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For a Heart

It was the second gunshot that made David Falcon’s heart skip a beat. Whizzing straight past the officer’s ear, it was this shot that indicated to the man that he was in more trouble than he had originally thought. Whereas the first shot from the perpetrator had merely been a noise that put him on alert, this was the shot that told him the perp meant business, and he now knew that this was far from your ordinary traffic stop. Instantly, he ducked behind the object closest to him: an old, already-rusting mailbox. His gun had left its holster long ago, though he could not remember even reaching for it. The life of a cop had become so instinctual to him that there was nothing he had to think about, especially when shots were fired.


He glanced about his position, his eyes scanning the perimeter for his partner. A wisp of wavy dark hair caught his eye, and he looked up to see his partner’s back pressed against a tree on the opposite side of the road. Though stray hairs were escaping her ponytail holder and long work hours were clearly taking their toll, Eliana Michaels looked as if she were a detective straight from a movie, while Falcon found himself already soaked in cool sweat from a combination of fear and exhaustion. In fact, if any onlookers had happened upon the scene at that moment, it would seem as if the twenty-one-year-old rookie of two months were the one in control of the situation, rather than her senior officer with his twenty-five years of service on the force.


God, I’ve been on the force longer than Michaels has even been born, Falcon thought to himself, watching as Eliana peeked from behind her tree. The gunfire had long ago ceased, but Falcon could still feel the presence of the shooter twenty feet up the road. The man was certainly still there; Falcon could sense it. That, and Michaels hadn’t sprinted off after him yet. Though neither of the two had discussed it in the five weeks they had been working together, there was a mutual understanding that Eliana would be the one to chase down anyone who ran; not only was she the new officer, but she was simply faster. And reckless. Oh so reckless, Falcon realized as his partner glanced his way. In her faint green eyes, Falcon saw the glow of a fire he had never before seen. Like any other rookie, she was eager to prove herself, perhaps more so considering her reputation within the force. Michaels was the foster daughter of the chief of police, and everyone in this town and the next knew that that was how she had gotten the job over the rest of the applicants, but Falcon had to admit that he didn’t mind in the least. She was not only willing to take orders, but she was – well, good.


Perhaps she was even too good at this, for it was Michaels and not Falcon that had realized the shooter’s intentions first. As the man approached, Michaels’s weapon shot up to the level of his chest, and it was then that Falcon saw her hesitation. Falcon’s own gun had poised itself without him even realizing it as he watched the scene play out. The shooter now stood perhaps ten feet from his partner, but Michaels seemed as if she were frozen in place, her weapon pointed at the man’s torso without any real conviction.


Slowly, Falcon inched toward the two, his shoes scattering pebbles as he dragged his feet across the road. His gaze never drifted from Michaels and the still-officially-unidentified man. Though Falcon had not seen the man’s face and could not confirm his suspicions, he had a very clear idea of who this man was. Windblown blond hair and the limp that stalled him as he moved at a snail’s pace toward Michaels indicated that there was an incredibly good chance that their shooter was the first criminal Michaels had ever locked up; Manny Clossin had been a lawyer, an untouchable in the eyes of the public, yet a tip from a confidential informant of Michaels’s had led the narcotics unit to uncover Clossin’s drug smuggling ring. Needless to say, Clossin was certainly a person to hold a grudge, especially after outsmarting handfuls of cops for years and having a woman fresh from the academy be his downfall. And Michaels would definitely be easy to remember – both because she was one of the seven female officers employed by the city of Sonne and due to her relationship with the police chief.


Dressed in a full suit, the only betrayal Clossin’s garb gave was a slight puffiness under the coat. Falcon knew, as he was sure Michaels did, that the man was wearing a bulletproof vest, and this would account for his partner’s hesitation. At that moment, Falcon realized that Michaels had no clue as to what she should do. “Clossin,” Falcon called from halfway across the road, “put the gun down.”


The man made no move and did not so much as acknowledge Falcon’s warning. Likewise, Michaels made no indication that she had noticed her partner’s approach; the sole sight beheld by her eyes was the gun pointed straight at her head, execution style. It was a split second decision, but Falcon realized what he would have to do. He re-holstered his weapon when he was within range of the other man and lunged. The impact of the blow sent Clossin staggering backward, but quick reflexes and younger bones allowed the man to wrestle free of the officer’s grip. Falcon landed with a thud, loose gravel stabbing into his back as his body collided with the pavement. I’m getting too old for this, he thought, attempting to rise from the ground. It was only then that Falcon realized Clossin had jumped up soon after the fall and planted his foot on the officer’s chest.


