Hunter by Lenise Lee

Part of Sweet Bites Two

Chapter One 

(First Half Omitted.)


Hunter gathered his senses then looked toward Lambert’s desk.  The doctor didn’t seem to be even remotely intimidated by his younger, stronger counterpart.  In that one moment, Hunter decided that he might actually like Dr. Lambert after all.  Any man that didn’t shake when Hunter’s six-four frame stepped in his face had to be made of some tough material.  Maybe they would have more in common than he had originally supposed.

The therapist’s casual reaction to Hunter’s brief tour-de-force also helped the rookie detective to realize how excessive his actions had been.  He immediately unclenched his fists and sucked in a few tight, low breaths to help cool his lingering anger, until it finally subsided.  A thought stung the corner of his smooth forehead.  Could he really be as terrible as the reputation he was gaining labeled him as?


“Sorry,” he mumbled then turned and plopped back down in the chair.  This time, the plush cushions soothed his raw nerves rather than aggravating them.


Once Dr. Lambert was satisfied that Hunter had settled down, he continued his speech.


“All better now?”  That sneaky, nearly invisible crack that someone might call a half-grin made another appearance.  “Okay.  As I was saying, before the interruption…According to the police report,” as Lambert spoke, he picked up a starched white sheet of copy paper, “it appears you started a shouting-match with a suspect while visiting his residence.”  The psychiatrist’s eyes widened very subtly, as he continued to read.  Once he finished reviewing the typed report, Dr. Lambert placed the document back inside the folder then stared at Hunter from over the top of his glasses.  A heavy grimace hung on his face.  “It says that you, Mr. Ross, concluded the argument by throwing a punch, which fractured the man’s nose in two places.  He had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment to have the breaks reset and closed with several stitches.”


“I was only doing my job.  Why is everyone giving me so much shit for it?”  Another seething burst of searing anger rushed through his solid frame.  While he immediatetly went on the defensive and tried to bark out his side of the story, Hunter felt the heat from steaming air flowing through his large lungs.  It was like having hot lava swirling inside his chest.  “Look, doc, he was beating up his kid before we got on the scene.  When the little boy tried to tell us what happened, the asshole lunged for him, so I did what I had to do…That’s what I do…Protect and serve…It’s my job to protect people from monsters like him, and serve jerks and criminals a handful of the exact punishment they deserve.”


“No…that is not what you do, Mr. Ross,” Dr. Lambert said in a flat, matter-of-fact tone.  “I don’t think you understand the severity of your actions.”  Lambert shook his head and removed his eyeglasses.  He stared directly at Hunter with a stern, no-nonsense expression, which was intended to stress his point.  “Mr. Ross, for your outrageous actions, you have been placed on restricted duty.  In reality, you should be in county jail right now.  In all honesty, you are extremely fortunate that the suspect decided not to press criminal charges against you and that your supervisor did not place you on permanent administrative leave without pay.  You are here,Henry, because the department has decided that your outbursts are endangering public welfare.  The city trusts you to handle your duties professionally, not like a vigilante.  One of the strict conditions of you being able to return to full status, and not continue to sit on desk duty, is that you complete my counseling program…every hour of it…or until your vicious outbursts can be placed under some type of control.”


Hunter had sat tight-lipped long enough.  No one had scolded him like a child since he still lived at home with his father.  It was time to quit trying to be polite and to make this walking suit understand the reality of working in the real world.  Anyone can push a pile of papers around a desk all day and try to use fancy psych techniques to get someone to spill all their secrets, but how many people had the guts to take down a drug dealer who was aiming a gloc point-blank at your head?  Hunter seemed to have developed a small twinge of respect for the old man, so he wouldn’t give him the usual treatment, maybe just enforce his side of the story a little harder, no more, no less.


“Look, he was clearly abusing his wife and kid.”  He broke into Lambert’s speech and began to stress his side of the story.  “They were both black and blue when we stepped through the front door.  Our little scuffle was all part of what happens when some drugged up addict thinks he can just punch a woman and a little kid in their faces without any severe consequences coming at him.  It’s an unwritten rule…at least, if I’m around…if you put your hands on a female, you might feel a hammer flying back at you.”


“I can see we have a lot of work ahead of us.”  Lambert shook his head in a disapproving manner.  After another quick scribble, he flashed a placid glance at Hunter.  “Why don’t we conclude this session and pick up again at the end of the week.”


“That’s it?  No probing my childhood, no meds…just a reschedule.”

This sudden end to their discussion caught Hunter by surprise.  He had expected to have to sit through another hour or more of listening to this guy trying to shrink his head into a nice pretty package.  At the very least, he had expected the suited-up doc to send him another snappy comeback.  Instead, the older man didn’t even bother to acknowledge Hunter’s comments.


“I cannot assist someone who is far from ready to accept my services.”  He flashed a slight look of annoyance at Hunter.  “In addition, Mr. Ross, I am not the type of doctor who medicates my patients unnecessarily.  Besides, you don’t need meds.  You need to learn and understand what the definition of the word consequencemeans.”


“Listen, doc…I didn’t mean to get out of hand.  Can you at least call the department and give them the okay to put me back on active duty?”

