In LAPD office at night

Hunter and McCall had just finished a hard case in which McCall was attacked in her home by a serial killer but saved by a psychic.

Summer was the busiest season. Now it was finally September, but the overload of work had worn them out. Short staffing had always been a problem in LAPD, and it seemed to be getting worse and worse. Starting around two years ago, most days they had to work separately and sometimes even without backups. During the last few months, they had to work on two to three cases at the same time. Neither could remember when was the last time they had left the station before it was completely dark outside.

Now they were sitting at their desk in the office working. More than half of the officers, including Captain Charlie, were also here, some were working and some others were eating and chatting, the whole area didn't look like after-hour.

"It's only September, LA city has already got 802 recorded murders. Last year when we reached 800, it was almost November. Every year, the crime of violence broke the record at both LA and the Federal level." Hunter talked to himself while reading the report from the department,"McCall, every year is getting worse. What's the hell going on?"

"With this trend, this country will become a hell soon." McCall signed, and threw her pen onto the desk."Did you finish for today?"

"No, but I can not do anymore. My concentration is really bad now and I feel like I can't comprehend things when I read it. I am just waiting for you to finish. I am very hungry. How about you?" Hunter asked.

"Me, either." McCall shook her head, looked at Hunter and raised one of her eyebrows, "Ready?"

"Of course."...

The clock on the wall of the precinct pointed to 7:18 pm. Except a bag of crackers, they had not eaten anything after breakfast because the work had kept them so preoccupied, plus they planned to leave early today to have dinner in a restaurant. It was a special night - Friday and also was McCall and Steve's anniversary. They started to plan it since yesterday. McCall knew parking could be a problem at any restaurant on Friday night, and she wanted Hunter to take her home after dinner, so they only drove one car. Today they both also dressed nicely. McCall wore her dark purple evening dress and then put a black suit on the top of it so that her colleagues would not notice it. Like usual, Hunter wore a brand-new red-brownish plaid shirt with a light gray jacket on top.

McCall was a little sad about Steve and something else she could hardly describe. She missed Steve very much. He was murdered only five months after their wedding. McCall continued her career and her life, but no Mr. Right came to her life until she met Hunter. They shared 6 years together, three times as long as the whole time between her first met Steve and his death. Exactly three years ago, she had shared a special night with Hunter at her house, so in a way, it was also a kind of anniversary for her and Hunter. Even after so many years, those beautiful memories were still fresh and unforgettable ... She was waiting for Hunter's response since three years ago. It seemed that he just pretended nothing happened, so she had to pretend to ignore him. Shortly after she came back from Quantico, they shared a bed in the darkness at the Bald Mountain, he had held her tightly to warm her up and she felt his accelerated heart beats. They talked about Steve, and he told her a terrific short ghost story about his dad, but he didn't mention anything about the time they slept together. That night disappointed her a lot and also hurt her. They were in the middle of investing a case, and murders happened in that house when they were there, so eventually she put it out of her mind and moved on. McCall wanted to discuss it with Hunter, but even after seeing Dr. Tate, nothing had come of it since.

She dated a couple of men later. They all had successful and safe careers such as doctors, judges or lawyers, but none of them was comparable to Hunter in her heart. He was already part of her. Although McCall decided she would never marry a cop again, after so many failed relationships, she finally realized that it did not make sense to date anyone else because Hunter was the only man she loved. She wanted to know what he was thinking. During the last a few years, she had rehearsed hundreds of times in her mind how to ask him and then tell him she loved him, but she dared not to ask. She was afraid to lose him as her partner if Hunter was not interested in having a family. If that were the case, it would be embarrassed for her to continue to work together with him. Last month when they invited the psychic to her house, she thought the chance finally came. When she pretended to joke, asking what Hunter was thinking about, the answer was Redhead Vicky, which didn't include any useful information. She did not understand why Hunter was thinking about Vicky, but the psychic read her mind pretty accurately, so she had to trust it. She was very frustrated.

McCall did not want to waste any more time. She would be 34 years old this year. She should have had this conversation with him while she was in FBI training three years ago. No matter what the results would be, she decided to tell Hunter her complicated feelings tonight, to ask what was in his mind and to plan her future seriously depends on his answer.

They had a longer dinner than usual, talking about everything, except their relationship. They had too much to chat, but finally they felt they had stayed there for too long, and they'd better find another place to continue.

"Let's go. I will drop you off at your house." Hunter stood up.

McCall was a little disappointed. She had to talk to him tonight; otherwise, it would be hard to find another chance shortly. "I don't feel sleepy yet. It's a beautiful weekend night. Do you want to take a walk or something?"

"Yeah, it has been a hard week," Hunter replied, "Let's take some time to relax. Where would you like to go?"

"How about watching a movie?" McCall offered. The last time they watched a movie together was more than a year ago. Maybe in a dark theater, she could be more comfortable to bring it up, she thought.

"Good idea. Which movie? Do you have any idea?" Hunter asked.

"'Ghost' is doing gangbusters at the box office. Kitty watched it last week, and she told me, 'you have to watch it, unbelievably fantastic.'"

