''Here you are, sir,'' rookie officer Anthony Renzulli said to a worried Frank Reagan. He held firmly to the shoulder of Frank's youngest son to make sure he didn't try to get away again.
''Let me go,'' five-year-old Jamie harrumphed. Why was no one listening to him? He had to go.
''Jamie, Jamie, calm down, son.'' Frank crouched down, calming down now that he had eyes on his usually well-behaved child. ''You ran away from school, wandered the streets, tried to get on a bus -''
''My name's not Jamie, it's JJ, and I wasn't wandering - I have to get to Philly.''
Renzulli, whose partner and him had been the closest squad car when the APB for a missing kid fitting Jamie Reagan's description came through, squatted down as well, knowing that the worried father in front of him wasn't able to go into cop mode right now to get the answers to the needed questions. ''Hey, kid, talk to me.'' He was met with pleading eyes as the boy turned around. ''Security at the bus station caught you trying to hitch a ride to Philly. Why are you so desperate to get there, huh?''
''My wife, Beth, she's dying - heart failure - she'll die peacefully and in no pain except she's upset that she can't find her wedding ring and she doesn't want to go without it and she's working herself into a real tizzy and she's in pain ... I know where she lost the ring; I have to get to Philly - now,'' he implored.
Renzulli's stunned expression was matched, he was sure, by Frank as they listened to all of this coming out of the mouth of a five-year-old, and while he would normally chalk this up to a child's imagination, something just seemed to push the words right out of his mouth, ''I'm off shift in ten minutes. I'll drive you there.''
In the car, he and Frank had asked 'JJ' for further information about his life. His name was John Pryor, Jr., after his father. He had three younger siblings. He married his high school sweetheart, Beth. That he missed the birth of his first child, John Pryor, the third - or Tripp - because he was MIA in Vietnam. That he worked for NASA to help make space suits for astronauts.
He was even able to describe, to a T, his and Beth's house, and as Renzulli turned down a street, and was quickly informed by the boy that it was the fourth house down, he was stunned. It was exactly the way Jamie had painted it in their minds - even down to the sun dial sitting in the garden.
Frank reached back an arm to prevent Jamie from getting out of the car. ''Wait, Jamie. Let me go and talk to them first. Give them an explanation first.'' More like a warning, he thought. From the vehicle, he could see a family on the front porch trying to calm down a distraught looking woman in a rocking chair, and he hoped what he was about to say wouldn't make it worse but also knowing that he couldn't very well leave - Jamie would just try to make the trip again, alone. He shared a look with Renzulli and stepped out of the car, making his way up to the porch.
Jamie - JJ - for his part, had waited long enough after five minutes and dashed out of the backseat before Renzulli could stop him and ran straight to his wife, climbing the porch railing with an ease that only familiarity can provide. He went to her, her long gray hair pulled back into a neat bun and kneeled before her, holding her hand between both of his. ''Hey, honey-bunny,'' he said lovingly. ''You need to calm down alright. Just like we practiced, remember,'' he said, holding her hands to his chest as he took deep breathes. ''In and out. In and out. Shh, that's it. You're doing great, Beth.''
''JJ?'' Her eyes filled with tears as she cradled the face of the boy in front of her, but seeing her husband in the child's eyes. Her voice filled with emotion as she sputtered out in a sob, ''I've lost it. I've looked everywhere and I can't find it and I -''
''Shh. I'm right here, Beth, what do you need a ring for,'' he gently teased. He kissed the knuckles of her hands and pulled back. ''I know where it is. Just give me a moment. I won't be but a minute.''
Everyone on the porch, now including Frank and Renzulli watched as the boy descended the three stairs and turned right, heading toward the garden. They craned their necks as he fell to his knees next to the recently planted peace lilies and started digging in the soft soil with his hands. He pulled something up out of the ground and began cleaning it with his shirt as he made his way back to the porch.
He knelt down in front of Beth on one knee, and in his outstretched hand was the ring he'd put on her finger so many years ago and reiterated the same thing he'd said then. ''Beth Mason. I want you to marry me.''
Her hands flew to her mouth in a gasp and she shakily held out her left hand for him to put the ring on. ''JJ?''
He climbed in the rocker and sat down on the arm of it and pulled her close, her head on his chest. ''I'm right here, Beth. I told you you wouldn't be alone. Come now, no more tears. It's almost time to go home.''
''You'll be there, right?''
''Beth, I'm here to take you with me. Rest now,'' he said stroking her hair. ''We'll be there soon. Close your eyes; rest.''
Beth closed her eyes and relaxed against her husband, folding herself closer in his embrace. Five minutes went by, then ten.
On the twelfth minute, Frank stood up straighter, causing everyone else to do the same, as he noticed that the rise and fall of Beth's chest was no longer present. Pressing fingers to her neck, he said, ''She's gone.'' He eased the woman out of his son's arms and into an upright position in the rocking chair.
The movement, having stirred the boy, caused him to sit up. Looking around in confusion, he asked, ''Dad? What are we doing here?''