The smell of the deserted alley was foul; too foul for even the random homeless to inhabit so it seemed. These were the times when Herman missed Maurice the most. Taking out the garbage was one of those things his friend handled effortlessly. The dampness of the morning air seemed to plaster the stench to his skin, and he desperately needed a shower. Even with the unpleasantness of the alley smells, nothing compared to the weight of the dead body slung over his shoulders.
Looking around, Herman lifted the lid of the dumpster, then with a huge breath he lifted the large bundle and tossed it into the large green cavern. Herman had no remorse for what he had done; the woman had come highly recommended, but in the end, she’d proven to be nothing but a liability. Quickly, he replaced the lid trapping the dust and fumes inside. Again, he thought of Maurice and all the others who were responsible for his failings. As he made his way back into the building, he also thought of his late father and silently renewed his promise of revenge.
S.W.A.T. Headquarters – Morning –
Street knew he was late for morning briefing but once he shared what he’d learned he’d be out of trouble. Cmdr. Hicks looked irritated, and it didn’t help that the other members of his team did too.
“Glad you could join us this morning, officer!” Hicks boomed.
“I’m sorry, Commander, but I got a call from a C.I.”
“Well, don’t keep us in suspense.”
“He was at a bar last night and overheard a woman named Loretta Johnson bragging about shooting a SWAT cop.”
The room went silent for a brief second before the air was ignited with energy and anger.
“Tan pull her up on the screen.” Ordered Hicks.
Tan moved quickly to one of the terminals and searched for the woman. In seconds, her face and criminal history populated the screens around the room.
“She’s a known associate of Leroy Henderson an OG from…” Tan continued before being interrupted.
“Wait, that’s Hondo’s friend; Darryl’s father.” Deacon interjected. “He was just released from prison on an early Covid release deal.”
“This isn’t the first time his name has come up, why haven’t we brought him in for questioning?” Hicks asked.
“We haven’t been able to locate him.” Luca answered. “Do you really think Leroy had something to do with Hondo getting shot?”
“From what I understand they haven’t been getting along ever since Hondo refused to put in a good word for him.” Hicks responded.
“I don’t know Commander, the 911 call after Hondo was shot came from Leroy’s phone.” Chris added.
“That’s a little convenient, don’t you think? What’s the likelihood that Leroy shows up at the exact time and place where Hondo gets shot?” Deacon added.
“No way he shot Hondo or had anything to do with it!” Chris insisted.
“We won’t know for sure until we bring him in.” Then eyeing the team. “Find him! I want his ass in custody before the day is over!”
St. Mary’s General Hospital –
Charice and Daniel stepped off of the elevator hand in hand. If anything good could come out of this situation it was that the two elder Harrelson’s were closer than ever before. She saw him as the man she’d fallen in love with over four decades ago and he felt as if he was finally the man his family could lean on. Now if only his son would recover and make it home, then he would truly feel happy.
Darryl had arrived an hour before. His face lit up as they approached.
“What’s going on? Is Hondo okay?”
“I don’t know. I got here an hour ago and they told me to wait out here. The doctors and nurses have been in there all this time.”
“Oh my Lord…” Charice began.
“Hold on now, let’s just wait to see what the doctors have to say before we assume the worst.” Daniel insisted.
Just then, the medical team exited the room wearing weary smiles of relief.
“How is he, doc?”
For the next four hours, the Harrelson family visited in the small room. They had been ordered not to tire Hondo out, and they tried their best to comply. Hondo tried his best to stay awake but found himself falling asleep off and on. He was relieved to see that his family was still there when his eyes opened again.
It was late afternoon when Leroy returned to the hospital. He knew that he needed to see Hondo and he’d promised his son that he would visit. He’d broken too many promises over the years to break this one too.
He wasn’t surprised to see his son and Hondo’s parents sitting around the bed. Even from the doorway, he could tell that his friend was struggling to stay awake. Leroy noticed the surprise looks when he knocked lightly on the door frame.
“Hey Dad!” Darryl stood and moved toward his father. “You came!”
“I said I would, right?” Leroy nodded at the others as he came closer. “Good seeing you Mrs. Harrelson, Mr. Harrelson.”
“You’re looking good Leroy, come on in.” Charice greeted warmly.
Daniel stood smiling and shook Leroy’s hand firmly.
“Yeah, come on in. I suppose you and my son have a lot to talk about.”
