Her new partner was young, right off the beat, and eager. Maybe a little too eager in everything he did which included flirting with her. But that didn't worry her as much as his overly confident, ready-to-draw attitude. He was a hot shot and that type was never popular with the more experienced cops. She should know, she had been one of them herself - ten, fifteen year ago. Now she was married, she had two dogs, she had a house with a mortgage; those were the things that made you think twice about taking unnecessary risks on the job.
It had been a busy morning. They were close to a big drug bust and the energy in the squad room always shifted with the excitement, the anticipation and an edge of fear. They were bringing in little fish each day and were getting closer to the high-ups but they still needed someone from the middle management, a link between the street hustlers and the big sellers. And this morning Diego "The Dweep" Dwyer had given them the name, or rather, he had given her the name. They had nothing on the guy, a Russian by the name of Yelenoff, so they needed to treat easy, bring him in for questioning, maybe get a warrant for his apartment if he refused to cooperate.
It was a dirty place. Entering the building already took your breath away but climbing the stairs to the third floor where Yelenoff lived, the smell of things rotten, alcohol and urine got more intense.
"It's the third door on the right," she told her partner but kept from pointing or even looking for too long. Nobody was in the hall but that didn't mean people couldn't be watching from their peepholes or even hidden cameras - she was paranoid that way.
They stood by the stairs and he looked down; nobody was approaching that way either.
"How do we play it? Do we just bust in? Do you want me to kick in the door?" Again, too eager.
"No, we have no reason for anything like that just now. We just knock. If he opens, I'll talk to him. If he doesn't..." Something occurred to her then and she frowned.
She sighed. "Assholes like that tend to climb out the window and down the fire escape. You stand in front of the door like an idiot and they get their stash and take a hike. Happens all the time."
"Do you want me to... make sure he doesn't?"
"You want to climb the fire escape?"
He grinned. "It's only three stories. I could wait down on the second, see if he moves."
She thought for only a second. "Okay, do that. Give me a ring when you're in place. I'm waiting here. Go, quick." She gave him an awkward shove. Their partnership was still new enough that they had to feel out what kind of touching they would be comfortable with. She would be good with pats on the shoulder and handshakes, the kind of formal, yet amiable partnership she shared with most of the men in the squad. But she would have to train him to accept these without comment or interpreting them as something they were not. New partnerships could be tricky that way and by the amount of time he spent flirting with her every day tricky wasn't even covering it.
She waited, trying to look inconspicuous until her vibrating phone roused her. She answered the call.
"I'm in place. It's a rusty old thing, too. I should get danger pay for shit like this."
"Stop whining, it was your idea. I'm going to knock now." She disconnected the call and put her phone away. A quick pat on her weapon assured her that it was where it was supposed to be. Still, her pulse had picked up, adrenaline was flushing her system.
She knocked, she waited. There was no sound from within the apartment. She knocked again and heard the faint sound of something rustling inside.
"Mr. Yelenoff, this is the police. Would you please o--" That was the moment the door practically exploded outside with a 250-pound guy. She dug and tried to roll but the door caught her in the side and she was pushed to the ground. Yelenoff - she supposed it was him - didn't wait around to see what she would do, he ran down the hall toward the back stairways. She gave chase but he was surprisingly nimble for a guy his size. She pulled her phone from her pocket as she ran after hm.
"He's not this way," the answer came unasked.
"He used the door to tackle me down. I'm after him, back stairs. Hurry!" The only answer was the screeching of metal and she put her phone away as she hit the ground floor. The back door was only just slamming shut and she pushed through it. She saw Yelenoff turning the next corner, away from his building. If he had turned left, he might have run into her partner but he seemed clever that way, and determined. She ran after him and looked around for the hot shot as she also turned right. He just turned the corner and on seeing her quickened his steps.
"Down here," she called out to him. She couldn't see Yelenoff and slowed down. He could be sitting at the entrance of any of the next three or four alleys, ready to jump or shoot her.
