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Patrick O'Rourke swore under his breath when he heard his partner's voice. Jack hadn't waited for him. Again.
He rounded a corner just in time to see the tall figure disappear down a dark alleyway. The lone streetlamp illuminated the letters on the back of Jack's windbreaker.
"Damn it, Jack." They were both wearing the jackets that proclaimed them police because, on any big bust, it was all too easy to be mistaken for a suspect. Many of them looked as disreputable as the thugs they were after. Such was the life of a narcotics cop.
Gunfire split the night as he raced after his partner. The urge to just rush into the alleyway, heedless of the danger, was almost overwhelming. He forced himself to stop just at the top of the alley, bracing his back against the rough brick wall as he risked a quick glance down the passageway. Just because he didn't see anyone didn't mean they weren't there. Cautiously, he eased around the corner. Staying tight to the wall, he crept forward.
He'd kill his partner if they lived through this latest debacle. Jack Murphy was no green rookie, but a twenty year veteran of the force, and he knew better than to go into a potentially deadly situation without waiting for backup.
He and Jack had been the first two on the scene. Their job was to scope out the situation and get into position. The rest of the team had moved in slowly over the past several hours. Now, everyone was in place, waiting for the word to go. But Jack had been pushing the envelope for months. Ever since his wife, Mary, had lost her battle with cancer, it was as if he suddenly had a death wish.
Patrick's breathing was harsh, his heart pounding, adrenaline pumping through his veins, his body on full alert. Time seemed to slow and all his senses heightened. He could smell the rotting garbage that littered the ground, but overlaying it all was the unmistakable stench of fear and the metallic tang of blood.
Someone had been shot.
Patrick kept his back to the brick wall, crouching low, hidden in the shadows while his eyes adjusted to the dark. He blinked several times and could just make out the shape of a man lying in the dirt. As he watched, the body moved and moaned, and at the same time, a shaft of moonlight caught the reflective yellow letters on the back of the jacket.
Patrick keyed the microphone attached to his jacket. "Officer down! Officer down!" He rattled off their location even as he sprang into action.
His arms extended and his gun ready, he hurried toward Jack, sweeping the alley from side to side as he went. He was only about fifteen feet away from Jack when he caught the faintest whisper of a movement ahead of him and to his left. "Police," he shouted. "Freeze."
It was sheer instinct that had him lunging to the right as the shots rang out. Something struck him in the chest, knocking the wind out of him as he hit the ground hard and rolled, automatically returning fire. He came up solid against the other side of the alley.
Never give up! The words he'd heard so many years ago back at the police academy rang in his head. If you give up, you're dead.
He had to protect Jack. Patrick tried to raise his gun only to find that he could no longer lift his arm. In fact, he was quickly losing all feeling in his left hand. He propped his left hand up with his right as he peered into the darkness, swearing under his breath.
He tried to stand up, but his left leg gave out beneath him. Taunting laughter came from the shadows. "Got you now, cop. I killed your fucking friend. Now it's your turn." The man stepped out from behind a dumpster just beyond Jack.
Ignoring his pain, Patrick rolled to the left, firing three shots in quick succession just as the other man fired. Pieces of brick came off the building where Patrick had just been. The shooter's body jerked backward and he fell heavily onto the ground.
Except for the sound of his harsh breathing and cursing, and the normal night sounds of the city, the alley was silent. Patrick thought he heard the slap of footsteps retreating in the distance, but he couldn't be sure.
Releasing the grip on his gun hand, he dug his right hand into the dirt and dragged himself through the filth toward his partner, all the while keeping one eye on the suspect he'd shot. Sweat poured down his face as he heaved himself forward another few inches. Every muscle in his body burned.
Jack seemed to be getting farther away, rather than closer.
Patrick dug deep inside himself, gritted his teeth and somehow found the strength to pull himself another foot. Then another.
He could almost touch his partner's leg now. "Jack," he whispered urgently. "Talk to me." But Jack didn't answer back. Patrick could hear the roar of sirens in the distance and knew help had almost arrived. Every cop, on and off duty, anywhere near the vicinity would answer the call of "officer down".
Patrick labored to haul himself another few feet. His lungs ached as he sucked in air. Sweat stung his eyes. He blinked to try and clear his vision. With his good arm, he tugged Jack close and awkwardly tried to shield his partner's head.
His left arm and hand were useless now, so he pried his gun out of his numb fingers and gripped it awkwardly with his right, propping it on his lame hand. Then he waited.
Excerpted from The Return of Patrick O'Rourke by N.J. Walters Copyright © 2006 by N. J. Walters. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted April 25, 2013