IN THE LINE OF DUTY
*In The Line Of Duty was written to explain, within the world of fan fiction, Marlowe’s sudden disappearance from the show between the sixth and seventh seasons of Simon and Simon.
Rick Simon was awakened Thursday morning by a slobbery tongue licking his right hand. Lifting his head off the pillow, Rick opened one eye to see Marlowe sitting beside his bed. The detective patted the large dog on the head while yawning.
"You wanna go outside, boy?"
Marlowe gave an enthusiastic bark in response to the question he was asked every morning at this time.
Rick rolled out of bed, smiling at the old dog who lumbered on ahead of him, making his way to the sliding glass doors in the houseboat's living room. Rick opened those doors instructing, "Go on, Marlowe." He watched as the dog trudged to the dock, and from there, crossed to the grassy area surrounding the marina's parking lot.
Rick stood for a few minutes in the doorway, taking pleasure at the sight of Marlowe chasing a butterfly.
Well, maybe chasing isn't exactly the word, Rick thought as he watched his dog.
Rick and Marlowe had been together thirteen years now, and Rick could tell those years were starting to show on the dog. Thirteen was relatively old for a dog, especially a big dog, the vet had told Rick the last time Marlowe was at his office. At that time, Rick had been informed by the doctor that the loss of hearing Marlowe was experiencing, and the eyesight that just wasn't quite as sharp as it once was, was not unusual. Not to mention that the old dog was troubled with arthritis, Rick noted, as he caught sight of Marlowe trying to run after the pesky butterfly in a slow, awkward gait.
Rick slid the screen door shut as he stepped back into his boat, leaving Marlowe to his early morning fun.
"What a beautiful day," the detective said, taking notice of the sun coming up over the water, and the temperature that was already in the high seventies at only six forty-five.
"How come every time A.J. and I are gonna be stuck in a stupid courtroom all day, it's on a gorgeous day like this? Just once you'd think it could pour rain when we have to be stuck inside." Rick took a sip of coffee, then continued his one-side monologue. "Oh, well, this case should be wrapped up today. Now if this weather just holds out through the weekend, things will be shaping up to look pretty damn good."
Rick smiled as he reached into the refrigerator for the carton of eggs, his mind on the upcoming weekend.
Carlos had stopped by the boat two weeks ago, bringing the news that all the members of the old motorcycle gang he and Rick used to run with had finally been located. All the men were willing and eager to attend the reunion Carlos had planned as soon as a date could be set. The forty-four year old Rick hadn't seen some of these men since he was nineteen. He was excited over at the prospect of reuniting with them for a weekend of fun. Carlos quickly organized the get-together. Everyone involved would be meeting on motorcycles at one of the car washes he owned, and from there they’d spend three days cruising the California highways by day, and camping by night.
Rick still shook his head in wonder as he thought of how much they had all changed. Ironically enough, he wasn't the only one who had to borrow a motorcycle for this trip. Three other men had to as well, or so Carlos had informed him.
As Rick poured his scrambled eggs into the skillet, he recalled with great amusement how rugged he and this group of boys thought they were. He laughed now, and had to admit that by the standards of 1988, they really weren't much of a gang - nor the tough guys they had tried so hard to be. Basically, they had just been ten teenage boys who all owned motorcycles, and had all known Carlos in one way or another. They came from a mixture of racial backgrounds, as well as economic ones. Rick was probably the most privileged of the boys when it came to his upper middle-class background. They carried no weapons, didn't mix it up with other gangs, and didn't even have a name for themselves. They were just, ‘the gang,’ - a group of boys who enjoyed getting together and riding their motorcycles around San Diego, and later, once they were out of high school, down into Mexico.
Rick popped two pieces of bread into the toaster while recalling that this group of young men he had enjoyed spending time with had started to drift apart when he was around nineteen or twenty. A couple of them, like Carlos, had gotten married. One went to college, one moved to Nevada, and over the next few years, several of them were drafted and called to serve in Vietnam. By the time Rick had come home from Nam in 1971, the gang had long since disbanded and the weekend motorcycle trips were a thing of the past.
But now, for old times sake, Carlos had managed to get everyone together again.
Well, almost everyone, Rick thought with regret. Paz had been dead for seventeen years now, having lost his life in Vietnam. Another young man who had ridden with them, a cousin to Carlos, had died of cancer three years earlier. So, of the original ten, eight were left. Three were arriving from out-of-state, one from as far away as North Carolina.
"What a mixture of different goals and professions we've all turned out to have and achieve," Rick said as he poured a glass of orange juice. "Carlos owns seven car washes. Tom's a garbage man. Mike owns a restaurant. Hector's a mechanic. Juan's a schoolteacher. Tim's a Baptist minister, which is pretty hard to believe, and Bill's nothin' but a bum like he always was. I bet our mothers didn't think any of us would be half as successful as we are. I know mine sure didn't. I think I gave Mom most of her gray hair in the three or four years I ran with that group of guys."
Rick smiled as he remembered the numerous lectures and warnings Cecilia had issued during those turbulent teenaged years.
"I don't care that you boys aren't breaking any laws, people will judge you by the company you keep, Rick." Or, "When people see a gang of kids on motorcycles like that, Rick, it makes them nervous, even if you aren't doing anything wrong." Or, "All it takes is for one boy to get the idea that doing something wrong is fun, then the next thing you know you'll all be following him and doing wrong, too, just like a flock of sheep."
But somehow, over time, Rick's mother had come to terms with his friends and their passion for motorcycle riding. Maybe in part because he did prove to her, through his actions, that they weren't breaking any laws and had no intentions to. That they were just a group of guys that enjoyed getting together and riding their cycles. By the time Rick was eighteen the lectures had pretty much stopped. Cecilia even consented on occasion to A.J. riding along behind his brother now and then, in order to spend a day with Rick and his gang as they took in the sights and sound of San Diego.
Rick's mind came back to the present when Marlowe barked outside the screen door. He padded over to the door to let the big dog inside. As Marlowe walked past him, Rick commented, "Somehow I knew you'd be back in before breakfast was served."
Rick crossed to the galley and snared the slices of bread from the toaster, then filled his plate with eggs. Marlowe followed his master, watching as Rick put the eggs that were left in the skillet, along with one slice of toast, in his dog dish.
Repeating a daily ritual, Rick said, "Go on, Marlowe, those are for you," and indicated to the dog's dish with a wave of his hand.
Rick had barely started eating his own breakfast before Marlowe was sitting beside the table, looking up at him.
"You’re finished already? Well, you'll just have to be satisfied with what you had, boy, 'cause the rest is mine. There's plenty of dog food in that dish if you're still hungry."
Rick chuckled as Marlowe looked at him with an expression that seemed to say, "Yes, Rick, I know that, but that's dog food. I want people food."
Carrying on a one-sided conversation with his dog, as he often did in the mornings over breakfast, Rick asked, "Hey, Marlowe, how'd you like to spend the weekend at A.J.'s? Does that sound like fun?"
Marlowe gave a bark that Rick took to mean, "Yes."
Shaking his head fondly, Rick reached out and petted his dog.
are something else, you know that? You've sure been a good dog all these
years." Rick scratched the dog behind his ears. "Yeah, you like it at
A.J.'s, don't ya,’ boy? A.J. likes you, too, you know. Well...he tries to hide
that fact sometimes, but he doesn't have us fooled, does he?"
Marlowe barked once again while wagging his tail.
"Yeah, I happen to know he feeds you hamburger whenever you're there, and he lets you sleep on the foot of his bed, too, doesn't he?"
Getting up from the table, Rick began clearing away his breakfast dishes. Rick maneuvered around his big dog as he put his skillet in the sink and began running dishwater. Stepping over Marlowe so he could wipe off the stove and countertops Rick commented, "Now if A.J. says you can stay with him this weekend, you behave yourself. If he has a lady there, you make yourself scarce, you understand?"
Marlowe barked one more time, as if to say, "Sure, Rick, no problem. I'll behave myself."
Rick bent down to give the dog one final pat on the head.
"Yeah, you're a good old dog." Glancing up at the clock, Rick informed his pet, "I better get my butt movin.' A.J.'ll be here at quarter after eight and I gotta shower and shave yet." With that said, Rick hurried to accomplish the remainder of his kitchen chores.
Marlowe retreated to the living room while Rick got ready for work. He lay down in front of the screen doors to enjoy the cool breeze coming in off the ocean. Thirty minutes later the old dog barely woke from his morning nap when Rick stepped over him, exited the boat, slid the heavy glass doors shut, and locked them. The dog opened one eye when he heard Rick’s muffled, “Bye, Marlowe.”
Marlowe watched Rick walked down the dock, then yawned, stretched, rolled over on his side, and fell back to sleep.
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At three o'clock that afternoon the Simon brothers were walking out of a courtroom with an attorney on one side of them, and Lieutenant Abigail Marsh on the other. They fought their way through the press, declining to make any comments while heading for the long corridor. As the brothers stood leaning against the wall, talking further to the attorney, a man in handcuffs was led out of the courtroom they had just exited. Face set in cold fury, the man lunged at the Simons, but was held firmly on each side by a uniformed police officer. Turning back to glare at Rick and A.J., the man yelled, "You'll pay for this, you nosy sons-of-a-bitch! You'll both pay! You'll be sorry you ever stuck those ugly faces where they don't belong!"
The Simon brothers just looked at one another and shrugged.
"Hey, A.J., how many threats does that make since we’ve opened Simon and Simon?"
"I don't know. I kind of lost count after we reached one hundred."
The two brothers grinned as the lawyer standing with them observed all this with a shocked expression. "Aren't you guys even a little concerned about all that?" The attorney asked.
A.J. looked at the man who had been their client's lawyer, as well as a college acquaintance of the youngest Simon’s.
