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Now Onto The Hard Part

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The silence that permeated the car would normally be suffering to Detective John Shaw, but he didn’t dare turn on the radio; the last thing he wanted to hear was some upbeat pop song or a mournful country ballad or even worse, the news. The brass managed to keep the specifics under wrap (nobody wanted the fact that one of the city’s most revered detectives was heading a group of corrupt cops to sell drugs taken from busts that lead to a shoot out resulting in 12 dead cops to become public knowledge just yet), but the press relayed what little information they had on obnoxious repeat.

Everybody wanted answers, but no one was talking, except Shaw who went into a second lockdown once Internal Affairs got a hold of him after he was discharged from the hospital. Thrown into a room to be questioned and have his story torn apart did nothing for Shaw’s already fatigued mental state. Shaw never wavered though, never changed details, no matter how picked and prodded, and they ultimately put him on paid leave, advising him not to wander off.

Not that he had anywhere to go; the precinct was a crime scene, riddled with bullet holes and dead bodies (boy was Keppler peeved about the brand new building being shot up). The rest of the force were working out of make shift units until the building was cleared for re-entry, evidence collected, and the officers verified free of corruption by the IA. Not even the criminals were giving them much of a break as their struggling precinct strove to control the sharp rise in crime brought on by the news coverage. Even the next of kin for Burke and his men were being contracted, and while Shaw honestly doesn’t feel sorry for any of them, he thinks Meeks had a wife and son, and Harris mentioned a wife in the elevator. Guess Harris doesn’t have to worry about his wife’s credit cards anymore.

So everyone was busy doing something while Shaw was left, once again, standing still, just waiting for the brass to order the next round of psych evaluations.

Great. Another six months on a shrink’s couch. Shaw gripped the steering wheel tighter, fighting the urge to jam his foot on the gas pedal and let out his frustration and anger out in a cathartic burst of speed and aggressive driving. Taking a deep breath, Shaw let it out in one long, continuous exhale, easing back off the gas pedal. Doctor Gardner would be so proud. As much as sitting on the psychiatrist’s couch grated on him, Shaw could admit, begrudgingly, the breathing exercises had helped…a little. After all of the crap that went down over the last few days, it was amazing he was still breathing at all.

Shit…Taylor.

Jenny Taylor, an officer who carried a taser instead of a handgun, is – was—was married to a spec ops soldier in the military. Shaw thinks there must be a joke in there somewhere, and he hopes somebody got the punchline because he sure as hell wasn’t laughing. Brett Taylor wouldn’t be laughing. How the hell was he going to tell this man that his wife, who had a relatively safe job as a desk clerk at the Metropolitian police precinct, was dead? Maybe he should’ve let one of the beat cops handle this, like Police Chief Keppler insisted.

No. John Shaw was many things: stubborn, an on and off again smoker, someone who’s left a string of dead cops in his wake, but he is not a coward. Doc would say this was an important step towards healing, but honestly, Shaw felt like he was about to star in the worst day of someone’s life.

Officer Jenny Taylor was dead. Dead because of him.

Not that the Doctor Gardner would see it that way. Burke had killed her, in cold blood, not Shaw; he had tried to save her. Burke had been the one to put a bullet in her; there was no way Shaw could have stopped him. But that wasn’t true, was it? Shaw could’ve stopped it, could’ve saved Officer Taylor. If he had just shot Burke at the elevators with Meeks or maybe if he had just let her tag along, he could’ve done…something different.

Could’ve, should’ve, would’ves don’t solve anything though, Shaw mused as he exited the highway from the city into the next town over.

It certainly didn’t change the fact that Ray Jones was still dead. It didn’t change the fact that Shaw was a cop killer. Maybe Shaw didn’t personally shoot Jenny, but she was only in the line of fire because of him. Burke used her to get to him, and once she had outlived her purpose, she was disposed of. Burke, may that asshole burn in hell, killed her, but Shaw might as well have pulled the trigger.

So really, there was nothing he could do.

Except this. This he could do.

Still, it didn’t help the heavy weight that settled in Shaw’s chest as he watched the town fall away in his rearview mirror to be replaced by a quiet suburb with their cookie cutter houses. Several turns later and after following winding streets with wholesome names like Morning Glory Road and Pleasant Place Drive, Shaw finally stopped the car across from a perfectly unremarkable house with a brightly waving American flag flapping in the afternoon September breeze and shut off the car.

Shaw took one more deep breath to steel himself, and opened the door. Sitting there, hoping to come up with just the right words was a waste of time, and you were only fooling yourself into thinking that anything you could say was going to change the fact that you were about to ruin someone’s life. You were simply stalling, and Shaw wasn’t going to waste time.

Walking quickly across the street, and onto the sidewalk, Shaw’s body jerked around painfully, and he reached for his weapon as an earsplitting screech and squeal ripped through the quiet. Just as his hand closed around empty air – Shit! IA still has my gun- Shaw realized that horrible noise was just the brakes of the arriving school bus. No threat. Shaw’s heart refused to slow down though, and his senses were on overload. Everything was too loud, and the blood was rushing, roaring through his veins. His brain couldn’t parcel it out! He could still hear the kids laughing and calling out above the white noise in his head, threatening to swamp him. Can’t breathe!

Reality came back into sharp focus as the pain from moving his aching body too quickly forced the overwhelming sensations back. Shaw gasped in pain, leaning on the mailbox to get his bearings back. Breathe, just breathe dammit. You’re fine, you’re safe. Think! Where are you?

Shaw looked around. A neighborhood. In the suburbs. Kids on school bus. The scent of fresh cut grass, and hot breeze.

No crack dealers, no dirty warehouse. No ambush waiting around the corner. No shots fired. No dead body of Ray Jones laying there like a discarded doll.

You’re fine, John. Remember…

Remember Taylor. You’re here to tell her husband. Get it together, John.

Shaw forced himself upright, side-eyeing his surroundings to make sure nobody saw his little episode. Thankfully, the kids were too engrossed in each other to notice him, and rest of the street remained deserted. With one last deep breathe, Shaw started towards the front door, determination lining his shoulders.

He rang the doorbell once then twice with no answer. There was a jeep sitting in the driveway instead of parked in the garage, and with Taylor’s vehicle still at the precinct, that left the husband. He had to be home. Shaw knocked on the door, loud and with authority, hoping for a response this time. Faintly, he could hear movement on the other side before lock clicked back and the door opened.

“Brett Taylor?”