Chapter Five: Danger's Path
He kept his jovial mood in the days that followed despite the ongoing terrorist situation. After not having received an anonymous phone call for weeks, the same man had called again; this time to inform them that he planned to blow up something much bigger. He didn't appear to be protesting against anything or have any demands; it was more like a game of cat and mouse, as if he was daring the Harris PD to stop him and challenging all of them to a battle of wits.
Unfortunately the call was too short in duration to be traced and they had little else to go on. Everyone could feel the tension and frustration, knowing that at any moment a bomb could explode anywhere in the city and there was nothing they could do about it.
The call they'd been dreading eventually came the following Thursday when Reggy and Greg were sitting in their squad car taking a break. A bomb had exploded in an office block downtown and there was no word on how many people had been inside. As they sped towards the scene, more information began to filter through to them via the radio. Apparently a suspicious package had been discovered within the building and the staff had been in the process of evacuating when it had detonated. All units responding to the incident were given strict instructions not to enter the building until it had been checked by the bomb squad for secondary devices.
"Fuck, this is bad," Greg muttered ominously; all his concentration focused on the road ahead and his knuckles white on the steering wheel. Reggy didn't answer, trying to prepare himself for the scene that awaited them.
When Greg and Reggy arrived there were several police cars and ambulances already there and a cordon had been set up around the perimeter of what was left of the building. Reggy looked around at the huddled groups of shocked and tearful people, knowing that the bomber could very well be amongst them; he would have wanted to see the show after all. He spotted Brad standing by the police cordon, staring at the building intensely, and walked over to him.
"Hey, any news on casualties?" he asked, before looking around expectantly. "Where's Kriss?"
Brad didn't answer but continued to stare at the building and Reggy started to get a bad feeling in his gut. "Brad," he said firmly, grabbing his arm and forcing him to meet his gaze, "Where's Kriss?"
Brad turned to look at him, his face pale. "He went inside."
"He WHAT?" Reggy shouted, looking back at the building in shock and more than a little fear. "Why the hell did he do that? Weren't you told to stay out until the bomb squad arrived?"
"Of course we were," Brad snapped, yanking his arm free, "but we were the first to arrive and someone was screaming inside, begging for help. Kriss couldn't just stand by and not try to help."
"Well, why didn't you try to stop him?" Reggy shouted accusingly, his fear turning all too easily to anger, which attracted Greg's attention.
"Don't you think I tried," Brad said furiously, squaring up to Reggy.
"Well obviously not hard enough."
"Hey, what's going on here," Greg said, trying to calm things down.
"Kriss's in there Greg," Reggy said, glowering at Brad before walking towards the cordon.
"Fuck," Greg swore, taking off after Reggy. "What are you doing Reggy? You can't go in there."
"Try and stop me," Reggy said firmly, ducking under the cordon and ignoring the other officers' calls. Greg could only stand and watch him go.
The whole building looked unstable as Reggy walked towards it; the top few floors had collapsed onto the ones underneath which were buckling under the strain. He carefully picked his way through the mounds of debris and went inside, the dust filling his lungs and making him cough. He grimaced as he saw a blood-stained hand poking out from beneath a pile of rubble and his need to find Kriss intensified.
"Kriss?" he called, his voice echoing slightly in the enclosed space. He wouldn't say he was claustrophobic but he still felt uneasy, the walls seeming to close in around him. Reggy paused in his step only for a moment because in a moment it was gone.
Relief flooded through Reggy as he squinted into the gloom and moved slowly towards the sound of Kriss's voice, determined to get him out as quickly as possible. When Kriss finally came into view, Reggy could see he was working on an unconscious man lying beside him who was covered in blood and had a large gash in his abdomen. Kriss was desperately trying to stem the bleeding which, judging by the bright red spurts, was coming from a major blood vessel.
"We've gotta get out of here now," Reggy said firmly, moving towards them, "if there's another bomb the whole building could come down on us."
"Just give me a minute," Kriss said, all his concentration focused on the man in front of him. "If I don't do this now he'll die."
"Kriss..." Reggy said warningly.
"Just one minute Reggy, that's all I'm asking."
Reggy knew he was fighting a losing battle. "Fine, you've got that minute but if you're not finished by then I'm taking you outta here whether you like it or not."
Kriss didn't answer, too intent on his task, and Reggy fidgeted nervously, all too aware of the danger they were putting themselves in. The building creaked and groaned around them and Reggy felt like his heart was going to beat right out of his chest as he waited, fingers itching to grab Kriss and run.
