Hello! Thank you very much for still coming by to read after these terribly long pauses and special mention to those who left reviews asking for updates. I appreciate that and it helped my muse poke me in the eye if I got distracted. Hope you enjoy this chapter. xo Corina
Detective Grady watches the new police recruits file into the mens locker room after their first day of field training, keeping his eye on the young man walking tall and fast at the front of the pack as most of the others stagger along in the hot Dallas wind. "ROQUETTE" is stenciled on his shirt.
"Figures," Grady says, "a fancy Frenchman."
He sighs breath still smelling of french fries from his unwise meal choice at the hospital cafeteria. Slipping in the rear entrance of the locker room unnoticed, Grady fiddles with one of the combination locks, waiting to catch Roquette alone. Not long after, the young officer swaggers by in a towel heading for the latrine. Once Grady hears the flip flopping of his rubber shower sandals on the tile, he swiftly walks over and corners the officer by standing in the stall entrance. He flashes his pocket badge.
"Sir?" the officer says, staring up from the toilet with panicked eyes.
"Grady, Homicide Detail. Get dressed right now and meet me out back of this locker room. And keep your mouth shut. Understand?"
Roquette's eyes grow even wider and he drops his roll of toilet paper on the floor. It rolls down the slope to the shower drain.
"Sir, is it one of my family members?" he says in a shaky voice.
"'Course not, fool. Why would I ask you to keep quiet if that's all it was? You've officially failed your first test. Now hurry up," Grady says and turns on his heels, not offering to fetch the toilet paper either.
Roquette dresses quickly and banters as usual with his squad, hoping they don't notice the red blotches of nerves creeping up his neck.
"Hey man," one says, "you ok? You look like you just seen a ghost."
More look up from packing their gear and notice his odd appearance.
"I feel sick as hell," he says, "all of a sudden. Feels like I'm about to hurl up breakfast, lunch and dinner."
"Ah shit! Well spare us the delight and get the hell out of here, will you?"
"Later, y'all," he says, grabbing his stomach and walking out.
Grady flashes the lights of his detective car on and off as Roquette looks around by the locker room exit. He notices right away and jogs over.
"Well you got good eyesight," Grady says from the slightly lowered tinted window. "Let's see what else you can do. Get in."
"Is this part of my training program, sir?"
"Boy, every damn day on the job from now until you retire is part of your training program. Now get in."
Roquette hurries around the back of the car. Grady sees him take note of the license plate. Another good sign.
Grady drives calmly off the lot without another word for nearly 10 minutes. Roquette doesn't push for information and keeps his eyes on the road.
Now feeling as confident as circumstances will allow, Grady finally explains.
"Look here, I'm investigating a high profile attempt murder and you're gonna assist me with something, something uh, rather physical."
"I got reason to believe my suspect has eyes inside this department. Don't know who, but somewhere up in our business, he's got eyes. I had a key search warrant go missing off the judge's desk and other peculiarities all throughout this case. And I don't want this particular information disclosed. So I need someone still too afraid of being fired to be bribed. This being your first day, you're as new as they come."
"Why me, sir?"
"I'm not taking any questions today," Grady says and makes a sharp turn off toward Southfork Ranch.
"Well all due respect sir, but I have a right to know. I have a right to decide if I want to be involved in this, whatever this is, or not."
"I'll be damned," Grady says, unable to suppress a smile, "you do have a backbone. Well fair enough then. I picked you because you walk straight and tall with a spring in your step after a hard, hot day of training. You don't do that unless you want this job bad, and there's nothing, absolutely nothing, about this job to want except to help people and do the right thing. That's what I aim to do. We're going to the scene of a crime, son. We're going to Southfork Ranch."
"Southfork? As in the Ewings?"
"Another Southfork you know of in these parts? Or any parts, for that matter?"
"Well what do I say when they ask what we want?"
"No one's there. Two of 'em went off the roof earlier and the whole family's at the hospital."
"Holy shit! Fell off?"
"To be determined," Grady says. "You're gonna climb up there and help me find out."
Ann keeps holding her hand out after the neurologist finishes examining her. Eyes shut against the bright light, she waves her arm around, fingers grasping at the air. The nurse tries to pat it down but Ann snatches her hand away and keeps reaching around.
"Honey, I'm gonna need you to lie still now, okay?" the nurse says, hanging an IV bag and tucking the thin blanket tighter under the mattress.
