Wish they were mine, but they're not. So I borrow them now and then, just for kicks.
It had been a regular day. A few hours sleep, grab a latte at Starbucks, and saunter into the Candy Store. That is when everything started to go downhill. Because there at the desk in the middle of the converted theatre was Lt. Roland Hill, Internal Affairs. This stopped the two officers in their tracks.
Captain Robert Parrish stood when he saw the two, and motioned them forward. They headed for the office hesitantly, after sharing a look. They each had surreptitiously scanned the room, but saw no sign of their commanding officer, Lt. Chambers. Van had a really bad feeling about this, and he conveyed that feeling with one more glance at his partner before they mounted the steps to the office.
"Officer Ray, Detective Hayes, Internal Affairs is conducting a two week review of the Candy Store Operation. During that two week period, you are both on leave with pay. I need you to hand over your cell phones, pagers, the keys to your vehicles, homes and your guns. I'd ask for your badges, but I already have them." Hill sat smugly in Billie's chair, and barely gave a glance to the two men before him as he placed one gold and one silver badge on the desk.
Captain Parrish stood up. "Ray, Hayes I want you to understand that this is not a review of the personnel assigned to this operation."
"Where's Billie?" Van asked, his eyes intent on Hill.
"Lt. Chambers was relieved of her duty last night."
Van shifted his gaze to Parrish. "Is Billie okay?"
Parrish sighed, "She's fine Officer Ray. Not too happy about the current state of affairs, but she understands, and left for San Diego this morning to visit her family. She'll be back in two weeks."
"Well, is somebody going to explain to me what the hell is going on?" Deaq spoke up, his tone expressing his anger. He couldn't believe Billie knew they were going to be hit with this and hadn't bothered to warn them. He and Van would never have let Billie walk into an ambush like this.
"The Citizens' Review Commission has asked for a complete review of the case files, inventory, and records of the Candy Store. The best way to accomplish that review is to shut down the operation and go over everything all at once." Hill responded.
Van threw his cell phone and pager on the desk. He also dug out his drivers' license –which had Strummer on it – and added that to the pile along with four pairs of car keys. "I'll check out of the hotel today – need the key to do that – and I'll have them send you the bill."
"Your gun." Hill demanded.
"No." Van responded evenly, as he watched his partner empty his own pockets.
"Ray, you don't have a say in this. I want your gun." Deaq looked at Van. He knew this had gone too easily. The gun was clearly his partner's line in the sand.
"Hill, I don't know what game you're playing. I'll give you what you want and stay quiet for two weeks, because the Captain asked us too. But I've spent the last 16 months deep undercover. I'll let you take my 'home' and my car and my damn cell phone, but you're not getting my gun. Just because you've decided I can't be a cop for two weeks doesn't mean the people you've had me playing bad guy with are going to give me a hall pass." He kept his voice even, but his intent was clear.
"I don't really care what you think Officer Ray, give me your gun."
"While we've been out protecting and serving, we've been shot at; kidnapped; someone tried to remove my thumb without the benefit of anesthesia; we've been knifed; broken bones; been blown up, and, oh yeah, I was poisoned. And we still have an arrest record better then any six precincts in this county put together – and how did we do that - by getting up close and personal with the bad guys. And as far as they're concerned, we're still bad guys – and bad guys without guns don't last long in this town."
He turned and headed for the door, with Deaq at his side. "I'll have you arrested for illegal possession of a firearm." Hill yelled.
"Hope you plan on serving that warrant in person." Van replied without bothering to turn around. He headed for an old yellow two door car, and reached under the front tire and pulled up a key.
"Van, I don't think…"
He interrupted Deaq. "This is my car – Donovan Ray's car. Let's go." They want to the hotel, and Deaq helped Van pack. Then they went to Deaq's latest house and packed up. As they drove away, they turned to look at each other.
"What the hell do we do now?" Van asked quietly.
"My folk's house – they have extra bedrooms now that my sisters have moved out. We can leave all our stuff there. And I'm thinking we should head out of town – my family has a house up in the mountains on a small lake. It's not much but its' peaceful."
"Your folks won't mind?"
"Nah, I called while you were checking out. Mom's packing us some food, blankets and stuff, and Dad was looking for the fishing gear."
