Brenda frowned at the phone on the kitchen counter while she poured her morning cup of coffee, willing it to ring. It did not cooperate and neither did Fritz. She fed Joel and glanced at the clock. Being patient was not in her nature. She told herself it was the waiting it was making her ill. Sighing she punched a button on the phone and listened to her husband's voice, again. 'Hi honey. Guess you're still working. Keep missing you. Things are going slow here. We're getting decent cooperation but not fast enough for me.' The laughter in his voice made her smile. 'When I think about this slow pace I can only think how lucky they are you're not with the FBI. Miss you honey. And Brenda, please don't get so wrapped up in your cases that you forget to eat or work all night or drive your squad crazy or….. Just take care of your self. Bye honey I love you." She had listened to the message countless times over the last six weeks.
"Oh, why did Fritz have to take this case?" she asked Joel. And as with all her previous questions he remained mute on the subject. Brenda promptly began scolding herself for thinking of her needs and not his, again. But why isn't he calling when she was home? "Oh don't look at me like that. I know he's working hard and this is a difficult case and Abu Dhabi is on the other side of the world but you'd think he would be able to take a few minutes to call", she complained to Joel while she picked at a piece of toast she didn't eat. She rubbed her upset stomach and dumped the coffee down the sink. "Shoot, shoot, shoot, I'm going to be late." With a sigh Brenda turned and walked into the living room and grabbed her purse. Shoving a stack of newspapers out of her way she unearthed her car keys "I need to clean this place up…. Later" she muttered. A quick scratch for Joel and she headed to headquarters hopeful for a break in the oppressive heat wave chocking L.A,. and their current case. The image of Maria Lopez's mutilated body was stuck in her mind. Brenda saw her every time she closed her eyes.
"I'll be meeting with the mayor later today and I want to be able to give him some positive news. So where are we on the Lopez case?" Chief Pope asked.
"I think we should be wrapping it up today or tomorrow. We have a name and he's looks good for it. Has quite a long rap sheet." Brenda replied. "Likes beating women."
Will nodded, "Good, good. The sooner we close this case the better. We have really been taking heat on this, no pun intended. I know this has been a bad one and the heat wave had people on edge already. Please let your squad know I appreciate their hard work on this."
Brenda smiled, "I will."
Brenda reached for her black bag and Will cleared his throat. He watched her as he always did when they were alone, letting the memories of their past together drift through his mind. It was always a bit of an ego stroke to see how other men looked at her knowing they would never know her as he did. A piece of her heart would always be his. Will Pope took great satisfaction in knowing not even Brenda's husband Fritz had her love completely. Will missed her. "Sooo, Fritz still gone?"
"It must be tough. You know if there is anything you need…"
Brenda stood, "No, no. I'm fine. Everything is fine." Will moved to her side, placing himself between her and the door. Gently caressing her arms as he had done so often before, he asked, "How about I take you out to dinner tonight. I know you're just going home to an empty house."
She paused looking at her former lover. "No Will. Thank yew, but no."
Will felt an unexpected spurt of anger and possessiveness, tightening his grip he leaned in to kiss her. Brenda tried to jerk away, her level of disgust startling them both.
"Let go of me Will. What has gotten into you?" There was no hint of her soft southern drawl. She felt his grip tightened harder before releasing her and stepping back. Rubbing her arms she stepped around him. "I don't know what that was Will and I don't care. Don't tell me the heat got to you too. So we're clear here, I don't ever want a repeat of it."
Few people are conscience of the moment their lives are irrevocably changed. As Will looked into Brenda's dark brown eyes he saw the moment their connection was severed forever. That small spark of remaining love he coveted was gone, forever, replaced with….. contempt. His chest felt tight. "I'm sorry. Please Brenda forget this…"
"No Will. I don't think I can do that. Not this time." She exited his office shutting the door quietly behind her. For Will it was like a knife though his chest, slamming would have been less final.
