I ended up staying with the Walker’s last night. I wasn’t in much shape to leave, and Mike really needed somebody to talk to. In the morning, when I was ready to leave, Mrs. Walker asked me if I would please come back tomorrow for their daughter’s funeral.
I looked at her, and could tell it was really important to them-- and to Mike. I agreed.
It turns out it’s a day long affair, from sunrise to sunset, which means I’m going to have to get someone to take my shift for me.
Jonathan once again led me through the security check and I paused. I didn’t have the slightest idea of what was ‘appropriate’ to wear to a funeral, especially here. Back home, I could get away with wearing my dress uniform, but here on the island, somehow, that felt very wrong. Especially since I didn’t have anything to do with trying to save her, or her brother.
He got this odd smile. “You’ll be here then,” he told me. “Good.”
There was something strange in the way he looked at me. It was strange, but pleasant. “What?” I asked.
He just smiled and shook his head. “We’ll supply the clothes for the ceremony,” he told me.
He said ‘ceremony’ not ‘funeral’ or ‘service’... ‘ceremony’ and he still had that odd smile that made me feel like he was setting me up again.
I tried not to think about it on the way home, but I couldn’t help myself. I stopped by the library to find out what I could about Shalish and Elfin burial practices. Needless to say there wasn’t bloody much. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.
I managed to take a nap before I got up and headed to work where another surprise awaited me. The bike was back. Not the tailing one, that one’s been back (although I didn’t see any of them while I was on Council Island.)
No... it was my service bike. Complete with a new helmet for me. As I walked into the station everyone was gathered round, guiding me to it. As I moved clear of them, they formed a ring around me and the captain stepped forward with a new helmet.
With a slight chuckle, I dropped to one knee as he approached and held it out for me. “Arise good knight,” he told me.
Laughing I stood back up and took the proffered helmet. It was the same model as the one that had saved my life. Again, it had the reflective caduceus worked into it, but on the other side was the small image of a motorcycle with angel wings and a halo. I touched it and then looked up at them, smiling.
Cap chuckled. “Your first ‘kill’” he told me, then warned me not to try and become an Ace. As everyone began pummeling my back, Cap signaled for silence and charged me to ‘go forth on my loyal steed and protect the people of the realm.’
That is exactly what I ended up doing, and you wouldn’t believe the number of people of the realm that needed protecting.
Still it was touching. Its an odd bunch I work with. But their hearts are good, and I fit right in.
I went to the Island right after work. True to his word, Jonathan was waiting for me, with a traditional Shalish dress. This time the security people didn’t really give me a second glance. It seems they had been warned about me.
What happened over the next 14 hours is almost impossible to describe. There were so many things that were so touching. It was a funeral, but also a tribute and a celebration. Its odd, but for the first time since Daniels and his buddies started following me– I actually felt at home, safe, protected and loved.
As the sun started to set, Jonathan and another man came forward and held their hands out for me. I looked at Mrs. Walker who merely smiled and told me to go with them. I moved slightly unsteadily but they supported me and led me away from the ceremony. I thought it was perhaps something I wasn’t supposed to see, but I was in for quite a surprise.
I don’t really remember what happened next. I remember smelling something sweet and woodsy. And then colors, all around me. It was almost like when Mrs. Walker healed me... or when Mario cast his mark of protection upon me. On some level I knew I should have been nervous, but no. It was beautiful, peaceful. There was no danger or deceit only– acceptance.
When they finished I looked at Jonathon in a combination of curiosity and confusion. He merely winked at me and smiled.
When we returned to the gathering a feast had been setup and Jonathan led me back to the Walkers. They smiled as Mike made a space for me and Jonathan said something I couldn’t understand. They all smiled, and I began to realize that something was definitely up.
As the feast continued I tried to ignore the way people looked at me, but when Mr. Walker stood, it all became rather clear.
He stood and raised his glass. “To my daughter,” he toasted. I started to raise my glass, but Mike held my arm down and shook his head gently.
Everyone else raised their glass and joined his toast with an answering, “to Gwyneth!” But the toast wasn’t over. Before drinking, Mr. Walker raised his glass again.
“To my daughter,” he stated again, looking at me.
My eyes widened as the others joined in with an answering, “to Jessica!”
I’d like to think I took it well, but I know I gave Jonathan my best deer in the headlights look as he raised his glass and drank from it. ‘Welcome home Jessica,’ he said softly.
