Andrew preferred to work solo until his partner was found. He hoped daily that his departure was voluntary, that he didn’t go rogue and got caught in a fatal situation. The day was unusually slow and he was about to call it when he got the call. “Desiree” flashed across his screen and his heart quickened. He hadn’t spoken to her since the night he went over, even though he desperately wanted to apologize. He took a deep breath before accepting the call. “Hey,” he said, trying to sound cheery. “Andrew…”
“Yeah, Dee, I gotta apologize for the other night. I was way outta line…”
“Andrew…Someone’s here,” she whispered.
“I don’t know. He kicked in the door. I’m hiding upstairs.”
“Can you make it to the back door?”
“No. He’s coming up the stairs.” Andrew stood up from his desk. “Dee, listen, you need to open the window and…” Before he could finish his instructions, he heard a struggle and Desiree swear. “Dee? Desiree!” he yelled, before the line disconnected. He slammed the phone down on his desk and covered his mouth. He took half a second to collect himself before he kicked the chair and strode across the room. Detective Shondra Miller sat a few feet away from him, typing up her notes on a current closed case. Andrew’s large stature cast a shadow across her, slightly startling her. “Jordan, what’s up?” she asked, reading the worry lines in his face. He grabbed a Post-It note from her desk and began scribbling an address. “If I don’t call you in an hour, I need you to bring back-up to this address,” he said, lifting the note to her eye level and dropping it back on the desk, before jogging out of the squad room. “Wait, what’s going on?!” she yelled at his back but he was already gone.
The street was quiet and the gallery was dark. Andrew parked closer to the curb and shut off his lights. He reached under his seat and produced his weapon, which he slipped into the holster under his arm. He leaned down and double checked the pistol strapped to his ankle. Armed for bear, he got out of his car and rounded the block. He needed the element of surprise and he knew that the back entrance would be ideal. As he crept down the alley, he saw the large, gray service door was already slightly propped open, the latch never catching from its previous use. Andrew unholstered his weapon and pulled the door open slowly before slipping inside. The space was foreign from this side of her makeshift wall: the storage area for her supplies had been disrupted, as if a struggle had ensued. As he stepped over paint brushes and eisels, he steadied himself for what he might witness behind the wall. He never saw the hulking man in the corner, until he clobbered him with something heavy, rendering him unconscious.
“Andrew! Wake up, please!” he heard her saying, faintly. He opened his eyes and lifted his head, which now felt several sizes too large. “Desiree?”
“Oh thank God. I thought you were dead,” she said, leaning back slightly. She was duck taped to the chair in front of him, her torso hidden behind the binding silver. Andrew moved slightly, when he realized that he was bounded the exact same way. “What the hell is going on?” he said, looking around the room. “That…giant motherfucker broke in here and made me call you. Then he tied me up,” Desiree said, looking over Andrew’s shoulder. Lurch stood silently in the corner, arms folded, unchanging like a living statue. “What does he want?”
“No clue. He hasn’t said a word.” Andrew looked around before he came to his own conclusion. “This isn’t a robbery. He’d be gone by now.”
“And you are correct, Detective,” a voice said from around the wall. “I see now why they gave you the gold shield,” Roman said, walking into view, followed closely by his former flame, Alice. Andrew took them both in before he struggled against his restraints. “You son of a bitch! Let her go!”
“Andrew?” Alice said, looking over at Roman and his henchman. “Alice isn’t my hostage. On the contrary, we have a lot of history between us. We go back like four flats on a Cadillac. Ain’t that right, Bird?” Roman said, stroking her arm. She snatched away from him and attempted to go to her husband, but he put his .45 in between them. She backed away slowly, so the gun was not pointed at her face. “What are you doing, Roman?” Desiree asked, confused at the connection between the four of them.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Desi. I needed you to get close to the Detective here. You were…mostly just a pawn to get Andrew all jealous and sloppy. Putting you in danger, I knew he’d rush over here on his white horse. Bird, have you met your husband’s girlfriend?”
Alice didn’t immediately recognize the girl; she’d mostly ignored her when she saw her husband. Looking at the two of them, she remembered her previous visit to the gallery. “Andrew, who is she?”
“Alice, babe, I don’t think that question is high in priority right now,” Andrew said, his eyes flitting between the gun and his wife. Roman turned back to Alice. “Bird, you deserve to know who you’ve married. You needed to know. He doesn’t deserve you.” Andrew lunged against his restraints again, but never budging. “And just how the hell do you know what my wife needs?” Roman turned to Andrew and took a few steps closer, waving his gun impossibly close to his face. “I’m the man who would’ve kept her happy. The man she wouldn’t need to cheat on to feel alive, the man who knows her body in more ways than she can count. The man whose life she saved,” he said, going back to her. Alice stepped back from his grip and looked up at her husband. “Take your fucking hands off of her.”
