foot on a large red dot on the plastic mat.
They had tried to get her to join in the game of Twister, but Dez refused. It was much more fun to watch. In fact, it was even more fun to keep an eye on everyone else who was watching: Luella, her sister Vanita, Tim and Kevin, Shayna and Crystal, two other Army buddies, various young women who had come along with Bills friends, and Bills younger brother Jimmy who kept trying to hit on Jaylynn. Dez wondered when Jimmy would catch a clue. She hoped she wouldnt have to be the one to let him know that the blonde was very unavailable.
Sarah let out a shriek and slipped to the floor on her side, laughing so maniacally that it was infectious. Luella and Vanita sat on the couch in ring-side seats, and laughed so hard that tears ran down Luellas cheeks. Dez caught Crystals eye and they grinned at one another. The dark-eyed cop got up from the piano bench where her partner, Shayna, sat. She sidled through the crowd hovering behind the couch, and came to stand by Dez. "Pretty good party."
Dez set the plate down on the corner of the table and wiped her mouth with a napkin. "Great food, too."
"Yeah, I noticed you pretty much polished off an entire pan all by yourself, chica."
Dez smiled. "Not quite." But she had hacked off two more pieces, wrapped them in foil, and hid them in the back of the refrigerator. She figured they would make a great midnight snackand breakfast, too.
Crystal ran her hands through her short black hair and shook her head. "You know, I always have fun at these get-togethers with you guys, but this one really takes the cake. Look at emplaying a kids game like crazy ass fools."
Dez agreed. She wouldnt be caught dead joining that game, not because it wasnt fun but because she didnt even know the Army buddies, and shed only just met Bill. She figured it would take a lot more than the half glass of wine shed had to loosen her up that much. "Notice theres no cops playing. I guess Army guys have lower standards."
A puzzled look came over the Latinas face as she looked into Dezs eyes. "What about Jaylynn?"
A slow blush crept up Dezs neck to her face. She didnt answer. It hit her that she didnt really consider Jaylynn a cop. Sidekick, yes. Helper on the shift, yes. Partner? Only as a loverand one hundred percent in that capacity. But as a professional partner, the tall woman had to admit that the answer was no. As Crystal turned away to watch the ruckus on the Twister mat, Dez reasoned with herself silently. Just last summer she and the rookie had walked into a convenience store and been shot at by a robber. Dez took a bullet in the vest, and with excellent reflexes, Jaylynn had shot and killed the man. The rookie followed every rule, responding appropriately in every way. It had been ruled a clean shoot. Even after all that, after all the calls they had been through, after last nights fire, after all the work discussions and training, Dez was astonished to understand she did not want the young blonde to be a police officer, and didnt, in actuality, consider her a cop.
Unsettled, she picked up several plates and moved through the swinging door into the kitchen. It smelled like chili pepper and cinnamon, and someone had left a gallon of milk out on the table. She screwed on the green plastic cap and returned the container to the refrigerator, all the while wondering what this new observation meant.
She set the dishes in the sink, then turned around and leaned back against the counter with her arms crossed over her blue and white flannel shirt. She thought long and hard about her relationship with Jaylynn, but before she could get too far, something interrupted her train of thought. It took a moment to sink in that something in the timber of the party din had changed. It was still loud, but no longer joyous. She took a breath and listened, then strode across the floor and smacked the door open. Several people were shouting at once as they clustered around the couch. Before Dez could take a step, Sara separated from the crowd and headed toward the tall cop. At the same time, one of the Army men, a handsome black guy she thought was named Mike, peeled off in the opposite direction, ripped the front door open, and disappeared into the night, letting a blast of cold air into the house.
As Sara pushed past, Dez grabbed her arm. "Whats going on?"
Sara slipped out of her grasp. "Gotta call 911! Shes having some sort of attack."
"Who? What" A vision of Luella came to her mind, and Dez took two long strides to the crowd of people. "Make room!" She jostled everyone aside as though she were on duty out on the street and responsible for separating bystanders. "Back up and let her breathe."
As people stepped back, Mike burst back into the house carrying an oversized duffel. "Ive got the jump kit," he said in a loud voice.
Dez got a good look at the ladies on the couch. Luella was holding her sister. Usually the two of them looked a great deal alike, but not right now. Vanitas eyes were closed, her mahogany colored face was gray-brown, and her head lolled to the side. She had vomited down the front of her dress, and she didnt seem to be breathing.
"Get her on the floor," Mike commanded. He unzipped the duffel and grabbed something out that was wrapped in plastic. He ripped it open, dropping some latex gloves out which he pulled on and until they were snapped tight. Meanwhile, as though they had practiced the move over and over, Bill and his buddies lifted the limp woman and placed her gently on the carpet near the piano. Jaylynn was on the floor in an instant, her hands on either side to steady the elderly womans head. Dez couldnt hear what she was saying, but it was clear she was talking to Vanita, even though the old woman was unconscious.
