By: Cin and Heidi

Disclaimers: See main page.

day one: thursday 1900 to 0700 hours

Thursday, 1750hrs

Probationary Officer JD Dunne was nervous.  Tonight, right now, started his official career as a full-fledged patrol officer of the Four Corners Police Department and he suffered from first day jitters.  He knew the Police Academy was designed to prepare him for a life on the road but the unknown both thrilled and scared him. 

JD heard the tapes of the actual calls and radio transmissions but he understood nothing in a classroom prepared him for the real thing.  That started today, right now, and he was a real police officer just as he always wanted. 

Knowing that first impressions could make or break him, he pulled the sedate sedan he chose to drive over his preferred motorcycle into an employee parking spot.   It was not a big sacrifice because his mother left him the car after her recent death and he felt closer to her whenever he drove it.  He needed that extra comfort tonight.

Showing more confidence than he felt, he stepped from the vehicle and mentally reviewed his uniform.  Tie-yes.  Tie tack-yes.  Belt-yes.  Badge-yes.  Nametag-yes.  His fingers nearly caressed the small square metal.  Gun-that's very important-yes.   Handcuffs-yes.  Vest-yes.  Collar brass-yes.  Checking his image in the side mirror, he smoothed his long bangs and hoped the mousse held.  He vividly remembered the verbal abuse he took from the Drill Instructors in the Academy – finally resorting to tying the stubborn hair back – but refused to cut them because his mother, God rest her soul, loved them.  He remembered the solace running her fingers through them brought her near the end, reminding her of his early childhood and her angel-faced baby boy.  JD wished she could have seen his graduation and in his mind, he knew her memory rested securely against his heart forever.

He knew she would be proud of him, especially if she knew he was assigned to the premier unit, Squad One, of the Four Corners Police Department.   Squad One worked the midnight shift, operating on a four days on, four days off twelve-hour schedule starting at 1900 hours and running until 0700 hours.  Roll call started thirty minutes before shift and they had asked him to come in early to get him situated and issue him equipment.

Taking a deep breath and running one last quick glance down his uniform, he adjusted his hat then headed toward the entrance of the police station.  As he passed through the second set of double glass doors, spaced five feet from the main doors creating a small foyer, he noticed a key-card access pad beside an intercom/call buzzer box.  JD remembered that after eleven p.m. they locked the second set until six a.m. for safety reasons.  His brain felt overloaded, constantly sifting and sorting through mountains of information drilled in his head at the Academy.  He was trying to prepare for sneak attacks in the form of insignificant questions training officers used to show rookies how much they still had to learn.  Most obvious was the location of the station, precisely in the center of town. In fact, his furiously churning brain informed him, the station served as the focal point for the division of patrol territories.

JD entered the lobby faintly amused that a place most people dreaded coming to tried cordial invitation through decoration.  The walls were painted a pale blue and the highly polished floors were adorned with heavy-duty thick rugs.  The substantial rugs bore the Four Corners Police patch design highlighting the words Honor, Integrity, and Service. 

The design itself resembled a shield, flat across the top and rounded at the bottom.  The interior consisted of four diamonds pointing in a separate direction of the compass.  The top and bottom diamonds were outlined in black with a medium gray interior.  A black background filled the left and right diamonds giving a startling contrast to the designs contained within.  The top diamond held the golden scales of justice; the left held a mounted, armored knight in silver plated armor with a long lance; the right contained the traditional yellow
star; and the bottom diamond showed the year the Police Department was established, three short years ago.  A thin circle surrounded the diamonds with "Four Corners" written just below the flat edge of the shield and "Honor, Integrity, Service" at the bottom curving up on both sides in bold black lettering. 

Two benches sat on either side of the walls with a water fountain and public restrooms in the front left corner as one walked in.  In the front right was a closed door marked Public Contact and a large box sitting beside it with a sign that read `Donations'.  Half of it was filled with canned goods and clothing. The glassed-in reception area presided almost two feet over the lobby and commanded attention.  A door led back from the right side of the glass cube in the center, watched over by the officer of the day or the communications supervisor on duty.  Behind the bullet-proof glass, JD saw posters promoting anti-drug campaigns and drunk driving prevention lining the back walls on either side of a large crest, one door led out on both the left and right sides of the cube.  The officer of the day was partially visible rooting through file cabinets with a telephone receiver firmly planted in his ear.

Four women also occupied the booth.  A fetching brunette dressed in the same style uniform but without the equipment belt looked down at him.  Headphones hung around her neck with a long black curled cable
connected to a three-inch long black box with a white button clipped to a belt loop.  The rest of the cable looped in her back pocket.  Beneath her sleeve patch a rocker read "Communications", differentiating her from a patrol officer.  The uniform hinted at curves and her hair was held back in a tucked under French braid,
small wisps framing her face.  He guessed her near his age if not a little younger.  She stood near the front of the cube checking her own paperwork next to the officer.

"You're new," she said, giving him the same frank appraisal he gave her.

"Yes, ma'am.  JD Dunne."  Since the glass prevented him from shaking her hand, he tipped his hat to her.

"Casey Wells.  Come on around and take your hat off.  You don't have to wear it in inside."  She pointed at the door on the right of the cube and buzzed him through.   Again, he located a key-card access box in case the people in the cube were too busy to buzz someone through.   

"Sergeant Larabee to Communications.  Sergeant Larabee to Communications."  A blond female waved to JD as she punched a button on the telephone console.  JD waited at the base of the stairs, unsure if he should go up and Casey gave no indication if he should stay or move.  "Come on up."  The blond motioned with her hands and he joined the women in the box.  "I'm Ladonna.  Sgt. Larabee will be with you in a moment."  Ladonna was in her thirties with short blond hair and a genuine smile.

"Thank you, ma'am," said JD.

The brunette spoke up again, making introductions.  "That's Rita and Amber."  Casey pointed at the two remaining women.  They waved a greeting from their positions on the telephone and radio respectively.   Rita, a tall black woman, explained in her rich and melodious voice to the caller what times and days the nearby
Sheriff's Office performed fingerprinting for the public.  Amber smiled, currently in the process of dispatching a barking dog complaint.  Her hair was a shade darker than Casey's and she looked to be in her early twenties.  Ladonna pointed toward the officer, "Over there's Mackey." 

A grunt and a half-hearted wave came from Mackey, still arguing with someone on the other end of the telephone.  The rookie took a good look around the cube to make himself more familiar with what the
Academy instructors referred to as his lifeline.  In front, a large table/desk with two chairs overlooked the lobby while file cabinets nestled on either side marked with different titles. 

On the left wall, two computer consoles sat side by side, three monitors on each.  A map of the sectors and smaller posts within them anchored firmly on this wall.  A shelf above the monitors held a larger telephone box and playback machine waiting for use.  Amber talked on the one farthest from the lobby.  Above the center monitor a plaque read: IN GOD WE TRUST.  ALL OTHERS CHECKED NCIC. 

The right wall held two consoles with a slightly different layout.  These two exchanged positions the telephone box with the third monitor, which actually was the radio system.  Rita talked in the spot closest to the right door, Ladonna standing beside her ready to relieve her and let her go home. 

Against the back wall, a massive table held printers, a fax machine, reams of paper, and a set of deep drawers on the left side.  More chairs rested out of the way in the corner.  JD's training instructor told them during major incidents the Watch Commander was required to be in this room accessible for instant decisions.  JD saw hints of light blue paint between the posters, bulletin boards, and other work-related paraphernalia.

"Ladonna, the Sergeant's with the L-T.  Anything I can do?"  A tall uniformed man leaned in the opposite doorframe, his gregarious smile encompassing all the women.  JD approximated him in his thirties, tall, trim, long-legged and broad shouldered, with a well-trimmed mustache slightly longer than regulation.  The two stripes on his sleeves, beneath both the patch on his left shoulder and the American flag on his right, designated him as a Corporal.

"Yes, Corporal," she stressed the Corporal, either for JD or the corporal's benefit, "this here's your new officer, JD Dunne."

Sharp midnight blue eyes assessed the newbie.  Either he was getting old – God forbid he showed it – or the rookies kept getting younger.  He wondered how far past twenty-one the kid actually was then mused with that baby face the kid probably did not even shave yet.  The slicked back long bangs combined with the short cut in the back added to his youth but the corporal saw a healthy dose of confidence in the posture and demeanor.  He mentally shook himself as thoughts turned toward another youth this one reminded him of, maybe even looking a little like him.  No…he didn't want to go there; instead it was time to test this kid's gullibility.  The thoughts returned to the tight box he kept them in for the time being to deal with later.  This was not the time or the place. 

