In The Line Of Duty
"You're back early."
Topaz glanced up from where she had been feeding her small daughter, casting her friend a grin. "I thought you were going to see Sandra's flight off - don't tell me it was on time?"
"Well, it was, for once." Sadie returned the grin, dropping her bag down beside the chair and heading into the kitchen. "Hi, Hollie! Wow, you're a messy pup! It was kind of weird, taking my boyfriend's mother to catch a plane the day after I find out she knew my secret all along...but actually, I found I was sorry to say goodbye. She's nice. I hope we'll meet again. This time we didn't get a lot of time to chat."
"I'm glad it worked out with her." Topaz said pensively. "I think sometimes you're far too sensitive about your past, Sadie. Not everyone is going to judge you - a lot of people you've met since haven't."
"And then some have." Sadie sighed. "I suppose I was thinking in terms of Ray, if I'm honest. He's pretty much Alex's best friend in a lot of ways, and he loathes me. I was afraid Sandra would be the same way."
"How come Alex didn't take her to the airport, anyhow?" Topaz wiped Hollie's mouth clean, lifting her from her high chair. "There, that's you fed, trouble. I would've thought he'd have wanted to see her off."
"Trials of a law enforcement officer." Sadie sighed. "There's some big fuss buzzing at the precinct about some serial killer who's come back to the area to roost. They've been after him for a long while, apparently, and one of their informants has tipped them off that he's lying low in a rough part of the city. Last night some of the plain clothes people took this dude's girlfriend into custody. So-o-o, duty called. Alex and Ray are out there trying to make an arrest as we speak."
"Well, if there's a psycho on the loose, I'm kind of glad they are." Topaz grimaced. "You hear such horrible stories on the news. I don't want someone like that running riot near where I'm raising my little girl."
"Well, with Alex on the case, I'm sure he won't be running riot any more." Sadie said with a shrug. "But meantime, I got to play taxi driver. But it was kind of good too, Topaz. Spending some time alone with her, just to talk. She's opened my eyes a bit recently to what it was like for Alex when he lost his brother. I always knew they were close and that Al chose to do this because of Randall's murder, but I never realised how all-encompassing it was for him. I guess it took me aback that I made such an impression on him I actually pulled him some way out of it."
Her cheeks pinkened.
"It feels nice, knowing he loves me that much."
"Well, you had enough bad luck with men already." Topaz settled herself on the sofa, cuddling her daughter up against her and indicating for Sadie to join them. "It's about time you had some good luck for a change."
"I've had a whole lot of good luck since Alex and I met." Sadie mused. "I don't know what it was, but there was something there right from the start, you know?"
"Sometimes there just is." Topaz looked wistful, and Sadie reached over to squeeze her friend's hand.
"Maybe it will work out with Cameron." She murmured. "Did you decide yet about going to England?"
"I decided I should. Hollie too." Topaz nodded. "I haven't broached it with Jetta and Phyllis yet, but I will. It's important for Hollie to spend time with her English family, and I want to see Cam too. I mean, I know what we arranged...but I have to know it's going to work before he comes out here and has visitation and all of that. Now he's had time to really think on it and so have I...it's a good test."
"I'm glad." Sadie nodded. "I think you should go, too. And if necessary, I'll plead your case with Jetta and Phyllis."
"Hopefully it won't need it." Topaz dimpled. "But I did also ask Laura to write Jetta and ask if she could have Hol and I visit. I figured coming from Laura..."
She trailed off, and Sadie laughed.
"Crafty." She said appreciatively. "Oh, I think you'll get your holiday."
"So where is Alex taking you for your anniversary tonight, then?" Topaz looked interested. Sadie shrugged.
"He won't tell me." She admitted. "He says he wants it to be a surprise, so I've kinda just gone with it. I mean, I trust him. And it is a year today, we met. I know he wants to make it special, and so do I. I think he's made reservations at some restaurant, because I heard him on the phone the other night, but I'm not certain where. But a surprise is okay with me. Whatever he chooses will be fine with me."
"Hopefully all this murderer business will be done and dusted by then." Topaz remarked. Sadie nodded.