Dez pushed her way past the crowd and went down on her knees at Vanitas shins next to Mike who was pressing two fingers against Vanitas neck with his ear near her mouth. "What happened?"
He shrugged, looked past her. "Dave, Smitty, I need CPR here. Now! Shes not breathing." He ripped open a plastic container, dropped a device out of it, and adjusted it over Vanitas mouth.
"Let me do that," Dez said.
He turned his head to look at her, his brown eyes piercing. "I mean no disrespect, but back off. Let my guys in."
Dave and Smitty squeezed past her and she rolled back onto her heels, then up to her feet. She was surprised at how shaky she felt. Go into cop mode. Come onget a hold of yourself. But she couldnt do that. The lasagna felt like a giant lump in her stomach, and for one passing moment, she thought she might be sick. She glanced around helplessly, but there was nothing she could do.
Except go to Luella.
Her landlady huddled on the couch, one hand clutching a cloth handkerchief, eyes wide with fear. Dez pushed past two womenDaves or Smittys girlfriends she thoughtand swung long legs over the back of the couch to slide down next to Luella. She didnt speak, just took two cold hands into her own and rubbed them.
Luella shook. Dez put an arm around her, alarmed that the silver-haired woman might have a heart attack from the stress. "Shhh.....its okay, Luella."
Sara settled in next to Luella on the other side where Vanita had been sitting. "I got through to 911. Help is on the way now."
Looking past the old woman, Dez met Saras eyes and could see the fear in them. She turned her attention back to Luella and patted her again. "Its gonna be all right, Lu," she said as much for Sara as for her landlady.
The three of them watched and waited as Bills friends worked on Luellas older sister, the rhythm of the CPR commands almost musical in cadence. Mike rummaged in his jump kit and removed a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff, which he applied to her upper arm. Dez watched his movements carefully, hoping that he knew what he was doing.
"Where is the ambulance?" Luella asked, a hint of anger creeping into her voice.
Dez checked her watch. "Its only been a couple minutes. Dont worryany time now...theyll be here." She looked over at Jaylynn who still knelt at Vanitas head, and the rookie met her gaze with a worried expression. At that moment two things happened. The sound of a high-pitched siren whined into the room, and Vanita raised a hand into the air as if she were waving. Dave and Smitty stopped chest compressions.
Jaylynn caught hold of the fluttering hand and said, "Its okay, Van. Hold on. Youre going to be all right. Were taking you to the hospital in a minute."
Mike pulled the CPR mask off Vanitas face and bent down close to her mouth. "Shes breathing on her own!" In an excited voice he said, "Hold on, sweetie. Keep on breathing. Yeah, beautifulthats the way!" He patted her leg, then smoothed the flowered dress down and left his hand on the motionless thigh.
At that moment, Tim clattered down the stairs with a thick wool blanket and helped to cover Vanita with it.
In minutes, two paramedics were in the house, taking vital statistics information from Mike and checking on the gray-haired woman. Before Dez could get Luella up from the sofa, the uniformed men had her sister packed on a gurney, hooked up to an I.V., and on the way out the front door. Dez rose, helped Luella to her feet, and called to Jaylynn for help. The younger woman was there in an instant, kicking the sheet of plastic from the Twister game aside.
Dez had one arm around the trembling silver-haired woman as she directed Tim and Kevin to lock up the house behind them. "Jay, lets take Luella in your car."
The rookie nodded and went to the hall closet to start handing coats around. Some of the women said they would stay behind and tidy up the house, and Jaylynn assented, quickly explaining that someone would call with news shortly.
As they made their way out the front door, Tim said, "I thought Bills unit were all munitions experts."
"Not Mike," Sara said. "Hes a medic.
At the bottom of the steps, Luella piped up with "And thank God for that."
It was a long night in the E.R. but it took little time to learn that Vanita had had a heart attack. They implanted a pacemaker, and toward morning, they moved her from the E.R. to Intensive Care where she was unconscious, partly due to the trauma, and partly due to the medications they had given her. Only two visitors were allowed in at a time, so Dez and Jaylynn took turns going into the room with Luella who sat in the one comfortable chair by Vanitas bedside, her own face nearly as gray as her sisters. With one hand she held onto her sisters forearm, stroking it lightly. It was one of the only exposed places on the old womans body not covered with bandages or inserted with tubes.
Dez leaned cross-armed against the wall at the foot of the bed watching Luella. Her legs were tired and her feet sore as she had stood for most of the last nine hours, first outside the E.R., then in two different waiting rooms. There was no second chair in the hospital room, but she wouldnt have sat anyway. She preferred pacing or leaning.
She wondered how Vanita could get any quality of rest. The machinery monitoring her made so many clicking and beeping and whooshing noises that she knew she would never even be able to shut her eyes. Luella, on the other hand, was struggling with fatigue. The dark-haired woman stepped in front of her friend and squatted down before her. "Luella, I think you need to go home and get some sleep...come back in a few hours."
