Author's Note: Hi folks! Do you believe it's been three years since I've posted a new story? Wow! I can't. That doesn't mean I haven't been writing, it just means I've been busy. Anyway, Storm Changes is the third story following God's Answer and Reflections. I'm not sure that you need to have read the first two, but it might help your enjoyment -- or not. :) It's not very long, and I hope you like it. This has not seen a beta other than my own two eyes, so all mistakes are mine.
It's been four years since the shooting that fundamentally changed our lives. Four years. Some days it seems like only yesterday. Other days it's hard for me to remember life before--before the bullet that took Jim's legs. He seems to have moved on with his life. Me, I still wish I could change that one moment in time. Jim tells me to let go of my guilt. The bust went sour, we did everything by the book. Me, I'm not so sure. What I am sure of is that if it had to happen, Jim's glad it was him and not me. He's told me. I wish otherwise, but I see his point.
Jim is still a cop. I'm still his partner. Everyone at the PD calls him Eagle-eye Ironside, because of his tendency to spot things at a crime scene before those with two working legs do. Jim ignores the appellation, but I think it bothers him. The granite-jaw and icy eyes are a dead give-away to someone who knows him as well as I do. I try to ignore it, too, and get his mind on something else. Most of the time he lets me. Other times I'll find him in the gym at home punching the daylights out of a punching bag. I know everybody, whole or not, has good days and bad, me included, but every time I see that, a little piece of me shrivels up and dies.
I miss the days when we could jump in the truck and take off after the bad guys. In his darker moments, Jim does too. Now, we have a souped-up, full-size conversion van. It can outrun almost anything out there, but it's maneuverability sucks. Simon has forbidden us to get involved in chasing down suspects. This decree came after Jim nearly tipped the van going around a corner--with Simon watching. Simon said his heart couldn't take any more close calls like that. Unfortunately and unknowingly, Simon's order killed something inside Jim. I saw a light go out in Jim's eyes, and I cried inside.
Jim has adjusted to the restricted field duty. He has adjusted to doing more crime scene investigation and working more closely with forensics. He has even adjusted to his role as an investigative consultant. All of this means he was still out there, part of the field, active. He's even taken down a perp or few with his creative use of his wheelchair--the man is fast, and strong. Simon's order put him on the sidelines. An observer, not an enforcer.
I tried talking to Simon, but it did no good. Simon made up his mind, and has refused to change it, even after I explained what he was doing to Jim. He said he'd rather have a live friend than a dead one. I told him he might end up with a dead one all the same. Simon got mad and threw me out.
All this happened the week before Thanksgiving. It's now Christmas Eve, and I'm back where it all began four years ago.
The alley hasn't changed much. Dirtier. More trash. Maybe more graffiti, but the walls are the same. I've managed to avoid this alley since that day. I'm only here now, because Jim is.
He brought us here after work. He didn't say a word, but I knew what was on his mind--the same thing that's always on mine this time of year.
He parked the van at the mouth of the alley. The light was fading fast, but there was still enough daylight to see it clearly, even for my eyes. I stared at the spot where Jim had crumpled, my chest getting tight. Jim squeezed my shoulder, startling me, before he maneuvered onto the lift and disembarked. I sat frozen, watching him wheel slowly toward the very spot. The life-altering spot. He reached it and just sat there for a moment. He looked around the alley, then up at the roof where Juan Rodriguez had been: the man who had fired the shot that had crippled him. I closed my eyes and swallowed. Finally, I forced myself to move and climb out of the van. Quietly, I went to him.
I've never seen him quite like this. Quiet, yes. Contemplative, yes. Brooding, yes. Angry, oh yeah. But this is some odd combination. I'm afraid to break the silence. I can sense he's making some kind of decision, and I'm not sure I want to know what it is.
I start a little, when he finally speaks. "It's over, Blair."
I hold perfectly still, hoping--praying--that he's not about to tell me our partnership is over, or worse, that his life is over.
"My life as a cop is over. I can't continue being a cop, when my own superior doesn't trust me to do my job."