The corporal crossed the distance between them, noting the suppressed interest in Casey's face, a true first.  Casey never showed interest in a rookie; she usually only showed contempt.  He catalogued that for future contemplation and buried his smile at the thought.  The man stuck out his hand.  "Corporal Buck Wilmington."

"JD Dunne."  They shook firmly.

The kid could grip, Buck thought to himself, and noted he carried himself like a man, too.  "Let me check your uniform before I present you to the L-T, uh, lieutenant."  The corporal's use of L-T spoke of a military background at one point in his life.

"Yes, sir."  JD straightened to attention, eyes front, not moving a muscle like he was taught in the Academy for the constant inspections and daily screaming bouts by the Drill Instructors.

Buck buried a smile, walking once around the kid.  His eyes ached from the glare off the shoes and collar brass.  The shield shaped badge dazzled.  The ramrod straight posture made the kid look like he had a board or splints taped to his spine.  He stared intently at the tie then frowned.  Buck extended his finger, nearly touching the material.  "What's on your tie?"  JD looked down and received a finger bat on his nose. "Gotcha."  A wide grin covered the older man's face.

The smile infuriated the nervous yet hiding it very well rookie.  "Very funny," JD muttered, noting the smirking women as he felt his ears flushing red beneath his hair.

"Very funny what?"  The tone sharpened, changing from joking to serious.  Buck would tolerate sass at times but not right out of the chute and this rookie will learn that right now.

"Very funny, sir."  JD winced inwardly, forgetting he addressed a senior officer in his quick response.  His now-muscled arms reminded him of all the pushups he endured in the Academy for not attaching sir.  With all those painful reminders, he concentrated on attaching sir to everything.

Certain of a lesson now learned, Buck patted him on the back with a chuckle and faced the women.  "Rita, that husband of yours, is he treating you right?"

"Of course."

"Well, if you ever kick him out…" Eyebrows waggled suggestively.

"I'll let you know, but don't hold your breath."  She spared him a friendly smile.

Not fazed by her denial, he tried another.  "Amber?"

"Rafe's treating me fine."  Amber was engaged to Officer Rafe Mosely who worked dayshift, Squad Three.  Rafe worked the same schedule as her, their first three days being relieved by Squad One and their last day by Squad Two, the opposing midnight shift.

Buck sighed with regret, a hand over his heart. "Guess the boy knows if he don't, he'd have a whole squad after him."

Amber laughed and nodded, "Not to mention Claire sending a couple of brothers-in law too, if she didn't get to him first."  She enjoyed being part of this camaraderie and a secret part of her liked the fact the squad would straighten Rafe out if they thought he needed it, along with a myriad of relatives and friends.

"That's true.  I'd lay odds on Claire getting there first and there might not be anything left over." Buck's good humor died with a weak smile, he did not want his thoughts going there either tonight.  He placed a hand on JD's shoulder and started steering him toward the door.  

"Well, JD, let's get you started.  `Night, Rita.  Good night, Amber."


"'Night.  Be safe."

"Always, ladies, always.  I have the lovely Ladonna and the complicated Miss Casey for protection."  His hundred-watt smile encouraged an answering laugh from Ladonna and a different reaction from her co-worker.

"You're full of it," Casey carped before giving tag information over the air, having replaced Amber on the radio.  She left the telephones for Ladonna.   They alternated halfway through the shift, Ladonna taking over the radio at one until seven.

Still chuckling to himself, Buck led JD out the door down a short hallway, painted the same light blue as the lobby, to a glass and metal door he opened with a key.  He ignored the door behind the cube leading to the upstairs that housed the Administration and specialty units.  They descended a short flight of stairs leading into a larger hallway.  "You get the tour yet?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good."  After the third door on both sides, the hallway split three directions – forward, left, and right.  Turning right, they continued to the sixth room on the left.  The open door informed Buck that Chris finished his meeting.  He knocked once, an unusual practice for the corporal, then waited for a surprised "Come" before
entering,.  "Sir, this is JD Dunne.  Officer Dunne, meet Lieutenant Halter, one of our Shift Commanders."  He guided JD in and the rookie immediately stood at attention.  The corporal leaned against the doorframe, one of his many habits.

After flicking an amused glance at Buck's use of `sir', another rare thing, and waiting to enter, even rarer, the lieutenant rose and extended his hand.  "Pleased to meet you.  I've heard good things about you."

They shook.  "Thank you, sir.  It's a pleasure to be here, sir."

"We'll see how you feel in a couple months," Halter replied.  Buck grinned as the lieutenant turned to unlock a closet while JD continued standing at attention.  "Let's get your equipment issued."  He returned with a small cardboard box and handed a sheet of paper to the younger man.  "Sign this."

JD accepted it and read quickly; the sheet inventoried the property issued for his use and his signature stated he would return the equipment immediately if he left employment and he would report any failures or problems expeditiously.  He signed, not seeing the slight nod of approval pass between the lieutenant and the corporal
regarding his reading before attaching his name.  The veterans knew it was usually small things that would get rookies into trouble.

"Okay.  Here's your radio, lapel microphone, ASP, two clips of ammo, OC Spray, flashlight and holder.  Keys and keycard are in the envelope on the bottom.  The corporal will help you organize.  Welcome aboard.  I'll be conducting roll call in thirty minutes.  We'll cover a few details then."

Buck plopped the box in JD's arms and turned him out of the office.  "Thank you, sir," the rookie called over his shoulder as Buck steered him down the hall to the closed double doors at the end.  The larger man let go and opened the right one, motioning JD to precede him. 

One step inside and JD gawked.  He remembered the large room from his tour but it never seemed this imposing then.  Long tables in neat rows of six dominated the cavernous interior.  The evenly spaced layout allowed each officer to have computer access with plenty of room to spread out the inevitable paperwork.  JD remembered this room doubled as a training center for the Department.  At the front of the room, the projection screen hung halfway down with the Four Corners Police logo partially obscured beneath.  A podium with the logo rested just forward of the back wall and multiple projectors hung suspended from the ceiling.  A TV/VCR combination was tucked in the front corner out of the way.  All the walls held the same light blue
paint with dark gray carpeting or highly polished floors to carry the same decorating and color scheme throughout the building.  This room was carpeted for sound reduction.

"Go on, kid, they're not going to bite…much."  Buck firmly shoved him forward, his loud voice gaining the attention of the occupants of the room.  Three heads swiveled in his direction.  Two from the front and
one from a telephone in the back of the room to JD's left. 

"Welcome," a voice boomed.  The seated Caucasian man stood and approached.  JD looked up and absurdly wondered when huge oak trees came alive and wore uniforms.  The two-tone pants – black with a medium gray side stripe – emphasized the long legs while the matching dark gray shirt accented the width of the arms, shoulders, and chest.  His body style screamed solid but not fat.  Kind, pale blue eyes twinkled down at him from under curly cropped hair touched with gray at the temples.  The light colored mustache stretched into a
smile.  "Josiah Sanchez."  The voice, a smooth baritone, soothed and comforted.

The young man checked rank as he shifted the box and shook hands, reading him as an Officer First Class, or OFC.  "JD Dunne, sir."

"Now we are complete."  The smile broadened.

"Huh?"  That was a strange thing to say.

"Never mind him," Buck inserted.  "You'll get used to him."  Buck shook his head almost imperceptibly over JD's head. 

Josiah beamed as he caught the warning.  "Well, JD, you best be careful."

Now that made sense.  "Yes, sir, I plan to be.  Especially on the road."

"No, son, I mean with your creases.  You might cut someone."  Josiah and Buck shared a chuckle at Sanchez's joke.

JD examined the creases on his pants and shirt, finding them acceptable for Academy standards.  He then noted the others wore theirs less pronounced than his and suddenly felt a little self-conscious.

As if on cue, he received reassurance.  "Don't mind them, JD, your creases are just fine."  A tall African-American smiled down at him and JD felt like David surrounded by Goliaths.  He checked his savior
out.  Built like an athlete, the toned body showed through the uniform material, giving the man a quiet sense of underlying strength.  "Nathan Jackson."  More handshaking.  The man radiated warmth through brown caring eyes, as did Josiah.  His voice reflected the man: straight shooting and openly honest.

"Sorry, sirs, I'm a little nervous," JD admitted.

"Hell, kid, we're all nervous before a shift," Buck explained.  "Means we're human and cautious."

Slam!  The receiver impacted loudly with the cradle causing JD to jump and nearly drop his box.  "Stupid, ignorant," the woman hissed.

