THE WORRY DOLLS
By ASH and OUT ON A LIMB
There is a legend amongst the highland Indian villages of Guatemala.
If you have a problem, then share it with a Worry Doll.
Before going to bed, tell one worry to each doll, then place them beneath your pillow.
While you sleep the dolls will take your worries away.
Chapter 8 – “Hi-yo, Batman!”
Officer Canh Tran had placed his jacket over the fallen little girl’s torso and he was talking to her non-stop as if his words were restraining her from further descent.
Kristen Jackford was in anguish, “I didn’t see her, I didn’t see her.”
The original police call had been “shots fired”. Officer Sinead Mohan still stood with gun drawn and continued to cover the 360-degrees of their situation.
They all heard the cry of an approaching emergency vehicle.
Canh was leaning closer to the little girl’s face, and now he was just jabbering.
Kristen descended to her knees with her face bowing to the asphalt.
A police Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) armored rescue vehicle (ARV) was growling up the street to them. This struck Sinead as very odd.
TEMS ARV only appeared in the most dire “active shooter” situations. They were operationally manned by teams made up of two members of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) and two tactical medics.
These tactical medics meet the same physical standards as SWAT. They attend and participate in all SWAT training so they can operate as one unit. Although the tactical medics are trained to be familiar with the firearms that SWAT operators carry, the medics are unarmed. Their uniforms are the same as SWAT except for the word MEDIC on their sleeves.
Sinead hollered, “Clear,” and quickly pointed toward Cahn and the little girl. Sinead then pointed at Kristen, thinking involuntarily, “Around the department everyone jokingly refers to you as ‘Mrs. Kahuna’”.
But this was no damn joke.
Sinead remembered her first meeting with “Kahuna”, Detective Brent Jackford. Sinead had been with L.A.P.D for three years and was applying for Detective. Normally that would not have been enough time to qualify. But Sinead, with four years prior military police experience in the Marine Corps and a Master’s Degree in Police Science, had earned herself a cut in line.
Others had told her that Detective Brent Jackford was a good and fair evaluator and that he had been assigned to do the first set of interviews with all applicants.
Indeed, Detective Brent Jackford had been very business-like, exhuming the contents of her personnel folder and not trying to evaluate the contents of her uniform. Sinead bristled at the way some male officers discounted her and the other female officers and she never gave-in “good-naturedly”, never played-along, never accepted it. She was to many of them a tall good-looking red-headed green-eyed firecracker. First. And a trusted fellow officer. Second.
Detective Brent Jackford had started the interview with a surprisingly simple question and it had caught her off-guard, asking, “So, Officer Mohan, why the hell do you want to become a Detective?”
She was about to speak when Detective Brent Jackford continued, “And don’t recite your résumé. Tell me what you think.”
Sinead did think, cynically, “You are scratching for any reason not to pass me.”
But when Sinead started to speak Detective Brent Jackford appeared to listen to her seriously. He even took some notes. He was listening, actually listening to her, concentrating on her reasons. When she had finished Detective Brent Jackford had just one final question.
“Are you certain that you don’t have anything more you’d like to bring up – good or bad – that’s not in your pretty little résumé? Say, trouble as a teenager?”
Sinead thought, “Pretty little résumé? Asshole,” and she considered her teenage scrapes and scars, tightening herself up like a twisting rope, then thought, “No police record,” and she exhaled, saying, as she forced herself to unclench, “No, sir, I think my file speaks for me completely and accurately.”
Her irritation now at Detective Brent Jackford’s slight smile was surely her own paranoia but Sinead imagined a cartoonish Detective Brent Jackford’s hand rising high above his head and then arcing down to hammer “REJECTED” onto her application.
Instead, Detective Brent Jackford closed her file, placed his folded hands on top of it and looked at her with an unbending gaze, and he said, “Officer Mohan, I agree one-hundred percent: your file does speak for itself. I am therefore giving my unreserved recommendation.”
Sinead suddenly felt dizzy. Detective Brent Jackford cautioned, “Please remember though, I am only the first step in a long procedure, and you’ll learn that I really have very little clout in any final decisions around here.”
He stood up and reached across the table warmly, “I wish you success.”
Sinead, surprised, shook his hand and looked back directly into his eyes. His handshake was wholehearted. But…weren’t they shaking hands a little too long? Sinead blushed, got angry at herself for blushing and blushed more deeply.
Detective Brent Jackford released her hand, winked and said, “FYI, everyone here calls me ‘Kahuna’”.
