About five minutes later, the three hostages squinted as the door opened and the sun lanced their eyes. A silhouette peered in at them. “I’ve waited for this a long time, Malloy,” a peppy voice told him. It was Wells.
“Yeah. What took you so long?” Reed said. “Did you lose the keys?”
The other officer ignored him. “I have the honor–or should I say horror?–of returning you both to the land of sunshine.”
Wells was joined by Brinkman, and first Malloy, then Margaret, then Reed were lowered to their feet on gravel. Somebody brought out a key and removed their cuffs.
Malloy looked around. They were on the side of the highway that wound through the hills on its way to San Diego. Mac leaned with his palm against the back door of one of the six units parked about the asphalt, their lights flashing. He was talking to the only passenger, Will.
Wells followed his gaze. “The other one’s been taken to Central Receiving.”
Malloy nodded. Behind him, Reed questioned Brinkman as quietly as he could. “How did you find us so quickly?”
Wells swung to him. “Well, Jim, my boy…”
Reed’s eyes rolled toward his hair.
“It was like this–“
Malloy interrupted. “A brave kid told you just where to find us.”
Wells blinked and opened his mouth, but Malloy turned and went to meet Mac, who was coming toward them. Wells jogged behind. “Wait, Malloy. How did you know that?”
Malloy faced him. He glared. “Go tell Reed the story.”
Wells raised his eyebrows. Then he folded his arms and, with a quiet huff, returned to the other officers.
Malloy turned to Mac with the truest smile he’d had all day. “I think I’m going to like sergeanting,” he said.
It was Mac’s turn for surprise, but he managed to recover. “I’m sure you will.”
“How’s Bobby?” Malloy asked. For one second, he acknowledged the tiny bit of doubt in his mind. “He is alright, isn’t he?”
“At Memorial. They’ve got him all hooked up. Pulled three shot shells out of him. He’d bled a lot, but they’ve got it under control and a transfusion going. Nothing to worry about except a long recovery.”
Malloy grinned. “I have to tell Margaret.”
Mac nodded and pointed Malloy to the ambulance. The attendants had snagged the girl and sat her in the back. A blanket was draped around her, and tears were on her face. She was chugging water. An empty plastic bottle already lay on its side below her dangling feet.
Malloy approached her, not sure how to compose his face… Happy? Solemn? He managed blank. “Margaret? Your brother wanted you to have this.” He pulled the cord from his pocket. In the full light of the sun, he could see that its red stain had dried and turned very dark.
The girl took it with trembling hands. “My grandfather’s Rosary… They carried them in the war, so the beads wouldn’t clack… It used to be white.” She gulped, and her watery eyes found Malloy’s face. “I brought it with me. I thought it would help comfort him. He loved Grandfather so!”
Malloy nodded. “He said it did help him. And he hopes it will comfort you in the same way.”
He waited a moment. Margaret squeezed the cord, her eyes turned down. She needed another hint.
“Smell it,” he suggested.
Margaret looked up, her eyes jumping around, barely under her control for all the water they contained. But she pressed the Rosary to her face and breathed in through her nose. Then she jumped and pulled it away. “What on earth is it?” she said.
Malloy started to let his joy show. His eyes brightened. “Tomato ketchup,” he answered.
Margaret shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
“Bobby’s fine. He acted the whole thing–” He felt his pants, stiff with blood, rub against his knees and corrected himself. “Well, not the whole thing. He was shot, but not too bad. He’s at the hospital now.”
Tears spilled from Margaret’s eyes as hope pressed into them. Her chin trembled. “What? You mean he’s alright? He’s not…?”
She gulped in air and pressed her hand to her face. She lifted it long enough to say, “Can I see him now?”
“I think these gentlemen would be more than happy to give you a ride,” Malloy answered as Wells and Brinkman sidled over.
“Sure would,” Brinkman agreed. “If these guys say it’s okay.”
The attendant nodded. “Have them double-check her hydration at the hospital.” He pressed another water bottle into Margaret’s hand. “Keep drinking!”
She nodded and hopped from the ambulance. She flew towards the car, the blanket fanning behind her. In another minute, she was inside and heading down the highway to visit her brother.
Reed stood by Malloy. His hands were on his hips, and he shook his head. “Ed told me what he could.”
“I believe it,” Malloy said.
“I still don’t get it.”
Mac came up behind them and slapped them on the backs. “Come on, you two. Back to the station. My car.”
The officers turned to him. “But we were hoping to visit Bobby, too,” Reed said.
Mac shook his head. “Station first. I need your help in booking these guys.”
Malloy grimaced but nodded. “Fair enough.”
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