I got a call from Detective Young, welcoming me back to the area. There was something in his smile that told me something was up.
"All right," I asked. "What did I do this time?"
My question only made him smile more. "Jess," he told me. "You aren't going to believe this..."
Unfortunately- I did.
Miss Eyeliner was not happy with the fact that I had not been arrested. As a matter of fact- since I hadn't been, she took it upon herself to see to it that I 'paid for my crimes.'
It seems that she called the papers, the town council- the mayor... She even called the Feds. No one was taking up her cause. He warned me that the last time he'd seen her, she was rounding up a band of reporters and planning on confronting me directly.
I thanked him and prepared my defenses. I figure if she's going to try and raise awareness to the city's problems, the least I could do is show what they really are...
She never knew what hit her, but I could tell by her expression when she realized it had happened. The nice unbiased reporters started out trying to do an expose- but it very quickly became a community awareness piece.
I explained about the golden hour and how- with traffic tie-ups the only way to get a medic to the scene is to take extreme measures. When they asked me about safety, I admitted it was dangerous.
Miss Eyeliner perked up, until I pointed out that the real danger is to the medics, and that the best thing people can do is to pay attention.
"Accidents will happen," I admitted. "But we can keep from compounding them by being alert and allowing the emergency vehicles through."
It was a great coup. I thanked Young for the heads-up afterwards. He just laughed and commended me on my performance.
Sometimes- its really good to be a medic.
Murphy's not only a constant pain in my side- he's got the weirdest sense of humor. It was a normal day, all day- until 10 minutes before quitting time.
Okay- what I said about predictability? There is one thing you can count on- the call right before end of shift when you're tired. It's practically a given.
Only this call was anything but normal. It was completely unpredictable- unless of course you take my luck into consideration.
I got to the call at 19:07, pulled my equipment from the bike and approached the house. Next thing I know I'm pinned to the ground by a man who's got his knee in the small of my back. He pressed something cold against my neck and demanded to know what I'm doing there.
When I didn't answer right away, he cocked his gun and pressed it against the base of my skull, pushing ever so slightly.
Now, try explaining that you're a medic on call from this position. I was handcuffed and then patted down. By then, the man, a federal officer... my husband's new partner no less, finds my gun and realizes I'm wearing my vest.
If he had believed anything I told him before- it was long gone by the time he pushed me through the door and told me to sit down, on the floor. It was a great introduction. To make matters worse, Case was in the other room, trying to keep my patient alive.
Although at the time, I had no idea what was going on. I was busy sitting there trying to figure out how to regain control of the situation- knowing full well that I was not going to do that without some intervention. I tried to make myself look as harmless as possible.
I have actually gotten pretty good at that, even if nobody who knows me seems to believe it. Unfortunately Case's new partner, O'Hara, had seen my gun and figured he'd had the shooter in custody.
He was starting to question me, when Case called out demanding to know where the ambulance was. He didn't say it quite that nicely. I could tell by the amount of swearing that things weren't going well in the other room.
"Case hon," I called. "That you?"
"Jess!" I could hear the relief in his voice. "Get your butt in here, his pulse is weak and he's lost way too much blood."
"No problem," I answered as his partner gave me a confused look. "But could you tell Rocket J. Squirrel here that I'm clean?"
"What the..." I could tell by the pause that he was trying to figure out why I wasn't in there yet. "O'Hare, you didn't just handcuff my wife did you?"
"No buts, get her uncuffed now!"
I could tell Mr. O'Hare was very confused by this- but at least he followed Case's orders. As soon as I was uncuffed, I ran out and got my gear from where it had fallen when I was tackled.
That should have been it- but like I said it was one of those calls...
By the time the ambulance arrived, we had five more federal agents climbing all over the room and being a general nuisance as they tried to secure the scene. Let me tell you, the scene was anything but secure.
The truck arrived, but they wanted me to ride in the back- with an armed escort. Case was following us out, when one of the new officers told Case to go home.
"We got it from here Case," one of them said.
"I know- but I'd like to ride with him."
"Look," the officer, Frazier countered. "We were supposed to have relieved you an hour ago. We should have been here when the attack went down, you know that. You were covering our shift."
