Ray didn't want to take over. I believe his first words were "Motor Medic Program is yours."
There was something in his tone that told me he'd seen this coming but wasn't willing to accept it, at least not yet. There were just too many changes at once, and if he accepted-he'd be changing too.
He was still objecting when I asked if he was going to be at the Walkers' for Sunday Dinner. When he said he would be, I knew it was just a matter of time before he accepted the offer. He knew it too.
Ray, like almost every guy I've dated who didn't either go psycho on me or turned out to be foolish enough to marry me, was yet another friend who watched out for me like a brother.
That friendship brought him to Council Island on more than one occasion and with Mom Walker's tendency to adopt my friends it was only a matter of time before Ray was a regular at the Walker's for Sunday family dinner.
Sunday after church when we arrived at the Walker's Ray was already there Unable to fight me on this in the long run, he'd opted for teasing me. He started it with a bouquet of pencils-but I'd been preparing for this myself.
I handed him a first aid kit filled with everything he might need to remove splinters and deal with graphite poisoning. Us pencil pushers have to watch out for each other don't you know?
I think Michael was just thankful that today's good natured teasing did not involve setting couches on fire.
Every now and then I catch a reflection of myself 10 years ago… just a hint of the person I was before I came to Seattle. They're getting fewer and farther between with my own reflection, but I'm seeing them more and more in my daughter.
There are so many things I hope she never has to go through-so many lessons I'd spare her from if I could, but I want her to be prepared to face the world. I want her to be better prepared than I was.
I'll be the first to admit that when I first came out here I was a bit more naive and idealistic that is healthy… but I'm pretty sure there is such a thing as being too cynical.
I've tried to keep a balance, but this job doesn't make it easy on a person.
I saw my old self reflected in the window of my office when I got a visitor this afternoon. His name was Arthur Andrews, but I knew him as 'New Year's Brunch Guy' and 'the guy they brought in from O'Malley's' and the ever popular 'Man in room 322-B'
He wanted to thank me, and the other medics-and he didn't want to just take 'I'll let them know' as an answer.
He said "Look, I'm in the service industry and I know how much it means to have someone actually compliment you when you do something well" and he made it clear he knew we went above and beyond…
It left me with the feeling of a job well done-and wondering what his angle was. Like I said-a bit too cynical.
Then I went out for pizza,
Technology is wonderful… when it works. When it doesn't all bets are off.
We rely on computers for everything. Computers direct the calls to available dispatchers, the dispatching system itself is used to send the closest available medic and the EMS Expert AI helps the dispatcher talk callers through basic first aid procedures to keep the victim alive until medics can get there.
If the switch doesn't work, the call doesn't go through, but someone can pick up the phone. When the system won't dispatch medics properly, we override it and do it manually, choosing the closest medic for the assignment.
When the AI fails things can get interesting, but it can still be replaced-with a well trained medic.
Today we got to do all three-at the same time and until they prove to me that the AI is 100%, there will be a medic in the dispatch center making sure that people needing first aid support get support that works.
Now I just have to justify it.
You know, sometimes I really miss the old days when all I had to do was worry about was getting to a victim on time. To be honest-it was never that simple and I should be thankful that the concentric circles that were always trying to line up on me seem to have gone looking for greener pastures but at least then I knew where I stood.
The computer breakdown was not my fault, we dealt with it and it didn't interfere with people getting the emergency services they needed. As a medic that should have been it. As the director of the Motor Medic Program I would have had to file an impact report.
As Chief I have to tabulate the reports of my program directors, the head dispatcher, IT and each station captain, review the results and then explain to the CEO of Citywide's North Western Division exactly what happened and it's short term implications for the company. Having done that the next step was to have my staff make charts graphs and come up with a formal plan for how to prevent this situation from happening again and justify our means of dealing with it.
Then, once the presentation was complete and accepted, I had to appear before the City Alderman, the Commissioner, the Mayor and the Governor with the CEO to 'back me up'.
Now, when I was working on the street having someone 'back me up' meant they watched out for me-covered me and literally had my back. In the corporate world it seems that having someone 'back me up' means having them hold me in place while I faced a potential firing squad, thereby protecting his job and ultimately the company.
