I woke up to the sound of cats in need of attention. The cats were working on liberating the cat nip from the kitchen cabinets when Case and I came out to see what the commotion was about. Caught red handed... er pawed, they did the only thing they could- they fled the scene of the crime.
Case looked at me, his eyes sparkling. "Should I give pursuit?" he asked teasingly.
I chuckled and reached for a can of cat food. "No need," I told him. "I have the ultimate weapon right here."
As soon as the can opener broke the seal on the can, the cats had materialized at my feet. Case watched me as I divvied up the can and watched as the cats devoured the food, purring loudly enough that it all but echoed in the small kitchen.
Case hugged me from behind as I watched the cats eat. "I'm such a neglectful mother," I sighed.
"I don't think so," he said softly, his chin resting on my head. "I think you're wonderful."
I looked up at him and smiled. "That's because you're prejudiced..."
He smiled and shook his head. "Nah Jess, I think I've got you pretty well figured you out."
"Oh you have, have you?"
He nodded, then looked at the clock. "I'm going to have to go to work..."
I winked at him. "I'll be here when you get done."
That made him smile again. "What are you doing to do?"
I shrugged. "Contemplate the mysteries of the universe," I answered. "You know, the ususal."
"Jess, its only Thursday," he answered, a mischievous gleam in his eyes. "Saturday morning trid isn't for another two days."
"I think I'll manage," I assured him.
After he left I began going through the boys things again, looking for the answers to the questions that had plagued me for almost a year now.
"Where are you?" I demanded of the statues. "And how do I find you?"
Case got off late last night and called me from his place. He was too tired to move, let alone come over. I understood, but still- it would have been nice to see him. He promised to make it up to me tonight.
I was going to do the missing person's check when I decided to hold off a week or two. I figured it was probably a better idea considering what's been happening recently. I was surprised when I ended up getting a call from Detective Young. He asked me if he could meet me somewhere and talk.
It took me a minute, but I realized he wanted to meet me someplace outside the office. Away from prying eyes. There was only one choice-- the diner on the corner.
"You know the diner on 194th street?"
He thought for a minute and nodded. "Sounds fine," he said, then looked at his watch. "In about an hour?"
"Sounds like a plan," I told him.
After he hung up I tried to keep myself busy cleaning up around the condo. That lasted maybe fifteen minutes. Without really thinking about it, I put the Procol Harum disk Hawk had given me and started listening to the song as I started dusting.
Half an hour later, I packed up my stuff and headed over to the diner. Young was already there waiting for me. He waited until I'd ordered my food and then gave me a long hard look.
"Miller," he said softly. "I know its not your fault, but ... there are people higher up in the Star that aren't too pleased with you."
I nodded. "I know... between Darringer and now Mathias..."
He nodded, then shook his head. "And they did it to themselves."
"Yeah, but its easier to pin the blame on somebody else..."
He studied me for a minute then nodded. "You don't seem..."
"Surprised?" I shook my head. "Detective, I've worked with people when things are at their worst. They usually work better when there's someone or something to blame...anything but themselves or worse... just the law of averages. Problems are easier to deal with when you give them a face."
He thought about that for a moment and then nodded. "But..."
"I didn't say I liked it- I just said I understood."
He nodded. "I'll do what I can..."
I looked at him and smiled. "I know... and thank you..."
He looked surprised for a moment, then covered. "For what?"
"A well timed message," I answered as I took a sip of my tea. "If you hadn't paged me- I would have taken that file over to the Coroner's office, and my credibility would have been blown out the window"
His shoulders sagged slightly and he sighed. "I thought I'd covered better than that."
I grinned. "Never underestimate the skills of a street medic."
He raised his glass in salute and drank. "I'll drink to that. Just be careful."
I nodded. "Thanks."
We finished the meal over small talk, and then Young had to get back to work. I hung around the condo, playing with the cats and doing laundry, trying to figure out Case's plans for the evening.
He called me around 1700 and requested that I meet him at his place around 1900. He told me to dress formally. Intriguing..
