Author and Copyright: Joann Stroh (Comments only in English please)
<Shit, where the hell did that guy come from!?>
The thought ricocheted through his mind as he ran
for his life through the woods. A driving rain added its own layer of
misery, as howling winds lashed the trees above his head.
<Damn! Where's the cavalry when you need them?
Come on, guys, I could sure use your help about now!> He knew any possibility
of getting out of this hell hole hinged on the arrival of help, in the
form of his fellow officers, and it had better be soon!
"Well, kid, you going to stay down there all night or come up here and finish what you started?"
Recognition allowed Peter to calm his wildly racing
heart. Finally managing to speak through chattering teeth, he shouted
straight up into the flashlight beam, "I could use a hand here, Kermit!"
Peter stopped, taking in the scene before him.
There were at least a dozen uniformed police officers busy cuffing suspects
and none-too-gently shoving the more belligerent ones into the back of
a black and white police van. Other officers were busy combing every nook
and cranny; gathering, bagging and chronicling evidence.
<Maybe they didn't see me.>
He began silently pleading with every entity in the universe to let his sometimes partners and fellow detectives from the 101st find their conversation with Peterson and Holloway so scintillating that they would be unable to tear themselves away and, therefore, postpone the inevitable harassment of one Detective Peter Caine. He chanced another furtive glance. <Damn! Looks like my luck's holding. Yep, here they come. Great, just great!>
Reaching their fellow detective, both women paused looking him up and down with great interest.
"What do you think, Jody, drowned rat?" Mary Margaret struggled to keep her slowly spreading smile from bursting into laughter.
"No, more like a drowned puppy. I think it's the eyes, don't you, Mary Margaret?"
"Very funny Jody, Mary Margaret."
Jaws clamped, Peter attempted to keep his teeth from chattering. Another tremor shot through his body.
"Hey, partner, you okay?" Jody moved a little closer to his side with obvious concern.
Feeling worse by the minute, Peter suddenly felt overwhelmed with fatigue, the disabling cold and his inability to help complete this bust that he had worked undercover on for the last two weeks. His anger rose like a flame.
"Considering my backup took its sweet time getting here after that piece of shit blew my cover and I had to run through the forest in a driving rain storm, not to mention falling into a drainage ditch of freezing water, Jody, and almost drowning, I'm just great! Couldn't be better." Running out of steam, Peter ended his short tirade.
"Tsk, tsk, a bit cranky, are we?"
Getting no response, Skalany continued. "We got here as quickly as we could, Peter. We couldn't chance them making us. We had to hang back, you know that, partner. Who was that guy anyway? I couldn't believe my ears when he introduced you as 'My friend, Detective Peter Caine of the 101st.' Things were going pretty well up until then."
"Yeah, tell me about it! That was the one and only James Browning, better known as Jimmie-the-weed Browning. I arrested that slime ball sixteen months ago on charges of possession, assault and resisting arrest. He should still be in jail entertaining his fellow inmates, not out breaking up my sting operations!"
"Well, cheer up, partner. We're gathering enough evidence in here to send this bevy of low-life's up the river for a very long ride. That doesn't even include the undercover information you have gathered against them over the last couple of weeks. We did good, Detective."
"Yeah, Peter, I bet there's a super cop award in this for all of us," added Jody, grinning.
"Oh well, that certainly makes me feel better. Another 'pat me on the back, aren't I wonderful' ball to attend. I'll rush right home and dust off my monkey suit, Jody."
"Geez, Skalany, I don't think the wet look brings out the best in our favorite detective."
"Wh-what about T-Tony L-Laureano?" Peter managed to spit out through chattering teeth.
Studying her watch, Skalany replied, "They should be booking him even as we speak."
Peter flinched as a blanket slid across his shoulders and an iron grip wrapped itself around his left bicep.
"Come with me Detective Caine."
The exhausted young cop glared into the green shaded eyes of his co-worker and ex-mercenary, Kermit Griffin.
"I can see those wheels turning, kid. Don't
even think about it. You are in no shape
Sucking in a deep breath, his shoulders slumping as he exhaled, Peter knew Kermit was right. He barely had enough strength left to stay on his feet, much less get involved in a tug-of-war.
