The first paragraph of this story just sort of popped into my head one night just before I fell asleep.
by Arrow, (c) July, 2002
The morning sunshine found her huddled on hard cement in a corner under a stairway. It was a
wooden stairway that
It was obviously still early because the street was quiet and none of the stores or businesses had
begun to open. She
It only took a short time for her to reach the gas station. The attendant was busy inside and didn't
notice her as she
Apprehension had left her breathing hard and her heart pounding, which brought back the throbbing
pain in her head,
The face that stared back at her was a stranger. Her skin was pale and dark circles under her eyes gave her face a
She ran her fingers through her hair, trying to make it look a little less disheveled then glanced down
at her clothes.
"Is there someone in there?" The irritated voice from outside was female. She hesitated for a
"I'm sorry," she said softly as she stepped outside. The woman moved aside to let her pass, but
watched her warily
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It was now beginning to get warm and, here and there, she noticed shop owners as they opened their
doors for the
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The buildings she passed were beginning to all look alike. Perhaps they were really the same
buildings. Maybe she
Suddenly, she realized she was hungry. She couldn't remember the last time she had eaten, but she
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It was so pleasant sitting under the tree that she was actually beginning to feel better. The
combination of resting and
When he finally came around the corner, she was nowhere in sight. He stopped for a moment, then
began to walk
"Where is she, old man?" the man growled. The old man only hesitated for a moment before pointing
to a doorway
"Thanks," she whispered then got up and left the store through the front door.
She ran for awhile, zigzagging across streets and trying to watch for the man in black. When she
finally felt she had
"Ma'am?" he said as he walked towards her, but she pretended not to hear him and kept her eyes
downcast as she
"Ma'am?" he said again when he was directly in front of her. "Could I talk to you, please?" This time,
she stopped and
"Are you all right?" he asked as he examined her face. Looking back at him silently, she sighed
then closed her eyes
"I ….," she started, then wavered as if she was about to fall. He reached for her protectively then
carefully led her to
"Stand here," he told her as he let her lean against the back fender. He turned slightly to open
the back door and as he
"Sorry," she said as she slipped the gun under her shirt and into the waistband of her jeans. Now she
would have to
It was hard not to run as she moved away from the boarded-up buildings she had hoped would offer
her a safe place
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Most of the customers at Chicken's restaurant that night had been police officers. The mood was
cheerful. Good food
"Thanks, Chicken," Levon said as he watched Chicken pour fresh coffee into the empty cup sitting on
the table in front
"And how's the world treating you two?" Chicken asked the two detectives sitting at the small table.
"Not too bad, Chicken," Joe answered happily.
"Well, that's good to hear," he said as he turned to Levon's partner. "No complaints about the
weather or anything?"
"Not today, Chicken."
"I think he's got a new lady friend," Levon explained with a grin. Chicken chuckled and moved on to
another table. As
"You cheat," the man said. His black t-shirt fit tightly over his muscular shoulders and his light brown
"J.B., I told you I've played before," the slender redhead insisted as she set her cue down.
"You didn't tell me you were good," he complained.
"That's not cheating," she said with a laugh. He sighed in disgust then downed what was left in the
"Leaving?" Joe asked.
"Yeah," J.B. answered. "We've got an appointment. Besides, if you're looking to play with Sam,
don't. She cheats."
"What kind of appointment?" Joe asked.
"There's a new player in town," Sam explained. "He brought his own people with him, but he needed
"Yeah. We're hoping to stop Stoner before he starts a turf war," J.B. continued. "Hopefully, tonight's
"You all be careful out there," Levon cautioned as he walked up behind Joe.
"Always," Sam said as she picked up her light blue jacket. As she and J.B. began to walk away from
the pool table, she
"Damn," she said softly as she stopped next to Levon and pulled her badge from the pocket. "I forgot
to put this in my
"We don't have time to go back," J.B. told her. She sighed and looked up at Levon.
"Would you take care of this for me?" she asked. Levon looked at her for a moment, then reached for
the badge. She
"I'll be back," she promised then left with J.B.
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"Hi, Joe. Hi, Levon," Carol O'Brien said as Levon and Joe casually walked into the Major Crime Unit, a
little later than
"Great!" Joe said.
"Yeah, it felt real good to be away from all this," Levon added.
"You guys were looking a little frazzled," Carol agreed as she headed back to her desk.
"Levon, did you hear about the shootout?" Joe Bill McCandless asked after they had reached their desks.
"No," Levon said, "what happened?"
"Seems some new guy, named Stoner, thought he could just walk in and set up shop. But, it seems
one of the locals
"What about the undercover officers?" Joe asked, suddenly becoming serious.
