"He shouldn't be alive. After all that he's been through…I don't throw this word around lightly, but we may be looking at some sort of miracle here. Of course, he'll have to stay in the hospital for a few days –"
"Can we see him, Doctor?" Parker asked.
"I don't think now is the time for questioning."
"We just want to see him," Bubba said.
"All right, go ahead. Just keep in mind that he's very weak."
Bubba and Parker nearly ran down the hall to get to their friend's room.
"If you were fishing for a promotion, Lieutenant, I don't think you had to go to these lengths," Bubba said.
Lonnie smiled weakly. "How is Christine?"
"She'll be fine," Parker said, "thanks to you."
"We did it together," Lonnie said. "I can't take all the credit. The final blow was Christine's. I wouldn't have guessed that she was an expert knife-thrower. She's really something."
"Yeah, that's what Bill tells us," said Bubba. "He's with her right now. She was asking about you too."
"Is Agent Phillips around?" Lonnie asked.
"Ah, no, he went out to the crime scene," Bubba said.
"Before he died, the suspect said to tell Agent Phillips that he shot the wrong man. Any idea what that means?"
"Actually, I do have an idea," Bubba said. "I think I'll go deliver the message right now. I'll come back later, all right?"
Once Bubba had gone, Parker pulled up a chair next to Lonnie's bed.
"At least now you'll be able to get some sleep," Parker said.
"We'll see about that," said Lonnie.
"Christine is safe, the suspect is dead. I'm sure you'll sleep just fine. And as soon as you're feeling better, we should all celebrate. I'll throw a party for you and Christine."
"That would be nice, Parker." Lonnie was already drifting off to sleep, in part from the medication he'd been given, in part from sheer exhaustion.
"Sweet dreams, Lonnie," Parker said.
"Jake Beckett wasn't his real name," Chief Forbes said. "Seems Jake Beckett was his brother. The man in our morgue is Jeremy Beckett. Both men had a history of mental illness, but it seems Jeremy was the one with a fixation on female police officers."
"So Agent Phillips mixed up the two brothers," said Sheriff Gillespie.
"Looks that way."
"I can't say I blame the man for seeking out revenge," Gillespie said. "It's a shame the only man getting charged with murder is a victim too, but at least the killing spree is at an end."
"Please, no more pictures," Lonnie moaned.
"Just one more," Parker urged. "A group shot."
"All right, one more."
Lonnie had been photographed, filmed, and interviewed more times than he could count since getting out of the hospital. He wasn't comfortable with all the attention; as far as he was concerned, he hadn't acted any differently than anyone else on the force would have. Still, he couldn't shake the feeling that he had been chosen as the one to rescue Christine Surillo. All the dreams he had had, the heightened intuition, and the relentless drive to keep going until the case was solved, regardless of the cost…
Parker had arranged a party for Lonnie and Christine at his own house, just as he had promised to do. Now the guests of honor were surrounded by friends and family. Aside from the tearful handshake Bill Gillespie had given him in the hospital, it was Lonnie's proudest moment when he received hugs from Christine's parents.
"You taught your daughter well," he told them. "You should be proud of her."
After a while, Lonnie managed to break away from the crowd and slip outside for some air. He was not the only one with the idea, however; Christine was standing out on the porch alone, looking up at the stars.
"I'm not disturbing you, am I?" Lonnie asked.
"No, not at all, Lieutenant," she said.
"Can I make a request?"
"Stop calling me Lieutenant, and call me Lonnie?"
She smiled back at him. "Okay, Lonnie."
"There's one more thing I'd like to ask…"
"Yes, Lonnie?" she said after a minute of silence.
"Well, I…ah, I just wanted to ask how you were doing. Your bruises seem to be healing well."
"Yes, they are," she said. "I think the worse injuries are in my mind. I find myself looking over my shoulder all the time now."
"That will fade in time," Lonnie said, "just like these bruises."
He touched her cheek lightly with his fingers.
"You're probably right," she said. "And how are you doing?"
"Well, thanks. I'll probably keep a scar where the knife went in, though."
"Consider it a mark of heroism," Christine said.
"Shall we go back inside?" Lonnie asked. "We are the guests of honor, after all."
"Sure," she said.
Sequel coming soon!