Thursday, April 4, 2013

Desire for Revenge


            Can I cheat death twice?

            AJ Harris had a feeling she was about to find out.

            Pain streaked up the trunk of her body as she dropped to her knees onto the concrete sidewalk. The blaring sirens from the surrounding police cruisers warbled, and her vision blurred.

            Shot. What a stunning realization.
AJ’s right shoulder burned where the bullet struck. Her arm went numb then began to tingle. Unable to force her hand to wrap around the grip, her gun dangled, swinging inch by inch until it slipped off the end of her finger and hit the ground. She flinched, waited for the impact to send off a shot, but it only clattered onto the concrete. 
The zing of bullets and the crack of gunfire penetrated her ears, forcing awareness of the situation past the pain. 
Move. Her brain screamed, transmitting the message to other parts of her body. Leaning at an awkward angle, she fell onto her hip and rolled to a sitting position. Using her feet, she pushed until her back bumped against the rough brick wall of the Sear’s building. It provided little protection, but something was better than nothing. 
With any luck, the bullet had tagged her vest. She slid her hand under her jacket and probed along her shoulder until hitting a tender spot, which sent pain bursting into her chest and down her arm. Her fingers rested in the wet, thick warmth of her blood now soaking the sleeve of her police issued shirt. Nausea churned. She squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated on staying lucid. 
Damn it. This can’t be happening. The guys were finally showing her some respect and treating her as if she was part of the team. Not an easy task in a male dominated industry, and for Hillside’s police department where she was the first and only female patrol officer, the difficulty magnified by ten. Going down in the first round on her first major call wouldn’t look good to her co-workers. How could they trust her to have their backs? 
Where had she gone wrong? Dispatch had called out a bank robbery in progress with hostages and damn near the whole police department had arrived before her. She’d expected the suspects to be inside the bank, not on the roof of the building. There had been no warning until the first shots rang out. 
Her mistake—assuming. She should have stayed alert, more watchful. 
The sudden silence yanked her from her analysis. The eerie quiet more ominous than the gunfire. Fear crept down her spine. Something was wrong. 
The calm before the storm? 
A few of the officers moved to position themselves near the bank’s front doors. Others peered over the hoods of their cars, everyone trying to determine if the suspects were still on the roof or had retreated inside. 
The squawk of the police two-way radio reached AJ, but she couldn’t focus on the relay of information. 
Sitting on the hard, cold sidewalk, a deep penetrating chill seeped through her, reaching to her bones. The buildings acted as a funnel, blasting the winter air down through the streets. She shivered, clenching her jaws against the hot points of pain. March had arrived, but for the Midwest, frigid temperatures and snow were still a frequent occurrence. 
She noticed everything around her. The gray buildings, the bare trees surrounded by concrete slab. The strobe lights on top the cruisers, the only color breaking up the bleakness. In complete contrast to the cold was the warm, fresh scent of donuts from the nearby bakery. 
A vivid image of her grandpa standing behind the counter of his own bakery not twenty minutes away, in an older, quieter part of town, came to mind. 
He’s lost so much already. More than anyone should have to bear. 
AJ shook her head, pushing the thought away. She couldn’t let worry distract her from the current situation. Think. 
She glanced up and down the street. Rush hour in downtown Hillside had come to a screeching halt. No cars with anxious drivers behind the wheel jockeyed for position on crowded streets trying to get home. Office workers, leaving for the day, now cowered back inside buildings or ran out of harm’s way. The normal flow of traffic rerouted. 
Things like this didn’t happen in small town Ohio. But didn’t everyone say that? Even for a large suburb north of Cincinnati, the residents didn’t see much crime and definitely not in the form of a bank robbery with hostages. 
AJ scanned the area until her eyes landed on the familiar face of her friend and supervisor, Steve Hastings, squatted down with his back pressed against the side of the cruiser. He spoke to Captain Marcus Delhi, who hunkered down beside him with the door of the cruiser open and communicating with his team over police channels. 
Seeing Steve steadied her frayed nerves. He would give her hell for getting shot, for making him worry, just like he would with any one of his team members. She gave him a thumbs-up when he glanced over at her, letting him know she was fine. 
The blood was running down her arm and out the end of her sleeve, staining the sidewalk. There was so much blood. 
What if I’m dying? Panic tightened her chest. Her eyes darted back to Steve. 
He moved so that his shoulder now supported him against the car, and he faced her. He mouthed the words, ‘are you hit?’ and she nodded. Steve said something over his shoulder to Delhi, who nodded in reply. 
AJ realized what Steve intended to do and held up her hand to stop him, but he ignored her. She fumbled for her gun to provide protection then remembered it lay a few inches away on the pavement. It wouldn’t have mattered. The movement froze her with pain. 
Then he was squatting in front of her with concern in his eyes and a cocky grin across his handsome face. He grabbed her gun off the pavement and returned it to her holster. 
“Let’s take a look.” He lifted the edge of her jacket to peek. 
“The arm is useless.” She bared her teeth at the grim lines bordering his mouth. “I’m fine. Don’t be a fool.” 
But he didn’t budge. “I’ve been a fool for you from the moment your scrawny ass walked into roll call.” He smirked. 
AJ snorted out a laugh, knowing her ass was anything but scrawny. Her vision wavered, and she reached for him, gripping his arm with her left hand. 
“You’re losing too much blood. Hold on, kiddo, I’m going to get you out of here.” 
A single gunshot rang out, and she heard the dull thud of the bullet imbedding itself in a solid mass. She saw the shock cross Steve’s face and the void in his eyes seconds before he fell backward onto the sidewalk. 
The silence ended. Gunfire erupted around them, drowning out her screams as adrenaline pushed her away from the wall and on top of Steve’s motionless body. 
She heard yelling but the voices faded away along with the sound of bullets rocketing by her head. The smell of blood and gunpowder mingled to nauseate and confuse her. But the pain in her shoulder eased as she lay on top of Steve and felt the warmth drain from his body. She whispered his name once, or so she thought, as the tears ran down her face. 
And she knew he was gone.

Desire for Revenge will be available the last week of April 2013.