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Graham's Resolution - Book 5 - The Bitter Earth

Graham's Resolution - Book 5 - The Bitter Earth

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"I sit by the campfire, reminiscing about the past as I watch the flames dance. It's been eight long years since the world as we knew it ended, and things have changed a lot. Our group of survivors has dwindled down, but we've managed to make a life for ourselves out here in the wilderness. I can't even let my mind wander to Tala now, as I hold our daughter in my arms... 

Sheriff, our loyal companion, lies at my feet, and I can't help but wonder about his original owner. How did he end up alone on that deserted highway? It's a mystery we'll likely never solve.

I looked over at Bang, who is now a man. It's hard to believe that he was once just a scared little boy."

Sample: The Bitter Earth

July 13th

Seattle, WA

A knife lay on the dewy grass before them. It was a neglected old blade by anyone’s standards, somewhat misshapen, with a couple of small rust spots visible upon it. The black resin hilt was in no better condition. In a flash, the thief seized it. Then, a low dangerous growl. In a firm voice, Officer Lincoln Asher said, “Touch it, and I’ll release the K9. Stop resisting. I don’t want to hurt you.” 

The thief’s shaking hand instantly retreated.

With one knee in the suspect’s back, Lincoln gave Enzo a swift hand signal after he placed the handcuffs on the man’s wrists. Then he rolled the prisoner onto his side and helped him set up. Supporting him under the arm, he helped the prisoner into a standing position and dusted off the stray blades of grass clinging to the suspect’s stained and torn gray t-shirt and baggy denim jeans. 

Enzo came and sat directly in front of the man, continuously threatening him with the caveat of an attack; giving the thief the idea that at any instant he’d become the canine’s lunch. That was the point. To keep the man wary so that Officer Asher performed his job. That way, no one got hurt.  

While Enzo kept the man busy, Lincoln drew out a plastic baggie and flipped the inside out to retrieve the knife on the ground. Enzo’s growl intensified which meant the man broke eye contact with the dog or that he’d moved his foot or dared to twitch a muscle. There were times Officer Asher thought that his partner might even hear the private thoughts of man and perhaps the guy would run for it.

No sooner had the premonition crossed Lincoln’s mind that the guy might be that stupid, a flash of brown fur scrammed after him. Shaking his head at the audacity of some criminals thinking they could outrun a K9, Officer Asher leisurely strolled over to where Enzo had quickly taken down the guy for a second time, jerking at his inner thigh while the man wailed, “Get him off me!”

“Trying to make things worse for yourself?”

“Ah, please. He’s ripping my dick off!”

If you run again, I’ll let him, thought Officer Asher and called Enzo off. “Stop resisting.” Again, he helped the man up and this time after checking the suspects pockets and waistband for any other weapons, he walked him the three blocks back to his police car. Had he not run off in the first place, Lincoln would have gone easier on him, but after catching him trying to jimmy open the second-floor store window, he gave Asher no choice. He caught the robber in the act. On the way there, he radioed, “Suspect in cus...” was all he got out before the guy took off the first time.

After the chase and then the walk back, Officer Asher was breathing as hard as the suspect. The weather in the Seattle area rarely peaked over eighty degrees in the summer, but when it did the humidity made it feel like you were swimming in your own sweat. With his hand protecting the thief’s bald shaven head he helped him into the backseat of his patrol car. Waves of heat poured off the man. The guy’s face was filthy with trails of sweat making clean rivers through the dirt on its way down. “Squad 6113.”

The dispatch didn’t answer right. Lincoln looked at the mic as if perhaps he screwed up the call when dispatch answered after a delayed pause. “Go ahead 6113.”

“Squad 6113, I need a 10-16 for a male C-1…going to…D6,” Lincoln said as he tried to catch his breath.

As he awaited a response, he eyed the prisoner. He wished he could offer him a bottle of water. He looked pretty rough. But procedures prevented the offering. Running on a day like this was hell on anyone; even thieves.

Though he wasn’t supposed to engage in casual conversation he said, “Hot day, huh?” 

The guy nodded and when he tried to reply, he coughed instead; a phlegmy congestion filled his mouth. He spit the thick wade to the side as Lincoln watched him, making sure he wasn’t about to do something stupid. Then the prisoner sort of leaned against the squad car letting all of his weight rest there. 

