Disclaimer: The Characters of Due South belong to Alliance Communications. No copyright infringement is intended.
What have I gotten myself into? Why in the world would I volunteer to take on a title and write a story to it? You got me. I have no idea what went through what passes for my brain. Sigh. OK. I can do this. I can. I am a 'writer'. Yeah. Sure I am. Could have been that I really like that song title, even if I haven't heard the song. This is going to have to be a Kowalski story. Yeah, I know. I like him a lot. Even if he is blond haired and blue eyed. My family, being First Nations folks, I tend to prefer dark hair and eyes, and hairless (or nearly so) chests. He certainly fits that one! So, of course, does the Mountie. Sigh. This went over the limit, so I rewrote it...twice. I did finally manage to do one that met the criteria. However, I decided to go ahead and finish this. Hey, a story is a story, right?
Hmmmm. Seems that real life has reared its lovely head. The following is based on a real incident. Odd. I never expected to turn that particular occasion into a story.
As always, I'm playing in someone else's toybox. I'm grateful that they created the characters I use and even more grateful to the actors who brought them to life. Most of all, I'm grateful that the rightful owners of the intellectual property that I borrow do not sue me for the misuse and abuse of them.
Jumping At Shadows
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"Is something wrong, Ray?" Fraser asked in concern. It seemed that Ray was somewhat jumpier than usual
"Nah. Nothin's wrong." But he took a careful look at the other people in the caf. Fraser cocked his head and looked around, as well.
"What, or more precisely, for whom are you looking, Ray?"
Ray brought his nervous eyes flickering over his companion before going back to searching the other patrons and the people outside on the street, passing by. "It's nothin', Fraser. Don't worry about it."
Fraser sighed, closed his eyes and shook his head in dismay. "Ray." When his friend didn't look at him, he reached across the table and lightly touched his wrist. "Ray?"
Ray jumped as though the touch had held an electric current. "What?" he asked, annoyed.
"Ray, obviously there is something bothering you. You keep looking around like you expect someone to be out looking for you." At the way Ray flinched, Fraser leaned closer, lowering his voice. "Is that it? Is someone after you?"
"It's nothin' to worry about, Fraser. Just drop it, okay?" He forced his gaze away from dissecting the passersby and to his partner.
"If it were nothing, Ray. You wouldn't be searching the crowd so much. What's wrong?" He shifted back, his brow furrowed down in concern.
Ray knew that there was no way to divert the Mountie once he had his radar turned on something. With a sigh, he leaned back, closed his eyes and rubbed one hand over his face in the classic 'I've got a headache' manner.
Ray remained quiet for another moment, then, just as Fraser opened his mouth to say his name again, he straightened up, his hand coming down to join his other hand on the table. Fingers laced together, he looked at his partner. "I got word that somebody got out of prison a couple of days ago. Word is that he's headed here, lookin' for me."
Fraser's frown deepened. "Obviously this someone is recognizable to you?"
"Yeah. He is."
"Who is it, Ray?"
"You don't need to know, Fraser. I don't want to be puttin' you in any danger."
Fraser regarded his friend and partner. "Ray, if he sees us, here for example, he'll know that we are at the least colleagues, and at the most, friends. When we get back to the station, will you show me his picture, please? Just so I'll be able to recognize him if he shows up?"
Ray dropped his head, both hands coming up to massage his temples, indicating the strength of his headache. "Yeah. Sure. I can do that."
Fraser smiled slightly and leaned back, lifting up his cup of tea and taking a sip. "Thank you kindly, Ray."
Ray looked up at his friend from beneath lowered brows and shook his head, a gentle smirk on his lips. "You're welcome, Fraser. Even if you are the only person in Chicago who would think of thankin' someone for getting them into trouble."
Fraser frowned. "I hardly see how knowing what someone who has threatened you looks like can cause me any trouble, Ray."
"You wouldn't. Freak." Ray's smile took any sting of animosity from the use of the term.
Fraser smiled back. "Understood."