It's a good thing I'm not paranoid. It's also a good thing I listen to the radio when I'm pushing pencils around on my desk. It's a good thing my team reacted so quickly that even though I didn't have a plan in place no one figured it out.
It's a good thing I'm so used to being in over my head and know that flailing only makes the sharks circle closer.
Maybe those concentric circles haven't moved on, they've just refined their movements.
Today was an exercise in perspective… I guess that's the best way to explain it.
My day off, my day to sleep in… my day to drive my daughter to school because she hates it so much that she has trouble getting up in the morning.
At least that's the conclusion Case and I have come to. I spent the morning doing paperwork in his office again.
"Jess, if you're going to be working… wouldn't you rather be in your own office?"
Case used his long suffering tone and I knew he knew my reasoning-if I went into the office on my day off-I'd be a workaholic. If I worked from his office, I was just making an efficient use of my time while waiting to go out to lunch with my husband.
There's a difference.
The look he gave me was priceless. We had a lot to talk about and we both knew it. Bri was having issues at school and we weren't the only ones who'd noticed. The Principal had stopped me as I dropped Bri off to let me know as much.
He also 'invited' me (and Case) to a private meeting this afternoon concerning our daughter and our apparent lack of discipline. "Discipline starts at home Mrs. Casey," he said looking down his nose at me.
It was obvious he didn't approve of the job we were doing. I know he didn't appreciate my entire lack of reaction to his 'lecture.'
I was just trying to figure out if he wanted Case there to read him the riot act or get my man to get me to tow the line. I do know that after everything I've been through in the past 10 years… he just doesn't frighten me.
You know… you face down homicidal ex-'s, blood mages, Quatl, Corporation Mages with a blood vendetta… deranged AI, heck, even Seattle traffic is scarier than an Elementary School Principal.
I'm afraid my lack of reaction really didn't help the situation, but I did manage to keep from laughing when he tried to make me feel like a sixteen year old school girl who'd broken curfew.
Then again, I would not have been cowed by the man if I was a sixteen year old school girl. I'm trying to be a 'good mom' and not ruin Bri's chances in this school but please… My breakfast cereal is more in intimidating.
Well, breakfast in the Orc Underground is more intimidating…
That made me laugh and then I had to explain it all to Case. A request to meet with the school principal is one thing, but even the thought of someone trying to intimidate me had him shaking his head.
"Did you leave any of the man for me to meet with?" He asked.
"I was good."
That earned me one of those patented, 'Tell me you didn't say that," looks from Case. I smiled but by then the damage was done. He was feeling sorry for the man-right until he had his Vice Principal meet with us before he got there…
Good Cop/Bad Cop never worked with me and Case was just too dumbfounded by the process to say anything, until the Vice Principal tried explaining to us how we were part of our daughter's education and we should really clamp down on her imagination.
Now we were finally getting somewhere.
"Her imagination?" I asked, trying for some clarification.
See, Mom Walker and Mario have both assessed Bri and they agree she's like Matt… a Physical Adept, and while that is a very specialized aspect of magic, it's still magic and that I know requires imagination, and something tells me that trying to suppress her gifts is the surest path to disaster.
"Oh yes Mrs. Casey," he said with a stern nod.
It seems our darling daughter has invented this entire world where her mom is some sort of daredevil and she spends her Sundays on Council Island with more uncles and aunts than humanly possible.
"Well, I don't think of myself as a daredevil," I answered plainly. "And most of the Aunts and Uncles are honorary Aunts and Uncles but…"
I shrugged, looking towards Case for support.
"And it's not every weekend," he added in agreement before looking at them. "Where's the problem?"
We have to come back tomorrow with Bri to discuss proper school behavior.
I have been officially labeled a disruptive influence.
My plan when I put in for Thursday's off, when my napping and sleeping-in marathon is not interrupted by a daughter who'd rather not be in school, was to prepare for Friday's Administrative meeting.
That didn't really happen, although Case and I did have a 'fun' time explaining to our darling terror, sorry hon but you earned that one, that while we were laughing, this was a serious matter.
My planning was shelved in favor of coming up with a workable plan, but Bri seems so tightlipped about why she keeps trying to avoid going to school. We asked her about her teachers, other students… even the building but she wouldn't tell us what was bothering her.
I mean, we knew what was bothering the Principal and VP of the school, but I knew there was a lot more to the problem than that. And you know if I could figure it out, Case was already tracking it down, but we wanted to hear Bri's side of things.
