2,414 words. I'm contemplating this as an opener to a novel. Reviews are appreciated.
|This is a work in progress- I felt that enough was here to finally share.
The yellow crime scene tape flapped in the Kentucky breeze as officers strewn it across the front porch and wrapped it around the posts. Police and medical units surrounded the two-story log home gathering evidence or tending to the wounded. The colorful Christmas lights as washed out by the Red, yellow, and blue lights flashed, reflecting off the buildings, trees, and snow.
Michael Draigon walked mindlessly from the scene. His breath comes hard like puffs of smoke in the frigid air. At the back of the last ambulance, he looked to his son strapped in the gurney. The boy held up his hand with his thumb up. Michael nodded, stepping aside as the paramedic boarded. Then, he leaned through the door. “I’ll see you at the hospital.” He closed the doors and slapped his hand flat against the glass.
As the ambulance pulled out, he cupped his hands over his face and breathed a shot of warmth into them. He turned towards the log home. The sight of the team of officers made him shake his head. Well Mike, you’re going to hear about this one. ~Four years and this nightmare isn’t over yet. At least she’s dead.~
He crossed the yard, bypassed the vehicles to enter the stables several yards away. Inside, Michael greeted each horse as he walked past their stalls, he came to one with a broken gate. Inside the stall, his partner Ed McBryne was kneeling in a far corner examining the legs of a black yearling colt. The beast huffed, steam bursting from his nostrils while it leaned on the man for support. Its front legs and hooves were covered in blood. It grunted and shifted as McBryne cleaned him.
“Easy fella,” McBryne spoke gently with a heavy Scottish burr. His gloved hand stroked the colt’s shoulder.
“How is he?” Michael held the iron latch in his hand, he examined the damage. “Did he do this?”
Hearing McBryne grunt as he stood, Michael stepped into the stall and rubbed the colts head.
“Aye, that’d be my guess.” McBryne coughed, expelling his own puff of frosty breath.
Michael shook his head. “At least it’s over.”
“Especially for the pig,” there was a faint chuckle in McBryne’s voice. He nodded to colt. “Found him in the pig’s pen, it’s where the blood came from. Aside from a few scrapes from the gate, he apparently stomped the porker.”
Forcing a smile, Michael held back a laugh. “I hated that pig anyway.”
Michael sighed heavily, looking down as the colt nuzzled his hand. “If only I hadn’t been so concerned with work, this may not have happened.”
A Marine sergeant dressed in fatigues entered the stables, pulling off his ski cap. “Dad,” Bryan Draigon joined them in the stall. His face was reddened from the weather. “Hospital called, Jeff’s going to be fine.” Bryan, like his father, examined the damage to the gate. “Is everything okay here?”
McBryne chuckled again. “Lad, this colt saw fit to prep Christmas dinner for us.”
“Excuse me?” Bryan looked from one to the other with a baffled expression.
“Pride killed your mother’s pig.” Michael said.
“Right,” Bryan nodded slowly, “sure he did.”
Squaring his shoulders, Michael matched his son’s height of six feet two inches. Looking his sixth child in the eyes, he flashed a smile. “If that’s what McBryne says he caught Pride doing, I believe him.”
“That doesn’t make any sense though.” Bryan said.
“Didn’t say it did,” McBryne put a lead rope over the colt’s head and stepped from the stall. “I know what I saw.”
As McBryne placed the young horse in another stall, Michael turned his attention to his son. “You said the hospital called?” He asked.
“Yeah, Jeff’s going to be fine,” Bryan said. “The wounds are superficial.”
“And Jerica?” Michael asked.
“She’s lost a lot of blood.” Bryan shook his head. “It’s too soon to tell.”
Looking to the rafters, Michael closed his eyes. “Falcon entrusted us with their care. Why would Corrine do this?” He shook his head, feeling the well of confusion and disbelief inside himself.
“We should get to the hospital.” Bryan placed a consoling hand on Michael’s shoulder.
They were the last to arrive at Cedar General, the small mountain community hospital. Michael was unsure of how to react when they entered the emergency waiting room. His surviving children had gathered, some covered in fresh bandages over their injuries. They sat together, their hands linked, and their heads bowed in prayer.
