Read an Excerpt
The RescuerBook Six-The O'Malley Series
By DEE HENDERSON
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2003 Dee Henderson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFIVE YEARS EARLIER
Friday, August 16
Stephen parked the ambulance next to a police squad car in the parking lot across from the county building and confirmed his location with dispatch. He'd dropped off his partner Ryan at the gym down the street to take a much needed shower. A happy drunk staggering home at 6 A.M. had lost most of his last beer across Ryan's shirt. It already had the makings of an interesting Friday shift.
The heat hit him as he stepped from the vehicle. It was a day that would send tempers flaring somewhere in the city, and his squad would be sent to patch up the results of the inevitable fights. Stephen hoped they didn't get a DOA run: He'd had enough dead-on-arrival calls to last the year. He spent his days dealing with car accidents, heart attacks, gunshot victims, and drug overdoses. He didn't need some rookie cop trying to comfort the family calling him out to a victim with no pulse whose body was cold and stiff. This job wore at him enough without adding the strain of having to tell people they were looking at a corpse.
Stephen shoved his hands into his pockets and tried to force himself out of the morbid mood. Last night's dispatch to a man who had died hoursbefore lingered in his mind like some dark dangerous cloud. Being a paramedic might be a noble profession, but it didn't run to being a chaplain. He didn't need crying kids and angry spouses shouting at him to do something when it was obvious there was nothing he could do. The voices had haunted his dreams last night.
What he really needed was a vacation, a nice long pedestrian vacation where no one paged him or, for that matter, knew him. The decision resonated, and he made a mental note to force some time off into his schedule. He loved his job, but there were days he wanted to walk away from it.
Stephen entered into the restaurant on the corner and paused in front of the display of pastries and donuts to glance around the tables for his sister Kate. Cops hung out here. He eliminated those in police blues and looked at the remaining ladies. Kate rarely looked like the cop she was. As a hostage negotiator, she tried to downplay any sense of being a threat to the person she was trying to convince to surrender. He didn't see her and was surprised that he had arrived first.
Stephen waved good morning to the owner and walked to Kate's favorite table in the back of the restaurant. She preferred to sit with her back to the wall so no one could come up behind her.
He ordered a sunrise special for himself and, since Kate was a creature of habit, ordered blueberry pancakes and coffee for her. He'd learned to eat early and well as time for lunch in his job was never a given. He turned up the sound on his radio. Kate was rarely late unless she was out on an assignment somewhere. There had been too many close calls with her lately. The last thing he needed was his sister getting herself shot.
He was on his second cup of coffee when she arrived. Kate wore jeans and a pale blue shirt and carried a folded newspaper under her arm. He rose and pulled out the chair for her. She had been out in the sun this morning-the beginning of a sunburn was showing on her face and she had the glow of sweat on her skin. Since she hated early mornings, he guessed she'd been on a call somewhere in the city.
He could feel the heat coming from her back as she took her seat, and the sun had lightened a few more strands of her hair. He was constantly tugging a baseball cap on her to keep her from getting sunstroke on the job. She tossed her newspaper onto the table. "Thanks."
"I'm glad you could make it." Stephen sat back down. "I already ordered for you."
"Great. I needed this break." Kate dipped a napkin in her glass of water and used the wet corner to clean her sunglasses. "The heat is getting to people. We had an incident at a manufacturing plant this morning, and I spent two hours leaning in a window to have a conversation with a guy."
He pushed five sugar packets across the table for her coffee. "Did it end okay?"
She glanced up and smiled at his question; he had to smile back.
"It was the usual supervisor-employee fight that just kept building until they threw a few punches and then the employee pulled a gun." She set down the sunglasses. "He talked with his kids and apologized for a fight with them the night before, released his supervisor, then gave himself up. The gun turned out not to be loaded. I would have resolved it in an hour, but the supervisor wouldn't keep his mouth shut. Even I felt like hitting the guy at one point, so I can understand how the fight got started."
She dumped four packets of sugar in her coffee, tasted it, and added a fifth.
"You're going to make yourself hyper drinking that."
"Sugar is my one vice and I'm sticking to it." She propped her elbows on the table, steepled her fingers, and pointed at him. "Your call this morning was a surprise. What's happening, Stephen?"