"Corporal!" Buck interrupted, sensing the beginnings of a tirade and needing to cut it off.  He knew her well enough to know they were about to hear a discourse on the failings of the male species.  He heard it too often, usually directed at himself, to want to hear it again so he tried deflecting it.  Besides, it was not professional
behavior in front of a new squad member.  She personally knew the effects of a sexual harassment charge.  "I'm right here; if you're gonna insult me, let me see you say it.  `Course, I know you'd never say anything mean to ol' Buck, especially in front of a young'un."  His look conveyed a silent rebuke over the oblivious rookie's head.

Immediately the demeanor changed to more relaxed and less confrontational.  She nearly purred as she retorted, "Buck, you know I'd never say anything negative about you, at least in public or behind your back."  The smile softened the countenance.  The female officer sauntered over and stopped beside JD.  "Let me take that and we'll get you geared up.  Nina Caswell, by the way."  She grabbed the box and led JD to the front row.  "Take off your belt," ordered Nina.

"Excuse me?!  Uh, excuse me, ma'am?" JD stuttered.  His hands moved protectively around his waist, backing up a step into Buck's chest.  Buck roared in his ear as Josiah and Nathan laughed at JD's misunderstanding.

JD stared wide-eyed.  He was repeatedly warned that police officers developed warped senses of humor but being told to take off his belt, well, he did not know her that well, and hell, it was his first day.  JD considered her passably cute, around five six, dark brown almost black hair tucked behind her head in some strange design, maybe in her early thirties, and striking blue eyes.  She was not thin nor was she fat; big boned and well toned described her.  She wore little or no makeup and three sets of gold studs in her ears.  Laugh lines
added character around her mouth and eyes.

She sighed.  "JD, right?"  He nodded.  "JD, please remove your gun belt only" – she nailed Buck, Josiah, and Nathan with a glare – "so I can attach the rest of the equipment." 

"Oh."  JD blushed at the misunderstanding and unsnapped the "keepers", little leather strips with snaps used in holding the equipment belt to the regulation belt.  Carefully he removed the belt and laid it gently on the table.  He felt the other three watching in amusement.

"You want the gun on the right?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Okay.  Watch closely."  She removed everything from the black leather strap and started building, talking the entire time.  "Your handcuffs go in the center of your back so either hand can grab them.  Might consider a couple more pairs."  JD checked her belt and saw three additional pairs crammed onto her already full Nylon belt, not counting the orange-topped canister between her clips.

"She's right," Nathan agreed.  "Always good to have backup."  His own patent leather belt held an extra set.  JD also noticed the patent leather shoes, different and sharper than the rest of the shift.  Corporal Wilmington and OFC Sanchez wore the same regulation issued black leather belt he received while the female wore the lighter Nylon style.

"But don't go handcuff crazy like Nina here."  Wilmington regretted the statement the second he made it and nearly winced.

"Never hurts to have enough, especially when your backup's not anywhere close," she retorted, giving him a significant look over JD's head.  "However, Buck, I'll refrain from commenting any further about handcuffs," she smirked.  Their eyes met, both twinkling from a shared memory. 

He saw the forgiveness in her eyes and played along.  "Oh, how about a hint of what you're thinking?"  Buck winked at her.  He understood her telling JD about having extras because of what happened to her in
the past.  It was a time in her career she still did not like to talk about and unfortunately, he was an indirect part of that incident.

"July 4th."

Buck immediately turned scarlet.  "Don't go running your mouth.  That's an order; I still outrank you."  He stared down at her, a scowl on his features.  The damage she could do with that knowledge still gave him the heebie-jeebies but this little order was for show; he knew she'd never tell unless he let her.

"By a month," she calmly replied, unfazed by his intimidation techniques.

"About what?" asked JD.  The others laughed at the obvious inside joke.  He could tell these two shared a history and it sounded interesting.  His mind dropped in the gutter with a visual regarding handcuffs and why the big man near him turned even redder than he did up in Communications.

Nina cleared her throat and changed the subject.  "Next goes your flashlight holder, left side, and can you tell me why?"

"Keep the gun hand free.  That's an easy one."  He felt insulted being asked such an obvious question.

"Right.  Then what?"  Nina tested his knowledge.

"ASP, then the radio.  All within reach but not blocking the hands, both on left side."  This he knew from studying the DI's at the Academy.

She nodded, pleased he mastered the basics; too many came through without complete familiarity of the equipment that could save their lives.  "The radio serves as a counterbalance to the gun.  OC spray on the front left; gun on the right hip; two clips on front right.  Try it on."

JD hefted the weightier belt and clasped it around his waist.  It felt balanced to him and he moved around a bit to find it more comfortable.  "Thanks.  What's the joke about the 4th of July?"   He snapped his keepers.

Josiah and Nathan discovered the fascinating aspects of the carpet and their shoes, stifling their laughter as Buck grinned and raised an eyebrow at the flustered female.  Nina stared back at Buck in mock anger, her twinkling eyes narrowing.

"None of your business, rookie."  A pointed look from Buck and JD fell silent. 

She smirked at Buck's discomfort and continued, "Now your lapel mike."  Nina buttoned a small strip of black leather to his left epaulet, the remainder of the strip hanging down with a snap exposed.

"You're not hooking his mike the sissy way you wear it," Buck ordered with his arms crossed.  The slow shake of his head and drawn-out delivery gave testament to his seriousness.

"There's nothing to grab my way," defended Nina.

"It looks foolish."  The two squared off over the issue starting a stare and glare contest.  He towered over her, crowding her and challenging her to disagree with his eyes.   She regarded his posture with a twitch of her lips, long used to his tactics.  JD felt they had discussed this before and never reached agreement.  It did not look like they would reach it today, either.

Josiah stepped in, partially blocking JD's view.  "Allow me." He pulled JD's microphone box and cable through the space between the top of the OC spray holster and the canister itself then straight up to the snap.  "A little more to grab but harder to reach."

JD saw Josiah and Nathan wore theirs the same way while Nina's cable went under her shirt, coming out at an angle from the buttons near her neck and Buck's came over his shoulder from the back.

"JD, your radio's your personal preference."  Nathan stood beside Josiah in front of him, completely blocking the rookie's view of the squared off corporals.  "You'll find your own way of wearing it.  Nina here works South so she handles plenty of fights.  She'd prefer not being yanked around by her mike while Buck's height and size intimidates folks from pulling his.  I suggest you try all of them and see what suits."

"Not to mention your big mouth discouraging…or encouraging people," muttered Nina under her breath.

The ladies man leaned over and whispered in her ear, "You never complained about my mouth before," earning an immediate slap in the gut.  Her hand rapped off his vest with a dull thud.  His low chortle inspired her own barely stifled giggles.  Both worked hard at controlling their merriment but the longer they stared at each other
the harder it got.

JD missed the byplay, his attention focused on Nathan.  "I will, sir.  Thank you, sir."

"He's full of respect, isn't he?"  Josiah mused aloud.  "I wonder if the other one was."

"Don't be scaring him off on his first day," warned Nathan.

"Scaring me about what?"

The trill of a pager ceased conversation as all four senior officers checked theirs.  It also ended the minor not-really-a disagreement between the two corporals.  "Mine," announced Nina, returning to the back telephone.  The pager sounded again in her hand.  "Two at once."

"Little Miss Popularity," Buck joked.  He winked at her.

"This coming from the man whose voice mail overloads daily."  She dialed the phone and listened to her messages.

"It's a gift.  Women love me," he retorted.  Fortunately, she did not hear him, engrossed in the information she received.  Her hand scribbled notes on index cards and the relieved expression on his face turned smug since no response was forthcoming.

Josiah joined the fray with a simple question.  "Speaking of women in love, has Yvonne stopped stalking you?"  He figured it was his duty to turn the knife a little on Buck because it seemed like the man needed some teasing.  He also read the uncomfortable moment between Buck and Nina regarding the handcuffs but neither let it go very long.  Josiah did not want his friend feeling guilty about speaking his mind and causing bad memories to surface.

"That girl's not right."  Buck shook his head slowly.  "She's loco."  Yvonne often listened to a scanner and showed up on his calls until the Chief threatened her with stalking charges and jail time if she did not leave Wilmington alone.  The girl got the message but rumor was she was now going after a County Sheriff's deputy.  Buck pitied that poor soul if the rumor was true.

"You have a stalker?" asked JD.  This was a very new concept – people actually stalking the police. 

"Kid, let your corporal tell you something," started Buck.  Nathan and Josiah exchanged amused, knowing glances.  "You'll meet lots of women on this job.  Some of them, well, they like a man in uniform.  And they'll do anything to attract a cop."  One eye checked on Nina and found her walking over.  He shut up because he had no desire to be on the receiving end of a separate diatribe about how certain men attract women without trying, especially the nutcases. 