Michael was frozen at the doorway; he made a mental engraving of the moment wanting to remember it. Folding his arms, he stepped aside as Bryan joined his three siblings, giving his sister Patricia a hug. At 33, she was the eldest of the eleven Draigon children, first born of triplets. She had arrived from leave still wearing her coast guard uniform.
Michael Jr. grabbed him next. He was the second eldest and the one who most resembled their father. He even followed Michael into law enforcement and became a police officer in Los Angeles. Kathryn, the third born of the three, hugged Bryan next. They chuckled when her Mountain Ranger badge caught his uniform sweater. She was the local member of the family, living in the log home, the family’s vacation home.
It was Joshua, Michael noticed, who stood by himself. The young medical student at Duke University was by the water tank staring into the vortex of his paper coffee cup. He swished the remaining drops at the bottom before swallowing them. He had plans to be a small-town doctor and decided Cedar General was the place he wanted.
It was three o’clock in the morning; he was tired and wanted a distraction. He didn’t glance up when Michael dropped a fresh cup of coffee in to his old one.
“Thanks Pop,” he mumbled, his voice was shallow and drained from fatigued. “He knew, Dr. Gallaine suggested I make myself available to this hospital while I’m here.” Joshua faced his father. The disbelief mixed with the fatigue made him appear even more tired than he was. “I was going to anyway, but he seemed to know.”
Michael chose to dismiss Joshua’s words as ramblings from stress. “Has there been any word on Jerica?”
Joshua exchanged a glance with Patricia before answering. “You’d better sit down.”
Michael noted his son’s hesitation; it made him tense to see how professional Joshua handled the family situation.
Moving to a corner, they found some chairs and spoke quietly. “The good news is Jerica is retaining the blood transfusion.” Joshua sipped the coffee; he made an intentional pause. “The bad news is that she was shot- she may survive, and she may not.” Joshua kept his tone to a whisper, to control his emotions.
Michael winced as if shot himself. He swallowed hard as Joshua continued.
“I called Falcon and Dr. Gallaine, they should be…” Joshua’s words faded from Michael’s ears.
Michael drifted in his mind, his thoughts going over the years since his daughter Tonya died in a horse-riding accident. It was just an accident, he believed as his children did. Something had changed in his wife that day. Corrine stopped being the woman he married, and he couldn’t cope with being around her. The result was his endless hours at the Bureau, working on Federal cases.
Shoving his hands in to his duster’s pockets, Michael walked out of the room quietly. He was absorbed in thoughts, blaming himself for what happened, knowing he could have stopped it, if not prevented it.
Waiting for the elevator, Michael’s left hand found his federal credential wallet. Pulling it from the pocket, he opened the black fold and brushed his hand over the metal. With the doors opening, Michael took a step then stopped as his partner stepped off. McBryne’s arms were heavy with a tray of coffee and box of breakfast pastries.
“I’m finished Ed,” Michael said.
“Ya don’t know that.” McBryne stood toe to toe with him. “We were under heavy case loads, there’s no way you could’ve known.”
Michael shook his head. “I did know,” his admission spilled in a whisper. “They told me, and I didn’t listen.”
Michael’s thoughts were trapped on that fateful day; even a week later as he stood by the coffin of his daughter Susan. The portrait beside the coffin showed a young woman in an Army officer’s uniform.
The night of the shooting, she had taken a bullet in the neck as she descended the basement stairs. It had been an instant death according to the coroner’s report.
During the funeral, Michael tuned out the bugler and the minister, ignoring the servicemen who folded the American flag- handing it to Susan’s husband, another Army officer. At his feet stood their four-year-old daughter, in his arms rested their three-month-old son.
Michael paid no attention to his first two grandchildren. He was oblivious to everyone and everything around him; even the snow that fell on to his trench coat. He felt gratitude that Susan didn’t suffer, that Jenica could not attend the funeral. He was relieved that no one argued when he insisted that his wife Corrine was not buried beside Susan, the second of their eleven children to die.
As the minister droned on, Michael’s thoughts drifted back to the day before. Corrine had been cremated and he scattered her ashes in a lake. Then he had gone to the assistant director of the bureau ready to turn in his badge and gun.
He knocked on the door with one knuckle. When he heard the man’s, voice tell him to enter he swung open the door, slowly.