She shook her head emphatically.
"Doesnt matter. I cant do that."
"Sure you can."
Luella rose with great effort and Dez popped up to standing position. She patted her tall tenant on the stomach until she backed up to the wall.
Dez frowned. "What?" She put both of her big hands lightly on Luellas shoulders.
The silver-haired woman leaned into her young friend, her arms encircling the big womans waist and her tired head resting against the solid breastbone.
Dez drew her close and in a choked voice whispered, "Youre shrinking, old woman."
Luella leaned away and gave Dez the first smile shed seen in nine hours. "Its from the major stress you put me through all of the time."
"Ill try to do something about that."
In a quiet voice, Luella said, "Listen, I dont want Vanita to hear this." She hesitated, taking a deep breath as she craned her neck up at the dark-haired woman. "If she were to die, I couldnt live with myself, knowing she passed on alone. I need to be here, Dez, even if I am exhausted."
"You could go lie down on the couch in the waiting room."
She shook her head. "Not good enough. I need to be here. If she wakes up, shell need me, need some assurance. Youre the one who should go home and get some sleep. You work today?"
Dez shook her head.
"Good. Id feel bad if you had to work on no sleep."
"What about her grandkids? When are you going to call them?"
"What time is it?"
"Twenty to seven."
Luella nodded and stood thinking. Dez patted her on the back as she looked around the small room full of monitors and devices, hoses and tubes, flashing lights and beeping alarms. The silver haired woman pondered a moment longer, then sighed. "I hate to ask this of you, but I dont want to leave the room. Will you call Ardella? She can get a hold of her mother and brother and sisters. Once they get hereas long as the doctor says Vanita is doing all rightIll go home and get a little sleep. Hows that sound?"
Dez nodded. "Deal."
Luella let loose of her and shuffled back to the chair.
"Are you warm enough?" Dez, herself, was roasting in the heat of the room, but she knew that older people didnt have the same circulation she did.
"Im okay. My feet never seem warm enough, but really, Im fine."
"Okay. Im sending Jay in, and Ill go call Ardella. Ill try to get her to leave the wild great-grandkids home."
"Tanishias old enough to babysit her little brothers. Specifically tell Ardella to leave the boys behind. Im not even sure they are allowed on this floor."
"And dont scare her, Dez."
"Of course not."
"You need to give her some details, but downplay it all. Make is sound sort of run-of-the-millnot life-threatening."
Dez rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. I think I can do that, Luella."
"Im relying on you." She smiled in her regular mischievous way, and Dez couldnt help but smile back.
She left the room and headed to the waiting room. Jaylynn sat yawning near Kevin and Tim who were watching the morning news on a TV set with muted sound. Sara was snuggled in a ball on the vinyl two-person couch, Bills arms around her, and both of them were asleep. When Jaylynn caught sight of her outside the doorway, she jumped to her feet. "Everything okay?"
With a toss of her head, she gestured to Jaylynn, and the blonde bounded up and to her side. Taking the tall womans hand, she gazed at her with tired eyes.
"Im calling Vanitas granddaughter now, and once that whole clan descends, Luella has agreed to go home and rest for a while. Will you go hang with her for a few minutes til I call?"
It was still another hour before they left the hospital, got Luella settled, then slipped into bed upstairs in Dezs apartment. The big cop fell into a dreamless sleep, then awakened less than an hour later. She lay in bed holding Jaylynn who slumbered so deeply that even Dez disentangling from her didnt cause her to stir. The tall woman pulled the covers up and smoothed them over the blonde, then turned over onto her side and looked out toward light shining through the small window in the bathroom.
She felt terrible for Luella. What would happen if Vanita did die? Neither one of them were going to last forever, that was for sure. They were both in their seventies. But somehow, both Luella and Vanita seemed timeless to hersturdy, jaunty, resilient. She couldnt die...could she? Vanita was the last of Luellas generation, and if she diedor even became incapacitated mentallyLuella would be alone. Sure, shed have the nieces and nephews and all their kids, but that wasnt the same as having someone there whod fought and loved and shared every problem or secret from an early age onward.
And Dez knew what that was like, the loneliness of it. She hadnt spoken to her own brother for so long, she didnt even remember when last it was. Soon, it would be another Thanksgiving, another Christmas, another new year without her brother, without her mother. She knew what it was like to be isolated from others, and frankly, she thought it sucked. Rolling over on her back, she fidgeted, shifted once, then again. Without Luella and her family, she would have had an awful lot of solitary holidays. Maybe this Christmas would be different. She still had not talked to her brother for ages, but since last summer when she had been shot, her mother had been in contact more frequently. Her mother was also apparently living with one of Dezs former supervisors, Xavier Aloysius MacArthur, "Mac" to his friends and fellow officers. Mac had been one of the best watch commanders the St. Paul Police Department had ever produced. He had also been her fathers very best friend, and her former mentor. Another person she had "lost" once she became an adult and struck out on her own.