"That's my boy. Come along quietly now or I'll have to cuff you."
Exiting through the nearest door, Kermit kept a
firm grip on the younger man's arm, dragging the recalcitrant detective
over to the Kermitmobile. Opening the right front passenger door, he shoved
Peter inside, keeping one hand on his companion's head to ensure that
he didn't add cracking his head on the door frame to his list of miseries.
Walking around the car, Kermit opened the driver's side door and slid
in behind the wheel. Starting the car's engine, he switched on the heater.
Getting out, the ex-mercenary bent down looking across the seat at Peter.
Peter didn't dare move, even if he wanted to, which he didn't. He recognized the mercenary tone in the older detective's words and nobody challenged Kermit's mercenary tone. That included the hot-shot detective of the 101st precinct, who at the moment didn't feel so hot.
Walking out of his office at the precise moment the noise level rose by several octaves, Paul Blaisdell scanned the room looking for his foster son, Peter Caine. Spotting him standing just inside the entrance to the squad room with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, Paul felt a wave of relief wash over him. Knowing his son was working undercover these last two weeks had wreaked havoc on his nervous system. But then, it always did. It was just one of several reasons he didn't often give-in and allow Peter to go undercover. His son's too expressive face was another good reason. And then there was always Annie, his much-loved wife of many years and Peter's foster mother. She would have his head on a platter if anything happened to her beloved son.
Technically, Peter was their foster son, but on the family emotional scale he was, in every way, Paul and Annie Blaisdell's son. They loved him every bit as much as their two natural children; Carolyn and Kelly.
The first time he laid eyes on the kid was fourteen years ago at the Pathways Orphanage. Paul was there to give his annual presentation on police work and possibly, in the process, reach a kid or two. Peter had been a raggedy, sullen teenager. He, a police lieutenant here at the 101st precinct. Paul didn't have an explanation at the time, nor did he have one now as to why he was instantly drawn to that angry young soul, but drawn he had been. Within days of their first meeting, Peter Caine took up permanent residence in Paul Blaisdell's heart. It was the same for Annie. Less than a year from that first meeting, they fostered the boy and never looked back. Not once did they regret their decision.
Paul watched Kermit walking across the squad room
"How close, Kermit?" Paul's eyes never left the figure of his son.
Kermit pushed his sunglasses back into place. "Do you really want to know?"
Paul glanced at his friend and then his eyes quickly shot back to where his son stood just in time to witness a tremor quake through Peter's body. He could almost hear the kid's teeth chattering from across the room.
Sighing, Paul observed, "I know it's raining,
but why is he the only one standing in a puddle? He looks pitiful."
"Yeah, well, running for your life through the woods in a rainstorm, not to mention spending time in a large drainage ditch filled with cold water, will do that to you."
Paul stared at Kermit, their eyes locking and in that instant his question was answered.
These two men were capable of passing more information between them in one look than most people were capable of doing in the course of an entire conversation. They knew each other to a depth few people ever reached. In the course of their mercenary years together, each learned of the other's strengths, weaknesses and fears. To Kermit, Paul was both a father figure and a mentor.
Three years ago, during Kermit's darkest hours, Paul Blaisdell came to his rescue. It was a time when the growing darkness within his soul threatened to devour him. He brought Kermit here and plopped him down into the middle of this chaotic and yet somewhat normal world of the 101st Precinct as his computer guru. There was no one, dead or alive, whom Kermit Griffin admired and respected more than Paul Blaisdell. Those feelings fully extended to Paul's family, especially the hot-shot, fly-by-the-seat of his pants young detective now standing across the room forming a small puddle beneath his feet. The same kid who had somehow managed to slip past the cement fortress Kermit Griffin so painstakingly kept guarding his heart against such encroachments.
"He'll be okay, Paul, unless maybe his cold gets worse. I'm sure the night swim did not help, but the important thing is the kid is safe. We can relax. I say we enjoy the quiet while it lasts."
"Yeah, you're right...he's safe and in one piece. I better get over there and haul his butt off to the showers. See if we can put some color back in his face. He does look pitiful, doesn't he? Listen, after I get him cleaned up, I'll drive him home. Think you and Skalany can drop his car off later?"
