Mourning Dew -- Chp. 12

Chapter 12 –

“J’apprends, tu apprend ...” Mrs. Roads listened to Hank studying in front a of mirror. She knocked on Hank’s open door. It had been a couple of weeks since Jean’s break down and she was frustrated that his infatuation with Jean wasn’t over. Knowing he was focused on being a straight A student, maybe she could use that against him.

Hank turned from the mirror on his desk to look at her and took off his headphones. She could hear French on the headphones. His mother seeing her chance, ventured, “How is French class Honey? Maybe you should drop it. You can take it during the summer and we can get you a tutor to teach you during the year. That way you will be ready and get the grade you want.” She wanted to get him out of that class.

“No Mom. I am doing much better. I have been working hard and it is paying off. I am almost getting an A right now. But the by end of the quarter, I should be a solid A again. I just needed to apply myself which I have.”

She came in and sat on his bed. Looking around his room, she could see the tapestry of the nearly sixteen years of his life. Off in the corner was his old stuffed wolf he called Alvin, named after a cartoon chipmunk. She remembered the nights he had to have with him when he went to bed because it would protect him from the bad monsters under his bed. Then there was posters for his favorite Lord of the Rings characters. He really liked Strider and wanted to be Strider. There was a shelf filled with his Lego creations. She fondly remembered the battles he would have with his friends on the floor of his room as they pretended the little storm troupers were real.

It seemed ages to her that he had his friends over to play or just play video games on the Playstation. Now that he was in High School, Hank seemed to her to lost and alone without a compass. He appeared to be trying to find himself in a new world he didn’t understand and she couldn’t help him find his place in. Her belief was that Jean was going to harm him to distraction for his becoming who she thought he was. She also realized that the divorce two years ago seemed to mark the time his friends stopped coming over. And she blamed herself for that fiasco. His friends walked in on her huge blowup with her husband and his dad. She tore his dad apart verbally and he stormed out the door not saying a word. That was how her marriage ended.

The way her marriage ended, she thought, was how his friendships ended too. He must have dumped on them too. She could only imagine what Jean might do to him if she had an episode at school. He would become a social pariah.

Of course, what she didn’t know is that Hank went over to his friends’ homes still because they didn’t want to be around her. He didn’t dump on them. He dumped on her and apologized to his friends for her behavior. So, he never really lost his friends. She was too caustic and bitter for their tastes and Hank respected that. She didn’t know Hank’s friends found her to be mean spirited towards them too. As a consequence, Hank stopped talking about them around her because it was just easier than dealing with her snide remarks about their behavior. Jean wasn’t the first person in his life that his mother disliked. Nor, it seemed, would she be the last.

Her next comment was typical of how she treated his friends too. “Honey, I really will get you a tutor. Please think about it. Or at least switch some classes so you don’t have to be in the same room as that awful girl.” He cast her an angry glance, but didn’t say anything.

After turning off the French exercises on his computer, Hank said, “I think I need to go for a walk to clear my head. I’ll be back about dinner time.” She sighed and watched him leave his room. Jean’s house wasn’t that far, though. Maybe he could catch a glimpse of her and then talk to her about his plans before it was too late for them both.

Hank hadn’t seen much of her since she became a cheerleader. She looked cute in her cheerleading outfit and was finding new friends fast. The mystic of the police officers visiting the school made her a hot property. Boys were chasing her now like a femme fatale. The football team was marveling at her perky squeaks during their football practices. There was no doubt now in his mind that she was no longer in his league. Yet, everyday, her eyes would always fall on him or follow him. She found ways to talk to him and encourage him. In fact, she went out of her way to do so.

But, aside from Jean, he had a heavy decision to make on this walk too. He was turning sixteen on the tenth of January and the divorce agreement said he could decide then which parent he could live with. It was going to be a hard decision no matter which direction he went.

His thoughts drifted back to the fact that every day in class, the way Jean looked at him, she told him with her eyes that she loved him more than anything. It made him wonder if he was choosing his dad for the wrong reasons. He wondered if the way they talked to each day other briefly gave him hope and simply clouded his judgment. Yet, her daily suggestion on how to improve his French were helping him so much too. Practicing in front of a mirror was one of those suggestions. And, then, the awesome suggestion. Getting comic books in French would really help him. Those really helped. He found that little by little, he was learning French. Daily, he listened to a podcast called ‘News In Slow French’ that Jean had found out about. So, she was becoming savvy about tech after all. And he had to admit, he was falling in love with Jean more every day. Was it wrong to move in with his dad simply because of this?

During his walk, the choice he had to make was pushed back while he considered other factors. Now his thoughts were of her smile and her sexy body. He concluded that she appealed to his mind as well as his loins. That made the long walk to her house pass by quickly. Several houses away from hers, he saw a man in a bush. Something told him to hide.

Hank ducked behind a Subaru and then hid in the bushes nearby to see what was going on. As he spied on the man, Hank realized that the man was watching Jean’s house. Every nerve fiber in his being was on high alert now. Behind the Laignaux home was greenbelt. He watched the man move out of the bushes and walk between two houses into the greenbelt. He watched as the man disappeared into the forest.

A police car came slowly down the street just then and stopped just past the Subaru. Feeling awkward after having hid in the bushes, Hank started to walk back home. “Son, may I talk to you?” A female officer called to him. Hank dutifully stopped and turned around.