Afterwards, I tried talking to him trying to find out why all of this had happened.
He told me that after all I did, they wished to honor me. I started to object. I hadn’t done anything.
Jonathan smiled and shook his head. “Jess, you risked your life to bring their attackers to justice, and that cannot go unnoticed. You exhibited courage and honor and it is their desire to honor that courage. Like it or not... you are family now.”
“And the magic bit?” I asked still a little warily.
Jonathan smiled slightly. “The elders had to be convinced that you weren’t... helping for other reasons... “
When he saw I still didn’t get it, he explained it to me. The Walkers were rather influential in the community and it was the job of the shamen to make sure I hadn’t helped out in order to ingratiate myself.
No, me with my bullheadedness checked the details of what happened and never looked past the names of the folks involved. He said it was refreshing and, like it or not, I belonged here.
Needless to say, I stayed the night again.
I got back to the condo around 1:30 after spending the morning watching trid with Mike. He’s a good kid.
It was nice.
His folks on the other hand-- I mean, every time I tried to help out in the kitchen I got shooed out by Mr. Walker, telling me that I was a guest and when I finally objected he smiled, like he’d trapped me.
I said something about “But I thought you said I was family...”
He pounced on that telling me “Then you accept!”
I think I have a lot to learn about my new family. When I got back home, I checked on the rest of my family. The cats were indignant because I hadn’t been home yet and ignored me for 15 minutes before they became permanently attached to my ankles.
I gave Mario a call and he was his usual self. He’s noticed Doc Rivers and Trina’s budding romance. I had to laugh at his opinion about that. He feels that Doc Rivers has a lot of gall going around wanting to be called ‘Doc’ while Trina is just ‘Trina’.
I tried to point out that everybody here has known Trina since she was a kid and its hard for people to change what they’re used to calling her, but I don’t think he’s buying it. Then he started grilling me on what happened yesterday.
I remembered the tap the police placed on my line and just chuckled. “It’s a long story,” I told him and then promised to tell him about it some time. I still had to do a few things– like laundry, before I went to work.
The shift at work was insanely hectic until about three when I guess all the trouble makers had either weeded each other out or had gotten tired and finally went to bed. Me, I was just as happy about it, because they’d pretty much worn me out. I actually managed to grab a few hours of shut eye before the next call came out. It came in right at 5, right before change of shift, and Ray and I were on it.
It was a long call too. Not overly taxing or exerting, just long. We had to extract a woman who was pinned in her car. She wasn’t hurt too badly. Just trapped and very vocal about us not damaging her car. She actually refused treatment at first in order to protect her car, which of course prolonged the whole situation. We didn’t get back to the station until about seven.
Needless to say, I got home, fell face first into the couch and didn’t get up until four, and then it was the mad dash back to work.
Well, like I said, I woke up face first in the couch with only enough time to grab a shower and get back to the station. I should have figured it was a sign of the way things were going to go today.
Thing is, it wasn’t a really bad day case-wise. Victim wise however– I don’t know, it was like everybody felt it was our fault they were in need of our services and every pain they felt was our fault.
Excuse me Mr. Philips, Martin K., but don’t you agree that it might have more to do with the bullet in your chest than my taking your pulse?
It didn’t help that the other participants in their particular debacle had Doc Wagon (gold) and had already been picked up. That was our fault too. We were inept, rude, under qualified and generally a waste of his tax money.
Yeah, right, I know... buzzard didn’t even have a SIN, which means he hadn’t paid taxes, but I wasn’t about to argue the point, since his ranting was pretty much the only the only thing that was keeping him going at that point.
I did at least get him to shut up long enough for me to check out his chest wound.
Pneumothorax. - Air in chest... sucking chest wounds... my favorite. Especially with this guy, cause after bandaging him up we got to apply oxygen. Not that the mask kept him quiet mind you, but at least it kept his complaints muffled.
Obviously we were more than happy to turn him, and his wrath over to the emergency folks. We left to the sound a whole new list of complaints– against us; the star; the medical staff.
And that was one of the better calls. Man I’m glad tomorrow’s Monday, or at least I would be if I weren’t covering George’s shift.
Ah well, such is the life of a big city medic I guess.
I stopped by missing persons and irritated Saunder’s with my usual request for information. He took it-- grumbling all the time, but he’d already done the check for me and had it waiting.
