Gentle suspense. Tortured heroes. Mischievous heroines.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Trust...given or earned?

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Trust...given or earned?
As Officer Logan Taul’s nightstick plummets toward the teen’s arm, he sees the monster he has become reflected in the warped storefront window.
Thus begins his journey, back to the officer, man, and father he wants to be. Logan must face his own nature and insecurities and defy those who do not want him to succeed. His quest for redemption leads him to search for the family he deserted. Despite physical attacks on both himself and those he loves, and attempts to frame him, can he bring his family back together? Will he once more wear the badge in a position of trust?
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Copyright 2015 © J. Chris Richards
I forced my eyes away from the mirror. The man staring back at me chilled my heart as his eyes sought a victim. Blood and bruises I couldn’t wash off covered his face. I stripped my police uniform and put on civilian clothes. He still watched me. Despite my scrubbing, his face was no cleaner. Who was this monster? I thought of myself as the protector of society and a warrior—a police officer worthy of awards and recognition. But the man in the mirror was a cop interested only in power and self-benefit. When did this happen? How did it happen? I shook my head in disgust. I had changed from an idealistic cadet to a macho egotist, or worse—a street thug.
I left the squad locker room with him clinging to my back.
Standing beside my pickup, I wondered where to go and what to do. At the Flashing Lights Bar, officers would applaud our record number of arrests in one shift and the force used to make them. Some in the group won big bucks betting on us, but others lost. At home, I’d be alone with the monster. I shuddered at the thought of living with him. Swing shift from 1500 to 2300 left a lot of the night for him to haunt me.
“Hey, Logan, you ready? It’s been a great night. It’s only midnight. We got two whole hours to celebrate. You goin’ to Flashin’ Lights with me or meetin’ me there?” Brad asked. “Whoa, I feel like a real cop again. We got a lot of scumbags off the street tonight.”
I turned and waved cigarette smoke away. “You gotta quit smoking those things before you kill yourself and everyone else. They’re vile.”
“Don’t tell me what to do, kid. These Picayunes are the best-tastin’ cig ever made. You comin’ or not?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Don’t think of ridin’ with me or don’t you’re think coming?” Brad threw the butt to the sidewalk and ground it hard under his heel, three times. I could gauge his anger by the number of times. One said back off. Two, an explosion was imminent. Three translated to extreme danger.
“You soft on that kid?” Brad growled.
The deep voice was another danger sign. I considered denying his accusation. It was time to stand up to him, even with part of the truth.
“Just tired. You made me work a lot harder than Rich did while you were laid up with that broken leg.”
“You’ll be sorry if you don’t come.”
A threat or advice? Brad stepped over his car door and lowered his bulk into the bright red convertible sports car. As he drove away, he shouted, “Be there.”
I leaned against my new, royal-blue, four-wheel drive, top of the line pickup with V-8 engine, head on my arms, until I controlled my emotions enough to drive.
I decided to find Rich Ryker and ask his advice. No. Not advice. When I left the precinct without Brad Fischer and without going to the Flashing Lights, the choice was made. I wanted confirmation.
After a shift, Rich always had coffee at Second Home. He’d explained about the place. It was a campus of 960 acres with several buildings. People found their way to this haven through crisis, loneliness, or a need for restoration, seeking a quiet place to rebuild their lives in a safe haven. The facilities included dorms for temporary lodging, a childcare center, a chapel, a medical clinic, a craft shop, and a gym. The oldest building was the home of founders Joshua and Sean-Colleen Bryant.
Rich and his wife, Samantha, had been volunteers until her cancer death a few years ago, so he now spent his spare time continuing their work. I figured Second Home was his substitute family.
I parked in the dirt lot by the community kitchen. Rich was having coffee with Jack Wallace, his partner. Jack’s presence was a surprise. He had a wife and three children.
The pile of mugs next to the coffee pot had been made by crafters in the ceramic workshop. Each was unique. I chose one with a swirly purple design on a light green background. More important, it had a matte finish and wouldn’t reflect my face.
Filling the mug took me back to the first time Rich brought me here. He had put a twenty-dollar bill in a can covered with construction paper and bright foam stickers.
“Wow, sure you wanna pay for mine?” I’d said.
“The money’s used to buy tea, coffee, sugar, and supplies. Any leftover goes for the organization expenses. The can is emptied every morning. I’ve helped a few times. It’s not unusual to find several thousand dollars.”
“Are you serious? That’s crazy! It’d be robbed all the time.”
“It may seem kinda funny, but it’s never happened. Second Home only accepts cash donations. The Bryants want to focus on the needs of the people. They don’t take any grants. No one who isn’t part of Second Home can tell them what to do, but everyone can make suggestions. Both Sean-Colleen and Joshua are good at finding or creating programs to meet those needs.”
As I remembered, I pulled out a ten-dollar bill and put it in the can.
All the tables and chairs in the community kitchen were mismatched donations, creating a homey atmosphere. I relaxed a little, but not much because of my mission here. I walked to where Rich and Jack sat.
“Pull up a chair. Plenty of room,” Rich said.
“Didn’t expect you, Jack. Thought you’d be home with the family,” I said.
“They’re at Molly’s grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary. I couldn’t get leave ’cause I was off so long with my leg. The house is so quiet with the kids gone, I can’t relax. I just wander around the place.”
We made small talk and drank coffee. I struggled trying to figure out how to change the subject. After riding in a patrol car with Rich for the last six weeks, I could make an accurate guess as to his reaction to my story—at least the first part. I wasn’t as sure of the rest.
Rich and I became partners the day both of our regular partners had been injured. Brad was ogling a girl in a mini-skirt while climbing the courthouse stairs when he missed a step and turned his ankle. Flailing his arms, he’d grabbed hold of Jack—who was lighter and unprepared. The sudden weight pulled Jack against Brad, and they’d gone down the dignified marble steps like a giant double cartwheel. Rich and I slipped, slid and used our hands to get down the steps as we laughed. To make matters worse, a photojournalist took advantage of the situation. Her pictures made the front page of the newspaper. They made good conversation starters, but weren’t flattering.
Brad broke his left leg, along with minor cuts and bruises, in the fall. Jack broke a leg too—his right—but his worst injury was a posterior dislocation of the right shoulder which required surgery. When Rich and I stopped at the hospital, Jack said the shoulder was far more painful than his leg.
Until Jack and Brad returned to duty today, Rich and I had been partners. Just as Brad and I shared an attitude, so did Rich and Jack. Well, Brad and I had—emphasis on had—shared one in the past. Today, I’d discovered my attitude had changed while he was gone.
I realized the room now was silent. I studied the ripples in my coffee cup and remembered tonight’s events.
“So, Logan, what’s up with you?” asked Rich.
“I…uh, well, wanted talk to you about what happened on today’s shift.”


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