"What undercover officers?" Joe Bill asked.
"J.B. Thompson was shot several times," Lieutenant Beaumont explained as she came out of her
office, "but he is
"Lieutenant, what about …?" Levon started to ask.
"The other officer, Samantha Baker, is missing," the Lieutenant said as she began to hand out some
papers to her
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"Hi, J.B.," Levon said to the man sitting in the hospital bed. "How ya feelin'?"
"Okay. How's Sam? She hasn't been here. Did she get out okay?" Levon looked down for a moment
"We don't know," he told J.B.
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"What can you remember, J.B.?" Joe asked. "Was Sam with you?" J.B. closed his eyes trying to
picture in his mind
"The room was really hot and stuffy. She'd just opened the window when the three guys burst in.
They came in
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Joe and Levon looked around the dark room. There was a table laying on its side and several chairs,
"Well, the window was open when she went through it," he said as he slid the window down. The
glass was intact.
"Nothing," he said. Levon sighed and looked around the room again. There were bullet holes in the
table and he could
"Looks like they fired mostly into this side of the room," Levon said. "She could have got out okay."
"So where is she?"
"Maybe she fell out of the window. Maybe she's hurt … confused ….."
"Maybe the shooters already found her," Joe said quietly.
"No," Levon said brusquely. "We've already lost Dave Kincaid and Dan Stocker. We're not loosing another officer." **
They left the dark office and walked outside into the sunshine. They both took a deep breath as if
they had been
"What are you looking for, Lundy?" Joe asked.
"Maybe she decided to try and make her way back to Reisner."
"If she knew which way to go," Joe said and Levon turned to stare at him angrily.
"She's not from Chicago, LaFiamma!"
"No. She's from Dallas. And I've been in Houston longer than she has." The anger in Levon's eyes
faded and he
"We'll find her, Lundy. We'll find her."
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"We got lucky," Joe Bill told Levon as he and Joe walked back into the office. "We took the mug
books over to the
"We only have to worry about one of them," the Lieutenant said as she came through the double
doors into the office.
"Has anyone checked her house?" Joe asked.
"A neighbor says she hasn't been there. No one answers the phone. Mail hasn't been picked up.
We've got a blue and
"Lieutenant," Carol said, "a store owner over on Crenshaw just reported a man with a gun chased a
woman into his
"Could be Sam," Levon said. "Did he ….?"
"Nope," Carol said, "the store owner sent him off in the wrong direction."
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Levon slowly drove up and down the streets near the little grocery store. He and Joe scrutinized the
"What are you doing?" Joe asked when Levon began to drive around the perimeter of the park for a second time.
"Maybe she was here, in the park. He saw her and she ran … across the park and down the street we
just came from.
"She asked the owner to hide her," Joe continued. "He told the shooter she ran out the back door and
then she left
Levon parked the truck at the curb and got out. As he stepped up on the sidewalk, Joe got out of the
"So, what do you think we'll find here?" Joe asked.
"Maybe someone here saw her, talked to her."
"Lundy, chances are none of these people were even here when she was."
"Maybe he was," Levon said as he walked towards the hot dog vendor. As he reached the cart, he
pulled out the
"Have you seen this girl?" he asked. The man glanced at the picture then handed it back to Levon.
"Not recently," he said.
"She had red hair," Joe added impatiently, "and was probably wearing a light blue jacket."
"Red hair? Let me look at that again." He took the picture and, this time, he studied it for a moment. "You know, this
"Did you talk to her?" Levon asked.
"When she first came up to my cart, I thought she was one of those people that hang around the park
'cause they have
"What do you mean by 'that look'?" Joe asked.
"Kinda sick … confused … alone.
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Joe opened the door but stopped before he got into the truck.
"Lundy, what if she doesn't know who she is?" He looked across the front of the truck at Levon.
Levon looked back
"She's standing at the window," Levon surmised, "and the shooters burst in. Somehow, she looses
her footing and
"Maybe," Joe agreed as he stepped up into the truck and closed the door behind him.
"And all she knows right now is someone is trying to kill her."
"And she doesn't know why."
The radio squawked and Joe picked up the receiver.
"92-14" he said.
"Joe, Beaumont here. An Officer Parker says he needs to talk to you and Levon. He's waiting for you
at Jefferson and
"I know where that's at," Levon said.
"We're on our way, Lieutenant," Joe said into the receiver.
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The Jimmy screeched to a halt in front of the police car. Officer Parker was sitting sideways on the
back seat with his
"What's going on, Parker?" Joe asked as he and Levon ran up to him. He looked up at them and took
his hand from his
"I ran into your witness," he said.
