Cries of a Shadow

BY : OpenPage
Category: 1 through F > 21 Jump Street
Dragon prints: 346
Disclaimer: I do not own 21JS or the characters. I do not make any money from the writing of this story. All characters and events in this story are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is coincidental.

 

Housed at the eponymous address 21 Jump Street, the city of Los Angeles’ undercover unit was a nondescript, brown-brick building, set within Central L.A.’s urban decay. The deconsecrated chapel exhibited none of its former glory, making it the perfect headquarters for a group of twenty-something officers, whose youthful looks allowed them to infiltrate the local high schools in search of any illicit activity. The initiative was the brainchild of the mayor, a man hell-bent on cleaning up the streets and reinventing the municipality as a family-friendly city. It was a far cry from Internal Affairs’ modern architecture, but for Officer Dennis Booker, the nondescript structure held a certain aura of mystique. He was looking forward to the change, and he hoped the undercover officers employed within the program were more interesting than the drab, humorless cops he had worked with since leaving the academy.

Navigating his black Cadillac into the adjacent parking lot, the dark-haired officer switched off the ignition and stared up at the dilapidated building through the rain-mottled windshield. Sunlight illuminated the shabbiness of the facade, the water-stained bricks crying tears of neglect. A rusty metal staircase snaked up the brick exterior, each narrow step ascending toward a sturdy, uninviting door. Although not a superstitious man, an invisible weight pressed against the officer’s chest, his baseless apprehension squeezing the air from his lungs. Whether it was the coldness of the characterless building projecting outward or his overactive imagination, he couldn’t be sure. But something had spooked him, and he wondered what secrets lay buried within the chapel’s walls.

With a shudder, he opened the car door and stepped out into the L.A. sunshine. Closing his eyes, he took a moment to soak up the warmth, the therapeutic rays thawing the unexplained chill in his bones. A minute passed before he felt ready to proceed, and slamming the Caddy’s door closed, he trudged up the worn metal staircase, each step taking him closer toward a new life.

**

The chapel’s main hub was quiet for a Friday morning, with most officers still out on assignment. Compared to the structured environment of Internal Affairs, the room was a mishmash of desks and workout equipment. Stained glass windows adorned the walls, the intricate panels illuminated by the sunlight streaming in from outside, the flash of color adding another dimension to the eclectic furnishings. It was a bizarre combination, the casualness of the habitat coupled with the ethereal ambiance leaving Booker in awe, so much so, he didn’t notice the three officers approach until one of them spoke.

“Pretty impressive, huh?”

Turning around, Booker struck a casual pose. “I s’pose, but I’m not what you’d call a religious kinda guy.”

The larger of the two males clapped him on the shoulder. “Hey, man, you don’t have to be devout to appreciate fine art.”

A little shocked by the comment, Booker started to respond when the second male officer stepped forward. “Don’t be an ass, Penhall. You wouldn’t know a Picasso from a Monet.”

Doug Penhall grinned. “Yeah, but he doesn’t know that,” he joked before jabbing his hand in Booker’s direction. “Doug Penhall, and I’m guessing you’re the transfer from I.A.D.”

Booker shook the officer’s hand. “Yeah, but don’t hold it against me. I couldn’t wait to get out of that place, it’s full of narks.”

With the ice broken, Harry Ioki and Judy Hoffs stepped forward and introduced themselves. After Booker had answered all the important questions; favorite sport, favorite band, and whether he thought the Dodgers would win the pennant, the conversation soon turned to more mundane topics. Bored, Booker glanced around him, soaking up the atmosphere, when out of the corner of his eye, he spied an officer sitting at a desk at the back of the room. With head bowed and shoulders hunched, the young man cut a lonely figure, and with his curiosity piqued, he cast a nod in the officer’s direction. “Who’s that?”

Ioki rolled his eyes. “That’s Hanson. Good luck getting to know him, he’s kinda...” He paused, unsure whether to reveal his thoughts to a complete stranger.

As it turned out, Penhall had no such qualms, and without hesitation, the robust officer offered up an adjective. “Weird?”

A smile curled Ioki’s lips. “Now that would be an understatement.”

Shocked by her colleagues’ rudeness, Judy lashed out at both officers, hitting them in the chest with her clenched fists. “Don’t be mean. Tom’s okay, he’s just—”

“Weird!” Penhall and Ioki chimed together, their faces splitting into huge grins as they slapped their palms together in a congratulatory high-five.

Unimpressed by the childish display, Judy turned her back on her friends and addressed Booker. “Don’t pay any attention to them. Tom’s real sweet once you get to know him. He’s just a little reserved is all. Why don’t you go introduce yourself? I’m sure he’d like to meet his new partner.”

