After a long wait, here is chapter 15. I've taken a leave of absence from Wednesday Briefers to concentrate on finishing this story and other projects.
Once again I must thank my awesome editor, Trish for all she's done to make this the best it can be.
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Be well, my faithful readers, and please send me comments, thoughts, etc. I love to hear from my readers! My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you can leave a comment on my blog, jd4556.blogspot.com, where you'll find not only this story, but many other goodies. That being said, please enjoy chapter 15. – Jim
"Sure," he responded, a slight twinge of trepidation coloring his tone.
"I understand you are feeling guilty about what happened. You are not responsible for it, and I don't blame you for any of it. Remember, we were all there by choice. Nobody forced us. I think the group was a great idea and I still do. I don't want to see this from stopping it. End of line." He said, using a quote from his favorite movie, 'Tron'.
"You don't blame me?"
"No, I don't, and neither does my sister."
A huge weight was lifted from his shoulders. He still had his two best friends. "How are you doing?" Greg asked, his eyes moist.
"I'm doing good, all things considered. With the exception of my legs, everything is working normally, including all the plumbing." Greg giggled as his face turned beet red.
Gwen snickered, "Whatever my brother just said must have been good. Look at his face." She said, pointing to Greg, who repeated what Kevin said, causing everyone to burst out laughing.
"What have the doctors said? Do they know what's causing your blindness?"
"They're not sure. My brain scans are normal..."
"They actually found a brain?" Dave interjected.
"Bitch! You'll pay for that later! Anyhoo..."
"Which who?" Gwen interrupted.
"The who that Horton heard when Horton heard a who." Greg shot back.
"Anyway, my eyes are fine according to the ophthalmologist so they're guessing that it's some kind of disconnect between my eyes and my brain. They're guessing somehow the optic nerve is messed up due to the coma. They're pretty sure my eyesight will return in time. I'm starting to see dim shadows."
"Baby, why didn't you tell me? That's good news."
"I didn't want you to get your hopes up. The doctors said that it doesn't mean my full eyesight will return. That may be as good as it gets." Greg explained.
"There's still hope."
"Whether your eyesight returns or not, Greg, I still want you to take the Lieutenant's exam. Like I said earlier, we have everything on audiobook if you need it. As I understand it, Gwen, You're expected to make a full recovery, correct?"
"Yes. The doctors tell me that my neck is healing as it should, so within a couple of months they'll remove the neck brace."
"I still want you to take the captain's exam.
The commissioner reached over and activated the speakerphone. "Kevin, what about your paralysis?"
"Tests show that I have two broken vertebrae that are pinching my spinal column. They're going to fix it surgically. However, there's like a twenty-percent chance that I'll get the use of my legs back."
"Kevin, Commissioner Burke here. Whether you have a one hundred- fifty- twenty- or zero- percent chance of getting your legs back, you are still, and will remain a member of the task force."
"May I be blunt, Commissioner?"
"Of course, Kevin."
"What kind of job could I possibly do without the use of my legs? I don't want a desk job or a pity job," Kevin said with brutal honesty. If he could move his body he would have cowered, afraid of what the commissioner was going to say.
"I appreciate your honesty, Kevin. If you regain full use of your legs, you will, of course, return to your regular job. If you don't, I had the idea of having you be a recruiter for the task force at the academy. You will also train any new recruits. You will be given a modified traffic scooter with a radio, lights, siren, advanced first aid kit and an automatic defibrillator."
"That's all well and good, Commissioner, but those assets will be wasted on a cripple."
"First of all, Officer Jordan, you will never refer to yourself as a cripple in my presence again. Secondly, you know that whenever there is an accident there are always onlookers. You can instruct one of them on what to do."
"Commissioner, I only have the basic first aid training."
"I'm well aware of that. I've arrange for you to be trained as a paramedic while you are recovering."
"That sounds pretty awesome to me, bro," Gwen said with a great deal of pride in her voice. "I really like that idea."
"Me too." Greg said.
Kevin was silent as he mulled over what the commissioner had said. "I don't know if I could make that work. In a way it's kind of scary."
"Are you afraid you'll fail?' The commissioner asked.
"There is that. There's just so much riding on my getting my legs back. That's a lot of pressure," Kevin responded.
"There's no pressure at all, Kevin. The only difference between having the use or not having the use of your legs will be whether you have the modified scooter or a patrol car. Nothing will change other than that. Actually, I had another idea, one that will have a positive effect on other police personnel that lose their eyesight and/or legs.
"In addition to the LGBT fellowship group, which I still want to happen, we could also have a support group for handi-capable officers."
"Handi-capable?" Dave asked.
The commissioner explained, "I believe that, when a person develops a physical disability, they are only handicapped if they choose to be. It doesn't matter if they lose their arms, legs, sight, hearing or whatever. They still have something to contribute. If we have to make allowances so be it. You, Kevin, and you, Greg, still have a great deal to offer the Police Department and the task force.