"And she did that?" Levon asked.
"She looked … sick … or hurt … or something," he explained. "I brought her over to the car and when
I turned to open
"How long ago," Levon asked.
"I was only out for a couple minutes," he said.
"Thanks," Levon said as he and Joe started to leave.
"Oh, Parker, don't file your report until you hear from us," Joe called over his shoulder.
"There's one more thing," Parker said and they stopped to look back at him.
"She's got my gun."
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She awoke with a start. It was still light so she must have only nodded off for a few minutes. After
standing up slowly,
Once more, she found herself looking around trying to decide which way to go when she noticed the
red GMC truck
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When Joe reached the corner and looked down the street, she had disappeared. He sighed then continued walking, his eyes searching every doorway, every shadow. He stopped in front of a narrow walkway that ran between two of the buildings and looked to see what was there. The sun was beginning to set, causing the building to cast a dark shadow, but the walkway appeared to be empty and it looked like it ended at the alley behind the buildings. Ignoring the warning that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, he took a breath and started down the walkway. As he neared the end, she stepped around the corner of the building. The gun she was holding was aimed directly at him. He stopped and their eyes met. While he saw no sign of recognition in her eyes, he knew it was hard to look someone in the eye and then pull the trigger.
"Pretty fancy suit for this part of town," she said calmly. He could see the resolve in her eyes as she met his gaze evenly.
"Sam … ?" he asked.
"Who are you and what do you want?" she asked. Was it merely coincidence that she blinked when he said her name?
"It's me. Joe." He kept his hands at his side, relaxed and visible.
"That's original," she scoffed.
"All right, Mr. Joe LaFiamma. What do you want?"
"Who is this Sam you keep talking to?" she interrupted impatiently.
"Sam," he repeated slowly, "you don't want to shoot me." She slowly pulled the hammer back on the gun and adjusted her grip.
"You don't know what I want," she said, her voice low and hoarse. As she stared evenly at the man in front of her, she heard the sound of the hammer being pulled back on another gun. It was close to her ear.
"How about what I want," the voice next to her asked ominously. She couldn't see the man next to her without turning her head. She chose to continue to watch Joe even though the man behind her was the more serious threat. They were together; she could feel their energy. Joe's gaze had not wavered because he knew what to expect of the other man.
"Put the gun down." The voice, so close to her ear, was cold and determined. Joe was relaxed and his expression was impassive.
"Now," the man next to her commanded. It was one simple word that held no hesitation or doubt. She sighed and closed her eyes then eased the hammer back and took her finger off the trigger. As she opened her eyes and slowly let her arms drop to her sides, Joe walked up to her and gently took the gun from her hand. She was watching his face as he slipped the gun into his pocket when a bit of movement caught her eye. Someone had walked past the walkway and she turned her head slightly to look over Joe's shoulder.
"Joe!" she cried and jumped at him, causing him to loose his balance. As they both fell to the ground, she watched helplessly as the man in black raised his arm and aimed his gun. The sound of gunfire filled the air and the man in black fell back as his gun slipped from his hand and clattered uselessly on the cement. When she turned to look up at the man who had fired his gun, she noticed the cowboy hat, the curly blond hair and the piercing eyes.
"Samantha Baker," Joe said as he sat up, "meet Levon Lundy."
"Do I know you?" she asked.
"Sure do," Levon said with a grin and nod of his head as he offered her his hand. She slowly reached up and took his hand and he pulled her to her feet.
"You okay, partner?" he asked Joe.
"Yeah," Joe said as he got up and brushed the dust from his clothes.
"I'll call this in," Levon said and he left. Joe and Sam walked down the walkway and stopped at the body.
"Friend of yours?" he asked, looking down at the lifeless man.
"Hell if I know," she said and he laughed. The Jimmy stopped at the curb in front of where they were standing and Levon got out of the truck.
"You look like you need to sit down," he said to Sam and opened the door for her to get into the back seat. She walked over and climbed into the truck. She felt no apprehension as she leaned back against the seat and watched the two men.
"You know, Lundy," Joe said as he walked up to the truck," taking an officer's gun after you knock him out might take some explaining and a whole lot of paperwork."
"We'll talk to Parker. I'm sure he'll be open to a suggestion or two." Joe smiled and Levon turned to look at Sam then pulled something from his pocket. She was beginning to look a little dazed and he smiled. "This belongs to you," he said as he handed her the thin black wallet. Without looking away from his face, she reached for it and he released it into her hand with a slight nod of his head.
The small wallet was warm to her touch as she slowly flipped it open. The fog that had clouded her memory began to fade as she ran her thumb across the shiny gold badge in her hand.
The nightmare was over.
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