JD gave him a dubious look.  "He's right, JD."  Nina returned to the group.  "We call them badgebunnies."

"You're making it sound negative," the rookie observed.

Nina laughed in wry amusement. 

Josiah added, "Son, for every one nice girl who likes us as people, there's two more wanting the perceived advantages of dating cops."

"Like getting out of tickets by dropping the officer's name," Nathan agreed.  If he had a dollar for every time a female said she was dating Buck, he would have retired rich by now.  It was an unwritten policy that using Buck's name guaranteed a ticket because Buck refused to vouch for any of the women.  Because of the tightness of this squad, they knew whom Buck was actually interested in and the rumor mill carried the information to the rest of the shifts. 

"Or trying to use sex for favors," Nina put in.  JD's eyes widened at the implication.  "JD, men and women will both try." 

Buck ducked his head; he had received that proposition one too many times in his career.  He could not help it if the women saw a good-looking, handsome man and just wanted to have a little fun with him.  Nevertheless, he refused to do anything that would jeopardize his job; he loved it too much and did not want to disappoint his oldest friend. 

Nathan asked, "You got a girl?"  He leaned forward, interest evident on his face.  If the rookie had a girl, they needed to meet her soon so everyone knew who she was. 


"Use care, son."

"Watch what you say."

"Or who you say it to."

"And remember Buck's here to help ya.  Nothing wrong with asking advice."  Wilmington found it interesting that JD was single and added that tidbit to the thinking he would do about Casey.  They just might make a good pair; he had an eye for these things.  Didn't he convince Chris to see Sarah?  Wasn't he the best man at their wedding?

"Okay, thanks."  The young man's innocent eyes swept from person to person feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the free advice he received this day.  The Academy instilled listen and obey into his head.  Personal interaction only came in the form of Drill Instructors screaming or the classroom instructions saying `Tell me…'.  No one took the time to know them personally beyond their performance in class.

A newcomer entered the room, sweeping it with practiced eyes.  JD felt power radiating from this blond haired man and recognized him as Sergeant Chris Larabee.  He met him week ago after receiving his assignment in the Academy.  The young man couldn't believe his luck in being assigned to this shift with this leader, whose collective reputation grew daily.  

The sergeant's uniform suited him, the dark colors emphasizing his fair complexion, and he wore authority with ease.  JD remembered seeing something lurking in the back of the man's eyes when they shook hands, something painful, but the blond hid it beneath an intimidating layer of professionalism. 

It occurred to the rookie that the man also had a couple inches on him and he reluctantly resigned himself to being the shortest man on this squad.  The sergeant's eyes rested on the only female who nodded in response.  He jerked his head out the doors and she followed him into an office next to the lieutenant.

"JD, since Nina's probably your Field Training Officer, let me hear our sectors because I know she'll ask."  Buck crossed his arms and waited. 

"Okay.  The station and a quarter mile around it's Central, post 1, covered by the closest available.  The combined fifteen miles of the town and surrounding area are divided into four main sectors and sixteen smaller posts inside that four.   They're named North, South, East, and West.  Right now, one person works each of the four main areas with overlap.  The master plan is to have two officers per sector but with the current budget crunch and manpower shortage," he shrugged, "on the weekends the other squads are supposed to be filling in on overtime."

Buck praised him when he drew a breath.  "Doing good, JD.  Did your homework I see."  At least Nina did not have to teach the kid the sectors and posts. 

Further questioning stopped because of the arrival of a four-legged visitor.  His well-groomed midnight black coat glistened under the florescent lighting and his polished silver choker chain with dangling badge jingled as he trotted down the hallway into the Roll Call room.  The Labrador Retriever started for his friends, stopping
once he caught sight/scent of the new unfamiliar person.  He already detected the scent in the building but it was strongest in here.  The massive head tilted left and waited, intelligent brown eyes studying the stranger.

"Ezra, get yourself in here," yelled Nathan.  "You know we have a rookie."  Ezra exasperated the paramedic often and the two shared a mutually aggravating relationship, a gentleman's agreement of agreeing to disagree on a variety of issues.  Underneath the sarcasm and teasing insults they shared the bond of shift mates and watched the other's back on the road.

JD looked toward the door, splitting his attention between the large dog and the approaching officer.  The dog looked friendly enough but he knew better than to approach a police canine without the handler present.

Dressed in a jet-black custom tailored jumpsuit with utility pockets on the pants, the chestnut-haired officer entered with a cup of gourmet coffee in one hand and an expensive clipboard in the other.  JD noted large breast pockets and no collar brass per se – his name (Standish), rank (OFC), badge, and patch were all embroidered in light gray thread.  His right shoulder held a full color American flag patch, the only color on his uniform.  The cord for the lapel mike was hidden in a specially designed channel along the side of the jumpsuit.  The outline of the vest remained visible, as it did for all the officers.  For some reason, this officer looked completely comfortable versus those wearing the traditional uniform; of course, a jumpsuit probably was more comfortable, JD thought to himself.  A baseball style hat stuck neatly out of one of the pockets and JD saw
the edges of the embroidered patch design.  JD felt perversely pleased that in this land of above average tallness at least this man was a little closer to his own height.

The handler snapped a command in a foreign language and the dog immediately sat.  The officer passed the lab, shifting the coffee cup to rub the head affectionately before continuing up the aisle.  Sitting the clipboard and coffee down on the table, hooded green eyes assessed the rookie.  "Ezra Standish."  The drawl spoke of Southern origins and sounded friendly enough but a little guarded all the same.

"JD Dunne, sir."  They shook hands.

"May I present the Ace of Spades?"  Another command, still in a language JD did not recognize, and the dog proudly trotted over.  The rookie stood stock-still and placed his left hand in front of him.  The lab curiously sniffed JD's outstretched hand and apparently approved.  The young man smiled and scratched the dog behind the ears.  Ace leaned into his hand.

"I believe he likes you, Officer Dunne."  Ezra found his partner an excellent judge of character and that judgement usually coincided with the handler's own.  For now, Ezra accepted the rookie at face value and waited to see what the future brought. 

"I like him, sir."

An eyebrow quirked at the second sir.  Ace finished his inspection and nudged the others in greeting.  All of them patted, scratched, or petted the police canine with affection.  Every officer present knew the highly trained dog would only respond to commands from his handler, Ezra, yet was friendly with the others, having spent
considerable time with all of them on and off duty except JD.  Suddenly Ace sat stock still and assumed an innocent expression.  He looked like a show dog about to go before a judge's review. 

"Standish!  You know Ace IS NOT allowed in the building for roll call."  Lt. Halter called from the doorway before approaching cautiously. The lieutenant hated dogs, having been badly bitten by a neighbor's unattended, ill-controlled, bad-tempered dog as a young child.  He knew the canine was a valuable asset to the department but he did not want to socialize with the beast.  Halter kept Ezra in check with the posted regulations and used every opportunity to kick Ace out regardless of Ace's phenomenal success rate.  Hence the matching innocent expressions on handler and canine.

"My fault," Larabee declared as he entered quietly with Caswell following silently behind.  Chris knew how Halter felt and took the blame for this; it was his idea and it was only right.


"I knew we had a new man tonight.  I'd rather them meet under controlled circumstances."  Chris gave the lieutenant a justifiable reason to let Ace stay. 

"I'll make an exception this time," Halter conceded with a nod.  He understood the reasoning and knew Larabee was right; it was better that Ace met the rookie here instead of mistaking him for a suspect on the street. 

For once, Ezra kept his wisecracking mouth shut.  True, Chris asked him to bring Ace in, but a lifetime of disappointments triggered a niggling doubt he would be blamed.  After two and a half years here, Ezra still waited for the other shoe to drop.  It had not, yet, but he was not going to let his guard down.  Well, not too much.  He trusted the squad to watch his back but that self-preservation habit died hard.  Of course, his keen mind still wondered over the excellent recommendation Chris gave him when Ezra applied for canine handler.  Larabee did not understand Ezra's unquenchable desire to work Canine, but accepted it as part of who Ezra was or wanted to become. 

Since his father died when he was young and his mother bounced him around through a myriad of relatives and boarding schools, Ezra did not have a stable male role model in his life.  His mother was an iffy role model at best on the few and rare occasions she was there.  He found few he could trust and even more that could and would do their best to hurt and belittle him.  Over the years, he had only two men he placed his faith in: Judge Travis and the other his friend and mentor Charles (Charlie) Osgood.  The latter was responsible for his
current profession.  He was the first man to have his full trust and respect.  Ezra still missed him terribly.

