9 years later . . .
I held Ty's hand as we shoved our way through the eager DC crowd. Pollution choked the air, lingering on the breeze coming from the jammed parking lot behind us, and I fought the urge to cover my nose with my hand. We found a somewhat clear area under the last of the blistering sun before winter took hold, and Ty's green eyes panned over the heads of the gathered people. I realized he was mocking me, and when I gave him a disappointed look, he laughed.
"How do the folks around here check out, Detective Colson?"
Detective. Now that sounded wonderful to my ears. Since I graduated from high school, I went to college and got a major in Psychology, and a minor in Criminal Justice. I studied for four years then trained an extra year as a recruit while living in a cheap apartment with Ty. Honestly, we weren't too well off so he had the brilliant idea to venture into the dark realms of Self Employment. Opening an animal hospital had always been a big dream of his, so after college he put the framework in place, and soon started his own cute little shelter. He didn't do any of the dirty work, but was the charismatic face of the business venture he occasionally calls, "His Baby." Through this, he was able to scrape together enough funds to keep us on our feet, and allowed me to learn all the things I would ever need to know to become a full-fledged officer. I spent the required one year minimum doing that, giving DUI tickets and such, but never saw much action. I longed for more work to do, so, just five days ago, I took and passed the lengthy exam to become a detective.
In celebration of my promotion, Ty saved all the extra cash he could get his hands on - he had even gone so far as to hoard the spare change from under the couch cushions in our apartment; self employment doesn't offer many benefits - and planned a special trip to Washington DC to hear the President give a speech on something political. I wasn't that into politics, but I also didn't live under a rock. I knew that today, being November 8th, was the one year anniversary of the President's election. Although I knew Ty was trying to be sweet, this whole thing was made worse by the fact that coach seats on a plane are my worst nightmare. I had gotten no sleep and could fall asleep right now if I wanted to. Getting the center seat on a flight is utter torture, and it was something I was all too familiar with. I sat in the middle seat with a heavy-set man on my left, and Ty on my right. The man on my left seemed to fall to sleep the instant the plane took off. He rested his head on the window and snored so loud it sounded like a truck backfiring with his mouth hanging open, a trickle of saliva dripping silently from his lip. He grunted and squirmed in his seat to no end. Soon, Ty fell asleep as well. His cheek rested on my shoulder but, thankfully, he didn't drool. He slept like a baby for the rest of the flight leaving me to sit without moving, for fear of waking him up.
This trip was Ty's gift to me, and I realized, with a start, he was watching me, waiting for me to say something. I put on a tough-looking face, and for his amusement, let my eyes scan the crowd around us before giving the all clear.
"They all pass inspection, except for that one guy." With my eyes, I pointed to a man who was standing off to our left, dabbing at his shirt front with a wad of tissues. "He just spilled his coke all over his chest."
"Oh! Just what I've been craving! Do you want one too?"
He was talking about soda of course, not the man. I nodded, and he took off into the throng of people.
All of a sudden, I was alone. Not alone, alone for there were people left and right, forward and back all waiting for President Stover. The crowd was a writhing mass of bodies, jostling for the perfect position to view the President when he arrived on stage. Ty and I chose to position ourselves on the far right side of the crowd hoping to keep clear of the unnecessary pushing and shoving. To my dismay, our plan failed miserably, and I was repeatedly bumped into.
A few minutes after Ty disappeared, the collective mind of the crowd began to realize that the President's appearance was eminent. All around me, people were digging in their bags to retrieve their cameras and binoculars. Tourists. Just like me. But one man wasn't doing either of those things. Maybe he caught my eye because of his dark hoody pulled close around his face, or the way his eyes darted back and forth, scanning the crowd. Or perhaps it was the suspiciously gun-like bulge in the front of his zipped jacket that alerted my detective instinct that this was no ordinary sightseer.
He was left and a little forward from where I stood, about thirty feet away. As I watched him, his eyes stopped moving and were now fixed on the lefthand side of the stage where the red curtains rippled, and then, there he was, the President, welcomed onto the stage with a roar of applause. Two guards flanked President Stover and there were two more on either side of the stage. Stover nonchalantly waved to the crowd as he strolled toward the podium that was waiting for him at center stage, not knowing the danger he was in. The bulge in the man's sweater was now leveled at the waiting podium, and I knew that I had to get to the hooded man before the President entered his line of fire. The crowd, and the Secret Service men for that matter, were all blissfully unaware of the gravity of this situation. If I didn't hurry, the scene would very soon go from blissful to full blown horror.