She turned over again. What a mess my life has been. But its been better since Jaylynn came into it.
She rolled onto her side and moved close to the slumbering woman. The blonde let out a sigh and nestled her backside into the bigger woman. Dez slipped an arm around the small waist. She hoped this would last forever...but could it? In all her life she had never felt such a combination of happiness and vulnerability. She was convinced that it wouldnt be long before Jaylynn would get to know more about her and push her away. How could she prepare for that? She didnt know the answer to the question, but at the moment, it didnt seem all that important. She closed her eyes and slept.
For the next twenty-four hours, it was touch and go for Vanita, but as Luella said, her big sister was "a strong-willed old cuss." Dez and Jaylynn spent quite a bit of time at the hospital Sunday and Monday, and neither one of them really wanted to work their shift on Tuesday afternoon, but they had no choice. They had both traded Tuesday and Wednesday so they could have Saturday and Sunday off for the party, and neither wanted to let down the officers who had switched with them. Besides, they were scheduled for another self-defense session with the Como Middle School kids on Tuesday. Fortunately, by the time Vanita was moved from Intensive Care on Monday, everyone knew she would be all right. The old woman was already complaining about the bland food and tasteless coffee, and Luella was making plans to care for her sister at home once Vanita was released. With a sense of relief, the two cops were able to turn their attention back to their jobs.
Wednesday rolled around, and it was Halloween, which was always a busy night. The two women rode in the squad car, both scanning the busy streets as the late afternoon sun slipped lower and lower. Everywhere they looked, children in little costumes scurried about. Most of them were accompanied by their parents. Once it got dark, the older kids would start to come out, and all the real action would begin.
Jaylynns stomach grumbled loud enough for Dez to hear it over the crackle of the radio. "Youre not hungry already?" The dark-haired cop said it as a statement and looked at her watch. It had been over three hours since theyd last stopped for lunch. She knew her partner would be hungry.
"How bout a nice deli sandwich, Dez? Maybe even twoone for now and one for the road for later."
"Yeah, fine by me. Shoulda said something three miles and fifteen minutes ago when we passed The Cutting Board."
"Didnt occur to me til now."
Dez reversed course and meandered through a residential section they hadnt patrolled yet. It had been a slow week all around. Oddly enough, the highlight had been working with the girls at the school the day before, and as far as Dez was concerned, it was still a big pain. Literally. She was sporting a big and painful bruise on the left side of her abdomen where that Amber kid had socked her. She shifted in her seat and ran her left hand over the spot. It hadnt hurt at the time, but she sure could feel it now.
"Dez, next week I leave for pursuit training. I had forty hours of good solid pursuit training, not to mention the bookwork about it, at the Academy. Why am I going to Pursuit 101 again?"
"Its not the same. Youll be simulating computer pursuits as well as doing driving courses."
"Like I said, we did that at the Academy."
"Itll be more than just car chases. Youll also learn more about roadblocks, stop sticks, different intervention tactics."
The rookie eyed her partner for a moment. "Dez, whats wrong?"
The big cop turned to look at Jaylynn. "Nothing. Whaddya mean?"
"You keep rubbing your stomach and wincing like youre in pain."
The dark-haired woman looked out her side window. She felt the blush rising up her neck. Some days she wished the rookie wasnt so damn observant.
"Dez! Youre embarrassed. Whats the matter?" She reached an arm out to the top of Dezs shoulder, kneading the muscle there. "Wait a minute...youre not sore from that punch you took the other day . . . oh, thats it, isnt it?"
"You can just drop it, Jay."
The blonde let out a cackle. "She nailed you a good one, didnt she? Miss Abs of Steel actually took a good shotand from a seventh grader."
Dez stared daggers at her, then turned back to the road. "Shes lucky as hell that I didnt bust her ribs when I flipped her to the floor."
Now Jaylynn was laughing to herself. Between giggles, she said, "I didnt realize she would pack such a good punch."
"Maybe it wouldnt have been so bad if she hadnt thumped me in exactly the same place where another bony little fist had just been. Now I have quite the bruise. Hurts more now than it did then. "
"Poor baby. Ill take good care of you tonight." She reached over and poked Dez in the right side. "Ill only tickle you on the sidesnot in your middle."
Dez gave her a warning glance. "You touch my abs and youll live to regret it."
The blonde went off into peals of laughter, and even Dez had to fight back a smile. She hated to admit it but this was one little squirt who totally had her number. She could be as tough, as threatening, as mean in tone and mood as she could muster up, and Jaylynn had a way of just worming her way around it and right up next to her heartliterally and figuratively. Nobody else had ever done that, not her mother, not her brother. Even Ryan had known to give her lots of space when she radiated this kind of surliness. Not so with Jaylynn. And shed be damned if she could explain how the grinning blonde did it.