The Director looked up. “Ah, Draigon, come in.” The man ushered him with a wave, into the assistant director’s office. “I’d like you to meet the new governor of Kentucky.” He introduced the middle-aged woman sitting with them. Michael shook her hand but remained silent.
“We were just going over your case.” The assistant director gestured with his hand, towards the chairs by the coffee table. “I have Falcon on video call.”
“Before we get started,” Falcon spoke as the group was seated. His face shone clear on the monitor sitting on the table. “Agent Draigon, you’ll be glad to know Jenica is doing fine. Our doctors tell me that she will make a full recovery.”
Michael sighed with relief as he sat down. “Thank you, Falcon, the girls mean a great deal to me.”
“I trust that you received the paperwork, and everything is in order?” Falcon asked.
“This morning,” Michael said. He understood that Jenica was interested in forgoing her equestrian dreams to enter the academic program managed by Falcon Industries.
Falcon spoke up. “Now, with that settled assistant director, I believe the floor is yours.”
The Assistant Director placed a thick file on the table, in front of the monitor. “Let’s get started.”
Michael held his hand up. “With all do respect gentlemen- Madame Governor,” He stood, placing his badge and gun on top of the file. He looked to the stunned expression of the director. “You have my statement, Sir.” With that, he walked out leaving behind three gaping mouths and one perplexed Falcon.
A cold breeze brought Michael from his thoughts. He found himself standing alone beside the coffin as it was lowered into the ground. His youngest son Jeff stepped to his side; his right arm was braced with a black sling making it blend with his formal police uniform. “Dad, let’s go.”
He tightened the collar of his police issued trench coat as they walked quickly to his car. The sleek, black sports car sat waiting in a line of sedans, trucks, SUV’s, and military vehicles. Father and son slammed the doors in unison then Michael turned up the heat.
“Are you warm enough back there?” Michael looked over his shoulder to the girl behind him. Jenica was their reminder that Jerica was still in the hospital, her twin. She shivered too much to answer him.
Settling behind the wheel, Jeff eased his arm from the sling, placed the car in gear and joined the funeral procession out of the cemetery.
After several moments of silence, Michael finally spoke. “Jeff, I did it,” he paused, pulling off his gloves and breathing warm air into his cupped hands. “I sent the paperwork this morning.”
“I know,” Jeff gripped the steering wheel, watching the tail lights of Bryan’s SUV in front them. “It’s all Jen can talk about.” Glancing in the rearview mirror for the truck behind them, Jeff sighed with hesitation. “Dad, I got the letter yesterday… I made it into Quantico.”
“Following your old man, huh?” Michael asked.
“You could say that,” Jeff flipped on the wipers as the snow fell harder. “There’s a special division being created as part of the treaty with the Cylitians. Since we’re among them, they want me on it.”
Michael drew in his breath; he knew what was coming. “So, Montana… And you think Kentucky is cold?”
“I know, right,” Jeff chuckled. “We’re used to though, aren’t we?”
Resting his head back against his seat, Michael closed his eyes. “You’ll watch out for Jerica, right? She’s going to need someone she knows she can trust.”
“Absolutely,” Jeff raised a brow then smiled. “Uncle Rausch and Aunt Elle are making room for her. Causra is excited about it.”
“Of course, she is,” Michal glanced in the rearview mirror again, looking to Jenica again. “Jen, you’re sure about the academy? You know you could stay with Rausch and Elle too.”
The girl looked from him to the scenery out the window. “I’m sure Dad.”
Michael looked to his son. “Just promise me you’ll find their father.”
“I’m one step ahead of you Dad.” Jeff glanced to him with a smirk. “You’re going to keep looking too, right?”
“Every rock, every stone,” Michael gazed out the windshield, his mind drifting back to the happier times.
“They’re out there, son. If I could subpoena the records from that agency, the lawyer who handled the adoption, I would.”
“And McBryne would remind you that agents cannot use Bureau resources for personal use.”
Michael chuckled with a shake of his head. “Prove to me no agent has ever done that and I have land on Mars to give you.”
Jeff raised a brow with a crooked smile. “Oh, you’ll just give it to me?”
They shared the laugh then Michael turned on the radio for music.