Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

WARNING! This scene contains spoilers for "Ballistic"!

Brattonville, MD, September, 2007

It was still overcast and spitting when Brady followed the stretcher out to the lawn. He found Lau there, watching the paramedics load Melinda's body into the ambulance, and came to stand beside her. Blood stuck her once-glossy hair in dull cords. "Another reason to buy cheap suits," he said, peeling the glove off his right hand.

The ambulance doors slammed. Lau started, as if it was the first sound she'd heard in a long time. "Shit," she said. "It's not supposed to end this way."

"Not your fault, Nikki." He wondered if she believed he meant it. He was pretty sure he did.

She shook her head. She wouldn't cry, not Lau. but he saw the pinch of her eyes. the way her thumb moved to rub blood off the back of her opposite hand. And all the perfumes of Araby will not sweeten this little hand. She said, "Maybe she didn't make it a clean shot because she didn't really want to die. Maybe she was still fighting the It." She seemed about to nibble her thumbnail. Brady caught her wrist and pushed her hand away from her mouth before she could notice the taste of blood. She said, "Maybe we could have got this one alive."

Brady swallowed nausea. Her pulse fluttered between the delicate bones of her wrist, thrumming against his fingertips. "Thank you, Stephen Reyes. Are you going to carry all those maybes to your grave?"

She looked at him, startled, eyes wide. He was close enough to see the pupils, contracted and tight despite the day's gray light. He bet his own looked like pinpricks in a map--an old trick for soldiers who wanted their families to know where they were stationed.

She said, "Maybe."

"You need a shower and a coffee--"

He was turning to lead her away when he realized that Frost had materialized beside them. Blood covered her, soaked the knees of her trousers, smeared her arms to the shoulder. She'd cleaned her glasses, but that was her only concession. Standing next to these two made him feel like a shuffling monster, Sweetums, something out of The Muppet Show. As if they were the proper size, so self-contained and tidy, and he was urban sprawl.

Racing mind, trying to come up with anything to distract him. Shut up, brain.

Frost looked Nikki Lau in the eyes and said, "It bothers you when it's a child."

Lau might not be able to process her own emotions right this second, but she could bear up for someone else. I've got you, he thought. You've got Frost. Who's got me?

But that was his job. Tail-end Charlie. Somebody had to be the guy at the end of the line. Nobody had to take care of cowboys. Brady squeezed Lau's wrist lightly and felt the steel come back into her.

She said, "You did everything you could have, Madeline. You did more than you had to."

Frost's eyebrows rose. She studied Lau with an interested frown, as if considering the fatal injury. And then she nodded, shortly, and answered, "Yes. I did."