Copyright © 2016 by D'Artagnon
Forever is a Very Long Time
The funeral was small, mostly just a few old school friends of Kyle's father showing up, that cold, windy, bright day. Kyle's friends showed up, oddly only about half of them from the hockey team. He debated whether or not he would be rejoining the team. Sure, none of the reasons he was isolated from them were his fault, but it was really bad form not to support a grieving teammate.
The Lost Boys were there, of course, standing behind him. Sammy actually leaned into the older boy at one point, although from a closer examination, it was the younger boy supporting the sports star during a moment of swelling emotion. Andy stood back a bit from the others, his eyes constantly glancing about furtively. Old habits die hard. Josh was never further than arms reach away, ready to be where he was needed, but keeping a respectful distance as well.
Decisions had been made in the days since the battle. Some tough, others much less so. In Kyle's case, matters quickly turned legal. His father had been his only immediate family. As such, and since he was still a minor, the mess that had been his father's finances needed an adult's hand. Plus, the arrangements for burying his father had to be dealt with as well. So many things were in question, until Kyle's uncle, Ben Carrington, showed up. He'd been a retired teacher from New Jersey, older brother to Kyle's mother. When he found out what had happened, he'd dropped everything and volunteered to take over things.
Kyle hadn't seen his uncle in years, but he was overjoyed at their reunion, despite the circumstances. In a brief meeting before a family court magistrate, Kyle's care had been given over to Ben and all necessary paperwork to keep Kyle in his home were expedited. Kyle would be able to stay in his home and school and his new friends. Uncle Ben somehow managed to be at the right place at the right time for a teaching position to open up at the high school. One of the history teachers needed to go on maternity leave, and Ben's credentials seemed to be perfectly timed to land on the desk of the school administration.
After the final ceremony of the burial, Kyle walked off a short ways, with his buddies around him. They stood under the last brilliant red leaves of a maple tree there in the cemetery. Like so many other places in Canterbury, the cemetery was set on a hill, and so it was that the boys had wandered down towards the maple tree. Uncle Ben stood above with the other mourners, talking, shaking hands, catching up with friends of his own near the graveside, with a long train of cars parked in a neat row.
"So, now what?" Josh asked, breaking the silence.
"I don't know. Uncle Ben is gonna take care of me, so I don't have to go into a state home or foster care." The tall boy shrugged his shoulders. "It's so weird knowing Dad is dead, and that he once helped that crazy guy do stuff to people."
"Oddly fitting how things ended," Andy replied, no fire or ice on his words. "In the end, he showed how much he loved you. It makes up for what he did all those years ago, at least a little bit."
"Yeah," Sammy said, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his winter coat. "I still wonder what happened to Tom."
"His people have him. I don't know what their rituals or customs are, but," Andy sighed. "I'm sure they did right by him. I just wish we could have saved him." He looked to the ground and flipped up the hood of his coat, attempting to hide his shame. It had been his goal to unite them, protect them all through banding together. Despite hiding it well, Andy felt he had failed.
Josh stuck his hands in the pockets of his slacks at the mention of Tom. He'd started this adventure with Tom. With a hug, with understanding and a dawning friendship, all too quickly torn away. The werewolf boy had fought valiantly, suffered much for all of them. It didn't seem fitting that he was gone. Josh turned partly away and looked at the yellow blaze of dying leaves from another nearby tree, trying not to cry.
"Nuthin' any of us could have done," Kyle replied. "We're still brand new to this. I mean, we all know we did what we could," he paused, glancing around, "but we really didn't know what we were doing, or even all of what we can do."
"We need to change that," Andy said, pushing his glasses up further. "We can't afford to lose another fight."
"What are you talking about?" Josh asked, keeping his voice low but tension creeping in. "Another fight?".
"Surely you don't' think they'll just stop," Andy replied, looking directly into Josh's green eyes. "We're a known unknown now."
"A what? I don't even know what that means."
"It means," Kyle said, leaning back against the tree, "that whoever sent them in the first place now will see us as a threat. They covered up the whole battle in the media, even covered up the fact that the old guy was part of what happened in Lafayette Square last summer. There was nothing in the papers about my Dad's death or that we were attacked, despite the fact that the Sheriff and the Canterbury cops showed up."
