|Primary Characters:||Lilly, Scotty|
|Warning:||adult themes, murder, m/m sex, non-con sex|
|Description:||Stillman’s children disappear and Lilly agrees to look into the case. Her search leads her, and eventually, Scotty, to a strange sect, living out in the woods.|
Lilly Rush pushed back her chair and stretched her back, glancing at her watch. It was nearly nine thirty. The rest of her work could wait until the morning. Usually, she tried to be home by eight or so, to feed the girls. She always felt guilty about leaving them alone all day and sometimes much of the night. A cop’s work day lasted as long as the crimes did, but tonight she hadn’t had any really pressing jobs to deal with. She’d just been fooled by the light. She’d hardly noticed the time going by. It was getting a bit late for dinner, so she decided she’d just grab a sandwich in the kitchen before going to bed.
Since breaking up with Kite, she hadn’t really felt like going out anyway. Maybe he hadn’t been the love of her life, but it had been so long since she’d allowed herself to get involved with anyone and now she missed having someone to talk to in the evenings. On the other hand, now she could admit to herself that they hadn’t really been compatible. No real harm done.
Her partner Scotty looked up and met her eyes. A smile spread across his beautiful face. Lilly couldn’t help returning it. It had been quite a while since she’d seen him smile. After his girlfriend had had a bad scizophrenic episode and attacked him, he’d gone off the rails for a while and ended up in some trouble. For a long time now, all Lilly had seen of him was a tense posture, sad eyes and an unsmiling face.
“I can’t believe it’s so late. Where did the day go? Oh, well. We got some work done, so I guess we earned our pay.”
Scotty nodded seriously.
“You could say that. How about dinner?”
Lilly had had no intention of going out for dinner, alone or with anyone, but since Scotty asked, she just couldn’t bring herself to say no. He’d never asked her to dinner before. They’d all gone out for drinks once in a while and they always grabbed lunch together on the run.
“Why not? In the mood for something in particular?”
Scotty studied her intently and didn’t reply.
Lilly smiled inquiringly.
“What? Sorry, I wasn’t listening.”
“I was just asking what you’d like for dinner. Chinese? Italian? Greek?”
“Anything. Just, you know, whatever.”
“Ok. I could always fix us something simple at my place if you like.”
“Sure. I’d like that.”
That was more or less what she’d had in mind anyway. Now that Scotty came along, the sandwich would have to be accompanied by a fried egg or whatever she had in the fridge. Which, come to think of it, might not be much. She made a face.
“What’s wrong? If it’s too much trouble, I could take a raincheck.”
“No trouble. I just remembered that apart from cat food I don’t really have that much in the house. Orange juice, if I’m lucky and hopefully coffee, but that’s about it.”
Scotty picked up his coat and they began walking.
“Well, I have to admit that cat food isn’t exactly my favorite dinner.”
“Don’t be silly. Let’s go and pick something up at the seven-eleven.”
“Sounds good. Oh. That reminds me. I’d better pick up some stuff for me too.”
“The typical cop. Unless we’re married we never stock up on food or do much housekeeping.”
“I’ll bet we’re not alone. Any busy professional probably does the same.”
Lilly was standing outside her car, the car keys in her hand, when Scotty stopped and looked at her again.
“Lilly, have you ever been -”
She was hoping he wouldn’t ask her if she’d ever been in love. What would she tell him? Too many times? Never? It couldn’t be both, but it was one or the other. Nothing in between.
At first it looked as if he was going to change his mind. Then he appeared to come to a decision.
“Have you ever been married?”
Lilly briefly considered the time at the Academy, when she’d seriously considered marriage. She’d lived with a guy for nearly a year and a half and she’d believed he was the one, but she’d been mistaken. Boy, had she been wrong.
Something about her tone or perhaps the look on her face, told Scotty it would be no use asking any further questions. He walked over to his car and soon they were on their way to Lilly’s neighborhood. Scotty caught himself thinking it was nice, walking into a seven-eleven, with a woman he didn’t have to watch over constantly. Someone he didn’t need to worry about. Lilly wouldn’t suddenly see giants or red devil eyes or menacing shadows in the corners. He sighed. Poor Elissa. She was missing out on life, while everyone else went about their business.
On the other hand, he didn’t mind watching Lilly as she was walking around with her shopping cart, picking up orange juice cartons and bread and onion rings. He reminded himself he had some shopping to do as well. After picking up the basics, he went to the checkout lines. Except there weren’t any lines at this time. Someone just picked up her groceries and left. Now it was Lilly’s turn and after that his.
Outside, they compared shopping bags. Not surprisingly, Lilly’s was heaviest. Scotty held out his hand for it.
“Here, I’ll take it.”
“It’s ok. I don’t invite people to dinner and expect them to do all the work.”
Once at Lilly’s place, it wasn’t long before some appetizing smells came from the kitchen. Scotty had asked if he could help and had – as he was used to – been told to set the table. It was as if women always assumed he couldn’t cook. After all the years of taking care of Elissa, he often thought he’d do well as a stay-at-home husband, raising kids, driving them to school and keeping the house tidy for his successful and beautiful wife. Not that he’d want to. He loved his work too much to ever consider giving it up. It struck him that women might not want to either. In that case, if he ever did marry, they might work out some kind of fifty-fifty plan.
They ate alone, fortunately. Lilly had fed the cats before she even got started on their meal and now the cats were content and sleepy, not demanding their share of the late snack.
“I’m sorry. It’s not much of a dinner, really, but I thought, since it’s so late -”
“It’s fine. You know, I could cook dinner for you some other time. If you like.”
Scotty felt a little hurt. Why shouldn’t he cook? Was that such an unmasculine thing to do? It wasn’t as if his favorite hobby was embroidery or floral arrangements.
“Sure I cook. No one’s complained so far.”
Lilly gave an exaggerated groan and rolled her eyes.
“Ok, say no more.”
It didn’t occur to Scotty until a little later, that she must have been referring to all his dates. All the young, eager women Lilly assumed were chasing after him all the time. He blushed to recall that briefly, some of those eager young people had been guys. Besides, there had never been that many of either sex. It had just happened to seem that way, to Lilly and the other colleagues. Was it his fault that some of those girls had been very persistent? Very few of them had accepted being just one-night stands.
“If you’re referring to all my – dates – there hasn’t been quite as many as you might think.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
Lilly was laughing at him, but suddenly, he felt as if he too, could laugh. It was over. Elissa was going to get on with her life, just as he was going to get on with his. It would take a while to get over the fact that he’d slept with a couple of men, but one day, he was hoping that would just be some confused memory of a difficult time in his life.
Lilly glanced anxiously at her partner. She was hoping she hadn’t hurt his feelings. It just felt a little odd, to be the one who now had difficulty getting dates, and comparing herself to Scotty, who didn’t seem to have any problem at all, getting good looking dates – even guys – she felt a little – disappointed. She was missing out on life.
“I didn’t mean -”
“I know you didn’t. It’s ok. Really.”
Lilly felt her eyelids drooping and she knew it was time for bed. The trouble was, what she thought she read in Scotty’s eyes, hinted that he too, felt it was time for bed. Her bed, if she wasn’t mistaken. Instinctively, she felt that was a mistake. Maybe it wouldn’t always be such a bad idea, but right now, it was just too soon, for both of them.
To her relief, Scotty seemed to feel that way too, or he simply read her expression and took the hint. In any case, he reluctantly got up to go.