The last thing Booker felt like doing was making small talk with some oddball, and so he remained where he was, his gaze focused on the shock of brown hair obscuring Hanson’s features. Seemingly aware he was under scrutiny, Tom suddenly looked up, and Booker found himself confronted by two dark, expressive eyes set in a face of exquisite beauty. Shocked by the unexpected delicacy of the young officer’s features, he drew in his breath, his heart falling out of rhythm, the erratic thump fluttering in his chest. Never before had someone had such a profound impact on him, and he remained immobile, his mouth open, his eyes fixed on the artistry that was Tom Hanson. “Damn,” he thought to himself. “He’s fucking gorgeous.”

Oblivious to Booker’s reaction, Judy gently pushed him in the back. “Go on, he’s seen you now. You’ve got to meet him sometime.”

“Dennis Booker?”

At the sound of his name, Booker spun around, his expression a mask of confusion. “Huh? What? I mean, yes.”

Adam Fuller cast a cursory eye over his latest charge. Dressed in a black leather jacket, white T-shirt, faded blue jeans, and scuffed motorcycle boots, there was no doubt in the captain’s mind his new officer fancied himself as a bit of a rebel. As an experienced leader, he’d seen the cocky swagger coupled with the devil-may-care attitude before, and he suppressed a sigh. Booker might think he was one of a kind, but in reality, he was a clone of hundreds of rookie cops all looking to make their mark. However, what the young men fresh out of the academy didn’t seem to understand was it was their abilities that set them apart, not the way they dressed. But that type of wisdom came with age, and Fuller hoped Booker would prove to be as outstanding in the field as his annual review indicated, despite the minor disciplinary infractions marring his otherwise perfect record. If not, he would have to spend another month searching for a fresh-faced, adaptable cop who could walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk as convincingly as any American teenager, and from his experience, the pickings were slim. Booker was the pick of the bunch, and if that meant occasionally turning a blind eye to the cocky officer’s unconventional methods, then Fuller was more than prepared to feign ignorance. He didn’t need the mayor riding him any harder than he already was, and as far as he was concerned, it was a no harm, no foul situation. However, that leniency did not apply with regards to respecting his captaincy, and he quickly pulled his officer into line. “That would be a yes, Captain,” he admonished sternly, his steely gaze narrow and unblinking.

Hunching his shoulders, Booker shoved his hands deep into his jeans’ pockets, while rocking uncomfortably on his heels. “Sorry, Cap’n. You caught me by surprise.”

“Then my covert operations training paid off,” Fuller replied with a wry smile. “Now, if you’re not too busy, perhaps you can find time to report to my office...like you were supposed to do ten minutes ago.”

Penhall nudged Ioki in the ribs, a smirk curling one corner of his mouth. Catching the look out of the corner of his eye, Fuller turned and addressed the impertinent officer. “Blowfish is knee-deep in shit fixing a blocked toilet. If you fellas have nothing better to do, maybe you’d like to give him a hand.”

A look of horror animated both men’s faces, and not about to wait around for a direct order, they quietly sidled away. Before taking her leave, Judy laid a hand on Booker’s arm. “Welcome to Jump Street, Dennis.”

“Thanks, Judy,” Booker replied with a grin, and before his captain could tear him a new one, he threw her a flirtatious wink and followed Fuller into his office.

**

Thirty minutes later, Booker walked back into the chapel’s main hub, a manila folder in his hand. With Penhall, Ioki, and Hoffs nowhere in sight, it seemed a fortuitous time to introduce himself to the man Fuller had assigned him with for the next few weeks. He and Tom had their first case together, and although not the cop Booker would have chosen to work with on his first assignment at Jump Street, he could feel the first tingles of excitement invigorating his mind, body, and spirit. It was the adrenaline rush he lived for, and he looked forward to the challenge of masquerading as a high school student, even if it meant doing homework for the first time in years.

Striding across the room, he stopped in front of Tom’s cluttered desk and addressed the young officer’s bowed head. “Hey, I’m your new partner, Dennis Booker.”

Tom’s head jerked up, a flash of fear briefly accentuating the soulful depths of his brown eyes before his expression settled back into one of mild agitation. He stared at Booker’s proffered hand, his brows drawn together, his teeth anxiously worrying his lower lip. Strangers made him nervous, but he couldn't ignore his new partner forever, and hurriedly wiping his palm on the leg of his jeans, he actioning a limp shake. “Hanson, um, I mean Tom...Tom Hanson.”

Booker offered up his charming smile. “How you doin’, Tom? So, it looks like we're working the Westview High case together. Are you any good at algebra? ‘Cause if we get homework, I’m gonna need some help.”

