Continued from a previous post
Beginning can be found here.
Charlotte Rediker hummed along with music from her CD player. She had no reason to bake cookies, except that she wanted to. She had a batch cooling on the rack and another in the oven. To compensate for the cookies, she prepared a salad for dinner. Of course, what sort of compensation would it be with the added cheese and ham. Half of the cookies would have to be shipped to DJ and maybe she could talk Meg into coming over for coffee and a swing on the porch. She would, too, Charlotte knew. Meg would come even if it was just for a few minutes.
“Has anyone told you how beautiful you are?”
Her heart dropped into her stomach at the interruption to her thoughts. With a yelp, Charlotte spun around, putting her back to the work island. Her son grinned at her from where he leaned on the door frame between the living room and kitchen. For a very long moment, she stared at him, mouth open in surprise. Slowly, DJ crossed the room and pressed his face to her neck and wrapped his arms around her back.
Laughing through the tears, Charlotte kissed his cheek and pushed on his shoulders. She knew that if he didn't want to move no amount of shoving was going to accomplish the task but she wanted to see him. When he released her, Charlotte searched his face. He had a stubble darkening his cheeks that told of the length of his trip. Long gone was the baby boy. Even the young man who’d been home far too long ago was gone.
“Why didn’t you tell us you were coming home, Darcy?”
“I didn’t want to jinx it.” DJ kissed her forehead. “I’m exhausted but couldn’t wait to get home to see you.”
“How long will you be staying?”
“Depends.” DJ reached around her and grabbed a cookie. “There are some things I want to do and that will help me decide how long.”
She watched her mountain of a son pour milk into a glass and settle onto a barstool. His accounts were doing well, so it wasn’t money. Jessica had long moved on, so it wasn’t old business. “What sort of things, Darcy?”
“I want to ask Meg to marry me.”
There was no hiding the gasp of surprise but she waited a moment before speaking, “Well. I guess that would be a deciding factor on the rest of your life.”
“That’s not quite the reaction I expected from you.”
“No, I imagine it’s not.” Charlotte tended to her oven and pulled the last batch of cookies from the oven.
“Is there something I should know?”
“I’m very glad to see you, Darcy. I think the absolute world of Meg. I do hope that things work out between you both, I really do.”
“But?” he pressed.
“If I were to guess, I’d have to say that Meg has accepted that she’ll always be your girl and never anything more. I think you married the Army.”
DJ shoved the last bite of cookie in his mouth and then snagged another one, “Do you think she’ll tell me no?”
“I have no doubts that she’ll say yes. She’s been waiting for you for years. The more important question, Darcy, is what are you going to do about it when she does?”
He said it so simply that Charlotte looked up sharply. DJ grinned around the mouthful of cookie and sent his mom a wink. “Look, I may have been stupid about this all these years but I'm not going to marry her and leave things exactly as they are. Do me a favor? Call her mom and ask where Meg is hanging and whether or not she’s working.”
“Are you certain you don’t want to wait until you rest up?”
“I don’t want to wait.”
The ringing of the phone stopped her retort. It would have been obvious anyway. She’d have explained that he HAD been waiting. Instead, she picked up the receiver with a narrow-eyed gaze at her son and answered, “Hello?”
“Turn on your television,” her husband told her quietly.
“I’m on my way home.” Was his only explanation before he disconnected.
Quickly, Charlotte moved to the living room with a sinking feeling in her heart. Dropping the phone receiver on the table and taking up the remote control, she turned on the television. The last time Paul had called her in such a cryptic, quiet way, she’d tuned in just in time to witness the second plane crash into the second Twin Tower. Defensively, she crossed her arms across her chest and watched as the screen flickered into focus.
The commentator, a slender-faced brunette, was talking, “ ..where an apparent shoot out between rival gang members caused noon traffic to come to a complete standstill. Our own Brandon Carroll was on the scene soon after the police cordoned off the entire square block around the intersection.”
Coming to stand behind her, DJ squeezed his mother’s shoulders as a still picture of Brandon Carroll came on the screen next to the news anchor’s head. She continued talking, “A crowd had gathered in the streets, watching as the police worked the scene. This is unedited video was shot by our cameraman Freddie Lauder.”
The camera lens panned over the officers in the intersection and Meg was visible at the van, her jacket was pushed up to her elbows and her gloved hands held the box she’d pulled from the van, the only vehicle in the intersection.