“Thanks. It was delicious. I should -”
Lilly too, got up and walked him to the door. He put on his coat and hesitated on the doorstep, not quite wanting to go. Lilly’s expression softened, and though she was afraid of ruining things, by moving too soon, she reached out and pulled him into her arms. At first, he tensed up and she had a horrible feeling she’d made a big mistake, but finally, he relaxed and returned her embrace. He pulled back slightly and looked into her eyes. Suddenly, Lilly didn’t know what she wanted, and it was her turn to hesitate, breathlessly waiting for what was to come – or not – as the case might be.
At last, Scotty bent down and placed a rather chaste kiss on her lips. Nothing passionate about that, but still – more intimate than what you’d expect between colleagues. After he’d closed the door behind him and Lilly had locked it securely, she came to the conclusion that the kiss had been just right. Not too much, but – definitely promising.
Shaking her head at her own naivete, she forced herself to get ready for bed. It was late and there was work to do in the morning. What a fool she was to stand around dreaming about a guy, like she had when she was sixteen. Her smile vanished as she recalled her sixteenth year. Not a good time of her life. That was what she got for her silly dreams. Heartache. At her age, she really ought to know better.
Ten minutes later, she was stretched out in her bed, lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of two cats purring contentedly.
It was getting close to midnight by the time Scotty walked up the stairs to his apartment. Even now, with Elissa finally gone for good, he still had to steel himself to walk up the final stairs, and turn the key in the lock. He’d never been sure of what he’d find in there.
But tonight, he didn’t even make it inside the door, before he stopped and stared. Someone was sitting on the floor, back leaning against the door. For a confused second, he imagined that it was Elissa, but whoever it was didn’t look like her at all. It took him a while to realize that the figure was vaguely familiar. A sense of unease gripped him and his first impulse was to turn and run back down the stairs.
But his approach had been heard and his uninvited guest looked up and faced him. Scotty winced as he took in the horrific injuries on the face. Despite the awkwardness, Scotty knew he couldn’t walk away from this. He owed the guy that much, after what they’d been through together.
“Ryan. What’s happened to you?”
Ryan tried to get up, but failed and with a smothered cry of pain, had to sit down again. With a concerned look on his face, Scotty moved closer and looked down on the guy he’d once spent a night with, and ended up being stalked for about a fortnight, until Lilly put a stop to it. This guy might be one of the last people he wanted to see, but he wouldn’t have wished those dreadful injuries on him.
Ryan opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again, as he was overcome with sobbing. Scotty forced himself to sit down beside the guy and wait until he’d collected himself enough to talk. It was a long wait. Ryan cried, quietly but in a way that suggested not only physical pain but also some emotional trauma. Eventually, after hesitating for so long, he knew he was being callous, Scotty gingerly placed his arm around Ryan’s shoulders. The guy allowed himself to sag against Scotty’s chest, and it seemed the closeness calmed him down. To Scotty’s relief, Ryan didn’t try to kiss him or anything like that.
“Ryan, you have to tell me what’s wrong. Let me help you inside and I’ll see what I can do.”
He could see Ryan bracing himself, then nodding.
“Ok. Where -”
After a bit of awkward fumbling, Scotty managed to get Ryan to his feet, without adding too much to the pain, then with one hand he unlocked the door, gently guided Ryan through it and with a sense of relief, shut it behind them.
He sat Ryan down on the couch and turned on some lights. In the lamplight, it became even more apparent that Ryan was quite badly injured. In fact, it looked as if someone, or several people, had used him as a punching bag. He was breathing shallowly, suggesting that Ryan had a few cracked ribs, as well as everything else.
After the first visual inspection, Scotty forced himself to take a closer look. To his surprise, Ryan shied away from his hands, leading him to believe he was in serious pain – or – even more disturbingly, that he’d been severely traumatized by something.
“I only wanted to see how bad it is.”
He could see that Ryan was ashamed of himself, for reacting the way he did. Scotty decided to leave the injuries for the time being. At least he didn’t think there were any serious head injuries.
“Ok, never mind. We’ll get to that later. Can you tell me what happened?”
“I’d been – at Guido’s and – I ran into this gang of queer-bashers.”
“I don’t know. Five, six.”
“Do you feel nauseous or dizzy?”
Ryan shook his head.
“Ok. I’m no expert, but it looks like you’ll need to see a doctor. So, I’m going to call an ambulance.”
“Ryan, you have to get those injuries seen to. If there’s some internal hemorrhage -”
“Please. If my mom – or worse – my dad – finds out – they’ll -”
“Ryan, this is serious. With something like this left untreated there’s no telling -”
“I can’t. Please, don’t make me. If you call me a cab, I’ll get out of your -”
Scotty felt a stab of guilt. Of course Ryan knew he didn’t want him here. He’d been extremely blunt about his feelings. Even if he hadn’t said it out loud, the message had been obvious.
“No, that’s not what I – I can’t let you go like this. Come on, tell me why you can’t see a doctor. There’s something more, right?”
Ryan looked away, plainly embarrassed. Scotty couldn’t imagine what he’d find embarrassing, after what they’d shared. It hardly got more intimate than that. Of course he also realized that since he’d made his feelings plain, Ryan knew he wasn’t wanted. That might have changed things.
“After – I – got away from them – I ran into a guy who helped me to his place. I thought he was going to call a cab for me, but – he just went crazy. He was in his fifties but he was really strong and – I was already in bad shape after the beating so -”
Scotty felt sick. What unfeeling bastard would pick up a young guy who was badly beaten and then rape him?
“Afterwards, he told me no one would believe me if I told them. A guy like me – anyone knew what guys like me are up to, and no one would believe that I hadn’t been -”
“Did he – I mean – is there any DNA?”
Ryan’s face reflected Scotty’s own feelings of revulsion at the thought of body fluids in this context, and Scotty felt bad about having to ask him.
“In that case -”
He struggled to find the words to ask the next question, but since Ryan was so set against seeing a doctor, he knew there had to be injuries, even if there were no body fluids.
“Ryan, you have to see a doctor. I’ll do whatever I can to make sure your mom doesn’t find out or your dad. By the way, you never mentioned a dad before -”
“They’re divorced. Dad lives in New York.”
“Ok. He won’t have to know. You’re what – 24, 25?”
“Your dad won’t have to be told. As for your mom – well, don’t tell her. Just say that – you were attacked and beaten. Does she know you’re -”
Ryan shook his head, seemingly mortified with shame.
“Ok. She might not need to know. The important thing is to get you to a hospital.”
With a look of defeat on his face, Ryan nodded. He slumped down and didn’t object when Scotty called an ambulance.
When Lilly walked into the office the next day, she couldn’t see Scotty anywhere. As always, she couldn’t help wondering and worrying a little, even if she knew that he was doing much better now, than a couple of months ago. Before she had time to sit down, Stillman came walking towards her.
“There you are, Lil. Scotty’s going to be a bit late. He – apparently he found an injured man near his building and took him to a hospital.”
“Oh. I see.”
Lilly was wondering if Stillman for some reason suspected they’d had dinner together last night. She told herself sternly that they hadn’t done anything wrong and that she had no reason to feel this – guilty. They’d kissed – but no more passionately than two friends could do, when saying goodbye.
Stillman did cast her an odd look and Lilly cursed her pallid skin. It showed off a blush so easily. If only she’d had Scotty’s complexion, or why not Jeffries’?
“Do you know anything about a Ryan Henderson?”
“Ryan Henderson? No, sir, I can’t say that I do. Why?”
“Oh, no reason. It’s not really our – jurisdiction – but it seems the young man was badly beaten by a gang of thugs and – apparently sexually assaulted as well.”
“I just find it odd that Scotty would feel so responsible for someone he just met wandering around on his street.”
“Scotty’s very conscientious.”
