Doug Penhall ran huffing and puffing into Jump Street Chapel. He paused at the door, waiting for the teasing voice of his partner and best friend, Tom Hanson. 'Man, Tom's gonna have a field with this one!' Doug thought to himself. The heavy oak door slipped from Penhall's slippery fingers and slammed shut. Judy Hoffs and Harry Ioki looked up from their desks.
"Sorry I'm late," Doug apologized. "Clavo and I both slept in," He referred to his El Salvadorian nephew, whom he had recently adopted. Penhall scanned the room. Hoffs and Ioki sat at their desk with worried frowns creasing their youthful faces. Tom Hanson's desk was empty. It had been cleaned off and the posters that normally hung behind his chair were gone. The faint outline of the posters created a patchwork of light and dark sections of brick.
"Where's Tom?" Penhall demanded.
"He's in Fuller's office," Ioki answered.
"Yeah. He's been there since he arrived this morning," Hoffs chimed in.
Just then, Captain Fuller stepped out of his office. Yet, another frowning face greeted Doug. "Doug, could you please come into my office?"
"Sure," Doug answered. At the door, Fuller stepped aside and waved Penhall into his office. Then, Fuller shut the door and joined Hoffs and Ioki at their desks.
Penhall looked around Fuller's office. Since the early spring day was sunny, a rare occurrence in their area, no lights had been turned on, creating deep shadows in the corners. An open black leather wallet, containing a badge and ID card, rested on Fuller's desk next to a silver gun. In a corner, a blue duffel bag and cardboard box stood together.
"Hey, Doug," Tom Hanson spoke up. He emerged from the shadows where he had been leaning against the wall. His shaggy brown hair fell over his dark eyes. The young cop wore a pair of tight, faded jeans and an oversized yellow tee shirt with the words "Metro Autumn Festival, 1986 - Official Pumpkin Judge" and a large pumpkin on the front. Penhall recognized the shirt. He lent it to Hanson over a year ago, when the smaller cop had been caught in a sudden rainstorm on the way to work. A thick leather band encased Hanson's thin wrist.
"Tom, what is going on?" Doug asked, a note of panic rising in his voice.
"I'm quitting the force," Tom said quietly.
"What?" Penhall yelped. He gripped the edge of Fuller's desk. Why, man? You fought so hard to get your badge back after " Penhall took a deep breath. "Raymond Crane framed you. And, now, you're gonna just quit?"
Hanson took a deep breath, then slowly let it out. "I have to do this, Doug."
"Why?" Penhall whispered.
"I can't handle it anymore, Doug. The nightmares, the constant fears. I don't want to die like " Tom's voice broke up.
"Like your dad?" Doug put his hands on Tom's shoulders.
"Yeah," Tom's head slumped forward.
"Tom, there's more, isn't there?"
"I went to the police psychiatrist a few days ago, after our case at Lincoln High. I was a total mess. I hadn't slept for days. I was constantly taking very hot showers. I'd scrubbed my skin raw by that time. The night before I went to the shrink, a cat got into the trash outside and it scared me so bad, I took a shot at it. I hit the trashcan, but missed the cat. Then," Hanson flopped into Fuller's chair. "I put my gun in my mouth."
"Oh, Tom, why didn't you call me?" Penhall knelt by his friend's side.
"I was so freaked out that I couldn't think straight. I don't know how it happened, but I dropped my gun with it firing and I ran from my apartment. I ended up spending the night with Dad and Jenko," Tom buried his face in his hands. "The next day I went to see the shrink."
Doug wiped the tears from Tom's face. "Tom, I'm so sorry. I never knew."
"I didn't want you to know, Doug," Hanson answered.
"What are you gonna do now?"
"You know my Uncle Donnie in Philly? Well, he owns a 32-lane bowling ally. He wants to retire and move south. He offered to sign it over to me, along with his house. He bought a beach house on the South Caroline coast," Tom answered.