I showed up at Case's place not knowing what to expect. What I'd found was definitely not what I was expecting, and it was definitely not what he'd planned.
Sometime between calling me, and my getting there, Therese and Ethan had shown up unexpectedly.
Ethan was doing his best to watch the trid as his mother and father discussed a few things. They were in the kitchen, talking in hushed tones, but there was no mistaking the tension. I looked around the place and sighed to myself.
In the dining room I could see the table had been set complete with candle light- a romantic evening for two- interupted.
I turned back towards the kitchen. I could tell by the tone of Case's voice it was going to be a long conversation. I headed back to the living room and looked at Ethan. I know how it feels.
"Ethan," I asked. "You want to go grab something to eat?"
He looked up at me, relieved for a chance to get away from the tension.
I winked then headed over to the kitchen. "Guys," I said.
They turned towards me. Case's expression was apologetic, Therese's almost venomous until she noticed how I was dressed. It was probably the first time she'd looked around at anything other than Case since she'd arrived.
"If you don't mind, Ethan and I are going to go grab a burger or something.." I told them.
Case gave me a sad half smile and Therese looked over at the trid, realizing that he couldn't help but hear everything.
"We'll be back in about an hour?" I asked, trying to prompt them for a time.
Case looked at me and then at Therese.
"Could you make it two?" Therese asked softly.
"No problem," I told her. I figured they could use some time alone to get whatever it was worked out.
Ethan and I had a pretty good time all things considered. By the time we got back to the house, Case and Therese were on the couch, just talking. I could feel Ethan's relief as he came in and sat down next to them.
It turns out that Therese had to go to Japan on business and couldn't take Ethan with her. The problem was... she just assumed Case could take over. That was the problem. With his job there's no guarantee that he will have the time to do anything, especially look after their son.
I really understood how Ethan felt. He didn't have a say in any of it... and their fighting about it only made things worse.
I could tell they needed to talk so I said good night and headed home. A memorable evening, just not what I'd expected.
I woke up feeling a little bit sorry for myself. I've gotten kind of used to having Case around and now he wasn't. Still, I figure he has his son to worry about right now. I know he cares and he'll be around.
It was about then I realized I had no idea how long Therese was going to be in Japan. I was beginning to plan my day out when Case called.
He said that he and Ethan were up and were wondering if I'd like to come over and watch some trids. I had to smile at that, and his expression. He looked for all the world like a kid trying to invite a girl out for the first time.
I felt so sorry for him. He'd planned this wonderful romantic dinner, just him and me, and his plans had been slam dunked in five minutes flat. Ah well- I'm more of a Saturday morning trid kinda girl.
Still, I have to admit, I loved showing up at Burger World dressed to the nines.
I headed over to Case's picking up a few things on the way. I know Case, the man has plenty of lunch and dinner food, but breakfast- forget it.
I got there, and Case and Ethan were sprawled on the couches watching the trid. Ethan was trying to explain 'River Raider 3000' to him as I dropped the milk off in the fridge. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and asked Ethan if he wanted any.
I handed him a bowl and spoon then sat on the floor leaning up against the couch where Case lay.
"None for me?" he complained.
I looked at him and shook my head.
"Since when do you eat breakfast?"
"Since I didn't get to eat dinner last night," he answered.
I nodded. "Milk's in the fridge," I told him.
He gave me a sad look then shuffled off to the kitchen for his breakfast. It was a nice morning.
At one point Ethan told us point blank that we didn't have to keep him company and implied that we could go off and do 'adult' things. Case was busy trying not to choke on his cereal. I just shrugged.
"And miss the last part of 'Fire Drake' ?"
I think it surprised him that I knew that was coming up.
It was a nice easy going day and the perfect end to the week.
Ethan seems to be adapting to the change in scenery. Turns out he's only supposed to be here for two weeks, so Case hasn't bothered enrolling him in school, which Ethan was all for until he found out that he'd be 'taught at home' by Mrs. Walker and only get to spend the evenings with his dad.
He had hoped that staying with Case would mean spending more time with him. Then again, some time is better than none.
That's what I keep telling myself. Don't get me wrong I think Ethan's wonderful- but he's not Case.
