Unobscured Vision

by Tracy LeCates

Kermit Griffin stood in the open doorway. His curiously uncovered eyes surveyed the scene unfolding before him, his face an unreadable mask. Uniformed officers gave the man wide berth, strangely unnerved by the unshielded observation of the mysterious detective. Those who had worked there for years had rarely seen him without his trademark sunglasses. They'd seen him grow his hair longer, and with the recent appearance of the beard he now sported, some speculated that the man's face would one day be completely obscured from view.

*The Packing of the Desk. Almost a ceremony. Blaisdell packed his desk....* The thought came unbidden to Griffin's mind. *But, I wasn't here to see that. He understood. He and I had already said all we'd had to say, and the things that went unsaid were understood anyway. I didn't think I'd be staying on here after he left, nevermind as long as I have. But I did. Somebody had to hold down the fort. And now it's Peter.*

*Hope he knows what he's doing... How many cops have come and gone during the years I've been here? God, I've lost count. All off for other pastures, greener or otherwise. Leaving to retire, leaving to pursue careers in the private sector, leaving on disability, leaving in bags, or leaving to deal with demons of their own past.*

*Kid's been through a lot of changes since the day we first met, and I know he's got a thing with leaping first, looking later. I just hope that isn't what he's doing this time. Those burns on his arms aren't going to wash off with soap and water. I don't doubt that Pete can do this. He can do pretty much anything he's set his mind to. My concern is that he's aren't gonna be happy doing it. I know there're already some people who aren't exactly happy with this decision.*

The desk nearly cleaned out, a framed photo of Paul Blaisdell joined the other personal items in the leather bag. The bearded observer's jaw clenched, the action visibly imperceptible, at the appearance of Peter's petite blonde companion.

*That blonde bedmate of his is already making decisions. I can see that in her eyes. She says she can't watch this, but she's talking about more than just watching him clean out his desk. She may not know it yet, but she is. I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of excess baggage left behind when he makes this change. My advice would be to pack her in the first bag going out. She's gotten glimpses of what Peter's life is gonna be like as a priest. She likes the excitement of the job, thrives on it. And she knows it.*

"Anytime you want you gun and your badge back, I know my father would give them to you."

*Poor T.J. doesn't know what to do. He can be kind of a strange guy... all that talk about dark forces... My guess is he thought he kind of found a common ground with Peter and his father. People he could relate to. People who live in a gray zone. He's right about what he said. Kincaid would give Peter his badge and gun back at any time. He's never been one for following rules, but that's what made him a good cop. A great cop. Always putting people ahead of politics.*

*Oh yeah. Strenlich is gonna miss Peter Caine. Not many other people would rub the Chief's fuzzy head. Bet that peach fuzz brings back some memories for the former cue-ball. And Kelly? Kelly said her good-bye to Peter a long time ago.*

"I, ahhh... I thought I'd plant a bug on you, so I'd know where you are all the time..." *Good old Shaky. Don't know that even his bug would work on those occasions when Peter goes slipping out of time, or whatever the Hell it is those Caines do. But I'd love to see Blake's expression. He's seen shit that would turn the average Joe's hair white, but he never lets it show. Somehow I don't think the bug is gonna be needed. Caine always popped up out of nowhere, and I suspect Pete's going to be even worse.*

*We've all got regrets in life. With all I've seen and done, it would seem like I should have more. But, I don't. I was off somewhere while my brother was fighting his battle alone. I wasn't there for him. I regret that. And Jim... I don't even want to go there. Maybe my priorities were a little - okay, a lot - skewed in the past. They've changed over the passed couple of years. I'm not going anywhere this time. I thought it was a little late for an old tree to put down roots, but I guess that's what I've done.*

*Regrets. Everyone has them. Jody's are written all over her face. She doesn't look like she's gonna make it through the day. Maybe this is a good thing for her. She may not know it right now, but maybe a little distance is a good thing. Not having to see him every day - it might just be this decision of his that lets her move on with her life. She's a great girl, she'll find someone else. Someone who feels the same way about her, once she blows out the torch she's been carrying and turns on the lights. Things sometimes have a way of working themselves out. Skalany, on the other hand... those tears she's not doing so good a job hiding... Those aren't all for Peter. I have a suspicion he's the second Caine today to say 'Good-bye' to that lady.*

"When I was a very young boy, my father came and told me my mother had died. I ran to the pond, to look for her reflection, standing over me. It wasn't there. And I learned to swim alone."

*Swimming alone? Doesn't mean not having a lifepreserver tossed in there every once in a while. I made a promise. A promise to a friend. And I intend to uphold that promise.*

*Peter's been a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I wonder if he even knows that. Knows how many lives he's changed. And he did it all, so far, without those burns on his arms. It happened awful sudden. I should have known something was up when Caine and I had that talk the other day - him asking me to watch out for Peter. What the Hell does he think I've been doing? Pete and I have been watching each other's back for a lot of years. Longer than Caine's been back in town. Course it'll be a little harder to do, now that he's not gonna be at the 101st anymore, but we'll manage. I don't have faith in a whole lot in this world, but that I have faith in.*

