Keys

Chapter 2

almost down to the parking level. As the group hesitated at the door, a uniformed sergeant, his firearm raised, finger on the trigger, turned quickly. “We don’t know how many shooters there are; fan out and be careful. We’ve got people down. Watch out for crossfire.”

Hearts pounding in their ears, Steve and Elliott managed a quick anxious look to each other as the door was opened and the officers moved quickly and quietly into the garage.

It was eerily quiet, and the unmistakable odor of gunpowder hung heavily in the air. Steve and Elliott stayed close together, revolvers at eye level, eyes and heads swiveling constantly as they moved with the others, as one unit, further into the nearest lane of cars.

From the opposite side of the garage, shouts could be heard – other cops closing in from that end. Moving deeper into the garage, nearer to where the unmarked cars were parked, they began to hear moans; one pain-filled voice called for help.

“Over here!” yelled someone from two lanes away, and Steve’s group broke into a quick trot, still vigilant, guns up. As they came around the end car and into the lane, they heard someone say, “Oh my god, they’ve all been hit…”

In that instant, for Steve, everything began to move in slow motion. Breaking into a run, holstering his weapon, no longer concerned that he could become a target, his only goal now was to get to his partner. Halfway down the long line of cars he could see them - bodies on the ground.

Vaguely aware of the others alongside him, Steve frantically tried to locate the familiar fabric of his partner’s suit as he got closer. Someone was trying to sit up, others writhing in agony, still others frightening still. There was blood everywhere.

He heard Elliott yell, “Charlie!” and saw him quickly and carefully cross through the pile of bodies to his wounded partner, who was lying on his back, on top of someone’s legs, both hands trying to stop the blood that was oozing from his belly.

That was when Steve saw him – Bidwell was lying on top of Mike, who was facedown, unmoving. Elliott was pulling Bidwell into his arms when Steve got to his partner.

Steve could hear nothing but his own heavy breathing, his movements suddenly feeling sluggish, as if he was moving through water. As he knelt and reached for Mike, his eyes fell on a small tear in the back of his jacket. He dropped his left hand to the bottom of the jacket and flipped it up. There was a small hole in the blue knit vest, in the middle of Mike’s back near his spine, surrounded by a wide circle of blood.

With shaking hands, unaware of everything around him except the man lying before him, he grabbed Mike’s shoulders and turned him over into his lap. Mike’s lips were slightly parted and his eyes partially open, the pupils rolled back into his head. There was a bloody scrap on the right side of his face. And another small hole through the jacket high up on his left chest. Steve pulled the jacket open; blood covered the entire upper left side of Mike’s torso.

Feverishly, suddenly unsure of what to do, Steve placed a hand over the wound then looked up. “I need some help here!” he yelled then moved his hand to Mike’s neck, trying to find a pulse. Shaking, not sure if he was feeling one or not, he stared into his partner’s face, then at his chest.

With a gasp, he glanced around, looking for someone. He could hear himself muttering, “He’s not breathing, he’s not breathing...” over and over, but all he could see and hear was Elliott beside him talking to Bidwell, telling him he was going to be alright.

Suddenly someone in uniform was beside him. Sgt. Bob Chapman turned to Steve and called his name. Sluggishly, not realizing he was being addressed, Steve finally turned when his name was called again.

Chapman was looking into his eyes. “We’ve got to get him on his left side. He’s been shot through the lung and it’ll fill with blood if we don’t get him on his side.” He began to pull Mike from Steve’s grip.

The younger man was suddenly jolted into action. He released his hold and allowed Chapman to reposition his partner. Steve sat on the asphalt with his right leg bent knee up so Mike was braced against him, his head resting on Steve’s left thigh.

“Good,” said Chapman quickly as he got up to move on to someone else, “just keep him like that. We have ambulances on the way.” He turned quickly to Elliott and Bidwell.

Steve stroked Mike’s hair, trying to get his shaking under control, not wanting to acknowledge that there was nothing more he could do for his partner right now. Steve looked around – it was the first time he took notice of the chaotic scene around him.

There seemed to be dozens of people milling around, uniformed and plainclothes officers and civilians, shouting orders, helping the wounded. Steve leaned forward as far as he could. “Stay with me, Mike,” he whispered, “for god’s sake, stay with me…”

The wail of sirens could finally be heard. Turning the sirens off in the confines of the garage, three ambulances screamed into view and squealed to a stop.

Chapman could be heard yelling, “We’ve got three ambulances here – more are coming! I want the three worst to go first – Bob, Mike and Charlie! Let’s move it!”