Fraser took a good look at the mug shots of the man Ray was concerned with. From the description, John 'Johnny' Williamson was a big man. Six foot five and two hundred eighty-five pounds of solid muscled dock-worker. His rap sheet showed him to be basically small-time muscle; a young man who, due to his size, had been easily swayed to use those muscles for nefarious purposes. What was often referred to as a 'knee-breaker. Ray had caught him doing a job on a small business owner and had taken him down. Literally. According to the file, Ray had heard a cry from an alley and gone to investigate. He'd still been a uniformed patrolman in those days, and he'd been working on his report during a quiet moment. The motor of his patrol car had been turned off and, because it was summer, he had the window rolled down. He heard the scream and gotten out to investigate.
Fraser could picture it. Ray cautiously making his way down the alley, avoiding piles of trash, searching for movement; startling at a cat jumping from a dumpster, perhaps. Hearing voices, one loud and threatening, the other, begging for mercy. Coming up on the scene and seeing an elderly man pinned to the filthy brick wall, his enormous assailant preparing to smash his knees with a baseball bat. Ray calling out to identify himself, Williamson turning to attack the stupid cop, and Ray ducking the swing of the bat and using his baton to stop the larger man. Knowing Ray, he'd no doubt aimed for Williamson's most vulnerable area; a single, solid blow would be enough to stop the larger man. Still, considering the differences in their sizes, a rather remarkable feat.
"He threatened you in court, Ray?" Fraser asked, when he'd finished reading the file.
"Yeah. Said he was gonna come and return the favor." Ray sat, leaning back in his desk chair, hands laced behind his head with his eyes closed and his brow furrowed in pain.
"Are you all right, Ray?"
"Just a headache. I took some aspirin, but it's not working."
"Do you get migraines?"
"Not usually." Ray sat up. "So. Now you know what the guy looks like and why he's after me, right?"
"Yes, Ray." Fraser frowned. "Although, since you are currently not Ray Kowalski, nor are you in your old district, won't he have a hard time finding you?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. Hard to say. Just knowing he's out there, somewhere...well, I guess it's got me a little spooked, you know?"
"Yes, I can imagine it would." He regarded his friend. "Have you asked anyone for assistance, Ray?"
"Nah. Wouldn't do any good, Frase. He's served his time, so I got no call to go lookin' for him."
"But it's all right for him to seek you?"
"That's the way the law calls it. Dumb, huh?" Ray shook his head. "All the laws are for the bad guys, nothin's for the victim."
"Nor for those who have sworn to protect them. If there's anything I can do to be of assistance, Ray, you'd let me know, wouldn't you?"
Ray smiled, despite the pain in his head. "Yeah, Frase, I'd let you know. Thanks, buddy."
"You're welcome, Ray."
Ray remained nervous and jumpy for the rest of the week, then seemed to calm down. Sudden noises no longer made him jump and look around, nor did he continue searching passersby for a massive figure. Familiarity does, indeed, breed contempt. Ray's mind and body got used to not seeing Williamson anywhere, so when he appeared, he was taken by surprise.
They were out on a warrant to arrest a minor felon on excessive parking tickets, of all things. They had first gone to his home, only to be told that he was at work, and given the address of his place of employment. Ray was always glad when his Mountie partner was able to charm all the information needed from women.
"You got a real gift there, Fraser," Ray announced as they returned to the car.
"In what way, Ray?" Fraser asked as he got in the GTO.
"The way your polite Mountie ways gets women to tell you stuff. Like Jennings' landlady. You just say 'please' and 'thank you kindly, ma'am' and they fall all over themselves to give you anything you could possibly want. Information, their phone numbers, them..." He cast a teasing glance at his partner and found him to be blushing. "It's a gift, Frase. Don't let it bother you. It makes you good; or maybe being good makes people want to tell you stuff. Somethin' though."
"I...thank you kindly, Ray."
"You're welcome, partner."
Jennings worked at a small manufacturing plant. The smelters stank up the entire street and the smell of burnt pot-metal pervaded everything. Even Ray's nose wrinkled up in distaste at the odors.
"Man, how can people work in a place like this?"
"I imagine they get used to it, Ray."
"But, who'd want to?" They stopped at the office and were directed to the lunchroom, where the employees were currently taking their noon break. Pausing in the doorway, Ray searched the room for their suspect. Spotting him alone in a corner, he headed for his prey.
