This is my second attempt at writing a mystery thriller. The characters are a product of my imagination. The locations in Fort Lauderdale and in Coral Springs do exist. I do my own editing, but sometimes things get passed my spell check and proofreader programs, so please forgive any errors. Remember, it's just a story with a happy ending.
I awoke to an annoying beep...beep...beep. I couldn't see a damn thing and when I tried to rub my eyes I realized my arms were in some kind of restraints. A tube was shoved down my throat making speech impossible. I couldn't see, couldn't move and couldn't talk. What the hell was going on?
The last thing I remembered was a blinding flash and a deafening bang. As I was beginning to remember the events that led up to that night, someone entered the room and spoke to me.
"Good morning Detective Stevens. I am Doctor Leonard Simmons. Now that you are awake I'm going to remove these restraints and take the ventilator from your throat so you can speak. After I've finished there is a Detective Collins in the hallway waiting to see you."
After he removed the ventilator I was able to speak with a hoarse whisper.
"What about my eyes?" I asked. "Am I blind?"
"Well, I don't think so but we should know more after a couple of weeks. Your retinas were severely burned by the 'flash/bang' grenade thrown into the room where you were. There's a good chance that they will heal and your sight will be restored." He replied. "Also, the concussion from the explosion destroyed both of your ear drums. However, we were able to restore your hearing with implants. So your hearing now is fifty percent better than it was before."
"What else is wrong with me?" Was my next question.
"The gunshot to your lower left leg broke both the fibula and tibia bones necessitating surgery to screw the bones back together. Your left shoulder was also injured by two gun shots. That was surgically repaired as well. Other than that and your eyes, you have no other major injuries."
Shortly after explaining to me what I had to look forward to over the next several months, the doctor left and my partner Detective Gary Collins entered my room.
"Damn, Rick. You look like hell." He quipped. "Let me fill you in on what you've missed over the past week."
"You haven't told me about Mendoza. Did we get the bastard?" I asked.
There was a long silence . . . "Tell me, Gary, did we get Mendoza?"
Finally he quietly answered me. "No, the bastard and his sister slipped out on us. But you did put five of his goons in their graves. And if that stupid-ass DEA rookie hadn't fired off that 'flash/bang' your eyes would be ok. You paid a hell of cost for this operation."
"You don't know the half of it, buddy." I said. "Emily had me served the day before this all went down."
"What!!!!" He exclaimed.
"Yeah, divorce and a TRO. I can't come within 500 feet of her or the house."
"Ah man, I'm sorry. What does she need an order of protection for? What are you going to do about it?"
" I don't know. I can't see, I can't walk and I can barely talk." I responded. "Gary, just what the hell can I do?"
Just then Gary's cell phone went off. After answering it he said to me. "Look man, I gotta go now. I'll be back tomorrow."
Lying there in my bed I thought to myself, just what in the hell was I going to do about this whole mess?
In my mind I went back some six years ago. I was eighteen years old and just graduated from high school. Just three months later, after 9-11, I enlisted in the Marine Corps hoping to do my part in a war against those who had committed that act of atrocity. I was discharged from the Marines after four years of service and went back to school.
While I was in the service I had taken a lot of college courses and managed to earn an Associate of Science degree in Criminal Justice. When I returned home I applied for and was accepted into the Police Academy. So here I was, two years later, sitting in a crowded student union studying for a test while eating lunch when someone asked if I minded if they could sit at the only available seat at the table. Without looking up I nodded and gestured for them to sit down.
After some moments I looked up and stared into the bluest eyes I had ever seen and immediately developed a case of the terminal stammers.
"P . . p . . please ex. . ex . . excuse my rude behavior." I managed to say. "My name is Rick. Actually, it's Frederick Stevens but everyone just calls me Rick."
"Hi Rick. My name is Emily, Emily Patterson, and an apology isn't necessary. I realize that I interrupted your studying so I should be the one apologizing."
From that moment on I knew that this was the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. By the time we had finished lunch I managed to secure a date with her for Friday night. She was enrolled in nursing school and going for a bachelor's degree, majoring in physical therapy and rehabilitation care. She had three semesters to go before finishing.
