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       Jacked, p.8

           Tina Reber
 

  “Here we go,” Marcus muttered as he slid into the chair next to me, seeming just as tired of the game as I was.

  Brian wasn’t wasting any time. He dove into the bin that contained several boxes and larger manila envelopes, fishing around as if he were mixing them up. He grabbed one and sniffed it. “This one smells like gash stink. Must be more wet panties for Trent.” His exaggerated facial expressions were beyond irritating.

  It was all a joke—being on television every Sunday night, the false notoriety, the unwanted attention, the lack of focus—everything.

  “Cap, boys need something better to do with their time. This has to stop,” I groaned, feigning a stretch. At first it was fun. We all got a kick out of opening up the few packages and letters that were addressed to me and the rest of the task force, seeing the slutty array of bras, underwear, and the group’s favorite—naked pictures of all sorts of fangirls. But now the shit was getting old.

  “Oooh, I wonder what’s in this one, Trent,” Brian Sidell teased, squeezing a manila padded envelope. “Got your fucking name on it too, just like the rest. You don’t mind me opening it? Chick even drew hearts on it. Must be fucking love.”

  If Sidell only knew how accurately I had fired today at the range, making every shot a center mass kill shot, maybe he’d shut his big, fat yap. I hoped our captain was smart enough to realize this shit was creating animosity within the team that was getting close to becoming irreparable.

  An hour ago, I was calm, content even despite finding a few fans waiting outside my house. Since restful sleep was disrupted by the usual nightmares, I’d gone to the gym and had a good workout, even managing to bench press twenty pounds over my last weight. That alone made my day. Forty-five minutes running on the treadmill, an hour at the gun range, and ten minutes listening to my mom rejoicing about her long-distance phone call from my brother Jason, life was normal.

  Sidell grabbed another large mailer with a noticeable bulge in the middle, holding it up for all to see. “Okay boys, here’s our ‘what did Trent get in the mail this time?’ entry.”

  Bastard sniffed both sides of it like a damn bloodhound. “Victoria’s Secret. One of those sexy demi-bra things where their luscious nippies peek out the top. Lace. Black. Size thirty-six C. Write that down, Westfield. That’s my guess. Here’s my ten bucks.” He kissed the package. “Don’t let me down, babe. My kid needs dental work soon.”

  Officer Nate Westfield chuckled and then wrote Sidell’s answer on the dry erase board—the very same board where we should be discussing tactical maneuvers for blocking the stolen vehicles we chased every night instead of this nonsense.

  The muscle along my jaw tightened as the urge to reach for my gun and end this misery made the palm of my hand itch. This constant needling from certain members of my team had surpassed annoying weeks ago. Now it was getting unbearable with no ending in sight. Fuckers were ripping into packages like it was Christmas.

  Jesse Ramirez was on me as soon as he walked into our bullpen, grabbing the empty chair next to me and flipping it around to straddle it. “Hey Adam, don’t mean to be a pain in your ass, but Ellie wants to know if you’re coming or not. We need to give the caterer a final head count.”

  I didn’t know how to tell him I avoided weddings like the plague, especially when the bride-to-be hated my guts now that I’d ended my relationship with Nikki. Still, Jesse and I’d been friends for years.

  “You’re the only one in the unit who hasn’t sent back their thing,” Jesse continued.

  That’s because the frilly invite was still sitting on my kitchen table, reminding me of my failures. I squinted up at him. “Next month, right?”

  Guy looked partially gut-punched with anticipation. “Yep. Saturday, two o’clock. You can’t miss my wedding, bro. I need to know you’re coming.”

  For a moment, I sort of envied him. He was part of the crew for a long time, a friend from day one, and I respected the hell out of him. “Yeah, man, of course I’ll be there. Wouldn’t miss it.”

  Jesse looked relieved. “Cool. One or two?”

  “What?” I know I just heard him say it was at two o’clock.

  Ramirez used his fingers to count. “One or two? You bringing somebody or you coming alone, ’cause you know Ellie’s friends with Nikki and, well, she’s invited.”

