Disclaimer: Don't own the characters. Hope you enjoy the story.

A Thanksgiving Feast

Ricky played with a new puppy that Jack had given him for his ninth birthday a few months ago. It was another Shih-tzu like his own Cujo. Ricky had always loved Cujo but secretly, like every kid his age, wanted a puppy! Ella had given up, acknowledging that now she was truly surrounded by boys. For the near term, Ricky referred to Jack as his Uncle Jack since his Mom was actually his Aunt Ella.

Jack was still at work on Thanksgiving Day. He was pouring over the COMSTAT data on the current "crook de jour" as he had begun to refer to serial criminals prior to their capture. This "crook de jour" was a house burglar who liked the middle-income toys like big picture TV and other electronic gizmos. The houses he ripped off had no fancy alarms. If it had an alarm, he had defeated it by cutting the main power to the house. It looked to the alarm monitoring company, if there was one, that the house was the victim of a random power outage.

For this case, Nancy had been partnered up with Debreno. The burglar was systematically working one neighborhood then the next one to it. This should make him much easier to catch. Sooner or later, they'd be there before he pulled his next job. They had tool marks from his snips that sliced the wires. So far, the tool marks were all the same…thus they figured they had one crook not an infinite number of them.

Ella was home preparing a sumptuous dinner with all the trimmings. She was not sure how many of her invited friends would actually make it, or even if her husband would. Still, she stirred and baked, knowing that eventually hunger would overtake even the most determined crime fighter. The house was awash with the scents of sweet potato pie, turkey simmering in its own juice. Boiling on the stove was a pot of potatoes that soon would be mashed. The stuffing was cooking in the oven next to the bird. Ella was glad that she'd not yet terminated her lease on a real apartment. Surely Jack's boat had a galley, but it was tiny compared to the need for a feast.

The first to arrive was Temple. He offered his assistance in any way. Ella had him set the table for however many he thought might be coming. He began to rattle off the names of those formally invited: Ella, the Chief, Ricky, Nancy, Debreno, Noland and his wife and new daughter, and himself. That made eight for the table proper. She told him to pull out dishes for at least eight more since she knew that whoever was left around when Jack headed home would be invited to dinner. The Nolands decided to stay home since the older kids announced at the last possible moment they'd be home for a real Thanksgiving. College kitchen food left much to be desired. There was also laundry to do!

Jack decided that at 5 p.m., he'd call it a day and head home. The last thing he wanted to do was have an angry Ella waiting for him to show up and then him not show up! Nancy and Debreno had returned to check out with the shift supervisor before leaving. Jack had invited them earlier in the week with Temple.

"You two heading out?" he asked.

"Yes Chief," replied Debreno. "We're still on for Ella's home cooking, right?"

Jack nodded and smiled, "Nancy, you coming?"

"Would not miss it for the world, Chief!" she declared with a big grin. "Besides, my Mom is not a very good cook anyhow." She chuckled.

"Let me write that down," Debreno pulled out his notebook. "Just in case I need this kind of information at some later date…" he feigned writing.

Nancy swatted at him, "Come on Kevin."

Jack had rounded up a few more patrol officers who were single and in town. Before he left, he ordered a dozen turkey pizzas for those left watching over the city.

Ella was delighted and not a little surprised that the remainder of her dinner guests had arrived before 7 p.m.

"Jack Mannion, you actually got here on time!" she laughed.

"Are you kiddin' Ella? I know how good a cook you are, and besides, why would I want to make my bride mad at me so early in our life together?"

Joe leaned over, "You see, Ella, an old dog can learn new tricks!"

Everyone, including Jack, had a good laugh. Jack popped the cork on a bottle of champagne and began to distribute the bubbly wine into glasses.

"A toast to the finest friends a man could ever want," Jack lifted his glass. He wrapped his arm around Ella's, "And to the most wonderful wife I could ever have been blessed to marry!" He kissed her before sipping on the wine.

Ella beamed brightly. Even though there were times Jack Mannion's ways got on her last nerve and stood there with a salt shaker, she found that most times he was simply charming.

