A man in my house. With my family and a gun. This can't be happening. Not to a cop. Now I know what citizens feel like. My wife and kids are trapped with some psycho who needed a "fun time". Lennie and I wait with the squad, keeping our guns aimed at my house. How did it come to this?
"Hey, you doing ok?" My partner looked more concerned than usual. I shrugged, trying to look like I didn't care.
"The case is bothering you, isn't it?" Briscoe looked me right in the eye while I sipped my coffee.
"Nah, I think its bothering Debra more. She keeps saying that Olivia could have been taken instead."
"Well, she's got a point, Rey. Your daughter's friend was kidnapped in your own yard. I might be a little worried if I were you."
I shrugged again.
"All right, what's eating you?" Lennie's tone was impatient. "Was one of your girls offered drugs yesterday?"
"That's not funny Lennie, cut the crap." He knew I was sensitive about that subject, and thought I was over-protective of my girls. I took a deep breath and started slow. "No drugs, but... she got a letter. Threat mail...."
"Threat mail? What did it say?"
"Stuff about her friend Cami, said I'll get you too, junk like that."
"Junk? I'd get this taken care of, Rey."
"You wanna take a day off or two?"
"Nah, I'll be all right." My cell phone rang, and I picked it up quickly.
"Curtis...... The park?..... All right." I put my cell phone back and picked up my jacket.
"Central Park. A murder."
I got out of the car quickly when we arrived, fearing the worst. I only knew that a small girl was hurt, and I prayed that it wasn't my own. I walked quickly to the crime scene, then, remembering Lennie, slowed down a little for him.
"Seven year old girl, severely beaten and shot three times. No sign of struggle here; he probably dropped her off under the bench last night." The M.E. whipped off the facts like he was reading his ABC's. "The wino over there with Chuck found her this morning." I looked at the small, bruised body mournfully, pangs of fear growing more painful in my heart. Briscoe joined my side. My voice was low, and I couldn't avert my eyes from the pitiful sight.
"Cami Patterson. Kidnapped and murdered. She was only missing for a week...." I shook my head, disgusted, cursing under my breath. Why my daughter's friend? Why not some other poor soul? I stalked off to the car, feeling more afraid with every step.
I didn't tell Lennie that the letter my daughter got had threatened me too. I was starting to wonder just who this guy was after. Who would be the victim in the end?
Another week later. Lennie and I sat at our desks this morning, searching desperately for something, anything to get a lead to the suspect.
"What did the secretary at the health center say to you?" he asked.
"Not a word. They had "strict rules" regarding confidentiality."
"It's either because I wasn't there, or you've lost your magic touch with the ladies." He was grinning sarcastically, a move I eventually learned to take in stride. If you take things Lennie says personally, you'll never get the job done. The desk phone rang, and he picked it up.
"Briscoe. Yeah.....awe geez, you sure? All right, we're on it."
"What's that?" I asked after a drink of my coffee.
"We got a hostage situation. And they think it might be our guy." He stood up stiffly, putting on his bullet vest and jacket.
"Well, today's our lucky day. Where to?" I followed suit, watching his every move. He seemed hesitant to answer. He pursed his lips, sighed and finally spoke.
"What?" I demanded, narrowing my eyes in disbelief.
"You heard me. Let's move."
And now I'm here, standing behind the cop car with Lennie, holding my gun over the roof. Thoughts of my family's safety were distracted momentarily. Darn bullet vests are so uncomfortable. I snap back into reality when the screen door opens. A man comes out, big and menacing, holding Olivia in front of him as a shield. Lord, she looks so scared. And she has every right. His pistol is placed behind her head, and her body racks with sobs. If you move, I'll shoot, he says. I barely catch his words, anger is seething from me.
"You know this guy, Rey?" Lennie asks quietly.
"Yeah, he looked familiar to me too. We put him away for drugs a while back..." I try to keep my cool, to not show that I am scared. But my hands are shaking, and I struggle to hold the gun steady.
"Mr. Levins, we need you to put the gun down and release my----your hostage." I choke on the word. No, my daughter can't be a hostage. This can't be happening.
"Sure, like I'm gonna listen to you, Curtis! If you hadn't popped me, I wouldn't be here now..." He pushed the gun harder against Olivia's head to stress his point.
So he does want me. Just like the letter said. I'm his victim. My brain snaps. Before I know what I'm doing, I remove my finger from the trigger, separating my hands and lifting them slightly. I step slowly from behind the car, moving to the side. Out in plain view.
"Rey..." Lennie begins. He knows I'm going to do something stupid. But I don't care. I swallow before I speak.
"You want me Tim? Go ahead. Pull the trigger on me. You'll only be jailed again, and maybe for life..." My voice was calm, but inside I was a vibrating chair set on high.
Tim Levins runs his tongue over his lips, not seeming to care about jail, but very interested in the prospect of killing me instead of my daughter.
Olivia is crying. I can't bear it. I lift both my hands and let the pistol fall to the ground. I walk slowly to the front of the car, dangerously close to him. Don't you dare hurt my little girl, slime ball.
"Rey." Briscoe's voice is louder, more of a reprimand than a warning. But all he says is my name. Tim is standing on the lawn now, still holding my daughter. I can't look in her eyes. I can't promise her everything will be all right with one look. I'm at the front of the driveway, only three yards from the man who has my Olivia. I finally crack.
"You want me, Levins?" I say loudly, angrily, ripping of my jacket and tearing at the bullet proof vest. "Come and get me...I'm all yours!" There was a slight movement Tim made with his gun, but it stayed behind Olivia's head.
"Rey, stop!" Lennie yells. A shot. Then another. I can hear Debra scream "No!" Another few shots. Only sounds. My eyes are closed as I back up against the car, leaning. What just happened?
I open my eyes, Tim is on the ground, not moving much. Was he shot by our guys? My daughter stands alone, staring at me with wide eyes and open mouth. Debra stares too, from the porch, holding the screen door open with her hand, frozen. What is she looking at?
I can't stand. I slide down the side of the car, and come to rest on the driveway. The pavement is hot, and it burns to touch. Something's not right. Olivia wasn't shot. I guess that means it's me.
It's getting hard to breathe, but I can't feel much pain. Lennie's hand is on my shoulder.
"You idiot! Why did you take the vest off?" He's angry, but there's desperation in his voice.
I gasp for breath and feel my chest. Blood. Ok, so maybe I am an idiot, but I'm grateful my family is safe now.
"Did one of you mooks call an ambulance?" Lennie's harsh, grating voice is too loud for me; it makes me cringe. I'm starting to feel very tired.
"They're ok?" I ask quietly.
"Yeah, they're all right. But now I'm worried about you."
"Don't be --" I cut myself off. No pain yet, but it's hard to talk when you can't breath.
"No. Rey. Why did you...." A woman's voice. Debra is kneeling beside me now, crying and cradling my face. I hate for her to see me like this. Or my daughters. I want to tell Lennie to keep the girls inside. Now I'm starting to wish I hadn't done what I did. But I can't take it back. And Olivia is all right. That's all that matters, I think as the wail of sirens grow louder and closer. I can't keep my eyes open any longer; hard as I try to look in Debra's face, to reassure her. My hand blindly gropes for hers, and she grasps it tightly, as if to never let me go. I can barely hear Lennie.
"Just hang in there, Rey. You'll be all right."
That's when I feel the blinding pain.