Excerpt from Chapter 3

 

Troy gripped the sink in the men’s washroom at the Stiles police station with both hands and stared at himself in the mirror. He’d lost men close to him before. The last one was two years ago, and the officer had been killed in a car accident while off duty. He’d left behind two kids and a wife. But Barry…he was different. Life always equaled death, of course. It was a simple equation to accept until it touched close to home. And that’s what Barry’s death was for him—personal.

 

Losing Barry made it clear just how dangerous this job could be and how fragile life was. One minute here, the next gone. Barry had just been pumping gas, a routine thing, something people did all the time without any thought to their safety. Those on the outside would say that’s the risk he took being in law enforcement. Yes, there was the chance any one of them wouldn’t return home from a shift, but it wasn’t something Troy consciously thought about before heading to work.

 

In fact, when serving in a SWAT capacity, he’d say it was one of the safest positions within the Stiles PD. SWAT had the toys, and when they showed up to manage a situation, it was often brought under control rather quickly. Even the majority of criminals didn’t want to tango with an AR-15 and armored vehicles. Besides, dwelling on one’s mortality wasn’t healthy. But when something like this happened to one of their own, it spurred on such self-reflection. It could have easily been him in the morgue, or one of his team members. Or Madison…

 

His insides quivered with rage as his heartbeat slowed with his grief. He squeezed his eyes shut.

 

 “I’ve got Dad’s car tonight,” Barry says. “We’ll take it out on the back roads and see what she’s really capable of.”

 

“Your dad’s a cop, Barry,” Troy reminds him.

 

“So? What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” Barry takes a few steps down the hall of their high school but stops and spins when Troy doesn’t follow. “Come on, man. Don’t make me take Lyman.”

 

Troy came back from his thoughts and opened his eyes to find himself staring at his reflection.

 

That night had been one of the best ever. Barry had sent the car airborne by racing over the railway tracks on the outskirts of the city. They’d even conned some seniors into getting beer for them and drank it by the tracks later that night.

 

Barry had made Troy feel alive…

 

Pain knotted in his chest, the regrets over skipping drinks with Barry last week paired with losing a part of his childhood somehow.

 

Troy pinched the bridge of his nose as the memories continued to rush over him.

 

“I just got my acceptance letter.” Barry holds the envelope in his hand. “This college has the hottest chicks… Not that it would matter to you.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“It’s Lauren and Troy sitting in a tree…” Barry sings.

 

“Seriously? You’re like a girl sometimes, you know that? A big, emotional girl.”

 

“Hey!” Barry punches him playfully in the arm.

 

Madison punched him in the arm sometimes, too…

 

God, what would he have done if Madison were the one who’d been killed?