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"Cop of the year," Darren Wilson muttered. "Cop of the year? The man's just a fucking detective, for God's sake! We're the real cops!"
His partner took his eyes off the road for a second to glance at him. "You have to admit that Ellison's solve rate's pretty spectacular."
"Well, yeah - but it's us, the Patrol cops, who risk our lives every day, who're the real cops. Pull over some idiot for speeding - we never know if he'll pull a gun and start shooting. There's a 911 call - armed robbery somewhere. Who answers it? Patrol. Not the detectives, it's us. Accident on the freeway - us. You know what happened to Tod Atkins last month. Sent flying by a fool who didn't want to slow down just because there had been an accident that blocked half the road. But we're never considered when the almighty high-ups are deciding on who's cop of the year!"
"You could always sit the detective exam, apply to move upstairs," Pete O'Rourke suggested.
"Nah. I like Patrol work. I just wish we got more recognition, though."
Wilson's complaint was interrupted by the car radio. "Shots fired at Granville's Emporium on Medway. All cars in that vicinity please respond."
Wilson promptly reached for the radio, "Car 34 responding," as O'Rourke took a sharp right turn quickly followed by a left. A few blocks later, the car jolted to a stop outside the shop next door to Granville's, double parked because of the parked cars already lining the street. As it did, another patrol car stopped on the opposite side of the street. Quite a few pedestrians were hovering nearby, watching, but there were none in front of Granville's.
There was silence for a moment, then as the cops got out of the other car - which was in full view of the Emporium - there was a flurry of shots. A car that happened to be passing just then swerved and came to an abrupt halt rammed against the side of a parked car some twenty yards past the stopped police car. And then Wilson and O'Rourke watched in horror as Bruce Foster - a rookie who had graduated from the Academy only the previous month - fell and lay still.
The more experienced Tom Mason, ducking down behind his car, returned fire.
Wilson, already half out of the car, drew his gun and moved carefully to where he could just see through the display window into the Emporium.
He could see only one man, but because of the angle getting a clear shot at him was pretty well impossible; and Wilson had no doubt that there was at least one other gunman in the place, because there was no sign of either the staff or the customers who would have been in the store.
And then there was one shot from inside the store, and the man Wilson could see disappeared as he fell. A minute later the door opened, and a very average-sized, long-haired man with his hands held in clear view stepped out. "Clear, guys," he called.
Wilson recognized the man instantly. Ellison's civilian ridealong, Sandburg.
Mason - who had clearly also recognized Sandburg - was already bending over Foster. Meanwhile, Wilson was half aware that several members of the public had moved to help the driver of the crashed car - a job that should have been theirs, only they had something more urgent to deal with.
As Wilson and O'Rourke headed into the Emporium, they saw Sandburg running across the road to join Mason, already pulling out his cell phone.
Inside, they found a man lying in a pool of blood, a gun some feet from his outstretched hand; O'Rourke paused to check him. Further in, Wilson saw Jim Ellison grimly holding a gun on a nervous-looking teen. Behind them was a motley crowd of staff and customers, one or two clearly near-hysterical. At the counter, two women were bending over a third, who was lying moaning.
Wilson cuffed the teen as O'Rourke joined him. "Guy's dead," he said.
"I think Sandburg's called for an ambulance," Wilson muttered. He was aware that he was going to have to rethink his opinion of Ellison.
Mason came into the store. "How's Bruce?" O'Rourke asked.
"Not serious," Mason replied. "He said he thought the best thing he could do was lie still and hope the shooter thought he was dead. Sandburg's stayed with him." He looked around. "Hey, Ellison. What happened?"
"We were in here getting a couple of things when these two - " he indicated the teen and the dead man - "came in. Started firing at the staff on the counter right away, before making any demands. Almost as if their target was actually the girl who was shot." He glared at the teen.
"Yes," the boy whispered. "She... She was Dwayne's girl, but she'd broken off with him, and he didn't like it. Said if he couldn't have her, nobody else would."
"Where did you come into this?" Ellison demanded.
"Dwayne's my big brother. He... I... " He stumbled to a halt.
The door opened and a paramedic came in.
"Over there," Mason said, pointing towards the counter. "That guy's dead."
The girl, although badly injured, was still alive and hurried off to hospital. Foster was also taken to hospital, but released after treatment. The car driver was shocked, but uninjured.
And Wilson quietly admitted to O'Rourke that, although he still thought the patrol cops were, in general, the real cops, maybe he'd been wrong about Cascade's cop of the year.
Maybe Ellison had, after all, deserved the title.