They were shown adjoining bedrooms that connected through a bathroom. Deaq quickly settled his gear and went downstairs to join his parents. He spent close to two hours with his dad talking through all the potential ramifications of the 'review.' He kept glancing toward the door, half expecting Van to join them.
"Why don't you go check on Van and get washed up for dinner?" His father suggested after realizing he'd lost his son's attention.
He found Van in his room, staring out the window. He quietly closed the door and stepped up beside his partner. "Hey," he whispered as he placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, "you alright," he asked after a few minutes of silence.
"Not sure to be honest," Van answered. "I can't figure out what the hell happened to us today. And why Billie didn't warn us. I really don't appreciate being ambushed."
"Yeah, I know. I think we should let it go for now. Mom's got dinner about ready. I talked to Dad, and he's going to make some calls tomorrow."
By the time they were seated for dinner, Van was his usual self-although Deaq knew it was an act – Van Strummer was performing for his dinner because Van Ray didn't know what to make of his current situation. Mr. and Mrs. Hayes knew their boys were feeling the strain of the unexpected events of the day, and did their best to help keep things light – telling stories of Deaq's and Dre's exploits as kids.
Van helped Mrs. Hayes with the dishes, and then joined Deaq and his dad in front of the TV. He went upstairs first, and Deaq followed 20 minutes later. He changed and went into Van's room. His partner stood in a pair of faded sweat pants, again, starring out into the night. "You're not going to find the answers tonight dawg, try and get some sleep. Maybe it'll all make a little more sense tomorrow."
Van waited an hour before he slid from the bed and headed downstairs. Mr. Hayes joined him on the back deck 40 minutes later with two glasses of Talisker's on the rocks. "Van, you and Deaq haven't done anything wrong – you need to try and take a step back and let it work itself out."
"Don't know if I can, Mr. H. My whole life…the things I care about most have a habit of being taken away. I don't know what I'll do if I lose this job…"
"We'll fight them Van – if and it's still a pretty big if – that's the direction it goes. But let's not look for trouble just yet."
"I'll do my best sir."
"You always do son, you always do. Try and get some sleep." Van stayed up for another hour, slowly sipping the smoky scotch. When he finished, he slipped back upstairs to bed.
The next morning, Van excused himself in order to run a few errands while Deaq helped his mother pack. They left at 11:30 a.m. and arrived at a small store 15 minutes from their destination around 4 pm. They split up in the store to get perishables and munchies. Deaq rounded the corner by the dairy case and pulled up short. A large man had his partner pushed over the case, his hand pulling the long chestnut hair back as his hips trapped Van against the case.
"We don't need you long haired types around here." The man said as he bent over Van.
"You get off him now." Deaq demanded, his right hand poised over his gun. "I won't tell you again."
The man backed up a step but didn't relinquish his hold on the hair. "So you have a friend – figures your type always travels in a group."
"Unless you want to be arrested for assault, you'll let go of him now."
"No one's gonna arrest me," the man boosted as he pushed Van's head harder into the glass.
"They will when I file a complaint."
"And when he does that Bill, I'll be sure to serve the warrant myself." A tall man with a deep voice, wearing a sheriff's uniform, finished as he stepped into view. The hulk let go of Van, and took a step back. Deaq quickly inserted himself between his partner and the man. Van used his arms to push up off the glass, but kept his face to the wall.
"You okay, Mr…." the sheriff asked.
"Ray" Deaq supplied.
"Yeah, fine," the voice was tight.
"If you want to press charges…"
"Get out of here Bill. Somehow, I doubt your luck will hold if you press it with these two. Now get…Sheriff Danvers," he said holding out his right hand.
"Deaqon Hayes. I appreciate your sense of timing."
Van turned to face the sheriff. "Thank you," he also held out his hand.
The sheriff looked the two over carefully. "You're Linc Hayes boy – you still a cop?"
Deaq smiled. ""Yeah. Van's my partner."
"Why didn't you badge that fool?"
"We work undercover. Don't like to advertise – especially our first day in town."
"Understood. I won't tell Bill – might do him a world of good to find that out the hard way."
"Folks in this town always so friendly?" Deaq asked.
"Bill is our number one home grown trouble maker. I can assure you he is not representative of the county as a whole."
"That's good to know."
"You boys up here for work or pleasure?"
"Vacation – 2 weeks or so. Haven't been up here since I was a kid. Thought a little time with Mother Nature would do us both some good."