"Where is he?" Ann whispers, wheezing with every breath.
She pulls at the blanket's edge like it's suffocating her.
"Listen, some ribs are broke, your lung's collapsed and it's hard for you to breathe right now so just be still and quiet. Doctor's about to put a small chest tube in and relieve the distress you're feeling."
Ann laughs, startling the nurse. Her giggling quickly turns into loud jagged gasps for air.
"Good Lord, hon, you best calm down. You're in no condition to carry on like this."
"You're so right," Ann chokes out, taking rapid, shallow breaths between the words. "I'm in no condition….to….carry on…. And….a chest tube…..will not relieve…..my distress."
"We need to medicate her, right now," the nurse says to another preparing instruments for Ann's procedure. "I'm gonna get doctor."
"Wait!" Ann wheezes. "Wait, please…I need to say something…..to my husband….Bobby Ewing….please….get him for me."
Tears stream down Ann's face, she opens her mouth but nothing comes out besides a high pitched noise like air escaping from a balloon. In frustration, she starts punching her fist to her forehead.
"Stop! Stop that, honey. Come on now, let's not do this," the nurse says while motioning for hand restraints to her coworker.
The two each strap one of Ann's arms to the cold metal bed rails with leather ties. She has no energy to protest and simply collapses into herself. The corner of her mind still clinging to survival instinct does its best to calm her, trying to sort the free-falling pieces into place again.
"Bobby Ewing?" the nurse calls into the waiting room. "BOBBY EWING?"
"He's not here," Sue Ellen says, standing.
"Well please have him come in through here when he's back. His wife needs him."
"No, I mean, he uh, he's left the building."
The nurse's trained face hardly flinches.
"I see. Thank you," she says and turns back.
"Wait," Sue Ellen says, stepping forward. "I'm her sister-in-law...and her friend. I'll come."
"Well, Rocket, Grady says to the officer, "be true to your ridiculous name and propel yourself on up to this here roof."
"No sir, it's pronounced Ro-kay, not Rocket, if you please."
"I do not please, thank you for asking, and you will be known to me as Rocket for the rest of your career, however short that may be."
Roquette sighs deeply and squares his shoulders.
"Naw," he says, "it's Roquette. And I'm not going nowhere until you do me the consideration of saying it correctly. A man's most prized possession is his name and the reputation that follows it. And that's how I feel about it."
"Is that right?"
"Yes, sir. That's right."
Grady spits on the driveway and immediately regrets his transparent attempt at displaying machismo.
"This is America, son," he says quickly. "Why do I need to speak your name in French, huh? What do you say to that?"
"I'm Louisiana born and raised, sir. My name's Cajun."
Roquette's big victory smile disarms Grady, to his surprise.
"Is that right?"
"Yes sir, that's right."
"Well being it's Cajun," Grady concedes, "please get your ass up on that roof, Roquette."
The young man claps his hands together and scales the metal trellis like Spiderman, hardly even damaging the ivy growth.
"Well I'll be damned," Grady says softly, sucking in his protruding belly without realizing.
"I'm up, sir!" the officer shouts. "What exactly am I looking for?"
"Anything that don't belong," Grady answers while scanning the long private road leading up to the ranch. "Be thorough but quick about it, you hear? I'd prefer no one sees us looking around up there."
Roquette takes a moment to orient himself to the roof's peaks and crevices, trying to imagine where the Ewings fell from and what they were doing on the roof to begin with. He looks for blood stains, pieces of clothing, any signs of a struggle. Nothing. He kneels down slowly and feels the roof; it's blazing hot and he snatches his hands away. He straddles the first peak carefully, the heat penetrating his jeans. One shingle pulled away from the tar looks curious sticking up from the rest.
"Nothing but one shingle out of place up here," he shouts. "I'm going to the other side."
Grady begins to doubt his hunch, if only for a moment. A full five minutes pass without word from the roof.
"Hey! Hey boy, you napping up there?"
"No sir, I'm coming down. I found something."
Grady stands straight up from the lawn chair, the plastic slats stay stretched out from his weight. He feels that familiar zing of anticipation spark down his spine. He glances at the road again. Still clear.
Roquette's back in view now and preparing to descend. His hands are empty though. What's he got? Drug evidence? Was Ann Ewing high as a kite up here? And what's that got to do with Judith Ryland being mad at her, as she said earlier?
