Keys

Chapter 21

Slowly and gently, Steve picked up Mike’s right hand. He stared at his partner’s face, peripherally watching the mechanical rise and fall of his chest in sync with the rhythmic whoosh and click of the ventilator. He was vaguely aware of Dr. Peters moving closer behind him. He felt the young doctor’s hand on his shoulder.

“You’re probably not going to believe me right now, but Mike’s going to be okay,” Peters said quietly. When Steve didn’t move or acknowledge his comment, Peters continued, “The pneumonia was making it harder and harder for him to breathe and he was exhausted. He’s on a much stronger antibiotic now and it will work, but his body needs the strength to fight and breathing on his own was too hard on his system.” Peters saw Steve’s head turn slightly in his direction, like he was focusing with greater intensity on what the doctor was saying.

Emboldened, Peters began to speak more confidently. “The decision to put him on the ventilator was not made lightly. But it was done to alleviate the work his lungs were having to do and allow the antibiotics to do their thing. The pain killers we’re giving him knocked him out, but at least he’s finally getting some rest.” He paused slightly. “If everything works like it should, he’ll be taken off the ventilator later on this morning.”

Steve felt Peters’ hand tighten on his shoulder and he turned his head to meet the doctor’s eyes. Peters smiled encouragingly. “He is going to be okay, Steve. I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Happily Peters saw the young cop relax slightly and all but smile. Almost inaudibly, Peters heard him say, “I’m, ah, I’m really sorry. It’s…it’s just been such an horrific couple of weeks…”

Peters squeezed Steve’s shoulder even harder. “You don’t have to explain,” he said kindly, then reached out and pulled another chair closer to the bed before sitting.

Steve turned to look at him, really seeing the young doctor for the first time. Peters looked exhausted and disheveled, and it suddenly dawned on Steve that every time he had been at the hospital with Mike, Peters had been there as well. “Why are you here?” Steve asked with a perplexed smile.

Peters did a small double take, bewildered. “What do you mean?”

“It’s just, well, every time I’ve been here, you’re here too. Don’t you get any downtime?”

Peters snorted almost self-consciously. “Well…” he started slowly, “I’m really not on duty right now. I haven’t been for over twenty-four hours.”

At Steve’s confused stare, he smiled shyly. “How do I explain this?” he said very softly, almost to himself. “That Monday, when Mike was admitted after the shooting, and everything else was going on, all that chaos that we went through? Well, it became very important not only to me, but to everyone in this hospital, that every police officer that was admitted here that day would eventually walk out of here.” He looked away suddenly, unable to meet Steve’s stare.

Peters cleared his throat. “There was something about Mike,” he chuckled and shook his head, “I’m not even sure what it was, maybe he reminded me of my father -- or the way I wish my father had been -- and your relationship with him… Anyway,” he said with a heavy sigh, “I just knew that I had to keep you two together.” He looked at Steve sideways, embarrassed.

Steve expression was warm and understanding, and Peters smiled self-consciously. “So I, ah, I talked to the head of the Critical Care department and told him I wanted to stay on Mike’s case, that I would do it on my own time; he agreed, so I took a leave of absence and, ah, here I am. There’s a couple of cots in a room on the third floor that we use; I’ve been grabbing some z’s when I can.”

Peters smiled to himself as he sat back and folded his arms. “There are times in your life when you just have to do the right thing, no matter what. For me, this is one of those times; it’s really a no-brainer.”

Steve was staring at his partner, his expression turned melancholy; Peters words had hit close to home. He took a deep long inhale. “I don’t know how I’ll ever thank you,” he began quietly then found himself unable to continue.

Peters chuckled slightly. “Just seeing him walk out of here with you, that’s going to be thanks enough, believe me.” He looked at Steve out of the corner of his eye. “The world needs more good guys, and I really believe he’s one of the good guys.”

Steve chortled in spite of himself. “You have no idea.”

The silence lengthened between them as they continued to stare at the man in the bed, then Peters yawned loudly and stood up. “I really should get some more sleep,” he said wearily, slapping Steve on the shoulder. “Things are going to get busy in the morning when we take him off the ventilator.”

He had made it to the door before Steve’s “Dr. Peters?” stopped him. He turned into the inspector’s grateful stare. “Thank you, for everything.”

Peters smiled broadly. “You both are very welcome,” he said with a smile as he left the cubicle.

Steve turned back to the bed; he was still holding Mike’s hand. He dropped his head into his free hand and stayed that way for several long seconds, gathering his thoughts, willing himself to believe Peters optimistic prognosis.

Then, with a mischievous smile building slowly, he raised his head and stared at his motionless partner. “Do you know how badly I am going to kick your ass when you get out of here? Trying to keep me in the dark? I know you too well, Michael.”

Steve settled back in the chair, hoping his presence was giving his partner strength, knowing that in their simple touch, the most important aspect in his life was still solid and real and very much alive.

