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Life in Gate Station

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D’Nae was putting the finishing touches on her security survey before emailing the file to the local printer to have it printed and bound for presentation. She liked her rep there and as she sent it on its way and shut down her computer, she was excited. She’d be able to pick it up tomorrow and mail it to the client and if it was well received, it would mean more business for her and hopefully more good word of mouth.

She’d been contacted by a small manufacturing plant in Gate Station after being referred by a previous client. They were doing well but the company figured they should be doing better. They were small, just under 200 total workers. She spent about fifty-five hours in the plant at varying times and identified a number of potential problems. The most prevalent was simple waste and theft, even if the theft wasn’t necessarily being viewed as such. They employed about forty to sixty welders at any given time and she’d noticed a big bite in the profits walking out of the plant numerous times a month.

Nobody was throwing an expensive case of welding rods over the fence and making off with them, which would have been a blatant theft. But what was happening it seemed, was that it was common practice for welders to occasionally toss a rod or two into their lunch buckets for some home project. Apparently, no one considered this theft and as such, forty or fifty plus welders occasionally walking off with welding rods was adding up. By her estimations, this was costing the company as much, if not more, than if someone were walking away with a couple cases of them.

While it didn’t seem like much, when added to the other examples she’d rooted out, it would certainly have a negative effect on the company’s profit margins. Even her suggestion of hiring an outside security company to check all trucks departing after pickups and deliveries would save them more money than it would cost. She checked fifteen departing trucks at random and discovered thousands of dollars in misloaded product. She was fairly sure she would never become friends with the warehouse supervisor. She wondered how the company would feel about him when they discovered not only was unauthorized product getting shipped out, but in addition, things that were signed for as received had never been unloaded! They’d be able to save themselves quite a lot of money by replacing him with someone much more organized and conscientious at their job.

XxXxX

D’Nae left the Post Office with a smile. The presentation had turned out wonderful and was on its way to the client and she had the rest of the day to herself. She decided to gas up her car and take a drive out to the lake since it was so beautiful out. She pumped her gas and as she walked inside she grabbed a soda from the cooler as she walked to the counter, a dark-skinned black man entered and struck her in the face before demanding the money from the clerk. She was more than a little stunned as he seemed more interested in her than the clerk.

He continued to threaten her, pushing her against the counter even though she was making sure not to look at him. Not that she’d see much as her eyes were tearing from the first blow and she was shocked to realize she was bleeding. She wasn’t sure if he’d hit her with the gun or if it was from the ring he wore but she’d been cut near her eye and she was fairly sure she’d get a black eye out of it. Then the man was gone, the clerk handed her a wad of toweling for her face as he dialed 911 and locked the door.

XxXxX

The deputy insisted she’d have to go down to the station and file a formal statement and D’Nae would have rather shaved her legs with a dull razor and wiped them with rubbing alcohol afterward. While nobody really wanted to ever go to police headquarters, this annoyed her simply because it was uncomfortable and the complete antithesis to the way she had originally planned the rest of her day. With a sigh, she went out to her car and decided to go straight there instead of home first. Maybe it wouldn’t take as long if she were wearing a bloody shirt.

 Once there, she explained why she was, and she was brought into an area with a lot of desks and deputies. She was told to wait, had a seat and hoped it would be over soon. A moment later, she was escorted to a small room and told to write everything down and that a deputy would come to speak with her. As she nodded she saw him watching her from across the room. His eyes held hers in a gaze of pure, cold blue steel. Shit. The last thing she felt like dealing with today was Lt. Calvert Breeland.

XxXxX

“Hey Lieutenant, that young lady over there is here to make a statement. She got hurt in that armed robbery at the gas station over on Becker Street? You know, it’s a little weird, the clerk said at first he thought it was something between the two of them before he realized it was a robbery.”

“Is that right?” Breeland asked as he glanced toward where the woman sat. He looked at her for a moment and added. “Why don’t you put her in two and I’ll talk to her once she writes up her statement.” His jaw muscle flexed slightly as it tightened at the sight of her. He watched the deputy cross the room to her and escort her to the interview room. She saw him just as she turned to sit and he wasn’t surprised to see her drop her head just a bit when she noticed his gaze.