“Yes Ma’am?”

“Does this Subaru belong to you?” ‘What a relief,’ he thought, ‘she didn’t see me hiding in the bushes.’

“No Ma’am. I am not even old enough to drive yet. I only recently got my learner’s permit.”

“What street do you live on?”

“Magnolia Garden Terrace, Ma’am. I have a friend or two on this street. They weren’t home.”

“What is your name?”

“Hank Roads, Ma’am.”

“You look familiar. You are Scott Road’s kid, aren’t you?”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“All right. Thank you. You have a good night. Say hi to your dad for me. I am officer Lansing. He isn’t my sergeant, but I sure wish he was.” She started to inspect the Subaru. Hank over heard her say to the mike hanging from her shoulder, “Call CID to Sherwood Garden Terrace. I found the Subaru parked here referenced in their recent BOLO.” That announcement bothered Hank. She got back in her police cruiser and headed off quickly. He knew why. It was change of shift. The car wasn’t high enough priority for her to stay with it. Plus, she called CID which meant it was an internal investigation. Probably some cop shagging a neighbor’s wife instead of writing her a ticket for running a stop sign, he ruminated cynically.

After a couple of houses, feeling uneasy about the man in the woods and the presence of the Subaru, he too walked between two homes and headed into the greenbelt which was thick with trees. It was part of a hill that back up on the homes on Sherwood Garden Terrace and gave it its name. Fall rains had caused the vegetation inside to be dampened down. Still, there were briers all over the place. He was grateful he was wearing leather hiking boots and jeans.

After about fifty feet into the tree line, he spied a kind of trail left obviously by kids who had played back here for years. He knew a few of them. Getting on it, he found he was able to get close to Jean’s house. Before then, however, that sixth sense of his kicked in again. He stepped off the trail and did some bushwhacking towards Jean’s house. His instincts were proven to be solid. The man he had seen earlier was crouched down behind a short bush with binoculars looking at the back end of Jean’s house. He had a large backpack on, so maybe he was prepared in some way to do something with her or to her. Chills went down Hank’s spine. He was concerned.

Hank started to take inventory on what his situation was. It was what his dad taught him to do when he approached a problem. He didn’t have his phone. When he left, he didn’t want his mother to harass him, so he left it at home. The sun was going to set in less than an hour. Maybe even half an hour. Any movement on his part could alert the man. Not knowing what was in the backpack was troubling too. His presence watching the watcher was the best course of action for the moment he concluded. He quietly hunkered down behind a bush and continued to watch him.

Hank saw the man take off the backpack. Out of the backpack, he pulled out a Glock and a police radio. He clipped the Glock in its holster to his side. He added a few ammo clips. He recognized the style of radio from seeing his dad with one as he went to work recently. He put in an ear piece. He figured it was a bluetooth earpiece tied to the radio. This meant he was listening to the police band.

The police had recently switched to an all digital system which meant the public could no longer hear what was being broadcast over the police bands. His dad, along with many other officers, had been happy about this change as they didn’t have to worry about the bad guys hearing their conversations anymore. This, he could tell, was a game changer. The police wouldn’t know he was able to hear their every move. He could outwit them and they wouldn’t know why.

The man continued to outfit himself. Out of his backpack, he pulled out a big knife in its scabbard. He hooked it to his belt. He pulled out more changes of clothes and, soon, he was in all black, fully armed, and listening to the police radio. Hank breathed a sigh of relief that he had not alerted to his presence. Maybe his dark hair and dark shirt helped. Of course, he realized that the watcher wasn’t expecting him either.

Still, for safety sake, Hank dropped down further behind the bush he was behind such that he could still watch the man. The only bad thing was that the woods were darkening. That meant he would lose all of his advantages in less than twenty minutes. It would also mean that he would make easy prey since he noticed the man had night time goggles too. The good news was that he put them back into the backpack. Then the man heard something on the police radio, stopped what he was doing, and seemed to be on alert now looking deep into the woods around them for something or someone. The man ducked behind some bushes.

Hank slithered further behind the bushes grateful to find a few protrusions of granite coming out of the forest floor to gain better cover. He knew he was lucky to be in the part of the green belt that was part of a steep hill. Feeling secure for the moment, all he could do was listen for the man to do something so he could move too.

Rustling, Hank heard rustling. Then, in an instant, a flashlight beam danced across the trees for a moment or two and then he heard a soft thud. Carefully looking around the bush in front of him, he was horrified to see that the man was wiping off his knife on the ground. And on the ground next to where he was wiping, he could see an officer lying motionless. He held his breath and remained quiet though he wanted to scream with all of his might ‘murderer!’

In his heart, he knew the poor surprised officer was dead and that the man had just taken him down was now more deadly than ever. Who ever this man was, he wasn’t done either. He watched him purposely drag the officer off the trail and use brush to hide the body. Thankfully, or ominously not, the man began moving in toward Jean’s house leaving Hank alone in the woods with the apparently dead officer. The man moved in behind the Laignaux’ backyard shed.

Hank wondered briefly what brought the officer there. Then he realized that both he and the man went through houses to get to the green belt. Somebody might have reported it and an officer was just doing a quick check to keep a homeowner happy. Anything else would have caused the man to vacate the area. This would mean, however, that it would still be some time before they came looking for a missing officer. Hank concluded that he was the only one on the scene who was able to act and he knew he had accepted a heavy burden.