Flynn was leaning back in his chair as the chief briefed the squad on their current case. As usual he didn't listen too intently, why bother when he had all the major facts he needed. And also as usual he allowed his eyes to scan her legs and let them move slowly up a figure he had spent years watching. His gaze stalled at her breasts. He was a dog, he knew it, but hey he's a guy and this was one his highlights of the day. He resisted the urge to smile, he had been watching her for years, and even when they couldn't stand each other he thought she had a great body. He shifted in his chair and let his eyes fall back to her legs, a much safer place to be should he be caught. All those years of watching had made it clear now that something was wrong. The changes weren't obvious, but he could see them and he couldn't dismiss the nagging feeling something was wrong. It was one of the few things he gave Agent Howard credit for, he took care of her, didn't allow her to get completely wrapped up in her cases. Since Howard had been gone she had not been taking good care of herself. When she frowned and absently ran her hand over her stomach he groaned loud enough to be heard.
Brenda turned from the murder board, propping her hand on her hip asked, "Lt. Flynn do you have something to add, a question perhaps or are we keeping you from something?" She stared at him, waiting. He didn't answer. The rest of the team swiveled to look at Flynn. Provenza recognized the vacant look. Damn it Flynn, I am too old for this crap. "FLYNN!" He snapped his attention back to the briefing, "What?" shooting Provenza a glare. Provenza shot it right back.
She finished up assigning tasks and headed to her office. She walked past Flynn again with her hand on her stomach. He started to say something when Provenza yelled, "Flynn, let's go get this asshole." Flynn hesitated looking from Brenda's office to his partner, "Now Flynn!" When he looked back at the chief she was on her cell. "Hello mama…."
"OK, OK I'm coming." Flynn grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair and walked out of the murder room.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Provenza hissed at his partner as they walked to the elevator.
"Me? Nothing is wrong with me…. But I think something is wrong with the chief. Haven't you noticed how she…?"
"No, oh no you don't. Stop right there. We are not having this conversation. You are not dragging me into her private life and if you have an ounce of sense you'll stay the hell out of it too. If there is something she wants us to know she'll tell us. Not another word."Entering the elevator Flynn punched the button with more force than necessary.
Andy Flynn did not deceive himself, he was man with a lot of flaws, but he was also a good detective with good instincts and in this case knew he would not be able to stop investigating…. Ok snooping into Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson's private life. Maybe he could get Tao to ask what was going on with her lately. He discarded that idea before the elevator doors opened. Tao had flat out refused the last few times the squad had voted he be the one to approach her.
Brenda didn't need to ask for an update about the suspect Flynn and Provenza had gone to pick up, she could hear them coming down the hall. Flynn was angry and was letting everyone within ear shot, including their suspect know it as he shoved him into interview room one. Provenza walked into the murder room looking cool and satisfied, "Mission accomplished chief."
"Lt. Provenza what has Lt. Flynn so upset?" Before he could answer Flynn walked in looking nothing like the dapper detective from earlier. He was utterly disheveled; his dark blue suit was torn and covered in mud. A bruise was forming on his cheek next to a small bloody scratch.
"Lt. Flynn what…?" Flynn shot a look at this partner then said to the room at large, "Chief the little bastard ran." He said through gritted teeth.
Lt. Provenza settled in his chair leaned back and raised his hands," Hey, everyone knows 'I don't run."
Brenda placed a finger over her lips to hold back a laugh as she took in the sight, "Where exactly did he run?"
"Everywhere!" He said waving his arms. "Through garbage, over a few fences, under one and through a yard of pit bulls. Oh and through some old ladies vegetable garden. "
Provenza piped up, "That old gal was not happy; she had just finished covering it with fresh manure. And I do mean fresh! But we got him chief." Provenza grinned as Flynn glared at him.
"Are you alright Lt?" He threw out his hands again gesturing for the squad to look at him, stared at the ceiling, counted to ten and too pissed to keep his voice under control "Do I look alright to you? My suit is destroyed, my shoes are ruined," pointed at his left foot he said, "One of those damn dogs got that one." With a hard glare he scanned the faces of his fellow squad members adding, "Him I shot."
"Well as long as it was a dog and not our suspect Little Paco I don't think Capt Raydor will have too much trouble with this. He was attacking you."
