"I appreciate you giving me a ride today, partner." Pete Malloy said to his best friend, Jim Reed, getting his jacket out of his locker. "You ready to head out?" He asked as they emerged from the locker room at the end of their Friday P.M. watch.
Reed nodded. "Yup. Just going to drop off these reports to Mac, and I'm out." He juggled a stack of paperwork as he tried to open the door. Before he could drop them all, Malloy reached around him and opened the door. Reed flashed him a grateful smile, and went through the open door.
Malloy had opened his mouth to tell Reed he'd meet him at the car, when the sergeant stuck his head out of his office. "Malloy, I need to talk to you."
Reed and Malloy looked at each other and shrugged. The older man headed toward the office, and his young counterpart followed. Of course, Reed was going so he could drop off his reports. Nothing else. Especially nothing like curiosity…
Malloy sat down in the chair across from the desk, and Reed leaned against the doorframe, hoping he wouldn't be noticed and therefore run off. His luck only held out part of the way, as Mac looked up at him, studied him for a moment, then motioned for him to join them. "Come on, Reed. As Pete's partner, this might affect you as well."
There was only one chair, so Reed slipped the rest of the way inside and stood against the back wall. Mac focused his attention back on Malloy. "Pete, you remember the name Preston James?"
Malloy tipped his head back and thought for a moment. "Preston James? I remember an Adrian James. He…I-" He cut off. "Oh…yeah.
Mac held up a hand to cut him off. "Preston James is Adrian James's brother."
Malloy turned a shade paler. "His brother…yeah…He was booked with the gang. ADW?"
Mac nodded. "His ten years ended yesterday."
Pete glanced over at Reed, and remembered he had to set a good example for the younger officer. "He's out, huh? Well, maybe he's learned his lesson and will just stay away from me." He started to stand up.
"Hold it, Malloy." Mac's tone clearly stated that he was being serious, and that this was not the time for bravado. "You shot this man's brother, and there has been a direct threat. As he was leaving, his cellmate asked him what he was going to do." Mac paused to look at a piece of paper on his desk. "He told him, and I quote 'I'm gonna find the pig that killed my brother and I'm gonna hurt him real bad. Like he hurt me.'" The sergeant looked Malloy directly in the eye. "This man's already made an attempt on your life ten years ago. And now it sounds like he wants another go at it."
Malloy shrugged. "It was a bad situation. I definitely won't deny that. But he's not the first one to hold a grudge, Mac. I'm sure there's nothing to it."
Mac nodded, confident that he had expressed his concerns. "Ok. Just want you to know the score, Pete." Malloy stood up, and headed for the door. Reed had fallen in behind him when Mac spoke again. "Listen, you two. I know he's not the first to hold a grudge, or the first to make threats. But this one, I believe. Reed, make sure your partner gets home safe, will ya?"
"So," said Reed, glad that he had the opportunity to talk to Pete about whatever was going on. "Who's Preston James?"
Malloy made a face. "It's not going to do me any good to say I don't want to talk about it, is it?"
"Nope!" Jim said resolutely. "If some psycho is going to kill you, he's gotta go through me!"
The corner of Pete's mouth turned up into an almost-smile. "Easy, killer. Nothing's going to happen to me." He sighed. "It happened ten years ago. I was a rookie, and we got called to a 211 at McGuiness's jewelry store. Five armed men. They were still there when me and my partner got there. One started shooting. A bullet grazed Mike, my partner."
Malloy nodded. "Yup. Adrian James. I fired back. One shot. I was aiming for his shoulder, just trying to disable him." He unconsciously felt on his chest where his shooting qualification medal would be if he was still wearing his uniform. "I hit five inches up and to the left."
"A headshot…" Reed mulled it over. "And his brother tried to kill you once already?"
Malloy nodded. "Yeah. During the trial, he broke his thumb and got out of the handcuffs. The he grabbed the bailiff's gun and shot me. Right there in the courtroom."
Jim's eyes popped open wide. "He actually shot you?! Did he get you?"
Pete nodded again, and patted the outside of his left thigh. "Right here. Not bad. Guess I'm just a better shot. Or a worse one."
A look of worry cut across Jim Reed's young features. "And now he's out, and blames you for his brother's death. Pete, if you want to come stay with us…"
Pete shook his head and again out on the curtain of bravado to calm his partner. "Don't worry so much, partner. I'll be fine. It's not the first time some nut has threatened me."
"Yeah, but…" He trailed off.
"But what?" Pete said trying to hide a smile.
Reed looked down, then met his friend's eyes. "But that doesn't mean I have to like it. Listen, you know that you've got a place to go if you need it."
"I know," he said. "And I appreciate it. Now stop worrying. Nothing's going to happen to me. Someone's gotta look after you, ya know."
Reed grinned. "Yeah, I've just got you trained…I'd hate to have to get someone else up to my standards."
Malloy just raised his eyebrow, and shook his head. Reed smiled, and he returned the grin, then got out of the car. He started to walk toward his apartment building when Reed reached out the window and grabbed his arm. "I mean it, Pete. If you need anything, call me. You're part of the family."
The sun was starting to peek in the window when the phone woke Malloy from a dead sleep. "Hello?"
"Pete, it's Jean. Is Jim there with you?"
"Huh? Jean? No, haven't seen him." He rubbed his eyes, and tried to clear the fog from his mind. "I mean, he dropped me off last night. Is he not there?" Suddenly he was fully awake. Looking at the clock, he realized it had been almost seven hours since he and Reed had parted company. "Did he make it home at all?"
There was a pause. "I don't know. I stayed with my sister last night, and just got home. Little Jimmy is still with her. I just got home and he's not here. I thought he might have stayed with you."
Alarm bells were going off inside his head. "Jean, I'll be right over." He hung up the phone, and scrambled out of bed. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he pulled last night's t-shirt over his head and tried to calm the wave of fear creeping over him. Most likely, Reed had known Jean was staying with her sister and crashed at another friend's place. Malloy knew that wasn't true. As worried as Jim had been the night before, if he hadn't been going home to his wife he would have insisted on staying here. Okay, maybe he had gone home and just gotten up really early and went…somewhere. Maybe he even went to Jean's sister's to pick up Jimmy and the two passed each other on the way.
Or then there was the worst case scenario. Pete felt nauseated.