He also handed me a chip that Andrews had sent down in anticipation of my arrival. I was about to leave when Saunders stopped me in the hallway.
“Jess, you all right?”
I looked up at him, kind of surprised by the gentleness in his voice. I think I said something almost intelligible like “Yeah, why?”
“You look ragged out,” he explained softly. He patted my shoulder comfortingly, if a bit awkwardly. “You keep swinging kid... you'll find them.”
I looked at him and smiled. It was the second time he managed to tell me just what I needed to hear. Even as I started to perk up he smiled at me. “I like chocolate cream filled,” he told me with a wink, then turned and went back into the room, muttering about people ‘bustin’ his chops’ before I could thank him.
I headed to work and clocked in. Of course the crew was different and George’s partner seemed a bit curious about the ‘daredevil medic.’ I like to think I convinced him I wasn’t suicidal before I had to go out on the bike. Let’s just say... I think the ‘insane’ rating has been maintained.
We left the station at about the same time, me on bike, Walter in the truck. I know I was still in sight when I had to dodge the truck that was backing up, without looking. I have to admit, I got a lot more adrenalin I needed right then.
I got to the scene without further incident, but the damage had already been done. Walter was convinced I was reckless and that my accident had been my fault. He even went as far as to complain to the shift Captain.
Fortunately, he’d done his reading on the program and on me. Believe it or not, even with my two accidents, I’m considered one of the safest in the program. It's not us, it’s the environment.
I could tell by the way Walter looked at me, he did not want to deal with me or any moto-medic: we were a bastardization of the true calling.
Truth be told, he’s a dinosaur. Shame too... cause he’s a good medic. The night was long, a lot longer than it needed to be, but Walter did not like having me as a partner and that made things that much worse.
He insisted we practically sterilize the truck after every call. Now I believe in cleaning it up and keeping it safe, but doing an inventory after each call is a bit much. Of course that also meant that I was a ‘sloppy’ medic in his book.
Of course, as he was filing one of his complaints against me, I swiped a box of gloves from the truck and put them back in the storage locker. He came back from the Captain’s office and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Cap wants to see you,” his tone was smug.
I shrugged, handed him the clip board and went to see the Captain. The Captain sighed as I closed the door.
“Miller,” he said. “Do us all a favor... if you have to switch shifts... don’t pair up with Walter.”
I nodded. “What did I do this time?”
“You didn’t use your turn signal.”
I looked at the Captain and shook my head in disbelief. “I don’t believe this.”
“And you failed to do the inventory after the last call.”
“Did he mention that I had to replace a fuse on the bike... oddly enough, the one that protects the signal circuit? And that the equipment comes before inventory... and that he’s an...”
“Miller,” the Captain warned me.
“He’s an insufferable bastard, but he’s an insufferable bastard with seniority.”
This got a smile out of me. A smile that broadened as we heard Walter’s anguished cry as he discovered that his precious inventory was off.
The Captain looked at me for a minute as I fought, and failed, to keep a straight face.
“What did you do?”
I tried to suppress a smile as I reported that I had taken a box of gloves back to storage because it had been in the truck for too long. “I was called in here before I could replace it,” I added defensively.
I could see the barest hint of a smile cross the Captain’s face. “Miller... I think you better replace that box before he goes into an apoplectic fit.”
“Yes sir,” I answered as I stood up.
He managed to keep a straight stern expression until I closed the door, but I could hear him laughing.
It was the one bright moment in the shift.
After a full shift with Smilin’ Walter, I ended up sleeping in. I didn’t get to the morgue until 4, just in time to catch Dr. Chen while he was still there.
“Jess,” his greeting sounded almost relieved. “I was afraid you weren’t going to show up.
“And miss a chance to visit? I worked last night.”
He nodded. “Lets see last night, 3 car pile up, 1 dead, and a shooting on 52nd place.”
I nodded about the accident– I’d worked that one. “52nd? That’s Lynwood,” I stated in surprise.
He nodded. “Looks like the victim was killed elsewhere and then dumped.”
I nodded and steeled myself for what was to come. I’d seen the accident victim, no one familiar, just another person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was not ready for the shooting victim. I’d seen him, last week– when he handed me a note from Fin. It was the same single shot to the head I ‘hadn’t seen’ used on the guys from that damned van.
