FIFTY-SIX

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Cars pulled up behind Captain Beal. The DEA agents were leaving. As he walked up to the vehicle first in line, the driver's window came down revealing a middle-aged man with a harsh face, his mouth set like a crack in granite, mirrored sunglasses hiding his eyes.

"We came up empty. Had to break open a couple of locked storage trunks, but there was nothing but engine parts inside. What a fucking waste of time this was."

Captain Beal resented the words. A young man's life was hanging in the balance and all they were concerned about was their lack of glory. "Perhaps next time you should double check your sources."

The sunglasses were ripped off, the guy's eyes as cold as the rest of his face. "Our sources are reliable."

"Yeah? Well, so is my dog, but he's been known to take a shit in my house every once in awhile."

It was obvious that Stoneface wasn't used to cops talking to him that way. "We got a problem here, Captain?"

"No. No problem. Just a kid being rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound and a rookie with possible PTSD, but as long as you guys are fine, I'm good."

There was a silent glare. Then, "We'll be in touch." The sunglasses were shoved back into place.

"Don't count on it," the captain muttered, backing up to wave them on. Not one of the other agents even glanced in his direction as they accelerated past him.

Not that he cared. Captain Beal had other things to worry about.

Swiping his hand back and forth across the smoothness of his bald skull, he tried to get a read on the state of mind of his second-in-command as he walked over to her. Blood and dirt covered her hands, smudges of it darkening her cheeks and highlighting the clean streaks that had etched their way down, the paths of her tears. She wasn't crying now, however, but he would have preferred that to the vacant eyes staring back at him.

At the moment though, his bigger concern was standing beside her, visibly shaking. Adrian was a mess. The probability of a police officer in Los Angeles having to discharge his or her firearm in the line-of-duty was currently around fifty percent, depending on the district. However, that was a statistic taken over a long career of dealing with hardened criminals, and not every incident resulted in injury. It did not take into account a rookie shooting a kid who had pulled out a cell phone. But regrettably, shit like that was known to happen in their line of work. They were people, not machines, and people were prone to making mistakes no matter what the training. Problem was, when cops made a mistake, it often had serious repercussions and haunted them for the rest of their lives. Adrian was going to need help. They needed to get him to the station and call in a counselor.

Pulling his scrutiny away from the distressed young man in front of him, Captain Beal looked at Virginia and said, "How about you go home and clean up? Can you do that?"

Looking dazed, she nodded and bent down to grab Simon's hat off the ground. Her shirt lay in the dirt next to it, the word POLICE barely visible through the crimson stain covering it, but she left it where it was as if ignoring its existence would wipe away the events of the afternoon. With head bowed, she cradled Simon's hat to her chest and started walking.

"Adrian, you come with me," the captain said to his rookie.

They walked out to the road together in silence, having to pass the abandoned Ferrari. Virginia looked away when the captain gave the open door a shove, cutting off the door-ajar dinging coming from within.

Captain Beal put Adrian into a car with one of his other officers. He kept an eye on Virginia while she walked lethargically to her own. "Shit," he muttered, his head getting another quick swipe. She was never one to ask for help, so he took it upon himself to get her some, pulling out his cell phone to make the call.

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