She let out a sigh and glanced to her right. The rookie had stopped chuckling and leaned against the passenger door, her face relaxed with a slight smile.
They pulled up to The Cutting Board, Dezs favorite place for deli sandwiches, barbecue, fried chicken, and pulled pork sandwiches. She put the car into park and was reaching for the key in the ignition when Dispatch came over the radio to send them to a call, an assault in progress.
Jaylynn gave her a tortured look, then responded. "Two-Five Boston, responding. ETA three minutes."
The dark-haired cop hit the lights and siren and threw the car into gear. She pulled away from the curb with a squeal of tires. "Geez. We shoulda called in our break quicker."
"Were a little short tonight, though. Its just as well."
"The address, Jayisnt it for that frat house up by Hamline U?"
"Im not sure...want me to check with Dispatch?"
"Nah. Im pretty sure it is." She navigated around vehicles on Rice Street and passed the State Capitol. Traffic was picking up now that it was half past four. She hated drivers on four lane streets. Instead of everyone pulling to the right when they heard and saw an emergency vehicle, the left lane usually inched left and the right lane inched right, forcing her to barrel down the middle in the right lane. She never knew whether some idiot on the left was suddenly going to decide to slide over to the right curb. Thered been plenty enough fender benders in department cars in situations like that, though she had been lucky not to have it happenyet. Shed come close though.
She turned on University and headed for the cross street, turned there, and sped down the avenue, arriving at the front of the rambling two-story house in less than the three minutes Jaylynn had estimated. Dez left the lights running, hoping that would discourage any early trick-or-treaters from visiting the house. They were both out of the car, up the walk, and on the porch in seconds.
"Its all yours," Dez said.
Jaylynn beat on the door. "Open up. Police."
The door was thrown wide, but the person who opened it disappeared, calling out in a high voice, "Come in and help me!"
Jaylynn grabbed the screen door handle and pulled it open. Both cops peered into the darkened front room. A slim woman knelt next to a figure lying on the floor in front of a brick fireplace. To their left, on a sofa along the front wall, a beefy-looking man with long blond hair sat, panting, his eyes wide with fear. His lip was split, half his face blotchy and red, and there was blood coming from a cut above his eye.
The kneeling woman looked back over her shoulder. "Help him!"
They entered the house. Dez moved toward the young man on the couch. The rookie strode swiftly to the young woman who was holding a terry-cloth towel to the back of the mans head. His eyes were closed and he muttered something she couldnt understand.
Jaylynn hit her shoulder mike and requested paramedics.
The woman shook her head and scowled up at the blonde-haired officer. "Forget that. I already called 911. I cant get this bleeding to stop. Help me."
"Youre doing a good job, maam. Just hold the compress steady." She went down on one knee on the other side of the man, slipping on a pair of latex gloves. "It looks like more blood than it is. Just keep pressure on it. Help is on the wayyou can hear the sirens coming. Whats your name?"
Jaylynn took a pad of paper and a pen out of her pocket. All three people looked like college students, perhaps even underclassmen. The dark haired man on the floor shuddered. His eyelids fluttered open, and he groaned. His tan polo shirt was stained with blood, and there were dark, sticky patches on the brick of the fireplace.
Jaylynn rose and grabbed an afghan from a chair to the right of the fireplace and spread it over the shaking man. Inspecting the slim woman, she noticed a streak of blood on her cheek. She wasnt sure if it was blood from the man on the floor or if Violet was injured.
"Are you hurt?"
Pleading brown eyes rose to meet hers. "No, Im fine. Its just Larry Im worried about."
"Can you tell me what happened here?"
"I came downstairs. These two idiots were fighting, rolling around on the floor. I couldnt get them to stop. When they heard me yelling into the phone, screaming for the police, they broke it off. But Larry here couldnt leave well enough alone. He took one last shot at Daniel, and Daniel pushed him away...next thing I knew there was blood all over."
Jaylynn made notes on her pad. Behind her, she could hear Dez speaking to the man on the couch.
"II didnt meanhe was hitting me. I pushed him away and he justjust tripped backwards. If hes dead, its my fault." His voice broke.
The doorbell rang, and Dez moved over. Jaylynn heard her say, "Sorry kids. Emergency here. Move on to the next house."
The paramedics chose that moment to arrive, pushing into the front room with their orange bags and bulky coats. Jaylynn rose to give them access to the man, then backed away to stand near Dez. Daniel stayed on the couch, his head in his hands. He looked up at them and held his shaking hands out. "You can cuff me," he said.
The dark-haired cop slipped her notebook into her shirt pocket. "That wont be necessary. First, Id like the paramedics to take a look at you. You may need to go to the hospital, too."
Later, back in the squad car, Jaylynn could only shake her head. "Those young men have been in that frat house together for almost two years. I cant get over how brutal they were to each other."
