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Devon Holmes
Stomping Grounds
Mon Apr 24, 2006 22:24

Oh God, he wasn’t going to make it.

Adrenaline pushed through his body, forcing his legs to work that much harder, shoving him forward. Everything seemed to slow; he was stuck in molasses, and it was dragging him down. The glint of metal in sunlight, and the roar of a shot assailed his senses.

The girl wasn’t frightened, she was down right terrified. Fukk, he was too! He wanted to shout, scream, and cry out at her captor. For the last two months little Bethany Ross had been missing, taken from her home in the middle of the night through an open window. Everyone had thought she was dead, even her parents, but the kidnapper had been stupid. Taking the girl out into a public area while he fetched supplies. Not once, not even twice, but three times, allowing them to establish a timeline where he would be present.

The second team flanked the kidnapper, causing him to spin around, with his grubby arm clutching Bethany around the throat. The girl lost her footing, slipping down, and he took the shot. People were screaming in the open-air market, which they had been unable to sufficiently clear out without arousing suspicion. His gun fired, the sound ringing in his ears again and again.

Everyone watched in astonishment as the good old boy fell to the ground, on top of the little girl, who had fallen quiet. Everything was silent, punctuating the ringing noise in his ears. Without thought, he scrambled from his fallen position, not even having time to grimace at the sight that met his eyes. Crimson ichor and gray matter had exploded outward from the kidnapper’s skull, painting the ground a virulent hue that he could have never imagined in his worst nightmares. But, what of the girl?

“Beth!” His throat felt parched, tight with panic. Had he hit the girl inadvertently? Kicking the suspect’s gun aside on instinct, his weapon was holstered in a quick motion before he pulled the man off the girl. Suddenly sound came rushing back to his ears, the whimpers of a young girl not even into her teens, the cries of despair from the shopkeepers, and the shouts from his peers. “Beth, hon?” His voice pleaded with her, quickly cleaning her face of the worst of the blood and gore. “Are you hurt any where?”

“N-n-n-no…” Oh thank God. Pulling the girl away, he quickly picked her up and began moving away from the scene, calling for an ambulance into the microphone at his collar. He wasn’t going to take any chances right now. “How’d you know my name?” Her question was muffled into his throat, where she had buried her face. He couldn’t blame her one bit.

“I’ve been looking for you, Beth,” he murmured with a smile, finding a small bench to sit the girl down on. But she wasn’t moving very far away from him, clinging to his shirt. “My name is Devon, and I’m an F.B.I. agent. Do you know what that is?” To illustrate his point, he pulled the badge off of his belt and showed it to her, which she was eyeing skeptically.

“Uh huh. Like Mulder.” Unable to help it, Devon laughed and hugged the girl warmly.

“Yes, just like Mulder, sweetheart.” The sound of sirens punctuated the stillness that had encroached upon them, and motioned towards the ambulance coming near. “You see the ambulance?” Waiting for her half nod as she handed his badge back, he gave her a reassuring smile. “Well, we’re going to take a ride in it to the hospital so they can make sure he didn’t do anything really bad to you. Okay?” Or me, for that matter. His back was aching something fierce, and he didn’t think it was a pulled muscle.

Bethany hadn’t allowed him to leave her side until her parents showed up at the hospital. Until that time, he had learned a great deal of things about her entrapment, and what took place in the two months she was gone. Most of it made him happy he had shot that man, and felt nary a shred of remorse.

Once he was cleaned up, using a patient shower at the government-run hospital, Devon had himself checked out. He wasn’t a damned fool. Sure enough, that one shot had scored a mark across his shoulder blade, which would explain the burning sensation. But aside from keeping it clean, there wasn’t much he could do except wait for the scratch to heal. Of course, if one thought he had a good night’s rest ahead of him, they would be terribly ignorant. Instead there was debriefing after debriefing, a handful of meetings, one for the press, and then a final discussion with the higher-ups.

“You performed admirably, Agent Holmes.” The man was easily into his sixties with steel gray hair and an even harder face, flipping through the thick file before him. “We’re requisitioning you some paid time off. About a month or so.”

“But, sir—!”

“No!” The file came shut with the slam of a fist, and Devon found himself biting his tongue. Hard. “You’ve worked non-stop since the academy. You need to decompress.” Eventually the man’s face softened; his expression understanding. “You’re a good Agent, Devon. But I don’t want you to become burnt out because of this. You’re due up for a psyche evaluation soon, and it’d be better if you came with a clear mind. Understood?”

“Yes, sir.”

Trying not to be glum about it, Devon eventually made his way out of the office, and eventually escaped from the building. A month of downtime? The last time that had happened was when Sonnet had been hospitalized. Frowning, he pulled out his cell phone and made a quick call to Isabel. Every few days after the academy he had called the woman, keeping in touch, giving a few details of his work when she asked about it. He supposed she had inspiration for another book series, with all the questions she asked.