Flynn took a step closer to Brenda and she quickly held up one hand to halt his approach and the other to cover her nose. "Uh, Lt. we can take care of things from here. I'm sure you want to run along home and get cleaned up. And be sure and take care of the little cut. Lord knows what might be in all that dirt you're covered with."
"Are you sure, what about the dog?"
"Don't you fret about that. Y'all just run along now. Go on now, shoo. Detective Sanchez will join me." She waved her hand at him all the while holding her hand over her nose. "Lt. Flynn?"
"Does Little Paco, um, uh?" She stalled.
Sanchez piped up, "Smell as bad as you Flynn?"
Flynn shot her a satisfied grin. "Yah he does. Took a little extra time but I made sure I dragged him back to the car through ever bit of crap he'd made me chase him through."
"Thank you Lt. Run along now." he gave her a snappy salute, spun on his dog chewed heel and left the murder room.
"Well Detective Sanchez we might as well get this over with."
Hanging up the phone he said, "In a minute chief, I called down for a change of clothes for Martinez."
She sighed in relief, "Thank you Detective. Let me know when he's ready."
Brenda went to her office and sank into her chair. Lord I'm tired. She thought as she closed her eyes willing this case to be done so she could go home at get some sleep, something that had been evading her for the last few weeks. The heat had been unbearable for the last few weeks leaving tempers on a hair trigger. And now there was whatever the hell had just happened with Will. God I need a shower.
Sanchez tapped on her door, "Chief, we're ready. He's in interview two. Flynn had put him in one, still smells so…"
With a nod she dropped the file in her purse. "Thank yew Detective. That was very thoughtful of you. Shall we? "
He gave her a small smile. "After you chief."
Victor Martinez aka 'Little Paco' was no match for Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson. In less than an hour Martinez was talking….. a lot. "Yah I cut her. The bitch got what was coming to her." He pounded his fist on the table top, "Don't show the proper respect and you got to learn a lesson." He stood and moved to lean over the table at Brenda. Sanchez had his hand on the man in a blink, shoving him into the chair. "Sit down and don't move out of that chair." He remained positioned between his chief and the perp. 'Thank yew detective." Brenda lightly touched his ridged arm. He never took his eyes off the man in the chair; barely nodding he sat back down next to Brenda.
"And how did she disrespect you? It must have been very, very bad. What could she possible have done to make you so mad?' Martinez sat mutely his eyes on Sanchez. "Answer the question." Sanchez growled menacingly.
"Did she disrespect you to your fellow gang members? Should I be asking them what she did, what she said? "
The last question was a match to gasoline, he exploded. "The bitch laughed at me. Made a joke of my name, she laughed at me, no one laughs at me."
"Tell me what she thought was so funny about your name Victor? Hum, odd Victor I don't understand why she thought your name was so funny. It makes no scenes. Detective Sanchez I think we'll need to round up some of Mr. Martinez's fellow gang members and find out what Maria told them." Victor's control was long gone, he looked completely crazed as he yelled "Prick, the bitch called me prick. Little Prick."
"Was she right Paco?" Brenda demanded, pushed him further, "Is that it Paco …. Are you little? Because you didn't just cut Maria, you butchered her. So was that it Victor, did she tell everyone how little you were?" Victor Martinez slammed his cuffed hands on the table and screamed while he tried to launch himself at Brenda. Sanchez had Brenda behind him using his own body as a barricade to protect her. With one hand he pushed her behind him and grabbed Victor by the hair with the other. He had slammed the crazed man face first onto the table twice before the two uniformed officers staged outside the door rushed in to subdue Martinez.
Commander Taylor, Provenza and Gabriel had been watching the interview from the electronics room. "Get in there now." Taylor ordered. Provenza and Gabriel were moving before the order was given. Entering the room it took the four of them to haul him from the room.
"Are you alright chief?" Sanchez asked as he stepped away from her.
"Yes, Detective yes. Thank yew. I believe that should wrap up this case." She dropped back into her chair and focused on gathering the file and dumping it into her black purse. Brenda's heart was slamming in her chest and she felt shaky. The man's reaction had been so violent she couldn't help but think of poor Maria Lopez. The young woman never had a chance against such pure rage. It was frightening but Brenda wasn't going there, she would not give into the fear. Her purse in her hand she stood to leave the interview room. The floor under her feet shifted and pitched as the room spun, distantly she heard a muffled thump of something hitting the floor before the room dimmed.
