To my best friend and lover. You serve bravely and unnoticed until someone realizes they need you.
To my family
She heard the front door open and his booted feet banging in the front hallway. She closed her eyes tighter, almost to the point of pain and tried to slow her breathing. She needed this to work; there simply was no other option. She heard him shuffling in the kitchen, and for once in their measly relationship, if you could even call it that; she hoped he was actually grabbing a beer. She had stocked it up with plenty of his favourites earlier. Minutes seemed like days before he finally kicked off his boots at the entrance to their bedroom. She tried her best to relax her face and calm her breathing. This might be her only chance before it was too late. The mattress groaned under his weight when he sat down beside her. He immediately placed his cold feet on her legs and laid down beside her.
"Greer," he grumbled. His alcohol soaked breath was rancid. "You awake?"
She didn't respond. She could barely hear his words over her own heartbeat. She felt him roll over and settle himself on the pillow. She concentrated on keeping her breaths even. It wasn't long before his own breaths became slow and even. Small snores erupted from the back of his throat. This was it - this was the moment she had been planning for. Greer took in one final slow deep breath and slid off the bed exactly as she had practiced. She squeezed the breath in her lungs, afraid that even her breath might wake him. What would she do if he woke up? Would he know what was going on? Would he believe her lies of just going to the kitchen? Her heart pounded in her ears, the blood rushing in her brain, making her dizzy with fright. She took her first step towards the door and glanced back over her shoulder. Michael's sleeping frame didn't budge. She glided across the floor, her feet knew the way. She had rehearsed this way too many times to count. There was no way her brain would have been able to guide her through this now.
Greer slid between the bedroom door and the frame. Her bare feet were silent on the floors as she headed in the living room. The room seemed foreign to her now, in this moment of escape. Lit only by moonlight and the streetlamps. She had been careful to leave the blinds open before she went to bed. Greer pulled on her coat and picked up her shoes. Her eyes darted around the room one more time, taking it all in. She placed her fingers in front of her face, and dared to whisper, "Click". She would never forget this moment. The moment she finally followed her own heart.
Greer moved to the window behind the couch. She had greased the screen so it slid back silently. She laid her body across the back of the couch and placed her shoes onto the snow-covered grass in the backyard. She then lowered her feet out, followed by her torso. Soundlessly her head followed. Her fingers shook from the cold and fear as she slid the screen back into place. She grabbed for her shoes, yanked them onto her feet and began running.
Her mind felt fuzzy and dizzy and her lungs were gasping for air. The adrenaline pumped through her veins at such a speed that she thought her heart would burst. She pushed down the icy back roads towards the strip mall. She was careful to avoid where the cameras were. If there was any evidence of what was going on, she knew it would be all over for her.
Greer slid along side the building until the reached the giant garbage dump behind the dollar store. Her hand fished around for the bag she had left there. It had only the necessities. She could buy everything else later, once she found work, and a new place to stay. Her fingers finally latched into the handle of the bag and she let out the breath she felt she had been holding for hours. She made a small sign of the cross thanking God that no one had stolen it.
She tossed the bag over her shoulder and jogged in the shadows to the bus station. Her feet slipped along the icy and snowy hills. The roads were completely empty at this time on a Tuesday evening, but every precaution was necessary when it came to Michael. Greer glanced at her watch; she had ten minutes to make her intended bus. Her eyes darted around her constantly in search of him or one of his goons.
Greers' face ached in the cold Wisconsin wind. The small ice pellets that flew towards her felt as though they were tearing her cheeks and forehead open; even through her thick scarf. The air that she panted out of her lungs was bright in the darkness of the night. She knew she was getting close.
Greer rounded the corner and spotted her bus, the number 15. It was her saviour. She sprinted towards it, making sure her hood was tightly around her face, and her scarf covering the majority of her face. She checked over her shoulders once more before stepping on.