As for me, I was finishing my last semester of school and would graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice and become a police officer just like my great-grandfather, grandfather and father. I would be the fourth generation to work for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
That one date led to a hundred other dates and I fell more deeply in love with her. Shortly after Emily graduated we were married. She got a job at one of the many local rehab centers and my career in the department went from road patrol to the detective bureau. The next three years were wonderful and then I caught the Mendoza case.
Juan Carlos Mendoza was the leader of the major drug dealing cartel in South Florida. Recently he had branched out to include prostitution, gambling, loan sharking as well as other organized crime activities. The murder rate had spiked sharply in the city since he expanded his operation. The task force I was assigned to was given the job of bringing an end to his cartel.
It was decided that we needed to get someone inside his inner circle to gather intelligence. The trouble was that it was a very close knit organization and we had very few options for getting anyone inside. I was the one selected to infiltrate his inner circle. We decided the best way to do this was to get close to his sister, who was his closest confidant.
Angelique Mendoza had everything. She was beautiful, having blonde hair with just a smattering of freckles across her nose. She had a great set of tits and an ass that just wouldn't quit. Yep. She had everything, everything except morals. She would put out for anyone; young/old, black/white, male/female. It made no difference to her as long as she got off.
Now how was I going to get her to accept me without becoming another notch on her garter belt. There was no way in hell I was going to become intimate with her. So I decided to play head games with her. I began showing up at the clubs and bars she frequented. Finally, one night she spotted me and put her pretty ass on the stool next to me at the bar of the 'Elbow Room'.
We struck up a conversation and she must have liked what she saw and heard because the next thing I knew she put a major hit on me. I rebuffed her advances and that must have pissed her off. No one had ever shot her down. I left her sitting there and walked out. The next night I was back and the evening went pretty much the same, me leaving her sitting alone when I abruptly left.
This went on for several days and finally I sensed that I had become something that she had to have to protect her reputation. We started 'dating' but nothing went beyond the hand-holding stage.
I let her worm my cover story out of me over the next few weeks. I was in a business that required me to travel extensively to South America, Asia and Europe. Once, I made a trip to Hong Kong, or so I told her. In reality, I just disappeared for ten days. When I got back she pumped me for information, where did I go, where did I stay, what business did I conduct. I gave her just enough answers to whet her curiosity.
Then one day she said she had someone she wanted me to meet. We drove to a large home surrounded by a concrete block wall in Harbor Beach. I was in. It was Mendoza's home and headquarters. The conversation with Mendoza started off pleasantly enough but soon shifted to more direct questioning. I gave him my rehearsed cover story and he seemed to buy it.
Meanwhile, my relationship with Angelique remained the same, no sex. It was driving her crazy. As she became increasingly frustrated she started to let her guard down and I was able to learn a lot about her brother's operation. Then one night it all went to hell.
The plan was to arrest Mendoza, Angelique and his trusted lieutenants on charges of drug trafficking, racketeering and other assorted felonies. I was wired, as usual, and when everyone had arrived I would give the word to close in. As luck would have it one of his lieutenants brought an associate with him who I had arrested a couple of years ago. He recognized me, shouted a warning and everyone pulled out their guns and started shooting.
Mendoza and Angelique managed to slip away in the confusion and escape. And that's how I came to be in the hospital with a surgically repaired leg, wounded shoulder and blind.
During the two months of the undercover operation I wasn't able to see or contact Emily in way or fashion. All she was told by one of the task force members was I was on a secret assignment. It was hard on me not being with the love of my life and I thought it was hard on her as well. Then the day before the night of the gunfight I was served with divorce papers and a TRO. How in the hell had the Process Server found me I don't know, but he did.
The next day Gary was back. I had just finished lunch, if you called what they served in the hospital food and had pushed the half eaten meal away.
"Hey, partner, feeling any better today?"
"Not really." I replied. "What's new?"