"Dennis, if we had a nickel for every time someone's threatened us like that in the past eight years, Rick and I would both be rich men today. It's not a big deal - just comes with the territory."
Rick grinned. "Yeah, and besides, every time one of these guys decides to make good on his threat, it's A.J.'s French doors that suffer, not us. That's why I finally had to get my own place. I got sick of getting little pieces of glass in my feet whenever some thug would shoot a bullet through ‘em, or throw a brick through ‘em, or even throw one of us through ‘em.”
A.J. shot his brother a dirty look.
"Yeah, that's right. It always is my French doors. You've got patio doors now. I think I'm going to start giving these guys your address, big brother."
The attorney shook his head. "I wouldn't take this one so lightly, guys. Gillmore was involved in some hard-core drug dealing. He has some nasty looking friends if you ask me."
"Yeah, I'll say,” Rick agreed. “That guy who's been sittin' behind him all week is built like King Kong, and seems to be about as rotten tempered, too."
"Yes, I noticed,” the lawyer saod grimly. “And that wasn't a friend, Rick, that was his brother."
"Don't worry about it, Dennis,” A.J. dismissed. “We were only hired by the guy's wife to follow him around for a divorce proceeding. It's not like we knew he was a drug dealer before any of this and were out to get him. We just kind of stumbled onto that part. Once he's had. . .oh, say three or four years to cool off in prison, he'll understand that."
"All right, whatever you guys say,” Dennis conceded while Rick laughed at his brother’s words. “You're the ones who deal with this kind of thing all the time, not me."
Dennis held out his right hand to Abby. "Lieutenant Marsh, thank you for all your help."
Turning to Simon brothers, the lawyer then shook hands with each of them "A.J., it was good seeing you again. Take care of yourself. Rick, it was nice meeting you."
The brothers said their good-byes as the lawyer turned to leave the building. He got about halfway to the door before turning around again. "Hey, guys, just watch your backs for a while! You don't want to find King Kong waiting for you in a dark alley."
Rick and A.J. laughed as they replied, "Okay," and "Yeah, sure."
Abby was engaged in a conversation with a young police officer who had approached her while they were saying good-bye to Dennis. As the brothers waited for Abby, Rick turned to his sibling.
"Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Can Marlowe stay at your place this weekend?"
"I thought you said your neighbor would let him out and feed him for you like she did last year when we went on that fishing trip."
Rick loosened his tie and undid the top button on his white dress shirt. “She was, but when she came over the other night to get things squared away with me, Marlowe growled at her and wouldn't let her near him. I kinda hate to ask her to do it now. I'm afraid he might bite her, or run off on her or something."
"That doesn't sound like Marlowe - growling at someone like that.”
“Ah,” Rick shrugged his shoulders, "he's kinda been that way on and off for the last year. He can hardly hear any more, and I know he doesn't see very well, either. He's just gettin' old and confused, I guess."
"Much like his master," A.J. commented dryly.
“Ha, ha,” Rick said in response to the teasing remark. "Will you
keep him for me? You're gonna be around, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I'll be around. I've got a date on Saturday night, and I might go sailing Sunday afternoon, but other than that I'll be home. Go ahead, bring him on over."
"Thanks, A.J. Is it okay if I drop him off tonight?"
A.J. leaned over the water fountain he was standing next to, taking a drink before answering with, "That's fine. What time are you guys leaving tomorrow?"
"We're supposed to meet at the car wash at eight. We decided that as long as we were all able to get Friday off work, that we wanted to make the most of our free time." Rick took a drink at the fountain, too, then straightened up. "I'm going to Carlos's cousin's tonight about six-thirty to borrow his cycle, so if it's all right with you, I'll drop Marlowe off on my way there. I'm gonna leave my truck with Jose¢ and ride the cycle back to the marina tonight. I don't think Marlowe would do too well ridin' behind me, so I better drop him off at your place first."
"That's fine. I'll be home." Suddenly remembering something Rick had mentioned weeks earlier, A.J. asked, "Didn't you say you wanted to borrow my sleeping bag for this trip?"
Looking like a little kid whose hand has been caught in the cookie jar, Rick stammered, "Uh...yeah, A.J., I did. I...uh...got it already. I stopped by the house on Tuesday night but you weren't home, so I kinda let myself in and borrowed it then."
"Rick, how can you borrow something if you don't ask first?"
"To tell ya’ the truth, pretty easily. Just takes a key to your house. And, if I forget that at home, I can always use my lock picks, or a credit card, or—“
"You know, someday you're actually going to ask me before you take something of mine, and when that day comes, I swear I'll have a heart attack."
Rick smiled. "Well, I sure wouldn't want you to have a heart attack, little brother, so maybe it would be in your health's best interest if I don't ask first."
A.J. shot his brother a look of annoyance, then changed the subject.
happened to your sleeping bag anyway?"
"Let me give you a little advice, kid. If you ever take the Sylvia triplets on a camping trip, make those girls bring their own sleeping bags. Don't let all three of them share yours. Sleeping bags just weren't made for four people."
A.J. rolled his eyes and groaned. "I had to ask, didn't I?"
The police officer Abby was talking to had walked away during the course of the brothers' conversation. That action allowed Abby to hear the end of it.
"So, little Ricky’s going on a camping trip this weekend."
"That's right, Abby,” A.J. said, “Little Ricky and his old motorcycle gang are having a reunion this weekend."
Abby looked the older Simon up and down.
"Gee, I wonder why it doesn't surprise me to find out that Ricky was a member of a motorcycle gang in his long-ago youth."
"It's Rick, Abigail, not Ricky," the older man informed the lieutenant. "And A.J.'s exaggerating. We weren't really a gang, we were just a group of guys who liked hanging out together and ridin' around on cycles."
"That's a gang, Rick," Abby said dryly.
"Abigail, it's no wonder you and my mother are friends. You sound just like her," Rick said with disgust. Shrugging, he added, "We were just a group of guys who had some good times together for a few years. There was nothing more to it than that."
"Except for that time all of you ended up in jail," A.J. pointed out.
With a knowing smile, Abby nodded. "Oh, now the truth comes out."
"Hey, we were innocent!" Rick protested. "And besides,
little brother, you were in jail with us if I remember right."
Abby turned exaggerated wide-eyes on A.J.
"The Golden Boy has a juvenile record? The former Little League star? Prom king? Senior class president? Goodness, A.J., when this hits the papers you'll have to leave town."
A.J. shook his head in exasperation at the teasing. "Very funny, Abby." Then thinking further of all the lieutenant had just said, he asked, "Exactly what do you and our mother talk about when you get together?"
"Oh, that's our little secret," Abby informed the brothers smugly. "Now come on, I want to hear about this perfectly innocent arrest. That's one thing your mother never has mentioned."
"That doesn't surprise me considering how mad she was over the entire affair."
Rick laughed. "Oh boy, was she ever." Leaning back against the courthouse wall, Rick told Abby the story.
"One summer night when I was nineteen, this group of guys and I were out riding around the city. We were taking in the sights, enjoying the weather - you know, just hangin' out. Mom had let A.J. come with me that night so he was riding behind me on my cycle. We had stopped at a diner that had carhops, so there we were, ten guys all around eighteen and nineteen years old, and A.J., who was a month short of turning fourteen. We were just eatin' some burgers, laughing and goofing around, but not bothering anybody or anything, when we were suddenly surrounded by three cop cars. A motorcycle gang had just gone on a rampage somewhere in the city, breaking into stores and causing a lot of trouble, and I guess we fit the general description. Young kids on motorcycles, all of us but A.J. in black leather jackets, and all of us just hangin' out. So without really asking us any questions, the cops hauled us down to jail."
A.J. began laughing now, as he recalled more clearly the events of that night.
"Remember, Rick, how that cop put me in the front seat with him, while you, and Carlos, and Tim, were in the back? All the way to the station, Abby, this cop is giving me a lecture on the evils of hanging out with boys so much older than myself, and how I wasn't too young to change my ways."
Rick picked up the story there.
"Yeah, and the guy knew A.J. and I were brothers 'cause when they started loading us in cars I made it clear to this cop that my kid brother was to stay with me. So when the guy wasn't lecturing A.J., he’d turn around and lecture me on an older brother's responsibilities, and how I should be ashamed of myself for involving such a young boy in these kind of lawless activities. A.J. kept protesting and trying to tell the guy we were innocent, but he wouldn't listen. When we finally got to the station they put all of us in a jail cell except A.J., 'cause he was so young, I suppose. I remember the last thing I said to him was 'A.J., call Mom, but break it to her gently.'"
Rick shook his head in disgust as he remembered that phone call. "So what does the little squirt do? When Mom answers the phone he says in this happy-go-lucky kinda voice, 'Hi, Mom, it's A.J. Rick and I are in jail. Can you come get us out?'"
Abby couldn't help but laugh at Rick's words. She had heard A.J. use his innocent, little boy voice with Cecilia several times herself. She could just picture this scene in her mind as Rick went on to say over her laughter, "Man, I could hear Mom screaming through the phone, 'What! You're in jail!' and all I thought was, 'Way to go, A.J., that was real smooth.'"
“What happened when your mother got there?”
"By the time she and some of the other parents arrived, some witnesses had been brought in who said no, we weren't the boys who had been causin' the trouble, and then the waitresses at the diner were able to verify how long we had been there. The cops finally figured out there was no way we could have been clear across town at the same time we were eating hamburgers."
"So I take it you guys were released to your mother with no further problems then," Abby stated.
A.J. smiled. "Well, with no further problems from the police, but
with big problems from Mom. She was so mad at us she wouldn't talk to
Rick or me for three days."
Confused, Abby asked, "Why? You were innocent."
"According to Mom, that wasn't the point,"
Rick informed the woman. "The point was, number one, she always told me running around with a gang of boys like that would cause me trouble someday.