Larabee taking responsibility today earned the sergeant another notch of respect in Ezra's mind and he communicated this silently with his eyes.  Chris nodded imperceptibly.  Message delivered, received, and

With the lieutenant's arrival, the group migrated to their favorite spots for roll call.  Nathan and Josiah sat together front right; Chris alone front left; Buck dropped JD beside him in the row behind Chris, and Ezra and Nina fell in behind Josiah and Nathan.  Ace sat between Ezra and Nina, nudging her for a greeting and placing his head on her lap for attention.  She smiled, scratching behind his ears the way he loved.  As Ace's backup handler, she trained to command Ace in the event Ezra became physically unable to carry out his duties.

Lt. Halter moved to the podium at the front of the room and started the roll call briefing at precisely six thirty.  "First, I'm sure you've all had a chance to meet our new rookie, JD Dunne.  He ranked first in his class at the Academy and I believe he's going to be a fine addition to our squad."

"Thank you, sir," JD dipped his head and blushed at the praise, fending off an elbow from the man next to him.

"It's also refreshing to have a little respect for authority around here," Halter eyed his usually irreverent crew with a sly grin.  This also brought several chuckles from the assembled squad.

"Okay," Halter continued. "Assignments: Jackson, West; Sanchez, North; Caswell, South; Wilmington, East.  Dunne, we'll be doing something different with your field training.  Corporal Wilmington will be your primary Field Training Officer but you'll ride with every squad member once for experience.  You'll start tonight with

"I thought Nina was our trainer," asked a surprised Buck.  "No offense, JD, but she's been training for years.  Hell, she wrote most of the policies and procedures right when the PD first formed." 

"Lt. Como and I discussed that, but with Caswell's pending CID transfer and required pre-training, we both felt Officer Dunne would benefit from one consistent training officer.  Once you kick him loose, she can start her own classes without hurting manpower.  Especially with Tanner gone."  Lt. Como served as the other midnight
shift Watch Commander, working the last two days with this squad and the first two with the opposing midnight shift.  Halter worked the reciprocal schedule. 

Larabee scowled at the mention of his missing friend and officer.  Buck nodded slowly, one hand patting his long-time friend on the back.  Chris never acknowledged it but Buck knew his support was appreciated even if the solemn man rarely expressed it.

"My sympathies, Officer Dunne," Ezra started.  "If it relates to patrol operations, Corporal Wilmington shows exceptional ability in his chosen field; however, if the topic relates to the fairer of our species, use utmost care in what you accept as fact."  He noticed the female beside him bending down and petting Ace instead of looking at anyone.  Her body shook with silent laughter.

"Huh?"  All but Buck grinned at JD's expression, Buck realizing the insult and preparing a retaliation.

"He means Buck's a good cop and you'll learn a lot," Nathan patiently explained.  Understanding Ezra's speech pattern required adjustment time.  The man spun a tale with the best of them and used ten words when one worked.

"Yes, son, pay attention to what Buck tells you," Josiah added.  He felt the need to reinforce the trainer/trainee relationship and make Buck the authority because the rookie needed to be able to go to his trainer for guidance. 

"I am a damn good cop," Buck boasted. 

"But when it comes to women," everyone was surprised when Chris turned to tease his friend with a wink, "don't listen to a thing he says." 

Nina had sat up managing to regain her composure from Ezra's remarks.  She was holding a stoic pose until Larabee's surprising kidding remark towards his friend.  

Maybe Chris did show how much his friend meant to him through the teasing remarks he often shot at Buck, knowing the jovial man's penchant for laughter over sorrow.  They had all seen too much sorrow separately and together.  Buck punched his old friend's shoulder playfully, "Don't listen to them, Kid.  They don't know anything about women like ol' Buck does." 

Halter interrupted the discussion.  "Dunne, if you will come over here, I have some paperwork for you."  The lieutenant pulled JD away from the others, wanting to deal with this immediately before the end of the briefing.  Chris joined them. 

Nathan quickly turned and covered Nina's mouth with his hand just as she lost the inner battle to hold back and not say anything.  Ezra grinned, his gold tooth gleaming at their antics.  Nina batted the hand away and met the laughing eyes of the squad's paramedic. 

"I won't take advantage of him while he's training," she whispered.  "Let JD form his own opinion."  Nina looked over and saw Buck's eyes on her, obviously waiting for her comeback.  With a wink, she faked zipping shut her mouth and her ex-boyfriend grinned as he stood to join the conference on the rookie's training off to the side. 

"Well done, sister."  Josiah's voice radiated approval at her restraint.

"Yeah, well," she mumbled.  "We were officially over a long time ago and we're great friends now.  I'm not going to screw that up." 

"Nor will any of us interfere with the training process on the impressionable Officer Dunne," Ezra drawled.

"Especially with all your little tricks and side bets," shot Nathan.

"All perfectly legal, I assure you," retorted Ezra, smoothing his jumpsuit around the shoulders.  Ace bumped his leg for attention and Ezra cheerfully complied, his fingers scratching on the neck.  The head tipped back for better access and a back paw repeatedly thumped on the floor.

"The records showed the original greenhorn learned from all of us," Josiah rumbled.  He referred one of his favorite hobbies of studying the history of this area.

"Except me, Josiah, because I didn't exist back then," Nina reminded

"Always room for improvement," he rumbled.

"You better go easy on your fantasies, Josiah," Nathan warned his friend.

The big man huffed, "I have written documentation to prove the folklore."  They always teased him about his hobby and research and he usually took it good-naturedly but this time something special was starting.  He felt it deep in his bones.

"Maybe so," Nathan nodded with agreement, "But that rookie's got enough to worry about right now; you don't need to go spookin' him or filling his head with heroic ideas before he learns to take care of himself."  Nathan read all the papers with a touch of awe at the exploits contained within and wondered at the twists of fate that brought them all together in this place at this particular time.

Josiah nodded his silent agreement to his friend, dropping his historical interest for now.  He figured if JD worked out, there would be time later to explain his `hobby'.   Maybe over a beer, two, or more.

"Speaking of not interfering, Ezra, you plan on not getting the rookie in trouble like you did me, your poor beleaguered training officer, on your first day?"  Laughing eyes turned on the man beside her. 

"I did no such thing.  Whatever are you implying, dear lady?" Ezra gave said dear lady beside him an innocent look.  He appeared typecast for the part of an angelic, sweet little boy when he used that expression.

She knew him well enough for that look not to work on her very often.  This was not one of those times; she ignored it.  "Thank God I only trained you as a lateral, not the full term."  The smile took the bite out of the words.

His eyes lit with amusement at the intended slight.  They spent too much time together in the patrol car and in the same sector to know when the other was teasing.

Nathan started laughing.  "Only you, Ezra, could cause an eighty-year old man to lose his temper and hit you."

"What did you call him again?" asked Josiah.

"An antiquated relic," supplied Ezra.  "For clarification, I referred to his disabled transportation as a relic, not him."

"Bad day for his hearing aid to cut in and out," Nina quipped as she reminisced.  The three – Nathan, Josiah, and Nina – stood on the side of Main Street on Ezra's first day watching as the new lateral transfer from Atlanta PD attempted to convince an elderly man to let him call a tow truck for his disabled antique.

"A Tucker, wasn't it?"

Buck's head shot up at the statement and he listened for a second, splitting his attention between the two meetings.

Nina snickered.  "No, Josiah, it was an Edsel."  A wink and Buck returned to his conference on the other side of the room.

All four officers laughed as they remembered the rail-thin man punching his aged, tiny fist into the southerner's midsection, the clenched fingers bouncing ineffectually off the vest. 

"I do believe he was quite put out," Ezra drawled fondly of the memory.  Once the hearing aid kicked in, the man apologized and Ezra let him go.  He did not want his first arrest to be a grandfather because of a failing battery and a misunderstanding.

"Excuse me for interrupting your merriment," Lt. Halter's voice finally boomed out, "but can we continue or shall we wait for you to finish?"  He often needed a firm hand in keeping this crew in line.  After the sound of many throats clearing and chairs creaking, they returned their attention forward.

"Patrol requests.  Jackson: 1488 Blossom Drive, mailbox vandalism.  200 Ripplewood, house egged.  Heavy patrol for Daisy Senior Housing – numerous suspicious persons reported in the area. Sanchez: the Petersens' left for a week's vacation – home check.  Fire at the Northern Corners mall closed down the east end – check for possible looting.  They secured it as best they could.  Wilmington: multiple thefts from tractor-trailers in both Industrial Parks.  Anonymous report of drug activity in Yucca Apartments."  Snorts and guffaws greeted this pronouncement; drugs ran rampant in the Yucca Apartments.  Lt. Halter continued over the din, "Caswell: we've gotten reports of fraternity parties all weekend so they'll start preparing tonight.  Campus police doubled, but…"

"Show the colors," she replied.  Show the colors meant making her presence highly noticeable in the area.  The campus police could only handle what happened on their property leaving the rest to FCPD.