"I need a favor."
She tilted her head to the side. "I'm always good for one."
"It's not difficult-I need you to meet Lisa at the airport for me tonight. She's carrying bones back with her and needs an extra hand." Their sister Lisa was a forensic pathologist for the city coroner's office. She'd been working for weeks to figure out how a Jane Doe had died and decided it was time to consult the experts at the Smithsonian. It got a little complex explaining to airport personnel and taxi drivers why she was hauling around boxes of bones.
"Sure, I'll meet her. Have you got other plans?"
Kate's expression shifted from amusement to interest. "A good thing to have on a Friday night. Do I know her?"
"Maybe ... Paula Lewis. I've had to cancel on her twice when a dispatch held me up, and it hasn't been easy to get her to say yes again. I'm going to make it up to her tonight."
"Paula's a nice lady, if you like doctors."
He smiled at the qualification. "Very nice." Their sister Jennifer was a pediatrician and therefore an exception, but beyond that Kate did her best to avoid those in the medical profession and their inevitable work-related conversations.
The restaurant owner brought their breakfasts and paused to chat with Kate. News affecting the city in general and the police department specifically was debated here long before it reached the watercooler at the precinct.
Stephen spread jelly on his toast and listened to his sister's intense talk about work. Kate was the heart, soul, and passion of the O'Malleys. When someone in the family needed an advocate, she was the one they turned to.
He couldn't imagine life without Kate in it. Having lost his little sister Peg in a drowning accident and his parents in a car accident by the time he was eleven, he'd been convinced at an early age that he was destined to lose people he cared about. He'd been feeling pretty grim at Trevor House until Kate came crashing into his life. She had practically dared him to try to get rid of her. Her tenacious leading with her chin, her I'm-in-your-life, deal-with-it attitude had slipped under his guard like nothing else ever could. He loved her for it.
The conversation broke up and Kate turned her attention to her breakfast. "So what have you been up to lately besides convincing Paula to give you another chance?"
He opened his shirt pocket and tugged out a checker piece he had carved. "Another one for your collection." They would have enough to play a game soon.
She studied both sides of the checker. "You're getting really good at the detail work."
"The whittling is a challenge. It's certainly tougher than hanging drywall." On his days off he gutted and remodeled old homes. He enjoyed the carpentry work. It didn't wear at his emotions the way being a paramedic did.
She tucked the piece in her pocket. Kate's eyes narrowed as she looked over his shoulder.
He knew better than to turn and look. Her face turned impassive. At her simple shift-to-work mode, Stephen slid his plate aside. The more impassive she got, the more dangerous she was. "Cool off, Kate."
Her gaze met his and the anger in her eyes had him leaning back. "That cop nearly cost me a child's life."
"You look like you're ready to deck him."
"Maybe serve him my breakfast in his lap." She picked up her water glass. "We had a custody blowup last week. A dad took his daughter from school during recess and holed up at his place, threatening to kill her rather than let his wife have custody. I got called in. That patrol officer nearly gave away the SWAT team position when he decided to get some media airtime and describe what had happened and his role in it."
"Not everyone avoids media like you do."
"He's not a rookie; he knows better."
Stephen reached over and loosened her fist. Whoever made the mistake of thinking Kate was not a cop down to her marrow didn't understand what drove her. Justice for her was very black and white. "Let it go."
Peg's drowning had driven him to be a paramedic, and Kate had also made the decision to be a cop at an early age.
"You're right. He's not worth it." Her tension turned to a hard smile. "He's a little out of his normal patrol area. He probably has a meeting with my boss to discuss the incident. He won't feel like stopping to eat afterward."
Stephen smiled. "That's better. Your optimism is back."
"It's going to be one of those Fridays. I can feel it."
"I hope you're wrong."
His radio sounded. Stephen pushed back his chair and stood. He set money on the table and leaned over to kiss Kate's cheek. "I've gotta go. See you around this weekend."
"I want to hear about this date, Stephen."
Knowing the O'Malley family grapevine, it would be common knowledge soon after it was over. "As if I could keep it from you. Stay safe, Kate."
"I'll do my best."