"Well, word is out on the street that Mendoza is royally pissed at you and has vowed to kill you." He answered. "The hospital has posted their security people at all the hospital entrances and hallways on this floor."
I waved him closer and whispered a request to him. He put his right foot up on the chair next to my bed and, rolling up his pant leg, removed a .32 calibre automatic from a holster strapped to his calf.
Placing it in my hand he asked. "Just what in the hell are you going to do with this? You can't even see."
"I know." I replied, slipping it under my blanket. "I just feel safer having it with me."
"OK, but there is no way he going to get to you in here, Rick."
"Yeah. Just like he wasn't going to be able to slip past all those guys outside his house the other night." I snorted.
We shifted the conservation to some of the particulars about the case and spent the next thirty or forty minutes talking shop.
Before he left he told me that his wife, Susan, was going to meet with Emily in a couple of days and try to find out why she had me served.
"Thanks, Gary I appreciate that. Say hi to Susan for me."
"Will do, buddy." He said, patting me on my good leg as he left.
The only way I had any idea of the time was from listening to the TV, not that I could see it. When the eleven o'clock news ended I turned it off and tried to go to sleep. I must have just fallen asleep when the fire alarms went off. I heard a lot of commotion in the hall and then everything fell silent.
I was aware of someone entering my room and moving closer to the bed.
"You son-of-a-bitch. You ruined my business and almost got me killed. Too bad you missed. Now I'm going to kill you." It was Mendoza.
He snatched the pillow from under my head, I felt a gun in his hand as he leaned over and placed it against my head. He never got the chance to pull the trigger.
Thrusting my gun up into his chest, I fired two quick shots. As he was falling he did managed to get off one round striking me in my right shoulder. Damn that hurt!
The next thing I remembered was waking up in ICU and a nurse asking me how I felt.
"What a stupid question." I snapped. "What do you think? It hurts like hell."
"Well, you haven't lost any of your charm." A voice, I recognized as Gary's, said.
"Thank God you had my pistol or we wouldn't be having this conservation. You got him, Rick, you got him. Two in the chest, both in his heart. One of our uniforms got Angelique as she was waiting in the parking lot in his car."
"How long have I been out of it?" I asked.
"About twelve hours." He answered. "You're quite the hero. It's all over the TV news. The Sun-Sentinel newspaper is running a banner headline. 'Blind Cop Kills Crime Boss'."
"Great! Just what I need, publicity. I just want to get out of here, Gary. It's not safe." I joked.
"Soon buddy, soon. The doctors say maybe the day after tomorrow. When they move you back to a regular room the rest of the guys and the chief want to see you."
Two days later I was discharged and Gary and his wife were taking me to a secure condo apartment on the beach in Pompano to recuperate.
The Department was paying all the bills and arrangements were being made with an agency to provide me with around the clock care until I regained my eyesight and was able to look after myself.
I was told the apartment was the penthouse, twenty-five floors up with a great view of the Atlantic. Not that it mattered to me, being unable to see. This time armed Fort Lauderdale cops were stationed by the elevators and stairways. I could only hope they would do a better job than the guys from hospital security.
Gary and Susan wheeled me into the elevator and accompanied me up the twenty-five floors to the penthouse apartment. Once inside they described the layout of the place to me. We sat around and talking, avoiding the elephant in the room.
Finally, Susan said. "I saw Emily yesterday and . . . ."
Yes, I went to see Emily yesterday afternoon when I knew she would be home from work. As I walked up the sidewalk the front door opened and a man strode out carrying a small overnight bag. He brushed by me without saying anything.
Emily greeted me at the open door saying. "Susan, what brings you here? Come in and make yourself comfortable. Would you like something to drink?"
Emily and I have known each other since the second grade. We have been best friends forever. She and Rick introduced me to Gary some years ago and she was the matron of honor at my wedding.
"Cut the crap, Emily. You know why I'm here. What's going on between you and Rick and who the hell was that leaving with an overnight bag? Are you sleeping with him? Is he the reason you are divorcing Rick?"
"No! It's not what it looks like, Susan. That was Richard Scott. He's a doctor at the rehab center where I work."