"The frats also have other chapters visiting."  Everyone groaned.  More students meant more chances for problems.

Nina added fuel to the fire.  "Got a call saying the advance scouts are here for the Greek Olympics.  The festivities won't start until next weekend." 

"When it rains, it pours," commented Josiah.  He mentally prepared himself for a busy next couple of weeks.

Instead of disappointing the male corporal, the news cheered him up.  Things had been pretty boring lately and all of them wanted some excitement.  Buck clapped JD on the shoulder.  "Kid, you'll see a bar fight tonight." 


"Because most students don't have classes on Fridays and will drink too much alcohol, impairing their judgement," Nathan informed him, the tight line on his mouth showing his disapproval.   Because Four Corners University was in his sector, he responded the most and saw the worst of the students.  He also saw too many lives ruined or ended because of drugs and alcohol and it sickened him.

"Five on Olympus," Ezra offered, starting the usual betting pool that Lt. Halter ignored.  Some of the lieutenant's bets bought the oldest his books at the University.

"Ezra, I'm not giving you any more of my money," Josiah told him, pale blue eyes twinkling.  "Unless, of course, it's during a poker game and I have a fair chance of winning it back."

"What's Olympus?"

"Mount Olympus Amphitheater Restaurant ranks as the number one place for the Greek fraternities and sororities from Four Corners University to congregate and we call it Olympus for short.  Or, in other words, The Pit from Hell."  Nina's blunt description received a round of nods from the experienced veterans.

"Put the Fire Marshall on standby," Larabee requested, paying no attention to his squad's usual bantering.  He knew they would face additional problems from the bar's fraternity alumni owners ignoring all the fire and safety codes.

"I'll arrange it," Halter agreed.

Chris took over the briefing.  "Standish, I want you South tonight with a high profile.  I'll be in Outer South.  After ten thirty, all of you except Caswell drop to the bottoms of your sectors and be ready.  Watch your backs."  He waited until all of them met his gaze and acknowledged his words.

JD jotted notes until he felt Sgt. Larabee's eyes on him.  He nodded as well, reflecting again on his luck.  Dunne felt honored to draw Wilmington as his training officer.  Larabee, Wilmington and Caswell had already earned tough reputations with the Nevada Highway Patrol before coming here with their staggered, unplanned arrival.  Nina helped found the police department while and Buck and Chris came in the first few months of the PD's existence.  Caswell also worked with the Sheriff's Office before starting with FCPD and knew this area well. 

This squad boasted the highest arrest and conviction rate in both the department and the state.  He knew Nathan earned numerous life saving and valor awards and Josiah frequently won `Cop of the Year' awards
for his community service and outreach programs.  Ezra and Ace ranked first in the state in drug recovery, tracking suspects, and building searches, while nearby jurisdictions often called the pair in for assistance.

Meeting Chris Larabee in person changed JD's perception.  None of the pictures or the short one-minute meeting hinted at the intensity of his eyes or his imposing nature; nor did they convey the guarded welcome he received because of his rookie status.  He realized he needed to prove himself to gain Larabee's respect, something not easily given and he vowed then and there he would earn that respect. 

Lt. Halter drew their attention forward.  "Two important things.  One, short sleeves mandatory tomorrow.  Two and most important: pick up tonight; be prepared."  He closed his folder.  "Be safe out there."  He left for his nightly briefing in Communications and to give them the sector changes Chris supplied. 

"What's a pick up?" asked JD.  He noticed everyone silently staring at the empty chair beside Chris.  Larabee suddenly stood and walked out without a word.  Seconds later, a door slammed forcefully shut down the hall.

Nathan sighed.  "How much longer?"

"A month," Buck said quietly.  "Stupid fool.  Why'd he volunteer?"

"Mr. Tanner volunteered because he was best suited for the job.  His identity was not yet widely known as an officer and he possesses extensive knowledge of street life," Ezra explained for the umpteenth time, absently petting Ace on the head.  Ace howled mournfully as if he knew the reason for the gloomy atmosphere of the room.

Nina remained silent, one hand reassuring Ace or perhaps herself.  

"I know, Ez, I know.  It was only supposed to be for two weeks, to uncover a minor problem."  Buck pounded his fists on the table.  "This has dragged on for what?…almost three months.  And it's just getting more dangerous."

"Who's Vin?"

Nathan explained, "Vin's on our squad but right now he's on loan to the County Narcotics Task Force," explained Nathan.  "He's undercover.  We only get to see him when he can manage meeting us off duty."

"Which isn't much over the past two months," supplied Josiah. 

"You ladies plan on gossiping all night or you plan on working?" snarled Larabee from the room's entrance.  Everyone quickly collected their gear and started filtering out to their cars, leaving Buck behind with JD.   The mustached officer took a few moments to return numerous telephone calls before taking the rookie out of the building for his highly anticipated first day of patrol. 

Part Two

Wilmington led the new officer out of the station to the back lot where they stored the patrol cars.  All the Ford Crown Victorias sported a glistening white paint job with the department's patch design boldly emblazoned on each door.  A trio of stripes ran from bumper to bumper, carrying out the departments color scheme with two
wider stripes of light blue and dark gray with a thinner stripe of silver running in between.  Above the top stripe, "Four Corners Police" in bold black reflective letters ran from the back doors to the end of the rear quarter panel.  The rear fenders of each car also carried large circular stickers with a black background and Call 9-1-
1 in white reflective lettering in the center.  On the roofs of the cars, behind the halogen light bars, big reflective decals identified each unit by number, especially useful to air support units. 

"JD, I'm driving tonight.  I don't want you wrecking your first night out."  Wilmington directed the younger man to the passenger side of their car.

"I can drive, sir.  I passed the driving course."  He wanted to drive his first night so he felt his being there was official in his mind.

Eyes shot heavenward.  "Oh, you passed the driving course."  His neck rolled with his next imparting of wisdom.  "This ain't a driving course.  This here's the real thing, with real people and real traffic.  Some of these knuckleheads see a rookie driving and try layin' down in front of the car.  I wanna break you in nice and slow,
ya hear me?"  Buck rapped the vest-covered stomach once for emphasis.

"They wouldn't lie in front of the car," JD scoffed.  He had never heard of anything so absurd.

"Sure they would, Kid.  Especially if they know we're responding for a hot call.  Now, you listen to ol' Buck here and I'll teach you right."   Buck cleaned out his passenger seat, insured the locked position of his cage divider, and waved his hands at JD.  "Come on, come on, get in and buckle up." 

"Is this where I get in, sit down, shut up, and hold on?" he cracked, earning another eye rolling.  JD thought those eyes rolled frequently from the unconscious way they went to the sky.

Dunne climbed in the car noticing that the back seat was the solid plastic design.  Remembering what he learned in the Academy, he knew this was the preferred type of most police departments.  Prisoners could not hide evidence that may have been missed in quick pat downs and if they were disgustingly destructive or sick it made for easier clean up.  JD did not allow his mind to linger on that last thought. 

Settling in the front seat, he noted the radio on the console and above that a small TV monitoring screen mounted on the dash.  Under the rear view mirror was the small video camera he knew could be used to record their traffic stops and arrests.  A quick check showed a small microphone attached to Buck's uniform.  Closing the door, he fastened his seatbelt and adjusted his hat.   He felt pride each time he wore the regulation dark gray Stetson with the chinstrap tucked underneath the brim.  Personally, he liked the bowlers from one of
the other towns he saw on his way west but he could live with the Stetson.  It gave him an "Old West" kind of feeling.

Admiring the well cared for interior; he picked out the lights and siren switches in the dashboard and the AM/FM radio.  The edge of a map book poked out from beneath the sun visor, a scanner rested in the center console, and a metal, battered clipboard sat on top of a binder in between the passenger and driver's seats. A shotgun bolted in a rack above and behind his head gave testament to the lethal force of their profession.  A thick Plexiglas divider, rising up from the rear of the back seat to the roof, created a solid cage so the prisoners could not attack the police officers. 

In the driver's seat, Buck settled himself in with a sigh.  He had not trained in so long he had forgotten half of the joys of it, especially having someone constantly in the car.  Time to start with the basics.  "Okay, lesson one.  What's your identifier?"

"My identifier?"