"Where to, Miss?" No one had ever asked her that before. No one had ever cared where she had wanted to go before. She knew the last stop for this bus – Starr County, in the south of Texas. Very fitting for what she hoped the county held for her. "Miss? Are you alright?"
"Starr, Texas." Her voice sounded foreign, even to her. "I'm going to Starr, Texas, please."
"It's two hundred eighty ma'am." She already knew that. She pulled the exact amount of cash from the baggie inside her purse and handed it to the man. She had made sure none of her fingerprints were on either the baggy or the cash. He put it into his pouch and nodded her on.
Greer grabbed a seat exactly in the middle of bus and placed her bag beside her. She slid down into her seat and pushed herself as far into the cushion as possible. No one sat on the bus, no one stood in the station. Not even a car. The bus slowly pulled out and rounded the corner.
Ben rubbed his temple with his fingertips. This was ridiculous. A hearing – a hearing! This was absolutely insane. He was fine, he didn't need time off. He needed to work! That's what he was always best at. He placed his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, trying his best to calm his breathing before he snapped.
"Benjamin," Jessica, the uptight union rep, whispered to him. "They're ready."
Ben cursed under his breath and pushed himself off the court bench. This was seriously ridiculous. He ran his hands through his thick black hair and straightened the medals on his navy blue uniform. He glanced down at his feet, a typical habit of a cop. His shoes were as shiny as the day he received his badge. He pushed back the courtroom door and strode into the room. He knew he was a large man, with his shoulders almost double the width of his partners', Alec. He could be intimidating as hell if the time arose – and this was certainly the time.
He stood behind the table beside Jessica, her mousy brown hair, tied back in a tight bun, in an attempt to emasculate herself. He never thought he would be the one standing behind this table – how many times had he sat in the witness seat beside the judge and testified about those who sat in his chair.
"Benjamin Elias Walters," he glanced up at the panel of commissioners, all wearing medals of their own. "You have done this city and amazing service." He resisted the urge the snort. "You have saved countless lives, put away truly heinous men and women, and have been a loyal police officer and friend in all of your duties." He could feel his stomach knotting itself. "But there comes a time, Mr. Walters, when every man needs a vacation from this line of work. You witnessed one of the most horrific things that has ever occurred in this city and have refused to see a counselor or take off the advised amount of time." Ben's eyes immediately fluttered closed. He could still hear the screams from within the house. He felt like he was walking through that dark corridor, the smell of rotting human flesh making him gag, the weight of his gun in his hand. "You will be on mandatory leave for the next two months and will be attending sessions with a counselor twice a week. This will all be with pay."
Ben smacked his fist onto the table. "Sir, this is ridiculous. I will not leave this city and my brotherhood to take a vacation that I don't need."
"Benjamin," Judge Shell coaxed. They had always been close ever since his training years. "This is for your own good." Ben narrowed his dark eyes at them and walked out of the courtroom.
He jogged down the front steps of the courthouse and headed into the underground parking. Alec knew him too well; he was already resting against his bike.
"Well?" He raised his thin blonde eyebrow at his best friend. Ben let out a bitter laugh.
"They're forcing me to take off two months and see a shrink."
"I could have told them you were crazy from day one. I can't believe it took them this long to figure it out."
Ben punched him off his bike. "Douche bag." But the comment did bring a slight smile to his face.
"So where are you gonna go? You gonna stay in LA?"
He shook his head. "I think I'm gonna head back home for a while. Take care of the bar, give my poor brother-in-law a break from my nagging sister."
"Keep in touch, man." Alec looked up at Ben and smiled. "I'll keep the new guys in line, don't you worry."
The two men embraced in a bond that only cops could understand.
"And don't forget to have a little fun while you're out there." Alec stated.
Ben patted his back and pulled away from him. "Tell your wife and that gorgeous baby of yours that her Uncle Ben will be back as soon as he can."
Ben pulled his helmet on and revved up his bike. The familiar hum under him felt soothing and therapeutic. He gave Alec and quick salute and flicked down his helmet. He yanked on the clutch and headed out into the busy California streets.