  Marcus groaned and glared over at him. “Damn fool. Now why you had to go bringing that sore shit up? Huh?”

  Ramirez put his hands up. “Hey, just providing intel, that’s all. You could always hook up with Ellie’s friend Joanna. She’s one of the bridesmaids. You met her at the picnic, remember? Long brown hair… The one with the huge—”

  I stopped him before he finished that thought. “Two.” I’d end up coming alone and leaving right after the dinner but there was no need to have anyone’s expectations brewing for the next few weeks. I’d just pad his envelope with extra cash for the wasted meal.

  Ramirez raised a surprised brow. “You thinking about getting back with Nikki then or…?”

  Was he out of his fucking mind?

  He backed down like a smart son of a bitch. “Okay, two it is.”

  Marcus met my gaze for a second before shaking his head and chuckling. Even in silence, I knew he had my back.

  I just hoped Marcus didn’t tell his wife about my little fib because Cherise would grill me for answers, seeing as I didn’t do the dating thing much anymore. Bringing a date to a wedding was inviting trouble. But Marcus and I had no secrets. His wife and I, even less. I trusted them both with my life.

  “Bets? Bets? You in?” Sidell was going around the room, making sure everyone got their ante in. He knew better than to ask me.

  Ballsy asshole stopped in front of us anyway. “Marcus, you in?”

  I gave Marcus a little chin nod when I caught his glance out of the corner of my eye—my silent approval for him to do his thing. He’d won two of them already, adding a few hundred to my goddaughter’s savings account, but he respected me enough to make sure I was in decent headspace before joining the pool. Despite my loathing of this weekly ritual, I’d even go so far as loaning him ten bucks if it meant more might follow it into Sadie’s college fund.

  Marcus appeared torn—partially disgusted and partially desiring to stuff another wad of cash in his pocket. “Let me see the package first.”

  You could tell by the shape of the envelope that it contained a bra with those preformed cups. Fucking deceiving devices meant for men to fall victim from false tit sizes, they were.

  “It’s a bra,” I muttered.

  Marcus pegged me with a “thanks Captain Obvious” glare. He palmed it like he was squeezing a boob.

  “C?” he questioned privately, apparently wanting confirmation.

  With a quick flick of my fingers, he handed it over. I gave it a quick feel, measuring how it filled my hand. “D. Thirty-six.”

  “Color?”

  I shrugged, noting it was February thirteenth today. “Red.”

  MARCUS MOTIONED FOR the keys to our rig—the black Suburban. It had great heated leather seats that cut the cold right out of the February chill. “I’m driving.”

  I tossed the set and smiled to myself, knowing how much he hated working the onboard computer system. I slid into the passenger seat. “You know, it’s okay to admit you need reading glasses, old man.”

  Marcus gave me his death glare. “Watch your mouth, Trent. I only got you by three years.”

  I clicked my seatbelt, smiling while ignoring his exaggerated annoyance. “Yeah, but you’re still closer to forty.”

  “Boy, are you looking to upset me? We just took a hundred and thirty off them assholes, so let me enjoy my moment. And I was going to buy you dinner, too.”

  Fucking guy made me laugh. “That’s mighty kind of you.”

  “Just call me Mister Generosity. So tell me… how the fuck you know it was red?”

  I shrugged. “It’s a gift.”

  “Fucking-A right, it’s a gift. You ne
ed to play the damn Lotto is what you need to do with how much tit you’ve palmed.”

  I grinned to myself, briefly, before the other dirt clogged my thoughts. Getting a willing woman underneath me was never a problem, but the last few months I’d been on a self-induced hiatus. I needed to get my shit together, as getting drunk and trying to fuck the last one out of my system wasn’t working. And ever since we started filming, enamored girls making a goal to fuck the cop from TV turned from easy pickings to a huge turn-off.

  Somewhere over the course of the rolling seasons what used to be cute and attractive became extremely annoying. Everything had become extremely annoying. “You gonna turn the heat up, or do I need to freeze my nuts off over here?”