"Yeah, kid, what you call yourself on the radio."

"Oh.  No one gave that to me."

With exaggerated patience, Buck rooted through his binder until he found a laminated sheet and passed it over.  "Look at that and memorize it.  You'll recognize the voices faster but you have to know this.  Who's 11-01?"

"Uh, Sgt. Larabee?"

"That a question or an answer?"

JD found the name on the roster for all the squads.  "Answer.  Sgt. Larabee."



"That's right, don't ever forget it.  I'll kick your scrawny butt if you do."  Once JD nodded his understanding, Buck continued, "Okay, 11-08."

"Cpl. Caswell." 

"And yours?"

"1107."  JD pronounced it one-one-zero-seven.  He found himself pleased and surprised by the discovery of his name typed neatly under Squad One on the roster.  Typed, like he belonged, and not written in.

Buck sighed, realizing he needed to explain radio etiquette.  What exactly did those people teach in the Academy?  In his humble opinion that he shared with everyone who listened, the training declined since Nina stopped teaching and FCPD shipped their recruits to the regional Academy.  He was not going to let this rookie sound like an idiot on the radio.  "First, it's said eleven – oh – seven.  Numerical zero's are pronounced as oh's except in VIN's – that's Vehicle Identification Numbers - and in a four-digit number, the first two are said together.  Three digits like 824 are said eight – twenty four.  Got it?"  JD nodded, flushing from the glaring
mistake.  "Good.  Call us 10-8."

"Okay."  JD knew 10-8 meant putting them available and in-service, he made sure he memorized the 10-codes hoping not to appear too much of a rookie.  He reached for the car radio only to have his hand smacked away.  "What's that for, sir?"

"You don't touch my car radio unless I tell you so.  Use your lapel mike; you have to get used to it."  Buck pulled them out of the station and headed for their patrol area. 

With a sidelong frown at his trainer, JD keyed his mike.  "11-07 and 11-02 are 10-8."

"10-4, 11-07.  11-02, direct radio traffic to yourself or 11-07?"  Casey's voice filled the car.  This was her way of finding out if Buck wanted the rookie to answer the radio when she called or if he still wanted to handle it for the time being.  Usually the training officer answered for at least the first day.  That way the rookie could get acclimated before having to multitask like he would for the rest of his career. 

"Direct to 11-02," Buck replied.

"10-4, copy report."

Buck rolled his eyes.  Not even five minutes in the car and he had a report.  Then it hit him.  He had a trainee.  Trainees get all reports.  No wonder Nina trained so often; she got out of half the paperwork.  The rookies got the majority of it for exposure purposes.  "Kid, write this down."  JD opened his official notebook and readied his pen.  Wilmington keyed the mike, "Go ahead, FC."

"1408 Gardenia Way, Apt G George.  1-4-0-8 Gardenia Way, Apt G George.  Cross streets of Cherry Way and Rose Way.  See Margaret Johnson about her missing 15 year old daughter Helen Johnson, 5'4, 120lbs, brown shoulder length hair, blue eyes, last seen at 1700hrs wearing red sweatshirt and sweatpants on foot in the area."

"10-4, 11-02 en route."   He flicked a glance at the rookie as he drove toward the apartment complex.  "You get all that?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good.  In that stack beside you are my old reports so you can see the format.  Helen runs away a lot; you'll find a copy of her information on one of them.  Margie and I know her habits; we'll probably find her in the complex."  He vividly remembered their first meeting, driving a scared Helen home almost two years ago

JD brought him back to the present with a question.  "Margie?"

"Margie, Helen's mother."

"I thought her name was Margaret."

"It is; I've seen Margie and Helen enough times that we're on a first name basis. To you, however, her name is ma'am or Mrs. Johnson." 

"Got it."


The radio crackled again.  "FC, 11-08.  Copy vandalism."


"5426 Kendrick Road, 5-4-2-6 Kendrick Road.   Cross streets of Webster and Carsin.  Mailbox struck by two young white males in a blue older model Chevy pickup.  Suspects last seen on Kendrick toward Webster."


"K9-16 en route for backup." 

"11-01, K9-16, cancel.  I'm almost there."

"K9-16 10-8."

"FC's direct."

"11-08's direct."

Buck thought this a good time to spot-check how well JD understood radio traffic.  "All right, kid.  Tell me what just happened and who's FC?"

JD's expression gave his opinion of the question and of his superior's constant use of the moniker `Kid'.  "FC stands for Four Corners, what we use to call the station.  Cpl. Caswell got a MDOP – Malicious Destruction Of Property – against mailboxes with a suspect vehicle of an older model blue Chevy pickup occupied two times, young white males.  OFC Standish offered himself for backup and Sgt. Larabee cancelled him because he's in the area."

"Very good.  Now let's go talk to Margie."  Buck parked the car in a visitor spot outside a large apartment building.  The aged red brick matched all the other buildings in the complex except for the building numbers, large black metal figures screwed in above the front entrance.  "Call us here."

"11-07, FC, myself and 11-02 10-23."

"11-07, 10-4."

"11-01's in the area."

"11-01, 10-4." 

With a practiced eye, Buck scanned the complex and watched with resigned amusement as curtains fluttered into place and several venetian blind slats slid closed.  "You notice anything?"  The trainer queried his rookie even as he half-listened to the other units' radio traffic.

"What?"  JD finally looked around.

"Remember when you arrive somewhere, you want to peek around," he turned his head side to side, "at your surroundings.  You never know who's watching you, or what they're planning for you.  Getting ambushed is a very real possibility and too many officers are hurt or killed for not taking the proper precautions.  If you don't believe me, ask the girls in dispatch.  They get to read the teletypes about officers killed in the line of duty and pass them on to roll call."

The thought sobered JD and he glanced nervously around again.  "Was anybody watching us?"

"Kid, half the neighborhood knows we're here and the ones that don't are getting called now."  Buck held the front entryway door for JD and directed him to precede him up the stairs.  He knocked on the door marked "G".

"Who's there?"

"Margie, it's Buck."

The door flew open to reveal a flustered female who immediately launched into a frantic plea.  "Buck, I'm so glad you're here.  Helen's gone.  I don't know what I'm going to do with that girl."

"We're gonna find her, Margie.  We always do."  He looked in her eyes and his sincerity calmed her, letting her finally notice the man beside her.

"Who's that with you?"

"Our newest po-lice officer, JD Dunne.  Officer Dunne, meet Margaret Johnson."

"Hello, ma'am."

"Officer," she nodded her head.

"You know if Helen's still around here?" asked Buck.

"Yes.  I think she's hiding at 1604 F."

Buck recognized the address.  "She's seeing Luis now?"

"Yes, but Mrs. Martinez won't let me in."

Wilmington translated this as Margie threw a conniption fit and Mrs. Martinez slammed the door in her face.  "Okay, let's go, JD.  Margie, I'll be back either way."  They left the building and walked around the corner into the next quadrangle.  JD stayed silent as they walked, taking the time to memorize his surroundings.  Buck beat on the correct door and it opened as wide as the attached safety chain allowed.  The small Hispanic woman smiled and closed the door again to remove the chain then opened the door wide to wave the officers inside.

"Corporal Buck.  I thought you'd come.  She is in the bedroom watching TV with Luis.  I told her to call her mother, but no, she won't do that."

"Hello, Miz Martinez.  Can I see her?"

"Take her home, Corporal Buck.  I do not want her here wasting the police's time.  You have better things to do."   The rogue treated every woman with respect and it showed in Mrs. Martinez's cooperation.  Most times she refused to allow the police past the safety chain if she talked to them at all. 

"Never too busy for y'all," Buck assured her.   He stepped into the apartment and headed for the bedroom indicated by the woman.  "Helen, come on out here."

"Buck!  She already called you?" wailed the young teenager, making an appearance.

"Yes, darlin', she called me.  She worries about you."

"Doesn't act like it."

"Now Helen, she cares about you.  Why don't we go back and talk?"

Helen sighed.  "Fine."  She gathered her things and walked out with them but shuffled her feet at a slow pace. "Who's this?" the teenager asked, sizing up JD.  Her agile mind considered the sympathy angle, guessing him not much older than her.

JD felt like prized beef at an auction. Buck interceded, "Officer Dunne, this is Helen.  Helen, Officer Dunne.  Don't give him your weepy-eyed act; he won't believe it."  The older officer knew what Helen planned and cut that idea down immediately.

"Fine."  Helen stormed into her apartment without waiting for the officers, going to her bedroom door and tossing her stuff into her room.  Returning to the living room, the girl threw her limber frame onto the loveseat, tossed a leg over the arm, and swung it back and forth as she glared at her mother. 