There still seemed to be some doubt in Stillman’s voice, but Lilly forced herself to meet his gaze candidly and guilelessly. Ryan Henderson – that had to be Scotty’s stalker. The one-night stand who hadn’t wanted to accept his fate and tried convincing Scotty they could have something more. She felt sorry for the kid. Somehow, she couldn’t imagine Scotty having a relationship with a guy. In fact, she couldn’t imagine him having sex with one either. In her mind, he would always be associated with all those good-looking young women she’d seen around him. Or – perhaps one day she’d have other memories, more intimate ones. In any case, Ryan was out of luck. Especially now. Physically and sexually assaulted in one night. She was glad that had never happened to her.
“Anyway, unless you have something really pressing to do, why don’t you just wait here for him?”
“I’ll do that, sir. I have some reports to type out.”
She knew she was being dismissed and she was grateful. At least she hoped she’d managed to put Stillman off the scent. If he began to suspect a personal link between Scotty and poor Ryan, things might get awkward for Scotty. She’d do whatever she could to avoid that.
By the time Scotty finally walked in, it was well past nine. He’d showered and shaved and changed his clothes from last night, so Lilly assumed that was one reason he was so late.
She nodded in greeting, and Scotty nodded back, but today, the smile was conspicuously absent.
“Stillman told me about – ”
“Yes. He showed up last night in a terrible shape. I had to -”
He glanced around surreptitiously, but no one seemed to be interested in what they were discussing. Lilly had finished typing her reports and decided they might as well interview a witness.
“Come on. Let’s interview that witness in the Coleman case.”
“We’ll grab a coffee on the way. You look like you could use it.”
“Didn’t you get any sleep at all?”
“No. He was on on my doorstep when I got back. Must have been waiting for me quite a while, poor guy.”
“Was he badly injured?”
By now, they were in Lilly’s car, on their way to a deli a couple of blocks away.
“Not enough to kill him, but yeah, it was bad. But what was worse, was that some wealthy guy in his fifties showed up and picked him up afterwards, pretending to want to help him and then he -”
Scotty hesitated. It just felt too – much – to use the word rape in connection with someone he’d recently had sex with.
“I know. Stillman told me. I just assumed it was those hoods.”
“No. Just your average gay-bashers.”
“Oh. Poor kid.”
“I know. It makes me feel so guilty for – my first reaction when I saw him. I just wanted to turn and run.”
“That’s understandable, under the circumstances. The important thing is you didn’t. You helped him.”
“I know. Poor guy, he was terrified his parents would find out. He hasn’t come out to them.”
“I promised I’d try to keep it from them.”
“I’d say that should be possible. After all, he’s got to be at least – over twenty-one.”
“25. He told me. Last night.”
“Right. Scotty – I told Stillman I had no idea who this Ryan Henderson was. He seemed to find it a little odd that you’d go out of your way to help some stranger who was wandring around your neighboorhood injured.”
Scotty’s face lost what little color it still had. Lilly recalled that only that morning she’d envied him his complexion. Now she knew that a blush would show as easily on his skin.
“Take it easy. I told him you’re a very conscientious guy.”
“If he asks more, I’ll try to cover for you. Don’t worry about it.”
But it was obvious Scotty not only worried, he was feeling deeply ashamed. At least, he seemed to recover a little. He looked as if he was resigned to his fate.
“It’s ok. I’ll deal with it if I have to. It’s my own fault. If I could just have -”
“Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. Anyone can make a mistake. It’s ok to be confused. When I was a teenager -”
“Yeah? Did you fool around with other girls?”
“No, but I had my share of older men. If I ever have a daughter, I’d know exactly what tricks she’d get up to and put a stop to them before she even -”
Lilly had heard from Scotty’s tone of voice that he wasn’t – like the average guy – hoping she’d be able to tell him about some kinky teenage lesbian orgy, but was only trying to beat up on himself for what he’d done. If that hadn’t been the case, he’d have had a rude awakening coming to him.
“Older men? How old? And how old were you?”
“Barely legal. Never mind. I’m not going to tell you my life’s story today. Let’s get that latte and go find that witness now.”
“Ok. I didn’t mean -”
“I know you didn’t. Maybe some day, I’ll tell you more. It’s just – I never tell anyone about it.”
She could tell that he was being tactful not to mention that what she knew about him was probably as intimate as anything she might tell him. That was true, of course, but it didn’t mean it would be easy to open up. Much of that was so firmly shut away in her mind, it would take some doing to find the key to the locks of those memories.
“Only if you really feel comfortable telling me.”
He sounded sincere. Lilly smiled at him, to show that she wasn’t offended by his curiosity. If there was anyone she thought she might learn to trust, it was Scotty.
“I think I’ll get used to the idea. Come on.”
They walked into the deli and got a latte, an espresso and two bagels to go, and consumed it all in the car. Afterwards, Scotty seemed to be feeling a little better.
When they got back to the office, Stillman had some news for them.
“Scotty – I just heard from our uniformed colleagues that they confronted the – second perpetrator. Your victim had better be 100 % sure about this. Do you know who he is? The suspect?”
“No, I don’t know. No idea. Why?”
“He’s Charles Hartman Harrington III.”
“The third? Some real big shot?”
“You could say that. He’s the executive of Hartman Enterprises. Electronics. Components for aircraft. You must have heard of it. He’s also on the boards of several other -”
“Boss, I think you can assume we don’t really know about that sort of thing.”
Stillman perused them both, for an unnervingly long time, then nodded.
“Of course. Suffice it to say that he’s a very well connected man. If the victim isn’t absolutely sure of this -”
“With all due respect, sir. How can there be any doubt? He knew the address, even if he didn’t know the name.”
“Well, I suppose the investigation will uncover the facts. If mr Hartman Harrington is guilty, he will get no special treatment.”
“Our colleagues also found some witnesses, but no one’s prepared to ID the gang. The other guests at the club might be more forthcoming.”
Lilly decided it was best that they had no idea about where poor Ryan had come from, even if she could easily guess what sort of club it must have been.
“Some – gay club – apparently.”
“Oh. Of course. Let’s hope they find those bastards. Hate crimes are among the worst -”
“I agree, Lil. Absolutely. Well, I’ll leave you to do your work.”
She nodded and returned to her desk. Scotty followed her.
“It’s not fair. A guy like that – he’ll think he can get away with everything. That’s what he told Ryan. No one will believe a guy like you.”
“It’s true. Sad, but true. Fortunately, Ryan ran into you, who did believe him.”
“Do you think I would have if I hadn’t felt I owed him?”
“You don’t owe him. I want to get this bastard as much as you do, but you don’t owe him. Just because someone hopes to get more from you than you’re capable of giving, doesn’t mean you owe him. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there. Trying to compensate someone, when I should have just been honest from the start. You were being honest. So don’t lose any sleep over that.”
“I’ll try not to.”
Scotty studied Lilly’s face thoughtfully. He had a feeling there was a lot about her past she could tell him, if only she wanted to. Somehow, he found himself hoping that one day she’d open up to him and share her secrets with him. Suddenly, that felt really important. He knew he was ready to open up to her.
A couple of days later, their uniformed colleagues picked up some of the guys who had attacked Ryan and managed to get someone to testify against them. The case seemed to be moving forward as well as could be expected. Scotty had talked to the uniforms on the case and asked them to keep Ryan’s secret, and though they too had found the request a bit odd, they had agreed. As far as Scotty knew, Ryan’s mother had been kept in the dark about the parts of Ryan’s story he dreaded telling her.
