S.W.A.T. Headquarters – Evening –
It had been another long day, but Hondo didn’t mind; he needed something to occupy his mind and work was a good distraction. He was happy that the case earlier had ended without the young man losing his life. Too many cases hadn’t ended that way. It bothered Hondo that he wore the uniform of men and women who were seen as a threat to those who looked like him. He was aware of the stares, the angry eyes that branded him a traitor to his community. But he wanted to make a change, his father had taught him as a young boy that if he wanted to make a difference, then he would have to become a part of the process to make things better. Now after nearly fifteen years he wondered if his presence as a black man in blue had changed anything at all.
“Hey boss, you still here?”
“I’m headed out now.”
“Good, I’ll walk out with you.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Luca still felt uneasy about the stranger he’d seen earlier; the same stranger that had been at their last few cases; watching and studying them, especially Hondo. His gut was telling him that it wasn’t a coincidence; Luca didn’t believe in coincidences. He purposely stayed behind to watch Hondo’s back just in case. He knew Hondo could take care of himself and he’d have a fit if he knew Luca had appointed himself as his personal babysitter, so he kept his fears to himself and promised to head home after making sure Hondo made it to his car in one peace.
“So, have you given it any more thought about being my assistant coach?” Luca joked.
“I haven’t given it any thought, period. I remember those days of getting up at 5:30 in the morning on a Saturday to practice before an early game. I didn’t like it then and I damn sure am not going to like it now.”
“Come on, Hondo. I really need a pitching coach; I played left field.”
“Left field? You know who they always put in left field don’t you?”
“Yeah I know. My coach kept me as far away from the ball as possible, but I still love the game.”
“I’d like to meet your coach, he’s a smart guy.”
“Oh, you have; he’s my dad.”
“Ouch, sorry about that man. You sure you want to coach a team?”
“I want to make a difference in this community. It doesn’t matter if we win, it just gives these kids a chance to learn some positive life lessons.”
“Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”
The two men walked out of the building together and headed for their respective cars. Luca paid careful attention to their surroundings and breathed a sigh of relief when nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Maybe it was all in his head and maybe the stranger was just a curious bystander and nothing more; maybe.
Hondo was surprised to see Nia’s number light up his phone.
“Hey, twice in the same week, that’s a surprise.” He began.
“I wish I could say it was for pleasure, but I can’t.”
“What’s going on?”
“I started doing some looking around after we talked the other night…”
Hondo’s heart stopped; the note warning him to stop looking flashed before his eyes. He wished he had never mentioned his suspicions about Lauder to Nia.
“Hondo, are you there?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m here.”
“I found something, and I think we better talk.”
Hondo waved at Luca as he passed him at the corner. He was only ten minutes from Nia’s office and her search into Lauder’s past was probably what had kept her at the office after hours. He had to get there and fast. It was clear that they were dealing with someone that was very well connected and if they knew he’d begun digging then it was certain they already knew that Nia was looking too. He had to get to her and convince her to stop looking.
Office of Assistant District Attorney Nia Wells –
With the exception of the cleaning crew that he’d passed on his way in, the building was empty. Her office was located on the third floor and so Hondo decided to take the stairs rather than wait for the elevator.
He was too late.
Maurice listened from the hallway as she placed the call to Hondo; it was good that Herman had suggested he pay her a visit. She’d found something and obviously it was enough that she felt compelled to call her friend. He wondered why people just didn’t mind their own business but if nothing else, it gave him a reason to get up in the morning. He loved what he did and knew most folks would consider him crazy for loving his work. He liked to think it made him honest. Nevertheless, he was here to do what needed to be done.
Her back was to him and she was so involved in her conversation; that and the noise of vacuum cleaners and conversations from the cleaning crew in the background gave him just enough cover to close the door and reach her without being noticed. Timing was everything.
Just as she shoved the phone back into her pocket, he grabbed her from behind, muffling her screams and holding her in place against his body.
“You’re a feisty little thing, aren’t you.” He whispered in her ear.
She smelled so good. He nuzzled his face behind her ear; first one then the other. He loved how she squirmed trying so desperately to break free from his grasp, but she was so tiny, and he was so strong it made him chuckle against her.
“I could really have some fun with you…show you how a real man treats a woman.”
She was hysterical now as she tried in vain to scream and cry beneath his gloved hand. He wished there had been more time to spend with her, but this was business; perhaps he’d return later for more. Instead he jerked her around. He smiled as he watched her try to see through his dark ski mask, hoping to remember something, anything just in case she survived.
“You’ve been a bad girl, a very bad girl.”
She was terrified, he liked terrified. She gasped, heaving hard to catch her breath but she couldn’t because he sent his fist slamming into her gut. He watched her drop to her knees, begging for her life through whispers of pain.
“I need you to deliver a message to your friend Sgt. Harrelson.”
“What? What message?” She cried.
Maurice pulled her to her feet with his large hand wrapped around her tiny neck. She continued to look intently into his eyes. He slapped her hard, again and again and her knees gave way. His grip around her neck increased to keep her on her feet. As her eyes fluttered shut, he kissed her lightly on her lips and whispered…
Hondo stepped inside the office; it was quiet with no sign of Nia. She’d called anxious and wanting to meet. He took a few more steps before he saw her lying on the floor; everything around her was in disarray.
He rushed to her side; she was still and unresponsive and, in that moment, he knew that he had caused this. Praying and pleading he pulled his phone from his pocket as he checked her for a pulse. He dialed 9-1-1 frantically shouting and demanding help for her as she slowly began to stir on the floor.
“Don’t move, don’t move…help is coming!”
He wanted to hold her to comfort her in some way, but he knew that would do more harm than good. He was a trained SWAT officer and there were procedures to follow in situations like this and looking at her on the floor hurt and bloody it was those procedures that would help him maintain his sanity. He’d been too late to save her. If only he’d gotten there sooner.
“It’s going to be okay; I promise…It’s going to be okay!”
(photo credit: Parade)