Seeing the need to proceed in haste, Hank stealthily moved out to the other side of the trail he had been on. This allowed him to approach where the man had been moments before. Once there, he spied the man working his way behind a shed in the backyard of the Laignaux home inching around it as if he was about to make entry and looking for someone on the inside to see him. Like many homes in that area, there wasn’t any fencing. The man’s attention was on the house and not on Hank luckily. While he had no real cover, he had the man’s attention on the Laignaux home to keep him from being seen as he moved into the bushes where the man had been just a couple of minutes earlier. The sky and wood had become quite dark now. In the gathering gloom, he pulled away the branches and checked the officer for a pulse. He was clearly dead even if he hadn’t checked. When his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Hank could see that his throat had been cut cleanly. It was gruesome to see a dead body, but he didn’t have time to react. He could barely see his name tag. ‘Holman’ it said.

By his portliness and his age, Hank guessed he had been on the force for about eighteen years. The beat in this neighborhood was for senior officers. Whoever he was, he wasn’t expecting a man in black to kill him. Hank figured that he couldn’t use his radio since that would alert the man who still had his ear piece in. He spied in one the officers chest pockets a cell phone and pulled it out. He wiped off some blood. It was a Samsung Galaxy 7, like his. All the cops at the station liked having a 7 or an iPhone. He tried to open it to make a call. It was locked.

Hank realized the officer was left handed because of where his gun was. So, he took his left index finger and opened the phone. Bringing up the messaging app, he entered his dad’s cell phone number. ‘Dad - Bad man. Has glock/knife. Officer down woods nxt 2 Jean Laignaux’s home - Sherwood Ter. - with cut throat. Off. Holman. Perp has police radio. Can hear what U say. Dangerous. He is entering Laignaux home via back door -- Hank. P.S. No joke!!!’ Hank pressed send.

Thinking quickly, he grabbed the officer’s service weapon. It was a 9mm semi-automatic Barreta M9. It was the same gun his dad had him use on the pistol range and obstacle course. Checking the clip, it had all ten rounds. He texted one last time. ‘In pursuit. I have officer’s weapon. Alert backup. Man in Laignaux home murdered officer’. He left the phone under the officer so if it was called, the man approaching Jean would not be alerted and they could use the phone to locate the officer’s body. Hank was going it alone. Looking back to the house, he could see the man had indeed just entered by the back door.

Hank took the gun and held it as he had been taught by his dad. He took the safety off and indexed his trigger finger on the barrel. It felt good. His dad had not only trained him at the range to fire an M9, how to index, but also how to shoot bad guys on the state’s obstacle course. There, his dad taught him to make split second decisions. It was their way of bonding now that his mom had kicked his dad out of the house. It was his Dad’s way of teaching Hank about good choices, bad choices, and difficult choices that needed to be made in the spur of the moment too.

Hank had come to understand that this was his Dad’s way of explaining how the divorce happened and why he left home. His dad knew to stay was only going to escalate their differences.

Stealthy, Hank moved quickly to the back of Jean’s door making sure he was not seen. He knew the interior lights, which were bright, would blind someone on the inside from seeing him. As he entered through the open door, he looked towards the breakfast table first. An older woman had been cold cocked and was lying on the floor at its feet. She looked like Jean’s grandmother. At least he didn’t cut her throat. But, she wasn’t going to get up anytime soon based on the lump on her forehead. Bit by bit, he warily entered the house. Voices, he heard voices. One forceful, one sobbing.

The home was like many tract homes in this neighborhood. He knew the layout even though he had been in their house only once. He knew that the kitchen opened up to the living room from around where the refrigerator was. The kitchen was also the way to the garage, so if he had to, he could hide there. Steadily, he moved around to the frig and listened in on the conversation.

“Get down here or I will kill your grandmother right now. And if your parents and you brother and sister show up and you aren’t down here, they will be killed by me.” Hank heard a scared girl coming down the stairs. “You were meant to be my Pygmalion, Camillia. Do you know how many transgenders will be helped when I out you. I had it all set up, and then that damn fool reporter turned out to be a fraud. I found out today that he was in it with the cops. And now they are on to me and about to figure out who I really am. So, I have to act quickly if I am to get the word out about you and get away too. I wanted to give you a little more time with your family before I took you away for good. Oh well. They have found me out and I need to escape before I get trapped.”

“Why did you do this to me? It was my choice!” Jean shouted.

“But I knew you wanted to be a girl. So, I turned you into one. Be honest, you like what I did to you. You wanted it.”

“Not like this! I hadn’t even had a chance to find out what being a boy named Camy was all about. You stole six years from my family so you could experiment on me? Every day, I had to do what you wanted, not what I wanted. You are a monster. You killed Steve with a baseball bat and I had to witness it! You killed two other boys too. Now you are threatening my family like the bully you are.”

“But, look at the girl you have turned into, Jean. Who would ever think you are once were a boy named Camille Jean Laignaux. Who would realize that you have completed High School already in your home schooling. Who would know you scored over 2,100 on your SATs. I am so proud of what you have accomplished with my help. I gave you the life of being a girl. I gave you your dream life. The one your parents would have stolen from you if I hadn’t intervened. They only accept you now as a girl because I changed you. In reality, they don’t want you. They really want their Camy back. And they don’t love you like I love you! I will show you proof later.” Hank thought, ‘You mean you will make it up.’

