Eternity passed before the blows finally
ended, his form no longer jolted by unfeeling pieces of
lead. The tense frame relaxed, arms dropping from
around her, the lanky body going limp and falling away
from her, tumbling hard down the short flight of steps
to the sidewalk, long legs sprawled on the stairs.
She scrambled for her phone, dropped in
the initial impact of his big body against hers as he
covered her against the assault. “I need an ambulance.
I have an officer down with multiple gunshot wounds.
357 Brownwood.” She had to push to get the hateful
words out, her throat tight and dry, unsure for once how
loud or flat her voice was. The biting fear for Ethan
made the faint murmur that was all she’d been able to
hear since before her teens unimportant. She could
barely read the responses on the PDA’s screen as the
voice recognition program for the Deaf translated sound
to type so she could answer the questions from
Dispatch. “Hurry! Just hurry!”
She dropped beside Ethan, pulling his
bleeding head into her lap, unable to let him lie in the
snowy street after he’d save her. So much blood! It
colored the grey snow and ice, stained his white shirt
and slate tie, and darkened the camel of his overcoat.
She focused on the faint movement of his
lips – so hard to read against her streaming eyes and
his weakness. “Harris. I’m sorry.” Eyes the color of
the sky reflected in the dark ice beneath him fluttered
Cathy pulled the dusky mauve and teal set
of scrubs over her head, her stained and bloody clothes
already taken away as evidence. The bandage on her
stomach pulled slightly, reminding her of her only
injury, one of the small caliber bullets barely able to
penetrate her skin after its passage through Ethan’s
A tight band settled about her chest,
squeezing it. She had no idea how he was and couldn’t
find out. The nurses and doctors would tell her
nothing, treating her as if she were mentally disabled
instead of merely deaf. It wasn’t a new reaction but
today it felt particularly galling.
All she needed was a simple update on
Ethan. She wasn’t sure he’d even made it to the
hospital alive. That band around her chest tightened
until she could barely breathe. He’d disappeared into
an ambulance, swarmed by a flurry of response personnel,
their frantic pace and rapid movements making it
impossible for her to follow what they were saying.
Police and fire vehicles filled the street, their acrid
exhaust thickening the air, too many people asking her
questions without looking at her, making it impossible
to read what they were saying. They moved her further
from him with every new ID thrust under her nose.
Moments like these she hated being deaf though she’d
long ago become resigned to life without sound.
Eventually someone hustled her into a
squad car for a race to the hospital. An officer she
barely saw had noted the flow of crimson down her dark
skirt. She hadn’t even felt it.
One wound. One insignificant little hole,
the bullet barely beneath her skin, when Ethan was
riddled with deep wounds. Bile, sour and burning,
filled her throat. So many horrible injuries. She
closed her eyes but that only made it easier to see the
winter sun on his skin, paler than the dirty snow around
them, violent red flecking one cheek and his fair hair,
more pouring from him. How could one man have so much
scarlet inside him? It pooled and steamed in the icy
air. She had to open her eyes to end the vision.
A faint movement saved her from tears or
vomiting again. “Cathy?” Familiar fingers poked around
the door spelling out her name in American Sign
“Zack! Come in! I’m dressed. Oh Zack!”
Zack Wright swung the door open, rushing
to clasp her tight. His chest rumbled, vibrating, and
she pushed against the detective. “Zack, if I can’t see
you, I can’t ‘hear’ you.”
He pulled back enough to look down at her,
espresso eyes all intense concern, signing a clumsy ME
SORRY ME. Her name in ASL and a few basic signs were
all he could manage. “I just…” He shook his head.
“I’m just so glad you’re not seriously hurt.”
Wasn’t she? Did this numb ache in her
soul count as an major injury? She drew a deep breath
of the antiseptic and alcohol tainted air. “Have you
heard anything about Ethan?”
Dorian Elliot made a movement from the
doorway, a cough maybe? She only saw a bit of it before
Zack stepped back with a quick, embarrassed jerk as if
holding her in a time of shared stress were somehow
wrong. But that was always the way it was with Zack.