"Robert Jenkins?" Ray asked softly. The man looked up and saw Ray's badge pinned to his belt. Jenkins shoved back from the table and came up. He was a lot bigger than Ray, not any taller, but easily twice as wide, and it was all hard muscle and fat. He lunged towards the smaller cop and reached out to wrap his arms around Ray, tackling him to the floor.
The other workers immediately gathered around, prepared to help their comrade, but Fraser turned and held them off, "We have a warrant for Mr. Jenkins arrest. Please stay back, or you will be arrested, as well." For a moment, it looked like it might work, but then three of the workers attacked Fraser, who was unable to do more than duck their initial swings, which allowed the rest of the group to join in.
Ray had gone down hard, but managed to keep his head from hitting anything. He brought his fists down on Jenkins' clavicles hard enough to make the bigger man let go. Squirming, he got out from under his suspect and managed to pull his handcuffs from his hip pocket. Jenkins, seeing the silver flash scrambled forward to try and knock Ray back down. Ducking, Ray rolled away, coming up on Jenkins side. Lunging, he landed on Jenkins' back, grabbing one of the flailing arms and managing to hold on. While he tried to fasten the cuffs to the flailing wrist, he was shaken like a terrier by a bull. Like a pit bull, he held on tenaciously. When another pair of hands descended to grab him about the middle and jerk him up, he still held on and, since Jenkins was face down on the floor, Ray dislocated the man's shoulder, eliciting a scream of agony from his suspect.
Other hands grabbed at him, fists struck at him, trying to force him to relinquish his death-grip on Jenkins, but the more they hit him, the harder he clung, not even several blows to the head would cause him to release his hold. He was dizzy and disoriented, but he knew that if he let go, his suspect would flee and he was too stubborn to give up. Someone's foot came down on Ray's arm, hard. He grit his teeth and continued to hang on. Another foot connected with his side, but he still maintained his grip. Finally someone kicked him in the side of the head, and he almost let go, as the ringing in his ears blocked the sounds and sights around him.
Fraser wasn't faring much better. He'd managed to remain upright, at least, but four men had managed to grab him, while one was landing blow after blow to his unprotected abdomen. Using his 'holders' for leverage, he lifted his legs, nearly to the vertical, and landed both booted feet on his attacker's head. The man dropped like a stone, and Fraser allowed his momentum to pull his other assailants forward, breaking their hold on him. Another man was waiting for him, however, and Fraser caught a fist right in the mouth. Reeling back, he was tripped, crashing down atop a table which, fortunately, held. His feet once again in better position to defend himself, he used them, catching one man in the chest, another in the crotch. Both went down for the count.
Rolling off the table, Fraser turned and ducked two more attackers, who collided with each other. Fraser saw his hat on the floor, where it had fallen when he was first attacked, and bent to retrieve it, causing the man who had planned on tackling him to instead grab air and fall to the floor. Rising, Fraser looked around, some of the workers were starting to back away, while others were more than willing to continue the battle. Ray was buried under a dogpile of bodies, the sounds of fists sinking into flesh leading him to believe that Ray was in very real trouble. Fraser tried to make his way to his partner, only to once again be assaulted by several men.
Things were looking rather grim for the two officers, when someone waded in and began flinging their assailants aside, one by one. Some started back, but seeing who had grabbed them, immediately changed their minds.
"Knock it off, you guys! You hear me? Knock it off, NOW!!" The man was easily half again as big as any worker in the room, and he swiftly ended the fight. Looking down at the two strangers, he hauled Fraser to his feet. "You okay, mister?"
Regaining his balance, Fraser straightened his tunic and checked his hat for damage. "I'll be fine. Thank you kindly."
The enormous man frowned, "You're not from around here, are you?"
"No. I'm from Canada, actually."
"What's a...Mountie? You're a Mountie?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
"What are you doin' involved in a fight here?"
"Well, I first came to Chicago on the trail of my father's killers and, due to reasons that do not require exploring at this juncture, I have remained as liaison with the Canadian consulate."