Debreno whispered in Nancy's ear, "Ever wonder if you'll ever find a mate that is your best friend?"

"Mmm," Nancy replied. "You?"

"I could only wish. I mean, after all, I have made nothing but a mess of relationships in the past," he confessed softly.

"Well, don't ever give up hoping," Nancy confided in return.

Bad timing for the pagers to go off, but they did! Ella just rolled her eyes, "I'll keep things warm. You go do what you have to do."

Mannion grimaced, "The rest of you officers go ahead and eat. Not sure when we'll be back."

Debreno grabbed Nancy's and his coat. Temple was right behind them. Both dug through the pockets to retrieve cell phones. There was a hostage situation at a restaurant following an attempted armed robbery.

A light snow fell early, coating parked cars with the powder of winter. The streets were warm and remained a wet black. The weatherman had forecast at near freezing temperatures, but not cold enough to make a mess of the roads. Mercifully, it was a holiday weekend and stores were closed or were going to close shortly. Otherwise the customary mad rush to the grocery and gas stations would have turned the traffic flow into a snow nightmare. Washingtonians were nearly pathological when it came to that first snowflake. Coming from New York, Mannion marveled at the panicked response by the locals. They always got snow; they always reacted as if they never got snow and this was to be a major blizzard. Even now, Mannion was chuckling under his breath.

"Chief?" Temple broke into the reverie.

Mannion shook his head, "Nothing Temple, just thinking about how people go nuts when it snows here."

Temple smiled and nodded.

Nancy drove Debreno to the scene in the other car. She followed Mannion's staff car.

Uniformed police had the restaurant surrounded when Mannion drove up. Captain Stephens was the on-scene leader. When he saw Mannion, Stephens approached.

"Chief," she began.

"Situation report?" Mannion asked as he adjusted the ballistic vest he'd pulled from the trunk of his car.

"We have identified at least two assailants inside, sir. It's looks like it was an armed robbery gone south. One patron has been shot according to our SWAT guys on the roof behind us. Can't tell if the patron is dead or just badly wounded. The clerk behind the counter tripped the alarm and we responded," Captain Stephens wrapped up her report.

"Very good, Captain. Now, where is the SWAT negotiator?" Mannion wanted to know.

Captain Stephens pointed to the back of the van. Mannion nodded as he headed that way.

"Chief," began Sanderson, "these two do not seem to appreciate the gravity of the situation. They are demanding a vehicle and a ticket to Cuba."

"I just hate amateurs!" a disgusted Mannion replied.

Debreno asked, "Have we got any ideas of how many other hostages are in there with them?"

Sanderson turned to Debreno, "Our best guess is that there are half a dozen bank employees and perhaps as many patrons…"

One of the kidnappers appeared at the door shielded by a woman hostage, "We want our tickets and we want them now!"

With that, he fired at the police who ducked for cover. The SWAT sniper on the opposite building sought a clear shot, but the kidnapper jerked back and forth too rapidly for the sniper to fire without hitting the hostage. Before the kidnapper stepped back behind the stone pillars that served as doorposts, he shoved the woman forward and fired at her. Her eyes met Debreno and Nancy's eyes and begged for help. She lay on the ground – close enough to tempt a rescue and far enough away from the police line to frustrate such a rescue. Nancy grabbed a lunging Debreno who wanted to take his chances.

"No, Kevin!" she said as softly as she could. "We've got to do this smart, not heroic."

Mannion who was back by the van felt the same tug of desire, as did the rest of his team.

Debreno made his way back toward Mannion and Temple.

"Chief, what if we took a vehicle over to her and snatched her up?" Debreno offered.

Temple shook his head, "She's too close to the building to get between her and the shooters."

Sanderson added, "Rescuing her could trigger shooting inside, too."

Debreno looked disgusted and wound his way back to where Nancy was, closer to the action.

"I've got an idea, but Temple doesn't like it," began Debreno.

Nancy looked at him, then at the woman who was still alive but bleeding, "What's your plan?"

You drive; I'll be in the back. I'll pull her into the backseat, and you hit the gas," Debreno's eyes never left the fallen form before them.