He couldn’t admit he had feelings for her.
It didn’t matter that everyone in the
whole police department knew he had a thing for the
special liaison that doubled as their ASL translator for
the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. He had some
weird need to pretend he was just her friend and
colleague. She’d given up trying to figure it out over
two year ago after deciding nothing was going to come of
their mutual attraction. Zack either couldn’t deal with
Deaf culture or didn’t want to. Either way, he never
made a move and her overtures never went anywhere.
She’d discovered, regardless of first
impressions, she didn’t need Zack to make her life
complete but now the air felt too cold with the
departure of his warmth. It so resembled the warmth
she’d felt pressed against her when bullets rent the
winter day only to fall away and spill onto the pavement
in rivers of scarlet. Nausea climbed her throat.
“Do you know anything about how Ethan
is?” Maybe the hospital personnel would tell Dorian
something. After all, he was Ethan’s immediate superior
in the homicide division. And she’d discovered long
ago, it was sometimes far easier to get someone to talk
to you when you had a badge.
“He’s in surgery. And probably will be
for some time. That’s all I know.” Dorian’s quiet calm
eased some of her illness and his words even more. The
big Southerner signed part of his comments though he
knew she didn’t need that since she was an expert in
reading lips. Courteous to a fault, that was Dorian.
She focused on his wide, mobile lips, far
easier to read than his somewhat clumsy attempts at
American Sign Language. “He’s alive? He’s going to be
Dorian held up a gentle, restraining
hand. Beneath the Peter Pan fašade with his
face-splitting boyish grin and big baby blue eyes, he’d
always been the kindest member of their unit. “He’s
alive. Other than that, we just don’t know.”
Zack leaned against the teal Formica of a
counter filled with the confusing paraphernalia of the
medical world, his heavy, nearly black brows drawn
together. He crossed his muscular arms, putting up yet
another barrier between himself and his colleagues.
“What happened? You two were only out running down some
pretty standard follow-ups on the Maquire case.”
Cathy nodded. “It was standard. Just
everyday things. We rang the bell at Vincent
Harrington’s apartment but there was no answer.
Harrington is Hard of Hearing and so we waited longer
than usual in case he had to notice a warning light for
the doorbell. But he either wasn’t home or didn’t want
to answer us.”
She could see it all still, a video loop
running over and over in her head. “Eventually Ethan
headed down the steps to go to the car. I followed but
a blob of snow fell off the pediment and right down my
front so I was shaking it out before it could melt into
my blouse. I was looking down so I don’t really know
what happened next. Just that suddenly Ethan was
pushing me back against the door to the apartment house
and covering me.” Sheltering, his body a wall between
her and death. “I realized someone was shooting at us
then. I could feel the shots hitting him. We were
trapped against the wall of the entrance and the door
and couldn’t get down out of the line of fire.” The
horror of those endless moment rose up, choking her.
“The bullets just kept hitting him and hitting him.”
Dorian’s hand covered hers. “Easy,
Cathy. You’re going to have to get used to telling this
over and over. Every cop and investigator involved in
the case will want to hear your version. You know
She nodded. “I’ve already told it five
times. It doesn’t get any easier.” The anguish inside
only grew, strangling her. “He saved me, Dorian. He
could die because he was protecting me.”
The other cop took her hand. “We’re
family, Cathy. That’s what we do. It doesn’t really
surprise me that one of us would lay down their life for
another of us.”
Astonishment lit Zack’s darkly handsome
face. Clearly he felt all the surprise Dorian didn’t.
He shook his head just the tiniest bit. “Even Ethan?”
Something wistful passed over Dorian’s
strong boyish countenance. “Especially Ethan.”
Cathy appreciated the quiet of the
hospital chapel. Hour after weary hour of telling the
same thing over and over to each investigator involved
in trying to figure out what happened exhausted her.
But they at least kept her from sitting clueless waiting
for some word on Ethan. There should have been news.
