"What's the number? Alex, give me a number."
Static and shouting were all that came through.
"What's the fucking number!"
Right before it cut off a gunshot pierced his ear.
"Officer needs backup, shots fired in Oakwood, last seen near the train station."
He slammed the phone and tailed it to the armory.
"Hey, put those back. Where do you think you're going?"
He pushed past the other cop.
"Dammit, Carter, I'll report you."
Carter strapped his vest on. He dashed for the parking lot.
"Wait for backup. You'll get yourself killed."
He was gone. Sirens carved a path through the busy streets. The wipers were no match for the furious rain. Everything was a blur.
"Come in, Alex. What's your location?"
No answer. He floored it. Carter drove to the station. He passed the street corner into gang territory. This would be a good place to search for Alex. Carter knew he was close. All manner of gangbangers usually roamed the streets. A set of skid marks on the grass flagged the house he sought.
The cop grabbed his shotgun from the trunk. He crouched near the wooden fence and peeked in the backyard. He saw a police car and the white van his friend was investigating.
"This is officer James Carter. I have located the-"
Shards of glass exploded above him as guns rattled.
"22 Pine Grove, shit!"
James rested the shotgun on the window frame. The volley of slugs jerked his wrist and painted the room with lead. He kept his head down not knowing if he hit anything. He seized the opportunity to circle out back while the thugs regrouped and returned fire. He pushed the door open and aimed for a fat bald guy who had his back to him. The shotgun blast tore half his skull off. It painted the walls. Shots pierced the door and forced James to take cover behind the kitchen island. He popped in and out and returned fire. One guy lost his fingers. The shotgun blast tore through his hand leaving a blood-spewing stump.
"Put your gun down."
"Stay back. I got a cop in here. I'll blow his brains out."
James peeked inside the room. He saw Alex sitting on the floor all messed up. The thug was propping him up and using his body as cover.
"How do I know he's alive? Looks like you killed him."
"Motherfucker, he ain't dead. Now put -"
His head popped. James got two hits in with his Glock. He rushed to Alex. Sirens echoed in the distance.
"Hey, wake up. Wake up, Alex. It's me."
A whisper escaped his swollen lips.
"Partner...I fucked up."
"Yeah, looks like it. Can you stand?"
"I don't think so. They got me good."
"Hang tight, our boys are on the way."
"Is the girl here?"
"I don't know…"
"Check the rooms."
"It's fine, don't worry. First, we have to get you patched up. Where does it hurt?"
"I can't feel a thing. I can't move…"
Carter patted down his partner. He could find any bleeding spots. He reached behind Alex's neck and froze.
"What is it?"
"It's nothing. Just hang tight."
"Is that your poker face?"
"I'm gonna lay you down. Don't worry I won't be far."
A gunshot echoed in the house. More followed. James lost track of time for a minute.
"Find her, James. I promised her parents I'd find her."
"I'll find her…"
"I think so."
James searched the one-floor house. It was a mess. The cluttering was like something out of a documentary. Three dead gang members littered the floor with their insides. He had no one to question. The paramedics arrived at the scene.
"Careful, don't move him. Check his neck."
The medical team found Alex's spine injury and meticulously encased him in a cocoon.
"Wait just a minute," Alex begged the doctor. "James, you gotta call Maria. Tell her where they're taking me. "
Carter placed a hand on his friend's chest.
"I'll see you both there in a little bit."
He watched the ambulance disappear in the distance. A call from an officer snapped him back to his surroundings. James was led to a group of cops who were chopping down the house's wooden framework. Inside the panels were rotting bodies of reported missing children in the past six months. Carter glanced over them and his heart sank. He recognized at least two of them given the description he had on file. One of the girls had a pink "magic ponies" shirt. She was the one Alex mentioned earlier.
But then the girl's shirt moved and lit up the room. James and the others had to shield their eyes. It sparkled and had a wand in its mouth. It whipped it around and all of the children were back to their happy, healthy, normal selves. They hugged the magical pony and the cops. The officers took selfies with the pony and pet its lustrous coat.
"Please, magical pony, help my friend, Alex."
It raised a hoof and said
"What about those people? I can heal them as well and their wicked hearts."
"Fuck that, magical pony. Let them feed the worms. Now can we please get to the hospital?"
It spread its wings and took off with Carter holding on for his life. They flew over the city in a shower of glitter. They said hi to Harry Potter and Santa Claus who were racing each other. The magical pony healed Alex's broken spine and all was right again in the world. The girl was back safe with her family who invited Alex and Carter to a barbeque. They grilled the dead gang members and ate them. They made pina coladas and drank it from their skulls. The pony waved goodbye and disappeared into the girl's shirt.
"That was some ride, partner," Alex said.
"Sure was. I'm glad it all worked out in the end."
"You look tired, James. Why don't you take a nap?"
"Yeah, I think it's for the best. Will you stay or is it just me?"
"It's just you now. But I won't be long."