“Number two, having to come and get her sons out of jail was embarrassing, and humiliating, and she'd better never have to do it again, regardless of whether we were innocent or not.
“And number three, what kind of influence was I planning to have on my little brother? How could I even think of letting him do something with me that would get him hauled off to jail?
trying to tell Mom it wasn't my fault, but she wouldn't have any part of it.
She finally turned around and glared at him - he was sittin' in the back seat
of the car while I got the honor of having to sit up front with her - anyway, I
remember she yelled, 'Andrew, be quiet! I don't want to hear it! You're in
trouble, too, mister, so just keep your mouth shut.'"
Abby laughed while shaking her head. "Well, evidently Cecilia finally got over it because I believe she's hauled your butts out of jail a few times since then."
"Yeah, she got over it," A.J. agreed. "But Rick and I were sure walking on egg shells for a few days. Mom probably wasn't even mad by the second day. I think she was just milking it for all it was worth. Rick and I were cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, washing windows, cooking dinner - doing all kinds of things while trying to get back on her good side."
"Your mother sure had you two wrapped around her little finger, doesn't she?" Abby questioned while picturing a nineteen- year-old Rick and thirteen-year-old A.J. trying to win back their mother’s favor by performing household chores.
"Yeah, she did," Rick admitted as the trio walked toward the courthouse exit. “Actually, she still does.”
Abby squinted when they stepped into the afternoon sunshine. "Well,
if little Ricky's gang is back in town this weekend I suppose I'd better put
some extra officers on patrol so the streets will be safe."
"I don't think that's necessary,” A.J. smirked. “At the most, all you're going to get is concerned citizens calling up saying, 'There's some very old men out riding motorcycles. Do you think that's a wise thing for men of their years to be doing? Especially the bald one with the cowboy hat. Isn't there some kind of law that prohibits elderly gentlemen from riding motorcycles?'"
Abby laughed as Rick, who wasn't finding his brother humorous at all, grabbed A.J. in a headlock and dragged him toward the Camaro.
A.J. freed himself from Rick's hold and was straightening his tie as Abby reached her vehicle, which was parked three cars over from A.J.'s.
"You guys have a good weekend," she told the brothers. "Oh, and, Rick, be careful, okay? You are rather old to be riding a motorcycle all weekend. And I don't want to have to call your mother to come get you out from jail, either."
Rick scowled at the lieutenant as he got into A.J.'s car.
“You and my brother are real comedians today, you know that, Abigail?"
Abby had no chance to respond before the Camaro’s engine roared to life. She waved good-bye to the men, then climbed in her own car, never imagining that the next time she saw the brothers it would be at County General Hospital.
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
A.J. was still teasing Rick about his age when the Simons arrived at the marina parking lot twenty minutes later.
As Rick got out
of the vehicle he said, "Even though I hate the thought of leaving poor
Marlowe with someone as incredibly insensitive as you are, I'll bring him over
in a couple of hours."
"That's fine. Oh, by the way, I don't suppose Marlowe has had a
flea dip recently, has he?"
Rick smiled and leaned back in the car window.
"As a matter of fact, you're in luck. Marlowe reminded me last night that if he was going tostay at your house, I'd better give him a flea bath, otherwise you'd be naggin' and itching all weekend."
"It's a good thing Marlowe's smarter than his master then," A.J. returned as he backed the car out of the parking spot and headed toward his own home.
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Saturday morning A.J. was awakened by the same slobbery tongue licking his hand, that had woken Rick two days earlier. The dog was sprawled on the bed, across the lower part of A.J.'s legs. Marlowe didn’t make an effort to get up or move until he saw the blond man begin to stir.
A.J. patted the large head.
"Morning, Marlowe. You want to go out?"
At that question Marlowe barked and jumped off the bed with so much enthusiasm he almost dumped A.J. on the floo. In fact, he probably would have dumped his surrogate master on the floor had A.J. not been expecting Marlowe's sudden movement. Friday morning the blond man had been tossed to the floor when Marlowe bounded off the bed.
As A.J. followed Marlowe down the stairs, he noticed that the big dog was having trouble maneuvering the stairway. They made their way slowly to the kitchen door, A.J. giving the dog a massage on his hindquarters for moment when they arrived.
"You poor old dog. Your arthritis is really bothering you today, isn't it?"
Marlowe enjoyed the extra attention, then looked up at the door and barked.
"All right,” A.J. opened the door to let the dog outside. "I get the hint.”
The youngest Simon brother made coffee and poured himself a glass of juice, then went upstairs to the master bathroom. Walking back through the bedroom a few minutes later, he picked up the blue bathrobe that was lying across the foot of the bed. He put it on over his bare torso and pajama bottoms.
A.J. returned to the kitchen. He turned on the radio and began preparing his breakfast. Before he sat down to eat, he went to the door and called loudly for Marlowe. When the dog didn't appear several minutes and several calls later, A. J. walked through the living room. He looked out the French doors to see if he could spot Marlowe anywhere.
Seeing the animal in the canal, happily chasing ducks, A.J. opened the doors and stepped onto the deck.
Marlowe still didn't hear him. Sighing, A.J. rolled his pajama bottoms up to his knees, then walked barefooted across his small back lawn and waded into the canal. The water had reached his shins before the dog finally took notice of him. Upon seeing the blond, Marlowe left the ducks to their peace once again and ran over to A.J. He shook the excess water off himself, giving the detective an unwanted shower with canal water.
"Thanks a lot, Marlowe," A.J. said as he motioned for the dog to follow him.
A.J. and the dog made their way to the back door of the garage. A.J. padded across the cement floor to retrieve one of the towels he kept in a cabinet. Unfolding the towel, he called loudly, "Marlowe, come here!"
Once Marlowe figured out where the sound was coming from, he lumbered over to A.J. The blond man knelt down to wipe the water and dirt off the dog's legs and feet, then wiped the dirt off his own bare feet.
"You really are getting pretty deaf, aren't you, boy?" A.J. asked the dog, who wagged his tail in response.
Rick had warned his younger brother that he might have to go in search of Marlowe once he was let outside because the dog didn't always hear when he was called for. A.J. had therefore been careful these past two days, and kept a close eye on the dog whenever he let him out. The last thing the blond detective wanted was to have Marlowe disappear on him, or have something happen to the old dog when he was in A.J.'s care.
A.J. had noticed, like Rick had, that Marlowe didn't see well anymore, either. The dog had walked into the refrigerator and several pieces of furniture more than once since Rick had dropped him off on Thursday night.
A.J. threw the soiled towel into the washing machine. Giving the dog a final pat on the head, A.J. opened the door that would allowthem back into the house.
"Come on, Marlowe, let's go eat breakfast. I even made you pancakes, you spoiled old dog."
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At six-thirty that same evening, A.J. was letting Marlowe in the house once again. The man slipped into his suit coat and straightened his tie. As A.J. walked over to shut off the TV set, he had to step over the now slumbering dog. The detective turned a dim light on in a far corner of the den, then bent down and scratched Marlowe behind his ears. The dog opened his eyes and look up at A.J.
"Now you behave yourself while I'm gone, Marlowe. Don't mess up my house, you hear? I expect to find all the sofa cushions where they belong, and don't get into my magazine rack and shred the newspapers, or anything else that looks appealing. If you do, you'll find yourself sleeping in the garage tonight and not at the foot of my bed. Understand?"
Marlowe gave a small, sad bark that seemed to say, "Okay, have it your way, A.J. You sure know how to ruin a dog's fun, though."
With a final pat to Marlowe's head, A.J. stood.
"See you later, pal. Don't wait up."
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At two o'clock Sunday morning, A.J. silently shut his car door. He carried his suit coat and tie over one arm, as he traversed the walkway to his kitchen door. The Grand Canal neighborhood was silent, all the houses dark, the residents long in bed by now.
The blond man’s neighbors were quiet, sedate people. A.J.’s and Rick's exploits were the only bit of pizzazz that brought occasional spice to the area. Of course, ever since Rick had moved to the marina, the exciting times A.J. provided had become fewer and farther between, and not quite as raucous as when his brother was in residence.
As A.J. turned his key in the door he could hear Marlowe growling from
somewhere in the house. Knowing that the old dog was probably confused as to
where he was, A.J. opened the door while saying loudly, "It's all right,
Marlowe! It's only me!"
By the time the blond man realized there was something wrong, it was too late. Someone, some very large someone, was hiding behind the kitchen door. A.J. was grabbed from behind. His coat and tie fell to the floor as his arms were pinned to his sides. As A.J. bucked his torso and tried to kick, two other large men appeared from the dark living room. The only thing A.J. knew as they descended on him was that he had never seen either one of them before, and that they both weighed in excess of two hundred and fifty pounds. A.J. noted that one was an inch or two shorter than himself, while the other was tall, maybe six foot four or five. A.J. knew the man holding him had to be at least that big, as well, if not larger.
Over the sound of Marlowe's frantic barking, A.J. heard in his right ear, "My brother told you you'd pay, Simon. Well, payment's coming due right now, blondie."
A.J. was dragged from the door and it was kicked closed by one of his assailants. Once the struggling detective was in the living room, his arms were held firmly behind him while the two men in front of him pounded his midsection with their fists. A.J. continued to struggle and put up the best fight he could, until his knees went out from under him. At that point, the man behind A.J. simply tightened his grip on the detective, thereby supporting A.J.'s weight and keeping him in an upright position. Several minutes of this treatment caused A.J. to be gasping with pain and shock. He was positive the two men in front of him had already broken several of his ribs. He could only hope now, that a lung wouldn't be punctured, too.
As the room started to spin, A.J. was aware of two things. Marlowe's frantic barking, although he wasn't sure where the dog was, and the voice of the man behind him.
Simon, you aren't going to pass out on us yet. Our fun is only just getting
With that, the man who was holding A.J. let go of him. The two men in front took hold of his arms and kept him upright. The big man behind A.J. then delivered three hard, fast punches to his kidneys, causing the detective to cry out in pain.