"Sure, no problem."
Paul took a couple of steps and stopped. Looking back at his long time friend and computer expert, he smiled. "Thanks Kermit."
"Anytime, Captain, anytime."
Kermit stood for a few seconds watching Paul as he walked across the squad room to retrieve his son. Turning, he retreated into his office and back to his beloved computers where he could once again achieve some semblance of peace and quiet.
Entering his apartment, Peter gently closed the door behind him. Exhaustion permeated his every move. "Ackchoo!! Ackchoo!" His body shook with the intensity of each sneeze.
"Damn, damn, damn! I don't have time for this! I don't care if half the precinct and all the priests in China are down with this friggin' cold, I will not get sick! Okay, Peter, you can do this. Remember, it is the mind that controls the body ..ah...Ah...CHOOO!"
Groaning in frustration at what he perceived to
be his body's betrayal, Peter leaned back against the door, muttering,
"Yeah, well right now I think my body is in a full state of rebellion."
Reaching deep within, he finally mustered up enough energy to push away
from the door. Weaving his way into the bedroom, he dropped fully clothed
onto the bed. Clutching the bedspread and rolling to the middle, he quickly
found himself encased in the warm cocoon of its folds. Within seconds
a deep, dreamless sleep claimed the exhausted young cop of the 101st.
As the night deepened, a steady rain fell outside
the balcony windows in a shower of splattering drops. Inside a room fourteen
stories up, a man stepped out of the shadows; a tall man, a man with an
aura of both raw power and a quiet gentleness. Gliding on silent feet,
he came to stand next to the bed, looking down upon the sleeping detective.
A sense of peace and love radiated from him, engulfing the younger man
much like a warm embrace. Slowly stretching out a hand, he brushed gentle
fingers across Peter's forehead. A look of wonder etched the normally
enigmatic face of Kwai Chang Caine as his fingers glided softly as a butterfly's
wings over the planes of his child's face. Even in the recesses of his
deepest slumber, the young man responded with a soft, barely audible sigh.
The Shaolin priest and the Shambhala Master sat quietly inside Caine's fourth story residence in the middle of Chinatown, sipping tea. Candles threw off a soft glow, sending dancing shadows across the walls. Dark lumbering clouds bled rain from the sky. The hour being early, the day remained in the grip of darkness outside the terrace doors.
Lo Si had known this quiet Shaolin, now sitting across from him in deep thought, for a good portion of the younger man's life. He was an expert when it came to Kwai Chang Caine and his often unspoken need for guidance. It was for this very reason he now sat across from the younger priest enjoying a most delicious cup of tea. Although, if truth be known, his personal preference would be to add a little 'something' to the tea to give it a bit more robustness.
"You have visited your son at his apartment, Kwai Chang Caine?"
"Yes. The...undercover assignment Peter has been working on ...is complete.
"Did you speak with him?"
"No, Master. Peter was in a deep sleep, born of exhaustion and his growing illness. There is a terrible cold going through his precinct. Many are ill. My son is often careless with his health."
"He will be in need of his father's apothecary skills."
Caine shrugged one shoulder. "I am unsure, Master. I may not be invited.
"Your recent absence has brought much grief to your son, Kwai Chang Caine."
A profound sadness etched the younger priest's face. "Yes. His anger is great and it is directed at me. Once again, my son's tigers are caged."
"His fear of abandonment, your abandonment, lays heavily upon his heart, my friend. It must be dealt with soon, for Peter's sake. His very life may depend upon it."
"Yes. I fear it will overwhelm him. He has lost his ability to trust. He has much fear."
"This is true. Peter does not trust his father to stay with him. He feels he cannot trust himself to accept your leaving. He fears his own rage and what he believes to be the consequences; a judgment of unworthiness from those he loves."
Caine's eyes closed tightly, his face reflecting deep anguish. "I should not have returned!"
Caine's eyes snapped open in surprise at the old one's sharp tone.
"Had you not returned your son would now be dead, as well as his captain."
Bowing his head in shame, Caine replied, "I apologize, Master. You are correct."