*I should have known something was in the wind. There was, all right. I'm just not sure yet if it stinks. Was he meant to do this? Did those years apart from his father only delay the inevitable? Or was this last 'emergency' of his father's just a convenient excuse for emotionally blackmailing a reluctant man into leaping into the fire? He thought he was ready once before, and he made his choice to stay a cop. Took him weeks to finally talk about what went on up at that temple. How long was it before he could even talk about that temple he grew up in? Years?*

*I can still see that gawky kid Blaisdell brought home, like a stray from the pound. God, what an attitude. It used to be a game, trying to predict the number of times in an hour he could say, 'I don't care.' What a surly little brat he was. Most of the time, anyway. When I was a kid, David found a stray dog, hanging around the back of the house, eating out of the garbage cans. It was about the dirtiest, smelliest thing I ever saw, and David loved it. Mom pitched a fit when he managed to coax it into the house after a couple days of feeding it out back. Unpredictable animal. Sometimes it would growl when one of us came near it, sometimes it would turn tail and run off... but there was always that look in its eyes. If I believed that an animal was capable of hope, I'd say that's what the look in that dog's eyes was. Peter reminded me of that dog. Always afraid that someone was going to mess with him instead. Kid did a good job at striking first - even when it should have been painfully obvious that Paul and Annie weren't gonna hurt him. So damned obnoxious...*

*I almost have to laugh, every time I see him messing with his hair. Most people think it's just a nervous habit. I did too - until I realized he just wasn't used to having hair. God, that had to have been a strange way to grow up. Not that he knew any different until he left after the fire... *

*I wonder if he knows Paul and I went up there that year. To the ruins. Not that we really found out too much. Paul came home with a little better understanding of where Peter had been coming from, but I'm not sure if it helped at all. The townspeople we talked to had some pretty strange tales to tell about the Shaolin 'cult'. At least, the ones who would even talk about it did. I think Annie knew where we were going. She never asked. She never asked Paul where he was going when he walked out that door. Not even that last time. Don't think I'll ever find someone that accepting. The lady just knows he'll be back, when and if he can. Wish Blaisdell was here now. Not that he would have stopped the kid from doing this, if it's what he really wanted.*

*He looks like he's starting to realize what a drastic damned thing he's done. I wonder how he's gonna react when he finds out his old man is blowing town on him. Okay, so I don't know for sure that's what's going to happen, but my hunches and suspicions are usually pretty damn close to the mark. Chinatown doesn't need two priests, three if Lo Si is gonna stick. And Kwai Chang Caine's wandering bug is due to bite again. I think he's outta here. Maybe for good this time. After all, why should Kwai Chang Caine hang around? He's finally gotten his son to step lively and follow in his footsteps. He's finally gotten those marks on his kid's arms. Maybe that's what the last few years have been all about after all - nudging Peter back onto his path. With a cattle prod, if necessary.*

*Not that Kwai Chang Caine is a bad guy. Far from it. He's bailed my ass out a couple of times, not to mention helping Blaisdell out. He's one of the good guys, no doubt about it. I just don't know how I would have handled being his son. I think he honestly believes, or at least sincerely wants to believe, that Peter's destiny is to be a Shaolin priest.*

*Shoulda said my 'good-byes' in private, like I did with Blaisdell. What the Hell am I still doing here anyway? Blaisdell convinced me a long time ago that this would be a good thing. And it was. A place to hide. out in the open. Maybe I've been 'undercover' here long enough. Maybe too long. Getting too attached to people is not a smart thing for someone like me to do. And if Blaisdell's demons could get to him here... Of course, his family will be waiting for him when he comes home. Lot more than I can say for me. Things sometimes have a way of working themselves out. And sometimes we're just left standing there, wondering what the Hell happened, and why. *

*Reflections. There are those who would believe I don't cast a reflection. Pete knows better. One thing is for sure, it's gonna be quieter around here without him. Not quite sure if that's gonna sit too well with me.*

"You know, if you're gonna make this career change, I was thinking I might join you." *This place isn't going to be the same without you, Pete.*

"You gonna resign from the police force?"

*You don't even look surprised, Kid.* "And give up my day job? I'll be your liaison with the gang here. Shaolin Eyes... Got a ring, dontcha think?" *Well... this is about as close to a tearful good-bye as I'm gonna get. Wish I hadn't left my damn glasses back at that lady's house. The Pink Panther I'm not. HE had more than one calling card. Maybe I should get a backup pair.*

"It does." *Ahhh, you DID find them... good thing, because this world is starting to grate on my corneas again.* "Thanks. I was wondering where I left these." *Relief at last... *

"Am I still gonna have my protector, out there in the streets?"

*Like you even have to ask. Blood isn't the only thing that makes people family.* "Oh yeah."

*Karen's not taking this as well as she'd like people to think. It's not every detective working for her she'd trust with matters of her family. Most people working for her don't even know she has one. She has her reasons for keeping her personal life private. Just like I do. Not the same reasons, of course, but reasons. Maybe that's why she and I get along the way we do. We understand about boundaries. She's not just a cop, not just a captain, she's a mother. I think a little of that motherly energy has been directed Peter's way the last few years. Not that he couldn't have used it. She looks more like a mother right now, sending her kid off into the world. I'm no fortune-teller, but I'm predicting a long evening at Delancy's tonight.*

*Life will go on, crime will continue... but there will be something missing here, tomorrow morning. And I know I'll be sending people in trouble into Chinatown to ask for Caine. I know Peter will help them.*