"Alex promised me that he would be leaving the precinct at seven, no matter what." She responded. "He said he was spending tonight with me even if the whole city was set alight. Besides, apparently Ray really wants to get his teeth into interrogating this guy. Apparently they've had issues before - Ray arrested him and somehow his legal aid pushed through bail and he fled the state. Naturally this time Ray wants to make sure he's right on the spot to prevent him from being bailed again. I think he'll quite relish the idea of staying the night at the office if it means putting this guy behind bars."
"Ray's like a rottweiler." Topaz giggled. "He gets his teeth in and doesn't let go!"
"Oh, tell me about it." Sadie rolled her eyes. "I wish just for once he'd let up on me, to be honest. It puts Alex in an awkward position, so I do my best not to retaliate. It just makes me angry and hurt and more than once I've wanted to smack him in the mouth for things he's said."
"Hitting a FBI agent is probably not a good idea." Topaz teased. Sadie laughed.
"That's why I haven't done it." She reflected. "My first time in Juvenile Detention, I remember punching out one of the guards and spending two weeks in isolation. I learnt that lesson. Law enforcement are second only to God in the offender's guide to who not to hit."
"What about Morvanian princes?" She asked playfully. Sadie coloured.
"I didn't hit him. Technically that means it doesn't count." She said sheepishly. "But, er, somewhere around the same level."
"Well, at least we know you're on our side." Topaz said with a smile. She cast Hollie a glance, then,
"This one's sleepy. I ought to put her down for a nap, before I get squalls." She murmured. "And then we can talk properly about where lover boy might be taking you for your big night out!"
"Berris, come out of there! The whole place is surrounded! Come out and
give yourself up!"
Alex slipped down behind his patrol car, as he heard his department chief give the order. Exchanging grim looks with his companion, he settled his position, using the car as a shield. "I repeat, the house is surrounded!"
"Do you think he's even in there?" Raymond muttered, priming his gun and tensing, ready for conflict. "Ten to one he's fled the scene already, if that bitch girlfriend of his is anything to go by. I can't believe she gave us the slip like that."
"She wasn't out of our custody long enough for him to get wind and take off." Alex returned, in equally low tones. "His car is here. The signs are he's still here. He doesn't come out soon, we go in. You know that."
"Yeah, and I don't relish it." Raymond said grimly. "I'm not a fan of playing rat-in-a-trap with any suspect, especially not a mass murderer like this one."
"Well, if he doesn't come out soon, it'll be all we can do."
Alex glanced at his watch. "And it doesn't look like he's going to."
"Are you in a hurry, or something? You keep looking at your watch."
"I have reservations at the Red Rock tonight with Sadie." Alex admitted, looking sheepish. "With Mom being here recently we've not had much time alone together - but I promised her tonight. It's special - it's an anniversary. We've been together a year."
"Spare me." Raymond rolled his eyes. "You know, since you started dating that chick your brain hasn't been on the job. It..."
"Hold it!" Alex held up his hand. "Listen!"
Raymond obediently fell silent. At first there was nothing, then, from somewhere inside the house came the sound of rustling and then the window flew open. Immediately the FBI trained guns on the open window, but before they knew what was going on, a man was in their midst, firing wildly from all angles. Alex dropped down below the car, firing at intervals when he felt he had a clear shot, but the man was clever, and he knew how to dodge around the property and protect himself from enemy fire. From behind them, Alex was aware of a cry, and he knew one of his fellow officers had been hit. Hoping the man wasn't badly hurt, he glanced around the squad car, gauging his chances of reaching the front of the house and getting behind the suspect before he knew what was going on.
"It's worth a try." He muttered, shifting himself into a new position, ready to launch into the action. "Ray, cover me ,will you? Someone is going to get hurt and I think I can bring him down."
"Cover you? What are you going...Alex, what the hell!" As Alex launched himself out from the cover of the car, firing in the direction of the suspect. As one bullet caught the man on the leg, he fell to his knees, wheeling around and firing three rapid shots in the direction of the FBI officer. Alex crumpled, and, more by instinct than anything, Raymond launched a volley of fire at his assailant, meeting his mark and bringing the man down. While other agents swarmed around the body of the suspect, Raymond hurried across the concrete drive to where his friend lay.