"You have much work to do, Kwai Chang Caine, or you will lose your son. This time it is you who must reach out to Peter. His love for you is great. He will forgive, but do not let your own fears and doubts cause hesitation. Your son will not come to you. His wounds still bleed. If you wait, the chasm between you and Peter will grow too deep for crossing and you will lose him."
Caine remained sitting, head bowed, looking down into the tea he held, as if the answers he sought were to be found at the bottom of the ornate cup.
Lo Si continued sipping his tea as he closely scrutinized
the younger priest.
"Kwai Chang Caine, another has entered your
son's life while you were away. One who has reacquainted himself with
Peter and comforted him while you wandered." The bird-like eyes
"Of whom do you speak, Master?"
Lo Si shook his head. "You must ask your son, or go to his other father and speak with him of this person. Blaisdell knows this man...quite well."
Lo Si slowly rose from his position and carried his cup over to the sink. Turning, he gave a slight bow in Caine's direction. "Thank you for the tea, my friend."
Reaching the doorway, Lo Si turned once again to face the younger priest. "Go soon. Time grows short. Do not allow your son to slip through your fingers."
The Ancient exited the room, leaving Kwai Chang Caine to stare after him with many unanswered questions.
Standing framed in the doorway of Captain Paul Blaisdell's office, Caine quietly observed his son's foster father pouring over the abundance of papers littering the desk in front of him.
Paul's head jerked up at the unexpected intrusion, eyes locking with those of the Shaolin priest.
<Peter's father had returned a mere three weeks ago from his walkabout to find his path. Whatever the hell that means,> thought Paul.
Fourteen months prior to Caine's unexpected departure six months ago, he had come to the this city in search of a young boy whom he believed would someday return to China and reclaim his rightful place as emperor. Instead of finding the boy, Sing Ling, Kwai Chang Caine discovered the son he thought dead during his previous fifteen years of wandering. Peter was working undercover at the time infiltrating the organization of a crime lord by the name of Tan in an attempt to thwart the man's plans to take over Chinatown for his own illegal aspirations. Caine also chose to take upon himself the task of helping the people of Chinatown overcome the man's evil and in doing so, he and Peter were reunited.
In the strangest twist of fate, Tan turned out to be the very same renegade priest known to the Caines as Dao. The same man who, fifteen years prior, had destroyed their Shaolin temple in Northern California in an attempt to wipe Peter and his father from the face of the earth. Immediately after the destruction of their temple, an old priest and friend of Kwai Chang Caine's, believing there to be only one way to save father and son from the renegade priest, set in motion a plan to make Dao believe both had perished in the temple's destruction. Thinking to ensure the plan's success, the old one convinced each Caine that the other had perished in the explosions and fire, which killed many and reduced the temple to rubble.
After the miracle of finding his son alive, the Shaolin father had tried his best to recapture that which had been ripped from them those many years ago; a father-son relationship. Then six months ago, without warning, Peter's father voluntarily turned his back and walked away to find his so-called path. Paul knew he would never forgive the priest for being able to turn and walk away, leaving his son standing heartbroken on a bustling Chinatown street. Not once during his six month absence did he contact Peter. The day would soon come when he would confront this enigmatic priest, now standing in the doorway, regarding those lost six months, but it would not be today.
Paul rose from his chair. "Caine, come in.
I've had my nose buried in this paperwork for so long, I didn't notice
you standing there. Please, have a seat." Paul gestured toward the
chair opposite his desk.
The Shaolin Master gracefully lowered himself into the chair as Paul sat down. "I did not mean to surprise you, Captain. Perhaps next time I shall strive to enter...not so quietly? I am glad you are healed and have returned to work."
Paul noted the other man's words regarding his
health were framed as a statement, not as a question. < Maybe he really
can see inside a person, as Peter claims>.
"I take it this visit concerns Peter?
"I do not see our son. Should he not be here at work?"
"No, I gave him the next three days off. Last night he and several other of his fellow detectives completed a very important undercover operation. They busted one of the largest drug and stolen car trafficking rings in the state. Made the mayor very happy. No doubt there will be commendations in this for all of them. What can I do for you, Caine?"
"Our son is ill."