We sat around reading the newsfax and playing video until it was time for me to go to work. Ethan seemed to think we were boring. I hadn't really thought about it much, guess when we aren't working its true. I figure it's 'cause we get enough excitement during the work week.
When I got to the station, Smiley wasn't there- Terry was. The Captain filled me in on the details. Smiley was still in Tacoma, but stationed on the other side of the district. That way I could concentrate on getting Terry up to speed and we could still handle the calls.
I was sorry to see Smiley leave- but happy that Terry was now entering the last phase of his training. I thought they were moving rather quickly until I realized that it is an election year and that means new contracts- if Citywide has the medics available- it's a great bargaining chip.
Never mind the fact that a) there isn't anybody really in the running against Citywide and b) even if there was and they won... all they'd do is hire Citywide's people to fill in the holes.
That's company loyalty for ya. Don't get me wrong, its not like I'd ever quit Citywide and work for DocWagon or another pay for service outfit. I'm a street medic- I handle a wider variety of calls and usually end up cleaning up after their clients. But that's just it... If the streets are controlled by somebody other then Citywide, that's where I'd have to go- or transfer back to Baltimore- but there's no guarantee they'd keep their contract there either.
At least with what I do, I'm always needed somewhere.
Ended up running into a few of DocWagon's finest at the hospital after a hit and run. One of them was high on adrenalin from his pick up- a high threat response junkie if ever there was one.
While I was restocking the supplies, he was trying to get my goat.
He almost got Terry with a little bit of testosterone posturing. I had to laugh. "Save it for the groupies," I told him. "Those of us who work for a living aren't impressed."
He made some comment about riding around in my truck all nice and sedate when he gets to come sweeping into who knows what and save the day in glorious fashion.
Yeah, right- he's a combat medic, that's all he sees. HTR doesn't see to many women in labor, or kids stuck in drainage ditches. They don't have to decide who they treat... they pick up their customers only- no free rides.
Then again... I'll bet he's never gotten a 'cat in a tree' call. I'd love to see that.
He was going on about being a 'real' medic, while we're just playing at it when we got another motor call.
"That's us," I told Terry as I put on my helmet.
I love watching the man's jaw drop as he realized that Terry and I were in the 'crazy' camp of emergency medicine. His opinion went up a notch-- we were still 'civilian' medics as far as he was concerned- but at least we were cool civilian medics.
Its interesting, they're civilians too, and a lot more mercenary than we are, yet they view us as where you go when you can't hack it as a HTR medic. Some people just don't get it...
Guess they don't need 'em really bright, just big and bulletproof.
Ended up running into Big and Bulletproof again later on last night. He was responding to a call- a shootout. He was picking up his people when I arrived. They were hurt pretty bad, but nothing life threatening.
An innocent bystander on the other hand was laying in the middle of the street with her chest ripped up. He stayed with his team, didn't even look at the woman- the obvious first choice for treatment.
That is exactly why I couldn't stomach working for the Doc. Yeah, let's protect the people with money, the ones causing the trouble and ignore the downtrodden masses! Welcome to 2057. And he considers himself the real medic.
At least he wasn't sneering at me this time. I think it was the first time he saw or even thought of the aftermath of his 'client's' actions. I didn't have time to deal with him or anybody else. I was busy trying to keep her together. Terry and I were finally making headway when a car came racing down the street- guns blazing.
I looked up then and growled at Big and Bulletproof. "Get your people out of here NOW!"
He started to object but I just glared. "As long as you and your clients are here, nobody's safe."
He nodded and gave his crew the dust-off signal. I didn't find out, until later that he watched as the car bore down on us, ready to blow it away... He also told us it was amazing... how even under fire- without back up we continued to work.
The people in the car decided we weren't worth bothering. Personally I hope they got a good look at the girl... and the price of their business. She hadn't done anything worse than cross the street at the wrong time, now she's in for a long hard fight.
Big and Bulletproof stopped by when he got off shift. He wasn't quite as arrogant, I think he finally understood that we worked without a net, and we didn't just... grab our guys and go, we stayed until everybody was taken care of.
