Keys

Chapter 23

Rudy Olsen put the receiver down and looked out the window. The sky was grey and he could see the trees swaying in the wind. ‘That’s somehow appropriate,’ he thought to himself as he sat unmoving behind his desk, feeling sad and drained and suddenly very old.

With a resigned sigh, he picked up the receiver again, punched a button, dialed two numbers and waited. “Phil, bring the car around to the front please. We have to get over to Oakland… Thanks.”

He lowered the receiver slowly, trying to stop his hand from trembling. Was this nightmare ever going to end?

# # # # #

Sergeants Norm Haseejian and Dan Healey were sitting silently on either side of a desk in the Oakland Homicide Department, arms folded, heads down, both lost in their own worlds. The OPD detectives in the room were giving them space, keeping their voices down, respecting the heartache they were enduring.

Haseejian looked towards the door at the far end of the room. He knew very well what was going on behind the closed door, and his heart went out to everyone in that room. He wished he could be in there to offer support and comfort, but knew also knew that that was impossible; all he could do was wait and be there when it was all over.

Healey glanced at his watch; it was already almost noon. He could see the dark clouds out the office windows and how rain was beginning to hit the glass. He snorted quietly to himself; the weather matched the mood in the room, he thought sadly.

He caught Haseejian’s glance towards the far door and turned to look himself. He sighed louder than he had intended, and saw the Armenian’s moist eyes swivel in his direction. They stared at each other for a few seconds then Healey nodded and smiled slightly, companionably, before looking away. He had never felt so helpless.

# # # # #

Dr. Peters stood beside the bed, watching his patient sleep. Three hours earlier, he had successfully weaned Mike from the ventilator and the detective was now breathing on his own with the assistance of an oxygen mask.

The doctor had been expecting to see Steve, and when the cop didn’t show up, he began to get a little worried. Peters was aware of the early morning phone call Steve had received, and the urgency with which he had left, but he kept his concern from his patient. Mike was still unaware that his partner had visited during the night and Peters intended to keep it that way.

Then, about an hour ago, Peters had received a call from a Captain Olsen, then same man who had called Steve earlier. After inquiring about his colleague’s health, Olsen had informed the doctor in the vaguest terms about what had transpired in Oakland that morning. He wanted the doctor to know what was going on, and what to say to Mike should the detective become suspicious and inquire.

With a heavy heart, Peters hung up the phone and returned to the ICU cubicle. Mike, his strength depleted, had fallen asleep. The doctor sat in the chair beside the bed and put his hand over Mike’s comfortingly, trying to think through how he would explain to the older man the reason for his partner’s absence.

# # # # #

Captain Rudy Olsen walked into the OPD Homicide Office and quickly located his two sergeants. Haseejian and Healey stood immediately, and they shook hands silently and solemnly.

“Are they still talking?” Olsen asked.

Haseejian nodded. “Yeah. In there.” He gestured towards the door at the far end of the room, where the window blinds had been drawn.

“They’ve been at it for over three hours,” Healey added, sounding partly angry, partly resigned.

“Well, it’s not easy for anybody,” Olsen offered. “I just want get him over to the hospital.”

Both Healey and Haseejian looked at Olsen with concern. Olsen put his hands up. “Mike’s doing better, a lot better,” he said quickly, “I just think it’ll be good for both of them, and the sooner the better.”

The sergeants nodded, looking back at the door, as if their stares could make it open.

# # # # #

Shortly after 2 p.m. the meeting room door opened and its occupants began to file out, sombre and silent. Captain Stewart crossed to Olsen and introduced himself. Rountree and Romero walked slowly to their desks. Behind them, Cavallero exited the room, closely followed by Gerry O’Brien, who had his arm around Steve’s shoulders.

Olsen had never seen the young inspector looking so miserable. Anguish was writ large across his handsome face, and Olsen’s heart went out to him; nobody wanted to see this, yet, in reality, nobody wanted to be in his shoes right now. It was an impossibly difficult situation.

Olsen reached out and put a hand on the back of Steve’s neck, making sure the younger man met his eyes. “How are you holding up?” he asked kindly when he did.

Steve shrugged slightly, eyebrows raised. But he remained quiet. Olsen turned to Stewart. “Is it okay with you guys if I take Steve back to San Francisco, so he can see his partner?” He saw the inspector’s eyes widen slightly.

Stewart looked to Cavallero, who nodded. “Of course,” the ADA said, “we’ve done everything we can for now.” He turned to the young man they were talking about. “Steve,” he said, shaking his hand, “thank you. I know how hard this has been for you. And I know there is much more we have to do.” He smiled and clapped the young man on the back. “Go see your partner, tell him we wish him well and that we’re looking forward to meeting him when he’s back to work.”

Steve smiled gratefully. “Thank you, I will.”