“Drop the weapon,” Michaels half-growled, the remnants of her Russian accent leaking through. From his position on the ground, Falcon could see that his partner was approaching Clossin, her gun now pointed at the man’s head, a shocking reminder of the position he had formerly held her in. “Now.”


The two shots were nearly simultaneous. The warmth of blood trickled from Falcon’s neck, giving him the feeling that all the air had been forced from his lungs. He felt Clossin’s weight disappear from his torso, only to be replaced by a new stream of blood. It soaked through his shirt, yet Falcon knew there was no wound to be found there. It was only then that he realized that the two shots were not both meant for him; he knew, suddenly, that one shot had been Clossin’s and the other, Michaels’s.


As if on cue, the woman knelt next to him, and he saw in her green eyes the first glimpse of fear he had ever known in those five weeks. Carefully, her palm found the entrance wound in his neck and clamped over it, while her free hand found his limp one. She was shaking miserably. “I-I radioed it in,” she managed, back to the half-accent he had known from the first day he’d met her. “They are sending an ambulance, and…I’m so sorry. I don’t know what…I should not have hesitated.”


He squeezed her hand tighter, grimacing from the pain this effort took. “Eliana,” he began, but she shook her head.


Frantically, she said, “You should not speak.”


“It doesn’t matter,” Falcon muttered, his strength evaporating. “I won’t...make it.” He heard a stifled sob and looked to see tears welling up in her eyes. “Eliana, just don’t beat yourself up over this. You’re one of the good ones, and they need someone…like you. With a heart.” She felt his grip loosening and knew, already, what had happened. Though she could now hear the wail of a siren growing in the distance, Eliana Michaels knew that her partner would not live for his last ride in a vehicle they had both come to know so well.

---


There was nothing in existence that Officer Michaels hated more than hospitals. Perhaps, hated was not even a strong enough word to describe her feelings upon walking down the halls of Clermont County’s largest emergency room. It was in a hospital that her thirteen-year-old self had learned that her father’s boating accident had left him permanently paralyzed; it was in a hospital, too, that her daughter was born, only to die from suffocation mere months later. However, as much as she detested hospitals, it was now a hospital that offered her an escape. As she’d decided, she would much rather brave a trek through the hospital than see the accusing glares of her colleagues when they learned that she was the reason they had lost an officer tonight. Yes, it was far better to leave that task to another.


She turned a corner and found herself outside the door behind which her partner’s body lay. One glance through the glass partition on either side of the door told her all she needed to know of what was happening inside. A throng of relatives and friends crowded around a body whose life had departed hours ago. In the center, a grieving widow clutched helplessly to the edge of the hospital bed, a supporting arm thrown around her by her eldest son. The same son, Eliana knew, with whom she herself had attended the academy; the same son who was to follow in his father’s footsteps, even when those footsteps could lead to the same tragic end. Off to the side some ways away stood a teenage daughter, blonde hair disheveled and make-up running; in the face of death, appearance had no place. A third and final child, an eight-year-old boy, had secluded himself in the corner of the hospital room, his legs pressed tightly against his chest as if offering protection from a murderer’s bullet. I made Amanda a widow, Eliana thought bitterly. I made these three fatherless.


The scene was one which she could bear no longer. Another turn down the hallway led her to a waiting room. Here, there was no grieving widow, no mourning children. Here, she was completely alone with her own thoughts, themselves a thousand times more tragic than any sobbing widow. If I hadn’t hesitated, David would still be alive. She shuddered to even think that she had caused a death as sacred as her partner’s. If David had hesitated, if he hadn’t sprung on Clossin, it would have been me in that bed, with a family in Russia grieving the loss of a daughter, and a foster family clustered around the bedside. If David would have hesitated, he would be alive, driving home to his family, or perhaps sitting here as I am now, wondering how he could have hesitated and allowed for my murder. He would be the one alive, the one a thousand times more deserving of such a feat, and he could have told everyone that my own stupidity and hesitation had gotten me killed.