"You were caught in traffic," Case reminded him. "'Side's- I bet her shift ended at seven too," he added nodding towards me.
"Look Case, you got a new wife to think about and man, believe me- no matter how much they claim to understand... they don't."
Case gave him a disbelieving half smile and looked up at me. I finished settling the patient in and winked at Case. "Just tell my husband I'll be late, will ya?"
He chuckled as he closed the door and thumped on the side to tell the guys it was all closed up. I don't think Frazier ever got the joke, but I'm pretty sure that Officer O'Hara got a good chuckle out of it.
When I got home, Case was still laughing about it. Of course- he wasn't the one with a .38 snubnose pressed against his head.
After breakfast, we stopped by the condo so I could pick up a few things. There was a box waiting for me. It was from Baltimore.
Case wanted to scan it for bombs before I opened it- but it was from Jenny. It was the pictures I'd asked for. The pictures and a few other things Jenny figured I should have. They were packed in a separate box.
Inside was my Skipjack's cap and a plush stuffed crab. I laughed as I switched caps and started going through the pictures.
Maybe Jenny knows me better than I thought.
She included pictures of her, the kids- the others.
Its funny I always thought of my family as us and the others. Me, dad and the boys- we were 'us'. Mom, Jenny, Mitchell and Mark were 'the others'. I guess I missed out on a lot with them. Mitch and Mark- they seem so much more distant than Jenny. I don't think we'll ever be close... not like I was with the boys.
But that's okay.
Case and I took the pictures over to Council Island and I shared them with my new family. Michael told me he could see the family resemblance.
I never could- but that's because I never wanted to. I think in my own way- I blamed them for us not all being together. It wasn't fair, none of it was, but that too is the past.
What I do from here is all that matters.
I think that's what I learned coming here.
Well... I don't know if things went exactly as Case planned- but they turned out rather well. His partner met us for brunch and we started over.
Case stood up and was every bit the gentleman as he introduced us. "Patrick, this is my wife Jess... Jess... this is my new partner Patrick O'Hare."
"We met," I reminded him with a hint of sarcasm than he didn't miss.
Neither did Patrick. He hesitated slightly as he took my hand and started to apologize. I waved it off. It wasn't his fault- not really. He had no way of knowing about me or the program. He'd just transferred in- new area, new partner, it was bound to happen.
He was trying to do his best to not talk shop when the rest of Case's crew showed up and took a table next to ours. That didn't last too long. They quickly moved their table next to ours asking if we minded and then ignoring anything anybody said.
I think they found out that I was Case's new wife and wanted to make sure I didn't think they were a bunch of cretins. Or... maybe they were trying to cement that opinion... I don't know. I do know that they managed to clear a fifteen foot radius around our table as they talked shop.
Patrick started to look a little queasy as he followed me to the buffet line.
"Don't let them get to you," I told him as I explained the ritual of grossing out the new guy.
He looked at me for a minute. "So... you've been through this before?"
I grinned. "Not exactly, but we do something similar to our new guys. Its mostly good natured. The key is to not really think about it."
I could understand his objection- they were going out of their way in the graphic detail department.
"Take your cues from me," I told him. "Remember- they're trying to gross me out on this too..."
I had to smile as I came up with an idea and explained it to Patrick- my new co-hort in crime.
The guys didn't know what hit them. They were talking about crime scenes and the people they'd seen hauled away. I waited until Patrick was ready and then started talking about accident scenes. As I described the situation- Patrick supplied the visuals with what he was eating. I don't know how he managed to keep a straight face, but he did.
I think it was the fact that we were taking control of the situation. By the end- we'd made our point: 'Ya don't mess with the medic- or her friends.'
Having been both a medic and a federal officer- Case had no problems negotiating our games of gross out.
On the down side- the seven of us are not allowed to dine there together.
After Case left for work, I ended up heading downtown. It was well past time I told Detective Young what had happened. I knew he wasn't going to be happy with me for keeping information from him, but I'd done what I thought needed to be done.
I needn't have worried. Case had already filled him on the basics. He was just waiting for my statement to close everything up.
"Sorry things worked the way they did," he told me as he led me into his office.
