the Pandora Dilemma. Chapter 7 – unedited
Protocol, Fin. Protocol. Always remember…
Shit, I hate protocol.
Rules and regulations flitted through Finley’s mind; what to do, what not to do, what other people have done that they shouldn’t have; everything that was always going through Fin’s head. It’s just that this time, it was louder, like some obnoxious fast food customer forcing his voice through a drive-thru speaker. It wasn’t the dull murmur of the normal day. This was a jackhammer of pages, paragraphs and lines, pounding his skull.
He’d watched Dustin’s eyes roll back in his head, like an old comedy with Don Knotts; some goofy, associable hero gets the hell scared out of him and passes out. The ‘almost’ came with a pretty stark difference though. Don Knotts never fell in the blood of a dead cop.
Finley held fast.
The gun was still too close to Dustin’s hand, too close to help him from falling.
Goddammit, Dusty… Why you? Why today? Just… why?
“Christ, George… “
The slain officer’s partner had made his way to the scene, pointing his gun at the unmoving suspect. His hand was shaking, his jaw was quivering. A few tears mixed with the blood as they hit the pavement. His badge read “Sans”. Fin knew him. Everyone gave him shit for his name and called him sheriff. Finley knew his partner too, the body on the ground. George Rudz.
Fin found both of his eyes torn between two guns. He used his boot to slide Dustin’s weapon away from him, flinging it across the street. He took his hand and lowered the twitchy cop’s piece.
“He’s down. He’s not going to be a danger to anyone.”
“Did you shoot him?”
“I didn’t have my gun.”
Sans snorted. No cop only carried in singles.
“Fucking bastard. Goddammit, George. Goddammit!”
Sans’s whole body was shaking. It was hitting him. When the adrenaline was pumping the only thing he knew was the goal. All he could see was a perp standing on in the middle of a shit-storm, holding a gun. He saw that an officer was down, names and faces didn’t matter. But now, seeing the mess that used to be his mentor, the guy who’d had his back for five years… There was no distancing from that.
Finley didn’t know what it was like to lose a partner. He knew what it was to fear it. He knew what it was to have nightmares about it. Normal people don’t always get it, the connection between two people who see this shit everyday. Good partners aren’t like friends. They’re sure as hell not like coworkers. Someone once told Fin it was like losing a brother, kid and dog at the same time. And on top of that, on top of the loss, you’ve got the guilt.
Finley caught Officer Sans as he was going to his knee. He was young, younger than Grant. He wasn’t ready for this. Fin squeezed his shoulder, trying to reassure him by doing everything everyone always does without thinking about it.
“I’m alright, Fin. I just… It was my turn and he ran out there. I wasn’t quick enough. It was my fucking turn.”
“I get it, Sans. Right now you need to get this guy in the car.”
Sans grimaced, repulsed at the thought of touching Dustin.
Finley sighed. He didn’t want to do this by the book. Too many connections… But that’s why he had to do it.
“I know this guy, Sans. He’s a friend. You need to be the one to cuff him. You need to be the one to get him in the car.”
“You fucking know him?”
“Yeah, he’s an old friend. I didn’t think he was capable of this. Hell, he was on his way to the station.”
Sans couldn’t say anything. He just took a deep breath and nodded.
Finley stepped back, giving the younger more room. He watched Sans grab Dustin’s pants and drag him out of Rudz’s remains. He didn’t want to touch any of it. Fin couldn’t blame him.
Sans stooped over Dusty.
“Ain’t this some shit?”
Fin didn’t know if it was directed at him or not. Maybe it was to god. That was doubtful, though. There were two types of cops in this city. Those that had seen too much to believe and those that had seen so much they needed the faith just to survive. No one from either group would talk to god like that.
Fin gave a nod, off-handedly agreeing.
Sans’s fingers tapped Dustin’s cheek and a quick, loud sound snapped from the touch.
Sans pulled back, holding his hand, looking at his fingers.
“Damn, that hurt. What the… fuck… was…”
Fin took a step closer. He saw Sans waver. He saw his hands start to shake like he was getting ready to tag an underpass. A single vein in the middle of the cop’s forehead expanded and pulsed a few times before the skin broke and it hemorrhaged a stream a couple yards long.
From the neck up, he was red.
“IFN FUCKD NNG!”
With the words came a pillar of steam. His tongue was boiling. His taste buds had turned to pustules, popping themselves with the heated pressures from within.
Sans pulled his gun again, steadying his trembling hand just enough to take aim directly in the center of Dustin’s chest.
Finley’s mind wasn’t fast enough to counteract his body. He pulled the small .22 from his back holster and planted a single shot in Sans’s shooting arm. The shoulder was a perfect target for stopping a shooter… usually.
The cop’s eyes burst but he’d already locked on.
Finley could only imagine the reason why the pained and gurgling words coming from his throat didn’t have any resemblance to english anymore. Another popping sound and Fin’s thought was confirmed. Sans’s vocal cords combusted.
Fin fired again, again, and again. Six bullets went into Sans’s chest and lain him out on the street.
There wasn’t a chance to call for medics.
As Finley’s hand reached in to get the phone, Sans’s head stopped being a head.