“Roman…” Alice said, tears welled in her eyes. “All you had to do was wait, Bird. We could’ve been hapy, but you settled for the ‘safe’ option, but you don’t even know who he is.”
“Oh, I get it,” Andrew chuckled. Roman turned to him, a snarl spreading across his face like a poisonous snake. “Enlighten me…on just what the fuck is funny,” he said, stepping closer to his hostage.
“You’re the ex. By the looks, you were a part of her ‘bad boy’ phase. You did a stretch and you held a burning flame for Alice the whole time. She probably told you she would be there for you when you got out but her life kept going and you were jealous. Jealous that you were in a cage like an animal and she got to grow and flourish and meet someone who actually had something to offer. So now, in some psycho, delusional state, you want to show her my ‘true colors’ and win her back,” Andrew said, half laughing.
A moment passed before Roman aimed the gun and shot a single bullet into Andrew’s left knee. The startled women both screamed at the loud noise. Andrew howled at the excruciating pain, doubled over in his seat. “Jesus Christ!” Alice said, before running towards her husband. Roman grabbed her arm and yanked her back behind him and pointed the gun at her. “Stay put,” he warned. Alice huffed, nostrils flaring like an angry steer. “Don’t fall for this white knight bullshit. He’s not as squeaky clean as he wants you to believe.”
“I’m going to rip your throat out!” Andrew growled. Roman leaned over him and pressed his gun into his Adam’s apple. “Try it,” he said menacingly, before going back toward Alice. “Roman, you’re insane!” Desiree said, tears streaming down her face. “No, I’m just interested in everyone being honest about who they are. I think Alice deserves that.”
“How the hell do you know what I deserve?!” Alice barked.
“You deserve better than a dirty cop.”
“What?” Alice said, looking between him and her husband. “Don’t listen to him, Alice,” Andrew said through clenched teeth.
“It took some doing, but his partner gave me all the info I needed.” Andrew jerked against his restraints again at the news of his missing partner. “You son of a bitch! Where is Martin?!”
“Desperately awaiting your arrival,” Roman said, pointing his gun at Andrew’s head again.
Detective Miller stared at her phone as another minute ticked by. It had been 36 minutes already and a bad feeling was sitting heavily in her gut. “Fuck,” she whispered to herself before getting up and going into the Captain’s office. “Captain, I think Jordan may be in trouble.”
The palette knife had broken in their scuffle but Desiree managed to hide it in her hand as Lurch yanked the roll of tape around her. It was dull and awkwardly shaped but she had managed to cut the tape partially up her back. The tape was cheap and poorly made and, with a few more scrapes, she could bust through the rest with some effort. She had no plan beyond this, however, her fight-or-flight reflexes were pointing toward FLIGHT. “Where the hell is Martin?” Andrew repeated. His rage was blinding, combined with the pain in his shattered kneecap, he was seeing red. “Did you know your husband was on the take? Stealing dirty money from crime scenes, lining his pockets? Accepting bribes from a well-known, highly sought after drug lord? Even to hinder the investigation against him?” Roman said, looking Alice in her teary eyes.
“So, you didn’t set up a sting that your department knew nothing about with your partner? You arrested someone, right? Was he ever processed?”
Andrew couldn’t think past the pain. “Andrew, what is he talking about?” Alice asked.
“He’s…lying,” he said, gasping. His leg was going numb from the blood loss. “Am I? So while you’ve been guilt tripping Alice about her indiscretions, you’ve been sweeping your own under the rug,” Roman said, leaning closer to Andrew, pressing his gun into the wound. Andrew groaned outloud, the bullet sinking lower into his leg. “Roman, stop,” Alice said softly. He looked up at her, tears streaming down her face. “Bird…don’t cry. You needed to know…” Roman said, going back to her and wiping her face. She leaned her cheek into his hand. “I should’ve just waited. We wouldn’t be here if I had…After all you did for me,” she said, looking him deeply in the eye. “Alice…what are you doing?” Andrew asked, still struggling against his restraints. She glanced over Roman’s shoulder at Andrew, trying to send telepathic messages to him of her plan. She kissed Roman, pulling his face into hers. It was the kiss he’d been waiting for the past 10 years.
Desiree saw her moment. She burst from her restraints and sprinted for the door. Lurch lunged for her and missed but she was stopped in her tracks by three bullets hitting her center mass. “No!” Andrew yelled, as she collapsed onto the floor. Her last breaths were shallow as the blood pooled into her lungs. Alice was shaken, stunned at the sound of the gun for the second time. “Motherfucker,” was all Andrew managed to say.
“You…you killed her,” Alice said, fresh tears falling.