Her partner was approaching as she pulled her gun, looking around the first corner. No sign of Yelenoff. She jogged over to the next alleyway, same result. Then she saw the homeless guy, he leaned against the wall behind some cardboard boxes, smoking.
Hot shot was now by her side.
"Hey, buddy, where'd he run?"
The homeless guy looked up at her, squinting against the sun.
"Where'd who run? Who're you?"
"I'm the cop who's chasing after that big guy who's just run by here. Which alley did he take?"
"Oh, dat fat guy. Yeah, he run by here. He's gone down that way," and he pointed across the alley he had build his makeshift home into and toward a narrow entry to what looked like a smaller alley. It also looked like a dead-end.
"Thanks, man," she heard hot shot tell the homeless guy as she was already running across the street. But she heard running steps behind her, eager steps, challenging steps that would soon pass her. She wasn't running full out, she knew instinctively there was no need to hurry now but there was need for caution.
They were almost at the entry when he passed her and her arm shot out to pull him closer to the wall. Just in time, too, as he was about to turn into the alley, no thought on his safety. At the same moment a shot rang and she pulled him to the pavement.
"What the...?" she could hear him as they hit the ground. She pulled herself up and against the wall, her partner following her example. They looked at each other.
He ran his hands over his upper body. There was no wound but somehow they both knew that it was by mere chance and her hand pulling him out of the line of fire. "Yeah yeah." His answer came breathless and with a slight quiver.
"Never just run into an alley you can't look into."
"You didn't say he had a gun."
"I didn't know he had a gun."
He took a few steadying breaths and nodded. "Thank you."
"That's what partners are here for."
They both leaned against the wall for another moment then she dared a short look around the corner. Another shot rang out but it didn't even come close to where she had leaned in. She suspected it ended somewhere in the wall a few feet into the alley.
"Did you see anything?"
"He's hiding behind some dumpsters." She took a deep breath. "Yelenoff! Sergej Yelenoff! Throw your gun away and come..." Another shot rang and hit the wall not far from the corner they were sitting behind.
"I guess that means no," her partner quipped.
She gave him a look.
"I could be wrong." He smiled boyishly at her.
She suspected he thought himself charming and rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I already noticed that you can't always tell the difference between yes and no." She turned back toward their perp.
"What do you..."
"We need backup. We can't go in, he can't come out, and I don't think he's going to. He's gonna sit this out - I don't want to sit here indefinitely."
He pulled out his phone and called for backup.
"Did you see any windows or doors in the alley?"
"Nah, the buildings back here are warehouses. No windows, only one entrance. The only ways into this alley are through here or from up there." She pointed at the sky.
"You think we can get a heli out here?"
"Not at this time of day, with the rush hour. Maybe if we could get to the roof..."
"Sharp shooters? Should we call SWAT?"
She laughed. "You watch too much tv, hot shot. You don't call SWAT, I don't even call SWAT. Only brass calls SWAT and only when they think we've tried everything to solve a situation. We haven't tried everything yet."
"So, we just gonna sit here until..." He lifted his hands as if to say 'forever.'
"Until he either comes out or one of us gets shot." She grinned at him.
"If it wasn't for you, that would've already happened."
"Maybe, maybe not. Things would have progressed faster if it had but... I guess I'm kinda glad that it didn't."
"I'm growing on you." He winked at her.
"You are aware that I'm married, right?" She had debated with herself whether to confront him, but they had been working together for two months now and he didnd't seem to get tired of hitting on her and she'd had enough of it.
"Lots of people are married but not everybody cares."
Another short debate with herself later, she pulled her wallet out of her jacket. She thumbed past her driver's license and pulled a picture from an inner pocket. She unfolded it, smiled as she looked at the picture from her wedding day. Then she gave it to her partner.
"I'm very happily married," she said, looking at him with the kind of open look that would convey sincerity.
He looked at the picture. His dark eyebrows rose into his hairline, then he looked back at her.