Close to a week after being hospitalized, Ryan was discharged from the hospital and sent home to his mother. When Scotty heard about it, he felt he had to visit Ryan there to find out how he was doing. Lilly told him she’d handle the interrogation of their suspected killer on her own, and if necessary get Vera and Jeffries to help her. At this point in the case, she was sure it was only a matter of time before they caught their killer.
She’d been right. Without anyone else’s help, she had her killer signing the confession, looking as if he was relieved. Carrying that secret around with him for close to ten years had been hard. When he was being led away to his cell, he seemed to be at peace. As she often did, Lilly thought she could see the victim watching from a corner of the room. At times, she got flashbacks of the witnesses and other suspects involved in the case, as they had looked when the crime was committed. Not today. Her mind was so preoccupied with Scotty’s involvement in the hate crime. She was hoping their colleagues wouldn’t get suspicious. If they did, she knew she’d have to do something about it. Perhaps they’d believe her if she claimed to be a friend of young Ryan’s.
She returned to her desk and began to type out the report. It always gave her a feeling of closure. Soon she would pack up the evidence box and put it away. This time, the name of the case would go on the list of solved cases. Mission accomplished. Open investigations were important, but she often felt that the cold cases gave her more satisfaction. They’d been put aside, for lack of evidence. The victims had been left without justice for too long.
At lunchtime, she wondered if Scotty would be back soon, so they could go out together. She knew he’d want to be informed about the confession and the successful closing of the case. He was nowhere around and she decided she might as well get a sandwich or a salad and bring it back. She’d get something for Scotty too, something that would keep. If he had already had his lunch, she’d leave it in the fridge for tomorrow.
Back from her lunchbreak, she was beginning to feel the first stirrings of concern. Scotty should have been back long ago. This wasn’t like him. She wondered if perhaps the meeting with Ryan or his mother had been emotionally upsetting and if so, maybe he was still there, trying to comfort the victim or his mother. Or – he might have left already, and was wandering around, trying to clear his mind after the harrowing meeting.
She decided to tidy up some lose ends connected with other cases and when she was done, she walked over to the coffee machine. If Scotty wasn’t back soon, she’d call his cell phone and ask him what was going on. By now, she couldn’t stop herself from worrying. His long absence was unusual. Normally, he’d always be back to do his part of their work. It was getting close to four in the afternoon and Scotty had been away since before eleven. Too long for just a brief visit to a victim of a hate crime recovering from his injuries at home.
She was about to go back to her desk and call Scotty, when Stillman showed up, a somber look on his face.
“Lil – I have some bad news. Scotty – it seems he’s walked straight into a hostage situation.”
Lilly felt all color drain from her face and she shivered. A hostage situation? She certainly hadn’t seen this coming.
“It seems our mr Hartman Harrington went to see Ryan Henderson at home. He was armed. I’ve been told he’s got Ryan Henderson, his mother and Scotty in there, at gunpoint.”
“We have to get over there.”
“I know. Lilly – we won’t be involved in the negotiations. The Chief has called in an expert. We’ll just be observing.”
Normally, she would never have spoken to her superior that way, but at the moment, all normal rules of courtesy were forgotten. This simply couldn’t be happening. One minute everything was fine – the next – She knew she and Scotty had some unfinished business between them. If he – but she refused to even contemplate anything happening to him. They’d get him out of there, safe and sound. That was the only possibility she was willing to consider.
Stillman identified himself and introduced Lilly to the man in charge of the operation. He seemed to know Stillman quite well. They were told not to interfere and to stay well out of the line of fire. Stillman was referred to another man, who explained the strategy to him. A SWAT team was standing by, while some of the officers were going over blueprints of the building and talking to the neighbors who had been evacuated.
Lilly was relieved to hear that from the time the police had been called in, no shots had been fired. That could mean Scotty was still ok, as well as the other hostages.
She felt time dragged by so slowly. Nothing seemed to be happening. The officers involved were moving at a pace so slow, she felt they were just marking time. It was beginning to get on her nerves. Someone should be doing something. She began to edge away from Stillman, who was still deeply into conversation with the negotiator. No one seemed to pay any attention to her.
She walked slowly over to the cordoned off area, where onlookers were pressing against the chain of uniformed officers, trying to catch a glimpse of the unfamiliar drama playing itself out in their own neighborhood. Just like television, only real. There were mostly excited, fascinated faces looking back at her, and only a handful of concerned looks. Lilly made for one of those concerned-looking persons. It was a lady in her late seventies or even early eighties. Lilly pulled out her ID and asked the lady if she might ask a few questions. The lady nodded, looking surprised.
“Do you live in that building over there?”
“No, I live over there.”
“I see. Do you know anyone who lives in the actual building where the – situation is going on?”
“Yes. I know several.”
“Good. Is anyone around here? Nearby?”
The lady gazed around near-sightedly, and Lilly felt the futility of her attempts. Maybe Stillman and that other guy were right. She should just let the experts deal with it.
Now the lady nodded.
“There. Do you see that lady in the grey skirt with a green cardigan? She has brown hair, with some grey in it. That’s mrs Silverberg. She’s a neighbor of mrs Henderson.”
“Thank you. You’ve been very helpful.”
Lilly began to walk slowly towards the lady she’d had pointed out to her. She was hoping the older lady had been right. This seemed to take forever.
“I was told you live close to mrs Henderson – over there.”
Lilly hurriedly flashed her badge at the woman, before she had time to grow suspicious. She glanced nervously over her shoulder. So far no one had interfered, but she didn’t want the uniforms to get any ideas about her.
“Could I have a word with you – in private?”
The woman glanced around uncertainly. There were people everywhere, pressing into her from left and right and from behind. Lilly knew she couldn’t very well let the woman through, so instead, she hurriedly ducked under the plastic ribbon and followed the woman backwards through the crowds, until they reached a side street, which was empty.
“I was wondering if you know of a way inside.”
Now the woman did glance at her if not suspiciously, then at least inquiringly.
“Yes. But the police have closed off all entrances. Of course, there’s the basement. You can get in around the back. I’m not sure if that’s been sealed off. It’s more like a hatch than a door. The janitor uses it to bring in wood for the furnace and – well, I don’t know exactly.”
“Thanks. You wouldn’t happen to have a dress you’d let me use?”
“A dress? I suppose so. Why would a young, pretty girl like you want to borrow an old dress from me?”
“It’s really important that I get inside, without alarming the hostage taker. My partner is in there, with your neighbors and – I’m hoping I can get the hostage taker to let them go unharmed.”
Mrs Silverberg didn’t seem to be reassured, but Lilly felt she’d caught a glimpse of sympathy, when she’d mentioned being the partner of one of the hostages.
“I’m thinking about a rather long, wide dress, loose-fitting, with a full skirt. Do you have anything like that?”
“Well, I think I threw most of my old dresses out, but I suppose I do have one or two left. I’m not sure how I can get it for you though. With every entrance closed -”
“Oh. Did you see the elderly lady who pointed you out to me?”
“Of course, that’s mrs Jakowski, an old friend of mine. She might have something. I don’t think she ever throws anything away.”
Ten minutes later, all three women were walking upstairs towards mrs Jakowski’s apartment, where she displayed a closet full of fifties dresses. Lilly couldn’t help admiring them. There was one in particular, she liked. It was made from a flower patterned eggshell blue fabric. The floral pattern was white, pink and red. More importantly, it was narrow at the waist and had a very full, bellshaped skirt. Lilly was wondering if all the petticoats that normally went with it would be necessary, or if the guy holding Scotty and Ryan and his mother at gunpoint would be able to figure out it was all a show, if she overdid it like that. Either way, she had to try.
“Could I use that one?”
“Please do, dear. It would look very pretty on you.”
“Do I need the petticoats or can I just wear it like it is?”
