“Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction.” – John Owen
Four weeks had gone by, and Hondo had passed his physical to return to work on limited duty which meant he would be handcuffed to a desk or forced to watch from the screens of the command center as his team fought crime in the field without him. He hated being left behind to watch and to admit that he was human and dispensable. He was still 20 David and he still called the shots, but in the field, he had to watch as Deacon led. It was only right and maybe it was karma to be forced to watch the man whom some say was next in line to run his own team. Deacon should have replaced Buck; everyone knew it…it was what drove Hondo to be better than good each and every day. It was also an ugly reminder that he hated politics.
The last four weeks felt more like four months and he felt out of place. Visits and phone calls from his squad had helped to keep him sane but still he felt he had to prove himself all over again. He’d have four more weeks before he could do that. His recovery had been riddled by unanswered questions and self-doubt; Hondo wondered if what he did for a living really meant anything in the end.
Even though his family and friends had tried hard to support him, he wasn’t comfortable, and peace eluded him. He secretly continued to battle with pain, refusing to take the prescribed medication for fear of ending up like many others he knew from his past. At least three friends from childhood had either died from overdoses or were serving time for selling drugs. He wanted nothing to do with it and didn’t trust himself to be able to control the use of it even if it would relieve his pain.
S.W.A.T. Headquarters – Morning –
“A little more to the right…no….more…more…” Chris instructed.
“How’s that?” Street asked.
Chris had taken it upon herself to make sure Hondo felt special when he returned. So, she’d driven the others crazy for the last three hours demanding that they be her hands and muscle while she acted as the brains. The most important thing was the six-foot long banner that stretched across the width of the break room. It had to be perfect down to the last centimeter; now with the last adjustment, it was.
The large stainless-steel island was covered with a white tablecloth and filled with a banquet of amazing foods. The smells of bacon and sausage, eggs and waffles permeated the room. Bagels and other sweet pastries confirmed that there was a party about to happen. Chris eyed the placement of paper plates and cups, then checked to make sure the coffee pot was filled, and napkins sat at every corner of the room; it was indeed perfect just as she had planned.
Deacon smiled and shook his head at the youngest member of their makeshift family. He knew Chris was the heart that kept them beating and he hoped that her plans and intentions would not be lost on Hondo who had insisted on no fanfare. Checking his watch, Deacon exhaled; Hondo would be walking through the door at any minute.
Hondo could smell the food from the front door as he stepped inside. The area was unusually empty and quiet, and he knew something was up. He’d pleaded with Deacon and Luca not to do anything special for him; it had only been four weeks after all. Both men assured him that his return would go unnoticed…they lied.
Hicks met him halfway down the hallway with a cheesy grin on his face; the unofficial escort no doubt. Hondo tried in vain to turn towards the locker room as Hicks quickly pulled him down the hall.
“Hicks?” Hondo asked glancing at the man’s hand on his arm.
“Nah, you know what’s up. Don’t pretend you don’t smell all of that food.”
“Damn! I told Deacon and Luca that I didn’t want a fuss…”
“Come on Hondo, they love you and honestly, you’ve been hard to love lately.”
Hondo stopped and looked Hicks in the face stunned.
“What? Have I been that bad?”
“Hell yes!” Hicks answered with a grin.
Without another word, Hondo grinned and followed his boss into the kitchen.
The room was filled with SWAT officers who’d waited patiently for his arrival. Hondo didn’t want this but the faces smiling and waiting for his reaction was something he couldn’t ignore. Everyone began clapping and cheering as he bashfully waved pleading inside for them all to stop and for God to bless him with the power of invisibility. Neither happened as Chris rushed him throwing her arms around him in a big hug.
“Welcome back, Boss!”
“Did you do all of this, Chris?”
“We all did and we’re starving so come on and make a plate.”
There was nothing more to say; as fast as Chris had appeared, she was gone and so was his opportunity to complain about the fact that he wasn’t worth all the fuss. So, surrendering to the festivities, Hondo did as he was told and joined the room of so many who had gathered to show him how they felt, to break bread and to welcome him back to the place where he belonged.
Lt. DelDotto pulled the large front door opened and made her way down the dim gray halls. She’d been here more in the last several weeks than she had in her entire fifteen years on the force. Her last meeting was a surprise visit to Cmdr. Bob Hicks whom she’d always seemed to butt heads with. Now she needed to see Sgt. Harrelson about an open murder case that kept haunting her; she hated open cases especially if they were on the brink of going cold. More than that, DelDotto hated knowing that cops were tangled up in her cases; in particular those who thought they were going to get away with murder.
Hondo was well into his second plate when the door opened. The stranger’s presence seemed to bring a halt to the celebration as all eyes turned toward the door. She didn’t seem to mind the fact that she had crashed a perfectly good early morning party. Hondo watched as she approached him stopping just short of being intrusive of his personal space.
“Sgt. Harrelson, I hope I’m not disturbing anything.”
Hondo looked around at the other faces before turning back to face her.
“What can I do for you Lieutenant?”
She looked over the table at the leftovers that would still feed an army.
“Quite a spread.”
“Help yourself.” Hondo offered.
“No thanks, I don’t eat swine.”
“Suit yourself.” Hondo responded taking a large bite from his bacon.
“We need to talk.”
“Can it wait?”
“No, it can’t, unless you want to have this conversation in an interrogation room.”
Hondo shrugged his shoulders and turned to the crowd.
“Thanks everybody! I really appreciate all of you and all of this!”
Hondo waved and headed out of the room with DelDotto on his heels.
Hondo slammed the door to his office and turned to face the woman.
“What’s this all about, Lieutenant?”
“I’m trying to give you a chance to clear your name in the Ricky Bolton case.”
“I already told you, I didn’t have anything to do with that!”
“You may not have pulled the trigger, but you know who did!”
“No, I don’t!”
“I’m not naïve I know there are some dirty cops on this force…”
“So, now your accusing me of being dirty?”
“Not at all; but given what happened to you, I wouldn’t want you to be influenced or tempted into taking the law into your own hands.”
“You don’t know me Lieutenant; I became a cop to make a difference. I’ve worked my ass off to get here! So, if you’re looking to solve your case, you’re looking in the wrong place!”
She watched Hondo move away and toward the window. He was failing in trying to hide the pain that he was in. He was the key to solving her case, of that she was sure. DelDotto wasn’t going to stop digging until she found the truth no matter where it led her and no matter who was brought down in the process.