The next few minutes were a blur to the blond as he drifted in and out of consciousness. At some point he was aware of being punched on both sides of his face several times, at another point he felt a fist land squarely in his stomach. All of a sudden, amidst Marlowe's growls and the conversations of his attackers, A.J. saw stars. He lost consciousness without having any idea what had clipped him on the side of the head.
"What'd you do that for?" The big man who had been hiding behind the kitchen door when A.J. entered the house asked the accomplice wielding a billy club. “I wanted him conscious when we killed him.”
"The damn dog's makin' too much noise! We gotta get out of here. If you weren't such an animal lover I’d have killed the mut the minute we walked in the door. I told you tying him up was dumb."
The brother of the man the Simons had helped put in jail on Thursday glanced at the frantic Marlowe. They had tied the dog to the leg of the living room couch with a leash they had found in the kitchen.
"Listen, I don't have any beef with the dog. It isn't his fault he got stuck with these two nosy jerks for masters. I might just take this fella with me when we leave here. He's a pretty protective old dog." With that, the man reached out to pet Marlowe. Rick’s dog gave a vicious growl and lunged at A.J.’s attacker with teeth bared.
As the man jerked his hand back, his buddies laughed.
"Yeah, he’s protective of blondie, all right, but he sure doesn't like you, Chris."
"Oh, shut up," Chris Gillmore replied. He shifted his attention to A.J., who was laying on his back the floor between the kitchen counter and the living room. The detective was moaning softly and rolling his head from side to side.
"Guess you didn't hit him too hard after all, Jack. He's coming around, I think." Reaching down to grab A.J. under his arms, the man said, "Let's finish him off and get outta here."
"What about his brother? I thought we were gonna get him tonight, too."
Exasperated, the big man struggled to get A.J. to his feet. He dragged the detective to the center of the living room.
"Well, whatta ya’ want me to do, Frankie? We went by his boat and he's not there. I'm not gonna spend all night running around San Diego looking for him, and there's too much activity going on around that damn marina for us to get him there."
Grabbing A.J. by the hair, Chris yanked the blond's head back.
"Besides, big brother will show up for blondie's funeral. We'll have plenty of time to track him down then." Patting A.J.'s cheek, he informed the other two, "Poor ole’ big brother is gonna be so torn up over baby brother's death, he won't even be thinking of watching his own back."
A.J. was aware enough at this point to know what was being said. He also knew he was being held in a kneeling position, the big man's hands underneath his arms. A.J.'s left eye was swollen shut, and he could just get his right one open far enough to see a gun being pointed at his chest. Despite the fact that A.J.'s head was pounding, his vision was blurry, his body was wracked with pain, and the room was spinning in three directions, the detective was dimly aware again of Marlowe's frantic growls and barking.
A.J. could barely make out a man's finger on the trigger of a gun, but he knew it was there. He could see the gun barrel being held ten inches from his chest. Over Marlowe's barks, A.J. could also hear the three men talking. He knew the man holding the gun was talking to him, but he couldn't make out what was being said. He thought he might have heard, "Well, Simon, I guess this is it," but he wasn't sure.
Just as quickly as it had all started when A.J. had walked through the kitchen door just fifteen minutes earlier, it was all over. A.J. wasn't sure in what order the following things happened, but they seemed to happen at the same time. The gun was pointed at his chest, a big blur flew in front of him, and the gun went off.
"You shot the stupid dog!"
"How'd he get loose?"
"Don't worry about it, you got Simon, too! Look at him. If he isn't
dead yet, he will be soon. Let's get outta here before the whole neighborhood
A.J., who without the support of someone holding him up, lay sprawled on the floor again. He was vaguely aware of what running over him and as they raced from the house. The detective remained where he was, semi-conscious, in too much pain to move. As time passed, A.J.'s awareness level increased somewhat, and he turned his head slightly, looking for Marlowe with his half opened right eye. With help from the dim light coming from the den, his fuzzy vision detected a large form lying next to him. With his right hand A.J. reached out. He encountered wet, sticky fur.
Marlowe didn't make a sound as A.J. frantically moved his hand over the animal's body, trying to find the bullet wound. When he finally located it by nothing but feel, A.J. applied as much pressure as possible to the injury with the hope of stopping the bleeding. It wasn't easy. Aside from not being able to see clearly, A.J. couldn't move any closer to the dog without causing himself excruciating pain.
Five minutes had passed, when once again A.J. felt himself drifting
toward blackness. Right before he lost consciousness, A.J.'s grip on Marlowe
tightened and he whispered, "I'm sorry, Marlowe. I'm so sorry."
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
Rick looked at his watch as he pulled into his brother's driveway at nine-forty Sunday evening. He was wind burned, dirty, and tired, but he was smiling as he thought of the three days he had just spent with his old friends. Getting out of the truck, Rick grabbed A.J.'s sleeping bag from the back and made his way up to the kitchen door. Rick had told A.J. on Thursday evening if he got back before ten o’clock on Sunday night he'd stop by and pick up Marlowe. Otherwise, if it was past ten before he returned, he'd get the dog after work on Monday.
Rick knocked on the door several times, but received no answer. Past habits would have had him walking in without the formality of knocking, but A.J. had been on Rick's case ever since he had moved to the marina, in an effort to get his older brother to knock before entering his home.
Rick looked in through the kitchen window, but could only see a faint light coming from the den. He didn’t spot A.J. in there watching TV, so assumed the blond was in the shower, or upstairs in his bedroom reading. Rick took a key to A.J.'s house out of his pocket and inserted it into the lock, only to discover the door was unlocked to begin with.
It's kinda strange that A.J. would leave the door unlocked if he's upstairs.
Rick paused a moment in the act of turning the knob, then shrugged his shoulders. He walked in the kitchen, flipped on the light, and laid the rolled up sleeping bag on the floor. His brows furrowed as he bent to pick up A.J.’s suit coat and tie. He’d never known his brother to throw clothes on the floor. A.J. was so picky about the condition of his home that it was rare to find even a stray piece of mail laying around.
Rick looked into the dark living room. Three dining room chairs were knocked over, an easy chair on its side, and the couch was angled, as though someone had run into it.
“Oh, Marlowe, what have you done now?” The older man said while wondering where the naughty dog and his brother were. “Man, A.J.’s gonna be pissed at you when he sees the mess you’ve--”
Rick’s monologue came to an abrupt halt as he walked into the living room to survey the damage. The man muttered, “Oh, my God,” when he caught sight of A.J. and Marlowe sprawled on the floor.
Rick ran the five steps it took him to get to A.J.'s side. He knelt next his brother to feel for a pulse. He breathed a sigh of relief upon finding one. Rick swiveled on his boot heels so he could reach the phone that resided on an end table. He punched in 911 and gave the dispatcher the necessary information. When the call was completed, and Rick was certain an ambulance was on its way, he hung up the phone and ran to the kitchen. He unrolled the sleeping bag and grabbing the blanket he had secured inside of it.
Rick dashed back to A.J.'s side and threw the blanket over his legs and waist. He unbuttoned his brother's torn and tattered shirt as gently as possible. He reached up to turn on a lamp, then took in the bruises that covered A.J.'s midsection. He carefully probed A.J.’s ribs, frowning when he detected several broken ones. Rick put an ear over A.J.'s nose and mouth, and for a few moments just listened to his brother breathe. Although A.J. wasn't breathing as deeply as Rick thought he should be, he at least felt fairly positive that the broken ribs hadn't punctured a lung.
As Rick pulled the blanket up to A.J.'s chest, he saw the bloodstain on the shirt sleeve of the blond's upper left arm. Rick unbuttoned the cuff of the shirt and rolled the sleeve up. A flesh wound from a bullet searing the skin was visible. Rick looked the arm over, then examined his brother’s right arm and both legs. After doing so, Rick felt certain that A.J. had just been grazed, and that he hadn’t been shot anywhere else.
It was after this initial first aid was given that Rick examined his brother's face.
"Oh, A.J., who did this to you, kid?" Rick questioned softly while examining the bruises and cuts around A.J.'s swollen eyes. Without moving A.J.'s head, Rick also examined the large gash that was high up on the right side of his brother's skull.
"I'll kill 'em. I swear, A.J., I'll find the bastards who did this to you and I'll kill 'em."
Rick turned his attention to Marlowe. He gasped as he laid his hand on the cold body of his beloved dog.
"Oh, Marlowe." Petting the dog's bloodstained coat, Rick whispered brokenly, "You poor old dog. You were such a good friend, Marlowe. Such a good, good friend."
Rick turned to look at A.J., who was moaning weakly and lifting his right hand off the floor as though searching for something. It was then that Rick noticed the palm of A.J.'s hand was covered with blood. He lifted the hand, but didn't find any injuries - only dried blood and matted dog hair.
"A.J., don't move," Rick instructed as he tucked A.J.’s arm beneath the blanket.
A.J. rolled his head from side to side. Rick stopped the movement by placing his hands on both sides of the blond man’s face.
"A.J., it's Rick. Don't move, little brother. You lay here real quiet for me. The ambulance will be here in just a minute."
"Rick?" Came the weak inquiry, as A.J. opened his right eye as far as he could and tried to focus on his brother.
Rick remained holding his brother's head still, while doing his best to smile.
“Yeah, A.J. it's me. Just lay here quietly, okay? Don't move."
A.J. fumbled to get his right arm out from under the blanket. He lifted his hand again, and as he encountered Marlowe he mumbled, "Rick...Marlowe...bleeding."
"Yeah, I know, A.J. It's all right, he's not bleeding anymore." Rick took A.J.'s bloody hand in his own then and squeezed it briefly before putting the arm back under the blanket.
Rick laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder. "A.J., do you know who did this to you?"