“You can put it on as it is. See, the skirt is starched.”
The skirt was also made from a good fabric. Lilly didn’t think it would be too revealing. She had to count on it not being that. The whole idea was based around that particular fact.
Soon she was being dressed up, rather like a mannequin, by the two helpful ladies. The bodice was a little too loose, but Lilly didn’t think it would matter. Mrs Jakowski led her towards a full length mirror, where she caught sight of her own reflection. She hardly recognized herself. The young woman looking back at her seemed far more naive and innocent. Not at all like a seasoned police officer. So far, so good. Lilly pulled out the scrunchie holding back her hair and placed it in the pocket of her pants.
Mrs Silverberg eagerly moved forward and brushed her hair so it filled out over her shoulders. Quite nice really, but not the look she went for when she was going to work. Still, no one would be able to guess her real profession now, she was pretty sure about that. Now all she needed to do was fasten her gun around her thigh. The holster she had wouldn’t do, since it was made to strap the gun around her torso, providing easy access. This would be easy too, if she could only hold it in place.
“Mrs Jakowski – do you have a garter or something?”
“Of course, dear. Let me get it for you.”
It took the lady a while to find one that would stay up on Lilly’s rather thinner thighs, but eventually, she was successful. In fact, it was a bit too tight, which only reassured Lilly. The gun would stay put if she didn’t wriggle about too much. After a moment’s reflection, she asked for another one, an even tighter one. With two garters holding the gun, she was sure it wouldn’t fall off, before she needed it. She briefly considered stuffing her cell phone inside her cleavage, but decided against it. The top was relatively tight, unlike the skirt. She’d have to make do with what she had. And she still didn’t know if the guy would let her in.
All her efforts might have been for nothing, if by the time she arrived, it was already too late, or the guy wouldn’t let her in. But she had to try something. She wouldn’t stand by while Scotty was being killed up there.
“Now, mrs Silverberg, can you tell me what floor mrs Henderson lives on?”
Mrs Silverberg showed her the exact location of the apartment and gave detailed instructions on how to get to the hatch leading to the basement.
Furtively, Lilly sneaked out into the street and, using another side street made her way to the other side of Ryan’s building. Her colleagues were everywhere, but she managed to creep through a very nasty alley, which wasn’t being watched, and when the two officers keeping an eye on the back were looking the other way, she hurried across and was able to get behind the large dumpster which conveniently hid the hatch from sight. It was almost too easy. She fumbled with the hatch, trying to figure out the way to open it, knowing she might have to give up, if it was locked. But it wasn’t. The janitor must have used it pretty regularly.
It even opened without a sound, so she could slip inside unnoticed. The basement was dark, and silent and Lilly had to admit she felt a little less sure of herself in this outfit than she normally did, on a job. But the thought of Scotty and the other hostages upstairs made her trace her way around the various objects lying on the floor. At least the way in hadn’t been too dirty. The dress still looked pristine. Mrs Jakowski couldn’t have worn it many times, for it to still look so fresh after fifty years or more.
The basement was a real maze, and Lilly was hoping she wouldn’t have to spend the entire evening finding her way out of it. If she did, it would all be over by the time she was successful. Fortunately, she had a bit of luck. The door leading out of the boiler room led to a long corridor, and using her sense of direction, she followed it to the end, where she found a door leading to another corridor. She only had to retrace her steps twice before she finally found herself in the actual building.
Silently, she hurried up the stairs to the floor where mrs Henderson and her son lived. To her relief, it wasn’t too high. Despite that, she arrived out of breath and rather hot too. She was hoping the dress could be washed.
Outside the door to the apartment, she stopped, considering her next move. In the end, all she could think about was to ring the doorbell. She was hoping it wouldn’t get the guy to panic and shoot his remaining hostages before she had a chance to interfere.
To her surprise, a pale-faced woman in her mid-fifties came to open the door a crack. Her eyes were so dark with fear, Lilly swallowed hard. There was something about that expression that told her something was badly wrong inside the apartment.
Nervously, she cleared her throat, trying to speak up so that the hostage taker inside, and hopefully, Scotty too, would be able to hear her.
“I’m Elissa, Scotty Valens’ girlfriend. Please let me in. I need to know my boyfriend is ok.”
The woman gave her an odd look, then glanced anxiously behind her, as if seeking permission to open the door wider.
To her surprise, a gruff voice from inside called out almost immediately.
“Let her in. And lock the door behind you.”
Lilly took a deep breath and stepped inside. It was eerily quiet in there, except for the woman’s shallow breathing. She didn’t look as if she was injured, so Lilly assumed it was terror that was making her sound like that. It was hardly surprising. Lilly felt her own hands go clammy, and she had to rub them lightly against the dress skirt.
Stillman listened with an increasingly worried look on his face, as the man in charge recited the known facts to him.
“Mr Hartman Harrington was in Vietnam. A sniper. There’s no gun licensed in his name, but that doesn’t mean anything. Most of those veterans brought back all kinds of odds and ends. He suffered some kind of nervous breakdown after returning stateside and again – in the late 1980’s, then once again in – 1996. Emotionally unstable. There was some mention of a war crime, but nothing was ever proven. In fact – since he stands accused of homosexual rape – that was part of the accusations. It was alleged that he’d ”
sexually assaulted some of the prisoners, but also innocent villagers. Young men his own age. And – but that was hushed up – one of the men in his platoon accused him of – sexually assaulting him, but the charges were withdrawn after the young man killed himself.”
Stillman didn’t doubt that the unfortunate young mr Henderson had been the victim of sexual assault by this man. However, he would be surprised if the victim was still alive. He was beginning to have serious doubts about the outcome of the entire situation.
It dawned on him that he hadn’t heard Lilly’s voice for a long time and – he hadn’t seen her nearby for some time either. Where was she? He turned to ask another officer.
“Exuse me. Have you seen the young woman who arrived with me? Detective Lilly Rush, detective Valens’ partner. She’s in her thirties, blonde, petite, pretty.”
Stillman sighed. He should have known better than to bring Valens’ partner to the scene. On the other hand, he realized that anything short of locking Lilly up, would have been insufficient to keep her away. He turned to the same officer and began to explain his concerns.
Suddenly, there was some activity from the building. The armed officers covering the main entrance raised their guns and took aim. After a little while, the door opened a crack and woman with a chalky white face peeked outside. Some frantic waving directed two men with tall shields to her and the second she stepped outside, she was pulled to safety behind those shields. They dragged her into shelter behind a police car and the negotiator and the man in charge, ran in her direction. Stillman decided to interpret his own invitation to include listening in on the interview with one of the hostages.
“My son. He’s – I’m afraid it’s too late. That man shot him, right away. He just walked in, pushed past me and shot my son in the chest. Detective Valens was with him and when that man arrived, he tried to stop him, but he was shot himself.”
“Can you tell how badly injured Detective Valens is?”
“He was hit in the shoulder.”
“Do you know how much ammunition the hostage taker has?”
“No. But he took Detective Valens’ gun.”
Stillman made a face. That was all they needed. Of course, it was to be expected. Since Scotty hadn’t been able to stop him, the only two possibilities were that Scotty was already dead, or injured, or at least held at gunpoint. A thought struck him and he decided to push his luck and ask one question of his own.
“How many people are in there now?”
“My son. The hostage taker. Detective Valens and his girlfriend. A young woman by the name of – Elissa.”
For a second, Stillman’s mind failed to function. How could Scotty’s girlfriend, who was supposedly safely tucked away in a mental ward, suddenly show up inside the apartment where two people were being held at gunpoint, assuming the unfortunate young man who was the innocent cause of the whole incident was still alive. Then it hit him. Naturally, it had to be Lilly. He was surprised he hadn’t made the connection sooner, since the reason he’d asked about that in the first place was concern that somehow Lilly had managed to get inside the apartment, in a foolish attempt to help her partner.