"Yeah, I think that is a safe bet. He is coming down with this damned cold that has wiped out half my squad room and last night didn't help. It is also why I drove him home at the end of his shift with explicit instructions to get plenty of rest and see a doctor. Considering his track record with pneumonia, I'm not taking any chances. I would like to avert disaster, if possible." Paul didn't even bother to question how Caine already knew Peter was not well. He always knew his son's condition.
"What happened last night, Captain?"
"I think it's called the Peter Caine luck. The bust went down in an old abandoned barn out at the end of Dryer Road. A guy Peter arrested last year showed up at the last minute and was all too happy to introduce him to his band of merry thieves as 'Peter Caine of the 101st.' The kid ended up running for his life through the woods in a raging storm."
Glancing at his watch, Paul added, "It's early, he is probably still in bed. I'll give him a call and remind him about setting up an appointment for today. Knowing that kid's stubborn streak, I want to be absolutely certain he understands seeing a doctor is an order and not a request. If you have time, maybe you can stop by and see him, make sure he not only makes an appointment, but keeps it."
"I am not certain our son will accept my help, Captain."
"What do you mean?"
"I have not spoken to my son, although I have attempted to do so on several occasions, since the defeat of the Shadow Assassins."
Paul sat speechless, staring across the desk at Peter's father. "What!? But, I thought you and Peter were....were spending time together, getting reacquainted, doing the reunion thing again. You are telling me you haven't seen, or spoken to Peter in the last three weeks?"
A slight nod from Caine gave him his answer.
"Damn, I don't believe this!"
"Our son has not been to Chinatown since my return." Taking a deep breath he continued, "Peter holds much anger inside and it is directed at me. My son's tigers are once again caged. Since my return, I have come to realize the degree of pain my departure caused our son. It is imperative I speak with him soon. I have come to ask for your help."
"What can I do? I didn't abandon him."
The brutal words were out of his mouth before he even realized he had formed them.
"God, I'm sorry!. I...I don't know why I said
that, I apologize."
"No, Captain, you do not owe an apology. There are times when the truth is difficult to hear, even for a Shaolin priest, but it remains the truth. I am the one who must apologize. Peter is also your son. It is the natural instinct of a father to protect his child and be angry with those who would inflict pain upon that child. You hold much anger within your heart for the pain you feel I have caused your son. Soon we will talk, but for now I must seek your assistance in healing our mutual child." The priest took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, momentarily closing his eyes. "It will not be easy."
"From what you have just told me, I think I'm safe in saying that is an understatement." Paul rubbed his hands over his face. Suddenly he felt tired...and old.
"He took it very hard when you turned your back and walked away. He's been walking the edge for the last six months, while those of us who love and care about him have done our damndest to hold the pieces together. If only you had contacted him, even once, during your absence. Not knowing if you were dead or alive ripped that kid apart."
Paul stared across the desk at the priest and for one split second, almost too fast to catch, Paul saw the mask slip and gut wrenching pain flash through the eyes of the Shaolin father facing him. Paul discovered he felt no pleasure in witnessing such raw pain in the eyes of Peter's father.
Slapping both hands down on the desk, Paul's voice echoed his bafflement. "I just assumed these past weeks you and Peter were working through your differences. After the Shadow Assassins were sent packing, he seemed thrilled you had decided to stay. Shaking his head, Paul continued, "This is not good, not good at all. It means he's shut down. He is not dealing with any of it. Unfortunately, this undercover assignment has provided him with exactly the excuse he needs to focus on anything other than what's eating his insides."
"Our son needs our help to embrace the pain, the rage, and release it before it destroys him."
"Or before he gets himself killed."
Silence engulfed the two men as the clock hanging above the door marked the passing seconds. Paul almost jumped at the sound of Caine's quiet voice.
"Captain, I have another concern."
"And that would be?"
"I have been told that another has entered my son's life during my absence. One who knows Peter and is also known to you...quite well."
"Yes, that is correct. Just another fact I assumed Peter had already told you."
Paul took a deep breath. "Does the name Peter Thomas Sinclair mean anything to you?"
While the face remained unchanged, Blaisdell saw surprise register in the priest's eyes.
"Laura's father, Peter's grandfather. He is alive?"