“Kids. Do you know I want kids? I love children. That is also a life I dream about too. You tore my balls off my body without asking my permission. You violated me! You are a sick man. I can’t say this is what I wanted because I had no say in it. How do I tell the boy I have fallen in love with, whom I dream about every night, that I can never have kids like a normal girl with him because I once was a boy? What is Hank going to think of me when he learns the truth about me? And how about my dream of being a teacher. I love tutoring other students. I like watching them get it and succeeding. I have so many dreams and all you want to do is give me one. One which I didn’t ask you for and you forced on me.”

Hank paused at what she had to say. She loved him too. Now everything made sense. He remembered the kidnapping years ago. His dad worked the case. His girlfriend was Camy. But even knowing the rest of the story, he knew that she was all girl. ‘So what,’ he thought, ‘she is my girl and not yours, you S.O.B. . I love her. You don’t.’

“Hank will get over it. That is why I have to take you away now too. And when he finds out the truth, he will count him self lucky because he is really a bigot I bet. He will reject you. You don’t have to worry. I won’t. I love you. I accept you as a girl because I made you a girl five years ago. I intend to take you away from this family that doesn’t deserve you. And from this community which will kill your dreams anyway. So, if you try to come back, I will have your family killed. And Jessica will be first.”

“You animal!” Jean lunged at him and he easily knocked her to the floor.

Jean sobbed more as Hank heard her crawling on the floor, “What are you going to do with me?” Hank heard him grab her and force her up. Then he heard him pushing her towards the kitchen.

“Time for us to go Camillia. And what am I going to do? I am going to take you to your new home in Argentina. We are flying out in my private plane tonight to El Paso to begin our journey. When they hear you have been kidnapped again, all the reporters in the world will report who you once were and interrupt their news programming or newspaper with a breaking story. You world here will be shattered any. Now get into the kitchen and find the car keys. What’s that? I heard a noise from the kitchen. Oh, its your grandmother. See, I didn’t kill her. Yet! So do what I say or she gets it!” Grandmama had indeed let out a moan. Hank readied himself in case she woke up and saw him. He knew the garage was in between him and Jean’s tormentor. The man obviously needed a different car and there was one in the garage.

Positioning himself against the pantry nook he found that the pocket door to the walk in pantry was open. He assumed a semi-shooter position and waited just inside the pantry doorway until Jean was pushed past where he was by the man on the way to garage door. “Find the keys to your car like I told you to do or your grandmother will be a dead woman on display in the morgue your uncle runs. Remember, I can make another one of you too in case you get any ideas too.”

Then, as the man came into view with his gun pointed at Jean who was terrified, her grandmother let out another groan. Despite her groan, the man turned towards Hank in the pantry instead and saw him for the first time. He looked panicked to see him standing there. Before he could react and shoot Hank, Hank quickly assumed a full shooters position, putting his finger on the trigger, and let lose with a barrage of bullets into the man. In reeling from the shots hitting his body, Mr. Jack fired his gun nearly hitting Hank and then firing a shot into the refrigertor. But, Hank didn’t stop until he had emptied half of dead officer Holman’s clip into him and he saw the life force leave Mr. Jack’s eyes.

A terrified Jean stood there looking as her dead tormentor crumpled to the floor. His gun fell out of his hand. His blood began to empty out. Then she looked up and saw Hank was the shooter. Hank kicked Mr. Jack’s gun away and then put his gun down on a kitchen island and went to Jean who was too stunned to know what had just happened.

Not realizing at first it was Hank, but then comprehending what he just did for her, her mind raced to try and explain things. Slowly, she perceived through the haze of the last few minutes that it was Hank who had saved her. “Oh Hank, I was so scared. How did you ...” She fell into his arms and sobbed.

“There, there. I had to protect my girlfriend. I don’t care that you were once a boy named Camy. You are my girl now and always will be. And I love you too.”

“But how? Where? Wow! Your girlfriend? Really! Oh Hank! Thank you!”

“I was coming over to tell you I was going to move in with my dad in January when I turned sixteen. That way we could date again. Then I saw the man outside your house.”

“But you had a gun? How?”

Just then, an officer burst into the back door and pointed a gun at the two. He lowered it right away. “Hank, are you okay son?” His dad looked at the man on the ground and nodded. He knew already what his son had just done.

“Yes Dad, I am. This is Jean. My girlfriend.” Jean looked up at Hank and smiled at hearing that again. Even through the haze of the moment, she heard that she was his girlfriend again. She hugged him and closed her eyes.

“He is your dad? Your dad is a policeman?”

“Yes, he is my dad. I got the gun from a policeman the dead man here killed in the woods just outside your house. And Jean, I heard everything in there about who you really are. I don’t care. You are my girlfriend and I love you, got it?” She held on to him and nodded yes.

Police vehicles had surrounded the Laignaux home. It was controlled chaos, Hank thought. A reporter named Jason stood there with his notebook writing down observations. He was the only reporter on scene. They even had a police vest around him so no one would question his being there.

Officers Bishop, Claudine, and Allison were there too. Hank looked at Cam’s appreciative expression as he slowly let go of his terrified little girl’s hand. “It will be okay Jean, I just have to give a statement. Mr. Laignaux, this is my dad, by the way, his name is Sargent Roads.”

