Despite the long and truly horrible day Jackson had endured, he took off his uniform and put it carefully aside for cleaning. He knew he had one ready for tomorrow, clean and pressed. There was a lot to the uniform and it all had to be perfectly put together to pass inspection. There was even more involved in the mindset the uniform invoked. Strength, honor, pride, dedication, respect were all part of wearing the uniform he had worked so hard to earn.
Jackson looked good in that uniform. He'd been told so more than once, and by both women and men. He was tall and strong. He worked out in the exercise room at the precinct, and it showed in his strong arms and thighs. Jackson didn't want to be bulky, like a body-builder, but he was muscled and buff, with killer abs. His dark brown hair was cropped close to his head, for ease, and because he didn't care about style.
Jackson's eyes were deep-set and such a dark brown they were almost black. People told him he had great skin color, obviously due to one or both of his parents. He always looked like he had a tan, without having to go through what he thought of as the idiocy of tanning, like some of his vainer colleagues. Jackson didn't care one way or the other about his looks. He just wanted to stay healthy and do his job.
Jackson had been on both sides of the law. He'd grown up as part of a gang on the lower east side, his uniform colors and kerchiefs and tattoos. He'd been taken in several times as part of a group by the cops, but he wasn't the type to go off and get into trouble alone, thank heaven.
He'd left the foster care system he'd been in since infancy and had been sucked into the "family" that waited for him on the streets, a perfect candidate for their hype. He had no one, never had, in fact. His head had been filled with thoughts of finally belonging somewhere and being part of something good. It was the worst three years of his life. He was still amazed that he'd managed to get through it without having to kill anyone. He'd seen horrible things happen in the name of "family".
Now he truly felt he was part of a family of brothers that fought on the other side of the law; the right side. His life had changed during a burglary gone wrong. The gang member who'd been watching for the cops had panicked when he'd heard sirens and run out of the store. He'd grabbed Jackson's arm and yanked him out of the car, taking Jackson's place at the wheel. Jackson had hit the pavement just right, knocked out cold.
The police found the owner of the store injured inside and Jackson injured outside. They went to the hospital together. The officer had tried to get the owner to say that Jackson had been part of the bungled burglary, but he hadn't seen him outside so he wouldn't turn him in. The officer, Cecil Bartles, kept trying to get Jackson to talk about his gang, but he knew better than to do that.
Officer Bartles wouldn't give up on him. He'd kept at Jackson and tried to help him see that there was no future for him where he was. He'd hit him hard with words that made an impression. Jackson wanted out, but they both knew that didn't happen easily.
Jackson never knew how he did it, but Bartles got the word out that he'd been arrested in conjunction with the burglary, and he somehow arranged for him to stay in a safe house for a while. Then, to Jackson's amazement, he was asked if he wanted to stay with the older widower. He'd jumped at the chance to get out of the slum he was in.
He'd watched Cecil with his cronies from the department. It took time for the others to accept him and not think he was going to rip the old guy off or hurt him in some way. He had a lot to prove. He'd worked for Cecil, cooked with him, and learned from him. Jackson had soon known that he wanted to be just like the man who'd saved his life, literally. It made him proud that Cecil had seen him graduate and become an officer, accepted by Cecil's friends.
Cecil had caught a bullet last year and died on the way to the hospital. Jackson hadn't known that Cecil had left him everything. Jackson now had a small house, some savings, and an old Taurus, probably the first one off the line. He loved it as much as Cecil had. He lived alone in the little house and spent most of his off time that way. He didn't have close friends. Many of the men on the force were married and the single ones were straight, as far as he knew. He didn't have a lot in common with them.
He was heading to the shower after stripping off his uniform when he heard a noise at the back of the house. He didn't hesitate in grabbing his gun and heading back that way. He stood, in only his white briefs, and listened for more sounds. There. Right by the door. Scratching, and then a moan. What in the world? He couldn't see what was out there, so he waited a few minutes more. Then he thought he heard someone whisper, "Help."