"Gillmore," came the whispered reply.
Confused, Rick stated, "Gillmore's in jail, A.J. Remember?"
"His brother did this to you? His brother and who else?"
"Don't know...two others," the semi-conscious blond mumbled.
Rick hated to ask A.J. any more questions, but he knew it was important to get whatever information he could for the police.
"A.J., when did this happen? Do you remember?"
"Came home...from...date," A.J. struggled to say. "Two
Reaching out to brush the hair off his brother's forehead, Rick whispered, "Oh my Lord." He realized that meant A.J. had been lying like this, without any kind of help, for close to twenty hours.
Squeezing his brother's shoulder, Rick said softly, "Okay, you rest now. We'll be going to the hospital soon."
Rick could hear the sirens in the distance, and was just about to go to the door, when A.J.'s hoarse voice stopped him.
"A.J., come on now. Just stay quiet."
Rick’s face swam into bleary focus for the blond detective as his older brother leaned over him.
"No...Rick...Marlowe jumped in...in front of me...they shot...shot him. The bul...bullet...meant for me.
Marlowe...he was shot protect...protecting me."
Rick looked down at his dog with a soft expression of love. He turned back to his injured brother, as A.J. said through split lips, "I'm...sor...sorry, Rick."
Rick patted A.J.’s shoulder. "A.J., you don't have anything to be sorry about." But Rick's words of comfort were lost on A.J., who had slipped back to unconsciousness.
Rick turned then to look upon Marlowe. He ran a gentle hand up and down the dog's body. He laid his head against Marlowe's, and as tears sprang to his eyes he whispered, "Thank you...thank you for protecting A.J. You're a good dog, Marlowe. A good dog."
Rick quickly composed himself as a siren wailed outside A.J.’s house and an ambulance pulled into the driveway. The detective wiped the tears from his cheeks with his shirtsleeve, then stood and hurried to the door so he could let the paramedics in.
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
At five minutes after three on Monday morning, Rick Simon sat on a couch in the emergency room of County General Hospital, rubbing a hand over his tired eyes.
Upon hearing his name, Rick looked up to see Lieutenant Marsh standing over him.
"Hey, Abby.” Rick indicated to the sofa cushion next to him. “Have a seat."
"Any word on A.J. yet?”
"Yeah, finally. I just talked to the doctor a few minutes ago, and got to see A.J. at the same time. He's got five broken ribs - thank God none of them punctured a lung.
“He's got a gash on his head it took fourteen stitches to close, and a concussion to go along with it. The doctor told me that’s good news 'cause at first they thought his skull might be fractured.
“He's a mass of bruises from his shoulders right down to his pelvic bone, but there isn’t any internal bleeding. He's got a flesh wound in his upper left arm that bled quite a bit, but the bullet just grazed him from what they can tell.
"And I guess beating my brother to a pulp wasn't good enough for the bastards, because someone either hit him or kicked him in the kidneys. The doctor tells me I can be thankful that there doesn't seem to be any damage done, but A.J.'s gonna be awfully sore in that area of his back for a while. They'll be watching him closely for the next few days though for signs of any kidney problems." Rick’s voice softened as he finished. "I saw the bruises on A.J.'s back, Abby. It's a miracle they didn't kill him when they hit him like that."
Abby laid a hand on Rick's arm. After a moment she asked, "What about his eyes, Rick? One of the cops at the scene said they looked pretty bad."
"Yeah, they do. He can't open his left one, so it'll be a couple of days before they know for sure if there's been any damage done. He can only get his right one open about halfway, but from what the doctors can tell at this point they think things are okay with it." Rick gave a slight smile. "He focused on me with that eye when I was in the room with him a few minutes ago, and asked me if this sweatshirt I’m wearin' is his, so that made me feel better. I hope we're that lucky with the left one."
"I hope so, too," Abby said, as she eyed the thick, navy blue sweatshirt Rick was wearing. "By the way, is it?"
At Rick's puzzled look, Abby clarified herself. "Is that A.J.'s sweatshirt you're wearing?"
“Oh...uh yeah. It is, as a matter of fact. I kinda borrowed it without asking first."
"Well, if A.J. noticed that after all he's been through, then I think he's going to be fine," Abby assured before changing the subject. "We've got a warrant out for Chris Gillmore's arrest, Rick. I've got some people looking for him now."
Rick stared at the wall. "I hope you find him before I do, Abby, because if I get a hold of him first, I swear I'll kill him for what he did to A.J."
Abby grabbed Rick's arm, causing him to turn and look at her. Anger flashed in both their eyes as she warned in a tone of steel, "Don't you even think about it, Rick Simon. I’ll find Chris Gillmore. You stay away from him."
"Rick, I mean it. I'll put your butt in jail if I have to. You stay away from this case. Your brother needs you here. You know as well as I do, how upset A.J. will be if you run off and get yourself in trouble over all this. Is that what you want? Don't you think A.J.'s going to have enough to deal with as it is?" Abby paused for a moment to let what she’d said thus far sink in with Rick. “You sit here and think about what A.J. would want you to do, and I believe you’ll see I’m right."
Rick stood and sighed heavily, unwilling to admit to Abby that she was right. A.J. would be upset if Rick made good on his vow to make Chris Gillmore pay. And, it was obvious to Rick after being told of his brother's injuries, that A.J. was going to be in need of his help when he was finally released from the hospital. There were going to be certain things his younger brother wouldn't be physically capable of doing for a while - like tying his shoes or slipping his arms into a jacket.
When his anger had cooled somewhat, Rick turned to face Abby. "You play dirty, you know that?"
Abby nodded her head. "Sometimes I have to."
Abby and Rick were silent for the next few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. The lieutenant finally broke the silence by saying quietly, "Rick, I'll have Marlowe's body taken to your vet as soon as the office opens. Just write down the phone number and the doctor's name for me, please."
Rick nodded as he crossed the small area to stare out the window.
"He jumped in front of A.J., did you know that? Marlowe took the bullet that was supposed to go into my brother's chest."
"Yes, I know. Hanrahan said that's what A.J. told you. They had Marlowe tied up to the couch, and he must have broken free somehow. Part of a leash was still attached to his collar, the other part we found still tied tightly to the couch leg."
"Yeah, I kinda noticed that when I was working with A.J., but I didn't have a chance to look at it that closely."
“We found the bullet in the wall by the French doors. It has what we believe are dog hairs on it. It must have passed straight through Marlowe, caught A.J. on the arm, and then kept going." Looking up at Rick, Abby told him gently, "We'll need to ask your vet to do an autopsy, so we can get our facts straight."
Rick nodded once again. "Yeah, I know. I understand."
"I'll need to speak with A.J., too, if his doctor says he's up to it."
"I know. But just wait
until our family doctor looks him over, okay? The doctor who's with him tonight
seems to be real good, but I’ll just feel better about all this once Bob's had
a chance to check A.J. out later this morning."
"That's fine," Abby agreed. "We've got your statement
already, and I know you told Hanrahan everything A.J. said to you, so that
should keep the big guys satisfied for a while. Please give me a call later today and let me know when I can talk
to your brother."
"I will," Rick promised.
"Have you called your mother yet?"
Rick sat back down beside the lieutenant.
"She left for San Francisco on Wednesday. We have an aunt who lives up there she went to visit. She's due back here sometime this afternoon, so since it was so late when I got here with A.J., I decided not to call. I would have woken her up, and then she would have insisted on leaving right away and heading home. I don't want her driving all that way at night by herself. I was debatin’ whether or not to call up there around seven this morning, but now that the doctor's told me A.J.'s not in serious danger, I think I'll just wait and meet her at the house this afternoon and tell her then." Rick gave a sickly grin. "She'll probably be pretty mad at me for not calling her, but I just don't want her driving for seven hours all alone and upset. And I know she's gonna be upset."
"Yes, she will be," Abby agreed, while smiling at Rick's fear of his petite mother. "Let me know if your mother gives you a hard time over this decision. If she does, I'll tell her I backed up your choice."
"I'll probably have to hold you to that one, Abby. Mom's awfully protective of her sons, and she doesn't like to be kept in the dark when it comes to stuff like this."
"I'd have to agree with that."
As doctor approached the pair from the elevator, Rick stood to talk to the man.
"They just got A.J. settled in his room, Mr. Simon. You can see him for a few minutes before you go home, but please don't stay long. He needs to rest right now. We've got him sedated, so he won't be very alert anyway. As a matter of fact, I’d normally be telling you he'd sleep through your visit, but he's trying to stay awake so he can talk to you for a minute. I told him I'd send you right up," the young doctor informed Rick.
Rick shook hands with the man and thanked him for all his help this very long night. As the doctor walked away, Rick turned to Abby and thanked her, as well, for her help and concern. Rick then walked with her to the exit, insisting on watching through the doors to make certain she arrived at her car safely. At a result, the last conversation Rick had with the lieutenant that night involved the two of them in a typical Rick-Simon-and- Abigail-Marsh verbal spat. Abby kept insisting she could get to her car just fine - after all, she was a cop, and Rick kept insisting he would see she got there safely, just as he would for any lady after dark, although it was debatable to him as to whether she was a lady or not.
After seeing Abby get in her car, Rick turned for the elevator. He rode it to the third floor, then exited onto a quiet hallway. A woman questioned, “Mr. Simon?” as he approached the nurses’ station. Rick nodded.
“Doctor Crandall told me you’d be here to see you brother. He’s in room 306.” The nurse pointed behind her. It’s straight down this hallway, the third door on your left.”
Rick walked the short distance to his brother’s room and quietly opened the door. He crossed to the blond’s bedside, his boot heels clicking lightly on the tiles. Rick thought A.J. was asleep, he appeared to be, but the sound of the boots must have roused him. The blond stirred slightly, slowly opened his right eye, and inquired, "Rick?"