Roquette's boots find footing back on the trellis one square at a time.
The horses in the nearest corral go into a gallup around the fence.
Grady scans the bright sky for news helicopters. None. Another look back down Southfork's long driveway. No cars.
"Damn it's hotter than hell up there," Roquette says, hopping down to the pavement with a thud.
"Here, stand in this shade," Grady says, pushing him under a patio awning. "Last thing I need is to carry your passed out Cajun ass back to the car."
Roquette laughs heartily, wipes his sweaty hands on his jeans and reaches into his shirt pocket, removing something bundled in his blue bandana.
"Sir," he says handing the item to Grady.
The veteran detective handles it as gently as a cracked egg.
"Well look at that!" he says, unwrapping the cell phone. "You touch it?"
"No sir, saw it by the chimney and picked up with my bandana," Roquette says with fleeting pride and then looks away. "Well, will that do? Maybe we should go. Feels like we're pushing our luck out here."
Roquette starts walking back to their car.
"Well done, Officer Roquette," Grady says. "And much appreciated."
Bobby sits at JR's bedside watching his eyes dart around behind closed lids. What is he dreaming about? Or more likely, whom? Bobby smirks at the absurdity of that question. JR only dreams of one person.
"What the hell are you looking at?" JR says, snapping Bobby back to awareness.
"A grumpy old son of a bitch," Bobby says, smiling. "How are you feeling, brother?"
"Like I'm on my death bed."
"JR! Don't say that."
"Well I am, aren't I? Save for Lucy and her healthy kidney, I'd be dead, right here in this bed, before long."
Bobby's face drops and JR is unsure how to read him.
"Whatsa matter? Is the surgery off? Lucy change her mind or something? Is that what you come to tell me? Can't say I'd blame her, after all's been said and done."
JR laughs nervously, a sound not often heard.
"Of course not," Bobby says, wrestling with what to say and what not to.
Alone here in this small room with JR, no oil deals or Jock's approval to fight for, no women or children or mama to impress, no ranch to tend or money to fight over, just him and his big brother, someone he's battled all his life and only recently befriended. Who does he choose? JR or Ann?
"Isn't it strange how things can turn out, Bob?" JR says.
"What? How do you mean?"
"Well, take me for instance. I've burned everyone in his family, more than once - "
"More than twice," Bobby jokes.
JR looks out the window and his eyes moisten. Not the reaction Bobby expected.
"JR I'm joking. Who's counting anyway - "
"I am," JR says. "I'm counting now Bobby. I started counting all my misdeeds in that burning car that nearly melted me into Ewing oil and I haven't stopped since."
Bobby is speechless at this candor and does not know what to do with the water welling up in his eyes. He sits perfectly still, watching his brother reveal himself.
"I've been a bad man," JR continues, "a bad brother, son and husband, worst of all. And still my family is here, you're here, Sue Ellen's here, Lucy, all by my side. I can't tell you how that feels, Bobby, how that's changed me, this undeserved…..love….I've got. I should have died in that car for all my wickedness, I truly should have. I felt death wrapping itself around me like hot barbed wire, Bob, and all I could think about was Sue Ellen," JR's voice cracks.
"I had to ask a police dispatcher to tell the love of my life that I love her, Bobby, because I hadn't the courage to tell her myself all these years, these wasted, wasted years."
"Sue Ellen knows you love her, JR, you grew apart but she knows you still care and always will."
"No, I pushed us apart. There's a difference, big difference and you know it. At least I hope to God you do, Bobby. If you love Ann as much as I think you do, you must put her happiness first, before everyone and anything in your life. Period."
Both men weep quietly, Bobby more openly than JR who tries to hide his face. Bobby simply gets up, carefully moves JR over and lays in bed with him, one leg dangling off the small bed's edge.
The Ewing boys lay huddled together as brothers, if only for a few moments; a gesture that they will face whatever comes together just as Jock and Miss Ellie always wanted.
A thin blonde woman checks the small syringe filled with clear liquid in her purse one more time before exiting her car and walking right into the hospital's unsecured rear entrance where the ambulances dock. She smooths out the nurse's uniform she wears and concentrates on her breathing, keeping it slow and steady though her heart is beating in such rapid thuds she can hear each pulse in her ear. She should have had a cigarette to calm her nerves. She should have done a lot of things differently, actually.