Stephen headed back to the ambulance. He stayed in Chicago because of Kate. He didn't bother to tell her that, but she probably already knew. Someone needed to watch her back, and their oldest brother Marcus who normally filled that role was working in the U.S. Marshal's office in Washington, D.C. After Kate was married and had someone else around to watch her back, he'd think more seriously about moving on. He would find a small town with a lake where he could cultivate his love of fishing and find an EMS job where he'd treat more bee stings and heart attacks than gunshot wounds. He liked the certainty of having that dream even if he didn't have a plan to act on yet.
His partner Ryan was towel drying his hair. The ambulance passenger door was open but Ryan stood outside. The heat built up inside the metal box fast.
"I'll drive," Stephen said. His new partner was still learning Chicago's streets.
Ryan tossed his towel across the hot leather seat. "Fine with me."
Dispatch assigned them to a code three run-a transport from Memorial Hospital to Lutheran General-so Stephen didn't bother with the lights and sirens. It was probably a high-risk pregnancy being moved to the specialized maternity unit. He'd almost rather deal with a gunshot victim than a woman in labor. They averaged two pregnancy runs a month where a lady mistimed the pace of her contractions and left going to the hospital a little too late. Infants were hard to handle in a moving vehicle that was never designed to be a delivery room. At least with pregnancy runs, one of the nurses from the maternity ward rode along to be safe.
Stephen pulled in to Memorial Hospital and looked around at the vehicles. He didn't see Meghan's jeep. There was family, there were girlfriends, and then there was Meghan. The ER nurse was in a class by herself.
"She must still be on night shifts," Ryan commented.
Stephen glanced over, his right eyebrow raised a fraction.
"Meghan. That is who you're looking for, isn't it?"
"She's just an old friend."
Ryan laughed. "If you say so, O'Malley." He tugged run sheets from the folder under the seat. "Let's go find our pregnant lady. I'm guessing triplets."
"Lunch says it's twins trying to come early."
"You're on. And if I'm right, I'm driving and you can ride the back bench with her."
Craig Fulton opened the door to Neil Coffer's jewelry store Friday afternoon and heard familiar chimes signal his entrance. He walked through the store past the display counters and the spin racks of postcards of famous jewelry to the door in the back of the store marked employees only. Ignoring the restriction, he walked through to the repair shop.
In a tourist town the size of Silverton, the jewelry Neil sold attracted more lookers than buyers. Not many farmers and small business owners could afford an antique bracelet that started in the thousands or a modern necklace that cost five figures. Fortunately, Neil also had a thriving jewelry repair business that paid the bills. Orders to jewelry stores around the state were stacked on the side counter, already prepared for Fed-Ex to pick up.
Craig waited until Neil looked up from the large magnifying glass and the piece he was working on. Neil hated to be interrupted while a repair was underway, and Craig had no desire to get on his bad side today. Hunched over the workbench the man looked more like ninety than seventy-five. He was a chain smoker and time had not been kind. How the man ever sold any jewelry was a mystery. He hadn't smiled since the Nixon era. When he did unwillingly part with a piece, he hardly offered much of a bargain.
Neil lifted the diamond from the ring with tweezers and placed it in a small ceramic dish inside a box labeled: Mrs. Heather Teal. Only one customer's piece was allowed on the repair bench at a time, and the smooth metal work area was lined with a ridge to prevent a stone from rolling off onto the floor. Rumors circulated that Neil had been a forger for the army during the cold war, making documents to allow soldiers to move around behind enemy lines, and Craig tended to believe it.
Neil finished his task and closed the box holding Mrs. Teal's work order. He walked to the east wall of the room and opened the door to the walk-in safe. When Neil had bought the old bank building, he turned its massive walk-in vault into a storage place for his jewelry.
Someone had robbed Neil two years ago, taking the pieces in the front room display cases. During the trial a year later, it had come out that the pieces in the display cases were actually excellent fakes of the real pieces Neil kept stored in the safe. When he went back to box a sold item, he retrieved the actual piece.
Some of the town residents had been impressed that he didn't leave out valuable pieces to be taken; others were embarrassed over raving about a fake diamond's size and clarity.
Excerpted from The Rescuer by DEE HENDERSON Copyright © 2003 by Dee Henderson
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.