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The brotherhood, p.13
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       The Brotherhood, p.13

           Jerry B. Jenkins
 
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  “I can work that out either way. Now why are you making me wait? Please tell me you’re seeing something that can make this make sense to me.”

  “I wish I could. I’m a scientist, a psychologist, an analyst. There is nothing I would like more than to be able to show you a printout or some research data that proves I am right. In this case, I confess, I am going on intuition.”

  “So you’re convinced I’m not ready.”

  “I’m not sure, but I fear you are not, and thus I am not willing to risk it. There is something in your demeanor, Officer, something impatient and deeply troubled. Now don’t give me that face. I know you have more reasons than most to be psychologically wounded. No one can be expected to just snap back from such trauma. You can protest and try to persuade me, but the fact is that I see before me a man not only understandably devastated, but also angry.”

  “And why shouldn’t I be?”

  “I’m not judging you. I am just saying that another six working days before you’re back on the job will be to your benefit.”

  “And to the CPD’s and the city’s.”

  “Of course.”

  “Your real priorities.”

  “Which I have never denied.”

  The worst part about all this was that she was right and Boone knew it. He thought he could control himself and that he would not be a threat to the department or the city, but it was coming up on only a month since the deaths. Who could expect him to even be in his right mind by now?

  “Tell me about the new living space you have in mind,” Ms. Velna said.

  “It’s nice. Small. About a twenty-minute drive to work. Two bedrooms, one I will use for workout equipment. I have my schedule and routine and regimen all written out. I know what I’ll eat and when, when I’ll work out and for how long. Everything’s going to be just so.”

  Again she seemed to study him. “You are going to control the things you can control.”

  He nodded slowly. “I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yes. Exactly.”

  “Does that tell you anything about yourself?”

  “Guess I’m a little dense.”

  “You’re anything but dense, but perhaps this is subconscious. You have always been in charge, in control. You work toward what you want, and you accomplish things. Now your world has been shattered by something wholly outside your control, and you are reverting to a place of comfort.”

  Boone made a face and scratched his head. “That’s a little deep for me.”

  “Is it? Tell me, do you line up your clothes, especially your uniforms, in your closet?”

  “Yes.”

  “Shoes polished the night before?”

  “Belt too.”

  “Work out at the same time each day for the same duration, eat at the same time, leave for work at the same time. You’re a man of routine, correct?”

  “Anything wrong with that?”

  “Of course not. We all have ways of comforting ourselves, making ourselves feel secure. We like things to be predictable. You see how it is a matter of control? You are engineering your own life.”

  “I can see that.”

  “Now tell me, what happens when something else invades and interrupts your self-created world, your routine?”

  “There’s nothing else for me to lose.”

  “Sure there is. I don’t mean to be macabre, Officer Drake, but there are other people in your life you care about, surely. Your parents, your brothers, your in-laws, your partner, maybe other colleagues? people at church? friends? I ask you again, what happens if misfortune or even tragedy attends one of them?”

  Attends? Where do people learn to talk like this?

  “I guess I wouldn’t like it.”

  “You wouldn’t like it because it was beyond your control. You are drawing yourself in, Officer. Retreating to your comfort zone. Your new place, small and smart and efficient as it will be, becomes your personal fortress.”

  “You think it’s unhealthy?”

  “Not if you recognize it. You will begin to grow and really mature when you realize that life is capricious. You cannot control everything. You must resign yourself to that.”

  “Go with the flow?”

  “Yes.”

  “So I should take the loss of my family in stride? It was fate? Nothing I could have done about it?”

  “I’m not saying that. Just don’t blame yourself—or worse, think you can build new defenses that will protect you from ever suffering again.”

  “Don’t blame myself? I knew Josh could get out of his crib by himself. I should have figured out some way to keep that from happening.”

  “Yes, and what if it had been your wife who accidentally spilled the gasoline, and then she couldn’t get to him in time? I’m not trying to make this more painful for you. I’m trying to point out that you can’t think of every eventuality. You can’t protect yourself from everything.”

  This was hard, and part of Boone hated it. She was making him face himself. He’d had the same inward reaction to Francisco Sosa when the pastor pried into the level of his passion for God. What was it about people analyzing him that made him so uncomfortable? Was he a self-made man, a control freak? Down deep he wished he could control everything. Maybe down deep he also wished he didn’t need God. Sosa had once intimated that Boone seemed to give himself credit for a sweet life. Well, it wasn’t so sweet now, was it?

  Ms. Velna stood and shook Boone’s hand. “You’re a remarkable young man,” she said, “and I wish you all the best. I will send through the paperwork, authorizing you to return to duty a week from Monday. In the meantime, do me a favor. In fact, do yourself a favor. Give yourself a break. I don’t say this glibly, and I know it’s not easy. But realize that you are not in control of everything and can never be. Cut yourself some slack.”

  Late the next week, Jack enlisted a couple of off-duty officers to help move Boone into his new apartment. By the end of the day, Boone was exhausted but encouraged. He liked the way the place had turned out, and while he was going to be lonely, there was no way around that. He set up everything the way he wanted it, and when he was done, he had not one inch of wasted space. This was not going to be a place where he could entertain, though Jack could come over and watch a game with him. Maybe Brigita Velna was right. He had built himself his own little fortified castle.

