Isn’t it funny how life can change on the basis of one small, inconsequential decision? For me, it was deciding to stop for coffee at the café on the corner of Myrtle and Kain, a bustling little place catering to the local crowd. I stood in line waiting to order while my partner snagged a table by the window. I glanced at him as I shuffled forward in the line. He was gazing out the window, his dark uniform pulling tight across his expansive girth, his face a little too full from the extra weight.
I’d been assigned to Sergeant Bob O’Flanagan since graduating from Redmeadows Police Academy. Bob was an okay guy, if a little sexist and severely lacking in career motivation. In Bob’s world, it was get in, get the job done, get out. In other words, clock in, clock out, and more of the same the next day. It explained why he hadn’t received a promotion in the last ten years, yet Bob was exactly where he wanted to be. Patrolling the streets. I envied him that, for I had enough drive for the both of us. I was coming up to my one-year anniversary, which meant that, now I’d clocked twelve months with wonderful, plodding Bob, I could request a transfer. My goal? Detective in homicide.
“What’ll it be, officer?” The petite brunette behind the counter eyed me nervously, waiting to take my order. Interesting. People who were nervous around police officers usually had something to hide.
“One double shot latte, one long black, to go.”
I moved off to the side, waiting for our order and observing the people in the café. A guy at a nearby table was ogling me, his eyes narrowing in on my breasts and lingering there. Pervert.
Our drinks were ready in record time; I was pretty sure the brunette had jumped our order to the front of the line to get rid of us. Some people loved cops, others hated us. Frankly, I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought.
Carrying our drinks back to the table, I slid in opposite Bob, already sipping my steaming latte, closing my eyes on a silent sigh. We were almost at the end of our shift, it’d been a long day, and the caffeine jolt was welcome.
“Whatcha looking at, Sarge?”
His gaze hadn’t left the window since I joined him, although what he could see through the gloom outside was beyond me.
“That guy.” Sarge nodded toward a man leaning against the wall of an alley diagonally opposite, one leg drawn up with his boot against the bricks, dragging deeply on a cigarette, coat pulled tight around him. He did an excellent job of blending in with his surroundings. I hadn’t noticed him until Sarge pointed him out.
But now that I had, he looked as suspicious as shit. With a storm rolling in, a mist-like rain falling, it wasn’t the type of weather you just stood around in.
My eyes met Bob’s. We were thinking the same thing. A deal was about to go down. Possibly drugs. With a small movement of his hand, Bob indicated we should stay put and observe.
I knew Bob was right, but still I itched to take action. It was my downfall, one Bob had warned me about on more than one occasion, a rookie mistake he’d seen before. Apparently us new recruits were incredibly impatient. We had to learn to sit back and wait, allow the scene to unfold before charging in, guns blazing. Well, not literally. I’d never shot anyone and I hoped to God I never would.
The bell above the cafe door chimed and I glanced up to see a blonde woman pulling on her coat as she stepped outside. Juggling her coffee, she flipped open an umbrella and positioned it over her head before crossing the street and making a beeline for the guy in the alley.
Sure enough, she dug into her pocket, pulling out folded notes while balancing the coffee and umbrella in the other hand. The guy straightened and dug around inside his jacket, producing … damn it, I couldn’t see, but it looked like a small bag. My bet was pills.
Bob nodded and we rose, drinks abandoned as we hustled out the door. I kept my eyes on the couple exchanging cash for drugs across the road, cursing when the dealer spotted us and sprinted off into the alley. Shit, shit, shit. Without a second’s thought, I took off in pursuit. He looked scrawny, but he was damn fast on his feet.
Chasing him down a urine-soaked, stink-tank of an alley as nightfall approached was not my idea of fun, but a spark of anger at Bob ignited me, gave me an extra jolt of adrenaline. We’d waited too long and now the bastard was getting away. I bet Bob had collared the blonde, though; she wouldn’t have gotten far in the high-heeled boots she was wearing.
My comms unit crackled at my shoulder. “Got him yet, Walker?”
“In my sights,” I said, puffing, spotting the guy scaling the chain link fence at the end of the alley. “Stop! Police!”
He glanced over his shoulder, his eyes widening as I rested my hand on the firearm at my hip. Instead of stopping, he scrambled faster. Crap.
Overhead, thunder rumbled. The storm that’d been circling all afternoon was closing in now. Although a light rain drifted down, settling upon the ground like mist, I hardly noticed getting wet. The thunder indicated heavy rainfall was almost upon us, and I didn’t relish being out in it. A gust of wind ran down the alley, swirling up rubbish and tossing it through the air. The cold breeze sent a bitter chill down the back of my neck.
With a running leap, I launched myself at the fence, missing the dealer’s foot by inches. I was halfway up when he landed with a thump on the other side, scrambling away without looking back. A deafening clap of thunder, followed by a flash of lightning, froze me for a second. Shit, that was close! The lightning had been so bright it momentarily blinded me. Time to get out of here.
I didn’t see the second strike coming. But I felt it. A surge of pain rocketed through my body, and then there was darkness.