by Debra Hicks
"Hold out your hand," she commanded.
I did as told, having long ago made it policy to never argue with Grandmothers. She laid a heavy black wood box in my hand. Inside was a linked silver chain with a two by two inch stone hung on it. The stone was gray, polished, carved with markings that I didn't recognize. It looked very old, was probably very valuable and was definitely very ugly.
"Thank you." I started, "It's very...."
"Never can know when a little leprechaun magic will be helpful," she interrupted in a light brogue.
I loved it. I could see Ray flush all the way across the room. He absolutely hates when I tell him things like the only reason he's mine is because the leprechauns kicked his gorgeous ass out. Usually hits me when I mention it. And here was his own grandmum talking about magic and leprechauns.
"Well, don't just stand there, lad," she continued, "put it on."
Was my turn to colour up, wasn't it. It's one thing to be given a family treasure, an ugly family treasure, it's another to be expected to wear it. There was a strange sound from Doyle's direction, sort of like someone trying to choke on a laugh. I ignored him, put on my best continental manner, pulled the chain out. It was surprisingly cold.
"I'd be proud to." I dropped the chain around my neck, made a show out of admiring the thing. "It's lovely."
"It's ugly as sin, Bodie," Gram laughed. Her voice grew serious. "But it'll help keep both of you alive."
"We can use all the help we can get," I assured her.
Ray joined us by the fireplace. I waited for a caustic comment but he just looked at me like he was proud of the way I had handled it. The fire highlighted the copper in his hair, created intriguing shadows around that lovely dented cheekbone. It took all of my considerable willpower not to lean over and kiss him.
His grandmum watched, wearing that same knowing half-smile I've seen so often on her grandson's face. She had voiced a tentative approval of our relationship to the Doyle clan. Now was not the time to put her off with an open display of affection. A very open display if it had been my choice. I made do with ruffling his wild curls.
We said our goodnights and goodbyes at the same time since our plane out was at five. Gram had given the okay to the clan, and she had given me the chain but she had also given us the room with twin beds. I knew the room across the hall held a big four poster but declined to comment.
When Ray had suggested the trip we had agreed to behave ourselves for the four days we'd be here. We would have managed if he hadn't given me that particular smile while we were in the old barn. And again on our walking tour of the local hills. And, well, the third time may have been my fault. As it was I was still beginning to get...impatient.
Ray must have been having similar thoughts. He smiled apologetically, kissed me very chastely on the cheek and turned out the light to undress. Smart move that. Seeing the little golli starkers at this point would have raised unwanted, no...unneeded excitement. I sighed, lay the chain on the night stand.
I woke in the dark hour just before dawn, sweating. The dream faded as I reached for it, leaving only a vague uneasy feeling. I stared through the darkness to the other bed. Ray was still an unmoving lump, completely buried under the blankets. That was a bit of luck, meant I hadn't thrashed about. Ray's a light sleeper, we both are, comes with the job.
The dream bothered me. I usually don't have nightmares except after a heavy bust, or something traumatic. Like when Ray was shot. Gave me nightmares for weeks, that did. Same thing holds for Ray, he says.
Sleep wasn't very appealing just then. When we had toured what passed for the nearest town Ray had bought me a second edition of Kipling poetry. Just the thing to help me relax. As I reached for the light my hand brushed the stone.
There was a bright yellow flash accompanied by a loud snap and a shock went right up my arm. I yelped--loud, more from surprise than pain.
Ray moved. Before the tingle faded from my fingers he was next to the bed, gun out. We both sleep with them under our pillows.
"Bodie?" His voice was sharp with concern and question.
"I'm okay." I saw him ease up. "Bad dream." I knew it was the wrong thing to say.
He moved the last few feet to the bed, sat down next to me. "Anything serious?" he asked it almost casually.
I could barely see him but I knew those beautiful green eyes would be filled with the same concern and questioning I heard in his voice. It didn't seem like something to be made a big deal over. The unease was gone, or at least fading. As for the shock, it was a metal chain, it was the middle of winter and I was sleeping under a wool blanket. Static, had to be.