  He leered at me. “Damn, boy. You are worse than my wife.”

  I buckled my seatbelt. “Speaking of which, you’d better stop by the store for a gift for Cherise before you take your mangy ass home tonight.”

  I turned on our equipment, getting myself situated while Ritchie, my cameraman shadow, climbed into the back seat with his gear.

  “Hey guys,” Ritchie mumbled, rubbing his cold hands together. “Damn, it’s a cold one tonight.”

  Scott climbed in on the other side, grumbling at Ritchie to move his shit.

  Marcus glared over at me, ignoring them like we usually do, and drove out of the back lot. “What the fuck I need a gift for?”

  “Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, butthead.” I jerked forward when he crushed the brake.

  “No shit?”

  I started typing in the plate of the car that just passed by, driving a bit too fast. “And this is why your wife’s legs are closed for business.”

  Marcus grit his teeth at me, motioning with his eyes for me to shut it while Ritchie was filming from the back seat. We even had extra mini cameras mounted in the front by the doors to catch every moment.

  “Ritchie…” I snapped.

  I heard him sigh. “I know, I know. If that airs, you will skin me alive and piss on my carcass. I got it.”

  Marcus and I both said “yep” in unison.

  After twenty minutes of driving and scanning random license plates, Marcus broke the silence, muttering, “See your feisty little doc lately?”

  I knew he was just jacking me up about following her home this morning. Still, I was thankful that I had a fresh image of her face to think about rather than the repercussions of our monumental fuck-up losing that stolen Nissan. I shook my head once, trying not to think about it.

  Marcus raised a skeptical eyebrow at me, calling me out on my shit.

  “Car was still in the driveway,” I muttered, conceding only so far. Okay, so I drove past her place on my way to work tonight. It wasn’t really out of my way, considering she lives in the same town. But admitting I went in a big loop to get to the station was all he was going to get out of me.

  Smug prick blinded me with his big, white teeth, grinning because he knew me so well. It was in my nature to check up on things; I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t some sick stalker, not like the chick who tagged my windshield wiper with a semi-naked photo of herself and a phone number the other day.

  “Robin in the hood,” he drawled, jacking me up again. “Defending the helpless maidens. Well, it’s a step. ’Bout time you quit lickin’ your wounds and get back on your damn horse.”

  And that was Marcus’s version of a pep talk. Something told me that that little doc was the opposite of helpless, but it was that something, that unknown pull that had me driving down her street, making me itch to know if she was at home, if she was safe.

  Whatever that something was also had me palming myself in the shower earlier, too. Every time I thought about her I got hard. Out of sheer pain and a desire for some restful sleep, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to relieve myself.

  The dash unit chimed, alerting us to a call, which thankfully caused the blood flow that was headed to my crotch again to revert back to my brain. Dispatch informed us we had a carjacking where a male suspect took the car at knifepoint. After coordinating with the other units, it was time to do my bit for the annoying camera behind me.

  The rush of adrenaline kicked in when Marcus punched the gas pedal. This was the best part—the hunt—that secret thrill when the predators outwit the prey. We tracked them like a pack of hungry wolves, sneaking down different paths in the city to head off our intended mark.

  I was manning the com unit while narrating our actions for the camera. “Okay, what we’re going to do is spread out a bit. Since this is a felony vehicle, we want to close in on it as quickly as possible. Our rules of engagement are changed whenever there is a gun or another weapon involved. Safety for civilians and for the team is our priority.” I scanned the streets while Marcus maneuvered us through town.

  “We’ve got to be right on top of him,” Marcus muttered, eyeing cross traffic.

  “Black Beemer, where are you?” Just like that, the car passed in front of us.

  “Go, go.” I grabbed my com. “Romeo Seven to control. We have suspect vehicle northbound on Twentieth. Looks like two onboard, repeat, two heads onboard.” We followed, staying undetected by our mark while getting coordinated with the current positions of the rest of our team. My heart was strumming. A regular patrol unit crossed at the next intersection, causing our suspects to panic. The BMW took off, driving into a more residential section where the rundown units and tightly packed row homes made one hell of a maze.