"Or even about Tom missing," Josh offered, frowning.
A silence stretched out between them, most of them staring down, deep in thought.
"Does that mean we're on our own?" Sammy asked. All eyes turned towards their youngest friend. "I mean, I just talked Grammy into letting Andy come live with us. Are they gonna like, track us down and attack us at home? And what about Grammy? I mean, yeah, she agreed to take Andy in and all but, is she in danger now? We even did some internet stuff to like fake papers and birth certificates and stuff so he's legally my cousin and all, so he can go to school. People go to jail for stuff like that, right? So, do we have to like, idunno, hide?"
"I'm done with hiding," Kyle said softly. "About everything. I'm going to come out to my hockey team. They may shun me more for it, but I don't care. I'm tired of not being who I am."
"That's… that's friggin' insane," Josh said. "We have impossible, comic book powers. Weird people are trying to do God knows what to us, trap us and shit. They aren't above killing people and even covering up murder, and you're worried about whether or not your high school hockey team will wig out if you tell the world you're gay? Did you forget what we did here today?" Josh said, pointing towards the gravesite where Kyle's father's casket was still suspended over the open hole in the ground.
"I know exactly what we did here today, Hawk," Kyle replied. "Maybe you don't see it the same way I do. I buried my past as well as my father today. I have a new chance at actually having a life instead of hiding. Instead of holding back. I don't want to just exist anymore. I want to live." Kyle turned his gaze down to look Josh straight, deep in his green eyes. "Don't you?"
"Well, yeah," Josh shot back. "But I want to keep on living. I don't want to deal with, like, death threats and bricks thrown through windows in my house with 'Die faggot!' notes taped to them. I want to walk to class without having people throwing spit balls and knocking my books out of my hands. I don't want to have to watch my back every time I step up for a piss." Josh took a step away from the group, looking back. "You guys don't understand. Kids get hurt for coming out now. Kids get killed. And if they attack us and we use our powers to fight back…"
"Then we'll kick their asses!" Sammy said, with a fist.
"Yeah, sure. We could beat them easily," Josh said, locking eyes with the youngest among them. "And in doing so, we make ourselves into the monsters they already think we are. Is that what you want, Sam? To be just the same as that kid whose car you ripped up? Do you want to be a bully?"
"Bullies hit first!" Sammy replied. "I don't have to get in the first punch, I just have to win the fight."
"Josh has a point," Andy asserted, before the argument could continue. "The best way to win any fight is to not have to fight it in the first place."
"But…" the Kat began, but a simple raised finger from Andy cut him short.
"But, Samuel, you also have a point. We don't have to let them hurt us. We can defend ourselves without becoming monsters. All it takes is a little discretion."
"Yeah, good luck teaching him that," Josh replied sarcastically.
"So what would you have us do, Joshua?" Kyle asked, pushing himself up off the tree. "Hide everything? Dig a hole and bury ourselves, too? You know, there's lots of fresh holes all over this place," Kyle said, gesturing broadly with both arms. "Pick one!"
"Hiding is a lot safer than painting a target on our backs. Maybe you can live being out in the open, where anyone can just slug you or your family around. What about my parents? What about Sammy's grandmother? Or your uncle? Like it or not, there's more people to think about here than just you."
Another silence rang out, broken eventually by Sammy sniffing back hard. Josh looked down to see the younger boy had tears on his face, running hot against his skin in the cool November air.
"Look, I don't mean to scare you guys. Really, I don't. I just feel so… so…"
"Scared? Worried? Unsure?" Andy said, his voice soft yet firm.
"All of that," Josh replied. "And more. I… I don't have many friends."
"Big surprise," Kyle returned.
"Oh ha-ha. I noticed you don't exactly swim in the big social circles either, Kyle."
"Maybe, but I'm not gonna whine about it when I can do something to change that."
"Why change it?!" Josh nearly shouted.
"Because," Kyle yelled back. "I'm tired of being alone. And so are you, you're just afraid that you'll get hurt."
"Damn right I'm afraid! And you should be too, ya dumb jock!"
"I'm tired of running away! Guess that's the only thing you're really good at, ain't it?"