Hunter was anxious to get back to patrolling his territory.  A week without being on assignment was like holding his breath.  Too much time to sit and think about past regrets were keeping him awake and prowling every square inch of his apartment at night.  If he did manage to catch a quick catnap, he would awaken drenched in his own sweat and aching to flex out the tension in his muscles.  Trying to stay focused on getting back to the streets to round up punks like the asshole who brought this Internal Affairs review down on him was the only thing still keeping him somewhat sane.  He was in desperate need of an outlet to channel all the nightmares and memories that constantly haunted his thoughts.


“I’m afraid not, Mr. Ross.”  As he spoke, the psychiatrist closed the folder then placed it in an unseen drawer beneath his office desk.  “I need to finish my initial assessment of your mental status first.  Believe me, you do not want me making any phone calls to any of your superiors…especially after what I observed today.”  Lambert shot him a final icy glare.  “Schedule your appointment with Joyce.  That will be all.”


After that last sharp sentence, the doctor turned his attention to new business.  Without bothering to wish Hunter so much as a good day, the elder man shifted positions then started to slowly tap at the keys of the laptop sitting on the right side of his wrap-around desk.


Hunter cracked his knuckles sharply.  Without saying another word, he stomped out the back office then purposefully slammed the door behind him.  The excessive force was enough to make the hinges groan; even the sturdy cherry oak wood crackled a little under the pressure of Hunter’s brute strength.


Forget that old bastard, his first thoughts, as he rushed through the reception area and toward the front entrance, I’ll figure out my own way of getting back on duty.  On his way, he nearly barreled over a thin man who was waiting at the secretary’s desk.  Hunter paused just long enough to flash him a Hey, watch yourself glare before snatching the last door open and exiting into the main corridor of the office building’s thirtieth floor.  While he thudded his heavy boots along the carpeted floor, he continued to crackle his sore knuckles again and again.  The vision of a cold beer crossed his mind.  It was the only cure known to settle his temper when it spiraled this far out of control.  However, since he was miles from the tavern that kept his favorite domestic brew on tap, a sip of cold water would have to suffice, at least for now.


After he took a deep swallow of lukewarm fluid from the fountain across from the elevator, Hunter stepped back then froze stiff.  His size twelve right foot had landed on a plushy surface.   With swift speed, he lifted his leather boot from the small foot he had just trampled then made a quick turn of his broad body to offer an apology.  The instant his eyes landed on the beauty standing before him, his tongue clung to the roof of his mouth.  The woman, who stood no taller than the top of his chest, even with heels on, was mesmerizing.  Short, clipped bangs hung over the cocoa skin of her brow, while soft curls cascaded around her slim shoulders.  Eyes the color of toasted hazelnut peered up at him with glowing allure.


“Sorry,” was all Hunter could manage to mumble, while his eyes continued to trace the gentle curve of her lovely face.  When he spoke, his dry throat could only produce a sound that was barely above a raspy whisper.


“No, it’s my fault,” a soft female voice replied.  “I should have stepped back, or at least made some noise.”  When she laughed low, a symphony of divine echoes floated into his ears.  A kind smile followed, revealing two deep dimples piercing each of her smooth cheeks.  “I don’t expect people to be able to see behind them.”


A dry cackle escaped his lips.  His heart raced and his lungs squeezed closed as he fought to think of something cool and witty to say in reply, but every word went flat in his mouth.  A few awkward seconds inched by before her pretty eyes darted toward the fountain.  He had used up his time to rebound, and had failed miserably in trying to impress her.


“Oh…sorry,” he stuttered while taking two steps away from the fountain.

Wow, he thought with a heavy dose of frustration buzzing his mind.  My entire vocabulary now consists of exactly two words.  I must look like a bumbling idiot to her.


“Not a problem,” she said with another cute smile flashing at him.

The woman moved up then dipped her head to drink from the fountain.  As some of the loose spirals tumbled forward, Hunter had to shake off the urge to reach out and smooth the dangling strands behind her ear.


When she was done, the pretty lady looked up at him with a curious gaze.  Realizing he had been caught staring at her, a flash of heat flooded his high cheekbones with a splash of crimson.  How long had it been since a woman had made him blush at her beauty?  Another half-grin lifted her mocha-shaded cheeks then she politely, and silently, tip-toed around him.  Still at a loss for words, he turned and watched her walk away, carefully following each of her gentle steps up the corridor.


The woman who had effortlessly captured his pulse, stopped at the far end of the hall.  She disappeared behind the last door on the left; the same one he had just burst through in a fit of anger and annoyance.  The gold-plated plaque on the thick oak door was engraved with the words Lambert & Lambert, Crisis Intervention Specialists.


Even after the charismatic woman was no longer in sight, Hunter stood frozen in place.  There was no doubt in his spinning mind that this was the moment he had been waiting for.  It was the first moment, after a painfully long time, he had felt his heart beat again.  No matter what, he had to make sure this would not be the last time he felt alive – living and breathing – not just existing and aimlessly roaming through another day.  He had to find a way to meet his mystery woman again.

©2012 Lenise Lee Pubn. All Rights Reserved.

Read Chapter One and Two


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