Being so lost in thought, Eliana hadn’t heard the sound of approaching footsteps any more than she could have heard her own thoughts of anything other than Officer Falcon. Only as he sat down did Eliana take any notice of her foster brother, whose face was plastered with an imperfect mixture of pity and dread. She turned back toward the wall, but even in such a position she could tell that his blue eyes were piercing her skull. “Ana,” he managed after she continued avoiding his gaze. In his voice, there was the same amount of pity she had seen in his cool eyes, and pity was one thing which Eliana could never stand.


“I don’t need your speech, Geoffrey,” she muttered to the wall. Along with pity, speeches were another thing for which Eliana cared not.


Geoffrey Biani stared at his foster sister as if she were a complete stranger. The chocolaty-brown waves that usually fell so naturally over her face were unruly, and the glimpse he caught in her eyes showed the one emotion Geoffrey had never known her to possess – fear. With her arms pressed tightly against her chest and gaze intent on counting the number of squares on the wall opposite her, Eliana seemed as if a child in a time-out, committed to not being the first to break down. Geoffrey sighed. “And exactly what speech is it that I should be giving you?”


“I don’t know,” she half-spat. “I’m sure there’s some sort of speech you have prepared for whenever some idiot gets her partner killed.” For someone who should never have become a cop in the first place, she inwardly added. When she looked over to see him staring at her as if he had no idea what she meant, Eliana suggested, “You know, like a pity speech about how it wasn’t my fault or a speech about how now no one will ever want to work with me again. Something along those lines.”


She stood up and began pacing the room, and Geoffrey could only shake his head sadly. “I don’t have any sort of speech for you, but I can tell you one thing; I’ve already heard that someone has requested you as a partner, if that’s the fear that’s bothering you.”


This revelation stopped Eliana dead in her tracks. Her pacing stopped, and she sat back down next to her brother. “Who?” was all she could manage.


“Cataniva. He heard about what happened and told me he was interested in working with you,” Geoffrey said in the least eloquent manner his sister had ever heard him assume.


“He has a death wish then?” she laughed bitterly. “I see no other reason he would want to be my partner based on what happened tonight.”


Geoffrey took a deep breath, already knowing he was going to have the hardest time overcoming Eliana’s pride. “You wouldn’t have heard about this, because you were living in Germany at the time, but two years back, Cataniva shot a suspect he was arresting on a murder case. He said the guy was reaching for something in his pocket, and he thought it was a gun. Turns out, it wasn’t a thing, but the shot was fatal. Cataniva beat himself up over it and hasn’t trusted himself since. He knows what you’re going through.”


“What you mean is, he’s the person who least minds if I end up getting him killed, since he already feels guilty about what happened with that suspect,” Eliana corrected him, standing up again.


“Ana, we all make mistakes in this business, and it wasn’t your fault,” Geoffrey assured, but he knew she still wasn’t listening to a word he said. “You didn’t pull the trigger.”


She spun on her heel, eyes full of fire, and her brother realized that those were the exact wrong words. “You’re absolutely right, for once. I didn’t pull the trigger, and that’s what killed him.” Again, she turned away, and Geoffrey saw an involuntary cringe as her gaze focused back on the wall.


“That’s not what I meant at all, and you know it,” he said with a sigh. He had thought that this would be a battle he could win; now, however, he acknowledged that he had certainly underestimated his foster sister’s stubbornness, as well as neglected the fact that she would be in pain. In the eight years he had known her, never once had he seen Eliana express pain, even when she had lost everything. From the time when her husband’s abuse – though she never would admit it – had landed her in the emergency room to her infant daughter’s funeral, Eliana had always worn the stoic mask Geoffrey associated with every female officer he had ever known, a look far too proud to admit defeat. It was a look embodied in the two-inch scar along her check, the very last memento of her failed marriage, but nowhere could he see such a look now. As it seemed to Geoffrey, even the scar on her face had faded, and his sister had at last succumbed to the brewing sorrow belonging to each and every law enforcement officer that had ever existed. “You don’t even have a clue what happened tonight, do you?” Geoffrey finally whispered, a tone of half-question, half-statement settling in the air.