Both mother and daughter turned in unison to stare at Buck, a signal for him to begin.  He nearly sighed.  "Now, Helen, tell me why you left?"  Again, he thought to himself.

The question instigated a shouting match between mother and daughter.  "It's her fault!" the teenager shouted.

"What did I do?"

"You made me stop talking to Luis."

"You were supposed to be doing your homework."

"School's stupid, homework's dumb.  When I get out of school I won't have to do this anymore."

"But you're not out of school.  You need school to get a job, go to college, to make something of yourself."

"I am making something of myself."

Buck interrupted the pair to calm the situation before it got out of control.  He held out placating hands, one in each of their directions.  "Now, Margie, before you answer that, let me ask Helen something.  Helen, you wanna make minimum wage the rest of your life?"


"Then you'll need an education.  Your mother here is trying to make sure you get that education.  Margie,would you let Helen talk to Luis when she finished her homework?"  The art of compromise is one of the police officer's favorite skills and tools.

"I'll do better, Buck.  Once I know she's done her homework, I'll let her either visit or have Luis come over.  I don't want her unhappy but I want her to do well in school."

"You'd let Luis come over?" asked Helen in amazement.

"Yes, I would.  Once I knew you finished your homework and you keep decent grades like you have now."

"Mom, I didn't think you'd let me do that."

"All you had to do was ask."

"Thanks, Mom."  The flabbergasted teen ran over and hugged her mother, who returned the embrace wholeheartedly.

"I love you.  Don't forget that."  Margie held her daughter's face to impart that truth into her daughter's eyes.

Helen smiled, "I love you too. I'm sorry, Mom."

"Margie, Helen, hopefully we won't see you soon."  Buck let himself and JD out as the pair waved to them.  Once in the hallway with the door closed, Buck turned to JD and the smile fell off his face.  "We'll be back next week."

That sounded entirely too pessimistic.  "What makes you say that?"  The emotion at the end seemed genuine.

"Margie and Helen fight.  When they fight, Helen leaves.  Margie calls.  We find Helen, they make up, things are okay for a while, and then they fight again.  It's a vicious cycle with some of these kids."   Buck grabbed his lapel mike.  "11-02, FC." 


"Clear, Code Paul Sam." 


"Kid, what does Code Paul Sam mean?"

"Problem Solved."  Now, if JD could solve the problem of being called kid….

"Good."  He keyed up again, "11-02, FC."


"Status on 11-08 and 11-01?"

"Traffic stop on suspect vehicle at Webster and Kendrick."

"10-4.  Show us low."


The rookie thought he knew this one.  "Show us low, that means we're going almost to the bottom of our southern most post, right?"

"Right.  Why?"

"We're going to help cover South for Cpl. Caswell and Sgt. Larabee while they're on the traffic stop."

"Exactly.  Ezra will handle the calls in South until one of them clears and I expect Nathan already moved low in his area. Josiah's probably at the border of North and West covering Nathan's drop.  It pays to be prepared for trouble, Kid."

"11-01's in the area."


That quick, there they were, the suspects.  He immediately keyed up, "Suspect vehicle in sight, registration 92NL85, occupied two times.  They just smashed another one.   Vehicle stop at Webster and Kendrick."

"10-4, 11-01.  11-08, direct?"

"Direct, 30 seconds out."


Larabee shook his head as he exited his car.  The dumb kids stuck around and smacked another mailbox right in front of him.  He wished he could have seen their faces when he activated the lights on his black unmarked vehicle right behind them.  He cautiously approached the driver's door, noting that Nina arrived and positioned her unit in front of the truck to block any flight attempt. She now used the same cautious approach to the passenger side of the vehicle.

Larabee tapped on the window with his flashlight, "You want to step out of the truck."  It was not a request but an order as politely phrased as possible because of the mandatory sensitivity training last month. 

Someone on the Town Council `convinced' Chief Travis that this training would help improve relations with the community.  The `convincing' entailed a vote for the acquisition of a new fleet of vehicles at the upcoming budget hearings.  For the good of the department, or so Travis ordered.  The officers suffered through a
class taught by a woman waxing poetic about peace and harmony through thoughtful words and a caring, moderated tone.  Boring.

Chris nearly walked out; only Ezra's heavily disguised insults delivered as only that dripping drawl could do, kept things interesting. The woman actually agreed with the less than flattering comments, not able to see through the b.s. of the southerner's insults. 

On the stop, Larabee waited for a response.  He told himself his tone and statement was as polite as it was going to get, especially for these brilliant members of the community.   

The young driver inside glared at the blond officer in defiance and asked, "What'd I do?"

"Step out of the truck!" Larabee's stern voice left no room for further discussion.  So much for sensitivity.

Stepping back as the youth exited the vehicle, Larabee directed him to the back of the truck where he had the boy place his hands on the tailgate.  Keeping Nina in his peripheral sight he noted the passenger getting the same treatment.  From habits born of years of teamwork, they searched their `prisoners' one at a time while keeping watch on the other.

Chris opened the dialogue.  "You're under arrest." 

"For what?"  The driver shouted at Chris over his shoulder.  "We was just driving along minding our own business and you pigs come along trying to scare us." 

`Pig' was enough encouragement for Chris to perform a thorough, none-too-gentle shakedown of the driver.  Resulting in a spate of cursing from the youth.

"How old are you?" Nina asked her prisoner, ignoring the indignant protests of the driver.


"Got any ID on you?"

"Back right pocket in my wallet."   Nina reached into the rear pocket and extracted the identification.  "Good to see you're not lying to us."  She keyed her lapel mike.  "11-08, FC."


"Wants and warrants check."

"Go ahead."

"Mitchell, Andrew David, OLN (operator license number) M442658." 


Nina walked hers over beside his friend and settled him against the side of the truck.  Chris handed her the driver's identification showing him as nineteen, an adult with harsher penalties waiting for him. 

"FC, 11-08."


"Negative on Andrew Mitchell."

"10-4.  Copy a second."

"Go ahead."

"Davis, Edward Shawn, OLN D983483."

"10-4."  The Sergeant handcuffed the driver as the Corporal clicked silver on the passenger. 

"FC, 11-08."


"Code White."  Chris and Nina exchanged knowing looks before she stepped away from them. Chris lowered his radio volume.  Code White meant clear the air and step away from the suspects for information; it was not meant for the suspects to hear.

"Go ahead."

Casey dug the hole a little deeper on the driver.  "Warrant on Edward Shawn Davis of 15828 Everclear Highway through this agency, already confirmed."

"10-4.  In custody."

"Direct, suspect in custody."

"Be advised second suspect in custody as well."

"Second in custody, 10-4."  Casey noted the arrest times on the computer generated incident for the charging documents the two would fill out later.

The Corporal smiled evilly as she walked back over to Chris.  "He'll like the Seasons," she said, nodding toward the driver.  The Four Seasons was how the FCPD referred to the Detention Center as an in-joke and a coded way of saying jail without alerting the suspect.

"You've been a bad boy, Edward.  Figure we're going for a ride."  Chris stuffed his blustering prisoner into the back of Nina's marked car – she had a cage, he didn't – and shut the door on the man's protests.  He walked back over to her.

"11-01, FC."


"Need a tow, next available."


"I've got them." Chris turned to the woman, "I'll do the vehicle inventory; you go visit the victims and take their statements?"  His tone conveyed an order, not a request. 

"Sure, Sarge."  Nina agreed, grinning at Chris' frown from her jab at his rank.  Just like him to leave her with interviewing the complainants.  He felt she got along better with people and they tended to open up more to her than him; besides she had more patience.  He dealt just fine with the suspects than with weepy whiny complainants.  Suspects respected and feared attitude; citizens got scared or mad and complained.

She left her prisoner with Chris and contacted both victims on Kendrick, arranging a one-on-one identification between the first victim/witness and the two suspects.  Larabee shined his light in their eyes as she drove by blacked out with her own spotlight in their faces.  With a positive identification from the witness and Larabee's first hand account, they bagged two arrests for the night. 

Chris, being the Sergeant, opted for booking the adult and left her sitting at the station for an hour processing the juvenile.   Larabee took his prisoner and the warrants to the Detention Center (DC) run by the Sheriff's Office two blocks down from the station.  After introducing the suspect into the system, both in body and computer entry, he went to the office to complete his paperwork, adding his supplements to her reports.

Returning to the field to cover the South until Caswell finished.  Larabee held the thought that it was just over an hour into their shift and they already had two arrests.  He believed this was a warning of what the rest of the weekend would be like. 


Next                                                                                                                                               Index