The alley ran behind one of the rattraps that they'd raided for drugs a couple of weeks ago. No light reached here in the bowels of the city. The air was thick with the stench of garbage, smoke, and prostitution for those lovely people who didn't care enough to rent a room.
Summer heat in northern Alabama, the thermometer had been bursting at 103 degrees by noon, made the smell walk like a living thing. Sissy passed her penlight beam over the building's brick wall. Graffiti announced the sort of things one human being could do to another. 'Mickey,' Jack's informant, always showed on the signal, but not this time. He had a gut feeling to grab his wife, turn and run as hard and fast as he could. The premonition flashed through him dark and heavy.
Copper, the raw taste of fear, slid over his tongue. Both drew, half expecting to find the informant dead, definitely to find trouble. Neck deep in a suspected smuggling ring, they'd had their share of scrapes lately.
Jack screamed at her and his dream self, though he knew she couldn't hear him.
"Run, baby, please."
Why? Why do I have to watch over and over again? His heart and soul cried out from the wrenching pain. Please, God, have mercy! Just let me die with her this time.
He finally felt the prickles of warning on the back of his neck. The nauseating pain spread from the base of his skull to his temples and lastly in front of his eyes. Finally able to see the threat, Jack knew, the vision came far too late. Someone was watching them, unseen from high atop the neighboring building.
"Get out, Sissy!" Jack screamed. "It's a trap! Run!" He fired two shots in the direction of his unknown attacker.
Three shots pealed through the dark. Two pinged off the brick. She turned toward his shouted warning and barely had time to call out before the third slammed into her chest. Dazed, she clutched her breast.
Jack returned the fire instinctively, getting off another six rounds, before the gun dropped from his hand. A dark stain spread across her white silk dinner blouse. He caught her as she cried out and crumpled to the ground. He pressed his hand over hers, a futile attempt to staunch the wound.
All that blood, so much gushing out of the hole in her heart. Oh, God!
It pulsed and dripped across her hand where his ring rested on her slim finger. An hour ago, it had seemed they had a lifetime to live, love, but now they might have minutes only. Maybe not even that long. He'd seen men die, had killed before, but nothing compared to watching the woman he loved bleed to death in his arms. There wasn't anything he could do.
"Help us! Somebody!" He rocked her back and forth gently, and dug his cellphone out of his pocket. The alley fell silent. Her attacker had accomplished his mission.
Another vision came, along with a sickening sense of loss. She would be gone before help would come. Helpless, Jack fought back the drowning tears and grief he already felt, and lied to her. "It's going to be all right, Sissy, just hold on to me." He stroked her hair, kissed her cheek. She shuddered in his arms as though she'd never be warm again. He dialed 9-1-1. "Detective Jackson Roarke. I need a bus at..." He rattled off the address. "Officer down, I repeat officer down. Bullet wound to the chest. Hurry, damn it!"
"Don't lie to me. I'm as good...as dead. You see it." Her breath hitched as blood gurgled from her throat and stained her lips.
"Catch them for me, Jack. Promise me." She clutched his shirt, pleading.
"I will, but you'll help me. You'll be there to help me."
He looked back toward the gaping mouth of the alley. Where were the medics? He couldn't panic, couldn't afford to let his mind go frantic. Maybe he was wrong and what he saw wouldn't come to pass. When he was about to give up all hope, the screaming sirens ripped the night air. Help was here. His vision had to be wrong, born of panic instead of the gift. Serena must live.
"Almost here." She was so cold. How could she be so cold already?
"Don't say it, not now."
"Live." She whispered, "Just live."
He felt Serena's spirit leave her body before fingers left a trail of blood to mix with his tears. Her bright green eyes lost their spark, faded and then saw nothing. His vision had happened. Serena Roarke was dead.
He shook her, rocked her, begged and pleaded. He cursed God and the devil, but she was beyond him now. Jack looked down to the bright red covering the concrete, her and him. Never again, he thought. Even though he wasn't exactly sure what that meant. He tossed his shield on the ground, where their weapons lay in her pooling blood. Cradling his dead wife in his arms, Jack curled into a ball, rocked her lifeless body, and sobbed inconsolably.