"You always did like bowling," Doug smiled softly.
"Doug, there is room for a partner there," Hanson said suddenly. "You can't be a cop forever. What if something happens to you while on duty? Who would take care of Clavo? Especially now that his mother and grandmother are dead."
"Are you saying you want me to help you run the bowling alley?"
"Co-own it with me," Tom corrected. "And, you wouldn't have to worry about a place to live. Uncle Donnie's house is huge. He bought it cheap during the Depression. There is plenty of room for you and Clavo there."
"Let me think about it. And talk to Clavo, of course," Doug said.
"Take as long as you need. My offer has an unlimited shelf life."
Doug smiled at Tom's small joke. "I'm gonna miss having you around, Tom."
"I know. I don't regret these past four years I spent here, Doug. I'm actually glad I got assigned here," Tom smiled.
"I'm glad you were assigned here too," Doug answered. "If you hadn't, the McQuaid brothers never would have been born!"
"You really liked being a McQuaid, didn't you?" Tom laughed quietly. He stood up. "I better get going." He held out his hand. Penhall grabbed it and pulled Hanson into a tight embrace. Doug shook as he started to cry. "Please, don't cry, Doug. Or I'll start crying too!"
Doug scrubbed his face with his hands. Hanson blinked back his own tears as he slung his duffel bag over his shoulder. He stooped and picked up the cardboard box. An unruly strand of hair fell over his eyes. Penhall reached over and brushed it away. Penhall opened the door for his friend. Tom straightened up and strolled out.
Hoffs hurriedly wiped tears from her eyes. Ioki blinked and blew his nose. Blowfish sighed and lethargically pushed his mop around the floor, although it was already clean. Even Fuller's eyes were shiny.
"Please," Tom pleaded. "Don't cry, guys. I'm having a hard enough time as it is!"
Fuller stepped forward. He held out his hand. "It's been an honor and a pleasure to serve with you, Tom," He said. His voice shook slightly.
"Thanks, Coach," Hanson gripped the older cop's hand.
Judy ran up to Tom and hugged him. Then, she turned away and hurried back to her desk. She grabbed another tissue from the box on her desk. Harry shook hands with Tom. He tried to smile, but failed. Blowfish came up and shook hands with Tom. The normally cheerful Italian man blinked away his tears.
"Good luck, Tom," Blowfish said.
Tom walked to the door. Penhall stood with his friend as Hanson fought to open the old door. Tom's hands trembled and lost their grip on the box. Penhall caught it. The pair slowly made their way down the stairs.
"When are you leaving?" Doug asked.
"As soon as I get in the car. I already cleaned out my apartment and had the heavy stuff shipped to Philly," Hanson answered.
"Why didn't you tell us before this?" Doug demanded. "We could have helped you packed or something!"
Tom looked down at his feet. "I had to do it this way. It was hard enough saying good bye to you all. To have all of you over at my apartment moping would have been too much for me. And for you too. This way, it's over quick."
"You don't believe that bull, do you?" Penhall questioned.
"I have to, Doug," Tom answered.
Penhall laid the box in the back seat of Hanson's Mustang. The blue duffel bag settled on top of it.
"Well, good luck, Tommy," Doug hugged his best friend again.
"I hope to see you soon, Buddy," Tom Hanson got into his car. The engine turned over and Hanson pulled out of the parking lot of Jump Street Chapel. He honked the horn once and merged into traffic.
Penhall ran up the stairs. He watched the blue 1968 Mustang from the balcony until buildings blocked his view. The tears that he had held back for Hanson's sake flowed freely down his face. Penhall re-entered the chapel and slumped down into his chair. He avoided looking at Hanson's now empty desk. Doug focused, instead, on a picture taken of he and Hanson as the infamous "McQuaid Brothers."
Penhall's phone rang, jerking him out of his funk.
"Jump Street Chapel, Officer Doug Penhall speaking "