"No. I don't think so."
I could feel his slight smile. "Long as you're sure." He slid up against me. "Bodie, we're both awake so...."
The alarm beside his bed went off. I cursed fluently in Swihili for several minutes while Ray laughed it up beside me. The whole trip had been like that. I gave him a quick hug then we were up, showering, dressing. I pulled on my gloves, slipped the stone into my pocket, and forgot about it.
The dreams got worse. Over the next four nights the feelings gave way to shadows, the shadows took shape and form. There was a large house; normal, quiet. Dangerous. It was white with green trim, surrounded by a low, gray stone fence and wide green lawn. I remembered the colors. That in itself was odd since I can't remember dreaming in color that often. I would wake up with a picture of that house and an intense feeling of dread.
By the morning of the fifth night Ray was beginning to watch me closely. I hadn't waken him yet. Even in the same bed we tend to sleep a little apart. Easier to move fast. Takes years of training to learn things like that, years to break the habit. Ray had twigged that something was wrong. I guess he could see that I'd been losing sleep. Well, he's not a detective for nothing is my Ray.
My half-Irish luck kicked in. Before he could ask anything Cowley called. Then we were both on our bikes and moving in two completely different directions.
Ten hours later when I made it back to HQ to report a totally wasted day the only one still there, besides the Cow of course, was Murphy.
"Hey, Murph, where's Ray?"
"Thanks, mate, had a great day. How was yours?" Murphy asked sarcastically, then smiled to take the edge off.
I smiled back. "Point taken. Where's Ray?"
Murphy laughed. "One track mind, same as always. He headed out couple of hours ago. He's probably warm and cozy in bed by now." He tossed a file on the desk. "Want to get a drink?"
"No. Got something warm and cozy waiting for me."
I picked up my coat, nonchalantly slung it over my shoulder. There was the ominous sound of breaking glass from behind me. Murphy's eyes went wide as he stared at the table behind me. He started laughing, hard. I turned around.
It had been my favorite tea mug. It was now a pile of broken glass surrounding a very ugly stone on a sliver chain. I cringed. I had completely forgotten the damn thing was in my coat pocket. I reached for it but Murphy's long arm reached round me and picked it up.
I turned to face him, expecting a nasty remark. To my surprise he was examining the stone closely. After a minute curiosity got the better of me. "What's so interesting, Murph?"
"Where did you get this?" he asked, turning the stone slowly around in the dim light.
I shrugged. "Ray's Grandmother gave it to me."
"And you're tossing it about like that?" he demanded. "Do you know what this is?"
"Haven't the foggest." I answered honestly, maybe a little hotly. Don't like being snapped at, do I.
That stopped him. He looked at me, shook his head. "This is at least three hundred years old, Bodie. It's a type of...."
"Three hundred!" I thought it was old but I had no idea. "What the hell is it?"
"It's an Irish, well, I guess charm is the best word. It's craved with the names of different deities, prayers, that sort of thing."
I looked at him, not entirely sure I was buying this. It seemed just the thing that he and Doyle would try to put over on me. "What makes you the expert then?"
"Hobby. I studied archeology in college, before joining the Met." He went back to studying the stone. As sort of an after thought he added, "It's called a dreaming stone."
That stopped me cold. I must have looked surprised because Murphy asked, "Something wrong, Bodie?"
"Good luck charm were they?" I managed to keep my voice level.
"Not exactly. Called them that because the owner was suppose to be warned about things in his dreams. Then the stone protected them from what the dream showed them."
I held out my hand, took the chain. There was a yellow flash, a loud crack and the same uncomfortable tingle shot up my arm. I wished to hell it would quit doing that. Murph stared at it. "What...."
"Static," I explained. "Tomorrow, mate."