"It's a beautiful place, " Danvers said, "You have any problems or need to know the best place to catch fish, give me a call." He handed Deaq his card and left.
"Let's finish shopping," Van said as he got the ice cream he was looking for and pulled some munchies into this basket. Deaq stayed close – he understood his partner's reaction, but wasn't quite sure why Van was locked down so tight.
They got to the cabin and unloaded the car. "I need a shower," Van announced once the groceries were put away. Van's voice was sharp – causing Deaq to take a good look. "He had his fingers in my hair – like Rudy – just…I…"
"Go shower baby - I understand." Deaq smiled softly.
Deaq lit the logs in fireplace and turned on the gas grill he found on the deck. When he finally heard the water turn off, he started fixing dinner. Van joined him on the deck, carrying two glasses of red wine. They stood quietly beside each other, looking out over the lake for several minutes as Deaq felt the tension slipping away from his partner.
"Hungry?" He asked when Van looked at him.
"I'm not sure – are you cooking?" That got him a swat on his rear and they shared a laugh.
They ate their steak and potatoes in front of the fire and watched the game on TV. Van smiled an hour later when he realized his partner had fallen asleep. When the game was finished, he cleaned up, and closed the fireplace. Then he woke his partner up. Deaq followed him meekly towards the bedrooms.
Van woke, stifling a scream. It took him a minute to remember where he was. He carefully disentangled himself from the blankets and went out on the deck. He was standing at the railing, staring at the night sky when he was startled by the sliding glass door.
"Can't sleep V?" Deaq asked softly as he enfolded Van in the blanket he had wrapped around himself.
"Didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't. I needed a glass of water. You okay?" Deaq pulled his partner closer.
"Bad dream…It's really beautiful up here Deaq. I'd forgotten there were so many stars."
"The stars are something. I like the quiet." Deaq responded, following the topic change.
It's nice, no neighbors, no noise."
"No Starbucks, no dry cleaners," Deaq joked back. "It's pretty cold out here, what do you say we finish this conversation in the morning." Van followed reluctantly.
They both were woken late the next morning by the ringing of the phone. Deaq found it after knocking over a lamp and a bottle of water. Van started coffee and took a shower. He left a cup for Deaq on the bathroom sink while he was showering, and retreated to the kitchen.
"Smells good," Deaq said. "Dad's talked to Parrish and the Deputy Commissioner. Hill got his review only after he was forced to lay out what he was looking for. Parrish and Billie did their own review, and know that Hill won't find anything on his list. He isn't going to look too good to the brass when this is over."
"So we'll be okay?"
"Yeah, so relax a little V and let's enjoy a few days of peace and quiet. What do you say?"
"Sounds like fun."
They took a hike around the lake and an afternoon nap. Sheriff Danvers drove in as Van was starting the chicken on the grill. Deaq brought the Sheriff onto the deck. "You two look like vacation is agreeing with you," he started after accepting a cup of coffee.
"What brings you by sheriff?" Van asked, his voice neutral, but his body tense.
"Our mutual friend Bill's making some noise. It's likely just noise, but I wanted you to know. Might be best if I told him you were LAPD, put an end to it."
"Undercover cops, remember Sheriff? It doesn't pay to advertise," Van said before returning his attention to dinner.
"What's Bill saying?" Deaq asked.
"He wants a go at your partner," the Sheriff answered quietly, "don't think he's serious, but…"
"Thanks for letting me know. If he does decide to visit, you'll be the first to know."
After dinner they took their scotch out on the deck. "You think this guy is a problem?" Van asked.
"Not sure V, we'd better keep an eye out just in case."
The next morning Mr. Hayes called while Deaq was in the shower. He gave Van a number to reach Billie, who had called the night before looking for them. And Van told him they had met the Sheriff, but didn't provide all the details surrounding the meeting. He told Deaq about Billie, and they agreed they would make her stew a little longer before calling, considering she hadn't bothered to give them a heads up.
Early that afternoon, they carried the canoe down to the lake and spent three hours alternately paddling, watching the water and birds and just relaxing. When they returned, they both took a nap. When they woke, Van offered to make dinner so Deaq made a run to the grocery store.
At the store he ran into the Sheriff. "Deaqon, glad I saw the car. I was on my way out, I called but didn't get an answer. Where's your partner?"