Garren sat on the stairs, his head resting in his hands. He’d already given his report to the marshal and Michael. The marshal who was on duty had been taken away in a body bag. That made three. He’d killed the man before approaching the house. Obviously their surveillance hadn’t been that hidden.
Garren scrubbed his fingers through his hair. Michelle was gone. Social workers had come to take her away. He didn’t know where. He hadn’t had the strength to ask them. He’d find out later and make sure she was doing okay. Right now, he just wanted to get a drink. He couldn’t leave yet though.
He heard the creak of steps on the stairs but didn’t lift his head. Then, a large hand rested on his arm. “This isn’t your fault, Garren.” Michael. Garren let his head sink farther down.
Michael didn’t leave though. Instead he nudged Garren over and sat beside him on the stairs. “You can’t take this on yourself. It won’t be the last time someone dies on your watch. Especially if you ever want to go into Homicide.”
A shudder ran through him. “Not quite sure I’m cut out for that.”
Michael was silent for a moment, then he said, “I think you’re wrong about that.” Then, he clasped Garren’s shoulder. “There was nothing you could have done tonight. He got the drop on the marshal. He shot through the window. You couldn’t have seen that one coming.”
“I told him to stay away from that damn window.” The words burned coming out.
“And he never listened. That’s not your fault either.”
“She blames me.”
“Michelle? Hateful little-” he broke off with a growl. “She’s hurt and grieving. And probably scared. You can’t let that get to you.” He stood up. “Come on. Let’s get out of here. There’ll be a briefing tomorrow. Right now you should probably get home.”
“Yeah. Right,” he mumbled. Going home was the last thing he wanted to do.
Michael walked with him out to his car, but they didn’t say anything else. Garren waited until he had left for his own vehicle before he grabbed his phone. It rang twice before Ginny’s sweet voice came over the line. “Garren, what is it? I thought you were working tonight.”
He closed his eyes. “Not anymore. Do you want to meet at Johnny’s for some drinks? I could really use a drink right now.”
She was silent for a moment, and he thought she would turn him down. They didn’t have anything serious going on, but the possible rejection still turned his stomach sour. “Yeah, Garren, I can do that,” she finally said. “Are you all right?”
No. Not even close. “Fine. I’ll see you in half an hour then?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good. I’ll see you there.”
Garren ended the call and tossed the phone onto the seat beside him. He rubbed his hand over his eyes, as if that would erase the memory of Jonah and Mary laying dead at his feet. Or the one of Michelle throwing all that blame at him. He let out a long breath then jammed the key in the ignition. He needed to get out of here. Maybe a drink would help him erase the images.
Garren was just ordering his second whiskey when he felt her walk up behind him. He didn’t turn around though while the bartender slid the glass over to him. He only closed his eyes when she put her hand on his shoulder.
“You get started without me?”
The words should have been joking, but he could hear the worry behind them. “I’m only one ahead. I’m sure you can catch up.”
He saw the glass shake as he brought it to his mouth. Ginny moved to the stool beside him and gave the bartender her order. Then, her hand slid along his leg. “What happened, Garren? You said you were working all night.”
“Not now,” he said then drained the rest of the whiskey before gesturing to the bartender for another.
“Damn it, Garren,” she said, her hand coming up to his arm. “Drinking is one thing, but you need to slow down. What the hell happened tonight?”
Her hand fell away from his arm for a moment then quickly returned, and she was tugging him away from the bar stool. “Come on. Let’s find a table, and you can tell me.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said but let her lead him away. “I just want to forget.”
“This isn’t the way.” She nudged him into the booth then slid in beside him rather than taking the other side. “Can you tell me what happened? Or is it classified or something?”
He shook his head, but her question brought a hint of a smile to his lips. “I don’t know what details they’re releasing, but I think I can tell you. You won’t run to the media with it, will you?”
“Of course not, Garren.”
He’d been teasing her, but by her response, he didn’t think that had come across. He opened his mouth, but the words didn’t want to come. He dropped his head back into his hands. “God, this has been a miserable night.”
She ran her fingers in circles over his shoulder. “What happened?” She asked again.
He drew in a shuddering breath. “One of the marshals is dead. Two of the three I was supposed to protect are dead. Only their daughter is left.”
He lifted his glass again, but his hand shook so bad the ice rattled against the glass and some whiskey splashed over the side. Ginny took the glass from him and set it back on the table.
“Why are you blaming yourself for that? You kept her safe obviously.” Her gaze did a quick scan down and back up him. “And yourself, it looks like.”
He could hear the relief in her voice at that. But, it didn’t get all the way through the ice surrounding him. “Because it was my job to protect them. And I failed.” His forehead thunked against the top of the table. “She blames me, and I can’t fault her for that.”
“Why, Garren? You’re a patrol officer. You’re supposed to be out on the streets, not in someone’s house making sure someone doesn’t break in. What could you have done differently?”
“I don’t know. Something. There had to be something.” He reached for the glass again and brought it to his lips despite the shaking of his hand. When he had drained it, he waved a waitress over for another one. He heard Ginny’s curse but ignored it.
“I like going out for drinks with you, Garren, but you don’t usually do this.”
He lifted his eyes to her then. “Then, why are you still here?”
He saw her face pale and felt a prick of guilt over it. But, he didn’t apologize.
“Because you need me here. And it looks like you’re going to need someone to take you home.”
“I don’t need you for that,” he said, looking up at her, his words slurring together already.
He didn’t know what to make of the look in her eyes. It wasn’t happy though. “I doubt you’ll be up for that by the time I get you out of here. But, I’ll take you home.”
He brushed those words off and raised the drink the waitress brought over. All he wanted right now was to forget.