“Yes, I thought that was the name she gave.”
“Can you describe her?”
Ignoring the signs of impatience evidenced by both negotiator and the man in charge, Stillman stared inquiringly at mrs Henderson.
“Blonde. Slim. Wearing a very nice old-fashioned dress.”
Stillman decided to ignore that dress. He had no idea how Lilly had managed to find something like that. But Elissa couldn’t be described as blonde and while she was certainly slim, Stillman was quite sure the real Elissa was still safely locked up at the hospital.
“Sir. I’m afraid that must be Valens’ partner, Lilly Rush.”
“I see. We’ll have to deal with that later. If there is a later. I think there will be developments soon now that he’s released one hostage.”
They moved away from mrs Henderson and let the paramedics take care of her. The negotiator decided to try and make contact with the hostage taker again. Maybe this time he’d pick up the phone.
Mrs Henderson led her into a spacious living room. Normally, she imagined it would be quite pleasant. As she took in the scene in there, she knew that her estimate of the situation had been wrong. Both Scotty and Ryan were lying down. She could tell, both from the extreme pallor of Ryan’s face and the amount of blood he was lying in, that he was close to dying. Scotty was doing better, but he was bleeding too, from a wound in the right shoulder.
Mr Hartman Harrington was sitting calmly on a chair, with a small table on his side. On it a gun was lying, on that had to be Scotty’s. Mr Hartman Harrington was holding an older type of gun. She guessed it might be an old war memento, but from which war? Vietnam? Judging by the hostage taker’s age, she felt that was most likely.
“Elissa? And you’re our good samaritan’s girlfriend? I see. Won’t you sit down? You’ve been very foolish in coming here, but I suppose there’s no intelligence requirement – for girlfriends.”
“Why are you doing this? My boyfriend hasn’t done anything to you. Please let him go. He’s hurt and he’ll need a doctor.”
“You’re a very naive woman. Sit down and be quiet. I’ll deal with you later.”
“Please, let this lady go, if you won’t let my boyfriend go.”
An impatient look came over the hostage taker’s face, then he nodded.
“Ok. Good idea. You. Mrs Henderson? Out. Tell the policemen outside that I won’t hesitate to kill the other hostages. Tell them – I’ve already dealt with your son and will do the same to his friend and this foolish young woman.”
“But – my son -”
“Would you like to join him? That can be arranged.”
Calmly and unemotionally, Hartman Harrington raised the gun and aimed it the lady’s head. Her face crumpled up and a sob escaped her lips. To her credit, she stood her ground, unwilling even now, to abandon her son.
“Mrs Henderson. There’s nothing you can do. Please go.”
It was the first time Lilly had heard Scotty’s voice since she’d entered the apartment. He looked as if he was in considerable pain and the only reaction she’d seen from him was a look, when she’d walked in. At least he hadn’t blurted out her name.
Still hesitating, mrs Henderson remained in place, but the tightening of the hostage taker’s hand, convinced her and she turned and began to walk away, after one last agonized glance at her son. They heard the door shut behind her.
“You. Elissa. Lock the door and come back here right away. Don’t try anything stupid. I mean, anything more stupid than coming here in the first place.”
Lilly hurriedly did as she was told. She sat down next to Scotty and placed a hand on his forehead. He was burning up already. A bad sign. The bullet had to be lodged inside his shoulder. If she couldn’t put a stop to this now, more people than poor Ryan would die. She was hoping her plaintive voice wouldn’t sound too – artificial, as she drew in breath to continue with her plan.
“You’ve hurt him. Let me take a look at that wound.”
She made a big show of examining Scotty’s wound with her back to Hartman Harrington. While her back was turned, she pulled up the skirt and pulled out a tissue she’d hid there earlier. She pressed that to Scotty’s shoulder, while she discreetly rummaged around for the gun, while ostentibly trying to find a more comfortable position to sit in. To her relief, she did manage to pry the gun loose, from the garters, which felt a lot tighter now than they had in mrs Jakowski’s apartment. She could see Scotty following her maneuvers with interest. At least she assumed the interest was for the gun, not her thighs. Quickly, while she still moved her right hand against Scotty’s shoulder, she managed to shove the gun underneath his arm, then she turned forward again and did her best to shift Scotty so his head was resting on her lap.
She wanted that anyway, but it would also help hide the gun from view until she’d need it. Now her skirt was covering it, and also Scotty’s arm.
“My poor darling.”
“You shouldn’t have come – Elissa. It’s too dangerous.”
“I couldn’t stay away. With you in here and – that man -”
“That’s enough. Be quiet. I can’t hear myself think with you cackling like that. Shut up, Elissa.”
Suddenly, the phone began to ring and everyone’s eyes turned towards the phone standing on another table. Hartman Harrington got up and sidled over there, not for a moment taking his eyes off the two conscious hostages. He seemed to have counted poor Ryan out already.
His left hand shot out and picked up the phone, then listened for a moment, before replying.
“How the hell should I know? You were the ones who let that nutcase in here.”
Again, he listened, while his eyes bored into Scotty and “Elissa”.
“That’s not my problem. Someone should have been more careful. No. You have the older woman. Mrs Henderson. If your interfering do-gooder hadn’t been here, this would have been over by now and I would have been miles away. I might have left the woman alive anyway. This way, two more people have to die. No. Not interested.”
He slammed the receiver down on the phone so hard, it vibrated for a while, the plastic creaking ominously, but it didn’t break.
“Ok. I hate women shrieking, so I’ll do you first, ms Escaped Lunatic. Yes, the cops told me all about your – condition.”
Lilly tensed up, knowing she wouldn’t get any other opportunity. It was now or never. The problem was, he’d notice any move she made.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to kill you.”
“Please, let me hold my boyfriend one more time before – ”
“For crying out loud. You didn’t understand me, did you? Oh, what the hell, go ahead.”
Lilly lowered her head to Scotty’s and pressed her cheek to his, while fumbling for the gun. Its reassuringly familiar weight helped strengthen her resolve.
The sounds of shots fired from inside the building, made the man in charge of the operation issue orders for the SWAT team to go into action.
Stillman knew he wasn’t being invited, but he followed anyway. Up the stairs to the door which turned out to be locked. Not knowing who might be on the inside, it was decided they would not shoot their way inside. Now nothing could be heard from inside.
Lilly emptied the clip into Hartman Harrington’s chest. She knew she couldn’t afford to give him the chance to fire even one shot. Her attack really had taken him completely by surprise. To her satisfaction, he dropped the gun and crumpled up and fell.
She was on her feet the second the gun dropped out of his hand and kicked it away into a corner, then seized Scotty’s gun from the table and gave it back to Scotty.
Knowing it was no use, she walked over to Ryan and pressed her fingers to his neck. To her surprise, the eyelids fluttered open and his gaze fastened on hers. She kneeled beside him and tried to examine his injuries. They didn’t look any better up close. Her eyes looked around for the phone, and after a word of apology to the dying man, she shot up and grabbed the receiver. As she had assumed, there was a direct line to the police downstairs.
“This is Detective Lilly Rush, requesting backup. Officer down. I repeat officer down. A citizen is seriously injured and in need of immediate mecical assistance.”
She heard a noise from behind her, and turned around to find Scotty making his way over to Ryan’s immobile form. Dropping the phone, Lilly followed Scotty.
He sat down again, smothering a grunt of pain and placed his hand gently on Ryan’s face.
