“What the hell happened?” Mulligan demanded, rushing into the hospital waiting room.
Charlie stood from the chair and faced his father.
“Are you alright, son?” Mulligan’s hands fell to Charlie’s shoulders and his gaze traveled his body searching for wounds. He knew all the blood on his uniform did nothing to ease his father’s fear.
“I’m fine, Dad.” He stepped away and ran a trembling hand through his hair. He couldn’t believe how close he’d come to… Charlie shook his head ridding himself of that thought. It hadn’t happened. Thanks to Ryan. “A few bruises from the scuffle. Nothing that won’t heal.”
“And Hayes?” Worry still etched Mulligan’s features. As Chief, Charlie understood his concern for all his employees.
“In surgery. The bullet lodged itself next to the brachial nerve. They wanted to get it out before it could shift and do some real damage.”
Mulligan exhaled, his shoulders slumping. “What happened, Charlie? Christ, this is his first day? What went wrong?”
Charlie shook his head and sat back in the chair. His head fell into his hands as guilt once again swept through him. If only… No, he wouldn’t go there. What’s done is done.
“He saved my life, Dad.”
Mulligan sat next to Charlie, his hands gently touching his shoulder as if he needed the gesture to assure himself his son was okay. Charlie in turn needed the comfort of the touch as well.
“We pulled over a speeder. He wasn’t local. We did everything by the book. When he was a little belligerent I asked him to step out of the vehicle. The man was nervous. My gut screamed that this man was trouble.”
“Was he alone?”
Charlie nodded. “Yeah. When Ryan was sure no one else was in the vehicle, he came around on the driver’s side but stayed at the trunk calling in the information I’d given him. The driver stood with his back against the vehicle as I questioned his destination, his eyes kept glancing to Ryan.”
“Not comfortable with him running his license.”
“No,” he sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. “The moment Ryan started walking toward us, his hand reached behind him. I pulled my gun, but the man was faster and before I knew it a shot rang out and I was falling to the ground. The moment I hit, Ryan rolled off of me cursing.
“My instincts took over and I was close enough to kick the man’s legs out from under him before he could get off another shot. We fought and I managed to subdue him. When I had the subject handcuffed I was able to call for an ambulance.
“The subject had warrants for his arrest for armed robbery from Arizona and Colorado.”
What Charlie didn’t tell his father was that he was also distracted and had let his guard down though his intuition told him to watch the subject. Instead, his mind kept thinking of Rob and the different ways he could kill the son of a bitch.
“Charlie!” Maria cried with panic and loud enough to wake the dead. Charlie knew it was all the blood that had her so riled up. He was ashamed to admit how glad it wasn’t his.
Before Charlie could brace himself, she flung herself into his arms, nearly toppling him over.
“Oh, my God, Charlie! Are you hurt?” She asked between a flurry of kisses to his face and her hands sliding over his body in search of wounds. “Is this blood all yours? What happened? I was so scared when I heard. Why didn’t you…”
“Maria, breath. I’m okay.” Charlie would have laughed at her, but he knew she was frantic over his well-being and she would kill him herself if he dared make fun of her concern. This was a small town. Things like this rarely happened.
He finally managed to dislodge her from him enough to keep her at arms length and catch her gaze. “How did you know I was here?”
Maria took a deep before speaking. “The scanner was left on. When I heard your voice and officer down…” Her voice trailed off and tears welled in her eyes.
He drew her into his arms, realizing not for the first time how close he’d come to being the one knocking on death’s door. At that close of range, he doubted surgery would have saved him.
“And Ryan?” Zack’s voice was soft, almost a whisper. Charlie hadn’t even realized he’d followed Maria in until he’d spoke. Charlie looked up and saw a glimpse of youth that had been lost inside the man. His fingers were clasped tightly in front of him, knuckles white and a mixture of despair and fear etched his tired expression.