“Nice to meet you sir and your daughter Jean. Now I get a chance to finally meet the girl who stole my boy’s heart.” Jean beamed when she heard that. Her dad shook Hank’s hand vigorously thanking him before sitting down next to his daughter while Hank’s dad, Mr. Roads, sat on the other side of Jean. They would protect his girlfriend while he gave his statement.

Hank was taken out back by a CID officer with a police lawyer there to represent Hank. He was briefly informed of his rights. Hank waved them. “You know. This isn’t an officer involved shooting, but we have to investigate as though it was because of who your dad is.”

“I understand, sir.”

“But, I want you to know. There is an officer’s family that is grateful that you avenged their loved one’s murder.”

“I know. I just wish I could have prevented it.” The three stepped outside and sat down at an outdoor table.

“First things first. Why did you shoot him?”

“Because I knew that if he had murdered officer Holman, my life was in danger too the moment he saw me. I also knew from what he said to Jean, that her life was in danger also. So too was her grandmother. I knew he was going to shoot me.”

“Why did you follow him into the house?”

“I knew that if he had just murdered an officer, he wasn’t safe in anybody’s house. And because he murdered the officer, his intent was likely to kill someone.”

“What legal right did you have to go after him?”

“I had the duty as a citizen to do what I could to insure that evil was stopped and the rule of law kept safe. ‘To protect and serve.’ My dad taught me that. He says that if he didn’t believe that, he couldn’t put on his badge every day and go out to do his job. When I saw this man murder a police officer, I knew that this man could take another person’s life just as easily and I had the capacity and training to stop him. I knew what I had to do. I had to pursue him and stop further bloodshed.” The police lawyer nodded and smiled.

“You could have been killed?”

“Yes. But, with great training like I have received from my dad, comes great responsibility. I don’t do drugs. I don’t steal. I honor the kind of man who has taught me to be a man. My dad. He taught me how to use that weapon. He is an NRA instructor and a range officer. He taught me when to use that weapon. He taught me right from wrong. Killing is wrong unless it is in self defense or defending the life of the innocent.”

“Yet you killed someone tonight using that training. Is that wrong?”

“And I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. But, I will also know at the same time that I saved Jean and probably a few other officers tonight because it was a justified shooting. That was the right thing to do. And that makes it worth living with. It doesn’t make me a hero. It makes me a man because I stood for right and not wrong. He made bad choices and I made the only one that could stop him from making more bad choices.”

For the next hour, Hank gave his full statement. The CID officer patted Hank on the back as he said goodbye and shook his hand. The police lawyer hugged him and shook his hand too. Both men were happy with what Hank did in defense of life.

After they went in to talk to Jean and get her statement, Sgt. Roads came out to take his son over to the scene of the deceased officer.

“Hello Hank. My name is Detective Bishop. I was supposed to protect Jean. I owe you. Well son, is this how you found Officer Holman?” asked the detective.

“I already knew your name sir. My dad told me that it was you who interviewed Jean at the High School. Yes, this is how I found him after moving the bushes covering him. I only moved his left arm to open his phone and took his phone out.”

“Excellent. According to what the first arriving officer, your dad, said, you heard him taken down by the man in black. When you raised your self up, you saw him wiping off a knife. Can you show us where you were. I know it is dark.” Bishop handed him a flashlight and he directed them to the spot where he was hiding.

“Show me how you were on the ground.” Hank assumed the position he was in. Bishop stood next to him and dropped to a knee. “Very good Hank. I think you were very smart to chose this location.” He offered Hank a hand up. “Now walk me through your steps after he vacated the scene and headed to the shed.”

Hank walked him through the steps. When they arrived back at the officer’s body, he noticed that the coroner looked up at him and smiled.

Standing up, he said, “Hello Hank. I want to thank you for deposing of the mole in my office. I am Dr. Larson, Sally’s dad and Jean’s uncle.” He shook Hank’s hand. “However, we are waiting on an independent coroner from the state to come in and take over the scene. Very complicated this crime scene is from a legal standpoint.”

“Please tell me, was it quick for the officer?” Hank asked worriedly.

“Yes. It appears he broke his neck as well as cut his throat. But, the other coroner will verify that. I can only visually inspect at the moment. But, the way his head is positioned, there is no doubt on my part that the neck is broken.”

As they walked back to the house, Hank realized he needed to go home at some point. He dreaded seeing his mom. “Dad, can I stay with you tonight. I really don’t want a dressing down by Mom.”

“It just so happens that the D. A. has given me temporary custody of you. So, you would have had to stay with me anyway.” He put his arm around his son.

“What you did tonight. It was very brave. I am proud of you.”

“Thanks Dad. I used all the skills you taught me on the obstacle course. I knew I could handle it. Like there was any choice. Dad, I have a question.”

“Fire away. I mean, ask away.”

“Why is Mom so bitter. The reason I was coming over tonight to see Jean was to tell her I was moving in with you in January. I couldn’t take Mom’s bitterness any longer. She wouldn’t even let me date Jean because of her flashback at the movie.”

“Flashback. Yeah, speaking of that. You are going to probably have them too now. I have arranged for counseling for you.”

“But Dad!”