"I've got you chief." Sanchez had his arm around her waist and eased her back onto her chair placing his hand in the middle of her back he gently pushed her forward. "Put your head down and breath, take it easy, give it a minute chief." He was speaking quietly in her ear as he reached under the edge of the table to switch off the camera.
Buzz was reaching to turn off the monitor when he and Taylor, who had just reentered the electronics room, saw Brenda pass out. He dropped what he was doing and rushed out of the electronics room and headed to the break room. Opening the refrigerator he rifled through the contents looking for his orange juice. Commander Taylor was at the door of the interview room watching with genuine concern.
"Better?" Brenda slowly sat up, her face still pale, nodded. "Yes, thank yew. Gracious I don't know what just happened. He certainly didn't smell as bad as Flynn." Sanchez grinned at that. "Let's go to the break room chief. Get some fresh air and something to drink." Arguing was beyond her at the moment. Leaning on Sanchez she let him help her stand. Taylor stepped forward and offered his support as well.
Buzz was waiting with a cup of orange juice. "Here chief this will help."
"Thank you, Buzz." Sitting, she gratefully took the juice but her hand shook so bad Sanchez took the cup from her hand and held it to her lips. After a few sips she felt her world right itself. "Thank you Julio." Before Buzz could ask Sanchez offered, "The room smelled like Flynn." "Ah."
He caught Commander Taylor's eye over Brenda's head, Sanchez jerked his head towards the door. They moved to the hall, "Sir I…" Taylor held up his hand and said quietly.. "Go get your car Detective. I want you to drive Chief Johnson home. We'll meet you downstairs." "Yes Sir."
"Chief Johnson I'm aware you out rank me, but I think you'll will over look it this once if I give you an order. Go home."
"Yes commander, I think I'll do just that, thank yew. I swear I don't know what happened in there." It seemed to take forever to walk to the elevator. The ride down didn't feel as if it would ever end.
She heard Taylor saying over her head as Sanchez helped her into the car. "I'll take care of things here Detective. See you tomorrow."
Detective Sanchez she discovered was a very bull headed man. Nothing she said would change his mind. In the elevator she had a passing vision of going home on her own. She chose to ignore how silly that would have been since his very solid hold on her was the only reason she was making it into her house, she still wasn't steady enough to stand on her own. Sanchez had looked at her and smiled. As if reading her mind he said, "Give it up chief." Brenda was home sitting on her couch within an hour of leaving work. "You need anything tonight chief just call." He added as he set a glass of water on the table next to her.
"I'll be fine Julio. I really appreciate you being there for me earlier. I don't know what happened."
"Get some sleep. If you're still not feeling yourself tomorrow you should take a personal day. We can handle things." She waived that thought away. Julio grinned "I'll see you in the morning chief."
When he saw her puzzled expression he reminded her. "You car is at the station."
She glanced around her too quite house resisting the urge to look at the cell phone she had been clutching since getting into Julio's car. No missed calls. The realization that she was alone seemed to steamroll over her. It was awful to admit she still felt unsteady and was beginning to fear there was something seriously wrong with her health. She had never completely dismissed the fear about her heath after her scare a few years earlier. Rather she had buried it with work or worry about her family or Fritz or Joel or anything, anything but something she had no control over.
Brenda absently rubbed her arm and winced at the slight pain she was suddenly aware of. She was shocked to see several round bruises left by Will. How did this day go so horribly wrong?
She missed Fritz terribly. It was a shock to discover how awful it was being alone. And worse to discover how much she had taken everything he did for granted. One look around the house made it impossible to deny, Brenda Leigh Johnson was a slob. A tear slipped down her cheek. She could attempt to justify the mess by claiming her work was too demanding to leave time for cleaning. But it wasn't true. Poor Fritz. Sliding down on to her side and curling into a ball, her eyes burned as tears that had been lurking for hours finally won the battle.