"Okay, that'll do for now," Kriss said, breaking the silence. "Give me a hand to get him out of here."
It took longer to get back out, both of them trying to find a relatively safe path while not aggravating the man's injuries. Reggy took deep lungfuls of sweet clean air once they finally got outside, carefully carrying their patient. The bomb squad had just arrived, looking at them disapprovingly as they crossed back through the cordon and rushed the man to the ambulance. Brad got in the front to drive, looking thoroughly relieved, while Kriss jumped in the back to continue his treatment.
"We're gonna talk about this later Kriss," Reggy said sternly before shutting the back doors and watching the ambulance speed off down the street, sirens blaring.
Kriss knew he was in trouble the moment he opened his apartment door that evening and saw Reggy's expression.
"Okay, you're angry," Kriss sighed. "I get that."
"I'm not angry Kriss," Reggy said, stalking in and turning to face him. "I'm furious."
Kriss looked hopeless to the fateful argument. "What do you want me to say Reg? It was a split-second decision....I had to do something."
Anger had been simmering away in Reggy all afternoon and, with no one to unload on, it was now threatening to overwhelm him. "You went in there when they told you not to and, in doing so, you deliberately put your life in danger," he fumed, walking to the window.
"Because it's my job," Kriss nodded.
"No," Reggy snapped, turning around swiftly to face him, "it's not your job to get yourself killed." He shook his head angrily and walked forward to grasp Kriss's arms. "Why do you act like their lives are more important than yours?"
"Oh come on Reggy, be reasonable," Kriss said patiently. "Being a paramedic means that sometimes I have to go into dangerous situations, just like your job."
"It's not the same Kriss and you know it," Reggy said in a low voice. "I'm trained for those situations. What you did was reckless."
Kriss freed himself from Reggy's grip, looking into his eyes seriously. "What I did saved that man's life and I'd probably do it again in the same circumstances."
"No you won't because I won't let you," Reggy said firmly.
Kriss raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Whoa there soldier," he said, putting his hands up. "I realize you were worried and I can understand that, but don't ever think you can control what I do."
"It's not open for discussion Kriss," Reggy shouted, allowing his anger to take control, "you're not putting yourself in that kind of position again if I have anything to do with it."
Kriss threw his hands up in exasperation and walked to the door, not grabbing his keys on the way.
"Where are you going?" Reggy yelled. He hadn't finished yet.
"Out," Kriss replied loudly. "I can't talk to you when you're like this." With that he left the apartment, slamming the door behind him which made Mokka cower and look at the door, ears down, sad.
Reggy walked to the door and opened it, yelling down the hallway at Kriss's hastily retreating back, "That's it, walk away. That'll solve everything."
He slammed the door shut and kicked it hard, leaving an indentation in the wood and a throbbing pain in his big toe.
As Reggy gradually calmed down he realized that he'd handled things badly and felt ten times worse than he had done before. He waited for Kriss to come back, ready to apologize the moment he walked in, but a few hours later there was still no sign of him and he began to worry.
Racking his brains for where Kriss might go, Reggy could only come up with one person; Brad. He looked through Kriss's book of contacts and found Brad's address. He really didn't want to deal with Brad right now but he had to find Kriss, and Brad was probably the best person to ask. He quickly left the apartment and set off, determined to put things right.
That determination was put to the test as he stood outside Brad's apartment, preparing himself for a difficult conversation. He raised a fist and knocked loudly, hearing the sound of someone approaching the door from the other side a moment later.
Brad's eyebrows rose in surprise when he opened the door and saw Reggy standing there. His surprise quickly turned to suspicion when Reggy said, "Have you seen Kriss?"
"What have you done?" Brad said accusingly, his eyes narrowing.
"Nothing," Reggy protested but his face betrayed his guilt. Brad crossed his arms in front of his chest and stared at him, his expression skeptical. "Okay," Reggy conceded, "we had a little disagreement."
Brad raised an eyebrow. "Obviously not that little if you're here looking for him."
Reggy shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. "You're right, I screwed up, but I want to make things right."
Brad studied him for a moment then shook his head. "I haven't seen him."
Reggy shoulders slumped and Brad sighed, uncrossing his arms. "Come on, I'll make you a coffee and you can tell me what happened."
Reggy looked shocked but followed him inside nevertheless. Brad's apartment was a lot more modern than Kriss's but still had a welcoming feel to it. After a few minutes, Brad handed him a large steaming mug and they both sat down on the surprisingly comfortable armchairs.
"Thanks for this Brad," Reggy said sincerely, taking a sip. "I didn't expect you to want to help; in fact I sorta got the impression that you hated me."