"And all over a woman."
"I got the impression Violet had broken up with Larry quite some time ago. Youd think hed be a better sport even though one of his good friends was now dating her. She seemed like a nice enough person."
"People arent logical, Jay."
"And who knows whats going on with Larry. He could be certifiably insane. We dont know."
Jaylynn could only shake her head and sigh. "Can we grab a bite to eat, partner? I am about to faint from hunger."
"Thats just where I was headed."
"Im going to start packing snacks for when stuff like this happens. I cant take it being hungry at a crime scene."
Dez was surprised that the rookie would even think of food when they got a call. She rarely did. "Its not like Id want to eat anything at a scene like that."
"No, but I need to do a better job of having regular food. My blood sugar must be at about zero right now. Its not good for me to feel light-headed."
Dez turned back onto the street where The Cutting Board was located. "And all this time I thought the lightheadedness was due to riding with me."
Jaylynn grinned at her as they parked. "That, too. But thats an entirely different type of hunger."
The big cop rolled her eyes and got out of the car, glad that the evening disguised the fact that she was, again, blushing.
Dez and Jaylynn walked down a long hallway, passing nurses and physicians, most of whom were dressed in pale blue or green scrubs. They were making their way toward the Cardiac Care Unit.
In a grouchy voice, Dez said, "How come this place is like a maze? They ought to hand out maps when you arrive."
Jaylynn wanted to reach out and take the tall womans hand, but she knew Dez would be too self-conscious. Instead she moved closer and jostled her as they walked. "Actually, they do have maps up front. I think we can find our way though." She bumped the bigger woman again.
"You having trouble with your balance?"
Jaylynn grinned up at her and leaned into her again. "Not really. Just wanted to touch you."
Dez gave her the eye, even though she knew it didnt work very well on the rookie. Just then they reached Vanitas room.
"Hey Van," Jaylynn called out.
The gray-haired woman was alone in the room and watching a T.V. soap program, complete with dire-sounding orchestral music in the background. She summoned them in. "Can you believe this crap? Veronicas making the moves on Dirkand she knows full well that shes three months pregnant by Robert."
Jaylynn moved over to the bed and gave her a gentle hug while Dez hung back. "I sure hope that hussy Veronica isnt causing your blood pressure to rise."
"Oh, no, of course not. Have a seatgo ahead. I finally got them to bring some chairs injust in time for me to be leaving."
"Today?" Jaylynn asked.
"No such luckbut tomorrow is likely, least thats what they say."
The two women sat, and Dez listened as Jaylynn and Vanita gabbed back and forth about the T.V. program. Dez studied the older woman. Vanitas color had returned, and she didnt look nearly so haggard as she had even a day earlier. Other than an I.V. attached to the top of her hand, Vanita seemed back to normal.
At a break in the conversation, Dez asked about Luella.
"Shes taking me home tomorrow."
"Hey, thats great," Jaylynn said. "Your place or hers?"
"I think mine, for the time being."
Dez said, "Do you two need a lift then?"
"My granddaughter, Ardella, is coming with her mini-van, so we should be fine. Thanks for asking. Hopefully shell leave all the little ones behind. When Micah and Marcus were here yesterday, they crawled under the bed and unplugged everything. Thank the Lord that I wasnt on some sort of life support! Three-year-olds are just too much."
Jaylynn rose and patted Vanita on the arm. "Well do grocery runs for you then. Youll let us know ifwhenyou need things, right?"
"Oh yes. Thanks so much, Jay, honey. And when Im feeling better, we need to have a big party and invite all those young folks back. I still cant get over the fact that those sweet young men gave me mouth-to-mouth, and I wasnt even awake to enjoy it."
Jaylynn cracked up. Through her laughter, she said, "I hate to break the bad news, Van, but they used a plastic mask to do the CPR."
Vanita shrugged. "Still . . . you know, it was really something what they did."
Dez stood and Vanita craned her neck up to look at her. "All right then, you twove got better things to do than being up under a recuperating old lady. Go on now. Do some dancing or something fun. Lifes short. You should enjoy yourselves as much as you can. Wont be long and youll be old and decrepit like me." She smiled and shook her head. "Go live it up, girls."
She gave them each a goodbye hug and returned to her T.V. program.
Retracing their steps out to the parking lot, Jaylynn said, "You know what? Shes right. We should go dancing."
"Yeah? Whys that?"
They reached the truck and Jaylynn crawled up into it. "Life is short. Anything can happen. We ought to do some fun things, in honor of Vanita. We havent been out for a long time. Lets grab Crystal and Shayna and go have some fun after shift on Saturday night."
Dez started up the truck and backed out. She didnt mind dancing, but she hated the crowds. And the smoke and noise. But Jaylynn enjoyed it, so she agreed.
The tall, dark haired woman gazed around the nightclub, wrinkling up her nose at the smell of cigarettes. She stood with her arm across the shoulders of the shorter, blonde haired woman who was currently gazing up at her with a smirk on her face.