"Are you fuckin' stupid? If you come out, you risk outing us all! Don't you get that?"
"Stop it!" Sammy called out. "Just… just… stop it." He sank to his knees, covering his face with one hand. Andy dropped to one knee behind the Kat and brought Sammy's head against his chest. The sound of the younger boy's tears was quiet but it cut right through Josh and Kyle.
"This debate is pointless," Andy said, comforting Sammy. "We have to find a balance. Yes, keep our powers hidden. Yes, keep the events of this last week silent as well. We have nothing to gain from exposing ourselves." Sammy's crying seemed to hiccup for a moment, as if finding something funny in Andy's words. "But we don't have to hide who you like, who you love. I understand your fears, Josh. And I understand your need, Kyle. We have to find a balance between the two."
"Yeah," Sammy said, putting his arm behind Andy's back.
"And we must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
"Did you just quote Lincoln?" Josh asked.
"Close, young man. Close, but no cigar. That was Benjamin Franklin," came the voice of Kyle's uncle as he approached.
"Uncle Ben," Kyle flustered. "H-h-how much…"
"Did I overhear?" the adult asked, leaning towards the boys. "You sorta made that part easy. If you boys want to keep your powers and other secrets secret you're gonna have to learn to not shout in public places."
"So everyone heard?" Sammy asked.
"Yes, but I don't think they'll remember. I sort of scrambled their perceptions of what was said. They pretty much think you guys are having a discussion about the Yankees and the Red Sox."
"What?" Josh asked, screwing his face up a bit. Andy looked back to the assembled mourners near the short parade of cars parked closer to the grave site. The other boys seemed to have a puzzled look at Ben's admission, but the Fox caught on quick.
"So, you're a telepath," Andy said smoothly, pushing up on his glasses again as he stood up. Sammy stood with him, separating slightly. The younger boy looked at Ben cautiously. Andy met Ben's gaze levelly.
"Every bit as quick as your reputation, Fox," Ben replied, tapping the end of his nose.
"Like Professor Xavier?" Sammy said in awe.
"Nowhere near as powerful as the comics and movies make him out to be. But similar."
"That's… wait, are you reading our minds?"
"Relax, Joshua. I could, but that takes more effort for someone like me. I can do smaller things. Reading a mind as agile and active and strong as yours is both very difficult and very simple."
"You have a strong mind, Hawk boy, and it's easy to find you in a crowd. But that also makes you more difficult to read. Think of it like the volume on the radio. You're loud, just skipping around channels so much I don't know what the song is." Ben placed his hand on Kyle's shoulder, leaning slightly due to the boy's height and the slope of the hill. "I could read your mind, but that would take some effort, and scrambling this many people's perceptions at once is pretty much pushing my limits. So can we keep this discussion down to a dull roar?"
"We can," Andy said, glancing to the other three boys. "I am guessing that there will be time later for us to talk to you in private?"
"I think that would be wise. For now, keep it down. I'm gonna go back and keep things smooth until the others start moving out." He tapped Kyle's shoulder twice before turning back around to walk up the hill. As he moved off, he called back over his shoulder, "And no more cursing. Not the place for it, boys."
The four watched as Kyle's uncle maneuvered through the gravestones and back up the hill towards the line of cars.
"Things just got another level of fuckin' weird," Joshua said, softly.
"Don't cuss," Sammy replied lightly tapping Josh's leg with the back of his knuckles, arm still slack by his side.
"You are right, though," Andy said, watching the retreating Ben with a measuring gaze. "There's more going on here than we know. And we need to know."
"You got that look in your eyes, Fox," Kyle stated, focusing the group's attention back to Andy. "What are you thinking?"
"Funny," Andy said. "You've only known me a few days, and already you know some of my moods."
"It comes easy. You have to know how to read people's faces and body language when you play sports. A look can tell you as much a paragraph, if you know what to look for." Kyle grinned. "And you didn't answer the question."
"I'm thinking that we are underestimating quite a bit. And over reacting to things. Josh, just because Kyle wants to admit to being gay publicly, doesn't mean people are going to assume you are if we are all seen together." Andy blinked slowly. "I will admit that I don't understand modern school relationships. But one thing doesn't necessarily follow another like that."