Olsen took him by the elbow. “Phil’s waiting in the car,” he explained quietly as he led the young detective toward the door.

# # # # #

The ride back to San Francisco was done in complete silence. Steve sat in the back with Haseejian; Tanner, Lessing, Healey and Panetta were in the car behind. No one had had any sleep for over thirty-six hours and the tension and fatigue was beginning to show on everyone. But they were all determined to ensure that their colleague was safe, in every connotation of that word.

Haseejian glanced across the seat at Steve, who was staring out the side window, his face expressionless. He resisted the urge to reach over and lay a comforting hand on the young man’s arm.

The dark green LTD pulled up in front of Franklin’s main entrance. Olsen, Haseejian and Steve got out; Olsen leaned back into the car. “You can go back to the office,” he said to Polanski, “I’m gonna stay here for awhile. I’ll catch a cab back later.”

Polanski nodded and drove off, as they were joined by Lessing, Healey and Tanner. Haseejian had gone ahead and, as the five police officers entered the large grey building, he crossed to meet them.

“Mike’s in Room 515,” he informed them as they crossed towards the elevators.

Steve smiled slightly to himself; that meant Mike was no longer in ICU, a good sign. He needed some good news right now.

The six weary cops strode purposefully down the fifth floor corridor. Steve was not at all surprised to see Dr. Peters waiting for them at the nurse’s station. Since his conversation with Olsen several hours earlier, the doctor had been anticipating Steve’s eventual arrival.

But he was unprepared for the look of devastation on the inspector’s face, realizing much more had transpired that morning than he was aware of, obviously. He hoped the news he was about to impart would go a long way in helping to restore Steve’s peace of mind.

Peters smiled as the cops approached, meeting Steve’s stare evenly. Without bothering with salutations, he said cheerfully, “Mike’s doing great. He’s off the ventilator and breathing on his own. He’s very tired and sleeping most of the time, but he’s going to be very happy to see you.”

At the mention of the ventilator, the other members of group exchanged worried glances; none of them had been aware of that troubling development, and they wondered what else Steve had kept from them.

Steve smiled and nodded but there was a troubling solemnity that they all noted. Peters glanced nervously at Olsen, who smiled encouragingly, then gestured towards the door of Room 515. Steve crossed to the door and stopped, took a deep breath, then opened the door and entered the room, closing the door quietly.

Olsen turned to Peters and introduced himself. As they shook hands, Olsen looked once more towards the hospital room door. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people who need each other so desperately as those two right now.” He looked at the young doctor. “Thank you for making that possible.”

# # # # #

Steve stood with his back to the closed door and stared at the bed, as if unable to move any closer.

With the bed raised about forty degrees and his head resting on a couple of thin pillows, Mike Stone, the oxygen mask covering half his face, lay eerily still, his eyes closed. He was attached to an IV drip and a heart monitor, but Steve could see the comforting, regular rise and fall of his chest.

Steve ran both hands over his face. He knew he had to get control of his roiling emotions before he could face his partner, well aware that Mike needed to be stronger before he had to face the realities of the past few hours.

Steadying himself, Steve quietly approached the bed. Sensing the presence, Mike’s eyes opened and his head turned slightly. He smiled as best he could under the mask, obviously relieved to see his partner standing beside him. He tried to lift his left hand off the bed.

With his own genuine smile, Steve leaned over the bed, taking Mike’s hand in one of his, stroking the hair back from his forehead with the other. They stared at one another for several long seconds.

Finally, Steve asked quietly, “How are you doing?” He felt Mike’s fingers tighten slightly around his own, and the older man nodded slowly.

“Better,” Mike’s voice was once again muffled under the mask. “Tired.”

Steve nodded back. “I’m sure. Look, you go back to sleep; I’m just gonna sit here and keep you company, okay?”

“I’d like that.”

Steve crossed to the corner of the room to get a chair. He noticed a cot pushed against the wall and smiled. Putting the chair down quietly beside the bed, he was about to sit when Mike’s voice stopped him.

“Did you get them?”

Steve froze then met Mike’s eyes evenly. He hoped his confirming smile didn’t belie his anxiety. He nodded slowly, “Yeah, yeah, we got ‘em. I’ll tell you all about it when you’re feeling better, okay?” He sat slowly, leaning over the bed and picking up Mike’s hand again. “I just want you to get better so we can go home and get our lives back,” he finished softly, sadly, almost hoping that Mike didn’t hear him.

Mike wrapped his fingers around his partner’s hand, basking in his presence, feeling for the first time in a long time that there was going to finally be an ending to all this tragedy and pain. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to sink back down into unconsciousness.

Steve watched as sleep overtook his partner and, gripping his hand tighter, leaned back in the chair and let the grief and despair he had been fighting for the last few hours to quietly emerge.


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