Sweat began trickling down the sides of his face as he glanced up at the broiling sun overhead. Before he could respond, he noticed the prisoner sliding downward slowly. “Hey,” he ordered. “Stand, please.”  Though the prisoner continued his unconscious decent so that Officer Asher reached out and held him still by the shoulder. 

The prisoner opened his eyes half way then. 

“I said, stand please,” Lincoln warned him though it seemed the prisoner was really out of it. Then he felt the waves of heat coming off the man through his grasp on his t-shirt. “Damn, you’re hot. Are you ill?”

The prisoner nodded weakly and even that seemed to be a challenge.

“Squad 6113 to dispatch.”

“Go ahead 6113.”

“Any word on my conveyance? And how about medical? My prisoner is starting to lose consciousness.”

“Sorry 6113, the closest conveyance got called to combative prisoner.”

“What about medical?”

“Medical can…but we had to activate mutual aid. It’s going to be at least thirty minutes.”

He looked at the prisoner. Damn…that’s not going to work. “6113 to dispatch, I don’t think this guy has 30 minutes.”

As if on cue the prisoner slumped down to the side slowly along the squad car to the ground.

Lincoln pulled him back up to a standing position. With his hands handcuffed behind his back, he said, “Here…” he opened the back seat of the squad car, typically Officer Enzo’s domain. “Lay down.” He helped him inside and shut the door after moving his legs inside.

“6113 to dispatch, I’m conveying my prisoner to Harborview Medical Center myself. I’m running out of options.”

“10-04 on that 6113, I will advise a supervisor to meet you at the hospital.”

After that, Officer Asher looked down at Enzo and said, “Guess what buddy, you get to sit upfront today.”

Lincoln situated Enzo in the front passenger side of his unit and closed the door so that he could retrieve a few bottles of water from his cooler in the trunk. He twisted open one of them after setting the others on the roof of the car. He took in a deep breath and said, “Ah, hell with it.” He opened the back door where the prisoner briefly glanced at him before shutting his eyes again. Twisting the cap off the water bottle, “Here, have some water before we get going.” 

The man no less than guzzled down several large sips before he fell back into the seat shutting his eyes again. “Okay, I’m taking you to the hospital first.”

The prisoner nodded only this time he didn’t even try to open his eyes.

Then it was Enzo’s turn knowing there would be little time to give the dog water while he stayed with the prisoner in the hospital until he was relieved by another officer. 

“Hey, great job, partner,” he said and he poured water into a bowl and sat it down for Enzo to drink. Patting the dog and rubbing his fur vigorously, Lincoln wished he could remove the fur coat for the dog, perhaps with a zipper, to make him cooler in the warmer months. Though Enzo didn’t seem to complain about the heat, Lincoln thought it had to be uncomfortable to wear a fur coat in such warm humid temperatures, damp heat had a way of getting to the best of men. And to Lincoln…Enzo was the best of men.

Opening his own bottle of water finally, Lincoln tilted his head back and let the cool liquid quench his languishing thirst. The paperwork, or reporting as they called it now, would wait until after Lincoln conveyed the prisoner to the hospital. So much for protocol. Seems everyone was making do with limited resources today.

After rolling down the windows of the car to keep cool while he cracked on the air condition, Lincoln felt heat swath over to the front seat in a hot, wet breeze. He found the air too stifling to sit inside with the excessive heat emanating off the suspect and his partner’s panting making conditions worse. Finally feeling cool air coming out of the vents, he closed the windows and drove the few blocks to the hospital. 

He wasn’t sure what it was about the hot muggy weather some were calling an Indian summer, but it was making the general population crazy-stupid. Every call he’d gone on the last few days, people were at each other’s throat. They’d had more domestic violence calls than in recent history. One thing was for sure, since they lived in the Northwest, few homes had air conditioning and on the rare year when they needed it, violence rose with the temperatures at a fever pitch.

Lincoln never got used to relaxing with a prisoner in custody. Having a K9 unit, it wasn’t customary to transport one anywhere. Constantly checking his rear-view mirror in case, the guy somehow slipped his cuffs and pulled a weapon was a constant threat. He even watched him on the MDC. 

“How you doing back there?” Officer Asher asked but there was no response coming from the guy secured in the backseat. With his eyes flashing back in the rear-view mirror, Lincoln watched as sweat dripped off the guy’s jaw running down the inside of his neck. He remembered having his hand on the man’s head briefly to keep him from banging it on the roof, and when he did, it felt like an oven. Even with the outside heat the prisoner was emanating his own furnace.

