(This is the second half of the opening scene in all its unedited inglorious first draft form).
The boy curled up on the concrete floor, sides still heaving, but momentarily settling down.
A voice came from over Grace’s shoulder. “How can I help?”
She glanced up. “And you are?”
A man with close cropped curls and hazel eyes stood in the doorway. “Your new partner.”
“Don’t think so. I only work with Father Kelly. Besides, I turned in a resignation last week, not a new partner request.”
He crouched beside her. “If we’re lucky, my screwed-up transfer will get resolved and I’ll be out of your hair before your last day.”
“You got a badge?”
He shook his head.
She reached for her cell. “You have any reclamation experience?”
“Six months with the Halstead department.”
“Divya,” she said into the phone, “put Father on the line. What do you mean? No, there wasn’t a council meeting on the calendar. Forget it. Let’s skip to the part where some guy showed up on my reclamation scene claiming to be my partner. Well, that’s just great. Somebody owes me dinner for this.”
A smile lit the stranger’s face, punctuated by a pair of dimples. “Now that my story checked out, may I introduce myself?”
“Nope. Don’t have time. The kid’s getting the shakes again. Take my phone, hit number three and tell them I need a medic removal.”
He grabbed the phone. “Officer Balswick here. Requesting medical removal from Portobello Pasta. Male. 18 to 20. Inhalant overdose. Thanks.”
Grace leaned over the kid. “Brandon, can you hear me?”
The boy whimpered as the convulsions rippled through him.
“Brandon, I want to help you but I need your permission.”
“Yes, help,” he mumbled between clenched teeth.
Grace pressed her open palm to his chest.
Balswick leaned close, laying his open palm on Grace’s shoulder.
Brandon’s eyes flew open as the heat penetrated his bones and sank into his chest. In quick order, his body relaxed, his eyes closed, and he fell into a restful sleep.
The buzz-cut restaurateur stepped into the room. “Thought we were gonna lose him while you two were bickering.”
Grace was on her feet in an instant. “Balswick, you got a gun, now’s the time to back me up.”
His voice came quiet, for her ears only. “No gun.”
She moved into the jarhead’s personal space. “Riggs, isn’t it?”
He squared up. “That’s right.”
“Brandon said he’s been working double shifts the last couple weeks.”
“Yeah,” he said, his jaw tightening. “Said he needed to make a little something extra.”
“Know what I think, Riggs? I think you told him that if he didn’t take those doubles, he’d lose his job, and with his record, he couldn’t afford that. You knew you had him in a tight spot. And then you slipped him a little something to help him stay awake and work a little faster, didn’t you?”
He stepped back. “How do you know he didn’t get that powder on the street on his way here?”
“He wouldn’t touch the stuff.”
A vein in is temple pulsed. “And you know that how?”
“Because it killed his mama,” she said, grunting as her fist connected with his jaw.
He slumped against the wall and hit the floor with a thud. He was still there, with Balswick standing over him, when the medics arrived.
The taller of the two looked at Grace and said, “You want me to take at look at your hand, Justice?”
She shook her head. “So you can bill the department fifty bucks for a bandaid? Not likely. But I’ll take some water.”
He chuckled and tossed her a bottle of water while Balswick and the other medic lifted Brandon onto the stretcher.
As they strapped the boy to the stretcher, Grace said, “He’s been out ten minutes. We’ll meet you at Blackwell in twenty.”
She headed out of the restaurant.
Balswick followed. “Hey, this Father Kelly doesn’t mind you punching civilians?”
“Not especially. Look, Riggs was lacing that kid’s coffee with meth. Now he’ll think twice before doing something like that again.”
“You guys have an unusual way of doing things here in Arcadia.”
“No reason for you to worry about it, though, is there? Not like you’re going to be sticking around to learn the ropes.”
“Even if I was, you wouldn’t be here long enough to teach me, right?”
She stared at him a long moment. “Blackwell is about eight miles from here. Street name’s the same as the facility. Take the south tunnel and you can make it in fifteen minutes. I’ll meet you there.”
He stood still, looking out into traffic.
“Just waiting to spot a cab.”
“Why? What’s wrong with your car?”
“Don’t have one.”
“You don’t have a badge, a gun or a car? What kind of cop are you, Balswick?”
She bit back a smile. “Well, aren’t we a pair to draw to.”