“Michael was there.” Charlotte mentioned. They watched the on-screen image of Meg follow the shot as the camera panned to the right. The scene was busy with people and suddenly it cut back to the news desk.
“What happened next was a horrific tragedy and I will tell you that these next scenes are graphic and disturbing. If you have young children in the room, please consider turning them away.” She looked away from the camera and then nodded to her viewers, “Again this video is unedited.”
The video came up with Meg to the left of the camera. The man in the center of the shot was commanding the scene. They heard Brandon’s voice as he talked to the camera man, “That’s Captain Mulholland. How many departments do you see, Freddie? There’s Gang and Robbery. Whatever happened here wasn’t just a gang shooting.”
The first scream came from the left of the camera and Brandon swore, “There’s a gun in the crowd. Keep rolling film, Freddie.”
Freddie shifted just enough and the first shot was loud but quickly drowned by others. Officers at the barricade went down and Meg’s white shirt was quickly red before she fell to the street.
“Oh my sweet God.” The camera jumped and the images blurred as he tried to find the shooters in his lens. Three and other muzzle flashes on the other side of the intersection. Meg was caught in the cross fire.
Brandon and another man wrestled the shooter to the ground but the crowd had thinned or dropped to the ground. The police responded.
There was a brief fade to black and when the camera came back in focus, Brandon Carroll was framed in the scene. He had the beginnings of a bruise on his cheek and an obviously split lip. The sun light was different and just so there was no misunderstanding, the word ‘live’ was in the upper corner.
“There’s nothing that can take away the horror of what happened," he began slowly, his emotions obviously held with a slender thread, “I’m going without a script here. I haven’t had time or thought to work out what I should say to make this prettier than it is. Nothing can make this better. I have to tell you that the quick actions of the police department saved lives. People have asked me why they didn’t shoot back quicker. I'm here to tell you, as a person standing in the crowd, if the police on the scene had returned fire immediately, innocent bystanders would have been wounded and shot . It was because the police held their fire until they were certain of their shots that only those with guns were wounded. I have worked the crime beat for ten years and I have never seen the likes of this before. I’ve had coffee with many of these guys and they pushed past pain and shock to deal with fallen comrades.”
Brandon consulted his notebook, “Injuries run the gamut from flesh wounds to the more critical. Listed among the dead is Grant Black from the coroner’s office and Officer Trey del Carro. More names may follow as families are informed. Captain Mulholland and Detective Margaret Addison are listed in seriously critical condition. Both of their injuries are life-threatening. Both were rushed to St. Andrew’s hospital. Officers Andrew Sams and Quincy Morris are listed in guarded condition at Merril’s Hospital. There are two more whose names and locations remain undisclosed pending notification. They were all caught in a crossfire from shooters who stood on all four sides of the barricade and shot into intersection.”
“Brandon,” the woman at the anchor desk interrupted, “you jumped in to to the fight. Were you not worried for your safety?”
With a shake of his head, Brandon tucked his notebook away, “The shooters were intent on the members of the city’s police department. What happened near us happened on all sides of the barricades. Citizens took a stand. They took a stand against the atrocity that was happening next to them. It is quite a jolt out of complacency when people are gunned down right in front of you. My thoughts, and my prayers, are with everyone one involved here. The Mayor and the police commissioner are holding a press conference within the hour on the steps of city hall. Hopefully, we will have more answers to the question of who was responsible for the attack on the Police Department.”
"Brandon, people are wondering how so many could injured. How did the guns get so close?”
His tone of voice told DJ that Brandon Carroll thought his co-worker was an idiot. DJ was inclined to agree with him. “The officers are to keep order, not search everyone who comes out to gawk. The uniformed officers were there to maintain a perimeter and keep the crime scene clear to be worked. As part of their uniforms, they wear body armor under their uniforms. That still does not protect an officer’s arms, legs, neck or head from a bullet. The detectives on the scene were doing their jobs and essentially they were shot in their work place. I’ve got some follow-ups to do from this location, so I'm going to sign out.” He didn’t wait but angrily motioned to his camera man to turn off the camera.
When the screen went blank DJ kissed his mother on the top of the head, “I’ll take the bike and meet you there.”
He was through the door before she could reply.