"They'll see us all hanging out and assume," Joshua said, keeping his voice controlled. "When he drops that bomb, and starts hanging out with us, all of us… you have to see that."
"I do," Andy replied. "And I will assume that when I come into the school next Monday, being the new kid, I will likely generate a lot of interest as well. And hanging out with you guys, that may draw attention to you as well. It cannot be helped."
"Nobody better mess with you," Sammy spoke up, defiantly. "I'll kick their asses. And I wont even switch to kat form."
"I appreciate that, Sam, but I can take care of myself. Kyle is the one that's gonna need the help. Are you sure you want to come out? You might only tell the hockey team, but it likely will not stay with just them."
"I can handle it. If it means I don't play hockey anymore," Kyle shrugged, "so be it."
"If it's just a dating thing," Josh started, but quickly shushed up, feeling the eyes of the other three fall upon him.
"Sooner or later it'll come out," Kyle said, at length. "At least this way, it's on my terms. It's my choice."
"But you don't have to be alone," Andy said, nodding.
"I'll stick by you," Sammy replied. "Heck, I might come out, too. Keep them girls from playing with my hair all the time."
"Oh, you're such a toughie," Josh reached out and fingered a curl at the back of Sammy's neck as he teased, getting a quick, sharp, soft "shaddup," from the Kat.
"I appreciate that, Sam," Kyle said, sticking out his knuckles. Sammy smiled and shot out his own hand for a fist bump.
"So, you're really gonna go through with the school thing? Even with your slowed down aging as a boy?" Josh asked.
"Sometimes you have to hide in plain sight," Andy shrugged. "And being closer to you guys makes all of us safer. I…" Andy began and looked to Sammy a moment, "I could stand to rejoin the world for a little while. And I hear that Grammy is an awesome cook."
"Yeah, so you wont have to steal stuff to eat and stay warm and all," Sammy agreed. "I just got one question."
"Only one?" Andy smiled back.
"Being a girl, how'd you learn to pee standing up?"
"Oh, lord," Josh said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Sam, it's point and shoot. Whether you're born with one or not, the mechanics aren't that complicated."
"It did take me a few tries to figure it out, you know, aiming the worm," Andy admitted. Three sets of eyes shot over as he continued, "And those morning boners… I never knew you boys had it so hard."
"Literally," Josh said. "Try being gay in the locker room at the end of gym class." Andy watched as the other three all unconsciously adjusted themselves. They all seemed to catch each other doing so, and Andy's bemused look as he, surreptitiously, adjusted as well.
After a few giggles, the boys stood, silently again, and looked around. Kyle's eyes followed the line of stones leading further down the hill, towards the river. Andy let his gaze drift uphill, past Kyle to where Ben Carrington was laughing and conversing with three other adults. Josh's eyes turned up as well, but this time to focus on a clump of colorful leaves still clinging stubbornly to the tree, twisting in the wind. Sam bent at the knees and looked to the ground, his eyes scanning the graying grasses at the base of the tree.
"What about our powers?" Sammy asked. "We need to get better at 'em. We can't accidentally use them in school, right? I mean, that would let everyone know we're freaks."
"We aren't freaks," Kyle said, getting the others to look around to him. "Okay, so we're different. We're… what did that werewolf call us?" Kyle said, switching his focus to Andy.
"Ǣgyptian," the Fox replied, pronouncing it slowly and with emphasis. "Children of the gods, he said. Or spirits. The phrase he used covered a lot of metaphysical and translational ground."
"You still haven't told us how you knew to do that wolf call," Joshua pointed out.
"I… I don't know quite how myself," Andy admitted. "It was just something I felt I needed to do. I can't explain it."
"Some things you just know," Sammy said. "Like how to pee standing up. Like how I just knew that Andy was a good guy. That I could trust him."
"You are too trusting sometimes," Joshua said.
"And you question even the answers you get to the questions you ask," Sammy replied. "Guess that makes us kinda opposites, huh?"
"No," Kyle said, smiling at them. "Just means we wont ever have easy decisions. But it's good both ways."
"Let's get through the next few days and then figure out some sort of training schedule," Andy sighed. "I'm sure it wont take me long to get my school situation figured."