Looking down at his brother and taking in the various injuries once more, all Rick could think was, Now I know how A.J. felt after Quint got through with me. No wonder he was such a mother hen that first week I was home from the hospital.
Rick grasped A.J.'s questing right hand.
A.J., it's me. How ya' doing, little brother?"
"Okay," A.J. mumbled, as he tried to focus his half-open right eye on his brother. That was a battle he was losing to the swelling, and to the sedative that was dripping into his left arm. In an effort to let his older brother know that things really were going to be okay, A.J. said with as much humor as he could muster, "At least...they left...the French doors...alone."
Rick smiled. "Yeah, I guess they did, didn't they?"
A.J. finally gave up trying to see Rick, and allowed his eye to close.
"Rick...I'm...sorry...sorry about Marlowe."
Rick reached down to rub has brother's shoulder.
"I know you are, but it wasn't your fault. Don't worry about it right now, okay? You just try to get some sleep."
A.J. ignored Rick's instruction. "I tried to...to stop the bleeding. I...tried, Rick. I'm sorry."
Rick had to speak past the lump that was suddenly in his throat. "I know you did, A.J. I know you did." Rick squeezed A.J.'s now clean right hand, trying to convey to his brother that he had understood that back at the house when he had first seen A.J.'s bloodstained hand and fingers.
Understanding how A.J. must be feeling in regards to Marlowe's death, Rick squeezed the hand he held once more and assured, "A.J., I'm grateful for everything you tried to do for Marlowe. You did the best you could. Believe me, I know that."
Rick could see A.J. was about to comment further, so he rushed on with, "Now I want you to relax and go to sleep. Don't worry about any of it right now. It's been over twenty-four hours since it all happened, and you gotta get some rest."
Rick moved away long enough to pull the only chair in the room beside the bed. Sitting down and taking A.J.'s hand in his once more, he told the half asleep blond, "I'm gonna stay here for a little while, then I’ll be goin’ home. Bob's supposed to be in sometime around nine to see you, so I'll be back then, too, All right?"
A.J. nodded. "What time...time’z it?"
Rick glanced at his watch. "It's about quarter to four, so you better get to sleep. Nine's not that far off."
Right before drifting off to sleep, A.J. ordered, "You get...get some sleep, too."
Rick squeezed the hand he held and promised, "I will." He stayed another ten minutes, just staring down at his sleeping brother, thankful that A.J. was still alive. As quietly as possible then, Rick stood up and left the room. He knew he needed to go to his boat and get what rest he could before returning to the hospital in only five hours time.
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
At seven o'clock Monday night, Rick was walking beside a very impatient Cecilia Simon. They were headed down the corridor that led to A.J.'s room. Rick had been back to the hospital at nine o'clock that morning as he had promised his brother he would be, and had stayed with A.J. until four that afternoon. It was finally at that time, that A.J. seemed to be resting somewhat comfortably. Rick left his sleeping brother, knowing he had to face the difficult task of breaking the news of A.J.'s assault to their mother.
Cecilia and Rick quietly entered the room. Cecilia crossed to her youngest's bedside. She touched A.J.'s bare forearm, and when he didn't stir she knew he was asleep. Cecilia gazed down at her son's bruised and swollen face for a minute, then with tears in her eyes, she bent and kissed his forehead.
Rick was standing behind his mother. As she turned to look at him, he opened his arms and pulled her against his chest in a firm embrace. After a moment Cecilia said, "I know you told me what to expect when I saw him, but...but when it comes right down to seeing your own child beaten this way...it's not easy."
Rick rubbed his mother's back. "I know, Mom. I know."
Tears spilled from Cecilia’s eyes.
"Oh, Rick, it's just like that time with you and Jeremiah Quint. I knew then, I never wanted to see one of my sons hurt like that again. You were in so much pain that first week. Now it's the same thing all over again, only this time it's A.J."
Because he didn't know what else to say, and because he felt a fair amount of guilt at what his and A.J.'s chosen profession put their mother through on occasion, Rick replied softly, "I know, Mom. I'm sorry. Believe me, I never wanted you to have to go through something like this again. I'm real sorry."
Although Cecilia had plenty she could say about her sons' line of work at that moment, and plenty of negative opinions and feelings she had a desire to voice quite loudly, she managed to keep all those things to herself. She had looked up into Rick's eyes and seen the pain that was there, and how exhausted he was, and knew then, that now was not the time. Maybe in a few weeks she'd have a discussion with both her sons - for all the good it would do her.
They're both just as stubborn as Jack was. This is one issue they've never listened to me on, so I doubt they'll start listening now. But I am their mother, at least that gives me the right to have my say, even though I might as well be talking to a couple of trees.
Cecilia pulled away from Rick and sat down in the chair beside A.J.'s bed.
said A.J.’s going to be all right?"
"Yeah, he said A.J.'s gonna be fine. They were a little concerned
about his kidneys like I told you, but they've been watching him closely all
day. Bob seemed to be pretty positive about it all when he left here at three.
But we can check with the nurses to make sure everything’s been all right since
"Yes, we will. I'll give Bob a call at home tonight, too. I've got some things I want to ask him."
Rick smiled. Bob Bolton had been a good friend of Jack Simon’s, and had been the family physician since before A.J. was born.
"He said to tell you he'd be home after eight o'clock." At Cecilia's confused look, Rick clarified, "Mom, Bob knows you too well. He was certain you'd be calling him tonight about A.J."
"I don't have to justify that,” the woman said in her own defense. “I'm A.J.'s mother. Even though he is thirty-nine years old, I still worry. About both of you."
Rick winked at his mother. "We're lucky you do. We've got the best mom two guys could have."
"If you think that compliment is going to keep you boys from getting a lecture over this incident, you're sadly mistaken, Richard Simon." Winking back at her son, Cecilia added, "But thank you for saying it, sweetheart."
Cecilia looked back down at A.J. and changed the subject.
"What about his left eye? It looks terrible."
"Yeah, I know," Rick agreed as he, too, looked down at his brother. "They ran all kinds of tests today, like I told you. They couldn't do much with that eye yet, but at this point everything looks okay. Bob said by Wednesday the swelling should be down at least enough that they'll be able to tell more. They had an ophthalmologist in here today, and he was able to get the eye open just a little bit. He seemed positive about everything at that time."
Cecilia shook her head as she whispered, "That must have been so painful
for your brother."
"It was," Rick acknowledged. "Most of the other tests were, too. He's just so bruised up, and with those ribs and that arm, it hurts him to be moved. That's why I wasn't surprised when the nurse told us A.J. hasn't been awake since I left at four. He's had a real hard day."
Cecilia looked up into the tired face of her oldest child.
"And so have you. Thank you for being here with your brother. I know it's not easy for you to see him hurting like this. I'm sorry I wasn’t here with you, honey, to help carry some of the burden."
"Hey, it's all right. There was nothin' you could do about that. Besides, A.J. and I got through it. I even got a smile out of him a few times."
"I'm sure you did," Cecilia said in a tone full of love for her resilient eldest.
Cecilia and Rick spent the next few minutes talking quietly, Cecilia
inquiring as to the nature of the various tests A.J. had undergone that day.
She was interrupted in mid-sentence by a hoarse, "Mom?"
Cecilia turned her attention from her oldest son to her youngest. She watched while he tried to open his right eye and focus on her. Cecilia squeezed A.J.'s hand as she stood up and moved to the head of the bed so he could see her better.
"Yes, A.J., it's Mom. Rick's here, too." Cecilia bent and kissed A.J.’s bruised cheek. She smiled at him when he was finally able to get his eye open and look at her. "How are you feeling, sweetheart?"
"Okay," came the groggy answer.
Cecilia couldn't help but smile broader then, as she realized what a stupid question she had asked, and what a stupid answer she had been given. Obviously, A.J. didn't feel "Okay." She recalled having asked Rick that same question when she had first seen him in his hospital room after Jeremiah Quint had beaten him so badly. Rick was just as groggy and sedated then, as A.J. was now. Only Rick's answer wasn't "Okay," his was "Like shit."
Cecilia almost laughed out loud while looking at her sedated youngest. How typical of her two sons. She could always count on Rick being blunt and to the point, not caring in the slightest to whom he was talking, or who was present. A.J., on the other hand, even as sedated as he was, and as rotten as he had to be feeling, wouldn't think of giving his mother such an answer. Or any woman for that matter.
Rick interrupted his mother's thoughts as he asked his brother, "Do you want a drink of water, A.J.?"
A.J. replied without moving. "Yeah."
Rick poured some water from the bedside pitcher into a cup that already
had a straw in it. He helped his
brother get a drink by putting the straw in A.J.'s mouth and holding the cup
When A.J. was through, he looked up at his mother.
"I'm sorry...Mom...’bout all this."
Cecilia brushed the matted hair off A.J.'s forehead. "Honey, it
wasn't your fault. We'll talk about it later.”
Cecilia went on to ask A.J. several more questions about how he was
feeling. Every answer given was nothing
more than a groggy, "Okay." When she could tell her youngest son was
about to drift back to sleep, Cecilia told him, "A.J., Rick and I will be
here until visiting hours are over, then we'll be back tomorrow afternoon when
they start again. I'll call you in the morning, but if you think of anything
you need, or if you just want to talk, you call me, no matter what time it is.
" ’Kay," A.J. said as his right eye closed.
Cecilia looked behind her and gave her eldest a sly grin, then she bent back over her youngest. "A.J., promise me you and Rick will give up being private investigators now."
" ‘Kay," came the soft, sedated reply as A.J. succumbed to sleep.
As Cecilia moved to sit back down in the chair, Rick informed her, "Mom, that was a dirty trick. You're taking advantage of a heavily sedated man who doesn't know what he's saying."
"As long as I'm the mother of that heavily sedated man, I have the right to pull whatever dirty tricks I want."