“Isn’t that what we do for each other?” Roman said, stroking her stunned face.“So that’s it? You kill Desiree, you kill me, then you ride off into the sunset with my wife?” Andrew spat.
“Your wife?! What have you done for her?!” Roman ripped up the sleeve of his hoodie, exposing the long scar on his arm, his badge of love. “This woman saved my life. I took the fall for her, because I never thought, in a million years,I could repay her. I would turn over my life for her. I’ve never loved anyone, except Alice. No one could ever love you the way that I do. Not this cop, not that bitch from your job….”
Alice froze and moved away from him again. “What do you know about Jackie?” Roman didn’t reply immediately, swearing to himself for the Freudian slip. He was coming undone; he just need this to be over. “Roman…what the hell did you do?” Alice said, her voice growing intense.
“Nothing I didn’t need to.”
“Jesus Christ! Is that what you think we’re doing now? Killing people for each other? We aren’t Bonnie and Clyde! This isn’t the fucking Wild West!” Alice said, shaking with fury.
“I didn’t hear you complaining when I did 10 years for you! All I wanted from you was patience! To still be my woman, by my side until I got out! But I come home to you, married and tossing it on the side!”
The powers of deduction Andrew possessed were slowed because of the blood loss but his brain still churned out an answer. Roman and Alice were together and he took the blame for a murder she committed, to protect her. He thought she would be his forever because of his sacrifice, but she proved him wrong. It wasn’t the first time Alice would betray a man for her own selfish motives. He knew what it felt like to lay it all on the line to have it snatched away for nothing. Her love was just that epic.
A small red light danced on the floor near Andrew’s feet, calling his attention to the window where it came from. The curtains in the store front window were mostly drawn, save for a small sliver, where he saw Detective Miller kneeling, circling the laser to get his attention. A small wave of relief washed over him but he knew he was not out of the woods yet. He had to think of a plan, but with diminishing brain power, that would prove to be a task. He turned his attention back to his captor. “Roman, I’m here, now. Just let Andrew go and we can go wherever you want. Just…no more blood, please?” Alice pleaded, reaching out to her former lover. She wanted to deescalate the situation as best she could, free her husband and let him take over. “That’s not gonna happen, Bird. This ain’t just about you anym0re,” he said, turning his attention back to Andrew. He straightened up as best he could in the chair, preparing for the worst. Before Roman could make a move, Alice was between the two of them, the gun pointed at her chest. Roman looked at her quizzically. “Bird…”
“I won’t let you kill him. Let’s just go. Anywhere. We can have the life we always talked about,” she said, tears forming in her eyes. The emotional part of Roman, the side that would always be weak for her, lowered the gun. He never wanted to be the kingpin, never wanted the empire for himself. All he ever wanted was Alice. However, every decision he ever made, from geeking himself up to talk to her at the skate rink, to falling in love, to deciding to leave the life of crime behind, led to this point. “It doesn’t work that way, Bird,” he said, raising the gun again.
It seemed as thought the world had sped up to Alice. In retrospect, all the details would be hazy to her. She would look up and Roman would be dead at her feet. In reality, the SWAT team rammed the door in with their armored truck, knocking them all to the ground. Lurch and Roman immediately began firing their weapons at the police, Alice balled herself up as the gun fight ensued over her. A shotgun went off and Roman crumpled to the floor, fatally defeated. Lurch managed to go around the back of the building and was immediately seized and detained. “We need a bus! Officer down,” Detective Miller half yelled into her walkie talkie as she rushed to Andrew’s side. “Baby,” Alice said, stroking his face as he faded in and out of consciousness. Miller drew a blade from her boot and sliced him out of his restraints before applying pressure to his wound. “Keep him awake,” she said to Mrs. Jordan. “I love…” he said, trying to talk. “Don’t. Save your energy. Oh my God, I’m sorry Andrew. I’m so sorry,” she said, putting her hands on his face. He smiled in a silent attempt to console his wife. He tried speaking again; he needed her to know that he loved her. “Listen to your wife and shut up,” Miller said, waving over the ambulance. He reached up and stroked Alice’s face before he passed out cold.
It was difficult for Andrew to walk through the wet grass with a cane but he was determined to support his wife. Roman Kane’s funeral was small, a handful of childhood friends, Alice, her mother and her husband. Mrs. Murphy sobbed silently, dabbing her nose with her handkerchief.Alice wondered if her mother would have the same reaction if she knew the truth about her former son-in-law. The sermon was short, due to the light rain that fell as he was committed to the ground. Alice didn’t cry; all of her tears for old lovers were exhausted. As his birch coffin was lowered into the ground, she silently renewed her commitment to her husband, the man she belonged with. Her eyes were finally open to see what she had been searching for in front of her and was ready to embrace the wife she had promised to be. She wrapped her arms around Andrew’s waist and supported him back to their car, back to their lives.