S.W.A.T. Headquarters – Early Evening –
Hondo had looked at those two words a dozen times since coming back from the community center. Those two words had momentarily stopped him in his tracks. He faced threats every day and willingly walked into the face of danger without a second thought, but those two words, stop looking, forced him to an unexpected crossroad. Now what?
“Hey Boss, we’re all headed to Luca’s for a few drinks. You want to join us?”
Chris waited at the door for an answer. She wasn’t sure if he’d even heard her; just before she repeated herself, Hondo pulled his eyes away from the letter.
“Uh, no. I think I’m going to go and check on my mom and then call it a day.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Then as an afterthought. “Have one for me.”
“Will do. Goodnight.”
The impact of those two words hit him again. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do; his ego wouldn’t allow him to stop looking because someone threatened him, but his common sense pleaded for him to understand that the warning had implications far beyond him. It possibly was the reason that someone had killed Buck and could get him killed if he didn’t stop looking. He needed to know more about the squeaky-clean businessman, Herman Lauder especially now that he had shown up in Nechelle’s life. If nothing else, he had to keep her safe from the man who had everyone fooled.
Home of Herman Lauder – Evening –
It was good seeing his old friend earlier. She had done well; still the do-gooder wanting to prove her worth. He’d always taunted her about feeling guilty for her comfortable upbringing. She always denied her guilt, but he saw confirmation in her eyes as she so vehemently died his claims when he bragged that he knew her better than she knew herself.
He wished they had worked out and maybe in a perfect world they would have. But even in these times of enlightenment, certain things still mattered, and he could not risk disappointing his father and even now he couldn’t afford any distractions. Still the memories of their time together made him smile and seeing her today gave him hope that if nothing else they could at least be friends.
Gye Nyame Communnity Center – Morning –
Nechelle welcomed the distraction so when her old college flame called and invited her to lunch, she jumped at the chance to feel as if she were moving forward with her life. She was in no way over Hondo, and she couldn’t help but see the disappointment in his eyes when Herman had arrived. The last thing she wanted was for the two men to run into each other with her in the middle.
“So, how was lunch yesterday with your, friend?” Sybil teased.
“It was nice seeing Herman again. It’s odd that we’ve both been in Los Angeles since graduation and didn’t know it.”
“So now what?”
“We’re just old friends.”
“Is that why your face lit up when I asked about him?”
“Come on now stop it.”
“Looks like Hondo has been replaced.”
“I’m not sure that man can ever be replaced.”
“Does Herman know that? He looked pretty confident yesterday.”
“Well, we have history; history I don’t plan on revisiting.”
“Just be careful he looks like a man that’s not use to being told, no.”
Hondo killed the engine and sat in the car wondering if he had lost his mind. What could he say that would convince her to hear him out. They needed to talk, and he needed to know what his true crime had been; he wanted a chance to fix things between them.
As he neared the door, he saw her van parked in the lot and his nerves nearly sent him running back to the car, but he was here now, and it was now or never. He looked through the glass door and there she was, working and doing what she obviously wanted to do. He wondered if she’d see through his flimsy excuse for being there. Just before he pushed the door open his phone rang. Frustrated he shook his head, took another look through the glass door and hurried toward his car.
Hondo jumped in the car and started the engine before taking the call.
“What’s up, Deacon?”
“We have a hostage situation at the Barrington Hotel on Sampson and Fifth; at least three gunmen.”
“I have my gear; I’ll meet you there.”
Maurice watched the car speed away from the curb and he started his engine and fell in behind it. He had forgotten when it had become so easy to kill. His life had long past by, flashing before his once young eyes taking with it the hope and promise that had once been placed upon him. If he were asked why he had chosen such a dark path he’d have to say it was the day he witnessed his father being gunned down in their backyard as he and his family celebrated his twelfth birthday. Everything changed that day, birthdays, holidays, and all that mattered now was revenge.
Barrington Hotel –
Hondo parked and rushed over to meet the rest of his team. Deacon had the scene well under control and all he needed to do was to be brought up to speed. Hicks arrived just before the media cameras and crews.