The lame joke fell flat, and Tom continued to stare at Booker, his face expressionless. Unsettled by the prickly reception, Booker found himself floundering. “Um, so...I’m kinda new to this part of town. Know anywhere good where I can get a feed?”

Tom’s fingers rubbed furiously over his upper lip, his restless gaze flitting from side to side. “I dunno...Nino’s maybe? It’s couple of blocks from here, on Broad Street.”

Puzzled by the lack of eye contact, Booker pulled up a chair and straddling it backward, he rested his arms on the wooden back. He was determined to connect with his new partner, even if it meant making boring small talk, and pursing his lips, he studied Hanson’s anxious face. “Ever eaten there?” he quizzed.

A shy smile briefly animated Tom’s face before vanishing into the ether. “Once. I don’t eat out much.”

“Yeah? Why’s that?”

The question hung in the air, innocent yet loaded. Booker knew his gentle needling was unwarranted, but he couldn’t help himself. A part of him wanted to see Tom squirm, and although not proud of his behavior, the impulse was too strong to ignore.

Tom’s relentless finger rubbing intensified, but before he could formulate an answer, Booker threw another question at him. “Don’t you date?”

Embarrassment reddened Tom’s face, the pinkish hue highlighting the attractive contours of his chiseled cheekbones. His hand dropped to his lap, both fists balling into the defensive, anxious fists of a small distressed child. “Wh-what?” he stammered, the pitch of his voice rising ever so slightly. “Wh-why would you ask me that?”

Booker’s shoulders rose in a shrug. “I dunno, I guess I was trying to figure who or what you’re into.”

“Into?” Tom squeaked, his laconic response a telltale sign he was starting to panic. He needed space, a safe haven away from his tormentor. The questions were too intimate, too intrusive, and he could feel his anxiety levels rising. Fear projected from his dark eyes, and feeling trapped, he jumped to his feet. His chair toppled over, the loud crash reverberating around the chapel. Several heads turned, their curiosity piqued, but when they saw it was Hanson, they looked away, their interest fading. They’d seen it all before, and Tom’s odd behavior rarely held any entertainment value anymore. He was who he was, and as long as he did his job, nobody cared how he chose to conduct himself.

However, there was one person in the room who did react. Troubled by the level of Tom’s distress, Booker stood up, his palms turned outward, the gesture non-threatening. “Hey, man, I didn't mean—”

“I’ve gotta go,” Tom blurted out in a rush of words and stumbling over his upturned chair, he hurried toward the exit and disappeared from sight.

“Jesus,” Booker muttered under his breath.

“What did I tell you?”

Upon hearing Penhall’s voice, Booker turned and addressed the officer. “I know, but...geez, is he even fit for duty? He seems kinda jumpy.”

Penhall gave a one-shouldered shrug. “I dunno. Hanson’s a nutball, but he’s a really good cop. He’s like a Jekyll and Hyde. In the field, he’s confident, makes snap decisions, and he can goof off like any teenager. But it’s a charade, a character he plays to nail the bad guys. The real Hanson is the one who just scurried outa here with his tail between his legs. I’m tellin’ you, man, he’s fuckin’ crazy. Consider yourself warned.”

Booker nodded, a faraway look in his eyes. Although he’d only met Tom Hanson for a few minutes, the young officer intrigued him and he wanted to know more about his life. But he didn’t want to come off too impertinent, so rather than ask about Tom, he turned the conversation to their captain. “So, does Fuller think he’s odd?”

Penhall chuckled. “Are you kiddin’? Of course he does. But so long as he’s bringing in the pushers and thieves, no one gives a rat’s ass. Personality doesn’t rate high on the mayor’s agenda, all he cares about is cleaning up the streets. But do you wanna know what's really bizarre? Hanson's got an older brother, but you’d never guess they were related. Tom’s all moody and withdrawn, and Will Hanson’s the life of the party.”

Surprise raised Booker’s brows. “Tom’s got a brother? He seems more like an only child type, you know, all tortured with hang-ups about not meeting mommy’s expectations.”

Amusement shone from Penhall’s eyes. “Yeah? Well, not Hanson. His brother Will’s a cop too, stationed at Hollenbeck. Will’s a great guy to have a beer with, but he doesn’t have Tom’s intuition for the job. I guess that’s why he’s still a beat cop. Their parents died when they were still in their teens I think. Thomas Hanson was a decorated officer who was shot on the job, and if you believe the rumors, Margaret Hanson drank herself to death. From what I’ve heard, Will stepped in and took care of Tom. They’re pretty tight, they even share an apartment together. You’ll meet him tomorrow night at the mayor’s party. I think you’re gonna like him.”

Booker smiled inwardly. Without realizing it, Penhall had given him all the background information he needed to relate to his new partner. All he had to do was figure out how to use it.

 



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