"That's a... erm... beautiful dress." He handed her the picture.
"Yes, it is."
"I'm sorry, if I came across kinda strong. Henderson said... I mean, well, never mind."
"Henderson? Did he put you up to it?" she asked with a slight growl in her voice.
"It wasn't like that. He just... he said something about you being... tense..."
She sighed. "And needing to get laid? Believe me, if I'm tense in his presence it has nothing to do with not getting any." She put her wallet back into her jacket. "It's because he's an asshole. I bet he and Parker are having a laugh about this."
"I'm sorry. I thought... well, I thought you were all getting along and that he was just... erm..."
"Helpful? He's not. Most of the time these guys are just pains in my... butt."
"Yeah, I can see that now. Listen, I'm sorry, okay? No hard feelings, right?" He pushed out his hand for her to take and she only let him wait a short moment before she took it.
The sense of relief coursing through her surprised her. She hadn't realized how much his behavior had bothered her. She had just tried to be professional but the kind of camaraderie that she had shared with her former partner had been missing in her life. The feeling that she could trust the man she was working with was essential in her job and she now knew that she could have it back. It was a good feeling and she smiled as she turned away from him and toward the alley.
A short moment later they heard sirens and ten minutes later the street was abuzz with cops who carefully approached the alley from both sides.
Long hours later, she entered her home. She had been right about their suspect, he hadn't given up. Only after he had emptied his magazine and they had approached cautiously with vests and shields, had they been able to apprehend Yelenoff - and he had put up quite a fight even then. But it was a good collar. They had searched his apartment and found quite a stash of heroine. Some pills, too.
She felt good about her day, about her new partner and the collar. Tomorrow they could start questioning Yelenoff and she was confident that they would be able to get some names from him. Days like these when things were progressing, when one felt the contentment of accomplishment, were too rare to simply brush away and go on. They were the kind of days she worked very hard for and chose to celebrate - and that they had done, with a couple of beers and some colleagues and a late dinner. She felt the buzz of the alcohol as she climbed the stairs to the second story of their cozy home. She was tired but still filled with excitement and anticipation - the fear was gone, though. Today, she was still alive.
She slipped into the bedroom and stood for a moment, looking down at the sleeping form in the bed. One of the dogs, she thought it was Patsy but it was hard to tell in the darkness, raised her head looking up to see what she was up to but then lay her head back on her paws. She slipped out of her shirt, then out of her jeans and put her pillow against the headboard on her side of the bed. She lay against it on top of the covers. Her hand twitched to touch the tousled blond hair of her spouse and she finally gave into the temptation and pushed a lock from the face she loved so much. Blue eyes opened a moment later.
"Hey, lovely," she said.
"Hey." Kate looked up at her sleepily, then pushed herself up on an elbow, alert. "What happened?" She touched her face where the door had hit her on the side, a side that had already begun to swell and turn blue.
"Nothing much, just some guy pushing through a door I stood behind. It's all good, though. We caught him."
"We? Are you and the new guy a 'we' now?" Her wife knew her too well and paid attention to the kind of things she said, the way she said them. Kate always knew so much better what she felt than even she herself did. It was strange, it was scary and it was the best feeling in the world.
"From now on, we are."
"I'm glad." Kate pushed forward and kissed her on the lips.
"So am I. He's okay and I showed him our wedding picture. He liked your dress."
Kate chuckled. "I bet he did." She pulled at the covers that were trapped under her. "Come on, get under here. It's late. We should get some sleep."
She took a deep breath, ready to protest that she was not tired but at that moment the exertions of the day, the thrill of it caught up with her and she felt suddenly bone-tired. She slipped under the covers and pulled Kate to her. They snuggled comfortably into each other's arms.
"You're going to be more careful approaching doors now, won't you?"
"I wasn't approaching, I was knocking."
"Then don't knock on doors with perps behind," Kate told her in the kind of logic that only the almost-asleep apply.
"Yes, m'am," came the obedient answer before first Kate then her wife fell asleep.