He gave her about twenty minutes and then walked to the observation window. The pad with a written statement was on the table before her, finished. He glanced down again at the preliminary report of the incident in his hand and entered the room. He heard her sigh softly when she saw him.

“Miss Jacobson,” he said in a quiet, measured voice, “Do you need an ice pack? I could get you one.”

“No, thanks, it’s fine.” She just looked at her hands clasped together on the table while he sat down. God, he sure smelled good, she thought to herself giving her head a tiny shake of admonishment as she did.

“Did you know the man?” his voice was cold.

Her head snapped up and her eyes went wide, “What? Of course not! Why would you ask that?”

His clear, bright blue eyes bored into hers, “Just wondered, the clerk thought the robber was more interested in you, any idea why?”

“No.” D’Nae answered curtly. Her head hurt and his attitude was pissing her off. She was just about to let him know what she thought of him when there was a quick rap on the door and it opened. He stood and spoke to the deputy.

He sat back down and nodded toward the pad, “All finished with that?” he gave her a tiny, thin-lipped smile.

“Yes, can I go now?”

He picked it up and slowly read it through. Too slowly she thought and could have throttled him. Finally, he put the pad down and said, “He didn’t get anything with your home address on it?”

“No, I just gave him the cash I had in my hand when he asked for it.”

“That’s good, good. If you could date it there at the bottom.”

She picked up the pen, added the date and pushed the pad back toward him. “Anything else?” she asked quietly.

“Do you think you’d recognize him if you saw him again?”

She looked down at her hands and wiped at a dried speck of blood on her hand. “Doubtful, I was trying hard not to look at him.”

He stood silently and opened the door. She got up and just before she was going to go through the open door he stepped up and partially blocked the way. “You might want to have someone take a look at that cut, it might need a stitch.” He said in a low, soft, smooth voice.

She swallowed hard and answered just as softly. “I’m sure it will be just fine.” She shivered slightly as she brushed past him, certain she felt his fingers brush the small of her back as she did.

XxXxX

D’Nae tossed her purse on the kitchen counter and opened the cupboard next to the sink. She grabbed the bottle of pain killers, shook out three and drew water to take them with. That done she went to her bedroom, stripping off her shirt as she did, then snapped the bathroom light on as she entered it. She got a bottle of pre-treater out and sprayed the blood stain heavily while she plugged the sink and ran water. She looked at her bra and was glad to see no blood on it before she finally turned her attention to her face.

“Damn.” She whispered sadly, she was definitely going to have a black eye and the smears of blood from the cut made her café au lait colored skin look sickly. The cut itself was crusted and she wasn’t sure if she should go have it cleaned out, then decided it could wait. She turned off the water, added some laundry soap to it, pushed her shirt in, snapped off the light and went back to the kitchen. Grabbing a t-shirt out of a dresser drawer and putting it over her head on the way.

She opened the freezer and moved some things around until she found a gel-pack, then took a soda from the fridge, opened it, poured it into a glass from the cupboard and walked to her living room where she sat down on her sofa, took a sip of her soda and gingerly placed the gel-pack over her eye. She was just making herself more comfortable by toeing her sandals off when she heard something. She frowned and listened and heard it again. She stood up and walked toward the noise. Clearing the doorway, she watched Breeland step up into her kitchen and stand there.

She took a few steps into the room as he stood there motionless. “How did you get in?” she asked neutrally.

“Your back door was unlocked.” He answered.

She walked a few steps closer. “No it wasn’t.” she said firmly.

“No, it wasn’t.” He grinned just a little. “Actually I slipped the lock with my pocketknife. You really should have a deadbolt on that door, facing the alley as it does and all.”

She stared into his eyes a moment longer before her face crumpled and a small sob escaped her lips.

“Shh, shh, shh, come here sugar,” he said tenderly before pulling her into his arms. “You’re going to be okay.” He crooned gently while he gently slid his hand up and down her back.