“No, you need it. In most cities, the officer involved in a shooting that takes a life is required to take time off, with pay, to get counseling and intervention. Taking a human life has changed you. It will help to talk it out. You are going to go through the stages of grief too. Much like Jean is probably doing also.”

“Okay. I guess I can see your point.” Hank knew his dad was right.

“And that brings up another thing. You and Jean shouldn’t have sex until you both get the all clear from your counselors. Trust me on that. Right now, it would be a narcotic and lead to bad things. You both need to discuss it and give yourselves breathing room emotionally or your future as a married couple could collapse.”

“Is that what happened with you and Mom?”

“Yes, sadly. Her father, your grandfather, abused her. I won’t say how. I found out after we were married. That is why she doesn’t talk about him. Her anger at you and at me stems from her mistrust of her emotions and the emotions of those around her.” Hank’s dad turned to him to emphasize his next point.

“Son, all bitterness and resentment does is create a lover’s triangle where no one wins. That is why I taught you on the obstacle course. You learn there to take out the bad guys and protect the good guys.”

“Like that scene from Men In Black, where he shoots the girl carrying a physics book.” His dad chuckled and nodded yes. Hank ventured, “Well, maybe this will convince her to seek help.”

“I am sure it will. Already, the counselor just talked to her a few minutes ago on the phone. He casually mentioned to her that she would need counseling too in order to help you.”

“Oh great, I kill a man and kill two birds with one stone.” Sgt. Roads laughed and patted him on the back.

“Good one son! Just makes sure you don’t kill the love birds. I really like Jean. She is the sweetest girl I have ever met. I think you both were meant for each other.”

“So, do you know the truth about her now?”

“Yes, and I have been sworn to secrecy. I am one of the few officers who worked her kidnapping six years ago who will now know the whole truth.”

“Please don’t tell Mom until we are married and our children are in High School. Maybe college.”

“Don’t be hard on your mother. You becoming bitter isn’t going to make her any better either. At this point, I think you know she isn’t getting you back until she has recovered her soul in counseling and lets go of her bitterness.”

A few days later, seven officers raised their riffles and shot once, lowered them, then raised them again and shot, and then lowered them again and raised them again and shot. The Chief of Police took three casings from the team that fired the rifles and brought them to the military honor guard who then folded the flag draped over the officer’s coffin into a triangle. They then placed the casings into the folded American flag and delivered it to the officer’s widow and children.

Hank stood proudly next to his Dad who was in his dress uniform. He wanted to be able to salute like they were, but he was a civilian. He watched with pride his dad salute. He loved his dad so much.

The widow looked over at Hank and smiled through her tears. She mouthed the words, ‘Thank you’ and was escorted past the coffin to kiss it goodbye along with her grieving children.

As people left the graveside passing by the casket, Jean came over and squeezed Hank’s hand and held it. She was wearing the dress she wore on their first date. She had joked about wearing it to Hank’s funeral on their first date. And sadly, it could have turned out that way. Hank looked across the rows of mourners and saw his mom who silently waved at him. He knew they needed to talk. But not today. Finally, his mom and his dad were talking again. It was decided that Hank would stay with his dad until they worked things out. She had a change of heart. About time, he thought. He loved her too.

After most everyone left, there was just the team left, as Hank had come to know them over the last week. Jason Mandrake, Officer Juan, who had come up from Mexico to be a pallbearer, Detective Bishop, Officer Allison, Officer Claudine, Sergeant Roads, Texas Ranger Nelson who was also a pallbearer, and FBI Agent Morrison who was one too. The remaining three were one officer from the force, one from the military police which Officer Holman served on in the Army, and the last one, Hank himself. As a man, for that is what they called him now, he was the one who took out the man who killed Officer Holman, the family asked if he would be a pallbearer too.

Hank took Jean’s hand and confidently approached her dad. “Sir, may I have the honor of dating your daughter?”

“Same rules apply. Treat her with respect and be a gentleman. And guard her secrets.”

“Yes sir. I will. I shall. I promise to do all of that.”

“Then I would be honored to have you date my daughter.” Hank and Cam hugged. He asked if he could take her to the wake. Cam nodded yes.

As Hank walked to their car with his dad and Jean, he kept holding Jean’s hand. It was a bit of a hike, so they could talk along the way.

Hank asked, “So, you got over 2,100 on the SAT test? I am not surprised. You are so smart.”

“Yes, I did. I am only going to high school because I need to acclimate to living in the real world again. I could go to college right now if I wanted. But, the real reason I am so smart is that I studied as a means of escaping from my captivity. In those hours and hours of study, I was transported away from the hacienda into the real world and away from his evil.”

“Well, it looks like I will have a secret weapon to do well in school. Thank you for your French advice. It has been really helping. I am almost back to an A again.”

“Good. And it looks like I have a secret weapon too who will protect me.”

“Yes Ma’am. I am here to protect and serve. I hope for the rest of my life.” Jean giggled and was very happy with what he said.

Jean looked back up at Hank and said excitedly, “Is it true that your parents are going to try and get back together?”

“Yes. My dad never dated since the divorce. He kept hoping that my mother would see how caustic and mean she had become so they could get back together. I think that she has now seen that.”

“Good. Is she getting counseling?”