# # # # #

O’Brien and Cavellero walked into the office deep in conversation, Yu and Stewart close behind. The few remaining members of the task force still in the building gathered around them in anticipation. Cavallero took a spot in the centre of the room and looked around appreciatively before he began.

“Gentlemen, I must say, this,” he held up a raft of papers, “is very impressive, especially considering the short amount of time you’ve had to do it.” He turned to Stewart. “Paul, everybody should be very proud of themselves. And I think Gerry,” he continued with a grin, indicating O’Brien, “will agree with me that we see no problem in issuing a warrant for the search of the Annenberg home, garage, property and vehicles.” With that, he handed the requisite paperwork over to the Oakland captain.

“So,” Cavellero continued, “what judge have you lined up to sign this?”

Stewart sighed. “We’re gonna try Atwater first, and if he doesn’t agree, we’ve got Carson next on the list.”

Cavellero nodded. “Atwater…good choice. You want Gerry and I to go with you? I mean, someone is going to have to sweet-talk him when you wake him up at four in the morning.”

“That would be perfect, thank you. Just let me get in touch with Jerry Coleman, our man on the street, so to speak, right now. Let him know we should be ready to roll hopefully within the hour.”

# # # # #

Coleman hung up the radio mic. “So that’s it, we just wait for the judge’s signature and Paul to get that piece of paper over here and we’re good to go.” He glanced around the car. “I’m just going to go talk to the others, get them up to speed.” He got out of the car and disappeared into the darkness.

Their car was parked on a residential street four blocks from the Annenberg house. Stewart, Haseejian, Elliott and Rountree had been sitting in the unmarked sedan for over two hours, drinking coffee, swapping ‘war’ stories and waiting, the tension ever present but not obviously apparent.

Almost three hours earlier, as they were leaving the Oakland PD Headquarters on their way to the cars, Elliott had fallen into step beside Haseejian. “Where’s Steve?” he whispered, glancing around.

“What?”

“You heard me,” Elliott said curtly, “I saw him leave about a half-hour ago. Where did he go?”

“Ah, he just had some errands to run,” Haseejian said feebly, knowing that the young inspector wasn’t going to let him easily off the hook.

“That’s crap, Norm. It is Mike, isn’t it? Something’s happened to Mike.”

Haseejian looked around nervously. “Keep your voice down. Steve doesn’t want anybody to know,” he said quickly and quietly.

“I knew it. I told you,” Elliott spat out. “What’s going on?”

“Okay, if I tell you,” Haseejian stopped himself, then took a quick breath, lowering his own voice, “if I tell you, you have to promise it doesn’t go any further, alright?”

“I promise,” Elliott hissed, losing patience.

“Mike’s back in the hospital, pneumonia.”

Elliott caught his breath. “Sonofabitch.”

“Steve’s gone to see him. I’m gonna give him a call when the warrant is signed so he can get back here for the search.”

They had reached the car. Haseejian turned to his colleague. “This stays between us, right?”

Elliott nodded distractedly as he got into the back seat of the dark green unmarked sedan.

Now, as Coleman left the car to talk to the others, and Rountree got out to stretch his legs, Haseejian turned to Elliott, who had become quieter and more detached during their wait. “Are you okay?” When there was no response, Haseejian elbowed him. “Jack, are you still with us?” he asked with a chuckle.

Elliott turned to him slowly, his eyes dark and angry. He started to shake his head. “I can’t let this happen,” he said quietly.

“What?”

Elliott shook his head again. “I can’t let this happen.” He opened the car door and got out.

“Jack? Jack? Where are you –?“

Elliott slammed the door and began to walk off across the street. Haseejian opened his own door and got out, trying to keep his voice low but forceful. “Jack! Where are you going?”

As Haseejian watched, Elliott broke into a rapid jog and quickly disappeared around a corner. Haseejian started to run in an attempt to catch up, but when he got to the end of the street, Elliott was nowhere to be found.

Angrily, Haseejian raced back to the car, opened the front door and grabbed the mic. “Gentlemen, I think we have a problem.”

# # # # #

Steve snapped awake when he felt someone touch his shoulder. He realized quickly he was still in the chair at Mike’s bedside. A quick glance at his partner told him that all was well there; he turned to look over his shoulder. A nurse was standing behind him.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, Inspector, but you have a phone call. A Captain Olsen says it’s an emergency.”

“Olsen?” Steve said to himself under his breath. He was expecting a call from Haseejian but not Olsen. “Thank you,” he said as he stood, releasing Mike’s hand. He followed her out to the nurse’s station.

“Yeah, Rudy, what’s going on?” he said when he picked up the receiver.

“Steve, I need you to get back to Oakland as quick as you can.” Rudy sounded breathless and agitated. “To the Annenbergs.”

“They’ve got that warrant --?”

“No,” Olsen cut him off. “They’re still waiting on that. It’s Jack. While they were waiting for the warrant, Jack just got out of the car and forced his way into their house. He’s holding the son at gunpoint and he’s threatening to kill him.”


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