She quickly quieted and he held her a moment longer before pulling back and carefully wiping away her tears with his thumb. “C’mon, let’s clean you up a bit.”

Holding her hand, he led her toward her bedroom and into the bathroom, pointing to the counter, “Sit.” He said before turning to the linen closet and removing the first aid kit from the shelf. She sat on the counter and he set it beside her, then wet a washcloth.

He stepped between her legs and gently dabbed at the area around the cut, “This isn’t going to feel the best.”

“Mm-hm.” Was her only response other than to close her eyes.

“You never saw the guy before, didn’t recognize him from anywhere? Do you have peroxide”

“On the shelf in the closet, no. You don’t think this has anything to do with what happened the other night, do you?”

He turned and got the bottle, opened a gauze from the first aid kit and carefully began to clean the cut. His eyes studying hers while he considered her question.

“No, I don’t but it worries me that the clerk thought the altercation was between the two of you and not him reacting to you being part of the robbery. Are you sure you didn’t get a good look at him?”

She sighed heavily, “No, I barely noticed him at all before he hit… ow!”

“Sorry.” He reached for a new piece of gauze that he poured peroxide on.

“And once he clocked me, my eyes teared up and I just tried to keep them on the floor.” She hissed in her breath and tried to pull back, “Enough! That hurts like hell!”

“Sit still,” he said patiently. “I’m almost done and this needs to be taken care of. Maybe that was how he distracted the clerk from hitting the panic button, made him believe it had nothing to do with him until it was too late to react.”

He dropped the gauze in the trash and rooted around in the kit, “ Are there any? Nevermind, this’ll work.” As he opened a butterfly closure he withdrew. “You probably could have used a stitch or two, are you sure you don’t want to go in?”

“Yes, besides, I haven’t met my deductible yet this year and I don’t have the money for the medical bill at the moment.”

He stopped his ministrations and looked into her face, “I’ll pay for it, I’d hate to see you scarred.” His eyes and voice were sincere.

She smiled at him and whispered, “If it’s not bleeding anymore, I don’t need stitches. Trust me, I had a lot of experience as a kid. But thank you, that’s very sweet.” She brushed his lips with a kiss and he looked into her eyes and held them for a moment before nodding slightly and applying the closures.

He carefully dabbed on a bit of first aid ointment and then covered it with a band-aid. He remained standing there then slowly leaned in and took her face in his hands. He kissed her softly, drew back, smiled then kissed her again more deeply. He gave her another quick kiss then leaned his forehead very gently against hers, looking into her green eyes.

“When I saw you with blood on your clothes and your beautiful face hurt, all I wanted to do was take you in my arms and hold you like this.” He said barely above a whisper. “I’m sorry if I seemed cold.”

“I knew why you were doing it.”

He stepped back and held up a finger to silence her, before reaching for the mike clamped on his shirt. He depressed the button and said, “10-4, show me enroute.”

He stepped back and took her hand and she got off the counter, “I’ve got to go, lay down and take it easy, I’ll call you in a little while.” He gave her a fast kiss and left quickly. She was used to it, he was on duty and it wasn’t the first time he’d had to leave quickly.

She cleaned up the counter and put the kit and peroxide away and took a washcloth with her. Walking into the living room she took her soda, went to the freezer added ice to her glass, found another gel-pack, wrapped it in the cloth and left the warm one in the freezer. Then went back to the couch again wondering all the while how she’d let herself get involved with a cop. A married, white cop, with a bad reputation, no less. She adjusted the gel-pack then leaned her head back on the sofa and contemplated her question.

XxXxX

D’Nae’s first encounter with Breeland had taken place during college. Home on Christmas break, she and a friend had been in the backseat of a car driven by her friend’s younger brother. He’d been screwing around and got them pulled over. When he saw Breeland getting out of the squad, he muttered a heartfelt, “Oh shit.”

