“How’s he looking, doc?” Torres asked, and Bandit leaned over to look behind him on the clean bench. They were in the room which doubled as an impromptu medic station when they needed it before real help could arrive, and it was also where the K-9 units were treated for low priority wounds. At least his human partner was okay, although he had a bandage around his head, accentuated by the grimace he held whenever he touched the ice pack to his temple. Feelings that he wasn’t accustomed to started to bubble up within his being, and the strange sensation took him by surprise.
“He’s fine,” the vet said as he checked the chart. “He’s not injured. I’m guessing he just fainted. He was found in the subway tunnel, you say?”
“Yeah,” Torres hissed between dabs of the ice pack. “Robinson and Blue Steele were in pursuit of the same perp, but they took a longer street. By the time they got to the subway, the perp was long gone, but Bandit here was collapsed on the tracks. Luckily the whole train system had to be halted all over the city, otherwise it could have been bad.”
“Why is the subway halted?” the vet asked, as if recalculating how he would have to get home.
“Apparently there was damage done to the train docked there. Witness accounts are polarized; some are placing the blame on the perp, and some say it was the dog, but I know no dog could do that. Not that a man could, but I saw him. He was huge, and definitely on something. You could see it in his skin. It was the last thing I saw before blackness. I’m not proud to say he got the jump on me.”
“Yeah, well, it happens to the best of us,” the vet placated, while Bandit leaned more and flashed Torres a giddy canine smile. “You’ll be glad to know that Bandit is fine and ready for his next case.”
“Actually, the Chief is making arrangements to send him into rehab training. I have to take him over after I head back to the scene to investigate and question some witnesses. Do you know what everyone on the force says about him?” Caleb’s next grimace wasn’t pain-related, but pride-related.
“Yeah,” the vet murmured while stacking some paperwork. “Sorry you got stuck with the plug. This one’s rather infamous for his fumbles, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with him. He might turn out to be a good police dog yet.”
“What if he just doesn’t have it in him?” Caleb questioned with his eyes on Bandit, and he was shocked to see that his dark gaze was evenly met and the dog’s ears started to pin back. The young officer had to wonder if dogs could really understand. Had it been his tone?
“Well, I’m sure you’ll find out,” the vet said as he dismissed him. Torres led Bandit back out into the lobby of the precinct and he met the Chief just before the older man had ducked into his office.
“Chief!” Torres yelled and the exasperated Chief sighed and tried to wave him off.
“I told you that the required time is two weeks before we can consider switching you off, and that doesn’t count the rehab time. You’ll just have to muscle through it, Hernandez,” Chief Bogart dismissed him.
“It’s Torres, sir,” Caleb stiffened, and Bandit started to wander from his side. “I just want you to reconsider expediting it. As my first K-9 partner, I think it’s paramount that-”
The conversation faded into the back of Bandit’s mind as he slowly walked over to the portraits that made up the K-9 Hall of Fame. He looked longingly up at Sarge’s portrait. They hadn’t wasted any time in affixing it to its proper place, and the regal canine looked down on Bandit in the best and worst ways. Something in Bandit’s eyes sparkled and his heart started to race faster when he looked at the empty frame next to Sarge’s.
His quiet moment of reflection was interrupted as Robinson and Blue Steele calmly walked out of a nearby cubicle and passed by. Bandit stood and met Blue Steele’s gaze calmly, but didn’t move from his spot as Blue Steele looked up at the portrait of his grand-sire, and then back down to Bandit. The determination found in both sets of strong canine eyes could have caused a crackle of electricity in the air, but it was over the moment they passed.
“My word is final. See you in two weeks,” Chief Bogart said as he closed the heavy mahogany door to his office. Bandit walked back over to Torres who laid a hand on his head.
“Sorry, boy,” he placated as he petted, “but I just don’t think I’m cut out to be your partner.” Bandit’s ears started to droop again as his head lowered, and they both proceeded to walk out the door. Caleb reminded himself that he just had to get through the investigation and the interviews, and then he’d be handing off the dog, at least for now.
The subway station had caution tape surrounding the loading platform, and the dent train was still docked. There were other police officers on the scene, and at least one other canine unit. Caleb didn’t get much of anything else out of the witnesses, but he helped file the report and gather all of the information together. Bandit started to stray onto the platform, and he crooked his head to look between the train and the wall where he had crawled earlier, but there was no hint of light or anything down the tunnel. It was all utter darkness.
“You okay, boy?” Torres came up behind him, and Bandit whirled around. “Whoa, it’s okay. Didn’t mean to spook you. It’s time to go, boy.”
Bandit took one last look at the dented train, each of which were roughly the size of the human fist, and followed his partner back out to his assigned squad car. As they drove towards the Academy where Bandit would be assigned rehab training, Torres took advantage of having a partner that can only listen.
“Can you believe Robinson? I saw the look on his face, that arrogant smirk,” Torres ranted as he switched lanes. “You know, I can’t believe I got stuck with the plug on my first assignment. I bet that’s some sort of record. By the way, thanks for abandoning me today to chase a criminal, and then fainting, oh-so-heroically in the subway tunnel. I’ll never live that one down.” Bandit seemed to stiffen increasingly at each comment and his ears grew more slanted and pinned back. His eyes became slits at the final comments, but there was one last straw that caused the canine to whirl and face his partner in the front seat. “Why couldn’t I have gotten Blue Steele?”
“Well next time, you sniff out the criminal, and I’ll hold the gun,” Bandit harshly snapped. Torres jumped in his seat and stared open-mouthed at the dog while a blaring horn signaled that the squad car had drifted into oncoming traffic.