At first he was afraid the agent was dead, for Alex was very still and pale, and his eyes were closed. Putting a hand to his friend's neck, he felt for a pulse, and was relieved to feel a feeble heartbeat.
"Bray's hurt!" He exclaimed, noting the thick pool of blood that was beginning to circle around the man's head and neck. "I think it's bad!"
"He alive, Nicholson?" The chief came up behind him, as one of the other agents radioed for an ambulance. Raymond nodded.
"He was playing some silly devil game. God knows what possessed him - he thought he could take the guy by surprise and take him out." He said thickly. "I don't know where that jerk hit him, chief, but somewhere."
He undid his friend's coat and tie, running his hand over the bulletproof vest. As he did so, he found where the bullet had entered, and he cursed.
"Right above the collarbone, along the rim of the vest." He muttered. "Lucky shot. Probably hit a major artery or something, from the way it's gushing blood."
"Anyone else hurt?"
"Batten's been killed." The chief said shortly. "You did well, bringing that son of a bitch down, Nicholson."
"Well, he deserved it." Raymond said quietly.
"Chief, the ambulance!" The agent who had made the call alerted the superior's attention, and before long the still agent was being bundled into the back of the vehicle. As they drove off, Raymond turned to make his way slowly back to the patrol car, but as he did so, he caught sight of something small on the ground.
Momentarily forgetting that it was a crime scene, and that he should not be meddling with things on the ground, he bent to pick it up, dusting it off. Glancing at it, he frowned.
"What the hell?" He murmured. "It's a jewellery box! At least...at least it looks like it. It fell out of Alex's pocket when he fell - I saw it. But..."
He flipped it open, and his eyes widened as he realised what it was. Softly he cursed.
"He was going to ask the girl to marry him." He murmured. "And now I've got to go over there and tell her that her boyfriend might not be coming home at all, let alone making some dinner date. Now I know why he wanted to be done here quickly, why he wanted to keep this reservation! He was going to propose!"
"Yes, chief?" Raymond pocketed the ring, turning to face his superior.
"I'm sending you, Parker and Newkovic back to the station to file a report. We've got forensics coming to peg out the scene." The chief told him. He paused, then,
"Bray's in the best hands, you know. He's a fighter, he'll come through."
"He'd damn well better." Raymond sent a glare towards the still form of the suspect. "I'm glad he's dead, sir. If Alex dies, I'll be gladder still that I was the one who shot Berris."
"I know." His companion nodded. "But like I said, he's in the best hands."
"Sir, before I go back to the bureau, there's an errand I need to run." Raymond glanced at his superior hesitantly, then, "Alex had plans with his girlfriend tonight. Least I can do is let her know what's happened."
The chief looked grave, then,
"Yes, do that." He agreed. "And we'll see about notifying his family, too. But I agree, it should be done in person.Hopefully it won't be the worst news - I've sent Carteris to break the news to Batten's widow. But this one isn't lost yet. He was wearing the bulletproof vest, after all."
"I know, but from the blood I think it hit a vessel." Raymond said quietly. "Either way, sir, I guess she has the right to see him. It might be the last time she can, after all."
"Then go." His superior told him. "You can submit your statement and report later."
"Thank you, sir." Raymond nodded, then headed off towards his car, climbing inside and putting the vehicle in gear. All the time, Alex's ring burned in his pocket.
"I never liked the girl." He muttered. "But dammit, how do you tell anyone that the guy they love mightn't be there any more?"
Prologue: Flashback - Sadie's
Chapter One: Los Angeles, 2015
Chapter Two: Enter The Stray
Chapter Three: Flashback - Sadie's Song
Chapter Four: Nerves
Chapter Five: The Dean Stacey Show
Chapter Six: Flashback - School Concert
Chapter Seven: Sandra Bray
Chapter Eight: The Dean Problem
Chapter Nine: Cursed
Chapter Ten: Flashback - Stir
Chapter Eleven: Secrets
Chapter Twelve: Robin Vs Nancy
Chapter Thirteen: In The Line Of Duty
Chapter Fourteen: Flashback - Griefstruck
Chapter Fifteen: Aftermath
Chapter Sixteen: Jewel Consult
Chapter Seventeen: Forever Changed