Kahuna then gave her one of his cards with his cell phone number written on the back.
“If you need any help getting through this process…” and he let the innocent silence speak for him.
Kahuna was true to his word, taking every opportunity at which he encountered her to ask how she was doing and to give her advice. He really seemed objectively interested in her succeeding.
But now Sinead had begun to feel decidedly un-objective about Kahuna.
And with that realization, Sinead was back in focus at the accident scene. She kept her weapon poised in one hand and then with the other hand she pulled out her cell phone and hit Kahuna’s speed-dial number.
“Kahuna, it’s me. Yeah. You gotta get down here. Your wife’s OK, but she’s been in an accident. Yes. She’s OK. But maybe she hit… some kid. I’ll text the location.”
The Tactical Medic Team Leader approached her. Sinead knew him. All the cops knew him. It was “Lonzie” Malonza.
Lonzie asked, “Wha’cha’ got, Sinead?” Lonzie’s big voice was direct but calm, “We were wrapping up training maneuvers when we heard the call.”
Sinead nodded, “Hey, Lonzie. We were responding to that ‘shots fired’ a few minutes ago, and this is what we found. That little girl apparently was hit by that car. That’s the driver over there.”
Lonzie asked, “Think she’s anything to do with the ‘shots fired’?”
Sinead replied, “We don’t think so. She’s Kahuna’s wife. Kristen”.
Lonzie turned toward Kristen. “Damn”, he said softly. “Does Kahuna know yet?”
“I just called him. He’s on his way.”
A large white car was approaching the accident scene. SWAT raised their weapons.
Lonzie joked flatly, saying, “That can’t be Kahuna, not in that ride!”
Officer Canh, having surrendered the little girl to the two EMT paramedic women, stood erect, strangely exhausted, and gazed at the approaching vehicle. From childhood memories of classic-car shows, he could hear his uncle reciting, “An angel-white 1976 Lincoln Continental Mark IV, classic two-door coupe, boasting a powerful 7.5 liter V-8 engine, immaculate, looking as if it had just been driven off the sales floor in 1976.”
Canh smiled a little at that voice in his head.
The Lincoln pulled to the curb quickly a respectful distance away. The headlights turned off. The driver emerged, a man who had short white hair, a short white beard and wore a white suit.
Sinead thought, “He’s pretty agile for an old guy.”
Canh remarked to himself, “Man, even his shoes are white.”
Sinead observed, “But his face is not soft, and his eyes look like two bullet-holes.”
Sinead called out, “Stay back, sir. What are you doing here?”
The man continued to approach. “I am Pastor Alistair Lambert. From the San Nicolas Mission, a few blocks over that way.”
Sinead commanded, “Halt. This really does not concern you!”
Pastor Alistair Lambert said, “I am looking for a lost little girl.”
Canh spoke up, “A little girl has been injured here.”
Sinead shot Canh a scowl.
Pastor Alistair Lambert halted and said, “Oh, dear God. Where is she?”
Sinead replied reluctantly, “They’re working on her. She’s going in the ARV… the ambulance.”
Pastor Alistair Lambert gestured at the formidable ARV and asked, “Is that your ambulance? I have to see her! Please! She could be one of my orphans.”
Sinead said, “Please, yourself, sir, you can see her at the hospital.”
Pastor Alistair Lambert had seen the paramedics lifting the little girl on a stretcher into the ARV.
Pastor Lambert then looked toward Kristen beside the askew VW, now standing upright with her hand over her mouth.
Pastor Lambert suddenly called out to Kristen, “Did you do this?”
Kristen looked over at Pastor Lambert, startled, as Pastor Lambert continued to say, “Did you do this? What have you done? You stupid bitch! What have you done?
Kahuna had snapped out of his reverie twenty minutes before, back at their house. Standing with a blanket over his shoulders he looked out of the rain-spattered window up to the rainbow around the moon.
Kahuna knew now that he could never throw away what he had with Kristen. Yes, yes, fine, he could quit the force if that was what it took. He would quit the force, dammit.
“I’ll quit this shit tomorrow,” he vowed. He was going to call Kristen but now his cell phone was ringing. Police business? This time he answered.
“Yeah? Sinead?! What..? Is she hurt? Jesus, is she OK? Is the kid OK? I’m on my way! Wait! Where are you?”
The second EMT paramedic, Ashkira, suddenly shouted, “She’s conscious!”
Kristen ran to the ARV, crying out, “What? What?”
Ashkira cooed to the little girl, “Hey, sweet thing, hey, what is your name?”
