Jim dug into his box lunch from his hiding spot on the west side of the hotel's auction building. In about an hour the jewelry buyers would start arriving. Frowning, Jim glanced down at his sandwich. It actually had him wanting one of Hilda's specials.
Raising his binoculars, he noted the same blue sedan driving slowly past the hotel. It was the seventh trip past in an hour. He unclipped the mike from the radio on his belt.
"SWAT 4. The blue sedan is slow driving past again."
"10-4, SWAT 4. We have it in sight. Two in front, two in back still." Harrelson watched the car move slowly out of sight.
"SWAT 3. I have two loiters, male, by the south entrance," TJ radioed.
"Suspicious, SWAT 3?" Deke called.
"Nothing obvious. I'll keep a watch on them."
"10-4. SWAT 3."
"SWAT 5. I have a stray mutt peeing on everything in sight."
"Uh, 10-4, SWAT 5. Thanks, Luca." Harrelson had to laugh despite the unauthorized transmission. They had been in position for a long three hours already.
Five sets of sharp eyes watched as a familiar blue sedan pulled into the parking lot in front of the auction building. Invisible to the car's occupants, the eyes watched as three of the men exited and entered the building carrying large briefcases. The driver remained with the car.
"SWAT 3," TJ called in a quiet voice. "The loiters from earlier are on the move. Looks like they're headed into the parking lot."
"SWAT 4," Jim radioed, "I have the two on foot in sight. The one wearing the watch cap is Wilson Bishop."
"10-4, SWAT 4. This is a Team Red Alert," Harrelson said. "The three from the blue sedan are the changes to the original invitations. I've alerted Riverside."
The Olympic team waited, a bit impatiently, while the Riverside team handled the action developing inside the building.
"Shots fired!" Harrelson radioed. "Inside the building. Riverside is engaged. Stay alert!"
Wilson Bishop and his buddy joined the sedan's driver crouching behind the car. The pops of several gunshots sounded from the building. Waiting for a call to assist, Olympic SWAT kept their positions. Charging in blindly could result in chaos with unwanted casualties on both sides.
"SWAT 4. I have a patrol car at the back gate. Was backup called?" Jim kept switching is attention between the blue sedan, the arriving patrol car, and the building's windows and exits.
"No call from us. May have been a silent alarm," Harrelson responded.
"They're walking in, Lieutenant. They'll be trapped." Jim began making is way to the gate, keeping behind the bushes and trees.
"SWAT 4, get those cops out of here! Luca, Deke, with me on the car. McCabe watch our backs. Go!" Harrelson barked his orders and the team surged out of their cover, except TJ.
The west side door of the auction building burst open and two of the men that had entered the building from the blue sedan ran out into the parking lot between the advancing patrol cops and where the sedan sat parked. They sprayed bullets towards the cops and the advancing Olympic SWAT team. Alerted, the three men at the sedan began firing, too.
What appeared as rampant chaos, soon settled into controlled action, SWAT action. Like Olympic had previously, Riverside SWAT held their positions inside as Harrelson directed his team outside.
Jim jumped down the five-foot retaining wall and crouched behind a dumpster. One of the cops was down, bleeding on the pavement, the other took cover behind a utility pole. Remembering the all too similar incident with his patrol partner, Jim sprinted out to get the downed officer. He heard the sharp crack of TJ's rifle and one of the robbers exiting the building went down. As he concentrated on the bleeding policeman, the sounds around him dimmed. Relying on his teammates, Jim concentrated solely on getting the downed man out of the shooting gallery.
A shot to his vest knocked Jim back, his breath stalled. Crawling, he grabbed the injured man and pulled with all he had, crossing the asphalt yards inch by inch. Finally reaching concealment, Jim gulped air into his aching chest as sweat stung his eyes; his fingers cramped around the policeman's shirt collar.
Quickly, he pulled off the officer's tie and bound the bleeding wound on the man's arm. He found another gunshot wound in the officer's thigh, bleeding heavily. He pressed his hand firmly over it to staunch the blood flow. The man groaned.