"Dez," the blonde said. "Are we ever going to dance?"
"Ive been waiting for a decent song, Jay." As she spoke, one song ended and the next began. The DJ had been playing fast dance songs, one right after another, and occasionally he threw in a slower tune. They moved out onto the dance floor, warming up to an old Blondie song, "Call Me." And then he spun a quiet one, "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan.
Dez smiled. She leaned in and said, "This is the kind of song I was waiting for." Jaylynn moved close to her, and they gracefully fell into step with one another. While other couples tended to shift back and forth from one foot to the other, the two cops quickly glided into an intricate pattern.
In her partners ear, Dez said, "Im only letting you lead because you seem to be enjoying it so much."
Jaylynn tipped her head back and looked up into twinkling blue eyes. "Cant take a little direction, huh?"
"I can always take a littlenot muchbut a little. Be careful though, I could dip ya any time now."
"Ha!" The blonde let out a guffaw. She snuggled closer and continued giggling. After a moment she looked up again. "You really are a good dancer, Miss Fred Astaire. Howd you learn?"
Even in the dim light Jaylynn could see Dez blush. The taller woman said, "Well, Miss Ginger Rogers, I cursed my mother for it, but she made me take dance lessons in eighth and ninth grade."
"Why Desiree, you went to charm school?"
In a grumbling voice, Dez answered, "Something like that. I hated it. Had to learn to waltz, foxtrot, swing, square dance, polkalike I was ever gonna use any of it!"
"What a wise mother you had. She must have known the day would arrive where those skills would come in handy dancing in a nice lesbian bar. Youre quite impressive, you know."
"Youre not so bad yourself," Dez said grudgingly. "Howd you learn?"
"I loved dancing and took a few classes in high school and college." The last strains of Sarah McLachlan trailed off, and the DJ faded in a Gloria Estefan song with a medium beat. "Hmm," the blond said as they changed the tempo of their movements, "did you ever learn the mambo?"
"You know something likelike the cha-cha?"
Dez grinned. "Yeah. Why?"
"Think you can still do it?"
"Whos leading?" the big woman said mock seriously.
Now it was Jaylynns turn to laugh. "We could both leadbut hey, really, that wont work. Go aheadyou lead."
"No," Dez said, with a sigh. "You probably remember the moves better than me."
"Okay, and Ill try not to step on your size 10s."
Dez scowled at her, then couldnt help but smile. "Yeah, all right. Lets do it."
The smaller woman expected there to be some knee-knockingor at least awkwardnessso she was thoroughly surprised when they slipped into the syncopated rhythm without hesitation or problems. She found herself grinning, then bubbling over with jubilation. Who would have ever thought that dancing with the tight-lipped tall woman could be so much fun? Who on the force would even believe it? She eyed her companion, loving how she moved with an effortless fluidity, her long limbs coordinated and graceful. It made Jaylynn want to wrap her arms around Dez in a tight embrace and just squeeze.
The song ended and the head-banging beat from a hard rock song took its place. With just the slightest of glances, they simultaneously turned and headed off the dance floor with Jaylynn holding Dezs hand tightly. They stood in the throng at the bar counter, waiting to order a drink, and the blonde said, "That was a blasttotally exciting." She looked up at the dark haired woman, eyes shining, and said, "Ever notice how the best words all start with E? Exciting, elation, exhilaration. What great words!"
"Yeah? What about errors? Evil?" She frowned. "And embarrassment . . . or wait a minute, how bout executions?"
"Oh, Dez," Jaylynn said, a quirky grin passing over her lips. "What about electricity?" She moved closer. "How about elegance?" She reached her hand out and caught the bigger woman about the waist, pulling her until the two women were pressed together at the hips. She arched her back and leaned her upper body away, smiling up at the blue eyes above her. "What about energy ...or emotion?" Jaylynn reached up and cupped the bigger womans face in her hands, confident that the strong arms wrapped around her would not let go. "Entertainment. Enthusiasm. Or heyhow about enjoyment?"
Dez leaned down and in a husky voice said, "Erotic embrace. Two for the price of one."
"Now youre in the spirit." The blonde thought a moment as she gazed up into intense dark blue eyes. "How about enraptured. Or even better, enthralled?"
"What about everlasting?" The low whisper came from lips right at her ear. A shiver ran through the shorter woman, and suddenly her heart pounded and her legs went weak. She tucked her head under Dezs chin and let her arms slip down around the brunettes broad back, then to her waist. She could hear the thundering heartbeat under her ear, which caused her to feel even weaker and more breathless.
Crystals voice fluttered in. "You two gonna stand there all night?"
Jaylynn lifted her head but didnt let go of Dez. She angled her face to the side until she caught sight of the laughing Latina. Crystal reached over and socked Dez in the arm lightly. "Hey chica," she belted out over the loud music. "If Id known you could dance my kinda dance, Ida had you to one of our family parties a long time ago."