We never did get her to tell her side of the story, instead she opted for promising to do better-but she wasn't fooling either one of us. Something is wrong.
Between that and the lack of sleep I was in rare form by the time the administrative meeting rolled around. I was a lot less inspiring with my plan and a lot more fear inducing.
It seems that the further you go into admin, the more you fear change. Another reason to appoint a chief from the ranks-there's a lot more 'I want to make changes' mentality than the 'things are fine just the way they are' approach.
It took a lot more reassurance than I felt like giving that these changes are optional, but highly recommended for the members of the current staff and mandatory for all incoming staff…
It took Charlie's intercession to get them to stop focusing on what they thought I was saying and actually listen to what was being said. I should have seen of it as a warning for tonight's little tête-à-tête with the administrative staff of Ben Franklin Elementary, but I was too busy trying to make a point.
I was surprised at how well prepared they were-after our last meeting they opted to learn everything they could about the Casey family. The first clue was when they ushered us in as "Mr. Casey… Ms. Miller…"
They'd done their homework all right; so much so they had opted to turn things around so that rather than working with us, we now had to justify why we felt they should take our little angel into the bosom of their learned halls.
I was about to go into full bull-headed Jess mode when Case laughed and shook his head. It took the wind out of my sails and totally derailed their coordinated attack.
"Do you mind telling me what's so funny?" The Principal asked with a stern glare.
Case tilted his head. "Let me guess what you found in my background check… Jason Casey- Former UCAS Marshal… dishonorably discharged… hired muscle and bouncer for one of the less than reputable strip clubs?"
I turned in my seat look at my husband as if I were seeing him for the first time.
"Well… yes," the Principal answered unsure where things were heading.
Case paused before pulling out his very current non-revoked Marshal Badge and ID. As he showed it to those gathered and turned towards me. "Jess… I didn't have time to warn you about this- It was last week's assignment… we hadn't had the chance to straighten out my records yet…"
He was looking more than a little sheepish.
The Principal tried to speak several times as he digested what Case had told him and I was still staring at him.
"It was one of those cases where the circumstances were just… "
I gave a resigned sigh then turned towards the Principal as he tried to remember how to speak. Finally he figured it out. "I… I'll have to… verify…"
Case nodded and I was about to relax when the Principal turned his attention towards me. "But she's a disruptive influence…"
That was when I noticed his name. Darringer. It wasn't the former detective Derringer-he had retired to Chicago from what I'd heard, but the Principal did bear familiar similarity. I closed my eyes for a moment turned towards Case and gestured towards the name plate on his desk.
Case gave me a raised eyebrow and I could see the gears turning.
"I believe we're done here," he said before I could say anything else.
Tomorrow we're going to find Bri a school where she'll be judged by her actions-not my history.
Author's note: Darringer was the last name of a detective with the Lone Star who made the mistake of almost getting Jess killed during her search for her brothers.
Most people have old friends who come into town and either embarrass them in front of friends and loved ones, or spend several nights talking about 'old times.'
Not me. No, my old friends tend to show up unannounced with cryptic ominous warnings about my past catching up with me. After last night I can believe them, but something tells me the next thing is going to be a lot worse than an Elementary School Principal in a snit.
It's not like I don't have enough enemies and as I said, after all thing things I've faced…
It took me almost a year to find out what pitfalls to avoid in this town, and another four or five to actually follow through with that realization. I avoid trouble when I can, but there's only so much you can avoid in a town like this.
Some enemies you make on the job, some you make because you're just too curious for your own good and some times it's just a case of being in the wrong place at the right time. Fortunately for me, I make friends the same way.
Jenna was one of those friends. We met during a search and rescue operation that quickly became an escape and evade operation on our part. It's been a good eight years since I've seen her.
It was good to see her, but of course the visit wasn't social. The Tir Ghosts had gotten wind of something and she had volunteered to deliver the warning to me and some of the other people involved.
I told her I'd pass the word and she accepted the offer.
Before she left she paused and looked at the school brochures I'd been studying. She tapped one of them and smiled at me before heading out. "This would be good for her," she said as she slipped out of the room.
Something tells me things are about to get 'interesting' …
Copyright 2010 M.T. Decker