Brad looked at him carefully, plainly trying to decide how best to reply.
"I didn't hate you....I just didn't trust you."
Reggy frowned and leaned forward with interest as Brad took a mouthful of coffee then continued. "You have to understand that Kriss is very special to me. He helped me a lot when I came out a few years ago; helped me to deal with the fear of people's reactions and of letting myself get close to anyone." He noticed Reggy's expression and held up his hand. "I know what you're thinking and the answer's no; we've never been together like that. I do love him, but only as a very close friend. Anyway, he's had some really shitty boyfriends in the past so I tend to be a little overprotective."
"A little?" Reggy smirked, eyebrows raised.
Brad smiled. "Okay, a lot. I just don't want to see him get hurt and I wasn't sure you'd be good for him, until today."
Reggy looked confused and Brad's smile widened. "When I saw your expression the moment you realized he was in that building and your willingness to risk your own life, I knew without a doubt that your feelings for him were genuine, even if you were being an ass."
Reggy smiled, "I guess I was. It's just that this is unfamiliar territory for me, I've never loved anyone this much before."
"I believe you," Brad said, leaning back against the cushions and looking into Reggy's eyes, "so how exactly have you screwed it up?"
Reggy told him of their argument and Brad grimaced, shaking his head. "Oh man, never try to tell Kriss what to do. The last guy who tried it got ditched pretty quickly."
Reggy looked at him in alarm and Brad quickly added, "But he was an asshole. I don't think Kriss ever really loved him and certainly not as much as I think he loves you."
"So you don't think I've ruined things then?"
"Nah," Brad said reassuringly and Reggy looked relieved, "he just needs some time alone. You should be there when he returns though."
Reggy gave him a grateful smile and got to his feet. "Thanks Brad, I really appreciate you giving me a chance. And I want you to know that I wouldn't hurt Kriss for the world. He's my everything."
Brad stood up as well and grinned. "Good, otherwise I'd have to kick your ass."
The apartment was still deserted when Reggy returned, using the spare key Kriss had given him for emergencies, so he settled down on the couch to wait. Mokka immediately jumped up and laid her head in his lap and looked at Reggy with longing brown eye and that seemed to ask, “Where's daddy?” Reggy found if hard to keep the tears away while looking at the dog.
Reggy petted her saying, “He's alright,”
Kriss was standing on a platform seven stories above a concrete courtyard. A light wind blowing in his face. He could hear people yelling from below in the courtyard and from lower levels. Just noise, is all it was, Kriss thought, breathing calmly. Eyes closed, heart beating steady in his chest, mentally begun to count down from three.
He jumped. The pure exaltation of the wind in his face and the filling of weightlessness. The stress of the job, gone. The fight with Reggy, forgotten. A smile curled to his lips as he fell past the sixth level, he caught a quick look of the courtyard, as he grabbed hold of the last few inches of rope. When Kriss was snapped forward with the combination of his momentum and the natural resistance of the rope. He launched over to the other side were he grabbed hold of a bar nestled under a platform, he released the bar propelling himself three feet to a wall. Planted with his right foot, took a moment to refocus his energy. Then threw his left leg up and was up on the wall.
“You the man, Kriss!” Ty Nic said coming down the corridor.
Kriss jumped down from the wall, “Haven't I always been.” Kriss smiled fist pumped Ty Nic.
Ty Nic raised his eyebrow, he was a transgender female to male and in his per-surgery stage of his transition.
“We'd figured that your new lover boy was gonna steal our legend from us.” Vane joined them, he was the youngest out of the four.
“Nah, this is to important to me.” Kriss said.
Up came, Hector, pulling up to Kriss to a crouch, “You have fans below.”
Kriss shook his, “It is nerve racking, one of those fuckers might be a newspaper reporter.”
“So what?” Vane said, “you deserve recognition for your skills, plus it would bring positive attention.”
“You say that like we need it.” Ty Nic said.
“A little notoriety won't be bad.” Kriss admitted, “but for me, I just want to keep this my secret.”
“You are a weird one, Kriss. Why do you insist to keep this a secret?” Hector gesture with his arm to the area.
They looked in great love at the seven-story structural skeleton, cylinder in shape and a large courtyard in the center filled with food vendors and their DJ. Speakers were build in throughout the structure, so as the Free Runners sprinted down long corridors, vaulted over walls, swung round railings and leaped from platform to platform. The music flowed with them.
Kriss sighed and looked back at them, “A person with secrets knows how to live than the one without.” Kriss started down to head home to face Reggy.