She turned, a gesture done much more slowly than before, and, for the slightest instant, their eyes met. In that mere second, blue could see green’s pain, mixed with as much confusion as could coexist together. Standing up, Geoffrey took his sister’s hand from her side and began to lead her toward the door. The tension in her hand expressed her reluctance, but he knew that for Eliana to overcome the events of the night, there was no other way. Emerging in the hallway, Eliana fully expected her brother to turn left, to lead her toward Falcon’s hospital room with the tears flowing from the eyes of a dozen spectators, but instead he went right. She did not question his move, but rather she was relieved not to be facing the prospects of a confrontation with her partner’s family.


At the end of the hallway, he turned left and stopped at the first door they came across. Inside, the lights were dimmed, but Eliana could distinguish a lone figure standing next to the bedside of a sleeping boy. Geoffrey tapped lightly on the door, and the woman emerged before them. Judging from the grey hairs that sprinkled her faded blonde hair, the woman was in her mid-forties, with faint brown eyes that had grown red and puffy from hours of crying. She took one look at Eliana before turning back to Geoffrey. “This is your sister?” she asked in a voice that was tired and hoarse.


Geoffrey nodded. “Would you mind if we had a moment, Mrs. Flowers?” Eliana tried to wrap her head around the name, but she could not place it anywhere. Never had she heard of a Mrs. Flowers, or if she had, she could not for the life of her remember it now.


“It’s fine,” the woman replied. Eliana did not recall the woman leaving any more than she remembered her name, but when Eliana glanced up again, she and her brother were alone in the hallway, still standing outside the room of the young boy. Geoffrey gestured toward the door, and, with as much reluctance as she had possessed when they first left the solitude of the waiting room, Eliana stepped through to the hospital room beyond.


Geoffrey was still right behind her, but one look at the boy made Eliana’s legs lock, and she could go no further. From his face, she could tell that this boy was no older than fifteen, and the blond hair that fell across his pillow had been shaved in spots. A multitude of hospital machinery was hooked to him. The respirator made her eyes dart up to the monitor next to the bed, but she could no more decipher the heart rhythms than she could see in a pitch-black room. Though his face was badly scratched and all around him came the soft hums of machines at work, in his sleep this boy looked as peaceful as Eliana had ever seen a teenager.


“He was in a car accident with his father a week ago. The one up on Carlton Road.” Geoffrey’s voice startled her, and Eliana could not help but tense up. “You remember it?” She could only nod, her gaze still intently focused on the boy’s face. “Brad’s an only child, and his father died on the spot. He’s all his mother has left.”


Geoffrey’s words resonated in her mind. Like Eliana herself, this boy had no siblings, no other children his mother would have to comfort her if he died. She thought of her own mother, all the way in Russia, and how she would have felt had she gotten a call that it had been Eliana who had been shot by Clossin tonight. Again, her mind wandered to Falcon’s children, who had one father – a father whom they had inevitably lost tonight. “Why are you telling me this?” she whispered, her shaky voice betraying the confidence she had wanted to portray.


Her brother stepped towards her, placing a hand on her shoulder and guiding her closer to the boy’s bedside. “I wanted to show you that Falcon’s death was not in vain,” he explained, his voice soft. “I know you’re bright enough to realize that they did not place his body in a hospital bed out of courtesy.” When his sister said nothing, Geoffrey continued, “As a result of the accident, Brad Flowers’s heart was damaged. They hadn’t expected him to live much longer, but Amanda…she knew that Falcon was helping to find a donor, and after tonight, she decided…well, she decided that she wouldn’t feel right if that donor weren’t Falcon, especially after she found out he was a match.”


Eliana took one final step forward and placed her hand on the boy’s chest, feeling the steady rise and fall. It was only then that she realized that tonight, Officer Falcon’s sacrifice had not only saved her life. Rather, his ultimate sacrifice had occurred long after Clossin’s bullet had burrowed into his body; Falcon had given life not only to Eliana, but to this teenage boy as well. And now, her partner lived on, not in the flesh, but through the heart of another.



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CammyS said...
Oct. 31, 2012 at 10:29 am
Oh my goodness. I have absoutley nothing to say to this but WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Actually, when you said "the perp" "the perp" 'gunshot" 'gunshot", over and over in the first paragraph it was a little off putting. But other than that, WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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