"Sounds simple enough. Let's do it," Nancy agreed.

Nancy popped all the locks on their car. Debreno pulled off his tie and jacket, perched his service weapon on the floor, and crouched on the floor. Nancy sped around to right next to the victim.

"Now!" she called over her shoulder to Debreno who flung the door open.

As he reached downward to pull the woman into the backseat, the shooter opened up again. Debreno jumped out of the car and stood between the victim and the gunfire. He drew a bead on the first shooter and hit him in the chest with two rounds. The other shooter turned toward Debreno and fired. Debreno felt the fire of the wound sear through his mind. He was hit in the arm.

Nancy had gotten out and pulled the woman to the relative safety of the backseat as Debreno provided covering fire.

"Kevin!" hollered Nancy, "Get in the car now! I've got her!"

The sniper got a clean shot off and dropped the second shooter like a stone. With that, gunfire was silenced. Debreno slumped against the car. It was not a bad wound, but it did hurt and flooded his body with adrenalin. His stomach felt nauseous. His head was spinning.

Paramedics raced to the scene along with the other SWAT officers. SWAT entered the building to make sure it was indeed clear.

Debreno looked at Nancy, "I think I'm gonna puke."

Nancy smiled and chuckled under her breath, "My hero."

Debreno returned the smile. He looked down at the woman whom the paramedics had removed from the backseat of the car.

"How is she?" he wanted to know.

"Alive," was the only response by the paramedic who now began to treat Debreno's arm.

Mannion began to chide Debreno, "Just what the hell do you think you were doing, Detective?"

"Don't know, sir," Debreno looked at his shoes.

Mannion wanted to yell some more but decided he'd do that later.

"Thank you, officers," rasped the woman on the stretcher.

Nancy held her hand for a moment, "You'll be okay." Then she turned to Mannion, "If it's okay with you, sir, I'll take him down to the ER and get him patched up."

Mannion nodded.

He heard Debreno say to Nancy as she shuffled him into the front seat, "I wonder if Ella will keep some of that dinner warm for us…"

Mannion shook his head and smiled, "Come on, Temple. Let's get back to the party."

Debreno rejoined Nancy in the ER waiting area, "Just a flesh wound. Let's get back to Ella's home cooking!"

No, I'm taking you back to your place and stuffing you in bed. You need some rest," Nancy cautioned.

"You're no fun," he teased.

When they arrived at Debreno's apartment, she got him in the door and onto the couch. Then Nancy stopped by the landlord's apartment to pick up a package. Debreno slumped on the couch and began to drift in and out of sleep. The painkillers were taking hold.

Nancy unpacked the turkey dinner for two that Ella had Jack drop off for the detectives. Debreno was half aware of the scent of home cooking wafting through his home. Nancy awakened him and escorted him over to the table for two.

"Ella sent this over for us when she heard that we'd be much later than expected," Nancy told him.

"God bless Ella!" Debreno smiled as he sat down to the meal.

He found that having his right arm in a sling made eating more difficult than he'd initially imagined. He could get the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole easily enough, but it was nearly impossible to cut the turkey! Nancy could not help herself but laugh.

"Not funny," Debreno said muffled by a mouth full of potatoes.

"Okay. Can I help?" she offered.

Reaching over, she began to cut the turkey with her own knife and fork. She stabbed a piece and offered it to Debreno who snapped it up quickly. For half an hour, he willingly received food like a little kid.

At the end of dinner, Debreno he turned on the stereo. Light jazz played softly in the background. He felt warm inside and contented.

"Can you stay a while?" he asked.

"Sure," Nancy smiled at him.

He took her hand and led her to the couch. Almost upon making contact with the enveloping softness of the couch, Debreno was beginning to doze. Good food, turkey especially, painkillers, and the comfortable companionship of a trusted friend lulled him into slumber. Slowly his head sank into Nancy's shoulder. The turkey and the after effects of the adrenalin rush had begun to make her sleepy, too. Before long, the soft sounds of the jazz mingled with the deep breathing of two sleeping souls, contented in each other's presence.