  The following Monday Boone was welcomed back to the 11th district with enthusiasm but not the usual horseplay or barbs. He would know the awkward period was over when someone would have the courage to insult him just for fun. He missed that.

  Jack Keller quickly dumped his temporary partner and took Boone back in the passenger seat. While Boone was trying to settle into his old routine, he discovered that it was now Jack Keller who seemed in the worst mood. Every cop in the city knew he was in line for the Organized Crime spot, and it had even been speculated upon by the Chicago Tribune police beat reporters.

  Yet still it hadn’t happened, and there seemed no way to tell when or if it ever would. Boone found himself amused to see Jack short not only with him—which he appreciated under the circumstances—but also with the public. They made a couple of routine traffic stops, and both times Jack wound up berating the drivers, exhibiting sarcasm and condescension. In both cases the offenses were egregious and the drivers worthy of scorn. But clearly Jack had acted outside department protocol and chastised himself all afternoon. “Watch these yahoos complain to downtown, and I won’t have a leg to stand on.”

  “They were in the wrong, Jack. They’re not going to complain to anybody.”

  “If they do, it’ll go on my record and will for sure keep me from getting into OCD.”

  It was all Boone could do to keep from chuckling. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone downtown took seriously a complaint from a guilty motorist who felt unduly hollered at. Now if Jack had threatened them or intimidated them or put his hands on them, that would have been a problem. It was clear to Boone, however, that these d
rivers were relieved to just be ticketed and sent on their way.

  Boone and Jack spent much of their downtime in the car talking about the potential of the future. “If it takes this long to see you get promoted, how long will it take to get me over there?”

  “Who knows? A year? I hope not more.”

  Boone was aware that Jack had largely kept him out of sticky situations for his first couple of weeks back on the street. That ended the afternoon Boone was spelling Jack behind the wheel and they were cruising near an elementary school at release time.

  Their squad car was second in line facing east, waiting as a crossing guard stopped traffic both ways so kids could cross the street. Suddenly came a westbound motorcyclist, roaring right through the crosswalk. The guard grabbed two kids and held them back, dancing out of the way.

  Boone immediately flipped on his blue lights and tried to pop a U-turn, but the cars in front and behind him were too close. Jack turned on the siren briefly, and both cars tried to get out of the way.

  “Move!” Jack screamed. “Get that sucker, Boones!”

  Boone reminded himself to keep an eye on the crossing guard and the kids as he maneuvered a three-point turnaround and finally headed west. By now the cycle was four blocks ahead and flying. Fortunately the traffic was thick enough that the cyclist had to slow, and the cars ahead of Boone were slowly pulling over.

  All Boone could think of was his own son. This guy had missed schoolkids by inches.

  “He’s gone right!” Jack said. He radioed their position, reported that they were in pursuit of a reckless motorcyclist, and advised where other squads should set up.

  Boone had long prided himself in his ability behind the wheel, but while the squad had a high-performance engine, it could not go where a cycle could. Every time he drew within a block or so, the rider shot through an alley or took a turn too late for Boone to follow.

  Boone deftly braked, popped U-turns, took sharp corners, and somehow stayed close. Meanwhile Jack was variously shouting, encouraging, swearing at the cyclist, and staying on the radio to direct other squads. Boone knew the best he could do was somehow force the cyclist into a roadblock. No way a single squad could catch this guy.

  “Right here! Left here! Careful! If we can get him to take a right at the light, we’ve got him! You’re not gonna believe who’s in the chase, Boones!”

  “Who?”

  “Watch Commander Lang. Just got out of a meeting and heard the call.”

  “How long’s it been since he’s been in on a collar?”

  “Got to be years. Let’s get this guy!”

  Boone floored the squad from two blocks behind the bad guy, lights flashing and siren blaring. And sure enough, the rider took the right turn. Boone had to slow quickly and pick his way through the intersection. “Brakes are getting mushy!”

  “Got to be overheated. Careful.”

  And as soon as Boone had straightened the car, he found himself within feet of the squads that had stopped the cyclist. He swerved and pushed the brake pedal to the floor, but still he slammed into the back of another squad. Fortunately no one was in it. But he could tell from the markings that it was the watch commander’s car.

  Lang and his driver were part of a small cadre of officers who had surrounded the cycle, on which the rider still sat. The rider had jerked around at the sound of the crash and was now pointing and laughing so hard he was doubled over.

  “Not your fault, Boones!” Jack hollered as he grabbed his hat and nightstick and was sliding out. “Don’t worry about it!”

  But Boone was already out of the car, leaving his hat and stick. His jaw was set, his eyes afire. He elbowed other officers aside and approached the cyclist, who was grinning so wide he was in tears. Without a thought Boone fired a right cross to the man’s chin, and he and the heavy bike went over.

  Jack grabbed Boone and pulled him back while the others wrestled the cycle off the man, who lay unconscious.

  Boone was still white-hot with rage, now directed at himself. Watch Commander Lang, in his heavily decorated dress uniform, glared at Boone.