The dream that night was crystal clear, complete, prefect. There was the same house; stone fence, wide lawn, green trim. Ray was moving forward, sprinting to the fence, swinging gracefully over. I ran to catch him, yelled his name. He glanced at me over his shoulder, motioned that he was going in. He was half-way cross the lawn when a grenade sailed out of an upstairs window, landed at his feet. There was soundless flash of bright light. I woke up screaming his name, scared shitless of what the next scene would show me.
"Bodie!" Ray was there, shaking me to clear the nightmare haze, then holding me. He pulled back just enough to see my face. "What was that about?"
How do you tell your lover, best friend, someone who trust you with his life everyday that you've gone nutters? You don't. So I lied. "Angola." I said. He knows I don't like to talk about that, usually lets it go.
He watched me. He wasn't having any of it, opened his mouth to question further. I kissed him before he had a chance; long, hard and distracting it was too.
I eased away, needing air. He shook his head, sighed. "I take it that means you don't want to talk about it?" It was a gentle probing.
"Not now. Let it go, sunshine," I told him.
He nodded, not liking it but willing to give it a chance. At least until the next time. The next time I knew I wouldn't get off. I fell asleep with his slender body resting against my left side.
The next morning while Ray was showering I cut a small hole in the lining of his cream colored jacket, just behind the pocket, and slipped the stone and chain into it. With any luck he might not notice for a few days. I wasn't sure why but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The dreams stopped. I would have slept solid if I hadn't kept waking up to check on Ray. It seemed to me that if the stone was causing the dream Ray would have the same dream. He was the one threatened. Thinking about it like that it didn't make any sense that I was the one to have the dream in the first place. I hadn't been in danger. After the second night the whole thing started to seem rather foolish. Especially since Ray was sleeping like the dead.
I decided by the third morning that it was bloody silly. I crept out of bed, reached for his coat to remove the incriminating evidence. The phone shrilled. I jumped, almost knocking it off the cradle. It was the Cow, of course, no one else calls at six in the morning. The case was breaking, hard and fast. He rattled off two different addresses, me writing with one hand while shaking Ray awake with the other.
"I'm awake, damn it all, stop!" He hit the floor running for the dresser, grabbing jeans and shirt as I hung up the phone. "Where?"
"Mosley or 112th." I stood up, moved to the other dresser.
"You take 112th," he said, snapping the tight jeans, sliding on the shoulder holster. "Mosley's further. I'm already dressed."
I grabbed him round the waist as he started pass, dragged him to me, kissed him. He scowled at me as he pulled away but I could tell by the deep green in his eyes that the adrenaline high had kicked in for him as well. Danger's a powerful addiction, and aphrodisiac. The villains would pay because of it this morning. By that night there would be a different kind of payment to make, more pleasurable but just as demanding.
I made another grab for him but he slapped my hand away, snatched his coat off the chair, glanced at his watch. "Twelve minutes, Bodie. You've got three to hit the road or Cowley'll have you on toast."
"Running all the way." I saluted, reached for my own gun.
Something important was flitting around the edges of my mind. I tried to grasp it but it moved away. I was headed for the last play in a very dangerous game. Distraction was the last thing I needed. I forced myself away from the irritating thought and to the op.
For two months the squad had staked out four locations suspected of being used for major heroin drops. Ray and I had done a reccie on all four but had managed to avoid the tedium of stake out. Now Cowley had narrowed it down from four to two; the warehouse on the east side that I was taking and the house....
...the house with the green trim, stone fence and wide lawn! The house that Ray was headed for.
I spun the wheel hard over, floored the petal. All the nightmare images returned, were all I could see as I pushed it up to 90. I reached for the R/T. "3.7 to 4.5. 3.7 to 4.5!"
"4.5 here." Ray sounded almost lazy over the remote.
"I'm on my way to your location. Do not, repeat, do not...."
The sound of shots drowned me out. I was less than two minutes away. "4.5?"
"4.5 to 3.7," he snapped, "Tell me later. 4.5 out."
