Grief's Melancholy Shade -- Chapter 11
By: Susan McNeill & Rhonda Hallstrom

Six years later....

The gathering was typical of most rowdy parties to celebrate youthful
achievement -- loud music, animated storytelling, and no signs of winding
down before morning. Kermit Griffin sat in a corner of the Coconut Bar
and Grill watching Florida's newest members of the 'thin blue line' pat each
other on the back after weeks of intensive training. The ceremony, held in
oppressive coastal heat, had been a milestone for David Griffin. It was a
testament to survival, a 180 degree turn from a nearly dead teenage addict
to a man.

David had marched onto the stage, tall and lean and strong, and accepted
his badge from the mayor. There had been no high school graduation for
him. He'd struggled through a GED course from the halfway house he'd
called home for three years. Events beyond anyone's control had kept his
older brother from his college graduation. This was the day the two
brothers had been granted to share in the victory.

Reaching the end of the stage, the new Officer Griffin had stopped,
snapped to attention, and saluted his brother. Seated in the front row,
the dark figure, suspicious to most of the officers present, had risen
and responded to the gesture with pride, understanding the meaning and
respect offered.

Marilyn and Rob had an early flight and were on their way home with a
colicky Baby Jason, leaving Kermit alone to bask in the youngest
Griffin's glory. Sipping on an iced tea, David was happily joking with
his friends, boasting about criminals running in droves from the city
after the new class of rookies had been certified.

Paul Blaisdell slid into the booth beside his colleague, joining in the
unbridled pride. "The kid turned out fine, didn't he?"

Taking a long drink then smiling in response, Kermit answered, "Oh,
yeah." Kermit straightened the dark suit which was becoming his uniform
and issued his own thanks. "It means a lot to me that you helped him get
into the academy. Florida was a good choice."

"He's a good kid and he'll be a good cop." Paul wouldn't compound the
discomfort his younger friend experienced when forced into obligation.
"Thought it would be best for him away from his past up north." Pausing
to accept his drink from a petite waitress, Paul took an opportunity to
needle Kermit once more. "And who knows, maybe I can drag another
Griffin into police work."

"Don't start!" Kermit snapped at the transparent pressure. "I told you
I'm not cop material. You, of all people should know that." Annoyed at
the toothy grin that met his protest, he gulped another swallow. "Now,
David...there's a cop."

Once again examining his brother, he could find no comparison to the
shivering boy he'd yanked from the streets. He didn't drink or smoke or
do any drug more potent than aspirin. Strong and fit, David Griffin had
purpose. He'd fought for years to decide what to do with his life; how
to get back to the street and help the other kids who'd been tossed into
the void like he had years ago; kids who had no older brother to pull
them out of the spiral of drugs and death. Paul's suggestion of the
police academy had been like the opening of a new door. Here he could
help and defend. It was his true calling and his success at the academy
had proven it, top of his class and winner of the Barren's Sharpshooter
Award for marksmanship.

"Well, Peter's showing an interest so maybe I can get him under my
thumb," Paul quipped.

Blaisdell's new foster son was already blending into their family and
becoming obsessed with the cop lifestyle. Kermit had only met Peter
Caine a couple of times but the boy reminded him so much of David.
Neither of them could sit still for two seconds and both had this 'in
your face' personality painted with a touch of sadness. It made
Kermit naturally fond of the newly orphaned boy.

Appraising his younger cohort, Paul commented, "By the way, like the
suit. Good look for you. Kind of undertaker chic."

Kermit gave a half grin. "Got into it on my last mission. Think I'll
keep it." Yanking an offending umbrella from his new drink, he
complained, "Damn, is everything pink and green in this godforsaken

"Okay, okay, guys! I got something to say," the booming voice of David
Griffin lulled his boisterous crew into silence. The group had been
moving steadily closer to the tables where most of their families were

Rolling his eyes in disgust, one of the other freshly certified rookies
groaned, "Oh damn...Griffin's gonna talk! Somebody arrest him, quick!!"

"This won't take long," David replied to more groans, flashing a broad
smile. Focusing his attention on the brother who generally preferred to
be anonymous, David spoke from his heart. "This is my big brother. He
had faith in a squirt who gave him zero respect and bucked him at every
turn. Stuck to my back like glue. He made something out of me."

Choked with emotion, David paused in the midst of a now silent crowd.
Kermit had persisted through the years of hatred and growth. Calling and
writing letters in the face of little or no response. Maturity, peers
that hadn't had a big brother to dry them out and understanding social
workers had helped David focus on the truth. After banishing his own
self-doubt and self-pity he found the strength to reconnect with his
brother, the brother who loved him, the brother he loved.

Kermit rose to face the little brother who was now a good three inches
taller than the mercenary there to celebrate his achievement.
"You made something out of yourself. I'm proud of you."

"You showed me that there were things that were worth dying for,
Kermit." He placed a warm hand on his untouchable brother's shoulder.
"And...worth living for. Thank you." Undaunted by the eyes of the
crowd, David pulled Kermit into a firm hug. Whispering privately
into his ear, David breathed, "Love you, Kermit. Always did."

"I knew that, Squirt," the slightly broken voice whispered in response.
"Love you, Davey." Feeling a decidedly father-like pride, Kermit found
himself banishing the image of David as a desperate boy who needed a
savior and replacing it with this David. The man.

to be continued...
Part 12