"Sounds good. What's it about?" Hunter asked.

"Kitty said it was about love and death, the love beyond the separation of live and death. It is also a murder case investigated and solved by a ghost."

"Works for me!" Hunter was happy.

They went to the counter and borrowed the newspaper. Under the dim restaurant light, they found one theater pretty far from here would show this movie at 10:00 pm.

In the theater

It was a historic theater in a nice safe neighborhood, with beautiful old fashion decoration. Most of the people who came here were well dressed and with a good education. McCall came here a few times, but it was the first time for Hunter. After Hunter had parked his car, McCall put her purse into the trunk. Then Hunter also put his gun and other heavy stuff into the trunk, stretched his back and said, "Forget about the work. Let's take tonight off entirely." He hesitated a little bit and picked up the beeper, put it back to his belt and then closed the trunk. "Just in case," he murmured to himself. She looked at him and smiled.

Although it was late, at such a lovely Friday night, many people came to watch this top-rated new movie. It was easy to tell that a lot of them were couples. It was a bit too late for them to buy the tickets. There were no more good seats left unless they wanted to sit separately. Of course, they would not. They grabbed the snacks, went into the theater and took the seats.

McCall stared up at the screen, which seemed to loom over them. "It's so close!"

Hunter replied, "It's not too bad. We are in the center, and nobody is in front. The view will be excellent!"

The lights went off as soon as they sat down. Each of them had a drink and they shared a big bag of popcorn. In the movie, accompanied by the song Unchained Melody, Sam was holding Molly and they were making pots together. Meanwhile, in the darkness, Hunter accidentally grabbed McCall's hand when he was reaching into the bag. McCall was a little shocked. She felt the warmth from his big strong hand spread to her whole body like a wave. McCall's sixth sense told her that Hunter might also have something willing to say tonight. Without moving her head, she peek at him quickly, found that he was just looking straight, chewing his popcorn, enjoying the story, didn't look like planning to say anything yet.

The beginning of the movie was bright and happy. In the film, Sam said, "I don't know. A lot of things. I just don't want the bubble to burst... Whenever something good happens to me, I'm just afraid I'm going to lose it..." McCall and Hunter glanced at each other involuntarily and then both turned back at the same time.

Later, it was getting darker … Suddenly McCall noticed that there was a man dressed strangely, carrying a backpack, with a helmet and thick coat despite the warm day, walking to the front. Reacting with years of professional training, McCall elbowed Hunter to alert him, and they exchanged eye contact quickly.

The guy at the front suddenly pulled out a semi-automatic military rifle from his coat. Most of the audience was staring at the screen, focusing on Sam and Molly walking down the dark street, and so very few people noticed the shooter.

McCall regretted that they didn't have the weapons with them, but without thinking about anything else, she yelled, "Everybody get down! He has a gun!"

"Police! Drop the gun!" Hunter yelled almost at the same time. Meanwhile, they both got up.

People screamed and ducked, but everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

Hunter threw his water bottle at the guy's head, tried to jump on him by running across the top of the chairs, but their seats were too inconvenient to get out quickly. The crazy man was shocked at the attack, but pointed his gun at Hunter right away and fired many shots. Hunter fell immediately.

McCall smashed her big cup of soda into the guy's face while he was shooting Hunter, just as she reached him, jumped on him, pulled him to the ground and held the rifle. He was still firing, but, fortunately, nobody was in that direction; about one dozen of bullets shot into the ceiling and the screen.

Within a few seconds, an off-duty firefighter joined McCall, and then the security guards of the theater came, got rid of the weapon and put handcuffs on the shooter.

Everything happened so fast. The movie was still on, and the big light in the center of the ceiling went on soon after the guy was controlled. The theater was a huge mess; everybody was screaming, crying and running. People saw the blood on the floor, smelled the gunpowder in the air, and no one knew how many people were killed or injured.

On the screen, Sam was lying on the ground with blood on his chest and Molly was sobbing as though her heart was breaking, and in the theater, Hunter and McCall were the same. Hunter was lying on the ground, jammed between two rows of the chairs, face up, blood foaming from his mouth and nose. The blood from somewhere under his body ran very far on the sloped smooth marble floor where it had been stepped in by the crowd of people in the darkness; now it was smeared and stained everywhere. The location where he lay was dark and narrow, so McCall even could hardly reach him. Except an obvious hole in his chest, McCall was not sure where else he was shot and how many shots he took. She held his blood-covered hand, felt his weak and fast pulse and saw his harder and harder breathing. While trying to get air into his mouth, Hunter also moved his lips weakly, looked like want to say something, but did not; he looked at her with his languid blue eyes full of regrets and helpless. She tried to cover that bleeding hole to avoid too much air going into the chest and tried to stop bleeding, but it was no use.

Oh, my God! I had six years. McCall thought, why did I wait until today? It is too late! She had so many versions in her mind of how to tell Hunter she loved him but never imagined it would happen like this. She was crying and calling his name "Rick, I love you…I love you, Rick. Please do not leave me...Hold on, Rick!" ... ... until her tears took over entirely.

To be continued...