"Maybe, maybe not, Fox. Did they have block scheduling in your day?" Josh grinned.
"I have a feeling I'm not going to like it much."
"That's an understatement," Sammy said, emphatically, standing up. "You gotta keep your agenda book up to date, with your assignments and block days and rotations and then there's times the class rooms aren't the same from day to day and trying to remember which days to actually bring your gym clothes and… it's a freakin' mess," he finished, after counting off each point on his fingers.
"Looks like they're about done up there. Are we ready to get back?" Kyle asked.
"I am. I don't like places like this. Gives me the creepies," Sammy said, walking up beside Kyle. As the younger boy drew beside the older one, Kyle reached an arm around Sammy's small shoulders.
"And you, ya little shit," Kyle said, grinning through the insult, "no more being super heroic like that. You scared the piss out of me and I didn't even know you yet."
"Yeah, well," Sammy began, leaning into Kyle's side. "I guess my first thoughts are to do stuff without thinking." Kyle laughed as the two of them walked up the hill, playfully pushing Sam away and then drawing him back again, as if the shorter boy were the younger brother Kyle never had.
"Only he could say that and get away with it," Josh said towards Andy as the other two boys started up the hill. Josh's hands slid back into the pockets of his slacks, shoulders strangely relaxed despite the chill in the wind. Andy seemed to be very aware of his own posture as they began up the gentle slope.
"Indeed. He's one of a kind."
"I have a question for you, though. I kinda noticed something that first night after the fight in the woods. When I got into the shower to wash off, uhm… something had changed."
"Your foreskin grew back?" Andy guessed.
"Yeah, it was kinda… I mean, you gotta understand. As a guy, I mean. Like, that's been my best friend since middle school, and now it looks and feels different."
"I'd be lying if I didn't say I took it for a test drive. Definitely a sportier model than before." Josh's face blushed slightly, and from more than just the blustery November winds.
"Maybe we'll have to do some kind of bench test for that, later. I could perform a circumcision for you again, if you like."
"Uh, thanks, no. I'll just chalk it up to nature knowing what's best for me." Josh grinned. "However, it did put a thought into my head. Something I've noticed but haven't commented on to the others yet."
"If you are asking about my junk," Andy began, using a decidedly masculine voice, with an edge to it.
"No, it's about your eyes, Andrew," Josh asserted. "You said your body continually regenerates since you stay in boy-form all the time. And I got to thinking, if it regrew my dick skin just from the short time I was flying, how come you need glasses? You admitted that you've pretty much been a boy for, like, the last couple decades. So how come the regeneration hasn't fixed your eyesight?"
Andy smiled, reached up and pulled the wire frames off his face, holding them out to Josh. Automatically, Josh took the lenses and looked through them. There didn't seem to be any prescription to the lenses at all. Framed by the glasses, Josh could see Andy's face without them for the first time and he felt his breath catch.
"Dude!" Josh said at length, staring into Andy's eyes. "You're so… beautiful."
"And that's why I wear them," Andy replied, slyly. "Oh, sure, I could give you some spy training story about having them on protects my eyes from dirt and stuff, gives a barrier that an enemy can't just poke me in the eyeball because they are blocking or some bullshit like that. The truth is, they make me look plainer. Standing out isn't a good way to hide in plain sight. I adopted these so I wouldn't get the stares like you are giving me now." He held out his hand and Josh reluctantly handed the glasses back.
"So, Clark Kent, huh?"
"Same principle. Just less up, up and away. And no phone booths."
"Guess I'm gonna have to keep my eyes on you, then. You keep surprising me, Andy."
"So do you. So pessimistic at times, but able to see things others sometimes miss. I'd almost say you might have an ability that's kinda like radar. Pulse of the unseen and all that mumbo jumbo. You're a little bird that has broken out of the egg."
"You still talk like thirty years ago," Josh noted as he and Andy fell into step, twenty feet or so behind Kyle and Sammy. "At least you can emulate the Kat and get modern slang."
"Yeah, that will be interesting. I haven't lived with people in a long time. But at least I wont have to hide and freeze through the winter anymore, or break into restaurants. Go dumpster diving for food."
"You've done that?" Josh asked, almost stumbling at the thought.