"Yes, he is alive and well.
"And you know him?"
"P.T. Sinclair and I go way back. We met during our Navy days. We were in a special forces unit together. Not long after we were discharged from the Navy, we both found ourselves answering our country's patriotic call."
"Yes, as mercenaries."
"How did Laura's father find Peter?"
"It was the year after we fostered him. P.T.
and I had just completed a very successful mission and we had a layover
in New Orleans. I remember it was hotter than hell. I was
Paul unconsciously picked up a pencil and began taping it softly against the papers on the desk in front of him.
Kwai Chang Caine sat attentively listening. This was a unique opportunity to learn more about Peter's other father....more about the man who had raised his son.
"I was pretty excited about my new son. During the course of our dinner, I started telling him all about Peter. When I got to the part about the Shaolin temple being destroyed and Peter's father being a Shaolin priest.....well, let's just say it got P.T.'s attention. Up until that moment, I didn't even know he had a grandson. I did remember P.T. stopping by our house and spending an evening with us a few years prior to that night in New Orleans, but it was not until then I learned why. He had been on his way back from visiting the burned out ruins of a Shaolin temple in Braniff, California, looking for his twelve-year old grandson, Peter Caine. He never talked about it. Guess the pain was just too raw to share with anyone. I knew he had lost his daughter some years before and that her name was Laura, but I never made the connection between her and Peter."
"But he did not take his grandson. He left him with you?"
"Yes, he did. We stayed up all night talking. He made a great sacrifice that night, Caine, and I will be forever in his debt. Even as early in our relationship as it was, I think it would have killed us to give up Peter. I hate to admit it, but P.T's decision to let us continue raising him made me a very happy man. I know it was painful for him. Makes me sound pretty selfish."
"Your love for our son does you great honor."
"As much as he wanted Peter, P.T. knew he was in no position to take on his grandson. Hell, he had already lost Laura and for awhile, he believed he'd lost his only grandchild. He was running scared. Being heavily into the mercenary world at the time, he could not bring himself to take any chances with Peter's life. He wanted his grandson to have a family, to lead a normal life and above all, to be kept safe. I made him that promise."
"Yes, he is an honorable man. Laura's father would do all within his power to protect Peter."
"I was a lieutenant here at the 101st. at the time and it was only on rare occasions I took on a mission. Unlike P.T., I had a wife, two daughters and a son to consider."
"And now he has returned?"
"Yes, and he is here to stay. He plans to be a part of his grandson's life. None of us are getting any younger. Guess he is feeling the pressure of it's now or never." Paul smiled.
"Yes, I do know the feeling, Captain."
"Actually, I introduced him to Peter over a year ago, as an old mercenary friend. It was right after the dragonswing episode. You had left to visit the Dalai Lama. To make a long story short, not long afterwards Rykker contacted us saying that P.T. wanted to meet Peter, only this time as his grandfather. He wanted to be part of his grandson's life. He even went as far as to purchase the house out on Muir Lake. Three months ago we met, discussed the particulars, and set-up a dinner date at our house for the two of them to officially meet as grandfather and grandson. Annie and I discussed it at length and decided the time was right for the two of them to be reunited."
"I am pleased to learn P.T. is alive and well.
I did not know these many years whether Laura's father still lived. It
is indeed good news. Having a grandfather in one's life is a blessing."
"Sinclair's out of town at the moment taking care of business. I don't mean mercenary business. He is no longer involved in that world. He has wisely invested his money over the years and is now a very wealthy man. He left on an extended business trip right before you reappeared. I'm expecting him back any day. I do know Peter has been staying out at the lake, at least part of the time, keeping an eye on things for his grandfather."
Caine rose from his chair. "I must return to Chinatown, but I will be in touch. Please let me know when Laura's father returns. I am looking forward to our paths once again crossing. I will endeavor to contact our son. Thank you, Captain." Caine bowed and left Blaisdell's office as silently as he had arrived.
Paul leaned back in his chair with arms bent at the elbows, hands clasped at the back of his neck, ruminating. Foremost was what the hell to do about Peter and Caine. Surely, between Caine, himself and Sinclair they could pull the kid together. Right now, it was his best and quite possibly only option.