Within seconds, Steve was surrounded and Mike was gently lifted out of his grasp and laid on his side on a nearby gurney. As Steve scrambled to his feet, the gurney was wheeled to an ambulance and disappeared inside; doors were slammed and it was on it’s way in a matter of seconds.

Steve was following numbly behind when someone caught his sleeve and pulled him back. He turned to see a uniformed officer staring at him, then pointing toward a black-and-white that stood with all its doors open. Elliott was already getting in and Steve quickly followed. No sooner had the doors slammed than the cruiser was on its way, lights and sirens.

As the black-and-white followed the ambulances, Steve glanced over at Elliott. “How’s Charlie doin’?”

A stricken Elliott, who was staring into space, just shook his head. “I don’t know. He was talking to me, but I think it’s really bad.” He took a deep steadying breath. “How’s Mike?”

Steve swallowed, trying to control the tremor he knew would be in his voice. “He was…um…I couldn’t find a pulse…I, uh, I don’t think he was breathing…” He stopped.

Elliott looked up. “He’ll be okay,” he said with an attempt at reassurance, but there was no conviction in his voice.

# # # # #

The hospital waiting room was crowded, but for the number of people, the volume of their voices was surprisingly low. Police officers, in uniform and not, were everywhere. News of the shooting had reached everyone, and those not on duty, and some that were, had descended on Franklin in a wave.

Steve and Elliott were sitting side by side, both lost in their own thoughts. Steve was leaning forward, elbows on his knees, staring at the floor tile. Elliott was resting his head against the back of the chair, eyes closed.

Steve slowly became aware that someone was standing directly in front of him. He looked up to see Captain Rudy Olsen, who leaned down and put a fatherly hand on his shoulder. “How are you doing?” Olsen asked kindly.

Steve looked down again and shook his head. “Rudy,” he said quietly, voice wavering, “I think he’s gone.”

Olsen took a deep breath, and glanced around quickly. A patrolman caught the look and grabbed a chair and set it so the older man could sit. Face-to-face, Olsen put his hands of both of the inspector’s forearms and leaned in close. “Why do think that?” he asked slowly, “And Steve, I want you to answer me as a police officer, not as a friend or a partner, you understand?”

Steve nodded. He inhaled deeply before he spoke. “He was shot through the chest – high left to mid-back, near his spine. He was unresponsive. His eyes were rolled back in his head, I couldn’t find a pulse, and he wasn’t breathing. And the two wounds weren’t bleeding either, which is a sign that his heart had stopped pumping, isn’t it?”

He had spoken so softly Olsen had to lean in closer to hear him. Now the older man moved back slightly and composed himself. Then equally quietly he asked, “How long has he been in there?” He nodded over his shoulder in the direction of Emergency.

Steve shook his head again and shrugged. “I don’t know, half an hour, forty-five minutes.”

Olsen gave himself several seconds to compose his thoughts. He knew his next words wouldn’t be for a colleague, but for a young man who may have just held his best friend dead in his arms. “Steve,” he began slowly, “don’t you think that if Mike were gone, someone would have come out to tell you before now?”

Olsen smiled slightly when Steve’s head came up and his red-rimmed eyes glistened with the faintest trace of hope. “Mike wouldn’t give up on you; don’t give up on him.”

Steve nodded, and Olsen could see the barest hint of a returned smile. “Yeah.”

With a reassuring squeeze of Steve’s forearms, Olsen stood up. Before turning to Elliott, he once more put a reassuring hand on Steve’s shoulder. “That’s something to hold onto, isn’t it?” The younger man nodded.

As Olsen moved his chair to in front of Elliott, someone sat heavily on Steve’s other side. He looked up into the serious visage of Norm Haseejian. “Here, kiddo,” said the sergeant, “I think Mike would want you to hold onto this.” He held out the familiar grey fedora.

Steve’s eyes fell to the hat and he froze momentarily. Then, quietly, “Thanks, Norm,” as he took it in both hands. The hat was wet in spots, and Steve realized that it had been hastily cleaned to remove any blood.

Norm slipped an arm around Steve’s shoulder, and together the two homicide detectives sat in the crowded, hushed room, and waited.

# # # # #

They didn’t have to wait long. Steve heard his name being mentioned and looked up to see a doctor in surgical scrubs talking to a group of patrolmen. A couple of the officers pointed in his direction, and Steve heard one of them say, “He’s the lieutenant’s partner. Steve Keller.”

Steve’s heart sank as he watched the doctor nod his curt thanks and, grim-faced, turn to cross the room.


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