Over the music, Dez said, "Ive never seen you do the cha-cha."
"Not here, but with mi familia its a different story."
In a loud voice, Dez said, "I cant imagine su familia enjoying the sight of you and me dancing."
Crystal frowned. "Well, guess you got me there. But there are a lot of men in my family whod kill to dance with you."
Dez tightened her grip on Jaylynn in front of her. Looking down her shoulder at her friend she said, "My dance card is now full." This caused Crystal to go off into guffaws of laughter.
Shayna came up behind Crystal, shaking her head. From behind, she wrapped her brown arms around her partners middle and rested her chin on her shorter partners shoulder. "Is she bothering you two lovebirds?"
Dez pursed her lips to keep from smiling, but before she could say anything, Jaylynn piped up and said, "I think Id pay money to see the two of you dancing at one of Crystals family soirees. In fact, Id pay to see the two of you dance now." She grinned up at Dez, then shared a conspiratorial look with Shayna.
Both Jaylynn and Shayna let go of their partners. Hands on hips, the two women looked back and forth between Dez and Crystal, who were both blushing and looking everywhere but at each other. The two instigators burst into hysterical laughter and fell all over each other, gasping for air as they cackled, out of control.
Dez and Crystal exchanged sympathetic looks with one another, then Crystal jerked a thumb toward the dance floor. "You n me, kid," she hollered over the dance track. Without a look back, the two tough cops stomped out to the floor and into the squirming mass of bodies, leaving Shayna and Jaylynn startled.
Shayna draped an arm over the blonds shoulder and said, "Oooh, guess we hit a nerve on our girls."
Jaylynn smiled up at her. "Doesnt take much. You could only imagine what it would be like playing Truth or Dare with either of them!"
They both laughed, then Shayna said, "Lets go rescue them from each other. I can see the top of Dezs head, and they dont seem to be moving much, so theyre probably standing out there plotting against us." She ushered Jaylynn out to the floor, where they found the two women shifting back and forth from foot to foot as they stood close enough to hear one another. Jaylynn was fairly certain that they had to be discussing work, a thought that was verified when she heard Crystal say something about misdemeanor arrests. She sighed. Just once shed like to forget about police work for a while.
Outside the Club Metro Bar, as his FTO watched, Rookie Officer Dwayne Nielsen handcuffed a drunken young man and supported him as he half-dragged, half-pushed him toward the squad car. "Come on!" the officer muttered. "Its bad enough that youre drunk as a skunk, but for chrissake! You pissed in someone elses car. Jesus, what an idiot you are. Its off to Detox for you, asshole."
Nielsen put a big hand on the top of the mans head to guide him down and into the squad car, then lifted the drunks leg and shoved him into the rear seat. He slammed the door and turned to his FTO, Officer Alvarez. "Art, I gotta take a piss myself. Ill be right back."
Alvarez nodded and opened the drivers door as Nielsen strode quickly toward the club. The young cop took the stairs down two at a time and slipped through the open door as another man opened it to leave. The bar ran the length of the far wall, across from the entrance. The left half of the room contained tables and chairs while the right section was a dance floor, currently full of writhing bodies moving to the thump of the canned music.
Nielsen wasnt familiar with the layout of the barand, in fact, had never been in itso he stood in the dimly lit room, letting his eyes adjust as he scanned for a restroom sign. To his right, he saw two men kissing passionately. His head whipped around, and he inspected the groups of people, men with men, women with women. Geez, this is a goddamn gay bar. Great. Hope its safe to pee here with this bunch of perverts! His eyes skimmed along the crowd in front of the bar, then he did a double take, back to a figure a head taller than the gang surrounding her. A familiar woman stood facing the entrance, her lips turned up in a happy, smug half-smile that Nielsen had never seen before. Reilly! he thought. Dez Reilly. For Christ sake, I knew it. I just knew it!
Dez Reillys arms were locked around a smaller, laughing figure topped with short white-blonde hair. The shorter person leaned away, but the dark haired woman tightened her grip, leaning down and whispering something that caused the two to suddenly stand still. Then the blonde wrapped her arms around the tall womans middle and pressed the side of her cheek against Dezs chest.
Holy shit! Nielsen grinned with delight. Its Savage. For chrissake, its Savage! This is going to be sweet. Sweet revenge.
The tall womans head came up, and Nielsen could swear she caught sight of him. He stepped to the side, behind two men who had just entered the club, and breathed a sigh of relief when the dark haired cops eyes swept past him. He skulked over to the side, ducking behind happy patrons and angling toward the mens room, but not before catching sight of Crystal Lopez, another cop who just so happened to have some woman Nielsen had never seen hanging over her shoulder.
Got em dead to rights, he thought gleefully. Ill teach those bitches a lesson this time.
Continued - Part 4
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