“Please don’t tell my mom or my dad. Any of it.”
“I won’t. I promise.”
Lilly knew that he wouldn’t be able to keep that promise, but right now, that wasn’t such a big deal. All that mattered was making Ryan’s last moments bearable. She’d have promised anything too.
“You’re not – really gay, right? I knew there was something about – you and – that blonde. She’s really something. You’ll be happy with her.”
“Don’t try to talk. The paramedics will be here any second now.”
But Ryan didn’t talk again. Lilly wasn’t even sure she could hear the sound of his breathing. She glanced anxiously towards the door. If their colleagues broke in now, and found Scotty sitting like that, she didn’t know what they’d think.
She pressed her fingers to Ryan’s neck again, and incredibly there was some pulse, but his eyes were closed now and she didn’t think he was aware of his surroundings. If she could get Scotty away from him, she’d sit with him herself until –
A resounding noise coming from the hallway made them both turn around. The door fell and suddenly there were noises everywhere. Voices yelled and footsteps echoed.
Lilly turned around slowly and raised her arms in the air.
“I’m detective Lilly Rush.”
“Detective Scotty Valens.”
“Are you ok, Lil, Scotty?”
Stillman. Uh oh. Now she would be in for it.
“I can confirm that those two belong to my people.”
“Let the paramedics through.”
Scotty wouldn’t let the paramedics go to work on him until they’d seen to Ryan. Incredibly, he still hung on to life, and Lilly and Scotty watched him being carried outside on a stretcher.
Scotty, too, had lost a lot of blood, and despite his insistence, he was forced to lie down on another stretcher and accept being carried downstairs.
“Lil? Can you tell me what happened in here?”
“I shot him. He was going to kill me first, so I fired on him and killed him. It was self-defense.”
“I’ll take your gun. Thank you. Ok, that’s enough for now. Go on. I know you’ll want to go with Scotty to the hospital. No, it’s ok. I’ll cover things on this end. You know there will be an investigation. Just be prepared to answer their questions truthfully. Oh, and you’re suspended until further notice.”
Lilly began to run down the stairs. She found Scotty still being treated by the paramedics, but he was getting ready to be transported. Lilly identified herself and was allowed to come along. One of the paramedics sat on Scotty’s other side, keeping an eye on his vital signs.
Scotty’s eyes fastened on Lilly’s face.
“You really are crazy.”
“Thanks. I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“You should, but really, I’m furious with you for putting yourself in danger like that.”
“You’d all be dead by now, if it hadn’t been for me.”
“I know, but you shouldn’t have come.”
“That’s gratitude for you. Excuse me, can you tell me how Ryan Henderson is doing?”
“Are you his next-of-kin, maam?”
“No, I’m just the cop who saved his mother’s life.”
The paramedic appeared to be thinking, then he used his radio to call to the other ambulance. There was crackling sound, which didn’t tell Lilly anything.
“He’s still alive so far.”
She thought she knew what that meant, but didn’t push for any more information. By the time she’d arrived, it had already been too late.
They arrived at the hospital and Scotty was being rushed through to the ICU. Lilly was left standing there, feeling a little lost. Now that it was all over, the reaction was setting in. If you didn’t count her old friend and mentor, Sam Reardon, who had turned out to be a child killer, she’d never caused the death of anyone before, and even then, she hadn’t killed him with her own hands. Now she couldn’t help reliving the moment when Hartman Harrington had aimed his gun at her, and she’d pulled her own and fired at him, emptying the entire clip into his chest.
Suddenly, she felt faint. She looked around for a chair, but didn’t find one and instead, sank down on the floor. No one appeared to be paying attention to her, so she let her head rest on her arms, which in turn were resting on her knees. She remained like that, until someone placed a hand on her shoulder.
Startled, she looked up, blinking to clear her sight.
The familiar voice sounded so reassuring. Stillman held out his hand and helped her to her feet.
“Come on. Let’s find a chair for you. Actually, I think you could use some medical attention, for the shock.”
“No, it’s ok. Really.”
Stillman studied her closely, then nodded. He removed his jacket and placed it around her shoulders.
“I thought you’d like to know. Ryan Henderson is still hanging on. The doctor’s aren’t hopeful, but – well, as long as there’s life, there’s hope, right? Even if he doesn’t make it, you did save Scotty and mrs Henderson. Good work. Murchison was livid, but he’ll get over it. Ok, I just have to ask. How on earth did you get that dress?”
“Oh. That reminds me. I left my clothes in a mrs Jakowski’s apartment. Across the street from mrs Henderson’s building. Mrs Jakowski and a mrs Silverberg were most helpful.”
“Yes, it certainly looked that way. We were able to have a talk with mrs Henderson and she told us you made quite a performance. When you went off like that, I must say I didn’t have any hopes for your success. Hartman Harrington is a Vietnam war veteran. A sniper. You did what the Viet Cong failed to do. Quite an achievement, actually.”
“Well, if you put it like that. I was afraid I’d overdone it. Poor Elissa. I just – I thought I’d give Scotty some idea of what to expect.”
“I have to admit that you don’t look at all like a cop in that outfit. Very innocent. Very devious.”
“Yeah. I just felt that if I didn’t do something fast, that creep would kill the hostages.”
“You’re probably right. Well done, Lil. I’ll go and find out how Scotty’s doing. Don’t go anywhere.”
“Does this mean I’ll miss the Academy Awards Show?”
“I’ll make sure you get some award. Count on it.”
Lilly smiled at her boss as he disappeared down the corridor. Her smile vanished before he did. She didn’t take any pleasure in her performance. A man was dead because of her. On the other hand, Scotty would live and so would mrs Henderson. She didn’t regret what she’d done, but it didn’t cause any exhilaration either.
Pulling Stillman’s jacket closer around her, she leaned back and tried to relax. She didn’t have too long to wait. She heard footsteps coming her way all the time, but eventually, there was a familiar voice, addressing her.
“Scotty’s not out of surgery yet, but they said it wasn’t anything complicated. Come on. They’ll let us wait upstairs, outside the operating room. Oh, by the way, Ryan Henderson’s still hanging on. He’s stable for now.”
“I’m glad. At least he didn’t have to die alone. Oh, he asked that we didn’t mention the sexual assault or the fact that he’d come from a gay club, to his mother. Apparently she doesn’t know – and there’s a father, who definitely shouldn’t be told.”
“I’ll see what I can do. With the perpetrator dead, I don’t think we’ll need to bring up the sexual assault at all. Oh, I think we have all the punks who attacked Ryan. We should be able to put them away for at least five years. If the DA can get it bumped up to attempted murder, they could get fifteen.”
Stillman waited patiently with Lilly until Scotty was out of surgery, then had a brief word with Scotty before letting Lilly inside. She handed her boss his jacket and sat down on the chair beside the bed. Scotty was awake, looking quite comfortable, considering.
“Did Stillman tell you Ryan’s still hanging on?”
“No. I guess that’s good news.”
“It might be. They were saying he’s stable for now.”
“Poor kid. Lil, how are you doing?”
“Me? I’m fine. What about you?”
“I’m fine. But seriously, Lil, you know what I mean.”
“Yes. Well, it’s strange, actually. I don’t know what I’m feeling yet. It just – I keep seeing it again and again. Stillman told me Hartman Harrington was a Vietman war veteran. A sniper. The Viet Cong couldn’t get him. Then I come along and just finish him.”
“There was something really – cold about the way he shot poor Ryan. As if it was nothing. And it wouldn’t be. Not if he’d done it a hundred times before.”
“Have you ever had to -”
“No. I hope I never have to, but if I do have to, I hope I’ll be as good at it as you were.”