I smiled at him and told him about the cat in tree calls. He chuckled- but he also asked for materials on the program. I'm not sure he fits the profile- but you never know.
I got a call from Case- he's got an all night stakeout slated for Wed. Night and wanted to know if I could watch Ethan. He wasn't quite that abrupt, but it was the major gist of the conversation. I could tell he was concerned.
"No problem," I told him. "You just be careful."
He nodded and smiled gratefully. "You're one in a million Jess."
"Yeah..." I told him. "You just remember that."
"I've never forgotten," he said softly. Then he was gone.
It was a nice thought to carry me through the day. Lord knows, no else seemed to think I was special. Certainly not our customers. It was the kind of day where everybody seemed to be in a perpetual bad mood in need of somebody to take it out on.
It wasn't a really bad day but one call really did not appreciate me standing there coaching Terry on what he needed to do, and how things differed from how he'd do them if the truck were here.
He demanded to know why I wasn't doing anything. I tried to explain to him that I was-- but that only seemed to make him angrier. "When I call you people I expect trained medical personnel... not trainees."
I took a deep breath, and quickly cut Terry off before he said something that would get him in trouble. "Sir, we are both fully certified medics with at least seven years experience."
He objected, pointing out that this was obviously some sort of training mission and he refused to be experimented on.
I tried to explain to him about the motor-medic program and how it brings the medic to the patient faster than conventional means.
He remained practically combative-- until the truck arrived and we got him to the hospital. I was there when the doctors told him it was a good thing the medics had gotten to him so quickly and that it had probably saved his life.
I have to admit, he was a little nicer after that.
After that I was really wondering why we did this. That's when I opted to go check in on the woman we brought in the other day. Turns out she's a young mother, just starting a new job... Her family was waiting outside her room.
They were happy to see us, and grateful for what we'd done. I needed that- a reminder of why we put ourselves through all this trouble.
Big and Bulletproof's name is Roger Emmory. He's slated for the next training group. He dropped by morning with his orders. Man you would not believe the change. The arrogance had given way to a boyish enthusiasm that made me smile.
I welcomed him aboard and he grinned. He starts working for us in just over a week.
Terry looked at me as Emmory left. "Was I that bad?"
I nooded. "You were worse hon," I assured him. "But you'd been out of the game so long-- the program was like offering your life back. You knew what you'd been missing... I think our Emmory just figured it out."
Still, I'm impressed. It takes a lot to walk away from a job like the Doc. Bennies, pay, vacation... Citywide just doesn't come close. But lets face it-- it's never been about the pay.
If it was, I'd be a nice mild mannered biologist studying the flora and fauna of the Chesapeake-- or a pyrotechnician somewhere. No-- it's definitely the people that keep me going, and keep me here. I have a feeling no matter what-- I'm staying.
Its not Baltimore-- but its home, more than Baltimore ever was. I'm finally getting my feet planted on the ground here, and if I manage to not piss off any more execs with the Star I should be fine.
Then there's Case. I don't know where exactly I stand with him. I think he wants me around for more than back rubs and conversation-- and now babysitting, but he hasn't said anything. I know we haven't hit that inevitable stage where he wants to just be friends and I'm not looking forward to that, but its just like everything else-- sometimes you have to take a chance.
I picked Ethan up on Council Island and left the evening's activities up to him. He wasn't too crazy about not being with his dad, but then again neither was I. At least he understood that it was the job, and nothing personal.
Ethan didn't really seem to interested in anything-- until I told him about the arcade. His eyes lit up brighter than I thought possible. That kid has his dad's smile and if he isn't already breaking hearts, he will be soon enough.
I introduced Ethan to they guys, and he put up with their ribbing him about his age. They weren't ribbing him when PC let him loose on the simulators. The kid knows his sims and has an incredible sense of balance.
We had a good session with the simulators. I'm happy to say my hesitation is gone and things are working like they should. Afterwards we got some ice cream and called it a night.
It felt strange staying over at Case's place without Case being there. I definitely don't want to get used to it.