His parents and sister must almost be here from New
England by now.
She bowed her head, voice and fingers both
speaking her prayer. “Lord, please keep Ethan safe.
Hold him close and give him comfort. Take away as much
of the pain as You can.” She opened her heart, giving
all her fears to God, leaning on him. “I know You show
Your love and grace to everyone but he deserves Your
mercy. He’s a good man.” She gave that up to the Lord
as well, surrendering all to His care. She rested, safe
in that Embrace as she had so often.
So many times she felt God was her only
friend while growing up Deaf in a Hearing household in a
tiny Midwestern town. She’d turned to Him when an
infection took most of her hearing. Even at twelve
years old, she knew He would give her strength and help
her. And He had. Between God’s love and her mother’s
insistence that Cathy could and would live on her own
terms, she’d managed a good and fruitful life.
Her mother refused to let a teenage Cathy
retired from society, from public school. Oh, the
battle Momma waged to have a teacher brought in who
could help. God had come through then, sending Sandra
Morrison who became both teacher, interpreter, and
mentor for Cathy. Profoundly Hard of Hearing herself,
the teacher insisted Cathy learn to read lips as well as
learn ASL. She insisted Cathy wouldn’t be cut off from
Hearing people who couldn’t sign and wouldn’t be forced
to have them write everything down just so they could
communicate. Without Sandra, Cathy would never have had
the courage to head off to college someplace as big and
exciting as D. C. could be. A graduate of Gallaudet
University, Cathy’s degree in criminology led her to
seek a job in the area surrounding the college for Deaf
But it was her father who led her to law
enforcement. That sense of wonder and comfort she’d
felt when she’d sat in his patrol car still filled her
when she walked into a police station. She felt at home
there even when there were stares and jokes and hard
words because she wasn’t just like everyone else.
Ethan had been like that. Not cruel or
mean but certainly overly truthful about his misgivings
of some of her abilities. Translation was perfectly
acceptable and even welcome, riding in a patrol car to
audit how the officers dealt with Deaf and Hearing
subjects was a totally different matter. And Ethan
never failed to express his opinions with sometimes
The sun cast patterns of bright color from
the stained glass of the windows on the pew in front of
her. A cart with an off-center wheel thumped down the
corridor. Cathy wished someone would come and let her
know how Ethan fared.
She smiled remembering Zack’s confusion
when she told him she much preferred Ethan’s attitudes
to the overly protective, overly sheltering ones of
colleagues who then whispered the same concerns Ethan
had to each other. “He never lies or goes behind my
back. He’s never hypocritical. He treats me just as
bad as he treats everyone else.” Zack still had no idea
just how refreshing that could be. Ethan made no
allowances at all for what others considered her
disability. In his mind she was just the same as the
officer with allergies who consistently sneezed. He
didn’t care about the allergies unless the sneezing
affected the job.
“Cathy?” She looked up when Dorian knelt
before her, touching her arm, unsure how much time
passed while she prayed and reminisced. “There’s news.
It isn’t very good. Ethan came through the surgery.
His injuries were bad but survivable. But he won’t wake
up. They’re running all sorts of tests to see if it’s a
coma or something else. They’re concerned about a head
injury. It looks like he cracked his skull badly when
he fell down the steps.”
“Dorian?” She couldn’t ask the full
question. Fear clamped tight fingers around her throat.
Grief clouded his bright blue eyes,
drawing age lines around them. “Right now, if nothing
changes, if they can’t wake him up, he ahm…, he probably
won’t make it.”
Her teeth drove little points of pain into
her lip. She bowed her head again, an ache in her chest
nothing would erase. “Show Ethan Your mercy and care.
Hold him tight in Your arms and let him know Your
love.” She gulped back a sob. “And if You have to take
him away, give us the strength to bear the loss and be
with us all.” Dorian’s hands closed over hers. “And if
You could, give him some place with a garden. He loves
gardens. He deserves that much.”
Dorian lifted her face so she could ‘hear’