Luckily, his buddy was also in the car and was not only the Mayor’s son but also a star player on the high school football team. Breeland chewed the driver out relentlessly, more or less told them to all get their asses home and didn’t write a ticket. They were all mightily relieved and promptly did as he said but sitting right behind the driver, D’Nae never forgot the way Breeland’s eyes had swept over her, held her eyes for what had seemed like forever and then told them to leave.

Over the years, she saw him now and then but never to speak to, although he always seemed to catch her eyes and hold them. Then about a year ago, she was leaving a restaurant and tucking her wallet back in her purse, looking up just in time to walk smack into him as he was entering, tangling up with him and had he not grabbed her, she would have fallen. She was utterly mortified and couldn’t believe she’d been so oblivious to a Gate’s Station cop in uniform. She began apologizing profusely, but when he just laughed as he steadied her she wasn’t quite sure what to do. Her friend had walked up then and he’d quickly dropped her hands, gave her a curt nod and said, “Have a good evening Miss Jacobson.”

It wasn’t until much later that night as she was getting ready for bed, that she thought about two things… how night and day different he was in a heartbeat and disturbingly, that he knew her name. She tossed and turned for some time before finally falling asleep.

The next time she ran into him, she did exactly that. She came around the corner in the grocery store and he was stopped to look at something on the endcap and bang, she ran her cart right into him.

“Oh god!” She intoned when she saw who it was, “I am so, so sorry!” and to her complete surprise he gave her a big smile and held out his hand.

“Perhaps we should be more, ah, formally introduced, I’m Calvert Breeland and you’re Denise Jacobson?” he said lifting one eyebrow in question.

Blushing hotly, she answered, “D’Nae, nice to meet you and again, sorry!”

His hand was warm and strong and she was struck by how handsome and relaxed he seemed. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was partly because he wasn’t in uniform. He certainly looked younger in his lightweight, plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up partway and she realized his eyes were an incredible shade of blue. They exchanged a bizarre few sentences of inane small talk about the weather and the weekly specials before he wished her a pleasant evening.

As he turned to walk away she stunned herself silly. “Maybe we could get a cup of coffee and talk sometime.” She smiled with more confidence than she felt.

He looked her closely, his eyes never wavering from hers for almost a beat too long before he glanced down. Then reached into his pocket, took out his billfold and removed a card. He handed it to her and said, “That might be nice, call me sometime. That’s my personal extension you can leave a secure message. I work nights a lot.” He flashed a brief smile, gave a slight nod, then turned and walked away.

It took her three weeks before she finally had the guts to call. She rehearsed what she was going to say for almost an hour beforehand first.

XxXxX

At first, they got together for coffee about once a month, usually when he worked graveyard. She was a night owl and was usually up so she started meeting him at a small all-night café when he took his meal break. They’d managed to find things to talk about and it seemed to surprise them both. Sometimes he got to finish his entire meal, other times she’d finish for him after he’d gotten a call. Surprisingly, she’d begun to think of him as a friend although she was careful not to tell others. Mainly because most of her friends would have been appalled, as their opinions of any deputy was generally poor in their community. The other reason had to do with his family and friends, she didn’t want anybody to think they were having an affair. She always paid for her own things and also made sure to use the bathroom before leaving so they were never seen outside together.

Especially in Gate Station. A white cop and a black girl was note-worthy. Granted, genetically, that wasn’t as apparent to some. Her grandmother on her Mom’s side had been white and her father was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Swede. She was pale and to most that didn’t know her well, seemed a little ethnically ambiguous. But facts were facts… she was black.

One night however, she was shocked to discover him leaning against her car but was glad because the parking lot was already dark. They hadn’t known the café was closing early. He straightened as she neared.  

“They turned the lights out when I walked out and I wanted to make sure you were safe before I left.”

A pair of cars exited the back lot, evidently the cook and waitress. It was suddenly very quiet and the air seemed charged.