"Okay, but why are you here?"
"Oh, dear. Ray!" Fraser turned from his rescuer and dropped to one knee beside his partner and Jenkins. The big man followed him and crouched down to see. Fraser gently turned Ray onto his side. Both Ray's eyes were swollen almost closed and it was fairly obvious that he would wear the marks from this fight for many days to come.
Ray groaned and his eyes slit open. "Please tell me that I was run over by a train?"
"Sorry, Ray. I'm afraid, not." Fraser notice that Ray still had a death grip on Jenkins. "I think you can let go, now, Ray." Ray frowned, confused. "Jenkins, Ray. You can let him go, now. I doubt he'll try to escape again." Ray blinked and looked around. He was on the floor, his hands were still holding onto Jenkins' wrist and it was obvious that the shoulder was dislocated. He let go immediately and struggled to sit up. Then, his gaze fell on the giant that was looking over Fraser's shoulder and he froze, a flash of terror in his eyes.
Ray scrambled away, putting his back to a wall, as the huge man approached him. Leaning down, Ray's eyes closed, an expression of dismayed acceptance on his face. The huge man leaned down, frowning.
Ray sighed and sagged a little. Nodding his head, he opened his eyes and looked up. "Yeah, Johnny. It's me."
Instead of the giant pounding him into a spot on the floor, Williamson smiled. "I been lookin' all over for you. You just seemed to disappear! Man, I'm glad I found you!" He looked over his shoulder at his co-workers and frowned. "What kinda idiots are you? Didn't he say he was a cop?" The men who had been involved in the battle hung their heads in shame. Williamson stood up, his shear size intimidating the other workers. "What, you didn't believe me when I told you about what I did?" His glare was cowing everyone in the room.
Fraser watched the man in surprise and consternation while he finished cuffing Jenkins and checking Ray out. Once he'd gotten Ray to his feet and steady, leaning against the wall, he turned to Williams. "Forgive me for asking, but I was under the impression that you were seeking Detective Ve..Kowalski for nefarious purposes."
The huge man blushed and looked over at the still reeling Ray. "Yeah, When I went to prison, I said I'd get even with him when I got out." He shrugged. "I learned things in prison. When I got out, I wanted to find detective Kowalski to thank him." He glanced over at the injured man and shook his head, then turned back to his colleagues. "So, do I have to check your hands to know which ones of you were involved in this?"
Those who had joined in the free-for-all hung their heads in shame. Williamson nodded. "Why ain't I surprised? The rest of you go back to work. Jake, you call the cops and tell them to bring the paddy wagon, 'cause they're gonna need it." He looked down at Jenkins, still on the floor, whimpering softly and trying to squirm into a position where his dislocated shoulder wouldn't hurt any more than it already did. "Can you maybe attach him to the cupboard or something? I think he's gonna need a doctor." He looked at Fraser, who was still staring at him in consternation.
"Yes, I suppose so. Ray?" He turned to his partner, who was staring up at Williamson in confusion.
"I got a call when you got out a couple weeks ago, said that you were gonna come after me. What's with that?"
Williamson blushed, "I said I wanted to see you. I wanted to thank you."
"Thank me?" Ray's eyebrows rose almost to his hairline in surprise.
"Yeah. The stuff you told me when you busted me. I met a couple of guys in stir, they told me things. About you. They said you were an honest cop, a good guy. Even though you'd put them in prison, they still respected you. There were other guys there, too. I... Well, I got born again. Got my act together. I stopped wantin' to get even about three years ago. They taught me a trade, too and I got my GED, like you said I should." He suddenly turned to the doorway and scowled. "You better not make me go look for you," he growled at two men who were trying to slip away before the cops got there.
Ray was totally befuddled. "You... you mean you weren't after me to pound me into the pavement?"
Williamson looked at him and smiled. "No. I wanted to thank you. Getting sent to prison was the best thing that could have happened to me." He extended his right hand.
Ray stared, first at the extended hand, then up into the uncertain face of the young giant. Smiling a bit self-consciously, he accepted the hand. A moment after Williamson's hand had clasped his own, Ray was startled to be pulled forward and hugged. An instant of panic as he was engulfed in the enormous young man's arms was relieved when the embrace turned out to be gentle and mindful of his bruises and possible injuries.