Okay, not especially good, but not especially bad--yet. "What do you mean, Jim? Of course Simon trusts you!"
He shook is head. "No, not anymore. He hasn't since I came back to work full-time and went back in the field."
"What makes you say that, Jim?"
"Haven't you noticed? Little by little he's been restricting us--me--more and more. He's around more often on our ops. He's moments away when we make an arrest. I hadn't let it worry me, until last month when he appeared at every one of our busts just as we were executing. Then he pulled us off arrest details entirely."
I started to argue that wasn't true, but stopped. It dawned on me that we hadn't been in on any major operations since Simon's "no chase" decree. I thought it was coincidence, but just a few days ago Brown and Rafe took down the Manelli brothers without us knowing the operation was even set, a case that we had put a lot of hours into. This was an unsettling revelation.
"Why would he do that? You're still a better detective than any two put together."
That got a faint twitch of a smile. "You know I refuse to be a burden or liability to anyone on the force."
"You're not, Jim."
"Simon thinks so."
"What?" I blurted.
"He's worried that I'm a liability to others on the force."
"Because of what nearly happened with the van?"
"That just gave him the excuse. He's been working up to it for a long time."
"Surely it's because you're a friend and he's reacting to his fear of you being hurt."
"He's telling himself that, Chief. And he even believes it, but he's more concerned with others getting hurt because of me."
"I can't believe that, Jim. He was there for us every step of the way. He wanted you to come back to work."
"As a consultant. He didn't want to put me in the field. Remember how annoyed he was when I won the injunction against me going back to full active duty?"
I didn't know what to say to that, because it was true. Simon had always had reservations about letting us back in the field and had been more than annoyed when the injunction was lifted, but I thought we'd proven to him that we were more than capable. I guess I'd been wrong.
"What does this mean, Jim?"
"It means it's time to move on. I was prepared for the restrictions this chair put on me, for the necessity of lighter field duty, for the necessity of taking a back seat when suspects make a run for it. What I wasn't prepared for was my own boss not believing I could do my job, working legs or not. Hell, I know I can't chase down a perp. That doesn't mean I can't use other means at my disposal to slow him down."
"I wouldn't necessarily say you can't chase them down, Jim. You've outraced a fair number of perps, much to their disgust." I tried for light. I'm not sure it worked.
It got a tiny twitch of lips and a shrug.
"The hell of it is, Chief, Simon's right."
"No." This I refused to accept.
"Hear me out, Blair. Right now I'm holding my own. Probably stronger than I have been since I was in the army, but there aren't too many more years I can keep up this level of fitness."
"But that's not right now."
Jim shrugged again.
I waited for a few seconds. "What are we going to do?"
He looked up at me in surprise, then shook his head as if he knew he shouldn't have been.
"I see two choices for me at the moment. Yours are endless."
"I'm staying with you partner. You're stuck with me until the end of time, so get used to it."
This got a hoped for, if slight, smile. "The way I see it, I can either make Simon and the chief happy by going for that promotion to head Vice, or I can turn in my shield and get my PI's license."
"Since you're far from ready to be saddled by a desk, I'm betting we're becoming PIs."
"I say again, your choices are endless."
"And I say again, I'm staying with you."
"In that case, what do you think of the idea of going after your doctorate in your spare time? PI work is likely to be sparse for a while."
"I'd say--why don't we both go after higher degrees. You'd make a terrific guest lecturer on the criminology circuit."
Jim actually laughed. "If I'm not willing to slow down and take a desk job, what makes you think I'm ready for the lecture circuit?"
"Something to look forward to in your old age," I said cheekily.
Jim snorted, turned his chair around, and headed back to the van. "Come on, Chief, we've got plans to make and a Christmas to celebrate."
"Right with you, man."
Once again, we'd weathered the storm and come out stronger. Now, to inform Simon of our decision. I expected some Christmas fireworks. I couldn't wait. Heh heh.
The End (??)
Please feed the author? email@example.com