“Yes. It seems that lots of good things are happening in my life finally. You being one of them.” Hank stopped, looked at her in the eyes, then he leaned down and kissed Jean. She liked it. She leaned up and kissed him back.

Officer Roads stopped, turned around, and remarked, “Come on you two love birds. I am still your chaperon for the day. And we have a reception to get to right now.”

“Yes sir.” Hank and Jean said in unison.

Hank was ever the gentleman and opened the door for her again. They drove off together holding hands with his dad checking on them in the rear view mirror this time.

“Dad, how will the press cover this?”

“The reporter you saw at the crime scene is writing a story saying that a man impersonating Dr. Kendricks was planted in the corner’s office by a Cartel as a mole. While working there, he became infatuated with Dr. Larson’s daughter. Hearing that she had a look alike cousin, once he found out that his cover was blown, he went to kidnap her and take her to Mexico. In the process, he killed an officer.”

“How will my story appear in the paper, Dad?”

“You were going over to see your girlfriend using the old path to the home you used to use as a kid. You found the deceased officer, saw Mr. Jenkins enter their home with a weapon, and then used the officer’s gun to take him down before he could harm Jean. Your dad, an NRA instructor as you know, had taught you how to handle the weapon. You used his training to take out Mr. Jenkins.”

“What if it gets out who Mr. Jack really is?”

“It won’t. Detective Bishop and CID have it under judicial seal because minors were involved. Jason Mandrake says he will assist and keep you and Jean out of it too. In seventy-five years, the truth will come out, but by then, no one will care. By the way, you should read Mr. Mandrake’s article on the murder of the three boys. I have already seen it. He does reference Paul, just not Mr. Jack. The story goes on to say that Dr. Kendrick’s was saved by the Mexican authorities because of the investigation into their kidnappings had already identified the cartel as the source of their kidnappings. It seems Mr. Jenkins was using the boys as payment for his sexual appetites. Then the cartel moved him into being part of the operation of the morgue where they could taint evidence and then access the city’s network for intel. Paul was and is considered a mole and a sexual predator.”

“Sgt. Roads. What will the article say about me?” asked a worried Jean.

“He just says that you witnessed recently an unrelated crime in Mexico. Plus, that until they catch the criminal who is unaware that you witnessed his crime, you are to remain silent about what you saw. It will go on to say that they suspect that Jenkins chose you over your cousin Sally because you already speak Spanish. Sadly, for the future, it will be assumed that Camille Jean Laignaux is dead and you, Jean, were adopted by his parents and your real parents are in Mexico still. It will remain as a cold case with Bishop permanently in charge of the case. Jason and his boss have agreed to subtly squash any story about it.”

The three pulled up to the funeral reception. This was just for the cop’s family, friends, and those closest to them. Bishop and Juan were there along with Allison and Claudine.

Jean gave Juan a warm hug, “I am glad you came up.”

“The family asked and I was honored to say yes. Plus, it would mean that I see you again.”

“I don’t think I am the only reason now.” Jean said with a giddy smirk. “I think there is something between you and Claudine. Isn’t there?”

Juan blushed. “Please don’t tell her. Agent Morrison has arranged for me to get a year’s training in Virginia as part of an international deal. Coincidentally, Claudine will be attending the same class.” He winked and rolled his eyes with a whistle.

As Jean saw her walking over to them, she replied, “I think she already knows you really like her.” Even Hank let out a giggle as Claudine came over to talk to Juan. They let the two of them talk alone. Hank thought they looked cute together. Jean agreed.

Hank and Jean went over and greeted the widow who thanked Hank. “I know that you would have saved him if you could have. But knowing that you stopped the man with Nick’s gun made us at least know that justice was served and served quickly. And I am glad Hank saved you, Jean. You are lovely girl. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to find you were being kidnapped by a monster. You are so lucky to have Hank. Never lose him dear.”

“I don’t intend to lose him. I love my boyfriend.” Jean answered proudly. She reached out and held his hand once again.

Bishop later wandered over and put his arm around Hank. “So, please tell me, are you going to follow in your old man’s shoes?”

“Not exactly sir, I think I am going to law school and join the D.A.’s office.”

“Good for you. They need someone with a sharp mind who can size up things quickly. And, thank you for protecting Jean unconditionally. You know what I mean?”

“No problem Sir. I fell in love with her the moment I first met her. I could never do anything to hurt the person she has become. I have never met someone who is more real in who she is than Jean.” Hank looked at her and beamed. Hank thought it was sweet that she began to get a little teary eyed.

“And you, young lady. I hope you are you happy with who you are? Because we all sure are.”

“Thank you Detective Bishop. I am very happy with who I am now. More than ever. Thanks to you, Senor Juan, Hank, my parents, and my family, I really know who I am and, ever better, I have discovered I am very happy in my own skin now.”

“Do you plan to tell Sammy?”

Cam came up as the questions were being asked. He announced, “When he is older and can accept it. Jessica was ready. Sammy will take a while. He is at that age where he hates girls and doesn’t appreciate them yet. How about you? Did I hear something from Allison about a ring?”

“Yes, thank you, I asked her to marry me, finally. Speaking of which, Jean, would you go over to talk to Allison, please. There is an important question she needs to ask you.”

Bishop, Cam, and Hank watched Jean go over and talk to Allison. Bishop said, “One, two, three, ...” Hank looked at Bishop suspiciously.