He reached toward her and she froze. He gave her an indulgent smile and took her keys deftly from her hand to unlock her door. He did and opened it, she was glad it was dark because she was blushing fiercely, “Thank you.” She said as she stepped forward to get into the car, but he lightly laid his hand on her upper arm and kissed her, waiting for a moment, probably waiting to see if she would pull away before deepening the kiss. She gently put her hand on the nape of his neck and returned the kiss.

He lifted his head slightly and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.”

“No. We shouldn’t have done that.” But she lifted her face for more and just as he took her in his arms, she heard the radio crackle and he released her, turned and walked a few feet away to respond to his call.

When he came back, he brushed her lips twice in succession and closed his eyes briefly. “I’ll call you soon.” He said, then waited until she got in her car and left before exiting behind her. He called her an hour and a half later and they talked for more than an hour. The next morning, after he left the station he came to her house for the first time and she made him breakfast.

Then she took him to her bed.

XxXxX

Breeland returned to the station and entered. He was glad he was in charge because he didn’t have to explain where he’d gone, well not unless the Sherriff asked him and he wasn’t worried about that. He’d just had to go check on her, when he’d seen her face, her injury… he couldn’t fool himself. He’d been upset and mightily concerned and that worried him. A lot. In the beginning, he’d thought of her as nothing but a sweet diversion. He couldn’t pinpoint exactly when that had changed. The jolt he’d felt when he realized she was there because of one of Gate Station’s all too frequent and random acts of violence was not pleasant.

He entered his office and turned on his computer even though he had no reason to do so. He just stared at the screen and placed his fingers on the keys while his mind turned things over. He sat back in his chair after a few minutes and casually scanned the office space outside his, before rising and quietly and unobtrusively closing his door. Taking his seat, he took a deep breath and blew it out as he picked up his phone and made a call.

“Hi, yeah, don’t hold dinner okay? I caught an armed robbery and I’ll be a little while. I’ll just warm something up when I get home. Okay, thanks babe, sorry.”

XxXxX

D'Nae woke to a whirring noise she couldn’t identify and she stood quickly, which turned out to be a mistake. Her head swam for a moment and she had to stand still before walking to the back of the house to see what was going on. Somehow, she wasn’t surprised to see Cal installing a dead bolt on her back door. He glanced up when he saw her and gave her a full, bright smile.

“Hi, I’m sorry that I woke you up, I had thought maybe I could get it in without disturbing you.”

She stood looking down at him, shook her head slightly then stepped down the two steps to the back-entrance landing, put her arms around him and kissed him. One hand held her electric drill but his other hand reached up and cupped the uninjured side of her face gently as he gave her a light smack of a kiss.

“You’re going to have quite the shiner there.” He drawled with a slow grin.

“Ugh. Is it bad?” she said gingerly reaching for her eye.

“It’s not good, but sure not as bad as it could ‘a been.” He leaned in and gave her lips another quick buss and a second before patting her shoulder lightly. “Lemme finish this up, okay sugar?”

“Okay, are you hungry? Want something to eat?” she asked as she stepped back up into the kitchen.

“What d’ya got?”

She crossed to her fridge, opened the door and peered inside, “Chicken, potato salad and ham for sandwiches or…” she opened the freezer door and looked at a couple freezer containers. “Lasagna or let’s see… shrimp scampi.”

“Lasagna sounds good.”

“Garlic bread?”

“Nah.”

“Fifteen minutes?”

“Perfect.”

She placed the container in the microwave and set it and once started, she got out plates, glasses and silverware and set the table. She turned on the oven and then took out a slice of garlic bread from a plastic bag in the freezer, wrapped it in foil and tossed it on the oven rack.

When the microwave timed out, she checked to see if it was heated through and Cal stepped into the kitchen and lifted her mini-vacuum from its charger holder and began using it to clean up the wood dust on the floor. He picked up the debris from the hardware store, the special drill bit and lock packaging and set them down on the countertop before emptying the bin from the vacuum into the garbage under the sink. Then he snapped it back into its place and moved to the sink to wash his hands.

The microwave beeped and shut down and she used pot holders to lift out the now hot bowl. She put it on the table on a hot pad before turning off the oven and scooping the bread off the shelf and dropping it beside her plate.