“Right, I’ll visit you in the next few days. Love you, Mom. See you then.”

Twenty hours later, he was standing in a Hertz Center at the airport after touchdown at La Guardia, which had amounted to a sleepless night, a flight that had taken off before the sun had risen, and first class with a load of snoring people. Eventually he managed to secure the run-of-the-mill SUV, which he tossed the few suitcases and garment bags into the back of, and was on his way.

He hadn’t called anyone to let them know of his impending arrival, because he felt it was better this way. He had left so suddenly, and didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up if he was unable to swing the trip, regardless of what his boss had said. Hell, he had tried to find something to do to occupy his time, and there had literally been nothing. They practically shoved him out the door at the Pentagon!

At first, the traffic upset him a great deal. But once he got away from the airport and sped it up, he began to make good time. His first stop was a hotel nowhere near downtown, where his things could be stored. First order of business: a shower! Only after the usual morning routine did he feel anywhere near normal, donning a business suit and all the trappings that went with his new career alongside it. One pair of Ray Bans to deal with the bright light rising outside, and he was off!

The next stop was borne of sentimental value, more than anything else. Pulling up to his old precinct, Devon eyed the building for a few long moments, remembering back to the last time he had walked through those doors. The therapist had always encouraged this visit, but he never had the time. Until now, at least. Frowning at the brick building, he exited the Jeep and hit the alarm button to lock it, before heading up the stairs and inside. Had it always looked so small?

“Can I help you?”

Devon quirked a brow at the woman behind the desk, wondering when she had begun to work here. He definitely would have remembered that pretty face. Pulling out a flat wallet from his inside suit jacket pocket, he procured a business card that had the usual information, along with his branch and position. “Would you mind giving this to the precinct Chief for me?” She eyed the business card, then him, before nodding and calling up the runner. She wouldn’t leave the desk for security’s sake, which was a good sign.

Instead of taking a seat while waiting, Devon opted to stand, studying the photographs and plaques upon the entrance wall. Fallen officers were given their place, and it hurt to see Sonnet’s picture up there, more so than he thought it would have. His name was mentioned in a corresponding news article, citing that Sonnet was survived by her partner, the various family members, and what not. Leaning in for a closer look, he was practically scared shitless when the door banged open behind the welcoming desk.

“Devon!” Oh dear God. Staring at the Chief, especially when he came over for a handshake that ended up in more of a bear hug than anything else, he finally managed to take off his sunglasses and pocket them. “Oh, very fancy. I’m surprised they haven’t kicked your lazy ass out yet. Come on, we can talk in my office.”

Very little had changed in the way of décor. The lockers had been painted black instead of blue, and it looked as if the station had been retiled, but otherwise… It was the same. God damn, it still smelled the same. That stale odor of sweat, burnt coffee, and fear. The corridors seemed narrower than before, until it branched out into the general office area. A grouping of desks with accompanying chairs, and little more.

“How has D.C. been treating you?” Vince was asking once they were inside the office. He offered coffee, but Devon waved it off.

“Good, really. I really just wanted to stop in and see how everything was.”

Things changed in a year, he realized. Oh sure, most of the officers he knew were still here, and a few rookies were no longer such, but the people… They were harder, more cynical and jaded. The world was eating away at everyone around him, nor was he exempt from this grand observation either. But he felt he was at least dealing with it better than he had in the past.

Managing to waste a few hours in this fashion, Devon eyed his watch before pondering on whom to visit next. This visit with his father would take too much time, and likely eat up the rest of the day. Tomorrow he was bound and determined to at least stop in and say hello to Ben and Hugh, along with Isabel. They had understood when he had left, Isabel especially. Well, that practically settled it in his mind. Caleb and Lucy he could visit next.

He opted to drive through downtown and the Village on his way there, considering it was the most direct route, even if it was prone to inducing heart attacks. Driving past the Playhouse, he was surprised to see a dumpster out front and construction workers doing some major cleanup. The outside of the building looked like it had been reworked, which likely accounted for that. Shrugging it off, he managed to navigate through the rest of traffic without getting into an accident – not even the fender bender variety – and on his merry way.

Caleb and Lucy’s house looked just the same as it had before, though he didn’t see his brother’s Jeep. At least, not the one he remembered. Thinking back, he could vaguely recollect something about an accident while John was driving. Frowning, Devon hauled himself out of the rented SUV and headed up the steps. He could hear Broadway music inside, though it wasn’t really loud, just… encompassing. Eyeing the door with more than a hint of trepidation, Devon raised his fist.

Knock, knock, knock.

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