“Dayum” Lincoln murmured to himself, knowing with the nip from Enzo and the fever, he and his partner were in for an investigation when the dust settled from this day. Usually, in case of a bite from a K9 officer, there was an immediate Sargent sent to the scene with any use of force.

“This is going to take all day,” he said to his partner riding shotgun as they made their way to Harborview Medical Center. Enzo’s brown soulful eyes met his. Reaching over, Lincoln scratched the dog under his police badge collar. 

After losing his last K9, during a home invasion call and subsequent firefight, Officer Asher didn’t think he could take on another K9 again. The pain of losing Khan was too much. He’d loved that dog as if he were his own brother and stayed with him in the emergency vet hospital, stroking his fur and talking to him all night as he fought for his life. Eventually, the gun shots that entered his body, took his life. The feeling of sheer anger made him want to shred the assailant by himself; no weapons necessary, he could do what was necessary with his bare hands if only they’d let him. Lincoln Asher was a calm man by most standard but not then…then, he was a madman capable of the most heinous murder. 

After a few weeks, they brought Enzo to meet him. Neither of them wanted anything to do with each other at first. 

Then his Captain said, “Linc, give him some time. He’s just like you.”

It seemed both man and dog were mourning the loss of their latest partners and time was all they needed to shed the grief. Enzo too had lost his previous officer to a bad day on the job. The ones, if you lived through them, you never forget and if you don’t, the date becomes etched on your tombstone. No other private sector job was like that on a daily basis. You didn’t go to work as a cashier, banker or tech support and risk your life every day. Of course, there were exceptional days when a criminal walked into those businesses with a killing intent, but for the most part they didn’t put on a uniform and head into trouble like police officers did. Yet, Officer Asher chose this job after his stint in the military. It’s what he knew how to do and he was good at it. As it turned out, Enzo was good at it too and they’d turned out to be a great team together.

The first night that Enzo came home with him, he felt like he was betraying Kahn in a way by letting Enzo sleep on his bed, play with his toys and piss in the same spot that Enzo had done before. In time, Lincoln got over what felt like an intrusion and instead he and Enzo became more than partners; they’d become friends.

Not long after, he and Enzo were a team like none other. It was as if the dog read his mind. Enzo operated by hand signals unlike any other canines that Lincoln had worked with before. They became so in tune with one another that Enzo would act just on eye contact. 

Once they pulled up in front of Harborview Medical center, Officer Asher parked near the entrance and blasted the air conditioner on high again so that Enzo remained comfortable inside the vehicle while he escorted the sick man inside. When the suspect awoke perspiration poured off his forehead and his eyes were wild. 

“Where are we?” He looked around as if he had no idea. 

“The hospital. Come on, let’s get you looked at. Can you walk?”


“Can you walk on your own?”

“Yeah,” he said but Lincoln doubted those words.

“Okay, just a second,” he said as he poured Enzo another bowl of water sitting it on the floorboard in the backseat floorboard and moved Enzo to his regular area of the car. “Here you go buddy. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” But when he pulled the man to a standing position, his knees buckled underneath him. “Woah, there, come on,” he said hoisting the skinny guy up by the arms.

Department SOP (standard operating procedure) dictated that he leaves Enzo in the running locked car while he brought the suspect inside for medical treatment. If it was going to be for more than fifteen minutes he’d call for someone else to take over babysitting the suspect. And, by the looks of the overflowing parking lot, and the size of the crowd in the waiting room, he went ahead and called for another officer while he waited in line. 

People coughed and wheezed like in a tuberculosis ward. Mothers paced the floor with feverish children lying over their shoulders. An old man came in complaining of chest pains and collapsed while waiting in line for a nurse to evaluate him. Ten minutes later he and the suspect progressed barely inside the doorway.

Officer Asher was inclined to handcuff the guy to a gurney and leave him with the staff to get out of there since he was barely responsive, but he had to stay with him at all times. He was practically asleep leaning against him again. God, you smell. Obviously, he hadn’t bathed in more than a day and with this heat, he wreaked of body odor. 

When a passing nurse glanced back at him and his uniform cut through the line, he held her up. “Nurse, how long is the wait? I’ve got a prisoner here who has a K9 bite and he’s running a fever. He’s a flight risk so I can’t just leave him here.”