The little girl mumbled shyly, “Rosalinda,” and she blinked heavily and asked, “Where is Juanita?”
Ashkira said, “I’m sure Juanita is fine, Rosalinda. You just lie still now. Rest, ok?”
Kristen almost shrieked, “Oh, God, thank God, thank God.”
Kristen turned to EMT paramedic Jana standing at the doorway of the ARV and cried, “I have to go with her. Let me go with her!”
Jana looked over at Lonzie, “What should I do?”
And just then a motorcycle in high gear was heard approaching. It shot down the nearby freeway off-ramp and slid to a halt near the ARV.
It was Kahuna.
He jumped off of the motorcycle and ran straight for Kristen. He was still wearing his floral Hawaiian shirt, dirty washed-out jeans and moccasin slippers. He was wet from the rainwater that had sprayed up from other vehicles on the freeway.
Kristen cried, “Brent!”
Kahuna ran to her and grabbed her. She buried her face into his chest, sobbing. Then suddenly, she pushed herself away and cried at him, “This is all your fault!” Kahuna reached for her and she pummeled his chest with both fists, “You bastard! This is all your fault!” Then Kristen covered her face and cried.
Sinead asked Kahuna, “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fuckin’ peachy, Sinead. What’s happened?”
“It was an accident, Kahuna. But that guy over there, he’s been yelling at your wife.”
“He has? Who is he?” Kahuna stomped toward Pastor Lambert. “What’s your story?” he snorted.
Canh stepped in front of Kahuna, talking fast, “He’s Pastor Lambert and he runs the San Nicolas Monastery right near here. I just checked and they do have an orphanage where they find homes for kids from Guatemala like that little girl. He says the little girl went missing and he was trying to find her.”
Kahuna glared right over Canh’s head into Pastor Lambert’s eyes. Kahuna thought to himself, “That guy dresses like a televangelist but those aren’t the eyes of a preacher.”
Pastor Lambert suddenly softened as if reading Kahuna’s mind. “Forgive me. I have been so rude. I have been so upset. That poor little girl. I have been looking for her for two days. Can I not see her? Please. I beg of you.”
Sinead said firmly, “Pastor Lambert, you can meet them at the Kaiser Hospital.”
Lonzie announced, “Kristen can ride along in the ARV. We’ll get her VW picked-up.”
Just then, from a few blocks away came the hammering of automatic-gunfire.
Kahuna and Sinead were already running toward her police cruiser.
Sinead yelled over her shoulder, “Canh, secure this site.”
Cahn threw his arms up, “What? Sinead! I’m your partner!”
Kahuna heard Kristen calling to him and he stopped and turned. He saw hurt and disbelief in her eyes.
“You’re leaving me? You’re leaving me? You aren’t on duty!”
“I’m needed here, Kris!” he pleaded. “You’ll be OK.”
“You are not needed! SWAT is here. Do I mean anything to you?” She cried, “You selfish bastard! You go to hell with your damn job!”
“This isn’t a job!” he snarled back and then regretted it. “I’ll meet you at the hospital.”
Kristen cried, “Don’t bother. I’ll be just fine on my own from now on!”
Jana touched Kristen’s arm to show support, but that was a beginner’s mistake.
Kristen snarled, “Keep your hands off me, missy!”
Kristen climbed up into the ARV, crying.
Sinead and Kahuna sped away.
Lonzie, behind the wheel, commanded, “Change of plan. We follow.”
Kristen gasped, “But, the little girl…”
Ashkira reported quickly to Lonzie, “The little…Rosalinda is stable, Lonzie.”
Lonzie said, “Giddy-up,” and the ARV snorting like a rhinoceros and heaved around to follow Sinead and Kahuna.
Pastor Lambert ran to his white Lincoln. He then proceeded to follow the ARV at a distance.
Canh shouted, “Hey!” and he stood there like a kid no one wanted to play with.
Canh locked the doors of Kristen’s VW. He called it in.
Cahn paced and then stood where the little girl, Rosalinda, had lain. He noticed the tiny match-sized figurines all brightly colored and with little painted faces, strewn like a halo around where her body had been. He picked them up, one by one very carefully and put them into a baggy that he carried in his shirt pocket.
Canh thought, “Well, Sinead, the site’s secured like you ordered. Now, just how the hell am I supposed to be any help to you?”
Canh looked over at Kahuna’s motorcycle.
More hammering automatic-gunfire.
Canh was on the motorcycle. He shouted, “Hi-yo, Batman!” and he throttled away to join the others.
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