Cal opened the fridge and asked, “What do you want to drink sugar?”

“Soda, please.” As she removed the cover from the steaming dish and sat down.

He grabbed a can of soda and a bottle of beer and put them on the table before sitting down himself. She dished up a big slice for him before putting one on her plate and cautioned him about it being quite hot. He smiled and cracked open his beer and poured while she did the same with her can. They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes, his only comment was to compliment her lasagna. She smiled and opened the foil, offering him part of the thick slice of buttered garlic bread, chewing he just gave a shake of his head and smiled before taking another bite.

“You didn’t have to do that, you know. But I really appreciate that you did, thank you.” She said giving him an almost shy smile.

He took a drink and smiled back a little. “You’re welcome. It’s something I meant to do a while ago but seeing you bruised and battered today, well, it made me feel better to do it and know you’ll be a little safer.”

He asked her about the security survey and she told him that it had been the reason she had been at the gas station in the first place. They talked about unimportant things and when they finished eating, he helped her clean up, putting the dishes in the washer while she put the rest of the lasagna away. They went into the living room and snuggled up together on the couch and D'Nae saw him glance surreptitiously at his watch. She knew he wouldn’t be able to stay long, it was always hard for him to spend any significant amount of time with her when he was on day shift. It sucked but it was expected when you were seeing a married man. The wife and family expected him home in the evening but he surprised her by shifting her sideways and pulling her onto his lap.

He began kissing her, his hands ghosting down her side, skimming her breast before deepening the kiss, his tongue slipping into her mouth, gently but sensuously dancing along the roof of her mouth lightly before tangling with hers.

He was such a damn good kisser and it was one of the things that drove her crazy, she couldn’t help but think to herself that this man was like a drug to her. The more ardent his kisses and stroking of her body became, the more she wanted him. When his fingers gently rolled her nipples between them she moaned soft and low, her breathing quickened and she moved her bottom slightly as she felt him swelling.

He broke the kiss and looked longingly into her eyes before patting her hips and pushing her slightly forward. She stood up and so did he, he took her hand and whispered, “C’mere.” Then led her to her bedroom. He turned on the bedside lamp and then turned back to her and slowly undressed her, using care not to brush her eye when he pulled her shirt off over her head. She let him take the lead, as she knew from experience, this was one of his favorite parts. When she was naked, he stepped close to her and rubbed his hands along her hips, to her breasts, dropping his head to take one of her nipples in his mouth, flicking it with his tongue and causing her belly to blossom with heat.

He straightened and pulled the covers down on the bed and she reclined, watching him as he slowly disrobed, licking her lips and then catching her bottom lip between her teeth as his length was revealed. She sighed and reached for him as he joined her. Calvert was a generous and considerate lover, taking his time and tenderly working her body until she was on the verge of climax before entering her.

They moved together sinuously, their eyes locked as he asked her what she wanted. She told him in great detail how she wanted him to make her feel and he obliged. He brought her to the edge and held back, then gently changed position, letting her passion ebb, doing it once, twice and finally the third time he knelt back on his ankles, pulling her forward so her legs were wrapped around his waist. With his hands beneath her bottom, he began moving her with more determination, thrusting at a measured pace and as her breathing became more labored, he kissed her passionately… moving faster until he was buried deeper and deeper within her on each stroke.

She ran her fingers into his hair and her breath came in small gasps, her head thrown back, his lips and tongue hungry on her throat and then he drew his head back, put his hand behind her head to tilt it forward, kissed her and whispered roughly, “Look at me!” Her eyes met his, heavy-lidded with desire, “Come for me.” He rasped and she moaned loudly and he increased the tempo, thrusting into her harder as she tightened her hold on him and shuddered with release. As she quivered and quaked around him, she cried out his name and his climax soon followed.