She looked him up and down like he was crazy, then she seemed to take pity on him. “I’ll be honest sweetheart, he won’t see an actual doctor for like six hours, but I can move you forward since you’re an officer of the law.” She lowered her voice then and tugged on his sleeve to follow her. In a whisper, she said as she walked, “If I were you. I’d let him go and get out of here. Now. We’re dealing with some crazy virus.”

“I wish I could but that’s not happening. I’ve got a K9 waiting in the car. I can’t leave him out there for long. Someone is supposed to take over for me here, but I don’t know when they’ll arrive. You mentioned a virus? I haven’t heard anything about a virus.”

Without answering his question, she led them through the line while several others flashed dirty looks his way but one look at his uniform and they held their tongues. He knew it wasn’t fair but he had a job to do. The nurse led them to a little room with an exam table and two chairs. “You can wait here. I’ll see if I can get someone as soon as possible since your partner is waiting in the car. Is he okay out there?”

“Yeah, he’s fine but I might need to check on him in a few minutes. The air conditioner is going full blast and the engine’s running.” 

“That’s good. This heat is too much even for the dogs,” she said and closed the door.

The suspect was nearly dead weight against his side. “Here, lay down,” he said and helped the man up onto the papered examination table. Uncuffing one of his arms, he let the guy lay down flat on the gurney, the paper cracking with depression, and then Officer Asher cuffed one of the prisoner’s arms to the side railing. He wouldn’t be going anywhere at least. Not in his condition and certainly not handcuffed to the bed. When Officer Asher saw the nearby sink, he immediately washed his hands as well as possible, he’d learned long ago to do so while singing happy birthday to himself twice…seemed silly but now it was a habit. If the guy had the virus that the nurse mentioned, he certainly didn’t want to risk contracting it and then giving it to Paige. 

Thinking of her, he went ahead and called but only received her voice mail. “Hey, it’s me. Listen, I might be a little late coming home. Don’t wait up and please avoid any public places if you can, there’s a nasty virus going around. I’m at the hospital right now with a suspect and everyone here is sick. I’ll see you soon. Love you, bye.”

As he began to put his phone away it buzzed in his hand, he thought it was her returning his call already though when he looked, there was a message from Officer Gance. He was there to take over for him. “Whew!” he said and glanced at the sick man on the gurney from what he could tell he was out cold. At least I don’t have to wait around for you, after all, he thought as he texted his location back to the officer trying to find them in labyrinth of the emergency ward.

When Officer Gance walked through the doorway, he wasn’t smiling nor did he seem the least happy to be there. He was an older man with graying hair and no one would ever accuse him of holding too much compassion for his fellow man. Gance was known as a straight forward guy if not a little brutal in his delivery. 

“Hey, at least it’s air conditioned.”

“Yeah, with germs,” Gance said.

Lincoln laughed, “You’ll be out of here in no time. He has a bite, courtesy of Enzo, on his right inner thigh. He’s also running a pretty high temperature. The rest is on file. Thanks, I hate leaving Enzo in the car, especially in this heat, even though the air conditioner is running.”

“Yeah even though there big lettering saying, Keep Back on your unit, they’re still hovering. I’m surprised you conveyed him yourself.”

“I had no choice. No one was coming.”

“It's a little crazy out there today. I saw Officer Enzo on the way in. He’s doing fine, but there’s a crowd filed out the waiting room doors and they’re gawking at him.”

“Great, I better get out of here then. Hey, thanks man. I owe you one.”

“You sure do. Later, Asher,” Gance said as Lincoln left. 

Outside of the little exam room, Lincoln was shocked to see that the crowd seemed to have doubled in his time in the waiting room, if that were possible. Whatever the virus was it was coming on fast. Holding his breath for as long as he could, Lincoln tried to get through the crowd and out to his car as fast as possible. When he did exit the building’s double sliding doors the hot humid air nearly knocked him over. Then to find people gathered around his running car which was creating more heat was unsettling. “Excuse me. Make way, please,” he said multiple times to get through the thick crowd. It wasn’t that they were gathering there to get a look at Enzo, the squad car was actually just in the way of the buildings emergency room door.

Finally, he was able to get inside of his squad car. After briefly checking on Enzo, who was panting but doing fine otherwise, he pulled out the hand sanitizer and slathered it between his palms and then took out a sanitizing wipe and swiped every surface he touched upon entering the squad care. Then he took off away from the hospital as fast as he could, dodging between the growing crowd. It was the end of his shift and since he was able to drive directly home due to having a K9 unit car, he headed straight for home through the increasing traffic.

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