"Survival is a zero sum game, Joshy Green-Eyes, with no room for pride or pretense," Andy said, pushing the unnecessary glasses further up his nose. "You do what you have to, and it's not always what you'd like to."
"Yeah, well, we need to fix that." They walked on in silence for a moment. "Wait, what did you say about my eyes?"
Andy grinned and kept silent.
The shouting in the main police headquarters on Ginty Boulevard didn't go unnoticed by the cops going through shift change. The Lieutenant was getting reamed out by the Chief, again. And police Lieutenant Dana De Stefano wasn't one to take an ass chewing sitting down. So it was rather shocking when she slammed the door to the Chief's office on her way out. Shocking at how quiet the entire headquarters got as she sat down at her desk, tossing her badge onto it like she hated the thing.
"Trouble Lieutenant?" Ozzie asked walking over. The big burly sergeant dwarfed the diminutive chief of detectives, but it was clear that he deferred to the younger woman. At 26, Dana had become the youngest chief detective in the entire valley, and with good reason. She had a calm head in crisis, seemed to have a knack for following up leads and discovering clues that others might have ignored.
"He's a fricken' bonehead!" Dana called out, knowing her fellow cops would hear her. She reached for her coffee cup on the desk and took a sip, making a face as the cold bitter liquid slid over her tongue. "We aren't allowed to follow up on the murder up by the river or about the truck jack-knifing over by Barnie's. Federal authorities," she said, emphatically, "have taken over both cases."
"Lot of that goin' on lately."
"Too much," Dana agreed. "I tell ya, Ozzie. This last summer has been crazy. Then this last week. The kid at the school getting beaten up and then attacked again off the bus, that gets taken away from us. Week before, the attack out by Watching Rocks on the Perault kid and the Durman boy, that got gobbled by the state police. This weird bear attack on that kid's car, earlier this morning? What bear shows up in the middle of the city and rips the tires off a Mustang?"
"Yeah, well, that kid that called it in isn't exactly a paragon of virtue," Ozzie replied, sarcastically. "We found clothes, shoes, back packs, personal effects, half full Halloween candy bags, cell phones, tablets and wallets from half a dozen neighborhood kids in his car. He's lucky he isn't getting sent to jail right now on some kinda charge. We already returned as much of the stuff as we could. He was a bad kid. Strange that it took some wild animal attack to have that come to light, but hey, a win is a win, right?"
"Now this murder and this supposedly unrelated truck accident, both pulled out of our hands. Something stinks around here, and it ain't Sgt. Callahan's gym shoes in the microwave this time."
"What, some kind of cover up?" the mustached sergeant asked, his tone subdued. "That don't track. None of those events got anything in common."
"Except a lot of high school kids seem to be involved," Dana pointed out. "Don't sit well with me. Kids in this town, so close to so much violence and crime, yet we aren't allowed to investigate? What are we here for then, just traffic duty?"
"I heard that!" one of the uniformed cops near the water cooler said, saluting with his paper cup.
"I agree with you, LT. Something screwy is going on, wicked. But we got our marching orders. I mean, the Chief is still getting grief about the whole Ralphy Curak disappearance thing. He gets chewed out twice a week for there being no new leads on that in the last six months."
"Yeah, and that's another thing. Why haven't we been working that case either? From the very start it's like someone just doesn't want us looking deeper."
"I dunno. I been a cop in this town almost since I got out of high school. Seen a lot of weird shit. I get what you're saying," the older cop said, blowing across the top of his coffee mug, "but we got no say in seeing it through. Gotta deal with the cards we have."
"Yeah, well, I think we probably need a new dealer, Oz. Cuz this shit is getting old, real fast."
"Look," Ozzie said, pulling up a chair by the lieutenant's side, "it's one thing to be pissed about the Chief's weird behavior. I known him a lotta years and he always seemed like an odd duck at a goose convention, if ya ask me. But this is department protocol you're talking about messin' with here. Police procedures, and the first procedure is we obey orders from the top down. Ya can't go makin' some kinda personal crusade outta this. It'll only get you fired."
"Something's got to change, Oz. If we aren't preventing stuff from happening to kids, or prosecuting things that happen to kids, or even just investigating every time a kid is involved in something weird going on like this, then we're no better than the incompetent fucks that pretended to be cops when your generation were all messed with by that virus. And that freak job who created it."
