Friday, 23 September, 1977 : 0612
Harrelson hated waiting. He sipped coffee as the sky began to lighten faintly. Knowing the copter would be arriving soon, he stepped outside. Off-duty cops were arriving in their personal vehicles to assist with the foot search. The brotherhood was strong and when word got out about what had happened out here, volunteers had come streaming in.
The people responsible were in custody with legally seized documentation – including the plans for the kidnapping at the warehouse. They would be put away for a long time. And he would soon have his men back. He could feel it.
A commotion at the south end of the building caught Harrelson's attention. It was barely light enough to see. He ran, dropping his coffee cup and drawing his pistol.
Dom skidded in the gravel rounding the end of the building. He expected to avoid gunmen, so he had the pedal to the floor and slouched down in the seat. TJ and Jim hung on for their lives.
The large, blue SWAT van was the last obstacle Dom expected to see. He cut the wheel sharply to avoid t-boning the van. The top-heavy, short wheel-based Jeep tipped over on its side and skidded to a stop, inches from the van, in a cloud of choking dust.
"Freeze!" a uniform cop shouted, covering the vehicle's scattered occupants.
"We're cops!" yelled Dom, wincing from his aching ribs.
"Olympic SWAT," TJ said, raising his arms, one bearing a tattered, bloody bandage.
Jim moaned and rolled over, hands over his head.
Harrelson ran past the overturned Jeep and couldn't believe his eyes.
Jim struggled to his feet with Harrelson's help, holding his bootless left foot off the ground.
Blinking, Jim recognized his commander. "Lieutenant," he said, straightening, "reporting for duty." He didn't know what else to say.
TJ helped Dom up and stood next to Jim. The three men looked around through the clearing dust at the crowd of uniform and off-duty cops. They were speechless.
"It's about time you three got back to work," Harrelson said. His voice wasn't as strong as he'd prefer. His battered and bleeding men were certainly a sight for sore eyes. He looked at the overturned Jeep. "You certainly know how to make an entrance."
Harrelson had a hundred questions, but he needed to get these men to a hospital. He saw that they were a bit worse for wear. Once he got them settled he knew the stories would pour forth. There would be the official report and then there would be the tall tales. He wanted to hear them all.
The helicopter landed and Harrelson commandeered it for transportation, getting his men to the hospital as fast as possible. He gotten them cups of water, the only thing they'd asked for. Then he and Deke loaded them up and they all flew to Valley Hospital.
Rested himself, Harrelson entered Valley Hospital smiling. He'd heard most of the stories by now, two days after the rescue. The stories were chilling, but were so unbelievable it made them amusing – Street's leg chewed on by a wolf – with a nasty infection that had started, McCabe getting slashed by a predator cat – narrowly missing vital tendons, and Luca nearly being crushed by a constrictor – cracking two ribs. Much less amusing was their report on the battles in the rings. He couldn't help being proud that they had held their own against two opponents and knew they had no choice but to escape when facing three – even though rescue arrived about forty minutes after they jumped out the window. That fact still burned in his gut.
He came to Street's room first. It was empty. Luca's room was also empty. Surprisingly, McCabe's room was empty, too. Hearing laughter, he followed the sound to a small waiting room down the hall. Inside, his officers sat around a table with coffee and cookies. He'd figured they'd had about as much of each other's company as they could stand after their recent adventures.
Street's girlfriend sat with him, McCabe's fiancé, Susan, sat with him, and Luca had a lovely young lady sitting on each side.
Clearing his throat, Harrelson entered.
"Hey, Lieutenant," said Jim. "You remember Sheri." The young woman stood and greeted him.
"Yes," Harrelson said. "Hello." He turned to Susan, greeted her.
"Uh, sir," said Dom. "This is Amy and Lisa. They're nurses and have been taking very good care of me."
"I'll bet," Harrelson mumbled, then greeted them, "Ladies."
"Were getting released today," said Jim.
"That's good to hear. You're all looking better." Harrelson sat across the table from them.
"We'll be back on duty in no time, Lieutenant," Dom said. His ladies giggled.
"I did get your survival training pushed back. We want you all to be fully healed before tackling that." Harrelson grinned at their suddenly grim faces. He'd wait to tell them they had to pass a psych exam as well as physical.
"Uh, doesn't what we just went through qualify as survival training?" asked TJ.
"Yeah," Dom said, "we survived wild animals and everything."
"No, gentlemen. SWAT survival training is specifically designed and graded to highlight the specific traits required for maintaining peak performance. Your trip in the woods playing with animals might be good practice, but it's no substitute for the real thing." Harrelson held his straight face with much difficulty.
"Playing with animals …" Dom sputtered.
Jim and TJ were already laughing. Once Harrelson joined them, Dom also laughed.
"As long as there's no cameras or reporters at the training," said Dom. "I'm done with publicity. Too many crazies out there."
"Now that's the wisest thing I've heard in a while," Harrelson said.