Dr. Chen noticed the change in my expression. “You know him?”
I moved woodenly and nodded. “I live in Lynwood...” I said softly. “He’s one of the locals.”
I don’t really know what was on my mind, but I found myself back at the clinic. Trina knew something was wrong, and she closed up and took me to Mario’s.
He tried to tell me that gangers tended to die that way, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it had a lot less to do with his lifestyle and more with my problems. I think Mario could sense that, but bless him, he knew better than to ask.
I also know that this is the last straw. Fin’s warning or not. I’ve got to do something.
I wonder if Officer Smilely’s on duty tomorrow.
Last night my dreams were almost as vivid as they’d been when the Night Terrors had hit me, but this time, they were all my own doing. I kept seeing that boy, laid out on the table.
Something told me that unless I did something his case was going to remain unsolved: just another case of street violence. No matter what I did, I kept seeing his eyes staring at me, trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t hear him.
I drifted that way until I woke up with a hand over my mouth and someone staring down at me. Needless to say, it was not my preferred way of waking up. My heart was pounding and my hand was already on the Walther when I realized it was Fin.
He gave me a questioning look and released me after I nodded.
He led me to another apartment down the hall and didn’t say anything until he’d turned on the radio, the shower and a white noise generator
His first words to me were, “don’t do it Jess.”
I tried to deny that anything was up, but he wasn’t buying it. He knew me too damn well and said as much. I took a deep breath and tried a different tact.
“They killed that kid.”
“Yeah, I know,” his answer was curt and I could tell he felt about it the same way I did. It may be a dog eat dog world, but Fin was one of those dogs long enough that he couldn't stomach it. I never was a part of that world, which is why I’ve never been able to accept it.
“Then lets stop playing their game,” I finally growled. “We tried it your way, and we’ve got some information, but still nothing concrete right?”
Fin nodded. I could see the effort it took for him to agree with me on that point, but he was still trying to protect me.
“But your partner...”
“Look Fin,” I growled. “I’m a walking talking sample for that secret little chemical cocktail. And if I am, it’s a sure bet Ray is too, so if someone wants the drug, we’re a nice easy way to grab a sample. If they’re afraid we know something about the murders, we know Jack...”
“But they don’t know that.”
I think he finally got my point, but he was a long time in agreeing with me. “So, what’s your plan?”
I smiled. “First, we get Ray out of the line of fire. Get him to take a few days off until this thing blows over.”
“What about the job?”
“I keep working it, only now I’m also digging for dirt. There’s a bike cop that knows something is up, and I think he can help, knowingly or not. With you and him covering me, I start pushing their buttons.”
“You’re setting yourself up again,” he objected.
I shook my head. “They’ve already set me up. I’m just using it. I’ve got two cops, Daniels and his mysterious buddy following me, and a bike. The cops were asking me about my trips to the morgue, that really interested them-- The bike-- I don’t know if they’re working together or at odds, but the cops are definitely dirty.”
Fin nodded. “That makes sense. They cap 3 suspects who’ve been exposed to the drug... But then why did the let you two go?”
I thought about that for a minute. There were only a few possibilities I could think of. Either we were too ‘high profile’ to eliminate, we didn’t know anything, or we were bait.
Fin tried each of the possibilities before commenting. “It could be any of those reasons, or all of them.”
In the end it didn’t really matter. Fin became my ghost and I got to work.
Ray wasn’t too crazy about the cloak and dagger but he understood. Of course... you’ll never guess who he traded shifts with. Yep, I get to work with Smilin’ Walter till we get this sorted out. That should be good for a few laughs.
Phase one of my tweaking was slightly tricky but a stroke of genius if you ask me. It involved a trip to a hobby shop, a kitchen supply store and a radio shack. Several rolls of electrical tape later, I had what I needed: a frequency emulator set to the frequencies used by the tracking devices. Then came the switch
Fin served as lookout as I planted the older tracking device on the bike and the newer one on the car. It was a bit stressful, but well worth the effort. The key was a set of timers that were set for 2:30 pm tomorrow, one to turn off the emulator on my bike and two to re-activate the tracking devices. It wasn’t like I could really hide from them for long, not with the job. But I would have 2 hours where they wouldn’t know where to find me.
Something to get them thinking. It’s not quite what I wanted, hell for now its not much more than counting coup, but if they’re going to play with me, I’m going to play back.