Just then, Hank heard a cry of joy coming from Jean. She raced over to Hank to hug Hank. “I am going to be a bridesmaid! Can you imagine that?”

As if on cue, Bishop asked Hank, “Well, then, Mr. Roads, would you be interested in being a groomsman? This young lady needs an escort apparently.” Bishop boldly went on to say, “If you say no then ...”

“All right! No need to convince me! Yes sir, I would love that. When is the wedding?”

“It will be on January 27th, 2018. Officer Juan is going to be my Best Man. And Claudine is going to be Allison’s Maid of Honor.”

Having made their plans known, Bishop and Allison left the two lovebirds alone.

Hank led Jean outside and the two sat down on a bench away from everyone. Hank took her hands and said, “I want to talk about our future. I know you want kids. We can adopt.”

Jean whispered, “That is sweet, but Jessica has promised me her eggs. I think we can have our own.” She winked and giggled.

“Oh my, even better, with new techniques for implanting a uterus, you could even carry the baby, possibly?” Hank was happy.

“Yes, that would be wonderful.” Jean beamed with excitement.

“But, there is something more important I need to tell you. Because Mr. Jack took away your choice, I am giving you mine. You say when and where we do it for the first time. It is your choice, not mine. I just insist on one thing. We wait until our therapists say we are ready and that our past won’t harm our physical relations.”

Jean looked down for a moment and then back up at him, “Even if it isn’t until we get married?”

“Even if it isn’t until we get married. Of course, I get to pop the question.”

“After ...” she said sternly.

Hank rolled his eyes clearly pretending to be annoyed and said, “I ask your dad for permission to marry you.”

“I love you Hank. You seem to always know the right thing to say.”

“I seem to know how to say the right thing when I am around you. I love you too!”

The two sat and talked about their future. She wanted to go on to be a teacher while he studied law. She agreed they should wait until they both had counseling and had healed enough from their emotional wounds before having sex. It made more sense when Jean heard that was why Hank’s mom was so bitter.

When they returned to school, Hank found that Jean and he had become the talk of the school. Hank found that everyone knew already that they were in madly in love with each other and will eventually get married. He was hailed as a hero for protecting her from a rapist. And, because of Jean’s great grades, Jean went ahead and advanced to the 10th grade so she could be closer to her Hank and graduate with him.

Hank chuckled during lunch at school one day. Jean already has Sally talking about getting her maid of honor dress for April 8th, 2024, for a wedding occurring during a total eclipse of the sun that passes just north of Little Rock. So, that day, there will be two spectacular diamond rings to share with their family, friends, and loved ones.

Hank liked the idea. He said he can deliver the moon and a diamond ring on the same day to the woman of his dreams. But, he reminded her that he needs to pop the question first.

One morning before school, Hank’s dad knocked on his door. “C’mon snigglefritz, time to get up for school. I see you rustling and hiding in your bed.” Hank looked back at his dad with pleading eyes.

“Oh! I understand. There is breakfast in the kitchen. Take care of your problem.” Hank’s dad chuckled and headed to their small apartment’s kitchen. He figured out that Hank had just woken up with morning wood.

A few minutes later at the breakfast table, “Thanks dad. Mom would have embarrassed me for sure. That is something I like about living with you instead.”

“I don’t think that is fair judgment on your part. I know your mom would have understood too and left you alone just like I did to, how shall I say, iron out your difficulties.”

“Bad one dad! Really bad one.” The two laughed. “I thought women would only understand the monthly thing they endlessly complain about which, thankfully, I won’t have to hear about from Jean. How would women understand us guys and how it feels in the morning to wake up in a state like that anyway?”

“Well son, just like men, women can also wake up and find they are in an excited state that is embarrassing. So often, we assume men and women don’t have things in common sexually when they do. In this case, women can also wake up in the morning excited except they are just wet instead of being stiff like we are. It is our body’s way of testing our sex response and making sure everything is in working order. That’s all. It is natural and not evil.”

Hank blushed as he realized that his dad was giving him another lecture on sex, aka, the birds and the bees. “Women do also? Really! That can happen to Jean too.” Hank’s dad nodded yes. “So, wow, it can really happen to Jean.”

“Probably has already happened a few times, especially since she is in love with you. And, based on what you are telling me about her, she has, like many women, developed romantic desires for you two already. And believe it or not, that is normal too. And, from what I can see, Jean behaves like a normal and healthy girl who just happens to not have reproductive organs to deal with but has the ability now to relate to you as any other normal girl would. And that is worth you having a relationship with her for a lifetime.” Hank blushed.

Sgt. Roads went on to say as he poured some coffee for himself at the stove, “So, what your morning condition simply means is that according to mother nature, a body has matured and is functioning as it should reminding someone they are physically ready as a man or a woman to desire to be in a loving, fulfilling, pleasing, and intimate physical relationship with someone else. And making that a personal goal isn’t such a bad thing.” Sgt. Roads rubbed his son’s hair and sat down at the breakfast table.

“Okay, I get it Dad. Well if my morning wood shows I am mature enough to desire to have a physical and satisfying relationship with Jean, I am curious to know what on earth Jean’s is called that lets her know she is mature enough to desire to have a physical and satisfying relationship with me?”

Hank’s dad snickered and said, “Morning dew.”

– THE END –

Copyright © 2017 by AuP reviner



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