  “I know you’ll have to write me up for that,” Boone said, imagining his career being flushed down the toilet.

  “For what?” Lang said, a tight-lipped smile growing. “Somebody call the EMTs. This unfortunate cyclist has fallen off his bike and hurt himself.”

  By the time the ambulance arrived, the rider had roused and asked what had happened. “What happened?” an officer said. “You almost killed a kid in the crosswalk back there. You’re lucky we didn’t shoot you dead.”

  The cyclist felt his chin. “One of you guys pop me? I’ll have your job.”

  “That alcohol I smell?” the cop said. “We’d better administer a field sobriety test, hey?”

  “I ain’t been drinkin’, but I’m hurt, so I can’t walk no line.”

  “Then you’d best shut up and let the EMTs check you over.”

  “Let me drive,” Jack said as he and Boone returned to the squad. “I gotta check those brakes anyway.” They had cooled and seemed to be operating normally. As he pulled back into traffic, Jack said, “Well, I’ve seen you act more professionally.”

  Boone held his head in his hands. “What if somebody taped that? It’ll be all over the news, and I’ll be dead meat.”

  “Nobody taped it.”

  “This day and age? Somebody with an iPhone could have got it from anywhere.”

  “Worst-case scenario: you take a little heat, few more days off. Grieving widower who recently lost his own toddler goes nuts when a cyclist almost hits some kids. Everybody’ll understand.”

  “Not everybody.”

  “Don’t worry about it until you have to. Nobody on the scene’s gonna say anything.”

  “That doesn’t make it right. What if it does come out and some tape shows the watch commander standing right there and then not even reporting it? I don’t want to cost him his job.”

  When they got back to headquarters at the end of the shift, the watch commander asked to see Boone.

  “Boss, I’m sorry,” Boone said as he sat across from him.

  Lang waved him off. “You got to be careful is all. The public doesn’t go for that kind of stuff, and if it somehow gets out that this happened, well, you know . . .”

  “I get thrown under the bus.”

  “Well, it would be on you, yes. And I’d have to come up with some reason why I wasn’t proactive about it when it happened. Can’t say my back was turned. I coulda caught the guy when you drilled him. That was sweet, by the way.”

  “Can’t deny it felt good, but I know it was wrong.”

  “And you and I both know it may be the only justice this guy gets. You know what we did back in the day?”

  “No, what?”

  “You know that elevator down in the garage that goes up to the jail? It didn’t always have that electric eye that stops it from closin’ on people. The old ones had a rubber bumper that would make the door slide back open when it ran into anything or anybody. Well, we wondered what would happen if that went missing.”

  “You didn’t.”

  “We did,” Lang said, chortling. “The judges and the courts want to slap these guys’ wrists? Well, somebody’s gotta make ’em pay. We’re puttin’ a bad guy in the squad, you know how we do it today. We put a hand on top of his head, ’cause with his hands cuffed, he can’t steady himself getting in. So we guide that noggin so he doesn’t bump himself on the roof, right? Well, we did the same back then, only it wasn’t to keep him from hurting himself; it was to make sure he did. Nothing serious. Just a bump he can’t rub.

  “Then we’d get him into the garage downstairs and head for the jail elevator. Only just as we’re crossin’ the threshold there, we’d remember something we forgot and hesitate. And here came that door. Only when it hit the guy, it didn’t open back up, it just squeezed him between itself and the frame until we could figure out how to get it back open. ‘Oops! Sorry, dude! My bad
!’

  “A few days later we’d see the guy get a slap on the wrist, probation or community service or something or other, and we’d know he at least got some street justice.”

  “Didn’t bother you that he might have been innocent?”

  “Innocent? The bad guys we pick up? You know better’n that, Drake. Anyway, I’m not talking about guys we didn’t catch in the act, you know. Like the guy you coldcocked today.”

  “I still feel bad about it.”

  “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t.”

  Lang mashed a button on his intercom and asked his secretary to check on the health of the cyclist. A couple of minutes later she came in with a note and whispered to him. When she was gone, Lang leveled his gaze at Boone. “Well, would you get a load of this?” he said.

  “I’m listening.”

  “Our guy was bluffing him about smelling alcohol. Turns out it must have been vodka, because none of us smelled it, but he was way above the legal limit. Otherwise he’s fine healthwise, except for a sore jaw. Reminds me of when you dropped that domestic abuse guy, the one with the knife. You ought to go into prizefighting.

  “Anyway, we got us a real bad guy here. No operator’s license. Warrants on him from Tennessee and Wisconsin. Wanna know what for?”

  “’Course.”

  “DUI, DWI, reckless endangerment, grand theft auto, and armed robbery.”

  “Seriously?”

  “There’s more. Wisconsin state police like him for the murder of that teen girl last summer, the one found in the woods off the interstate.”

  Boone shook his head.

  “We’re going to inform the press,” Lang said. “You’re going to get credited with the collar. And you and I are going to go pick him up at the hospital and hold him here until downtown comes for him. He’ll be in County by tonight. You got your dress blues in your locker?”

  “Sure.”

  “My driver and I will be out back waiting for you. Be quick. This could make the six o’clock news.”

 
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