Hearing footsteps, Jim reached for his M16. Deke rounded the dumpster and took up a firing position in front of Jim and the patrol officer.
"Ambulance is on the way," Deke said. "We have all six neutralized."
Jim nodded behind Deke.
Deke turned. "You okay?"
Jim nodded again.
Dom ran up and checked on Jim and the officer. He also took up a defensive position.
Jim looked up and saw that Harrelson had the other patrol officer, keeping him away from the scene behind the dumpster. Looking down at his blood smeared hands, Jim envied him the distance.
The ambulance sirens were a welcome sound. Jim sat against the retaining wall while the medics took over and rushed the officer to the hospital. He vigorously wiped at the blood on his hands with a towel one of the ambulance medics gave him.
TJ came up and squatted beside Jim. "You lost this." TJ held up Jim's cap, his finger poking out of a hole.
Jim took his cap, inspected the hole. He felt the blood drain from his face. He looked back at TJ.
"Too damn close, Jim," TJ said. He gripped Jim's shoulder for a moment.
"Yeah." Jim didn't even remember losing his cap – having it shot off his head. His only thought was to get that cop out of the line of fire, before it was too late. He just couldn't let it happen again. Jim leaned his head against the brick wall. He prayed he wasn't too late. The blood, the adrenaline, the memories overwhelmed his system. Standing, he stepped behind the dumpster and lost his lunch.
"Street," Harrelson called out from his office.
Rising gingerly, Jim instinctively rubbed his bruised chest and entered the lieutenant's office. "Yes, sir?"
"Sit a minute."
Jim sank into a chair opposite the desk.
Harrelson leaned back. "I have to requisition you another vest."
Jim squirmed. "Uh, yes, sir."
"And a cap."
"That officer is in stable condition – Officer Saunders. He lost a lot of blood with that leg wound. Almost too much." Harrelson leaned forward, elbows resting on his desk. "Your actions most likely saved his life."
"Yes, sir. It's good to hear he's going to be okay." A weight he hadn't realized was there lifted from Jim's shoulders.
"It was quite a risk pulling him out of there," Harrelson continued.
Looking away from his commander, Jim nodded acknowledgement. He couldn't accept anything negative for his actions. They were in the risk business and another cop's life was on the line. Besides, he wasn't alone this time.
"He's lucky you were there. I know there was no hesitation with your decision."
Jim's gaze snapped back to Harrelson. "No, sir." Approval lightened Jim's shoulders more.
"Next time, if there has to be one, try harder to avoid the bullets."
Jim blinked. "Uh, yes, sir. I'll do my best."
"Chest all right?" asked Harrelson.
"Bruised." Jim shrugged. "You know."
Harrelson nodded. "Okay with that hole in your cap?"
Jim sighed. "Luckily, I suppose, I was unaware until TJ brought it to my attention."
Harrelson raised an eyebrow.
Jim shifted in his chair. "If I were a cat, I'd subtract one from my nine."
Smiling, Harrelson dug in his desk drawer. Pulling out a police badge, he handed it to Jim. "Deke took down Wilson Bishop. That was in his jacket pocket."
Turning the badge over, Jim smiled. He looked up to Harrelson, eyes moist. "This is Rob's." The back of the badge was painted black. Two dates stood out in white, painted in neat block print.
"What are the dates?" asked Harrelson.
Jim's fist closed around the badge. "The time I was Rob's partner."
Harrelson nodded. "You can keep it. Bishop didn't make it so it doesn't need to be kept as evidence now."
Jim stood. "Thank you, Lieutenant."
Jim propped Rob's badge on the dresser in his bedroom. He had learned so much in the nearly three years he'd been partnered with Rob. Harrelson was right, though. He didn't want to risk losing this badge again. He would see it as he faced each new day and again when he'd survived every day.
No, he thought, he did more than survive. He lived.