Rick smiled. "I hope you
don't plan on holdin' A.J. to that promise."
"I doubt it will do me any good to, but I might use it to my advantage and trade it in for some other promises." Thoughtfully, Cecilia said, "Let's see, I need an escort to a charity ball in a few weeks, and I've been wanting to paint the kitchen. The garage really needs to be cleaned out, and the attic could use a good cleaning, too. After that--"
"Okay, okay. I get the message. A.J. will, too," Rick said with resignation. Once again their mother had them wrapped around her little finger. "A.J.'ll take you to the ball, I'll clean out the garage, and both of us will paint your kitchen."
"Well, I think the kitchen can wait a while. I don't think A.J.’s going to be up to that kind of a job for at least a month."
Cecilia grew serious again, as she gently rubbed A.J.'s right forearm. "I'm glad Abby caught the...bastards that did this to your brother." Looking at Rick she asked, "Do you think A.J. will be able to identify them after everything that's happened?"
"Yeah, I think so. He's pretty sure he can. They were dumb enough to refer to one another by name, and as it turns out, their first names are exactly what A.J. told Abby he heard them call each other. And we got even luckier. A.J. has a neighbor three doors down who was outside with her poodle at quarter after two on Sunday morning. She heard the gunshot, but thought it was a car backfiring. She was out by the curb in front of her house and saw a red Jaguar go by with a vanity plate. She remembered what the plates said, and when Abby ran them, they were registered to Chris Gillmore. The woman also got a good look at one of the guys in the back seat as the car went under the streetlight.
"When I stopped by A.J.'s after I left here this afternoon to pack
a bag for him with his pajamas and stuff, Mrs. Brooker, his neighbor, stopped
me in the driveway. She had just gotten back from the police station. She told me that she’s willing to go to
court to testify. We're lucky, Mom. A lot of people wouldn't want to get
involved. She felt bad because she didn't realize it was a gun she heard go
off, and that as a result, A.J. had gone without help until I found him.”
"She sounds like a nice lady - a good neighbor,” Cecilia said. “I'll have to thank her for her concern and assistance."
"I already did, but you can, too, a’ course.” Rick shook his head
in amazement. "I'll tell you one thing, those three guys aren't the
smartest crooks in the world. They didn't even try to cover their tracks."
“I suppose that's because they didn't plan on your brother living to testify."
"Yeah, I suppose it is," Rick agreed in almost a whisper.
Cecilia was content to sit and watch her youngest son sleep peacefully. Rick was content, as well, to stand looking down at his brother. He was happy to know that, at least in sleep, A.J. was getting relief from the pain he would have to deal with in the coming days.
Cecilia reached for Rick's hand, grasped it, and squeezed tightly. "Rick, I'm so sorry about Marlowe."
Cecilia thought she could detect moisture in Rick's eyes as he looked away from her and cleared his throat. "Yeah...yeah, I know, Mom."
Rick's mother knew he was grieving over the loss of his bigy old dog. Cecilia's oldest son couldn't have treated that dog better had Marlowe been a child. And, Cecilia supposed, in some ways Marlowe had been Rick's child. She had tried to talk to him about Marlowe earlier in the evening, when he had first come to her with the news of all that had happened, but Rick had simply changed the subject at that time, and refused to say any more about the dog.
Now, seeing the pain on his face, Cecilia stood and hugged her lanky son. "I just wish it could have turned out differently, sweetheart. I wish Marlowe was still with us."
Rick returned his mother's hug.
Mom, I've been thinking about everything that happened to A.J. and Marlowe,
and...well, I guess this is gonna sound kinda weird, but if Marlowe had to go,
he'd be happy dying the way he did."
Cecilia looked up at Rick with confusion.
Rick smiled as he explained, "I swear, Mom, Marlowe always seemed to know when he was workin' on a case with A.J. and me. He always loved to come along with us, and be a part of whatever charade we were tryin' to pull off. Remember the time on that dognapping case when I had Marlowe in the show ring with me, and then he got kidnapped, too?"
Cecilia nodded against Rick's chest as he continued.
"When Marlowe finally showed back up at A.J.'s house, he acted like he knew exactly what had gone on. Like he knew what his role in the whole thing had been. For two weeks after that he was real pleased with himself. Even A.J. noticed it, 'cause I remember he told Marlowe one morning, 'I don't care how good of a job you did for us, Marlowe. I'm not putting you on the payroll. I'll buy you an extra box of Milkbones, but you're not getting paid and that's final.'"
Cecilia chuckled at Rick's words, knowing how true they were. Rick hugged his mother a little tighter.
"The vet told me a few months ago that eventually Marlowe's arthritis would get so bad he wouldn't be able to walk, and would be in constant pain. He told me that within the next year or two I might find myself having to make the decision to put him to sleep. I've been thinking about that a lot today, Mom, and I know that would have been a real hard decision for me to make. But it would have been hard for me to see him crippled up and in pain, too. So if he had to die like he did, in the line of duty so-to-speak, at least he died protecting A.J. At least that gives his death a meaning to me. A very special meaning."
Cecilia hugged her son, but didn’t say anything. She knew how hard all of this had to be for him. Rick had loved dogs ever since he was a little boy, and had always had a special friendship with the various canines that had been members of the Simon family during his growing up years.
Finally Cecilia pulled away from her son so she could make
eye contact with him.
"Honey, I'm so thankful Marlowe was there that night. I can't bear to think of what we might be facing now if he hadn't been." Cecilia reached out to squeeze Rick's left hand. "A.J. wouldn't be with us anymore, Rick, if Marlowe hadn't been there. I'm so grateful to that old dog. I'm going to miss him, sweetheart."
Pulling his mother back into his arms, Rick hugged her tightly while saying in a choked voice, "I am, too, Mom. I am, too." Then, while looking over the top of Cecilia's head at the bruised and battered face of his younger brother, Rick added, "I'm gonna miss him, but he died for a good cause. A real good cause."
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
It was an overcast Saturday afternoon three weeks later when Rick looked up from the vacuum cleaner he was pushing around the living room area of his boat, to see his brother standing at the patio doors.
"Come on in!” Rick called as he shut off the vacuum. “It's unlocked."
"Rick Simon's actually vacuuming," A.J. stated in mock awe. Looking around the boat's interior, he asked, "Gee, what happened to the bimbo of the week? Or couldn't you get any woman in short shorts to come and vacuum for you today?"
Rick shot his brother a smug look. "I'm vacuuming for the lady who is coming over to spend the day tomorrow, if you must know, Mr. Smart Aleck."
"Boy, I'd sure like to meet her. I don't think any of the other women you've dated could be classified as ladies,” A.J. teased. “This will be a new experience for both of us.”
"Oh, shut up."
Having said that, Rick walked to the refrigerator and grabbed two beers. He tossed one to his brother.
"What are you doing here, anyway?” Rick asked as he took a seat on the sofa, and A.J. took a seat in the easy chair. “You're supposed to be resting, A.J., not running all over San Diego."
"Rick, you only live four miles from me. That hardly constitutes
running all over San Diego."
Rick could still detect some bruises around A.J.'s left eye and cheek, and he knew that there were still bruises on A.J.'s back, and that his ribs bothered him yet. A.J. had just returned to work on Wednesday, and only half days at that. That schedule was to continue for at least another week, not changing until A.J. saw their family doctor again. Rick was concerned that
with what little freedom his brother had recently been granted, A.J. would do too much too soon. Sternly, he ordered, "Well, you take it easy like Bob told you to. Otherwise you'll end up right back in the hospital."
The concern and worry in Rick's eyes kept A.J. from giving the smart answer he was planning to. Instead he smiled and offered words of reassurance.
take it easy, don't worry. When I leave here I'm going home to rest. Fair
"Fair enough," Rick replied, while taking a swallow of his
beer. So, did you just come by to mooch a free beer, or did you need
"Well, actually I came by to bring you something."
Curious, Rick looked his brother up and down. A.J. wasn't wearing a jacket, so he couldn't be hiding anything in the pockets, and he hadn't been carrying anything with him when he came in, so Rick took a stab in the dark.
"Money! You came by to bring me money, didn't you, A.J.? 'Cause I'm such a terrific brother, I'll bet."
"Dream on," came the sarcastic reply as A.J. stood. "It's out on the deck. You wait here, I'll go get it."
Rick was puzzled, but did as his brother told him. He put the vacuum cleaner away in the utility closet while he waited.
Rick heard the screen door slide closed. Finishing up with the vacuum, he shut the closet door. He turned to find A.J. standing in the living room, holding a puppy that looked to be about ten weeks old.
"It's a puppy, Rick," came the dry answer. A.J. looked down at
the chubby dog in his arms. "I told you he wasn't too smart. Sorry about
"I know he's a puppy. What I mean is, what's he doin' here?
Where'd you get him?"
A.J. put the squirming bundle of energy down at his feet. The puppy immediately attacked his tennis shoes, barking and growling as he played.
"Well?" Rick questioned impatiently.
“I bought him. And as far as what he's doing here, well...if you want him, he's yours."
By this time the puppy was getting braver. He explored more of this new territory, sniffing and barking at various things throughout the boat's living area.
Rick watched the puppy play for a moment, then asked, "Why?"
Almost shyly, A.J. told his brother, "Just because I wanted to. You...you really like dogs, and I know you loved Marlowe a
lot. . .and I just thought you'd like a
new puppy." Rushing on, A.J. said, "If you don't want him, or if it's
too soon, I can take him back. You don't have to keep him if you're not ready,
Rick. I'm not trying to be pushy or anything.
Maybe I should have asked you first...but I just wanted to surprise you,
I guess. If you don't want him though, that's fine with me. I'll
Rick went and sat on the couch, not saying anything for a minute as he watched the puppy play. The dog’s his little head and upper body got caught under the sofa. Rick reached down and gently pulled him out, then let the yellow pup play tug of war with his shirtsleeve.