When he was released, he shook his head for a moment and then grinned in embarrassment up at the kid. "Uh, you're welcome?"
"Can I ask why you're arresting Robby?"
"Uh, sure. He didn't pay his tickets. City's on a crunch to pick up the scofflaws this month. I got tagged to haul him in."
Williamson looked surprised. "How much does he owe?"
Ray pulled the warrant from his jacket pocket. It was somewhat the worse for wear, but still readable. "Uh, let's see. Fifteen hundred parking violations over the past six years, twelve speeding tickets, and two for running red lights."
Williamson looked down at the injured Jenkins. "Man, how stupid can you be, Robby?" He looked over at the other workers, "And you guys jumped a cop? Man, that's heavy time." He shook his head and turned back to Ray. "I'm sorry, detective. They shouldn't have done that. Are you all right?" He looked closely at the smaller man, examining the damage.
"I'll be fine, Johnny. It's nothin' serious. I think your buddy here, though is gonna have to stop off at the hospital before goin' down to the station." He crouched beside the injured man. "Jenkins?" The injured man glared at him, "You know, that was a really dumb thing you did, tryin' to get away. Resisting arrest carries extra penalties, y'know?"
"If that idiot hadn't come in, I'd'a been fine. Johnny, you're a jerk."
"No, Robby. I just know that you gotta pay your fines, whether it's for tickets or a felony. I paid my fine, and now I got a job and can make a clean start. You. Well, you gotta either learn not to park in red zones, or just pay the fines, man. Resisting arrest isn't gonna help. Hell, he coulda pulled his gun and killed one or more of you guys, you know that? You're lucky."
The patrol cars and paramedics arrived, putting an end to the discussion. Unfortunately, the eight men who had come to Jenkins' aid were also arrested and transported, more or less shutting the plant down for the rest of the day. The management wasn't happy, but they were more unhappy with their employees. The men who had stayed out of the fight went back to work cleaning the plant after they shut down the smelters. By the time the police were finished, Johnny Williamson came back to Ray and Fraser.
Ray looked up at Williamson and smiled, a bit uncertain, still. "You need somethin', Johnny?"
"Uh, I got the rest of the day off, detective. I was wondering if I could maybe buy you lunch or somethin'. You too," he said, turning to Fraser.
"Uh, thanks, but I'm not sure, that's uh, allowed," Ray said diffidently.
"Yeah, I guess maybe you're not supposed to hang out with ex-cons, huh?"
Fraser frowned at Ray, who looked down. "It's not that. It's just...well, I got a call sayin' you were gettin' out and lookin' for me...I thought...."
"You thought I was still mad at you." John Williamson shook his head. "I'm sorry. I tried to call you, but they said you weren't there any more. I thought maybe you weren't a cop any more."
Ray looked up at him. "You really glad you got caught?"
Johnny smiled. "Oh, yeah. Best thing that could have happened to me, you know?"
Ray shook his head. "Not really." He glanced over at Fraser, who tilted his head to the side in inquiry. "Sure. Why not? There's a deli just down the street. We can go there." He looked up at the now smiling young man, "An' you don't have to buy anythin'. My treat."
"No 'buts'." Ray smiled that lop-sided grin of his. "You got to be the only guy I ever heard of went to prison and was glad. C'mon. I just decided it's time for lunch." Throwing one arm around each of his companions, he urged them down the street towards the deli, where they would enjoy some good food, and even better conversation.
Despite his bruises, Ray was feeling pretty good. He'd done his job and managed to turn a man he thought his enemy into a friend. As they talked and laughed over lunch, he was impressed with the change over the younger man. He'd been a sullen, angry man the last time he had seen him, now, he was jovial, happy, and good company. The change made Ray think about his own life. Here, solid and obvious, was proof that he made a difference. After lunch, Ray was actually looking forward to serving the rest of the warrants he'd been saddled with. Best of all, he'd made a new friend. He no longer needed to jump at shadows, for he discovered that there was a light in the darkness that could banish the fear.
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