At that point she looked down and wouldn't look me in the eye.
"He came here about a half hour ago. I didn't invite him. He wanted to spend the night with me and I was about to say yes when I saw my wedding photo on the bookcase. I realized I couldn't cheat on Rick even if I wanted too."
"Did Rick send you over here? I haven't seen or heard from him for over two months." She continued. "I'm divorcing Rick because he was cheating on me."
"Who told you that? It's not true and you know it."
"Oh yeah! Then why has he been fooling around with some blonde bitch for the last couple of months? It was Richard who told me. He saw them at a couple of clubs around town. I refused to believe him and then one night he took me out to the Kit Kat Club and I saw what was going on with my own eyes. I filed for divorce the next morning. I know he was served but he never even tried to contact me."
"How could he? You also got an order of protection against him. The restraining order prevents him from coming within five hundred feet of you or contacting you in any manner." I reminded her.
Looking at my watch I asked her. "Emily, have you been looking at the news or read the newspapers for the past few days? If not, there is something you need to see."
I went over to the TV and turned it to the local news on the Fox affiliate station. I sat back down and pulled a copy of that morning's Sun Sentinel front page from my oversized handbag. The lead story on the TV news was the take down of the Mendoza Cartel. When they got to the part detailing Rick's role in the case and his subsequent injuries, Emily became hysterical.
After getting her calmed down I gave her the paper with the headline splashed across the top of the page. "Read this later when you have settled down some."
I know what I put her through sounds cruel but she had to sense some of the pain Rick was enduring.
"But . . but." She stuttered. "Was he screwing that blonde just so he could make a case against her brother?"
"Don't even go there with that." I answered. "He wore a wire when he was with her and everything was recorded and he was also under video surveillance the entire time. Gary told me many of the guys laughed at him and couldn't believe how he could resist that slut. But he did. Do you know what his nickname is? It's 'Boy Scout', because he honored the vows he took to the letter when you were married."
"Are his injuries are as bad as the news makes them out?" She asked me?
"Worse." I replied. "Initially, he had a broken left leg and damaged left shoulder along with the blindness. When he was attacked in the hospital he sustained another gunshot to his right shoulder. He is totally incapacitated."
"Oh my God! Where is he? I've got to see him." She said, starting to cry again.
"No!" I exclaimed. "You need to do some things first. Remember you have a TRO against him. That needs to be lifted before you can see him."
"I need to see him, to get him to forgive me for being so stupid."
"OK." I replied. "Tomorrow he is being released from the hospital and this is what we are going to do . . . ."
After Gary rolled Rick's wheel chair into the living room we just sat around talking. I didn't tell Rick and my husband all of what happened the previous night. There was no sense in going into any of the details as that would just depress Rick further.
"Susan, how is she? Is she ok? I just want her to be happy." Rick said.
Just then Gary's cell phone rang. Answering it he said. "OK. Send them on up. We been expecting them." Turning toward Rick, he announced. "That was our security people. The representatives from the rehab agency are here."
Two minutes later there was knock on the door and Gary went to answer it with one hand on his service pistol until he was sure of who it was. Just as he opened the door to let the two reps enter, his cell phone rang once more. "Might as well . . . go ahead." Was all I heard.
The two men began explaining to me what their agency was going to be able to do for me when there was another knock at the door. As before, Gary checked who it was before opening the door.
Before the reps could resume their explanations, Emily walked in and interrupted them.
"Gentlemen, thank you for coming but I don't think my husband will require your services after all. I'm more than capable of providing care for him 24/7 now and for the next fifty years, if he'll have me back."
The next thing I knew she was kneeling in front of my wheelchair sobbing. "Please, please let me come back and take care of you. Please, Rick, please."
I managed to finally find my voice and said. "Thank you for coming gentlemen. But, I believe I've found the person I want staying with me."
Gary showed the two men to the door and thanked them again for coming. Then he and Susan came back into the room, gave me a hug and announced that they were leaving as well. Emily rose to her feet and gave Gary a hug.