I had to smile. It was just the right combination of compassion and understanding-- nothing uncomfortable, just professional.
As I told him about the sacrifice and the aftermath he simply nodded and made a few notes. There was so much I couldn't tell him. Not because I didn't want to, or didn't trust him- it was just that there was so much there. Things I remembered... things I didn't remember until I started to tell him about what had happened.
As I talked, it all came back to me- the final minutes of our boat trip to the middle of the lake. I was numb then and it had seemed so unreal. So unreal and yet- true?
It was as if the world had come to life. The skies glowed brightly and the light glistened off of the water as a leopard form rose from the lake. It was almost as if it swallowed us- washed over us, through us and then was gone. I turned, watching it through the maelstrom of water and power that followed it-- flowed through it: energized it
I could hear the screams of our pursuers as the leopard rose, grew... morphed into something somehow more dangerous. It was the leopard, then a coatl. It was our hopes and fears washing over them. And as it passed over them, I could feel my fears wash away... my fears and my strength.
It was as if it was fueled by our need. We were the guardians of the statue and the leopard was the guardian of its home. It was our strength, taken from us to strike at those we couldn't touch. It drank from us: fought until there was nothing left to fight. Then, with an almost playful swipe of its paw, it pushed us ashore.
I shivered as the images played through my mind. It wasn't until I felt Detective Young's hand on my arm that I realized that I'd been lost in the memories.
I tried to shrug it off until I saw the concern in his eyes. He'd turned off the tape recorder and was just standing there patting my shoulder.
"Come on," he urged. "You look like you could use a drink."
I tried to laugh it off- tease him about the offer, but he was right. The drink didn't really help, but then it rarely does.
Talking to Detective Young on the other hand helped immensely.
I don't know how long we stayed there, but when we'd drunk our fill some of the clarity had started to fade. Sometimes- it's for the best.
The cab ride home gave me time to think and to get my thoughts together. The boys had known they weren't coming back- I was the only one with the illusion they would. It was my dream, my wish, nothing more.
The wold is not perfect, but it's the one we live in. I'm learning to accept that- I think.
Case took me over to the Star station so I could pick up my bike- then it was back to work. I thought about it a lot as I worked through the day. Work, life- sometimes the two are almost synonymous.
We go through our days thinking about the day: about the job, about what we're going to do after work. We don't think about the big picture- we don't think about how fragile it all is.
We can't. It's a balance we strike to keep our sanity. Sometimes life is just a series of small battles and skirmishes. You don't think about the war- its not your concern. You fight your battles and pray it doesn't all come crashing in on you.
Its taken me a while to come back to myself on this-- but its getting there.
You do what you can when you can-- and you don't beat yourself up about what you can't do.
You fight every battle to the fullest and live every moment the same way. I never thought of anything beyond the moment until now.
Maybe I'm getting older. I feel it sometimes. I look at the calendar realize how time has passed, how the world or my perception of it has changed.
Its almost midnight- the day long over, the next shift almost 6 hours away. Unable to sleep, I finally got up and flipped on the trid- watching the late night drivel, or pretending to...
Its New Year's Eve: the year mark from when I arrived here. Sometimes it feels as if I was born the day I stepped off the plane. It was a long and difficult birth- but I've finally arrived.
I didn't think beyond the year- I didn't know what I would find. What I had hoped for came and went: what I never expected is here to stay.
I had it all planned out- but that's no the way it works.
I have a life here- one that's worth living. Worth more than I thought possible.
I don't have the boys with me- and yet- they're all here and well, as long as I remember and believe.
355 days, 53 minutes and 42 seconds worth of memories waiting for one brief second in time- and then it is all gone.
I've toasted the memories of Andrews, of Gwyneth, Fin... the boys. Friends, family- gone but not forgotten.
I can't feel sorry for myself. I loved them and they're gone- but they're as near as a heartbeat. I can close my eyes and see them in my mind, but more importantly, I can open my eyes and see what I have before me. Case, the cats, Trina, Mario, the Walkers, Ray, Detective Young, Saunders, the crew... my family.
I'm finally home- and its all really just beginning.
Copyright 2000 M.T. Decker