  The driver gunned it down the street, headed for an open spot on the sidewalk, and both driver and passenger were out of the car while it was still rolling.

  “Bail out, bail out!” Marcus called out to the team. I was out of the truck, running before he’d fully stopped.

  Two other units and local PD were on one of the suspects while I foot pursued the driver. My heart was hammering; fucker was fast. Young black kid disappeared into the shadows of the night between the houses. He vaulted over a chain-link fence and I followed, getting tangled up in someone’s backyard shit pile.

  Kid hefted over another fence, only ahead of me by maybe thirty feet. I climbed up over the fence and landed hard on something sharp, slick, and very unforgiving. White-hot searing pain sliced into my left palm, like a paper cut amplified with acid coated razorblades. I bit back a curse and tried to recover as quickly as possible, calling in my location while still pursuing the kid. No way in hell I was gonna let him get away. I could see Sidell running parallel; we had the little shit cornered.

  The kid running slipped and faltered over some junk in the next yard, giving me a chance to get up on him. I snagged his jacket and tackled him, ignoring that my other hand had a pulse of its own.

  Within seconds, I had him flush to the ground. I blew out a few gusts, trying to catch my breath while Officer Nate Westfield pinned him with a knee. Sidell holstered his weapon and relieved me to cuff the kid.

  Ritchie caught up to us while the other two camera guys, Raj and another guy we nicknamed Squirrel, filmed the scene. My hand was wet and burning. Once Ritchie pointed his camera at it, that’s when I saw how deep it was. Fuck it hurt. The blood gushing out of it made it look even worse.

  “What the hell happened to you?” Marcus asked, blocking the camera’s view.

  A few of the guys crowded around, shining their flashlights on me.

  “Good question.”

  “Damn, Adam. That shit looks bad,” Marcus said. “What did you get tagged on?”

  I pointed my flashlight in the direction I’d just come from, trying to figure that out. “Think I put my hand through an old window. I heard glass break.”

  Marcus walked with me while I backtracked, sweeping my flashlight to see just what the hell it was that I’d landed on while silently cursing myself for not wearing gloves. Getting injured in the field was not good. It meant that I’d have a boatload of paperwork to fill out, not to mention playing twenty questions with my superiors.

  “Ambulance is on the way,” Westfield said as he stopped to in
spect my bloody hand again.

  “Ambulance? You’re kidding me.”

  “You know the rules. Blood like that gets spilled, you don’t sit in the waiting room waiting.”

  I tried to walk it off, but no matter where I went, Ritchie and his damn camera followed me.

  IT WAS ABOUT eleven thirty p.m. when Sarah met up with me in the small break room outside of the ER. I had been sitting in there by myself for all of three minutes, staring at the sterile white walls, feeling as though the small, square room was closing in on me, when Sarah’s cute pregnant lady waddle broke the solitude.

  It had been the first time I’d sat down in five hours, having been on my feet and on the run since my boss went home.

  I watched her retrieve her lunch from the refrigerator, grumbling about the disgusting contents inside, thankful for the mental reprieve her presence provided.

  I pulled a shiny green apple out of my lunch bag and stared at it, trying to will myself to be interested.

  I was hungry, well, at least my grumbling empty stomach was trying to tell me I was, but after spending a half hour up in ICU watching the life support equipment breathe for my Uncle Cal while my mother sobbed, nothing sounded appealing. My mind was still reeling—flashing between emotional overload and detached medical scrutiny—while years of medical terminology and clinical training bombarded the in-between.

  I had tried to take a nap in our resident on-call room while I waited out Doctor Wilson leaving for the night, but images of the ER being swamped and me not being in there to do my part made sleep seem like a guilty pleasure.

  Every time I closed my eyes, violent snippets of red and blue lights from this morning’s traumatic scene swirled around the mental snapshot of my critically injured uncle. Visions of Officer Trent also fought for mental space.

 
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