“You should try to sleep now. I’ll stay here. Stillman said I’m suspended, until the investigation is over.”
“Right. I’ll probably be here for a couple of days.”
“However long as it takes to get you back in one piece again.”
“They asked me if I wanted to keep the bullet. I said no. As if I’d need that to remind me of – today.”
“Exactly. Listen, I’m sorry I used Elissa’s name. I was thinking if you heard her name, you’d get some kind of warning not to give me away.”
“It was fine. I’m sure Elissa wouldn’t have minded. But you were nothing like her, you know. Elissa was never that – ”
Scotty smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. Being reminded of Elissa’s condition was still painful to him, but he felt he was getting over it. One day, he was hoping there would be nothing left of the pain and the disappointment. Besides, he knew Lilly wasn’t making fun of Elissa, only herself.
“No. Naive. Great show. That creep couldn’t have had any idea you were a cop.”
“That was kind of the idea. Now, go on. Sleep. Get well. That’s an order.”
“Oh, you’re giving me orders now. Does Stillman know that?”
“He doesn’t need to know everything, does he?”
Scotty smiled again, and this time, Lilly felt he was actually smiling, not just going through the motions.
“I guess I’d better do what I’m told.”
Towards morning, Lilly woke up, feeling as if her back was about to break. She sat up, stretched and took a look at Scotty. He was sleeping peacefully. Lilly thought she could take the time to go home and see to the girls. She’d be in the doghouse, as far as they were concerned, but she’d feed them anyway and then finally she’d be able to get into bed and get some real sleep.
On Friday Scotty was well enough to be released from hospital. By that time, Lilly had not only received her own clothes back and returned the beautiful dress, cleaned and pressed, but also had her statement taken about the shooting. Given Hartman Harrington’s reputation, she was surprised everyone was so willing to listen to her side of the story, but then again, at least one independent witness confirmed he’d been guilty of shooting un unarmed man, shooting and disarming a police officer and holding three people hostage. Not to mention carrying a concealed weapon for which he didn’t have a license. Added to that was his war record.
Stillman told her she wouldn’t have anything to worry about, but he still wouldn’t let her get back to work. Instead, he suggested she keep an eye on her partner. Lilly stared suspiciously at Stillman wondering if he was suggesting something improper or – and this was worse – that he’d suspected something about Scotty’s relationship with Ryan.
There still hadn’t been any change in Ryan’s condition, but at least he’d been stable all along.
Lilly was waiting while Scotty got dressed and packed up his few belongings. A small collection of presents from his colleagues had accumulated around his bed. Pretty young nurses had paraded through his room, staring hopefully at him, but not, Lilly suspected, having much luck.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah. Can’t wait to get out of here. The food really sucks and – ”
“I guess the pretty nurses are tiring on your eyes.”
“What pretty nurses? I seem to recall a beautiful apparition from the past, looking a bit like my mom did in her wedding photo, but that’s the only pretty girl I’ve seen all week.”
“Apparition from the past? Are you sure it wasn’t a ghost?”
“Could be, except she looked a lot like you, only with that fantastic dress on.”
“Fantastic? Oh, does that mean you hate my jeans? And if you’re wondering, the jeans mean I still haven’t been allowed to go back to work.”
Scotty took a good long look at her jeans and top and Lilly was beginning to regret mentioning them, when his face split in a happy grin, making him look younger and more carefree than she’d ever seen him.
“No, I don’t mean that. They’re great too and the top and – you know, everything.”
“That’s a relief. I guess otherwise, I would have had to go home and change and leave you here.”
“Nah, like I said, you’re fine. Come on, let’s go before some old sadistic nurse thinks of some other way to hurt and humiliate me.”
“Hurt and humiliate you? Now that sounds interesting. You’ll have to tell me more about it.”
Scotty made a face.
“I’d rather not.”
They rode in the elevator downstairs, then walked out to the parking lot. It was hot and sunny outside and Lilly stared worriedly at Scotty, hoping the heat wouldn’t be too much for him. But he seemed to be in good spirits and besides, her car had air conditioning.
“Do you have your key?”
“The key to your apartment.”
“Oh. Yes, I should have it here somewhere.”
He didn’t sound enthusiastic, and Lilly could tell from the way his eyes pleaded with her, that he probably would prefer going to her place.
“Unless you had somewhere else you wanted to be?”
“Well – I was thinking your place. I miss the cats so much and – you know, I think it’s possible they might miss me.”
“Really? Well, in that case, we definitely should go to my place. If the cats are upset with me, there’ll be hell to pay for the rest of the weekend. I’d better bring you to them right away.”
Once inside, Lilly could tell that the cats didn’t miss anyone, not even her. She’d fed them before leaving for the hospital, and they were still quite full and sleepy. Besides, they usually woke up much later in the afternoon.
To her surprise, despite the lack of welcome, Scotty went to both of them and petted their heads, gently, quite unlike the vigorous pats he’d bestow on the police dogs she’d sometimes seen him with. Her cats really were on their best behavior. Instead of hissing and showing their claws, they pointedly ignored him. It didn’t seem to have any impact on his pleasure in being out of the hospital and – maybe – at her place.
“Are you hungry?”
“I thought you’d never ask. The food at the hospital was awful. Or did I tell you that already?”
“Yes, you did mention something about that. Come on. Let’s see what I have.”
They went into the kitchen and rummaged through her cupboards and the fridge. Scotty opted for coffee, orange juice and toast. After devouring about half a loaf of bread, he slowed down a bit. Lilly recalled the doctor’s words. Plenty of rest. No more work for at least the rest of the month. She’d better make sure he was getting enough rest.
“I was thinking I could make up the guest bed, unless you want me to take you back to your place.”
“No, please. If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to stay here.”
“I think Stillman more or less ordered me to take care of you, so I guess it would be easier if I did it here.”
“Did he say that?”
“He suggested I keep an eye on you, rather than hurrying back to work. Should I be worried, do you think?”
“About having to take care of me? No. I’ve been told I’m quite easy to handle. Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it. No big deal.”
She cast him a pointed glance, which put a damper on his laughter.
“About the job.”
“Oh, that. No, absolutely not.”
“Give me your key and I’ll go and get some of your stuff. What would you like me to bring?”
“Oh, I’ll come too. I’d better pack my own stuff.”
“Now you’re all eager to go, but an hour ago, you were pulling that puppy face routine.”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“Ok, we’ll both go, but then you sleep. That is an order.”
“Did Stillman tell you do that too? Order me about?”
“He doesn’t have to tell me to do anything. I can make my own decisions.”
“I know. Really fine decisions too. Did I ever thank you for saving my life?”
“No, I guess you didn’t. I seem to recall you telling me I shouldn’t have come.”
“I was worried about you. He was going to kill you.”
“Right before he killed you, yeah.”
“Come here. I’m a near-invalid, so you shouldn’t make me overexert myself, you know.”
Lilly walked closer, glancing guardedly at him. As soon as she was close enough, his good arm shot out and pulled her closer. Before she had time to make up her mind if it was a good idea or not, he was kissing her. While her mind caught up with her body, she sensed that it really was a great idea and told her mind to take a vacation. Judging by what her body did next, her mind obeyed.
Only a low moan of pain from Scotty made her pull free, guiltily.
“You were supposed to get enough rest. Let me look at that.”
Anxiously, she examined his bandage, and didn’t let go of him until she’d made sure there was no blood seeping out. At least he was here with her now. She’d make sure he stayed safe too. Despite the bandage she didn’t think she’d ever seen him that happy. She was glad she’d been able to see that change. If she had any say in matters, she’d keep him smiling too.