"I would be a complete fool if I let either of you go." He turned to Greg, "so what if you can't see?" He turned to Kevin, "so what if you can't walk? You are still valuable and valued members of the force, and will continue to be until the day you retire, which I hope will be a very long time." He turned to Dave, "Dave, even with a prosthetic leg, I'm sure you will be a valuable asset to the Center."
"I wish that were true, Commissioner. There is no `Center' anymore. As I understand it, the entire building was destroyed and most of the staff killed," Dave teared up at the thought.
"There is a temporary Center set up, and most of the staff survived. Some have severe injuries; but alive nonetheless. Unfortunately, one of the staff killed was Bridget Ross." After a collective sharp intake of breath, everyone assembled was full-on crying over the loss of such a wonderful woman. The commissioner didn't try to console any of them. There was no way he could. They were all very attached to her.
After everyone was able to get themselves together, the commissioner continued. "Dillon Smith is temporarily in charge, and from what I've been told, the board of directors is going to use the insurance money to pay the mortgage off on the old building and put down a down payment on a new one. They've already received the financing necessary. They're going to try to purchase the building they're temporarily renting. It's fully handicap-accessible with ramps, elevators, safety bars in the bathrooms, et cetera. From what I've overheard, the board is going to make Dillon the new Director.
"A large number of LGBT businesses have made large donations to help get the new Center up and running. While some of the services may take some time to get back up and running, none of the programs the Center offered will be discontinued."
"That's great news, Commissioner."
"We all have a lot of work to do. I need to get more officers, train them and get them on the streets. You too," he looked pointedly first at Gwen, then at Greg before continuing, "have to rebuild the task force. I have asked for volunteers, and have a good-sized number of applicants. Kevin, are you still with us?"
"Good. I have made arrangements for the 3 exams to be administered here in the hospital in a week's time." He opened up his briefcase and pulled out a book which he handed to Gwen. "Gwen, there's the study materials for the captain's exam."
"Thanks, Commissioner. I'll start studying this right away."
The Commissioner reached again into his briefcase, this time pulling out a portable CD player and headphones, which he handed to Andy. "Greg, I just gave Andy a CD player with the lieutenant's exam study materials for you."
Despite the commissioner's assurances, Greg still had reservations about his role in the PPD. "Commissioner, is this the right thing to do?"
"What do you mean, Sergeant Peters?" The commissioner intentionally used Greg's rank, knowing what was about to follow.
"I mean, is this the best course of action? Is it in the best interest of the task force for me to continue, especially if I do well enough on the exam to qualify me for the promotion?"
"Are you nervous about this?" The commissioner asked gently.
"No, actually I'm scared shitless. What kind of leader would I be if I can't even read a fucking report? Sorry for the cursing."
"It's quite alright, Greg. The ability to read a report does not make you a good or a bad leader. You have the leadership skills, motivation and dedication backing you up. As for the ability to read a report, I've contracted the best Braille instructor in the city to come and teach you how to read Braille. I've also contracted a service that will take all the paperwork, including current arrest reports, rap sheets, what-have-you converted to Braille.
"We will have personnel from the service stationed in the task force office to do this. In addition, your office computer has been upgraded with the top-of-the-line speech recognition software and screen reader. I also just ordered a printer that prints in Braille. Once you're out of the hospital, you will be set up with a service dog. All of this, however, is contingent on whether or not you get your eyesight back 100%.
"I'm pretty sure you can see what lengths I have gone to in order to ensure you will be able to continue doing the incredible job you've been doing. I know you're scared. I'm pretty sure I'd be if I were in your shoes. However, you have an incredible support network," He glanced briefly first at Dave, then Gwen, then the phone, "that will help you in any way they can." Dave, Gwen and Kevin all gave their assurances. "I don't want to lose you, Greg. Ultimately, the answer is yours."
"I appreciate everything, Commissioner. I guess I don't have any choice but to say yes." Greg responded slowly.
"That's where you're wrong, Greg. You can say no if that is what you really want," the commissioner assured him.
"But with all the money that's been spent on stuff for me..."
"Nothing that can't be returned or cancelled," the commissioner interrupted.
"What do you all think?" he asked everyone.
Gwen beat everyone to the punch. "I can't and won't run the task force without you. The task force has been incredibly successful since you joined us. Don't let what's happened diminish what we've done. The task force is still needed, and the task force needs you."
"I second that," Kevin responded.
"Like the commissioner said, the choice is yours. I support whatever decision you make. However, since you joined the task force, crimes against the LGBT community have dropped, and more and more of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. That's something to be proud of, and I'm proud of you, baby."
There was complete silence in the room for a couple of minutes as Greg mulled over everything. "Okay, so when does the Braille instructor arrive?" You could hear the cheers half-way down the hallway. Tears of happiness abounded. Greg was going back to doing what he loved best...making a difference.