Ozzie looked off at the mention of the virus. "Things got handled, eventually."
"Yet no one talks about it much."
"Small towns have secrets," Ozzie said. "Some need the touch of daylight. Others…" he trailed off, glancing first into his coffee cup and then towards the lieutenant. "Well, let's just say that people sleep better at night not knowing. We're just a tough, honest little blue collar city. We take the good with the bad, you try to forget the one and cherish the other."
"You working for Stephen King now, Oz?"
"If only," he scoffed. "Might pay better."
"I heard that," the uniformed cop from before said again, passing by with a donut halfway to his face. Dana and Ozzie watched as he walked by, slightly annoyed.
"Don't you have a beat to walk, Murphy?" Ozzie asked, pointedly, as the uniformed cop took a bite, getting white powder all over his uniform. "Slob," the sergeant muttered under his breath. He turned back to face the lieutenant, his eyes surveying her mood cautiously. "Uh oh. What's got that look in your eye, Ell Tee?"
"The investigation is a federal matter now. Nothing says I can't follow up leads for our federal agency brethren in the spirit of cooperation."
"Uh, that sounds surprisingly like trying to go around the Chief. Not sure if that's a good idea."
"I gotta do something, Oz. We both took an oath, to protect and serve. Not to cover up and ignore."
"And I agree with you. I just don't think this is the wisest place to discuss it."
"You got someplace better in mind?" the detective asked, grabbing her coat off the back of her chair.
"Well, I…" Ozzie began, but was cut off by Murphy coming over.
"Lieutenant, I thought I ought to show you something," the cop said. He held up a resealable evidence bag with some sparkly dust in the bottom. "Found some of this stuff up at the crime scene today. Just when the feds showed up to take over, so I kinda already had some picked up for the lab boys. Is this something you need?"
"Murphy, you idiot," Ozzie said, grabbing the bag out of the startled younger cop's hands. "You know the rules of evidence. You don't take stuff from a crime scene without documenting where it was. And we were supposed to turn that stuff over to the feds anyways. You could get in serious trouble for this."
"Sorry, Sarge. I thought it might be important. It was in a long, straight line on the ground, partly covered by leaves, like you know, like if someone had been moving near where the stuff was and things got kicked around a bit."
"Leave the detective work for the detectives, kid," Ozzie said, handing the bag to Dana. "Where was it in relation to the deceased's car?"
"Near the passenger side door. I also found this there. Didn't think it was important at the time," Murphy said, winking conspiratorially. He produced a second evidence bag with a long tranquilizer dart, some liquid still showing on the injector point.
Dana stood up. She looked to Murphy and then to Ozzie. "I'll let this lapse of judgment slide for now, Patrolman Murphy," she said, taking the second bag from the cop. "In the future, you should do well to remember the chain of custody and rules of evidence. Might come in handy if you need them for the promotion tests."
"Yes ma'am," he smiled and walked off. Dana looked back and forth between the dart and the sparkling powder. Then she looked up at Ozzie.
"I don't think they were injecting illegal narcotics with this," she said, holding the dart up for closer inspection. "I think I need to contact someone who can analyze this evidence for us."
"Chief will bust a gut if he finds out you sent stuff from that site to the crime lab in Lawrence."
"Which is why I'm going to contact a friend of mine at the college. Let's keep this on the down low, Oz. Some crazy shit is going on in our fair city. It's time we knew a little of it. Better to deal with the storm if we see the clouds comin'," she said.
"Be careful about this, Dana. You need to worry about the Chief. He thinks you want his job."
"I don't want his job. I just want to do mine. Too many kids are getting hurt, too many bad things keep happening to good folk, like Barry Dakoon."
"Dunno if I'd lump him in with quote-unquote good folk," Ozzie said, swirling his coffee cup. "But I agree. Something has to be done."
Dana took the bag of sparkling dust, holding it up to the light. "Gimme a few days to see what this stuff is about and we'll talk about what needs to be done then."
"Until then?" Ozzie asked, straightening up.
"Business as usual." The lieutenant picked up the phone and began punching numbers. "For now."
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