As quickly as I could, without drawing the lunatic with the weapon's attention, I swerved around and pushed the ignorant bystanders out of the way. They were all so riveted on the podium and the approaching figure, that when I barged in front of them, breaking their concentration, they swore and gave my nasty gestures, but none of it concerned me. They were sheep, and I only had eyes for the wolf in the flock. Crazily enough, I even managed to bump into the poor man with the wet shirt front knocking the rest of his drink out of his hand. His expression was priceless; mouth a big "O" of surprise, and eyebrows almost at his hairline. He gave me the finger, but I was already sprinting away from him. I vaulted over a baby carriage as the frantic mother screamed at me, and then there was only a few feet of empty space between the man and I. A quick step forward, and a messy football tackle resulted in the gunman and I rolling across the street.
A blur of cloudy sky, startled faces, and black pavement crossed my vision, and then I was looking down into gray eyes opened wide in surprise, but more prevalent, anger. His brows creased together, and he glared at me with as much ferociousness as a mother lion protecting her cub. I felt hard metal pressing against my gut, and then two shots were fired. The back of my brain struggled to remember the training I had for just this situation. Then, like a light bulb switching on, I recalled the information, and jumped into action.
I was already on top of him, so it was easy to wrench the gun from the mysterious man's grip. I flung it into the crowd where the closest people scrambled to stay out of the flying guns way. I was eager to get his arms secure, so I flipped him over, and squatted over him, clamping my hands around his wrists. Grinning, I started to haul the criminal to his feet, but before I could I heard gasps and murmurs from the circle of spectators around us. When I put my hand to my abdomen, it came away red; slick with my own blood. I looked down, and saw a dark red stain spreading across the front of my light blue tank, and seeping into the waistband of my jeans. All of a sudden, my senses dulled dramatically, so I didn't notice when the uniformed guards arrived. I toppled to the side when they yanked the man from beneath me.
I lay on my side waiting for the pain to come, but none did. I was starting to get lightheaded though, and my vision was blurring around the edges. My arms and legs didn't want to obey my brain so when I tried to get up, I just flopped back into the dust. I heard myself grunt, and wondered if my body is in pain but my brain didn't recognize it. My eyes drooped closed for what could have been a second or an hour, I didn't know. Then, I felt the firm grasp of a hand on my shoulder, and I squinted open my eyes to see Ty's scared face blocking my field of vision. I shifted my head and tried to get up again, but regretted it in an instant as a wave of nausea came over me. My eyes came into focus, and I saw our two discarded sodas spilling out of their containers, and mixing with my blood in a sickening brown and red pool, before I sank into a sea of blackness.
President Stover had just reached the podium, when he became aware of a disturbance in the crowd. A gap had formed, and there seemed to be some sort of fight going on. Stover thought that it must have been a political dispute. He had been sworn into office a year ago today, but perhaps somebody still wasn't too fond of him. Then he heard the shots. They rang in his ears as his Secret Service men formed a tight shield around him. They began to herd him off the stage, and he had to take short, fast steps in order to keep up with the pace they set. Was someone hurt? Was this because of him? Who could have done this? Why hadn't the SS seen anything suspicious? How much danger had he been in? Just then, a young officer, panting from his run, stood in front of Stover's shield. Between pants, he relayed his message,
"It's a . . . girl . . . sir. She was . . . shot." It was obvious this young guard was trying to keep the panic from his voice.
"Tell me, how many miles away is the nearest hospital?"
"I believe Saint Justin . . . is about 15 miles away sir."
Stover fished in his pocket and mumbled almost to himself, "That'll never work. That 15 miles would be the death of her . . . ." Stover thought for a moment more before replying.
"Put her in the West bedroom."
The officer looked startled. "The West bedroom, sir? In the White house, sir?"
Annoyed, both because he didn't enjoy being called "sir" and because this guard dared to question him when this girl was in serious trouble, Stover bit his tongue, and controlled his voice. "Yes. I would like to speak with her. Get the paramedics to bring her to the White House in the ambulance. I'll have people waiting. Tell them to keep her alive, alright. We don't want a corpse turning up on our doorstep."
"Yes, of course, sir. Right away, sir." He rushed down the stairs, and out of sight within the frantic mob of people.
With that, the circle of agents with himself at the center, walked around to the back of the stage where a procession of six armored Cadillacs, eight police motorcycles, four police cars, and at least ten news vans, each from a different radio station or television channel, were waiting to parade him home. As Stover ducked into the back of the third from the front in the line of Cadillacs, he could just make out the wail of a siren in the distance. He pulled his phone from his pocket, and speed dialed a number. It was going to be even more hectic at the White House than it was here, and he wanted to warn the doctors that they were very soon going to have a new patient.
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