Garren hadn’t had to worry about the paperwork. Wade had already taken care of it. He just had to sign off on all of it and clock out. Now, he was sitting in his patrol car outside his parents’ house. He didn’t know why he hadn’t gone inside yet. That meeting was still weighing on him. Why him? He couldn’t stop asking that question. Despite everything the deputy chief and commander had said, he didn’t quite buy it. There was no way he was the best they had. Sure he was a good cop. But, the best? It couldn’t be.
What about Wade? He’d been with the department a lot longer than he had. He had more experience. So, why had it been him?
Garren shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair. He needed to get it cut again. Maybe he could get his mother to do it for him while he was here. Of course he’d have to go inside for that. He took a breath and finally stepped out of the car. He’d been so preoccupied, he hadn’t noticed the other vehicle parked at the other end of the house. He recognized Michael’s truck. He hadn’t known he was coming out here tonight. It wasn’t unusual. He knew the detective had been friends with his father for a long time.
His parents probably already knew about his new assignment then.
He was surprised at the weight that took off his shoulders. Maybe that had been his problem. He hadn’t wanted to be the one to tell them. He knew his father didn’t like him being a cop. He’d made that clear when he’d joined the Academy instead of staying on the ranch. His little sister hadn’t been happy about it either. His mother had just hugged him. He knew she worried. He saw it in her eyes every time he came by the ranch. Which was most days. But, even more so when he talked about his job. He didn’t like to see her upset, so he didn’t talk about it too much.
He walked up onto the porch but didn’t knock before walking inside. He might have his own apartment now, but this was still home. His sister stood at the sink, another teenage girl next to her. Garren recognized her as one of Michael’s four daughters. Poor guy. He knew the oldest was married and the next was off to college. This must be the one Connie was in school with. He knew they were close. He walked up behind his sister and pulled on one of her long blond locks.
“Damn it, Garren,” she said, swinging around.
He laughed and shook a finger at her. “Don’t swear, Connie. I’ll tell Mom.”
She swung out and punched his shoulder. He winced and rubbed at it, but the smile didn’t leave his face. “I don’t understand why everyone thinks you’re so sweet.”
She stuck her tongue out at him then turned back to the sink and laughed at something the other girl whispered to her. “Where are Mom and Dad?” He asked.
“In the living room with Mike and Anna.”
He started to turn away but Connie asked, “Do you know if Geoff is coming for dinner too?”
He thought he heard something in her voice and narrowed his eyes as he looked back at her. “I don’t know. Why?”
She shrugged, but he was sure that had been disappointment in her eyes. “I was just wondering. You know, to see if I had to get another place setting ready.”
Garren hesitated then shook his head. He had probably imagined it. She was too young to be any thing other than a little sister figure to his best friend. He knew his friend hadn’t had any of his own. It was probably better than his mother bringing any other children into that miserable life. That thought brought a slice of sadness and guilt to him. Geoff had just buried his mother a couple years before. He knew his friend blamed himself. He’d left that house as soon as he turned eighteen, but he’d check in on his mother several times a week. It hadn’t been often enough. He found her at the bottom of the steps, bruises around her neck that couldn’t be explained by the fall.
His father was currently one year into a life sentence.
Garren shook away those thoughts. It wasn’t Geoff’s fault. It wasn’t his either. He hadn’t been at the Academy for more than a month when he’d gotten the call from Geoff. It was the first time he’d spoken to his friend since he’d told him he was going. Geoff didn’t like cops. His father had been friends with several, and because of them no one took him seriously when he said how much he and his mother suffered at his father’s hand. Every one had liked Ian Lawrence. Until his wife died.
Garren let out a shuddering breath and went to find his parents. He should have been here sooner so he could tell them. It wasn’t up to a fellow cop to do it. He stepped into the living room, and his parents turned toward him. By the smile on his mother’s face, he realized he’d been wrong. Michael must not have said anything.
“Garren,” she said, moving over to him. “I was starting to think you wouldn’t make it.”
He tried to push his worried thoughts away and worked up a smile for her. “Like I’d ever miss your cooking, Mom. I didn’t know it was a big thing though,” he said, his gaze skipping over to Michael again.
“It’s not.” She gave him a tight squeeze. “Mike and Anna just stopped by, and I invited them to stay for dinner.”
Anna stepped forward. “Liz, why don’t we go see how the girls are doing?”
His mother stepped back and smiled at him again then left with the other woman. Michael waited until they had left then turned to look at Garren. “You have some beer, right, Brendan. I could use one.”
“Sure, Mike, I’ll go get you one.”
“Naw, I can get it. You want one, Garren?”
He hesitated, knowing his father didn’t like it when he drank. He was of age though so he didn’t see what the big deal was. “Sure, Mike. Thanks.” He was pretty smart, he knew what the other man was doing. Giving him a couple minutes to tell his father what had happened. He’d take advantage of it.
He turned to his father. “I was called up to the commander’s office when my shift was over today.” Might as well jump right into it.
He saw the scowl disappear from his father’s face. “Why? Is something wrong?”
Garren shook his head. “They said I was at the top of their list of their best officers. I got a new assignment.”
“To where? Why would they move you out of your patrol district?”
He shook his head. “I’m not moving to another district.”
“What’s going on, Garren?”
He could hear a tremor in his father’s voice. “It’s nothing bad, Dad. You’ve heard about that drive-by and the witness, Jonah Wilkers, right?”
Brendan nodded. “Mike’s on that case. What about it? Are you working with him?”
Garren shook his head again. “Not exactly. Wilkers is demanding protection. The marshals unit doesn’t want to put out the manpower. So they want us to supplement what they’ll provide. They asked me to be a part of it.”
“What kind of thing is that to ask of you? You’re not a babysitter.”
The corner of Garren’s mouth twitched. “No, but the deputy chief asked it. I can’t really say no.”
Brendan rubbed a hand over his face then back over his head. “I don’t know what to think about this, Garren. You won’t be on the streets, but if this guy needs protection, I don’t see you being safe watching out for him.”
“I didn’t join the force to be safe, Dad. And I’m sure it won’t be a big deal. I’ll be rotating with a couple other officers. And there’ll be a marshal around. They just want someone inside with the family. A couple days and they’ll probably have the guy anyway.”
Brendan didn’t look too convinced. “So, you’re saying you probably won’t be around much.”
He gave a little nod. “We’ll be on twelve hour shifts. I’ll try to come by when I’m not on though.”
“All right. I’ll let your mom know.” He turned toward the kitchen just as Mike headed back in and handed them their beers. “Dinner ready?”
“Nearly,” Mike said.
“Good.” Brendan’s gaze shifted to Garren, narrowing as he took a swallow of the beer. Then, he turned back to his friend. “You gonna watch out for him?”
“Much as I can.”
“Good,” he said again.
Garren wanted to argue that he could take care of himself. He knew there was no point though. So, he let the beer slide down his throat instead.