I could have screamed. The street was in sight, the house just around the corner. I squealed through the turn. Two cars sat bonnet to bonnet in front of the place, Murphy and Jax crouched against them. Doyle was moving around the boot, crouched low, gun drawn. I slammed the brakes, dove out the side just as Doyle reached the waist high wall.
"Doyle!" I yelled.
He half-way turned, motioned with his gun that he was going in. Three feet and I would have him! He swung over, hit the ground, started forward. Something jerked him back. His coat was snagged on the fence. He cursed, yanked at the snare. I reached over the fence, grabbed him under the arms and bodily hauled him back over the fence. Fear does wonders for your strength.
There was the ominous sound of ripping fabric but it was drowned out by the fury of a very close explosion. Ray was under me, pressed down safe into the rough concrete.
"Get off, you dumb crud." His voice was level, soft. I was in big trouble.
I moved off to sit next to him. Doyle came up, eyes glinting, ready to let loose. The location of the explosion sank in. He peaked over the stones at the crater, back at me, down at his ripped coat. The silver chain dangled out of a hole in his favorite coat.
He looked up at me. "Bodie, what is...."
"Later, sunshine. Let's finish up here."
Twenty minutes later we had five prisoners, all alive, a million worth of pure H and two boxes of arms to show when Cowley arrived. He was pleased, went so far as to give us all the rest of the day off.
Jax commandeered Ray's car since he and Murph were going in different directions. We weren't. Ray was silent the whole way home, toying with the chain and stone. It wasn't until we were sitting comfortable on the settee each with a glass in hand that he started talking. What he said wasn't at all what I had expected.
"Did I ever tell you what happened to my brother?" he asked softly.
"No." I didn't see any connection. But Ray's tone said he was feeling serious.
"There was a fire. I was nine, Kathy was five, Daniel was sixteen." He sighed obviously not wanting to get into details. "Me, Mum, Daniel, Dad got out. Kathy was still in there. Daniel went back in for her, tossed her out a window. He never came out."
There was slight pause. I waited, rubbing his arm in sympathy.
He had been staring at the floor, now he looked up, green eyes haunted. "As he started back into the house he said, "I know where she's at, I've seen it before. It was the last...." He stopped, held the chain up in front of me. "Gram had given him this on his birthday. When we found Kathy she was wearing it. After that Mum sent it back to Gram."
"You knew about what it does?" I was surprised.
He shook his head. "No, never suspected. Until today. You knew what was going to happen today, didn't you?"
The impact of how close I had come to losing him hit me. I pulled him into a tight hug, whispered into his curls. "Yeah. Those dreams. I saw the whole thing; the house, the grenade, you...." God, I couldn't even say it.
He tangled the chain around those slender artist's fingers. "It warns the owner when people they love are in danger. Some luck charm." He stood up. "We're sending it back to Gram."
"What!? It saved your life. I'm keeping it." I made a grab for it. He moved it away.
"Bodie, don't you understand? Yeah, it'll show you the future, it'll show you me in danger. But what happens when the only way to save me is to get yourself killed, like Daniel?"
He read the answer in my eyes, really didn't have to look. That thought didn't bother me, but another one did. Ray, as usual, knew. He ran the back of his hand along my cheek.
"And what happens when you can't stop it?" he asked gently.
I didn't want to think about it. "I'll stop it."
"Bodie, we've been on the squad seven years. We're still here. We've got our own luck. Each other." He sat down, raised my right hand, kissed the back. "I don't want to know the future."
I could think of a dozen reasons to keep the thing, another dozen not to. It finally came down to the fact that Ray was right. The chain was the proverbial double-edged sword. And we already lived enough on the edge.
"Okay. We send it back." I agreed.
"Probably a logical explanation for the whole thing anyway," Doyle added with that chipped-tooth grin that I love.
I reached for the stone. A yellow flash was accompanied by a sharp pop as I touched it. "Soon as I think of one, sunshine, I'll let you know."
-- THE END --
Originally published in The Hatstand Express 17