“We have an audience.” Tan began.
“Okay, everybody let’s keep our heads on a swivel. We can’t afford any mistakes.” Hicks ordered.
“Witnesses say that three men dressed in black entered the hotel about thirty minutes ago and then they heard shots being fired.” Deacon added.
“Do we have an ID on our shooters?”
“Not yet.” Luca answered. “We’re still working on it.”
“Let me see if I can get someone to pick up the phone.” Said Hicks.
Maurice watched the action from the crowd nearby, taking mental notes. It wasn’t the first time he’d watched twenty squad in action and like the other times he was impressed. They were efficient, fast and smart. The weapons in their possession were state-of-the-art. All of them, even the commander respected Hondo and didn’t make a move until he ordered them to do so. Just like Buck he thought, and Maurice wondered if they would take their new leader’s death just as hard as they’d taken Buck’s.
Two hours later…
Hondo and the rest of his team had managed to bring the failed robbery attempt to a positive close with no one losing their lives and all three shooters in custody. They all considered this a win and with relief everyone headed back to headquarters. Things could have ended much worse, they’d seen it happen before so today was one they could chalk up for the good guys.
Hondo pulled into the lot after Big Betty; he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being followed. He wanted to dismiss it as paranoia, but the anonymous letter wouldn’t let him. He wanted to talk to someone, but he decided to keep it to himself; he still had a decision to make.
Deacon ran to catch Hondo just before he drove off. Annie had given him strict orders to invite their friend over for dinner; it had been a while since they had seen each other and even the kids had been asking about him. Deacon knew that Hondo was troubled about something but so far, he hadn’t been willing to share instead choosing to sink deeper and deeper into his work and making a conscious effort to distance himself from the rest of them.
“Hey Hondo, hold up!”
“Hey Deacon, I didn’t realize you were still here; what’s up?”
“Annie called she wants you to come for dinner.”
“Nope, nope I’ve been warned that if I come home without you, I will be on late night baby duty for a month.”
Hondo smiled at his friend; he knew what he was doing, and he appreciated the attempt to pull him out of his funk. He thought he had done a better job of hiding it but apparently, he had failed.
“I’m not sure if I’m good company tonight, Deacon.”
“That’s why you need to be around family, so come on; no excuses.”
Hondo looked at his friend and smiled. He was right, he needed family tonight and to be honest he was tired of feeling sorry for himself. Hondo was blessed to be surrounded by people who cared enough to worry about him.
“Okay, fine. I wouldn’t want you on late night baby duty, that’s never a good look the morning after.”
“Thanks, man I owe you big time!”
Home of Deacon and Annie Kay –
As Hondo and Deacon entered the house it sounded and felt like a big party. Much to Hondo’s surprise the entire squad was there, each person well into their first drinks. He wasn’t sure if he should be happy or upset that he had been tricked into coming; he wasn’t in the party mood and now here he was at a big fat SWAT party.
“Sorry, didn’t I tell you Annie invited everybody else too?”
“No, you didn’t. Look I’m not…”
“My bad, well you’re here now and it’s exactly where you need to be, so grab a beer and let’s get a plate.”
“Is this some sort of intervention or something?”
Luca quickly stepped between Hondo and Deacon and wrapped his arm around his friend’s shoulder and pulled him into a brotherly hug.
“Look boss, we’ve been worried about you and we need to make sure you know…” Luca began.
Street stepped forward interrupting Luca.
“We need you to know that we care about you and whatever’s bothering you, we’re here for you.”
Hondo was overwhelmed; he’d spent so much time and energy being strong and being the unbreakable leader and most of all he’d spent time and energy proving to them and himself that he was worthy of being their leader despite how he had gotten the promotion.
“I- I don’t know what to say. I know I’ve been in this funk and if I’ve taken it out on any of you…”
“Stop, okay? Just stop.”
Now it was Annie who intervened.
“We’re family, all of us and right now the food is getting cold, so let’s eat, now or you all will be on late night baby duty!”
“Yes Ma’am. They all said in unison.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami
(photo credit: latimes.com)