Hondo hadn’t said a word. He saw the nerves on his friend’s face as he shifted to find a place to settle in the room.
“I think we should go find something decent to eat. Daniel, Darryl, let’s give these two some time to visit.” Charice ordered.
“Yes, ma’am.” The men said in unison.
The two followed her out the door while Leroy took a seat next to Hondo’s bed. The air was thick, neither man knew where to begin.
“You had us scared for a minute, Hondo.”
“Why what, Hondo?”
“I don’t understand what happened. Why were you there?”
“Word on the street is that it’s hunting season on LAPD.” Leroy answered.
“Gang enforcement thinks your old set may be responsible for the shootings.”
“Is that right?”
“Yeah, we were hearing rumblings from informants just before I got shot.”
“Why are you telling me all of this?” Leroy asked.
“Do you know anything about it?”
“If I did, I wouldn’t tell you. I ain’t no snitch, Hondo and you know that!”
“I’m not asking you to snitch. I’m asking if…”
“…If I had anything to do with you getting’ shot?”
“Leroy, that’s not what I’m asking, man.” Hondo moaned in pain.
“Maybe you should get some rest.”
Leroy stood to leave. The two men were stubborn as two bulls, both had much more that needed to be said. Hondo watched Leroy head to the door.
Leroy slowly turned to face Hondo.
“Thank you? For what? I promised my son I’d come see you.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
Leroy approached the bed again.
“I know you’ve been tailing me all week and I know why.”
“No, let me finish.”
Leroy took his seat again and waited.
“You saved my life. I’m not sure why after what I did or what I didn’t do.”
“I wanted you to pay for not having my back; I still do. I don’t understand why you didn’t put in a good word for me, but hey, I’m still a free man.”
Hondo felt a twinge of shame. He had allowed his principles to make him forget that friends never left friends hanging. This wasn’t the first time that Leroy had saved his life. If it hadn’t been for Leroy, Hondo may not have made it out of the neighborhood without serving jail time or ending up in an early grave.
“I’m sorry, really. I was so caught up in what and who I thought I was…I didn’t come through for you. I’m sorry, man.”
“My son thinks the world of you Hondo and you’ve managed to turn his life around. I saved your life, you saved Darryl’s life, so I guess we’re even.”
“So, now what, Leroy?”
Leroy was still angry in spite of all that had happened. He wasn’t sure why he’d saved Hondo’s life and he wasn’t sure why he was here now except that he’d promised his son he would.
“I asked you to watch out for my son when I was locked up.”
“I did the best I could…”
“I asked you to watch out for my son…” Leroy repeated. “…but instead, you tried to steal him away and now the boy thinks he’s…”
“Better! Like you, you think you’re better! You got out and you think you’re better!”
“No! No, I don’t. I wanted him to know that there was more out there than gang bangin’ and selling dope! He’s a father now and…”
“No, you wanted him to forget where he came from! You didn’t want him to be like me, isn’t that right?”
“C’mon Leroy, that’s not what I was trying to do! You know what happened to him in prison, he wasn’t going to live much longer. There was a target on his back just because he was your son!”
“Well, I’m home now and I’m relieving you of duty. Darryl is my son and I want him with me.”
“He has less than a year of school, what are you talking about?”
Leroy stared angrily into Hondo’s face.
“I’m coming for you Hondo and it won’t be no drive by or a SOS stop on the side of the road.”
Hondo watched the fire and determination dance in his former friend’s eyes.
“I’m going to take my son back, I’m going to remind him of where he came from and who he really is, Hondo.”
“Don’t do this Leroy. Don’t undo all of his hard work. He’s come so far, and he knows now.”
Leroy stood erect puzzled at what he meant.
“He knows that there’s a whole world out there. He knows that he doesn’t have to settle, he doesn’t have to prove that he’s a man or live his life by some antiquated code of the neighborhood, Leroy!”
Leroy chuckled and shook his head, still looking down on the injured man. He knew too well that the odds were against his son. Hondo was naïve to think that things would be different for Darryl just because Hondo had filled his head with lofty dreams that never applied to people like them. So, he turned, still laughing and shaking his head at the foolishness.
“Yeah, okay Hondo, we’ll see, we’ll see.” Then just before he opened the door, he turned back to face Hondo. “Take care of yourself okay Hondo? I want you on your feet when I see you again because you’re going to need all of your strength and that’s a promise.”
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13
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