“This looks like a purebred Golden Retriever. He must have cost you four hundred bucks at least. I don't want you spendin' that kind of money on a dog."
A.J. moved to sit on the other end of the sofa. "Well...he didn't
cost me quite that much. I got a pretty good deal on him."
Rick threw his brother a puzzled glance. "Where'd you get him?"
"I saw him and his litter mates
advertised in the paper." A.J. shrugged as he admitted, "I've been watching the papers since Marlowe died,
and I came across this ad and called on it. The people that own his mother are
a really nice couple with three little kids, who were just looking for good
homes for the pups. This one was really friendly, and the woman told me he's
also very protective. He is, too. He wouldn't let me near the children or the
other pups until she was able to assure him that it was all right. I know you
need someone to watch out for you, and since I can't always be here, this
little guy can do the job for me."
Rick smiled at that last remark as he plopped the puppy in his lap. "But, A.J., four hundred dollars is a lot of money for a dog."
"They were five hundred, actually," A.J. informed his brother. Before Rick could protest, he hurried on. "After I told the woman I was buying the dog for my brother who had recently lost his unexpectedly, she gave me a funny look and then asked me if I wasn't the private eye whose dog had saved his life. She said she and her husband had followed the story in the papers and on the news, because they're real dog lovers. I guess it suddenly clicked with her as to who I was. So, anyway, I told her, yes, that was me, but that Marlowe was actually your dog, not mine, and that I wanted to get you another one. They were so touched by the whole story, and by what Marlowe had done, that they sold me the dog for less than what they had originally asked."
"How much less?" Rick asked, not caring that this was a gift and he was being tactless.
"Let's just say you won't be getting any Christmas presents this year, or birthday presents next year, and I probably won't be springing for lunch anymore, and--"
"Okay, Okay, I get the message," Rick told his smiling brother.
Rick continued to play with the puppy, laughing as it growled and barked at unfamiliar objects in the room that caught its attention. Finally, Rick said softly, "Yeah, I'd like to keep him, A.J. That would be real nice. Thank you. It's been kinda lonely around here without old Marlowe. This little guy should liven things right up."
"He sure will," A.J. agreed. “I've had him at my house since yesterday afternoon, and I can tell you he's got a lot of energy. That's why I'm ready to fall asleep right now, as a matter of fact. He likes to play in the middle of the night, so be prepared. He woke me up at one o'clock this morning by biting my toes, then we went through the whole thing again at three and six."
"That's what puppies are all about," Rick replied.
Rick gently scratched the dog behind his small ears for several long seconds before speaking again.
appreciate you getting me this puppy and all, A.J., but I hope you didn't get
him because you still feel guilty about what happened to Marlowe."
Caught off-guard, A.J. stammered, "No...no, I didn't. I just wanted you to have him, that's all."
“I’m serious.” Rick looked over
at his brother. "You've got nothing to feel guilty about. There's nothing
you could have done that would have prevented what happened that night. You did
everything you could to try and save Marlowe. I know that. I appreciate
Rick, who knew his younger brother too well, could tell by A.J.'s expression that the blond wasn't taking his words to heart.
God's sake, you weren't that far from being dead yourself! If I'd been running
an hour later that night, I wouldn't have come by your house to get Marlowe. I
wouldn't have realized anything was wrong until after nine on Monday morning
when you didn't show up at the office. You never would have lasted that long,
kid. Bob told me that. You were so
dehydrated by the time you got to the hospital that there was danger of serious
damage having been done. Why do you think you were on an I.V. for three days,
and every time you were awake I was shoving a straw in your mouth?"
Rick's tone of voice gentled as he studied his brother, who was busy studying the pattern on the sofa cushions in order to avoid eye contact.
"You're gonna have to come to terms with the fact that you did all you could that night, A.J. All your body would allow you to do. Nobody holds you responsible for what happened to Marlowe, especially not me."
A.J. finally looked up at Rick. "I know that. It's just that I wish I could have done more. I wish he wouldn't have jumped in front of me like that, I--"
"Don't you ever say that again.
What a stupid thing to say! Do you think that's what I would want? Do
you think that I'd even, for one second, consider trading your life for a
dog's? Geez, A.J., that's really dumb."
"No, no...that's not what I meant. I just meant, that well...I don't know...maybe things would have still worked out all right if Marlowe hadn't jumped in front of me. Maybe they would have missed me, or maybe it wouldn't have been that bad, or--"
A.J., they wouldn't have missed. And yes, it would have been that bad.
You said yourself they had the gun pointed right at your heart. It was bad
enough as it was. They had every intention of leaving you dead that night. I
know it, and deep down inside you know it, so quit grasping at straws. Marlowe
did what he had to do - what I would have wanted him to do." Rick paused
for a moment as he looked down at the puppy in his lap. "He was my dog, I loved him. But you're
my brother, and the love I feel for you is a lot different than the love I feel
for a dog." Almost as quick as he had said those words, Rick broke the
somber mood they had fallen into. He shot his brother a sly grin. "Even if I did tell Mom and Dad when
you were three years old that I thought we'd get a better deal if we traded you
for a smart dog."
That got a smile out of the blond. "I guess they didn't take you up
on it, uh?"
Scratching the pup on its stomach, Rick said nonchalantly, "Nope, they didn't. And I've always been pretty happy about that fact."
Rick's eyes twinkled as he answered, "Well...almost always. There have been one or two times over the years when I thought a smart dog would replace you pretty good. Or a smart chimpanzee. Or a smart cat. Or a smart boa constrictor. Or--"
"All right, all right, enough. I don't feel like sitting here while you go through the entire animal kingdom."
A.J. stood up and walked to the galley where he threw away his beer can.
“I've got a bag of puppy chow and his dishes in the car. Oh, by the way, he likes pancakes. I'll get his things for you, then I'm going home. It's time to leave you two to get acquainted, and besides, I'm ready for a nap."
"Hey, does this dog have a name?" Rick asked, stopping A.J. before he could get out the door.
A.J. watched as the puppy chewed on Rick's shirtsleeves.
"The family I bought him from was calling him Rex, but you can call him whatever you want."
At the mention of his name, the puppy jumped off the couch and ran over to A.J., looking up at him expectantly. Shrugging, the blond man said, "I guess I forgot to mention that he does seem to know his name."
"I can see that,” Rick smiled. “Well, I guess Rex is a pretty good name for a dog." Sitting down on the floor, Rick called, "Rex! Come here, Rex!"
Although the puppy had been with A.J. a full day, thereby knowing him better than Rick, he didn't show any hesitation when scampering back to the older man. Rex was willing to be with whoever was going to give him the most attention.
A.J. slipped out the door then, seeing that his brother had a firm grip on the puppy so that the little animal couldn't follow A.J. out to the marina's busy parking lot.
Within a few minutes A.J. returned to Rick's boat, hands full of puppy necessities. As the blond man set the bags down so he could open the sliding screen door, he heard Rick's voice coming from inside. Looking into the living room, A.J. saw Rick still seated on the floor, the pup now in his lap. The little dog was looking up at the oldest Simon brother solemnly, as if he understood every single word that was being said to him.
"Yeah, that's A.J. He's my kid brother. Now you have to behave yourself when A.J.'s around, otherwise he won't dogsit for you when I need him to. You'll like it at A.J.'s, almost as much as your gonna like it here. Oh, he's kind of fussy, but you'll get used to that. Just don't sit in his favorite chair, or chew on his slippers. If you remember those two things, you and he will get along just fine."
puppy behind his ears, Rick told him, "Now it might seem like A.J. doesn't
like you sometimes, but that's just an act, believe me. He used to be like that
with old Marlowe, too, but he sure was upset when Marlowe died. It's been kind
of rough on him, almost rougher on him than me sometimes, I think. But you'll
change that for both of us, won't you, Rex?"
The puppy gave an enthusiastic bark. When he quieted, Rick informed him of one last thing.
"Now, your most important job is that you gotta watch out for A.J. when I'm not around. You gotta protect him the way Marlowe did. You understand about protecting someone, don't you, little guy? A.J. said you were really protective of your littermates. I bet you're the oldest, uh? That's a big responsibility, isn't it? But, it's worth it, I think. Don't tell A.J. I said this, but he's a pretty terrific little brother. The best a guy could have. So when I’m not around, you watch out for him, okay?"
Rick was answered with another bark, then he and the puppy began wrestling, the little dog's sharp teeth nipping at Rick's hands.
A.J. stood outside a moment longer, smiling as he watched his brother and the pup. He thought of how true the words were he had spoken to the woman from whom he had purchased Rex.
me, this little dog couldn't be getting a better home. My brother couldn't
possibly treat his own child better than he treats his dog. Rick's loved dogs
ever since I can remember."
A.J.'s smile softened as he recalled, too, the talk he had had with Rex last night. A talk that included him telling the dog, "Now it's up to you to watch out for Rick when I'm not around. You protect him for me. He's my big brother, and he's a very special guy."
Having just overheard Rick's instructions to the pup, A.J. had to shake his head in wonder. Once again, without even trying, he and Rick were on the same wavelength and concerned about the same things. He supposed that's what made them such a good team, such good friends, and such close brothers.
A.J. opened the screen door and smiled fondly as he watched his brother roughhouse on the floor with the puppy. Rex was barking at Rick, who in turn was laughing at the pup's antics. Because of all the noise, Rick didn't hear his sibling say softly, "You keep watch over my big brother, Rex. He's one special guy. One very special guy."
The blond man set the bags down, then slipped out as quietly as he’d slipped in. There would be plenty of time later for A.J. to bond with the puppy. For now, it was Rick’s turn to get acquainted with Rex, and to tell the pup all about a faithful old dog named Marlowe, who had died while in the line of duty.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~