They held onto one another until their breathing began to slow and then he carefully eased them onto the bed and pulled the covers partway over them, holding her close in his arms. They lay like that quietly for a while, her head nestled under his chin before he kissed the top of her head and slowly slipped away from her and out of bed. He gathered up his clothes and walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

D’Nae sighed and stretched. She heard the water turn on and she knew the routine, he would wash himself and brush his teeth with the toothbrush in the medicine cabinet. When the water shut off, she swung her legs out of bed and pulled her satin nightshirt out from beneath her pillow slipping it over her head. She stood up as he exited the bathroom fully dressed, he came around the bed and took her in his arms. He kissed her warmly, his mouth tasting lightly of mint. He hugged her, holding her close to him and they stood silently, swaying ever so gently.

“Thank you again for installing that lock sweetheart.” She said faintly.

“No problem sugar.” He stepped away and took her by the hand leading her into the kitchen. He kissed her gently once again and then slipped his hand into the pocket of his jeans. He handed her the keys to the new lock. “Make sure you put these on your key rings.”

There were two keys and she frowned a little, “But you have to take one now.”

He gave her a grin that lit up his blue eyes with a twinkle, he kissed the tip of her nose and said, “I already had a copy made.”

She looked into his deep, azure eyes and her belly did a little flip, she smiled broadly and said, “I’m so glad!”

He gave her one slow, deep kiss and then said goodnight. He left by the back door and she flipped the deadbolt as he walked down the steps of her back porch, through her small back yard and through the gate of the fence and was gone from her sight.

XxXxX

Calvert entered his house by the front door and greeted his daughter as she lay sprawled on the sofa watching TV.

“Hi Dad, Mom had to run over to Brenda’s real quick and said I should warm up your supper.” But she didn’t look at him, nor did she move.

He dropped his duffle bag and toed off his boots and said, “Don’t bother, I’m not hungry just now.”

“K,’” she said distractedly, her eyes never leaving the set.

He picked up his bag and walked into the house, walking through the kitchen and into the laundry room just off it. Unzipping the duffle, he pulled out his uniform shirt, unpinned his badge and name plate, pulled his belt from the loops and threw the shirt and pants in the hamper. He opened the closet door and hung his Sam Browne gunbelt from the special hook on the door and keyed in the combo for the small gunsafe mounted on the shelf. The door popped open and he set his service weapon and extra clips inside and closed the door and the safe relocked. He tossed the bag on the floor of the closet and left, he grabbed a beer from the fridge and headed for his study. He sat down at his desk and opened his laptop to read his emails. Sometime later, he heard the garage door go up and his wife enter the house. She spoke to his daughter and then went upstairs without coming to speak with him. That was fine with him.

XxXxX

The next day, mid-morning he sat at his desk and was going over the reports from the day before concerning the robbery when one of the deputies knocked on his door frame. He looked up.

“Hey Lieutenant, you might wanna come take a look at this.”

As he followed the deputy into the squad room he told Breeland, “There was this lady that lives kitty-corner from that gas station? Well, she got home this morning from out’a’town and heard about the robbery and she’s got a security camera on her porch? Anyway, it faces the station so she checked the footage, you aren't gonna believe this.”

The deputy swung the monitor towards Breeland and pushed the enter key. They could see a young black man leave the store and start running.

The Lieutenant stared at the screen and said, “Play that back!”

The deputy did and Breeland’s stomach sank. “Get someone over there now and secure that trash can and make sure if it’s been emptied they get into the dumpster. Now!”

Breeland hurried back to his office where he picked up the phone and hastily dialed, when D'Nae answered he said curtly, “Don’t ask questions, just throw some stuff in a bag, enough for a couple days and head out to the lake and I’ll call you in a little while. Yes, it’s very important. Because the man that robbed the gas station threw the bag of money in the trash can when he left the store! Yes, do it now.”

He hung up and swore softly before going back out into the bullpen and watching the video yet again, unfortunately, the man’s face was too far away to be seen clearly but there was no doubt that he threw the money in the trash can. He played it one more time, a cold spike of fear coiling in his chest as he did. Clearly, the man had indeed been more interested in D’Nae than he was with his ill-gotten gains. And that was problematic.

To Be Continued…